Saturday, December 30, 2017

Book Review: Renegades by Marissa Meyer @marissa_meyer

Renegades by Marissa Meyer book cover and review
Renegades is an exciting, hard-to-put-down adventure full of magic and intrigue.

Prodigies are people with certain magical powers. There are two groups of prodigies:  The Renegades, who saved society from the awful reign of the Anarchists, the second group. A group of Renegades called The Council are the rulers and they are like rock stars. And other Renegades are used to keep order and administer justice.

But humans are suffering almost as much as when the Anarchists ruled.  And the Anarchists have been driven into hiding.

Nova, also know as Nightmare since she can put people to sleep, is an Anarchist.  She is determined to seek vengeance.  She becomes a Renegade to infiltrate their organization and defeat them from within.  She is on a team of Anarchists led by Adrian (called Sketch - because he can make drawings come to life). Adrian and Nova become close, and the distinction of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys is very hazy.

That's one of the best parts of Renegades for me.  The fact that neither side are really doing the right thing.  They are all misguided by different things, but neither group is accomplishing enough to improve this society.

The superpowers are interesting and very unique. (A woman that turns into butterflies??) There are great action scenes and battles.  The characterizations, with the exception of our two main characters, are not very deep, but the deceptions on everyone's part keep you turning the pages. It is never clear until the very end...and unfortunately it isn't clear then either, since there's a startling revelation and a huge cliffhanger!

The conclusion (yes, only two books!) doesn't come out until November, 2018, so patience is required.  My book club is reading Renegades this month.  I cannot wait to see what they have to say. I always say I'm not a fan of books with a lot of magic, but Renegades sucked me right in!

Published by Feiwel & Friends, November 7, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
556 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Book Review: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum book cover and review
Merry Christmas! I thought this would be an appropriate review for today.  Hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

I didn't realize L. Frank Baum had written a story about Santa until I saw it on my Serial Reader.  So I couldn't resist reading The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.

In this depiction, Santa, a mortal, was raised by a fairy.  He was good and kind and loved to make toys for children.  This expanded into the annual Christmas Eve trek around the world with his reindeer pulling his sleigh.

Baum explains how these traditions started and grew, including hanging the stockings and the Christmas Tree.  He even explains how Santa got around the problem when houses stopped having big chimneys that he could go down!

Most of us are familiar with Clement Clarke Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, which is really titled, A Visit from St. Nicholas. Baum's book was originally published in 1902 and Moore's poem was published in 1823.  So why didn't Baum use Moore's names for the reindeer?  And in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, there are ten reindeer. It doesn't really matter, but Moore's names have won out!

The story is enchanting and delightful to read.  I think more young children should be exposed to The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.

Published by Bowen Merrill, 1902
eBook obtained from Serial Reader
56 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Book Review: Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber

Okay, I'm done with Christmas romances for the season.  Merry and Bright gave me that warm, holiday feeling I always look for.

Merry has a temporary job and is working on a hard, fast approaching deadline.  She's working overtime, and it is difficult during the holiday season.  Especially when her mother is ill, her father travels, and her brother has Down syndrome. It doesn't help that her boss, Jayson Bright, is such a crab.  He never smiles and doesn't appreciate Merry or the other employees.

There's the setup.  Merry and Jayson both try using an online dating service and end up communicating via chatting, but they don't know that they know each other.  This goes on for a while, and they really like each other, so they decide to meet.  I think that's all I'll say because if I tell you too much more, I'm telling you the whole story.

I enjoyed Merry and Bright, but it's a short novel, and it still dragged on too long.  We hear way too often about how Merry loves Christmas, and how she would do anything for her family.  We hear way too often about how Jayson had a horrible upbringing and his family didn't care about him, and he doesn't care about Christmas.  I just wanted to say, "Tell each other who you are, for God's sake!" The tension didn't really mount the way I like it too.  It was just more of the same for the middle of the book until the final resolution.  Which is happy, of course.

I enjoyed Merry and Bright, don't get me wrong.  I read it in one day, so even with the middle feeling kind of repetitive, it was still quick.  This is Macomber's newest Christmas story, so at least I hadn't read this one before! If you need a quick, Christmas romance, here's your book.

Published by Ballentine, October 3, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
224 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Book Review: Genuine Fraud, by e. lockhart

Genuine Fraud by e. lockhart, book cover and review
I loved the way that Genuine Fraud was told.  The book is very creative, although along with the backward format came a bit of a disappointment.

