Book Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Book Review: Black Iris by Leah RaederBlack Iris by Leah Raeder
Published by Atria on April 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.

Book Review:

black iris leeannadotmeBLACK IRIS is a book I’ve been looking forward to for months, so when I started it, I tried to savor it. I wanted to take in and enjoy every line of Leah Raeder’s gorgeous prose, but I couldn’t tease myself. After two days of reading slow, I gave in and read the rest of the book in one frantic gulp. A week later, I’m still nursing a book hangover. I knew BLACK IRIS would destroy me, and did it ever. I’m talking destruction in the best way possible, of course.

I really just wanted to howl like a wolf for my review, but I figured that wouldn’t be too informative. But that’s how I felt when I turned the last page of BLACK IRIS — like the wolf, a wild, powerful beast, high on the success of getting revenge on my enemies. The author put me so completely inside Laney’s head that I felt like her. It’s a great feeling to have — with as many books as I read, rarely do they impact me so emotionally that I feel each betrayal and revelation like a sucker punch to the gut.

BLACK IRIS is smart, sexy, bold, heart-wrenching, dark, and a hundred other adjectives. At times it pokes a bit of fun at other new adult books, such as the magic formula of broken girl plus bad boy equaling sexual healing. And then there are times when BLACK IRIS dives into the human psyche, giving a look at what might happen if you were unafraid of the consequences of getting revenge on all those who have fucked you over. Oh, and there’s some page-scorching sex, of all varieties. Laney and Blythe? My new favorite couple.

I haven’t talked at all about the plot, but BLACK IRIS is a book best read blind. I don’t want to spoil a second of it. Here’s what I will say: the book flips around in time, building tension and anticipation between last year and this year. Gradually, the reason for Laney’s quest for revenge is shown even as that quest takes off. The time jumping also showed me the differing states of Laney’s relationships with Armin and Blythe as I was being drawn into her web. I was super surprised by the ultimate revelations, which is always something I enjoy.

I like to reread, but BLACK IRIS is a book I wanted to begin again as soon as I finished it, which is a bit fast, even for me. But I want to reread because I know I missed little details and descriptions when I started reading faster because I had to find out what happened. I’ve never used the bookmark feature so much on my e-reader as I did when reading BLACK IRIS.

In a way, BLACK IRIS could feel like a checklist of stuffing things inside books: Laney deals with her sexuality, with bullying and her mother’s suicide, with drug use, with the tightrope of female friendships when she’s attracted to them, with finding herself in a new world, with showing her enemies not to fuck with her. But thanks to Raeder’s skillful writing, you don’t feel like these things are in the book just to be in there. No, they’re all important aspects of Laney and her story.

Laney calls herself an Unsympathetic Protagonist, and BLACK IRIS is an emotional and atmospheric ride inside her head during an unforgettable year. As she says, “Fuck forgiveness.”

Let’s talk about it:

What’s something new you’d like to see in New Adult?

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Leah Raeder:
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– leeanna

Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Book Review: All the Rage by Courtney SummersAll the Rage by Courtney Summers
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 14, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic, Young Adult
Pages: 321
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

Book Review:

ALL THE RAGE is a book that made me quiver with rage for what Romy endures.

“Because ‘slut’ was just too humanizing, I guess. A slit’s not even a person (p. 38*).”

You know who writes SLIT on Romy’s mom’s car? The son of the sheriff. If that doesn’t make you want to dive into Romy’s story, to see why everyone hates her so much, I don’t know what will. I’m not trying to be sensational — ALL THE RAGE is full of lines I could quote.

ALL THE RAGE is my first Courtney Summers book, but it won’t be my last. It’s hard stuff to read at times, but I loved how the author didn’t pull any punches or censor anything. I’m sure when I reread this, I’ll find more gems hidden in its pages. Like all the little observations she makes about how society has trained women to be polite. Such as when Romy automatically takes a napkin with a number from a guy who creeps her out, “like the obligation to be nice to him is greater than myself (p. 233*).”

I was a bit confused at the start of ALL THE RAGE, because the book flips between NOW and BEFORE, between Romy’s rape and the horribleness she endures after. There’s not a lot of flipping though, and eventually I knew enough to put the pieces together. I think the confusion I felt as a reader echoes some of Romy’s confusion over what happened to her, since she couldn’t remember.

