Wednesday, October 31, 2018

ARC Review: Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Little White Lies
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: Debutantes
Publication: Freeform (November 6, 2018)

Description: "I'm not saying this is Sawyer's fault," the prim and proper one said delicately. "But."

Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother's "society" might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father's identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn't expect to find is friendship, but as she's drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn't the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother's glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer's search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning.

Set in the world of debutante balls, grand estates and rolling green hills, Little White Lies combines a charming setting, a classic fish-out-of-water story, and the sort of layered mystery only author Jennifer Lynn Barnes can pull off.

My Thoughts: Eighteen-year-old Sawyer Taft was raised by her mother who had her at seventeen. Her mother, in her telling of the story, was thrown out of her high class home when she came up pregnant in the middle of her debutante season. Her mom is pretty flighty and it has made Sawyer independent, smart, and more than a little cynical.

When Sawyer's grandmother, whom she had never met, comes to Sawyer with an offer to pay for her college education if she'll come live with her and take part in the current debutante season, Sawyer takes the opportunity because she might be able to figure out who her father is. She long ago found a picture hidden by her mother of the Squires from some year with four faces blacked out. She's certain that one of the men is the one who got her mom pregnant and abandoned her. The timing is right because her mom had just taken off with a new boyfriend leaving Sawyer on her own.

Sawyer gets thrown into the debutante season almost immediately as she comes to her grandmother's. Also living with her grandmother is her aunt Olivia, her uncle J. D., her cousin Lily who is also making her debut, and her young cousin John David who happens to be obsessed with zombies.

Also debuting are Lily's best friend Sadie-Grace Waters and frenemy Campbell Ames. Campbell's brother Walker is Lily's ex who seems to have changed greatly since dumping her. Sawyer meets Campbell when she finds out that Lily and Sadie-Grace have kidnapped her and are keeping her in the family's poolhouse. It seems that Campbell is blackmailing Lily.

The story begins with the four girls in formal wear locked up in the local jail under the supervision of a rookie cop who doesn't know why they are there or who they are. Then the story proceeds to unwind in a series of flashbacks of the nine months that Sawyer has been taking part in the debutante season. It combines laugh-out-loud humor, intense emotions, the mystery of Sawyer's parentage, and another mystery regarding a hit-and-run accident.

It was a compelling story filled with fascinating characters. Sawyer is my favorite. I liked her cynical point of view and her innate kindness. She was bright and curious.

Favorite Quote:
The dog stared up at me with what, in the dark, I could only assume was an adoring expression.

"How the hell did you get past the gate?" I asked.

William Faulkner was not forthcoming with answers. Of the 199 breeds eligible to compete in the Westminster Dog Show, there were a handful that I would have classified as capable of both stealth and getting past that gate.

The hundred-plus-pound Bernese mountain dog was not one of them.

As if sensing this this evening was not going my way, William Faulkner attempted to comfort me--and by that, I mean that she bumped my body with hers, nearly sending me sprawling to the ground, and then threw her head back and started barking.

I tried to convince her to stop, but it was like she'd waited her entire life for the chance to perform the lead in a doggy opera.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, October 29, 2018

ARC Review: Embolden by Syrie James and Ryan M. James

Author: Syrie James & Ryan M. James
Series: Forbidden (Book 2)
Publication: Independently Published (Aug. 10, 2018)

Description: Internationally bestselling author Syrie James and her son Ryan M. James bring their trademark drama, humor, action, romance, and suspense to Embolden, the second book in this critically acclaimed series.

The world is trying to tear them apart. Will they stand together and fight back?

After a season of psychic visions and super-powered drama, Claire Brennan and her angel-gone-AWOL boyfriend Alec MacKenzie can finally be together. Under the protection of Claire’s grandmother, they are trying to lead a normal life, going to high school at Emerson Academy and hanging out with their friends. But jealous teenagers, vengeful enemies, the city’s new Watcher, and even the school play threaten to break them apart. Not to mention Claire’s surprising second power, which could sabotage the trust of everyone she holds dear. And just when they need to stick together, they finally get a lead on where Claire’s missing father might be. The threats, which come not only from without but also from within, will test the strength of Alec and Claire’s relationship. Is the love they share enough to keep them safe? If they want to stay together … can they learn to fight together?

My Thoughts: This second book follows FORBIDDEN (2012). Claire has learned that she is half angel and her boyfriend Alec has left the ranks of the Grigori who track down Fallen and is trying to be an ordinary teenage boy.

The main problem that Claire is facing is trying to find her father who disappeared when she was a baby. Her own visions and her grandmother's visions have indicated that he's still alive but they can't track him down. Claire has a number of questions about her life and her gifts, including one that is just manifesting. Her grandmother has told her that it is a dangerous gift and that she shouldn't use it. Nothing could make it more tempting for Claire.

Her new gift has made her particularly attractive to the Fallen who will do anything to try to recruit her, even telling her that they know where her father is. They also threaten to let the Guardians know where Alec is and Claire will do anything to protect him.

