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

Goodreads | Amazon


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.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Fire Magic

As far as magical abilities go, being able to summon fire is a pretty good option. See how these girl harness their powers. And check out more book with fire magic here.


Sorcerers vs. Magicians
Herietta Howel has a secret. She can burst into flames. When word of the fires reaches the capitol, a sorcerer takes her to London to train her, believing she is the prophesied. As the only female trainee, she meets a lot of opposition and is left wondering if she's truly the prophesied one at all. Jessica Cluess created a fascinating world in A Shadow Bright and Burning. It's rich with history and politics, two of my favorite details in a fantasy setting. I especially enjoyed the ward around the city and the differences between sorcerers and magicians. Henrietta is a character I couldn't help but root for, and I was invested in figuring out who was really on her side.


Frost vs. Fire
In a world ruled by Frostbloods, Ruby has concealed her Fireblood abilities her whole life. She hasn't been careful enough, and one night her village is raided, her mother is killed, and Ruby is imprisoned. She languishes there until a group of rebel Frostbloods break her out. Their goal to is kill the king, and they need Ruby's help. I really liked Elly Blake's debut. The fire and frost magic is really cool, and I like the push and pull of these two opposing forces. I also really liked the monastery setting, and all the characters who dwelt there. Ruby has a firey personality to go along with her power, whereas Arcus, her trainer, is cool and distant. I enjoyed seeing the clash between these two.


Redwing vs. Priests
Jey's twin has never had a name. She doesn't officially exist. When she was born, her parents should have killed her, but they couldn't bear to, even though Jey's twin was a dangerous Redwing demon. The hidden twin never felt that she was very dangerous or evil. When threatened while on an errand for her father, she discovers she can summon fire. Now, the temple knows a Redwing is out there, and they are looking for her. The setting in this story is fascinating, with volcanoes and ash and gardens. There's a creepy temple, a mysterious prince, and an underground rebellion. The Hidden Twin by Adi Rule is a clever genre-bender. Review copy from NetGalley. 
 

Sister vs. Sister
On the island of Fennbirn a set of triplet girls is born to every queen. These children will 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 a elementalist who can control wind and flame. These 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. Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns is a fantastic start to a new series. I loved every one of the sisters, and I adored the dark atmosphere. The ending is quite the cliffhanger, and I'm excited to start the sequel. Review copy from Edelweiss.
 

Effigies vs. Phantoms
The world of Fate of Flames is like our own except phantoms terrify and destroy. When the phantoms showed up, so did the Effigies, four girls who have the power to control the elements and drive back the phantoms. Maia is a fan. She grew up following the Effigies online and speculating on their lives. She never expected to become one. Filling the shoes of the previous Fire Effigy is not easy, and when Maia meets the other Effigies she learns that they are also just girls like her. How did the fate of the world get thrust onto their young shoulders? Sarah Raughley gives readers plenty of mystery and a different view into the world of super heroes with this one. Review copy from NetGalley.


Frost Blood, The Hidden Twin, Three Dark Crown, and Fate of Flames reviewed by JoLee.
A Shadow Bright and Burning reviewed by Paige.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Early Female Aviators

I have read quite a few books about women pilots in recent months. I find this topic fascinating. For this post, I gathered books about early women aviators--1930s and earlier. (Find World War II aviators here.) These women are flying all over the world. Some are based on real-life women. Others are based on real historical events.

Flying in Kenya:
Circling the Sun is the story of Beryl Markham's youth. Coming of age after the First World War in Colonial Africa, Beryl chafes against the constraints of womanhood. Paula McLain transports her readers to another time and place with her lush language and engaging storytelling. I love reading about women who shirk convention, and Beryl is absolutely fascinating. Her resolution to carve a place for herself in a man's world, whether it be in horse-training or flight, makes for a terrific tale. Beryl, in Ms. McLean's hands, is a sympathetic character. She makes many mistakes and struggles just to survive in a world that wants her to be something she isn't. 
 

Wing Walker in America:
It's 1922 and Grace Lafferty is the star wing walker of her uncle's ragtag flying circus. Grace is desperate to get the money needed to enter a aviation show in Chicago where the grand prize is a contract with a fledgling Hollywood studio. With a new mechanic on the team, Henry Patton, things seem to looking up. But, between the dangerous tricks, the old planes, and the over-zealous recruiting techniques of a rival team, nothing is a sure bet in the stunt flying business. Nothing But Sky is solid debut with great characters. Grace is full of determination, and Henry gives us a glimpse into the challenges World War I veterans faced. I love that Amy Trueblood tells the story of a woman wing walker. Out March 27th, 2018. Review copy from NetGalley.


