Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Audio Book Review: The Twelve Days of Christmas, by Debbie Macomber

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber book cover and review
Twelve Days of Christmas is a wonderful feel-good Christmas romance. Just what I was looking for.

Cheerful Julia can't stand her new grumpy neighbor, Cain.  The harder she tries to engage him, the more standoffish he is.  And when he steals her newspaper, well, that's the last straw. She decides to kill him......with kindness.

It is her best friend's idea.  Julia is also trying to get her dream job in social media.  She and one other person must start a blog.  The person who gets the most hits on her page gets the job.  Julia decides to blog The Twelve Days of Christmas, her daily experiences trying to force Cain to be friendly in time for Christmas.

Yes, we all know where this is going.  But that's what these stories are for, right? It's cute and romantic.  Heartwarming.  Inspiring. Sweet. The road to romance isn't smooth.  There are misunderstandings and catastrophes.  And, well, of course, it is a bit over-the-top.

The narrator of the audiobook, Suzanne Elise Freeman, really added to the sappiness of the story.  I found her to be a bit too dramatic, for a story that was already filled with drama.

However, this is exactly the Christmas story I wanted.  It is also very short and quick. So, if you are in the mood for some sappy, heartwarming love story, try out Twelve Days of Christmas.

Published by Ballentine, October 4, 2106. Random House Audio
Audio book obtained from the library
288 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Book Review: Mind Games by Heather W. Petty

Mind Games by Heather W. Petty book cover and review
Mind Games is the second book in Petty's Lock & Mori series and the young Sherlock and Moriarty are in the thick of things.

Mori's number one goal throughout the entire book is to make sure she protects her brothers.  That means her father must stay in jail.  But she is receiving threats, and someone is trying to frame her for all of her father's murders.

I didn't enjoy Lock & Mori as much in this installment.  The entertaining banter I mentioned in my review of Lock & Mori was nonexistent.  Mori was so concerned about keeping Lock at arm's length and denying her feelings that it bordered on annoying.

The actual mystery about who has targeted Mori was interesting, although Lock didn't seem to have to use those brilliant powers of deduction as much as I would have liked.  After all, this is supposed to be Sherlock Holmes, and that is what his character is supposed to be about.  I was surprised by the eventual revelation, and that is always a good thing!

After the first book I wasn't sure this would be a series, but let me tell you, there is no longer any doubt. The cliffhanger in Mind Games is brutal.  We are left  with our main character in an impossible predicament. No resolution whatsoever.  And, if you recall, that's a big pet peeve of mine. So, I do intend to continue with the series, but I'm hoping for more.

Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, December 6, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
304 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Review: The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick

The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick book cover and review
The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick is a nonfiction account of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was part of a group of men, reaching to the top of Hitler's ranks, that were determined that the only way to save their country was to kill Hitler.

Bonhoeffer was one of eight children who, save for the one that died in World War I, were all part of the conspiracy to kill Hitler. Or, in the case of the girls, their husbands were involved.  Dietrich was an unlikely candidate, given he was a very devout pastor and committed to nonviolence.

As we know, all of their attempts (and there were several) were unsuccessful, and the lives of most of these men ended with horrible deaths because of their involvement.

What is most interesting about the story is the portrayal of the time leading up to the war.  McCormick does a great job of explaining how a man like Hitler was able to gain such absolute power.  He not only took over the government, but was able to get most of the clergy to let him take over the church!  During the time before the war, he slowly eeked away at personal freedoms, not only targeting the Jews, but every citizen of Germany. Hitler did a great job of keeping the inner workings of his government from the rest of the world.

The actual attempts on Hitler's life were sort of anticlimactic after the captivating build up of the tension, both at a national level and a personal level for Bonhoeffer.

We have purchased a class set of The Plot to Kill Hitler for our WWII Literature class.  The teacher found it to be such a great introduction to the war that she can use it and save significant time in class.

