Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: The Case of the Left-Handed Lady by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady
Author: Nancy Springer
Series: An Enola Holmes Mystery (Book 2)
Publication: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (May 15, 2008)

Description: Sherlock Holmes's sister, Enola, is back on another case!

Enola Holmes is being hunted by the world's most famous detective -- her own brother, Sherlock Holmes. But while she is on the run in the world's biggest, darkest, dirtiest city, she discovers a hidden cache of charcoal drawings and feels as if she is a soul mate to the girl who drew them. But that girl, Lady Cecily, has disappeared without a trace. Braving the midnight streets, Enola must unravel the clues to find this left-handed lady, but in order to save her, Enola risks revealing more than she should. Will she be able to keep her identity a secret and find Lady Cecily, or will the one thing she is trying to save -- her freedom -- be lost forever?

My Thoughts: The Enola Holmes series are wonderful historical mysteries. Enola is the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft and has run away to London to avoid the fate of gently-bred young women in Victorian times. She has no desire to be an ornament to some deserving man and spend her day doing feminine things. She was raised by her mother to be independent and now at age fourteen is on her own in London.

Enola's second case has her looking into the disappearance of another gently-bred young woman. Lady Cecily has disappeared from her home. Her mother and father suspect that she has eloped with a very unsuitable young man who is a clerk in a department store.

Enola looks into Lady Cecily's life and discovers that she has a secret life too. Despite the outward appearance of a perfect Victorian young lady, Enola discovers some hidden charcoal drawings that show Cecily is quite interested in social justice. Enola seeks out Lady Cecily's clerk to see if he knows where she is. Meanwhile, her brother Sherlock is doing his own search for the missing Enola.

The story has wonderful descriptions of Victorian London and the life demanded of a young woman of Enola's class. It also has codes, a mystery, and a heroine who is determined to make her own choices but still filled with an aching loneliness and sense of abandonment. 

Favorite Quote:
When the urge to sketch seized me, I could have drawn Ivy Meshle if I wanted to, or Mum, or Sherlock or Mycroft, or just about anyone I knew except Enola Holmes. My true self I could not quite capture on paper. Odd.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: Heart of the Storm by Michael Buckley

Heart of the Storm
Author: Michael Buckley
Series: The Undertow Trilogy (Book 3)
Publication: HMH Books for Young Readers (February 7, 2017)

Description: After seven months as a captive of Minerva, the insane Alpha queen, Lyric Walker has escaped to the surface. Her only goal is to warn the world about the Great Abyss. When she finally arrives back in Coney Island, she discovers a world she never expected, one where humans and Alpha are finally working hand in hand to rebuild the country. But she soon discovers that an old enemy allied with an old friend may kill them all before the monsters get their turn.

Where will Lyric’s loyalties, and her heart, lead her? With nail-biting action and romance, Michael Buckley’s epic trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

My Thoughts: The Undertow Trilogy comes to an amazing conclusion in The Heart of the Storm. Lyric has returned to land after being held captive by the insane Prime Minerva until she managed to kill her and become a very reluctant Prime herself. She gathers some very unlikely allies and encounters a brand new enemy who might just be enough to wipe out everyone if she can do the unthinkable and turn enemies into allies.

Lyric has gone through a major change during the course of this series. From a carefree, live-for-today kind of kid to someone who has to make decisions that will cost and save millions of lives. Luckily, she has her friends especially Bex and a variety of allies. She also has her parents while so many of the other hybrids have lost theirs.

There was a bit of romance in this one but there wasn't time for much between the gathering allies and fighting invaders. Lyric makes the decision that is right for her about her love triangle.

Readers will enjoy this fascinating science fiction/dystopia trilogy and enjoy getting to know Lyric and all the various kinds of beings who come from the sea.

Favorite Quote:
"Yeah, still waiting on that upgrade you promised," I snarl. "Three months late."

"Is that what you think?"

"It's what I know. Oh, wait! It's one of those bogus powers little girls get in movies, you know, the kind where they learn the greatest magic of all is family, or friendship, or was in their hearts all along."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

To Catch a Killer
Author: Sheryl Scarborough
Series: Erin Blake Series (Book 1)
Publication: Tor Teen (February 7, 2017)

Description: Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case―which remains unsolved―fascinated a nation. Her father's identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother's best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother's killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she's secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she's close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it's too late.

