Friday, September 29, 2017

ARC Review: El Deafo by Cece Bell

El Deafo
Author: Cece Bell
Publication: Harry N. Abrams (September 2, 2014)

Description: A 2015 Newbery Honor Book Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.

The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.

My Thoughts: This graphic novel got lost on my TBR mountain. I recently pulled out the ARC and was quickly drawn into the great story. Young Cece loses her hearing at age four and this story tells about her adventures in elementary school. Her first year is spent in a program for other kids with hearing loss which begins her education in lip reading. Through the years Cece is searching for a friend and she has a lot of them over the years from Laura the bossy to Martha who is afraid she hurt Cece after an accident they had while playing.

Along the way we see how different people - children and adults - deal with Cece and her hearing. She is often lonely and embarrassed by the phonic ear that she wears in school. She does find a way to put the fact that her teacher wears a microphone to good use though. It was interesting to see how she reacted to conversation, television and other media. It brought home to me how much we depend on hearing for understanding.

Since I was reading the ARC, I didn't see the illustrations in color and can't fully appreciate the final colored version. But I did enjoy the art in this one. The characters were visually defined and I could always tell them apart. Depicting the characters as rabbits was an inspired choice. I liked that Cece created the character of El Deafo to say what she didn't want to say and to be the hero she wanted to be. 

Fans of graphic novels, Newbery Award books, and great characters will enjoy this one.

I received this one in exchange for an honest review at NErDcampMI in 2014. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

ARC Review: Satellite by Nick Lake

Author: Nick Lake
Publication: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 3, 2017)

Description: A teenage boy born in space makes his first trip to Earth in this engrossing sci-fi adventure for fans of The Martian from award-winning author Nick Lake.

He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home.

Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known.

Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.

But has anything really prepared them for life on terra firma? Because while the planet may be home to billions of people, living there is more treacherous than Leo and his friends could ever have imagined, and their very survival will mean defying impossible odds.

My Thoughts: This is a science fiction story about a boy who was born on an orbiting space station reaching age fifteen and coming "back" to Earth. Leo has spent his whole life on Moon 2 along with two other kids his same age. Orion and Libra are twins. Their mothers are all astronauts who cycle in and out of the station. Leo's mother is distant while Orion's and Libra's is more affectionate. Leo's main connection is with his grandfather who is a rancher in California now but was a famous astronaut.

This story worried me at first because I normally do not enjoy stories with non-standard English but this one quickly drew me in and I buzzed right over "i" for "I", "c" for "see", and "u" for "you" among other abbreviations. The story is told by Leo who feels that Moon 2 is his home and who is curious about Earth but doesn't really want to live there.

There are all sorts of adventures like emergency space walks and secret rocket launches. There are also tender moments like those between Leo and Comet, the puppy his grandfather gives him when he gets to the ranch. The story is told poetically and is quite lyrical considering that it is written by a young man who is interested in math and physics and who wants to be an astronaut himself.

We can also see that the adults in the new space program and otherwise around Leo are keeping secrets from him. Finding out those secrets explains a lot about Leo, Orion and Libra. Also kept from Leo is the state of life on Earth with global warming, ice caps melting, and drought that are making life on Earth more precarious.

I was intrigued by the changes that life in space had on the kids' bodies. Leo has low bone density, low lung capacity, and a vulnerability to any stray virus. And he is in the best shape of the three kids who were raised in space.

This book is a great adventure and packs quite an emotional punch too. I strongly recommend it for science fiction fans and those new to the genre.

Favorite Quote:
i turn around
& my heart stops.
not because any of my systems have failed, but because of where i am.
it's the beauty.
it's the beauty.
u can grow up inside of a place & know it's right there, on the other side, but it won't prepare u for the height of it, for the scale of what surrounds it, when u're outside.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, September 25, 2017

ARC Review: Devils & Thieves by Jennifer Rush

Devils & Thieves
Author: Jennifer Rush
Series: Devils & Thieves (Book 1)
Publication: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (October 3, 2017)

Description: A thrilling new urban fantasy filled with magic and motorcycle gangs from Jennifer Rush, author of the Altered saga--perfect for fans of Beautiful Creatures.

Eighteen-year-old Jemmie Carmichael has grown up surrounded by magic in the quiet town of Hawthorne, New York. In her world, magic users are called "kindled," and Jemmie would count herself among them if only she could cast a simple spell without completely falling apart. It doesn't help that she was also recently snubbed by Crowe, the dangerous and enigmatic leader of the Black Devils kindled motorcycle gang and the unofficial head of their turf.

