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.

September 29, 2012

THE FLOATING ISLAND by Elizabeth Haydon, 2006

Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme--known as Ven--is the youngest son of a long line of famous shipwrights. He dreams not of building ships, but of sailing them to far-off lands where magic thrives. Ven gets his chance when he is chosen to direct the Inspection of his family's latest ship--and sets sail on the journey of a lifetime. Attacked by fire pirates, lost at sea and near death, Ven is rescued by a passing ship on its way to the Island of Serendair. Thankful to be alive, little does Ven know that the pirate attack--and his subsequent rescue--may not have been an accident. (Amazon)

Review by Emily, basically a bibliophile

When I first picked up The Floating Island from the new book shelf at my library, I was only a little interested. Then I read the back cover. It said, "Being thrown in jail to rot is not especially fun. Being thrown in jail when you are innocent is worse. Being thrown in jail to await having your head cut off is the worst of all." It just got better from there. After reading the back cover, I said to myself, "This is something I want to read!"
And it just kept getting better. Ven Polypheme is a Nain, one of a short race of metalworkers. He is not, however, a dwarf. His family builds ships, and for his birthday, his greatest wish is to go out on one of their test runs. His brothers all think that he is crazy - no self-respecting Nain would ever actually want to get on a boat! But he does go out, and promptly gets shipwrecked and taken in by some passing sailors. But not before he meets a merrow, Amariel, who keeps him company, and an albatross, who gives him a feather. Along his journey, he meets many other interesting characters.
As for the rest of the story, well, you'll just have to read it. The people and places are fascinating, and Ven's adventurous spirit gets him in - and out of - quite a few bad situations. He's chased by dogs, meets a king, finds the Floating Island, gets thrown in jail on trumped-up charges, and makes several steadfast friends, whose abilities are just as interesting as Ven's.
If you're wishing for a good rollicking adventure with minimal violence, a surplus of wit, and clever characters, this is a good book to consider reading.
Market: Young Adult Fantasy
Language: Mild
Sensuality: None
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: None

September 24, 2012

KAT, INCORRIGIBLE by Stephanie Burgis, 2011

Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she's inherited her mother's magical talents, and despite Stepmama's stern objections, she's determined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sister Elissa's intended fiancé, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat's magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, even Kat's reckless heroism will be tested to the upmost. If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true love? (Amazon)

Reviewed by Debz

KAT, INCORRIGIBLE is a mash-up of Harry Potter, Cinderella, and Jane Austen! Doesn't that just sound exciting?!?!?!?! This was such a lovely book. It was charming and elegant, and full of spunk! Kat isn't your average 12 year old girl from Regency England. She's the most epic 12 year old girl from Regency England that the world's ever seen!

Kat, along with her sisters, were completely lovely to read about. They each had their own personalities, talents, and quirks that made them so enjoyable. I loved that I could relate to them, being in the middle of a bunch of sisters. With that being said, I could see myself in Angeline, with bits of Elissa and Kat thrown in there. 

The plot was kind of predictable, but I didn't expect it to have a complex plot. I expected it to be a fun, simple read and it more than lived up to that.

I was kind of confused about the whole Guardian thing. It wasn't explained very well and left me wondering. Luckily things are explained more thoroughly in book two.  

Market: Middle Grade
Language: None
Sensuality: Extremely Mild (among secondary characters)
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Witchcraft? This is a pretty mild book

September 19, 2012

BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore, 2012

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.  Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Pica, avid bookworm

BITTERBLUE was very different from Graceling and Fire, and although both Graceling and Fire are favorites of mine, I fell in love with Bitterblue. There were so many layers of the story that Cashore seamlessly weaves together.

It took Kristin Cashore three years to write Bitterblue, and it shows in the careful craft and weave of the story. This is not a book that could have been written quickly. It is complex and layered, and was clearly created by a master's hand.

