Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Book Review: The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black @hollyblack ‏

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black book cover and review
It has been a while since I've read a book by Holly Black.  I'm hesitant about fairy books.  Much of the time they are too "magically convenient" for me.  But I found The Cruel Prince to be very compelling.

Jude and her twin sister Taryn are stolen away at the age of seven to live in the High Court of the Faerie. Their parents are murdered, and it turns out their older sister actually is a fairy.

Jude is a mortal living in a land of fairies.  Her stepfather, Madoc, has raised her with all the privileges of his rank.  She and Taryn attend classes with princes and princesses of the kingdom.  And they are terribly bullied. Jude doesn't want her life with the fairies to be one of settling down and marrying one of them and having their children.  She's a warrior and desires to be one of the king's knights.  Madoc will not allow it.

In the meantime, the High King, Eldred, has decided to abdicate the throne and has chosen Dain, his third of six children, to be his heir. Prince Cardan is the youngest and absolute worst of Jude's tormentors.  And his three followers aren't much better.  Except for Locke, who establishes a relationship with Jude.

Wow! There are a lot of twists and turns in this story.  No one is honest (even though fairies can't lie!) The pacing is excellent--always something developing to move the plot along.  The magic is subtle--mostly enchanting others to do as you wish.

There are a lot of characters that I sometimes had difficulty remembering.  They are all introduced at once, and a cast of characters at the beginning would have been helpful. I like my fairie books to be connected to the human world, and The Cruel Prince certainly was.

The Cruel Prince has a definite conclusion, but it is the first book in a trilogy. After a very surprising twist, there isn't a horrible cliffhanger. But I'm definitely anticipating the rest of the story! I read this one because it's our book club choice for this month. The Cruel Prince is a must-read for fans of the fae and in particular, Holly Black fans.

Published by Little, Brown BFYR, January 2, 2018
Copy obtained from the library
370 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Audio Book Review: Red Hook Road, by Ayelet Waldman

Red Hook Road by Ayalet Waldman book cover and review
 I wasn't supposed to like Red Hook Road. But I did.

Red Hook Road begins with a tragedy.  Becca and John are killed in an accident on Red Hook Road just hours after they are married.  For the rest of the book, both families are trying to come to terms with their grief. Does that sound like a good book?

After the beginning, when I realized what this book was going to be about, I almost gave up.  But I'm more patient with audiobooks, and the writing was really great. I was caught up in these people's lives.  I could see the beautiful coastal village in Maine. The details are what kept me involved.

Red Hook Road isn't an action book, although there is a bit of suspense at the end.  It's a study of the characters and their interactions with each other--how they helped each other through.  And in some cases, how this tragedy divided them. Of course, it was sad at times, but there is a good balance of uplifting scenes too.

Like I said, this isn't my "type" of book.  But I love stretching my wings and finding something that I really enjoy, even if out of my comfort zone. Pick up Red Hook Road if you like atmospheric stories of family and love. I would highly recommend the audio version. Kimberly Farr does a great job.

Published by Doubleday, 2010, Random House Audio.
Audiobook obtained from the library
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Book Review: The Lies They Tell, by Gillian French

The Lies They Tell by Gillian French book cover and review
The Lies They Tell is a good teen contemporary mystery but didn't really stand out.

A fire has destroyed the Garrison's summer house on Tenney's Harbor.  The occupants were murdered before the fire was set.  Only one family member survived, a son, Tristan. Pearl's father, the caretaker, has been blamed for allowing this to happen on his watch, and Pearl is out to clear his name.

Usually, the year-round residents don't mix with the affluent summer crowd.  But Tristan, who returned to the island by himself this summer, and his friends regularly sit in Pearl's section at the club where she waits tables.

Pearl starts hanging around with them and secretly is doing her own investigating of the crime. She slowly finds clues that don't mean much, but in the end, all is revealed, and she must fight for her survival against the perpetrator.

