Book Review: A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Book Review: A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen BaldwinA School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin
Series: Stranje House #1
Published by Tor Teen on May 19, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts...

Book Review:

I was super excited for A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS. At Stranje House, unmarriageable girls are supposedly reformed. But in reality, their unusual qualities and abilities are further developed. Sent to Stranje House after she sets her father’s stables on fire while trying to create invisible ink, Georgiana wants to escape … until she meets Sebastian Wyatt and learns that Miss Stranje wants her to create that ink.

The summary strongly hints at romance, but I didn’t think it would take over the whole book. The “relationship” that springs up between Georgiana and Sebastian caused me to dislike A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS. Georgiana’s supposed to be smart, but she falls in love with Sebastian after about two seconds of looking at him. Or that’s what it felt like. I think they spent less than a week together, but they were falling in love by the middle of the book. I can’t stand that type of undeveloped relationship, and it influenced how I felt about the book.

Aside from the insta-love romance, I didn’t get Georgiana. Again, she’s supposed to be smart, but where does this come from? Why is she the only one who can develop the ultra-important invisible ink spies need in the war effort? Where do her special skills come from? We’re not told of her successes, just her failures: setting the stables on fire, jumping out a window and hurting her arm, etc. And when Georgiana works on that ink, she nearly kills Sebastian and then makes another mistake because they’re swooning over each other. And Stranje House itself? It sounds like an interesting place, but Georgiana doesn’t partake in very many lessons because she’s busy with Sebastian.

Ultimately, A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS just wasn’t what I expected it to be. Instead of a history-filled, girl-powered jaunt through 1814, it’s an unrealistic romance with a tiny dash of adventure.

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Kathleen Baldwin:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Book Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia BoeckerThe Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
Series: The Witch Hunter #1
Published by Brown Books for Young Readers on June 2, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.

Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.

Book Review:

THE WITCH HUNTER is described as “The magic and suspense of GRACELING meet the political intrigue and unrest of GAME OF THRONES in this riveting fantasy debut.”

Uhm, no. It’s not.

First, let me say I’m really tired of publishers describing books as “X meets Y.” I understand why they do it, but when the book is neither, it’s incredibly misleading. And believe me, most of the time those comparisons are untrue.

So what is THE WITCH HUNTER? It’s an average YA fantasy. There were times it was good and times I wondered why I wasn’t in love with it like everyone else seemed to be. The writing is decent and the book is readable. But the plot is predictable and there’s not a lot of memorable stuff.

Elizabeth is a witch hunter, one of the best, but lately she’s been distracted and has made mistakes. When she’s discovered with herbs in her pocket, she’s sentenced to death, just like all the witches she’s captured. And then when she’s rescued by Anglia’s most wanted wizard, she starts to question everything she’s been told.

THE WITCH HUNTER has a historical setting, but it’s not really developed. Anglia is basically 16th century England with witches. Elizabeth is sexually abused by the king, but her feelings on this are never explored; it’s just a thing to get her into trouble. I would’ve expected some reaction, especially when she crushes on John, the cute wizard healer. The plus about their romance is the author doesn’t go the insta-love route, but I’m not sure why John liked Elizabeth.

For me, THE WITCH HUNTER is one of those books I enjoyed while reading and that’s it. If I thought more about it, I’d probably rate it lower, so I’ll stop here. It’s not a book that’ll stick with me, but that’s okay.

Socialize with the author:

Virginia Boecker:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen

Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine SaracenThe Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen
Published by Bold Strokes Books on March 17, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
As the German Blitzkrieg brings the Soviet Union to its knees in 1942, a regiment of women aviators flies out at night in flimsy aircraft without parachutes or radios to harass the Wehrmacht troops. The Germans call them “Night Witches” and the best of them is Lilya Drachenko. From the other end of the world, photojournalist Alex Preston arrives to “get the story” for the American press and witnesses sacrifice, hardship, and desperate courage among the Soviet women that is foreign to her. So also are their politics. While the conservative journalist and the communist Lilya clash politically, Stalingrad, the most savage battle of the 20th century, brings them together, until enemy capture and the lethal Russian winter tears them apart again.

Book Review:

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD initially captured my interest because of the night witches. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of them before, because now I’m fascinated! Once I dove into this book, I dove just as quickly into researching the night witches, and I was pleased to learn the author based many of her characters on real Soviet pilots.

The book is told from the perspectives of two different women: Lilya Drachenko, Soviet pilot extraordinaire and night witch, and Alex Preston, American photojournalist and a former Russian. Throughout the course of THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD, both women question the beliefs they’ve grown up with as well as question what their futures could be. There is a lot of character growth in this book, which is something I enjoy.

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD is way more than just a wartime romance. At first, I didn’t expect such depth and historical accuracy, but I was delighted to find it. This book is gritty, a realistic look at life in a warzone. There’s details on living under Stalin for the Russians, lots of piloting from night witch flying to fighter battles, and even time in a concentration camp. If you have any interest in the Soviet side of WWII, or the night witches, I’d recommend this book for that alone.

Lilya and Alex do become attracted to one another, but also spend a lot of the book apart, due to the war and their respective duties. Their relationship is sweet and realistic, with a few hints of explicitness that fit into the time period. Aside from Lilya and Alex, this book is full of strong women, female friendships, and women supporting each other. I like how the author put her own spin on “women can’t do X or Y,” showing over and over again that yes, they can. And I loved when Alex went off on General Patton. I’d quote, but I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just say it’s fantastic.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you like when historical fiction introduces you to things you’d never heard of before?

Socialize with the author:

Justine Saracen:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Web (Fianna Trilogy #2) by Megan Chance

Book Review: The Web (Fianna Trilogy #2) by Megan ChanceThe Web by Megan Chance
Series: Fianna Trilogy #2
Published by Skyscape on January 20, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
In Victorian New York, seventeen-year-old Grace Knox is tangled in the web of an ancient prophecy.

The Fianna, legendary Irish warriors, have been magically called from their undying sleep to aid Ireland in its rebellion against Britain. But the Fianna have awakened in New York alongside their bitter enemies, the Fomori. A prophecy demands that a Druid priestess—a veleda—must choose between these two sides. Grace is this veleda.

But being the veleda means she must sacrifice her power—and her life—to her choice. On one side are her fiancé, Patrick Devlin, and the Fomori. On the other are the Fianna—and the warrior Diarmid Ua Duibhne, with whom Grace shares an undeniable connection. Patrick has promised to find a way to save her life. In three months, at the ancient ritual, Diarmid must wield the knife that kills her.

Grace doesn’t know whom to trust. As dark forces converge on the city, she struggles to discover the truth about her power. Can she change her own destiny? Can she escape the shadows of the past and reach for a future she could never have imagined?

Book Review:

THE WEB is the second book in Megan Chance’s Fianna Trilogy. The series is a cross between historical fiction and fantasy, set in Victorian era New York where heroes of Irish lore have come back to life.

The first book, THE SHADOWS, was just okay for me. My favorite part was the Celtic mythology/fantasy. My biggest complaint with THE SHADOWS was that not a lot happened, and unfortunately, that’s the same complaint I have with THE WEB.

THE WEB suffers from Second Book Syndrome: the plot barely advances, Graces mopes and angsts over being attracted to Derry, and … that’s it, I think. I finished the book about an hour ago, and I can’t think of much to say about it.

Supposedly a Druid priestess, Grace is stuck between the Fianna and the Fomori, heroes and villains of Irish folklore. Between gang boy Derry and her fiancé Patrick. Yup, there’s a love triangle here, but THE WEB focuses mainly on the Grace and Derry leg. I didn’t buy it, especially since they started talking about how much they loved each other in this book. But then I tend to be very critical of romance in YA.

And that’s about it, really. For the length of the book (~380 pages), more should have happened. I wanted more plot and less romance. After the cliffhanger in THE SHADOWS, I just expected more from THE WEB.

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Megan Chance:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Shadows (Fianna Trilogy #1) by Megan Chance

Book Review: The Shadows (Fianna Trilogy #1) by Megan ChanceThe Shadows by Megan Chance
Series: Fianna Trilogy #1
Published by Skyscape on June 3, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 389
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Grace Knox has grown up hearing the folktales of her Irish ancestors, especially about the warriors who fought for control of Ireland. In 19th-century New York City, however, these legends are far from Grace's mind. She's much more concerned with how to protect her family from debt collectors, and whether her childhood friend Patrick Devlin will propose. Patrick is a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, a group of young Irish American men intent on fighting for the independence of their homeland, whatever the cost. Patrick and the Brotherhood use ancient magic to summon mythical warriors to join their fight to protect Ireland. One of them, Diarmid, finds himself drawn to Grace, and she to him. When Diarmid discovers that, in their desperation, the Brotherhood has also summoned a rival group of ancient warriors, he warns Patrick that there will be bloodshed. Grace is caught in the middle of two men she loves, and discovers she alone holds the power to save Ireland?but at a dangerous price.

