Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Story Continues: Legendary, The Heart Forger, & The Delphi Resistance

Do you go through phases in your reading where you just want to read a bunch of sequels? I am definitely in a sequels mood right now. I just finished the books in this post. I'm the middle of two more sequels, and I've got four more on hold at the library. I hope this sequels mood lasts! Whether you are in a sequels mood or not, I can tell you that these sequels are perfection.

Beware of unavoidable spoilers ahead!

Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Series: Caraval (featured here)

Publisher / Year: Flatiron Books - May 2018

Genres: Young Adult Fantasy

Source: My local library

Goodreads | Amazon

Remember last year when Caraval was one of the most buzzed about YA debuts? Well the sequel is out. (How fast these book series grow.) And I loved it even more than the first. 
Caraval is a little difficult to describe. The closest I can come to a explanation is that it is a carnival or circus-type setting that features a high-stakes game. Caraval only takes place at night; it involves magic and mystery, and players must solve a series of clues. I love the magic of Caraval. The dreamlike setting makes the players and the readers alike question what is real and what is not.

Legendary begins where the events of Caraval left off. Scarlett and Donatella are now free of their father's clutches, and they travel with Caraval to the capital city where Legend, whose identity is still a mystery, is putting on a special edition of Caraval in honor of Empress Elantine's birthday. 

Tella is forced to play the game so that she can uncover the information she owes a mysterious benefactor. Tella, of course, has her own secret goals, as does Legend. This puts Legend, the benefactor, and Tella at odds with one another. And Tella is further hampered because she doesn't know who Legend is.

Ooh. I loved this sequel so much. Tella is such a fun character, and I loved reading her story. Scarlett is great as well, but I think of the two sisters it's Tella who has won me over. I love how lively and determined she is. Also, the mystery in this book was tops. Caraval felt high stakes, but Stephanie Garber has upped those stakes even more in this addition to the series. The capital city setting is full of creepy shops, beautiful palaces, and mystical temples. Stephanie Garber also adds to the mythology of her world. The Fates are intriguing and pretty frightening. 

I'm so glad the series isn't over yet. I'm putting Finale on my highly anticipated list for certain. 

The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

Series: The Bone Witch (featured here)

Publisher / Year: Sourcebooks Fire - March 2018

Genres: Young Adult Fantasy

Source: My local library

Goodreads | Amazon

Last year I read and reviewed the first book, The Bone Witch, in Rin Chupeco's new fantasy series. Tea, can raise beings from the dead. The first book is about Tea's emerging powers, her training with a more experienced necromancer, and her friendships and rivalries. The book is set up as a story within a story, so the reader gets glimpses of a more powerful Tea recounting her tale, which definitely piqued my interest. 

I really liked The Bone Witch. The Heart Forger, however, just about killed me with its brilliance. The second book in the series picks up where the first one left off. We are still following two timelines, but now things really start to move along in the later timeline as characters from the earlier timeline reemerge. I loved seeing this puzzle start to come together. I also really enjoyed the secondary characters in this second book. I am a big fan of Kalen. I also really like Khalad and Likh

The imagery in this series is absolutely stunning. It has a bit of an Asian-inspiration, but it's also so clearly it's own world. The writing is gorgeous, and I think what really sells me is the atmosphere. I just love a book that's thick with atmosphere. A lot of the creepiness (you know it has to be in there; Tea raises the dead and can control monsters) is created through atmosphere alone.

The Bone Witch is a very intricate fantasy series, and I really wished that the first book was fresher in my mind when I started to read the second in the series. It's so carefully crafted, and I wanted so badly to have all the details of the earlier book at my fingertips so that I could really appreciate that. I also definitely do not fully understand how this world works. I'm not sure that I'm supposed to know, and, even if I am, I don't care because I'm so sold on the writing and the plot and the characters.

This is a series that will made you work. It takes a bit of an effort to remember all the place names and character names. And I felt like I had to work a little harder because I listened to the audiobook. It took me a while to get a handle on the jumps back and forth in time and to get all the names of the secondary characters straight again. (There are quite a few names that sound similar Kalen and Khalad and Kance, for instance.) But the series is so good and the narration so beautiful that I don't mind the extra effort. 

