Vanish by Sophia Jordan (2011)

Jacinda, her mother and sister, Tamra, find themselves back at square one. Having revealed her dragon side to her boyfriend, Will, and his dragon-hunting family, Jacinda seeks sanctuary in the home she and her family abandoned at the begining of Firelight. Because of Jacinda’s rare fire-breathing talent, she is granted a second (but closely monitored) chance. Then Tamra manifests an ability as rare and precious as Jacinda’s.

Most of the book putters around and not much happens. After Jacinda is forced to bond with Cassian, the pride’s heir apparent, the hunters arrive. At the conclusion, Jacinda, Will, and Cassian set out to rescue Cassian’s younger sister from a hunter compound. What can I say about this series? Great covers but the worst kind of food for my brain. But, hey, everyone needs a funnel cake now and then.


The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke (2012)

In a medieval world, Ananna is a pirate princess. Desirous of captaining her own ship one day, she bulks at the marriage her parents have arranged for her in order to advance their own political and strategic agenda. So she hops on a camel and runs away. Unfortunately, her betrothed and his family take offense and send an assassin to kill her. In the process of defending herself, Ananna saves her attacker’s life, triggering a curse that binds the two together. A long road, a series of trials bring the two closer together but this is the start of a series and the romantic aspects are muted. The writing is solid, the male lead is not an insufferable pretty boy and the plot is engaging. I’ll be picking up the sequel, The Pirate’s Wish, in June 2013.


Sutton by J.R. Moehringer (2012)

The alienation from the mother and father, the sibling abuse, the grim poverty, the simultaneity of your life span with a series of the most violent economic convulsions in history, it all created a uncommonly dangerous and potent witches’ brew. By the time you came of age you were very likely to go down the wrong path, to have a great deal of trouble controlling your impulses, but by God, Willie, add to all that the convergence of your first crime with this overpowering first love – that sealed it (p 241).

Moehringer’s romantic take on Willie Sutton, one of America’s most notorious bank robbers, disarms you – just as I imagine Willie charmed his victims – before waking you at the conclusion with a whisper, a hint that alerts you to reality. But it is too late. You were duped.

After Willie is released from prison on Christmas Eve 1969, he is taken on a tour of NYC with a reporter and photographer. In flashbacks, we see Willie’s life from his perspective. As Moehringer smoothly transitions from past to present, we lose track of what is communicated to Reporter and Photographer. And Sutton/Moehringer carefully excludes or hints but it isn’t until the conclusion, when the past meets the present full on, that Willie is revealed. An engrossing book that I savored.


The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech (2012)

On Sunday afternoon, I met Lizzie at her church so we could go over our duties with Mrs. Mudkin for helping the poor, unfortunate elderly. If you saw Mrs. Mudkin you might wonder why she herself was not on the list of the poor, unfortunate elderly (p 59).

Naomi and Lizzie are two orphans among the many in their town of Blackbird Tree. Lizzie is a chatterbox and Naomi is curious. A perfect friendship… until a boy named Finn falls out of a tree. As the story of these two young girls develops, another story, set in Ireland, unfolds. It is a story of two sisters, charmed and cheated by the same man.

While the writing is lyrical, as many have pointed out, and while Lizzie and Naomi are delightful and fully developed, I was completely bored while reading this. A short novel that I should have tackled in one sitting took me four days. It wasn’t exactly a fantasy (though fairy rings are mentioned and though Finn appears to be a ghost) and it isn’t exactly a fairy tale retelling. It seems to be a satire in the style of Louis Lowry’s The Willoughbys but this isn’t entire true either. I wasn’t sure what this was going for and I walked about with the impression that it was more an experiment than a finished product.


The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2009)

The Magicians surprised me. It took the comfortable worlds of my childhood (Middle Earth, Narnia, and Hogwarts) and soiled them. It was unsettling but, in its own way, magical as well. It resonated with me because I am very familiar with the subject of Grossman’s critique and beacuse I can distinguish between the rose-colored glass of childhood and life as surveyed through a glass of chambertin (see footnote). The underlying moral, at least the one I took away from this – that you cannot escape yourself but must find a way to live with yourself – may have been long in coming, requiring a lot of patience by the reader, but it was one I am glad I reached nonetheless.

