Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A History of Loneliness by John Boyne

A History of LonelinessA History of Loneliness by John Boyne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. Odran is a priest in Ireland (not my usual read, huh?) and the book moves slowly. But you know it's building to SOMETHING. The abuse scandal is waiting and lurking in the background, and Odran's life is touched by it, even if he refused to notice. Each chapter is told from a different year--drove me nuts at first because there's no rhyme or reason to it--2001, 2006, 1964, 1980, 1972, etc. Father Odran tells us about his first experience with a girl, his experiences with his local priest, and his early entrance to the seminary. As a young priest at the Vatican, he represents Ireland in a special role with the pope, but he also becomes infatuated (obsessed?)with a beautiful Italian woman. I found the inner turmoil fascinating--does he stay a priest? Does the temptation to touch her make him normal? or not?

As Odran gets close to retirement, the Irish church is going up in flames with stories of abuse and the higher-ups who covered everything up. Odran's guilt is real, as well as his need to be forgiven and to make amends. He never did anything wrong, did he? Or did he by staying silent?

I've read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and enjoyed it, but I felt this book was much better written. Perhaps because it's told from the point-of-view of a well-educated priest? His phrasing is beautiful--I might have to listen to this on audio just to hear the Irish accent.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

The Son by Jo Nesbo. Read by Gildart Jackson.

The SonThe Son by Jo Nesbø
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a standalone novel from the Norwegian author famous for his Harry Hole crime novels.

Sonny Lofthus escapes from prison, and everyone is terrified. He's been taking the murder rap for several people so that he could feed his heroin addiction while he was incarcerated. Everyone is corrupt in this novel--the prison administration, the police, and the mobsters that run the Oslo underground cartel. Sonny is on a mission to get revenge on the people who really messed up--it's his duty.

While the plotline was interesting and I loved the Nordic setting, things just moved too slowly for me. I was listening to the audiobook so that might have been the fault of the narrator, but I believe it was just the writing that I'm not a fan of. It's popular worldwide though.

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Love, Lucy by April Lindner

Love, LucyLove, Lucy by April Lindner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dang it--I was so looking forward to a Just One Day or an Anna and the French Kiss. I love YA romances that take place while traveling!

But this one fell short. The predictable plot could have been okay if I had grown attached to the characters, but that didn't happen. I never really got the sense of place that I should get while reading about Italy, and even the love scenes felt awkward. I guess it's a good book to give to teens who loved the two books I mentioned above, but I wouldn't give this one first.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Rebel QueenRebel Queen by Michelle Moran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After I checked out this book, I noticed it was by the same author who wrote Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution, so I wasn't thrilled. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this one, mainly because I learned so much about Indian history.

Sita is a poor Indian girl from the village of Jhansi, but her father has big dreams. She is trained to become a female protector of the rani (the queen) of India. She eventually becomes one of her Durga Dal, but the British are already in India. I found the history fascinating--how Britain kept the Indian rulers as puppet leaders, and how the weak Indian king had more interest in playing a girl in plays than ruling a country. Qheen Lakshmi had the real power--she even practiced with her female warriors and was educated.

My only qualm? There were times when I felt like the author was shoving definitions of Indian words down my throat. I would rather have her write the words in context--let me figure out what they mean. Heck, there's a glossary in the book anyway! (Not that I ever check those).

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Escape by David Baldacci

The Escape (John Puller, #3)The Escape by David Baldacci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had forgotten how much I enjoy reading Baldacci's books. I always claim that Patterson, Grisham, and King's new stuff isn't as good as the old, but I think Baldacci has held up well during popularity.

I feel silly for reading Book #3 in the series first--guess I'll have to play catchup.

John Puller's brother escapes from the most secure Army prison at Ft. Leavenworth and an unknown dead man is found is his bunk. Robert Puller was in prison for treason--but maybe he was innocent? As the secrets come out, a lot of people die. Both brothers have top secret pasts in the NSA, Army/Air Force, and various governmental abbreviations. I enjoyed the espionage and movie-like action--relaxing and fast-paced book!

