Saturday, June 29, 2013

Stacking the Shelves: An Awesome Win!

It's so much fun when you get books that you've won in the mail! Here's what happened this week:

The Way We Fall, by Megan Crewe

The Lives We Lost, by Megan Crewe

I won both of these from the publisher, Disney/Hyperion, as a giveaway during Armchair BEA!

From the Library:
My Life Next Door, by Huntley Fitzpatrick

So that's all for me this week, but that's plenty. I seem to be occupied with so much other stuff this summer that my reading pace has slowed! I need more hours in the day. (I say that all the time, but it never seems to happen.) Please visit Team Tynga's Reviews, the host of this wonderful fun. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you come back soon. Leave me a link so I can visit your pile!

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday - Preferred Formats

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Happy Friday! Hope you enjoy your weekend. Today's Feature & Follow question from Alison & Parajunkee is:

Q: What is your preferred reading format? Hardcover, eBooks, paperback etc?

Nothing feels better that a solid harback book in my hands. I love the feel and smell, so I guess that will always be my favorite.  However....eBooks have to be a very close second. That hardback doesn't fit so well in my purse. And I can't pull it out and read while I'm standing in line. I love my Kindle and could never live without it!

How about you? Leave me your link so I can check out your answer. Thanks for visiting!

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Audio Book Review: The Sandalwood Tree, by Elle Newmark

The Sandalwood Tree is a very interesting historical tale of India in the 1940s (and the 1850s).

Our main character Evie goes to India with her husband who will be interviewing the native population as they are released from British rule. Evie is hoping that this trip will reunite her relationship with her husband, who has suffered from PTSD (although it's not called that) since he fought in WWII in Germany.

They bring their 5-year-old son with them. They live in a bungalow in a small town in a remote part of India. In the bungalow behind a loose brick, Evie finds a packet of letters that have been written between two women beginning in 1857. They are both British women and one of them lived in the bungalow in India.

Evie slowly pieces together the story of these women, and at the same time tries to figure out what she can do to help her husband. She's an unconventional women in India -- wearing pants and not associating much with the British elite in the country. She enjoys learning about the Indian culture, teaching English to the native children, eating the native food and learning their customs -- unlike most of the British.

The stories have some parallels, since there was an Indian uprising in 1857 during the time of the letters, and now that the British are leaving, there is violence among the Hindus and Muslims, who are being forced to separate into two countries -- India and the new Pakistan.

The Sandalwood Tree is a story about family and romance. There are lessons about bigotry and acceptance. People die. Even the 5-year-old has something happen to him, so there's a lot going on. Evie traces a big family secret about the women in the 1850s all the way to the present time, and you feel such a sense of triumph when she finally pieces it all together.

The Sandalwood Tree is pretty slow and meandering, especially at the beginning. But the details are rich and you will be rewarded if you stick with it.

Since I listened to the audiobook, I was easily kept enthralled in the story. Justine Eyre, the narrator, does a brilliant job with all the accents and voices. Nothing over the top, but easily distinguishable -- and this is no easy task, with all the different characters from many different places.

If you are at all interested in India, The Sandalwood Tree is highly recommended. I think it would be a great book for book club discussions. I would love to be able to discuss some things with someone! While it is a bit long and detailed, teens who are interested in the subject will also enjoy The Sandalwood Tree.

Published by Atria, 2011, Tantor Media for the audiobook
Copy obtained from the library
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Bloodrose, by Andrea Cremer

After getting through a frustrating first 200 pages, I really enjoyed the rest of Bloodrose.

Bloodrose is supposed to be about the war against the Keepers and building an alliance between the Guardians and the Searchers in order to win this war. And, eventually it was. But the first part emphasized nothing but the love triangle. Ren or Shay? Shay or Ren? I got really tired of Calla's moaning and complaining about her decision. Even the first "battle" episode was so dull -- it didn't make my heart pound or make me tense at all. Then, it seems all the other characters start matching up romantically, and really, it was all I could take. After about 175 pages, I decided to skim. I just wanted to know the outcome. I didn't really care how we got there.

Then, at around page 200, things started picking up. The tension builds and we actually get some thrills and some tense moments. Again and again. The focus shifts to the war, and I really began to get into Bloodrose (finally.)

Because it had been so long since I had read the previous books, Nightshade and Wolfsbane, I forgot some of the characters and their roles. I got confused whose on which side, but it didn't really matter. The basic plot makes sense, even if I'm not always sure who is speaking and "what" they are.

