Friday, September 28, 2018

ARC Review: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Broken Things
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publication: HarperCollins (October 2, 2018)

Description: It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods. 

Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.

The only thing is: they didn’t do it. 

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.

With all the intensity and whiplash turns of Gone Girl and One of Us Is Lying, this engrossing psychological thriller by New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver is an unforgettable, mesmerizing tale of exquisite obsession, spoiled innocence, and impossible friendships.

My Thoughts: Once upon a time there were three girls. Mia was a gifted dancer and selectively mute. Brynn was a lesbian and a loner. Samantha was the broken foster child who drew them together because of her obsession with an obscure children's book called THE WAY INTO LOVELORN.

The girls were 12 or 13 when Samantha was murdered and the Mia and Brynn and their friend Owen were suspected of murdering her. Mia and Brynn were never charged but Owen was charged and the charges dismissed because the police messed up the evidence. The experience tore the kids apart.

Five years have passed. Mia's parents have divorced leaving her with her mother who has become a hoarder. She has lost her gift for dancing and is home-schooled because of the bullying she faced after Summer's death. Brynn spends her time in rehab because she finds it safe despite the fact that she doesn't have any addictions. Owen was taken away by his father to finish his schooling out of the country.

They get together along with Brynn's cousin Wade who has a website about the crime to try to find out what really happened to Summer and find some closure and a way to move on with their lives.

The story is told by Mia and Brynn in separate chapters in the current time and during the time when Summer died. There are also chapters from THE WAY INTO LOVELORN and the sequel that the three girls were writing.

The story was complex and filled with emotions. The characters were well developed and interesting people. While the story is a mystery, as much attention on placed on the characters of each of the girls and their tangled and twisted relationships. I liked the way Summer was revealed in all her strengths and weaknesses through the course of this story.

This was an engaging story that grabbed my attention and held it to the very end.

Favorite Quote:
"Jake Ginsky was on the football team," I say. "He was, like, outfielder or something."

"Outfielder's a baseball term," Mia says.

Leave it to Mia to be nerdy about even non-nerdy things. "Whatever. He was tight ass or rear end or whatever they call it."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

ARC Review: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls
Author: Claire Legrand
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (October 2, 2018)

Description: Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: The newbie. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: The pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: The queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives; a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires. Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight…until now.

My Thoughts: This horror story is told by three very different girls. It takes place on Sawkill Rock  which is the home of the rich and pretentious. It is also an island where girls have been disappearing without a trace for more than 100 years.

Marion is new on the island. She and her mother and her sister Charlotte have come to make a new start after the death of her father in a car accident. Her mother has gotten a job as the housekeeper for the Mortimer family - one of the richest and with the longest history on the island.

Zoey has been on the island for a while. Her father is the chief of police. But Zoey, being black and not wealthy, is a definite outsider. Her best friends are Thora and Grayson but Thora is one of the missing girls.

Val Mortimer looks like she has a charmed life. She is the daughter of the Mortimers. She's beautiful and the social leader. If she beckons, everyone comes - including Thora.

Val takes a liking to Charlotte and she is the next to disappear.

There are interludes from the point of view of the Rock itself who sees what's going on and needs to recruit helpers to end the terror - helpers like Marion, Zoey, and Val. Meanwhile, we also find out that Val and her ancestors have been the hosts for a demon from some other world that grows only through the deaths of girls who are brought to it by the Mortimers. Val is having second thoughts about her role as a demon procurer but doesn't know what she can do to stop it.

This story is really creepy which would target it for older young adult readers. There are also sexual scenes and discussions which would also be better for older students. I thought the scenes were well-done and filled with emotion. I could feel the aching need for connection that both Marion and Val were feeling.

Favorite Quote:
"Why do the monsters eat girls?" she asked at last. Her voice sounded small.

When Marion didn't answer, Zoey turned on her side to face her. "Marion?"

"Because," Marion answered, looking beyond Zoey to the sea, "when a predator hunts, it seeks out the vulnerable. The desperate."

Zoey's laugh was bitter. "Oh, and we poor delicate girls are vulnerable and desperate, is that what you're saying?"
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, September 24, 2018

ARC Review: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Author: Elana K. Arnold
Publication: Balzer + Bray (October 2, 2018)

Description: The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: When the king dies, his son the prince must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon or what horrors she faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome young man, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny of sitting on a throne beside him. It’s all like a dream, like something from a fairy tale.

