The Leveller – Julia Durango

The LevellerNix earns money for her college fund by working as a bounty hunter in the virtual world of MEEP.  When kids stay hooked up to their virtual world too long, having adventures in their virtual world while their body remains unconsious, parents call Nix to go into their kid’s world and retrieve them.  Nix’s parents work for the MEEP developer so she has inside access to commands that help her in her missions.  All is well in the virtual world until the mega billionaire MEEP developer’s son, Wyn, is trapped inside the virtual world and Nix is hired to retrieve him.  His body lies hooked up to machines to keep it alive since it has been days.  Nix navigates a series of deadly traps while making her way to Wyn only to get trapped in Wyn’s MEEP world.

Nix is such a fun heroine.  She’s spunky and witty and sharp.  Then there is Wyn who has the attention to detail and delight in world building that would make his island retreat and pet kraken a wonderful world to visit – but not when assassins are after you.  This is another offering to the growing novels about the addiction of gaming and virtual worlds like Heir Apparent (Vande Velde) and Elusion (Gabel and Klam).  The Leveller is well-written and fun to read.  In addition to the action-packed story line, there is the caution about the intrusion of the virtual world into the real world.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review         Publication date 6.23.15

Posted in adventure, highly recommend, science fiction | Tagged

Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution – Kathleen DuVal

Independence LostIn March of 1781, British sailors guarding the mouth of Pensacola Bay spotted a ship that they hoped contained their reinforcements.  But instead of the Union Jack, the red and gold stripes of the Spanish navy were flying over the lead ship. The Spanish invasion of British West Florida had begun. Histories of the American Revolution seldom mention Spain’s involvement and their defeat of the British in Florida. Spain had seized a golden opportunity to expand their holdings in North America while England was busy putting down the rebellion.

To the people living on the Gulf Coast, the Revolution seemed to be like most wars, a war fought for territory and treasure.  They had little interest in Britain’s attempt to tax and control its colonies.  The area was populated by British, French, Spanish, Creeks, Chickasaws, Choctaws, and African born, slave and free. People chose sides for reasons other than revolutionary fervor.  This book looks at the American Revolution from an entirely different perspective as it follows the lives of individuals from these groups during and after the war.   Among others, there was the slave Petit Jean who worked to help Spain; Payamataha, the Chickasaw leader who kept his people neutral; Scottish loyalist James Bruce, a British official in Pensacola; Oliver Pollock, a New Orleans businessman who spent his fortune helping the colonies.

Incorporating the stories of real people made this read like a novel. I came to care about these people and want to know what happened to them.  The history began to live, became much more than dates and battles, words in a book. This was a very interesting item to add to my collection of little known history.  Highly recommend for adults and teens.

eGalley review               Publication date 7.7.15

Posted in adult, highly recommend, nonfiction | Tagged , ,

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – Fredrik Backman

my grandmotherGranny is Elsa’s only friend.  She’s also a superhero.  Lifesaving and driving people nuts are her superpowers.  She also tells Elsa wonderful stories of the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the six kingdoms.  Elsa is almost eight and is not very good at being seven.  She is intelligent, resourceful, uninhibited and is bullied at school because she is different and refuses to fit in.  And just when Elsa needs Granny the most, Granny up and dies making Elsa very angry! But Granny has left a series of letters apologizing for wrongs she has done to various people and asks Elsa to deliver them, sending her on an amazing treasure hunt.

This wonderful story told through the eyes of Elsa made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.   It’s complex, with unexpected twists and turns as Elsa meets the monsters and heroes from Granny’s magical kingdoms.  It’s a song sung in praise of individuality and I loved every minute.  Highly recommend and suitable for teens.

eGalley review    Publication date 6.16.15

Posted in adult, realistic fiction | Tagged

Daughter of Deep Silence – Carrie Ryan

Daughter of Deep SilenceFrances meets Libby on a cruise ship and they become fast friends.  Frances also meets her first love, Greyson, the son of a US Senator.  The vacation with her parents quickly turns into a nightmare when armed terrorists board the ship and attempt to kill all the passengers.  Frances witnesses the murder of her parents and Libby’s mother before she and Libby jump into the ocean.  A week later, only Frances is alive.  The lack of food and water and the relentless sun lead to Libby’s slow and painful death just moments before a rescue ship, the yacht owned by Libby’s wealthy father, finds them.   Recovering from the ordeal takes a twist when she catches Grey and his father on TV saying the ship was destroyed by a rogue wave and they were the only two survivors.  There is no mention of terrorists, who systematically murdered every passenger on the ship.  Frances is an orphan now and has nowhere to go.  Libby’s father realizes Frances is in danger since she could destroy the Senator’s story, so he suggests Frances assumes Libby’s identity and sends her off to boarding school in Europe.  Frances spends the next four years becoming Libby.  After the death of her “father”, she returns home to seek revenge on the Senator and discover the truth about that night of terror.

