Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Reclaim the Stars by Zoraida Cordova - OPTIONAL


Reclaim the Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms and Space
by Zoraida Cordova
, 432 pages. SHORT STORIES. Wednesday Books, 2022. $20.

Language: R (60 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Seventeen stories with protagonists who don’t usually get time in the spotlight. These scifi and fantasy stories go beyond my imagination and include new cultures and ideas to amaze each reader.

The variety of culture and characters and stories included here makes me wish I knew what prompt was given to spark their creation. A lot of Spanish is used in the text, and the usage ranged in stories from being cool to being a little irritating because I don’t know Spanish. I liked over half the stories, but I loved stories 6 and 17 – they are simply beautiful.

True to the mission of the authors, the characters depicted are not White, coming from a variety of backgrounds. The mature content rating is for innuendo, harassment, scary descriptions, partial nudity, abortion, and mentions of sex. The violence rating is for blood, gun use, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice by Rebecca Connolly - ADVISABLE


A Brilliant Night of Stars and Ice
by Rebecca Connolly
, 295 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2022. $27.

Language: PG (7 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Captain Rostron is captain of a fine ship – even if Carpathia isn’t the Titanic everyone is raving about. He and his crew are at the end of a regular day when they receive news that Titanic is sinking. Doing everything they can to go to the Titanic’s aid, Captain Rostron worries that everything won’t be enough.

Connolly writes about the Titanic and the only ship that goes to assist them, and, yet, the inevitable tragedy felt sudden and urgent. Sorrow is as tangible as the tears that will run down your face, and your knowledge of the Titanic wars with your hope that these characters – portraying real people – will live.

The characters are from a variety of European and American backgrounds, the majority being implied White. The mature content rating is for mention of alcohol use; the violence rating is for suggestion of suicide and descriptions of dead bodies.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen


Monday, May 16, 2022

The House With Chicken Legs - ESSENTIAL

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson, 272 pgs. Scholastic Press, 2018. $17

Language: G (no swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (parental death off page)


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


12-year-old Marinka lives an unusual life. Her grandmother is a Yaga, which means they have an important duty to guide people to the afterlife. It also means they live in a house with chicken legs that moves them all over as they find the souls in need. While her grandmother is kind and the house is fun, playing many games like hide-and-seek and tag with Marinka, she longs for a human friend her own age. When her chance comes to finally make a friend, Marinka will take risks and break all the rules resulting in devastating consequences. 


An absolutely charming telling of the Baba Yaga legend. While it is placed in a contemporary setting, none of the folklore feel or magic of the original myth is lost. The reader will be taken on a journey through a story that brings both whimsy, with a personified house that plays and protects Marinka, and moments that explore grief and the process of moving forward from loss.  


Reviewer: AEB 

Across a Field of Starlight by Blue Delliquanti - OPTIONAL

Across a Field of Starlight by Blue Delliquanti
, 352 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Random House Graphic, 2022. $24

Language: G (1 swear); Mature Content: PG; Violence: R (repeated sci-fi fighting and killing)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

Fassen is a genderqueer teen who is fighting with a rebel group, the Firebacks, against a cold, militaristic Ever-Blossoming Empire; and their friend, Lu, a pacifist scientist living in a peaceful commune outside the fighting from either group. Over the course of the novel, Fassen must come to terms about the costs of living in the rebel society and what is really worth fighting for. 

Science fiction is a great genre that can sometimes more easily analyze current society than contemporary fiction can. This book does a great job of exploring the different ways society can operate and what different cultures place value in, even in space. I give a lot of kudos to the text for the many different kinds of ethnic and gender-identity representation in this graphic novel, but the sci-fi setting and complex world-building might be a hard sell to the casual reader. 

 #BookswithBeddes https://www.kingsenglish.com/book/9780593124130

Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Park - OPTIONAL

Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Park
, 352 pages. Sourcebooks, 2021. $11

Language: R (35 swears, 4 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking, minor drug references, one off-screen allusion to sex); Violence: G; 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Korean-American teenager Sunny Song is an up and coming social media star based in LA, but after a live baking disaster goes viral for all the wrong reasons, Sunny is shipped off to a digital detox summer camp on a farm in Iowa. Sunny is determined to hang onto her sliver of fame, even going as far as to smuggle a burner phone and WiFi signal booster onto the premises so she can compete in a content creator competition. But the longer she is unplugged, the more she realizes how important IRL connections can be. 

 I wanted to like this more than I did. There is a lot going on in this book - social media addiction, bullying, mean girls, parental relationship drama, teen summer romance, and dealing with insta-fame - but the book doesn’t deal meaningfully with any of it. The best part of the book was the small group sessions, where there are some insightful lessons touched on but they are fleeting and not really incorporated well into the rest of the plot. The main character doesn’t really grow, the teen romance is superficial, and everything wraps up all too neatly in the end. It’s a cute fish-out-of-water tale, but not much more than that. 

Reviewer: #BookswithBeddes 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth - ADVISABLE

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth
, 322 pages. McElderry Books (Simon), 2021. $15 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (witches, sexism); Violence: PG-13 (monsters, demons, some blood) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

All of Rowenna's life she has dreamed of fulfilling her role within her Scottish village by being the local craft maker- or what the village people call her- witch. But her mom, Mairead does not believe Rowenna is ever ready to tap into her craft and the magic within her. But when a strong storm leads the death of Mairead, Rowenna is left to figure out how to use her power without her mother's help. Soon after, Mairead is on her doorstep, not dead. But Rowenna senses foul play, and knows that whatever thing entered her home, is not her mother and possibly the most dangerous thing she'll ever encounter. 