When the entire kindled community rolls into Hawthorne for an annual festival, a rumor begins spreading that someone is practicing forbidden magic. Then people start to go missing. With threats closing in from every side, no one can be trusted. Jemmie and Crowe will have to put aside their tumultuous history to find their loved ones, and the only thing that might save them is the very flaw that keeps Jemmie from fully harnessing her magic. For all her years of feeling useless, Jemmie may just be the most powerful kindled of all.
My Thoughts: Jemmie lives among the kindled but, despite the fact that she has magic, she doesn't fit in. She is so sensitive to magic that it makes her sick. She drinks to mute the effects of being surrounded by magic. This year her town is hosting the annual gathering of the magical familes and Jemmie knows it won't be a good time for her.

The leader of the Black Devils kindled motorcycle gang is Crowe Medici. He's her best friend Alex's older brother. Jemmie has had a crush on him for years but after a couple of kisses he set her aside for another girl which really raises the tension between them. Crowe has recently taken over the club after the suspicious death of his father. Because he thinks a rival club caused his father's death, there is even more tension at the annual gathering.

Meanwhile, to get over her attraction to Crowe, Jemmie has been texting, skyping, and otherwise communicating with a boy named Darek from the rival Deathstalkers club. They met at the previous gathering and have become friends. He is really into her but she still has Crowe on her mind.

Things start going wrong at the gathering when people start disappearing. One of the missing is Jemmie's best friend Alex. Jemmie and Crowe have to work together to find the missing people and along the way they learn a number of secrets about each other and their magical world.

This book ends with a cliffhanger that has me very eager to read the next book. It had a slow start with lots of world building, Jemmie's relationship with her magic, and setting up the tension between Crowe and Jemmie but, once the action started, it was a fast-paced, exciting story.

Favorite Quote:
Sure, I might have magic. I just can't use it.

And in the kindled world, that makes me about as useful as a dreck.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from . You can buy your copy here.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review: Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

Buried Heart
Author: Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives (Book 3)
Publication: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (July 25, 2017)

Choose between your parents.
Choose between your friends.
Choose between your lovers.
Choose who you are.

On the run from the murderous King Nikonos, Jessamy must find a way for her beloved Kalliarkos to take his rightful place on the throne. Only then can he end the oppression of the Commoners by their long time Patron overlords. But Kal's rise to power is fraught with manipulation and shocking decisions that make Jes question everything they promised each other. As their relationship frays and Jes's family and friends beg her for help, will she cast Kal and her Patron heritage aside? Will she finally join--even lead--the rebellion that had been burning among the Commoners for years?

This heart-pounding finale of World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott's Court of Five series forces Jessamy to confront an inescapable truth: with or without her, the revolution has begun.

My Thoughts: BURIED HEART was a good conclusion to the Court of Fives trilogy. Jessamy is torn between her Seroese father and her Afean mother in a culture ruled by the Seroese. As a mixed blood person, she is not accepted in the Seroese culture except that she is an excellent player in the game of fives which obsesses Patron and Commoner alike. She is also beloved of Kalliarkos who is very closely related the the rulers of the country which doesn't endear her to either group of people.

She needs to decide where her loyalties lie since she knows that there is a revolution brewing among the Commoners and lots of intrigue among the Patrons will have an impact on Kalliarkos. Since she was instrumental in freeing her mother, her siblings, and their servants from being entombed alive with a dead Patron by Lord Gargaron, she is in extreme danger. When Lord Gargaron captures her and stuffs her in a barrel (which hits just about all of my panic buttons), he forces her to help him woo armies from other countries that he wants to help him take control of the country. He puts Jessamy in a isolated mining prison to keep her until he needs her again. This is where she really becomes a revolutionary for Efea as she coordinates a prison takeover and escape.

The story has interesting revelations, lots of battles, lots of plotting, and a nice romance. Fans of epic fantasy will enjoy this whole trilogy.

Favorite Quote:
She can't disguise the fear in her voice: She's not sure if my loyalties lie with her or with Father. With Efea or with  Efea's Saroese rulers. The truth is, for all my bold words, I'm not sure either.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Book Review: Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead

Midnight Jewel
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: The Glittering Court (Book 2)
Publication: Razorbill (June 27, 2017)

Description: Mira is not like the other Glittering Court girls. She is a war refugee, cast out of her home country and thrust into another, where she has learned to fight against the many injustices around her. For some, the Glittering Court offers a chance at a life they’ve only ever dreamed of, one of luxury, glamour, and leisure. But for Mira, it’s simply a means to an end. In the new world, she plans to earn off her marriage contract price, and finally be free.

