Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review: Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham book cover and review
Dreamland Burning is a powerful book.  I know I'm not the first to say that, but it's the truth.  Gut wrenching.

Dreamland Burning uses dual narration effectively.  Rowan narrates from the present, as human bones are found in the floor of what used to be the servants quarters in her century old house in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rowan's family doesn't have servants, but they are wealthy.  Her mother is African American and her father is Caucasian.

Will is the other narrator, who slowly takes us through the events leading up to and during the Tulsa riot in 1921. Will's father is Caucasian and his mother is Native American. And yes, he does reveal whose body is under the floor and I was surprised.  The clues are vague, but tend to lead in a different direction.

It's a good thing the narration switches back and forth.  When it got to the point where my discomfort was getting to be too much, the narration switched at just the right time.  This pulls you through the book very quickly.

Dreamland Burning is much more than a forensic investigation, although that lends a very interesting aspect to the story.  It's an examination of race relations in the 1920s and perhaps more importantly, in the current day.

The messages are powerful.  But the story is captivating and in no way preachy. I'm a white woman who lives about 25 miles from Ferguson, Missouri, and I have preconceived notions about "justice" and those notions recently  have been constantly in flux.  (Not that proximity means I have more feelings than anyone else, but somehow seeing your locality portrayed on the news night after night seems more personal.) Dreamland Burning has helped to clarify those feelings some more.

I'm not here to rant, but this story has a nice, fairly happy ending -- at least it seems like it might.  I'm not sure many of the other stories recently in the news do.

Somehow I've got to get my teens to read this book.  It seems like they either all go for fantasy or romance, not hard-hitting contemporary novels.  I may just force this one on my book club next year...

Published by Little, Brown BFYR February 21, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
371 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book Review: Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas @Dougieclaire

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas book cover and review
Local Girl Missing is told with a dual narration of both time and place and will leave you guessing until the very end.

Everything from the past comes back to Frankie when remains are found that are believed to be those of her best friend, Sophie, who disappeared eighteen years ago.  Sophie's brother, Daniel, asks her to come back to their small coastal town, to help him identify the remains and see if they can try one more time to find out what happened.  Sophie was believed to have fallen off the pier, and the police have ruled it an accident.  But Daniel and Frankie don't believe that.

Sophie narrates the story from eighteen years prior, starting a few months before her disappearance.  She is falling in love with Leon, and Frankie is convinced he's bad news.

Frankie visits Leon in the present, and he indicates that he "knows" about Frankie's secret.  Frankie wonders if Sophie told him about his cousin James' death back when they were teenagers.  Frankie and Sophie were also involved in that, and their secret was supposed to be safe.

There's a lot going on in this one, but it doesn't get confusing.  Local Girl Missing is tightly plotted and events unfold quickly enough to keep you guessing.  I believed, at times, that Frankie is an unreliable narrator, given the weird things that are happening to her.  I won't tell you if that is really the case or not.

The less you know about the plot the better.  I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery, that takes place on the British coast.  There are a lot of "Britishisms" that were entertaining to me (dustbins?)

This story is totally accessible to teens also.  Those who like twisted mysteries will enjoy Local Girl Missing.

Published by Harper, July 4, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
352 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas book cover and review
I really enjoy the characterizations and the original world building that Maas has created in A Court of Mist and Fury.

The story of Feyre, Tamlin, and Rhysand just gets more complex as we continue the adventures they began in A Court of Thorns and Roses.  Feyre is safe with Tamlin and ready to get married, but she also can't forget about the deal she made with Rhysand that means she has to spend one week of every month with him.  He has yet to collect any time from her, and Feyre is beginning to think he will let her out of it.  But he doesn't.

Tamlin has become so controlling that Feyre begins to enjoy her time at the Night Court with Rhys.  Eventually, she can no longer stand Tamlin's treatment and willingly escapes to stay with Rhys and become one of his court.  I know.  It's hard to believe.  But there is much more to Rhys than we learned about in the first book.  Much, much more.

But I don't want to tell you too much about that.  Suffice it to say that Feyre and Rhys, along with some new characters, are trying to avoid another all-out war with the King of Hybern.  He's ready to attack and they must stop him at all costs.  And the costs are high.

Feyre also is learning about her new fae self and all of the powers that come with that transformation.

The part that held me back a little is the romantic tension between Feyre and Rhys.  It got to be a bit much.  And, there's more explicit sex in A Court of Mist and Fury than I am used to seeing in YA literature, so be warned.  And quite a bit of cursing, which doesn't bother me, but may bother you. It seems like this has almost turned into a New Adult series.

At over 600 pages, A Court of Mist and Fury is a bit long.  But the action is pretty steady so although I thought some small parts were a bit lengthy, it wasn't too big of a problem.  The ending is heartbreaking, and I already have the third book, A Court of Wings and Ruin, so I'm excited to continue. All my teens love this series, so it isn't a hard sell.  I'm just going to be cautious about who I recommend this to.

Published by Bloomsbury, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
626 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Review: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios book cover and review
Bad Romance made me so uncomfortable; I couldn't wait to get finished with it!

Grace is literally in a Bad Romance. But at 17 years old, she can't see that.  At least not a first.  Gavin, the boyfriend, is too good to be true and Grace can't believe he actually is interested in her.  He's very attentive.  Soon, his attention turns weird.  He makes her promise not to ever be alone with another guy.  She's not allowed to touch or be touched by another male. And that's just the beginning.  You can see where this is going.

