Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters @catwinters

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters book cover and review
Cat Winters has solidified her place on my "must read" list with The Steep and Thorny Way. Billed as a reimagining of Hamlet, the story kept me enthralled.

It's the1920s and Hanalee is out to avenge the death of her father. When the kid who went to prison for hitting Hanalee's father with his car is released, Hanalee comes after him with a pistol. He convinces Hanalee that he's not the murderer. That he was framed. That Hanalee's new stepfather, the doctor, is the real killer.

Hanalee begins to investigate, including a couple of visits with the ghost of her father. Turns out, the story is much more complicated. Hanalee's father is black and her mother is white. The Ku Klux Klan has a strong presence in 1920s Oregon and they do not accept Hanalee or any other person of color.

I don't want to say too much about what happens. The tension mounts, as Hanalee begins to understand the truth about her father's death, and she finds herself in great danger because of it.

Winters writes characters that you can't help but sympathize with. It's easy to think the worst of people, but in some cases that's not the truth. And, of course, sometimes those we trust turn out to be the worst! The Steep and Thorny Way is a multilayered story that I couldn't put down. I wasn't really sure about what happened until it was revealed.

I will recommend this to my students along with Winters' other novels, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Cure for Dreaming, and The Uninvited. I gave them all 5/5 ratings.

Published by Amulet, March 8, 2016
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Other Side of Life -- Saying Goodbye and A New Addition

Originally, I blogged about reading and all my other hobbies (mostly sewing and cooking.) My posts got to be so sporadic that I quit posting to that blog, deciding I would use my book blog to post occasionally about other things going on in my life.  I still like my old blog header, so I use it for these posts. Feel free to skip this one if you are only in it for the books.

This has been a life-changing week. A couple months ago we decided to get a new German Shepherd puppy. Our German Shepherd, Mollie, is nine years old and we wanted her to help train the new kid and we thought a puppy might just help keep her young. Not that she isn't plenty energetic for a 9-year-old. As Robert Burns said ,,, "The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew."

We had planned for several weeks to pick up the 8-week-old puppy on Friday, February 19. That way we'd have the weekend to get her adjusted before going back to work. On Friday morning, Mollie wouldn't eat, was drinking a lot, and generally not feeling well. So my husband took her to the vet who ran some tests, and decided to keep her overnight. We decided to go ahead and get the new puppy hoping that Mollie would come home feeling better in a day or two.

Long story short, we ended up picking up our new puppy, Lexie, on Friday as planned, and saying goodbye to Mollie later that night, which was definitely not the plan. It was quite a blow and we are still reeling from the shock. But Lexie is keeping us very busy. We think maybe God planned it that way so we don't have time to mope around about our huge loss. Our dogs are truly members of our family, and we take them with us whenever we can. My husband works at home so they are always by his side. Mollie is sorely missed.

So, I haven't got much reading done in the past week (or much else either) and am still very sad (and exhausted.) So keep me in your thoughts!

Rest in peace Mollie

Lexie





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Friday, February 26, 2016

Feature & Follow Friday - Favorite Genre??

Today's discussion prompt for Feature & Follow Friday is:

  • Ten Reasons You Read Your Favorite Genre
Hmmm... Well I don't really have a favorite genre because I read almost everything. I mostly like to mix it up so I don't read the same kind of book over and over. But here's some random thoughts about why I read what I read.

  • I read mostly YA or books appropriate for teens because I'm a high school librarian and it's part of my job. But...
  • I will still read  a lot of YA even when I'm retired because there's a lot of good, exciting stuff out there.
  • Historical Fiction may be considered my favorite genre. I like it because I never learned much history in school and I love learning it through fictional characters.
  • Straight-up romance is probably my least favorite genre. If romance is featured in a book, I love that, but I don't usually enjoy a book just about romance. There are exceptions.
  • I'm not tired of dystopians
  • Another turn off for me is high fantasy, where magic solves everything. Once again, I like a fantasy element, but it can't be the driving force of the plot. There are exceptions.
  • I'm a sucker for girls in gorgeous dresses on covers. Anyone who says they don't judge a book by its cover is lying.
  • I like to mix it up, genre-wise. If I read two or three books of the same genre in a row, I tend to rate the later books lower. I just need variety.
OK. I got 8.  What about you? What do you love about your favorite genre? Leave me a link and be sure to visit our hosts Parajunkee and Alison. Thanks for stopping by.






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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review: Girl Last Seen by Heather Anastasiu and Anne Greenwood Brown

Girl Last Seen by Heather Anastasiu and Anne Greenwood Brown book cover
Girl Last Seen kept me guessing until the end, even though it was a bit slow at times.

