Friday, November 17, 2017

Young Adult Fiction: The Speaker by Traci Chee

Last year, I covered Traci Chee's The Reader, the first title in her Sea of Ink and Gold series. Today I am happy to cover the follow-up, The Speaker. I may not be much of a fantasy reader, but something about this series appeals to me, and I am excited to see how the story continues.

The Situation: Sefia and Archer have managed to escape the Guard and are now back out on their own, though they are being expertly chased. It is not only them that they Guard wants, but the Book as well. In a world where no one reads or writes anymore, words are powerful  and stories can be used as weapons. Fortunately, Sefia is able to use the ability she inherited from her parents to keep herself and Archer safe, while he can use what he learned while in captivity to fight almost any battle he comes across. Together, they make it their mission to free as many other boys as they can from the dreadful Impressors: men and women who have made a job out of capturing young boys in an attempt to find the one who will bring about the Red War. With Sefia's power and Archer's skill, it seems they cannot lose, and their worst enemy may be themselves.

The Problem: If Archer's time in captivity taught him how to fight, it also taught him to want to fight. The only thing that seems to help silence the nightmares and the ever-present tension and thirst for revenge he always feels as a current running inside of him, is being able to punch, kick, stab, and shoot, anything that causes hurt and pain. Freeing captured boys helps Archer feel better about what he has become, but as he gains followers, and the team becomes a well-known gang to be feared, he fears he is becoming exactly what the Impressors are looking for. Sefia feels the same, but she would do anything to stay near him, though she is already afraid she may be losing the boy she loves. Add in the fact that the Guard is still after them; the Book continues to be cryptic and withholding when telling its secrets; and that there is a much bigger plot with control over all of Kelanna as its goal; and it seems that Sefia and Archer's story is far from over. But will it end with both of them alive? Will it end with them together?

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult fantasy book set in the fictional world of Kelanna. In this sequel, Archer and Sefia travel mostly in the land of Deliene, though they do find themselves in Oxscini for a time. Sefia is once again the primary protagonist, but there is almost an equal amount of attention given to Archer and his thoughts as he attempts to fight his guilt and blood lust. Readers do get to see the return of Captain Cannek Reed and the rest of the crew on the Current of Faith, as well as the members of the Guard who continue to hunt down Sefia and attempt to bring their time of reign to pass. Everyone in this story is ultimately attempting to change their own fate, while seeming to simultaneously run right into it. The Book that Sefia has in her possession holds all of the answers, but consulting it is tricky. It seems to reveal only what it wants to, and you have to be able to ask the right questions. Sefia and Archer want to be able to live their lives, but fear they have a bigger part to play in everything - parts that may separate them, even kill them. The Guards want ultimate power over all of Kelanna, but will they be able avoid killing each other off before their plan comes to fruition? It is all written in the Book, and they all agree that what is written will come to pass. But they either don't trust it, or they don't want to wait, as everyone is still fighting for or against their own destinies.

My Verdict: While I do have the same issue with this one as I did with the first book, in that sometimes there are just too many characters doing too may things for me to keep track, I will say that the confusion was much less, and I was better able to almost let go of all of the details and just enjoy the ride. And what a ride it is, though granted, the map of Kelanna at the beginning of the book does help. Sefia and Archer's adventure alone would probably be enough to fill an entire series. But Chee does not stop there as she always goes back to what the Guard is up to, as well as Captain Reed and his crew. It is evident that the story is working up to something big, and The Speaker does well to build up the excitement for what is to come in the next book. It contains exactly what every fantasy book should contain: magic, fighting, conspiracy, intrigue, adventure, travel, and an ending that opens the door to incredible possibilities. The only thing missing is some sort of monster, but who knows? That may be coming in the next book. And naturally, I love that this is a world that emphasizes the power of books and words and how easily we can take them both for granted. 

Favorite Moment: *spoiler alert* When Archer manages to cut off one of Serakeen's hands in the middle of a fight.  

Favorite Character: The more I learn about Captain Reed and his story, the more I like him and want to see more of him.

Favorite Quote: "You don't get to be a slave-owner and a hero." - Captain Cannek Reed

Recommended Reading: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor may be a good adventure for many young fantasy readers, though I really enjoyed The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.     

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Goodreads Choice Awards 2017 Final Round

Oh man, here we are. The final round of the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards. I am both excited and scared to find out if my favorites did or did not make it into the top ten of their categories. Every year seems to contain at least one surprise for me. So might as well end the torture and dive right in.

