A Noble Masquerade, by Kristi Ann Hunter

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An absolutely terrific Regency romance for all ages. Such a wonderful blend of adventure, chemistry and sheer fun that I didn’t even miss the steamy bits. Lady Miranda is used to writing her thoughts in the form of a letter to her older brother’s best friends, whom she has never met. When one of the those letters is suddenly posted by her husband’s new valet, chaos ensues.

This was remarkably good, and the central love story is deeply satisfying. Miranda is an older, unwed sister to a beautiful younger sister, and her insecurities and frustrations about remaining ladylike make her wonderful to read. Highly recommended, for 16 and up.

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Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

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This is another dark YA dystopia, this one set in a bleak world divided into the Reds and Silvers, where the reds (who bleed red blood) are the underlass to the Silvers, who bleed silver blood and have special powers. When Mare, our heroine, a teen girl slated for conscription into the ongoing war, is swept abruptly in the Silver world, she suddenly has the potential to make extraordinary change.

This has wonderful world building, but the unrelenting grimness becomes oppressive well before the end of the book. That said, it still kept me frantically turning pages as the plot drove forward with some truly terrifying political intrigue. For 16 and up for violence.

Blood Vow, by J.R. Ward

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Ward is at the top of her game with this, the second in the Black Dagger Legacy series, and there wasn’t a single one of her many storylines that I wanted to skip over. So in this novel we have in play Axe, a tough but wounded guy, and one of the trainees in the Brotherhood’s training classes for new soldiers. We also have Rhage and Mary, adjusting to new life adorably with their adopted teen, Bitty. And finally we have Elise, and member of the aristocracy, who is struggling to get out of her father’s restrictive traditionalism by earning her PhD.

I enjoyed spending time with all these folks, and we still had fights and romance galore. Excellent installment in the series from Ward. For 18 and up.

Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame, by Mara Wilson

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This slight book of essays covers quite a bit of ground, from Wilson’s childhood movie acting and her neurotic childhood, to her teen dating and her increasing interest in storytelling as an adult. She writes most clearly of her growing understanding of who she is and how she becomes at peace with her life and her choices.

Overall a really lovely memoir both for those who remember Mara’s youthful fame and also for those who don’t. Her work is specific to her life, but it would be a jaded reader indeed who would not find resonances in his or her own life. For 18 and up.

The Gathering, by Kelley Armstrong

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I’ve liked some of Armstrong’s earlier books, but this YA didn’t work for me at all. Our protagonist is 16, but seems much younger, plot twists are signaled way ahead of time, and it feels too much like stronger books, including Shiver, the Mercy Thompson series, and Morganville Vampires. The book ends on a cliffhanger, but I won’t be continuing the series. Okay for 14 and up (though that’s not a guarantee that later books won’t skew older).

Stiletto, by Daniel O’Malley

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Another fantastic book about the British secret agency, The Checquy. Author O’Malley delights with his insight into government bureaucracy, his unexpected monsters, and the wonderful female friendship that is at the heart of the book. The Checquy is attempting to merge with its arch-enemies, and when one of its female soldiers is assigned to bodyguard one of the visiting Grafters, their mutual hostility is at war with their innate politeness to amusing results. You don’t have to have read book 1 to follow Stiletto, but it helps. I love this series with a fiery passion. For 18 and up, due to violence and disturbing supernatural manifestations.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

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Cassandra Clare begins a new Shadowhunters series, and she is in top form. Without the burden of exposition that slowed her first series, and back in the present-day, unlike her second series, she introduces us to new characters and the plot takes off from there. Fighter Emma Carstairs nearly storms off the page, and her best friend and fellow fighter Julian is well-drawn also, as a young man who has shouldered too much responsibility for too long.

Y’all know I am not a fan of fictional teenagers meeting and falling for someone they will love forever, but Clare’s tales are compelling enough that I roll with it. Recommended for 16 and up for (non-graphic) teen sex and some rock-n-roll violence.

 

 

Hamilton: the Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter

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This wonderful coffee-table book is for both fans of the Broadway musical Hamilton, and for those who don’t get it or haven’t spent time with the lyrics. The “Hamiltome” tells two stories, one of the play’s journey from conception to development to joyous opening night and beyond. The other tells the story of the play through its lyrics, annotated by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, lyricist, and creator of the show.

It is in the annotations where the real nuggets lie for those who are as swept away by Miranda’s genius as I am. For those annotations cover which scene is tough for him to act, where many of his theatre and hip-hop references stem from, which internal rhyme scheme he loves the most, along with many other tidbits that deepen the theatrical love affair that so many of us have with the man and the show. A treasure.