Friday, March 24, 2023

Where Butterflies Fill the Sky by Zahra Marwan - ADVISABLE

 Where Butterflies Fill the Sky: a story of immigration, family, and finding home by Zahra MarwanPICTURE BOOK. Bloomsbury, 2022. $19. 9781547606511 



The girl loves her home with her aunties close by, the beautiful, blue waters, the butterflies – home. But, her family has been kicked out of their home and have landed is much different, new place. Eventually, she discovers a sense of community and belonging, while still longing for her old home and her family. 

Marwan’s epilogue is a must read – she brings light to one of the ways that people become homeless and need to leave what they thought was their home. If your school has a refugee and/or immigrant population, if you address immigration, nations-statehood, refugees in your curriculum, you could easily share this to add ore dimension to any discussion. Marwan’s illustration are unlike anything I remember seeing before – they are whimsical and concrete simultaneously – everything is dreamlike, but also identifiable. Her color palette enhances that dichotomy in only the best ways. 

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher, MLS 

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Hoops by Matt Tavares - ADVISABLE

by Matt Tavares
, 222 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Candlewick. 2023. $23 

Language: PG (4 swears. 0'f')  Mature Content: G Violence: G 



Historical fiction, this story is based on the 1976 Warsaw High School girls' basketball team. Friday nights in Warsaw see the community come together to watch boys' basketball. The girls finally get a chance to start their own team, but they don't get much support. They have no transportation, uniforms, or a place to practice at the high school until after all the boys' teams are done. The girls want more support, but what will it take to get it? 

A great read. A graphic novel works well in presenting the story and you will find yourself cheering for these girls. The art is bright and colorful and the frames are easy to follow. You may find yourself dumbfounded at girls who play games in tee shirts with electrical tape for numbers. This would be great for women's history month or for anyone interested in sports or succeeding against all odds. Though hard to tell from just the graphic art, the characters seem to be diverse as well as Coach Montez. 

Michelle in the Middle

Nikhil Out Loud by Maulik Pancholy - ADVISABLE

Nikhil Out Loud
by Maulik Pancholy
, 320 pages. Balzer/Bray (HarperCollins). 2022. $18 

Content: G. 



13yo Nikhil is the voice of Raj in a popular cartoon series. When his grandfather is ill, his mother decides that they need to move to Ohio for a while to stay with them. Nikhil’s mom and grandfather don’t get along. Nana is always telling her what to do, and how disappointed he is. Moving to Ohio makes Nikhil start 8th grade at a new school, and by the end of the first day, kids have already figured out who he is. He’s made a small friend group, and they are all auditioning for the musical, so he tries out too. But his fame and ability to work an audience and outshine his new friend DeSean and Raj is cast in the leading role. When he’s interviewed by the school paper, Nikhil talks about himself and lets the reporter know he’s gay. While everyone at school seems supportive, there is a parent who is not, and doesn’t want Nikhil to be the lead in the musical. 

Solidly set in middle school, Nikhil Out Loud was a great book. There were no bullies, which was refreshing, and the principal, when confronted by the angry parent, did all the right things. I loved Nikhil's supportive mom and the drama teacher who was perfectly over the top. It was fun that Pancholy, who voices a cartoon character, created a story around a boy who does the same. Nikhil is Indian, DeSean is Black, Monica is Korean and Mateo is Mexican. 

Lisa Librarian 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Parachute Kids Betty C. Tang - ADVISABLE

Parachute Kids
Betty C. Tang
, 288 GRAPHIC NOVEL graphix Scholastic. 2023 $13 

Language: G;  Mature Content: G: (teen cigarette use) Violence: PG: (kid gets beat up).  



Feng-Li is excited to come to America from Taiwan for a dream vacation.  She and her older brother and sister are stunned when the vacation turns into living in America.  Feng-Li gets an American name: Ann.  Due to problems with their visas, Ann's parents have to return to Taiwan, leaving the three siblings on their own.  The three must come together in order to survive and to adjust to a new culture and new schools as Ann drops into 5th grade and her brother and sister high school.  They also need to run a household and make new friends, all while learning a new language.  

The happy cover is a bit deceptive. This graphic novel tackles some serious issues. I had never heard of parachute kids before, but it refers to children from Asia who have been "dropped off" with friends or relatives in foreign countries while their parents stay behind. Ann's brother falls in with some rough kids and there is a moment when he tries to kiss another boy. Interesting read about family and coping. 

Michelle in the Middle

I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman - HIGH

I Was Born for This
by Alice Oseman
, 384 pages. Scholastic Press (Scholastic). 2022 $19. 

Language: R (100+ swears 99 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (some kissing, talk of being sexually active - not descriptive, teen alcohol use); Violence: PG13 (Described knife would, suicide threats) 



18yo Fereshteh "Angel" Rahimi is obsessed with the boy band “The Ark.” They are finishing out their current tour in London, and Angel is meeting her friend Juliet in person (after a years-long online friendship) to attend the concert - they even have tickets to a meet and greet. Angel's favorite is Jimmy Kaga-Ricci. He is one of the band members and is a trans boy. The Ark has been a band for about 5 years. When the boys were just 13, their youtube video went viral, and now they are the most popular band in the country with a huge fan base, Jimmy is feeling the pressure of signing a new contract, and there's some social media drama happening as well, with fans wondering if Jimmy is more than just best friends with bandmate Rowan. 