Okay. So I haven’t really talked about the book itself, the plot or characters, but I’m not going to do that. I went into this book with almost no foreknowledge, and I think that’s the best way to read it. I want it to hit you as hard as it hit me, so no spoilers from me.

I think ALL THE RAGE should be required reading for all high school students and well, everyone. Because it talks about rape culture in a way that will make you think. We live in a world where rape is blamed on the victim for what she was wearing or because she asked for it. We live in a world where if rapists are actually convicted, it’s their future that’s ruined because of one little mistake. We live in a world where people are sympathetic for the perpetrator, not for the victim. We live in a world where people in power can cover up a crime or even ignore it. We live in a world where Romy hopes an unborn baby isn’t a girl, because being a girl is hard and dangerous and painful.

And I apologize for the preachiness, but that’s what ALL THE RAGE did to me. It makes me want to shout from the rooftops. It makes me want to put the book in as many hands as I can. That’s the sign of an excellent read and an impactful book.

*Quotes are from an Advanced Review Copy, and may change by publication.

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Courtney Summers:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm

Book Review: Ravensbrück by Sarah HelmRavensbrück by Sarah Helm
Published by Doubleday on March 31, 2015
Genres: History, Non Fiction
Pages: 768
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
A groundbreaking, masterful, and absorbing account of the last hidden atrocity of World War II—Ravensbrück—the largest female-only concentration camp, where more than 100,000 women consisting of more than twenty nationalities were imprisoned.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and the architect of the Holocaust, oversaw the construction of a special concentration camp just fifty miles north of Berlin. He called it Ravensbrück, and during the years that followed thousands of people died there after enduring brutal forms of torture. All were women. There are a handful of studies and memoirs that reference Ravensbrück, but until now no one has written a full account of this atrocity, perhaps due to the mostly masculine narrative of war, or perhaps because it lacks the Jewish context of most mainstream Holocaust history. Ninety percent of Ravensbrück's prisoners were not Jewish. Rather, they were political prisoners, Resistance fighters, lesbians, prostitutes, even the sister of New York's Mayor LaGuardia. In a perverse twist, most of the guards were women themselves. Sarah Helm's groundbreaking work sheds much-needed light on an aspect of World War II that has remained in the shadows for decades. Using research into German and newly opened Russian archives, as well as interviews with survivors, Helm has produced a landmark achievement that weaves together various accounts, allowing us to follow characters on both sides of the prisoner/guard divide. Chilling, compelling, and deeply unsettling, Ravensbrück is essential reading for anyone concerned with Nazi history.

Book Review:

I have read a lot of books on World War II and the Holocaust, from history textbooks to historical fiction to survivor memoirs. There’s a lot of literature out there, and for good reason. It’s something we should never forget or allow to happen again. But RAVENSBRÜCK is one of those books that stands out, and for another good reason: it’s about the only concentration camp designed for women.

I spent almost 21 hours reading RAVENSBRÜCK, and consider every one of those hours well spent. I learned an incredible amount while reading. Have you heard of the Polish students — the “rabbits” — that were experimented on at the camp? They smuggled out letters written in urine to tell the world their story because they feared the Nazis would silence them forever to cover up the crimes. When women were beaten for punishment, Heinrich Himmler personally approved each beating. Ravensbrück trained women guards for the rest of the concentration camps. I learned more about satellite camps than I have in any other book. I also learned that many Soviet women were imprisoned again upon release, because Stalin considered them traitors.

I really feel like the author did an incredible job of making a readable history of Ravensbrück. Yes, it is hard reading because of the atrocities, but I so appreciated that the author didn’t gloss over those, but instead told me how the women survived. I was in awe of the women mentioned, at their thirst to live in horrendous conditions. How they rebelled a hundred tiny ways, sometimes escaping punishment and sometimes suffering the ultimate fate for their rebellion. How many of them returned home and never said a word, because nobody wanted to hear about Ravensbrück.

In RAVENSBRÜCK, Sarah Helm combines historical evidence (records, trial transcripts, etc.) and the voices of the survivors to create a biography of the camp, from founding to liberation. If she couldn’t corroborate an account, she told the reader what the survivor said anyway, adding additional evidence for or against, if there was any. Many, many voices are represented, from guards to Soviet prisoners of war to Polish doctors and students to German communists and more.

