Book review: “Unspoken” by Sarah Rees Brennan
Book Reviews / December 22, 2013

Book 1 of “The Lynburn Legacy” introduces us to Kami Glass, a teenaged girl of mixed Japanese and English ancestry who lives in the Cotswolds village of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Since she was a baby, Kami has had an imaginary friend named Jared who talks to her in her head, telling her all about his make-believe life in America. Even into high school she continues to converse with this secret voice, though she has increasingly learned to hide it from her concerned parents and her weirded-out friends. Then one day the surviving members of the Lynburn family, the old lords of the manor, come back into town—and one of them turns out to be a boy named Jared, who grew up in America believing that the voice in his head was an imaginary friend named Kami.

Book review: “Hero” by Mike Lupica
Book Reviews / December 15, 2013

When New York sports journalist Mike Lupica first turned toward writing Young Adult fiction, it was mostly in the form of sports-related novels, such as Travel Team, Heat, and Miracle on 49th Street. And he’s still writing them. You may be surprised at the length of his list of titles, and whether part of a series or a standalone novel, each one is primarily about sports—with only a couple of exceptions. One of them is a murder mystery. And the other is this story about a kid who discovers that he has super-powers.

Book review: “Fall of a Kingdom” by Hilari Bell
Book Reviews / December 15, 2013

Inspired by a Persian legend and originally titled “Flame”, this is the first book of the Farsala Trilogy. The new and improved title, while dramatically distinctive, has the drawback of giving away the ending. But since the story is only getting started, that’s probably all right.

Book review: “Tam Lin” by Pamela Dean
Book Reviews / December 10, 2013

The author of the “Secret Country” trilogy, when asked to contribute a volume to a series of fairy-tale novelizations, delved instead into a traditional Scots ballad about a girl named Janet who saves her lover from being sacrificed to the powers of Hell by the Queen of Faerie. Transferring the setting to the campus of a small midwestern college in the 1970s, she weaves this eerie storyline into a tale of ghosts, time travelers, young people discovering love and friendship, and the magic of literature, especially English and ancient Greek.

Book review: “The Runaway King” by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Book Reviews / December 8, 2013

Jaron, alias Sage, proved to be more than as advertised in “The False Prince”. After convincing an ambitious nobleman he was the best impostor for a long-lost prince, Jaron proved to be the real prince after all—supposedly killed by pirates, but lying low in the guise of a street urchin. Now he has returned to claim his throne, just when his country’s aggressive neighbors are poised to strike at any sign of weakness. In the second book of the Ascendance trilogy, the young king must run away from his kingdom in order to save it from an imminent threat of invasion.

Book review: “The Drowned Vault” by N. D. Wilson
Book Reviews / November 28, 2013

In the second book of the Ashtown Burials, Order of St. Brendan journeymen Cyrus and Antigone Smith have survived the test that determined their right to seek shelter in the Order’s sanctuary at Ashtown, somewhere on the Wisconsin shore of Lake Michigan. But they have also earned the distrust and resentment of many other members of the order, by losing the Dragon’s Tooth.

Book review: “The Ring of Solomon” by Jonathan Stroud
Book Reviews / November 19, 2013

Some trilogies are open-ended. When the author decides to add a fourth book to it, we start to call it the So-and-So Quartet. Since fans of a series are unlikely to regret the arrival of a new installment, this sort of thing is usually embarrassing only to publishers who have invested money in packaging the first three books as the So-and-So Trilogy, and to unsparingly critical readers who notice (sometimes) that the fourth book isn’t quite as good. But what do we do when a trilogy comes to a very definite, final end—like, for example, the Bartimaeus Trilogy, whose human protagonist John Mandrake made the final sacrifice at the end of book three? (Oops. Spoilers!) How does the author get away with adding a fourth book to the series? It’s easy, actually. He makes it a prequel. And he makes it good.

Book review: “Powers” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Book Reviews / October 26, 2013

In the third book of the “Annals of the Western Shore,” the author of “A Wizard of Earthsea” completes what appears to be a fantasy trilogy for young adults. I hope that appearances are deceiving in this case. I hope this series will continue beyond this book!

Book review: “Voices” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Book Reviews / October 19, 2013

In the second book of “Annals of the Western Shore,” gifted maker (poet) Orrec Caspro and his animal-whisperer wife Gry Barre come to the city of Ansul, fabled for its literature and its scholarly culture. But it seems they have come seventeen years too late: for Ansul has been conquered by the Alds, the people of the Asudar desert to the east. Unlike the people of Ansul, who revere countless gods and ancestral spirits, the Alds are devoted to the worship of one deity: the burning god Atth, whose word is to be spoken and never written, and who deems all other gods to be demons. To the Alds, all writing is demonic by definition.

Book review: two YA baseball novels
Book Reviews / October 16, 2013

More than five years ago, I reviewed “The Boy Who Saved Baseball” by this author, who is totally not the actor from Three’s Company. In that review, I said that I planned to read more of his books in the near future. I was true to my word, but only to the extent that I have had this book and another by the same author on my shelf all these years. It’s no reflection on my feelings for baseball fiction (which are generally warm) or for this author (intrigued, respectful). It’s just an occupational hazard of being a book junkie whose shelves are jammed two books deep with titles I’ve been planning to read for ages. So many books, so little time!