Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: Dying to Know You, by Aidan Chambers

I'm not sure how to categorize Dying to Know You. It's a contemporary, but after that....? I guess the best assignation is "coming of age" because the characters do grow quite a bit, and that's the main outcome of Dying to Know You.

The narrator is an elderly author who is never named. His doorbell rings one day and a young man, Karl, asks him for help. Karl's girlfriend, Fiorella, has asked him to write the answers to 50 questions, so she can get to know him better. What she doesn't know is that Karl is dyslexic, and writing is almost an impossible task for him. So Karl goes to Fiorella's favorite author to ask him to help Karl write his answers.

Things don't go as planned, of course. The story moves at a steady, although somewhat slow, pace. There are some unexpected twists, but this is a contemplative story -- no "shockers" here.

Dying to Know You is a lovely story, and it's beautifully written. I never really wanted to put it down, but I did become a little impatient to know, "When is something going to happen?" Well, it's not about what happens, it's about the effect on the characters. Karl is trying to find out why we are who we are. He's dealing with the death of his father and trying to build a relationship with Fiorella. The way it all turns out is very special, and that's all I'll say because I don't want to give specifics.

A couple of irrelevant comments: I don't know where the title came from. Also, Karl loved to fish for trout. I guess that's what translated to goldfish on the cover. (Although it is a really cute cover.)

My teen book club is reading Dying to Know You for February. This is one of the few books we've read that I haven't suggested -- they picked it. I can't wait to hear what they have to say. I see Dying to Know You as having limited appeal to teens. I know teens that will read it, but I don't think it will be picked up by many of them. Good thing it has that cover -- that will help.

Published by Amulet Books, April 1, 2012
Copy obtained from the library
275 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3/5

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why I DNF Hysteria, by Megan Miranda

While I wouldn't consider Hysteria a horrible book, it just wasn't the book for me.

From very early in the book, it is clear that Mallory killed her boyfriend. We aren't sure exactly why, but slowly we discover that he was domineering and since it was ruled self defense, we assume he got physical and attacked her.

Mallory is messed up (of course) and her parents are the absolute lamest parents I've read. Counseling anyone? Nope. They decide the best thing to do is send Mallory away to boarding school -- where she knows NO ONE. And, she's being harassed by the victim's mother -- enough that they've gotten a restraining order.

I read 50% of Hysteria, which is more than I usually give a book to draw me in. I didn't care at all about Mallory. I didn't understand her. Her delusions were confusing, and I was waiting and waiting for something to happen -- and it still hadn't by the half way point. We slowly get the story of the night of the killing, but the pieces are so small, and so confusing that mostly what I felt was frustration. I think the first half of the book should have been about one-fourth.

I have difficulty with books that I can't buy into the premise. The stupid parents almost turned me off Hysteria.  But, I persevered. Then the slow pace and the confusing things Mallory was going through sealed the deal. I gave up. I know the author intended the reader to be confused, but I didn't have the patience to wait it out.

The book is written well. I enjoyed the dialog and the developing relationships with the boarding school students. I just had trouble with the plot and pacing.

Published by Walker Childrens, February 5, 2013
eARC obtained from NetGalley
336 pages

Rating: DNF

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review: Flesh & Bone, by Jonathan Maberry @JonathanMaberry

I don't know how Jonathan Maberry does it, but he managed to keep me once again mesmerized by Flesh & Bone, the third book in the Rot & Ruin series. Ugghhhh. The action! The tension! The danger! I could not put it down. It just never stops, but yet there's enough character development and world building to make it all so real. Each book just keeps getting better.

This time, Benny and his friends aren't just fighting zoms, they find out more about this new world and realize there are factions of humans that are even more dangerous than the zombie threat. I like how the world is developing and the characters are figuring out more and more about different places and what is being done to save the humans and provide some sort of safety.

Flesh & Bone isn't just more of the same -- there are new characters, new world building, and plenty of new action, with lots of blood and violence. Parts of this were just creepy, and then other parts were, "OMG!"

Flesh & Bone has and ending that ties up the minor plot lines, but leaves the big stuff still open for the next book. And, as in Dust & Decay, there's plenty of emotion and heartbreak. Maberry isn't afraid to kill off his characters -- that's all I'll say. As you can see, I'm not telling you many specifics about the plot, and that is intentional. If you've read the first two books, you understand the world and what these characters are up against. Just suffice it to say, Flesh & Bones adds to all of the great aspects of the series -- characters, world-building and has significant plot developments.

Zombie lovers, you MUST read this series. I can't give you a reason to miss out. You need to read them in order, so start with Rot & Ruin immediately!

Published by Simon & Schuster, Sept. 11, 2012
Copy is a gift from my Secret Santa!
469 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Audio Book Review: The Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman

A unique premise, unique setting, and vivid characterizations all make reading The Light Between Oceans a wonderful experience. Or, maybe I should say "listening to," since I did listen to most of the book.

