Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book review: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (Published by Razorbill, December 11, 2012)

Falling Kingdoms is set in a land that was once united, but has now been divided into three countries - the northern kingdom of Limeros, the southern kingdom of Auranos, and Paelsia, an impoverished country in the middle. There was once magic in this land, but it has been lost, and much of the land is dying, particularly in Paelsia, where the citizens live in poverty and never have enough to eat. Unlike most books which have one or two main characters, Falling Kingdoms has a large cast of characters, with four main point of view characters - Cleo, a princess from Auranos; Jonas, a young rebel from Paelsia; and siblings Magnus and Lucia, who are the children of the king of Limeros.

At the start of the story, Cleo is visiting Paelsia when a shocking event takes place. A fight breaks out, and a young man living there is killed by a member of her traveling party, stirring up tensions simmering just beneath the surface. Despite this threat of war, when Cleo returns home and sees how sick her older sister Emilia is, she is determined to return to Paelsia to pursue a rumor of a magical remedy that could save her sister, even though her father has forbidden her to leave the palace and magic of any kind has long since been lost. Meanwhile, Jonas, whose older brother was killed in the incident, decides his country has been oppressed long enough and it is time to rise up against Auranos, whose citizens live in luxury while their neighbors in Paelsia starve. In Limeros, the cruel King Gaius sees these tensions as an excuse to do what he has always wanted - go to war in hopes of conquering Auranos and taking it for himself. His teenage children, Magnus and Lucia, are caught up in these events, as Magnus struggles with his desire to please his cruel father, while Lucia discovers a shocking secret about her past.

When I first learned about Falling Kingdoms, I was dying to read it because it has been described as "Game of Thrones for teens" and because I love young adult high fantasy but very little is published. While this book is not as epic in scope as the Game of Thrones TV series, which I absolutely love (I have not yet read the books as I am intimidated by the length), the general description is accurate enough. It's set in a fantasy world where magic has been lost but is returning, there are multiple rulers fighting over kingdoms, and there is a large cast of characters, the majority of whom are neither entirely good nor entirely evil. There's even a character named Theon, who is fortunately nothing like the one from Game of Thrones, but I kept thinking of him since it's such an unusual name. I really loved the story, characters, and setting of Falling Kingdoms. The main characters really aren't really good guys or bad guys. They are human, they make mistakes, which unfortunately cause great suffering, some of them even do really bad things at times, yet aren't purely evil, just deeply flawed. This book was VERY close to a perfect read for me, but a couple of things made it fall just short of perfection. Some of the phrasing of dialogue and the thoughts of the characters seemed too modern for a book set in a world with a society similar to that of the Middle Ages. I also thought the romantic subplot was underdeveloped, which made it hard for me to believe in the strength of the characters' feelings for each other. And the ending! The ending is too cruel. How will I wait a year to find out what happens next? It will be quite difficult, but hopefully it will be worth the wait! Overall, Falling Kingdoms is a great read for readers who love high fantasy. There is quite a bit of graphic violence as well as many references to sexual situations (although these occur off-screen), so I'd mostly recommend it to mature teens, as well as adults.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book review: Venom by Fiona Paul

Venom by Fiona Paul (Published by Philomel, October 30, 2012)

Cassandra Caravello has lived with her elderly aunt in a crumbling old house on an island near Venice since her parents died. As a member of Venetian society, she gets to wear beautiful dresses and attend fancy balls and parties. But instead of feeling fortunate, she feels trapped. She is never free to make her own choices, and must marry the man who has been selected for her. Her fiancé, Luca, is away from Venice studying law, but they knew each other as children and she never really liked him. She longs to find adventure and make her own choices. Unfortunately, adventure finds her when she visits the tomb of her friend who had recently died, and finds instead of the body of a murdered courtesan.

Cass is determined to find out what happened to the murdered girl, as well as where her friend's body has gone. She meets Luca, who is almost literally a starving artist. he is young and handsome, and Cass finds herself drawn to him as they investigate the mystery. Cass knows that by associating with Falco, she risks everything, but she cannot stay away from him.

I really loved the premise of this book - a romantic mystery set in Venice during the Renaissance. Unfortunately, I did not love this book as much as I hoped I would. I really liked the descriptions of the setting, and I was somewhat surprised by the resolution of the mystery. But I didn't love the characters of Cass and Falco. I truly do not understand what Cass saw in Falco, besides his supposed good looks. To me, he came across as a jerk and a bully who was constantly pressuring Cass to do what he wanted. I did really like Luca, Cass's fiancé. Despite Cass constantly ignoring him, he was kind, caring, and protective towards her - and it doesn't hurt that he was educated and liked books! I may keep reading this series to find out what happens, but I will be quite disappointed if Cass and Falco end up together at the end of the final book, unless he changes a lot. Unfortunately, the "boring" love interest rarely seems to get chosen in young adult books.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mailbox Monday - 10/1/12

I haven't done one of these posts for a while (I've been lazy) but I needed to try to post something using the new Blogger interface (which I hate with the fire of a thousand burning suns.....) so here's a Mailbox Monday post with everything I've gotten the last few weeks. It's actually Tuesday but the new Blogger interface (DID I MENTION I HATE IT?!) is giving me a lot of trouble with scheduled posts.

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. Naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, the convent views Sybella as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for? This heart-pounding sequel to Grave Mercy serves betrayal, treachery, and danger in equal measure, bringing readers back to fifteenth century Brittany and will keep them on the edge of their seats. (SQUEE! I am very excited about this one!)

The Unfailing Light by Robin Bridges

Lush and opulent, romantic and sinister, "The Unfailing Light, " Volume II in The Katerina Trilogy, reimagines the lives of Russia's aristocracy in a fabulously intoxicating and page-turning fantasy.
Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She's about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia's arch nemesis--who she thought she'd destroyed--is still alive. So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She'll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains. But to Katerina's horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.

Dear Canada: A Sea of Sorrows by Norah McClintock

In the midst of the Irish famine, Johanna flees one disaster — only to land in another. After a massive potato famine strikes Ireland, thirteen-year-old Johanna Leary flees to Canada with her family. But typhus and other illnesses plague the "coffin ships," so named for the staggering number of immigrants who died enroute. One by one Johanna loses the members of her family — first her baby brother on the journey over, then her mother in the Grosse Isle fever sheds where sick passengers are quarantined when they reach the port of Québec, and her father soon after. Johanna has only her brother Michael left when she sets foot on Canadian soil. When her brother is mistakenly told that she too has died, he sets off to find their uncle "somewhere in Canada," leaving Johanna to face a new life in a strange land... totally alone. A Sea of Sorrows captures a dreadful time in history for those desperate, impoverished Irish families who hoped to make Canada their home. Johanna's incredible journey of survival is told with insight and sensitivity by master storyteller Norah McClintock.

I Am Canada: A Call to Battle by Gillian Chan

The War of 1812 comes to life through the eyes of a young Canadian boy. It's 1812. War has begun, and thirteen-year-old Alexander (Sandy) MacKay is jealous when his older brother Angus goes off with their father to fight the Americans attacking the Niagara region. Too young to know the darker side of battle, he resents being left to shoulder the work on his family's farm. Itching to get in on the action, he sneaks away from home and heads to Lundy's Lane to join up with the local militia. But battle is imminent, and now there's not much his father can do except try to shield him from the worst of the fighting. Sandy's idealized notions of what battle will be like are shattered when the man standing before him is killed by a musket ball and Sandy's own brother is severely wounded. At the battle of Lundy's Lane, the united Canadian/British forces turn the tide against the American troops, but Sandy comes to know how chilling war can be. Just in time for the bicentennial of the War of 1812, A Call to Battle is a sobering look at the realities of war. Author Gillian Chan skillfully depicts the transformation of an impetuous young boy, full of boyish enthusiasm, into a more realistic young man who emerges on the other side of war.

