Friday, November 30, 2018

Book Review: Guardian by A. J. Hartley

Guardian
Author: A. J. Hartley
Series: Steeplejack (Book 3)
Publication: Tor Teen (June 12, 2018)

Description: This is what Ang knows:

A dear friend is accused of murdering the Prime Minister of Bar-Selehm.

A mysterious but fatal illness is infecting the poor.

A fanatical politician seizes power, unleashing a wave of violent repression over the city.

This is what Ang must do:

Protect her family.

Solve a murder.

RESIST, no matter what, before it’s too late.

My Thoughts: The conclusion of the Steeplejack trilogy finds Ang Sutonga deep in the politics of the city of Bar-Selehm. When her employer Josiah Willinghouse is accused of murdering the prime minister Benjamin Tavestock, Ang is nearly alone in trying to find evidence to clear his name.

It doesn't help that Tavestock's death left an opening for the Far Right in the person of Norton Richter to seize control of the government and initiate their extremely racist policies. Blacks and browns lose their jobs and homes. The police force loses power to Richter's citizen militia who all happen to be white bully boys.

Meanwhile, there is a new disease that is running through the Drowning which is the Lani part of the city that Ang comes from. It is striking down mostly young girls including Ang's nieces. It takes a while to find out what is causing the illness and the knowledge signals even more trouble for Bar-Selehm.

This story is filled will all kinds of wonderful characters from seventeen-year-old Ang to a charismatic black activist who is looking for a non-violent solution. Willinghouse's sister Dahria is also fascinating as she combines rich society girl with a cynical political eye. She is also Ang's friend - most of the time.

The story was filled with action as Ang investigates to try to clear Willinghouse's name and finds herself spying on any number of villains and facing danger on all sides. The worldbuilding was well done. I like the South African background. 



Favorite Quote:
I swallowed, wiped away my tears, turned my face into the hot sun, and got on with thins, because that was what you did. In this and this alone, the very poor were like the very rich. You did not indulge your feelings. You bit down hard, you strangled sentiment, you said nothing - absolutely nothing - and you continued.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

ARC Review: Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst

Fire & Heist
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Publication: Crown Books for Young Readers (December 4, 2018)

Description: In Sky Hawkins's family, leading your first heist is a major milestone--even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It's a chance to gain power and acceptance within your family, and within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated, especially when you're a wyvern--a human capable of turning into a dragon.

Embarking on a life of crime is never easy, and Sky discovers secrets about her mother, who recently went missing, the real reason her boyfriend broke up with her, and a valuable jewel that could restore her family's wealth and rank in their community.

With a handpicked crew by her side, Sky knows she has everything she needs to complete her first heist, and get her boyfriend and mother back in the process. But then she uncovers a dark truth about were-dragon society--a truth more valuable and dangerous than gold or jewels could ever be.

My Thoughts: Sky Hawkins is a wyvern. She's also the youngest in her family, having three older brothers. Her ancestors were exiled from Home through a Door that had disappeared. Wyverns have done quite well on Earth gaining wealth and being the target of paparazzi. Sky's family has recently lost wealth and status when her mother's most recent heist was a failure and resulted in her disappearance. Sky's family has been shunned by the others. It was especially painful for Sky because it was her boyfriend Ryan who shunned her at the most recent Reckoning.

Sky is determined to complete her mother's heist and restore her family's honor and place in their society. Leading a successful heist is a mark of adulthood in her society. Her ex-boyfriend convinces her that he shunned her on order from his father, the head of the Council, and wants to help her plan the perfect heist. Sky also recruits a human friend from school who is just about the only one who will have anything to do with her there. Gabriela is fascinated by dragons and is especially in love with unicorns which are native to the dragon Home. Sky also needs a wizard to help with some of the spells needed for her heist and recruits Maximus who is one of the few wyvern wizards.

Sky and her crew need to work in secret. Her father and older brothers are all against any tries to clear their mother's name and complete her heist. Sky is determined and the group comes up with a plan that should work. However, things go wrong in a big way and Sky finds herself exiled to the dragon Home world which isn't the paradise wyverns on Earth believe.

Although she is reunited with her mother, what she learns about Ryan's father's actions makes her determined to return to Earth and set things right.

I thought the world building with dragons living on Earth as celebrities was well done. I liked the Sky was such a determined person. I also liked the crew of new friends that she gathered around herself. I liked that dragons on Earth believed that they no longer had the ability to shift into to their dragon forms even though they they hadn't lost their ability to breath fire - to one degree or another. The one thing I liked about Home was that Sky learned to shift into her dragon form. I didn't like the rigid class society there.

Fans of dragons, heists, and friendship will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
You forget about past and future when you climb. That's one thing I love about it, when you slip into this moment that is purely now. In now, there is no guilt or regret or worry or fear. There's only the doing.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis

The Girl with the Dragon Heart
Author: Stephanie Burgis
Publication: Bloomsbury Children's Books (November 6, 2018)

Description: Silke has always been good at spinning the truth and storytelling. So good that, just years after arriving in the kingdom as a penniless orphan, she has found her way to working for the most splendid chocolate makers in the city as a master promoter. Although Silke loves her work at the Chocolate Heart, she's certain it's not going to last, and what Silke wants more than anything is somewhere to call home--somewhere. But when your best friend is a dragon-turned-hot-tempered-girl, trouble is always right around the corner.

Then Silke gets the opportunity she's been waiting for: the Crown Princess personally asks her to spy on the Elfenwald royal family during their first visit to the kingdom. In return, Silke will have the home she's always wanted in the secure palace. But Silke has her own dark, secret reasons for not trusting fairies . . . and her mission isn't as simple as she hoped. Soon, she discovers that her city is in danger--and that maybe it's more her home than she ever realized.

Can Silke find out the truth about the fairies while keeping her own secrets hidden?

My Thoughts: This was a great middle grade fantasy about a young girl looking for security and a place to call home. Silke is an orphan who lost her parents to faeries when she was six. She has been living on the beach outside Drachenburg with her older brother. They are eking out a living selling used clothing.

But Silke has talents and dreams that keep her looking for more. She's a gifted storyteller and a wonderful promoter. She is using her talents to promote the Chocolate Heart where her best friend is a dragon with a gift for food magic and a love for chocolate.

Silke comes to the attention of the Crown Princess who offers to provide her a permanent place in her palace if she agrees to spy on the Elfenwald royal family when they come to negotiate a treaty with Drachenburg. Silke wants the security the Crown Princess is offering and really wants to know if her parents are still alive and can be rescued.

It doesn't take long for her to begin having doubts about living in a palace. Being constrained as a lady in waiting to a princess is very different than the freedom she has to wander the city as a storyteller and promoter.

When she learns that the faeries are eager for the alliance so that they can destroy all the dragons, Silke has to find a way to protect her friend. When the faeries use their magic to take over the kingdom, it is up to a 13-year-old storyteller, a 12-year-old dragon, and a 12-year-old princess to find a way to save everyone.

I loved this story because it was about friendship and finding a home. Silke is an intriguing character who is determined and focused. She is gifted but doesn't really realize the scope of her gifts until she is called upon to save her friends.

Favorite Quote:
I wouldn't just sleep. I would rest as fully as I'd let myself rest years ago, the last time I had felt truly safe...

And that was the problem.

It would only be an illusion of safety now, just as it had been all those years ago. The people who loved you couldn't provide real safety, no matter how much they might try. No matter what it took, I would not let myself fall into the trap of believing that kind of promise ever again.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Book Review: Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: DC Icons (Book 1)
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (August 29, 2017)

Description: She will become one of the world's greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . . 
Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn't know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

My Thoughts: This is the story of Diana, who was born on Themyscira as a daughter of Queen Hippolyta, and who feels that she needs to prove herself to the other Amazons who live there. After all, she has never been tested in battle.

Diana sees a shipwreck and rescues Alia. But Alia's presence on Themyscira causes all sorts of problems. She is a warbringer, the descendant of Helen of Troy who was herself a daughter of Nemesis. Alia's presence causes earthquakes and illnesses. Diana consults the oracle who tells her to let Alia die. But Diana asks for a way for her to live. They need to travel to Helen's spring before a certain date, which is fast approaching, and have Alia bathe in the waters there. If they manage to do that, they will break the line of warbringers and prevent more wars.

