Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Book Review: Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead

Midnight Jewel
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: The Glittering Court (Book 2)
Publication: Razorbill (June 27, 2017)

Description: Mira is not like the other Glittering Court girls. She is a war refugee, cast out of her home country and thrust into another, where she has learned to fight against the many injustices around her. For some, the Glittering Court offers a chance at a life they’ve only ever dreamed of, one of luxury, glamour, and leisure. But for Mira, it’s simply a means to an end. In the new world, she plans to earn off her marriage contract price, and finally be free.

Mira pitches herself as an asset to one of the passengers on board the ship: the sardonic and aloof Grant Elliot, whom she’s discovered is a spy for the prestigious McGraw Agency—and her ticket to buying her freedom. His cover blown, Grant has little choice but to take her on. Mira applies herself by day, learning the etiquette and customs that will help to earn her anonymity. By night, she dons a mask and slips into the city, fighting injustice and corruption on her own terms—and impressing Grant with her extraordinary abilities and insights into a brewing rebellion. But the rebellion isn’t all they’re fighting…

Neither of them can ignore the attraction burning between them—an attraction so powerful, it threatens to unravel everything Mira’s worked so hard for. With freedom finally within her grasp, can Mira risk it all for love?

My Thoughts: Mira has a good reason for joining the Glittering Court. It is not only for a chance of a good marriage like most of the other girls. As a refugee cast out of her home country and facing prejudice in her new, travel to a new land would give her a chance for a new beginning. It would also give her a chance to find and free her brother who was sold into bondage. However, marriage looks like it is the only way that she will ever earn enough money to accomplish her goals.

She notices one of the men on board the ship with her. She recognizes him as a man she has seen hanging around the school. She learns that he is good at disguises and works as an agent for the prestigious McGraw Agency who is investigating a complicated conspiracy in the new world. She pitches her ability to go where he can't and to spy for him in exchange for some of the gold she needs. But she also finds Grant Elliott to a be fascinating, though very annoying, man who threatens to ruin her plans for a loveless but lucrative marriage.

When she arrives, she continues spying for Grant but she also connects with Tom Shortsleeves who is a land pirate in the new world. He also offers her gold for her assistance with is plans. She is conflicted but sees that him as a sort of Robin Hood who steals from the rich and helps the poor in the new lawless colony where she lives.

This was an engaging fantasy romance. It is the companion to The Glittering Court which tells the same story from the viewpoint of one of the other girls who traveled as part of the Glittering Court. I am hoping that there is a third story focusing on the third of the girls who were roommates at the Glittering Court because Tamsin was an important character in each of the first two books.

Fans of fantasy, adventure and romance will enjoy this series.

Favorite Quote:
What would she say if she knew that I'd been breaking into the home of a respected citizen last night? That I'd kissed a man inside a tavern of ill repute? That said man was a spy with a dangerous past and an infuriating personality?
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

ARC Review: Stolen Secrets by L. B. Schulman

Stolen Secrets
Author: L. B. Schulman
Publication: Boyds Mills Press (September 19, 2017)

Description: After an abrupt move across the country to San Francisco, sixteen-year-old Livvy is shocked to find that her mother has lied to her. Instead of looking for work at a bakery, her mom is taking care of Adelle, Livvy’s grandmother, who Livvy thought was long dead. Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Adelle shouts out startling details, mistakes her own name, and seems to relive moments that may have taken place in a concentration camp. When Livvy and her new friend Franklin D. find journal entries from the Holocaust in Adelle’s home, Livvy begins to suspect that her grandmother may have a shocking link to a notable figure -- Anne Frank.

My Thoughts: This is a contemporary story filled with family secrets. Livvy is just about to start her junior year in Vermont with her friends when her mother packs them up and heads off to San Francisco. Her mom has told her that she was laid off and is going to get a job as a pastry chef in San Francisco. But Livvy learns that she is really going to be taking care of her mother who has Alzheimer's. Livvy had been told that her grandmother was dead.

Livvy's mother Gretchen hadn't seen her mother since she was in college. She hates her mother and wouldn't be taking care of her now except that she wants an inheritance from her mother. Gretchen is an alcoholic who has been sober for five years but the stress of caring for her mother Adelle has caused her to begin drinking again. Livvy wants to get to know her grandmother but Alzheimer's makes it difficult.

Livvy makes a new friend at school named Franklin D. He is the one who is persistent about making her his friend since she is still hoping that she'll be able to resume her life in Vermont in a short time. Franklin D. is an interesting character who is Jewish, has a great relationship with his parents, is bright, and has no filter between things going through his brain and then out his mouth. Livvy needs that kind of person in her life.