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Monday, March 23, 2015

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

The Girl with All the GiftsThe Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again, it's the end of the world. But, ahh, man, this one pulls at the heartstrings.

Melanie is a child at a school. She's strapped into a chair every day by security guards, and is taught things like Greek myths and the Periodic Table. Eventually she learns why she's strapped into a chair and, whoa, prepare to keep reading the book until you're finished!

This is a thrill ride--nonstop action for the last 3/4 of the book, and the characters make it heart-wrenching. This kind of character development doesn't usually happen in an apocalyptic novel, so it was a refreshing read. I'm impressed--looking forward to the next one by this author.

And I blame the bags under my eyes today on this novel--I had to finish it last night once I had started it.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton

Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind ThemPen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Does it make me sound old when I say that the book's font was difficult for me to read? I know it's supposed to look cool, but I hate when I have to read slowly because of a publisher's decision! The cursive conjunctions drove me nuts! Nuts, I say!

But I still read some of the stories as I flipped through and looked at the tattoos. My favorite is actually the first one--the guy who got the cute little bunny on his back when everyone else was getting tough guy tattoos.

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's the end of the world again--this time, it's a flu. It hit America (and the world) quickly and the few remaining survivors are trying to re-build civilization.

That story has been told before, but Mandel tells her story well. It's a fast read--you get to know some characters that you'll care about. There's a traveling group of actors who perform Shakespeare and play classical music, an aging Hollywood star with many ex-wives, a little girl who is given graphic novels, and an ex-paparazzi photographer who decides to become a paramedic. The book covers Ground Zero to Year 15. People survive. And thrive. People who love the arts will love this one!

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Phantom Instinct by Meg Gardiner

Phantom InstinctPhantom Instinct by Meg Gardiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes I need to read a book that is like a Jack Bauer episode and this thriller worked for me! In fact, I read it in one day--that's the sign of a book that grabs your attention!

Harper's boyfriend is gunned down in a shooting at a nightclub, and a year later she is still mourning. But she's also still investigating the crime--she swears there was a third shooter, but the detectives don't believe her. She finds an unlikely ally in a police officer who was working at the club that night--Aiden also believes there was a third shooter, but he was injured in the fire at the club that night and he's not mentally stable enough to carry a gun. The two of them know that the 3rd shooter is following them, and, sure enough, he is. Eventually there is a 24-hour scene straight out of a movie that results in gunfire, backstabbing, new alliances, and corrupt corporations. All in all, it was an enjoyable fluffy treat!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too by Tammy Strobel.

You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can TooYou Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too by Tammy Strobel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked the message so much that I didn't care if the writing was disjointed. I can tell the author is a blogger--I have a feeling this book was pieced together from multiple blogposts, but that's okay. I enjoyed the stories of the author and her friends, as well as how she name dropped so I have other books and blogs to look for. I loved how she included small things that anyone can do to downsize their life--makes it easier to start the process.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French

Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old ChinaMidnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It helps that I just visited Shanghai and Beijing as I finished this book! But, it's, oh, so sad since it's a real story. China was crooked in 1937. When young and pretty Pamela Werner is found brutally murdered, an investigation ensues, and this book tells the tale of the investigation. So many secrets and mysteries and corrupt officials. So, so, sad for Pamela and her father.

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The Remaining by D.J. Molles

The Remaining (The Remaining, #1)The Remaining by D.J. Molles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Holy fast-moving zombie novel! It's like Rot and Ruin and adult was sniper books all rolled into a popular series. Now I want the sequels.....the novella that was included at the end isn't enough! And I was scared when I read this alone in my Beijing hutong hotel room. Had to read until the end to make sure everything turned out okay. And of course, I still don't know! Ugh!

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The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

The Alex CrowThe Alex Crow by Andrew Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, this isn't quite as weird as Grasshopper Jungle. But Andrew Smith is getting quite the odd reputation. Several stories come together at the end of this and I can't say too much without giving a lot of away. But there is a scene of extreme violence that really bothered me--that makes this for older YAs. Smith still likes to talk about masturbation a lot--I'm wondering if he can write a book that doesn't talk about pleasuring a penis constantly? Is it possible?

