Thursday, December 31, 2015

ARC Review: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

The Impostor Queen
Author: Sarah Fine
Series: The Impostor Queen (Book 1)
Publication: Margaret K. McElderry Books (January 5, 2016)

Description: The elders chose Elli to be queen, but they chose wrong in this beautifully crafted novel in the tradition of Kristin Cashore and Victoria Aveyard.

Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

My Thoughts: THE IMPOSTOR QUEEN takes place in a world with magic. It is told by the young woman who is heir to the throne and who will inherit powerful magic when the current Valtia dies. Elli has been raised to be the heir since she was taken from her parents as a young child. She is curious about her world and about the magic she will inherit. She is deeply loving. She loves the Valtia that she is allowed to see only twice a year and she loves her handmaiden who is charged with her daily care. She aches for connection that she isn't allowed by the priests who control her education and her life.

When her Valtia dies after repelling an attempt at invasion, Elli doesn't inherit her magic. Despite tortures including being locked in a copper box for hours and a severe beating which Elli accepts because the priests tell her it will trigger her magic, the magic doesn't come. Her handmaiden saves her when she learns that the final trial will be cutting her throat. She disguises Elli and sends her to wait in the city for her. But the handmaiden never arrives and Elli is banished from the city when she steals some food.

Near death from the beating and from her encounter with a bear trap, Elli is rescued by a young hunter named Oskar and taken to his home in the caves where she learns that not all magic users have been rounded up by the priests. Some have managed to escape the city and are living in the wild. While most magic users are balanced having power over both fire and ice, Oskar is not. He has strong ice magic only. It is so strong and Oskar fears it so much that it is killing him. Elli learns that she can siphon off his ice magic and that it doesn't hurt her. Since his first use of his magic caused his beloved father's death, Oskar is reluctant to use his magic and wants only a life of peace.

Oskar's counterpart is Sig who has a strong fire magic and no ice magic. His experience with his magic and with the priests who tried to control him is different. Sig wants war. He wants to take down the priests and the Valtia. He doesn't have a plan for what will replace them except that he wants them gone. When he learns that Elli can make his magic stronger, he tries to force her to assist him. But Elli was raised to be queen and she is concerned for the innocents and for her people as a whole.

This was an exciting story. I especially liked watching Elli grow from a pampered and helpless princess into a strong young woman who was competent and kind. I loved her relationship with Oskar and the love that grew between them. It was refreshing not to have a love triangle in the book. While the book feels satisfyingly complete, there is certainly room for a sequel or two.

Favorite Quote:
Something akin to delight deepens the rows of wrinkles on his gaunt cheeks. "Because you, my dear, are completely immune to magic. It won't help you." He raises his eyebrows. "But it can't hurt you either."
I got this eARC by invitation from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

ARC Review; Curio by Evangeline Demark

Curio
Author: Evangeline Denmark
Series:  Blink
Publication:  Blink (January 5, 2016)

Description: Grey Haward has always detested the Chemists, the magicians-come-scientists who rule her small western town. But she has always followed the rules, taking the potion the Chemists ration out that helps the town’s people survive. A potion that Grey suspects she—like her grandfather and father—may not actually need.

By working at her grandfather’s repair shop, sorting the small gears and dusting the curio cabinet inside, Grey has tried to stay unnoticed—or as unnoticed as a tall, strong girl can in a town of diminutive, underdeveloped citizens. Then her best friend, Whit, is caught by the Chemists’ enforcers after trying to protect Grey one night, and after seeing the extent of his punishment, suddenly taking risks seems the only decision she can make.

But with the risk comes the reality that the Chemists know her family’s secret, and the Chemists soon decide to use her for their own purposes. Panicked, Grey retreats to the only safe place she knows—her grandfather’s shop. There, however, a larger secret confronts her when her touch unlocks the old curio cabinet in the corner and reveals a world where porcelain and clockwork people are real. There, she could find the key that may save Whit’s life and also end the Chemists’ dark rule forever.

My Thoughts: Evangeline Denmark's new fantasy created an interesting steampunk sort of world. The main characters are Grey Haward, Whitland Bryacre, and Blaise Amintore. The story is told from each of their viewpoints.

The story begins in Mercury City which is under control of the chemists who have put all sorts of restrictions in place. The citizens in Mercury City are dependent on a potion supplied by the chemists to stave off the starvation trait. When Whit is punished for a curfew violation and touching Grey, he is punished leading Grey to share her dose of potion with him.