As Ama follows Emory to the kingdom of Harding, however, she discovers that not all is as it seems. There is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows, and the greatest threats may not be behind her, but around her, now, and closing in.

My Thoughts: First of all, this book has a fairy tale-like feel but I don't know which fairy tale -- and it isn't a Disney version of a fairy tale. Prince Emory has a goal. He needs to find and kill a dragon and rescue its damsel before he can become king. With his father dying before Emory being fully trained, he is rather on his own in his quest. His mother, the Queen, advises him that he has three weapons -- his brain, his sword, and another she doesn't name -- to help him in his quest. The descriptions of his climb to the dragon's castle and his fight with the dragon are vivid and and show a young man who is determined, self-centered, and certain that his way is the best way to do anything.

The story then switches viewpoint and jumps in time to the rescued damsel who comes to consciousness in Emory's arms with no memory of how she got there or what happened before. Emory names her Ama and tells her that she's his destiny. When she briefly walks away to get a look at the world that she doesn't remember, she encounters a lynx pup and its mother. Emory kills the mother and is about to kill the baby when Ama begs for it. She names the pup Sorrow and takes it with her. But Emory tells her that it is a wild animal who can't live in captivity and which he will get rid of before their wedding.

Ama is determined to find a way to keep her pet. She is put under the tutelage of Emory's friend who is the castle falconer who tries to teach her to break her pet's spirit in order to train it. Ama quickly sees that she is also being broken and trained to be Emory's wife. Meeting Emory's mother does nothing to change her opinion about her fate but, with no past, she doesn't seem to have any other options for her future.

She becomes ill in the leadup to the wedding and the only thing that seems to help her is spending time in the heat near where the glassblower fashions his art and the eyes that decorate the city walls. Ama soon convinces him to let her work with glass and the work and heat help her to uncover secrets from her past and plan a course for her future.

I enjoyed this story despite the fact that is was rather dark and grim, but because of the sexual issues and content, would recommend it for older young adults.

Favorite Quote:
Perhaps that was the trick to living a life, Ama considered, stooping down to admire the purplish tinge at the base of the grasses, the way the color shifted partway up each blade to green and then to caps of gold. Perhaps the key to being content, even without a past, is to keep your eyes firmly on the present moment, and looking no further than what was most probably around just the very next bend--tonight, a fire--and not anticipating beyond that, or allowing oneself to cast backward, into the great black void of before.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, September 21, 2018

ARC Review: The Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb

The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century
Author: Neal Bascomb
Publication: Arthur A. Levine Books (September 25, 2018)

Description: Neal Bascomb, author of The Nazi Hunters, returns with his next thrilling work of narrative nonfiction about a group of Allied POWs who staged an escape for the ages during World War I. Illustrated throughout with incredible photographs and published on the 100th anniversary of the Holzminden escape!At the height of World War I, as battles raged in the trenches and in the air, another struggle for survival was being waged in the most notorious POW camp in all of Germany: Holzminden. A land-locked Alcatraz of sorts, it was home to the most troublesome Allied prisoners--and the most talented at escape. The Grand Escape tells the remarkable tale of a band of pilots who pulled off an ingenious plan and made it out of enemy territory in the biggest breakout of WWI, inspiring their countrymen in the darkest hours of the war.

My Thoughts: THE GRAND ESCAPE details the people and events around a major prison break from Holzminden during World War I. It begins by giving the reader some background on the events that led up to World War I including the  building of professional armies and diplomatic efforts that were either non-existent or ineffectual. It introduces the Hague Conventions that were supposed to legislate the ethical and humane treatment of Prisoners of War.

The British entered the war with enthusiasm and with the confidence that the war would soon be over with the Allies victorious. The book talks about the origins of the Royal Flying Corps which began as a rich man's club since they could afford the planes. It talks about the dangers of using this new technology in war where flying speeds were about 75 MPH and the ceiling for these open cockpit vehicles was 10,000 feet.

After setting the scene, the book focuses on a few men who were mostly RFC pilots and spotters who crashed in German held territory and who were taken to various prisons. After numerous escape attempts, the most incorrigible found themselves at Holzminden which was commanded by Captain Karl Niemeyer who delighted in tormenting his prisoners in both great and small ways.

The book details the some of the prisoners' plans to dig a tunnel out of the prison and then make their way to Holland where they would be out of German-controlled territory. It details the difficulty of the endeavor as men dug in claustrophobic conditions with bad air and the constant fear of tunnel collapse or discovery by the Germans. And getting through the tunnel was only the start of the ordeal. The escapees had to travel through hostile territory with very limited supplies and the constant fear of discovery.

