Good Books and the Random Movie

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11 March 2017

Our Own Private Universe

Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley.

Aki Simon is spending the summer in Mexico with her church group. Another group of teens from Maryland and one from farther south will be joining them.

What Aki wants to do this summer is test her theory about being bi. And as soon as she meets Christa from one of the other groups, she knows with whom she would like to test it. And her best friend, Lori, can see it on her face immediately.

Over a few weeks, Aki and Christa get to know each other. Aki contemplates coming out to her father. Christa is sure her parents would never understand and is worried that word might get back to them through another member of the church. Either way, they cannot deny they have feelings for each other.

Robin Talley is one of my favorite authors and she does not disappoint with this novel.

Talley, Robin. (2017). Our Own Private Universe. New York: Harlequin Teen.

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07 March 2017

Read Me Like a Book

Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler is one young woman's story of finding out who she is and who she wants to be.

Ash is a mediocre student in her last year of school. While her very future depends on her A level exams, she is not too interested in school. She thinks of teachers are old, grumpy people who don't care about teaching so much as about discipline. Which may explain why she and her best friend Cat skip class so often.

But the new English teacher seems different. Miss Murray is only a few years older than Ash. And she is making class interesting. Ash wants to spend as much time with her as possible and works hard on her classwork to get a compliment.

It takes a while for Ash to realize she has a crush on her teacher - the results of which may be hard to deal with in the near future, but will spark Ash's interest in a life after school.

Kessler has written a great coming out story set in England. The scene of Ash coming out to her parents (specifically her mother's reaction) is wonderful - and the closest to my own story I have seen in a book.

Kessler. Liz. (2016). Read Me Like A Book. Summerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

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06 March 2017

Windwitch (Witchlands #2)

Windwitch by Susan Dennard is the second book in her Witchlands series, a young adult fantasy series.

After centuries of war and then a twenty-year truce, people in the three nations are wondering what comes next. Some are making plays for power, others trying to keep the peace going.

Safi, after being promised to a terrible man as an alliance, has escaped. The ship she was on was attacked by magic fire. She only escaped because the Empress of Marstock is an ironwitch. Now she is bound to Marstock long enough to weed out traitors. Safi is a truthwitch - she can tell if anyone is telling a lie.

Iseult, Safi's best friend, is on the run and trying to catch up with Safi. She is being tracked by two different groups and the bloodwitch, Aeduan.

Aeduan can track anyone with their own unique blood scent. He knows Iseult from tracking her before, but he cannot sense her. But he will not give up until he catches up to her.

Susan Dennard has created a great fantasy series. It has great characters, political intrigue, mythical creatures, magic, pirates and Hell-Bards, all in a well thought out world. Out of the new fantasy series of the last few years, this is one of my top picks.

Dennard, Susan. (2016). Windwitch. New York: Tor Teen.

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26 February 2017

Vanished (Nick Heller #1)

Vanished by Joseph Finder is the first book in his Nick Heller series. Heller is a private intelligence operative working for a private firm in Washington, DC.

Roger and Lauren Heller are attacked on their way back to the car after eating at a restaurant. Lauren is hospitalized with a head injury. Roger is missing. Nick is contacted by his nephew, Gabe, while he is on a job about a missing cargo shipment.

Nick and his brother, Roger, have not gotten along since they became adults, but Nick would do anything to help his family. He will use all of his skills to find out where Roger is or what happened to him.

Finder is a master of the suspense/thriller novel. All of his book are fast, engaging reads. Nick Heller is a great character with a unique set of skills in a popular genre.

Finder, Joseph. (2009). Vanished. New York: St. Martin's Press.

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22 February 2017

The Dark Days Pact (Lady Helen #1)

The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman is the second book in her Lady Helen series of alternate history / fantasy set in the early 1800s England.

Lady Helen Wrexhall was introduced to the Dark Days Club at the time she was introduced to society. Expecting parties and potential suitors, instead she got creatures that look human but feed off of those around them.

Now Helen is in training to fight these creatures, to keep a balance. She is in Brighton with her members of the club, the Hammonds. Lord Carlston is helping to train her.

Unfortunately, Lord Carlston is fighting something within himself. And to make matters worse, the man Helen turned down for marriage has followed them to the shore.