Told in alternating perspectives, Angel's story of meeting a friend for the first time in real life, and things not going exactly as she imagined, along with her bit of fame as a super fan that others recognize from social media would have been a great story on its own, adding Jimmy's POV with the highs and lows of just a few days with the band made "I was Born for This" a book I just couldn't put down. It's upbeat, yet serious. I loved Angel's phone conversations with her dad, who wasn't excited that she chose to take this trip into London. I loved the realistic look at superstardom, and how difficult it is for young people to maintain the pace, the friendships, and their view of themselves. Angel is Muslim. All of the characters are British. 

Lisa Librarian 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Occulted by Amy Rose, Ryan Estrada and Jeongmin Lee - ESSENTIAL

Occulted  by 
Amy Rose, Ryan Estrada and Jeongmin Lee
, 172 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Iron Circus Comics. 2023. $15 

Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: G; 



Amy Rose was only three years old when she arrived at the temple in 1997. She grows up there feeling something is off about her community. She is forbidden to go to school or even go outside because the world is about to end. When tragedy befalls a neighboring compound, Heaven's Gate, Amy learns a new word that puts a definition to her world: cult. 

Occulted is a graphic novel memoir based on a true story. Though there is a lot of psychological abuse and manipulation, Amy's story may help young readers understand that not all adults are trustworthy and identify some of the steps that cultists or abusers use, like separating members from friends and family. While haunting and disturbing, it is ultimately a tale of hope and the ability to move on and make choices. This is a quick read you will finish in one sitting that addresses some serious but timely themes. Amy's family and the cult seem to be Caucasian 

Michelle in the Middle

HANGED! Mary Surratt & the Plot to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln by Sarah Miller - ESSENTIAL

HANGED! Mary Surratt & the Plot to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln
 by Sarah Miller,
333 pages. NON-FICTION Random House Studio (Random House). 2022. $19 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13 (death of Lincoln, hangings) 



Marry Surratt will go down in history as the only women hanged for treason by the United States Government for her role as a conspirator in the death of Abraham Lincoln. Was she truly the evil villain the press painted her out to be or was she a victim of proximity and the power of public perception? 

 Meticulously researched, all dialogue in the book is from primary source documents. This is a fascinating look at civil rights during a perceived threat. The reader is left to determine for themselves whether they think Mary is innocent or guilty. Anyone who is a fan of history, cold cases, or the miscarriage of civil rights, will find this a gripping read. The only downside is the book's length, which is longish. Well written, this is an engaging story of an intriguing woman during a difficult time in history. 

 Michelle in the Middle

Monday, March 20, 2023

Silver in the Mist by Emily Victoria - ADVISABLE

Silver in the Mist by Emily Victoria
, 358 pages. Inkyard Press, 2022. $19 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (brief fight scenes) 



16yo Devlin is part of the spy network for her country, but is working under her mother. All she wants is mother’s approval and acceptance ,which has been difficult to attain since her father's death. Devlin gets sent to the enemy country to steal a great source of magic to help fight against the ever growing Mist which is filled with dangerous monsters called the Phantoms. Lochlan, Devlin's best friend, encourages her to give herself freedom while she is gone and Devlin struggles with understanding what that means for her personally. During this time, Devlin starts to uncover secrets and learn more about herself. Can she follow through with her task or will she give in to the pressure of how dangerous and difficult it actually is?

I liked the growth of the characters in the book and how their relationships evolved. I feel that teens will be able to connect to Devlin and how she feels about her mother and her mother's expectations of her because I felt the same at that age too. The overall story flowed nicely and made sense with progression. Devlin and her mother are both fair skinned with dark hair and blue eyes. Alyse is fair skinned with blonde hair. Lochlan has auburn hair and is references as they throughout the novel. That is all explained of most of the character.

Lexus Merrill, MS Visual Art Teacher 

Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez - NO

Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
, 384 pages. Delacorte Press (Random), 2022.

Language: R (100 swears, 80 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (Rowdy partying, excessive drinking, and brief mentions of drugs. A 17yo boy and an 18yo girl are filmed having sex and is described vividly. Alcohol abuse is a common theme in the book) ; Violence: PG-13 (Fights, bloody noses, girl drowning in the ocean and falling off a cliff, rape is a common theme).



12th graders Jessica and Jake are the couple of the century; everybody at school adores them and loves the idea that Jessica "changed" him. Until Jake begs Jessica to come to a end of summer party. The same party Jake's ex girlfriend, Tegan is hosting. And turns out Tegan is still madly in love with Jake. At the party, loyalties will be tested and relationships will be changed forever, all because of a summer party. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer right?

Friends Like These is very similar to Lies Like Wildfire, which I have read. Think high school drama to the extreme. The plot was extremely fast paced and had elements of murder, drugs and sex. The characters seemed flat to that of high school stereotypes. I would not recommend this book to anyone, but it was entertaining. Jake is described as tan with brown hair, Caucasian. Jessica is described as white as well. All the side characters are also white.

Kenzie Hoehne Reviewer 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Garvey in the Dark by Nikki Grimes - ESSENTIAL

Garvey in the Dark by Nikki Grimes
, 170 pages. Wordsong, 2022. $18

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: ; Violence: PG (George Floyd video described)



Garvey, who is Black, is a teenage boy who loves music, but not sports. He is living in California when the Covid-19 pandemic shuts the world down. Through his poetry, we come to learn what online learning and isolation looked like for him. We also see his reaction and anger at the George Floyd video and following protests, and we also get to watch him experience one of his parents getting sick with Covid.

I loved that Garvey’s story was written in Tanka poetry. I also liked that it was written about a recent historical event. Students will get to see and compare their experiences of the global pandemic through someone else's eyes. I thought it was great.

