Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book Review: From Ant to Eagle by Alex Lyttle

From Ant to Eagle by Alex Lyttle book cover and review
I don't usually review middle school books.  I don't usually respond to publishers' direct requests unless it's a book or author I've heard of.  But I decided to read From Aunt to Eagle despite both of these conditions being true.  And I enjoyed it.

Cal is our narrator and he's a big brother to Sammy.  He reads to him and plays with him and basically keeps him entertained.  But then he meets a new girl, Aleta, and he doesn't have much time for Sammy any more.

Aleta has her own mysteries, and she disappears for days at a time.  Cal is so wrapped up in figuring out his relationship with Aleta that he challenges Sammy to some monumental tasks to keep him occupied. When Sammy gets sick and is diagnosed with cancer, Cal feels very guilty.

From Ant to Eagle follows a rather predictable path, but the story is engaging and kept my interest.  As I said, I don't usually read middle school books, and there's a reason for that.  From Ant to Eagle is definitely written for lower levels with short sentences and lots of telling rather than showing.  It makes for a fast read, but for me it becomes monotonous. I felt like the subject matter is appropriate for middle school, but the writing is a bit lower.

From Ant to Eagle has been compared to Wonder. I was affected much more by Wonder and I didn't really see the bullied, disfigured kid connection.  And Wonder had multiple narrators which really added to that story for me. But the comparison isn't really necessary.  From Ant to Eagle is an engaging journey all its own.

For the intended audience who enjoy "cancer books" From Ant to Eagle is a worthy addition to the field.

Published by Central Avenue, April 1, 2017
eARC obtained from the publisher
256 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, book cover and review
I read Odd Thomas many years ago.  Probably shortly after it was published in 2003.  The re-read was just as enjoyable as the first time.

Odd Thomas is the name of the main character, and it's not a nickname. He lives a quiet life in Pico Mundo, California, a fictional town. Actually, his life isn't always quiet, since he sees dead people.  These "ghosts" don't talk to him, but they have the ability to communicate and draw him to their story.  Usually, it's a story of how they were murdered.

He also sees ghost-like creatures that he calls bodachs.  These creatures hang around people or places where violence is about to happen.  They act as harbingers of death. Good thing that Odd is friends with the chief of police, and the chief knows of Odd's abilities. They work together to, hopefully, stop these acts of violence before they happen.

The best thing about this book is Odd's voice.  He's very entertaining and the turns of phrases and metaphors he uses add much to the reading. His abilities are quite believable because of the way his character is written.  I'm not much of a Koontz fan, but in this book (and the series, I presume), he's masterful.

The other characters just fill in the story.  The police chief, Stormy (Odd's girlfriend), and all of the people that know and love Odd are very well done.

The pace is pretty slow but the writing makes it not seem so.  The ending is fast-paced and thrilling.  And there's a twist -- and I won't say any more about that. (I did remember it from my first reading.) I also remembered the narrator's voice from the movie, so I could just hear Odd talking as I was reading.

My book club picked Odd Thomas for this month.  It's a different type of book for them, so I'm interested to see what they think.  I highly recommend Odd Thomas if you enjoy thrillers with a bit of a paranormal twist. I believe there are seven books in the series.  I think I've only read the first one, but someday I'd like to continue.

Published by Bantam, 2003
Copy obtained from the library
399 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Stacking the Shelves: A Few to Review


Happy Saturday again! Hope you have a great weekend! Here's what I managed to grab this week.

For Review:


The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty book cover
The Traitor's Kiss, by Erin Beaty from NetGalley
This is a debut that sounded good, and who could pass up that cover?

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith book cover
Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith from NetGalley
One of only a couple of contemporary authors that are "must reads" for me.  Can't wait to see what she has come up with next.

Two Nights by Kathy Reichs book cover
Two Nights, by Kathy Reichs from NetGalley
This isn't at Tempe Brennan novel! New characters....

That's all for this week.  How about you? Leave me a link so I can visit. Thanks for stopping by. Make sure to visit Team Tynga's Reviews, our hosts.




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Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: The Cutaway by Christina Kovac @christina_kovac

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac book cover and review
The Cutaway kept me guessing and did a good job building up the tension.

Virginia Knightly is a television news producer who has been relieved of her producing duties.  Good thing, because she's become intrigued with a missing person's case.  A young attorney in Washington D.C. has disappeared after leaving a restaurant with her husband.

It's D.C., so there's politics involved.  Virginia's ex is investigating the case, and maybe he's lying to her? There's a varied cast of characters and things start to look like a police coverup.  But why?  What did this very young, inexperienced attorney have that would make her a target.

I liked Virginia.  She's strong and resilient.  She's smart, and I found it easy to root for her. I really enjoyed the twists and turns in The Cutaway.  It kept me guessing as Virginia follows leads and you think, "now she's got it!" but no...that's not it either.  I didn't figure it out until she did.

The author is an experienced reporter and familiar with TV news and assumes the reader is too.  I'm not.  I did wish for a little more explanation of the workings of the news cycle, and what is involved in getting the nightly news on the air.  There were some terms and expressions that I didn't quite understand.  I really don't even get the title. Well, I guess I understood kind of, but there was a lot of tension over stories and timing that I just didn't feel.  I don't think this took anything away from the actual story, but I think she missed an opportunity to educate her readers.

The other thing that was a small issue is the denouement.  After the case is over and done, there is a lot of personal stuff that gets resolved.  Maybe I was just tired, but it seemed like a lot of pages of this. Once again, not a huge issue.

The Cutaway is definitely a worthwhile read for mystery fans.  Especially if you like the kind where it's about investigative reporting and not about police procedure. I think older teens would enjoy The Cutaway also.

Published by Atria, Marcy 21, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
320 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Stacking the Shelves - An Old One and a New One

Happy Weekend! I only acquired a couple books this week and here they are:

For Review:
Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas book cover
Local Girl Missing, by Claire Douglas from Edelweiss

From the Library:
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz book cover
Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz
My book club selected this for our next read!

I'm always interested in everyone's STS posts, so leave me a link!  Thanks for visiting.  Be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews




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Thursday, March 16, 2017

AudioBook Review: Confessions by Kanae Minato

Confessions by Kanae Minato book cover and review
What in interesting book Confessions is.  The unique way it is written makes it a very compelling read.

We begin with the end of the school year, when Yuko Moriguchi, a middle school teacher in Japan, is explaining to her students why she is retiring from teaching.  It seems that her 4-year-old daughter died in the school's swimming pool, and Moriguchi believes that she was murdered -- by two students in her class.

She is vengeful and explains what she has done to those students in a very matter-of-fact way.  Confessions continues with perspectives from the class president, the two murderers, and Moriguchi again.  As we hear their stories, we are exposed to the lives of these characters and how those experiences contributed to the events.

Even though we get some of the same story from each person, it isn't at all repetitive.  Because they each have such a different perspective.  What really grabbed me about this method of telling the story is how you can never truly know the motivations of people.  Since I work in a school and see hundreds of students, this is an important lesson for me.  Kids get into trouble. They do stupid things. But as much as I think I might know "why," I really have no idea.

In Confessions, the reader is told by Moriguchi why something happened, but then when you read another character's story, you realize there is so much more.  Things aren't always what they seem.  And each character adds to the story, telling an additional part. I did find the life histories a bit tedious at times, but all the detail also deepened my understanding of each character's place in the story.

We also get a glimpse of Japanese culture as it pertains to education and family life, and these traditions contribute to the actions of these characters.  The book is translated from the original Japanese, and I had no difficulty with the translation.

It's very creative, and I found myself more and more anxious about how everything was going to wrap up as the story progressed.

The narrators, Elaina Erika Davis and Noah Galvin do an excellent job.  Galvin sounds like a young kid (maybe he is?) They use Japanese names which are pronounced correctly (or seem to be...what do I know?)

There are twists and surprises, and well, the revenge? Hah.  Yes, there is revenge.  Is it appropriate?  Well, it's twisted, but I'll let you decide. I highly recommend Confessions if you are into murder and revenge stories.

Published by Mulholland, 2014, Hachette Audio
Audiobook obtained from the library
234 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, March 13, 2017

Book Review: Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs book cover and review
Nemesis was so intriguing.  I just couldn't figure out what was going on, and as I traveled through the story I got more and more anxious to find out what the heck is happening. Unfortunately, the explanation left me wanting.

It all started when Min and Noah were young.  Their entire class was given injections, supposedly for some chemical spill.  But Min and Noah were then taken to a different place where something else happened....but they don't really remember.

Also, Min gets murdered on every even numbered birthday.  Always by the same guy, and she always wakes up in perfect condition in a field outside of town.  Noah has "dreams" every other birthday.  He dreams a man is killing him.  Always the same man.  And Noah always wakes up in the same cave, and he never remembers falling asleep.  They are both seeing Dr. Lowell, a psychiatrist.  Min tells him nothing.  Noah tells him everything.

Min decides to figure out what the heck is going on.  And...terrible things are happening to the rest of the planet.  Earthquakes, floods, and flocks of birds dying. Min and her friend, Tack, break into Lowell's office to see his records.  She finds out that Noah is also seeing him.  So the three of them start taking some risks to find out the truth. And there are some kids who are bullies.

It all sounds confusing, and it is, but that's what makes you keep reading because this is all so nonsensical that you have to know.  And you hope that it all makes sense when you find out. But it doesn't.  The big reveal at the end is lame.  There are just so many holes and things that don't make sense.  I'm pretty good at suspending my disbelief, but I couldn't get past it in Nemesis. I can't tell you about all the questions I have because that would spoil it, but I'm sure if you read it you can come up with some.

I'm glad I read it, and maybe teens will be more forgiving. (But I know that some of them won't be.) I know this is the first in a series, and maybe more explanation of how this all works will help (after all, this is only Phase 1), but I needed enough explanation in this book to make it at least somewhat plausible. Too bad. Interesting premise, just needed to make it work a bit better.

Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, March 21, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
464 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Stacking the Shelves - A Lot of Excitement!


I got some books this week that I'm really excited about.  Here they are:

For Review:


The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein book cover
The Pearl Thief, by Elizabeth Wein from NetGalley
The Prequel to Code Name Verity, which I must admit wasn't my favorite book, but I really enjoyed Rose Under Fire and was okay with Black Dove, White Raven so I'm in!

Bang, by Barry Lyga book cover
Bang, by Barry Lyga from NetGalley
I loved the I Hunt Killers series, so I can't wait for this one.

The Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye book cover
The Crown's Fate, by Evelyn Skye from Edelweiss
The Crown's Game is my book club's favorite book so far this year. They are so excited for this book, they are going to be jealous! 

From the Library:
Confessions by Kanae Minato book cover
Confessions, by Kanae Minato, audiobook
I don't usually include audiobooks in these posts (mostly because I forget) but this is the first one I've downloaded through the library's Cloud Library so I'm pretty excited. So far it's very interesting but weird.

So that's what I'm excited about this week.  How about you? Leave me a link and be sure to check out all the participants at Team Tynga's Reviews.






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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Book Review: The Sleepwalker, by Chris Bohjalian

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian book cover and review
Bohjalian's novels have been hit or miss for me, but The Sleepwalker was a definite hit!

Lianna is our narrator, and she's telling the story of her mother's disappearance, which happened in 2000. It's an interesting perspective since there's no reference to the present until the end of the novel, so there doesn't seem to be a need for this.  But it works.

Her mother, Annalee, was a sleepwalker.  One who left the house and could have been in danger.  As a matter of fact, Lianna found her about to step off a bridge into a rushing river one night.  Her sleepwalking had been under control, mostly because Lianna's father had not been traveling.  Annalee always tended to sleepwalk when Lianna's father wasn't at home.  And sure enough, when he went away for a few days, her mother disappeared in the middle of the night.

Gavin is the detective who has asked to work on the case.  It seems he knew Annalee from the sleep clinic they both attended. Gavin is a sleepwalker too.  He and Lianna become friends, then more than friends, but she doesn't entirely trust Gavin.  She's pretty sure her mother and Gavin were not having an affair, but she knows Gavin isn't telling her everything he knows.

I don't want to say too much more about what happens. Pieces are slowly revealed that add to the mystery.  And eventually, we discover what really happened.  And I was surprised.  I thought there were several ways the story could go, but the final outcome was not one that I had thought of.  Not that I don't think some savvy readers could come up with it, but I certainly did not.

Bohjalian crafts the story and characters so that you can't stay away.  It's been a while since I've experienced one of those "I need to read now" kinds of books, and I really enjoyed The Sleepwalker.

The Sleepwalker is accessible to older teens (some pretty vivid descriptions of sex), and I think any mystery fans would love it.

Published by Doubleday, January 10, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
304 pages

Rating: 5/5





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