The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by: Mackenzie Lee

Summary:

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores. 

The Review:

This was another anticipated read of 2017 and it was also a genre that I don’t really gravitate towards which is a period fiction that doesn’t have a lot to do with fantasy.

This was also a very fun read, and it had a lot of great comedic moments within the book. Monty, who is the main character is a someone who was born to be a gentlemen and to also run his families estate. He is set to go on a European tour before he trains to manage is families estate. He is someone who has a carefree attitude and spends most of his free time taking parts in vices; such as gambling and drinking.

Monty has a sister, Felicity. Even though she is a women living in the 18th Century she challenges the gender norms such as reading, and learning. She does not want to go to finishing school in order to become a proper lady. I love the relationship between Monty and Felicity and they have a great sibling bond, especially when dealing with their father. She was also very smart and used a lot of her brilliance on their journey and always knew an answer to something.

Percy, is Monty’s best friend, but also crush. He is bi-racial, which is nice to see in a book especially with the 18th century setting. Even though is a friend of Monty’s, he still deals with a lot of racial issues that was going on in 18th century Europe. There was places where he couldn’t go  and also some of the back handed compliments he would receive. He also has epilepsy, and of course during that time period, having epilepsy meant that “you had the devil in you” and it wasn’t properly treated as it is right now.

The main plot of the book deals with Monty stealing something that a lot of people want, including highway men and rival Dukes who wants it. It is suppose to be a “cure all”. Monty is hoping to us the “cure all” to maybe cure Percy of his epilepsy. So Monty, Felicity and Percy go on an adventure to find the “cure all”. There is also several obstacles in the way, my favorite being them getting captured by “pirates”.

The pirates were one of my favorite aspects of the book, and I want to see more of them. I think in the second book, which is mainly be from Felicity’s perspective they will be in it. There is also a huge story of how they became pirates is actually pretty compelling.

Mackenzie Lee, also takes full advantage of its setting, and the book takes you to London, Marseilles, Spain and Venice and it feels as if I was also taking part in the European tour, and I would love to go on a tour of Europe, but lack of funds is keeping me from doing that.

While the plot was good, the main strength of the book is in its characters. The main three characters are all fully fleshed out characters. The relationship between Monty and Percy was also well done. While yes, most of it was them playing “I love you” chicken, I the entire book shipping them and hoping they will finally tell each other how they feel.  It also ties a lot to abuse which Monty went thorough at the hands of his father and how he wants to try to be his own man, and not be like his father.

In the end, Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was a fantastic read and I loved every page of it. The characters are all enriching and fleshed out. It deals with a lot of complex issues such as, racism, mental health and abuse in the 18th century. I really hope to see what this author puts out.

Grade: 4.7/5

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Invictus by: Ryan Graudin

Summary:

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

The Review:

This book had me at “the crew of Firfely entering the TARDIS” and it really felt like that throughout the story. Earlier this year I read Ryan Graudin’s Wolf-by-Wolf, which is an alternative take of WWII. This deals with the concept of time-travel, with a lot of wibley-woobly timey wimey stuff.

Farway, or Far, is someone who was born “outside of time”, in which he was born within a time stream and doesn’t have a specific birthday, this was mainly due to his mother having a relationship with a Roman gladiator in 95 AD, she gave birth outside of time and defying the laws of nature. Years later he is pursuing a career in time travel, but during his final exam, it gets hacked and he fails the exam and expelled for the Academy.

Far is a great main character. He sort of had a Malcolm Reynolds vibe to him, throughout the story, and always wanted to get the job done. He also cares a lot about his crew on the Invictus, but he also deals with the fact that his mother disappeared on her own time travel mission on the Ab Aeterno.

The crew of the Invictus all have very distinct personalities which reminded me a lot of Firefly. Priya, who is Far’s girlfriend acts as the ships doctor. The relationship between Priya and Far was extremely well done and you can tell from the text that they actually care about each other. She is also fully fleshed out, and has her character fully realized through a few flashbacks of her time in the Academy.

There is also Imogen, Far’s cousin. She also puts together a lot of the “captains’s log” throughout the story, and a lot of the “captains log” are very humorous. She also has a good relationship with Far and also acts as his confidant.  Throughout the story she also has a crush on Gram, the ships pilot, and it always seems funny how she tries not to act of her crush even though people know about it. While I did like the character Gram, I thought he could have been fleshed out a bit more.

The main plot of the story is the crew planning a heist abroad the Titanic right before it sinks, in order to steal an object. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until they come across Eliot, a mysterious time traveler, who steals the item and will trade it in order to have a spot on the crew.

