Thursday, March 28, 2024

Otherworldly by F. T. Lukens - OPTIONAL

Otherworldly by F. T. Lukens, 352 pages. Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster), 2024. $20.

Language: R (22 swears, 9 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



Winter began five years ago and then never turned to spring. With the farm failing, Ellery (17yo) had to move and work in the city while her parents continued to foolishly petition the goddess. When a regular at the diner Ellery works at runs her over, he introduces himself as Knox, a magical familiar that serves the goddess Ellery no longer believes in—and he needs her help.

The magic and mythological creatures are the most interesting parts of the story. Most of the characters are flat, and the story was more about Ellery and Knox’s growing relationship than about solving the winter issue. While I was expecting more from the story than fluff romance, Lukens did the fluff romance well, and the conclusion was satisfying.

Ellery and Knox are described as “pale,” Zada is described as having “dark brown” skin, Lorelei is described as having “golden brown” skin, and the goddess is described as having “olive” skin. Charley and Zada are part of the LGBT community. The mature content rating is for mentions of alcohol, innuendo, and sexual harassment. The violence rating is for blood, assault, and fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Perfect Guy Doesn’t Exist by Sophie Gonzales - OPTIONAL

The Perfect Guy Doesn’t Exist by Sophie Gonzales, 304 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2024. $20.

Language: R (101 swears, 15 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG



Living across the street from her ex-best friend, Mack, is made impossible when Ivy’s parents ask Mack’s family to check in on Ivy while they’re out of town. On her first night alone, a huge storm comes, and all Ivy wants is to not be alone—so she writes a short fanfic about her favorite TV character being with her. And, when she wakes up, he is.

Honestly, the whole situation with the TV character appearing in Ivy’s life is as disorienting for the reader as for Ivy and her friends—maybe more so because they accepted the situation faster than I did. The creativity involved in crafting this story astounds me, and I laughed out loud several times. Furthermore, Gonzales writes about struggling friendships and trying to get a grip on how to life in a way that makes readers happier with imperfect reality.

Ivy is White on the cover, and Mack is Black on the cover. Also, Ivy is bi, Mack is lesbian, and Henry describes himself as “aroace.” The mature content rating is for innuendo and mentions of sex. The violence rating is for assault and for mentions of murder and fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, March 25, 2024

What Was the Children's Blizzard of 1888? by Steve Korté and Dede Putra - ADVISABLE

What Was the Children's Blizzard of 1888?
by Steve Korté, illustrated by Dede Putra,
106 pages CHAPTER BOOK NON-FICTION Penguin Workshop, 2023. $8. 9780593520710  



On January 12, 1888, a surprise blizzard hit the Great Plains which lasted several hours. Many people were caught unaware and unprepared. Especially hard hit were the teachers and students stranded in their schools. They had to make the hard decision to wait out the storm in the school without heat or food or to brave the blinding snow and try to make it home. Many children and adults died. But there were also amazing stories of survival and bravery. 

I enjoyed this book. It was well-written and easy to understand, and I learned a lot. The book tells the story of the blizzard and what happened to the people caught in it. It also provides insight, context, and background information about other things happening during this time in history. There are small illustrations throughout the book to add interest. A timeline and bibliography are included at the end of the book. 

A. Snow

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Guts for Glory by Joanna Lapati - ADVISABLE

Guts for Glory: the story of the Civil War soldier Rosetta Wakeman by Joanna Lapati
. PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION Eerdmans, 2024 $20 9780802854643 



At 19yo, Rosetta Wakeman left her family farm and headed out to join a unit fighting in the Civil War. Throughout the war she sent letters home - the only known existing letters from a disguised female soldier. 

Lapati's scratch board illustrations are quite vivid and interesting to look at. The story is very simple. Wakeman's gender was never discovered, in fact her youngest sister thought that "Lyons" was her older brother. Those are the most intriguing parts of the story - the rest is pretty typical and simple. Rosetta is white.

Cindy, MS Librarian, MLS

Saturday, March 23, 2024

One Last Breath by Ginny Myers Sain - OPTIONAL

One Last Breath
by Ginny Myers Sain
, 384 pages. Penguin Young Readers Group, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2024. $18 

Language: R (164 swears 52 'f') Mature Content: R (sexual-related nudity); Violence: R (bloody deaths) 



18yo Tru doesn’t know what she wants for her future, not even whether or not she wants to leave her hometown of Mount Orange, Florida. She feels stuck until 18yo Rio shows up in town. Rio is a female diver like Tru and they instantly become friends. They both want to solve the twenty-year-old cold case murders of Bailey and Celeste , who were teenagers when they were killed. Tru and Rio feel a deep connection to Bailey and Celeste and when they dig into the evidence and ask questions, their lives become endangered. 

