Friday, April 20, 2018

ARC Review: White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig

White Rabbit
Author: Caleb Roehrig
Publication: Feiwel & Friends (April 24, 2018)

Description: Caleb Roehrig, author of Last Seen Leaving, delivers another spellbinding YA murder mystery in White Rabbit.

Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian―the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to "talk." Things couldn’t get worse, right?

Then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. He and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox. Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth, but April has something he needs. Her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to clear his sister’s name . . . or die trying.

My Thoughts: Rufus Holt is having a bad 4th of July. His former boyfriend Sebastian, whom he still loves, shows up at a party where he is and says he wants to "talk" and his half-sister April calls and begs him for his help saying only that she's at Fox's cottage. Lacking a car and the location of Fox's cottage, he accepts Sebastian's offer of a ride but doesn't let him have his "talk." When they arrive at Fox's cottage, they find Fox's stabbed to death in the kitchen and April passed out covered in blood and holding a bloody knife next to him.

The house shows signs of a party with alcohol, cocaine, and a new designer drug White Rabbit scattered around the place. Because Rufus has anger management issues and has been in trouble with the cops, he doesn't call the police but decides to sober up his sister and get her story first. She claims that she wasn't doing drugs and doesn't know what happened to her boyfriend Fox. She offers Rufus $2000 to find a way to clear her name.

Rufus needs the money. His mom owes a debt of $8000 or they'll lose their house. Rufus and his mom have been a team fighting against Rufus's biological father Peter Covington II who happens to be a wealthy and well-connected lawyer who had an affair with his mother until she learned he was married. Since then there have been lots of lawsuits and bitterness between them. Hayden Covington, who was a toddler when Peter had the affair, has grown up hating Rufus and bullying him only to always be protected by his father's money and influence. April, born when Peter and his wife Isabel attempted a reconciliation, is the only Covington Rufus can stand but he isn't sure that he can trust her.

Rufus and Sebastian begin investigating the events of the fateful 4th of July night and uncover lots of reasons why any of the people at Fox's party could have wanted him dead. The first suspect is Arlo who was Fox's partner in his drug dealing but then he's found dead too. Rufus and Sebastian have to interview Sebastian's ex Lia who is currently dating Arlo and who is lying to them about something. Rufus's jealousy makes him want to consider her a suspect. Or, the video that is circulating showing Fox having sex with one of his friend's girlfriend could also make a great motive for murder. All the while Rufus and Sebastian are investigating we also get flashbacks to their relationship and Rufus's heartbreak when Sebastian broke up with him and we learn Sebastian's issues.

This story was fast-paced and the clues kept unfolding in such a way that I couldn't put the book down. I read it in one sitting finally finishing early in the morning hours. I had to know what really happened at that beach party and if Rufus and Sebastian had a chance at a new relationship. Both the mystery and relationship made compelling reading. I recommend this one both to mystery lovers and to those interested in LGBT relationships.

Favorite Quote:
As it is, unable to account for the real reason Sebastian and I want to leave almost the second we're done eating, I let my best friend's prurient imagination supply the missing details. As we head for the exit, Lucy calls out, teasingly, "Good night, boys! Don't do anything I wouldn't do!"

Before the door closes behind us, we also hear Brent's sarcastic reply. "What kind of advice is that? The only two things you won't do are 'eat cilantro' and 'watch anything starring Gwyneth Paltrow.'"
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

ARC Review: The Reckless Rescue by Adrienne Kress

The Reckless Rescue
Author: Adrienne Kress
Series: The Explorers (Book 2)
Publication: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (April 24, 2018)

Description: The second book in the Explorers series has more mystery, more bravery, more danger than ever before! The perfect read for fans of The Name of This Book Is a Secret and The Mysterious Benedict Society!

Reader! We have left things unresolved! What began as your average story of a boy stumbling upon a secret international explorers society has turned into an adventure of epic proportions.

The average boy--Sebastian has been kidnapped by a trio of troublesome thugs who want the secret map he's memorized. Luckily, his new friend Evie has promised to rescue him, and double-luckily Evie has the famous explorer and former Filipendulous Five member Catherine Lind at her side!

