Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Reading on a Theme: What the Dead Left Behind

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

More What the Dead Left Behind posts here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 All books reviewed by JoLee.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Reading on a Theme: Vikings and Norse Mythology

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

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

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

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

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

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

All books reviewed by JoLee.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

Beware of unavoidable spoilers ahead!

Now I Rise by Kiersten White 

Publisher / Year: Delacorte Press - June 2017

Genres: Young Adult Historical Fiction / Fantasy

Source: My local library

Goodreads | Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

The Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye

Publisher / Year: Balzer + Bray - May 2017

Genres: Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

Goodreads | Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

Publisher / Year: HarperTeen - September 2017

Genres: Young Adult Fantasy

Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

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.

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.

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