Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Audio Book Review: The Secret Chord, by Geraldine Brooks

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks book cover and review
The Secret Chord is another stunning adult novel.  I seem to be getting more interested in adult titles lately.  The audio version is excellent.

Brooks tells the story of King David of Israel, from his childhood to the end of his reign.  The story is told from the perspective of Natan, who first prophesied Davd's rise to power and became his closest confidant.

I'm not into biblical stories, but The Secret Chord was exciting and captivating.  I'm sure Brooks has embellished the biblical version, but it all seems very plausible.  The characters are interesting.  The story is intriguing. This "Second Iron Age" was a brutal time.  They were always at war, and it seems like the men were raping and pillaging with abandon.  If you wanted to be king, you just found some men who would follow you and tried to take over without being killed.

And the women didn't fare very well. They were merely property and a means to create alliances and produce heirs.  And David had a lot of heirs; most were not very likable.

David is not always portrayed positively. He had his shortcomings, and he paid the price for them.

My only complaint is that Brooks uses the Hebrew names for all of the characters.  I get that it's authentic, but I wanted to know who all these people were! I ordered a print copy of the book, thinking there were be a translation, but there is only a list of the characters (their Hebrew names.)  I found this Behind the Names website which helped a lot but was still annoyed that I had to use it.  I would have just preferred she used the familiar names throughout the book.

The audio book narrator, Paul Boehmer, is superb.  He reminded me of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments, which was perfect for this story.

I highly recommend The Secret Chord if you enjoy historical fiction, especially about biblical times. It's fascinating.

Published by Viking, 2015 (Penguin Audio)
Audiobook obtained from the library
320 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Stacking the Shelves: Always More Books!

Only a couple this week (or two), but some good ones!

For Review:

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, by Benjamin Alire Saenz book cover
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz from NetGalley
Already read and reviewed.  Very Good!

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick book cover
Saint Death, by Marcus Sedgwick from NetGalley

Two very popular authors! What did you get this week? Leave me a link. And be sure to visit Team Tynga's Reviews to see all the participants.  Thanks for stopping by.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, by Benjamin Alire Saenz @BenjaminAlireSa

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz book cover and review
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is about the characters.  It is a "coming-of-age" story.  And it's a good one.  I don't tend to enjoy these books as much, but when done well, I can appreciate it.

Sal is our narrator. He's the adopted white son of a single Mexican father who is gay.  His father knew his biological mother and was there when Sal was born.  His grandmother has been very close to Sal, kind of substituting for his mother.

Sal's best friend is a neighbor girl, Samantha.  She has grown up with a single mother who hasn't always been there for her. Fito is another friend who is trying to be successful even though his mother is a drug addict.

These three kids are trying to navigate their way through their senior year of high school.  Sal isn't sure he wants to go to college yet, and his father is pressuring him to get that application essay finished.  All three of the teens will suffer tragedy in their lives. They lean on each other and mostly on Sal's dad, who is a gem.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life takes a profound look at the family.  Sal is exceptionally lucky, especially in contrast to his friends, to have his dad and his extended family.  Even though he wonders about his mom and his biological father, he learns to appreciate what he has. He isn't perfect, though.  Lately, it seems like his fists have a mind of their own, and Sal is having a hard time dealing with his anger appropriately.  He learns that sometimes he's not the only one dealing with difficult issues, his dad needs Sal's support too.

The friendships are genuine.  Fito isn't a teen that would normally be in this circle, but Sal recognizes something special in him and brings him in. Don't expect a romance.  Samantha and Sal's relationship is based on nothing more that true friendship, and neither of them ever consider each other as a romantic interest.  Kind of refreshing.

It is a moving story.  It kept me interested. although at times I felt it was a bit drawn out. Teens who may be feeling the pressures of life (and most of them are) will find something valuable in The Inexplicable Logic of My Life.

Published by Clarion, March 7, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
464 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book Review: The Wish Granter, by C. J. Redwine

The Wish Granter by C. J. Redwine book cover and review
I'm going to be honest. Books about magic and fairies are not, in general, my thing.  But I was very entertained by The Wish Granter. This is the second book in the Ravenspire series.  The first was The Shadow Queen, which I also enjoyed. These are really separate fairy tale stories. I can't remember any of the characters overlapping, but it's been a while so I might be wrong.  You definitely don't need to read The Shadow Queen first, although, why not?

At the beginning of the book, we see Thad making a wish that will cost him dearly.  In order to save the life of his sister, Ari, he vows to become the King of SĂșndraille and to not meddle in the nefarious affairs of the wish granter, Alistair Teague.

