Wednesday, December 5, 2018

ARC Review: Deadfall by Stephen Wallenfels

Deadfall
Author: Stephen Wallenfels
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (December 11, 2018)

Description: Twin brothers Ty and Cory Bic are on the run. When they encounter a dying deer in the middle of a remote mountain road with fresh tire tracks swerving down into a ravine, they know they have to help. But when they reach the wrecked car the vehicle appears empty, with signs that the driver escaped.

Until they hear a sound coming from the trunk.

Ty and Cory are escaping demons of their own. But what they discover in the trunk puts them in the crosshairs of something darker and more sinister than their wildest nightmares.

Told through a gripping, lightning-fast narrative that alternates between present and past, this unputdownable survival thriller unravels the tangled circumstances that led Ty and Cory to the deer in the road and set them on a perilous course through the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.

My Thoughts: This story begins when Benny Bic takes his twin 16-year-old sons Cory and Ty on a road trip for their birthday. Benny is a drunk who has taken to physically abusing Cory since his wife left the family a couple of years earlier. Ty is the one who is the most like their father, including his anger issues. Cory is more sensitive. He's fat, bright, interested in cooking, and is coming to believe that he is gay.

The road trip isn't something either of the boys want to do. They wind up hiking into the wilderness where, after scaring them by seeming to abandon them, Benny shows the boy a secret hideout in an old burnt out stump that he discovered some years earlier. He also tells them that their home has been sold and that they are moving to Portland so that he can go into business with a low-life named Tirk.

Benny moves the kids into a former crack house and begins to get involved with Meth. After he double crosses his partner, he's murdered and the boys are thrown into foster care with the bad guys on their trail.

The story is told in a somewhat linear fashion alternating between the boys life in Portland, in Luster, and in Stumptown. It talks about their life in foster care with former judge turned political candidate Harvey Mott and his family, and what they discover about him. It also adds suspense when the boys decided to run away to winter in Stumptown and discover a car with a girl in the trunk who's still be pursued by those who put her there.

The story was fast-paced and action-packed. I liked getting to know Cory and watch him grow through the story. The only complaint I have is the number of coincidences that litter the story. The judge picked the boys because he remembers seeing them along with their parents one time when Benny was up before a judge. The kidnapped girl connects to their father and the other villains after them.

Favorite Quote:
"It's a shitty deal. I get all that. But I have a job to do, okay? My job is to catch the bad guys. Because if I don't catch the bad guys, they get to keep being bad."

Cory thought, Did he really just say that?

Ty looked at Cory. "I think this is where he tells us that we can do it the easy way or the hard way."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

State of the Stack #78 (Dec. 1, 2018)

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. Link with Avalinah's Books (description below) to check out other people's progress. She has just recently started a meme about review books.

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.

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.
  1. Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch (Nov. 17)
  2. Deception with an Unlikely Earl by Victoria Alexander (Nov. 20)
  3. Fool's Moon by Diane A. S. Stuckart (Nov. 22)
  4. Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst (Nov. 28)
  5. Deadfall by Stephen Wallenfels (Dec. 5)
  6. A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn (March 6)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. Midsummer Mayhem by Marty Wingate (Nov. 1)
  2. Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne (Nov. 2)
  3. A Dangerous Duet by Karen Odden (Nov. 3) 
  4. SEAL's Honor by Megan Crane (Nov. 6)
  5. The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston (Nov. 7)
  6. A Scandal in Scarlet by Vicki Delany
  7. A Vintage Death by Mary Ellen Hughes (Nov. 8)
  8. Fatal Festival Days by Jamie M. Blair (Nov. 8)
  9. Those Who Go By Night by Andrew Gaddes (Nov. 10)
  10. The Once and Future Geek by Mari Mancusi (Nov. 14)
  11. In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon (Nov. 15)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. Say You're Sorry by Karen Rose (Feb. 12)
  2. A Merciful Fate by Kendra Elliot (Jan. 15)
  3. One Tough Cowboy by Lora Leigh and Veronica Chadwick (Jan. 29)
  4. The Military Wife by Laura Trentham (Feb. 5)
  5. Untouchable by Jayne Ann Krentz (Jan. 8)
  6. Secrets Never Die by Melinda Leigh (March 19)
  7. The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (May 7)
  8. Killing November by Adriana Mather (March 26)
  9. A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn (March 12)
My Review Pile

