Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Rowling, Tiffany, & Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book cover and review
We are all desperate for more Harry Potter and the story of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was great but left me wanting...

Harry and Draco Malfoy's kids, Albus and Scorpius, are going to Hogwarts. Surprisingly, they become friends.  When they decide to steal a time turner and go back in time to save the life of an old character, all hell breaks loose.  Well, of course it does.  Everyone knows you can't go back and change a huge event without serious consequences in the present.  And Albus and Scorpius find this out very quickly.  And then they try to undo what they've done.

You can probably guess this is a very exciting story. Fit for Harry Potter.  But the writing, that of a play script, just didn't do it for me.  I so wanted J. K. to just tell the story.  Give me the descriptions of setting and characters.  I wanted to feel immersed as I did with the other Harry Potter novels.  But Harry Potter and the Cursed Child felt very superficial.  Like I was being told a story instead of living in it.

I want more.  I feel cheated.  But I would still recommend Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to Potter fans.  After all, it's the only game in town.

Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
327 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book Review: After the Game by Abbi Glines

After the Game, by Abbi Glines book cover and review
I'm picky about my romantic contemporary novels, but After the Game has enough substance included, and I really enjoyed it.

The story of Riley and Brady is a high school romance with an emphasis on family, forgiveness, and responsibility. Riley and her parents have recently returned to Lawton, Alabama, after being run out of town because she accused Rhett, the high school football star, of rape.  They have returned to take care of Riley’s grandmother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's.  Riley has also brought a child that was a product of that rape. Rhett is away at college, living the dream as if nothing happened.

Riley is shunned, and sometimes worse, by pretty much everyone in the town. No one believed her about the rape, and no one knows about the baby.  No one has been welcoming; in fact, her old friends have been much the opposite-- until Brady, a football star who was Rhett's best friend, picks her and the baby up during a rainstorm.

Riley’s parents are refreshingly present and supportive.  The story follows the expected path, but there is some depth added with the Alzheimer’s angle and also Brady dealing with seeing his father having sex with a woman who is not Brady’s mother.

Brady is the best quarterback in the nation, and the team is on their way to a state championship.  So developing a relationship with Riley and revealing his father’s transgressions are not something Brady needs to focus on with his scholarship on the line.  But he cannot avoid either one of these issues.

Brady is a “too good to be true” guy and Riley is a  bit perfect for a teen mom, but their relationship takes a natural, slow progression that is refreshing. For teens who enjoy a feel-good high school romance, this one will definitely satisfy.

Published by Simon Pulse, August 22, 2017
ARC obtained from Libraries Unlimited
352 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon book cover and review
Everything, Everything is a quick, enjoyable read with an interesting premise.

Maddy has a disease that has made her allergic to everything. She has to stay in her house in isolation from everyone and everything besides her mother and her nurse.  Anyone coming to visit has to go through a pretty severe decontamination process.

A new family moves in next door and Olly, a teen boy, catches Maddy's eye.  They begin to communicate through their windows, and then on the computer.  Soon Maddy's nurse is allowing Olly secret visits, as long as they don't touch.

Eventually Maddy's mom finds out, and puts an end to it.  Maddy is depressed and can't stand not being allowed to communicate with Olly, but she knows it's a relationship destined for ruin. Or is it?

As a reader, you really want the story to have a happy ending, and Yoon devises a way.  I suspected something like this -- but didn't know exactly how it would play out.  So you get some closure and a satisfying conclusion.

Everything, Everything is very quick and hard to put down. It's fluff, and a bit predictable, but sometimes that's what you want.  I'm pretty picky about my contemporaries, and I'm glad I chose this one.

Published by Delacorte, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
 310 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, August 7, 2017

Book Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Scythe, by Neal Shusterman, book cover and review
I don't know what's the matter with me, but Scythe is yet another "did not finish" for me.

I really like the unique premise.  Since there is no more natural death by accident or disease, there are a group of people called Scythes that pick and choose which people must die to keep population growth to a minimum.  The story is about two teens that have been chosen to be trained to be Scythes.

I read half of Scythe and decided it was not for me.  I've been reading for over a week, and I'm only halfway through! I just keep finding things to do besides reading.  So, why?

I think one thing is the flippant, almost tongue-in-cheek tone of the story.  It almost seemed light and humorous at times.  I found this incongruous.  Secondly, I felt the pace really bogged down.  It was time for something to happen, and I was losing patience.

