Friday, December 29, 2017

Book Review: Venturess by Betsy Cornwell

Venturess
Author: Betsy Cornwell
Series: Mechanica (Book 2)
Publication: Clarion Books (August 1, 2017)

Description: The young inventor Nicolette Lampton is living her own fairy-tale happy ending. She's free of her horrible stepfamily, running a successful business, and is uninterested in marrying the handsome prince, Fin. Instead, she, Fin, and their friend Caro venture to the lush land of Faerie, where they seek to put an end to the bloody war their kingdom is waging. Mechanical armies and dark magic await them as they uncover devastating secrets about the past and fight for a real, lasting happily-ever-after for two troubled countries—and for themselves.

Smart and unconventional, this novel will appeal to readers of romance and adventure alike.

My Thoughts: This is the sequel to Mechanica. It tells what happens after a girl rescues herself from her evil stepfamily, finds her prince, and looks to her future. Nicolette Lampton has set up her own shop as an inventor and has declined the prince's offer of marriage. Oh, she loves Fin that isn't in doubt. But she also loves Caro who also loves Fin. Fin and Caro are family for the orphaned Nicollette.

But trouble is brewing in Esting. Religious bigots who despise all things magic, unless they are the ones doing it, and all things Fey have been gaining influence with the citizens and with the king. They want to declare war on Faerie and exterminate all the Fey. Prince Fin is apposed to the idea but his voice is reason is being drowned out by the bigots. Nicolette is also opposed because she was raised by a half-Fey housekeeper that she loved.

Her housekeeper Mr. Candery was forced to flee from Esting to Faerie when Nicolette was only twelve. Now, he sends her a letter asking her to come to Faerie and bring Fin in the hopes that some sort of peace treaty can be worked out. The letter arrives just after an assassination attempt on Fin comes way too close to success. So Nicolette, Fin and Caro embark on a journey to Faerie. The journey is exciting and ends with a magical storm which destroys their airship and leads to a ferocious battle waged by automatons representing each side.

I loved the steampunk details in this book. Nicolette makes marvelous devices. Her most notable are the insects and horse that she has improved on but which were created by her mother before her death. The horse Jules had been her only friend and companion after her mother's death until she met Fin and Caro. Jules has been great support to her. The insects and Jules are both automatons but they gain their life force from something called the Ashes which her mother left for her to use. She doesn't know what they are or where they come from and hopes to find that answer when she goes to Faerie.

Nicolette makes other discoveries when she gets to Faerie that rock her world and force her to make some crucial decisions. It is a time of growth for her and for Fin who becomes more confident in his role as the future king. I loved the Fey and the Mermen who were also residents of this world.

Fans of adventure, steampunk, and fantasy will enjoy this reimagining of the Cinderella story and will love getting to know Nicolette.

Favorite Quote:
"I don't suppose you've spent a whole day mending seams?"

She shrugged. "Maybe not."

"No, because then you'd know how tedious it is, and you'd know the value of a machine that does it for you. and it's a rare girl who doesn't have to do those things, you know -- spending her whole day mending and cleaning and boiling water, with not a moment to herself for a thought of her own..." I took a deep breath, pushing away the memories of my own forced labor. "It's all right if you do like those chores, but so many girls have to do them that they never get the chance to discover what they like, all for themselves. So I make helpmeets that give those girls time to find out. To do whatever the things are -- the girl things -- that they like to do."

It was funny; I'd never quite thought about it that way, but I knew as soon as I said the words that they were true.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Book Review: Sweet Legacy by Tera Lynn Childs

Sweet Legacy
Author: Tera Lynn Childs
Series: Sweet Venom (Book 3)
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (September 3, 2013)

Description: The stunning conclusion of Tera Lynn Childs's Greek mythology–based Sweet Venom trilogy is perfect for teen fans of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series.

The girls cannot hesitate as they seek the location of the lost door between the realms, even as monsters and the gods of Olympus descend on San Francisco in battle-ready droves.

