Sunday, April 30, 2023

Whale Done by Stuart Gibbs - ESSENTIAL

Whale Done (funjungle #8) by Stuart Gibbs
, 300 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2023. $18. 

Content: G (mild danger)



Teddy’s home has burned down – by a kangaroo! So, he is heading to Malibuwith his girlfriend Summer and her mom. Beach time is what Teddy wants – and needs. Instead – he gets a dead whale – that explodes. Something is really wrong on this beach and Teddy is going to have to solve it before even worse things happen. It’s hard to concentrate when the Hollywood media is trying to pair Summer with this season’s “It Boy”.

I love Gibb’s mix of good mysteries for Teddy to solve, plus realistic – not over the top relationship gaffs between Teddy and Summer. God for the readers as they get older, but not too mushy for new, young readers who breeze through the whole series.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Vermilion Emporium by Jamie Pacton - HIGH

The Vermilion Emporium by Jamie Pacton
, 403 pgs. Peachtree Teen, 2022. $19

Language: R (12 swears, 3 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (kissing); Violence: PG-13 (death, fighting, bloodiness, mortal peril)



17yo Quinta has been on her own since her mother died a few years ago, with only a vial containing moonshadow and her mother’s dying words to "find the Vermillion Emporium" as a guide to who she is. On the day she finally finds the mysterious shop, she meets an equally mysterious boy, Twain, who is also 17 and on his own. The proprietor of the store seems to have been expecting them both and opens the magical shop to them to explore. When Quinta finds a book about how to weave magical lace out of the starlight that Twain has found, both of their lives will change forever. Once word gets out that this ancient magic has returned to the world, Quinta and Twain face difficult decisions and dangerous consequences.

I liked the story and the alternating chapter format. It helped the book move quickly and built suspense. The story was interesting and had some twists and turns that I didn’t predict. The love story was sweet and believable without being cringy. Both of the main characters were relatable and well written. There was enough world building to set the scene without it becoming overly descriptive or distracting. The magic wasn’t overly complicated or confusing, but I would have liked a little more detailed explanation of how it worked. Overall, I think it’s a book both teens and adults would enjoy.

Reviewer: Andrea R. 

The Lost Year by Katherine Marsh - ADVISABLE

The Lost Year by Katherine Marsh
, 386 pages. Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan), 2022. $17

Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG (referred but not described)



Matthew frets as a New Jersey shut-in during the Covid pandemic. His mother assigns him to help his 100-year-old great- grandmother, GG, clean out her memory boxes in order to release pent up energy. As photos and writings emerge, Matthew discovers a history never shared until now. The stories of Helen and Mila, long distant cousins become interwoven as GG slowly, painfully shares her life history during the Holodomor (Stalin forced famine in Ukraine). Helen, who has immigrated with her family to Brooklyn, secretly sends a gold necklace to help her starving cousin, Nadia. Nadia uses the money to search for family help. She finds Mila, another cousin, and her father in Kiev. But Mila’s father refuses to help her. Consequently, Mila secretly conceals Nadia at the home of her piano teacher. What happens after this becomes the secret of a lifetime.

Marsh takes the history she has learned about her own grandmother and creates an intriguing tale of courage, hope, love, betrayal, and survival. The plot moves swiftly as the story shifts from Matthew to Helen to Mila with cliffhangers at every turn. Marsh’s final reveal reminds all of the lengths humans go to for survival. March aptly wrote of this book “the anguish and worry at the heart of this work of historical fiction feels all too current and real”.


The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller - HIGH

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller
, 336 pages Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan), 2020. $10

Language: PG-13 (40 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content:PG-13 (passionate kissing, body parts referred, lovers mentioned ; Violence: PG-13 (blood and deaths mentioned)



18yo Alessandra has three goals in life: 1) seduce Kallias, the Shadow King, 2) marry the Shadow King, 3) kill the shadow king and rule on her own. Fortunately, she’s no stranger to murder, having killed a previous lover who confessed he no longer loved her. Unfortunately, the Shadow King is notoriously unimpressed by women trying to court him, and he doesn’t allow anyone to touch him or the smokey shadows that surround his body. So when the brooding, 19yo king asks Alessandra if she’ll enter a fake engagement with him to convince people that he’s taken, Alessandra must use all her feminine wiles to both appear uninterested and force him to fall in love with her. However, Alessandra and the king soon realize they may have met their match in the other’s conniving and manipulative plans.

I ate this book up. It was a quick and easy read, and Alessandra is the sort of villainous protagonist that you love. She's cunning and spunky, but I found myself absolutely rooting for her. She works to convince the court that women deserve voices and the same privileges that men have which is fascinating to observe play out in a fantastical, medieval setting. Although she's extremely sexual, the scenes are never described explicitly, and I was rather impressed that you could have such a sensual main character that still somehow kept it "clean." Overall, it's a delight to see two villains face off in trying to out-smart the other. Since this is a made-up world, the ethnicities aren't clear, but Alessandra and Kallias are described as darkly tanned. Other characters range in skin color, and the court openly accepts LGBTQ+ in their ranks. 

Lisa J HS ELA Teacher 

Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Last One to Fall by Gabriella Lepore - ADVISABLE

The Last One to Fall by Gabriella Lepore
, 360 pages. Inkyard Press, 2023. $19

Language: PG-13 (45 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (kissing, smoking, underage drinking); Violence: PG-13 (mentions assaults, beatings, affairs - not described)



Savana has lived next door to Jesse for years, but has never really been a part of his circle of friends. He always hangs out with Raf, Owen and Freddie, and recently Tara has been hanging out with them. As their senior year starts, however, her relationship with Jesse is moving beyond friendship so when he texts her in the middle of the night asking her to meet him at Cray’s Warehouse because he desperately needs her help, she goes. When she arrives, she hears a commotion and watches as someone falls from an upper floor window. She knows what is going to happen, but closes her eyes anyway and braces herself. When she opens her eyes and sees the body, she calls 911. When the police arrive, they lead four people from the warehouse: Jesse, Owen, Tara and Freddie. But not Raf. Did Raf fall from the window or did one of his friends push him? 

