Book review: Never Say Die, by Anthony Horowitz

Horowitz, Anthony.  Never Say Die. (Alex Rider series, #11) Philomel Books, 2017. 349 pages. $17.99. ISBN 9781524739300. Ages 13+. P8Q7

This book about a brilliant teen spy is packed with crazy adventure! I haven’t read the other books, so sometimes felt like I was missing something about his motivations, but I still enjoyed it very much and felt like the character of Alex was believable, even though unbelievable things happen to him. It was really fast paced, and I got carried along and wanted to see what would happen next.

VERDICT: Any teen who likes action/ adventure movies or books will love this one.

January 2018 review by Siletz Public Library volunteer.

Advertisements

Book review: Tempests and Slaughter, by Tamora Pierce

Pierce, Tamora. Tempests and Slaughter. “Advance Reader’s Copy.” (The Numair Chronicles, book 1) Random House Books for Young Readers, on sale February 6, 2018. $18.99. [480] pages. ISBN  978-0-375-8471-0. “Ages 12-up.” P8Q8

Fans of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series will welcome this new prequel series about the early life of mage Numair Salmalín, once called Arram Draper.  At the age of 10, Arram becomes a student at the Imperial University of Carthak. The opening scenes with his father and uncle at the Imperial Games introduce Arram to the gladiator Musenda, who saves his life, and begin his lifelong aversion to slavery.  In many ways, Tempests and Slaughter is a fantasy tale in the form of a school story.  Arram faces classroom challenges, dormitory dominance issues, beginning friendships, and growing confidence in his own abilities. Also typical of school stories, Arram’s story focuses on new classes and growing mastery, not on extraordinary quests and tests.  In this first book of a planned trilogy, Pierce introduces major players and conflicts that tie into the later books in the world of Tortall.

Verdict: Highly recommended for public, middle and high school libraries.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: The Apprentice Witch, by James Nichol

Nichol, James. The Apprentice Witch. Chicken House/Scholastic, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9781338118582. 318 pages. Ages 12-16. P7Q8

After blowing up the magical testing apparatus in front of the entire school, including her arch-enemy, mean girl Gimma Alverston, apprentice witch Arianwyn Gribble accepts a continuing apprentice position in the town of Lull. Arianwyn makes new friends and begins to rebuild her confidence as she deals with various otherworldly infestations and incursions from the Great Wood.  When Gimma turns out to be the niece of Lull’s mayor and comes to Lull for an extended stay, Arianwyn has to work with her on the problems in the village.  A failed spell creates a disaster for the village just as Arianwyn’s second evaluation comes due.

Verdict: The author’s voice in this coming of age fantasy novel creates a realistic setting, real people and relationships, and real dilemmas for the new witch.  Issues of creating a new life away from home and family ring true, making this fantasy feel like a British cosy.  (I found myself looking forward to a cup of tea and a biscuit.) This book will probably not appeal to fans of dystopian fiction; it is wonderful debut novel and I am looking forward to the second book in the series.  Highly recommended for middle and high school libraries, as well as public library juvenile collections.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Apex, by Mercedes Lackey

Lackey, Mercedes. Apex. (Hunter Novels, book 3) Hyperion, 2017. $18.99. ISBN 9781484707869. 295 pages. Ages 12-16. P7Q7

In the third book of Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter trilogy, Elite Hunter Joyeaux Charmand is a member of a special forces squad tasked with defending the city of Apex from the monsters and denizens of the Othersiders.  Joy’s Hounds—also denizens of Otherside—work with her to hunt and destroy the monsters attacking human homes and settlements.  Apex is also guarded by the PsiCorps, powerful psychics under the command of the politically ambitious Abigail Drift. With attacks both from within the city and from outside, the Hunter Corps are whittled down and the advent of a Folk Mage directing and controlling armies of monsters threaten to overwhelm the city.  When ex-boyfriend and PsiCorps member Josh asks Joy for help, she is at first wary of a possible trap, but instead, Josh offers information that points to a political trap aimed at her uncle and at the Elite Hunters.