Goodman has created a great fantasy series set within the confines of British society at its height.

Goodman, Alison (2017). The Dark Days Pact. New York: Viking.

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14 February 2017

South of Sunshine

South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf is the story of first love.

Senior Kaycee McCoy is tired of attempting to date boys. She has no interest in them. She just needs to stay hidden until the end of the school year. Then she will start breaking free of Sunshine, Tennessee.

But her plan begins to fall apart as soon as she sees the new student. Bren Dawson, from Boston, has lived all over the place. Even in Africa. She is tall and beautiful and stands out because of her skin. Her mother is Cuban.

Kaycee tries to avoid Bren. But then she wonders if she will be too obvious by not being her friend. Van and Sarabeth, Kaycee's best friends since childhood start to notice her strange behavior. Van, who is not closeted, but is not shouting to the small conservative town that he is gay wants Kaycee to admit to him her feelings. Sarabeth is acting strange and trying to force a new boyfriend on Kaycee.

Elmendorf has written a beautiful coming out story with a brave and wonderful ending.

Elmendorf, Dana. (2016). South of Sunshine. Illinois: Albert Whitman & Co.

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11 February 2017

Archetype (Archetype #1)

Archetype by M.D. Waters is a dystopian tale on the order of the Handmaid's Tale.

Emma wakes up with no memory. Her husband, Declan, is a patient and powerful man who helps nurse her back to health. She is staying in a clinic which seems more like a lab where she has tests everyday.

There is a voice in her head that warns her not to talk about the dreams and memories that begin to surface. Memories of a camp / school where girls are trained to be mothers. And dreams of a beach with a man who is not her husband.

Waters has created a creepy futuristic novel about a woman with no memory who has to rely on instincts about who to trust. The feel of reading this book invokes a confusion and tension - and a need to find out the truth!

Waters, M.D. (2013). Archetype. New York: Plume.

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05 February 2017

Front Lines (Soldier Girl #1)

Front Lines by Michael Grant is the story of what it would have been like if US women could have been drafted during World War II - focusing on three young women who sign up.

The court case Becker v. Minneapolis Draft Board in 1940 ruled that the Selective Training and Service Act (the military draft) unfairly singles out males, and extends the draft to all United States citizens 18 year of age or older.

Rio Richlin of Gedwell Fall, California, just heard that her sister died in the Pacific when her Navy ship was sunk by the Japanese. When her best friend Jenou announces that she is joining the Army. Rio decides to join with her.

Frangie Marr of Tulsa, Oklahoma, wants to be a doctor. She doesn't know any black women doctors, but it is her dream. She is going to sign up for the Army and try to become a medic. The stipend will help her family's income since her father's injury.

Rainy Schulterman of New York City wants to join the Army to kill Nazis. Her relatives in Europe have been silent since Germany invaded. Her brother, who is her best friend, is a Marine being assigned to the Pacific. Rainy will be assigned to Army intelligence.

Grant has written a great historical novel that is also a what-if. The book explores the sexism and racism at the time with three great main characters. Front Lines is the first book in a series. Buy a copy today! Book two is already out.

Grant, Michael. (2016). Front Lines. New York: Katherine Tegen Books.

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03 February 2017

Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet

Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet by HP Wood is a look at Coney Island at the turn of the 20th century.

Zeph works at the museum known as Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet. It is a collection of strange and bazaar artifacts. Zeph enjoys the days when no customers come to see the exhibits. He is content to sit at the counter and read.

As one of the Unusuals, Zeph doesn't feel the need to interact with Dozens. They have not proven to be overly kind people, especially to Zeph, who lost his legs and is now seen as one of the many freaks who hang around Coney Island.

Kitty Hayward has adopted a bench on Coney Island as her current home. She and her mother just arrived on a steamer ship from abroad. She left her mother at the hotel to go for a walk and when she returned was treated like she did not belong in the hotel. The bell boy acted like she was lying about staying there. Now Kitty doesn't know what to do. She knows no one in America.

As Kitty meets the Unusuals, a few of them vow to help her find her mother. But on top of dealing with a missing mother, they ship they can in on has been quarantined and people are starting to get sick. It is not unlikely that politicians will use this as an excuse to try to close Coney Island.