Flying in Ethiopia:
Emilia and Teo's mothers were Black Dove, and White Raven--stunt flyers who dazzled audiences until Teo's mother died in a plane crash. Emilia's mother, determined to raise her best friend's son in a world that won't discriminate against him because of the color of his skin, takes the children to Ethiopia. Their peaceful existence is soon threatened. Italy has its eye set on Ethiopia. Emilia, Teo, and Rhoda will need all their wit and skill in the air to survive the Italian invasion. I loved this addition to Elizabeth Wein's Young Pilots Series. The setting in Black Dove, White Raven is so alive and the writing so rich. I loved learning about this moment in history from the eyes of these beautiful characters.


Flying with Lindbergh:
The Aviator's Wife is the story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles Lindbergh. Anne was an aviator and navigator herself and did much traveling with Charles in the early years of their marriage. Later in life she turned her attention to writing, receiving national acclaim for Gift from the Sea. In the novel, Anne has a strong voice and is a sympathetic character. However, I found myself wishing that Charles could be a more fully formed character. Charles is drawn so unsympathetically that it was hard for me to understand why Anne fell for him in the first place. I really liked learning about the Lindberghs through Melanie Benjamin's historical fiction account. 


Flying in Damascus:  
City of Jasmine stars aviatrix Evangeline Stark. She is on a tour of the seven seas in her airplane when she receives a mysterious photograph of her husband Gabriel Stark taken near Damascus. Everyone thought that Gabriel drowned with the Lusitania. Evie makes a detour from her tour to head to Damascus and put to rest her feelings for Gabriel once and for all. City of Jasmine is kind of cross between Indiana Jones, Lawrence of Arabia, and Amelia Earhart. My favorite part of the novel was the time spent in the Bedouin camp. One of the central issues of the book was the intervention of western Europe in the affairs of the Middle East and its outcomes.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Girl Spies

The great thing about a good spy novel is that it works in every setting. In this bunch of girl spy novels, we've got fantasies, historical fiction, super heroes, and steampunk.


Children's Governess:
In this alternate history, the British still rule the American colonies in 1888. Verity Newton is trying to make her way as a governess for an upper-class family. She befriends several rebels who hope to overthrow the magic-wielding British with steam-powered machines. Soon Verity is using her position to gather valuable information for the rebels. I love a good alternate history, and I thought Rebel Mechanics, with its great characters and interesting premise, was a lot of fun. The mixture of magic, steampunk machinery, and the New York Gilded Age is quite appealing to me. Shanna Swendson's tale would appeal to readers who enjoy Gail Carriger's Etiquette and Espionage.

Witch's Child:
Julia and her bother, Dack, are part of Spira City's underground. Working for a group of spies and thieves, Julia finds herself spying in a grand house full of mystery. Her interest in the house's activities are piqued when a witch and her young son enter the household. Julia Vanishes has such a rich setting. I love that Spira City is split into many different sections and it's easy to tell the rich areas from poor ones based on their names. There are many religions in this book as well as folklore, witches, and magic, all with great details. For instance, witches only do magic when they write things down. Catherine Egan has truly created a magical world and I loved every minute. (It was also a great audiobook!)


Matchmaker's Apprentice:
In Erin Beaty's debut, Sage Fowler botches her interview with the matchmaker (not a huge surprise since she has no interest in getting married). Now Sage is the matchmaker's apprentice, serving as her spy to help determine the personalities and compatibility of her potential clients. Her spy duties get much more dangerous once their military escort realizes they are accompanying these ladies into an uprising. One thing that made The Traitor's Kiss fun is that we had two main characters who were spying on each other. That was definitely a fun twist.



Super Villain:
Nova is an Anarchist, a member of the villain group that was overthrown by the Renegades a decade ago. Nova wants to see their downfall. Adrian is a Renegade who has been experimenting with his powers and moonlighting as a vigilante. When Nova infiltrates the Renegades as a spy, these two characters start working together. Renegades felt like a little bit of X-Men, a little bit of This Savage Song, a little bit of The Orphan Queen. It has a lot of aspects you've read before. Still, it's so fun. I love all the powers that Marissa Meyer came up with. So many of them are incredibly creative. I do think that this book is a little long. I wasn't invested in the story right away, and it took a while for me to get the hang of the world. But once I was in, I was all in.


Dressmaker:
Annis Whitworth just lost her father and all of her money. Society says she must become a governess to earn her way, but she is certain there is another possibility. Annis is also convinced that her father's death was no random occurrence, and she will do what she must to find out the truth. Murder, Magic, and What We Wore was pure fun. Set in an alternate early 19th-century England, this book has as much to do with fashion as it does spy work. Annis is a great character with so much spunk, and I loved the magical elements--sewing glamours is such an interesting magical power. Kelly Jones has written a book that will bring a smile to your face. It really was so fun. Review copy from NetGalley.