Kadence and Lauren are a YouTube sensation. They have posted videos of their musical performances and are getting a lot of hits. Lauren is the writer mostly, and while they are both onstage, Kady is the performer. Lauren gets a throat infection which causes her to not be able to sing, so Kady has gone on as a solo act. This has caused some friction between the two, and even a fight over a boyfriend issue.

When Kady turns up missing after a very successful concert at the coffee show where Lauren works, the suspects are many, but soon the authorities zero-in on Lauren.

Kady is not a nice person. She and Lauren, who followed her lead, have bullied numerous students and caused all kinds of other pain which will slowly be revealed throughout the story. I really didn't like either of these girls, but I don't think we're supposed to. One of the bullied kids has been stalking both Kady and Lauren since they ruined his life.

I enjoyed how there were so many options for suspects, and Anastasiu and Brown kept focusing on different ones. I really didn't know what happened until the very end. I thought it took quite a while to get to the exciting parts of the book. At under 300 pages, it is a very quick read, but somehow I wished for it to move more quickly in parts.

Girl Last Seen is a great who-done-it for teens. Even with my complaints, I can still recommend this to a lot of students. I'm always looking for good mysteries, and the fact that Girl Last Seen deals with a contemporary theme as well as a disappearance makes it a good choice.

Published by AW Teen, March 1, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
272 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, February 22, 2016

Book Review: Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor @Janet_B_Taylor

Maybe I was just in the mood for a time travel book, but Into the Dim just pushed all the right buttons for me.

Hope's life has been turned upside down since her mother was killed in an earthquake overseas and now her father has a new girlfriend. So when he asks Hope to spend the summer in Scotland with her aunt, she doesn't want to go, but doesn't really have a choice.

Once she gets there, what she finds out changes everything. It turns out her mother belonged to a group of time-travelers and she didn't die, she's trapped in the 12th century. Hope begins her training to be part of the mission to go rescue her mother. And there is a group of "bad" time travelers trying to stop them.

The challenges she faces in the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine make for quite a nonstop, life-threatening adventure. The good guys and bad guys aren't always clear. Hope learns additional startling secrets about her family, and the addition of a forbidden romance is icing on the cake. Hope has an eidetic memory which is very interesting, but also makes it pretty easy to get out of some serious jams. She is also claustrophobic but that aspect is sort of an add-on. It's mentioned when she has difficulty getting on an airplane and then at the end when she has to squeeze through a tight space. I just didn't see the point, but maybe it will be more fully realized in future books.

Speaking of future books, Into the Dim is a complete story (yea!) But I'm hoping there are going to be more adventures for these time travelers that I've become attached to, and according to the author's website, there are! Definitely one to add to your time travel collection for teens and an easy one to recommend.

Published by HMH BFYR, March 1, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
432 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Stacking the Shelves - Like I Needed More Books!

I just see titles that I have to have. I'm sure you can relate. Something about the cover, or a review I see. Well, anyway, here they are:

For Review:
The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller book cover
The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller from NetGalley
I love historical fiction and I loved Waller's A Mad Wicked Folly so this was a no brainer.

Cold Barrel Zero by Matthew Quirk book cover
Cold Barrel Zero by Matthew Quirk from NetGalley

From the Library:
All In, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The 3rd book in The Naturals Series

So what books were irresistible to you this week? Leave me a link in the comments. Thanks for visiting and make sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews.




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Friday, February 19, 2016

THE NEW Feature and Follow!

Feature & Follow hosted by AlisonCanRead and Parajunkee

Welcome back, Feature & Follow! The new format is a discussion prompt, instead of a specific question. Visit our hosts, AlisonCanRead and Parajunkee to get more information.

This week's prompt: Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging for myself (in September of 2010). I really didn't do much research and had no idea there was such a huge book blogging community. I had another blog previously just for fun where I talked about all of my hobbies (sewing, cooking, reading) and anything else I wanted to talk about. Very nonspecific, just for fun, only a handful of followers. But I separated my book blog (and eventually stopped posting to that blog) so that I could remember what I read. I thought if I wrote down a bit about each book, going back and looking at my review would jog my memory. And it does! You see, I'm a high school librarian and I give a lot of book recommendations. But reading over 150 books a year makes it hard to remember each book specifically other than, "I really loved that one!" or "I had problems with that one, but I can't remember why." Blogging has helped me immensely with that. The rest of the benefits of having a blog are just a big bonus that I didn't expect!

How about you, why did you start your blog? Leave me a link. Thanks for stopping by.




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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Book Review: The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine @cjredwine

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine book cover and review
The Shadow Queen gets top ratings for non-stop action and adventure. This is Snow White on steroids.

Lorelai watched her father get killed by her stepmother, Irina. Lorelai, her brother, and one of her father's guards have been on the run ever since. Irina has taken the throne of Ravenspire and has used her magic to totally cripple the entire society and execute her subjects at will. She thinks Lorelai and her brother were killed the same time as her father.