Thankfully all seems well in the Best Fiction, Best Mystery & Thriller, and Best Historical Fiction categories. All of the DSNs that were nominated in each are hanging strong. It is in the Best Science Fiction category that we first run into trouble. Looks like Mur Lafferty's Six Wakes, which was a write-in vote added in at the second round, did not quite make it into the top ten, which means I am back to voting for American War by Omar El Akkad.

Things return to normal for Best Horror, but another write-in, this time for Best Nonfiction, failed to make it into the final round. The exit of Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness from the competition means I do not have anything to vote for in this category. Granted, I cannot say I am surprised, but I still like for the books I cover to at least make it through to the end.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore continues to hold its own in Best History & Biography, and the same can be said for both picks in Best Graphic Novels & Comics, and the three picks in Best Debut Goodreads Author.

And then we come to my favorite category, the one I seem to take the most personally for some reason. Of the seven DSN YA fiction books that were nominated for Best Young Adult Fiction, only five made it into the final round. Given, that is pretty amazing, that half of the finalist for one category were featured on this blog. Even so, I am sad to see Jeff Zentner's Goodbye Days did not make the cut, along with Robin Roe's A List of Cages. Whew! This is a tough category, every year.

The Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction category remains the same for both DSN books that were nominated, which ultimately means that of the 22 books originally nominated (including the write-ins) for an award that were also featured on this blog (or at least, there is a solid plan to feature them), 18 of them have made it into the final round, and I think that is awesome. Really, this all only serves to make me super curious about the nominees I did not read that people seem to love. It would be nearly impossible for me to read every book that is nominated, or even just the ones that make it to the final round. But I always have a blast trying to read and write about as many as I can. And if I end up discovering new ones after the fact, I just consider it a bonus.      

This final round of voting does not end until Monday, November 27th, so you have a full two weeks to make your voices heard. The winners will be announced on Tuesday, December 5th, and will receive their crown as readers' favorite books of 2017.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Historical Fiction: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

This may be my last attempt at historical fiction for 2017, and of course, it deals with World War II. Not only that, but it also deals with World War I, because it seems no matter what I do I am bound to pick up a book that has to deal with at least one of them. With Kate Quinn's The Alice Network, an unlikely trio travels through Europe searching for answers they may not be ready to find.

The Situation: It is 1947 and Charlotte "Charlie" St. Clair has just burst into the home of Eve Gardiner. All Charlie wants is answers regarding her cousin Rose, whom she has not seen for many years and fears may be lost to her forever due to WWII. She decides Eve may be a good place to start since the woman used to work at a bureau that helped locate refugees. Unfortunately for both women, Eve is as ornery and drunk as Charlie is determined and persistent. Add Scotsman Finn Kilgore as Eve's personal assistant/driver/minder, and the three of them take off on a journey that has as little chance of success as Eve does of staying sober every night. Charlie is more than willing to defy her mother if it means finding Rose. Mrs. St. Clair only wants her daughter to take care of her "little problem" (i.e. she's pregnant), return to America, and marry someone respectable. But Charlie wants more out of life, and unbeknownst to both her and Finn, Eve wants more out of their search than to simply find Rose.

The Problem: Eve has her demons, that much is clear. If she is not drunk, she is hungover and looking forward to getting drunk. And when she cannot sleep, anyone who enters her room is met with a gun leveled at their face. While Charlie searches for a cousin who may have been part of the Resistance in WWII, Eve relives her life as a spy in WWI. It may have been something she signed up to do, even something that allowed her to end up a decorated war hero, but it is also what has given her the demons she currently lives with. With lies, betrayal, and experiences that give her dreams and memories she will never forget, Eve's life as a spy has yet to let her go, even 30 years later. And when Charlie barges into her home with a name she has not heard in decades, Eve decides it is time for some closure, and also a little bit of revenge.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a historical fiction novel set both during WWI and just after WWII. Charlie searches for her cousin Rose in the year 1947, while the woman she hired relives her life in 1915, when she served as a spy against the Nazis in a small town in France. It is in Lille that Eve will end up employed as a waitress at a restaurant known to be frequented by German officials. As they enjoy the food they horde only for themselves, Eve discreetly listens to their conversation and passes useful information to her superiors, one of which being the head of the spy ring with which she is currently employed. Along with Eve, there is Lili, the head of the Alice Network, and her Lieutenant, Violette. All three women are based on real people, but the story is still fiction. There was a ring of female spies who were able to collect and pass on important information while pretending to be completely different people. In the novel, Eve pretends to be a young girl named Marguerite, and she does her best to pretend that she does not speak and understand either English or German, but only French. While living a lie for the war effort, Eve manages to make friends with her fellow spies, making what happens later that much harder to swallow. Even with moments of glorious victory, the defeats still manage to nearly destroy all three women, and turn Eve into the bitter and hateful woman she has become once Charlie finds her. But with Charlie's search, Eve seems to have a renewed purpose, even if it is focused solely on revenge.

