As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

February 8, 2016

THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE by Julie Berry, 2014


There's a murderer on the loose—but that doesn't stop the girls of St. Etheldreda's from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce. The students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Julie, Children's lit enthusiast and pop culture geek

THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE is part murder mystery, part friendship tale, and part love letter to Victorian-era novels--but it is all entertaining!  At St. Etheldreda's School for Girls in 1890, murder most foul threatens to change the lives of the young women who attend the institution.  When their headmistress and her brother are poisoned, the girls--Dear Roberta, Dull Martha, Disgraceful Mary Jane, Pocked Louise, Stout Alice, Smooth Kitty, and Dour Elinor--must hide the crime or risk being separated forever.  As they take great pains to cover up the crime, they also must find their guardian's murderer, who is still at large and ready to strike again.

Julie Berry's novel is expertly written and wickedly funny.  The style of writing is old-fashioned, yet accessible, and drenched with dark humor--think Lemony Snicket or Lois Lowry's THE WILLOUGHBYS.  In the very first chapter, for instance, Headmistress Constance Plackett and her brother Alduous Godding drop dead at the dinner table--and the schoolgirls are instantly terrified that their poor cooking skills did the adults in.  When the doorbell rings, revealing the dinner guests for Alduous's birthday party, the girls panic--and then get creative.  The scenes that follow are the perfect mixture of humor and whodunnit as the girls try to discover the real reason behind the deaths.

Aside from the caper itself, my favorite part of THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD was certainly its cast of characters.  Although it boasts seven protagonists, each girl gets a chance to shine and feels fully fleshed out, despite the seemingly one-dimensional monikers.  For instance, while Stout Alice begins as the pudgy, plain girl of the group, she becomes a standout character. She flourishes as an actress, attracts a suitor, and plays an important role in preventing outsiders from learning about the murders.  Other memorable characters include Dour Elinor and Disgraceful Mary Jane, who are obsessed with death and boys, respectively, and provide many of the comic one-liners that readers will enjoy.

This novel is an excellent choice for anyone who is comfortable laughing at the darkly Dickensian elements of life.

Market: Middle grade fiction
Violence:  None aside from references to the central murders.  However, the girls' comic-but-clumsy attempts to keep the murders hidden might frighten or disturb younger readers. 
Language: None.
Sensuality: Oblique references to adult relationships, especially by Disgraceful Mary Jane
Adult Themes: Death, murder/crime

Second review by Rosalyn E.

Julie Berry's newest novel, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, is nothing like her previous, All the Truth that's In Me (excepting a historical setting)--which may be a good thing. As moving as that book was, I found this one utterly delightful. It mixes so many of the things I love: a good mystery, Victorian manners, clever girl heroines, and humor. 

The seven students at Prickwillow Place, Mrs. Plackett's boarding school for young ladies, are horrified one night at Sunday dinner when their mistress and her ne'er-do-well brother suddenly drop dead at the table of apparent poison. Instead of doing the expected thing--notify the police--the girls decide (at the suggestion of Smooth Kitty) to bury the bodies in the garden and keep up the pretense of their existence so that they don't have to return to their various unhappy home situations. From this point, of course, a wild romp ensues, beginning almost at once when the  neighborhood descends for the surprise birthday party Mrs. Plackett planned for her brother. As the girls try to maintain the façade that their mistress still exists, keep house, negotiate suitors (the older girls appear to be 16-17ish), and solve a mystery, the plot continues to escalate. The premise is wildly implausible, but Berry executes it with such panache that I didn't mind at all.

While some reviewers have complained about the adjectives preceding the girls' names, I found them funny (and a fairly Victorian touch). Smooth Kitty is the clear leader, but I also loved Stout Alice, who was stout of both form and heart, Pocked Louise (a clever young scientist)--even Dour Elinor, with her fascination for all things macabre, had her charm.