 In A Rush of Wings I enjoyed the lush setting of Scotland that I got transported to and go to be apart of, it really seemed beautiful- the rolling hills and the stony cliffs! The main character, Rowenna, had spunk and I found a lot of myself in her which I enjoyed. For me, the overall pacing just seemed slow and didn't really have a sense of purpose, it was a very character driven plot and focused more on the character development and relationships which isn't always something I am interested in. 

 Kenzie Hoehne Student Reviewer 

Sort of Super by Eric Gapstur - HIGH

 Sort of Super by Eric Gapstur, 234 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Aladdin (Simon), 2022. $21. 9781534480292 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG (mother leaving); Violence: PG (bullying, superhero fighting) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Middle school superhero Wyatt wants to help people, but his dad wants him to hide his superpowers. Younger sister, Adeline, who is super smart, has just moved up 2 grades to start in Wyatt’s class, which is lucky, because while Wyatt is a great executor, she is a great planner. Together, Wyatt and A+ (Adeline’s superhero name) solve a mystery of missing animals that their father, a police detective, has been trying to solve for weeks. 

 The colorful illustrations sold me on this book. I found the beginning a little confusing as to whether Wyatt was actually a superhero or just a kid with a great imagination, but to my 12 year old son, it was clear that Wyatt had superpowers. He loved the suspense, action, and overall the entire story. This debut graphic novel for this author had the feel of a Marvel superheroes graphic novel, but with younger teens. Overall, a book that I think many middle grade students would enjoy. 

Reviewer J. Rosskopf 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Lost Language by Claudia Mills - AVERAGE

 The Lost Language by Claudia Mills. 304 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $17

 Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG (alcoholism, attempted suicide); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - AVERAGE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

In Benson Colorado, 11yo Betsy (Elizabeth) and her very outspoken best friend Lizard (also Elizabeth) try to save the dying language Guernesiais (the native language of people from the British Isle of Guernsey) as a surprise for Betsy’s mom who is a linguist who studies dying languages. Through their journey of trying to learn the lost language and help other 7th graders learn the language, they discover the need to use their own language (English) to express their own feelings to save friendships and family relationships. 

The book was written in verse. It was a very effective way of presenting the story as it allowed for the main characters thoughts to be expressed in an organized and poignant fashion. So many aspects of their families, friendships, and their middle school experience were relatable. The reader cheers for Betsy when she says what she feels. There is excellent catharsis, especially at the end. The Lost Language would be great for a poetry unit or a psychology class. School councilors could also use this book. 

Reviewer: Julia N. 

Breaking Time by Sasha Alsberg - OPTIONAL

Breaking Time by Sasha Alsberg. 343 pages. Inkyard Press, 2022. $20 

Language: PG-13 (27 swears 0 F’s); Mature Content: PG-13 (sensual kissing scenes, alcohol use); Violence: PG-13 (descriptive murder, intense fight scenes) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

In Scotland, 1568, 19yo Cullum watches his best friend Thomas get murdered by what seems to be a superhuman being. While trying to avenge his friend, Callum gets sucked into a time warp that drops him on the highway in front of 19yo Klara in the year 2022. Klara is almost murdered by the same supernatural entity that killed Thomas (the demi-god Llaw) because she unknowingly had been given power by the goddess Arianrhod and Llaw wants the power. She must stay alive past Samhain (Scottish Halloween) or Llaw will use her powers to disrupt the very fabric of time in every universe. Klara and Callum travel to the mystic centers of Scotland to unlock Klara’s power and gain answers. Romance blooms between Klara and Callum. Sacrifices are made, but together they save the worlds. 

 It took 38 pages to become interested. The book is brain candy. Breaking time is a romance, fantasy, book with a few intense action sequences. Fans of Outlanders would like it. Descriptions of the sexual tension was very effective. The descriptions of the areas visited in Scotland were spot on. Alsberg left the ending open to a sequel. High School girls who like fantasy would probably love this book. I can’t see a teenage boy picking up this book unless they looked past the cover. 

Reviewer: Julia N. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend by Katie Zhao - HIGH

Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend by Katie Zhao, 288 pages. Random House Children’s Books, 2022. $17. 

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

11yo Winnie Zeng is facing her biggest challenge yet: middle school! But no amount of research into middle school survival tactics could have prepared her for a sixth grade year like this one. Entirely by accident, Winnie discovers that she has inherited special powers that she has to embrace and learn to use quickly, or there’s no telling what amount of havoc and chaos the legendary evil spirits might wreak! 

Winnie is an instantly likable, relatable pre-teen girl. She loves manga and anime, she wants to please her parents and teachers, she has an ongoing competition with her arch nemesis (who always seems to best her), she deals with an angsty older sister and has to tolerate a mean clique of girls, all while trying to figure out how to navigate middle school and hold on to her Chinese culture (but not stand out because of it). Her story is action-packed, humor-filled, and gives the reader a glimpse into Chinese legends, history and culture. Some of the timeline felt a little rushed and confusing, but overall it was a fun read that grabbed my attention right away and I suspect students who are fans of Percy Jackson and Rick Riordan Presents books will enjoy it, too. Supernatural elements, some battle scenes and slightly frightening situations, plus a bit of mild language give this book a PG rating. 

