Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review: Inferno, by Dan Brown

Inferno delivers as expected. An intricate, artistic, and exciting adventure for Robert Langdon as only Dan Brown can create.

If you haven't read The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demonsor The Lost Symbol you should! But is isn't necessary to have read those to enjoy Inferno.

I loved this book. I'm just going to give you a few reasons why (really, why I love ALL of these books.) The writing is great -- very easy to read. The plot is great...the get the idea. But here's what's special:

These books make me want to travel. I have the illustrated editions of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, and they are great! The way Brown describes all the buildings and art, it just makes me want to see them in person. I've been to Venice (one of the stops in Inferno) and it was awesome to be able to picture these places. My husband read Inferno and actually looked many of the settings up on the internet while reading. These books kind of make me feel smart. And, they make me want to be smarter.

Langdon is a great sleuth. The clues are cryptic, and have to do with Dante's Inferno (which I now need to read). The way he deciphers the clues, step by step, is incredible. And, I like that he doesn't always get it correct the first time.

The ending of Inferno is totally unexpected. I really loved it, because Brown took a risk. And, as usual, there's a lot of food for thought here. Basically, the main premise of Inferno is that the world is becoming overpopulated, and if we don't do something about it humans as a species will become extinct. If that doesn't get you thinking....

Usually once a character has been depicted in a movie, when I read the book I picture the actor that portrayed the character in the movie. (Like Morgan Freeman for Alex Cross).  Even though I've seen The Da Vinci Code several times, for some reason, I kept picturing Harrison Ford instead of  Tom Hanks. Don't know why...

I recommend these books to everyone, from teens to adults. Inferno, as are all of the Robert Langdon books, is definitely worth your time.

Published by Doubleday, May 14, 2013
Personal copy
461 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Book Review: The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

If you like teen crime novels, you won't want to miss The Naturals.

I love reading about teens in the unlikely position of working for the CIA or the FBI. I know the situations are always contrived, but I like the different ways these kids end up in their positions, and The Naturals is somewhat unique in that respect.

Our main character, Cassie, is sought out by the FBI because she's a natural. They have discovered that she is a natural profiler. She has the ability to look at people and tell all about them (reminds me of Sherlock Holmes!) Something that FBI agents train for years to do is an ability that Cassie was born with.

So they recruit her to live and train in a house with other kids that have abilities similar to hers. There is another profiler, another teen who can tell if you are lying, one who can read feelings, and one who is a genius with numbers and statistics. A couple of them are male, so that adds some romance to the story.

These teens are training to work on cold cases involving serial killers, but of course they get involved in an ongoing investigation. Cassie has some added intrigue because her mother was brutally murdered several years ago, and the case hasn't been solved.

The Naturals is a very quick read, great for reluctant readers or younger teens. Some of the plot points are a bit contrived, but in this type of story all is forgiven. The Naturals is fun and pushes a variety of buttons - tension, romance, mystery, and adventure. I was surprised at the resolution of the mystery -- I didn't see that coming -- which makes it even better.

Published by Miramax, November 5, 2013
eBook obtained from NetGalley
320 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: Dare Me, by Eric Devine

While Dare Me kept my attention with no problem, I did find the premise to be a bit far-fetched at times.

Ben, along with his friends, Ricky and John intend to have the best senior year ever. They plan to do a daring prank every month and post it to YouTube in the hopes that these pranks will make them famous.

After the first prank, Ricky reveals that it was a test, and since they did so well, they have a sponsor that will pay them based on the number of hits each video receives. All they have to do is sign the contract. Which they do. Without reading it. You can probably see where this is going.

The pranks are all potentially deadly and most would say too risky. But they get lucky, mostly, and at least they don't get killed. The hits go up after each prank. The money is rolling in. But something is fishy about their sponsor. It doesn't appear that he really works for the outdoor company that he claims to represent. I really didn't feel the part about the bogus contract was necessary, except it did allow for a money angle. You see, these boys each in their own way really need money.

There are some secondary characters and story lines that really make Dare Me worthwhile. Ben has a sister in college who figures out Ben is doing this. His father has lost his job, and they must move. There's a homosexual relationship -- or at least a hint at one. There's a bit of a love triangle. Ben works with his childhood friend, Alexia, and he's head over heels for her. But she has a boyfriend and she shows up at work with bruises on her arm. Chantel, Alexia's friend, suddenly shows a romantic interest in Ben.