Greer must use her second sight to step up and prevent anything from stopping her sisters' mission, even though a god is playing with her mind. Grace wants to trust her adopted brother, Thane; but will his secret put the girls in even more danger? And Gretchen has trained her sisters to stop the monsters, but her role as a huntress comes with more responsibility than she ever imagined.What will the girls' immortal legacy be? Three teenage descendants of Medusa must unite to restore balance to the world in this action-packed series with plenty of romance.

My Thoughts: SWEET LEGACY is the final book in the trilogy begun in SWEET VENOM. Grace, Greer, and Gretchen have lots to do before opening the door that they are meant to guard. They need to rescue their mentors, find their boyfriends and learn their secrets, and find the door that they are meant to open and guard. Hordes of Greek gods and monsters are trying to stop them.

Greer gets a better grip on her ability of second sight once she manages to break the link with Apollo that lets him know where she is and what she is doing. Since he's one of the gods who don't want the girls to succeed, this is vital to the success of their mission.

Gretchen learns that monsters are not all bad as she makes friends with some while she is in Abyssos trying to rescue her boyfriend and her mentors. Grace finds her confidence and her courage as she searches for the girls' birth mother and faces other tests.

After they manage to unravel the riddle left by the oracle and find where the door is hidden, they have to gather their allies before facing a big battle.

The story was action-packed and filled with adventure. It was also a great story about family especially the kind of family you make. I liked the way the sisters respected each other's strengths and the way they meshed given that they were just getting to know each other.

I recommend this book and this series to fans of mythology and urban fantasy.

Favorite Quote:
"I don't deserve you," he insists.

"No one does," I reply with a confident smile. "You''ll get used to the feeling."

He laughs -- actually laughs -- and I feel it all the way in my toes. 
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Book Review: Firebrand by A. J. Hartley

Firebrand
Author: A. J. Hartley
Series: Steeplejack (Book 2)
Publication: Tor Teen (June 6, 2017)

Description: New York Times bestselling author A. J. Hartley returns to his intriguing, 19th-century South African-inspired fantasy world in Firebrand, another adrenaline-pounding adventure.

Once a steeplejack, Anglet Sutonga now assists Josiah Willinghouse behind the scenes of Parliament. When government plans for a secret weapon are stolen, their investigation leads to the doorstep of Bar-Selehm’s super-exclusive social club. Ang has a chance to catch the thief, but only if she can pass for a foreign princess. Her best chance to learn the ways of royalty lies in the regal and brash women of the Willinghouse family ― even if their lessons also involve tamed hyenas alongside dinner etiquette.

Yet Ang has other things on her mind. Refugees from the north are trickling into the city, but an ambitious politician is proposing extreme measures to get rid of them. She soon discovers that one theft could spark a conflagration of conspiracy which threatens the city's most vulnerable people. Unless she can stop it.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this sequel to STEEPLEJACK. Ang has another mystery to solve. Plans for a new weapon are stolen and her boss Josiah Willinghouse sets her on the path to find them. Along the way, she pretends to be a foreign princess to gain entry to an exclusive club with links to the theft and finds herself becoming involved with the refugee problem in her city.

Ang is a fascinating character. She is an ethnic minority in a city which gives minorities less value. In fact, a new movement in Parliament, which her boss is fighting, wants to remove all ethnic minorities from the city. She has been exiled from her community as a result of actions in the first book and is feeling something like a refugee herself. She is also getting used to being a peripheral part of the ruling class. She is a savvy detective who would never be hired by the white police force. She has friends and contacts throughout the different classes in her city.

This story has a steampunk feel. Its setting is an engaging world based on South Africa. I liked the descriptions of the lands outside the city and I liked how uncomfortable Ang was with them. I thought the dangers presented by hippos and lions added to the atmosphere.

I recommend this series highly because Ang is such an interesting character and the world building is so well done.

Favorite Quote:
"Mr. Willinghouse was just reflecting on the discomfited condition of his enemies," I supplied.

Willinghouse glared at me.

"A politician does not have enemies," he remarked. "Just colleagues with whom he has a difference of opinion over the betterment of his country."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Book Review: Sweet Shadows by Tera Lynn Childs

Sweet Shadows
Author: Tera Lynn Childs
Series: Sweet Venom (Book 2)
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (September 3, 2013)

Description: The action-packed second book of Tera Lynn Childs's Greek mythology–based Sweet Venom trilogy is perfect for teen fans of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series.