Lorelai has been practicing her magic -- but very carefully. She has to be sure Irina doesn't detect her and discover that Lorelai is still alive. Lorelai has vowed to avenge her father's death and take back her kingdom.

Meanwhile in the kingdom of Eldr, the king, queen and crown prince have been murdered by ogres. This means that Prince Kol is now the king. He vows to visit Ravenspire and ask for help from the queen, Irina. Kol thinks his offer of food and aid to the people will convince her to use her magic to help him rid Eldr of the ogres that are sure to defeat his people and take over soon. Ha! Irina has other plans. She tells Kol that if he hunts down and brings her the heart of Lorelai, she will save his country. Kol is a dragon, but dragons don't kill people. Irina uses powerful magic to take over Kol. But when Kol tries to kill Lorelai, she fights back with her magic and the game is on.

I don't really want to say too much more about the story, but it is action packed and exciting and yes, a bit romantic. The dragon lore combined with the unique magic of both Lorelai and Irina causes some very intriguing battles. Personally, I have trouble with magical stories when the magic seems to be the reason that the hero is able to prevail. This happens over and over in The Shadow Queen. But I knew this was a story about magic going in, so it was to be expected and while not my favorite trope, I still really enjoyed the execution of the story.

The Shadow Queen is a worthy addition to the plethora of fairy tale retellings. It's compelling and I'm sure fans of this genre will enjoy every minute.

Published by Balzer + Bray, February 16, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
400 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, February 15, 2016

The Heir, by Kiera Cass

The Heir by Kiera Cass book cover and review
The Heir perfectly brought me back to the world of The Selection. It just melted my heart.

I guess I was in the mood for something romantic, because Eadlyn and I just clicked. Eadlyn is the 18-year-old daughter of Maxon and America, the King and Queen of Illea. Eadlyn will be the queen someday, the first female ruler, since she was the first born child -- beating her twin brother out by seven minutes.

The caste system is gone, but there is still much strife in parts of the country, so to relieve tension, they have decided that Eadlyn will hold a Selection to choose her mate. She is not happy about it and has no intention of actually finding a husband, but she agrees to play along for three months.

The rest of the story follows as expected,similar to The Selection, but with various dramas that made it different enough. Eadlyn is not very nice and at times unlikeable. She has a hard time pretending and therefore gets herself into some difficult spots.

Eadlyn does learn about herself and more about what it takes to be a ruler as the story progresses, but she's very much a work in progress. This is only the first book of Eadlyn's story, so don't expect a decision, but I'm looking forward to the next book, especially given the change in Eadlyn at the very end of The Heir. The fifth and final book, The Crown, will be published in May. I don't even need to push these to my students -- they love this series.

Published by HarperTeen 2015
Copy obtained from the library
346 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Stacking the Shelves - Book Fun!

Another week has come and gone and it's been a good one, book-wise.  Here's what I got.

For Review:
Ruined, by Amy Tintera from Edelweiss

From the Library:
The Heir, by Kiera Cass
I already finished this one. See my review on Monday!

So that's it for this week. How about you? Anything I need to get? Leave me a link in the comments. Remember to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews, to see all the participating blogs. Thanks for stopping by.




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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Audio Book Review: The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman book cover and review
As is often the case with the audiobooks I choose, I enjoyed The Marriage of Opposites but if I were reading a paper copy I wouldn't have made it through.

It's an interesting story and based on true characters. In the early 1800s, Rachel and her parents have escaped the Jewish inquisition and fled to the island of St. Thomas. There is a substantial Jewish community on the island as well as the native population and the slaves the Jewish people brought with them. Rachel ends up giving birth to the famous painter Camille Pissarro, the father of impressionism, but The Marriage of Opposites is very much Rachel's story.

Rachel is forced to marry an older widow for the sake of the family business. When this man dies, his nephew, Frederick, arrives from France to settle the financial matters and run the business. Frederick and Rachel fall in love and even though the Jewish religion won't allow their marriage, they live together and begin a family. This scandal is one of the biggest dramas of the story.

Rachel also has a friend, Jestine, who is their housekeeper's daughter. Jestine provides more drama as she gives birth out of wedlock, and the child is stolen by the father. I don't want to say too much more about that.

Rachel doesn't want Camille to be an artist. They want him to be a part of the family business. Various people go in and out of Rachel's and Camille's lives and add interest, but I found the story to be very meandering. Hoffman, however is a great writer, and the narrators were very good so I never wanted to abandon the story.

But when you look back on it, not that much happened. I've listened to The Dovekeepers also and thought that was a much more exciting story.

While The Marriage of Opposites was an interesting story, it just wasn't very exciting and moved a bit slowly for me.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
384 pages

Rating: 3/5





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