Footnote: From Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers - “Life is a chaplet of little miseries which the philosopher shakes with a laugh. Be philosophers, as I am, gentlemen; sit down at the table and let us drink. Nothing makes the future look so bright as surveying it through a glass of chambertin.”


Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (2012)

All seven of the main characters from the first two Heroes of Olympus tomes unite to stop Gaea’s minnions from killing Nico Di Angelo and razing Rome. Meanwhile, the Roman and Greek demigod camps prepare for war against each other due to a slight misunderstanding – while possessed by evil spirits, Leo Valdez fires on the Roman demigod camp with his warship.

Adventure ensues, set against a ticking clock. Various gods and monsters enter and exit. Detours are followed and mini-quests are filled. The template remains the same. The character development is slow because we’ve all come to know the prinicipal characters so well (and let’s face it, the gods aren’t going to have an epiphany and suddenly become smpathetic or helpful) but kids will eat this one up just as they enjoyed the previous books in the series.


The Books of Beginning: The Fire Chronicle by John Stevens (2012)

Kate looked at Michael and their eyes met.
“Remember,” she said, “whatever happens, take care of Emma.”
“Remember your promise.”
And then she and the creature both vanished (p 24).

In this sequel to The Emerald Atlas, Michael finds himself responsible for Emma and for finding the second book of beginning – the Fire Chronicle – when Kate uses the Atlas to deal with a Screecher and fails to return. Michael comes into his own and into adolescence as the power of Life itself is granted to him. Meanwhile, Kate lands in 1899 New York City days before the planned Separation – when those with magic will conceal themselves from nonmagic folk. There, she forges a bond between a group of orphans and the young man, Rafe, who protects them, forever changing future events.

Playing with time is always tricky but Stephens handles it deftly. While the characterization is wonderful – infused with veracuty and occassionally humor – some of the magic realities (as I call them) felt disjointed. The Dire Magnus’s dead but undead state for one. I don’t want to give too much away but there were some thin plot points. Regardless, I enjoyed the reading and look forward to the conclusion.

Netgalley ARC | 448 pages | Expected publication: October 9th 2012 | Knopf Books for Young Readers | ISBN 9780375868719 | Ages 10+


My SLJ Reviews

So, my regulars (if I have any!) have probably noticed I’m not posting as often as I used to. My first excuse is that I have been promoted to the title of Principal Librarian. I’m now selected nonfiction for my system and it doesn’t leave me as much time to read during work (really, it leaves me no time to read during work!).

I’ve also been reviewing books and apps for SLJ. The good news is that you can read two of my reviews (The Normal Kid by Holmes and Every Day by Levithan) in the September issue of SLJ and my review of The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum app on Touch and Go.

I have read of slew of books that I just haven’t had time to review. Hopefully I’ll get to that soon. Over and out.


The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann (2012)

Feathers fell from the sky.
Like black snow, they drifted onto an old city called Bath. They whirled down roofs, gathered in the corners of alleys, and turned everything dark and silent, like a winter’s day (Prologue).

In a world slightly distorted from our own - where magical creatures like faeries mesh in realistic and gritty fashion with our own world, similiar to Suzanne Clark’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (a novel I love love love) - a young changling, part human, part faerie, named Bartholomew is forced to hide his existance. Meanwhile, a bumbling, well-meaning member of Parliment, Mr. Jelliby, becomes unwittingly entangled in an investigation into the murder of nine changling children. When Bartholomew is tagged as number ten, he must take action to save himself and his changling sister.

With shades of Jonathan Stroud and Suzanne Clarke and a conclusion reminiscent of Pullman’s Golden Compass, Bachmann just succeeds in making this novel his own. The writing is fluid though the story alternates settings. I would have liked more attention spent on the relationship – both political and social – between the magical creatures and the humans. The atmosphere was well-developed with strong details so that I didn’t find myself skipping small chunks (as I sometimes do when the writing is poor). I was also surprised when it ended on a cliff-hanger, finding myself simultanously disappointed but also interested in the sequel (sequels?). There are characters I’m intrigued to learn more about (Mr. Lickerish) and others that skewed the rhythm (the faery woman living in a meadow in the middle of nowhere, supposedly Lickerish’s sister?).

Advance Reader Copy from BEA | Greenwillow Books | September 18, 2012