Monday, August 20, 2018

Book Review: Rivals in the City by Y. S. Lee

Rivals in the City
Author: Y. S. Lee
Series: The Agency (Book 4)
Publication: Candlewick Press (March 10, 2015)

Description: In a tale steeped in action, romance, and the gaslit intrigue of Victorian London, Mary Quinn’s detective skills are pitted against a cunning and desperate opponent.

Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can’t shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?

My Thoughts: Nine months have passed since the conclusion of Mary Quinn's last case and things have changed. The Agency's two main leaders have split up because of their differing goals for the future of the Agency. Mary and James have formed their own private inquiry agency. Mary has gained an independent income which has allowed her to set up her own home. James and Mary are contemplating marriage but Mary has worries about losing her new found independence.

When Miss Treleaven, the Agency leader who wants to continue the Agency as it was, comes to Mary to ask her to take a case, Mary is intrigued. It seems that Mrs. Thorold who was the villain of Mary's first case has decided to return to England with another crime in mind. Her husband who was imprisoned after his part in that case, is dying and it is thought that Mrs. Thorold will come to see him. It is known that Angelica Thorold is on her way from Vienna to visit her father.

Mary is tasked with befriending Angelica in the hops that she will lead them to her mother. With Mrs. Thorold potentially arriving in England and having a major grudge against James, James and Mary decide that they need to hide their relationship both personal and professional for both their safety.

While Mary is doing her investigation, James has received a commission to redo the vaults under the Bank of England. But James is assaulted and his offices are broken into leading to the theft of the prints of the vaults. Fearing that it is part of Mrs. Thorold's scheme, forces are gathered to move the gold stored there to keep it out of the hands of thieves.

Meanwhile, Mary meets a cousin of hers who has come from China and who tells her more of her father's story. I liked Lang and thought it was interesting that he was making his living as a pugilist who won his victories using his oriental fighting techniques.

The story brings Mary's career in the Agency in a full circle and makes a nice conclusion to this series. It is packed with action. It also illuminates the role of women in Victorian society and the treatment of anyone not English at the time.

Favorite Quote:
"It sounds terribly appealing, when you put it that way," said Mary, "but I'm afraid I'm still rather partial to you."

"Partial!" He feigned a wounded look. "One is partial to jam, or to three-volume novels."

"Fond?" She offered with a smile.

"Of a puppy, or a distant uncle."

"All right." Mary swung around to face him, taking both his hand and halting him midstep. "James Easton, I am fervently, passionately, utterly, scandalously in love with you."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Book Review: Sirensong by Jenna Black

Author: Jenna Black
Series: Faeriewalker (Book 3)
Publication: St. Martin's Griffin; Original edition (July 6, 2011)

Description: When Dana is invited to Faerie to be officially presented at the Seelie Court, it's no easy decision. After all, everyone knows Titania, the Seelie Queen, wants her dead. But Titania claims not to be the one behind the death threats; and her son, Prince Henry, makes the decision a whole lot easier when he suggests Dana might be arrested for (supposedly) conspiring with her aunt Grace to usurp the Seelie throne. So she and her father better do as they're told . . .

The journey through Faerie is long―and treacherous. Dana thought it would be a good idea to have friends along, but her sort-of-boyfriend, Ethan, and her bodyguard's son, Keane, just can't seem to get along, and Kimber's crush on Keane isn't making things any easier. When a violent attack separates Dana from their caravan, the sexy Erlking saves her just in the nick of time . . . and makes it clear that he hasn't given up on making her his own.

Arriving at Titania's beautiful palace should be a relief. But Dana is soon implicated in an assassination attempt against Titania's granddaughter, and is suddenly a fugitive, forced to leave her father behind as she and her friends flee for their lives. Will she be able to prove her innocence before the forces of the Seelie Court―or, worse, the Erlking―catch up with her? And will she save her father before he pays the ultimate price in her stead?

Sirensong is book three in Jenna Black's enchanting Faeriewalker series.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this final book in the Faeriewalker series. Dana has been invited to faerie to be presented to Queen Titania of the Seelie court by her son Prince Henry. Well, if "invited" is a code for come on your own or come in chains. She is not eager because both queen of faerie would prefer that she was dead because of her unusual faeriewalker powers.

She travels in Prince Henry's caravan with her father, bodyguard Finn, and friends Ethan, Kimber and Keane. That creates enough tension all on its own because Ethan and Keane don't get along - at all. Add that tension to the tension that comes from traveling in faerie and you have a situation that is ready to explode.

