Friday, August 31, 2018

ARC Review: Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan

Ignite the Stars
Author: Maura Milan
Series: Ignite the Stars (Book 1)
Publication: Albert Whitman & Company (September 4, 2018)

Description: Everyone in the universe knows his name. Everyone in the universe fears him. But no one realizes that notorious outlaw Ia Cōcha is a seventeen-year-old girl.

A criminal mastermind and unrivaled pilot, Ia has spent her life terrorizing the Olympus Commonwealth, the imperialist nation that destroyed her home. When the Commonwealth captures her and her true identity is exposed, they see Ia’s age and talent as an opportunity: by forcing her to serve them, they will prove that no one is beyond their control.

Soon, Ia is trapped at the Commonwealth’s military academy, desperately plotting her escape. But new acquaintances—including Brinn, a seemingly average student with a closely-held secret, and their charming Flight Master, Knives—cause Ia to question her own alliances. Can she find a way to escape the Commonwealth’s clutches before these bonds deepen?

In this exhilarating edge-of-your-seat sci-fi adventure—perfect for fans of The Lunar Chronicles—debut author Maura Milan introduces our world to a thrilling new heroine.

My Thoughts: Ia Cocha is the scourge of the Olympus Commonwealth. Knows as the Sovereign of Dead Space, the Rogue of the Fringe Planets, and the Blood Wolf of the Skies, Ia Cocha is public enemy number one for the Olympus Commonwealth. It isn't until she is captured that people come to realize she is a seventeen-year-old girl. Her capture escalates prejudice in the Commonwealth against refugees and encourages many to join the Royal Star Force to defend their ideals.

Brinn Tarver is one of those who live on a Commonwealth planet who is inspired to join the RSF. But Brinn has a secret. She is a member of one of those despised minorities. She is half-Tawny though her father is a citizen. Since the Tawny are known for their blue hair, Brinn has been dying hers brown for years. They are also know for their intelligence and Brinn has been deliberately shooting for average in all of her school classes.

The third viewpoint character of this story is Knives Adams. He is the son of the General who captures Ia but he doesn't want anything to do with the RSF. He is content to be the youngest flight master ever at the Aphelion Space Academy where Brinn and Ia are sent.

Knives's father has tasked him with keeping Ia prisoner. They have fitted her out with a device around her heart that simulates a heart attack if the proper button is pushed on the control device. Ia is determined to escape from the school and rejoin her brother in their revolution on the fringe. When Brinn and Ia are assigned as roommates, Brinn is terrified. Gradually, though, they get to know each other and recognize each other's strengths.

This was an engaging science fiction story. The world building was well done. The characters were also well-defined and the changes they experience through the story seemed realistic to me. I liked the adventures that each of the characters went through.

Favorite Quote:
War was an awful thing. It left an impression on her cells, soured the blood flowing through her veins, leaving a rotten stench inside her that only she could smell. She didn't want to admit it was guilt, but it was, festering forever in her core. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

ARC Review: Ten After Closing by Jessica Bayliss

Ten After Closing
Author: Jessica Bayliss
Publication: Sky Pony Press (September 4, 2018)

Description: 10PM: Closing time at Café Flores. The door should be locked, but it isn't, Scott Bradley and Winsome Sommervil are about to become hostages.

TEN MINUTES BEFORE CLOSING: Scott's girlfriend breaks up with him in the café's basement storeroom because he's late picking her up for the big end-of-the-year party. Now he can't go to the party, but he can't go home, either―not knowing his dad will still be in a drunken rage. Meanwhile, Winny wanted one night to let loose, away from her mother's crushing expectations. Instead, she's stranded at the café after her best friend ditches her in a misguided attempt at matchmaking.

TEN MINUTES AFTER CLOSING: The first gunshot is fired. Someone's dead. And if Winny, Scott, and the rest of the hostages don't come up with a plan soon, they may not live to see morning.

Told from both Winny and Scott's perspectives, and alternating between the events leading up to and following the hold-up, Ten After Closing is an explosive story of teens wrestling with their own challenges, thrown into circumstances that will test their very limits.

My Thoughts: TEN AFTER CLOSING is a story about some people taken hostage in a cafe. It is told from two viewpoints.

Scott is a recent high school graduate contemplating his future. He has offers with scholarships to a number of colleges but the best deal would keep him living at home for the next four years. His home is a battlefield. He is physically abused by his drunken father who lost his job over two years ago. His mother is a major enabler who is constantly making excuses for his father and ignoring the fact that her son is being abused. Scott gives most of his earning from his job at Cafe Flores to his mother to pay the bills.

Winny Sommervil is also part of an abusive family. In her case, her abuse is emotional. She feels she needs to live up to her parents high expectations in order to win their love and support. Unfortunately, they want her to be a doctor. She hasn't told them that the sight of blood makes her faint. She is secretly an artist and had received an acceptance letter to an art school. She's afraid to tell her parents about it in case they throw her out of the house.

Scott and Winny care for each other. In fact, they dated briefly until Winny became just too busy trying to meet her parents' demands to sustain a relationship with Scott. Scott then entered a relationship with Becky but the night of the hostage crisis begins with Becky dumping him because she feels she isn't a high priority with him.