About halfway through the book things start to get really exciting and interesting in both timelines, and the ending is intense. I wish I could read the final book in the series, Shadowglass, right now. 

The Delphi Resistance by Rysa Walker

Series: The Delphi Trilogy (featured here)

Publisher / Year: Skyscape - October 2017

Genres: Young Adult Science Fiction

Source: Review copy from NetGalley

Goodreads | Amazon

I'm a huge fan of Rysa Walker's Chronos Files Trilogy. Last year I read the first book in her new series, The Delphi Trilogy. Every October I like to read some spooky tales, and this story about a girl who picks up and shares her mind-space with ghosts would definitely fit the bill. This series strikes me as a bit darker than Ms. Walker's Chronos Files, and that is saying something because Saul was pretty awful.

In the first book in the series Anna teams up with two brothers and a sister with similar paranormal powers and the three of them get us knee-deep into a government conspiracy. In the second book Anna, Aaron, Deo, and Taylor are on the road looking for other gifted children. No one knows that Anna is carrying Aaron and Taylor's brother, Daniel, who is in a coma, in her head because Daniel doesn't want his siblings to know that he might be dead. Sharing her headspace with Daniel and Jayden makes for some interesting side effects. Anna can also use their gifts, and Jayden's clairvoyance plays a major role in the story.

Ms. Walker's stories are so action-packed. I can't believe how much ground we covered in this story. And I don't just mean that the characters drove a lot. The clairvoyance was a really cool plot device. The characters in this trilogy are definitely growing on me. I especially came to like Anna's hitchhikers.

When I saw that Kate Rudd narrated the audio version of this series, I made up my mind to audiobook this sequel. She's one of my favorite narrators. (You might know her voice from a little audiobook called The Fault in Our Stars, and she did such a fantastic job with The Chronos Files.)

Ms. Walker leaves us with another painful cliffhanger. I'll definitely be back for the next book, The Delphi Revolution

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Series Salute: The Finishing School Series by Gail Carriger

I meant to read the final book in Gail Carriger's Finishing School series a long time ago. This series was one that fell by the wayside because by the time the fourth book came out I had kind of forgotten the details of the first three books in the series. (I hate when that happens!) Then Paige told me she was reading the whole series, and I said, "Great, you can remind me what happened in the first three books so that I can finally read the last one." And that's what we did, and it worked out great. So, we bring to you, a combined Series Salute.

About the Books 

Sophronia Temminnick's mother is at her wits end. Her daughter insists on unladylike behavior, such as riding in dumbwaiters and dismantling mechanicals. So Mrs. Temminnick enrolls Sophronia at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Temminnick Mademoiselle Geraldine's is not a typical finishing school. It trains young ladies for covert operations, and Sophronia is the type of recruit they love best.

Why We Love Them

1. The Characters' Names
Call me crazy, but the characters' names are pretty much my very favorite thing about these books. Sophronia Temminnick, Dimity Plumleigh-Teignmott, Pillover Plumleigh-Teignmott, Sigheag Maccon, Monique de Polouse, Soap. These are just about the greatest names in all of YA literature. 

2. The Mix of Paranormal and Steampunk Elements
Why settle for one when you can have both? That definitely seems to be Gail Carriger's approach with the Finishing School series. Sure there are werewolves and vampires, but there are also steam-powered engines, mechanicals, and mechanimals. But it's not always an easy alliance between the paranormal and the technological.

3. Girl Spies
I love girl spies because no one expects a prim and properly finished girl to also be adept at espionage, but that is only one of the reasons these girls are so adept at spying. These girls are also talented and highly trained.(More girl spies here, here, here, and here.)

4. The Weapons
A lady never goes anywhere without a handkerchief, but at Mademoiselle Geraldine's, the reasoning is more complex. I love the way even the most innocuous things, like sewing scissors or a fan, are weapons in this series. I also enjoy the inventive weapons and maneuvers, like the wicker chicken and the fan and sprinkle.

5. The School Setting
I love a good school setting. Any kind of magical training, or spy training, or arts training in a YA book is greatly enhance by a fantastic school, and Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is a fantastic school. The teachers range from a werewolf who can't float, to a vampire who needs to be fed, to a teacher who thinks she works at a completely normal finishing school. The uneasy partnership with the Bunson and Lacroix's Boys' Polytechnique (a school for the training of evil geniuses) puts the whole enterprise right over the top for me.

