Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Book Review: The Window, by Amelia Brunskill @ameliab

The Window by Amelia Brunskill book cover and review
The Window is a twisty mystery that kept me guessing until the very end.

Jess's twin sister, Anna, falls to her death from her bedroom window.  Jess thought that Anna told her everything, but perhaps there was a lot going on that Jess didn't know about.

Everyone thinks Anna's death was accidental.  Everyone except Jess.  She can't give up on figuring out why Anna was sneaking out.  Jess begins to find out things about her twin that she never knew and is surprised by what she finds.  It still doesn't make sense, though, especially the toxicology report, and Jess isn't going to give up.

There are several twists, and the reader is taken in different directions along with Jess. I admired Jess's perseverance.  And I enjoyed the developing friendship between Jess and Nick. I wish it could have turned out differently.

I think most readers will be surprised by the ending, which is always a good thing for a mystery. The characters are interesting and realistic. The pacing is excellent, and it makes The Window a quick read.  Teens who enjoy a good mystery, including reluctant readers, should be pointed to The Window.

Published by Delacorte, April 3, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller book cover and review
Not being a big mythology fan, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Song of Achilles.

The Song of Achilles is sort of a retelling of the Iliad--the Trojan War, Oedipus, and of course, the story of Achilles. The story is told from the unique perspective of Patroclus, who is Achilles lover.

Their relationship is slowly developed which makes The Song of Achilles more of a love story.  But there is plenty of battles and twelve-years of war to keep up the action.

As I said, I'm not much of a mythology scholar, so I enjoyed this story, whether it follows the classic myths or not.  Patroclus' perspective is unique. I still get the characters confused. Their names all sound the same to me. But for the most part, I kept track of what was going on.

We pretty much all know that it ends for both of these characters, but I was waiting for the arrow in the heel (I did know at least that much) but it never happened.

If you are a fan of mythology, then you should definitely put this Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction (2012) on your list. The sequel, Circe, is releasing in April and that was my motivation for reading The Song of Achilles now. I have a copy of Circe that I'm hoping to get to soon.

Published by Ecco, 2012
Copy obtained from the library
416 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Audiobook Review: Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave book cover and review
Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a poignant look at the day-to-day existence of the citizens of London and those that fought for the Brittish during World War II.

The main character is Mary.  She's a society girl, who when the war begins volunteers for duty.  She is assigned to teach at a school, but then all of the children are evacuated, and she is asked to stay behind. Tom is in charge of education, and eventually, Mary convinces him to let her teach the children that are left -- those with handicaps and the blacks.  She becomes very close to a black boy. And she and Tom are romantically involved.

Tom's roommate Alistair, has volunteered.  We follow him through battles in France, and then he eventually ends up on Malta, which is under siege.  His friend in the army is Simonson. They and their men, as well as the citizens of Malta, end up starving and without the means to defend the island.

Meanwhile, in London, there are air raids every night.  Mary's best friend is Hilda. When Alistair comes home on leave, Mary and Tom try to set them up.  But, it turns out Mary is the one who falls head over heels for Alistair.  But she can't tell Tom.

I really enjoyed Everyone Brave is Forgiven, even though it moves very slowly.  This pacing is necessary to bring the feelings of the relentlessness of the war.  And Cleave's descriptions and use of other literary devices gives the text life. Even though the subject is heavy, Cleave adds lightness with the amusing dialog between Alistair and Tom, and Alistair and Simonson.

Awful things happen -- after all, it is war. My parents lived through the war, and my dad served. I've heard of the horrors of those who served. But, we as Americans have no idea of the hardships the English people survived (or didn't survive.)  The nightly bombings, the shortages, the devastation, etc.  This novel brings it all to light.

I have a copy of the printed book, and I read a little bit.  I'm convinced that I enjoyed Everyone Brave is Forgiven much more in the audio version.  The narrator, Luke Thompson, does a great job.  And listening to the descriptions and dialog just had more impact than reading.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven shouldn't be missed by anyone who is interested in World War II history.  Although the book is about young people, it will be a hard sell to most teens.  I would recommend this only to those teens with a serious interest in WWII stories.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2016 (Simon & Schuster Audio)
Audiobook obtained from the library
425 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Review: I Have Lost My Way, by Gayle Forman @gayleforman ‏

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman book cover and review
I had heard that I Have Lost My Way is told backward, and I was skeptical. (Seems like a "thing" lately.) I shouldn't have worried.  Forman skillfully uses flashbacks to tell the backstory, and it flows seamlessly.

Freya is one of our main characters.  She's a budding pop star, who has lost her voice.  She's feeling a lot of pressure from her manager and her mother. She's estranged from her sister, so when she sees a Facebook post that her sister is engaged, she kind of loses it.

Actually, she falls off a bridge in a park and lands on Nathaniel, who has just arrived in New York.  Harun is the bystander who sees it all and comes to help.  Freya and Harun decide that Nathaniel needs to see a doctor since he passed out and is very confused.

