Saturday, April 30, 2016

ARC Review: Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman

Traitor Angels
Author: Anne Blankman
Publication: Balzer + Bray (May 3, 2016)

Description: A romantic and exhilarating historical adventure about a girl who must unlock the secrets within Paradise Lost to save her father—perfect for fans of Revolution and Code Name Verity—from acclaimed author Anne Blankman, whose debut novel, Prisoner of Night and Fog, was a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens in 2015

Six years have passed since England’s King Charles II returned from exile to reclaim the throne, ushering in a new era of stability for his subjects.

Except for Elizabeth Milton. The daughter of notorious poet John Milton, Elizabeth has never known her place in this shifting world—except by her father’s side. By day she helps transcribe his latest masterpiece, the epic poem Paradise Lost, and by night she learns languages and sword fighting. Although she does not dare object, she suspects that he’s training her for a mission whose purpose she cannot fathom.

Until one night the king’s men arrive at her family’s country home to arrest her father. Determined to save him, Elizabeth follows his one cryptic clue and journeys to Oxford, accompanied by her father’s mysterious young houseguest, Antonio Viviani, a darkly handsome Italian scientist who surprises her at every turn. Funny, brilliant, and passionate, Antonio seems just as determined to protect her father as she is—but can she trust him with her heart?

When the two discover that Milton has planted an explosive secret in the half-finished Paradise Lost—a secret the king and his aristocratic supporters are desperate to conceal—Elizabeth is faced with a devastating choice: cling to the shelter of her old life, or risk cracking the code, unleashing a secret that could save her father . . . and tear apart the very fabric of society.

My Thoughts: This historical fiction story is set in England in 1666. Charles II is on the throne and Cromwell's government is disbanded. The narrator is Elizabeth Milton, daughter of John, who is determined to protect her blind father from being executed by Charles for his role in Cromwell's government. She had been educated as a boy, learning languages and sword-fighting, and she acts as her father's secretary as he is writing Paradise Lost. When a young man arrives from Italy to speak to her father a chain of events begins that will shake her world.

Antonio Viviani is a student of Vincenzo Viviani who was a student of Galileo and a noted mathematician in Italy. In this story, Milton met Galileo when he was a young man and Galileo shared with him a secret that could topple kings and discredit the Church. Milton has hidden clues to the secret in his poetry and in Paradise Lost. When the king has Milton imprisoned, it is up to Elizabeth and Antonio to solve the hidden clues and convince the king to spare Milton.

Antonio and Elizabeth are aided by Robert, Duke of Lockton, Charles II's oldest illegitimate son. Robert convinces them that he is on their side and eager to keep his father from gaining control of Galileo's discovery which he fears will make his father a tyrant. But Robert has a hidden agenda of his own which leaves Elizabeth trying to decide who she can trust.

I enjoyed this story about a young woman who has her cherished beliefs shattered and who has to remake her own reality to conform to new information. I enjoyed the historical setting and the glimpses of non-fictional personages of the day - Samuel Pepys, Robert Boyle, and Robert Hooke, among them. I enjoyed being able to immerse myself in the worldview of the time when the Bible was held as the literal truth and science was in its infancy. I also enjoyed the romance that grew between Elizabeth and Antonio.

Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this engaging story.

Favorite Quote:
All afternoon, I had been reflecting on Galileo's discovery, poking at it as I would with a wound, my fingers soft and hesitant. I had been taught that every passage in the Bible contained incontrovertible truths. To think otherwise was sacrilege. Galileo's story could divide hearts and empires, bring governments crashing down and crack the Church in two. If Antonio and Robert were right and the answers to divine mysteries were rooted in natural philosophy, then every piece in our carefully constructed world would unravel, like threads in a tapestry, leaving a half-formed picture.
I got this ARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Memes: Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman

Happy Friday everybody!!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Beginning:
"In this earthly life," my father often said to me, "we move with real or willful blindness. But only one way leads to true darkness."
Friday 56:
I saw at once how Francis had known they were king's men; beneath their broad-brimmed hats they sported the shaven heads of noblemen, having forgone their usual wigs for the journey. Everyone knew the aristocrats were loyal to the king; these men were our enemies.
This week I am spotlighting Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman. I got this eARC from Edelweiss. Here is the description from Amazon:
A romantic and exhilarating historical adventure about a girl who must unlock the secrets within Paradise Lost to save her father—perfect for fans of Revolution and Code Name Verity—from acclaimed author Anne Blankman, whose debut novel, Prisoner of Night and Fog, was a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens in 2015

Six years have passed since England’s King Charles II returned from exile to reclaim the throne, ushering in a new era of stability for his subjects.