I suspected who accomplished this crime from the beginning but still wasn't sure until the end. There are a few tense moments throughout the story, and slowly secrets are revealed. But all hell breaks loose at the very end, and I did feel my heart pounding a little bit.

I read French's The Door to January and was fairly apathetic.  The Lies They Tell is much more thrilling. It is also kind of interesting that I happen to be listening to Red Hook Road, which is an adult book about life on an island community where most of the people are summer residents and the relationships they form with the full-time residents. My review is coming soon.

The Lies They Tell is a bit slow to get going but other than that, it's an easy read that teen mystery lovers will enjoy.  It isn't a must-read, but there aren't enough YA mystery books, so I'll be happy to recommend this one.

Published by HarperTeen, May 1, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
304 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Review: Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist

Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist book cover and review
Most people would not peg me as a lover of zombie books.  But some of my favorite series are just that.  And Devils Unto Dust is going to be added to my list of favorites!

The southern part of the United States has been ravaged by a disease that turns people into shakes (think: zombies) that attack and kill any living thing they can find.  It has only been a decade since the civil war and cities and towns have either been wiped out, or they have built fences around them to keep people safe. All means of escaping to the north have been lost. They are on their own.

Willie (Daisy Wilcox) is only a teenager, but she's in charge of her younger brother and even younger twin brother and sister. Her mother is dead after contracting the disease, and her father is a drunk that doesn't come around very often, and when he does, he doesn't help anything.  They are barely getting by, and Willie needs to pay the monthly tithe to the judge--the man who passes for the law in her town.

Her father steals a huge sum of money from a shake hunter, and Willie is on the hood for his debt.  Her only choice is to follow her father through the Texas desert to try and track him down for the money. She must leave her siblings at home to fend for themselves.

I loved Willie.  She's just a really good person, and you can't help but sympathize with and also root for her. She's in an impossible situation and trying to make the best of it.  She's brave, tough, and unflinching. The people that end up helping her are great characters too (I don't want to say too much about them though.) I loved the historical setting. I loved the story.  Devils Unto Dust was a great mix of action and character building. It certainly qualifies as a page-turner.

Devils Unto Dust reminded me a lot of another one of my favorite zombie books, Rot & Ruin. If I had read the books close to each other, I'd probably say they are too similar. But it's been years since I read Maberry's series.

I've read that Devils Unto Dust has already been optioned for a movie.  If you are at all interested in apocalyptic zombie survival stories, you won't want to miss Devils Unto Dust. Add it to your list.

Published by Greenwillow, April 10, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
496 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Book Review: Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery book cover and review
What an absolute delight Anne of Green Gables is.  I had thought I read this book when I was young, but now I don't think so. (I'm sure I would have remembered it.)

You would think a novel that was written over 100 years ago would be wordy and difficult and, well, boring.  But Anne stole my heart.

Anne is a spunky, smart, orphan who ends up at Green Gables, the home of Marilla and Matthew, by mistake.  They wanted a boy to help with the farm. Somehow the message got bungled, and they didn't have the heart to send her back.

Marilla and Matthew are siblings (I didn't realize that until after I finished the book!) Anne gives them a run for their money.  She's terribly talkative, and her imagination is so present all the time, that she often forgets what she's supposed to be doing. But her imaginative descriptions of her surroundings is part of what makes Anne of Green Gables special.

Anne is also very smart, and her competitions with Gilbert, the smartest kid in the class as well as Anne's arch enemy, is delightful. I loved how Anne slowly digs a place in Marilla's heart since it is very difficult for Marilla to show any emotion. Matthew, on the other hand, doesn't mind spoiling Anne a bit. Anne grows up in Anne of Green Gables, but I know there are more books in this series and I just might have to continue on to see what's in store for her.

For a classic, I'm surprised.  I think some of the reading is a bit difficult, but I would still recommend this book to young girls.  I think they will enjoy Anne as much as I did.

