Island of Fire
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 1, 2016

Unwanteds #3. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: The magical world of Artimé is gone. The Unwanteds have no food, no water, and no hope. And everyone is looking to Alex Stowe for answers. Overwhelmed and feeling totally helpless, Alex knows it’s up to him to find a way to restore Artimé, rescue his captive friends, and free Megan from her voice-stealing necklace of thorns – three impossible tasks. But could help lie with the silent, orange-eyed newcomers? Meanwhile, Alex’s twin brother Aaron continues to build his army in the stark land of Quill, preparing for the ultimate showdown with the Unwanteds. But a shocking twist reveals that Alex and Aaron share a common enemy more dangerous than either could have imagined… (Goodreads summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: One kiss, some talk about whether a character ‘likes’ specific girls. Language: 4 crud Violence: Two men snatch food from a boy and run. A prisoner is kept tied up in the cupboard most of the day. A girl who was captured is dragged away and the boy has to be kicked down to keep from following them out. High priest sends his own father to be executed, but then rescinds the order. A…

Island of Silence
Middle Grade / Juvenile / April 30, 2016

Unwanteds #2. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: The battle is over. The magical barrier between the dreary land of Quill and the fantastical world of Artimé is gone. Now residents of both places are free to mingle, but tensions are high. The artistic warriors of Artimé struggle to forgive those in Quill who condemned them to death, while the Quillens attempt to recover from the shock of Artime’s existence, the loss of their leader, and the total collapse of their safe, orderly world. 14-year-old Alex Stowe has recovered from his physical wounds since his death-defying role in Artime’s victory, but his confidence is shattered. He battles self-doubt after Artimé’s beloved mage, Mr. Today, makes a stunning request, which is further complicated by the mysterious arrival of two silent, orange-eyed teenagers. Meanwhile in Quill, Aaron is devastated by his fall from grace and seething with anger toward his twin brother Alex. Spurred by rage, Aaron recruits a team of Restorers and devises a masterful plan of revenge that will return him to power…if no one gets in his way. My Thoughts: Lisa McMann has ratcheted up the tension another notch, bringing Aaron in much more prominently and giving us a little more…

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…

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…

The Unwanteds
Middle Grade / Juvenile / April 22, 2016

Unwanteds #1. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: Every Year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their graves. On the day of the Purge, identical twins Alex and Aaron Stowe await their fate. While Aaron is hopeful of becoming a Wanted, Alex knows his chances are slim. He’s been caught drawing with a stick in the dirt – and in the stark gray land of Quill, being creative is a death sentence. But when Alex and the other Unwanteds face the Eliminators, they discover an eccentric magician named Mr. Today and his hidden world that exists to save the condemned children. Artime is a colorful place of talking statues, uncommon creatures, and artistic magic, where creativity is considered a gift… and a weapon. My Thoughts: The writing is clearly directed to a middle-grade level, but I still enjoyed the story for myself. By the end many characters were well-filled out and interesting conflict set in place for later. The world was interesting, although without much background – no doubt more of that will come in later books. There was no romance among the teenagers except for one…

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 Girl Who Could Not Dream
Middle Grade / Juvenile / April 8, 2016

Author: Sarah Beth Durst Summary: Sophie has lived all her life just above the dream shop where her parents work. She can’t dream alone, but when she borrows a dream from the dreamshop she can dream it – and coax things, and animals, out of the dream with her when she wakes up. This is how she acquired Monster, her devoted pet. And it’s a good thing he loves her so much, since she doesn’t have any other friends. But when her parents go missing, along with most of the bottled nightmares, Sophie may not be able to do this on her own – she needs allies, and fast. But are all her allies quite trustworthy? My Thoughts: A deliciously wry, humorous middle grade book I would recommend to younger fantasy lovers. Durst sets us in a solid, intriguing world and brings on the action. Here your deepest fears can come to life… but is this a threat or a tool? The characters lampshade and laugh at their own speeches and life lesson declarations, and Monster’s irritation with some of the clichéd dream characters is wonderful. In fact, Monster is one of the best sidekicks I’ve seen in a children’s book….

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…

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
Adult , Young Adult / April 8, 2016

Author: Patricia McKillip. Summary: Sybel, with frost-white hair and eyes as black as Drede’s heart, is the sorceress of Eldwold, and she has lived alone on the mountain with her five beasts all her life. So when Coren Sirle, seventh son of a seventh son and nemesis of the king, comes knocking at her door with an infant, she has no idea what to do. Take him and love him, Coren begs, and the sorceress does, raising the boy to young manhood and letting herself love him as nothing else. Then Coren returns, wishing the boy back. Sybel refuses, determined to keep Tamlorn away from the tangled webs of politics and war. But when Tamlorn begs to meet his father, Sybel calls the king of Eldwold to her doorstep to meet his son, setting in motion chains of events that even she will be unable to stop. Tamlorn wants a father. Drede, king of Eldwold, wants the iceflower sorceress for his own. And Sybel wants only to be left alone to call the Liralen – until her power is shaken and her confidence ravaged. Then wakes her anger. My Thoughts: I think The Forgotten Beasts of Eld may be something…