Their quest isn't easy. Instead of finding themselves in Greece when they leave the island, they find themselves in New York City and encounter Alia's brother Jason who is so overprotective that he wants her to run to isolation in Canada rather than try to break the curse.

Jason, Diana, Alia, and two friends Theo and Nim find themselves on a plane to Greece but pursued by enemies. Not only human enemies but the gods who don't want Alia to end the line of warbringers are in hot pursuit.

The book is filled with adventure, betrayals, and all kinds of heroes. It is fast-paced and action-packed. My memories of Diana come from Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter and running from 1975-1979. So there were glimmers of the Diana I knew but much of this was a very different story.

Fans of superheroes and fans of Bardugo's writing will both enjoy this well told tale.

Favorite Quote:
"We can't help the way we're born. We can't help what we are, only what life we choose to make for ourselves."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Book Review: Bitten by Noelle Marie

Bitten
Author: Noelle Marie
Series: Once Bitten, Twice Shy, #1
Publication: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 19, 2014)

Description: Bastian had to have been the most handsome man that Katherine had ever met. It really was unfortunate that he was also the most stubborn, controlling, downright infuriating jackass she’d ever known as well. Oh, and there was the fact that he was a werewolf – a werewolf who has bitten her.

Sixteen-year-old Katherine Mayes had never believed in mythological creatures like werewolves or mermaids – certainly not those sparkly vampires that her friend Abby was obsessed with. Even when she’s bitten by a massive animal after a reckless night of teenage adventure and her body begins to change in mystifying ways, she can’t force herself to believe in what she’s convinced is impossible. Little does she realize she’s been infected with a disease a little more permanent than the rabies she feels fortunate to have not contracted.

Lycanthropy.

Her fierce denial is soundly shattered, however, when she is simultaneously saved and kidnapped by Bastian and his pack. Forced to leave small town Iowa behind and adjust to their way of life in a hidden society, Katherine must also deal with fighting the pull she feels towards the man – or wolf, rather – who has bitten her and disrupted her life so completely.

My Thoughts: Katherine Mayes finds herself bitten by a wolf while exploring an abandoned house outside her small Iowa town. Next she knows, she's going through some changes. Shes faster and more coordinated. She only wants to eat meat - the rarer the better. And people have developed their own unique scents. She comes home from school one day to find that her parents have been attacked and the home invaders call her a monster and want her dead.

Katherine is rescued by a handsome stranger who takes her away toward what he says is safety. She's told that her parents are dead and he and his pack are rescuing her. Naturally, she's traumatized by the death of her parents and confused when the stranger - Bastian - tells her that her rescuers are werewolves who are taking her to a safe place in Canada. And that she is going to be a werewolf too.

Katherine's first instinct is that they are crazy and her first goal is to get away from them. She does manage to steal their car and get away for a while but is soon recovered. She finds herself in a town of mostly werewolves trying to come to terms with her new destiny. She isn't helped very much when Bastian and the rest of his pack refuse to answer her many questions.

Sent to school, she finds herself dealing with overaggressive boys and their jealous girlfriends and a culture she doesn't understand. She also finds herself falling for Bastian who seems to have very mixed feelings about her. This is an example of the Stockholm Syndrome school of romance. Besides being attractive, Bastian doesn't really attempt to court her or win her over. In fact, he tends to be secretive, authoritarian, and controlling. Still Katherine falls for him.

I'm curious about what will happen if she ever learns that he lied to her about her parents' deaths. That would seem to be something that could derail their new romance despite Bastian's insistence that they are a mated pair.

Favorite Quote:
Curiosity nearly overwhelming her, Katherine looked up despite her embarrassment. And what she saw stole her breath away. Those eyes. They were a familiar and intense blue - remarkably similar to the pair that had been haunting her dreams for over a week.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie
Author: Courtney Summers
Publication: St. Martin's Press (September 4, 2018)

Description: Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.
But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

My Thoughts: Sadie was a book that lived up to all the hype. It is told in two parts. In one part West McCray is a radio personality who hears Sadie's story and becomes obsessed with learning her story and finding her. His section is in the form of a script or transcript of the podcast he creates.

The second part is told from Sadie's point of view as she searches for the man she blames for the death of her younger sister Mattie. Mattie had been Sadie's whole life and reason for living since she was born when Sadie was six. Sadie and Mattie's mother was a drug addict who brought home a series of men and then abandoned her kids when Sadie was sixteen. The girls lived in a dying trailer park in a dying town under the loose supervision of an older woman who rented them the trailer they lived in. After Mattie was found murdered, Sadie lost her reason for living.

Sadie's story gradually unfolds as she follows the trail becoming sadder and more harrowing as each page is turned. Her voice is compelling and engaging. I liked that she righted a number of wrongs along her journey and changed a number of lives.

One of the lives she changed, even though she never met him, was West McCray's. You could feel his initial reluctance to get involved in the story at all and then feel how he was pulled into Sadie and Mattie's story until it became almost a compulsion to find out what happened.

Favorite Quote:
But love is complicated, it's messy. It can inspire selflessness, selfishness, our greatest accomplishments and our hardest mistakes. It brings us together and it can just as easily drive us apart.

It can drive us. 
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

ARC Review: The Once and Future Geek by Mari Mancusi

The Once and Future Geek
Author: Mari Mancusi
Series: The Camelot Code (Book 1)
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (November 20, 2018)

Description: When young Arthur of Camelot accidentally time-travels to the 21st century and Googles himself, he discovers the not-so-happily ever after in store for him once he pulls the sword from the stone. Yes, he'll go from squire to sovereign basically overnight, but he'll also lose the love of his life to his best friend and eventually die in battle. What's a once-and-future king to do? Easy: stay in the future, where he'll actually have a future-and join the football team instead.

Now, with the help of the great wizard Merlin, modern-day gamer-geeks Sophie and Stu find themselves in a race against time to get that sword pulled from the stone and the stubborn soon-to-be-king Arthur back to the past where he belongs. Complicating the plan? Lady Morgana-Arthur's sister and greatest enemy-has traveled to the future as well, determined to take Arthur out and seize the throne. Can Sophie and Stu use their gaming abilities to defeat the evil Morgana and set the timeline right? With the very existence of their friendship, their families, and the world as they know it (including pepperoni pizza!) at stake, they'll use every skill, power-up, and cheat code they know in their quest to save the day.

My Thoughts: Sophie and Stu have been best friends since elementary school. These two have bonded over the Camelot's Honor video game. Now in junior high school things might be changing a little. Stu has signed up for soccer because he wants his father to pay as much attention to him as he pays to Stu's stepbrother Luke. Sophie is a little jealous and wondering if she's going to lose her best friend. She's already lost her mother who told her one night that she had to leave to save the world.

Meanwhile in Camelot, Arthur who is being tutored by Merlin is on the verge of pulling the sword from the stone and having his future changed. He and Guinevere have formed an unlikely but strong friendship since princesses and dishwashers don't usually hang around together. When Guinevere accidentally drops a magical scabbard into the Well of Dreams, Arthur takes the blame and falls into it to try to get the scabbard back.

Arthur, however, likes it in the modern day and, having read his life story on Google, isn't eager to return to his own time. As the world changes around Sophie - no pepperoni pizza, no Camelot's Honor, and no Stu, she has to do all she can to get Arthur back where he belongs.

This is a great combination of middle school life with changing friendships and video games and time travel including a society of people who are determined to keep time on the correct track. There's magic and dangerous deeds aplenty. It is also the first book in a series.

Favorite Quote:
She rose to meet him, her gown and hair still dripping wet. "I'll go with you."

"That's really not necessary."

"You saved my life. I'm in your debt."

Stu raked a frustrated hand through his hair. "Do what you want. But don't slow me down. I'm under a major time crunch here."
And with that, he turned and started back up to the bridge, Elaine racing after him eagerly. "Thank you, m'lord. You won't regret it!"

