Just Ella: A Review

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson HaddixWhen Ella attends the royal ball and wins the affections of Prince Charming, it should be a dream come true. All of the other pining girls in the kingdom of Fridesia certainly think so. When Ella is whisked to the palace for her engagement, it should be the perfect happy ending.

But life in the palace isn’t what Ella imagined. Instead of being welcomed and accepted Ella is subjected to countless lessons on etiquette and manners, genealogy and protocol. Ella is told how to dress, how to behave and where to go at all times.

No matter what she does, it seems that Ella is wrong or committing some grievous faux pas.

All of that might be bearable with Prince Charming beside her. But after their whirlwind romance at the ball, Ella is beginning to realize that Prince Charming’s beautiful face isn’t hiding inner depths. In fact, it isn’t hiding much at all.

Ella got herself to the ball and into  the palace. She’ll have to trust her instincts and ingenuity again to get herself out in Just Ella (1999) by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Just Ella is the first book in Haddix’s Palace Chronicles series which continues with Palace of Mirrors and Palace of Lies.

Just Ella is an original retelling of Cinderella that considers what might come after the typical happily ever after ending of the fairy tale. While Ella though marrying Prince Charming would be her dream come true she finds it hard to reconcile the luxury and rigidity of palace life with the common sense she developed while working as a servant for her step-mother and step-sisters.

Although Ella is a teenaged character (and getting ready to marry) her narrative reads much younger making Just Ella a book with crossover potential for middle grade and young adult readers. Colloquialisms in the dialog and Ella’s modern sensibilities also led this story a fractured fairy tale vibe as the original fairy tale is bent and twisted to a more modern atmosphere and tone.

Just Ella is not always a ground-breaking story–the plot and themes here will be immediately recognizable by any fans of “anti-princess” tales–but Ella has her own charms as she struggles to make her own happy ending. Worth a look for any fairy tale readers and especially fans of retellings.

Possible Pairings: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, Frogkisser! by Garth Nix, The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Princess of the Midnight Ball: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day GeorgeGalen is a soldier returning from war. At only nineteen he has been on the battleground most of his life. He is world-weary and eager to return to Westfalin and try his hand at civilian life now that the war is over.

Rose is one of the twelve princesses of Westfalin cursed to dance each night for the King Under Stone where they wear out their dancing slippers every evening. Unable to speak out about their nightly activities or defy the King Under Stone, Rose and her sisters suffer in silence.

Many princes try to discover where the princesses go each night. All of them fail.

As the stakes grow higher, Rose and Galen will have to work together to break the curse and save Westfalin from threats found both underground and above in Princess of the Midnight Ball (2009) by Jessica Day George.

Find it on Bookshop.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is the first book in George’s trilogy of companion novels following the princesses of Westfalin. It is also a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” fairytale.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is written in the third person and alternates between Galen and Rose’s points of view to create two protagonists who are very authentic instead of relying on character archetypes. George also flips several standard fairytale tropes upside down with her refreshing and well-rounded characters. Galen is levelheaded and cautious while still having enough charm to rival any prince. He also knits his own socks. Rose is clever, sharp and decidedly proactive as she works independently of Galen to try and save her sisters.

Together Galen and Rose are unstoppable as they face faeries, curses and other ills besides in their efforts to break the curse and save Westfalin. Despite having numerous secondary characters–just with all of Rose’s sisters!–George manages to present concise snapshot descriptions for each character without bogging down the narrative. This story can also appeal to a broad age range as it’s thin on gore or violence with a lighter tone overall.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is a delightful retelling that stays true to the source material while also adding original touches and memorable characters. A thrilling plot, sweet romance and genuinely scary villains make for a winning combination in this reinvented fairytale.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Entwined by Heather Dixon, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, Beauty by Robin McKinley, The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Toads & Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde

The Scorpion Rules: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Scorpion Rules by Erin BowTalis’s first rule of stopping wars is to make it personal.

Charged with saving humanity from itself, the powerful artificial intelligence swiftly establishes a series of rules and initiatives to keep humanity at peace. Oh, and he also takes over the world.

Four hundred years later, Talis’s every word is recorded in the Utterances and some cultures believe he is a god. They might be right.

To ensure that the world’s leaders know the exact cost of any declaration of war, Talis takes hostages. The Children of Peace are the heirs to thrones and ruling positions around the world. They are hostages living under the constant threat of execution.

If war is declared the lives of both nation’s hostages are immediately forfeit.