I love that there’s more than one mystery inside this story. The suspense was great and kept me riveted. Tragic and scary and such a good read. The ethnicity is white. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Friday, March 22, 2024

Snowglobe by Soyoung Park - OPTIONAL

Snowglobe by Soyoung Park
384 pages. Delacorte Press 2024 $16 

Language: R (49 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking) Violence: PG (death) 



17yo Jeon lives with her twin brother, mother, and grandmother in the extremely harsh environment surrounding Snowglobe. The main job for residents is producing power by running on giant hamster wheels for ten hours each day. Jeon is asked to leave her home and family to be a replacement for the Snowglobe star Goh Haeri. Jeon is thrilled because this means her family will be taken care of and her mother will no longer have to work but can stay home with her grandmother instead. Jeon arrives in Snowglobe excited and happy but things aren’t adding up and when she discovers secret passages by accident, her existence is threatened.

Strange concept that’s hard to grasp and become engrossed in. I enjoyed the mystery behind Goh Haeri. The story has an interesting and unique concept. The ethnicity is predominantly Korean. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Saint Juniper's Folly by Alex Crespo - OPTIONAL

Saint Juniper's Folly by Alex Crespo
, 295 pages. Peachtree Teen, 2023. $13 

Language: R (94 swears 8 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (Passionate kissing); Violence: PG (a spell gone wrong causes animals to die and a boy's hands to bleed uncontrollably, a boy is struck by lightning and almost dies, a ghost cuts a boys hands with glass) 



It is the summer before senior year for Theo and Jaime. Theo is feeling stuck in his small town and is wondering how he will measure up to his parents' expectations. Jaime returns to town hoping to find a fresh start after spending a few years in the foster care system. One day Jaime wanders into a haunted house in the woods and soon finds himself stuck in the house with no way to get out. Taylor just graduated from high school and is trying to figure out her next step while at the same time mourning the recent death of her mother. Even though her father forbids it, Taylor is trying to learn the magic and which craft her mother started teaching her before her death. Theo finds Jaime stuck in the house and enlists Taylor's help to get him out before the house is demolished. As the teens try to work out the mystery of the house, the ghost that haunts it, and how to release Jaime from the house Jamie and Theo begin to fall for each other. 

The book is about three teenagers each feeling lonely and that they don't fit in and each dealing with family issues and trauma of their own. Through the experience of saving Jaime, they develop friendships and acceptance and learn how to rely on each other so that they can take on the things they need to do. I liked the layers of mystery that are revealed as the story progresses. I liked how each chapter was told from the different points of view of one of the three main characters. I liked the character development. The spooky, paranormal, horror aspects are present but minimal. I did feel like the story dragged at times and the timeline was a little choppy and disjointed. Overall a good horror book that is not too scary. Taylor has Puerto Rican heritage. Jamie has Mexican heritage. Theo is white. 

A. Snow 

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury - OPTIONAL

Tender Beasts
by Liselle Sambury
, 416 pages. Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2024. $15 

Language: R (165 swears 54 'f's); Mature Content: PG-13 (Mention of sex. Underage smoking. Mention of drug use); Violence: R (bloody deaths) 



After Sunny’s mother dies, her family seems stretched to the breaking point. Her father and siblings have all followed the mom’s lead in keeping up appearances and keeping secrets. On the surface, Sunny sees that her 15yo brother Dom has always been shunned by the family and left alone, now he’s suspected of killing his girlfriend. She knows that her mother wanted her to take care of Dom, so she befriends him and the two siblings start to investigate information their mother left behind. When murders occur at their school, Sunny is frantic to clear Dom’s name. What she discovers changes her life forever. 

I like the unique storyline with a mix of mystery that includes horror and supernatural elements. Alternating between past and present made the story more interesting. The author showed how loyalty can be good but also twisted. The ethnicity is predominantly black with some white side characters. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Snowglobe by Soyoung Park - ADVISABLE

Snowglobe by Soyoung Park, 384 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2024. $21

Language: PG (23 swears, no ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (alcoholism, mention of suicide throughout, enslaved people); Violence: PG-13 (assault, on-page death: not gory)



After the Warring Age, which resulted from extreme climate change, the world has become an icy tundra. Snowglobe is the only place left that means warmth, comfort, and a life those outside the dome only dream of. However, this dream life comes at a price. Residents of Snowglobe must consent to their lives being broadcast to the people outside the dome as 24/7 television programs. When one of the most popular actors dies, instead of letting her adoring fans know, a plot is devised to replace her with a lookalike and keep her show going. Chobahm, who lives a brutal existence in one of the outside settlements, is given this opportunity, but is this chance at the good life really a dream come true or the beginning of a nightmare?

Fast-paced and captivating, the engaging character development and action scenes makes for an enjoyable read. The book has a clever plot twist that is fully explained before a cliffhanger is served up at the end that sets up the next book nicely. Necessary trigger warning for continual mention of suicide should be in place for potential readers. 

