Friday, February 17, 2017

The School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Georgiana is sent off to boarding school when her latest science experiment, an attempt to make invisible ink to help in the fight against Napoleon, goes awry, burning down her father's stable. Arriving at Miss Stranje's boarding school she finds a torture chamber, which her father hopes will serve to change Georgiana's ways, and a ballroom where several young ladies are tied to chairs. She discovers hidden chambers and passages including one she falls out of and into the arms of Lord Sebastian Wyatt. With threats of assassinations, reinstatement of Napoleon as emperor, and an even bigger war, Georgie's invisible ink formula is needed for covert communications.

Smart girls, brave young men, evil spies, and the manners and mores of Regency England combine to make this a delight. It is a great read for those who love YA novels and romantic adventure
stories set in the Regency era. I loved that Baldwin included an author's note delineating where her historical fiction diverged from the actual historical record.

I read this because I picked up an arc of Refuge for Masterminds and discovered it was the third in the series. Unfortunately my box of treasures shipped home from ALA has never arrived : (    

Published by Tor Teen 2015

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Flying by Carrie Jones

Cheerleader vs. Aliens. Mara is small, ethnic looking, and the flyer for her cheerleading team. She has two best friends, Seppie who is also a cheerleader and Lyle the gorgeous, athletic, nerd next door. When Mara sees her crush seemingly being kidnapped at a game she rushes into the locker room to save him and discovers he is actually an acid spewing alien! Meanwhile both her parents go missing and she and Lyle have to run for their lives.

This is a fun read with great action. Readalikes are Gini Koch's Aliens series and the movie Men in Black.

Published by Tor Teen

Friday, February 10, 2017

The One-Eyed Judge by Michael Ponsor

Judge Posner's second novel featuring western Massachusetts  federal judge David Norcross delves into the trial of an Amherst professor, Sidney Cranmer, who is charged with obtaining and possessing child pornography. Cranmer's scholarly passion is Charles Dodgson, who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland using the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll and was rumored to be a pedophile. Claire Lindemann, Norcross's love interest and a colleague of Cranmer is sure he has been wrongly accused and she works with the professors student intern whose own love life may have a bearing on the case. While the case drags on, David's life is complicated by a family tragedy that brings his two young nieces into his household. 

The great appeal in Posner's legal thrillers is not action but rather the examination of law and how it is administered. His sympathetic characters are thoughtful and examine ethics as well as law but the miscreants are not nearly as well developed. All in all this is an entertaining and thought provoking read.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Fantasy lovers and dog lovers of all ages will enjoy Nix's clever new fairy tale. In a world of tiny kingdoms, it is not easy growing up with a stepstepfather who is an evil sorcerer planning to wrest the kingdom away from the heir. Anya, the younger, and more practical of the two princesses, has always listened to the wisdom of the royal dogs so when she promises to save her sister's suitor who has just been transformed into a frog by their evil stepstepfather, she goes to them for help. When she rescues the wrong frog prince using the last of the transmogrification lip balm she sets out on a quest to acquire the ingredients to make more, accompanied by Ardent, a young dog. Along the way she meets others who have been victims of transformation spells, good thieves, witches, seven dwarves, wizards, sorcerers, and several different Geralds the Herald. Through a danger filled series of adventures she realizes that it is up to her to restore the rule of law expressed All-Encompassing Bill of Rights and Wrongs.

This delightful tale would be a great read aloud for middle grade and middle school audiences. It has the feel of a classic bringing to mind Harry Crewe from Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and Princesses Cimorene from Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

This amazing first installment of an enthralling space opera begins at the end of an empire but before most people across the Interdependency have any idea their civilization is facing collapse. Even though faster than light travel proves impossible there is something called The Flow, a way of sliding into an alternate reality current that sweeps intergalactic ships from place to place in a matter of months. Cardenia, the illegitimate daughter of the emperox is crowned when her father dies. A Flow physicist living on End, the furthest part of the empire, as a royal auditor, keeps his scientific discovery that something is amiss with the Flow on the down low as he researches it. A ship heading to End faces a mutiny. On End, a merchant prince conspires with a rebellion while his brother and sister back at the Hub connive for a political alliance.

This rich, complex, totally addictive tale is a beautiful balance of romance, politics, social stratification, religion, and commerce. It has the feel of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga.