The Red Fox Clan

Picking up where The Royal Ranger: A New Beginning left off, this next installment continues the story featuring young apprentice Maddie and the student-turned-master, Will Treaty. The time has come for the next generation to assume the mantle and become protectors of the kingdom of Araluen.

After passing her third-year assessment as a ranger’s apprentice, Maddie is called home to Castle Araluen. Forced to keep her ranger training a secret, Maddie feels trapped by her role as a princess of the realm and longs to find a way out. But there are whisperings of a new threat to the kingdom. The mysterious Red Fox Clan, a group of anarchists who don fox masks, have threatened Castle Araluen, and they question Princess Cassandra and Madelyn’s succession to the throne. Will they unseat Cassandra and Madelyn and take the throne for themselves?

In order to set up the conflict, the book’s chapters alternate between different points of view —Madelyn’s, Horace’s, and Gilan’s. In addition, The Red Fox Clan introduces new characters and brings some characters from the Brotherband Series into Madelyn’s world. The introduction of characters and conflict slows the pacing because there is little action. However, readers who have already become fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will enjoy seeing familiar characters from a different perspective.

Like all the Ranger’s Apprentice books, The Red Fox Clan ends with an epic battle. Even though the Araluen must fight the rebel Red Fox Clan, they do not kill for the fun of it. Several times in the battle, the Ranger Gilan has the opportunity to kill enemy fighters, but he chooses not to. After one fierce battle, the rebels begin to retreat and Gilan stops his men from shooting at the fleeing enemy. While men die, the story never glorifies killing others. Instead, Gilan chooses to show mercy to the enemy.

The start of The Red Fox Clan has little action or adventure; however, readers will be glad they continued reading because of the exciting conclusion. The conclusion does not resolve any of the story’s conflicts but instead ends with a cliffhanger. Readers will be eager to read the next book in the series, Duel at Araluen. Despite having 14 books in the original series, readers will find The Royal Ranger Series’ action isn’t stale and repetitious; instead, Maddie’s struggle varies enough that readers will still be guessing what will happen next. Readers who love action, adventure, and noble characters will enjoy The Royal Ranger Series.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Maddie and Ingrid are traveling to Castle Araluen when two robbers stop them and demand their valuables. Maddie shoots a lead shot at one of the robbers and hits his bow. “The broken limb flew loose, and then stopped by the string, flicked back and smacked the man across the jaw, raising a bleeding weal there. He cried out and staggered back. . .” The man grabs his knife and Maddie shoots again. The shot “hit him on the point of his shoulder, smashing the bone and bruising the flesh.”
  • One of the robbers “swing[s] wildly with the cudgel” trying to knock Ingrid off the horse. “Ingrid leaned out of the saddle, wielding the riding crop and bringing the heavy stone pommel crashing down on top of his leather cap . . . his eyes glazed and he simply folded up like an empty suit of clothes.” The man is knocked unconscious.
  • When one of the robbers tries to flee, Maggie’s horse “slammed his. . .The impact sent the man tumbling in the grass, rolling over several times before beginning to rise, groggily to his feet.” The man takes out his knife and goes after the horse, so Maddie uses her sling to shoot the man. “The scream was torn from him as the lead shot slammed into his forearm, breaking the bones there.” The men are tied up and taken to the jail of a nearby village. The scene with the robbers is described over 3 ½ pages.
  • The Foxes, a rebel group of men, attack an Araluen army as they forge a river. The Araluen army shoots a volley of arrows. Four of the enemies “screamed and fell. Another volley slammed into the enemy formation. More men fell.” At the end of the battle, the Foxes “were nursing their wounds and reluctant to move from the cover of the trees. . .eleven of their comrades lay where they had fallen.” The attack is described over four pages.
  • The rebels again send men to cross the river. The Ranger Gilan’s “arrow plunged down in a shallow arc and struck the lead swimmer in the right shoulder. The man let out a cry of agony and stopped swimming.” The man survives, but another rebel is “hit in the chest . . . he cried out once, threw up his hands and sank without a further sound.” Another rebel is injured when an arrow hit “his arm with its razor-sharp warhead, and blood started reddening the water around him.” After one man dies and three are injured, the rebels retreat. The skirmish is described over three pages.
  • As the Araluen army flees, the Ranger Gilan stays at the river. When the rebels send a man across the river, Gilan shoots an arrow but the next “arrow was even quicker. It slammed into the unprotected breastplate with the full force of Gilan’s massive bow behind it. . . ripped through the breastplate and into the man’s body.” When Gilan begins shooting “a volley of six arrows” the enemy retreats.
  • The Foxes again attack the Araluen army. Someone shoots at one of the leaders. “The arrow flew in a whimpering paragola, then struck home in the center of the rider’s chest, hurling him backward over the horse’s rump and leaving him lying still on the grass.”
  • During the skirmish, one of the Foxes’ sergeants looks at his men, and “the man next to him fell with an arrow through the top of his leather helmet.” The Foxes quickly retreat into the woods.
  • The Araluen army hides out in an old fort. The rebels stage an attack, trying to climb over the walls. “The bows thrummed with the ugly sound of release, and a few seconds later, six arrows slammed into the men crouched downhill.” As the arrows hit the men, they “cried out in pain and staggered back, clutching at the cruel barbed shafts that transfixed them.”
  • During the attack, Horace and a Fox commander fight. The commander “hacked wildly at Horace. There was a ringing clash of steel on steel as the two blades met. . . Horace’s sword darted out, fast as a striking viper. The super-hardened, razor-sharp blade cut through the man’s chainmail overshirt as if it wasn’t there . . . Horace jerked his sword free and rammed his shield into him. The Fox commander fell backward. . . crashing into the men on the ladder behind him.”
  • As the rebels begin to retreat, “the archers took up their bows again and began to pick them off as they slipped and staggered down the hill. Gilan shook his head wearily, sick of the slaughter.” Gilan orders his men to stop shooting. The battle is described over six pages.
  • Maddie was spying on the Fox Clan. Someone sees her and the men give chase. Maddie runs. As men charged toward her, “a shaggy form burst around the corner of the church, behind the men. Maddie’s horse, Bumper, slammed his shoulder into him and sent him flying. He dealt with a second in the same way, crashing into him with a sickening thud.” Maddie is able to escape.
  • The Red Fox Clan enters the castle through a bridge. “The rider drew his sword and cut left and right, killing them where they stood.”
  • Damon, the Red Fox Clan leader, tries to catch the queen. When the queen sees Damon, he has a “blood stained sword in hand and blood staining his doublet.”
  • In order to protect the queen, Maikeru and two men sword fight. One man “lunged at Maikeru. . . His sword was deflected immediately, and as he staggered slighty, the katana slashed quickly across his neck and he fell, a choked scream rising to his lips. His companion watched in horror. . . Maikeru went on the attack. Once again the deadly katana found its mark and sliced through chain mail and flesh. The second man fell, lifeless to the bridge.”
  • After Maikeru kills several men, the Red Fox Clan leader orders his men to kill him with arrows. “The two bows thrummed almost in the same instant. . . But the other [arrow] slammed into his chest, high on the right side. . . The two men shot again and two more arrows slammed into him, both hitting vital spots.” Even though Maikeru dies, the queen is able to get to safety because of him. The scene is described over three pages.
  • When the queen and her staff are safely closed up in a castle tower, Damon and his men try to smoke them out. When that doesn’t work, a man tries to use a ladder like a bridge to enter the room. Using her sling, Queen Cassandra attacks. “The shot slammed into [the attacker’s] left knee with a sickening crack and smashing bone and tendons.” The man falls to his death. Several men are killed in the same way.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • At a festival, “barrels of wine and ale were propped up on trestles to ease the collective thirst.”

Language

  • Maddie is upset that a “damn nanny goat nuzzled [her cowl] aside and started chomping.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • A man wants to start a rebellion. He tells the crowd, “For thousands of years, our country was guided by a law that said only a male heir could succeed to the throne. . . And it was a law that respected the will of the gods.” A man wonders why people “accepted so readily the concept that this was a law approved by the gods.”

The Crystal Rose

The snow sisters’ parents have been kidnapped by the Shadow Witch! The only way to save them is to find the orbs containing the magical Everchanging Lights before the witch steals the lights’ power for herself. But the Shadow Witch, Veronika, will do anything to reach the lights first.

On their second quest, the girls face a dark, icy journey to find the crystal rose and the blue orb. Will their magic be strong enough to overcome the Great Glacier and all the dangers hidden there?

The beautiful cover with three sisters and a pet polar bear will draw readers into the story. However, the magical sisters who face non-frightening danger will captivate readers. The second installment of The Snow Sisters Series has the three sisters—Hanna, Ida, and Magda—racing through a dangerous, icy landscape. The girls’ magic helps them stay safe from the Shadow Witch and even Oskar, the girls’ pet polar bear, helps them along their way.

Even though their mother has instructed them to search for the orb, the girls do not tell anyone about their quest. Instead, they sneak out of the castle and borrow horses without permission. At the end of the quest, their governess, Madame Olga, sees the girls coming in from outside. “Madame Olga hadn’t realized they had been out all night. She just thought they’d gotten up early and been out in the garden.” The girls allow Madame Olga to believe the falsehood.

The Crystal Rose has charming black and white drawings that help readers follow the plot. The large illustrations appear every 1 to 4 pages. Throughout their journey, the sisters show bravery and use problem-solving skills. The Snow Sisters Series will entertain young readers who love princesses, magic, and snow.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Magda uses her magic to turn into a mouse. When the cook sees the mouse, she “grabbed a broom and swept it angrily at Magda. . .Magda dodged the broom just in time and turned and ran.”
  • In an attempt to kill the girls, the Shadow Witch causes an avalanche. “Hanna used her magic to lift the thick sheet of ice above them like a roof. . . the thundering snow swept over the top of them, battering at the sheet of ice and the sides of the boulder.” The girls are not injured.
  • While walking through the woods, the Shadow Witches cause the wind to blow and knock ice crystals onto the sisters. A branch “swept through the air and straight toward the little polar bear. . . Ida screamed, and without a second’s thought, she flung herself in front of the cub. The branch hit her full in the chest. . .” Everyone is able to safely get out of the woods.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The magical lights called the Everchanging Lights “kept everything in balance and made the island such a wonderful place to live.”
  • Freya’s sister, Veronika, is trying to steal Freya’s magic. Freya tells her daughters, “She is using spells to try to take my magic. I can feel it!”
  • The Shadow Witch “closed her eyes and began to chant strange words. Images appeared on the surface of the ice.” The Shadow Witch is using her magic to spy on the three sisters.
  • Each of the three sisters has a unique magical talent. “Hanna had discovered she could move things using her mind, Ida had the power to bring objects to life when she drew them, and Magda could transform into any animal or bird that she saw.”
  • Using magic, Freya can communicate with the three girls. “The girls held their breath as an image of their mother’s face gradually formed in the snowflakes.” Freya tells the girls where they can find the missing orb.
  • Oskar is the girls’ pet polar bear. “All Nordovian polar bears had the ability to change size.”
  • Magda uses her magic to change into a bird. The magic felt like “a tingle.” Later, she changes into an arctic fox.
  • Ida uses her magic to create a rope. “The air shimmered, and suddenly a rope appeared just as she had drawn it.”
  • To get the orb, the girls need to open the crystal rose without touching it. Hanna “drew on her magic and felt it welling up inside her. Focusing on the rose, Hanna willed the petals to open. Magic surged through her, strong and powerful and the petals began to peel back. . .”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Thornwood

For years, Briony has lived in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Rosalin, and the curse that has haunted her from birth. According to the curse, on the day of her sixteenth birthday, Briony would prick her finger on a spindle and cause everyone in the castle to fall into a 100-year sleep. When the day the curse is set to fall over the kingdom finally arrives, nothing—not even Briony—can stop its evil magic.

You know the story.

But here’s something you don’t know. When Briony finally wakes up, it’s up to her to find out what’s really going on, and to save her family and friends from the murderous Thornwood. But who is going to listen to a little sister?

Thornwood looks at the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty through the eyes of the little sister. While the villain in the story is clearly the fairy queen who cast the spell, she doesn’t make an appearance until the very end. Instead, the suspense is created by the Thornwood branches that attack the castle’s inhabitants. When Briony and a group of acquaintances try to defeat the Thornwood branches, a fairy tells Briony, “The Thornwood will disappear once Rosalin dies in it.” At one point, Rosalin considers sacrificing herself to the Thornwood to save the people she loves. However, Briony is the true hero of the story because she perseveres until she finds a way to defeat the fairy queen without sacrificing her sister.

Adding Sleeping Beauty’s sister to the story is an interesting premise, however, the sister relationship is spoiled by Rosalin, who has few redeeming qualities. For the most part, Rosalin is too caught up in her looks and the prince to notice her sister. When Rosalin talks, her statements are mean and dismissive. For example, when Briony tries to help Rosalin, Rosalin tells her, “Why don’t you just leave. Nobody needs you here. Go annoy someone else.” Plus, Rosalin constantly makes fun of Briony’s hair describing it “like mud that’s been stirred with bathwater” or “a mass of frizz that’s been hit by a lightning bolt.” Anyone who has been a victim of bullying will be saddened by Rosalin’s behavior, especially because Briony already feels ignored and unimportant. Despite this, Briony never gives up on trying to help her sister.

In the end, the Royal family is not portrayed in a positive light. The parents are clueless fools, Rosalin is self-centered, and the family doesn’t consider the feelings of others. However, by the end, Briony wonders, “Had we even thought about anyone but ourselves? We had acted like this was our story. Like the other people in it—everyone in this castle, and outside it, too—were minor details we didn’t have to pay attention to.” The conclusion has a typical happy ending that attempts to show that your station in life doesn’t determine your worth. However, if you’re looking for a fabulous fairy tale, you should leave Thornwood on the shelf and instead read The Prince Problem by Vivian Vande Velde or the Royal Academy Rebels Series by Jen Calonita.

