Thursday, May 25, 2023

Enola Holmes and the Mark of the Mongoose by Nancy Springer - ESSENTIAL

Enola Holmes and the Mark of the Mongoose
by Nancy Springer
. 304 pages. St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books. 2023. $20. 

Language: PG (6 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (Fighting)



Once again 17yo Enola becomes inadvertently involved in a mystery when a customer asks for help from the new false identity she’s using, Dr. Ragostin. This new London mystery is a missing man who was bitten by a rabid dog. His sister Caroline and best friend Rudyard Kipling ask for help in finding him. Enola throws herself into the search and comes across strange characters, a strong leader and an odd group with the mark of the mongoose. She’s determined to find the missing man no matter how much danger she puts herself in. 

I like how the author ties history into the fictional Enola Holmes’ stories. The author states what’s true history and what’s fictional in the ending notes. I enjoy Enola’s perseverance, bravery, and generosity. Ethnicity is predominantly white. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Glitter Everywhere! by Chris Barton, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat - ADVISABLE

Glitter Everywhere!: Where it Came From, Where It's Found & Where It's Going
 by Chris Barton, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat
PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION Charlesbridge. 2023. $20. 9781623542528



Glitter is lots of things. It is tiny, clingy, colorful, loved, and not loved. Glitter is iridescent and is the reason glitter captures the eye and the reason most of us are attracted to it. 

The science and story behind glitter are revealed in this all-encompassing book. The ancient Egyptians used iridescent beetles to glitter objects. Glitter was once called “flitter” until the word glitter became more popular. Glitter is bad for the environment, and scientists are working on many biodegradable forms of glitter. Glitter everywhere! calls attention to something most of us haven’t thought twice about. Barton’s humorous approach and interesting facts produce a very enjoyable read. The vibrant, whimsical illustrations add to the sparkling information. 


Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Always Isn’t Forever by J. C. Cervantes - OPTIONAL

Always Isn’t Forever
by J. C. Cervantes
, 384 pages. Razorbill (Penguin Random House), 2023. $20.

Language: R (172 swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG



Hart and Ruby have always been together and always will be—and then Hart dies the summer before senior year. Neither of them are ready to let go, and Hart’s spirit is given the chance to go back—but not in the body he had. Through all the obstacles of life and death, can they still choose to always be together?

A tragic undercurrent pulled through every part of the story. While the angel/demon trope was originally off putting because of how it contrasted with that undercurrent, the story worked out well in the end. Sacrifices were made, lessons of love were learned, and some things do last forever.

Hart is Latino, Ruby is implied Latina, Jameson is white, and most of the other characters are implied Latinx or white. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, innuendo, and mentions of sex. The violence rating is for assault and death.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, May 22, 2023

An Uncharted Devotion by Amanda Taylor - OPTIONAL

An Uncharted Devotion
by Amanda Taylor
, 216 pages. Covenant Communications, 2023.  $15.

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



James and Sarah are madly in love when they get married before James has to report back to the Navy. Five years later, he returns a different man knowing that his friend is MIA, and she wonders if she will continue to be lonely even with her husband home. Can they find love again?

The fact that James and Sarah are willing to work to save their marriage is appealing when divorce has become so common nowadays. With their romance as the main focus, the action bit reminiscent of The Scarlet Pimpernel added some fun variety to the characters and the plot. Overall, James and Sarah have a sweet story with the hope of choosing to fall—and stay—in love.

The majority of the characters are English and French. The mature content rating is for alcohol use. The violence rating is for gun use and mentions of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, May 21, 2023

A Spark in the Cinders by Jenny Elder Moke - OPTIONAL

A Spark in the Cinders by Jenny Elder Moke, 368 pages. Disney Hyperion, 2023. $19.

Language: PG (9 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG



Cinderella has married the prince, making her step-sister Aralyn a failure in the eyes of her mother. Aralyn’s hatred for Cinderella grows as Aralyn is forced to sleep on her pallet and do her chores while Mother focuses on Divya, Aralyn’s younger sister. Then Cinderella asks for Aralyn’s help, and Aralyn sees it as the opportunity she needs to regain her mother’s favor and finally best Cinderella.

Moke gives Cinderella’s stepsisters more depth than the traditional story, and I enjoyed reading from a more understanding perspective—understanding their motivations and struggles. The story follows a fairly predictable questing plotline, turning weaknesses into strengths and teenage girls into heroes, but the book isn’t tedious. Rocky alliances, inner demons, and fey curses are around every corner, keeping the action interesting for readers that follow Aralyn into life-and-death situations.

Aralyn and Vee are depicted as white on the cover. The mature content rating is for kissing, and the violence rating is for mild fantasy battle scenes.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, May 19, 2023

A Spinster's Guide to Danger and Dukes by Manda Collins - OPTIONAL

A Spinster's Guide to Danger and Dukes
by Manda Collins
325 pages. Forever. 2023. $17.

Language: R (39 swears 1 'f'); Mature Content: R (On page explicit sex, innuendos, mention of porn, both sexual and nonsexual nudity, alcohol consumption) Violence: PG-13 (Repeated mention of wounds and murders, off-page suicide, possible cannibalism)



The last thing that 25yo Poppy needs right now is a rather vexing duke getting in her way. She has just learned that her brother-in-law has died and her sister accused of his murder. On her way to help, Poppy runs (quite literally) in to Joshua Fielding, Duke of Langham. The duke, himself, is facing a rather trying week ahead where his grandmother will certainly try to marry him off to one of the many women she has invited to the estate. The plan is simple: Poppy and Langham will assume a false engagement that will allow Langham to escape his potential brides, and Poppy will have ducal support as they investigate the murder. However, what neither of them could have foreseen is the growing feelings between them that grow as the week progresses. 