Mallory Birch, ELA Teacher 

The Hope of Elephants by Amanda Rawson Hill - OPTIONAL

 The Hope of Elephants by Amanda Rawson Hill, 475 pages. Charlesbridge, 2022. $18

Language: G (1 swear, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G



12 yo Cass’s dad has had cancer almost every other year throughout Cass’s life. On her 12th birthday she finds out that not only does her dad have cancer again, but he has Li-Fraumeni syndrome which means he will continue to get cancer throughout his life. After reading a pamphlet the doctor gives her, Cass learns that she has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the mutation. She also learns that not only do elephants have the p53 gene that can help fight cancer, but 20 of them. With that knowledge she goes to the zoo and finds an emotional connection to the elephant there while wondering how the elephant could potentially help her and her dad. Cass struggles to figure out if she should get tested to see if she also has the syndrome. Cass wants to live a life with hope for the future, but often has a hard time throughout the book living in the moment and remaining optimistic.

Hill does a good job at showing the perspective of a white, Christian, 12 year old girl who has a family member experiencing cancer. The Hope of Elephants is written is a novel in verse, which makes it a fast read. Hill, however, never really digs deep into various plot areas - like Cass’ struggle with getting tested or the hope the elephants bring to Cass. Hill does well in showing that there can be various support for people and their family members going through cancer. Since Hill showed so many though, it feels like she never was able to deepen Cass’ connection with any certain group, making some relationships not fully developed.

Jaime Tuttle, Librarian

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Vicious by V.E. Schwab - HIGH

Vicious  by V.E. Schwab,
364 pages. Tom Doherty Associates 2013 $19 

Language: R (51 swears 16 'f's); Mature Content: PG (Implied sex, kissing)  Violence: PG-13 (Suicide, fighting, blood, revenge) 



Are super heroes real? And if not the heroes themselves, what about just the powers that manifest under extreme stress like when someone manages to lift a car in an emergency? To medical student Eli Cardale, this is the perfect thesis topic, and his roommate, Victor Vale, is no less interested. Ambition is a power of its own and they discover a way to induce these abilities. As their research moves from theoretical to experimental, disasters occur and ten years later, Victor wants nothing more than vengeance on the person who used to be his best friend in the world. 

"Vicious" jumped through time, illustrating what happened when the two boys were in school, the day of vengeance, and the events leading up to it. Characters are ridiculously well developed and are all extremely intelligent. The author walks you through their reasoning very well. Schwab also demonstrates beautiful, introspective writing and story-telling! I really enjoyed this novel, and would certainly recommend it to most people! Mature content includes implied sex, brief kissing, suicide (but not suicidal-ness), much blood and violence, and a decent amount of F-words. All characters are white or implied white. 

Sierra Finlinson 

The Queen's Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz - ADVISABLE

The Queen's Assassin
 by Melissa de la Cruz,
 384 pages. GP Putnam’s Sons/Penguin. 2020. $12. 

Language: PG (2 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Brief passionate kissing and implied sex.); Violence: PG-13 (Repeated stabbing) 



In the imaginary kingdom of Renovia, an assassin is after the Queen and her daughter, 18yo Princess Lilac. Caledon is the Queen’s assassin and protector. Shadow wants to be a Guild spy working for Renovia but her family is against the idea; Shadow is upset and unknowingly wanders into danger. Caledon saves Shadow’s life by protecting her from an assassin that turned out to be a member of the royal family. Cal was arrested and Shadow disguises herself as a stable boy so she can infiltrate the prison yard and free him. The two work together to find the scrolls that will protect their kingdom. They start to truly care for each other as they pose as a Lord and Lady to infiltrate the rebellion against the Queen of Renovia and more secrets will be revealed that will change their course and the kingdom’s future. 

Shadow’s stubbornness frustrated me at times but her personality created needed friction in the story. Cal is a very interesting character and my favorite in the book. I enjoy the unraveling of the mystery. The ethnicity is mixed. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta H.S. Librarian, Delta, Utah 

Friday, March 17, 2023

We Are All So Good At Smiling by Amber McBride - HIGH

We Are All So Good At Smiling by Amber McBride , 283 pages.  Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. 2023. $18. 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (Suicidal thoughts (nondescriptive) and clinical depression). Violence: PG (talk of cutting, undescribed) 



Two depressed teens 18yo Whimsy and Faerry meet at a mental hospital and then become neighbors and attend high school together. They’re both suffering from depression and memory loss from when they were young children. They’re not sure what they’re not remembering but it’s bothering both of them to the point of despair. They become friends that want to help each other and understand each other’s problems. They need each other to process the trauma they’ve been through and to help the lost information resurface. 

The writing is metaphorical and beautiful. I was intrigued by the mystery surrounding the story. I like Whimsy and Faerry, the two main characters. The two main characters are black and they attend a predominantly white school. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta HS Librarian, Delta, Utah

The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim - OPTIONAL

The Noh Family by Grace K. Shim, 378 pages. Kokila (Penguin Random House), 2022. $19 

Language: PG (5 swears); Mature Content: PG (Creepy guy flirts with her); Violence: G. 



Chloe Chang has recently graduated from high school. Although she has been accepted into a fashion design school, she and her mom can’t afford the tuition. When Chloe’s friends give her a 23andMe DNA kit, Chloe is contacted by a cousin and she is invited to Korea to meet her father’s family and what follows is a K-drama type storyline. Chloe is impressed by all of her father’s family’s money, but more importantly Chloe wants more information about her father and a connection to her grandmother. Chloe naively and slowly over the course of the ENTIRE book realizes that her family only wants her because she is a donor match for a sick uncle.