Sexual Content

  • In order to wake Rosalin, a prince kisses her. Briony sees the kiss and thinks, “I wish I had gotten there thirty seconds later. . . It wasn’t a gross kiss. Just a peck on the lips—polite and distant—and then the prince stepped back from the bed.”
  • The story implies that Rosalin and the prince kiss. Briony “looked pointedly away and caught Edwin doing the same. We both snickered.”
  • When the prince thinks Rosalin is about to die, he professes his love and then kisses her. Briony thinks, “This time, the kissing was gross.”
  • After the castle is free from the Thornwood, Rosalin “claims that she only ‘likes’ the electrician who had been modernizing the castle, and she’s ‘not interested in getting serious with anyone right now.’ I mean, she’s already kissed him more times than she kissed Varian, back when she thought he was her destined husband.”

Violence

  • While Briony searches the castle, the Thornwood grabs her. “Something snapped around my wrist, driving sharp spikes into my skin. . .The branch that had grabbed me yanked back so hard that I was dragged towards the window. . .the branch pulled, slowly and steadily. Thorns dug into my wrist with sharp stabs of fiery pain.” Someone saves her. The scene is described over three pages.
  • When Briony, Edwin, Rosalin, and the prince try to leave the castle, the Thornwood attacks. “The ground around Edwin exploded, clumps of dirt flying as barbed vines broke through the earth. One wrapped itself around his ankle. . . another snapped around his wrist. . . Edwin had been pulled to the ground, and a thorny branch was crawling up his arm over his shoulder.” The Thornwood attacks everyone except for the prince. Rosalin’s fairy godmother saves them, but Edwin is seriously injured. The scene is described over six pages.
  • When the fairy godmother gets Edwin out of the Thornwood, Edwin is a “bruised and bloody creature. . . He was unconscious, his clothes in shreds and stuck to his body with dried blood.”
  • The Thornwood gets into the castle. The branches attack Rosalin. Briony “lunged for them and grabbed the largest, pulling at it with my bare hands. It could have encircled me easily, but it was too busy trying to get to Rosalin.” When they get Rosalin free, Briony, Edwin, and the prince run into a tower.
  • When they get to the tower, “A thorn snagged my [Briony’s] hair and pulled several strands out, with a burst of pain that brought new tears to my eyes. I wrenched myself free, into the golden light.” The tower scene is described over five pages.
  • Briony traps the fairy queen. But then, “She reached out and grabbed me by the throat. . . she lifted me from the floor, and I couldn’t’ breathe. I tried to scream, but couldn’t do that, either. Panic filled me as I struggled to draw air into my lungs and no air came.” Rosalin and Edwin save Briony.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • After sleeping for over 100 years, Rosalin discovers that the castle is surrounded by thorns. “There are some princes that come there [the village] to try to fight their way through the Thornwood and wake the beautiful princess sleeping in the castle. They need a place to sleep. . . and lots of ale.”
  • Before the castle fell asleep, Edwin was apprenticed to the blacksmith. The blacksmith “was not a good man. He got angry a lot, and drunk, and he let the other apprentices—”
  • When Briony goes to the apothecary, she finds it to be a mess. “The pots on the shelves were knocked over sideways or smashed on the floor. . .” Someone suggested that people were looking for wine and didn’t find it.
  • When the prince finds an empty jug that smells like alcohol, he says, “Someone in this castle is very drunk right now.” Later, the royal wizard shows up to the ball drunk. He tells the king and queen, “I have been working great and terrible magics to figure out a way to release us from our plight. I had to partake of wine so I could access the depths of. . . um. . .”
  • The prince offers Rosalin a bite of her birthday cake. When she refuses the cake, he eats it. Then, “his eyes went wide. He fell over sideways, straight as a log. The fork with its remnant of cake flew out of his hand, skittering across the dance floor. . .” The cake had been poisoned.

Language

  • Briony uses “oh curses” as an exclamation once.
  • A boy calls Edwin “sniveler.”
  • Rosalin calls Briony an idiot.
  • Rosalin often makes rude comments about Briony’s hair. For example, Rosalin says, “And fix your hair. You look like a Pegasus caught in a windstorm.”

Supernatural

  • The story takes place in Sleeping Beauty’s magical kingdom, where magic exists.
  • The castle is surrounded by Thornwood, a living plant that tries to trap people. When the branches are cut, “they hissed as if they had been burned.”
  • Briony sees a strange bird that “cocked its head and looked straight at me, and then it wasn’t a bird at all. It was a woman—a creature that looked like a woman—with shimmery dragonfly wings whirring behind her back.”
  • After the curse is broken, the fairy godmother throws a birthday ball. “The doors of the kitchen swung open and a cart rolled out. Rosalin’s birthday cake teetered on top.”
  • The prince says a fairy gave him a magical sword that can help him fight off the Thornwood.
  • Briony trips and puts her hand out to catch herself. “My palm landed right on a thorn. I screamed and pulled back. I expected the branches to wrap around my wrist. Instead, they all arced toward the thorn that had pierced my skin. A drop of blood dripped from the thorn’s tip, and one of the branches, swooped low to catch it.”
  • The tower room has a magic spinning wheel. Briony uses the spinning wheel to create magical, gold thread. The Thornwood “seemed to flinch back from the gold thread.”
  • Rosalin believes that the only way to save the castle from the Thornwood is to sacrifice herself, which she considers. Rosalin says, “It needs my blood. Once it has it, you’ll be free. You’ll all be safe. . . Name your first child after me.” Rosalin “thrust both hands into the thorns. Their hiss rose around us, sharp and sibilant and triumphant.”
  • Briony discovers that her blood repels the Thornwood. She “jabbed [her] palm into the spindle of the spinning wheel. It hurt. It really hurt. For one blinding second, the pain was all there was. Then I blinked out tears and saw that the thorns had drawn back even farther, leaving a larger space around the spinning wheel than they had before. My blood had given the spinning wheel power.”
  • Briony realizes that “No one, no prince, no savior, had come to us through the Thornwood. [The prince] had come from it.” Then Briony uses the magical gold thread. She “brought the thread down over his head and around his neck. I crisscrossed the ends and pulled them, making a noose that tightened against his throat.”
  • When Briony puts the golden thread around the prince, he changes. “His body shimmered; his face lengthened; his eyes grew larger. Two wings, blacker than black, snapped shut over his shoulder blades. He didn’t look like a woman, but he wasn’t a man either. He was a creature. A being. A center of power.” The prince was the fairy queen in disguise.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Who Was Princess Diana?

A shy twenty-year-old girl stepped out of a horse-drawn coach and into the world spotlight, capturing the imagination of millions as a real-life fairytale princess. Although the storybook marriage didn’t have a happy ending, Diana learned to use her fame to champion charitable causes near to her heart. She became the “People’s Princess” by humanizing the image of the royal family and showing care and concern for all people, including the homeless, the sick, and others in need.

Even though Princess Diana was born into a wealthy, noble family, her father taught her to “treat everybody with kindness and never act more important than another person.” Because of her caring and compassionate nature, Princess Diana was loved by millions. Princess Diana used her fame to help people in need, including AIDS patients, the Red Cross and Mother Teresa. Again, though her fairy tale didn’t have a happily-ever-after, Princess Diana’s life is still an inspiration for millions around the world.

While the majority of Who Was Princess Diana? focuses on Diana’s life beginning with her early childhood, the book is full of other interesting facts. Scattered throughout the book are one-to-two-page non-fiction articles that talk more about the royal residences, the order of succession, Mother Teresa, as well as other topics that affected Princess Diana’s life. The end of the book includes a timeline of Princess Diana’s life and a timeline of the world.

Who Was Princess Diana? shows that life as a princess isn’t like it is in a fairy tale. The book has an easy-to-read format with large font. Large black-and-white illustrations appear on almost every page. Many of the illustrations show the royal family; however, the drawings are a bit off-putting because of the strange expressions on people’s faces. In addition, some of the drawings are of people in Diana’s life, but the picture doesn’t look much like them.

While Princess Diana was an admirable person, she is not portrayed as a perfect person. Throughout her life, her caring nature was a bright light. She was never afraid to show her love for people including the sick and the poor. Today, Princess Diana’s legacy is carried on by her two sons, Prince William, and Prince Harry. Who is Princess Diana? is perfect for readers who are researching the princess. However, learning about the princess will also encourage everyone to be a kinder person. Diana said, “I knew my job was to go out and meet people and love them.”

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • After Princess Diana visited Angola, she joined the Red Cross to help get rid of land mines. After a civil war, “Close to fifty thousand people—including children—had lost an arm or leg in land-mine accidents.”
  • The paparazzi followed Princess Diana everywhere. Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi, were in a vehicle. Their driver tried to outrun the paparazzi. “The driver was going too fast and lost control. The car crashed into a concrete pillar inside a Paris tunnel.” All three passengers died.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Majesty

Power is intoxicating. Like first love, it leaves you breathless. One young woman is born with it. After centuries of kings on the throne, Queen Beatrice is the most powerful woman America has ever known. So why does it feel like she’s lost so much?

Her sister is born with less power. Heir, spare, whatever. The American people will always think of Princes Samantha as the part princess. So she might as well play the role, right?

Some are pulled into the Washington’s world. Nina Gonzales longs for a normal life—whatever that is. But disentangling herself from Prince Jefferson’s world isn’t as easy as she’d hoped.

And a few will claw their way in. There is only one crown that can be captured in this generation, and Daphne Deighton is determined to have it. She will take down anything—or anyone—that stands in her way.

American Royals continues the drama of the three Washington children. The story is told from multiple points of view including Beatrice, Samantha, Nina, and Daphne. Each person’s point of view is uniquely different and allows the reader to understand each person’s thoughts, which are often different than their actions. This leads to well-developed characters who are flawed and relatable.

The second and last installment of the American Royals Series focuses more on each character’s love life and less on politics. The story is full of steamy kissing scenes, heated arguments, and the confusion that comes with young love. One character’s story is like Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew with a modern twist. Unlike many romance novels, Majesty doesn’t end with a happy-ever-after for everyone. Instead, the book ends by showing the complicated and messy nature of love. The reader is left with this message: “real love comes from facing life together, with all its messes and surprises and joy.”

If you’ve ever wished a prince would steal your heart, American Royals: Majesty should be on your must-read list. The American Royals Series has well-developed characters, a unique premise, and several plot twists. However, if you’re looking for a book with less alcohol and sexual tension, The Selection Series by Kiera Cass would be a tamer choice.

Sexual Content

  • Even though she is engaged to Teddy, Beatrice kisses Connor. After an argument, Connor “grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her. There was nothing gentle or tender in the kiss. Connor’s body was crushed up against hers, his hands grasping hard over her back as if he was terrified she might pull away.”
  • Ethan declares his love to Daphne. Then Ethan “leaned down to kiss her. . . She felt like she’d been on a torturous low simmer for months, and now she was finally alive again.”
  • Nina and Ethan kiss several times. For example, after eating pizza, Nina and Ethan kiss. “Ethan’s touch grew firmer, his hand moving to trace the line of her jaw, her lower lip. The air between them crackled with electricity. . . Nina leaned deeper into the kiss, her grip tightening over his shoulder.” The scene is described over a page.
  • Samantha and Marshall begin a “fake” relationship. While at a party, they end up in the pool. “One of Marshall’s hands had looped beneath her legs, the other braced behind her back. . . Then he brushed his lips lightly over hers. . . Sam kissed him back urgently, feverishly. She had shifted, her legs wrapped around his torso, her bare thighs circling the wet scratchy denim of his jeans.” The scene is described over a page. After this, they kiss several more times.
  • After spending an evening together, Beatrice “pressed her lips to [Teddy’s]. Perhaps out of surprise, his mouth opened beneath hers, letting her tongue brush up against his. . . She tugged impatiently at his shirt, trying to pull it over his head, but Teddy tore himself away.” Teddy stops Beatrice because she has had too much to drink.
  • After Teddy encourages Beatrice, she kisses him. “She turned and pulled his face to hers, dragging her hands through his blond curls, kissing him with everything that was aching and unsettled in her.”
  • Samantha tells Marshall how she feels about him. Then, “Marshall stood up in the moving carriage, bracing his hands on the wall behind Sam, and closed his mouth over hers. Sam arched her back and leaned up into him.”
  • After Teddy and Beatrice proclaim their love for each other, they kiss. “Beatrice tore her mouth from his only to tug his blazer impatiently from his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. Teddy fumbled a little with her dress, struggling with its tiny hooks. . . His breath caught when he saw her in nothing but her ivory lace underwear.” The scene is described over 1 ½ pages. The two have sex, but it isn’t described.
  • On Beatrice’s wedding day, her first love, Connor, shows up. Beatrice is startled and, “Connor, seeing her parted lips, leaned in to kiss her. She didn’t resist. . . The sheer Connorness of him overwhelmed her senses. . . Then reality crashed back in and she pulled away, her breathing unsteady.”

