Thursday, September 28, 2017

Reading on a Theme: Communism, The Cold War, and the Berlin Wall

I've found myself drawn to novels about The Cold War recently. This Reading on a Theme brings together five Young Adult and Middle Grade novels set during the Cold War Era. All of these books focuses on the Berlin Wall from the point of view of East Germany, but they do so in a variety of ways, from the Russian who is helping to construct it, to the American child whose parents might be spies stationed behind it, to the Berliners who seek to escape it.

The Time Traveler:
On a trip to Berlin, Ellie Baum suddenly finds herself in 1988 East Berlin. Trapped in the past and behind the Berlin Wall, Ellie falls in with a resistance group that helps people escape via magical balloons. Ellie and her new friends must unravel the mystery behind her time travel, which proves to be more and more sinister with every discovery. The Girl with the Red Balloon is a fascinating combination of magic, historical fiction, and mystery. I love how Katherine Locke moves between Ellie's story and her grandfather's during WWII. The family ties made the tale so much richer for me. I want to know where else these balloonist have been secretly working. Out September 1, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

The KGB Agent:
In 1958 Russia, Svetlana is a resident of an orphanage for children of Enemies of the People. Sveta is also an incredibly passionate and talented ballet dancer, and she's determined to be a star of the Bolshoi Ballet, if only her family's past was not such a black mark. Seeking political redemption, Svetlana begins working with the KGB (not that she really has a choice). She has talents they find useful; talents that will help with the plan to build a wall in Berlin and stop a showdown in Cuba. Orphan, Agent, Prima, Pawn is part of Elizabeth Kiem's series following three generations of dancers in the Dukovskaya family. Svetlana's story is really where it all begins in the heart of Cold War Russia. Orphan, Agent, Prima, Pawn is out August 22, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Resistance Fighter:
Troubled teens, Molly Mavity and Pepper Yusuf, are brought together under the most unusual of circumstances. They've been told that they must solve the mystery of who killed Ava Dreyman, a teenager whose published diary is said to have brought down the Berlin Wall. Oh my, The Arsonist is such a strange and wonderful book. Told in a series of letters and journal entries written by the three main characters, the story that unfolds reveal secrets, lies, and family tragedies. Stephanie Oakes' book is masterfully constructed. I'm so impressed by the way she weaves the mystery between characters and timelines. I also love the layers of symbolism in this book. The Arsonist is out August 22, 2017.

The American Child:
Noah Keller's parents are acting really weird. When they picked him up from school they told him they were leaving for East Berlin right away so that his mother could do research for her dissertation. Then they explained the long list of rules he must follow, including going by a different name, while in Germany. Noah is pretty sure his parents aren't what they seem. This middle-grade story by Anne Nesbet of a boy behind the Iron Curtain was not exactly what I expected, but I liked it all the same. I could especially appreciate the book because in 1989, I was the same age as Noah. It was interesting to imagine myself in his shoes. Cloud and Wallfish was out September 2016.

The Deserter:
The night the Berlin Wall went up, Gerta's father and brother were in the west. With her family divided by the wall, Gerta can't seem to settle into life in East Germany. She can't help but watch the wall, despite the danger, and one day she sees her father and brother standing on a tall platform in West Berlin. They seem to have a message for her. With her brother Fritz due to report to the army in a matter of weeks, Gerta and Fritz undergo a desperate plan to escape. A Night Divided is so good. It's emotional and gripping, and I wanted so badly for it to end well, but I was so afraid that it wouldn't. Jennifer A. Nielsen did a spectacular job conveying the tense atmosphere of the German Democratic Republic. 

All books reviewed by JoLee.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Reading on a Theme: Teens in Space

Look how gorgeous these covers are when placed side by side! I loved traveling to space with the characters in the books below. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Defy the Stars or maybe Starflight. It's hard to pick! They are all so different, but they are all exciting and interesting. 

The Soldier and the Mech:
Noemi Vidal is a soldier of Genesis, a planet that seceded from Earth's colonies in hopes of protecting their world. Now Genesis is at war with Earth and they are desperate. Abel is a machine, abandoned by his creator in the Genesis system, he spent 30 years alone until Noemi boards his ship. The two then set off on a romp around the galaxy on a mission to save Noemi's planet. I love Claudia Gray's books. Defy the Stars is so entertaining. I can't seem to get enough of the the sentient AI motif, and Gray's book is a great addition to this subgenre. I also love that she handled religion and the idea of souls with so much respect and honesty. Defy the Stars is out April 4, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Outcasts:
Solara Brooks hopes her mechanical skills will mean more than her felony status in the Outer Realm. She's so desperate to escape earth that she agrees to an indenture with the most arrogant boy from her high school, Doran Spaulding. A series of bizarre events lands Solara and Doran on the Banshee, a rickety tin can of a ship manned by a small group of outcasts. Starflight is so much fun. If you like pirates or Firefly you will have a lot of fun reading Melissa Lander's book. I loved the camaraderie between the members of the Banshee's crew. The mystery angle to this book definitely kept me guessing. I'm excited to read the sequel, Starfall, which was published earlier this year.

The Competitor:
Emmett joins a group of ten teenagers who have been recruited by the Babel company to mine an amazing material called nyxia recently discovered on the planet New Eden. The first book in this new trilogy takes place aboard the space ship Genesis 11 where Babel forces the kids to train via an intense competition. Nyxia has the high-stakes competition plot device that we've seen in so many books recently. It especially reminded me of Red Rising. Scott Reintgen really keeps the pace moving and also confronts deeper issues like race and poverty. I'm both terrified and eager to learn what will happen once the characters reach Eden in book 2. Nyxia is out September 12, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Veterinarian:
In Under Nameless Stars, the sequel to Zenn Scarlet, our titular character leaves Mars as a stowaway aboard the Helen of Troy. Zenn is following a lead on her missing father. What starts as a mission to find her dad becomes much bigger when the Helen is hijacked. Christian Schoon's book is so creative. Zenn is an exoveterinarian, meaning she specializes in doctoring creatures from space, and Schoon is so good at populating his book with interesting creatures. I found space travel by Indra especially fascinating, and a clever move on Schoon's part as it makes Zenn's role that much greater. Jules was a very fun addition. I'm not going to tell you what kind of creature he is, but I will say it was very unexpected. 

The Lost Princess:
Princess Rhiannon Ta'an is the only surviving member of the Kalusian dynasty. Her driving force is to avenge her family's brutal deaths. Alyosha is a Wraetean who stars on a popular reality show but has not forgotten his difficult past as a refugee. The two are forced to go into hiding together. They must journey across space and learn who is behind the plot to kill Rhee and start a war. Empress of a Thousand Skies is an epic space odyssey. In her debut novel, Rhoda Belleza sets the scene for what is sure to be an intense duology. She grapples with themes such as war, revenge, race, and discrimination in a thoughtful and serious way.

All books reviewed by JoLee.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Reading on a Theme: Young Ballet Dancers

I definitely have a thing for ballet books. This is not the first time I've featured a collection of ballet books, and I'm certain it won't be the last either. (More ballet books here and here.) This bunch is a rather serious one, with dancers who are dealing with difficult political, personal, and familial situations.

As Seen on TV
Magnolia (Mags) and her best friend George enter a SYTYCD-type competition. For George the show is a chance to be recognized for his skill, but for Mags the competition means much more. She sees a victory as a way to change her small town's opinion of her and her sister, whose reputations have been tainted by their mother's abandonment after a terrible accident. Spin the Sky gives readers look behind-the-scenes of a reality show. This one seems to have a lot of drama. Mags goes through a lot of personal growth in this debut novel from Jill MacKenzie, I especially loved how well she conveyed the feel of a small Oregon town. Spin the Sky was out November 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Letters to You:
Una LaMarche sets her story at a prestigious arts school in New York City. You in Five Acts follows five of its students: two ballet dancers, Joy and Diego, and three drama students, Ethan, Liv, and Dave. Each character writes an act to one of the other four. It was difficult at first to get into the second-person voice, but it was interesting to see how the characters' stories were woven together and how the decisions they made impacted the others. It was obvious from the beginning that something tragic was going to occur in this story, but I was not prepared for how tragic it really was. The abruptness of what happens sheds a light on the unfairness and senselessness of these kind of situations. You in Five Acts was out November 2016. Copy from Penguin First to Read.

Dancing in Alaska:
The Smell of Other People's Houses four Alaskan teenagers' lives slowly become entwined. Ruth lives with her grandmother is drawn to less-repressive homes. Alyce's dreams of dancing conflict with her time with her father on his fishing boat. Dora is trying to escape the nightmare of her past. Hank and his brothers stow away on the ferry. It is difficult to express in words the simple elegance of Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock's novel. I love books like this that create a quiet, contemplative mood. The language in this book is exquisite. The reading experience is beautiful both in content and in execution. Perfection from start to finish with a gorgeously rendered setting, it was one of my favorite reads of 2016.

