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Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review: Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: September 2013
Pages: 416
Source: e-book from Library
For: Fun
Series: Raven Cycle, Book 2

Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book*
Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...
Things I Liked:
This is kind of a strange and unique story.  I love how fascinating it is to see the different characters, all of whom are very detailed and real.  They have interesting interactions and they make decisions that seem in character and they deal with the real consequences.  But also, there's magic and it is woven very neatly into the real world.  Very well written and compelling in its ideas.  I'll read more.

Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit, I didn't much care for anyone in the story this time.  I do like Gansey more than I did before and I felt real compassion for Adam and all he dealt with.  I still hate Ronan and didn't much care for Blue either.  I felt like there was a lot of really vague stuff going on in this one.  Nothing seemed clear or made much sense.  A lot of weird things happened and I kept waiting for Stiefvater to explain, but I was left pretty much wanting.  I don't know if it's my distracted reading, but I thought it was not clear enough for me.  I don't quite grasp how the magic works in her world.  I want to, though.  Also, there was just a touch too much f-bomb dropping for my taste.

Read-alikes:
It reminded me of Stiefvater's Lament and Ballad
It reads kind of like an Arthurian legend

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@#$
plenty of f-bombs throughout

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
quite a lot of violence, but not really on page, it just felt very violent

Overall rating: *** or ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: April 2014
Pages: 624
Source: Purchased
For: Fun
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Book 3

Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?
Things I Liked:
I really like the world Laini has set up here.  She's created the mythology and the complexities to have our world coexist with her imaginary world.  She has such a unique way of writing that you would recognize something from her, even if you didn't know it was her (I think).  I love how strange and wonderful at the same time her creations are.  At once disturbing in its images and also beautiful.  Particularly the way she describes the beasts.  I was happy with the way things ended and wondered about more of what would happen.  It seems like she left it open to write more if she wanted to.  This series seems like from the premise it would be familiar, but it is much more interesting and unique than its idea.  Wonderful and rich and vivid.

Things I Didn't Like:
This story had a lot going on and I think it suffered a bit because of that.  There was a lot of jumping around and perspective changes that threw me sometimes.  I also thought the very ending felt like it didn't need to be included.  The denouement was loooong and I almost just wanted the book to end after the end of the main conflict.  It was kind of nice to see everything after, but I think I could have done without it all.  Also, I think some of the details about magic and how that stuff worked, while gorgeously described, was super vague and left me wanting.  Basically, I didn't quite understand everything she was writing about and thought it was sketchy on the details.  Still, enjoyed the final installment and will continue to devour anything Taylor puts out.

Read-alikes:
Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
Demon's Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
some

mrg-factor: X
implied, not on page

v-factor: ->->->
some gory details, it's got battles for sure

Overall rating: ****

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: United We Spy by Ally Carter

United We Spy by Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: September 2013
Pages: 296
Series: Gallagher Girls, Book 6

Summary from goodreads:
Cammie Morgan has lost her father and her memory, but in the heart-pounding conclusion to the best-selling Gallagher Girls series, she finds her greatest mission yet. Cammie and her friends finally know why the terrorist organization called the Circle of Cavan has been hunting her. Now the spy girls and Zach must track down the Circle’s elite members to stop them before they implement a master plan that will change Cammie—and her country—forever.
Things I Liked:
Lots of action, intrigue, twists and turns in this one. It doesn’t disappoint as a conclusion to the series. I also loved that even though the situations turned very serious and life-and-death throughout the run of this series, this is still one of the cleanest series there is. My ratings for the swearing and the mrg factor are very minor. The swearing is literally only a few. “Crap!” or D---!” or “H---!” Soooo very mild for finicky readers like me. And I gave it 1 mrg-factor, just because Cammie and Zack’s relationship matures – but again, Carter keeps it squeaky clean.

Things I Didn't Like:
That this is the end of the series! The characters were way too fun and interesting for it to end. But, I’m one of those who still wishes the Harry Potter series didn’t end….

Read-alikes:
The Heist Society Series by Ally Carter
Also Known As by Robin Benway

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !

mrg-factor: X

v-factor: ->->->

Overall rating: ****
A Karissa Review

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Book Review: Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: 2012
Pages: 320
Series: Gallagher Girls, Book 5

Summary from goodreads:
The last thing Cammie Morgan remembers is leaving the Gallagher Academy to protect her friends and family from the Circle of Cavan-an ancient terrorist organization that has been hunting her for over a year. But when Cammie wakes up in an alpine convent and discovers that months have passed, she must face the fact that her memory is now a black hole. The only traces left of Cammie's summer vacation are the bruises on her body and the dirt under her nails, and all she wants is to go home. Once she returns to school, however, Cammie realizes that even the Gallagher Academy now holds more questions than answers. Cammie, her friends, and mysterious spy-guy Zach must face their most difficult challenge yet as they travel to the other side of the world, hoping to piece together the clues that Cammie left behind. It's a race against time. The Circle is hot on their trail and willing stop at nothing to prevent Cammie from remembering what she did last summer.
Things I Liked:
As I mentioned in the reviews of the previous books, the subject and writing mature in this series – very similar to how the Harry Potter series evolved from its first book to the very deep and serious last book. But again, Carter balances the very scary events of Cammie’s past with the wit and wisdom of her friends.