Grey's father and grandfather don't need the potion because they are Defenders. Grey has always taken it because her mother is not a Defender. Because they are Defenders, they have drawn the particular attention of a Chemist named Adante. When he learns that Grey has shared her potion he wants to study her. Her grandfather protects her as she runs away to his shop where she is sent into a strange world inside a curio cabinet.

The world inside the cabinet is inhabited by porcies who are made of porcelain and are the upper classes and tocks who are clockwork and are the working classes. The world is controlled by Lord Blueboy who is interested in Grey and wants to add her to his collection of beautiful things. Blaise, another human, is leading the revolution against the porcies. Their Defender marks call to each other and they fall in love.

Meanwhile, while Grey is in the curio cabinet trying to survive the evil intentions of Lord Blueboy and trying to find a way home, Whit falls into the company of Mercury City's rebels as he becomes a potions dealer. He meets twins Marina and Maverick and has his own run-ins with Adante. He also falls for Marina.

These plot threads do eventually come back together when Grey finds a way to escape the curio cabinet bring Blaise and his secrets with her.

I liked the world building especially in the world inside the curio cabinet which was filled with interesting steampunk inventions. Generally, I thought the story had a pretty slow beginning. The reasons for the way the world was the way it was were given but not until late in the story. I found myself having a lot of questions as I tried to figure out what was going on in the story. So much happened in the book that I felt like developing the characters motives and personalities got pushed to the back burner.

I read an eARC and had some issues with the formatting that I hope are ARC issues and not book issues. Capitalization was extremely random with some names never being capitalized and others shifting from lower case to upper case at random. Also sometimes the initial letters of sentences lacked capitalization. I'm eager to see the finished book to see if this was by design or just a product of the eARC.

Fans of fantasy and steampunk will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
"As for what I will look at and will touch, I require no permission. Your body hides as many secrets as your tongue. Secrets I want. And you'll give them up, Grey. By the Designer, you will give them up."
I got this ARC from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Teaser Tuesday: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

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:
She nudged my chin up. "When you are the Valtia, you'll be better than good, Elli. You may doubt anything in this world, but never doubt yourself."
This week my teaser comes from The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine. I was invited to view this January 5 release and downloaded it from NetGalley. Here is the description from Amazon:
The elders chose Elli to be queen, but they chose wrong in this beautifully crafted novel in the tradition of Kristin Cashore and Victoria Aveyard.

Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

Monday, December 28, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Dec. 28, 2015)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. 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...

I had a really quiet Christmas since I didn't travel this year. I got to spend a lot of time reading and blogging. When comparing my spreadsheet of review books and my calendar, I discovered that I had forgotten to earmark spots on my calendar for two books. This led to some rearranging of my calendar, rescheduling blog posts, and creating new posts.

I also spent some time scheduling Waiting on Wednesday posts for some of the new HarperCollins books from Edelweiss that I couldn't fit into my reviewing schedule. Currently I have 47 posts scheduled and ready to go. I also have thirteen book review posts waiting for my thoughts after I finish reading the book. Those posts will take care of all of February.

I have a couple of projects I want to tackle around the house this coming week. I am trying to de-clutter and get more organized. Every cupboard and closet needs to be examined for things I no longer need. I don't live in a large house but there are a surprising number of locations where I have stored things that I may or may not need.

I also have a school project that I want to tackle. I'm creating a new game for my elementary kids to help them learn both alphabetization and the way the library is organized. I see cutting and gluing in my future. I had been saving this for a "snow day" project but our current weather doesn't make snow days look likely.

We did manage a white Christmas by virtue of the inch or two of snow that fell on Wednesday. It also snowed some on Saturday. We have gotten enough to make the streets slippery but not enough for the eager snowmobilers or even kids wanting to make a snowman.

Read Last Week
Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh is an excellent science fiction story. It is McIntosh's first YA. It is a well done "group of teens saves Earth from disaster" story. I enjoyed the characters and the plot. My review will be posted on January 30.

Currently
I am currently reading Curio by Evangeline Denmark. So far, the cover is the best part of it and I am finding the story a bit slow.

Next Week

Next on my stack are some of my February review books.
Jockey Girl by Shelley Peterson (Feb. 8)
Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan (Feb. 9)
These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker (Feb. 9)
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (Feb. 16) - This is one of two books that just about fell through the cracks. 

