Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: The Case of the Left-Handed Lady by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady
Author: Nancy Springer
Series: An Enola Holmes Mystery (Book 2)
Publication: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (May 15, 2008)

Description: Sherlock Holmes's sister, Enola, is back on another case!

Enola Holmes is being hunted by the world's most famous detective -- her own brother, Sherlock Holmes. But while she is on the run in the world's biggest, darkest, dirtiest city, she discovers a hidden cache of charcoal drawings and feels as if she is a soul mate to the girl who drew them. But that girl, Lady Cecily, has disappeared without a trace. Braving the midnight streets, Enola must unravel the clues to find this left-handed lady, but in order to save her, Enola risks revealing more than she should. Will she be able to keep her identity a secret and find Lady Cecily, or will the one thing she is trying to save -- her freedom -- be lost forever?

My Thoughts: The Enola Holmes series are wonderful historical mysteries. Enola is the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft and has run away to London to avoid the fate of gently-bred young women in Victorian times. She has no desire to be an ornament to some deserving man and spend her day doing feminine things. She was raised by her mother to be independent and now at age fourteen is on her own in London.

Enola's second case has her looking into the disappearance of another gently-bred young woman. Lady Cecily has disappeared from her home. Her mother and father suspect that she has eloped with a very unsuitable young man who is a clerk in a department store.

Enola looks into Lady Cecily's life and discovers that she has a secret life too. Despite the outward appearance of a perfect Victorian young lady, Enola discovers some hidden charcoal drawings that show Cecily is quite interested in social justice. Enola seeks out Lady Cecily's clerk to see if he knows where she is. Meanwhile, her brother Sherlock is doing his own search for the missing Enola.

The story has wonderful descriptions of Victorian London and the life demanded of a young woman of Enola's class. It also has codes, a mystery, and a heroine who is determined to make her own choices but still filled with an aching loneliness and sense of abandonment. 

Favorite Quote:
When the urge to sketch seized me, I could have drawn Ivy Meshle if I wanted to, or Mum, or Sherlock or Mycroft, or just about anyone I knew except Enola Holmes. My true self I could not quite capture on paper. Odd.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: Heart of the Storm by Michael Buckley

Heart of the Storm
Author: Michael Buckley
Series: The Undertow Trilogy (Book 3)
Publication: HMH Books for Young Readers (February 7, 2017)

Description: After seven months as a captive of Minerva, the insane Alpha queen, Lyric Walker has escaped to the surface. Her only goal is to warn the world about the Great Abyss. When she finally arrives back in Coney Island, she discovers a world she never expected, one where humans and Alpha are finally working hand in hand to rebuild the country. But she soon discovers that an old enemy allied with an old friend may kill them all before the monsters get their turn.

Where will Lyric’s loyalties, and her heart, lead her? With nail-biting action and romance, Michael Buckley’s epic trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

My Thoughts: The Undertow Trilogy comes to an amazing conclusion in The Heart of the Storm. Lyric has returned to land after being held captive by the insane Prime Minerva until she managed to kill her and become a very reluctant Prime herself. She gathers some very unlikely allies and encounters a brand new enemy who might just be enough to wipe out everyone if she can do the unthinkable and turn enemies into allies.

Lyric has gone through a major change during the course of this series. From a carefree, live-for-today kind of kid to someone who has to make decisions that will cost and save millions of lives. Luckily, she has her friends especially Bex and a variety of allies. She also has her parents while so many of the other hybrids have lost theirs.

There was a bit of romance in this one but there wasn't time for much between the gathering allies and fighting invaders. Lyric makes the decision that is right for her about her love triangle.

Readers will enjoy this fascinating science fiction/dystopia trilogy and enjoy getting to know Lyric and all the various kinds of beings who come from the sea.

Favorite Quote:
"Yeah, still waiting on that upgrade you promised," I snarl. "Three months late."

"Is that what you think?"

"It's what I know. Oh, wait! It's one of those bogus powers little girls get in movies, you know, the kind where they learn the greatest magic of all is family, or friendship, or was in their hearts all along."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

To Catch a Killer
Author: Sheryl Scarborough
Series: Erin Blake Series (Book 1)
Publication: Tor Teen (February 7, 2017)

Description: Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case―which remains unsolved―fascinated a nation. Her father's identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother's best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother's killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she's secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she's close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it's too late.

