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.

November 30, 2015

THE DRAGON'S TOOTH by N. D. Wilson, 2011

For two years, Cyrus and Antigone Smith have run a sagging roadside motel with their older brother, Daniel. Nothing ever seems to happen. Then a strange old man with bone tattoos arrives, demanding a specific room. Less than 24 hours later, the old man is dead. The motel has burned, and Daniel is missing. And Cyrus and Antigone are kneeling in a crowded hall, swearing an oath to an order of explorers who have long served as caretakers of the world's secrets, keepers of powerful relics from lost civilizations, and jailers to unkillable criminals who have terrorized the world for millennia. (Goodreads)

Emily, bibliophile and eternal student

When I first read this book, I thought it was good, and that I could stand to read it again, because admittedly I didn't feel that I had understood everything about it.

I am now convinced that this is one of those books that you go back to, year after year, that grow with you and teach you something different every time.

Also, it's a ripping good yarn.

There are so many things I love about this book that it's hard to pick just a few, but I'll try anyway.

First, the siblings, Daniel, Antigone, and Cyrus Smith. They needle each other. They argue and tease and terrify one another, but they stick together, and they undoubtedly love one another in a way that only siblings can.

Second, the story. Cyrus Smith is an impetuous 12-year-old boy who makes many mistakes, and makes things worse when he tries to fix them. He's given an ancient artifact by a man named Billy Bones - a shard of a dragon's tooth. Cyrus is thrust into a world where some myths still walk the earth and many nightmares are real. He and his sister Antigone must find their missing brother Daniel, and to do that they must complete a set of impossible tasks without allies, guidance, or assets, and survive the attacks of those who covet the dragon's tooth.

Of course, there are many other things that I love about these books - the descriptions, the names, the clever weaving of old myths and new imagination, to name just a few - but instead of wasting time reading this review, I urge you to go read THE DRAGON'S TOOTH.

Market: Middle Grade/Young Adult Fantasy
Language: Mild
Sensuality: None
Violence: Considerable, but not horribly graphic.
Mature Themes: death, involuntary parental absence, the true nature of good and evil.

November 23, 2015

THE WAY OF KINGS by Brandon Sanderson, 2010

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soiless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Emily, bibliophile and eternal student

Epic. That's what I thought when I saw THE WAY OF KINGS on the shelf, mostly because of its proportions. It's what I thought when I started reading it, and realized that Brandon Sanderson had created a world that was alien to our own, and when I started to realize the scope of the story and the size of the cast of characters.

It's what I told everyone after I'd read it, because there's really not a better word to describe this book. The main characters have choices to make that will change the course of their world, Roshar, forever.

Theirs is a harsh world where storms that kill are a way of life; a place where plants move like animals, and animals, plants; where long-ago battles created the Shattered Plains, and princes now hunt its chasms for fiends with gems as hearts. Where slaves carry bridges and die on the arrows of creatures that sing as they kill - and their world is about to be shattered by the Last Desolation.

So yes, it may take 100 pages to understand all the terms Brandon Sanderson throws at you, but the tale told is more than worth it.

Market: Adult Fantasy 
Language: Invented swearwords
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Admittedly present, and somewhat graphic
Mature themes: Depression, death, regret, ethical discussions on self-defense and thievery.

November 16, 2015

FIREBIRD by Sharyn November, 2005

Firebirds is more than simply an anthology -- it is a celebration of wonderful writing. It gathers together sixteen original stories by some of today's finest writers of fantasy and science fiction. Together, they have won virtually every major prize -- from the National Book Award to the World Fantasy Award to the Newbery Medal -- and have made best-seller lists worldwide. The writers featured in Firebirds all share a connection to Firebird Books, an imprint that is dedicated to publishing the best fantasy and science fiction for teenage and adult readers. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Emily, bibliophile and perpetual student

FIREBIRDS is an impressive collection; many of my favorite authors are featured, and their stories do not disappoint. 