Alec and Claire both try out for the school musical. Claire winning the part in Guinevere almost ruins her friendship with her best friend Erica who also wants the part of Guinevere and has wanted it for much longer than Claire. Claire tries out for the musical mostly so that she can spend more time with her friends who are involved in the production. With Alec cast as Arthur, things should be good. But Claire's former boyfriend Neal has been cast as Lancelot which is making Alec jealous. With Erica mad at her and Alec jealous and Brian dating a new girl, Claire's circle of friends is disintegrating.

Alec is also feeling some regrets about leaving the Guardians to spend time with Claire. He still feels the need to stop the bad guys but doesn't have the authority to do so. He and Claire begin keeping secrets from each other; Claire has been experimenting with her new power; and Alec is trying to track down a Fallen plot. That puts even more pressure on their relationship.

This story was entertaining. It was filled with teenage drama, scary but charming villains, friendships tested, paranormal powers, and romance.

Favorite Quote:
"If you were about to step into danger, I would know, remember?" Helena's hazel eyes were reassuring, but Claire knew that her grandmother's psychic ability wasn't foolproof.

"And if you're wrong? A breaking-and-entering charge will look great on all of Claire's college applications," Lynn warned.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Book Review: Virus on Orbis 1 by PJ Haarsma

Virus on Orbis 1
Author: PJ Haarsma
Series: The Softwire (Book 1)
Publication: Candlewick; First Edition edition (August 22, 2006)

Description: A human boy with an uncanny link to computers finds danger and discovery on the rings of Orbis in this riveting sci-fi adventure.

Thirteen-year-old Johnny Turnbull has always known there was something different about him, even before he and two hundred other kids landed on the first ring of Orbis. But once their spaceship lands, he is identified as the first-ever "softwire" — a human with the ability to enter and communicate with computers through his mind — and becomes the focus of intergalactic intrigue. Johnny and the rest of the refugee orphans are put to work in alien factories, and very quickly things go very wrong. When the all-knowing, all-controlling, and technologically "perfect" central computer starts malfunctioning, suspicious eyes turn to Johnny. Is he the one responsible? This action-packed, fast-paced sci-fi novel will keep kids on the edge of their seats.

My Thoughts: In this middle grade science fiction story, all the adults died on the spaceship that was taking them to Orbis. That left two hundred embryos. The computer - Mother - brought them to birth in two batches. Johnny, or JT as he's known to his friends, is the only one who has a younger sister who was part of the second batch. JT is also the only one who can talk to Mother without being at a computer terminal.

When they ship arrives at Orbis, the kids find out that they are going to be slaves for a variety of aliens until they have paid off their debt. Orbis is an interesting society which is managed by a supercomputer. After JT and the other kids arrive, the computer begins experiencing glitches. Because JT has been identified as a softwire - someone who can communicate with computers without an implant - many want to blame him for the glitches.

The kids all find that they have landed in a complex political situation. There are traders who manage businesses and Keeper who monitor travel, create the rules for Orbis, and grant citizenship. It is supposed to be a balanced system but someone is trying to tip the balance.

This was an exciting science fiction story. JT's talent lets him go inside the supercomputer where he finds an alien who might be the one causing all of the glitches. He also has to deal with the possibility that the Keepers will make him live in the computer forever and let his body die. Of course, the story wouldn't be complete without friends and enemies. HIs best friend is his little sister Ketheria but he he is also good friends with Max who is a girl who is a good hacker and Theodore who is his roommate. The resident bully is Randall Switzer who delights in picking on JT and making trouble for him. I enjoyed the variety of aliens in this story from the two-headed Keepers to Weegin who is the scavenger who buys up some of the kids' contracts and has them picking junk.

This is the first book in a four book series.

Favorite Quote:
"A softwire. I have never known of this ability in the human species, but you are a softwire."

"What does that mean?" I asked. The crowd was getting louder and larger. Now the other Keepers joined in also.

"It means that you can access any computer by simply standing near it. Many computers transmit data back and forth. You are able to access this stream and the data within a computer without any additional hardware. You do not need the implant. That is how you could talk to Mother on your seed-ship."
I bought this one March 2, 2011. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Publication: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (January 13, 2015)

Description: A girl makes a secret sacrifice to the faerie king in this lush New York Times bestselling fantasy by author Holly Black

In the woods is a glass coffin. It rests on the ground, and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives....

Hazel and her brother, Ben, live in Fairfold, where humans and the Folk exist side by side. Since they were children, Hazel and Ben have been telling each other stories about the boy in the glass coffin, that he is a prince and they are valiant knights, pretending their prince would be different from the other faeries, the ones who made cruel bargains, lurked in the shadows of trees, and doomed tourists. But as Hazel grows up, she puts aside those stories. Hazel knows the horned boy will never wake.

Until one day, he does....

As the world turns upside down, Hazel has to become the knight she once pretended to be.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is bestselling author Holly Black's triumphant return to the opulent, enchanting faerie tales that launched her YA career.

My Thoughts: This contemporary fantasy stars Hazel and Ben who live in Fairfold. It is a town where humans and the Folk mingle and most humans survive as long as they are careful. The local kids party at the coffin of a boy with horns and pointed ears. He's been sleeping for generations. Both Hazel and Ben love him and spend time with the coffin talking about their hopes and dreams.

Hazel and Ben have been raised by their artist parents in a way that could best be described as benign neglect. They were free to run wild in the woods but they were also not sure that their parents would remember to feed or clothe them.

Ben was gifted by a one of the fey with a gift for music. Hazel makes a bargain with the fey so that he can get the education he needs. At age eleven, she gives up seven years of her life for this wish. However, things don't go well when they move to the city for Ben's schooling. He is afraid of his music which can hold his audiences spellbound and breaks his hand to make it impossible for him to continue his music. Ben giving up his music doesn't change Hazel's agreement with faerie though she keeps it a secret from Ben.

Ben and Hazel are good friends with Jack who was a changeling substituted for Carter. When Carter's mother noticed the substitution, she forced the fey to give Carter back but also decided to keep Jack because she said a mother who would give him away wasn't fit to have him. Jack has grown up with Hazel and Ben and seems human.

But one day everything changes. Someone has finally managed to break open the horned boy's glass coffin and now the alderking wants him back. Hazel learns that she's been spending her nights paying off her debt to faerie and has been training as one of the king's knights. Now she has been instructed to return the horned boy to the king or he will unleash the worst of the fey on Fairfold.

This was a wonderful story which masterfully combined our world with the world of The Folk. It pulls from all sorts of faerie stories for its inspiration. The characters - Hazel, Ben, Jack, and the horned boy whose name is Severin - were all well-developed and were all interesting people. The story had adventure and romance.

Favorite Quote:
They were in love with him because he was a prince and a faerie and magical and you were supposed to love princes and faeries and magical people. 
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Book Review: Nemesis by Brandon Reichs

Author: Brandon Reichs
Series: Project Nemesis
Publication: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (March 21, 2017)

Description: Orphan Black meets Lord of the Flies in this riveting new thriller from the co-author of the Virals series. 

It's been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.

My Thoughts: This is a science fiction story with elements of a thriller and elements of a dystopia. Min is sixteen and, on her even number birthdays, a man in black finds her and kills her. She awakes in a clearing as if nothing has happened. For the last few deaths, she has been keeping what happens a secret. She sees a psychiatrist every week and has since she was 10 or 12 who prescribes a little blue pill that she's supposed to take every day. Min wants to know who is killing her, why, and why her psychiatrist is trying to convince her it isn't happening. Min lives in the trailer court hidden from view in the small, isolated town of Fire Lake, Idaho, with her mother.

Noah Livingston also lives in Fire Lake. He is the neglected son of the richest man in town. Noah also dies on his even number birthdays but reacts much differently than Min. Noah suffers from anxiety. He also trusts his psychiatrist completely. Noah is on the fringes of the power crowd in his high school even though he is secretly attracted to Min who is more of a social outcast.

Min has a best friend named Tack who also lives in the trailer court with his alcoholic ex-Special Forces father who physically abuses him. Tack loves and idolizes his father. He's developed a smart mouth and irreverent attitude which puts him on the bad side of Ethan who is the school's top dog and resident bully.

As Min begins to investigate with the assistance of Tack, she comes upon more and more suspicious behaviors. Why has their school principal followed them from school to school and grade to grade? What is in the notes her psychiatrist takes after every session? What is going on with the medical treatments her whole class has been getting since they were six? What is going on in the secret military base outside of town?

The story is filled with all kinds of action as Min, Tack and sometimes Noah investigate. They learn that they are part of a secret project called Project Nemesis that has been going on for even longer than the ten years they've been part of the project.

Meanwhile, the Earth is facing an incredible danger from an asteroid that is on course to hit. The story begins with everyone waiting for the announcement to see if the asteroid will hit or miss Earth. People are relieved when they learn that the asteroid will miss. What they don't know is that Earth is in the path of many smaller asteroids that will hit and cause all sorts of damage and many deaths.

Someone has grooming Min, Noah and their 62 classmates of the sophomore class to survive.

This story was exciting and I can see how teens would be drawn in by the mystery and the action. I was drawn in too. I am, however, filled with questions that would be spoilers to list. I'm eager to see what happens next as the story continues in GENESIS.

Favorite Quote:
Here's another thing about me.

I'm not afraid of much. Not after what I've been through.

And I forgive as little as I forget.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Book Review: The Shapeshifter's Secret by Heather Ostler

The Shapeshifter's Secret
Author: Heather Ostler
Publication: Cedar Fort, Inc (June 12, 2012)

Description: Like any sixteen-year-old, Julia’s used to dealing with problems. From her overprotective father to her absent mother to a teacher who definitely has it in for her. But everything changes when Julia’s reactions become oddly vicious and angry―more animal than human. This action-packed adventure has it all: humor, romance, and a plot that’ll keep you guessing to the very last page.

My Thoughts: I added this book to my TBR mountain in June of 2012. I was attracted by the lovely cover and the paranormal elements. Unfortunately, the cover is the best part of the book.

This story reads like it was written by a dreamy sixteen-year-old girl in her favorite unicorn-covered notebook with a sparkly pen. It is ridiculously unpolished. The characters never came to life for me since they seemed to keep changing and I couldn't understand where their emotions were coming from. The dialog is stilted and the conversations seem to be almost random. They all sound like they're speaking with the same voice. The sixteen-year-old roommate sounds like the doctor Julia goes to see.

The plot has possibilities. A girl finding out that she is a shapeshifter from another world who happens to be a princess is a plot with possibilities. Add in a mother who has left her and gone over to the evil Guild and the possibilities for conflict are there.

However, the plot was poorly executed. Julia's father Lancer has kept her in complete ignorance of her past and her future. When she does find out, which should have been traumatic, she just seems to accept it and go on like things are normal. Even knowing that the Guild and her mother are targeting her for some unknown reason doesn't phase her beyond wanting to offer herself as bait.

And her love interests... First she fixes on Caleb who she first meets when he comes to her school as a new student. Lots of the girls are interested in him by Julie isn't one of them. Then he is introduced to her as her "uncle" Liam's son who she has apparently never met. He does help her get through the portal to Ossai but she gets very angry with him when she finds out that he already has a girlfriend. This seemed pretty strange since she wasn't interested in him earlier in the story. Next, she begins a secret romance with one of her father's soldiers - Terrence. They meet maybe three or four times and they exchange letters but that is apparently enough for them to fall in love.

There are two more books in this series and I am sort of curious about them to see if the author improves her writing, plotting, and character development. I am mostly surprised that this book and its sequels were ever published.

Favorite Quote:
"Is everything all right? Maybe you're just tired, but something tells me that you have a lot of serious mental stress going on."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Book Review: Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter

Take the Key and Lock Her Up
Author: Ally Carter
Series: Embassy Row (Book 3)
Publication: Scholastic Inc. (December 27, 2016)

Description: For the past three years, Grace Blakely has been desperate to find out the truth about her mother's murder. She thought it would bring her peace. She thought it would lead her to answers. She thought she could put the past to rest.

But the truth has only made her a target.

And the past?

The only way to put the past to rest is for Grace to kill it once and for all.

My Thoughts: This story begins with Grace on the run with Alexei, Dominic, and her brother Jamie. After a murder attempt that almost succeeded in killing Jamie and attempts on Grace too, they want to get as far away from trouble as they possibly can. But there is no escape from a thousand year old Society or a Royal Family fearful for its throne.

Grace is willing to do anything to keep her brother safe and alive and, besides, she has enough guilt about her mother's death to make it seem right to her to sacrifice herself for her loved ones. Grace would almost prefer to die to relieve her guilt.

Grace finds herself kidnapped by the Prime Minister of Adria, herself a member of that secret Society, and taken to Paris to stand in judgment before the Council of Elders. There she finds a group of powerful women who have such a sharp eye on the future and the big picture that they don't see Grace and Jamie's immediate danger as something that should concern them. While they aren't directly trying to kill her, neither are they willing to do anything to keep her from being killed. Luckily, her friends from Embassy Row are there to be on her side when she escapes from the Society.

They have determined that it is the Royal Family who wants Grace dead because she could force them from power they have held for 200 years. Grace finds it hard to believe that Princess Ann, one of her mother's oldest and best friends, could be the architect of the plan that killed Grace's mother, imprisoned Alexei's mother, and is responsible for the attempts on Jamie and Grace. It must be the King and other members of the royal family.

Grace makes a deal that she will move into the palace and one day marry Ann's son Thomas which will put her children on the throne and solve the problem of the competing rightful heirs. But Grace still wants to solve the riddle of the whereabouts of the deposed royal family - and not just because their DNA will confirm her right to the throne. She wants to know the secret that her mother ultimately died for.

This story was fast-paced, exciting, and filled with bunches of plot twists. Grace was an interesting heroine because she had been so broken and was just beginning to heal from her traumatic past.

Favorite Quote:
"The Society has operated in secret for a thousand years. Four times longer than this" -- she gestures to the land and water that surround us -- "has been a country. Regimes rise. Dictators fall. Wars rage the world over and still we stand. Do you know why, Ms. Blakely?"

"Because I wasn't around to ruin everything?"
"Besides, what I've done I've done for Adria. I've done for peace."

"Yeah. When I hear peace I always think hunt my friends down like rabid dogs."
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Book Review: The Stone Demon by Karen Mahoney

The Stone Demon
Author: Karen Mahoney
Series: Iron Witch, Book 3
Publication: Flux (August 22, 2016)

Description: They say the truth sets you free, but they have no idea how far off base that is. Free? I don’t think so.

