Ariel
Young Adult / April 30, 2016

Author: Grace Tiffany. Summary: Ariel is a dream escaped from a dying man’s mind. She’s ruled her island alone for centuries, trapped within the Bermuda Triangle. The first human who lands on the island refuses to help her escape the Triangle, and indeed Ariel ends up trapped. It is centuries more before a man and his daughter land on the island, and Ariel is freed. Now she has her chance all over again, with a human to strengthen her again. My Thoughts: Tiffany made some interesting choices in writing this book. For starters, our female Ariel is an inhuman character – she’s the protagonist, and yet unrelatable for us, for she has no understanding of love or death, no ability to work or capability for loyalty and affection. Secondly, as a sprite representative of imagination or art, she is static. Where almost every protagonist will have a character arc, Ariel has no redemption story. She is what she is, what in the fae would be soulless, and there can be no progress or regression. I can’t say right now whether I agree with Tiffany’s metaphors or her representation of imagination/art in Ariel, but Ariel is certainly an interesting reimagining of…

Anna and the Swallow Man
Young Adult / April 30, 2016

Author: Gavriel Savit. Summary: Anna Lania lives in Krakow in 1939, and she’s only seven years old. She doesn’t understand what’s happening, or why her father is gone. But she does understand that a little girl needs a father, so when the Swallow Man goes past she’s ready to follow him. The Swallow Man is an enigma, but he’s in danger, like her father, and he is a speaker of many languages – like her father. He may be reluctant to take on a little girl at first, but she’s a very intelligent child, and there’s nowhere else for her to go. Together, Anna and the Swallow Man will travel for leagues, slipping between the cracks and corners of war. My Thoughts: Anna and the Swallow Man opens in the perspective of a precocious seven-year old girl. Through the story, she will grow and mature, but right now she’s just a little kid lost in a world gone mad. There’s a lot of reading between the lines to be done, because of the view point, and even then it’s confusing in several places. The writing is beautiful, the characters and dynamic compelling. On the one hand we have the girl,…

Up to this Pointe
Young Adult / April 23, 2016

Author: Jennifer Longo. Summary: Harper has been training with her best friend for most of her seventeen years for one day. The day they’ll audition for the San Francisco ballet and be accepted. She’s starved, sacrificed, and worked herself to the bone for this. When things start to fall apart a few weeks before, Harper keeps going… she just has to get past The Day. Now she’s in Antarctica, trying to figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and most importantly, what she’s going to do about it. My Thoughts: This was a disappointing read for me. First of all, the characters weren’t engaging. I never quite connected with the main character; this may be because her solution to failure is running away to Antarctica. Her best friend is underdeveloped: she seems the perfect dancer, simply to offset Harper. She’s the best dancer at the studio, has a fast metabolism that lets her eat whatever she wants, doesn’t have to work as hard as Harper, etc. The first love interest was actually kind of sweet, being a genuinely nice guy. The second – I won’t spoil it for you, but we have no explanation for certain things, leaving…

The Forbidden Wish
Young Adult / April 23, 2016

Author: Jessica Khoury. Summary: Zahra, jinni of the lamp and prisoner of old, is released from her lamp for the first time in centuries when Aladdin finds it. Haunted by the death of the only friend she ever had, Zahra must try to keep herself from growing too attached to Aladdin as she waits for him to choose his wishes… especially when the jinni king offers her freedom in return for help rescuing his son from the humans. But as the two go through trial and hardship together, hiding Zahra from the flautists who would imprison her and moving Aladdin into place to start a revolution, Zahra begins to realize she has failed in the worst way possible. And her king is coming to exact his payment. Zahra must make her decision, give her alliance and risk her life for one side or the other, once and for all. My Thoughts: A fluffy, rather middling retelling of the story of the lamp. It is set in a desert/kingdom type, but not Arabia; it is clearly a new world by the author. This actually seemed a good choice. Had Khoury gone ahead and set it in Arabia the potential for failure…

Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature
Young Adult / April 22, 2016

Author: Robin Brande. Summary: Mena’s starting highschool at the worst time of her life. Her old friends all hate her and even her parents are distant and cold – she tried to do the right thing, but everything went wrong and she doesn’t know how to recover from the effects. Things begin looking up in biology class, when she is assigned to a completely capable and rather engaging partner, but some of her old friends from church are in the same class – and when the syllabus moves onto evolution, they’re not going to stand for it. Caught up in her partner’s enthusiasm for their science project, Mena is dragged into an ever deepening whirlpool of lies with her parents so that she can go to his house and work on their project. She must struggle to balance all her old beliefs and the new teaching that sounds so convincing, separate her life cleanly between home and school without slipping up, and walk the gauntlet of her classmates’ hate. My Thoughts: Written in the first-person voice of a teenage girl journaling, the writing was convincing and realistic, if occasionally grating. Mena as a character was also believable and relatable, a…

