Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: Golden Son, by Pierce Brown @Pierce_Brown

Golden Son, the second book in the Red Rising Trilogy, is nothing short of epic. What an intricate, sophisticated world Brown has created!

I would suggest reading my review of Red Rising or other reviews to get the background for the world and characters of Golden Son.

At the beginning of the book Darrow is participating in war games to prove he is the best warrior and win a fleet of his own. It's only him and Karnus, his arch enemy, left, and Darrow has the upper hand. But things take a turn, Karnus wins, and in the process many lives are lost. This happens in the first few pages, so this isn't really a spoiler.

I didn't understand why so many lives were lost if this was supposed to be a game. And why does Darrow get blamed for it all, when Karnus is the one who killed everyone? But, this episode changes everything for Darrow and so the stage is set.

If you haven't read Red Rising, Golden Son won't make much sense. As a matter of fact, it took me a while to remember what happened and get back into the world that Pierce has created. There's no summary of the previous book, although some reminders are given.

Darrow loses everything. Augustus takes everything away from him and plans to sell him at auction. With no protection, he will surely be murdered by Karnus' family. But an unlikely benefactor offers to help Darrow if he joins up with this man. Darrow doesn't have much choice so, even though he distrusts the man, he agrees.

Things NEVER turn out as expected. No one is to be trusted. There are more twists than you can possibly imagine. And, just like Red Rising, Golden Son is non-stop action. Battle after battle. Each time barely coming out of it alive, but never giving up.

There are a lot of characters, and everyone, every place, and everything has weird foreign names. It's hard to keep track of the characters, their race, and what family they are associated with. I know this book has been compared to The Hunger Games but Golden Son is much more complex and harder to read. I'm not even sure this should be categorized as young adult (I think it is, though, isn't it?)

Golden Son is long (over 450 pages). But, it's not just long in pages, it takes your full attention, and I had to read it much slower than your average YA book. I do think it could have been culled a bit, but I did think it's pacing was better than Red Rising, even though it's longer.

Now that those negatives are out of the way, I want to make it clear that I loved this book. It keeps your attention. Each character is unique, and portrayed with enough detail to make you care about them (or hate them, as the case may be.) Wow, and the world. Down to the tiniest detail, the world is vivid. The politics are complex and totally unique. Golden Son is a dystopian, but it's so far in the future that there are a lot of fantasy elements. Those who enjoy adventure, fearsome battles, and fantastical worlds and creatures will not want to miss the Red Rising Trilogy.

Published by Del Ray, January 6, 2015
eARC obtained from NetGalley
464 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

I'm not sure what to say about Midwinterblood. It is one strange book.

We begin in the year 2073, and each story goes backwards in time from there. We end up during the time of the Vikings. Each story takes place on an island called Blessed.  Characters reappear in each time period.

Midwinterblood is essentially a love story, but I didn't really get that until the end of the book.

It's easy to read, and the stories are each interesting and loosely related to prior stories. The story does come full circle at the end, which helps. I was going to be really angry if we didn't go back to the beginning (which is the end.)

It's a very short book, and reads very quickly. However, its unique style makes it suitable to only a select population of teens. At least in my school. I think Midwinterblood would be an interesting classroom read. There are some wonderful literary themes and techniques that could be discussed.

So if you feel adventurous and have a few hours to spare, pick up Midwinterblood.

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2013
Copy obtained from the library
262 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3/5





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Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy @SarahMMcCoy

While there are many aspects to the plot of The Baker's Daughter, I was totally captivated by this story.

The Baker's Daughter is Elsie's story. In a dual narrative, we are told her story beginning in 1945 in Germany and also in Texas 60 years later.

In Germany, it is war time and Elsie's family owns a bakery. Her family has escaped the worst of the economic disaster that has been caused by the war because of the bakery and the protection of a Germany military officer who wants to marry Elsie.

In Texas, Elsie and her daughter, Jane, own a thriving German bakery. Reba is a reporter wanting to write a story about German Christmas traditions who comes to interview Elsie. Reba and Jane become close friends.