Three teenage descendants of Medusa must figure out where their fate will take them. The warring factions among the gods of Olympus are coming for them, the creatures of the abyss are pushing into San Francisco, and the boys in their lives are hiding dangerous secrets.

Gretchen has fought the monsters the longest, but teaching the girls the ropes is hard. Can she rely on Grace and Greer, or even trust herself to keep them safe? Greer has pressing social commitments and little time to train her newfound powers. But her second sight won't leave her alone. Grace is worried about her brother, Thane, who has disappeared. His secrets might have to do with the heritage the triplets share.

How can the girls embrace the shadows of their legacy?

My Thoughts: This is the second book of a trilogy. Triplets Gretchen, Grace, and Greer were separated at birth and raised in separate families and circumstances. They were reunited at sixteen to find out that they were descendants of Medusa and heirs to a prophecy that keeps mythological creatures contained in the Abyss. There are three factions who are interested in them with two of the factions wanting them dead. There is a group that wants them dead after they seal the portal and a group that wants them dead after they open the portal. The third group wants them to open the portal and act as its guardians.

The story is told in alternate chapters by each of the girls who are very different people. Grace is the computer nerd with a loving family. Gretchen is the one who ran away from an abusive home life and has been fighting the monsters who slip through the cracks for years. Greer is the poor little rich girl who has every physical advantage and absentee parents.

The girls need to learn about their various gifts, rescue their missing mentors, and decide which of the boys around them is on their side. I liked each of the girls. I liked the references to mythology. I liked that Gretchen got an attitude adjustment when she entered the Abyss. I didn't like the cliffhanger ending but am lucky to have book 3 ready to finish the story.

Recommended for young adults who like mythology and urban fantasy.

Favorite Quote:
FIND THE LOST

"Seriously!" The woman does not know how to leave a comprehensible clue. As if she could say anything more vague. There are so many lost things right now: the Gorgons, the oracle, my sanity.
I bought this one August 21, 2013. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, December 15, 2017

ARC Review: Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Prince in Disguise
Author: Stephanie Kate Strohm
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (December 19, 2017)

Description: Someday I want to live in a place where I never hear "You're Dusty's sister?" ever again.

Life is real enough for Dylan-especially as the ordinary younger sister of Dusty, former Miss Mississippi and the most perfect, popular girl in Tupelo. But when Dusty wins the hand of the handsome Scottish laird-to-be Ronan on the TRC television network's crown jewel, Prince in Disguise, Dylan has to face a different kind of reality: reality TV.

As the camera crew whisks them off to Scotland to film the lead-up to the wedding, camera-shy Dylan is front and center as Dusty's maid of honor. The producers are full of surprises-including old family secrets, long-lost relatives, and a hostile future mother-in-law who thinks Dusty and Dylan's family isn't good enough for her only son. At least there's Jamie, an adorably bookish groomsman who might just be the perfect antidote to all Dylan's stress . . . if she just can keep TRC from turning her into the next reality show sensation.

My Thoughts: Dylan finds herself swept off the Scotland for her sister's destination wedding. Her sister Dusty won Scottish laird Ronan's hand on the Prince in Disguise, a reality show, and now they will be filming all that leads up to the wedding. Nothing could make camera-shy Dylan less happy. Of course being left at the train station by the best man and rescued by cute Jamie gives her adventure quite a start.

Dylan and Jamie become good friends as they both try to avoid the cameras. Dylan was a great character. She loves her sister and mother as much as she hates being part of a reality TV show. She really doesn't want her budding romance with Jamie to become a plot thread on the program but she is willing if it will distract the producer from Dusty's secret.

The story is filled with great characters from the over-the-top best man to the evil future mother-in-law to Dusty who can turn on and turn off Southern Belle at will to Jamie who is a geeky, gawky hero with a secret of his own. I liked Dylan's relationship with her absentee father who shows up to walk Dusty down the aisle. I thought it was realistic that she had no interest in forming a relationship with a man who walked away from his family before she even knew him.

This was by turns funny and touching and romantic. I recommend it to fans of romance and reality TV.