Bolshoi Ballerina:
In 1958 Russia, Svetlana is a resident of an orphanage for children of Enemies of the People. Sveta is also an incredibly passionate and talented ballet dancer, and she's determined to be a star of the Bolshoi Ballet. Her road to stardom is hindered thanks to the black mark on her family's record. But Svetlana has other talents that the government finds useful; talents which a certain KGB agent promises will help erase that scar. Orphan, Agent, Prima, Pawn is part of Elizabeth Kiem's series that follows three generations of dancers in the Dukovskaya family. I really enjoyed this addition to the series. Svetlana's story is really where it all begins in the heart of Cold War Russia. Orphan, Agent, Prima, Pawn is out August 22, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

Camp Perform at Your Peak:
Samantha wants to be a professional ballet dancer. She's really good, but in recent months she's gotten curvier and taller, and she's received a lot of negative attention because of her new body. The result is crippling anxiety over her appearance. Sam is sent to a summer treatment camp for artists and athletes who are struggling with mental and emotional barriers. I love what Kathryn Holmes did with How It Feels to Fly. The book takes an honest look at some of the crueler aspects of dance. Holmes wrote about her own time as a dancer here, and I think that her personal experiences really made this book what it is. To me, this book just got better and better with every page. How it Feels to Fly was out June 2016.

All books reviewed by JoLee.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Blog Tour: The Dire King by William Ritter

I'm so thrilled to be a part of The Dire King Blog Tour, hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club. I jumped right on William Ritter's Jackaby Series when the first book came out four years ago, and I'm so glad. The series has brought me nothing but joy, and every year I've eagerly anticipated the next book's publication date. This week the final book in the Jackaby Series came out, and I am both thrilled to read it and a little sad that the series has come to an end. (Other books in the series featured here, here, here, and here)

Have you read the Jackaby Series? If not now's your chance to win a copy of the first book in the series and get started. Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance.

The Dire King (Jackaby #4)

by William Ritter

Release Date: August 22nd 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Synopsis: The thrilling conclusion to the New York Times best-selling series the Chicago Tribune called “Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer” sends the eccentric detective and his indispensible assistant into the heart of a war between magical worlds. 

 The fate of the world is in the hands of detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby and his intrepid assistant, Abigail Rook. An evil king is turning ancient tensions into modern strife, using a blend of magic and technology to push Earth and the Otherworld into a mortal competition. Jackaby and Abigail are caught in the middle as they continue to solve the daily mysteries of New Fiddleham, New England — like who’s created the rend between the worlds, how to close it, and why zombies are appearing around. At the same time, the romance between Abigail and the shape-shifting police detective Charlie Cane deepens, and Jackaby’s resistance to his feelings for 926 Augur Lane’s ghostly lady, Jenny, begins to give way. Before the four can think about their own futures, they will have to defeat an evil that wants to destroy the future altogether.

The epic conclusion to the New York Times best-selling Jackaby series features sly humor and a quirky cast of unforgettable characters as they face off against their most dangerous, bone-chilling foe ever. 

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Book Depository | Kobo

The Dire King is such a fantastic conclusion to this clever series. It's always a lot of fun to be back at 926 Augur Lane with these beloved characters. The stakes are appropriately high (as in end-of-the-world high) for the grand finale, and yet, the book still feels personal, maintains its humor. But, believe me it will break your heart a little too. Oh, I'm sad to let this series go. Here's why.

Why I Love Them

1. R.F. Jackaby
R.F. Jackaby is a detective of sorts who specializes in weird and unexplained occurrences. Most of New Fiddleham thinks that Jackaby is pretty weird and barely tolerable, but its his quirk that makes him such a fun character. Jackaby is smart and clever and incredibly funny in a Sherlock Holmsian kind of way. In other words, he is 100% serious about all the weird things he says and does.

2. Abigail Rook
I seriously adore Abigail. She is a fantastic narrator, and I just love her adventurous spirit. I mean, the series starts off with Abigail running away from home because she wanted to be a paleontologist. Always plucky and resourceful, Abigail will befriend ghosts and shapeshifters and journey to Hell and the Fairy Realm. She's not your average gal.