Who doesn’t love a little K-drama romance story? Which is what got me into this mess of a book. Chloe is likable enough, at first. Then it quickly digresses to Chloe making desperate “like me” decisions with a family she has only known for two weeks. Chloe disregards her mother, who as a single parent raised Chloe by working hard as a nurse, not to mention the plot flaw of her mother not sharing anything about her father or his family without a viable reason, setting up Chloe’s naivety. I could continue, but you get the idea. Ridiculousness abounds, and I won’t even mention the lame last paragraph of the book, which is what–setting up a second book? Chloe is Korean-American.

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell - ADVISABLE

Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell, 352 pages. HarperTeen (HarperCollins Publishers), 2023. $20.

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



Having been through several attempted apprenticeships already, Clara is losing hope that she will ever control her magic well enough to be recognized as a witch. When Clara accidentally curses her father, she is desperate to save him – desperate enough to promise her estranged best friend all of her magic in exchange for his help.

I loved Clara’s magic and all the flowers that randomly popped up to give insight into how Clara was feeling and how her magic worked. The story was engaging and hopeful, even as Clara struggled with a voice we have all heard: the voice in our minds telling us that we can’t, that we always mess up, that we will never be good enough. Bakewell introduces a magic system that is based heavily on confidence, which forces Clara to live with – but not be controlled by – her doubts. My one hang up with the story was that Xavier is said to be 16 years old, which means Clara is about that age as well, but they were introduced as having so much history together that I couldn’t imagine them to be that young by the time age was finally mentioned.

Clara is depicted as White on the cover, Madam Ben Ammar has “deep brown” skin, and Robin has “golden-brown” skin. The language rating is for use of a British swear word, the mature content rating is for alcohol use, and the violence rating is for fantasy violence and curses.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Night Spinner by Addie Thorley - ADVISABLE

Night Spinner (Night Spinner #1)
by Addie Thorley
, 400 pages. Page Street Publishing, 2020. $19.

Language: PG13 (15 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Once lauded as Enebish the Warrior, Enebish (18yo) is now hidden away in a monastery by the grace of her older sister, Ghoa – kept far away from the people that now know her as Enebish the Destroyer. When Ghoa visits and gives Enebish an inch of freedom, Serik convinces Enebish to take a mile – and doing so will change the course of her life yet again.

Enebish’s story has abundant conflict but is unclear about which parties are “good” and “bad.” Thorley writes in such a way that we know more lurks beneath the surface of what Enebish (and the reader) sees, and we turn pages desperately in order to find the missing information. I love the magic system and the complicated characters, I love that the once powerful and confident Enebish is now limping and ashamed and has to discover how to regain the confidence that was once taken for granted, and I love that her story is not over yet.

Enebish describes herself as having “dark” skin, and Temujin is described as having “polished copper” skin. Skin colors of all shades are mentioned. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, and illegal activity. The violence rating is for weapon use, mentions of child abuse and murder, and fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Carnival Quest by Brandon Mull - ADVISABLE

Carnival Quest (The Candy Shop War #3)
by Brandon Mull
, 400 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2023. $20.

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



When a carnival comes to town, it’s obvious that magic is involved – and there are rumors that not all of it is fun and games. Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon (now sixth graders) are able to go through the magic barrier that surrounds the carnival to investigate where their magician friends cannot. But every secret they find leads to more – can they stop the malevolence before it stops them?

While I’m sure that reading the prequels makes the magic candy more relevant, I enjoyed this conclusion to the trilogy even without that context. I love the concept of the magic carnival and the secrets around every turn that felt natural in such a chaotic and mischievous setting. The characters are clever and dedicated to their quest, even as they tease and try to be home in time for curfew. Mull has put together a fun magical adventure that is enjoyable for all ages.

Nate, Summer, and Trevor are depicted as White on the cover, though skin tones were not mentioned much in the text. The violence rating is for mild fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher - HIGH

The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway
by Ashley Schumacher
, 320 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2023. $20.

Language: R (48 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: G



Coming up on the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death, Madeline just wants to spend the summer before senior year remembering, especially since she and her dad are at her mom’s favorite Ren faire. But new management has changed everything about the faire, and there is a bard calling Madeline “Gwen” for no apparent reason, and he insists on taking all the time that Madeline was going to spend by herself. The bard is making himself important to Madeline, and she is desperate to stop him.

Once again, Schumacher has crafted a brilliant story that addresses grief. Watching Madeline struggle to remember her mother and to push away anyone else that fate might take away from her next time is painfully relatable. However, Schumacher uses Madeline’s story to also address issues of body image and self-consciousness for both boys and girls. Fate rolls the dice for each of us, but it’s our decision to treat the result as a curse or a blessing.

Madeline/Gwen, her father, Arthur, and Tim are White. Martin is described as having a “dark brown complexion,” Adelina has “brown” skin, Noah has “olive” skin, and Bre has “dark brown” skin. Fatima is implied non-White. The mature content rating is for innuendo and mentions of sex and alcohol.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Eight Nights of Flirting by Hannah Reynolds - HIGH

Eight Nights of Flirting
by Hannah Reynolds
, 393 pages. Razorbill Riverhead (Penguin). 2022. $20.

Language: R (74 swears 2 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (described kissing, teen drinking games, hard flirting); Violence: PG (talk of a beheading (as part of a play about the prophet Judith)). 



16yo Shira is spending the Hanukkah holiday at the family home in Nantucket. She has a huge crush on Isaac, who is an intern to her great uncle, but her experience with having a boyfriend is nil. She’s never even been kissed. Well, she tried to get her neighbor 18yo Tyler to kiss her when she was 14 (and he was 16) but he shut her down. Now, desperate to catch Isaac, she’s made a deal with Tyler, if he will teach her how to flirt, she will get him a meeting with her uncle, and give him to opportunity for the prized internship. But lessons on flirting with Tyler, get more serious than Shira expected - maybe she needs to rethink who she really likes. 

