Tag Archives: pre-release review

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Series: Flame in the Mist, Book 1
Published by: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers on May 16, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Mariko, the daughter of an influential samurai, finds she has few choices in life. Though she is intelligent, skilled, and driven, her place is to marry the son of the emperor and do her duty to her family. But when her convoy is attacked by the Black Clan on her way to the imperial city, Mariko escapes and finds herself alone. Using her cunning, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan in disguise, and she soon learns there is more to the story of this rogue gang that she had imagined. She also finds that the Black Clan values her knowledge and skills in a way her family never seemed to do. And as she grows closer to the Black Clan’s leader, she finds she may need to make a hard decision about whether her duty to her family is the most important thing for her to consider.

I was a little uncertain of what to expect when I started this book, having only scanned the blurb but hearing a lot of buzz about it beforehand. It is certainly an intriguing story, one where history, social class, and vengeance are big influencers on the lives and actions of the characters. There are a few surprises along the way, which keep the story interesting, and it does a good job of setting up the rest of the series. I will note that while I have seen some categorizations of this as a young adult book, I question that–or at least place some caveats–because of some graphic depictions of violence that may not be appropriate for younger readers.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy received from the publisher via the First to Read program.]

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Woman No. 17

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Published by: Hogarth on May 9, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Author Lady Daniels needs to finish her memoir. And now that she’s separated from her husband, she realizes she may need some help. And that help comes in the form of S., a young artist who is willing to work as a nanny to make ends meet. She connects right away with Lady’s younger son, and Lady’s capable-of-taking-care-of-himself older son, Seth, does not seem to mind her all that much either. But as everyone in the house gets to know each other better, secrets bubble to the surface that everyone hoped would stay hidden. And sometimes the truth can be the most poisonous of all…

I found this to be an enjoyable and interesting read. There’s quite a bit of embedded commentary here on mother-daughter dynamics, both between Lady and S. and between each of them and their own mothers. Add in the interactions between Lady and her two sons, and there might be more here about parent-child relationships in general. And, of course, there is the question of truth and omission of fact. Is it okay to keep information from someone if you think it will protect them or make their life easier? Or is that really up to anyone else to decide besides the person it all affects? And when our secrets are revealed, regardless of how it happens, do we really have anyone else to blame but ourselves?

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher via the First to Read program.]

There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon

There Your Heart Lies

There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon

Published by: Pantheon Books on May 9, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Marian never really felt like she fit with the rest of her family, with the exception of her brother, Johnny, who she felt was truly a kindred spirit. And after his tragic death, she broke ties with them and headed to Europe to volunteer during the Spanish Civil War. Now in her nineties, Marian relays her experiences to her granddaughter, Amelia, telling a story that spans two continents and over seven decades. Having been tested by family, friends, strangers, and circumstances, Marian’s story challenges notions of what it means to be a woman, a sister, a daughter, a mother, and a moral person in the face of adversity.

If you enjoy historical fiction and character studies, then this is a book you would be likely to enjoy. Mary Gordon weaves a tale that keeps you turning the pages, watching and waiting to see what happens next in Marian’s journey. Her story is a reflection of an eventful life lived, one of a woman who did the best she could despite the circumstances in which she found herself.

Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

Cold Summer

Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

Published by: Sky Pony Press on May 2, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Kale Jackson has an exciting special ability, but it is one that he is beginning to think is not quite so exciting anymore. He travels through time. That might sound fascinating to many people, but Kale cannot control it. Though he can usually tell when he’s likely to travel shortly before he does, he can’t stop it or force it to happen. And with his recent travels taking him back to World War II, fighting on the front lines as a sharpshooter, the danger has taken much of the fun out of the whole experience. Of course there’s also the fact that he cannot explain to most people why he disappears for days at a time without any notice. They would never believe him–including his own father.

But one person who has always believed Kale is Harper, a childhood friend who used to live next door. And when Kale finds out she’s returned for the summer, he has the smallest glimmer of hope that quickly fades. In the years that have gone by Kale has changed. But so has Harper. Although she promised she would never ask Kale where he travels, she is more assertive and insistent that Kale not resign himself to being alone. The two quickly reforge a friendship that has the potential to become something more. That is, until Harper looks up Kale’s involvement in World War II online. What she finds has the potential to change everything.
This is a wonderfully written young adult science fiction story that doesn’t rely on all of the tropes that are so common these days in the genre. Yes, there’s angst and a budding relationship, but they don’t drive the story. Instead we see Kale, a young man who feels very much at the mercy of this thing he can’t control or explain, finding his way back to feeling like he has some agency over his life. And we see Harper, a young woman who has recently claimed her own agency, working to feel comfortable with her choices while trying to help Kale do the same. And everyone will have to love Uncle Jasper. Definitely recommended reading!

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.]