Reviewer: Angie Campbell, EL Librarian 

Fred & Marjorie: ...the Discovery of Insulin by Deborah Kerbel and Angela Poon - ADVISABLE

 Fred & Marjorie: A Doctor, A Dog, and the Discovery of Insulin by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Angela Poon. 54 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL, NON-FICTION. Owlkids Books, 2021. $19. ISBN 9781771474115 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG (animal testing, diabetes); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

It’s fall of 1920. Fred Banting, a young surgeon and animal lover, who recently finished up his residency at Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, comes up with a great idea for how to treat juvenile diabetes, which up to this point is a deadly disease. Fred and student assistant, Charles Best, are given a small lab at the University of Toronto to test their theory on stray dogs. Marjorie, one of the strays, plays an essential part, as she is the dog who lives the longest without a pancreas, leading to the belief that insulin is indeed a life saving treatment for diabetes. 

 This heartwarming story about how insulin was discovered as a treatment for diabetes was such a cute read. The illustrations are simple and realistic looking. There is not too much going on on each page, which I think makes a good graphic novel. The spine, which only shows Fred & Marjorie, is not going to sell this book on its own, but anyone with a connection to diabetes will surely love this story, as well as those interested in the sciences and discovery of cures. Animal lovers should be aware. The dogs are heroes, but they do die. At the end of the story is included an author’s note that gives both a history of diabetes, but also describes the ethical dilemma of animal testing. 

Reviewer: J. Rosskopf https://www.kingsenglish.com/book/9781771474115

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

An Unfamiliar Duke by Sian Ann Bessey - OPTIONAL


An Unfamiliar Duke
by Sian Ann Bessey
, 290 pages. Covenant Communications, 2022. $17.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Despite knowing her twenty-first birthday would be celebrated with an arranged marriage, Rosalind has held out hope that her groom-to-be would release her from the contract. Sebastian has avoided society as much as possible, which, unfortunately, also means he’s avoided his bride-to-be. Meeting again for the first time in years, neither is sure of the other, but a spark of hope encourages them to move forward.

Bessey has put together one of the most realistic relationships I’ve ever read. Rosalind and Sebastian are both hesitant about their arranged marriage, but they are also both committed to making it work, and none of their words or actions felt forced. Though there are hurts along the way, nothing super dramatic happens to add conflict to their relationship – though the antagonist certainly adds some drama from outside the relationship. It’s refreshing to read a book where the main characters choose to look for the good and make unideal situations work.

Both main characters are English. The mature content rating is for kissing; the violence rating is for illegal activity and gun use.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon - OPTIONAL


See You Yesterday
by Rachel Lynn Solomon
, 432 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2022. $20.

Language: R (209 swears, 88 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Everything will be different – better – at college, at least, that’s what Barrett (18yo) told herself. And then she burned down a house on the first day of classes. Thankfully, she woke up on the morning of the first day of classes a second time for a redo from the universe. But then it happened again. And again.

Most of what I didn’t like about this book are the frequency of Barrett’s dirty jokes and the sex scene, but I loved the story – a new take on Groundhog Day – and how brilliantly Solomon wove everyone’s lives together. I enjoyed the two very different perspectives that Barrett and Miles have, and their relatable struggles with life and relationships and fear. For better or worse, Solomon has dated her book with a few contemporary references, like Baby Yoda, that make the story that much more fun for readers of today.

Barrett is Jewish, and Miles is both Jewish and Japanese. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, innuendo, mentions of drugs, illegal activity, mentions of genitalia, mentions of masturbation and orgasms, nudity, and sex. The violence rating is for severe bullying, threats, and death.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen


Monday, May 9, 2022

Savage City by L. Penelope - NO


Savage City
by L. Penelope
, 281 pages. OrangeSky Audio, 2022. $20.

Language: PG (12 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Talia (23yo) is surprised to find herself in a world that looks like hers – besides the magical creatures and powers, of course – because the last thing she remembers is dying. In this world, those around her keep insisting that she is the missing princess, and Talia hopes to help the kingdom and those who are enslaved by going along with the charade. The longer she pretends, though, the more disheartened Talia becomes; she is nothing like the princess and maybe she doesn’t want to be.

Overall, Talia’s story is well written. The world building of a fantastical futuristic San Francisco is interesting, especially with the separation of races by how they use the magic system involved. However, Talia is Mary Sue-ish and there is an explicit sex scene that was unnecessary. If you stop reading at the end of the last chapter, the story wraps up very nicely; reading the epilogue leads to a cliffhanger. Also, I listened to the audiobook version, and the two narrators did a very good job.

Talia is portrayed on the cover as Black and is described as having brown skin. Ryin is described as having freckled, cinnamon skin. Shad is described as African-Korean in appearance. Penelope also includes descriptions of various skin colors and races of side characters. The mature content rating is for intense makeout sessions, nudity, foreplay, and sex. The violence rating is for mentions of child abuse, blood, battle gore, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The Corpse Queen by Heather M. Herrman - OPTIONAL

The Corpse Queen by Heather M. Herrman, 401pgs. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2021. $19

Language: R (44 swears, 4 ‘f’s); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (attempted murder, abuse of a corpse, traumatic birth, murder)


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


In 1855, Seventeen-year-old Molly Green’s fortunes suddenly change when a woman she has never met sends for her, allowing her to leave the orphanage behind and embark on a mysterious adventure. The tasks she agrees to perform for her new benefactor will enable her to live in luxury and attempt an education usually closed to women, but at what cost?


