Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Raven Boys

Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Blue Sargeant is not a psychic.  Well, not exactly.  She doesn't find hidden things using the Tarot cards, or see the future in a bowl of cranberry-grape juice, or discover the truth by touching an object that belongs to a suspicious person.  Blue amplifies psychic energy...and when she meets up with a group of boys from exclusive Aglionby Academy who are seeking the body of centuries-old Welsh king, their quest becomes more intense.  And more mysterious. And more sinister. And more dangerous. 
The magic of this darkly imaginative twisting story is lushly written.  The characters are wonderfully portrayed, and although very different from each other, join into a strange and compellingly cohesive circle.  The relationships are not straightforward and are more convincing because of the complex, jagged edges.  This book is first in a projected quartet; the second book, The Dream Thieves, is scheduled for release on September 17th, 2013.
Cussing, person-on-person violence, death, magic, and a sweet-but-not-straightforward romance. 
The audiobook is gorgeously read by Will Patton, with buffer music composed and performed by the author.  Highly recommended for readers 14 to adult.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Starting From Here

Starting From Here  by Lisa Jenn Bigelow
You wouldn't want Colby's life.  Her mom died of cancer.  Her truck driver dad is gone most of the time.  And her girlfriend just dumped her...for a guy.

Then by chance Colby rescues Mo, a stray dog hit by a car.  Mo survives the amputation of his leg, and caring for him propels Colby into friendships she would never have imagined. 

This potentially too-sweet story is enlivened by an imperfect central character with the knack for screwing up relationships.  Fortunately, Colby is determined to live with her own choices, and the strength of her character makes up for a lot of bad judgement.  Supporting characters are worthwhile as well:  her buddy Van, her absent-but-loving dad, and the cute girl at school who just might forgive Colby's screw-ups, if only she gets the chance.

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.  No violence; some cussing, some kissing, and one very tactful incident of Star Trek Sex.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Blud and Magick

Blud and Magick  by Preston Norton
Edwin the Educated, one of the surviving Sages of Hazirrez Tower, is given the responsibility of raising a baby girl created from the ashes of the ultra-evil wizard Remmus Alrad.  He takes her away from the magickal realm of Trivaesia into the mundane world of Oklahoma, calls her his "niece" and pretends to everyone that she is completely normal.  But on the first day in a new school, 14-year-old Darla ("Alrad" spelled backwards--get it?) learns that her teacher isn't really her teacher, that her uncle isn't really her uncle, and that she is...not human at all.

The writing is rife with clich├ęs (a hunchback guarding the castle and a vampire seeking revenge?  Really?) and many of the settings and themes seem copycatted from Harry Potter.   Not recommended for discerning readers, but teens seeking fast-moving paranormal  fiction with minimal originality or character development will enjoy the action and not worry about the lack of depth. 

No sex, no drugs.  Some magickal bloodshed, a potentially deadly virtual-reality game that is a dead ringer for Quiddich, and a dragon.  Sequels are clearly planned, and the sequels will probably include some romancing.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Drama  by Raina Telgemeier, with color by Gurihiru
Middle-school student Callie loves everything theatric. 
She loves the lights, she loves the music, she loves the audience, she loves the costume vault, and she loves being set designer for the school production of "Moon Over Mississippi." 

Although Callie and her friends focus a lot of attention on the play, there is still plenty of time and energy to devote to the other kind of middle school drama:  the boyfriends, the girlfriends, the getting-togethers and the breakups.

Callie's friendship with the other drama kids is absolutely on-target, and the graphic novel portrayal of life behind the stage is note-perfect.  Racial and sexual diversity is portrayed realistically and with charm; no cussing, no violence (except a bit of social back-stabbing from the leading lady), a few sweet kisses, and a bunch of growing up for almost all the characters.

Highly recommended for drama kids, aspiring drama kids, and retired drama kids, ages 12 to adult. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer  by Lish McBride
College dropout Sam ("Samhain Corvus LaCroix") feels lost in a dead-end burger-flipping job in Seattle's U-District...until a seriously creepy dude called Douglas takes a seriously unhealthy interest in Sam.  The next morning, Sam's smart-alecky girl-buddy's head is delivered to him in a box.

Ooky?   Actually, no:  it's hilarious.

Because Brooke's head is still smart-alecky. 

It turns out that Sam's talent as a necromancer has been disguised all his life, but now the secret is out and there are dead things showing up everywhere.  Including the panda cage at the zoo, and certain high-profile rock bands. 

It also turns out that Seattle isn't just full of dead stuff.  It's also full of werewolves, witches and various other fey creatures, including a bum-kicking hybrid were-hound who looks great in a Batman t-shirt.

And this book?  It's full of awesome.  Think smart-talking slapstick "Ferris Bueller" meets ultra-camp "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Minor cussing, blood, zombies, battlefield violence between the bad guys and an impromptu cavalry of witches and weres, Star Trek sex, and waffles. 

Highly recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.