Monday, November 30, 2015

State of the Stack (Nov. 30, 2015)

This is my monthly State of the Stack post. It is my way to keep track of my review books and to hopefully reduce the stack that I have waiting for me. I take a look at my review commitments on the last Monday of each month. Please feel free to join in and let me know the state of your stack.

Here is my Review Books Spreadsheet I list them in publication order and sort them by month. I can quickly see how many books I have for each date. Ideally, this keeps me from over-committing to review books. Check my spreadsheet to find out where I got each book.

I also do this post because sometimes (frequently) review books sit on my stack for a while before I read and review them. I try to read and review books within two weeks of publication date. Sometimes I can't, though, if too many books are releasing on the same date or if the book arrives too near its publication date and my calendar is already full.

I am very grateful to the authors and publishers who support my reading habit.

My Review Pile

January
The 8th Circle by Sarah Cain (January 12)
Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan (January 19)
 The Capture by Tom Isbell (January 19)
Unholy Blue by Darby Kaye (January 19)
The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos (January 26)
Night Study by Maria V. Snyder (January 26)

February

 Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh (February 2)
Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers (February 2)
Jockey Girl by Shelley Peterson (February 8)
 These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker (February 9)
Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan (February 9)
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (February 16)
 The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine (February 16)
 Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance (February 23)
Fighting Dirty by Lori Foster (February 23)
 
March

 A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (March 1)
Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie (March 1)
Where You'll Find Me by Natasha Friend (March 8)
 The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins (March 8)
A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachman (March 15)
The Inn Between by Marina Cohen (March 22)
Tumbled Graves by Brenda Chapman (March 22)
Cold Girl by R. M. Greenaway (March 28)
The Girl in the Tower by Lisa Schroeder (March 29)
   
April & Beyond 
Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima (April 5)
Mr. Fahrenheit by T. Michael Martin (April 19)
With Malice by Eileen Cook (June 7) 
 
I Read This Month

These are listed in the order I read them. Links go to my reviews for all that have been posted already. Otherwise, the date the review is scheduled for is listed.
  1. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold (Jan. 28)
  2. Dangerous Games by Tess Diamond
  3. Haunting Investigation by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (Dec. 31)
  4. Teen Frankenstein by Chandler Baker (Jan. 2)
  5. She Can Kill by Melinda Leigh (Dec. 5)
  6. Underwater by Marisa Reichardt  (Jan. 6)
  7. The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons 
  8. Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire (Jan. 7)
  9. Once Shadows Fall by Robert Daniels (Dec. 12)
  10. Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima (Dec. 17)
  11. The Bitter Season by Tami Hoag (Jan. 7)
  12. Kill Without Mercy by Alexandra Ivy (Dec. 24)
  13. Game of Lies by Tess Diamond (Nov. 26)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. Tenacity by J. S. Law (Oct. 29)
  2. The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett (Oct. 29) 
  3. Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews (Oct. 31)
  4. Young Widows Club by Alexandra Coutts (Oct. 31) 
  5. Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts (Nov. 4)
  6. Finding Fortune by Delia Ray (Nov. 4)
  7. Dark Turns by Cate Holahan (Nov. 5)
  8. The Bad Boy CEO by Sugar Jamison (Nov. 5)
  9. The August 5 by Jenna Helland (Nov. 5) 
  10. Soundless by Richelle Mead (Nov. 7) 
  11. The Reluctant Duchess by Sharon Cullen (Nov. 7)
  12. Untimely Death By Elizabeth J. Duncan (Nov. 11)
  13. On the Run by Tristan Bancks (Nov. 12)
  14. Dark Turns by Cate Holahan (Nov. 12)
  15. The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst (Nov. 14)
  16. The Producer's Daughter by Lindsay Marcott (Nov. 14)
  17. Cast in Honor by Michelle Sagara (Nov. 19)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. Dangerous Games by Tess Diamond (Nov. 3) 
  2. Jockey Girl by Shelley Peterson (Feb. 8) 
  3. She Can Kill by Melinda Leigh (Dec. 8)
  4. The Short Drop by Matthew FitzSimmons (Dec. 1)
  5. Once Shadows Fall by Robert Daniels (Dec. 8)
  6. Killing Trail by Margaret Mizushima (Dec. 15)
  7. These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker (Feb. 9)
  8. Where You'll Find Me by Natasha Friend (March 8)
  9. Underwater by Marisa Reichardt (Jan. 12) 
  10. Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance (Feb. 23)
  11. Unholy Blue by Darby Kaye (Jan. 19)
  12. The Bitter Season by Tami Hoag (Jan. 12)
  13. With Malice by Eileen Cook (June 7)
  14. Night Study by Maria V. Snyder (Jan. 26) 
  15. Game of Lies by Tess Diamond (Nov. 17)
  16. Kill Without Mercy by Alexandra Ivy (Dec. 29)
  17. Fighting Dirty by Lori Foster (Feb. 23)
Next Month's Plan