Mira pitches herself as an asset to one of the passengers on board the ship: the sardonic and aloof Grant Elliot, whom she’s discovered is a spy for the prestigious McGraw Agency—and her ticket to buying her freedom. His cover blown, Grant has little choice but to take her on. Mira applies herself by day, learning the etiquette and customs that will help to earn her anonymity. By night, she dons a mask and slips into the city, fighting injustice and corruption on her own terms—and impressing Grant with her extraordinary abilities and insights into a brewing rebellion. But the rebellion isn’t all they’re fighting…

Neither of them can ignore the attraction burning between them—an attraction so powerful, it threatens to unravel everything Mira’s worked so hard for. With freedom finally within her grasp, can Mira risk it all for love?

My Thoughts: Mira has a good reason for joining the Glittering Court. It is not only for a chance of a good marriage like most of the other girls. As a refugee cast out of her home country and facing prejudice in her new, travel to a new land would give her a chance for a new beginning. It would also give her a chance to find and free her brother who was sold into bondage. However, marriage looks like it is the only way that she will ever earn enough money to accomplish her goals.

She notices one of the men on board the ship with her. She recognizes him as a man she has seen hanging around the school. She learns that he is good at disguises and works as an agent for the prestigious McGraw Agency who is investigating a complicated conspiracy in the new world. She pitches her ability to go where he can't and to spy for him in exchange for some of the gold she needs. But she also finds Grant Elliott to a be fascinating, though very annoying, man who threatens to ruin her plans for a loveless but lucrative marriage.

When she arrives, she continues spying for Grant but she also connects with Tom Shortsleeves who is a land pirate in the new world. He also offers her gold for her assistance with is plans. She is conflicted but sees that him as a sort of Robin Hood who steals from the rich and helps the poor in the new lawless colony where she lives.

This was an engaging fantasy romance. It is the companion to The Glittering Court which tells the same story from the viewpoint of one of the other girls who traveled as part of the Glittering Court. I am hoping that there is a third story focusing on the third of the girls who were roommates at the Glittering Court because Tamsin was an important character in each of the first two books.

Fans of fantasy, adventure and romance will enjoy this series.

Favorite Quote:
What would she say if she knew that I'd been breaking into the home of a respected citizen last night? That I'd kissed a man inside a tavern of ill repute? That said man was a spy with a dangerous past and an infuriating personality?
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

ARC Review: Stolen Secrets by L. B. Schulman

Stolen Secrets
Author: L. B. Schulman
Publication: Boyds Mills Press (September 19, 2017)

Description: After an abrupt move across the country to San Francisco, sixteen-year-old Livvy is shocked to find that her mother has lied to her. Instead of looking for work at a bakery, her mom is taking care of Adelle, Livvy’s grandmother, who Livvy thought was long dead. Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Adelle shouts out startling details, mistakes her own name, and seems to relive moments that may have taken place in a concentration camp. When Livvy and her new friend Franklin D. find journal entries from the Holocaust in Adelle’s home, Livvy begins to suspect that her grandmother may have a shocking link to a notable figure -- Anne Frank.

My Thoughts: This is a contemporary story filled with family secrets. Livvy is just about to start her junior year in Vermont with her friends when her mother packs them up and heads off to San Francisco. Her mom has told her that she was laid off and is going to get a job as a pastry chef in San Francisco. But Livvy learns that she is really going to be taking care of her mother who has Alzheimer's. Livvy had been told that her grandmother was dead.

Livvy's mother Gretchen hadn't seen her mother since she was in college. She hates her mother and wouldn't be taking care of her now except that she wants an inheritance from her mother. Gretchen is an alcoholic who has been sober for five years but the stress of caring for her mother Adelle has caused her to begin drinking again. Livvy wants to get to know her grandmother but Alzheimer's makes it difficult.

Livvy makes a new friend at school named Franklin D. He is the one who is persistent about making her his friend since she is still hoping that she'll be able to resume her life in Vermont in a short time. Franklin D. is an interesting character who is Jewish, has a great relationship with his parents, is bright, and has no filter between things going through his brain and then out his mouth. Livvy needs that kind of person in her life.