The Plot to Kill Hitler is easy to read.  The chapters are very short, and the book is short. Part of the formatting uses boxes of additional explanations about something mentioned in the text.  There are numerous pictures that add to the story. Even though it is accessible to grade school students, The Plot to Kill Hitler is a fascinating account that will appeal to anyone who is interested in history.

Published by Balzer + Bray, September 13, 2016
Copy obtained from the library (eARC also obtained from Edelweiss)
153 pages

Rating: 5/5





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2016 EBook Challenge - Post Your December Reviews Here

2016 EBook Reading Challenge hosted by Annette's Book Spot

So here we are! The last month of the 2016 EBook Challenge! Are you going to reach your goal? (I'm afraid I'm not going to, so don't feel too bad.) But let's make a last big effort and see what happens.

By the way, if anyone would like to take over this challenge for 2017, let me know.  I've barely had time to read much this year, let alone run a challenge. I don't feel I've done a very good job, so I'd be willing to hand it over to someone who is interested.

You can see my progress on my 2016 Reading Challenges Page.

Here's a link to the page to record your November reviews.

Post your December reviews below:






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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: Fields Where They Lay, by Timothy Hallinan @TimHallinan

Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan book cover and review
I usually read a couple sweet, heartwarming, romantic holiday novels each year.  When I saw Fields Where They Lay was a holiday detective story, I was all in.  And it proved to be an entertaining Christmas read.

Fields Where They Lay is a Junior Bender Mystery (#6).  The main character, Bender, is a thief turned investigator, which gives the story a different twist.  This time he's been hired (actually forced) to work for a member of the Russian mob.  This person is part owner of a shopping mall that has had a sharp rise in the amount of shoplifting it is experiencing.  Bender is supposed to figure out what is going on but not tell anyone what he is doing.

The mall is on its last leg. Many shops are closed and the rest are doing poorly. During his investigation, one of the shopkeepers, a dear sweet older lady, is murdered.  Bender resolves to find the killer -- whether he finds the shoplifters or not.

The investigation is interesting and takes some unusual turns.  All is not what it seems, which is great.  The people who Bender rely on for assistance, while maybe a bit shady, are full of personality. Bender has issues going on in his personal life that also add a bit of tension.

During the investigation, Bender relies on the mall Santa, who is Jewish, to help him understand more about the working environment.  Santa ends up telling his own Christmas story from World War II.  While I liked this story, I really disliked how it pulled the reader out of the main storyline.  I found it very disruptive and unnecessary.

Fields Where They Lay is appropriate for mystery fans of all ages, including teens. The ending is surprising and satisfying.  It also is a great setup for Bender's next mystery.  I'll be on the look out for it.

Published by Soho Crime, October 25, 2016
eARC obtained from NetGalley
384 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Book Review: The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Kiss is the concluding book in the Winner's Trilogy, so if you haven't read The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime, you may want to stop reading this review, although it is spoiler free.

The Winner's Kiss brings Kestral and Arin back together (eventually) but their relationship still isn't solid.  I can't say why, but it's heartbreaking. As they are trying to build a relationship, they are also trying to win a war, so that complicates things.

I really don't have much to say about the plot, but if you enjoyed the first two books, you will certainly want to pick up The Winner's Kiss. As I said in my review of The Winner's Crime, things would go a bit smoother if they would just tell each other the truth about how they feel, although that wasn't as much of an issue in this book.

I did feel that The Winner's Kiss dragged a bit, especially after Kestral and Arin are traveling together and the war has begun.  The plot just seemed to be in limbo there for a while.

I loved the ending.  Sometimes you just need to have all the loose ends tied up and a least some people need to be happy!

The Winner's Kiss is a satisfying conclusion to the series, and if you want to know more about the world and the characters, read my reviews of the earlier books linked above. A great series that I've been recommending to a lot of my teens.

Published by Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, March 29, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
484 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Stacking the Shelves - Ready for Christmas



I've been very sporadic about doing these posts, so here's a few that I've gotten recently.

For Review:

Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan book cover
Fields Where They Lay, by Timothy Hallinan from NetGalley
Always need a Christmas book or two, and I'm happy this is crime fiction, not a romance.  A new author to me.

