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.

June 22, 2015



Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition. But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected. Such was Trondheim’s fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard. Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen! (Amazon)


Every dragon slayer owes the Oil Watch a period of service, and young Owen was no exception. What made him different was that he did not enlist alone. His two closest friends stood with him shoulder to shoulder. Steeled by success and hope, the three were confident in their plan. But the arc of history is long and hardened by dragon fire. Try as they might, Owen and his friends could not twist it to their will. Not all the way. Not all together. The sequel to the critically acclaimed The Story of Owen. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Jessica Day George: author and Bookshop Talk host

I was attracted to the first book, The Story of Owen, because I thought it was set in Trondheim, Norway. I thought nothing could be better than a Norwegian dragonslayer! Then I realized that it was Trondheim, Canada. Huh. Well, still, dragons! I figured that the motto of the book, for me, would be, “Come for the Norwegian setting, stay for the dragons!” But it actually turned out to be, “Come for the dragons, stay for Siobhan and Owen, and everyone else in this book because they are your new best friends and you love them all.”

So. Much. Love.

Love for Owen, dragonslayer-in-training, and his family of dragonslayers and blacksmiths, who are trying to bring back the glory days of independent dragonslayers, before it became political. And how do they decide to do this? By pairing Owen up with a bard, Siobhan, for whom I also have …

So. Much. Love. Siobhan is a prodigy who hears musical accompaniment to every minute of her life. Siobhan, who pairs up people (in her head and her compositions) with the instrument that most suits them, is the narrator of these books because she is the bard, and so she tells the stories. Stories about Owen. About Owen’s family. About her family, and their town. Stories about dragonslaying and music and history, all of which are fascinating because this is an alternate world in which Michigan is a ravaged dragon-infested wasteland. In which Joan of Arc was a dragonslayer, and so was Vlad the Impaler, and the Beatles were the first musicians to become popular without singing about dragons. It’s a fascinating world, culturally, politically, historically. Commercial airlines are unheard of, and travel is limited, because any large machines attracts, you know, dragons. Not only has Johnston done a tremendous amount of world-building, but she’s also come up with at least a dozen fascinating dragon breeds, and I loved every minute of it.

I finished the first one and immediately had to pre-order the second, Prairie Fire, which just came out in March. The Story of Owen was on several Best of 2014 lists, and short-listed for a couple of awards, and I expect the same for Prairie Fire. Not only do the books have a great premise, but they’re beautifully written and chockfull of humor, family and political drama . . . and tragedy. The ending of THE STORY OF OWEN had me sniffling, but I was full on sobbing by the end of PRAIRIE FIRE.

Market: YA
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: Dragonslaying.
Mature themes: Death. Politics. Owen is raised by his Aunt Lottie and her wife, Hannah. Dealing with life-altering injuries.

FORBIDDEN by Kimberley Griffiths Little, 2014

In the unforgiving Mesopotamian desert where Jayden’s tribe lives, betrothal celebrations abound, and tonight it is Jayden’s turn to be honored. But while this union with Horeb, the son of her tribe’s leader, will bring a life of riches and restore her family’s position within the tribe, it will come at the price of Jayden’s heart. Then a shadowy boy from the Southern Lands appears. Handsome and mysterious, Kadesh fills Jayden’s heart with a passion she never knew possible. But with Horeb’s increasingly violent threats haunting Jayden’s every move, she knows she must find a way to escape—or die trying. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Emma - College Student

FORBIDDEN is a mind-blowing read! First of all, this is the oldest setting for a historical fiction YA book (according to the Epic Read’s Age of YA timeline). I could tell that the author, Kimberley Griffiths Little, took so much time researching this time period. It was so impressive that she was able to make one believe, save for some details, that Jayden, the main character, was living in this real, magical, and dangerous world. Somehow, the author, Kimberley Griffiths Little, was able to make this book, which was completely clean, into a down-right steamy book. It was a really fun experience, though, because many things in today’s standards, such as talking to a boy alone or holding hands, was viewed as very scandalous back then, so while reading that she only just touched his hand made me blush.

My only major frustration came from Jayden’s sister Leila. Oh my goodness! She never realizes what a shame she is becoming for her family. I cannot imagine what was going through her head. That being said, Kimberly is also a mastermind at getting into odd characters’ heads, Leila being one example. She has masterfully understood how these strange people think.