Caroline's Secret Message by Kathleen Ernst

Caroline and Mama make a dangerous trip across Lake Ontario to the British fort where Papa is a prisoner. When Mama isn’t allowed to see Papa, it’s up to Caroline to pass a secret message to him—right under the nose of a British guard. Caroline hopes desperately that Papa will be able to use the information to escape. But can she get the message to him? And even if she does, will Papa understand it? When Caroline and Mama return home, all they can do is wait and hope. On Caroline’s birthday, an unexpected gift lifts her heart.

A Surprise for Caroline by Kathleen Ernst

Caroline Abbott imagined it would be great fun to have two girls staying at her house for the winter. But her friend Rhonda Hathaway and cousin Lydia are both twelve, and sometimes they seem to be better friends with each other than with Caroline. Worse, they’d rather stay inside styling hair than go skating and sledding. Nothing Caroline tries seems to change things, not even the special Christmas gift she gives to Rhonda. Finally, hurt feelings lead Caroline to make a rash decision—one that puts all three girls on very thin ice.

Caroline Takes a Chance by Kathleen Ernst

Caroline, like everyone else in Sackets Harbor, is waiting anxiously for the first supply boats of the year to arrive. Without supplies, the shipyards can’t build boats to fight the British. When Caroline and her friends Rhonda and Seth go out fishing in Papa’s skiff, they’re excited to catch sight of a supply boat—until they realize that it’s being chased by a British warship. Desperate to save the supply boat, Caroline comes up with a daring idea. Will her plan work? Or is it a dangerous and foolish risk? Caroline has no time to think—she can only plunge ahead.

Caroline's Battle by Kathleen Ernst

Caroline’s Papa has barely returned before frightening news arrives—British warships are headed for Sackets Harbor, ready to attack. Every able-bodied man, including Papa, must go and fight. Mama and Caroline are left alone to guard Abbott’s Shipyard from the enemy. Caroline tells herself she would do anything to keep Papa’s shipyard safe. But when the battle seems to be lost, Mama gives her a terrible order. They must burn the shipyard to the ground to keep it from the enemy. It’s the one thing Caroline isn’t sure she can do.

Changes for Caroline by Kathleen Ernst

Caroline receives a letter asking her to come and help on Uncle Aaron’s new farm. Although she hates to leave her family, Caroline is pleased to see her cousin Lydia—and to meet Lydia’s pretty cow and sweet baby calf. Determined to help out in any way she can, Caroline keeps watch when a thief starts sneaking around the farm. Then she makes an unexpected discovery—and learns that some things are not as simple as they seem. When Caroline returns home at last for an Independence Day celebration, she is treated to a wonderful surprise.

Smuggler's Kiss by Marie-Louise Jensen

Smugglers are cut-throat rascals. At least that's what Isabelle's always been told. But when she's rescued from drowning at sea by the crew of a notorious smuggling ship, her principles are thrown into confusion. Outwitting the king's men fills her with excitement, especially when she's with one mysterious smuggler in particular...

The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley

Louisa Brody’s life on the Colorado prairie is not at all what she expected. Her dear Pa, accused of thievery, is locked thirty miles away in jail. She’s living with the awful Smirches, her closest neighbors and the very family that accused her Pa of the horrendous crime. And now she’s discovered one very cantankerous—and magical—secret beneath the hazel grove. With her life flipped upside-down, it’s up to Louisa, her sassy friend Jessamine, and that cranky secret to save Pa from a guilty verdict. Ten bold illustrations from Erwin Madrid accompany seasoned storyteller Melissa Wiley’s vibrant and enchanting tale of life on the prairie—with one magical twist.

Our Australian Girl: Peacetime for Alice by Davina Bell

Alice's mother is sick, and everyone fears that she might have the dreaded Spanish Influenza. Alice begins to dance again to distract herself but soon becomes frustrated at how difficult she finds it. Meanwhile, the family plant a tree for Papa Sir on the Honour Avenue at King's Park and hold a celebration to remember his life, where Alice's brother, Teddy, makes a surprise announcement. But an even bigger shock awaits Alice when someone returns from the past & someone with the power to change her future and make her dreams come true.