The book is profusely illustrated with photographs, maps, and other documents. There is an extensive bibliography, detailed chapter notes, and an extensive index (not provided in the Advanced Reader Copy I read.) I especially liked the Epilogue which followed up on a number of the men who managed to escape and make their way back to England and told how the lessons learned escaping from Holzminden helped POWs during World War II survive and escape.

Favorite Quote:
What kept them going? Many things. The shame, unwarranted though it was, of being shot down and captured. Imprisonment - in one camp after the next - months, years, stolen from their lives. Their separation from their squadrons and their families. The narrow escapes. The recaptures. Solitary confinement, sometimes pushed to the brink of madness and death. Holzminden. Its petty annoyances, its waiting, its drumbeat of theft and deprivation. The endless hours of tunneling, the terror of the dark, the fear of collapse and suffocating in the bowels of the earth. All the setbacks and the stubborn effort. And Niemeyer. His venomous harangues, his never-ending abuses. The thought of Niemeyer, of besting him, was reason enough to continue. Above all, they wanted to be free, to be masters of their own lives again, to simply take a walk where and when they pleased.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Scholastic. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Book Review: Chasing Truth by Julie Cross

Chasing Truth
Author: Julie Cross
Series: Eleanor Ames (Book 1)
Publication: Entangled: Teen (September 27, 2016)

Description: When former con artist Eleanor Ames’ homecoming date commits suicide, she’s positive there’s something more going on. The more questions she asks, though, the more she crosses paths with Miles Beckett. He’s sexy, mysterious, arrogant…and he’s asking all the same questions.

Eleanor might not trust him—she doesn’t even like him—but they can’t keep their hands off of each other. Fighting the infuriating attraction is almost as hard as ignoring the fact that Miles isn’t telling her the truth…and that there’s a good chance he thinks she’s the killer.

My Thoughts: Eleanor Ames is seventeen and attending Holden Prep in Virginia. She is a former con woman who became an informant for the FBI intending to turn in her father but her mother got caught instead. She living with her older sister Harper and her sister's Secret Service boyfriend Aidan. Things aren't all that good. Neither Ellie nor Harper have birth certificates or Social Security numbers which limits their options. Harper is working as a nanny pretending to be from Germany.

Ellie is grieving the apparent suicide of her only friend at Holden. She was the last one to see senator's son Simon Gilbert when he dropped her off at home after the Spring Dance. He was found a couple of hours later in his home. When her new neighbor Miles Beckett enrolls at Holden and starts asking questions about Simon, Ellie decides to investigate too.

Holden Prep is a hotbed of secrets with drugs, blackmail, and secret relationships really common. And both Miles and Ellie have their own share of secrets. As they investigate to find out what really happened after Simon dropped her off, many secrets are unearthed. And Ellie and Miles are falling in love.

I enjoyed this fast-paced thriller. I liked that Ellie found a way to use the skills her parents instilled in her as a con artist to unravel the mystery. I also liked that she was conflicted about using those skills and living an honest life.

Favorite Quote:
I used to think of the kids at Holden as an alien species -- a culture I needed to learn and mimic in order to infiltrate. But now I'm not so sure we're that different.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Book Review: The Emerald Sea by Richelle Mead

The Emerald Sea
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: The Glittering Court (Book 3)
Publication: Razorbill (June 26, 2018)

Description: Tamsin Wright is unstoppable. She must become the Glittering Court's diamond: the girl with the highest test scores, the most glamorous wardrobe, and the greatest opportunities to match with an elite suitor in the New World. Training alongside other girls in the Glittering Court, Tamsin immerses herself completely in lessons about etiquette, history, and music--everything a high-society wife would need to know. Once she's married, she'll be able to afford a better life for her family, so the sacrifice is worth it if she can be the best.

When her friendship with Mira and Adelaide, her roommates at the Glittering Court, threatens her status as the top-ranked prospect, she does the only thing she knows will keep her on track: she cuts them out of her life. But when her voyage across the sea goes off course, Tamsin must use her unrelenting grit and determination to survive the harsh winter far north of her intended destination in hopes of making it back to the Glittering Court in time to secure a proposal--and a comfortable future for her family.

Experiencing new cultures and beliefs for the first time, Tamsin realizes that her careful studies haven't prepared her for everything, and with new alliances formed with roguish tradesman Jago Robinson and good-natured minister Gideon Stewart, Tamsin's heart begins to be pulled in different directions. But she can't let her brewing attraction get in the way of her ultimate goal: protecting the secret she holds closest to her heart, the one that would unravel everything she's worked for if it's uncovered.

