Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stacking the Shelves - Last Week, Nothing -- This Week, Wow!

I had a great week this week, so let's just get on with it.

For Review:
Choke, by Diana Lopez from the publisher
Amber House, by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed from the publisher
Skinny, by Donna Cooner from the publisher
Magisterium,by Jeff Hirsch from the publisher
Bound, by Erica O'Rourke, from LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Bones are Forever, by Kathy Reichs, eBook from Edelweiss and the publisher
Through to You, by Emily Hainsworth, eBook from Edelweiss and the publisher
Collateral, by Ellen Hopkins, eBook from Edelweiss and the publisher

Purchased:
Thorn, by Intisar Khanani, eBook FREE for my Kindle
From the Library:
War, by Sebastian Junger

Very excited about all of these books! Can't wait to see what you got. Leave me a link. Be sure to visit Tynga's Reviews to see everyone's posts. Have a great week!




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Friday, June 29, 2012

TGIF - Favorite Books Halfway Through...

Happy Friday! Welcome to TGIF, hosted by Ginger @ GReads! Here's this week's question:


Best I've Read So Far: We're half way through the year (crazy how time flies!), which top 3 books are the best you've read so far this year?

First of all, I've read 94 books so far this year and I've given 12 of them 5 hats (out of 5). That's about 13%.  It's hard to just pick three, but I'll follow the rules. The three happen to all be paranormal/dystopians -- but I really read a lot of other stuff too! And I give some of those other genres 5s!




Wow! That was hard for me. Was it hard for you? Such a great year for books. I'll be checking out your answers....

Have a great weekend!




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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: Another Piece of My Heart, by Jane Green @JaneGreen

Another Piece of My Heart confronts several aspects of family drama -- step parenting, rebellious teens, infertility, adoption -- in a heartwarming, realistic, if somewhat predictable way.

Andi and Ethan have finally found their soul mates in each other -- however, Ethan came with two teen age children and an ex-wife. Andi, at 37 years old, tries very hard to be the perfect step mom, and for the youngest, Sophia, everything is working. But for Emily, nothing does. She's got her father wrapped around her finger; he always comes to her rescue, and Andi is seriously considering giving up the man of her dreams because she can't deal with his child.

Andi has always wanted to have her own children, but the onset of  early menopause has made this dream very unlikely, and adds more stress to the relationship.

Emily is hanging out with a different crowd, drinking, smoking pot, and presumably having sex. When Emily turns up pregnant, well, you can imagine the complications.

I really enjoyed some of the minor characters. Ethan's ex, Brooke, who is an alcoholic, adds another element of complication. The gay neighbors and Andi's girlfriend Deanna are interesting enough to be memorable. The plot never lags. The description above only scratches the surface (over half of Another Piece of My Heart occurs after the baby is born.)

I would never hesitate to read a Jane Green novel. She writes with such authenticity -- her characters ring true and really make you want to reach out to them. Another Piece of My Heart is a "happy ending" book, which always spells predictability, but who cares? I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience.

Although Another Piece of My Heart is an adult book, there's nothing to keep teens from enjoying this novel, which does focus on a teen who becomes pregnant and works hard to turn her life around.

Published by St. Martin's Press, March 13, 2012
Copy won from Jennifer at Crazy-For-Books
386 pages

Rating: 3.5/5




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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review: Monument 14, by Emmy Laybourne

Monument 14 is a survival story with a scenario so realistic that one can't help feel the discomfort that these young characters feel.

First there's hail - not just any hail, but large, unrelenting hail. The school bus driver drives into a superstore (think: Wal Mart) to save the kids on her bus, as well as the kids on the high school bus that crashed in the parking lot. Then, there's a horrible earth quake. Then, a toxic black cloud. These kids just can't get a break.

At first there is the scramble to survive, to get the store sealed off from the toxic air and to provide basic needs. Also, since these are 14 kids of various ages and backgrounds, there's conflict. The personalities of these teens are realistic, and therefore the natural tendencies for some to be leaders, followers, bullies, and parents ring true.

The many decisions that need to be made are handled well sometimes, and have devastating consequences at other times. I felt really uncomfortable while reading this -- it hits too close to home, since this scenario isn't really that far-fetched. The fact that kids are forbidden to drive to school because of a gas shortage and the references to "minitabs" and "bigtabs" that are hooked into a network (not that far off...) give a "near future" perspective.

Laybourne builds tension in Monument 14 that never relents. There's always a new challenge, and unfortunately, there isn't any resolution. Another one of those "half books" that just ends. A big decision is made, and that's it. Very frustrating. Somewhere the literary structure of writing (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement) has just been lost in a lot of current books, and I guess I'm just too traditional to enjoy this new "series mania." *steps off soapbox*

Teens will like Monument 14. It's a classic survival story of teens on their own, being resourceful as well as frightened, but stepping up and growing as necessary. The realistic situation provides much food for thought.

Published by Feiwel & Friends, June 5, 2012
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection
294 pages

Rating: 3.5/5




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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: Secret Letters, by Leah Scheier @LeahScheier

For fans of historical mysteries, Secret Letters is an entertaining entry to the genre.

As Dora's mother was dying, Dora finds a letter written by her mother that says the great Sherlock Holmes is Dora's real father. Now Dora lives with her cousin who is being blackmailed about some old love letters. Dora decides to accompany her cousin to London to consult Sherlock Holmes. Dora also has plans to reveal herself to the legendary detective. Dora has always been interested in sleuthing, and she is sure that she can work with and learn from Holmes.

However, when she arrives in London, she finds out that Sherlock Holmes has been killed. As she is recovering from the news, she is assisted by Peter Cartwright, who used to apprentice for Holmes, but now works for another detective in London. Dora decides to take her cousin to see Cartwright and his boss. They accept the case, but Dora isn't at all pleased. She thinks they have given up before they've even started, so Dora decides to help with the case on her own. Peter discovers her activities, and they end up working together on another case of a missing young woman which may be linked to Dora's cousin's letters.

Dora runs into the expected difficulties being a woman in a man's world, and although she's brave and daring, she does get rescued by men quite a bit.

The mystery is really interesting in Secret Letters. Things twist and turn, and I really didn't figure it out until it was revealed. However, even though Dora ends up in some danger, I didn't really get the heart-pounding suspense that I enjoy in my mysteries. I never really felt the danger was serious, and I'm not sure why. I think I always felt like someone was close by to save Dora (and, of course, they were.)

I enjoyed the story. Secret Letters is easy and quick, and I would enjoy reading more of Dora's and Peter's adventures. I'm sure there's going to be a much more prevalent romance in the episodes to come. I hope there's more to the Sherlock Holmes' daughter aspect too, since that was kind of dropped after the beginning of this book. Secret Letters reminded me a lot of The Agency Series, by Y. S. Lee.

Published by Hyperion, June 26, 2012
eBook obtained from NetGalley
336 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Discussion: Insurgent, by Veronica Roth "Trust" @VeronicaRoth

Instead of a traditional review of Insurgent, I've decided I like to discuss an issue that I've seen mentioned in a lot of reviews: Tris and Tobias' relationship. There have been plenty of discussions about world building, setting, pace, and character, and let's just say --- they were all awesome, and you can find rave reviews all over the place.

The most negative comments I've seen are about the fact that Tris and Tobias aren't a big happy couple. I felt this way too, at first. I wanted them to be together! After all, they are a couple, right? I didn't understand why they kept lying to each other. They simply could not be honest, and snuck behind each other's backs, and as a reader we know this isn't going to help their relationship. In general, I hate romances in books when the couple just can't get together simply because of a lack of communication and honesty, so I was getting frustrated with this one.

But then I realized -- this is all about trust. They don't trust each other. They can't. Insurgent, and possibly the whole Divergent world, is about trust. The factions certainly don't trust each other, and that is just getting worse. Look at Tris and Tobias' parents -- everything they've found out about their parents -- has that made them more trusting, do you think?

It would be totally out of character for Ross to have made Tris and Tobias work together, cooperate, and get along all the time. They simply don't have the foundation for this type of relationship. The big question is: Will they ever?

The world of Insurgent is so masterfully created, it seems real. However, I can't really say I can put myself in that world -- given it is so different than the world I live in. So, I'm trying very hard to pull myself back and think about the entire society, and why these characters behave as they do -- I think if you try, you will see  Roth's depiction runs straight and true.

I will shout my recommendation for Insurgent and Divergent from the highest mountain (well, I live in Illinois, so....) Yes, if you like Hunger Games you will like these -- and in the case of me and most of my family, you will like these better.

Comments, as always, are welcome! I'd love to hear what you think.

Published by Katherine Tegen Books, May 1, 2012
Copy borrowed from my son-in-law
544 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Loving the "Next" Button


I learned about this during Armchair BEA. I'm sorry I can't give credit, but it was just one of those many posts I read, and I thought "I'll try this." Not realizing how MUCH I was going to appreciate this tip. If you are the one that posted about this, please leave a comment, and thank you!

Why I like it? If you put this button in you bookmark bar, you can use it to go through your Google Reader posts. It opens up the actual blog page. You aren't just reading the posts in a reader. Therefore, there's no extra clicking to leave a comment. You can appreciate all the beautiful blog designs (although, I can't reiterate enough -- as so many others have -- that white text on black background is very difficult  for some of us to read. Just sayin'.)

You get to see the formatting the way the author intended. I didn't realize what a difference this makes. One thing I found annoying about some blogs is that they present a "Summary" which is labeled, then it runs right into their review -- so it's difficult to tell where the summary ends and the review begins. On many of these blogs, if you see the original formatting, there is some sort of break or indication other than the word "Review" that makes it easy to tell.

I notice blog buttons to add to my own blog. I notice buttons to follow on twitter. And...the bloggers are getting a "hit" on their blog for my visit, unlike using a reader, where the blogger has no way of knowing you read their post. (If there's a way to track this, let me know, but I've asked before and I think that is correct.) It's just a win-win, as far as I can tell.

How do I get this button? In Google Reader, go to Reader Settings (click on the little wheel thing at the upper right of the screen.) Click on the "Goodies" tab. Under "Put Reader in a Bookmark," click on the "next" button and drag it into your bookmark bar.

That's it. It's easy, and now every time you want to read a new blog post, just click on that button. You should give this a try. I've been commenting a lot more since using this feature. I feel like I "know" your blogs better since I see the whole thing every time I read a post. Let me know what you think.



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Friday, June 22, 2012

TGIF - Author Love


Happy Friday everyone! I'm really glad it's here. (Thank God, right?) Here's Ginger's question for this week:

Authors Are Our Celebrities: Have you ever contacted an author you admired? How did that experience go?  If not, which author would you love to have a chat with?


I contacted Cole Gibsen after reading Katana.I realized she lives in a town about 15 minutes from me. After emailing back and forth, I discovered her husband went to the high school where I teach, and I know his parents.

Unfortunately, I haven't met her yet. The opportunities to go to her book signings have always conflicted with my schedule, but I intend to meet her some day. I would love to have her come and visit with our creative writing club, if we can work it out.

I'm really shy, so its hard for me to put myself out there, but I would enjoy speaking with any of them. I'm so fascinated by what they do and the processes they go through. It's very foreign to me, and I don't think I could ever do it, so I enjoy learning about it.

Great question! I'm sure there will be some interesting answers, and I'm looking forward to reading them. Have a great weekend, and thanks for stopping by.




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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review: Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White @kierstenwhite

As its title implies, Paranormalcy is the epitome of paranormal stories.

Evie has the ability to see through all the different paranormal creatures' glamours, so she makes the perfect trapper. An orphan, many years ago she was taken in by the International Paranormal Containment Agency, and even though she considers herself a normal teen, she really is far from it.

Several strange things happen.  A never-before-seen paranormal breaks into the IPCA and after Evie contains him, she begins a relationship with him. He's one of very few teens Evie has ever had the chance to get close to, and she's strangely attracted to him.

Paranormals are dying. The IPCA "contains" paranormals, so they can't hurt humans. They don't kill paranormals. But something is killing them, and killing a lot of them. When the IPCA headquarters is attacked, Evie and Lend (her paranormal friend) escape to Lend's home, where they find out more about what is going on and begin a dangerous adventure.

There's really a lot to the plot, and I don't want to tell you everything. The fairies in Paranormalcy are unique, and add much interest (and confusion) to each situation. I enjoyed the large number of different creatures introduced -- not only vampires and werewolves, but mermaids, hags, banshees, and water people. The variety added much to this intriguing world.

Evie is a great protagonist. She's not what I would call "kick-ass," but she's practical, and does her job in a professional manner. She doesn't take anything from any paranormal. She's witty, and I enjoyed her conversations as she gets to know and become attached to Lend. She also has a more weak and whiney side, but it's not overdone.

The plot of Paranormalcy is steady, and it's easy to get lost in this world. White is so creative; I'm really impressed with how perfectly she created this world and how I was able to just get lost in it. Sometimes I feel paranormals can be a bit much, but even though there were very strange things going on, I never felt that urge to "roll my eyes" during Paranormalcy.


Overall, Paranormalcy is engaging and entertaining. Any teen who enjoys any type of paranormal stories would love this one (and I know many of them already have!)

Published by HarperTeen, 2010
Copy obtained from the library
335 pages

Rating: 4.5/5




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