My Thoughts: TO CATCH A KILLER was an entertaining mystery. Erin Blake has an interest in forensics. She has a personal reason for her interest. When she was a toddler, her mother was killed by an unknown assailant leaving Erin to spend three days with her mother's body. She was taken in by her mother's best friend Rachel who has raised her since. But Rachel doesn't want to share any information about Erin's mother and Erin's past and Erin has lots of questions.

Erin's high school biology teacher also has an interest in forensics and agrees to help Erin answer some of her many questions about her past. When Erin drops off some objects to do DNA tests on late one evening, she find her teacher Miss Peters dead in a way that is like her mother's death. She also sees her high school crush Journey running away from the scene.

She pairs up with Journey and her two best friends Lysa and Spam to investigate but she is keeping lots of secrets from them. Her friends are concerned that she might be too obsessive about solving hr mother's and her teacher's deaths.

I liked that each chapter begins with a quotation from Miss Peters or from Erin's uncle Vincent Flemming who is with the FBI and is an expert on forensics. I liked that she finally gets to meet and spend time with her uncle during her investigation.

There was all sorts of interesting information about forensics and collecting evidence to solve crimes. Teens with an interest in crime fighting will enjoy this mystery. I'm hoping that Erin and her friends have more adventures.

Favorite Quote:
I'm pretty sure my interest in Journey is not the same as everyone else's. I'm oblivious to the way the sunlight plays off the caramel streaks in his hair. And I hardly even notice how his thin, white T-shirt clings to his athletic abs.

Okay, that's a lie. I appreciate both of those things. It just that that's not all there is for me. What intrigues me most is how he moves through all those people. He almost makes it look smooth, as though he's completely comfortable in his skin. Almost. But I'm convinced his cool-kid moves are a lie.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

ARC Review: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Lee

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo
Author: F. C. Lee
Publication: Amulet Books (August 8, 2017)

Description: The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered.

Enter Quentin, a transfer student from China whose tone-deaf assertiveness beguiles Genie to the brink of madness. Quentin nurtures Genie’s outrageous transformation—sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively—as her sleepy suburb in the Bay Area comes under siege from hell-spawn.

This epic YA debut draws from Chinese folklore, features a larger-than-life heroine, and perfectly balances the realities of Genie’s grounded high school life with the absurd supernatural world she finds herself commanding.

My Thoughts: This epic fantasy draws heavily from Chinese mythology for its heroes and villains. Genie Lo is a very ambitious high school sophomore who is determined to leave her sleepy California town for the rarefied airs of a top-notch college. However, Quentin Sun arrives and throws a real monkey wrench into her plans.

In fact, he tells her that he is Sun Wukong the Monkey King and that she is his famous weapon reincarnated as a mostly-human girl. He runs into a slight problem when he learns that she has never heard of him. Chinese mythology not being on the SAT or a requirement for the college of her choice. He also has a problem because she doesn't want to be a demon fighter which will interfere with her studying.

Soon though, Genie and Quentin are fighting demons and interacting with the Chinese pantheon while trying to keep Genie's friends and family safe.

This was an entertaining story with a heroine who doesn't want to be one and a really annoying Sun Wukong who does manage to grow on Genie through the course of the story. The dialog between Genie and Quentin was crisp and humorous. The story was fast-paced. The information about Chinese mythology well-integrated into the plot.

Favorite Quote:
"It doesn't matter whether you're 'adjusting'," he said. "Pull this crap again, and we're gonna have a talk with the faculty."

With the last word firmly in hand, he exited stage left, continuing his journey onward to wherever it is heroic hot guys go during Sixth Period.
I received this one for review from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Review: Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Bad Blood
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Naturals (Book 4)
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (November 1, 2016)

Description: When Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI's Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother's murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful-and dangerous-than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock.

My Thoughts: The Naturals was an amazing mystery series with wonderful characters who have abilities that make them useful to the FBI. Dean and Lia are extraordinary profilers. Michael and Lia can read emotions and tell if people are lying. Sloane has a talent for math and for solving puzzles. They all have some sort of emotional trauma in their pasts too. Their FBI mentors use them to solve difficult cases while trying to protect them. Although they are young, seventeen and eighteen mostly, they are not children.