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

The Wingsnatchers

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

Series: Carmer and Grit, Book 1
Published by: Algonquin Young Readers on April 25, 2017
Rating: 5 stars (★★★★★)

Felix Carmer III, aspiring inventor and tinkerer, sees his work as a magician’s apprentice as worthwhile but only a means to an end. But with his employer’s show not doing so well as of late, he finds himself invested in helping them win the grand prize in a magic competition–which may be more difficult than it seems. When he unexpectedly crosses paths with a faerie–a faerie??–he learns that there is a real magic that goes well beyond the tricks they perform in the show. But he also learns things that make him question some of the scientific advancements that have recently intrigued him as well.

Grit, faerie princess of the Seelie court, has never really felt like she fit in anywhere. Yes, she’s a princess, but she was born with only one wing and many would say she doesn’t act like a princess. But she isn’t going to set aside her sense of adventure or curiosity just because it is what people expect of her. And when faeries from across Skemantis start disappearing, she finds herself on a quest to help find out who is behind it. And that quest brings her to a young magician’s apprentice named Carmer. And while he seems an unlikely ally, he may just be the one person who can help her find out what is going on and put an end to it before more faeries are hurt.

I do not give many five-star ratings, but there was no question for me when I finished this book that it deserves it. I found myself quickly lost in the world of Skemantis, invested in the characters, and drawn to turn each page by wonderful pacing, description, and action. I particularly enjoyed the partnership between Carmer and Grit, both the way it developed and the dynamic between the two of them as the story drove on. For the first book in a series, this is a great start, and I look forward to reading future installments.

[Disclaimer: This review is based on an advance reading copy of the book received from the publisher in advance of publication.]

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Gone Without a Trace

Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

Published by: Berkley Books on April 18, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Hannah comes home one day to find her boyfriend has completely disappeared. It’s not just that he’s not at home. Everything of his is gone. He’s disappeared from her social media. His phone number is missing from her contacts. And his place of employment says he no longer works there. It’s as though his entire existence was a figment of her imagination. Except she knows it wasn’t. And her friends can confirm that for her. But where did he go? And why did he leave? And why do things keep turning up in her apartment when she’s not home? And why does she have the feeling that someone is watching her from a distance? She’s determined to find answers, regardless of what it means for everything else in her life.

This is definitely a page-turner. It opens with such an incredible question: How can someone completely disappear from your life? And did they do so willingly or should you immediately suspect foul play of some kind? Hannah feels like she might be losing her mind, and there’s clearly good reason why she may feel that way. The complicated web of connections and the untangling of it that is the plot of this story will keep you wondering right through to the end of the book.

[This review is based on an advance review copy received from the publisher via the First to Read program.]

At Attention by Annabeth Albert

At Attention

At Attention by Annabeth Albert

Series: Out of Uniform, Book 2
Published by: Carina Press on April 10, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Lieutenant Apollo Floros will not readily admit he needs help. But being a father to his two girls after his husband’s death has been a challenge. But his friend’s younger brother needs a place to stay and it just might be a win-win situation all around. Until Apollo sees Dylan all grown up and finds he is not so sure it could work. After all, Dylan always had a crush of his own on Apollo and the combination of them living together could be a recipe for disaster. But the girls take to Dylan right away and Apollo really could use the help…

When you put two headstrong and stubborn men who harbor an attraction for each other in the same house, it can be like sitting on a powder keg as sparks fall from the ceiling. And that is exactly what is packed into this story. But you can expect that when that powder keg does finally catch, there will be quite the explosion. There are those times when we stand in our own way and we just need someone to help us realize it in order to move forward.

[This review is based on an advance review copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.]

Before This is Over by Amanda Hickie

Before This Is Over

Before This is Over by Amanda Hickie

Published by: Little, Brown, and Company on March 28, 2017
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

The epidemic seemed to come out of nowhere, but Hannah knows that it does not take long for something like this to spread. And she is determined to do everything she can to protect her family from contracting the highly communicable and deadly illness. But staying alive in the face of disaster is not easy. And it can be further complicated when one cannot leave the house or be sure who to trust. And with symptoms taking up to two days to show themselves, Hannah also cannot be sure that she or any of her family have managed to avoid exposure. But where there is a will to survive, there’s always a way. Right?

If you’ve ever played the online game “Pandemic,” you know how this story starts. A disease starts in one small corner of the world, but with world travel being such a thing it quickly finds its way to other cities, other countries, and other continents. Before long, places start closing themselves off to outsiders, not wanting to let anyone in who could have been exposed. This also closes people in, though, and makes the struggle for resources almost as important as the quest to stay disease free. And thus is the world in which Hannah finds herself. It’s an interesting read that made me think how I might react myself in such a situation. It’s not something we ever expect to happen, but the reality is that it could probably happen just as quickly as it is described here. And would we be prepared?