MARTians
Young Adult / April 9, 2016

Author: Blythe Woolstoon. Summary: Zoe is the last girl of her class, the last living person in her suburb before it closes down, and possibly the last living – rather than simply existing – girl. When her mother leaves for another job, Zoe must move on to her own job at AllMart, where her smile is the welcome mat. It’s the same job as hundreds of other young adults. Surrounded by the consumerism of the huge stores, drugged both literally and figuratively, and trapped by the conditions she agreed to when she signed on, Zoe begins to struggle to realize what this is about and what living might really be like. My Thoughts: This not-so-futuristic dystopia was strange, confusing and yet interesting, in many ways. Overall, the plot was disconnected and jerky, dropping whole side plots and ignoring unexplained things. But taking the book as a whole, I think the author made a deliberate effort to make it more like real life as part of the effect. Our life, where often nothing comes of promising events, where too often little makes sense and there is no real closure. Our Main Character, Zoe, is often as confused as we. She’s just…

The Last Unicorn
Adult , Young Adult / April 9, 2016

Author: Peter S. Beagle Summary: A beautiful, bitter-sweet fairytale with the length of a (short) book. Dreamy and haunting, this is the story of the last unicorn of the world. When She left her friendly forest and set out to find others of her kind, the unicorn was soon captured by a witch and bound in a cage she could not break. Released by the witch’s reluctant compatriot, a magician, she continues on her journey, picking up friends and allies on the way. Everywhere she searches, people tell her the unicorns vanished long ago, driven away by a beast known as the Red Bull. In the end she will have to confront him herself. Facing her direst enemy, alone in the end and struggling to keep hold of her true nature, will the world lose the last of her kind? My Thoughts: One of my all time favorites, both for the gorgeous prose, the best treatment of the essential unicorn that I have ever found, and the masterful bitter-sweet tone throughout the entire book as it muses on beauty, youth long past, and loss. Content Review: Sexual content: When the magician turns the unicorn into a girl, she changes into a…

The Book Thief
Young Adult / April 8, 2016

Author: Marcus Zusak. Summary: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . . Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. (Summary from Goodreads.) My Thoughts: One of the few books that can bring tears to my eyes. Zusak has a knack for unconventional prose that truly overturns the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words”.  In this moving World War II story he focuses not on the allies, or the Jews, but on a common German family. They may hate Hitler, but there is nothing they can do, or will do – and yet the consequences of the war will hit them…

Icons
Young Adult / April 8, 2016

Author: Margaret Stohl Summary: When Dol and her best friend, Ro, are captured and taken to the Embassy, off the coast of the sprawling metropolis once known as the City of Angels, they find only more questions. While Ro and fellow hostage Tima rage against their captors, Dol finds herself drawn to Lucas, the Ambassador’s privileged son. But the four teens are more alike than they might think, and the timing of their meeting isn’t a coincidence. It’s a conspiracy. My Thoughts: The writing style was plain, simple and straightforward, with none of the beauty in prose I enjoy. The plot was rather strange – Aliens have taken over the Earth! We must save ourselves with emotions! (?) The characters felt underdeveloped. They were extremely bad at communicating, thus creating excuses for several fights and sundry other problems. They did have an interesting means of sharing emotions, by which they might be flooded by each other’s (strong) passions. I must note, hiding a love triangle by having the girl refuse to admit it does not help. I’m afraid the overall rating for this story was bored, with a hint of confusion, and a final statement of ‘meh.’ Content Review: Sexual…

The Unicorn Girl

Author: M. L. LeGette Summary: Leah Vindral is suffocating–trapped in her own skin. In a land where magic is feared, magic saved her from death … but it came with a terrible price. Marked forever, she is shunned and isolated by those she loves most. Brimming with bitter rage at those who abandoned her, Leah flees from her childhood home only to be swept into an impending war: Mora, a wicked witch, has been imprisoned for years, waiting like a spider in the folds of her web for the chance to regain the powers once stripped from her. It is there, while she waits, that she learns of a strange young girl … a girl who can speak to unicorns. Now Leah must save the country that shuns her, for if Mora returns to power, all will be lost. But can Leah, who is so frightened and confused herself, find the strength to save them all? (Summary from Goodreads.) My Thoughts: There wasn’t anything wrong with The Unicorn Girl. It was just… bland. Generic. The writing style felt stilted and stiff, with ‘ly’ adverbs liberally scattered. There were elves – tall people with pointed ears who live in a shining castle, and…