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

HarperCollins added a bunch of books to Edelweiss this week. I tried to use restraint and not download all of them but it was really, really hard to limit myself to just these. Mostly, I limited myself to one release a week since I am still waiting to see what I'll get from Macmillan.
Curio by Evangeline Denmark is the only new book I didn't get from Edelweiss. I was invited by Zonderkidz-Books to download this one at NetGalley. I liked the cover and the description and thought I'd give this January 5 release a try.

Ferals 2: The Swarm Descends by Jacob Grey will be released on April 26. I've read the first book in this series.

Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman will be released on May 3.
The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude will also be released on May 3.

Spark by Holly Schindler will be released on May 17.

The Hunt by Megan Shepherd will be released on May 24. I have read the first book in this series.
The Underdogs by Sarah Hammel will be released on May 31.

Autofocus by Lauren Gibaldi will be released on June 14.
The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele will be released on June 21.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab will be released on July 5.

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

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows (Book 1)
Publication: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (September 29, 2015)

Description: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price--and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction--if they don't kill each other first.

My Thoughts: SIX OF CROWS was a wonderful example of a heist novel. It probably says something about my age that I keep seeing The A Team - the old one with George Peppard and Mr. T - while I was reading.

Ketterdam is a bustling port town run by merchants but there is a well-developed criminal underworld there too. Kaz Brekker has been making a place for himself in that underworld since the death of his brother at age nine. Only the ruthless survive the life and Kaz is certainly ruthless. He has gathered a crew around him. Inej is a Suli acrobat who was abducted and sold in slavery into a house of prostitution in Ketterdam. Kaz bought out her contract and new she works for him as a spy. Jesper is a sharpshooter and gambling addict who is hiding his Grisha inheritance as a fabrikator. Nina is also a Grisha who happens to be a heartrender. She is stuck in Ketterdam until she makes things right with Matthias who is currently a convict but who is a druskelle whose mission is to capture and execute all Grisha. Wylan is an explosives expert and a runaway from his merchant family.

Kaz is hired by Wylan's father to break into the Ice Court - an impenetrable fortress - and liberate a scientist who has developed a way to enhance Grisha powers to an unbelievable  level. Unfortunately for the Grisha, the drug is instantly addictive and the Grisha quickly dies. Kaz isn't interested in an impossible mission until the price rises high enough. Once it does, he recruits his team and they are off.

I enjoyed the interactions between the various members of the team and liked that different chapters were narrated by different characters. I didn't like Kaz very much at first because he was so ruthless but I came to understand him better as I read the chapters from his viewpoint and learned what it was the made him who he is when the story takes place.

The world building was fascinating as it takes place in a different part of the Grisha universe we first saw in the first Grisha trilogy and lets us see more of the world. I liked the magic and I liked the intrigue.

The book was well-plotted and kept throwing in surprises. The book was also filled with action and adventure. I can't wait to read the next book in this series to find out what Kaz and his crew have in mind next.

Favorite Quote:
"Keep Wylan out of trouble," he told Jesper as he dismissed them.

"Why me?"

"You're unlucky enough to be in my line of sight, and I don't want any sudden reconciliations between father and son before we set sail."

"You don't need to worry about that," said Wylan.

"I worry about everything, merchling. That's why I'm still alive. And you can keep an eye on Jesper, too."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Friday Memes: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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:
Joost had two problems: the moon and his mustache.
Friday 56:
Kaz didn't like the idea of some Grisha moving things around in his head.
This week I am spotlighting Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I loved her Grisha series and can't wait to see where she goes in her new fantasy. Here is the description from Amazon:
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price--and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction--if they don't kill each other first.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Book Review: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Dumplin'
Author: Julie Murphy
Publication: Balzer + Bray (September 15, 2015)

Description: For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel with the most fearless heroine—self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson—from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

My Thoughts: This fun contemporary novel tells the story of an unlikely beauty pageant entrant. Willowdean Dickson is fat and trying really hard to be okay with herself. Her mom won the pageant when she was a teen and has been the pageant manager for years. Willowdean and her mom are having some adjustment issues now that Willowdean's aunt and her mom's sister has died. Lucy was morbidly obese, housebound and died of a heart attack at age 36. Lucy was also the one who mostly raised Willowdean and fostered her love of Dolly Parton who was an inspiration to both of them.

Willowdean is also having some friendship problems as she feels that she is growing away from her best friend El. The two have a fight when they both enter the beauty pageant and don't talk to each other for most of the book. These leaves Willowdean to make new friends with a few of the school misfits. Millie is also overweight but has always dreamed of being in the pageant. Amanda wears a brace on her leg to compensate for uneven leg lengths. Hannah has buck teeth and a bad attitude. All of those three have been tormented at school. But they bond over the pageant and a road trip to see drag queens impersonating Dolly.