Except for Elizabeth Milton. The daughter of notorious poet John Milton, Elizabeth has never known her place in this shifting world—except by her father’s side. By day she helps transcribe his latest masterpiece, the epic poem Paradise Lost, and by night she learns languages and sword fighting. Although she does not dare object, she suspects that he’s training her for a mission whose purpose she cannot fathom.

Until one night the king’s men arrive at her family’s country home to arrest her father. Determined to save him, Elizabeth follows his one cryptic clue and journeys to Oxford, accompanied by her father’s mysterious young houseguest, Antonio Viviani, a darkly handsome Italian scientist who surprises her at every turn. Funny, brilliant, and passionate, Antonio seems just as determined to protect her father as she is—but can she trust him with her heart?

When the two discover that Milton has planted an explosive secret in the half-finished Paradise Lost—a secret the king and his aristocratic supporters are desperate to conceal—Elizabeth is faced with a devastating choice: cling to the shelter of her old life, or risk cracking the code, unleashing a secret that could save her father . . . and tear apart the very fabric of society.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

ARC Review: The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude

The May Queen Murders
Author: Sarah Jude
Publication: HMH Books for Young Readers (May 3, 2016)

Description: Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night. 

Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.

My Thoughts: Set in the Ozarks, in the town of Rowan's Glen, THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS tells the story of generations of secrets coming to light. The kids have always been scared into obedience by the tale of Birch Markle who murdered the last May Queen and who ran away to the woods and can now be heard screaming in the night.

This is a story told by Ivy who loves living in Rowan's Glen. She buys into all the superstitions and practices. She tells about her cousin Heather who has been her best friend since they were born. Heather is discontented with life in the Glen and eager to escape. She is keeping secrets from Ivy which hurts Ivy. The two begin arguing about Heather's choices and their friendship almost breaks when Ivy believes that Heather and Rook, the boy Ivy loves, are in a relationship.

When Heather is crowned the May Queen, disappears, and is found murdered, Ivy needs to solve the mystery of Heather's life and uncover the secrets in the Glen.

This story was by turns homey and scary. The richly detailed Ozark setting and the insular nature of Rowan's Glen contrasted nicely with the dark evil that had been living there for generations.

Fans of mysteries will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
Heather disregarded Mamie's tales, but I couldn't. I needed their truth. They were mythic and strange and disarming, as much a part of my life as tending to fields and brushing dirt from the house. To hear the stories over a pinewood fire, the smells of clove tea and floral powder on an old woman's skin, was a joy lost once Mamie quit talking. Heather couldn't take it away again.
I got this ARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

ARC Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publication: St. Martin's Griffin (April 26, 2016)

Description: Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

My Thoughts: Maya has grown up in her father's harem as a forgotten princess. Her mother died when she was born and, since her horoscope was very grim, it is believed that she is cursed. Her only supporter in the harem is her younger half-sister Gauri. She is used to scaring away tutors and climbing into the rafters to hear her father as he meets with councilors and envoys. She knows that her country is at war - a war they are losing.

Her father proposes that Maya be offered as a bride to the leaders of the warring countries. Maya is very surprised as she thought her curse might allow her to stay at home and spend her life reading and studying. She is heartbroken to find that her father has a devious plan that requires her to commit suicide rather than choose one of her suitors.

She is saved on the verge of suicide by a suitor she doesn't remember being introduced to. Amar of Akara proposes that he take her away and marry her. She agrees and her adventures begin. She finds herself visiting the otherworld, living in a very strange castle, and coming to love her husband despite not really being able to trust him.

The secrets he is keeping almost manage to destroy their relationship. Her journey to trust makes up most of this story which is lushly told, filled with creatures from Indian mythology, and packed with heart-wrenching decisions. Maya is an intrepid heroine who has to make some very hard decisions. Fans of fantasy will greatly enjoy getting to meet Maya and Amar.

