Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Miss Fortune Cookie, by Lauren Bjorkman, @laurenbjorkman

Once in a while you just need a cute, feel good  book about friendship with a helping of romance.and Miss Fortune Cookie really satisfied my craving.

Erin lives in Chinatown, was born in China, and her best friends are Chinese, so she's very familiar with Chinese culture. She wishes she was really Chinese. She's also a senior in high school and she and her friends are waiting to hear about acceptance to college.

Mei and Erin were best friends until 8th grade, when Mei abandoned Erin. Only recently have they become friends again, because of their mutual friend, Linny.

Here are the issues in Miss Fortune Cookie:

Mei is hiding a boyfriend from her mother. Her mother is determined that Mei is going to Harvard (the #1 school.) Mei would rather not go to school away from her boyfriend. This conflict causes some drastic behavior from Mei.

Erin has a secret advice column, "Miss Fortune Cookie." (Her fortunes are some of the most entertaining parts of the book.)

Linny and Erin are going to Berkeley together -- or are they?

Erin develops a "love interest."

Erin and Mei try to rekindle some of their lost friendship.

Linny is deciding whether to have sex before she goes to college, even though she's not sure she is in love with her current boyfriend.

A little boy named Lincoln steals the show.

The Westboro Baptist Church is going to picket Lowell High School (the girl's school) and Linny is spearheading the demonstration against them. (This is the actually TRUE part of Miss Fortune Cookie!)

I enjoyed the Chinese culture, and especially all the discussion of Chinese food (made me hungry!) This is a great story of friendship and family with enough quirks to keep it interesting. The romance is heartwarming too. Middle school students could enjoy this one, even though the characters are older. I'll happily recommend Miss Fortune Cookie to my contemporary fans.

Published by Henry Holt & Co., November 13, 2012
Book won from Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf and the author (signed and personalized!)
288 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review: The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson

I must admit I'm a bit disappointed in The Madness Underneath. I had high expectations after enjoying The Name of the Star very much.

Rory is sent back to her school in London, hopefully to get her life more back to normal after what happened in The Name of the Star.

So she's back at school, and trying to fit in with her friends. She's feeling overwhelmed because she's so behind in her studies and exams are coming soon. She also reconnects with Stephen, Callum, and Boo, and that's pretty much the only time she feels useful. Although, she's very apprehensive about using her new power over ghosts.

For over half of The Madness Underneath, Nothing. Really. Happens. The paragraph described above takes up pretty much 50% of the book. Eventually, Rory convinces the secret police she works with that even though The Ripper may be gone, there are still dangerous things going on. And then Rory, herself, gets in danger, and the last 25% of the book is really exciting, and a bit sad (even if the whole set-up is based on a stupid, unrealistic decision that Rory makes.) The ending sets us up for the next book quite nicely.

The book is short, and that's to its credit, because if the first half had been, say, 250 pages, instead of the 150 pages it was, I would have given up. As it is, I'm still interested in continuing with The Shades of London series. I just hope for more thrills and action.

Published by Putnam Juvenile, February 26, 2013
eBook obtained from NetGalley
304 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review: When We Wake, by Karen Healey @kehealey

When We Wake has an interesting premise, and is somewhat horrific. Imagine waking up after being frozen for 100 years! Healey has managed to realistically portray the feelings and frustrations of this scenario.

It is 2027, and Tegan is so happy to finally have an official date with the best friend that she has been crushing on, even if it is just to attend a protest march. But, she never really gets to experience the actual date because she is shot and killed. The next thing we know, Tegan is waking up and it's 100 years later.

Both of these futures (2027 and 100 years later) are messed up. Global warming has had huge impacts on the environment and the way people live. When We Wake takes place in Australia, but this could happen anywhere.

Tegan is narrating the story--giving us her soul, as she puts it. As we jump back to her narration in the present, we realize that she is in more and more danger. And, as we read the story she is telling, the dangers are slowly revealed.  The way When We Wake  is told is very effective in building tension, sympathy for the characters, and compelling us to turn the pages.

There's the nice doctor that tries to help Tegan, who longs for freedom. Then there's the awful army colonel who wants to keep Tegan tied down and protected. After all the army paid for all of this. The question is, "Why?"

I didn't find the "why" mattered so much. The part that drove my interest is Tegan's and her soon-to-be romantic interest, Abdi's, need to be free and figure out what is so corrupt and wrong about this civilization. There's discrimination, border controls, religious fanaticism, terrorism, and government corruption. Tegan had hoped the future would be better, but she soon realizes all is not as perfect as it is supposed to seem.

Tegan is an interesting character. She's already tough in 2027, exploring with her friends, picking locks, free-running across buildings, and taking risks. This benefits her greatly in the future.  We don't get the usual "wimp becomes tough" scenario. Tegan is well equipped.