My Thoughts: This final book of the Glittering Court trilogy follows Tamsin's adventures. Her adventures are concurrent with the events of the first two books which are each focused on one of Tamsin's best friends.

Tamsin is the daughter of a laborer and a laundress. Being accepted into the Glittering Court has given her the opportunity to find a husband in the New World at the colony at Cape Triumph. She is determined to be the best at her studies so that she will have the best chance of finding the perfect husband. When Adelaide manages to top her score and leaves her in fourth place, Tamsin is very disappointed and angry at Adelaide.

Rather than travel on the same ship as the rest of the girls from her training center, she switches places to the other ship. She didn't think she could stand to be so close to Adelaide for the time of the trip. However, when a major storm blows up, the two ships are separated and Tamsin finds herself shipwrecked far from Cape Triumph. They are discovered by a party of Balanquans and Icori who offer, for a fee, to take them to their people.

Tamsin, who has become the leader of the girls from the Glittering Court, finds herself and the other girls in a town called Constancy which is an Ofridian town but settled by a group similar to the Puritans in their religion.

The people there are willing to send the girls on to Cape Triumph but it won't be for a number of months. Winter is not yet over and the danger of blizzards is high. Tamsin meets a junior minister there who is named Gideon Stewart and she incurs the jealousy of Dinah Cole who runs her father's house where four of the girls are living while they wait to travel on. Dinah has decided that Gideon would make a good husband and Tamsin is too much of a threat.

Meanwhile, Tamsin is looking for a faster way to Cape Triumph and is directed to a trader named Jago Robinson. The leader of the Icori had recommended him. When she finds him, he is very reluctant to give up his place an an earlier river trip to Cape Triumph. Jago is someone unlike anyone Tamsin has met. They fall in love with each other but Tamsin isn't willing to give up her goal of finding a rich husband in Cape Triumph. Her future and the future of her daughter depend on her finding a wealthy man.

Tamsin, with and without Jago, have a variety of adventures before and after they get to Cape Triumph. Someone is orchestrating events to increase tensions between the Balanquans and Icori and the Ofridians and Tamsin finds herself in the middle of it.

This was a great finale to the series. I liked the way Tamsin found her strengths and secured a happy future for her daughter and herself. This was a nicely complex story with great worldbuilding.

Favorite Quote:
"I was uneasy when Orla advocated for you to speak for us," Padrig said, once he'd taken my advice. "I still am. You're very young. But I think you might be a little wise. If we all get killed, it probably isn't going to be because of you."

Orla, overhearing as she passed, remarked, "Wow, Tamsin. He really things well of you."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, September 14, 2018

ARC Review: The Storm Runner by J. C. Cervantes

The Storm Runner
Author: J.C. Cervantes
Series: The Storm Runner, Book 1
Publication: Rick Riordan Presents (September 18, 2018)

Description: A contemporary adventure based on Maya mythology from Rick Riordan Presents!

Zane Obispo spends every day exploring the sleeping volcano in his backyard. "The Beast," as he calls it, is the one place where he can escape other kids, who make fun of him because he has a limp and walks with a cane.
After a twin-engine plane crashes into The Beast, a mysterious girl named Brooks shows up at Zane's doorstep, insisting that they meet at the volcano, where she will reveal a terrible secret. Zane agrees, mostly because beautiful girls like her don't usually talk to him. Brooks tells him that the volcano is actually a centuries-old prison for the Maya god of death, whose destiny is directly tied to Zane's. No way, Zane thinks. He's just a thirteen-year old nobody, and destiny or no destiny, he wants nothing to do with any of it, especially some god of death. 
But Brooks opens his eyes to the truth: magic, monsters, and gods are real, and Zane is at the center of an ancient prophecy that could mean the destruction of the world.Suddenly finding himself entangled in a web of dangerous secrets, Zane embarks on a quest that will take him far from home and test him to the very core.
Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Maya mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate.

My Thoughts: Zane Obispo has been happy being home-schooled for the past year. His one short leg and needing to use a cane has made him a target for bullies at his middle school. He has been content exploring his surrounding - including a mysterious volcano - with his three-legged rescue dog Rosie. But a plane crash into the volcano and the appearance of a beautiful girl at his first day at his new school opens him up to an adventure he couldn't have imagined.

