by Maggie Stiefvater
First sentence: “This is a story about two gods and a girl”
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Content: There is some violence, a pretty intense fire scene, and a small amount of romance. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

I will admit that when I heard Maggie was going to write a book set in the world of Brave, that takes place after the movie, I was a bit skeptical. I mean Disney is a huge corporation, and corporate fiction isn’t always, well, good.

This book takes some time after the movie, and Dun Broch has gotten stagnant. When, on a Christmas Eve, merida captures the god of change and ruin, Feradach, at her house, she knows something bad is about to happen She makes a bargain with him and the Cailleach (the goddess of renewal): give her a year to get her family to change, and prove that they are worthy to be spared.

I shouldn’t have doubted: The journey Maggie takes readers on is amazing. Fllowing the seasons, as Merica and her family visit three other neighboring kingdoms, is full of heartbreak, laughter, and yes, change. Maggie explores the need for change, and the difference between natural, renewing change, and the destructive change that humans bring. Merida ries so hard to make Feradach into the “bad guy”, but he’s not. There is a balance to all things, and maggie explores that as well. Brave is one of my favorite movies, and to have a book that is set in this world and is so compelling and complex makes my heart sing.

I will read anything Maggie writes and I will proabably love it. So, I’m biased, but truthfully: this really is a great book.

Audio book: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman
Read by Cathleen McCarron
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Listen at
Content: There is some disturbing material, and quite a few f-bombs. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

Eleanor Oliphant is fine. She has a job — the same job she’s had since she graduated from university — as a finance clerk in a graphic design firm. She goes to work, she comes home, gets drunk on weekends, and talks to her mom (which is not a pleasant experience) on Wednesday nights. She has food, shelter, and work. It’s not a bad life.

Then, one day, she sees a musician that she decides she wants to have a relationship with, so she starts changing herself superficially. And at pretty much the same time, she ends up talking to Raymond, an IT guy in the building, and purely by happenstance, they end up helping an older gentleman who took a bad fall outside a store. And suddenly Eleanor’s life opens up.

This was such a delightful book! It has dark undertones with emotional and physical abuse, but it wasn’t graphic, and it played a role in Eleanor’s growth arc. As a character, she was delightful to spend time with, and the other characters that Honeyman populated the book with were absolutely charming. I appreciated that Raymond and Eleanor developed a close friendship, but not a romance (though that door wasn’t completely shut). That, and the narrator was absolutely delightful! It was one of the those books that I found myself immersed in, and one I didn’t want to get out of the car when I was listening.

An excellent read.

The Falconer

by Elizabeth May
First sentence: “I’ve memorized every accusation: Murderess.”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s a lot of violence, and some “improper” situations. It would be in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

A year ago Lady Ailena Kameron witnessed her mother’s death at the hand of the Faerie Queen. It changed her life forever, not only because of the death of her mother, but because she was wearing a special Scottish thistle that allowed her to see the faerie… not just that night, but always. Bent on revenge, she found a fae — 3,000-year-old Kieran — to train her in the art of killing. Little does she know, though, that the problem is much, much bigger than simple revenge: the seal that has kept the fae at bay for 2,000 years is breaking and she’s the only one who can fix it.

On the one hand: awesome cover, fierce girl, steampunk. evil faeries. On the other hand: it didn’t quite work. I wanted it to. I really did. I even finished it, hoping that it would turn fantastic. But, it… didn’t. It was set in 1844 but felt off with the steampunk-ish-ness: both too progressive with the technology and too regressive with the way that society treated Aileana. It was a weird mix. And I disliked the love story — it just didn’t work. I did like the action sequences and I loved Derek, Ailena’s pixie friend. But other than that, there wasn’t much to, well, recommend it.

Which is really too bad.

Journey’s End

journeysendby Rachel Hawkins
First sentence: “Albert Macleish woke up early on the morning he disappeared.”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s a slight bit of crushing going on, so it may turn off those who aren’t interested in that sort of thing. Otherwise, hand it to anyone who’s interested in a quieter fantasy. It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Nolie’s parents have recently gotten divorced, and her father’s been living in northern Scotland, a scientist investigating the weird fog that hangs off the coast of the town of Journey’s End. Nolie’s headed to spend the summer with her dad, hoping for a fun Scottish adventure.

Once installed in Journey’s End, she meets Bel, the daughter of a local store owner, someone who cashes in on the tourists who come to experience the fog, which they call the Boundary, and the magical/mystical story behind it.  And then when Nolie and Bel discover that a boy who’s been dead for nearly 100 years is wandering on the beach, things get really interesting for them.

I feel like this one is almost “fantasy light”. There’s no magic, no wizards, no faeries (which I thought there would be when it started). There are some references to ghosts (and one does show up) and there is a curse and a couple of people who are very, very old, but that’s the extent of the fantasy here. It’s fantasy for those who like theirs with a dose of realism, or for those who like their books quiet. That’s not to say it’s a bad book; Hawkins has woven a splendid yarn, with conflict and tension, humor and friendship, one that kept me turning pages wondering what was going to happen next.

It’s quite a lovely book, one that I hope younger readers will enjoy as much as I did.

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

charmedchildrenby Janet Fox
First sentence: “It is 1863.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Release date: March 15, 2016
Content: There’s some scary imagery, and the narrative is a bit confusing. I’d give it to a precocious 3rd grader, but definitely 4th and up. It will be in the Middle Grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

At first glance (at least for me), this looks like a kind of off-beat historical fiction. It’s the middle of WWII, and the children in London are being sent out to the countryside in order to escape the bombing. Kat and her siblings Robbie and Amelie are among those kids sent away, in this case to a castle in Scotland where a boarding school of sorts has been set up.

But things aren’t always what they seem. Including this book.

Rookskill Castle is a dark place (and not just because fall in Scotland is dreary), and the lady of the castle is up to something. Kat is sensible and practical, and not at all inclined to believe that what it going on could be dark magic.

And yet.

I loved this book, with reservation. On the one hand, the story was compelling — by the end, I was flying through it — and I adored Kat. She was practical, mechanically-minded and good at math, all things you don’t usually get from fantasy heroines. She was also willing to admit when she’s scared, and the boys were mostly willing to support her in the decisions that had to be made.

However,  I have issues when I know more than the characters. Fox flits back and forth through time, from WWII backwards to the mid-1800s, in order to give the reader the backstory of the castle. I’m not the most careful reader, and so I was able to piece things together before the characters did. I’ll admit it kind of heightened the tension — I wanted Kat to figure things out before they got too bad — but I was also annoyed that it took her so long. In the end, I found I didn’t mind so much, but it did niggle at the back of my mind while I was reading,.

The magic, however, was great. I loved the way Fox wove good vs. dark magic, and how it was a very practical sort of magic as well. That much — plus the  general, overall creepiness — definitely nakes the book worth reading.