Just after closing, three men enter the cafe and take the owner and her husband, Scott, Winny, and two customers hostage. One of the men is the owner's brother Ryan. Her husband Oscar had recently fired him after catching him dealing drugs out of the cafe. Sylvie, the owner, has always taken care of her brother but he resents her because he feels she hasn't done enough for him.

The hostage situation immediately turns violent. One of the customers is murdered. The men get even more enraged when they discover that a bank deposit had been made and there isn't the amount of money in the till to meet their needs to pay off their drug dealers.

I liked most of the story. I thought that the panic and inability to function that Winnie shows was a pretty realistic reaction to the trauma. I liked that Scott wanted to protect Winny and the rest of the people there. It showed his personality as someone who has to take care of others.

I didn't like the fact that the story was not told in a linear way. Different chapters went back to earlier parts of what was already an awful day for both Winny and Scott. Other chapters described what was happening during the hostage crisis. The story was violent with a number of people getting shot and a few being killed.

Fans of intense, realistic thrillers will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
"But," her mom said, holding up a finger, "we're not discussing this matter further tonight. And remember, Winny, your father and I have worked hard to support your education. We expect to have a say in it."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"We don't have to continue to pay your way, you know."

"You're threatening me: Threatening to cut me off?"

"You have a wonderful future awaiting you."

"If I do what you say."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, August 27, 2018

ARC Review: D-Day: The World War II Invasion that Changed History by Deborah Hopkinson

D-Day: The World War II Invasion that Changed History
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Series: Scholastic Focus
Publication: Scholastic Nonfiction (August 28, 2018)

Description: The WWII invasion known as D-Day was the largest military endeavor in history. By June 6, 1944, Hitler and his allies had a strong grip on the European continent, where Nazi Germany was engaged in the mass extermination of the Jewish people. The goal of D-Day was the total defeat of Hitler's regime, and the defense of free democracies everywhere. Knowing they had to breach the French coast, the US, Great Britain, and Canada planned for the impossible.

D-Day was an invasion not for conquest, but liberation, and required years to plan and total secrecy to keep the advantage of surprise. Once deployed, Operation Overlord involved soldiers, sailors, paratroopers, and specialists. Acclaimed author Deborah Hopkinson weaves together the contributions of not only D-Day's famous players, but African Americans, women, journalists, and service members in a masterful tapestry of official documents, personal narratives, and archival photos to bring this decisive battle to vivid, thrilling life.

My Thoughts: This story about D-Day brings to life, through the words of a few of the participants, the planning, horrors, and triumphs of one of the most important battles of the Second World War. Hopkinson focuses mainly on the American contribution to the battle.

The story is broken into small chunks with frequent "Look, Listen, Remember" sections that give links to further information about the current topic. Sections called "Briefings" and "Reader's Invasion Briefing" provide a wider context to the the eyewitness material. Other sections called "Reporter's Notebooks" give information about some of the men and women who were war photographers and correspondents. "Dispatches" are first person accounts.

The book is liberally illustrated with photos and maps. It also ends with an extensive "Quartermaster's Department" which includes a timeline, a list of the important people in the book, a glossary, a list of additional sources and detailed notes identifying and giving credit for all the quotes. The book will have an index which was not included in my ARC.

This book was compelling and fascinating. It is an excellent example of the best in current nonfiction and provides the reader with a basic understanding of this important battle and lots of pointers to where interested readers can get more information.

Favorite Quote:
"As soon as I could, I reported to Colonel [Robert] Cole. He looked me right in the eye and said, "Fitzgerald, if I wasn't so glad to see you, I'd shoot you.'"

The reason? Before they jumped, Cole had asked him to put some tape on his .45 holster so he wouldn't lose the gun out of it during the jump. "Evidently I became carried away with my task. Shortly after he landed, he had to drop on a couple of Germans."

But when Cole reached for his gun, it took him several minutes to unwind the tape! In the meantime, the Germans escaped.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Scholastic. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 24, 2018

ARC Review: The Prodigy by John Feinstein

The Prodigy
Author: John Feinstein
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (August 28, 2018)

Description: From award-winning sportswriter John Feinstein, a YA novel about a teen golfer poised to blaze his way into Masters Tournament history―and he’ll face secrecy, sacrifice, and the decision of a lifetime to get there.

Seventeen-year-old Frank Baker is a golfing sensation. He’s set to earn a full-ride scholarship to play at the university of his choice, but his single dad wants him to skip college and turn pro―golf has taken its toll on the family bank account, and his dad is eager to start cashing in on his son’s prowess. Frank knows he isn’t ready for life on the pro tour―regardless of the potential riches―so his swing coach enlists a professional golfer turned journalist to be Frank’s secret adviser.

Pressure mounts when, after reaching the final of the U.S. Amateur tournament, Frank wins an automatic invite to the Masters. And when the prodigy, against all odds, starts tearing up the course at Augusta National, sponsors are lined up to throw money at him―and his father. But Frank’s entry in the Masters hinges on maintaining his standing as an amateur. Can he and his secret adviser―who has his own conflicts―keep Frank’s dad at bay long enough to bring home the legendary green jacket?

