House of Many Ways
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 4, 2018

Howl’s Moving Castle #3. Author: Diana Wynn Jones. Summary: Charmain Baker is in over her head. Looking after Great-Uncle William’s tiny cottage while he’s ill should have been easy. But Great-Uncle William is better known as the Royal Wizard Norland, and his house bends space and time. Its single door leads to any number of places—the bedrooms, the kitchen, the caves under the mountains, the past, and the Royal Mansion, to name just a few. By opening that door, Charmain has become responsible for not only the house, but for an extremely magical stray dog, a muddled young apprentice wizard, and a box of the king’s most treasured documents. She has encountered a terrifying beast called a lubbock, irritated a clan of small blue creatures, and wound up smack in the middle of an urgent search. The king and his daughter are desperate to find the lost, fabled Elfgift—so desperate that they’ve even called in an intimidating sorceress named Sophie to help. And where Sophie is, can the Wizard Howl and fire demon Calcifer be far behind? Of course, with that magical family involved, there’s bound to be chaos—and unexpected revelations. No one will be more surprised than Charmain by…

Castle in the Air
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 3, 2018

Howl’s Moving Castle #2. Author: Diane Wynn Jones. Summary: Far to the south of the land of Ingary, in the Sultanates of Rashpuht, there lived in the city of Zanzib a young and not very prosperous carpet dealer named Abdullah who loved to spend his time daydreaming. He was content with his life and his daydreams until, one day, a stranger sold him a magic carpet. That very night, the carpet flew him to an enchanted garden. There, he met and fell in love with the beauteous princess Flower-in-the-Night, only to have her snatched away, right under his very nose, by a wicked djinn. With only his magic carpet and his wits to help him, Abdullah sets off to rescue his princess…. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Hm… it’s okay. I’m not sure if my reaction of “meh” is actually from the book, or just because I’ve read a lot of Aladdin retellings, and Aladdin isn’t even one of my favorite stories. The insta-love is a strike, even in middle-grade. But on the plus side, Abdullah is an engaging main character, and the magic carpet is always good. Always. The story’s mostly set in “the Sultanates of Rashpuht”, a land far…

The Knights of Crystallia
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 1, 2018

Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians #3. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: In this third Alcatraz adventure, Alcatraz Smedry has made it to the Free Kingdoms at last. Unfortunately, so have the evil Librarians–including his mother! Now Alcatraz has to find a traitor among the Knights of Crystallia, make up with his estranged father, and save one of the last bastions of the Free Kingdoms from the Evil Librarians. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Alcatraz has a few moments of seriousness for once. (Only a few. No worries.) They’re so quick, almost throwaway, that how you take them is entirely up to you: ignore them because he’s just messing with you, consider them to reveal a deeper side to Alcatraz, take them as morals – you can do anything. It’s very non-preachy, despite the bits on “the dangers of fame” and all that, which is great. I love the self-aware narrator trope. And Alcatraz is one of the best. With his evil manipulations of chapter breaks, which he’s not at all shy of explaining to us, his wandering monologues – how dare he malign fish sticks, by the way, what a flaw in my hero – and his overt, blatant foreshadowing, he becomes…

Howl’s Moving Castle
Middle Grade / Juvenile / December 31, 2017

Howl’s Moving Castle #1. Author: Dianne Wynn Jones. Summary: Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye. My Thoughts: My younger siblings aren’t that much into reading – not as much as we wish they were – but when we got this trilogy for Christmas both of them (ages 12 and 10) devoured all three books in a matter of days, very nearly quarreling over who got which book. And, yes, I had to steal the books in the evenings too, to see what all the fuss was about. They’re great fun. I think the charm lies…

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:…

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Adult / December 3, 2017

Author: Susan Clarke. Summary: English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory. But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England’s magical past and regained some of the powers of England’s magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French. All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington’s army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be…

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…

Silksinger
Middle Grade / Juvenile , Young Adult / October 26, 2017

Faeries of Dreamdark #2. Author: Laini Taylor. Summary: One faerie, the last of her clan, must fight to complete her sacred duty Whisper Silksinger is the last of the secret guardians of the Azazel, one of the powerful Djinn who dreamed the world into being. Relentlessly pursued by bloodthirsty devils, she flees to the city of Nazneen to restore the Azazel to his temple. At the same time, Hirik Mothmage is also on a secret quest, to find the Azazel and restore his disgraced clan’s ancient honor. And behind them all flies Magpie Windwitch, first champion of the new age of faeries, desperate to rescue Whisper and the Azazel alike before they fall in the clutches of a sinister hidden enemy. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Much more dynamic and fast-paced than the first one! When multiple new point-of-views were first introduced, I was confused and none too pleased. Who are all these random people, and why am I watching them mess about when Magpie obviously has important things to do? As it turned out, Whisper Silksinger and Hirik Mothmage turned into my two new favorite characters. (There aren’t even that many characters, but trust me – I really, really like…

Apex
Young Adult / October 21, 2017

Hunter #3. Author: Mercedes Lackey. Summary: Being a member of the Elite Hunter Command imperils Joy in more ways than one. In their latest clash with Othersiders, the army of monsters nearly wiped them out. Apex City is safe . . . for now. But within the city barriers, Joy must wage a different kind of war. The corrupt and powerful PsiCorps is determined to usurp the Hunters as chief defenders of Apex City and Joy is now squarely in their crosshairs. Unused to playing political games, she has very few people she can truly trust—not even Josh, her first friend in Apex City, who broke up with her when it became too dangerous for a Psimon to be dating a Hunter. Then Josh comes to Joy for help. He fears that Abigail Drift, the head of PsiCorps, will soon use him in her twisted experiments designed to empower PsiCorps and render Hunters superfluous—a scheme that’s already killed off dozens of Psimons. Joy manages to smuggle Josh to safety, but he cannot evade Drift forever . . . As Joy faces ever more powerful Othersiders, she is helped by the most surprising ally imaginable—the same Folk Mage she once met…