Friday, August 13, 2010


By Jenny Moss
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3 3/4 stars

Shadow cannot remember a life before the queen.  Shadow lives her life glued to Queen Audrey's side for it was prophesied that she would die before her 16th birthday and perhaps Shadow will receive the killing shot or blow or whatever it may be instead.  Shadow is well aware of her role and she hates it.  Audrey is not kind to her shadow, and neither are the queen's ladies.  The only happiness Shadow ever has is when she is outside for brief moments,  or when she shares a joke with Piers, the servant of the queen's regent.  Shadow also likes to look at Sir Kenway, who loves the queen.  All Shadow can think of is escaping this limited life. But then the unthinkable happens--the queen dies, and before Shadow knows it, Sir Kenway is whisking her away, out of the castle, on orders by one of the advisors to keep Shadow safe.  Safe from what?  From whom?  As Shadow and Kenway make their way across the countryside, slowly secrets start to come to light.  Who IS Shadow really?  Can she really forge a connection with Sir Kenway?  Why are they being pursued?  And what can Shadow do to help save her country?  Readers will be swept along in the story and fantasy fans will particularly enjoy it.

Monday, August 2, 2010


By Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars

Fantasy writers, collaborators and spouses, McKinley and Dickinson churn out 5 short stories that have their base in the creatures of fire.  Whether you want to be reading about a world like today or one that is completely a fantasy, readers will find something to like in these tales of dragons, hellhounds, phoenix and spirit walkers.  Each story has a somewhat different flavor, but all are extremely enjoyable and readers may wish they continued into full novels.  Fans may also want to try out this couple's other compilation, Water.

Monday, July 19, 2010


By Catherine Fisher
Rating: 4 1/2 stars
Genre: Science Fiction

What if the future was the past?  Although the year this story is set in is far in the future, the current rulers have forced everyone to live in more Victorian times, making their homes, clothing, and more look like that distant period in history.  And more than 150 years ago, they created what they believed would be a Utopian society, and placed nearly a third of the population into Incarceron, a giant prison that would recycle everything within it and be self-supporting.  Claudia is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron and is desperate to know all she can about the place, but the biggest secret of Incarceron is that no one knows where it is.  Claudia is due to marry the insipid Prince Caspar, and wishes that she could be marrying the first prince, who died in an accident a few years before.  Then, during her searching, she discovers a key with mysterious powers, and the key shows her a boy holding the a duplicate of her key within the prison.  Finn seems to have memories of the world outside of Incarceron and thinks he may be able to escape. As the two learn to communicate through the key, Claudia begins to think that Finn may be more than a simple prisoner. But her wedding is at hand...can they figure out where Incarceron is and how to escape from it before it is too late?  This is a hard to put down story and readers will wonder if a sequel is in the offing.  Fascinating adventure!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Magician of Hoad

By Margaret Mahy
Rating: 3 stars

Heriot Tarbas has always been a little odd and after he has a vision one day, word spreads about him all the way to the king's ears and Heriot is tapped to become, potentially, the next Magician of Hoad.  It isn't what Heriot has ever wanted, but once in the city of Diamond, he finds a friend in the youngest prince, Dysart, and discovers he does have a magical talent.  However, Heriot can tell that the way he serves the king and makes illusions is not quite what he should be doing.  He has one other friend named Cayley, a rough young boy who is obsessed with becoming a strong fighter.  But the game is afoot in Hoad, for the king has worked long and hard for peace between the countries, which makes the Hero a useless character.  Prince Betony, heir to the throne, is bored by the every day wonders of the world and longs to become a god and shake up the kingdom.  And when the Hero and the prince decide to join forces, trouble is brewing.  Can a reluctant magician solve the crisis? The plot is slow-moving, but fantasy readers may enjoy the interesting characters and undercurrents of the land of Hoad.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Conspiracy of Kings

By Megan Whalen Turner
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4 1/4 stars
Fans of The Thief, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia will be thrilled to see those familiar characters and settings back in action. This time the focus is not on Gen but on Sophos, who we first met as the magus' apprentice back in The Thief. Very quickly we discover Sophos is now on the threshold of adulthood, but still an intellectual and one who considers himself more a poet and never as an actual possible candidate to be king of Sounis. But all that changes when his remote island villa where he and his mother and sisters were secreted away is attacked by people aiming to kidnap the family. For the first time ever, Sophos has to spring into action and finds himself actually equal to the task. Unfortunately, he is still taken captive, discovering that there is a plot to kill his uncle and replace him with Sophos as a puppet king, taking orders from the rebellious dukes. But it is in his captivity that Sophos begins to realize that maybe, just maybe, he has the right stuff to be a king after all. Filled with politic intrigue and battles, fans of the earlier books will be eager to see how everything turns out as plans turn on a dime and the plots are thick with betrayals from all different corners. Some readers will miss not seeing more of Eugenides, but all in all, a very welcome addition to the Queen's Thief series.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs

By Ron Koertge
Genre: Sports/Realistic Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