I had sort-of hoped that this was a standalone while reading it, just because she left it on such a cliff-hanger and I knew that was going to happen if it was a series. I al super excited to read the next book and very curious to see how Kimberly expands this ancient world she has reconstructed for her readers.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves Fantasy or Historical Fiction. It has amazing world building, romance, and dynamic characters, what isn't there to love.

Also, a huge shout out and thank you to Kimberly for giving me my copy of Forbidden! I cannot wait to read the next one! And merry belated Christmas!

You can see the Epic Read’s awesome timeline here:

Market: Young Adult
Language: None
Sensuality: Mild, but makes you feel like there is more
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: priestesses of Asherah, abusive arranged marriage

June 15, 2015

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS by Christin Terrill, 2013

Em is locked in a bare, cold cell with no comforts. Finn is in the cell next door. The Doctor is keeping them there until they tell him what he wants to know. Trouble is, what he wants to know hasn't happened yet. Em and Finn have a shared past, but no future unless they can find a way out. The present is torture - being kept apart, overhearing each other's anguish as the Doctor relentlessly seeks answers. There's no way back from here, to what they used to be, the world they used to know. Then Em finds a note in her cell which changes everything. It's from her future self and contains some simple but very clear instructions. Em must travel back in time to avert a tragedy that's about to unfold. Worse, she has to pursue and kill the boy she loves to change the future. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Valette M.

I haven't seen two main characters that fit together as well as Em and Finn do in a long time. Both perfectly capable of standing independently, their love was simple and unselfish. The course of the story yanked out their inner selves and spread them out for public perusal as they struggle with the ethics of what they intend to do. They compliment each other in a team willing to lay aside petty wishes for themselves in search of a safe future. Em and the Finn of the future both carried a deep seated grittiness, courtesy of the nightmare the future is -- quite different from the average, and perhaps slightly spoiled in one case, teenagers they were in the beginning of their journey. I enjoyed the jagged juxtaposition presented as the past and future characters lived out their timelines, reacting the same events in drastically different ways, but still being the same person. Their interactions posed several heavy questions and deep thoughts on what gives a person their identity and ends justifying means. Overall, the characters were well thought out and relatable.

What an incredibly addictive read! The whole book takes place over the course of only a few days as events seamlessly snap into place in nonstop plot. I must say I wasn't expecting quite the explosion this book is. Usually I find time travel books to be unrealistic and disappointing (because really if someone has such a powerful tool how can their lives have any problems?). But nothing could be further from the truth with this one! I appreciated that Cristen Terrill doesn't focus too much on the technical aspect of why time travel is possible in her world, but rather turns the readers' attention to the character development and intricate plot unraveling before our eyes and uses the time travel machine as only an accessory to the larger story. That's not to say that time isn't involved: This story is made of time jumps with a whole new take on paradoxes and non-linear timelines and just enough logic to ring true.

Cristen Terrill has an almost brusque clearness to her writing that lends itself well to the brutal atmosphere of ALL OUR YESTERDAYS. The book displayed professional and experienced prose with enough flair that I will be looking out for future books.

Market: Young Adult
Language: Mild if Any
Sensuality: None
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Death, Corruption

Second review by Natalie

Love it. So much. I literally love it. I am so sad it's over.

This is time travel done by a freaken genius. It was, I just, the book, GO FREAKEN READ IT!

There are 4.5 characters in this book. If that confuses you, don't feel ashamed, if it somehow makes sense to you, you are either incredibly smart or need to seek help immediately. The reason I say there are 4.5 is because there are the 3 main characters (Marina, James, and Finn), and then there are their future selves (again, story about time travel) who go by Em, James/Doctor, and, well, still Finn.

Marina, is our Main MC. She's a girl who has been hardcore in love with James since, well, since forever. Naturally, he doesn't exactly reciprocate it. James is Washington D.C.'s version of a Sherlock Holmes. Not in the mystery solving way, but his entire demeanor and such. I literally did imagine Benedict Cumberbatch as James. It was wonderful to say the least. Finn was the other boy, and I liked him, but I was just so focused on James because he was brilliant and I Am Sherlocked (you'll get that if you watch Sherlock).

