Monday, November 17, 2014

The Story of Owen, dragon slayer of Trondheim

The Story of Own, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim  by E.K. Johnston

Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. 

17-year-old Siobhan McQuaid spends most of her non-school time composing and performing music, but her entire life changes when she meets apprentice dragonslayer Owen Thorskard and agrees to be his bard, promoting his adventures by setting them to music.  Together, Siobhan and Owen not only learn to fight dragons, they take decisive steps to keep rural Ontario safe from dragonfire forever.   

At least, that was the plan.

Here is an alternative history of the world as we know it, with dragons.  Dragons attracted to the carbon emissions of humanity, bothering the likes of historical figures from Alexander the Great to Queen Victoria to Henry Ford, and emperilling civilization every step of the way. 

Adventure, heroics, music, and dragons.  But no magic.  Plus: Canadian heroes and completely awesome cover art!  This is listed as book #1 of a series, but stands alone nicely.

Minor cussing, burnt flesh and bloodshed (not gory, but necessary to the story).  Romance, but no sexual situations on the page yet--perhaps volume 2 of the series will bring more?  We can hope.  

Recommended for readers 12 to adult.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before  by Jenny Han

Lara Jean has kept all the love letters she's ever written.  Whenever she's trying to fall out of love with a boy, she's always written him a letter, put it into an envelope and addressed it, but not mailed the letter.  It's a great system, until one day her little sister mails them all.  


Now all the boys Lara Jean has loved are coming to find out more about the girl who wrote those letters.  Including her older sister's ex-boyfriend.

(Very big oops.)

Sweet and funny, this story is bigger on the inside.  The relationship between the sisters is complex and believable.  The coming-and-going of boys is realistically confusing for Lara Jean, who has never had a boyfriend--or a date--before.  The rumor mill surrounding the school ski trip is absolutely ripped-from-the-halls-of-your-high-school.

And the ending...just stops. 

Ahhhh, because book #2 in the series (it's a series??) is set for publication in April 2015.  I guess we'll just have to wait and find out what happens next.

(I hate waiting.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sweet Reckoning

Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins


This is the third and final book in the Sweet Evil trilogy.  Where Book 2 was simply a bridge book, the final book brings all the suspense and excitement, and hot bodies to a very satisfying conclusion. 


Anna Whitt, half angel / half demon, is still working with her father, Belial, demon and duke of Substance Abuse, to rid the world of demons.  Anna was promised through a prophecy that if the dukes and their children, the nephilim, would fight to free the world of demons, they would not be thrust into the abyss.  How to get the demon world to work with her is the trick.


Anna has been working with the aid of several Nephilim and a (very)few of the dukes since Book 1.  The time has come to make a stand.  Anna has not seen Kaiden since he went back to work for his father, Pharzuph, the Duke of Lust.  Their love and partnership rekindled, they must now pull the fighters together for one last stand- at the meeting of all demons and nephilim.


The affair between Anna and Kaiden is still smoking hot.  Kaiden is still fighting the order from his father to deflower Anna.  Getting around that order is both cheesy and intriguing.  The action is non-stop, with surprises along the way.  The battle ends almost as it starts, but along the way, we see growth in each of the supporting cast, along with some new neph.


While this has always been good vs evil with Biblical mythology, the absolute religious tendencies of the author have been held in the distance.  In this last book, they are certainly forefront.  Still, we knew that when the series started.   The story stands on its own merit.


While the first two books were pretty chaste, with Kaiden pulling the abstinence stops, this one forges ahead.  Be ready.

All the Truth That's In Me

All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

Judith lives in the small rural town of Roswell Station with her mother and her older brother.  The time is not clear, but certainly everyone uses a horse and wagon, with farming the major occupation.  Judith loves her brother and her mother, and the neighbor boy, Lucas, whom she has loved forever.  People, however, avoid Judith.  Four years ago, she and her best friend Lottie disappear, and Judith returned with her tongue cut out.  Lottie was found floating face down in the river.