While the subject matter, grave robbing and corpse dissection, is gruesome, the character development and setting create a story that readers will enjoy. Molly’s adventures are compelling, even at times terrifying. Secondary characters are also well developed and likable leaving the reader with many choices for favorite protagonist and villain.


Reviewer: AEB

The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore - NO

The Perfect Place to Die by Bryce Moore, 320 pgs. Sourcebooks, 2021. $11

Language: G (No Swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (murder and violence against women)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - NO


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


Zuretta’s sister, Ruby,  has run away to the big city of Chicago. Fearing for her safety, Zuretta leaves small town life to find her. Soon Zuretta will discover that dangers lurk in the fast paced excitement of the big city. Between the chaos of the World Fair and an unnamed terror stalking young women, Zuretta must find her sister before it is too late. 


Blatant historical mistakes, a plot that is dependent on coincidence and convenience, and a main character who is presented as strong and brave, but whose actions and behavior are in fact ridiculous, create a story that is not worth the reader’s time. Knowing that the intended audience is young and more than likely unaware of one of the most infamous serial killers in the history of the United States does not entirely excuse the unmasking of said serial killer being the “twist” that is supposed to leave the reader stunned. 


Reviewer: AEB

Belle Morte by Bella Higgin - OPTIONAL


Belle Morte
by Bella Higgin
, 336 pages. Wattpad Books, 2022. $19.

Language: R (81 swears, 20 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Vampires have been made into celebrities, thanks to the mysterious and ethereal image they keep up with the media. If it wasn’t for her sister, June, Renie (18yo) would continue enjoying her life far away from vampires. But June went into one of the vampire houses and hasn’t been heard from in months. Renie is determined to figure out what happened, and she isn’t going to let anyone – not even a houseful of vampires – keep her from finding her sister.

Since this book was originally a Wattpad story, it has a more soap-opera-y feel than a typical novel. Each chapter is like an episode that has its own conflict, which makes for an odd flow, inconsistencies, and lots of eye rolling from this reader. I like Higgin’s take on vampires, and Renie’s story can still be entertaining as long as its Wattpad weaknesses don’t bother you.

Renie is implied White, and most of the vampires are French – and, of course, have pale skin. At least one side character is of a non-white race. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, nudity, discussions of sex, groping, and sexual harassment. The violence rating is for blood and vampires feeding, mention of suicide, battle gore, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

How to Be the Best Third Wheel by Loridee De Villa - OPTIONAL


How to Be the Best Third Wheel
by Loridee De Villa
, 336 pages. Wattpad Books, 2022. $11.

Language: R (39 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Getting back from summer vacation with the fam in the Philippines, Lara is surprised on the first day of senior year that all three of her best friends got boyfriends. Even worse, the three boyfriends are friends with Lara’s mortal enemy: James. With betrayals stacked on top of being guilted into tutoring James and pressure to prepare for her future, Lara feels more out of place than ever.

The vomit of background information in chapter one introduced the book as amateur writing. With that knowledge up front, De Villa’s silly and ridiculous writing style was able to be more entertaining than annoying – though still in an eye rolling kind of way. Lara’s story feels exaggerated, like it’s not meant to be realistic but just continual funny scenes as Lara tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Lara is Filipino, James is half-Filipino, and De Villa wrote a very diverse set of supporting characters: Jasmine is Chinese, Carol is Indian, Kiera is White, Logan is White, Mark is Peruvian, and Daniel is Black. This diversity is shown on the front cover. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, and mentions of sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Red Cicada by Gregg Luke - OPTIONAL


Red Cicada
by Gregg Luke
, 290 pages. Covenant Communications, 2022. $16.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When a seizure at work leads to a hospital visit, Lana (29yo) resists medical attention because of her late father’s warning against x-rays. The doctor ignores Lana’s concerns and discovers a metal disk in the back of Lana’s head that she doesn’t remember being put there. All of a sudden multiple parties interested in the disk approach Lana, and she struggles to uncover the lies of the past and who to trust with her future.

I was ready to chew out Lana’s doctor for ignoring her clear protests – even knowing that the doctor’s actions were necessary to drive the plot. Despite some illogical assumptions, inconsistencies, and contradictions, Lana’s story was made exciting as she worked to figure out what was going on. It was a fine afternoon read.

The main characters are described as white. The mature content rating is for illegal activity and drug and alcohol use. The violence rating is for gun and knife use, mention of suicide, gore, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Facing the Enemy by Paige Edwards - OPTIONAL


Facing the Enemy
by Paige Edwards
, 376 pages. Covenant Communications, 2022. $17.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

At only 27 years old, Elise is facing the probable loss of her chosen career as a field agent for M16 and the possibility she’s never really considered as a future mother. When her old partner, Harry, asks for her help, she agrees to help watch after his son at the castle she grew up in, which happens to be near his new assignment in Scotland. As friend and foe scheme against them, Elise and Harry will learn new things about themselves and each other.

While mostly fun to read, there were a few things about this book that I had a hard time with. Edwards’ transitions often felt choppy, like I had to make unnatural leaps to catch up to the next scene after breaking off from the previous one, and there were a few inconsistencies that made me pause and flip back to make sure I had remembered correctly. If these problems are ignored, the story also includes fun thriller aspects and cheesy romance.

