“Nine on an island, orphans all, Any more, the sky might fall.”
An idyllic island is home to nine orphans, each one year apart in age. Every year, a boat delivers a small child who is about 5 years old. Then the oldest on the island is expected to hop in the boat to leave the island. This ensures there will always be nine on the island. The new oldest is the Elder and takes charge of the new arrival. Jinny’s close friend, Deen, is the recent Elder who leaves the island despite her pleas for him to stay. Jenny is now the Elder and takes small Ess under her wing to teach her the ways of the island. She has a year with her Charge to teach her how to read, swim, hunt, prepare food, and all the tasks required to survive on the peaceful island.
The children all get along quite nicely and they thrive. They don’t question why they are there or ponder life beyond the island. However, during Jinny’s Elder year, she does begin to question the meaning of it all. As her time draws close to leave the island, the boat arrives with a screaming young boy, Loo. But Jinny refuses to get in the boat and decides to stay and continue her reign as Elder depriving Ben, next in line, of the role.
A lyrical book for the thoughtful reader, Orphan Island describes an island that would be a lovely place to visit. The island cares and provides for the children – as long as all is in balance. When Jinny decides to stay, she makes the self-absorbed and head strong decision that affects all of them. We see her change and question her actions and by doing so, grow as a person. An excellent read for the gentle reader. Highly recommend.
eGalley review Publication date 5.30.17
Following the death of Sage’s peasant father, a fowler who taught Sage all he knew, Sage is taken in by her noble uncle. She is a natural teacher and tutors his children until she reaches the age for marriage. Arranged marriages are the norm for the noble class. Sage tried to play the role of the obedient, helpless, young lady. Alas, it was clear she did not meet the qualifications to be matched. Sage is too independent, too outdoorsy, too inquisitive to be matched. Instead, she apprentices with the aging matchmaker. The matchmaker for the kingdom strives to make matches that best suit the temperament of the available noble men and women while also making the political matches that best suit their families. Sage is to observe the girls the matchmaker has chosen as they all caravan across the kingdom to the big marriage ceremony.
Captain Quinn is a career military officer. His father is the General. Even his little brother is in the army. Quinn is also protective of his cousin, the Crown Prince who is in his unit. Quinn’s unit is assigned to escort the matchmaker’s brides to the ceremony, stopping along the way at the fortress of a noble suspected of rebellious activity. Quinn suspects a plot to create an alliance with a neighboring kingdom and to kidnap the Crown Prince. Quinn uses Sage as a spy when things get tricky. Plots and scheming abound as Quinn and Sage work to thwart a violent rebellion.
The author shows the differences of the social classes and how noble families use women as pawns to gain political strength. Sage is a strong protagonist: smart, inquisitive, adaptable, instigator. She is instantly likeable as is Captain Quinn. Quinn is the duty-bound career soldier, loyal to his kingdom and his family. The story moves at a brisk pace and never bogs down. Just enough character introspection to flesh out the characters and draw the reader in. A bit of romance dots the action sequences and the character plot twists are excellent. The political strategizing is well conceived and executed. For the reader who enjoys the political maneuvering in a kingdom, this is a very good read. It had my attention the entire length of the novel. The first in a planned trilogy, I hope to read more about all the characters. Even the secondary characters are interesting. Well done!
eGalley review Publication date 5.9.17
It is 1944, the Manhattan Project has been underway for several years, and the goal is finally in sight. Little Boy is ready to be dropped on the enemy. With any luck, Berlin will soon be rubble and Hitler turned to ashes. Yes, I said Berlin, Hitler, 1944. I have long associated Gregory Benford with events that happen in a galaxy far, far away. This alternative history is a welcome treat. Benford skillfully mixes true accounts of members of the Manhattan Project with what might have been, what might have happened if the bomb had been produced more quickly, had been used against Germany. The players are real, Urey, Fermi, Bohr, Oppenheimer, Teller. The science is real, much of the story is real. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it.
eGalley review Publication date 5.9.17
Mariko knew her purpose as the daughter of a prominent Samurai was to be pawn in political maneuvering by being given as a bride to a family of higher standing. She is being delivered to her fiancé, the second son of the Emperor, when her caravan is attacked. Hidden by the dead body of her servant, she is the only survivor of the slaughter that was ordered to kill her. Who wants her dead and why? Mariko believes it is the Black Clan that was hired to do the deed. For once she decides to take control of her future and rather than make her way home, she disguises herself as a boy and journeys deep into the forest to find the Black Clan. She is impressed with the leader, Ranmaru, who is deeply respected by his loyal outlaws. She thinks very little of Okami, until she sees his fighting prowess. Ranmaru accepts her into the group and orders her training. In truth, the Black Clan is a Japanese Robin Hood type outfit. Despite their honor and overall compassionate behavior, Mariko persists in believing the Black Clan attacked her caravan. Meanwhile, Mariko’s fierce twin brother, Samurai Kenshin is tracking her and does not believe she was killed. Lots of inward thinking leads her to revelation that the Black Clan acts more like a family than her true family.
