Wednesday, May 27, 2015

DNF Thoughts: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Tiny Pretty Things by Charaipotra and Clayton book cover and review
If you are really into ballet and want to read everything you possibly can about it, then Tiny Pretty Things may be the book for you.

For me, it was just too slow. I read over 20% of the book, and still felt like I was being introduced to the characters. Nothing significant has happened except a lot of complaining about the other dancers.

And the characters are quite stereotypical. There's the prima donna who is upset she didn't get the lead. There is the new girl who did get the lead, and is African American. There is the one struggling with anorexia. There's the Asian girl who has a controlling mother. A lesbian who hasn't come out. And there are guys too. And a romance.

The narrative switches from character to character, and I was able to follow because the characters are distinct enough (and I've read plenty about them.) Mostly they are whining and trying to get what they want.

I think something is going to happen. At least I hope it is. But I had enough of this world and these characters, and I didn't care what was going to happen. Not a bad book, by any means. Just not the book for me.

Published by HarperTeen, May 26, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
94/448 pages

Rating: DNF





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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It's Summer!

Today is the last day of school for me. Every year I grab some books off the library shelves and take them home with me to read for the summer. So here's this year's choices:

One Shot at Forever, by Chris Ballard
Butter, by Erin Jade Lange
The Glass Sentence, by S. E. Grove
The Waking Dark, by Robin Wasserman
For All the Boys I've Loved Before, by Jenny Han
The Young Elites, by Marie Lu
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Boy Nobody, by Allen Zadoff
Positive, by Paige Rawl and Ali Benjamin

Some of them are nominees for the Abe Lincoln High School Book Award  and others are just some that I've wanted to read for a while. It's going to be a very busy summer, so we'll see if I can get through all these plus the review books I have scheduled.

I'll do my best!

So what do you think? Any opinions on these choices? Which books should I read first?





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Monday, May 25, 2015

Book Review: The Cage by Megan Shepherd @megan_shepherd

The Cage by Megan Shepherd book cover and review
I really enjoyed Megan Shepherd's The Cage for its unique premise and variant characterizations.

Cora wakes up in a strange place--a place where the land changes from desert to ocean to mountains very quickly. She discovers a boy, Lucky, and they explore together and find a bizarre, primitive town. And three other teens in the same situation.

It doesn't matter where they explore, they always end up back where they started. There are puzzles to solve in each store and they are awarded tokens that allow them to buy things. When the music starts playing in the diner, food appears.

They are visited by a strange humanoid person, who is most definitely not human. They are given three rules. They must solve the puzzles. They must stay healthy by eating, sleeping, and participating in health assessments. And...they must procreate. For the third rule, they are given 21 days to comply.

The reader feels the confusion of these teens. You want to scream, "Why??" right along with them. The characters all react very differently to this new situation. Some are more easily accepting and try to be happy. Some continue to explore and withdraw from the group. Most of them have secrets. But Cora simply cannot accept her fate and will do anything to find a way to escape, even when she has no idea what is outside their enclosure or how she will get back to Earth.

Cora eventually establishes a relationship with one of her captors. He tries to convince her that she has it pretty good compared to other humans in captivity. She tries to convince him that she can never be happy in this situation.

The beginning is a bit slow, and for a while I felt we were spinning our wheels. But about halfway through, things begin to move and get very interesting.

The ending leaves very little resolved as far as the big picture. But there are some stunning revelations that made me very anxious for the next installment.

The Cage has a bit of a sci-fi vibe, but there's not too much technical information to really make it hard science fiction. It has been compared to The Maze Runner, and I can relate to that comparison, but The Cage is unique enough and adds some additional elements. The Cage is mostly a tale of survival, and it takes everything they have because they are up against seemingly insurmountable odds.  I think a lot of teens are going to love this one.

Published by Balzer + Bray, May 26, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
400 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Stacking the Shelves - Just a Couple

Hope you are enjoying your day! Here are the books I managed to acquire this week:

For Review:
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez book cover
Out of Darkeness, by Ashley Hope Perez from NetGalley
Couldn't resist the historical aspect

Violent Ends book cover
Violent Ends, by various authors from Edelweiss

That's going to be it for me. How about you? Any good ones I missed this week? Please leave me a link in the comments and be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tyga's Reviews. Thanks for visiting.





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Friday, May 22, 2015

Feature & Follow Friday - Writing Reviews

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Happy Friday, and Happy Memorial Day for those of you in the States! I hope you have a great weekend. Let's get it started with some Follow Fun!

How do you write your reviews? - Suggested by Blue Books and Butterflies

That's a hard one. Here are some thoughts. (I'm writing this like I do my reviews -- pretty much off the top of my head.)

