Friday, June 22, 2018

ARC Review: My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

My Plain Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Series: Lady Janies (Book 2)
Publication: HarperTeen (June 26, 2018)

Description: Move over, Charlotte Brontë. The authors of the New York Times bestselling My Lady Jane are back with an irreverent spin on Jane Eyre—a tale of mischief, romance, and supernatural mayhem perfect for fans of The Princess Bride or A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.
You may think you know the story. Penniless orphan Jane Eyre begins a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester—and, Reader, she marries him. Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions in this stand-alone follow-up to My Lady Jane, which was called “an utter delight” (ALA Booklist, starred review), and “an uproarious historical fantasy that’s not to be missed” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

My Thoughts: Have you read JANE EYRE? Well, it is the time to forget what you read. Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have told us the real story including the Royal Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits headed by the Duke of Wellington and its star agent Alexander Blackwood.

The story begins at Lowood School with the murder its governor Mr. Brocklehurst. Charlotte Bronte is a student at the school and Jane Eyre is one of the teachers. Charlotte is constantly carrying a notebook around with her and jotting down possible story ideas and her observations of things around her. Jane has a secret. She can see ghosts and has one as her best friend. There are plenty of ghosts at the school since privations and disease have caused a number of the girls to die, including Charlotte's two older sisters.

When Alexander comes to town to relocate a ghost who is making trouble at the town pub along with is inept assistant Branwell, he meets Jane and tries to recruit her for the Society. Jane didn't like the way he treated the ghost at the pub and refuses. She has decided that she would rather be a governess and has accepted a job with Mr. Rochester.

Alexander isn't willing to give up on recruiting Jane but meets Charlotte when he goes to the school. Charlotte would very much like to work for the Society. She can't see ghosts but she thinks she has other skills that would be useful. Charlotte also learns that Blackwood's assistant is actually her brother. The three of them team up to go to Mr. Rochester's to try to convince Jane to give the Society a chance. But Jane has already decided she's in love with Mr. Rochester.

This was a fun story filled with parenthetical asides giving social commentary, information addressed to the Reader, and comments that are made with the tongue firmly in cheek. Oh, and don't forget the ghosts and dastardly villain and the various romances.

Favorite Quote:
Mr. Brocklehurst had believed that  if was good for  the soul to have only burnt porridge to eat. (HE meant the poverty-stricken, destitute soul, that is; the dignified, upper-class soul thrived, he found, on roast beef and plum pudding. And cookies, evidently.) Since Mr. Brocklehurst's untimely demise, conditions at the school had already improved tremendously. The girls unanimously agreed: whoever had killed Mr. Brocklehurst had done them a great service.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

ARC Review: The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas

The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings
Author: Sarah Prineas
Series: Lost Books
Publication: HarperCollins (June 26, 2018)

Description: From Sarah Prineas, author of the acclaimed Magic Thief series, comes a stunning new tween fantasy where books literally come to life!

The powerful Lost Books at the palace library are infecting the rest with an evil magic, and two unlikely friends must figure out who, or what, is controlling the books and their power. If they can’t, the entire kingdom could be at risk.

Sarah Prineas returns to her classic middle grade roots with this imaginative, fast-paced adventure for book lovers everywhere.

My Thoughts: Fifteen-year-old Alex has run away from home to become a librarian. He has spent his life learning to use a sword but his real desire it to care for books. In his world, books are locked up in libraries and protected by Librarians who are all getting old. He manages to talk himself into an apprenticeship with a librarian but the librarian isn't willing to share very many secrets and dies before Alex can learn much. When Alex opens the book he finds on the librarian's chest, he is attacked by vines that come creeping out of VINES: PLANTS OF WONDER and barely manages to get the book closed.

This isn't his first magical encounter with a book. When he was young, he read all the books in his father's library twice and then discovered one that was particularly heavy hidden behind some other books. When he opened that one, some letters crept out and turned into an advice-giving tattoo around his wrist.

Alex finally manages to find a position as a librarian in the Royal Library by impersonating the librarian he was apprenticed to. But the young queen Kennerett gives him only a month to whip her neglected library into shape. Kennerett is having problems of her own. Her uncle and former Regent Lord Patchedren is subtly sabotaging her confidence as she tries to learn to be a good queen. Also, her young brother Charley has been expelled from school again and she has to figure out what to do with him. So, since Alex has been begging for an assistant, she gives him Charley who has no interest in being a librarian.

