Monday, October 31, 2016

AudioBook Review: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith book cover and review
Galbraith (a.k.a. J. K. Rowling) can write descriptions very well.  My only complaint with The Cuckoo's Calling is that sometimes those descriptions made the story plod along very slowly at times.

Cormoran Strike, our main character, is colorful and lovable. He's a private detective who deeply in debt and without any clients, has no way to pay. He's lost a leg serving in Afghanistan. Besides that, he's just broken up with his fiance and has no place to live.

First, a temporary secretary, Robin, walks into him (literally) and while she's very efficient, Strike doesn't know how he's going to pay her.

Then, John Bristow walks in, and suddenly things are looking up. He's willing to pay well for Strike to look into the death of his sister, Lula Landry, the famous fashion model who committed suicide three months ago.  John is certain that her death is not a suicide and wants Strike to find her killer.

There are many potential suspects, and Strike is very good at his job.  He picks through the evidence and looks carefully at every aspect. Robin turns out to be very helpful and she loves her job, even though she is looking for something permanent. These two make a great team.

I didn't know who did it.  I love that in a mystery.  I had suspects, and even though the reader learns everything as Strike does, it still isn't easy to put together.

The plotting and characterizations are superb, as you would expect from Rowling.  The descriptions are well written and interesting, but for a who-done-it, I just got a bit impatient to find out!

The narrator, Robert Glenister, is excellent.  His voices are subtle, but enough to tell who is talking. The setting is England, and his accent is appropriate. I'm more tolerant of long descriptions when listening rather than reading, so I thoroughly enjoyed The Cuckoo's Calling in audio form.

There are at least two more books in the Cormoran Strike series, and I'm planning to continue.  The Cuckoo's Calling is also a good one to recommend to my high school mystery/detective fans.

Published by Mulholland Books, 2013, Hachette Audio
Copy obtained from the library
464 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Book Review: Infinity, by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon book cover and review
Infinity is written for younger teens, and that's most of the reason I had issues with it.

Nick is a normal 14-year-old, trying to cope with living in poverty and having a mother who is a stripper. Then, all of a sudden, people start trying to eat each other. These zombies are different because they didn't die before becoming zombies. Nick gets exposed to demons and vampires and all sorts of supernatural creatures he thought were only in fiction. Why are these kids, who used to be Nick's school mates, trying to kill him?

A mysterious man takes Nick under his wing and gives him protection. But who is this man? And why Nick?

The story progresses somewhat awkwardly. Sometimes the point of view shifts suddenly. Nick's exposure to this other realm is somewhat slow, but his reactions are way too accepting. The flow of the story just didn't click for me. There are a lot of characters, especially for a middle-grade book, and I got some of them confused. Maybe because each character was too  superficial.  I didn't feel like I got to know any of them, so I had difficulty making a connection.

My last complaint is that the ending, when Nick is deciding what path to take, was really preachy.  The part about "revenge." It read like, "OK, here's the moral of the story in five easy pages."

What's to like? Well, actually, quite a bit.  I love the premise. This is the beginning of a somewhat long series, The Chronicles of Nick, and apparently, it's up to Nick to save the world. Even at almost 500 pages, the book reads very quickly. It has a rather large font and wide margins, which makes it perfect for reluctant readers. The pace moves quickly and there is a lot of action.

My book club is reading Infinity for our next meeting. It is one of my member's favorite series ever.  It will be interesting to see what they all have to say.

Published by St. Martin's Griffin, 2010
Copy purchased (and will be donated to the library)
464 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review: The Rains, by Gregg Hurwitz

For the young adult intended audience, The Rains is a non-stop thriller.  For a somewhat jaded adult reader like myself, it was just kind of "more of the same."

First, a meteor strikes.  Then weird plants grow and burst to release something into the air. Then all of the adults become some kind of zombie creatures that hunt down the kids and put them in cages.  Chance, our narrator, his older brother Patrick, and Patrick's girlfriend are on the run trying to stay hidden.  They find a group of kids holed up in the school.

As Patrick will soon be 18 years old (when he will magically turn into one of these zombies) the kids are desperate to figure out how to defeat this disease.

The dynamics at the school are familiar in teen survival stories.  There's the asshole group that wants to lead but really has no interest in helping anyone or taking any risks.  And there are the main characters risking life and limb time and time again to survive.

I just finished reading this book a couple of days ago, and I can't remember the characters.  If you want action, The Rains hits the ground running and never stops.  The pace is relentless -- so much so that I kind of got tired of reading it, and I just wanted it to be over.

The Rains is a fast-paced, quick read perfect for reluctant readers, including boys.  It reminded me of books like Ashes by Bick, The Prey by Isbell, and Monument 14 by Laybourne. The Rains is also the first in a series, with an interesting set-up for the second book at the end.

Published by Tor Teen, October 18, 2106
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Book Review: Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin book cover and review
I wish these books were getting more attention. They are getting great reviews from most of the major publications. In Blood for Blood, the sequel to Wolf by Wolf, Yael and the rest of the resistance are continuing to try to overthrow Hitler's government.

To recap, this is an alternate historical story where Hitler and Emperor Hirohito have defeated the allies and taken over much of the world (except for North America.) Blood for Blood picks up right after Wolf by Wolf ends.  And now you should stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled for the first book. But go read my review for Wolf by Wolf instead.

Even though Yael was unable to kill the real Hitler, the resistance is still making progress in some parts of the world. The first part of Blood for Blood is Yael, along with Felix and Luka, trying to escape after the assassination attempt. Felix is desperately trying to find his family. Yael is trying to get back to the resistance headquarters. And Luka is going with Yael.

