Invictus
Young Adult / January 5, 2018

Author: Ryan Graudin. Summary: Time flies when you’re plundering history. Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Every bit the exciting romp it purports to be in the description. Now, I did come in with high expectations, because it’s Ryan Graudin, and those were rather disappointed. It’s nowhere near as good as Wolf by Wolf. I couldn’t figure out exactly what was missing until I saw someone else’s review where…

Wild Bird
Young Adult / December 29, 2017

Author: Wendelin Van Draanen. Summary: 3:47 a.m. That’s when they come for Wren Clemens. She’s hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who’ve gone so far off the rails, their parents don’t know what to do with them any more. This is wilderness therapy camp. The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can’t put up a tent. And bitter won’t start a fire. Wren’s going to have to admit she needs help if she’s going to survive. My Thoughts: This turned out to be a surprisingly uplifting story. Wren is a highschool student spiraling down hard and fast towards a crash landing that might be deadly. It all started small, when – lonely and unhappy in a new school – she made a single bad choice and accepted drugs (just this once!) from a new ‘friend’. Fast forward three years, and Wren is still lonely and unbalanced. But now she’s also addicted, shoplifting with her friend, running errands for what is essentially a teenage drug ring,…

Renegades
Young Adult / December 18, 2017

Renegades #1. Author: Marissa Meyer. Summary: Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice. The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies―humans with extraordinary abilities―who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew. Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice―and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to the villains who have the power to end them both. My Thoughts: I think we’ve all been waiting to find out what epic twist Marissa Meyer was going to put on the classic superhero schema. Sure, the plot sounded totally cliche, but obviously she had secrets up her sleeve. …Right? Wrong. Completely, utterly, trustingly mistaken. The world-setting/backstory bears staggering resemblance to Steelheart (which Marietta first pointed out), the superpowers are no different than anything Marvel might introduce, and the romance is thread-bare and tired. Here’s the thing: I love Meyer’s other books and characters. They’re inventive, relatable, and fun….

Jane, Unlimited
Young Adult / December 11, 2017

Author: Kristine Cashore. Summary: If you could change your story, would you? Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible. My Thoughts: I think it’s fairly common knowledge, going into the book, that Jane, Unlimited takes an unconventional plot route, seemingly more akin to choose-your-own-adventure than most novels. (Somehow I was unaware of this, and it was quite confusing for a bit.) The whole story hinges around a single quote:…

An Enchantment of Ravens
Young Adult / December 2, 2017

Author: Margaret Rogerson. Summary: A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel. Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life. Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk…

All the Wind in the World
Young Adult / November 25, 2017

Author: Samantha Mabry. Summary: Samantha Jac Crow and James Holt have fallen in love working in the endless fields that span a bone-dry Southwest in the near future – a land that’s a little bit magical, deeply dangerous, and bursting with secrets. To protect themselves, they’ve learned to work hard and, above all, keep their love hidden from the people who might use it against them. Then, just when Sarah Jac and James have settled in and begun saving money for the home they dream of near the coast, a horrible accident sends them on the run. With no choice but to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch, the delicate balance of their lives begins to give way – and they may have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love. My Thoughts: This is what I get for picking up a book because of a pretty cover. All the Wind in the World actually felt like it should have been a good read; like it really was trying. The desert, for example. That should have been a good setting. It didn’t quite make it. Everything was a little too dramatic, a little too self-aware, so that…

The Scorpio Races
Young Adult / November 6, 2017

Author: Maggie Stiefvater. Summary: Some race to win. Others race to survive. It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition – the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. My Thoughts: If it were possible to give a book a formal apology, I’d be writing that for The Scorpio Races right now instead of this review. I read this book over a year ago, by a friend’s request, when I’d just started doing content-reviews. At that point I was keeping track of content in my head. (Quick word to the wise: NO. DON’T. Your memory of the book will be heavily…

Warcross
Young Adult / November 2, 2017

Warcross #1. Author: Marie Lu. Summary: For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation. Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only…

Turtles All the Way Down
Young Adult / November 1, 2017

Author: John Green. Summary: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I’ve never had a mental illness, so I can’t really say (as I would like to) that this is good portrayal of clinical anxiety and intrusive thoughts. I can tell you it made me uneasy, so much so that I had to put the book down several times and come back to it after a few minutes. I can tell you I’ve had nights that echoed the spiral-trap of Aza’s thoughts, a circling panic ungrounded in reality, and if it was only a pale echo still the writing-stirred memory had me flinching. I can tell you I believed her. That was the thing. I believed Aza. If you…

The Creeping Shadow
Young Adult / October 30, 2017

Lockwood & Co. #4. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: After leaving Lockwood & Co. at the end of The Hollow Boy, Lucy is a freelance operative, hiring herself out to agencies that value her ever-improving skills. One day she is pleasantly surprised by a visit from Lockwood, who tells her he needs a good Listener for a tough assignment. Penelope Fittes, the leader of the giant Fittes Agency wants them–and only them–to locate and remove the Source for the legendary Brixton Cannibal. They succeed in their very dangerous task, but tensions remain high between Lucy and the other agents. Even the skull in the jar talks to her like a jilted lover. What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving Steve Rotwell and Penelope Fittes just may do the trick. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Hmm. Very similar to the previous books, which is partially bad, partially good. Cons: there’s not a lot of character development, and the fighting-ghosts action sequences really are repetitious when compared to the earlier books. Pros: in all fairness, the fighting-ghosts is every bit as shiver-inducing and exciting as it was before,…