After being tricked into opening the doorway to the Demon Realm by Aliette, the Wood Queen, Donna Underwood is faced with a terrible ultimatum from the newly released demon hordes: the alchemists must deliver the Philosopher’s Stone, or the world will be plunged into a devastating modern-day Dark Age.

Donna is sent to London, where she can learn how to recreate the Stone and complete her alchemist’s training. But time is running out. As she faces Demian, the vengeful demon king, Donna realizes the awful truth about collecting the Stone’s elements. And this time, even braving death may not be enough to save the world.

My Thoughts: After being tricked by Aliette into opening the door for the demons to return to Earth, Donna has two days to create the philospher's stone the demon king is demanding or else he'll destroy London and her home town. Donna is pretty much on her own since the alchemist's have said it is an impossible challenge and are gathering forces to fight a war with the demons.

Donna does have some allies. Her best friend Navin may only be a "commoner" but he is smart and loyal. Xan may be busy working with Maker to get wings so that he can fly again but he comes when Donna calls. And Maker, himself, is on Donna's side.

This was an exciting conclusion to the Iron Witch series. It was filled with action, danger and romance.

Favorite Quote:
"Step down, Cathal. There will be no challenges today." She narrowed her eyes at Donna. "I do not know if you are incredibly brave or incredibly foolish, Donna Underwood."

Donna knew the answer to that, but kept her mouth shut. See? she thought. I can be sensible.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, October 12, 2018

ARC Review: The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens

The Guggenheim Mystery
Author: Robin Stevens
Publication: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 16, 2018)

Description: The adventure that began in Siobhan Dowd's popular and acclaimed novel The London Eye Mystery at long last continues with Ted, Kat, and their cousin Salim investigating a theft at the Guggenheim Museum that's been pinned on Salim's mother!

When Ted and his big sister, Kat, take a trip to New York to visit their cousin Salim and their aunt Gloria, they think they're prepared for big-city adventures. But when a famous painting is stolen from the Guggenheim Museum, where Aunt Gloria works, the surprises begin to mount faster than they could have anticipated. With the police looking at Aunt Gloria as the prime suspect, Ted, Kat, and Salim become sleuthing partners, following a trail of clues across NYC to prove her innocence--and to pinpoint the real thief. Ultimately, it comes down to Ted, whose brain works in its own very unique way, to find the key to the mystery.

My Thoughts: Ted, Kat and Salim solve their second mystery when Salim's mother is accused of stealing an important painting by Kandinsky from her new job at the Guggenheim Museum. Ted, Kat, and their mother are visiting in New York City which is a very stressful thing for Ted. Being autistic, he is better if he can stay in familiar surroundings. He is also concerned that people aren't staying the same. Kat and Salim seem to be communicating from London to New York and leaving him out. He's wondering if Salim is still his friend.

Ted, Kat, Salim, his aunt and his mother are all visiting the Guggenheim Museum on a day when it isn't open and a new exhibition - the first one his Aunt Gloria is in charge of - when smoke fills the museum, the fire alarms go off, the fire department comes, and when the smoke clears it is discovered that the painting is missing. Being Ted, he knows to the minute when each person left the museum. That list of people helps the kids when they begin to try to figure out who is trying to frame his aunt for the theft.

I liked the way Ted thinks and his unique viewpoint on events. I also liked that both Salim and Kat added their own viewpoints on the case. The pace was fast and the story was filled with action as the kids use their subway passes to travel all around New York City pursuing leads and eliminating suspects.

I liked the Author's Note which explains how Robin Stevens came to write this book after the untimely death of Siobhan Dowd who first introduced these characters in THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY and who had contracted for, but not yet begun, the mystery with this title.

Favorite Quote:
"Ted," she said. "I was stupid, and I'm sorry I was cross with you. It's just--look, it's not easy, being part of your family. You don't know it, but you need so much. All the time. Appointments, and lessons, and--things, Ted. And the more things you have, the less there is to go around. And I know you don't mean it, and you can't help it, but sometimes I wish...I wish everything wasn't always about you, all right? When I try to make it about me, I get yelled at. Mum and Dad want me to be sensible all the time, but I can't."

"I can't help being me either, Kat," I said.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

ARC Review: A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess

A Sorrow Fierce and Falling
Author: Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire (Book 3)
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (October 16, 2018)

Description: It's time for war.

After suffering terrible losses, Henrietta and Lord Blackwood have led their warriors to Sorrow-Fell, a vast estate where only those invited by a Blackwood may enter--and the ideal place to plan a final assault against the Ancients.

It's time for a wedding.

Henrietta nervously awaits her marriage to Blackwood, but when the ritual to become his bride reveals a dark secret, she realizes that Sorrow-Fell is not a safe haven; it's a trap. Convincing the sorcerers of this, however, is not easy. So with Maria, the true chosen one, and Magnus, the young man who once stole her heart, at her side, Henrietta plots a dangerous journey straight into the enemy's lair. Some will live. Some will die. All will be tested.