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • There are many, many events where alcohol is served to both adults and minors. For example, on a spring break trip, Nina and her friends drank “cheap beer.”
  • During boat races, alcohol is available. “Long queues had formed behind the scattered bars that sold mint juleps.”
  • At a museum event, alcohol is served. A worker “was pushing a catering cart, and Sam heard the unmistakable clink of jostling wine bottles.” Sam grabs “a bottle of sauvignon blanc from the cart.” Sam and a man she just met take turns drinking straight from the bottle. “The wine had a crisp tartness that settled on the back of her tongue, almost like candy.”
  • In the past, Daphne “had slipped a couple of ground-up sleeping pills into Himari’s drink.” Her friend, Himari, climbed “a staircase in her dazed, disoriented state—only to fall right back down.” The fall put Himari into a coma.
  • At a party hosted by Jefferson, minors drink alcohol including vodka. Jefferson’s old rowing team shows up, already drunk, shouting that they needed him for a “round of shots.”
  • Teddy takes Beatrice home to meet his parents. Beatrice explains why she usually doesn’t drink, “I can’t afford to get drunk and publicly make a fool of myself.” However, she drinks “the grapefruit thing” and gets slightly drunk.
  • The Russian ambassador told Beatrice, “That while beer and wine muffled and muted your emotions, vodka revealed them.”
  • During a historical reenactment, Marshall talks about his ancestor, the king of Orange joining America. Marshall says politicians from the past, “bickered over terms for weeks. Then, when they finally signed a treaty, they got roaring drunk.”
  • During a celebration, Marshall teaches Samantha about a game. If you lose, as a penalty “you get a choice. You can either sweep the steps of your local post office or buy a round of shots at your local bar.”
  • Jefferson and his best friend “got drunk for the first time together, that night we accidentally had all that port and ended up puking our guts out.”

Language

  • Profanity is seldom used. Each word of the following words is used several times: ass, badass, damn, and hell.
  • Beatrice’s secret boyfriend yells, “When you’re making choices about our future, I want a damn vote!”
  • Nina tells her lab partner, “Not to brag, but I kick ass at assignments.”
  • God and Oh my god are used as examinations a couple of times.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • one

Kate Middleton: Real-Life Princess

This book describes Kate Middleton’s childhood, family, education, interest and career in fashion, and marriage to Prince William. Readers will learn about Middleton’s college years at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she met the prince, the couple’s royal wedding, and their charity work. From attending events to traveling with guards, readers will discover what it’s like to represent a royal family as a princess! Features include a table of contents, maps, “Did You Know” fun facts, a “Snapshot” page with vital information, a glossary with phonetic spellings, and an index.

Anyone interested in real life princesses will enjoy learning more about Kate Middleton. Each page has large photographs that focus on Kate. Every two-page spread has 3 to 5 sentences in large print. While the book’s format will appeal to reluctant readers, some readers may want a book that gives a more in-depth look at Kate’s life especially since the biography ends with Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding.

The biography will give readers insight into Kate’s early life. While the book does not have enough information to complete a thorough research paper, younger readers who are interested in learning about a modern princess will enjoy Kate Middleton: Real-Life Princess.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

A New Beginning

Will Treaty has come a long way from the small boy with dreams of knighthood. Life had other plans for him, and as an apprentice Ranger under Halt, he grew into a legend—the finest Ranger the kingdom has ever known. Yet Will is facing a tragic battle that has left him grim and alone. To add to his problems, the time has come for him to take on an apprentice of his own, and it’s the last person he ever would have expected: Princess Madelyn, the daughter of Princess Cassandra. Will will have to win the trust and respect of his difficult new companion—a task that at times seems almost impossible.

A New Beginning brings the exciting tale of Horace and Cassandra’s daughter, Maddie. Fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will be eager to follow Will Treaty on an epic journey that pits a group of evil slavers against Will and Maddie. The fast-paced story has plenty of adventure and action as well as humorous moments. The first part of the story focuses on Maddie’s Ranger apprenticeship where she not only learns the skills of a Ranger, but also learns to have compassion for the common people. The second part of the story focuses on Will and Maddie as they investigate the kidnapping of children. Both parts expertly merge for a suspenseful conclusion that contains several surprises.

As a princess, Maddie was disrespectful, disobedient, and defiant; however, readers will connect with the spoiled princess who wants adventure and a life of purpose. Being a Ranger’s apprentice allows Maddie to learn important survival skills, such as how to defeat an enemy, why loyalty is important, and the necessity of following orders. Plus, Maddie gets an inside look at the struggles of peasants. The satisfying conclusion shows Maddie’s growth from a spoiled brat to a brave Ranger’s apprentice who helped save children from being sold into slavery.

A New Beginning is not for the faint of heart; an evil villain, bloody battles, and many deaths are all essential parts of the plot. The fighting and deaths are described in detail. Plus, the story focuses on the Stealer, who “is a mysterious spirit, dressed all in black, and wearing a black mask and cloak. He materializes in a village and takes children.”

Although A New Beginning is the beginning of Maddie’s story, those who are new to the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will not understand the significance of some of the people and events that take place. For maximum enjoyment, readers should first read all 12 books in the Ranger’s Apprentice Series. While this may seem like a huge undertaking, each book has a unique new conflict that will capture readers’ attention.

Through the Ranger’s Apprentice Series, Flanagan creates a world where good and evil often clash. By the end of the series, readers will feel like the characters are their friends. While the series often delves into serious topics, the books also reinforce the importance of loyalty, sacrifice, and friendship. Readers who decide to jump into the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will be swept away into a world where knights exist, princesses help save the day, and the Ranger’s apprentices always help overcome evil.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A Ranger questions a wagoner about “the fire that you and Ruhl set in that inn. . . There was a woman killed in that fire, remember? A Courier.” The Ranger explains that the Courier died while saving a child who was trapped in the fire.
  • Later, the fire is described. The Courier, Alyss, was on the second story of the inn when there was “a terrible rumbling crash, the entire section of the roof above and around where she was standing gave way and collapsed in a mass of flames and sparks. . . Alyss never had a chance.”
  • As the Ranger questions the wagoner, the Ranger’s “right hand snatched the dagger from his belt and he swung it in a backhanded strike. . . The wagoner grunted in shock and staggered back. His feet tangled in the bench he’d been sitting on and he stumbled, crashing over to hit the edge of the table, then falling with a thud to the ground.” When the wagoner doesn’t move, someone turns him over. “The wagoner’s eyes were wide-open. The shock of what had happened was frozen on his face. His own dagger was buried deep in his chest.”
  • Someone tries to kill Maddie, who reacts by using her sling to throw a projectile at the attacker. “The shot, with the extra impetus of the sling to propel it, hit its target first. She heard an ugly, meaty smack and a muted cry of pain from her attacker as it struck home.” Maddie kills the attacker.
  • The villain kidnaps a girl. In the process, her brother “pretended to go back to sleep. I told him if he raised the alarm or told anyone what he’d seen tonight, I’d come back for him and cut his eyes out of him.”
  • In an epic, multi-chapter conclusion, Will and Maddie try to save a group of children who were kidnapped. Both Will and Maddie are forced to kill several evil men. When Will sees a guard, he “nooked an arrow, drew back and released, sending a shaft flashing down the cliff face. It struck the crossbowman full in the chest.” The man dies.
  • One of the villains threatens to kill a child. In order to save the boy, Maddie whipped the sling over and forward. The lead ball caught the moonlight, glinting once as it flashed toward its target.” The man is injured, and “he drew in a breath to scream and the action caused him more agony as the jagged pieces of his fractured rib grated together.” The man falls off a cliff and dies.
  • Will draws the enemy away from Maddie. When Will has a chance, he shoots an arrow at “the line of advancing men. . . Enrico cried out in surprise and pain and threw out both arms, staggering back under the impact of the speeding shaft. Then he crashed over on his back, his sightless eyes staring up at the sky.” Will kills three men in a similar manner.
  • The enemy captures Will. One of the men “jerked his head forward and butted Will in the face.” Will is tied up, and the head henchman, Ruhl, plans to burn Will at the stake. “Ruhl made his way up to the beach to where Will stood, trapped against the stake, unable to move. . .”
  • Maddie crawls behind Will, who is tied at the stake. She cuts Will’s binds. Someone notices her, and Maddie’s “first shot smashed into one of his men. . . Maddie’s second shot smashed home. It hit him on the right shoulder, shattering the large bones there, smashing the joint beyond any possibility of repair and sending him reeling.”
  • During the fighting, Maddie is hit. “The evil, barbed head was buried deep in her thigh and she felt the leg give way under her, unable to bear her weight. Blood was coursing down her leg and she fell, causing more agony. . .”
  • During the fighting, Ruhl falls into the fire. “Then the firewood ignited with an explosive WHOOF! Ruhl screamed as the flames shot up, enveloping him instantly, catching his clothes and hair. . . He tried to scream again, but the burning air and flames scorched his throat and lungs, and he made a terrible, inhuman grunting noise.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Several times throughout the book, the adults drink ale. A man who owns a tavern “had drunk far too much ale. As a result, he had staggered off to his bed without bothering to clear away the dirty platters. . .”
  • Maddie is invited to a party where there is a cask of wine. Maddie “took a deep swig of wine. It tasted heavy and somewhat sour.” After drinking too much wine, Maddie looks at her friend who “seemed to be swimming in and out of focus.” The next morning, Maddie has a hangover and decides, “I’m never going to drink again.”
  • While trying to solve a mystery, Will goes into a tavern and orders small ale. “Small ale was ale and water mixed in equal proportions.”

Language

  • Gorlog’s breath is used as an exclamation once. Gorlog is a “very useful Skandian demigod.”
  • Oh god and my god are both used as an exclamation once. When Will talks about his dead wife, he say, “Oh god, how I miss her.”

Supernatural

  • While talking to some village children, Maddie hears about barrow wights. “They’re supposed to be spirits that hang around ancient graves.” Will thinks back into the past. Will had “sensed something then as he rode past some ancient borrows, as the ancient grave mounds were called. It seemed to be some malign presence.”
  • One of the villains scares the children with a story about the Stealer. “The Stealer is a mysterious spirit, dressed all in black, and wearing a black mask and cloak. He materializes in a village and takes children. . . The thing is, the Storyman said if we were ever to see him, we were to say nothing. . . And he said we must never, never tell a grown-up about the Stealer in the Night.”

Spiritual Content

  • Queen Cassandra’s father says, “Thank god for Horace. She couldn’t have chosen a better husband.”

Princess Lessons

Sasha, a flying horse, has just discovered that she is princess of the flying horses! But before she can attend to any royal duties, she has to take a difficult Princess Test. To make matters worse, plant pixies are trying to capture Sasha so they can use her magic wings. If the pixies steal too many feathers, a flying horse becomes too weak to fly. Can Sasha pass the Princess Test and stop the pixies from stealing the flying horses’ feathers?”

Verdant Valley is a magical place where horses live. However, danger is at Verdant Valley’s door. In order to help, Sasha studies to pass her Princess Test. However, the skills that Sasha learns aren’t skills of character. In order to pass the Princess Test, Sasha “pranced and flew. She ate and drank in a princess-y way. She won the staring contest. Flowers stayed in her mane when she ran. She remembered the ancient battles and the song of the giant snail.” While young readers will enjoy the tale, the story portrays Sasha as a typical princess who needs to be “fancy.”

Princess Lessons shows the importance of not keeping a secret if the secret puts someone else in danger. When Sasha prepares to leave Crystal Cover, Sasha asks her friend, Kimai, to keep a secret. However, Kimai tells the secret to the safety patrol. At first, Sasha is upset that Kimai didn’t keep the secret. Kimai says, “I am your friend. I broke my promise only because it’s not safe for you to leave.” Later Sasha forgives Kimai and realizes her friend did the right thing.

Princess Lessons has a high-interest topic—horses and pixies. The story’s nine short chapters, large font, and black-and-white illustrations make Princess Lessons accessible to young readers. Plus, the book’s large illustrations will help readers understand the plot.

Young readers will relate to Sasha as she tries, and fails, to learn new skills. While Sasha does not always do what’s right, she clearly cares about others. The conclusion ends abruptly, without solving the problem of the plant pixies, so readers will be eager to see what happens in the next book, The Plant Pixies. If you’re looking for a book series that young readers will love, the Tales of Sasha series will keep readers engaged with 12+ books to choose from.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Sasha tries to leave Crystal Cover, two green horses “threw two long, silver ribbons at her. One ribbon wrapped around one of her hind legs. The other ribbon wrapped around her nose. . . Together, the green horses gently pulled Sasha down to the Crystal Cove beach.” The two horses were trying to protect Sasha.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • A spell was put over Verdant Valley to keep the plant pixies away, but “the spell must have been broken when you went through the big trees.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

American Royals #1

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washington’s have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren’t just any royals. They’re American.

As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life begins to feel stifling. For Princess Samantha, nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

While American Royals follows the lives of the three Washington children, the story is told from multiple characters including Beatrice, Samantha, Nina, and Daphne. Beatrice struggles with the pressure of becoming the future queen. Because Samantha is the “spare,” she feels that no one cares about her, so she has turned into a wild party girl. Nina is Samantha’s best friend, and for a brief time, she dates the prince, Jefferson. While Nina deeply cares about Samantha and Jefferson, she struggles with the media storm that follows her. And then there is Daphne; she wants a crown and is willing to do anything to get it. The four distinct points of view allow the reader to understand the nuances of each character. This allows for rich world-building full of suspense, passion, and surprises.

Even though the story focuses on the monarchy, politics is not a major storyline. However, Beatrice and her father do talk about politics; for example, the King believes that “opposition is critical to government, like oxygen to fire.” These discussions will give readers some political questions to ponder. Plus, these discussions allow the reader to understand how Beatrice is forced to always put the crown before her personal desires.

The dynamics between the Washington family and their friends create an interesting story full of unique characters that draw the reader in. The narration includes some of the characters’ thoughts and feelings, which gives the story depth. While there is a clear villain, some of the suspense comes from not knowing everyone’s motivation. However, in a break from believability, most of the characters do not act like typical young adults. Despite this, many readers will relate to the characters’ fight against social and parental expectations. In the end, American Royals uses American’s fascination with royalty to spin a terrific tale that sheds light on the difficulties of being a prince or princess. However, if you’re looking for a book full of intrigue without the steamy kissing scenes, the Embassy Row Series by Ally Carter is sure to entertain you.