I'm not a big note taker or quote marker. I may jot down a key word or point while I'm reading, but not often. I think that's because....

I like me reviews to be about impressions. I spend very little time on a summary -- only the main points, and never spoilers. I usually tell even less than the published blurb. I want to tell you HOW I FELT about the book. Not about the book. Did I like the characters? Was it exciting, sad, romantic? What didn't I like?

I usually write my reviews very quickly. I try to end with who should read the book and why.

I write most of my reviews almost immediately after I've finished reading the book.

My reviews are short. You have too many books on your TBR, so I'd like you to get through your feed quickly so you can get back to them!

This is the way I read reviews too. I usually read the first paragraph, skip the summary, skim the middle, and look for the "why I liked it" (or didn't) at the end.

I think my method may be a bit unconventional, but that's OK. I don't have a huge following or get many comments, but, as I've always said, this blog is mostly for me and sometimes my students if they need help finding a book.

Thanks so much for stopping by. Let me know your thoughts in the comments or leave me a link. I hope you come back soon. Don't forget to visit our hosts, Parajunkee and Alison and see all the participating blogs.





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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review: At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen book cover and review
At the Water's Edge is a unique, wonderful, lyrical book that left me with such a good feeling. It is a love story, but so much more.

Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, of Philadelphia, are kicked out of her husband's house and they are cut off from the family fortune. Ellis and his constant companion and best friend, Hank, come up with a hair-brained scheme. They will travel to Scotland to hunt the illusive Loch Ness monster, to redeem Ellis' father and get back in his good graces. You see, Ellis' father had suffered much public humiliation when he tried to prove he had photographed the monster. It's 1945, and Scotland is in the thick of WWII.

Maddie reluctantly joins them, having no other choice. After almost losing their lives during a torpedo attack, they end up in a tiny, remote Scottish village in an inn that has none of the high-society perks they are accustomed to. Everything is rationed and there is little food and a lot of work to be done. Left alone much of the time, Maddie befriends the staff and even begins to help out around the inn, without her husband knowing. She soon realizes what a cad her husband is. She finds out more and more secrets about him that shed him in a very undesirable light. He treats other people horribly and Maddie doesn't know how to go about getting rid of him. Soon, she fears he will harm her or have her committed. Things deteriorate rapidly.

She begins a relationship with Angus, the caretaker of the inn, and soon finds herself unable to resist his charms. She's playing a very dangerous game though, and she knows it.

Who would ever combine a hunt for the Loch Ness monster with WWII in Scotland? I don't know how Gruen comes up with these ideas, but she makes it work. The characters are priceless. I loved every single one of them, even the "bad" characters. They were all vividly portrayed. The story isn't action packed, but it still sweeps you away and the atmosphere is perceptible.

I really enjoyed At the Water's Edge. I lost myself in this world with these characters, and who can ask for more than that?

Published by Spiegel & Grau, March 31, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
354 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Audio Book Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn book cover and review
Sharp Objects is my third Gillian Flynn novel, and while I enjoyed it, it is my least favorite. Maybe that's because it was her first.

Camille is a reporter for a small newspaper in Chicago. After two children are murdered in her home town, her boss asks her to go cover the story. She returns to this small, dusty town in the boot heel of Missouri, and we begin to understand a lot more about Camille.

She's a cutter, recently released from therapy. She cuts words into her skin--all over her skin. She has lost a younger sister when she was in her teens to a mysterious illness. Her mother never has loved Camille like she loved her sister. And now Camille has a younger sister who is 13 years old and is the terror of her school and town. She's as sweet as pie at home around her mother, though.

Camille finds out her mother knew the two girls that were killed. She visits one of the girl's brother who allows an interview. She befriends the detective that has been sent down from Kansas City to work on the case. She works to figure out who the murderer is. But the entire time the story really focuses on Camille and her fucked up life. (Sorry for the expletive, but it works perfectly here.) To say she has "issues" with her past is an understatement!

I suspected the murderer very early in the story, but was still surprised at the twist at the end. Flynn is famous for those twists. The problem I had was that this novel moved really slowly. There just wasn't enough action, or what action there was seemed tame or insignificant. Camille was just too weird for me. Her family is even weirder.

I listened to the audiobook and the narrator, Ann Marie Lee, did a good job. I also listened to Dark Places in audio format and didn't have the same problem, so I don't think it was the format.

If you're a fan of Flynn, I recommend that you check our Sharp Objects. Gone Girl is still my favorite, so you might want to start there.

Published by Broadway Books, Random House Audio, 2007
Copy obtained from the library
254  pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Book Review: Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon book cover and review
I was very entertained while reading Illusionarium. However, it doesn't have the "wow" factor to stick with me.

We're in an alternate universe. Jonathan is working with his dad and intends to become a doctor, as is his father. They live on a floating city very far north, so it's very stormy and cold. Everything is covered in ice.

There's a plague in one of the big cities, and the king comes to pick up Jonathan and his father to take them to his lab to find a cure. The queen has this disease, which only women contract and it always kills them in six days.

There's this chemical called fantillium that when breathed in, if you are an illusionarium you can create hallucinations and modify reality so that everyone with you sees what you create. They are supposed to work with a mad scientist that Jonathan's father has worked with before, and she is convinced that it is necessary to use fantillium to find the cure. Jonathan's father thinks she is mad and won't have anything to do with her. Jonathan, however, is more open to this approach, since he is an illusionarium.

There is an alternate universe they travel to and the cure exists there, but Jonathan must pay a huge price to get it. He's put in danger and there are many tense moments. I think the fact that this was all so fantastical made the tension just not that believable. It's kind of like a fairy tale -- you know that everything is going to turn out OK, so you don't get too tense.

The characters are distinct. The evil characters are plenty evil. The "zombies" are totally scary. The side effects of fantillium are interesting and horrid! For fans of steampunk, there are those elements too. The writing is easy and I read Illusionarium very quickly.

For lovers of a fantasy adventure that includes steampunk, Illusionarium might be appealing. For me, it was entertaining, but it's not a book that will leave a lasting impression.

Published by Greenwillow, May 19, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger book review and cover
Quirky and charming, Etiquette & Espionage hit all the right buttons for an enjoyable read.

Sophronia's mother is so happy that Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has accepted Sophronia because her mother doesn't think there's any hope for her becoming a lady. Sophronia has definite reservations, especially when her adventures begin on her way to the school -- before she has any idea what she's in for. Because this is a finishing school like no other. Yes, it will teach her the necessary skills to be a lady--along with those necessary for assassinations and espionage.

Taking place in the Victorian Era, Etiquette & Espionage manages to combine historical, paranormal and steampunk elements while providing interesting, diverse characters who have some wild adventures, mostly because of Sophronia. She's a force to be reckoned with, and is very determined and bold.

The adventures are far-fetched, but they're supposed to be. You can't go in expecting anything realistic. There is a specific item the girls are working to find, but I mostly enjoyed the banter between the characters and just learning about this world. This fantasy world makes you wish it were reality.  The excitement ramps up as you get closer to the ending, and this episode ties up quite nicely.

I'm glad there's more, though. The second book, Curtsies & Conspiracies, and the third, Waistcoats & Weaponry are already available. I think this series has great appeal for a lot of teen readers.

Published by Little Brown BFYR, 2013
Copy obtained from the library
307 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Stacking the Shelves - A Mix

It's been a good book week! Here's what I got:

For Review:
Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young book cover
Hotel Ruby, by Suzanne Young from Edelweiss

From the Library:

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen book cover
At the Water's Edge, by Sara Gruen

Fire & Flood, by Victoria Scott

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr - audiobook

I'm pretty excited. I've been on a wait list for the Doerr and Gruen books, so I'm glad they are finally here! What exciting things did you get this week? Leave me a link! Thanks for stopping by and be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. See you soon!





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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review: Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly

Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly book cover and review
Seriously Wicked is supposed to be light-hearted fun. And it is....but maybe a bit too light hearted.

Camellia is being raised by a witch that stole her from her parents when she was a baby. The witch is trying to make Camellia into a witch by teaching her spells. Camellia does NOT want to be a witch. And she doesn't want anyone to know that her "aunt" is a witch.

Her aunt is constantly giving Camellia chores to do, and most of them involve procuring bizarre ingredients for her spells. The latest spell is one that will summon a demon and allow her aunt to take control of the town. Camellia thinks this is dangerous, and although she tries to thwart her aunt's efforts, things turn out even worse than expected. The demon has possessed the guy who Camellia was just getting interested in.

One problem I had with the book is the repetition of "hells" which is Camellia's preferred curse word. I'm sorry -- but I got so tired of her saying this on almost every page. Really? Usually these things don't annoy me, but this went way to far. How could an editor let this be? (I am reading an ARC, so there's hope for the final copy!)

Seriously Wicked is silly. It's over the top. It is billed as "hilarious." A better term, at least for me, is "eye-rolling." You have to go into Seriously Wicked with a mindset that there's going to be totally crazy magic things happen that don't really make sense and aren't explained. This book is about the relationships between the characters, and the surprises are about those characters and who they really turn out to be.

Seriously Wicked is short and easy. I think that if you don't really expect to take things to seriously, and you want a little fun with witches, you may enjoy it.

Published by Tor Teen, May 5, 2015
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine
208pages

Rating: 2.5/5





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