Here are some other aspects of the plot that add so much depth:

  • Elsie's sister (in 1945) is part of the Lebensborn Program, a breeding program to take the most pure Aryan women and pairs them with German military officers to have babies to purify the Aryan race. I'm not kidding!
  • Reba's fiance in Texas is a border patrol agent who is Hispanic. This causes him some turmoil.
  • Elsie, in 1945, hides a little Jewish boy in her room without anyone else in her family knowing.
  • Elsie's German officer has his own emotional struggles after shooting another German soldier. I won't give you the details.
  • Reba isn't sure about marriage.
  • Jane has never been married, but her story is a romantic one.
For the most part, I loved the way The Baker's Daughter was told. I did have some problems when the story in Germany flashed back to how Elsie met the German officer. You have to pay attention to the dates, even within each time frame.

I loved the ending. I'm so glad the loose ends were all tied up. Most people got their happily ever after and you end up feeling good after all the destruction and heartbreak of the story. The Baker's Daughter is just my kind of book and made me want to check out other books by McCoy.

The Baker's Daughter is an adult book, but mature teens who are interested in the time period, and enjoy a story of family, friendship, and romance will enjoy it. I'm certainly going to recommend this to my adult reading friends.


Published by Crown, 2012
eBook obtained from the library
304 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Signup! 2015 EBook Reading Challenge


Time to clean up those e-readers! Welcome to the sign up page for the 2015 EBook Reading Challenge!

Challenge Guidelines:

This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2015 – Dec 31, 2015.

Anyone can join, you don’t need to be a blogger. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to sign-up in the comments. You can post reviews to any book site (i.e. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Goodreads, etc).

Any genre or length of book counts, as long as it is in ebook format.

You can plan your books in advance or as you read them.

When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post about joining the E-Book Reading Challenge.

Sign-ups will be open throughout 2015, so feel free to join at any time during the year.

Levels:

1. Bits – 5 ebooks
2. Bytes – 10 ebooks
3. Megabytes – 25 ebooks
4. Gigabytes – 50 ebooks
5. Terabytes – 75 ebooks
6. Empty the Cloud – 100 ebooks

At the beginning of each month there will be a roundup post for you to add your reviews for that month. The linky will remain open for the remainder of the year, so if you forget, feel free go back and add them when you remember.


Sign up for the 2015 Ebook Challenge below. Please use the direct URL to the post where you join the challenge and declare your level.







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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Stacking the Shelves: Nothing for Christmas

Surprisingly, I didn't get any books for Christmas. But I did get some for review!

For Review:
All Fall Down, by Ally Carter from LMC Magazine

Lost Republic, by Paul B. Thompson from LMC Magazine

Woven, by Michael Jensen and David Powers King from LMC Magazine

Things We Know By Heart, by Jessi Kirby from Edelweiss

That's it for me. How about you? Anything I need to add to my list? Thanks for visiting. Make sure you stop by Team Tynga's Reviews our hosts.





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Friday, December 26, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday - Book Gifts

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
The day after Christmas is probably my favorite day of the year. I don't plan too much -- unless it's something I WANT to do. I hope you enjoy today! Here's this week's question:


What books did you give other people this holiday season?

I gave my niece Greenglass House, by Kate Milford and a gift card to the book store

I gave my husband a couple Harlan Coben books I found on the bargain rack. One of his favorite authors.

I gave another niece a gift card to the book store. I gave my little grand nieces and nephews various children's books. I gave my daughter and son-in-law gift cards to Amazon. I know they can use them for anything, but they both like to read eBooks, so they may use them for books.

Not a big book-giving year for me. So, how about you? Thanks for stopping by, and make sure to visit Alison and Parajunkee, our hosts.






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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!


I hope you and your loved ones have a joyous holiday.





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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book Review: The Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison

The Bishop's Wife is a compelling story, as well as an interesting look into the Mormon faith.

Linda is the wife of a bishop in the Mormon faith. As she tells the story, we get an intimate look into this world without feeling preached at. Linda explains her thoughts and decisions through the filter of her faith, as well as her doubts about it.

There are a couple of mysteries in The Bishop's Wife. First, a young man comes to see the bishop because his wife has left him and his young daughter. As time goes on, the husband becomes a suspect in her possible murder.

Secondly, Anna is about to lose her husband. He is several years older than her and she is his second wife. It is unclear how his first wife died -- he doesn't talk about it and his two sons were too young to remember. Linda finds things as she befriends Anna that make her think there may be some foul play involved.

There are other side stories. A young woman unable to conceive a child.  A young couple gets wed but do not get the proper blessing of the faith. There is much discussion of the idea of being eternally bound to your spouse and children in the afterlife. This affects the aforementioned couple. It also is a big part of Anna's turmoil, because her husband was bound to his first wife, but he has never desired to be bound to Anna. The discussion of this aspect of the afterlife is the biggest theological issue in the book. No matter what happens, good or bad, the first thought is "will they still be bound in heaven?"

The Bishop's Wife did take a while to get going. At first, I thought this was just going to be about this woman's daily life as a bishop's wife. and I was going to put it down. But once the issue was revealed, I was all in.

One might say, "when it rains, it pours" because there are so many different issues, most of them pretty evil, that are addressed in The Bishop's Wife. We can only assume than normal everyday Mormon life isn't like this book (as we can certainly say about most mysteries, thank goodness!) It does make for a story that keeps you turning pages, so much so, that I finished The Bishop's Wife in one day.

If you are interested in a Mormon perspective on family life, I would recommend The Bishop's Wife. But even without the Mormon perspective, it's a good mystery. I didn't see the ending. I would have never thought the bad guy would turn out to be this character.

This is an adult book, and while there's nothing inappropriate for teens, the subject matter may have little appeal. Definitely recommend for the adult crowd, though.

Published by Soho Crime, December 30, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
352 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Book Review: I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson @jandynelson

I ended up loving I'll Give You the Sun, but it was touch-and-go there for awhile.

The story is told from the alternating points of view of twins, Noah and Jude. Noah is a very talented artist, and is struggling with his homosexuality. Jude is a free spirit, and doesn't care as much about art. She's the popular one. They have the usual strong bond that twins have, but theirs is a bumpy road.

There are lots of issues and secrets among them and their family. The twin's bond is never broken, but it is certainly weak at times. The story not only changes points of view, but time frames. Noah tells his part from a couple years earlier. I had some trouble with this -- wondering why something happened, and them remembering, "Oh yea, he doesn't know XXX because YYY hasn't happened yet." It is a very unique way to tell the story.

At first, it seems like this story is going in about ten different directions, and it is. It's a good thing that Nelson is a brilliant writer, because honestly, I wouldn't have put up with the discomfort if not. I just felt like I was on the surface of this book -- not able to sink in. But, I could read Nelson's beautiful writing forever, even if there's no story at all. There IS a story in I'll Give You the Sun, but it doesn't become very clear until about the last 1/3 of the book. And then, POW, do things clear up!

The way everything and everybody end up entwined together is so entertaining. I don't want to say too much about the plot at all. You just need to experience this book as it unfolds. Be patient. Enjoy the prose, and it will all be worth it.

I think it's impossible that I will every love a book as much as The Sky is Everywhere, Nelson's other book, but I'll Give You the Sun is a book I will be recommending widely.

Published by Dial, September 16, 2014
Copy obtained from the library
371 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: The Prince Charming Starter Kit, by Carolyn Carter

The Prince Charming Starter Kit is a cute original story that will appeal to the middle school crowd.

McKenzie McIntyre has a huge crush on Evan Jacoby, but he doesn't seem to even know she exists. When her friend, Em, finds a mysterious website that offers a kit to make anyone into your Prince Charming, they decide to go for it.

The kit comes with Inspector Number 068 to help them with any problems, but no directions are included and the inspector is nowhere to be found. So, McKenzie decides to take matters into her own hands and use the kit as she sees fit. Of course things don't turn out as McKenzie expects.

McKenzie and Em are in the seventh grade, and this book is perfect for those kids. It's short, reads easily, and has a lot of dialog. It's a lighthearted book that will have you chuckling -- because the reader can see what McKenzie cannot.

I would have liked a bit more character development because I didn't feel the bond between McKenzie and Em. A little more back story of all the characters would have helped me settle in to the tale.

The writing is really done well. When there were descriptions, they were vivid and complete. I wish some more descriptions were included to pad out all the dialog, especially at the beginning of the book.

For being a self published work, The Prince Charming Starter Kit is very well edited. I didn't find any typos.

Carolyn Carter is a high school classmate of mine, and I'm so excited that she has written such a wonderful book. I can't wait to share it with my students.

Published by CreateSpace, August 17, 2014
Copy obtained from the library
198 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 4/5





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