A List of Cages, by Robin Roe from NetGalley
I'm not sure what attracted me to this one, except I do like a story about friendship once in a while.

Always, by Sarah Jio from NetGalley
A favorite author of mine; I've read most, but not all of her books.

From the Library:
The Winner's Kiss, by Marie Rutkoski
I finally had time to grab something that I've been wanting to read from the library.  I'm about halfway through and loving it!


The Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber
I got this one in audio so I have something to get me in a holiday mood.  (Dracula just isn't cutting it!)

To those U.S. folks, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and get some time to relax (and read.) So, what did you get this week? Are you gearing up for Christmas? Let me know in the comments.  Thanks for stopping by and be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews.





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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book Review: The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan

The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan book cover and review
The Bitter Side of Sweet is emotional and powerful.  The story of these poor children will break your heart.

Fifteen-year-old Amadou's main concern is taking care of his little brother, who is too young to be held to the standards of the masters who set the quotas for harvesting the cacao. Two years ago, when they signed up for a season of harvesting to help out their impoverished family, they had no idea that they were signing up for a life of slavery.  They have never been paid, and have no way of escaping this life.  They are beaten regularly, hungry all the time, and Amadou has taken more than his share of the punishments because he covers for his brother.

When a girl arrives and is expected to join them in their harvesting, everything changes.  She is a fighter -- much like Amadou used to be.  He tries to convince her that there is no escape, but she continues to fight and be beaten for her behavior.

These three kids do manage to escape, in an unbelievable set of lucky circumstances, but their journey is only beginning.

They are surprisingly resilient, and they finally find a few adults who are willing to help them (barely.) The story of the girl and how she got herself into this situation is slowly revealed. And the mostly happy ending is a relief.

You can't help rooting for them.  I did have a minor problem with the lucky breaks they got, but there were plenty of hardships to go along with them.  The Bitter Side of Sweet is supposedly based in truth. There are children right now, mostly in Africa, harvesting cacao so that all of us on this side of the world can get our chocolate fix.  It makes you think.

There is an author's note at the end where she explains a bit about this mostly ignored problem.  I would have liked a bit more about this.  There is an act that has been passed to protect these children, but she states that it isn't doing much good. She gives suggestions about contacting chocolate companies in this country.  She mentions "fair trade" cocoa, but I'm not sure how to get such a thing.  She does refer to her website (www.TaraSullivanBooks.com) for more information.  The Bitter Side of Sweet would be a great classroom read and provides a good start to get students to do some research.

The Bitter Side of Sweet is a quick, easy read and does a good job of keeping you turning the pages.  This would be a good one for middle school or high school, including reluctant readers, who enjoy survival stories.

Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons BFYR, February 23, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
310 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Book Review: Cross the Line, by James Patterson

Cross the Line by James Patterson book cover and review
Alex Cross novels never fail to entertain, and Cross the Line is no different. I've read several other books and series that Patterson has written, but I don't enjoy any of them as much as Cross novels.

The plot details probably aren't important.  If you like these novels, then you'll like this one.  But here's a bit about it anyway:

A few things going on.  A road rage vigilante killer, who preys on those that drive expensive, fancy cars.  And another killer has killed a police officer. Then there's the terrorist group killing large numbers of people involved in drug manufacturing and trafficking.

So, Alex (and his wife, Bree) are working on all of these cases.  Are they connected?  I'm not going to say, but you can probably guess.

The investigating is always action packed, and the path to the answers is interesting and exciting.  I love how fast moving and easy Cross the Line is to read.  Patterson is just really good at weaving a plot together and keeping you on the edge of your seat.

Are these books a bit formulaic?  Of course.  But it's not like I read them every day.  I love the relationship that Alex has with his family. After so many books, you feel like you know these good people.  And, yes, they are too good to be true.  But I can overlook these deficiencies.  If you can too, you will love Cross the Line.

Published by Little, Brown & Co., November 21, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
400 pages

Rating: 4/5





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