The author writes a solid mystery that is told in flashbacks and from alternating points of view between Savana and Jesse. The characters are developed which give depth to the story and engages the reader right from the start, but it is the lies, secrets and reveals that make for a fast read. 

Reviewer: RB 

The Paper Museum by Kate S. Simpson - ADVISABLE

The Paper Museum by Kate S. Simpson
, 242 pages. Union Square Kids, 2022. $18

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



Living in a futuristic time period in which technology has made paper completely obsolete, 12yo Lydia loves the Paper Museum, which her family has curated for generations. She has lived with her Uncle Lem ever since her parents disappeared three months earlier and she’s convinced that she can solve the mystery of their disappearance if she can just locate the last book she saw her mother looking at, which is somewhere amidst the thousands of books in the museum. The situation worsens when Uncle Lem leaves on a work trip, her irascible Uncle Renald comes to watch over the museum, three interns (instead of the expected two) show up for their internships, the mayor wants the land the museum is on for a new park initiative, and Lydia submits a missing persons report without realizing that doing so will begin a countdown on losing her home and the museum if her parents don’t return in time. Museum items begin to disappear, Uncle Renald bans them from using their aer readers (which is like a futuristic cell phone), and the technology everyone in the society relies on starts breaking down without explanation. Lydia’s determination will be the key to stopping the plot against the museum, figuring out the reason technology is failing, and finding the truth behind her parents’ disappearance.

This book was a treat to read! I was curious and engaged throughout the reading experience due to suspenseful moments and foreshadowing, and it was genuinely fun to see the unexpected way that all the pieces tied together at the end and the magic contained in the library. The book isn’t really dystopian, but it does have a dystopian feel as it highlighted the problems with an overreliance on technology in a futuristic society. The characterization at times felt a little flat and some of the characters made illogical or abrupt decisions; however, Lydia’s choices were age appropriate and her tenacity and the way she grappled realistically with her feelings and confusion added to the book for me. The main challenge I had was that the plot felt a little rushed at the end, which is where I wanted to spend a little more time because there were such interesting things happening. In spite of that element, I enjoyed the overall reading experience and loved the creative premise. 

Reviewer: Marinda 

Live Your Best Lie by Jessie Weaver - AVERAGE

Live Your Best Lie by Jessie Weaver,
353 pages. Hyperion (Disney), 2023. $18 

Language: PG-13 (38 swears, 0 “f”), Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking), Violence: PG-13 (murder, bullying, parental neglect- emotional abuse, kidnapping) 



 16yo Summer Cartwright appears to have it all. As a social media influencer, she seems to live the life of luxury as is portrayed in each of her Instagram posts. She has everything anyone could ever want as viewed by her millions of followers. She has all the trendy clothes, her Bestie, her hot boyfriend, and attends an elite prep school. She plans everything out to exactness, with the help from her best friend Grace. But things go awry when she goes missing at her live streamed Halloween party she hosts in her apartment, only to be found dead on her bathroom floor with #TOXIC written all over her face. The story is told from many of the characters’ POV leading the reader through twists and turns as the unpredictable plot thickens to discover who murdered Summer. 

I really loved this book and had a hard time putting it down! It adds many elements that a teenager craves, including mystery, romance, AND social media. I really enjoyed reading each of the character’s perspectives with a “whodunit” feel as each POV is presented. Each perspective left me unable to put the book down as I tried to discover the person behind the “mask.” Summer’s Instagram posts add another fun twist to the story which shows a different side of her character from the Summer that each of her “friends” come to know. Lots of twists and turns making for a very fun read and a very surprising twist at the end when we discover who her murderer is. This book would appeal to 13-18 yo, however, I’m 51 and couldn’t put it down. 

Reviewer: Amy Clements 

My Selma by Willie Mae Brown - ADVISABLE

My Selma by Willie Mae Brown, 229 pages. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Macmillan), 2023. $17

Language: G; Mature Content: PG (reference to attempted rape); Violence: PG (reference to murder and beatings)



Willie Mae loves Selma, Alabama: the smells, the community, the food. She lived a comfortable life. Her father worked as a boss over many endeavors in town. Willie Mae hated helping her father in the hot cotton fields, but she did whatever her father asked of her. Her brother, Maine, taught her how to fight and later, protest. Her father and Maine protected her from outsiders, including one incident when a few white men tried to enter her home to rape her. Willie Mae recalls how she felt when she heard the news about Emmet Till and the sit-ins. Once, her brother was arrested for protesting segregation in schools. While that was happening, she and her mother were fortunate to be present at a church rally given by Martin Luther King. He inspired her like he did so many. Later that year, tragedy strikes and leaves a permanent mark on her for the rest of her life. 

I enjoyed Brown’s clear telling of her experiences in Selma. Her use of the southern black dialect held my interest. Her story seems typical of a black teenager during that era in the south. I was disappointed, however, at how she ended the book. I was left hanging and wondering why the last part of the book was emphasized as it was. I wish that she would have integrated her strong words in her preface and afterword into the story. It would have made her story more powerful. MOMMAC 

Friday, April 28, 2023

The 9:09 Project by Mark H. Parsons - OPTIONAL

The 9:09 Project by Mark H. Parsons
, 368 pages. Delacorte Press, 2022. $19 

Language: R (88 swears, 55 “f” words), Mature Content: PG-13 (off-page sex, sex references/locker room talk, casual underage drinking and drug use, nude photos on a phone mentioned, but not described); Violence: G



Jamison Deeveer is a 17yo living in Vista Grande, California who has synesthesia and a love of photography, both of which he shared with his mother, who passed away two years ago from metastatic breast cancer. Jamison has been lost ever since without her around to translate the world for him. He has a loving family: a father who spends evenings in their garage, restoring old furniture and motorcycles to like new condition and hiding his intense grief from his kids; and Ollie, his freshman sister who focuses on being fashionable and well-liked at school to avoid her own feelings. Each evening at 9:09, Jamison takes a photo of random people on the street at the corner of Fig and Morena because it is what he could see from his mother’s hospital room when she died and his world stopped, while everyone else kept moving on with their lives. As Jamison navigates high school and his grief, he discovers a new friend, Assi, who helps him, along with his art, rediscover himself and come to terms with life without his mom. 