The dialogue was witty, the characters interesting (if not always likeable), the situations funny, the bits of romance sweet, and the writing clever. Overall, a terrific middle grade novel. I'm not honestly sure how this appeals to the target 10-14 year old demographic, but I loved it.


Market: Middle-grade/YA (marketed as MG, but several of the characters are YA
Language: mild
Sensuality: mild
Violence: moderate--it does deal with murder, after all
Mature Themes: murder, death by poison

February 1, 2016

SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sarah Raasch, 2014


Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since. Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Natalie

Sara Raasch, I may be in love with you. SNOW LIKE ASHES, aka So Like Amazing, is a beautiful book to behold.

I honestly don't know how to express my love for this book without completely undermining it's brilliance. It moved so fast and it was heaped with action that I was just left sitting on the couch with my eyes glazed over while an immensely satisfied grin played across my face. Yup, I went into a book-coma. It was that good.

Meira and the other seven people of her camp, one of which who is the future king of Winter, are what's left of the free Winterians. The others have all been thrown into work camps in the kingdom of Spring by Angra, the evil overlord (not is official title, but basically). Meira and the others have their hearts set on freeing their people, and to do so, they must regain Winter's Royal Conduit. Every kingdom has their own conduit, an item filled with magical properties that only the ruler of that kingdom can use for the benefit of their people. But naturally, Angra broke it in half and has one part of it lying around his neck. Good luck getting that without dying. I'd say more, but that would cut into your time of driving to the nearest bookstore, buying this novel, and dropping to the floor in front of the cash register and reading it then and there. There's just so much that happens in this book, so much adventure, that you need to get on this horse now.

Before this review ends though, I thought I'd touch base with the triangular love occurring in this book. Lemme tell you, I was in the shower debating with myself after having finished this book. Both boys are beautiful and swoon worthy. I know which one I would choose, at least as far as book one goes, but honestly, I have no qualms with this love triangle. It wasn't even overbearing to the story, you could see it forming, there were hints, but it didn't make me annoyed. It made me intrigued. Course, I only really debated it when I wasn't scaling buildings, uncovering conspiracies, and breaking out of cages with Meira, the marvelous protagonist of this novel. So don't that let scare you away from this book, because there's so much more to it then two swoon inducing boys that you shouldn't complain about having to read about.

All in all, it was amazing, brilliant, beautiful, and any other adjective that's synonymous to those.

High-five Sara Raasch, high-five.


HAPPY READING!!!

Market: Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild (just angst really)
Violence: Moderate (battles and such)
Mature Themes: Nothing really mature

January 25, 2016

NINTH WARD by Jewell Parker Rhodes, 2010


Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans' Ninth Ward. She doesn't have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya's visions show a powerful hurricane--Katrina--fast approaching, it's up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Julie, children's literature enthusiast and pop culture geek

I'm writing this review at the end of February, as Black History Month draws to a close.  Throughout the month, I've seen several lists and blog posts that feature wonderful children's books celebrating black history.  One book that has been wrongfully missing from these lists is NINTH WARD by Jewell Parker Rhodes.

NINTH WARD can be classified as historical fiction, although the history it presents may be recent in the minds of older readers.  The story takes place during the onset of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana's Ninth Ward.  Readers see the disaster through the eyes of the narrator, twelve-year-old Lanesha as she struggles to survive the flood.  Although Lanesha doesn't have much, she has her friend TaShon, her guardian Mama Ya Ya, and the ghostly apparition of her deceased mother to remind her of the strength she has.

Lanesha is one of my favorite recently-discovered characters.  She narrates her own story with beautiful, spare prose that sheds a light into her as a person: she loves math, vocabulary, and learning, and she hopes to be an architect one day.  Although she has an "uptown family" consisting of relatives that want nothing to do with her, she forms her own sense of community among her friends and guardians in Ninth Ward.  Her gift of sight, which allows her to see and speak with ghosts, gives her a special understanding of the place she was born into, including its rich past and current social and political problems.  Her voice is mature and interesting, and I enjoyed reading what felt like a very honest and balanced account of what life was like for young victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Although Black History Month is confined to February, it is important to continue reading about and celebrating these stories throughout the course of the year.  NINTH WARD is a gripping story of survival and hope featuring a fantastic main character, but it also provides an important glimpse into recent history, an event from which many people are still recovering.

