Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review: The Wolf Road

The Wolf Road The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely LOVED this audiobook. I wanted to keep driving in order to listen, which is always a good sign! The production was amazing, the narrator perfect, and, once I got past the poor grammar of the main character, I was sucked into the woods and Elka's story. It's a bit twisted, which I like, but redemption is available, which I like, too.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Burntown

Burntown Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great combination of magical realism, paranormal, fantasy, contemporary heartache, family love, and all around mess of every genre. Don't give up when it gets weird--it's worth it.

Review to come in SLJ AB4t.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Review: Saints for All Occasions

Saints for All Occasions Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I stopped on Disk 4 of the audiobook, and I think it's the production's fault. The narrator was just speaking too slowly and carefully for me--I was bored silly while I was driving. I usually love historical novels about the Irish, but this would be better for me in print so I could skip past the slow parts.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Review: I See You

I See You I See You by Clare Mackintosh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Scary to think that there might be crazies out there watching you and keeping track of your commute on a website so that nasty men can track you down and ask you for coffee. Or rape you. Or kill you. I did find the premise of this novel fascinating (and scary), but the way it was told was a bit slow for me. The ending sped up like crazy though! Make sure you stick with it until the epilogue.


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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review: Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ooo...I think all the reading of Laurence Yep when I was younger means that I'll always like any kind of action novel with samurais. And this novel didn't disappoint! Mariko's bridal party is attacked on the way to the emperor's palace, and she must try to survive and find her attackers. That means pretending to be a boy, of course, learning to fight, and using her wits to survive. I was reminded of Mulan when reading this, as well as Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor, but those aren't bad things. Lots of action, a tad of romance, and the ending will have you wanting the sequel right away!

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Review: The Hollywood Daughter

The Hollywood Daughter The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jesse grew up in Hollywood--her dad was THE publicist for Ingrid Bergman. And so Jesse was torn between her parents--her father tried to keep work away from home, since Jesse's mother was a strict Catholic who listened to priests call Hollywood evil.

A little too much of the idolizing Ingrid Bergman and antagonizing about growing up Catholic in Hollywood for my liking, but I know this adult book will have its audience. I enjoyed learning more about the Communism witch hunt and the silly rules that the commission imposed on the movies--three second kisses only! And so that's why the lovers pulled away to talk before kissing again. :)

The majority of the book is about Jesse's high school years, but the ending is all about confronting her past and going back to California to see her Catholic school before its torn down.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Review: Feral

Feral Feral by James Demonaco
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The beginning of this book was really promising as an adult book for reluctant readers. A chemical lab goes bad and accidentally releases a chemical into the air that makes all men go feral. The women who survive the men's zombie-like antics must hole up in camps to survive. Very This is Not a Test and all those put together. But I always try to remember that not all teens have read widely, so this kind of genre might be good for them.

However.

I stopped reading when the romantic stuff started driving me nuts. I'm sorry, but these women are trying to survive and they aren't going to stop sleeping with guns to choose instead to sleep with their head on the chest of the one non-feral man they found. I wanted more of a Firefly female character--like Zoey. The love stuff comes after kicking ass.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Review: La Princesa and the Pea

La Princesa and the Pea La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I barely remember the Spanish I learned years ago, but I loved using context clues to figure out what the Spanish words thrown into this mostly English children's book mean. They rhymes helped!

Illustrations were cute, intricate, diverse, and I loved the illustrator's explanation of using Peruvian textiles at the end of the book.

And there is a twist at the end that makes this version of Princess and the Pea (I never really liked the original tale) different. And better!

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Review: Come with Me

Come with Me Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good concept and a much needed one in this day and age. The little girl is scared about everything going on around her and asks her parents what she can do to make the world a better place. They reply with simple things--going to local grocers, saying nice things to diverse people, riding they subway.

But it really seemed like pages were missing. The "They rode the train through the tunnels underground" was odd--no followup? I'm sure it was meant to reference something about a previous subway attack, but no young person would ever get that message that riding a subway equals winning a battle over fear, especially in my neck of the woods.

And what was the deal with the page about setting the table? That page really seemed out of place, unless it was meant to be an etiquette lesson in the middle of a book about living your life even while bad things are going on in the world.

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Review: Sarabella's Thinking Cap

Sarabella's Thinking Cap Sarabella's Thinking Cap by Judy Schachner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautiful illustrations and a lot of different ideas to study on each page! Children who love looking for details will enjoy this one.

As for the story, I thought for sure that Sarabella the daydreamer was going to start writing out her ideas. Or that she was going to get some concrete ideas to help her concentrate on her schoolwork. But the simple explanation of "Sarabella began to imagine what her thinking cap might look like. And then she turned back to her work." didn't cut it for me--why was she able to concentrate this time?

I'm sure this will come on the Caldecott table though--acrylics, gouache, collage, and mixed media are all good things.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review: All Rights Reserved

All Rights Reserved All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

4 stars for the concept--love the idea that lawyers control everything, even the words that we speak in this close-to-real-life future. Everyone in the dome wears a cuff that charges you for each word you speak after the ceremony when you're a teen. No one bothers to read the Terms of Service in this world (I might read them after reading this book) and no one except the rich have books. Parents are taken from children because they are sued for illegally downloaded music generations ago ("we owed the Musical Rights Association of America more than six million dollars in damages.") and forced to work to pay off their debts to the copyright holders.

3 stars for the writing style because there were parts that were disjointed and just didn't read smoothly, especially the ending about Speth's late night rendezvous to find the book that holds all the secrets to this world. I kinda felt preached at about the first amendment, but maybe younger teens wouldn't feel that way? But the idea that lawyers and the rich will control everything through patents and copyrights doesn't sound too out there. Speth is another strong female kickass character, although she does something in the middle that I wasn't a fan of--you'll see when you read. But Speth isn't flawless--she makes mistakes.

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning

A Shadow Bright and Burning A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this audiobook more than I thought I would. There isn't much new in this fantasy, but I enjoyed the ride and it kept me company on a drive to and from Tennessee!

Ancients and a magical main female character who can kick some ass aren't new to fantasy YA, but I still enjoyed the ride.

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Review: Once and for All

Once and for All Once and for All by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Classic Sarah Dessen--a sweet romance with a bit of emotional trauma and a few chuckles. The smiles surprised me--this book had funnier moments than what I remember from her previous titles.

Louna is a cynic--she works for her mom's wedding planning business, and she knows that true love isn't always possible. She has her own kind of heartache, too, and when her mom hires a young man for the summer, Louna tries to hold herself distant.

But, love.......happens when you least expect it.

Sweet and perfect summer read. Not too much angst here, which is nice. Dessen just won the Edwards award for lifetime achievement--you can see her at the Edwards lunch at ALA in Chicago later this month!

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Review: Red Sister

Red Sister Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review to come in SLJ AB4T.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: The Best Man

The Best Man The Best Man by Richard Peck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Peck seems like he can just whip these feel-good middle school stories out of his back pocket! Love how this coming of age novel (based in the Chicago suburbs) covers the main character finding out that his uncle is gay. Um, yes, everyone knows but Archer. But this isn't an "issue" novel, it's just an escape into a kid's normal world and all of its ups and downs. I've wanted to escape into this author's worlds since I was a kid myself, and he still has the touch. Richard Peck is a master of kid lit.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Every Wild Heart

Every Wild Heart Every Wild Heart by Meg Donohue
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quick and easy book club reader about mothers and daughters that could have been published by a Christian publisher, even though there is no mention of religion.

Gail Gideon is a talk show guru who became famous ranting about her ex-husband. Now, as the mother of a shy 14-year-old, she's worried because after a fall from a horse, her daughter is acting differently. Nic is now outspoken and acting on the impulses that she used to keep to herself.

Throw in some romance for both of the characters, and you have this book, along with a playlist at the back, as well as book recommendations for other mother-daughter reads like Where'd You Go, Bernadette.

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Review: MatchUp

MatchUp MatchUp by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was pretty freaking amazing! It was great to see all my favorite characters get into some situation with some of my other favorite characters. And most of the stories were good! Very impressive collection. Review to come in SLJ AB4T

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: A Piece of the World

A Piece of the World A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have Christina's World hanging in my spare room--that painting has always made me think and appreciate my rural upbringing. And, so, of course, I had to read this historical fiction novel written about the life of Christina Olson, the woman in the painting. It's slow-going, but the audiobook narrator was good, and I stuck with it until Wyeth painted the famous work at the end of the novel.

I didn't care for Orphan Train either, so I won't be reading anymore by this author.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review: Fifth Victim

Fifth Victim Fifth Victim by Zoë Sharp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charlie Fox is back to be being a close protection specialist in this novel--to a rich young lady who is danger of being kidnapped, since other young adults of moneyed background have been taken lately in her neighborhood. Charlie is distracted because her boyfriend Sean isn't in the picture (no spoilers here), but she manages, of course, to take care of the problems. Good lead-in to the next book though--off to request it through interlibrary loan now!

