Friday, March 23, 2018

ARC Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Aru Shah and the End of Time
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: Pandava Series (Book 1)
Publication: Rick Riordan Presents (March 27, 2018)

Description: Best-selling author Rick Riordan introduces this adventure by Roshani Chokshi about twelve-year-old Aru Shah, who has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she'll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru's doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don't believe her claim that the museum's Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it's up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

My Thoughts: Aru Shah is a seventh grader who lives in the Museum of Indian Art and Culture in Atlanta. Her mother is often gone on archaeological trips which leaves Aru lonely and prone to making up stories when she talks about her life to other students at the Augustus Day school. They go off on exotic vacations; she stays home waiting for some attention from her traveling mother. She uses all sorts of lies to make her feel better about herself.

One day, when some kids from her school who have been bullying her come to try to catch her in her lies, she decides to light a magic lamp that her mother has told her to avoid in order to impress them. Lighting the lamp frees an ancient demon whose job it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Now Aru has nine days to defeat him or watch the world end.

Aru does have a guide. Boo is a pigeon who is a reincarnation of Shakhuni, an ancient king who has some actions to atone for. Aru learns that she is the reincarnation of one of the ancient Pandava brothers who were heroes of the Mahabharata poem. They were created to save the world which seems pretty daunting to a twelve-year-old who goes off on her adventure in spiderman pajamas armed with her great imagination. She also meets Mini who is also one of the reincarnated Pandava brothers and who is another twelve-year-old. Mini is smart but more than a little neurotic.

Their adventures take them off to the Otherworld where they meet beings from Indian mythology and have adventures in a magical Costco and the Kingdom of the Dead. Along the way they become friends and learn a lot of things about each other and about themselves. They also learn that they are both more talented and braver than either could have imagined.

I liked the setting. I enjoyed learning more about Indian mythology. I liked both Aru and Mini who were great characters. I liked the humor of the juxtaposition of modern day middle school kids and ancient mythology. I can't wait to read more in this series.

Favorite Quote:
"Does that mean I get to do magical things, too? Do I get powers? Or a cape?"

"There shall be no capes."

"A hat?"


"Theme song?"

"Please stop."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

ARC Review: Lost Crow Conspiracy by Rosalyn Eves

Lost Crow Conspiracy
Author: Rosalyn Eves
Series: Blood Rose Rebellion (Book 2)
Publication: Knopf Books for Young Readers (March 27, 2018)

Description: Get ready for more magic in the dark, dazzling, action-packed sequel to Blood Rose Rebellion.

Sixteen-year old Anna Arden was once just the magically barren girl from an elite Luminate family. Now she has broken the Binding--and Praetheria, the creatures held captive by the spell, wreak havoc across Europe. Lower-class citizens have access to magic for the first time, while other Luminates lose theirs forever. Austria and Hungary are at odds once more.

Anna thought the Praetheria were on her side, grateful to be free from the Binding. She thought her cousin Matyas's blood sacrifice would bring peace, equality, justice. She thought her future looked like a society that would let her love a Romani boy, Gabor.

But with the Monarchy breathing down her neck and the Praetheria intimidating her at every turn, it seems the conspiracies have only just begun.

As threat of war sweeps the region, Anna quickly discovers she can't solve everything on her own. Now there's only one other person who might be able to save the country before war breaks out. The one person Anna was sure she'd never see again. A bandit. A fellow outlaw. A man known as the King of Crows. Matyas.

My Thoughts: Anna Arden thought that she was finished being a hero after breaking the Binding, freeing the praetheria, and securing Hungary's independence. She coming to terms with the death of her beloved Grandmama and the sacrifice of her cousin Matyas. But life couldn't be that easy. The upper class Luminates who lost their magic are resentful. Many commoners now have magic. The Austrian Empire wants Hungary back.

A Congress is being held in Vienna to discuss the fate of the Praetheria with no input from the praetheria. Russia wants to provide a refuge. Austria wants to regain Hungary. England wants to do anything to thwart Russia's land grab. Anna is being courted by Archduke Franz Joseph who is heir to the Austrian Empire but she is still in love with her Romani boy Gabor who is an aide in the Hungarian delegation.

Meanwhile, the praetheria have an agenda of their own. While some want to just want to live in peace, others are more interested in taking over the world and intent on using Anna to help them do so.

Still another faction of the praetheria has managed to bring Matyas back from the dead and want him to aide them in resisting those praetheria who want to conquer the world. Matyas isn't interested and falls in with a band of Robin Hood-like bandits and begins collecting preaetheria of his own who see him as a refuge and place of safely. Matyas doesn't want the responsibility; he doesn't see himself as any kind of hero. But events demand that he step up.

