“Arcana” Jessica Leake

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. ebook. 2014. Talos Press (Skyhorse Publishing). To be published November 4, 2014.

ArcanaIt is 1905, and 18-year-old Katherine Sinclair is unlike other young ladies. She has inherited the gift of arcana from her mother, which is power derived from the sun allowing her to manipulate elements to heal people and animals. Katherine has enjoyed freedom in the country with her widowed father, as well as with her brother and sister, but her father insists she and her sister join their grandmother in London to make her debut into London society.

For Katherine, her debut into society will mean having to attend boring balls to meet eligible bachelors just to be tied down to a husband who will run her life. Before she died her mother left behind a diary in which she warned Katherine of men who would want to steal her arcana, so now Katherine is even more fearful of what she’ll find in London. Loathe to be looked at like horseflesh, and worried about her mother’s premonitions, Katherine has no choice in the matter and is shipped off to London.

Once in her grandmother’s clutches, all transpires as Katherine feared. When she meets the handsome Earl of Thornewood and the Lord of Blackburn, she is wary of her feelings fearing her mother’s words. Despite their differences Katherine finds herself attracted to both of them, not knowing one of them is out to ruin her.

I loved the storyline of “Arcana,” and its historical setting. However the author needed to do better at transitioning between scenes, as characters seemed to jump from one place to another without explanations. In one such example, Katherine was in the library but the very next sentence had her standing by the tub in her room. There were many examples like this throughout the book, causing me to reread these sections several times to get the context. If it wasn’t for this, I would have given “Arcana” a five star rating. Hopefully it will all be corrected in the final version of the book.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“The Life of Glass” Jillian Cantor

HarperTeen, 2010. Hardcover. 340 pp.

Did you know glass won’t dissolve for a million years? Such are the types of facts collected by Melissa during the times she and her dad spent pondering the mysteries of the world. When he dies of cancer, Melissa is left with the bit of glass she’d found one day with her best friend Ryan, and Dad’s last words about the fate of glass. Starting high school without her dad is hard enough without her beautiful and popular sister Ashley reminding her everyday of how ugly and lonely she feels.

Two years later, even though Ashley seems to have moved on without a problem, and her mother begins to date a horse rancher, Melissa still feels like something is missing from her life. Daily she looks through her dad’s old journal trying to find some interesting fact or memory, especially when Ryan starts going out with the new girl at school, Courtney, and leaves her behind.

Melissa misses her friendship with Ryan and her dad and wishes she could talk with her mother about her feelings, especially when she finds a note from her father about a woman who’s not her mother. Melissa, now obsessed with finding out what this woman meant to her dad, is soon caught up in events that are more unsettling than she’d thought. It seems like her own life, and others, is being reduced to glass, slowly cracking and breaking away bit by bit.

This was a pretty good read, and I’m sure students in grades 7-10 would enjoy it.

“Ghetto Cowboy” G. Neri

Illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson. Candlewick Press, 2011. Hardcover. 218 pp.

I loved the history G. Neri infuses throughout the book, such as learning that slaves who worked with cows were called Cowboys, thus becoming the first to be called by that name. I was surprised to learn that stables actually still exist in the inner cities of Philadelphia and Brooklyn, run by Black Cowboys to keep kids out of gangs and to give purpose to their lives. G. Neri does an excellent job of educating readers of a long ago tradition that still exists in modern times and tying it in with the story of Cole, a young boy struggling to figure out his place in the world. It’s important for all young boys to read about the influence and strength Cole gains, not only from caring for horses, but from the father he’d never met who helps him to stand up for what he believes when faced with injustice.

I’d recommend it to students in grades 4-7 who are interested in horses or learning about the history of Black Cowboys in the United States.