"Cotillion" by Delia Sherman is an updated take on the ballad of Tam Lin - though still somewhat removed from the present, since it takes place in 1969.

Megan Whalen Turner's contribution, "The Baby in the Night Deposit Box", is an interesting twist on the idea of changelings. When the president of of the Elliotville Bank finds a baby in his new night deposit box, he determines that he's going to keep her. Of course, it's never quite that simple to adopt a baby, especially when she can't leave the bank . . .

"Max Mondrosch" is a sad little story from Lloyd Alexander about a man who just can't find a job, and how can they, when no one seems to notice him?

"Byndley", by Patricia A. McKillip, takes the wizard Reck on "Firebirds" is an impressive collection; many of my favorite authors are featured, and their stories do not disappoint. 

"Beauty", by Sherwood Smith, explores the idea of true beauty and how we perceive it.

Diana Wynne Jones' "Little Dot", is a cat story told from the perspective of the cat. Little Dot owns a wizard, and when he gets roped into fighting the fearsome Beast of Ettmoor, she knows she has to save him. With the help of all her friends and a hint from a mysterious (and probably magical) lady, she may just be able to defeat the Beast before it gets hold of her wizard.

Of course, there are many other wonderful stories in this book, including a short graphic novel about the Wild Hunt. I highly recommend it.

Market: Young Adult fantasy
Language: Mild to Moderate
Sensuality: Moderate (nothing too graphic, though)
Violence: Moderate
Mature Themes: abandonment, hopelessness, the true nature of beauty.

November 2, 2015

PERFECT LIES by Kiersten White, 2014

Annie and Fia are ready to fight back. The sisters have been manipulated and controlled by the Keane Foundation for years, trapped in a never ending battle for survival. Now they have found allies who can help them truly escape. After faking her own death, Annie has joined a group that is plotting to destroy the Foundation. And Fia is working with James Keane to bring his father down from the inside. But Annie's visions of the future can't show her who to trust in the present. And though James is Fia's first love, Fia knows he's hiding something. The sisters can rely only on each other - but that may not be enough to save them. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Valette M.

Annie and Fia are two desperately loyal sisters who would do anything to keep the other safe, even if it means they themselves get ripped apart. In this stunning sequel to Mind Games the coin is flipped -- Annie seemingly free but Fia trapped back at the school. However thick the web of intrigue binding Fia with the Keane's, the stronger prison is the one that she builds in her own mind as her choices gradually kill her. Keirsten White portrays this dance along the edge of madness masterfully, and the frenetic, terrified tone of her sections are haunting in first person. I could feel the fragile threads of her mind and was tied to my chair as they unraveled. Calm, caring, centered Annie creates a nice juxtaposition to her sister as she grows stronger and more self-assured. Before now, mostly in Fia's mind, she was portrayed as weaker somehow. After all, she is blind. Of course that doesn't stop her, and she takes the world head on. Both sisters were fascinating.

The twisting plot from Mind Games deepens with PERFECT LIES, though I felt like the focus was more on the characters, and understandably so. Mr. Keane, Jason, and Lerner are in it to win and they will do so unscrupulously, not caring for the lives they shred. And Fia's life has been shredded. She has been shredded and faces self-destruction as she struggles to make choices with no morals to guide her. Kill this person. Trap this person. It will all be worth it in the end if she can bring down the leader, right? She will protect Annie. I loved the closure the ending provided, almost bittersweet. And was great to read a book with a focus on sibling loyalty. Filled with shifting timelines, more thriller and edge than Mind Games, Perfect Lies is dramatic, concise, and sharp.

Kiersten White uses language beautifully to convey the stirring tale of two sisters who just want the madness to end. This tale is wrenching and darkly intense. Kiersten White continues to set the bar higher, and I look forward to what she gives us next.

Market: Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Moderate to heavy
Violence: Moderate
Mature Themes: Depression, Loss