Each chapter in Genuine Fraud happens before the chapter you just read (until the very last chapter.) Once you get into the rhythm, it is really compelling.

At the beginning of the book (which is the end of the story), Jule is on the run. She's an unreliable narrator, so it is hard to believe everything she says. As we travel back in time, we figure out the path Jule has taken to get to this point in the story. And as the blurb says, it involves a murder, or maybe two.

I was really sucked into this story at first.  I read about 3/4 of the book the first day.  I had several possibilities as to what happened to Jule and her best friend Imogen, and none of them were exactly correct.  But you know something is twisted about this story.

My issue  has to do with the ending (or beginning, depending on how you look at it.) When I got towards the end of my reading, I just felt underwhelmed.  I think it's because books are more exciting at the end, and the beginning of the story is just the setup.  And I was reading the setup last.  I just felt like after all that reading and anticipation of where this all started, my reaction was just, "Oh." Not really disappointed, but just okay.  And I didn't have the problem that not enough loose ends were tied up, as I read that many other reviewers had. I was satisfied with what we know by the time we get to the end.

If you liked this book, you should see the movie Memento.  It is about a guy who loses his short-term memory and is told backward, just like Genuine Fraud.

I would definitely recommend Genuine Fraud just because it's unique.  It's a quick read.  I had difficulty keeping track of a couple of characters, but for the most part, this was really fun.

Published by Delacorte, September 5, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
265 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Book Review: The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber

The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber book cover and review
The Perfect Christmas is the finally the Christmas story I've been looking for.  (After two previous attempts -- see here and here.)

Cassie and her best friend Angie are looking for husbands. Cassie, in particular, wants to find the perfect man and have the perfect Christmas.  Angie suggests she enlist the help of a professional matchmaker, Simon, at a price of $36,000.  It's hefty, but Cassie is desperate, and there is a money back guarantee.

Simon is cold and off-putting, and Cassie tries desperately to break through his facade.  But she's after a husband and will put up with almost anything to meet Simon's pick for her.  And she does put up with a lot.

As in most of these types of stories, the reader can see where this is going.  And Angie is going to find someone too, and it's pretty obvious who that will be.  But that's all I'm saying. That's what is expected when you pick up a book like The Perfect Christmas.

The Perfect Christmas is a delightful, heartwarming, happy Christmas story that I crave every year.  Macomber's stories are always clean and appropriate for teens. This edition contains another story, Can This Be Christmas? that I didn't read. I have another Macomber Christmas story coming from the library, so if I have time, I'm going to read that one too!  I'm such a mushy romantic around Christmas!

Note: WOW.  I just realized I read and reviewed this in 2013.  I have no recollection of this story!  It is "fluff," and I don't read a lot of that. But that's never happened before.  I mean, I read a lot, but still...

Published by MIRA, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
187 pages


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Monday, December 18, 2017

Book Review (DNF) - The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand book cover and review
The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a cute book, and I would recommend it if you want a lighthearted Christmas story, even though I didn't finish it.

I started reading The Afterlife of Holly Chase in October, before the release date and just couldn't get into the story.  It seemed too silly.  But, after reading some excellent reviews and since it's the Christmas season, I thought I'd try again.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase is based on A Christmas CarolI wouldn't call it a retelling, but maybe a modernization.  Holly is awful.  She's the Scrooge.  And she's visited by three ghosts and still doesn't change her ways.  So, she dies.  As a ghost, she works for a company who finds a different Scrooge each year and sends them their ghosts to try to get them to change.  Holly is the ghost of Christmas past.  She has to do a lot of research throughout the year to learn about this year's Scrooge so she knows what to show him/her from the past.

This year's Scrooge is a rich, spoiled teenager, just like Holly.  He's hot too. So you can probably see where this is going.

I read 1/3 of The Afterlife of Holly Chase. It's well-written, well-paced, and entertaining. It was just too goofy for me.  I just couldn't buy in.  I was doing the eye roll too often.  And it seemed a bit predictable, but that's not really why I quit. (And maybe my predictions aren't correct since I didn't finish it!)

If this sounds like something you would enjoy--go for it! It's a great read for the season.  And if you want something light-hearted that can't be taken too seriously, The Afterlife of Holly Chase will fit the bill.  And the references to, A Christmas Carol make it even better.

Published by HarperTeen, October 24, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
132/389 pages

Rating: DNF

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Book Review: The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle book cover and review
I loved The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily in so many ways. 

