Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Review: The Hired Girl, by Laura Amy Schlitz

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz book cover and review
Well I love historical fiction, so I loved The Hired Girl.

Joan, who is 14, has had to quit school and work to support her father and brothers on their poor Pennsylvania farm. It's 1911. Joan's mother has died and she is the only one to do the "woman's work" that her brutal father demands. Joan wants nothing more than to go to school and become a teacher. It's what her mother had planned for her too.

Joan devises a plan and using money that her mother hid in her doll, Joan runs away to Baltimore. She is taken in by a Jewish family to be their hired girl. At $6 per week, Joan, who now goes by Janet, feels like she is well on her way to financial independence.  She becomes attached to this family, even though she's never met anyone Jewish before. She works hard and also makes some serious mistakes.

The Hired Girl moves at a slow, methodical pace. It's written in the form of a diary, which adds to the atmosphere. There's a forbidden romance and some tense moments, but mostly the tone is very even. I'm not sure if that's the right word, but suffice it to say that my heart didn't ever pound. I never cried. I was never frightened. It kept my interest, though, and was very entertaining.

The Hired Girl is an ALA Notable Book, and has won the Scott O'Dell award for historical fiction as well as some other awards for Jewish literature. As I find is often the case with award books, I don't think The Hired Girl will be very popular in my library. However, for the historical fiction reader, this one is not to be missed.

Published by Candlewick, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
387 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, June 13, 2016

DNF Book Review: How to Disappear by Ann Redisch Stampler

It's been a record year for me for not finishing books. I know that part of it is me. Less time to read and still a huge TBR pile. But still, there's something about How to Disappear that just didn't click.

Nicolette is on the run. She witnessed (or committed?) a murder. Jack is after her; he's supposed to kill her. Jack is the only upstanding citizen in the Manx family. His brother, Don (who is in prison), says Jack has to kill this girl or else his mob bosses will come after Jack's mother.  So Jack leaves school, missing his graduation, to find and kill Nicolette, who now goes by Cat.

So, what didn't I like? It moved very slowly. I read half the book. It just took so long for anything to happen. It was very repetitive. I got really tired of hearing about how awful Jack's family was over and over. It was predictable. So, Jack and Cat are gonna fall in love, right? You can't think that's a spoiler; we all know it's coming. Now, I didn't finish the book, so I'm sure there's some twists and turns that I wouldn't anticipate, but still. It's jumpy. I was reading the ARC, so this could change. But we jumped periods of time without any warning. No breaks in the text. For example, she's trying to gain weight to disguise herself, and all of a sudden, she's gained weight. The scenes flip suddenly and sometimes periods of time have passed, and it takes a minute to get back in the story.

I could have easily finished How to Disappear. and given it a rating of about three. I got a feel for the book, and I still think many teens will love it. That's my purpose in reading a lot of YA. To recommend it to my teens. And I won't hesitate to recommend How to Disappear. I just don't have the patience to finish it.

Published by  Simon Pulse June 14, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
200/416 pages

Rating: DNF





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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Book Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

With Malice by Eileen Cook book cover and review
With Malice reveals an exciting and interesting premise, but the resolution just fizzled.

Jill wakes up in a hospital severely injured, and her first concern is will she still be able to make her planned trip to Italy. She is shocked to find out that her injury occurred in Italy, and that she has lost the memories from the last several weeks of her life.

She also wants to see her lifelong best friend, Simone, and soon finds out that they were both in a car accident. Jill was driving and Simone was killed. Her father had Jill jetted back to the US presumably to receive the best medical care, but also to receive the best legal advice. It seems the Italian authorities think the car crash may not have been an accident.

Jill spends the rest of her time in the hospital and then in rehab trying to figure out what happened. The reader gets police interviews and blog posts from those that were witnesses or those that were close to the girls. While the interviews reveal some details, the truth still isn't clear to the reader.

Jill is convinced there's no way she would have harmed Simone, no matter what they were arguing about. Even if it was about the Italian tour guide that Jill had a huge crush on and Simone tried to steal. But as the truth comes out...

Well, I'm not going to say any more. The ending is ambiguous and the expected twist really didn't materialize. There is an interesting revelation that any savvy reader could have predicted. With Malice  has been compared to We Were Liars but doesn't pack nearly the punch. I didn't experience any attachment to Jill. Maybe I'm not supposed to. I didn't dislike her, but I didn't really feel myself pulling for her.

The writing is easy, and With Malice is a quick read. The story is intriguing, and maybe teens will be more shocked at the revelations than I was.

Published by HMH BFYR, June 7, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
320 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Book Review: The Hunt, by Megan Shepherd @megan_shepherd

The Hunt by Megan Shepherd book cover and review
The Hunt is even more exciting than the first book, The Cage.

The characters are all separated in different parts of the colony serving the Kindred in different ways. Cora, Lucky, and Mali are part of a safari attraction where the Kindred come to hunt. They take care of the wild animals and Cora also entertains the guests. Cassian is secretly training Cora to compete in an event called The Gauntlet where, if she survives, she can prove that humans are an intelligent species and they will all be freed.

Things don't go smoothly, of course. I enjoyed The Hunt because we get several different areas in which all of our characters are in danger in different ways. The tension mounts for each of them, and in the end they all come together to try to escape from their captors.

If there's any complaint about The Hunt it would be the characterizations. We get a few different POVs, but besides Cora, I didn't really feel like we got to know the others any better. Well, maybe Leon. All of them contributed, and because of the different settings maybe it was just difficult to connect. This is a very minor complaint though.

The ending is definitely an "out of the frying pan..." situation. There is a pretty brutal cliff hanger, so beware. I'm desperately wanting more....

You will want to read The Cage first, but this is a worthwhile series that I'm going to be recommending to my dystopian/adventure lovers. And I have a lot of those.

Published by Balzer + Bray, May 24, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

2016 EBook Reading Challenge - Post Your June Reviews Here

EBook Reading Challenge at Annette's Book Spot
How's everyone doing? Hopefully you are continuing to make progress on your 2016 EBook Reading Challenge. Keep on Reading!

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

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

Here's a link to the May Reviews Page.

Thanks for participating.

Post your June reviews below:





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Monday, May 30, 2016

Book Review: The Fall by James Preller

The Fall by James Preller book cover and review
I'm not sure how to stop bullying and I know schools are trying very hard to do so, but reading The Fall by James Preller can't hurt.

I think the problem sometimes is that kids don't think they are bullying. They don't realize it until maybe it's too late. In The Fall we have Sam looking back on his relationship with a friend, Morgan, who has committed suicide after being bullied.

Sam was a reluctant friend. He wanted to keep his friendship a secret. After all, who wants everyone to know you are friends with the person that everyone is bullying. There is one girl who is the instigator. No one knows why she hates Morgan so much, but that doesn't matter. She gives her "minions" assignments to post mean and hurtful messages to Morgan's online account. Sam is a participant because he fears the consequences if he refuses.

Our narrator is a bit unreliable. Who wouldn't have a hard time writing down in a journal the ways in which he contributed to someone's ending their own life? But he gets there.

Is The Fall the best book about bullying? I don't know. I've read quite a few. They all make you think -- at least they make me think. There is a powerful message here, and I hope a lot of teens get it.  The Fall is a very short and easy read. It's appropriate for boys or girls. This one should be widely recommended and would be a great classroom read.

Published by Feiwel & Friends, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
208 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Stacking the Shelves - New Books from Favorite Authors

Sometimes you see an author's name and it doesn't even matter what the book is about, you just request it.  Here's what I got this week:

For Review:
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake book cover
Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake from Edelweiss

Leave Me by Gayle Forman book cover
Leave Me, by Gayle Forman from Edelweiss

The Plot to Kill Hitler  by Patricia McCormick book cover
The Plot to Kill Hitler, by Patricia McCormick from Edelweiss

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult from NetGalley


From the Library:
The Fall by James Preller book cover
The Fall, by James Preller
I've already read this and will post my review this coming week

Purchased:
And Then There Were None, by Agathe Christie
Kindle Daily Deal. I've always wanted to read this.

So that's a pretty big week for me. I'm looking forward to all of them. What did you get? Leave me a link so I can add to my list. Be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews.






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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

To summarize my feelings about The Fireman very quickly: fascinating premise but too long.

A new disease is spreading like wildfire (pun intended.) This disease causes the person to get scales like a dragon, but eventually the victim bursts into flame and burns up, many times burning everything surrounding them.

Harper is a nurse who volunteers to help those who are infected, at least until they burn up. There is no cure. The hospital eventually burns and she returns home to her husband to try to stay safe. But that isn't to be. She becomes infected and her husband leaves her.

She ends up meeting some people who have started a community for those who are infected to live. They are in hiding, since there are Cremation Squads who are looking for the infected so they can wipe them out. They also have discovered a way to stay alive. They don't have a cure, but they've adapted so that they can control the disease. One of these people, The Fireman, actually can use the disease to help them fight. Harper is pregnant, her husband has gone rogue and is hunting her down, and all she wants to do is stay safe until her baby is born.

Life is not easy, dealing with the disease, trying to hide, and trying to get along with the leaders of the camp. There are interesting side characters that I also became attached to. Harper must overcome obstacle after devastating obstacle. Just when you think she's finally safe -- well, she's not.

There is a lot of excitement and tension within the pages of The Fireman. But there's a lot of boring, long, extra spots too. That's really my only complaint. Sometimes, for example when Harper first gets to the camp, it's just too long before anything significant happens. I know that Joe Hill is Stephen King's son, so I guess he gets this penchant for long books from his father...

I would definitely recommend The Fireman to those who enjoy apocalyptic novels. Just be prepared to spend some time with this one.

Published by William Morrow, May 17, 2016
Copy obtained from Edelweiss
768 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye @EvelynSkyeYA

The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye book cover and review
I keep thinking about The Crown's Game. I became attached to these characters and really suffered with their dilemma.

The two main characters, Vika and Nikolai are Enchanters. They are in training and don't know about each other. The setting is an alternate historical Russia and the country has become somewhat unstable and the king needs an Enchanter to help him make decisions and use magic to control the people. It's very unusual to have two Enchanters, so they must hold the Crown's Game to decide which one is worthy. The other one must die.

Vika and Nikolai get to know each other during the games and begin to care for each other. The games are not the type I expected, where they compete against each other, at least not a first. They just each take turns creating magical things that please the King and the Prince, who happens to be Nikolai's best friend. But the Prince doesn't know Nikolai is an Enchanter. The creations are pleasing, but might also be deadly to their opponent.

There's a bit of a romance and even a love triangle, but it's slow and subtle and fits in nicely with the plot. The world and the magical creations are vivid and delightful.

The ending is devastating, as it must be, since we are going to lose one of our main characters. Or are we?  The Crown's Game is a imaginative, well-written story. There is some tension, but not too much. Some romance, but not over the top. Wonderful characters and lots of unique elements. Too bad it's almost summer (not really) and I can't recommend this for our next book club pick. Hopefully next fall we'll choose The Crown's Game.  In the meantime, I'll be recommending this one a lot.

P.S. This is my favorite cover of the year. Love it.

Published by Balzer + Bray, May17, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Stacking the Shelves - Surprise! More Books!

It's really no surprise. I got a couple new books this week.

For Review:
Incognita by Kristen Lippert-Martin book cover
Incognita, by Kristen Lippert-Martin from Edelweiss
Sequel to Tabula Rasa

Replica, by Lauren Oliver from Edelweiss
It's Lauren Oliver

So that's what caught my eye this week. How about you? What's new on your TBR? Be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Thanks for stopping by.






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