In this stunning conclusion to the Kingdom on Fire series, Henrietta must choose between the love from her past, the love from her present, and a love that could define her future. While battles rage, the fate of the kingdom rests on her decision: Will she fall or rise up to become the woman who saves the realm?

It's time for Henrietta to make her stand.

My Thoughts: This is the emotionally intense conclusion to the Kingdom on Fire trilogy. Henrietta Howal, her fiance George, Lord Blackwood, the remaining sorcerers and Queen Victoria have fled to Blackwood's home Shadow-Fell to plot a way to take back England from the Ancients who are overrunning it.

Howal and Lord Blackwood find that they have very different plans for defeating the Ancients and their relationship is tested to the breaking point by all the things are happening. Howal decides to flee Shadow-Fell, taking the Queen with her, and make her vision of the future which includes a consortium of witches, magicians, and sorcerers working together to send the Ancients back home.

This story has epic highs and lows, treachery and deceit, love and fidelity. It was a real emotional roller coaster that had me reading for a bit and then putting the book down to recover. Fans of the first two books of the series won't want to miss this conclusion despite the fact that some favorite characters don't survive the adventure.

Favorite Quote:
"More tricks," Magnus sighed, shaking his head. "So long as he doesn't turn anyone into a talking horse." He paused. "I mean, if he turned someone into a talking horse I'd laugh. Then I'd ride it around a bit. Then dress it in several hats. Then I'd get him to turn it back to a person."

"It worries me that you've put so much thought into this," I said.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Book Review: The Wood Queen by Karen Mahoney

The Wood Queen
Author: Karen Mahoney
Series: Iron Witch, Book 2
Publication: Flux (August 25, 2016)

Description: "The wood monster is dead. I know this is true because I killed it. And yet my dreams are still full of fear and pain . . ."

To keep her best friend, Navin, from being killed at the hands of vicious wood elves, Donna Underwood stole the elixir of life. Now she’s facing an alchemist tribunal while her mother lies dying, succumbing to the elven curse that shattered her mind.

In desperation, Donna seeks an audience with Aliette, the fierce and manipulative Wood Queen, who offers a deal: if Donna can use her strange and burgeoning powers to help the wood elves, Aliette will free her mother from the curse.

Along with Navin and Xan, the half-fey guy she’s falling for, Donna struggles to unlock the secrets of her iron tattoos in time to save her mother’s life. But some secrets are better left untold.

My Thoughts: The middle book of the Iron Witch trilogy finds Donna on trial for the events of the first book. Oh, they keep saying that it is just a hearing and that there will be a punishment not a sentence but Donna isn't buying it. She'd do the same thing again if circumstances were the same.

Donna is wondering if she wants to be part of the alchemist organization at all. Her aunt has been keeping things from her for years including the mysterious powers that seem to be awakening in her. She doesn't know what the goals of the organization are but she is almost positive that, if they are being guided by Simon Gaunt, she doesn't want any part of them.

She is concerned about her mother who is facing a new medical crisis. When Xan tells her it is an elf curse and the wood queen wants to make a deal, Donna is willing to do anything to free her mother from the curse. Besides opening a door to faerie and sending the wood elves home to keep them from dying sounds like a good thing, doesn't it?

But even good things have unexpected consequences, especially when those who are supposed to educating her, keep major secrets from her.

This was an exciting volume as Donna learns more about her powers and somehow attracts a really creepy new suitor.

Favorite Quote:
Sighing, Donna wondered if she should take the bull by the horns and tell them both about her bargain with Aliette. Tell them at the same time and then make a run for it, perhaps? See how angry they got, and no doubt listen to them make decisions for her about what she should and shouldn't do.

Yeah, that seemed like the perfect plan. 
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Book Review: See How They Run by Ally Carter

See How They Run
Author: Ally Carter
Series: Embassy Row (Book 2)
Publication: Scholastic Press (December 22, 2015)

Description: For the past three years, Grace Blakely has been desperate to find out the truth about her mother’s murder. She thought it would bring her peace. She thought it would lead her to answers. She thought she could put the past to rest.

But the truth has only made her a target.

And the past?

The only way to put the past to rest is for Grace to kill it once and for all.

On Embassy Row, power can make you a victor or a victim; love can turn you into a fool or a fugitive; and family can lead you forward or bury you deep. Trust is a luxury. Death is a very real threat. And a girl like Grace must be very careful about which secrets she brings to light.

My Thoughts: This second Embassy Row novel has Grace trying to cope with her new knowledge and old guilt. Her brother Jamie comes to Adria on a break from West Point because he's so worried about her. He brings along a fellow classmate - John Spencer - who has reasons of his own for wanting to visit Adria.

They go to a party on a nearby island known to be haunted and also known as the place where kids from Embassy Row go to party. Grace has to get away from the group because bonfires and the smell of smoke bring flashbacks of things very painful. She finds Spence at a clearing in the forest outside some ruins. He kisses her which leads Alexei to fight with him. In fact, the fight and Alexei's threats to kill him are captured on many of the phones of other partygoers.

