Thursday, March 31, 2016

Book Review: The Girl in the Blue Coat, by Monica Hesse

Girl in the Blue Coat held my interest and added to my knowledge of affairs during World War II. I know it was supposed to be tense and exciting, but that's where I found it a bit lacking.

Hanneke is doing her best to survive and take care of her parents in Amsterdam after the German occupation. It's 1943, and Hanneke is lucky to have a job working for an undertaker. She also has a secret job locating things on the black market for people who can pay for them.

When one of her customers reveals she has been hiding a Jewish girl in her pantry and that the girl has disappeared, Hanneke's life changes. She doesn't know where to begin to find out what happened to this girl who was wearing a blue coat, but she can't help but try.  She ends up being unwillingly drawn into the Dutch Resistance and taking risks that she never believed she would take.

Girl in the Blue Coat is an easy, quick read. And it's historical fiction, my favorite, so I enjoyed the time I spent. I did learn about the role of the Dutch in Hitler's plans and how the people, especially the Jews, suffered under the occupation.

I just didn't really emotionally connect with Hanneke or her story. I found it informative, but not emotional. I can't say why, and other readers might have a totally different reaction. So I would still recommend Girl in the Blue Coat to my readers who want more Holocaust and WWII stories. 

Published by Little, Brown BFYR, April 5, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
320 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Book Review: Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern book cover and review
Flawed has an interesting premise in which the government has gone a bit mad. It seems there are criminals, but there is a whole other category of people called Flawed -- those who have committed some moral indiscretion. It was a bit too much for me to believe.

There is a separate court that determines if you are Flawed, and let's just say, if you appear before that court, you are certain to be deemed Flawed. There are "whistle blowers" who turn people in. And if you are Flawed, you must be branded, wear a red arm band with an "F" on it, and your rights in society are severely limited. This is for your entire life. You are never freed, and your family suffers because of it.

Celestine is our main character. She's always been the good girl and tries not to draw attention to herself. But when she assists an old man who is having trouble breathing, her entire life changes, because that man was Flawed and you are not allowed to aid or assist a Flawed person.

So not only is this system strange and unbelievable, it turns out there is corruption and Celestine  suffers because of it. She unwillingly becomes the poster child against the Flawed system. People are pushing her in different directions, and she can trust no one. But she also is kind of indecisive and doesn't always make good decisions. She is young, so I can get over that.

Flawed moves at a quick pace and kept me engaged. I did want to know what was going to happen, even as my eyes were rolling because I just couldn't buy this absurd premise. So I have mixed feelings. The book was entertaining, but just went a bit beyond my capabilities to really accept this system of government. Flawed ends in a bit of a cliffhanger, and I'm not sure how I feel about spending time in this world for the rest of the series.

I think teens might buy into Flawed more than I did. It is a bit political, but for the right reader, this might be part of the appeal. It's easy to read and may elicit some emotion.

Published by Feiwel & Friends, April 5, 2016
eARC obtained from NetGalley
336 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Stacking the Shelves -- A Good Haul!

Happy Weekend! Happy Easter! Hope you are enjoying it. Here's what I received this week.

For Review:
The Memory Jar by Elissa Janine Hoole book cover
The Memory Jar, by Elissa Jane Hoole from School Library Connection Magazine

The Shadow's Curse by Amy McCulloch book cover
The Shadow's Curse, by Amy McCulloch from School Library Connection Magazine

Strike, by Delilah S. Dawson book cover
Strike, by Delilah S. Dawson from School Library Connection Magazine
This is the sequel to Hit, which I have read, so I'm excited

Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano book cover
Holding Smoke, by Elle Cosimano from NetGalley

Ever the Hunted, by Erin Summerill book cover
Ever the Hunted, by Erin Summerill from Edelweiss

And I Darken, by Kiersten White book cover
And I Darken, by Kiersten White from NetGalley

So a pretty exciting week for me. What did you get that's exciting? Leave me a link so I can add to my list. Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Book Review: The Memory Jar, by Elissa Janine Hoole

The Memory Jar by Elissa Janine Hoole book cover and review
For those who love a book filled with drama, The Memory Jar should fit the bill.

The Memory Jar starts out shortly after a serious snow mobile accident in which Scott suffered a traumatic brain injury and is in a coma. The story is told mostly from the perspective of Taylor, his girlfriend, who was also injured and can't remember any details of the accident.

We get a "then" and "now" perspective. "Then" being the accident and the events leading up to it. And the "now" is dealing with the consequences, trying to remember, and making some serious decisions.

In a nutshell: Taylor is pregnant, she told Scott and he didn't respond as she had hoped, she decides to break up with him, and then he asks her to marry him. The accident happens right after this.

The details are slowly revealed, and there are additional nuances and people that add to the story. In particular, Scott's brother, Taylor's best friend, and someone named Kendall who I won't say anything more about are important characters.

The Memory Jar is a very quick read, but even so, I felt it to be very slow moving and a bit repetitive. This is certainly a very dramatic and stressful situation, and Hoole does a good job depicting this aspect, but when you look back on the story it just seems like not much happened and what did happen was fairly predictable.

However, teens who can't get enough of these stories of angst will certainly be attracted to The Memory Jar. While it's not a story that will stick with me, I would recommend it to reluctant readers.

Published by Flux, April 8, 2016
ARC obtained from School Library Connection
321 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Book Review: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard book cover and review
Glass Sword, the second book in the Red Queen series, certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat for quite a while. Don't read this review until you've read Red Queen (and you should do that immediately.)

