Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

wolf by wolfAlternate history!  The year is 1956 and Nazi Germany and Japan rule most of the world.  To celebrate their domination, both countries select their best young men to compete in an arduous cross-country motorcycle race – The Axis Tour.  One year, a teen girl, Adele Wolfe, enters the competition and wins much to the delight of the Adolf Hitler, who has become both reclusive and surrounded by security.  Hitler celebrates the victory by asking the girl to dance.  This is the basis of a plan by the resistance to kill Adolf Hitler and topple the reign of terror.

This is Yael’s story.  She was brought to a Jewish death camp as a young child and selected for medical experiments designed to genetically change her appearance.  After her escape from the camp, she stumbles into the resistance where she is groomed to one day kill Adolf Hitler.  To do this, she must assume the identity of Adele and then win the grueling motorcycle race so she can get close enough to Hitler to kill him.

This is a really good book, really good.  I was rooting for Adele/Yael, her brother, and former victor, Luka, each in turn to win the race.  But of course there is only one winner.  The odds against the plan succeeding are immense but they must try.  Woven into the story is Yael’s past.  Her life in the death camp, the experiments, her dedication to the resistance, the lives lost, her life lost – the nuances in weaving the story from present to past and back again . . . brilliant!  The writing is extremely well crafted and succeeded in holding my attention throughout.  Never a dull moment or a misplaced word.  I want to know more about the real Adele Wolfe – why she entered the race and what really happened during that race, and also Luka’s backstory, plus the ramifications of Yael’s actions.  Wolf by Wolf is the first book of a duology, with the sequel due in Fall 2016.  This book will surely win many accolades.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                            Publication date 10.20.15

Posted in adventure, highly recommend | Tagged , ,

SandRider: TodHunter Moon, Book Two – Angie Sage

sandriderThey’re back!  All the rich characters from the Septimus Heap series and the spinoff TodHunter Moon series bring another sparkling adventure to entertain.  I like Tod.  She’s smart and serious and works things out.  Rather than fretting about, she just handles it.  This time, we are meeting characters from a desert region where a young girl is thrust into an adventure after an evil man kidnaps her young sister.  His intent is to keep the girl hostage to force her mother to protect a mysterious egg that must hatch.  This is the Orm’s egg and after it hatches, will create Lapis Lazuli the stones that enable Magyk.  Tod and Septimus must not let the hatchling imprint on the evil sorcerer but first, they must find it.  Spit Fyre, feeling a kinship with the Orm, tracks the egg and sets up watch.

The adventures twist and turn while the characters reunite and part, to tell another delightful story.  These books are just fun to read.  With each publication, it’s like coming home.  Highly recommend!

eGalley review                     Publication date 10.13.15

Posted in fantasy, highly recommend | Tagged ,

A Thousand Nights – E. K. Johnston

A thousand nightsA desert demon has entwined itself into the mind of desert king Lo-Melkhiin.  The good king stays entrapped within a corner of his own mind while the demon rules the kingdom.  The demon, in the body of Lo-Melkhiin, travels from village to village taking a bride who rarely lasts the night.  He has killed 300  brideus until he comes to the tents of a wealthy merchant.  The oldest and most beautiful of two close sisters will surely be chosen as the next bride/victim.  But the younger sister dresses as the older and is taken to be the next bride.  She is different and has power of her own.  She survives a thousand nights as his wife and queen.

The description of the harsh desert life is described as wondrous yet hardening.  The strong female characters are central to the story, from Lo-Melkhiin’s mother to the servants who all play a part in helping this most recent bride.  The mystical elements can be a bit hard to follow, but it really doesn’t matter.  It is an enchanting story and cleverly told.

eGalley review                         Publication date 10/6/15

Posted in fantasy, folklore | Tagged ,

Madly – Amy Alward

MadlyThe Princess Evelyn mixed an illegal love potion with unintended disastrous effects.  A Wilde Hunt is called to find a cure for the princess and save the kingdom.  Samantha Kemi, who inherited a talent for mixing potions answers the call and teams with their family’s Finder who travels the world seeking rare ingredients.  Their direct competition is the father/son team who reportedly cheated Sam’s family during a previous Wild Hunt by developing a synthetic potion.  To complicate things, the son is the dashing Zain, reported boyfriend of the princess, the intended victim of the love potion gone wrong. Also in the race is the evil exiled aunt of the princess who is determined to win the hunt and takeover the kingdom.