I do have one small wish: a list of all the women who had a voice in RAVENSBRÜCK, along with their fates, would have been a good addition in my eyes. There were so many interesting women mentioned, and I doubt I could ever track down information about them.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you have any interest in WWII, concentration camps, or even women’s history in general.

YA Connection:

ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein is a YA historical fiction book set, in part, at Ravensbrück. So far, it’s the only historical fiction book, YA or otherwise, that I’ve read set in Ravensbrück. After reading Sarah Helm’s history of the camp, I feel that Elizabeth Wein did a respectable and realistic job of describing life there.

– leeanna

Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia BriggsDead Heat by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega #4
Published by Ace on March 3, 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way...

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

Book Review:

DEAD HEAT makes me want to howl at the moon.

It’s that good folks — good enough to send me into a frenzied weekend of rereading the entire Alpha & Omega series and then right back into DEAD HEAT again. Yup. I read this book twice in a week and loved it both times. I was like an obsessed werewolf on the hunt. I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough.

I’ve liked Anna and Charles since CRY WOLF in 2008. Alpha & Omega is one of my very favorite paranormal romance series because it has all the things! Anna and Charles are great characters; they defy genre stereotypes and have a relationship I love (and I’m really picky on romance). The paranormal aspects are there; I enjoy how the author writes werewolves and her fae are super creepy. The stories are always interesting, as are the side characters. Really. I could go on and on about this series.

I think DEAD HEAT might be the best installment yet. It’s the fourth book in the series, and while I think you should read all of them, I also think you could dive right into this book and not be lost. It’s been almost 3 years since I read the third book, FAIR GAME, and I was okay. Events are loosely connected, but as the series goes on, I feel like each book is more independent.

In DEAD HEAT, Anna and Charles go to Arizona to buy a horse for Anna’s birthday. They stay with the local alpha, Hosteen. Hosteen’s son, Joseph, is one of the very few people Charles cares about other than his family. But Joseph is dying, leaving Charles to wonder if it’s worth the pain of being close to someone who will die. It’s a difficult conundrum, considering Anna wants to have children. And then Hosteen’s great-grandchildren are attacked by a deadly fae, sending our main pair on a hunt with the FBI and Cantrip for a missing child.

It sounds like a lot, right? But it’s not. I adore Patricia Briggs’ writing. She’s got this way of sucking me into a book, making me care about every single character, and making me want to be there. When I was reading DEAD HEAT, I wanted to be a werewolf. I wanted to have Anna and Charles’ relationship (and I’m a single-for-life woman). I like how Anna and Charles support each other, but they also know how to let the other stand alone when necessary. Their relationship feels so real to me, and that’s not usually something I say. I felt Patricia Briggs’ love for everything she wrote about, from Arabian horses to Anna and Charles to Hosteen and Joseph.

I just couldn’t get enough of DEAD HEAT. So good. Arrooooo!

leeannadotme dead heat

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– leeanna

Book Review: Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Book Review: Paper Things by Jennifer Richard JacobsonPaper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Published by Candlewick Press on February 10, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
When forced to choose between staying with her guardian and being with her big brother, Ari chose her big brother. There’s just one problem—Gage doesn’t actually have a place to live.

When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when nineteen-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. He and Ari have been "couch surfing," staying with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.

Book Review:

I was drawn to PAPER THINGS because Ari and her brother Gage are homeless. I hadn’t yet seen this topic covered in a middle-grade book, and I was curious as to how the author would handle it. I admit, I don’t have any experience or real knowledge of homelessness, but I think the author did an incredible job of showing it in a way kid and adult readers can empathize with Ari.

Only eleven, Ari has already been through a lot. Her father died in Afghanistan; she never knew him. Her mother died a few years ago. Since then, she and her brother have stayed with her mother’s best friend, Janna. But Gage and Janna don’t get along, so when Gage decides to leave, Ari goes with him, because their mother wanted them to stay together.

