Hex Hall
Young Adult / August 22, 2017

Hex Hall #1. Author: Rachel Hawkins. Summary: Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. (Published summary) My Thoughts: Bland. Pretty boring. I may be spoiled by all the epic fantasy I read, but I just wasn’t drawn into the story-world; there’s no particular world-building and the characters seem petty and dull. I do think it’s all right to use a pre-existing set up, like basic werewolves and vampires, without any extra worldbuilding, so that you can jump straight into your story and focus on the action without explaining anything; or even just because you like that world. It does run more risk of being boring, though, especially when the action focuses around a strange on-off romance/attraction and a ghostly grandmother whom we all (except the main character) know is up to no good….

A Dragon of a Different Color
Young Adult / August 1, 2017

Heartstrikers #4. Author: Rachel Aaron. Summary: To save his family from his tyrannical mother, Julius had to step on a lot of tails. That doesn’t win a Nice Dragon many friends, but just when he thinks he’s starting to make progress, a new threat arrives. Turns out, things can get worse. Heartstriker hasn’t begun to pay for its secrets, and the dragons of China are here to collect. When the Golden Emperor demands his surrender, Julius will have to choose between loyalty to the sister who’s always watched over him and preserving the clan he gave everything to protect. (Published Summary.) My Thoughts : Bernadette: Well, I enjoyed it, but A Dragon of a Different Color wasn’t as good as the previous books. I imagine Rachel Aaron had all this awesome worldbuilding done that she really wanted to give her readers… so she tied plot twists to each discovery, and crammed them all together. And it was exciting and fun and illuminating, but – it was also crammed. It felt like the entire book was just a series of twists and reveals, with never enough down time to process the new reveal or even to just enjoy the new characters…

Young Adult / January 31, 2017

Talon #3. Author: Julie Kagawa. Summary: The price of freedom is everything. When forced to choose between safety with the dragon organization Talon and being hunted forever as an outcast, Ember Hill chose to stand with Riley and his band of rogue dragons rather than become an assassin for Talon. She’s lost any contact with her twin brother, Dante, a Talon devotee, as well as Garret, the former-enemy soldier who challenged her beliefs about her human side. As Ember and Riley hide and regroup to fight another day, Garret journeys alone to the United Kingdom, birthplace of the ancient and secret Order of St. George, to spy on his former brothers and uncover deadly and shocking secrets that will shake the foundations of dragons and dragonslayers alike and place them all in imminent danger as Talon’s new order rise. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: Feels like this series has gone downhill. Talon was a fun action-romance with a twist, and it worked well that way. But now Julie Kagawa is combining dystopia with romance, and as so often, it doesn’t work. Ember is agonizing over her love-triangle choice while she ought to be thinking about her plans, her loyalties, her brother….

One Good Dragon Deserves Another
Young Adult / October 5, 2016

Heartstrikers #2. Author: Rachel Aaron. Summary: Julius finally has his own magical business, in partnership with his human friend Marci. He’s happy to settle down there and never see the heartstriker clan again – but Bethseda is finally interested in him. His involvement with the Three Sisters has made him useful, and she’s not letting him disappear. Soon, Julius realizes he can’t try to back out – his clan needs him, whether or not he likes them. Mysterious attacks on high-ranking dragons, Estella’s suspicious co-operating, and the appearance of Alonquin’s dragon hunter adds up to more trouble than even Bob the seer can manage. Especially when futures are dropping off the map, whole trains vanishing completely. Can Julius and Marci find the future they need… and how much are they willing to trade for it? My Thoughts: I think this was even better than the first book, with more character development on all the minor characters. Very enjoyable, with fast-paced plot, intriguing characters, a well-worked out world and a good sense of humor. Content Review: Sexual content: One scene opens with dragon-woman in bed, grumping because her “young lover” is up and dressing “before noon”. Female dragon shapeshifts to human,…

Dragon’s Bait
Young Adult / September 19, 2016

Author: Vivian Vande Velde. Summary: If Alys really was a witch, as she has been accused of, she would cast a spell on her accusers to save herself as they leave her tied to a stake for a dragon. But she isn’t, so there’s nothing she can do but wait for her doom. It comes in the form of a golden-maned dragon, but instead of carrying her off he lands in front of her and transforms into a man. Alys may have a second chance at life… but will she spend it on revenge, or seek escape from the old life? My Thoughts: The characters felt a little flat. None of them were quite three-dimensional, except perhaps the protagonist. The message at the end also felt a little forced – I’d been expecting it from the beginning, but in a rather different format, not a straight statement from the protagonist. Despite this, I did enjoy Dragon’s Bait. It was a fun little story, the (slightly forced) thesis was at least a good one, and I frankly enjoyed the dragon. Content Review: Sexual content: Some low-level flirting. Male dragon takes human form to speak to a girl – unfortunately, this leaves…

Silver in the Blood
Young Adult / August 26, 2016

Author: Jessica Day George. Summary: Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate… or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might. My Thoughts: While it was okay, and better than some YA, I have to say this seems Jessica Day George’s worst book so far. The girls had some character, but they were not particularly interesting. The plot was odd, the villain lacked depth, and the overall tone was harsher than her previous books. Content Review: Sexual content: The villain threatens to rape two girls. A couple different women end up naked in front of men several times due to shapeshifting, but they then cover themselves with a shawl/blanket/some such. Language: Low. Violence: One girl is kidnapped…

Nice Dragons Finish Last
Young Adult / June 15, 2016

Heartstrikers #1. Author: Rachel Aaron. Summary: Julius Heartstriker has just been tossed out of his parent’s home, where he spent most of his time in his bedroom online. He’s in the big city now, with a job offered by his older brother – searching for a missing person. All this sounds quite normal. Julius, however, is a dragon. He may quite literally be killed if he doesn’t accomplish this task, a last chance to prove himself, and the runaway he’s hunting for – a dragoness – will be enspelled and dragged back to her home. Julius had better shape up fast and figure out which way his life is going, with help from a feisty human-mage, (no, she’s not my human, mother), his mysterious seer brother Bob whose predictions come true 80% of the time and are un-understandable 100% of the time, and another brother, Justin, the brawn of the outfit. My Thoughts: A fun, fast-paced read. The characters are distinct and interesting, from our main character – an unfortunate nice dragon born into a savage brood – to the FMC, with her dangerous past and determination and distinctly quirky housing and work arrangements. The setting is also unusual and vivid;…