Book Review:

THE SHADOWS is the first book in a YA historical fiction/fantasy trilogy, mixing Victorian era New York with Celtic mythology. I was curious about the book because of the Celtic connection; I haven’t read a lot of it before, and I’m always interested in learning more and seeing new interpretations.

Overall, THE SHADOWS is an okay book. The Celtic mythology/fantasy aspect was my favorite part. There are a lot of YA cliches, including a love triangle, love at first sight, the well-off boy wanting to rescue the impoverished heroine, a heroine possessing unknown magical powers, etc.

Once you wade through all that, not that much happens. THE SHADOWS feels like setup for the rest of the trilogy, information dumping everything now so action can come later. The book does read quickly, but it’s long at 400 pages — too long for the little that happens within. And to top things off, the book ends on a cliffhanger. A really big cliffhanger.

THE SHADOWS is told from the perspectives of each important character: Grace, Patrick, and Derry. Grace’s chapters are first person point-of-view and the boys are third; Patrick and Derry sounded identical to me. Grace is the impoverished heroine, trying to do what’s right to save her family. Patrick is the rich young friend who has always loved her and wants to marry her. He also wants to see an independent Ireland. Derry is actually Diarmid Ua Duibhne, one of the Fianna. The Fianna are heroes of myth, reawoken to save Ireland.

As I said above, the Celtic mythology/fantasy was my favorite part. I did some quick searching and I don’t think the author deviated a lot from the original sources. But it was new to me, so I enjoyed it.

I was disappointed that THE SHADOWS ends on such a big cliffhanger. After so much buildup there’s a really quick battle scene and then wham! Cliffhanger. I wish more had actually happened in book one, rather than so much setup.

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Megan Chance:
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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!

Socialize with the author:

Patricia Bracewell:
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– leeanna

Book Review: A Cold Legacy (The Madman’s Daughter #3) by Megan Shepherd

Book Review: A Cold Legacy (The Madman’s Daughter #3) by Megan ShepherdA Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd
Series: The Madman's Daughter #3
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 27, 2015
Genres: Gothic, Historical Fiction, Horror, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity.

Book Review:

A COLD LEGACY is the last book in the Madman’s Daughter trilogy. Like its predecessors, it’s inspired by a classic work of literature: FRANKENSTEIN. The way Megan Shepherd uses classics for inspirations and twists them to her own purpose remains one of my favorite things about this series.

There’s not a lot of recap of what happened in the previous books, THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER and HER DARK CURIOSITY, which left me a bit lost at first. I tend to like when an author reminds me of past events, so that I can get my bearings. At the start of A COLD LEGACY, Juliet and the gang are on the run, trying to reach Ballentyne, a safe haven in the Scottish moors, before they’re apprehended for murder.

Ballentyne and its owner, Elizabeth von Stein, were my favorite things about A COLD LEGACY. The castle provides an excellent setting for the conclusion of Juliet’s story. With hidden passages, mysterious servants, and a laboratory for forbidden science, it’s the perfect gothic setting. I liked Elizabeth a lot because I saw her as an older, more responsible version of Juliet. It was good for Juliet to have a female role model that was interested in science and didn’t let anyone change her. Plus, Elizabeth was just cool. Think of the FRANKENSTEIN connection and you’ll see why.

Otherwise, the rest of A COLD LEGACY is okay. It’s a decent ending to the series, but it didn’t have the oomph I expected. I found the villain of this book somewhat silly and not quite believable. In past books, I disliked the love triangle of Juliet, Edward, and Montgomery, and while it isn’t present here, I wish the author would have brought up that attraction between Juliet and Edward rather than ignoring it. Juliet and Montgomery are engaged in this last book and on their way to being married, but it got on my nerves how they were constantly hiding Big Important Things from each other.

I really, really liked THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER. HER DARK CURIOSITY had middle book syndrome, but I had high hopes A COLD LEGACY would be amazing. But it was just okay, not the epic conclusion I expected. The more I think about it, the more I could find to critique. So I’ll just stop there and be satisfied that it was a good end to a creative series.

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Megan Sheperd:
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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.

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– leeanna