Set in a world similar to our current reality but not quite, The Darkening by Sunya Mara is a study of both psychology and sociology. Mara explores the consequences of classism and social hierarchies while also taking a deep dive into the effects of despair, vengeance, hate, pain, and anger. In the process, she also asks some critically important questions worthy of soul-searching. Seventeen-year-old Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries and refers to herself as “a hopeful little screwup from the fifth ring” (216). Her father’s fear has kept her safe, but Vesper wonders if it is wrong to want more out of lifeRead More →

Edited by G. Harron Davis, Cam Montgomery, and Adrianne White, All Signs Point to Yes is a collection of short stories targeting those who are addicted to reading their daily horoscopes. That many of the collected stories end with a kiss and several include references to the occult or witches shouldn’t alarm readers. After all, there is something magical about love. The thirteen authors who contributed stories prove that love is as universal as sexuality and ethnicity are diverse. Their works further share powerful morals, such as: regrets don’t serve anyone or that flirting isn’t a valid form of identification. These authors also invite criticalRead More →

Growing up, Rochelle Hassan read about dragons, quests, and unlikely heroes. Now, she writes about them in her first novel, The Prince to Nowhere. Hassan’s novel is set in the Aerlands, an imaginary world prowled by multiple monsters. To defend human settlements from these terrors, a mist hovers. This protective enchantment was placed there by the legendary mage Aurelion Kader.  In a community called Brume, twelve-year-old Roda lives with her mother and her aunt Dora. Kind, compassionate, and possessing a desire to help, Roda has always looked up to her brave aunt. When Roda begins receiving cryptic letters from Anonymous, she grows curious. The lettersRead More →

With themes and a style similar to the stories penned by Lemony Snicket, Rex Ogle writes a mystery featuring the unfortunate events of Will Hunter in The Supernatural Society. In what hints at a series, this installment is narrated by a monster. When Will Hunter’s dad abandons his family, mother and son are forced to move from Brooklyn, New York, to East Emerson, Massachusetts, where Will’s mother secures a job as a nurse. Sixth grader Will hates that he has no choice in this “fresh start” his mother describes. His only solace is in his Saint Bernard, Fitz, a Christmas gift from his father yearsRead More →

Many readers have found fictional worlds fascinating; some of us might even wonder what it would be like to live in such an alternate reality. Adelle Casey and Connie Rollins have been enamored by the Victorian era novel Moira by Robin Amery for years. Although Adelle is attracted to the esoteric and the occult, Connie is much more practical. With a heart as big as her fanciful imagination, Adelle tends to be in love with the worlds found in books rather than with the world going by all around her. As a result, her interests lean towards topics like astrology, tarot, wizards, vampires, werewolves, orRead More →

A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson is a fascinating book about two sisters: Myra, a seventeen-year-old painter with dreams of securing a full-ride scholarship to the Conservatory for Music and the Arts; and Lucy, a thirteen-year-old aspiring biologist who hopes to improve the environment, save endangered animals, and change the world with her discoveries. With the sudden disappearance of both their mother and father, Myra’s whole world unravels. Abandoned and without resources, the two Whitlock girls can scarcely afford food and rent, let alone the medical care Lucy needs as her illness worsens. A prisoner of guilt and loneliness, Myra doesn’t know howRead More →

Much like orphan, clock keeper, and thief Hugo Cabret, Ellie Lancaster lives in a world where her survival depends on secrets and anonymity. Although Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray doesn’t have the Caldecott winning pictures of Brian Selznick’s book, it has a similar protagonist in twelve-year-old Ellie and much of the mystery, charm, and adventure. Ellie is an inventor, mechanic, and engineer who is trying to keep alive the memories of her lost mother and brother. With Anna Stonewall as her best friend, Ellie must save Seth, a boy “born” from a whale whose emotions are connected to the sea. Alone and surroundedRead More →

The Shattered Castle is Book Five in the Ascendance Series by Jennifer Nielsen, and it is as rich with action and adventure as it is filled with lessons for living an honorable life. When Jaron Artolius Eckbert the Third defeated the Prozarian Army, he stole the Devil’s Scope and kept the secret for himself. Now he must not only defend Carthya from the vengeful Prozarians and protect his kingdom and his throne from the power-hungry Castor Veldergrath but win back the trust he lost from Imogen, who is furious with him for this betrayal. Nielsen weaves her plot with mastery and creates her characters withRead More →

After magic kills her mother, Liora Duval thinks of magic as an invisible beast capable of snatching her life away in a moment.  As she grows into young adulthood, those fears subside, and Liora discovers she has magic of her own. Although hiding had kept her safe for over a decade, Liora realizes that she can’t know her limits without testing them. Despite being full of curiosity and questions about her power, her options, and how her magic works, she is still fearful. When Lord Darius, the king’s most trusted advisor and a warlock who uses mages as instruments for profit and power, comes toRead More →