Friday, May 29, 2015

Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Z: A Novel of Zelda FitzgeraldZ: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read everything about the Fitzgeralds. Seriously. I have read every novel, every short story, every poem, every journal, every letter that has been published. I went through quite the Fitzgerald stage in high school, and it continued in college when I did quite a few projects on the couple. So I'll read any novel about them, too.

I found this one fascinating. I always thought Zelda got the short end of the stick. She had ambitions, but didn't fit into the "wife" slot that women were supposed to back then, even in their bohemian crowd. I found this author's interpretation of Zelda hating Ernest Hemingway was spot on--I think he was a man who would be easy for women to hate. And the way Zelda was treated in the crazy home? Ugh. So, so sad.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Death without Company by Craig Johnson

Death Without Company (Walt Longmire, #2)Death Without Company by Craig Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An elderly woman is found dead at a nursing home, but it turns out she was poisoned. A town's secrets come out--why is the woman's granddaughter attacked at her bakery? Who else wants the inheritance? And why was the old sheriff married to her for a few hours years ago?

Sheriff Walt Longmire is his crochety old self as he solves the mystery. Love the new deputy that's introduced in this book, too. And, yes, Sheriff Longmire almost dies. Again. I think this may happen in every book in the series....

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

Shadow Scale (Seraphina, #2)Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I LOVED Seraphina. LOVED IT! And so I gave this book 274 pages before I gave up. I thought maybe I wasn't in the right mood to read a dragon YA book? But I'm ALWAYS in the mood to read a good YA dragon book!

Seraphina just wasn't the awesome character in this book like she was in the first one. I didn't feel like she was really wandering around the countryside gathering other half-dragons--it didn't seem real. Her whole love interest with the prince disappeared in this book, and I just didn't feel like her connections with the other characters worked. Honestly, losing a hundred pages might have helped. I was bored. Sigh.

Maybe it was my mood, but I don't think so, judging by other people's reviews on here. Sigh. I still love Seraphina though. And I'll give the author another chance with her next published book.

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't help but think of Code Name Verity as I write this review, but, wow, I can't help but be thankful that I was born in America in the 1970s either.

Two French sisters in the 1930's are dealing with a dad that's a jerk. The younger sister, Isabelle, is a wild one who has been expelled from multiple boarding schools. Vianne is the good one who always follows the rules. But then the Nazis overtake Paris. I know I read in textbooks about the hardships of the locals when the Nazis invaded a country, but this book really make everything sink in. Life was rough. And it's so difficult to be part of the resistance when you're not getting enough food to eat and there are Germans everywhere.

This is just a good WWII novel--no doubt about it. I loved learning about the French attempt to rescue downed Allies airmen and the risks they took to get them back to their home countries alive. No tears, but this book gave me the feels. And the thankfuls.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Elite: a Selection Novel by Kiera Cass

The Elite (The Selection, #2)The Elite by Kiera Cass
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Huh. Not sure why I liked the first book in the series so much, other than it's a fluffy YA dystopian version of The Bachelor. In pretty dresses.

Does America really think she's in love with the prince and her old friend from home? Ugh.

Cheesy storyline, but it did keep me reading!

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1)Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was all for this book at first--young Prince Jorg is quite the bastard. He's running around the countryside with his band of loser knights and they are killing everything in their way. He's angry with EVERYONE and out for revenge.

But then there are necromancers and magic in places with lots of stairs and my attention began to wander.

Not too thrilled with the women in this one either. I won't be continuing the series.

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Zero Day by David Baldacci. Read by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy

Zero Day (John Puller, #1)Zero Day by David Baldacci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now I'm in love with John Puller. He's a badass CID agent, turning down Army promotions after saving the United States from a nuclear attack. Of course, he's kinda like Jack Bauer--if you actually date him, you'll probably end up dead, so I'll stick with him being one of my fictional boyfriends.