I feel like I spent this month backtracking. I got a lot of books for review this month that needed to be read almost immediately. I began the month with only one December book to read to finish all my review obligations for the year. Then the new books arrived...

I have already read 9 of my 17 new arrivals. There was a lot of calendar rearranging going this month so that reviews would be posted near to publication dates. 

I am currently back on track and reading books that will be released in January. I am about six weeks ahead on my blogging calendar which seems like a nice cushion - though not as nice as the two month cushion I had at the end of October.   

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Nov. 30, 2015)

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...

How did it get to be the end of November already? My part of Minnesota is still snow-free which makes me really happy. Our weather has been bright and sunny for a good part of this Thanksgiving weekend. It was a little rainy and gloomy Thanksgiving Day but, as I didn't have to travel, that was all right too.

It has been nice having a couple of extra days off this week. I've been cooking and reading and playing on my computer. I've caught up on posting my Amazon reviews and I've been working on my review book calendar.

I haven't left the house this weekend. Black Friday shopping doesn't appeal to me at all. Besides not wanting or needing anything for myself, I haven't heard from anyone yet about what they want for Christmas. I wait because I don't want to buy something they don't want or need. I'm all about not adding more clutter to my life or anyone else's life.

Read Last Week
Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R. A. Spratt was a humorous middle grade mystery that begins a series. I really liked the dialog and the observations that Friday made about those around her. I thought the cases Friday solved were middle grade appropriate like finding missing homework and a lost clock. I liked Friday as a character. My review will be posted on January 15.

Currently
I have just begin Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan and am enjoying the fantasy setting. This book will be released on January 19. I got the eARC from Edelweiss.

Next Week
The Capture by Tom Isbell is the sequel to The Prey and the second book in a trilogy. This is a January 19 release.

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos is a mystery by an author I haven't read before. This eARC came from Edelweiss and is a January 19 release.

Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?
I added two new books by authors I enjoy when I saw them listed on a list of best fantasy of the year.
You can check Inside of a Dog (my other blog) to see what adult books I read, reviewed, and plan to read.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Book Review: The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry

The Amaranth Enchantment
Author: Julie Berry
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (March 3, 2009)

Description: A delightful fairy tale by a lyrical new voice.

When Lucinda Chapdelaine was a small child, her parents left for the royal ball and never returned. Ever since, Lucinda has been stuck in perpetual servitude at her evil aunt's jewelry store. Then, on the very same day, a mysterious visitor and an even more bizarre piece of jewelry both enter the shop, setting in motion a string of twists and turns that will forever alter Lucinda's path. In this magical story filled with delightful surprises, Lucinda will dance at the royal ball, fall under the Amaranth Witch's spell, avenge her parents' death, and maybe--just maybe--capture the heart of a prince.

My Thoughts: This fantasy novel is vaguely reminiscent of Cinderella. Lucinda Chapdelaine is an orphan who was taken in by her uncle and aunt after the death of her parents. The aunt has used her as a servant in the family's jewelry store. When her uncle dies, her aunt throws her out into the street.