Our Australian Girl: Nellie's Greatest Wish by Penny Matthews

It's 1850 . . . and Nellie is returning to Adelaide after searching for the Thompson family at the Burra. She's keen to get back to her best friend, Mary, who is ill in hospital. But she is in for a terrible shock . . . Even Nellie begins to feel that all is lost and that she might never achieve her dreams. Will her spirit be crushed, or can she turn her fate around? Follow Nellie on her adventure in the final of four stories about an Irish girl with a big heart, in search of the freedom to be herself.

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

London, 1894. Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns her father is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations were true. Juliet is accompanied by the doctor’s handsome young assistant and an enigmatic castaway, who both attract Juliet for very different reasons. They travel to the island only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: he has created animals that have been vivisected to resemble, speak, and behave as humans. Worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape the island, even though her horror is mixed with her own scientific curiosity. As the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Prophecy by Ellen Oh

The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms… is a girl with yellow eyes. Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope… Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king. Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mailbox Monday - 8/13/12

Mailbox Monday is being hosted by 5 Minutes for Books for the month of August.

This post has the last two weeks of books, since I forgot to post last week.

My Story: Lady Jane Grey by Sue Reid

This is the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey who was Queen of England for nine days in July 1553. Jane grew up watching her cousins in training as heirs to the throne, little imagining that by a twist of fate she would one day be crowned. But this is Tudor England where nobody plays fair, and even a queen isn't safe from those who wish her harm.

My Story: Nowhere to Run by Carol Drinkwater

Becky Mortkowicz's family are Jewish refugees from Poland, while Claudette leads a happy carefree life in Paris. Two girls from very different backgrounds, but the horrors of the Nazi occupation will bring them dramatically together. Becky's family have been forced to flee Warsaw for France and are offered a home by Claudette's father. The friendship between the two girls blossoms, but Becky's safe haven is short lived as the Nazis edge ever nearer the French border. Her family are soon on the move again. But even in the so-called Free Zone there are murmurings that an invasion may be imminent. Will Becky survive the war to see Claudette again?

Meet Caroline by Kathleen Ernst

Caroline Abbott is doing what she loves most—sailing on Lake Ontario with Papa—when her world turns upside down. A British officer boards their sloop, announces that Britain and America are at war, and takes her father prisoner. As Papa is led away, Caroline promises him that she will stay strong and steady until he returns. She tries hard to keep her promise by helping Mama run the family’s shipyard. Then the British attack her village and it looks as if the American side is in trouble. Can Caroline stay steady enough to help win the day?

The Book of Tormod: A Templar's Destiny by Kat Black

The final book in Kat Black's historical fantasy trilogy!Tormod MacLeod's brother, Torquil, has been captured and locked in a dungeon hidden in the depths of the French royal castle. Tormod and Aine journey to France, hoping to save him, but the search is proving more difficult than they ever imagined--and getting out alive seems impossible. Meanwhile, they must stop the wicked plot that King Philippe le Bel has put in motion to destroy the Knights Templar from within. Their journey takes them all the way to the French court, where they meet the enchanting Princess Isabella. She has her eye on Tormod, and Aine notices. Their chances of accomplishing all they've set out to do while keeping the power of the Holy Vessel from being exposed to the world are slim, and in the end, Tormod has a devastating decision to make.