Willowdean also has boy issues. She works with Bo and starts a summer romance with him which involves lots of secret make-out sessions at the old elementary school. But, when she learns that he has been keeping secrets, she dumps him. She meets Mitch who wants to date her and is a really nice guy but there is no spark between them. When Bo comes back into her life, she's torn between the two boys.

I liked the positive message of this book. I liked Willowdean's realization that everyone is teased about something and that no one has the perfect body. I liked the way she changed during the book but feel she still has a ways to go.

Favorite Quote:
Then, at the end of the day, when we walked to the parking lot, he took my hand firmly in his. It was hard not to feel like we hadn't skipped a step somewhere. I wasn't about to embark on another relationship that was all action and no definition.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Spotlight: The White Tiger: A Hero's Compulsion by Tamara Pierce

I have decided that 2016 is the year when I take a look at books on my TBR mountain and read them or donate them. I'm starting with the books that have been on the stack the longest. Hopefully by the end of 2016, my TBR mountain will be only a foothill.

The oldest book on my stack is White Tiger: A Hero's Compulsion by Tamara Pierce, Timothy Liebe and Phil Brionnes. I bought this one on June 16, 2008. I bought it on the strength of Tamara Pierce's name since I love her young adult fantasies. But it's a graphic novel and I am not a fan of the whole genre. I prefer meatier stories.

Here is the description from Amazon:
Roaring out of the pages of Daredevil, the new White Tiger makes a ferocious debut, courtesy of the dynamic scripting of New York Times best-selling fantasy author Tamora Pierce (Trickster's Queen, The Will of the Empress) and masterful penciling of rising star Phil Briones (La Geste des Chevaliers-Dragons, Les Seigneurs d'Agartha). Angela del Toro knows pain: Her uncle - Hector Ayala, the former White Tiger - killed. Her FBI partner, murdered. Her career, ruined. Her mentor, Matt Murdock, jailed. And the hurt is just beginning. The Yakuza's bloodthirsty Sano Orii returns, a genocidal shadow organization appears, and a new-but-old super-powered madman is looking to put the squeeze on White Tiger. Armed with mystical amulets - and finally in costume - White Tiger demands answers! But will she survive long enough to ask the right questions? Collects White Tiger #1-6.
My Review: The pictures were nice but the story confused me. I learned more from the back flap and from the character profile at the back of the book than I did from the graphic novel. I think the main problem is that I don't know enough about the various superheroes who appeared in this story. There was some cool dialogue with lots of references to the pop culture of the time when it was created ten years ago. I liked the sarcastic reference to Miami Vice.

I quickly realized that reading a graphic novel requires some skills that I don't necessarily have. Even the flow of the story on the page required some concentration on my part. I can understand why my students enjoy graphic novels - colorful graphics, minimal text and lots of action. I feel sure that they will enjoy this one once it gets into my Media Center too.

Favorite Quote:
"He's walking out. Piece of crap is walking right out of the front door of the Federal Court House."

"That's why God invented lawyers." 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Teaser Tuesday: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

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:
"Hey, I'm thinking of pulling together a betting pool for the pageant. You think you could get me some inside intel when the time comes?"

I shake my head and slam my register shut.
This week my teaser comes from Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. Here is the description from Amazon:
For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel with the most fearless heroine—self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson—from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

Monday, December 21, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Dec. 21, 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...

I got to drive home from work in our first snow of the season on Friday. I even had to brush off and scrape my windshields. Of course it was over about an hour later and Saturday and Sunday are supposed to get warm enough to melt the snow. (I'm writing this Saturday morning.)

I seem to have entered the first reading slump that I can recall. I just haven't been in the mood to read this past week. It shows in my accomplishments. I do have some books I want to get to during my Christmas break which starts at 1:30 PM on Tuesday and lasts until January 4. But I'm not sure what I'm going to read. I may pick some old favorites off the shelf to see if I can get my reading mojo back.
Read Last Week
The Iron Warrior by Julie Kagawa was a great conclusion to a series that I have really enjoyed. It was filled with epic battles and personal battles too. I got to see many favorite characters from other books in the series. My review will be posted on January 23.

Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers was an excellent fantasy by a debut author. I enjoyed the world building. The characters were also very interesting people. My review for this first of the February review books on my stack will be posted on January 28.

Currently
Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh is also a February release from my review stack. It sounds like an exciting adventure.

