Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Review: The Taking, by Kimberly Derting

For a book that's supposed to be about alien abductions, The Taking screams, "romance!"

Kyra is 16 when she wakes up behind a quick shop and the last thing she remembers is being outside a car with her dad and seeing a bright flash of light. Kyra walks home, and soon realizes that things have changed a lot. Her mom and dad are divorced, her mom is remarried, and she has a new brother. Her boyfriend is now dating her best friend. She comes to realize that five years have passed since she disappeared.

Here's my problem. Kyra, YOU HAVE BEEN GONE FOR FIVE YEARS!!. This doesn't seem to phase Kyra very much, other than calling her new little brother "my brother" (yes, in quotes) instead of using his name. Kyra is a snot, but I forgive her for that. But what I don't forgive her for is OBSESSING about Tyler, the boy next door, and also the brother of her boyfriend from five years ago.

Awful things happen. She finds out the man who drew her blood at the hospital (a very strange blood draw, to begin with) has died. Doesn't phase Kyra..."Where's Tyler? When will Tyler be home?" Kyra has the same bruises and callouses and finds out her teeth are exactly the same as five years ago. Again, doesn't phase her, it's all about Tyler.

Her mother is panicked and wants her to stay close (of course, after thinking she was dead for five years.) Does Kyra care? No. Let's sneak over to Tyler's house. Her dad has gone off the deep end, trying to prove that Kyra was abducted by aliens -- she rejects him. When strange government officials start asking her questions, does she turn to her parents? Nope. Tyler.

Another little niggly thing. Kyra is gone for five years. She even states she had a Motorola Razr phone (that was still charged when she returned after five years.) She gets a new phone and is totally comfortable with the new smart phone technology. None of the technological changes that happened in five years was ever mentioned. iPads? eReaders? Like I said, niggly, but I thought it would have added a lot if Kyra had been "amazed" by some of the new stuff that is now available. I guess what I'm saying is that some details would have helped me believe the story. Kyra's reactions to the whole scenario were entirely "off."

The Taking got interesting after Kyra (and of course, Tyler) are on the run. She finally focuses on figuring out what happened. But by then I was so disgusted with her, I just wanted it to be over. And, even though I finished The Taking, it's not really over. This is the first book in a series, so we are left with a pretty big cliff hanger. I don't think I can stand the romance, so I probably won't continue the series.

Published by HarperTeen, April 29, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 2.5/5





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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Audio Book Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson

Stieg Larsson tells very intricate stories, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is no exception. As the third book in the Millennium Trilogy, I found it the most detailed, and although I enjoyed it, it was my least favorite of the series.

Lisbeth Salander spends most of the book in the hospital. She's been found shot three times and almost dies. She's also been accused of attempted murder, among other things, and will be put in prison as soon as she is released.

One of my favorite things about the Millennium Trilogy are the interactions between Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. In this book they don't even see each other. Although Mikael helps her from afar, they are never together, and I really missed that.

There are many, many (many) characters and side stories in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. It was difficult to follow, especially at the beginning, and I think the audio format didn't help. I couldn't flip back pages and remind myself who the characters were. But really, the way Larsson writes, those details aren't important to the overall arc of the story, and if you keep on, eventually it all comes together and makes sense.

Larsson also does a good job of reminding us of what happened in the first two books. As the crimes are being investigated, different parts of Lisbeth's past are retold -- sometimes to excess. It just makes the book even longer and more detailed.

The way Mikael and Lisbeth, each in their own way, go about figuring out all the intricacies of the case is the most interesting part of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. From Lisbeth's hacking everyone's computers to Mikael's eluding the bad guys, it's one narrow escape after the other!

I'm sure Larsson intended to write more books in this series, and it is unfortunate that we will never know what happened to these characters. There is definitely potential for more adventures. The narrator, Simon Vance, does a great job, but I think I'd recommend the book for this one, because of the number of characters and complexity of the plot.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is long and tedious, but certainly interesting.  I'd highly recommend the book to those who have read the first two, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Published by Knopf, 2010 (Random House Audio)
Audio Book obtained from the library
576 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: The Silence of Murder, by Dandi Daley Mackall

I'm always looking for good murder mysteries for my teens, and The Silence of Murder is one I'll be happy to recommend.

Jeremy has been accused of murdering his coach and mentor. Jeremy is 18 years old, and hasn't spoken since he was about nine years old. The story is told by his younger sister, Hope, who is the only one who believes that Jeremy is innocent. The attorney is going for the insanity defense, but although Jeremy has a disease somewhere on the autistic spectrum, Hope knows he isn't insane.

Hope sets out to find "reasonable doubt" so that Jeremy will not be convicted. She is assisted by her best friend, T.J, and a new friend, Chase, who happens to be the sheriff's son. And Hope has a huge crush on him. As Chase and Hope's relationship develops into more than friendship, T.J. becomes jealous.

Hope is desperate, but she really does some stupid things in her search for the real killer. Some of the things she finds SURELY would have been found by any police investigation, no matter how inept. However, there is more to the story than just the murder. Hope's mother is an alcoholic, and there are some family secrets to be revealed that will change Hope's life forever.

I found the story to move a bit slowly at times. I had a couple of suspects from the beginning, and one of them turned out to be the culprit. But, I still wouldn't call The Silence of Murder predictable. I LOVED the ending. I loved the process that was used to find the real killer.

The Silence of Murder is a pretty short book, so the slow parts didn't bog the book down too much. I think everyone will be surprised, maybe not by WHO the killer is, but by HOW the discovery is made. It's a great story about family and love and being determined to find the truth. This book won the Edgar Award and will be enjoyed by both boys and girls.

Published by Ember, 2011
Copy obtained from the library
323 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - One More!


Welcome to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Team Tynga's Reviews. Here's what I grabbed this week:

For Review:

The Chapel Wars, by Lindsey Leavitt from NetGalley

So how about you? What's new on your shelves? Leave me a link so I can add to mine. Thanks for stopping by!




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Friday, April 18, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday - Ideal Spring Break!

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

Happy Friday! It's time for Feature & Follow Friday, and a question that has us all dreaming of vacations.....

Spring Break. Where would be your favorite destination spot if you could join the Spring Break festivities?


We actually went camping at Kentucky Lake and southern Illinois for spring break this year (about a month ago!) This is a picture from my vacation last summer. It was taken in Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. I'm not a big party person -- I'm at the point in my life where a nice, quiet, relaxing camping trip is my ideal vacation. I do enjoy the beach, and I'm about ready for another Mexico trip too. 

How about you? What's your ideal spring break? Be sure to visit our hosts, Parajunkee and Alison. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to leave me a link!





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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Review: The Reece Malcolm List, by Amy Spalding @theames

I was totally surprised by The Reece Malcolm List, and in a very good way!

When you read that a book is about a teen who has to move from everything she knows and live with a parent she's never even met, well, you just expect certain things. She's not going to fit in at her new school. There might be one nerdy person she becomes friends with, but everyone else will want nothing to do with her. This new parent, a mother in this case, is going to be awful, and she and her daughter are not going to get along. The mother's boyfriend is going to be a creep.

Well. That's NOT what happened at all in The Reece Malcolm List. Devan, our main character, doesn't immediately hit it off with her mom, but her mom is really nice, and although hard to communicate with, she's not awful. Brad, the boyfriend, is even better, and tries to be a confidante for Devan. Also, her mom is a famous author, and has friends that are a little famous too, so that adds an interesting aspect.

The new school, a performing arts school that Devan is very excited about, is really great. Devan makes a lot of friends, and is even involved in some romance. I just really enjoyed that Devan was basically happy. At least more happy than she was living with her dad, who ignored her, and her step mother, who hated her. Things aren't perfect though, and that's what The Reece Malcolm List is about. Devan trying to find her place in this new world.

Devan eventually has to confront her mother about why she basically kept out of Devan's life until she was forced to take her. There are a lot of misunderstandings along the way, which I found frustrating, but probably were mostly realistic, given that Devan is sixteen and behaving like a teen.

She also has to figure out some relationship stuff -- with her friends as well as her boyfriend(s), and this is where she really grows and changes and it was very sweet, for the most part.

The whole musical theater aspect was very entertaining, although I've never seen Merrily We Roll Along, I can relate to belting out show tunes when you are alone in the house (don't tell anyone.)

After reading some heavy, dark books, The Reece Malcolm List was just what I needed. A lighthearted, but really NOT cliche book about teen relationships. I really enjoyed this one, and I need to start pushing it to some of my teens.

Published by Entangled Teen, 2013
Copy obtained from the library
305 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review: NOS4A2, by Joe Hill

NOS4A2 is one of the most macabre books I've ever read.

The story is painstakingly described, with lots of details. At first, we don't understand how everything will fit together -- but it does. In one thread, we have Manx, a sinister man who picks up kids in his classic 1938 Rolls Royce and they are never seen again. He is able to take them to another place and time, where they will have Christmas every day.

The other story line involves a little girl, Victoria, who has a magic bicycle that she can ride over a bridge (that was torn down years ago) and find any thing or place she wants. The story encompasses Victoria's life, after she encounters Manx and escapes, and becomes a troubled young woman.

Manx is put in prison because of what he did to Victoria. He becomes ill, and is in a coma for ten years and then....well...I'm going to stop there.

Suffice it to say, it's creepy. Its violent. It's unbelievable horrid. Just think of any other synonym for those words. Hill is a master at creating the chill factor. There are some other main characters that have their own problems and add a lot of color to the story. Is it about vampires, as the title suggests? Not in the traditional sense.

I was compelled to finish this book, and for the most part enjoyed it. But, I really got tired of it. I had to know what happens, but I wish it had been trimmed by a couple hundred pages. It just went on and on, and the level of detail at times was unnecessary, especially for a book that's already 700 pages long. I really don't need to know what the character ate for breakfast. Yet, it was well written. The descriptions are vivid and the characterizations are unique and believable -- even while being unbelievable.

If you want to be creeped out to the max, definitely pick up NOS4A2.  And, by the way, also pick up Hill's other book Heart Shaped Box. It's shorter and just a creepy! If they can handle the violence and disturbing images, NOS4A2 is appropriate for teens too.

Published by William Morrow, 2013
eBook purchased
704 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - Another Trip Through the Library Shelves


I had a bit of extra time this week, so I started wandering the shelves, and well, that's dangerous. Here's the handful I decided to check out.

From the Library:

The Silence of Murder, by Dandi Daley Mackall

Scowler, by Daniel Kraus

The Reece Malcolm List, by Amy Spalding

Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black

Thanks for visiting! Leave me a link so I can see what you got. Make sure you visit Team Tynga's Reviews, our hosts. Enjoy!






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Friday, April 11, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday - Bad, Bad Book

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

Happy Friday everyone. Here's this week's question from Parajunkee and Alison:

Tell us about a book that you didn’t like and why we shouldn’t read it…nicely.

Panic, by Lauren Oliver is the only book I've given a 2 out of 5 rating this year (so far.) I just really didn't connect with this book.


In my full review, I had problems with the premise (especially the money part), the stupidity of the parents and the authorities, and I didn't think the characters were distinct. Here's a quote from my review: The premise is not believable. Not even believable enough that I could suspend my disbelief (and I'm pretty good at that.) 

I would, however HIGHLY RECOMMEND Oliver's other books. I loved both Before I Fall and The Delirium Trilogy.

As always, this is only my opinion, and I've read plenty of reviews that rave about Panic. But you asked, so I answered.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a link. Have a great weekend!




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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Book Review: The House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

What a fun book! I have mixed feelings about books about witches, but House of Ivy & Sorrow was delightful.

Maybe the author won't appreciate my adjectives (fun and delightful.) Yes, there's some tension and near-death danger, but still, the overall feel is fun. I hope that's what Whipple was going for.

Jo, our main character, lives with her grandmother. They are the remaining two members of the Hemlock family of witches. Someone cursed Jo's mother, and she died. Now, it appears that someone is after Jo and her grandmother. This someone has to be another witch -- a very dark witch.

I liked the take on how magic works. If you're going to cast a spell to get something, a payment is required. This might be losing one of your senses for awhile, or losing a fingernail -- depending on how much you are asking for.

Now, there is some gore. Because of the losing the fingernail stuff. And sometimes a hunk of skin. This was pretty much glossed over. The victim is in excruciating pain and in the next sentence we are moving on. I didn't think that aspect was quite dramatic enough. I really don't know if I could pull out my fingernail -- but it seemed relatively easy for these characters to do.

The magic is supposed to be kept a secret, but inevitably some mortals must find out. They are just way too accepting. It's like, "Really? You've got to be kidding!" Then it's, "OK. What do you want me to do?" Or, "What? I almost died?" Then, "OK. What's next?" But, I guess all that just adds to the lighthearted feeling of The House of Ivy & Sorrow.

I loved the characters, especially Jo. She makes some questionable decisions, but in character for a teen. Jo is strong, smart, and determined. A great heroine. The theme of friendship and "friends as family" is powerful.

Ultimately, The House of Ivy  & Sorrow is a classic Good Against Evil story, but it's done well, and I enjoyed every minute with these characters. I think many of my teen readers, and even younger teens, will too.

Published by HarperTeen, April 15, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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