Before that though, Lucinda has met the Amaranth Witch who is looking for a new setting for a very special jewel, a prince looking for a special gift for his intended bride, a thief named Peter who crashes into her garret and who steals the jewel, and a goat who behaves more like a dog.

Having nowhere to go after her aunt throws her out, she decides to find the witch to confess the loss of the jewel. The witch is a magical being from another world who has been stranded in Lucinda's. She needs Lucinda's help to recover the jewel. She plays the role of fairy godmother in the story but puts Lucinda in much more danger than Cinderella's godmother put Cinderella in.

Lucinda runs up against a villain who wants the jewel and who was instrumental in causing the death of her parents and who also stole their wealth leaving Lucinda a penniless orphan.

I liked the relationship Lucinda has with both Peter and the prince. This was an engaging tale that will enthrall teens and middle schoolers who want a combination of adventure and romance.

Favorite Quote:
"She who put a curse upon Queen Rosamund these many years ago, when the queen was with child the first time. She's not aged a day since. The witch I mean to say. Comes of being in league with Satan."

This didn't strike me as a powerful reason not to be in league with Satan.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Memes: The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry

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:
I was sweeping the shop when a glimmer between two floorboards caught my eye. A penny? I knelt for a closer look.
Friday 56:
The stout man bent low and whispered in my ear, loud enough for my parents to hear. "When your parents present you, little Miss Chapdelaine, you shall have a dance with the king, and two dances with the prince. All right?"
This week I am spotlighting a book I bought on March 19, 2010. The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry is a fairy tale. Here is the description from Amazon:
A delightful fairy tale by a lyrical new voice.

When Lucinda Chapdelaine was a small child, her parents left for the royal ball and never returned. Ever since, Lucinda has been stuck in perpetual servitude at her evil aunt's jewelry store. Then, on the very same day, a mysterious visitor and an even more bizarre piece of jewelry both enter the shop, setting in motion a string of twists and turns that will forever alter Lucinda's path. In this magical story filled with delightful surprises, Lucinda will dance at the royal ball, fall under the Amaranth Witch's spell, avenge her parents' death, and maybe--just maybe--capture the heart of a prince.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Book Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: The Great Library (Book 1)
Publication: NAL (July 7, 2015)

Description: In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…

My Thoughts: In this alternate history book, the Great Library at Alexandria wasn't destroyed and has now gained immense power. All books are owned by the library and distributed in the form of blanks. That makes the smuggling of original books a lucrative but extremely dangerous business. Our hero Jess Brightwell comes from a smuggling family and has been a smuggler since he was a small child. Now sixteen, he doesn't want to join the family business and so his father sends him to try out to win a place in the Library.

Jess and quite a number of young people are accepted into the Library but they have to pass tests of all sorts before they will be offered a position. Jess and 29 others are put under the care of Scholar Wolfe who has to narrow the field down to six. We get to know some of his fellow classmates. Thomas is German and an extremely talented engineer. Khalila is from Riyadh and a brilliant mathematician.

But the Library has all sorts of secrets and has become corrupt over the centuries. Anyone who does anything to undermine the supremacy of the Library is an enemy. For example, the printing press has been invented and suppressed numerous times since Gutenberg in the 15th Century. The Library has also become a very political organization with lots of in-fighting. Wolfe has run afoul of the Library but also has supporters who are protecting him. Lots in this book has to do with plots to kill Wolfe and incidentally his students.

Besides Smugglers, the Library is also threatened by Burners who want to destroy the library. A couple of Jess's fellow students come from Burner families and don't survive. I got the feeling that the Library was under siege from a variety of avenues and having its own internal issues too. Obscurists are a necessary part of the library maintaining its monopoly on information but they are becoming scarce enough that any potential Obscurists who are discovered are kidnapped and enslaved by the Library.

I enjoyed this story. I thought the world building was well done. I also liked Jess as a character who is able to use his smuggling background and contacts to survive in the Library. However, his situation is rather perilous at the end of this volume - but not perilous enough to be considered a cliffhanger ending.

Favorite Quote:
"That's better. I wouldn't want you to think I was so careless. Not like this one, getting his liver sliced for no good reason." Dario's voice wasn't nearly as harsh as his words, and Jess raised his head a little to look at him. In the low lights, it was hard to tell the other boy's expression, but Jess saw the slight inclination of Dario's head. From him, it was as good as a bow. "Remember, losing one pint of blood's an accident. Losing two is carelessness."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book Review: The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent

The Stars Never Rise
Author: Rachel Vincent
Series: The Stars Never Rise (Book 1)
Publication: Delacorte Press (June 9, 2015)

Description: From RACHEL VINCENT, New York Times bestselling author, comes the first book in a new series about a girl who must join forces with rogue exorcists to save her sister and, ultimately, humanity.

Sixteen-year-old Nina Kane should be worrying about her immortal soul, but she’s too busy trying to actually survive. Her town’s population has been decimated by soul-consuming demons, and souls are in short supply. Watching over her younger sister, Mellie, and scraping together food and money are all that matters. The two of them are a family. They gave up on their deadbeat mom a long time ago.

When Nina discovers that Mellie is keeping a secret that threatens their very existence, she’ll do anything to protect her. Because in New Temperance, sins are prosecuted as crimes by the brutal Church and its army of black-robed exorcists. And Mellie’s sin has put her in serious trouble.

To keep them both alive, Nina will need to trust Finn, a fugitive with deep green eyes who has already saved her life once and who might just be an exorcist. But what kind of exorcist wears a hoodie?

Wanted by the Church and hunted by dark forces, Nina knows she can’t survive on her own. She needs Finn and his group of rogue friends just as much as they need her.

My Thoughts: Nina Kane has a tough life. She is trying to survive and protect her fifteen-year-old sister. Her mother has been neglecting them for years. They live in the town of New Temperance which, like all the other towns, in controlled by the Church. They Church is in a constant war against the demons who are trying to take over humanity. Demons devour souls and now many babies die at birth for lack of souls. The Church's solution is to forcibly sterilize girls at fifteen for any minor flaw. Nina was sterilized because she has allergies, flat feet, and minor myopia.

When she turns seventeen, Nina develops that ability to exorcise demons. This puts her in danger from the Church because they only accept their own exorcists. Nina has to depend on Finn and small group of other teen aged exorcists for survival. They are planning to leave the town but Nina won't leave without her sister who was taken by the Church.

It doesn't take long for Nina to realize that the Church has been lying to people about most things. Their exorcists are fakes. They control the news and spread disinformation. But there is an even greater secret that the Church is concealing.

I enjoyed this fast paced story. The gang of teens are all distinct individuals. The most unique of them is Finn who happens to be a soul without a body who routinely borrows the bodies both of his friends in the group and strangers who can be of use. Finn and Nina begin a romance once Nina gets over the fact that he is without a body. I liked Nina's loyalty to her younger sister. I liked that she bounced back from events that were shattering and kept her goal in mind.

I can't wait to read more books in this series and about this group of characters. 

Favorite Quote:
After a minute of watching him, trying to plan my next move, I scouted out the other exit he'd mentioned, then threw my satchel over one shoulder and squatted to pick up the wooden board. Then I followed him. I was armed—kind of—and had the nearest exit in full view, and I was wanted for matricide. What did I have to lose?
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Teaser Tuesday: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. 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:
"Out of the way!" a Garda cried, and pushed him almost off his feet, toward the exit. "Get clear! Don't you know Greek fire when you see it, you fool?"
This week my teaser comes from Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine. This is the first book in a new fantasy series. Here is the description from Amazon:
In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Nov. 23, 2015)

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...

