Friday, November 24, 2017

Book Review: Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl

Prisoners in the Palace
Author: Michaela MacColl
Publication: Chronicle Books; First Printing edition (October 13, 2010)

Description: London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza's dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady's maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant's world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen?

Meticulously based on newly discovered information, this riveting novel is as rich in historical detail as Catherine, Called Birdy, and as sizzling with intrigue as The Luxe.

My Thoughts: Before Victoria became a queen who ruled for sixty-four years and had an age named after her, she was Her Royal Highness Victoria Kent living in a shabby Kensington Palace and firmly under the thumb of her mother and Sir John Conroy. This is the story of the year before she becomes queen told by Miss Elizabeth Hastings.

Liza Hastings is a gentlewoman who was orphaned at seventeen and saddled with her father's debts. She is offered a position as a Lady's maid to Princess Victoria and her governess Baroness Lehzen and quickly becomes part of the political intrigue at Kensington Palace.

Liza is determined to help Victoria thwart the political ambitions of her mother and Sir John. Because Liza was raised all over Europe, she is fluent in German which is the language most often spoken in Victoria's home. Keeping her knowledge a secret allows her to learn of some of Sir John's plans.

When Liza learns that Victoria is being denigrated in the press, she meets Will Fulton who is the one publishing the broadsheets and, along with Victoria, uses them to get back at Sir John. Sir John is a dastardly villain who also seduces housemaids and one plot thread has Liza tracking down the young woman who had her job before her which allows us to see what life is like for a woman without prospects in England at this time.

The story was well written and mixes a variety of fictional and real characters to tell a fascinating story. Excerpts from Liza's and Victoria's journals add more detail. I recommend this one for fans of historical fiction.

Favorite Quote:
Inside Boy's anxiety was infectious. "What's a peeler?" Liza whispered after the man had passed.

"These new policemen. We call them peelers because they're Sir Robert Peel's men. Some folks call 'em bobbies."
I bought this one Oct. 20, 2010. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Book Review: The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress

The Door in the Alley
Author: Adrienne Kress
Series: The Explorers (Book 1)
Publication: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (April 25, 2017)

Description: Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is the first book in a new series for fans of The Name of This Book Is a Secretand The Mysterious Benedict Society. Knock once if you can find it—but only members are allowed inside. 

This is one of those stories that start with a pig in a teeny hat. It’s not the one you’re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.)

This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and there is a girl looking for help that only uninquisitive boys can offer.

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is the first book in a series that is sure to hit young readers right in the funny bone.

My Thoughts: Middle schoolers looking for action, adventure and footnotes won't want to miss THE DOOR IN THE ALLEY. Sebastian is a serious twelve-year-old attending a science and math magnet school. He is a rule follower. One day he discovers a sign on a door in an alley (that he only went down because his cousin took a wrong turn) that said The Explorers Society. He couldn't help but be curious about what the society did but was almost able to put it out of his mind until the day he rescued a little pig in a teeny hat who owner was a member of the society.

Sebastian helped him take his pig home, had tea with the leader of the society, and began to work at the Society to avoid being arrested for trespass. I loved his descriptions of the many strange rooms in the Society and the many strange people who visited there. Most strange of all were the Filipendulous Five that Sebastian learns about when he discovers a hidden wooden box filled with information about them.

Evie is an eleven-year-old orphan who is living at the Wayward School and attending weekly dinner parties with the Andersons who have befriended her. She finds the dinner parties very awkward and the Andersons very boring. At least, they were boring until one evening when two men broke in and threatened them all with guns if the Andersons didn't turn over some sort of mysterious key. Mrs. Anderson sent Evie out through a small tunnel with a letter and directions to go to the Explorers Society for help. The letter was from a grandfather that she thought was dead. The Explorers Society won't help Evie but Sebastian will. Rule-following Sebastian steps way out of his comfort zone when he offers Evie his help.

The two of them have lots of adventures as they try to find the missing key and the missing grandfather while avoiding dastardly villains. The story ends on a cliffhanger and will be continued in THE RECKLESS RESCUE which will be published in April 2018.

Favorite Quote:
Alleys in general tend to have an air of mystery that can be awfully ostentatious* but this alley in particular was, well, for want of a better word, creepy.

*Though they remain not nearly as pretentious as culs-de-sac.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 17, 2017

ARC Review: Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne

Author: Livia Blackburne
Series: Rosemarked
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (November 7, 2017)

Description: A healer who cannot be healed . . .