Dana is separated from the rest of the group when the caravan is attacked by bogles. She is rescued by the Erlking but not before she has to use her special magical gift to kill a bunch of the bogles who nearly catch up with her. She didn't know that the Erlking and his Wild Hunt were following the group. Since she made him a promise that she doesn't want to keep to free Ethan from his Wild Hunt, he isn't exactly the person she wants most to see.

Arriving at Titania's court puts the group in deeper danger. A banquet hosted by a faerie princess is disrupted by a bomb that could only have been brought to faerie by a faeriewalker, but Dana didn't do it. Blamed, and on the run with her friends, Dana has to find a way back to Avalon and the human world in order to be safe.

The problem is that Dana isn't willing to abandon anyone she cares for and her father and Finn are still at Titania's palace. When her friends are captured, she uses the Erlking's gift of a broach which makes her invisible to return to the palace to rescue them and find out who really is behind all of the plots to kill her.

Besides this action, Dana is also dealing with an alcoholic mother who doesn't think she has a drinking problem. She originally ran to her father in Avalon to get away from the responsibility of caring for her mother. She loves her mother but hates that she has no control over her alcoholism. Dana's personality makes her want to take care of those she loves but she can't take care of her mother. This failure makes her angry. I liked the way this problem was realistically resolved.

In fact, I like the way all of the various problems that Dana faced were resolved in this book. It made a nice conclusion to the series.

Favorite Quote:
I'd been angry with my mom for almost as long as I could remember. Angry at her drinking, angry at her neglect, angry at the way I had to function as the adult of the family from the time I was about four. Until I'd run away from home, I'd been real, real good at hiding that anger, stuffing it down inside me so I could do what I had to do to take care of her and run the household.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

ARC Review: The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele

The Truth Lies Here
Author: Lindsey Klingele
Publication: HarperTeen (August 21, 2018)

Description: Stranger Things meets Men in Black in this funny and eerie young adult novel.


In small town Michigan, Penny Hardjoy, an aspiring journalist, teams up with the nerdy boy next door and the town’s star quarterback to find her conspiracy theorist father after he goes missing and several other people turn up dead in the woods.

The deeper she digs, the weirder things start to get. Townspeople repeat the same phrases—verbatim. Men in black suits stroll around Main Street. Chunks of Penny's memory go missing.

Pretty soon, her research leads her to the long-ago meteorite crash in Bone Lake’s woods, and she’s going to have to reconsider her definition of “real” if she wants answers. . . .

My Thoughts: Penny Hardjoy is spending the summer with her father in Bone Lake, Michigan, while her mother is on sabbatical in Spain. Until she was ten years old, her father was her hero. She went with him on hunts for Bigfoot and loved all of his stories about supernatural creatures. But seeing him take a picture of a bear and call it Bigfoot and walking in on him kissing her best friend's mother tarnished his role as her hero. When her mother divorced him, she was glad to go with her Mom to Chicago. Her disillusionment with her father's stories has turned Penny into someone who believes only in black and white and truth only with evidence.

When Penny arrives in town, her father is missing which makes her angry first and worried second. Her childhood friend Dex has become her father's new disciple and devoted believer of all his stories. He is worried about where her father is but Penny keeps looking for logical reasons for his absence. No matter how much Penny wants things to be black and white, weird things are happening in Bone Lake.

The local plant closed a few years ago and Penny wants to interview the residents about the decline of the town but she keeps hearing the same thing - the exact same thing - from everyone she interviews. Then two kids she knew disappeared and she stumbles onto their burned bodies which is eerily similar to the burned body of a hiker that was found earlier by her father.

The story is filled with mystery and the tension keeps ramping up as the story progresses. Penny also grows and changes through the course of the story. Fans of fast-paced mysteries with a twist will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
Dex looked at me with disappointment, maybe even a little sadness, but I didn't feel any loss over the girl I used to be. To believe  blindly is to get burned, and I was smarter than that now. I knew better. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Book Review: The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y. S. Lee

The Traitor in the Tunnel
Author: Y. S. Lee
Series: The Agency (Book 3)
Publication: Candlewick Press (February 28, 2012)

Description: Get steeped in suspense, romance, and high Victorian intrigue as Mary goes undercover at Buckingham Palace — and learns a startling secret at the Tower of London.

