Saturday, January 30, 2016

Stacking the Shelves --- Ahhh! Crazy!


Sometimes I have these weeks where I see books and I want them -- even though I'm wondering if I'll have time to get to them all -- but I want them!  And, I keep eyeing books on the library shelves that I really need to get to. What's a reader to do?? Request!

For Review:
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner book cover
The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner from NetGalley

Arena by Holly Jennings book cover
Arena, by Holly Jennings from NetGalley

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben book cover
Fool Me Once, by Harlan Coben from Edelweiss
A favorite author!

The Fireman by Joe Hill book cover
The Fireman, by Joe Hill from Edelweiss
Another favorite author!

I'm so excited for these. As I always say, I'm really wishing for more hours in the day so I can read more... aren't we all. So what are you excited about this week? Leave me a link! And be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Thanks for stopping by.





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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys @RutaSepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys book cover and review
Sepetys is just a phenomenal storyteller. Salt to the Sea is a fictional account of a WWII event: the sinking of The Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945 as everyone is trying to evacuate East Prussia.

We follow a small group of characters as they make their way across the land and the water trying to reach the ships that will take them to safety. They are cold, hungry, frightened, and some are injured. Most of them have secrets which could get them killed.

The narration switches between four different people. Three are members of this group, and one is a soldier that has been assigned to The Wilhelm Gustloff. Their paths will cross.

As we follow these people through their journey, we learn bits and pieces about their pasts and how they ended up in this predicament. Not all the stories will turn out to be true, but by the end of Salt to the Sea it will all become clear. This technique definitely keeps the pages turning.

It did take me a while to keep the narrators clear. I would have to page back to remind myself which one was talking. This is a personal thing of mine -- I always read too fast and miss some details until I make myself slow down. Not all of the narrators are likable. I found Alfred, the soldier, to be the most compelling (not likeable!) Most of his narration is in the form of letters he imagines writing to a neighbor girl who he is in love with. He's a Nazi and believes in everything Hitler stands for. I think he's also a psychopath. Salt to the Sea wouldn't be the same story without his perspective. The contrast to the other characters is chilling and makes their plight all the more harrowing.

I can't wait to recommend Salt to the Sea. Sepetys has included sources for those who want to know more about this event. I think WWII fans will be riveted. Sepetys will be on my "must buy" list forever. I'm so glad she makes the effort to research and write about these events that have faded into historical oblivion.

Published by Philomel, February 2, 2016
eARC obtained from NetGalley
400 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: Banished by Kimberly Griffiths Little @KimberleyGLittl

Banished, the second book in the Forbidden series, amps up the danger and suspense and keeps you turning pages. You probably shouldn't read further if you don't want spoilers from Forbidden.

Banished takes place in 1759 BC in Mesopotamia. Forbidden left us hanging, and Banished picks up right away. Jayden is determined that Kadesh is still alive and she's going to find him. Her travels are treacherous, to say the least. She is a woman, traveling alone in the desert. When she does find Kadesh, nothing is OK. Horeb is constantly on their trail, bringing a huge army bent on war. They must get through the desert wasteland to Kadesh's kingdom in the south if they have any hope of survival.

It's just one thing after the other for their group. While Banished does increase the tension, the historical aspect is much downplayed compared to Forbidden. Banished is all about Jayden's journey and her trials getting rid of her betrothed, Horeb. It's much more of a survival story.

And, just as a side note, while the cover is beautiful, I just don't think it depicts Jayden. She wouldn't wear a dress like that in the Bronze Age, and she always had her hair up in the story. Just sayin'.

The book builds up the tension expertly.  Even after it seems they may be safe and on the path to happiness, it just isn't to be. And we do want them to be happy - the romance is dreamy and they deserve it. Banished ends on yet another huge cliffhanger, which always leaves me with a bad taste. There isn't much closure to this exciting journey, so be warned. I'm already looking forward to the next book.

Published by HarperCollins, February 2, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Review: Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace @kaliphyte

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace book cover and review
Shallow Graves is gruesome and horrible -- and good! While not for the faint of heart, Shallow Graves offers something substantial for teens who can't get enough demons and goblins and the associated murderous behavior that goes with it.

Breezy Lin was murdered a year ago. And when the story begins, she has just reawakened from a shallow grave. In her "undead" form, she has the ability to see people's shadows -- and sometimes those shadows indicate they have killed someone (at least one). When Breezy touches them, they die, and all the memories of those murders now belong to Breezy. She also can't be killed and heals very quickly from any injuries.