The story gains more complications when some of the things Adelle says lead Livvy and Franklin D. to believe that she was in Bergen-Belsen and might have known Anne Frank. The Anne Frank connection is also of interest to Vickie who is Adelle's other caretaker and who has primary responsibility for her while Gretchen is back in Vermont for another try at rehab.

This was an interesting and engaging story about how secrets can be hard on relationships. I disliked Gretchen because her alcoholism has made Livvy an adult before she should have had to become one. I liked that Franklin D. helped her become more comfortable with herself and with her own quirks.

Favorite Quote:
He frowned. "I lay it all on the line so everyone knows who I really am."

"I'm sorry. I have no idea why I said that. I guess I'm not used to talking so much about personal stuff."

"You should try it more often. It takes the guesswork out of communication." His face smoothed out into a smile.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, September 15, 2017

ARC Review: A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess

A Poison Dark and Drowning
Author: Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire (Book 2)
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (September 19, 2017)

Description: The magicians want her to lead.
The sorcerers want her to lie.
The demons want her blood.
Henrietta wants to save the one she loves.
But will his dark magic be her undoing?

In this seductive and explosive second book in the Kingdom on Fire series, Jessica Cluess delivers her signature mix of magic, passion, and teen warriors fighting for survival. Hand to fans of Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J. Maas, and Kiersten White.

Henrietta doesn’t need a prophecy to know that she’s in danger. She came to London to be named the chosen one, the first female sorcerer in centuries, the one who would defeat the Ancients. Instead, she discovered a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one.

Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Rook, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? The poison in Rook’s system is transforming him as he begins to master dark powers of his own. So when Henrietta finds a clue to the Ancients’ past that could turn the tide of the war, she persuades Blackwood, the mysterious Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out new weapons. And Magnus, the brave, reckless flirt who wants to win back her favor, is assigned to their mission. Together, they will face monsters, meet powerful new allies, and discover that some old wounds are still full of poison.

My Thoughts: This is the middle book in a trilogy. Henrietta has been confirmed as a sorcerer but is still studying magic on the side. She knows that she isn't the prophesied Chosen who will finally defeat the Ancients but it is being kept secret from most of the sorcerers. When they learn of a cache of weapons that may defeat the Ancients who are trying to conquer Britain, she goes to find them along with Blackwood, Magnus and other of her colleagues. They are forced to make a deal with Mab, the faerie queen, to travel there. There they also meet Maria who is hiding the fact that she is a powerful witch.

Things are getting dire. Rook is losing his battle to stay human and is being consumed by shadows. Henrietta learns a secret about Rh'lem who is the leader of the Ancients and she learns more about the past that involved her father, Blackwood's father, and her magician teacher Mickelmas.

Henrietta is a boy magnet and her various relationships play in the plot of this story. She loves Rook who was her childhood friend and has promised to marry him despite their very different social classes and that he is unclean because he was bitten by a familiar. But she is in danger of losing him to his injuries as he turns into an evil shadow creature. Her fellow sorcerer Magnus has fallen for her but she rebuffed him which has altered their friendship. And Blackwood has fallen in love with her and shared his family secrets.

It will be interesting to see how the story plays out in the final book of the trilogy.

Favorite Quote:
I didn't argue. He was the Imperator, after all. I would train, and I would fight. But no one could stop what I read in my spare time. And if I happened to find something useful? Well, better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

Making trouble was becoming a regular habit, it seemed.
I received this one for review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ARC Review: Murder, Magic and What We Wore by Kelly Jones

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore
Author: Kelly Jones
Publication: Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 19, 2017)

Description: Fans of Patrice Kindl’s Keeping the Castle or Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecelia will adore this funny Regency-era mystery about a determined young woman with a magical trick up her sleeve . . .

The year is 1818, the city is London, and 16-year-old Annis Whitworth has just learned that her father is dead and all his money is missing. And so, of course, she decides to become a spy.

Annis always suspected that her father was himself a spy, and following in his footsteps to unmask his killer makes perfect sense. Alas, it does not make sense to England’s current spymasters—not even when Annis reveals that she has the rare magical ability to sew glamours: garments that can disguise the wearer completely.

Well, if the spies are too pigheaded to take on a young woman of quality, then Annis will take them on. And so she crafts a new double life for herself. Miss Annis Whitworth will appear to live a quiet life in a country cottage with her aunt, and Annis-in-disguise as Madame Martine, glamour artist, will open a magical dressmaking shop. That way she can earn a living, maintain her social standing, and, in her spare time, follow the coded clues her father left behind and unmask his killer.