Zane finds himself involved with Mayan gods and their schemes. He learns that there is a prophecy about him and that he has a destiny. He also learns about the father who left his mother before he was born.

He has to free an ancient god Au-Puch who is the god of death, darkness and destruction in order to save his new friend Brooks and his beloved dog Rosie. Now he has to find a way to kill him before he manages to destroy this world and make Zane one of Au-Puch's soldier of death for eternity.

Zane gathers both friends and enemies on his quest including a giant who is an inventor and twins who have built a big reputation on the basis of a lie. His protector gets turned into a chicken who can only visit him in dreams and who wants Zane to get on with things so that she won't have to be a chicken forever.

This was a fast-paced story with tons of Mayan mythology. I liked the way Zane changed during the course of the book as he found his courage and his destiny.

Favorite Quote:
Mat inched back and looked down at the frozen ocean. "Water takes many forms. It becomes what it needs to become. You, Zane Obispo, must become...what you were meant to become. The Old World is the only place you can do that."

Why did people always give me vague responses? Why couldn't anyone just provide a straight answer with a step-by-step diagram? "You mean become the Storm Runner."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

ARC Review: The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo

The Deepest Roots
Author: Miranda Asebedo
Publication: HarperTeen (September 18, 2018)

Description: Cottonwood Hollow, Kansas, is a strange place. For the past century, every girl has been born with a special talent, like the ability to Fix any object, Heal any wound, or Find what is missing.

To best friends Rome, Lux, and Mercy, their abilities often feel more like a curse. Rome may be able to Fix anything she touches, but that won’t help her mom pay rent. Lux’s ability to attract any man with a smile has always meant danger. And although Mercy can make Enough of whatever is needed, even that won’t help when her friendship with Rome and Lux is tested.

Follow three best friends in this enchanting debut novel as they discover that friendship is stronger than curses, that trust is worth the risk, and sometimes, what you’ve been looking for has been under your feet the whole time.

My Thoughts: Rome tells this story. She's one of the latest generation of the girls from Cottonwood Hollow. She and her best friends Mercy and Lux have inherited some of the unique talents that show up in those girls as a result of a curse put on all the girls of Cottonwood Hollow by Emmeline Remington many generations before. She cursed the girls to be strange and unwanted because one of them had stolen her husband.

In this current generation, Rome is a Fixer and an auto mechanic, Mercy is an Enough, and Lux is a Siren. While Mercy and Rome have come to terms with their gifts, Lux has a problem with hers. Her new stepfather is blaming her for his problems including losing hours at the plant. His problems have caused him to start physically abusing Lux and her mother.

Rome's problems are simpler. She is the child of a seventeen-year-old runaway who has just lost her job as a waitress. They have always lived a hand-to-mouth lifestyle. Rome has been using her salary as a mechanic at Red's Garage to pay her half of the rent for more than a year. Now Garrett Remington, the town's lawyer and their landlord, is pressuring them for the money. Rome has to sacrifice her beloved 1972 Mach 1 Mustang which she lovingly fixed after buying it from the Truett sisters when she was fourteen.

Trading her Mustang to Garrett only buys them a couple of months. When Rome discovers Emmeline's diary which hints at hidden treasure and gives them another view of the gifts they have inherited, Mercy, Lux, and Rome determine that they will find it to solve their current problems. Only someone else is looking too and his reasons aren't as benevolent.

This is a story about determination and love and friendship. It is also a tension-filled mystery. There is even a romance as prickly Rome gets close to one Jett who is one of the boys from Evanston. Cottonwood Hollow kids and Evanston kids don't usually get along, but Jett is different.

I enjoyed this story very much. I was sucked right in by the writing and the characters. Rome was a terrific narrator and a fascinating person.

Favorite Quote:
Mercy is an Enough, and just her presence can make, well, Enough...She can't make more money appear in my wallet, or in Mom's bank account. But whatever she has seems to always be Enough for what she needs. And sometimes for what we need, too. I've driven the Mach on an empty tank more times than I can count with Mercy in the back seat.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Book Review: Red Waters Rising by Laura Anne Gilman

Red Waters Rising
Author: Laura Anne Gilman
Series: Devil's West (Book 3)
Publication: Saga Press (June 26, 2018)

Description: In the last novel of The Devil’s West trilogy, Isobel, the Devil’s Left Hand, and Gabriel ride through the magical land of the Territory to root out evil by the way of mad magicians, ghosts, and twisted animal spirits.

As Isobel and Gabriel travel to the southern edge of the Territory, they arrive in the free city of Red Stick. Tensions are running high as the homesteading population grows, crowding the native lands, and suspicions rise across the river from an American fort.