Cassie was recruited to the program to try to find answers to her mother's death or disappearance when Cassie was 12. The investigation leads the team to a cult of murderers that have been in existence for generations. When they determine that Cassie's mother has been captured by the cult, they are determined to find her and rescue her.

I love the distinct voices that each of the characters have. I love the relationship that is building between them all. The story is full of danger as they follow leads to the mysterious cult. This book makes a wonderful conclusion to the four book series but leaves room if the author wishes to revisit the Naturals.

Favorite Quote:
"Because the one person that Michael will listen to when he's spiraling out of control is an authority figure," Lia chirped. "There's no possible way this could go badly, especially if you start issuing orders. Heaven knows people who've spent their lives as punching bags do best when they have absolutely no control over a situation and someone else dominates them completely."

Lia's finely honed sense of sarcasm was all the more effective when she made the words sound completely sincere.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

ARC Review: In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody

In Some Other Life
Author: Jessica Brody
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (August 8, 2017)

Description: Three years ago, Kennedy Rhodes secretly made the most important decision of her life. She declined her acceptance to the prestigious Windsor Academy to attend the local public school with her longtime crush, who had finally asked her out. It seems it was the right choice―she and Austin are still together, and Kennedy is now the editor in chief of the school's award-winning newspaper. But then Kennedy's world is shattered one evening when she walks in on Austin kissing her best friend, and she wonders if maybe her life would have been better if she'd made the other choice. As fate would have it, she's about to find out . . .

The very next day, Kennedy falls and hits her head and mysteriously awakes as a student at the Windsor Academy. And not just any student: Kennedy is at the top of her class, she's popular, she has the coolest best friend around, and she's practically a shoo-in for Columbia University. But as she navigates her new world, she starts to wonder whether this alternate version of herself really is as happy as everyone seems to believe. Is it possible this Kennedy is harboring secrets and regrets of her own? A fresh and funny story about how one different choice could change everything, Jessica Brody's In Some Other Life will keep readers guessing, and find them cheering for Kennedy until the final page.

My Thoughts: This is a story about choices and decisions.

Kennedy Rhodes made a decisions three years earlier between a boy and a prestigious school. She and the boy have been together for three years. She's the editor in chief of the school newspaper which she revived when she started ninth grade. She is determined to get into Columbia's School of Journalism. She has a mother who is a partner in a law firm and a stay-at-home father who is getting ready for his first gallery show featuring his photography. She has also raised worrying to an art form. If there were an Olympic event for "what ifs," Kennedy would be a gold medal winner.

She still wonders what would have happened if she had chosen the prestigious school. 89% of Windsor Academy graduates get in at Ivy League colleges. The school is state of the art. She frequently peruses Windsor Academy's website and follows social media for many of the students. When Kennedy catches her boyfriend making out with her best friend, she goes to Windsor Academy to see if she still has a place there. She is disappointed to learn that her spot has long since been filled. She is pushed and falls down the stairs when she is leaving. When she wakes up, she's a different Kennedy.

This Kennedy Rhodes is number one in her class at Windsor Academy. She has a new best friend named Sequoia and she has all the pressure that comes with an elite private school. Her life at home has changed too. Her father now works in advertising and is away on locations for half the year. Her mother is still an associate at her law firm so that she can come home afternoons to take care of Kennedy's brother. The only one she confides in is her younger brother whose passion is physics and who comes up with the theory of alternate parallel universes.

This Kennedy isn't the same as the first Kennedy. Instead of journalism, her focus is on economics. There's a boy in her new life too. Dylan is a misfit in buttoned down Windsor Academy. He's a legacy who would really like to go to school somewhere else. When a cheating scandal erupts, Kennedy decides to investigate and her first suspect is Dylan.

The story takes some interesting turns before it gets to a satisfying conclusion. I really liked Kennedy more and more as the story went on and as she dealt with the consequences of decisions. Who hasn't wanted to see what life was like if they made different choices? This one gives the ready a great story and lots to think about.

Favorite Quote:
Dad tops the waffle with maple syrup and whipped cream sculpted into some ambiguous shape and sets the plate down in front of me.

I scrutinized the whipped cream. "Hmm," I say, rotating the plate in a circle. "A giraffe?"

"I was going for 'Darkened Nature of Sorrow.'"

I snap my fingers. "So close."
I received this one for review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

State of the Stack (August 1, 2017)

This is my monthly State of the Stack post. It is my way to keep track of my review books and to hopefully reduce the stack that I have waiting for me. I take a look at my review commitments on or near the first of the month. Please feel free to join in and let me know the state of your stack.

