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29 June 2014

His Majesty's Hope (Maggie Hope #3)

His Majesty's Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal is the third book in her Maggie Hope series. Maggie is a code breaker and mathematician in 1940s London during WWII.

Britain is under attack by the Nazis. Almost nightly air raids has been causing havoc in London. Maggie Hope has been able to miss a lot of the bombing by being at Windsor castle for the last couple of months. But now her country needs her more than ever. She is going back to school to finish her training to be a spy.

Maggie will be working for the SOE, or Special Operations Executive), also known as Churchill's private army. She will be trained to be dropped into Germany. Her training combined with her quick thinking and intelligence may be enough to keep her alive for the mission.

But when Maggie sees an opportunity to get more information for Britain, she goes off of the mission and begins to infiltrate the highest levels of Berlin society.

MacNeal's character Maggie Hope is brilliant. She is a strong, smart woman in a male dominated world. Her adventures and well-written and will keep readers up all night to find out what happens next. Fans of Maisie Dobbs or Gabriel Allon should read these books along with everyone else!

MacNeal, Susan Elia. (2013). His Majesty's Hope. New York: Bantam Books.

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27 June 2014

Rebel (Reboot #2)

Rebel by Amy Tintera is the second book in her Reboot series - a virus that kills people and then brings them back with less emotion and more strength, known as a Reboot, has swept the United States. A city was walled off in Texas to try to keep unaffected humans safe. The Reboots were at first destroyed, but later used as a police force by HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corp). It is thought that the longer you are dead before you come back, the stronger you are and the less human.

Wren 178 and Callum 22 escaped and are looking for a rumored Reboot settlement in the desert of Texas. They are done being used by HARC and kept lock in cages. If they can find the other Reboots, they may have a chance at a normal life.

But the Reboot reservation is not all they had hoped. The people there are lead by Micah who has a plan to release all of the Reboots still held by HARC and to kill the remaining humans. Wren and Callum have to decide what to do: join Micah, run away by themselves, or save the humans.

Tintera has created a great dystopian world. The Reboots are a cross between zombies and the next step in human evolution. This two book series is a must read for science fiction fans.

Tintera, Amy. (2014). Rebel. New York: HarperTeen.

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25 June 2014

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2)

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith is the second book in the Cormoran Strike mystery series. Strike is an ex-Army private investigator who is doing better after the publicity of his last case.

Since Strike solved the mystery of the death of a famous actress, he is a popular choice for a private eye. He has numerous cases - mostly messy divorce or cheating cases. With the help of his secretary and assistant, Robin, he is doing well.

When the wife of author Owen Quine hires Strike to find her husband she is under the assumption that he is off finishing a book. While she doesn't have money to pay for Strike's services, she assures him that her husband's agent will pay. Besides, she is sure he is at a writer's retreat somewhere.

Owen Quine disappeared after turning in his latest manuscript. He thinks it is brilliant - others think he will be taken to court for libel. The book, Bombyx Mori, may give quite a few people motive for murder - if they have read it.

Cormoran and Robin have their work cut out for them on this case. Galbraith has created two great characters who readers will follow through many a strange and twisty mystery.

Galbraith, Robert. (2014). The Silkworm. New York: Mulholland Books.

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23 June 2014

Princess Elizabeth's Spy (Maggie Hope #2)

Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal is the second book in her Maggie Hope mystery series which takes place during World War II.

After successfully proving herself as one of Mr. Churchill's secretaries, Maggie Hope is being trained to use her brain more to its potential. As a mathematician she could do more than take dictation, she has a flair for breaking codes. And she is fluent in German and French.

Now Maggie is training to be a spy. She is hoping for an assignment in Europe, but those in charge have another idea for her. Maggie is to be undercover at Windsor Castle - teaching Princess Elizabeth maths. At the same time she is to keep her eyes and ears open. As the heir to the throne, Elizabeth is a very likely target of the Nazis.

Maggie is a great character and a woman not willing to let the men of the time talk down to her. She is a brilliant mathematician and good with puzzles. And she will need all of her skills to find the threat at the castle before it is too late.

MacNeal's series is a must read for any fans of historical fiction, mystery, England or just great books.

MacNeal, Susan Elia. (2012). Princess Elizabeth's Spy. New York: Bantam Books.

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21 June 2014

The Engines of God (Priscilla Hutchins #1)

The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt is the first book in his science fiction series featuring Priscilla Hutchins.

In the early 23rd century, humans are exploring space. A small number of planets have been found with the ruins of past civilizations. One planet, Quragua, has a team of archeologists excavating an ancient temple. If they can find more examples of the language, they can start to decode the language of the creatures who lived there. But the Academy team is running out of time. The space corporation, Kosmik, intends to start terraforming  the planet for human settlement - which will make the planet uninhabitable for close to 100 years.

Pilot Priscilla Hutchins has been to many of the planets and  with artifacts and ruins and is being sent to collect the Academy team. She will be joined by one of her favorite archaeologists, Richard Wald, who thinks a new discovery will lead to connections between Quragua and the people he has been studying.