My Thoughts: TO CATCH A KILLER was an entertaining mystery. Erin Blake has an interest in forensics. She has a personal reason for her interest. When she was a toddler, her mother was killed by an unknown assailant leaving Erin to spend three days with her mother's body. She was taken in by her mother's best friend Rachel who has raised her since. But Rachel doesn't want to share any information about Erin's mother and Erin's past and Erin has lots of questions.

Erin's high school biology teacher also has an interest in forensics and agrees to help Erin answer some of her many questions about her past. When Erin drops off some objects to do DNA tests on late one evening, she find her teacher Miss Peters dead in a way that is like her mother's death. She also sees her high school crush Journey running away from the scene.

She pairs up with Journey and her two best friends Lysa and Spam to investigate but she is keeping lots of secrets from them. Her friends are concerned that she might be too obsessive about solving hr mother's and her teacher's deaths.

I liked that each chapter begins with a quotation from Miss Peters or from Erin's uncle Vincent Flemming who is with the FBI and is an expert on forensics. I liked that she finally gets to meet and spend time with her uncle during her investigation.

There was all sorts of interesting information about forensics and collecting evidence to solve crimes. Teens with an interest in crime fighting will enjoy this mystery. I'm hoping that Erin and her friends have more adventures.

Favorite Quote:
I'm pretty sure my interest in Journey is not the same as everyone else's. I'm oblivious to the way the sunlight plays off the caramel streaks in his hair. And I hardly even notice how his thin, white T-shirt clings to his athletic abs.

Okay, that's a lie. I appreciate both of those things. It just that that's not all there is for me. What intrigues me most is how he moves through all those people. He almost makes it look smooth, as though he's completely comfortable in his skin. Almost. But I'm convinced his cool-kid moves are a lie.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, August 7, 2017

ARC Review: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Lee

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo
Author: F. C. Lee
Publication: Amulet Books (August 8, 2017)

Description: The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered.

Enter Quentin, a transfer student from China whose tone-deaf assertiveness beguiles Genie to the brink of madness. Quentin nurtures Genie’s outrageous transformation—sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively—as her sleepy suburb in the Bay Area comes under siege from hell-spawn.

This epic YA debut draws from Chinese folklore, features a larger-than-life heroine, and perfectly balances the realities of Genie’s grounded high school life with the absurd supernatural world she finds herself commanding.

My Thoughts: This epic fantasy draws heavily from Chinese mythology for its heroes and villains. Genie Lo is a very ambitious high school sophomore who is determined to leave her sleepy California town for the rarefied airs of a top-notch college. However, Quentin Sun arrives and throws a real monkey wrench into her plans.

In fact, he tells her that he is Sun Wukong the Monkey King and that she is his famous weapon reincarnated as a mostly-human girl. He runs into a slight problem when he learns that she has never heard of him. Chinese mythology not being on the SAT or a requirement for the college of her choice. He also has a problem because she doesn't want to be a demon fighter which will interfere with her studying.

Soon though, Genie and Quentin are fighting demons and interacting with the Chinese pantheon while trying to keep Genie's friends and family safe.

This was an entertaining story with a heroine who doesn't want to be one and a really annoying Sun Wukong who does manage to grow on Genie through the course of the story. The dialog between Genie and Quentin was crisp and humorous. The story was fast-paced. The information about Chinese mythology well-integrated into the plot.

Favorite Quote:
"It doesn't matter whether you're 'adjusting'," he said. "Pull this crap again, and we're gonna have a talk with the faculty."

With the last word firmly in hand, he exited stage left, continuing his journey onward to wherever it is heroic hot guys go during Sixth Period.
I received this one for review from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Review: Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Bad Blood
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Naturals (Book 4)
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (November 1, 2016)

Description: When Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI's Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother's murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful-and dangerous-than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock.

My Thoughts: The Naturals was an amazing mystery series with wonderful characters who have abilities that make them useful to the FBI. Dean and Lia are extraordinary profilers. Michael and Lia can read emotions and tell if people are lying. Sloane has a talent for math and for solving puzzles. They all have some sort of emotional trauma in their pasts too. Their FBI mentors use them to solve difficult cases while trying to protect them. Although they are young, seventeen and eighteen mostly, they are not children.

Cassie was recruited to the program to try to find answers to her mother's death or disappearance when Cassie was 12. The investigation leads the team to a cult of murderers that have been in existence for generations. When they determine that Cassie's mother has been captured by the cult, they are determined to find her and rescue her.

I love the distinct voices that each of the characters have. I love the relationship that is building between them all. The story is full of danger as they follow leads to the mysterious cult. This book makes a wonderful conclusion to the four book series but leaves room if the author wishes to revisit the Naturals.

Favorite Quote:
"Because the one person that Michael will listen to when he's spiraling out of control is an authority figure," Lia chirped. "There's no possible way this could go badly, especially if you start issuing orders. Heaven knows people who've spent their lives as punching bags do best when they have absolutely no control over a situation and someone else dominates them completely."

Lia's finely honed sense of sarcasm was all the more effective when she made the words sound completely sincere.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

ARC Review: In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody

In Some Other Life
Author: Jessica Brody
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (August 8, 2017)

Description: Three years ago, Kennedy Rhodes secretly made the most important decision of her life. She declined her acceptance to the prestigious Windsor Academy to attend the local public school with her longtime crush, who had finally asked her out. It seems it was the right choice―she and Austin are still together, and Kennedy is now the editor in chief of the school's award-winning newspaper. But then Kennedy's world is shattered one evening when she walks in on Austin kissing her best friend, and she wonders if maybe her life would have been better if she'd made the other choice. As fate would have it, she's about to find out . . .

The very next day, Kennedy falls and hits her head and mysteriously awakes as a student at the Windsor Academy. And not just any student: Kennedy is at the top of her class, she's popular, she has the coolest best friend around, and she's practically a shoo-in for Columbia University. But as she navigates her new world, she starts to wonder whether this alternate version of herself really is as happy as everyone seems to believe. Is it possible this Kennedy is harboring secrets and regrets of her own? A fresh and funny story about how one different choice could change everything, Jessica Brody's In Some Other Life will keep readers guessing, and find them cheering for Kennedy until the final page.

My Thoughts: This is a story about choices and decisions.

Kennedy Rhodes made a decisions three years earlier between a boy and a prestigious school. She and the boy have been together for three years. She's the editor in chief of the school newspaper which she revived when she started ninth grade. She is determined to get into Columbia's School of Journalism. She has a mother who is a partner in a law firm and a stay-at-home father who is getting ready for his first gallery show featuring his photography. She has also raised worrying to an art form. If there were an Olympic event for "what ifs," Kennedy would be a gold medal winner.

She still wonders what would have happened if she had chosen the prestigious school. 89% of Windsor Academy graduates get in at Ivy League colleges. The school is state of the art. She frequently peruses Windsor Academy's website and follows social media for many of the students. When Kennedy catches her boyfriend making out with her best friend, she goes to Windsor Academy to see if she still has a place there. She is disappointed to learn that her spot has long since been filled. She is pushed and falls down the stairs when she is leaving. When she wakes up, she's a different Kennedy.

This Kennedy Rhodes is number one in her class at Windsor Academy. She has a new best friend named Sequoia and she has all the pressure that comes with an elite private school. Her life at home has changed too. Her father now works in advertising and is away on locations for half the year. Her mother is still an associate at her law firm so that she can come home afternoons to take care of Kennedy's brother. The only one she confides in is her younger brother whose passion is physics and who comes up with the theory of alternate parallel universes.

This Kennedy isn't the same as the first Kennedy. Instead of journalism, her focus is on economics. There's a boy in her new life too. Dylan is a misfit in buttoned down Windsor Academy. He's a legacy who would really like to go to school somewhere else. When a cheating scandal erupts, Kennedy decides to investigate and her first suspect is Dylan.

The story takes some interesting turns before it gets to a satisfying conclusion. I really liked Kennedy more and more as the story went on and as she dealt with the consequences of decisions. Who hasn't wanted to see what life was like if they made different choices? This one gives the ready a great story and lots to think about.

Favorite Quote:
Dad tops the waffle with maple syrup and whipped cream sculpted into some ambiguous shape and sets the plate down in front of me.

I scrutinized the whipped cream. "Hmm," I say, rotating the plate in a circle. "A giraffe?"

"I was going for 'Darkened Nature of Sorrow.'"

I snap my fingers. "So close."
I received this one for review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

State of the Stack (August 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. Please feel free to join in and let me know the state of your stack.

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

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

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

My Review Pile

September
The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match by Elizabeth Eulberg (Sept. 12)
Nyxia by Scott Reintgen (Sept. 12)
The Equals by Daniel Sweren-Becker (Sept. 12)
The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner (Sept. 12)
All the Secret Places by Anna Carlisle (Sept. 12)
Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany (Sept. 12)
A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess (Sept. 19)
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones (Sept. 19)
Stolen Secrets by L. A. Schulman (Sept. 19)
Archangel's Viper by Nalini Singh (Sept. 26)
The Hunt by Chloe Neill (Sept. 26)
Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris (Sept. 26)

October
Satellite by Nick Lake (Oct. 3)
Ally by Anna Banks (Oct. 3)
Devils & Thieves by Jennifer Rush (Oct. 3)
The Wicked Billionaire by Jackie Ashenden (Oct. 3)
The Breathless by Tara Goedjen (Oct. 10)
Berserker by Emmy Laybourne (Oct. 10)
Death Overdue by Allison Brook (Oct. 10)
A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron (Oct. 10)
The Innocence Treatment by Ari Goelman (Oct. 17)
The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (Oct. 31)

November
Unholy City by Carrie Smith (Nov. 7)
Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth J. Duncan (Nov. 7)
City of Lies by Victoria Thompson (Nov. 7)
Death at the Emerald by R. J. Koreto (Nov. 7)
A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford (Nov. 7)

January
Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley (Jan. 2)
Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner (Jan. 9)
A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (Jan. 16)

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 and the link goes to Amazon.
  1. Shallow Grave by Brian Thiem (July 13)
  2. Amid Stars and Darkness by Chani Lynn Feener (July 13)
  3. The Emperor of Mars by Patrick Samphire (July 15) 
  4. Blood Gamble by Melissa F. Olson (July 29) 
  5. The Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert (July 22)
  6. The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! by Stephen Bramucci (July 22) 
  7. The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky (July 27)
  8. A Wedding Tail by Casey Griffin (July 27) 
  9. Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock (July 29) 
  10. In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody (August 2) 
  11. Hunting Hour by Margaret Mizushima (August 3) 
  12. Dead Man's Bridge by Robert J. Mrazek (August 5) 
  13. Among the Dead by J. R. Backlund (August 10) 
  14. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller (August 25) 
  15. A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas (August 26)
  16. The Bronze Skies by Catherine Asaro (August 30)
  17. On the Chase by Katie Ruggle (August 31)
  18. Her Dark Half by Paige Tyler (Sept. 2)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. A Panicked Premonition by Victoria Laurie (July 1)
  2. Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn (July 5)
  3. Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne Brockmann (July 6) 
  4. Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine (July 6) 
  5. Murder in Mayfair by D. M. Quincy (July 8)
  6. What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy (July 8)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. Devils & Thieves by Jennifer Rush (Oct. 3)
  2. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller (Aug. 29)
  3. Blood Gamble by Melissa F. Olson (July 25)
  4. Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Jan. 9)
  5. Sleep Like a Baby by Charlaine Harris (Sept. 26)
  6. Death at the Emerald by R. J. Koreto (Nov. 7)
  7. A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford (Nov. 7)
Next Month's Plan

I met my goal this month of reading enough ahead that I have a one month cushion on my blogs. This makes me feel comfortable but the disadvantage is that I have to turn down review requests that don't have a one month lead time. I turned down a couple that I would otherwise have chosen to read this week because my calendar was full and scheduled.

I have enough books already on my stack for September and October but have room after that for a few more review books. It is interesting that December is completely available right now but that I already have three books for January.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

ARC Review: Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock

Just Friends
Author: Tiffany Pitcock
Publication: Swoon Reads (August 1, 2017)

Description: A new spin on the classic smart-girl-and-bad-boy setup, this witty contemporary romance shows how easily a friendship – even one built on an elaborate lie – can become so much more.

Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.

With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.

Debut author Tiffany Pitcock delivers a spot-on depiction of first love and the high school rumor mill in Just Friends, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads.

My Thoughts: JUST FRIENDS was a fun contemporary romance about two teens who really had nothing in common who start a relationship with a lie. Jenny is a quiet, reserved girl who concentrates on her schoolwork. Chance is the popular heartthrob who leaves a trail of girls behind him. The meet in Junior Oral Communications when they are assigned as partners to write and perform a dialog. Chance urges Jenny to go with the flow and the two of them build a story about being best friends since childhood.

From there the story just keeps growing until they actually become best friends. Their new friendship gives Chance a way to get away from his constantly fighting parents and spend time with a normal family while Jenny gets a chance to get out of her room and interact more with what "normal" high school kids do.

Through it all Jenny and Chance learn more about each other but try to remain "just friends" which isn't easy because each of them is developing feelings beyond friendship for the others. Naturally, it couldn't be that easy or there wouldn't be a novel. Jenny overhears something that Chance says to a girl who is hitting on him and decides that she needs to explore dating and romance with someone else which leads to interesting new experiences and major heartbreak. Meanwhile, Chance's home situation disintegrates even more when his father leaves, and then his mother leaves, and the older brother who ran from the family situation reappears and wants to reconnect with him.

This was an engaging story about a friendship that begins with a lie growing into a romance that looks to have staying power. The characters are well rounded and interesting people.

Favorite Quote:
Jenny looked incredulous. "What do you mean, 'it just kind of happened'? Suddenly neither of you could bear it, so you jumped each other in the hallway?"

Chance gestured to himself. "Have you met me?"

She shoved him playfully. "Chance! Be serious!"

"I'm trying," he told her. "But you're kind of hot when you're annoyed."
I received this one for review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday Memes: Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock

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:
The classroom door swung open.

Every head in the class turned to see a boy with messy blond hair walk in.
Friday 56:
She looked out the windshield, less than thrilled. "Thank you for sharing your run-down barn with me."
This week I am reading Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock. I got this ARC from Macmillan. Here is the description from Amazon:
A new spin on the classic smart-girl-and-bad-boy setup, this witty contemporary romance shows how easily a friendship – even one built on an elaborate lie – can become so much more.

Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.

With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.

Debut author Tiffany Pitcock delivers a spot-on depiction of first love and the high school rumor mill in Just Friends, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

ARC Review: The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky

The Countdown Conspiracy
Author: Katie Slivensky
Publication: HarperCollins (August 1, 2017)

Description: Ambassador, you are go for launch in T- minus 5…4…3…2…. Get ready to blast off with this high-action, high-stakes middle grade adventure that’s perfect for fans of Chris Grabenstein and Peter Lerangis!

Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission—and everyone’s lives—are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them.

The Martian meets The Goonies in this out-of-this-world middle grade debut where the stakes couldn’t be higher.

My Thoughts: In this near future science fiction story, six kids from around the world are chosen to train for an up-coming mission to Mars. The kids and the space program to get them to Mars is an effect of a fragile peace that exists. Not everyone is happy with the peace or happy that Miranda has been chosen from the United States. Many people feel that she was chosen as a political gesture rather than for her talents.

When Miranda learns this, it causes her to doubt herself and he constant low ranking among the six trainees reinforces her doubts. Her most persistent rival is Anna. She and Anna tied in a previous science competition and Anna hasn't gotten over not being first. Miranda underestimates herself though. She is a talented engineer who has built her own supercomputer robot that she calls Ruby. She doesn't give up but decides that she will just work harder to learn what she doesn't already know.

When disaster strikes on a training mission, the kids have to all work together and use all their skills to get back to Earth and defeat the villain that engineered the disaster. Each of the kids had distinct personalities and talents which added to the excitement of this story.

The story is very realistic. The author's note talks about the author's research and the author's interest in spaceflight and space exploration.

Favorite Quote:
I stiffen. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because you have a right to know what the evidence is piling up to suggest," Lizzie replies. "You aren't a baby. You're thirteen, you're training to be an astronaut, and you're one of the smartest people on the planet."
I received this one for review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Teaser Tuesday: The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker. 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:
"Hello, Esteban." I reach forward to shake his hand.

"Isn't this exciting?" Without warning, Esteban takes my hand and yanks me in for a hug. "It's like we're family already!"
This week I am reading The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky. I got this eARC from Edelweiss. Here is the description from Amazon:
Ambassador, you are go for launch in T- minus 5…4…3…2…. Get ready to blast off with this high-action, high-stakes middle grade adventure that’s perfect for fans of Chris Grabenstein and Peter Lerangis!

Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission—and everyone’s lives—are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them.