Published by L. C. Page, 1908
eBook obtained from Serial Reader
198 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Book Review: Skyjack, by K. J. Howe

Skyjack, by K. J. Howe book cover and review
Skyjack kept my interest and had a pretty scary premise.  The plot, however, was a bit difficult for me to follow at times.

Thea is a hostage rescue expert working for a company called Quantum. An airplane she is on is hijacked, and Thea must work to save the lives of all the passengers.

The reason for the hijack is complicated, and as Thea tries to figure out who on this private jet is worth it, she realizes there are many candidates.  She ends up off the airplane, and it takes off with all the hostages.  She teams up with her team from Quantum.  The hijacker contacts Thea, and they have a history.  He wants Quantum to hijack a truck full of Syrian refugees in Budapest, and then he will release the passengers.

Meanwhile, another storyline is about a teen boy and his rich father who wants to release a virus that will attack only people of middle-eastern descent. This boy is trying to figure out a way to stop his father, and in the process, he knows he stands to lose everything.

Skyjack jumps around a bit, and at times it seems a bit disjointed.  It does all come together in the end, but, while the thought of a deadly virus being released is scary, it just seemed a bit far-fetched. Howe is brutal when dealing with some of the characters, so be prepared.  The climactic ending was a bit difficult to picture -- lots of characters and weapons and vehicles and it moved really fast.  I know that ramps up the tension, but I also need a better picture drawn so I can feel what is happening.

I did like the main character, Thea, and really the entire Quantum team.  I didn't read the first novel in the series, The Freedom Broker, so I realize I'm missing some backstory. With all my complaints, I would still like to read the first book someday.  Skyjack is a quick read and worth your time.

Published by Quercus, April 10, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley and Edelweiss
400 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Book Review: The Window, by Amelia Brunskill @ameliab

The Window by Amelia Brunskill book cover and review
The Window is a twisty mystery that kept me guessing until the very end.

Jess's twin sister, Anna, falls to her death from her bedroom window.  Jess thought that Anna told her everything, but perhaps there was a lot going on that Jess didn't know about.

Everyone thinks Anna's death was accidental.  Everyone except Jess.  She can't give up on figuring out why Anna was sneaking out.  Jess begins to find out things about her twin that she never knew and is surprised by what she finds.  It still doesn't make sense, though, especially the toxicology report, and Jess isn't going to give up.

There are several twists, and the reader is taken in different directions along with Jess. I admired Jess's perseverance.  And I enjoyed the developing friendship between Jess and Nick. I wish it could have turned out differently.

I think most readers will be surprised by the ending, which is always a good thing for a mystery. The characters are interesting and realistic. The pacing is excellent, and it makes The Window a quick read.  Teens who enjoy a good mystery, including reluctant readers, should be pointed to The Window.

Published by Delacorte, April 3, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller book cover and review
Not being a big mythology fan, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Song of Achilles.

The Song of Achilles is sort of a retelling of the Iliad--the Trojan War, Oedipus, and of course, the story of Achilles. The story is told from the unique perspective of Patroclus, who is Achilles lover.

Their relationship is slowly developed which makes The Song of Achilles more of a love story.  But there is plenty of battles and twelve-years of war to keep up the action.

As I said, I'm not much of a mythology scholar, so I enjoyed this story, whether it follows the classic myths or not.  Patroclus' perspective is unique. I still get the characters confused. Their names all sound the same to me. But for the most part, I kept track of what was going on.

We pretty much all know that it ends for both of these characters, but I was waiting for the arrow in the heel (I did know at least that much) but it never happened.

If you are a fan of mythology, then you should definitely put this Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction (2012) on your list. The sequel, Circe, is releasing in April and that was my motivation for reading The Song of Achilles now. I have a copy of Circe that I'm hoping to get to soon.

Published by Ecco, 2012
Copy obtained from the library
416 pages

Rating: 4/5

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