There's still the whole matter of Evie's grandfather (and the leader of the Filipendulous Five) somewhere out there in grave danger, but pursuing Sebastian will lead Evie and Catherine to another member of the Five, who might be able to help.

There will be new people to meet, new places to see, and some dancing along the way. And one amazingly reckless rescue.

My Thoughts: THE RECKLESS RESCUE is the second book in the Explorers series. It begins with Sebastian in the hands of his kidnappers while Evie is trying to convince the Explorers Society to mount a rescue. She and Catherine Lind are authorized to rescue Sebastian while trying to locate Evie's grandfather.

Sebastian has been kidnapped because he has a photographic memory and has memorized the key to a map that Sebastian burned to keep it out of the enemy's hands. The Filipendulous Five made an amazing discovery that the enemies want to find and exploit. Evie's grandfather was the leader of the Five. He sent letters to other four which give clues to his location. But he really, really liked riddles and so the clues are obscure.

Evie and Catherine have Catherine's letter but have to track down Benedict Barnes - another of the Five - who is currently exploring the Vertiginous Volcano off the coast of Australia to get his clue. However, the location of the volcano is secret and Evie and Catherine have to reunite a couple of Great White Sharks before they can convince a guide to take them there.

Meanwhile, Sebastian escapes from his kidnappers in Seoul and falls in with a K-Pop band named the Lost Boys to get away from them. He wants to contact his parents but the band's manager doesn't believe that he is not a runaway boy and thwarts him. The manager wants Sebastian to stay with the band so that he can take care of him. Sebastian and the band come up with a plan but it requires him to learn to play the drums and perform at one of the Lost Boys' concerts. He gets away from the Lost Boys but is recaptured by his kidnappers.

Evie and Sebastian reunite at the Vertiginous Volcano where they have a hair-raising adventure crawling through the volcano to get away from the kidnappers. When the story ends they have two pieces of the clues needed to find Evie's grandfather and two of the Filipendulous Five to help them track down more members.

This story had a cliffhanger beginning and a cliffhanger ending and lots of adventure in between. I loved the footnotes and the general writing style and can't wait for more adventures.

Favorite Quote:
"Evie, please, stay calm," said Catherine, jumping into the conversation.

Evie scowled at that. Had there ever been a person in the history of time who had been told to stay calm, or to calm down, or any kind of calming where the result had been anything other than the person getting more frustrated?
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, April 13, 2018

ARC Review: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Ash Princess
Author: Laura Sebastian
Series: Ash Princess (Book 1)
Publication: Delacorte Press (April 24, 2018)

Description: For fans of Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen and Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes, Ash Princess is an epic new fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people.

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia's family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess--a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn't always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

My Thoughts: ASH PRINCESS begins a new epic fantasy series. It tells the story of a young girl who watched her mother the Queen murdered in front of her eyes and who has spent the previous ten years as a captive in her own palace. She has been beaten whenever the rebels did anything that displeased the Kaiser. She has been befriended by the daughter of the man who killed her mother but she lives in total fear. She has also been waiting to be rescued.

When she is forced to execute the last Guardian - her own father, she decides to stop waiting to be rescued and the take charge of her own future. Of course this isn't easy. She has no power and is under constant supervision of three guards. Her first change is necessarily internal. Her attitude has changed though her outward behavior hasn't.

When a childhood friend who spent years mining the jewels that the conquerors want and which Theo's people used to magnify their magical powers escapes and comes to the palace, Theo finally has some actual support for her rebellion. Still, the rebels are a small group facing overwhelming odds. A plot is formed that involves turning Crown Prince Soren against his father to destabilize the government. So Theo begins to romance him and halfway falls in love with Soren who has suffered his own abuses at his father's hands. Theo is torn between the ideals she learned as a child and the crueler lessons she has learned in ten years as the prisoner of an evil man unable to trust anyone around her.

This was an engaging story but most of the action was internal which won't catch the attention of those who want battles and sword fights. Readers who want a character who needs to survive and who has internal strength will enjoy this one.