My Thoughts: Golf loving teens will enjoy that story of Frank Baker's rise to fame. Frank is a golfing phenomenon and his father is eager to cash in on his son's future. He wants Frank to turn pro out of high school. Frank wants to go to at least two years of college before turning pro. On his side are his swing coach Slugger Johnston and Slugger's college friend Keith Forman who now writes about golf.

Both Slugger and Keith were college golfers who gave the pro circuit a try but weren't able to make it to the pro tour. Keith, at least, should be able to give Frank unbiased advice since he doesn't have a financial interest in his future. On his father's side is Ron Lawrensen who wants to be Frank's agent and who is filling Frank's father's ears with dreams of riches.

This story is filled with golf action and the dropped names of many of the stars of the game. The detailed play-by-play of various rounds of golf might be more than most non-golfers can handle. I played some as a kid and teen and found them interesting. I also liked the insight into some of the big names in the golfing world. I thought that Frank's dad using Tiger Woods's dad as a role model was a realistic vision for parents who want to live their lives through their kids. I also liked that Slugger and Keith were quick to point out that Tiger's life off the course wasn't anything most parents would want for their child.

While I enjoyed this story, I didn't find the characterization of Frank to be completely realistic. I thought he was too mature and too media savvy for even an extraordinary seventeen-year-old. I had trouble believing that he could handle the pressure of the media interviews after his great performances on the course without a falter.

Golf fans won't want to miss this feel-good sports story about a phenomenal young athlete.

Favorite Quote:
"Well, I guess that's why Greg Norman liked to say, 'There's a reason why golf's a four-letter word'"
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

ARC Review: HIdden Pieces by Paula Stokes

Hidden Pieces
Author: Paula Stokes
Publication: HarperTeen (August 28, 2018)

Description: A small town. A big secret. A deadly game.

From the author of Liars, Inc., comes a dark, contemporary thriller with twists and turns that are perfect for fans of We Were Liars, Little Monsters, and One of Us Is Lying.

Embry Woods has secrets. Some are small, like the ones about her complicated past. Others are bigger, like her growing feelings for best friend’s ex-boyfriend, Holden. But the biggest secret she carries is about what they did at the abandoned Sea Cliff Inn...and the resulting terrible fire.

Embry helps a homeless man escape from the flames and is immediately hailed as a hero, but she knows that couldn't be further from the truth. Though she’s wracked with guilt, Embry thinks she can take one last secret to her grave.

But then she receives an anonymous note—someone else was there that night. Now she must respond to a series of threatening messages asking her to make impossible choices.
Someone is playing a high-stakes game with her life. And their last move is murder.

My Thoughts: Embry Woods is facing a difficult time in her life. Her mom, her only parent, has been battling cancer and, though she seems to have beaten it, there is still the uncertainty about the future. Partially because she's a single mother and partially because of her cancer, things aren't going well at her business. Embry has never met her dad. He and her mom had an affair that resulted in her birth. He sends support but he has a wife and two boys who are older than Embry.

Embry also has boyfriend issues. Her boyfriend Luke has joined the service as a medic and is pressuring her to marry him. She encouraged him to take a break from their relationship but his is so certain that she feels the same way about his plans for their future. Unfortunately, she does not. She doesn't know what she wants her future to be like. She does know that she has a new relationship with her best friend's ex. Holden is someone she can talk to. They are also hooking up though she is determined to think of him as a friend but not a boyfriend.

One night she and Holden met up at the closed Sea Cliff Inn to spend some time together. Accidentally, they start a fire. Embry sends Holden away, since his mom is a cop who would wonder how he got in, before she calls 911. As she is waiting for the fire department to arrive, she sees a silhouette in an upstairs window and rushes in to rescue a homeless guy. Her rescue of Sam makes her a hero in the town. She's the only one who knows that she's the cause of the fire. Until the first blackmail text arrives...

Embry is really conflicted about doing what the blackmailer demands or telling the truth about the night of the fire. She and Holden try very hard to find out who the unknown blackmailer is. Along the way she suspects a number of people including Holden and her best friend Julia.

This was quite a page turner. I couldn't read fast enough to find out who was blackmailing Embry and what she was going to do about it. Despite the fact that Embry was excessively secretive, I enjoyed her character. I loved her devotion to her mother and to her best friend. I empathized with her as she struggled to let down her old boyfriend and take a chance on having a new one. Mystery fans will enjoy this story and enjoy getting to know Embry.

Favorite Quote:
There's a long beat of silence. Then Holden says, "Don't take this the wrong way, but did you ever think that the reason you can confide in me but not people like Julia and Luke is because you are more afraid they're going to leave you?"
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Book Review: Rivals in the City by Y. S. Lee

Rivals in the City
Author: Y. S. Lee
Series: The Agency (Book 4)
Publication: Candlewick Press (March 10, 2015)

Description: In a tale steeped in action, romance, and the gaslit intrigue of Victorian London, Mary Quinn’s detective skills are pitted against a cunning and desperate opponent.

Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can’t shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?

My Thoughts: Nine months have passed since the conclusion of Mary Quinn's last case and things have changed. The Agency's two main leaders have split up because of their differing goals for the future of the Agency. Mary and James have formed their own private inquiry agency. Mary has gained an independent income which has allowed her to set up her own home. James and Mary are contemplating marriage but Mary has worries about losing her new found independence.

When Miss Treleaven, the Agency leader who wants to continue the Agency as it was, comes to Mary to ask her to take a case, Mary is intrigued. It seems that Mrs. Thorold who was the villain of Mary's first case has decided to return to England with another crime in mind. Her husband who was imprisoned after his part in that case, is dying and it is thought that Mrs. Thorold will come to see him. It is known that Angelica Thorold is on her way from Vienna to visit her father.

Mary is tasked with befriending Angelica in the hops that she will lead them to her mother. With Mrs. Thorold potentially arriving in England and having a major grudge against James, James and Mary decide that they need to hide their relationship both personal and professional for both their safety.

While Mary is doing her investigation, James has received a commission to redo the vaults under the Bank of England. But James is assaulted and his offices are broken into leading to the theft of the prints of the vaults. Fearing that it is part of Mrs. Thorold's scheme, forces are gathered to move the gold stored there to keep it out of the hands of thieves.

Meanwhile, Mary meets a cousin of hers who has come from China and who tells her more of her father's story. I liked Lang and thought it was interesting that he was making his living as a pugilist who won his victories using his oriental fighting techniques.

The story brings Mary's career in the Agency in a full circle and makes a nice conclusion to this series. It is packed with action. It also illuminates the role of women in Victorian society and the treatment of anyone not English at the time.

Favorite Quote:
"It sounds terribly appealing, when you put it that way," said Mary, "but I'm afraid I'm still rather partial to you."

"Partial!" He feigned a wounded look. "One is partial to jam, or to three-volume novels."

"Fond?" She offered with a smile.

"Of a puppy, or a distant uncle."

"All right." Mary swung around to face him, taking both his hand and halting him midstep. "James Easton, I am fervently, passionately, utterly, scandalously in love with you."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Book Review: Sirensong by Jenna Black

Sirensong
Author: Jenna Black
Series: Faeriewalker (Book 3)
Publication: St. Martin's Griffin; Original edition (July 6, 2011)

Description: When Dana is invited to Faerie to be officially presented at the Seelie Court, it's no easy decision. After all, everyone knows Titania, the Seelie Queen, wants her dead. But Titania claims not to be the one behind the death threats; and her son, Prince Henry, makes the decision a whole lot easier when he suggests Dana might be arrested for (supposedly) conspiring with her aunt Grace to usurp the Seelie throne. So she and her father better do as they're told . . .

The journey through Faerie is long―and treacherous. Dana thought it would be a good idea to have friends along, but her sort-of-boyfriend, Ethan, and her bodyguard's son, Keane, just can't seem to get along, and Kimber's crush on Keane isn't making things any easier. When a violent attack separates Dana from their caravan, the sexy Erlking saves her just in the nick of time . . . and makes it clear that he hasn't given up on making her his own.

Arriving at Titania's beautiful palace should be a relief. But Dana is soon implicated in an assassination attempt against Titania's granddaughter, and is suddenly a fugitive, forced to leave her father behind as she and her friends flee for their lives. Will she be able to prove her innocence before the forces of the Seelie Court―or, worse, the Erlking―catch up with her? And will she save her father before he pays the ultimate price in her stead?

Sirensong is book three in Jenna Black's enchanting Faeriewalker series.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this final book in the Faeriewalker series. Dana has been invited to faerie to be presented to Queen Titania of the Seelie court by her son Prince Henry. Well, if "invited" is a code for come on your own or come in chains. She is not eager because both queen of faerie would prefer that she was dead because of her unusual faeriewalker powers.

She travels in Prince Henry's caravan with her father, bodyguard Finn, and friends Ethan, Kimber and Keane. That creates enough tension all on its own because Ethan and Keane don't get along - at all. Add that tension to the tension that comes from traveling in faerie and you have a situation that is ready to explode.

Dana is separated from the rest of the group when the caravan is attacked by bogles. She is rescued by the Erlking but not before she has to use her special magical gift to kill a bunch of the bogles who nearly catch up with her. She didn't know that the Erlking and his Wild Hunt were following the group. Since she made him a promise that she doesn't want to keep to free Ethan from his Wild Hunt, he isn't exactly the person she wants most to see.

Arriving at Titania's court puts the group in deeper danger. A banquet hosted by a faerie princess is disrupted by a bomb that could only have been brought to faerie by a faeriewalker, but Dana didn't do it. Blamed, and on the run with her friends, Dana has to find a way back to Avalon and the human world in order to be safe.

The problem is that Dana isn't willing to abandon anyone she cares for and her father and Finn are still at Titania's palace. When her friends are captured, she uses the Erlking's gift of a broach which makes her invisible to return to the palace to rescue them and find out who really is behind all of the plots to kill her.