The Martian meets The Goonies in this out-of-this-world middle grade debut where the stakes couldn’t be higher

Saturday, July 22, 2017

ARC Review: The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! by Stephen Bramucci

The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo!
Author: Stephen Bramucci, illustrated by Arree Chung
Series: Danger Gang (Book 1)
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (August 1, 2017)

Description: Ronald Zupan is a daring master adventurer! But he actually hasn't experienced any grand adventures . . . YET! When his world-traveling parents are kidnapped on his twelfth birthday, Ronald seizes the chance to prove himself with a dazzling, danger-defying rescue operation.

Teaming up with his trusty butler Jeeves, his quick-witted fencing nemesis Julianne Sato, and his pet cobra Carter, Ronald sets course for the jungle of Borneo where his parents were last sighted. If they can crash-land a plane and outrun a hungry snow leopard, surely they can find the secret lair of Zeetan Z, the world's most ruthless pirate! But as their adventure becomes more and more dangerous, can Ronald and his companions muster enough courage to see this adventure through?

My Thoughts: Ronald Zupan is primed and ready to be a master adventurer like his famous parents. He has a pet Cobra named Carter and a dashing, and very realistic, mustache. On the morning of his eleventh birthday, he wakes to find that his parents, who promised to return to help him celebrate, are not there.

Ronald, his pet cobra, his reluctant butler Jeeves and his fencing rival Julianne Sato are off to find them. During their adventures they fly and crash land an airplane, deal with a giant, outwit poop slinging orangutans and their trainer Three-fingered Jack, and chase down the dreaded pirate Zeetan Z. Each page is filled with outrageous adventure told by Ronald who is quick to make himself an extraordinary hero. At the end of each chapter, Jeeves, who is really Tom Halladay, adds some notes about errors in Ronald's telling of the story.

I enjoyed this story and think it will be a hit with upper elementary and middle grade students. They will enjoy getting to know Ronald and watching him grow and change through the course of this story. 

This book will be illustrated though my advanced reader copy has only sketches of what is to come. The illustrations look like they will enhance the story and the adventure.

Favorite Quote:
"Who do you think kidnapped your parents?" Julianne asked as I tried to pry Carter off her shoulder.

"A soulless villain," I said. "A dastardly dog, a spineless rogue, a --"

"So, no idea then?"
I received this one for review from Bloomsbury. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Memes: The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! by Stephen Bramucci

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:
Hello Friend,

Are you ready for a dazzling tale of grand adventure? A tale of swordfights and disguises? Of pirates and stolen relics?
Friday 56:
"Elexander," I began, "how long has this spectacular research station been here?"

The mechanic grabbed the base of the lightbulb and angled it so it cast a warm glow on the map.
This week I am reading The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo! by Stephen Bramucci, illustrated by Arree Chung. I got this ARC from Bloomsbury. Here is the description from Amazon:
Ronald Zupan is a daring master adventurer! But he actually hasn't experienced any grand adventures . . . YET! When his world-traveling parents are kidnapped on his twelfth birthday, Ronald seizes the chance to prove himself with a dazzling, danger-defying rescue operation.

Teaming up with his trusty butler Jeeves, his quick-witted fencing nemesis Julianne Sato, and his pet cobra Carter, Ronald sets course for the jungle of Borneo where his parents were last sighted. If they can crash-land a plane and outrun a hungry snow leopard, surely they can find the secret lair of Zeetan Z, the world's most ruthless pirate! But as their adventure becomes more and more dangerous, can Ronald and his companions muster enough courage to see this adventure through?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

ARC Review: The Emperor of Mars by Patrick Samphire

The Emperor of Mars
Author: Patrick Samphire
Series: Secrets of the Dragon Tomb (Book 2)
Publication: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (July 18, 2017)

Description: A missing Martian. A sinister plot. A Napoleonic spy. . . Boundless adventures await in Book 2 of The Secrets of the Dragon Tomb middle grade sci-fi series!

If Edward thought life was going to be easy in Lunae City, he was very, very wrong. The moment he intercepts a thief escaping from Lady Harleston’s town house, he is caught in a terrible scheme that threatens all of Mars. Soon he’s fighting off vicious sea serpents, battling a small army of heavily armored thugs, and trying to unpick an impossible mystery. Edward doesn’t know whom he can trust. Will he make the right choice? Or will his family―and his entire planet―fall victim to the treacherous Emperor of Mars?