So while Thad is a puppet king and Teague terrorizes and oppresses the townspeople, Ari is trying to figure out how to get Thad out of this horrible contract.  She has ten years because, after that, Thad's soul belongs to Teague.

Many new people are being hired to work for the king, and Sebastian is the new weapons master. He comes from a poor background, and his dad has terrorized Sebastian since he was a small boy.  His father works for Teague.  His mother is a drug addict because of Teague.  Sebastian is hoping to make enough money to build himself a cabin away from everyone.  Ari elicits his help to make her some weapons made of iron and to teach her how to use them.  Iron is supposedly one of the things that can kill the fae.

Sebastian and Ari begin to become friends and then much more.  They are together in the fight to figure out how to stop Teague.  It isn't easy.  Teague is strong and has eyes and ears everywhere. No one is safe. But Ari is one of the toughest female characters I've read in a while.  And she isn't going to stop until she succeeds.  It makes for an interesting matchup.

While there are fairytale elements, The Wish Granter is exciting and feels very serious.  This is not for the faint of heart and includes quite a bit of brutality and murders. The closer I got to the end, the more worried I got that this book wasn't going to end well. I never believed Ari was going to be able to overpower Teague. My worries were unfounded, and I ended up loving the way The Wish Granter ended.

The only niggle I had with The Wish Granter is the way the romance unfolds. It's obvious from the minute we meet Sebastian that he will provide the romantic element.  The reader doesn't need to be hit over the head with it.  I laughed when Ari referred over and over to Sebastian's "very intriguing shoulders."  What does that mean? Those strange observations were unnecessary. We get it.

The tension mounts perfectly, and as I got closer and closer to the end, I wanted to read faster and faster!  There is no better recommendation than that. Can't wait to give The Wish Granter to my teens.  It's a lot of fun.

Published by Balzer + Bray, February 14, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
432 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Stacking the Shelves: Edelweiss Jackpot!

If you haven't checked out Edelweiss this week, there are gobs of YA titles available.  I held back, but there were many I would have liked to get!  Here's what I DID get (for the past two weeks):

For Review:
Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray book cover
Defy the Stars, by Claudia Gray from NetGalley

City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson book cover
City of Saints & Thieves, by Natalie C. Anderson from NetGalley

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi book cover
A Crown of Wishes, by Roshani Chokshi from NetGalley
sequel to The Star-Touched Queen, which I need to read first!

Dreamfall by Amy Plum book cover
Dreamfall by Amy Plum from Edelweiss

Blight, by Alexandra Duncan book cover
Blight, by Alexandra Duncan from Edelweiss

Avenged by Amy Tintera book cover
Avenged, by Amy Tintera from Edelweiss
sequel to Ruined

I got some great books, while also keeping my pile under control. Well, by "under control" I mean my proverbial stack of books is enormous but only getting a little bit bigger...

Thanks for stopping by.  Be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Leave me a link!

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Book Review: The Cruelty, by Scott Bergstrom

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom book cover and review
The Cruelty is appropriately titled because this book is cruel!

Gwendolyn is a normal New York teen who has traveled extensively as her father gets posted to different places around the world for his job with the state department.  When he disappears, she finds out he has lied to her all these years because he is really a CIA agent.  And the CIA has quit looking for him, thinking he has disappeared on his own.

Gwendolyn refuses to believe this and takes it upon herself to find out what happened to her dad.  As she travels across the globe, she gets mixed up with some seedy people -- some are helpful and others not so much.

As she gets closer and closer to the truth about her dad, she gets herself into more and more danger. And she becomes a ruthless killer who will do anything to save her father.  This is the part I had some problems with.  I just don't think a "normal" 17-year-old can make such an about-face in a few short weeks.  Even with her supposed training.  Her entire personality and attitude totally and completely changes.

But....this book is exciting!  She encounters more and more danger as she goes.  She gets lucky a few times and makes some bad decisions. But mostly she is just relentless in her pursuit of her goal.  She's creative, resourceful, and very tough.  If you shy away from violence, you should know that Gwendolyn doesn't, and The Cruelty isn't your book.  It is very graphic.

And don't expect a complete "happy ever after" ending -- yes, Gwendolyn is in a safe place, but she's not the same person and never will be.  Which brings me to a possible sequel -- I'm ready!

Teens who are fans of high-octane action will surely love The Cruelty. And it's been optioned for a movie so it may become even more popular.

Published by Feiwel & Friends, February 7, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
384 pages

Rating: 4/5

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