Saturday, August 31, 2013

Stacking the Shelves - A Box of Review Books!

A couple times a year I get a box of review books from Library Media Connection Magazine. And this was the week!

For Review:
Antigoddess, by Kendare Blake

More Than This, by Patrick Ness

Sex & Violence, by Carrie Mesrobian

A Wounded Name, by Dot Hutchinson

I think these all look like they have potential, although I've never heard of the last two. Pretty excited about them though. How about you? Get anything exciting this week? Leave me some comments with new books I should know about. And don't forget to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews.

Enjoy your weekend and thanks for visiting.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday - My Forever Book

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

Happy Friday everyone! There were times this week that I wondered if Friday would ever get here -- thank goodness it did! Here's Parajunkee's and Alison's question for the week:

Q: If you could only have ONE – one book – for the rest of your life. Don’t cheat…what would it be?

Not that I'm a big fan, but I think I'd pick The Complete Works of Shakespeare. I mean, I want something that's going to occupy a lot of my time. There's a variety -- tragedy, comedy, poetry. So, I think that's what I would pick. Ask me tomorrow -- I might have a different answer....

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Review: The Bitter Kingdom, by Rae Carson @raecarson

What an amazing ending to an absolutely fabulous series! The Bitter Kingdom provides excitement, danger, and romance, and ties up the story very nicely.

Elisa is on a quest to save Hector, but the journey is anything but easy. The group overcomes hardship on top of hardship as they make their way to the capital of their enemies, the Invierno. They do eventually get there, but rescuing Hector and escaping proves to be dangerous and requires great strength, and power, from Elisa. Storm has grown and changed too, which adds to the excitement. I don't want to give specifics, but let's just say the excitement never ends.

Then, we are still only about halfway through the book. Because now Elisa's kingdom is under attack, and they must hurry back to try to save everything they've ever known.

In addition to excitement and danger, there's romance. Perfect romance. Just take my word for it. And there's humor, too. Elisa hates horses which provides some, and there's a new character who adds to the humor as well as the drama.

It's best if I don't say too much more. The resolution is pretty perfect, in my opinion. And, if you've read Girl of Fire and Thorns and Crown of Embers, I'm sure you won't be disappointed in The Bitter Kingdom. I have many students who can't wait to get their hands on this one, and I'm so glad they won't be disappointed.

Published by Greenwillow Books, August 27, 2013
eBook obtained from Edelweiss
448 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review: The Beginning of Everything, by Robyn Schneider

 The Beginning of Everything is a touching, thoughtful contemporary that I found easy to get immersed in.
I have to tell you a story. When I first requested this book, I was attracted to it because of the title and the cover. I rarely let this happen. I usually need to know much more about a title. And it figures that soon after I was approved, both of these things changed. Here's the cover I saw first:

And the title was Severed Heads, Broken Hearts. Severed heads? I really had to find out what that was about.

And you do find out about five pages into the story. But the term "Severed Heads" comes to mean something more later in the story.

Ezra has it all. He's a junior and a star tennis player. He has a hot girlfriend. Drives a sweet car. But Ezra believes that everyone is going to have a tragedy in their life -- a life-changing tragedy.

Ezra's tragedy happens when he finds his girlfriend in a compromising position with another guy at a party. He then leaves the party, and is the victim of a hit-and-run that damages his wrist and knee so that he will probably always use a cane and never be able to play tennis again.

When Ezra comes back to school his senior year, he redefines himself. He takes debate, and joins the debate team. There he hooks up with his old grade school friend, Toby, who he has pretty much dumped for the popular crowd. There's also a new girl who is in debate, and Ezra becomes attracted to her.

It is a struggle for Ezra to watch his old crowd as well as fit in with the new one. There are tense moments in both situations. But, there's also a lovely, realistic relationship developing between Ezra and the new girl, Cassidy. But Ezra knows she's keeping secrets. There's some reason she left her exclusive boarding school last year, but Cassidy isn't saying anything.

These teen characters really jump out and grab you. The situations they find themselves in mimic typical teen pressures and concerns. There is a big twist to Cassidy's mysterious story -- and I didn't see it coming.

I didn't like the way it ended. I understand the ending, and it was probably appropriate, but it's not the way I wanted it to end.