We had a cold, rainy, windy week this past week. Friday night we got our first snow of the season and Saturday morning snow was still coating the ground. It looks like our winter has finally arrived. This first snow is actually a little late for my part of Minnesota but I was grateful for every snow-free day. Other than the weather, it was a quiet week.

My big news is that the fences have disappeared from our Elementary parking lot. Getting from my car to the building has been like threading a maze since last May. One day when I got into the building I demanded a food reward since I felt like a rat who had successfully navigated an ever-changing maze. This means two things: first, winter is arriving and fences make snow removal very difficult, and, second, the construction project is finally reaching its finishing phase. Ideally the new parts of the building will be open and in use after our Christmas Break. Preschool will then be part of our Elementary and people will be back in their permanent locations. I'm excited to learn my way around our new building.

With Thanksgiving this upcoming week, I will get a couple of extra days off. I won't be traveling this year as my brother has to work every day that I would be able to spend with him. We are going to try to get together at Christmas but it will depend on his work schedule and the weather. I am a fair weather driver and have no desire to drive through a snowstorm or get stranded in Duluth when I should be back at work.

Read Last Week
Underwater by Marisa Reichardt was an account of the aftermath of a school shooting told from a survivor's point of view. Our heroine has many issues to deal with including guilt and an extreme case of agoraphobia. I loved the story. My review will be posted on January 6.

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire was a great middle grade adventure that takes place on Mars in 1816. It is full of action and adventure and would make a good read-aloud. My review will be posted on January 7.

Currently
The Capture by Tom Isbell is the sequel to The Prey. This is a dystopia that I got from the author for review. I enjoyed the first book.

Next Week
The next two books on my review stack are Friday Barnes Girl Detective by R. A. Spratt and Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan. Both will be released in January.

Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?
I added two books to my stack this week. I bought Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho after reading a great review of it.

I got the eARC of With Malice by Eileen Cook from Edelweiss. I was intrigued by the description and HMH Books for Children approved my request. Usually I just content myself with the books I can download without approval but decided to give this one a try. It will be released next June 7.

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Review: Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

Court of Fives
Author: Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives (Book 1)
Publication: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (August 18, 2015)

Description: In this imaginative escape into enthralling new lands, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott's first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best contenders. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between two Fives competitors--one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy--causes heads to turn. When Kal's powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test her new friend's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this new fantasy by Kate Elliott. The main character is Jessamy. She is the second daughter of a Patron father and a Commoner mother. Her father came to Efea for the opportunity to better himself. He is a Captain in the army because of the patronage of Lord Ottonor. Unfortunately, he fell in love with a woman he could never marry. But they have lived together for 20 years and had four daughters - something of a disgrace in a culture that values sons more than daughters.

Jessamy has a secret ambition to compete in the Fives. This is a highly regarded athletic competition that involves strategy, strength, and balance. Because she knows her father would not approve of his daughter getting involved in this, she has to train in secret. She is all set to compete in her first official tournament when her father comes home and ruins her plans. She needs to sneak away from the box where she and her family are viewing the competition with Lord Ottonor in order to compete. Luckily, all competitors are masked until they unmask as victors. Jes needs to come in second so that she doesn't have to unmask. However, she is so much better than the competitor in second place that it is hard for her to throw the competition. She learns that the boy she threw the competition in favor of is Prince Kalliarkos. They meet later when he asks her for tips on how to do better. They shouldn't even be speaking to each other because their social classes are so far apart. Her father is angry that she speaks to him.

Things change abruptly for Jes and her family when Lord Ottonor dies. He was massively in debt and people are scrambling for his assets. Lord Gargaron co-opts Jes's father and will be making him a general and marrying him to his niece, recruits Jes for his Fives stable, and sends Jes's mother and sister into a horrible situation. Lord Garganor is also Prince Kalliarkos's uncle and has plans for him too.