[This review is based on an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.]

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Series: Dark Gifts, Book 1
Published by: Del Rey Books on February 14, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

The world is divided. There are the Equals who possess Skill, a form of inherent magic, and make up the ruling class in Britain and several other countries. And then there are the rest, the Unskilled, the commoners. And though Skill separates them, the Equals must ensure the commoners know their place. Which is why, when the Equals took power, the instituted the slavedays: all commoners must spend ten years in servitude to the Equals, either in a workhouse or on an Equal estate. It is only upon completion of the slavedays that a commoner has full rights in society.

For Luke and Abigail’s family, the slavedays have always been a bit of a shadow over them. Their parents didn’t complete their time before starting a family, so their place in the community has been limited. But in order to give their children more opportunities than they had, they’ve decided to complete them together, now, as a family. For Abigail (18), Luke (16), and Daisy (10), it seems a bit daunting, but they can appreciate having the support of their parents as they go through their ten-year of slave service. And Abigail has even arranged for them to work together at the estate of one of the foremost ruling families.

But things rarely ever go as planned. As the family departs to begin their service, they learn that Luke has been reassigned to the local slavetown and will not be joining them at the estate. While it at first seems devastating, Luke settles into his new community and quickly learns more about the Equals and the power dynamics in Britain than he ever learned in school. And he also learns that there are people who aren’t exactly happy with the current state of affairs and might just be prepared to do something about it.

Back at the estate, Abigail and Daisy are also settling in. Daisy is assigned to care for the illegitimate daughter of estate’s heir, which brings her into favor with the family, something she might just be able to use to her advantage. And Abigail finds herself drawn to the Unskilled son she is working for, as she grapples with feelings that might get her into more trouble than she bargained for.

But it turns out that the dissatisfaction with the current state of things doesn’t rest solely with the commoners. No, there are Equals who don’t like the direction Britain is headed, and they all have their reasons. In a game of politics and power, there is only so long to wait until everything reaches a tipping point and it all comes crashing down or explodes in a flurry of light. And this game provides no exception…

This is an incredible start to a new trilogy that had me on the edge of my seat for most of the book. The world building, the character development, the description–it’s all so wonderfully done. I had a very difficult time putting this down and ended up finishing it within the same day I started reading. It’s so easy to get lost in the world that Vic James has created.

There are some unexpected surprises along the way (I tried not to spoil much in my description above) that I didn’t see coming, but they still felt right. And there are some characters whose motivations I still find myself questioning–only because I don’t quite know which side of the fight they’re on. Something to explore in the future installments, to be sure!

I definitely recommend this to anyone interested in fantasy, dystopia, stories of intrigue, class/power struggles, and generally just good writing.

Off Base by Annabeth Albert

Off Base

Off Base by Annabeth Albert

Series: Out of Uniform, Book 1
Published by: Carina Press on January 9, 2017
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Having just completed his SEAL training, Zack Nelson is looking for some space of his own. Which is why he jumps at his senior chief’s offer to live in one of his rental properties in exchange for completing the renovations. Not only will he save money, but this will get him away from the team in the evening and give him some peace and quiet. But when a friend of a friend gets a job in San Diego and needs a place to stay, Zack reluctantly agrees to let him move in. Pike Reynolds is a nice enough guy, but Zack has a few problems with him. For one, Pike is very open about being gay. Two, Zack may have tried to kiss Pike one night when he was drunk. And three, Zack hasn’t really been able to stop thinking about Pike ever since. But Zack isn’t gay; he can’t be. His SEAL team and his family would never have it. And now that they will be sharing a living space, seeing each other every day–will Zack be able to keep his desire in check? And if he can’t, is he ready to deal with everything that would come along with that?

This is the start of a new series that flows right out of Albert’s #gaymers series, all of which I’ve previously read and reviewed. You don’t need to have read #gaymers to understand what’s happening here. (Though I would highly recommend it because it’s great! And if you have read it, you’ll recognize Ryan and Josiah from Connection Error.)

This is another one of those books that I think reminds us that everyone has their own narrative when it comes to their upbringing, their identity, and the way they present themselves to the world. Although we have an arsenal of labels that we love to assign to others, identity is personal and it is up to the individual to truly own that part of themselves. And it can be easy to assume everyone is coming from the same place we are, and that’s something that is so rarely true. When it comes to love and relationships, one shouldn’t sacrifice who they are for the other person, but it’s important to listen, to be understanding, and to be open to where the other person is coming from. If we place unreasonable expectations on each other (or on ourselves) then we’re more likely to find unhappiness and resentment rather than the love and bliss that we seek.

Pike and Zack live through this firsthand. But thankfully, they both know there’s a chance that they’ll each come around before too long. Or at least they can hope…

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]