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…

A Conspiracy of Kings
Young Adult / June 3, 2017

Queen’s Thief #4. Author: Megan Whalen Turner. Summary: Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father’s villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace. In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again. Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the Magus and Eddis, sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever. My…

This Song Will Save Your Life
Young Adult / April 10, 2017

Author: Leila Sales. Summary: Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: The theme is one I can relate to: that in the end, fitting in with the rest of the world isn’t worth it, not when it means giving up yourself. The actual story and writing is honestly kind of meh. Too much like all the other YA stories out there. Content Review: Sexual Content: Girl observes a couple of other characters kissing: boy/girl, two boys. School kids gossiping about the popular students wonder “had he (random student) cheated on Laura with Leah before breaking up with her?” One character trying to figure out another two character’s relationship: “So then why did you have sex with her?” “Because she’s hot.” Some kissing. Girl tells boy “You know,…

The Lie Tree
Young Adult / February 2, 2017

Author: Frances Hardinge. Summary: It was not enough. All knowledge- any knowledge – called to Faith, and there was a delicious, poisonous pleasure in stealing it unseen. Faith has a thirst for science and secrets that the rigid confines of her class cannot supress. And so it is that she discovers her disgraced father’s journals, filled with the scribbled notes and theories of a man driven close to madness. Tales of a strange tree which, when told a lie, will uncover a truth: the greater the lie, the greater the truth revealed to the liar. Faith’s search for the tree leads her into great danger – for where lies seduce, truths shatter . . . (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: The Lie Tree was an intriguing fantasy-mystery set solidly in history (about the 19th century); an interesting combination I thoroughly approve of. I thought the author did a good job of combining all her different themes (the lie tree with all its attached metaphors, the feminism/social-commentary theme, the whole mystery side) without being muddied or confusing. Content Review: Sexual Content: Rumors that a woman is courting a married man. Language: 1 d***, 1 derogatory term Violence: Boy is caught in a…

The Safe-Keeper’s Secret
Young Adult / December 21, 2016

Safe-keepers #1. Author: Sharon Shinn. Summary: Damiana is safe-keeper in the small village of Tambleham. Neighbors and strangers alike come one by one, in secret, to tell her things they dare not share with anyone else, knowing that Damiana will keep then to herself. One late night, a mysterious visitor from the city arrives with an unusual secret for the Safe-Keeper—a newborn baby. Damiana, who is expecting her own child, agrees to take the foundling. She names him Reed and raises him side by side with her daughter, Fiona. As the years pass and the two children grow into teenagers, they must come to terms with who they are—and who they may be. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: A lovely little tale set in a quiet medieval-style village. Sharon Shinn develops an interesting premise here, with safe-keepers, truth-tellers, and dream-granters. It’s a quieter form of magic than many fantasies, more concerned with the psychology of the human mind, what it needs and how it would react to certain things. I really liked the story. It’s not a stunning, sweeping tale by any means; just a coming-of-age story about love, siblings, and truth. Content Review: Sexual content: Woman living alone is having…

Shaman’s Crossing
Adult / July 17, 2016

Soldier Son #1. Author: Robin Hobb. Summary: Nevare Burvelle was destined from birth to be a soldier. The second son of a newly anointed nobleman, he must endure the rigors of military training at the elite King’s Cavalla Academy–and survive the hatred, cruelty, and derision of his aristocratic classmates–before joining the King of Gernia’s brutal campaign of territorial expansion. The life chosen for him will be fraught with hardship, for he must ultimately face a forest-dwelling folk who will not submit easily to a king’s tyranny. And they possess an ancient magic their would-be conquerors have long discounted–a powerful sorcery that threatens to claim Nevare Burvelle’s soul and devastate his world once the Dark Evening brings the carnival to Old Thares. (Summary from Goodreads.) My Thoughts: Shaman’s Crossing started out as an interesting, slow coming-of-age story. Somehow, it managed to embody both the noble savage and the dirty savage tropes in the same tribes, which seemed something of an achievement. The straight forward coming-of-age story thread remained solidly interesting, as the main character advances through a military academy, making friends and enemies, and struggling to reach high standards. But the magic plot line just got stranger and stranger as it…

Summers at Castle Auborn
Young Adult / May 22, 2016

Author: Sharon Shinn Summary: Coriel Halsing has been visiting Castle Auburn during the summer every year for most of her life – and throughout her childhood, it has formed happy memories and excitement to carry her through the quiet life in her small home the rest of the year. But as Coriel reaches marriageable age her own maturing understanding changes everything around her at the castle, though now she knows it has always been this way. My Thoughts: Summers at Castle Auburn is set in classic medieval fantasy setting. Don’t worry, there are no dragons or elves; but much of the tale takes place in the castle and court, and the basic structure is very familiar. I loved this coming-of-age tale, and was highly impressed by the author’s light hand. Coriel starts out a giddy teenager, swooning over the handsome prince, but even then she is bold, adventurous, and kind. It was these traits that kept me reading even when I was rolling my eyes over her infatuations, and I was rewarded. Once past the first quarter of the story Coriel is coming into her true understanding, and the plot is far more interesting. The half-noble daughter must weave her…

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…