Elise is Scottish, and Harry is English. The mature content rating is for mention of drugs, alcohol use, and illegal activity. The violence rating is for gun use, knife use, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman - OPTIONAL

The Subtle Knife (Dark Materials, #2) by Philip Pullman, 272 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Alfred A. Knopf, 2022. $22

Language: G; Mature Content: PG (Nursing mother and a woman who is naked, but huddled so nothing shows); Violence: PG-13

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lyra, who seems to be 13-14 years old, finds herself in a new world void of adults. She runs into another teen, named Will and they band together to try and navigate their own worlds as well as the crazy world they are in that is full of soul-suckers. Soon Lyra and Will learn how to cross back and forth from their world into this adult-less world, as they look for Will's father and try to figure out Lyra's alethiometer.  

I like Philip Pullman's imaginative world and he builds empathetic characters who are loyal and easy to cheer for. There is a lot of bloody, graphic violence depicted, including soul sucking, torture, death, amputating of fingers and drawn out one-on-one combat. I would put this book at advisable, but the violence is upsetting and as the second book, it feels like a bridge without much resolve. I feel like this series probably makes a better novel, than graphic novel. The pictures are dark and atmospheric, but Lyra and Will aren't depicted very well. The major characters are all white.

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

Rise To The Sun by Leah Johnson - OPTIONAL

Rise To The Sun by Leah Johnson
, 336 pages. Scholastic Press 2021. $16 

Language: R (20 + swears, 2 “F”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG (gun shots into a crowd) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Olivia and Imani are the best of friends. Olivia is going to be a senior this year. Imani just graduated and is preparing for college. Olivia talks Imani into going on a best friend “road trip” a couple of weeks before they both go back to school. Olivia falls in and out of love as easy as turning on and off a light switch. Toni and Peter are best friends and go to the Farmland Music and Arts Festival together. Toni is a couple of weeks before going off to college. Something that is the last thing she wants to do! Toni is still dealing with the loss of her father. Her father had once come to the Farmland Music Festival and later became a festival “roadie”. It is in her heart to follow in her father’s dream. Toni decides to enter a contest to perform at the festival. Olivia and Toni meet and instantly become friends. Both Olivia and Toni are forced to deal with issues that they need to face. They discover that their relationship has made things much more difficult and complicated. They also discover that they do need each other to help them deal with love, grief, and find what they are both searching for or find who they are. 

I love that setting for this book is at a music festival. It does set the mood for fun, entertaining, and magical. It is very unfortunate how such serious relationships can develop so quickly such as this. I feel that the author was able to relate this story to many of the young readers. However, I also feel the author had many opportunities to capitalize on issues were briefly touched upon in the story, such as texting and posting intimate photos on social media and a gun shooting in large crowds. These topics or story line there could have a valuable lesson to learn for our young readers. These issues are too real in our world today. Leah Johnson did have some wonderful lines that were insightful and meaningful. It caught my attention. The characters are described as have warm brown/black skin. There is a passionate kiss shared between two of the girls. 

Reviewer: Laura Trujillo, 5th grade teacher https://www.kingsenglish.com/book/9781338662238

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

A Forgery of Roses Jessica Olson - HIGH

A Forgery of Roses by Jessica Olson
, 368 pages. Inkyard Press, 2022. $16 

Language: PG-13 (11 Swears, 0 “F”); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking, teen pregnancy); Violence: PG-13 (murder, gore) 

BUYING ADVISORY HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

17yo Myra can alter people's bodies through her magical ability as a portrait artist. But in a world where Prodigies that possess this gift are kidnapped, blackmailed, and even killed, Myra takes a big risk when the Governor's wife hires Myra to paint the most challenging portrait of all - one that would bring the Governor's dead son back to life. After arriving at the mansion, she quickly discovers the death of the son was no accident, and there is now a murderer in the house set on exposing her secret, getting revenge, and ridding the world of all other prodigies. 

 With characters steeping with mystery, and a stunning twist that will leave you speechless, this Dorian-Gray-Meets-Clue murder mystery will leave you re-reading and wanting more. I loved this book and could hardly put it down! While the story is fast paced and intriguing, it’s also easily digestible. The characters are well developed and the world building is done early on and effectively. For fans of the Hunger Games, Matched and Selection series, this fantasy-romance-thriller is sure to become a cult classic. 

Reviewer: Eliza P, HS library assistant 

Jadie in Five Dimensions by Dianne K. Salerni - ADVISABLE

Jadie in Five Dimensions by Dianne K. Salerni
, 288 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $18

Language: PG (1swear, 0 “f); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (peril, injuries, blood) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13yo adoptee Jadie Martin acts as an agent for the "Seers", ├╝berintelligent beings from the 4th dimension. She uses the 4th dimension as a short-cut to travel anywhere on Earth, performing "course corrections" calculated to guide the world toward a brighter future. But on a seemingly mundane course correction, Jadie discovers her birth family has been the target of interdimensional harassment for over a decade, and begins to unravel the disturbing realities of the 4th dimension. Jadie must find new meaning in her dimensional abilities, uncover the secrets of the Seers, and learn what these all-powerful four-dimensional beings do to a rebellious human girl when they realize she’s interfering with their plans. 