Puller ends up in Drake, West Virginia, investigating the death of an Army Colonel. More people end up dead, and, with the help of police Sgt. Sam Cole, he thwarts car bombs, trip wires, and plutonium, to save the world. Fast-paced and the perfect kind of book to listen to in the car. I'm ordering #2 now! :) However, audiobook people, I did NOT like the gunshots and rumbling and sad violins. Evidently I'm not a fan of sound effects--they scared the crap out of me. I shouldn't duck when I hear gunshots while driving!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

The Remaining: Refugees by D.J. Molles

Refugees (The Remaining, #3)Refugees by D.J. Molles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not as good as the first two books in the series, but the ending made up for it. Whoa, the suspense! Now I have to wait until I get the 4th book via interlibrary loan.

Capt. Harden is doing his best to maintain order after the end of the world. He has a following at Camp Ryder, and some outposts where they have cleared out the infected and can travel to halfway safely. But rumors have started--the infected are traveling down to North Carolina from the populated East coast and things aren't going to be pretty. Some of the people in Lee's camp aren't thrilled with his hard-nosed military approach to things and decide to rebel.

Oh, no, Capt. Harden, watch your back!

Call me a sucker, but I love Capt. Harden's soft moments. Poor little Army guy, being tasked with rebuilding America....

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The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton

The Lock ArtistThe Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to most of the audiobook, only to find out that the last disk wouldn't play. Why, oh, why? And so I had to wait a few days to receive the print book via interlibrary loan. It didn't take long to read the last few chapters! And it was worth it!

I totally see why this adult novel was on the Alex Award list, which is given to 10 novels that are good for teens. Fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller and I was constantly wondering. Why doesn't Michael talk? What horrible thing happened to him when he was little? How does he know how to unlock safes? He seems like a good person--what is he doing running around with criminals stealing stuff?

So good!

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Butter by Erin Jade Lange

ButterButter by Erin Jade Lange
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a struggle to read. It covered a lot of important issues for teens, but things didn't always seem a-okay.

Butter is the fat 400+ kid at school. He parks in the handicapped zone at school, he has special double desks in the back of the classrooms, and he has no friends. But when he starts a website and says that he's going to eat himself to death on New Year's Eve, he's suddenly the cool kid that gets into the popular group. Parts of that didn't work for me--they would tease him, egg him on maybe, but he wouldn't be included so much into their group. But the bullying is spot on and cruel.

Of course, he's in love with a popular, beautiful, emotionally troubled thin girl at school, and she's in love with his online persona. Ugh. Didn't care for that part either.

What I did like is the constant inner brain battle that Butter has with his weight and emotional eating. I've been there. I'm still there. He really is emotionally ill, and it's great that the people around him finally figure that out and decide to help him get healthier.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson (Book #1 in the Walt Longmire mystery series)

The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire, #1)The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Evidently I need to travel to Wyoming soon so I can find myself a Walt Longmire. I've watched all the TV shows, but, whoa, the books are even better. Intelligence, ruggedness, sexiness, and the ability to traipse across a mountain while carrying a body? Nice....

Of course, I'll ignore his lack of housekeeping skills and general state of drunkenness because of depression.

Anyway, Walt is the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, and a dead body has been found among some sheep. The bodies keep piling up, and no one is too upset--the killed men raped a mentally incapable Cherokee girl a few years ago and the judge barely punished them. But Walt and his crew are on the case. There's lots of violence for no reason, strutting around in cowboy boots, descriptions of good food, and hilarious conversations between characters. Love, love, love this series and I can't wait for the next season to air on Netflix this fall.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen

The Tutor's DaughterThe Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I was younger, I went through a stage of reading tons of Christian historical fiction, mainly because it was easily available at my church library (that my mom ran) and at my small public library. I still read them occasionally, mainly because these authors can churn out decent historical fiction like nobody's business.

Emma goes where her father goes, and in this case it's to an estate in Cornwall so he can serve as a private tutor to two brothers of a family that they know well. The two older brothers attended her father's small academy, and Emma had bad memories of the oldest brother, Henry, who always pranked her, and good memories of Phillip, who was a good friend.

While the step-mother doesn't want any love interest between the tutor's daughter and her sons, something is bound to happen!

And, seriously, how different it was back then when you barely knew anyone your age, so your marriage choices were limited!