To please her mother, Judith avoids talking at all, and in reality becomes a servant in the house.  Townspeople think she might have been sexually abused (she wrote in a city fathers’ meeting that she was not) and/or gone slightly mad.  Lucas announces his engagement to the prettiest and most popular girl in town.  Then the town is attacked.  Judith knows how to save the town, but doing so will bring dire consequences, some very unintended. 

Each character is well defined, with a personality that will surprise you.  We are not simple people, we humans.  Neither are even the minor characters. 

A good reader will think they know the secrets and see the ending.  They will be wrong this time.

Yes, there are sexual situations, some real, many imagined.  And there is love, real love, in many forms.

(The) Book of Life

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness.  

Book 3 of the Souls Trilogy, this does not stand alone.  However, for fans of the series, it is a great ending.

 In Book 2, (Shadow of  Night) Diana and Matthew returned to present time, pregnant with twins, to find the magical alchemical manuscript Ashmole 782,  The Book of Life, to witches, vampires, and daemons. The new family spurs them to pursue creating a legal marriage out their illegal union of witch and vampire.  To do this, they must create a new family branch, and pull all creatures closer in understanding their possibilities and origins.

Matthew’s blood disease becomes center stage when his son Benjamin Fuchs returns to create havoc, trying to destroy the family. It is this vampire that generates the central problem, suspense, and violence.  And gives us an amazing ending.

I disliked dragging an entire genetics class into Matthew’s research.  It did not make sense for the need for secrecy; it did help the reader to understand genetic background.  Overall, the writing was not as solid as the first two- perhaps she was rushed into the third?  It’s just that we all wanted a satisfying ending and soon that we forgive Harkness.

I did like the change in Diana, even in Book 2, when she became pregnant, and in this book as a mother.  Always a strong character, she shows a bit of  “tiger mom” aspects.

A word to teen readers:  the first in the series is wonderful and accessible for teens.  This book, perhaps, is for older teens.

Another Little Piece

Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn.  

After a particularly horrific scene at a party, Annaliese disappears for a year.  When she reappears at home, she is a very different girl.  She knows in fact, that she is really a different girl in Annaliese’s body.  And she knows she can’t stay in this body.

The mystery quickly becomes multi-faceted, with “another little piece” given to us slowly (agonizingly so.)  Flashbacks become really annoying, even if you know the story is supposed to be revealed gradually.  Anna wants to learn about her family and the boy at the party, (and the boy next door who “sees” death) but alternately remembers a razor and a mentor who seems a cross between demon and overlord.

With a slow start, the story overtakes your imagination and your knowledge of mythology, becoming a thriller you can’t put down. Unpleasant, yes- vivid to the point of disturbing violence, this is not for the squeamish.  Finding a motive for Anna’s choices is difficult and a weak plotline. We understand that Anna is confused at the beginning, but she is not towards the end.  However, Quinn ties it all together, letting our hearts slow down a bit.

Some sexual situations and body parts; lots of violence and cussing.
For grades 10 up who are fans of mystery horror

Better Nate Than Ever

Better Nate Than Ever  by Tim Federle

13-year-old Nate's love of musical theater invites teasing and torment by his peers and his older brother, but he is certain that he belongs on the Broadway stage.  Right now, he'd be thrilled just to see a Broadway stage. When his folks go out of town leaving Nate and his brother mostly-unsupervised, Nate grabs the opportunity for escape, and heads out on a Greyhound bus bound for NYC and a Broadway audition for "E.T: the Musical."

Of course, nothing goes according to plan.  Aided by a long-lost auntie, his BFF Libby back home, and a few surprising allies, Nate does arrive safely (if somewhat crumpled by the journey) and auditions for the part of Elliot.  

Nate's voice throughout the story is hilarious.  He doesn't know much, and he doesn't know how much he doesn't know, but he's got a goal and he's got guts, and he's got a sense of humor (which helps a lot if you don't know much).  

There's some bullying, some very unhelpful parents, and some cussing (he's a starstruck 13-year-old boy stuck in Jankburk, PA -- he has reason to cuss), plus one near-miss kiss.  Nate questions his own value as well as his sexuality, but through it all, he's determined to get up on that stage to sing.  How can we not applaud?

Recommended for ages 12 and up.