It can’t be any harder than navigating the London social season, can it?

My Thoughts: I like historical mysteries, the Regency time period, and magic which made this book a no-brainer choice for me. The story begins when 16-year-old Annis Whitworth learns that her father has died in France. When her father's man of business arrives to tell Annis and her Aunt Cassia about the death, he also tells them that her father died penniless. Annis and Aunt Cassia are looking at a major life change!

Her aunt is determined that the two look for work as governesses or companions but Annis has a different plan: she wants to be a spy for England. After all, she has figured out that her father was one and she has deciphered some clues that were in his effects that the War Office needs to know. However, the War Office doesn't need a teenage lady to work for them.

Annis falls back on her plan two. While remaking ready-made mourning clothes for herself and her aunt, she discovers that she is a glamour mage who is able to change the appearance of things by sewing them. Besides making clothing more fashionable and flattering, she can also make clothes that disguise the wearer as someone else. She is certain that that skill will be useful to the War Office but she is rebuffed again.

She and her aunt, along with their new maid Millicent O'Leary, move to a small town where Annis disguises herself as a French widow Madame Martine who is an extraordinary fashionable dressmaker. Annis is determined to earn enough for them all to resume their fashionable and upper class lives.

Annis and Millicent face a number of dangers. There are the men wearing navy boots who are pursuing them. There is the upper class villain who attempted to rape Millicent and whose sister took his side losing Millicent her job.

This was an engaging story. I liked Annis despite the fact that she was more than a little naive. She had plenty of determination. Fans of historical mysteries with some magic will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
Perhaps the War Office recruited young gentlemen whose families had such abrupt changes in fortune. Why had they not yet thought to recruit young ladies? I filed it away under a listing titled Arguments to Have with Mr. Smith, as Soon as Convenient.
I received this one for review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

ARC Review: The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner

The Exact Location of Home
Author: Kate Messner
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (September 12, 2017)

Description: Kirby "Zig" Zigonski lives for the world of simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than most people--especially his father, who he hasn't seen in over a year. When his dad's latest visit is canceled with no explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a new gizmo--a garage sale GPS unit--for help. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town to explain his absence, Zig sets out to find him. Following one clue after another, logging mile after mile, Zig soon discovers that people aren't always what they seem . . . and sometimes, there's more than one set of coordinates for home.

An important story of love and hope that will capture readers' hearts, The Exact Location of Home is another must read from beloved author Kate Messner.

My Thoughts: Zig is an eighth grader and science nerd. He lives with his mother who is studying to become a nurse and always looks forward to visits from his father. His father always has interesting surprises but his father is also very unreliable. He keeps getting Zig's hopes up and cancelling on him.

Things are not going well for Zig and his mom since his dad has also stopped sending child support. They are a couple of months behind on their rent and are going to be evicted. Zig can't understand why his mother won't contact his dad for help. He feels certain that she is keeping secrets from him.

Zig has a couple of good friends Ruby and Gianna. They spend time together going to rummage sales. Zig is always looking for electronics. He hits the jackpot at one sale when a widow is selling some of her husbands projects which include a GPS unit. The kids know about geocaching because they learned about it in science class. When they decide to give geocaching a try, Zip discovers a cacher named Senior Searcher and become convinced that it is his father who is Senior Searcher.

Zig decides to find Senior Searcher and convinces his friends to help him. They have a number of adventures finding the caches. Zig becomes sort of obsessed with the search as the rest of his life falls apart. He and his mom are evicted and find themselves living in a shelter after a couple of days living in their car. There he meets another woman and her son Scoop who are also homeless after fleeing an abusive husband and father.

His obsession with finding his father and his lack of home are causing problems at school. It is hard to do his homework in the shelter and he often doesn't have school supplies. Seeing the different ways teachers helped or hindered him was interesting. His social studies teacher was big on doing community service to help the "unfortunate" but she didn't seem to realize that she could have some homeless kids sitting in the desks in front of her. Meanwhile, the librarian just quietly helped by leaving pencils and paper out for Zig to use without asking if he needed them.

I also really liked the references to LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knutson. It was Scoop's favorite book and he often begged to have it read to him. It is one of my favorite books too. I always loved reading it to my students. I liked the lessons that both Zig and Scoop got from the book: sometimes people do change as Mr. McBee did and sometimes home isn't exactly what you might think it is.

This was an excellent, engaging story.

