Friday, January 31, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday: Book Spine Poetry

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

This week's challenge from Parajunkee and Alison:

Time for Book Spine Poetry again! Take a picture of your book spines spelling out something epic.

Well, I'm not sure this is epic. I think this is fun, but I don't think I'm very good at it. I guess it takes practice. I had all this cold,, nasty weather on my mind, so this is what I came up with...



How about you? Anything epic? Leave me a link and be sure to visit our hosts and check out all the participants.





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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Audio Book Review: State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett

I had no idea where State of Wonder was headed. It's beautifully written and compelling, but the story was kind of unexpected.

I don't read blurbs, so I went in blind. I really enjoy that. I try to figure out where we're going, and it was really difficult in this book but not in a bad way. Someone recommended the book, and I needed an audiobook. State of Wonder was available at the library so I jumped. I'm so glad I did.

Marina Singh is a doctor working for a pharmaceutical company. When the story opens, she is given a letter informing her that a very good friend and colleague has died. He was sent to the Amazon jungle to check up on research being conducted by Dr. Swenson, who hasn't been heard of for quite some time. The cryptic letter is from Dr. Swenson and states that Dr. Anders Eckman died of a fever and was buried in the jungle.

Eckman's wife needs to know what happened. Mr. Fox, Marina's boss and secret lover, needs to know what Dr. Swenson is up to. So, he sends Marina to Manaus, Brazil, to investigate. Just finding Dr. Swenson proves to be a daunting task. Marina has her own issues too. You see, she was a student of Dr. Swenson. Marina was supposed to be a gynecologist, but something happened to change her career path, and she's not looking forward to seeing Dr. Swenson.

Life in the jungle is like living on another planet. I don't want to give too many details, because you must experience the language and descriptions for yourself. State of Wonder is a multi-layered story with character that practically jump into your lap, they are so vividly described. Even the secondary characters.

There are a lot of surprises, and like I said, I didn't see any of them coming. You just have to find out what is going to happen -- to all of the characters -- and you can't stop turning the pages (or in my case, you can't press "stop!")

I don't know what else to say. This is one of those books that I can't describe, and I can't even do it justice in a review. Suffice it to say that State of Wonder is special.

The narrator, Hope Davis, is excellent. I'm SURE her voice for Dr. Swenson is absolutely how Patchett heard it in her own head. I highly recommend this book and the audio version. I think selected mature teens will enjoy the story, but this one is most suitable for adults. I need to get my husband to read this so we can talk about it. If you've reviewed State of Wonder,  please leave me a link. I'd love to know what you thought.

Published by Harper, 2011 (audio by Harper Audio)
Audio book obtained from the library
368 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: Uninvited, by Sophie Jordan

Rarely has a book made me so uncomfortable as Uninvited. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Davy is smart, popular, and has a boyfriend to be envied. Everything changes when Davy's required DNA test shows that she is a carrier of the "murder gene." Her whole life falls apart. She loses everything, including all her personal freedom.

That's pretty much all I'm going to say about the plot. The pace moved quickly and I really couldn't wait to get finished. Most of that was because the situation Davy is in just pissed me off. I liked the premise, don't get me wrong, but I found it somewhat far-fetched. I know. It's dystopian and all of those require suspension of disbelief. I think Uninvited went a bit too far for me.

First of all, I can't believe we would get to a point in what appears to be the "near future" where a group of people lost their rights to due process. It's a pretty big thing about our country. I would have liked Uninvited if there had been some way for Davy and her family to get help from the law. Even if it was unsuccessful, it would have been more believable. The sense of helplessness was frustrating.

Secondly, I wish the government was the bad guy. I can't believe that the government would just pawn this situation off on some huge corporation with seemingly no requirement to be monitored. I'm not buying it.

I liked Davy, for the most part, although I thought she was a little slow on the uptake. I didn't think she was careful enough. It took her too long to realize how people would react to her. I guess this naivety was necessary to add excitement to the plot. I thought her eventual reliance on (and romance with) other carriers was realistic in her situation.

I liked the ending...they are "moving on" and I'm glad. I was kind of meh about the second part of the book.

Oh, by the way, I LOVE this cover. I didn't see the double helix right away, but when I did, I fell in love. Also, I don't really understand the title. I mean, I guess it makes sense, but I don't find it that clever.

Uninvited is exciting. It's a page turner. It kept my interest, and I think teens will enjoy this addition to the genre.

Published by HarperTeen, January 28, 2014
eBook obtained from Edelweiss
384 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Stacking the Shelves: The Frozen Edition

Baby, it's COLD outside! It seems to be a favorite topic of conversation, and all I can think about. I'm so happy I have a warm place to live and work. Lots of controversy about cancelling school because of cold temperatures and wind chills. We were one of the few schools in our area that didn't cancel, and I think our administration is taking some "heat" (pun intended). The roads are fine, no one got hurt. We are all warm and safe...