6. The Dirigible 
And Mademoiselle Geraldine's is not located in any run-of-the-mill building, it's in a dirigible. A floating mechanized spy school is the best idea. It's patrolled by a brigade of mechanicals and takes a veritable army of sooties to keep the ship afloat. It's location (and very existence) is mostly a secret. The floating nature of the school makes the inevitable sneaking around that much more harrowing.

7. Alternate History
I'm always up for an alternate history. Costume drama, am I right? I just love to see how authors mix real history with imagination. The details in the Victorian Steampunk setting are really what make the story for me. The floating school, the mechanimals, and the flyway men are brilliant inventions. (More alternate histories here, here, here, and here.)

8.Sophronia's Squad
Sophronia is marvelous, and she definitely anchors the story, but it's her friends that make this series so endearing. Sophronia could never execute her schemes without her roommates Dimity, Agnes, and Sigheag and Soap and the sooties. Dimity's brother, Pilllover, and inventor extraordinaire, Vieve Lefoux also play crucial roles. I actually quite like Felix Mersey, as well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Historical Fiction Inspired by Real Historical Figures

I'm always up for really good historical fiction, and lately I've enjoyed fictional accounts of the lives of real historical figures. I love how fiction can give us a sense of the day to day life of people of the past. In this collection, we have quite a few figures from British history and the incomparable Peggy Schulyer.

More historical fiction inspired by real historical figures here and here.

Princess Victoria:
Miss V. Conroy was one of the Princess Victoria's few childhood companions. As the daughter of John Conroy, the architect of The System and Victoria's nemesis, Miss V. was caught between two loyalties. In My Name is Victoria, the renowned British historian Lucy Worsley imagines what the relationship between the Princess Victoria and Miss V. might have been like. I'm an ideal audience for this book. I've been to Kensington Palace, and I am a huge fan of Masterpiece's Victoria. I liked this book, but I did find it a little dull in parts, but, I can't complain too much because The Princess Victoria's life was rather dull, isolated as she was from the world! Out May 8, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley. 

Peggy Schuyler:
Who isn't fascinated by Alexander Hamilton these days? L.M. Elliott's new book is about Peggy, the Schuyler sister who gets the least amount of air time in the musical. Turns out Peggy was a pretty fascinating person. She was the only one of the three now-famous Schuyler sisters who was living at home during the Revolutionary War, where perhaps she might have been privy to some of the work her father did as Washington's spy master. L.M. Elliott's historical fiction is always so well-researched, and she does an excellent job rooting her readers in the historical moment. Peggy is feisty and so bright. It was really fun to get to delve a little deeper into her story. Hamilton and Peggy! is out January 2, 2018. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Katherine Howard:
Elizabeth Rose Camperdowne is a Tudor maiden in the time of Henry VIII. Eliza may be fictional, but she is surrounded by characters who really lived and breathed. Through her eyes, we see the story of Katherine Howard unfold. Eliza trains with Katherine at the Duchess of Nothumerland's school and becomes a lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves. Through Eliza, the reader sees the restrictions and expectations placed on the women of Henry VIII's court. I quite enjoyed this book by Lucy Worsley as well. Katherine Howard is one of the most misunderstood of Henry VIII's wives, and Eliza serves as a nice foil for that tragic tale. Maid of the King's Court is out March 14, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

John Milton:
Anne Blankman imagines that the 17th-century poet and political theorist, John Milton, had a fourth daughter, Elizabeth, and a remarkable secret that could shake the foundations of monarchy and all of Christendom. When her father is arrested, Elizabeth and the Italian scholar Antonio Vivani must decipher the clues her father scattered across England and encoded into his poetry. Traitor Angels might strike you as a 17th-century National Treasure or DaVinci Code. The book is full of real-life characters--Galileo, Charles II, Samuel Pepys, and, of course, Milton himself. It's a fast-paced, sophisticated, feminist version of the events surrounding the inception of Milton's most famous poem, Paradise Lost. Traitor Angels is out May 3, 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss. 