When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it's only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she's destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art-until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.

A soldier shattered by war . . .

Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he'll do anything to free them from Amparan rule-even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.

Thrust together on a high-stakes mission to spy on the capital, the two couldn't be more different: Zivah, deeply committed to her vow of healing, and Dineas, yearning for vengeance. But as they grow closer, they must find common ground to protect those they love. And amidst the constant fear of discovery, the two grapple with a mutual attraction that could break both of their carefully guarded hearts.

This smart, sweeping fantasy with a political edge and a slow-burning romance will capture fans of The Lumatere Chronicles and An Ember in the Ashes.

My Thoughts: This story begins a new fantasy trilogy. The Amparan empire is on the move. Zivah is a healer for her agricultural village. They surrendered peacefully and are now forced to house Amparan troops and pay the required tithes for the empire. When the troops currently in their village come down with the Rose plague, Zivah and the other village healers need to tend to them so that the emperor doesn't believe that they let the troops die. Zivah tends to the commander of the troops and manages to bring him through the disease but catches it herself.

There are three outcomes for those who catch the Rose plague. First and most commonly, they die. Second, they survive but end up rosemarked - still able to spread the disease and with a lifespan that could be measured in months or up to ten years. Third, they could end up umbermarked. The umbermarked are immune from the plague and can go back to their ordinary lives. The commander Arxa ends up umbermarked while Zivah finds herself rosemarked.

Dineas is a Shidadi tribesman. The Shidadi didn't peacefully surrender and are still fighting. Dineas was captured and tortured for information until he caught the Rose plague and was discarded with a bunch of other corpses. He survived umbermarked and managed to get back to his tribe. His leader and the leader of Zivah's village are in talks about uniting in opposition to the empire.

When Zivah is given an invitation to the emperor's city to be a healer to the city's rosemarked, that seems to be a good opportunity for Dineas and Zivah to act as spies for the rebels. Zivah will be living with Arxa's rosemarked daughter. Dineas will take one of Zivah's potions which gives him the amnesia that is often a side effect of the plague and join the troops.

Zivah and Dineas have different viewpoints and Dineas doesn't really respect Zivah. However, once he takes the potion he becomes a different man. He is lighter and friendlier and becomes Zivah's friend and even falls in love with her. Zivah is torn because she knows that the other Dineas is so different. She begins to love the new Dineas but doesn't want to all in love because she is living under a death sentence.

Together the two discover a number of things and pass the news back to their elders. When they are discovered, they are forced to flee which is where this story ends. I am eager to read the next book in this trilogy to find out how their relationship develops now that there are no more potions between them. I also want to know if the seeds they planted with General Arxa will cause changes in his loyalty.

I thought the characters were well drawn and interesting people. I especially liked Zivah's struggle with her duty as a healer and her need to be a spy for her people. I also liked both Dineas versions and could understand how different it would be to balance both personalities.

I recommend this for readers looking for a new fantasy world.

Favorite Quote:
Dineas snorts in disgust. "Must be nice, buying your safety with the blood of others."

And now I'm glad I'm bent over my herbs so he can't see my jaw clench. "We do what we must. And we've had our share of suffering."

"Blind kittens, groping at the teat. And they're surprised when they're thrown into a bag to be drowned."

Heat floods through me at my words. "And where has fighting gotten your people? Does it comfort your dead in their graves?"
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

ARC Review: Haven by Mary Lindsey

Author: Mary Lindsey
Series: Haven (Book 1)
Publication: Entangled: Teen (November 7, 2017)

Description: "We all hold a beast inside. The only difference is what form it takes when freed."

Rain Ryland has never belonged anywhere. He’s used to people judging him for his rough background, his intimidating size, and now, his orphan status. He’s always been on the outside, looking in, and he’s fine with that. Until he moves to New Wurzburg and meets Friederike Burkhart.

Freddie isn’t like normal teen girls, though. And someone wants her dead for it. Freddie warns he’d better stay far away if he wants to stay alive, but Rain’s never been good at running from trouble. For the first time, Rain has something worth fighting for, worth living for. Worth dying for.

My Thoughts: Rain Ryland grew up on the streets and in shelters in Houston. His only relative is his drug addicted mother who nicknamed him Rain because he represented the storm of trouble and ruin that followed her around. Despite that and the neglect, Rain managed to grow up to be kind and willing to fight for the underdog. Once his mother ODs Rain finds himself shipped off to an aunt he didn't know he had in New Wurzberg, a small town in the hill country of Texas.