Besides this action, Dana is also dealing with an alcoholic mother who doesn't think she has a drinking problem. She originally ran to her father in Avalon to get away from the responsibility of caring for her mother. She loves her mother but hates that she has no control over her alcoholism. Dana's personality makes her want to take care of those she loves but she can't take care of her mother. This failure makes her angry. I liked the way this problem was realistically resolved.

In fact, I like the way all of the various problems that Dana faced were resolved in this book. It made a nice conclusion to the series.

Favorite Quote:
I'd been angry with my mom for almost as long as I could remember. Angry at her drinking, angry at her neglect, angry at the way I had to function as the adult of the family from the time I was about four. Until I'd run away from home, I'd been real, real good at hiding that anger, stuffing it down inside me so I could do what I had to do to take care of her and run the household.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

ARC Review: The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele

The Truth Lies Here
Author: Lindsey Klingele
Publication: HarperTeen (August 21, 2018)

Description: Stranger Things meets Men in Black in this funny and eerie young adult novel.

WHAT’S GOING ON IN BONE LAKE? THE TRUTH WILL SURPRISE YOU.

In small town Michigan, Penny Hardjoy, an aspiring journalist, teams up with the nerdy boy next door and the town’s star quarterback to find her conspiracy theorist father after he goes missing and several other people turn up dead in the woods.

The deeper she digs, the weirder things start to get. Townspeople repeat the same phrases—verbatim. Men in black suits stroll around Main Street. Chunks of Penny's memory go missing.

Pretty soon, her research leads her to the long-ago meteorite crash in Bone Lake’s woods, and she’s going to have to reconsider her definition of “real” if she wants answers. . . .

My Thoughts: Penny Hardjoy is spending the summer with her father in Bone Lake, Michigan, while her mother is on sabbatical in Spain. Until she was ten years old, her father was her hero. She went with him on hunts for Bigfoot and loved all of his stories about supernatural creatures. But seeing him take a picture of a bear and call it Bigfoot and walking in on him kissing her best friend's mother tarnished his role as her hero. When her mother divorced him, she was glad to go with her Mom to Chicago. Her disillusionment with her father's stories has turned Penny into someone who believes only in black and white and truth only with evidence.

When Penny arrives in town, her father is missing which makes her angry first and worried second. Her childhood friend Dex has become her father's new disciple and devoted believer of all his stories. He is worried about where her father is but Penny keeps looking for logical reasons for his absence. No matter how much Penny wants things to be black and white, weird things are happening in Bone Lake.

The local plant closed a few years ago and Penny wants to interview the residents about the decline of the town but she keeps hearing the same thing - the exact same thing - from everyone she interviews. Then two kids she knew disappeared and she stumbles onto their burned bodies which is eerily similar to the burned body of a hiker that was found earlier by her father.

The story is filled with mystery and the tension keeps ramping up as the story progresses. Penny also grows and changes through the course of the story. Fans of fast-paced mysteries with a twist will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
Dex looked at me with disappointment, maybe even a little sadness, but I didn't feel any loss over the girl I used to be. To believe  blindly is to get burned, and I was smarter than that now. I knew better. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Book Review: The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y. S. Lee

The Traitor in the Tunnel
Author: Y. S. Lee
Series: The Agency (Book 3)
Publication: Candlewick Press (February 28, 2012)

Description: Get steeped in suspense, romance, and high Victorian intrigue as Mary goes undercover at Buckingham Palace — and learns a startling secret at the Tower of London.

Queen Victoria has a little problem: there’s a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency puts quickwitted Mary Quinn on the case, where she must pose as a domestic while fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales. But when the prince witnesses the murder of one of his friends in an opium den, the potential for scandal looms large. And Mary faces an even more unsettling possibility: the accused killer, a Chinese sailor imprisoned in the Tower of London, shares a name with her long-lost father. Meanwhile, engineer James Easton, Mary’s onetime paramour, is at work shoring up the sewers beneath the palace, where an unexpected
tunnel seems to be very much in use. Can Mary and James trust each other (and put their simmering feelings aside) long enough to solve the mystery and protect the Royal Family? Hoist on your waders
for Mary’s most personal case yet, where the stakes couldn’t be higher — and she has everything to lose.

My Thoughts: Mary begins this story by going undercover for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace because small items are disappearing. Soon she is investigating a crime in an opium den that could be a major source of scandal for the Prince of Wales. Even more disturbing is that the accused killer might be Mary's long-lost father. Mary has successfully hidden her mixed heritage from everyone. No one knows that she is half Chinese.

Mary is also dealing with a new encounter with James Easton. They didn't part on good terms at the end of Mary's last adventure. Now, James has been tasked with repairing the sewers that run under Buckingham Palace which could allow thieves and assassins entry into the palace. Mary and James need to work together but their feelings could get in the way.

Mary is also dealing with issues at the Agency. The two managing partners have very different ideas of where the Agency should go in the future and Mary is torn between them.

This was another exciting historical mystery. I especially like that Mary is a complex person who has a wide variety of issues in her life. The action was fast-paced and the historical setting interesting. I can't wait to read more of Mary's adventures.

