Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review: Very Bad Men, by Harry Dolan

Very Bad Men is full of twists and turns, exciting characters, and will keep you guessing until the very last page.

I got to know David Loogan and Detective Elizabeth Waishkey in Dolan’s first novel, Bad Things Happen, so when I was asked if I would like to read an advanced copy of his newest book I jumped at the chance. I don’t feel it is necessary to read the first book – this one stands alone--but I think I probably loved the characters more because I felt like they were old friends.

Anthony Lark is our bad guy in this one, and he’s made a list of people who he intends to kill. All of these men were involved in a robbery gone bad seventeen years ago. So, what is intriguing about this story is that the reader knows from the beginning who’s doing the killing, but finding Lark, while important, isn’t what the book is about. It’s about figuring out why Lark wants these people dead, and how all the side characters fit into the picture.

There’s politics involved – a senator and a woman running for senator. There are troubled children, clandestine romances, kidnapping, murder, violence, and non-stop action in this tale. There are many characters, which may turn off some readers, but Dolan does a good job of keeping them clearly delineated.

If you like a good mystery, with lots of twists and turns, and well-described characters that are easy to get attached to, I highly recommend Dolan’s books.

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, July 7, 2011
ARC obtained from the publisher for review
412 pages (qualifies for my 350 Page Book Challenge!)

Rating: 4/5





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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Review: The Boy Who Dared, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti


The Boy Who Dared is based on a true story about an 18-year-old boy who was executed for conspiracy to commit high treason in Germany during WWII.

The book contains scenes of Helmuth in his prison cell during his last day and then flashes back to his childhood, the period of time at the beginning of Hitler’s reign and through Germany’s entry into war. Helmuth begins as a child wrapped up in the excitement of the entire country when Hitler promised prosperity for all the German people. They were ready to believe because the unemployment rate was very high and the economy very weak.

Bartoletti does a great job of describing the slow disillusionment of Helmuth and his family and friends, as they enter into war (after Hitler had promised peace) and then are subjected to more and more restrictions on their freedom.

Helmuth and his family are devout Mormons, which brings an interesting aspect to the story, and his faith contributed to Helmuth’s feeling that he had to try to do something to stop the oppression.

It is a difficult story to read, and we know the ending, but it’s a very interesting study and gave me a new perspective on the origins and very slow progression of Germany’s rise and fall. Helmuth was a special person – everyone saw what was going on, but most people chose to be quiet, wait it out, and hope it ended soon, while Helmuth decided to do something about it.

This is a book for everyone, but I would particularly recommend it for middle school students because of what I perceived as a lower reading level. There’s much to be discussed here – this would be a great classroom read.

Published by Scholastic, 2008
Copy obtained from the library
174 pages

Rating: 3/5






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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book Review: Paradise, by Jill Alexander


Paradise is a sweet teen romance, realistically portrayed, that will capture the attention of many teen girls.

All Paisley wants to do is play the drums in her band. She’ll do anything she can to keep this secret from her mother who has other ideas about what Paisley should be doing with her life. Paisley’s mom wants Paisley and her sister, Lacey, to be able to leave their small Texas town and make something more of themselves. 

Paisley’s uncle lets her band practice in his airplane hangar on his farm. The problem is that the band doesn’t have a singer, so when the leader of the band, Waylon, advertises for a singer, Paradise enters the picture. Not only does Paradise sing, but he plays the accordion, which none of the band members are too thrilled with. Their goal is to play at the Texapaloosa music festival in Austin. As Paradise begins to practice with them, he begins to find his place and it seems their dream may come true. But Paisley is beginning to think she has more of a dream than just playing the drums....there’s a definite attraction to Paradise.

The romance builds slowly and naturally, although there’s much more to the story than romance. Paisley’s mother may seem like she’s out of her mind trying to control her daughters’ destinies, but we’re getting this story from Paisley’s perspective, and it turns out maybe her mother isn’t as crazy as Paisley always thought. 

Alexander writes great, lovable characters that come to life. The other band members all have their own problems and hang-ups. Waylon is trying to live up to his father’s expectations. Levi is a baseball player who happens to be in the band (and happens to be crazy about Lacey). And Cal has a secret crush on Paisley. Lacey wants to go to beauty school, but her mom is convinced that she will have a singing career. Even Paisley’s uncle has a back story that adds to the motivations of these characters.

Paisley is a good kid. She doesn’t like deceiving her parents, but she doesn’t have a choice. She’s crazy about Paradise, but she also has strong feelings about abstinence, which is sometimes lacking in teen romances these days. These characters are just struggling to grow up, as all teens do. The story is realistic and heartwarming. They make mistakes. They cover them up. They get in trouble. It’s all very natural and believable.

The ending was unexpected and somewhat abrupt. You may just want to skip the last couple of chapters...but if that’s the way Alexander intended it, then I’m OK with it.

This book will be thoroughly enjoyed by teen girls who are fans of romance, especially if they are interested in music. I’d probably categorize this book as a coming-of-age novel, but the romance makes it even more special.

Published by Feiwel and Friends, July 5, 2011
248 pages

Rating: 3/5 





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Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: Sisterhood Everlasting, by Ann Brashares

I really hated SisterhoodEverlasting. And...I loved it. I just hated what happened, but  Brashares still made me love this book.

After about the first 50 pages, tragedy strikes, and it tears the Septembers apart. So we hear from each of them separately, about their struggles, and their pain, and how life just isn’t the same without each other. There’s a lot of growth in these characters between the beginning and the end of the book, even though we’re not dealing with teens any more. They are 29 years old.

Brashares’ talent is character development. I feel like I know these four girls. You could erase all their names out of the books, and I could tell you which character is speaking. Their characterization never wavers. They have personalities and reactions that are predictable, because we know so much about each individual. We’ve grown up with them, after all!

I was really uncomfortable and unhappy reading the book. I didn’t like what happened. But, by the end of the book, I came to terms with it – just like the Septembers did. Isn’t that amazing? I actually felt like they did, and had to come to terms just like the characters. I had to work it out just like I was one of them. Amazing writing. That’s all I can say....

The Sisterhood of theTravelling Pants is by far my FAVORITE series ever. As far as I’m concerned, these books are the Bible on friendship. They get checked out a lot, even without my recommendation, but I do recommend them every chance I get.

You really need to read the entire series. This book does tell a stand-alone story, but there are many references to past events, and you will enjoy this book much more if you have grown up with the characters. I would recommend this series to anyone – well, any female. You like paranormal?  Read this. You like historical? Read this. Contemporary? Romance? Fantasy? Read this!

Published by Random House, June 14, 2011
I purchased this copy
349 pages (really? It couldn’t be one more page so it counted towards my challenge???)

Rating: 5/5






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Sunday, June 26, 2011

IMM - How many Great Weeks in a Row?

I have quite a bit this week, so let's just get to the books!

For Review:


Dust & Decay, by Jonathan Maberry, ebook from Galley Grab

Won:


Moonglass, by Jessi Kirby, from Tara @ Fiction Folio (came with a cool bag of "moonglass!)

From the Library:

Purchased:


 The Last Little Blue Envelope, by Maureen Johnson

Sisterhood Everlasting, by Ann Brashares

Poison, by Sara Poole, ebook for my Kindle

I'm excited to get reading. I have so many books I want to read right now, I can't decide! (It's not that bad of a problem to have!) Thanks to Kristi, The Story Siren, who hosts IMM every week. Thanks for checking out my loot -- I'll be around to check out some of yours!






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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Review: After by Amy Efaw

After is powerful. It’s a book that will keep you thinking long after you read it. 

I think we’ve all heard a lot about teen pregnancy, but After is a book about one possible outcome of teen pregnancy – dumpster babies. Efaw, in the Author’s Note, cites some statistics that are shocking, but also points out that we really don’t know how often this happens because presumably there are babies that are never found.

Devon is a star athlete and an honor student. We learn quite quickly at the beginning of the book that she has given birth in her bathroom and has put the baby in a dumpster behind her apartment. Devon doesn’t remember any of this; she is in denial.

Through most of the book Devon is incarcerated at a juvenile detention facility. She starts out almost catatonic, and throughout the book begins to wake up, and remember. Not only does she remember, but with the help of her lawyer, Dom, she begins to understand how she ended up this way. She begins to see the patterns of her life that allowed this to happen.

I’m not going to say much more about the plot—it’s a journey that I don’t want to spoil for any reader. Devon’s mom is priceless – she’s a horrible mother, but is an authentic, believable character that adds much to the puzzle of Devon’s life. Even the side characters, like Karma who is also an inmate, and Henrietta, one of the guards, add much to the authenticity of the story.

This is a girl story – I can’t see many boys reading this. But teen girls who like realistic problem novels will really enjoy this one. I can’t wait to start pushing this one, because I think it will garner much “word of mouth” popularity among my teens.

I’ve posted about the Illinois’ Abraham Lincoln High School Book Award previously. This book is one of the 2012 nominated titles, and that’s why I read it. 

Published by Viking, 2009
Copy obtained from the library
350 pages (qualifies for my 350 Page Book Challenge!)
Rating: 4/5






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Friday, June 24, 2011

It's Friday and it's SUMMER!!

I love the question at GReads! this week, because I'm in the mood for VACATION!!!

Summer Love: Where is your ideal place to take a 
summer vacation & get lost in a book?

We went to Mexico once, and while I wouldn't want to go there EVERY year, it was wonderful and I'd love to go back again some day -- although it wasn't really a "reading" vacation. My favorite summer vacation is one we've been going on for almost 30 years! My family (Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, in-laws, 7 grandkids, and various boyfriends and husbands) goes to Kentucky Lake for a week every summer. We rent a cabin that has a beach, and my brother has a ski boat. All the kids have learned to ski, and we just have a great time. And we read. Some of us read a LOT. I'm the "librarian" in the family so I bring a lot of books.

This is what I brought last summer. Kristin Hanna's True Colors was a big hit.

A typical day on the beach!



At Parajunkee's View, the question is:

In light of the Summer Solstice. Also known as Midsummer...let's talk about fairies. What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

I love fairy tale retellings, but I don't know which is my favorite. As far as books about fae, I would have say Wicked Lovely, mostly because it's the first fairy book I read, it was very good, and I haven't really read many others besides this one.

 I hope you all have a great weekend! We have our town carnival, which should be fun. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you come back soon. Happy Reading!






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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: Story of a Girl, by Sara Zarr

Story of a Girl is a thought-provoking book about how seemingly simple decisions can affect our lives for a long time, and about the necessity of working through problems and communicating to change one’s life.

It’s a simple story. Thirteen-year-old Deanna got caught by her father having sex in the back of a car with Tommy, who was a junior in high school. She’s 16 now, and is still known as “the slut” by her peers, and her father hasn’t forgiven her, doesn’t trust her, and won’t even look her in the eye.

Deanna’s brother, Darren, is living in their basement with Lee, his girlfriend, and their baby. Deanna’s dad has been laid off and is unhappy about his low-paying job. So, there’s a lot of stress on this family.

Deanna decides to get a summer job, and it turns out that Tommy works at the pizza place where she is hired. It is interesting to see how their relationship works out, and it is very realistically portrayed.  Michael, the owner of the pizza place, is a voice of reason in what seems to be a sea of hurt, and is pivotal in Deanna’s growth. 

Zarr has written a very short book with a powerful punch. Huge messages about communication, family, integrity, self-esteem, love, and resilience are in these pages, but the book doesn’t come off as preachy at all. This could be qualified as a “need-to-read” book. Girls, even if they haven’t been in this exact situation, are confronted with difficult decisions on a daily basis. This book may be a beacon for some of them.

I’ve posted about the Illinois’ Abraham Lincoln High School Book Award previously. This book is one of the 2012 nominated titles, and that’s why I read it. 

Published by Little, Brown & Co., 2007
Copy obtained from the library
192 pages

Rating: 4/5





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