Next Week
Jockey Girl by Shelley Peterson is another from my review stack. This sounds like an interesting contemporary story.

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan begins a new fantasy series. I have enjoyed other books by the author and have high hopes for this one too.

Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?
Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey was offered by Macmillan at NetGalley. This historical romance/mystery sounded good. It will be released on April 19.

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows was a Kindle Daily Deal for $1.99 one day this week. I had read the first twelve chapters from Edelweiss and always wanted to know more but didn't want to enough to pay full price.
I received a print ARC of The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks this week. It was a surprise as I don't recall asking for it and seldom read graphic novels. I did read one of her other graphic novels and enjoyed it though and fantasy is a genre I enjoy. This one will be released on April 5.

I had asked for Flawed by Cecelia Ahern from Macmillan at NetGalley a while ago because I liked the description of this dystopian story. I was approved this week the day before the book became a Read Now selection. It will be released on April 5.

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop

midwinter hop 


Midwinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop
Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Bookhounds
December 21st to 31st

I am pleased to be taking part in the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop this year. My gift to one follower will be a $15 Amazon US Gift Card. What book will you buy if you are the winner?

Rules:
  • You must be a follower of this blog.
  • You must fill out the Google form below completely 
The winner will be chosen using Random.org on January 1. The gift card will be sent to the email listed on the contest form.

Good Luck!

Check out the other stops here:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Book Review: The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan

The Tournament at Gorlan
Author: John Flanagan
Series: Ranger's Apprentice: The Early Years (Book 1)
Publication: Philomel Books (October 6, 2015)

Description: When Halt and Crowley discover that the ambitious Morgarath has been infiltrating the Rangers in order to corrupt the Corps, the young Rangers travel north to find Prince Duncan, seeking a royal warrant to stop Morgarath before it is too late. By weakening the Rangers, the most powerful force in support of the King, Morgarath plans to steal the throne.

Yet when Halt and Crowley arrive in Gorlan, they discover just how close Morgarath’s scheme is to success. Morgarath has a plan to discredit the Prince and alienate him from his father. At the same time, the Baron of Gorlan has been conspiring to win the trust and admiration of the Council of Barons to further his plan. If the young Rangers are to prevent the coup from succeeding, they will have to tread a dangerous path, which leads them to a thrilling climax at the annual tournament at Gorlan, where a series of bitter duels must be fought and won.

This origin story brings readers to a time before Will was an apprentice, and lays the groundwork for the epic battles that will culminate with The Ruins of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge—Books 1 and 2 of the Ranger’s Apprentice series.

My Thoughts: The prequel to the Ranger's Apprentice series stars Halt and Crowley. We get to see them as young men meeting during a turbulent time in Araluen's history. Margarath is scheming to take the throne from King Oswald. He has managed to convince the king that his son Duncan tried to poison him. He has offered the king "shelter" at Castle Gorlan. The shelter quickly turns to imprisonment. Morgarath also has hired a man with a gang to impersonate Duncan and to make the people think that Duncan has turned to banditry.

Morgarath also needs to discredit the Rangers who are loyal to the king. He has instituted a campaign to remove the loyal Rangers from their positions and install his toadies instead. Crowley has been kicked out of his position when he encounters Halt who has come from Hibernia to join the Rangers. The two band together and overcome an attack by Morgarath's men. They decide to try to find the other discredited Rangers and retake the kingdom in the name of the King.

But first they have to find the other Rangers and convince them to join in Halt and Crowley's mad plan. The byplay and teasing between Halt and Crowley serve to leaven the rather grim events of this story. Middle graders will enjoy all the fights that the Rangers engage in. The story is action packed.

Older readers may have some questions about the wisdom of a villain who sends a letter to an accomplice that outlines his plans so completely. Sheer arrogance doesn't seem like a strong enough cause to me.

I liked seeing Crowley and Halt as young men. And I really liked seeing how gobsmacked Halt was when he first met Pauline. I think this book would work well as an entry point to the series for new readers. Readers who have already read the rest of the series will enjoy meeting some of their favorite characters as young people.

Favorite Quote:
"So, how do you plan to get across?" Crowley asked Halt.

The Hibernian looked sidelong at him. "I thought I was surrounding the castle while you went in?"

Crowley shook his head gravely. "Now that I see it, I've decided to change our job assignments. You go in and I'll keep watch."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Memes: The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan

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:
It had been raining for a week.
Friday 56:
"So why would he try to weaken the Ranger Corps?" Halt asked, although he thought he knew the answer.