The Wives of Henry VIII: 
Fatal Throne is a collection of stories by seven authors about the wives of Henry VIII. I honestly loved them all, but some of my favorites were Candace Fleming's story about Katherine of Aragon, Jennifer Donnelly's story about Anne of Cleves, and Linda Sue Park's Catherine Howard tale. I will freely admit that I am the prime audience for a collection like this. I'm an historian. I'm fascinated by the Tudors, I've been to Hampton Court, and I love period dramas. That said, several of these stories are just beautifully written and so captivating stylistically. My plan was to read one story between other reads, but I was so engrossed I ended up reading them all back-to-back. Out May 1, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Reading on a Theme: What the Dead Left Behind

What the Dead Left Behind is becoming a staple over here at Intellectual Recreation. Today we have five more beautifully written books about grief and loss after the death of a loved one. Be sure to have tissues handy.

More What the Dead Left Behind posts here.

TW: Several of these books deal with suicide and mental illness.

A Scar:
Klee is reeling from death of his father even these many months later. The reality is that Klee has never really dealt with the emotions that come with loss and trauma, and that becomes abundantly clear after a frightening incident in front of his former girlfriend lands him in a psychiatric hospital. Now with the help of therapists, medication, and his fellow patients, Klee is going to have to put his life back together. Told in alternating timelines, Gae Polisner's newest novel is gritty and emotional and not always easy to read because it is not a forgone conclusion that Klee will gain some emotional stability and accept that he needs help. In Sight of Stars is out March 13, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley. 

A Feather:
Leigh is convinced that when her mother died by suicide she turned into a beautiful red crane. And Leigh knows that what that red crane wants her to do is to travel to Taiwan to meet her mother's estranged parents for the first time. In Taiwan, Leigh doesn't quite fit in. She doesn't speak the language well, and she desperately wishes that her mother hadn't kept her from this side of her heritage. The Astonishing Color of After is a special blend of magical realism. I didn't always know if what Leigh was experiencing was really happening or not. Emily X.R. Pan's debut has depths. She explores mental illness, suicide, family ties, friendship, and loss. I really liked wandering the streets of Taiwan with Leigh. The Astonishing Color of After is out March 20, 2018.

A Ghost:
When Rose Asher was 11 her brother died, but he isn't really gone. He's a ghost, and Rose has been hanging out with him every afternoon for four years. Because of all the secrets, Rose's world shrunk after her brother's death, but when Jamie Aldridge, Rose's former friend and neighbor, returns to town, Rose begins to realize how much she's missed by isolating herself. Maybe now that Jamie's back she can get a second chance. I loved Invisible Ghosts. Jamie is definitely my kind of book boyfriend, and I loved the banter between him and Rose. Robyn Schneider's new book is so charming and heartfelt. I devoured it in two sittings. Invisible Ghosts is out June, 5, 2018. Review copy from Edelweiss.

A Band:
Shay, Autumn, and Logan are grieving the deaths of a sister, a best-friend, and an ex-boyfriend. The Beauty That Remains is a novel that explores the different manifestations of grief. It follows the perspectives of these three characters, who are seemingly unrelated, but it's in rekindling their connection that healing starts to become possible. Ashley Woodfolk crafted a really solid debut. I really liked how all three of the main characters are so different from one another and yet they all had a connection that dated from before the book's beginning. To me that signified the importance of understanding, empathy, and reaching out. The Beauty That Remains is out March 6, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley.  

A Painting:
Corey thought she would be returning to Lost Creek, Alaska after a semester at boarding school to visit her best friend. Instead she's coming for Kyra's funeral. Corey determines to get to the bottom of Kyra's death. But things aren't the same in Lost Creek. Corey is now considered an outsider and no one will talk to her. Meanwhile, the whole town speaks of Kyra with reverent tones. Corey is convinced that something very weird happened while she was gone. Before I Let Go is such a mind-bender of a book. Marieke Nijamp deals with issues of mental illness, suicide, death, loss, and fitting in through a creepy kind of magical realism. Before I Let Go is out January 2, 2108. Review copy from NetGalley.

 All books reviewed by JoLee.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Vikings and Norse Mythology

Vikings sure are having a moment right now. If you are a fan of the TV show Vikings, Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase series, or Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology, here are some books recommendations especially for you. 