But Stu was pretty sure he already did.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross
Author: Marie Lu
Publication: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (September 12, 2017)

Description: From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths.
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

My Thoughts: Emika Chen is eighteen and a bounty hunter who tracks down Warcross players who bet illegally. She lost her beloved father when she was eleven and spent time in foster care. Now she is barely making a living and is within days of being evicted. She is an excellent hacker. While watching the beginnings of the current Warcross Tournament, she glitches in and becomes visible to all.

Fearing that she'll be arrested for disrupting the game, she is surprised when the game's creator Hideo Tanaka chooses to hire her instead. Someone is trying to sabotage the current tournament and Hideo wants her to find him and stop him.

Emika finds herself in Tokyo, a member of one of the sixteen teams chosen to play the current tournament, and falling in love with Tanaka who has been her idol since he first popped on the scene as the game's creator when he was thirteen. She also finds herself in danger as the mysterious villain Zero doesn't want his plans disrupted.

This book is filled with future technology and a game that is a world wide sensation. I loved the worldbuilding. I also loved Emika who is bright and capable. I wasn't at all prepared for the twist at the end or the cliffhanger ending. I can't wait to read the sequel to find out how things all work out.

Favorite Quote:
It is hard to describe loss to someone who has never experienced it, impossible to explain all the ways it changes you. But for those who have, not a single word is needed.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Book Review: Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

Not If I Save You First
Author: Ally Carter
Publication: Scholastic Press (March 27, 2018)

Description: Maddie thought she and Logan would be friends forever. But when your dad is a Secret Service agent and your best friend is the president's son, sometimes life has other plans.

Before she knows it, Maddie's dad is dragging her to a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.

No phone.

No Internet.

And not a single word from Logan.

Maddie tells herself it's okay. After all, she's the most popular girl for twenty miles in any direction. (She’s also the only girl for twenty miles in any direction.) She has wood to cut and weapons to bedazzle. Her life is full.

Until Logan shows up six years later . . .

And Maddie wants to kill him.

But before that can happen, an assailant appears out of nowhere, knocking Maddie off a cliff and dragging Logan to some unknown fate. Maddie knows she could turn back- and get help. But the weather is turning and the terrain will only get more treacherous, the animals more deadly.

Maddie still really wants to kill Logan.

But she has to save him first.

My Thoughts: Logan and Maddie were best friends when they were kids. Logan was the President's son and Maddie the daughter of his good friend and Secret Service agent. One day when they were ten, they foiled the kidnapping of Logan's mother by Russians from right inside the White House. Maddie's daughter was shot and Logan was shot too.

The next thing Maddie knows is that her father has quit his job and moved them to the wilds of Alaska. For the last six years, Maddie has been writing letters to Logan (which he never answers) and learning to survive in the wilderness. She's self-reliant but also very lonely. Her father often leaves her for a day at a time while he flies supplies and people around the state.

Meanwhile, Logan is rebelling in his own way by sneaking out, attending parties he shouldn't attend, and ditching his panic button and his Secret Service agents. One last incident has made his parents decide to send him to Alaska to spend some time with Maddie and her father.

Maddie is angry at Logan because she feels that her best friend abandoned her. When her father is called to make a flight and the weather is taking a turn for the worse, the two of them have to find a way to get along. But then someone comes to kidnap Logan and, in the process, throws Maddie down a cliff, making Logan think she is dead. Maddie is hurt but knows she is the only one to go after Logan before he is lost forever. She really hopes that her father and Logan's Secret Service agents won't be far behind them.

This was a great, action-packed story of a wilderness journey where neither Logan or Maddie are prepared. The weather and the wildlife are not their only enemies though. Old secrets, and the reason Maddie's dad moved them to Alaska, play into the plot. I loved Maddie who is snarky and a girlie girl who has bedazzled her 2nd favorite ax. She is also well-prepared to survive and to rescue Logan. I liked the tension between them and the way they had to depend on each other to survive and triumph.

Favorite Quote:
All of her senses were on high alert, but she could smell no other fires, see nothing but trees. There was nothing at all man-made for as far as the eye can see.

It felt to Maddie like they were all alone in the universe.

But they weren't.