This is the sequel to Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, but you don't have to know the first book to follow the second. Kevin plays first base, has a writer for a father, and has a cute girlfriend named Mira.  And oh yes, he is also a  poet.  While at an open mic night with his father, Kevin meets Amy, a girl his age who plays a mean piano but is also a poet.  The two strike up a poetry friendship, trading emails daring each other to write different kinds of poetry.  As Kevin tries to balance his environmentally-minded girlfriend with his new friendship with Amy, he feels thrown off balance by his father's return to dating after the death of his mother.  Kevin spills out his story in poetry of all kinds in his journal, which is also the book we are reading.  In turns it is both funny and moving as Kevin tries to figure out teenage life.  How do you kiss your girlfriend while thinking about another girl? And then Kevin discovers Amy has a boyfriend--the perfect Trevor.  Why can't everything be as simple and focused as being in the playoffs?  A very enjoyable book and a fast read, since it is written entirely in poems.  Fun!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Carbon Diaries 2015

By Saci Lloyd
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

In London in 2015, things aren't all that different from how they are now.  17 year old Laura hankers after her gorgeous next door neighbor and rocks out in a punk band with her friends.  But since the Great Storm, the world has been forced into realizing that global warming and fossil fuel dependence are real issues and Great Britain is the first country, the model for the rest of the world, to begin "carbon rationing."  Basically everyone is charged for how much energy the use individually.  At first things aren't so bad, but then things go from bad to worse.  Droughts and lack of water.  People can't afford to fly anywhere.  Laura's father decides to grow their own food and gets a pig!  And Laura's family starts falling apart: her older sister gets involved in some nefarious dealings with the black market, her mother wants to join a militant women's group, and her father loses his job and wants to be a farmer.  How can an ordinary teenage girl who just wants to rock out be anywhere near normal with all of this going on?  The start is a tad slow as we meet all of Laura's friends and family, but once carbon rationing kicks in, the story gets dead interesting.  And scary, if you think about what could happen in our world.  Fans will be hooked enough by the end to want to read the sequel, The Carbon Diaries 2017.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Woods Runner

By Gary Paulsen
Genre: Adventure/Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Paulsen adds to his stable of survival stories with this historical piece set during the American Revolution. Samuel and his parents live out on the frontier and Samuel is at home in the woods, hunting. But one day he returns from his day in the woods to find the entire settlement burning and ransacked, with many dead and others taken prisoner. The British and Iroquois had torn through the area, taking or killing as they may. Samuel immediately sets off in pursuit to rescue his parents, but how can a 13 year old take on a squad of soldiers and natives by himself? His path will lead him nearly to his death, and onto New York City in the attempt at a desperate rescue of his family. Fans of adventure and historical fiction will be drawn into the bluntly told tale and may even seek out more information about what happened in the background of the Revolutionary War besides the big battles.

Monday, March 8, 2010


By Kristin Cashore
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4 3/4 stars

This book is a companion to the fantastic Graceling, which deals with the same world but different characters. Fire is from the Dells, a kingdom in the midst of turmoil. King Nash clings to the throne but has serious threats to his crown from various parts of the kingdom and the land is on the edge of civil war. Also in the Dells are monsters--creatures in impossible colors that are so gorgeous, they enthrall humans--often to their deaths. They may be as innocent a creature as a kitten, or as dangerous as a raptor, and monsters prey upon other monsters. Fire is a human-monster hybrid, the only one of her kind, impossibly beautiful, with the ability to enter into and read your mind. Her dead monster father, Cansrel, used his own powers of influence for pleasure and evil. She has lived her entire life far away in the north, as safe as she could be with her friends Archer and his father Brocker. Fire has been trying to avoid using her mental powers, and hides her beauty as it has the power to drive others mad with love, hate or envy. But then a summons comes from the king--will she come to the royal city and use her powers to help them avoid this war? The army commander and prince, Brigan, arrives to escort her, and Fire feels his powerful dislike and his ability to shut her out of his mind. Yet she is drawn to him anyway when he proves to also be kind towards the monster she is. When Fire arrives at the palace, her choice is before her--will she use her powers for the greater good? How like her father is she? Can a monster really prevent a war? Readers will love this deeply layered story of secrets and lies and will be eager to see how Fire grows into her powers and how she ultimately uses them. A very big thumbs up!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


By Kristin Cashore
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4 3/4 stars

In this excellent debut novel, in the 7 kingdoms sometimes a child is born and after a short time, their eyes settle into each of a different color. These children are called "graced" or "gracelings" and are gifted specially--perhaps with the ability to be a great archer or baker or to swim well. Any Gracelings belong immediately to their king and are put to use by him and are quite often avoided by everyone else. Katsa has been Graced with fighting and is virtually unbeatable whether it be with a sword, bow or hand to hand, and her selfish bully king uses her as personal hitwoman to scare his subjects who may not obey as quickly as he would like. Katsa has almost no friends, but she has helped to secretly found the Council, which tries to quietly find out and right wrongdoings in the kingdoms. It is when Katsa helps rescue a kidnapped aging grandfather from the royal family in Lienid that her entire life changes. For then arrives Prince Po from Lienid, searching for news of his grandfather. Po is nearly as gifted a fighter as Katsa and also graced, and when the Council finally tells Po that they have rescued his grandfather, Po and Katsa eventually form a team to search out the culprits who kidnapped him. For besides being beloved of the royal family, he served no purpose--why take him at all? But as their search intensifies and leads to a possibly disturbing discovery in one of the kingdoms, Katsa also discovers things about herself and her companion. Is her Grace more than just fighting and killing? What is her true nature? And what is Po's true Grace? Katsa's world will be broken down and built back up from scratch as she fights and tumbles her way through her adventure to do what is right. A riveting fantasy that readers will find hard to put down. Fans may also be eager to read the companion book, Fire.