The Vikings and the Celts:
Beyond a Darkened Shore is about the clash of two cultures. Ciara is the daughter of an Irish king. With her unnatural power to control minds, she is more suited to battle than she is to domestic duties. Ciara's people live in fear of the Northmen who raid and pillage their villages, but a supernatural threat will compel Ciara to band together with Lief, a young Northman leader. Jessica Leake's novel was such a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed this blend of Celtic and Norse inspirations. This book brought together history and  mythology and romance and adventure in a perfect balance. Beyond the Darkened Shore is out April 10, 2018. Review copy from Edelweiss. 

The Vikings and the American West:
Long ago the Norse gods bestowed gifts of strength, power, and skill on a few humans. Hanne's family is heir to these gifts, but in the 1880s these gifts feel more like a curse. After a tragic event incurs the suspicions of their neighbors, Hanne and her brothers and sister are forced to flee to America in search of their long, lost uncle. Berserker is clever blending of Norse mythology and the Old West. Emmy Laybourne's book is filled with sympathetic relationships. I really loved the bond between Hanne and her brothers, and Owen is so solid. I'm excited to see that Ms Laybourne has a sequel coming out in 2019. Berserker is out October 10, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley. 

The Vikings and Many Mythologies:
Once she completes her training, Malin will be a Valkyrie. As one of Odin's female warriors she is tasked to end the lives of the immortal beings when their time on earth is up. To be a Valkyrie is more than a job for Malin; it is her destiny and identity. But everything changes when Malin learns that her mother let one of the immortals she was sent to kill live. Now, like it or not, Malin is learning the consequences of disobeying orders. Amanda Hocking's new series combines Norse mythology with the mythologies of many other cultures. The result is a paranormal setting that I found quite enjoyable. Between the Blade and the Heart is out January 2, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Vikings in Battle:
The Aska and the Riki clans are enemies locked in a long-standing feud. Eelyn is an Aska warrior whose life is upended when she sees the brother she thought was dead fighting with the Riki against his own clan. Captured by her brother and his friend, she is taken up into the snowy mountains with the Riki warriors. Adrienne Young's debut novel is rich with Viking imagery; the setting, the clans, the clothing, the weapons, the rivalry, the religions. It's a book that creates striking visuals in the imagination of its readers including some nail-biting battle scenes. Eelyn is such a strong female protagonist--both mentally and physically. Sky in the Deep is out April 24, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Vikings in Present-Day America:
The Lost Sun is an alternate reality where the Norse gods are real, and the present-day culture of the United States is embedded with Norse myth and legend. Soren Bearskin and Astrid Glyn embark on a quest to find the lost sun god, Baldur. There are a lot of books out there where the main characters are fated to be together, but fate in this novel is almost a tangible thing that you could pick up in your hands and devour. Baldur is unlike any god I've ever read about--both so supernatural and so human. The tone of this book is a bit gritty with overtones of melancholy and lots of atmosphere.
It definitely hit a sweet spot for me, and I fell hard for Tessa Gratton's novel.

All books reviewed by JoLee.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

World War II Nonfiction for Young Readers

Today for our newest contribution to our World War II Wednesday series, we have another fabulous bunch of nonfiction books all written for young readers (but great for older readers too). This collection covers a wide variety of subjects and experiences.  

Sachiko: A Nagaski Bomb Survivor Story by Caren Stelson
Sachiko Yasui was six when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagaski on August 9, 1945. As a six-year-old child, Sachiko had only known war, and her earliest memories are of bomb raids and rations. She lived in Nagaski with her parents, uncle, two older brothers, younger sister, and baby brother. On the day the bomb dropped, Sachiko's family was less than one mile from the hypocenter. The devastation of that day was just the beginning for Sachiko's family. They would suffer from the effects of the bomb and its radiation for years. This is the story of how one event changed Sachiko's life forever. It's a story of trauma but one of hope and healing as well. The book itself is quite beautiful, with many gut-wrenching photographs and sidebars that help explain the events of World War II. Out October 1, 2016 from Carolrhoda Books.

When We Were Shadows by Janet Wees
This book tells the true story of Walter and his Jewish family. In the early years of Hitler's rise, Walter's family fled to the Netherlands, only to be forced into hiding when the Nazis invaded years later. This story was so fascinating and harrowing. Walter and his parents are separated from Walter's sister and grandmother who are too physically infirm to weather the harsh living conditions of life on the run. Walter and his parents are moved from place to place with a number of narrow escapes. I was very interested to learn about the make-shift camp set up by the Resistance in a state park. Walter's story is one of a childhood spent in fear and with extreme limitations, but steadied by the constancy of his parents and the bravery of the Resistance fighters who put their lives on the line to help so many people. I'm so glad that Walter was willing to share his story. Out April 18, 2018 from Second Story Press. Review copy from NetGalley

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Alberti
The Spy on History books are a great way to engage young readers. With plenty of illustrations and a mystery for the readers to solve, the story will keep young readers interested. I've been fascinated by the Ghost Army ever since I heard about it. The 603rd Camouflage Engineers, better known as the Ghost Army, concocted elaborate ruses to fool the Germans, impersonating full divisions with fake tanks, artillery, and broadcast sounds of an army on the move or at rest. The Ghost Army helped pave the way for the invasion at Normandy and protected the troops as they battled towards Germany by misdirecting and distracting the Germans. Out January 18, 2018 from Workman Publishing Company. Review copy from NetGalley. 

Seized by the Sun: The Life and Disappearance of World War II Pilot Gertrude Tompkins by James W. Ure
This book is a biography written for young readers of Gertrude "Tommy" Tompkins, the only one of the 38 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) confirmed or presumed dead who is still missing. James W. Ure tells the story of Gertrude's life, from her childhood in New Jersey, her struggle with a speech impediment, her love of flying to her training with the WASP. Ure also writes about the ongoing search for Gertrude's plane, presumed to have gone down in the Santa Monica Bay. After reading many fictional accounts of WWII women aviators, it was very interesting to read about a real WASP and the details of her training, work, and friendships with fellow pilots. Out July 1, 2017 from Chicago Review Press. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb
At the end of World War II SS officer Adolf Eichmann vanished. He had been a key figure in the segregation into ghettos and subsequent deportation of millions of Jews and was wanted for trial. Bascomb's book is the story of the network of people who tracked him down more than fifteen years later so that he could stand trial for his crimes. Many survivors of the Holocaust were involved in tracking down Eichmann over those fifteen years, and there were many starts and stops. In the end, the Israeli national intelligence agency was responsible for Eichmann's capture. Bascomb's book is a fast paced spy story with some interesting twists. The number of things that nearly went wrong for the Israeli team will keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Published 2013 by Arthur A. Levine Books.

Voices from the Second War War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today
This book was first published in England in association with First News, a children's newspaper. The book's foundation is a collection of interviews children conducted with their friends and family who lived through World War II. This is an absolute gem of a book, and I'm so glad that it was published. This collection of the stories of ordinary people who lived through the war is a great way to preserve history. The book groups the interviews into categories, such as evacuated children, D-Day, and The Holocaust. The breadth of the stories gives readers a greater understanding of the various facets of the war, from the tragedies, to the heroics, to the mundanities. Because the interviews were organized in Britain, there is, understandably, greater representation of British war stories, but I was impressed with the variety of experiences and nationalities represented. Out March 20, 2018 in the U.S. from Candlewick Press. Review copy from NetGalley.

Fly Girls: The Forgotten Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II by P. O'Connell Pearson
Fly Girls is the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) that flew for the United States during World War II. Patricia O'Connell Pearson's book is an engrossing and comprehensive look at the work of the WASPs. She chronicles how they began, the assignments they were given, their disbanding, and their fight for militarization in the decades following the war. Pearson includes many remarkable stories, including how Cornelia Fort saw the bombing of Pearl Harbor from her plane and how Dora Dougherty flew the B-29. This book is extremely well-written and well-researched. I really enjoy learning about how women contributed during the war years, and I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone who shares that interest. Out February 8, 2018 from Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers.

More World War II Wednesday posts here.
More History Books for Young Readers here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Story Continues: Now I Rise, The Crown's Fate, and One Dark Throne

These three sequels are all divine. The Crown's Fate ends the series, but I am very eager to read the follow-ups for the other books.

Have you read any of the books in these series? What did you think of the sequels?

You can find our feature of the first book in these series here and here and here.

Beware of unavoidable spoilers ahead!