I enjoyed this book, and I think a decent amount of other readers would agree. No, it is not some literary masterpiece, but it was fun. Well-paced with decent characters, it made for a good read, but it's not one I would necessarily recommend to everyone. I suppose it was three stars. Note: this book began as a cute Victorian romance and murder mystery, but reader be warned, there is one decently explicit sex scene (not overly crude and descriptive but they still walk you through what is going on in quite some detail). There are also a decent amount of innuendos, a part where they discover some pornographic images (although this is not detailed), drink, and a part where they stumble on a nudist cult eating a heart, although there is speculation about whether or not it is human. Characters are all implied white, strictly heterosexual relationships. 

Sierra Finlinson 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Curses by Lish McBride - HIGH

by Lish McBride
442 pages. Penguin Random House/G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2021. $13. 

Language: PG (7 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content PG (brief passionate kissing) Violence: PG-13 (bloody death of an animal).



17yo Merit is cursed to be a beast until she agrees to marry someone who her mother approves of. She meets 19yo Tevin, a professional con man, and they strike a bargain. Merit’s mother has set her up with three worthy candidates and Tevin is going to help Merit navigate their intentions because she doesn’t trust her instincts after being jilted by her boyfriend Jasper. Jasper left Merit after her mother offered him money to leave. Merit feels trapped by her mother and she doesn’t feel anything for the three candidates. As she confides in Tevin, the two of them become friends and more. As they work together, they unknowingly walk into danger and discover deception and they’re going to have to rely on each other more than they realize.

I enjoyed the wonderful descriptions of the setting. The humor is cute and funny. I grew to love the charming characters. Merit is white, and other characters are of mixed ethnicity, including fairy. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Charlie Hernandez & The Golden Dooms by Ryan Calejo - ADVISABLE

Charlie Hernandez & The Golden Dooms
by Ryan Calejo
, 371 pages. Aladdin Paperbacks (Simon and Schuster). 2022 $19.

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (crushes, a couple of kisses); Violence: PG (Peril, monster violence, bloody not gory). 



In Charlie's 3rd adventure, he is approached by a Calaca ( a skeleton girl) who begs him to help her, but won't say exactly what she wants him to do. Instead, she gives him clues to follow. Charlie, Violet and his cousin Raul discover that La Mano Peluda has another plan, this one involves an army of the dead. Caiman, a potion master with an army of Gator Goons is out to stop Charlie from stopping them. Good thing Charlie's cousin Raul has some morphing powers of his own. 

There's some actual romance in The Golden Dooms - Violet sees she may have competition, and is jealous. Handsome Raul does the same to Charlie and he worries about Violet. I can't believe how many legends and mythological beings there are! The Golden Dooms is just as exciting as the others. You certainly need it if you have the other two. Highly recommended for my Hispanic students who have the extra background knowledge that makes Charlie Hernandez special. Note: The Golden Dooms does not contain a glossary - books one and two did. The characters are Hispanic and Latin American 

Lisa Librarian 

Monday, May 15, 2023

The Secret History by Donna Tartt - OPTIONAL

The Secret History
by Donna Tartt,
576 pages. Knoph Doubleday. 2004. $16 

Language: R (133 swears 27 'f');  Mature Content: PG-13 (Consistent drinking and drug use throughout, suicide and suicide attempts, off-page sex) Violence: PG-13 (Murders with descriptive gore) 



Richard escapes as soon as he can from his small Californian town and abusive family to the east coast university: Hampden. There, he finds himself studying ancient languages alongside five other students and their eccentric professor. The group idolizes this professor and, as they become increasingly immersed in his teachings, they slip farther and farther into obsession, danger, and evil. 

This book took me two months and two formats to finish (starting paperback and ending audiobook), meaning it was terribly difficult to finish. The writing feels very classical and certainly pretentious, as the narrator studies languages, and I had to look up words on nearly every page. Although the beginning 200 pages were incredibly slow and uneventful, the ending was gut-wrenching and I was wholly invested in that last two hours. Further, I don't think many high schoolers would actually make it past those first couple hundred pages. As far as mature rating goes, the drinking and drug abuse was constant throughout the whole novel by all characters, there is off-page sex, mention of sex between siblings, mention of domestic abuse, and there were multiple deaths by both murder and suicide. All main characters are white. 

Sierra Finlinson 

Harvest House by Cynthia Leitich Smith - ADVISABLE

Harvest House by Cynthia Leitich Smith,
320 pages.  Candlewick. 2023. $19 

Language: PG-13 (30 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG (Drugs, ghosts) Violence: PG-13 (Assault, stalking, murder)



Hughie Wolfe can't wait for 11th grade to begin so he can jump back into theatre with his friends -- especially since he turned down a previous role last year due it its insensitivity towards his Indigenous roots. Unfortunately, the school has cut down on the theatre budget, and students are left to create plays or theatre activities on their own. Following the lead of his drama teacher, Hughie begins to help set up a Haunted House near the Crossroads at what they call "Harvest House." To his dismay, the students and his teacher want one of the main displays to be an "Indian Burial Ground" which features the tragic "Indian Maiden" who was rumored to have been killed there. Annoyed by the stereotype and misrepresentation of sacred parts of his culture, Hughie can't decide what to do. Then strange things begin happening, and Indigenous women and Latinas start claiming that maybe there is someone haunting that area. Soon, Hughie has to decide if protecting his Indigenous and Latina sisters by staying near Harvest House is worth putting up with the racism and stereotypes of the haunted house's main attractions. 

