Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Audiobook Review: Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave book cover and review
Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a poignant look at the day-to-day existence of the citizens of London and those that fought for the Brittish during World War II.

The main character is Mary.  She's a society girl, who when the war begins volunteers for duty.  She is assigned to teach at a school, but then all of the children are evacuated, and she is asked to stay behind. Tom is in charge of education, and eventually, Mary convinces him to let her teach the children that are left -- those with handicaps and the blacks.  She becomes very close to a black boy. And she and Tom are romantically involved.

Tom's roommate Alistair, has volunteered.  We follow him through battles in France, and then he eventually ends up on Malta, which is under siege.  His friend in the army is Simonson. They and their men, as well as the citizens of Malta, end up starving and without the means to defend the island.

Meanwhile, in London, there are air raids every night.  Mary's best friend is Hilda. When Alistair comes home on leave, Mary and Tom try to set them up.  But, it turns out Mary is the one who falls head over heels for Alistair.  But she can't tell Tom.

I really enjoyed Everyone Brave is Forgiven, even though it moves very slowly.  This pacing is necessary to bring the feelings of the relentlessness of the war.  And Cleave's descriptions and use of other literary devices gives the text life. Even though the subject is heavy, Cleave adds lightness with the amusing dialog between Alistair and Tom, and Alistair and Simonson.

Awful things happen -- after all, it is war. My parents lived through the war, and my dad served. I've heard of the horrors of those who served. But, we as Americans have no idea of the hardships the English people survived (or didn't survive.)  The nightly bombings, the shortages, the devastation, etc.  This novel brings it all to light.

I have a copy of the printed book, and I read a little bit.  I'm convinced that I enjoyed Everyone Brave is Forgiven much more in the audio version.  The narrator, Luke Thompson, does a great job.  And listening to the descriptions and dialog just had more impact than reading.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven shouldn't be missed by anyone who is interested in World War II history.  Although the book is about young people, it will be a hard sell to most teens.  I would recommend this only to those teens with a serious interest in WWII stories.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2016 (Simon & Schuster Audio)
Audiobook obtained from the library
425 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Review: I Have Lost My Way, by Gayle Forman @gayleforman ‏

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman book cover and review
I had heard that I Have Lost My Way is told backward, and I was skeptical. (Seems like a "thing" lately.) I shouldn't have worried.  Forman skillfully uses flashbacks to tell the backstory, and it flows seamlessly.

Freya is one of our main characters.  She's a budding pop star, who has lost her voice.  She's feeling a lot of pressure from her manager and her mother. She's estranged from her sister, so when she sees a Facebook post that her sister is engaged, she kind of loses it.

Actually, she falls off a bridge in a park and lands on Nathaniel, who has just arrived in New York.  Harun is the bystander who sees it all and comes to help.  Freya and Harun decide that Nathaniel needs to see a doctor since he passed out and is very confused.

This begins a story of a special relationship, as these three bond very quickly and don't seem to want to leave each other.  Even though they all have other plans.  The reader discovers these plans slowly, through glimpses of the past leading up to this chance meeting. I didn't even realize until the end that this story takes place all in one day.  But what a huge day for these characters.

These three exemplify the title of the book -- they have all lost their way. Can they help each other to find their way back? Well, you'll have to read it.

 Foreman hasn't disappointed her teen fans. They will love I Have Lost My Way.

Published by Viking BFYR, March 27, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
272 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Book Review: Sometimes I Lie, by Alice Feeney @alicewriterland ‏

When you hear a novel described as "twisted," you can't help but try to figure out the twists as you are reading.  Sometimes I Lie is "twisted" in every sense of the word.  You got me, Ms. Feeney!

Amber is in a coma after a car accident, but she can hear and is aware of some of the things going on around her as she fades in and out. The reader gets three perspectives:  "Before" tells us the story of Amber's childhood from diary entries.  "Then" tells us the events in the week before she had her accident.  And "Now" gives us Amber's perspective as she lies in a hospital bed trying to remember what has happened to her and why.

Alice is OCD.  She has a sister named Claire.  Alice believes that her parents didn't love her, and they loved Claire more. Her husband, Paul, was once a successful writer but has not been able to produce anything recently.  Their marriage is strained. Possibly because of this strain, Alice has met with an old boyfriend a few times. The diary talks about a needy kind of childhood friendship with Taylor.

Sometimes I Lie is one of those books where I can't really say anything else.  The title is definitely appropriate. And, not only does Feeney tell a good story, she's a good writer.  Her descriptions and characterizations are excellent.

Sometimes I Lie is an adult book, and I would only recommend it to very mature teens.  It's not that it is that inappropriate, it's just deep. Highly recommended!

Published by Flatiron, March 13, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
272 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Book Review: Nothing But Sky, by Amy Trueblood

Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood book cover and review
Nothing But Sky has a unique historical setting in the sky.  I didn't realize how popular (and death-defying) these daredevils were.

Grace is an orphan who lives with her Uncle who is also her pilot.  Grace wants nothing more than to make a career as a barnstormer, but she will need to prove she's the best since the skies are becoming crowded.  Her unwavering goal is to win the World Aviation Expo in 65 days in Chicago.  This victory will lead to a Hollywood contract with a movie studio.

Grace and her team are working feverishly to raise enough money for the entrance fee.  Grace is being recruited by one of their stiffest competition, and it seems they will stop at nothing to get Grace to join their team.

However, Grace's team is like her family.  And when they hire a new mechanic, she finds herself in an unwanted romance.  She has no time for romance when she's working on perfecting more dangerous and spectacular stunts in the air.

Nothing But Sky is a quick read that is paced well.  There is always another challenge facing Grace and she refuses to be thwarted.  In fact, she's so determined that maybe she needs to do a little soul-searching. Awful things happen, and it seems all hope of competing is lost. And with a surprising twist, the romance may be over too.

The ending is sweet and satisfying, even if it relies on a bit of luck. Teens who enjoy historical settings with one of the most determined women I've read about will enjoy Nothing But Sky.

Published by Flux, March 27, 2018
ARC obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
284 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Book Review: The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian book cover and review
I have read a few of Bohjalian's books and enjoyed most of them.  The Flight Attendant definitely fell into that category.

Cassie is a flight attendant laying over in Dubai.  She hooks up with a passenger she met on the flight and gets blackout drunk. This isn't unusual behavior for Cassie. When she wakes up, she remembers sharing a bottle of vodka with a female visitor that this man worked with, she remembers the sex, and she remembers leaving to go back to her hotel.  So why is she waking up still in this man's room?  And why is he dead in bed next to her -- his throat slashed?

Cassie takes a shower to wash off the blood, tries to clean up all her fingerprints, and leaves to catch her flight back to the states. Things slowly begin to fall apart for Cassie, and thankfully she does retain an attorney pretty early in the process. But she's pretty stupid at times and doesn't always follow her attorney's advice.  And when pictures show up with a woman wearing the exact scarf Cassie purchased in Dubai, it seems everyone knows Cassie isn't telling the truth.

When she does tell the truth (or most of it), it doesn't help.  Basically, Cassie is a mess.  And the fact that the man she was with might have been a spy, and the woman that was a guest that evening doesn't seem to exist, puts Cassie in a different kind of danger she never anticipated.

I was easily wrapped up in The Flight Attendant, and rooted for Cassie, even as she continued to blunder through her situation. The pacing is good and Bohjalian has a gift for description. My only complaint is the ending.  There is an epilogue, but I wish the story had gone another step before the epilogue.  I felt like, "Wait....What??" I didn't quite understand how Cassie got where she was, and exactly what was her situation.  Maybe it was just a bit too sinister and twisted for me?  I needed an explanation.

I would recommend The Flight Attendant, and also that you go back and read Bohjalian's The Night Strangers and The Sleepwalker, a couple of my favorites. The Flight Attendant contains lots of promiscuity and sex, but nothing graphic.  Reserve this one for older teens.

Published by Doubleday, March 13, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Book Review: The Final Six, by Alexandra Monir

I think The Final Six is a really good book --- but it was hard for me to tell.

Global warming has caused entire cities throughout the world to be flooded and destroyed.  Storms hit that wipe out entire populations. The government has drafted twenty-two teenagers to make a trip to one of Mars' moons -Europa - to set up a settlement for Earth's population under the moon's surface. They have to send teenagers so they will live long enough to complete their mission.

Leo, from Italy, and Naomi, from California, are two of the drafted. Leo desperately wants to be one of The Final Six, since his entire family was killed and he's barely subsisting.  Naomi has led a more protected life.  Her family is safe, but her little brother has severe heart disease, and Naomi is his protector. She intends to blow the tryout so she can come home.

There are twists and turns and of course, the government isn't being totally forthcoming about their training or their mission. There's a magic potion that has strange effects on some of the teens. Some of the teens are evil, some are sympathetic, and some really aren't developed at all.  A romance is inevitable, and Naomi's intentions are necessarily altered.

The tension mounts nicely, and at the end, just when we think all is lost, we get a thread of hope -- and then we must wait until the next installment.

All of that is great, but here's my problem.  This book is so much like Nyxia, a book that I really enjoyed, that the constant comparisons in my head perhaps tainted my enjoyment.  Nyxia came first, so naturally, I felt The Final Six was inferior. At the end of my review of Nyxia, I stated that I could see this book on the big screen.  I've read that The Final Six has been optioned by Sony Pictures. Huh.

If you haven't read Nyxia, you should be able to read and enjoy The Final Six without bias.  If you have read Nyxia, and then read The Final Six (or read them in opposite order), I'd like to know what you think.

The Final Six is exciting, timely, and should be recommended to your Sci-Fi fans.

Published by HarperTeen, March 6, 2018
eBook obtained from Edelweiss
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Audio Book Review: Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand @elinhilderbrand ‏

Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand book cover and review
Hilderbrand's writing is mesmerizing and her characters are complex, which kept me interested in Winter Solstice.

We meet the Quinns - a blended family whose patriarch, Kelly, lives on Nantucket in an inn that he and his second wife, Mitzi, run. Unfortunately, Kelly is in the advanced stages of brain cancer. We get perspectives from all of the kids, the ex-wife, and even some side characters.

Like I said, the writing is excellent.  You can feel what the characters feel.  But really, not much happens in Winter Solstice. It covers about three months, and we get background stories of all the characters.  A few have been in prison, one son has returned from being a POW, and several have had extramarital affairs, so there is a lot to keep one's interest.

Winter Solstice is the definition of character-driven.  And that isn't a bad thing once in a while, especially by a talented writer.  I didn't understand why we were introduced to some of the tangential characters (i.e. Eddie and the lottery winners) especially when their story was just dropped at the end of the book, but this is a small complaint.

I like audiobooks when you forget they are audiobooks.  When you forget you are being read to and simply enjoy the story.  Erin Bennett is just such a narrator. No annoying voices, no extra drama.  Excellent.

I totally didn't realize this was the fourth book of a series, Winter Street, and I can honestly say I don't think the reading suffered because I hadn't read any of the other books.  But I would be interested to start from the beginning and see how these characters progress.

This is a clean, sweet story that I think teens would enjoy also. The characters will stick with you, and I'd recommend Winter Solstice if you enjoy heartwarming novels about the complexities of family.

Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2017, audio by Hachette
Audiobook obtained from the library
304 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Book Review: Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley book cover and review
For a classic novel, Frankenstein is fairly easy to follow and kept my interest.

If you don't know the story, here are the basics. First of all, remember Frankenstein is the doctor that created the monster.  Many people mistakenly believe that the monster is Frankenstein.  Victor Frankenstein is a talented scientist and becomes obsessed with creating a living being from parts of other beings. He finally brings life to this hideous creature, who he then allows to escape (one of the fallacies of this plot, but just let it go.)

The reader gets the perspective of the creature, as he struggles to survive and become a part of society. No way that's going to happen, because he's too hideous.  He reveals himself to a blind man and is just about successful, but no, we can't allow that to happen or we wouldn't have a story. We also get the perspective of Frankenstein as he realizes this creature is wreaking havoc and is out to get Frankenstein and steal away everything dear to him.

Shelley does a good job of building tension and also sympathy.  But at the same time, I thought Frankenstein (the character) was really stupid at times.  And some of the monster's evolution was a bit far-fetched (Of course.  I get that is to be expected), and his abrupt change of heart at the end was not very credible. Frankenstein's evolution, however, is what makes the story a classic, I think.  His abject misery and eventual breakdown are utterly heartbreaking.

It sounds like I didn't enjoy Frankenstein, however, I did. With all it's plot holes and suspension of belief, I appreciated the feelings evoked and all the trials and tribulations associated with the story. Shelley is good at creating an atmosphere that gives you chills.  It's a classic and worth the read.

Published by Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones, 1818
eBook obtained from Serial Reader
280 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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