And that was the scary part.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

ARC Review: The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston

The Lying Woods
Author: Ashley Elston
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (November 13, 2018)

Description: Owen Foster has never wanted for anything. Then his mother shows up at his elite New Orleans boarding school cradling a bombshell: his privileged life has been funded by stolen money. After using the family business, the single largest employer in his small Louisiana town, to embezzle millions and drain the employees' retirement accounts, Owen's father vanished without a trace, leaving Owen and his mother to deal with the fallout.

Owen returns to Lake Cane to finish his senior year, where people he hardly remembers despise him for his father's crimes. It's bad enough dealing with muttered insults and glares, but when Owen and his mother receive increasingly frightening threats from someone out for revenge, he knows he must get to the bottom of what really happened at Louisiana Frac...and the cryptic note his father sent him at his boarding school days before disappearing.

Owen's only refuge is the sprawling, isolated pecan orchard he works at after school, owned by a man named Gus who has his own secrets--and in some ways seems to know Owen better than he knows himself. As Owen uncovers a terrible injustice that looms over the same Preacher Woods he's claimed as his own, he must face a shocking truth about his past--and write a better future.

My Thoughts: Owen Foster's life makes a U-turn when his mother comes to his elite boarding school and tells him that his father has embezzled from his company, bankrupting it, and leaving his local investors and employees broke too. His father has disappeared leaving Owen and his mother to take the blame and be the target of many of the people in town who lost their livelihoods when Owen's father disappeared.

Owen has to leave his friends behind and go back home for the rest of his senior year. Naturally, he doesn't fit in at his school and is the target of angry kids whose parents are hurting. His only possible friend is Pippa who was the girl next door and his best friend until his father moved them across town to a mansion and sent Owen away to school.

His only refuge is a pecan farm outside of town. The owner offers him an after-school job. The owner also tells him things he didn't know about his mother and her romance with a guy he had hired to work in the orchard.

The story changes viewpoint and flashes back to 1999 when Noah tells about how he wound up in this small town working for Gus and met and fell in love with the girl who would someday be Owen's mother. It also tells about Gus and his love Abby who is dying of cancer when Noah meets her and gets the job.

This was an enjoyable mystery with many twists and turns. I liked Owen who was confused but still determined to protect his mother and find out what happened to his father and his father's company. He feels guilty when he learns that all of his advantages from boarding school to fancy vacations were paid for by money his father stole. He also feels bad that his mother is being harassed and threatened for something she didn't do and that they are being forced to live with his mother's older sister.

I liked the way the story alternated between the present and the past because both stories had interesting characters and romance.

Favorite Quote:
"I don't want to use him like that," I mumble.

"Then you're dumber than I thought. The only way to get ahead in this life is to use everything you can to your advantage."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Book Review: Hiding LIes by Julie Cross

Hiding Lies
Author: Julie Cross
Series: Eleanor Ames (Book 2)
Publication: Entangled: Teen (April 17, 2018)

Description: At Holden Prep, dirty little secrets always have a way of coming to the surface.

Eleanor Ames has never been what she seems. Average high school student on the outside, but reformed con artist trying to break free of her past on the inside. When Eleanor receives startling news about someone from her previous criminal life, plans for a new operation coinciding with her school's upcoming field trip quickly consume her.

But operations rarely go according to plan. And this is one her irresistible teen FBI agent boyfriend, Miles, would never approve of.

Now, more than just Ellie's reputation is at stake. If she fails, it could be her life.

My Thoughts: Life hasn't settled down much for Ellie Ames. The rogue members of St. Felicity's Shelter are still at large leaving her in danger. Life gets even more complicated when a member of her old "family" comes to see her because he's concerned that her father is in a con way over his head. Ellie would still like to get the FBI off her back and get her mother out of prison but that requires that she find a way to let them catch her father in a compromising position.

Since her father's current scam is centered in New York City, she finds herself taking part in a between terms field trip to New York City with some of her Holden Prep classmates. She doesn't get much change to participate in those cultural activities as she tries to figure out what her father's scam is. Seems he's doing something with the mafia. Miles is on his trail too. Yes, the same Miles who is her boyfriend but who dropped off the grid leaving her very worried about him.