There are some twists and surprised in When We Wake, but the ending is fairly open to interpretation. And, for a book that will garner so much discussion, that's not a bad thing.

Teens who are fans of dystopian stories, or even contemporary fans could be pointed to When We Wake. It is a well-done, unique story that is hard to stop thinking about.

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 5, 2013
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine for review.
298 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: Insignia, by S. J. Kincaid @SJKincaidBooks

I usually am very entertained by the combination of teens and sci-fi, and Insignia was no exception. I had heard comparisons to Ender's Game (a definite positive) but while I agree, I also thought Insignia is an excellent story in it's own right.

We're fighting WWIII, but it's a war in space. The "face" of the war is Elliot Ramirez, the handsome warrior who sits at his computer and fights the enemy. Tom Raines spends most of his time playing video games -- trying to win money to support him and his alcoholic father. But Tom has caught the attention of General Marsh, who offers him a spot in the Intrasolar Fources (the army.)

Tom accepts, but when he arrives at the Pentagonal Spire (where he's to be trained and eventually fight the war) everything isn't as he expected.

The training and fighting parts of Insignia are compelling, but my favorite parts of the book are where the plebes (those kids in training) develop relationships. They are normal teens, playing pranks and teasing each other. I found the banter to be realistic, and it made me laugh quite a few times.

The pranking doesn't just stop among the plebes, though. They begin to get deeper into the technology. Secrets are revealed. They may even participate in some treasonous acts. Tom's friends are well-developed characters. There is enough mystery and surprise that I really had difficulty putting Insignia down. Good thing I had two snow days!

There isn't really any romance, but I think something could develop in the future books in the series.

There are some implausible events. The whole idea of what happened to Tom because of Dalton (no spoilers here) was a bit far-fetched. I think there would be some more safeguards in place. Also, the idea that corporations are controlling the war -- I don't know. I have trouble buying that they would have so much control over the military -- funding yes, but control -- could that really happen? Well, it gets me thinking, I guess.

Insignia is a complete story, but I'm very happy that this is a trilogy and I'll get to continue to participate in this war with these characters. My science fiction and adventure fans will definitely enjoy Insignia, and I"m going to start recommending it now. The second book, Vortex, comes out July 2. I'm putting it on my list.

Published by Katherine Tegen Books, July 10, 2012
Copy obtained from the library
446 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Other Side of Life: A Late Christmas Present



I'm using these posts to occasionally describe other things I enjoy (besides books.) I used to post these projects on my other blog, but I posted so seldom that I decided to include them here. Feel free to skip this one, if you are strictly in it for the books.

My son gave me a late Christmas present yesterday, and it was worth the wait. He's so talented -- I just had to show off his work.








His workmanship is beautiful. He's very particular. He made one of these for his dad too, and he told me, "His is 1/8 inch bigger than yours because I made a mistake cutting one piece. But I figured it out." Really? 1/8 inch??? I'm not that detail oriented.




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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stacking the Shelves: All E-Books

Welcome to the end of the week. Time to share all of the wonderful books we've acquired this week. Here's mine:

For Review:


Strands of Bronze and Gold, by Jane Nickerson, from NetGalley

Deep Betrayal, by Anne Greenwood Brown, from NetGalley
Sequel to Lies Beneath

The Eternity Cure, by Julie Kagawa from NetGalley

Purchased:
The Shoemaker's Wife, by Adriana Trigiani
I've already listened to this and loved it so much! When I saw it was only $2.99 for the eBook, I decided someday I want to read it again!

The Princess of Las Pulgas, by C. Lee McKenzie
This one was on my "long term" list, so when I saw the eBook was FREE, I grabbed it.

I know that mathematically, if I read 3 books per week, and acquire 5, that this is a no-win situation. But I can't help it!! Darn eBooks are so convenient. 

Here's the thing, though. I forget what I have. My paper books are on shelves and in stacks so I know what I have and kind of what I need to read soon. I've tried organizing my ebooks into folders, but that still doesn't help. So here's my plan. I'm going to print out a notebook-- a page for each book with a picture of the cover and a blurb. I will keep these on my shelves with my print books and that way I can fondle them like I do my books and see which ones say "read me next!" I'll keep you posted. What do you think? Do you have a way of keeping all your eBooks organized?

Make sure you visit Team Tynga's Reviews and hop over to some of the other blogs participating!





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Friday, February 22, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday: Book Gifts

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

Happy Friday everyone! Parajunkee and Alison have a good question this week:

Q: We always talk about books that WE want. Let's turn it on its head. What books have you given other people lately?


Hmm...mostly I give gift cards or give people books out of my library.