Once in New Wurzburg, Rain finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy and a culture he couldn't have even imagined. He falls for Freddie Burkholdt who is a girl with more than her fair share of secrets. Freddie is reeling from the recent death of her father in what she was told was a farming accident. It doesn't take long to determine that her father was murdered and Rain is determined to find out who killed him.

This is an urban fantasy story with werewolves and witches living secretly in New Wurzburg. There is currently conflict between the traditional power structure and the new power structure that Freddie's father advocated for before his death. Since many of the witches are in control of the town it was easy to engineer a coverup and it makes it hard to know who was involved in the murder because hiding things is just second nature for them.

This is also a romance as Rain falls for Freddie and feels that he finally has something to live for. I liked the relationship between Rain and Freddie and could completely understand why she kept trying to play down the romance because she wanted to keep him safe. I liked that Rain wouldn't be set aside and kept trying to convince Freddie that he knew his own mind and what he wanted.

I liked the magical system in the story and the world building. I liked some of the side characters like Grant and Petra who were witches of Rain and Freddie's generation.

Fans of romance and urban fantasy will enjoy this well told tale.

Favorite Quote:
"This is a bad idea." She brushed her hair over her shoulder.

"You say that a lot."

"Well, you have a lot of bad ideas."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review: Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

Into the Bright Unknown
Author: Rae Carson
Series: Gold Seer Trilogy (Book 3)
Publication: Greenwillow Books (October 10, 2017)

Description: The stunning conclusion to Rae Carson’s New York Times–bestselling Gold Seer trilogy.

Leah Westfall’s journey has been one of ever-present peril, hidden magic, harsh realities, loss, life, determination, and love. She has searched for a place to belong and a place—and people—to call home, people who can accept a girl with magical powers that prove to be both blessing and curse.

Rae Carson has been lauded as one of YA’s best writers of fantasy, and fans of Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas, and Westworld will be riveted by the conclusion of this remarkable historical fantasy trilogy.

Leah is poised to have everything she ever dreamed of on the long, dangerous journey to California’s gold fields—wealth, love, the truest friends, and a home. Thanks to her magical ability to sense precious gold, Leah, her fiancĂ© Jefferson, and her friends have claimed rich land in California Territory. But their fortune makes them a target, and when a dangerous billionaire sets out to destroy them, Leah and her friends must fight back with all their power and talents.

Leah’s magic is continuing to strengthen and grow, but someone is on to her—someone who might have a bit of magic herself. The stakes are higher than ever as Lee and her friends hatch a daring scheme that could alter California’s history forever.

With a distinctive heroine and a unique interpretation of American history, Into the Bright Unknown strikes a rich vein of romance, magic, and adventure.

My Thoughts: When Becky gets a letter telling her that the house her husband had disassembled and shipped through the Panama Canal has arrived in San Francisco, most of the group decides to go along. The bachelors are looking to advance their careers and Leah and Jefferson want to see the Pacific Ocean.

San Francisco is a bustling, lawless town. They find Becky's house but without her deceased husband she has no right to it. She can attend an auction and try to buy it back. Leah discovers that Hardwick, who offered to get her a charter for her town of Glory, is one of the biggest crooks around. He is paying off people to get access to land which he sells over and over again. He is amassing a huge amount of gold which he intends to take back East with him to buy his way into the political power structure.

Leah and her crew want to destroy his plans and they plan an elaborate con to ruin his reputation and take his gold away from him. Leah develops new abilities in this one. Not only can she find gold but she can pull or push it too.

I loved the historical detail in this series. I also loved that Leah was a smart, honorable person who wanted to help those less fortunate than herself. This was a very satisfying conclusion to the Gold Seer Trilogy.

Favorite Quote:
My whole body is tense, like a bent spring. "That's not fair."

He puffs himself up like a cock ready to cry doodle-doo. "Sweet girl, you'll learn. Life's not fair."

"Then we're honor bound to make it fair," I snap.

He laughs at that, a genuine belly laugh, and it's like a slap in my face.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ARC Review: Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda

Fragments of the Lost
Author: Megan Miranda
Publication: Crown Books for Young Readers (November 14, 2017)

Description: From the New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger comes a suspenseful psychological mystery about one girl's search to uncover the truth behind her ex-boyfriend's death. Perfect for fans of We Were Liars and 13 Reasons Why.