The story gains more complications when some of the things Adelle says lead Livvy and Franklin D. to believe that she was in Bergen-Belsen and might have known Anne Frank. The Anne Frank connection is also of interest to Vickie who is Adelle's other caretaker and who has primary responsibility for her while Gretchen is back in Vermont for another try at rehab.

This was an interesting and engaging story about how secrets can be hard on relationships. I disliked Gretchen because her alcoholism has made Livvy an adult before she should have had to become one. I liked that Franklin D. helped her become more comfortable with herself and with her own quirks.

Favorite Quote:
He frowned. "I lay it all on the line so everyone knows who I really am."

"I'm sorry. I have no idea why I said that. I guess I'm not used to talking so much about personal stuff."

"You should try it more often. It takes the guesswork out of communication." His face smoothed out into a smile.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, September 15, 2017

ARC Review: A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess

A Poison Dark and Drowning
Author: Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire (Book 2)
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (September 19, 2017)

Description: The magicians want her to lead.
The sorcerers want her to lie.
The demons want her blood.
Henrietta wants to save the one she loves.
But will his dark magic be her undoing?

In this seductive and explosive second book in the Kingdom on Fire series, Jessica Cluess delivers her signature mix of magic, passion, and teen warriors fighting for survival. Hand to fans of Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J. Maas, and Kiersten White.

Henrietta doesn’t need a prophecy to know that she’s in danger. She came to London to be named the chosen one, the first female sorcerer in centuries, the one who would defeat the Ancients. Instead, she discovered a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one.

Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Rook, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? The poison in Rook’s system is transforming him as he begins to master dark powers of his own. So when Henrietta finds a clue to the Ancients’ past that could turn the tide of the war, she persuades Blackwood, the mysterious Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out new weapons. And Magnus, the brave, reckless flirt who wants to win back her favor, is assigned to their mission. Together, they will face monsters, meet powerful new allies, and discover that some old wounds are still full of poison.

My Thoughts: This is the middle book in a trilogy. Henrietta has been confirmed as a sorcerer but is still studying magic on the side. She knows that she isn't the prophesied Chosen who will finally defeat the Ancients but it is being kept secret from most of the sorcerers. When they learn of a cache of weapons that may defeat the Ancients who are trying to conquer Britain, she goes to find them along with Blackwood, Magnus and other of her colleagues. They are forced to make a deal with Mab, the faerie queen, to travel there. There they also meet Maria who is hiding the fact that she is a powerful witch.

Things are getting dire. Rook is losing his battle to stay human and is being consumed by shadows. Henrietta learns a secret about Rh'lem who is the leader of the Ancients and she learns more about the past that involved her father, Blackwood's father, and her magician teacher Mickelmas.

Henrietta is a boy magnet and her various relationships play in the plot of this story. She loves Rook who was her childhood friend and has promised to marry him despite their very different social classes and that he is unclean because he was bitten by a familiar. But she is in danger of losing him to his injuries as he turns into an evil shadow creature. Her fellow sorcerer Magnus has fallen for her but she rebuffed him which has altered their friendship. And Blackwood has fallen in love with her and shared his family secrets.

It will be interesting to see how the story plays out in the final book of the trilogy.

Favorite Quote:
I didn't argue. He was the Imperator, after all. I would train, and I would fight. But no one could stop what I read in my spare time. And if I happened to find something useful? Well, better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

Making trouble was becoming a regular habit, it seemed.
I received this one for review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ARC Review: Murder, Magic and What We Wore by Kelly Jones

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore
Author: Kelly Jones
Publication: Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 19, 2017)

Description: Fans of Patrice Kindl’s Keeping the Castle or Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecelia will adore this funny Regency-era mystery about a determined young woman with a magical trick up her sleeve . . .

The year is 1818, the city is London, and 16-year-old Annis Whitworth has just learned that her father is dead and all his money is missing. And so, of course, she decides to become a spy.

Annis always suspected that her father was himself a spy, and following in his footsteps to unmask his killer makes perfect sense. Alas, it does not make sense to England’s current spymasters—not even when Annis reveals that she has the rare magical ability to sew glamours: garments that can disguise the wearer completely.

Well, if the spies are too pigheaded to take on a young woman of quality, then Annis will take them on. And so she crafts a new double life for herself. Miss Annis Whitworth will appear to live a quiet life in a country cottage with her aunt, and Annis-in-disguise as Madame Martine, glamour artist, will open a magical dressmaking shop. That way she can earn a living, maintain her social standing, and, in her spare time, follow the coded clues her father left behind and unmask his killer.

It can’t be any harder than navigating the London social season, can it?

