Saturday, August 29, 2015

Stacking the Shelves -- An Arrival, But Not on My Shelves!

It's been an exciting week for me. I didn't get much reading done, but I'm sure you'll understand why.
My new granddaughter, Zoey, arrived this week. (My first grandchild!)

I've known all year that my reading pace is way off from previous years. We've planned a shower and done a lot of sewing and crocheting for this little one. This week, I only posted one review. That's unheard of for me. But, that's my life right now, and I'm loving every minute of it.

I'm afraid to look at all your new books, because I'm way behind and don't really need any. But leave me a link anyway, because, really, what's life without new books? Make sure you visit Team  Tynga's Reviews our hosts. Have a great week!





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Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review: Firewalker by Josephine Angelini

Firewalker by Josephine Angelini book cover and review
Not having read the first book in the series (Trial By Fire), I found the world building in Firewalker to be a bit lacking, but still enjoyed the story.

I received this ARC from a magazine, and I don't usually read the blurbs on the back of books. Nothing on the front cover or spine indicated this book was part of a series. I didn't realize this was the second book until I reached the last page, which said "End of Book Two." No wonder I felt like I had missed out on some details.

Lily is a witch and has just returned from a parallel universe with her lover, healer, and her head mechanic, Rowan. Lily has been badly burned and is close to death. Rowan begins the long process to heal her. Everyone in this world (ours) thinks Lily was kidnapped, so there is much confusion among the authorities.

Lily eventually heals and goes back to school. Now that her powers are strong, she can feel the connection to her friends, Tristan, Breakfast, and Una. They have magic too, and are potential mechanics for Lily too.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Rowan, Lily is in contact with Lillian from the other universe. The one who almost killed Lily. But there's more to the story than Rowan knows, and Lily wants to find out what it is.

They end up back in the other world, fighting the Woven (bad, bad scary creatures of all different shapes and sizes.) The plot builds up to a huge battle at the end.

Like I said, my first problem is that I felt like I was thrown into this world and things were not explained very well. So that's my fault, not the book's. Secondly, I felt this book was drawn out too much. It takes a long time to actually get to the action, then they encounter the Woven several times, all of which are kind of the same. It felt very repetitive and I kept thinking, "Get on with it!"

Thirdly, and probably my biggest pet peeve about books, is that there is absolutely no resolution. The battle ends, people are dead, and that's it. This doesn't qualify as a complete story. It should not be contained in a book cover. It's a set of chapters that should be a part of another book. It sounds like the first one ended with the same awful cliffhanger too. That's just a huge negative for me that I have a really hard time getting over.

The characters and world are interesting. The way their magic works is unique. The writing is easy to read other than it dragging a bit.

Firewalker is the kind of fantasy I like -- based on real people in the real world (at least partly.) I would suggest waiting until the entire series is available and read them all at once, since it's really just one story anyway.

Published by Feiwel & Friends, September 1, 2015
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine
337 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Stacking the Shelves - A Sequel!

I only received one book this week, but I'm pretty excited about it!

For Review:

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray book cover
I really enjoyed the first book, A Thousand Pieces of You, so I'm looking forward to this sequel. Such a beautiful cover, too.

I hope you had a good book week too! Leave me a link. Thanks for visiting and be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Have a great weekend.





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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Review: Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott book cover and review
While Court of Fives has some similarities to other fantasy novels, the differences serve to make it stand out.

Jessamy's life is complicated. Her father is married to a commoner, which makes her status in this complicated society very shaky. Her father has risen through the ranks of the military and has just won an important battle. There is a celebration and Jessamy and her mother and sisters get to attend a ceremony at the palace.

Jess is secretly training for The Fives, a competition requiring strength, endurance, and cunning. Her father must not know, even when she competes at the very ceremony that her family is attending. She can't win, because she would have to remove her mask thus revealing herself to her father, so at the end of the competition she allows someone else to win.

That someone is Kalliarkos, a prince. And Kal knows it and he calls Jess on it.

Everything falls apart when Jess's father's benefactor dies. Their family now has no hope of supporting themselves. Kal's uncle gives Jess's father an offer he can't refuse. He must fight as a general, abandon his family, and marry Kal's sister. Kal's uncle wants Jess to train for The Fives in his court. With Kal. She, like her father, has no choice.

Jess is desperate to find out what has happened to her family. Her mother is pregnant, and Jess is very worried. She and Kal begin a relationship which inevitably turns romantic, even though forbidden. Kal ends up being instrumental in helping Jess help her family.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot. While I found it a bit slow in parts, the tension mounts nicely at the end. The society is complicated. There are bizarre religious traditions.There's a lot of political maneuvering that is explained, especially at the end, which was a bit confusing. But I'm not sure it was necessary to follow all of it perfectly. It involves lots of characters and inbreeding that makes all the royalty related to each other and vying for positions.

The main characters were lovable and I really wanted to see their success. I really liked that not much of the main story line is life threatening. The Fives is simply a game for the enjoyment of the participants and spectators. And to win money. It isn't a fight to the death, as is seen too often in recent books. This was a refreshing change. Yes, lives are threatened later on in other parts of the book, but not the typical "wicked government trying to kill young people" trope. The ending is a bit of a cliff hanger -- this part of the story is resolved but there's obviously more to tell.

I'll recommend Court of Fives to my fantasy fans. I enjoyed it very much and look forward to the sequel.

Published by Little, Brown BFYR, August 18, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
448 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Audio Book Review: The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck book cover and review
If you are interested in early 1900s Chinese culture, The Good Earth is the book for you.

In fact, the culture and discussions of weather, farming, food, and general life was my favorite part. It's hard to get past the cultural position of women and daughters. This is definitely a man's world and at times I found that frustrating.

Wang Lung is our main character and we follow his life as he is a newlywed poor farmer through famine and fortune and all that comes with it.  He's whiny. As he gets older, he just wishes for "peace." Over and over. He has a large family and a large fortune and lots of complications he's brought on himself. What does he expect? I didn't like some of the decisions he made, but once again, it's cultural, and just difficult to feel good about.

I did appreciate Wang Lung's love of the land-- the Good Earth.The Earth is definitely the theme of this epic tale, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. Buck also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.  So, you know, this book has caused a stir.

The narrator, Anthony Heald did an excellent job. He was so good, it was like I didn't even think about the narration. He was perfect for this story.

The Good Earth is a classic. I personally enjoy historical novels, especially those of other cultures, so The Good Earth was right up my alley. Even if I was frustrated with the characters at times, it's a realistic portrayal of pre-revolution China. Fairly easy reading and highly recommended.

Originally Published by John Day in 1931. The audio was published by Blackstone in 2007
Copy obtained from the library
356 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Review: The Uninvited by Cat Winters @catwinters

The Uninvited by Cat Winters book cover and review
I love the way Cat Winters takes an historical time period and immerses her readers in it. The Uninvited is no exception, portraying the influenza epidemic of 1918 in a unique and compelling way.

Ivy has finally recovered from the flu, but her world is still falling apart. There's also the war to consider, and the anti-German sentiment is pervasive in her small Illinois town. She also must live with the curse of the women in her family -- she occasionally sees the ghosts of her loved ones. And without fail, these visions are a prelude to the death of another of her loved ones. Ivy has a vision of her dead grandmother, then finds out her father and brother have brutally murdered a German shopkeeper in retaliation for her brother's death in the war.

Ivy can't take being at home anymore, so she goes and finds lodging in town. But she also feels compelled to visit the brother of the German man who was killed, and try to make up for what her family has done.

She's always been a recluse but now gets involved in rescuing people from the flu, listening to jazz, and building a relationship with the German man.

A couple of things worth mentioning. The Uninvited takes place in Illinois, where I'm from. Several references are made to Collinsville, where a German was murdered during this time just because he was German. I live about ten miles from Collinsville and knew nothing about this true story.

Secondly, this is an adult novel. I didn't realize this, since Winters' other novels have been young adult. At least I thought so. There's nothing explicit in the novel, but there are definitely adult themes, and I would only recommend this to mature teens who have enjoyed her previous stories.

The ending was a surprise. I didn't see that coming. But I liked it and thought it worked well. Given that historical fiction is my favorite genre, I thoroughly enjoyed The Uninvited and highly recommend it.

Published by William Morrow, August 11, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Review: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid book cover and review
Never Always Sometimes is cute. I liked it. And for me, that's saying a lot because I'm pretty picky about my contemporary YA novels.

Dave and Julia are best friends. And they are really each other's only friends. They are constantly together. There are only a couple of months left in their senior year of high school and they rediscover a list they made before their freshman year. The list, called the Nevers, contains those things that they vowed to never do during high school to avoid all the typical high school cliches.

So, to make their last couple of months more exciting, they decide to do everything on the list. One of the first things is to attend a beer party. At this party, Dave meets Gretchen and they hit it off. Eventually, as they talk more at school and go on a few dates, they begin a romantic relationship. But everything is weird, because Dave has always secretly been madly in love with Julia. And maybe Julia is in love with Dave.

So you can see where this is going. It's funny and entertaining, and includes the proper amount of teen drama. I'd read several reviews that either didn't like the ending or were surprised. I expected it to end the way it did and I was not disappointed, so don't worry.

Teens are going to love Never Always Sometimes. I enjoyed it, and since I've DNFd several contemporaries recently, this was a pleasant surprise. Not my favorite genre, but a good book within that genre.

Published by Harlequin Teen, August 4, 2015
eARC obtained from Ingram E-Galleys
320 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Stacking the Shelves - Another One-Book Week

I only obtained one book this week, and that's a good thing because I just can't seem to find time to read lately. Some new and exciting things going on in my life (more about that later) and getting ready to go back to school have just got me whipped. Anyway, here's what I got.

For Review:
Need, by Joelle Charbonneau book cover
Need, by Joelle Charbonneau from Edelweiss
I enjoyed The Testing series and she's an Illinois Author so this is a must read!

Thanks for stopping by. I'll be visiting your STS posts, hoping not to find anything to add to my overflowing pile, but we both know how that's going to turn out! Don't forget to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Enjoy!





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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: After the Red Rain by Barry Lyga and Robert DeFranco

After the Red Rain by Barry Lyga and Robert DeFranco book cover and review
After the Red Rain is a dystopian, which we're all familiar with, but I found the premise to be really original -- if a bit weird.

Deedra exists. That's what most people do in this post-apocalyptic version of the earth. Everything has been destroyed. There's almost no sun. She must drag herself to work in a factory every day to receive her rations -- genetically engineered food. She also spends a great deal of time scavenging for things. No one knows much about the past, except everyone believes things now are much better than they used to be before the Red Rain. Huh. It's hard to believe that all traces of human history have been hidden from the general population.

During one of these adventures, she sees a boy trying to swim across a dangerous river. He gets into trouble and Deedra saves him. His name is Rose. He's very different, and Deedra is strangely attracted to him. They get separated when the "take cover" alarm is sounded, and Deedra and her friend must hide. She thinks she will never see Rose again. But that isn't the case.

As Deedra gets to know Rose, she realizes that there's something very different about him. Eventually he tells her his secret, but I'm not going to tell you what it is. It's very unique -- and strange -- and I'm not sure I like it. Rose tries to convince Deedra that the world used to be a much better place, and that it's possible for things to get better. Bad things happen, and Rose is accused of murder. Deedra tries to figure out a way to save him.

There are more elements to the story that add some interest. After the Red Rain just didn't wow me. I found it kind of boring. I think it's because I just didn't buy into the premise. After the Red Rain seems to be a set up for a series. And probably a movie. I haven't decided if I'll continue with it.

After the Red Rain will interest die-hard dystopian fans for sure. I enjoyed the book, but even with some unique elements, I just didn't love it.

Published by Little, Brown, BFYR (August 4, 2015)
eARC obtained from Edelweiss and NetGalley
400 pages

Rating: 3/5

As



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Monday, August 3, 2015

Book Review: Trust No One by Paul Cleave @PaulCleave

Trust No One by Paul Cleave book cover and review
If Trust No One doesn't keep you guessing, I don't think any book will.

Jerry is a crime fiction writer with the pen name Henry Cutter. Jerry has Alzheimer's and his times of clarity are getting farther and farther apart. He confesses to crimes all the time -- crimes that he wrote about in his books.

When Jerry was diagnosed, he began to keep a journal so that when he no longer remembered things, he could read his journal. The story flashes back from the present to Jerry's journal entries.

There are a lot of clues. Something happened at Jerry's daughter's wedding, but we don't know what. Jerry's journal is apparently not available in the present, but we don't know what happened to it. Jerry sneaks out of his care facility once in a while, and no one can figure out how he's doing it. And women are turning up dead on the days he escapes. His wife, who stuck with him through everything, has left and doesn't visit. Why?

Trust No One is well crafted and pulls you in several different directions as you try to figure everything out. Jerry is certainly sympathetic, and the disease he suffers from is devastating.

It did take me a while to really sink into the story. About 1/3 of the way through, Trust No One becomes "unputdownable." Also, I don't think the title is very descriptive. "Trust No One" was never mentioned throughout the entire text that I can recall. I just think the title could be a little more clever, but it is accurate. It was hard to know who to trust.

Trust No One is an adult read appropriate for teens who enjoy thrillers. Cleave is a new author to me, and I hope I get a chance to read some more of his stories.

Published by Atria, August 4, 2015
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4/5





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