Saturday, March 30, 2013

Stacking the Shelves - I Love this Week!

I am especially excited about the books I managed to obtain this week. Here they are:

For Review:
Dare to You, by Katie McGarry from NetGalley
Chaos of Stars, by Kiersten White from Edelweiss
Dark Triumph, by Robin LaFevers, from Around the World ARC Tours

From the Library:
The Prey, by Andrew Fukuda

That's it for me. Can't wait for ALL of these books.  I hope you had a good book week too. Let me know in the comments. Thanks for dropping by. Make sure you visit our host, Team Tynga's Reviews, and see the other great blogs participating.





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Friday, March 29, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday: Emotional Books

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Happy Friday, and Happy Easter. It's also my birthday tomorrow, and I'm on spring break, so it's a great weekend for me!  Parajunkee and Alison want to know.....


Q: Tell us about the most emotional scene you've ever read in a book - and how did you react?


I don't know about just one scene, there have been quite a few of those, but I can tell you the BOOK that tore me apart. The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks. I've talked about this before in a Monday Memories post. I think I started crying at about page five, and didn't really stop until I closed the book. It made the book not that enjoyable. After that I read  Message in a Bottle and found that to be very sad too, so I quit reading Nicholas Sparks. I know, I've been told all his books aren't like that, but I just can't take it! I have never seen the movie The Notebook either. I'm just afraid to watch it!

So how about you? Are you an emotional reader? What type of book gets you going? Thanks for visiting. Be sure to leave your link in the comments and come back soon.




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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Audio Book Review: Defending Jacob, by William Landay

Defending Jacob was recommended by a friend as a book that was similar to Gone Girl. While I didn't really find that to be true, Defending Jacob is an interesting and twisted tale of murder.

Jacob Barber is a kind of a weird, misfit, 14-year-old kid. His father, Andy, is the assistant district attorney for a suburban area outside of Boston. When a classmate of Jacob's is stabbed and killed in a park on the way to school one day, all of their lives change forever.

Andy is in charge of the case. It is discovered that the murdered boy was bullying Jacob, and Jacob had purchased a knife. When some evidence is found at the scene that points to Jacob, Andy is quickly removed from the case, as well as his job, and he finds himself sitting at the table for the defense.

The story is told by Andy, as he is testifying before a grand jury. He tells the entire story, of the investigation, the trial, and the several months after the trial, as he is testifying. The reader never knows why Andy is testifying until the very end. The reader also doesn't know whether Jacob is guilty or not. Andy is adamant that his son is not a killer, but Andy's family history of murderers, as well as Jacob's evaluation by a psychiatrist have Jacob's mother, Laurie, doubting Jacob's innocence.

I found Defending Jacob to be a bit long, and too detailed. It was even repetitive in spots. This could be because I was listening to the audio, which admittedly takes longer than reading, but in this case, I really think the story could have been edited some more.

And, while there were some twists and unexpected events, I anticipated most of them well before they happened. I still enjoyed Defending Jacob, and the very end was not expected (the part about why he is testifying), so that helped.

The narrator, Grover Gardner, was very good. His voice did not detract from the story. There were a few times, during dialog, that there wasn't enough distinction between the characters to tell who was speaking, but this wasn't a huge issue.

Defending Jacob was nowhere near as shocking or psychologically twisted as Gone Girl, but if you go in without that expectation, it's a solid story of murder and how it can affect a family. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy those stories, including my teens.

Published by Delacorte (Blackstone Audio), 2012
Copy obtained from the library
432 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: Girl of Nightmares, by Kendare Blake @KendareBlake

Girl of Nightmares is a creatively creepy tale of ghosts that I enjoyed just as much as the first book, Anna Dressed in Blood. And, if you haven't read Anna, you might want to stop reading NOW, since I have to spoil it a bit to talk about Girl of Nightmares.

After Anna saved Cas' and his friends' lives at the end of Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas hasn't been able to stop thinking about her. He wants to know where she went, and he really wants to bring her back.

His friends, as well as his mother, Gideon, and Morfran, think its dangerous for him to pursue Anna. But, either Cas is going crazy or Anna is trying to contact him. Because Cas sees her all over the place -- and his friends, even Thomas, who is a witch and can read minds, can't see her.

Thomas and Morfran end up helping Cas figure out how to get to Anna and bring her back, although they believe that Cas might die in the attempt. Of course, Thomas and Carmel aren't going to let Thomas do this alone. So all the old characters are back, and there's a new character Jestine, who is important too and may allow for another episode in this series.

Girl of Nightmares, just like Anna, is a bit gory, especially at the end. There is a nice steady build up of tension throughout the entire book, which Blake seems to be a master of. And the way things worked out was unique and surprising, and I loved the resolution. Girl of Nightmares also has enough "regular" teen stuff (Thomas and Carmel's relationship, for example) to give some relief to the tension -- but never for very long.

I wouldn't say Girl of Nightmares was frightening, but it is creepy just like Anna. It moves fairly quickly and once I got about halfway through, it was difficult to put down. Anyone who has read Anna Dressed in Blood will definitely enjoy reading the further adventures of these characters. Girl of Nightmares has the same feel and style, but I still really enjoyed it. And, if you like some ghostly creepiness, you should start with the first book.

Published by Tor Teen, August 7, 2012
Copy obtained from the library
332 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Review: The Elephant of Surprise, by Brent Hartinger

Even though I haven't read the first three books in the series, The Elephant of Surprise was an entertaining story about some realistic teens.

At the beginning of The Elephant of Surprise Hartinger gives the reader a quick summary of the characters and what happened to them, relationship-wise, in the first three books. This made it very easy for me to jump right in to the story with some understanding.

Russel is the narrator, and he's having relationship trouble which is understandable, given that his boyfriend lives 800 miles away.  Min and Gunner are Russel's best friends, and Min is worried that her girlfriend is hiding something.

These three meet Wade dumpster diving outside the school and discover a whole new organization of people called "freegans" who are people that live off what others throw away. Russel becomes enamored with this group, and especially Wade, who is very hot and is flirting with Russel.

The trio finds out that some things aren't what they seem, and they have some adventures to keep the plot moving. Let me just say that I don't like books that are "about" being gay. I've read books before that are LGBT romances and nothing else. They are boring. If the story was about a heterosexual relationship, no one would read it, and the fact that the two people in love are the same sex just isn't enough to make it exciting. The Elephant of Surprise isn't like this. Of course, these teens (whether LGBT or not) are always thinking about their relationships -- it's a hormone thing -- but there are other aspects to the plot that add to the romance and make it a real story with substance.

 I could relate to the teens in The Elephant of Surprise. They have their struggles and insecurities. They do stupid and sometimes dangerous things. And they are always learning and growing. The title, The Elephant of Surprise, refers to a combination of "The Element of Surprise" and "The Elephant in the Room." The kids come up with this phrase to describe the things that happen that are totally unexpected and kind of throw you for a loop. Several of these things happen in The Elephant of Surprise.

The Elephant of Surprise is short and easy to read. I would recommend it to my teens who are interested in a light contemporary with some humor, romance, and a little danger.

Published by Buddha Kitty Books, January 10, 2013
eARC obtained from the author
226 pages, qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: Going Vintage, by Lindsey Leavitt @lindsey_leavitt

Going Vintage is, as you would expect, a light, cute contemporary that had me laughing out loud a few times.

Mallory breaks up with her boyfriend after discovering his intimate emails to a girl who is his "wife" in an online game. She is also helping her dad clean out her grandmother's house. Grandma has moved into an assisted living facility. Mallory discovers an old notebook in which her grandmother wrote a list of things to do in 1962, when she was a junior in high school -- just like Mallory is now.

Mallory is so disillusioned by her life, and disappointed in her boyfriend that she decides she will stop using computers, cell phones and other technology, and that she will complete the tasks on her grandmother's list.

You can imagine some of the hassles that Mallory faces not being able to use technology. Basically, she loses almost all contact with her friends, because they only communicate by cell phone or "Friendspace." She can't use the internet to do her homework. And the tasks on the list aren't easily accomplished in the 2010's either. Things like sewing a dress for homecoming, and starting a pep squad!

There are a few characters that make Going Vintage more than a typical high school story. Mallory's younger sister is perfect. They have their squabbles, as sisters will, but they also have each others' backs. Oliver, the potential new boyfriend is my favorite. I love his quirkiness, and how he just fits into Mallory's "vintage" ideas without even meaning to. And Grandma, who turns everything on its head and really enables the defining moments in Going Vintage.

Mallory learns some lessons and does some maturing, which is expected in a contemporary, but really Going Vintage is just a funny, light book about contemporary teens. I think these characters will easily resonate with my students, and I'll be happy to recommend Going Vintage to many of them.

Published by Bloomsbury, March 26, 2013
eARC obtained from NetGalley
320 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Stacking the Shelves -- A Mixed Bag

It has been a long week. I think I'm so excited for spring WEATHER now that, you know, it's officially spring, that it's making the days drag by...I did get some exciting books to tell you about this week, though.

For Review: 


School Spirits, by Rachel Hawkins from NetGalley
I've never actually read the Hex Hall series, but it's on my list! This is the beginning of a spin-off series.

Starting Now, by Debbie Macomber, from LibraryThing Early Reviewers

From the Library:
Beautiful Disaster, by Jamie McGuire

Freebie:
The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
I read this when it first came out - years ago. But it's such a good book, when it was FREE on amazon.com, I just couldn't pass it up. I would love to read it again some day.

So, how was your week? Did you get some great reads? Did you have any NICE weather???? (I'm jealous, if you did!) Thanks for stopping by and please leave your link. Don't forget to visit Team Tynga's Reviews to see all the great blogs participating. Enjoy!




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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Review: Period 8, by Chris Crutcher

While Period 8 provides and interesting story, I did have some problems with the book.

Paul is a member of "Period 8," a class that certain students attend at Heller High. You can talk about anything you want, or just listen. It's basically just a bull session. Paul makes a big mistake - he cheats on his long-time girlfriend, Hannah. And, he feels so bad he has to tell her. Of course they break up, and this is the beginning of a big mess. All is not what it seems (and that's an understatement) and the mess involves many more students than just Hannah and Paul.

I'm being purposefully vague, because I have to be. You really need to go into Period 8 without knowing what it's about.

Period 8 is a unique, creative story. I can't say I've read anything like it before. I've read some reviews that say it's about bullying, but what is happening in this school is way different than traditional bullying. So I wouldn't call it a bullying book.

The difficulties I had with Period 8 are the slow pace at the beginning and the far-fetched premise. We are about half way through the book before anything really out of the ordinary occurs. There's a lot of build up -- setting up the characters and their histories. Too much build up, in my opinion. For half the book, I had no idea where this story was headed. And, I don't mean that in a good way. It's just a bunch of high school students that have this special relationship because of this class. So what?

Secondly, when you do find out who the bad guys are and why these things are happening, I really didn't buy it. I was fascinated and intrigued, but in reality, I can't see anything like this really happening and going on for so long without people finding out about it. It's a bit over the top for me.

Period 8 is well written, relatable, short, and realistically portrays high school relationships. For that reason, I can easily recommend it to my students. The ending is very exciting, and I don't think they will be as critical as I am about the premise.

Published by Greenwillow Books, March 26, 2013
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
288 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Dear Life, You Suck, by Scott Blagden @sblagden

Dear Life, You Suck is a contemporary issues novel that ended up tugging at my heart. This book sneaked up and grabbed me. I wasn't all that enthused by the description, or even the beginning, but I quickly became enthralled.

Cricket Cherpin's life really does suck, in a lot of ways. He's lived in a group home (for orphans) that is run by nuns. He's lived there for many years, and is the oldest resident. He will soon turn 18, and has no plans for the future.

Cricket is a good kid in many ways. He's a hard worker, willing to help with the grounds keeping,  the cooking, and even the mending. He also has a strong protective instinct for the younger kids at the home. This is what tends to get him in trouble.

Cricket is a fighter. He never starts a fight, but if he sees bullying, he will not tolerate it, and will come to the victim's rescue the only way he knows how -- by using violence. Sister Mary (who Cricket gives at least 25 different names throughout the story) will not give up on Cricket. She constantly comes to bat for him where the school is concerned.

Cricket is a complex character. He doesn't fit in a hole -- which makes his journey all the more interesting. He has many problems, stemming from a horrible childhood with his drug addict parents, but you can't help but root for him. Additionally, his outlook on his life and his situation will have you in stitches. The names he uses, the malapropisms, the analogies will have you re-reading to make sure you catch it all. There are references to movies and books -- and I'm sure I didn't get some of them.

I don't know where Blagden gets his "teen voice," but it's unique and creative. However, this is also a reason for caution. I'm not sure a reluctant reader would be able to handle Dear Life, You Suck, because of Cricket's complex narration. It's such a good story for boys, though, that I might be wrong. I can't wait to find out.

We find out about Cricket's horrible past by letters he is writing for a school assignment -- reasons his life sucks. These letters, like all of Cricket's musings, are entertaining and make the revelations a  bit more tolerable.

So I said Dear Life, You Suck tugged at my heart, and it did. There's a possible romance for Cricket, and some hope for his future. It's not all "happily ever after" -- that would be unrealistic. But I liked the possibilities that were put forth, and I'm still thinking about Cricket even after finishing the book. (Always a good sign.)

Dear Life, You Suck is a great one for those teens who like edgy, "issues" novels. This one adds plenty of humor and moves at a quick pace, which makes it appropriate for many. It does involved some drug use and drinking, so keep that in mind when recommending it to younger teens.

Published by Harcourt, March 26, 2013
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection for review
306 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: Ask the Passengers, by A.S. King @AS_King

Ask the Passengers A.S. King
I've enjoyed all of A. S. King's books, and Ask the Passengers is no exception. In fact, it's my favorite -- I think it's brilliant. King's books are quirky and unique, but they make sense.

Like I said, this book does make sense, but when I describe it, I think it sounds kind of silly. Astrid is having a hard time. She's struggling with her teen identity and feeling like no one cares about her. So, she decides she will send all her love to airplane passengers. She also asks for their opinions and their help. She lays on the picnic table in her back yard and sends her thoughts into the skies.

Astrid is dealing with best friends who are secretly gay. She is helping to keep this secret. But she has s secret of her own -- she thinks she's in love with a girl she works with. But, does that mean she's gay? Her life is complicated by strange parents. Her mother works at home but acts like she's working in New York City. She only pays attention to Astrid's sister. Her father spends most of his time in the garage getting stoned.

Everything blows up in Astrid's face. She grows a lot, but it's a difficult struggle. She's betrayed and misunderstood, but she's also done some betraying herself.

My favorite passages are the parts narrated by the passengers on the airplanes. Ms. King, "What the...??" I kept thinking, "Why would an author decide to do this? How would you EVER think of something like this?" It's just so far from what I've experienced, but I loved it and it worked SO WELL in Ask the Passengers. Brilliant.

All I can say is if you haven't experienced A. S. King, Ask the Passengers is a great place to start, but really, you can pick any of her books: Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and Everybody Sees the Ants. I can't wait to start pushing Ask the Passengers into my kids' hands. Thank you A. S. King. Keep them coming....

Published by Little, Brown BFYR, October 23, 2012
Copy obtained from the library
293  pages

Rating: 5/5





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