Sunday, October 22, 2017


Warcross by Marie Lu 

Emika Chen is barely hanging on--orphaned years before, expelled from school, and with a criminal record, she doesn't have a whole lot of options. She's become a bounty hunter, finding those who gamble on Warcross, the virtual reality game that has exploded across the world. About to be evicted from her apartment, Emika does something crazy--she hacks into the opening game of the Warcross Championships and inadvertently shows her identity to the whole world. Afraid she's going to be arrested, instead, the develop of Warcross--Emika's idol--Hideo Tanaka flies her to Tokyo and gives her the chance to actually compete in the Warcross championship while helping Hideo to find someone else who has hacked into the game. As Emika looks for the hacker, Zero, she also has to keep him from figuring out she's looking for him, which proves tougher than she thought. 

Holy cow. This I wasn't sure if this was going to hold my interest--I don't play video games at all, virtual reality just weird to me, and I'm not a big sci-fi fan--but I devoured it. I tend to care a lot more about the characters in a story than the setting (which might explain why I don't like sci-fi that much--there has to be a lot of world-building and those details aren't that interesting to me, typically), but Marie Lu's descriptions of the technology and the game kept my interest (really, that's a BIG deal). Even with all the details, the story moved forward really quickly. Emika is the sort of protagonist that you can't help but cheer for--the underprivileged underdog who is way smart and can totally hold her own. I also enjoyed seeing her developing romance. Although I did guess one of the twists in the plot, I totally didn't anticipate the other one--which, for me, was the perfect balance because I want some surprises but being right about others makes me feel connected to the story. This was a thrilling, exciting read and I can't wait for the sequel! 4.5 stars.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Far from the Tree

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

After giving up her baby for adoption, sixteen-year-old Grace finds herself interested in finding out more about her biological family. She discovers that she has an older brother, Joaquin, and a younger sister, Maya. She reaches out to them and finds that while they're willing to have a relationship with her, neither is interested in looking for their birth mother, something Grace feels driven to do. Maya, loud, strong-willed, and angry about her imploding home life, as her adoptive parents are separating and her adoptive mother's drinking is way out of control, is willing to let Grace and Joaquin in, but at the same time, she's pushing her adoptive family and her girlfriend away. Joaquin, unlike his sisters, wasn't adopted and has spent his life as a foster kid who knows how quickly he can be sent back. He doesn't blame anyone for that--he knows it's his fault--but as his current foster parents offer to adopt him, he can't let them do it, just like he couldn't let the girl he loved continue to be his girlfriend when she needed so much more than he has to offer.

I absolutely devoured this book! There's a LOT going on--teen pregnancy, tons of family issues, alcoholism, divorce, etc.--but it didn't get overwhelming or feel gratuitous. Also, with so much going on, there was the potential for it to be confusing or depressing, but it wasn't. Each character had a distinct voice and at the same time that there was a lot for them to work through and moments when it seemed like they were sabotaging themselves, there was also hope because of their relationships with each other and with secondary characters in the book. I was drawn to each of the characters--Grace, who is hurting and trying to figure out who she is and what to do after giving up her baby; Maya, who is pushing those she cares about away (She got annoying sometimes but in a totally realistic way!), and Joaquin who can't believe in his own worth (oh, he broke my heart. I loved him.) It was really beautiful to see the different family situations and to see the burgeoning relationship among the siblings, how they understand each other and connect with each other and even help each other heal. Loved it!

5 stars.

Friday, October 13, 2017

For Love or Honor

For Love or Honor by Sarah M. Eden

Stanley fell for Marjie the first time he met her, and her sweetness helped him as he healed from an injury he received as a British soldier fighting Napoleon's army. When Napoleon escaped and Stanley had to lead his men in the horrifying battle of Waterloo, it was thoughts of Marjie and re-reading her letters that kept him going. However, having been severely wounded physically and even more so emotionally, Stanley knows he can't share with Marjie the darkness that is inside him. While he might have to face her sometimes, as she's staying with her sister (who is married to his brother), Stanley is determined to keep his distance as much as he can. Marjie doesn't know exactly what has changed Stanley, but she's determined to help him heal--and find a way that they can be together as they'd both hoped.

I loved this book so much. It was so well-written, not glossing over the horrors of war or how the soldiers were impacted. It hurt seeing Stanley hurt; I love ALL of the Jonquils but he is so honorable and so vulnerable that he just tugged at my heart so much. And sweet Marjie--I loved seeing how she cared for him. I loved seeing other favorites from the series and getting to see some new characters--Pluck alone made the book worth reading! He made me laugh so much.There are truly beautiful, touching moments in this book (like when Stanley's niece Caroline finds out he's wounded), and I can't wait to reread it.