Market: Middle grade/YA fiction
Violence: References to gang-related violence in protagonist's neighborhood.  One character is hurt by bullies.
Language: Mild insults, bullying language
Sensuality: None
Adult themes: Natural disasters, poverty, loss and grief

January 18, 2016

THE KISS OF A STRANGER by Sarah M. Eden, 2008


When Crispin, Lord Cavratt, thoroughly and scandalously kisses a serving woman in the garden of a country inn, he assumes the encounter will be of no consequence. But he couldn't be more mistaken, the maid is not only a lady of birth, she's the niece of a very large, exceptionally angry gentleman, who claims Crispin has compromised his niece beyond redemption. The dismayed young lord has no choice but to marry Miss Catherine Thorndale, who lacks both money and refinement and assumes all men are as vicious as her guardian uncle. (Goodreads) 

Reviewed by Brooke – Wife, Mother, Reader

This is a bit of a "Cinderella" story (my favorite by the way).  Catherine lives in a horrible situation.  She is a lady, but under the cruel rule of her uncle.  Crispin, a gentleman, kisses Catherine, thinking it harmless.  Crispin being the gentleman that he is, agrees to marry Catherine when her uncle insists.  The marriage saves Catherine from her situation with her uncle, but now she is married to a stranger.

THE KISS OF A STRANGER has a bad guy, a really good bad guy.  The Uncle fills this role well.  Crispin is a wonderful hero.  He has good morals.  He may at times not know what’s right, but he wants to be the true good guy.  Catherine is a damsel in distress.  Crispin saves her like the Prince saves Cinderella from the Wicked Stepmother.   Although Catherine is shy, she and Crispin have some really fun banter.  Catherine comes out of her shell when she is not under the rule of her uncle.  I like the dynamic between these two characters.  One of my favorite characters (besides the hero and heroine), is Crispin's sister, Lizzie.  She is a wonderful supporting character, loving and kind when Catherine needs a friend.  Another favorite minor character is Philip Jonquil.  He is such a good character that the author has written a book with him as the main character.  He is witty and adds humor to the book.

Sarah M. Eden writes lovely historical romances and I recommend her books if you like clean romance.

Market: Adult Clean Historical Fiction
Language: None
Sensuality: Mild, Kissing
Violence: None
Mature Themes: Mild, Bullying by Uncle

January 11, 2016

THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE by Jonathon Stroud, 2013

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions. Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Valette M.

Lucy Carlyle makes a plucky and determined heroine -- she has to be to continue to face down ghosts night after night. She is adventurous, yet moderately levelheaded and makes a nice support of a team consisting of Lockwood (who prefers to charge in guns -- ahem -- rapiers blazing) and George, who's perhaps a little bit too reserved. The chemistry in the team was very entertaining, consisting of the rough bumps and snappishness of a family but also the fierce  loyalty and general camaraderie. They worked together well, almost mesmerizingly so in a battle scene. And yet they weren't infallible, and there were times when their age bled through, serving to put things in perspective and up the ante.

THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE starts out with quite a kick. The reader is thrown directly into the action with no info dump needed to get a hold of the dramatic and intricate, perhaps far more so than currently seen, world. Ghost hunting, though always carrying an intrinsic fear, was never so intense. The stakes upped. And then they upped again. And right when the plot was tying up, it didn't. So to those of you who've missed the feel of biting your nails, this one's for you. Though it could be considered a 'ghost' book, Jonathan Stroud has broken all the tropes of the genre to bring us a swashbuckling, plot-hole free narrative that just gets better and better.

The Bartimeaus Trilogy is one of my favorite series by far. The magic system and depth of the alternate history blew my mind. I can safely say that Lockwood and Co is well on its way to attaining the same. Again set in an alternate London, this time the people are coping with The Problem, a serious rash of hauntings. Reality melds smoothly with paranormal activity, in the newest book from Jonathan Stroud, and also the newest book on my favorites list.

Market: Young Adult
Language: Mild if any
Sensuality: None
Violence: Mild (Dismembering of ghosts, etc)
Mature Themes: The Spooky and the ethereal

January 4, 2016

LOVE, AUBREY by Suzanne LaFleur, 2009

A tragic accident has turned eleven-year-old Aubrey’s world upside down. Starting a new life all alone, Aubrey has everything she thinks she needs: SpaghettiOs and Sammy, her new pet fish. She cannot talk about what happened to her. Writing letters is the only thing that feels right to Aubrey, even if no one ever reads them. With the aid of her loving grandmother and new friends, Aubrey learns that she is not alone, and gradually, she finds the words to express feelings that once seemed impossible to describe. The healing powers of friendship, love, and memory help Aubrey take her first steps toward the future. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Jaina, who spends most of her time reviewing books at Read Till Dawn

Gosh, I love LOVE, AUBREY so much. And oh, how it makes me cry! I have read many sad fictional books, from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (honestly, so many people die in that book!) to books about the Titanic and the last Romanovs, but most of them can't bring me to tears. They can make me really, really sad, it's true, but they can't make me actually cry. This book, though, gets the waterworks flowing in the first three chapters and never lets them stop. And this may sound miserable, but it's actually wonderful.

You see, this is a story of pain and grief and abandonment, but it's also the story of love and friendship and strength at the worst of times. It is the story of Aubrey, whose father and sister died in a car accident. Her mother was so incredibly consumed with grief she ran away from home a few months after the funeral, leaving Aubrey behind to take care of herself. The story is told in first person past tense, which worked well for the story by providing a compelling contrasts with the first person present flashback scenes in which Aubrey remembers life before the car accident. Instead of an info-dump at the beginning of the story we gradually find out the events of Aubrey's past as she is forced to remember them, which (you guessed it!) provides haunting snapshots throughout the story of how much Aubrey has lost.

The saddest parts of the narrative, however, are probably the letters Aubrey writes. At the beginning of the book she writes letters to her sister's imaginary friend Jilly as a way to sort of indirectly talk to a piece of her sister. As she begins to come to grips with everything that has happened to her, she starts to write more directly to her mother, father, and sister, telling them what she wishes she could say to them in person. She signs each letter "Love, Aubrey," which is the source of the title.

This is, without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite books. It's heart-wrenching, but it's also realistic and  heartwarming. Aubrey has had the unthinkable happen to her family, and she responds the way any real person would - through denial, through tears, and through shutting down at any reminder of what has happened. But as the story goes along, she learns to cope and to forgive and to live her new life with her grandmother and best friend/neighbor Bridget.

This is an amazing book, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. But please, know what you are getting into. This is not a light or easy read, and if you don't want to read a book that will make you cry, then don't pick this one up. But know that it does not just toy with the emotions: it is sad because terrible, tragic things happen in life, and sometimes you have to cry about them.

Market: Middle Grade
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: Mild/Moderate (Aubrey has flashbacks to the car accident that killed her father and sister)
Mature Themes: Dealing with the realities of death and parental abandonment

December 28, 2015

DOOMED QUEENS: ROYAL WOMEN WHO MET BAD ENDS, FROM CLEOPATRA TO PRINCESS DI by Kris Waldherr, 2008

Marie Antoinette, Anne Boleyn, and Mary, Queen of Scots. What did they have in common? For a while they were crowned in gold, cosseted in silk, and flattered by courtiers. But in the end, they spent long nights in dark prison towers and were marched to the scaffold where they surrendered their heads to the executioner. And they are hardly alone in their undignified demises. Throughout history, royal women have had a distressing way of meeting bad ends—dying of starvation, being burned at the stake, or expiring in childbirth while trying desperately to produce an heir. From Cleopatra (suicide by asp), to Princess Caroline (suspiciously poisoned on her coronation day), there's a gory downside to being blue-blooded when you lack a Y chromosome. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Julie, children's literature enthusiast and pop culture geek