But Gage didn’t tell Ari he didn’t really have an apartment for them. They spend the next several weeks staying with friends, in a shelter, even in a storage unit and a car. Ari’s smart, but being homeless starts to affect her studies, her friendships, and even her chances at getting into a middle school for gifted students. I liked that the author showed how things can snowball: Ari doesn’t have enough time at the library because she and Gage have to worry about where they’re spending the night. She leaves research books at one friend’s house, across town. Her teachers aren’t happy when she tries to do homework for one class in another. And so on. When Gage gets a reliable job, he still can’t get an apartment because of government red tape or needing a rental history. Etc.

I read PAPER THINGS in one sitting, and the book definitely got to me. I was rooting for Ari and Gage. I felt for Ari, who was torn between her brother and her love for him, and the security she had with Janna. I thought Ari was relatable, and while she was sometimes really mature for an eleven-year-old, she was smart and had also deal with a lot in life, so it wasn’t unrealistic. PAPER THINGS is written simply enough so that kids can understand it, but also with enough depth so that adults can enjoy it and get just as much out of it.

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Jennifer Richard Jacobson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: Half the World by Joe AbercrombieHalf the World by Joe Abercrombie
Series: Shattered Sea #2
Published by Del Rey on February 17, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.

Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.

She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.

Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.

Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.

And weapons are made for one purpose.

Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Book Review:

In 2014, the first book in Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, HALF A KING, was one of my favorite books of the year. I’m two months into 2015 and I already know the second book, HALF THE WORLD, will be one of my favorites for this year.

Some awesome things about HALF THE WORLD:

♥ It’s the second book in a trilogy, but you DO NOT need to be familiar with book one. I recommend you read HALF A KINGbecause Yarvi’s story is fantastic. But if you skip it, you won’t be confused. The author fills you in on what you need to know.

♥ If you like kick butt, prickly, determined, stubborn female main characters, you’ll probably love Thorn Bathu. Thorn’s my kind of girl — she wants to be a warrior, the first female warrior to stand in the shield wall. But everyone’s against her, and when her trainer names her a murderer, she almost loses her life. Father Yarvi rescues her from death, but is his rescue really a rescue? If you read HALF A KING, you’ll know Yarvi plays his own game, and even if you haven’t, his actions show his character in HALF THE WORLD. The short version? Thorn comes out even stronger in the end of the book than she was in the beginning, but it’s a bumpy ride. Even worse than hauling a ship overland.

♥ As the title implies, HALF THE WORLD shows a great deal of the world of the Shattered Sea. The characters do journey over half the world trying to find support for their country. As much as I like the Viking feel of Gettland, it was cool to see other cultures and peoples. HALF THE WORLD feels epic in scope without clocking in at 700+ pages. I love big fat fantasies, but sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s less than 400 pages and still get the same feeling.

♥ This is quite unusual for me, but I actually liked the romance in HALF THE WORLD. It’s not a big part of the book, but it is there. At first, I rolled my eyes when I saw that Thorn and Brand were attracted to each other, because I didn’t want the book to be full of them making eyes at each other and falling in loooove right away. It’s not. Anyway, Thorn and Brand have some missteps, and spend a good portion of the book mad at each other for reasons a lot of people will recognize. I thought the romance bit was a lot more realistic than you usually see, which is why I liked it.

In case you can’t tell, I thought HALF THE WORLD was fantastic. I think I liked it even more than HALF A KING! I cannot wait to see how everything ties up in the last book, HALF A WAR, due out later this year. I need my Yarvi and Thorn fix!

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– leeanna

Book Review: The Price of Blood (Emma #2) by Patricia Bracewell

Book Review: The Price of Blood (Emma #2) by Patricia BracewellThe Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell
Series: Emma of Normandy #2
Published by Viking on February 5, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
Menaced by Vikings and enemies at court, Queen Emma defends her children and her crown in a riveting medieval adventure.

Readers first met Emma of Normandy in Patricia Bracewell’s gripping debut novel, Shadow on the Crown. Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England’s King Æthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder.

As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword.

Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.

Book Review:

In 2013, I read an amazing historical fiction book that stuck with me. I named SHADOW ON THE CROWN, the first book in Patricia Bracewell’s trilogy about Emma of Normandy, one of my favorite books for 2013. Every so often, I would check to see when the next book was coming, because I needed more of Emma’s story.