Sorry for the rambling.  Anyway, I only got a couple this week, and here they are:

For Review:
Insanity, by Susan Vaught, from NetGalley
I love this cover!

Audio Book:

A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, from the library
My husband has been wanting me to read this for years. When I was searching for an audio book, I thought this might be a good one.

Well, that's all the excitement for me this week. How about you? Anything I need to add to my list? Leave me a link. Don't forget to visit Team Tynga's Reviews, our hosts. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.





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Friday, January 24, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday: 2014 "Must Reads"

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

It looks like 2014 is shaping up to be as good as 2013 when it comes to new releases. Parajunkee and Alison have brought that to light with this week's question:

Question of the Week: What books are you looking forward to reading in 2014?

It's a long list, but here are the ones that I can think of that are at the top:

Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins
The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas
Dreams of Gods & Monsters, by Laini Taylor
The One, by Kiera Cass
A Mad, Wicked Folly, by Sharon Biggs Waller
Liar of Dreams, by Libba Bray
Mortal Heart, by Robin LaFevers
Ruins, by Dan Wells

So, what's on your list? I'm sure you can help me add to mine! Make sure you visit our hosts and all the other participating blogs. Thanks for stopping by and TGIF!






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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Review: Heartbeat, by Elizabeth Scott

Heartbeat is a touching story about a teen in a grim situation.

Emma is having a hard time since her pregnant mother died, but her step dad is keeping her on life support trying to save their unborn child. Emma is barely speaking to her step dad because she is so angry. Her mother was over 40 and had difficulty getting pregnant. Emma is convinced her step dad only wants the baby and doesn't care about her mother.

Emma ticked me off. I get that her mother died suddenly, and she was unprepared. And, her mother was worried about the pregnancy. But, she just shuts down. Everyone tells her she needs counseling, but NO ONE does anything about it! Emma has a great friend who sticks by her and tries to help as Emma spires out of control. She's a former straight A student who is now skipping classes and not turning in any assignments.

I get that her step dad is also mourning. But he's not doing anything to help Emma either.

It's just frustrating. Emma finally turns to Caleb, another out of control teen who has stolen cars and been in other trouble with the law. They have a common bond, though. Caleb's little sister died a few years ago after falling off her bicycle. This bond makes for a slow, sweet developing romance.

Things do get better at the end. The lines of communication begin to open and healing begins.

Heartbeat is a touching story about grief and family and healing. There's also a lovely romantic element that doesn't take over the story. There isn't a lot of depth here, but Heartbeat is also a very quick read that many teen girls will love.

Published by Harlequin Teen, January 28, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
256 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3/5





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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Review: Her Dark Curiosity, by Megan Shepherd @megan_shepherd

What a dark and twisted story is Her Dark Curiosity! I love how the story continues on from The Madman's Daughter, and just drifts from The Island of Dr. Moreau  to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It's brilliant!

Juliet is back in London, faring much better since she has been taken in by Professor von Stein, a former colleague of her father. But she has secrets too. She's becoming more and more ill and is desperate to find a cure.

Also, there have been several murders, and Juliet is connected to all of the victims. All of them have hurt her in some way. Who is killing all of Juliet's enemies, and why?

I can't answer that. Just suffice it to say that things get dicey. There are old characters that return and new ones to be introduced to. People are not always what they seem. Juliet is desperate to save her life, and the lives of her acquaintances. And she gets lots of help from some unlikely corners.

I was mesmerized by Her Dark Curiosity. Its surprising. It's macabre. It's dark. But, even though it's gory, I didn't find the descriptions of the violence and the creatures to be very vivid. I mean, it didn't turn my stomach. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I guess it depends on your taste.

I loved the characters' progression in Her Dark Curiosity. And I loved the setup for the next story, based on Frankenstein. Can't wait!

Recommend this Madman's Daughter Series to those who enjoyed the classics they are based on. Or anyone, teen or adult, who enjoys a dark macabre mystery.

Published by Balzer + Bray, January 28, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
432 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book Review: Red Rising, by Pierce Brown

Red Rising has an exciting world and and interesting premise, but some inconsistencies interrupted my enjoyment.

Red Rising begins underground on Mars, where Darrow works in a mine. While he and his family are very poor and suffering, he is convinced their sacrifice will help society. He's helping prepare the planet for terraforming, so others can live on the surface. Darrow doesn't see himself as a slave, but his wife, Eo, has other ideas.

Society is divided into classes, specified by color. Darrow and his family are Reds, the lowest class. The Golds are the rulers. I won't go into details, but Darrow ends up being recruited to work for the resistance, and what he sees makes him realize that the Reds have been deceived by the Golds. Mars is already terraformed, and millions of people are enjoying life on the surface. Darrow must undergo a complete change, physically and intellectually. The plan is for him to infiltrate the Golds; become one of them and start a revolution from within. He must first pass a test to get into a school where he will be trained to be a leader.

I really loved this story, but had some problems with the execution. First, Darrow's excruciating ordeal to physically become a Gold is described in great detail. Once it's over, his physical prowess is never referred to again. I realize that all his competitors have the same characteristics, but you would think this would affect the way they fight and the ease with which they are injured. I needed a connection to the past.

Once Darrow passes the test, he is taken to "school"' where he must pass more tests, and then the students are divided into houses, each led by one of the Gold's. Darrow is selected for the House of Mars. Each house is given a castle, and the task is for one house to end up taking over all the others. Each house has different advantages and disadvantages.

Once we get to this part, it's like we aren't even on Mars anymore. It's a medieval battle on Earth, with horses and swords. Yes, there's 37% gravity. But once again, this is only mentioned a few times, and it doesn't seem to make any difference in the way they fight or give them any advantages. We never return to the underground portion of Mars, where Darrow came from, and although he refers to Eo, I just felt like I was in a different story. I needed a connection to the past.

The book is too long. It takes too long to describe Darrow's conversion from Red to Gold. The battles for the castles seem to just be the same thing over and over. There's deception, lying, changing of alliances, and some different strategies, but it just went on too long. I don't understand why every YA author thinks their book needs to be 400 pages, but it seems to be a trend. (OK, this one is a little less, but it SEEMED longer!)

The writing takes a bit to get used to. There is a lot of slang and unfamiliar words that are introduced in this world. I had to read a little slower, but I love this technique. It really makes you feel like you are IN the world. Once you are immersed, it becomes very easy. The characters are well-defined, although I'm not really attached. I was choked up at about page 50, but after "that" happened, I didn't fall in love. But each character is distinct, and the relationships felt true.

The premise is excellent, but as I said, the pacing a bit slow. I felt like Red Rising was a well-wrapped package, but it was missing the bow to tie it all up. I think it's worth it, though, and I would still recommend Red Rising to readers who enjoy dystopians and war books. Because I would mostly define Red Rising as a war book. Red Rising is the first book in a trilogy, so hopefully the next books will emphasize the world more than the war.

Published by Del Ray, January 28, 2014
ARC obtained from LibraryThing Early Reviewers
382 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Review: Into the Still Blue, by Veronica Rossi @rossibooks

Into the Still Blue is a wonderfully satisfying ending to a great trilogy.

*Spoilers for the first two books are inevitable, so you may want to skip to the last paragraph, if you haven't read the first two books.*

This series has always been about getting to the Still Blue. The Aether storms are getting worse, and time is running out. But, the bad guys hold all the keys to getting there. They have kidnapped Cinder, and they know the coordinates to get to the Still Blue.

Perry, Aria, Roar, and some others design a plan to get to Sable and Hess (the bad guys who have Cinder) so they can get the knowledge and equipment to find the Still Blue and also rescue their friend, Cinder, who is the only one who can control the Aether.

The Dwellers and Outsiders are living in a cave, but they continue to be segregated because they can't get along. They are running out of food and fuel. Roar, as well as Perry are both grieving Liv, and aren't getting along either.

Nothing is easy. Things don't go as planned, of course. But let me just say, I'm really MAD at Roar for screwing things up so badly. I know, the book probably would have ended at about 25%, but still. How stupid.

 I like that Perry and Aria's love never falters. Even when things are difficult and they may disagree, they don't abandon each other. We get a satisfying conclusion, as well as some real character growth.

All in all, I'm in LOVE with this series and will recommend it to everyone. It's unique, exciting, and has some characters that you can't help but love. If you haven't read Under the Never Sky yet, you need to start there. Then continue with Through the Ever Night before you pick up Into the Still Blue.

Published by HarperCollins, January 28, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
400 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - A Great Deal!

I wasn't going to do one of these posts this week, but then I got such an exciting book today, that I had to tell you about it!

For Review:
The Vanishing Season, by Jodi Lynn Anderson from Edelweiss

Purchased:
The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
You guys, this is a $1.99 Kindle Daily Deal today! This was one of my "books I wish I had got to in 2013." I'm very excited about this and wish I could start it NOW. But, I have some review books that must be read first....

Make sure you stop by Team Tynga's Reviews and check out all the participating blogs. Thanks for visiting and leave me a link so I can add some MORE new books to my TBR!




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