The prince and Jes become friends and even begin a romance while they are training together in Lord Gargaron's stable. He also helps her when it is time to rescue her mother and sisters. But Jes needs to make a decision at the end which has no good choices - betray her friend or betray her family.

The world building was well done. The culture clash between the conquerors and the conquered was well described. Jes and her sisters's roles as young women caught between cultures meant that they were pressured by both cultures and torn between them. I liked the whole idea of the Fives which reminded me of various gladiator reality games on television. I thought that the little touch of magic in the story was intriguing too given that only the Commoners could see it.

I can't wait to read more in this series to see how things work out for Jes and Prince Kalliarkos.

Favorite Quote:
My path is blocked.

I take the only road open to me, the one that leads me out of the household where I grew up and into the household of the lord who has just ripped apart my family.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Memes: Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

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:
We four sisters are sitting in the courtyard at dusk in what passes for peace in our house. Well-brought-up girls do not fidget nor fume nor ever betray the least impatience or boredom. But it is so hard to sit still when all I can think about is how I am going to sneak out of the house tomorrow to do the thing my father would never, ever give me permission to do. 
Friday 56:
"Daughters?" Lord Gargaron professes innocence as he glances at Amaya. "Have you more than one? An expense that surprises me, given your humble origins. I believe you are a baker's son, are you not? Come to Efea to make your fortune?"
This week I am spotlighting Court of Fives by Kate Elliott. I believe that this is her first young adult fantasy. Here is the description from Amazon:
In this imaginative escape into enthralling new lands, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott's first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best contenders. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between two Fives competitors--one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy--causes heads to turn. When Kal's powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test her new friend's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book Review: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Fixer
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Fixer (Book 1)
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Children's (July 7, 2015)

Description: When sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick is sent to live with her older sister, Ivy, she has no idea that the infamous Ivy Kendrick is Washington D.C.'s #1 "fixer," known for making politicians' scandals go away for a price. No sooner does Tess enroll at Hardwicke Academy than she unwittingly follows in her sister's footsteps and becomes D.C.'s premier high school fixer, solving problems for elite teens.

Secrets pile up as each sister lives a double life. . . . until their worlds come crashing together and Tess finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy with one of her classmates and a client of Ivy's. Suddenly, there is much more on the line than good grades, money, or politics, and the price for this fix might be more than Tess is willing to pay.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for more in this exciting new series.

My Thoughts: THE FIXER took me on an emotional rollercoaster. Tess Kendrick has been trying to hold things together on the ranch even though her grandfather is experiencing memory issues. When her older sister Ivy finds out, she rushes in to fix  things. The next thing Tess knows, she's in Washington, DC, living with her sister. Tess is angry. Not just because Ivy rushed in and took over but because Ivy left her when she had promised that Tess could come live with her. Tess has decided that she can't trust or depend on Ivy.

Tess also learns that her sister is a noted fixer in DC. When someone has a problem - political, personal, or social - Ivy knows someone who can solve it. When Tess goes to school at Hardwicke, a school filled with the children of the political elite, it is assumed that she is also able to fix things. In fact, almost the first thing Tess does is recover a cell phone that has some inappropriate pictures taken by a bully of a freshman girl - who just happens to be the Vice President's youngest daughter. Tess just hates bullies. She isn't planning to be a fixer.

Tess makes a few friends at school. Vivvie is appointed as her guide when she arrives and quickly becomes a good friend. Asher Rhodes, whom she first meets when she sees him standing on the edge of the roof of the chapel, becomes a friend and gadfly. The funniest scene in the book, one that had me laughing until tears were running down my face, happens when Asher and Tess are called to the Headmaster's office after a little science experiment with Diet Coke and Mentos. She also meets Henry Marquette.

There is a mystery. Henry's grandfather who is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court dies after suffering a heart attack leaving a vacancy on the court and political insiders want to help determine who gets his seat. Vivvie's father is the President's personal physician and was called in to operate on the Chief Justice. He is the one who announced his death. Tess goes to the funeral with Ivy who was friends with the Justice where she runs into an upset Vivvie and and angry Henry.