McDevitt has created a great beginning to a series with a complete idea of the world he is writing about and an excellent main character who readers will follow through adventures where ever she flies. Great science fiction.

McDevitt, Jack. (1994). The Engines of God. New York: Ace Books.

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17 June 2014

Lies My Girlfiend Told Me

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters is about a young woman coming to terms with the fact that her girlfriend who just died lied to her about everything.

Alix Van Pelt is having a great junior year. She is in love. Since the school ski trip, she has been dating Swanee Durban - one of the most popular girls in school and star of the track team. But six weeks into their relationship Swan dies. Alix is destroyed. To get some closure she goes to Swan's house and goes into her room for a memento. When she finds Swan's phone, she sees new texts. How can someone not have heard about the death. And who is telling Swan she loves her?

Alix begins to investigate who "LT" is from the phone. LT seems to think she is dating Swan. It seems there is someone Swan lied to more than she lied to Alix. Liana Torres goes to another school almost an hour away.

Alix and Liana have a lot in common. If they can work together they may have a chance to unravel the lies Swan told each of them.

Peters is well known for her young adult novels featuring GLBTQ characters. Lies My Girlfriend Told Me is not so much about Alix and Liana being lesbians, their families accept them from the first page, but the story of grief and renewal. This is Peters' best book yet.

Peters, Julie Anne. (2014). Lies My Girlfriend Told Me. New York: Megan Tingley Books.

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16 June 2014

To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has won many awards - including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction - with good reason: it is an important and excellent book.

Jean Louise "Scout" Finch and her brother Jem live in the Maycomb, Alabama. Their father is Atticus Finch, a lawyer, who is about to go to trial defending a black man who is accused of raping a white woman - in 1935... in the South.

Scout and Jem are raised by their father and the cook, Calpurnia. As their world view slowly grows - first with their neighborhood, then school and the larger town - Scout learns lessons about life. Written with intelligence and wit, Lee captures the development of childhood in a time of racial prejudice. When the trial starts, she must learn to stop fighting the people who say mean things about her father.

And as the trial unfolds, the family reflects on the state of affairs - how some people can treat other differently based only on the color of their skin, not on their own merit. And how people can ignore fact in the face of that prejudice.

Though written in 1960 and set in 1935, To Kill A Mockingbird still has lessons to teach readers. It is a sad fact that we, as a society, are not as evolved as we like to think and books like this one are important lenses into our past and possible futures.

Lee, Harper. (1960). To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Harper.

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13 June 2014

Talker 25

Talker 25 by Joshua McCune is a book about a war between dragons and humans.

Years ago dragons appeared. At first there was war between them and the humans. Now they are mostly under control - or in territories humans to not visit. The blue dragons, being less likely to attack are on a reservation in the middle of the United States, surrounded mostly by corn fields. The Blues did tunnels and are rarely seen. They have been fitted with collars that restrict their ability to breathe fire.

Melissa Callahan lives in the military town next to the dragon reservation. She is a senior in high school and is scared but fascinated by the dragons. As a prank Melissa and her friends break into the reservation to take pictures of themselves with Old Man Blue - a dragon who sleeps all of the time. But when Melissa discovers she can talk to dragons her world changes.

The military has been collecting talkers to use to lure out dragons to kill them. And there are various rebel groups trying to save the dragons from the military. Melissa is caught in the middle and must choose sides.

Talker 25 is a read alike for Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn - but when humans take a different  path to how to live with dragons.

McCune, Joshua. (2014). Talker 25. New York: Greenwillow Books.

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11 June 2014

Leap

Leap by Z Egloff takes place in Wakefield, Ohio in the summer of 1979.

Rowan Marks has graduated and is leaving for college in a couple of months. In the mean time, she is working at the Sugar Shack, hanging out with her best friend and wasting time. When her boss decides to explore a franchise for her restaurant, Rowan meets Catherine - and instantly doesn't like her. But for some reason, Rowan invites Catherine to join them for her eighteenth birthday.

Catherine is twenty-one and has just graduated from college. She is working for her father evaluating the books of a few restaurants interested in becoming part of the franchise. And she knows right away that she likes Rowan.

Rowan stops hanging out with her best friend Danny to spend time with Catherine. Then an accident in her family leads to a long suppressed truth coming out and Rowan's world is turned upside down.

Egloff has written a novel around a young woman who needs to escape her small town - even if she doesn't yet realize why. Leap is a must-read lesbian coming-of-age story that will take readers back to a quieter time.

Egloff, Z. (2013). Leap. Ann Arbor, MI: Bywater Books.

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Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Maggie Hope #1)

Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal is the first book in her series set during WWII in London featuring Maggie Hope - a brilliant woman with a head for math, puzzles and codes.

Maggie Hope was upset when her Aunt Edith told her she had to postpone graduate school at MIT to sell her grandmother's house in England. She did not even know she had a grandmother. The only family she had ever known was the aunt who raised her after her parents were killed in an auto accident.

Now Maggie has made London her home. And though it is below her skill level, when a friend offers her a job as one of Prime Minister Churchill's secretaries, she takes it. With the war in Europe Maggie is thrown into the stream of information flowing through No. 10 Downing Street.