I guess I'm burned out. I thought Grasshopper Jungle was unique and was happy it got Printz recognition. But I don't think this one will. I'm feeling like it's another Paper Towns after Looking for Alaska--a repeat of an earlier novel by the same author that received much praise.

I'm ready for something new from Andrew Smith. The masturbation scenes aren't enough anymore.

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China Dolls by Lisa See

China DollsChina Dolls by Lisa See
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm disappointed because I liked the previous two books I've read by this author. This novel is told by three narrators and I never felt like their stories were personal enough to get to know them. Sentences were choppy and I was told the action instead of being shown it. The plot was okay, but I feel like it wasn't told as well as it could have been.

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Mosquitoland by David Arnold

MosquitolandMosquitoland by David Arnold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reviewed from ARC. Mim is on a journey north to Ohio to go back home. Her mother is there, and her new step-mother isn't, so Mim is willing to run away. Her Greyhound journey is full of interesting people and nightmares, but Mim isn't the most reliable narrator. Her aunt was "off her rocker" and now Mim is on medication to keep the voices at bay.

Sweet, well-told story. Love the cover art. Think this will come up at the Printz table--there's a lot of good things going on here.

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord

Spring Moon: A Novel of ChinaSpring Moon: A Novel of China by Bette Bao Lord
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book reminded me of all the historical fiction that I read in high school. My high school librarian didn't have much YA, so I read a lot of Victoria Holt, John Jakes, and other romantic historical fiction.

This author was born in Shanghai in 1938 and, if it weren't for that, I would have concerns about this title. I loved the Chinese myths and legends that were included at the beginning of each chapter, but the life of the rich Changs seemed unbelievable at times. So odd to think they were living so isolated just a hundred years ago, especially the women! How odd to think you can go from foot binding to college educated women in one generation.

Spring Moon is the main character, and you follow her from 1892 up to the 1970s. She lived a long life and loved twice, had children, and was involved with many of the changes in Shanghai and Beijing.

On the plus side, I do feel like I know a bit more about the history of China, and I didn't even have to read a dry textbook!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Uncaged: The Singular Menace, Book 1 by John Sandford & Michele Cook

Uncaged (The Singular Menace, #1)Uncaged by John Sandford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised by this YA action thriller by popular adult writer John Sandford. I didn't think it was "dumbed down" for the YA audience too much, although the end was a little scattered plot-wise! This is written by a husband-wife team, but I will admit that I like Sandford much more after reading his bio at http://www.johnsandford.org/author.html

Odin and Shay are siblings who have been in foster care since their mother died. Odin has gotten himself mixed up with a group that raided a company's animal experimentation lab in Oregon and he's in trouble. When he calls his sister Shay, she comes running to help. Now they are both on the run--the plot is totally unbelievable, but it's non-stop action so I didn't care.

Both are against "the man"--in this case, an evil corporation named Singular. I'll read the next book in the series, Outrage

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The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary FriendThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Caldecott Award Winner!

And I totally understand why. I really want to know Santat's process with "pencil, crayon, watercolor, ink and Adobe Photoshop" as he created this picture book. Love the bright colors and the blurred edges of the drawings. The scenes with the tree are amazing--love the colors he used. Don't forget to look at the endpapers, too--it's fun to see what imaginary friend is matched up with what human.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. Performed by Elizabeth Evans.

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book #2 after Throne of Glass continues Celaena's tale of being an assassin who works for a king she doesn't like or respect. She befriends Nehemia, a princess who is involved in a rebellion, but Celaena's broken heart at the end of the book has me looking forward to Book #3. Celaena is getting MEAN! And I feel sorry for anyone who stands in her way.

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Bound by Donna Jo Napoli

BoundBound by Donna Jo Napoli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I read this book years ago and never recorded it. But it was a pleasant re-read! I'm always interested in reading re-workings of fairy tales.

Xing Xing is a servant to her step-mother and step-sister since her father has died. She ends up finding her way to attend a festival in town and the prince falls in love with her because of a beautiful yellow slipper she left when leaving.

Poetry, spiritualism, and unexpected cruelty here, too.

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