Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Audio Book Review: Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

Nightwoods is a meandering tale. Good thing Frazier is a talented writer.

I could sum up the important points of the entire plot in one paragraph. But I don't want to give everything away.

Luce, who is the caretaker of an isolated, abandoned lodge in the mountains of North Carolina, has just inherited her sister's young twins. Their mother has been brutally murdered, and the twins haven't spoken a word since. They have also developed a fondness for setting things on fire.

Luce has no experience with children, and certainly not those as troubled as Dolores and Frank. But she does a good job teaching them the ways of her simple life. When her sister's husband, who is also the murderer, is acquitted, he decides to come after the children. His wife, Luce's sister, hid a lot of money and he believes the children must have it.

Bud, the murderer, weaves his way into the small, nearby town and makes a friend in the local law man who he doesn't realize is Luce's estranged father.

Meanwhile, since his uncle died and left the lodge and other assets to him, Stubblefield decides to go see the property he has inherited. So Stubblefield builds a relationship with Luce and ends up mixed up in all the troubles.

The language is what makes Nightwoods tolerable. The descriptions, analogies, and turns of phrase sometimes take your breath away or leave you chuckling. The characters are vivid, and everything that happens to them is described as if you are looking at a photograph.

However, nothing much happens. The last twenty percent is the entire story. The rest of the book is just a huge amount of build up.

Unfortunately the narration didn't help me with this one. I immediately recognized the narrator, Will Patton, from the audiobook of The Raven Boys which I didn't like very much. I just didn't like the book; Patton's narration was fine. So once I forgot about that, I still had problems. I hate southern drawls. I can hardly watch a movie with Matthew McConaughey in it because of his drawl, and that's what this reminded me of. And most of Patton's "S's" whistled. It drove me crazy. So, I didn't like the voice, although he did use good inflection and differentiated the points of view well. The book takes place in North Carolina, so the drawl is appropriate, I just don't like it. It's a personal thing.

Nightwoods is beautifully written. It's interesting, but not exciting. It's a character study with an exceptionally described setting. If you like those kinds of stories, give it a try.

Published by Random House, 2011, Random House Audio
Copy obtained from the library
272 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Review: Black Ice, by Becca Fitzpatrick

While Black Ice tells what is supposed to be a thrilling, non-stop story, I had some problems.

Britt is excited to spend her spring break with her best friend in the mountains hiking in the Grand Tetons. Her friend's family has a lodge there and they plan to spend the whole week. Britt is not excited when she finds out her friend's brother, Calvin, is going along to chaperon. Calvin is also Britt's ex, and she hasn't seen him since he went away to school and broke up with her two weeks later.

Britt and her friend are going up to the cabin first, and an unexpected snow storm hits. They get stranded and hike to the nearest cabin where two very strange guys are staying. They have no choice but to let the girls come in, but it's obvious they don't want to. The fear mounts, and as the girls begin to realize what's going on, it's obvious they are now kidnapped. And Britt finds some evidence that indicates these guys must be murderers. The guys want Britt (with her supposed knowledge of the mountains) to lead them out. It's a test of survival, both because of the weather and because of the men.

This book is bloated. There's just no need for this story to take 400 pages to tell.  It was  hard to feel the tension and fear because I constantly felt like, "Let's get going!" It didn't help that I figured out who the murderer was about halfway through. It seemed so obvious, that I'm wondering if Fitzpatrick wanted us to figure it out.

Part of my frustration may be because I had a hard time believing the story. There are just some major plot anomalies. Just a few examples: Who ever heard of an unexpected snow storm in this day and age? The characters realize that a bear is close, and wanting to get into their hideout. On the next page, they are making out. Where did all that fear go? One character is tied to a chair, and the others are gone for just a few minutes. That character not only gets free of his bonds, but does something else (that I won't say because of spoilers) that couldn't possible be done that fast. Another time, a character is so badly injured that he has to be carried. All of a sudden, he's running and is able to protect another character.

There were so many of these instances that I just couldn't take the book seriously. For a younger audience who just wants an adventure story that also contains some romance, Black Ice might be a suitable book. You have to be willing to just go with it.

Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, October 7, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
400 pages

Rating: 2.5/5





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Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King @AS_King

A.S. King novels are unique, and Glory O'Brien's History of the Future is no exception. She comes up with unusual situations, but her characters are so well done, nothing seems that strange.

Glory is going to graduate from high school. Her best friend, Ellie, isn't because she's home schooled by her mother at the commune right across the street from Glory's house.

Glory lives with her father. They have some issues. Her mother committed suicide by putting her head in the oven when Glory was four years old. Her dad quit painting after that and also got rid of the oven. They only have a microwave, and they don't speak of Glory's mother.

Glory and Ellie found a dead bat that they put in a jar a couple of years ago. Ellie's mother finds the jar in a shed, and shakes it until the bat literally becomes powder. Glory and Ellie are staring at the stars one night, drinking beer, and they decide to pour the powder in their beer and drink it.

After they drink the bat, they can see things about people when they make eye contact. Sometimes it's things about the person's past. Sometimes it's the future. Glory seems to see bad things, but the things Ellie sees are fun and happy.

Glory begins to urge her dad to talk about her mom, and she finds some old scrapbooks of her mother's. Glory loves photography, just like her mom, but she can't figure out what to do with her life. She feels doomed to repeat what her mother did. No one talks about her mom, so she doesn't know if they are alike or not.

That's a pretty convoluted and non-detailed description that doesn't sound like much. I just can't go into every detail that makes Glory O'Brien's History of the Future special--there are too many of them. But the book is very emotional and dramatic. There are many side stories that contribute to Glory's trying to find her way. Suffice it to say, if you have read A. S. King before, you will want to read Glory O'Brien's History of the Future. If you haven't, this is as good a place to start as any. If you've read Ask the Passengers (probably my favorite one) this book has the same feelings and emotions as that one. And, Gerald, the main character from Reality Boy, gets a mention.

What a talented author. King will always be one of my favorites, and I'll make sure to read anything she writes. I love putting her books in the hands of my teens. You should try it.

Published by Little, Brown BFYR (October 14, 2014)
eARCobtained from Edelweiss
320 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stacking the Shelves -- Another Favorite Author

I only received one book this week, but I think it's going to be a good one!

For Review: 
Razorhurst, by Justine Larbalestier, from Edelweiss
This one sounds different, but I've read Larbalestier before so I'm intrigued!

So, how was your week? Leave me a link so I can check out your haul. Also, make sure you visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Have a great one! Thanks for visiting.





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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters @catwinters

I really enjoy how Cat Winters blends a historical story with serious issues of the time period and adds a bit of magic or something supernatural. In The Cure for Dreaming she explores the suffragette movement of the early 1900s and uses hypnotism.

Olivia has been hypnotized at a Halloween show. Also, earlier on that day, she participated in a demonstration trying to get women the right to vote. Her father, a popular dentist, gets angry with Olivia because he is losing customers because of her behavior. He hires the hypnotist, Henri, to hypnotize Olivia so that she loses her desire for independence and conforms to the norms of the day.

The hypnotism has some unintended consequences, and Henri feels bad. But he needs the money Olivia's father has promised him because his sister is very ill and needs an operation. He promises to undo the damage after he gets paid. But Olivia can't wait. She' been put in danger, since the only thing she can say when she gets angry is "all is well."

Olivia's father wants Henri to hypnotize Olivia in front of a lot of people at a party to show that hypnotism can crush the suffragette movement. She and Henri come up with a plan to convince some people that women should have more rights, while allowing Olivia to escape from her father's grasp. They do become close romantically, but this relationship doesn't take over the story.

I rarely comment on covers, but this cover is perfect. It's beautiful, catches your eye, and is absolutely appropriate for the story. You CAN judge this book by its cover!

The Cure for Dreaming is such a quick read. Probably because I just couldn't put it down. The characters are compelling, and I really rooted for Olivia. I thought she was smart and made good decisions. Henri is a great character too. And the mix of history and the element of hypnotism just sealed the deal. I can't wait to see what Winters comes up with next.

What a great way for teens to learn about life for women in the early 1900s. They will certainly be entertained by this story. Pair this one with A Mad Wicked Folly, which covers the suffragette movement in EnglandRecommend this well-written story to anyone who is interested in historical fiction.

Published by Amulet Books, October 14, 2014
eARC obtained from NetGalley
368 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 5/5





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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: The Fall by Bethany Griffin

Although The Fall starts out really slowly, the creep factor builds and the tension mounts all the way through to the end.

Madeline Usher has been trapped by the House (of Usher). She is unable to leave and the house is literally sapping the life out of her. Just as her mother and other relatives before her, she has inherited the curse of the house.

How did she get to this point? The Fall is told by Madeline from two perspectives. A young, 9 or 10 year old Madeline and a 17 to 18 year old Madeline. This flipping back and forth really dragged on. Madeline has a twin brother who was sent away to boarding school when they were 8 years old. He rarely visited, and his parents sent him away to protect him from the house. They knew that the house had chosen Madeline for the curse.

There are a a lot of creepy, macabre things that happen. Their are three doctors that live with them, first to take care of Madeline's mother, then to take care of Madeline. Everyone around her ends up disappearing or dying and she is left alone with the strange doctors.

There's a machine they've built in a room that supposedly keeps the house from knowing what they are doing. This isn't explained very well; it's a plot device that never reaches its full potential, and that is too bad. I would have liked that to be better explained.

At the end, we only get the older Madeline's POV, and that's when the story gets very tense as she is trying to keep her sanity and figure out how to escape. It just takes way too long to get to that point.

I enjoyed the writing and the descriptions and I'm glad I read The Fall. Just be warned that this one creeps along slowly before eventually grabbing you. A great choice for the Halloween season, fans of Poe, and The Fall of the House of Usher will be intrigued by this homage.

Published by Greenwillow, October 7, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
432 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: The Eye of Minds, by James Dashner


The Eye of Minds is the first book in James Dashner's (The Maze Runner) new series. While it doesn't live up to The Maze Runner, it will keep you sitting on the edge of your seat turning the pages.

Michael spends most of his time in the virtual gaming world, the VirtNet. This totally immersive world allows him and many others to experience a virtual life -- without the deadly consequences. Michael discovers that some things are going wrong in the VirtNet. People are disappearing -- when they die, they are also dead in real life. Some are stuck in the VirtNet forever and can't return to the real world. That's not supposed to happen.

Michael is kidnapped by a government organization that wants him to help them find the hacker that's trying to take over the VirtNet. Michael and two best friends (virtual friends) begin a harrowing adventure to try to outsmart this bad guy and allow the government to catch him.

What The Eye of Minds has going for it is action. This book never stops. I almost felt breathless at times as I felt what these kids are going through.

The part that bothered me is the "cop out" plotting. It seems that almost every time the kids are in a dire situation they "look at the coding" and can program their way out of it. It just seemed to easy sometimes. But I don't think the intended audience will mind this at all, and I won't hesitate to put The Eye of Minds in the hands of Dashner fans.

It's a very quick read, and an excellent choice for reluctant readers who want nonstop adventure. Also, we get a bit of a surprise at the end that just makes it harder to wait for the second book, The Rule of Thoughts, which is already available!

Published by Delacorte, 2013
Copy obtained from the library
310 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Book Review: Skink No Surrender, by Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen just has a unique style that I find very appealing. Skink No Surrender is no exception and contains another mystery to solve.

There is always an environmental issue that is addressed in Hiaasen's books, but this time it isn't the central theme and several issues are touched on. The story is told by Richard, whose cousin and best friend, Malley, has run off with a guy she met online, and now Richard can tell from her communications that she is in trouble.

Richard has become acquainted with a very unusual character who is known as Skink. Richard found him buried in the sand in a fake turtle nest on the beach. Skink has been trying to catch people stealing the turtle eggs, which is illegal. Skink is old, dirty, and turns out he used to be the governor. He supposedly died a few years ago.

When Skink finds out about Richard's cousin, he decides to find her. He and Richard go on an adventure through the Florida swamps, meeting alligators, lots of road kill, extinct birds, stinky fishermen, and eventually Malley and her captor.

It's always lighthearted, even when guns are being pointed. There is danger and suspense, but you never doubt that justice will prevail no matter how unlikely it seems. You have to be prepared for some eye rolling, but it's all in good fun.

Apparently Skink has been in six novels, but this is the first I've been introduced to him. Skink No Surrender is short and action packed, making it an excellent choice for reluctant readers. There is violence, but it's not detailed, and because of the flippant attitudes, I think Skink No Surrender could be enjoyed by younger teens.

Skink No Surrender has been longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award.

Published by Knopf BFYR, September 23, 2014
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine
288 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 4.5/5





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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Stacking the Shelves -- I'm Thrilled

A good week for me! Here's what I managed to grab:

For Review:
Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers from Edelweiss
I can't tell you how surprised and thrilled I was to get approved for this one. I loved the first two and can't wait to find time to read this!

A Cold Legacy, by Megan Shepherd from Edelweiss
Another one I'm really looking forward to after loving the first two books!

King, by Ellen Oh from Edelweiss
Keeping with the theme, this is another third book in the series, and although I didn't love this series as much, I liked it enough to read the third book.

So, what's been happening at your house? Any good books to show me? Let me know in the comments. Also, make sure you visit Team Tynga's Reviews, our hosts. Thanks for visiting and I hope to see you back here soon.





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