I'm torn about how I feel about this novel. I absolutely love the representation of Indigenous cultures and the way it explored the pressure many minorities feel to always speak up for their cultures/beliefs - those elements were profound and important. At the same time, Hughie's entire moral conflict revolves around using the "Indian Maiden" as a way to create interest in the haunted house, and this feels exactly like what the book does: it takes a mysterious Indigenous ghost to help drive the mystery of the story. It felt like maybe the publishers wanted to do exactly what Hughie was fighting against in the book, so I'm uncomfortable with that. I also felt it didn't have much in terms of spooky or scary, and the ending was rather lackluster bordering on preachy. So I think it's valuable purely for its representation, but it's not a strong novel on its own. Hughie Wolfe is Indigenous with Latin-x and LGBTQ+ friends. 

Lisa J HS ELA Teacher 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Together We Rot by Skyla Arndt - OPTIONAL

Together We Rot
by Skyla Arndt
, 272 pages. Viking Books for Young Readers. 2023. $18 

Language: R (79 swears 6 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Underage drinking and smoking, passionate undescribed kissing ) Violence: PG-13 (Bloody sacrificing of a rabbit, sacrificing son by bleeding him to death, father plunges knife into son’s chest) 



18yo Elwood runs away when he overhears his father talking about sacrificing him for the church he resides over in the Garden of Adam Community, located in the Upper Peninsula. He’s been told throughout his entire life that he’s a burden. He’s been punished and unloved by his parents. 18yo Wil is sure that her mother was sacrificed by the church and Elwood’s father. Wil and Elwood help each other hide from danger, investigate the community’s weird happenings, and try to find out what happened to Wil’s mother. Their lives will be thrown into chaos before it's over. 

I enjoyed the creepy aspect of Elwood’s family and his father’s effect on the community. The prose represents beauty and pain, hurt and happiness, perfectly. The story was too quick to achieve well-developed characters.  The ethnicity falls to white. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King by Carissa Broadbent - NO

The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King
by Carissa Broadbent
. 600 pages Carissa Broadbent. 2023. $30 

Language: R (100+ swears 145+ swears); Mature Content: R (Nudity, descriptive sex, suicidal thoughts); Violence: R (Intense fighting and gore, violence against children) 



Oraya might have won the Kejari, but she has lost her identity, her lover, and her father. Forced to play the prisoner queen, she faces threat after threat and plot after plot as she fights her recent history with Raihn. Raihn is now the king. And while he may not enjoy the politics and subtle manners of court, he does know how to fight, and fight he will for the future he dreams of. 

 Like the first, these books are one of the top recommended on TikTok, but also like first, it is certainly not appropriate for high school audiences. While I did quite like the first, this one wasn't as magical and I felt like the characters were running on emotion most of the time rather than logic. Noteworthy: I am, in fact, only on page 300 of 600 and this is the content and language so far. Again, there is a lot of gore and violence (even the detailed mass murder of children), sexual jokes and references ( I have not encountered an explicit sex scene yet, by the way they talk about it, it cannot be that far off), and incredibly crude language (so many F-words and a ton in the context of sex). All white or implied white, strictly heterosexual relationships, aged up characters (24-32) 

Sierra Finlinson - HS 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Damsel by Evelyn Skye - HIGH

by Evelyn Skye
, 368 pages. Random House/Ballantine. 2023. $24 

Language: R (35 swears 0 'f');  Mature Content: PG (Brief kisses); Violence:  PG-13 (Men being eaten by dragon, detailed sounds. Being burnt by flames. Pierced through skull by dragon wing point.) 



20yo Elodie is excited to meet her betrothed, Prince Henry of Aurea. Elodie is one of three princesses who will be given to the dragon during Harvest Week in exchange for Aurea’s prosperity. Each year for the last eight centuries, three princesses from different parts of the world have been brought to Aurea under the guise of marrying Prince Henry, only to be sacrificed to the dragon. After unceremoniously being sent into the dragon's lair, Elodie keeps going by relying on her wits, her strength and the help of past princesses through clues they’ve left behind. She might just survive to save the next princess. 

The story is slow in the beginning to give the reader a sense of calm but then the action picks up once Elodie learns the secret of Aurea. I enjoyed how the author meshed the past and present princesses together and the perseverance of each. I'm impressed how the author’s 13yo daughter created a functional language for the dragons in this story. The language syntax, grammatical rules and words are in the back of the book. The ethnicity of Elodie and Henry fall to white, but brown skinned characters are found in the book also. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Library

Witness Trees by Ryan G. Van Cleave, and Dom Dom - HIGH

Witness Trees: Historic Moments and the Trees Who Watched Them Happen 
by Ryan G. Van Cleave, illustrated by Dom Dom. PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION Bushel & Peck Books. 2023. $20. 9781638191254 



In the sweep of wind over grass, near the pulse of rivers stand trees, monuments that have witnessed and continue to witness important events in history. A 1,000 year-old tree in Sherwood forest is now called the Parliament Oak after King John of England Held an emergency session of Parliament during the uprising of 1212 beneath the massive tree. Trees bear witness to the what, where, how, and who of the past. Many other trees are mentioned and the wars and events that they witnessed, including the Hundred Horse Chestnut tree around 4,000 years old. The tree that survived 911 is also included. Some of histories tree witnesses have been cut down, and these important trees need humanities protection. 

