Genre: Action & Adventure

ARC Mini Review: Book Scavenger (2015) by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

ARC Mini Review: Book Scavenger (2015) by Jennifer Chambliss BertmanBook Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Published by Macmillan on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Books & Libraries, Middle Grade, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Realistic
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-stars

For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it's the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). Upon her arrival, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and is now in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold himself, and might contain the only copy of his mysterious new game. Racing against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of Griswold's new game--before those who attacked Griswold come after them too.

Ciphers! Games! Codes! A fun romp through San Francisco! This Middle Grade Debut has it all…

And guess what…I’m about to depart for San Francisco soon to attend ALA’s Annual Convention! So I’m sharing my thoughts about this book at the perfect time.

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Always moving and having to leave friends behind is hard. Making new friends all the time can be difficult too. In this story we have a family whose job it is to move—Emily’s parents keep a blog and record all their travels and adventures. Sure, that’s all fun and good, but at the end of the day, they have to pick up and go to a new place so they can keep everything on the blog fresh. Emily has grown a little weary of endlessly picking up and moving, saying goodbye to friends, and starting over at new schools. Now that the family is in S.F., she wishes they would stay put.

She meets James, her neighbor, who becomes a great friend and loves puzzles as much as she does. It becomes clear pretty early on that it will take both of them to crack the code[s] that will lead them to the “treasure” at the end of the hunt Book Scavenger creator Garrison Griswold has set up.

If you like puzzles, then you’re in for a treat—there are loads of puzzles to unfold and codes to crack.

Twelve year-old Emily and her new friend James are pretty busy as they race to find out what treasure lies at the end of their hunt once they get their first clue in the shape of a strange book discovered in a Bart Station. The kids are dismayed to discover that Garrison Griswold is lying in a coma somewhere in a San Francisco hospital after he is attacked. This makes her even more determined to figure out the puzzle behind her mysterious book. Adventures, danger, and various mishaps ensue! But trust me…you do want to set out on this scavenging hunt!

**The author has peppered references to parks and restaurants and other spots in San Francisco throughout the story, and those of you familiar with this California landmark will enjoy these references.

Who Should Read This Book:

This book reminded me so much of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library—which coincidentally is mentioned in the book. If you know a reader who is a lover of literature and books, then by all means give them this delightful new Middle Grade debut from Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. You may even find yourself wanting to develop your own Book Scavenger game or community. If you’ve ever heard of geocaching, Book Scavenging is a kind of similar activity, but you’ll find out all about its origins in a section at the end of the book.

Fans of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as well as Mr. Lemoncello couldn’t find a better middle grade mystery debut to pick up. There’s an extensive Afterword filled with lots of fun and intriguing information—about codes, Edgar Allen Poe, books, and San Francisco! This is a strong debut from Jennifer, and I’m excited to see what else she uncovers for us.

Did you read Book Scavenger? What did you enjoy most?!? And who’s going to be at ALA this weekend?

four-stars
What Katie Read

Goodbye, Scarlet & Robin: Lion Heart (2015) by A.C. Gaughen

Goodbye, Scarlet & Robin: Lion Heart (2015) by A.C. GaughenLion Heart by A.C. Gaughen
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on May 19th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Adaptations, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Historical Fiction, Love & Romance, Medieval, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.Only the greatest loves can survive great danger. . . Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape, she learns that King Richard's life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine needs Scarlet's help to free him. For a lifelong thief, this newfound allegiance to the crown-her family-is a strange feeling.Scarlet knows that helping Eleanor will put her and those she loves back in Prince John's sights. Desperate not to risk anyone's life but her own, Scarlet formulates a plan to help save the king on her own. But fate-and her heart-won't allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long. Even if Scarlet and Rob can together stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England, will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

**Thank you, Bloomsbury, for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

It’s the end of an era. With the publication of Lion Heart, the Scarlet trilogy by A.C. Gaughen is over. It has been an epic and wonderful ride, but alas, it’s over. However, there’s always one solution: Re-read! I’m excited to own the first two books, and you can bet I’ll get a finished copy of the final installment.

I was privileged to see A.C. Gaughen when she participated in a YA Author panel at a local library. She signed my copy of Lady Thief and it was absolutely brilliant to hear her talk about the Scarlet trilogy! It was even more amazing to get a chance to chat with her. She is one cool person, and I love that just as she illuminates strong female characters in her writing, she actually works in a job that is focused on empowering women and girls. So brilliant!

And now, for my thoughts about Lion Heart.

What I Loved

The Characters: Of course, I loved meeting all my old friends from the previous two books—Much, Bess, Scarlet, Rob, Winchester, Eleanor…and then there are the baddies such as Prince John and Lord De Clare. They certainly add tension and a fair measure of angst at different points in the narrative, so hold on!

The Politics: I felt this book captured more of a political tone with the whole situation behind the tax that Prince John was supposedly trying to raise to bring back Richard. As Scarlet takes on her new title (given to her by her father, Richard the Lionheart) she must navigate the world of the nobles and learn how to outsmart Prince John and his evil plot to take over the kingdom. I enjoyed watching Scarlet continue to evolve into her new role, and her passion for justice for her people is just as pronounced in this third book.

Scarlet + Rob: What’s not to love about the relationship and romance between Robin Hood and Scarlet? (Aka Marian) These two are one of my favorite YA couples and for that reason these books will probably be re-read regularly.

Quotes that Made Me Think About Spirituality:

“It were a place that weren’t supposed to be filled with love, but that’s how it had always been. Our love filled the broken bits and made us whole again. There weren’t no perfect time to love him, not ever, and it had always been with the threat of death and hurt hovering round us. And we’d love each other anyway. Sure, and true.”

“It seems a precious thing, for someone to know the very worst part of you and love you anyway.”

“My heart holds my love, my hope, and my faith. My heart is unyielding, my heart is stalwart, and my heart is true.”

“But now I choose light and fire and love. Now I choose freedom.”

The Difficult Moments:

Waiting for Scarlet & Rob to be reunited: The beginning of the story opens with Scarlet imprisoned by Prince John. She’s been separated from her crew for several months, and though she (spoiler) escapes in the beginning of the book, it’s still quite a few chapters before Robin discovers she’s alive! You can imagine that I was turning the pages anxiously, waiting for the two to be reunited.

More bloodshed: As you know from the end of Lady Thief, bad people kill good people in this series. I hate to say it, but there’s more of that in Lion Heart. This was treacherous time for certain groups of people, and I do applaud A.C. Gaughen for depicting the historical period as accurately as she could. You can imagine the conditions she depicts on the pages of the trilogy are pretty close to life in the 12th century.

Danger for Scarlet & Rob: Yes, there are more moments in which Scarlet’s life is threatened or she gets hurt, and more danger for Robin as well. One of the scenes towards the end of the book is especially nail biting inducing. So be prepared! In spite of this, you’ll know from Scarlet and Lady Thief that Scarlet’s passion for justice and her knife throwing skills are certain to save the day.

Who Should Read This Book:

It’s a no-brainer if you read Scarlet and Lady Thief that you should read Lion Heart. It releases today! Yay! If you haven’t read the first two books, and you love a good young adult novel with a focus on a particular period in history (and illuminating a legend!), then by all means, run, don’t walk to the bookstore and pick up Scarlet. Read immediately!

The Final Illumination:

I’m definitely feeling the feels now that I’ve finished Lion Heart. I think I dragged my reading of the third book out a bit because I knew once I finished, that was it. I’m still glad I read this series, and know that I’ll return to it again. I absolutely love the Robin Hood legend, and of course, Maid Marian! Reading these books has renewed my interest in this period in English history so I’ve now added several books to my TBR about this period.

Are you planning to read Lion Heart? Have you read the first two in the trilogy?

four-stars
What Katie Read

ARC Review: The Wrath and the Dawn (2015) by Renee Ahdieh

ARC Review: The Wrath and the Dawn (2015) by Renee AhdiehThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
Published by Penguin on May 12th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Ancient Civilizations, Fantasy, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Goodreads
three-half-stars

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One NightsEvery dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this book–A Thousand and One Nights?!? Yes, please! Because of the connection with that collection of tales, I was expecting more nights of stories from Shahrzad, but there is a turning point in the story in which survival doesn’t rely anymore on keeping Khalid, the eighteen year old Caliph, entertained through narrative.

I was entranced by the beginning of the story, slowed down a little through the middle, but things picked up again for me towards the end. There were a few issues that came up for me with the book, but first, a few aspects of this YA novel I appreciated.

Illuminations:

The Setting: The details of setting in this book are lush and beautiful. Whether it’s descriptions of the food (“aromatic rice with fresh dill and split fava beans, lamb simmered in a sauce of turmeric and caramelized onions, skewers of chicken and roasted tomatoes, fresh vegetables garnished with mint and chopped parsley…”), the textures and colors of the clothing, or the architecture, the setting certainly made an impression on me and I appreciate the way Ahdieh set the stage for her tale.

Shahrzad, the MC: I loved her character for her snarky banter, her wit, storytelling, and her love for her friend (who died at the hand of Khalid before the book opens). Shazi is willing to sacrifice to seek justice for her friend Shiva, and this reflects the depth and largeness of her heart. I would have liked to see more development of the relationship between Khalid and Shazi since their romance is a central aspect of the story (see below).

The 3rd Person Perspective: If you read a lot of YA, you’ll know that many of these texts are told from the 1st person perspective. The Wrath & the Dawn is not—it’s in the 3rd person perspective, and this was refreshing to see.

What I Wanted To See More Of:

The Developing Relationship between Shazi & Khalid: More scenes depicting the relationship between Shazi and Khalid was something I would have appreciated. For example, there’s a turning point where we see Khalid’s feelings towards Shazi change, but what factors led to that change? I think the narrative could have provided more details leading to why Khalid fell in love with Shazi. Also, what was the main factor for her change in heart towards him?

A Less Ambiguous Ending with More Closure: This may just be me, but I wanted more from the ending. I do realize that threads are left open in anticipation of a sequel, but I would have appreciated a little more clarity on how things concluded. I thought the ending was a little rushed, and I wondered if some of the events in the conclusion could have been developed further. There’s a decision that Shazi makes at the ending and I really wondered why she decided to go through with it. Of course, I’m sure I’ll find out more about it in the second book, but what about the implications of this decision for Khalid?

The Final Illumination:

The source tale for this YA novel, A Thousand and One Nights, drew me into the book initially, and I’m interested in reading the sequel when it’s out, but I didn’t fall in love with the book quite the way I had hoped. I’m certainly looking forward to more between Shazi and Khalid in future books, but I wish that the first installment had depicted the developing romance between them a little more deeply.

What about you? What did you think of this debut YA?

**Thank you to Amanda and Holly at Gun in Act One for loaning me their ARC!

three-half-stars
What Katie Read
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