Verdict: A dystopian military fantasy with a good sprinkling of political maneuvering.  Hunter, the first volume in the series, received a starred review from Kirkus, and Apex is a gripping finale to the series.  I have not read the first books in the trilogy and because the author included hints of the backstory, I was able to understand the complicated personal and political pieces from the earlier stories.  Recommended for public, middle- and high-school libraries.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Six Words Fresh off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America by Writers Famous and Obscure, edited by Larry Smith

 Six Words Fresh off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America by Writers Famous and Obscure. Edited by Larry Smith. Kingswell, 2017. $15.99. ISBN 978-136800838-9. 209 pgs. Ages 10-adult. P8/Q9

This book is a refreshing look into a complex subject. Six-word memoirs is a popular series where people are asked to describe their life in six words. This installment has an interesting twist where the focus is on immigration. Peppered through the book are poems, short stories, and anecdotes from immigrants and families of immigrants detailing their own experiences. The writers and producers of the new hit comedy, “Fresh off the Boat,” helped in the creation of this book and the levity is obvious. In a world where immigration is a fiercely contested and at times contentious subject hearing from those it directly affects is a great glimpse into what makes America truly diverse and amazing.

Verdict: Although initially I was apprehensive I found this book extremely enjoyable and easy to read. I gave it a popularity of 8 due to the series already being well known and well publicized. The quality to me is a 9 because instead of focusing on either the humor or the seriousness and at times sadness that immigration involves the editors were able to fuse both together in a way that would make this a great book for classrooms to help delve into the discussion of immigration. I also appreciated the information in the introduction regarding the available free teacher guide that you can download online. This book would be a great resource in middle and high school libraries as well as classrooms. I like the smaller size of the book and hardback binding. It feels sturdy in your hands but can be carried without being cumbersome. The use of multiple fonts and illustrations helped to break the book into section yet kept the flow of the book.

November 2017 review by Michelle Cottrell

Book review: Thornhill, by Pam Smy

Smy, Pam. Thornhill. Roaring Brook, 2017. $19.99. 539p. ISBN  978-1-626-72654-3. Ages 13+. P9Q10

Darkness, both in narrative and illustrations, highlight the tragic story of Ella Clarke, a lonely girl in a new town who slowly learns about the misery of another teenage girl living in an orphanage across from her house 35 years earlier. As the girl looks out the window at the deserted building and onto its untended surrounding land, she is drawn to investigate Thornhill and discovers the reason for the fire that destroyed the facility just days before the last few girls were to be moved to foster homes. The story is one of cruel bullying, horrific neglect by adult caretakers, and the loss of hope leading to the end of lives. Each brief chapter from the orphan girl’s diary is prefaced by magnificent two-page spreads that extend the plot and characters.

Verdict: Smy’s debut novel is an engrossing tale of harrowing persecution leading to revenge, an unforgettable and chilling revelation of abuse and desperation. An excellent choice for Neil Gaiman fans of Coraline and The Graveyard Book.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward

Book review: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman

Pullman, Philip. La Belle Sauvage. (The Book of Dust, volume 1). Knopf, 2017. $22.99. 449p. ISBN 978-0-375-81530-0. Ages 11-15. P7Q10

The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights), the first book in Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials is 22 years old, and the author is celebrating it with a companion “equel,” a trilogy that begins with Compass protagonist Lyra Belacqua as an infant hidden in a priory in the country. Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead, an innkeeper’s son, takes on the responsibility of protecting Lyra while he learns about a secret Church society from Hannah Relf, a spy who is training herself to read the alethiometer, a method of communicating with Dust. The plot builds when Malcolm takes the baby away from her would-be evil capturers with the help of sour teenage kitchen worker, Alice. The book is replete with villains—disgraced theologian Gerard Bonneville, the children who follow a Church cult, the Consistorial Court of Discipline, and the children’s protective society. Much of the book is consumed with the children’s escape in Malcolm’s canoe, La Belle Sauvage, which was refurbished by Lyra’s father after Malcolm helped him escape early in the book. Joy, humor, and help for the humans come from their daemons, animal-like creatures that represent the subjects’ souls and cannot be separated from their humans while they are alive.

Verdict: As in his other books, the writing and the characters shine, and the world-building is fascinating. Woven into the plot are non-didactic discussions of physics and religion. The striving for free speech and thought against a totalitarian theocracy ring true in a way that readers can identify with the philosophical concepts. The next book in La Belle Sauvage, The Secret Commonwealth, begins ten years after The Golden Compass, making La Belle Sauvage a “surround” for His Dark Materials. The Book of Dust is highly recommended.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward