Friday, June 29, 2018

ARC Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe
Author: Lauren James
Publication: HarperTeen (July 3, 2018)

Description: A surprising and gripping sci-fi thriller with a killer twist

The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on the Infinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth.

Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity.

Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of the Eternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….

My Thoughts: This was an incredible science fiction story about a young girl who is alone on a ship on its way to a far distant planet. It wasn't intended that she'd be alone. In fact, it wasn't intended that she would even be born. Her father and mother were supposed to be the first caretakers of the ship and stay awake for five years before waking the next pair of astronauts from torpor and entering torpor themselves until the many year journey is complete.

After the torpor system failed and all the other astronauts died, Romy's mother entered a deep depression. When she began to violently destroy the stored embryos, Romy's father attempted to stop her and was accidentally killed. Then her mother put herself in torpor leaving Romy alone at age eleven. Her only contact for the last six years has been a therapist at NASA named Molly.

When she is sixteen, Molly tells her that a newer faster ship has been launched with the intention of joining up with The Infinity. Romy is excited that she won't be alone but anxious about not being alone too. She begins sharing emails with the commander of the second ship. J seems like a wonderful person and Romy might be falling love with him.

But then she loses contact with Molly, learns that NASA has fallen in a war, and that the new government wants to make some changes to her ship. Romy goes through all kinds of harrowing trials like power failures, limited access to light and water, and cooling temperatures. She is more and more eager for J and The Eternity to catch up to her.

But all is not as it seems. Romy has to untangle the truth from the lies if she wants to stay alive. I couldn't put this one down. I was so caught up in Romy's story and the rising tension in the story. Fans of science fiction won't want to miss this terrific book.

Favorite Quote:
This whole journey is a balancing act based on faith. We're all just hoping the The Infinity will eventually be able to reach somewhere safe. And for what? To satisfy the great human spirit of exploration?
My life is a gambling chip thrown carelessly across the universe in the hope it'll land somewhere my descendants can survive.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

ARC Review: Now You See Her by Lisa Leighton & Laura Stropki

Now You See Her
Author: Lisa Leighton & Laura Stropki
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (June 26, 2018)

Description: A fast-paced and thrilling mystery, Now You See Her is a contemporary YA novel about a high school girl who switches bodies with her tennis rival after an accident—and must now unravel the secrets of their impossible connection.

AMELIA has always felt like happiness is a serve she can’t return, a ball just out of reach. And now, in her senior year, right before tennis season, her mom wants to move—again.

SOPHIE has a perfectly curated, Instagram-ready life. From her first singles win to her hot long-term boyfriend to the beautiful landscaped home where she lives with her parents, Sophie is everything Amelia wishes she could hate.

But one night changes everything. When a man tries to abduct Amelia after her car breaks down during a storm, Amelia attempts to escape—into incoming traffic. And in one inexplicable moment, they switch bodies.

Amelia wakes up in Sophie’s body. Amelia’s body is in a coma. Now Amelia needs to find a way back into her own life—but first, she must retrace her steps to unravel the mystery of the accident, her attempted abduction, and how it’s all tied to her mother’s secret past.

My Thoughts: This twisty mystery starts at a tennis match, moves next to a car accident, and moves to a hospital where one girl wakes up in another girl's body. Amelia has just found out that her family - her mother, her sister, and herself - are getting ready to move again. This will be their eighth move in fifteen years. Amelia has given up on making friends but she hasn't given up playing tennis. That is one thing that she has been doing since she learned as a six-year-old. She tries a little magical thinking and hopes that winning the match will convince her mom to let them stay.

Sophie Graham is the town's golden girl with bunches of friends and a life lived on Instragram. After defeating Amelia in the tennis match, she goes to drive home in a raging thunderstorm. Amelia has had her car break down and had someone creepy stop to help her. When she runs from him into the middle of the raod, Sophie hits her.

Now Amelia is in intense care and not expected to recover and Sophie wakes up convinced that she is Amelia. Somehow Amelia woke up in Sophie's body. She doesn't recognize her father. She doesn't know why this happened but she knows she can't tell the Grahams. They just want everything to be normal again.

Amelia tries to slip into Sophie's life and is regaining some of Sophie's memories which is rather terrifying since she feels she is losing Amelia's memories. However, she needs to find a way to convince her mother and sister that someone is after them. Luckily, she has Sophie's best friend Janie and boy next door Lance to help her unravel the mystery as long as she doesn't tell them that she is really Amelia.

I enjoyed the characters in this one. I thought the mystery was well-developed and interesting.

Favorite Quote:
It's just my luck to get busted by Mrs. Graham the exact moment Landon is confessing that he likes me. Well, I guess technically he's confessing he likes a girl who's currently in a coma to his former best friend turned perpetrator of vehicular manslaughter whose body is being occupied by said crush.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Book Review: Stolen Away by Alexandra Harvey

Stolen Away
Author: Alexandra Harvey
Publication: Walker Childrens; 1 edition (January 17, 2012)

Description: For seventeen years, Eloise Hart had no idea the world of Faery even existed. Now she has been abducted and trapped in the Rath of Lord Strahan, King of Faery. Strahan was only meant to rule for seven years, as Faery tradition dictates, and then give up his crown to another. But he won't comply, and now chaos threatens both worlds.

The only one who can break his stranglehold on the Faery court is his wife. . . Eloise's aunt Antonia. Using Eloise to lure Antonia, Strahan captures his wife, desperate to end the only threat to his reign. Now Eloise must become the rescuer. Together with her best friends Jo and Devin, she must forge alliances with other Fae, including a gorgeous protector named Lucas, and Strahan's mysterious son, Eldric-who may or may not betray them.

My Thoughts: STOLEN AWAY was an engaging contemporary fantasy with well-developed and interesting characters. It begins with Eloise and her best friends Jo and Devin. Eloise is the quiet one. She's not shy but prefers to watch what's going on. Jo is a flamboyant flirt. Devin is the fantasy geek who helps keep the girls out of trouble.

Both Eloise and Jo meet mysterious boys. Lucas tells Eloise that he is there to protect her but her first opinion is that she mostly needs protection from him. Jo's boy is more mysterious as he shows up occasionally, helps her, and disappears again.

Their town is suffering from a long-lasting drought that threatens Jo's grandparents' farm. It is like summer won't let go this year. Which it won't. Unknown to the kids is that the faery king didn't willingly give up his crown after his seven year term and his actions are causing the weather.

When Eloise is kidnapped and taken to faery, she learns that her mother's twin, her Aunt Antonia, is involved. She fell in love and married the faery king when she was only sixteen. When he refused to give up his throne, more powerful fae managed to make it that Antonia shared the reign for half the year. During the other half of the year she has to hide from the king to preserve her life.

Antonia rescues Eloise but is trapped herself. Eloise gather allies including her friends and fae who want the king gone in order to rescue her aunt.

This was a fun paranormal, alternately told from Eloise and Jo's points of view. I liked the action. I liked the way the world of faery intruded on the normal world. I liked the romance between Eloise and Lucas and Jo and Eldric.

Favorite Quote:
I was remembering things. Little things that didn't seem important at first glance, but felt important nonetheless. It was disorienting. And usually I'd talk to Mom about it, but she was the one trying to keep all the stones in place with the sheer force of her stubborn will. I didn't know what was going on. I just knew there were secrets shaking loose. 
I bought this one Jan. 2, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, June 22, 2018

ARC Review: My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

My Plain Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Series: Lady Janies (Book 2)
Publication: HarperTeen (June 26, 2018)

Description: Move over, Charlotte Brontë. The authors of the New York Times bestselling My Lady Jane are back with an irreverent spin on Jane Eyre—a tale of mischief, romance, and supernatural mayhem perfect for fans of The Princess Bride or A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.
 
You may think you know the story. Penniless orphan Jane Eyre begins a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester—and, Reader, she marries him. Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions in this stand-alone follow-up to My Lady Jane, which was called “an utter delight” (ALA Booklist, starred review), and “an uproarious historical fantasy that’s not to be missed” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

My Thoughts: Have you read JANE EYRE? Well, it is the time to forget what you read. Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have told us the real story including the Royal Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits headed by the Duke of Wellington and its star agent Alexander Blackwood.

The story begins at Lowood School with the murder its governor Mr. Brocklehurst. Charlotte Bronte is a student at the school and Jane Eyre is one of the teachers. Charlotte is constantly carrying a notebook around with her and jotting down possible story ideas and her observations of things around her. Jane has a secret. She can see ghosts and has one as her best friend. There are plenty of ghosts at the school since privations and disease have caused a number of the girls to die, including Charlotte's two older sisters.

When Alexander comes to town to relocate a ghost who is making trouble at the town pub along with is inept assistant Branwell, he meets Jane and tries to recruit her for the Society. Jane didn't like the way he treated the ghost at the pub and refuses. She has decided that she would rather be a governess and has accepted a job with Mr. Rochester.

Alexander isn't willing to give up on recruiting Jane but meets Charlotte when he goes to the school. Charlotte would very much like to work for the Society. She can't see ghosts but she thinks she has other skills that would be useful. Charlotte also learns that Blackwood's assistant is actually her brother. The three of them team up to go to Mr. Rochester's to try to convince Jane to give the Society a chance. But Jane has already decided she's in love with Mr. Rochester.

This was a fun story filled with parenthetical asides giving social commentary, information addressed to the Reader, and comments that are made with the tongue firmly in cheek. Oh, and don't forget the ghosts and dastardly villain and the various romances.

Favorite Quote:
Mr. Brocklehurst had believed that  if was good for  the soul to have only burnt porridge to eat. (HE meant the poverty-stricken, destitute soul, that is; the dignified, upper-class soul thrived, he found, on roast beef and plum pudding. And cookies, evidently.) Since Mr. Brocklehurst's untimely demise, conditions at the school had already improved tremendously. The girls unanimously agreed: whoever had killed Mr. Brocklehurst had done them a great service.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

ARC Review: The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas

The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings
Author: Sarah Prineas
Series: Lost Books
Publication: HarperCollins (June 26, 2018)

Description: From Sarah Prineas, author of the acclaimed Magic Thief series, comes a stunning new tween fantasy where books literally come to life!

The powerful Lost Books at the palace library are infecting the rest with an evil magic, and two unlikely friends must figure out who, or what, is controlling the books and their power. If they can’t, the entire kingdom could be at risk.

Sarah Prineas returns to her classic middle grade roots with this imaginative, fast-paced adventure for book lovers everywhere.

My Thoughts: Fifteen-year-old Alex has run away from home to become a librarian. He has spent his life learning to use a sword but his real desire it to care for books. In his world, books are locked up in libraries and protected by Librarians who are all getting old. He manages to talk himself into an apprenticeship with a librarian but the librarian isn't willing to share very many secrets and dies before Alex can learn much. When Alex opens the book he finds on the librarian's chest, he is attacked by vines that come creeping out of VINES: PLANTS OF WONDER and barely manages to get the book closed.

This isn't his first magical encounter with a book. When he was young, he read all the books in his father's library twice and then discovered one that was particularly heavy hidden behind some other books. When he opened that one, some letters crept out and turned into an advice-giving tattoo around his wrist.

Alex finally manages to find a position as a librarian in the Royal Library by impersonating the librarian he was apprenticed to. But the young queen Kennerett gives him only a month to whip her neglected library into shape. Kennerett is having problems of her own. Her uncle and former Regent Lord Patchedren is subtly sabotaging her confidence as she tries to learn to be a good queen. Also, her young brother Charley has been expelled from school again and she has to figure out what to do with him. So, since Alex has been begging for an assistant, she gives him Charley who has no interest in being a librarian.

Alex learns that 60 years earlier something happened that changed libraries. Some Lost Books were written with magical paper, magical ink, and magical pens and when they were finished the books killed the writers and drew their spirits into the books. The librarians managed to fight to contain the books in their libraries but now the books are waking up and making all the books dangerous. They seem to have a special grudge against Alex. Alex needs to find the Lost Books in the Royal Library and put them back to sleep.

This was an exciting middle grade story filled with action. It was also a story about doing what you need to do to follow your dreams. Best of all, it was a story about the power of books, words, and libraries.

Favorite Quote:
Wait. What had he just said? Protect. "Ohhhh," he breathed. That was what a librarian was, he realized, and he wanted to curse himself for being so slow to figure it out. A librarian was not just a cataloger, a sweeper, a duster, a collector of fras, an alphabetizer, a keeper of keys. A librarian was a protector. Of books.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Book Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent Trilogy (Book 3)
Publication: HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks (November 7, 2013)

Description: What if your whole world was a lie?

The thrillingly dark conclusion to the No. 1 New York Times bestselling DIVERGENT trilogy.
DIVERGENT – a major motion picture series.

What if a single revelation – like a single choice – changed everything?

What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

My Thoughts: I thought that this final book in the Divergent trilogy was a great, and logical, conclusion to the series. Tris, Tobias and a number of other refugees have escaped from the city and made their way to the Bureau. There they learn things that change their lives completely.

They learn that their city, with its factions and factionless, was nothing more than a large scale experiment with a goal of perfecting  human genetic material. They believe that war would not happen if human genes were perfected. They have been encouraging the development of Divergents who have the corrected genes.

When Tris arrives at the Bureau, she learns that she has the perfected genes but Tobias, despite having some Divergent characteristics, does not. This causes some conflicts between Tris and Tobias because feeling lesser just feeds into Tobias's already damaged self-esteem. Tobias is having a hard time dealing with the facts that his very estranged parents are leaders of rival groups back in the city. He hates his father for the abuse that filled his childhood. He has very mixed feelings about his mother who was also abused but left him behind when she ran.

Tris and Tobias learn that there is a group of at the Bureau who are second-class citizens because they don't have the corrected genes. He falls into a group that is planning a revolution which isn't successful.

Tris is more interested in making change happen in a less violent way. When she learns that the Bureau has developed the serums that are used by the factions and that they plan to release a memory-reset serum into the city to preserve their experiments, Tris has to act. Her decision is to release the memory reset serum within the Bureau so that things will change. Her decision comes at a terrible cost.

I cried for the last few chapters of this one but couldn't argue with the choices that the author made for how the story had to end. This was an engaging, thought-provoking series filled with action and love.

Favorite Quote:
"I don't know," Uriah says, and he sound serious now. "I'm not sure anywhere will feel like home again. Not even if we went back."

Maybe that's true. Maybe we're strangers no matter where we go, whether it's to the world outside the Bureau, or here in the Bureau, or back to the experiment. Everything had changed, and it won't stop changing anytime soon.

Or maybe we'll make a home somewhere inside ourselves, to carry with us wherever we go -- which is the way I carry my mother now.
I bought this one Oct. 22, 2013. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent Trilogy (Book 2)
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books; Reissue edition (May 1, 2012)

Description: One choice can destroy you. Veronica Roth's second #1 New York Times bestseller continues the dystopian thrill ride that began in Divergent.

A hit with both teen and adult readers, Insurgent is the action-packed, emotional adventure that inspired the major motion picture starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, and Octavia Spencer.

As war surges in the factions of dystopian Chicago all around her, Tris attempts to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

My Thoughts: This second book in the Divergent trilogy begins right after the first. Our heroes (and a villain) have left the city and are looking to take refuge with Amity. Unsuccessful, they return to the city to see the factionless who are much more organized and better prepared for a revolution than anyone thought they could be. Tobias's mother, the one everyone thought was dead, is one of the leaders of them.

Erudite, whose leader is Jeanine, is still trying to conquer the other factions by using their scientific discoveries include a drug that lets them control minds. Jeanine wants to collect and study Divergents in order to make a mind control drug especially for them. Tris surrenders to her on a suicide mission in order to prevent her from killing random members of Dauntless. She goes through a harrowing time before she is rescued.

Meanwhile, Marcus who is Tobias's abusive father and one of the few surviving leaders of Abnegation has a secret that might explain what is going on with the whole faction system. It was a secret the Abnegation was willing to die to keep but Tris is working to find out what it is.

This book had a lot of fighting between factions where loyalties were tested and many were betrayed. Tris and Tobias's relationship goes through all kinds of ups and downs, tests and trials in this story. In this episode, a number of characters who are introduced, gain my sympathy, and play a brief role become victims of one side or the other in this fight.

I like that Tris is becoming more of a blended personality who embraces strengths from all the factions. She moves from a deep depression brought on by the deaths of her parents and her brother's betrayal to someone who no longer seeks out suicide missions. However, things aren't looking good for her at the end of this book...

Favorite Quote:
Sometimes I feel like I am collecting the lessons each faction has to teach me, and storing them in my mind like a guidebook for moving through the world. There is always something to learn, always something that is important to understand.
I bought this one Dec. 12, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent Trilogy (Book 1)
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books; Reprint edition (May 3, 2011)

Description: Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games and Maze Runner series, Divergent and its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant, are the gripping story of a dystopian world transformed by courage, self-sacrifice, and love. Fans of the Divergent movie will find the book packed with just as much emotional depth and exhilarating action as the film, all told in beautiful, rich language.

One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior's society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she's determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.

My Thoughts: In the future, in what used to be Chicago, humanity has divided itself into five factions. At age sixteen, young people need to decide which faction they will join for the rest of their lives. Beatrice Prior has been raised in Abnegation (the selfless) but she has never felt like it was a good place for her and testing confirms her belief. Testing has shown her that she could prosper in either Abnegation or in Dauntless (the brave) but that she is actually Divergent which she needs to keep secret.

Beatrice, renaming herself Tris, chooses Dauntless where she undergoes all sorts of difficult testing - physical, mental and emotional. Only the top ten of the new recruits will be accepted into Dauntless with the rest becoming part of the factionless poor. Tris has to deal with jealous rivals who will do anything to rank higher than she does. While she is physically small and slight is a disadvantage in the physical training, being divergent is a big advantage in the other two tests - providing she can keep it secret.

Her trainer is a young man named Four who is really confusing her. Sometimes he is kind and helpful, but other times he seems to treat her more harshly than the other new recruits. At the same time, Tris is drawn to him but has no experience creating emotional bonds outside of her family.

Besides Tris's own trials and struggles, it soon becomes apparent that something is wrong with the whole system of factions. Dauntless has drifted from its original noble position to one of cruelty and bullying. Erudite is campaigning against Abnegation to remove them from being in charge of the government. And both Dauntless and Erudite are hunting for Divergents to kill them.

This was an exciting story filled with action. I also liked the romance that grew between Four and Tris.  The writing was powerful and the characters were well-developed. While the ending doesn't qualify as a cliffhanger, there are certainly a number of unresolved issues both for Four and Tris and for their society as a whole.

I can't wait to read INSURGENT and ALLEGIANT to learn how things work out.

Favorite Quote:
Whoever he is, I like him. It's easier for me to admit that to myself now, in the dark, after all that just happened. He is not sweet or gentle or particularly kind. But he is smart and brove, and even though he saved me, he treated me like I was strong. That is all I need to know.
I bought this one June 16, 2011. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Book Review: Override by Heather Anastasiu

Override
Author: Heather Anastasiu
Series: Glitch (Book 2)
Publication: St. Martin's Griffin (February 12, 2013)

Description: Zoe is free. She has escaped the enslavement of the Community, disconnected from the hardware that had controlled her every thought and emotion, and evaded capture by the Chancellor intent on killing her. She is finally free, but she is far from safe.

Zoe and Adrien hide themselves from detection at the Foundation, an academy that trains teen glitchers to fight in the Resistance movement. Together, Zoe and her new team of superhuman fighters must risk their lives to rescue other glitchers and humans from the Chancellor's control. Challenges abound at every turn, and Adrien, who has become silent, distant, and tormented by his visions of the future, only adds to the growing certainty of defeat. But worst of all, as Zoe's team fights against impossible odds, distrust and betrayal leads to the terrible discovery that their greatest threat could already be lurking behind the safe walls of the Foundation.

Full of high-adrenaline action and shocking twists, Heather Anastasiu's Override is an exciting continuation of this popular young adult trilogy.

My Thoughts: This is the middle book of the Glitch trilogy. It is a dystopia about a future Earth where the majority of people are controlled by chips in their brains which make them obedient and unable to feel emotions. For some reason and for some people, the chip instead causes young people to develop psychic gifts.

The resistance is gathering these young glitchers to try to build them into an army that can defeat those in power. But a the Chancellor is also gathering glitchers to create her own army and the Chancellor has a secret glitcher power of her own. She has the gift of compulsion that works on everyone but the main character of this story.

Zoe is a strong telekinetic who is on the run from the Chancellor. She is also having some problems getting control of her telekinetic gifts. She is not used to feeling emotions and the new emotions are making her gift hard to control. It doesn't help that her boyfriend Adrien, who has visions of the future, has seen her as the leader of the revolution who changes the future.

This middle book is concerned with Zoe getting control of her gifts. She is also learning that the revolution's current leaders don't really trust the young glitchers but are eager to use them as weapons.

When a raid to free some glitchers under the Chancellor's control goes horribly wrong, odds are looking good for the revolutionaries. Even worse, Adrien has taken to avoiding Zoe and she can't understand why.

This book has action, excitement, twists and turns, and a main character who is growing into her gifts, and just enough romance. Fans of dystopias will enjoy following this series to its conclusion.

Favorite Quote:
"Then why ---?" I stopped myself.

"Why fight?" He finished. "Why risk everything for something we might not win?" He turned his face back to me, his aqua eyes sparking to life just like they always used to when we talked. "Because if we don't fight, we've already lost. Without hope, without trying, there's no point. There's no future. And you, Zoe," his voice softened. "I would fight forever to have a future with you."
I bought this one Feb. 14, 2013. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

ARC Review: The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

The Bird and the Blade
Author: Megan Bannen
Publication: Balzer + Bray (June 5, 2018)

Description: The Bird and the Blade is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from author Megan Bannen.

Enslaved in Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom . . . until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father across the vast Mongol Empire.

On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into an impossible love.

Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of . . . even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.

My Thoughts: THE BIRD AND THE BLADE was an excellent historical fiction novel set in the Mongol Empire around the year 1280. It's star is Jinghua who is a young woman with lots of secrets. She is a slave in the Kipchak Khanate. When the Khanate is overrun by the il-khanate she chooses to go on the run with the deposed Khan Timur and his only surviving son Khalaf who is both kind and brilliant.

As they flee ahead of both the il-khanate's forces and soldiers sent by Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan, Khalaf and Jinghua fall in love. A more hopeless love would be hard to imagine since he is a prince and she is a slave and considering that Khalaf's one road to restoring his position in society is to win the hand of Turandokht. However, Turandokht is not making the task easy. Any suitor has to answer three impossible riddles. Failure means a gruesome death.

The story is woven between the contest of riddles and how Jinghua and Khalaf got there. It is filled with romance and danger and a twist I didn't see coming. The Author's Note talks about her inspiration coming from the opera Turandot which, since what I know about opera could be written on the smallest Post-It Note with plenty of room to spare, came as a surprise for me. Some of the plot elements are certainly operatic in nature. I also enjoyed the poetry and songs that were part of the story.

I enjoyed the setting which takes place in a time period and part of the world unfamiliar to me. I also loved the relationship between Khalaf and Jinghua. I thought Jinghua was an intriguing character who was quite mysterious. Part Six answered quite a few questions I had about her past.

Fans of historical fiction and romance will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
I think he must miss learning as much as I miss home. So now I am his university. And he, I realize with a sick dread in my stomach, is my universe.

It happened in little fits and starts through the desert of the il-khanate and then in an overwhelming rush as we near the Chagati border, like water breaking through a dam. I'm drowning in a flood of Khalaf, and I don't know what to do about it.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Book Review: Shattered Dreams by Ellie James

Shattered Dreams
Author: Ellie James
Series: A Midnight Dragonfly Novel (Book 1)
Publication: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (December 6, 2011)

Description: Sixteen-year-old Trinity Monsour wants nothing more than to live a normal life. But that isn't as easy as it seems. Trinity is different. She is special. She sees visions, and for those she's seen, it's already too late.

Trinity arrives on her aunt's doorstep in New Orleans with virtually no knowledge of her mysterious heritage. She begins settling into life at a new school and even starts making friends. But all too quickly her dreams accelerate; twisted, terrifying visions of a girl locked in a dark room. And when the head cheerleader, Jessica, goes missing, Trinity knows she has no choice but to step forward with what she's seen.

But people believe that Trinity has information about Jessica's disappearance not because of a dream, but because she is involved. She is kind-of dating Jessica's ex-boyfriend, Chase, and Jessica did pull a nasty prank on Trinity. Revenge seems like the likeliest scenario.

Nothing prepares Trinity for the dark odyssey that ensues while searching for Jessica, including the surprising romance she finds with Chase, or the shocking truths she learns, not just about the girl who has gone missing, but the past that has been hidden from her.

My Thoughts: Trinity Monsour has recently come to New Orleans to live after the death of her grandmother. The story begins with her going along with a group of kids to a haunted house. Among the group are Chase who is her chemistry lab partner and crush and Jessica who is Chase's former girlfriend who doesn't see herself as an ex. Trinity isn't eager to go into the house because she is sensitive to spirits and has had visions since she was a child. However, she wants to fit in with her new crowd and decides to go inside. She doesn't know that Jessica and her henchwoman Amber are set to play a prank on her. She finds herself locked in a small dark room where visions overtake her. When she is rescued, she decides that Chance knew about the prank and was complicit. She is angry, decides to write him out of her life, and goes home.

She can't avoid Chance completely because they are in classes together but she can certainly try to ignore him. When Jessica "apologizes" by using the "it was only a joke" excuse, she decides to write her off too. So, when Jessica disappears, Trinity is surprised to have visions about her. She isn't sure what to do about them because her grandmother raised her to keep the visions secret. She has to tell her aunt about them who encourages her to go to the police. The problem is that it is just as likely in the mind of the police that Trinity was the one who got rid of Jessica.

As the visions escalate and the police suspicions grow, Chance and Jessica try to track down Trinity's deceased parents. What happened to them is a big mystery in her life and each revelation about them raises as many questions as it answers.

I enjoyed this thriller. It was a bit dated with Jessica's reliance on her BlackBerry and the rebuilding efforts after Katrina not being very far along but the suspense was great and Trinity's struggles with her psychic gifts intriguing.

Favorite Quote:
I wanted to go there, go home. But I no longer knew where home was. Wasn't sure I had one. The only home I'd ever known was among the pine and aspen, in the mountains of Colorado. In New Orleans I was a guest, a visitor, someone unknown drifting through lives that had not asked for the interruption. 
I bought this one Dec. 9, 2011. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, June 1, 2018

ARC Review: Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez

Sweet Black Waves
Author: Kristina Perez
Series: Sweet Black Waves Trilogy (Book 1)
Publication: Imprint (June 5, 2018)

Description: Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what's right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her closest confidant and the only man she's ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend's true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

My Thoughts: Branwen is an orphan who is the niece of the queen and the best friend and lady-in-waiting to her cousin Princess Eseult. She is mostly treated as another daughter of the queen and the princess's sister. Her parents were killed by the Kernyvaks and she has grown up with a hatred for them.

When she rescues and heals a young sailor, she is dismayed to learn that he is Kernyvak. She is torn between her vows as a healer and her own hatred. Gradually she falls in love with the young man but, when raiders come to find him, she encourages him to get to safety before soldiers from her country can find him. She thinks she will never see him again.

Meanwhile, the king has decided to hold a tournament for Princess Eseult's hand since she can't rule and the country needs a strong man to be her husband. Eseult, Essy to her family, is not on board with this plan. She is spoiled and self-absorbed and wants to choose her own husband. Naturally, she fixes her mind on a very unsuitable man. Branwen's rescued sailor, now revealed as Prince Tristan of Keryvak, is there to compete in the tournament as the champion for his uncle King Marc.

When treachery threatens his life, Branwen has to call on the magical heritage that she didn't really believe in to heal him. This magical heritage changes so much for Branwen and puts one more barrier between her and her cousin who didn't inherit it.

I liked the worldbuilding in this fantasy debut. I liked Branwen who was becoming a strong woman willing for fight for her homeland. The one thing I couldn't quite believe was Branwen's loyalty to Essy who didn't deserve her regard. Momentary kindness and charm wasn't enough to make her deserving of Branwen's loyalty and love.

The story is said to be loosely based on the medieval tale of Tristan and Iseult. Most of this story was the build-up to the key events of that tale. I look forward to reading more in this trilogy.

Favorite Quote:
If peace could not be found, this wourl be Iveriu's fare. Truly, it was more lethal than a destiny snake.

It was her duty to prevent this -- to protect Iveriu at all costs.

Otherwise, all that would remain of her beloved homeland was ash floating on a starless tide.

Branwen stopped fighting. She let the venom infuse her. If she saved Tristan and the Land, the black waves would be sweet -- sweet, indeed.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

State of the Stack #72 (June 1, 2018)

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.

