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 Taste for Monsters, by Matthew J. Kirby

Kirby, Matthew J. A Taste for Monsters. Scholastic Press, 2016. $18.99. ISBN 9780545817844. 343 pages. Ages 12+. P7Q7

It’s 1888 in London, and Jack the Ripper is murdering women. Evelyn, whose hard life has hurt her emotionally and bodily (she is disfigured by Phossy Jaw or phosphorus necrosis of the jaw, caused by the white phosphorus used in match factories), begins working at the London Hospital as a maid to the Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick. As Evelyn and Mr. Merrick, who is sweet and fragile, get to know each other, they are afflicted with ghostly visits from the unhappy spirits of Jack the Ripper’s victims. These visitations cause Mr. Merrick’s health to suffer, and Evelyn tries to resolve the mysteries to relieve his mind. There is a bit of romance, which turns out badly, but Evelyn is successful in resolving the situations that keep the ghosts restless, comes to terms with her own fears, and finds out who the Ripper is. All in all, it was a satisfying paranormal mystery that wasn’t too gory or explicit.

VERDICT: Young adults interested in the Victorian era and lovers of mysteries will enjoy reading this novel.

April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Alex, Approximately, by Jenn Bennett

Bennet, Jenn. Alex, Approximately. Simon Pulse, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481478779. 388 Pages. Ages 14+. P7Q6

After a traumatic home invasion, Bailey Rydell, a high school Junior, moves from her mother’s tumultuous house in DC to her dad’s on the California coast. The fictional town of Coronado Cove isn’t only a well-known surfing mecca; it also happens to be home to Bailey’s anonymous online classic film-buff crush. After her move, the story quickly dissolves into a romance novel for teenage readers. The quite involved online relationship that the two shared is revealed to be merely a MacGuffin; its existence drives her personal inspection as she half-heartedly searches for him until just about the last page despite unwittingly meeting him early on. The reader knows all along and must question the believability of the two characters not coming to the same conclusion much earlier in the story. The romantic aspect of the story is age appropriate, tasteful (if the reader can disregard the author’s unrestrained use of the word “sexy”), and subtly indicative that the sex these characters are having is most likely protected. In addition to tackling teenage affection, the novel briefly addresses some weightier topics like drug use, death, personal trauma, and climate change, of all things.

Verdict: This title isn’t strongly recommended. Perhaps the anonymity of the internet bestows a certain optional fluidity to our personalities—a useful (and increasingly necessary) bonus for today’s mercurial youth. The exhibition of this benefit makes Alex, Approximately relatable to high schoolers; although, it will be more popular among the younger grades.

May 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Best & Buzzworthy 2017: world records, trending topics, and viral moments, by Cynthia O’Brien, Michael Bright, and Donald Sommerville

O’Brien, Cynthia; Bright, Michael, and Sommerville, Donald. Best & Buzzworthy 2017: World Records, Trending Topics, and Viral Moments. Scholastic Inc., 2016. $12.99. ISBN 9781338039122. 319 pages. Includes index. Ages 8 -12 years. P9 Q9

This the 2017 edition of the Scholastic Book of World Records has nine chapters, each featuring a different topic. The topics are music makers, screen and stage, on the move, super structures, high tech, amazing animals, incredible earth, states stats, and sports stars. I learned that Connecticut is the only state to manufacture Pez candy and there is a hotel in Bolivia made entirely out of salt. The chapters are short and have action packed photos.

Verdict: This book covers many topics, which makes it great for readers of all interests. The index is easy to use. I like the photos that accompany the text. As I read the almanac, I felt like I was traveling to different places. Since each page is independent of the other, it is ideal for readers with short attention spans, or readers who don’t have time to read a whole book. This book might intrigue a teenager who may not already be a reader to read more. The almanac stimulates learning. I recommend the almanac for middle school and high school libraries.

December 2016 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Maid of the King’s Court, by Lucy Worsley

Worsley, Lucy. Maid of the King’s Court. Candlewick, 2017. $16.99. 348p. ISBN 978-0-7636-8806-6. Ages 13+. P7Q8

Hampton Court curator and television historian has made her debut in this novel for teens about Henry VIII’s court when Katherine Howard rose to her position as Wife #5 only to fall to the executioner, like the king’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, also accused of adultery. The story comes from the eyes of fictional maid-in-waiting Elizabeth Camperdowne from her childhood when she is raised to find a wealthy husband to save her family’s estate. As in any romance, she loves a man without power or money but fights her attraction for him because of her feelings of responsibility.

Verdict: Worlsey’s knowledge gives the book a feeling of authenticity, and the actions of head-strong Elizabeth give it the excitement. Excellent background and characterization make this a good addition to past English historical romances for young adults.

April 2017 review by Nel Ward.