Favorite Quote:
"There's the odd story featuring the Prince of Wales -- but then again, when isn't there? I think that, ironically, that on'e been discounted because there are always stories about the royal family. For such a prim family, they do get dragged into the most outlandish rumors."

"The queen's predecessors - her uncles and grandfather - were a rich source of gossip, and most of it true," Mary remind him. "Perhaps it's just habit."

"Or wishful thinking."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Review: Shadowspell by Jenna Black

Shadowspell
Author: Jenna Black
Series: Faeriewalker (Book 2)
Publication: St. Martin's Griffin; Original edition (January 4, 2011)

Description: On top of spending most of her time in a bunkerlike safe house and having her dates hijacked by a formidable Fae bodyguard, Faeriewalker Dana Hathaway is in for some more bad news: the Erlking and his pack of murderous minions known as the Wild Hunt have descended upon Avalon. With his homicidal appetite and immortal powers, the Erlking has long been the nightmare of the Fae realm. A fragile treaty with the Faerie Queen, sealed with a mysterious spell, is the one thing that keeps him from hunting unchecked in Avalon, the only place on Earth where humans and Fae live together. Which means Dana's in trouble, since it's common knowledge that the Faerie Queen wants her – and her rare Faeriewalker powers – dead. The smoldering, sexy Erlking's got his sights set on Dana, but does he only seek to kill her, or does he have something much darker in mind?

My Thoughts: This is the middle book in the Glimmerglass trilogy. Dana has discovered that coming to stay with her fae father in Avalon to get away from the responsibilities of caring for her alcoholic mother is not the positive change she was hoping for. Discovering that she is a rare faeriewalker and that both queen of Faerie want her dead doesn't make her life easier.

Dana is currently going stir-crazy in the secret underground bunker that is her safe house. However, so many people want her dead that it is the only safe place for her to be. Adding to those who want her dead is the Erlking who leads the Wild Hunt. Because of a pact with the faerie queens, he can't hunt indiscrimately but that doesn't stop him from instilling terror.

The Erlking wants something from Dana and captures Ethan to be a part of his Wild Hunt. Dana tries to outwit the Erlking to get Ethan back but seventeen years of life experience doesn't stand up very well to the over two thousand years the Erlking has. Dana makes a deal which frees Ethan from the Hunt but it still leaves him as the Erlking's minion and it leaves Dana needing to fulfill her deal with the Erlking even though she learns what the Erlking didn't tell her about the deal.

I like the world building in this series. I like Dana who is a strong, smart, independent character even when she is out of depth dealing with the ancient fae. Fans of contemporary fantasy will enjoy this series.

Favorite Quote:
I made a sound between a laugh and a snort. "Way to be tactful and supportive. With friends like you, my enemies can just sit back and enjoy the show."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

ARC Review: #murdertrending by Gretchen McNeill

#murdertrending
Author: Gretchen McNeil
Publication: Freeform (August 7, 2018)

Description: @doctorfusionbebop: Some 17 y. o. chick named Dee Guerrera was just sent to Alcatraz 2.0 for killing her stepsister. So, how long do you think she'll last?

@morrisdavis72195: I hope she meets justice! She'll get what's coming to her! BWAHAHA!

@EltonJohnForevzz: Me? I think Dee's innocent. And I hope she can survive.

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society's most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.

When seventeen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she's about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn't commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she's innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman's cast of executioners kill them off one by one?

My Thoughts: Dee Guerrera is the main character of this story. She was accused of killing her stepsister, quickly convicted on flimsy evidence, and then sent to Alcatraz 2.0 where she will be hunted by serial killers while being constantly available on the App that covers Alcatraz 2.0. In this near-future science fiction story, a man known as The Postmaster runs this part of the criminal justice system. Fans stream and comment on the gruesome deaths and form fanclubs for the killers.

Dee has to find a way to survive Alcatraz 2.0 and she would really like to find out who actually killer her stepsister Monica who was a big fan of Gucci Hangman who uses Gucci scarves to hang his victims. Being an Alcatraz 2.0 brings flashbacks of her kidnapping at age 11 when she was held prisoner in a white room by a fourteen-year-old psychopath. After her rescue, her father moved them both and changed their names.

Dee is met by Nyles who is the one assigned to show her around Alcatraz 2.0. Nyles is currently off the victim list as his case is being appealed and he has diplomatic immunity. Nyles introduces Dee to her new job at the local ice cream parlor where she meets Griselda and Blair. Blair tells her the rules to prolong her survival. The number one rule is to trust nobody.

Dee soon believes that her kidnapping has a direct relationship to her current situation. She and her friends are special targets of the killers.

I enjoyed this story despite the fact that the many murders were quite gruesome. I thought the comments from fans of the feed were interesting and adding a new viewpoint to the story. I liked that Dee was smart. I liked the way the kids managed to outwit the killer. The ending resolved most of the story but had enough of a cliffhanger to allow for more books.

This would be a great story for readers who are obsessed with social media and who want to read a mystery too.