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. Ocean Light by Nalini Singh (June 11)
  2. City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts (May 30)
  3. The Memory of Fire by Callie Bates (May 31) 
  4. Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez (June 1) 
  5. Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King (June 2) 
  6. The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen (June 6)
  7. The Body in the Ballroom by R. J. Koreto (June 6) 
  8. Last Girl Gone by J. G. Hetherton (June 7)
  9. Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd (June 9)
  10. Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe (May 28) 
  11. A Merciful Silence by Kendra Elliot (June 14) 
  12. Girl With a Gun by Kari Bovee (June 16)
  13. The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas (June 20)
  14. Scandal Above Stairs by Jennifer Ashley (June 30)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. No Cure for the Dead by Christine Trent (May 2)
  2. Cake and Punishment by Maymee Bell (May 3)
  3. Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett (May 4) 
  4. Flowers and Foul Play by Amanda Flower (May 5)
  5. The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (May 9)
  6. Airports, Exes, and Other Things I'm Over by Shani Petroff (May 9)
  7. The Game Can't Love You Back by Karole Cozzo (May 11)
  8. The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst (May 12) 
  9. Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson (May 16) 
  10. Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong (May 18) 
  11. Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton (May 23) 
  12. How We Roll by Natasha Friend (May 25)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. The Hour of Death by Jane Willan (Oct. 9)
  2. A Crafter Knits a Clue by Holly Quinn (Oct. 9)
  3. Ocean Light by Nalini Singh (June 12) 
  4. Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes (August 28) 
  5. The Disasters by M. K. England (Dec. 18)
  6. Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand (Oct. 2)
  7. Broken Things by Lauren Oliver (Oct. 2)
  8. Damsel by Elana K. Arnold (Oct. 2)
  9. The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo (Sept. 18)
  10. Ten After Closing by Jessica Bayliss (Sept. 4)
  11. Through the Fire by Katie Ruggle (August 7)
  12. Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne (July 17)
  13. Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine (July 3)
  14. Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan (Sept. 4)
  15. This Splintered Silence by Kayla Olson (Nov. 13)
  16. Deep Cover by Scarlett Cole (July 31)
  17. Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe (May 28)
  18. Murder, She Reported by Peg Cochran (July 31)
  19. Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Nov. 6)
  20. Scandal Above Stairs by Jennifer Ashley (July 3)
  21. Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst (Dec. 4)
  22. The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston (Nov. 13)
  23. Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne (Nov. 6)
  24. A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess (Oct. 16)
  25. The Point by John Dixon (August 7)
  26. Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews (June 26)
My Review Pile

June
Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews (June 26)
Now You See Her by Lisa Leighton & Laura Stropki

July
Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine (July 3)
The Banker's Wife by Cristina Alger (July 3)
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (July 3)
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (July 3)
Shelved Under Murder by Victoria Gilbert (July 10)
Somebody's Daughter by David Bell (July 10)
Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne (July 17)
The Disappearing by Lori Roy (July 17)
Hull Metal Girls by Emily Skrutskie (July 17)
Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen (July 17)
When Life Gives You Demons by Jennifer Honeybourn (July 17)
Contagion by Erin Bowman (July 24)
Between Frost and Fury by Chani Lynn Feener (July 24)
Murder, She Reported by Peg Cochran (July 31)
Deep Cover by Scarlett Cole (July 31)
The Griffin's Feather by Cornelia Funke (July 31)
A Double Life by Flynn Berry (July 31)
Sea Witch by Sarah Henning (July 31)
The Girl You Thought I Was by Rebecca Phillips (July 31)
The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman (July 31)

August
The Point by John Dixon (August 7)
Through the Fire by Katie Ruggle (August 7)
#murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil (August 7)
To Catch a Witch by Heather Blake (August 7)
The Butterfly Conspiracy by Vivian Conroy (August 7)
Nine by Zach Hines (August 7)
These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch (August 7)
Wild Hunger by Chloe Neill (August 14)
The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele (August 21)
Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes (August 28)

September
Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan (September 4)
Ten After Closing by Jessica Bayliss (September 4)
Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima (September 11)
In Cold Chocolate by Dorothy St. James (September 11)
Read and Gone by Allison Brook (September 11)
The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo (September 18)

October
 Damsel by Elana K. Arnold (October 2)
Broken Things by Lauren Oliver (October 2)
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand (October 2)
 A Crafter Knits a Clue by Holly Quinn (October 9)
The Hour of Death by Jane Willan (October 9)
Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron (October 9)
A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess (October 16)

November
 Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne (November 6)
Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (November 6)
The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston (November 13)
This Splintered Silence by Kayla Olson (November 13)

December
Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst (December 4)
The Disasters by M. K. England (December 18)

Next Month's Plan

Somehow, my July ARCs got away from me. I looked at my July calendar and will only be able to choose a couple of books off my TBR mountain. I am so filled up with review copies to read.

I have lots from HarperTeen and Crooked Lane Books on the stack. I also have quite a few from favorite authors or in series that I am reading. It should be a fun reading month even though it is a busy one.

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I am also linking up with the State of the ARC meme. Here is 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!