"Because the Rangers are loyal to the King, first and foremost. They're a powerful force and if you were trying to assume power in the Kingdom, they'd be a major stumbling block."
This week I am spotlighting The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan. This is the first book in his new Ranger's Apprentice prequel series. Here is the description from Amazon:
When Halt and Crowley discover that the ambitious Morgarath has been infiltrating the Rangers in order to corrupt the Corps, the young Rangers travel north to find Prince Duncan, seeking a royal warrant to stop Morgarath before it is too late. By weakening the Rangers, the most powerful force in support of the King, Morgarath plans to steal the throne.

Yet when Halt and Crowley arrive in Gorlan, they discover just how close Morgarath’s scheme is to success. Morgarath has a plan to discredit the Prince and alienate him from his father. At the same time, the Baron of Gorlan has been conspiring to win the trust and admiration of the Council of Barons to further his plan. If the young Rangers are to prevent the coup from succeeding, they will have to tread a dangerous path, which leads them to a thrilling climax at the annual tournament at Gorlan, where a series of bitter duels must be fought and won.

This origin story brings readers to a time before Will was an apprentice, and lays the groundwork for the epic battles that will culminate with The Ruins of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge—Books 1 and 2 of the Ranger’s Apprentice series.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book Review: The Ranger's Apprentice: The Lost Stories by John Flanagan

The Lost Stories
Author: John Flanagan
Series: The Ranger's Apprentice (Book 11)
Publication: Philomel Books; First Edition edition (October 4, 2011)

Description: The secret history of the New York Times bestselling Ranger's Apprentice, with over 5 million copies sold in the U.S. alone!

Unconfirmed accounts of a group of Araluen warriors - tales of adventure, battle, and triumph over evil - have spread for centuries throughout the known world. Most notable is a clan shrouded in mystery, phantom warriors known as the Rangers.

Two names pass the lips of every storyteller: Halt, and his apprentice, Will. They and their comrades in arms are said to have traveled throughout the kingdom and beyond its borders, protecting those who needed it most. If true, these rumors can be only part of the story.

Only now, centuries after these men and women walked the earth, do we have confirmation of their existence. Behold The Lost Stories, Book 11 in the Ranger's Apprentice epic.

Perfect for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone, Christopher Paolini’s Eragon series, and George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire series.

My Thoughts: This book contains nine stories and a fragment. The first story has Halt telling Will about Will's parentage and the little he knows about his family. The second story gives Gilan star billing as he investigates some missing money and a bandit who is plaguing the area. The third story has Will and Alyss teaming up to find a band of Roamers and recover Will's missing dog.

The next story has Will and Halt trying to find some Wreckers before they succeed is grounding more ships. Will is also in the midst of writing his speech for Horace and Evanlyn's wedding and is trying to fit in every big word he has ever heard.

Dinner for Five stars Jenny who wants to prepare a nice dinner for her Gilan but is interrupted by some outlaws who robbed the silversmith and are looking for a place to lay low until the chase passes them by. Jenny, being an excellent cook, makes unconventional use of a leg of lamb.

The next story takes place at Horace and Evanlyn's wedding when Will almost misses his dance with Alyss as he is busy stopping assassins from killing Evanlyn.

The seventh story in the book tells about how Crowley and Halt meet and become friends. It gives some hints about Halt's background.

The Wolf tells the story of an injured wolf and how Will and Tug hunt for him. It also tells what happens when it is time for a Ranger's horse to be retired. I loved the close relationship between Will and Tug.

The final story in the book tells about Will and Alyss's wedding day.

All of the stories were great because they gave more insight into the characters and because they filled some of details that didn't fit into the main stories.

Favorite Quote:
"I've heard that the pen is mightier than the sword," Gilan said. "But I never knew the inkwell could be mightier than the dagger."
I bought this one in 2011. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (Except on Wednesday) - December 16, 2015


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish.  

Each week a new topic is chosen that one of the bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. Add your name to the linky and visit some of the other Top Ten lists.
The topic for December 15: Top Ten Best Books I Read In 2015. My tastes are pretty eclectic. I range from young adult contemporary stories to science fiction to urban fantasy and fantasy with a little romantic suspense thrown in too. Half of the books are YA and the other half adult.

Here is my list. All links go to my reviews:
Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews
Written in Red by Anne Bishop
Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
Trust No One by Jayne Ann Krentz 
Dragon in Exile by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu
Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry
Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliasotti
The Fall by James Preller

Ask me tomorrow and my list might change!