My Thoughts: In the second book of the Secrets of the Dragon's Tomb series, Edward has given up being the protector for his family since he has finally realized that they can take care of themselves. However, this leaves him at rather loose ends as he tries to decided what he should do with himself instead.

He soon finds himself involved in another mystery when he spots a young thief slipping from a neighbors house and is soon accused of the crime himself. He and his genius younger sister Putty are also on the case of a missing Martian and find themselves facing their old nemesis Dr. Blood who has his own sinister plot in mind.

This story is filled with adventure, steampunk gadgets, dangerous Martian wildlife, and a large assortment of villains all after Edward and his family. Edward feels that he is the only non-genius in his distinguished and eccentric family but he is underestimating himself. He is brave and bold and cares very much for doing the right thing.

Fans of adventure with a science fiction and alternate history twist will enjoy this exciting middle grade series.

Favorite Quote:
There is a particular kind of exhaustion that comes over you when you realize that every one of your siblings is a genius and you are not. Especially when the sister you've always thought was empty-headed and silly solves a problem that has stumped generations of scholars.
I received this one for review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Memes: The Emperor of Mars by Patrick Samphire

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:
Mars, 1817

I was twenty feet underground, surrounded by glowing blue sandfish crystals, with my head jammed in a beetle-vine warren, when I realized that vine-mining wasn't for me.
Friday 56:
"Parthenia will do no such thing while in my charge," Miss Wilkins said coldly. She was sitting as straight as a rod opposite Putty. "She might have been allowed to run wild while under the care of others, but I am quite a different proposition."
This week I am reading The Emperor of Mars by Patrick Samphire. I got this ARC from Macmillan. Here is the description from Amazon:
A missing Martian. A sinister plot. A Napoleonic spy. . . Boundless adventures await in Book 2 of The Secrets of the Dragon Tomb middle grade sci-fi series!

If Edward thought life was going to be easy in Lunae City, he was very, very wrong. The moment he intercepts a thief escaping from Lady Harleston’s town house, he is caught in a terrible scheme that threatens all of Mars. Soon he’s fighting off vicious sea serpents, battling a small army of heavily armored thugs, and trying to unpick an impossible mystery. Edward doesn’t know whom he can trust. Will he make the right choice? Or will his family―and his entire planet―fall victim to the treacherous Emperor of Mars?


Thursday, July 13, 2017

ARC Review: Amid Stars and Darkness by Chani Lynn Feener

Amid Stars and Darkness
Author: Chani Lynn Feener
Series: The Xenith Trilogy (Book 1)
Publication: Swoon Reads (July 18, 2017)

Description: A high-stakes space opera that combines science fiction and romance, this debut novel features plenty of action and a heroine whose unique brand of humor and tenacity make her easy to root for.

Delaney’s entire world is thrown into chaos after she is mistaken for Lissa Olena, an alien princess hiding out on earth in order to escape an arranged marriage. Kidnapped by the princess’ head bodyguard, Ruckus, and imprisoned in an alien palace, Delaney is forced to impersonate the princess until Olena can be found. If she fails, it will lead to an alien war and the eventual enslavement of the entire human race.

No pressure or anything.

Factor in Trystan―the princess’ terrifying betrothed who is intent on unraveling all her secrets―and her own growing feelings for Ruckus, and Delaney is in way over her head.

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads, Chani Lynn Feener’s debut novel Amid Stars and Darkness is a thrilling space adventure complete with perfectly detailed alien planets and a super sexy secret romance.

My Thoughts: This book was an old-fashioned science fiction romance. Here's the scenario: a teen is kidnapped by aliens because she looks like their missing princess. She's brought back to the alien planet where she needs to keep impersonating the missing princess to keep two countries from going to war and incidentally conquering Earth.

Delaney isn't a big fan of the aliens who visit Earth unlike her roommate who is something of an alien groupie. One night she accompanies her roommate to a dance club where she can meet an alien she'd been talking to online. Just before Delaney decides to leave she runs into a girl who zaps her with an alien invention that turns her into a duplicate of the missing princess.

When the princess's bodyguard spots her, he captures her and takes her to his alien spaceship determined to bring her back home so that she can do her duty, pledge herself to her betrothed, and keep the countries from going to war. Delaney can't convince Ruckus that she is not the girl they are looking for.