Reviewer: AEB

Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker - PUBLIC ONLY

Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker, 416 pgs. Tor Teen, 2023. $19

Language: R (100+ swears, 138 'fs'); Mature Content: R (racism, underage drug and alcohol use, homophobia, underage on-page sex); Violence: R (off-page murder, on-page murder: gory, traumatic car accidents, sexual assault, and domestic violence)


In New Orleans, a woman was murdered, a family was lynched, and a throne was stolen. This tragedy of the magical community is still reverberating thirty years later when on the anniversary of these events, 16-year-old twins, Clement and Cristina Trudeau, find themselves fighting to regain their magical destiny. 

The premise of the book sounds intriguing, however, the book does not deliver. The world building is non-existent; the characters are many and underdeveloped; the twins, whose ages are given as 16, read more like they are in their mid-twenties; and the scenes of violence are many and gory. There are also subplots that go nowhere and characters that are introduced only to be dropped without explanation. There will be more books to follow, so perhaps these flaws will be rectified with further reading.

Reviewer: AEB

The Witch in the Woods by Michaelbrent Collings - ADVISABLE

The Witch in the Woods (Grimmworld #1) by Michaelbrent Collings, 320 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2024. $19.

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



When their parents get new jobs, Willow and Jake reluctantly move to New Marburg. The technological advances in the town are exciting, but none of their pictures will stay on the walls, their new teacher hates them, and some guy with gold eyes keeps appearing out of thin air to yell at them in gibberish before disappearing again. Strange things are going on in New Marburg, and Willow and Jake’s mom won’t even listen to them!

Collings’ narration style feels like he’s constantly joking with the reader. Almost everything that can be made over-the-top is, and parentheses mark Collings’ asides that aren’t relevant to the story except for a laugh. With riddles, fairy tale retellings, and impossible things made possible, this story has a little bit of everything. I can’t wait to find out which Grimm’s story is retold in the next book.

Willow and Jake are implied white, and Froggy is described as having “brown” skin. The mature content rating is for illegal activity. The violence rating is for assault, fantasy violence, murder, and mentions of cannibalism.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, March 18, 2024

Planting Hope by Philip Hoelzel and Renato Alcarao - ADVISABLE

Planting Hope: a portrait of photographer Sebastian Salgado by Philip Hoelzel, illustrated by Renato Alcarao
. PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHY Atheneum (Simon), 2024. $19. 9781534477650 



Sebastiao Salgado grew up on a huge farm in Brazil, but left to be educated and then traveled the world with his wife to study. Once he discovered the camera, his life was taken with photography, and using photos to show the world the ills caused by war and by inequity. When returned to his family farm, he discovered a land ravaged by indiscriminate clear cutting. He and his wife had a new project to embrace - restoring the forest ecosystem and spreading that restoration as far as possible. 

Hoezel gives a good example of what a picture book biography can look like. For Middle schools and High schools I would recommend this if a teacher has a biography unit. The text is dense - not suitable for a read-aloud with younger students. While Salgado is from Brazil, he is portrayed as a white blond in the book - he probably comes from the white upper social class. 

Cindy, MS Librarian, MLS

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Bird is Dead by Tiny Fisscher and Herma Starreveld - HIGH

Bird is Dead
by Tiny Fisscher, illustrated by Herma Starreveld
. PICTURE BOOK Greystone Kids, 2024. $19. 9781778401176 

Content: PG (Did you read the title? Shows a dead bird and its burial) 



When the other birds find Bird, who is dead, they gather to grieve and to decide what they need to do. 

I LOVE what Fisher and Starreveld have done. From the gorgeous collage birds to the succinct, matter-of-fact text, the creators have composed a work that fascinates and helps turn death from a macabre mystery to a part of life that deserves time and care. Pair with The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown  and The Funeral by Matt James both also about birds dying. Elementary librarians - if you have either of the other books on your shelf, add this one - it is a delight (in a totally respectful way). Middle school and High schools - buy this either for the content or for the beautiful collages - some of my students saw me showing the book to their teacher and they want to read it immediately. 

Cindy, MS Librarian, MLS 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Wren Martin Ruins it All by Amanda DeWitt - OPTIONAL

Wren Martin Ruins It All by Amanda DeWitt,  400 pages. PeachTree Teen, 2023.  $19.

Language:   R  (100+ swears, 18 “f”); Mature Content: PG ; Violence: G



17yo senior asexual Wren Martin wants to make his mark on his small, beachside town of Rapture, Florida. For his first act as the student council president, he wants to abolish the Valentine’s Day Dance, an expensive rite of passage that Wren would rather use that money elsewhere in the school. ​​His vice president, annoyingly perfect Leo Reyes, suggests partnering with a viral social media app to pay for the school dance and thus, pay for Wren’s fix-it list for the school. So now, Wren is juggling planning the year's biggest party, fixing the school, flirting with an anonymous match, and managing inconveniently changing feelings for one student council VP. Nothing will go wrong, right?