Mare and Cal have escaped at the end of Red Queen and we pick up shortly after. They are running from Maven and his army of Silvers. Mare is determined to find and save any Red and Silver blooded people, before Maven gets to them.

Most of the book focuses on Mare and her growing resistance group traveling around avoiding Maven, collecting other mixed bloods, and most of the time using whatever special powers they have.

I did think the middle of the book bogged down a bit -- kind of the same thing over and over. But once they begin the bigger, final mission (and I won't tell you what that is), the pace is breakneck.

Mare is a bit whiny. I got tired of her "woe is me" attitude, and at times she wasn't very likable, as she readily admitted to herself. Admittedly she has  lot to bear, but she didn't need to keep reminding the reader of that. It made the book seem long.

While I didn't like Glass Sword as much as Red Queen, I'm certainly invested in the series, and with the very brutal cliff hanger, I'm desperately waiting for the next installment.

My teens are in love with this series -- both boys and girls. It's a must have for any teen library.

Published by HarperTeen, February 9, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
444 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Feature & Follow Friday: Favorite Book Covers

Happy Friday! This week's prompt: Top Ten Favorite Book Covers

My favorite book cover continues to be:

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen book cover
I'm a sucker for a pretty dress!

The rest of these are in no particular order:

This is I Hunt Killers, by Lyga. Inside the dust jacket!
I haven't even read this one yet, but I love the cover!

Well, that's only nine, but I'm surprised I was even able to come up with that many. I'm not a real cover person, unless there is a gorgeous dress. (I could have done ten with just pretty dresses on them!) How about you? Leave me a link so I can see your pretty covers. Thanks for stopping by! Make sure to visit our hosts, Parajunkee and Alison and vote for your favorite posts.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

DNF Book Review: Cold Barrel Zero by Matthew Quirk

Cold Barrel Zero by Matthew Quirk book cover
OK, so I didn't finish this one, but I read over half of it, and it's a good book. So, why didn't I finish it? Well, it's just not my kind of book. Or at least it's not the right book for me now. Do you know what I mean? Sometimes your reading experience is affected by your mood, or the last thing you read, or the next thing you want to read. Or maybe I just got impatient, because Cold Barrel Zero is very detailed.

It's hard to describe Cold Barrel Zero because it is complex. It's about two groups of people who are after each other because of supposed atrocities committed long ago. One group is the military and the main character is Riggs. The other group are the supposed renegades, led by Hayes. Then Thomas Byrne, who hasn't seen Hayes for years gets roped into this horrible situation because he' in the wrong place at the wrong time. For Byrne, it's help or be killed.

There is a lot of action, but it's kind of the same action repeated over again, which is the main reason I gave up at 55%. It's a long book -- or at least it seemed like it. I didn't need more action, I just needed the answers to come a bit more quickly. Cold Barrel Zero is purposefully confusing at the beginning and many characters are introduced quickly. The best part is the fact that the reader really doesn't know who is bad and who is good. I'm not really sure anyone is good in this one. But after over half the book, I was still totally in the dark. I needed some breadcrumbs, so I could stay interested in the outcome.

Quirk also uses some jargon that I didn't understand and some references that made no sense. One example is when he talks about a group of high powered people at a meeting and says, "they were all mandarins." Huh? The dictionary on my e-reader didn't have an explanation. When I go to the sixth definition says: "An influential or powerful government official or bureaucrat." Thanks for expanding my vocabulary, but I think Quirk is being purposefully obtuse. These types of phrases occur too often and disrupted the flow for me.

I found myself resenting this story and wishing it would just be over. That's when I decided it was time to quit. A certain case of "it's me, not you" because really my complaints about Cold Barrel Zero are minor, and if you like these types of high tech, military terrorism stories, then you should go for it.

Published by Mulholland, March 29, 2016
eARC obtained from NetGalley
211/384 pages

Rating: DNF

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Audio Book Review: The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister

The magician's Lie by Greer Macallister book cover and review
The Magician's Lie is a very slowly paced tale. But it's steady, and it managed to keep my interest.

The Amazing Arden is a successful female magician, a rare thing in the early 1900s. After a show in Waterloo, Iowa, her husband is found dead under the stage, and Arden has disappeared.

Virgil is a small town cop with problems of his own, and when he comes upon Arden fleeing from town, he decide she may be the one to help him solve his problems. So he takes her to his small, quiet office to interrogate her. Arden begins her story at the beginning of her life and spends the entire night trying to convince Virgil she isn't guilty.

Her story is no ordinary tale. She's had quite the eventful life and that's what make the story readable. Yes, we do want to know if Arden is guilty, but the journey to get that information is where the enjoyment comes from.

As a matter of fact, I didn't really like the ending. I thought it fizzled a bit. I did hope for this outcome, but I thought it would be presented with more of a bang!  Not very dramatic, but like I said, the rest of the story is what makes this novel engaging. While Arden's past is very slowly exposed, it still manages to be interesting.

The audio narrators, Nick Podehl and Julia Whelan, were very good. I didn't really think about the narration during the story. It was easy to follow and nothing bugged me about the voices.

The Magician's Lie isn't for everyone, but those who enjoy a well put together, interesting story that doesn't rush will enjoy it.

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, 2015 (Brilliance Audio)
Copy obtained from the library
320 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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