Eight Nights of Flirting is a really cute romantic comedy. Tyler is sweet and respectful, and Shira is naive, but he doesn't take advantage. I loved seeing the family traditions surrounding Hanukkah, and the interplay between all the cousins as the extended family gathered for the holidays. A side plot involving the grandparents was unnecessary and ended the book quite abruptly (I thought I was missing pages or something.) Overall, I would recommend it. Reynolds doesn't over-explain the Jewish foods or practices, so a reader without that background knowledge feels like a guest at the party. Mature content doesn’t go beyond making out, but it’s certainly on the page. Shira and her family are Jewish. 

Lisa Librarian

Midnight Strikes by Zeba Shahnaz - HIGH

Midnight Strikes
by Zeba Shahnaz
, 448 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2023. $20.

Language: R (89 swears, 30 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



This ball is the best chance for Anaïs to solidify a marriage that her parents want for her, but Anaïs is tired of being looked down on for her culture and magic. The night only gets worse when bombs go off at midnight and Anaïs dies after having watched everyone else die. Anaïs wakes up from her nap before the ball and lives the horrific night over again. Every night, Anaïs dies; and, every night, Anaïs grows less confident that she can stop the cycle.

While this story is fun and enjoyable, those words don’t encompass the depth of Anaïs’s story. She struggles with the never ending cycle of death, with reasons for attempting to save the people who conquered and look down on her people, and with building relationships that no one else remembers. The secrets and plots that she uncovers go deep, and she can’t do it alone – but what if Anaïs can’t find a perfect solution? When do you choose to accept mistakes you can live with and let time move forward?

Anaïs is implied White, but skin tones throughout the book are not explicit. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, intense makeout scenes, partial nudity, and implied sex. The violence rating is for gun use, fantasy violence, blood and gore, suicide, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, March 13, 2023

All This Time by Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott - OPTIONAL

All This Time by Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott,
319 pages. Simon & Shuster. 2020. $19 

Language: R (99 swears 25 'f');  Mature Content: PG-13 (Underage drinking, implied sex, partial nudity); Violence: PG (Car accident) 



18yo Kyle and Kim are a "goals" type of couple. Together since middle school, their future together seems promising until disaster strikes and Kyle is faced with the fact that he was driving the car his girlfriend died in. As he heals, he meets Marley, a funny, quiet girl who has also experienced tragedy that maybe only Kyle can understand. As friendship and feelings grow, though, Marley insists that a true happy ending cannot be possible for them. But she cannot be right, can't she? 

Not going to lie, this book almost lost me multiple times in the first two thirds. The writing was only decent, I didn't care about any of the characters (in fact I thought they were annoying and undeveloped), and I didn't care at all for the pacing. But then that last third hit, and I was sucked in! There is a wonderful twist that you both don't see coming and definitely enjoy! I do, in fact, recommend this novel! Mature content includes implied sex and underage drinking, but mostly this book has rough language. Characters are implied to be mostly white, no specific colors are mentioned. 

Sierra Finlinson 

Dust Child by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai - OPTIONAL

Dust Child
by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
, 352 pages. Algonquin Books, 2023. $29.

Language: R (77 swears, 29 “f,” 1 “c” + Vietnamese swears); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13



Phong is desperate for the better life that America promises for his family, but his visa is continually denied without proof that he is Amerasian. Dan has returned to Vietnam with his wife, Linda, hoping to heal his memories of the war. As these families search for the truths that were lost to war, they must also accept that war and truth are not pretty.

My understanding of the Vietnam war has always been small, glossed over between lessons on WWII and the Cold War. Nguyễn forces her characters and readers to face the effects of the Vietnam war on the people who stayed long after the bombs stopped. I enjoyed seeing how Vietnamese culture changed over time, even as I wanted to weep for all those who lost loved ones and struggled to make the best decisions they could. These intertwined stories are engrossing because they are gritty and real, even when they are uncomfortable.

Phong is half Black and half Vietnamese, Dan and Linda are White, and the majority of the other characters are Vietnamese. The mature content rating is for mentions of drugs and pornography, alcohol use, nudity, masturbation, sexual harassment, prostitution, mentions of rape, and oral and vaginal sex. The violence rating is for mentions of bombs, grenades, gun use, child abuse, domestic violence, suicide, self harm, war memories, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Promise Boys by Nick Brooks - OPTIONAL

Promise Boys by Nick Brooks, 304 pages. Henry Holt and Co./MacMillan Children's Publishing Group. 2023. $16 

Language: R (110 swears 12 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (Implied sex and undescribed kissing) Violence: PG13 (A fatal shooting with description of blood when finding the victim.) 



At Urban Promise Prep school, strict rules keep the students in line, even to the point of harassment. Donations are given to the boys’ school in large amounts but students are told no when they ask for help with extracurricular activity funding. On a day when Principal Moore sent three teens to detention, he ends up being fatally shot and those three young men are blamed. 17yo Trey, J.B., and Ramon have to work together to clear their names. They also need help from others to get to the bottom of the mystery. 