Bloodrose gets my vote for one of my favorite endings EVER. I don't think the ending could have been more perfect, and it really surprised me.

So, I have mixed feelings about Bloodrose. I almost gave up, but I'm glad I didn't. I enjoy a good love triangle, but I really thought Bloodrose lost focus for a long time at the beginning. However, the plotting, action, and creativity of the last part of the book really makes up for the loss of focus.

There's no reason I can think of that you shouldn't read the finale of the Nightshade trilogy if you've read the first two books. You simply HAVE to find out what happens. It's a doozy. And, I really liked the first two books even better than Bloodrose, so you should get started if you haven't.

Published by Philomel, 2012
Copy obtained from the library
406 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Sylo by D. J. MacHale

While Sylo intrigued me with an interesting premise and an exciting ending, I did have some problems with it.

Tucker lives on Pemberwick Island off the coast of Maine. It's a vacation spot, but Tucker is a full-timer. Tucker is a freshman football player who sits the bench until the star player drops dead at the end of a football game. The autopsy gives no indication of why he died.

Now Tucker is thrust into a starting situation, and there's no way he can compete. A strange man offers Tucker a supplement -- that is supposedly totally natural and safe -- to help him with his football prowess. Tucker takes the supplement one time, and although it does make him much stronger and faster, he vows never to take it again for fear it is harmful. Tucker believes this substance, called Ruby, is what killed the football player.

Tucker and his friend Quinn often take midnight bike rides around the island. On one of these rides, a mysterious dark shape appears in the sky and they hear strange music. This craft is apparently shot down right in front of them. They report the incident to the police, but nothing is ever discovered about this incident.

The island is eventually quarantined by a branch of the U. S. military called Sylo. The claim to mean no harm, but they are sealing the island because of a mysterious virus. The CDC comes to investigate. Tucker wonders if the virus is somehow related to Ruby.

The citizens aren't buying the quarantine, mostly because they have been cut off from communicating with the mainland too. They don't understand why.

Tucker, Quinn, and a girl named Tori begin to sneak around to figure out what has really happened. They witness horrible things and realize they are being lied to. MacHale isn't afraid to kill people off. I liked the characters and their interactions, but Sylo is more about the action and the plot than the characters. There's the possibility of a romantic relationship, but nothing really happens in Sylo, so male readers don't have to worry about that!

My first issue with Sylo is that it's pretty bloated. I usually don't read the blurb on the book before I start reading. But, Sylo took so long for anything to happen that after about 50 pages, I looked at the back to determine what this book is about. It's 80 pages before the island is actually quarantined. Even after the quarantine, things move very slowly until the last 150 pages when things really pick up. At over 400 pages, some of this bulk could have been cut down.

Also, there are several things that Sylo does that don't make sense. They randomly capture citizens and incarcerate and interrogate them. It's explained a bit at the end, but it didn't really satisfy me. Other things (that would be spoilers) made me think, "No way. That's just not the way it would happen." I suspect the younger teen audience that Sylo is written for would probably have less trouble than I did with the "believe-ability" aspect.

The ending is very tense and exciting. Not much is resolved -- so be prepared for a huge cliffhanger. The next book, Storm, doesn't release until March of '14, just so you know. And it's a trilogy, so you can probably expect another cliffhanger from the second book too. I think kids who are willing to make the effort will really like Sylo. I just wish it wasn't so thick -- and unnecessarily so -- because many won't even pull it off the shelf when they see the thickness of the spine.

Published by Razorbill, July 2, 2013
eARC obtained from LibraryThing
407 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Stacking the Shelves -- Summer Fun!

I love having more time to read during the summer. It gives me the opportunity to just grab some books from the library or the store that I've wanted to read for a while. Here's what I've managed to procure this week.

For Review:
Already read it. Loved it. King has done it again!

From the Library:
The Madman's Daughter, by Megan Shepherd

The Chalice, by Nancy Bilyeau, eBook
I loved The Crown. More people should read these books!

Hope you had a great week. I can't wait to see what you received that I need to add to my list. Leave me a link! And, make sure you visit Team Tynga's Reviews to see all the participants!

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: The 9th Girl, by Tami Hoag @TamiHoag

The 9th Girl kept me guessing at the mystery until the very end. That is saying a lot when it comes to a mystery.

Kovak & Liska are the two detectives who have been investigating what could be a serial killer in the Midwest. They find what may be the 9th victim on New Year's Eve in Minneapolis. She was brutally disfigured by acid and apparently accidentally fell out of a trunk on the freeway where she was run over and killed.

These murders have all taken place on or near a holiday, giving the potential serial killer the name "Doc Holiday." We eventually get to see the perspective of the serial killer, which I really liked.

Liska's son goes to school with the dead girl, and was at the same club as she was before she went missing. The girl was a misfit and was bullied, as is Liska's son. The investigation into the possibility that this girl was the victim of one of these vicious high school students adds much intrigue to the story. Liska is a single, working mom and we can't help but be sympathetic to the difficulties that brings. She's honestly worried about her children and the effect her absence has on them. So part of the book is her contemplating if she needs to be reassigned to a less demanding department. She and Kovak have a strong personal relationship that shines through these pages, so that difficult decision is also easy to empathize with.

It is always helpful when the personalities of the investigators is as important as the solution of the case, and that is what we have in The 9th Girl. I found it difficult to put down, and I felt not only tension about the murders, but I grew to care about the main characters.

The 9th Girl is a great mystery, even if not a stand-out. While I won't remember this story forever, I did thoroughly enjoy it. Truthfully, I think that's the way I feel about most mysteries. And, like I said, the resolution surprised me. Maybe I'm slow, but I didn't see it coming. This is an easy, fast-paced book that I would not hesitate to recommend to my teen mystery fans, as well as adults. I have a few Tami Hoag books in the library already, and I think The 9th Girl would be a great addition.

Published by Dutton Adult, June 18, 2013
eARC obtained from NetGalley
416 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review: Golden, by Jessi Kirby @JessiKirby

Note: I read Golden for free online from The free books are available for a limited time, and I only had two days to read Golden. I read it on my iPad and found the pulseit reader to be easy to use. I'm not sure how often they offer books to read for free, but I recommend checking it out!

I really enjoyed the characterizations in Golden, but I had difficulty believing a major revelation towards the end of the story.

Parker is a perfect student and a perfect daughter. She found out that she's a finalist for a 4-year scholarship to the college of her choice. All she has to do is write a speech and win the scholarship, and all her dreams will come true.

The scholarship is given in honor of two high school seniors who died 10 years ago in a tragic accident on the night of their graduation. Neither body was ever found, assumed to have washed down the river into a very deep lake during a freak late winter storm.

Parker is a TA for one of the English teachers. Every year this teacher assigns the seniors a final project where they write in a journal about their hopes and dreams for their future. One of Parker's assignments is to mail the journals from ten years ago to all the students who wrote them. No one has read the journals since they were sealed into their envelopes. When Parker finds Juliana's journal, she doesn't know what to do. Juliana is the girl who died in the car accident ten years ago along with her boyfriend. Juliana's family has since moved away. Parker is irresistibly compelled to read the journal and find out if there are any clues to what happened to Juliana and her boyfriend. She feels bad about invading those private thoughts, but not bad enough to stop reading.

Parker kind of becomes obsessed. She eventually lets her friend Kat know about the journal. Parker is also becoming restless. We see her change, partly because of what she is reading in the journal, and partly because she sees the end of her high school career, and possibly her chance with Trevor -- the guy who has been flirting with her for years. Maybe she should give Trevor a chance, and maybe she should be a little more adventurous like Kat wants her to be.

Golden is a book about self-discovery. It does contain a road trip, but only for about 30% of the book, and there's so much more. I loved Parker's growth. I loved Kat -- what a great best friend -- one who allows Parker to be herself, but still pushes her to break the mold that she has squeezed herself into. There isn't a huge amount of romance in Golden. But the slow and sweet, if a bit choppy, relationship that Parker develops with Trevor is an important part of Golden.

So, Parker does solve the mystery about the accident ten years ago. I really didn't like the answer to this mystery. I didn't buy it -- but I understand how it made Parker's story so easy, so I get why Kirby did it. Sometimes you have to suspend some disbelief and quit asking questions about how this could happen and just go with it. So I did.

Golden is a great contemporary that teens will really enjoy. There are a lot of interesting characters here, and I haven't mentioned everything that enriches the plot. Like the art. And Parker's mother. And the speech. And Orion. I could go on, but just let me say Golden is worth the read, and I will be happy to recommend it to my contemporary fans.

Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, May 14, 2013
eBook obtained from
288 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stacking the Shelves - Second Vacation Week

I just got back from vacation, so I once again don't have much to report except an ebook and one that was in the mail. I need to get to the library and the book store SOON!

For Review:

The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon, from NetGalley

Sylo, by D.J. MacHale from Library Thing Early Reviewers

How about  you? Anything exciting come into your hands this week? Let me know in the comments, and I hope you come back to visit soon. Please remember to visit Team Tynga's Reviews, the host for Stacking the Shelves.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Book Review: The Tragedy Paper, by Elizabeth Laban

The excellent use of foreshadowing keeps you turning the pages of The Tragedy Paper. The goal is to figure out what tragedy happened last year and how it affected the characters.

The tradition at The Irving School is that the past years' seniors leave a gift for the new seniors in their rooms. When Duncan arrives at school, he gets what is considered the worst room. But he is left a bundle of CDs from the previous tenant, Tim Macbeth, that tells the story of "what happened last year" and also convinces Duncan that this room might not be so bad. Tim also happens to be an albino, which contributes to the ending but just seemed sort of random to me. I really think there should have been some more impact to his daily life because of his condition.

The senior English assignment is to write a Tragedy Paper, relating a real-life event to the literary tragedies. It's nice how this assignment parallels our unfolding story. The other part of the story is that every year the seniors plan a secret "game" to culminate their year. As we get closer to the end of the story, it is fairly obvious that last year something happened at this game.

While Duncan is listening to the CDs, he's also attending classes, re-kindling a relationship with a girl, and helping to plan this year's game.

I wanted to know what happened to Tim and his friend, Vanessa, as much as Duncan did. I thought Laban did a good job of letting go of just enough of the story to keep you interested. I just didn't think the tragedy was all that tragic. The end kind of fizzled for me, and looking back on the story, I don't think The Tragedy Paper will stick with me for long.

I enjoyed the reading experience, and I can still recommend The Tragedy Paper to some select students, but I wouldn't say it stands out.

Published by Knopf BFYR, January 8, 2013
Copy won from RandomBuzzers
304 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3/5

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review: The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave provides a take on an alien invasion that is unlike any other plot I’ve read. It kept me on the edge of my seat and also a little bit uncomfortable thinking about the possibilities.

Humans are dying. The human race appears to be coming to an end, since the alien spaceship appeared in the sky five months ago. Cassie thinks she may be the only human left – or at least one of very few – and she can’t trust any other supposed humans, since they may be aliens, and there’s no way to tell.

As Cassie goes about trying to survive and relocating for the winter, she gives us the story of the invasion and the first four waves of destruction in flashbacks.

Cassie gets shot, and almost dies but is saved by Evan. He lives on his farm, and has held up surprisingly well by hunting and using the stockpile of food that his mother provided. But Cassie is determined to make it to Wright-Patterson because that’s where they took her little brother. The army  gathered up all the small children to take them there to safety. And, what Cassie knows, but not everyone does, is that they are killing all the adults left behind. But she doesn’t know why.

Meanwhile, Ben has been recruited by the army at Wright-Patterson, and is being trained to be a soldier to fight the aliens. The training is brutal, and not many kids will qualify to actually graduate. Unbeknownst to Ben, the 5-year-old trainee that he’s taken under his wing is Sammy – Cassie’s brother.

And all that plot I just described – let me just say NOTHING is as it seems. That’s my favorite thing about The 5th Wave. I got surprised. I didn’t ever know what was going to happen. Everything seems so hopeless most of the time. And anytime you feel a little hope, Yancey just yanks it away in the next chapter.

I was riveted the entire time. I didn’t think there was ever a dull spot in The 5th Wave. The ending was literally heart-pounding – and more than once! There is a resolution to this part of the plot. They escape (and I won’t say who or from what) but everything is NOT OK. There’s more of the story to tell – unless you think the aliens are just going to win. Otherwise, there needs to be another book!

The 5th Wave is definitely plot driven, and I like it. Yes, we get to know a few characters, but it’s mostly the action that keeps you reading – and that’s OK. The 5th Wave is an excellent action-packed book.

I can recommend this to a lot of teens. It’s a bit long for a reluctant reader, but if I could get them to start it, I think they will be hooked. I’ll be passing this one around freely come next fall when school starts.

Published by Putnam Juvenile, May 7, 2013
Copy purchased
457 pages

Rating: 5/5

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