Horse Diaries: Tennessee Rose by Jane Kendall

Alabama, 1856. Tennessee Rose is a dark bay Tennessee Walking Horse with a rose-shaped marking on her forehead. She loves dashing around the plantation in the running walk that her breed is famous for, then coming back to her comfortable stall and her friend Levi, the slave boy who is her groom. But as the Civil War approaches, Rosie begins to question plantation life. Is slavery fair? Could Levi be free? Like Black Beauty, this moving novel is told in first person from the horse's point of view and includes an appendix full of photos and facts about Tennessee Walking Horses and the Civil War.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Smuggler's Kiss by Marie-Louise Jensen

Smuggler's Kiss by Marie-Louise Jensen (Published by Oxford University Press, March 1, 2013)

"You're smugglers?" "That ain't what we call ourselves." His voice rumbled deep in his chest. "We're Gentlemen o' the Night.
In the autumn of 1720, Isabelle does something which changes her life for ever. But though Isabelle has fled, she is still trapped. If the secret of her previous life is revealed then the smugglers who have found her will not let her stay on board The Invisible - and she has nowhere else to go. To survive, Isabelle must help her captors - even though she detests what they do. But soon her principles are thrown into confusion, as she discovers that outwitting the King's Men fills her with excitement. Soon she finds herself becoming fiercely loyal to the crew - and to one mysterious smuggler in particular ...

I love Marie-Louise Jensen's young adult historical novels - they always have great stories and interesting (and usually unique!) historical settings. So I can't wait to read her next book.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Dear America: A City Tossed and Broken by Judy Blundell

Dear America: A City Tossed and Broken by Judy Blundell (Published by Scholastic, March 1, 2013)

From National Book Award-winning author Judy Blundell, a thrilling account of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.
When Minnie Bonner's father disappears after losing the Bonners' Philadelphia tavern, the wealthy gentleman Edward Sump, led by his avaricious wife, offers Minnie a chance to work as a lady's maid to support her family. The Sumps have grand plans, grander than the city of Philadelphia can offer, and decide to move to San Francisco--the greatest city in the west. But when a powerful earthquake strikes, Minnie finds herself the sole survivor among them. After the dust settles, Minnie discovers a bag belonging to the Sumps filled with cash and papers that could drastically change her fortune. With no one else to claim it, Minnie has turned into an heiress overnight.
Wealth comes at a price, however, and she is soon wrapped up in a deception that leads her down a dangerous path. As the aftermath of the earthquake ravages the city, Minnie continues to maintain her new identity. That is, until a mysterious but familiar stranger appears.

I have enjoyed the Dear America series for many years, and I always thought the San Francisco Earthquake would be a good setting for a book in the series, so I am happy there will finally be a book with this setting, and I can't wait to read it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Foster

City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Foster (Published by HarperCollins, February 5, 2013)

The girl with no past, and no future, may be the only one who can save their lives.
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.
Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

This book sounds like it has a very unique premise. I can't wait to read it!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mailbox Monday - 7/23/12

Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Mrs. Q Book Addict for the month of July.

This post has the last two weeks of books, since I forgot to post last week.

Debutantes by Cora Harrison

It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away.
Luckily the girls each have a plan for escaping their humdrum country life: Rose wants to be a novelist, Poppy a jazz musician and Daisy a famous film director. Violet, however, has only one ambition: to become the perfect Debutante, so that she can go to London and catch the eye of Prince George, the most eligible bachelor in the country.
But a house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans—ruin everything—forever.

Spy for the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin

As lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots, the beautiful Ginette - known as Jenny - is the young queen's closest childhood friend. Growing up in the elegant but ruthless French court, surrounded by enemies and traitors - not least the jealous, manipulative Catherine de Medici, and Mary's own scheming half-brother, James - Jenny has always been fiercely loyal to her mistress. But when she overhears a mysterious whispered plot, closely followed by several unexplained deaths at court, she puts her own life in danger and turns spy for Mary.
Jenny quickly realises not a soul at court can be trusted, and when she and Mary return to their Scottish homeland for Mary to claim her throne, they face even greater peril. Desperate to protect her friend from those who would slit her throat to steal her crown, while battling her feelings for the charismatic nobleman Duncan Alexander, Jenny becomes embroiled in a dangerous web of secrets, betrayals and lies.