I liked the mystery and the story behind it. I enjoyed how the suspense built throughout the story. The alternating narrative made the book more interesting. Main characters are a mixed ethnicity, white, Black, Mexican American 

LynnDell Watson, Delta HS Librarian, Delta, Utah

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen - OPTIONAL

The Bird and the Blade
by Megan Bannen
, 401 pages. Balzer and Bray. 2018. $18 

Language: R (60 swears 5 'f');  Mature Content: PG13 (kiss, mention anatomy, nudity); Violence: PG13 (Gory deaths and intense violence) 



17yo Jinghua once lived in under the Song dynasty with her family, food, and a solid future, but that was before the Songs fell to the Mongols. Now, she is a slave to the people who killed her family. But fate is unrelentingly cruel, and what little of a life she has established quickly dissipates when a neighboring kingdom captures the Kipchak Khanate. Compelled by a hasty leave and the lack of anywhere else to go, Jinghua finds herself to be traveling companions with the Khan and his youngest son, Prince Khalaf. Soon it becomes apparent that the only way to save his Khanate is to marry the Princess Turandokht. However, the Princess will only marry a suitor who can answer three riddles to prove himself her intellectual equal. Failure is met with death. As Jinghua travels, she finds herself both pulled further and further into this spiraling plot, and falling hopelessly in love with Khalaf. 

The Bird and the Blade was beautiful. It had politics, action, romance, and philosophy in it, so basically the whole package story-wise. However, it was the writing that really did it for me! Devastatingly beautiful poetic descriptions paint vivid depictions of thirteenth-century Asia. The characters are realistic and flawed, no strict hero-archetype characters. Even though the action was slow at times, the ending redeemed this novel a thousand times over and left me sobbing! All characters are Asian, strictly heterosexual relationships. 

Sierra Finlinson

Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Island by Natasha Preston - HIGH

The Island by Natasha Preston, 336 pages. Delacorte Press/Simon & Schuster. 2023. $11. 

Language: R (121 swears 0 'f');  Mature Content: G;  Violence: R (Bloody deaths) 



Teen influencers arrive on an island after being invited for a fun-filled weekend to post online reviews and build excitement for the upcoming opening. The island is an amusement park and resort all in one. The six influencers have a variety of online posts and followers. Before they can enjoy much of the island, the killing starts. One by one, people are being chased and killed. Those who remain must work together to outsmart the killer and survive until help arrives.

I enjoyed the premise of inviting influencers to review and build hype about a new place. The mystery was fun and suspenseful. I liked learning about each character’s background. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta HS Librarian,

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco - ESSENTIAL

Stalking Jack the Ripper
by Kerri Maniscalco,
336 pages. Jimmy Patterson. 2016. $20. 

Language: PG (17 swears 0 'f') Mature Content: PG (One kiss, flirting); Violence: PG-13 (Grisly and gory descriptions of autopsies and murders)



17yo Audrey Rose is a girl growing up in the late nineteenth century London where she should be attending social teas and soirees. However, rather than being concerned with embroidery and dress fittings, she prefers to spend time in her uncle's laboratory studying the dead. Through their work, Audrey Rose and her uncle will begin exploring the grisly Ripper murders with the help of the Sherlockian 18yo Thomas Cresswell. In the growing panic of Victorian London, Audrey Rose will have to tolerate Thomas's unceasing flirtations and annoying brilliance so that they can solve the case of the Ripper before more unfortunate women are murdered. 

I adore this book. It has beautiful, immersive writing and fun, loveable characters. The romance is sub-plot (but definitely still there) and they have the kind of relationship where they compliment each other and each solve parts of the case that the other couldn't, the perfect romance in my opinion. Not only that, but the author obviously put in a lot of time researching the real events and facts to make this story really come to life. If anyone is familiar with the case, there were some terribly grotesque slaughters and this book does not pull its punches describing them. All characters are white and upper-class. 

Sierra Finlinson 

Friday, March 10, 2023

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep by Allan Wolf - ESSENTIAL

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep by Allan Wolf, 402 Historical Fiction Candlewick. 2020. $15 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG;  Violence: PG-13 (Murder and cannibalism)



The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep chronicles the ill-fated Donner Party as they cross the Salt Lake Desert and break ground through Weber Canyon as part of a shortcut that ended up taking twice the time. The group gets caught in an epic and early snow storm that keeps them from crossing the Sierra Nevadas while also burying their livestock, thus wiping out their primary food source. In order to survive, the Donner Party resorts to cannibalism. 

Narrated by Hunger puts an interesting and poetic spin on this tale of survival. There are entries from clearly labeled and varied voices from the pioneer group. These succinct and well written entries make the characters relatable, real, and very readable. There isn't a ton of print per page, so it isn't a daunting read. I have read three other books about the Donners, and was wowed by this one. Though this would be historical fiction because of poetic license, it was well researched. Even the Notes section, with bios, timelines, and statistics, was engaging reading. Primarily white /European settlers along with two Miwok Indians.

Michelle in the Middle

Race Against Death by Deborah Hopkinson - ADVISABLE

Race Against Death: The Greatest POW Rescue of World War II
by Deborah Hopkinson,
320 pages. NON-FICTION Scholastic. April 2023. $20. 

Language: PG (28 swears 0 'f') Mature Content: G; 
Violence: PG (non-described violence. Hopkins writes "the atrocities that were committed . . ." rather than graphic depictions of what was happening to them) 



Shortly after the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor, they also destroyed the airbases in the Philippines, leaving the American and Filipino armed forces without adequate firepower. By April 1942, Bataan had fallen, the American generals had surrendered and thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were taken as prisoners of war. Conditions in the camps were dismal at best, and survival rates were very low, their only hope was a bold rescue. 

