The Murderer’s Ape – Jakob Wegelius

murderers-apeSally Jones is an ape.  She was captured years before and lived through many trials before the story opens.  She is highly intelligent and quite mechanically gifted.  Sally does not communicate vocally but can write and this story is her memoir that opens after she was saved by Captain Koskela.  Koskela and Sally sailed the seas, picking up cargo and delivering to ports around the world.  It was a happy and contented life, until they accepted a suspicious job that led to the sinking of their beloved ship and the imprisonment of Koskela in Lisbon for murder.  Alone in Lisbon, Sally is miserable and hides until she is befriended by Ana who has a beautiful and captivating singing voice.  The people that Sally meets during her journeys are building blocks to clear Koskela of his wrong conviction.

Each character that Sally meets is meticulously fletched out with a back story that adds to Sally’s adventures.  From the Maharadjan in Bhapur to the gentle accordion maker to troubled Alphonse Morro.  But it is Sally – her pure heart, her strong work ethic, her loyalty – Sally is the star.  She never gives up, she thinks and thinks until she has figured out a plan.  Except for those that are truly evil, Sally brings out the best in those around her.  I wish I had a Sally in my life.    The author also illustrates in beautiful detail, charming pictures that enhance the story.   It is a rather long book because Sally has amazing travels, fraught with danger, hardships, and delights and I wanted even more.  Originally published in Sweden, this book has already won awards in Europe.  The translation by Peter Graves is exceedingly well done so that the writing flows naturally. The Murderer’s Ape is one of a kind and should win accolades in the States. I am eager for the publisher to buy the rights to more from the author.   Highly recommend!

eGalley review                                                 Publication date 1.24.17

Posted in adventure, highly recommend, mystery, Uncategorized

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

caravelScarlett and Tella’s mother disappeared years ago, leaving them to be raised by an increasingly cruel father.  If he perceives one has misbehaved, he hurts the other as punishment. Their father is the governor of an island and has forbidden his daughters from leaving.  However, to improve the status of his name, he has arranged the marriage of Scarlett to a Duke on the mainland.  Scarlett has never met the Duke but envisions he will protect her and her sister and end their life of torment from their father.

Their grandmother told the girls stories about Caraval created by Legend – a magical play where the invited guests solve a mystery to win a wish.  Every year, Scarlett has written Legend to ask they bring the play to the island.  One year, she receives an answer and tickets to Caraval, located off the island.  The girls manage to get themselves to Caraval with the help of Justin, who joins Scarlett in the game . . . a deadly game with dire consequences.

Scarlett in many ways is a stereotype: protective big sister, marriage as a way out of a bad situation, poor judge of character, naive.  And there is a rather lot of introspection that the reader must endure.  Scarlett takes many missteps but that is fine.  For her first foray off the island and into this magical world of intrigue and deception, she does fairly well.  Caravel feels like a blend of Alice and Wonderland, Disney World and Murder Mystery Theater.  Tella is an interesting character that looks to have a larger role in the next book.  This is good and unique for YA lit.  Adventure, mystery, romance and magical games where nothing is as it seems.

eGalley review                                            Publication date 1.31.17

Posted in adventure, mystery, Uncategorized

An Eagle in the Snow – Michael Morpurgo

an-eagle-in-the-snowBritain’s most decorated private during World War I Henry Tandey. This is the fictionalized account of his life, his heroics, his bravery, and his morals.  Morals so strong he could not bring himself to shoot an injured German.  Years later, it is thought the life he spared was young Adolph Hitler.  The story of Private Henry Tandey unfolds when Barney and his mother are traveling to safety after their home was destroyed during the bombing of Coventry.  During the ride, an older gentleman retells the story of his friend’s exploits during World War I.

