Etiquette & Espionage
Young Adult / August 19, 2017

Finishing School #1. Author: Gail Carriger. Summary: It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School. Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education. My Thoughts: Total fluff, but really fun. The perfect thing for some really light back-to-school reading to get back into studying mode. In this paranormal steampunk setting young Victorian ladies are going to a floating finishing school to learn proper etiquette, from…

Red Rider’s Hood
Young Adult / August 16, 2017

Dark Fusion #2. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: In this second entry in Neal Shusterman’s Dark Fusion series, he twists the familiar fairy tale “Red Riding Hood” into a brooding story about a city plagued by gangs. Red, a boy famous for cruising around in a bloodcolored Mustang, takes on the Wolves after they rob his grandmother. He decides to beat them by joining them, to learn their weaknesses. After a while, however, he finds himself drawn to the pack. At the next full moon, will Red take up their murderous ways, or will he take them down? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Quite a creepy little retelling of Red Riding Hood. I like the distance achieved, where the story is obviously fairy-tale based but far enough away to be its own story, and I think Shusterman did a good job with the rather dark, gritty city setting and atmosphere. Not sure I agree with the main character’s choices, but it’s not a story where the right/wrong sides are pinned down hard and fast – it’s fairly open-ended for the reader to decide. (Note that the Dark Fusion series is more a grouping than a series… no need to read the books…

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Young Adult / August 2, 2017

Author: Holly Black. Summary: Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave. One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself. My Thoughts: I picked this up at the library just a little while after writing a blog post marveling at the prevalence of vampire novels, which struck me as funny. The story was fast-paced and flowing, the characters interesting enough to keep me reading; I admired the MC’s determination and strength of will in her battle to stay human. Beyond that it had some distinctly weird sub-plots, from the somewhat-insane vampire (who may or may not be in love with MC) to the…

City of Glass
Young Adult / June 28, 2017

The Mortal Instruments #3. Author: Cassandra Clare. Summary: To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters – never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight. As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City – whatever the cost? (Published Summary) Content Review: Sexual Content: “Maybe she’s trying to take your parents’ attention off you, since they still don’t know you’re gay.” / Character walks in on two teens “locked in a passionate embrace”. /…

City of Ashes
Young Adult / June 27, 2017

The Mortal Instruments #2. Author: Cassandra Clare. Summary: Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father. To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father? (Published Review) My Thoughts: They’re like dorito chips. No nutritional value whatsoever, and sometimes…

Jennifer the Damned
Young Adult / June 5, 2017

Author: Karen Ullo. Summary: When a sixteen-year-old orphan vampire adopted by an order of nuns matures into her immortal, blood-sucking glory, all hell literally breaks loose. Yet with every rapturous taste of blood, Jennifer Carshaw cannot help but long for something even more exquisite: the capacity to experience true love. As she struggles to balance her murderous secret life with homework, cross-country practice, and her first boyfriend, Jennifer delves into the terrifying questions surrounding her inhuman existence, driven by the unexpectedly human need to understand why she is doomed by a life she never chose. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Jennifer the Damned was marketed as an anecdote to modern vampire stories. It was supposed to hark back to Dracula and the other original horror tales. I was surprised and disappointed, therefore, at its ‘highschool YA feel’ and writing style. It felt like a YA vampire book + Catholicism, which is certainly more interesting than a straight vampire novel – but nothing like Dracula. To be fair, the Catholic element adds an entirely new layer to the entire story. Jennifer has never been baptized, ​but she learned to believe the Catholic truths from her vampire mother, who could, unlike any human…

Why Vampires?
Outside the Reviews / June 4, 2017

Trends and fashions generally move through books at about the same speed as they do in clothing; perhaps a little slower. And just like clothing trends, most of the time they’re completely harmless, but sometimes they go all weird and pear-shaped, and readers find themselves looking back and wondering “Just how did we end up with seventeen supernatural books following the same angelic plot line published over the same two years?” One of the weirder trends that’s doing a good job of sticking around is the vampire novel. Stories of revenants date all the way back to the 12th century, and by the 16th and 17th centuries they were blood-drinking; these walking dead entered literature through Gothic Horror around the 19th century, and the rest, as they say, is history. Only… it isn’t. Not really. In the first place, the vampire novels are hardly history – they’re still being published. But in the second, the series coming out today are very, very different from the early horror novels. They do still pull their traditions from the same source, though, and the result is what makes them odd. Early vampires were the incarnation of evil. Literally soulless, constantly murdering, driven away…

Supernaturally
Young Adult / August 17, 2016

Paranormalcy #2. Author: Kiersten White. Summary: Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be…kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees. But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself. So much for normal. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Almost nothing happens in this book, especially on-screen. Evie goes to school and complains about how boring normal life is after all; she lies to Lend about any number of things and goes on a couple of dates with him; and gets nearly killed several times in company with Jack, but this is nothing new. I was quite disappointed with the loss of interest. Content Review: Sexual content: Some kissing, mostly off screen….

The Immortal Rules
Young Adult / August 7, 2016

Blood of Eden #1. Author: Julie Kagawa. Summary: Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters. Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for… again. (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: A hug. Two kisses. Female walking out alone on a couple different occasions is approached by men whom, she is aware, have dishonorable intentions (nothing of the sort actually happens, although a few fight scenes incur.) Language: 40 d***, 22 derogatory terms, 13 scatological terms, 11 hell, one rude hand gesture. Violence: Three ‘criminal’ teens are hung. Character punches another in…

The Fifth Elephant
Adult / July 23, 2016

A Discworld Novel. Author: Terry Pratchett. Summary: When duty calls, Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork constabulary answers—even if he doesn’t want to. Now, he’s been invited to attend a royal function as both detective and diplomat. The one role he relishes; the other requires, well, ruby tights. Of course, where cops (even those clad in tights) go, alas, crime follows. An attempted assassination and a theft soon lead to a desperate chase from the low halls of Discworld royalty to the legendary fat mines of Uberwald, where lard is found in underground seams along with tusks and teeth and other precious ivory artifacts. It’s up to the dauntless Vimes—bothered as usual by a familiar cast of Discworld inhabitants (you know, trolls, dwarfs, werewolves, vampires, and such)—to solve the puzzle of the missing pachyderm. Which, of course, he will . . . after all, solving mysteries is his job. (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: 4 instances of innuendo. Language: 31 d***, 18 bloody, 17 hell, 13 derogatory terms Violence: Robbers ambush a coach; several are shot with arrows in the arm and leg, one in the throat. A man’s death by assassin suggested, but the scene is cut short. Character…