When Spence is found dead the next day with a broken neck, those videos lead the police to think Alexei did the deed. However, Alexei has diplomatic immunity. When his father makes a deal for Alexei to give up his immunity and talk to the police, Grace is sure that is a bad idea. She is determined to clear her friend's name.

Meanwhile, Grace is also learning about secrets that make her a potential member of a society of women that has existed for more than 1000 years. The only thing is, she isn't at all sure that she can trust the society.

This was a fast-paced thriller narrated by Grace who may or may not have mental issues that make those around her, and sometimes Grace herself, question what is real. I can't wait to read the third book in this series.

Favorite Quote:
"So you're a secret society ... of librarians?"

Ms. Chancellor laughs. "Among other things," she says. But in my mind I'm remembering how she held the gun, how calm she was when she fired. "Every army in the world knows that knowledge is power -- information, the world's most lethal weapon. The women keep the secrets, my dear. We have always kept the secrets."
I bought this one Dec. 28, 2016. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

ARC Review: The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone

The Perfect Candidate
Author: Peter Stone
Publication: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (October 2, 2018)

Description: When recent high school graduate Cameron Carter lands an internship with Congressman Billy Beck in Washington, DC, he thinks it is his ticket out of small town captivity. What he lacks in connections and Beltway polish he makes up in smarts, and he soon finds a friend and mentor in fellow staffer Ariel Lancaster.

That is, until she winds up dead.

As rumors and accusations about her death fly around Capitol Hill, Cameron’s low profile makes him the perfect candidate for an FBI investigation that he wants no part of. Before he knows it—and with his family’s future at stake—he discovers DC’s darkest secrets as he races to expose a deadly conspiracy.

If it doesn’t get him killed first.

My Thoughts: Cameron Carter is excited to be chosen as an intern in the office of Congressman Billy Beck in Washington, DC. He's glad to get out of his small California town and work for a man he really admires. He's sort of a fish out of water but eager and bright. He is befriended by Ariel Lancaster, supervisor of the interns and daughter of a freshman Congresswoman who is an ally of Beck's.

Ariel says she has something to tell Cameron and that she needs his help with something, but before she can provide details, she dies in a car accident. It doesn't take long for Cameron to become suspicious especially when he is contacted by a man named Memo Adair who says he's with the FBI and investigating Beck. While Cameron is more concerned with Ariel's death, he still gets involved in the investigation.

He's also met Lena who is the daughter of the Mexican ambassador and an old Washington hand. They start what they both know is a summer romance. After all, she's on her way to Princeton and he's on his way to his local community college. The two of them tour many Washington sites and become good friends. In fact, when Cameron has to pick someone to hold the information he's gathered in case something happens to him, he chooses Lena. She also turns out to be a pretty good computer hacker too.

This story was filled with lots of excitement as Cameron investigates a man he admires and finds out that he's not the hero Cameron believed. There was lots of Washington politics and secrets and people who were sucked into things they should have been involved with.

Fans of politics, suspense, and a dash of romance will enjoy this fast-paced story. The surprise twist at the end could lead to more adventures for Cameron too.

Favorite Quote:
"In this town, when you hear people say I work for the government or I work for the State Department, that's when you stop asking questions," he explained. "Because there won't be any more answers. But I'll give you a hint..." He opened his thick flannel shirt just wide enough to reveal what looked a lot like the FBI badges that agents flashed on TV.

Seeing the badge -- the legitimacy -- made me feel both more safe and more nervous.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, October 1, 2018

State of the Stack #76 (Oct. 1, 2018)

