Saturday, October 31, 2015

Review: Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I HATE that I checked the copyright page of this novel. It's written by Nicola Yoon, and also co-copyrighted by Alloy Entertainment and that just ruined it for me. I hate to think of a group of marketing people getting together and talking about how to sell novels and writing a plot that will be popular. If this book were all Nicola Yoon and her husband's fabulous artwork, I would give it 4 stars. But the fact that the same people behind The Vampire Diaries, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, The Clique, The A-List, etc., were behind it, it makes me cringe. I admit that I don't know quite how the publishing world works, but the movie deal has already been made and it seems like the book was published as part of that deal.

Maddie has grown up in her house and never leaves--she's allergic to everything, so her world consists of her house, her mother, and her nurse, Carla. Until a boy moves in next door and pantomiming turns into emails and online chatting. She's in love and willing to risk her life to live a little. It's sweet, dramatic, and reads just like a movie, which is the whole point, right?

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Review: Maggie's Door

Maggie's Door Maggie's Door by Patricia Reilly Giff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Yes, Nory (from Nory Ryan's Song is still starving because of the Irish potato famine, but this time she's trying to get to Galway to get on a ship to take her to America. This one is pretty darn sad and depressing--it's amazing that any Irish survived the trip over here.

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Review: Buried in a Bog

Buried in a Bog Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was impressed by this mystery set in Leap, Ireland. It's a coming of age story, really.

Maura Donovan, born and raised in Boston, is mourning the death of her grandmother. Maura is given an envelope with enough money for a trip to Ireland and not much else--her granny wants her to mourn for her in her homeland. And so, with nothing holding her back, she takes off.

I think one reason why I liked the novel so much is because I'm hoping something like this happens to me in 7-8 years. Head off to Ireland on an vacation, end up working in a pub, and finding out that I'm related to everyone around and that I fit right in. Oh, and I need to inherit an Irish cottage, too. Fits right in with my tiny house dream! :)

And it's not a cozy mystery--Maura is a cynic because her life hasn't been perfect. And that's okay! No man fixes her life at the end of the book, either, although I'm sure one of those comes into play in the sequels. I'll have to find out!



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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ahhh, sweet high school romance and coming out story. Gorgeously told because I want to give Simon a huge hug and then be his best friend. Great friendship story, too!

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Review: The Martian

The Martian The Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, this audiobook was just as good as everyone said it was. Great production, and an interesting story. My mind wandered off during some of the science stuff, but Watney is such a likable character that his attitude lightened things up. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie in a few months when I can get it from the library!

And, seriously, who doesn't want to go back to school to be an engineer after reading this book? Engineers are freaking awesome! They can grow potatoes in Martian soil and their own poop!

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Review: Northern Ireland & England: The Troubles

Northern Ireland & England: The Troubles Northern Ireland & England: The Troubles by Robert C. Cottrell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Anytime I'm trying to understand a historical topic, I'll head to young adult nonfiction. Why read a 400 page boring adult book when I can read a more exciting one in 100-150 pages?

And so I skimmed and scanned this one to learn more about the terrible history in the north of Ireland.

I'm afraid that some of my ancestors were the meanie Scottish Presbyterians who caused so much trouble that they had to leave for America in the 1700's.

It's still difficult to me to understand how so much of this went on in my lifetime. I was completely ignorant of this stuff when I was growing up.

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Review: Sunny Side Up

Sunny Side Up Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Graphic novels are still the only genre of book I can bring home to my daughter to read (Thanks, AR!) and so I'm always looking for something to bring her. She loved the Rock Star Babymouse books years ago, so I figured I would try this one by the same authors.

She read it quickly and told me that I had to read it the same night (score!). She told me it was sad, but good, and I agree with her. It touches on some heavy topics (drug abuse, domestic violence) but in a way that younger readers can understand and not be scared.

Sunny, the main character, is sent to an old folks subdivision in Florida to live with her grandpa for the summer. Through flashbacks, we eventually find out why, but in the meantime, she's depressed and a normal kid surrounded by old people until she discovers a new friend who loves comics. He makes the summer bearable, Sunny grows up a bit, and the book ends on a hopeful note.

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Review: Safe House

Safe House Safe House by James Heneghan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow...Orca published a pretty darn exciting book about The Troubles in Northern Ireland--how cool is that?

I loved Orca when I was a high school librarian because of all the books they published for reluctant readers. They are also a Canadian company, so I liked how many of the books were set there and were good for rural folks.

This quick novel is nonstop action--Liam's parents are murdered in the first chapter, and now he is being hunted because he saw one of the killers take off his mask. After a trip to the police force, Liam is taken to a Catholic safe house where he is basically kept prisoner. However, the killer finds him there, too, thanks to someone being willing to be paid off.

I love how the author describes the conflict between Catholics and Protestants, and how the town is divided and at war. There isn't much description since this is for reluctant readers, but it's still a good explanation of what is was like to be a twelve-year-old boy living in a war zone.