This was a really twisty story with cons inside cons and most people not who they appeared to be. Ellie and Miles almost reach a crisis when she learns that he has joined St. Felicity's Shelter - a group of noble assassins - in order to track down the rogues and fulfill his promise to his best friend Simon. Ellie is hurt that Miles' first loyalty needs to be to St. Felicity's. She was hoping that he would put her first.

Ellie also learns more about her father's reasons for getting involved in this whole scam which changes the way she has been thinking about him since she ran from him to be with her sister.

This was an action-packed story with a lot of emotional intensity. I liked the plots within plots. I also liked the way Ellie and Miles' relationship is going.

Favorite Quote:
"Nope," Miles says. "He just dropped it in when I wasn't looking and let me drink it."

"Seriously?" I'm momentarily stunned by Oscar's brilliance. "How do you know?"

"Process of elimination," Miles shrugs. "I've got a device that detects trackers. I couldn't find it in an exterior location despite setting off the alarm in my midsection. I'd guess it's somewhere between my small and large intestine."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, November 2, 2018

ARC Review: Umbertouched by Livia Blackbourne

Umbertouched
Author: Livia Blackburne
Series: Rosemarked (Book 2)
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (November 6, 2018)

Description: The mission was a failure. Even though Zivah and Dineas discovered a secret that could bring down the empire, their information is useless without proof. Now, with their cover blown and their quest abandoned, their only remaining hope is to get home before Ampara brings the full might of its armies against their peoples.

As Shidadi and Dara alike prepare for war, Zivah and Dineas grapple with the toll of their time in the capital. After fighting alongside the Amparans against his own kin, can Dineas convince the Shidadi-and himself-where his loyalties lie? After betraying her healer's vows in Sehmar City, can Zivah find a way to redeem herself-especially when the Dara ask her to do the unthinkable? And after reluctantly falling in love, what will the two do with their lingering feelings, now that the Dineas from Sehmar City is gone forever? Time is running out for all of them, but especially Zivah whose plague symptoms surface once again. Now, she must decide how she'll define the life she has left.

Together, healer and warrior must find the courage to save their people, expose the truth, and face the devastating consequences headed their way.

My Thoughts: This sequel begins with Zivah and Dineas trying to get home and being trailed by the Amparan army. They believe that the rose plague was, in some cases, engineered by the emperor and his pet doctor. However, they are having a hard time finding proof that others will accept.

The story is told in chapters alternating between Zivah's and Dineas's point of view. They are sometimes together and sometimes pursuing their own avenues to their goal. The relationship they built in the first book is tested in this one. Zivah feels guilt for the potion she administered which let Dineas spy on the emperor's forces. Once the potion was counteracted Dineas regains his original personality but is left with flashbacks and hallucinations. He is also dealing with confusion about his loyalties which shows when he returns to his tribe. Many in his tribe don't trust him because of what he did while under the force of the potion.

Meanwhile, Zivah is trying to find out more about the rose plague. She is looking for a cure and knowing that she is under a death sentence. She survived the plague but was left contagious. This makes it almost impossible for her to continue her career as a healer.

I thought this was a well done fantasy. I liked the world building in the story. I also thought the characters were well developed. The novel was fast-paced and filled with action as the Darans and Shidadi have to battle the overwhelming number of Amparans who are trying to conquer them.

Favorite Quote:
"Rose plague might keep us from living a long life, but it can't keep us from living a full one.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