Favorite Quote:
"I am Maya and Yamuna and Yamini. I am a frightened girl, a roaring river and night incarnate," I said. My voice strong and clear. Around me, the tapestry shrank back, like a scolded animal. "I have been a forgotten princess, a stubborn queen and a false sadhvi. And I will not be tethered."
I got this ARC from Amazon Vine. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Teaser Tuesday: The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser:
"It ain't the picture." I tamped the grains of glass into the dustpan and waited until another student distracted Mrs. Fenton before I whispered to Rook, "Mamie says a picture that falls without warnin' brings death in the mornin'."
This week I am spotlighting The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude. I got this eARC from Edelweiss. Here is the description from Amazon:
Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night.  
 
Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.

Monday, April 25, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 25, 2016)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a meme begun by Sheila at Book Journey. Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts have given it a kidlit focus.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

Other Than Reading...

Not much is happening around here right now. The weather is improving and school is keeping me really busy. We are down to less than 30 days left of this school year. I am ready for a break because I'm really tired of correcting papers. This is also the season when we learn who is moving on to another job or who is retiring. It looks like we are going to have more than the usual turnover this year.

I spent some time this week browsing my TBR mountain and pulling some books I really want to read this summer. I also added some adult reads to my review stack too. Most are from authors I have enjoyed in the past or from a publisher who publishes consistently enjoyable books. I am not in the mood to try something new. I just want old favorites. I set up all my blog posts for June and made a stack of the books that are in physical form. More than half are Kindle books and are already stashed on my Kindle.

Read Last Week
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins - I know I'm late to the party on this one but I recently attended a signing and got the first two books in the series autographed. In another way I'm just on time as the third and final book of this series is being released soon. My review will be posted on May 25.

The Underdogs by Sara Hammel - I read an ARC of this one. I chose it because it was a middle grade mystery. I really enjoyed it and was completely surprised by the twist at the end. My review will be posted on May 26.

Currently
I got The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman at the same recent signing. With a little gap before I need to start reading June review books, I grabbed it because it sounded like fun.

Next Week

Back to review books. These are being released on June 7 and June 14:
Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan is a fantasy I got from NetGalley.

The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May is a historical fantasy and sequel to a book I read a while ago. This one also came from NetGalley.
With Malice by Eileen Cook is from Edelweiss. This is a psychological thriller.

Steeplejack by A. J. Hartley was also from NetGalley. This is steampunk and a mystery set in South Africa.

Reviews Posted
    Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?

    Nothing. All the additions were adult books this week.

    You can check Inside of a Dog (my other blog) to see what adult books I read, reviewed, and plan to read. 

    Saturday, April 23, 2016

    ARC Review: The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

    The Outliers
    Author: Kimberly McCreight
    Series: Outliers (Book 1)
    Publication: HarperCollins (May 3, 2016)

    Description: From the New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia comes a fast-paced teen series where one girl learns that in a world of intrigue, betrayal, and deeply buried secrets, it is vital to trust your instincts.

    It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help. Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.

    This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice but to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.

    But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

    In this breakneck tale, New York Times bestselling author Kimberly McCreight brilliantly chronicles a fateful journey that begins with a single decision—and ends up changing everything.

    My Thoughts: Wylie is dealing with the death of her mother in a car accident while also dealing with mental issues. The high school junior has been seeing a therapist since she was in elementary school. Wylie has a tendency to throw up or pass out when the situation gets stressful. Since the death of her mother, she has also developed agoraphobia and has left the house for weeks.

    One day she gets a mysterious text from her ex-best friend begging for help. Wylie is mad at her but is also determined to save her friend Cassie if it is at all possible. Cassie has turned self-destructive and now spends too much time partying and drinking. Most of their recent fights have been about Cassie's self-destructive behavior. But when Cassie calls, Wylie goes to her rescue.

    Cassie sends her boyfriend Jasper to help Wylie who doesn't drive. Jasper has been having some of the same issues with Cassie that Wylie has. He hasn't been able to save her from her bad decisions either. Wylie doesn't like Jasper because she has formed some opinions about him without really knowing him and she blames him for some of Cassie's problems.

    The two get to know each other better as they travel from Boston up into Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine following Cassie's cryptic clues. Along the way they meet people who help them and people who hinder them. When they find Cassie, they learn that all of their problems are just beginning.

    This was an entertaining story about the length someone will go for their friends. It also take sort of a science fiction twist before its cliffhanging conclusion.

    Favorite Quote:
    "Something has to matter, Wylie, or nothing will."

    It's one of his favorite sayings.

    I shrug. "Okay, whatever."
    I got this ARC from You can buy your copy here.