So Delaney finds herself dropped into an alien world with a fiance she doesn't like and who really doesn't like her and the target of assassination attempts because neither of their countries want the two to marry either. Her only source of strength and information is Ruckus who she falls in love with. But once the real princess is found, Delaney will be returned to Earth and will have to leave Ruckus behind.

I liked Delaney who was a smart-mouthed, independent character who has a real problem with authority. She hid her very real fears behind a mask of bravado. I liked Ruckus too. He had guarded his princess out of duty because she wasn't really a likeable person but he falls in love with Delaney too. I even liked the princess's fiance Trystan despite the fact the he wanted her dead and was a really scary guy.

I can't wait to read the next book to find out what happens next.

Favorite Quote:
She thought about whether her own mother would make that choice, if she'd sell her to the highest bidder if it meant keeping their town together. What if an outside threat came and wanted to destroy it all and all the people she'd grown up with? What would she do?
I received this one for review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Teaser Tuesday: Amid Stars and Darkness by Chani Lynn Feener

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker. 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:
"Being our Lissa, Olena knew when she left that staying on Earth was never really an option for her, but she'd convinced her parents to allow her to take the right anyway. Last week marked the end of her denzeration, and she was supposed to meet me and come back home."

"Let me guess," she said, stopping him. "She never showed."
This week I am reading Amid Stars and Darkness by Chani Lynn Feener. I got this ARC from Macmillan. Here is the description from Amazon:
A high-stakes space opera that combines science fiction and romance, this debut novel features plenty of action and a heroine whose unique brand of humor and tenacity make her easy to root for.

Delaney’s entire world is thrown into chaos after she is mistaken for Lissa Olena, an alien princess hiding out on earth in order to escape an arranged marriage. Kidnapped by the princess’ head bodyguard, Ruckus, and imprisoned in an alien palace, Delaney is forced to impersonate the princess until Olena can be found. If she fails, it will lead to an alien war and the eventual enslavement of the entire human race.

No pressure or anything.

Factor in Trystan―the princess’ terrifying betrothed who is intent on unraveling all her secrets―and her own growing feelings for Ruckus, and Delaney is in way over her head.

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads, Chani Lynn Feener’s debut novel Amid Stars and Darkness is a thrilling space adventure complete with perfectly detailed alien planets and a super sexy secret romance.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

ARC Review: What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy

What Goes Up
Author: Katie Kennedy
Publication: Bloomsbury (July 18, 2017)

Description: Rosa and Eddie are among hundreds of teens applying to NASA's mysterious Interworlds Agency. They're not exactly sure what the top-secret program entails, but they know they want in. Rosa has her brilliant parents' legacies to live up to, and Eddie has nowhere else to go--he's certainly not going to stick around and wait for his violent father to get out of jail. Even if they are selected, they have no idea what lies in store. But first they have to make it through round after round of crazy-competitive testing.

And then something happens that even NASA's scientists couldn't predict . . .

From the author of the acclaimed Learning to Swear in America comes another high-stakes adventure that's absolutely out of this world.

My Thoughts: WHAT GOES UP was an exciting science fiction story filled with great characters and lots of adventure. NASA is looking for the best and the brightest high school juniors to become part of an Interworlds Agency team. They start with 200 but will be weeding it down to 2.

The main characters in this story are Rosa who is the child of scientists and who feels she needs to live up to their accomplishments; Eddie who was raised by his physicist grandmother while his violent father has been in prison; Theo who is the son of medical professionals; and Brad whose father can buy or sell NASA and thinks he deserves special privileges because of it.

After a series of tests both normal and abstract, the two hundred are narrowed down to Rosa, Eddie, Theo and Brad. They are being mentored by Reg who is recovering from a plane crash. Barely into training, something happens that puts them right on the front line when aliens appear.

I enjoyed the all the characters but my favorite was definitely Eddie. He was smart but dealing with lots of difficulties in his life. He was used to being distrusted just because of who is father is. He also is essentially on his own and aware of his own loneliness.

Fans of adventure and science fiction will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
"What am I hearing?" Reg demanded. "Are you kissing? Damn it, we have two more ships to scuttle."

"In the movies, romantic scenes have a better soundtrack," Eddie said. It came out a little muffled, because she was still attached to his lower lip.
I received this one for review from Bloomsbury. You can buy your copy here.