The Witness Trees is a beautiful book using verse and rhyme to express the ways very old and young trees have witnessed wars and other very important events in our world’s history. There is also a small text fact on each page informing us about each important tree. The reader is left with a feeling of awe and calm that trees continue to watch over us and continue to do so much longer than our small lifetimes. The illustrations are well done and also contribute to a feeling of peacefulness. Young and old readers will enjoy the story and facts. 


Friday, May 12, 2023

Slaying the Vampire Conqueror by Carissa Broadbent - ADULTS

Slaying the Vampire Conqueror
by Carissa Broadbent,
411 pages. Carissa Broadbent. 2023. $20

Language:  R (30 swears 34 'f'); Mature Content: R (extremely descriptive sex, naming body parts, nudity, drug use) R Lots and lots of bloody violence 



26yo Sylina, a Sister of the Arachessen, a group of skilled assassins and magic users, has given everything to her goddess; her devotion, her life, her eyes. Her most recent mission is interrupted, however, when the vampires arrive. Brutal, strong, and fast, they move quickly across the nation, conquering city state after city state as they work their way to the capital. Sylina's job is simple, at least in theory: gain the trust of the Conqueror and kill him. As she infiltrates his army, claiming a place as his seer, she will soon find herself teetering between her Arachessen vows and the man she was sent to kill. 

As always, I love Broadbent's books, however I cannot recommend them to a high school (let alone younger) audience. I thought Sylina was an intriguing character as she was conventionally blind, having sacrificed her eyes, and Atrius the Conqueror was wonderfully complex. I also appreciate that their romance is built on mutual respect and trust rather than lust. While they contain beautifully complex, intelligent characters and a unique plot, they also depict quite explicit sex, brutal violence (there were an amazing amount of beheadings), and strong language. Race is not mentioned although Sylina is white on some covers and the vampires are all painfully pale. 

Sierra Finlinson - HS

A Debt to the Stars by Kevin Hincker - OPTIONAL

A Debt to the Stars by Kevin Hincker, 286 pages. Kevin Hincker, 2023. $17.

Language: R (144 swears, 201 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Diana’s pet project is about to send two people where humans have never been before: the bottom of the Mariana Trench. But last minute problems nearly cancel everything, which would delay the entire project another year. Diana replaces one of the two people selected to go, and she insists on moving forward today, even when her team on land informs them that alien ships have arrived.

Hincker makes the absolutely ridiculous sound possible in Diana’s story. Sentient vegetables, greedy alien bankers, and intergalactical economics—including explanations that went way over my head. Though there are a couple of lingering questions that entice readers to look forward to the sequel, I will not be subjecting myself to skimming over more explanations that will not make sense due to my lack of economic studies. The happy ending of this first book is satisfactory for me.

Diana is depicted as white on the cover, Sanjana has “olive” skin, Robert is described as “vaguely Asian,” and the text mentions various skin tones in other characters. The mature content rating is for mentions of alcohol, drugs, genitalia, and masturbation as well as for nudity. The violence rating is for blood and gore, mentions of guns, self harm, attempted suicide, murder, and fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The Valkyrie's Daughter by Tiana Warner - ADVISABLE

The Valkyrie's Daughter by Tiana Warner
, 389 pages. Entangled Publishing, 2022. $20

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (Kissing described); Violence: PG-13 (Battle scenes are mildly descriptive with blood and violence in the scenes)



16yo Sigrid, an orphan in Vanaheim working as a stable hand, is determined to prove her worth as a Valkyrie even though she does not have a winged mare. She has Hesture, a Midgard horse who has been with her since she was found as a baby. Valkyries sent from Elina attack Vanaheim and steal the Eye. During the fight, Sigrid grabs the Eye and has a vision of her leading an army in Helheim with her riding Sleipnir, Odin's horse, and the Valkyries from Vanaheim plus Mariam, who was on the opposing side. She frees Mariam to help her get to Helheim. In the end, Sigrid has to make choices that challenge her morals and what she really expects and wants for her future.

Story flow was overall great and felt smooth, had enough actins and dialogue. Romance felt very one sided then rushed at the end and never confirmed who exactly is the Valkyrie's daughter. Sigrid was a little too much driven on her own wants and desires and it would overpower the other characters at times. The Norse mythology was definitely an inspiration for the novel but not fully accurate and I didn't expect it to be. Sigrid, Mariam, and all other humans are inspired by Norse mythology so think of the the Netherlands. Sigrid is described as blonde hair and blue eyes. Mariam as having freckles. There are other species in the book such as Night Elves who are never seen without anything covering every inch of their skin due to belief the sun will burn them not matter how little the light, even from a candle.

Lexus Merrill Art Teacher 

The Witch Collector by Charissa Weaks - PUBLIC ONLY

The Witch Collector
by Charissa Weaks
, 343 pages. City Owl Press. 2021. 17. 
Language: R (33 swears 10 'f'); Mature Content: R (Intense kissing, sexual nudity, explicit sex, talking about bits); Violence: R (Detailed gore and intense fighting, high body count) 



Since the Witch Collector took her sister away from her half a decade ago, Raina (24) has vowed to kill him and the Frost King who commands him. However, an unexpected raid from the East leaves her vengeful plan on its head and her village in flames. Especially since working with Witch Collector is now her only way to see her sister again. With a grudging alliance, the two travel to the capital. Along the way, Raina learns more about her world than she has in her entire life. Perhaps the Frost King isn't the grand villain she once imagined and she has more power than she thought possible. But first, she must survive the frozen landscape and her growing affection for the Collector. 

