Sunday, September 27, 2015

Stitching Snow

Essie has been eking out an existence on the frozen mining colony of Thanda.  She survives among the rough miners by repairing and improving drones and other equipment for the mines, but even that is not enough to protect her.  She earns extra money by cage fighting, and it doesn't hurt that the skills she's learned in those fights helps her keep any men with ideas at a distance.  Her only friends are the seven drones she's upgraded to think and work independently and Petey, the soft hearted bar owner.

Her life changes when a shuttle crash lands near her home.  She saves the pilot, a handsome off-worlder who says is looking for treasure.  The damaged ship is a more challenging puzzle for Essie than anything in the mines, so she volunteers to help him repair his ship.

A chance moment reveals Essie's secret to Dane, and she soon realizes she is the treasure he is seeking.  Eight years ago, Princess Snow disappeared from her home on Windsong.  Everyone believed she was kidnapped, and unbeknownst to her, her disappearance sparked a war that has lasted these eight years.

But Essie has more secrets than just her identity.  She wasn't kidnapped; she ran away.  Now Dane has kidnapped her for real and they are hurtling through space and back to her deadly home on Windsong.

But this will not be a straight forward journey for Essie or Dane.  As secrets come to light, the two will grow closer, and there will be no easy decisions.

The time has finally come for Essie to face the truth about her past, her future, and the gentle awakening of her heart.

R.C. Lewis's book is a sci-fi version of Snow White that is fast paced and engrossing.  But be warned, the Evil Queen in Disney's version of the story has nothing on Essie's father and step-mother in this story.  Highly recommended!

City of a Thousand Dolls

In a fantasy world reminiscent of ancient China, Nisha is one of my girls abandoned and raised in the City of a Thousand Dolls.  All families are limited to two children, and boys are considered more valuable than girls.  The City was created as a place where the girls could be trained in various pursuits and professions.

Nisha is just one of these girls, but she is different from the others.  Rather than being trained with one of the Houses, Nisha has been raised as Matron's assistant, a position that allows her to train with the other houses while she helps Matron keep the City running efficiently.  She is also Matron's secret spy, always keeping her eyes and ears open.

It is this special role that allows her to be of use when tragedy strikes.  When one of the girls is found dead, no one is completely sure if it was an accident, suicide, or even murder.  Nisha begins her own subtle investigation with the help of her friends, a group of spotted cats who've taken up residence in the city.  No one knows her secret; she and the cats can talk to each other, and they are her closest friends.

When another girl is found dead, it is clear there is a murderer in the City, and Nisha is determined to find out the killer's identity.  As she continues her investigation, political machinations put the whole City at risk.  The power hungry tar'Vey family is stepping into position to control the city and get rid of Matron.  All of this comes at a time when the city is on the cusp of what could be it's greatest triumph or its greatest disaster.  One of Nisha's closest friends has been selected by the prince to be his bride, and the day of the marriage is fast approaching.  Any misstep could spell disaster for the City and for Nisha as she closes in on the killer.  But there are more secrets than Nisha knows in the City of a Thousand Dolls.  There are some secrets everyone knows but no one admits, and there are some secrets to terrible to fathom.

Miriam Forster's novel is thrilling experience!  A fantasy murder mystery with a side of talking cats and a dash of female empowerment--it's like it was written just for me!  I absolutely loved it!

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Mark of the Thief

Nic has been a slave for years, toiling away in the miles for his cruel master Sal.  Everything changes when the miners discover a forgotten tunnel rumored to contain the lost treasure of Julius Caesar himself.  The only problem is the first man sent to the cave never returned, and the second has been reduced to a babbling fool.  Nic wants nothing to do with this supposed treasure, but when General Radulf shows up demanding that Nic, because he is the smallest slave, descend to cave, he has no choice but to comply.

Once inside, Nic must battle a griffin to get a bulla once owned by Caesar.  He is supposed to deliver the bulla to Radulf, but now that he has it, he decides to keep it for himself.

Thus begins a tale of magic, treason, and political machinations. Now Nic is thrust into the midst of a vicious power struggle in the heart of Rome itself.