Now I Rise by Kiersten White 

Publisher / Year: Delacorte Press - June 2017

Genres: Young Adult Historical Fiction / Fantasy

Source: My local library

Goodreads | Amazon

The sequel to Kiersten White's And I Darken was one of my most anticipated books of last year. Now I Rise finds our characters split up. Lada Dracul is fighting her way to the Wallachian throne. Mehmed's conquest of Constantinople draws ever nearer, and the Sultan has sent Radu into the ill-fated city as a spy.

Definitely read this book if you are in the mood to feel raw and heartsick. Kiersten White has written some of the best and most emotional depictions of war and conquest that I've ever read. I'm still kind of reeling over the takeover of Constantinople. Radu, who is in the besieged city, is definitely the most compassionate of our three main characters. Because he is able to see the humanity and goodness in these supposed enemies, he is torn and broken and so is the reader who is privy to the tragedy of it all.

This series has so much going for it. First of all, I love the setting and time period. It's not a common one for historical fiction, and it is so fascinating, dynamic, and brutal. Secondly, the characters in this series are so well done. Every one of our three main characters is so complicated. There are betrayals upon betrayals in this book, and all of the characters do such terrible things. Finally, Ms. White handles subtleties and complications so well. The desire for power, the role of religion, the cost of love are all deftly crafted.

If you are a lover of Mehmed, beware, he is largely absent in this book although his presence is felt even in his absence. I did get a little tired of Radu's pining after Mehmed but that lessened the longer Radu was in Constantinople. Radu's storyline was definitely my favorite because of its emotional impact. Lada is edging ever closer to Vlad the Impaler's violent reputation.

Although marketed as YA, I don't see anything about this book that would set it squarely in that category. It's very mature in its themes and situations. 

The Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye

Publisher / Year: Balzer + Bray - May 2017

Genres: Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

Goodreads | Amazon

I found The Crown's Game to be a surprising gem when I read it last year. I really enjoyed the mix of magic, competition and Old Russia. The book was full of elements I love--an alternate history, magic, a complicated relationship, and a fabulous setting.

The Crown's Fate begins on the heels of the final events of The Crown's Game. Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter. Pasha is trying to fill his father's very large shoes, and he's never been sure that he's cut-out to rule. And poor Nikolai is a shadow of his former self and trapped within his Steppe bench. 

Nikolai discovers a second chance at life but it's a dark one that slowly corrupts his soul. (Yikes, his mother is so creepy.) Now Vika and Nikolai are pitted against one another once again. The stakes are even higher than they were in the first book. 

I didn't like The Crown's Fate quite as much as I liked the first book. I still enjoyed it, but it just didn't hit that sweet spot quite like the first book did. I can see that this second book needed to go in the direction that it did, but I missed Nikolai. This new Nikolai was so dark and villainous and not at all himself (which was kind of the point). 

I did like the implications of the power of magic as it was revealed to the people. And, once again, Evelyn Skye came up with some pretty cool magical creations.

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

Publisher / Year: HarperTeen - September 2017

Genres: Young Adult Fantasy

Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

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I rocketed through the first book in Kendare Blake's dark fantasy series, Three Dark Crowns. (See, it even has dark in the titles) 

On the island of Fennbirn a set of triplet girls is born to every queen. These children each possess a powerful magic. Arisinoe is a naturalist who can speak to plants and animals, Katharine is a poisoner who can ingest powerful poisons, and Mirabella is an elementalist who can control wind and flame. The three sisters are on the eve of the competition that will determine who will become the next queen. And it's a fight to the death. 

In book two, the competition season is in full swing. Arisinoe is hiding a secret that could very well save her life. Mirabella is still too tenderhearted to be a killer. And Katharine. Well, she's not quite right. 

The end of Three Dark Crowns really left me wanting more, and One Dark Throne was high up there on my most-anticipated list. The second book is great too. This book has a full cast of characters. I like how the reader gets to know not only the queens but also the individuals who have shaped these three sisters over the years.

The series is interesting in terms of how it's told. Each sister gets equal billing, and the perspective moves from queen to queen. I think that this can, at times, make the pacing a little tricky, but I really like that the queens can all be considered main characters. The readers loyalties are good and split. It's quite a dilemma. 

Kendare Blake has conditioned us to expect some crazy twists and reveals at the end of each installment. So it's no surprise that once again, I find myself eager for the next book.

 All books reviewed by JoLee.

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