Things I Didn't Like:
I read this one before Carter had written her last book of the series – so I had a long wait for book #6. And this one ends, leaving you hanging, and the 6th book picks up right where it left off – no easing into it. So you need to read this one and the next one back to back, or you’ll be stuck like me, having to go back and remind myself where all the characters were, because I had to wait a year between the books. At least they are all written now, and you don’t have that frustration!

Read-alikes:
The Heist Society Series by Ally Carter
Also Known As by Robin Benway

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !

mrg-factor: X

v-factor: ->->->

Overall rating: ****
A Karissa Review

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review: Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter

Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: 2010
Pages: 288
Series: Gallagher Girls, Book 4

Summary from goodreads:
When Cammie Morgan enrolled at the Gallagher Academy, she knew she was preparing for the dangerous life of a spy. What she didn’t know was that the serious, real-life danger would start during her junior year of high school. But that’s exactly what happened two months ago when Cammie faced off against an ancient terrorist organization dead set on kidnapping her. Now the danger follows her everywhere, and even Cammie “The Chameleon” can’t hide. When a terrifying encounter in London reveals that one of her most-trusted allies is actually a rogue double-agent, Cammie no longer knows if she can trust her classmates, her teachers—or even her own heart. In this fourth installment of the New York Times best-selling series, the Gallagher Girls must hack, spy, steal, and lie their way to the truth.as they go searching for answers, recognizing that the key to Cammie’s future may lie deep in the past.
Things I Liked:
Again, I loved that Cammie’s life, and the conspiracies in her family’s past are prominent here. But I also loved that above all, the book is about friendships and relationships – and how tenuous they are as a teen spy. That theme appeals to everyone – even those of us not lucky enough to be in the CIA. Again, we have lots of action, lots of twists, but Carter still keeps Cammie’s humor and matter-of-fact personality intact, so this doesn’t become a major tense spy novel. And again, the writing, subject matter, and perspective on life are all maturing as both the characters and readers mature.

Things I Didn't Like:
It’s a good thing all of the series is out now, because you’re left hanging a bit on this one. So make sure to get the next book ASAP.

Read-alikes:
The Heist Society Series by Ally Carter
Also Known As by Robin Benway

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: ! 

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->->

Overall rating: ****
A Karissa Review

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Review: Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: 2008
Pages: 288
Series: Gallagher Girls, Book 3

Summary from goodreads:
When Cammie "The Chameleon" Morgan visits her roommate Macey in Boston, she thinks she's in for an exciting end to her summer break. After all, she's there to watch Macey's father accept the nomination for vice president of the United States. But when you go to the world's best school (for spies), "exciting" and "deadly" are never far apart. Cammie and Macey soon find themselves trapped in a kidnappers' plot, with only their espionage skills to save them. As her junior year begins, Cammie can't shake the memory of what happened in Boston, and even the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women doesn't feel like the safe haven it once did. Shocking secrets and old flames seem to lurk around every one of the mansion's corners as Cammie and her friends struggle to answer the questions, Who is after Macey? And how can the Gallagher Girls keep her safe? Soon Cammie is joining Bex and Liz as Macey's private security team on the campaign trail. The girls must use their spy training at every turn as the stakes are raised, and Cammie gets closer and closer to the shocking truth.
Things I Liked:
I loved that this is where we start delving into the more serious aspects of Cammie’s life as a teen spy. It’s neat that as Cammie matures, the content matures a bit as well. But Carter still keeps Cammie’s humor and matter-of-fact personality intact, so this doesn’t become a major tense spy novel.

Things I Didn't Like:
It’s a good thing all of the series is out now, because you’re left hanging a bit. So make sure to get the next book ASAP.

Read-alikes:
The Heist Society Series by Ally Carter
Also Known As by Robin Benway

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: ! 

