Wayfarer

20983366by Alexandra Bracken
YA Fantasy / Historical Fiction
4 of 5 stars

Yet another immensely satisfying end to a series! The 500-page factor had me a little hesitant to dive in—I knew I would need TIME—but once I did I found this even faster-paced with more adventure than Passenger.

Etta and Nicholas are separated across centuries and continents and their fight to find each other and destroy the astrolabe jumps us to every imaginable period and region (though regrettably, no dinosaurs). Etta finds herself in the care of the Thorns, with surprisingly not-dead people intent on helping her. Nicholas and Sofia struggle not to kill each other as they track the astrolabe, with the mysterious assistance and resistance of traveler Li Min. Surprises and twists keep the pages flying by!

Once again, the attention to detail and research blew me away. It just feels like you are there, no matter where they go. There’s more magic this time, and definitely more secrets to expose, so without spoilers, anything you loved in the first book is doubled in this installment! It made me want to plan a bunch of trips by the time I finished it.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Wayfarer is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – Not technically time-travel, but this is a beautiful story about a girl with a cursed horoscope that finds herself caught between the human and the Otherworld in a mystery that involves lifetimes. See my review here.
  • Abarat by Clive Barker – Candy Quackenbush of Chickentown, U.S.A. is bored to death until a wave carries her from our world to the world of the Abarat, where every island is an hour of the day and a dark power is threatening to destroy it all. Weird but interesting portal fantasy with incredible artwork!
  • Old Magic by Marianne Curley – When Kate and Jerrod meet there’s an actual lightning storm—in their classroom. Kate must convince the skeptical Jerrod that he has magical powers, and that the curse that has dogged his family is something they will need to travel to the past to fix. This is a fun read you’ll breeze through in a few hours.
  • A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones – One of the best fantasy writers of our time tackles time-travel in a unique way. Time City is built on a patch of space outside of time, and its residents are charged with overseeing the cycle of history. But when the timeline begins to crumble, two boys pluck Vivian Smith from Twenty Century to help them save it. Except they got the wrong Vivian, and now they have to save the timeline anyway! So good and will squeeze your brain.

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

25488299by Megan Shepherd
Children’s Lit
5 of 5 stars

This beautiful little story feels fresh and familiar. I absolutely loved it!

I’m not sure that I can write a better review than Maggie Stiefvater’s. This story seems deceptively light until you pay attention to the details Emmaline notes (or omits) as you piece together clues not only about the winged horses in the mirrors of the mansion-turned-hospital but to the people there and the war going on and the childrens’ health. You want to believe Emmaline’s charming, sweet, sharp voice–especially when her emotions cut at you with their resonance.

Emmaline and several other children with the “stillwaters” live with a few nuns that care for them as the war rages in Europe. They’ve all lost people and their pasts. Some of them have accepted this. Others choose to hope that if they can wait long enough, everything will go back to the way it was before. Emmaline has seen winged horses in the mirrors of the house since she arrived, but nobody else can see them. When a wounded horse turns up in the garden on her side of the mirrors, Emmaline vows to the Horse Lord that she will protect Foxfire from the Black Horse that hunts for her.

Deftly woven into Emmaline’s mission are the fragile lives of the children, the nuns, and the groundskeeper, Thomas. Surviving each day is its own victory, and everyone has to hunt for moments of joy, beauty, and light amidst their gray, war-torn existence. The atmosphere and adventure in this story evoked so much emotion in me–I know I’ll be rereading this many times.

The perfect read for Christmastime – magical realism for a magical time of year!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – A young girl leaves her life in India behind for fresh start in the moors of England. Then she learns she isn’t the only child staying in the manor, and there are secrets everywhere to be uncovered. Timeless and magical!
  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee – Sisters Sylvi and Jules are inseparable, especially after their mother’s death. But when Sylvi disappears too, Jules is left to wonder how she and her father can continue on. A fox kit observes this from the forest, knowing she is meant to help this sad girl. See my review here.
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – Carolina’s family spends a summer at her grandfather Serge’s remote desert ranch to pack it up for sale. But Serge’s strange tales begin to seep in to house, and Carolina isn’t sure that he is making them up. See my review here.
  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle – A lone unicorn tries to find the rest of her kind as she travels the wide world. This story is short and beautiful, I wish I had read it sooner!
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – Four siblings go to the countryside to be safe from the war. Lucy pokes around the old house’s disused rooms and find a wardrobe that transports her to a magical kingdom, but her siblings don’t believe her until they see it for themselves–and become drawn into a war between good and evil for the fate of the land called Narnia.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Another story about horses, but these prefer to eat humans rather than befriend them. Puck is the first girl to enter the deadly race, where only the survivor gets the winner’s purse. See my review here.

Blood for Blood

26864835by Ryan Graudin
Historical Fiction
4 of 5 stars

This year has been absolutely fantastic for sequels! Once again I was not disappointed.

Welcome back to 1956 under the rule of the Axis Powers. Skinshifter Yael’s mission to assassinate Adolf Hitler went disastrously awry, and now she’s fleeing for her life with Double Victor Luka Lowe and Adele Wolfe’s brother, Felix. They are trying to meet up with the resistance, which is struggling to overthrow the Third Reich even as reports of Adolf Hitler surviving the Victor’s Ball start surfacing throughout the empire.

Now that she’s not alone, Yael must decide who to trust–and how much–with her past and her present. Through all three characters’ points of view, we see the iron grip of Hitler begin to crumble, and tenuous alliances form.

The break-neck pacing and continuous cliff-hangers of the first book are here too; moments to breathe are brief and few! Through Yael we see desperation, vengeance, and hope from someone who can’t afford the luxury of putting their head down to survive. Through Luka, what happens when “good people” avoid looking at what is going on around them because it is easier. Through Felix, how selfishness can crowd out empathy for anyone else.

I’ve found revolution books tend to struggle in the final act because the stakes have gotten too large for the main characters. Their role in events becomes unbelievable (teens with no experience leading armies?), or it becomes overwhelming to read. This isn’t the case here! Yael and the rest fit in perfectly and realistically in the narrative and still their decisions are surprising.

This is a fitting end to Yael’s story and if you liked the first book it will captivate you just the same!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Blood for Blood is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman – Kate’s father was killed over a map to a rumored gold mine and she is ready to avenge him. This YA western is addictive and atmospheric! See my review here.
  • Risuko by David Kudler – Risuko is just a girl who loves to climb, but when her skill is noticed by a noblewoman, she is plucked from obscurity and begins training to become a “very special kind of woman” who may change the course of her country. See my review here.
  • Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – Etta’s violin debut does not go as planned. She is dragged to 1776 by an estranged family member and her family history only gets stranger from there. Etta wants to return to her own time but if she doesn’t locate the astrolabe for her grandfather, she won’t save her mother’s life. See my review here.
  • Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard – Eleanor’s brother goes missing and when she contacts the Spirit Hunters to find him, she learns that a necromancer has captured him. And that a horde of the Dead are going to invade Philadelphia. This might put a damper on her mother’s plans to set her up with a nice boy. See my review here.
  • Briar Rose by Jane Yolen – A contemporary retelling of Sleeping Beauty through Becca’s quest to uncover her grandmother’s past. As she travels the world and starts realizing that her grandmother’s bedtime stories were all true, she must confront dark secrets before she can learn who her grandmother really was.

Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale

25700544by David Kudler
YA Fantasy / Historical Fiction
4 of 5 stars

This is a case of cover love becomes whole book love! Risuko was so fun for me to read! Something completely different, well-paced, and with a heroine you can’t help but love.

Kano Murasaki lives in feudal Japan. She’s never left her home or province before. All she likes to do is climb–trees, buildings, cliffs, anything that gets her as high as possible. (This earns her the nickname Risuko – squirrel). But all that changes when a mysterious old woman buys Risuko from her mother and sister and takes her to a faraway holding known as the Full Moon. There she will learn to be “a very special kind of woman.”

Risuko won me over almost immediately! She has simple desires and a strong will. She is a samurai’s daughter, and holds herself to that standard–even if her father died in disgrace. While a miko (apprentice) at the Full Moon Risuko learns many things about herself, her father, her nation, and her future. It’s hard to say more without spoilers, but this short book is a perfectly balanced coming-of-age / mystery / adventure story and I loved it!

You’ll also find female rivalry and female friendship, interesting historical figures, and Risuko’s wry sense of humor as she narrates her story. (I’ve seen this shelved as MG and YA but I would vote YA just based on the tone and some of the everyday life descriptions like butchering animals). I really can’t wait for the sequel to see how her story ends!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Risuko is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Eon by Alison Goodman – A girl disguised as a boy is training to be a candidate for bonding with one of the zodiac dragons that keeps balance in an Asian-inspired world. If she’s caught, she’ll be killed. See my review here.
  • Soundless by Richelle Mead – A small remote village faces starvation if they can’t communicate with their supplier at the mountain’s base. Fei chooses to go on a dangerous quest to save her sister and her community. See my review here.
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard – The tight pacing and writing of Risuko reminded me a lot of this book, and that’s really why I’m including it here. This is the nonstop race of Safi and Iseult as three different factions try to claim Safi’s truth-telling abilities for their own use. See my review here.
  • The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke – A fun story set in historic Venice as young brothers Prosper and Bo try to survive on the streets. Then they meet Scipio, who gives them a home and slowly reveals tantalizing secrets of the city.

Something Strange and Deadly

9859436by Susan Dennard
YA Fantasy / Historical Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: July 24, 2012

This is such a fun read! I loved Dennard’s Truthwitch, and I had to check out her first series. It’s completely different, except for the incredible action-packed pace. I read this in just over two days!

Eleanor is Elizabeth Bennet with no fear! Her family is out of money and she must make a suitable match soon. It would be nice to do that before all of the Dead leave Philadelphia’s cemeteries to invade the town.

When her brother goes missing, Eleanor enlists the help of the Spirit-Hunters to find him because she fears his research caught the interest of a necromancer. Of course, chaos ensues.

My favorite part of this book is never quite knowing who are the “good guys.” I mean sure, the Spirit-Hunters are there to help, but how selfish are they? They have some secrets! Almost every character has two sides presented and it was fun wondering how their motives would intersect. The pace of this book is flawless, and I loved the near-constant adventure and mystery. Eleanor holds her own with the Spirit-Hunters, and although some of her swearing struck me as over-bold, her spunky attitude towards her problems is endearing. She’s quite alone but makes the best of it!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Something Strange and Deadly is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – Mary has lived all her life within the confines of the fences. The Sisterhood knows what’s best, and the Unconsecrated will never relent. But then a girl arrives from outside the fence–from a world that’s supposedly devoid of humans and overrun with the undead. See my review here.
  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren’s birthday present is her mother’s abandonment. Maren understands–she has this unfortunate habit of eating anyone she is close to. See my review here.
  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – Meet R, a zombie conflicted about being undead and eating people. He’s about to meet Julie–a beautiful girl that he wants to protect instead of eat. This is a quirky and charming retelling of Romeo and Juliet.
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard – Her new series is set in a fantasy world where certain people have witcheries–useful skills like being able to tell truth from lies, or summoning wind. Safi’s truth-telling abilities have her and her best friend being hunted by three different parties in this action-packed story! See my review here.

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudinwbw

This is set in an alternate 1956 where the Axis Powers won WWII and a small band of rebels still hopes to overthrow Hitler. Yael has escaped a concentration camp where horrendous experiments have given her the ability to skin-shift (take on any person’s appearance that she sees). Yael finds the rebel group and quickly becomes their last hope to assassinate Hitler.  She will impersonate the only female contender in the annual Axis Tour (Adele Wolfe)–a cross-country motorcycle race to celebrate the Axis Victory. Hitler is a recluse and rarely takes the risk of appearing in public, but one of those exceptions is the Victor’s Ball after the race. But other racers know who Adele Wolfe is–including her brother, who is competing this year. Yael must fool them all, win the race, and kill Hitler.

Are you in suspense yet? (If not, you can see my review here). This story flies by and waiting for the next book has had been SO hard. Pick this up (and if you like, the interim companion novel Iron to Iron about Adele and Luka’s relationship) before next month!

26864835

Passenger

Passengerby Alexandra Bracken
YA Fantasy / Historical Fiction
4 of 5 stars

I am so embarrassed that it took me six months to get to this book! Busy season (aka tax season) at work happened, then my revisions and reading ban happened, and then Leviosa Con happened and I just HAD to at least start reading this beautiful thing!

Dystopian books aren’t really my jam, so I never got around to picking up The Darkest Minds series that Bracken is so well known for, but this one is about time-travel so obviously I was sucked in immediately! Etta has spent her entire life preparing to make her debut as a professional violinist, but those dreams come crashing down onstage when she finds herself dragged (quite literally) into a mysterious portal and transported to a ship at sea in 1776. From there we learn about time-traveling families, preserving (or altering) the timeline and everything that can go wrong. Throw in the Godfather-esque leader of the families, handsome sailor Nicholas Carter, and a quest for a magical astrolabe that can create new passages (instead of just monitoring the existing ones) and you have an amazing quest that makes it feel like you’re traveling from your couch. (I love this feeling because actual traveling is expensive). And the END – bonus points for an incredible and torturous ending!

The level of research and detail that went into each era and setting boggles my mind but I expected this level of excellence since Bracken was a history major. No slip-ups with what a character would or wouldn’t know, a sensitive handling of religious and racial differences throughout history, and characters with deep-rooted and conflicting motivations that brought about satisfying clashes throughout the plot—this is a lovingly detailed book that creates wistfulness for the past and hope for the future at the same time. I love how it highlights that every era is imperfect—there is no golden age, but that’s okay.

The middle felt a little slow, mostly because the characters need a break from the constant chase/no sleep but even those scenes are satisfying because of the dialogue. The bulk of the story moves along at a good pace, which is hard to do when so much description is required.

I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book and where we get to travel! I know wherever we go it will feel like I can breathe it in.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Passenger is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig – This time-travel story debuted earlier this year, and though it didn’t happen to be my cup of tea, I think anyone who wants to continue on a time-travel kick should pick it up! Nix’s father sails a ship to any time (real or imaginary) based on the maps he collects. Nix helps him in his quests, despite knowing what her father wants to do is undo his wife’s death by returning before Nix is born—and possibly erasing her existence in the process.
  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi  – Not technically time-travel, but this is a beautiful story about a girl with a cursed horoscope that finds herself caught between the human and the Otherworld in a mystery that involves lifetimes. See my review here.
  • Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee – Kai has always been able to see and manipulate the threads of time, but when her adopted brother goes missing, she is drawn into a quest to find him that will change everything she knows about her true identity. See my review here.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – A classic time-travel book involving time and space dimensions and one girl’s quest for her missing father. Pick this up if you love time-travel at all, it is so good!
  • A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones – One of the best fantasy writers of our time tackles time-travel in a unique way. Time City is built on a patch of space outside of time, and its residents are charged with overseeing the cycle of history. But when the timeline begins to crumble, two boys pluck Vivian Smith from Twenty Century to help them save it. Except they got the wrong Vivian, and now they have to save the timeline anyway! So good and will squeeze your brain.
  • Old Magic by Marianne Curley – When Kate and Jerrod meet there’s an actual lightning storm—in their classroom. Kate must convince the skeptical Jerrod that he has magical powers, and that the curse that has dogged his family is something they will need to travel to the past to fix. This is a fun read you’ll breeze through in a few hours.
  • Abarat by Clive Barker – Candy Quackenbush of Chickentown, U.S.A. is bored to death until a wave carries her from our world to the world of the Abarat, where every island is an hour of the day and a dark power is threatening to destroy it all. Weird but interesting portal fantasy with incredible artwork!
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard – A nonstop quest with a cast of compelling characters (though not time-travel). Safi is a truthwitch, able to tell truth from lies, an ability coveted by almost everyone. She and her best friend Iseult try to figure out who to trust as they evade the different kingdoms that want to claim Safi’s power for their own. See my review here.
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – The ultimate heist story! Six criminals band together to capture and destroy a power that could end their world, but they all have different motivations that might tear them apart. See my review here.

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