Alex learns that 60 years earlier something happened that changed libraries. Some Lost Books were written with magical paper, magical ink, and magical pens and when they were finished the books killed the writers and drew their spirits into the books. The librarians managed to fight to contain the books in their libraries but now the books are waking up and making all the books dangerous. They seem to have a special grudge against Alex. Alex needs to find the Lost Books in the Royal Library and put them back to sleep.

This was an exciting middle grade story filled with action. It was also a story about doing what you need to do to follow your dreams. Best of all, it was a story about the power of books, words, and libraries.

Favorite Quote:
Wait. What had he just said? Protect. "Ohhhh," he breathed. That was what a librarian was, he realized, and he wanted to curse himself for being so slow to figure it out. A librarian was not just a cataloger, a sweeper, a duster, a collector of fras, an alphabetizer, a keeper of keys. A librarian was a protector. Of books.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Book Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Author: Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent Trilogy (Book 3)
Publication: HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks (November 7, 2013)

Description: What if your whole world was a lie?

The thrillingly dark conclusion to the No. 1 New York Times bestselling DIVERGENT trilogy.
DIVERGENT – a major motion picture series.

What if a single revelation – like a single choice – changed everything?

What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

My Thoughts: I thought that this final book in the Divergent trilogy was a great, and logical, conclusion to the series. Tris, Tobias and a number of other refugees have escaped from the city and made their way to the Bureau. There they learn things that change their lives completely.

They learn that their city, with its factions and factionless, was nothing more than a large scale experiment with a goal of perfecting  human genetic material. They believe that war would not happen if human genes were perfected. They have been encouraging the development of Divergents who have the corrected genes.

When Tris arrives at the Bureau, she learns that she has the perfected genes but Tobias, despite having some Divergent characteristics, does not. This causes some conflicts between Tris and Tobias because feeling lesser just feeds into Tobias's already damaged self-esteem. Tobias is having a hard time dealing with the facts that his very estranged parents are leaders of rival groups back in the city. He hates his father for the abuse that filled his childhood. He has very mixed feelings about his mother who was also abused but left him behind when she ran.

Tris and Tobias learn that there is a group of at the Bureau who are second-class citizens because they don't have the corrected genes. He falls into a group that is planning a revolution which isn't successful.

Tris is more interested in making change happen in a less violent way. When she learns that the Bureau has developed the serums that are used by the factions and that they plan to release a memory-reset serum into the city to preserve their experiments, Tris has to act. Her decision is to release the memory reset serum within the Bureau so that things will change. Her decision comes at a terrible cost.

I cried for the last few chapters of this one but couldn't argue with the choices that the author made for how the story had to end. This was an engaging, thought-provoking series filled with action and love.

Favorite Quote:
"I don't know," Uriah says, and he sound serious now. "I'm not sure anywhere will feel like home again. Not even if we went back."

Maybe that's true. Maybe we're strangers no matter where we go, whether it's to the world outside the Bureau, or here in the Bureau, or back to the experiment. Everything had changed, and it won't stop changing anytime soon.

Or maybe we'll make a home somewhere inside ourselves, to carry with us wherever we go -- which is the way I carry my mother now.
I bought this one Oct. 22, 2013. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Author: Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent Trilogy (Book 2)
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books; Reissue edition (May 1, 2012)

Description: One choice can destroy you. Veronica Roth's second #1 New York Times bestseller continues the dystopian thrill ride that began in Divergent.

A hit with both teen and adult readers, Insurgent is the action-packed, emotional adventure that inspired the major motion picture starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, and Octavia Spencer.

As war surges in the factions of dystopian Chicago all around her, Tris attempts to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

My Thoughts: This second book in the Divergent trilogy begins right after the first. Our heroes (and a villain) have left the city and are looking to take refuge with Amity. Unsuccessful, they return to the city to see the factionless who are much more organized and better prepared for a revolution than anyone thought they could be. Tobias's mother, the one everyone thought was dead, is one of the leaders of them.

