Thursday, April 20, 2017

Book Review: Bang, by Barry Lyga

Bang by Barry Lyga book cover and review
Lyga writes pretty edgy novels but somehow makes them relatable.  Bang is no exception.

Sebastian is fourteen years old but still suffers the trauma of an event that happened ten years ago.  When he was four, he shot and killed his 4-month-old baby sister with his dad's gun.

Needless to say, this has torn the family apart.  His father is gone.  His mother can't talk about that event.  Sebastian has been to therapy for years but isn't doing well.  As a matter of fact, he knows it's only a matter of time before he commits suicide.

Everyone in town and at school knows Sebastian's past, so when a new girl, Aneesa, moves in down the road, Sebastian finds comfort and companionship with someone who doesn't know him.  He realizes that at the end of the summer when she starts school she will inevitably find out, but he's going to enjoy his time with her until then.

Aneesa has her own issues, coming from a mixed racial marriage.  Her father is Muslim, so that causes her to be ridiculed by many.

They build a strong friendship and work together to create a unique business. Sebastian can't help but fall for Aneesa, and those voices telling him to end his life become quieter. The expected blow up occurs, and that's all I'll say about the plot.

I was happy that the book doesn't preach about gun control. The father made a huge mistake, and that's obvious, but really the rest is left for the reader to decide.

Bang is easy to read and relate to the characters. The pace moves and the secondary characters have a lot of depth. It will be easy to recommend this to my contemporary novel fans.

Published by Little Brown BFYR, April 18. 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
304 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Audio Book Review: Love May Fail, by Matthew Quick @MatthewQuick21

I loved Love May Fail. It's the right combination of characters and plot that kept me invested in the story.

Each section in Love May Fail is narrated by a different person.  They each tell a different part of the story, and it works well.  Portia is recovering from a rough breakup with her husband.  She goes back to visit her mother, who is an extreme hoarder (among other problems) and finds out that her favorite high school English teacher has run into some hard times.  Portia ends up wanting to help him get back on his feet.

She also meets Chuck Bass who lives with his sister and her son, Tommy.  All of these characters end up playing a huge part in the story, and they each take turns telling their part.  There are several coincidences -- almost too many to believe -- but I fell for it. I guess it makes you believe in fate.

I don't want to say too much more about how things play out.  The discovery of the story is part of the fun. Quick is a good writer, as most of you probably know, and Love My Fail is a wonderful ride.

The audio narrators are each excellent and add to the atmosphere created by the text. I actually checked this one out from the library, and when it was automatically checked in, I still had 1.5 hours to go! I couldn't check it out again (there was a wait) so I read the rest of the book. I would recommend either version.

Love May Fail is an adult book but would be suitable for mature teens.

Published by Harper, 2015
Audiobook (and eBook) obtained from the library
416 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Book Review: Mars One by Jonathan Maberry @JonathanMaberry

Mars One by Jonathan Maberry book cover and review
Mars One is another sci-fi book that hits the mark!

Sixteen-year-old Tristan has been preparing for years for his and his parent's relocation to Mars.  That's right, they are going to be among the first people to colonize Mars with no plans to return to Earth. Tristan spends much of his time away from his home and school in training, but as the book opens, he's spending his last time at home before leaving forever.  And there's Izzy.  His girlfriend.  The love of his life.

Maberry doesn't sugarcoat the decisions and preparations that went into Tris's eventually ending up on Mars. There is, of course, a lot of media attention, and because there's a doomed romance involved, Tris and Izzy get a lot of it (and a lot of money.)

I really thought that half of the book being taken up before they ever leave for Mars is a bit much.  I understand we needed to know these characters and their journey, but actually, I would have liked to know more about some of the other forty people going, rather than just Tris and Izzy.  Frankly, Izzy becomes unimportant for the second half of the book.  I get it.  They are in love.  And the goodbye is hard.  But it just went on too long.