The Witch Collector was alright. It does not have the best writing or the most likeable characters, but it's a fantasy romance. There were funky plot inconsistencies (like, we can't do that ever it would cause the end of the world as we know it; oh no, they're dying better quick do that thing that might end the world) that I wasn't a super big fan of. There were two sexual scenes that consisted of multiple pages of graphic, explicit sex or other sexual activities. The gore was quite detailed and frequent. Raina is described as having "tawny" skin and Alexus is "tan." 

Sierra Finlinson - HS 

Wednesday, May 10, 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?

Lepore 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 

Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amelie Wen Zhao - ESSENTIAL

Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amelie Wen Zhao
, 455 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2023. $20. 

Language: PG (12 swears); Mature Content: PG (kissing); Violence: PG-13 (forced kiss, bloody deaths, beatings, fighting, mortal peril) 



18 year old Lan knows the scar on her wrist is important, otherwise her mother wouldn’t have given it to her as she died. Unfortunately, Lan’s efforts to find the meaning of the character put her on a collision course with her mother’s murderer. When a mysterious young man named Zen uses a strange kind of magic to help her escape, she realizes that he might hold the key to understanding her past. She trusts him to take her to the last remaining school that teaches the ancient art of practitioning. As they journey to the school, Zen introduces her to the magic of qi and answers some of the questions that have plagued Lan since her mother’s death. When they arrive at the school, Lan’s innate abilities at wielding qi reveal that there’s more to her story than she could have ever imagined. Now she has to figure out how to use this power to save her world, and Zen. 

This is one of the most fun books I’ve read in a long time. It was exciting and fast-paced. The writing is beautiful and I could picture all of the places and people perfectly. It was refreshing and fun to have a magic system based on Chinese traditional beliefs. While it is a little complex and might be a little complicated for some readers, those who like fantasy will love it. The story has a lot of layers, but it all fits together well and the big reveals surprised me. I loved disappearing into the world Zhao has created. The characters are interesting and I was invested in them from the beginning. The love story is gentle and sweet and doesn't get in the way of the action. I wish the other two were already published because I can’t wait to read them. 

Reviewer: Andrea R., Teacher 

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

The Stolen Throne by Abigail Owen - OPTIONAL

The Stolen Throne
(Dominions #2) by Abigail Owen
, 559 pages. Entangled: Teen 2023. $18. 

Language: R (124 swears 5 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Implied sex, woman with sheer top showing the dusky tips of her breasts. Vaguely Detailed sex.); Violence: PG (Non bloody death. Bloody injury) 



For 500 years, King Eidolon has harmed the Royal twins to prevent them from taking his ruling power over the Kingdom of Aryd. 19yo Meren is trying to save her twin sister Tabra who is under some horrific spell of shadow poison. With the help of several others, Meren is collecting amulets to stop the king once and for all. The group faces danger and deception and many challenges. The shadows threaten all.

The concept of the story is interesting but new problems were randomly added which felt like unnecessary filler material. I became bored with the repetitiveness and filler content. I was not invested enough in the characters to make it an enjoyable read. Points of view transitions were confusing and disrupted the flow of the story. The first book of this series is much better. Ethnicity is predominantly white but there's mention of a bluish black skinned, white haired character and another person with tawny skin. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Monday, May 8, 2023

The Last One to Fall by Gabriella Lepore - OPTIONAL

The Last One to Fall by Gabriella Lepore, 368 pages. Inkyard Press, 2023. $20.

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



17yo Savana has no idea what she was doing there that night. Her next door neighbor and friend with complications, Jesse, texted her, asking for help, so she went. Only to watch someone fall from a window. She called 911, but it was too late.

A mystery where everyone has a motive and is pointing the finger at someone else in order to deflect suspicion from themselves; it’s anything but straightforward, which is what makes it a story. I was disappointed in the ending because it felt like I didn’t have the information to come to the correct conclusion myself. But I did like the internal conflict of the characters trying to determine who was safe to trust—difficult to do when you have to divvy the trust out while fingers are pointing.

Rafael, Tara, and Owen are described as white, and Savana and Jesse are implied white. Freddie is described as Black. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, mention of drugs, innuendo, and sexual harassment. The violence rating is for murder and mentions of abusive relationships.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Extraordinary Curiosities of Ixworth and Maddox by J.D. Maddox - ADVISABLE

The Extraordinary Curiosities of Ixworth and Maddox by J.D. Grolic, 270 pgs. J.D. Grolic, 2023. $13

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (kidnapping, child in peril)



On a nondescript street in London, a curiosity shop opens that promises unique and magical items. By chance, eleven-year-old Chloe finds herself entering the shop one day and soon becomes part of the magic the kind gentlemanly proprietors have created. Adventure begins as spells, enchantments, and encounters with magicians and other magical creatures lead the new friends across the city in an effort to stop a sinister force.

A cozy fantasy where magicians and a neglected young girl find friendship and adventure that will delight readers. The magic world that is created is clever and well explained allowing for a full immersion in a new version of London. It presents as a stand alone, but further books would be welcomed.