Favorite Quote:
"And I willna drop it. I'm a very delicate touch. Hands of a baby angel. 'S what all the girls say."

"No offense, but I can't imagine anything I'd like to touch me less than the hands of a baby angel." I shuddered.

"Not even a giant squid?" Jamie asked.

"Hands of a baby angel is creepier. Why is the angel a baby? Why is it touching me? Am I dead? If the giant squid is touching me, I'd assume it was by accident. Like, I swam into its space."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: Almost Everything by Tate Hallaway

Almost Everything
Author: Tate Hallaway
Series: Vampire Princess of St. Paul
Publication: Berkley; 1 Original edition (February 7, 2012)

Description: Ever since her father banished the half-witch, half-vampire Ana Parker and vampire knight Elias from the court of the Northern vampires, Ana has been trying to live a normal life. But when the Prince of the Southern Region vampires informs Ana that they're on the brink of war and she accidentally offers up Elias as a peace offering, the princess knows that she's going to need some help to get out of this situation.

With Ana's boy drama meter hitting an all time high, summer in St. Paul is heating up for all the wrong reasons...

My Thoughts: Ana and Elias are getting used to being exiled from her father's court but that doesn't mean the vampires are through with them. Ana is visited by the Prince of the Southern Region who needs to form an alliance or they will need to go to war. Inadvertently, Ana offers Elias and is surprised when her offer is accepted. But before she loses her vampire boyfriend they have to deal with vampires who need to hunt and can only be satisfied by hunting a witch. In the Southern Region, the witch queen willingly sacrifices herself which won't do for Ana since the witch queen is her mother. In other regions, a lottery is used to pick the witch who will be sacrificed. Ana wants to find a way to satisfy the hunt without anyone having to die.

While trying to find a way to change the hunt, Ana is still juggling three potential love interests. Elias was her vampire betrothed until her father exiled both of them. Even with the betrothal ended the two still have a blood bond. Nik is her witch/rock star boyfriend who happens to be in training to become a vampire hunter. Then there is Matt Thompson who is mundane and who shares her interest in acting. Ana would so like to be normal that Thompson appeals to her even though she can't share her secrets and the two don't have much in common.

I love the humor in this series and Ana makes a great main character. The book is action-packed and engaging.

Favorite Quote:
The other reason I loathe going to my father's court was because the dress code freaked me out, in that they didn't have one. Vampires will tell you that they are "natural" creatures, more like elves than demons. For this reason, they liked to cavort in the buff. Buck naked. Nude. Completely in the altogether.

I swear I put twenty bucks in my future-therapy fund every time I saw my dad in his birthday suit.
I bought this one August 11, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Book Review: Almost Final Curtain by Tate Hallaway

Almost Final Curtain
Author: Tate Hallaway
Series: Vampire Princess of St. Paul
Publication: Berkley; 1 edition (May 3, 2011)

Description: Craving the spotlight is in her blood.

Ever since high school student Anastasija Parker discovered she was vampire royalty, her life has been sort of crazy. The half-vampire- half-witch just wants some normalcy, and trying out for the spring musical seems like the perfect fix.

But when the ancient talisman that stands between vampire freedom and slavery to witches is stolen, Ana has to skip rehearsal and track down the dangerous artifact before someone uses it to make this year's curtain call her last...

My Thoughts: This is the second book in the Vampire Princess of St. Paul trilogy. Ana is trying to find her own path and still be an ordinary high school kid. She is having some issues with her trainee vampire slayer/rock star boyfriend that places them on a break which is just fine with her BFF who is more than eager to lend him a shoulder to cry on. It is hard to be on a break though when he is working with the theater director to update the music for the Spring musical - My Fair Lady. Tryouts are coming and Ana is up for the female lead. Of course, once the school finds out that Nik is doing the music, everyone wants to tryout including Thompson who has been Ana's nemesis at school. Turns out he's not such a bad guy and has a great voice.

Beyond the school drama is something bigger. The magical talisman that allowed the witches to bring the vampires from another dimension and make them slaves has made a reappearance. It was thought to be lost but now both witches and vampires want to find it and control it. When it goes missing again, neither side knows who took it. Elias even defied the vampire king in his quest to locate the talisman and has been exiled. Now Ana has a vampire living in her basement.