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Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Roller GirlRoller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Empowering graphic novel about 12-year-old Astrid who discovers roller derby. I know I learned a lot about the sport--I wasn't sure what else those women did besides skate around in circles! I really appreciated the friendships represented in the book--middle school is the place where some grade school friendships go to die, so it was good to see that represented here.

The art reminded me of Drama, although I gotta say I'm not a fan of all capital letters in a graphic novel. I'm sure this book will show up on a lot of lists because it's receiving a lot of librarian and reader love.

My daughter read it, enjoyed it, but she said she didn't LOVE it. She did want to discuss the flowers on the bleacher at the end--she wanted to make sure it meant what she thought it meant.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone GapBone Gap by Laura Ruby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, love.

First of all, I used to drive by Bone Gap, Illinois, all the time when I lived down in Olney, so YAY for a southern Illinois setting in a young adult fiction title! Woot!

We're seeing more and more magical realism in YA lit and I think it's a good, good thing. Finn and Sean O'Sullivan, two brothers in Bone Gap, are left on their own when their mother runs away to marry someone in Oregon. Sean works as an EMT (even though he was all set to go to med school) and Finn is just trying to make it. Both boys are extremely upset because Roza, a Polish girl who showed up in the barn one night, has disappeared. Finn swears that a mysterious man took her, but Sean is convinced that she ran away. Chapters alternate between Finn, Sean, Roza, and Petey, the young beekeeper that Finn has a crush on.

Magical things happen. Horrible things happen. And the reader keeps thinking, "WTF is going on here?" But Ruby's words read like butter in this book. Amazing stuff.

Looking forward to seeing this on the Printz list next January.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tommy Can't Stop! by Tim Federle

Tommy Can't Stop!Tommy Can't Stop! by Tim Federle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Adorable! Timmy is the little boy that no one can stand because he can't stop hopping and bouncing and jumping and causing all sorts of trouble. His family tries to wear him out by giving him chores and making him exercise a lot, but nothing seems to work! Finally his sister suggests that he take tap dance at her dance school, and, even though Timmy thinks it sounds dorky, he discovers that he loves it. And it's perfect. Finally he has an outlet for all his energy!

Large font on colorful illustrations with plenty of exaggerated faces on the characters make this a great read-along.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. Read by Cassandra Campbell, Julia Whelan, and Danny Campbell

The Painted GirlsThe Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved visiting the National Gallery of Art in DC a few years ago and seeing the sculpture Little Dancer Aged 14 by Degas. I even used a photo I took of it as my profile picture on MySpace when I was feeling determined about something. Okay, so maybe it was more than a few years ago....

I wanted to learn more about Degas, why he chose that particular model, and the story around the sculpture. This historical novel explains it all, although the story of the van Goethem sisters isn't pretty. Ugh, I'm glad I wasn't poor in the 1870s in Paris. Women could either work themselves to death or whore themselves to death to earn enough money to eat. What a life. It's odd to me that ballet dancers weren't respected then--they weren't from the best families. Nothing but street rats trying to earn some money to feed their families.

The audiobook was good--three narrators speaking the occasional French who kept me listening even when I was a little bored.

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Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

Black Dove, White RavenBlack Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You all know that I was a huge Code Name Verity fan. Huge. I was on the Printz committee that year.

And so I went into this with high hopes, but, sigh. I love the storyline--anything with female pilots and history is cool. Even better is that this mainly takes place in Ethiopia during WWII, which is awesome because I knew nothing about the historical significance of European countries fighting it out there before the war. But, wow, I had to force myself to finish this. The middle and end of the book lasted forever, and I just wasn't satisfied. I never connected to the two main characters--Teo or Em. In fact, their voices were so much alike that I had a difficult time distinguishing between their writing, which shouldn't have happened. Yes, they were raised together, but they should have had very distinct voices. Em talked about making coffee for most of the book, dang it. I know Em was forced into the whole subordinate female in Africa thing, but her mom didn't seem to be raising her that way.

Sigh. I will keep reading Wein's books because I loved Rose Under Fire and Code Name Verity. I just hope I get more character attachment and less history next time. She's one of the few authors who has made me cry while reading and I didn't get anywhere close to those kind of "feels" while reading this one. :)

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