This is a 4 star book because of how well it's written for reluctant readers, not necessarily 4 stars for adults and regular teens. It would be a great book to use in a world history classroom for reading circles of different reading levels.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: The Likeness

The Likeness The Likeness by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's strange to read a mystery novel that has a little bit of literary goodness in it.

Cassie Maddox hasn't really recovered mentally from her last big case (see In the Woods, but she agrees to undercover for a few weeks to figure out a big mystery. A Trinity College student who looks like just Cassie was discovered dead in a deserted cottage, but the oddest thing is that her ID said that she was Lexie Madison, a fake person that the Dublin police created years ago when Cassie was working undercover. How did the dead woman find the ID? Was Lexie (or whatever her name is) meant to be dead or was the killer really looking to kill Cassie?

Kinda unbelievable, but I was sucked into the tale. Cassie likes undercover, almost too much, and living in a house with 4 other graduate students who might be killers sure creates suspense! I'm looking forward to reading Book #3 in the Dublin Murder Squad--Faithful Place

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Review: Dream Things True

Dream Things True Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I may be getting too old and jaded for YA romance novels.

Sigh.

But I do still remember how I used to think when I was 14, and I would have loved this book back then. And I can think of former high school students who would eat this up, too.

I loved the diversity and I actually learned more about the immigration process by reading this novel--how cool is that? The process for getting papers is horrific, and it's terrible that undocumented aliens like the main character of this book can't get scholarship money because they don't have a Social Security number.

However, the book isn't preachy. You can draw your own conclusions about the immigration crisis we have and the politicians who try to enforce it. This is really just a teenage love story that takes place in Georgia.

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Review: Lonely Planet Ireland

Lonely Planet Ireland Lonely Planet Ireland by Fionn Davenport
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I appreciated how things were divided by counties, since I only plan on renting a car in the north.

I made a note of some of the restaurants/bars/attractions on my Google Map, but I bet I will still use Yelp and other online review apps when I'm on vacation.

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Review: Rick Steves' Snapshot Northern Ireland

Rick Steves' Snapshot Northern Ireland Rick Steves' Snapshot Northern Ireland by Rick Steves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though it's outdated, the read was enjoyable. His guides are more personable and I like that he doesn't list EVERY hotel and restaurant--just the ones his writer likes.

I also appreciate the shortness!

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Review: Nory Ryan's Song

Nory Ryan's Song Nory Ryan's Song by Patricia Reilly Giff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the kind of children's historical fiction that I would have eaten up back in the day. Sweet, terrible little story about the hungry times in Ireland during the potato famine. I'm surprised people survived it.

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Review: The Linen Queen

The Linen Queen The Linen Queen by Patricia Falvey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I appreciated the 1940's Northern Ireland mill town setting, but not the character development or the plot too much.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review: Made You Up

Made You Up Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I love that this author is a student at the University of Indianapolis, majoring in computer science of all things! Yay for Midwest authors and Midwest settings!

And, whoa, this was a difficult book to read. Alex suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and has a difficult time knowing what is real and what is an illusion. She is trying really hard to be a straight A honor student who gets into the good colleges, but it's so difficult when the men with guns are patrolling the roof of the school, right?

As a reader, I was constantly trying to figure out what was real and what wasn't, just like Alex. So difficult to tell at times--this is the kind of book you want to discuss with people. I can see young adults breezing through this and then having their world rocked when I ask them, "Did that really happen?"

Perfect book club book!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: The Apprentice

The Apprentice The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's like the author heard me after I read the first novel in this series--make Rizzoli more likeable! And she did! :)

Rizzoli is having a hard time recovering from her ordeal with the serial killer The Surgeon, and when he escapes from prison, she's determined to put him away. Again. She's the one being hunted now, and the Surgeon has an accomplice--The Dominator. Two freaky men are on the run killing and raping women and Rizzoli is right in the middle of it.

Quick, light, suspenseful read--just what I needed!

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: 20 Things To Do In Dublin Before You Go For a Feckin' Pint

20 Things To Do In Dublin Before You Go For a Feckin' Pint 20 Things To Do In Dublin Before You Go For a Feckin' Pint by Colin Murphy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Cute title, but I didn't appreciate most of the jokes. It seems like I saw most of the 20 things when I spent 2 days in Dublin a few years ago--I was hoping for some more off-the-beaten-path trip ideas.

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Review: Frommer's Ireland 2015

Frommer's Ireland 2015 Frommer's Ireland 2015 by Jack Jewers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An okay read, but I'm hoping Lonely Planet or Rick Steves will be better. We'll see!

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Review: The Game of Love and Death

The Game of Love and Death The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this more, but I just didn't care for the whole Love and Death thing. Love the Seattle setting in the 1920's and 1930's, love the interracial romance, love the jazz and night clubs, love the poor vs. rich, love the airplanes and cars, but, whew, I felt like fate and English teacher terms were being shoved down my throat.

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Review: Awkward

Awkward Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A bit too moralistic for me, but the daughter loved it and recommended it to all her friends.