The cast of characters is quite extensive, and at first it's easy to mix up some of them (the advisors especially take a while to gain their own personalities) but after the story is completed, it's hard to imagine each one without such distinctive traits. There's also a list of characters in the back, but it gives away some spoilers, so it's better to let the story define each character slowly.

I love Bitterblue as a character. She's so different from Katsa and Fire, and most relatable of the three for me. There are no great journeys, and she doesn't have any special powers to deal with, but at the same time she has so much power that she can't necessarily control. No one in the story is completely truthful, and every step is a journey. Bitterblue has to find herself in order to find how to save Monsea.

Other than Bitterblue herself, my favorite character was the unsociable and sullen librarian, Death (pronounced to rhyme with "teeth"), graced with reading inhumanly fast and remembering every word he's ever read (I want!). At first even the reader is not supposed to like him, but he goes though such a transformation that I couldn't help but cheer up every time he was mentioned. Not to mention he is the one of the products of Kristin Cashore's subtle humor, which is of just the right type for me.

The first question most people ask when hearing about Bitterblue is, "Are Katsa and Po in it?" Happily, yes, Katsa and Po are in it, and they have some wonderful scenes together along with plenty of their usual banter, but the book really isn't about them.

Although the story does not follow a formal mystery plot, there is an element of mystery to the story. Or rather, several elements of mystery. No matter the situation, every character is keeping secrets, and its up to Bitterblue to discover the answers.

The pace is a bit slower than Cashore's usual fare, but it was just perfect for Bitterblue. Rather than dragging, it was immersive, and I loved every moment.

Bitterblue is a book I can't stop thinking about. When I finished, I immediately wanted to begin reading it again. I didn't want to leave the wonderfully real and beautiful story Cashore has created. I will certainly be reading it again, and it has earned itself a place with my favorites of 2012.

Market: Young Adult
Language: None that I can remember; if there is swearing, it is mild.
Sensuality: Mild. Bitterblue falls in love, but nothing happens "on-camera" other than a kiss or two.
Violence: Moderate. Leck does some rather horrible things, but again, they are not described in detail. 
Mature Themes: Court Intrigue, Revenge, Coming-of-age

September 14, 2012

PAIGE, by Annette Lyon (2012) (Newport Ladies Book Club #3)

After a bitter divorce from her unfaithful husband, Paige moves from Utah to California with her two little boys and vows to make a fresh start. She . . . meets Derryl, a wonderful, kind, attentive man who treats her right, something her ex never did. Yet Paige struggles to figure out who she is as a woman rather than a wife, how to help her boys adjust to a broken home, and whether she can ever trust a man or love again. As Paige leans on the book club ladies and Derryl's ever-present care, one thing becomes clear: healing from the past requires more than a change of address. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Laura Madsen

The Newport Ladies Book Club series ( is written by four authors, each illuminating the point of view of one of the members of the book club. PAIGE is the third of the first four books (OLIVIA and DAISY came out earlier this year, and ATHENA will be released later in 2012). There will be four more books featuring the four other women in the book club.

The first four books occur simultaneously, so there is some repetition (certain conversations and meetings), but the reader sees each event from different points of view. We can never know what is in another person’s head, and that person’s perceptions of an event may differ significantly from our own.

Paige is a young mother, recently divorced and relocated with her two small boys, who joins the ladies’ book club to meet friends. She is a devoted member of the Mormon Church, a very family-oriented faith, and feels guilt over her failed marriage. She has moved from Utah to California to escape the feeling that she was being judged by her marital status, not by her personal qualities. Even in a new state, she feels judged; she muses that she should marry the first single Mormon man she meets so that she will be “normal” and accepted.

Instead, she meets Derryl, a kind, handsome, generous man. The only problem is that he doesn’t share her religion. She must decide what is best for her and her sons. She is also struggling to make ends meet; coming to grips with her ex-husband’s betrayal; trying to nurture her boys as a single mom; and figuring out who the “real” Paige is. She develops deep friendships with the other women from the book club, helping them through marital difficulties (“Denial? I’d been there. I’d set up a summer cottage there,” she writes of Olivia) and being helped by them. After she sends her boys off for a court-ordered visit with their father, she and Daisy commiserate with each other.