Queen Victoria has a little problem: there’s a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency puts quickwitted Mary Quinn on the case, where she must pose as a domestic while fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales. But when the prince witnesses the murder of one of his friends in an opium den, the potential for scandal looms large. And Mary faces an even more unsettling possibility: the accused killer, a Chinese sailor imprisoned in the Tower of London, shares a name with her long-lost father. Meanwhile, engineer James Easton, Mary’s onetime paramour, is at work shoring up the sewers beneath the palace, where an unexpected
tunnel seems to be very much in use. Can Mary and James trust each other (and put their simmering feelings aside) long enough to solve the mystery and protect the Royal Family? Hoist on your waders
for Mary’s most personal case yet, where the stakes couldn’t be higher — and she has everything to lose.

My Thoughts: Mary begins this story by going undercover for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace because small items are disappearing. Soon she is investigating a crime in an opium den that could be a major source of scandal for the Prince of Wales. Even more disturbing is that the accused killer might be Mary's long-lost father. Mary has successfully hidden her mixed heritage from everyone. No one knows that she is half Chinese.

Mary is also dealing with a new encounter with James Easton. They didn't part on good terms at the end of Mary's last adventure. Now, James has been tasked with repairing the sewers that run under Buckingham Palace which could allow thieves and assassins entry into the palace. Mary and James need to work together but their feelings could get in the way.

Mary is also dealing with issues at the Agency. The two managing partners have very different ideas of where the Agency should go in the future and Mary is torn between them.

This was another exciting historical mystery. I especially like that Mary is a complex person who has a wide variety of issues in her life. The action was fast-paced and the historical setting interesting. I can't wait to read more of Mary's adventures.

Favorite Quote:
"There's the odd story featuring the Prince of Wales -- but then again, when isn't there? I think that, ironically, that on'e been discounted because there are always stories about the royal family. For such a prim family, they do get dragged into the most outlandish rumors."

"The queen's predecessors - her uncles and grandfather - were a rich source of gossip, and most of it true," Mary remind him. "Perhaps it's just habit."

"Or wishful thinking."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Review: Shadowspell by Jenna Black

Author: Jenna Black
Series: Faeriewalker (Book 2)
Publication: St. Martin's Griffin; Original edition (January 4, 2011)

Description: On top of spending most of her time in a bunkerlike safe house and having her dates hijacked by a formidable Fae bodyguard, Faeriewalker Dana Hathaway is in for some more bad news: the Erlking and his pack of murderous minions known as the Wild Hunt have descended upon Avalon. With his homicidal appetite and immortal powers, the Erlking has long been the nightmare of the Fae realm. A fragile treaty with the Faerie Queen, sealed with a mysterious spell, is the one thing that keeps him from hunting unchecked in Avalon, the only place on Earth where humans and Fae live together. Which means Dana's in trouble, since it's common knowledge that the Faerie Queen wants her – and her rare Faeriewalker powers – dead. The smoldering, sexy Erlking's got his sights set on Dana, but does he only seek to kill her, or does he have something much darker in mind?

My Thoughts: This is the middle book in the Glimmerglass trilogy. Dana has discovered that coming to stay with her fae father in Avalon to get away from the responsibilities of caring for her alcoholic mother is not the positive change she was hoping for. Discovering that she is a rare faeriewalker and that both queen of Faerie want her dead doesn't make her life easier.

Dana is currently going stir-crazy in the secret underground bunker that is her safe house. However, so many people want her dead that it is the only safe place for her to be. Adding to those who want her dead is the Erlking who leads the Wild Hunt. Because of a pact with the faerie queens, he can't hunt indiscrimately but that doesn't stop him from instilling terror.

The Erlking wants something from Dana and captures Ethan to be a part of his Wild Hunt. Dana tries to outwit the Erlking to get Ethan back but seventeen years of life experience doesn't stand up very well to the over two thousand years the Erlking has. Dana makes a deal which frees Ethan from the Hunt but it still leaves him as the Erlking's minion and it leaves Dana needing to fulfill her deal with the Erlking even though she learns what the Erlking didn't tell her about the deal.

I like the world building in this series. I like Dana who is a strong, smart, independent character even when she is out of depth dealing with the ancient fae. Fans of contemporary fantasy will enjoy this series.

Favorite Quote:
I made a sound between a laugh and a snort. "Way to be tactful and supportive. With friends like you, my enemies can just sit back and enjoy the show."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

ARC Review: #murdertrending by Gretchen McNeill

Author: Gretchen McNeil
Publication: Freeform (August 7, 2018)

Description: @doctorfusionbebop: Some 17 y. o. chick named Dee Guerrera was just sent to Alcatraz 2.0 for killing her stepsister. So, how long do you think she'll last?