But there is a sickness running through Red Stick and Isobel begins to find her authority challenged. She’ll be abandoned, betrayed, and forced to stand her ground as the Devil’s left hand in this thrilling conclusion to The Devil’s West Trilogy.

My Thoughts: Isobel and her mentor Gabriel have been on the road for nearly a year. They have met all sorts of challenges but it looks like the greatest one is still ahead. They have reached the southern end of the Territory controlled by the Devil. The city of Red Stick is the largest population center Isobel has ever seen. It sits on the bank of the Mudwater which causes problems for Gabriel. He is a water-child but doesn't want to submit to the water.

Tensions are palpable in the city. There is pressure from homesteaders on local Indian tribes; there are those who worry about the Americans across the river who likely have designs on the Territory. There are those who feel a connection to the land who resent those who don't. Isobel knows her job is to solve problems but no one is willing to say what the problem is.

Isobel is also growing in her powers - both the powers given her by the Devil as a result of their bargain and the powers that seem to have been born in her as a child of the Territory. She'll have to learn to balance her powers and stand on her own two feet to make her judgment.

This is a fascinating historical fantasy with a complex and intriguing mythology. The characters are well-developed. I like the way Isobel has changed in the past year of their travels. I liked this episode especially because it gave more depth to Gabriel and his struggles.

Favorite Quote:
"Everywhere there's an opinion, they pop up like prairie dogs. Folks who don't understand the Agreement protects 'em as much as it restricts 'em, think they can have everything without giving up anything."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, September 7, 2018

ARC Review: Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older

Dactyl Hill Squad
Author: Daniel Jose Older
Series: Dactyl Hill Squad
Publication: Arthur A. Levine Books (September 11, 2018)

Description: It's 1863 and dinosaurs roam the streets of New York as the Civil War rages between raptor-mounted armies down South. Magdalys Roca and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum are on a field trip when the Draft Riots break out, and a number of their fellow orphans are kidnapped by an evil magistrate, Richard Riker.

Magdalys and her friends flee to Brooklyn and settle in the Dactyl Hill neighborhood, where black and brown New Yorkers have set up an independent community--a safe haven from the threats of Manhattan. Together with the Vigilance Committee, they train to fly on dactylback, discover new friends and amazing dinosaurs, and plot to take down Riker. Can Magdalys and the squad rescue the rest of their friends before it's too late?

My Thoughts: DACTYL HILL SQUAD was an entertaining historical fantasy. Imagine dinosaurs roaming the land in 1863! This story takes place in New York City. Magdalys Roca lives at the Colored Orphan Asylum. She was brought there with her sisters and brother when she was young. Her sisters were taken away and her brother Montez decided to join the Union Army. He was injured while serving in the African Brigade of the 9th Louisiana Regiment, Mounted Ceratops Division. He has been taken to New Orleans gravely injured. Magdalys is determined to go to him to nurse him back to health.

However before she can leave New York, she has to survive the Draft Riots which covered blatant racist attacks on free Blacks in the City. She and her friends just happened to be at a theater performance when the Orphan Asylum was attacked, the custodian lynched, and the orphans grabbed by the Kidnapping Club to be taken South and sold into slavery.

The make their way to Brooklyn and Dactyl Hill which is supposed to be a safe place for Blacks and is the headquarters of the Vigilance Committee. The committee recruits the kids to spy on the Kidnapping Club so that they can save the orphans before they are taken down South.

Magdalys has a newly discovered talent. She is able to talk with the various kinds of prehistoric creatures. Her talent plays a major role in the resolution of this story. The book was filled with action. Magdalys's friends were all interesting people with their own talents and stories. I liked the combination of real history of New York City and dinosaurs. The notes at the back helped make clear what and who was real and which were inventions of the author's incredible imagination. 

Favorite Quote:
Something inside Magdalys felt like it was tearing in half. Was this what Montez had felt? Why he'd run off to fight a war in a whole other part of the country? Of course, Magdalys wanted to stay. And of course she wanted to go. She'd never been needed before; at least, she'd never felt that way. But Montez needed her too. Or she needed him. She needed him to be okay. And this was the best way to make sure of that. The only way.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Book Review: The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

The Iron Witch
Author: Karen Mahoney
Series: The Iron Witch Series (Book 1)
Publication: Flux; Original edition (February 8, 2011)

Description: When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed Donna Underwoods father and drove her mother mad. Her own nearly fatal injuries were fixed by alchemy - the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. Now seventeen, Donna feels like a freak, doomed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. Only her relationship with her best friend, Navin, is keeping her sane.

