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Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Spoiler alerts for the Raven Boys series!  Call Down the Hawk is the first in The Dreamer trilogy, a spin-off of the Raven Boys quartet.  If you haven’t read those, and you want to, well, what are you waiting for?  Stop reading this review (because, spoilers) and head to the library, stat!

There are three Lynch brothers, but only two of them are real.  Ronan is a dreamer.  Declan is a liar.  And Matthew is a dream.  Three brothers.  Three Lynches.  Three different dreams.  Ronan wants to live in the real world – but he’s too much for the real world.  Declan pretends he wants to live in the real world – but lying to himself may be where his true talents lie.  And Matthew lives in the real world – except he isn’t real.  When Declan makes the call to go after a painting at the definitely not legal Fairy Market that belonged to their murdered father of their dead mother, all three Lynch brothers know it might be the key to their dreams.  But dreams are never what they seem.

Jordan Hennessy is a forger and a thief.  She lives and breathes art, and can create a perfect copy of almost anything.  Not just a copy, a forgery – an original, a new piece, magic  made up of oil and canvas.  But she hides a darker secret than her art – a secret that is slowly killing her.  When a new piece comes up for sale at the Fairy Market, a piece rumored to influence dreams, Jordan knows it might be the only thing that could save her life.

Carmen Farooq-Lane is an assassin, and the sister of a dreamer.  She knows what dreamers can do, and what they will do – end the world.  And she’ll do anything she has to to save the world, even if she has to end every dreamer in it.

Dreamers.  Liars.  Thieves.  Assassins.  Will they end the world, or save it?

Okay, so if you’ve ever asked me for a book recommendation, you know I am a huge fan of all things Maggie.   The Scorpio Races?  Perfection in a standalone, you had me at killer sea horse racing and November cakes.  The Shiver trilogy?  Werewolves and romance and cold, cold Minnesota and a little bit of LA and the most perfect aspen glen in fall ever.  The Raven Boys?  Mysterious ley lines and boarding school boys and magic forests and quests for ancient sleeping kings, YES PLEASE.  Call Down the Hawk?  Dreams and thieves and car chases and art, so much art, and all the magic things, and, just like a dream, it somehow manages to be all the books that I ever wanted all at once even when I didn’t even know what those were, and that’s the Maggie magic.  That, and really fast cars.  It’s super tricky to sum up the special sheen of a Maggie book without taking away from the experience of completely sinking into one of her stories, so I’m going to stop trying and just tell you to swan dive right in for yourself.  Absolutely stunning!

Book Spotlight: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Once, there were twelve sisters at Highmoor Manor.  Now, there are only eight.  With each death worse than the one that came before, Annaleigh and her remaining sisters cannot help but wonder if the rumors in the village of a curse on their family could possibly be true.  Exhausted by grief, and afraid another of them may be next, they are all desperate for hope, life, color, and company that is not in mourning.

Although Ava, Octavia, and Elizabeth’s deaths were all tragic, Annaleigh cannot help but feel that Eulalie’s plunge over the cliffs near their home was more sinister than her three older sisters’ deaths through illness and accident.  As she begins to ask questions, it becomes clear that her sister was not alone on the cliffs that night – and that she was hiding something.  When the youngest of the sisters, Verity, tells Annaleigh the ghosts of all four dead sisters still inhabit their manor, and she can see them, it becomes clear that something is very, very wrong.

Still, the sisters are desperate for light and fun and dancing and so, as triplets Rosalie, Ligea, and Lenore’s 16th birthdays approach, plans go forward to celebrate with a glorious ball, in spite of the spirits and shadows haunting Highmoor.  No expense is spared – especially not on stunning new gowns and the most exquisite, delicate new dancing slippers, a pair for each girl.  Slippers so lovely the sisters decide they are fairy shoes.

But when the ball does not succeed in pulling them from their grief and fear, Annaleigh tries to distract her younger sisters with a hunt for a hidden, magical door on their island home – a door said to lead anywhere in the world, a door used by the gods.  She does not quite believe in the door’s existence – until they discover it.  Night after night, the sisters sneak out and pass through the door to find ever more enchanting balls in wondrous palaces, until their shoes are quite danced through.  It is a glorious, decadent escape from grief – but, if they can go through with the merest whisper of desire for dancing, what other manner of person – or creature – might be using the door to hunt for them?

Eerie and deeply atmospheric, this decadent twist on The Twelve Dancing Princesses has it all – phenomenal world-building, layers of tangled mystery, old magic, ghosts, glittering midnight balls, more than a twist of horror, and sweet starlit kisses.  If you love your fairy tails with plenty of glitter and a razor sharp edge, make sure you add House of Salt and Sorrows to your list!

Book Spotlight: Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

Being a sixth grader isn’t generally the easiest thing in the world, but, for Carter Jones, this year is really shaping up to be a pain in the glutes.  And it’s only the first day of school.  His dad is deployed in Germany, his mom is super sad but trying really hard to keep it together, and his three little sisters, are, well, three little sisters.  Ned the dachshund won’t stop throwing up, the Jeep is on its last legs, it’s raining really hard, and the milk has turned.  Which is when the Butler shows up.

If you’re a kid living in Marysville, New York, you certainly don’t expect to inherit a butler.  Certainly not a Bentley-driving, tea-drinking, cricket-loving, real live British butler in a bowler hat and carrying an umbrella the size of a satellite disk.  But sometimes, that’s what you get.  Even if you’d rather have your dad back instead.

Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick, it seems, has come to stay for the duration.  And despite Carter’s initial vow to resist the British invasion, he finds that, even though he now finds it his responsibility to walk Ned more times a day than seems strictly necessary, even in the rain, and having to attend the ballet and weird art exhibits with his sisters, the Butler just might have the right idea about a few things.  Like how to write school essays.  And figuring complicated family stuff out.  And cricket.  The glorious, marvelous, sportsmanly game of civilized countries.  Which, it turns out, might just be the thing to pull him back together again.

Laugh-out-loud funny and so, so full of heart, this story of how Carter figures out how to put himself back together after life throws him a googly (or twelve), keep the bails on, and introduce the Butler to pizza is another winner from one of my favorite authors, Newbery honor winning Gary D. Schmidt.  If you love a good story of family, friendship, sports, and don’t mind getting odd looks from your friends because you’re cracking up on your lunch break, Pay Attention, Carter Jones is a must-read!