With refreshingly diverse blended family representation, a thoughtful examination behind adoptee trauma, and grand ideas filled with middle school relevant math and science, this science fiction adventure was a delightful read. While the techno-speak can be quite heavy at times, an inquisitive mind that favors math and science will easily pick up the missing pieces and enjoy this thought-provoking book about how our choices influence ourselves, those around us, and the universe as a whole. I’d recommend this to middle school readers, but upper elementary students may find it enjoyable as well. 

Reviewer: Eliza P, HS library assistant 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Fire Becomes Her by Rosiee Thor - OPTIONAL

Fire Becomes Her by Rosiee Thor
, 358 pages. Scholastic Press, 2022. $19

Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: PG (kissing): Violence: PG-13 (death and injuries from magical fire) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ingrid has always been poor, but when her father was sent to prison for stealing magic, she ended up in an orphanage, as well. She decided then and there that she was going to do something different with her life, and she made a plan to get all the things she didn’t have: wealth, magic, power and influence. During her time at school she met Linken Holt, the son of a powerful Senator and ended up working for his campaign to be president. When she is introduced to the members of the opposing campaign, she is surprised that she really likes what they stand for and she thinks she may have found a place that feels like home. Unfortunately, she is still working for the Senator and doesn’t know how to get out of the agreement she made with him. 

I always appreciate a stand alone story that has great closure, and overall this fantasy story will work for most readers. For me, I lost interest in the story, and I didn’t connect with it or the characters. I would have liked to see more depth to the story and more complex characters that didn’t always fit nicely in their boxes. The author describes her characters with a variety of skin color, genders and sexual orientation. 

 Reviewer: RB 

The Nightsilver Promise by Annaliese Avery - ADVISABLE

The Nightsilver Promise by Annaliese Avery
, 289 pgs. Scholastic, 2021. $18

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13 (death, fighting, bloodiness, mortal peril) 


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

In 13yo Paisley’s world, everyone’s destiny is determined by the Chief Designer and expressed by a track of stars imprinted on their wrist. When Paisley gets her star track, she’s shocked to discover that it isn’t a complete circle, meaning she’s destined to die before the next new year. The prophecy doesn’t sit well with Paisley and she’s determined to defy it. She has to stay alive to make sure her brother Dax stays safely hidden from those who would persecute him. To make matters worse, there’s a comet hurtling toward the earth that some believe to be a dragon returning to rule the world and mete out justice. Then Paisley’s mom, a renowned scientist, is attacked and kidnapped because she makes a discovery that could shatter their whole world. After a mysterious boy breaks into their house and tries to steal a family heirloom, Paisley, Dax and their mom’s assistant, Corbett, have to figure out how to save their mom and stop the Dark Dragon from achieving her plan to destroy the world. 

Avery's story has an interesting premise and compelling characters. The relationship between Paisley and her brother is sweet and relatable and the theme of choosing your own life path is good for young adults. Paisley is a strong, determined girl who knows her own mind and is a positive role model. There were some cool elements to the world building. The action was sustained and kept my interest. There were a few issues, but none of them were glaring enough to wreck the story. For example, some of the mythology wasn’t fully explored, but may be in future books. Some of the characters also weren’t fully fleshed out, particularly the villain. Some of the exposition is a little clunky, but it doesn’t get in the way too much. I liked it enough to look forward to the other books in the series. 

 Reviewer: Andrea R. https://www.kingsenglish.com/book/9781338754469

Monday, April 11, 2022

You Should Have Seen This Coming by Shani Michelle - ADVISABLE


You Should Have Seen This Coming
by Shani Michelle
, 356 pages. Swoon Reads (Macmillan), 2022. $18.

Language: R (63 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Cassie has only told Audra and Brody about her visions of the future, but all of them worrying about what may or may not happen is starting to interfere with their high school and family responsibilities. Meanwhile, Hayden is using her visions of the past to extort her classmates, which is, admittedly, not the best way to make friends. As their lives and visions intertwine, prejudices will have to be set aside to save a life – or four.

Every piece comes slowly throughout this thriller, and the disjointed visions are a brilliant way to drive the action. Michelle introduces several moving parts that mostly get explained in the end, but it’s not all cohesive enough for readers to be able to untangle the mystery independently. I still have a couple questions, but the book was fun enough to read that I’m satisfied with the time I spent with Cassie, Hayden, and their friends.

Cassie’s father is Korean, and Hayden’s skin is described as “dark brown.” The mature content rating is for mentions of drugs and alcohol, implied sexting, criminal activity (including blackmail and kidnapping), and innuendo. The violence rating is for gun use and mentions of murder and suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Remember Me by Estelle Laure - NO


Remember Me
by Estelle Laure
, 272 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2022. $19.

Language: R (72 swears, 23 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Waking up for school should feel like a normal day, but Blue knows that she’s missing something. She just can’t remember what. But the strange note she found in her closet must be a clue. So Blue obeys the note and boards the little blue bus on her seventeenth birthday – one leap of faith that leads to another.

The book cover and summary lead me to believe that the book was mostly about Blue and her romantic relationship. If that’s the focus, I really didn’t like Blue’s story, and I think it would have been better with a sadder ending. However, a new focus arose as I read that felt more like a story of navigating family, pain, and difficult decisions. With this shift, I feel misled, and I’m not sure how satisfied I am with the resolution. Lessons of grief and mental illness are clearly communicated, but I can get that from better books.