Rebel Mechanics, The Traitor's Kiss, and Renegades reviewed by JoLee.
Julia Vanishes and Murder, Magic, and What We Wore reviewed by Paige.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Women Aviators of World War II


I'm so excited about this week's World War II Wednesday. I love reading about the women who served during World War II, and the volunteer aviators are especially intriguing. (Probably in part because I have no desire to go up in a small plane. Ever.) I'm especially thrilled with this line-up because I've long thought that the subject of the Russian Night Witches would make for an amazing YA book, and I got my wish in 2017 with not one but two publications on the subject.
 

American WASP:
Seized by the Sun is a biography 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 WASPs. 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. Seized by the Sun is out July 1, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

 
Russian Bomber:
Sixteen-year-old Valya longs to be in the air fighting the Germans. Instead she's trapped in the besieged city of Stalingrad. When a sniper kills her mother, leaving Valya alone, she makes her mind up to join the Night Witches and find her sister who is fighting with them. I loved Kathryn Lasky's book. Night Witches is written for a younger YA audience, and I thought it was an excellent introduction for its target audience. I loved Valya. She is strong and smart and feisty. It was so interesting to learn about the Night Witches' tactics, which allowed the female pilots to have great success against the more advanced German planes. Harrowing and compelling, Ms Lasky's books takes readers to the eastern front.  Night Witches is out March 28, 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss.


British ATA:
Elizabeth Wein has written three books that feature young women aviators. In Code Name Verity best friends Verity (the spy) and Kittyhawk (the pilot) are trapped in Nazi territory on the wrong side of the English Channel. Verity, in order to buy time, draws out her interrogation by writing the story of their friendship in the guise of a confession. All the praise you've heard about this book is well deserved. It is truly remarkable. The writing is superb. The action is harrowing and horrifying. The friendship is so real. And Verity is the epitome of the unreliable narrator. This book is crazy good. And completely heart-wrenching. I love the second in the series too, Rose Under Fire.


Russian Bomber:
Small town girl, Valka Koroleva's world changes suddenly when Russia enters World War II. Her best friend Pasha is conscripted into the Russian army, and Valka and her cousin Iskra leave home to join the all-female aviation groups organized by Valka's hero Marina Raskova. Gwen C. Katz populates her story with many of the real aviators who flew in the all female units. I loved feeling like I got to know them a little, even though this is a fictional tale. It was also fun how Katz attributes some of the Night Witches trickier methods to Valka's experience with a faulty engine back home. The camaraderie between the women and the truly terrifying circumstances were conveyed so well. This topic continues to be a personal favorite. Among the Red Stars is out October 1, 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss.


American WASP:
Ida Mae Jones belongs in the air, but the local aviation college refuses to give her a license because she's a black woman. With the war on, there's no fuel to fly anyway. Then Ida hears about the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Ida wants to join, but she knows they'll never accept a black woman.  Desperate to live her dream, Ida passes for white and is accepted into the program. No she has to make sure no one learns her secret. I've wanted to read Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith for years, and it did not disappoint. I really enjoyed how Ida's training and friendships are underscored by the issue of race in America in the 1940s.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Troubled Siblings

Sibling relationships can be complicated. We have here five poignant tales of siblings and what it means to be family. (Troubled Sisters post here.)


Adam and Julian:
Adam Blake reconnects with his former foster brother, Julian, when Julian becomes a high school freshman. Adam quickly wraps Julian into his gregarious and fun-loving group of friends, and Julian starts to feel happier than he has in a very long time. But soon it's clear that everything is not right with Julian's home life. A List of Cages is one of those books that will just about destroy you. And, I have to caution, that you if have a hard time reading about child abuse, this book will be very triggering. It's got one of the most extreme and painful cases I've ever read. Robin Roe's debut is an emotional read. Be prepared to be wrecked. Review copy from NetGalley. 


Grace, Maya, and Joaquin:
Far from the Tree is about three adopted siblings who meet one another for the first time as teenagers. Each of the siblings is dealing with something big. Grace has recently put up a baby for adoption. Maya's parents are constantly fighting and she feels out of sink with the rest of her all-of-a-kind family. Joaquin has been in foster care his whole life. He's now with foster parents who love him, but letting himself love them back is scary. Robin Benway writes a beautiful story about how these teens grow to love one another, forgive themselves, and open up about their pasts. It's an emotional read. I really enjoyed this book. Review copy from Edelweiss.