The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer

The last words of a dying woman would change the life of young Thomas. Raised behind monastery walls, he knows nothing of his mysterious past or imminent destiny. But now, in the heart of medieval England, a darkness threatens to strangle truth. An ancient order tightens their ghostly grip on power, creating fear and exiling those who would oppose them. Thomas is determined fulfill his calling and bring light into the mysterious world of the Druids and leaves the monastery on an important quest.
Thomas quickly finds himself in unfamiliar territory, as he must put his faith in unusual companions—a cryptic knight, a child thief, and the beautiful, silent woman whom may not be all she seems. From the solitary life of an orphan, Thomas now finds himself tangled in the roots of both camaraderie and suspicion.
Can he trust those who would join his battle…or will his fears force him to go on alone?

Ned Kelly's Secret by Sophie Masson

Hugo and his father are travelling through Australia, on the trail of tales of the gold rush. But after they're ambushed on the road by the notorious outlaw Harry Power, they decide to chase something wilder and far more exciting - the stories of the bushrangers. In Benalla, Hugo befriends a boy from the bush, a boy who's brave, bold and will do anything for his clan. A boy with a dark and dangerous secret - 15-year-old Ned Kelly!

Ransomwood by Sherryl Jordan

Spurned by her lover, and with her uncle threatening to marry her off to his odious widowed brother, Gwenifer is almost relieved to be sent away to escort the magistrate’s old, blind mother to Ransomwood, where the tears of the statue of the Holy Mother are said to have healing qualities. Together with Harry, the village halfwit, who is escaping a sentence of hanging for being in charge of an ox that trampled a child almost to death, they embark on a perilous journey … each of them looking for a different kind of healing.

The Forgotten Pearl by Belinda Murrell

In 1941, Poppy lives in Darwin, a peaceful paradise far from the war. But when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, then Australia, everything Poppy holds dear is threatened - her family, her neighbours, her friends and her beloved pets. Her brother Edward is taken prisoner-of-war. Her home town becomes a war zone, as the Japanese raid over and over again.
Terrified for their lives, Poppy and her mother flee to Sydney, only to find that the danger follows them there. Poppy must face her war with courage and determination. Will her world ever be the same again?

Our Australian Girl: Nellie's Quest by Penny Matthews

It's 1850 and Nellie's best friend, Mary, is gravely ill. To provide Mary with the care she needs, Nellie must break a promise and go on a quest to find the Thompson family. But will they be able to help? And who will Nellie turn to when her own life is in danger?
Follow Nellie on her adventure in the third of four exciting stories about an Irish girl with a big heart, in search of the freedom to be herself

Our Australian Girl: Alice of Peppermint Grove by Davina Bell

The war is over, summer has arrived and Alice is filled with hope that life with her family will finally return to normal. However, as peace is negotiated overseas, nothing at home goes as expected. Mama loses her job at the bank, the country is gripped with the deadly Spanish Influenza, and the role of the Fairy Snow Queen in the local dance recital causes problems between Alice and her best friend, Jilly. Even the return from Europe of Teddy, Alice's big brother, can't fix everything … or can it?

Frostfire by Zoe Marriott

Frost is cursed - possessed by a wolf demon that brings death everywhere she goes. Desperate to find a cure, she flees her home, only to be captured by the Ruan Hill Guard. Trapped until she can prove she is not an enemy, Frost grows increasingly close to the Guard’s charismatic leader Luca and his second in command, the tortured Arian. Torn between two very different men, Frost fears that she may not be able to protect either of them ... from herself.

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

Book two of the Song of Ice and Fire series. I am not including the publisher's summary because it has a LOT of spoilers for the people who haven't read the first book or seen season one of the TV show.

 The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

It all began with nine. Nine aliens who left their home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack by the evil Mogadorians, who scattered on Earth and went into hiding, who look like ordinary teenagers, but who have extraordinary skills. The Mogadorians killed Number One, Number Two, and Number Three. They tried to kill Number Four...and failed.
Number Four (aka John Smith) has now teamed up with Number Nine, while Six has gone off to find the others. With the Mogadorians hot on their trail and time running out, they must find a way to come together before it’s too late. Their power is in numbers.
The first two books in the Lorien Legacies series, I Am Number Four and The Power of Six, were both #1 New York Times bestsellers, and I Am Number Four became a major motion picture. Fans are hooked as the battle to determine Earth’s fate draws near.

Moonlight and Ashes by Sophie Masson

The story of Cinderella as you've never heard it before ...
A girl whose fortunes have plummeted from wealthy aristocrat to servant-girl. A magic hazel twig. A prince. A desperate escape from danger.
This is not the story of a girl whose fairy godmother arranges her future for her. This is the story of Selena, who will take charge of her own destiny, and learn that her magic is not to be feared but celebrated.
Pure fairytale - with all the romance, magic and adventure that goes along with it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson (Published by Zondervan, December 25, 2012)

A daring rescue. A difficult choice.
Sophie desperately wants to get away from her stepmother's jealousy, and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be Sophie's one chance at freedom—but can she trust another person to keep her safe?
Gabe defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the girl's inner and outer beauty has enchanted him. Though romance is impossible—she is his brother's future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else—he promises himself he will see the mission through, no matter what.
When the pair flee to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help—but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Now both must not only protect each other from the dangers around them—they must also protect their hearts.

I really enjoyed Melanie Dickerson's other two fairy tale retellings, so I can't wait to read her third. I really like that one of the main characters is the son of the couple from the author's first book, The Healer's Apprentice.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Song of Ice and Fire Read-a-long week two

Hi to everyone participating in Bookalicious's Song of Ice and Fire read-a-long. By now, you should be around 50% done with book one, A Game of Thrones. For this week, the discussion topic is the female characters in the book. Even though the series is set in a medieval society where men have all the rights and power, there are many strong female characters in the series who do not just sit there and accept this, but who find ways to fight for some control over their own lives.

What are some of the ways that the female characters in A Game of Thrones gain power, despite living in a society where they are often considered powerless? Which of these characters do you admire?  You can either make your own post on your blog (if you have one), or if you don't, you can share your thoughts in a reply to this post.

Personally, my favorite female character in the series is Arya Stark.

At the start of the book series, Arya is only nine years old, but she has to grow up fast. As the daughter of a noble family, Arya is expected to learn to be a proper lady so she can marry well when she is old enough. But Arya is not interested in being a lady. She would much prefer to learn how to fight, instead of learning how to sew. She has her own sword, Needle, and she's not afraid to learn how to use it.

Another female character who starts out powerless but who becomes much stronger is Daenerys Targaryen.

Daenerys starts out in a very powerless position. Her family, the Targaryens, ruled Westeros for hundreds of years until they lost the throne in a rebellion. She grew up in exile with the only other surviving member of her family, her older brother, and she is forced, when she is only thirteen years old, to marry a stranger from a very different culture to aid her brother's quest to return to Westeros and retake the throne. But rather than being a doormat, she learns how to gain some power in her relationship with her husband, and becomes a much stronger person (and better potential ruler) than her brother is.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Shades of Earth by Beth Revis

Shades of Earth by Beth Revis (Published by Razorbill, January 15, 2013)

The final book in the trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis!
Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceship Godspeed behind. They're ready to start life afresh--to build a home--on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience. But this new Earth isn't the paradise that Amy had been hoping for. Amy and Elder must race to uncover who--or what--else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. But as each new discovery brings more danger, Amy and Elder will have to look inward to the very fabric of what makes them human on this, their most harrowing journey yet. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed--friends, family, life on Earth--will have been meaningless.

I can't wait to read this book to find out how the series ends. But I am annoyed the publisher changed the cover, because now my series won't match. :(

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mailbox Monday - 7/9/12

Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Mrs. Q Book Addict for the month of July.

I haven't posted a Mailbox Monday for a couple of weeks (I kept forgetting!), so this is several weeks of books.