Blue and the maternal side of her family are Italian, but her father’s side is not described and is assumed White. Adam is described as “not just white,” and his father is a “brown dude.” Dr. Sweet is described as Black. The mature content ratings is for mention of drug and alcohol use, underage drinking, innuendo, brief description of fondling, mention of rape, discussions of sex, nudity, and oral sex. The violence rating is for mentions of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Dreamweavers by G.Z. Schmidt - ADVISABLE

The Dreamweavers by G.Z. Schmidt
, 272 pgs. Holiday House, 2021. $18 

Language: G (0 swears); Adult Content: G (references to death, some peril); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo twins Mei and Yun live with their grandpa in a small village in southern China during the Ming Dynasty (1500s.) Everyone in town is excitedly awaiting the arrival of the emperor’s son, who is coming all the way to their village to taste Grandpa’s famous mooncakes, but when the mooncakes taste horrible, Grandpas is arrested and taken to the capital to be put on trial. The twins have no choice but to go to the capital to try to save Grandpa and their village, which was mysteriously cursed at the same time as the emperor’s son arrived. Using their newly discovered magical ability and help from their new friends, the twins are able to find what they need to clear Grandpa’s name and free their village from the curse. 

This is a fun fairytale adventure with elements of Chinese culture, folklore, and history that I really liked. It was well-paced and exciting, with a series of problems the twins have to overcome using their wits and bravery. There’s just the right amount of danger without ever being scary. The main characters are good role models and there’s a powerful message of perseverance in the face of difficulties. I loved the twins’ relationship and how they balance each other and work together using their different skills and personalities. It was also a nice change to have a traditional Chinese story instead of the European stories we usually get. 

 Reviewer: Andrea R. 

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna - AVERAGE

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
, 415 pages. Delacorte Press (Random), 2020. $16

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (strip search and examination, woman treated as objects); Violence: R (drowning, hanging, beheading, stabbings) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

All throughout Deka's life she has been groomed to become the perfect example of virtue, purity and humility. But when her tribe's annual purifying ritual deems her impure- her tribe and her family quickly turn against her. Soon a powerful stranger comes into her tribe and promises her an opportunity of a lifetime. Deka comes to relize that being impure isn't what it was deemed. With a purpose and a mission, Deka will have to overcome her personal trials to become what she is needed to be, a warrior. 

Forna's The Gilded Ones, was an immersive tale of prejudice, war and freedom. What I enjoyed about this novel was the diverse and exploratory characters it introduced, warrior women plus blood lusting priests but also I enjoyed the overall world building and idea of purification rituals, which I am sure Forna took inspiration from real life examples. What I didn't quite like was the overall plot, a big chunk of it just seemed like a training montage which was anti climatic. 

Kenzie Hoehne Reviewer 

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt - ESSENTIAL

 Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt, 322 pages. Atheneum, 2021. $18

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

While Zada, a very old camel, makes it through a storm to a big mountain lion's cave, she thinks back over her life. She was born in Smyrna, Turkey, well cared for by her keeper, Teodor. While Zada was still young, she was given as a gift, along with all her friends, to the U.S. Army. She was transported in a boat across the Atlantic till they reached Texas. There they met many other camels. They helped the army transporting goods from Texas to California and back. Many years went by and Zada was happy. One day Zada and her best friend were set free. They stayed together and wandered by themselves. What will happen to the two camels? The story goes back and forth between West Texas and Smyrna. I learned a lot from this book. I had no idea that the army actually used camels in Texas. It was called the "Great Camel Experiment." There are still rumors that there are wild camels in Texas. This was a most amazing book. I loved it and I recommend it to everyone I talk to. The book is a great read aloud for a class. There are so many things to talk about and discuss. One of my favorite reads this year.

 Ellen-Anita, LMS 

Shelter by Christie Matheson - ADVISABLE

 Shelter by Christie Matheson, 178 pages. Random House, 2021. $17 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

11yo Maya, white, lives in San Francisco with her mom, dad and baby sister. Her dad has been in a bad accident and is in the hospital. Maya, her mom and sister have to move out of their cute, little house and into the homeless shelter. There they get their own room. Maya is embarrassed and feels really bad about the whole situation they are in. The story follows Maya through one whole day. She is hungry, she gets wet, she is worried, and she does not dare share her secret with anybody, not even her very best friend. Once in a while Maya thinks back to how things were before. She has a hard time concentrating, her backpack is stolen by a really mean girl. All the things Maya owns are in that backpack. 

The author did a great job handling such a sensitive subject. She gives great understanding and insight through the way Maya struggles through the day. She is doing her best to be a great student, a great daughter and a good friend. She carries the big secret and it weighs so heavy on her. Maya is strong and tough, yet tender hearted and kind. She tries to help her mom with her sister Gabby, who suffers from a multitude of severe food allergies and cerebral palsy. She tries so hard to be cheerful and kind, yet she has a hard time dealing with all the changes in her life. I admire May and I could not put the book down. 

Ellen-Anita, LMS 

Friday, April 8, 2022

So This is Ever After by F.T. Lukens - HIGH

So This is Ever After by F.T. Lukens
, 341 pages. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2022. $20

Language: R (85 swears, 35 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (repeated horny teenage boy thoughts, off page “bedroom activities”); Violence: R (repeated bloody violence & gore, repeated mortal peril)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

What happens after an evil king has been vanquished and a magical law requires the newly crowned hero to bond with a soulmate or die? Arek is trying to figure out this whole "ruling" thing and try to find someone to bond his soul with before his 18th birthday in 3 months. He starts by attempting to woo his quest companions, but it doesn’t ever seem to go to plan. But what if his soulmate was in front of him the whole time? 