This was another fun episode in an entertaining urban fantasy series. I like Ana's desire to be her own person despite being pulled by each parent to choose their side. I also liked that Ana is still dealing with all the usual high school activities and schoolwork around trying to save her vampire subjects. Urban fantasy fans will enjoy this one.

Favorite Quote:
Great, now my head was really spinning. So not only did I have the talisman resurfacing, the breaking and entering I ordered Elias to do, and Nikolai's game-changing something mysteriously illegal, but now I also had my BFF's conspiracy theory to contend with.

And I'd forgotten to read today's history chapters.
I bought this one August 11, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Book Review: Almost to Die For by Tate Hallaway

Almost to Die For
Author: Tate Hallaway
Series: Vampire Princess of St. Paul
Publication: Berkley (August 3, 2010)

Description: Twilight meets The Princess Diaries in the new series from the author of Honeymoon of the Dead

On her sixteenth birthday, Anastasija Parker learns that her so-called deadbeat dad is actually a vampire king. And he wants Ana to assume her rightful position at his side, in spite of the fact that she has witch's blood running through her veins-from her mother's side.

Too bad witches and vampires are mortal enemies. And now Ana's parents are at each other's throats over her future. It's up to Ana to make a choice, but deciding your eternal destiny is a pretty big deal for a girl who just wants to get through high school.

My Thoughts: Ana Parker has a memorable sixteenth birthday - and not in a good way. She is worried about the ceremony that is supposed to confirm her as a True Witch but it requires magic and, despite what her mother tells her, she can't do magic. She learns that her father is a vampire king that her mother has never mentioned and won't answer questions about. Both of her parents want her to choose their side in the war that was supposed to be ended when her parents married and had a child.

Ana doesn't know what to do. She meets Elias who is a member of the vampire king's guard who swears to protect her and who gives her some information about the witch-vampire fight. She also gets closer to Nikolai who is a member of the coven and who she has known for a while. She is interested in him but felt he was out of her league and, besides, her best friend also had a crush on him. Nikolai has been training all his life to become a vampire slayer which is sort of a problem because Ana is half-vampire.

I enjoyed the St. Paul setting and seeing some familiar locations included in this story. This was an entertaining urban fantasy story. I liked Ana and sympathized with the tough decisions she had to make about her future. Personally, I'm on the side of the vampires since all of the violence and coercion came from Ana's mother who, it turns out, is queen of the witches.

This is the first book in a trilogy. I can't wait to read the rest. 

Favorite Quote:
Okay, new question. Elias Constantine: (a) dashing vampire protector or (b) creepy stalker guy.

What would have been an easy "a" ten minutes ago now had me wondering. Maybe it was the way the light caught his unblinking, steady gaze that seemed to bore right through me, or the fact that I was hyperaware that I held Nikolai's hand under the table.
I bought this one August 11, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

State of the Stack #66 (Dec. 1, 2017)

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 or near the first of the month. Link with Avalalinha's Books (description below) to check out other people's progress. She has just recently started a meme about review books.

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
A Wedding at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer (Jan. 2)
Dragon Blood by Eileen Wilks (Jan. 2)
What Doesn't Kill You by Aimee Hix (Jan. 8)
The English Wife by Lauren Willig (Jan. 9)
A Mortal Likeness by Laura Joh Rowland (Jan. 9)
Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Jan. 9)
A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (Jan. 16)
Cast in Deception by Michelle Sagara (Jan. 23)
Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann (Jan. 23)
Final Siege by Scarlett Cole (Jan. 30)
Heat by Donna Grant (Jan. 30)
Baby, I'm Howling for You by Christine Warren (Jan. 30)