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->->

Overall rating: ****
A Karissa Review
If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: 2007
Pages: 256
Series: Gallagher Girls, Book 2

Summary from goodreads:
Cammie Morgan is back, and it's clear that her life hasn't calmed down. At first, giddy anticipation is in the air. Gallagher Academy, Cammie's elite spy school, is hosting a visit from a covert training center for boys. Soon after the boys' arrival, though, everything goes dangerously awry when a series of security breaches are discovered at the academy. Worse yet, teenage agent-in-training Cammie is being blamed for the penetration. With the school's top-secret status at risk, the Gallagher Girls have to work quickly to save their beloved school.
Things I Liked:
Again, I liked this one because Carter is very good at writing believable characters, even though we’re talking about teen spies. You just really like these girls, and you root for them from the beginning. And these have everything a great “escape” book needs – fun, wit, adventure, a little intrigue, and some romance here and there.

Things I Didn’t Like:
I read this one and the others to follow too fast. This is one of those series that I wish had more books – 6 was not enough.

Read-alikes:
The Heist Society Series by Ally Carter
Also Known As by Robin Benway

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->

Overall rating: **** 
A Karissa Review
If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Review: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

Here's Karissa's first review!  If you missed her intro post, check it out here.  Feel free to leave her some comments.  I'll indicate a review by Karissa with the gorgeous photo and her name at the bottom of the post. 

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: April 2006
Series: Gallagher Girls, Book 1

Summary from goodreads:
Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it's really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her? Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she's on her most dangerous mission-falling in love.
Things I Liked:
I loved this entire series. I loved Cammie’s character, and that of her best friends. In the first book, the friends are slightly stereotypical – you have the smart one, the adventurous one, and the black horse. But they are still interesting to read, and if you follow the whole series, each character is fully fleshed out well. The first book is actually misleading in a way – the synopsis makes it sound like a romance, but it’s more than that. It lays out Cammie’s world, and hints to the conspiracies and danger she and her friends will face in the later books. The writing is also smart, descriptive, humorous and concise. Good combination.

Things I Didn't Like:
This is one of those series that I wish had more books – 6 was not enough. Others may not enjoy the teen elements (she swoons over boys and such) but then, maybe you shouldn’t be in the YA section….

Read-alikes:
The Heist Society Series by Ally Carter
Also Known As by Robin Benway

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none 
(I mean she gets excited about holding the boy’s hand, for Pete’s sake!)

v-factor: ->->

Overall rating: ****

A Karissa Review

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Two Librarians' Book Reviews: Introducing Karissa!

Guys! I'm so super thrilled that I get to introduce a new reviewer to my blog!  Karissa Neely contacted me a little while ago and wanted to share some of the fabulous books she's been reading.  I am excited to have another viewpoint on the blog and more posts to share (you know how terribly I've been updating lately).  Plus, Karissa is a librarian too and you know how much I love librarians. :) Here's a little info about Karissa and stay tuned, because I've got her reviews of the Gallagher Girls series coming up.  I'll make sure it's clear which reviews are Karissa's, so she gets all the credit for her work. Please give Karissa a big welcome! (Also, just wanted to point out how cool it is that our names rhyme - Karissa and Melissa? It was meant to be, haha.)

 About Karissa Neely
Karissa is an avid reader, usually averaging about 3 books a week. She reads mostly junior fiction, because she loves a good story and good writing, but without all the cussing and sex. She will read YA and some adult fiction, mostly just to keep up on what’s good – but she’s very picky. Karissa has worked as a junior high English teacher, a news correspondent for a major newspaper, and done public relations writing for a major university and as a freelancer. She is currently working at her city library, because she’s there all the time, so she figured she might as well get paid. Her favorite part of the job is helping patrons, young or old, find a book that gets them excited. Find more about her at http://karissaneely.wordpress.com/

Please welcome Karissa to the blog!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Publication date: January 2010
Pages: 320
Source: Library
For: Book Group

Summary from goodreads:
Twelve-year-old CeeCee is in trouble. For years she’s been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille— the crown-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town. Though it’s 1967 and they live in Ohio, Camille believes it’s 1951 and she’s just been crowned the Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia.

The day CeeCee discovers Camille in the front yard wearing a tattered prom dress and tiara as she blows kisses to passing motorists, she knows her mother has completely flipped. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, a previously unknown great-aunt comes to CeeCee’s rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. Within hours of her arrival, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricities—a world that appears to be run entirely by women.
Things I Liked:
I loved the home town southern feel of the town.  I loved watching CeeCee get a chance to be loved and be happy.  I enjoyed all the fun and quirky characters in the story and how they seemed to have an impact on CeeCee.  It was a sad and sweet story and kept me interested in knowing just what would happen to CeeCee in the end.

