Beastly Bones
Young Adult / December 17, 2016

Jackaby #2. Author: William Ritter. Summary: I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality . . . In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad’s Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer. (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: One kiss Language: 4 d***, 1 derog Violence: Characters find dead bodies. They find carnage (blood and splinters) of what used to be animals. Find man badly wounded by monster…

Black Powder War
Young Adult / October 27, 2016

Temeraire #3. Author: Naomi Novik. Summary: Picking up where book two left off (in China, Macau) Captain Will Laurence and his extraordinary dragon, Temeraire, are ordered to retrieve and escort a precious cargo of valuable dragon eggs from Istanbul to England. They take the Old Silk Road from China to Istanbul, crossing deserts and mountains. En route to England, they help the beleaguered Prussians battle Napoleon. (Goodreads summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: Man is scandalized by a girl bathing with boys: she says (innocently), she “hasn’t started bleeding yet, and any way I would not like to go to bed with any of them.” Dancing girls “dressed indecently” in “near see-through pantaloons” perform. Two men endeavor to see the emperor’s harem, and make “beckoning gestures” to them – later punished. Dragon says “I do not think they have breeding grounds here; at least, I and Mei did not have to go-” before breaking off. Later, he indirectly says he was pleasuring himself- (Captain: “Did you have a pleasant bath?” Dragon:” Oh, yes; those rocks were very nice, although it was not quite as nice as being with Mei.” He goes on, confused at the man’s startled reaction, “Well, do you…

Throne of Jade
Young Adult / October 27, 2016

Temeraire #2. Author: Naomi Novik. Summary: When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo–an unhatched dragon’s egg–Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces. Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands–and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East–a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: It just gets better. We started with British Airforce Dragons; now Novik has moved on to multicultural work. The Chinese dragons aren’t just dragons owned by a different nation, they have a well-developed and very different culture, and it’s fun to see this so well-written. Content Review: Sexual content: Spoken mention of two dragons courting. An implication…

Silver in the Blood
Young Adult / August 26, 2016

Author: Jessica Day George. Summary: Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate… or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might. My Thoughts: While it was okay, and better than some YA, I have to say this seems Jessica Day George’s worst book so far. The girls had some character, but they were not particularly interesting. The plot was odd, the villain lacked depth, and the overall tone was harsher than her previous books. Content Review: Sexual content: The villain threatens to rape two girls. A couple different women end up naked in front of men several times due to shapeshifting, but they then cover themselves with a shawl/blanket/some such. Language: Low. Violence: One girl is kidnapped…

His Majesty’s Dragon
Young Adult / August 21, 2016

Temaraire #1. Author: Naomi Novik. Summary: Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire. (Goodreads summary.) My Thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this alternate-history. It has a steady, calm pace and is told in the historical-novel writing style. Napoleonic war + dragons = awesome. Content Review: Sexual content: Passing mention of harbor prostitutes, and the fact that training men may go to them on their nights off. Dragon comes into his first ‘season’. A dragon-rider with a daughter mentions she is not married; this turns out to be common among dragon riders due…

Young Adult / July 14, 2016

The Leviathan Trilogy #1. Author: Scott Westerfeld. Summary: An alternate-world retelling of the beginning of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans rely on steam-driven iron machines known as Clankers. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weapons. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most powerful beast in the British fleet. My Thoughts: I enjoyed it. It’s a little slower-paced than some, but this wasn’t a problem for me. The atmosphere is clean steampunk. Both protagonists are interesting – one a midshipman on the Leviathan, a position she’s dreamed off; the other a nobleman’s son, who doesn’t quite understand the powerful forces around him, but he’s climbing rapidly out of childish innocence of the war. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: No colloquially recognized language – scattered instances of made up words recognizable as counterparts, e.g. clank, diddle, sparks. Violence: A number of airplanes are shredded by fletchetts, a flock of bats is killed by a plane, there is a sword fight and one of the fighters is killed.  