 Fans of Jennifer A. Nielsen's Ascendance Trilogy will enjoy the action and adventure in this new book.  Recommended for adventure fans and those hungry for more mythology after the Percy Jackson series.  The gods don't make an appearance in this book, but they are a powerful force in the story.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fire Wish

Zayele is happy in her remote village.  Even if she isn't particularly close to her parents, she loves her little brother and has some freedom to run and play without worrying about being proper.  Everything changes when the vizier shows up to choose a bride for the prince.

Now she is headed to Baghdad to marry a prince she's never met and likely never see her home again.  Her cousin Rahela is coming as her companion, and the two girls are locked in a tiny room in their river barge for their safety.  Zayele is desperate to escape, so when she sees something impossible outside her tiny window, she acts quickly.  No one has seen a jinni in years, not since the war started, but now Zayele has captured her own escape.

Najwa has spent her life in the cavern with the rest of the jinn learning to master her powers.  She is learning quickly and discovers by accident that she can do something no one else can do.  It's a talent that could turn the tide in the war with humans.

But a decision made in anger to leave the cavern could cost her everything.  Now she is trapped in Zayele's place pretending to be a human girl, a princess even, who is about to be married to a boy she's never met.

Will these two girls unravel the truth about their past, the war, and their hearts in time?  Read Amber Lough's book to find out!  I really enjoyed this book.  My only complaint is the romance feels a little rushed, but Lough has book two to develop things.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Port Chicago 50

Steve Sheinkin's newest book focuses on civil rights and the military.  During WWII, African American men were actively recruited by several branches of he military, but men who had hoped to defend their country in battle were soon disappointed.  And any hope that military service would further the cause of civil rights and put an end to segregation and discrimination was soon extinguished.

Barracks and training facilities were segregated.  Black and white soldiers weren't even allowed to eat together.  Often black soldiers had to wait until white soldiers had finished eating and take the leftovers.  To make matters worse, black soldiers were not assigned to combat positions.  Instead they were relegated to cleaning, cooking, or in the case of the Port Chicago 50, loading ammunition onto ships to be sent to the battle front.

Port Chicago was a naval base where many black sailors were stationed to handle ammunition.  The work was physically challenging and often dangerous.  To make matters worse, the men received almost no training on how to handle the dangerous explosives.  Plus, the officers would often ride the men to work faster because they placed bets on whose unit could work faster.

It's not a surprise that disaster finally struck, and many men were killed, injured, or left traumatized.  Shortly after the disaster that killed many of their friends and fellow sailors, 250 men refused to return to work loading ammunition because they feared for their safety.  Nothing had changed at Port Chicago, and the men were tired of risking their lives in unnecessarily dangerous conditions.  Add in the fact that only black sailors were assigned to the task, and the situation becomes a clear case of racism.

Fifty of the men were eventually charged with mutiny.  They faced a trial and possible imprisonment or death.  Add in a young Thurgood Marshall who saw this as a clear case of discrimination, and you have a fascinating court room drama about the end of segregation in the military.

Pair this book with Courage Has No Color by Tanya Lee Stone for an in depth examination of segregation in the military.  I highly recommend both titles!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Brown Girl Dreaming

What is not to love about Jacqueline Woodson's memoir in verse?  This is a beautiful and eloquent book about Woodson's childhood and the people and places that shaped it.

Though her early childhood is spent in Ohio, Woodson's soul is already filled with the stories and people of South Carolina.  Even after the family moves to New York. Greenville, South Carolina, is an anchor.

This book is an exploration of place, people, and what it means to become yourself.  I absolutely loved it, and you will, too!

Watch the video below to hear the author reading from the book.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Red Queen

Mare Barrow has spent her life in the Stilts.  It's a life of poverty and servitude for anyone who's Red.  Somehow part of the human race evolved to have special powers and silver blood.  The Silvers rule while the Reds are forced to enlist in endless bloody wars.

Mare knows her life will be no different until a chance encounter leads her to a job at the palace.  Now she is spared from mandatory military duty, and her family is getting a little more money.  Now, if her older brothers could just make it out of the war alive, her life might actually get better.