The story is divided into Anna's part and Matyas's part. Both are in danger and face tremendous dangers. They also both grow and change greatly in this middle book of a trilogy. Fans of epic fantasy which is also an alternate history story will enjoy this series. I'd start with book one though.

Favorite Quote:
There is no conduct manual for how to live with oneself after changing the world. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Book Review: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Royal Bastards
Author: Andrew Shvarts
Series: Royal Bastards
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (May 30, 2017)

Description: Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax's floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father's side, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who's been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards' Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana's uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead--with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart-if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

My Thoughts: Tilla is the bastard daughter of Lord Kent of the Western Province. When she was younger, her father paid a lot of attention to her but since he married and had three legitimate daughters, she has been set aside. She spends her time with her half-brother Jax who is a stablehand. She still wishes that her father would acknowledge her and she still admires him.

She is attending a banquet honoring the visit of the Archmagus and the Princess Lyriana who is heir to the throne. She is in the outskirts, sitting at the bastards' table, with Miles who is the bastard son of the head of House Hempstedt and Zell who is a disgraced Zitochi warrior. Things change quickly when the princess decides that she wants to join the bastards' table. The four kids decide to join Jax later for a trip through the hidden tunnels to the Whitesand beach. There they find themselves an unwilling audience to a coup. Tilla's father, along with Miles's mother and Zell's father, are killing the Archmagus and overhear that Zell's brother has been sent to kill Lyriana in her room.

The five of them have to flee to get word to the king. They head across the country being chased by Zitochi warriors including Zell's brother and other mercenaries too. The face all sorts of adventures along the way. Friendships grow and a romance blossoms too. Then there are losses and betrayals.

Fans of epic fantasy will enjoy this story. The characters, especially Tilla, are well-rounded and intriguing people. I can't wait for the second book in this series to find out what happens next.

Favorite Quote:
Could I really do it? Just run away and never set foot in Castle Waverly again, never lie down on Whitesand Beach, never see my father again? I thought of his face down at the beach, that wild, gleeful bloodlust that had made me want to scream. Could I go back to him, even if I wanted to? Would I ever look at him the same way? Even if he forgave me, could I forgive him?
I bought this one Dec. 19, 2017 because I have the sequel on my Review stack. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

ARC Review: Losing Leah by Tiffany King

Losing Leah
Author: Tiffany King
Publication: Feiwel & Friends (March 20, 2018)

Description: Some bonds can’t be broken.

Ten years after the tragic disappearance of her twin sister Leah, sixteen-year-old Mia Klein still struggles to exist within a family that has never fully recovered. Deep in the dark recesses of her mind lies an overwhelming shadow, taunting Mia with mind-splitting headaches that she tries to hide in an effort to appear okay.

Leah Klein's life as she knew it ended the day she was taken, thrust into a world of abuse and fear by a disturbed captor―"Mother," as she insists on being called. Ten years later, any recollections of her former life are nothing more than fleeting memories, except for those about her twin sister, Mia.
As Leah tries to gain the courage to escape, Mia's headaches grow worse. Soon, both sisters will discover that their fates are linked in ways they never realized.

My Thoughts: LOSING LEAH wasn't at all the book I was expecting. It is filled with twists and turns that I didn't see coming. Ten years after it happened, Mia Klein is still struggling with the disappearance of her twin sister Leah. Her family is broken and she suffers from devastating headaches. Still she tries to pretend that everything is okay to her best friend Amber and her boyfriend Luke. She is keeping up her A average and dating a football star. Everything should be great.

Meanwhile, Leah is living in a dark basement under the control of a woman she has been taught to call Mother. Mother is volatile. Leah never knows what she can do to keep from experiencing brutal punishments. While Mother might be nice and give her treats and books to read, other times she can't be pleased and Leah is punished. Mother keeps Leah on the edge of starvation and deliberately weak. When Leah secretly begins exercising to gain strength and possibly escape, she knows that the punishments will be brutal if Mother finds out. Leah manages to escape but things are not at all what they appear to be.

There are twists after twists in this well-written and engaging thriller. Mia and Leah are both fascinating characters dealing with an unimaginable situation as best they can. I couldn't put this book down. The writing was engaging. The characters were compelling. And the twists and turns kept me going to the startling conclusion.

Favorite Quote:
The darkness wasn't gone the next day, or the day after that, or all the days that came later. It remained. Always there. In every shadow I passed. Lurking anyplace with the smallest absence of light. Haunting only me. The fact that no one else could see it made me question whether it was real. Deep down I suspected I was unraveling. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Book Review: Say You'll Remember Me by Katie McGarry

Say You'll Remember Me
Author: Katie McGarry
Publication: Harlequin Teen (January 30, 2018)

Description: Doesn’t matter who did it. Not anymore. I did the time. It’s over.”