Kris Waldherr's nonfiction book DOOMED QUEENS is a dark, fun look into history.  Offering short chapters on 50 female royals, DOOMED QUEENS offers biographical and historical context before delving into the ghastly end of each monarch's rule.  From Cleopatra to Brunhilde, Mary Stuart to Alexandra Romanov, Waldherr covers a wide range of time and place.  Any fan of women's history will be sure to find a couple of chapters to peruse.

I finished this book in one day and have returned to it several times since.  Waldherr's writing is well-informed and superb, striking the right balance between wit and irreverence.  The humorous tone (the end of each chapter, for instance, offers a "cautionary moral" to the queen's story) provides a nice balance to the dark subject matter.  Quizzes, timelines, and symbolic graphics (a skull wearing a crown indicates, for example, that the queen suffered death by beheading) make the book simply fun to read.  More importantly, Waldherr has done her research: although each chapter, at two or three pages long, provides a simple overview of each woman's life and death, the source notes are thorough. While focusing on the macabre, DOOMED QUEENS can be a good starting point for anyone looking to learn more about famous (or infamous) women in history.

If you're interested in this book, be sure to get your hands on a material copy.  Half of the fun is the gorgeous book design.  It includes lavish illustrations of each subject, as well as graphics throughout the chapters.  According to other reviews I've read, not all of these details are available in e-book format.  Believe me, the reading experience will be worth your trip to the library or bookstore!

Market: Adult non-fiction
Violence: Explains the sticky ends that classify many of these queens as "doomed"--anything from beheading to death by paparazzi
Language: Clean
Sensuality: References to extramarital affairs
Adult themes: Royalty and ruling, power, death

December 21, 2015

THESE BROKEN STARS by Megan Spooner & Amie Kaufman, 2013


Luxury spaceliner Icarus suddenly plummets from hyperspace into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive -- alone. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a cynical war hero. Both journey across the eerie deserted terrain for help. Everything changes when they uncover the truth. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Valette M.

One look at that gorgeous cover and I was sold. And a few hours later, I'm happy to report that this story totally lives up to that dress.

From the get-go we have two dynamic characters (The only two characters for the majority of the book) that are completely opposite: Lilac, the society darling dripping with money and the necessary arrogance to keep fortune-hunters away, and Tarver, a man for rugged terrains and a recently returned war hero. I found Lilac very sympathetically and sweetly portrayed. Instead of loathing the rich girl with daddy issues, I loved her. She tried to get better, and recognized when it was better to bow to authority or dig in her heels all the way. She was level-headed, courageous, and blessedly whine-free. The authors took no short cuts with her character, and Tarver was no different. Unfortunately, so many young adult authors simply paste down a generic hunk for the love interest and call it good ('Can't you see the figure we just described for you? No wonder she falls in love with him!') playing off the tropes of YA to let the reader fill in the gaps.That may be fine for a fairytale, but the romance can never reach those desperately beautiful heights that make us squeal and nibble our nails. Thankfully, that was not this book. Tarver had his own detailed past, his own clear motives for choices and he did not exist solely through his feelings for Lilac. There was poetry and hunting and hiking through the woods. And there was plenty of squealing and nail nibbling. It was nice.

I never knew crossing fields and forests and mountains could be so exciting! (Let's be honest. There are some parts of Lord of the Rings that are just...meh.) But mix with that the bite in Lilac and Tarver's interactions, Lilac's character arc as she experiences a world she never dreamed existed, and -- to top it all off -- ghostly apparitions that may be telling the future. Or maybe Lilac's just going mad. Science fiction smashed into romance, creating an intricate whirl-wind of a tale.