Race Against Death is a mix of literary non-fiction and true non-fiction. Hopkins tells the stories of several who experienced the battles, were POWs, or had other involvement at that time. She has used interviews, primary sources as well as memorial and heritage sites to put together this account. I loved the vignettes but didn't love that the stories were often interrupted by historical information. However, all of that was important because the culminating rescue needed that context. I especially loved that one of the maps was labeled "Your Briefing Map" and instructions were given on how to read it - it made me feel a part of the rescue. I would recommend Race Against Death to a reader looking for a non-fiction book about World War II that isn't graphically violent but is engaging and exciting. There's dysentery, diarrhea, the presence of lice, maggots, bedbugs, eating things that are barely food, etc but no graphic descriptions of violence. I loved all the pictures, and maps. Includes a great timeline, sources, and resources for more information. The main characters are adults, mostly Americans, and some Filipino 

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, March 9, 2023

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - OPTIONAL

The Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah,
438 pages. St. Martin's Press. 2015.  $28 

Language: R (63 swears 3 'f'); Mature Content: R (fade to black sex, drinking, undescribed nudity) Violence: R (people killed in various violent ways, torture and rape.)



Isabelle is 18yo at the beginning and Vianne is a little older. It is 1940 and war is coming to France. In a small village in northern France, Vianne and her daughter say goodbye to her husband as he heads off to fight. Soon enough, the Germans invade the little town and Vianne is forced to share her home with these brutal foreigners. As the food in town disappears, along with the Jews, Vianne will be pushed to her limits as she does what she must to protect her family. Meanwhile, Vianne's sister, Isabelle, is harnessing the vivacious spirit that had gotten her kicked out of so many schools. She becomes an integral part of the resistance. 

Warning: you will cry. This novel paints a painfully brutal picture of wartime France, including the carnage, atrocities, and bleak hopelessness experienced by so many. I consider it a job well done when a book can make me cry, but this one had me sobbing. The story is so immersive and well-composed that the loss portrayed cut me straight to my core. This is a story about bravery in its many forms and the powerful and yet powerless force of love. 

Mature content includes scenes of torture, brutal but not overly descriptive death, fade-to-black rape, and vague, undescribed sex. Nearly all characters are French or German. 

Sierra Finlinson 

Poe: Stories and Poems by Gareth Hinds - ADVISABLE

Poe: Stories and Poems
by Gareth Hinds
, 103 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Candlewick Press. 2017. $14 

Language: PG (4 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (Drinking) Violence: PG-13 (Violent depictions of death) 



This is a graphic novel presentation of some of Edgar Allan Poe's stories and poems. These include The Masque of the Red Death, The Cask of Amontillado, Annabel Lee, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Bells, and The Raven. 

I really enjoyed reading this. The creepy illustrations along with a more concise version of the stories made them both simpler and, in some ways, creepier! Especially The Masque of the Red Death. This also had unfamiliar or outdated vocabulary or expressions defined at the bottom of the pages. All main characters are male 

Sierra Finlinson 

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Man Made by Gabrysia May - ESSENTIAL

Man Made
by Gabrysia May
, 369 pages. Independently published. 2022. $15. 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (bombing, shooting) 



The year is 2042 and 17yo Ginger has lived with her family on a concrete island off the shore of California since she was young. Robots have taken control, even the president of the US is a robot. Robots boat in daily to view the human zoo which Ginger and her family are unwilling but forced exhibits. She really hates living in such a controlled environment and being viewed. Ginger has vague memories of a time before robots controlled everything and she has great hope that someday freedom, peace, and human rule will return. Will Ginger and her friends be able to help pull off the revolution against the robots and free the former president of the US? Will Ginger's robotic friend help or hinder their progress? 

Wow, I couldn't put Man Made down! Nonstop action from the beginning to the end, which leaves you hanging on for book 2. I surely hope there will be a sequel! I grew to love so many of the characters in this great debut dystopian novel from a 16-year-old author.

CS - Middle School Librarian

Some Kind of Hate by Sarah Darer Littman - ADVISABLE

Some Kind of Hate
by Sarah Darer Littman
, 320 pages Scholastic Press. 2022. $19 

Language: PG (6 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G (undescribed kissing) Violence: PG (Undescribed phone threats from a hate group, vandalism, and a bomb threat.) 



15yo Declan hurts his shoulder by climbing where there’s a “no climbing” sign and it takes his future away. He needs surgery and physical therapy to heal and in the meantime, he has an angry attitude. He pushes his friends away and joins a hate group that promotes propaganda and conspiracy theories about cultures that aren’t predominantly white, focusing especially on Jewish people. He’s happily blaming others for his problems and being fed propaganda by his “new friends” and he’s taking it too far by willingly participating in hate crimes. When Declan’s lifelong friend is threatened, he has to make the choice to harm or protect. 

Declan was whiny and ungrateful even though the accident was because he made the choice to do something negligent. I enjoyed the history class discussion about different cultures and evaluating online sources. The author approached hate groups from an insider’s perspective from both sides. Culture and Race of the main characters is mixed. 

LynnDell Watson 

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The Headmaster's List by Melissa de la Cruz - HIGH

The Headmaster's List
by Melissa de la Cruz
, 400 pages. Roaring Book Press/Macmillan/Fierce Reads. 2023. $16 

Language: R (24 swears 5 'f');  Mature Content: PG-13 (Prescription drug addiction, drinking, vaping); Violence: PG (Brakes being cut to cause an accident, hit and run, being held at gunpoint and being hit in the head with a gun)



17yo Spencer wakes up in the hospital after being injured in a car crash that involved her and three other students from Armstrong but she only remembers a few details. One of the students, Chris, died in the crash and another passenger, Tabby, won’t talk to Spencer but only glares at her. Ethan was driving and speeding and says he tried to brake but the car wouldn’t stop and they hit a tree. Ethan is on house arrest, Tabby seems fine but angry, Chris died and Spencer has broken some bones and has stitches from her jaw to her cheekbone. Jackson, Ethan’s best friend, helps Spencer get around and with her schoolwork, as well as helping her piece the details from the night of the accident together because she’s extremely frustrated that she can’t remember. The more she digs into the details, the more danger she attracts. 