3. Jackaby and Abigail 
Okay, as much as I love Jackaby and Abigail in their own right, what I really, really love is the two together. You don't see duos like this very often in YA literature. When I first started the series I thought that there was going to be some kind of romance between the two, but I quickly realized that Jackaby is substantially older than Abigail and this a mentorship. And I love that! Abigail and Jackaby's professional relationship is quite endearing. Also, because Abigail is scientifically minded, especially at the beginning of the series, the exchanges between these two can be rather hilarious.

4. 926 Augur Lane  
Jackaby's house is just the best! It's messy and cluttered and full of weird objects. It's home to a duck who has his own pond on the third floor and who was formerly Jackaby's assistant. Plus the house is haunted. New surprises arise at 926 in every book. It was a joy to spend so much time there in the final book.

5. Jenny Cavanaugh
Jackaby's house is really Jenny's house. She is the resident ghost, and she allows, or should I say tolerates, Jackaby's presence. The mystery behind Jenny's death ten years prior was one thing that really kept me reading because it's impossible not to like Jenny. Jenny's growth over the series is definitely one of the highlights for me.

6. New Fiddleham
The Jackaby Series is a historical urban fantasy set in the fictitious New England town of New Fiddleham (I love that name). I really like the historical aspect of the story and the way the language helps set the stage, time-frame wise.

7. The Magical Creatures
No one does mythical creatures quite like William Ritter. I love the variety of creatures and the mixture of sources from dragons, to fae, to Greek mythology. Some creatures are scary, some are clever, some are kind. And a bunch are really funny. In the last book, especially, the conflict between the magical and the humans calls attention to issues of hypocrisy, tolerance, and prejudice.

8. The Mysteries
Each book in the series has its own mystery, as well as thread of a larger story. Which, in my mind, is the ideal way to frame a series. I started to get a sense of this larger picture in book 2 and with the subsequent books we got deeper and deeper into the big problem.

9. The Humor
I have mentioned one or five times that I think these books are funny? This isn't hit-you-over-the-head funny. It's a subtle humor that has quite a bit of wit. Just my thing.


"A little Dr. Who, a little Harry Potter, and a lot of Sherlock, New York Times bestselling author Will Ritter’s Jackaby series has thrilled YA readers with magic, mystery and adventure since the first book introduced us to a supernatural sleuth and his trusty assistant. In The Dire King: A Jackaby Novel (on sale August 22), Ritter sends the series out with a bang, with even more mystery, romance, and the most epic battle yet. We hope you’ll strongly consider prominent coverage for The Dire King--and all the Jackaby books—as we say goodbye to our crime-solving friends in New Fiddleham.

“A humorous, energetic, action-packed, and magical conclusion.”
 —Kirkus Reviews, starred review Ritter’s debut novel

Jackaby (a New York Times bestseller and 2015 Pacific Northwest Book Award winner) introduced readers to R.F. Jackaby, a quirky detective with a knack for the supernatural; Abigail Rook, his skeptical and observant assistant; Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly landlady of 926 Augur Lane; and Charlie Cane, a shape-shifting police officer. Beastly Bones and Ghostly Echoes followed the crime-solving team from their home in New Fiddleham to the depths of the underworld as they uncovered more clues about the evil forces behind Jenny’s murder.


WILLIAM RITTER is an Oregon educator and author of the New York Times bestselling Jackaby series. He is the proud father of the two bravest boys in the Wild Wood, and husband to the indomitable Queen of the Deep Dark.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

Monday, August 21, 2017

Favorite Reads of 2017 (The Halfway Mark)

The year is already more than half over, and we have read so many great books already. It's time to share a few.

We didn't want to spill the beans too much on our Favorite End of the Year Reads, so Paige and I each picked five of our favorites. And let me tell you, sticking to just five was not easy.

JoLee's Top Five

Windwitch by Susan Dennard:
The series follow-up to Truthwitch is pretty spectacular. I liked this book so much because it just went in so many unexpected places. The characters and the world felt like they expanded tenfold in this addition to the series. I really, really hope that the series can maintain this quality.

