Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review: Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan

Mary: The Summoning was one of the most creepy, gory, chilling books I've ever read. And that's pretty much all it is.

Shauna is our narrator, and her best friend, Jess, has convinced Shauna and two other friends that they should try to summon Bloody Mary to come into the mirror at one of their houses. Jess has done a lot of research, and believes they can do it. They are much too successful, and not only does Mary appear, she attacks Shauna and then haunts her no matter where Shauna goes!

Once this happens, very early in the book, the rest is just one encounter after another. Each time the girls must come up with a different way to get rid of Mary. Monahan isn't afraid to maim and kill her characters either! It's truly frightening.

If you like really scary situations with a lot of slime and gore, Mary: The Summoning is the book for you! I know there are supposed to be themes of friendship and changing relationships, but these girls are under so much stress that those themes kind of get lost in the terror.

Pick out your kids who can't get enough horror -- this one is non-stop -- and give them Mary: The Summoning.

Published by Disney-Hyperion, September 2, 2014
eARC obtained from NetGalley
256 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: Rumble, by Ellen Hopkins

Rumble is a dramatic story of a young boy dealing with grief, loss, and lots of guilt.

Matt has lost his little brother a few months ago as the story begins. We soon find out that his brother, Luke, was gay and committed suicide.

Matt's parents are falling apart, not that they've ever been great parents, but since Luke's death, things are even worse. Thank goodness Matt has Hayden, the girl of his dreams.

But Hayden is becoming more and more involved with her church youth group, and the youth minister, and Matt is thoroughly convinced there is no God and isn't keeping quiet about it. These conflicting beliefs and jealousy cause turmoil in their relationship.

There's a lot of turmoil in Matt's life, and he has a seemingly good therapist to help him, but she doesn't appear very often. The story is slowly revealed about just how and why Luke killed himself and why Matt is feeling like it's his fault.

Matt has a handgun that his father bought him. And no (thankfully) this isn't a story about a kid going off the deep end and shooting someone. I loved how responsible Matt was about using and storing the gun. Since shooting happens to be one of my hobbies, it was nice to see a story that showed that not everyone with a gun is out to blow people away. Matt shoots at his uncle's shooting range, and his uncle becomes a refuge as well as a confidant.

Rumble is compelling and interesting. It reads quickly (as all Hopkins' books do). But I'm not sure she can ever stand up to her earlier books, especially Crank. Rumble just doesn't pack the emotional punch of some of her other books. I would still recommend it, because it's a great story and can open up discussions about faith, bullying, and homosexuality.

It is disappointing that the eARC of Rumble isn't written in the proper free-verse format. The lines all just run together like paragraphs. I think the final book will be easier to read and more entertaining in its intended format.

Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, August 26, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
560 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stacking the Shelves: New Author

Another one-book week. It's been a busy one, getting ready for school. Not much time to read, and it's going to get worse! Bye Bye Summer!

For Review:
NO
Cover 
Available

Ask the Dark, by Henry Turner from Edelweiss
It's a YA Thriller. Can't wait to see the cover.

So, that's it for me this week. What did you get? Please leave me a link, and go visit Team Tynga's Reviews to see all the other participating blogs. Have a great weekend!





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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: Feral by Holly Schindler

I was a bit disappointed in Feral, but it's going to be difficult to explain because I won't give away any spoilers.

Claire has suffered a violent attack in her home town of Chicago that has left her scarred -- both emotionally and physically.  Her father gets a semester sabbatical in Peculiar, Missouri, so Claire is going with him. They arrive during a freak ice storm and things just get weirder from there.

The book opens with the narrative voice of Serena, who is dead and being dragged across a field behind the school during the ice storm. She is left there, under a broken tree branch.

Claire discovers the body a few days later being chewed on by the town's many feral cats. Claire believes there's more to Serena's death, which has been categorized as an accident.

On the surface, Feral is an interesting story, but the way Claire finds out what happens is just weird. It's supernatural, but because Claire is the only one experiencing the supernatural events, it doesn't feel authentic. Some of the decisions made by Claire and those around her benefit the plot, but don't really make sense. Some of the reactions by the characters didn't feel authentic. I can't really be specific, but I just didn't like the way the whole thing played out.

The writing is great, the story moves along at a pace that keeps you interested. I couldn't connect with the characters, but that's because I didn't buy into what was happening. There are some creepy and gory descriptions that are well done too.

Here's a couple of reviews that liked Feral a bit more than I did:

Obsession With Books
My Guilty Obsession

For me, Feral was underwhelming. I never wanted to not finish -- I had to see if what I thought happened really happened. And I was mostly right, but had some of the details wrong. If you like murder mysteries that are more mysterious than just who committed the crime, you may be interested in Feral.

Published by HarperTeen, August 26, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
432 pages

Rating: 2.5/5





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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Audio Book Review: The Racketeer, by John Grisham

John Grisham has done it again, with The Racketeer. I don't  know where he comes up with these stories, but every book he writes is so compelling, you just have to know what happens.

Malcolm Bannister is in federal prison for a crime he didn't commit. He's been sentenced to 10 years and has served 5 of those years. When a federal judge is murdered, Malcolm convinces the FBI that he knows who committed the crime, and if they will commute his sentence and put him in the witness protection program, he will tell them who the murderer is.

The feds take the deal and give Malcolm a new life and a new face as Max Baldwin. That's really all I want to say. This is one of those books where you know there's more to the story than you are being told. I don't know how many times I thought to myself, "Just what is Malcolm/Max up to?" He does weird things that don't seem related to the case and that put him in danger, but you know there must be a reason. You don't really find out that reason until the end of the book when everything comes together masterfully.

The twists and turns and the complexity of the plot will keep you mesmerized. Max is very smart, very creative, and is obviously following a plan. But to what end? You have to read it to find out.

The narrator, J. D. Jackson, is excellent. The Racketeer is a first person narrative, and Jackson's voice for Malcolm/Max is spot-on and easy to follow.

The Racketeer is highly recommended to adults and sophisticated teen readers who like crime drama . If you are already a Grisham fan, this is a must read.

Published by Random House, 2012
Audiobook obtained from the library
402 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: Vortex, by S. J. Kincaid

I seem to be having a lot of problems with second books in a series, and Vortex is no exception. I really enjoyed the first book, Insignia, but Vortex suffered from many "second book syndrome" problems, so much so, that I almost DNF it. But I realized I have the third book, Catalyst, to review, so I persevered.

Tom is no longer a plebe. He's been promoted along with all his friends (except Yuri) and is now a middle. The first two hundred pages of the book are filled with simulations, conditioning, and Tom making really stupid decisions and pissing everyone off.

I'm tired of Tom. It's time for him to grow up. He doesn't seem to learn from his mistakes; there is virtually no character growth. He blames Blackburn for everything bad. I understand he hates Blackburn, but when some things happen that have nothing to do with Tom, he STILL is convinced Blackburn is responsible -- never considering any other possibility. Duh.

Vortex is just very bloated. The first 200 pages should have been about 50 pages. I couldn't wait for some tension to build, which started at about the halfway point. I enjoyed the overarching story line -- it just took way too long to get started and I couldn't wait for it to be over. And that's a shame. By the time it got exciting, I was too frustrated to enjoy it.

My body felt bruised and battered from reading over and over about how bad the corporations are. How the government essentially works for them. About how these corporations only care about money. I get that. It's a great message and an interesting concept. But I don't need this thrown at me about every four pages.

I don't know how to recommend this book. I send fans of Ender's Game right to Insignia. But, I'm hesitant about Vortex. I guess maybe I could recommend that they just skim the beginning, but teens aren't necessarily good at skimming. I remember thinking some of the other books in the Ender series were too long and detailed, so maybe this is a sci-fi thing.

Bottom line: If you loved Insignia you should give Vortex a chance. You may feel differently than I do.

Published by Katherine Tegen Books, 2013
Copy obtained from the library
390 pages

Rating: 2.5/5





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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Stacking the Shelves -- The Review Books Keep Coming

Happy Weekend! Hopefully your summer is coming to an end on a good note. I have one more week before school starts, so I hope to get a lot done. There are so many books available for review, I really have a hard time deciding, but here's what I got this week:

For Review:

Rumble, by Ellen Hopkins from Edelweiss

The Bargaining, by Carly Anne West from Edelweiss

Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes from Edelweiss

Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard from Edelweiss

I stayed away from the library and the book store, so that's it for me. How about you? Did you get some great books? Please leave me a link because I don't have enough books on my TBR and I need some more! (That's a joke....) But I do want to see what you got, because you can never have enough books.  Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Hope to see you back here soon.





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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Review: The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin

The Orchardist is a beautiful and tragic tale of one man's life and the lives of the three women who surround him.

William Talmadge was brought to a remote part of Washington, near Wenatchee, by his mother at a very young age. They began to plant trees, and after Talmadge's mother dies and his sister disappears, he is alone on his fairly successful orchard. The Orchardist is historic, although I couldn't find a specific reference to dates. I believe it is the late 1800s to early 1900s (the book spans several decades.)

Two young women begin to hang around the orchard, and Talmadge leaves food for them and leaves blankets and supplies to aid their survival. They have obviously run away, and Talmadge hears about some men looking for two young women.

Talmage becomes their protector and begins a tentative relationship with them. It soon becomes apparent that both women are pregnant. Angelene is born at the orchard, and through some tragic circumstances, becomes Talmadge's adopted daughter.

That's really all I want to say about the plot, because you need to discover the story as you read. The setting of The Orchardist is stunning. The reader is IN the orchard as it is described.

The characters are unique and to me, a bit frustrating. These are quiet people. They don't divulge their feelings. They don't talk through things. They keep secrets. There isn't any romance, but deep, loving friendships (although no one ever uses the word "love.")

The Orchardist is written in the third person, and while there are quotes, there are no quotation marks. Don't expect much action or even much drama. No romance. No graphic violence. No happy ending (although appropriate.) This is a quiet, meandering story that is so well-written you become immersed in the lives of these people and can't help but care deeply for them. I would have liked to know a bit more about the life of the character at the end. We know about the orchard's future, but not really the character.

The Orchardist is not a book I would recommend to many teens. If you love character studies with a historical aspect and unique and immersive settings, then put The Orchardist on your list.

Published by Harper, 2012
eBook, purchased
448 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: The False Princess, by Eilis O'Neal

The False Princess is a cute story with magic and romance that teen girls will enjoy.

Nalia is 17 years old and has been raised as a princess, and eventually she will be the queen. Her entire life is turned upside down when it is revealed that she was switched at birth with the real princess. There was a prophecy that someone would kill the princess before her 17th birthday, so it was decided to send the real princess away.

Nalia's real mother and father are dead, so she is sent to live with her aunt. In the country. Away from everything she has even known. Her adjustment to her new life is understandably difficult, and it isn't helped by the fact that Keirnan, her best friend, seems to have forgotten her.

Also, Nalia, now known as Sinda, has started to be able to do some magic. It seems her magic was suppressed as a child, so now it comes without warning and she cannot control it. She returns to the capital to see if she can join the school where they train wizards. Because Sinda isn't royalty and cannot pay, she is not admitted.

But an eccentric wizard agrees to train Sinda. She discovers there's more to the story about the real princess and reconnects with Keirnan as she risks life and limb to save her kingdom.

It takes a while for The False Princess to get going. It starts out with a bang, but then drags during the time Sinda is with her aunt. I didn't understand the need for so much detail during that part.  But you will root for Sinda and for the potential romance between Sinda and Kiernan. And there is also a lot of danger to be faced. The False Princess is a nice mix of adventure, romance, and magic. I can recommend this story to a lot of teens, especially the younger ones.

Published by EgmontUSA, 2011
Copy obtained from the library
319 pages

Rating:  3.5/5





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Monday, August 4, 2014

Book Review: Servants of the Storm, by Delilah S. Dawson

If you like macabre books about demons with a southern gothic feel, you will want to check out Servants of the Storm.

It's been a year since hurricane Josephine tore through Savannah, killing Dovey's best friend Carly. This caused such emotional turmoil, that Dovey was put on medication to keep her sane. Dovey decides to stop taking the medication, because she is tired of feeling like she's sleepwalking. Oh, and she also is sure that she saw Carly. Alive. So, she needs to figure out what is going on. She enlists the help of her other best friend, Baker.

Servants of the Storm is very dark. It's  very creepy and even gory in spots. It is hard to say much about the plot without giving too much away. It's unbelievable, but I still found it interesting for the right reader. The way Dawson uses the Savannah setting and the effects of the hurricane adds an extra eerie quality.  Carly meets some really demonic creatures and ultimately fights to save not only Carly, but the entire city of Savannah from this darkness. The ending is dramatic and tense, but then kind of fizzles.

Servants of the Storm is easy to follow, even if it's not easy to believe. The set up to the story drags a bit. Ultimately, I enjoyed it, but it didn't really WOW me. I didn't connect with Dovey, even though I felt sorry for her and wanted her to figure things out.  For a reader who is really interested in this type of story, Servants of the Storm is worth recommending.

Published by Simon Pulse, August 5, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
384 pages

Rating: 3/5





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