February
This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong (Feb. 6)
Look for Me by Lisa Gardner (Feb. 6)
Survive the Night by Katie Ruggle (Feb. 6)
The Greed by Scott Bergstrom (Feb. 6)
Death & the Viking's Daughter by Loretta Ross (Feb. 8)
A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond (Feb. 8)
The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller (Feb. 13)
The Ambrose Deception by Emily Ecton (Feb. 13)
The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari (Feb. 13)
No One Can Know by Lucy Kerr (Feb. 13)
The Cat of the Baskervilles by Vicki Delany (Feb. 13)
The Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg (Feb. 20)
Fire and Bone by Rachel A. Marks (Feb. 20)
Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda (Feb. 20)
Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare (Feb. 20)
The Policeman's Daughter by Trudy Nan Boyce (Feb. 27)
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Feb. 27)

March
Lethal in Old Lace by Duffy Brown (March 13)
Searcher of the Dead by Nancy Herriman (March 13)
Losing Leah by Tiffany King (March 20)
Lost Crow Conspiracy by Rosalyn Eves (March 27)
Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston (March 27)

April
They Lost Their Heads by Carlyn Beccia (April 3)
The Window by Amelia Brunskill (April 3)
The Shadow of Death by Jane Willan (April 10)
Bad Neighbors by Maia Chance (April 10)
The Reckless Rescue (The Explorers) by Adrienne Kress (April 24)
White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig (April 24)

May
No Cure for the Dead by Christine Trent (May 8)
Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton (May 22)

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. Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne (Nov. 17)
  2. Lure of Oblivion by Suzanne Wright (Nov. 25) 
  3. Pathways edited by Mercedes Lackey (Nov. 30) 
  4. No Place Like You by Emma Douglas (Dec. 2) 
  5. A Case of Syrah, Syrah by Nancy J. Parra (Dec. 5) 
  6. Bury the Past by James L'Etoile (Dec. 7)
  7. A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert (Dec. 9)
  8. Killman Creek by Rachel Caine (Dec. 13)
  9. Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins (Dec. 21) 
  10. Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley (Dec. 28)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth J. Duncan
  2. Unholy City by Carrie Smith
  3. Truth Be Told by Kendra Elliot
  4. A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford
  5. Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda
  6. City of Lies by Victoria Thompson
  7. Haven by Mary Lindsey
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. They Lost Their Heads!: What Happened to Washington's Teeth, Einstein's Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts by Carlyn Beccia (April 3)
  2. The Reckless Rescue (The Explorers) by Adrienne Kress (April 24)
  3. Killman Creek by Rachel Caine (Dec. 12)
  4. Cast in Deception by Michelle Sagara (Jan. 23)
  5. Searcher of the Dead by Nancy Herriman (March 13)
  6. Fire and Bone by Rachel A. Marks (Feb. 20)
  7. The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller (Feb. 13)
  8. Bad Neighbors by Maia Chance (April 10)
  9. No Cure for the Dead: A Florence Nightingale Mystery by Christine Trent (May 8)
  10. The Shadow of Death by Jane Willan (April 10)
  11. Lethal in Old Lace by Duffy Brown (March 13)
  12. Survive the Night by Katie Ruggle (Feb. 6)
  13. Baby, I'm Howling for You by Christine Warren (Jan. 30)
  14. A Wedding at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer (Jan. 2)
  15. Heat by Donna Grant (Jan. 30) 
  16. Final Siege by Scarlett Cole (Jan. 30)
  17. Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci (Jan. 2)
  18. Look for Me by Lisa Gardner (Feb. 6) 
  19. What Doesn't Kill You by Aimee Hix (Jan. 8) 
  20. A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond (Feb. 8)
  21. Death and the Viking's Daughter by Loretta Ross (Feb.  8)
  22. The Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg (Feb. 20)
  23. This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong (Feb. 6)
Next Month's Plan

It looks like my reading in December will mostly consist of January releases. January won't have much variety either as I tackle even more February releases. I really can't accept any more books that have release dates in January or February. My calendar for those months is already packed full. 

***************************
I am also linking up with the State of the ARC meme. Here are the explanation and rules.

State of the ARC is a monthly meme at Avalinah’s Books meant to motivate you to finish up all your long overdue ARCs (Advanced or Early Reader Copies). You can track your reading progress and link up with your own post. Most commonly it comes out on the 30th of every month.