Favorite Quote:
"It's not your loyalty I'm worried about," he says after a moment. "It's your mind. The Kalovaxians have had you for ten years, Theo. That isn't something that's easy to leave behind."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Review: Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton

Hero at the Fall
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands (Book 3)
Publication: Viking Books for Young Readers (March 6, 2018)

Description: The breathless finale to the New York Times bestselling Rebel of the Sands series will have you on the edge of your seat until the dust from the final battle clears!

When gunslinging Amani Al'Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she'd join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn't have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn't exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.

My Thoughts: The Rebellion has hit a low point when this story begins. Amani and just a few remaining revolutionaries are trapped in the Sultan's city surrounded by a ring of fire fueled by an invention Leyla made and powered by the death of a djinn. They need to find a way out of the city and rescue Prince Ahmed, Shazad, and other revolutionaries imprisoned by the sultan in the same prison that holds the Destroyer of Worlds.

But rescuing the imprisoned revolutionaries is only one step to overthrowing the sultan and stopping the conquest of the desert country of Miraji by greedy neighbors who want to wipe out magic. Amani being a demdji herself must battle herself and all sorts of enemies to reach her goal. I love the way she has to make decisions that she doesn't feel at all confident to make. When she frees a djinn on her journey, he promises to help her get what she wants in return for his freedom. But Amani isn't sure what she wants and knows that the djinn is just looking for a loophole to get his revenge on humanity.

I liked the writing style in this book. I liked that there were chapters that turned their adventures into heroic stories that would long be told in Miraji. I liked the way the stories rewrote the characters to make their battle cleaner and sanitized while at the same time seeing how the battles really went. I cried. I laughed. I help my breath in fear for the characters and breathed many sighs of relief when things worked out. This was an excellent ending to a wonderful fantasy trilogy.

Favorite Quote:
Jin's compass pointed south, toward Eremot if Leyla was to be believed. But even I wasn't reckless enough to think we could pull off a rescue with only eight of us -- seven now, I reminded myself. A Blue-Eyed Bandit and an imposter Blue-Eyed Bandit, a Foreign Prince, a reluctant one-time friend, shape-shifting twins, and an enemy princess. Not exactly an army.

We needed help.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Cover Reveal: Del Toto Moon by Darby Karchut

I am pleased to show everyone the cover for Darby Karchut's next book Del Toro Moon. It is a middle grade mashup of fantasy and Westerns. I can't wait to read it.

Here’s the jacket copy:
Bad enough Matt Del Toro is the greenest greenhorn in the family’s centuries-old business: riding down and destroying wolf-like creatures, known as skinners. He must also learn how to match his father’s skills at monster hunting. Odds of doing that? Yeah, about a million to one. Because Matt’s father is the legendary Javier Del Toro—hunter, scholar, and a true caballero: a gentleman of the horse.

Now, with the skinners multiplying, both in numbers and ferocity, Matt is desperate to keep his father and hot-tempered older brother from killing each other, prevent his new friend, Perry—a horse-crazy girl who recently moved to their small town of Huerfano, Colorado—from discovering the true nature of his odder-than-oddball family, and save a group of paleontologists from getting skinner-ed.

Luckily, Matt has twelve hundred pounds of backup in his best friend—El Cid, an Andalusian war stallion with the ability of human speech, more fighting savvy than a medieval knight, and a heart as big and steadfast as the Rocky Mountains.

Serious horse power.

Those skinners don’t stand a chance.

Friday, April 6, 2018

ARC Review: The Summer of Broken Things by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Summer of Broken Things
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Publication: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (April 10, 2018)

Description: From New York Times bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix comes a haunting novel about friendship and what it really means to be a family in the face of lies and betrayal.

Fourteen-year-old Avery Armisted is athletic, rich, and pretty. Sixteen-year-old Kayla Butts is known as “butt-girl” at school. The two girls were friends as little kids, but that’s ancient history now. So it’s a huge surprise when Avery’s father offers to bring Kayla along on a summer trip to Spain. Avery is horrified that her father thinks he can choose her friends—and make her miss soccer camp. Kayla struggles just to imagine leaving the confines of her small town.