I had to wait two years for more, but THE PRICE OF BLOOD was more than worth the wait. I just hope I don’t have to wait another two years for the last book of the trilogy. After reading the last page of THE PRICE OF BLOOD, my greedy self needs more again. But you would too, because this book is fantastic. I highly recommend it if you like historical fiction. The author interested me in a period of history I never cared about before, which is a mark of successful historical fiction for me.

Like SHADOW ON THE CROWN, THE PRICE OF BLOOD is told from four viewpoints: Emma, Queen of England; Æthelred, King of England; Athelstan, the king’s oldest son; and Elgiva, daughter of one of the king’s chief rivals. It’s easy to know who’s who, and the different characters give a more complete picture of what’s going on in 1006 England. In the first book, Emma was my favorite. But in this book, I also enjoyed Athelstan and Elgiva, as I felt like their stories really expanded. Athelstan has to deal with his paranoid father who thinks Athelstan wants the throne at any cost. Like Emma, Elgiva is a woman in a man’s world, but they go about trying to acquire power and influence in very different ways. Emma uses knowledge and connections while Elgiva uses sex and attempts to manipulate men into doing what she wants. It was an interesting contrast for me.

There’s a lot going on in THE PRICE OF BLOOD, but in the best way possible. Since it had been two years since I was last in this world, I was lost at the beginning. The book includes a helpful glossary, dramatis personae, and map, and after a few chapters, I found my footing. I couldn’t read quickly enough. Patricia Bracewell penned an intricately written tale, bringing together all four characters and their individual struggles to show the effect of Viking invasions on England. Let’s just say the title is an apt one.

THE PRICE OF BLOOD is almost like watching an episode of Vikings — but from the view of the English. The author doesn’t shy away from describing anything, from an ugly battle to a woman being claimed by an unwanted husband to the stark difficulties of living in a country that can’t fight off a more powerful enemy. I actually felt like I was beside the characters, waiting for the next town to be burned. There’s a high level of historical detail in this book, but it doesn’t feel overly researched or like the author’s trying to cram facts down your throat. Patricia Bracewell’s just trying to tell a great story, and she does a brilliant job of it.

Extra!

The publisher, Viking, and the author have created an online book club kit. It’s pretty cool — there’s a recipe, suggested music, little known facts for the time period, and a Q&A with the author. Be sure to give it a look!

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Patricia Bracewell:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford

Book Review: The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan StratfordThe Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford
Series: The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on January 6, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Mystery
Pages: 240
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Jordan Stratford imagines an alternate 1826, where Ada Lovelace (the world’s first computer programmer) and Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) meet as girls and form a secret detective agency!

Lady Ada Byron, age eleven, is a genius. Isolated, awkward and a bit rude—but a genius. Mary Godwin, age fourteen, is a romantic. Adventurous, astute, and kind, Mary is to become Ada’s first true friend. And together, the girls conspire to form the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency—a secret constabulary for the apprehension of clever criminals. Their first case involves a stolen heirloom, a false confession, and an array of fishy suspects. But it’s no match for the deductive powers and bold hearts of Ada and Mary.

Mystery fans will love this tween girl riff on Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. History buffs will be delighted to see all the real figures who play a role in this story and appreciate the extensive backmatter that helps separate truth from fiction. Parents and educators hoping to promote the STEM fields for girls will be thrilled to have a series where two girls use math, science, and creative analytical thinking to solve crimes. But most especially--emerging readers will love this series filled with humor, action, intrigue and wonderful artwork from Kelly Murphy.

Book Review:

I adore the premise and characters in THE CASE OF THE MISSING MOONSTONE. Featuring Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley, this book is the first in a new series aimed at middle-grade girls. The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency wants to show girls that math, science, history, and literature can be used for everyday problems and maybe even to change the world.

Yes, this series does experiment with history. For example, Ada and Mary were eighteen years apart in real life, but are three years apart in this book so they can be friends. Sometimes it annoys the heck out of me when authors mess with history, but I’m all for it here. The author makes it work. Even though I’m not the target age, I was still interested by his characterizations of Ada and Mary, and when I finished the book, I went searching for information on Ada. At the end of THE CASE OF THE MISSING MOONSTONE, the author does include biographies of most of the characters, filling readers in on their real lives and any changes he made for the book.