Rules of State of the ARC:

  • Mention that you’re linking up with State of the ARC @ AvalinahsBooks, which is a fun way to share our ARC progress, challenges, wins, woes and mishaps.
  • Include the link to this post, or the current State of the ARC post. You can use my State of the ARC image too.
  • Don’t forget to visit all the other people in the link-up and comment.
  • And most importantly – have fun!

Book Review: Charles Darwin by Kathleen Krull

Charles Darwin
Author: Kathleen Krull
Series: Giants of Science
Publication: Viking Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2010)

Description: All his life, Charles Darwin hated controversy. Yet he takes his place among the Giants of Science for what remains an immensely controversial subject: the theory of evolution. Darwin began piecing together his explanation for how all living things change or adapt during his five-year voyage on HMS Beagle. But it took him twenty years to go public, for fear of the backlash his theory would cause. Once again, Kathleen Krull delivers a witty and astute picture of one of history's greatest scientists.

My Thoughts: Charles Darwin was a fascinating man. Born rich, he had time to follow his interests and spent years studying nature. After abandoning a potential career in medicine (because he couldn't stand the sight of blood), Darwin was offered the position of gentleman naturalist on the Beagle and spent almost five years traveling around the world and collecting specimens of plants and animals. Despite a ferocious seasickness that never went away, Darwin took thousands of pages of notes about his observations.

When he returned to England, he spent years going through and studying his specimens and coming up with proof of the theory of evolution. The theory was not new; his grandfather had proposed a variation on it. What Darwin did was provide all sorts of evidence to support his theory.

Being a non-confrontational sort of person and plagued with a variety of illnesses, Darwin sat on his research and continually improved it for years before publishing his masterwork On the Origin of Species. It sold well in part because it was written in a way that the average educated reader could understand it and in part because the time was right in Victorian England for that kind of work.

After publication, he took sort of a backseat and let his "cheerleaders" - other prominent scientists who agreed with his theory - do the publicizing. Darwin turned his attention to other scientific studies - barnacles, orchids, and worms, among them - where he could put his keen sense of observation to work.

This was an engaging story about an intriguing man and a theory that has changed science and is still changing it today.

Favorite Quote:
"At last gleams of light have come," he wrote in 1844 in a famous letter to his friend Joseph Hooker, "and I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable...I think I have found out (here's a presumption!) the simple way by which species become exquisitely adapted to various ends."
I bought this one April 16, 2013. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Book Review: Albert Einstein by Kathleen Krull

Albert Einstein
Author: Kathleen Krull
Series: Giants of Science
Publication: Viking Books for Young Readers (October 15, 2009)

Description: Albert Einstein. His name has become a synonym for genius. His wild case of bedhead and playful sense of humor made him a media superstar: the first, maybe only, scientist-celebrity. He wasn't much for lab work; in fact he had a tendency to blow up experiments. What he liked to do was think, not in words but in "thought pictures." What was the result of all his thinking? Nothing less than the overturning of Newtonian physics. Once again, Kathleen Krull delivers a witty and astute look at one of the true "Giants of Science" and the turbulent times in which he lived.

My Thoughts: Einstein is a scientist who has always fascinated me while baffling me with his discoveries. So I was pleased to find a biography written for middle graders that was both entertaining and informative. Kathleen Krull has written about Einstein in a way that makes him understandable both as a human and as a scientist.

The descriptions of his discoveries were clearer than any other I have read but by no means easy to understand. I was intrigued to learn that Einstein was a visual thinker rather than a verbal one. I also enjoyed learning that he never lost his curiosity about the world and had the extreme patience to allow himself to work on a theory for more than thirty years.

I liked learning how many things that are commonplace today wouldn't exist without Einstein's discoveries. I liked learning that he was much better with science than he was with people but disliked his treatment of his wives and children. I liked his devotion to pacifism and his distress that his theory of relativity lead to the development of the atomic bomb.

I enjoyed this biography because it humanized one of the great names in modern science.

Favorite Quote:
The four papers he published in 1905 revolutionized scientists' understanding of the universe. Space and time no longer meant what people thought they meant; they behaved in ways that didn't seem to agree with common sense. Scientists are still working on the implications of what he discovered.
I bought this one April 16, 2013. You can buy your copy here.

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

Rosemarked
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

Haven
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.