Ptolemy’s Gate
Young Adult / June 16, 2016

Bartimaeus #3. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: Nathaniel is now an established member of the British government. Far from improving, his life is worse than ever, as he struggles with ever-mounting problems. Rebellion is fermenting at home, the war with the colonies is going badly, and mysterious attacks still plague the city. Bartimaeus is no better off. Kept in the earthly realm too long by his paranoid master, the djinn has lost much of his strength and cannot hold out much longer. They’re both going to need the help of Kitty and her knowledge to unite once more – long enough to save their country, at least. Content Review: Sexual content: Djinn appears as a naked ogre – in conversation, his summoner punishes him for impudence with a pulse of flame that “singes his private bits”. Some attraction between two characters. Language: 5 hell, 1 derogatory name. Violence: Two assassins accidentally stab each other. Djinn breaks the necks of two assassins attacking him. Policewoman killed by an electric stick. Djinn kills some men with flame. Character magically imprisons a djinn within a man’s body. Woman killed/eaten off screen by a djinn. Girl knocked unconscious by magic. Man is dissolved by a…

The Golem’s Eye
Young Adult / June 16, 2016

Bartimaeus #2. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: At only fourteen, Nathaniel is a rising star: a young magician who is quickly climbing the ranks of the government. There is seemingly nothing he cannot handle, until he is asked to deal with the growing Resistance movement, which is disrupting London life with its thefts and raids. It’s no easy task: the ringleader Kitty and her friends remain elusive, and Nathaniel’s job-and perhaps his life-are soon at risk. As the pressure mounts, he is distracted by a new series of terrifying attacks in the capital. But is it the Resistance again, or something more dangerous still? To uncover the perpetrators, Nathanial must take desperate measures: a journey to the enemy city of Prague and-worse-summoning once again the troublesome, enigmatic, and quick – witted djinni Bartimaeus. (Summary from Goodreads.) My Thoughts: Nathaniel has gone downhill since the last time we saw him, caught up in the competitive and oblivious world of the magicians. Bartimaeus is just as humorous as ever, though, and we have a new character now, Kitty. Still good, still fast-paced, and I have a feeling the last book will make up for any deficiencies here. Content Review: Sexual content: Two djinni…

The Amulet of Samarkand
Young Adult / June 16, 2016

Bartimaeus #1. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: Nathaniel is a boy dealing with many problems. As a magical apprentice, he was taken from his parents at five and given new magician caretakers. His teacher is cold and hard, and looks down on him; only the kindness of his wife makes it bearable. Publicily humiliated at age eleven, Nathaniel has been studying feverishly for a year and is ready to enact his revenge. First, he’ll summon a fourth-class djinni… Bartimaeus is a five-thousand year old djinni, and he knows that Nathaniel knows nothing of problems. Enslaved by one magician after another through the years, magically bound to carry out their bidding over anything else, all he wants is a bit of rest. Instead, an impudent twelve-year old has mastered the spells to control him, and now orders him to steal the Amulet of Samarkand. Bartimaeus knows exactly how much trouble they’re both plunging into… but what can he do? He’s only a djinni. My Thoughts: It took me a little while to warm up to the characters, neither of whom are particularly likeable. The first-person narrator has a particular knack for wry humor of a new sort, often building up a purple-prose…

The Hollow Boy
Young Adult / May 15, 2016

Lockwood & Co. #3. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: Danger is escalating in the haunted world. The bloody footprints and murderous ghosts of their one-off cases are nothing compared to the growing mystery in London, as more and more manifestations cluster throughout the city. But Lockwood, George, and Lucy are up to it – oh, and Holly. Old divisions have been healed, but new rifts are opening in the team. Lockwood has hired an immaculate and completely organized new member, Holly Munro. From the start, she and Lucy simply cannot get along, and it’s dissolving their cohesiveness as a team. Can Lockwood and Co. compete with the major companies, avoid living assassins, solve the London mystery, all while torqueing around the internal tensions in their daily lives? My Thoughts: I did not like this as much as the preceding two. Lucy, formerly a dashing agent with a strong personality who can take care of herself, spends much of the book jealous of Holly. Holly is, frankly, ingratiating and irritating at a couple of parts, but for the most part her only fault is being too well organized and attractive, and spending too much time with Lockwood. Lucy lost a good bit…