Wood has taken an American landmark and created a story of the wonderful, colorful people who may have live there 100 plus years ago. This is a book for anyone who loves New York. Read it!

Wood, H.P. (2016). Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet. ?:Sourcebooks Landmark.

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23 January 2017

Guilty Minds (Nick Heller #3)

Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder is the third book in his Nick Heller series. Heller is a private intelligence operative based in Boston.

A Washington power broker hires Nick to stop a story that is about to break on a gossip news site. Slander Sheet is about to print a fake story - set up to withstand a cursory investigation - about a Supreme Court Justice. Heller has 24 hours to bring them proof that the story is fake and stop them from releasing it to the public.

But someone has got to great lengths to have this story printed, and the Justice ruined. Heller finds a witness, only to have someone kidnap her.

Finder writes great thrillers. I discovered this series at book three, but had no problem following the story. I will go back and read the previous novels. It is a fun read if you like thrillers.

Finder, Joseph. (2016). Guilty Minds. New York: Dutton.

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21 January 2017

Before the Wind

Before the Wind by Jim Lynch is a humorous look at people who love to sail. Written like a memoir, this novel follows the Johannssen family outside of Seattle.

Josh comes from a sailing family. His grandfather designs boats, his father build them. The Joho sailing boats are famous through out the Pacific Northwest and the racing community. Josh is the middle child who, as an adult, repairs sailboats - no matter how broken down. His older brother, Bernard, has taken off for points unknown - in a stolen sailboat. His younger sister, Ruby, is a sailing savant who could have gone to the Olympics but had other ideas.

Lynch has written a laugh-out-loud story about a single man in a boat yard. It is at times inspirational - stories of sailing on the open sea. And at times heartbreaking. This is a great book. Read it if you have any interest in sailing!

Lynch, Jim. (2016). Before the Wind. New York: Borzoi Books.

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11 January 2017

Of Fire and Stars

Of Fire and Star by Audrey Coulthurst is a great young adult fantasy novel!

Dennaleia, second princess of Havemont, has been promised to Prince Thandilimon since they were six years old. Her upbringing was spent learning to run a country. Now she is going to the city of Lyrra, capital of Mynaria, to be married.

Upon arrival, it appears she is missing one type of training. Dennaleia cannot ride a horse and is now in a land where horses are revered. Even her wedding will be on horseback.

Princess Amaranthine (Mare) is a horse expert. She was never going to inherit rule, so she has been left to do what she wants. Now she is supposed to teach her brother's fiancĂ© to ride. This will break into the time she usually sneaks into the city in disguise.

When an assassin attacks the royal family, Dennaleia and Mare feel like no one is doing enough to find out who is behind it. So they join forces, spending more and more time together. Does the attack have something to do with the fact that the marriage contract will outlaw magic in both Havemont and Mynaria? The council thinks so and is hunting down anyone who show an ability - an ability like the one Dennaleia has been hiding her whole life.

Coulthurst has written a great fantasy with two likeable characters thrown into political turmoil and put in danger. The relationship between Mare and Denna is sweet and realistic. It is unclear if there will be another book with these characters, but I hope so! This is a great lesbian fantasy novel.

Coulthurst, Audrey. (2016). Of Fire and Stars. New York: Balzer + Bray.

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07 January 2017

The Queen's Accomplice (Maggie Hope #6)

The Queen's Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal is the sixth book in her Maggie Hope series - a historical mystery, espionage series set during World War II.

England 1942. In London the Blitz has paused but the blackout continue. It is starting to seem like someone is taking advantage of the darkness and the transience of women working for the war effort. Someone is killing ATS women.

Maggie Hope is currently assigned to the SOE (Special Operations Executive) office overseeing spies in France. She is under appreciated and her expertise is being ignored by those in power - who have never been undercover - when she is borrowed by MI-5. Maggie is tasked to work with DCI Durgin at Scotland Yard. to find the man responsible for killing SOE recruits. A man the media has dubbed the Blackout Beast.

MacNeal has created a great character in Maggie Hope. The books are a wonderful mixture of historical, mystery, suspense and espionage as we follow Maggie's time in the war. This novel reads like a fiction version of Devil in the White City.

MacNeal, Susan Elia. (2016). The Queen's Accomplice. New York: Bantam Books.