Capturing life in London during World War II, MacNeal has created a wonderful series. Maggie Hope is a strong, compelling character who readers will follow through anything MacNeal writes for her. The Maggie Hope series feels like a cross between Jacqueline Winspears' Maisie Dobbs and PBS's The Bletchley Circle. Great espionage; great historical fiction.

MacNeal, Susan Elia. (2012). Mr. Churchill's Secretary. New York: Bantam Books.

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07 June 2014

Starglass (Starglass #1)

Starglass by Phoebe North is the first book in her Starglass series about a ship of humans whose ancestors left Earth and are about to reach the planet the ship has been flying toward for 500 years.

When it became apparent that Earth was going to be destroyed by an asteroid, people began to sign up for ships being sent toward planets that appeared inhabitable. The people who joined the Asherah were agreeing to live a following Jewish traditions. Each person was to be married and have two children - a boy and a girl - to keep the population up for the long journey.

Now, less than a year from reaching the planet Zehava, Terra Fineberg is graduating from school and getting her work assignment. The only life she has ever know is the ship. Life on the ship is well regulated - it would have to be to house nearly a thousand people for almost five hundred years. The ship's Council will assign her a job and she will be eligible to declare her intentions to marry.

Terra is nervous and excited to start her job. She currently lives with her father who pays little attention to her. Her mother died four years ago - a rare occurrence for someone so young. And her brother has married and move in with his wife. Terra is eager for a new life of her own.

But when she takes a shortcut home from work she sees something she was never meant to see. A murder committed by a guard leads her to a secret group within the ship - those who are planned to rebel against the rigid rules of the ship. And Terra must decide what side she is on and what she is willing to do for that side.

North has created a science fiction series with a great lead character. Reader will be interested to see what Terra does when give the choice over her own fate.

North, Phoebe. (2013). Starglass. New York: Simon & Schuster.


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04 June 2014

Suspicion

Suspicion by Joseph Finder is a thriller from page one to the very end.

Single father Danny Goodman is a writer. He is working on a second book, but the advance he is living off of is about to run out. And his daughter's school is very expensive. He is about to tell her that she will not be able to go on the junior class trip, when another parent tells him it is taken care of.

Thomas Galvin is a very wealthy man. His daughter has never been as happy as she is now that she has a best friend. And Tom would give anything to keep her that way, so paying for her friend to go on the trip is no problem.

As Danny and Tom become friends, Tom gives Danny a loan to make sure school is paid for - a loan of 50,000 dollars. But the next day the DEA comes to talk to Danny. They say that he has accepted drug money and that if he does not help them in their case against Tom, he will go to prison for racketeering.

As Finder weaves the plot through twists and turns, Danny becomes more desperate to get away from the DEA who are putting his life in danger. His life is becoming more and more intertwined with the Galvins. Finder is a master of the thriller. His books will keep you up all night reading until the last page - and craving more.

Finder, Joseph. (2014). Suspicion. New York: Dutton.

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02 June 2014

Moon at Nine

Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis is the story of two girls who fall in love in Iran in 1988 - based on the true story of one of the characters.

Fifteen year old Farrin lives in Terran. She has many secrets. In a society where people can be arrested by the Revolutionary Guard for saying anything that can even loosely be seen as anti-government, it is likely that there are things to keep hidden in every family. But Farrin's parents have parties celebrating the Shah and hoping for his return to power - acts that could have them executed.

Farrin goes to a school for academically talented girls. She has no friends and is watched by the student monitor who loves her role as a tattle-tale. Then one day at school, Farrin meets Sadira.

Farrin is instantly intrigued by Sadira. She cannot stop thinking about her. And as their friendship grows, they come to realize that they feel more than friendship toward each other - feeling that, if discovered, could lead to imprisonment or death.

Ellis has written a book based on the story of someone she knows. The story is true but names and dates have been changed to protect family members still living in Iran. She captures both the oppression and the hope of Iran after the revolution - and the desperation two young women feel within a society where they do not control their own lives.

Ellis, Deborah. (2014). Moon at Nine. Toronto: Pajama Press. 

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01 June 2014

Viral

Viral by James Lilliefors is a thriller featuring two brothers trying to stop a genocide in Africa. Charles Mallory is an ex-CIA spy who has discovered a plot to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Africa. His brother, Jon, is a reporter who Charles wants to be a witness to the atrocities and get the word out to the public.

Though Jon has not seen or heard from Charlie in years, they have been working together to write a series of stories about what is happening in the (made up) nation of Sundiata, Africa. Now Jon is to go and meet with a doctor who has been trying to treat the victims of a mysterious sickness that kills them in hours.

But Jon's increased involvement also makes him more visible. He must first survive the pandemic sweeping the country and then find his way to safety before he can post his story.

Working together from different sides, the Mallory brothers travel the world following clues as to what is really going on in Africa and who is behind it. Lilliefors has written a fast-paced thriller with a virus at the base but without the gore of previous book in the medical thriller genre.

Lilliefors, James. (2012). Viral. New York: Soho Crime.

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