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves

Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves by Kate T. Parker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review to come in SLJ AB4T.

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Review: The Language of Secrets

The Language of Secrets The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not quite as good as the first book in this series (too much poetry interpretation for me in this one), but a fascinating look into the world of Muslim extremism in Canada. Detective Esa Khattack, head of the Community Policing section, works with his partner Rachel to save the day again, but this investigation is personal. Khattack's own sister is engaged to the suspected leader of a terrorist sect, and the investigation gets muddled. Lots of crossed lines and lying and wiretapping going on, and I really didn't believe the whole subplot of someone going undercover.

But I'll keep reading. Khattack and Rachel have an interesting work relationship, and I'm a sucker for police mysteries with brooding main characters.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Review: Heartless

Heartless Heartless by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wow....this book was a struggle. So much so that I quit on Disk 7 of the audiobook--I just didn't think it was worth my time, and I usually love Marissa Meyer! Love all her fairy tale stories, but this one based in Wonderland was horrifically slow. I didn't like the main character (a baker? really? who is still prissy and annoying?) and even the frowned upon relationship with the Jester was taking forever.

Just slow. Not what I want in a YA book, especially in audio format.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: This Is Our Story

This Is Our Story This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I still taught at Paris High School, I would be pushing this book to a lot of kids. But I wouldn't need to push hard, because there is a buck on the cover, and the first sentence is: "A ten-point buck and a dead body make the same sound when they hit the forest floor."

Awesome! Hunting and a dead teenager? What teen around here wouldn't want to read this book?

A few parts were a tad unbelievable, but I went with it. Lots of action, a bit of romance, some stupid social media mistakes by kids, and, of course, bullying and ignorant parents. I loved the transcripts from the police interviews with the teens at the party, and the fact that the main character interned at the local DA Office.

And a key component of the whole plot revolves around a deer camera. Yay for rural settings!

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review: Alex and Eliza

Alex and Eliza Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading this feels like I'm "coming home....." (please sing like I'm Thomas Jefferson).

Is this anything special? No. Will it be read by Hamilton fans? Yes.

As the author notes, she was inspired to write the love story after watching the musical, and took much dramatic license, since not much of their love story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler is known. So I'm not going to knock de la Cruz's imagination, although I really want to do my own research and see what facts "are" known.

Safe for tweens, there is nothing earth-shattering (I kinda wanted a good sex scene between the two), but I know there are plenty of other adult versions of this love story out there on my To Read list.

Enjoyed the addition about smallpox inoculations, and the complicated connections between the Dutch American families.

I'm impressed by the speed of which this book was written, published, and marketed.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Review: A Deadly Affection

A Deadly Affection A Deadly Affection by Cuyler Overholt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I should have loved this book because it contains a lot of things I love--historical fiction, mystery, female main character, and a medical mystery. But it just never clicked to me and could have used a good editing and paring down of pages. There is no reader connection with the characters, and even Dr. Genevieve seems to have no real connection with her patients, family members, and friends. I did enjoy the 1907 NYC setting, but I won't be continuing with this series.

I did win this title in a Goodreads giveaway.

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Review: Falling Glass

Falling Glass Falling Glass by Adrian McKinty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, Killian, is a man after the heart of the ladies. Sure, he's an assassin, but he tries to talk people out of situations so that he doesn't have to kill them. A polite and brilliant Northern Ireland man, to be sure. As always, McKinty and the narrator Doyle kept me entertained (although the ending took awhile in this one). Great for Irish mystery or international thriller fans.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Review: Fourth Day

Fourth Day Fourth Day by Zoë Sharp
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my least favorite Charlie Fox book, mainly because of the whole American cult/convoluted conspiracy topic. I guess I've had enough of those types of books already, and I didn't feel like this brought anything new to it. And, honestly, it was really unbelievable, which I don't want in my mystery thrillers. But I'll keep reading because I loved the previous books in the series.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Review: The Girl Before

The Girl Before The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This audiobook was tough going--I kept getting the "then" and "now" confused, but I guess the women were supposed to be similar, so I'm sure I wasn't the only one. I really would like to see the house--it was the most interesting thing in the novel!

