Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book Review: Persuasion, by Jane Austen

Persuasion by Jane Austen book cover and review
It's probably not accurate to call this a book review because when it comes to classics, I don't really consider my comments to be much of a review.  But, Persuasion was an interesting and enjoyable read.

Persuasion is a love story that takes place in the early1800s about a woman, Anne, who seven years ago broke off an engagement.  She now meets up with her former betrothed, and she still loves him. But he seems to be pursuing another. I was invested enough in the story that I found myself rooting for this couple.

The language is definitely different, and at times difficult to deduce the true meaning.  You do have to read slower, but for the most part, I didn't find it too cumbersome.  I enjoyed learning more about the customs of the time, especially when it comes to courtship and who you are allowed to marry.

I also had some difficulty remembering who the characters were.  Too many Captains and Elliots!

Persuasion isn't a long book (thankfully) and Serial Reader divided it into 33 parts, so it took me 32 days to read (I read the last two parts in one day.) As far as classics go, Persuasion was pretty good.

Published by John Murray in 1818
Copy obtained from Serial Reader
224 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Audio Book Review: The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango book cover and review
The Truth and Other Lies is such a twisted book.  The story is interesting, but the way it is told makes it even better. Arango has a way with words!

Henry Haydon is a happily married successful author.  Or is he? I really don't what to say too much about The Truth and Other Lies, because you need to experience each revelation as it is presented in the text. Let's just say Henry is a psychopath.

Henry gets himself in a bind when his mistress gets pregnant.  The solution he comes up with is fitting for the psycho that he is, however, he makes a huge mistake and now finds himself scrambling to save himself.  In order to accomplish this, he gets deeper and deeper into trouble.  Can he manage to get himself out?

It's not a mystery or a detective story.  We watch Henry do these things and know he's the culprit.  It's a matter of whether he's going to get caught and the lengths to which he will go to avoid capture. Arango's story is woven between the past and the present, has several colorful side characters, some surprising twists, and as morbid as it is, you will find yourself chuckling.

Corey Brill is the reader and he is excellent.  I don't really remember anything about his voice, and that just means he did a good job. It's hard to describe why I loved The Truth and Other Lies so much, but I did.

Published by Atria, 2015, Simon & Schuster Audio
Audiobook obtained from the library
256 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review: Invictus, by Ryan Graudin @ryangraudin

Invictus by Ryan Graudin book cover and review
Yes, Graudin can write science fiction! And Invictus was as enjoyable as all her other novels.

Farway's mother was jumping through time when he was born, so he literally has no birthday.  In this future, you can train to be a recorder of history by visiting the actual time period. Farway wants nothing more than to follow in his mother's footsteps and become a historian. He would also like to find his mother, who disappeared somewhere in the past when Far was a young boy.

Farway bombs his final exam and instead of recording history he ends up traveling in time for the black market that deals with bringing valuable items from the past to the present before they are lost.  For example, you could go to the Titanic and steal all the valuable jewels right before it sinks. And this is the type of stuff that Far does with his crew that is made up of his cousin, his girlfriend, and a very good friend.  When their mission is thwarted by Eliot, a time-traveler of a different sort, everything changes and becomes very deadly for the crew of the Invictus.

Graudin's rules for time travel make Invictus pretty easy to follow (unlike some time travel books I've read where things just don't make sense.)  Some of Eliot's tricks (like her magical bag) do stretch the imagination a bit, though.  We get a glimpse into several different historical time periods which is enjoyable.

The action is fast-paced and riveting. When I wasn't reading, I was thinking about Invictus (which is always a good sign.) The ending is a bit complicated, but Graudin manages to pull it off. If there's one small complaint it would be the romance.  There wasn't much build up.  All of a sudden you realize, "Oh, they are a couple!" Not a big deal, but I thought there could have been a bit more earlier in the book.

Invictus seems like it could be a stand-alone,  but I would love for the story to continue. This one is going to get pushed to my teen readers.  I think they will love it.

Published by Little, Brown, BFYR, September 26, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
464 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Book Review: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen @Scott_Thought

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen book cover and review
I loved Nyxia. And yes, it should be compared to Ender's Game, which I love too, but it also stands on its own.

The Babel Corporation has recruited some teens from all over the earth to go to a distant planet and mine for (and steal) a substance called Nyxia. This substance can be reformed into anything, can cure you of illness and injury, can make you stronger, and as you will find out, can do even more. There are ten kids recruited, and no one knows why they have been chosen, but they all have issues.

Success on this three-year commitment means they will be rich beyond their wildest dreams. And even while they are travelling, their families on Earth are benefitting. The first chink in this perfect scenario that our recruits discover is that only 8 of the 10 get to actually go to the planet.  They must compete relentlessly during their one-year trip to the planet. And they will discover some other "chinks" too.

Emmett is our narrator.  His issue is that his mother has kidney disease and needs a transplant.  And also, he's got a temper and can be violent. One of the first tests is for the recruits to learn how to manipulate Nyxia.  They also learn about the inhabitants of the planet, who only like children, since they can't have them anymore.  They are hostile to adults.  Hence the need for teens on this mission.

Each test gets more and more difficult, and the recruits get to know each other better -- at least some of them. The story really clips along and the tension builds nicely.  There are ups and downs, not all will survive, and some big twists at the end. As expected in all science fiction, there are some plot holes, and you have to suspend some disbelief.

The story isn't finished at the end of Nyxia, so of course, the sequel can't come soon enough.  Sci-fi fans should definitely get their hands on this one.  I can already see it on the big screen...

Published by Crown BFYR, September 12, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
384 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Audiobook Review: Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles book cover an review
At almost 36 hours, I think Natchez Burning is the longest book I've ever listened to. But it was good!

Natchez Burning is the 4th book in the Penn Cage series.  I didn't realize that.  Somehow I thought it was the first.  But as I was listening, it seemed like some of the things referred to were probably in a previous book.  I don't think it's necessary to read the others first, though. (Although I have put them on my list.)

Penn Cage is the mayor of Natchez, Mississippi.  His father, Dr. Tom Cage, has been a respected physician in Natchez since the 1960s.  He is respected by both white and black people and has always treated them fairly.  When Tom is accused of murdering his long-time African American nurse from the 1960s, Penn believes there won't be a problem clearing him given his reputation.  His nurse, Viola, was in the last days of suffering from cancer, and even though euthanasia is illegal, with Tom's reputation things should be okay.

But they are not.  Tom is keeping secrets from Penn, and they have to do with an elite group of the KKK called the Double Eagles murdering several African Americans in the 1960s. Penn hooks up with Henry Sexton, a local reporter who has been researching these cases for many years, to try to figure out how to help his father.  And Henry, of course, wants to bring the Double Eagles to justice.

This story goes on and on, but there's never a dull moment.  Iles provides quite a bit of background at times, but Natches Burning never failed to keep my interest. There are many colorful (and vile) characters who are constantly putting each other in danger. And many descriptions of torture beyond belief. It is incredible to me that this all happens in the span of four or five days, I believe.

The harrowing conclusion builds and builds and I had invested so much time, but I still thought the ending was really abrupt. There were some major loose ends that are left hanging, and I just needed more wrap up of the aftermath and time for my emotions to subside.

The narrator, David Ledoux, has a great voice and distinguishes the characters without going over the top.  He is, however, pretty slow.  After about half way through (and my third time checking this out), I decided speeding it up to 1.5X was perfect. (I used my library's audio download service, which automatically checks things back in after 3 weeks.  There was a wait list for this book, so I had to wait three times in between listening. This took me a while to finish.)

I enjoyed Natchez Burning and like Penn Cage enough to see what else he gets up to.  If you are willing to spend the time, I highly recommend it.

Published by William Morrow, 2014, audio by HarperAudio, 2015
Audiobook obtained from the library
880 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Book Review: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez book cover and review
Out of Darkness is not really a book about the school explosion that happened in east Texas in 1937.  It's a story about a family in turmoil before and after the explosion. It was just a bit unexpected. Granted, the blurb says "a multilayered tale," but I don't usually pay too much attention to descriptions.

We experience the horror of the explosion at the beginning of the book, then we are taken back about six months to get to know our victims.  Naomi has just been brought to live with her stepfather, Henry.  She has a sister and brother who are twins and are biological children of Henry.  Her mother died shortly after the twins' birth and they have been living with grandparents.

Henry is doing well digging for oil and he has found God.  He is convinced by his preacher that God wants him to bring his children to live with him, so he does.  There are separate schools for black and white kids.  Since the twins and Henry are white, Naomi, who is Mexican, goes to the white school. She meets an African American boy named Wash.  He begins spending a lot of time with the twins, and eventually, he and Naomi begin a secret romantic relationship.

Things get more and more complicated for Naomi and Wash, and that's pretty much all I want to say about the plot.  At about 300 pages, the explosion occurs and we get more details about it, but we still move on from that very quickly.

This is not a happy book.  Throughout the entire narrative, Naomi is struggling.  And we know what is coming.  And when it comes, don't expect a "happily ever after."  It's been a long time since I've read a book that really had no uplifting qualities.  It was written well, and the characters and situations were interesting.  But I am really glad to be finished, and I find myself a bit angry at   Pérez. I need to move on.  I woke up early this morning thinking about this story,  and I still feel a bit sick when I do.

So, do I recommend Out of Darkness? Well, given the previous paragraph, I'll leave it up to you.

Published by Carolrhoda, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
401 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: The Door to January by Gillian French

The Door to January by Gillian French book cover and review
The Door to January did not give me the thrills I was hoping for.

Natalie has nightmares about a traumatic event that happened two years ago. The nightmares aren't only about this event -- they are pulling her towards an old abandoned house in the town where she used to live. She feels compelled to go back to her old town for the summer and face her fears.  She is staying with her aunt and her cousin, Teddy.  Teddy is the only one who knows the real reason Natalie has returned.

Natalie and Teddy visit the old house and set up a recorder.  Weird things begin to happen.  There are really three POVs in The Door to January.  We get Natalie's normal POV but also her dreams (which are in italics) and then she goes back in time for another POV.  These sections from the past, where she is seeing the old inhabitants of the house, were not formatted correctly in the eARC.  I'm sure that will be better in the final copy. The story lines all mesh together -- the past, the dreams, and the present -- to an exciting conclusion.

It's hard to put my finger on why The Door to January just didn't do it for me.  I never felt much suspense or many thrills.  I liked the premise and the way things from the past were slowly revealed.  But it just wasn't believable to me. I think maybe the story needed more depth.  It is very short, and things happened quickly.  In this case, maybe a little too quickly. Natalie seemed to take things very much in stride. She should have been freaking out! That's what I mean by depth. We needed to get more time for reactions to each new revelation before the next one came along.

I'm being somewhat picky.  I think for the intended audience, The Door to January would be appealing. And, like I said, it's a quick read and really moves.  So this may be a good choice for reluctant readers.

Published by Islandport, September 5, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
200 pages

Rating: 3/5

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