But when vicious wood elves abduct Navin, Donna is forced to accept her role in the centuries-old war between human alchemists and these darkest outcasts of Faerie. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous guy with faery blood running through his veins and secrets of his own, Donna races to save Navineven if it means betraying everything her parents fought to the death to protect.

My Thoughts: Donna Youngblood is the child of alchemists. She had a terrible accident when she was seven and captured by wood elves. Her father died rescuing her and her mother was damaged mentally. Donna had her hands and arms damaged. They were repaired by Maker - one of the alchemists - who used cold iron in what looks like a series of very complicated tattoos. She always wears gloves and feels like a freak.

She couldn't handle going to regular school and has been home-schooled for years. Her best, and only, friend is her next door neighbor Navin Sharma. But she has been keeping secrets from him too.

One night Nav convinces her to go to a party and she meets Xan Grayson who has also retreated to the roof to get away from the party he's hosting. They are attracted to each other and seem to have things in common.

When Navin is captured by wood elves, Donna calls on Xan who is half-faerie to help her get him back. The wood queen makes a difficult demand. Donna needs to exchange the elixir of life for him if she wants to take him home. Donna had thought the elixir was a myth but she goes to the home of the head of the order of alchemists to try to find it.

She has her suspicions about what the order wants and she is quite sure that she doesn't want to become a member when she grows up despite the assumption that that will be her future. The story was filled with interesting characters. I liked Donna and her friendship with Nav. I also liked her beginning of a romance with Xan.

This is the first book of a trilogy but it doesn't end with a cliffhanger. There are still questions to be answered but the main action in this one comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Favorite Quote:
"Nav, I said you'll keep your mouth shut about all of this. Right?"

"Right," he agreed, nodding so hard she thought he'd lost control of his neck muscles. "I won't say a word. Never. I'll take it to my grave and--"

"Nav?" Donna cut in.


"Shut up."

"Shutting up." He made a zipping motion across his lips, mimed twisting a lock shut, and threw the imaginary key over his shoulder.
I bought this one Jan. 4, 2011. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, September 3, 2018

ARC Review: Unpunished Murder by Lawrence Goldstone

Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice
Author: Lawrence Goldstone
Series: Scholastic Focus
Publication: Scholastic Nonfiction (August 28, 2018)

Description: On Easter Sunday of 1873, just eight years after the Civil War ended, a band of white supremacists marched into Grant Parish, Louisiana, and massacred over one hundred unarmed African Americans. The court case that followed reached the highest court in the land. Yet, following one of the most ghastly incidents of mass murder in American history, not one person was convicted.

The opinion issued by the Supreme Court in US v. Cruikshank set in motion a process that would help create a society in which black Americans were oppressed and denied basic human rights -- legally, according to the courts. These injustices paved the way for Jim Crow and would last for the next hundred years. Many continue to exist to this day.

In this compelling and thoroughly researched volume for young readers, Lawrence Goldstone traces the evolution of the law and the fascinating characters involved in the story of how the Supreme Court helped institutionalize racism in the American justice system.

My Thoughts: This fascinating story talks about the formation of the United States government via the Constitution and focuses especially on the formation and role of the Supreme Court. It also talks about racism and the role of the Supreme Court in encouraging it.

The focus of the story centers on events in Grant County, Louisiana, in 1873. More than 150 well-armed white men massacred over 100 poorly armed black men - many of whom were trying to surrender. Due to a wide variety of conditions from the woes of Reconstruction to competing political factions, none of the white men were ever convicted of the murders. In fact, a monument was erected at the site celebrating the three white men who died as heroes.

The story talks about the men who fought for civil rights for the newly freed slaves and the men who were opposed - for a variety of reasons - to granting equal rights to those former slaves. A lot of the reasons on both sides had its roots in the Constitution and questions about what rights belonged to the Federal government and which rights were reserved to the states.

The book talks about the fights to ratify the fourteen and fifteenth amendments and the work of the Supreme Court to essentially gut them. Those Supreme Court actions led to the Jim Crow laws that were major stumbling blocks to equal rights for Blacks and are still lingering today.

The book ends with a plaque put up by the state of Louisiana in put up in 1950 which commemorates the "Colfax Riot" which "marked the end of carpetbag misrule in the South." I want to know what happened next. How did we go from that sorry situation to where we are now? What was the role of the Supreme Court in the changes?

