FEBRUARY 2015

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Seraphina is drawn into ever more complicated politics with the undercurrent of the mysterious Jannoula who holds some secret power. She seems so very evil, but Seraphina sees her as broken. This story involves Seraphina's search for the other half-dragon half-human ityasaari with the hope of protecting her home land. This is a very fully drawn setting including multiple cultures. There is a lot of philosophizing that may put of some readers, but the action is constant. Lots of conflicted emotional attachments. The ending wasn't super clear to me, but at least ended well. Very Good. YA for sexuality (mild) and violence.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer
Something of a filler between Cress (#3) and Winter (#4). This is Lunar Chronicles #0.5. It's a quick read too. "Levana's Story" tells it all. From her youth filled with a sadistic elder sister to her earnest desire for love. Sad. Well written of course. But very sad. YA for sexuality.

Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics by John Feinstein
The journalistic couple of Susan Carol and Stevie meet again to support Susan Carol's race to the Olympics in London. But Susan carol has discovered all the bad parts of being a celebrity and having an agent. I'm not quite the fan of the stroke by stroke descriptions of her butterfly races, but the whole celebrity/money conflict is fascinating. This wraps up in about five pages after a loooong lead in. Still a great snapshot of high stakes sports. 4th+ Good.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Hmm. Newbery Honor, National Book Award finalist, Coretta Scott King winner, and Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. I reread this due to a negative news story out of North Carolina saying it promoted the Black Panthers. Three sisters are shipped to Oakland CA to get to know their mother and for their mother to get to know them after she left six years ago. She sends them off every day to the free breakfast and summer camp program run by the Panthers. This is about black pride in some ways, but much much more about childhood, motherhood, and family. In no way does it glorify the violence of the Black Panthers. I guess you'd have to read it. 4th+ Excellent.

Beneath by Roland Smith
Pat O'Toole receives a flashdrive with a message from his missing brother Coop. This leads him to New York City where Pat descends below the city in his search. In typical Roland Smith style this rolls on with complications and action galore. Involving a giant threat to the whole country eventually, I guess there will be sequels. Didn't leave us hanging though. 4th+ excellent.

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Ethiopia just before the Italian invasion in 1935. Emilia and Teo are raised by their stunt-flying mothers-one white and one black. Delia's dream was to go to Ethiopia, home of Teo's father. The plot of this story is slow and stretches over some years of change. It's the setting and characters that make it memorable. I'm sad to be finished. Not for everyone. But it often moved me. YA for war violence.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Probably not a unique trick, but this alternates between a YA novel and the novelist's life as it goes to publishing. The novelist, Darcy Patel, is only 18 but has been given a large advance on her premier novel. She moves to New York City to rewrite and then begin the sequel. Alternately the character Lizzie is caught in a horrifying terrorist incident from which she emerges as a spirit guide. "a triumph of storytelling" is the blurb and it's true. Of course there is the love affair of two YA women authors and the whole Underworld thing. Not too much for middle school I don't think.

NIghtbird by Alice Hoffman
similar style and content to Aquamarine. In Sidwell where Twig lives there is a rumor of a monster in the woods. Twig knows something that is a total secret--her older brother has wings. He has stayed hidden forever but longs for freedom and normalcy. When the ancestors of the family that put the curse on Twig's family move in next door, the story is put in motion. I'm not crazy about this one although it's good for intermediate readers. I think the mother's change from total isolationist introvert to warm and cozy seems a bit farfetched. The climax also seems to take a turn that is unlikely in a town of gossips and suspicious fearmongers. But it's an OK story. 4th+