She wanders aimlessly, needing no food or sleep. As the story continues we get flashbacks to Breezy's life before she was murdered, and eventually of her actual murder. Breezy hooks up with some really evil people, a cult who is trying to rid the world of evil, and some really dangerous, otherworldly creatures (that look like people!) Yes, it turns out that all those creatures from our nightmares really exist. If you can't buy into that, then Shallow Graves probably isn't for you.

Breezy is trying to figure out just what she is and why this happened to her, while trying to figure out who she can trust and just what her place in this world is. Things get violent and bloody. Breezy is very brave, and decides to take on the ultimate "mother" of all demons. It's tense and very readable. Once you get going in Shallow Graves, you won't be able to put it down.

I can't really think of any book to compare Shallow Graves to, but the blurb compares this one to the writings of Holly Black (maybe, a little?) and Nova Ren Suma (who I've never read.) I thought this one was a bit scary, and certainly gory. So those are the reader's that you should target for Shallow Graves. And I haven't heard anything, but Wallace could certainly continue Breezy's adventures in another book. There's definite potential...

Published by Katherine Tegen, January 26, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Stacking the Shelves -- More Books! Can You Believe It?

I got a couple of review books this week, and here they are:

For Review:
The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King book cover
The Murder of Mary Russell, by Laurie R. King from NetGalley
I haven't read this entire series, but someday I want to!

The Girl From Home, by Adam Mitzner from NetGalley

So what do you think? I hope you got some good ones too. Leave me a link! Don't forget to stop by Team Tynga's Reviews to see all the participants. Have a great week!





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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Book Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes book cover and review
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is hard to put down. Young people who have experienced abuse are hard to read about, but Minnow's strength and determination are compelling.

In the opening scene, we find Minnow under a bridge, covered in blood after she has just beaten someone almost to death. We then experience her arrest and trial. She ends up in a juvenile detention center. Given Minnow's previous existence, prison is a very hard adjustment.

As this part of the story unfolds, Minnow takes us back to her past, where when she was five years old her father moved her family deep into the woods. He's been enamored with The Prophet (Kevin) who has convinced him to give up his worldly ways. So Minnow has lived a very sheltered life in the cult. Always in fear of torture and beatings, she has the scars to prove it.

We learn very early in the book that Minnow's hands have been cut off. We don't really learn how this happened until much later in the book. Minnow also reveals her relationship with a boy in the woods near the cult -- how she sneaked out to meet him for years. The reader is pretty sure early on that this boy was punished, and killed, by the cult after his discovery. We also learn early on that the buildings in the cult have all burned, and Kevin, The Prophet, is dead.

Many of these stories are told to Minnow's cell mate or her counselor, who is also an FBI agent. He want's Minnow to tell him who killed Kevin. In return, he will testify at her parole hearing to help her. It's interesting to see the trust build up between these two. The relationship between Minnow and her cell mate is also complex and interesting.

The changing relationships, both in Minnow's past and present, are part of what makes The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly fascinating.  Also the unbelievable story that unfolds of the nutcase Prophet and his followers.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a very quick read that I flew threw. I think teens who enjoy cult stories must read this one. This is a great story that will get you thinking about blind faith and how people can get in these kinds of situations and are unable to break free. Can't wait to pass The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly around to my teens.

Published by Dial, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
396 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Audio Book Review: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry book cover and review
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is humorous and charming, if a little bit outrageous.

The students of St. Etheldreda's Academy decide to hide the deaths by poisoning of their headmistress and her brother. They died right at the dining room table, and because the girls didn't want to be sent back to their homes, they decide to create an elaborate ruse to convince everyone things are normal at the school.

Well it's a difficult task, but surprisingly they are able to pull it off. They are almost caught time and time again by the many visitors to the house but through their ingenuity and lots of luck, they manage. They are also trying to solve the murder mystery at the same time.

There are many surprising twists and turns, and the girls must come up with plausible (and sometimes not so plausible) explanations on the spur of the moment. The reader can see that this situation must inevitably fall apart, but going along on this wild ride is certainly worth your time. The ending is clever, and I really had no idea who the culprit was until exposed.