This beautifully written novel is a powerful exploration of grief and how art and helping others can guide people through the process. The characters are well-written and the author gives the reader a lot to think about. The sense of pain and grief the characters feel is tangible, likely because the author was coincidentally losing his mother to cancer as he completed the novel. There are a lot of swear words in the book, half of which could be cut out and not hurt the story. The first chapter is unnecessarily vulgar as a lunch table of boys crudely rate the girls who walk past and a troubling female character with low-self-esteem who tries to use sex to get attention from men, but the messages of the story are positive and the plot and characters hold the reader’s interest. This book is suitable for a mature high school student or adult, but is worth a read. 

Reviewed by: Stacee H, Future Librarian 

Nightmare Island by Shakirah Bourne - OPTIONAL

Nightmare Island by Shakirah Bourne
, 304 pages. Scholastic, MAY 2023. $18

Language: G (1 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (possession, little blood, danger) 



For six years, 12yo Serenity has had bad dreams. To keep them at bay, she has immersed herself in drawing monsters and making horror movies. Her little bro, 6yo Peace, loves helping with the movies and drawings, but he has started having his own nightmares. Their parents decide to take only Peace to a retreat on Duppy Island – an island Serenity has always heard in haunted. She decides to follow her family and keep Peace safe at all costs – confronting confusion, betrayal, and danger every step of the way. 

The background knowledge needed to understand or be interested in what is going on is kept sketchy until the very end – I had to force myself to keep reading because I was confused about what was happening. Plus the 6yo in the book is well above expected levels of competence – beyond what you might expect even for a gifted child in articulation, conversation, and skill. Confusing, and really only interesting for the last 80 pages. 

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Righteous by Renee Ahdieh - OPTIONAL

The Righteous (Beautiful, #3) by Renee Ahdieh, 415 pages. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin), 2021. $20. 

Language: R (17 swears; 4 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (On page sex, multiple sexual references); Violence: PG-13 (torture). 



Pippa deeply misses her best friend Celine and believes that she can get to the bottom of Celine’s disappearance. Pippa quickly finds herself on a journey into the fey world, where everything has two meanings and Pippa is unsure if she can untangle the magic and fey mischief. Pippa’s pathway into the fey world was through a Vale that Arjun Desai, a half fey, has opened in his own quest to help his dear friend Odette from experiencing the final death. Arjun and Pippa cross paths and they have undeniable chemistry. 

Ahdieh writes great characters in amazing settings, and I have enjoyed the entire series. I felt like this storyline departs from the rest of the series and takes place in a new world with minor characters, making it feel a bit detached from the rest of the series. Once I accepted the new direction, I fell into the story with Pippa and Arjun. Their chemistry is a slow build with great adventure along the way. The content makes this optional, and this appeals to those who are already invested in the series, but if your readers have liked the other books, they will enjoy this one as well. 

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Silver in the Bone by Alexandra Bracken - OPTIONAL

Silver in the Bone (Silver in the Bone #1) by Alexandra Bracken, 480 pages. Random House (Alfred A. Knopf), 2023. $20.

Language: R (52 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Seven years have passed since Nash abandoned Tamsin and Cabell. Living in the space between the reality humans know and the magic of the Cunningfolk, Tamsin is desperate to take care of her brother and break his curse—even when it means making uneasy alliances and finding a way to Avalon.

Bracken has pieced together a story using elements of modern-day life, tales of King Arthur, magic, and zombie fae creatures. The strange combination fits oddly well together, though it didn’t keep my attention the way I wanted it to. I struggled to add each new piece to the story, especially with the incorporation of tropes I am not fond of, like dead characters not staying dead. The imagination of the story is incredible; I’m just not invested enough to care about when the sequel comes out.

Tamsin (or at least her hand) is depicted as white on the cover, and most of the characters are implied white. Neve is described as having “dark brown” skin, along with a couple other characters. The mature content rating is for mentions of alcohol and innuendo. The violence rating is for mentions of murder, blood and gore, and fantasy battle scenes.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Cinder and Glass by Melissa De La Cruz - OPTIONAL

Cinder and Glass by Melissa De La Cruz, 316 pages. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2022. $19 

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


In this fun spin on the Cinderella story, Cendrillion loses her father and with his death she loses her position within the French aristocracy as an eligible maid. While living a life of servitude, she meets Auguste the prince’s brother and later she also attracts the attention of Prince Louis. While Cendrillion loves Auguste, her only chance to get out from under her wicked stepmother’s control is to play along with Prince Louis’ interest in her. Can she find her happily ever after? 

I love a good spinoff of Cinderella and I enjoyed the minor characters and the plot development at the beginning of the story. As much potential as the twist of falling in love with the prince’s brother held, the execution fell flat. Cendrillion needed more character growth and her cluelessness was hard to believe. I was frustrated with the ridiculous ending. The content includes murder from poison, but has clean mature content and language. 