This is my monthly State of the Stack post. It is my way to keep track of my review books and to hopefully reduce the stack that I have waiting for me. I take a look at my review commitments on or near the first of the month. Link with Avalinah's Books (description below) to check out other people's progress. She has 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. Damsel by Elana K. Arnold (Sept. 24)
  2. Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand (Sept. 26)
  3. A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper (Sept. 27)
  4. Broken Things by Lauren Oliver (Sept. 28) 
  5. Uncompromising Honor by David Weber (Sept. 29)
  6. Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut (Oct. 1)
  7. Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron (Oct. 3) 
  8. The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone (Oct. 3)
  9. A Crafter Knits a Clue by Holly Quinn (Oct. 6) 
  10. In the Mood Fur Love by Eve Langlais, Milly Taiden, Kate Baxter (Oct. 11) 
  11. The Hour of Death by Jane Willan (Oct. 10) 
  12. A Murder By Any Name by Suzanne M. Wolfe (Oct. 13) 
  13. The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens (Oct. 12) 
  14. A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess (Oct. 10)
  15. Six Cats A Slayin' by Miranda James (Oct. 17)
  16. The Lies We Told by Camilla Way (Oct. 18)
  17. Vendetta by Iris Johansen (Oct. 23)
  18. Archangel's Prophecy by Nalini Singh (Oct. 23)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice by Lawrence Goldstone (Sept. 3) 
  2. In Cold Chocolate by Dorothy St. James (Sept. 5) 
  3. Read and Gone by Allison Brook (Sept. 6) 
  4. Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older (Sept. 7) 
  5. Burning Ridge by Margaret Mizushima (Sept. 8) 
  6. The Guilty Dead by P. J. Tracy (Sept. 12) 
  7. The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo (Sept. 12) 
  8. Intercepted by Alexa Martin (Sept. 13) 
  9. The Storm Runner by J. C. Cervantes (Sept. 14)
  10. What I've Done by Melinda Leigh (Sept. 19) 
  11. The Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb (Sept. 21) 
  12. Rocky Mountain Cowboy Christmas by Katie Ruggle (Sept. 26)
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 Au Pair by Emma Rous (Jan. 8, 2019)
  2. Those Who Go By Night by Andrew Gaddes (Nov. 13)
  3. In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon (Nov. 13)
  4. The Once and Future Geek by Mari Mancusi (Nov. 20)
  5. The Lady Travelers Guide to Deception with an Unlikely Earl by Victoria Alexander (Nov. 20)
  6. Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge (April 9)
  7. We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Feb. 26)
  8. Stolen Time by Danielle Rollins (Feb. 5)
  9. The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone (Oct. 2)
  10. SEAL's Honor by Megan Crane (Nov. 6)
  11. Winter War Awakening by Rosalyn Eves (March 19, 2019)
  12. Archangel's Prophecy by Nalini Singh (Oct. 30)
  13. Vendetta by Iris Johansen (Oct. 23)
  14. Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden (Jan. 8, 2019)
  15. This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce (Jan. 8, 2019)
  16. The Burning Island by Hester Young (Jan. 22, 2019)
My Review Pile

Next Month's Plan

I'm still working the plan and am managing to stay about three weeks ahead in my reading. It is nice to have posts scheduled so that I'm not stressed about finishing a book and writing a review with only a couple of days to go.

I have quite a few NetGalley reads that I've had for more than three months. That is going to stay that way as long as they make books available for review more than three months before a book's publication date. I read my review books in the order that they are going to be released - not the order that I receive them.

I am hoping that the rest of the year sees fewer books offered for review that I want to read. I would really like to spend some more time with my TBR mountain. I am trying to be more selective in what I chose to read for review.


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!

ARC Review: Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut

Del Toro Moon
Author: Darby Karchut, Risa Rodil (Illustrator)
Publication: Owl Hollow Press, LLC (October 2, 2018)

Description: Ride hard, swing hard, and take out as many of those creepy critters as you can.

Twelve year old Matt Del Toro is the greenest greenhorn in his family's centuries-old business: riding down and destroying wolf-like monsters, known as skinners.

Now, with those creatures multiplying, both in number and ferocity, Matt must saddle up and match his father's skills at monster whacking. Odds of doing that? Yeah, about a trillion to one. Because Matt's father is the legendary Javier Del Toro--hunter, scholar, and a true caballero: a gentleman of the horse.

Luckily, Matt has twelve hundred pounds of backup in his best friend--El Cid, an Andalusian war stallion with the ability of human speech, more fighting savvy than a medieval knight, and a heart as big and steadfast as the Rocky Mountains. Serious horse power. Those skinners don't stand a chance.

My Thoughts: Karchut ventures into a new mythology in this new middle grade novel. Matt is the descendant of one of the caballeros sent from Spain in the 1600s with chests of monsters to disperse through the New World and then keep them from causing trouble. They didn't come alone. They brought along companions - Andalusian horses with the ability to speak.

Matt is twelve and just going on his first hunt for the "skinners" his family hunts. He's nervous and frightened that he's going to mess up but his friend El Cid is there with him. El Cid is getting older which worries Matt but he is still a source of wisdom and unquestioning love. Matt has an older brother named Ben who is constantly fighting with their father Javier which is a real source of stress for Matt. His mother died in a car accident when he was so young that he barely remembers her.

This book deals with paleontologists who want to hunt for dinosaurs in the area where Matt and his family hunt for skinners. One of the paleontologists went to high school with Matt's father. Her daughter Perry becomes Matt's first crush. Javier tries to convince them that the area is dangerous but is unsuccessful convincing the arrogant expedition leader.

This was a nice story. I enjoyed the new beginning romance with Perry. I enjoyed all the action and danger as they fought the skinners. I was heartbroken, along with Matt, when he had to face another loss. One niggle I had concerned the talking horses. I can't see how they could articulate speech given their mouth and tongue structures. Yes, I know, magic -- but it did make me wonder.

Fans of middle grade adventure with monsters will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
My brother's face flushed with pride. He shrugged. "Just doing what you taught me, Pop," he said, eyes locking on Izzie's ears. The faint smile stayed on his face. It matched the one on Dad's.

Man, I'd go up against a pack of skinners. By myself. In the dark. Without a mace. Every day. Just for that.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from the author. You can buy your copy here.