Things I Didn't Like:
I wondered about why some of the characters were included (and the stories) that didn't seem to have any true purpose in the book (Tootie's sister?)  Also, I love a good woman power story, really, but I sure wish CeeCee had been able to see a good male role model somewhere in the book.  She was just surrounded by male idiots and none of the women had much good to say about any man.  Taylor was the exception, but we didn't see much of him either.  I just think that as much as she needed that woman power and the wonderful ladies surrounding her, a decent man somewhere in the story, even if he didn't have much of a role, would have been a good addition.  Also, the vignette feel of the story made it seem rather disjointed and choppy to me.  And there were a few contrivances near the end that seemed to wrap it all up a little too neatly.  But, I did enjoy reading it, promise.  :)

Read-alikes:
A tiny bit like The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
some

mrg-factor: X
mostly implied stuff

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ***

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Book Review: Ruins by Dan Wells

Ruins by Dan Wells
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: March 2014
Pages: 464
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: Partials Sequence, Book 3

Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
Kira, Samm, and Marcus fight to prevent a final war between Partials and humans in the gripping final installment in the Partials Sequence, a series that combines the thrilling action of The Hunger Games with the provocative themes of Blade Runner and The Stand.

There is no avoiding it—the war to decide the fate of both humans and Partials is at hand. Both sides hold in their possession a weapon that could destroy the other, and Kira Walker has precious little time to prevent that from happening. She has one chance to save both species and the world with them, but it will only come at great personal cost.
Things I Liked:
I really enjoyed the end to this series.  I liked how things turned out.  It seemed like Wells had created an absolutely impossible situation and there was no way for it to end well.  But the ending doesn't feel wrong or impossible when it arrives.  The characters each face some very difficult situations and the decisions they make are flawed and you really have to wonder what you would do in the same place.  Would you do any different or make a better choice?  There was one really surprising thing that I did not expect to happen, so when it did I was really wondering what the characters would do next.  But, Wells manages to bring everything to a satisfying and realistic conclusion, I thought.  Great series.

Things I Didn't Like:
I was super confused because I didn't remember much of what happened in the other books (yeah, I never do reread series before the end book).  There were a LOT of characters and they kept popping up and I kept trying to remember who they were and what they had done before.  It made it hard to follow at times, but if those details are fresher in your mind, it will help. 

Read-alikes:
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
The Passage by Justin Cronin
Maybe a bit like Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
maybe a few

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->->
some rather gory details

Overall rating: **** 

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Favorite Reads of 2014

I'm ridiculously behind in reviewing (and general blogging), but I had to post my favorites from this year of reading.  It's been a great year for me, but not generally in the reading department (and definitely not in the blogging area).  I read 71 books this year, but I'll save all the fun stats for a later post (that's my incentive to do said post :).  I have to admit, when I looked over the list, I didn't really have a lot of books that jumped out at me as favorites.  Basically, this was relatively easy!  Here they are, categorized by genre:

YA Historical Fiction:

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Opened my eyes to how many stories and sorrows there are that I will never know about.  Cruelty of humankind will never cease to amaze me.  Also, resiliency!

YA Historical Fantasy:

Chime by Franny Billingsley (review to come)
Fascinating, strange, and beautifully written.  I was engrossed from the start.

YA Fantasy/Sci-fi:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312642970/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0312642970&linkCode=as2&tag=rambofalibr-20&linkId=3YXBECWOP3XQFPSZ
Cress by Marissa Meyer
More, please, Ms. Meyer.  I love this series!

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White (review to come)
I really enjoyed the fantasy and the magic woven in this tale.


Atlantia by Ally Condie (review to come)
Different and unique and once more, beautifully written.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (review to come)
Intriguing and fascinating and if I had had a copy in hand, unputdownable (I listened to the audio).


Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (review to come)
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (review to come)
Let's just get me the last book in this series, already.  I'm always surprised by where these books end up!

MG Historical Fiction:

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Hello, novel in verse.  I love seeing unique historical periods through the eyes of a child.

MG Non-Fiction:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (review to come)
There's a reason this book is being raved about.  It is fantastic and I wish I could just read it over and over all day long.  Also written in verse!

MG Fantasy:

The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy (review to come)
Many thanks, Mr. Healy, for the belly laughs.

Adult Fiction:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (review to come)
Made me really think about where I've been and where I'm going in life.  Who do I want to become?

Adult Fantasy:

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (review to come)
Such a rich and detailed fantasy world Sanderson has created.  I'll take another helping, please!

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread!)
Never gets old.  Truly, the best fantasy for me.

Adult Non-Fiction:

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand (review to come)
The book touched me in many ways, noting again the cruelty of mankind and the ability we have to rise above extremely horrific circumstances.  Truly inspiring!

What were your favorite reads this year?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage
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