These boys are under a lot of stress. Ben's grades are suffering and his SAT score is horrible. His chances of going to college are fading away. John is up for a basketball scholarship, and with each dare he worries that he's going to get hurt.

The relationships and dealing with these stresses are what make Dare Me a rich story. It's more than just the dares. The actual story drug at times for me, mostly during the execution of the pranks. I really liked the way it all ended, though. While a bit over-the-top, it was exciting, and I appreciated the resolution.

I'll recommend Dare Me to teen boys without hesitation. (Not that girls won't like it, but they'll pick it up on their own.) I don't think they will feel the drag of the pranks as much as this old lady did. It gets harder and harder to get back my teen mindset. While the dares may be the teen reader's favorite part, I think they will also appreciate the relationships, just as I did. They may not realize it, but there are lessons to be learned here.

Published by Running Press Teens, October 8, 2013
Copy obtained from the publisher
334 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Wow. Have you ever had one of those weeks? One where you look at your calendar and think, this isn't going to be so bad, and then... I tell you what -- the last few days have about done me in, and I'm not even sure why. Let's just say I'm glad this doesn't happen often. Almost never.

Anyway, I usually post three book reviews a week -- once in a while I get four. This week, I had one lined up for Monday, and I haven't even finished a short book that I started on SATURDAY so I could post another review. I just can't seem to find time to read.

All of it isn't bad. I've had some time with my kids, and did some shopping, so I'm not saying that I'm miserable -- just BUSY.

The Cardinals play tonight -- so I'll be watching the game -- and reading during commercials. Tomorrow night I have a party. I many NEVER finish another book!!! (Sometimes that's how I've felt this week.)

Anyway, excuse the rant. But I couldn't stand being quiet for 3 or 4 days in a row! Wish me luck....

Go Cards! 

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review: The Darkest Path, by Jeff Hirsch

If you like books with non-stop action that keeps you on the edge of your seat, The Darkest Path might be just the book for you.

The United States has been split into two factions that are fighting a brutal war. The Federals are what remains of our traditional government after economic ruin has caused a split. The new faction, The Glorious Path, are led by Nathan Hill, a religious fanatic that demands his followers commit to The Path or be executed. As they take over more and more of the country, the movement gains strength.

Cal and his brother were taken from their family and forced to follow The Path six years ago. Cal ends up escaping, and the death-defying adventure begins.

The Darkest Path isn't big on character development. Yes, we get some back story from Cal, but the rest of the characters seem to just move the plot along. And the plot definitely moves! Younger teens, especially boys, will have difficulty putting The Darkest Path down after once picking it up. Cal ends up meeting different people as he struggles to return to his home, and each of these groups challenge him in a different ways. But there's always a challenge. And, yes, Cal gets a bit lucky some times, but hey, he's our hero. He also forms a relationship with a tough teen girl. But it doesn't really get to the point of romance.

And there's a dog! I'm a dog lover, and Bear really helped lighten the story.

I have one complaint about the pacing and the story. In the middle, Cal ends up with a group of spoiled, rich teens that have apparently no idea of what is going on in their country. Their rich parents have sent them to a safe mountain mansion, and provided military guards to ensure their safety.  Come on, really? When they find out Cal has been with The Path, they think it's cool and want to hear all about his exciting adventures. That would be like one of our teens today thinking it is "cool" to have been in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban and watching your comrades get blown up by IEDs. I was unable to believe that even teenagers could be that naive when obviously over half the country was being overtaken in a very violent war that had been going on for years.  Not to mention that this part of the story was pretty slow and without any action.  Fortunately, this part of The Darkest Path didn't last very long.

As a matter of fact, the entire story went very quickly. Hirsch is great at explaining situations and scenes, and that's why his books appeal to so many teens. So, while the story isn't perfect, I've no doubt it will have wide appeal, especially to younger teen boys.

Published by Scholastic, September 24, 2013
eBook obtained from NetGalley
336 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Stacking the Shelves - The Weeks Fly By!

It's hard to believe it is time for another Stacking the Shelves post. I feel like I haven't had any time to acquire new books, the weeks are flying by so fast! But I did manage to get one NetGalley request and one Edelweiss request approved:

For Review:
Sempre, by J. M. Darhower from NetGalley
This one just caught my eye on Netgalley. I mean, just look at the cover! On NetGalley and Amazon, the cover just says "Sempre," but other cover images like this one say "Sempre: Forever."  I know there's another book coming out besides this one, so maybe they have changed the title.

Morning Glory, by Sarah Jio from Edelweiss

So, what did you get this week? Let me know in the comments, so I can add to my list. Make sure you go visit Team Tynga's Reviews and check out some other participants. Thanks for stopping by.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday - Favorite Magazines

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Welcome to Friday! Hope you have a special weekend planned. To start it all out, how about some Friday fun? Here's Alison's & Parajunkee's question for the week:

What are some of your favorite magazines?

My favorite magazines have to do with my OTHER hobbies (not reading.)

I love to sew and I have an embroidery machine. So I enjoy reading Sew News Magazine, and Creative Machine Embroidery.

I also love to go camping in my RV, so I enjoy Trailer Life and Motorhome.

How about you? Are your choices as strange as mine? I just feel like I'm not the "typical" magazine reader. No People, or Glamour, or anything like that. Leave me a link and have a great weekend! Oh, and

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book Review: Reality Boy, by A. S. King @AS_King

A. S. King has done it again with Reality Boy. She always manages to write such authentic, realistic teen characters, but puts them in the most unusual situations. Even so, I never have difficulty getting sucked right into the plot as I do while reading some unlikely stories.

Gerald is famous (or infamous.) He's now 16, but when he was 5 years old he threw such violent fits that his mom wrote a letter and his family was on The Nanny, a reality TV show where some woman, posing as a nanny, came in and tried to help Gerald and his parents get control of their children. Gerald was so rebellious that he started pooping all over. The most famous scene is when he was caught on film pooping in the middle of the dining room table.

Eleven years later, he's known at school as "the Crapper." He has no friends, and is still seeing a counselor for anger management. Gerald's family is totally dysfunctional. I don't want to say too much about their problems, because part of the story is making those discoveries, but let's just say Gerald's behavior was rooted in some real heavy issues.

Gerald works at a hockey arena in the concession stand -- always at register #7. He has become very interested in the girl that works at register #1. He's been told by his therapist that getting involved with a girl is not a good idea, because girls will do things to make you angry. But, Register #1 Girl is becoming more and more friendly with Gerald, and he likes it.

The development of their relationship is priceless. It turns out Register #1 Girl has her own family issues, which helps Gerald realize that everyone else doesn't live the perfect life he thinks they do.

The relationship grows, and Gerald grows. It's a heartwarming transformation, and I really felt Gerald's struggles and setbacks as if they were my own. I really enjoyed the ending of Reality Boy...and that's all I'll say about that.

I don't really have a lot of "auto buy" authors, but I've learned that A. S. King is one of them for sure. I can recommend all of her books to teens as well as adults. Reality Boy is no exception.

Published by Little, Brown BFYR, October 22, 2013
ARC obtained from Around the World ARC Tours
353 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Audio Book Review: Enchanted, by Alethea Kontis

Anyone who loves fairy tales should thoroughly enjoy Enchanted.

Sunday is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. Her sisters are all named for the days of the week, and it seems as though they all possess personalities that match the familiar nursery rhyme:

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

They also seem to possess some fairy magic too.  When Sunday meets a frog in the woods who can talk, they become fast friends. Sunday even begins to love the frog as she visits him daily and tells him about her family.  As she leaves him one day, she quickly gives him a kiss and runs off, not realizing that she has changed him back into his original human form -- a prince, of course.

I loved the many, many references to different fairy tales. I wanted to keep a list, and see if I caught all of them. The story is cute, light, and entertaining. You can't take this story seriously; you must be in the right mood for Enchanted. The sisters all have unique personalities, as well as the mother (Seven) and the father, who is a woodcutter.

The narrator, Katherine Kellgren, is perfect. She has a British accent and adds just the right nuance to each character. I highly recommend the audio version of Enchanted.

The only reason I would point someone away from Enchanted is if they don't like fairy tales. For anyone who is in the mood for a book that will make you happy, spend a few hours with Enchanted. The second book in The Woodcutter Sisters, Hero, tells Saturday's story and was just released.

Published by HMH BFYR, May 28, 2013 (Brilliance Audio)
Audiobook obtained from Sync YA Literature
336 pages

Rating: 4/5

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