Book Review: “The Throne of Fire” by Rick Riordan
Book Reviews / March 15, 2014

In Book 2 of the “Kane Chronicles”, the Texas-based author of the “Tres Navarre” mysteries cleverly uses hilarious, romantic, magical, and thrill-packed entertainment to educate young adults about ancient Egyptian mythology. He’s very sneaky that way. But we’re not surprised since he did the same thing with Greek mythology in the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series. Ditto with Roman mythology in the “Heroes of Olympus” series. Face it, you’re going to need a roadmap to keep track of all the different ways Rick Riordan has brought the legends of ancient gods and heroes into the present day. But in spite of the globe-trotting complexity of the action in this book, and the relative unfamiliarity of the gods, monsters, and mythological concepts it introduces, this is a deceptively easy book to enjoy.

Book Review: “The Ballad of Sir Dinadan” by Gerald Morris
Book Reviews / March 9, 2014

The fifth book of the “Squire’s Tales” series continues this Wisconsin-based author’s retelling of Arthurian legends for younger readers with a combination of two knightly love stories with the point of view of a minstrel knight who has fallen out of love with romantic love. Forced into knighthood, though he would rather be a rebec-playing troubadour, Sir Dinadan rides out into the English countryside in search of inspiration for heroic ballads. Instead, he finds disillusionment. First it comes in the form of a beautiful lady who toys with his heart and tries to trick him into doing something vile. Then he observes the series of tasks that a would-be knight named Culloch must do to win the hand of a Welsh princess—ridiculous tasks that have nothing to do with the “helping the helpless” sort of thing King Arthur values in his knights. And thirdly, he gets mixed up in the affair of Tristram and Iseult, the most tragic lovers in all of song and legend, though in reality (as Dinadan sees it) theirs is the stupidest and most sordid story of all.

Book Review: “Rotters” by Daniel Kraus
Book Reviews / March 9, 2014

This book is a thriller and chiller of the sort that probably would have turned stomachs a generation ago. But if you’ve been watching CSI and its spinoffs, you may already have an idea what decaying corpses look like—though, mercifully, not so much how they smell and feel. So this may be the perfect time to read a book featuring ripening bodies, graveyard dirt, and the last days of a secret subculture of grave-robbers. All the same, the content and language in this book demand an Adult Content Advisory. This may be a young-adult novel, but before parents and teachers recommend it to young adults, they should be advised that the young adults in it speak and behave like the real-life young adults in today’s high school scene. This means sexual content, strong language, and vicious bullying by both adults and fellow teens. But the darkness of the world that envelops its main character, eleventh grader Joey Crouch, is more disturbing still. Mature readers wanted!

Book Review: “The Enchanter Heir” by Cinda Williams Chima
Book Reviews / February 5, 2014

The fourth book of the “Heir” chronicles adds a new dimension to the world of magic that now orbits around Trinity, Ohio. In addition to wizards, sorcerers, enchanters, seers, and warriors, there is now a new category of gifted that crosses the boundaries between these guilds: the Savants. Created in a disaster or massacre or mass poisoning that wiped out all the adults and most of the children in an experimental commune called Thorn Hill, each of the surviving kids has unique powers—as well as weaknesses. Some of them are profoundly disabled. Many of them are destined to die young. And those who die have a tendency to become wandering shades, possessing the bodies of the recently dead—and sometimes killing people just to take over their bodies.

Book review: “The Last Dragonslayer” by Jasper Fforde
Book Reviews / February 3, 2014

In a twisted alternate world, the Dragonlands are situated between the Kingdom of Hereford and the Duchy of Brecon, in the west of a balnkanized version of England and Wales known as the Ununited Kingdoms. It’s a world where magic is slowly dying out, its practitioners reduced to delivering pizzas on flying carpets and rewiring houses by spell.

Book review: Secret by Brigid Kemmerer
Book Reviews / February 3, 2014

EARTH. FIRE. AIR. WATER. Nick Merrick is stretched to breaking point. He’s trying to keep his grades sky-high or he won’t get in to college. He’s trying to keep his brother’s business afloat or the Merricks will be out on the street. He’s trying to keep the secret of where he’s going in the evenings from his twin brother Gabriel – or he fears he’ll lose his family. And he’s trying to keep his mind off the hot, self-assured dancer who is his ‘girlfriend’s’ partner.

Book review: “Brisingr” by Christopher Paolini
Book Reviews / January 30, 2014

Many things discouraged me from reading the third book of the Inheritance Cycle. There was the backlash against my mixed review of Book 2, “Eldest”—almost, but not quite, the harshest feedback I have received. There was the disappointment of the film based on Book 1, “Eragon”—a hint that there would be less pressure from fandom in general to stay on top of this series. And finally, there was the thickness of this book, which was supposed to be the finale of a trilogy—whereas, in spite of its length, it turned out to be the third movement in a quartet.

Book review: “Pegasus” by Robin McKinley
Book Reviews / January 26, 2014

She has won the Newbery Medal (for” The Hero and the Crown”). She has won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (for “Sunshine”). She has entertained us with tales of vampires, fairies, dragons, and Robin Hood, as well as folk tales spruced up as novels. As the wife of Peter Dickinson, she dwells in a reactor-core of magic and beautiful storytelling that could reach critical mass at any time. All that being said, if she doesn’t produce a sequel to this book, I will be seriously miffed with her.

Book review: “Necromancing the Stone” by Lish McBride
Book Reviews / January 24, 2014

In this sequel to “Hold Me Closer”, “Necromancer”, college dropout, ex-fry cook, late-blooming necromancer Sam LaCroix begins to make sense of his long hidden powers, his network of strange and dangerous allies, his steamy relationship with the Alpha female of a werewolf pack, and the huge fortune left to him by the villain he recently vanquished. But he’d better hurry. More challenges are coming at him, as fast as he can deal with them.

Book review: “Fat Vampire” by Adam Rex
Book Reviews / January 17, 2014

From the author of “The True Meaning of Smekday” comes this lyrical, funny story about a fifteen-year-old loser who has just started trying to lose weight when someone bites him, and he becomes a vampire. Forever fat and fifteen in Philadelphia would be depressing enough. But when Doug Lee tries to take control of his unlife, tries to mold himself into something more attractive and powerful than the kid who is always picked last for team activities—well, that’s when things really start to suck.