Greta Gustafson Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederation, is a seventh generation hostage at Precepture Four in Saskatchewan where she has lived most of her life. She embodies the ideals of the Children of Peace and knows to follow the rules even with her country on the brink of war.

Elián Palnik is a new hostage who arrives at Precepture Four with none of the dignity ingrained in the other hostages. Instead he refuses to accept any of the tenets of the Children of Peace, forcing Greta to question everything she believes as she struggles to save Elián from Talis, the Precepture and even himself in The Scorpion Rules (2015) by Erin Bow.

Find it on Bookshop.

I’m hesitant to say I enjoyed The Scorpion Rules, or even that it’s a favorite, simply because parts of it are so harrowing and so difficult to process. But I can say this: Bow delivers a knock-out dystopian that I devoured with my heart in my mouth.

Greta is a pragmatic and analytical narrator with a wry sense of humor even in the worst situations. Goats also help bring levity to the otherwise weighty narrative in countless ways.

Masterful, electric prose and wit make even the hardest moments bearable as Greta and her friends endure countless hardships with grace and aplomb befitting the world’s future leaders in this powerful story.

The Scorpion Rules is further strengthened by a diverse, memorable cast of characters with realistically complicated relationships (both romantic and platonic), brilliant plotting and shocking twists.The minute readers get a handle on the story, Bow turns everything upside down and moves the novel in a new direction.

A gripping story about rebirth, transformation and choice. The Scorpion Rules weaves together science, ethics and humor in this story that delves deep into the human condition and questions the nature of choice and what must be sacrificed for the sake of the greater good.

Guaranteed to have high appeal on many levels. Highly Recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson,  Fire by Kristin Cashore, Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Winterspell by Claire LeGrand, Soundless by Richelle Mead, Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer and Douglas Holgate, The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones, Skyhunter by Marie Lu, Clariel by Garth Nix, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene, Scythe by Neal Shusterman, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, And I Darken by Kiersten White

*A copy this book was acquired from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2015*

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the August 2015 issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen on various sites online as a Starred Review*

The One: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review (and a series sendoff!)

The One by Kiera CassThirty-five girls entered the Selection where they would have a chance to win the prince’s heart and one day rule Illea beside him as queen. Of those original girls, six became the Elite–their lives forever altered as they joined a higher caste and came even closer to the end of the Selection.

When America Singer arrived at the palace she never thought she would make it so far. She never realized she would want so badly to be the one Maxon chooses. Now, with the Selection nearing its end, America knows exactly what she wants. She hopes that Maxon feels the same. With pressure mounting for him to make a decision, America is still unsure if Maxon’s affections run as deep as her own.

Meanwhile attacks to the palace are growing in frequency with more and more threat of bloodshed as the rebels threaten to the Illean monarchy apart.

It is only now, with everything she wants so tantalizingly close, that America truly realizes how much she has to lose and how hard she will fight to earn it in The One (2014) by Kiera Cass.

Find it on Bookshop.

The One is the final book in Cass’ Selection trilogy. It is preceded by The Selection and The Elite. It is also very much a third book–don’t bother starting the series here. Read from the beginning.

All of the entanglements from the earlier novels in the series are neatly dispatched as the story progresses to its natural conclusion. Although this series has never quite qualified as a pure dystopia, Cass delivers more world building here to create a better picture of Illea. Even knowing how the main characters feel, the tension is still high making for a page-turning novel that is both exciting and romantic.

While much of the story felt rushed in places (particularly the last fifty pages) Cass manages to maintain the unusual balance of romance and action that has become a signature of this series. The focus remains where it should for this story: squarely on America and Maxon’s relationship. Readers also learn more about both characters as they negotiate what it means–and what it might cost–to want to spend their lives together.

That the premise works, and holds up, throughout this entire trilogy proves Cass’ expertise. The memorable, self-aware characters in this series are ones that will stay with readers. The One is a splendid conclusion to a much loved series that hints at even better things to come from Cass’ future writing endeavors.

Possible Pairings: Crewel by Gennifer Albin, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, The Jewel by Amy Ewing, Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf, The Bachelor

Exclusive Bonus Content: I also have to say I love, love, love the covers. This series is just so well packaged. The covers are consistent while giving very different vibes. I also like the nod to America’s name as it were with the red, white and blue of the books. Also the crowns embossed on the covers. So well done. I’m going to miss this series.

The Wolf Princess: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Wolf Princess by Cathryn ConstableSophie Smith has never been special or interesting. She is the poor girl at her elite private school complete with her shabby clothes, unbrushed hair and callous guardian.

