The Tea Master and the Detective
Adult / January 15, 2018

Universe of Xuya. Author: Aliette de Bodard. Summary: Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood. A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her. As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past–and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars… (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Some…

Ghosts of Greenglass House
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 8, 2018

Greenglass House #2. Author: Kate Milford. Summary: Welcome back to the irresistible world of Greenglass House where thirteen-year-old Milo is, once again, spending the winter holidays stuck in a house full of strange guests who are not what they seem. There are fresh clues to uncover as friends old and new join in his search for a mysterious map and a famous smuggler’s lost haul. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I really love the author’s voice, which stays consistent from the last book. It’s straight-forward but well-crafted prose, with the third person view point sticking close to Milo, our protagonist, so everyone else is characterized through what he would notice first, then second, and on. Although Milo came to grips with his adopted identity last time, it’s not a struggle that can be resolved through The Power of Friendship or any such thing, and Kate Milford recognizes this. Milo is still very much working on growing up, and that includes such wide-ranging pursuits as learning to balance his emotions, learning to understand other people’s blunders, learning to retain his confidence in his own identity and background even when other people don’t understand. Spoilers for the previous book, Greenglass House: A solid,…

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’.

Bloodhound
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…