My Thoughts: I like historical mysteries, the Regency time period, and magic which made this book a no-brainer choice for me. The story begins when 16-year-old Annis Whitworth learns that her father has died in France. When her father's man of business arrives to tell Annis and her Aunt Cassia about the death, he also tells them that her father died penniless. Annis and Aunt Cassia are looking at a major life change!

Her aunt is determined that the two look for work as governesses or companions but Annis has a different plan: she wants to be a spy for England. After all, she has figured out that her father was one and she has deciphered some clues that were in his effects that the War Office needs to know. However, the War Office doesn't need a teenage lady to work for them.

Annis falls back on her plan two. While remaking ready-made mourning clothes for herself and her aunt, she discovers that she is a glamour mage who is able to change the appearance of things by sewing them. Besides making clothing more fashionable and flattering, she can also make clothes that disguise the wearer as someone else. She is certain that that skill will be useful to the War Office but she is rebuffed again.

She and her aunt, along with their new maid Millicent O'Leary, move to a small town where Annis disguises herself as a French widow Madame Martine who is an extraordinary fashionable dressmaker. Annis is determined to earn enough for them all to resume their fashionable and upper class lives.

Annis and Millicent face a number of dangers. There are the men wearing navy boots who are pursuing them. There is the upper class villain who attempted to rape Millicent and whose sister took his side losing Millicent her job.

This was an engaging story. I liked Annis despite the fact that she was more than a little naive. She had plenty of determination. Fans of historical mysteries with some magic will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
Perhaps the War Office recruited young gentlemen whose families had such abrupt changes in fortune. Why had they not yet thought to recruit young ladies? I filed it away under a listing titled Arguments to Have with Mr. Smith, as Soon as Convenient.
I received this one for review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

ARC Review: The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner

The Exact Location of Home
Author: Kate Messner
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (September 12, 2017)

Description: Kirby "Zig" Zigonski lives for the world of simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than most people--especially his father, who he hasn't seen in over a year. When his dad's latest visit is canceled with no explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a new gizmo--a garage sale GPS unit--for help. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town to explain his absence, Zig sets out to find him. Following one clue after another, logging mile after mile, Zig soon discovers that people aren't always what they seem . . . and sometimes, there's more than one set of coordinates for home.

An important story of love and hope that will capture readers' hearts, The Exact Location of Home is another must read from beloved author Kate Messner.

My Thoughts: Zig is an eighth grader and science nerd. He lives with his mother who is studying to become a nurse and always looks forward to visits from his father. His father always has interesting surprises but his father is also very unreliable. He keeps getting Zig's hopes up and cancelling on him.

Things are not going well for Zig and his mom since his dad has also stopped sending child support. They are a couple of months behind on their rent and are going to be evicted. Zig can't understand why his mother won't contact his dad for help. He feels certain that she is keeping secrets from him.

Zig has a couple of good friends Ruby and Gianna. They spend time together going to rummage sales. Zig is always looking for electronics. He hits the jackpot at one sale when a widow is selling some of her husbands projects which include a GPS unit. The kids know about geocaching because they learned about it in science class. When they decide to give geocaching a try, Zip discovers a cacher named Senior Searcher and become convinced that it is his father who is Senior Searcher.

Zig decides to find Senior Searcher and convinces his friends to help him. They have a number of adventures finding the caches. Zig becomes sort of obsessed with the search as the rest of his life falls apart. He and his mom are evicted and find themselves living in a shelter after a couple of days living in their car. There he meets another woman and her son Scoop who are also homeless after fleeing an abusive husband and father.

His obsession with finding his father and his lack of home are causing problems at school. It is hard to do his homework in the shelter and he often doesn't have school supplies. Seeing the different ways teachers helped or hindered him was interesting. His social studies teacher was big on doing community service to help the "unfortunate" but she didn't seem to realize that she could have some homeless kids sitting in the desks in front of her. Meanwhile, the librarian just quietly helped by leaving pencils and paper out for Zig to use without asking if he needed them.

I also really liked the references to LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knutson. It was Scoop's favorite book and he often begged to have it read to him. It is one of my favorite books too. I always loved reading it to my students. I liked the lessons that both Zig and Scoop got from the book: sometimes people do change as Mr. McBee did and sometimes home isn't exactly what you might think it is.

This was an excellent, engaging story.

Favorite Quote:
"It's good. Do you want a big ending that ties everything together?"

"I have that," he says. He looks at his paper again. "Friends help." He looks up a me. "Don't you think that's big?"

