Monday, August 31, 2015

A Riveting Sequel

Source: Author Website
Boil (Salem’s Revenge #2) by David Estes (Self-Published, 2014, 416pp.)

In this grisly sequel to Brew, witch-hunter Rhett Carter and his Glock-toting friend, Laney, head to a ruined Washington, D.C. after their show-down with the Reaper. As they become involved with President Washington, the former VP and only survivor of the Presidential cabinet, new truths come to light, allegiances become blurry, and neither Rhett nor Laney know who to trust. Another riveting story from an author who continues to impress with his seemingly endless creativity. Just a warning: the story’s gore, blood, and reappearance of Flora, the devious, man-eating shape-shifter, may make you want to take a shower after reading. Recommended for stout-of-heart readers, Ages 16-18.

Monday, August 24, 2015


Source: Author Website
Avira (The Phoon #0) by Corinne Foster (Self-Published, 2015, 196pp.)

In the author’s debut novel The Secret of the Phoon, Avira was the stern head mistress of Domina, an unusual school that takes in cast-aside young women and allows them to work and study in a supportive environment. In this prequel set twenty years before, Avira is little more than an unruly girl herself, wielding a sword alongside her father and brothers as a greedy warlord tries to steal their land. When the family farm is finally overtaken, her family is scattered or captured, and Avira herself wounded. When she comes to, she finds herself in the strange house of Domina, where she finds friends, a new life, and resources to rescue her relatives. Set in a vivid fantasy world, Avira has plenty of action and adventure to keep both male and female teens interested. On the downside, however, the characters lack nuanced personalities, and certain elements of the story, such as the romantic subplot, remain underdeveloped. Despite this, however, I would still recommend it for teens of any age interested in high fantasy.

Monday, August 17, 2015

“Fairy Tale About Syphilis” May Alienate Some Readers With Graphic Content

Source: Author Website
The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal (Candlewick, 2013, 576pp.)

In this fantasy/historical fiction novel that the author herself describes as a “fairy tale about syphilis,” the reader is treated to a sickeningly realized portrait of court life in 16th century Scandinavia. Led by a pair of well-meaning but impressionable royals, the court is a place of madness and filth where courtiers and servants alike struggle for power. At the center of this quagmire is Ava Bingen, a disgraced seamstress, and Midi Sorte, a mute African slave who nurses the royal children through their many illnesses. Thrust together by circumstance, the two girls initially dislike each other: Midi is naturally mistrustful, while Ava is open and friendly. However, when conditions at court worsen in the wake of royal discord, the two realize how much they need each other if they want to make it out of the kingdom of Skyggehavn alive.

Little Wounds is a difficult book to review. Some readers have found its content to be grossly inappropriate for teens, even for the very mature ones. However, I think we shouldn’t ask “Is it appropriate?” so much as: “Will they actually be able to finish it?” You see, while Little Wounds is a beautifully written tribute to the old style of fairy tales (such as the story of the murderous Bluebeard and his decapitated former wives), I doubt its grotesque beauty and morbid sense of justice will be universally appreciated. One can only tolerate so many passages of rape, syphilis-induced madness, and bizarre 16th century medical treatments before the more sensitive of us will cry, “Enough!” and go read something else. That aside, I’d still recommend it, but only for the adventurous, and for certain brave readers ages 16-Up.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Courtship of Star-Crossed Teen Cancer Survivors Makes for Great Love Story

Source: Goodreads
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Dutton Books, 2012, 318pp.)

Hazel Grace Lancaster is a smart, snarky young woman who disdains convention, yet loves binge-watching popular TV shows. She’s also permanently attached to an oxygen tank, thanks to the Stage IV thyroid cancer that spread to her lungs when she was 14. In most instances, she’d probably be dead by now, but a recently developed miracle-drug has managed to slow down the tumor-growth in her lungs, thus extending her life for a couple of years. Now just 16, she’s already out of school with her GED, and her social circle is limited to a handful of people, including her parents, a friend from junior high, and regulars from a tedious support group that her parents force her to attend. Fortunately for Hazel, though, the support group is where she meets Augustus Waters, a one-legged survivor of osteosarcoma who, like Hazel, refuses to let cancer define him. The two quickly become close friends, and—over time—something more. John Green’s novel is not only a great, tragicomic love story, but also a monumental salute to the spirit of the terminally ill teenager. Recommended for Ages 14-Up.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Great Title About Bullying and Identity

Source: Author Website
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (Candlewick, 2013, 272pp.)
When Piddy Sanchez, a Latina of mixed heritage, relocates to a new high school, all she wants to do is focus on her studies so she can get into a good college. Unfortunately, with her light skin, no accent, and good grades, she sticks out like a sore thumb, and quickly attracts the attention of Yaqui Delgado, one of the worst bullies in school. Soon, Piddy finds herself doing anything she can to avoid Yaqui’s slaps and hair-pulling, even if it means skipping school and falling behind in class. Although the school has a strict “No Tolerance” policy against bullying, she’s afraid going to the principal will only make things worse. What can she do? Getting yelled at by her Cuban mother is the least of her worries, especially since Yaqui Delgado has made it her personal mission in life to kick Piddy’s ass!

In recent years, the issue of bullying has been brought to the forefront of media attention following a series of high-profile teen suicides, and because of this, the book’s publication couldn’t be more perfect. In its candid examination of Piddy’s situation, the novel serves as both a rallying cry against a major social problem, as well as a reassurance to victims that they’re far from alone in their predicament. Fans of diverse literature will also be pleased by the rich cultural details Medina adds to her story, as well as Piddy’s own ponderings of what it means to be Latina. While it’s a book that could benefit teens of all ages, the ass-kicking Yaqui promises turns out to be especially rough, so that, along with some language and a romance scene between Piddy and a childhood friend, pushes the book into the 16-18 age bracket.