Jessa Whitworth knew she didn't belong in her ex-boyfriend Caleb's room. But she couldn't deny that she was everywhere--in his photos, his neatly folded T-shirts, even the butterfly necklace in his jeans pocket . . . the one she gave him for safe keeping on that day.

His mother asked her to pack up his things--even though she blames Jessa for his accident. How could she say no? And maybe, just maybe, it will help her work through the guilt she feels about their final moments together.

But as Jessa begins to box up the pieces of Caleb's life, they trigger memories that make Jessa realize their past relationship may not be exactly as she remembered. And she starts to question whether she really knew Caleb at all.

Each fragment of his life reveals a new clue that propels Jessa to search for the truth about Caleb's accident. What really happened on the storm-swept bridge?

My Thoughts: Jessa is grieving the death of her ex-boyfriend Caleb when Caleb's mother asks her to pack up his room. Jessa agrees because she has so many questions about him and about the day he stopped at her cross country meet and then was swept away in a flash flood. She is looking for pieces of her life that she shared with him and hoping to learn more about the boy she lost.

Each new discovery raises more questions and she begins to wonder if she ever knew Caleb at all. She begins to believe that she only knew the barest traces of what made Caleb Caleb. Each picture she finds brings back memories of happier times and we see flashbacks of Caleb and Jessa's life together.

But things aren't adding up for Jessa and she begins to try to track down the places he took her to solve the mystery. She is beginning to wonder if Caleb really died in that flood. Caleb's best friend Max also has questions and flashbacks reveal that he and Jessa have some complications in their relationship too.

This was a story that started out as a girl grieving the loss of her boyfriend and turned into an intriguing mystery. I enjoyed the writing and the story. The emotions that Jessa felt - grief, guilt, confusion - were all clear. I recommend the book to mystery fans.

Favorite Quote:
There are too many unknowns: the money he supposedly took from Max, that we cannot find; the unused bus tickets; the story Terrance Bilson told me about his college visit, and the man who showed up looking for him. As if Caleb had this whole other life, hidden beneath.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Book Review: Long Way Home by Katie McGarry

Long Way Home
Author: Katie McGarry
Series: Thunder Road (Book 3)
Publication: Harlequin Teen (January 31, 2017)

Description: Seventeen-year-old Violet has always been expected to sit back and let the boys do all the saving

It's the code her father, a member of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, raised her to live by. Yet when her dad is killed carrying out Terror business, Violet knows it's up to her to do the saving. To protect herself, and her vulnerable younger brother, she needs to cut all ties with the club—including Chevy, the boy she's known and loved her whole life.

But when a rival club comes after Violet, exposing old secrets and making new threats, she's forced to question what she thought she knew about her father, the Reign of Terror and what she thinks she wants. Which means reevaluating everything: love, family, friends…and forgiveness.
He h
Caught in the crosshairs between loyalty and freedom, Violet must decide whether old friends can be trusted—and if she's strong enough to be the one person to save them all.

My Thoughts: This story is Chevy and Violet's romance. Their viewpoints alternate with each chapter. Violet has broken up with Chevy despite the fact that she still loves him. After her father's death, she is angry and doesn't want anything to do with the Terror. Chevy has always been torn between his loyalty to the Terror which is run by his grandfather and his loyalty to his mother who doesn't want anything to do with the motorcycle club. He has always felt like the knot on a tug-of-war rope and fears that choosing one with cost him the other.

When Violet is kidnapped by the Riot and Chevy is taken along because he was there too. Both face all sorts of danger and, even after being rescued, suffer all kinds of trauma. Violet is told that in order to protect her mother and brother she will have to betray the Terror and provide information to frame Eli. Meanwhile, Chevy is given information that leads him to believe that his father James was a traitor to the Terror.

The is an emotionally intense story as are all of McGarry's books. Both Violet and Chevy are torn between loyalties and have difficult choices to make. As a background note and as what I see is the theme of the book is a essay that they have to write for English about Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken. Both Chevy and Violet need to choose a path for their lives.

This was a wonderful story that drew me in and kept me reading until the final page was turned.

Favorite Quote:
"I'm eighteen."

He tilts his head. "That's not what Eli said."

"I turned eighteen the day I came home from the Riot." I don't blame anyone for forgetting. We've all been too busy cauterizing the bleeding while waltzing through a mine field.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.