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer:
This book is achingly good. It is full of heartache and hope and delivered so many emotions. The book is a cross between a more serious version of You've Got Mail and The Serpent King by Jeff Zenter--two things I love. (featured here)

Dead Wake by Erik Larson:
My favorite book club pick of the year so far.I love the way that Larson weaves together the stories of the passengers of the Lusitania, the men on Unterseeboot-20, and Woodrow Wilson's presidency in the days leading up to the ship's sinking.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan:
I've been recommending this book to everyone who loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Set in England during the early years of World War II, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir is a epistolary novel told through letters and journal entries with a decidedly female perspective.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor:
Laini Taylor writes the loveliest slow-burn fantasy. Her world-building is absolutely incredible. I'm absolutely fascinated by the world that she created in this book, from the Medieval Monastic feel to the god-slayers of Weep. (featured here)

Paige's Top Five

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor:
I've been looking forward to this book for a long time, but it had been long enough since I'd read the first two books in the series that I couldn't jump right in. I reread those and then devoured the conclusion. Ending a series is incredibly difficult, but this was beautifully written, the kind of story you fall into and can't get out.

Everything All at Once by Katrina Leno:
After reading, and loving, Katrina Leno's The Lost and Found, I was excited for this one. It did not disappoint. Ms. Leno writes beautiful magical realism. This book is infused with a feeling of possibilities and "what ifs." It was an achingly lovely read.

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi:
This companion novel to The Star-Touched Queen was beautiful and interesting. As a storyteller, I loved the power of story as highlighted throughout the book. This book also had so many great quotes that left me thinking about story and magic and possibilities. (featured here)

The Last Thing You Said by Sarah Biren:
In this book, Sarah Biren explores different ways people deal with grief. Some are healthy, some are not. All are true to life and fit her characters. The thing that landed this book on my favorites list are the "Trixies"--stories the main character tells about the best friend she lost. They are magical and sweet and lovely. (featured here)

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows:
This is the funniest book I have read in a long time and I have been recommending it right and left. The alternate world it takes place in is fabulous and the narration is tongue and cheek and oh so snide. It must be noted that the audiobook enhances the humor through a fantastic narrator with perfect comedic timing. (featured here)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Reading on a Theme: Mental Health Matters

Last year about this time we did our first Mental Health Matters Reading on a Theme, and I'm happy to be bringing this topic back. One thing that I really like about the books in this post is that, in addition to featuring books with characters who are in the thick of things, we also are featuring characters who have their mental health issues fairly well managed and are able to have mental health as just one aspect of their busy, healthy lives.

Locked in the Library:
Due to a carpool mix-up and a sudden snowstorm, Autumn Collins is locked in the library for a weekend. And she's not alone. Dax Miller, who has the reputation of 10 Things I Hate About You's Patrick Verona, is trapped with her. But, like Patrick, Dax is not what he seems, and as Autumn opens up to Dax while she waits for her almost boyfriend Jeff to come rescue her, she begins to realize that she's not being herself with her friends. She certainly hasn't told them about her anxiety disorder and how anxious Jeff's daring antics make her. Kasie West always writes swoony stories, and the Utah setting made this story so much fun for me. By Your Side was out January 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Mourning Her Aunt:
Lottie's Aunt Helen is gone. She left Lottie with a stack of letters and a mystery. The letters push her outside her comfort zone and allow her to hold onto Helen a little longer. The more Lottie follows the instructions left in her aunt's letters, the closer she gets to uncovering Aunt Helen's greatest secret. Everything All at Once is achingly lovely. Katrina Leno beautifully captures the mind and heart of a character with severe anxiety and the added stress the death of a loved one brings. The possibility of magic permeates the novel and I loved the feeling of "well, maybe" that was embedded in the tone. Another win for Katrina Leno. Everything All At Once is out July 25, 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Unhappy in Rehab:
After The Incident, Hunter is depressed and suicidal. His parents send him to Camp Sunshine, a rehab center for troubled teens. Hunter quickly falls in with Corin who is beautiful and confident and seems to actually like awkward Hunter. But she's also kind of scary. This slim volume really delivers. Sunshine is Forever is filled with black humor and raw pain. The way Kyle T. Cowan is able to mix the two is quite impressive. This book also made me think about treatment and how the people in charge of doling out advice are human too. Filled with mistakes, friendships, and new beginnings, Sunshine is Forever is out August 29th, 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss. 

A New Crush: 
Molly is a champion crusher. She has had 26 crushes, all unrequited because all were secret. But when her twin sister, Cassie, meets a new girl and starts a relationship, she all but disappears, and Molly decides it's time to change her strategy. But who should be crush number 27? In The Upside of Unrequited, Becky Albertalli has created a fun story with a great main character. I really liked Molly--I liked that she had anxiety, but it didn't control her; I liked her relationship with her sister (we are a sister blog, after all); and I really liked watching her find her way and learn to take risks. The Upside of Unrequited was out April 11, 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Bad Break-Ups:
After finding her boyfriend and her best friend making out, Everly's anxiety condition worsens. She meets Gabe in her therapist's waiting room, and the two strike up a friendship that has potential to be something more if Everly is ready. What I really liked about Our Broken Pieces was that Everly's experiences with a cheating boyfriend and friendship breakup felt like real high school problems. Gabe is about as good as they come, and his situation was heartbreakingly true to life. Sarah White is a mental health professional and the therapy was treated very authentically. One heads up, this book did get a little steamier than I was expecting. Our Broken Pieces is out August 8, 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss. 

By Your Side, Sunshine is Forever, and Our Broken Pieces reviewed by JoLee.
Everything All At Once and The Upside of Unrequited reviewed by Paige.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Reading on a Theme: Girls Disguised as Boys

The "Girl Disguised as a Boy" motif is one that never gets old for me. I'm so excited to bring back this Reading on a Theme. It's one we haven't had the chance to feature since 2014 (post here).

Arabella Ashby is a tomboy with a talent for mechanics. Her happy life on Mars comes to an end when her mother takes her back to earth for an education in how to be a young woman. A family misfortune has Arabella scrambling for a way to get back to Mars. Her solution is to disguise herself as a boy and get a job aboard the trading ship Diana. Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine is a fun steampunk space adventure. The setting is a clever alternate version of the Regency era where the Napoleonic wars have spread to the skies. Arabella is a plucky heroine who is smart and capable and not willing to sit idly by as duty dictates. I'm excited to read the sequel, Arabella and the Battle for Venus, out this July.

Iolanthe Seaborne is an elemental mage. She can control water, earth, and fire. Prince Titus VII is looking for the elemental mage prophesied to help rid the world of the Bane and release the people from the shackles of New Atlantis. Once Titus finds her has to hide her, so he takes her to his all-boys boarding school in non-magical 1883 England and disguises Iolanthe as Fairfax. Now he just has to convince her to help him change the world. The Burning Sky is full of everything I love most about the fantasy genre: a colliding of two worlds, complex political intrigue, prophecy, cool training facilities, and a terrifying villain. See why we love Sherry Thomas's series. It's perfect for anyone really missing Harry Potter.

Jordan Sun is tired of getting nowhere in the acting program at her prestigious art school. There just aren't a lot of parts for an Asian Alto II. When a spot opens up in a men's a cappella group, she decides to audition, disguised as a boy. I was excited to read Noteworthy because it sounded so fun. A cappella, a girl disguised as a boy, what could be better? I found the book had depths I wasn't expecting and tackled weighty issues. It wasn't the light read I anticipated, but it was rich and reflective. Riley Redgate's Noteworthy has a little bit of everything and was well worth the read. Noteworthy was out May 2, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

Historical Fantasy:
Mariko, the daughter of a noble samurai, is on her way to the imperial city to meet her betrothed when her convoy is ambushed and she is left for dead. Determined to discover who ordered her death, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan disguised as a boy. Life among the Black Clan is invigorating and opens Mariko's eyes to life beyond the confines of her home and sex. Mariko continually has to remind herself that these men are her enemies, not her friends. And yet, secrets are everywhere. Who are these bandits really? Flame in the Mist begins a great second series for Renee Ahdieh filled with interesting and complicated characters, a gorgeous setting, and a heady romance. I do wish I understood the magic system a bit better. Perhaps more will be revealed in the second book.

Historical Fiction:
Samantha and her father are the only Chinese people in their tiny village and many are none too happy they're there. So when Samantha's father dies in a fire, her life is put in jeopardy. With the help of a runaway slave, she heads west. She and Annamae disguise themselves as boys and join a group of cowboys on their way across the country. Stacey Lee is a beautiful writer. The images she paints are incredible. I really appreciated the friendship between Sammy and Anna. They take great care of each other throughout the book. Under a Painted Sky is an excellent historical fiction that captured the struggles and triumphs of life on the Oregon trail. P.S. More Westerns.

Arabella of Mars, The Burning Sky, and Flame in the Mist reviewed by JoLee.
Noteworthy and Under a Painted Sky reviewed by Paige.

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