January
Untouchable by Jayne Ann Krentz (Jan. 8)
This Promise of Change by Jo An Allen Boyce & Debbie Levy (Jan. 8)
Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden (Jan. 8)
 The Au Pair by Emma Rous (Jan. 8)
The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye (Jan. 8)
The Hangman's Secret by Laura Joh Rowland (Jan. 8)
 A Merciful Fate by Kendra Elliot (Jan. 15)
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (Jan. 15)
Tear It Down by Nick Petrie (Jan. 15)
 The Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (Jan. 15)
The Burning Island by Hester Young (Jan. 22)
Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye (Jan. 22)
One Tough Cowboy by Lora Leigh & Veronica Chadwick (Jan. 29)
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (Jan. 29)

February
 The Military Wife by Laura Trentham (Feb. 5)
Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong (Feb. 5)
Stolen Time by Danielle Rollins (Feb. 5)
 The Antidote by Shelley Sackier (Feb. 5)
Say You're Sorry by Karen Rose (Feb. 12)
How I Became a Spy by Deborah Hopkinson (Feb. 12)
 Past Due for Murder by Victoria Gilbert (Feb. 12)
The Blood Spell by C. J. Redwine (Feb. 12)
Immoral Code by Lillian Clark (Feb. 19)
In the Dark by Cara Hunter (Feb. 19)
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlar Kay Mejia (Feb. 26)

March
 The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets (March 5)
If You're Out There by Katy Lautzenhiser (March 5)
The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler (March 5)
 The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees (March 12)
Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney (March 13)
Secrets Never Die by Melinda Leigh (March 19)
 The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst (March 19)
Winter War Awakening by Rosalyn Eves (March 19)
Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (March 19)
Killing November by Adriana Mather (March 26)

April
The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman (April 2)
Dreaming Darkly by Caitlyn Kittredge (April 9)

May
The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (May 7)
Spark by Sarah Beth Durst (May 14)

Next Month's Plan

I have been doing some thinking about what I want to do about review books. Right now I have 21 YA and 18 adult books on my stack. When I look at the list, I am much more excited about reading the adult books on the stack.

I think it is time to cut way back on accepting YA books to review. This is the second year of my retirement and I don't have any contact with school kids anymore. I don't feel the same need to keep up with what YAs are reading that I felt when I was working with them.

I have noticed that my reading tastes are changing too. I have much less desire to read the big fantasies that seem to be filling the lists of books for review. I go looking for mysteries and romantic suspense with a dash of science fiction and romance.

For 2019, look for fewer YAs and more mysteries. I may also switch this post over to my adult blog and let my YA blog go mostly dormant. Right now I have only one post scheduled for December and no real plans to read any YA in the near future.

*********

I am also linking up with the State of the ARC meme. Here is the explanation and rules.

State of the ARC is a monthly meme at Avalinah’s Books meant to motivate you to finish up all your long overdue ARCs (Advanced or Early Reader Copies). You can track your reading progress and link up with your own post. Most commonly it comes out on the 30th of every month.

Rules of State of the ARC:

  • Mention that you’re linking up with State of the ARC @ AvalinahsBooks, which is a fun way to share our ARC progress, challenges, wins, woes and mishaps.
  • Include the link to this post, or the current State of the ARC post. You can use my State of the ARC image too.
  • Don’t forget to visit all the other people in the link-up and comment.
  • And most importantly – have fun!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Book Review: Guardian by A. J. Hartley

Guardian
Author: A. J. Hartley
Series: Steeplejack (Book 3)
Publication: Tor Teen (June 12, 2018)

Description: This is what Ang knows:

A dear friend is accused of murdering the Prime Minister of Bar-Selehm.

