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:…

Magic Steps
Young Adult / April 30, 2017

The Circle Opens #1. Author: Tamora Pierce. Summary: While caring for her uncle in Summersea, Lady Sandrilene Fa Toren witnesses a boy working a most unusual spell. Pasco can dance magic, but he wants nothing to do with his powers. It’s up to Sandry to teach him about his magic–and to convince him he can use it to get to the bottom of a series of gruesome murders. Content Review: Sexual content: Character thinks it would be good for another character if he fell in love again. Language: There are only a few odd uses such as ‘cat dirt’ and ‘rat turd’. Violence: Heavy. Second hand story of three people strangled. Body is found severely hacked and the head cut off. Character learns that an entire family was murdered. Horses are crippled with cuts to the hock (and belly). Character is attacked, head cut off. Street brawl. Baby murdered with a knife, and a little girl, and a man. Woman run through with knife. A healer beheaded and her assistant killed. Three characters with unmagic running through them are torn apart when the unmagic is called out, and ‘explode’.

Young Adult / April 28, 2017

Beka Cooper #2. Author: Tamora Pierce. Summary: Beka Cooper is no longer a Puppy. She’s a Dog now – a full-fledged member of the Provost’s Guard, which keeps the peace in Corus’s streets. Even her magic isn’t very useful when unrest comes to Tortall’s capital in the form of counterfeit coins, which turn up in shops all over the city. Merchants raise prices to cover their losses, and with winter coming on, hikes in food and fuel costs could spell disaster – most of all for the city’s poor. The Dogs discover that gamblers are bringing the counterfeits from Port Caynn – and that the Port Caynn Dogs don’t seem to be doing anything about it. Beka and her mentor, Clary Goodwin, are chosen to go undercover in Port Caynn and find out what they can. And wherever Beka goes, so do some of her animals. Departing from Corus with her are the scent hound Achoo, who has been newly assigned to Beka, and the pigeon Slapper, who carries the voices of the dead. My Thoughts: If she had used a more Christian view of chastity, it would have been an awesome book. A strong, independent, likable main character, who…

Cold Fire
Young Adult / April 22, 2017

The Circle Opens #3. Author: Tamora Pierce. Summary: Daja and Frostpine expect to have a peaceful winter’s visit with old friends in Kugisko, a port in the vast empire of Namon. But there is no peace when mysterious fires begin to blaze across the vulnerable city. Daja assists Bennat Ladradun, a local firefighter with a tragic past, to fight the flames. The two become fast friends-until they realize the fires have been deliberately set, and their relationship is deeply tested. Daja’s magic helps her track down the firestarter, but no magic can protect her or Ben from the effects of madness and betrayal. My Thoughts: Not as good as the others. Her students are more spread out with less contact, and the mad man is unsettling. Content Review: Sexual content: Woman says that showing magical talent will improve a girl’s marriage prospects. Man decides he’s in love with girl. Woman falsely accuses younger mage of “bedding her teacher”. Language: None. Violence: Multiple fires are set. One beggar woman burned to death and one firefighter killed by smoke in one, eight innocent people killed in another. One man is executed by burning to death, because of the strong flame it ends…

Greenglass House
Middle Grade / Juvenile / February 14, 2017

Greenglass House #1. Author: Kate Milford. Summary: It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House-and themselves. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: Greenglass House was lying around the house when I picked it up, and I didn’t realize it was middle grade at first (a good sign), not because of adult content but because the writing style was actually interesting and non-condescending. Our two main characters, Milo and Meddy, start investigating a seemingly minor mystery just to pass the time – but the further they go, the more tangled it gets, and the events at the house only add to it. As more questions are raised, their quest…

The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I mean Noel)
Middle Grade / Juvenile / February 3, 2017

Author: Ellin Raskin. Summary: Glub! Blub! Mrs. Caroline “Little Dumpling” Carillon isn’t quite sure what to expect when she sets off to meet her husband, Leon. After all, she hasn’t seen him since their wedding when she was five and he was seven. But their reunion is cut short when a storm knocks him off their boat, and he disappears completely, leaving only one very waterlogged clue (Glub! Blub!). Will Dumpling be able to find Leon (or is it Noel) again? And just what is a glub blub? (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: A light-hearted, humorous affair full of ridiculous riddles and quirky characters. Content Review: Sexual Content: Kid says: “Mavis Bensonhust’s mother always wears lace underwear in case a truck hits her and her dress flies up in the air” … “That’s why I never wear any underwear,”. A little further on she explains that instead she always wears a purple bathing suit under her clothes. Language: None. Violence: Building blows up and bodies of people inside it are never found. Girl bites her governess, who dives down a laundry chute. Man trips, hits his head on a table, and needs stitches. Man falls off a boat and seems to…

Ghostly Echoes
Young Adult / January 1, 2017

Jackaby #3. Author: William Ritter. Summary: Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected. Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced. (Goodreads summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: One kiss. Language: 3 d***, 3 derogatory terms, 1 hell Violence: Man tries to steal life-force from another character. Nixie attacks people with water. Ghost throws bathtub around and smashes it through a wall. MC comes across a couple of kids tormenting a girl and drives them off. Other: There’s a transgender…

Beastly Bones
Young Adult / December 17, 2016

Jackaby #2. Author: William Ritter. Summary: I’ve found very little about private detective R. F. Jackaby to be standard in the time I’ve known him. Working as his assistant tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality . . . In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad’s Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer. (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: One kiss Language: 4 d***, 1 derog Violence: Characters find dead bodies. They find carnage (blood and splinters) of what used to be animals. Find man badly wounded by monster…

Young Adult / November 23, 2016

Jackaby #1. Author: William Ritter. Summary: Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane—deny. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: The premise is rather hackneyed. An eccentric detective and his clever assistant, off to solve the crimes even the police fail on? It’s been done before. Kind of a lot. But the paranormal aspect is new, and Ritter’s grasp of mythology is admirable. Rather than going with the cliched paranormals that are everywhere right now, like vampires and werewolves, he’s taken in their lesser-known cousins to weave an unusual murder mystery. And even if cliched, Jackaby was an interesting, amusing, and…

The Mystery of the Wandering Caveman
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 13, 2016

A Three Investigators Mystery. Author: M. V. Carey. Summary: Three young sleuths investigate the disappearance of a caveman’s bones from a museum and uncover skulduggery at a science foundation. My Thoughts: Like all the Three Investigator books, in both a good and bad way. The books tend to blend together, all following the same pattern; but each is individually interesting. Good for younger readers, while slightly older fans of the detective story would enjoy them too. They are always completely clean, and rather than always a who-dunnit, often experiment with a more nebulous mystery. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Some people are put to sleep with anesthetic against their will. There is a short scuffle with a thief, who is picked up by the police and brought to jail.