The hunt for the rare ingredients takes them into dangerous regions and of course, Sam develops feelings for Zain.  Danger abounds at every turn and the race to save the princess appears doomed.  Samantha is a fun heroine and Zain plays a good role but it is resourceful Kirsty the finder who is intriguing.  There hopefully a story to come about her past adventures.  And Sam’s little sister, Molly, is brave and wise beyond her years and still developing her magic.  Madly is the first in a planned series and should be very successful.  I look forward to reading the next in the series.  Highly recommend!

eGalley review                                Publication date 9.29.15

Posted in adventure, fantasy, highly recommend

The Scorpion Rules – Erin Bow

scorpion rulesFuture Earth has scarce resources and has been ravaged with wars as a result.  For generations, an AI by the name of Talis, has endeavored to reign in the wars by holding the child of each ruler hostage – the Children of Peace.  When nations go to war, Talis sends a Swan Rider to kill their beloved child.  Make war personal.  The Children of Peace are raised together, groomed simultaneously to rule a nation and also be sacrificed for a nation.  When Elian becomes the most recent hostage, the group dynamics change.  Elian’s nation and Greta’s nation are on the brink of war over water and both teens know their execution is imminent.

A study of war and peace, of resistance and compliance, of humanity and artificial intelligence are all explored in this dramatic, cleverly crafted first novel in a planned series.  Greta is more than a mere pawn and tool for Talis.  She is the key to the future for all humanity.  This is one of the best dystopian novels I have read in a very long time.  Rich with characters, drama, sacrifice, and death, the reader is left with much to consider.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                     Publication date 9.22.15

Posted in dystopian, highly recommend, science fiction | Tagged ,

Ash & Bramble – Sarah Prineas

ash & brambleFairy tales are not pretty.  Where do all of the beautiful dresses, fancy shoes, and unique tools manufactured that are so prominently featured in fairy tales?  It turns out the Godmother is a cruel slave master who kidnaps skilled tradesmen, wipes their memories and sets them to work in a horrid fortress with no hope of escape in order to supply her fairy tales with the finery.   Things change within the fortress when a new seamstress slave is acquired who is determined to escape and take the shoemaker with her.

This is the story of Shoe and Pin and the evil Godmother who are all puppets to the mechanism of Story.  Much more than a retelling of Cinderella, it is a behind the scenes look at the myriad of characters involved in a Story and the force in play to create a “happy ending”.  Rich with characters and a plot that peaks and settles, peaks and settles, it was a delight to read every page.  This is not a girly fairy tale, but one I hope gains a readership in boys as well.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                         Publication date 9.15.15

Posted in folklore, highly recommend | Tagged ,

The Seventh Most Important Thing – Shelley Pearsall

seventh most important thingArthur is going through a lot.  His dad died and after a while his mom discarded the father’s clothes.  When Arthur sees the local Junk Man, known for going through garbage, wearing his father’s hat, Arthur loses it and throws a brick at the Junk Man.  He spends time in juvie and at the hearing, when the Junk Man hears the reason why Arthur assaulted him, he offers Arthur probation time working for him.  Arthur spends hours collecting for the injured Junk Man.  He has a list of specific objects to scavenge; a list comprised of the seven most important things.  It turns out the Junk Man is turning these bits of trash into a spectacular work of art.

Arthur, his new friend, Squeak, and the Junk Man (James Hampton) are all misunderstood and examples of how it is so important not to judge a person based on first impressions and outward appearance.  The author’s note with photographs of the actual work of art by James Hampton is much appreciated.  This is a quick read and quite endearing.

eGalley review                       Publication date 9.8.15

Posted in realistic fiction | Tagged ,