Impossible, by Nancy Werlin

Apparently Nancy Werlin primarily writes ‘literary suspense’ novels for YA/teen readers. She began publishing in the mid-1990s, and Impossible is her first book that is explicitly on the border of fantasy. She has a B.A. from Yale College, and won an Edgar Award for a novel entitled Locked Inside at some point. She was born in Peabody, Massachusetts, and has worked as a technical writer for various software and internet companies, in addition to her fiction writing.

Lucy Scarborough is a normal twenty-first-century girl, living in Massachusetts. Well, a normal girl with a crazy mother who is a bag lady in town, but she’s got a wonderful set of foster parents, Soledad and Leo Markowitz, some good friends, and a date to the junior/senior prom coming up shortly. Until an unfortunate event occurs at the prom, she turns up pregnant, and she finds her mother’s diary. In the diary, she finds out that all of the women in her family, as far back as anyone can remember, are under a curse; they all become pregnant at seventeen and when they give birth at eighteen, if they haven’t completed three impossible tasks (as detailed in a variant of “Scarborough Faire”), they go crazy. Fortunately, she has help, but not much time. Can she accomplish these things and stay sane? Continue reading Impossible, by Nancy Werlin

City of Masks (Stravaganza, book 1), by Mary Hoffman

Mary Hoffman is English; she was born in a railroad town, but moved to London when she was quite small. She has a degree in English Literature from Cambridge and a diploma in linguistics from the University College of London. Just after that, in 1970, she started writing children’s books; to date she has published around eighty of them, mostly shorter works. The Stravaganza series contains her longest works to date. She is married; her husband is half-Indian, and of their three daughters, one (Rhiannon Lassiter) is a published author. In her spare time, she takes Italian classes, presumably at least somewhat as research for this series, at Oxford.

Lucien Mulholland is a fifteen-year-old twenty-first-century English boy, who is unfortunately dying from a brain tumor. Arianna is a fifteen-year-old sixteenth-century Talian girl living in an alternate universe where Remus founded Italy instead of Romulus. The connection? A journal, that allows Lucien to travel in his sleep from England, where he is doing poorly, to Talia, specifically Bellezza (an alternate Venice), where he is hale and healthy. Arianna wants nothing so much as to be a mandolier (gondolier), despite her gender, so she sneaks into town for the trials. There, she meets Lucien, recently traveled and confused, and they get caught up in the politics and plotting of the time. The Di Chimici (Medici) family wants nothing so much as to kill Bellezza’s Duchessa — can two teenagers help stop that from happening? Continue reading City of Masks (Stravaganza, book 1), by Mary Hoffman

Bound, by Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo Napoli is a linguistics professor at Swarthmore College and an author of children’s books. She used to have a cat named Taxi, for the sheer joy of calling the cat and watching the neighbors make faces. She takes modern dance and yoga classes for fun, and bakes bread. She has also coauthored a scholarly paper on frogs. I’ve reviewed a couple of her books before — here and here — and while they aren’t always my favorite, I seem to keep coming back for more.

The Cinderella story is a common one throughout many cultures, and Ms. Napoli has chosen to set her variant of the tale in Ming-Dynasty China. Xing Xing’s mother dies when she is very small, and her father remarries, to a woman with a daughter close to Ping’s age. The stepmother (called Stepmother) has decided to bind her daughter (Wei Ping)’s feet, in order that she will be able to attract a man of a much higher social status. And of course, once the father dies, Stepmother treats Xing Xing as if she’s the lowest kind of servant, even so far as to sending her off to try to sell green dates as some sort of false miracle cure to raise money. One day, there is a fair in town, and Xing Xing finds some of her mother’s old clothing (including shoes) to wear into town . . . Continue reading Bound, by Donna Jo Napoli

Cybele’s Secret, by Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier is the author of a number of books, one of which was Wildwood Dancing, which I read and reviewed earlier. This novel is a companion (not a direct sequel; it follows a different character) to that one, and continues the story of the Transylvanian sisters. Ms. Marillier is a musician by training and a writer by vocation; she has been a full-time writer since 2002. Her family emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand many years ago, and she lives in a cottage in Perth, Australia.

Paula is Jena’s younger sister, the scholarly, studious one. She has been helping her father with many of his business matters, and dreams of starting her own rare-book collection. When he mentions that he is going to travel to wherever-it-is, Paula immediately clamors to go along — and is allowed. For in the city, there is a woman named Irene who has her own scholarly haven for women, and Paula would like to study there. They get to town, hire a bodyguard for Paula, and she begins her studies — but something is strange about the piece they have come to town to buy, called Cybele’s Gift. Many people are after it, and things are starting to happen — attacks, sudden withdrawals from the bidding, and the involvement of strange individuals including a pirate . . . Continue reading Cybele’s Secret, by Juliet Marillier

The Smoke Thief (The Drakon, book 1), by Shana Abe

I saw this book and the second (review forthcoming) in a bookstore recently on a shelf much too high for me to reach, so I asked my husband to retrieve them for me, thinking, “I’ve seen someone recommend these recently.” Well, it turned out that it was one of the Ja(y)nes at Dear Author who recommended it, so not exactly something Ben would be interested in — but he read them anyway. Shana Abe, for those who are wondering, lives in Colorado, has five rescued house rabbits and a dog, and majored in drama in college.

Kit (Christoff Langford) is the Marquess of Langford and the head of the clan of drakon in England; the drakon are eldritch beings of long life and magical abilities including transformation to smoke or the form of a dragon. They hide in plain sight among the eighteenth-cenuty English ton, and there aren’t very many of them left — especially powerful ones. Clarissa Rue Hawthorne is half-drakon, half-human, and as such doesn’t fit in with the rest of the young women particularly well. When she disappears around her eighteenth birthday, no one searches very hard for her. However, when a thief in London is reported to be able to turn into a mist, Kit listens — and goes to investigate. Continue reading The Smoke Thief (The Drakon, book 1), by Shana Abe