This begins a story of a special relationship, as these three bond very quickly and don't seem to want to leave each other.  Even though they all have other plans.  The reader discovers these plans slowly, through glimpses of the past leading up to this chance meeting. I didn't even realize until the end that this story takes place all in one day.  But what a huge day for these characters.

These three exemplify the title of the book -- they have all lost their way. Can they help each other to find their way back? Well, you'll have to read it.

 Foreman hasn't disappointed her teen fans. They will love I Have Lost My Way.

Published by Viking BFYR, March 27, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
272 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Book Review: Sometimes I Lie, by Alice Feeney @alicewriterland ‏

When you hear a novel described as "twisted," you can't help but try to figure out the twists as you are reading.  Sometimes I Lie is "twisted" in every sense of the word.  You got me, Ms. Feeney!

Amber is in a coma after a car accident, but she can hear and is aware of some of the things going on around her as she fades in and out. The reader gets three perspectives:  "Before" tells us the story of Amber's childhood from diary entries.  "Then" tells us the events in the week before she had her accident.  And "Now" gives us Amber's perspective as she lies in a hospital bed trying to remember what has happened to her and why.

Alice is OCD.  She has a sister named Claire.  Alice believes that her parents didn't love her, and they loved Claire more. Her husband, Paul, was once a successful writer but has not been able to produce anything recently.  Their marriage is strained. Possibly because of this strain, Alice has met with an old boyfriend a few times. The diary talks about a needy kind of childhood friendship with Taylor.

Sometimes I Lie is one of those books where I can't really say anything else.  The title is definitely appropriate. And, not only does Feeney tell a good story, she's a good writer.  Her descriptions and characterizations are excellent.

Sometimes I Lie is an adult book, and I would only recommend it to very mature teens.  It's not that it is that inappropriate, it's just deep. Highly recommended!

Published by Flatiron, March 13, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
272 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Book Review: Nothing But Sky, by Amy Trueblood

Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood book cover and review
Nothing But Sky has a unique historical setting in the sky.  I didn't realize how popular (and death-defying) these daredevils were.

Grace is an orphan who lives with her Uncle who is also her pilot.  Grace wants nothing more than to make a career as a barnstormer, but she will need to prove she's the best since the skies are becoming crowded.  Her unwavering goal is to win the World Aviation Expo in 65 days in Chicago.  This victory will lead to a Hollywood contract with a movie studio.

Grace and her team are working feverishly to raise enough money for the entrance fee.  Grace is being recruited by one of their stiffest competition, and it seems they will stop at nothing to get Grace to join their team.

However, Grace's team is like her family.  And when they hire a new mechanic, she finds herself in an unwanted romance.  She has no time for romance when she's working on perfecting more dangerous and spectacular stunts in the air.

Nothing But Sky is a quick read that is paced well.  There is always another challenge facing Grace and she refuses to be thwarted.  In fact, she's so determined that maybe she needs to do a little soul-searching. Awful things happen, and it seems all hope of competing is lost. And with a surprising twist, the romance may be over too.

The ending is sweet and satisfying, even if it relies on a bit of luck. Teens who enjoy historical settings with one of the most determined women I've read about will enjoy Nothing But Sky.

Published by Flux, March 27, 2018
ARC obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
284 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Book Review: The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian book cover and review
I have read a few of Bohjalian's books and enjoyed most of them.  The Flight Attendant definitely fell into that category.

Cassie is a flight attendant laying over in Dubai.  She hooks up with a passenger she met on the flight and gets blackout drunk. This isn't unusual behavior for Cassie. When she wakes up, she remembers sharing a bottle of vodka with a female visitor that this man worked with, she remembers the sex, and she remembers leaving to go back to her hotel.  So why is she waking up still in this man's room?  And why is he dead in bed next to her -- his throat slashed?

Cassie takes a shower to wash off the blood, tries to clean up all her fingerprints, and leaves to catch her flight back to the states. Things slowly begin to fall apart for Cassie, and thankfully she does retain an attorney pretty early in the process. But she's pretty stupid at times and doesn't always follow her attorney's advice.  And when pictures show up with a woman wearing the exact scarf Cassie purchased in Dubai, it seems everyone knows Cassie isn't telling the truth.

When she does tell the truth (or most of it), it doesn't help.  Basically, Cassie is a mess.  And the fact that the man she was with might have been a spy, and the woman that was a guest that evening doesn't seem to exist, puts Cassie in a different kind of danger she never anticipated.

I was easily wrapped up in The Flight Attendant, and rooted for Cassie, even as she continued to blunder through her situation. The pacing is good and Bohjalian has a gift for description. My only complaint is the ending.  There is an epilogue, but I wish the story had gone another step before the epilogue.  I felt like, "Wait....What??" I didn't quite understand how Cassie got where she was, and exactly what was her situation.  Maybe it was just a bit too sinister and twisted for me?  I needed an explanation.

I would recommend The Flight Attendant, and also that you go back and read Bohjalian's The Night Strangers and The Sleepwalker, a couple of my favorites. The Flight Attendant contains lots of promiscuity and sex, but nothing graphic.  Reserve this one for older teens.

Published by Doubleday, March 13, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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