Here is my Review Books Spreadsheet I list them in publication order and sort them by month. I can quickly see how many books I have for each date. Ideally, this keeps me from over-committing to review books. Check my spreadsheet to find out where I got each book.

I also do this post because sometimes (frequently) review books sit on my stack for a while before I read and review them. I try to read and review books within two weeks of publication date. Sometimes I can't, though, if too many books are releasing on the same date or if the book arrives too near its publication date and my calendar is already full.

I am very grateful to the authors and publishers who support my reading habit.

My Review Pile

September
The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match by Elizabeth Eulberg (Sept. 12)
Nyxia by Scott Reintgen (Sept. 12)
The Equals by Daniel Sweren-Becker (Sept. 12)
The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner (Sept. 12)
All the Secret Places by Anna Carlisle (Sept. 12)
Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany (Sept. 12)
A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess (Sept. 19)
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones (Sept. 19)
Stolen Secrets by L. A. Schulman (Sept. 19)
Archangel's Viper by Nalini Singh (Sept. 26)
The Hunt by Chloe Neill (Sept. 26)
Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris (Sept. 26)

October
Satellite by Nick Lake (Oct. 3)
Ally by Anna Banks (Oct. 3)
Devils & Thieves by Jennifer Rush (Oct. 3)
The Wicked Billionaire by Jackie Ashenden (Oct. 3)
The Breathless by Tara Goedjen (Oct. 10)
Berserker by Emmy Laybourne (Oct. 10)
Death Overdue by Allison Brook (Oct. 10)
A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron (Oct. 10)
The Innocence Treatment by Ari Goelman (Oct. 17)
The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (Oct. 31)

November
Unholy City by Carrie Smith (Nov. 7)
Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth J. Duncan (Nov. 7)
City of Lies by Victoria Thompson (Nov. 7)
Death at the Emerald by R. J. Koreto (Nov. 7)
A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford (Nov. 7)

January
Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley (Jan. 2)
Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner (Jan. 9)
A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (Jan. 16)

I Read This Month

These are listed in the order I read them. Links go to my reviews for all that have been posted already. Otherwise, the date the review is scheduled for is listed and the link goes to Amazon.
  1. Shallow Grave by Brian Thiem (July 13)
  2. Amid Stars and Darkness by Chani Lynn Feener (July 13)
  3. The Emperor of Mars by Patrick Samphire (July 15) 
  4. Blood Gamble by Melissa F. Olson (July 29) 
  5. The Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert (July 22)
  6. The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! by Stephen Bramucci (July 22) 
  7. The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky (July 27)
  8. A Wedding Tail by Casey Griffin (July 27) 
  9. Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock (July 29) 
  10. In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody (August 2) 
  11. Hunting Hour by Margaret Mizushima (August 3) 
  12. Dead Man's Bridge by Robert J. Mrazek (August 5) 
  13. Among the Dead by J. R. Backlund (August 10) 
  14. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller (August 25) 
  15. A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas (August 26)
  16. The Bronze Skies by Catherine Asaro (August 30)
  17. On the Chase by Katie Ruggle (August 31)
  18. Her Dark Half by Paige Tyler (Sept. 2)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. A Panicked Premonition by Victoria Laurie (July 1)
  2. Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn (July 5)
  3. Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne Brockmann (July 6) 
  4. Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine (July 6) 
  5. Murder in Mayfair by D. M. Quincy (July 8)
  6. What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy (July 8)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. Devils & Thieves by Jennifer Rush (Oct. 3)
  2. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller (Aug. 29)
  3. Blood Gamble by Melissa F. Olson (July 25)
  4. Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Jan. 9)
  5. Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris (Sept. 26)
  6. Death at the Emerald by R. J. Koreto (Nov. 7)
  7. A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford (Nov. 7)
Next Month's Plan

I met my goal this month of reading enough ahead that I have a one month cushion on my blogs. This makes me feel comfortable but the disadvantage is that I have to turn down review requests that don't have a one month lead time. I turned down a couple that I would otherwise have chosen to read this week because my calendar was full and scheduled.

I have enough books already on my stack for September and October but have room after that for a few more review books. It is interesting that December is completely available right now but that I already have three books for January.