Sophie thinks things might have gone differently if she wasn’t an orphan. But she is. Trapped in her grey English boarding school. Trapped in her grey boring life even as dreams of winter in Russia, majestic wolves and a strange forest haunt her.

Nothing interesting ever happens to Sophie. She wouldn’t expect anything different.

Then a stranger comes to the school and invites Sophie and her roommates–glamorous Delphine and bookish Marianne–on a school trip to St. Petersburg.

The following adventure is even more than Sophie could hope for as they girls are abandoned in a blizzard and whisked away to a wintry palace to rival Sophie’s grandest dreams in The Wolf Princess (2012) by Cathryn Constable.

I went into this book with high expectations and only a vague sense of what to expect beyond a rags to riches fairy tale story.

In a way that is exactly what The Wolf Princess delivers. But in other ways it was a disappointment.

Sophie is fascinated with Russia in a way that should be endearing and draw readers in as well. Instead it comes off as vaguely condescending as she describes Russian words knocking into each other and, at one point, describes a Russian character’s handwriting as distinctly foreign.

All of the characters in the story feel like caricatures complete with an icy winter princess, a sturdy Russian officer and, of course, one friend who is defined solely as being glamorous and half-French (no, really) and another who is interesting only in that she is intelligent (I don’t even remember if we were ever told her hair color).

Beyond that Sophie is infuriating. She is a mousey heroine with absolutely know self-confidence. Instead of blossoming or coming into her own as the story progresses Sophie continues to doubt herself and remind readers and her friends that she is decidedly not special. Worse, her friends are quick to agree.

The book is also oddly out of time. Reference to cell phones suggest the book is set in the present although the atmosphere and attitudes of the characters seem to suggest an earlier time period. The characters are similarly ageless. The Wolf Princess is marketed for ages 10-14 meaning, because the ages are never implicitly stated, there is a huge spread for how old the characters can be. Taken as a middle grade novel Sophie’s behavior might make more sense but I doubt it would make her more tolerable.

This story is likely to appeal to anyone who has enjoyed Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha books or wants a riff on the tropes found in A Little Princess. However readers should be wary of the flaws in certain aspects of The Wolf Princess.

Possible Pairings: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Sender Unknown by Sallie Lowenstein, Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

The Elite: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Elite by Kiera CassThirty-five girls came to the Palace to compete in the Selection to win Prince Maxon’s heart (and a place beside him on the throne ruling Illea).

Six remain–having earned newer castes as Threes and still with a chance at becoming the one.

When America Singer first arrived at the palace she thought her choice was obvious: get thrown out, go home, marry her childhood sweetheart Aspen.

After being in the palace and getting to know Maxon, America isn’t so sure. She cares for Maxon, but is she really what Illea needs in their future queen? Can America become as fiercely competitive as the other girls? Does she even want to when a future with Aspen is still possible?

Rebel attacks are becoming more frequent. Within the palace, America is learning uncomfortable truths about what it means to be a monarch and how her country came to be formed. Things are changing but America isn’t still sure what that means for herself or her country.

Everything America wants seems to be within her grasp–provided she can make a choice before the decision is made for her in The Elite (2013) by Kiera Cass.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Elite is the second book in Cass’ Selection trilogy. It is preceded by The Selection.

The Elite is another fast-paced, marvelous addition to the Selection series. With the parameters of the competition (and the world) established in book one, Cass spends more time here on the characters. While America’s wavering and doubting was frustrating it did feel realistic.

It’s still hard to classify the series but The Elite makes it easier to assert that the story is, in fact, a Dystopia with some other interesting elements thrown in such as the added dimension of world building as America learns more about the history of the country. Illea has a messy, sinister past and a lot of secrets. Yet this isn’t a story about a character intentionally trying to tear it all down or discover the truth or start a revolution. Even though, in some ways, that is exactly what America ends up doing. It feels very natural and very authentic and makes for a great story.

Being a middle book in a trilogy, some things are left unresolved. That said, The Elite is an excellent story with just the right amount of summary of past events and new information. This book is a great continuation of America’s story and also the promise of even better things to come in the conclusion to this series.

Possible Pairings: Crewel by Gennifer Albin, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, The Jewel by Amy Ewing, Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf, The Bachelor

Linktastic! Disney Princess Edition

Since I reviewed a princess-y book this week for Chick Lit Wednesday it seemed like high time to share the Disney Princess links I’ve been hoarding.

This installment of Linktastic! is brought to you by my undying love of Disney (yes even with the weird stuff they do sometimes) and my conviction that Phillip is the best Disney Prince ever. (I can’t give a definitive princess answer because while Belle has my heart, I apparently spent my toddler-hood watching Sleeping Beauty Every. Single. Day. So I’m obviously fond of Aurora as well.