Sexual Content

  • Jefferson’s girlfriend finds him “in bed with another girl.”
  • At the Queen’s Ball, Samantha meets Teddy. She takes him into a coat closet and tells him, “I outrank you, and as your princess, I command that you kiss me.” After a brief conversation, Samantha “grabbed a fistful of his shirt and yanked him forward. Teddy’s mouth was warm on hers. He kissed her back eagerly, almost hungrily.”
  • Daphne, Jefferson’s ex-girlfriend, curtsied. “They both knew there was no reason to greet him like this, except to give him a good view down the front of her dress.”
  • At a graduation party, Jefferson and Nina go to his bedroom and make out. “Nina fell back onto the bed, pulling Jeff down next to her. . .his hand slipped under the strap of her dress, and it forced Nina brutally to her senses.” Nina stops Jefferson before they have sex.
  • Jefferson and Nina kiss four times. After the Queen’s ball, Jefferson kisses Nina. “She felt a sizzle of shock as the kiss ricocheted through her body. This is what she’d been chasing when she’d kissed those boys at school . . . This is how a kiss should feel—electric and pulsing and smokey all at once. . .”
  • Even though Beatrice is dating Teddy, she kisses her guard, Connor, and “the utter rightness of that kiss struck her, deep in her core.” They kiss five times.
  • During a skiing trip, Jefferson kisses Nina. “Nina went still, her eyes fluttering shut. Jeff’s lips were freezing, but his tongue was hot. The twin sensations and the fire sent shivers of longing through her body.” The kiss is described over two paragraphs.
  • Beatrice and Connor get stuck in a snow storm and have to share a room. While there, Connor kisses Beatrice. “He kissed her slowly, with a hushed sense of wonder that bordered on awe.”
  • Teddy is dating Samantha’s sister, Beatrice. Despite this, he kisses Samantha. “The kiss was gentle and soft, nothing like their fevered kisses in the cloakroom that night. . . Sam lifted her hands to splay them over the planes of Teddy’s chest, then draped them over his shoulders.” They kiss several more times after this incident.
  • Daphne wants to get back together with Jefferson. When they meet at a party, she tells him, “This time we don’t have to wait. For anything.” Before, Daphne told Jefferson that she wanted to wait to have sex, but now she’s hoping sex will help her get Jefferson back.
  • Teddy kisses Beatrice “with a quiet reverence. . . Beatrice had sensed that this was coming, and tried not to think about it too closely—not think anything at all. But it took every ounce of her willpower not to recoil from the feel of Teddy’s lips on hers. Just this morning she had been tangled in bed with Connor, their kisses so electrified that they sizzled all way down each of her nerve endings, while this kiss felt as empty as a scrap of blank paper.”
  • Even though Daphne was dating Jefferson, she has sex with Jefferson’s best friend, Ethan. “Suddenly they were tumbling onto the bed together, a tangle of hands and lips and heat. She yanked her dress impatiently over her head. . .She felt fluid, electrified, gloriously irresponsible.” The description stops here.
  • At Beatrice and Teddy’s engagement party, Beatrice kisses Connor. “His mouth on hers was searing hot. . . It felt like she’d been living in an oxygen-starved world and now could finally breathe—as if raw fire raced through her veins, and if she and Connor weren’t careful, they might burn down the world with it.”
  • At Beatrice’s engagement party, Daphne gets a ride with Ethan. Ethan kisses her and “the kiss snapped down her body like a drug, coursing wildly along her nerve endings. Daphne pulled him closer . . . Somehow, she moved to sit atop him, straddling his lap. They both fumbled in the dark, shoving aside the frothy mountain of her skirts.” The make-out scene is described over three paragraphs; the sex is not described.

Violence

  • During a knighting ceremony, Jefferson’s friend remembers “when Jefferson had drunkenly decided to knight people using one of the antique swords on the wall. He’d ended up nicking their friend Rohan’s ear. Rohan laughed about the whole thing, but you could still see the scar.”
  • Jefferson and Samantha have a graduation party at the palace. The guests “all had a lot to drink; the party’s signature cocktail was some fruity mixed thing.” During the party, a girl “tumbled down the palace’s back staircase.” The girl is in a coma after her fall.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • There are many, many events where alcohol is served to both adults and minors. For example, during the Queen’s Ball alcohol is served, including champagne. Even though Samantha is a minor the bartender gives her “a pair of frosted beer bottles.”
  • Samantha thinks about the difference between Jefferson and herself. “If pictures surfaced of Jeff visibly drunk and stumbling out of a bar, he was blowing off some much-needed steam. Samantha was a wild party girl.”
  • While at a museum, Beatrice looks at Picasso’s paintings. She said, “They always make me feel a little drunk.” Her guard says, “Well, really it’s to make you feel like you’re high on acid. But drunk is close enough.”
  • During the World Series, one of Jefferson’s friends became drunk and “bartered away his shoes for a hot dog.”
  • After a play, Samantha was served “two glasses of wine and a whiskey sour” even though she is only eighteen.
  • At a New Year’s party, Samantha and Daphne get drunk. “For the first time in her life, Daphne was drunk in public. After she and Samantha took that first round of shots, Daphne had insisted on switching to champagne. . . She’d never known how utterly liberating it was, to drink until the edges of reality felt liquid and blurred.”
  • Nina goes to a frat party. “Despite the chilly weather, a few of the houses had kegs and music on their front lawns. . .” When Nina goes inside, she sees, “clusters of students gathered around a plastic table, lining up their cups of beer for a drinking game.”
  • The King’s sister only goes to royal engagements when she’s drunk.
  • At a party, Daphne drinks tequila. She kept hoping that if she drank enough, she might temporarily forget that her hard-won, high-profile relationship was unraveling at the seams. So far it hadn’t worked.
  • Sam tells Teddy about some of her ancestors. King Hardecanute “died of drunkenness at a wedding feast . . . He literally drank himself to death!”
  • At his sister’s engagement party, Jefferson “sat on a gleaming barstool, his body slumped forward, his elbow propped on the bar. An expensive bottle of scotch sat before him . . . He was drinking straight from the bottle.”
  • After Beatrice’s engagement party, her father and she have bourbon. Beatrice takes a glass because it was “liquid courage.”
  • At a graduation party, Daphne puts “ground up sleeping pills” into a girl’s wine. The girl was “visibly drunker, her words louder and more pointed, and then a few minutes later she retreated to a sitting room.”

Language

  • Hell is used occasionally. Damn is used once.
  • God and oh god are used as exclamations occasionally.
  • If Samantha talked back to the paparazzi, she “was a ruthless bitch.”
  • After a picture of Jefferson and Nina kissing appears, people begin attacking Nina. One person posts, “get rid of that skanky commoner.” She is also called a “fame whore” and “a social climber.”
  • Daphne calls Nina a “gold-digging fame whore.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • The American Constitution says that “the king is charged by God to administer this Nation’s government.”
  • When Beatrice and Connor get stuck in the snow, she prays “that she could stay here forever, outside time itself.”
  • The King tells Beatrice, “I wish I had someone I could turn to for guidance. But all I can do is pray.”
  • While the king is in the hospital, his mother has “her rosary clicking in her hands as she mouthed her litany of prayers.”
  • When the king dies, “All the prayers that Beatrice had memorized as a child came rushing back, their words filling her throat. She kept reciting them, because it gave her something to occupy her brain, a weapon to wield against her overwhelming guilt. Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

The Silver Secret

Can the Snow Sisters stop the evil Shadow Witch from turning their world dark forever?

Ida, Magda, and Hanna’s mother, Freya, is the keeper of the magical Everchanging Lights that protect their island. But when a selfish witch curses their mother and tries to steal the power for herself, only the Snow Sisters can find the lights and save their kingdom. Find out if the girls can discover their own powers and recover the pink light before it’s too late!

The Silver Secret employs interesting topics—princesses with a magical power and a magical polar bear—to draw readers into the story. Even though the beginning of the book explains a lot of background information, the story is still fast-paced and interesting. The girls’ mother appears in a magic snow globe and says, “Veronika wants the magic of the Everchanging Lights for herself. . .but I managed to protect it before she could trap me. . . My daughters, you must find these orbs.”

Even though the sisters are used to having servants help them “with everything,” the girls are determined to do the quests on their own, so they sneak out of the castle in the middle of night. Every time the girls are in danger, one of the sisters uses her magic to solve the problem. As they look for the orb, the sisters’ comments often sound snobbish. For example, the girls know their governess would not like them trekking through the snow. Hanna says, “She would demand that Gregor take us to find the snow hawk in Nordovia’s finest sleigh, with hot chocolate breaks every half an hour!”

The sisters find one orb and safely return to the castle. The conclusion sets up the second installment of the series, The Crystal Rose. The Silver Secret has charming black and white drawings that focus on the three sisters. The Snow Sisters Series will entertain young readers who love princesses and magic. However, the Diary of an Ice Princess Series by Christina Soontornvat and the Candy Fairies Series by Helen Perelman would be a better choice if you’re looking for an entertaining story with life lessons.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Veronika, Freya’s sister, uses her magic to ambush Freya and her husband. “Magnus ran to help [Freya], but Veronika stabbed her staff into the ground and shouted a vicious-sounding spell. Instantly, gnarled tree limbs burst out of the snow and weaved themselves around him.”
  • Veronika and a wolf find the girls. “As the wind grew to a harsh cry, a rumble worked its way through Oskar’s throat, and he lunged at the wolf. But he was no match for the beast, and a gigantic paw knocked him flying. Oskar yelped and slumped into a snow drift, dazed.”
  • Gregor comes to the girls’ aid. “Gregor leaped forward and grabbed the wolf’s tail. With a huge effort he began to pull the wolf back by its fur—but with one mighty swing of its body the wolf flung Gregor into a tree.”
  • The girls try to escape from the wolf by climbing a tree “but the wolf’s sharp teeth caught her sister’s boot and began to drag her down.” Magda turns into a snow hawk and escapes.
  • To get the wolf away from her sisters, Magda turns into a squirrel. She “sprang onto the wolf’s back and bit down hard on its ear!” Magda uses her magic to shake snow onto the wolf. “The beast disappeared beneath the snow. . .”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The Snow Sisters’ mother is the Keeper of the Lights. “The magical Everchanging Lights sustained and protected the island.” Their mother also has the ability to “momentarily freeze time.”
  • Veronika uses a curse to “drain Freya’s magic from her.”
  • Freya appears in a snow globe and talks to the girls. The sisters “just listened to their mother’s familiar voice and watched the light pouring from the globe.”
  • Ida can make her drawings come to life. Ida uses her magic to make snowshoes.
  • Oskar, a magical polar bear, is able to “magically grow in size.”
  • Hanna’s magic allows her to move things with her mind.
  • When the girls use their magic, they feel a tingle.

Spiritual Content

  • None

War Storm

In the splintered Kingdom of Norta, freedom for Reds and newbloods is closer than ever before. Torn between the two princes and the feuding noble Silver Houses, Norta is ripe for the taking. All the Scarlet Guard has to do is clean up the mess Maven Calore made, and create the type of nation that will never discriminate against Reds and newbloods. The first step is to rip the crown from Maven’s head.

In order to change the world, Mare Barrow must ally with Cal, the boy who chose the crown over her. Cal’s betrayal nearly broke Mare, but now she must fight alongside him if she wants any chance at winning freedom. If she doesn’t, Maven will surely overrun them all, and capture her for himself. Maven’s obsession with Mare runs deep, and he’ll stop at nothing to have her again.

For the Reds to rise, they must first go through a war storm. Scurrying from nation to nation and striking deep into the heart of Norta is only the beginning, and there are endless battles in sight. Are Mare and the Scarlet Guard willing to sacrifice everything to achieve the impossible? Or will Maven crush them and their dreams?

War Storm is the final entry in Aveyard’s Red Queen Series, and the story will not disappoint readers. As Mare and the Scarlet Guard are about to secure a future for themselves, they fight intense battles. The action-packed series features different combinations of Silver and newblood abilities, which makes every battle feel unique and fresh. Readers will love how each battle plays out differently than the last.

Of course, all those battles support the theme of war, as nearly the entire continent gets dragged into the civil war between Cal and his brother, Maven. Maven brokers alliances with the powerful nation of the Lakelands, as well as the smaller nation of Piedmont. While Cal allies with the free country of Montfort, the only nation known that allows equality for Reds, newbloods, and Silvers.

The characters in War Storm are strong and interesting. Mare has grown into a girl that’s strong enough to handle whatever is thrown at her. Another fascinating character is Evangeline Samos, Mare’s former enemy, who begins the long journey to overcome her Silver-born prejudices. These strong characters will keep readers on the edge of their seats. While not every main character gets the most satisfying ending to their arc, the ending ties up most of the loose ends and will leave readers happy. Warm Storm is a satisfying conclusion to Aveyard’s Red Queen Series.

Sexual Content

  • Evangeline is in love with her brother’s wife, Elane. Evangeline thinks, “It breaks my heart to know she isn’t really mine.”
  • Evangeline’s brother, tells her that their mother wants grandchildren. “Prodding after grandchildren. She escorts Elane to my rooms every night. I think she might even stand guard outside the door.”
  • Davidson, the leader of Montfort, shares a kiss with his husband, Carmadon. “They embrace quickly, touching foreheads and kissing, before Carmadon backs away.”