@morrisdavis72195: I hope she meets justice! She'll get what's coming to her! BWAHAHA!

@EltonJohnForevzz: Me? I think Dee's innocent. And I hope she can survive.

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society's most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.

When seventeen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she's about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn't commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she's innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman's cast of executioners kill them off one by one?

My Thoughts: Dee Guerrera is the main character of this story. She was accused of killing her stepsister, quickly convicted on flimsy evidence, and then sent to Alcatraz 2.0 where she will be hunted by serial killers while being constantly available on the App that covers Alcatraz 2.0. In this near-future science fiction story, a man known as The Postmaster runs this part of the criminal justice system. Fans stream and comment on the gruesome deaths and form fanclubs for the killers.

Dee has to find a way to survive Alcatraz 2.0 and she would really like to find out who actually killer her stepsister Monica who was a big fan of Gucci Hangman who uses Gucci scarves to hang his victims. Being an Alcatraz 2.0 brings flashbacks of her kidnapping at age 11 when she was held prisoner in a white room by a fourteen-year-old psychopath. After her rescue, her father moved them both and changed their names.

Dee is met by Nyles who is the one assigned to show her around Alcatraz 2.0. Nyles is currently off the victim list as his case is being appealed and he has diplomatic immunity. Nyles introduces Dee to her new job at the local ice cream parlor where she meets Griselda and Blair. Blair tells her the rules to prolong her survival. The number one rule is to trust nobody.

Dee soon believes that her kidnapping has a direct relationship to her current situation. She and her friends are special targets of the killers.

I enjoyed this story despite the fact that the many murders were quite gruesome. I thought the comments from fans of the feed were interesting and adding a new viewpoint to the story. I liked that Dee was smart. I liked the way the kids managed to outwit the killer. The ending resolved most of the story but had enough of a cliffhanger to allow for more books.

This would be a great story for readers who are obsessed with social media and who want to read a mystery too.

Favorite Quote:
The Postmaster's killers were media-driven celebrities, just like the president, though they were faceless, masked. There were even conspiracy-theory TV shows devoted to specuation about the killers' secret identities. Were the Hardy Girls actually minivan-driving soccer moms? Didn't Gassy Al's voice sound like the announcer on The Price is Right?
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Book Review: The Body at the Tower by Y. S. Lee

The Body at the Tower
Author: Y. S. Lee
Series: The Agency (Book 2)
Publication: Candlewick Press (February 28, 2012)

Description: Mary’s second adventure as an undercover agent forces her to relive some harrowing childhood experiences as she seeks the identity of a murderer. 

Mary Quinn is back, now a trusted member of the Agency, the allfemale detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. Her new assignment sends her into the grimy underbelly of Victorian London dressed as a poor boy, evoking her own childhood memories of fear, hunger, and constant want. As she insinuates herself into the confidence of several persons of interest, she encounters others in desperate situations and struggles to make a difference without exposing --or losing --her identity. Mary’s adventure, which takes place on the building site of the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, offers a fictional window into a fascinating historical time and place.

My Thoughts: Mary Quinn has a new case. This time she needs to masquerade as a boy and get a job at a construction site to investigate the death of a worker. Her employers are branching out from their usual sorts of cases and are arguing about it which creates tension for Mary. Mary also has to deal with some trauma of her own. After a childhood as a thief who often dressed as a boy to avoid rape, this disguise is bringing back memories that she hadn't wanted to relive.

Mary also has to deal with more recent memories when James Eaton is hired to do a safety inspection of the site. After the end of her previous case, James was off to India and she thought she'd never see him again. He has returned from India sick with the aftereffects of malaria but recognizes Mary in a glance. She still hasn't told him she works for the Agency so spends a lot of time lying to him.

The death investigation is only the tip of the iceberg of wrongdoing at the site. Mary quickly finds herself involved investigating theft and blackmail.

This was an enjoyable story. I liked the world building which shows an England with dirt and poverty and uncaring rich people. I also liked that Mary was realistic about her fear and her need to hide her mixed heritage. Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy this series.

Favorite Quote:
"There's no need to be theoretical about this. The difficulty is what it is."

"And you are what you are."

"Pray tell," he drawled, coldly angry now.

"Arrogant, high-handed, and controlling."

"Rather that than arrogant, impulsive, and irresponsible."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.