Cute middle-grade graphic novel about fitting in with friends and doing the right thing.

And it's about something I tell my daughter to do all the time: Embrace the weird! Normal is boring!

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Review: 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion

1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion by Morgan Llywelyn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book took almost a week for me to finish, which is long for me. So much history thrown into a few fictional characters meant that I had to read it carefully! I appreciated the list of fictional characters and real people at the beginning--I kept referring to it as I read the novel.

Ned, the main character, survives the Titanic, and it awakens his nationalism. He saw how the second class Irish passengers were treated on the ship, and realized that they are always treated as second class citizens by the British. He finds himself a student at Patrick Pearse's progressive boarding school, and, next thing you know, Ned is in the middle of it all--joining the Volunteers, running messages between the rebels, and saving children's lives, and falling in love.

This book worked for what I wanted it to do--when I go to Ireland in a few months, I want to recognize the people I hear about and the historical places I see. Now I understand why the bullet holes ended up in the post office walls of Dublin, and I'll appreciate finding them myself!

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Review: The War That Saved My Life

The War That Saved My Life The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ten-year-old Ada is used to taking care of her younger brother in London. Her mother works long hours at the pub, and, since Ada isn't allowed to leave the house because of her ugly foot, Ada has nothing better to do. But when the war comes, Ada decides that the evacuation of children to the country is their chance to get out.

And it works. They are placed with a single woman who saves their life and who teaches them how to love and live. It's a tearjerker, because it's so sad that children need to read about moms who sometimes don't love them. Sigh. Families aren't perfect, and sometimes they suck.

Thanks to a fellow Odyssey committee member from last year who recommended this to me--I bet this one comes up in conversation at the Odyssey table. The production was lovely and Jayne Entwistle was spot on!

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review: The Year of the French

The Year of the French The Year of the French by Thomas Flanagan
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Love the story, but not how it's told. I don't want to suffer as I continue to try to read it, so I'm moving onto another Irish read on my list.

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Review: P is for Peril

P is for Peril P is for Peril by Sue Grafton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The audiobook I received from another library is in such bad shape that I can't finish it. I wasn't thrilled with the novel anyway, so I'll continue to the next audiobook on my list.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Review: Out of Darkness

Out of Darkness Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope PĂ©rez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I liked this book before I started reading it--the publisher spent some money on it. It's heavy, the type is smaller than most YA novels, and it's dense--no empty white space on these pages!

All that room was needed to create a gut-wrenching young adult read--this is a Romeo and Juliet tale taking place in 1937, added together with a wallop of racism and cruelty.

Sure, the novel is centered around the tragedy of a school explosion in East Texas in 1937, but that's not the real story. The real story is the love between Naomi, a step-sister trying to raise and protect her step-siblings, and Wash, an African-American young man with promise. In 1937, the "dirty Mexicans" aren't supposed to mix with the "Sambos."

Sigh.

There is so much going on in this novel--the writing is beautiful, the story is gripping, and the raw emotion in the characters is electrifying. This should be flying off your library shelves--buy it, read it, sell it to teens and adults. Please.

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Review: Beastly Bones

Beastly Bones Beastly Bones by William Ritter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved Jackaby, so I was looking forward to reading this sequel. The main character still reminds me of Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock, and that's not a bad thing!


In this volume, Abigail and Jackaby encounter ghastly dinosaur bones and a murdering creature in the countryside--werewolf? dragon? vampire?

I love how the paranormal is mixed in with Victorian propriety. Reminds me of Soulless.

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Review: China Rich Girlfriend: A Novel

China Rich Girlfriend: A Novel China Rich Girlfriend: A Novel by Kevin Kwan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians, and it fulfilled my expectations. Brand name dropping, conspiracy brewing, snobbery abounding, and the occasional nice person suffering.

Funny and enjoyable!

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Review: Strong Female Protagonist Book One

Strong Female Protagonist Book One Strong Female Protagonist Book One by Brennan Lee Mulligan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Allison doesn't want to be a superhero anymore--she's just trying to go to college. The typical searching-for-meaning new adult thing applies to superheroes and villains, too, evidently.

I love the art. And the one-liners down at the bottom of each page.

But I'm getting old--that font is just too darn small for me. What the heck? I turn 40 and suddenly have to start reading graphic novels 8 inches from my face? Argh!

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Review: X: A Novel

X: A Novel X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dang it--I wanted to love this book. I loved Kekla Magoon's The Rock and the River and I really wanted to find out what made the young Malcolm X become the man that he was.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review: Omens

Omens Omens by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not my usual read, but this slightly paranormal mystery was enjoyable. Olivia, a 24-year-old woman, finds out that her real parents are accused serial killers who are currently serving time in jail. When her real mother asks her to investigate the cases, Olivia can't say no.

There are plenty of omens and odd things happening in Cainsville, Illinois, but this book is more mystery and investigation than paranormal happenings. It's the first book in a series, but I won't continue reading it.

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