YA – We Are Blood and Thunder

Lupo, Kesia. We Are Blood and Thunder. Bloomsbury, 2020. 978-1-547-60305-3. 428 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12. 

In a world of magic, the Marked take care of the dead. Ancestors are important in Duke’s Forest, laid to rest, preserved in the crypts that stretch below every house for all eternity. All the while a storm rages topside, a storm that has ravaged and plagued the city for the last six years with no end in sight. The Marked, those with a disability or a physical mark like a birthmark are only fit to work in the crypts, out of sight, preparing the dead for their slumber and keeping out the critters. Lena is a cryptiling, and death is all she has known, the stillness of death, until the dead begin to move. Magecraft is not tolerated in Duke’s Forest, and practicing mages are put to death because one of them has to be the cause of the storm. When the hand of the wrong dead person moves, Lena escapes the quarantined city to find a world where people are taught to use their magic, to control it, and so must she. After all, “She who spins the cloud weaves the storm.”

THOUGHTS: Reminiscent of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, We Are Blood and Thunder and its clockwork elements is must-add to any fantasy shelf.

Fantasy (Magic)          Samantha Helwig, Dover Area SD

YA Fiction – Material Girls; Ink and Bone


Dimopoulos, Elaine. Material Girls. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 978-0-544-38850-5. 324 p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.

Teens Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde live completely different lives, though both are very successful. Marla is a judge in the high fashion industry and helps approve or deny what trends will hit the streets. Ivy is a pop star, who helps set fashion trends by wearing these trends during her concerts and music videos. When Marla begins to disagree with some of her fellow judges, she finds that the cut throat fashion industry doesn’t need her anymore and is demoted to the lowly career as a drafter. It’s here that she finds a voice, and meets Ivy, who is also beginning to question the materialistic world her career has thrust her into. Together, this unlikely pair begins to unravel the controlling fashion industry. THOUGHTS: While lacking a bit in substance, this is a fun read for anyone with a modest interest in fashion, or in popular shows like Project Runway.

Realistic Fiction      Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School



Caine, Rachel. Ink and Bone: The Great Library. New York: NAL, 2015. 978-0-451-47239-7. 368 p. $17.99. Gr 8-12.

In an alternate history, the Great Library of Alexandria never burned, and is now the owner of all information, responsible for disseminating that content to the public. Since no one is allowed to own original books, Jess and his family are successful in the black market trade, as people will pay top dollar for originals. While Jess is immensely successful in his role as bookrunner, he is in constant fear of being caught, and so it is with great apprehension that he applies to be a Library scholar under his father’s orders. Once accepted, Jess begins to question the authority of the library as well as the role he plays in the family business, as he realizes no choice he has ever made has been of his own free will.  While no timeframe is given to the plot, Ink and Bone feels a bit like Victorian steampunk. THOUGHTS: Ink and Bone is a breath of fresh air in the dystopian and fantasy heavy world of YA. The ending also leaves readers hungry for the next book in the series, due for publication in July.

Steampunk     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School


Series Enders – Manners & Mutiny; Winter


Carriger, Gail. Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School Book 4).  New York: Little Brown and Company, 2015.  978-0-316-19028-2.  $18.00. 317p. Grades 9+.

Sophronia is in her final year at Mme. Geraldine’s Finishing School for girls and like most students approaching graduation, she is nervous for what lies ahead.  After being betrayed by Felix Mersey in Waistcoats & Weaponry, she is now even more unsure of her feelings toward him and Soap, the adorable sootie- turned werewolf.  One thing that is for sure is that Soap is set on marrying Sophronia.  Sophronia finds out that her secrets about her future employment aren’t as well kept as she’d like and that her friends are even better at keeping secrets than she would ever have imagined.  THOUGHTS:  Manners & Mutiny is a great conclusion to this fun series with appearances by a lot of familiar characters like Monique, Veive and Sophronia’s older sister Petunia.  

Steampunk       Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area High School



Meyer, Marissa.  Winter (The Lunar Chronicles Bk. 4).  New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2015.  978-0-312-64298-3. $22.99. 823p. Grades 9+.