When Vivvie comes to Tess because she believes her father had something to do with the Justice's death, Tess begins to investigate to help her friend. Ivy is also investigating and orders Tess to keep out of it. That just makes Tess more determined. More deaths follow and the mystery deepens.

Tess tells this story and I love her attitude and her voice. She is smart, sarcastic, and hurting. Her whole life has been jerked out from under her and she is dealing with more changes than any one sixteen year old should have to. She is trying desperately to guard her heart by keeping her distance from everyone. It seems that there is a new shattering revelation around every corner.

This was a wonderful story filled with excitement, mystery and danger. I can't wait to read more in the series.

Favorite Quote:
"I'd tell you that you can't stay mad forever," Ivy commented, "but I'm pretty sure you'd take that as a challenge."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

The Witch Hunter
Author: Virginia Boecker
Publication: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (June 2, 2015)

Description: The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

My Thoughts: THE WITCH HUNTER was an interesting fantasy set in an alternate Elizabethan England filled with magic. Elizabeth Grey was orphaned at nine because of a magical plague that decimated the country, killing the king and making Malcolm, a twelve-year-old, king. She was found by Caleb who was just a couple years older and the two of them made their way to the palace. Elizabeth worked in the kitchens until Caleb and she were chosen by Lord Protector Blackwell, the king's uncle, to be trained as witch hunters.

Blackwell has passed some laws sentencing all witches, wizards, and other magic users to death. It is up to Elizabeth, Caleb and the other witch hunters to track them down. Elizabeth believes in this mission. She believes in upholding the law. However, when she is discovered with contraceptive herbs, she is sentenced by Lord Blackwell to die at the stake.

Elizabeth is rescued by the wizard that Blackwell most wants to find, Nicholas Perevil, Elizabeth is determined to escape from him and turn him in to Blackwell to regain her favor with him. However, Blackwell has made Elizabeth a public enemy which ruins any hope of getting back in his favor. Also, Elizabeth starts learning things about Blackwell that change her view of him. She is befriended by some of Perevil's young colleagues. She also learns that Perevil is under a curse set by Blackwell that is slowly killing him.

A seer has foreseen that Elizabeth is the one who will be able to break the curse. First, the group has to unravel the riddles of the seer's prophecy and then Elizabeth has to overcome all her fears to find a way to break the curse on Perevil.

The world building in this story was excellent. Elizabeth was a very realistic young heroine with fears and strengths. I liked knowing so much about her and feeling her need to connect.

Fantasy fans will enjoy this fast-paced story.

Favorite Quote:
That evening after supper we moved into Humbert's sitting room. He summons a musician from somewhere, possibly the last century, by the look of him. Skeletal, wispy white hair, bony hand clutching a lute. He perches on the edge of a chair and begins to warble out a dusty tune,
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Teaser Tuesday: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. 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:
I'd traded American History with Mr. Simpson for Contemporary World Issues with Dr. Clark. we were currently broken into pairs, discussing the effect of internet censorship in East and Central Asia. Or at least that was the assignment. I had a feeling most people were actually discussing Contemporary Hardwicke Issues. Namely me. And my sister. Who apparently fixed problems for a living.
This week my teaser comes from The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I bought this one this past summer. Here is the description from Amazon:
When sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick is sent to live with her older sister, Ivy, she has no idea that the infamous Ivy Kendrick is Washington D.C.'s #1 "fixer," known for making politicians' scandals go away for a price. No sooner does Tess enroll at Hardwicke Academy than she unwittingly follows in her sister's footsteps and becomes D.C.'s premier high school fixer, solving problems for elite teens.

Secrets pile up as each sister lives a double life. . . . until their worlds come crashing together and Tess finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy with one of her classmates and a client of Ivy's. Suddenly, there is much more on the line than good grades, money, or politics, and the price for this fix might be more than Tess is willing to pay.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for more in this exciting new series.