A rom-com fantasy with a gorgeous cover? Yes, please. I loved reading In Deeper Waters by the same author a couple of months ago and this book had everything I loved about the first (I should clarify, not a sequel, just the same author). The characters were well-developed, the romantic comedy was blended well with the fantastical setting, and queerness in this world is not strange or unusual, as it should be. Be aware there is a significant amount of language, repeated mortal peril, and bloody fantasy violence but it is a super fun fantasy adventure with great LGBTQIA representation. 

Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

The Sky Above Us by Natalie Lund - HIGH

The Sky Above Us by Natalie Lund
, 370 pages. Philmoel Books (Penguin Random House LLC), 2020. $18 

Language: R (100 + swears, 30+ “f”; Mature Content: PG-13 (alcohol & drinking); Violence: R (violence, death, suicidal ideation) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

The morning after their senior class beach party, Cassie, Izzy, and Janie wake up to the sound of the airplane over their heads. They are feeling groggy after partying all night on the beach. They watch in disbelief along with their classmates as the plane plummets into the gulf. After the bodies are recovered, they are identified as Israel, Nate, and Shane. Izzy and Israel are twins. Ever since they were little, Izzy has always had a strong sense of Israel’s thoughts or feelings. Izzy called it “twintuition”. This was something that annoyed Israel. Izzy doesn’t “feel” that Israel is dead. Nate and Janie have always been the best of friends. Shane and Cassie were high school sweethearts. The girls, Izzy, Cassie, and Janie are determined to find out what really happened that morning. 

Interesting style of writing. The author tells the story by sharing each one of the character’s point of view. The story switches back to 31 days before the crash to the present. Each character shares events that happened leading up to the day of the crash. Izzy, Cassie, and Janie each are left putting together the pieces of friendship, truths, and unanswered questions they have regarding the guys they knew and loved. Going back to the last 31 days of their lives unfolds the ripple effects of this painful tragedy. The characters seem to all default to white, though Israel and Izzy speak Spanish to their parents. The ethnic identity is sketchy at best. 

Laura Trujillo - 5th grade teacher 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Games in a Ballroom by Jentry Flint - ADVISABLE


Games in a Ballroom
by Jentry Flint
, 272 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2022. $16.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

From Emerson’s perspective, he’s been subtly courting Olivia because he doesn’t have a title -- the one requirement of Olivia’s father for her future husband. From Olivia’s perspective, Emerson has been asking her to dance out of pity for her lack of dance partners during her second season. Emerson suggests that they discreetly play tag at subsequent balls as another excuse to interact with Olivia, but Olivia can’t afford to play any games with her heart.

The story of Emerson and Olivia is a fun one because you never know what is going to happen next. Emerson and his friends entertain themselves, and readers, with their constant antics that push society’s boundaries -- and there are a couple games I would love to play myself! Flint balances the seriousness of domestic violence with the joys of fighting for a happily ever after. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Threads of Magic by Alison Croggan-OPTIONAL

The Threads of Magic by Alison Croggan, 372 pgs. Candlewick Press, 2020. $19

Language:PG (10 swears, no ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (children in peril)


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS-OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


One afternoon, Pip makes the mistake of pickpocketing the wrong person. Finding himself in possession of the Stone Heart, an object steeped in magic, Pip realizes that not only are there people who will stop at nothing to get it back, but he has also unwittingly broken a spell.  The magic that is unleashed will start a war between the witches and rulers of the city, neither of whom truly understand the ancient power they fight to control. 


The story that is presented begins promisingly, but quickly loses its way. The magic system and character development are both vague leading the reader to believe that there may have been a previous book, or even a few chapters left off at the beginning, that would have given the story the depth needed to create a complete world.


Reviewer: AEB


Rules for Vampires by Alex Foulkes-ADVISABLE

Rules for Vampires by Alex Foulkes, 336 pgs. Aladdin, 2021. $18 

Language: G (no swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (fire resulting in death, vampiric activity, assault)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


Leo, a 111to vampire, is about to experience her birthnight, an important rite of passage for all vampires. On this night she will hunt and kill her own prey for the first time.  To succeed will  bring great honor to her family. To fail, unthinkable. Her plan is strong as she has decided to target one of the orphans at St. Frieda’s Home for Unwanted Children. Who will miss an orphan? The plan goes awry when an accidental fire causes chaos and death, but not in the way Leo intended. Now she has to contend with two angry ghosts and the possible destruction of the town all while keeping her family from discovering that she failed her birthnight.

The premise of Leo’s story is original and fun. Throughout the book Leo is someone the reader will root for even as she is attempting to murder an orphan. While a bit violent at times, the story is humorously told. However, the humor does give way to tense action packed moments to keep the reader interested. In the beginning, the author tries too hard to be amusing, which is irritating, but this inclination calms down pretty early on allowing the humor to feel more organic to the characters. The biggest detractors are the neglect Leo experiences from her family and the mistreatment by her friend Minna, which are disturbing and never appropriately resolved. All of the characters are assumed to be white.


Reviewer: AEB