Favorite Quote:
The Postmaster's killers were media-driven celebrities, just like the president, though they were faceless, masked. There were even conspiracy-theory TV shows devoted to specuation about the killers' secret identities. Were the Hardy Girls actually minivan-driving soccer moms? Didn't Gassy Al's voice sound like the announcer on The Price is Right?
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Book Review: The Body at the Tower by Y. S. Lee

The Body at the Tower
Author: Y. S. Lee
Series: The Agency (Book 2)
Publication: Candlewick Press (February 28, 2012)

Description: Mary’s second adventure as an undercover agent forces her to relive some harrowing childhood experiences as she seeks the identity of a murderer. 

Mary Quinn is back, now a trusted member of the Agency, the allfemale detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. Her new assignment sends her into the grimy underbelly of Victorian London dressed as a poor boy, evoking her own childhood memories of fear, hunger, and constant want. As she insinuates herself into the confidence of several persons of interest, she encounters others in desperate situations and struggles to make a difference without exposing --or losing --her identity. Mary’s adventure, which takes place on the building site of the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, offers a fictional window into a fascinating historical time and place.

My Thoughts: Mary Quinn has a new case. This time she needs to masquerade as a boy and get a job at a construction site to investigate the death of a worker. Her employers are branching out from their usual sorts of cases and are arguing about it which creates tension for Mary. Mary also has to deal with some trauma of her own. After a childhood as a thief who often dressed as a boy to avoid rape, this disguise is bringing back memories that she hadn't wanted to relive.

Mary also has to deal with more recent memories when James Eaton is hired to do a safety inspection of the site. After the end of her previous case, James was off to India and she thought she'd never see him again. He has returned from India sick with the aftereffects of malaria but recognizes Mary in a glance. She still hasn't told him she works for the Agency so spends a lot of time lying to him.

The death investigation is only the tip of the iceberg of wrongdoing at the site. Mary quickly finds herself involved investigating theft and blackmail.

This was an enjoyable story. I liked the world building which shows an England with dirt and poverty and uncaring rich people. I also liked that Mary was realistic about her fear and her need to hide her mixed heritage. Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy this series.

Favorite Quote:
"There's no need to be theoretical about this. The difficulty is what it is."

"And you are what you are."

"Pray tell," he drawled, coldly angry now.

"Arrogant, high-handed, and controlling."

"Rather that than arrogant, impulsive, and irresponsible."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, August 3, 2018

ARC Review: Nine by Zach Hines

Nine
Author: Zach Hines
Publication: HarperTeen (August 7, 2018)

Description: In this twisted Lauren Oliver-meets-A.S. King debut, Julian has just eight more lives to burn in order to uncover a brutal secret.

In an alternate world startlingly close to our own, humans have nine lives—and they can’t wait to use them up.

The government has death incentives aimed at controlling overpopulation. As you shed lives, you shed your awkward phases: one death is equal to one physical and mental upgrade.

Julian’s friends are obsessed with the idea of burning, but Julian is determined to stay on his first life for as long as he can. His mother burned too fast and inflicted a debilitating rebirth sickness on herself.

Julian realizes that he’s going to have to burn at some point—especially when he becomes a target for Nicholas, the manipulative leader of the Burners, the school’s suicide club. And when Julian eventually succumbs, he uncovers suspicious gaps in the rebirth system that may explain exactly why his mother went so far down the rabbit hole years ago.

Along with a group of student dissenters, Julian sets out to find answers and is soon on the verge of exposing the greatest conspiracy ever unleashed on the world.

My Thoughts: Julian is part of a society where everyone has nine lives. Each time you die, you upgrade in status and perks. However, Julian watched his mother keep upgrading her life count until she became permadead. Each new life cost in terms of senses and mental ability and even in knowing herself and her family. Julian wants no part of it.

Julian's school has a Burners Club where students throw away their lives in spectacular fashion rather than just visiting an extinguishment clinic. Due to family pressure, since his family's life score isn't giving them enough money to pay the mortgage, Julian very reluctantly joins.

But things are not quite as it seems. More and more people are being damaged instead of enhanced as they upgrade their life numbers. Julian finds himself in a group of young people who are tying to find answers to what is going on with the whole rebirth process.

This was an interesting story but I still don't understand the world. The stated goal of the process is to control overpopulation but I can't see how bringing people back to life nine times accomplishes that. If you can get over that concept, the story was exciting. Julian was an interesting character who had a mystery to solve. He got answers but they weren't necessarily the ones he wanted.

Other characters including Cody who is one of the discontented and thrown away kids and Nicholas who is the leader of the Burners and the son of the man in charge of the rebirth lake for their city were also interesting characters who each had their own agendas. 

Fans of science fiction could enjoy this one because of the concept and the adventure.