Reviewer: AEB

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson - ESSENTIAL

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson, 320 pgs. Scholastic Press, 2022. $8

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (child in peril)



Discovered abandoned in a cave as a baby, twelve-year-old Yanka has spent her life feeling like an outsider in her village. One morning she awakes to find her legs have turned into bear legs. She soon sets off on a journey across the forests and mountains with a band of fellow misfits to discover her true origins.

A story interwoven with traditional lore, readers will be charmed with the adventure and magic of Yanka and her friends. Beautiful writing and an engaging tale of friendship, found family, and discovering your true self will become a classic for readers of all ages.

Reviewer: AEB

Sunday, May 7, 2023

We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds - OPTIONAL

We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds,
384 pages. Roaring Book Press/Macmillan 2022. $11 

Language: R (157 swears 25 'f') Mature Content:  PG-13 (making out vague descriptions, underage drinking, brief kissing, weed smoking nondescript kiss). Violence: PG (murder with no details.) 



17yo Avery Avery goes to her mother’s hometown in Bardell County, Georgia, to take care of Mama Letty, who’s dying from cancer, after being away for twelve years due to the contentious relationship between her mom and Grandmother, Mama Letty. Racism and the Ku Klux Klan destroyed Mama Letty when they killed her husband when Zora, Avery’s mother, was just a baby. Afterwards, Letty drank and checked out and was cruel to Zora and now they continue to be angry with each other. Avery and her father are caught in the crossfire. Scandals and secrets are revealed while Avery tries to break down the hurt between her mother and grandmother before time runs out. 

Mystery wrapped up in prejudice. I like the mysteries surrounding the different families in the story and they pulled me into the book. Avery and her father made me chuckle. I like how the author represents all types of people and also the prejudice that still lingers in our society. The characters are predominantly Black and White. Korean American is represented. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Lose You to Find Me by Erik J. Brown - OPTIONAL

Lose You to Find Me by Erik J. Brown, 359 pages. Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins Publishers), 2023. $20

Language: R (100+  swears, 26 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (frequent underage drinking, teenage smoking, heavy kissing, brief nudity, and off-page sexual encounters); Violence: PG-13 (one graphic instance of double finger amputation)



Tommy Dees’ life is a bit of a mess. He works as a server in an upscale retirement community in suburban Pennsylvania to get experience for his elite culinary school application. Tommy agrees to train the new hire to impress his stingy boss in exchange for a letter of recommendation. Coincidentally, the new hire is his old childhood crush, Gabe. Can Tommy juggle future plans, current crushes, and real life in the meantime, or is it all a recipe for disaster?

At first glance, this book is totally up my alley. However, I was less enamored as I read through it. I was frustrated at how evasive Gabe was and didn't love how invested Tommy was in his crush. But towards the end, I came around to liking it again. I liked how the author played around with rom-com tropes. Brown realistically shows how life doesn't always end up the exact way you planned, and that it is still ok. I think that is a positive message for students as they stress about their own post-high school plans. I also applaud the realistic portrayals of the coming out process for LGBTQIA people.

Kiera, #bookswithbeddes

Bea Wolf by Zach Weinersmith, illustrated by Boulet - ADVISABLE

Bea Wolf
by Zach Weinersmith, illustrated by Boulet
, 202 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL First Second (Macmillan). 2023. $20. 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (dodgeball battles, peril, children physically fighting with an adult). 



Treeheart is a wonderful kid built/kid run/kid protected fort - high in a tree where kids can happily be children - eating candy, playing games, making noise . But a neighbor, Grindle, hates children, he hates that they play near his house, he wants them gone. Grindle has the power to magic the children into teenagers, and he conquers Treeheart. King Roger needs a warrior, and an army to defeat Grindle - he needs Bea Wolf. 

I loved Zach Weinersmith's Retelling of Beowulf. The poetic text is reminiscent of the classic - alliterative and descriptive, a gorgeous read aloud rich in text and allusion. A great bedtime story to be read in small chucks. The language is challenging, but each page is mostly Boulet's fantastic and enticing illustrations and the verse is just so much fun to read aloud - the reader is missing out if they aren't vocalizing. Kids trying for an independent read will feel they are reading a classic - the text isn't too difficult for upper elementary or middle school, and I hope they aren't daunted by the big words. It'll be worth it. I loved Bea Wolf, and I think the child's delight in hearing the story lies in the enjoyment their parent or teacher has in the sharing. The characters are multicultural children, Grindle is an adult. 

Lisa Librarian 

Friday, May 5, 2023

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver - OPTIONAL

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver
, 408 pages. HarperCollins. 2018. $11 

Language: R (87 swears 10 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (mention of oral sex, not detailed; kissing with no details; mention of a doodle of a teacher with a hard on. Underage drinking and smoking pot, mention of kissing, no description. Brief kisses with some details.) Violence: PG-13 (Stabbed to death, self harm by scraping arm with scissors.) 



18yo Brynn and Mia lost their friend Summer five years prior to a brutal death. Everyone in Twin Lakes, Vermont believes the two are guilty of murdering Summer. They have been stigmatized and their lives have been threatened and ruined because of this. Brynn and Mia form an alliance to find the truth about Summer’s death after not speaking to each other for the last five years. They both have their own personal struggles to cope with as they try to decipher Summer’s behavior, surroundings and mental state when she was alive to find her killer and bring justice to the community. 

The story and the mystery surrounding the characters drew me in and I didn’t want to put the book down. I enjoyed how the characters brought a fantasy world into their own story by giving a book life. It saddens me to think of the harsh life and loneliness Summer had at only thirteen years old. She had to grow out of childhood too quickly but this background explains her actions and personality.  The characters are predominantly white. 

