Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Reading on a Theme: Young Adult Books Set During World War I

In 2016 we are in the midst of the centennial of The Great War (1914-1918). When I was in college I did a study abroad in London. One of the classes I took there was "World War I and Modernism." We read war poetry, traveled to some of the battle sites, saw the remains of the trenches, and placed a poppy on the grave of an unknown soldier. It's an experience I won't soon forget, and I definitely want to commemorate the war's centennial years. One way I'm doing this is by reading books set during World War I. Here are five choices perfect for young readers.

A New Recruit:
Near the beginning of the Great War, Samantha Donaldson is recruited by La Dame Blanche to infiltrate the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Her mission is to extricate another LDB agent. Among the many complications is the the fact that Samantha only knows the agent's code name: Velvet. Velvet Undercover takes us behind the lines to Berlin and into the Kaiser's inner circle. If you are struggling with the unrealistic set-up, don't give up.  After a few reversals, I began to see that Teri Brown had me exactly where she wanted me. In other words, I was suppose to be uncomfortable with the situation. Pick up if you like spy novels or are interested in World War I. Out October 2015 from Balzer + Bray.

A British Nurse:
Set in 1914 England, Poppy gives up her place as a chambermaid in a grand house to become a volunteer nurse. Mary Hooper's Poppy reminded me in all the best ways of Eva Ibbotson's books. It's also perfect for Downton Abbey fans. Mary Hooper evokes the early 20th-century atmosphere so well. I was so engaged with Poppy's story. I loved reading about all the details of her training and life during The Great War. I loved how this book dealt with the beginnings of the breakdown of the class structure and told the story of an average girl doing her best to help the war effort. I absolutely flew through this book, and then (and this is rather uncharacteristic) I immediately purchased the sequel and read that book in one day too. Out in the U.S. on August 30th, 2016. Review copy from NetGalley.

A Belgian Spy:
After fleeing the invading Germans and working as a nurse for the British, Manon Wouters is recruited to spy for La Dame Blanche. She returns to her hometown in Belgium and begins gathering information. What I loved most about A Dangerous Game is that it is set in Belgium. I really enjoyed situating myself in this area of the world and thinking about how the war affected Manon's family and fellow countrymen. Belgium was pretty devastated during World War I, so it really is the ideal setting for a WWI spy novel. John Wilson's story is a quick read with a little bit of family drama, a little bit of nursing, and some dangerous espionage. Out September 13, 2016. Review copy from NetGalley.

A Great Pandemic:
Makiia Lucier's novel is about the Spanish Influenza pandemic that struck on the heels of World War I. When the influenza hits Portland, Oregon 17-year-old Cleo Berry's life is completely upended. A bit rudderless, Cleo finds volunteering with the Red Cross suddenly gives her the sense of purpose she's been craving. I found A Death-Struck Year to be an impressive little tome. It is clearly well-researched, but it's the characters that make the tale truly wonderful. Cleo's actions and motivations are well supported. The side characters, Kate and Edmund (a med student and war vet), will also keep you reading. A Death-Struck Year was out March 2014 from HMH Books for Young Readers.

A Steampunk World War I:
Leviathan is set during an alternate 1914. The world is on the brink of war. Alek, the son of murdered Archduke Ferdinand and Princess Sophie, must run for his life. Deryn is a Scottish girl who disguises herself as a boy so that she can join the Air Services. The two cross paths aboard the Leviathan, the crown jewel of the British Air Force, a giant hydrogen airbeast, fabricated from the DNA of hundreds of animals. I love Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series. The books are a fantastical romp around the world, from England and Austria to Switzerland and the Ottoman Empire to Russia and the United States. I wish I could read more about this amazing setting and the characters who populate it.

Learn More:
The United States World War I Centennial Commission
The National World War I Museum and Memorial 
Imperial War Museums (UK)

All books reviewed by JoLee.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Story Continues: Ghostly Echoes, Ten Thousand Skies Above You, & Jillian Spectre and the Dream Weaver

It's time for some more sequels! I absolutely love the Jackaby series by William Ritter and the third in the series Ghostly Echoes was my number one most-anticipated book of the summer. It did not disappoint! I also finally got a chance to read Ten Thousand Skies Above You. I've been meaning to read that book for almost a year. It is great, and silver lining to waiting so long to read it is that I won't have to wait terribly long for the third book to come out. In keeping with the purple cover theme, I read Jillian Spectre and the Dream Weaver, another sequel I've had on my TBR pile for quite some time. It feels good to make some headway with some of these series.

Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

Publisher / Year: Algonquin Books for Young Readers - August 23, 2016

Genres: Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Source: Review copy from the publisher

Goodreads | Amazon

William Ritter's Jackaby series is so much fun. I really enjoyed the first book, was completely blown away by the second book, and could not wait to get my hands on this latest installment. It was my most anticipated book of the summer.

