Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Book Review: A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan @annsulliva

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan book cover and review
King Midas turned things into gold.  Including his daughter, Kora.  A Touch of Gold is Kora's story.

Midas screwed up, and after he gets his curse reversed, he can no longer turn things to gold.  And although Kora is no longer gold, she still isn't normal and has powers that must be kept secret from the kingdom.

Midas needs to be near the other items he turned to gold in order to live.  So when they are stolen, Kora must hunt them down and return them to save her father and the kingdom. She gets the help of one of her suitors, Aris (who hasn't fled at the sight of her golden skin), and he takes her on his ship.  Her cousin, Hettie, stows away on board which also complicates things. When the sailors find out who Kora is, her life is in danger.  Aris along with the captain, Royce, protect here. Kora can sense where the gold is--she gets visions that help them find it.

The lore is interesting although at times confusing.  There is a complexity, but things sometimes are explained a bit quickly. The bad guys aren't what they seem -- and neither are the good ones.  There are plenty of twists and turns that all surprised me. The romance is a bit overdone, but hey, it added to the enjoyment. It is for teens, after all. The ending ramps up nicely and is very exciting and satisfying.

Teens who enjoy fantasy, mythology, and retellings will certainly enjoy this one. Adults should give A Touch of Gold a chance too.

Published by Blink, August 14, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
320 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, August 6, 2018

Book Review: Desperate Girls by Laura Griffin

Desperate Girls by Laura Griffin book cover and review
While I wouldn't call Desperate Girls a thriller, I did find it interesting and enjoyed the twisted ending.

Brynn is a successful defense attorney about to begin defending a very big case.  When a defendant from a previous case (when she was a prosecutor) escapes from prison and kills one of the other attorneys on that case, her life is turned upside down.

She is having to try to work on her case while being constantly distracted and waylayed by a plethora of bodyguards that her boss has hired to keep her safe.  And the danger becomes very real as the escapee continues to kill people associated with his case.

Erik is the head of Brynn's detail.  And there is a definite attraction between these two, even though it is highly unethical.

First of all, I don't understand the title at all.  Who are the Desperate Girls?  The victims of the escapee?  We don't really learn much about them, and they are not the focus of the case.  Brynn?  Yes, she becomes a bit desperate, but she's only one girl. Not a big deal, but it doesn't really make sense to me.

Secondly, this is my bad, but I didn't expect the (very) hot and steamy romance.  If you read the blurb, it isn't really mentioned. If you look at the subject headings, it does very clearly say "romance," but I missed that. So I was surprised, but not really disappointed.  I was just expecting a straight-up thriller, and it was really a who-done-it/romance.

I was completely stunned by the twist at the end and appreciated that.  I suspected that there was more to the story when it seemed like everything was settled with still ten percent of the book to read.  That's too long for a denouement, and I was correct. But totally surprised too.

The story is exciting, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I loved the ending.  The balance of romance/detecting was just right. Desperate Girls is an adult book and would be appropriate for mature teens.

Published by Gallery Books, August 7, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Book Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas @karatwrites ‏

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas book cover and review
The premise of The Cheerleaders isn't just a murder mystery, it is much more than that.  And that's what sets this one apart.

Five years ago Monica's sister, Jen, who was a cheerleader, committed suicide after two of her friends were killed in a car accident and two other friends (all cheerleaders) were murdered during a sleepover that Jen was supposed to be attending.

Monica is not convinced these tragedies were unrelated.  And she can't believe her sister committed suicide. And, Monica's stepfather is a cop who killed the man that supposedly murdered the two girls. There is no longer a cheer team at the school, but Monica is on the dance team.

Her doubts drive her to start keeping secrets from her friends as she begins to investigate these incidents on her own.  She also makes friends with a new dance team member, Ginny, who is a bit of an outcast.  Ginny jumps right in to help Monica figure out the truth.

There are secrets.  Some red herrings. Lots of potential suspects.  Are the deaths connected? Monica is pretty clever, but she also gets lucky a few times.  When I began the story, I was thinking this was going to be a teenie-bopper, fluffy mystery filled with high school drama. But as the story unfolds, it becomes quite complex and really held my interest.  I didn't solve the crime until Monica did, and that is always a positive.

The characters don't have a great deal of depth, but the pacing makes up for it.  Teens who are interested in a plot-driven mystery that has quite a few surprises will enjoy The Cheerleaders. There aren't enough quality teen mysteries, and I'm happy to recommend this one.

Published by Delacorte, July 31, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
384 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Book Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, by Lauren James @Lauren_E_James

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James book cover and review
While the premise is a bit far-fetched, once I bought into it, I thoroughly enjoyed The Loneliest Girl in the Universe.

Romy is alone in space heading away from earth on a 44-year journey to find other life. She is a teenager and was born in space.  Five years ago her parents died.  So did everyone else on the ship.

She gets help from a therapist on earth, but messages take months to get back and forth.  When she finds out that technology has advanced enough on Earth to send a ship to catch up with her, she's ecstatic.  Then something happens and she loses contact with Earth and her only support system.  Thank goodness she has J, the commander of the other ship to keep her company.