 I like the intense, poetic opening that reveals the story. I like Spencer’s strength and integrity and Jackson’s personality. I enjoyed figuring out the mystery and how a mental health therapy dog helped a trauma victim. Main characters race or culture is mixed but predominantly white

LynnDell Watson, Delta HS Librarian, Delta, Utah

Monday, March 6, 2023

Henry Hamlet's Heart by Rhiannon Wilde - OPTIONAL

Henry Hamlet’s Heart by Rhiannon Wilde, 336 pages. Charlesbridge Teen, 2022. $19.

Language: R (100+ swears, 25 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (brief teenage nudity, frequent teenage drinking, a couple fade-to-black moments of sexuality); Violence: PG (frequent punches between friends and a tense/verbally abusive parental relationship);



Serious, studious, and prone to overthinking, Henry Hamlet is in his last term as a high school student in Brisbane, Australia. He doesn’t know what to do next. He doesn’t want to think about life or school after graduation. All he knows is Lennon, sporty, mysterious, & popular, is his best friend and has been forever. That will never change, unless Henry does the unthinkable and falls in love.

A delightful, swoony, best friends-to-lovers queer romance from a debut author and I was all heart-eyed reading it. Initially, I was worried that it was going to be tragic, but the author perfectly captured the angst and longing in unrequited love with some beautiful turns of phrase. There is a significant amount of language, which I chalk up to the Australian culture & setting and the moments of sexuality between Henry and Lennon were tasteful and subtle.

Reviewer: Kiera, BookswithBeddes

Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson - HIGH

Good Girl, Bad Blood (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2)
by Holly Jackson
, 397 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2020. $18.

Language: R (52 swears, 36 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Pip recorded her experience with the Andie Bell case and published it as a true-crime podcast. Fans are calling for a second season, but Pip doesn’t want to go through that again – to be that obsessive person again. But then Connor’s brother, Jamie, goes missing, and he begs Pip to take up the case. Welcome to season two.

As Pip resists attaching herself to the case and then gives in to the obsession that took over last year, this book gets darker than the first. Pip struggles to define truth, justice, and morals for herself as she finds herself diving back into unsavory secrets around town – and unsavory parts of herself. I don’t agree with all of Pip’s conclusions, which makes me more excited to read the next book and see how Jackson resolves the issues – if they are resolved. This new mystery for Pip fights against time and is just as engaging as her first case.

Pip, her mom, Connor, and Connor's family are White. Pip's stepfather, Victor, is Nigerian, and Pip's half-brother is half Nigerian. Ravi and his family are Indian. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, mentions of drug use, illegal activity, and discussions of sexual assault and rape. The violence rating is for mentions of suicide, gun use, murder, and discussions of death.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Wyoming Wild by Sarah M. Eden - OPTIONAL

Wyoming Wild
by Sarah M. Eden
, 256 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2023. $17.

Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG



In the span of a couple days, US Marshal Hawking discovers that he has a corrupt sheriff and that someone is planning to assassinate him. With no idea where in the territory to start looking for a sheriff gone bad, Hawk follows the warning telegram looking for the informant. Liesl (23yo) risks her safety every day trying to help the people her father is taking advantage of, but sending that telegram could cost her life, especially when a certain US Marshal tracks her down.

Eden has written other books about members of Hawk’s town, and they are fun but not necessary to read before this one. I loved that the strong marshal is paired with a strong woman, rather than a demure doe who has to be saved. Both Hawk and Liesl do some of the brave saving, making a partnership where both are respected and heard. Their story has action on top of the romance, making it easy to justify reading just one more chapter.

Liesl and her family, Hawk, and most of the characters are White. There are a couple people of color mentioned. The mature content rating is for alcohol use and illegal activity. The violence rating is for implied domestic violence, gun use, assault, attempted murder, blood, and death.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, March 4, 2023

The Imagineering Story by Leslie Iwerks - GIFT

The Imagineering Story: the official biography of Walt Disney Imagineering by Leslie Iwerks
, 721 pages. Disney, 2023. $35. 



Hardcore Disney lovers – especially those yearning for more background information about the history of Disney and the Imagineers – will fall in love with this masterwork by Leslie Iwerks – the granddaughter and daughter of two Disney Legends – Ib and Don Iwerks. Leslie draws from personal interviews and rich Disney source material to bring to life a comprehensive look at the history of Imagineering. At 700+ pages, it is weighty – only a few photographs grace the pages. 

 Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Reluctant Baronet by Elizabeth W. Watkins - OPTIONAL

The Reluctant Baronet
by Elizabeth W. Watkins
, 192 pages. Covenant Communications, 2023. $15.

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



Entering her third season, Selina is desperate to marry so that her beloved home doesn’t fall to the current heir – a cousin who wants to tear the house down. Selina has agreed to be courted by Mr. Hallett, but he starts to pale in comparison to the new Sir Parkinson, First Baronet of Oakhurst Park. But lurking under the surface are plots of greedy men that threaten the unwitting members of the ton.

Watkins’ attention to details shows her great dedication to research and accuracy, and I appreciated it at some points of the story more than others. Admittedly, I skimmed a few pages of those historical details, but the overall story was enjoyable. I liked the mystery and intrigue woven through the story as well as the requisite happily ever after.

Selina and most of the characters are English, except that Russell and his uncle are Scottish. The mature content rating is for alcohol use and drug abuse. The violence rating is for medical malpractice, attempted murder, and attempted suicide.

Reviewed: Carolina Herdegen