Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Review: Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith

Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith book cover and review
I had some problems with Dreamstrider. Granted, fantasy isn't my favorite genre, but there's more to it than that.

Livia is a Dreamstrider. She can take over people's bodies while they are dreaming. Or, something.... She's working for her government, the Barstadt Empire, to help determine if and when their enemies are going to attack and to help find a way to stop them.

Livia used to be a tunneler, a low class citizen that lives in poverty underground. She was saved by a professor who studies dreams because of her talent. The deity in this Empire is the Dreamer. Livia is devout; fervently praying to the Dreamer for his guidance. And the "devil" is the Nightmare. But supposedly the Nightmare no longer exists. Livia believes Nightmare is coming back, because she has encountered the Nightmares while she is dreamstriding. Or something...

The politics and the religion are intertwined. The whole Dreamstriding experience was confusing and I never really understood what was going on. There are a lot of characters introduced, but many are superficial. I couldn't sink my teeth into the magical lore of this world. And, one of my biggest problems with fantasies, things are sometimes resolved too easily by using magical elements.

The ending was confusing. I can't really say much without giving it away, but Livia figures something out, and I didn't understand how or why it "fixed" everything like it did. There is also a lot of verbose, flowery language that maybe was supposed to explain her revelation, but really didn't mean anything. The romance was the best part of the story, and that part I understood!

I didn't know any of the characters well enough to care about the outcome, with the exception of Livia. The explanations of the dream world and dreamstriding was unclear, and the rules seemed to keep changing. I never understood why priests can be in the dream world, but they aren't dreamstriders -- because they are priests? Or something... I can just keep on with my questions, but you get the idea. Dreamstrider was just really muddled for me. Kind of like this review.

I hate writing negative reviews. I respect authors, including Smith, because I certainly couldn't do any better. But I also think that when I have to read passages over and over, and try to make lists of places and characters and still don't fully understand what is going on, then I need to reveal my difficulties. I can't recommend this book, but I encourage you to look for other reviews that are more positive.

Published by Roaring Book Press, October 6, 2015
ARC obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
391 pages

Rating: 2/5





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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Audio Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins book cover and review
If you require characters that you can love, then The Girl on the Train is not the book for you. The characters are all pretty much despicable. And if you can't handle cheating, then stay away from this one. Other than that, The Girl on the Train is a great read.

Rachel is The Girl on the Train. She rides the train to work every day, passing by the house she used to live in with her husband, Tom. He still lives there with his new wife, Anna, who he dumped Rachel for. And they have a new baby. Talk about painful. Rachel deals with this pain by drinking. A lot.

Rachel becomes interested in a house just down the road from her old house where another young couple lives. She names them "Jess and Jason." And they seem to have the most perfect, loving relationship. "Jess," whose real name is Megan, takes care of Anna's child. Megan does not have the perfect life, as Rachel thinks. Megan has lost the art gallery she used to run and now has nothing to do with her days except mope around.

Rachel sees something shocking from the train and after someone disappears, she goes to the police with the information. But she's been drunk so many times, she can't even be sure of what she's telling the police, and they don't believe much of what she says.

Hawkins weaves an intricate web around these five people. They become intertwined, unwillingly, in unexpected ways. These characters are awful. The more we learn about them, the more we loath. I get that they are unhappy for different reasons, in different ways. But jees. Do something for yourselves instead of complaining. I think the story takes a while to get going, but when I'm listening I tend to be more patient with a slow-building plot.

I did suspect (not right away) who the bad person was (well, they were all bad, but I mean the perpetrator.) That didn't take away from the fascination I felt while watching this all play out. The Girl on the Train has been compared to Gone Girl, and while it did have the contemptible characters, it's a different story.

If you are a fan of the twisted who-done-it, (as long as you can handle the characterizations and subject matter) then you should definitely pick up The Girl on the Train. Teens should like this one too.

Published by Riverhead Books, January 13, 2015
Audiobook obtained from the library
336 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Monday, September 28, 2015

Book Review: Another Day by David Levithan

While Another Day was well written and quick to read, I don't really think this book is necessary.

If you haven't read the companion novel, Every Day, you probably shouldn't read the rest of this review.

This is the same story as Every Day told from Rhiannon's point-of-view.

In the letter at the beginning, Levithan says this book is for those who have read Every Day as well as those who haven't. Well, it takes 25% of the book before Rhiannon meets A. That took too long for someone who already knows the story.

I didn't feel Rhiannon's POV added very much. It's a POV that I could decifer from Every Day. I might not have known every detail about her relationships with her boyfriend and other friends, but knowing those details just didn't add anything.

I read 52% of Another Day, then skipped ahead and read the last ten percent. I don't think I missed anything.

Published by Knopf BFYR August 25, 2015
eARC obtained from NetGalley
208/336 pages

Rating: Incomplete





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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Stacking the Shelves - An Author that Has My Attention

I got one ARC for review this week and that's it.

