Dressed in a disguise, the Queen of Mynaria plays the cello with passion and life as her ten-year-old daughter Princess Amaranthine sings in the ale houses.  But mothers die, and Mare becomes a different person after donning a surly personality, wearing it like a suit of armor.  Bold and brazen, she is vakos, a girl without magic and one with an affinity for trouble and without a knack for social pleasantries.  More comfortable in communities where horsemanship is a measure of rank, Mare falls in love with Dennaleia, Princess of Havemont who was betrothed to Mare’s brother, Thandi, and groomed to be a queen.  ButRead More →

Jessica Khoury’s science fiction novel Last of Her Name features sixteen-year-old Stacia Androva and Clio Markova, two girls who are like sisters.  Possessing an instinctual urge to keep Clio safe, Stacia trusts Clio even when she can’t trust herself.  Their existence is mostly idyllic until the threat of rebellion comes knocking. A vintner’s daughter on the planet Amethyne, Stacia lives in Afka, a valley town huddled between the hills.  Stacia is a tenacious young woman with a muscular build and mechanics certification.  Appollo Androthenes, aka Pol, is Afkan’s wrestling champion and Stacia’s protector.  The three friends share multiple memories, a trio against the universe.  ButRead More →

Fluent in the language of vectors and the laws of physics, Rukhsana Ali dreams of one day working at NASA and plans to attend Caltech when she graduates from high school.  She also can’t wait to escape her home in Seattle where her Muslim parents believe that daughters and sons are not the same. In her mother’s mind, Rukshana’s worth in the marriage market is directly proportionate to her culinary prowess.  Therefore, she has to know how to prepare chai, goat vindaloo, and roti  in order to impress a potential mother-in-law.  But Rukshana isn’t a traditional Muslim, and she’s more interested in Ariana’s sweet-nothings whisperedRead More →

Set in Kyrria, where fairies, elves, ogres, unicorns, and giants live among nobles and commoners, Newbery honor author Gail Carson Levine’s newest book, Ogre Enchanted, tells the story of fifteen-year-old Evie.  Gifted in the arts of healing, Evie is the kind of healer that “knows when to just mention a remedy and when to pry open a jaw” (3).  She has also been accused by her best friend, Warwick—aka Wormy—as seeing people as patients and nothing more. When the sensitive, sweet, and trustworthy Wormy proposes marriage to Evie and the lively, intelligent, single-minded healer with a sense of humor declines, the fairy Lucinda promptly turnsRead More →

Set in New York in 1863 at the time of the Civil War, Daniel José Older’s series novel Dactyl Hill Squad is a blend of history and fantasy with an abundance of action and adventure. Although Older adds dinosaur riders to his story—giving twelve-year-old Magdalys Roca the special ability to hear the dinos’ thoughts and control them with her mind—he tells the truth about orphan life and explores some other very real social issues.  For example, he mocks segregation habits like designating riding privileges along racial lines or colonization attempts like renaming. When the Kidnapping Club, led by the devious Magistrate Rich Riker, burns downRead More →

As its title conveys, Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh swirls with mystery and pulses with energy in equal measure.  A sequel to Flame in the Mist, this companion novel completes the stories of Yumi and Mariko, fiercely independent and competent women with formidable intelligence in a world that expects its females to be submissive, obedient, and coy. Set in Japan at a time when samurai, daiyo, and shōguns defended with honor, this fantasy-adventure focuses not only on the shifting allegiances and political intrigue of the Emperor’s court, but also on other social issues troubling the kingdom.   As a member of the BlackRead More →

Mix adventure, jokes, and a little mystery, and you have a recipe to keep most readers engaged.  Dave Eggers applies this formula to the writing of his recent middle-grade novel, The Lifters, which is actually an extended metaphor for combatting despair. The protagonist of The Lifters, twelve-year-old Granite Flowerpetal wishes for a name that is both easily understood and easily spelled, so he shortens his name to Gran, not realizing at the time how readily that version might be confused with the term some individuals use to refer to their grandmothers. Gran, who shares a bedroom with his five-year-old sister Maisie, hears his parents talkRead More →

Forced to kill or die, Archer Aurontas has a history of horror as a cage fighter for the impressors.  Wishing to be whole again, he looks to Sefia, a girl who is focused, determined, and daring.  The daughter of Lon and Mareah who were hoping to shape the future, Sefia is known as the traitors’ child and as a girl whose life is illuminated by magic. Hoping to atone for what Sefia sees as the sins of her parents, people who helped to set in motion the prophesy for the Red War, Sefia steals the Guard’s greatest weapon, a weapon of paper and ink.  ThisRead More →

Despite his warm, friendly, and generous nature, junior Lawrence Barry is on the verge of expulsion for his actions at a diversity assembly at Meridian High School while stoned.  Because his father is a powerful attorney of the law firm Barry, Yu and Singh and because his counsellor Mr. Lunley believes Lawrence has potential and simply needs to channel his energies in more positive directions, the expulsion hearing is thwarted.   However, with his dad’s threat of Langdon Military Academy hanging over his head, with Mr. Lunley’s having recruited him for the Buddy Club, and with Principal Stone scrutinizing his every action, Lawrence has to reformRead More →