LynnDell Watson, Delta HS Librarian

My Fine Fellow by Jennieke Cohen - OPTIONAL

My Fine Fellow
by Jennieke Cohen
, 310 pages. Harper Teen. 2022. $18 

Language: PG (6  swears 0 'f');  Mature Content: PG (Brief Drinking) Violence: PG (Briefly mentions that the dad was beaten to death). 



In this gender-bent retelling of My Fair Lady, Helena, and Penelope are the top students at a prestigious culinary school in 1830s London. For their last semester, they must complete a project and when Helena meets Elijah, she clearly sees her goal: to transform this street peddler into the best gentleman chef. Elijah doesn't much care about the gentleman part of this plan, but he does want to open his own shop one day, and for a Jew to do so in this day and age, winning the national culinary contest might be his only way. As he learns from the girls, he finds himself becoming better and better friends with Penelope, whose father was English and whose mother was Filipino. Because of this, they bond, both of them understand the power of prejudice and yet are determined to make their way in the world. 

There was nothing overly impressive about this book. I found the characters unsympathetic and rather annoying and there are so many descriptions of food I was bored and skipped whole pages of strictly food talk. For someone who adores cooking maybe this book would be great. The writing itself was probably the most enjoyable part, but still couldn't redeem the uneventful plot, low stakes, and dull characters. Helena is white. Elijah is Jewish. All three are 17. Strictly heterosexual relationships. 

Sierra Finlinson - HS 

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Fox Point' Own Gemma Hopper by Brie Spangler - ADVISABLE

Fox Point' Own Gemma Hopper
by Brie Spangler
, 264 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Knopf (Random House). 2023. $22 

Language: G (1 swear, 0 F); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G 



Middle schooler, Gemma Hopper, is going through a lot as she balances cooking and looking after her younger brother while navigating school and friendship. Gemma's parents aren't around much and neither is her older brother, Teddy, who is a standout baseball player. When Gemma takes the mound to pitch to Teddy, she can escape and be Gemma Hopper, star pitcher. Baseball could either be Gemma's ticket to the big leagues or end her family as she knows it. 

I loved Gemma! She is taller than most of her classmates and her challenges are real and relatable. This book perfectly captures the angst of middle school while capturing the thrill of baseball. The illustrations are done in shades of green. You will find yourself cheering for Gemma and see shades of yourself in her story. Gemma seems Caucasian, though it's hard to be definitive from green illustrations. 

Michelle in the Middle

Unstoppable Us: How Humans Took Over the World by Yuval Noah Harari and Richard Zaplana Ruiz - OPTIONAL

Unstoppable Us: How Humans Took Over the World by Yuval Noah Harari and Richard Zaplana Ruiz,
208 pages. NON FICTION. Bright Matter Books, 2022. $25.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (evolution); Violence: PG (hunting and war mentioned)



Millions of years ago humans were like any other animal surviving life and running from animals bigger and stronger. Other types of humans (Floresians and Neanderthals) have disappeared while the Homo Sapiens have flourished. They have flourished by developing an unusual superpower. Homo Sapiens developed a superpower unlike any other animal. From ghosts and spirits to government and corporations, Unstoppable relates the amazing evolution of Homo Sapiens from lowly dwellers to landing on the moon.

Harari brings us the true story of the 6-million-year journey of the rise of Homo Sapiens to the top of the animal food chain. The catch phrases for Unstoppable are amazing and eye-catching illustrations make for an interesting read. While I like the book and find in interesting, I do not think the average middle school/high school readers is going to be enthralled. This book will appeal to certain reader who is looking into and researching evolutionary ideas of humans.

Bryant Baird Librarian SLC School District 

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

A Different Kind of Normal by Abigail Balfe - OPTIONAL

A Different Kind of Normal by Abigail Balfe
, 240 pages. NON FICTION. Crown Books for Young Readers (Random), 2022. $23. 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (puberty discussed); Violence: G 



35yo Abigail Balfe is Autistic; however, she did not always realize that. Growing up in England she merely thought she was a little different than other children. She did not know the words neurodivergent or neurotypical.

Abigail creatively captures her growing up years and trying fit in. She writes about everyday issues of growing up and how being different affected her. She tackles topics such as school, emotions, family, friendships, puberty, sensory sensitivities with humor and amazing drawings. Abigail effectively captures her life being neurodivergent. I like this book and the format. If I were teaching autobiographical writing, I would use this as an example or mentor text. It will have a very specific audience.

Bryant Baird Librarian SLC School District 

Dear Medusa by Olivia A. Cole

Dear Medusa by Olivia A. Cole
, 384 pages. Novel in Verse. Labyrinth Road, 2023. $18.99.

Language: R (100+ swears, 35 'f'); Mature Content: R (Underage sexual activity, underage drug and alcohol use. References sex acts.) Violence: PG13 (Sexual Assault) 


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE (I think girls will recommend this book to other girls.)

Alicia Rivers was sexually assaulted by a trusted biology teacher. Afterwards, Alicia engages in self-destructive behavior. She has sex with other adult men in order to feel like she has some control. She hopes these men will say no, but they generally don’t even though they know she is underage. She has lost her best friend because of her behavior, and she is afraid to tell on the teacher because of how society treats rape victims. She doesn’t think she’ll be believed because she is sexually active and was so before the rape. 