Outpost by Ann Aguirre

Deuce’s whole world has changed. Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn’t fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.
To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.
Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot

Summer break . . . and the livin' ain't easy
Just because the students at New York College have flown the coop doesn't mean assistant residence hall director Heather Wells can relax. Fischer Hall is busier than ever, filled with squealing thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls attending the first ever Tania Trace Teen Rock Camp, hosted by pop sensation Tania Trace herself--who just happens to be newly married to Heather's ex-boyfriend, heartthrob Jordan Cartwright. But the real headache begins when the producer of a reality TV show starring Tania winds up dead . . . and it's clear that the star was the intended victim.
Grant Cartwright, head of Cartwright Records, wants to keep his daughter-in-law (and his highest-earning performer) alive. So he hires his oldest son, black sheep of the family and private investigator Cooper Cartwright--who just happens to be Heather's "new" fiancE. Heather should leave the detecting to Cooper. But with a dorm full of hysterical mini-divas-in-training, she can't help but get involved. And after Tania shares a really shocking secret with her, "this" reality suddenly becomes more dangerously real than anyone ever anticipated.

Poison by Bridget Zinn

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.
The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.
But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Here is the first volume in George R. R. Martin's magnificent cycle of novels that includes A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. As a whole, this series comprises a genuine masterpiece of modern fantasy, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Magic, mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill these pages and transport us to a world unlike any we have ever experienced. Already hailed as a classic, George R. R. Martin's stunning series is destined to stand as one of the great achievements of imaginative fiction.
A Game of Thrones
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Song of Ice and Fire Read-a-long week one

I love the HBO series Game of Thrones, but haven't gotten to read the books yet. So I decided to join Bookalicious's Song of Ice and Fire read-a-long. The goal for July is to finish reading book one, A Game of Thrones. For week one, the task is to choose your house. While I am not sure they will end up winning in the end, I have chosen the Starks because they are noble and honorable, while still being (mostly) awesome.

The Stark family sigil is a direwolf, and their motto is Winter is Coming. Which makes sense, since their family home is in Winterfell, where it's very cold, even in the summer. Imagine what it must be like when it's actually winter there!

Ned Stark is the Lord of Winterfell, head of the Stark house and father of the Stark children. He is very brave and honorable - unfortunately, sometimes too honorable.

Catelyn Stark is Ned's wife and the mother of Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon. She was too cruel sometimes to Jon Snow, Ned's bastard son, but she loved her children and wanted the best for them.

Jon Snow is Ned's bastard son. At the start of the book series, he is fourteen years old. Not much is known about his mother. Ned brought him to Winterfell to be raised alongside his legitimate children. He resents being a bastard and not fitting in entirely, and eventually joins the Night's Watch, which guards The Wall, a giant wall along the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms.

Robb Stark is the eldest of the trueborn Stark children. He is also fourteen years old at the beginning of the series. He has been raised to be his father's heir. Like his father, he is honorable and loyal to his family.

Sansa Stark is the older of the Stark daughters, and is eleven years old at the start of the series. She is very ladylike, and hopes to marry well. She annoys me a bit at the start of the series, but based on what I know from the TV show, I think I'll like her more later on in the series.

Arya Stark is the younger Stark daughter. She is nine years old when the series starts. Unlike her sister Sansa, Arya doesn't want to be a lady. She has no interest in sewing or pretty clothes and would prefer to learn how to fight with a sword. She was close to her half-brother Jon, who gave her a sword she named Needle as a parting gift before he left for The Wall.  Arya is awesome and one of my favorite characters from the series.

Bran Stark is seven years old at the start of the series. He likes to climb and explore which unfortunately gets him into a lot of trouble and he ends up crippled. After that, he forms a very strong connection with his pet direwolf, Summer.

Rickon Stark is the youngest Stark child, and is three years old at the start of the series. He is too young to have done much, but he's adorable. He names his pet direwolf Shaggydog - how cute is that?!

So which house would you align yourself with in the world of Westeros, and who is your favorite character? And if you are interested, be sure to sign up for the read-a-long!

Blog Design by Imagination Designs all images from the Drowsy Town kit by Irene Alexeeva