 Reviewer, C. Peterson

The Moth Keeper by K. O'Neill - OPTIONAL

The Moth Keeper by K. O'Neill
, 266 GRAPHIC NOVEL Random House. 2023. $22

Content: G



Anya is the newest Moth-Keeper. She wants to prove that she is capable of taking care of the moths that keep her night village afloat, especially because she isn't sure she truly fits in. Taking care of the moths is a huge and often lonely commitment. Anya does well with her responsibilities, but longs to spend one day in the warmth of the sun though doing so may cost her everything. 

 The art is vibrant and colorful and reflects a desert landscape. There are numerous pages without any dialogue at all, so the art has to carry the story in many cases. The characters are a sort of mix of anime with animal ears and/or horns. There are themes of friendship, community, and belonging. Anya and her community are likable and supportive. More dialogue might have fleshed out the characters and plot a little more, but readers will love the illustrations. 

Michelle in the Middle

Beauty Reborn by Elizabeth Lowham - ADVISABLE

Beauty Reborn by Elizabeth Lowham, 208 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing. 2023. $20.

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



When Beauty (18yo) goes to the Beast’s castle in her father’s place, she goes hoping to die. Instead, she finds a companion in the Beast, someone who accepts her as she is. But, despite the physical distance between Beauty and her past life, the pain is never far and will never let her go.

I love retellings of Beauty and the Beast, and, aside from the obvious fantastical elements, Lowham’s Beauty feels more real as a character because of the secrets she keeps. Her pain is real and adds depth to the traditional type of girl that ends up in Beast’s castle. Lowham illustrates how we all have a little beauty and a little beast in us—and we get to choose which one defines us.

Beauty is depicted as white on the cover. The mature content rating is for alcohol use and implied sexual abuse.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

A Heart Worth Stealing by Joanna Barker - OPTIONAL

A Heart Worth Stealing by Joanna Barker, 288 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2023. $17.

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



Genevieve (23yo) inherited Wimborne when her father, the magistrate, passed away. Desperate to keep the estate’s failings under her care out of gossip but also upset that the latest incident was a theft, Genevieve finds herself hiring a thief-taker – against her better judgment. Jack is arrogant, and Genevieve is stubborn, but they might actually make a good team.

Mystery, escalating threats, romance, funny one-liners – what more could a reader ask for? Barker steps out of the well-worn path of regency romances by introducing unique characters that follow their own paths. I was happy to figure out the perpetrator while still wondering what Genevieve and Jack were going to do next.

The majority of the characters are English. The mature content rating is for mentions of alcohol, a couple of makeout scenes, and illegal activity. The violence rating is for assault and gun use.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

High Spirits by Camille Gomera-Tavarez - OPTIONAL

High Spirits by Camille Gomera-Tavarez, 224 pages. SHORT STORIES. Levine Querido, 2022. $19.

Language: R (54 swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG



These eleven stories are intertwined, giving insight into a family who struggles to be who they are culturally and individually. The characters straddle the lines between countries, which sometimes extend to lines drawn between each other.

Gomera-Tavarez includes a lot of Spanish in the stories, which was cool but also difficult when I couldn’t keep looking up the translations. On top of that, several of the stories were also confusing—maybe I didn't understand the cultural implications enough, maybe I lost too much by skipping the Spanish, maybe the stories just didn’t speak to me. I connected with how difficult it can be to navigate family relationships and expectations, but I mostly felt like I wasn’t understanding what Gomera-Tavarez was trying to communicate.

Most of the characters mentioned are either Dominican or Dominican-American. The mature content rating is for underage drinking as well as for mentions of drugs, sex trafficking, and condoms. The violence rating is for mentions of guns and bombs.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

A Girl Called Samson by Amy Harmon - ADULTS

A Girl Called Samson by Amy Harmon, 411 pages. Lake Union Publishing, 2023. $17.

Language: R (37 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13



The Thomas farm was the second home Deborah moved into as an indentured servant—and, with ten sons, Deborah couldn’t deny that they really needed her help. Impossibly, Deborah fit in. Until she grew into being a woman and the Thomas boys started enlisting in the Revolutionary War. Deborah wanted to serve her country too, but she couldn’t enlist as a woman. So she enlisted as a man.

Based on a true story, Deborah’s story is enlightening for the struggles soldiers faced even as they birthed our country—a success that seemed out of reach in a war that went on longer than expected. I admire Deborah’s hope and dedication as she faced daily uncertainty and tragedy. And her hope is lasting. We, like Deborah, can be true to ourselves and fight for right, no matter the reasons others give for why we can’t or shouldn’t.

The majority of characters are British, French, and those starting to define themselves as American. There is also one Polish character and a handful of African American characters. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, mentions of nudity and rape, innuendo, and implied sex. The violence rating is for description of war, mentions of child abuse, battle scenes, gun use, blood and gore, murder, and suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The Other Side of Infinity by Joan F. Smith - OPTIONAL

The Other Side of Infinity by Joan F. Smith, 336 pages. Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan Publishers), 2023. $20.

Language: R (58 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG



Nick (17yo) is serious about his job as a lifeguard and keeps his eyes on the pool. But when Mr. Francis obviously needs help, Nick can’t get his feet to move. Instead, a bystander, December (17yo), hops off her chair and urges Nick into action. Together, they save Mr. Francis’s life—a life that wasn’t supposed to be saved. And Nick has no idea what December’s interference has done to change his own life.

December’s unexplained ability to know everything that has and will happen leads to interesting discussions about agency and destiny for both characters and readers. Smith uses December’s unique perspective to suggest that each of us is brave for getting up in the morning when we don’t know what is going to happen today. The story of Nick and December is beautiful in its tragic way. It’s one of those books that leaves readers changed.