Violence

  • During an attack on a military transport, Mare sees Evangeline lift a vehicle. Mare watches as Evangeline “hisses as she raises the heavy transport off the road, revealing twisted limbs and a few flattened skulls seeping brain like popped grapes leaking juice.”
  • During a battle, Kilorn, Mare’s best friend, is thrown off a building. Mare thinks, “The crack and thud of Kilorn hitting the railing below makes me sick.” Minutes later, when Mare gets to Kilorn, he “jolts and hacks, painting the steps with his own blood.”
  • Mare gets revenge on the Silvers that threw Kilorn, killing them with lightning, “I have to look away from the charred remains. Only their buttons and guns remain intact, smoking with heat.”
  • When Iris meets with Cal’s grandmother, Iris pictures, “her grip changing, shifting, and then my skull exploding open, spewing brain and bone all over the transport interior.”
  • Just before being ambushed, Mare sees pine needles floating in the air. One pine needle, “sprouts before my eyes, a sapling growing in midair. It spears a soldier before any of us can react.
  • During an ambush, Tyton kills a lot of raiders with his ability to control lightning. Tyton, “blinks once, twice. Killing anyone within his reach, leveling them with a fury of electricity in their skills.”
  • Iris thinks about the man who killed her father. The man “cut his throat. Attacked him from behind like some honorees dog.
  • Mare kills a man who attacked her. She strikes him with her lightning and “then his face explodes; shards of bone and torn flesh arc forward. His body follows the momentum, slumping over me, and the thunderous touch of electricity returns as quickly as he falls.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • During a dinner party, wine is served. Mare watches as her friend, Farley, “barely nods in thanks when Carmadon fills her glass with rich, almost black wine. She drinks deep.”

Language

  • Damn is used frequently. Mare thinks about Cal’s marriage to Evangeline, “Like us, Volo needs him. Needs his name, needs his crown, and needs his damn hand in that damn marriage to his damn daughter.”
  • Maven called Elane “Evangeline’s whore.”

Supernatural

  • Silvers and Newbloods have unique powers.
  • Mare is an electricon, a type of newblood that can manipulate lightning. Mare thinks, “I hardly know the depths of my own abilities. It’s the same for all newbloods I’ve met and helped train.”
  • Ella, another electricon, “used her own storm to strike the central, furious blue lightning cracking stone.”
  • Mare thinks about her ability to manipulate lightning, “I know what it is to pour lightning into a person, to sense their nerves sparking off and dying. It feels like a small death of your own, an ending you can never forget.”
  • Prince Bracken is a mimic. Iris thinks about his abilities, “If he were to touch me, he would be able to use my nymph abilities, albeit only for a time, and to a lesser extent. The same goes for any Silver.”
  • Jidansais is a telky. Iris thinks about Jidansa, “She used her talky ability to amuse Ti and me as children, juggling our shoes or toys with her mind.”
  • Evangeline is a magnetron, who can manipulate metal. After lifting a military transport, “Evangeline lowers the transport again. With a twitch of her fingers, she rips off one of the doors, allowing those inside to tumble out.”
  • Shadows can manipulate light. Mare sees, “The work of shadows, no doubt, manipulators of light. It sends harsh light and harsher darkness dancing across us all.”
  • Nymphs can manipulate water. Evangeline sees the signs of a nymph attack, “‘Nymph strike!’ I manage to scream as another towering wave crashes—backward.”
  • Evangeline recounts her first time teleporting, “It feels like being squeezed down to my marrow, all my organs twisting, my balance thrown off, my perception turned on its head.”
  • Windweavers can manipulate wind and air. Mare sees, “On the opposite side of the chamber, Radis gestures to Davidson, flicking out one hand. As he does so, a sudden breeze rustles through the Gallery.”

Spiritual Content

  • In the Lakelands, the people worship gods that don’t have faces.
  • Iris thinks it’s a blasphemy to speak for the gods.
  • Iris tries to get her betrothed, Maven, to accept her gods. When he refuses, she thinks, “Nonbelievers are not my problem. I can’t open their eyes, and it isn’t my job to do so. Let him meet the gods in death and see how wrong he was before he enters a hell of his own making.”
  • In Archeon, the capital of Norta, Iris tries to maintain her beliefs. She has, “a small temple—a shrine, more than anything—filled with candles and worn emblems of the nameless gods.”
  • In the Lakelands, the nameless gods are everywhere. Iris sees, “Worn faces, bland in their features, both strange and familiar, look down from the ceiling and walls. Our gods have no names, no hierarchy. Their blessings are random, their words sparse, their punishments impossible to predict.”

by Jonathan Planman

Fairest of All

Once upon a time, a mirror slurped up Abby and her brother Johan. When Abby and Johan are magically transported into the fairy tale world, they don’t mean to change Snow White’s happily-ever-after. Because of them, Snow doesn’t eat the poisonous apple. Snow doesn’t meet the prince. Abby is determined to fix Snow’s story; she’s just not sure how to make the prince meet and fall in love with Snow.

Abby and Johan are complete opposites, which adds humor to the story. Abby needs a plan for everything and constantly tries to curb Johan’s adventurous spirit. The one thing that remains constant is their desire to help Snow. Unlike the original fairy tale, in this story Snow White’s personality is multifaceted. She proves that a girl doesn’t need a prince in order to live happily ever after. Instead of following the traditional plot, Fairest of All takes the reader down a winding path where danger is behind every corner.

Fairest of All is an imaginative retelling of Snow White’s fairy tale. Told from Abby’s point of view, the story’s start is slow, but once the siblings show up at the dwarves’ cottage, the action picks up. With short chapters, easy vocabulary, and an interesting narrator, Fairest of All will appeal to a wide range of readers. The story leaves several questions unanswered, which will have readers reaching for the next book in the series, If the Shoe Fits. More advanced readers should add The Secret Rescuers series by Paula Harrison to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Evil Evelyn tries to give Snow a poisoned apple. While arguing with Snow, Evelyn begins to sweat, and “makeup starts to smear down her face,” which allows Snow to recognize her stepmother. Johan retells the story, “Snow’s stepmom was trying to kill her with a poisoned apple, and that’s why she was wearing a disguise.”
  • Snow explains how she came to live with the dwarves. Snow’s stepmom “sends Xavier, her huntsmen, to kill me. He let me get away, but then I got lost in the forest… I came across the cottage… So I fell asleep on an empty bed, and the next thing I knew, there were seven little people staring at me.”
  • Johan tells Snow that the huntsman “told the queen that he had done it. And I think he gave her the lungs and liver of some animal, pretending it was you.” This comes up several times throughout the book.
  • Evil Evelyn tried to kill Snow using laces. The stepmother “tied them so tight Snow couldn’t breathe. We [the dwarves] came home and found Snow lying on the floor. We untied them just in time.”
  • When Prince Trevor was two, he threw a rock at a stranger.
  • Disguised as a child, Evil Evelyn offers to give Snow a cookie. Snow takes the cookie and her stepmother was “lifting the hammer and swinging it toward Snow’s head.” Abby sees the hammer and she “jumps towards Snow and push her out of the way… At the same time, the young girl’s hammer swings through the air and misses its target.” Evil Evelyn flees.
  • Snow, Johan, and Abby sneak into the castle. If they are caught, Snow says Evil Evelyn will kill them. Then Johan askes, “Do you think she’d eat our lungs and livers too?”
  • In order to try to “fix” Snow’s story, Snow pretends to be dead. As she lays in the coffin, she puts her head on a poisoned pillow. Snow screams. “Snow pops up, the tips of her hair burnt off like she stood too close to a fire.” To get the poison out of Snow’s hair, Abby dumps water on her head.
  • In order to get into the castle, Snow, Abby, and Johan swim the moat. Two crocodiles snap at the three friends. “Baby Crocodile blocks our path from behind and snaps her baby teeth… Mama Crocodile lunges again.” Johan throws stew sandwiches at the crocodile, who gobble them up. The three are able to escape.
  • Snow, Johan, and Abby try to leave the castle. They are on the drawbridge when soldiers appear. Evil Evelyn “aims a bowstring at Snow and pulls the trigger… In what seems like slow motion, he [Prince Trevor] jumps in front of Snow.” Trevor is injured, but Snow is saved.
  • The arrow hit Prince Trevor “square in the chest… Prince Trevor is still standing, but he’s shaking. After a few dramatic moments, his knees buckle, and he falls right over the bridge and into the water. Splash!”
  • Snow is able to drag Prince Trevor to shore. Trevor wakes up and says, “You kissed me. I was dead, and your kiss woke me up.” Snow explains that she didn’t kiss Trevor, but that “it was mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.” The escape scene is described over 10 pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Jonah and Abby travel through a mirror and end up in Snow White’s fairy tale. When Jonah knocks on the mirror three times, the mirror sucks Jonah and Abby into it.
  • Time in the real world travels slower than in Snow White’s world. Every hour in the real world equals one day in Snow’s world.

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Wishing Pearl

Princess Clarabel loves being a Rescue Princess. She and her friends are committed to saving animals in trouble wherever they may be!

When Clarabel finds an injured dolphin during Ampali Island’s Royal Regatta, she knows just who to call for help—her fellow Rescue Princesses! Her friends are brave, talented, and super smart. They’re so amazing in fact, she’s worried that she’ll fall behind, but Clarabel is about to discover that she has an incredible gift.

In the first book of the series, the princesses worked together to solve a mystery. However, in The Wishing Pearl, the princesses spend some of their time lurking around, trying to spy on a prince who is up to no good. At one point, they sneak into his room to look for clues. The princesses also try to avoid Queen Trudy because she wants the princesses to help prepare for an event. Instead, the princesses stay true to their desire to help injured animals by helping an injured dolphin.

Even though the vocabulary isn’t difficult, the story uses some complex sentence structures that are appropriate for strong readers. Cute black-and-white pictures appear every 2-7 pages. Many of the pictures are full-page and show the princesses in action. On the inside cover, the princesses are shown in full color and include characters of different ethnicities. However, in the black-and-white illustrations, the princesses look very similar to each other.

Readers will enjoy the interaction between the princesses and relate to Clarabel, who worries that she isn’t as good as the other princesses. Throughout the story, the princesses help each other and encourage each other. Even though the princesses find a lost treasure, they never consider keeping the treasure for themselves. Instead, they give it to the queen to use for her kingdom. The Wishing Pearl has positive princesses, action, and teaches about the importance of taking care of animals.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Each of the four princesses has a ring. “Even though they looked like ordinary rings, these magical jewels enable the princesses to call one another for help. Jaminta had invented them. . . By shaping jewels carefully, she could give them special powers.”
  • Jaminta has made several magical jewels including “emeralds that light up, diamonds that detect metal, and the rings that we use to call each other.”
  • Clarabel uses a pearl to heal a dolphin. “With her whole heart she said, ‘I wish he could be healthy again, I wish he could be healthy again. . .’ The pearl’s rainbow shine grew brighter. A fine white mist floated from the pearl to the dolphin. Under the haze, the dolphin seemed to fill with light.” The dolphin’s injury is completely healed.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Gotta Warn the Unicorns

Princess Pulverizer is so close to completing the Quest of Kindness that will allow her to go to Knight School. Before she can do her next good deed, she needs to help Fortune—a unicorn she recently rescued—find his family.

When a cowardly king orders his knight to capture all the unicorns they can, it’s up to the princess and her pals to warn the unicorns before it’s too late. But first they have to find them. Can Princess Pulverizer, her friend Lucas, and Dribble the dragon save the unicorns?

With her same feisty attitude, Princess Pulverizer faces King Harvey the Lion-Hearted. The cowardly king is convinced someone is trying to poison him and the only solution is to find a unicorn horn. When his knights present the king with a false unicorn horn, Princess Pulverizer shows off her unicorn knowledge and explains why the horn is not truly from a unicorn. She didn’t mean to endanger the unicorns, but her prideful nature has made King Harvey send his knights out on a unicorn hunt.

Princess Pulverizer is determined to fix her mistake and save the unicorns. Readers will giggle as Princess Pulverizer and her friends trick the king’s knights. King Harvey’s ridiculous behavior also adds humor. However, some of the story’s humor comes from the gassy king who likes to eat beans. The story’s comedy doesn’t interfere with the important message of not showing off.

Gotta Warn the Unicorns has a spunky, selfish princess who is trying to learn to be more like a knight. In the end, she praises her friend Lucas and asks King Harvey to give Lucas the magic lion charm. The story’s conclusion will leave readers curious about where Lucas’s newfound courage will lead them. Readers will be eager to grab the next book in the series, Yo-Ho, Yo . . . NO!

Gotta Warn the Unicorns is perfect for readers who are ready for chapter books. The story contains easy vocabulary and short paragraphs. Black-and-white illustrations appear frequently and add humor to the story. Gotta Warn the Unicorns will engage readers and encourage them to be kind to others.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic mirror that shows the future.
  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic ring that allows her to enter a room in complete silence.
  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic arrow. “If ever the holder of the arrow finds themselves lost, it will always point them toward home.”
  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic mace that has “the power to heal the wounds of anyone on the side of all that is good and right.”
  • Princess Pulverizer has a truth-telling sword. “If someone is lying, it will wiggle. But if he’s telling the truth, it will lie still.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Dragon’s Tale

Princess Pulverizer plans to become a knight. But first, she has to complete her Quest of Kindness and complete eight good deeds. Princess Pulverizer is determined to make her dream come true. Her dragon friend Dribble dreams of being a chef. He wants to run his own restaurant, but when people see him, they run away.

The villagers start feeling sick to their stomachs and so does Dribble. Due to a bad bellyache, Dribble accidentally sets a barn on fire. Everyone in town is angry at Dribble. How can Princess Pulverizer prove that Dribble isn’t a typical fire-breathing dragon that loves to burn buildings down? Is there any way the two will make their dreams come true?

Princess Pulverizer isn’t a typical princess. She doesn’t dream about dresses, but instead wants to be a knight. The tough princess is selfish, spoiled, and snobby. With the help of her friends, she is trying to be more kind. However, she still has a hard time not focusing on herself. Although Princess Pulverizer will never be a perfect princess, she has determination and spunk.