While formulaic – the pampered noble who must quickly adapt; forbidden love; Robin Hood; revenge; family honor, political manipulation – the story works. The writing is descriptive so that the feel of the forest is ever present and the characters are clearly drawn. However, one thing that is bothering me is that the conversations between Okami and Mariko when she was disguised as a boy, were rather flirtatious when Mariko tried to converse as a man. I tended to lose track of names and the abundant insertion of Japanese words is a bit annoying but I happily read it all and am eager to go back and read her other books. Great for readers eager for adventure, bloodshed and political maneuvering set in feudal Japan – oh yes, a bit of romance too.
eGalley review Publication date 5.16.17
The much craved for sequel to Girl, Stolen (crazy popular on my campus) is everything April Henry fans come to expect. The story opens months after Cheyenne’s escape from her kidnappers. Cheyenne is preparing for her testimony against Roy, the mastermind of the sorry lot that held her for ransom. Griffin, Roy’s son, who helped Cheyenne escape is also preparing for his testimony against his abusive father. The past many months, Cheyenne’s wealthy father hired a bodyguard/self-defense trainer for her. She is preparing Cheyenne to be ready for any attack and to know how to defend herself. Cheyenne is blind, so she teaches strategies to utilize her other senses to help her in a dangerous situation.
Sure enough, Cheyenne decides to sneak out, falling right into the same danger she was in before. April Henry is the master of teen suspense. She puts her characters in life-threatening situations and excels in bringing the reader along smack in the middle of the action, fully engaging the reader. It is also an opportunity to learn how best to avoid dangerous situations and how to respond when danger appears. I appreciate the research notes that tell how she researched her novels. Extra points for great cover and title. Highly recommend!
eGalley review Publication date 5.2.17
Annabelle (AB) is a highly organized, borderline control freak, high school senior who is dealing with a major disruption in her life. Her parents just announced they are divorcing and selling the only home she has ever known. Elliott, her older brother’s band mate and long time family friend, seems to be the only one to understand AB despite their long history of mutual irritation with each other. Meanwhile, in her writing class, a guest author, Lucy Keating, describes a book she is writing and it happens to fit AB’s life to detail. AB stops her after class and Lucy does admit that she IS writing her life, but not to worry because she is departing from her sad and tragic novels to a ‘happy-ending’ story. Sure enough, new transfer student, Will strolls into AB’s life and becomes instantly enamored with AB. Will is absolutely perfect for her. But she finds herself also drawn to Elliott, her polar opposite. Lucy Keating wants to avoid her usual love triangle plot line so her writing makes things difficult for Elliott to pursue AB. Still Elliott perseveres. Fed up, AB and Will, who also realizes the absence of free will, confront author Lucy Keating and demand control of their lives.
While reading, I kept comparing this to screenwriter Zach Helms’ 2006 release film Stranger than Fiction. That storyline was much better – plot, characters, story arcs – much better and significantly more depth all around. Literally is a much shorter story so that level of development should not be expected. For the teen reader not familiar with the movie, Literally, is a unique offering so that it should be popular. The writing advances the story at a good pace. Explanations of writing elements, character development, plot devices, etc. are a nice benefit to the reader/writer. Good for the teen looking for a light-hearted and rather quick read, sprinkled with a bit of romance.
eGalley review Publication date 4.11.17
Noemi is a fighter pilot for the planet Genesis, colonized by Earth inhabitants after Earth was ruined by pollution. Genesis has rebelled against Earth’s control and has been locked in battle for many decades. Earth’s cybernetics genius, Burton Mansfield, created sophisticated robots for various tasks, including models designed to be soldiers. Earth takes a cowardly approach to war by utilizing robots as fighter pilots, thus sparing humans. Thousands of ships manned by Earth’s robots stream through the wormhole connecting the two planets, while Genesis fights with a young generation of brave soldiers.
Noemi is part of a scouting mission for the planned Masada Run. In weeks, Genesis pilots will go on a suicide mission to self-implode at the mouth of the wormhole hoping to destabilize the wormhole for a few years buying time for Genesis to regroup. While on the scouting mission, Noemi’s best friend is attacked so Noemi lands their fighters inside an abandoned Earth ship in the hopes there is a functioning sick bay. Noemi finds Abel, the most human of Mansfield’s robotic creations, who was abandoned 30 years ago during an emergency evacuation. Abel’s programming requires him to obey Noemi’s commands. Abel divulges that there is a possible way of permanently destroying the wormhole, thus ending Earth’s attacks forever. To accomplish this, the two travel to several Earth colonies and meet others determined to fight Earth’s domination.
The author deftly relays Abel’s inner struggles with his developing consciousness. I cheered at his ultimate act of defiance and acknowledgement of his own soul. The overriding themes of love and sacrifice support the daring action sequences. Abel and Noemi shared the starring roles with an enjoyable supporting cast that will surely have a recurring part in the sequel. The plot is set for the next book that I will eagerly read. Highly recommend.
eGalley review Publication date 4.4.17