Book review: The Storm Dragon, by Paula Harrison, illustrated by Sophy Williams

Harrison, Paula. The Storm Dragon. Illustrated by Sophy Williams. (The Secret Rescuers series, book 1) Aladdin, 2017. $5.99. ISBN 9781481476072. 128 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

The Storm Dragon is a chapter book in the series The Secret Rescuers. It is a story about a girl named Sophy who discovers a young dragon named Cloudy. The queen and the captain of the guard do not like magical creatures, so Sophy tries to rescue Cloudy. The cover has a cute picture of a baby dragon on it, which entices the reader to open the book and read it. Pencil drawings enhance the story. The story lends to a sequel.

Verdict: This is an easy read with pictures to go along with the story. It is a sweet book that combines the love of adventure and the love of animals. I recommend this book for individual reading, public library, classroom library and elementary school libraries.

April 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Wonder Woman: Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo

Bardugo, Leigh. Wonder Woman: Warbringer. (DC Icons series) “Advance Reader’s Copy.” Random House, release date August 29, 2017. $18.99. ISBN 9780399549731. [384 pages.] Ages 14+. P8Q7

Veteran YA fantasy author Leigh Bardugo takes on the Wonder Woman saga from the point of view of an 18-year-old, bullied Amazon princess curious about the world outside her secluded and protected island home.  When Princess Diana ducks out of an important race to rescue shipwrecked Alia Keralis, she breaches the island’s protections and faces exile, taking on the quest to avert the doom carried by the Warbringer—Alia, a descendent of Helen of Troy.  Combining Greek mythology with modern technology and teen snarkiness, Bardugo succeeds in making Wonder Woman a believable teenager.

Verdict:  Recommended for young adult collections in high school and public libraries.

May 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Duskfall, by Christopher Husberg

Husberg, Christopher.  Duskfall.  (Chaos Queen Quintet, book 1.)  Titan Books,  2016.  $14.95.   ISBN 978-1-783-299-157.  560 pages.  Ages.  Q8P8

I was hooked with “Book One of the Chaos Queen Quintet” on the cover.  I love fantasy and apparently Queens creating chaos.  The main storyline is of the heroine, Winter, and her newly discovered ability to move objects with her mind and the people who are after her because of this ability.  Or, is it the story of Knot, the man who has become her husband, but remembers nothing of his life before he was rescued by her people and has the skills of ten different people with no knowledge of learning them.  Add to their storylines two sisters, one of whom is a priestess and the other the leader of a heretical rebellion of the same religion, who are driven to translate a long lost scripture, which may prove the heretic is correct and a child vampire drawn to helping Knot without knowing why; and you have a trio of paths drawn together.  The author is able to separate and conjoin all three paths simultaneously while making each one individual and highly complex (Winter is a Tiellan and her people are severely oppressed by humans) in addition to creating a believable world with its own prejudices and governmental instability.  Not to mention we are 560 pages in and the Chaos Queen has only been vaguely alluded to!  Last, but not least, the characters aren’t generic hero/heroine, but all have their own character flaws which make them so much more realistic.  For example, Winter has a substance abuse problem the author is able to describe that makes me feel as though he’s had an addiction. I’m still hooked and can’t wait for the next book. Review from Advance Reader’s Copy.

Verdict:  Highly detailed unique fantasy novel for young adults.

June 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: The Cruelty, by Scott Bergstrom

Bergstrom, Scott.  The Cruelty.  Feiwel and Friends,  2017.  $18.99.  ISBN 978-1-250-10818-0.  384 pages.  Ages 17 – 18 years.  Q7P7

Gwen’s father, a diplomat who mysteriously disappears and, for an unknown reason, the same government he works for does not appear enthusiastic to get him back (the reasons behind this are their own sub-plot). Because of this Gwen takes it upon herself to find him.  Thankfully, Gwen’s father has left behind some clues indicating not only that this might happen, but where to start looking.  This all sounds like it could be a pretty good story and it could be, unfortunately, it’s a little far-fetched as written.  Gwen’s father was taken by one of the most feared crime families in Prague, one dealing in arms smuggling and human trafficking.  In order to make the rescue achievable by a teenager, the author has to compromise the believability of some (most) of the scenarios Gwen finds herself in.  For instance, she is able to break into the warehouse of a crime boss in Munich by breaking the padlock.  A padlock is all that is needed to protect millions of dollars of stolen merchandise?  No security camera, guard, or even a guard dog?  This lack of believability is throughout the book.  Where the author is believable is the brutality, which makes me question if this started out as an adult novel, not young adult.

Verdict:  I like the idea of the story, and I like the characters, but it seems like this was a story designed for Liam Neeson to be the lead character, not a 17 year old girl, and the adaptation to make that happen did not go well.

June 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: A Dusk of Demons, by John Christopher

Christopher, John.  A Dusk of Demons.  Aladdin.  2014.  $7.99.  ISBN 978-4814-2018-1.  176 Pages.  Ages 9-13.  Q7P7

A dystopian novel based on governmental control by religious fear (not a new concept, though the fear is of The Dark One and not a God figure).  Ben, 14 years old, is raised on an island with a foster family.  When the patriarch dies, Ben and his family are thrust into a world which forces him to question the life he knew before “Master’s” death, and the religious dogma all live by.  The book is easy to follow and even easier to determine what is going to happen next.  I assume there is another book after this one because the main character is built up to have a powerful knowledge or power or gift given to him through lineage, but we never see or are given a hint as to what that is.  I felt like this could have been a good first half of a book, not the first book in a series.  The book ends abruptly and doesn’t spend enough time developing the story around, well, anything. Originally published in 1993 by Simon Pulse.

Verdict:  An easy to read dystopian novel with not much imagination.  It passes the time.

June 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Mouse Scouts Camp Out, by Sarah Dillard

Dillard, Sarah.  Mouse Scouts Camp Out.  (Mouse Scouts series.) Random House Children’s Books, 2016.  $6.99.  ISBN 978-0-385-75608-2. 144 Pages.  Ages 5-8.  Q8P7

This is the third book in the Mouse Scouts series and focuses on teamwork and friendship through an overnight camping trip.  I liked the Mouse Scout Handbook which gives helpful tips to being a successful camper throughout the book.  The tips, while from a mouse’s perspective, are valid tips for a successful camping experience, such as how to make a compass and various wilderness dangers from poisonous plants to bugs and snakes.  The outdoors is not a comfortable place for everyone and this book shares tips to make outdoor life bearable for those who don’t come by it naturally.

Verdict:  A simple story of friendship and perseverance through teamwork with lots of tips and tricks for happily experiencing the outdoors.

June 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Mervin the Sloth Is About to do the Best Thing in the World, by Colleen A.F. Venable, illustrated by Ruth Chan

Venable, Colleen A.F.  Mervin the Sloth Is About to do the Best Thing in the World.  Illustrated by Ruth Chan.  Greenwillow Books, 2016.  $17.99.  ISBN 978-0-06-233847-1.  40 pages.  Ages 4-7.  Q8P8

A silly cute story about Mervin the sloth working up to doing the best thing in the world.  Because he’s a sloth this takes some time, much to the frustration of almost every animal around him.  Watercolor illustrations and simple text depict the other animal’s thoughts of what the best thing in the world could be, all from their perspective.  What does the Gazelle think the best thing in the world is?  Gazelling of course!  But what is the best thing for Mervin?  It’s worth the wait to find out at the end of the story!

Verdict:  Great illustrations and positive message!  This book is fun to read aloud book, and a peaceful sit-and-enjoy-the-pictures book for those children with the patience to do so.

June 2017 review by Terri Lippert.