Book review: Furthermore, by Tahereh Mafi

Mafi, Tahereh. Furthermore. Dutton’s Children Books, 2016. 401 pgs. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-101-99476-4. Gr. 4+. Q8 P8

Life for Alice is horrible. Her world is full of color and magic, but Alice has neither color nor magic. She thinks that her mother hates her and the students of her school do too. The date where all the students in her class must show their talents to the city is fast approaching. This is a very important event that establishes what your job will be in the future. This is another problem for Alice because along with no magic she has no talent. The day of the ceremony, Alice is prepared but she fails, truly fails. When Oliver asks her to go on a journey to find her father she jumps at the chance. They go through doors that lead them to other places that are steeped in magic, have different rules, and other trap doors to fall through. Each place, some vibrant with life, others in the clouds and some with just very difficult beings but through it all they get closer to finding her father.

Verdict: A story that at times felt like Alice in Wonderland. Though all of this I and hopefully other readers will come to realize, as Alice did, that being yourself and being different is okay.

April 2017 review by Carol Bernardi.

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 Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater

Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven King, Book IV of the Raven Cycle. Scholastic, 2016. $18.99. ISBN 9780545424981. 439 pgs. Ages 13+. P8Q7

stiefvater-raven-kingThis is the fourth and final book of the Raven Cycle. The story continues with Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah on their quest to find the mythical king, Glendower, and the various storylines that developed in the first three books. As before, the language is lyrical and beautiful, and Stiefvater’s dark and somewhat sinister atmosphere and unusual ideas about magic still worked for me. I did feel, however, that the story got overly complicated, and some new characters that were introduced felt like clutter. At first I was unhappy with the ending- the quest to find the king didn’t culminate with a happy and neat feeling. After thinking about this for a while, I think that it’s actually very appropriate, and mirrors the frustration of Gansey and the other characters. I finished the book about a week ago, and bits of it keep popping up to me.

VERDICT: I recommend the whole series for high school and public libraries (either for YA or adult readers). I think it will become a classic over time, with its exploration of love, responsibility, loyalty, and friendship. The series does need to be read in order; this book wouldn’t make sense or draw readers in on its own.

February 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: The Key to Extraordinary, by Natalie Lloyd

Lloyd, Natalie. The Key to Extraordinary. Scholastic Press, 2016. 227 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0-545-55274-5.  Gr. 4+. P8 Q8

lloyd-key-to-extraordinaryEmma is waiting for her “Destiny Dream,” a dream that every female in here family has had for generations, a dream that foretells something special in that will happen in her life. When she finally has it, she knows that she is to find the hidden treasure of her ancestors that will help her to save her family’s home and business. What Emma finds is more of a treasure than she ever expected.

Verdict: This is an adventure that younger students would enjoy reading.

November 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: The Catalyst, by Helena Coggan

Coggan, Helena. The Catalyst. Candlewick Press, 2016. 417 pgs. $17.99. ISBN:978-0-7636-8972-8. Gr. 9+. P8 Q8

coggan-catalystTwelve years have passed since there the rip in the sky above London, England brought spirits from another dimension to the world. This event became known as the Veilbreak. It split humanity into the Angels and the Ashkind. Some were magical and others were not, but the event a caused a war between the two factions. Peace now reigns, but it is a fragile peace and there are those who are determined to rid the world of those in charge, the angels. Verdict: I loved this book the plot was wonderful and the characters appealing. I know there will be a sequel and I can’t wait to read it.

November 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.

[Editor’s note: Helena Croggan wrote this book at the age of 13 and published at the age of 15.]

Book review: Thick as Thieves, by Megan Whalen Turner

Turner, Megan Whalen. Thick as Thieves. (Queen’s Thief series, #5) (Advance reader’s edition.) Greenwillow, release date May 2017. 352 p. $17.99. ISBN 9780062568243. Ages 12-up. P8Q9

turner-this-as-thievesThe Queen’s Thief series introduced Gen (formally, Eugenides) with the Newbery Honor book, The Thief, released in 1996.  Thick as Thieves, the fifth book in the series will finally be released in May 2017.  High fantasy set in something very like the medieval Mediterranean city-states of Greece, the Queen’s Thief series follows the life of Eugenides as he grows from a youth to a mature ruler, someone who manipulates people’s lives to an end only he understands.  In Thick as Thieves, Eugenides’ machinations touch the life of Kamet, a slave to the nephew of the emperor of the Medes, stealing him away from his position of relative power and throwing him into an adventure-filled race to escape certain death.  Though this is the fifth book in the series, each title stands alone, but readers will have a fuller appreciation of the interwoven details after reading the other books in the series.

Verdict: For those of us who enjoy Turner’s books, this is a moment for rejoicing—fantasy readers should give this series a try.  If it does not appeal, go away and let the rest of us read in peace.  Highly recommended purchase for middle school, high school, and public libraries.  Also, make sure that the collection includes the previous books in the series.

February 2017 review by Jane Cothron.