The TV show, Revenge, kept coming to mind as I read.  The setting is similar with homes of the wealthy along a stretch of beach and a wronged girl avenging the deaths of her loved ones.  This is good.  It’s a good teen suspense novel with plenty of life-threatening close calls, bad guys, and a hearty sprinkle of romance.  Well-written with flashbacks to the cruise, the author deftly weaves the personalities of Libby and Frances into one girl.  This should be quite popular with teens.

eGalley review                  Publication date 5.26.15

Posted in suspense

Hold Me Like A Breath – Tiffany Schmidt

hold me like a breathLegal organ transplants are reserved for only the healthiest people.  Those that do not make the long government wait lists turn to the underground organ transplant “families”.  Penelope is the daughter of one of the mafia type families who obtain donor organs and for a price transplant into desperate patients.  There are a few families in the business that for the most part have a respectful rivalry.  Penelope has led a privileged but sheltered life because of a chronic disease that causes low platelets.  A bruise for a normal person could mean life threatening internal hemorrhage for her.  She yearns for more freedoms, a less controlling life and by golly, she gets it.  Her older brother is murdered, and then her parents are killed.  Now she is running for her life in the streets of New York.  Who can she trust?  People are not always as they seem.

While the plot twists are not so much of a surprise, the story is still quite engaging.  I liked watching sheltered Penny quickly grow into a resourceful, spunky force to be reckoned with.  The odds were certainly against her, but then it helps to have a personal connection with the vice president.  Nicely done and teens should enjoy this first entry to a new series.

eGalley review                     Publication date 5.19.15

Posted in fiction, suspense | Tagged

The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak – Brian Katcher

improbable theoryEveryone has their own battles, their own pain, and their own issues, despite how they appear on the outside. To Ana, Zak initially seems like a slacker, a guy with no pressures, no destination, just enjoying a lazy journey with a weird love of comic book characters. Ana is driven. Her parents force her to abide by their rules and have high expectations for her academic success.  When Zak is forced into joining Ana and others on a Quiz Bowl team, their opinions of one another change over a very eventful night.  Ana’s younger brother, who is also on the team, escapes from the competition hotel on the first night and goes to the comic convention that Zak told him about.  In a panic, Ana asks Zak to help her find her brother.  Their night at the convention reveals characteristics and strengths that neither of them knew they had.  It’s an incredible experience that enables them to learn about each other and themselves.

The story is told in a back-and-forth style between Zak and Ana, and is told with humor, action, introspection, and revelations.  It’s the kind of story that keeps the reader yearning for more and rooting for the characters. Highly recommend.

eGalley review    Publication date 5.19.15

Posted in highly recommend, realistic fiction

The Gracekeepers – Kirsty Logan

The GracekeepersCallanish was busy, performing at least two Restings a week.  She looked young, far from death.  People liked that.  She prepared the dead, said the words, and slipped them into the sea. Legally, all damplings had to be interred in a Graceyard.  The Graceyards were lined up along the equator. They were far from any destination. It was a fine place for Callanish, a landlocker, and for Callinish’s dark secret.

North was a dampling, and felt uncomfortable on the land that never moved.  She and her bear sailed on the circus boat Excalibur and were waiting for their circus act to begin.  Tonight it would be a simple dance with Bear and a kiss. North loved Bear and Bear loved North.  North also had a secret.  Callanish and North, two girls so very different, yet so very alike.

This lovely book reads like a fairy tale.  It is the story of a water world, our world, drowned and become a sea dotted with scattered archipelagos.  The little isles are peopled with landlockers who must be bribed and persuaded to share their food with the damplings who endlessly sail the world. I was totally drawn into this world, totally involved in the lives of the people, was enchanted by the beautiful prose. I came to love all the characters, even those who were not so nice.  The book is suitable for older teens and I highly recommend it.

eGalley review       Publication date 5.19.15

Posted in fiction | Tagged