Defying Mars – Cidney Swanson

1939543010-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_This is technically the second book in this series, but I’m starting to get the feeling the author pulled apart one (maybe two – the series is young) books to make more parts.

In the last book, Jess and her brother were among the crew of a Mars ship sent to Earth to get the food they need to survive. Officially, there’s no one on Mars – they’ve been considered dead by Earth for years, but there have black market support back on Earth. Their mission went terribly wrong, and only Jess and the mechanic make it back to Mars. In this book, Jess pretty much steals the ship almost as soon as they get back, and returns to Earth. That’s it.

Yes, there’s a some action on Earth where her brother Ethan is getting used to his new body (long backstory), and other things happens (with characters you won’t understand unless you’ve read book one). That’s why this seems very incomplete to me – the whole book is a transition act. I can’t even say it’s good or bad- it just is.

The Blue Girl – Charles de Lint

ecf562906d3af1959724a656777434f414f4141When Imogene’s mother moves their family into Newford, Imogene is determined to make the most of things. She quickly makes friends with Maxine – who doesn’t seem to have any friends at school, but is the most interesting person Imogene sees. And at the same time, she manages to come to the attention of Adrian, the school’s resident ghost.

Adrian was also a loner in life, until he caught the attention of the school’s brownies. The problem with brownies is that when they’re taken for granted, they get a bit feral, and the school’s brownies are definitely feeling neglected. They think they’re being kind to Adrian, but in a moment of fun, he dies. He’s been hanging around the school ever since, unable to cross over.

This is a definite young adult book, so even though there are some pretty heavy themes in this book (bullying gets some extensive treatment), they’re lighter than the more adult Newford books would be. There is some cross over with some of the other adult Newford characters, but this book easily stands alone. Imogene, Maxine and Adrian are interesting characters, and this is a fun high school story, with a much more realistic feel to it than other YA. (Funny to say about a fundamentally fantasy story, but it’s true.) This is also a great introduction to the larger world of Newford, and would probably work as well for adults as young adults in that way.

Risuko – David Kudler

1938808347-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Risuko’s father was a samarai, but his death has left her family poor. And that is why Risuko’s mother sells her to Lady Chiyome. However, she soon finds that the Lady has plans for her – she’s brought back to the school that Lady Chiyome started to train shrine maidens – but they’re more than just priestesses – some of the women are trained as assassins, and more.

Risuko arrives with two other novices, and they begin their training in the kitchen with the Korean cook – even that isn’t as must drudgery as it would seem – they’re learning about healing herbs, and various other things that can be done with food.

As time goes on, it seems that someone is trying to steal something from the envoy of the local lord who’s staying with them. When most of the rest of the temple falls under a sleeping potion, Risuko must figure out who’s the enemy in the temple, and rescue everyone else.

Risuko’s a great character. This is definitely a young adult book, so it’s pretty straightforward, but she pulls you in quickly, and you want to read more to see what she does next.

Ink and Bone – Rachel Caine

eb77cdc142a1a1c597074656a77434f414f4141Jess Brightwell lives in London in an alternate world where the library in Alexandria was never destroyed. It found a way to transmits copies of books everywhere, and now it controls all the knowledge in the world. Jess’s family are smugglers – obtaining original books for buyers who can afford them.

Jess has never shown the same aptitude for smuggling as his twin brother, and so his father manages to get him into the newest postulant class for the Library. The Brightwells see it as a business opportunity to get someone on the inside. Jess also sees it as an opportunity to surround himself with his beloved books.

Once in Alexandria, it’s clear that the there are many agendas in play – the other postulants also seem to have secrets. And it’s soon also clear that the Library itself will stop at nothing to maintain its grip over the world’s knowledge.

This was a very interesting set up – I definitely want to see what happens to Jess and his friends next. The world building was great – it’s a compelling story.

The Magician’s Ward – Patricia C. Wrede

30a6ebcb65fc878596e32686c51434f414f4141So I managed to read two books set in Regency England at once, pretty much by accident. This is the sequel to Mairelon the Magician, where a street urchin named Kim helps the aforementioned magician, who turns out to be a nobleman. At the end of the first book, he asks if she’d like to be his ward, and he’ll teach her magic.

So now Kim is running in noble circles in London, and while she loves the magic lessons, she’s not sure about the whole society aspect of her new life. That gets a little better when Mairelon’s mother, Lady Wendall, arrives. She’s a magician herself, and is happy to help Kim figure out a way to fit in.

At the same time, some of Kim’s old contacts are in touch, because the magic workers that live in her old neighborhood are disappearing. Then, someone attempts to break into Mairelon’s library, and it would appear the two events are connected. Because she’s a part of both worlds, Kim is in the best position to figure out what’s happening.

I quite enjoyed this book – it’s nice to see the part after the happily ever after, in which the poor girl isn’t quite fitting in, but learns how to it on her own terms. And even the end, which was totally predictable, was still fun.

The Immortal Heights – Sherry Thomas

1fc1b1bd296268659672b526b51434f414f4141This was a satisfying conclusion to this trilogy – I’m so happy I was able to get my hands on it.

Titus has been given an ultimatum to hand over Iola to the Bane, or his people will suffer. All he can do is try to strike at the Bane in his fortress in Atlantis, an event that will lead to his death. Unfortunately, their friend Kashkari has now also seen that Iola will die at the fortress as well.

This book follows a pretty standard format – obviously, Titus, Iola and their friends have to fight the Bane. They have to get into Atlantis, and into the Fortress that most people have never even seen, let alone gotten into. And there’s also the death sentence now hanging over both their heads, both seen by seers, who supposedly can only see the truth. It’s the story itself that that is more complicated – how they get into Atlantis was a series of enjoyable twists and turns. And I think it’s fair to say, without it being spoilers, that they both find out ways to survive. Titus’ was the most expected of the two (though not within the realm of the story- I liked how they pulled it off). I did not see Iola’s reason for survival coming (despite a in hindsight, huge clue), and that was a good (if sad) pay off.

Great series. It’s a shame the rest of her books appear to be straight up romance novels, because I can’t quite bring myself to read those, even though I bet they’re great.

The Perilous Sea – Sherry Thomas

9d014a2f7840830596747586951434f414f4141I stumbled upon the first book in this series – The Burning Sky – as a Kindle deal when it was newly published, and I’ve been meaning to get back to this series for ages. A gift subscription threw it into my lap this week, and I was barely a few pages in when I remembered how much I had enjoyed the first book.

This book has a really interesting set up – it starts with two people (who are clearly Titus and Iola), waking up with no memories. They aren’t sure if they can trust each other. In alternating chapters, it’s weeks earlier before the two have lost their memories. I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say that a wrench has been thrown into Titus and Iola’s relationship. The dual time frames work so well, because as they are learning to trust each other again, you see the roots to tension starting in the other timeframe, and the events that lead up to their ending up in the middle of the Sahara with no memories. It works beautifully.

I’m so pleased I had this book (and the next – yay!) more or less thrown in my lap. This is a wonderful story.