Book Review: The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk, by A.L. Tait

“I guess that’s the secret then,” he said.

“As long as someone has hope for you, there’s a chance things will turn out okay.”

(Quinn Freeman, The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk by A.L. Tait)

 

Quinn, Ash, Zain, and the crew of the Libertas are back in The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk by A.L. Tait. The Mapmaker Chronicles gives readers the exciting adventures of 14-year old Quinn Freeman as he sales far away from home on a quest to map the world, a race against time and two other ships and their mapmakers.

ALTait Mapmaker 2

Book two, Prisoner of the Black Hawk, picks up with Quinn and the Libertas crew regrouped after a near-deadly encounter with the Gelynions. Captain Zain has taken young Kurt on board, a former prisoner of the Gelynions and someone that Quinn doesn’t fully trust. As the crew continues to keep a wary eye out for the violent Gelynions, land is sighted. A visit to port is the beginning for Quinn’s newest adventure, although he may have preferred something a bit less exciting than running into a giant serpent and being kidnapped and taken prisoner aboard the Black Hawk, a Gelynion ship.

Author A.L. Tait gives readers another fast-paced story set on the high-seas in a fantastical world filled with terrifying creatures, pirates, and loyal friends. If you’re looking for a story that you can lose yourself in, grab this book. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved adventure stories — from Pippi Longstocking books to the Indiana Jones movies. I have no problem throwing myself right into the adventure along with the main characters, and I really like both Quinn and Ash because I can see myself reacting the same way in some of the situations these two face.

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk is a delightful combination of action, whimsy, and moments that made me thoughtful. My favorite quote from the book is the one I placed at the top of this review. I believe these words are exceptionally true. My other favorite quote comes from Zain,

“But remember this: the only man who is truly trapped is the man who does nothing. If you do something — anything — then you force change.”

I highly recommend The Mapmaker Chronicles series from A.L. Tait. Start with book one because you don’t want to miss out on early Quinn — his growth has been fun to read.

Exactly one month ago today, I posted my review for the first book in The Mapmaker Chronicles series by A.L. Tait. You can read it here. And be sure to hop on over to A.L. Tait’s website and check out all her books and more.

Book Review: The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World by A.L. Tait

“You cannot change what other people will do.

You can only change how you will react to those things.”

(Zain, The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World by A.L. Tait)

 

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World by A.L. Tait entertained me on many levels. I love a good quest-style story and one that takes place on the high seas in a fictional world that hasn’t discovered its borders yet, is a great premise. This book totally goes into my pile of books-I-will-read-again.

Mapmaker 1

This middle grade story (could also fall into younger YA) features 14-year old Quinn who has been chosen to attend mapmaker school. The youngest in his family and the “runt” Quinn Freeman is used to being picked on by his older brothers. You would think he’d be excited to strike out on his own, but he’s less than thrilled to leave the security and familiarity of the family farm. While he does okay at the mapmaker school, he’s certain he won’t be chosen as one of the three students to take park in the seafaring race to map the end of their world. Certainly the king will choose the boys who had formal schooling and who come from a more prosperous home. But Quinn is chosen and he finds himself aboard a ship about to sail into the unknown with Zain, the king’s slave, friend, and newly named captain of the Libertas.

Author A.L. Tait weaves a wonderful tale of adventure with Race to the End of the World. She gives the reader heroes to cheer, bad guys to dislike, and just the right balance of fantasy and reality. I really liked Quinn, in particular his growth throughout the book. This character is never flat and I loved that there were times he surprised me. It was great that Quinn was a reluctant protagonist, while his good friend Ash (a stowaway girl in disguise as a boy) was the opposite, more of the adventurer. In addition, I love the idea of the young mapmakers, these young teens with special skills and ability to face the unknown and do something that has the potential to change their world.

I have the next two books in this series to read and am looking forward to continuing on Quinn’s journey. I’m hoping to learn more about the mysterious sea creature they’ve encountered and I’m hoping certain not-so-nice characters from the other two racing ships get their comeuppance as the story moves along.

If these books had come out when my son was younger, I know he would have devoured them. While the main character is a boy, The Mapmaker Chronicles is definitely for all genders and in my opinion, all ages. I thoroughly enjoyed escaping with this book and can’t wait to get back on the seas for book two!

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World originally was released in Australia in 2014. It’s now available for the first time in the United States and I really recommend you grab your copy today. It was named Readings Top 10 Middle Fiction Books 2014 and a Notable Book for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Of The Year 2015.

Please visit A.L. Tait online at her site here. Check out all her books and her blog. For links to purchase your own copy of The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World, use this link.

Note: I did receive review copies of the trilogy via Kane Miller, a Division of EDC Publishing. You can visit them at kanemiller.com to learn more about their books.

Book Review: The Collector by Nora Roberts

“Fictional people are people too, otherwise why would we care what happens to them?”