5 stars! One of my favorites of the year for sure!

 I read a copy of the book via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Dollmaker of Krakow

The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero

Karolina lived peacefully in the Land of Dolls until rats invaded and she had to flee. She is carried by a good wind to Krakow, Poland, where a former soldier turned dollmaker has created a perfect body for her. Just as the Dollmaker has brought Karolina to life in a sense, she too starts to bring him to life--bringing him out of the despair that surrounds him. The two of them become friends with Jozef and his daughter Rena, and life is happy for them--until the Germans invaded Poland. Jozef and Rena are Jews, and Karoline and the Dollmaker must find a way to help their friends.

This book is a blend of historical fiction and fantasy and alternates between Karolina's experiences in Poland and flashbacks to her experiences in the Land of Dolls. The premise of a living doll is fascinating, and I think there will be lots of readers who enjoy it. I thought the parts set in Poland were written and developed better than the parts set in the Land of Dolls; while the descriptions of the doll world were pretty, I also feel like in some ways, that whole element could have been reduced to a few paragraphs and it wouldn't have been missed much. The story of the Holocaust, however, was more powerful and poignant. This is a sad story--realistically so--but also has a hopeful note. Definitely one that would be a good discussion-starter, not only about the book but about hate and prejudice, choices and consequences, and so much more.

4 stars.

Love, Jane

Love, Jane by Ranee S. Clark

Sean O'Callaghan has fallen hard for Jane Reeves, but he's trying to take things slowly like she's asked him to. Still, he's not expecting it at all when Jane tells him she's planning to serve a mission--and as much he wants her to stay, she's determined to go. Sean agrees to wait for her, but 18 months is a long time, and while she's gone, he meets up with a girl he used to like and has to decide who he's going to be with--Victoria, who's actually there, or Jane, who is thousands of miles away.

This is the third of Ranee Clark's books that I've read, and I think it's my favorite. Sean was such a good guy--always wanting to the right thing and to help everyone. I liked Jane a lot, too, and I thought her difficulties in speaking up, especially when there might be confrontation, was well-developed. I like how Ranee Clark throws in some sports with her romances; that's a fun element. All in all, this is a fun book but also has some depth to it. I look forward to reading more from Ranee Clark.

I won a copy of this book in a giveaway. All opinions are my own.

Miss Leslie's Secret

Miss Leslie's Secret by Jennifer Moore

Conall Stewart and Aileen Leslie get off to a rough start--Conall catches Aileen's son Jamie stealing and Aileen doesn't believe him, until she finds evidence of it. Conall is certain Aileen's coddling is going to lead Jamie to become a true criminal, but what he doesn't know is that Aileen is extra protective of Jamie because of his true identity; his mother is Aileen's friend whose dying wish was that Aileen keep Jamie safe from his father. When Aileen realizes Jamie did indeed steal from Conall, she has him make restitution by spending a day working for Conall. That day turns into many days, as Jamie thrives under the direction of a good man. At first, Conall and Jamie's growing closeness upsets Aileen, but soon she finds herself growing closer to Conall as well.

I loved the setting for this romance--the Scottish highlands. It was so interesting to see the day-to-day life there. I loved Conall's goodness, and Aileen's fierce protectiveness of her son, and Jamie's blossoming under Conall's tutelage. Another excellent book by Jennifer Moore. 4 stars.


Havencross by Julie Daines

When a scandal involving her father gets her family run out of London, they return home to Cornwall, somewhere Elaine had never wanted to return to, as it's where her brother disappeared--likely died--after going on an errand for Elaine. Not only does Elaine have to have those memories, but she also has to face Gareth Kemp and her memories of how she rejected him. Gareth, who has risen in status in the world, had tried to put thoughts of Elaine away from him, but when she returns, he can't deny he still loves her. Trying not to think of her, he instead tries to do something about the smugglers who killed his father and likely his best friend. However, he soon finds that Elaine has stumbled into a dangerous mess and it will take them working together and for each other to get out of the mess.

While I love a traditional Regency romance, I also appreciated that something new here, with the setting in Cornwall and the look at smuggling; those were very interesting. Julie Daines' descriptions transport you to Cornwall. I would've liked the romance to come through a little stronger, but the element of mystery and the look at smuggling kept the book moving forward quickly. This is a clean read and easy to recommend to those who like historical fiction, Regency romances, and a dash of mystery.

4 stars

I read a copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.