A mysterious but fatal illness is infecting the poor.

A fanatical politician seizes power, unleashing a wave of violent repression over the city.

This is what Ang must do:

Protect her family.

Solve a murder.

RESIST, no matter what, before it’s too late.

My Thoughts: The conclusion of the Steeplejack trilogy finds Ang Sutonga deep in the politics of the city of Bar-Selehm. When her employer Josiah Willinghouse is accused of murdering the prime minister Benjamin Tavestock, Ang is nearly alone in trying to find evidence to clear his name.

It doesn't help that Tavestock's death left an opening for the Far Right in the person of Norton Richter to seize control of the government and initiate their extremely racist policies. Blacks and browns lose their jobs and homes. The police force loses power to Richter's citizen militia who all happen to be white bully boys.

Meanwhile, there is a new disease that is running through the Drowning which is the Lani part of the city that Ang comes from. It is striking down mostly young girls including Ang's nieces. It takes a while to find out what is causing the illness and the knowledge signals even more trouble for Bar-Selehm.

This story is filled will all kinds of wonderful characters from seventeen-year-old Ang to a charismatic black activist who is looking for a non-violent solution. Willinghouse's sister Dahria is also fascinating as she combines rich society girl with a cynical political eye. She is also Ang's friend - most of the time.

The story was filled with action as Ang investigates to try to clear Willinghouse's name and finds herself spying on any number of villains and facing danger on all sides. The worldbuilding was well done. I like the South African background. 



Favorite Quote:
I swallowed, wiped away my tears, turned my face into the hot sun, and got on with thins, because that was what you did. In this and this alone, the very poor were like the very rich. You did not indulge your feelings. You bit down hard, you strangled sentiment, you said nothing - absolutely nothing - and you continued.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

ARC Review: Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst

Fire & Heist
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Publication: Crown Books for Young Readers (December 4, 2018)

Description: In Sky Hawkins's family, leading your first heist is a major milestone--even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It's a chance to gain power and acceptance within your family, and within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated, especially when you're a wyvern--a human capable of turning into a dragon.

Embarking on a life of crime is never easy, and Sky discovers secrets about her mother, who recently went missing, the real reason her boyfriend broke up with her, and a valuable jewel that could restore her family's wealth and rank in their community.

With a handpicked crew by her side, Sky knows she has everything she needs to complete her first heist, and get her boyfriend and mother back in the process. But then she uncovers a dark truth about were-dragon society--a truth more valuable and dangerous than gold or jewels could ever be.

My Thoughts: Sky Hawkins is a wyvern. She's also the youngest in her family, having three older brothers. Her ancestors were exiled from Home through a Door that had disappeared. Wyverns have done quite well on Earth gaining wealth and being the target of paparazzi. Sky's family has recently lost wealth and status when her mother's most recent heist was a failure and resulted in her disappearance. Sky's family has been shunned by the others. It was especially painful for Sky because it was her boyfriend Ryan who shunned her at the most recent Reckoning.

Sky is determined to complete her mother's heist and restore her family's honor and place in their society. Leading a successful heist is a mark of adulthood in her society. Her ex-boyfriend convinces her that he shunned her on order from his father, the head of the Council, and wants to help her plan the perfect heist. Sky also recruits a human friend from school who is just about the only one who will have anything to do with her there. Gabriela is fascinated by dragons and is especially in love with unicorns which are native to the dragon Home. Sky also needs a wizard to help with some of the spells needed for her heist and recruits Maximus who is one of the few wyvern wizards.

Sky and her crew need to work in secret. Her father and older brothers are all against any tries to clear their mother's name and complete her heist. Sky is determined and the group comes up with a plan that should work. However, things go wrong in a big way and Sky finds herself exiled to the dragon Home world which isn't the paradise wyverns on Earth believe.

Although she is reunited with her mother, what she learns about Ryan's father's actions makes her determined to return to Earth and set things right.