The princess and her friends discover that a polluted river is the reason people are getting sick. The story missed an opportunity to teach readers about the harmful nature of trash. At one point both Dribble and Lucas drink from the polluted river. In the end, the river is not cleaned up by hard work but by magic.

The Dragon’s Tale is perfect for readers who are ready for chapter books. The story contains easy vocabulary and short paragraphs. Black-and-white illustrations appear frequently and add humor to the story. The illustrations show Princess Pulverizer’s facial expression and her vast emotions in a humorous way.

Even though The Dragon’s Tale doesn’t have the same learning value as the previous book in the series, it will appeal to many readers. The high-interest story doesn’t only includes a princess, a friendly dragon, and a unicorn. Dribble’s desire to open a restaurant gives the story a unique twist. In the end, Princess Pulverizer helps Dribble make his dream a reality—at least for a day. Fairy tale fans will enjoy watching Princess Pulverizer and her friends travel through the kingdom and working together to overcoming their obstacles.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Ralf was attempting to juggle on stage. When he messes up someone said, “You stink!” Then the person threw a tomato at his head. Some people in the crowd also “threw wilted lettuce and rotting tomatoes at the stage.”
  • Ralf throws a lasso at a unicorn. “The unicorn looked up, frightened. And as he lifted his head, the lasso swung down over him, catching around his neck. . . He dragged the unicorn closer to the woods, where he had a cage on wheels hidden in the trees, waiting. Then he forced the unicorn into the cage and slammed the door shut.”
  • When Ralf tells a lie the unicorn “made a sudden turn, then jabbed Ralf in the leg with its horn.” When Ralf tells another lie, the unicorn “lowered his head and butted Ralf right in the rear end.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Several characters refer to Lucas being “lily-livered.” For example, Princess Pulverizer said, “Besides, I thought you were trying hard not to be so lily-livered.”

Supernatural

  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic mirror that shows the future.
  • Princess Pulverizer has a truth-telling sword. “If someone is lying, it will wiggle. But if he’s telling the truth, it will lie still.”
  • Princess Pulverizer has a magic arrow. “If ever the holder of the arrow finds themselves lost, it will always point them toward home.”
  • Princess Pulverizer and her friends need to help the town clean up the polluted river. In order to clean up the river, Princess Pulverizer says, “all we have to do is get the unicorn to stick his horn in the river, and it will be cleaned up in an instant.” They find the unicorn and “when the unicorn reached the water’s edge, he dipped his horn into the river. There was a flash of light. A sweet smelling wind blew through the trees. And in an instant, the river was clean.”
  • Princess Pulverizer is given a magical handkerchief and told, “hold it to your nose, and you will be able to smell things miles away.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Secret Promise

These are no ordinary princesses—they’re Rescue Princesses! Princess Emily sometimes wishes that being a princess meant more than wearing fancy dresses and performing endless curtsies. She longs for a life-changing adventure – and she may just get one!

Someone is plotting to hurt the deer who live in the beautiful Mistberg Forest. Together with some new friends, Emily will have to use her smarts, her savvy, and even some newfound ninja skills to save them.

As the first book in The Rescue Princesses Series, The Secret Promise introduces four princesses who aren’t just stereotypical princesses. They like dresses and jewels, but they also like obstacle courses and learning ninja moves to help injured animals. The determined princesses aren’t afraid to tackle difficult situations. Even though the princesses know who the villain is, they still use their skills to gather evidence to take to the king. At the end of the story, the king praises the princesses because “they showed us how to be brave, inventive, and kind to other creatures.”

The Secret Promise will keep readers interested because the story has action, mystery, and daring princesses. Even though the vocabulary isn’t difficult, the story uses some complex sentence structures that are appropriate for strong readers. Cute black-and-white pictures appear every 2-7 pages. Many of the pictures are full-page and show the princesses in action. On the inside cover, the princesses are shown in full color and include characters of different ethnicities. However, in the black-and-white illustrations, the princesses look very similar to each other.

Throughout the story, several minor characters are introduced and the conclusion sets the stage for book two, The Wishing Pearl. Despite this, the books do not need to be read in order. The Secret Promise showcases adventurous princesses who use teamwork and show compassion for animals. Readers who enjoy animal stories may also want to add Rainbow Magic: The Pet Fairies Series by Daisy Meadows to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The princesses find a deer that is caught in a trap. “The trap’s clamped really tightly around its foot. . . Even if we manage to open it, the deer still won’t be able to walk.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Jaminta can give jewels power. She explains, “I found a way to make jewels work like gadgets. . . I can give them power or make them warm. Or I can make them light up just like this.”
  • Jaminta makes a jewel. “They’re diamonds that light up like magic when they’re close to metal.”
  • Jamita makes rings with jewels. “Now they are communication rings. So if you speak into yours, we’ll all hear you, no matter where we are and no matter how far away.”

Spiritual Content

  • When the princesses try to free a deer from a trap, Emily “kept a tight hold on the leg, praying that Jaminta could work magic with her screwdriver and get the trap undone.”

Watch that Witch

Princess Pulverizer is desperate to finish her Quest of Kindness so she can finally go to Knight School. The problem is, she’s only halfway through her required number of good deeds. So when a witch offers to make her a knight right away—as long as Princess Pulverizer works for her—it’s a no-brainer. What could go wrong?

Princess Pulverizer is in a hurry to reach her goal. When the evil witch, Elle, offers to make her a knight immediately, Princess Pulverizer is convinced that causing a little mischief isn’t such a big deal. As the princess causes problems for others, the good witch tries to undo Princess Pulverizer’s pranks. Throughout the tale, the princess learns that “being a noble knight is not something you can become overnight. It takes time. And training. . . My father was right. I have a lot to learn.”

Readers will enjoy the story’s characters, which include twin witches, a faithful friend, Dribble the Dragon, and an impatient princess. Readers will relate to the princess’s desire to quickly reach her goal.  Watch that Witch is perfect for readers who are ready for chapter books. The story contains easy vocabulary and short paragraphs. Princess Pulverizer has many funny puns, introduces some new vocabulary, and has a tongue twister. Black-and-white illustrations appear frequently and will help readers picture the events in the story. The illustrations show Princess Pulverizer’s facial expression and her vast emotions in a humorous way.

Watch that Witch has interesting characters, a relatable conflict, and plenty of humor to keep readers interested. Young readers will enjoy the interesting topic and parents will like the positive messages about friendship, working hard, and being nice. The story reinforces the idea that teamwork is important and that “when we work together, no one can stop us.” Watch that Witch will make a fun addition to any child’s reading list. Readers will be eager to pick up the next book in the series, The Dragon’s Tale. Readers interested in knights may also want to try the Roland Wright Series by Tony Davis.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A little boy has a gingerbread cookie, but then a witch shows up and brings the cookie to life. “The child looked surprised as his gingerbread cookie dropped to the ground and began to dance on its own.” The cookie bites the boy’s leg, then “the gingerbread boy ran off down the road.”
  • During a jousting match, “something slammed Princess Pulverizer right in the chest. She felt herself falling and then everything went black.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Lucas left Knight School because some of the boys made fun of him and called him “lily-livered.”
  • Twice, the evil witch calls the princess a “fool.”

Supernatural

  • The princess has a sword of truth that quivers when someone is not telling the truth.
  • The story has two witches, one that is good and one that is evil. One witch “snapped her fingers and pulled a gingerbread cookie seemingly out of thin air.” She gives the cookie to a little boy, then “the woman in the blue gown waved her hand again and magically vanished.”
  • The princess has a magic mace that heals people’s wounds, “but the king also said that if we try to use the mace’s power on someone who is deceitful or evil, its magic will disappear.” When the princess waves the mace over Dribble’s blister, the blister dissolves.
  • The evil witch gives the princess a pin that puts her under a spell. While she wears the pin, the princess must do what the evil witch tells her to do.
  • The princess wears a ruby ring that “gave whoever wore it the ability to move without making a sound.”
  • When the princess begins to talk to the good witch, the princess “felt a piece of cloth fly into her mouth, blocking her words. She tried to pull the gag from her mouth, but already a white rope had magically tied her hands behind her back. Another rope was slithering its way around her legs, binding them so she couldn’t walk. . .a locked cage appeared magically around Princess Pulverizer. She was trapped!”
  • When the princess tries to escape, “she felt her feet lift off the ground. . .The wicked witch was waving her hands in the air. She was the reason the princess was flying in midair.”
  • The princess tricks the evil witch into looking into a magical reflecting pool. “Without thinking, she looked down into the water. A moment later, her fingers curled like a tiger’s claws. Her feet hardened like lead. And her skin turned gray as slate.” The evil witch turns into stone.
  • The princess is given a hand mirror as a gift. The mirror’s “magic is powerful. You can see the future reflected in the glass.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The False Fairy

In the eleventh fantastic adventure of The Kingdom of Wrenly series, a spell makes all but one fairy disappear. A mysterious spell has hypnotized the fairies on the island of Primlox, and now it is up to Prince Lucas and Clara to save the fairyland. Along with the last remaining fairy named Falsk, will the two friends find the missing fairies? Or is Falsk, who is famous for telling wild stories, leading Lucas and Clara into a trap?

The False Fairy uses adventure, friendship, and a little bit of magic to form an entertaining story that teaches a positive lesson. Like many people, Falsk likes to play jokes on others and tell stories. However, Falsk has told so many untrue stories and played so many pranks on others that no one trusts her anymore. When the fairies are in trouble, Falsk journeys to Wrenly to get help. Even though the Falsk is known as the False Fairy, the prince listens to her plight and helps her free her fairy friends.

The Kingdom of Wrenly series has a lot of positive aspects. Besides having a pet dragon, the prince is curious, helpful, and truly cares for other people. Even though he is royalty, the prince’s best friend Clara is the daughter of a baker. The adventurous friends work together to help Falsk find her friends. In the end, Falsk learns the danger of telling untrue stories and promises. “From now on, I will never play another trick. And I’ll be truthful, honorable, and kind.”

The story’s illustrations are beautifully drawn in black and white and appear on almost every page. The illustrations help readers visualize the characters and events in the story. Easy-to-read vocabulary, dialogue, and simple sentence structure make The False Fairy a perfect book for beginning readers. Although The False Fairy is the eleventh installment of a series, the previous books do not need to be read in order to enjoy the story.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • The wizard Grom goes in search of items for his potions. He wants to make, “potions for bad-dragon-breath and stain removal, cough serums, and tracking spells.”
  • Grom’s tracking potion needs, “1 body part for creature to be tracked (hair, fingernail, scale, dander, or shell), 1 cup orange blossom honey, ½ turnip, 1 handful of gooseberries, 1 swoosh of snail slime.”
  • Grom mixes the tracking potion ingredients and then says, “Pursue-mora! Pursue-mora! Hot on the trail of an unknown beat. Track it down in a high-speed chase. Then make known it’s hidden face.” After the spell is cast, “sparkling light and glitter swirled from the locket. It ripped out of the cabin and up into the sea air.”
  • Grom cast a “strong protection spell on the children and Ruskin.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When fairies hear a song, they go into a trance. When Rainbow Frost hears the son, “a dreamy expression fell over Rainbow Frost’s face. Her body began to float upward. Falsk watched in horror as Rainbow Frost and the fairies of Primlox seemed to be pulled away by a dark, misty cloud moving across the sky.”
  • When looking for the source of the song, Falsk finds out that “the strange song was coming from a dark, misty cloud moving across the sky.”
  • As the group follows the dark cloud, “they studied the sea and sky for more clues. Soon their imaginations began to play tricks on them. Each waved seemed to swell with monster faces, and the clouds took on beastly shapes.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare

Princess Magnolia is excited. Excited and nervous. She’s going to the Interkingdom Science Fair today to present her poster about seeds and plants. Even better, when she arrives, she sees that her friends are there too! Princess Honeysuckle made a mole habitat, Princess Sneezewort has built a blanket fort, and Tommy Wigtower has a talking volcano that’s saying “EAAAAT!” Wait, what?

Instead of a volcano that spews lava, Tommy’s volcano has a goo monster living inside. But every time the goo monster tries to eat or find a new home, the goo monster gets yelled out. The goo monster needs a new home and the Princess in Black is willing to help. Will the Princess in Black be able to defeat the goo monster?

Although the science fair is the scene of the story, the story only has a smattering of science. In one part, in order to carry the goo monster, the princesses must figure out how to distribute the weight. The science portion introduces some basic concepts but does not go into confusing detail. This story also highlights the importance of working together.

Readers will love the princesses who are prim and proper when they need to be, but they are also a little bit awkward. Even though the Goat Avenger only makes a small appearance, he adds humor to the story. The Goat Avenger loves to “wage battle.” When the Goat Avenger “wages battle,” he uses a duster to tickle a monster back to his home.

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare is an excellent book for beginning readers. Colorful illustrations appear on almost every page to help readers visualize the story’s actions. The chapters are short with easy-to-understand language. Each page has eight or fewer sentences that appear in large font. The monster of the story is more humorous than scary. Even though The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare is the sixth installment of the series, readers do not have to read the previous books to understand and appreciate the story.

The easy text and the detailed illustrations will make younger readers want to read the story over and over. The illustrations are sometimes funny, but they always do an excellent job of capturing the character’s emotions. If you’re looking for a high-energy, enjoyable book with strong female characters, then The Princess in Black series should be added to your reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The hungry goo monster eats Princess Mongolia’s poster. Then “the goo monster and the Princess in Black waged battle. Volcano Rumble. Bucket Bash! Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash.”
  • The goo monster jumps into a mole habitat, but “the moles and the goo monster couldn’t all fit in there. The moles felt jammed. The moles felt crammed. The moles bit the goo monster. It yelped. It leaped out of the mole habitat.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Tommy accidentally makes a goo monster. The goo monster hides in Tommy’s volcano.