Gavin has a history.  He's tried to commit suicide before, so eventually, when Grace comes to her senses, she still can't break up with him because she's worried about him.

But, even with all that, I could have handled the story.  But to top it all off, Grace's mom and stepfather have provided her with a nearly impossible living situation.  Her mother is OCD about cleanliness and makes Grace clean the house over and over.  Her chores get to the point where they keep her from being able to function normally.  She is constantly grounded, so she has to sneak out, then get's caught.  It's a vicious cycle and her mother is a lunatic.  And her stepfather refuses to support her financially in any way.

Grace has very supportive friends, thankfully.  This helps.  But from the beginning, you can see the inevitable crash coming.

The sexual situations are more descriptive than I'm used to in YA, so be warned that this one is for mature teens only.  Demetrios has apparently based this story on past experiences.  That's probably why Grace's situations seem so realistic.  And so possible.  As a parent, this is pretty scary.

Bad Romance is a good story for teens that may help them navigate the uncertainties of romantic relationships.

Published by Henry Holt BYR, June 13, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde book cover and review
Well, The Picture of Dorian Gray means another classic completed.  It's short.  It's a good story. But it's written like a classic.

Everyone is mesmerized by Dorian Gray.  It starts with Basil Hallward, who paints a portrait of Dorian that he feels is his best work.  He can't even stand to put it in a show for the public to see.  He then introduces Dorain to his friend, Lord Henry Wotton, who takes Dorian under his wing and "teaches" him his hedonistic views of society.

Dorian is taken by Henry, and falls into a life of debauchery, hurting almost everyone with which he comes in contact without a care. His path through this deplorable existence is enhanced by the fact that Dorian never ages.  It seems his age, as well as his sins, are only depicted in his portrait, which he keeps hidden.

It's a strange and entertaining story and gives an insightful look at life in late nineteenth century England. And, even though its a relatively short book, it is still filled with overly descriptive passages indicative of almost every classic I've read.

I'm glad I read The Picture of Dorian Gray. Once again, my Serial Reader app made it bearable.

Originally published in 1890 in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine
eBook obtained from Serial Reader
176 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Audio Book Review: The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow by Fiona Barton book cover and review
The Widow is a well crafted detective story that strings you along bit by bit to the conclusion.

The multiple perspectives and time frames are used effectively.  We get the perspective of the widow, the reporter and the detective for much of the book. And a bit from the mother and even the husband (the accused) towards the end.

A two-year-old child, Bella, has been abducted from her yard (or "the garden" as it is called in Britain.) We learn about Jean and her husband's past--how they met, the courtship and their marriage.  At the beginning of the book, Jean's husband has died, and she's being hounded by reporters to tell her story.  You see, her husband was accused of taking Bella.

The best thing about The Widow is the way it is told.  We, as readers, are slowly and carefully fed bits of the story, from the past and the present, and from multiple perspectives. Slowly the secrets and details of the twisted life are revealed.  It's masterfully done.

The slight disappointment is that I kept waiting for "the twist," or the huge surprise.  There really isn't one. The resolution is what I expected. So the comparisons to Gone Girl and those types of books doesn't really ring true.

Each perspective gets a different audio narrator, and they were all excellent.  It was a great way to keep the changing perspectives clear.

The Widow definitely kept my interest, and I'd recommend it to those who enjoy a  detective story that is told in a very entertaining way.

Published by Berkley, 2016 (Penquin Audio)
Copy obtained from the library
336 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Book Review: Dividing Eden, by Joelle Charbonneau

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau book cover and review
I ended up enjoying Dividing Eden, but boy, it took awhile!

Carys and Andreus are twins.  They are a princess and a prince, but they don't have to worry about taking over the throne, because their older brother will do that.  Until their father, the king, and their brother are murdered. Then the queen loses her mind. Everything changes.

The elders don't know which twin is the rightful heir. To avoid the elders' scheme to take over the country, the twins agree to go through the Trials of Succession, to prove which one of them is worthy.

Now, they have secrets.  Andreus has a curse, and because the queen has asked, Carys has always protected him so no one is aware. He has asthma -- and if anyone knew, they would banish him.  Carys has her own little secret.  She's addicted to opium. So these trials, some of which are physical, are going to be a challenge.  Carys and Andreus both agree that Andreus should be the king, so Carys will protect him, and make sure he does better than she does.

There are a lot of secrets that are slowly revealed.  Carys and Andreus stop communicating, and Andreus has decided Carys is out to get the crown.  The trials get more and more intense, as there are murder plots, and many other issues that are keeping both of them from succeeding.

This book takes a really long time to get going.  The assassinations don't even take place until about 40% through. I really almost quit on Dividing Eden, but I've been doing that a lot lately, so I made myself stick it out.  The whole premise of the Trials is a bit weak, but that's what the plot hinges upon, and once the trials get going, so does the pace.

Dividing Eden is exciting to the very end, and this is the first in a series, so we need to wait to find out the ultimate outcome.  I think I'm becoming a bit battle worn over so many fantasies about royal families and fighting for kingdoms and crowns.  I think I need a break.  But I also think my teens will enjoy Dividing Eden.

Published by HarperTeen, June 6, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
336 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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