The premise is great, and I'm looking forward to the movie, but when I find myself hesitating to read, then I need to move on.

A couple of my book club kids really loved Scythe, so this is a "me, not the book" thing (and, after all, I'm not the intended audience.)

Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
250/435 pages

Rating: DNF





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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review: Blight by Alexandra Duncan @DuncanAlexandra ‏

Blight, by Alexandra Duncan book cover and review
I was pleasantly surprised by how absorbed I became while reading Blight

We are introduced to a dystopian world controlled by big corporations. Yes, it is a somewhat familiar trope, but like I said, it was good.  Tempest is our main character.  She lives on a giant corn farm in Georgia.  It is run by AgraStar.  She was taken in and raised by the corporation after she was orphaned.  She now works as a security officer for them.  Basically, she's an indentured servant.  But she's happy.

Until...things go wrong on a security assignment, and they end up being attacked by scavengers - people who steal rather than work for the company.  And, as this attack is happening a bad explosion occurs at the research facility for AgraStar. Very quickly all of the vegetation around them is dead. And the blight continues to spread. Tempest finds herself on the run with an unlikely companion - one of the scavengers named Alder.  She and Alder keep on the run to avoid the Blight.  But they also must avoid AgriStar and most importantly, the gangs that will capture and kill both of them, no matter what their beliefs.

Of course, Tempest gets introduced to the beliefs of the scavengers and begins to question everything she has believed for her entire life. When she finally does reach safety -- she's not so sure she is safe.

As you can probably tell, there is a multitude of moral dilemmas touched upon in Blight. And it's also a suspenseful adventure story with characters that you might become attached to. I think my teens will enjoy this.

Published by Greenwillow, August 1, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
400 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review: A Promise of Ruin by Cuyler Overholt @CuylerOverholt ‏

A Promise of Ruin, by Cuyler Overholt book cover and review
In my review for A Deadly Affection, I commented that I was thoroughly entertained by the main character.  I continue my affection for Dr. Genevieve Summerford in this second book, A Promise of Ruin.

Genevieve is a doctor of psychiatry in the early 1900s.  So, she's a woman doctor, which is almost unheard of.  And her specialty is psychiatry, which is not a very respected specialty, even among male doctors.  A Promise of Ruin doesn't focus too much on her role as a physician, but once again, she's involved in the investigation of a crime, or in this case many crimes.  It seems women are being kidnapped as they arrive in this country, expecting to marry their sweetheart.  Instead, they are kidnapped and forced into prostitution.

I do like that Genevieve keeps the police in the loop about what she finds out in her investigation.  And at least some of the police believe her and try to look into these disappearances.  Her relationship with Simon has not progressed, and Genevieve is disappointed that he doesn't seem interested.

She's determined to find out what is going on, and of course, ends up putting herself in harm's way. I did think that A Promise of Ruin took a bit longer to get going, but by the halfway point, I had to finish. I couldn't put it down. I appreciate her determination to find the truth and her manipulation of a society that isn't very conducive to women doing anything of any importance.

Being a fan of historical fiction and mysteries, these books just hit the right spot for me. I know at times Genevieve is a bit lucky, but that's part of the fun.  I hope Overholt continues this series because I'm in! If you have teens that enjoy these genres, the Dr. Genevieve Summerford Mysteries Series is totally appropriate for them.

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, August 8, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
320 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Book Review: When I Am Through with You, by Stephanie Kuehn

When I Am Through with You by Stephanie Kuehn book cover and review
While a bit far-fetched, When I Am Through with You is exciting and compelling.

A teenager, Ben, tells the story from his prison cell and it is apparent very early that he has killed his girlfriend, Rose. While this may seem like a confessional, it is really a survival story. Ben is excited for his first trip away from home, where he has been taking care of his alcoholic mother for years.  He's going to lead a group of teens on a hike up a mountain. Everything turns sideways very quickly, and soon the teens are fighting for their lives.

These teens could be considered misfits. Ben certainly has a sordid past and suffers from debilitating migraines, The reason for this is clearly some trauma in his past, but we don't find out the details until later in the story.  The other characters are distinct individuals with their own hang-ups that all adds to the drama. The plot hinges on some unlikely coincidences and a plethora of bad decisions made by these teens.  The lone adult along for supervision gives Ben too much independence, given his inexperience. But without this, there would be no story.

