Saturday, June 23, 2018

Traiter's Game

Kestra Dallisor is a daughter of the ruling class.  following a kidnapping three years ago, she's been living in hiding in the lava fields.  Now, her father has called her back, and Kestra is curious and hesitant.  He's never really been a loving and attentive father.

Her carriage is assaulted on the way back, and she is kidnapped.  Kestra is forced into a no-win scenario.  Help her kidnappers find a magical blade that is the only way to kill the kingdom's powerful and magically corrupt ruler, or sentence her servants and closest friends to death.

Simon was once Kestra's closest childhood friend until she betrayed him and sentenced him to death.  He escaped through a stroke of luck, and now he's one of her kidnappers.

Accompanied by Simon, posing as her guard, and Trina, posing as her maid, Kestra returns home to find the Olden Blade.  Now that she is involved in the plan, she knows it's only a matter of time before she is killed or banished.  Dallisors don't forgive.

This new series by Jennifer Nielsen is nothing new in the fantasy romance genre.  While it is a bit slow in places, it will appeal to fans of the genre.

Dragon's Green

It's been years since the Worldquake, a global disaster that sent the entire planet back to the analog age. Effie's mother has been missing since the quake, and her father doesn't seem to care about much besides his job, his new wife, and the new baby.

Effie has been spending a lot of time with her grandfather and trying to get him to teach her about magic.  He only talks in riddles when she asks him questions.  She is devastated when her grandfather dies after an attack.

She inherits his library along with a handful of magic objects and the exhortation to find Dragon's Green.  In the midst of her sadness, she attempts to follow his wishes with the help of some new friends.  Maximillian has spent his life studying magic and is geeking out over the opportunity to participate in a real quest.  Wolf is a star athlete born to wield a magical weapon.  Lexie was born into the world of magic, and Raven wants nothing more than to be a real witch.

These unlikely friends will have to rescue her grandfather's library and discover the secret of Dragon's Green.

Scarlett Thomas's series opener is a fun and original story of magic and adventure where books have real power.  Fantasy fans will love it!

Friday, June 22, 2018


It's the autumn of 1846, and Lorraine and her family are on the edge of starvation after the previous year's failed potato crop.  The wild edible plants they've been eating can barely sustain them, but they have the hope of this year's crop to sustain them.

But all their hope is lost when they wake one morning to blackened leaves signifying the blight is back again.  Everyone is in a rush to save what they can, but the potatoes that aren't already rotten are small and won't last long. 

A chance meeting with Susanna, the daughter of the wealthy English lord who owns the land the work gives Lorraine an avenue to food to help sustain her family and neighbors, but it must remain a secret.  Susanna is desperate for friendship, but her father would never approve of a poor Irish farm girl.  Plus, Lorraine and friends could be arrested for theft. 

I really wanted to love Donna Jo Napoli's story about the Irish potato famine that killed at least a million people and sent another million across the ocean to start a new life in America.  Her depictions of starvation and disease are heartbreaking, but there just isn't much plot here.  As a mature reader with Irish heritage, I persevered, but I'm not sure many kids would stick around for the duration.

Ghost Boys

Jerome knows he's dead.  He's watching his own body lying on the ground in a puddle of blood.  He sees the police officer who shot him and his mother crying behind the police tape.  He just wanted to play in the park.  It was a toy gun, and he wasn't bothering anyone, but now he's dead.

He doesn't understand why he can't move one or why he can't communicate with his best friend, his little sister, or even his mother.  The only living person who can see and hear him is Sarah, the daughter of the officer who shot him.

There's someone else he can talk to, another dead boy named Emmett Till.  Jerome has heard his grandmother talk about Emmett before but he doesn't really know anything about him.

Jerome is angry he's dead and angry he can only talk to a dead boy and Sarah, who has a different view of the events in the park.

Jewell Parker Rhodes's newest book is a heartbreaking journey through anger, forgiveness, and understanding.  Rhodes deftly helps the reader and Jerome understand the connections between modern unconscious bias and the violent racism of the past.  Her handling of Sarah is more surprising as she goes from oblivious bystander to a voice for change and understanding.  This is the book middle school librarians have been waiting for to address these issues.  Highly recommended!

Time Bomb

Diana knows perception is everything.  She has to be the perfect daughter of a congressman, but she feels like no one sees her for who she truly is.

Rashid is loyal to his Muslim faith, but he sometimes wishes he could fade into the background or at least be seen as a person instead of a potential terrorist.

Z has nowhere left to turn.  His mother recently died of cancer, and he is being evicted from their apartment.  He's failing all his classes, and no one seems to care.

Tad is tired of pretending.  He's already come out to his family, but they aren't very accepting.  He thought he'd met someone who would be willing to accept him, but now things are falling apart.

Cas is tired of everything.  Her parents thought moving her to a new school would change things, but nothing will help.  She's tired of being the constant victim of bullying.