The book ends with an extensive bibliography and detailed source notes. It will contain an index not included in the ARC I read. 

Favorite Quote:
The election, held on November 4, 1872, was one of the strangest in United States history. Even today, Louisiana historians describe it as "unique" or "weird." In a nation where voter fraud was hardly unknown, this election set a new standard. It is not possible, even now, to determine which candidate garnered more votes. Ballot boxes were stuffed or thrown in a nearby river; people voted more than once, often in different locations; many votes were cast by men already dead; votes were counted more than once of not at all--almost every means of perpetrating fraud at the ballot box was indulged in with gusto by both sides. In Grant Parish, the process was so obviously corrupt that an official vote count was never submitted at all. There, as in the rest of the state, both sides claimed victory.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Scholastic. You can buy your copy here.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

State of the Stack #75 (Sept. 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 Avalinha'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. Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes (August 22)
  2. Through the Fire by Katie Ruggle (August 23)
  3. The Prodigy by John Feinstein (August 24)
  4. Second Chance at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer (August 25)
  5. D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History by Deborah Hopkinson (August 27)
  6. Her Majesty's American by Steve White (August 29) 
  7. Ten After Closing by Jessica Bayliss (August 29) 
  8. Cowboy, Cross My Heart by Donna Grant (August 30) 
  9. Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan (August 31) 
  10. Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice by Lawrence Goldstone (Sept. 3) 
  11. In Cold Chocolate by Dorothy St. James (Sept. 5) 
  12. Read and Gone by Allison Brook (Sept. 6) 
  13. Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older (Sept. 7) 
  14. Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima (Sept. 8) 
  15. The Guilty Dead by P. J. Tracy (Sept. 12) 
  16. The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo (Sept. 12) 
  17. Intercepted by Alexa Martin (Sept. 13) 
  18. What I've Done by Melinda Leigh (Sept. 19) 
  19. The Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb (Sept. 21) 
  20. Rocky Mountain Cowboy Christmas by Katie Ruggle (Sept. 26)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch (August 1)
  2. To Catch a Witch by Heather Blake (August 1)
  3. Set the Night on Fire by Laura Trentham (August 2)
  4. Nine by Zach Hines (August 3)
  5. The Point by John Dixon (August 4)
  6. #MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil (August 8)
  7. Wild Hunger by Chloe Neill (August 9)
  8. The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele (August 15)
  9. Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (March 19, 2019)
  10. The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye (Jan. 8, 2019)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. Intercepted by Alexa Martin (Sept. 11)
  2. A True Cowboy Christmas by Caitlin Crew (Oct. 30)
  3. Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye (Jan. 22, 2019)
  4. The Blood Spell by C. J. Redwine (Feb. 12, 2019)
  5. If You're Out There by Katy Loutzenhiser (March 5, 2019)
  6. Midsummer Mayhem by Marty Wingate (Nov. 6)
  7. A Dangerous Duet by Karen Odden (Nov. 6)
  8. Past Due for Murder by Victoria Gilbert (Feb. 12, 2019)
My Review Pile

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

 A Dangerous Duet by Karen Odden (Nov. 6)
Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Nov. 6)
Midsummer Mayhem by Marty Wingate (Nov. 6)
 Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne (Nov. 6)
A Wrench in the Works by Kate Carlisle (Nov. 6)
The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston (Nov. 13)
A Scandal in Scarlet by Vicki Delany (Nov. 13)
This Splintered Silence by Kayla Olson (Nov. 13)

 Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst (Dec. 4)
Deadfall by Stephen Wallenfels (Dec. 11)
A Moment in Crime by Amanda Allen (December 11)
The Disasters by M. K. England (December 18)

 The Hangman's Secret by Laura Joh Rowland (January 8)
The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye (January 8)
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (January 15)
Circle of Shadows by Evelynn Skye (January 22)

The Antidote by Shelley Sackier (Feb. 5)
The Blood Spell by C. J. Redwine (Feb. 12)
Past Due for Murder by Victoria Gilbert (Feb. 12)


If You're Out There by Katy Loutzenhiser (March 5)
The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler (March 5)
Sherwood by Meagan Spooner (March 19)

Next Month's Plan

I met my goal of being a month ahead on my Review copies. I finished the last September release earlier this week. I have a big stack for October but then my review stacks become much more manageable. I like the idea that I'll be able to read from my own massive TBR mountain.

It is likely though that I'll start looking at Edelweiss and NetGalley for review copies again soon.


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!