Blood for Blood has many exciting scenes. The emphasis eventually changes, once again, to trying to kill Hitler, and basically it's a survival story.  Somewhere there is a traitor that is making it more difficult for them. As in the first book, the shapeshifting is a convenient ploy at times, but there is still plenty of danger. Graudin doesn't hold back on the violence.

I did think the pace dropped a bit after the halfway point and then picks up again at the end.  Their journey seemed a bit long and drawn out, but that's really a minor complaint.

Blood for Blood (and Wolf by Wolf) will appeal to both males and females, which is a bonus.  There is some romance, but it's not a major part of the story.   Blood for Blood concludes this series. My book club read Wolf by Wolf last year, and I can't wait to give them this one.

Published by Little, Brown BFYR, November 1, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
496 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Stacking the Shelves - It's Been a While

I haven't done one of these posts for a while, mostly because I haven't been getting many new books.  But here they are:

For Review:

Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman book cover
Empire of Dust, by Eleanor Herman from NetGalley
It's always dangerous to get the second book in a series when you haven't read the first.  But I have good intentions! We'll see.

The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz book cover
The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz, from NetGalley
An impulse request.

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr book cover
Gem & Dixie, by Sara Zarr from Edelweiss

The Release by Tom Isbell book cover
The Release, by Tom Isbell from Edelweiss

Ones and Zeroes by Dan Wells book cover
Ones and Zeroes, by Dan Wells from Edelweiss

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones book cover

Wintersong, by S. Jae-Jones from NetGalley

Infinity, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
My book club chose this one and I don't even have this series in my library.  So I bought this to read, then I will donate it.

I think that will do it for this week.  How about you? Leave me a link so I can check out your haul! Be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult @jodipicoult

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult book cover and review
Small Great Things reads just like a Picoult novel, and that's a good thing! She has the ability to put the reader inside the story.

Ruth, an African American, has been a labor and delivery nurse for 20 years.  She is stunned when the parents of a newborn ask that she not be allowed to touch their baby. She's even more stunned when her supervisor puts a note in the chart adhereing to those wishes.

During an emergency, when Ruth is the only one available to watch the baby, he goes into cardiac arrest, and Ruth is torn about what to do.  I turns out the baby dies, and Ruth is charged with murder.  Can you say "moral dilemma?"

The other main character is Ruth's white public defender, Kennedy, who has never handled a murder case before.  It's a rocky road, given that Kennedy is adamant that you don't mention "race" in a courtroom, when Ruth knows that's exactly what this case is about.

As a white person, I was most intrigued by Kennedy's journey. It's a book that made me think about racism and what that really means.

Yes, Picoult is white.  She discusses that in her note at the end of Small Great Things, and how she didn't know if she was "qualified" to write this story.  I won't give an opinion, because I suppose that's up to the African American people that read the book.  But, I will say (again) that Small Great Things gets you thinking, and I would highly recommend it.

I don't buy many adult novels for my high school library -- I just don't have the budget -- but I think Small Great Things needs to be read by teens as well as adults, so I'm going to order it.

Funny story:  I read this book on my iPad, and since you never see the cover, I didn't think this was by Picoult.  I have a book by another author that I intend to read soon, and I thought this book was by her.  All through the book, I kept thinking, "Boy, she writes a lot like Jodi Picoult!"  Duh....

Published by Ballentine, October 11, 2016
eARC obtained from NetGalley
480 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Book Review: Incognita by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Incognita by Kristen Lippert-Martin book cover and review
Wow!  Incognita kept me glued to the pages.  I haven't read a book that has done that in a long time.

As I said in my review of Tabula Rasa, the premise is way out there.  But you know what? It doesn't matter.  The writing is good, I cared about the characters, and the plot clips along.

Sarah (mostly known as Angel in this book) is safe at the end of Tabula Rasa. She and Thomas are going to be reunited, and go on their first real date.  Of course all hell breaks loose.  People are after Angel again, and Thomas is kidnapped.  She gets help from another kid who seems like he's been through the same thing Angel has.  But can she trust him? It's never quite clear.

The teens are running out of time because Thomas and the new kid need the antedote to whatever strange drug they have been given or they will loose all of their memories.  The attacks are relentless.  Every time it seems they are close to surviving, they are again thwarted by "the bad guys," of which there are many.  They can trust no one.

Incognita has a resolution for all of the characters, although it might not be the ideal we are hoping for.  I would definitely recommend reading Tabula Rasa first. The series is supposed to be a trilogy, and I'm looking forward to the third book, because I want a happier ending!

Published by Carolrhoda, October 1, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
272 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Other Side of Life - Fall Decorating

I've been posting about building and decorating my new house at my other blog:  If you are interested, you can check out all of my posts.  But here's my Fall Decorating entry:

Having a new house has made decorating for the seasons much more fun! I don't like to fill the house up -- I'm very much anti-clutter, but I've added a few subtle touches to our house for fall.

#millsnewhouse Burlap wreath, Fall decorating, front door decorations
Burlap wreaths are all the rage right now, but let me tell you, I did not find this very easy to make.  It took a lot of time (and a lot of ribbon - 50 feet!) And my fingers were sore by the time I was finished.  But I'm happy with the way it turned out. I plan to replace the bow for Christmas and maybe the rest of the holidays too!

#millsnewhouse Burlap wreath, Fall decorating, front door decorations

#millsnewhouse Burlap wreath, Fall decorating, front door decorations

I also added a few things to the mantle and hearth.  Silk leaves and a few mini clothespins is all it took.

#millsnewhouse Fall mantle, Fall decorating

#millsnewhouse Fall mantle, Fall decorating

My sister made this centerpiece and it looks great on my dining room table (built by The wreath is made from a dropcloth!

#millsnewhouse fall decorating, drop cloth wreath, fall centerpiece

Thanks for stopping by.  I'd love to see your fall decorating ideas in the comments!

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