There is a twisted, domineering man thing going on during the whole book--enough to make me feel uncomfortable while listening. I don't like how all these psychological homey mysteries have "girl" in the title either--I think it's time to start boycotting them from my personal reading list.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: Difficult Women

Difficult Women Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Can't believe I haven't read anything by Roxane Gay before. If I were teaching a college lit course, I would be all about adding one of these stories into my curriculum. Breathtaking and powerful and so truthful it sometimes hurts! Some were not my favorites, but then I thought about why they weren't, and that made me like them more. This book make me remember how much I love GOOD short story collections. There doesn't seem to be one story out of place in this book.

My favorites: I Will Follow You, Difficult Women, North Country, Break All the Way Down (I really did break down while I read this one), and A Pat.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: Traffick

Traffick Traffick by Ellen Hopkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So glad Hopkins continued this series, because I was hoping for good things for the characters who were in Tricks. Of course, it's never easy to get out of the life of prostitution, but I appreciated the stories of these teens as they attempt to survive. Heart-wrenching.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Review: Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly

Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

McKinty is a genius--I love his mysteries. It helps that I usually listen to the audio version, so as I read this paperback original, I could hear the Derry and Belfast accents in my mind. And it was lovely. Detective Sean Duffy is a member of my guilt-free three, thank you.

Once again, Duffy is caught up in an impossible murder case in the middle of the Troubles. IRA, corrupt RUC, and girlfriend problems plague Duffy, but, as always, he solves the case and survives. I'm glad that it seems like there will be at least one more book in the series. Looking forward to it!

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review: Perfect Little World

Perfect Little World Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyable adult novel about a young mother who decides to join the infinity family project, a 10 year study of raising 10 children in a communal fashion. It's all psychologically based, and not a cult, but Izzy does join the commune, er, family, because she's afraid that she doesn't have the support system (and money) to raise her baby. The audiobook was an easy listen, if a bit slow in the middle, and the ending was too wrapped up and "perfect" for me.

And I really had an issue with Izzy. She has an affair with her high school art teacher, and then ends up falling in love with another older man who is an authority figure? Ewwww.

But Kevin Wilson really gets families--I loved The Family Fang and I was on the Alex Award committee that selected Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories. His way with words is outstanding! I'll keep reading his books.

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Review: Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish my friends were still popping out babies--this is a book I would give to mothers at a baby shower! Adichie may have written these letters to her friend, but I'm so glad she published them. Quick and powerful read about how to raise your daughters (and inadvertently, your sons). I'm adding A LOT of quotes to Goodreads so I can keep track of my favorites.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

Review: A Taste of Honey

A Taste of Honey A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in a Goodreads giveaway.

I love the concept--gay romance in a fantasy world, but the writing style is just not for me. Flowery and overwritten at times, and then abruptly the opposite. I stopped on page 53, a third of the way through the small novella.

Sentences like this don't appeal to me: "Ah, this was why his wayward gaze alit so often on whom it shouldn't, going back to peek howevermuch snatched away: those taut bellies and hard thighs of men heroically scrawled in scars."


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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Review: Why Mermaids Sing

Why Mermaids Sing Why Mermaids Sing by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #3 in the Sebastian St. Cyr series--great for historical mystery buffs like myself. Fast, easy read with a poetic killer who wants justice for some nasty stuff that happened after a ship mutiny. Plenty of romantic drama, too. No high literature here--just great weekend reading for me! Looking forward to reading what happens to Lord Devlin in the next book.

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Review: Tricks

Tricks Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've always been a fan of Ellen Hopkins--she writes what teens want to read. Years ago, I won an author visit from her to my high school, back when Crank was a bestseller, and it brought much needed awareness to meth use and abuse in my community. Here she's done it again with a topic that no adult ever wants to talk about--human trafficking and teen prostitution. From the point of view of 5 teens, we hear their story and their slow descent into prostitution. It's never on anyone's to-do list, but it just happens sometimes, when teens feel like they have no other choice. Or when their boyfriend convinces them it's the sexy thing to do. Or when their parents kick them out of the house. Or when they escape from the crazy religious cult camp. Ugh. This was a hard listen in audiobook format--I wanted to find these kids and adopt them.

I never want to live in Las Vegas.