Nick and December are portrayed as white on the cover. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, mentions of drugs, innuendo, and sexual harassment. The violence rating is for blood and death.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Monday, April 24, 2023

Silver in the Bone by Alexandra Bracken - HIGH

Silver in the Bone
by Alexandra Bracken
485 pages. Knopf BFYR/Random House Children's.  2023. $15 

Language: R (52 swears 0 'f');  Mature Content: PG (Thievery and thoughtful kissing) Violence: PG-13 (Bloody deaths) 



17yo Tamsin Tamsin and her brother Cabell are Hollowers. Their guardian Nash left them behind after taking them on hunting trips for artifacts and now they have to make it on their own. The two of them have been trying to decipher Nash’s journal and break the cipher so they can solve the mystery of what happened to him and rescue him. Tamsin realizes the artifact they’re looking for is the Servant’s ring and believes that they need to travel to Avalon, King Arthur’s resting place, to find the ring and Nash. They find their way to Avalon in the company of prestigious Hollowers who have their own agendas falling headfirst into danger beyond anything they expected and into the unknown that will change everything. 

I love the clever humor. I enjoyed the creepiness of the unknown and the danger that follows. The mysterious tone kept me reading. The ethnicity is mixed. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta HS Librarian 

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Scout's Honor by Lily Anderson - OPTIONAL

Scout's Honor by Lily Anderson
, 416 pages. Henry Holt and Company (BYR)/Macmillan. 2022. $19 

Language: R (68 swears 38 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking, undescribed kiss, vaping, mention of “getting high”, mention of smoking weed, brief kiss); Violence: PG (fist fight with no blood, death with no blood in the description,)



In Poppy Hills, Northern California, 16yo Prudence was a Ladybird scout, hunting creatures that feed on emotions until her best friend and fellow scout Molly died during a hunt they were on together three years prior. Prudence is now assigned to train her younger cousin Avi even though PTSD has been a problem for her since the fatal hunt. Prudence dreads her assignment but learns to embrace her leadership role and the younger scouts as she takes them under her wing. Eventually she begins to also let people break through her independent wall and become true friends. Now all she has to do is teach them how to stay alive while taking down the dreaded creatures they’re supposed to hunt.

I enjoyed the humor throughout the novel. I like the message that it helps when people work together. I also enjoyed how the author brought into the novel the figurative monsters that we all deal with. Prudence has a Puerto Rican mother and a white father. Other ethnicities are white, Italian, and El Salvadoran. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta HS Librarian

Foul Lady Fortune by Cloe Gong - OPTIONAL

Foul Lady Fortune
by Cloe Gong
, 511 pages. Margaret K. McElderry Books 2022. $18 

Language: PG-13 (57 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content:  PG-13 (Drinking, mentioned sexual favors, brief undescriptive kisses) Violence: PG-13 (Descriptions of blood, medium body count) 



Since waking up from being the subject of a strange science experiment four years ago, Rosalind hasn't aged a day. Now, her body refuses the effects of time and injury alike which makes her the perfect spy. Code name: Lady Fortune. However, there is a new threat on the streets: a spree killer injecting a strange drug into the victims. Rosalind, however, will not take on this case alone. Orion, a fellow spy, will work with Rosalind as they go undercover as newlyweds and sift through their new coworkers to try and find which ones might be involved in the killings. As the partners get to know each other, Rosalind and Orion will navigate hidden pasts, layered aliases, and growing feelings for each other. 

Listen, I really wanted to like this book. The first couple chapters are promising but beyond that it was just "meh." Complex but inconsistent characters, predictable plot, and modern slang (setting is 1930s Shanghai). Many times over, characters behaved contrary to how they were described (Rosalind is described as a talented and effective assassin/spy, but repeatedly made rash and dumb decisions not on par with how she is described). Pacing was good and I always enjoy an identity reveal so those were pleasant aspects. Readers should also know that points of view shift around and one character that narrates often has transitioned to woman, also most characters are bisexual which makes this novel very LGBTQ+ friendly. All characters except Alisa (Russian) are Asian. Celia is transitioned to woman. Orion and his sister are bisexual. 

Sierra Finlinson 
High School Teacher 

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Good Different by Meg Eden Kuyatt - ADVISABLE

Good Different by Meg Eden Kuyatt, 288 pages. Scholastic Press (Scholastic). 2023. $19.

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (Selah hit another student resulting in a bloodied nose.)



13yo Selah has a list of rules. Rules she must keep in order to appear as normal as the other 7th graders. They call her weird. But when she gets home, she can put on soft clothes, flap her hands if she needs to and write the poems she loves so much. She knows there is something different about her, but her mother won't acknowledge it. But when she and her friend Noelle attend a fantasy-con, Selah meets other people who are "on the spectrum" and she suspects she might not be completely alone. 

Good Different is a beautifully written novel in verse, I highlighted so many passages! Selah has a kind and perceptive English teacher, a best friend who doesn't understand, and a grandfather who knows just what she's going through. I loved that she found ways to express herself that felt safer than talking. I would hope schools today are quicker to identify neurodiversity in kids than Selah's was, she only needed a few simple accommodations. Includes an author's note as well as resources for autistic folks, a list of books by autistic authors, and helpful resources for educators, The cover shows Selah as white, no other race or culture was evident in the text. 

Lisa Librarian 

Different for Boys written by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Tea Bendix - OPTIONAL

Different for Boys written by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Tea Bendix, 104 pages. Walker Books US, 2023. $19.

Language: PG-13 (13 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (frequent mentions of sex happening between teenage boys, sex talk without description, alcoholic mother); Violence: PG-13 (fighting and bullying)



Things are different for boys who like boys. For Anthony Stevenson, it has a significant impact on his relationships with three different boys. Charlie - homophobic and mad at the world, Jake - gay and unapologetic, and Josh - straight and new in town (It’s not clear from the text where this contemporary story takes place, or what ethnicity the characters are). Anthony speculates on masculinity, queerness, and sex through really compelling redacted prose as everything eventually comes to a violent conclusion.

