Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Series Salute: Trouble by Stephanie Tromly

Princeton and Digby are one of my favorite detective duos. If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, a White Collar fan, or a Veronica Mars fan this is a series worth checking out. Trust me.


About the Books

Zoe Webster is new to town and pretty sure she doesn't want to be there. In fact, she's already got one foot out the door thanks to her father's plans to get her into a prestigious school in New York City. When Philip Digby shows up at her front door because he needs a place to set up surveillance on the house across the street, she can't stand him, especially when he starts calling her Princeton. Yet somehow he reels her in and soon she's helping him uncover the whereabouts of a missing local girl. One mystery leads to another and another and another. Digby and Princeton are on the case.

Digby is the perfect teenage Sherlock Holmes. He's whip-smart, acerbic, and a bit of a misfit. Zoe plays the Watson half of the equation. She keeps Digby grounded, can almost out-snark him, and, as much as he might not admit it, there's no way he could survive without her.

 Why I Love Them

1. The Snark:
I knew I was going to like this series from the very beginning. How could I resist this opening line: "Of course I didn't like Digby when I first met him. No one does."?   

2. Princeton and Digby:
Zoe and Digby's interactions are the best. I am a sucker for smart, snappy dialog, and Ms. Tromly really delivers. Every scene with Zoe and Digby in it is such a treat. I'd read about them doing laundry together. They are that entertaining.

3. The Humor:
I don't often laugh out loud when reading. But these books? They get me every time. 

4. The Usual Shenanigans:
Digby shows up, convinces Zoe to go sleuthing with him, they get in some scrape, narrowly escape, and then repeat the process all over again.

5. The Crew
I love the side characters in Zoe and Digby's little gang of misfits. These books wouldn't be the same without the crew and Olympio's. Felix Fong is particularly entertaining. 

6. Sloane
Sloane's interactions with Zoe are almost as great as Zoe's interactions with Digby. They are hilarious together. Sloane's backhanded compliments get me every time. 

7.  The Schemes:
Digby has a nose for trouble, and his own moral code. He's motivations are usually above board, but he is not at all opposed to breaking the law to get to the truth or help out a friend. This means a lot of scheming. 

8. The Sexual Tension:
Zoe and Digby. They belong together, but there is this whole "will they? won't they?" aspect of this series that keeps the reader hanging. 

9. The Mysteries: 
The mysteries in these books build on one another. Digby's overarching goal is to find his missing sister, but those pieces come together slowly with a bunch of other fun and dangerous mysteries layered on top.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Series Salute: The Illuninae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

For the past couple of years the sequels to Illuminae have been at the very top of my most-anticipated lists. There's something so satisfying about reading a highly-anticipated book that surpasses your every expectation, and that's exactly what these books did. It's hard to say goodbye to this series.

About the Books

The year is 2575 and Kady and Ezra live on a planet where an illegal mining operation is underway. A rival corporation invades the planet and amidst the massacre thousands escape on the three spaceships that responded to the distress signals. The harrowing escape to the evacuation ship is just the beginning of the problems. The Illumine Files are a dossier put together to take down BeiTech. 

Why We Love Them

1. The Format
The style of these novels is very compelling. The story is told through a collection of interviews, secret documents, instant messages, emails, surveillance footage, and diagrams. That might not sound engaging, but, trust us, it is. 

2. The Audiobook
The audiobook versions of these novels are masterful. Listening to them is a complete experience.  Told with a full cast, music, and special effects, the audiobooks are so much fun. 

3. The Paper book
Very rarely do I feel the need to read the text version and the audio version of the same book. This series is an exception. The text copies are very appealing visually. Listening to the book makes me want to read the paper version and reading it makes me want to listen. 

4. The Ensemble Cast
A good ensemble cast is a rarity in a novel, but this series does the ensemble thing so well. By the end of the series we have eights characters sharing the spotlight, and I loved every single one of the them.

You guys. I am a little obsessed with AIDAN, the sentient AI that is a key component of so many of the Illuminae Group's plans. AIDAN's narration is the most lyrical of the group, and I just love all the contradictions that are bundled up into that AI.

6. Excellent Pacing
Am I the only who gets bogged down in battle scenes? There's plenty of fighting in this series, but I definitely did not have that problem. The pacing is excellent with plenty of action but also quieter moments and periods of reflection.

7. The World Building
The world that Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff created is complex and well-constructed. I really like how they grapple with compelling moral issues in this sci-fi action thriller.

8. Genre-bending Element
I don't want to give too much away with this one. Let's just say that there are plenty of surprises in these books, and you might not want to read them with the lights off.

9. Series Growth
The growth from book to book in this series is impressive. Each novel adds two or three new main characters. The plot was intricate from the beginning, and yet each book only became more sophisticated.

Post by JoLee and Paige.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Highly Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2018

2018 is halfway over, which means it's time for a look at the books coming out from July to December. What books are you itching to get your hands on?

Bright We Burn by Kiersten White:
The Conqueror's Saga has been one of my favorite series over the last couple of years. I'm eager to read the final installment in this gender-swapped retelling of Vlad the Impaler. (Series featured here and here.)

Contagion by Erin Bowman:
I really enjoyed Erin Bowman's westerns. I'm excited to see what she does in space. Also, I feel like I'm drawn to books about plagues. Is that weird?

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik:
Uprooted is an absolutely gorgeous original fairy tale. I loved it, and now I'm up for any fairy tale setting from Naomi Novik.

Seafire by Natalie C. Parker:
Have you noticed all the pirate books that are coming out in the next few months? That's a theme I'm willing to jump on.

In Another Time by Caroline Leech:
I loved Caroline Leech's debut, Wait for Me, and you know that there has to be a World War II book on my anticipated list.

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake:
I need to know what Katharine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella are going to do next in this dark fantastic series. (Series featured here and here.)

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White:
I love the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I love Kiersten White. I love retellings. There's no way I'm missing this one.

The War Outside by Monica Hesse:
I fell so hard for Monica Hesse's The Girl in the Blue Coat. It made my favorite's list in 2016, and there is no way I would miss another WWII story written by her capable hands. 

The Delphi Revolution by Rysa Walker:
Rysa Walker's Chronos Files is one of my favorite series ever. I'm really enjoying her conspiracy-filled second series too. (Series featured here and here.)

An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason by Virgina Boecker:
Shakespeare, Tudor England, girls disguised as boys, spies. This book sounds like a whole lot of fun.

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzie Lee:
Remember the aforementioned pirate theme? Of course this book must be on the list as well.

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E Weymouth:
This book is a story about children who slipped into another world and found the return to our world jarring. It gives me Wayward Children vibes.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor:
Strange the Dreamer was one of my favorite books of 2017. It's pure magic. I adore everything about Laini Taylor's writing. (Series featured here.)

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer:
Marissa Meyer writes such fun books. This superhero series is full of fascinating powers, secret identities, and spying. (Series featured here.)

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.

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