For Review:
The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian book cover
The Guest Room, by Chris Bohjalian from NetGalley
A few years ago I read The Night Strangers (creeeeeepy!), so when I saw this I wanted to read something else by this author.

What did you get? Leave me a link in the comments please. Don't forget to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy your weekend!






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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow book cover and review
The Scorpion Rules has a unique and enjoyable premise, however at times the storytelling got a little confusing.

The world is run by an artificially intelligent being, Talis. In order to deter wars, each nation's leader must send an offspring as a hostage. These offspring are taken to a Precepture where they are educated but captive. If their country goes to war, the child is executed.

Greta is the Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, one of the largest nations. There is a worldwide water shortage, so the Pan Polar Confederacy guards its supply and is likely to go to war to protect it. Greta is sure she will soon be executed. A new government is formed, so a new kid comes to the Precepture, Elian. Elian's country is next to Greta's vying for the same water. He's not cooperative and disrupts the routine. Not only is Elian tortured for his behavior, the rest of the kids must suffer too because they are supposed to help him learn to cooperate.

They don't escape. That's what you think is going to happen. So that's not it, which I found refreshing in itself.  But all hell breaks loose, and it changes everything for these kids. I'm not really going to say any more than that.

For as bad as the water shortage is, it doesn't seem to affect the Precepture very much. Yes, they mention not taking showers, and it never rains. But they have lush gardens and livestock, so they must be using water. My favorite part of the book is the beginning when we are introduced to the characters and their world. The scientific aspects were also very interesting, and sci-fi buffs will certainly appreciate that aspect. After "all hell breaks loose" I thought the story got a little muddled, sometimes going too fast so that I felt I needed more information. I didn't always understand the motivations of the characters and the reasons they made the choices they did.

But the story is fascinating and leaves room for a lot of thought and discussion. And it's also a bit brutal at times, so be warned. Something very significant happens at the end that makes me think the next installment of Prisoners of Peace will be very different than The Scorpion Rules.

I liked it. I just lost some of the details that might have made The Scorpion Rules exceptional.

Published by Margaret K. McElderry, September 22, 2015
eARC obtained from NetGalley
384 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Monday, September 21, 2015

Book Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson @raecarson

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson book cover and review
Walk on Earth a Stranger is a perfect book for me. I absolutely loved it.

Leah's life is turned upside down when she finds her parents both murdered in their small home in Georgia. It's 1849 and many people are racing to California to make their fortune in gold.

Leah has a secret. She's able to feel when gold is near. The sense gets stronger the closer she gets to the gold. Nice ability to have, huh? When Leah's uncle comes to take her away and "use" her, she runs away. Her best friend left for California a short while ago, and she wishes she went with him but now hopes to catch up with him. She must disguise herself as a boy since it would be impossible to be a girl travelling alone. Fortunately Leah has been trained by her father to hunt, muck out the stalls, and any other work to keep their household running.

Leah (now Lee) goes through much hardship but makes some interesting friends along the way to California. Walk on Earth a Stranger never has a dull moment. The heat, cold, wet, stampedes, mountains, rivers, cholera, and danger from Indians made these people true pioneers. Many lost their lives, including some of the characters in this book. It was hard work; they were always tired and much of the time they were hungry and thirsty.

The writing just flows magically. I felt like I was along with Lee in her travels. I hated some characters so much that I wanted to throw the iPad across the room (I refrained.) The magical gold-finding ability just adds to the story but never overpowers it.

I was concerned about a cliff hanger, since this is a planned trilogy (Gold Seer Trilogy), but this episode ties up the immediate plot line. We know there's more to come, and I can't wait for the next book. I think it's probably going to be a while.

Fans of historical fiction should not miss Walk on Earth a Stranger. Don't let the magic cause you any hesitation. Fans of magical books will enjoy this one too, especially if you enjoy historical settings. I can't wait to shove this one at my teens.

Published by Greenwillow, September 22, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
448 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stacking the Shelves - One Historical Fiction

I received one book this week. My favorite, historical fiction. Can't wait to get to it.

For Review:
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin book cover
Wolf by Wolf, by Ryan Graudin from NetGalley

Hope you had a great book week. Let me know in the comments so I can add to my list. Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Come back soon!





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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book Review: I Crawl Through It, by A. S. King

I Crawl Through It by A. S. King book cover and review
A. S. King is quite possibly my favorite YA author. But I Crawl Through It is just a bit too weird for me.

Hmmmm....I really don't know where to begin. There are several narrators, all unreliable. We have one character who thinks she's two separate people. One is building an invisible helicopter. One turns herself inside out. All of them are dealing with issues from their past in the best way they know how. The parents are mostly dysfunctional too.

And that's really the message in I Crawl Through It. It's about coping. And understanding. And helping each other.