When Drix was convicted of a crime—one he didn’t commit—he thought his life was over. But opportunity came with the Second Chance Program, the governor’s newest pet project to get delinquents off the streets, rehabilitated and back into society. Drix knows this is his chance to get his life back on track, even if it means being paraded in front of reporters for a while.

Elle knows she lives a life of privilege. As the governor’s daughter, she can open doors with her name alone. But the expectations and pressure to be someone she isn’t may be too much to handle. She wants to follow her own path, whatever that means.

When Drix and Elle meet, their connection is immediate, but so are their problems. Drix is not the type of boy Elle’s parents have in mind for her, and Elle is not the kind of girl who can understand Drix’s messy life.

But sometimes love can breach all barriers.

Fighting against a society that can’t imagine them together, Drix and Elle must push themselves—Drix to confront the truth of the robbery, and Elle to assert her independence—and each other to finally get what they deserve.

My Thoughts: SAY YOU'LL REMEMBER ME was a hard book to read. I was so emotionally involved that I just ached for Elle and Drix. The two kids couldn't be more different. Elle is the daughter of the Governor of Kentucky. She is groomed and prepped to help her father in his campaign for Senator. She sees her Dad as her hero and really supports his goals but she is having trouble following all the rules and putting her own wants before the needs of the campaign. She has the idea, fostered by her parents, that she has to be perfect to win their approval.

Drix is poor. He accepted a plea bargain after being arrested for an armed robbery which he did not commit. The plea bargain puts him in the Governor's new program that aims to derail the path from high school to prison. The program included therapy and education and really changed Drix's life. Before he was on a path of self-destruction, he was drinking, drugging and getting into fights for fun. He's a talented musician but got the idea from his absent father that musical talent made him a god who could do whatever he wanted.

Elle and Drix meet when he rescues her from a couple of college age guys who are harassing her at a fair when all she wants to do is have fun and play some Whack-a-Mole. They are attracted but Drix doesn't get her number because he sees her as being out of his class. They meet again the next day when he comes to the Governor's to learn what his obligations are to the Governor's program. He needs to make a number of campaign appearances and talk about the program. Elle is also involved in the campaign charming donors and pushing her dad's agenda. Despite being told to keep away from each other because her parents have decided that a romance would change the focus of what they need the kids to do, Elle and Drix do spend time together getting to know each other.

Both kids have all kinds of hurdles to overcome. Drix doesn't know who he can trust. He thinks he took the fall for his best friend and keeps waiting for him to say he was sorry. He is also concerned about his younger sister's dependence on a boyfriend who isn't at all good for her. He's also afraid to go back to music because he fears that he'll be swept back into the self-destructive pattern he was in before. Elle is gradually coming to realize that all the compromises her parents are pushing on her, from the stylist and the lack of support for her desire to accept an internship to foster her talent for programming, have caused her to almost lose herself. It takes quite a while to realize that her parents are using emotional abuse and even longer to stand up to them.

This was another emotionally wrenching title from an author known for them. I enjoyed this story and this romance and recommend it to fans of the genre.

Favorite Quotes:
My muscles tense, yet my perfectly practiced smile slips upon my face because Mom has told me to never let my anger leak out in public. I hate the word beautiful. Hate it. The word beautiful somehow gives the world permission to make wrongful assumptions about me, like that I don't have a brain. Beautiful somehow gives men permission to say the phrase as a secret password in my direction, and should therefore fall at their feet. Beautiful makes people believe they can say anything they want about or to me and that I shouldn't be angry.

Nothing in the universe could be more wrong.
I understand trying to please someone you think loves you. To keep that love, you keep twisting and bending yourself to become who they want you to be until you eventually break. There's a hole in them, a hole they need filled, and they want you to become the circle that will fit into them and make them complete, even though you're a square. It's an awful place to be, the person responsible for someone else's happiness, because being human, we're going to fail.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

ARC Review: The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

The Final Six
Author: Alexandra Monir
Publication: HarperTeen (March 6, 2018)

Description: Set in the near future, this action-packed YA novel—already optioned by Sony Pictures—will take readers out of this world and on a quest to become one of six teens sent on a mission to Jupiter’s moon. This is the next must-read for fans of Illuminae and The Martian.

When Leo and Naomi are drafted, along with twenty-two of the world’s brightest teenagers, into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever changed. Overnight, they become global celebrities in contention for one of the six slots to travel to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—and establish a new colony, leaving their planet forever. With Earth irreparably damaged, the future of the human race rests on their shoulders.
For Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, this kind of purpose is a reason to go on after losing his family. But Naomi, an Iranian-American science genius, is suspicious of the ISTC and the fact that a similar mission failed under mysterious circumstances, killing the astronauts onboard. She fears something equally sinister awaiting the Final Six beneath Europa’s surface.