Ness uses such an interesting technique, using black bars to censor sex and swear words on the page. You know in horror films, your imagination is always so much worse than whatever monster is on screen? The same can be said of swears, sex scenes, and sex discussions that are redacted. I was going crazy imagining what words worked in that context. The illustrations from Tea Bendix are sketchy, but in the best way. They seem to perfectly capture the mutable nature of teenagers' thoughts and feelings. Otherwise, the story itself was heartbreaking. Given the nature of the content and the frequency in such a short book, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for a school library, even though I enjoyed reading it.

Kiera, #bookswithbeddes

Friday, April 21, 2023

The Cool Stories and Facts Behind Every Pair of Sneakers by Stephanie Warren Drimmer and Dan Sipple - ESSENTIAL

How it Happened: The Cool Stories and Facts Behind Every Pair of Sneakers by Stephanie Warren Drimmer and Dan Sipple
, 192 pages. NON-FICTION. Union Square Kids, 2023. $13. 9781454945123 

Content: G 



Drimmer and Sipple give us a look at sneakers – from the oldest known shoe, thorough the discovery of rubber, and on to our favorite brands and styles now. Succinct and fun – not your typical boring non-fiction title. I’m not even a sneakerhead, but I enjoyed reading all about them. 

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher, MLS 

I Like Me Better by Robber Weber - OPTIONAL

I Like Me Better by Robby Weber, 344 pages. Inkyard Press, 2023. $19.

Language: R (100+  swears, 15 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (multiple instances of teenage drinking, one instance of drug use); Violence: PG (hazing mentioned twice)



You would think living in a coastal town in Florida would be paradise, however, high school (rising senior) soccer star Zack Martin is in trouble. He took the fall for a prank gone wrong, and now he has to do community service at the same place where his new crush, Chip, works. Now, Chip thinks the worst of Zack, and his soccer team doesn't trust him, and his best friends are fighting with him, and everything kind of sucks. Can Zack figure out a way to make everything better or will everything end in disaster?

Who knew there was so much drama to be had on boys sports teams?? I thought the relationships (between Zack and Chip, between Zack and his friends/frenemies) were true to life. I really loved how the author addressed men actually expressing emotions and learning how to be an adult. Lastly, I loved the normal queerness in the novel. The plot didn't center around Zack's sexuality, since it wasn’t the “problem” of the story. The whole thing was a beautiful example of queer joy. The biggest problems I can see with the story is the amount of language and the lack of definitive diversity in the book. It wasn’t clear from the character descriptions what race/ethnicity any of the characters were - all I knew was Zack was blonde.

Kiera, #bookswithbeddes

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Welcome to Consent by Yumi Stynes & Dr. Melissa Kang - OPTIONAL

Welcome to Consent: How to Say No, When to Say Yes, and How to Be the Boss of Your Body by Yumi Stynes & Dr. Melissa Kang, 224 pages. NON-FICTION. Walker Books US (Candlewick Press), 2023. $9.

Language: G (2 swears); Mature Content: PG-13 (see below); Violence: PG-13 (frequent references to unwanted touching based on true stories)



The authors of Welcome to Your Period teamed up again to write Welcome to Consent. They wrote an engaging guide that is frank, funny, insightful, and inclusive. They discuss what consent is, why it is important, and how it looks in lots of different real life situations. Two-thirds of the book focuses on consent in everyday life and how it can change over time, and the last third of the book focuses specifically on consent within romantic relationships. 

Note to librarians on the content: There are frequent clinical and textbook references to sex and sexual activity but it never explicitly tells the reader how to do something. There are several cartoon illustrations in various stages of undress, and one cartoon figure that is fully nude. The illustrations also depict gay, lesbian, and hetero relationships. There are also several references to puberty, porn, masturbation, teenage drinking, power dynamics and harassment/assault within the context of consent.

Even though this book is geared for young audiences, I learned a lot as an adult reader. I appreciated the frank, inclusive, and insightful discussion around consent in every situation. All references to sensitive topics are handled well, but it is fairly constant throughout the text. I think this would be a great resource for parents and health teachers, especially as children start going through puberty, and throughout teenagehood.

Kiera, #bookswithbeddes 

The Dressmaker's Daughter by Linda Boroff - OPTIONAL

The Dressmaker's Daughter by Linda Boroff
, 239 pages. Santa Monica Press, 2022. $13

Language: PG-13 (37 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (multiples rapes on page and off); Violence: PG-13 (soldiers killing) 



15 yo Romanian Jewish Daniela wants to become a doctor. Although 18 yo Jewish Mihail is hired to tutor her the two rapidly fall in love. When the Germans invade her town in Yedinitz, Romania her family is unable to escape. After the family is forced to leave the town, Daniela struggles to survive the Transnistrian Death march without her family. While Daniela is forced to be a concubine to a Romanian Iron guard commander, she is able to become a nurse at the field hospital. One night when the partisans come to kill two Nazi leaders Daniela is able to be reunited with Mihail, escape, and live with the partisans until the end of the war.

Linda Boroff did a great job at showing different perspectives of how it would be to live under German rule and justification of how people would act to survive.  The story line flows fast, is believable, and has a reader's attention throughout the book. The book takes place during WWII and whenever there are scenes with soldiers there is usually a lot of swear words. Daniela also gets raped multiple times thoughout the story and it feels like the main point of the story is her experiences with rape. Boroff could have spent more time discussing Daniela’s experiences with the field hospital or partisans to give the book more value in a classroom setting. The title is misleading in that Daniela's role as the dressmaker's daughter is never really the focus of the story.