I haven't had the pleasure of reading anything by Meagan Spooner and can only looking forward to reading more from Amie Kaufman, but THESE BROKEN STARS was a satisfying read with a solid difference in the styles between to the two point-of-views. It was easy to tell what character was narrating, and the present tense was a good fit.

Market: Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild to Moderate
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: None

December 14, 2015

AS YOU WISH: INCONCEIABLE TALES FROM THE MAKING OF THE PRINCESS BRIDE by Cary Elwes, 2014

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Jaina, who spends most of her time reviewing books at Read Till Dawn

Wow, what a book!

As a long-time Princess Bride enthusiast, I absolutely loved reading this behind the scenes look at filming the movie. I mean, Elwes literally lost consciousness when filming the scene where Count Ruben knocks him out! And Andre the giant fell into a drink-induced sleep on the floor of a posh hotel the night of the first read-through! And Elwes had only two months of training for the famous duel - half of which he spent with a broken toe!

These are just a few of the many, many tidbits about the film scattered throughout AS YOU WISH. I am now dying to re-watch the movie. I mean, I always want to re-watch it, but now I really really want to because I know what was going on behind the scenes, and even inside their heads as they were acting the scene. Like how they took six takes to film the Kiss That Surpassed Them All, just because Elwes and Wright kept saying "no, I think we need to try again! *giggle*" Or how Wally Shawn was incredibly nervous while filming the battle of wits, because he'd heard he was the third pick for Vizzini and he honestly thought Rob Reiner was going to tell him he was fired for not being good enough at the part. It's tragic, really, that he was so miserable and insecure in the part while he did such an amazing job with it.

It's obvious that the movie is very close to Elwes' heart, and that he had a lot of fun filming it. I never really considered what it must have been like for the actors who brought the now-iconic film to life, and I certainly never really realized how hard Elwes and Mandy Mantinkin worked for the famous duel scene. While a cynical part of me wonders if there was more drama going on during the filming than Elwes might like to depict in his rosy picture of life on set, I sincerely hope I'm wrong. After all, The Princess Bride is a one-of-a-time movie experience. Why couldn't its filming be just as special?

All in all, a wonderfully informative book that provides all the juicy insider details about the behind-the-scenes for arguably the best movie ever made, told from the point of view of our darling Wesley and filled with short inserts by everyone from Rob Reiner to Billy Crystal. If you're a fan of The Princess Bride, then this is definitely the book for you!

Market: Nonfiction
Language: None that I can remember
Sensuality: None
Violence: None

Mature Themes: Mild (Andre the giant's heavy drinking habits are mentioned a few times, but he is never roaringly drunk

December 7, 2015

DEEP SECRET by Diana Wynne Jones, 1997

Rupert Venables is a Magid. It's a Magid's job to oversee what goes on in the vast Multiverse. Actually, Rupert is really only a junior Magid. But he's got a king-sized problem. Rupert's territory includes Earth and the Empire of Korfyros. When his mentor dies Rupert must find a replacement. But there are hundreds of candidates. How is he supposed to choose? And interviewing each one could take forever. Unless...What if he could round them all up in one place? Simple!  (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Emily, bibliophile and eternal student

DEEP SECRET is a tangled tale. Of course, it's told by Diana Wynne Jones, and that is a pretty normal state for her stories to be in, which is part of why I love them so much.
Besides all the crazy magical stuff happening behind the scenes, so to speak, this story is essentially about a convention at which half of the participants or so are there for reasons entirely related to the crazy magical stuff - and they don't even know it. Still, a fan convention is probably about the only place that you would be able to walk a wounded centaur down the hall without any comments other than how real he looked, and not have people calling security.

I think my very favorite part of the book, though, is the description of Nick, who is not a morning person. When I read it, I was shrieking with laughter. I laughed so hard that I couldn't breathe. It's not so much what he does and says as people's reactions to his state of shambling zombie activity.

In any case, I highly recommend Diana Wynne Jones's books, and Deep Secret in particular.

Market: Young Adult Fantasy
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Mild to moderate
Mature Themes: War, responsibility