Hedgie's Must Reads: June 2013

It's summertime! And with summer comes more and more reading. Summer always seems to be an excuse to read "B-books," as as summer also seems to be an excuse to watch B-movies. The classic "summer read" will have sharks, teens stranded on an island being chased by a crazy scientist, spy novels, zombies, and weird biological experiments gone wrong. Or you can go for the more relaxed summer reads - inspirational stories, novels about teens with mental and health issues, teen summer romances, or vacations gone wrong, either emotionally or literally. Hedgie and I haven't read any shark books or zombie books - or even vacations gone wrong. But I thought June had some good ones regardless:

Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed (4/5)
Looking for the book version of Downton Abbey? Stray no further! Cinders & Sapphires has all the drama of 1912 aristocratic estates, both upstairs and downstairs, and there's a wealth of characters to love and to hate. Ada Averley must marry well and restore the good name of Averley, but when she falls in love with an Oxford student from India, she must choose between her own heart and her duty to her family. Meanwhile, Rose Cliffe is appointed Ada's ladies' maid, when all she wants is to leave service and become a musician. The two girls form a fast friendship, and together they must somehow realize their dreams while combating the conniving attempts of stepfamily and jealous ladies' maids to ruin them both. Girl-read, fifteen-and-up (including adults!), perfect for Downton Abbey fans!

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin (3/5)
The first in a series, Readers has transported to a steampunk-like futuristic universe, where a deadly plague ravages the world. Only some people are rich enough to afford the special porcelain masks that can protect one from the plague, and unrest is growing against the cruel Prince Prospero - and Araby is caught right in the middle of it all. This was yet another book I didn't have high hopes for, but Araby is a practical and unemotional protagonist, the love triangle takes back seat to the political intrigue and espionage, and the present tense actually brings the dark and exciting world of Masque of the Red Death. Girl-read, fifteen-and-up, great for steampunk and classic retelling fans!

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (3/5)
The first in a series, Readers travel to a modern day England with a big twist: magic. And what we know as the United Kingdom is now the Ununited Kingdoms. In a world of modern convenience, magic is disappearing and with it the demand for wizards. This is bad news for Jenny, who helps manage a wizarding employment agency, and if magic is no longer in demand, Kazam might be shut down. But when seers across the kingdom begin to predict the death of the last dragon at the hands of the Last Dragonslayer, Jenny finds herself swept up in more problems than just how to compete with electricians and plumbers. The Last Dragonslayer is a relaxing read, with great characters and a prevailing sense of fun humor. Girl-and-guy read, any age, great for fans looking for a good laugh.

Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman (4/5)
When the innkeeper Will Sparrow works for threatens to sell him as a chimney sweep, Will hits the road - shoeless, penniless, hungry, and with nothing but his own wit to depend on. Along the way, he meets up with many a person who promises him food and coin, but turn out to be even more dastardly a charlatan than himself. When Will meets up with a curiosities side show, he thinks he's finally found a good master, even if his working companions - a disgruntled dwarf and a shy cat girl - aren't the pleasantest people. But appearances can be very deceiving, as Will soon finds out. Alchemy and Maggy Swann was my favorite Karen Cushman book for a long time - until Read about Will Sparrow's adventures. A witty boy living in harsh Elizabethan England, he's a protagonist who has his flaws but is likable nonetheless. The cast of characters is small in this novel, but I loved every one of 'em. Girl-and-boy read, twelve-and-up, great for Karen Cushman and historical fiction fans!


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