Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir @andyweirauthor ‏

Artemis by Andy Weir book cover and review
The Martian is one of my favorite books, so Artemis had some big shoes (or book covers) to fill.  It did not disappoint.

Jazz lives on the moon.  She's on her own after she and her father split. She is making it, but barely.  She smuggles contraband into Artemis, the city on the moon.  When the opportunity arises for her to make real money -- like being set for life -- she goes for it, even though it's an impossible task.  Things don't go well and Jazz gets in deeper and deeper, but if there is one thing she is, it's tenacious.

Jazz is also very intelligent - one might even say she's a genius.  The obstacles she must overcome are huge, and some of her schemes are inconceivable.  But the stakes are high, so after convincing a few others to help her she goes for it. And misses.

Artemis is not marketed as a young adult book, but the main character is a teenager, so I think teens will enjoy this. Weir once again doesn't shy away from some scientific explanations for what is happening. You can enjoy the science, but if not there is still plenty of story around it to "skip" it.  One thing I missed, as compared to The Martian, is the humor.  Jazz is a pretty serious character, not given to seeing the humor in her situation as was Watney.

The story definitely kept my interest, and it moves at a fast pace. Artemis has a complete ending, but I wouldn't be surprised if we join Jazz again on some more adventures. I, for one, would enjoy that.

Published by Crown, November 14, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
387 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review: The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan book cover and review
I chose The Thirty-Nine Steps somewhat randomly on my Serial Reader, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I didn't realize it was a movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and I'm looking forward to viewing that next.

It's 1914 and Richard Hannay has gotten himself in a spot.  An American journalist is staying with Hannay in his flat in London and he has information about a plot to assassinate the Greek Premier. This will plunge Europe into a war. But before he can do anything, he is murdered, and Hannay must run because he is being accused of the murder and also being chased by the people who killed the journalist.

Hannay takes to the English countryside and is assisted by a few people, but also comes very close to being caught several times. His ingenuity in eluding capture is entertaining.  In the end, the good guys win out, but war is inevitable.

Buchan's writing style is easy to read and he does a good job of mounting the tension and also creating the sense of desperation that Hannay feels at times. It is a classic, though, so it is somewhat genteel. The book isn't too long and ties up nicely.

If you are interested in a classic thriller, The Thirty-Nine Steps should be considered.

Published by William Blackwood and Sons, 1915
eBooks obtained from Serial Reader
90 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Audiobook Review: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani @AdrianaTrigiani

Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani book cover and review
Kiss Carlo is a heartwarming, genuine, historical story about an Italian family in 1949 South Philadelphia.

Trigiani develops each and every character so distinctly that you fall in love with all of them.  Nicky Castone is at the center of the story.  He lost both of his parents at a young age and was taken in by his Aunt Jo and Uncle Dom Palazzini.  He drives a cab for Dom's company.  Dom and his brother, Mike, have been estranged for many years.  The cousins miss each other, but they are forbidden to associate with each other.

Calla Borelli directs Shakespeare plays at her father's Borelli Theater.  Nicky helps with the shows as a prompter.  Nicky's fiance (of seven years), Peachy, doesn't know about Nicky's work with the theater.  Calla's boyfriend, Frank, wants to buy the theater (which isn't making any money) from Calla and build apartments.  Calla, of course, doesn't know this.

Hortense Mooney, the dispatcher at the cab company, is another one of Nicky's support people.  She's like another mother and gives Nicky advice that he's not comfortable with.  She tells him not to marry Peachy.

We follow each of these character's stories (and many others) as they flow through life trying to make something of themselves.  They each affect Nicky's story in different ways. Trigiani closes the book for every character.  Even smaller characters, for example, Mamie, get closure.  Some may find this overly detailed, but I enjoyed finding out how everyone evolved.

Trigiani writes beautifully and listening to an audio version is my favorite way to enjoy her stories.  Nothing will ever beat The Shoemaker's Wife, but Kiss Carlo reminds me of that one. Edoardo Ballerini does a great job as narrator with distinct but not over-the-top voices for all of these colorful characters.

Kiss Carlo is a rich, epic tale about love and life, and I highly recommend it.

Published by Harper, June 20, 2017, HarperAudio
Audiobook obtained from the library
544 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Monday, November 6, 2017

Book Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green book cover and review
I enjoyed Turtles All the Way Down. I attribute that enjoyment to Green's writing style because I'm not sure I would have enjoyed a book like this by anyone else.

Aza is crippled by her own thoughts.  She is convinced that she's going to get an infection (mostly C. diff, but any infection will do) and it's going to kill her.  When she starts thinking these things, it begins a downward spiral that she has trouble escaping.  She sees a psychiatrist, and her mother is supportive, but she can't escape.

When billionaire Russell Pickett disappears and a $100,000 reward is offered, her friend Daisy convinces Aza to contact Russell's son, Davis, who Aza used to know.

Aza and Davis begin a relationship that is difficult, to say the least.  Aza has her issues, and Davis is dealing with a fugitive father and a younger brother who is devastated that his father just up and left.

The characters are what kept me invested in Turtles All the Way Down.  The plot is rather simple and meandering, but you get connected to the pain and heartache that they are experiencing along the way.  You may want to prepare yourself for a less than happy ending.  It's realistic and genuine, but not necessarily happy.

This is John Green.  If you are a fan, you will enjoy this book.  Maybe it's not his best, depending on your opinion, but definitely worth the read.  It won't take much pushing to get my teens to read it.

Published by Dutton BFYR, October 10, 2017
Copy obtained from a friend
304 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Book Review: The Empress by S. J. Kincaid

The Empress by S. J. Kincaid book cover and review
Wow!  Just wow!  The Empress is one of the most surprising books I've ever read.

I enjoyed The Diabolic very much.  In a normal, great book sort of way. But it didn't surprise me.  And I thought it was a stand-alone.  Apparently, plans changed.

Tyrus is now the emperor.  And Nemesis is supposed to be the empress, but no one wants a diabolic to be empress.  So everyone is fighting against them.  The beginning of the book is them trying to establish their control over the kingdom, but it isn't easy.  Perhaps not even possible.  Too many are scheming and plotting.  Loyalties change at the drop of a hat.  The vicars won't give their support, so Tyrus doesn't have the true power the emperor should wield. Tyrus and Nemesis come up with a scheme that will assure their power, but on the other hand, it may result in their death.

The first 30 - 40 percent of the book is about the politics and religion that drives these people.  It was a bit too much for me, but once they executed the aforementioned plan, the pace ramped up, and it was relentless.  The twists in The Empress came so fast a furious that I really had to stop and catch my breath, but no, I couldn't because I had to know what happened. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that no reader could possibly predict these events.  They are brutal. If you are expecting an eventual "and they lived happily ever after..." for these two, well, you've got another thing coming.  Kincaid doesn't pull any punches even with our main characters.

And now that this is a series, the ending is pretty cliffy.  I can't imagine what's up next--I wouldn't even hazard a guess.  Becuase everything is up for grabs. 

My teens really enjoyed The Diabolic and I can't wait to give them The Empress.  Well done Ms. Kincaid!

Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, October 31, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
384 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie book cover and review
The Mysterious Affair at Styles is Christie's first published novel.

It's an intriguing murder mystery with the usual red herrings.  Everyone is hiding something, so everyone seems guilty.  Poirot is quiet about his thoughts through most of the investigation, much to the chagrin of his sidekick, Hastings, who is certain Poirot is aged and losing his faculties. This only adds to the entertainment.

I did have to write down the character names at first.  They are introduced quickly and writing their relationships helped me keep them all straight.

While each of her mysteries follows a predictable pattern, they are unpredictable. If you enjoy murder mysteries, Christie will not disappoint.  They are classics for a reason. 

Her books are short and once the murder happens, they captivate the reader.

Published by John Lane, 1920
eBook obtained from Serial Reader
296 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano @LaurenDeStefano

The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano book cover and review
The Glass Spare kept my interest and has a different twist that makes it unique.

Wil is the princess of a very wealthy nation. She has three brothers, but her favorite is Gideon who practices alchemy.  Gideon and Wil are the "spares" in the family.  Their older brothers are the only ones that the King cares about since one of them will be the next King.

The King is ready to go to war with the southern colonies since they are very private and will not trade with any other kingdoms.  The King wants their magical plants and minerals. Gideon tries to seek approval from his father by using his alchemy to make deadly weapons to defeat their enemies.

The king uses Wil as a spy since no one knows who she is.  One night, she discovers a magical power - when she touches something or someone who is alive, they turn to gemstones. A tragedy befalls the royal family (I'm being very unspecific on purpose here) and Wil is banished. She longs to find a person named Kahn who Wil believes is the only one who can cure her of her deadly touch.

Her travels throw her together with an unlikely young man who has secrets of his own. While Wil is fighting for her freedom and a way to return to her family, she ends up in a fight for her life as well as the lives of her companions.

I'm trying to be as vague as possible about the details because the reader needs to discover the secrets on their own.  I found The Glass Spare to be easy to follow, and I liked the characters enough to want them to find happiness.

But they aren't happy yet at the end of The Glass Spare.  It does end in a good spot -- a major crisis has been averted -- but there is more to come since this is the first book in a new series.

I'm not always into adventure stories about magical abilities, but I fell for The Glass Slipper.  It has enough real-life danger (that can't magically be fixed) to keep me turning pages.  I think my teens will enjoy this one too.

Published by Balzer + Bray, October 24, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Book Review: The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz

The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz book cover and review
Have you ever tried to write a review for a book for which you just don't have much, good or bad, to say?  The Midnight Dance is that book.

Penny goes to a school that specializes in ballet.  She is part of twelve elite dancers that have the privilege of attending this prestigious school, compliments of their mysterious Master. They are never allowed to leave and must perform as the Master wishes.

Weird things begin to happen to Penny.  She realizes she is forgetting periods of time.  She starts to have memories that don't mesh with what she has been told was her life.  When she touches the handsome kitchen boy, Cricket, her memories come back, and they are horrific.  She realizes that Master has been manipulating their minds, but how?

She and Cricket are out to discover the truth and figure out a way not only for Penny, but for all of the dancers, to escape.

The Midnight Dance is an enjoyable, creepy read.  However, I never really connected with the characters.  I felt like an observer rather than a participant that was fully invested in the story.  I'm not sure what makes a story resonate with a reader -- I'm not a writer.  This is one that I appreciated while reading, but it won't stick with me for long. The writing is fine; the pacing seemed okay.  I didn't really buy all the technical stuff and the Master's ability to create such a hold on these girls.  There are flashbacks of the Master and his past, which were effective. I just didn't feel the drama or pulse-pounding trepidation that I was supposed to feel.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend The Midnight Dance to teens.  Others may have a different reaction than I did.

Published by Swoon Reads, October 17, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
320 pages

Rating: 3/5





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