Frankie is the popular guy, captain of the varsity football team, and the one who can do no wrong--even when he tries.  Recently, he made a big mistake, and he'll do anything to keep his secret.

Six kids who are at school one day in the last weeks of summer.  Each of them has a secret.  Each of them is determined to make things change no matter the cost.

When a bomb detonates inside the school that day, these six relative strangers will have to try to survive.  But things are even worse, there are more bombs in the building preventing rescue crews from getting to them, and the latest reports reveal one of the six is the bomber.

Joelle Charbonneau's newest book is a thrilling mystery which addresses timely issues, but I did feel a bit let down by the ending.  Once the bomber's identity was revealed, I had to go back and reread the paragraph because it just didn't make sense.  I think I needed more backstory to understand the person's motivation, and it just never came.  Also, with recent school shootings still fresh on my mind, this was a difficult book to read.  That said, I think kids will love the mystery and suspense and relate to the characters who feel that no one truly understands them.  Grades 7 and up

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Not If I Save You First

Maddie thought she and Logan would be best friends forever, but life is complicated when your dad is the head of the secret service and your best friend is the son of the president. After a botched kidnapping attempt where her father was seriously injured, Maddie's father whisks her away to a remote corner of Alaska where they live in isolation.

In the seven years since then, Maddie has learned to be independent, to be a survivor, to handle a knife and a hatchet with precision.  What she hasn't figured out is why Logan never answered any of her letters.

Logan has grown up in the public eye and resenting every minute of it.  He feels his father's disapproval with everything he does, so why bother trying.  He didn't ask to be the president's son with no real friends, only people hoping to gain a little social capital.  He hasn't had a real friend since Maddie left.

When Logan's antics go too far, his parents decide to send him someplace where he can get a little perspective.  Where better than a far corner of Alaska with a man they'd trust with their lives?

Maddie is furious at having to share her tiny home with spoiled Logan who dropped her as soon as she was out of sight, but an oncoming storm sends her dad on a supply run leaving the two alone.  Maddie is by turns furious and charmed by hints of the old Logan who was her best friend.  Logan is thrilled to be back with the only person he's ever really considered a friend.

In the midst of these conflicting emotions, they are attacked.  Logan is kidnapped, and Maddie is left for dead.  That was the kidnappers first mistake.  Maddie may be furious with Logan, but she won't leave him in the hands of a kidnapper.  Maddie is tough, but does she stand a chance against a heartless professional thug in an Alaskan snow storm?

Ally Carter's first stand-alone novel has all the elements her readers have come to expect:  suspense, adventure, mystery, and a little romance.  Carter has a knack for writing strong heroines who step up and take charge, and this book is no exception.  Plus, this is a real survival story, which ratchets up the intensity!  This is a quick, fun read that is sure to be popular with middle and high school readers!

Brightly Burning

Stella was raised to be a mechanic on the floundering spaceship she calls home.  A fleet of ships has been in orbit around an earth encased in ice.  It's already been over 200 years, and ships that house the poor farm workers are failing while the rich are living in luxury.

Stella may be a mechanic, but she wants to be a teacher.  She loves teaching science and literature to the children on her ship, but teaching posts are few and far between.  She's been turned down by all of the major ships, so when she gets an offer to be a governess on the private ship, Rochester, she jumps at the chance.

From the start, the experience is strange.  There are rumors the ship is haunted.  Stella scoffs at the idea, but she can't dismiss the strange noises she hears outside her cabin at night.  The ship is luxuriously furnished with real wood and paper books.  Then there is Captain Hugo Fairfax.  He's much younger than Stella expected, just a few years older than she is, and he is prone to fits of drunken moodiness.

A series of strange accidents convince Stella someone on board is trying to kill the captain, but who could it be?  As she tries to solve the mystery, she and Hugo grow closer, but even if her watchful eyes can uncover the truth, it might not be enough to save him.

I really wanted to love Alexa Donne's Jane Eyre in space.  Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorites, and I was hoping to love this book, too.  I like it, and sometimes I really liked it, but it wasn't as wonderful as I wanted it to be.  There were some sections that felt like simple retellings of the original story but without the glory of Charlotte Bronte's style.  There are some great things about this story, though.  I love the high stakes element of a frozen earth and dying spaceships, the addition of a real conflict between the social classes, and the addition of a medical mystery.  I don't want to give too much away, but the handling of the crazy lady in the attic is well-done and totally appropriate for older middle school readers.

The ending fell a little flat, too, and I think that will be most disappointing to teen readers.  For all the stolen kisses earlier in the book, there's not much passionate embracing when Stella and Hugo finally get to be together in the end.  I get that Donne was following the format of the original, but it just felt a little removed to me.

Overall, I'm probably too critical because I've read Jane Eyre so many times and loved it since I was a young teenager myself.  I did enjoy the book.  I pretty much read it in one sitting, and I will definitely read Donne's next book which will be another classic novel in space retelling.  I would hand this one to fans of the Lunar Chronicles.  Grades 7 and up.