Starflight – Melissa Landers

starflightSolara has spent most of her life in an orphanage and has learned to fend for herself.  It’s not been an easy life and she is now a convicted felon trying to get passage to the outer planets.  She’s able to hire herself a spot on a flight as an indentured servant to former classmate Doran, an arrogant boy born of priveledge.  The tables turn a bit and Solara manages to make Doran her servant when they gain passage on a junker heading to the outer planets.  Each member of the sparse crew has something to hide but seem to have good hearts.  One adventure after another involving space pirates, fights, theft, and mystery along with a touch of romance makes this light science fiction romp pure fun.  Great characters, fun plot and adventure, adventure, adventure!

eGalley review                   Publication date 2.2.16

Posted in adventure, science fiction, Uncategorized

Salt to the Sea – Ruta Sepetys

salt to the seaDuring the close of WWII, Europeans were frantically trying to get out of the way of the advancing Russian troops.  Rape, pillage, torture.  Masses were making their way north to the Baltic Sea to board the evacuation ships.  A former cruise ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff was refitted to transport thousands of evacuees, civilians and troops.  The story is told in the multiple voices of the small group that bands together for the journey.  A young Polish girl, a nurse, a shoemaker, a small boy, a brusk woman, a blind girl, a young German with a mysterious past.  They come from different backgrounds, different countries and must rely on each other to complete the journey.  The horrors of war they endure and the desperate attempt to make it onto a ship.  A ship to depart with 10,000 passengers.  A ship that would be targeted by Russian torpedoes.  The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustoff is the largest maritime disaster in history.

Easily, one of the best, most impactful historical fiction novels I have read.  No, expand that.  One of the best novels I have ever read.  It took me days after completion to gather my thoughts.  It’s the children.  The unforgiveable loss of life.  The frantic attempt of mothers to save their babies, the loss of innocence and childhood.  Ruta Sepetys masterfully draws the reader into the story by bringing the voices of those victims to life.  The flashbacks and reflections are skillfully employed to bring depth to the characters.  The thread from each person’s story is woven together to teach of loss, endurance, sacrifice, and survival.  A must read for middle grade and up.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                  Publication date 2.2.16

Posted in highly recommend, historical fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Front Lines – Michael Grant

Front LinesWhat if women were included in the armed forces during World War II?  This is the premise behind this vivid portrayal of army life during WWII.  The first part of the book focuses on several women and what led them to enlist in the military.  Rio is currently the main star of the story, changing from farm girl to sharp shooter.  The cast of characters come together during a battle in North Africa, based on events of the battle that really occurred.  The result is a gritty, bloody realistic depiction of war.

This first book in a planned series works on many levels including the rich characters, vivid setting, and stark horrors of war.  This blend of historical fiction and alternative history is a must-read for all teens.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                     Publication date 1.26.16

Posted in highly recommend, historical fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Arcadia – Iain Pears

arcadiaHenry Lytten, an Oxford don, is writing a fantasy novel. As he writes, his gentle pastoral world emerges. Meanwhile a few hundred years in the future, Angela Meerson has discovered a portal to another world and uses it. Thus, the two lives become connected with interesting consequences.

With tongue firmly placed in cheek, Iain Pears has created a novel encompassing several genres. It’s kind of a sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, cold war spy novel. And he happily borrows from everyone . . . Shakespeare, Tolkien, Huxley, Fleming and more. This is so very different from his past novels, and I loved every page. The action and the characters jump from the cold war 1960’s to the dystopian 23rd century to a gentle, pastoral far distant future. The three worlds interconnect and the strands of the story wind around one another.

The novel was conceived and written for an app to be downloaded in order to create a complex narrative that is easy to understand. Users of the app can follow various characters’ story lines at will, can mix them up or keep them separate. I did not download the app and read the book in the traditional manner, enjoyed it, and had no trouble following the story lines.

eGalley review                      Publication date 2.9.16

Posted in adult, dystopian, fantasy, science fiction, Uncategorized

The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia – C.W. Gortner

vatican princessSmall pieces of paper fluttered down on the people massed in the piazza before the Sistine Chapel.  Twelve-year-old Lucrezia heard her aunt read one aloud “We have for our Pope, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia of Valencia, known as Alexander Sixth”. Lucrezia wanted to laugh aloud, for Papa had triumphed.  Lucrezia Borgia . . . the name personifies evil; a seductive woman who schemed and poisoned her way through life. But this novel presents a different woman. Yes, she is the daughter of a Pope, and yes she is self-centered. But she emerges as a young woman whose only value was as a pawn in negotiations, a young woman whose happiness was never considered, a young woman determined to survive in spite of every obstacle.

The book is well researched. The author tried to stay with established facts, and where sources differ chose the path he deemed most likely. It’s full of complex characters and historical details that draw the reader in. My only complaint is that it stopped too soon, when Lucrezia was only 22. The short afterword summarized the rest of Lucrezia’s life, and the final seventeen years seem to be filled with enough drama to fill another book. I hope that will happen.

eGalley review            Publication date 2.9.16

Posted in adult, biography, Uncategorized

The Impostor Queen – Sarah Fine

Imposter QueenA careful balance of ice and fire magic has protected the Kupari people for generations through the queen, who reigns until the magic kills her.  Upon the queen’s death, the girl in training becomes the new queen when all of the magic enters her.  Then the search is on for the next young girl in training, designated by a special mark that appears with the death of the queen.  This is Elli’s story.  She has been raised by elders for many years and prophesies have foretold she will be the most powerful queen ever.  The queen dies abruptly and the elders take Elli to the chamber where the magic is supposed to enter her.  Nope.  Nothing happens.  The elders torture her, hoping the strong emotion and pain will awaken the magic.  Nope.  When the elders decide to kill her so the cycle of magic can continue with the next little girl, Elli escapes.  Badly beaten and near death, she is rescued by a band of refugees.  She learns that so much she was told was a lie.

A range of characters populate the book.  Some so very good and self-sacrificing while others were lured to the evil dark side, so power hungry.  Elli is a character to root for and of course Oskar who battles the ice magic within him and rescuer of Elli.  The story is told at a good pace, with enough detail and world building to draw the reader in.  This is the first in a planned series and I hope that Oskar’s sister Freya has a larger role in the coming books.  It should be quite popular among teens who want a strong heroine and a touch of romance.

eGalley review                  Publication date 1.5.16

Posted in fantasy

Midnight in Broad Daylight – Pamela Rotner Sakamoto

midnight in broad daylightThe Fukuharas were living a comfortable, middle class life in a small town near Seattle even though Katsuja and Kinu, who were born in Japan, were denied the opportunity to become American citizens and denied the opportunity to own property in America. It all came to an end when Katsuja died of pleurisy in 1932. As the depression deepened and the family’s funds ran low, Kinu decided the only thing to do was to move the family back to her home in Hiroshima. The children, born in America, growing up as typical American kids, were not happy. Harry, the second oldest son, declared he would go only with the assurance that he could come back if he didn’t like it. Predictably, Harry didn’t like it and returned to America in 1938 when he was 18. During WWII, Harry became an interpreter for the U.S. Army while his three brothers were drafted into the Japanese Army.

This is a wonderful book, carefully researched in two countries and filled with interwoven stories of the family members. It reads like a novel, but every word is true, telling of the hardships of the family in America and in Japan and of their will to survive, to be united once again. I highly recommend it, and it is suitable for teens.

eGalley review                       Publication date 1.5.16

Posted in adult, biography, history | Tagged ,