The story is told by Lily, who has ADHD.  She struggles to stay in school, to follow directions, to keep track of papers and things, to keep track of time. She has difficulty following some conversations if things go too fast.  She is dyslexic, so sometimes she can't read fast. She often breaks things. She wants to visit her father in Portland, Oregon, during the summer.  Her mom has told her she must pass all her classes and not skip school in order to do so, but her medication makes her feel different and when she quits taking it, things happen.

She gets in trouble at school for breaking something, and it turns out Abelard was in on it, so they both get detention.  Abelard is high-functioning autistic.  He is very smart but lacks social skills.  He doesn't like to be touched. He loves routine and can't stand it if people aren't punctual.

These two unlikely teens fall in love.  The relationship is rocky, and because of their neurodifferences, unusual situations cause more problems than the usual teen relationship.

I loved that I learned so much about what it might be like to be ADHD.  The author has this condition, so I'm assuming this is pretty accurate, at least for some kids. I loved that the ending is hopeful but very open.  Not a perfect "happily ever after." The pacing is excellent. I couldn't stay away from this book.  It's not that it is action-packed, but it's that enough happens.  But mostly it is Lily and Abelard--and their families, who really wanted what is best for these kids.  No crazy parents in this one.  Both of these teens are really intelligent and well read. The title of the book comes from The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise, which they have both read and quote a lot in this book.

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily gave me such warm fuzzies.  I've already recommended this to several people.  One of my favorite books of the year (And a contemporary! Who would have thought!)

Published by HMH BFYR, December 26, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
352 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Phantom of the Opera is a tragic and exciting tale.

I've seen the musical a couple of times live, as well as the movie, so I have always wanted to read the book. For a classic, it's pretty easy to read and follow.  I'm going to assume you are at least familiar with the basic premise of the story.  (If not, click on the link for a summary.) The beginning goes much like the story in the musical, but after Christine is taken by the Phantom (although he is never called that in the book), it is much more exciting!

There is an additional character, the Persian, not in the musical, who along with Raoul are tortured and barely escape with their lives! We also learn about the Phantom's past, which helps explain why he is so evil. The reader is asked to have sympathy for him, but it is difficult, given what he put everyone through.

I'm glad I read the story, but I wouldn't read it again.  If you are a true fan, it's a must-read. If you enjoy macabre classics, this is a good one.

Published by Pierre Laie (originally), in 1910 (in English in 1911.)
eBook obtained from Serial Reader
270 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Book Review: Midnight at the Electric, by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Midnight at the Electric, by Jodi Lynn Anderson book cover and review
Midnight at the Electric is a uniquely written story, narrated by three women in three different time periods.

Adri exists in the near future.  She has been chosen to go to the colony on Mars. (Don't worry, this book isn't science fiction.) As part of her final training, she will go to The Center in Kansas where the rocket will be launched.  She finds out she has a cousin, Lily, who is 107 years old and lives close to the Center.  Adri will stay with Lily while in her final preparations.

While Adri is staying with Lily (who is in the early stages of dementia), she finds letters from someone called Catherine, who is writing in 1934.  They are in the middle of the Dust Bowl, and Catherine, her mother, and her little sister are barely surviving. Ellis is their farm hand, who they hired after Catherine's father died.  Catherine is secretly in love with Ellis.

Catherine finds letters that were sent to her mother, Beth, by someone named Lenore.  When Cathy asks her mother about Lenore, all she gets is silence. It seems Lenore was Cathy's best friend when Cathy's parents decided to leave England to avoid the war.

Lenore is writing in 1919 and has lost her brother, Teddy, in the war.  Her entire family is in mourning.  She longs to go to America to be with Cathy and is saving her money to do so.  Lenore finds an old shack in their woods and begins to clean it up.  It is a place she can go for peace and quiet.  And she can pretend that Cathy is there.  Soon she realizes that someone else has been using the cabin.  And she meets James, who is a severely deformed veteran of the war who has left civilization and is surviving in the wild.

There are secrets, friendship, hardship, and a lot of soul-searching in Midnight at the Electric.  It is interesting how the stories finally fit together, and we find out, along with Adri, how these people are connected to Lily's house.  Oh, and there's a Galapagos turtle, who is probably older than Lily, that plays an important part in the story.

Midnight at the Electric is a mellow story that I got wrapped up in quickly.  The changes in time and perspective are easy, and with all the jumping around, the story flows well. I'm not sure which teens to push this one to -- I've already recommended it to some of my adult friends.  I think it will need to be pushed, but it's a wonderful story.

Published by HarperTeen, June 13, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
257 pages

Rating: 4/5

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