The narrator, Jayne Entwistle, is perfection. She's also the narrator of the Flavia de Luce audiobooks, which are some of my favorites.

The book is targeted for middle school, and I think that audience will enjoy The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place immensely. Audiobook fans should definitely give this one a try.

Published by Roaring Book Press, 2014, Listening Library (Audio)
Copy obtained from the library
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Book Review: The Capture by Tom Isbell @TomIsbell

The Capture by Tom Isbell book cover and review
The Capture is the exciting sequel to The Prey, which I also really enjoyed.

Just so you know what this dystopian world is about, I've copied a bit of my review of The Prey:

This is a book about children after a radiation disaster. There are very few adults, at least that we know of. All the children are in camps for orphans. Some camps are nicer than others. Some camps aren't what they seem to be.

Hope and Faith are twins and they've been running and hiding for years with their father to keep away from the "brown shirts." After their father dies, they are captured and taken to a camp for girls. It soon becomes obvious that this camp is doing medical experiments on these children, and the prized children are twins.

Book is in a camp for boys. He thinks he's in training to be a soldier (they call them LTs, for Lieutenant, right?) He finds out that LT really stands for "less thans." All of the boys in the camp are deformed or deemed inferior in some way, and their future is far more bleak than they think.

Hope and Book end up escaping with a small group of other kids. So in The Capture, these two characters and their ragtag group are still running. Their goal is to save all the kids in both camps, the Sisters and the Less Thans. They will, of course, run into many obstacles on their way and face certain death more than once. They also continue to learn about this world and the plans of the devious people who are in charge. I'll just say -- it doesn't look good for the kids.

These books, part of The Prey Trilogy, are all about action. It's nonstop and it is constant danger for these characters. There is some relationship building and some shifting of positions within the group, but the action keeps you turning the page.

Which is why these are great books to recommend to reluctant readers. A girl and a boy as main characters, both smart and strong. Yes, there's a hint of romance but barely. Some of their narrow escapes, and there are several, are a bit too good to be true--but these are our main characters. And Mr. Isbell, I don't care what you do, but please don't kill them off!

I like how The Capture doesn't have a huge cliff hanger ending. We end with the kids in a relatively safe position. They aren't finished saving the world yet, but they've met some of their goals.

I will happily continue to recommend The Prey and The Capture to my students and look forward to the third book!

Published by HarperTeen, January 19. 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
448 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review: Shade Me, by Jennifer Brown (DNF)

Shade Me by Jennifer Brown book cover
I didn't read all of Shade Me, and it's not because of the book; it's me. I've read several of Brown's books and have enjoyed them all. The writing, pacing, and character development are all fine. I just came to what for me was a roadblock in the plot.

Nikki has synesthesia, a rare condition that causes her to see colors that indicate emotions. She's had a hard time because sometimes the colors take over and keep her from doing her schoolwork or other things she needs to do.

Nikki gets a strange phone call from the school's rich, prima donna, Peyton Hollis, who she doesn't even really know. Peyton asks for help and then the call abruptly ends. Peyton turns up in a hospital severely beaten and unconscious. The only number in her phone was Nikki's, and Nikki doesn't understand why.

So Nikki gets wrapped up in trying to figure out who did this to Peyton, even though they weren't friends. Nikki's synesthesia supposedly helps her figure out clues, but I really didn't get that part. I don't think this condition has much to do with the story, except that (I can't say; it's a spoiler.) I didn't mind that this was a part of Shade Me, but I think the same story could have been just as effective without it. And that's not what made me start skimming.

About halfway through Shade Me, Nikki discovers the place where Peyton was beaten, and Peyton's car is hidden there. The police don't know. Nikki decides not to tell the police, even though she has a relationship with the detective working the case. Not only that, but she contaminates the scene with her fingerprints and meddling. I just couldn't handle this stupidity. I know it served the story, but who was Nikki to think she was better equipped to find the perpetrator than the police? It ticked me off and really made me want to throw the book. So I started skipping and skimming, because I had to know what happened, but wasn't really invested any more.

And while there is a sometimes surprising and circuitous route to get to the end of Shade Me, it wasn't a big surprise. And I don't think Brown intended it to be. The other surprises were more important.

There's a lot of action and I think teens will have an easy time with Shade Me. If you are a fan of Brown, I wouldn't hesitate to pick this one up.

Published by Katherine Tegen, January 19, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
250/448 pages

Rating: DNF





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