I flew through THE CASE OF THE MISSING MOONSTONE. The mystery isn’t too difficult to solve, but I had a hoot watching Ada and Mary work through it. I loved Ada from page one. I mean, she has a balloon on the roof of her house, and thinks “Oomph times zoom equals kaboom!” on page one. Ada and Mary approach things differently, and I think any reader will find something to identify with and like in one or both of them. Ada’s not so good at dealing with emotions and people; she prefers math. Mary’s better with people, likes poetry and romance, and has the Very Good Idea of the detective agency. It was great to see the girls become friends and understand each other’s strengths while they subvert 1820’s society’s view of girls.

Lastly, there are some great illustrations in THE CASE OF THE MISSING MOONSTONE. I would have loved them as a kid, and I still loved them as an adult. I thought they added a lot to the story, and I really appreciated that one of Ada’s equations was drawn out. All too often math equations (if they’re mentioned at all) aren’t shown, so it’s tricky to know what the character is talking about.

Socialize with the author:

Jordan Stratford:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3) by Robin LaFevers

Book Review: Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3) by Robin LaFeversMortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #3
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on November 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 444
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

Book Review:

I loved the first two books in Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin series: GRAVE MERCY and DARK TRIUMPH. The series is a blend of historical fiction, fantasy, and romance. I read both books multiple times and enjoyed them more each time.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I started MORTAL HEART. I was sad to see the series end, but I was also worried. Would this book live up to my expectations? Would I enjoy MORTAL HEART as much as the other books?

By the Nine, MORTAL HEART was amazing! I read it straight through, seven hours glued to the book until I flipped the last page. And when I did finish, I wanted to start right over again, so I could enjoy Annith’s story again.

It’s really hard to review the last book of a trilogy without spoiling everything. Ismae and Duval do show up, as do Sybella and Beast, so we get to see a little more of their relationships and futures. The plight of Brittany and its young duchess is resolved. But MORTAL HEART is really Annith’s tale, and what a good tale it is.

Sentenced with a future she doesn’t want — seeress for the convent — Annith takes her future into her own hands. Over the course of MORTAL HEART, Annith grows from an obedient novitiate to a confident, independent woman. Even when secrets from her past threaten to overwhelm her, she doesn’t let them. MORTAL HEART has more supernatural aspects than the other two books, but I think that only makes sense, since Annith is very devoted to Mortain. As for her love interest — I’ll admit, at first I didn’t quite go for Balthazaar as Annith’s man, nor the conclusion. But after thinking about it for a bit, and reading the Author’s Note, Balthazaar is the one.

I could go on and on about MORTAL HEART, and maybe I’m biased because I love this series so much, but I think this book is fantastic. A more than worthy ending to an amazing series.

Socialize with the author:
Robin LaFevers
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– leeanna

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin TalleyLies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 30, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, LGBT, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept "separate but equal."

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

Book Review:

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES is a book that touched me deeply, and one I want everyone to read. This is a book that deserves all the readers.

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES tackles a lot of things: racism, women’s rights, and even LGBT issues in 1959. But it doesn’t read like an “issue book.” Everything comes together in a well-told story, one that kept me reading until 5am.

The first part of the book is from Sarah’s view. Sarah is one of the first black students to attend a white school, and we see every horrible, cruel moment of integration from her eyes. The author doesn’t shy away from history or try to paint it in a better light. The second part of the book is from Linda’s view. Daughter of the vehemently racist editor of the town’s paper, Linda is also against integration. In her eyes, the black students are ruining everything. The last part of the book is told from both of their perspectives.

I liked how LIES WE TELL OURSELVES was set up; the differing perspectives let you get into both character’s minds and see how they both feel about everything. Each chapter is also titled with a lie, such as “There’s no need to be afraid (Sarah)” or “None of this has anything to do with me (Linda).”

I read this book a month ago, and I’m still thinking about it. I’ve sat on this review for a while, trying to figure out just what to say about LIES WE TELL OURSELVES. In the end, I think that’s the best praise I can give. This book is still in my head, and I’m sure it’s going to stay there. It’s a rare book that does that, because I read upwards of 100 books a year and most are forgettable.

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES ripped at my heart, made me feel for both Sarah and Linda and the other characters, and then left me feeling just a bit hopeful at the end.

Socialize with the author:

Robin Talley:
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– leeanna