That is pretty much all you should know going into The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. When I began the book I thought there's NO WAY a teen would end up alone on a spaceship.  But James slowly explains the backstory and adds a bit of credibility to the premise.  At least I bought in, and teens will too.

As we go about learning about Romy's day-to-day existence, we are fed pieces of the events that let up to this unusual predicament.  James does a great job of feeding you just enough information to keep you turning pages.  And there's a twist.  A big one.

Teens who enjoy science fiction and outer space travel will definitely enjoy The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. And I did too.

Published by HarperTeen, July 3, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
320 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen @Scott_Thought

Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen book cover and review
Nyxia Unleashed is an exciting continuation of the story began in Nyxia (click here and read my review of the original if you don't want any spoilers.)

Emmett and the others are now on the planet trying to make nice with the Adamites and do their job -- mining Nyxia -- so they can go home. But all is not as it seems.

There are a lot of surprises. They make some discoveries about Babel's true intentions, which are devastating.  They've been lied to (saw that one coming, did you?) over an over again.

And, the Adamites have secrets of their own which will change everything for these kids. Almost nothing we learned from the first book (about the Adamites or Babel) is true.

While these secrets are startling and game-changing, I didn't feel the tension -- the nonstop fight for survival -- that I did in Nyxia.  Although be prepared, because Reintgen isn't afraid to kill off characters. The plot is clever, the character growth is well done, and I definitely want the third book.  Nyxia Unleashed is more about revelations than ultimate peril. But that is okay.

If you've read Nyxia, I highly recommend you continue with Nyxia Unleashed.  If not, those fans of interplanetary science fiction should begin with Nyxia.

Published by Crown BFYR, July 17, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
400 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Book Review: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas book cover and review
I have to agree with the many reviews I've seen for The Hate U GiveEveryone should read it.

Starr is with a friend when he gets pulled over by the police. She is in the car as the police officer guns down her friend. The Hate U Give deals with the aftermath of this shooting, the realities of living in certain neighborhoods of the city, and Starr's ability to get over this tragedy while she tries to make sure justice is served.

Yes, The Hate U Give is ripped from the headlines. But it's still an important book because it comes from the perspective of a teen. Thomas does a good job of finding the teen voice--the voice of young black people in this situation.

As an adult (and white), I have difficulty understanding the behavior of people who are confronted by the police.  I'm a rule-follower.  I'm scared of the police.  If a police officer told me not to move, I wouldn't even blink.  But, I understand people (especially young people), no matter what the color of their skin, aren't all like me.  They can easily have a more confrontational attitude.  I think The Hate U Give helped me understand that.

There are nuances to Starr's situation that add to the drama.  She attends a private school that is outside her neighborhood, she's dating a white boy, and her family has more money than many families who live around them. All of this keeps the book interesting and very readable. 

Like I said, I recommend The Hate U Give to everyone, teen or adult.

Published by Balzer + Bray, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
444 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, July 2, 2018

Book Review: Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani book cover and review
I've read a few Trigiani books previously and really enjoyed her writing.  Big Stone Gap is no exception.  She pulls you into these lives so easily.

Ava is our main character. It is 1978, and she lives in Big Stone Gap, a tiny town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  She's the pharmacist and also is part of the emergency services.  She is 35 years old and has no interest in getting married. She has lots of friends and keeps busy with many activities.

Her world gets turned upside down when she receives a letter from her mother, who died a month ago. She begins to see her life in a new way and decides to plan a trip to Italy, her mother's home country. In the meantime, she begins to get marriage proposals, and she doesn't handle it very well.

The characters are colorful and full. There are many reasons to root for them all. The reader laments Ava's emotional turmoil, and we just wait, and wait, for her to sort things out and settle down. The ending is satisfying and heartwarming.

I need to read more Trigiani. I'll probably start with Big Cherry Holler, the next book in this series.  I recommend Big Stone Gap, and really any of her books, to those who enjoy warm, fuzzy stories where you really get a sense of place and character. Trigiani is a master storyteller.

Published by Random House, 2000
Copy obtained from the library
306 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Book Review: The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

The Darkness Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé book cover and review
It took The Dark Beneath the Ice a while to get going, but once it did, it brought all the chills.

Marianne's life is falling apart.  Her mother and father are splitting up, her mother has been hospitalized, and she must go live with her aunt.  Additionally, Marianne is having weird dreamlike episodes where she feels she's being dragged under the water.  And she's breaking things during lapses of consciousness. These episodes are getting worse and worse.

She makes a new friend, Rhiannon (Ron), whose mother is a psychic.  When she finally convinces Ron's mother to help her get rid of what is after her, she only makes things worse.  Now Marianne feels like everyone she loves or cares about is in danger.  The creature tells her she's stolen something and wants her to give it back, but Marianne has no idea what it wants.

I liked that Marianne has a support system, and she does get counseling.  She's pretty honest with the counselor too. The tension during the second half of the book is palpable at times and genuinely creepy. It just takes too long to get to this part.  The back story and setup is drawn out and a bit too detailed.

However, fans of creepiness will enjoy The Dark Beneath the Ice. I was not surprised by the ending, but that doesn't really matter if you just want to feel the thrills and chills.

Published by Sourcebooks Fire, August 7, 2018
ARC Copy obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
327 pages

Rating: 4/5

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