State of the Stack #77 (Nov. 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 Avalinah'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. Wolf Rising by Paige Tyler (Oct. 25)
  2. A True Cowboy Christmas by Caitlin Crews (Oct. 27)
  3. Close to the Bone by Kendra Elliot (Oct. 30)
  4. A Bone to Pick by Melinda Leigh (Oct. 30)
  5. Embolden by Syrie James and Ryan James (Oct. 30)
  6. Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Oct. 31)
  7. A Wrench in the Works by Kate Carlisle (Oct. 31)
  8. Midsummer Mayhem by Marty Wingate (Nov. 1)
  9. Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne (Nov. 2)
  10. A Dangerous Duet by Karen Odden (Nov. 3) 
  11. SEAL's Honor by Megan Crane (Nov. 6)
  12. The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston (Nov. 7)
  13. Those Who Go By Night by Andrew Gaddes (Nov. 10)
  14. In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon (Nov. 15)
  15. A Vintage Death by Mary Ellen Hughes (Nov. 8)
  16. Fatal Festival Days by Jamie M. Blair (Nov. 8)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut (Oct. 1)
  2. Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron (Oct. 3) 
  3. The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone (Oct. 3)
  4. The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas (Oct. 4)
  5. A Crafter Knits a Clue by Holly Quinn (Oct. 6) 
  6. The Hour of Death by Jane Willan (Oct. 10) 
  7. A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess (Oct. 10)
  8. In the Mood Fur Love by Eve Langlais, Milly Taiden, Kate Baxter (Oct. 11) 
  9. The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens (Oct. 12) 
  10. A Murder By Any Name by Suzanne M. Wolfe (Oct. 13) 
  11. Six Cats A Slayin' by Miranda James (Oct. 17)
  12. The Lies We Told by Camilla Way (Oct. 18)
  13. Vendetta by Iris Johansen (Oct. 23)
  14. Archangel's Prophecy by Nalini Singh (Oct. 24)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. Close to the Bone by Kendra Elliot (Oct. 23)
  2. A Bone to Pick by Melinda Leigh (Oct. 30)
  3. Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney (March 13, 2019)
  4. The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees (March 12, 2019)
  5. The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman (April 2, 2019)
  6. Tear It Down by Nick Petrie (Jan. 15, 2019)
  7. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (Jan. 15, 2019)
  8. A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (Jan. 29, 2019)
  9. In the Dark by Cara Hunter (Feb. 19, 2019)
  10. The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets (March 5, 2019)
  11. Spark by Sarah Beth Durst (May 14, 2019)
  12. Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch (Nov. 20)
  13. A Vintage Death by Mary Ellen Hughes (Nov. 8)
  14. Fatal Festival Days by Jamie M. Blair (Nov. 8)
  15. Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong (Feb. 5)
  16. Immoral Code by Lillian Clark (Feb. 19)
  17. How I Became a Spy by Deborah Hopkinson (Feb. 19)
  18. Fool's Moon by Diane A. S. Stuckart (Nov. 8)
  19. The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst (March 19)
My Review Pile

November
Fool's Moon by Diane A. S. Stuckart (Nov. 6)
Deception with an Unlikely Earl by Victoria Alexander (Nov. 20)
Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch (Nov. 20)

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)

January
 The Hangman's Secret by Laura Joh Rowland (Jan. 8)
The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye (Jan. 8)
The Au Pair by Emma Rous (Jan. 8)
 Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden (Jan. 8)
This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce (Jan. 8)
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (Jan. 15)
 Tear It Down by Nick Petrie (Jan. 15)
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (Jan. 15)
Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye (Jan. 22)
The Burning Island by Hester Young (Jan. 22)
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (Jan. 29)

February
The Antidote by Shelley Sackier (Feb. 5)
Stolen Time by Danielle Rollins (Feb. 5)
Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong (Feb. 5)
The Blood Spell by C. J. Redwine (Feb. 12)
Past Due for Murder by Victoria Gilbert (Feb. 12)
In the Dark by Cara Hunter (Feb. 19)
Immoral Code by Lillian Clark (Feb. 19)
How I Became a Spy by Deborah Hopkinson (Feb. 12)
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Feb. 26)

March
 The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler (March 5)
If You're Out There by Katy Lautzenhizer (March 5)
The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets (March 5)
 The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees (March 12)
Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney (March 13)
Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (March 19)
Winter War Awakening by Rosalyn Eves (March 19)
Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst (March 19)

April
The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman (April 2)
Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge (April 9)

May
Spark by Sarah Beth Durst (May 14)

Next Month's Plan

I am keeping up with my review books and reading some of my own books too. Usually I read books in the order that they appear on my calendar, but I plan to read all of my review books for the rest of the year and then fill in the calendar with books from TBR mountain.

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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!