Lila Emerson, THE COLLECTOR by Nora Roberts

The Collector by Nora Roberts released in 2014 and I finally picked up my copy — I know, I know, took me long enough, right? Not going to waste a lot of preamble. I loved it. I may have my new favorite Nora Roberts heroine in Lila Emerson. She’s quirky, self-sufficient, compassionate, and can kick some ass when needed.

The Collector

The story opens with a glimpse into Lila’s slightly unconventional life. She’s a professional house-sitter and writer of young adult werewolf novels. She also loves to look through binoculars out the windows of the home where she’s sitting — sounds weird, but actually it makes a lot of sense for this character. When looking out the window one night, Lila witnesses a murder/suicide and everything changes. Upon leaving the police station after giving her statement, she meets the victim’s brother.

Ash Archer has a huge family and is used to taking care of everyone, it’s what he does. He’s also a talented artist whose half-brother was just murdered. At first he wants to talk to Lila to find out what she saw, but then he finds himself drawn to her. As an artist, he wants to paint her. As a man, he wants to explore the possibility of a relationship. However, they both find themselves in danger as they look closer into the murder of Ash’s brother. Their investigation draws them into a world of priceless Russian antiques and lands them on the hit list of a soulless assassin.

With The Collector, author Nora Roberts effortlessly weaves a tale of intrigue and romance, while peppering it with well-placed wit and intense action seasons. She escorts us through New York City and takes us all the way to Florence (by private plane, of course) and back again. We get to know and love not only Lila and Ash, but their closest friends Julie and Luke.

There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this book and it’s one I’m certain I’ll reread it. I really, really liked Lila and a huge thank you to Nora Roberts for creating this character.

Looking for more titles by Nora Roberts? Check out her official website here.

Book Review: The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

I picked up my copy of The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch on a whim. I’d not read this author but the cover drew me in and then after reading the jacket blurb, I knew I  had to take the book home — and I’m so glad I did. The book came out in 2011, the debut book for author Jeff Hirsch. The Eleventh Plague follows 15-year old Stephen Quinn, a boy born after the Collapse and the plague known as P Eleven.

Eleventh Plague

In this aftermath of war, disease, and desolation, Stephen has learned to survive as a salvager. After his grandfather’s death, a disastrous run-in with slavers, and an accident that puts his father into a coma, Stephen is faced with tough decisions. Should he take refuge at Settler’s Landing and let them help care for his father, or should he do what his stern grandfather would have, and keep away from people?

Author Jeff Hirsch does a good job creating an ugly world filled with danger at every twist and turn. Seeing this world from Stephen’s perspective is interesting. I love that the boy cares for reading and books and despite his harsh upbringing is able to begin to trust. There’s plenty of action throughout, from fights with the slavers to classic schoolyard brawling and sweeping life-or-death sequences that will keep you turning the pages.

I liked how Stephen evolved, from the cautious salvaging teen into a more confident young man who discovers what’s really in his heart and that fighting for what you what, for a future, isn’t hopeless or pointless.

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch kept me entertained and I liked the writer’s style enough that I’d like to follow up and read another of his books. The Eleventh Plague is a stand-alone, and that was perfect for me right now. However, I do believe I’ll be putting Hirsch’s book, Magisterium  on my TBR list.

Please head over to the official website for author Jeff Hirsch to check out more information about The Eleventh Plague as well as his other books.

Book Review: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

“Who would ever want movies or TV when there are books?”

Tiberius Blackthorn
(Lord of Shadows, by Cassandra Clare)

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare is Book Two of The Dark Artifices and A Shadowhunter Novel, continuing the epic story that begin in Lady Midnight. The 699 page book actually was a quick read, primarily because it was so engrossing. I had to keep reading and was annoyed when things like work, responsibilities, and the like got in my way. Author Cassandra Clare effortlessly combines heart-stopping action, snappy dialogue, and unforgettable characters, weaving it all together to create a tale that made me laugh, cheer, think, and feel.

Lord of Shadows

Seriously, so much going on in this book, but don’t worry, you will be swept away because Clare keeps things moving along. Lord of Shadows features Emma Carstairs, who has jumped into my Top 10 of favorite female characters of all time. I was impressed with Emma when she was introduced as a child during The Mortal Instruments series, and loved how she matured in Lady Midnight. Emma continues to impress through everything she goes through — she’s a loyal friend, loving “sister” to the Blackthorn kids, fierce parabatai, and totally bad-ass shadowhunter.

I’m going to put it out there right now, Emma Carstairs may give Jace Herondale a run for his money as most bad-ass shadowhunter. Because I won’t do spoilers, you’ll just have to read Lord of Shadows and then come back and tell me if you think I’m right or wrong. Hint: She does something that no other shadowhunter has ever done.

Along with Emma is her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, but this complicated and potentially deadly relationship isn’t the only one that Clare is developing. She gives us Mark and the Faerie prince Kieran as well as Mark and Cristina. There’s also Diana and Gwynn, and our old favorite Alex and Magnus. But the one relationship that interested me the most and that I can’t wait to see how it moves forward is Kit Herondale and Ty Blackthorn. I love their dynamic, I love that Kit sees how special Ty is, and I love how author Clare has written both characters.

But wait, you’re going on and on about relationships, I thought Lord of Shadows had action and an epic story line? It does! The action is intense, the plots and subplots twist and turn, keeping the reader engaged throughout, but at the heart, it’s really about the characters. When you pick up this book, you will become invested in the characters (if you haven’t already from Lady Midnight.)

Cassandra Clare does leave readers totally hanging at the end of Lord of Shadows. Fortunately, I’m one who loves a good cliff hanger and this qualifies. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this book. Can you read it before Lady Midnight? I don’t recommend that, but you could start The Dark Artifacts series without reading The Mortal Instruments. However, I really encourage you to begin with The Mortal Instruments and just read them all. It’s worth it.

And the audiobook for Lord of Shadows, in case you’re interested, it’s read by James Marsters. Yes, THAT James Marsters. You really don’t want to miss that.

Find more information as well as official buy links for Lord of Shadows, here.

Book 3 is The Queen of Air and Darkness. Keep an eye out for a release date.

Book Review: Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

“The words, they are here and there! He does not recognize the illogic! To what dos one listen if not the words? If one matters, then so must the other!”

Hercule Poirot, CLOSED CASKET by Sophie Hannah

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah is the second in the new Hercule Poirot mysteries based on the infamous sleuth created by the legendary Agatha Christie. As readers of my book reviews know, I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie and rate her as my all-time favorite author. And I always enjoy a good mystery. While there are definite differences in Ms. Hannah’s writing style as compared to Christie, I nevertheless found Closed Casket enjoyable and good read.

Closed Casket

Two of the main reasons I liked Closed Casket was its setting and the type of mystery — a murder mystery during an estate house party, complete with family drama, last-minute will/beneficiary changes, and the presence of the one and only Hercule Poirot.

The little Belgian detective and his friend Inspector Edward Catchpool have been invited by Lady Athelinda Playford to her mansion. At dinner on the evening of their arrival, Lady Playford makes the dramatic announcement that she’s changed her will, cutting off her children and instead leaving her fortune to her dying secretary Joseph Scotcher.

Before the end of the evening, Scotcher is dead, bludgeoned brutally and there’s even a witness. Alas, like any good Poirot mystery, things are seldom what they seem and author Sophie Hannah weaves a tale that kept me interested and even guessing to the end — I do love a good red herring or two.

Closed Casket was an enjoyable read and interesting mystery. I do recommend the book, and be sure to visit Sophie Hannah’s site to see her other novels.

Book Review: Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie

Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie has been in by TBR pile for a while, one of the few books by my favorite author that I had not read. Unfortunately, I found this to be a tedious read and not much mystery at all. When I read a Christie, I want a good, juicy mystery that keeps me guessing or at least keeps me engaged. This did not do it for me.

Passenger to Frankfurt

This is one of Christie’s books that does not feature one of her famous detectives. Personally, my favorites star Hercule Poirot, although there are several Miss Marple mysteries I enjoy as well. However, Passenger to Frankfurt fell flat for my tastes. It was repetitive and while I liked the main character Stafford Nye, after a while, I just didn’t care if he actually discovered why he was entangled in an international issue.

The story started just fine, Nye meets a mysterious woman during an airport layover and allows  himself to be convinced to give her his identity because she says her life is in danger. Upon returning home to England he reconnects with the mysterious passenger to Frankfurt — is she spy or what? And quickly, Nye is now involved with a global plot that includes Hitler-influenced youth, wealthy matriarchs, and even his great-aunt Matilda, who was one character I genuinely adored.

No regrets reading the Passenger to Frankfort, but definitely not a book I’ll pick up again. There are many really wonderful Agatha Christie mysteries out there to read. Back in November, I reviewed the Five Little Pigs and gave it 4 of 5 stars on Goodreads. You can check out my review here — definitely enjoyed it more than Passenger to Frankfort.

Other Christie favorites of mine include:

  • Death on the Nile (my number one favorite!)
  • Halloween Party
  • And Then There Were None
  • A Caribbean Mystery
  • Evil Under the Sun
  • Dead Man’s Folly
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • The Seven Dials Mystery
  • Death in the Clouds

I do recommend heading over to the official Agatha Christie website for everything about the author and her books. You can check out news about the latest adaptations of her work, including the anticipated new movie of Murder on the Orient Express. Plus I highly recommend printing out the complete list of her novels (by publication year) if you’re like me and trying to complete your collection.

Happy reading!

Book Review: The Firstborn by Quenby Olson

Happy Release Day to author Quenby Olson and her newest book, The Firstborn!

I loved The Firstborn by Quenby Olson because as I read, I forgot I was reading. It’s that simple. When I can lose myself in a book like that, it’s a winner. I was looking for a book to distract me from the chaos of life and The Firstborn kept me captivated, giving me characters I wanted to spend time with in a setting that I’d like to visit if I could time travel.

The Firstborn

Set in Regency England, The Firstborn is Sophia’s story. She’s smart, loving, and loyal to her family — so much so that she’s sacrificed everything for her younger sister, Lucy and the girl’s illegitimate baby, George. Sophia has created a ruse, assuming the role of a young widow and pretending to be George’s mom. Now Lucy has run off and Lord Finnian Haughton appears on Sophia’s doorstep making inquiries about the child. It seems his younger brother is George’s father and Lord Haughton does not want a scandal.

The Firstborn is an engaging story and I enjoyed the back-and-forth between Sophia and Lord Haughton (Finn). From Sophia’s obvious dislike for him upon first meeting to their mutual desire to ensure little George is safe and cared for despite two very irresponsible birth parents. Author Olson also gives us some wonderful secondary characters. I particularly liked Lord Haughton’s sister and the elderly Lady Rutledge.

While I did receive my copy of The Firstborn as an ARC, but I’m looking forward to adding it to my paper book collection of Quenby Olson titles. If you’re looking for a charming, well-written romance, then grab a copy of The Firstborn as soon as you can.

Definitely check out author Quenby Olson’s other books at her website. And my review for her YA book Knotted.

Here’s the Amazon link for The Firstborn (don’t say I never gave you anything!)

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07117P4BK

 

Book Review: The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are back again in The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro, the second book in her Charlotte Holmes trilogy. Teens Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are descendants of the infamous duo Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. While book one in the trilogy (A Study in Charlotte) takes place at their boarding school in the United States, book two has the duo in Europe during winter break. Of course because this is Holmes and Watson, a tangled web of mystery and intrigue abounds — a poisoning, a disappearing uncle, art forgery, and kidnappings are just the tip of the iceberg.

Last of August

While Holmes and Watson may have survived last fall with their lives (barely), this winter break will prove to be even more dangerous. Not only will they find themselves working alongside a Moriarty, but they’ll have to deal with their own complicated relationship and Charlotte’s dark past.

I enjoyed reading The Last of August quite a bit, for which I’m glad since I always hope that the second book of a trilogy doesn’t fall flat. This didn’t, not at all. It gave me everything I like in a mystery with the added bonus of characters I’m still learning about — Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson. I love that author Brittany Cavallaro has given the reader a slow reveal of these two. And there’s still plenty left to learn, which is why I’m now looking forward to book three.

The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro is a fast-paced YA mystery with plenty of action, suspense, and dialogue that pops. The European settings were a nice combination of gritty (perfect for the underworld of the art forgery) and fanciful when viewed through Jamie’s less jaded eyes. If you’ve already read A Study in Charlotte, definitely don’t miss out on book two!

You can check out author Brittany Cavallaro’s website here to see  more about her Charlotte Holmes trilogy as well as her other work.

#AmReading . . .Are you?

This weekend I began “The Last of August” by Brittany Cavallaro, the sequel to “A Study in Charlotte” that features Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, teen descendants of the famous Holmes and Watson duo. If you haven’t read “A Study in Charlotte” and YA mystery is your thing — go grab a copy now and read it. You can read my review here. As for the second book, I’m about 100 pages in and it has my attention. Keep an eye for my review sometime later this week.

I also finished “The Firstborn” by Quenby Olson recently. My review is up on Goodreads and I’ll be posting it here on the blog as soon as the book officially releases. I had the awesome fortune to receive an ARC and thrilled that I was able to read it early. It’s releasing May 9, so if Regency romance makes your heart swoon, definitely mark your calendars and get a copy of “The Firstborn”. Visit author Quenby Olson at her website to see what else she’s been up to.

What else is on my #TBR list?

  • Star Wars AFTERMATH, Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig (bought and waiting for me to dive into)
  • The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (the paperback has been on my shelf for too long!)
  • Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah (again, bought and need to read soon)
  • Imzadi (Star Trek: The Next Generation) by Pete David (okay, so I’ve actually read this book three times but I’ve never owned it until now, which is why it’s on my current to-read list)
  • Cloak of Shadows by C.K. Dawn (on my Kindle app)

Like many of you, I have a few dozen more on my e-reader, including a few books on the writing craft. I’m setting time aside daily to catch up and keep up with the books I want to read. How’s your TBR list for 2017 going? Doing the Goodreads challenge?