That's the end of my criticism of Mars One. After they leave on their journey, I became riveted.  It's action packed and tense. I felt their fears and their hopes. I found myself pulling for these characters to be successful.  There are several moral and political dilemmas that would fuel some good classroom discussions.

I'm very selective about YA books that I recommend to my husband, but I think he'd love the second half of Mars One. I'm not sure he can get through the first half, though. Teens, however,, will be all over this book.

Published by Simon & Shuster BFYR, April 4, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
448 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Book Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray @claudiagray ‏

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray book cover and review
Defy the Stars is a very entertaining science fiction experience!

Noemi lives on the planet Genesis.  Their enemy is on the attack and wants to take over their planet and ruin their peaceful, healthy way of life.  In order to keep their enemy at bay, Noemi and many other fighters have volunteered for a suicide mission which will occur in twenty days. The kicker is that their enemy is Earth.  It seems the people on Earth have ruined their planet and they are very overcrowded.  They must seek other planets to take over so they have a place to go. Earth doesn't send people to do their fighting, they send robots called mechs.

I don't want to give away all the details, but Noemi eventually ends up on an old Earthen spaceship with Abel, a mech that has been stranded on this ship for years.  Abel turns out to be a very sophisticated mech, so much so, that he seems to have feelings. So Noemi and Mech begin this quest across the universe to try to save Genesis and stop the war before the suicide mission takes place.

Defy the Stars is very exciting. The pacing is excellent, and each place they visit is different and offers unique challenges.  They meet a host of good guys along the way. They must confront several moral dilemmas as they fight for survival. It kept my attention, and I was thinking about the characters when I wasn't reading.

I guess the whole "mech falling in love" premise is a bit unbelievable but Gray does a good job making you believe it. The ending leaves our characters in a safe place, but there are bigger issues that aren't resolved.  I want to know! Defy the Stars is the beginning of a series, The Constellation Series, so I'm planning on continuing.

I'm excited to give this one to my teen science fiction fans!

Published by Little, Brown BFYR, April 4, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
512 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book Review: From Ant to Eagle by Alex Lyttle

From Ant to Eagle by Alex Lyttle book cover and review
I don't usually review middle school books.  I don't usually respond to publishers' direct requests unless it's a book or author I've heard of.  But I decided to read From Aunt to Eagle despite both of these conditions being true.  And I enjoyed it.

Cal is our narrator and he's a big brother to Sammy.  He reads to him and plays with him and basically keeps him entertained.  But then he meets a new girl, Aleta, and he doesn't have much time for Sammy any more.

Aleta has her own mysteries, and she disappears for days at a time.  Cal is so wrapped up in figuring out his relationship with Aleta that he challenges Sammy to some monumental tasks to keep him occupied. When Sammy gets sick and is diagnosed with cancer, Cal feels very guilty.

From Ant to Eagle follows a rather predictable path, but the story is engaging and kept my interest.  As I said, I don't usually read middle school books, and there's a reason for that.  From Ant to Eagle is definitely written for lower levels with short sentences and lots of telling rather than showing.  It makes for a fast read, but for me it becomes monotonous. I felt like the subject matter is appropriate for middle school, but the writing is a bit lower.

From Ant to Eagle has been compared to Wonder. I was affected much more by Wonder and I didn't really see the bullied, disfigured kid connection.  And Wonder had multiple narrators which really added to that story for me. But the comparison isn't really necessary.  From Ant to Eagle is an engaging journey all its own.

For the intended audience who enjoy "cancer books" From Ant to Eagle is a worthy addition to the field.

Published by Central Avenue, April 1, 2017
eARC obtained from the publisher
256 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, book cover and review
I read Odd Thomas many years ago.  Probably shortly after it was published in 2003.  The re-read was just as enjoyable as the first time.

