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.

Book review: “Parsifal’s Page” by Gerald Morris
Book Reviews / January 17, 2014

In the fourth of at least ten books in a series based on Arthurian legends, Wisconsin-based author and Baptist minister Gerald Morris brings more than an impressive display of scholarship. He also brings a very evident love of one of the world’s most enduring and powerful stories, a knack for making old tales new in a way that will appeal to younger readers, and a charm for blending timeless myths with original characters and story-lines that speak to the present moment. Believable touches of human emotion, sparkles of merriment, glimmers of faerie magic, a glow of mystery and mysticism, flashes of athletic violence, and flames of romantic passion light up the page and warm the reader’s insides.

Book review: “The Crimson Crown” by Cinda Williams Chima
Book Reviews / January 12, 2014

Book Four of the Seven Realms series brings Han Alister, Raisa, and the Queendom of the Fells to the crisis of their age. And—just think of it—their age is scarcely eighteen! Readers around that age will be especially thrilled by the political intrigues, the deadly dangers, the perplexing mysteries, and the turbulent romance that swirl around these two main characters. He is a former street lord who only found out within the last year that he is a wizard, the heir of a so-called Demon King who has cast a shadow over Fellsian history for a thousand years. She is heir to the line of Gray Wolf Queens, yet she must fight an hourly battle to keep command of her own fate while the wizard council and the upland clans—mutually sworn enemies—make their own plans as to whom she will marry and how she will rule. Political pressure is one thing, but neither side is above using deadly force to get the result it wants.

Book review: “Finnikin of the Rock” by Melina Marchetta
Book Reviews / January 7, 2014

The Australian author of “Jellicoe” Road has dealt with many issues facing today’s young adults: loneliness, depression, grief, single pregnancy, suicide, racism, family and school problems galore. Then she turned toward writing YA fantasy, and the “Lumatere Chronicles” is the result. In this first book of the trilogy, we are introduced to a gripping, romantic fantasy about sexy young people riding horses, sailing ships, and fighting with bows and arrows and swords, all to restore a lost kingdom. What sets it apart from every other tween melodrama about prophecies being fulfilled, curses being broken, secret identities being revealed, and prisoners being delivered from durance vile?

Book review: “The Magician King” by Lev Grossman
Book Reviews / January 1, 2014

“The Magicians” introduced us to Quentin Coldwater, a young American whose heart belongs in a Narnia-like world of juvenile fantasy novels called Fillory. When Quentin gets into an exclusive school called Brakebills (think: a college-level Hogwarts in upstate New York), he learns the dangerous art magic, then joins several of his buddies on a journey that takes them to the very real world of Fillory. The chapters of “The Magician King” alternate between two storylines.

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.