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03 January 2017

Ashes of Victory (Honor Harrington #9)

Ashes of Victory by David Weber is the ninth book in his science fiction series featuring Honor Harrington.

The war between the People's Republic of Haven and Manticore continues. After a setback, the Royal Manticoran Navy is about to unleash a technological jump ahead in space warfare. It may be the beginning of the end of the war.

Honor Harrington is headed home to recover from her injuries. While on Manticore she has been asked to teach classes at Saganami Island, the Naval College.

In Haven, the committee that has taken over the government is having some internal suspicions. One or more of the high ups will be displaced and the balance of power will change once again.

The Honor Harrington series is great science fiction. If you are a fan and have not read this, buy the first book today. If you like scifi and are tired of the dearth of female lead characters - look no further.

Weber, David. (2000). Ashes of Victory. New York: Baen.

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13 December 2016

Changers: Kim (Changers #3)

Changers: Book 3: Kim by T. Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper is the third book in the Changers series - about a separate race of humans. They experience relationships with the same people through the eyes of four different versions of themselves through their high school years.

Ethan woke up on the first day of high school as Drew, spent sophomore year as Oryon and is now changing into Kim. The shocking part is not knowing who you will become until you wake up that first morning. Overnight Oryon, a black football player, woke up as Kim, an overweight Filipina. She goes to the same school as last year, but as a new person.

Living different versions gives Changers a chance to see past the superficial. Being treated differently by the same people when you are same on the inside opens their eyes to the prejudice and injustice in the world. And gives them a chance to change people's opinions.

Changers is a great YA series that highlights the differences and similarities in us all. Kim might by my favorite version so far, but book three feels a bit like a middle novel - setting things up for book four. But the ending makes readers hope for a quick release of that forth book!

Cooper, T. (2016). Changers: Kim. New York: Black Sheep.

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09 December 2016

Romancing the Inventor (Supernatural Society Novella #1)

Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger is the first Supernatural Society Novella set in the same work as her Parasol Protectorate, Finishing School and Custard Protocol series. This one takes place a few years after the end of the Parasol Protectorate series finishes.

Genevieve Lefoux has been one of my favorite characters in these series. Now she has a novella focusing on her - or rather one in which the main character's attention is completely focused on her.

Madam Lefoux is an inventor. Even as a child she created useful gadgets. Now she is indentured to a vampire hive as punishment. She spends all of her time in the potting shed, come laboratory.

Imogene Hale is a parlourmaid. Her family needed the income and Imogene has no desire to marry, so she got hired at the local vampire hive. When she is sent to take a lunch tray to the potting shed, she becomes intrigued by Madam Lefoux. And finds ways to be assigned the duty more often.

Carriger has created a sweet romance story set in an alternate history England. Fans of the Carriger series will enjoy this novella and be happy that Vieve has finally found someone to help her get over her old lost love.

Carriger, Gail. (2016). Romancing the Inventor. ?: Gail Carriger LLC.

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06 December 2016

Night School (Jack Reacher #21)

Night School by Lee Child is the 21st book in his Jack Reacher series - a retired Army MP who wanders the US stumbling onto situations that need to be resolved. This novel is a jump back to his time in the Army.

In 1996, Jack Reacher is a major in the US Army military police. He is an investigator who sees things that others often miss.

Coming off of a successful mission, Reacher is given a medal and told he is going back to school. The vague title of the class sounds like improving agency cooperation with other US alphabet groups. But really it is a black hole - an assignment so boring that no one will look for him while he works with two agents (FBI and CIA).

The CIA has an asset in Germany who is part of a new group out of the Middle East. The asset overheard a messenger say that the American wants one hundred million. Of course, this set the NSA in motion. They don't know what is going on, but it must be big.

With so little information the team, supplemented by helper of their choice, can try to figure out what would be worth that much, or try to find the messenger for the next part of the negotiation - without burning the asset. Reacher calls his favorite sergeant, Francis Neagley. One of my favorite supporting characters in any series, I was thrilled to get another book with Neagley!

Child's series is filled with great reads. Fans of mystery, suspense, and characters with their own, unbending sense of right and wrong, will love this series.

Child, Lee. (2016). Night School. New York: Delacourte Press.

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