Onto the links!

Then thanks to Leila at Bookshelves of Doom I have some sad posts about everyone’s favorite archer: Merida from Brave. Merida is being inducted as Disney’s 11th princess. Which is awesome. Less awesome is her makeover for the induction ceremony where Merida has become curvier, lost her bow and arrows, and gotten a lot of makeup.

Lest you lose all faith in humanity here are some Disney links that are just for fun:

The Selection: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Selection by Kiera CassAt seventeen years of age, America Singer already knows exactly what life she wants. She also knows, without doubt, that taking part in the Selection will do nothing to help her get that life. While every other girl in her province dreams of being chosen as one of the girls to compete for Prince Maxon’s affections and the chance to be Illea’s next princess, America is desperate to avoid the Selection altogether.

But with her mother desperate for America to have a chance at becoming a One instead of a lowly Five and her boyfriend insisting she will regret not entering on his account, America’s own wishes go overlooked. Worse, America’s hope of the Selection passing her by proves impossible when America is chosen as one of the lucky girls Prince Maxon will be courting while the entire country watches.

At the castle, it isn’t as easy for America to remember exactly what she wants. In her new surroundings she finds unexpected friends and a life she never dared to imagine. Circumstances beyond America’s control brought her to this point. Now, America will have to decide for herself whether or not she wants to stay in The Selection (2012) by Kiera Cass.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Selection is the first book in a trilogy. It is also already being adapted into a television series.

Cass brings together the unlikely elements of a dystopian setting and a Cinderella-like fairy tale story in this delightful story. America’s narration is frank and candid providing excellent details about Illea’s past and its rigid caste system as well as more personal details about her family and the Selection itself.

Superficially The Selection is a story with a love triangle and beautiful settings. However its artfully developed characters and a compelling world built with just enough details to pique interest and make way for lots of revelations later in the trilogy, The Selection becomes a novel with more depth.

Well-paced and immediately engrossing, The Selection has already gotten its fair share of buzz. With its clever world and appealing characters,The Selection is also a would-be fairy also with some definite staying power.*

*And a really neat cover that, for me, really captured America.

Possible Pairings: Crewel by Gennifer Albin, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, The Jewel by Amy Ewing, Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Legend by Marie Lu, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf, The Bachelor

Exclusive Bonus Content: I felt a bit strange compiling the “possible pairings” for this one since it felt like I was just throwing every recent dystopian at it that I could think of and waiting to see what stuck. But, truly, I think the pairings work. This is a great read for anyone who loved how Catching Fire focused on what happens after a Tribute wins the Hunger Games. It’s as much a Cinderella story as Cinder. The caste system is very similar to Divergent’s factions. Hopefully you get my point. And it is definitely, strikingly appropriate for readers who want a read alike for Princess Academy but with older characters.

Entwined: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Entwined by Heather DixonIn a tiny kingdom there were twelve princesses. On the night of the smallest princess’ birth, their hearts were broken and their mother taken too soon. After years of dancing and laughter, their castle is thrust into mourning–the once happy home darkened by black clothes and their father’s grief.

One day the princesses found a magical land of silver and music. A mysterious and dashing stranger known only as Keeper presides over this strange landscape where the girls can dance every night until the slippers on their feet wear thin.

But nothing lasts forever and, when magic is involved, nothing is as it seems in Entwined (2011) by Heather Dixon.

Entwined is essentially a retelling of the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” which was originally published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.* In this version the princesses are more proactive. The actual discovery of where the princesses dance also takes a slightly less prominent role to make way for the more sinister plot involving Keeper and his own agenda.

This is a fun book ideal for anyone who enjoys reading about princesses and castles. Azalea, the eldest, is an endearing heroine as are her sisters. While Bramble’s blunt nature and rash temper can wear thin the girls are all, really, very charming characters. Each princess is named after a flower (alphabetical order no less) which actually works quite well with the story and makes for a cute touch. With so many characters some do get lost in the shuffle or boil down to broad characterizations but again with so many characters at the center of a story that might be inevitable.

The story is original but by the end a lot of things are happening to Azalea instead of her being proactive. The lack of communication between the sisters toward the end of the story also felt unconvincing when they all appeared in every scene. (And some aspects of the love story angle felt thin.)

Dixon’s world building is solid. The castle with its dingy appearance and lackluster furnishings comes to life with her descriptions. The history behind the castle and the monarchy is well-presented and even the country’s relationship with other nations is mentioned although not in great detail. As with the characters I had this nagging feeling that while I loved what was on the page, I also wanted more.