Favorite Quote:
"It's good. Do you want a big ending that ties everything together?"

"I have that," he says. He looks at his paper again. "Friends help." He looks up a me. "Don't you think that's big?"

"Actually, yeah." I guess I do.
I received this one for review from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Book Review: Refuge for Masterminds by Kathleen Baldwin

Refuge for Masterminds 
Author: Kathleen Baldwin
Series: Stranje House (Book 3)
Publication: Tor Teen (May 23, 2017)

Description: It’s 1814. Napoleon has escaped his imprisonment on Elba. Britain is at war on four fronts. And at Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, five young ladies are secretly being trained for a world of spies, diplomacy, and war….

Napoleon’s invasion of England is underway and someone at Stranje House is sneaking information to his spies. Lady Jane Moore is determined to find out who it is. If anyone can discover the traitor, it is Janefor, according to headmistress Emma Stranje, Lady Jane is a mastermind.

Jane doesn’t consider herself a mastermind. It’s just that she tends to grasp the facts of a situation quickly, and by so doing, she’s able to devise and implement a sensible course of action. Is Jane enough of a mastermind to save the brash young American inventor Alexander Sinclair, her friends at Stranje House, and possibly England itself?

Fans of genre-blending, romance, and action will love this Regency-era alternate history novel filled with spunky heroines, handsome young lords, and dastardly villains―the third in the Stranje House series. Don’t miss the first two books: A School for Unusual Girls and Exile for Dreamers.

My Thoughts: This is Lady Jane's story. Lady Jane was sent to Stranje house by her older brothers after her parents' deaths. She thinks of herself as plain and average and can't figure out why her friends love her. However, she is being groomed to be a mastermind since she has a strong ability to plan and think three or four steps ahead of everyone. This comes in quite handy since the young ladies of Stranje House and the patronesses of British society are all spies trying to keep Napoleon from conquering England in this alternate history story.

Lady Jane also has a secret that she has been keeping since just before her parents died. This secret makes her believe that she needs to stay away from London and society or face changes she doesn't want in her life.

Lady Jane is also falling in love with inventor Alexander Sinclair who is a brash American who has developed a working steam boat which could alter the course of the war but only if they can get the prototype to London and the Navy before it is captured by the evil Lady Daneska and her partner the Ghost.

The banter between Jane and Alexander was entertaining as the two sparred. I liked the relationships between the girls at Stranje House. They have become the family that Jane never had since hers were dissolute gamesters who never valued her.

Fans of alternate history and intrepid young women will enjoy this third book in the Stranje House series.

Favorite Quote:
Lady Castlereagh laces her hands across her broad middle and taps one finger. "I suppose you think it's a trifle too soon?"

"I thought it best you meet her first." Miss Stranje joins them as they close ranks around me, speaking of me as if I'm not staring straight into their faces.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

ARC Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Author: Scott Reintgen
Series: Nyxia Triad
Publication: Crown Books for Young Readers (September 12, 2017)

Description: Every life has a price in this sci-fi thriller that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae. This is the first in a new three-book series called the Nyxia Triad that will take a group of broken teens to the far reaches of the universe and force them to decide what they’re willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.


Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

My Thoughts: NYXIA is the first book in an epic space adventure. Emmett Atwater is one of ten poor kids from Earth who are given the chance to compete for a place on the team that will be going to Eden. He's black and from Detroit where he lives with his factory worker dad and sick mother who is in need of a kidney transplant. Winning a place on the team that goes down to the planet to mine nyxia will make his family financially set for life and will cure his mother. He has every incentive to do well. But so do all the other candidates...

The book tells of the many competitions that the kids need to win and tells about the rivalries and alliances that form between them. They are taught to fight and taught to manipulate nyxia. Emmett's best friend is Kaya who is a strategic genius. She encourages him to explore the spaceship with her because both kids are sure that secrets are being kept about the goals of the mission and other things too. When tragedy strikes, Emmett has to focus even more on making the team and getting down to Eden. The competitions all seem to be manipulating the kids to mold them into what the corporation wants and Emmett struggles to maintain his own values.

The competition gets even more tense when they learn that there is another team also competing for a place on the trip down to Eden and that only fifteen of the 20 kids will get to go. Because Emmett had been sidelined with an injury for a while and hasn't found a way to make up the points, he is on the bubble. He knows that in order for him to win a place a good friend and good person on his team will have to lose.

This was an entertaining story that was filled with action and lots of moral dilemmas too. I am eager to read the next books to find out what happens when the teams reach Eden.