And I'm going to be more aware about this kind of abuse now--it happens everywhere, including central Illinois. I'll never forget the conversation I had with a cop who said sex trafficking wasn't a thing in this area. Um, teens might not be tied up in the back of semis (that we know of--but I bet they are on I-70 occasionally), but this stuff is happening. And it needs to stop. And now I'm off to donate money to my local sexual abuse non-profit.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Review: Third Strike

Third Strike Third Strike by Zoë Sharp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Man, I love this series. It's really one of the best mystery series I've ever read, and I've read a lot of them! Charlie Fox is still in America, living with her boyfriend/spy/kickass hot guy, and recovering from her injuries that occurred in the last novel. When her English parents begin acting even more formal and horrible than usual, she discovers that her mother is being held hostage, and her respected surgeon father is being publicly humiliated. And thus the ball gets rolling. The medical mystery/conspiracy was a tad out-of-hand, but I didn't care--I enjoy Charlie and Sean, and can't wait to read the next book!

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: The Unquiet Dead

The Unquiet Dead The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved, loved, loved this mystery! Love how an international disaster (the Bosnian massacres) hit close to home in Canada. I remember watching "stuff" on TV about Bosnia, but I was in college and didn't pay attention as much as I should have. Disgusting, horrible crimes against humanity. In this novel, two detectives from Community Policing are asked to solve a crime. Or what might be a crime--a local man fell (jumped? was pushed?) off a cliff.

I love that Det. Khattak is Muslim, and that his partner Det. Getty tiptoes around his religion, while not appreciating his attraction to beautiful women. This book reminded me of Alex Award winner Finding Nouf, which I loved. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review: I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm pretty sure I read this back in the day when I used to buy paperbacks at Waldenbooks at the mall and go read them at the cookie shop while my mom shopped.

It's still a sweet, innocent coming-of-age tale that was published way back in 1948.

I don't recommend this audio production. Way too many audible breath intakes and the music was rather random--sometimes starting during the talking, and other times starting after. I'm assuming that the music meant that a new journal entry was starting, but I'm not sure since I don't have a print copy available.

This is a tale of young love, first kisses, eccentric fathers, sexy step-mothers and romance when your only choices were the neighbors!

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover

Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover by Audrey Penn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The PDF of this book to be published in May 2017 was generously provided to me by Tanglewood Publishing via NetGalley for review.

I'm the oddball who isn't a huge fan of the Kissing Hand book, but I loved how this book centers around a little raccoon who isn't quite ready to spend the day (night for humans) with his friends yet. Homesickness kicks in, and Mrs. Rabbit has to walk him back to his mother.

I guess little ones will giggle at the "stinky puffs" of the skunk, but I was more startled by the mother using "might be politer" instead of "more polite." I ended up looking up the usage in Oxford to see if there's a difference in usage by location.

Yay for another book by a small, independent publisher in the Midwest! Tanglewood is located in Terre Haute, Indiana, only a short drive up the road from me.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review: Dreamland Burning

Dreamland Burning Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Setting: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Why I read: I've danced on the Cain's Dance Hall floor in Tulsa (so do the characters in the novel) and Debbie Reese's review about this book (see it on Goodreads).

My take: Both main characters are mixed race and wealthy, and realizing that money doesn't mean much when racist people surround you. Will tries to survive during the 1921 race riots in Tulsa, when the whites in town rioted and burned a wealthy African-American neighborhood and killed way too many people because of their color. His mom is a Native American, so Will isn't exactly pure according to the KKK, which tries to recruit him. In modern day Tulsa, Rowan is a 17-year-old girl with a white dad and a lawyer African-American mother. She never even thinks much about race because she's surrounded by wealthy white people, until she starts volunteering at a medical clinic on the bad side of town. Nice to see that her best friend is asexual--it's not a huge theme in the book, just a fact.

Their stories intermingle when Rowan finds the skeleton of an African American buried in her backyard. Lots of mystery here--who is the person? And the suspense doesn't disappoint. Loved how Rowan has to visit the elderly to find out the local history--it would be great if a high school class could read this as a class novel before visiting local nursing homes for an interview project.

Lots of racial issues here--Jim Crow, Native American, African American, mixed races, and hiding history. I'm sure this one will end up on many best lists. Thanks to reading Debbie Reese's review, I read this looking through her lens. I'm hoping that someone will take up the call to write a YA novel just about the Reign of Terror in the Osage Nation--please!

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Review: Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Candace Fleming is visiting my county later this week, so I wanted to read more of her books before I heard her speak. Amelia Lost is a great example of how an informational text can build suspense. Children who may not have heard much about Amelia would wonder--was she rescued? if not, was her plane found?

I appreciated the side bars, and how she cultivated her image. She knew how to be a celebrity, all while making sure she got what she wanted during a time when not many females did!