But the changes aren't over for Mare yet.  A horrible accident that should have killed her, reveals that she, too, has a gift.  How is it even possible for a Red to be gifted?

With rebellion stirring among the Reds, the king and queen see Mare as opportunity.  Now she lives in a world of lies.  Mare doesn't even feel like herself anymore, and she certainly doesn't know who to trust.  In this new world of vicious Silvers and revolutionary Reds, anyone can betray anyone.

Victoria Aveyard's new book is a great romantic thriller with plenty of twists and turns!  Highly recommended!

Heaven Is Paved with Oreos

Sarah is struggling with her relationship with her best friend/fake boyfriend.  She and Curtis spend so much time together that people teased them about dating, so they just decided to pretend they were.  But now that they are heading into high school, things are changing between them.  It's not just pure science anymore.

This is perfect timing for Sarah's wild Grandma Z to show up insisting she's headed to Italy on a pilgrimage, and she wants to take Sarah with her.

Things start out great, but Sarah begins to realize there is more to this trip than she realized as Grandma Z begins acting strange, even for her.

This trip will be more than an Italian adventure.  It will be a time for Sarah to learn some things about herself and her best friend/fake? boyfriend as well as some truths hidden in her family tree.

This companion novel can be read independently from the Dairy Queen series, but if you haven't read those, you totally should!  Catherine Gilbert Murdock's new book is a fun return to some favorite characters.

The Island of Dr. Libris

Billy is spending the summer in a cabin on the lake with no wi-fi and no TV.  What's a kid to do but read a couple of books from that locked bookshelf in the office.  No big deal, right?  As soon as Billy opens a book to read, he hears the characters in real life in the distance.

No, Billy isn't crazy.  He and his new friend Walter head out the island in the middle of the lake, and things really get crazy.  Characters from any book they read come to life right in front of them:  Hercules, Pollyanna, Robin Hood, even an alien villain from a comic book.

With all these characters running around, things start to get crazy, and the two boys have to figure out how to get them back in their books.  But Billy is working on another plan, one to get his parents back together.

What is causing these characters to come to life, and who is Dr. Libris?  Read Chris Grabenstein's book to find out!

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

Wow!  I really enjoyed this one!  I didn't know much about this family before reading the book, but now I feel like I know them as people.  Candace Fleming's book deftly portrays the final years of Romanov rule.

Tsar Nicholas was born to rule and raised to understand that he ruled by divine right.  Russia was divided into three groups in those days.  The aristocracy who personally owned over ninety percent of all Russia's wealth lived in opulent homes with servants and beautiful clothes never mixing with anyone else.  There was a professional class who were teachers, lawyers, doctors, clergy, etc.  Everyone else was a peasant scraping by from day to day hoping for food to eat.  Most peasants couldn't even afford shoes.

Still, many peasants still saw the Tsar as a benevolent father until his marriage to Alexandra, his German born Tsarina.  Nicholas was always weak willed, but after his marriage he bowed even more to his wife's dictates.  This, of course, included the welcoming of Rasputin a so-called holy man.

Rasputin's corrupting influence is just part of the reason Tsar Nicholas lost power.  Read this fascinating tale of murder and rebellion to get the full story including the sad end of the Romanov family.  Highly recommended!

Circus Mirandus

Micah believes everything his grandfather ever told him about Circus Mirandus:  the beautiful flying bird woman, the world's smartest elephant, The Man Who Bends Light.  It's always been Micah and his grandfather since Micah was little, but now Grandpa is dying.

When Ephraim was a boy, he visited the magical circus, and the Lighbender promised him a miracle.  He's been saving it all these years, but now it's time to call it in.  He's too sick to visit the circus himself, so Micah must go in his place.  Along with his practical friend, Jenny, Micah must find the circus to save his grandfather.

As if finding a magical hidden circus weren't hard enough, he also has to sneak around Aunt Gertrudis who does not believe in magic.  She won't even let Micah in to see Grandpa

Micah sets off on a grand adventure to save his grandfather, but he also learns some truths about himself and his family.  Can the Lightbender provide a miracle after all these years?  Read Cassie Beasley's book to find out!