Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Still Life with Shape-shifter

Still Life with Shape-shifter  by Sharon Shinn

Melanie has been keeping her half-sister Ann's secret since they were both young children:  Ann is a shape-shifter who periodically takes the shape of a white dog.  When investigative reporter Brody Westerbrook asks to interview them both, Melanie automatically refuses...but Ann does not.  Gradually, Brody's life becomes intertwined with the lives of the sisters, and gradually the secret is shared with a few more people.  But when Ann's poor health seems to be overwhelming her, they must reach out to the only stranger who might be able to help.

Gentle themes of love, loyalty, grief, and friendship draw readers deeply into the story. The first-person perspective changes narrators throughout the book, and at first the connection between characters is confusing, but the author carefully interweaves the tales so that by the final page, the story is completely cohesive and it all makes sense.

This book is written and marketed for adults, but teen readers fascinated by magic and non-traditional shapeshifters will enjoy the story. 

Minor cussing, minor violence (including some parental bullying) and off-page sexual situations.  This book is part two of a shape-shifter trilogy, but stands alone nicely.  Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.

The Brides of Rollrock Island

The Brides of Rollrock Island  by Margo Lanagan

Misskaella Prout is ugly and outcast, unloved by her family, mocked by the women and rejected by the men of Rollrock Island. 

Though she has a magical talent to pull selkies from out of their seal-skins and into human shape, she does not stop with merely conjuring a lover for herself.  Instead, Misskaella also creates a deep and complex revenge against the island people by providing--for a price--a beautiful seal-wife for each man on the island.  Enchanted by the fey sea-wives, the men abandon their human families, mortgage their wealth, and deny that their lives are anything but wonderful.  The selkie women are helpless without their seal-skins...but when their sons steal back the coats, life on the island changes dramatically once again.

A complex and beautifully written story of hatred, love, magic, revenge, and eventually, redemption.  No cussing, minimal violence, and some on-page sexual situations between humans and selkies in (mostly) human form.  Highly recommended, ages 14 to adult.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Viva Jacquelina!

Viva Jacquelina! by L.A. Meyer
The irrepressible Jacky Faber is pressed into service yet again for British Intelligence...this time, in Spain and Portugal.  She charms her way into the household of the artist Francisco Goya, participates in the running of the bulls, and collects secret information during trips to the palace in Madrid. 
But when the Spanish Inquisition shows up (who expected THAT?!), Jacky hits the road again, cavorting with Romani (gypsies) as she heads towards the relative safety of the harbor in Gibralter.  And from there...well, that will be the next book!
Fans of the series will love Jacky's typical madcap adventures as she rubs shoulders with famous figures from history and literature.  Some cussing, some bloodshed, and a few sexual close-calls.  I look forward to hearing the audiobook version, recorded as always by Katherine Kellgren.   Recommended ages 13 to adult.