The story is a brief overview of a brave man, who did his duty, saved lives and did so without seeking recognition.  He repeatedly saved wounded soldiers and went on dangerous missions.  Brevity is key to this impactful story.  The focus is not on details of the battles, but on the man who shunned the spotlight while fighting for Britain.  Another excellent story from the acclaimed author.

eGalley review                                         Publication date 1.17.17

Posted in historical fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Ever the Hunted – Erin Summerill

ever-the-huntedBritta’s mother was murdered when she was an infant leaving her to be raised by her father in a remote cabin in the woods. He was a bounty hunter for the king and taught Britta and apprentice Cohen to hunt and track.  Britta and Cohen grew close but following a terrible animal attack, Cohen abruptly left.  Soon after, her father was murdered.  Utterly alone and starving, Britta was caught poaching and was offered a deal to save her life.  She was told that Cohen murdered her father and was on the run.  Britta was to accompany the captain of the guard and track down Cohen.  How can the man she loved, who also loved her father have killed him?

While the plot elements are familiar – kingdoms at war, deception, manipulation, false accusations, learning to use a magical ability – the writing flows well. The characters feel true and Britta makes for a highly skilled heroine.  Cohen is the stoic, kind-hearted hero.  I do wish there was more about Enat.  Perhaps subsequent installments will reveal her complex backstory.

eGalley review                                     Publication date 12.27.16

 

Posted in adventure, fantasy, Uncategorized | Tagged

The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories – Terry Pratchett

witchs-vacuum-cleanerThere is an ant searching for a better life and statues that walk and talk. There are witches, trolls, magic, adventure . . . even the wild, wild, west (West Wales, that is). Fourteen little stories full of everything you could want.

This is a collection of short stories that Terry Pratchett wrote for a weekly newspaper when he was only seventeen. I have long been a fan, and found it interesting to see the beginnings of his wit, imagination, originality, and to get a glimpse of books to come. Suggested as suitable for young teens, I feel that the stories are better as read alouds for younger children. They are too sweet and simplistic for today’s teens, but I enjoyed every one.

eGalley review                        Publication date 1.3.17

Posted in fantasy, highly recommend | Tagged

Iceling – Sasha Stephenson

icelingLorna’s father is a scientist and was working in the Arctic when he discovered a boat drifting.  They board and discover babies. No crew.  Just babies.  Many died, but those that survived were placed with families that had a child near the same age as the Arctic babies called Icelings.  Lorna’s family adopted Callie.  Now, 17, Lorna has developed a closer relationship to Callie than their parents.  Callie does not speak and is prone to fits along with strange behavior.  Lorna is the one who takes her to the hospital after the worst episodes.  There, she meets Stan who is older brother and caretaker to Ted, another Iceling who also does not speak and is strangely aggressive.

One night, both Icelings independently make replicas of an island.  Stan and Lorna get Callie and Ted together and the bond is instant.  The two Icelings insist on a road trip North.  So Stan and Lorna get in the car and drive.  Along the way, they meet up with other Icelings on this mysterious journey to their home.  Some think the Icelings are designed to be a deadly weapon, others think they were just abandoned babies.

This reminds me a bit of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, when those getting the alien invite make the journey to view the spaceships.  Some things  do not add up – minutiae really.  Is it realistic for parents to leave a 17-year-old in charge of a special needs child for two weeks?  The long narratives and character musings slowed things down a bit but did yield better understanding of Lorna.  Interesting premise.

eGalley review                                          Publication date 12.13.16

Posted in mystery, science fiction, Uncategorized

Flashfall – Jenny Moyer

flashfallGenerations ago, a series of radiation storms began to destroy civilization.  The government erected a shield made of a unique element, cirium, to protect the capital city.  Some of the population were labeled as subpars and they and their offspring were doomed to slave in caves mining cirium.  A carrot was dangled in front of the miners.  If they mined a certain amount they would earn entrance to the city and become free.

Orion is a gifted caver. She has a special sense for finding the cirium in the very dangerous conditions. Her long-time caving partner, Dram, helps her fend off all manner of yucky creatures determined to kill the cavers.  And of course the longer the cavers mine, the more radiation they are exposed to.  Orion and Dram escape and are recaptured many times trying to find a way out for the subpars.

Tenacious and cunning, Orion is a true fighter and heroine to root for.  Her buddy, Dram is equally courageous and endearing.  Well written and chock full of adventure, action, danger and surprise.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                     Publication date 11.15.16

Posted in adventure, dystopian, science fiction, Uncategorized