I’ve been through divorce (like Paige, dumped for another woman), and Annette Lyon accurately captures the feelings of guilt, anger, and jealousy. Paige realizes that her anger is only hurting herself. She writes, “I hadn’t forgiven Doug or Carol, not even almost. I’d justified my anger and resentment because they were the ones who had committed the sins, broken covenants, torn apart my family. Some days I walked around mad as anything while the two of them lived it up in Honeymoon Land three states away. My refusal to forgive had no impact onthem.” She realizes she needs to forgive her ex—not for his benefit but for her own.

The Newport Ladies series is co-published by two LDS (Mormon) publishers, Covenant and Deseret Book, but is intended for a general audience. Paige’s religion is central to her story, but you don’t have to be Mormon to understand her frustrations and desires.

Market: Adult fiction (women’s lit)
Violence: none
Language: none
Sensuality: minimal and chaste
Adult themes: divorce, adultery, religion

September 9, 2012

CINDER by Marissa Meyer, 2012

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Debz

CINDER is my new favorite Cinderella retelling (sorry Ella Enchanted!).

It felt fresh. With all this dark, creepy dystopia on the market today, here's a lighter dystopian book with just as much adventure, romance, and all-around awesomeness! It really didn't feel dystopian at all. There were still the big problems of war and incurable disease, but the characters still had hope, which made the biggest difference.

I LOVED all the characters! The good guys were good, the bad guys were bad, and the stepmother remained in the middle of the two. I don't want to say that they felt unrealistic, but they weren't completely realistic either. Except for Cinder, all the characters felt like they were slight caricatures of their true selves. This wasn't a bad thing, though. It just made it kind of easier to point out "Oh, he's prince charming! And that's the evil person! Oh, and don't forget the fairy god-droid!"

I know everyone's been talking about that really predictable plot twist. Yeah--it was predictable. And knowing beforehand that there was a predictable twist like that meant that the first time it was even mentioned I totally figured it out.

Luckily, that didn't take away from the story at all! The plot never lost excitement, and kept me on my toes throughout it all!

I would recommend this book to ANYONE in a heartbeat! It's a fairy tale for the girly girls, with a strong willed cyborg heroine for the not-so-girly girls, and it's got robots and mind-controlling moon people for all the boys!

Market: (Young Adult)
Language: (Mild)
Sensuality: (Mild)
Violence: (Mild to Moderate)
Mature Themes: (Discrimination, Death)

September 4, 2012


Bradley Chalkers IS the oldest kid in the fifth grade. He tells enormous lies. He picks fights with girls. No one likes him—except Carla, the new school counselor. She thinks Bradley is sensitive and generous, and knows that Bradley could change, if only he weren’t afraid to try. But when you feel like the most-hated kid in the whole school, believing in yourself can be the hardest thing in the world. . . . Winner of 19 Children’s Choice Awards (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Sarah Hofhine

There’s A Boy In the Girls’ Bathroom is a charming and thought-provoking book.  Bradley Chalkers, the protagonist, is avoided and disliked by teachers and classmates.  He hates others first before they can hate him.  He doesn’t really even know how to handle it when the school counselor and the new kid are nice to him.  Yet he’s still a very likeable character; I sympathized with him so deeply, wanted him to succeed and thrive so much.
In one of the best chapters in the book Bradley and Carla, the counselor, are talking about monsters, and how she doesn’t believe they exist.  It’s a touching and lovely scene that had a profound effect on me. 
A wonderful thing about the book is that although there are obvious themes about expectations and self-esteem and education and friendship they are perfectly natural, a seamless part of the story, not contrived or preachy.  It’s also a very amusing and funny book, and a nice quick read.
Although it would be particularly salient to a middle grade student, I highly recommend this book for all ages. 

Market: Middle Grades
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: None
Mature Themes: None