Favorite Quote:
I learned our history in parables, stories of warning. My great-grandfather's restaurant got railroaded by a new interstate project. The government took the land out of his clenched fists and gave him just enough money to try to fail in a neighboring county. My own gramps gave up his scholarship to Michigan after his mother died. He could have been All-American, but he got a factory job and looked after his brothers and sisters instead. In every branch of our family tree, someone's brushed shoulders with real freedom. But there's always a catch in life. There's always some fine print that snatched dreams just before they were real enough to hold in our hands.
I received this one for review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, September 4, 2017

ARC Review: The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match by Elizabeth Eulberg

The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Series: Great Shelby Holmes (Book 2)
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (September 12, 2017)

Description: The Great Shelby Holmes may have finally met her match in this humorous sequel to Elizabeth Eulberg's fresh twist on Sherlock Holmes.

Being friends with a super sleuth isn't easy, especially when she's nine years old and four feet tall, and full of attitude. But for eleven-year-old aspiring writer John Watson, being friends with Shelby Holmes is just the adventure he's looking for.

In the few weeks since moving to Harlem with his mom, Shelby has been training John in the art of observation-a skill that comes in handy on the first day of school. John's new teacher, Mr. Crosby, is acting suspiciously, and Shelby knows this is a mystery worth investigating. But as Shelby and John dig deeper, they discover that there may be someone unexpected involved--someone who may have Shelby beat.

My Thoughts: In this retelling of the Sherlock Holmes story, Sherlock is Shelby, a nine-year-old genius who has been skipped two grades. Dr. Watson is John Watson her eleven-year-old sidekick. both attend a school for the arts in Harlem where John is focusing on writing. Like Dr. Watson, John tells the stories of Shelby's adventures but his medium is an online journal that is also a requirement of his creative writing class.

Shelby and John met only recently when he and his mother moved into the apartment house were the Holmes family lives. Shelby was John's first New York friend. Even though Shelby doesn't feel that she needs friends, John is a good friend to her. He helps her connect with other kids who tend to avoid her otherwise.

This case has to do with a suspicious new science teacher at their school. Shelby's investigations lead her to the conclusion that he has lost his grandfather's watch. Following the clues leads to the school that heavily recruited first grader Shelby and was the school where the teacher worked previously. There John and Shelby run into this story's Moriarty in the person of Moira who is jealous of the attention paid to Shelby and who is determined to outsmart her.

The story has appropriate danger for a middle grade mystery that is made more timely by the fact that John is a diabetic. One plot point has them locked in a boiler room and John suffering a blood sugar crash.

I found Shelby as annoying as most of the people around her do and appreciated John's attempts to socialize her. I liked the friendship that the two of them develop. I am eager to read more adventures for Shelby and John.

Favorite Quote:
Shelby pointed her finger at me. "There's something off about him. He looks at me in a weird way."

WHO DOESN'T? I wanted to ask, but I bit my tongue. But seriously? I'd seen nothing but weird looks for Shelby from kids and teachers today.
I received this review copy from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Book Review: The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye
Author: Nancy Springer
Series: Enola Holmes (Book 6)
Publication: Puffin Books (May 8, 2010)

Description: As Enola searches for the missing Lady Blanchefleur del Campo, she discovers that her brother Sherlock is just as diligently searching for Enola herself -- and this time he really needs to catch her! He is in possession of a most peculiar package, a message from their long-lost mother that only Enola can decipher. Sherlock, along with their brother Mycroft, must follow Enola into the reeking tunnels of London's dark underbelly as they solve a triple mystery: What has happened to their mother? And to Lady Blanchefleur? And what does either have to do with Mycroft, who holds Enola's future in his ever so-proper hands?

No one, not even Sherlock, is left unchanged or unsurprised in this brilliant conclusion to the Enola Holmes mystery series.

My Thoughts: This final Enola Holmes mystery finally answers the question that has been hovering beneath all the other stories: where is Enola's mother? It also has Enola looking for Lady Blanchefleur del Campo who disappeared one day into London's new underground.

Sherlock is also looking for Enola but, this time, it is because a strange package has been delivered to their family home for her. Sherlock has moderated his goal for Enola too. After being educated by Florence Nightingale in the previous book about the horrors of proper boarding schools, he is rethinking his plans for Enola's future. However, Mycroft is the one with legal authority over Enola and his thinking about her future hasn't changed.