 Jaime Tuttle, Librarian 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Bone Weaver by Aden Polydoros-OPTIONAL

Bone Weaver by Aden Polydoros, 448 pgs. Inkyard Press, 2022. $20

Language: PG-13 (31 swears, no ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (under-age alcohol use);Violence: R (violence associated with war, assault, implied sexual assault, hate crimes, multiple murders both on and off page, on-page mutilation of a corpse, mention of mutilation of corpses)



In the Kosa Empire, after centuries of oppression, the lower classes have risen up against the  magically endowed nobility in a battle for dominance. Unaware of the conflict, Toma lives an isolated life deep in the forest with her undead family. This simple existence, however, abruptly ends when Vanya, a commoner with uncommon power, and Mikhail, a dethroned tsar on the run, cross her path. When the three unlikely companions join forces, she must confront the future of a crumbling empire and the past that has come back to haunt her.

From the very beginning this book is let down by vague world building and an underdeveloped magic system. The author attempts to do too much as Slavic folklore, Russian inspired history of revolution and war, the supernatural, oppression of minorities, and so much more all battle for space on the page. However, the action-packed pace and messages of inclusion and equality may be enough to allow readers to simply enjoy the ride.

Reviewer: AEB

A Ruinous Fate by Kaylie Smith - OPTIONAL

A Ruinous Fate by Kaylie Smith, 432 pgs. Disney Hyperion, 2023. $19

Language: PG-13 (80 swears, 1 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (Romantic kissing and snuggling); Violence: PG-13 (Kidnapping, assault, attempted human trafficking, battle injuries)



In Illustros, a cursed realm ruled by the cruel Fates, Calliope Rosewood is a witch who is hiding her incredible power and trying to outrun her destiny. The Fates have chosen her as one of the possible Blood Warriors who will start the Fates’ War, which will eradicate magic and decimate her people. Joining together with her two best friends, toxic ex, his brother, and two soldiers of the realm, a journey will begin to undo her fate and create a new destiny.

The story is fast-paced and action driven, which may be enough for some readers to ignore the non-existent world building and confusing magic system. The characters are engaging in their interactions, but little is provided to build their backstories causing their purpose to the overall plot to be suspect. The first in a series, readers who persevere may find their time rewarded if the author becomes more clear about what is happening and why. 

Reviewer: AEB

Ab(solutely) Normal edited by Nora Carpenter and Rocky Calleen - HIGH

Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories that Smash Mental Health Stereotypes edited by Nora Carpenter and Rocky Calleen
, 336 pages. NON-FICTION GRAPHIC NOVEL. Candlewick, 2023. $25 

Language: R (102 swears (also racial slurs are listed), 18 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (mentions suicide ideation, self-harm, assault, body dysmorphia, and other mental health topics); Violence: PG (minor and non-graphic description of self-harm.



16 stories all focusing on a wide diversity of teens (LGBTQ, Asian, Latin-x, etc.) experiencing and experiences with mental illness: these stories include short stories in verse, graphic short stories, and even a one-act play. After each story, the author shares their own insight into why they chose that plot or how they came up with the idea; even more meaningful, each author lives with the illness they write about so they know first-hand those experiences. What makes this collection exciting is that it ranges from absolutely, heartbreakingly realistic (what it feels like to go through your day with OCD) to hilariously fantastical (a vampire with social anxiety who has to save his town of monsters). Overall, these stories provide hope, heartbreak, and everything in between to help anyone with mental illness feel seen.

I really enjoyed this collection of stories though they are sometimes heavy. The authors are creative in their tellings, and I loved how putting this into an anthology format allowed mental illness to be represented as the multi-faceted and complex thing that it is. I personally loved “Spidey Sense” where the author with OCD explores how proper medication could almost turn OCD into a superpower; my other favorite was “Back of the Truck” because I had an “aha” moment realizing that mental health awareness/acceptance sometimes happens in predominantly white communities. Overall these stories could be a great read for adults and teens who want to feel seen, want to learn more about living with mental illness, or who love someone who struggles. The serious nature of the stories (and the language) makes this definitely a more mature read, but you could pick and choose stories to read with HS classes/teens if you were cautious and specific.

More than half the stories involve traditional minority characters (LGBTQ+, Latin-x, Chinese, Native, etc.)

 Lisa J HS ELA teacher 

Damsel by Evelyn Skye - HIGH

Damsel by Evelyn Skye, 368 pages. Random House Worlds (Random House), 2023. $28.

Language: R (37 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Her impending marriage comes as a surprise to Elodie (20yo), but she will do anything to serve her people. The marriage agreement promises much needed resources, and her future husband is a very handsome prince. Elodie can’t help wondering what the prince and his family are getting from their arrangement, but even a 9-year-old’s attempt to talk about it is seen as a threat.

Justification is powerful, and it has this entire island under its spell. It takes an outsider and a child for some of them to see their actions as wrong. The royal family created an ethical dilemma upon which the lives of their people have been precariously placed for the past 800 years—and then told them to ignore it. Elodie changes everything with sheer determination motivated by the love she has for her little sister.

Elodie is depicted as white on the cover, and King Rodrick is described as having “olive” skin. The mature content rating is for innuendo. The violence rating is for blood and gore, suicidal ideation, and fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Eden’s Everdark by Karen Strong - ADVISABLE

 Eden’s Everdark by Karen Strong, 261 pages. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. $18. 

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



12yo Eden is still mourning the loss of her mother when she and her father travel from their home in Maryland to Safina Island off the coast of Georgia, where her mother grew up. Even though the family there does a celebration every year, Eden has never been and all she knows is that her mother had a terrible accident on the island and never returned. Eden immediately loves the island and is embraced by her mother’s family, but strange things start to happen when she finds her mother’s sketchbooks and learns of a spirit realm called Everdark. Eden has terrifyingly realistic dreams about Everdark and then accidentally crosses into the magical realm herself and is trapped by the Witch of Everdark. If she doesn’t find a way to escape soon, then she’ll die and be stuck in this spirit prison forever. Not only that, but she also discovers that all the spirits in this limbo realm cannot pass on due to the witch’s influence. Eden must not only save herself, but also finish the work her mother started by rescuing all the spirits of Everdark.