Odette and Trudchen:
Odd & True is the story of two sisters, Odette and Trudchen, at the turn of the century. Abandoned by their parents, they grew up with their strict aunt. But Od was always able to make Tru's life a little more magical by telling her fantastical stories about their past. Cat Winters spins a story that alternates between Od's past and Tru's present. For most of the book, the reader doesn't really know if the stories that Od tells are true; if monsters really exist; if the girls really are destine to hunt them. I liked the bond between to the two sisters, but I especially loved the unraveling of Od's true past. Slowly but surely the past is revealed and the implications for the present become clear. Review copy from NetGalley.


Noah and Jude:
Noah and Jude are twins, and, as twins, they've always shared a special bond, but that was before so many things went wrong. I'll Give You the Sun alternates between Noah's narration of what happened before the troubles and Jude's narration of the aftermath. The reader wonders how the siblings could have both changed so much and what went wrong. I really loved Jandy Nelson's story. Noah and Jude are both artists, and all the art was a real bonus for me. This book has some big issue-type topics in it, but they never overwhelmed the story which remains very character driven. The themes of finding oneself, finding one's family, and being honest were my big takeaways.


Teva and her Sisters:
Teva doesn't grow up in the normal way. Every year, near her birthday, Teva unwillingly clones herself. She lives in a house full of younger Tevas, whom she address by their year (Thirteen, Fifteen, etc.), and this house full of bizarre "sisters" is challenging and involves a lot of secrets. The newest Teva is determined to be the last. When I picked up More of Me I was hoping it would have a bit of a Cat Patrick vibe, and it definitely did. Kathryn Evans's book is so weird, which is a good thing because it is definitely supposed to be weird. I really enjoyed how the reader wasn't quite sure whether or not Teva's condition was real or all in her head. Review copy from NetGalley.  

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Time Travel

It's been a while since our last time travel post, which means that it's definitely time for another one. (Yes, bad pun, I know.) Anyway, you know I can't resist a new time travel novel, especially when it has a blue (or blueish) cover. (So many blue time travel novels here.)

Romance in Time:
The Next Together is a story about two people who find each other again and again throughout history. It takes place during four different time periods with four pairs of Katherines and Matthews. The story moves from time period to time period even within chapters. I found this method of story telling to be kind of difficult to get into, but I really wanted to know how the pairs were all connected, and, as the story progressed, the potential for cross-over seemed to increase. Lauren James's book is a romantic adventure story, and I'm hoping we'll get a look at who controls the strings in the sequel, The Last Beginning, which comes out in the US in February 2018. Review copy from the publisher.


Time Accidents:
2016 is a glittery tech-utopia. It's the kind of world that the sci-fi of the 1950s predicted. That is until Tom Barron takes the first trip ever back in time and makes a colossal mistake. His return trip doesn't take him back to his 2016 but to ours. This alternate version of the world appears as an utter wasteland to Tom, but his family, his career, and his relationships have much more potential in this timeline. All Our Wrong Todays is a campy time-paradox conundrum that at the same time manages to be kind of heartbreaking and emotional. I really enjoyed Elan Mastai's debut novel. Review copy from NetGalley.


Time for Art:
Conjuror was such a pleasant surprise. The book is about Remy, who can do magic with music, and twins Matt and Em, who can create magic with their drawings. I admit, the art was a major draw for me. Matt and Em can travel through paintings. There's also a bit of a time travel element because several figures from the past travel through paintings to the present. Some of these travelers are even famous artists.  Remy, Matt, and Em will have to work together to defeat some very dangerous (and disgusting) historical figures. This was my first time reading a book by siblings John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman , and it was a really fun ride. Review copy from NetGalley.

 
Time Pirates:
All Farway Gaius McCarthy has ever wanted to do is to follow in his lost mother's footsteps and become a time traveler. As the only child to ever be born outside of time it seems only fitting. And Farway is good. The best. Destined for greatness. Until his final exam is sabotaged. With no other way to live his dream, Farway takes a job as a time pirate. With his handpicked crew, he steals from the past. And then the saboteur shows up at a job. Invictus by Ryan Graudin is a lot of fun. The characters are snarky and belong together, the stakes are incredibly high, and the time paradoxes are headache inducing. (That's just how I like them.) Review copy from NetGalley. 


Time Loop:
Wellcome Valley was a quiet place. Eddie Dane had his best friend and his grandmother but not much happened until Scarlett came to town. Scarlett's arrival ushered in a murder, an accident, an investigation, and a long-lost family member. Now Eddie is trapped in a time loop reliving the same day over and over again. No True Echo was a surprising delight. The concept of trying to discover the true timeline through an increasingly complicated investigation was so trippy. (Just how I like my time travel novels.) I'd recommend this one by Gareth P. Jones to the true time travel diehards. Review copy from NetGalley.
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