Quick easy read for older teens and adults, but that doesn't mean that this isn't for all ages. Great read!

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Review: Dreamland Burning

Dreamland Burning Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Setting: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Why I read: I've danced on the Cain's Dance Hall floor in Tulsa (so do the characters in the novel) and Debbie Reese's review about this book (see it on Goodreads).

My take: I'm glad this book was written, but it was educational without being pretty. Both main characters are mixed race and wealthy, and realizing that money doesn't mean much when racist people surround you. Will tries to survive during the 1921 race riots in Tulsa, when the whites in town rioted and burned a wealthy African-American neighborhood and killed way too many people because of their color. His mom is a Native American, so Will isn't exactly pure according to the KKK, which tries to recruit him. In modern day Tulsa, Rowan is a 17-year-old girl with a white dad and a lawyer African-American mother. She never even thinks much about race because she's surrounded by wealthy white people, until she starts volunteering at a medical clinic on the bad side of town. Nice to see that her best friend is asexual--it's not a huge theme in the book, just a fact.

Their stories intermingle when Rowan finds the skeleton of an African American buried in her backyard. Lots of mystery here--who is the person? And the suspense doesn't disappoint. Loved how Rowan has to visit the elderly to find out the local history--it would be great if a high school class could read this as a class novel before visiting local nursing homes for an interview project.

Lots of racial issues here--Jim Crow, Native American, African American, mixed races, and hiding history. I'm sure this one will end up on many best lists.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Review: These Shallow Graves

These Shallow Graves These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I can't believe that I didn't finish this one--usually I love historical fiction with teen female characters. But I just couldn't take the main character's ignorance, and the way she openly decided to shirk her upbringing and "step put" with a poor newspaper man. I know it happened at the time, but it just didn't ring true to me. I stopped during Disk 6 and moved onto the next audiobook.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: Papa's Mechanical Fish

Papa's Mechanical Fish Papa's Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Virena has a papa who is constantly in his workshop, inventing things that don't usually work. When he's inspired to build a mechanical fish after fishing with his family one day, he makes a lot of mistakes. Each time, his family is there to rescue him from the water, and he rushes back to his workshop to make improvements. Eventually, he creates a huge submarine, and the entire family goes for a ride.

I would have given this 5 stars, if the family had allowed Papa to test the submarine before jumping in as a family. They were cautious before his other failures, but are convinced his later invention works! No way!

Hilarious and expressive illustrations by Boris Kulikov, and the background information and sources at the end are expected now with nonfiction titles.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Review: Carve the Mark

Carve the Mark Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had to read this one to see what the fuss was all about! If you don't know what I'm talking about, read a few of the most commented reviews in Goodreads.

Honestly, this just wasn't a very well written book. The action of the Divergent series is present, don't get me wrong, but I was a little confused about the actions of the characters and the reasons for their actions. The book is overly long and could have used some tightening and shortening up, too.

Thanks to my recent awareness of my own white privilege, I do read books through a different lens, and the whole mention of color in this book was weird. Much of it felt like an old western novel--the us vs. them, and the objectification of anyone who is different. I found the whole concept of pain and power to be unsettling. There is rape in this book, even if there is no actual penis penetration. People use power over others to get what they want--A LOT. I found that disturbing, along with the Stockholm syndrome--they fall in love with their captors. Ick.

I did love the idea of carving the kills on your arms to mark your victories, so it will be interesting to see how all the controversy will be handled in Book #2 in the series.

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Review: Stand-Off

Stand-Off Stand-Off by Andrew Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a love-hate relationship with Andrew Smith. I gave 5 stars to Winger, Grasshopper Jungle, and 100 Sideways Miles, but then I didn't care for The Alex Crow. With Stand-Off, Smith reverts back to what I love about him--teenage boy protagonist who is troubled, yet a sweetheart. Can I be the supportive librarian at Pine Mountain school, please, so I can help take care of these kids and offer them bibliotherapy? :)

Ryan Dean hasn't dealt with losing his best friend from the first book in the series, and now he returns to his private school determined to be a a**hole. He is paired with a scrawny 12-year-old kid as a roommate (Ryan Dean is a 15-year-old senior), and he's determined to not be friendly to him. Grief is a b*tch, and Ryan Dean struggles with it for his entire school year, but his girlfriend, rugby coach, and new friends help him through it.

Loved how the grief process was written in this one, as well as the whole conversation about consent, heterosexual and homosexual.

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