Favorite Quote:
What a complete and utter waste of time this was. What a waste of life. Of course, Julian understood that stupidity was the entire point of the evening; this was, after all, a Burners party, which by definition meant lives were to be wasted. But no matter how he looked at it, he could not see the humor. How is it even a joke when there is no one left at the end of the night to laugh at it?
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

State of the Stack #74 (August 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. Deep Cover by Scarlett Cole (July 26)
  2. The Girl You Thought I Was by Rebecca Phillips (July 27) 
  3. The Butterfly Conspiracy by Vivian Conroy (July 28) 
  4. Sea Witch by Sarah Henning (July 30) 
  5. These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch (August 1)
  6. To Catch a Witch by Heather Blake (August 1)
  7. Set the Night on Fire by Laura Trentham (August 2)
  8. Nine by Zach Hines (August 3)
  9. The Point by John Dixon (August 4) 
  10. #MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil (August 8) 
  11. Wild Hunger by Chloe Neill (August 9) 
  12. The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele (August 15)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine (July 2) 
  2. Somebody's Daughter by David Bell (July 4) 
  3. Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie (July 6) 
  4. Shelved Under Murder by Victoria Gilbert (July 7) 
  5. When Life Gives You Demons by Jennifer Honeybourn (July 11)
  6. The Disappearing by Lori Roy (July 12) 
  7. Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen (July 13)
  8. Between Frost and Fury by Chani Lynn Feener (July 18)
  9. Paradox by Catherine Coulter (July 19) 
  10. Contagion by Erin Bowman (July 20) 
  11. Murder, She Reported by Peg Cochran (July 21)
  12. The Griffin's Feather by Cornelia Funke (July 23)
  13. The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman (July 25)
  14. A Double Life by Flynn Berry (July 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. A Moment in Crime by Amanda Allen (Dec. 11)
  2. Cowboy, Cross My Heart by Donna Grant (August 28)
  3. A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper (Oct. 2)
  4. The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas (Oct. 2)
  5. Wolf Rising by Paige Tyler (Oct. 30)
  6. In the Mood Fur Love by Eve Langlais, Milly Taiden, Kate Baxter (Oct. 2)
  7. The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler (March 5, 2019)
  8. Uncompromising Honor by David Weber (Oct. 2)
  9. Deadfall by Stephen Wallenfels (Dec. 11)
  10. The Antidote by Shelley Sackier (Feb. 5, 2019)
  11. The Lies We Told by Camilla Way (Oct. 9)
  12. What I've Done by Melinda Leigh (Sept. 18)
My Review Pile

August
Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes (Aug. 28)
Through the Fire by Katie Ruggle (Aug. 28)
The Prodigy by John Feinstein (Aug. 28)
Second Chance at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer (Aug. 28)
Cowboy, Cross My Heart by Donna Grant (Aug. 28)

September
Ten After Closing by Jennifer Bayliss (Sept. 4)
Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan (Sept. 4)
Her Majesty's American by Steve White (Sept. 4)
The Splintered Light by Ginger Johnson (Sept. 4)
Read and Gone by Allison Brook (Sept. 11)
In Cold Chocolate by Dorothy St. James (Sept. 11)
Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima (Sept. 11)
Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older (Sept. 11)
The Guilty Dead by P. J. Tracy (Sept. 11)
The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo (Sept. 18)
The Storm Runner by J. C. Cervantes (Sept. 18)
What I've Done by Melinda Leigh (Sept. 18)
Rocky Mountain Cowboy Christmas by Katie Ruggle (Sept. 25)
The Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb (Sept. 25)

October
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand (Oct. 2)
Broken Things by Lauren Oliver (Oct. 2)
Damsel by Elana K. Arnold (Oct. 2)
Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut (Oct. 2)
A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper (Oct. 2)
The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas (Oct. 2)
In the Mood Fur Love by Eve Langlais, Milly Taiden, & Kate Baxter (Oct. 2)
Uncompromising Honor by David Weber (Oct. 2)
Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron (Oct. 9)
The Hour of Death by Jane Willan (Oct. 9)
A Crafter Knits a Clue by Holly Quinn (Oct. 9)
A Murder by Any Name by Suzanne M. Wolfe (Oct. 9)
Grenade by Alan Gratz (Oct. 9)
The Lies We Told by Camilla Way (Oct. 9)
A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess (Oct. 16)
The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens (Oct. 16)
Six Cats a Slayin' by Miranda James (Oct. 23)
Wolf Rising by Paige Tyler (Oct. 30)

November
Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Nov. 6)
Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne (Nov. 6)
A Wrench in the Works by Kate Carlisle (Nov. 6)

This Splintered Silence by Kayla Olson (Nov. 13)
The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston (Nov. 13)
A Scandal in Scarlet by Vicki Delany (Nov. 13)

December
Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst (Dec. 4)
A Moment in Crime by Amanda Allen (Dec. 11)

Deadfall by Stephen Wallenfels (Dec. 11)
The Disasters by M. K. England (Dec. 18)
2019
The Hangman's Secret by Laura Joh Rowland (Jan. 8)
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (Jan. 15)
The Antidote by Shelley Sackier (Feb. 5)
The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler (March 5)

Next Month's Plan

August was a smaller month than usual for review books on my stack. Nonetheless, real life activities slowed down my reading and ate into my cushion of scheduled reviews. My goal for this month is to rebuild my cushion. With seven August releases and 14 September releases still unread, I think my time is pretty much filled.

A lighter August did give me a chance to read quite a few from my TBR mountain which is always a good thing. I chose to concentrate on finishing, or catching up, with series that I had begun.

*********

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!