I recently read Beatle Meets Destiny and I found The Beginning of Everything to have a similar feel. A sweet, realistic teen romance about kids with some issues to deal with. I enjoyed both books very much. I think my teen contemporary fans will enjoy The Beginning of Everything and I'm anxious to hear what they think..

Published by Katherine Tegen Books, August 27, 2013
Ebook obtained from Edelweiss
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: Bones of the Lost, by Kathy Reichs

While Bones of the Lost is a great detective story, I didn't think it had the elements that make it the grimy forensic mystery that I crave from Reichs.

I love Tempe Brennan. I haven't read every book about her, but I've read most of them. In Bones of the Lost Tempe slowly pieces together a mystery about a young girl found dead on the side of the road. She's the victim of an apparent hit and run. The story has a lot of twists and turns, and did manage to surprise me.

But, what I love about Tempe is her forensic investigations, and Bones of the Lost barely delivered any of the scientific descriptions I have come to expect. Brennan goes to go to Afghanistan to exhume some bodies and does describe how you can tell the trajectory of a bullet through bone, but that's about it for the whole novel.

Yes, she's the one that figures out the mystery and makes the connections. But any detective can do that! I need her mucking around in a septic tank, like the early Temperance Brennan books.

I also missed Ryan, the love interest. The banter between Tempe and Ryan are some of the best parts of other books. Pete, the ex, is OK, but he's no Ryan. And the detective she's working with on this case, Slidell, has no personality whatsoever. He's just a filler character.

Bones of the Lost is a great story. It is fast paced, and well-written. It just didn't have the critical elements of a Tempe Brennan story, so I was left a bit disappointed. I think I need to go back and read some of Reichs' earlier stories that I fell in love with.

Published by Scribner, August 27. 2013
eBook obtained from Edelweiss
336  pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stacking the Shelves: Some Unknown Titles

Happy Weekend! We just finished our first "full" week of school and still having a hard time getting into a routine! But we'll get there... I received a couple of review books this week that I haven't seen much around the blogosphere.

For Review:
The Boogie Trapp, by Kerry Copeland Smith, from LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Countdown, by Michelle Rowen from NetGalley

That's it for me this week. I'm still wishing for more hours in the day to read all the great books that have come out, and the ones that I've wanted to read for so long. Oh well. I'll do the best I can. Please visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews and visit some other participating blogs. Thanks for stopping by, and come back soon.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: Crown of Midnight, by Sarah J. Maas @SJMaas

Love, love, love. That's the first thing I can think of when trying to review Crown of Midnight. See that cover? Yea, it's perfect.

Celaena just goes after it in Crown of Midnight. She's the royal assassin, so she's at the king's mercy, but she's very clever, and tries very hard to do what is right. Crown of Midnight is all about her struggle to do that. She's out to save the kingdom, and possibly the world.

I read a review that said they didn't like Celaena because she never killed anyone. Did you read the same book? Yes, there were times when she didn't kill when she was supposed to, but she definitely killed to defend herself and her loved ones several times. There is no better way to describe Celaena but to say "kick ass." I loved the description of the fight scenes. I'd love to see Celaena on the big screen with her knives and swords!

There's some progression of the story too. We find out some pretty important things about the king, Dorian, and Celaena. There's more than just fighting -- there's a story here. And I can't wait to find out how it all is resolved.

And the romance -- ohhhhh -- that's not to be missed either. I loved the ebb and flow of the relationships and am happy about how things are going, even if all is not resolved.

I guess if I had to come up with something negative, I'd have to say that there's quite a bit of magic in this one, and since fantasy elements are my least favorite, it was a bit much. But that's only if I HAVE to come up with something negative. Otherwise, I wouldn't have mentioned it because it's really a personal thing.

Not only would I recommend Throne of Glass, I would highly recommend the 4 novellas that are prequels to that one. Then, you must continue with Crown of Midnight. This is definitely a must read series -- and I can't wait to continue to shove these books at my teens!

Published by Bloomsbury USA, August 27, 2013
eBook obtained from NetGalley
432 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Audio Book Review: A Brief History of Montmaray, by Michelle Cooper

While it took me a while to get into A Brief History of Montmaray, by the end the book had totally sucked me in.

Montmaray is a tiny island kingdom in the middle of the Bay of Biscay. The only people on the island are Sophie FitzOsborne (our narrator), her sister Henri, and her cousin Veronica who are all princesses. Uncle John is the king, who is confined mostly to his bed and out of his head. And the housekeeper, who doesn't keep much house.

The FitzOsbornes are poor and the castle is falling down. There are only a few people left in the village. Much of the book is just an account, via Sophie's journal, of the daily struggles of living in this leaky castle. Candles must be rationed, as well as food. They definitely don't live like royalty! The heir to the throne, Sophie's brother, is away at school in England. Aunt Charlotte also lives in England and is in charge of the family and what little money they have.

It's 1936-37, and tensions are high in England, France, and Germany as Hitler's influence is being felt. It's hard for the FitzOsbornes to understand what is going on from so far away and with what little contact they have with the outside world. But one day, a German scientist and his assistant land on the island, and Sophie and Veronica realize that it's possible that danger has come to them.

And it has. Once they start interacting with their visitors, the plot begins to move. There are a few deaths that really change the course of events. The descriptions of the island, and especially the cold rain and wind had me shivering.

I think I liked the characters and the setting of A Brief History of Montmaray the best. The story was OK, but only because of the vivid descriptions.

The audio version was very good. I really enjoyed the voices that  Emma Bering, the narrator, created for the characters. Until about halfway through the book, I thought I wouldn't be picking up the sequel. But I came to love and care for the characters, and now I want to know what happens to them since the upheaval at the end of A Brief History of Montmaray. The second book, The FitzOsbornes in Exile and the third The FitzOsbornes at War are already available -- so no waiting!

I would recommend this a bit carefully to several of my teens that I know would enjoy the history, the excitement, and especially the vivid characters in A Brief History of Montmaray.

Published by Knopf BFYR, 2009
Audio book obtained from the library
304 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Book Review: Beatle Meets Destiny, by Gabrielle Williams

What a sweet, romantic book. Beatle Meets Destiny is not your cookie-cutter romance book, and it left me with a good feeling.

Beatle (real name John Lennon) is superstitious. And, when he starts up a conversation with a girl at a bus stop on Friday the 13th, he knows something is bound to go wrong. The girl's name is Destiny (last name Mccartney!) so that's a sign, right?

And Beatle is a twin. But Beatle was born in December, and his sister, Winsome, was born 45 days later--in February.

Beatle and Destiny really hit it off. There's only one problem. (Well, there turns out to be more than one, but this is the big one.) Beatle has a long-term girlfriend who he really likes. But he really likes Destiny. The overall plot of Beatle Meets Destiny is Beatle trying to deal with his guilt, and deciding what to do about his relationships with these girls. It just gets more complicated. Beatle's English teacher is Destiny's brother. Beatle's girlfriend is Winsome's best friend. And it gets even better, but I'll leave that for you to find out.

There are so many quirky details and colorful characters that make Beatle Meets Destiny stand out. The twists and turns make an already short book go by quickly. You will laugh out loud at some of the banter between Beatle and Destiny. There are just so many good things about this book. This easily could have been one of my Books You Can Read in a Day, but work got in the way, so I didn't quite make it.

I have to get on my soapbox for a minute. *steps up* I have read so many comments about books involving "cheating" that indicate people won't read books that deal with this topic. First of all, this one is about teenagers, and come on, you can't expect this not to happen. But even if it's a married couple, this topic doesn't turn me off. We all read books where morally inappropriate things go on. Ever read a murder mystery? A book about people who steal things? These are the topics that make books interesting. And even if you are appalled by infidelity in real life (as I assume you are about murder, etc.), why would you pick that one type of indiscretion to keep you from reading some really good fiction? Remember -- it's fiction -- meant to arouse your emotions...*steps down*

Beatle Meets Destiny wraps up with a hopeful, feel-good ending. And, like I said, the journey to get to the ending is unique and delightful.

This is a great book that I've had in my library for a while. But now I'm excited to recommend it to a whole bunch of teens that will really enjoy Beatle Meets Destiny. 

Published by Marshall Cavendish, 2010
Copy obtained from the library
340 pages

Rating: 5/5

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