"Actually, yeah." I guess I do.
I received this one for review from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: Refuge for Masterminds by Kathleen Baldwin

Refuge for Masterminds 
Author: Kathleen Baldwin
Series: Stranje House (Book 3)
Publication: Tor Teen (May 23, 2017)

Description: It’s 1814. Napoleon has escaped his imprisonment on Elba. Britain is at war on four fronts. And at Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, five young ladies are secretly being trained for a world of spies, diplomacy, and war….

Napoleon’s invasion of England is underway and someone at Stranje House is sneaking information to his spies. Lady Jane Moore is determined to find out who it is. If anyone can discover the traitor, it is Janefor, according to headmistress Emma Stranje, Lady Jane is a mastermind.

Jane doesn’t consider herself a mastermind. It’s just that she tends to grasp the facts of a situation quickly, and by so doing, she’s able to devise and implement a sensible course of action. Is Jane enough of a mastermind to save the brash young American inventor Alexander Sinclair, her friends at Stranje House, and possibly England itself?

Fans of genre-blending, romance, and action will love this Regency-era alternate history novel filled with spunky heroines, handsome young lords, and dastardly villains―the third in the Stranje House series. Don’t miss the first two books: A School for Unusual Girls and Exile for Dreamers.

My Thoughts: This is Lady Jane's story. Lady Jane was sent to Stranje house by her older brothers after her parents' deaths. She thinks of herself as plain and average and can't figure out why her friends love her. However, she is being groomed to be a mastermind since she has a strong ability to plan and think three or four steps ahead of everyone. This comes in quite handy since the young ladies of Stranje House and the patronesses of British society are all spies trying to keep Napoleon from conquering England in this alternate history story.

Lady Jane also has a secret that she has been keeping since just before her parents died. This secret makes her believe that she needs to stay away from London and society or face changes she doesn't want in her life.

Lady Jane is also falling in love with inventor Alexander Sinclair who is a brash American who has developed a working steam boat which could alter the course of the war but only if they can get the prototype to London and the Navy before it is captured by the evil Lady Daneska and her partner the Ghost.

The banter between Jane and Alexander was entertaining as the two sparred. I liked the relationships between the girls at Stranje House. They have become the family that Jane never had since hers were dissolute gamesters who never valued her.

Fans of alternate history and intrepid young women will enjoy this third book in the Stranje House series.

Favorite Quote:
Lady Castlereagh laces her hands across her broad middle and taps one finger. "I suppose you think it's a trifle too soon?"

"I thought it best you meet her first." Miss Stranje joins them as they close ranks around me, speaking of me as if I'm not staring straight into their faces.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

ARC Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia
Author: Scott Reintgen
Series: Nyxia Triad
Publication: Crown Books for Young Readers (September 12, 2017)

Description: Every life has a price in this sci-fi thriller that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae. This is the first in a new three-book series called the Nyxia Triad that will take a group of broken teens to the far reaches of the universe and force them to decide what they’re willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

My Thoughts: NYXIA is the first book in an epic space adventure. Emmett Atwater is one of ten poor kids from Earth who are given the chance to compete for a place on the team that will be going to Eden. He's black and from Detroit where he lives with his factory worker dad and sick mother who is in need of a kidney transplant. Winning a place on the team that goes down to the planet to mine nyxia will make his family financially set for life and will cure his mother. He has every incentive to do well. But so do all the other candidates...

The book tells of the many competitions that the kids need to win and tells about the rivalries and alliances that form between them. They are taught to fight and taught to manipulate nyxia. Emmett's best friend is Kaya who is a strategic genius. She encourages him to explore the spaceship with her because both kids are sure that secrets are being kept about the goals of the mission and other things too. When tragedy strikes, Emmett has to focus even more on making the team and getting down to Eden. The competitions all seem to be manipulating the kids to mold them into what the corporation wants and Emmett struggles to maintain his own values.

The competition gets even more tense when they learn that there is another team also competing for a place on the trip down to Eden and that only fifteen of the 20 kids will get to go. Because Emmett had been sidelined with an injury for a while and hasn't found a way to make up the points, he is on the bubble. He knows that in order for him to win a place a good friend and good person on his team will have to lose.

This was an entertaining story that was filled with action and lots of moral dilemmas too. I am eager to read the next books to find out what happens when the teams reach Eden.

Favorite Quote:
I learned our history in parables, stories of warning. My great-grandfather's restaurant got railroaded by a new interstate project. The government took the land out of his clenched fists and gave him just enough money to try to fail in a neighboring county. My own gramps gave up his scholarship to Michigan after his mother died. He could have been All-American, but he got a factory job and looked after his brothers and sisters instead. In every branch of our family tree, someone's brushed shoulders with real freedom. But there's always a catch in life. There's always some fine print that snatched dreams just before they were real enough to hold in our hands.
I received this one for review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.