I thoroughly enjoyed this YA rom-com, appreciating its snarky narrator and a predictable, yet engaging anonymous flirtation, reminiscent of "You’ve Got Mail" for the TikTok generation. However, the unrealistic portrayal of the main character and the high school setting took me out of the story a little. Additionally, the book missed an opportunity to fully explore and explain the asexuality end of the LGBTQIA spectrum, despite the main character's identification with it. Regardless, these are things that an average high school reader isn't going to notice or care about. The biggest red flag is the amount of language in the book, making it optional for school libraries.

Reviewer: Kiera Beddes, #bookswithbeddes

Friday, March 15, 2024

Animal Eyes by Francoise Vulpe - ADVISABLE

Animal Eyes: How Creatures See and How Their Eyes Have Adapted to Their World
by Francoise Vulpe.
PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION Firefly Books, 2023. $15. 9780228104131 



Some animal eyes work like the human eye or camera eye, while other animals have interesting adaptations. Some creatures can see in ultraviolet wavelengths, or in near total darkness. Some creatures can rotate their eyes independently. Animal Eyes guides us through the wide range of eyes found in the animal kingdom and how their eyes help them survive in their habitats. 

Animal Eyes was full of intriguing photos of creatures, their eyes, and fun facts. It was very interesting to read. Younger children could enjoy the photos while older kids would like the extensive information. 


Thursday, March 14, 2024

In the Orbit of You by Ashley Schumacher - OPTIONAL

In the Orbit of You by Ashley Schumacher, 313 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2024. $21.

Language: R (54 swears, 10 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG



When they were young, Sam had to move away from Nova, but he promise, promised to find her again when they were older. Years later, it’s Nova (17yo) who finds Sam when her mom’s job temporarily moves them to town. Neither of them are the kids they used to be, but neither knows who they are now either—or who they might be together.

Schumacher’s characters struggle with identity, belonging, and feeling like someone gets them, on both ends of the spectrum making them relatable to a wide range of readers. Sometimes it feels like the happily ever after choices are not always the best choices—a hard lesson for parties both on and off page. And still Schumacher brings everything together in a satisfying conclusion.

Nova and Sam are depicted as White on the cover. The mature content rating is for mentions of drugs and alcohol, kissing, innuendo, and partial nudity. The violence rating is for mentions of child abuse.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler - HIGH

What We Saw
by Aaron Hartzler
, 336 pages. HarperTeen, 2015. $11 

Language: R (79 swears 5 'f'); Mature Content: R (sexual assault) Violence: R (rape) 



17yo Kate and Ben have been friends since elementary school and now she wants more than that. They began dating and everything was going well until accusations of assault started happening to Ben’s teammates. Many people want to hide the evidence and pretend nothing happened but Kate can’t get the wrongdoing out of her head. Secrets come out after a video was shared. The aftermath will drastically change lives and the community of Coral Sands, Iowa.

I’m frustrated with the situation the community is dealing with. I’m also frustrated with some of the main character’s actions. The author represents entitlement and community politics well. The ethnicity is predominantly white, with an African American deputy mentioned. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Immortality: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz - HIGH

Immortality: A Love Story (The Anatomy Duology #2) 
by Dana Schwartz
. 400 pages Wednesday Books, 2023. $10. 

Language: PG (6 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG-13 (kissing);  Violence: PG-13 (bloody death) 



18yo Hazel lives in her family’s manor and continues to help those in need of medical care until she’s arrested for murder. She’s released and brought to the ailing princess to heal her. Hazel still has to fight the societal standards that believe a woman isn’t capable of intelligent work, let alone being a doctor. While at the palace treating the Princess, Hazel receives an invitation to a Companions to the Death meeting. She’s astonished at what she discovers! 

The romance is sweet. Intense parts kept me glued to the pages. I wish there was a third book in this series. The ethnicity is predominantly white with mention of a Black man. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Monday, March 11, 2024

SoulMatch by Declan Ryder - OPTIONAL

SoulMatch by Declan Ryder, 225 pages. Declan Ryder, 2024. $5.

Language: PG (4 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: G



Sara (32yo) is missing something in her life, and her friend recommends a matchmaking app. She starts talking with Alex, and Sara falls fast and hard. Everything is perfect—until Sara wants to meet and Alex’s excuses start to sound suspicious.

The premise is farfetched but still could have been intriguing, if not for the poor execution. Besides the odd word choices and the repetitive sections of the story, the book was riddled with inconsistencies. It felt like Ryder forgot details from previous chapters when he wrote the next one and didn’t bother to double check.