Odd Thomas is the name of the main character, and it's not a nickname. He lives a quiet life in Pico Mundo, California, a fictional town. Actually, his life isn't always quiet, since he sees dead people.  These "ghosts" don't talk to him, but they have the ability to communicate and draw him to their story.  Usually, it's a story of how they were murdered.

He also sees ghost-like creatures that he calls bodachs.  These creatures hang around people or places where violence is about to happen.  They act as harbingers of death. Good thing that Odd is friends with the chief of police, and the chief knows of Odd's abilities. They work together to, hopefully, stop these acts of violence before they happen.

The best thing about this book is Odd's voice.  He's very entertaining and the turns of phrases and metaphors he uses add much to the reading. His abilities are quite believable because of the way his character is written.  I'm not much of a Koontz fan, but in this book (and the series, I presume), he's masterful.

The other characters just fill in the story.  The police chief, Stormy (Odd's girlfriend), and all of the people that know and love Odd are very well done.

The pace is pretty slow but the writing makes it not seem so.  The ending is fast-paced and thrilling.  And there's a twist -- and I won't say any more about that. (I did remember it from my first reading.) I also remembered the narrator's voice from the movie, so I could just hear Odd talking as I was reading.

My book club picked Odd Thomas for this month.  It's a different type of book for them, so I'm interested to see what they think.  I highly recommend Odd Thomas if you enjoy thrillers with a bit of a paranormal twist. I believe there are seven books in the series.  I think I've only read the first one, but someday I'd like to continue.

Published by Bantam, 2003
Copy obtained from the library
399 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Stacking the Shelves: A Few to Review


Happy Saturday again! Hope you have a great weekend! Here's what I managed to grab this week.

For Review:


The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty book cover
The Traitor's Kiss, by Erin Beaty from NetGalley
This is a debut that sounded good, and who could pass up that cover?

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith book cover
Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith from NetGalley
One of only a couple of contemporary authors that are "must reads" for me.  Can't wait to see what she has come up with next.

Two Nights by Kathy Reichs book cover
Two Nights, by Kathy Reichs from NetGalley
This isn't at Tempe Brennan novel! New characters....

That's all for this week.  How about you? Leave me a link so I can visit. Thanks for stopping by. Make sure to visit Team Tynga's Reviews, our hosts.




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Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: The Cutaway by Christina Kovac @christina_kovac

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac book cover and review
The Cutaway kept me guessing and did a good job building up the tension.

Virginia Knightly is a television news producer who has been relieved of her producing duties.  Good thing, because she's become intrigued with a missing person's case.  A young attorney in Washington D.C. has disappeared after leaving a restaurant with her husband.

It's D.C., so there's politics involved.  Virginia's ex is investigating the case, and maybe he's lying to her? There's a varied cast of characters and things start to look like a police coverup.  But why?  What did this very young, inexperienced attorney have that would make her a target.

I liked Virginia.  She's strong and resilient.  She's smart, and I found it easy to root for her. I really enjoyed the twists and turns in The Cutaway.  It kept me guessing as Virginia follows leads and you think, "now she's got it!" but no...that's not it either.  I didn't figure it out until she did.

The author is an experienced reporter and familiar with TV news and assumes the reader is too.  I'm not.  I did wish for a little more explanation of the workings of the news cycle, and what is involved in getting the nightly news on the air.  There were some terms and expressions that I didn't quite understand.  I really don't even get the title. Well, I guess I understood kind of, but there was a lot of tension over stories and timing that I just didn't feel.  I don't think this took anything away from the actual story, but I think she missed an opportunity to educate her readers.

The other thing that was a small issue is the denouement.  After the case is over and done, there is a lot of personal stuff that gets resolved.  Maybe I was just tired, but it seemed like a lot of pages of this. Once again, not a huge issue.

The Cutaway is definitely a worthwhile read for mystery fans.  Especially if you like the kind where it's about investigative reporting and not about police procedure. I think older teens would enjoy The Cutaway also.

Published by Atria, Marcy 21, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
320 pages

Rating: 4/5





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