I think if there's a criticism of The Light Between Oceans, it will be the slow pacing, especially at the beginning. I'm very patient when I listen to audio books, so I enjoyed all the descriptions of the main character, Tom, his involvement in WWI, and his eventual employment at a light house off the coast of Australia. Being a "keeper of the light" in the early 1900s was certainly a difficult, but interesting career. Talk about lonely! These guys received supplies every three months or so, and got shore leave only every three years! It takes a unique person to sign up for this, and  that is why Tom, with his horrible experiences in the war, was well suited.

The story of how he meets his eventual wife, Izzy, is heartwarming, and their life together on the island is near perfect. All except for the fact that Lizzy has three miscarriages, which brings us to the heart of the story. When a small boat washes ashore with a dead man and a little crying baby, Tom and Izzy's lives change. Against Tom's better judgement and overshadowed by Lizzy's heartbreak over recently losing her third baby, they decide to keep this child and raise it as their own.

They are great parents, and Lucy, as they name the baby, lives a happy childhood. But as readers, we know this is a situation that simply cannot end well. And it really doesn't. And my heart just broke for everyone involved. For much of The Light Between Oceans I just couldn't figure out how ANYONE was ever going to be happy, and I didn't feel that any of them deserved to be punished, even though crimes were committed.

The resolution is as hopeful as it can be, and the ending brought lots of tears to my eyes (and I don't cry easily.) The journey to that resolution is filled with twists and turns, and Stedman does a great job of keeping you guessing at the outcome.

I had some difficulty with my download of the CDs so I had to request the printed form of The Light Between Oceans so I could read part of it. Then, at the end, I couldn't WAIT to find out what was going to happen, so I read the last 70 pages. My point is, the reading experience was just as fulfilling as listening, so I can recommend either way to enjoy The Light Between Oceans.

The narrator, Noah Taylor, does lovely accents for the characters, and for the most part I enjoyed the audio. However, he has such a dynamic range that the quiet parts were too soft. I had to turn it way up, and still paired with the accent, I sometimes couldn't catch what he was saying. I tried different equalizer settings, but nothing seemed to help.

I would highly recommend The Light Between Oceans to adult readers. I think mature teens might be interested too, although I would hand pick who I offer this to.

Published by Scribner, July 31, 2012
Copy obtained from the library (both audio and print)
343 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stacking the Shelves - A Low-Key Week

Not much to report this week, but never fear, that doesn't mean I don't have anything to read!

For Review:
Fuse, by Julianna Baggott, from NetGalley
I must admit that Pure was not my favorite dystopian, but I liked it well enough to read the next one.

Sky on Fire, by Emmy Laybourne from Around the World ARC Tours

From the Library:
Dying to Know You, by Aidan Chambers
My book club picked this one for our next meeting. I'm really looking forward to it.

Thanks again to Tynga's Reviews for hosting. I hope you guys got a lot of good stuff (always wanting to add to my list!) Leave me your link, and I hope you visit again soon.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Follow Friday -- Sleepless Nights

Hey! Welcome back. And happy Friday! I know I, for one, am very happy to be at the end of this week. Sometimes 4-day weeks seem so much longer than 5-day ones. I don't know why...

Anyway, Alison and Parajunkee have this week's Feature and Follow Friday question:

Q: What is the last book that kept you up late into the night just to finish it?

This is kind of a timely question, because last Sunday I did a post about how I CAN'T stay up to read! No matter how hard I try and how exciting the book -- my body just goes to sleep. Here's where you can read my discussion about "Falling Asleep".  If you have any "tricks" for staying awake, let me know!

Hope you enjoy your weekend. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you come back soon.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: The Always War, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

At first, I thought The Always War didn't really have anything to do with the war, but I was quickly proved wrong.

Tessa is excited to see the latest war hero, Gideon, receive his medal. Gideon grew up in the apartment next to her and they played together as children. When Gideon refuses to accept the medal, claiming he is a coward, Tessa can't help but try to find out why.

The war, which apparently takes place between a future eastern United States against the western United States, has been going on for generations -- apparently hundreds of years. Society is poor and everything is run down because all the money is going towards the war.

Gideon returns home, broken and ill, and Tessa sneaks in to help him. She follows him, as he escapes, and they end up on an airplane, flying into enemy territory, because Gideon wants to apologize to the enemy for killing so many of them. They soon discover there's a stowaway, Dak, who is there to protect the stolen, black-market airplane.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot. These three unlikely heroes have an adventure and do some interesting problem solving that changes the world. It is a bit unrealistic, but entertaining if you allow yourself to go along for the ride. As usual, Haddix gives us much to think about and discuss--about war, it's causes, and the use of technology for decision making.

The Always War kind of reminded me of Ender's Game, although The Always War is much shorter and less complex. There's enough action in The Always War to keep reluctant readers interested, and with both male and female main characters, I think this will appeal to both sexes. The Always War is a short but entertaining, well-written, exciting book for tweens and teens.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2011
Copy obtained from the library
197 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: Prodigy, by Marie Lu @Marie_Lu

Oh, Prodigy, you definitely did not disappoint. I don't know why, but I really connected with the characters in Legend (the first book), as well as the writing, and plot, and Prodigy just kept me enthralled from the first page to the last.

This is a book about Day and June -- the characters that I connected with on such an emotional level in Legend. So, of course I loved this book. Not to mention that there's lots of action and danger and fighting and surviving that also kept me going.

We get to leave Los Angeles and travel to other cities in the Republic. There are some new characters to love (and hate) and Day and June are never safe. They are always trying to figure out who they can trust...and all the way to the end, we still aren't sure. That's another reason I love these books. The characters really have to fend for themselves, and each other. They really watch out for each other, because they really don't have anyone else to trust.

There's a romance that continues to bloom between our two main characters, but they both are conflicted at times with other interests involving the opposite sex. I wouldn't really call it a love triangle, though.

For a second book, there's lots of plot. Prodigy isn't a "filler." We learn a lot about the Empire, the Colonies, the Patriots, and much about the origin of the conflict is revealed. At the end, we hope that Day and June are in a position to better the lives of the people, but there's also a shocking revelation.

I, of course, can't wait until the next book in the Legend Series. I must find out what happens! Anyone who enjoyed Legend will love this one, and the sooner the better. If you haven't begun the series yet, I highly recommend it. Some would say there are some formulaic elements, but the characters are what grabbed me in Prodigy, as they did in Legend.

Published by Putnam, January 29. 2013
ARC obtained from Around the World ARC Tours
371 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: As I Wake, by Elizabeth Scott

Rarely has a book kept me thinking, "What the heck?" as much as As I Wake did.

A girl wakes up in a strange bed, in a strange house, in a strange place. She doesn't even know what her own name is. She's lost everything. She screams, faints, and wakes up in a hospital with a person who claims to be her mother. Her mother calls her "Ava." Ava is told she has lost her memory, but the doctors don't know why. Ava thinks she doesn't even belong here.

She starts having dreams, which don't seem like dreams as much as memories. These visions are of herself and her "friends" in a different place, a different life. Many of the people she meets in this new life also exist in the other life. But they are very different, and that life is very different. Very harsh.

Ava begins to remember that she was a spy -- she was spying on someone named Morgan, and they end up in a forbidden relationship. Morgan appears to her in this new life, but he's not really supposed to be there. As you can probably see, there are lots of reasons to say, "What the heck?"

As I Wake kept my interest, mostly because I wanted to figure out what was going on. It was easy to read, and pretty fast-paced. I liked the way Ava analyzed the differences between the people in her old life and new life. She knew a lot about what was "inside" these supposed friends in her new life, because of the way they behaved in the other life. As I Wake did spark some emotions as I was reading. Along with frustration, there was a bit of horror at the conditions of the "other life" although this life is only vaguely alluded to in Ava's visions, so this didn't have as much impact as it could have. And, there is some sadness at the forbidden love aspect.

So, what is that other life? I don't know. That was never explained. I wanted to know more As I Wake is written like a science fiction, but there really isn't any science -- no explanation. There is a romance between Morgan and Ava that is kind of heartbreaking, but what happens at the end doesn't make sense. We were told this "something" isn't possible, and then it happens at the end of the book.

I was pretty confused through the entire book, and then I still felt mostly confused, or maybe I should say unfulfilled, at the end. I can say that As I Wake kept my interest, and I never wanted to stop reading. But after finishing, I was disappointed.

As I Wake wouldn't be the first book I'd recommend to my teens, although there are some I could hand pick that might like it. It's just a hard book to peg -- not really science fiction, fantasy, or horror - although VOYA put it on its "Best of 2010" list for those genres.

Published by Dutton Juvenile, 2011
Copy obtained from the library
269 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Do I Have Anything to Discuss? Falling Asleep

I keep reading this in your book reviews: "I stayed up until 3 a.m....I just couldn't put it down! Even though I had to go to work the next day..." Or, "I was so tense I couldn't wait to find out what happened, so I stayed up and finished the book."

Uuugggghhhh!!! How do you do that? Is there a trick? Please let me know. Because I read before I go to sleep pretty much every night .... and I can be reading something riveting... a "five hat" book, I can be at a tense, pivotal point in the plot. And still --- I find myself having "read" three pages that I don't remember. I wake up, realizing that I'm not reading -- I'm sleeping! But the book is so good, so I plod on. And, the next day I just have to read everything again because I don't remember it. No matte how bad I want to read, I can't. My body just WON'T stay awake.

I really WANT to stay awake. I have goals... but I can't keep them after my bedtime.

Am I alone? Do others have this problem? Even though you love to read, and are reading a really great book, do you fall asleep?

If you don't --- do you have any advice? Techniques? Tips? Especially when I DON'T have to go to work the next day, I'd really like to be able to stay awake to read! Help!

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Stacking the Shelves - A Fun One!

A mixed bag, this week. Some books I'm really looking forward to reading! And here they are:

For Review:

From the Library:
Before You Go, by James Preller

Between the Sea & Sky, by Jaclyn Dolamore

Thanks to Tynga's Reviews for hosting all of us. Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to stop by some of the other participating blogs!

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