Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Review: Panic, by Lauren Oliver

It's hard to describe my level of disappointment with Panic. Words that come to mind: superficial, stereotypical, unbelievable.

Panic is about a game that seniors play, where they take all kinds of dangerous dares, and the winner gets a bunch of money. It's a secret from the authorities and the parents. Or, at least they look the other way. Even though kids have been KILLED and MAIMED in past years...(don't get me started.)

Where do I begin. The premise is not believable. Not even believable enough that I could suspend my disbelief (and I'm pretty good at that.) It's not only the game, it's the money. There's no way you could get kids to bring a dollar a day to school. Never. Even in my relatively affluent high school -- just -- no.

The characters aren't distinct. At 50% I was still getting the girls (Heather and Nat) and the guys (Bishop and Dodge) mixed up. Yea, even with those names, I couldn't keep them separated. I have to blame this on the author.

The revenge premise (I won't go into much detail) was also over the top. Even though these are teens, I just couldn't buy it. And the "big mistake" that Heather makes is so unlikely. She just would not be that careless.

The flow was choppy at times. Just one example: We find out Heather (or maybe it was Nat?) loses her job, is crying in the parking lot, and some strange lady comes and hires her to work on odd jobs at her farm. In about two paragraphs. I was like, "Wait. What just happened?" It was really abrupt and there wasn't really a reason for it. This is just one example of how I felt at several points in the book. I was reading an ARC, so things could change in the final copy.

What did I like? I liked the twist at the end. I liked the way it all turned out.

I've read and reviewed the Delirium Trilogy and Before I Fall and enjoyed all of them! Actually, I raved about them.  I had no problems with the writing. Panic just seemed like it was written by someone else. I'm genuinely dismayed. And, I've read this is going to be movie. Hmmm. Obviously everyone doesn't agree with me about this book. (And that's OK.)

Published by HarperCollins, March 4, 2014
eBook obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 2/5

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Historical fiction about a teen who wants to break the mold that society has prescribed for her. The premise of A Mad Wicked Folly says "win," and the book certainly delivers.

17-year old Victoria wants nothing more that to be an artist. A trained painter. What's the problem? Well, it's 1909 in London. Women are supposed to marry, run a household, and plan parties for their husbands.

A Mad Wicked Folly is about Victoria's struggle -- her absolute determination no matter how bad the odds -- to go to college to study art. She attended art classes on the sly while in France at her boarding school, but after posing nude for the artists in her class, she gets found out and is sent home.

Her reputation in ruins, as well as her father's reputation, she tries to appear to be what her family wants. She becomes engaged to an acceptable man and hopes that he won't care that she doesn't want to be the typical wife. On the sly, she is preparing a portfolio so she can apply to art school

Victoria gets involved with the women's suffrage movement because she wants to draw these women at their protests. She eventually gets deeper into the organization, helping create art for their posters and murals. She also meets a friendly police officer, who becomes one of her art subjects.

To put it simply, things blow up in Victoria's face, and that's pretty much all I'll say about this plot of A Mad Wicked Folly.

I have nothing bad to say about A Mad Wicked Folly. The pacing of the story kept me swept up. There was always a new challenge or obstacle, and the pages flew by. I loved Victoria -- even though I felt she was naive at times -- she's only 17. She's very spunky, resourceful, and very daring! I felt her frustrations. It is unbelievable how women were thought of in those times. Things aren't perfect now, but we've certainly come a long way.

The author's notes at the end of the book speak to the historical accuracy of the novel and make this book a great study of the time period, and in particular the women's suffrage movement. But, the story is so entertaining, you don't even realize you are learning a lot about history. That's just how I like my history lessons. And I think teens will enjoy A Mad Wicked Folly too. I can't wait to recommend this one.

Published by Viking Juvenile, January 23, 2014
Copy obtained from the library
420 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Audio Book Review: Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, by Lucy Dillon

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts is a lighthearted, feel-good book, that will appeal to dog lovers too.

The main character is Rachel, and her life has fallen apart. She's broken up with her boyfriend of 10 years, quit her job, and lost her apartment. Her aunt has just passed away and has left her an old house as well as a dog rescue business.

Through the dog rescue, Rachel meets the other characters -- Natalie, who is married to Johnny. And Zoe, a divorced mother of two young boys.  Megan is the one who keeps the dog rescue running. George is the veterinarian.

Natalie doesn't need a relationship. She and Johnny are extremely happy, but they are having difficulty conceiving a child. They do manage to fall in love with a dog from the rescue though.

Zoe's stupid ex buys a puppy for the boys, and that's how Zoe ends up at the dog rescue, which also becomes a doggie daycare.

Superficially, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts is a typical "happy ever after book" that seems to be predictable. But,this book has a couple of other things going for it. Of course, there are the dogs, which pretty much steal the show. And, it's funny. No matter how predictable a book is, if I find myself chuckling aloud while driving to work early in the morning before I've had coffee, well -- that says something!

There are enough unexpected twists (that I don't want to talk about) to add some unpredictability too. The stories of all the characters tie together nicely at the end of Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts. The only issue I had was that I wished for more closure for Zoe's story. I didn't get enough to feel comfortable about where she was heading.

The narrator is great. She has a proper British accent, which always makes me start speaking with a fake one. Her voices for the different characters were distinct enough, although I did catch her using the wrong voice a couple of times during the dialog. No biggie. I was very happy that I chose the audio version of Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts.

Though marketed for adults, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts is perfectly clean, and I think it would have a lot of appeal for teen girls who like contemporary romance (and dogs.)

Published by Penguin, 2011
eBook obtained from the library
448 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - A Couple from the Library

Thanks for stopping by. I didn't request or receive any books this week, so I grabbed some off the library shelves.

From the Library:
The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson
I've already read and reviewed this one!

A Mad,Wicked Folly, by Sharon Biggs Waller
This is my current read. Stay tuned for my review next week!

So what did you add to your pile this week? Please leave me a link. And, don't forget to visit Team Tynga's Reviews, our host. Happy Reading!

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday: Tearjerkers

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Happy Friday! This week's question from Parajunkee & Alison:

Question of the Week: What was the last book that made you cry?

I'm not a big crier. A lot of times when I see a review and someone says they cried during a book, I'll be like, "Really? When? I didn't cry at all during that one..." I think it's because I don't cry during dystopians, or fantasies, or paranormal books. I guess I just can't relate in that way to books that aren't real. The books that make me cry are realistic. I just reviewed Maybe One Day, by Melissa Kantor. And I cried. Teens...cancer...well, that gets me every time.

I don't really enjoy crying that much. As a matter of fact, I read The Notebook years ago when it first came out. It absolutely ripped me apart. Then I read another Sparks book, maybe Message in a Bottle, which also made me cry. I don't read Nicholas Sparks anymore. (I know, I've been told all his books aren't like that.) I've never seen the movie The Notebook, and I don't want to.

So, how about you? What book made you cry? I'll be sure to remove it from my TBR (just kidding.....) Leave me a link, and be sure to visit our hosts to see all the participating blogs. Enjoy your weekend, and thanks for stopping by.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory is a heartbreaking book about a  condition that is probably more common than we would like to believe.

Hayley doesn't remember ever attending a normal school She's been traveling across country in her dad's truck, and he's been homeschooling her since he got home from the war. Her dad decides she needs to go to a regular school to prepare for college, so they move into Hayley's grandmother's house and Hayley attends high school. Hayley doesn't remember living here when she was younger. It turns out, Hayley has blocked out much of her tumultuous childhood.

Hayley's father is suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He can't hold down a job, he drinks a lot, and he spends a lot of time locked in his room. Hayley tries to lead a normal life, but it's an impossible situation for a teen.

Hayley begins a romantic involvement with Finn. It turns out Finn has his own family problems that are slowly revealed. And the relationship develops very slowly and is a bumpy road.  No insta-love here! Hayley's best friend's parents end up splitting up during the story. So, really every character in this book lives in a dysfunctional family. It really drags you down.

What Hayley and her father go through during the course of the book is mind-blowing. The sensible person inside me wants to say, "Get him to counselling!" But, it's just not that easy. From now on, I'm going to be hesitant to thank our military personnel for their service, in case they are suffering from PTSD and this might be a trigger as it is for Hayley's father.

And while the resolution is hopeful, we never really figure out why Hayley has blocked out her childhood and why she has so many fears. For example, what was the deal at the mall? I didn't understand her reaction. I felt like we know a lot about Hayley's father at the end, but I still had a lot of questions about Hayley.

The best part of The Impossible Knife of Memory is Hayley's relationship with Finn. They are both intelligent, and their banter as they try to one-up each other is priceless.

I didn't really fall in love with The Impossible Knife of Memory like I thought I would after reading so many rave reviews. But I really liked this book and will highly recommend it to my teen contemporary fans.

Published by Viking Juvenile, January 7, 2014
Copy obtained from the library
391 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review: Half Bad, by Sally Green @Sa11eGreen

Half Bad is an interesting take on witches and kept me rapt.

There are White Witches, which are the good ones, and there are Black Witches, which...well, you get the idea. These aren't Harry Potter witches. There are no wands and few spells. Well, there are some potions, I guess. Each witch is given a gift on their seventeenth birthday which can be powerful or weak.

Nathan, our narrator, is a Half Code. His mother was White, his father, Black. His mother is dead, and Nathan lives with his grandma and three half-siblings, who are all White. The council of the White Witches is afraid of Nathan. He's constantly being tested, and eventually his movements are restricted, and he loses his freedom. Since Nathan is the only Half Code, they have special plans for him.

Nathan is conflicted. He's never met his father who has a very violent reputation, but he wants to. Nathan doesn't feel like a bad witch, but he also doesn't want to commit to being White. There is a Romeo & Juliet aspect to Half Blood also. Nathan and Annalise are strongly attracted to each other, and of course Annalise is the daughter of one of the most influential White families. This gets Nathan into a lot of trouble.

Eventually Nathan is taken into custody by the Whites. I don't really want to say too much about the plot, but it's exciting. Nathan is constantly in danger and put into many situations in which his survival skills are tested. He is told to trust no one, but he meets a couple of friends who help him along the way, and also is assisted by some who really are not to be trusted. The ending of the book is definitely open -- Nathan is given an impossible task. So we must wait to see what he does about this in the next book. I'm eagerly anticipating it.

I really have nothing negative to say about Half Bad. I found it unique, which always helps. The writing is easy and the excitement builds as the plot moves briskly. I care about Nathan and want him to prevail. What more can you ask?

Published by Viking Juvenile, March 4, 2014
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine
386 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review: Maybe One Day, by Melissa Kantor

Maybe One Day is a sad book about cancer...and friendship.

Zoe is the narrator. Her best friend, Olivia, gets cancer during their junior year of high school. They have been friends since grade school.

The bonds of friendship are thoroughly explored in Maybe One Day, and that is what sets apart this fairly predictable plot. It is just as difficult for Zoe to deal with this illness as it is for Olivia's family.

Zoe and Olivia have spent years doing ballet -- serious ballet. And, before their junior year, in the opening scene of the book, their ballet teacher tells them not to come back. Neither of them are going to have a career in ballet. To see how this affects each of the girls is interesting, because they don't deal with this life-changing event in the same way. But, they do continue to be best friends.

There's also a bit of a romance, which I thought played realistically. Zoe can't concentrate on romance when her best friend is dealing with a devastating disease, but she still find herself attracted to this boy.

Maybe One Day is a quick, well-paced read. Thank goodness. Because I wanted to hurry through it, to minimize the sobbing. Unfortunately, there's not much to guess about when it comes to the story. The characters are interesting, if a bit stereotypical.

A worthwhile read for teens who are interested in books about true friendship, family, and of course, cancer.

Published by HarperTeen, February 18, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
400 pages (this seems like a lot -- I read this quite quickly -- it qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3.5/5

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

New Award Book List!

It's one of the most exciting times of the year for me bookwise. Illinois has just announced the nominees for their Readers' Choice Book Awards. The high school award is called the Abraham Lincoln High School Book Award. I must admit, there are a couple of books on the list that I'm not familiar with, and that's unusual. However, I have read all but six of them. I'll need to get right on those!

Here are the nominees for 2015: (it's blurry, so click on the link to see the PDF)

Voting for the 2014 winner begins next week. Here's a link to our nominees for this year. Who do you think will win?

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - A New Source

Another week has flown by. Unlike much of the country, our weather has been mild, and we've had school EVERY day! Hope the rest of you are fairing well. Here's my haul for the week:

For Review:
The Here and Now, by Ann Brashares from Ingram E-Galleys
I buy most of my books for the library from Ingram. I got an email offering me an E-Galley of this book if I wanted to read it! I've read all of her books, so I'm excited for this one. I've never gotten a review book from Ingram before, so I hope this trend continues!

Goodnight June, by Sarah Jio from NetGalley
I love Sarah Jio, so I'm really happy to get this one.

Silver, by Chris Wooding, from NetGalley

Don't Even Think About It, by Sarah Mylnowksi, from NetGalley

A Death-Struck Year, by Makiia Lucier, from Edelweiss

That's it for me. A pretty happy week! How about you? What else do I need to add to my collection? Thanks for stopping by, and leave me a link! Make sure to visit Team Tynga's Reviews and see all the participating blogs.

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