Here are some recent ones:

My Mom just finished The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake and loved it. I've never read it, but I've heard good things, so I gave it to her and she was not disappointed.

My son-in law-just bought Gone Girl with a gift card I gave him. I'm sure he'll like it. He also bought A Discovery of Witches, which I've never read so I'm looking forward to his assessment. 

I gave my husband Rot & Ruin out of the library so I can talk to someone about these books! I love this series! He hasn't started it yet....

I recommended The Light Between Oceans to my assistant, and she got mad because it made her cry...but she liked it.

My daughter wants to read Scarlet, because she loved Cinder, but it's checked out, of course, so she will have to wait.

One of my favorite things is recommending the perfect book for my friends and family (and my students!) I have one student that comes in and asks me for the next romance book -- she's loved everything I've recommended, so I'm a "sure thing" for her. I hope I can keep it up! (Pushing the Limits was my first rec, and we've just gone from there.)

Even though these aren't all "gift" books, I consider my recommendations  my gift!

Looking forward to your answers. Hope you have a great weekend. Mine has been exceptional (given we've had snow days Thursday and Friday, so it's a surprise 4-day weekend!) Leave me your link!




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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review: Beyond: A Ghost Story, by Graham McNamee

Beyond: A Ghost Story has in interesting premise and just enough creep factor to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Sara (she's called Jane in the blurb on the back of the book but Sara in the ARC) is recovering from a near-death experience. She still has the nail from the nail gun in her head. She was dead and brought back to life. Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend in Sara's life. She drank drain cleaner, grabbed a downed electric wire that was live, and almost got hit by a train before this most recent event.

The only person, besides Sara, who knows what is going on is Sara's best friend, Lexi. Sara is haunted by her shadow. At times, her shadow leaves her body and makes Sara do things to harm herself (like pick up a nail gun, hold it to her head, and press the trigger.)

Sara has nightmares and walks in her sleep. Her shadow sends her to places she doesn't understand. Throughout Beyond: A Ghost Story, Lexi and Sara try to figure out why Sara is haunted. There is a reason--this isn't just a random thing. I enjoyed how it all works out. McNamee has mixed the real with the supernatural in a very interesting way.

I did have to suspend some disbelief regarding the parents, doctors, and other adults, as is often the case. After all the things their daughter has gone through, she still manages to convince them that these are all "accidents???" Not likely.

Beyond: A Ghost Story is short, easy to read, and engaging. Something is always happening -- there isn't any down time. I can easily recommend this to reluctant readers who like ghost stories. Beyond: A Ghost Story isn't super scary, and is more suited to the middle school crowd or younger teens.

Published by Wendy Lamb Books, September 11, 2012
ARC obtained from RandomBuzzers
230 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: Fragments, by Dan Wells @TheDanWells

Whew! I felt like I was holding my breath through much of Fragments. I found the world and the characters just as captivating as in the first book, Partials

Where do I begin? Kira -- she's trying to stay away from Dr. Morgan, and trying to find a cure for RM, as well as the expiration date for the partials. She wants to save everyone, and this will cause her many problems. She leaves New York and ends up on an epic quest across the desolate country with some unlikely companions.

Meanwhile, Dr. Morgan is raising hell in New York trying to find Kira. Marcus is in New York trying to fight off the partials under Dr. Morgan's control. All the characters from Partials make an appearance: Haru, Isolde, Nandita, Ariel, and Xochi. And there's a beloved new character, Afa, whose quirks seemed really authentic to me, given the current status of this world.

So many secrets are uncovered about the partials, ParaGen, and the government that it's almost hard to keep track. The hardships that Kira and her crew face are unbelievably harrowing. I just cannot imagine suffering through what they did.

Just a note for you romance freaks -- you will be disappointed with that aspect -- not much happens. But a little bit -- that will need to be sorted out in the next book.

I can't really say more about the plot -- because it's just that good and you need to experience it first hand. Fragments is again, a very long book just like Partials, but I couldn't believe how fast my left had was holding a thickening stack of pages. There's no shortage of pace. I did think we visited the "other groups" (besides Kira's) a little too seldom. Kira's story was at the forefront, and when I was pulled from that point of view, I sometimes felt it took a while to remember what was going on in the new POV.

The ending of Fragments is unpleasant because I'm sure Mr. Wells isn't nearly ready to give us the next installment. And, ughhh, NOW what's going to happen. It doesn't seem like anything good, but I hope I'm wrong. Surely I'm wrong!!!

For fans of Partials, of course Fragments is a must read! And, for fans of apocalyptic/sci fi stories -- you need to get started on Partials so you can read Fragments. On your mark, get set....GO!

Published by Balzer + Bray, February 26, 2013
ARC obtained from Around the World ARC Tours
564  pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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