One of the things I really liked about this story was the focus on family. As much as the dancing is a part of the story this is really a book about a father reconnecting with his daughters and a family moving on after a terrible loss. Being able to get that kind of book wrapped up in a fantasy makes this book something special. Entwined is an entertaining fantasy that will draw readers in with a familiar premise only to deliver a story that is ultimately surprising and appealing.

*WARNING: These might constitute SPOILERS but read on if you want to know what elements Dixon keeps from the original story. Entwined features 12 princesses, a magic land of silver, and the girls do dance until their shoes wear out. They are not locked in each night. The men who try to solve the riddle are not beheaded. While the hero who solves the riddle is a soldier, he is not old (no one in this story is very old) but he does have an invisibility cloak of sorts. Except  for the boats and princes to escort the girls across a lake (a trope found in Wildwood Dancing) this is a very faithful retelling.
loved everything but the story flagged toward the end–would have liked az to be stronger/more proactive. lack of communication also not convincing between the sisters

Pairings: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Exclusive Bonus Content: I have a rule that I read anything and everything related to “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” but I was also drawn to this book because of its cover which I think is really interesting. (The vines also appear at the beginning of each chapter in the book.) My mom, on the other hand, thought the girl looked like she crawled out of a swamp–fair enough. While reading this book I was reminded a lot of Wildwood Dancing (another book with a great cover)–I’d definitely recommend reading both if you consider reading one as  they provide nice counter-points to each other with different versions of the same fairy tale.

Old Tales, New Twists: A Book List

The premises might sound familiar but these books all take traditional story elements and turn them upside down.

  1. Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart: For Gretchen Yee life as an artificial red head is anything but glamorous, especially when she feels too ordinary to fit in at her artsy high school. But it turns out life as a vermin, specifically as a fly on the wall of the boys locker room, is even worse. After a week maybe Gretchen will have learned enough to live life as a superhero instead.
  2. Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore: Nimira came to Lorinar to seek her fortune but instead she finds seedy music halls and natives who treat her like foreign trash. When a handsome sorcerer offers Nimira work singing with a mysterious automaton he may also be giving her the key to her happiness if only she can discover the automaton’s secrets.
  3. Liar by Justine Larbalestier: One of the only true things Micah will tell you about herself is that she’s a liar. But Micah doesn’t want to lie anymore. Especially not to you–the one person she hasn’t lied to. Yet. When her secret boyfriend dies, Micah’s carefully crafted lies begin to peel away. One by one. Until all Micah is left with is the cold, hard truth. Or is she?
  4. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: Gen can steal anything. At least he can when he isn’t locked in the king’s prison. It’s a terrible risk but if Gen can steal a hidden artifact he might be able to win his freedom and something more.
  5. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier: Each full moon Jena and her sisters cross the wildwood to visit the enchanted glade of the Other Realm for a night of dancing and revelry. Everyone knows the wildwood is a dangerous place filled with witches, ghosts and all manner of other worldly creatures–and the lake that claimed Jena’s cousin years ago. But no harm can come from dancing. Or can it?
  6. Sabriel by Garth Nix: When her father, the Abhorsen, becomes trapped in Death Sabriel has to assume her rightful duties as the next Abhorsen and save him, and perhaps many others, from the dead that would keep him and claim the world of the living for themselves.
  7. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher: Nothing leaves Incarceron and nothing enters. No one knows where the prison is or how to get to it. So why does Finn suspect he has a life Outside the Prison? And why does Claudia have a key that seems to let her talk to Finn–a prisoner Inside?
  8. Peeps by Scott Westerfeld: Cal Thompson lives in a world where vampires are real, well sort of real. Parasite positives, “Peeps” for short, start to hate sunlight and everything they once loved. And they crave human blood. Cal is a carrier for the parasite and part of an organization dedicated to hunting Peeps down.
  9. How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier: Living in New Avalon and having your own personal fairy should be awesome. But for Charlie it totally sucks. Charlie doesn’t have a cool fairy to help her find nice clothes, or one to improve her grades, or make boys like her. Charlie is too young to drive, but she has a parking fairy. And she is going to get rid of it if it’s the last thing she does.
  10. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: In the land of Ingary, where seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility exist, Sophie Hatter is resigned to be a stunning failure. After all, she is the eldest of three sisters. Except that this is not a traditional fairy tale and events soon intervene to set Sophie on a very unexpected course indeed for an eldest daughter.