I thought the world building with dragons living on Earth as celebrities was well done. I liked the Sky was such a determined person. I also liked the crew of new friends that she gathered around herself. I liked that dragons on Earth believed that they no longer had the ability to shift into to their dragon forms even though they they hadn't lost their ability to breath fire - to one degree or another. The one thing I liked about Home was that Sky learned to shift into her dragon form. I didn't like the rigid class society there.

Fans of dragons, heists, and friendship will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
You forget about past and future when you climb. That's one thing I love about it, when you slip into this moment that is purely now. In now, there is no guilt or regret or worry or fear. There's only the doing.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis

The Girl with the Dragon Heart
Author: Stephanie Burgis
Publication: Bloomsbury Children's Books (November 6, 2018)

Description: Silke has always been good at spinning the truth and storytelling. So good that, just years after arriving in the kingdom as a penniless orphan, she has found her way to working for the most splendid chocolate makers in the city as a master promoter. Although Silke loves her work at the Chocolate Heart, she's certain it's not going to last, and what Silke wants more than anything is somewhere to call home--somewhere. But when your best friend is a dragon-turned-hot-tempered-girl, trouble is always right around the corner.

Then Silke gets the opportunity she's been waiting for: the Crown Princess personally asks her to spy on the Elfenwald royal family during their first visit to the kingdom. In return, Silke will have the home she's always wanted in the secure palace. But Silke has her own dark, secret reasons for not trusting fairies . . . and her mission isn't as simple as she hoped. Soon, she discovers that her city is in danger--and that maybe it's more her home than she ever realized.

Can Silke find out the truth about the fairies while keeping her own secrets hidden?

My Thoughts: This was a great middle grade fantasy about a young girl looking for security and a place to call home. Silke is an orphan who lost her parents to faeries when she was six. She has been living on the beach outside Drachenburg with her older brother. They are eking out a living selling used clothing.

But Silke has talents and dreams that keep her looking for more. She's a gifted storyteller and a wonderful promoter. She is using her talents to promote the Chocolate Heart where her best friend is a dragon with a gift for food magic and a love for chocolate.

Silke comes to the attention of the Crown Princess who offers to provide her a permanent place in her palace if she agrees to spy on the Elfenwald royal family when they come to negotiate a treaty with Drachenburg. Silke wants the security the Crown Princess is offering and really wants to know if her parents are still alive and can be rescued.

It doesn't take long for her to begin having doubts about living in a palace. Being constrained as a lady in waiting to a princess is very different than the freedom she has to wander the city as a storyteller and promoter.

When she learns that the faeries are eager for the alliance so that they can destroy all the dragons, Silke has to find a way to protect her friend. When the faeries use their magic to take over the kingdom, it is up to a 13-year-old storyteller, a 12-year-old dragon, and a 12-year-old princess to find a way to save everyone.

I loved this story because it was about friendship and finding a home. Silke is an intriguing character who is determined and focused. She is gifted but doesn't really realize the scope of her gifts until she is called upon to save her friends.

Favorite Quote:
I wouldn't just sleep. I would rest as fully as I'd let myself rest years ago, the last time I had felt truly safe...

And that was the problem.

It would only be an illusion of safety now, just as it had been all those years ago. The people who loved you couldn't provide real safety, no matter how much they might try. No matter what it took, I would not let myself fall into the trap of believing that kind of promise ever again.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Book Review: Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: DC Icons (Book 1)
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (August 29, 2017)

Description: She will become one of the world's greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . . 
Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn't know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

My Thoughts: This is the story of Diana, who was born on Themyscira as a daughter of Queen Hippolyta, and who feels that she needs to prove herself to the other Amazons who live there. After all, she has never been tested in battle.

Diana sees a shipwreck and rescues Alia. But Alia's presence on Themyscira causes all sorts of problems. She is a warbringer, the descendant of Helen of Troy who was herself a daughter of Nemesis. Alia's presence causes earthquakes and illnesses. Diana consults the oracle who tells her to let Alia die. But Diana asks for a way for her to live. They need to travel to Helen's spring before a certain date, which is fast approaching, and have Alia bathe in the waters there. If they manage to do that, they will break the line of warbringers and prevent more wars.