Anyway, the plot. James was a genius, so he was able to build a working time machine, which, while he meant to do good, ended up wreaking havoc on the world. He didn't understand he needed to stop. He has Em and Finn in custody, interrogating them for information. Then, Em and Finn get a chance to go back in time to stop James before he builds the time machine, and that means to kill him. You switch narratives between Em and Marina, who are the same, just different times. So this may get confusing, but trust me, it's just because I'm attempting to explain it, Cristin Terrill does a superb job making it clear.

Then the ending came round. And, basically, I needed more. I NEED more.

I hear there's a sequel, but frankly, I don't know what can happen. but I know what I WANT and desperately NEED to occur. The sequel isn't happening. The author said she couldn't do it, and while I support her whatever choice she makes, I'm still SO sad.

Happy Reading!!!

Market: Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild 
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: Torture (not detailed), assassination attempts

June 8, 2015

ODDLY ENOUGH by Bruce Coville, 1994

Readers take a walk on the odd side with this fantasic collection of Burce Coville's best short stories--both classics and originals. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Emily, bibliophile and perpetual student

This anthology of stories is indeed odd - chilling, hilarious, beautiful, and just plain weird. They range from the mock-horror story "Duffy's Jacket" to the horrifyingly twisted "Old Glory".

There's the story "With His Head Tucked Underneath His Arm", about a man wrongfully executed, and the transcendent "Homeward Bound", a story of transformation and forgiveness.

However, my two favorite stories from this anthology are the first and the last: "The Box" and "A Blaze of Glory".

"The Box" is about a boy named Michael, who is asked to take care of a box by an angel; he knows he's an angel because of the white wings he wears. And he never opens it, because the angel asked him not to. Of course, it's not nearly as easy to take care of the angel's box as Michael might have thought, but he tries his best anyway. It's a short little gem of a story, and I recommend it highly.

"A Blaze of Glory" is actually two stories - the tale of a man taking care of his terminally ill grandmother, and the story she tells him in her more lucid moments about an incident in her past that she had nearly forgotten - though those she touched have not forgotten her.

ODDLY ENOUGH proves that Bruce Coville's range of styles is huge, and also that he can write short stories (something that he admits he doesn't believe in the end note).

Market: Middle Grade fiction
Language: None
Sensuality: Mild (in "The Language of Blood" and "The Passing of the Pack")
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: The true meaning of patriotism, the nature of love, sacrifice.

June 1, 2015

CINDERELLA'S DRESS by Shonna Slayton, 2014

Being a teen-ager during World War II is tough. Finding out you're the next keeper of the real Cinderella's dress is even tougher. Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she's working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella's dress, life gets complicated. Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it's too late. After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve. (Goodreads)

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

Shonna Slayton has created a fun, escapist novel where many of my loves--historical fiction, fairy tales, and coming-of-age stories--intersect.  CINDERELLA'S DRESS revolves around Kate, a seventeen-year-old who uncovers magical family secrets.  Set during World War II, CINDERELLA'S DRESS has the hallmarks of a good historical fiction novel--with just a touch of magic.

Slayton creates new mythology that will fascinate any Cinderella fan.  According to her long-lost Polish relatives, Kate is a direct descendent of the real Cinderella.  As a "keeper of the dress," Kate must keep Cinderella's gown, locked in a trunk for safekeeping, out of harm's way.  Kate soon learns that the descendents of Cinderella's stepsisters are nearby--and they want to get their hands on the dress and the magic it contains.

The magic surrounding Cinderella's dress is intriguing, but I would have been happy enough reading about Kate herself, a teenager in the 1940s.  World War II is one of my favorite time periods in US history to read about, and Kate's perspective of life from the home front is educational and charming.  With her father, brother, and love interest all away at war, the weight of the war bears down hard on Kate.  She channels a lot of her energy into working at a department store, where she hopes to create window displays, silvers of brightness during dark times.  I particularly enjoyed these parts, which revealed some insight into the beautiful fashions of the time.

The only thing I didn't like about CINDERELLA'S DRESS: the ending arrived too quickly and conveniently, leaving some loose threads.  After I finished, I researched Shonna Slayton and her upcoming projects, and I learned that a sequel--CINDERELLA'S SHOES--will be published in the fall of 2015.  Already excited to continue Kate's story, I've added CINDERELLA'S SHOES to my never-ending "To Be Read" list.

Market: YA fiction
Violence:  None
Language:  None
Sensuality:  Mild romance between sweethearts!
Adult Themes: War and its effects, family ancestry