Two words: emotional rollercoaster.  That is the only way to describe Marissa Meyer’s Winter, the conclusion to The Lunar Chronicles.  Every time you think that Cinder and her ragtag team of revolutionaries are going to finally overthrow the evil Queen Levana of Luna, something happens: the group gets separated, someone is captured, someone is taken over by a Lunar using their brainwashing power.  Every. Single. Time.  All 800 plus pages.  Every time you get hope; it is dashed away.  This is action-packed and keeps readers on the edge of their seats until the very end.  THOUGHTS: This is a fantastic conclusion to the series.  It’s a fun and fresh take on classic fairy tales, complete with a happy ending – even if it rips your heart apart time and time again getting to the happy ending.

Fantasy       Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area High School


Meyer, Marissa. Winter. New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2015. 978-0-3126-4298-3. 832 p. $22.99. Gr 6-12.

In this excellent final installment of the popular Lunar Chronicles series, readers are introduced to Princess Winter, step-daughter of evil Queen Levana, in this Snow White like tale. While Princess Winter has the same mind control ability as other Lunars, she refuses to use it, which over time has driven her to hallucinations and memory lapses. Guarded by the handsome guard Jacin, Winter is kind to all and the people of Lunar adore her, which only heightens Queen Levana’s jealousy and hatred. After teaming up with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, the team works together to infiltrate the castle and end Levana’s treacherous reign. Like the previous titles in the Lunar Chronicles, Meyer’s fairy tail references are subtle and the fast-paced plot will appeal to readers of pretty much any genre. Meyer gives each of the popular character couples plenty of page time to satisfy shippers and romance fans. THOUGHTS: Winter is about 300 pages longer than the previous books in the series, so die-hard fans will be satisfied until the very end. For those of us sad to see the series end, don’t fret quite yet; Meyer is releasing a collection of Cinder themed short stories in February, called Stars Above, which will feature previously published stories and new content, as well.

Fantasy   Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

New Steampunk 2013


Gleason, Colleen.  The Clockwork Scarab.  San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013.  978-1-4521-1070-7. $17.99.  Grades 8 and up.

Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes are prominent members of society in a steampunk Victorian London.  Evaline’s brother is the famous author Bram Stoker and Mina’s uncle is Sherlock Holmes.  The young women share the talents of their distinguished family members; Evaline is a vampire hunter and Mina is a skilled investigator.  One day, the two receive a summons to the British Museum by Miss Irene Adler, who has been retained by The Princess of Wales to solve a mystery.  Prominent young women of society are disappearing and being found murdered.  It is the Princess’ hope that these crimes can be solved in a discreet manner, and it is the reason that Evaline and Mina have been summoned.

Mystery, Steampunk Fiction                                    Susan Fox, Washington Jr./Sr. High School

Evaline and Mina begin investigating the crimes, and come to discover that the girls who have disappeared were involved in a secret cult based on Egyptology.  The more they discover about the mysterious cult, and its message of liberation for females, the more danger they put themselves in.  Fortunately, they are not alone in their efforts to discover more about the cult.  Other story characters include Inspector Grayling from Scotland Yard, Pix (a mysterious figure who always seems to be nearby when needed), and Dylan Eckhert (a time traveler).  The male characters add different perspectives to the story, as well as some romantic interest.

This story is not wrapped up in a neat package by its end; there will be more adventures involving Mina, Evaline, and the other characters.  I thought this was an engaging mystery and the steampunk version of Victorian London is very atmospheric.  The best thing about the novel was the relationship between the two main characters.  Mina is proper, intelligent, and an expert at logical reasoning.  She has many insecurities, though.  Evaline is beautiful, physically strong (essential for a vampire hunter), and decisive.  However, her decisiveness can quickly turn into impulsiveness.  The two young women don’t like each other at the beginning of the book, but they grow to appreciate each other’s talents.  Their abilities are complementary, and I am looking forward to more novels featuring Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker.