Thursday, July 30, 2015

Book Review: Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs @KathyReichs

Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs book cover and review
Temperance Brennan has quite the dilemma trying to figure out what's going on in Speaking in Bones.

There isn't even a case. There's no missing person or murder. Tempe is visited by an amateur detective that uses the internet to solve cold cases. She's convinced that Cora Teague has been missing for three years, even though her family hasn't reported her disappearance because they believe she ran off with a boy.

A tape recording device was found by this amateur near the same place some unidentified body parts were previously found. Tempe is the one that examined those parts. On the recording, a woman is obviously in distress and in fear for her life. Is it Cora?

The sleuthing in Speaking in Bones is interesting and convoluted. I really couldn't figure out what was going on -- neither could Brennan. As she deciphers the clues, goes digging for new ones, and ends up in the clutches of a crazy person, we also get to follow the personal aspects of her life. She's contemplating a marriage proposal from Andrew Ryan and visiting her quirky mother who has her own secrets.

If you are a fan of the series, you will certainly enjoy Speaking in Bones. If you are unfamiliar with it and a fan of forensic mysteries, you won't want to miss the Temperance Brennan series.

Published by Bantam, July 21, 2015
eARC obtained from NetGalley
320 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Mechanica, by Betsy Cornwell

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell book cover and review
Mechanica is a delightful retelling of Cinderella with magic, steampunk elements, and a feisty heroine who wants more than to be swept off her feet by a prince.

Nicolette lives the typical Cinderella life. She isn't treated well by her stepmother and stepsisters. Actually, she is their slave. But on her sixteenth birthday, everything changes. She finds a letter that her mother has written and somehow delivered from the grave. Her mother was an inventor, and behind a secret door in the cellar, her workshop is still intact. Nicolette begins spending as much time as she can in the workshop reading her mother’s notes and exploring some of her inventions. And the inventions are fascinating -- and magical. Nicolette doesn't understand how these mechanical creatures work, but they seem alive although made of metal and glass. She even gets some magical help with her chores so she can spend more time in the workshop.

She begins creating her own devices and dreams of someday leaving her stepmother and supporting herself. Then she wants to make enough money to buy the place from her, because she must have the workshop. Although Nicolette does end up making some friends who secretly help her, there is no fairy godmother. Nicolette gets herself to the ball and, more importantly, to the exposition where she hopes to find someone to finance her magical inventions. She must be very careful because fairy magic has been outlawed by the king. She has some setbacks, but in the end prevails.

It's pretty obvious who the prince is, but hey, we all know the story so watching Nicolette figure it out is still fun. The ending is a "happily ever after" but not in the traditional sense. Those who are fans of Cinderella, middle school or older, will certainly enjoy this enchanting retelling. Readers will love Nicolette’s strength and determination and are sure to get lost in this engaging story. Girl Power!

Published by Clarion Books, August 4, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss and Library Media Connection Magazine
298 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada by Ernest Cline book cover and review
Cline has captured the science fiction fan in me again with Armada.

Zach loves to play video games. In particular, Armada, a flight simulation game where aliens are invading the earth. He's become very good at the game, and is ranked sixth among all players.

Everything changes when Zach sees a flying saucer out the school window. He believes he is going crazy. He's starting to think like his deceased father, who left notebooks about how he believed aliens ARE coming to earth to destroy us and that video games and science fiction stories are being created to prepare humans for the attack.

The following day, an aircraft, right out of Armada, comes to Zach's school to recruit him to be in the Earth Defense Alliance, a secret army that has designed video games to ferret out people who can actually pilot the drones that must defend the earth from a very real threat from an alien life form.

Comparisons to Ender's Game are inevitable and correct. But Armada strands on its own as well. Also, comparisons to Ready Player One must be considered. There are just as many references to cultural icons, although not necessarily from the 80s, and most of them are science fiction related.

I won't say too much more about the plot. Zach and his friends are thrown into the fire, and their daunting task turns out to be pretty exciting. Suspension of disbelief is necessary, but given the premise that's expected. I did think the beginning took a while to get exciting -- LOTS of technical talks about gaming that at times had me skimming.

While I didn't like Armada as much as Ready Player One, I would still recommend it to fans of the genre. The tension builds nicely, and the ending is satisfying. The characters are a bit thin, but the action is what's important.

Published by Crown, July 14, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review: Boy Nobody (I Am the Weapon) by Allen Zadoff

Boy Nobody (I Am the Weapon) by Allen Zadoff book cover and review
To clarify first: This book was originally published as Boy Nobody, which is the version I have in my library. Then the name was changed to I Am the Weapon and a new version was published. I hate that. It's so confusing.

After Boy Nobody's parents were killed, he was taken in by The Program (who his parents also worked for) and trained to be an assassin. After years of training, he is unemotional and very good at his job. He's never had any problems fulfilling his mission until he becomes emotionally involved with one of his targets.

While Boy Nobody is a familiar story, it is exciting and fascinating. To see the way this boy thinks because of his brainwashing is stunning. Yes, you have to suspend some (much) disbelief, but that's expected in any book where a 16 year old is an assassin. Boy Nobody is a page turner for sure. And as a bonus, I was totally surprised by the ending. I didn't expect him to do that. And that's all I'll say about it.

Boy Nobody (I Am the Weapon) has a tidy resolution, but it's the first book in a series, and I'm looking forward to continuing. The next two books have been released and are I Am the Mission and I Am the Traitor.

Boy Nobody is a very quick read with a lot of half pages and would be great for reluctant readers. This one has been nominated for our Abe Lincoln High School Book Award for 2016, and I'm excited to push it at school this year.

Published by Little, Brown BFYR, 2014
Copy obtained from the library
337 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: Adrift, by Paul Griffin

If you can get past the simplistic writing in Adrift, there's an exciting story to be told.

Matt and John meet Driana, JoJo and Stef on the beach and they invite the boys to their mansion in the Hamptons for a party. Stef decides it is a perfect night to windsurf. But the other four think the sea is to dangerous and go to rescue Stef. Thus begins a harrowing story that pushes their survival abilities to the limit and tests their humanity.

Griffin isn't afraid to kill off characters, and the reader is told right at the beginning that not everyone comes home. There are gruesome parts and rivalries that threaten to destroy all hope of survival.

Adrift is a fast-paced very quick read. The main problem I had was the simple, choppy sentence structure. It was almost rhythmic. Subject-verb-predicate. Subject-verb-predicate. Most sentences are about 9 - 12 words in length. There are no complex sentence constructions. Maybe that's good if the intended audience are low level readers, but even a sophisticated middle school reader may find this too simple.

Adrift grabs you and doesn't let go. The ending is not all happy and perfect. Things are better, but as the beginning of the book indicates, none of them came back whole.

I would highly recommend Adrift to reluctant readers who like survival stories. The narrator is a boy, but girls will also enjoy it.

Published by Scholastic, July 28. 2015
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine
228 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Stacking the Shelves - One that I'm Already Reading

Happy Weekend! It's the beginning of my vacation so I'm pretty excited. Hope you have a great one. Here's what I got this week:

For Review:

Armada by Ernest Cline book cover
Armada, by Ernest Cline from Edelweiss
I was so excited to get approved for this one. I loved Ready Player One, and I couldn't wait to get started on Armada.

Only one, but a coveted one! How about you? Leave me a link to your haul. Don't forget to stop by our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews and check out all the participants. See you soon.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: China Dolls by Lisa See

China Dolls by Lisa See book cover and review
Lisa See once again immerses her readers in Asian culture in China Dolls.

Three women, with very different family backgrounds, meet in San Francisco in 1938. Grace has run away from her Iowa home and only wants to be a star. But although she is Chinese, her family is very Americanized and she doesn't even know what a chopstick is!

Helen has grown up in her family's home in Chinatown, and her parents are very traditional.

Ruby is ambitious but doesn't talk much about her family. She's willing to take risks to get what she wants.

These women become fast friends as they navigate the world of Chinese-American nightclubs. They become dancers and at times rivals. They support each other and pump each other up, but the business is as times cut-throat and brutal.

There are secrets and betrayals; they drift apart and together as they navigate the climate during WWII and beyond. Romance is present, but the main focus of China Dolls is the bond between these women.

China Dolls is narrated by these three women in alternating chapters. It took me a while to become comfortable with each voice so I could tell them apart.

China Dolls is historically accurate and includes several well-know popular figures of the time. The story is well paced, and See does a good job of revealing secrets and providing drama to keep you hooked. None of her books could ever top my love for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, but China Dolls was a very satisfying reading experience and I recommend it to fans of Chinese culture and historical fiction. China Dolls is appropriate for teen or adult readers.

Published by Random House, 2014
Ebook obtained from the library
400 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Book Review: Alive, by Scott Sigler

Alive, by Scott Sigler book cover and review
Alive keeps you guessing about what is really going on, but it also keeps your adrenaline pumping with its action and suspense.

Em wakes up in what seems to be a coffin and uses every ounce of strength to break out. She's in a room with many other coffins. She tries to wake up the kids in the coffins, but some of them are dead. She does manage to wake up a few others. They all believe that today is their birthday. None of them can remember their names or anything about their pasts. "Em" gives herself that name because on the end of her coffin it says "M. Savage."

They are all in clothes that are too little for them, and believe they are 12 years old. But by their anatomy, they are much older.

They begin to explore to find adults and food and water. They find a lot of dead skeletons. Em becomes the leader. They do end up encountering some others like themselves. They also get into some dangerous situations, and Sigler isn't afraid to kill off some of them.

Then.....ha! I'm not going to tell you. That's all you're going to get about the plot. The tension mounts. It's frightening and sometimes a little gorey. It isn't easy emotionally for these kids trying to catch up with their bodies. Em's hold on her leadership is at times precarious. I felt myself reading faster and faster trying to "help" these kids as they figure out where they are and why they are there.

Alive has a nice resolution to this part of the story, but it's a series, and I am very interested to see what happens next. Teens who enjoy a fast-paced adventure/survival story will enjoy Alive. 

Published by Del Rey, July 14, 2015
eARC obtained from NetGalley
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review: Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams book cover and review
Ruthless grabs you and doesn't let you go until the last page.

Ruth wakes up buried in something which she soon realizes is leaves and dirt. And she's in the back of a pickup truck that is moving. As she realizes how desperate her situation is, she know she must escape from her captor.

By far the greatest appeal is the nonstop action and tension. Ruth just never gives up, no matter how desperate things become. She encounters her captor numerous times while she's on the run, and each time is harrowing. Her determination and resourcefulness are admirable.

We are given flashbacks into Ruth's and her kidnapper's lives. Ruth isn't made out to be a perfect teen -- she's been, well, ruthless when it comes to her horses and becoming a champion rider.

Because this adventure goes on and on, we do need to suspend some disbelief. There were some times when Ruth made bad decisions, or else got extremely lucky. But rest assured, this only served to keep the action going. My biggest complaint is that she encountered people that didn't help. It seemed that these people had some hidden reason that they wouldn't help, but it was never explained and that really bothered me.

If you enjoy nonstop thrillers, I would recommend Ruthless. Reserve some won't be able to put it down. It's a pretty short book and would be good for reluctant readers.

Published by Simon Pulse, July 14, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
256 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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