The characters are implied white. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, kissing, and implied sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera - OPTIONAL

Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera, 352 pages. Celadon Books (Macmillan), 2024. $27.

Language: R (243 swears, 94 “f”) ; Mature Content: R; Violence R



Lucy (29yo) left her hometown five years ago after being accused of killing her best friend, Savvy. Her anonymity in California is shattered when Ben Owens (28yo) starts season two of his true crime podcast, trying to solve the cold case of Savvy’s murder. With her identity exposed, Lucy doesn’t have a reason to say no when her grandma asks Lucy to come back home for her birthday—with the murder fresh on everyone’s minds.

Tintera’s writing is compelling. I was invested from the first sentence—I couldn’t wait to figure out what was true and what wasn’t. With the subject matter at hand, Tintera did a fabulous job of balancing the thriller suspense with dark humor that provided comic relief—I laughed out loud so many times that I lost count. This is the first non-YA book that I’ve read by Tintera, and the only negative thing I have to say is that I’m disappointed that she put so much sexual content in the book. Everything else was great.

Paige is Black, Nina is Latina, and everyone else is implied White. The mature content rating is for drug and alcohol use; innuendo; illegal activity; groping; nudity; mentions of condoms, genitalia, rape, and oral sex; and sex. The violence is for blood and gore, assault, mentions of domestic violence, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Small Gods of Calamity by Sam Kyung Yoo - OPTIONAL

Small Gods of Calamity by Sam Kyung Yoo, 144 pages. Interstellar Flight Press, 2024. $15.

Language: R (8 swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13



On the surface of everyday life, Han-gil is investigating suicides, but his assigned partners keep abandoning him because of his odd behavior—the things Han-gil does to investigate the paranormal murders that appear to be suicides. With his newest partner starting to ask questions and his sister out of town, Han-gil is stuck working with Yoonhae (27yo), an acquaintance from his past.

An outcast of both the normal and paranormal communities, Han-gil is just trying to do the best he can, which is relatable and pulls at the reader’s heartstrings from the very beginning. The magic was interesting, though the final battle felt anticlimactic. Despite that and the questions left unanswered, I still liked the conclusion that ended on a hopeful note.

Han-gil is Korean and bisexual, Azuna is Japanese, and the majority of other characters are Korean. The mature content rating is for transphobia content. The violence rating is for blood and gore, description of corpses, mentions of murder, suicide, and fantasy violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, March 8, 2024

My Father the Panda Killer by Jamie Jo Hoang - OPTIONAL

My Father the Panda Killer
by Jamie Jo Hoang,
361 pages. Crown Books, 2023. $19. 

Language: R (81 swears 38 'f'); Mature Content: PG (The whole book is about generational trauma so it's a heavy topic) Violence: R (Graphic descriptions of war-time violence, rape, suicide, and deaths from starvation and violence; repeated child beatings) 



It’s 17yo Jane’s last summer at home and she can’t wait to escape her Vietnamese father’s oppression when she goes to UCLA in the fall. Now she just has to figure out how to tell him, and her little brother Paul, who she worries will never forgive her for leaving like their mother did. But she has to get out. Her dad’s unpredictability and physical abuse have made Jane’s life unbearable, but so far she’s been able to shield Paul from the worst of it. Jane knows her dad must have suffered horrors during the war and during his escape to the United States, but Vietnamese people don’t talk of such things. As Jane learns more about his story, she starts to understand some of why he is the way he is, even as she understands that it doesn’t justify his behavior. 

This was a hard read, but an important one, and I openly wept a couple of times at the brutal reality of Jane’s life. Several of the beatings were pretty severe and my heart broke for Jane and Paul. Told in alternating chapters, the story bounces between Jane’s present day and the story of her dad’s life in and escape from Vietnam. We often only learn about the Vietnam War through the American lens and I appreciated the authentic telling of this part of history. It was also a window into the experience of children of refugees and their struggle to live in both worlds. I struggled, though, with a lack of condemnation of the abuse Jane suffered. She sort of just reconciles herself to it as the consequence of her dad’s horrific experiences rather than understanding that she’s being abused and getting help. I can’t say I liked this book, but I’m still glad I read it. Jane is Vietnamese-American. 

Andrea R

King Cheer by Molly Horton Booth, Stephanie Kate Strohm,and Jamie Green - OPTIONAL

King Cheer (Arden High) 
by Molly Horton Booth, Stephanie Kate Strohm and Jamie Green
, 158 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Hyperion, 2024. $25 

Language: PG (5 swears, 0 "F") Mature Content: PG (relationship themes/LGBTQ issues) Violence: G 



It's cheer captain Leah's senior year and she has a lot on her plate, like getting into her dream college and questioning her identity. Leah has decided to step down and focus on her future, which means appointing a new captain. It isn't as easy as it seems when power hungry twins want to take over the cheer team and the basketball team wants to take over the gym. 