Again this book has a cipher that has to be decoded, disguises aplenty, and lots of adventure in Victorian England. It also has a maturing Enola and a new relationship for her with her much older brothers.

This was a satisfying conclusion to an excellent historical mystery series.

Favorite Quote:
"Ye gods with bunions!" I exploded, suddenly furious, although not at the unfortunate lady. I glared across her supine, shorn, and deformed body at my brothers. "I am sure she was sent to the very best boarding schools, Mycroft!"

"What on Earth --"

"Her poor waist, compressed to the extent that her personage has..." I could not remember the word atrophied, and this made me even angrier. "All her strength given up to fashion, so that now she cannot sit, stand, or walk unless unless she is encased in one of those infernal devices of torture!"
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

State of the Stack (September 1, 2017)

This is my monthly State of the Stack post. It is my way to keep track of my review books and to hopefully reduce the stack that I have waiting for me. I take a look at my review commitments on or near the first of the month. Please feel free to join in and let me know the state of your stack.

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

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

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

My Review Pile

Osiris by Eric C. Anderson (Sept. 12)
Her Last Goodbye by Melinda Leigh (Sept. 26)
 Satellite by Nick Lake (Oct. 3)
Ally by Anna Banks (Oct. 3)
Devils & Thieves by Jennifer Rush (Oct. 3)
 The Wicked Billionaire by Jackie Ashenden (Oct. 3)
The Breathless by Tara Goedjen (Oct. 10)
Berserker by Emmy Laybourne (Oct. 10)
 Death Overdue by Allison Brook (Oct. 10)
A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron (Oct. 10)
The Innocence Treatment by Ari Goelman (Oct. 17)
Mind Game by Iris Johansen (Oct. 24)
The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (Oct. 31)

 Unholy City by Carrie Smith (Nov. 7)
Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth J. Duncan (Nov. 7)
City of Lies by Victoria Thompson (Nov. 7)
Death at the Emerald by R. J. Koreto (Nov. 7)
A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford (Nov. 7)
Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda (Nov. 14)

 Rugged Texas Cowboy by Lora Leigh (Dec. 5)
Bury the Past by James L'Etoile (Dec. 12)
A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert (Dec. 12)
A Case of Syrah, Syrah by Nancy J. Parra (Dec. 12)

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

I Read This Month

These are listed in the order I read them. Links go to my reviews for all that have been posted already. Otherwise, the date the review is scheduled for is listed.
  1. The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match by Elizabeth Eulberg (Sept. 4)
  2. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Lee (August 8)
  3. Nyxia by Scott Reintgen (Sept. 6)
  4. Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany (Sept. 7) 
  5. All the Secret Places by Anna Carlisle (Sept. 9) 
  6. The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner (Sept. 11)
  7. Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones (Sept. 13) 
  8. The Last Move by Mary Burton (Sept. 13) 
  9. Archangel's Viper by Nalini Singh (Sept. 21) 
  10. A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess (Sept. 15) 
  11. Stolen Secrets by L. B. Schulman (Sept. 18) 
  12. Find Me by Tiffany Snow (Sept. 20)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody (August 2) 
  2. Hunting Hour by Margaret Mizushima (August 3) 
  3. Dead Man's Bridge by Robert J. Mrazek (August 5) 
  4. Among the Dead by J. R. Backlund (August 10)
  5. Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis (August 24)
  6. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller (August 25) 
  7. A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas (August 26)
  8. The Bronze Skies by Catherine Asaro (August 30)
  9. On the Chase by Katie Ruggle (August 31)
  10. Her Dark Half by Paige Tyler (Sept. 2)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Lee (August 8)
  2. Her Last Goodbye by Melinda Leigh (Sept. 26)
  3. Find Me by Tiffany Snow (Sept. 19)
  4. The Last Move by Mary Burton (Sept. 19)
  5. Osiris by Eric C. Anderson (Sept. 12)
  6. Rugged Texas Cowboy by Lora Leigh (Dec. 5)
  7. Bury the Past by James L'Etoile (Dec. 12) 
  8. A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert (Dec. 12)
  9. A Case of Syrah, Syrah by Nancy J. Parra (Dec. 12)
  10. Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda (Nov. 14)
Next Month's Plan

I am keeping about 3 - 4 weeks ahead reading, reviewing, and scheduling my review posts. I try to read my review books first each month and then fit books from my TBR mountain in the remaining spaces. Some months (like October) don't have a lot of open spaces even though I do between 4 and 6 reviews a week.