Their quest isn't easy. Instead of finding themselves in Greece when they leave the island, they find themselves in New York City and encounter Alia's brother Jason who is so overprotective that he wants her to run to isolation in Canada rather than try to break the curse.

Jason, Diana, Alia, and two friends Theo and Nim find themselves on a plane to Greece but pursued by enemies. Not only human enemies but the gods who don't want Alia to end the line of warbringers are in hot pursuit.

The book is filled with adventure, betrayals, and all kinds of heroes. It is fast-paced and action-packed. My memories of Diana come from Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter and running from 1975-1979. So there were glimmers of the Diana I knew but much of this was a very different story.

Fans of superheroes and fans of Bardugo's writing will both enjoy this well told tale.

Favorite Quote:
"We can't help the way we're born. We can't help what we are, only what life we choose to make for ourselves."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Book Review: Bitten by Noelle Marie

Bitten
Author: Noelle Marie
Series: Once Bitten, Twice Shy, #1
Publication: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 19, 2014)

Description: Bastian had to have been the most handsome man that Katherine had ever met. It really was unfortunate that he was also the most stubborn, controlling, downright infuriating jackass she’d ever known as well. Oh, and there was the fact that he was a werewolf – a werewolf who has bitten her.

Sixteen-year-old Katherine Mayes had never believed in mythological creatures like werewolves or mermaids – certainly not those sparkly vampires that her friend Abby was obsessed with. Even when she’s bitten by a massive animal after a reckless night of teenage adventure and her body begins to change in mystifying ways, she can’t force herself to believe in what she’s convinced is impossible. Little does she realize she’s been infected with a disease a little more permanent than the rabies she feels fortunate to have not contracted.

Lycanthropy.

Her fierce denial is soundly shattered, however, when she is simultaneously saved and kidnapped by Bastian and his pack. Forced to leave small town Iowa behind and adjust to their way of life in a hidden society, Katherine must also deal with fighting the pull she feels towards the man – or wolf, rather – who has bitten her and disrupted her life so completely.

My Thoughts: Katherine Mayes finds herself bitten by a wolf while exploring an abandoned house outside her small Iowa town. Next she knows, she's going through some changes. Shes faster and more coordinated. She only wants to eat meat - the rarer the better. And people have developed their own unique scents. She comes home from school one day to find that her parents have been attacked and the home invaders call her a monster and want her dead.

Katherine is rescued by a handsome stranger who takes her away toward what he says is safety. She's told that her parents are dead and he and his pack are rescuing her. Naturally, she's traumatized by the death of her parents and confused when the stranger - Bastian - tells her that her rescuers are werewolves who are taking her to a safe place in Canada. And that she is going to be a werewolf too.

Katherine's first instinct is that they are crazy and her first goal is to get away from them. She does manage to steal their car and get away for a while but is soon recovered. She finds herself in a town of mostly werewolves trying to come to terms with her new destiny. She isn't helped very much when Bastian and the rest of his pack refuse to answer her many questions.

Sent to school, she finds herself dealing with overaggressive boys and their jealous girlfriends and a culture she doesn't understand. She also finds herself falling for Bastian who seems to have very mixed feelings about her. This is an example of the Stockholm Syndrome school of romance. Besides being attractive, Bastian doesn't really attempt to court her or win her over. In fact, he tends to be secretive, authoritarian, and controlling. Still Katherine falls for him.

I'm curious about what will happen if she ever learns that he lied to her about her parents' deaths. That would seem to be something that could derail their new romance despite Bastian's insistence that they are a mated pair.

Favorite Quote:
Curiosity nearly overwhelming her, Katherine looked up despite her embarrassment. And what she saw stole her breath away. Those eyes. They were a familiar and intense blue - remarkably similar to the pair that had been haunting her dreams for over a week.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.