There were so many relationships in this book that it got hard for me to remember who was going out with who, or who wanted to go out with who. The art is colorful, bright, and well drawn, but some of the characters are androgynous, adding to my confusion. There are some good themes of finding oneself, inclusion, and what it means to be a leader. No race is specified, but there is a variety of skin color and identities. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli - OPTIONAL

Heartless Hunter
by Kristen Ciccarelli,
416 pages. St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books, 2024. $15 

Language: R (25 swears  8 'f'); Mature Content: R (on-page sex); Violence: R (bloody deaths) 



18yo Rune lost her only family to witch hunters two years earlier when Nan told Rune to betray her. Nan was a witch who knew her time was up and she wanted to save Rune. Nan made Rune promise to turn her into the witch hunters and denounce everything she grew up knowing and loving. After Nan’s capture and death, Rune became the Crimson Moth; a vigilante who rescues witches and helps get them to freedom. Rune attends social events to discover the witches who are next in line to be captured, so she can swoop in and save them. Her disguise seems to be working but one guard suspects her and will do everything he can to catch her.

I enjoyed the mystery and the reveals. The world building was done well. The danger makes the story even more interesting. The ethnicity consists of mostly white, with ocher and golden skin tones mentioned. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

The Lucky Poor by Mazie Lovie - OPTIONAL

The Lucky Poor
by Mazie Lovie
, 134 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL Iron Circus Comics, 2024. $12 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 



Mazie starts out at age five, describing her journey to her first home at age 13, thanks to a gift from Habitat for Humanity. Based on the author's true story, the home becomes transformative for Mazie. Even though a new home can't fix every problem, it offers a second chance for Mazie, her mom, and her autistic younger brother. 

An honest slice of life memoir that helps build empathy for the struggles of others. Nice themes of family, hope, hard work, and charity. The art is bright and colorful, if a little simplistic. May be a good guide for those considering memoir writing. Race is never specified, but there is a variety of skin tones. 

Michelle in the Middle

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Time Out by Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, and Carlyn Greenwald - OPTIONAL

Time Out
by Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner, and Carlyn Greenwald
. 261 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2023. $19 

Language: R (217 swears 44 'f's); Mature Content: PG-13 (Passionate kissing. Mentions of sex, masturbation, and pornography. Sexually graphic homophobic slurs. Inappropriate images are drawn on a boy's locker.) Violence: PG-13 (Verbal and physical bullying, fist fights. A boy is intentionally hit by a car while riding his bike. A man aims a shot gun at two teenagers.) 



Barclay is a high school basketball star and the high school and the town love him. But on his 16th birthday, he decides a pep rally is the best place to announce that he is gay. All of the people he thought loved him have now turned on him. With his team against him, he turns to his best friend Amy. She gets him involved in her voting rights group. Barclay starts to find purpose and new friends off the court. Through the group, he meets the talented and handsome Christopher. It is a slow process but with time Barclay learns that some of his actions have been selfish and how to combat that. He learns to show up for his family who are all still grieving the recent death of their grandfather. He learns how to show up for his friends. And he learns how to be his complete self. 

At its heart, this is a good coming out story. I appreciate that Barclay does not have it all figured out at the beginning but he speaks his truth anyway. Over the course of the book he learns and grows and it is enjoyable to watch. He also learns that he is not the only one struggling with things and figures out that he can help others as well as himself. The book has excessive swear words that distract from the message and the homophobic slurs are sexually graphic in nature. Barclay his family and Christopher are white. No other ethnicity is specifically mentioned. 

A. Snow 

Hopeless in Hope by Wanda John-Kehewin - OPTIONAL

Hopeless in Hope by Wanda John-Kehewin,
216 pages. Highwater Press. 2023. $17 

Language: R (22 swears 5 'f'); Mature Content: PG (Mention of sex sounds coming from mother's room); Violence: PG Bullying, mostly mean girls. 



14yo Eva (Neveah) lives with her Cree grandmother (Nohkum) and her 4yo brother, and occasionally her alcoholic mother (Shirley) in the small town of Hope near Vancouver. They are barely getting by, but Nohkum keeps them fed - soup and bannock for most meals. But when Nohkum falls on the porch and breaks her hip, mom is left in charge of the children. She promises not to drink until Nohkum is out of the hospital, but while Eva is at school, the police find Marcus miles away from home and discover mom passed out on the couch. Social Services swoops in, and the children are removed to foster care. This is the 2nd time for Eva who is placed in a group home. 

