Frogkisser!

Author: Garth Nix. Summary:  The last thing she needs is a prince. The first thing she needs is some magic. Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own. Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land—and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low. My Thoughts: It was funny for the first chapter or so, but then it got just a little bit bland. Everything was just a little too humorous and stylized for my taste, although I realize that the author did it on purpose, and the message was a little too blatant. Mostly, it felt too much like middle-grade magic, not like Garth Nix fantasy. However, the message was good, even…

As Old as Time
Young Adult / June 7, 2017

A Twisted Tale #3. Author: Liz Braswell. Summary:  What if Belle’s mother cursed the Beast? Belle is a lot of things: smart, resourceful, restless. She longs to escape her poor provincial town for good. She wants to explore the world, despite her father’s reluctance to leave their little cottage in case Belle’s mother returns—a mother she barely remembers. Belle also happens to be the captive of a terrifying, angry beast. And that is her primary concern. But Belle touches the Beast’s enchanted rose, intriguing images flood her mind—images of the mother she believed she would never see again. Stranger still, she sees that her mother is none other than the beautiful Enchantress who cursed the Beast, his castle, and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast must work together to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is twenty-one years in the making. My Thoughts: The prose was fairly mediocre, but I really liked the changes the author made to the Beauty and the Beast story. It’s not an easy one to pull off as a good retelling; weird enough that outside of the fairy-tale context often doesn’t work at all. But the background she built…

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 6, 2017

Author: Kelly Barnhill. Summary: Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known….

The Silver Trumpet
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 31, 2017

Author: Owen Barfield. Summary: In this delightful fantasy of kings and queens, a magical Silver Trumpet, a jester dwarf, and castle intrigues, English author Owen Barfield has created an enduring tale to captivate the imaginations of all readers. (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: Really, a lovely fairy tale in the old style. A handful of interesting metaphors for older readers to discuss, but nothing that tangles the story up or leaves it moralistic or boring. Content Review: Sexual Content: None. Language: One instance of ‘demme’. Violence: One character is killed by fright. There are two instances of planned mob-violence, but both times it is stopped.

The Wish Granter
Young Adult / May 17, 2017

Ravenspire #2. Author: C.J. Redwine. Summary: The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop. Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown. So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself. But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul. (Published…

The Star-Touched Queen
Young Adult / March 22, 2017

Author: Roshani Chokshi. Summary: Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen? Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire… But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: While normally romance isn’t my thing, The Star-Touched Queen felt more like a…

The Snow Child
Adult / March 21, 2017

Author: Eowyn Ivey. Summary: Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm, she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning, the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them. (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: Think fantasy x Jack London. I loved it. The description and the characters’ perception both bring out the harsh beauty of the wilderness, but that beauty morphs here and there…

Mechanica
Young Adult / January 13, 2017

Mechanica #1. Author: Betsy Cornwell. Summary: Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home. But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: So. Steampunk-Cinderella. Apparently a bunch of people had problems with slow pacing, but I don’t have problems with that usually, so it was fine. I loved Mechanica: her independence, her determination, her strength. I loved (parts of) the ending, and its message. Cinderella taking care of herself, and choosing her own fate? Oh, yes. But… it did fall a little flat. We have so much interesting build-up with the fae, and the possible war,…

Heartless
Young Adult / November 22, 2016

Author: Marissa Meyer. Summary: Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen. Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Set in a Victorian Wonderland, with a delightful mix of history, whimsy, and just the right amount of references to Carroll’s books, Heartless is the story of the girl who would become the Queen of Hearts. I delighted in it. To be sure, the romance was fast-paced (Flirting at their first meeting? Come on.) and the final chapters were rushed (how do…

The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Middle Grade / Juvenile / November 1, 2016

Author: Gail Carson Levine. Summary: The two princesses of Bamarre couldn’t be more different. Princess Addie is fearful and shy. Her deepest wish is for safety. Princess Meryl is bold and brave. Her deepest wish is to save the kingdom of Bamarre. They are sisters, and they mean the world to each other. Then disaster strikes, and Addie – terrified and unprepared – sets out on a perilous quest. In her path are the monsters of Bamarre: ogres, specters, gryphons, and dragons. Addie must battle them, but time is running out, and the sisters’ lives – and Bamarre’s fate – hang in the balance. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: A girl is attacked by an ogre, rams him into a tower to escape, and ends up with a dislocated shoulder. She is subsequently attacked by griffins, who gorge themselves to death, then by a dragon who carries her off. There is a battle scene in which a dragon dies, as well as various and sundry griffins, specters, and ogres. Other issues: A human girl marries a hundred-year old sorcerer, who will live to 500. Due to the heavily fairy-tale feel the contrast is not jolting or problematic…