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Heir

Eadlyn, the daughter of Maxon and America, is next in line for the throne and will be the first woman in her country’s history to rule by herself. Eadlyn is powerful—the last thing she needs is a man to get in her way. When unrest begins to develop throughout the country, Eadlyn’s parents come to her with a solution to distract the people while they attempt to settle the turmoil in the country—a Selection of her own.

Eadlyn is against the idea. She doesn’t see how babysitting 35 boys will solve the country’s problems. Eadlyn finally agrees to an attempt at finding a husband through the Selection but plans to sabotage it by acting as unpleasant as possible, encouraging the boys to leave on their own and finishing the Selection her way. However, Eadlyn quickly discovers that she must play to the eye of the public in order to win the public’s favor of herself as the next ruler in line for the throne.

As the Selection runs its course, Eadlyn finds herself enjoying some of the boys and doesn’t entirely hate the thought of them being in her house. However, with fights and attempted inappropriate touching, the press begins to show that Eadlyn doesn’t have control over her own Selection. Will Eadlyn finish her Selection with a husband and continue on to rule the country?

Readers won’t be able to put down this installation of the Selection series as they watch the newest generation of Illea’s royalty work through a possible uprising, budding romance, and a whole new type of Selection. Although the first few chapters of The Heir are slow, the pacing picks up and will leave the readers turning the pages to find out if Eadlyn will find the love of her life and still rule Illea. Readers will want to read the previous books of the Selection series in order to fully enjoy and understand The Heir.

Eadlyn is shown as a powerful, headstrong heir to the throne, who learns how to let her walls down. Eadlyn discovers that letting people see her as more than just a ruler, will actually benefit herself. At the beginning of the book, her condescending, blunt, and rude personality may turn away readers. However, readers will eventually fall in love with Eadlyn as she learns how to be the “people’s ruler.” Entertaining characters from previous books make appearances along with new, well-developed characters. Overall, these components create a storyline that will keep readers turning the pages. The story highlights the importance of family and friends and shows that with the help of others, anything can be accomplished. Because the conclusion of The Heir ends with a cliffhanger, readers will want to have the next book of the series, The Crown, on hand.

Language

  • When Kile and Eadlyn greet one another on a date, Eadlyn jokes, “It’s ‘Royal Pain in the Ass’ to you, sir.”
  • Kile apologizes for calling Eadlyn “bratty.”
  • After a parade ends in a disaster, Eadlyn’s parents ask her what happened. Eadlyn replies, “Hell if I know.”
  • “Darn it” is used once.
  • Loser is used twice. Eadlyn jokingly tells someone, “Come in, loser.”
  • Erik tells Eadlyn, “That’s really none of my business, and you’re obviously having a rough day. I’m an ass.”

Sexual Content

  • General Leger is seen kissing his wife, Miss Lucy. In the studio, “General Leger was there, kissing Miss Lucy on her forehead and whispering something to her.”
  • When Eadlyn recounts her disastrous meeting of the Selected men, she says, “one blatantly stared at my chest for the entirety of our meeting.” Eadlyn later sends this man home for the reason, “‘When we met, you couldn’t stop staring at my breasts.’”
  • Kile and Eadlyn kiss in a hallway with the hopes of being photographed by paparazzi. Eadlyn describes their kiss saying, “Kile leaned down, lips meeting mine, holding them there. Then his lips parted and closed and parted again.” Their kissing is described for about a page.
  • Ahren, Eadlyn’s twin brother, makes fun of her for her lack of relationship experience. Ahren says a picture in the paper does not count as a relationship and, “Neither does making out with Leron Troyes at that Christmas ball in Paris.”
  • When going on a date with Baden, Eadlyn says, “Baden and I are going to make music…. I mean that literally, by the way.”
  • Eadlyn invites Kile over to her room and they kiss. Eadlyn recounts that she “wrapped my hand around his head, pulling him to me, and an instant later his arms were around my waist.” Eadlyn describes their kissing for a page.
  • Eadlyn is overwhelmed and goes to Kile for help. Eadlyn pushes Kile into a closet. “I was so overwhelmed, I pressed my lips into his, knowing that would make everything else stop for a minute.” As their kissing gets hotter, Eadlyn begins to remove his shirt, but Kile stops her.
  • Henri and Eadlyn kiss in the kitchen. Eadlyn describes their kiss as delicate. “I pressed my lips into his, trying to tell him without words that this was okay, that I wanted him to hold me.” Their kiss is described for half a page.
  • Camille, Ahren’s girlfriend, comes to Illea from France. When Camille arrives, Ahren, “held her tightly and kissed every corner of her face.”
  • Camille and Ahren sneak off to spend more time together. “Ahren snuck away with Camille, kissing her every step of the way.”
  • When Camille and Ahren don’t show up to breakfast one morning, Eadlyn assumes that either, “Ahren had come to his senses and told her that he needed to consider other options, and they were both in the process of avoiding each other… or they’d spent the night together and were maybe still in bed.”

Violence

  • When Kile calls Eadlyn “bratty” his mother “twacked her son over the head.”
  • When Jack tries to take things too far with Eadlyn, Ahren comes to Eadlyn’s defense. As Jack continues to torment Eadlyn in front of Ahren, Eadlyn had “never seen Ahren throw a punch before. It was almost as shocking as Jack’s limp body after my brother’s fist forced his head to whip back at an awkward angle.”
  • During a group date, Burke and Fox get into a heated argument over their cooking styles. As their argument continues to heat up, “Burke threw a punch that knocked Fox back several steps. I sucked in a breath, frozen. Fox came back at him, and I was pushed to the floor by Burke’s arm pulling back for another punch.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • As Eadlyn and her parents prepare for the arrival of the Selected men, her mother and the chef discuss the need to finalize the first seven-course dinner. Eadlyn “groaned internally. A true seven-course meal could take six hours from the first sip of a cocktail to the final bite of chocolate.”
  • Eadlyn hides away from her people. She says she “took shelter in long baths or a drink with dinner.”
  • After Eadlyn’s parade for the Selected men goes awry, Eadlyn’s mother and father “were both drinking something a little stronger than wine—a rare occasion—though it didn’t appear to be doing much for their nerves.”
  • When Eadlyn invites Kile into her room, Kile “spotted the wine I’d provided and wasted no time in pouring himself a glass.”
  • When Ean questions Eadlyn on what her favorite food is, Eadlyn answers, “Do mimosas count?”

Spiritual Content

  • When Eadlyn comes across two guards, one of the guards says, “Thank God. Go to the king and tell him we’ve found her.”
  • When Eadlyn’s mother has a heart attack, Eadlyn rushes to the hospital wing. When she gets there, “Aunt May sat next to Miss Marlee, who appeared to be deep in prayer.”
  • When the Selected men find out that Eadlyn’s mother is in the hospital wing, they come to show their support. As they approach Eadlyn, Kile says, “We’ve come to pray.”

Supernatural Content

  • None

The One

As Maxon’s Selection has been narrowed down to the final four girls, competition between the girls is tight. America has noticed her growing love for Maxon, and her jealousy grows as she watches the other girls get closer to the man she loves. The King, however, will do anything to make sure Maxon doesn’t choose America, since she is from a lower caste, and the king can’t manipulate her. The King has started pressuring her to leave the Selection. Plus, America’s previous love, Aspen, has started working as a castle guard, and his presence threatens to unravel the progress Maxon and America have made in their relationship.

As the Selection wears on, rebels against the monarchy are becoming restless and threaten to overthrow the kingdom along with the caste system. Members of the Northern Rebels sneak into the castle and ask for Maxon and America. The rebels strike a deal with them on the promise that if the caste system is ended once Maxon becomes king, the Northern rebels will keep the Southern, more violent and ruthless rebels, at bay. Can Maxon and America trust the rebels? Or will the rebels overthrow the monarchy before the Selection even ends?

Readers will be kept on the edge of their seats in this final installment of the Selection series. The book’s twists and turns will help to drive the plot as America and Maxon make their way to the end of the Selection. This third and final book of the series picks up in excitement and romance that was lacking in the second book, The Elite. Though this book is very entertaining, readers will want to have read the previous two books of the series to understand the dynamic characters, the competition between the girls, and the Selection process as a whole.

America is once again shown as the headstrong, powerful woman that was introduced in the first book of the series. Entertaining characters from the previous books will make their appearances, along with new, well-developed characters that add excitement and more diversity to the plot. Themes of friendship, family, and standing up for oneself are seen throughout the story and will help to encourage readers to stand up for what they believe in. With the book’s heavy focus on America’s family and friends’ love and support, readers will recognize that with the support of their own friends and family, they can do anything.

The One has many surprises and a satisfying conclusion. Readers will want to have the first book of Cass’s continuation of the Selection series, The Heir, on hand.  The Heir jumps 20 years into the future, where readers learn more about Maxon, America, and their children.

Language

  • Damn is used twice.
  • Darn is used once. When he proposes, Maxon states that he’s had the ring for a long time and, “I’ve been sleeping with that darn thing under my pillow.”
  • After there is a misunderstanding of whether or not America has seen Maxon without his shirt on, Celeste is upset and yells, “‘You slut!’”
  • Hell is used three times.
  • The king threatens Maxon, saying that he will force America to go home. The king says to America, “I’ll give you some time to find out where you stand. If you won’t do this, then rules be damned, I’ll be kicking you out by Christmas Day.”
  • Maxon describes himself as being “an absolute ass.”

Sexual Content

  • Competition is rising between the girls, and in order to get ahead of one another, they begin to make physical advances towards Maxon. America begins to think about what she’s done with Maxon and is concerned that, “According to the king, the other girls were making advances toward Maxon—physical advances—and he’d said I was far too plain to have a chance of matching them in that department.”
  • America attempts to seduce Maxon by dressing in a revealing dress. After dinner, Maxon comes up to her room to talk. As he comes into her room, “he focused on me, his gaze traveling up my exposed leg.” They sit on America’s bed and talk, as America continues her attempt to seduce him. “Sliding my hands down Maxon’s arms, I guided his fingers to the zipper on the back of my dress, hoping it would be enough.” They talk some more and Maxon eventually leaves the room. The encounter lasts for three pages.
  • After coming up with a plan to make the king like her, America and Maxon kiss. “With an impish grin on his face, he (Maxon) came very close and gave me a long, slow kiss.”
  • In an argument between the girls, America focuses the attention on Celeste by bringing up an encounter where she saw Celeste and Maxon together. America says, “Celeste was half-naked up against him in a hallway!”
  • During an argument between the girls, someone mentions how far they have gone with Maxon physically. Kriss then questions, “We need to clear this up. Who has done what with Maxon?’”
  • As she is recounting the argument with the other girls to Maxon, America explains to Maxon why she mentioned that she had seen Maxon without his shirt on. America states that “‘The girls know I saw you without your shirt on…now they just think we were in the middle of some big make-out fest.’” She continues to explain that, “‘They (the other girls) know I was your first kiss. And I know everything you have and haven’t done with them.’”
  • America walks in on Maxon kissing one of the other girls. America sees “the back of Maxon’s head as Kriss’s hand slid just barely into the neck of his suit. Her hair fell to the side as they kissed, and, for her first, it seemed like it was going really well.”
  • Maxon and America sneak out onto the roof of the castle while it’s raining. “I raised my face to Maxon’s, placing a hand on his cheek, pulling him down for a kiss. His lips, wet, met mine with a brush of heat.” They kiss several times and the kiss is described in detail.
  • Celeste and America discuss Maxon. Celeste says Maxon is “cute. And a great kisser.’”
  • While Maxon and America are in the back of a truck, they “went over a pretty jarring bump, and he grabbed me. I felt our noses brush in the dark, and the urge to kiss him came unexpectedly fast.” Their kissing is described for about a page.
  • America meets a girl named Paige who lives on the streets and makes money through prostitution. Paige explains to America that, “Just this week I found a group of girls. We work together and share all the profits. If you can forget what you’re doing, it’s not so bad. I have to cry afterwards.”
  • Maxon is telling America how he feels about her. Maxon begins to describe his feelings, and “a devilish smirk came to his face. He moved his lips to my ear. ‘I can think of a few other ways to show you how you make me feel,’ he whispered…I trembled as he ran his open lips over a tiny patch of skin, his breath so very tempting.” This encounter lasts for two pages.
  • When Maxon proposes to America, she “laughed in shock and started giving him kisses and giggling between each one.” Their intimacy grows more intense as, Maxon’s “lips traveled down my neck as he loosened his tie, throwing it somewhere near our shoes.” During their encounter, kissing is described in detail and they somewhat undress before stopping. This lasts for three and a half pages.
  • Aspen walks in on Maxon and America sleeping next to each other in bed. Aspen is alarmed and America is embarrassed. Maxon says, “Don’t be embarrassed. It’s not as if we were naked. And it’s bound to happen in the future.”
  • Maxon starts to leave America’s room after talking about their future. Maxon stops as he is leaving and “tackled me (America) on the bed, covering me with kisses.” This scene continues for half a page.
  • Aspen finds America and Maxon sleeping next to each other. Aspen says to America that he, “‘just can’t believe you slept with him.’” However, nothing happened between America and Maxon.
  • Maxon and America kiss after Maxon is shot. Then America “bent to kiss him. It was every kiss we’d ever had, all the uncertainty, all the hope.”
  • After the battle, one of America’s maids, Lucy, goes to find the boy she loves. After finding him in the hospital wing, Lucy “fell into his arms, kissing his face over and over.”
  • Maxon finally gives America a ring after the battle is over. Maxon kisses America, and she “felt my life settle into place.”
  • A girl talks about what the night after Maxon and America get married will be like. She jokes, “‘Wait until tonight.’”