My Verdict: As much as I gripe about wanting to stay away from books that deal with WWII (and WWI for that matter), there is a reason that I keep picking them up...I mean, there just has to be...because it just keeps happening. In the case of The Alice Network, it is probably close to the same reason I picked up both The Nightingale and The Lilac Girls. Some part of me wants to know more about what women did during that time. In The Alice Network, Quinn tells an emotional, suspenseful, often terrifying, but ultimately incredible story of one woman's experiences as a spy, and how those experiences shaped the rest of the her life. Eve and Charlie may not have made choices that someone else would make, but it was up to them how they would deal with the war, and they leaned into their choices as resolutely as they could. I often found myself eagerly turning the page while also shaking my head like I would at a modern horror film after someone suggests that the group should split up, or head upstairs, or run into the forest. The point is made several times throughout the book that war chews people up, never ends quickly, and is always happening in some part of the world, and the stories we find here are an example of how true that is, even if it is through a work of fiction.

Favorite Moment: When Charlie defies her mother for the second time and decides to finish what she has started.

Favorite Character: Eve is tough, but she is tough to a fault. She is the kind of tough and stubborn that often leads to her snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Still, you would rather have her on your side than against you.

Recommended Reading: I have already mentioned The Nightingale and The Lilac Girls, but Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is also worth checking out. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Goodreads Choice Awards 2017 Semifinal Round

Today the semifinal round of voting for the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards opens to the public. Readers have until Sunday, November 12th to vote in this second round, with the final round of voting scheduled to open up next Tuesday the 14th.

This is the round where five more books have been added for consideration to each category. Goodreads has taken into account the write-in votes, and have added the most popular ones to be a part of the running. For one category, this will make my decision even harder, while in another, it simply means I will actually have a book to vote for. 

I am incredibly thrilled that Mur Lafferty's Six Wakes has made it into the Best Science Fiction category, and it will consequently take my vote away from Omar El Akkad's American War, which is still a fantastic book. Six Wakes was the perfect combination of science fiction and murder mystery, with six crew members waking up in outer space after their previous bodies were apparently brutally murdered. But they are the only six people on board the ship. Who committed the horrifying act?

A new addition to the Best Nonfiction category ends up being another case where I will be voting for a book only because it is the only one that I have read out of all of the nominations. Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness is not a bad book. In fact, there is a lot of good stuff in there, as Brown once again discusses vulnerability, along with the importance of learning to stand up for yourself, even if it means you stand alone. The book just comes off as a bit rushed, almost unfinished. It clocks in at under 200 pages, and does not contain the same amount of Brown's insightful truth that her readers have become accustomed to. But as I said, there is good stuff in there, so it gets my vote. 

All nominees I wrote about previously are still an option of course, and will remain so until Sunday, where the list in each category will be cut in half so you can make your final decisions. It is important to vote now to make sure your favorites make it into the finals. And of course, it is important to vote in the finals so your favorites can win the ultimate prize.

It will be exciting to see who comes out on top.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Young Adult Fiction: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Readers have been asking questions like "Should I read Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give, or Dear Martin by Nic Stone?" And the answer is yes. There is no need to choose between the two. Just go for both and end up twice as blessed.

The Situation: Justyce McAllister is an A+ student, captain of the debate team at Braselton Prep, and pretty much set to attend Yale next fall. But all future plans take second place in his mind once he is wrongfully arrested for a crime that never even happened. Although Justyce is released, he cannot get over the incident and the way he was treated, all because he is a young black man who was trying to help out a friend, and a cop got the wrong idea. It does not help that some of his classmates believe that racial equality has been achieved in America, and that black people are too sensitive. It also does not help that Justyce's best friend, Manny, is never willing to stand up to his white friends when it comes to their wrong attitudes about race. Justyce decides to write letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, whose teachings he studied in school. If there is anyone who would understand what he is going through, it would be the leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Problem: If Justyce has his ignorant classmates on one side of him - always making inappropriate jokes, comments, and assertions - he also has the people from his old neighborhood, calling him "smarty-pants" and saying that he will return to the hood once he realizes the white people he goes to school with will never accept him. Justyce feels pressed in on all sides, but there is one saving grace. His debate partner Sarah-Jane is never shy about speaking her mind and standing up for Justyce. He would love nothing more than to date her, but his mother would never approve of him being with a white girl. There is also Manny, who may have grown up with more privilege than Justyce, but is still a young black man living in Atlanta, and attending a prep school. Unfortunately, this is all an off-duty cop sees when the two of them are driving around together. Justyce began writing to Dr. King in an attempt to be more like him, but now he wonders what good it will actually do, and will it be enough to save him.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult fiction novel set in modern day Atlanta. Justyce is in his senior year of high school when the book begins, and it ends shortly after he goes off to college. In that year he will have many of the usual teenage experiences that can be found in most movies, books, or TV shows. But his experiences take darker turns simply because he is a young black man. Most of the book is told from a third-person omniscient point of view, but in between some chapters are Justyce's letters to Dr. King. Also, some of the storytelling in certain chapters reads more like a play. When there is heavy dialogue, or a rapid exchange between characters (such as a heated discussion in Justyce's Societal Evolution class, or a cross-examination by a defense attorney), Stone does away with the quotation marks and the need to you use "says" or "explains" or "asks," etc. The effect is a definite sense of the tension and discomfort that these types of conversations can create. The primary theme is of course race, and more specifically how young black men are treated in this country. What Justyce tries to do is to go back to the teachings of Dr. King and see how they can be applied today.

My Verdict: If you are all about comfort, and keeping things light, and not having difficult conversations that allow for confronting hard truths or the way you think, then this book is not going to be for you. But it should be. Really, it is for everyone, but many will intentionally avoid it because of what is written on the book jacket. Stone pulls no punches and gets to the heart of the subject right away. Once Justyce is wrongfully arrested, the book does not let up. The challenges that the main character faces are many, and they do not all come from the police. In fact, most of them don't, as his main antagonist sits with him in his classroom. The amount of judgment, and criticism, and general negativity he has to endure seems relentless, and to him it certainly feels that way too. But in this, the point certainly makes it across to the reader that this is an issue that needs to be faced, and talked about, and dealt with, and books like this can certainly play an important role in that discussion.  

Favorite Moment: When Jared, one of Justyce's classmates, unwittingly exposes to the entire class, and possibly himself, just how deep his own prejudices go...even though everyone pretty much already knew.

Favorite Character: Manny is not perfect, but he is the kind of friend Justyce needs. He is willing to call his friend out on his nonsense (especially when it comes to a certain ex-girlfriend), and ends up coming to terms with his own issues.

Recommended Reading: Of course I am going to say The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, but I also recommend Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Goodreads Choice Awards 2017

So, Goodreads surprised at least me today by starting their 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards before November officially starts. But you know what? That just means the fun will begin a little earlier this year.

Voting has officially begun, so you can go ahead and start making your opinions known by supporting your favorite books of the year. These awards are decided completely by readers, which makes it the only book award of its kind.

As usual, I must start with the Best Fiction category, which for me ends up being tricky because while two DSN books made the cut, neither of their posts has gone up yet. I have read Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and can absolutely attest to how good it is, so it will be getting my vote. It is a story of two refugees whose adventure takes magical turns as they enter through doors that take them to different locations around the world. Unfortunately, Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is still in my perpetually growing "to read" queue and will have a post in early January. I am sure it is fantastic, but voting for a book I have not actually read feels incredibly wrong. 

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins will get my vote for Best Mystery & Thriller, but only because it is the only one of the nominated books that I have read. It is not a bad book, it just is not as good as it could be. Also, it seems to suffer from readers remembering just how good The Girl on the Train was. Usually I do not have any books to vote for in this category, so getting even just one is a good showing for me.

Finding historical fiction that I actually wanted to read was a bit of struggle for me this year. Even so, I managed to pick two novels that have shown up in the Best Historical Fiction category. Lisa See's The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane explores the deeply revered tradition of tea making in China, but my vote will actually be going to The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. Sure, it is another women in World War II book, but it is a good one. However, I can see fierce competition coming from both Moonglow by Michael Chabon and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. 

Best Science Fiction is another category I tend to be hit or miss on, but this time I managed to pick American War by Omar El Akkad and Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. One is a story of the U.S. after its second civil war, while the other takes place in a sort of post apocalyptic Europe where a giant bear terrorizes everyone (no, really). Although I did not place it under the science fiction heading when I wrote about it, I will go with American War on this one.  

I am pleased to see Dot Hutchison's The Roses of May in the Best Horror category, a sequel to The Butterfly Garden, which was nominated last year. Once again Hutchison has created a mysterious and terrible serial killer that puts its victims in seemingly impossible situations. Her ability to create realistic, but strong heroines is one of the many reasons I have become a faithful follower of her work. I have high hopes for this one, but with Stephen and Owen King's Sleeping Beauties also nominated, I have to admit that chances of a win for Hutchison are slim.

There will be a write-in vote for Jenny Lawson's You Are Here for the Best Memoir & Autobiography category. Part self-help, part graphic novel, and part adult coloring book, Lawson provides coloring pages that she herself created and used in the past when she was feeling particularly out of control or lost. It makes for a fantastic travel companion.

And for what is possibly the first DSN to make it into the Best History & Biography category ever, I pick The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. It is the story of the women who worked as dial painters during World War I, using radium to do so. Today we can all immediately realize the problem with this, but at the time, radium was still being billed as a wonder substance that was even safe enough to ingest. Yeah, awful.  

Choosing for Best Graphic Novel is tough because I have to choose between Sarah Andersen's Big Mushy Happy Lump, and Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer. Andersen's second collection of comics once again explores life for the modern book-nerd animator as she hilariously attempts to ward off procrastination, self-doubt, body-image issues, and unwanted body hair. Wires and Nerve is the first entry into a new graphic novel series that follows the events of The Lunar Chronicles. I actually think I will go with Andersen on this one, though both have the potential of making a decent showing.

The Best Debut Goodreads Author category is always fun, and this year proves to be no different with El Akkad's American War making its second showing in the nominations, and it is joined by Caraval by Stephanie Garber - the story of a young woman attempting to navigate a dangerous game in order to find her sister - as well as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - the story of a young unarmed black man killed by a police officer and the tense aftermath that follows. For me, and I imagine for many actually, it is no contest. Thomas gets my vote and I pretty much expect it to win, though I could be proven wrong.

And of course, my favorite category ends up having the most DSN books nominated. Best Young Adult Fiction has a record seven books nominated, with Thomas' The Hate U Give leading the way. The first to join it is Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. In his latest novel, Green explores mental health in today's youth as his protagonist almost constantly fights the urge dress and redress a wound she herself recreates so as to avoid infection. And then there is Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner, a book that follows Carver Briggs as he attempts to live his life without his three best friends after they were tragically killed in a texting and driving accident. Sandhya Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi is such an utter delight that it makes me wish I could vote for two books. Rishi is a boy who cannot wait to meet someone, get married, and start a family, all of which are things that Dimple would rather stay away from. So when these two must work together at a camp for students interested in coding, it is a near constant push and pull as they attempt to make it through the summer. YA queen (at least to me) Sarah Dessen also makes a showing with her latest, Once and for All. Louna Barrett knows from working for her mother's wedding planner business that happily ever after is hard to come by, and she is no less skeptical when distracted and unreliable Ambrose attempts to change her mind. A List of Cages by Robin Roe is a bit of a heart breaker, but it is worth braving Julian's troubled life at home and Adam's ADHD to experience this one. And finally, there is One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, which I actually do not have a post for, but one will be coming in early December. After high school student Simon dies mysteriously during detention, the primary suspects are the four other students that were in the room. But nothing is as its seems, and everyone has a secret that Simon was ready to expose.

Oh goodness, so many choices that I had to start a new paragraph. I may have already voted for it in the Best Debut Goodreads Author category, but even so, I will once again go with Thomas' The Hate U Give. It is just that good.    

Garber's Caraval shows up again in the Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction category and is joined by Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer. While I had to make the difficult decision to not continue with the series, I will still vote for the latter as it is incredibly imaginative and unique. Lazlo Strange gets the amazing opportunity to travel to the city of Weep as part of a team attempting to save it. But it turns out that while he knows a lot more than people realize, he actually knows very little about who he is.

And there you have it: 20 books over 11 categories have made it from the DSN family. Plus, the second round will see the addition of five more books for each category, so that will be interesting. 

The first round of voting ends Sunday, November 5th, with the second round starting the following Tuesday. Happy voting!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Horror Fiction: The Roses of May by Dot Hutchison

I was excited to find out that last year's The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison had a sequel, The Roses of May. While The Butterfly Garden had a definite ending, it does make sense to continue the story, even if it is in a different way with new lead characters, while the reader is able to learn about what is going on with the other ones. Either way, I knew I would be treated to a suspenseful story and some decent follow-up for the previous one.

The Situation: Priya Sravasti is a fairly ordinary high school student currently living in Huntington, Colorado, though she is taking her classes online, mostly in preparation for her eventual move to Paris. She is used to moving every couple of months due to the nature of her mother's job, so not being able to establish roots or make lasting friendships is nothing new to her. Also, since her sister's gruesome murder nearly five years ago, Priya has not felt much need to reach out to people. Her small circle contains her mother, the small group of military veterans who play chess in the park, and the three FBI agents that worked her sister's case, along with the cases of the other women that were killed by the same guy. The three FBI agents happen to be Victor Hanoverian, Brandon Eddison, and Mercedes Ramirez, the same three that are still working on the Butterfly Garden case that came to light four months before.

The Problem: Priya's sister's murder was never solved, and the killer is still loose, managing to give the FBI another victim every May for the last 16 years. Agent Eddison has stayed close to both Priya and her mother after being assigned to their case five years ago. So while he has the still very much active case of the Butterfly Garden, he also stays worried about Priya and how she is doing. Now it seems her sister's killer has followed Priya and her mother to Colorado, and intends to continue his streak. With the FBI agents stationed on the east coast, it is difficult for them to guarantee Priya's safety, even while coordinating with authorities in Colorado. They would love nothing more than to arrest this guy and put him away forever. But after watching the aftermath from the Butterfly Garden, Priya is not sure if that is the kind of justice she can be satisfied with. 

Genre, Themes, History: This is a fiction novel that most would categorize as a thriller, and it certainly is, but I like it under the horror subheading, because it is indeed horrifying. While the Gardener liked to collect girls, mark them as his own, and then rape them until they reached adulthood, when he decided to kill them and preserve them, the man who killed Priya's sister stalks his victims, and decides that they are either too pure to continue living and risk corruption, or they are corrupted already and deserve to die. Either way, whoever he locks onto is almost guaranteed to be dead before summer. The narrative switches between a third-person account of Eddison's life, and a first-person account of Priya's. Eddison is still his anxious and somewhat emotionally closed off self from The Butterfly Garden, but now the reader gets to see what he is like around people he genuinely cares about, and not just his colleagues or the suspects they haul in. As hurt and crushed as Priya was after her sister's death, she has managed to grow up to be almost as fierce and terrifying as her mother. She is certainly not interested in being a victim, whether that means ending up dead like her sister, or having to look over her shoulder for the rest of her life. While the novel is certainly tense and suspenseful, it is also a good look at how the hurt and pain of a tragic event can continue long after the actual event is over. It also looks at just how much girls and women have to put up with from creepy men from a young age. 

My Verdict: This is a story. I may have said the same thing about The Butterfly Garden, but whatever, it is true. The nice thing about The Roses of May is that it was not as hard to read as its predecessor, but was still just as powerful, if not more so. Priya is a fantastic protagonist, and getting to follow her around was a pure delight, even with the danger coming closer and closer, making the book all the more tense right up until the end. Also, it was nice to be allowed a view into Eddison's world, even though the seemingly obvious choice for that space would have been Hanoverian. In many ways, Eddison is the smarter choice, as he was almost an antagonist in the first book, but now we get to see why he is the way he is, and that ultimately, he is one of the good guys. Thriller and suspense lovers would enjoy this series and the direction it is going in. I also loved hearing from Bliss and Inara and getting even more closure from the events in the first book. 

Favorite Moment: It comes from one of the updates regarding a villain from the previous book. I will not say more in a restrained effort to not let out any spoilers. 

Favorite Character: Priya's mother reminds me a little of my own, perhaps without the disarming smile and grace. Everyone seems to know to stay out of Ms. Sravasti's way as soon as she enters a room. 

Recommended Reading: Obviously, it would help greatly to read The Butterfly Garden before picking up this one. But also, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton would be a strangely appropriate choice.