In Ghostly Echoes we are back in New Fiddleham. Abigail Rook and Jenny Cavanaugh are on a mission to figure out what caused Jenny's death ten years ago, and if they have to go behind Jackaby's back to do it so be it. Strange things begin to happen in New Fiddleham, as they are wont to do and they echo the events of the past. Soon Jackaby and Abigail must solve Jenny's mystery or they'll meet her same fate.

It was so much fun to be back with these favorite characters. I really enjoyed all the scenes with Abigail and Jenny. Their experiments were kind of creepy, and yet the two obviously have a close bond. Ghostly Echoes definitely upped the danger and the stakes with a conspiracy that reached back a decade and up to the highest heights of New Fiddleham.

I loved finally solving the mystery of Jenny's murder and her fiancé's disappearance. I also really enjoyed the nods to Greek mythology. Book three answers many of the questions left dangling at the end of Beastly Bones

And I'm so thrilled that there's another book forthcoming so that I'll be able to return to New Fiddleham one more time.

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray

Publisher / Year: HarperTeen - November 2015

Genres: Young Adult Science Fiction

Source: Audiobook from my local library

Goodreads | Amazon

I definitely have a soft spot for parallel reality stories. (Posts here and here and one upcoming.) I like exploring alternate realities and thinking about the consequences of decisions both big and small. I loved the first book in Claudia Gray's Firebird series and was itching to read the next installment in the series, but it just kept not happening. (I post about how Book 2 was a highly anticipated release in 2015 and a book that I meant to read in 2015 but didn't get to.)

Well, here we are September 2016, and I finally read it. And I loved it. And the silver lining of waiting so long to read this book is that I won't have to wait terribly long for book three.

Ten Thousand Skies Above You begins some months after the conclusion of the first book in the series. This jump forward in time threw me off for a bit, mostly because it had been awhile since I read the first book, and when Marguerite mentioned things that had happened in the past I was like, "Wait, did that happen in the last book because I don't remember it." Usually the event in question had not happened.

Anyway, Wyatt Conley and his Triad corporation still wish to dominate the multiverse, and after failing to get Marguerite's help through bribes Conley resorts to force. He splinters Paul's soul and will only reveal the locations where he's hidden them if Marguerite does his dirty work.

I love how complex the multiverse becomes in this book. Traveling to the different dimensions and seeing what all the main characters are doing in each one is my favorite part of this story. The end of this book is great set-up for the next in the series. I really am so eager to get my hands on it come November. 

Jillian Spectre and the Dream Weaver by Nic Tatano

Publisher / Year: Harper Impulse - April 2015

Genres: Young Adult / New Adult Paranormal

Source: Review copy from NetGalley

Goodreads | Amazon

I really enjoyed the first book in the Jillian Spectre series. Jillian lives in the Mystic Quarter of Manhattan with her mother. The two of them can see the future. During one of her readings Jillian sees her client die and go to heaven. This moment propels Jillian toward discovering a second power, learning about her missing father, and halting an evil plot. 

After the harrowing event of the past year, the arrest and containment of Jillian's criminal father, Jillian and her friends are ready to put all that behind them and enjoy their first year of college. They are just getting settled when they learn that Jillian's father's mind has been visited by another mystic. Then Jillian's dreams are invaded. Jillian and her friends are going to be put to the test once again.

I think it's a lot of fun when an author brings supernatural powers into the real world, and Nic Tatano's paranormal world is a lot of fun. The powers that he's given his characters are interesting. Most of all, I love how the friends are stronger when they work together. The forces working against them know this too, and boy to do they work hard to tear the group apart.

While there are some really evil adults in this book, Jillian continues to benefit from some great adult role models. I definitely appreciate that. I was however, a little disappointed with how fixated the group seemed to be on good looks and outward appearances. At times they came across as a bit shallow and definitely used the word "slut" way too often for my taste.

The story itself is great. It's a quick read but it's filled with twists and surprises.

All books reviewed by JoLee.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blog Tour: The Swan Riders by Erin Bow | Review + Giveaway

I'm excited to be today's stop on The Swan Riders Blog Tour. Last fall I read The Scorpion Rules, the first book in Erin Bow's post-apocalyptic series. I loved The Swan Riders even more than the first book. I'm kind of still reeling from its beauty even now. 

We are giving away 3 finished copies of The Swan Riders. Enter the giveaway below, follow the tour, and read why I loved this book so much. However, be aware that there are spoilers for the first book in my review. Believe me, they could not be avoided.

The Swan Riders by Erin Bow

Series: The Prisoners of Peace

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books 

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction 

Source: Review copy from the publisher

Out:  September 20th, 2016

Greta Stuart had always known her future: die young. She was her country's crown princess, and also its hostage, destined to be the first casualty in an inevitable war. But when the war came it broke all the rules, and Greta forged a different path.