Cole’s novel in verse uses extended metaphors of wolves vs sheep/rabbits and Medusa vs The Gods/Men to tell Alicia’s story. The story is filled with rage, and it is done well. As a survivor of child sexual assault, the rage is one thing that many accounts of it forget. Oftentimes because the victim can’t hurt the attacker, their rage is turned inward leading to self-destructive behavior. We see this in Alicia as she gives up the things important to her to try to feel safe. 

The main character, Alicia, is bisexual. Her friend, Deja, is asexual. Her love interest, Geneva, is lesbian. There are slurs used toward Alicia; however, the portrayals are positive. 

 Reviewer: Catherine Crosby 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Ode to a Nobody by Caroline Brooks DuBois - ADVISABLE

Ode to a Nobody by Caroline Brooks DuBois
, 304 pages. Holiday House, 2022. $19.  

Language: G (0 Swears); Mature Content: PG (Divorce, tornado, bullying, vandalism) Violence: PG (bullying) 



13yo Quinn is having a crisis of self. She believes she is untalented and unwanted by her parents. Her parents expected a boy, so they gave her the boy name they picked. She believes her birth was the cause of her parent’s marital rift. Quinn is separating from her two best friends - Jack and Jade. The loss of Jack is more painful as she’s been friends with him her whole life. Jade is a newer friend who makes Quinn doubt herself even more. When a tornado strikes the town, Quinn’s home is damaged. As Quinn starts writing poetry, her friends become distant. With changes at home, her parents separating, her brother off to college, and her hamster lost, can Quinn find the way to herself? 

DuBois' novel in verse would work well in a classroom, as the teacher in the novel is teaching different types of poetry to the kids, so a teacher could also teach poetry right along with the story. This novel touches on issues important to middle grade students: friendship, changing family dynamics, school, talents, loss of home. I like that throughout the story, there is a sense of hope. 

Reviewer: Catherine Crosby, ELA Teacher 

Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury - OPTIONAL

Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury
, 502 pages. McElderry Books, 2023. $22 

Language: R (57 swears, 71 “f”s); Mature Content: PG-13 (physical relationships and consent discussed) ; Violence: R (gore, corporeal ghost attacks, off-page sex abuse, people die in the house suspiciously, goat slaughtered, child imprisoned and physically abused by father) 



Daisy Odlin is a 17yo Black girl growing up in Toronto, Canada who can see ghosts. She hates her ability, but copes pretty well until her 22yo white boyfriend breaks up with her. When she overhears her mother talking about a secluded mansion they have recently inherited in Timmins, Northern Ontario, she thinks that it just might be what they need to move forward. When they arrive at the property, Daisy is distracted by the fact that there are no ghosts anywhere to be found, but soon learns that ghosts are drawn to the house and trapped inside after they enter. She meets her black neighbors, who are psychics, and their 17yo son, King, who is attractive and friendly. As she narrates the story, she drops hints about how her boyfriend treated her and discovers that there are many secrets her mom has kept from her about the childhood summers she spent in the house. Even more disturbing is that the mysterious mansion is now an Airbnb that her mom is successfully renting out to unsuspecting visitors. 

Delicious Monsters is a chilling and intense page-turner mostly told by Daisy, but every few chapters, there is a chapter narrated by Brittany, a black woman in her early 20s and a podcaster researching lost black girls ten years in the future and eager to prove her famous mother wrong about the “Miracle Mansion.” Most of the characters are Black and written authentically. The chapters in the second timeline help create more suspense and give hints about what Daisy and her mom’s fates might be. The swearing could definitely be toned down quite a bit, but the generational sex abuse hinted at and exposed later in the novel is even more horrifying to discover than the house and its lingering guests. Throughout the story, King demonstrates true friendship, in contrast to the toxic secrets kept by the adults in Daisy’s life. Though the story wades through some very dark territory, hope and resilience are the core message that resonates. Any mature reader who likes a mystery that keeps them on edge or who has dealt with a dysfunctional family will really enjoy this book. 

Stacee Sawyer, Language Arts/Reading 

Monday, May 1, 2023

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson - ESSENTIAL

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson643 pages. TOR. 2006. $10 

Language: PG-13 (16 swears  0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Mention of sex-work, drinking) Violence: PG-13 (violent and bloody deaths, high death count) 



Years ago, 35yo Kelsier escaped the pits and awakened his Mistborn powers. Now, he's determined to help a small rebellion topple the aristocracy, although to do this he will need to put together a powerful team. 16yo Vin has learned the hard way, time and time again, that you cannot trust anybody. Anyone and everyone will betray you and leave. But when Kelsier convinces her to be their spy she will begin to question that belief. Vin will have to learn to navigate balls along with her Allomancy training in order to get the information to help the rebellion, which is turning out to be rather difficult when she begins to fall in love with one of the very people she is fighting. 

Mistborn is a rather popular novel, so a lot of you have probably already read it; however, if you haven't, do yourself a favor and READ IT. I was skeptical of Sanderson, but these novels are absolutely worth the hype. Character-driven, clever plot, complex magic system (but told in a very digestible manner), philosophy, and vivid world-building! This novel has it all: balls, heists, magic, fighting, and monsters. It does not contain many swears and only briefly mentioned, undescribed kissing although they do often talk about prostitutes and the wealthy men using skaa women and then killing them. Injury and death is frequent but not dwelled on. Race is not explicitly mentioned. Strictly heterosexual relationships. 

Sierra Finlinson - High School Teacher