Erudite, whose leader is Jeanine, is still trying to conquer the other factions by using their scientific discoveries include a drug that lets them control minds. Jeanine wants to collect and study Divergents in order to make a mind control drug especially for them. Tris surrenders to her on a suicide mission in order to prevent her from killing random members of Dauntless. She goes through a harrowing time before she is rescued.

Meanwhile, Marcus who is Tobias's abusive father and one of the few surviving leaders of Abnegation has a secret that might explain what is going on with the whole faction system. It was a secret the Abnegation was willing to die to keep but Tris is working to find out what it is.

This book had a lot of fighting between factions where loyalties were tested and many were betrayed. Tris and Tobias's relationship goes through all kinds of ups and downs, tests and trials in this story. In this episode, a number of characters who are introduced, gain my sympathy, and play a brief role become victims of one side or the other in this fight.

I like that Tris is becoming more of a blended personality who embraces strengths from all the factions. She moves from a deep depression brought on by the deaths of her parents and her brother's betrayal to someone who no longer seeks out suicide missions. However, things aren't looking good for her at the end of this book...

Favorite Quote:
Sometimes I feel like I am collecting the lessons each faction has to teach me, and storing them in my mind like a guidebook for moving through the world. There is always something to learn, always something that is important to understand.
I bought this one Dec. 12, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Author: Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent Trilogy (Book 1)
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books; Reprint edition (May 3, 2011)

Description: Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games and Maze Runner series, Divergent and its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant, are the gripping story of a dystopian world transformed by courage, self-sacrifice, and love. Fans of the Divergent movie will find the book packed with just as much emotional depth and exhilarating action as the film, all told in beautiful, rich language.

One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior's society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she's determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.

My Thoughts: In the future, in what used to be Chicago, humanity has divided itself into five factions. At age sixteen, young people need to decide which faction they will join for the rest of their lives. Beatrice Prior has been raised in Abnegation (the selfless) but she has never felt like it was a good place for her and testing confirms her belief. Testing has shown her that she could prosper in either Abnegation or in Dauntless (the brave) but that she is actually Divergent which she needs to keep secret.

Beatrice, renaming herself Tris, chooses Dauntless where she undergoes all sorts of difficult testing - physical, mental and emotional. Only the top ten of the new recruits will be accepted into Dauntless with the rest becoming part of the factionless poor. Tris has to deal with jealous rivals who will do anything to rank higher than she does. While she is physically small and slight is a disadvantage in the physical training, being divergent is a big advantage in the other two tests - providing she can keep it secret.

Her trainer is a young man named Four who is really confusing her. Sometimes he is kind and helpful, but other times he seems to treat her more harshly than the other new recruits. At the same time, Tris is drawn to him but has no experience creating emotional bonds outside of her family.

Besides Tris's own trials and struggles, it soon becomes apparent that something is wrong with the whole system of factions. Dauntless has drifted from its original noble position to one of cruelty and bullying. Erudite is campaigning against Abnegation to remove them from being in charge of the government. And both Dauntless and Erudite are hunting for Divergents to kill them.

This was an exciting story filled with action. I also liked the romance that grew between Four and Tris.  The writing was powerful and the characters were well-developed. While the ending doesn't qualify as a cliffhanger, there are certainly a number of unresolved issues both for Four and Tris and for their society as a whole.

I can't wait to read INSURGENT and ALLEGIANT to learn how things work out.

Favorite Quote:
Whoever he is, I like him. It's easier for me to admit that to myself now, in the dark, after all that just happened. He is not sweet or gentle or particularly kind. But he is smart and brove, and even though he saved me, he treated me like I was strong. That is all I need to know.
I bought this one June 16, 2011. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Book Review: Override by Heather Anastasiu

Author: Heather Anastasiu
Series: Glitch (Book 2)
Publication: St. Martin's Griffin (February 12, 2013)

Description: Zoe is free. She has escaped the enslavement of the Community, disconnected from the hardware that had controlled her every thought and emotion, and evaded capture by the Chancellor intent on killing her. She is finally free, but she is far from safe.