I loved that the book was entirely about an African American community and delved into the problems of slavery with Eden meeting spirit characters from throughout history who had endured slavery and racism. The descriptive writing and the fascinating premise were also highlights for me. The writing describes how grief feels in powerful language that will resonate with anyone who has lost someone they love. The story did fall flat for me with the characterization making it difficult to feel invested in the characters and to understand their motivations, especially the Witch of Everdark. While I loved how the Witch seemed like a complex villain who also had good motivations at times, there were a lot of unanswered questions about why she did what she did, as well as other world building questions throughout. In addition, the pacing of Eden’s Everdark started out slow, but then picked up in intensity about halfway through the book; however, the slow pacing at the start made it hard for me to sustain interest. The slow pace and the unanswered questions that created confusion throughout led me to rate it as only an average appeal for students even though there were a lot of elements that I liked about the book. 

The ratings of violence were PG because of some of the intense scenes of danger. 

Reviewer: Marinda 

Trashed by Martha Freeman - ADVISABLE

 Trashed by Martha Freeman, 295 pages. Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2023. $18 

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



11yo Arthur finds his sister, Ramona standing over her now dead pet mouse, who just the day before was rummaging around in her cage. Although the two siblings generally ignor one another, as Arthur thought of many reasons that could be the mouse's cause of death, he considered Ramona's young age and chose not to share his thoughts when she asked. Arthur determines that he and his sister should have a funeral. The siblings lived with their parents in the upstairs apartment of their family-owned store, Universal Trash, a consignment store established by their grandparents and became popular almost immediately. It was the perfect place for Ramona to find a "coffin" for Mouse 4. It also becomes a perfect place for a mystery starting with the reappearance of a vintage chipped teacup, which Arthur noticed out of place because of the clean and good condition in which the secondhand items were found before they were sold. The teacup becomes the perfect fit for Mouse 4's ghost! 

I enjoyed this story with fun little twists and turns as we get to know the characters. Off shoots of stories regarding things that happened earlier in their lives help us get to know the characters better. These stories also help us understand the power of family, friendship, and perseverance. Arthur tries to solve the mystery of the chipped teacup with the help of the ghost of Mouse 4, whom he renames Watson. I liked Arthur’s character and how he was such a kind soul, which was evident through his customer service at his parents store where he worked daily. I thought it was impressive to read about topics of homelessness and racism as they were subtly exposed, and how they are intertwined into and addressed within the characters' conversations. I would have liked to have seen more of the result of those conversations and even a resolution, but they were addressed just on the surface. I think this book would appeal to students in the age range of 6-12 yo. 

Reviewer: Amy Clements 

The Manifestor Prophecy by Angie Thomas - ADVISABLE

The Manifestor Prophecy
(Nic Blake and the Remarkables #1) by Angie Thomas
, 351 pages. Balzer/Bray (HarperCollins). 2023 $20. 

Language: PG (4 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (magical violence, monsters, peril, falls, blood, etc - not graphic) 



12 yo Nic and her dad have moved around all her life. They are Remarkables - which means they have magical powers, but it's something that must be kept secret from regular people (Unremarkables). When she meets her favorite author at a book signing, and it turns out he was her dad's best friend, Nic's life starts to unravel. Her estranged mother finds her, her dad is accused of kidnapping and Nic discovers she has a twin brother she never knew about. The Remarkables think her dad stole a special tool that can be used to destroy their world; Nic doesn't believe it and goes on a quest with her brother and best friend to find it. 

Thomas' world is fun - the kids have some cool magical gadgets they can use, and the monsters they deal with are both new and familiar - Haints, Ghosts, Vampires, the Devil's Daughter etc. There are also some great connections to African American history including the Underground Railroad. It has all the parts of popular fantasy middle-grade novels - 12yo discovers they are powerful, have a couple of friends along for the ride, fight their cultural gods and demons, and the adults leave them alone to do it. While Manifestor Prophecy cleanly wraps up, there's plenty of stories left to populate a series and I hope it doesn't take forever to get the next installment. Nic is Black. 

Lisa Librarian 

Monday, April 17, 2023

Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit by Colby Smith - ADVISABLE

Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit by Colby Smith
, 576 pages. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2021. $22

Language: G (2 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (bloody soldiers in war hospital, undescribed amputations)



Mary, a 16yo American lives during The Great Depression (1933); Giorgos (Gio), a teenage Greek boy lives right before The Great War (1915); and Jeanne, a teenage French girl is also struggling to help during World War 1 (1915). The story primarily follows Mary as she struggles to be a "good Greek girl." She yearns to have independence, but her family's extreme poverty drives a wedge between the future she wants and the future her parents need her to have. Meanwhile, readers go back in time to learn about why Gio has to flee Greece and if Jeanne's family is ever reunited after the war, knowing all the while that somehow Gio, Jeanne, and Mary's stories must connect.

I found this to be an extremely powerful novel in verse of youth during the Great Depression. Its exploration of immigration, feminism, arranged marriages, poverty, motherhood, independence, etc. are beautiful on their own, but the way the three stories connect and reflect back to one another within those themes made the story truly impactful. The voices of the three characters aren't uniquely their own and sound pretty similar, but I still enjoyed the way the author used Mary, Jeanne, and Gio woven together to emphasize themes. This could be a great book to pair with classic 1930's curriculum, or it could be a nice pick for fans of historical fiction, novels in verse, or to diversify your bookshelves. While it is kind of a niche topic, anyone who picks it up will zip through it. 

Mary is first-generation American with French and Greek parents. Gio is Greek. Jeanne is French.