Violence

  • Southern rebels attack them while America and Maxon are outside the castle with their Northern rebel allies for a meeting. The Southern rebels pull guns on them and as they are trying to escape, America is shot in the shoulder. America “looked down, and in the faint glow of a streetlight, I saw something wet coming from a rip in my sleeve. I’d been shot.” The scuffle occurs over three pages.
  • A girl name Paige finds America in an alley after she is shot. Paige explains her story of how she ended up on the streets. Paige said, “Two weeks after Dad died, she (her aunt) started hitting me. I had to sneak food because she said I was getting fat and wouldn’t give me anything to eat.”
  • Southern rebels overrun the castle in an attempt of taking over the monarchy. Many people are injured or killed. America recounts the invasion as she “watched in confusion as a red-marked guard walked up behind Celeste and put a bullet squarely through the back of her head. The screaming and gunfire exploded at once. Guttural shouts of pain filled the room, adding to the cacophony of chairs screeching, bodies hitting walls, and the stampede of people trying to escape as fast as they could in their heels and suits.” This battle lasts for seven pages.
  • During the attack on the castle, Maxon jumps in front of a bullet for America, and it hits him in the chest. America “scurried under the table to find Maxon breathing with great labor, a large red stain growing across his shirt. There was a wound below his left shoulder, and it looked very serious.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • People are drinking alcohol at a Christmas party. America describes her involvement in the party. “As the relatives started getting tipsy on eggnog, I slipped away, not up to pretending to be jolly.”

Spiritual Content

  • America prays to God after Maxon is shot. She “pinched my eyes together, begging God to keep him alive.”

Supernatural Content

  • None

by Kate Kucker

Flash’s Dash

Cressida, a unicorn-obsessed girl, is invited into the Rainbow Realm, where unicorns live. When Cressida arrives, Princess Flash is preparing for the annual Thunder Dash. For the first time ever, non-unicorns will be allowed to race. Cressida is excited to be the first human girl invited to run in the race.

Then Ernest, the wizard-lizard, has a mishap while casting a spell. Now the racetrack is covered in sticky, pink goo. Will Cressida and the unicorn princess find a way to save the race?

Flash’s Dash begins slowly because the story begins with Princess Sunbeam and Princess Flash arguing over who Cressida is friends with. Although the reader learns that a person can be friends with more than one person (or unicorn), the chapter is not very interesting.

Once Cressida jumps into preparing for Flash’s Dash, Cressida meets some new characters, including talking boulders. The story will appeal to younger readers because of the interesting characters, silly encounters, and fun conflict. However, readers will also learn the importance of practicing in order to get better.

As Cressida prepares for the race, she learns that Sunbeam doesn’t want to participate because she always loses. To make matters worse, she feels self-conscious because she overheard the boulders talking about her. How can she join the race after hearing the boulders say that she looked funny when she ran? In the end, Princes Sundance learns that the boulders actually said, “that she looked downright sunny. You know, like a streak of yellow light.” Through Princess Sundance’s conflict, the reader will learn how teasing hurts, as well as the importance of talking out problems and misunderstandings.

Flash’s Dash is the second book in this series written for children who enjoy chapter books. Beginning readers may struggle with the amount of text on a page as well as the long descriptive passages. The pictures scattered throughout the book are adorably cute; however, they only appear about every three to seven pages. This chapter book would be a good story to read aloud to beginning readers.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • A wizard-lizard makes a spell to change avocados into shoes. He chants, “Fasty Foo! Wing Feet, Fleet Feet, Fast Feet, Blue!” He also makes a magical mishap and changes a race course to pink strawberry cake batter.
  • The wizard-lizard made bandannas change into gold running shorts and a gold T-shirt. When he tries to use magic to put the clothes on Cressida, she “felt wind swirling around her body, as though she stood at the center of a miniature tornado. When the wind stopped, the gold shorts were inside out and upside down on her chest. . . “
  • Flash’s magical power is “to run so fast that my horns and hooves create lightning.”
  • Cassandra has a magical key that allows her to go to the Rainbow Realm. When she is in the Rainbow Realm, “time in the human world froze.”
  • Cassandra meets a talking boulder and talking forest animals.

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Sunbeam’s Shine

Princess Sunbeam’s magical gem disappears when a wizard-lizard accidentally casts the wrong spell. Without her magic yellow sapphire, she loses her ability to create light and heat. Princess Sunbeam needs to find a human girl—one who believes in unicorns. A human girl is the only one who can help her reverse the spell and find her gemstone.

When Princess Sunbeam goes to the human world to search for a human girl, she finds Cressida. Cressida loves everything unicorns, and despite her parent’s disbelief, Cressida knows that unicorns are real. When Cressida meets a unicorn, Princess Sunbeam, she’s excited to travel to the Rainbow Realm.

Girls may want to pick up Sunbeam’s Shine because of the beautiful sparkly cover; however, the cover isn’t the only positive aspect of the book. As Cressida searches for the gem, she shows how to use problem-solving and communication skills. The addition of talking desert creatures adds interest to the story.

In the story, the sand dunes are upset with the cacti because of a misunderstanding. As Cressida helps the friends solve their problems, the reader learns the danger of keeping secrets.

Cressida is a smart, considerate character that uses good communication skills to help others. When she travels to the Rainbow Realm, she makes sure to leave a note for her parents so they do not worry. Sunbeam’s Shine hits the mark for its intended audience. Younger readers who want to add a little magic and sparkle to their lives will enjoy jumping into the Rainbow Realm.

Sunbeam’s Shine is the first in this series written for children who enjoy chapter books. Beginning readers may struggle with the amount of text on a page as well as the long descriptive passages. The pictures scattered throughout the book are adorably cute; however, they only appear about every three to seven pages. This chapter book would be a good story to read aloud to beginning readers.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • A wizard-lizard casts a spell on an ear of corn, “Alakazam! Alakazoop! Unicorn, unicorn! Alakaboop!” The spell was supposed to turn the corn bright pink, but instead it caused Princess Sunbeam’s magical gemstone to be “dropped into a shimmering, purple canyon.”
  • Sunbeam’s magical gemstone allows her to make the sun shine.
  • In order to reverse the spell, a human girl who believes in unicorns must be found. One must believe in unicorns in order to see them.
  • Sunbeam finds Cressida and the two use a magical key to enter the Rainbow Realm. When they enter the kingdom, Cressida “had the feeling the two of them were falling. It was like being in an elevator hurling downward without stopping on any floors.”
  • A flame-bite looks like a fox, but is made of flame. “. . . It looked just like red and orange candle flame with flailing arms, legs, and a tail.”
  • Cressida meets talking sand dunes and talking cacti.

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Sin Eater’s Daughter

As a young girl, Twylla is brought to live in the castle because she is the Daunte Embodied, daughter of two gods. As Daunte Embodied, it is Twylla’s duty to bring justice to the kingdom. She is the executioner; anyone that she touches, dies.

Twylla thought life in the castle would be different. But the privileged life she leads is lonely and becomes more a prison than a home to her. The kingdom’s people fear her. The queen demands absolute obedience from her. And Merek, Twylla’s betrothed, confuses her.

Twylla believes her life is set in stone until she is appointed a new guard. This guard doesn’t fear her as so many others do. He sees past her role as Daunte Embodied, and sees her as a person. As they spend more time together, Twylla begins to wonder if there is a different path she could follow. But such a path would go against her loyalty to Merek and the kingdom.

Confused and lonely, Twylla soon learns that the queen has a deadly plan of her own—and Twylla is in the way of the queen getting her desire. Will Twylla be able to survive long enough to choose between two men—one who needs her, and one who claims to love her?

The Sin Eater’s Daughter takes the reader into an interesting world ruled by an evil queen. The queen is the strongest character in the book. She is willing to kill anyone, including her best friend who dared to become pregnant while the queen could not. The king, who appears infrequently, is seen as a kind, but powerless man. Merek, who does not agree with his mother’s cruel ways, seems desperate and unkind, which makes it difficult for the reader to feel sympathy for him. Even Twylla, who is the heroin, is difficult to relate to. Although her situation is difficult, she seems to be content to sit in her tower and feel sorry for herself.

Although the world created in The Sin Eater’s Daughter is interesting, it is often violent and disturbing. Death is seen often and is described in graphic detail. There are many adult topics that appear including the mention of incest, killing a child in the womb, and seduction.

Sexual Content

  • During a sin-eating ceremony a woman’s father, who is under the influence of poppy tears, confesses that “she said no but he [himself] put a baby in her.” The Sin Eater says that when the man dies she will not “take that sin.”
  • Twylla and her guard kiss often towards the end of the book. In one scene she tells him that she loves him and then, “he devours the words right out of my mouth, pressing his own against mine and swallowing my worries. I let him, willing to sacrifice my questions temporarily for the taste of him, for his hands on my waist.”
  • Twylla and her guard plan to run away together. They again kiss. “Our mouths move gently, brushing together, our lips opening and closing against the other’s, our eyes locked. It makes me dizzy and I allow mine to flutter shut, concentrating on the feel of him against me, his tongue dancing gently with mine.”
  • Twylla and her guard have sex several times. The act is not described, but afterward they, “lie with our legs and arms twined, breathing softly, his breaths becoming my breaths. Our skin is damp and we stick together, as though nothing could separate us.” After one time together, the queen finds them in bed together and has them both thrown in jail.
  • The tradition in the kingdom is for the queen to give birth to one boy and one girl, and then the two children are married when they are adults. The goal is to keep the bloodline clean. Because the current queen has only one living child, a male, she plans to kill the king and marry her son.
  • At the end of the story, Twylla discovers that her guard was hired to seduce her.

Violence

  • One of the rituals in the book is when Twylla, as Daunte Embodied, kills condemned people with a touch. “Moments after I’ve touched them, they are slumped against the top of the table, blood streaming from their noses and pooling on the already-stained wood. I watch as thin red rivers flower over the edge, spattering the bolts that pin the chairs to the floor. . .”
  • When the guard and Twylla are found together he is clubbed in the back of the head with a sword. When he falls down, “two of them begin to kick him, bringing their boots back and swinging them into his ribs and spine.” The queen orders the beating to stop when the guard “has stopped moaning and grunting, finally unconscious.”
  • The queen has people killed throughout the book. Her favorite way to have them killed is to send the dogs to rip them apart. In one scene, the queen tells Twylla, “I have a mind to make you watch the dogs eat your lover first . . . Do you think he’ll try to shield you from their jaws when they tear your heart out . . . Do you know what my father used to do? He used to slice across the ankles of the wretches we were hunting. He’d cut them and leave them in the trees. He’d give them an hour to try to escape . . . it might be time to bring it back.”
  • The queen backhands Twylla across the face and threatens to kill her, “for opening your legs to another man while my son planned to wed you.”
  • In the end, the prince tells his mother, “I sentence you to hang by the neck until you are dead.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • At dinner, one of the lords becomes drunk and upsets the queen so she has him killed.
  • When someone is sick, they are given poppy tears to help control the pain.
  • When a woman wants to “lose a child” they take an herb that will make them “lose a child.”
  • The queen uses poison to kill her husband.

Language

  • The queen calls Twylla, “a little slut,” a “whore” and a “harlot.”

Supernatural

  • There is a tale of a Sleeping Prince who is an alchemist. The prince was put under a spell that made him sleep forever. The queen has a totem that can call the Bringer, who is said to be able to bring the prince back to life with the death of a young girl. The queen believes that she can control the Sleeping Prince if she has the totem.

Spiritual Content

  • Twylla is told she is Daunte Embodied, the reborn daughter of the Gods. “The world has always been ruled by two Gods: Daeg, Lord of the sun, who rules in the day, and his wife Naeht, Empress of Darkness, who rules the night. . . She (Naeht) hatched a plan and seduced her husband, tiring him so much he couldn’t rise. Then she took the skies for her own and ruled alone, plunging all the world into darkness. Nothing lived, nothing thrived, and death was everywhere without the Lord of the Sun to light the world and give warmth and joy.” The God’s daughter was said to bring Daeg from his sleep and whenever Lomere needed the daughter, she would return as a symbol of hope.
  • As Daunte Embodied, Twylla is taught that she must, “strike down those who would hurt us. You will go and do your duty. You don’t want to anger the Gods do you?”
  • Twylla believes the Gods have chosen her path, and she must, “obey the Gods.”
  • When someone dies, a person’s soul, “will linger near the body for three days and nights after a death. During that time, the Eating must take place so the soul can ascend, otherwise it will drift to the West Woods to join its damned brothers and sisters in the trees. . .” During this time the sin eater must eat a particular food for each sin the person committed.
  • When Twylla’s mother talks about a woman taking an herb to lose a child, Twylla, “shook my head, not understanding. Losing a child wasn’t a sin; everyone knew the Gods could take away as they saw fit and sometimes they called an unborn back to the Eternal Kingdom.”
  • Twylla’s guard tells her that the religious rituals they perform are all lies and that her beliefs are, “just to scare people into obedience.” He explains that “We used to have Gods, too. And now we don’t and yet the country doesn’t falter; it thrives without them…It’s all made up. You are not beloved by the Gods—there are no Gods.”
  • Twylla tries to figure out what she believes and she thinks, “Neither my mother nor the queen have ever said they believed in the Gods. My mother needs them because if there are no gods, then there is no Eternal Kingdom and that makes the Sin Eater nothing more than a prop for mourning. The queen needs them because the fear of death is what makes people obedient, and kind, and good, and sorry.”
  • Twylla’s guard tells her that, “I don’t believe there are any [Gods] at all, but I believe there are men and woman whose lives are made easier by believing someone is watching over them.”

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