The Shadows Between Us – Tricia Levenseller

Shadows Between UsFrom the publisher, “They still haven’t found the body of the first and only boy who broke Alessandra’s heart—and they never will. Since then, all of her relationships have been purely physical. And now at eighteen years old, Alessandra is ready for more. The plan is simple:

1. Make the king fall in love with her.
2. Get him to marry her.
3. Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

It’s no small task, but Alessandra wants a kingdom and is going to do everything within her power to get it. She knows the freshly crowned Shadow King will be her toughest target yet. Shrouded in a mysterious power, no one is allowed to touch him.”

But, as forces combine to try and keep Alessandra from earning the king’s heart, she wonders if perhaps she’s already lost her own.”

The author has cleverly written an excellent story involving passion, intrigue and scheming, around two characters who are not terribly likeable.  Alessandra is a narcissist and Kallias is a brooding power-hungry king obsessed with expanding his empire, caring not a whit about his people.  They deserve each other, but together, not the rulers I’d want running a kingdom.  Alessandra becomes a bit more personable as she makes friends at court and as she comes to love Kallias.  The storytelling is excellent, crisp writing, action, fast moving plot, romance, and a twist at the end.  I’ve enjoyed the author’s other books and will continue to eagerly read everything she writes.

eGalley review                                                  Publication date 2.25.2020

Posted in fantasy | Tagged

The Warsaw Protocol – Steve Berry

Warsaw ProtocolYea!!! Once again Cotton Malone has been persuaded by his old boss, Stephanie Nelle to come out of retirement, just one more time. Cotton is in Bruges attending a rare books auction for a client when he becomes involved in trying to prevent a theft of a sacred relic from a cathedral and ends up in jail (of course he does) and is released at the request of Nelle (of course he is). It seems that there is to be an auction of incriminating information about the president of Poland with several countries invited, Russia and the United States in the mix. Nelle is unhappy with the designated U.S. representative and talks Cotton into attending. The ensuing romp takes us from Bruges to Poland to the ancient salt mines near Krakow. There are plenty of twists of plot and narrow escapes, lots of blood and action. And of course, the best part is the afterword where Berry tells what is history, what is fiction.

I love the Cotton Malone books, they always have an interesting historic background, there is always a great plot and tons of action. And in spite of Cotton’s life being in danger at every turn, you know he will survive with only a few scratches.

eGalley review                                                                  Publication date 2.25.2020

Posted in adult, historical fiction, mystery, suspense, Uncategorized | Tagged

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories – Ken Liu

Hidden GirlThere are sixteen stories, an excerpt from book three in the Dandelion Dynasty series, The Veiled Throne, and a new novelette. I sometimes skip the preface, (mainly when I am itching to start reading a favorite author like Ken Liu) and I am so glad I took time to read it this time. Not only did Liu explain how and why he selected stories, he mentioned that these stories are best understood if read in order. Since I usually jump around, that was very good advice.

The stories are so varied in subject. Some I loved, some not so much. My favorites were ones that addressed contemporary issues, like global warming and family relationships. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around human consciousness uploaded to computers, but I liked the stories anyway. My favorite was the title story, “The Hidden Girl,” a story of a Chinese girl kidnapped when she was ten and trained to become an assassin. “Memories of My Mother” and “Seven Birthdays” were also among my favorites. Ken Liu writes wonderful sci-fi and fantasy, and I found all of the stories thought provoking, even the ones I didn’t like so much.

eGalley review                                                  Publication date 2.25.2020

Posted in adult, science fiction, story collection

All the Stars and Teeth – Adalyn Grace

All the Stars and TeethFrom the publisher, “Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice, Adalyn Grace’s All the Stars and Teeth is a thrilling fantasy for fans of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer—the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous magic. When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.  But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder—and more peril—than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stowaway she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.”

The demonstration of her power goes awry by torturing with the slow dismemberment of a criminal.  Rather gory, but that’s the tools of her trade or magic.  Bastian is the good looking, rugged, determined hero. Ferrick, Amora’s finance, stows away when they flee and quickly proves his worth as his magic heals.  I was very slow to warm up to privileged Amora but her character developed nicely so it was easier to root for her.  Poor Ferrick, at first it seemed he was all in favor of the arranged marriage, but his critical review of Amora’s flaws turned the tide, showing his strength in character.  Vataea, the mermaid, is my favorite as she is vicious and clever and quite likeable.  Her story could be a book in itself. The plot boils down to being an adventure book where the group fights perils, has many near misses, and grow in character during the journey.  It’s fun, but nothing unique in the plot, thus predictable. The story fits a niche and should gain a following with the YA target audience.  Book one of a planned duology.

eGalley review                                              Publication date 02.04.2020

Posted in adventure, fantasy | Tagged , ,

Remembered – Yvonne Battle-Felton

RememberedThe book begins in Philadelphia during a streetcar strike in 1910 with a newspaper clipping about a streetcar being driven by a black man into a department store. Then we go with his mother, Spring, to the hospital where she sits by Edward’s bed, determined to tell him about himself and about her struggle to survive as a slave. Accompanied by the ghost of her sister, she begins by telling him a story that spans several generations. It begins with a free black 12-year-old girl who was kidnapped in 1843 and taken to a Maryland farm to be a “breeder”. The account that follows is difficult to read as the violence and brutalities are told with detail. I read this book because it is longlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction. It is a story that needs to be told, a telling of women’s trials as slaves and as free, but at times it is evident that this is a debut for the author. I tended to lose characters in the narrative, sometimes the plot twists are telegraphed. Over all, It just felt a bit uneven.

eGalley review                                                   Publication date 2.4.2020

Posted in adult, historical fiction | Tagged ,

The Blossom and the Firefly – Sherri L. Smith

Blossom and the FireflyFrom the publisher, “From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war, perfect for fans of Salt to the Sea, Lovely War, and Code Name Verity.

Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country…until he meets Hana. Hana hasn’t been the same since the day she was buried alive in a collapsed trench during a bomb raid. She wonders if it would have been better to have died that day…until she meets Taro.  A song will bring them together. The war will tear them apart. Is it possible to live an entire lifetime in eight short days?”

Eloquently written, the story of two souls whose lives are directed by the war.  Who they could have been and who they became.  The author captures the culture, the history, and the waste involved in the war from a perspective we often do not glimpse.  The stories of Taro and Hana are seamlessly woven by an expert storyteller.  I am a huge fan of the author and eagerly read everything she writes.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                 Publication date 2.18.20

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

A Castle in the Clouds – Kerstin Gier, Romy Fursland (translated by)

Castle in the CloudsFrom the publisher, “Witty and charming, this contemporary young adult novel follows a girl as she navigates secrets, romance, and danger in an aging grand hotel.  Way up in the Swiss mountains, there’s an old grand hotel steeped in tradition and faded splendor. Once a year, when the famous New Year’s Eve Ball takes place and guests from all over the world arrive, excitement returns to the vast hallways.  Sophie, who works at the hotel as an intern, is busy making sure that everything goes according to plan. But unexpected problems keep arising, and some of the guests are not who they pretend to be. Very soon, Sophie finds herself right in the middle of a perilous adventure—and at risk of losing not only her job, but also her heart.  The holiday romance of Love Actually meets the playful mystery of Clue in this captivating novel for teens.”

The majority of the book is about the operations of a grand old luxury hotel nestled in the Swiss Alps.  We meet and quickly come to love Sophie, the young intern, and the multitude of hotel employees and guests.  Sophie is tasked with many jobs and during the festive winter holidays, assists in child care.  She is kind, cute, witty, and has a delightful sense of humor.  The wealthy guests arrive for the holidays and the possible crimes are introduced: burglary or kidnapping.  The story builds slowly but that’s just fine.  I could feel the hotel and get to know the characters.  The last part of the book is action-packed, moving quickly and invoking a few twists.  Best for readers who prefer a story that develops with richness, a story that may inadvertently cause a yearning for the Swiss Alps full of old character hotels.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                      Publication date 1.28.20

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