She is no longer princess. No longer hostage. No longer human. Greta Stuart has become an AI.

If she can survive the transition, Greta will earn a place alongside Talis, the AI who rules the world. Talis is a big believer in peace through superior firepower. But some problems are too personal to obliterate from orbit, and for those there are the Swan Riders: a small band of humans who serve the AIs as part army, part cult.

Now two of the Swan Riders are escorting Talis and Greta across post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan. But Greta’s fate has stirred her nation into open rebellion, and the dry grassland may hide insurgents who want to rescue her – or see her killed. Including Elian, the boy she saved—the boy who wants to change the world, with a knife if necessary. Even the infinitely loyal Swan Riders may not be everything they seem.

Greta’s fate—and the fate of her world—are balanced on the edge of a knife in this smart, sly, electrifying adventure.

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | The Book Depository 

Last year I fell in love with two sentient Artificial Intelligences. The first was Talis, the AI who rules the world in Erin Bow's post-apocalyptic Prisoners of Peaces series. Talis and the other AIs were my absolute favorite part of the first book in the series, The Scorpion Rules. Talis is enigmatic, scary, and weirdly fascinating. In many ways he is a complete contradiction. He's a robot but he has a bit of humanity. He's a machine but also nearly a god. He's all powerful but not invincible. He has his own set of (questionable) morals. (The other AI I fell for last year, by the way, was AIDAN from Illuminae.)

At the end of The Scorpion Rules Greta casts her lot with the AI which means additional challenges and danger for her, but it also meant that in the sequel I would be able to spend all my time with the AI. Sorry Greta, but I couldn't be happier.

The Swan Riders begins just after The Scorpion Rules left off. Greta is now an AI, and she must travel with Talis and two of his Swan Riders back to Talis's headquarters in the Red Mountains. It is a very dangerous journey, both because of Greta's precarious state as a new AI and because the events of The Scorpion Rules have inspired outright rebellion. 

I was completely floored by The Swan Riders. I liked it so much. Basically, The Swan Riders built upon all the things that I loved most about the first book in the series. (Namely the AI and all their complexities.) Although, let me issue a warning: If Greta's relationship with Xie was your favorite thing about The Scorpion Rules you should go in knowing there's not going to be much progress there. Personally, every once in a while I find it really refreshing to read a book where romance is not a major player, and, in The Swan Riders it's much more realistic to set that relationship on the back burner now that Greta is an AI. 

The Swan Riders, from which this book takes its name, are the young people who serve Talis. They are part army and part cult. I found them to be quite fascinating, and the Swan Riders we got to know well over the course of the novel burrowed their way into my heart.

I have always loved Erin Bow's writing style. She writes with a lovely smooth cadence that I find so soothing. This is not a fast-paced story, but a slower pace has never put me off a book, and believe me there are many surprises.

Finally, The Swan Riders is glorious complicated. The enigma of the AI is only intensified in this second installment. The line between human and machine becomes even fuzzier. All the relationships in this novel are extremely complex. There are so many levels of love and devotion and what exactly that means when one is dedicated to a godlike AI. Honestly, some of it was so heartbreaking. I was quietly wiping away tears at the end of this book.

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Tour Schedule:
Week 1:

Week 2:



Hi! My name is Erin Bow -- physicist turned poet turned author of young adult novels that will make you cry on the bus. I'm a white girl, forty-something, feminist, geeky enough to do the Vulcan salute with both hands -- in public. I live in Canada. I love to cook, hate to clean, and yes, I do own a cat.

In the beginning, I was a city girl from farm country -- born in Des Moines and raised in Omaha -- where I was fond of tromping through wood lots and reading books by flashlight. In high school I captained the debate team, founded the math club, and didn't date much.

In university I studied particle physics and worked briefly at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, Switerland. Physics was awesome, but graduate school kind of sucked, and, at some point, I remembered that I wanted to write books. 

Books: I have six of them -- three novels, two volumes of poetry, and a memoir (the poetry under my maiden name, Erin Noteboom). My poetry has won the CBC Canadian Literary Award and several other awards. My two novels, Plain Kate and Sorrow's Knot, also have a fistful of awards, including Canada's top award for children's literature: the TD. The third novel, The Scorpion Rules, still faces its award season. No one read the memoir.

Right now I'm looking forward to the publication of my fourth novel, a companion piece to The Scorpion Rules called The Swan Riders, which will be out September 20th from Simon & Schuster. I'm at work on an entirely different novel and a book of poetry about science. 

Did you notice I got to Canada in there somewhere? Yeah, that was true love. I'm married to a Canadian boy, James Bow, who also writes young adult novels. We have two small daughters, both of whom want to be scientists.   

Visit Erin Bow Online: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Goodreads

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