Someone is calling in daily bomb threats to the high school, so it's impossible to have a normal school day. An old man in a bush gives away letters for kisses. I'm not really sure what happened in the book. I don't think that's the important thing. The writing is excellent and it's a quick read. I just don't think it has wide appeal.

I'll still read anything King writes, but I Crawl Through It won't be at the top of my recommendation list.

Published by Little, Brown BFYR, September 22, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
336 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Monday, September 14, 2015

Audio Book Review: The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey @michaelcarey191

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey book cover and review
The Girl With All the Gifts is basically a zombie book. And a good one! Don't get me wrong, The Girl With All the Gifts isn't your typical zombie book. There are characters to relate to -- even zombie characters -- and the normal humans aren't very likable.

Melanie is special. She doesn't really understand why, but she's kept isolated in an underground facility. She's strapped to a wheelchair - immobilized - and taken to the classroom with other children like her every weekday. She has several teachers, but her favorite is Miss Justineau. She loves Miss Justineau.

I can't really say much about the plot. You don't understand what's going on with Melanie and these other kids at first, and that's intentional. It just adds to the tension. The reader slowly realizes that the outside world is gone. There are hungries and junkers out there. And Melanie is very lucky to be in here. Or is she? Melanie's "safe" world is shattered (along with everyone else) and she becomes part of an unlikely group fighting for their survival.

The strength of The Girl With All the Gifts is the strong emotions I felt for the characters. Miss Justineau is so sweet and caring, but I really didn't like her. Most of the time she's unreasonable and makes stupid (deadly) decisions. For a while I thought I liked the evil Dr. Caldwell better, but not really. She's warped in her own way. Admittedly, their situation is stressful and desperate which doesn't bring out their best.

The concept behind the "end of the world" is also fascinating, and to my unscientific mind seemed plausible. The ending may not be what the reader hopes for, but I enjoyed the irony.

The narrator, Finty Williams, does a great job. The Girl With All the Gifts is set in Great Britain, so her British accent is appropriate. Some of the characters sounded a bit alike, but it wasn't difficult to figure out who was speaking.

Anyone who enjoys dystopian/zombie/thriller books will enjoy The Girl With All the Gifts, including teens. I'm still thinking about this one, and that's always a good sign.

Published by Orbit, Hachette Audio, 2014
Copy obtained from the library
416 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Book Review: Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty

Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty book cover and review
Lock & Mori totally captivated me with its characters and an intriguing mystery.

Lock is Sherlock Holmes. Mori is Moriarty - a girl. Lock & Mori takes place in the present, and they are both in high school and meet during Mori's theater class. Lock, of course, is interested in investigating a crime, so he takes Mori to the park where there has been a murder and he wants Mori to investigate with him.  Mori thinks she will turn Lock down, but it doesn't end up that way. The case gets personal.

Mori's home life is awful. Her dad is a drunk since her mother died of cancer, and he beats on Mori's brothers at times. It turns out Lock's mother is sick, a fact that is just thrown out, but never followed up. But we do interact with Mycroft, Lock's brother.

Lock and Mori are both very intelligent and their banter adds a lot to the story. They also end up in a pretty serious romance, which was handled well, but not necessary. It bothered me that Mori wasn't more honest with Lock, but I appreciated how Lock handled the reveal.

Fans of mystery, especially Sherlock Holmes, should be pointed to Lock & Mori. It seems like these characters could handle a series, but I don't know about any plans. It is a quick, engaging read that will appeal to a lot of teens.

Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, September 15, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
256 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, September 7, 2015

Book Review: One, by Sarah Crossan @SarahCrossan

One by Sarah Crossan book cover and review
Sarah Crossan does an exceptional job putting the reader inside the head of a conjoined twin in One.

There's just a lot you don't think about when it comes to the issues that conjoined twins face. I first became more away of this when I read The Girls, by Lori Lansens (which I still highly recommend.) Grace, our narrator, is trying to be a teenager. Her sister, Tippi, is always with her, since they are literally joined at the hip and share their lower body.

At the beginning of the book, their parents are having financial difficulties and tell the girls they must go to school instead of being home schooled. This is quite a change for them. But they end up making a couple of friends and they actually enjoy school, engaging in some typical teen activities.

Their father has lost his job and spends much of the time in an alcoholic stupor. Their younger sister wants nothing more than to dance, and she's taken a job teaching so that she can pay for her studio time. Grace and Tippi feel very guilty, because it's their medical bills that are sucking up all the funds.

Another issue is that Grace has become attracted to their friend, Jon. But the girls have agreed they can't fall in love. Their health becomes the foremost concern, and that's all I'll say about that.

Don't let the "written in verse" part keep you away. One reads very easily, keeps your attention, and is very quick. One is a heartwarming, emotional story that will keep you thinking long after you've turned the last page.

Published by Greenwillow, September 15, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
400 pages

Rating: 5/5





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