Zoe and Adrien hide themselves from detection at the Foundation, an academy that trains teen glitchers to fight in the Resistance movement. Together, Zoe and her new team of superhuman fighters must risk their lives to rescue other glitchers and humans from the Chancellor's control. Challenges abound at every turn, and Adrien, who has become silent, distant, and tormented by his visions of the future, only adds to the growing certainty of defeat. But worst of all, as Zoe's team fights against impossible odds, distrust and betrayal leads to the terrible discovery that their greatest threat could already be lurking behind the safe walls of the Foundation.

Full of high-adrenaline action and shocking twists, Heather Anastasiu's Override is an exciting continuation of this popular young adult trilogy.

My Thoughts: This is the middle book of the Glitch trilogy. It is a dystopia about a future Earth where the majority of people are controlled by chips in their brains which make them obedient and unable to feel emotions. For some reason and for some people, the chip instead causes young people to develop psychic gifts.

The resistance is gathering these young glitchers to try to build them into an army that can defeat those in power. But a the Chancellor is also gathering glitchers to create her own army and the Chancellor has a secret glitcher power of her own. She has the gift of compulsion that works on everyone but the main character of this story.

Zoe is a strong telekinetic who is on the run from the Chancellor. She is also having some problems getting control of her telekinetic gifts. She is not used to feeling emotions and the new emotions are making her gift hard to control. It doesn't help that her boyfriend Adrien, who has visions of the future, has seen her as the leader of the revolution who changes the future.

This middle book is concerned with Zoe getting control of her gifts. She is also learning that the revolution's current leaders don't really trust the young glitchers but are eager to use them as weapons.

When a raid to free some glitchers under the Chancellor's control goes horribly wrong, odds are looking good for the revolutionaries. Even worse, Adrien has taken to avoiding Zoe and she can't understand why.

This book has action, excitement, twists and turns, and a main character who is growing into her gifts, and just enough romance. Fans of dystopias will enjoy following this series to its conclusion.

Favorite Quote:
"Then why ---?" I stopped myself.

"Why fight?" He finished. "Why risk everything for something we might not win?" He turned his face back to me, his aqua eyes sparking to life just like they always used to when we talked. "Because if we don't fight, we've already lost. Without hope, without trying, there's no point. There's no future. And you, Zoe," his voice softened. "I would fight forever to have a future with you."
I bought this one Feb. 14, 2013. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

ARC Review: The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

The Bird and the Blade
Author: Megan Bannen
Publication: Balzer + Bray (June 5, 2018)

Description: The Bird and the Blade is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from author Megan Bannen.

Enslaved in Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom . . . until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father across the vast Mongol Empire.

On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into an impossible love.

Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of . . . even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.

My Thoughts: THE BIRD AND THE BLADE was an excellent historical fiction novel set in the Mongol Empire around the year 1280. It's star is Jinghua who is a young woman with lots of secrets. She is a slave in the Kipchak Khanate. When the Khanate is overrun by the il-khanate she chooses to go on the run with the deposed Khan Timur and his only surviving son Khalaf who is both kind and brilliant.

As they flee ahead of both the il-khanate's forces and soldiers sent by Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan, Khalaf and Jinghua fall in love. A more hopeless love would be hard to imagine since he is a prince and she is a slave and considering that Khalaf's one road to restoring his position in society is to win the hand of Turandokht. However, Turandokht is not making the task easy. Any suitor has to answer three impossible riddles. Failure means a gruesome death.

The story is woven between the contest of riddles and how Jinghua and Khalaf got there. It is filled with romance and danger and a twist I didn't see coming. The Author's Note talks about her inspiration coming from the opera Turandot which, since what I know about opera could be written on the smallest Post-It Note with plenty of room to spare, came as a surprise for me. Some of the plot elements are certainly operatic in nature. I also enjoyed the poetry and songs that were part of the story.

I enjoyed the setting which takes place in a time period and part of the world unfamiliar to me. I also loved the relationship between Khalaf and Jinghua. I thought Jinghua was an intriguing character who was quite mysterious. Part Six answered quite a few questions I had about her past.

Fans of historical fiction and romance will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
I think he must miss learning as much as I miss home. So now I am his university. And he, I realize with a sick dread in my stomach, is my universe.

It happened in little fits and starts through the desert of the il-khanate and then in an overwhelming rush as we near the Chagati border, like water breaking through a dam. I'm drowning in a flood of Khalaf, and I don't know what to do about it.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.