Eliot, basically serves the Sixth ranger role on the team, and throughout the book there is always a sense of mystery surrounding her character, and you always feel that there is some twist that is about the happen. Once you find out Eliot’s main motivation it actually starts to make sense, and adds a lot to the story.

What made the book great was the concept of time travel. Time travel is always a tricky thing to really pull off, because there are times when it could introduce a lot of plot holes, Ryan Graudin actually provided a good use of time travel through multiverses. I will not go much into detail in case of spoilers, but the idea of multiple universes makes a lot of sense in regards to the story, and sets up a lot of stacks for the story.

Also the world building was really well done as well, especially the world of time travelers. One of my favorite aspects is a clothing store that specializes in different period of clothing when one goes time traveling. So they could get jackets from the 1950s, and dresses from the Victorian era. It also set up rules with time travel in order to not disrupt the timeline.

In the end, Invictus was a really great book that deals with the concept of time travel. Mainly as a Whovian, time travel has always captivated me. The characters make the book such a good read, and I am a little disappointed that it is a stand alone novel, because I could read a series about these characters.

Grade: 4/5

Stalking Jack the Ripper by: Kerri Maniscalo

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The Review:

This was another book from my TBR that I really wanted to read, mainly because Hunting Prince Dracula was coming out soon and also meeting Kerri Maniscalo at Boston Teen Author Festival, and hearing her at the Out of Character panel, I finally decided to read this book.

What I like about this book is that it reminded me a lot of sort of film noir set in the 1800s, and also the murder-mystery plot. The way Kerri describes most of the setting it feels like a Gothic thriller.

Audrey, was a great leading character, I like that she always wanted more out of life. She always works at her uncle’s forensics lab, studying corpses. Kerri, puts a lot of thought into the description of the study of forensic science, which really adds to the book. I also like how Audrey is very forthcoming with her knowledge and very brilliant with solving cases.

The main plot of the story is the murder mystery plot surrounding the deaths of many prostitutes in the area, and I really like how it tests Audrey’s knowledge of forensic science and wondering if she could find out who the killer is before Scotland Yard. It reminded me a lot of elements of Sherlock.

It also was sort of an origin story of Jack the Ripper. What made it great was that it was Kerri Maniscalo’s own interpretation of the story of Jack the Ripper. I also like that he wasn’t called Jack the Ripper, the Apron murderer. She really made Jack the Ripper her own, which could have been challenging.

Throughout the book there is several clues into finding out who the killer is, and what I liked about is that it kept me guessing throughout the book, and I thought I sort of knew who the killer was and than it would introduce another element and catch me by surprise. It had good use of the red-herring plot and it didn’t waste too much time on red-herrings. I did feel that the ending was a bit rushed, and while the twist of who Jack the Ripper was good, I felt it could have been fleshed out a bit more.

The supporting characters were also great such as, her uncle, the relationship they have. Her uncle does care for her and pushes her to be smarter with forensic science. Her father felt as if Audrey should be more ladylike and not pursue forensic science.

Thomas Carswell, was one of my favorites out of the supporting characters. He is a student of her uncle’s and sort of assists Audrey in the murder mystery. While there is a subtle romance between the two it doesn’t take up much of the book. He also had a certain charm about him, it reminded me a lot of Richard Castle.

In the end, Stalking Jack the Ripper was a great book. The murder mystery element kept me guessing throughout the book. Aubrey was an amazing main character who was very knowledgeable about the mystery. It also kept up with the film noir setting

Grade: 4/5

 

Wonder Woman Warbringer by: Leigh Bardugo

Summary:

Daughter of immortals.

Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world.

Daughter of death.

Alia Keralis just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted by people who think her very existence could spark a world war. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together.

Two girls will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. Tested beyond the bounds of their abilities, Diana and Alia must find a way to unleash hidden strengths and forge an unlikely alliance. Because if they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

The Review:

This is the first book in the DC Icons series, which combines YA books and comic book characters written by popular YA authors. I was very excited to read this mainly because I love the character of Wonder Woman, and also this was by Leigh Bardugo, one of my favorite authors.

This book is also a very different interpretation of the character of Wonder Woman, while she does borrow elements from the comics, it does stand alone as its own thing. The story starts off in Themyscira, the home world where Diana is from, and it also starts her as a teenage girl rather than a full adult woman like the comics does. It was nice to see Themyscria and I also pictured it like the movie which is a an incredible world.

I like Leigh Bardugo’s interpretation of the character of Diana, while she is the daughter of the Queen and a princess, she still wants to do what’s right and try to protect the people she loves. She even makes a decisions to try to protect Alia, even if it means exile from Themyscria.

Alia is another main character of the story. She is said to be a descendant of Helen of Troy or the Warbringer. It is said that her existence causes war. After a shipwreck she is brought to shore by Diana who protects her and goes to New York with Alia in order to drain her power and bring an end to wars. Alia is a pretty good character, while I would have like to see her have a more kick ass role within the book, she does tend to hold her own, especially once they head to New York.

What I liked about the book was how it ties into the Greek mythology. I also liked how it fleshed out the story of Helen of Troy and how she was more than “the face that launched a thousand ships” She was a warrior of Sparta and when she became married to Menalaus she loss her identity as a person. It also had a lot more back story with Greek mythology that is often talked about in the comics but not fully fleshed out.

I felt the pacing could have been better. There was a lot of points within then book where it was a lot of waiting for the plot to finally pick up. While slow sections of a book is good, I felt in this case that it was a bit boring. I also wanted the book to have a little bit more action. While the museum fight was good, I kinda wanted a few more action scenes. Maybe its just me being spoiled by the movie and I could have used a nice “No Man’s Land” scene.

I also would have liked to see a more fleshed out friendship between Diana and Alia. While both of them are great characters I would have liked to see a friendship blossom rather than a protector-protectee relationship which the book had.

I did like the supporting characters; Nim, Theo and Jason. They each contributed to the story in their own way and had their mini arcs within the story in order to flesh out their characters. They also provided some back story with Alia. They also made the story a bit more grounded.

In the end, Wonder Woman Warbringer was a good book. While as a fan of Wonder Woman the comic character it was nice to see a different interpretation. I would recommended it to anyone who is new to comics. It provides a semi origin story of Diana Prince and I hope to see more in the future.

Grade: 3.6/5

Moxie by: Jennifer Mathieu (CW: Misogyny, Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault)

Summary:

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

The Review:

This was a book I kinda picked up on a whim. I have seen some ARC reviews about this book, and it seemed like a pretty awesome premise. I thought it was an amazing book that should be required reading for any young girl.

The book is set in high school in which the football players rule the school and pretty much get away with anything, and it was one incident in the classroom in which Mitchell, the quarterback made a sexist remark to the a girl, Lucy and when Lucy defended herself the class was punished. Vivian basically tells Lucy how that was the norm around the school. After looking through her mothers old stuff and realize that she was a Riotgrrrl she decides to to start a zine highlighting the problems girls have in the school and the misogyny they face.

I love that I got to see the “zine” within the book, it really made it feel as if I was in on the action. I also like how it started off as something small but than grew and started becoming inspiring to all the girls at the school. While the audience knows Vivian is the author, I like that she made it anonymous, so it reminded me a lot of Mr. Robot. I also like that it started a movement within the school in which most the girls were involved in.

Most the issues that was covered was the sexual harassment brought on by the football players with the “bump n grind”, the schools sexist dress code policies, and lack of funding in the girls sports teams. They are all real issues that many young girls face today. It also touched upon how sexual assault often gets mishandled by school administrators.

Vivian as a main character was very engaging. I like how she wasn’t afraid at first to do the zine because she wanted to reach as many girls as possible. I also like that has started off as very shy and only having just a few friends, mainly Claudia and Lucy.

I also love the emphasis on female friendship. You really don’t see a lot of female friendships in YA novels and the fact that the relationship between the girls seemed real. There is also a romance in the book, but it is not the main focus of teh book. There were some other characters like Kiera and Emma who I did like, but I kinda wish they were a bit more fleshed out.

Viv’s boyfriend Seth is a very well written male character, I like that he isn’t the “brooding YA protagonist”. he is actually very supportive of Viv writing Moxie, and he also knows when to be a good feminist ally. While there is times he almost ventures into “not all men” he understands that there is stuff that he will never understand. I also like how their relationship was actually well done, while they did fight it wasn’t to the point where they have the second act break up, it was an actual meaningful relationship.

A minor criticism I have is that I wish the book was little more diverse. While Lucy is a Hispanic character, I felt that some of the side POC characters weren’t really fleshed out. But I do like how Viv discusses how the 90s RiorGrrrls didn’t include many POC and was willing to make a change with Moxie.

In the end, Moxie was an amazing book that is has a lot of good feminist themes. I think it should be required reading for all young girls because of its themes. I think the book will hopefully inspire young girls to get involved in activism. It was has some engaging characters with a nice story along with it.

Grade: 4.5/5

 

Windwitch by: Susan Dennard

Summary:

After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

The Review:

Eariler this year I read Truthwitch and I really liked that book. While I am a huge fan of fantasy Truthwitch was a very different fantasy series which Incorporated a lot of magic in their world.

Windwitch, picks up almost right where Truthwitch left off, an explosion comes on Merik’s ship and Safi is shipwrecked. It mostly involves those characters trying to get back and having an adventure along the way. Iseult is trying to find Safi, and with a bounty on her head she works with Aeduan, a Bloodwitch who is tasked with bringing Iseult in.

While a minor problem I had with the book is that the leading characters are separated throughout the book, and I loved seeing Iseult and Safi’s relationship in Truthwitch but it was lacking in Windwitch. But I actually liked seeing their story arcs separate from each other. Safi spends most of the book with Vanass, and it was nice to for her to have a new ally. Meri is trying to get back home, with everyone thinking that he is dead he works with Cam. The relationship between Merik and Cam was really good, and I am glad that it wasn’t a romantic relationship.

What made Windwitch a good sequel was that it did a good job at expanding the Witchland world, including a sort of underbelly city called Shiitetown, which is filled with refugees. It was further developed some characters like Vivia, Merik’s sister. A lot of Vivia’s POV chapters dealt with her dealing with the politics of Nubrevna, and most of iot was her trying to be a new leader, with some people in her royal circle attempting to betray her. Vivia had a lot of development in the book and it they really expanded her character.

Camden is another character that was further introduced in this book with her relationship with Merik. She can still hold her own and spends most of the time defending Merik. Aeduan was one of the new characters that I felt had the best arc. While it may seem like a cliche trope in which someone who is tasked to kill her, ends up falling for her. While Aeduan doesn’t exactly fall of Iseult, he does grow to respect her.

I would also day that this book kinda suffers from second book syndrome. It has a lot of plot lines built up throughout that will hopefully be payed off in future books. It felt as if it was a set up book. But what it lacked in plot development it made up for in character development, all of the leading characters has significant development throughout the book, and it makes me excited about where they are going next.

The character I felt that had the strongest development was Merik. While in Truthwitch Merik was the sort of lovable rouge type, you really see that he cares about people and the world around. There was a point where he felt that he had to make a hard choice and either way it would have wrecked him. He also has to try to figure his place within the kingdom.

Iseult and Safi are still some of my favorite characters, and even though they spent the entire book apart from one another they still care about one another. A major strength about Truthwitch and Windwitch, is their strong bond and I really hope they have a great reunion in the next book.

In the end, Windwitch was a sequel that delivered in terms of character development. While it was lacking in plot development, it was made up for with fleshed out character arcs, both new and returning characters. I am very excited to see where this story goes.

Grade: 4.3/5

Warcross by Marie Lu

Summary:

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

The Review: 

This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017. I was always a fan of Marie Lu’s works, mainly The Legend trilogy and the Young Elites trilogy, so it is always good to see one of my favorite authors writing more series. I also like how Marie Lu isn’t afraid to write other genres. Warcross being a Sci Fi book.

Emika is a great character. She is a hacker/bounty hunter who is just scrapping by living in NYC. After hacking into a Warcross tournament she catches the eye of Hideo Tanaka, the creator of Warcross, and all of a sudden she is a player at the Warcross torunemant.

You can tell that she is a very independent character who had to live on her own for quite sometime and when she is going to Tokyo she is amazed how Tokyo is from NYC.

Hideo Tanaka, is also a great character. He has a good relationship with Emika and there is a reason behind why he created Warcross.

The world of Warcross is also amazing. It is basically a game in which two teams have to find an artifact before the other team through several levels based upon video games. You can tell that Marie Lu uses her background in the video game industry to come up with these grand ideas for levels and their design. Also the parts of the Warcross tournament is amazing. Everything about the scene when we see Warcross is action packed. Marie Lu is very good at writing action sequences that keeps the readers engaged.

There are some great supporting characters, mainly her teammates in the Warcross tournament; The Phoenix Riders. They all come from diverse backgrounds all chosen to compete in Warcross. While they didn’t really have a lot of development in this book, they still were great characters to have on her team.

This book also had some great twists. I really don’t want to give anything away but the ending did catch me by surprise. I always could tell that the Warcross tournament is a small aspect of a bigger picture. While some of twists could have been telegraphed throughout the book, is was still an amazing twist.

In the end, Warcross delivers in every way that I wanted it to. Much like Marie Lu’s previous work it is filled with engaging characters and a great world. It was ties into her love for video games which also ties into a great plot.

Grade: 5/5