I cried several times reading Hopeless in Hope. It's a poignant, heartbreaking story about generational disfunction mostly arising from the generation of indigenous children who were taken from their parents and put in residential schools. Eva and her family are trying to break the cycle of parents who have no parenting skills. I like that there are several groups who would see themselves in this title - Native Americans (although Eva is Canadian); kids in foster care and group homes, as well as kids dealing with alcoholic or abusive parents. Eva has a roommate at the group home who is non-binary. 

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

With a Little Luck by Marissa Meyer - HIGH

With a Little Luck
by Marissa Meyer,
368 pages. Feiwel & Friends, 2024. $19. 

Language: R (40 swears 0 'f');  Mature Content: G (kissing); Violence: G 



16yo Jude is shy and doesn’t have much self confidence. He’s had a crush on Maya since middle school but is afraid to ask her out. He’s afraid until he finds a lucky charm that gives him successes and confidence. When he finally gets to take Maya on a date everything seems fine until he loses the lucky charm. The luck changes not just for him but for his family too.

I enjoyed the humor. The story is sweet. It’s a fun read that inspires the reader to work towards their dreams. The ethnicity includes white, Asian, Mexican American, and Korean American. 

LynnDell Watson, DHS Librarian

Duel Across Time (The History Club #1) by Bret Baier - ADVISABLE

Duel Across Time (
The History Club #1) by Bret Baier, 130 pages GRAPHIC NOVEL Aladdin Paperbacks (Simon and Schuster), 2023. $20 

Language: G (0 swears) Mature Content: G Violence: G 



The History Twister has traveled through time to alter the outcome of America's most famous duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Enter the History Club: four wildly different middle school students who together have the power to restore history and save the world from the ensuing chaos. 

Interesting premise, and Hamilton comes off as super wise. One does wonder why middle schoolers are chosen to travel through time to save the space/time continuum, but save it they do. They will obviously be off for another adventure. The art is well done and there are some nice nuggets of actual history. Background knowledge of Hamilton would be helpful to the reader, but could be a great jumping off place for learning more. Members of the History Club come from different races and backgrounds. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Monday, March 4, 2024

I Will Find You Again by Sarah Lyu - OPTIONAL

I Will Find You Again
by Sarah Lyu
, 298 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2023. $20 

Language: R (36 swears 80 'f'); Mature Content: R (Suicide by drowning, suicidal thoughts, cheating ring, kissing, underage prescription drug addiction (amphetamine)); Violence: PG (death by suicide) 



Chase is a high-achieving, successful 17yo high school senior. She is the student body president and track team captain and is applying to Stanford. She is also involved with a cheating ring at school and is addicted to prescription amphetamines. She misses her ex-best friend and ex-girlfriend Lia who goes missing and later turns up dead from suicide. Even though she is no longer with Lia, she is determined to find out what happened to her. Through it all she is dealing with her own depression, suicidal thoughts, and high expectations placed on her by her father. 

The story of Lia and Chase's relationship is told through flashbacks and it comes across as being very toxic. I did like the process of unraveling the mystery. It was especially interesting once she realized she was suppressing memories due to her trauma. I liked that by the end Chase realized that she needed help and was finally willing to ask for and receive the help she needed. There is a resource list at the back of the book for help with depression, suicide, and addiction. Chase, Lia and Chases family are Asian. Lia's adoptive family is Italian American. 

A. Snow

Eragon by Christopher Paolini and Sidharth Chaturvedi - ESSENTIAL

by Christopher Paolini, illustrated by Sidharth Chaturvedi
, 360 pages. Young Adult Knopf (Random House), 2023. $46 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG (loss, grief, danger);  Violence: PG-13 (battles, killings) 



15yo Eragon discovers he is more than a poor farm boy, but a Dragon Rider, when he discovers a blue rock that hatches into a dragon. Adventure, magic, and incredible danger ensue as he finds himself thrust into a power struggle that could save or destroy the Empire. 

This is the first illustrated version, and it coincides with the 20th anniversary of the book's hardcover release. The illustrations are beautifully done and add to the mystique of the book. Fans of the Inheritance Cycle will love it. The book's size is larger (9 1/2x11) but will make a statement on any bookshelf. The main characters come from a wide variety of races and cultures found in fantasy. 

Michelle in the Middle 

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Hatchet Girls by Diana Rodriquez Wallach - HIGH

Hatchet Girls by Diana Rodriquez Wallach, 326 pages. Young Adult Delacorte (Random House), 2023. $19 

Language: R (86 swears 0 "F"); Mature Content: PG-13 (allusions to sexual activity);Violence: R (two axe murders) 



Could history repeat itself? 17yo Mariella Morse, daughter and heiress of the Morse family fortune in Fall River Massachusetts accuses her boyfriend, Vic, of killing her parents with an axe. Admittedly, the facts look grim since he is found standing over the bodies with a bloody axe, though he has no memory of the killings. Vic's sister, Tessa, is convinced he is innocent. As she retraces Vic's steps, she will be facing a darkness older than Lizzie Borden and the town itself. 

