Saturday, February 6, 2016

Stacking the Shelves - One More

It's that time again -- time to talk about new books. I only got one this week, but I think it's a good one!

For Review:
Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan book cover
Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan from NetGalley

That's all folks. How about you? Leave me a link so I can check out your haul. Have a great weekend. Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews.




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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Review: Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers

Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers book cover and review
Assassin's Heart has a very unique world and premise, but took a while to hook me.

Lea Saldana is a clipper. A clipper is an assassin, but one who kills for their god so that the victim can be reborn. Lea's family is the number one clan in the kingdom of Lovero. She is in a secret, forbidden relationship with Val, a member of the rival clan, the Da Vias, who are hated by all of Lea's family.

During the night, a fire rips through the secret home of the Saldana family and all are killed except for Lea. She's on the run, realizing that the Da Vias are responsible for the murders of her family and will soon be coming after her. She vows to seek revenge and kill them all.

She makes a daring escape through a field of ghosts and hides in a town where she believes her estranged uncle lives. She wants to convince him to help her go after the Da Via family. This kingdom is very different, believing in a different god, and having no clippers. She meets Les, who her uncle has begun to train as a clipper. Her uncle makes it very clear that he will be no help, so Lea promises Les she will finish his training and he can help her kill the Da Via family.

I found Assassin's Heart to be slow and repetitive for about 60% of the story. I had a hard time picking it up to read, and I'm not sure why. I didn't really like Lea -- she made some stupid decisions for no apparent reason. The plot progressed very slowly. But at about 60%, it really took off and I finished it in pretty much one sitting. It was worth the wait, but I really think some of the beginning could be trimmed a bit without affecting the story.

I'm also not a fan of the "turn" the story takes with regard to Lea and Les. I can't really say more without spoilers, but it just seemed a bit like Ahiers took the easy way out.

Assassin's Heart introduces another kick-ass female assassin, which seem to be prevalent in recent YA fiction. I haven't got enough of these books yet, so Assassin's Heart is a worthy addition to the genre. I believe this is a stand alone, or at least it reads like one, given there is actually an ending to the story. I greatly appreciated that.

While I had some problems with the story, I am still excited to introduce my students to Assassin's Heart.  I think there will be a lot of fans.

Published by HarperTeen, February 2, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
432 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Monday, February 1, 2016

2016 EBook Challenge - Post Your February Reviews Here

2016 EBook Challenge hosted by Annette's Book Spot

How's everyone doing? Hopefully you are off and running on you 2016 EBook Reading Challenge. I'm currently reading my 7th eBook for the year, which is a bit of a slow start, but not too bad. I have to read 6 1/4 eBooks each month to reach my goal, so I guess I'm doing OK. How about you?

You can sign up for the 2016 EBook Reading Challenge here.

You can see my progress on my 2016 Reading Challenges Page.

Add your February reviews below:





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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Stacking the Shelves --- Ahhh! Crazy!


Sometimes I have these weeks where I see books and I want them -- even though I'm wondering if I'll have time to get to them all -- but I want them!  And, I keep eyeing books on the library shelves that I really need to get to. What's a reader to do?? Request!

For Review:
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner book cover
The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner from NetGalley

Arena by Holly Jennings book cover
Arena, by Holly Jennings from NetGalley

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben book cover
Fool Me Once, by Harlan Coben from Edelweiss
A favorite author!

The Fireman by Joe Hill book cover
The Fireman, by Joe Hill from Edelweiss
Another favorite author!

I'm so excited for these. As I always say, I'm really wishing for more hours in the day so I can read more... aren't we all. So what are you excited about this week? Leave me a link! And be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Thanks for stopping by.





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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys @RutaSepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys book cover and review
Sepetys is just a phenomenal storyteller. Salt to the Sea is a fictional account of a WWII event: the sinking of The Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945 as everyone is trying to evacuate East Prussia.

We follow a small group of characters as they make their way across the land and the water trying to reach the ships that will take them to safety. They are cold, hungry, frightened, and some are injured. Most of them have secrets which could get them killed.

The narration switches between four different people. Three are members of this group, and one is a soldier that has been assigned to The Wilhelm Gustloff. Their paths will cross.

As we follow these people through their journey, we learn bits and pieces about their pasts and how they ended up in this predicament. Not all the stories will turn out to be true, but by the end of Salt to the Sea it will all become clear. This technique definitely keeps the pages turning.

It did take me a while to keep the narrators clear. I would have to page back to remind myself which one was talking. This is a personal thing of mine -- I always read too fast and miss some details until I make myself slow down. Not all of the narrators are likable. I found Alfred, the soldier, to be the most compelling (not likeable!) Most of his narration is in the form of letters he imagines writing to a neighbor girl who he is in love with. He's a Nazi and believes in everything Hitler stands for. I think he's also a psychopath. Salt to the Sea wouldn't be the same story without his perspective. The contrast to the other characters is chilling and makes their plight all the more harrowing.

I can't wait to recommend Salt to the Sea. Sepetys has included sources for those who want to know more about this event. I think WWII fans will be riveted. Sepetys will be on my "must buy" list forever. I'm so glad she makes the effort to research and write about these events that have faded into historical oblivion.

Published by Philomel, February 2, 2016
eARC obtained from NetGalley
400 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: Banished by Kimberly Griffiths Little @KimberleyGLittl

Banished, the second book in the Forbidden series, amps up the danger and suspense and keeps you turning pages. You probably shouldn't read further if you don't want spoilers from Forbidden.

Banished takes place in 1759 BC in Mesopotamia. Forbidden left us hanging, and Banished picks up right away. Jayden is determined that Kadesh is still alive and she's going to find him. Her travels are treacherous, to say the least. She is a woman, traveling alone in the desert. When she does find Kadesh, nothing is OK. Horeb is constantly on their trail, bringing a huge army bent on war. They must get through the desert wasteland to Kadesh's kingdom in the south if they have any hope of survival.

It's just one thing after the other for their group. While Banished does increase the tension, the historical aspect is much downplayed compared to Forbidden. Banished is all about Jayden's journey and her trials getting rid of her betrothed, Horeb. It's much more of a survival story.

And, just as a side note, while the cover is beautiful, I just don't think it depicts Jayden. She wouldn't wear a dress like that in the Bronze Age, and she always had her hair up in the story. Just sayin'.

The book builds up the tension expertly.  Even after it seems they may be safe and on the path to happiness, it just isn't to be. And we do want them to be happy - the romance is dreamy and they deserve it. Banished ends on yet another huge cliffhanger, which always leaves me with a bad taste. There isn't much closure to this exciting journey, so be warned. I'm already looking forward to the next book.

Published by HarperCollins, February 2, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Review: Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace @kaliphyte

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace book cover and review
Shallow Graves is gruesome and horrible -- and good! While not for the faint of heart, Shallow Graves offers something substantial for teens who can't get enough demons and goblins and the associated murderous behavior that goes with it.

Breezy Lin was murdered a year ago. And when the story begins, she has just reawakened from a shallow grave. In her "undead" form, she has the ability to see people's shadows -- and sometimes those shadows indicate they have killed someone (at least one). When Breezy touches them, they die, and all the memories of those murders now belong to Breezy. She also can't be killed and heals very quickly from any injuries.

She wanders aimlessly, needing no food or sleep. As the story continues we get flashbacks to Breezy's life before she was murdered, and eventually of her actual murder. Breezy hooks up with some really evil people, a cult who is trying to rid the world of evil, and some really dangerous, otherworldly creatures (that look like people!) Yes, it turns out that all those creatures from our nightmares really exist. If you can't buy into that, then Shallow Graves probably isn't for you.

Breezy is trying to figure out just what she is and why this happened to her, while trying to figure out who she can trust and just what her place in this world is. Things get violent and bloody. Breezy is very brave, and decides to take on the ultimate "mother" of all demons. It's tense and very readable. Once you get going in Shallow Graves, you won't be able to put it down.

I can't really think of any book to compare Shallow Graves to, but the blurb compares this one to the writings of Holly Black (maybe, a little?) and Nova Ren Suma (who I've never read.) I thought this one was a bit scary, and certainly gory. So those are the reader's that you should target for Shallow Graves. And I haven't heard anything, but Wallace could certainly continue Breezy's adventures in another book. There's definite potential...

Published by Katherine Tegen, January 26, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Stacking the Shelves -- More Books! Can You Believe It?

I got a couple of review books this week, and here they are:

For Review:
The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King book cover
The Murder of Mary Russell, by Laurie R. King from NetGalley
I haven't read this entire series, but someday I want to!

The Girl From Home, by Adam Mitzner from NetGalley

So what do you think? I hope you got some good ones too. Leave me a link! Don't forget to stop by Team Tynga's Reviews to see all the participants. Have a great week!





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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Book Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes book cover and review
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is hard to put down. Young people who have experienced abuse are hard to read about, but Minnow's strength and determination are compelling.

In the opening scene, we find Minnow under a bridge, covered in blood after she has just beaten someone almost to death. We then experience her arrest and trial. She ends up in a juvenile detention center. Given Minnow's previous existence, prison is a very hard adjustment.

As this part of the story unfolds, Minnow takes us back to her past, where when she was five years old her father moved her family deep into the woods. He's been enamored with The Prophet (Kevin) who has convinced him to give up his worldly ways. So Minnow has lived a very sheltered life in the cult. Always in fear of torture and beatings, she has the scars to prove it.

We learn very early in the book that Minnow's hands have been cut off. We don't really learn how this happened until much later in the book. Minnow also reveals her relationship with a boy in the woods near the cult -- how she sneaked out to meet him for years. The reader is pretty sure early on that this boy was punished, and killed, by the cult after his discovery. We also learn early on that the buildings in the cult have all burned, and Kevin, The Prophet, is dead.

Many of these stories are told to Minnow's cell mate or her counselor, who is also an FBI agent. He want's Minnow to tell him who killed Kevin. In return, he will testify at her parole hearing to help her. It's interesting to see the trust build up between these two. The relationship between Minnow and her cell mate is also complex and interesting.

The changing relationships, both in Minnow's past and present, are part of what makes The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly fascinating.  Also the unbelievable story that unfolds of the nutcase Prophet and his followers.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a very quick read that I flew threw. I think teens who enjoy cult stories must read this one. This is a great story that will get you thinking about blind faith and how people can get in these kinds of situations and are unable to break free. Can't wait to pass The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly around to my teens.

Published by Dial, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
396 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Audio Book Review: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry book cover and review
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is humorous and charming, if a little bit outrageous.

The students of St. Etheldreda's Academy decide to hide the deaths by poisoning of their headmistress and her brother. They died right at the dining room table, and because the girls didn't want to be sent back to their homes, they decide to create an elaborate ruse to convince everyone things are normal at the school.

Well it's a difficult task, but surprisingly they are able to pull it off. They are almost caught time and time again by the many visitors to the house but through their ingenuity and lots of luck, they manage. They are also trying to solve the murder mystery at the same time.

There are many surprising twists and turns, and the girls must come up with plausible (and sometimes not so plausible) explanations on the spur of the moment. The reader can see that this situation must inevitably fall apart, but going along on this wild ride is certainly worth your time. The ending is clever, and I really had no idea who the culprit was until exposed.

The narrator, Jayne Entwistle, is perfection. She's also the narrator of the Flavia de Luce audiobooks, which are some of my favorites.

The book is targeted for middle school, and I think that audience will enjoy The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place immensely. Audiobook fans should definitely give this one a try.

Published by Roaring Book Press, 2014, Listening Library (Audio)
Copy obtained from the library
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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