The pace is riveting, and although the reader can easily see the dire consequences coming, it still kept me turning pages. And the consequences are indeed drastic, as several characters meet with violent ends. The text is rife with f-bombs and many sexual situations, so I would keep it for mature teens only.

Even though we know from the beginning that Ben is incarcerated, the ending felt unfinished and unsatisfying. I just wanted more. I didn't feel like Ben should be in prison, and I want to know how this all turns out.

Teens who can handle some brutal violence and a less-than-happy resolution will enjoy this compelling struggle

Published by Dutton BFYR, August 1, 2017
ARC obtained from Libraries Unlimited
290 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Monday, July 24, 2017

Book Review: Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit book cover and review
Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and I've read many World War II books.  I am surprised to say that Anna and the Swallow Man isn't going to be on my list of favorites.

Seven-year-old Anna is abandoned in Krakow when the Germans take her father. She happens upon an unusual man, the Swallow Man, and they hook up and walk around for years.  It isn't clear why they keep walking.  Just to stay safe and keep fed, I guess.  And maybe the Swallow Man is avoiding something.

I think my main problem with Anna and the Swallow Man is the third person point-of-view.  I wanted to feel what Anna felt.  But I didn't.  I felt detached from everything that happened.

And I was very unhappy with the ending.  Really? That's what happened?  It wasn't dramatic. And it didn't provide much closure.

The characterizations are very interesting. And the individual struggles they overcame were compelling. The writing was easy to understand and Anna and the Swallow Man is a very quick read.

I didn't hate Anna and the Swallow Man.  I just didn't feel much for it.  Not my usual reaction to stories of survival during WWII. There are plenty of very positive reviews available so make sure you don't write this off just because of my feelings.  I feel kind of guilty that I didn't really like it much...

Published by Knopf BFYR, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
232 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Book Review: Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter

Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter, book cover and review
Take the Key and Lock Her Up is the third book in the Embassy Row series. Now these books aren't really serious, but they are fun and I enjoyed this new installment.

Grace is in hiding and soon on the run again, as we catch up with her.  She knows she and her brother, Jamie, are being hunted down so they can be killed before they can rightfully claim the throne in Adria. 

Grace wants nothing to do with being a princess or a queen, but she can't seem to convince anyone who matters.  She has to figure out what her mother knew and why she was killed.  There has to be a way to save her life and not be in hiding for the rest of it.

The plot sounds heavy, but reads like a very lighthearted book.  The danger never really seems real.  The scenario is way too far out to be taken seriously. There is romance and lots of action to keep your interest. Even though it seems like Grace can't trust anyone, there are her tried-and-true friends from the previous books that come to her aid.

I did feel a bit bored for part of Take the Key and Lock Her Up, even though it reads pretty quickly.  It just seems like more of the same--somewhat of a repeat of the first two books--even though we finally learn the secrets.  And, I had to know what was going to happen. Fortunately, there is a nice, comfortable resolution for Grace and her friends.

Take the Key and Lock Her Up will make much more sense if you read the first two books--All Fall Down and See How They Run. Fans of those books surely won't want to miss this one.

Published by Scholastic, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
327 pages

Rating: 3.5





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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Book Review: King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard

King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard book cover and review
King's Cage does a great job continuing the story of the Red Queen and is very exciting and tense.

Mare is in big trouble.  She's a prisoner of King Maven and can't use her power. She sees no way out.  But during her awful imprisonment, things are progressing among the rebels and eventually they assist in Mare's escape.

Cal, of course, is working with the rebellion, and I liked how his relationship with Mare progressed once they were reunited.

There is a lot of fighting and a lot of planning to fight.  During her imprisonment, Mare is very introspective and kind of whiny.  I get she's miserable, but that went on perhaps a bit too long. The final battle is epic, but the turn things take at the very end is heartbreaking.

I really love the world that Aveyard has created.  I enjoyed looking at the map in the book -- normally, those don't do much for me, but the idea that this is a future United States is intriguing.  I like the hints we get about the distant past and how the world came to be this way.  I hope we get more of that in future books.

What will the future hold for Mare and Cal and the entire kingdom?  Once again, we will have to wait.  The Red Queen is a very popular series among my teens and they are loving this installment.

Published by HarperTeen, February 7, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
528 pages

Rating: 4/5





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