Told in non-linear form, the story jumps around, which maintains the tension. The author has done a lot of research on the setting, which becomes an integral part of the story. The characters are interesting and though there are no deep issues, the story is gripping. The story is more interesting if you're familiar with the Borden story, but you may want to book a tour of Fall River and its nearby haunted forest after you finish reading. Vic and Tessa are Portuguese. 

 Michelle in the Middle

An Inconvenient Letter by Julie Wright - OPTIONAL

An Inconvenient Letter by Julie Wright, 256 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2024. $17.

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



Sometimes writing out her feelings helps Marietta (17yo) handle her feelings of unrequited love. They’re secret letters in a secret drawer of her desk that happen to be addressed properly. When they accidentally get sent out, Etta and her sister rush to the neighbor’s house to retrieve them—but Etta doesn’t save all three.

If you’ve been dreaming of a Victorian era version of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, look no further. Misunderstandings, blackmail, and a fake relationship make the weeks before the Season much more exciting than Etta had anticipated. The story was fun overall, though I felt that time and some of the antagonistic characters were not always consistent.

All of the characters are English. The mature content rating is for alcohol use and kissing, and the violence rating is for assault.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Midnight Strikes by Zeba Shahnaz - OPTIONAL

Midnight Strikes by Zeba Shahnaz, 435 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2023. $20.

Language: R (32 F, 57 other swears); Mature Content: PG (kissing); Violence: PG-13 (grisly deaths, fighting, bloodiness, mortal peril)



17yo Anaïs is prepared to accept her fate. She’ll go to the ball, find a suitable husband, and live the life her mom wants her to, but that doesn’t mean she has to be happy about it. What she isn’t prepared for is the explosion that rocks the palace at midnight, killing the royal family, their guests, and Anaïs. She’s even less prepared for what happens when she wakes up the next morning as if none of it had happened and when the same thing happens again, and again, and again. As Anaïs struggles to figure out what is happening to her and her kingdom, not to mention how to stop it, she’ll need all the help she can get, from allies she never would have expected. 

I thought the time loop was an interesting premise, especially in a fantasy/fairytale setting, but I felt like it bogged down in the middle. The main character tried different things to get out of the time loop, but some of it could definitely have been combined or cut out completely. I liked the main character and her determination to succeed, but I felt like there could have been some more world building around the reasons behind the violence, as well as some more fleshing-out of the secondary characters. The huge number of F-words felt out of place and annoyed me. I thought the ending was a bit rushed after spending so many cycles trying to get there. All told, I did like the book, but I think it missed the mark in a few ways.

Reviewer: Andrea R.

Shattered Midnight by Dhonielle Clayton - OPTIONAL

Shattered Midnight (The Mirror #2) by Dhonielle Clayton, 297 pgs. Hyperion, 2021. $19.

Language: PG (5 swears); Mature Content: PG (racial discrimination, off-page sex); Violence: PG-13 (death, bloodiness, fights, forced kissing and sexual harassment)



Zora doesn’t want to move to New Orleans to live with her Aunt Celine and her snooty cousins, but after what her magic had done, she had no choice. She would need to learn to keep her magic under control if she wanted to survive as a mixed race girl in the South. Luckily, her job singing at the Petit Sapphire Saloon gives her a way to escape into her music, as well as a place to be herself. But, when she meets and falls for the white piano player, Philip, circumstances beyond their control threaten to spoil Zora’s peace and happiness. 

I wanted to like this book, but it was a bit too dark. It is supposed to connect to Broken Wish, but the magic thread that links them wasn’t strong enough. The books could be completely independent without affecting the plot at all. I didn’t like the main character very much and the level of violence and the adult issues included were more than I would expect for a middle grade novel. I thought it would be more like a fairytale, but it ended up being much more serious. I did like the setting and enjoyed the historical fiction aspect of New Orleans in the 1920s. I also liked the idea of music being magical, but the explanation of how it can be used as a weapon was a little iffy. 

A Roundy

Friday, March 1, 2024

Sacred Days, Sacred Songs by Michael D. Young - GIFT

Sacred Days, Sacred Songs by Michael D. Young, 85 pages. NONFICTION. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2024. $16.

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



Young presents two hymns for each day of Holy Week, Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. Each day focuses on an attribute of Christ and talks about the history of the hymns and those who wrote them.

Following along with this book is a beautiful way to use music to celebrate the Easter season. There is power in the magic of lyrics, and the songs mean more when they are coupled with the history of how they came to be written. We are not the first ones to hear and sing these songs with sincerity, and we will not be the last.

Songs are included from European, American, and African American writers. The violence rating is for discussions and  mild descriptions of blood, animal sacrifice, and crucifixion.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen