Friday, August 31, 2012

TGIF - What's Next?


Happy Friday everyone! It's been a log week for me, so I'm looking forward to a three day weekend. Even if it's going to rain all weekend...

Choose Your Next Read: How do you go about choosing what you read next? Do you have a schedule you follow, or do you read whatever makes you happy at the moment?

It's kind of complicated. I have a list of ARCs, with the approximate date that I want to post a review. So I make sure I get those read before that date. But I also have a stack of 4 or 5 books on my desk that are from my TBR. Usually this stack contains a variety of genres. So, when I have a "break" from ARCs, I usually grab one of those -- and I grab the one I'm in the mood for. I need to mix up my genres. Too many contemps in a row, and I'm bound to not like the book. Same with dystopians, fantasies, romances, etc. I have to keep it fresh. Thankfully, I enjoy a wide variety of genres. I also have to throw in an adult book every once in a while too.

The stack on my desk is constantly in flux. I will randomly go change the books in the pile. Even if I'm not ready to read one off the pile. I just enjoy the process of planning my next read!


I'm sure that only makes sense to me. But, suffice it to say, I have to vary the genres and read what I'm in the mood for -- at least sometimes.

I want to thank Ginger from GReads! for hosting this meme. TGIF is going on hiatus for a while.  I've really enjoyed participating and I'll look forward to it's return.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you come back soon. I'll be looking forward to reading about your crazy methods for choosing your next book!




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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: Masque of the Red Death, by Bethany Griffin @_bethanygriffin

The atmosphere in Masque of the Red Death will leave you squirming, covering your mouth, and incessantly washing your hands!

The city has been devastated by a deathly plague, and only the privileged few wear the masks that can keep them from contracting this disease. Araby is one of the privileged. Her best friend, April, has a steam carriage that can take them to the Debauchery Club where they can forget all the scenes of death and destruction, providing alcohol, drugs, and companionship.

April is the niece of Prince Prospero, who is holed up in his castle and controls the masks so that only those in his favor have access to them. Eliott, April's brother, is one side of our love triangle. Araby's father is the scientist who invented the mask technology, and Eliot is trying to organize a resistance movement. He wants Araby to steal the plans so they can mass produce masks. Will is the other love interest. He works at Debauchery, and when Araby gets to know him outside of the club, she realizes how special he is.

April gets kidnapped. There's a rival resistance group destroying the city and threatening to ruin all of Eliot's plans. People turn out to not be what they seem. Araby and Will are summoned to Prospero's castle - a dangerous proposition. Really, just one horrible thing happens after another and the reader must hang on for the ride.

The ending is even more surprising and dangerous, and while there's some sense of safety, it is apparent that it won't last long. The main characters are already plotting their next move. Sadly, I can find no information about the next book!

The atmosphere and fast pacing make Masque of the Red Death stand out. I enjoyed the characters, and I don't really have any specific complaints, but I don't really care about the romance nor do I feel particularly attached to any of them.

I had never read Poe's Masque of the Red Death, so I took a few minutes to do so. It was OK. I see the connection, but Griffin's version is a real, fully developed, intricate story. Poe merely sets a scene which Griffin developed masterfully.

Steampunk, dystopian, and apocalyptic fans should not miss this one. Masque of the Red Death is definitely worth your time. Please, tell me there's more!

Published by Greenwillow, April 24, 2012
Copy won from Bewitched Bookworms! (It's signed!)
336 pages

Rating: 4/5




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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Poison Tree, by Erin Kelly @mserinkelly

While The Poison Tree is a slow paced, character driven novel, there are a few plot twists that genuinely surprised me.

The Poison Tree focuses on Karen in the present day and flashes back to her past to explain the present. You see, Karen has just reunited with Rex after his 10 year prison stay, and along with their daughter, Alice, they are trying to become a family. The reader quickly figures out that Rex was in prison for murder, and the ensuing flashbacks are going to explain the who, why, and how that we so desperately want to know.

It takes a long time to get there, and fortunately I REALLY wanted to know what he did or I could have given up. You really have to like character studies because most of this novel is exploring the characters as their true personalities are revealed. Along with Rex and Karen, Rex's sister, Biba, plays an important role. Karen is graduating from university and she speaks several languages. Biba needs someone to help her with some German, so she and Karen become friends. Biba is unlike any friend Karen has ever had. She's wild, smokes, drinks, and does drugs. Her brother, Rex, has tried to take care of her since both their parents have been out of the picture for many years.

They live in their family house, and have several interesting roommates. Eventually Rex and Karen begin a romantic relationship and Karen moves in the house with him and Biba. I really can't explain the sense of impending doom as we very slowly watch these characters grow and change. For much of the novel, nothing ever happens, save for the day-to-day partying, conversations, and travels of the three main characters. But more and more secrets are revealed as we go along. Other characters enter and leave as we journey, but when I try to think of an episode worth mentioning, I can't. It's all very atmospheric and difficult to describe in a few paragraphs.

The blurb calls this a "psychological thriller." I get the psychological part -- as we go along we realize that some of these characters have serious psychological problems. But nothing about this novel is what I would call "thrilling." Maybe a bit of suspense, but that's not the same as a thriller.

I loved the last section of The Poison Tree after the murderous episode. I was stunned to find out what really happened -- and then stunned again...and again. I'm glad there were surprises, because I really would have felt I wasted my time if I had been able to figure out what happened early in the novel. But I didn't, and at the end I was glad I had persevered. And I readily admit I'm more of a plot person than a character person, so others might enjoy every moment of The Poison Tree depending on your tastes. It is interestingly written and the audio is superbly narrated by Jennifer Ikeda.

The Poison Tree takes place in London, and the narrator speaks with a delightful British accent. Her voices for each character are somewhat similar, but I was never confused while listening. She reads pretty fast which I prefer. Her accent made me think that Biba's name was "Beeber" which I found really amusing.

The Poison Tree is an adult novel, and only the most mature teens would find this one interesting. There is, as I said, drug use and drinking, but no explicit sex scenes. These characters are college aged, so those who enjoy the "New Adult" genre would potentially enjoy The Poison Tree.

Published by Pamela Dorman, 2011, audio by Recorded Books
Copy obtained from the library
336 pages

Rating: 3/5




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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review: Return to Willow Lake, by Susan Wiggs @susanwiggs

Return to Willow Lake is a warm-hearted love story within a beautiful setting. It's part of the Lakeshore Chronicles series. While I've read other books by Susan Wiggs, I haven't read and Lakeshore Chronicles books, but that isn't necessary to enjoy this installment.

Sonnet no longer lives on Willow Lake. She lives and works in New York. She's highly successful, driven, and has a boyfriend that meets up to her father's standards. You see, her father is running for the U. S. Senate. Sonnet wins a prestigious fellowship that will require her to move overseas. It seems like everything is going her way. Until...her mother, who lives on Willow Lake, gets pregnant. Not only is she pregnant, but she has be diagnosed with breast cancer. So, Sonnet decides to move back to Willow Lake to be with her mother during this time of crisis.

While she is there, she takes a job as a production assistant for the filming of a reality TV series. The filmmaker is none other than her best childhood friend, Zach. But, can they still be friends after a one night stand that Sonnet very much wants to forget?

From the very first pages, it isn't difficult to figure out how this plot will unfold. But that didn't really matter. What is special about Return to Willow Lake is the setting and characters. The beautiful town of Avalon, and Willow Lake in particular, made me want to visit. I think Wiggs does a great job with the supporting characters. The "pop star on probation," Jezebel, was a priceless addition. Sonnet's stepfather, who was so loving and supportive of her mother, was memorable. Even Sonnet's over-achieving boyfriend, Orlando, was an interesting character.

The side stories and details make this somewhat predictable romance one that I really enjoyed. I've not been disappointed by a Susan Wiggs novel yet, and they've all been different. I've read How I Planned Your Wedding and The Goodbye Quilt. Both are books about life events that I've experienced, so I could very easily relate. Return to Willow Lake is my first Susan Wiggs romance, and I plan to seek out more of those in the future.

I think teen girls would really enjoy Return to Willow Lake. I know several at my school who like adult romance stories, and this one is really charming (and very clean.)

Published by Harlequin MIRA, August 28, 2012
eARC obtained from Little Bird Publicity and NetGalley
320 pages

Rating: 4/5




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Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Memories - Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Audiobook

Welcome to my meme, Monday Memories, where I feature favorite books we've loved from the past. You can link to an old review, or write something new about a beloved book from your past. Really, what's important is not the book, but why it is memorable to you. So, have fun reminiscing, and leave a comment below, so we can all enjoy your memories.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor was the first audiobook I ever listened to (on cassette tape!) The students at my school all read this book, so we had a copy of the audiobook in the library. I decided to give it a whirl. It was awesome. The reader (Lynne Thigpen) was superb, and it's a really good story. So, I thought, "Wow, what have I been missing!" And, I assumed all audiobooks would be a pleasant experience.

Sadly, I soon found that NOT to be true. But, since then I have found many wonderful audiobooks and some really good ones. It's my "noise of choice" when I'm in the car, so I always have one available (now, on my iPod.)

If you haven't experienced audiobooks, I suggest you give them a try. If you don't want to try this one, I have several other favorites I can recommend. But, if you haven't read Roll of Thunder, I'd also highly recommend that you read it. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry would be a great book to read along with your children.

Share one of your cherished book memories!

You can do a Monday Memories post on your blog. Copy my button and link back here, so others can see all the other posts.  Leave a comment below with the link to your post.

Or, just leave one of your Monday Memories right here in the comments.

Be sure to visit some other blogs that have posted their links. Thanks!






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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stacking the Shelves - A Few Worth Noting!


I got a few books that I'm excited to tell you about! And I'm always looking forward to seeing what you have received too, so leave me a link!

For Review:
Touched, by Cyn Balog, from Random Buzzers
Isn't that a gorgeous cover?

Mystic City, by Theo Lawrence from NetGalley

Daughter of the Goddess, by Rita J. Webb from the author

Sheltered, by Debra Chapoton from the author

Thanks for visiting. Please come back soon! Make sure you visit Tynga's Reviews to see all the great blogs participating.




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Friday, August 24, 2012

TGIF: Reading Assignments for High School


Happy Friday everyone! Ginger's question is a good one for me, since I'm a high school librarian. I think about this quite often.


Back to School Reading: Which books would you like to see in today's high school Literature classrooms?

The first one that comes to mind is: Wonder, by R. J. Palacio. Actually, this should really be read in middle school, but I couldn't not mention it.










I think Want to Go Private? is a great book for lots of discussion too.











There are so many great, recently published book for teens. Sometimes I think English teachers only consider classics, and while that's OK, I wish they were more willing to explore some more recent books.

Great question. Thanks, Ginger. I know you are "taking a break" from this meme, but I hope to see it back soon! Hope you have a great weekend and thanks for stopping by!




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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Review: Guilty, by Norah McClintock

Guilty had enough unexpected twists and interesting main characters to keep me very interested.

Finn watches from his upstairs window as a man shoots his stepmother and Finn's father then shoots the murderer. That's the opening scene, and we are off and running.

Lila's father is the one who shot the stepmother. It just so happens that he also murdered Finn's real mother, and has just been released from prison for that crime.

The story alternates perspective between Lila and Finn. Guilty may be a bit predictable -- you know they are both going to try to figure out what happened and why. I had a pretty good idea of the real story from early on in the book, but I still didn't know it all. And even if you do think you know, it just helps you root for the characters to figure it all out.

There are some good adult role models, which always is uplifting to me. The police detective, the man who knew Lila's dad from prison, the manager of Finn's father's club, and Lila's aunt all help to bring some hope to this devastating story.

The pace is unrelenting, so there's no chance to get bored. The book is short, making this an excellent choice for reluctant readers. The main characters are a boy and a girl, which means this will appeal to both. Guilty is a twisted plot with some unexpected developments. There's a heart-pounding climactic ending, but it is also satisfying. I really enjoyed this quick read and can't wait to tell some of my teens about Guilty.

Published by Orca, April 1, 2012
ARC obtained from LibraryThing Early Reviewers
224 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 4/5




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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review: The Stone Girl, by Alyssa B. Scheinmel

I think I understand the response that The Stone Girl was intended to elicit, but this just wasn't the book for me.

The Stone Girl is about a girl, Sethie, with an eating disorder that gets worse and worse throughout the book. Not only does she have a problem with eating, but her self esteem issues make her perceptions of romantic relationships way out of whack too. The character and aspects of her personality are wonderfully portrayed, but not much happens during the entire book.

I didn't like the third person narrative. I couldn't relate to Sethie at all, and she felt very distant, like I couldn't get to know her. The book was very repetitive. I understand that Sethie kept telling herself the same things over and over, and this was probably intentional on Sheinmel's part, but it drove me crazy. There is one paragraph that says twice in the same paragraph how Sethie longed to be a "cool independent girl." This is an ARC, so some of the wording may change. It was like she had a mantra that she kept repeating. But, I also think I could have understood this literary technique if I were reading these thoughts in first person. Like they were HER thoughts, rather than someone telling me what she was thinking. Because if someone else is explaining it to me, then I don't need to be told twice within three sentences.

I didn't understand why Shaw, one of Sethie's love interests, was always cold. He always felt cold to Sethie. I kept thinking, "Wait, is this a paranormal story? Is he a vampire?" It didn't make sense.

I just don't have much positive to say about the way The Stone Girl was written. I must admit I skimmed the middle part, waiting for something to happen. I appreciate that Scheinmel had problems with an eating disorder, and I admire her for writing what probably was a very difficult story to tell. It just wasn't something that I could relate to given the style in which the story was told.

There is quite a bit of casual drug use and sex, so The Stone Girl needs to be saved for older teens who are OK with those situations. I would never discourage anyone from reading this, and I'm sure some will relate to this style of story telling better than I did.

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, August 28, 2012
eARC obtained from NetGalley
224 pages

Rating: 2/5




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Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: Bones are Forever, by Kathy Reichs @KathyReichs

While I enjoyed Bones are Forever,  it wasn't my favorite Tempe Brennan novel for one simple reason. The lack of forensic scenes.

My favorite thing about the Bones series is Tempe's character, and it shines in Bones are Forever. The banter between Tempe and Ryan was as entertaining as ever. Tempe's intelligence, diligence, and bravery (or is it stupidity?) is once again apparent.

This personality is why I like the books so much better than the Bones TV series. Tempe has a totally different personality in the TV series, which is enjoyable, but nothing like the Tempe in the books.

The plot in Bones are Forever is full of surprises too. We start with the discovery of three dead newborns, wrapped in towels hidden in the apartments of a woman called Amy Roberts. The investigation takes Tempe and Ryan to Canada and appears to involve diamond mining. You just never know where things are going to end up when Reichs is spinning a tale.

The only complaint I have is that Tempe didn't do enough forensic investigating in this one. She does a lot of detective work, and puts herself in life-threatening danger, as usual, but she isn't examining bones in the lab or dead bodies on the scene nearly enough. I enjoy all of that scientific stuff more than the ability to learn about diamond mining. While the latter is interesting, it's the former that sets the Bones books apart.

While there is some back story involving the characters that you will miss out on, it isn't necessary to read the series in order. I would recommend these books to anyone who likes a good "who done it." Kathy Reichs does have a following among the teens in my library, especially if they read her YA novels, Virals and Seizure, and then want more.

Published by Scribner, August 28, 2012
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
304 pages

Rating: 4/5




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Friday, August 17, 2012

TGIF - My Favorite Review....

Happy Friday everyone. This is a welcome weekend for me, having survived the first week of school. Always a crazy time, but this one was extra crazy. Let's thank Ginger for hosting this fun event. Here's the question:


Pimp Your Review: Feature a favorite book review you've written in the past that you feel deserves more love!


There are always some reviews I like better than others. Sometimes I just can't get the words to flow -- to say what I want to say. Sometimes a book is just so complex that it's difficult to not write a book about the book (see: Clockwork Angel). Sometimes it's hard to write from my perspective. Let's face it, I'm a 50 year old writing about YA books. Do I want to give my perspective, or tell you how I think teens will react? Usually I try to do some of both. With that said, a recent review that I think is pretty good is Throne of Glass. Hope you enjoy it.

Have a great weekend. Looking forward to reading some of your favorites.





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