In this cutthroat atmosphere, surrounded by strangers from around the world, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo. As the training tests their limits, Naomi and Leo’s relationship deepens with each life-altering experience they encounter.

But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

My Thoughts: Humans have trashed the Earth. Climate change has raised the oceans and drowned many cities. Humanity's last best hope is to choose a team of six teenagers to go on a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa to terraform it for a new home for humanity.

This book tells the story of the twenty-four kids who will be competing for the six spots. The book is told from two points of view.

Leo is an orphan from Rome who lost his parents and beloved younger sister when when a tsunami wave hit Rome. As the story begins, he is getting ready to die himself since he has no more hope. He has been chosen to represent Italy primarily for his swimming ability. He has a positive attitude about going to Europa because it will help humanity and there is nothing left on Earth for him.

Naomi is a science nerd. While her family has had to move to higher ground a couple to times, she still lives with her parents and her beloved younger brother who has a defective heart. The last thing she wants to do is go permanently to Europa and leave her family. She doesn't have a choice, though, because being chosen is equivalent to being drafted. All the kids are also told that if they deliberately try to be sent home, they will be prosecuted and imprisoned.

This story follows the training the kids go through including injections that are supposed to help them survive on Europa. Noami's roommate has a bad reaction to the injections and washes out of the program. Another of the candidates goes crazy which Naomi believes is because of the injections but the kids are told that he had a previously undiagnosed psychological issue. Naomi becomes more and more sure that the kids aren't being given the whole story and begins to do some research using hacking software her brother slipped to her as a going away present.

She and Leo begin a friendship which leads to a romance even though he is still convinced that the mission is a good one even while Naomi becomes more and more sure that it is not. There are also interpersonal problems for the kids to deal with two. Leo's rival for the dive expert on the mission is Beckett Wolfe who happens to be the nephew of the President of the United States. He is willing to do anything to sabotage Leo's chances including an attempted murder.

The story was exciting, action-packed and had a nice romance. It also begins a series. I have read a few similar books recently. THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY by Katie Slivensky, NYXIA by Scott Reintgen, and UNEARTHED by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner all have a similar themes for science fiction fans who want more while waiting for book 2.

Favorite Quote:
He gives me a wink that is meant to be reassuring but instead ties my stomach in knots. This is the problem with being a science nerd -- I can't share in the public's hope for this mission. I know too much. I know the laundry list of things that can -- and invariably will -- go wrong.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, March 2, 2018

ARC Review: The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller

The Science of Breakable Things
Author: Tae Keller
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (March 6, 2018)

Description: An emotionally-charged new classic about the science of hope, love, and miracles! Natalie's uplifting story of using the scientific method to "save" her mother from depression is sure to take root in readers' hearts!

How do you grow a miracle?
For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie's botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that's important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.

Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.
Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She's going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids--flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it's up to kids to save them, right?

An extraordinary debut about the coming-of-age moment when kids realize that parents are people, too, and that talking about problems is like taking a plant out of a dark cupboard and giving it light. Think THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH meets THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.

My Thoughts: Twelve-year-old Natalie is having a bad year. Her mom seldom leaves her room and seems to have turned into not-Mom. She is worried about her botanist mother and a little angry at her too. Luckily, she has the support of her best friend Twig who keeps school interesting with her big personality. She also has a new friend in Dari who is here from India with his parents.

Natalie has a plan to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids that she has been studying. They are unique plants that can suck up toxins in the soil and become a beautiful blue color. She is hoping that seeing the flower she loves will make her mother feel better and reconnect to life. But she needs money which is where the Egg Drop contest comes in. First Place has a $500 prize.

Natalie, Twig and Dari spend most of the school year working on their contraption to keep their egg from breaking. This egg drop project is what they will all be using for their year-long science project on the scientific method. Twig and Dari have come up with big questions that their research will answer but Natalie's question takes a while to develop.

Natalie has quite a year of growth and change. Since the story is told from Natalie's point of view, I was left with a number of questions. It didn't appear that her mother was receiving any kind of treatment for her depression despite the fact that her father is a therapist. It also looked to me that the changes in Natalie, i.e. daydreaming, lack of interest in school work, and failure to complete assignments, were being ignored by the school. It felt like Natalie was being left to cope on her own both at home and at school.

This was an interesting story about a child dealing with a parent's mental illness which was well-written and thought-provoking.

Favorite Quote:
But my secret thought was about how Dad had talked to Mikayla and her mom about the "situation," and I didn't know what he's said and I didn't want anybody else to know about Mom. I felt like maybe it made her look bad, and I didn't want her to look bad, especially in front of the Menzies. Maybe I was embarrassed by her. I didn't want to be.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.