But in Spain, the two uncover a secret their families had hidden from both of them their entire lives. Maybe the girls can put aside their differences and work through it together. Or maybe the lies and betrayal will only push them—and their families—farther apart.

Margaret Peterson Haddix weaves together two completely separate lives in this engaging novel that explores what it really means to be a family—and what to do when it’s all falling apart.

My Thoughts: THE SUMMER OF BROKEN THINGS tells the story of a summer that really changes both of the main characters.

Avery Armisted is fourteen, rich, pretty, athletic and just a little bit spoiled. When her parents tell her that she is going with her father to Spain for the summer instead of to soccer camp with her friends, she is angry and disappointed. She is even more angry when her father tells her that they are bringing along Kayla Butts who is two years older and who was a friend when both girls were younger.

Kayla lives with her grandparents and her mother in a small town. She's not rich, not attractive, and is bullied at school by kids who call her Butt-girl. Her mother works in a nursing home and Kayla often tags along. Her best friends are the residents of the home. She is excited to be going to Spain and hopes that she and Avery can be friends again.

Once in Spain, the girls struggle to get along. Avery is so angry and Kayla finally stops trying to appease her. Avery gets even more angry and hurt when she learns that her parents are planning a divorce. Also, she learns a secret about her family that also involves Kayla which rocks the world for both girls.

They need to find a way to pull together and decide if they can be anything to each other. I liked the way Kayla developed self-confidence and self-assurance through the course of this story. I was a little less enthused about Avery who was more volatile in her emotional journey. Of course, Kayla has a much stronger family situation than Avery and more maturity.

This was an engaging story with intriguing characters.

Favorite Quote:
Avery also isn't baby-giraffe gawky and awkward anymore. She's dancer graceful, or maybe teen-model graceful. She moves like she knows people are watching her, like she thinks they should watch her. (I move mostly like I'm darting from shadow to shadow, hoping nobody notices me.)
I got this one from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Book Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black
Series: The Folk of the Air (Book 1)
Publication: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (January 2, 2018)

Description: By #1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black, the first book in a stunning new series about a mortal girl who finds herself caught in a web of royal faerie intrigue.

Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him--and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

My Thoughts: THE CRUEL PRINCE is an intriguing fantasy that starts a series. The main character is Jude Duarte. She watched a fairy named Madoc kill her parents in order to gain control of her older sisters Viviene who happens to be his daughter. Rather than leaving them on Earth, takes Jude and her twin sister Taryn back to faerie with him too.

Ten years have passed and Jude and Taryn have found different ways to cope with the dangers of being human in faerie. Taryn is looking to marry and become a consort. Jude wants power of her own and to control her own life. She has decided that the only way to survive is to out-evil the fae around her. Madoc is a red cap and one of the high king's generals. He has taught Jude strategy and tactics and to use a sword. She has very mixed feelings about him. She hates him for killing her parents but she has known him to take a father's care of her for ten years.

Through the years she and Taryn have become the victims of a set of the younger fae including Prince Cardan who is the youngest son of the king. He becomes her biggest rival but his cohorts especially Valerian and Locke are the more overtly dangerous. Valerian has tried to kill her a number of times and Locke seems to be trying to seduce her for some reason. Their constant harassment hones her terror and her determination to make a place for herself in faerie.

The high king has decided to abdicate his throne which makes the political maneuvering even more dangerous for Jude. She is recruited by Prince Dain, who is the heir apparent, to be his spy. He puts her under a geas to keep her from talking about him and his plots but which also makes her immune to enchantment by other fairies. As she conducts missions for him, she finds some clues that puzzle her and make her wonder if she really knows what is going on.

This tale is twisty and Jude's life is in so much danger. Her life in faerie has twisted her into something that she isn't sure she likes but she doesn't see another path. I liked the secrets that were gradually revealed. The story was intriguing and kept me reading late into the night. I can't wait to find out what comes next for Jude.

Favorite Quote:
"Nice things don't happen in storybooks," Taryn says. "Or when they do happen, something bad happens next. Because otherwise the story would be boring, and no one would read it."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.