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…

Duckling Ugly
Young Adult / August 13, 2016

Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: Cara is so ugly, mirrors would rather break than show her reflection. Not even her own parents can deny her ugliness, and nothing can make up for the cruelty of her schoolmates. Tormented and tortured by the shallow people of Flock’s Rest, Cara’s life is miserable. Then Cara receives a shimmering note from some exotic place suggesting that there’s more to her than meets the eye. Cara wonders if her destiny has something to do with her recurring dreams of a beautiful green valley where the people are so accepting, her ugliness doesn’t matter. Soon, Cara discovers that her valley of dreams is real. It’s a place where the ugliest of ducklings can become swans. A swan, however, can have a serious taste for revenge . . . deadly revenge. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Like much of Neal Shusterman’s work, it walks the line between interesting and downright creepy. Or possibly slips over that line a little bit. A fast little allegory. Content Review: Sexual content: The Fountain of Life renders woman unable to have children. Language: One hell, one exclamation of ‘oh God’ Violence: One catfight between two girls.  

Free To Fall
Young Adult / June 28, 2016

Author: Lauren Miller. Summary: Sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn is motivated, happy, and successful. She’s been accepted to the most prestigious school in the country, and she’s the envy of her classmates. But none of them know her secret: that she hears the Doubt, the small inner voice, aka auditory hallucination, that can herald madness. When she meets a handsome boy in town who also hears the Doubt, and listens to it instead of using Lux, the decision-making app that directs everyone’s lives, Rory’s viewpoint begins to change. There’s something strange going on here, and she’ll have to question everything she ever knew to get to the bottom of it. My Thoughts: The world Lauren Miller creates is clever and believable; with the current trends, it’s all too easy to imagine an app that millions depend on for every decision. But except for the two main characters, none of the characters are very rounded or have strong personalities. I found it interesting, but not overly amazing. Content Review: Sexual content: “Rory, look at that sky. This is a photographer’s wet dream.” Some kissing. Character finds out her mother’s husband wasn’t her (first character) father. Girl starts to undo her boyfriend’s jeans, but…

Enchantress from the Stars
Young Adult / May 18, 2016

Author: Sylvia Engdahl. Summary: Three young people from different planets, at different levels of civilization, each wonder about their place in the world and what will become of mankind. Each is intimately mixed up in the fate of this one planet – Elana, the most advanced, because she is a key figure in the scouting expedition that tries to save the Youngling planet without interfering too much; Georyn, native of this planet, for it is he who must trust Elana to teach him to fight the dragon; and Jarel, a medical officer of the invading force, who has begun to doubt their right to enslave these people. Together, they will change the fate of the world. My Thoughts: This is a lovely, contrasting, reflective science-fiction tale. Whether or not you agree with the views finally presented, Sylvia gives the reader much to think on, as each of her characters face down decisions that have no right answer. The three-way pov is intriguing to me in the way she tells the same events through such different minds. Elana’s story is straight forward first person, and often introspective; at many points in the story she pauses to give her own thoughts or…

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…

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
Adult / April 23, 2016

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #4. Author: Douglas Adams. Summary: Back on Earth with nothing more to show for his long, strange trip through time and space than a ratty towel and a plastic shopping bag, Arthur Dent is ready to believe that the past eight years were all just a figment of his stressed-out imagination. But a gift-wrapped fishbowl with a cryptic inscription, the mysterious disappearance of Earth’s dolphins, and the discovery of his battered copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy all conspire to give Arthur the sneaking suspicion that something otherworldly is indeed going on. . . . God only knows what it all means. And fortunately, He left behind a Final Message of explanation. But since it’s light-years away from Earth, on a star surrounded by souvenir booths, finding out what it is will mean hitching a ride to the far reaches of space aboard a UFO with a giant robot. But what else is new? (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: Definitely of a lower quality than the first one. There’s a lot of time spent on Earth, some of it on an unnecessary, ‘adult’ romance line that doesn’t even make sense. Content Review: Sexual content:…

Animal Farm
Adult / April 22, 2016

Author: George Orwell. Summary: Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This 1945 satire addresses the socialist/communist philosophy of Stalin in the Soviet Union. My Thoughts: A brilliant, scathing book. I cannot honestly say I have ever liked it – by the end it always brings me close to tears – but I admire it for the writing power, and for how well Orwell demonstrates the principles he wants to while keeping it fast-paced and interesting. There’s a good reason it’s on so many high school lists. This brutal fable starts off like an interesting animal story – the animals have revolted, freedom is theirs, hurrah! Almost imperceptibly at first, but with gathering momentum and speed ominous signs overtake it as the pigs quietly gather power to themselves. Everything has a meaning to be analyzed later, but within the story everything is woven together so smoothly nothing jolts you out of the action. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Various animals are…

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…