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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Want to Meet


I managed to get another post up and it's only been a few days!  I couldn't resist this delightful Top Ten Tuesday topic, though I made sure I didn't have too much overlap with the last one I did (favorite authors).  I have so many authors I'd love to meet.  I used to go to a lot of author events, but since my baby came (you know, almost two years ago), I don't think I've gone to a single one.  So, I'm feeling a bit sad about that, but I'm sure I'll get back to meeting authors again sometime.  Here are ten I'm eager to meet!

1. Kierstin White
2. Heather Dixon
3. Julianne Donaldson
4. Jacqueline Woodson
5. Christopher Healy
6. Rae Carson
7. Alethea Kontis
8. Maggie Stiefvater
9. Elizabeth Wein
10. Diana Peterfreund


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

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mini Reviews 18

Hey, not only is this the last of the mini reviews (for a while), but it's the last of my 2014 book reviews! I'm only five months behind - yeah?


Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Summary:
When Elizabeth Darcy's sister Lydia shows up unannounced at Pemberley, the Darcy's quiet world is shattered.  Wickham and their friend Denny got into an argument and Denny is found dead.  Wickham is the chief suspect and that brings even more shame to the Darcy family name, as Mr. Darcy's brother-in-law.  Can Elizabeth and Darcy hold their position and their family together under such pressure?

My Thoughts:
This one suffered in comparison to the mini series.  I watched it first and then read the book and not only was the fun taken out of the mystery, since I knew who had done it, but I found it a lot less exciting and intense than the show.  I admit the mini series took some liberties that I laughed at, particularly with regard to Lizzy's role in the whole thing.  Still, it made the book seem a lot slower and more boring.  Plus, mystery still isn't my favorite genre of choice.  Meh.
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The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Summary:
Carthya is on the brink of war and Jaron is fighting to keep his throne.  But when an unexpected threat arises, he is about to risk all in order to keep what is his.  He is ready to make a desperate move to save the kingdom, the throne, and those he cares about. Will it be enough?

My Thoughts:
I really liked the start of the series, and I am satisfied by the ending and how everything turned out. I remember enjoying the action and the excitement of watching Jeron do crazy things for his throne and his love.  I love how Nielsen is able to plot twists that are fantastic and that I don't usually see coming, though a few of them I do.  But, to be honest, it's been a few months and I can't remember much of what happened.  So, I guess there's that against it.
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Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Summary:
Sophronia continues her training as a spy and this time is caught up in a conspiracy brooding in London.  As their floating school makes its way straight into the heart of the trouble, she and her friends must discover who is behind this plot before it's too late for them all.

My Thoughts:
Well, this series is fun to read when you just want a lark.  There are plenty of politics (of the supernatural variety) and intrigue going on to keep you reading.  Also, I really like Sophronia, despite her doing some really annoying things in the romance department.  I think I do read them for the characters and the silliness.  Definitely a nice break from serious stuff (not that I was reading serious stuff anyway.)
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In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Eve Story by David McCullough

Summary from goodreads:
Christmas Eve, 1941. Mere days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt met at the White House. As war raged throughout the world, the two leaders delivered a powerful message of hope that still resonates today.
My Thoughts:
This is basically a transcript from a program McCullough did with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for a Christmas program (I did read this around Christmas - I was super proud of myself for doing some thematic reading, since I don't usually - too bad I didn't get a review posted until May).  But it was too short and I really wanted more details about the historical period.  There was an interesting address by PM Churchill that made me want to read a bio of him (now to figure out which of the 3 billion to read).
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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Summary:
An autobiography of the author written in verse, describes her childhood and youth and all that led her to writing stories and becoming the person she is today.

My Thoughts:
Love, love love it!  This was fantastic.  I know why this won the National Book Award (and other delightful shiny stickers). It is written so, so well (and I sometimes have a hard time with verse novels).  The story is amazing and I adored hearing more about the time period and the things Jacqueline dealt with.  Her family were awesome (well, most of them)!
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Chime by Franny Billingsley

Summary:
Briony is living with so many secrets and so much guilt, she can hardly breathe some days.  Determined never to let anyone know just what she's done, she leads a painful life of deception.  Until she begins to see that things might not have been as she thought.

My Thoughts:
This book was super weird and interesting and confusing.  I can't believe how long it took me to get to it (I got an ARC way back when).  I was sucked in from the first page!  The story was convoluted and I had no idea what was going on a lot of the time, but I have to admit I was wowed.  I loved how the end came about and how things just sort of clicked.  Intriguing, strange, and very gorgeously written!


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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mini Reviews 17

Tired of the minis yet? Only one more...I think :)


Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter

Summary:
Kat and Hale have always had a unique relationship, but when Hale takes on a huge family responsibility, it seems he must give up Kat. But she is determined to fight for him, despite the fact that in trying to save him, she might lose him altogether.

My Thoughts:
I just really love to read Ally Carter's books.  They are fun, light, clean and entertaining.  It's always just the right amount of serious stuff mixed with adventure and intrigue and crime family stuff.  Romance doesn't hurt too.  I'll pretty much read anything of hers.
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Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor

Summary:
When Raine's mother takes a summer job at an old house in the country, Raine and her grandfather are both shocked.  Raine must not only get used to the strange ways of the artists who live at Sparrow Road, but she is about to have her life changed in a very unexpected way.

My Thoughts:
This was kind of a sweet and quirky story about coming of age, I guess.  Living at Sparrow Road was strange and wonderful.  I'm not sure how much the youth today would relate to her situation, except of course her not knowing her father.  I imagine there are plenty of kids who know what that is like.  I liked how their relationship grew.  Overall, just sweet and with interesting characters.
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Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Summary:
Isla has had a secret crush on Josh for years, but it's only in the summer before their senior year that she finally has a chance to talk to him.  And that's only the beginning.  Things begin to heat up when they return to their school in Paris, until they hit some road bumps.  Can their budding romance last?

My Thoughts:
There was loads of swooning on the internets when Perkins published this book (and any other book she will publish).  I found the romance sweet and exciting, but I just didn't fall in love with the book.  I really liked Kurt and the idea of their friendship - almost wanted that to be more of the focus of the book.  Still, it was well-written and fun.  I don't relate at all really with any of the characters from Perkins' books (definitely never made those kinds of choices when I was a teen), but they are fun to read anyway.
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Atlantia by Ally Condie

Summary:
Rio and Bay live Below - in a city under the water.  Rio has always dreamed of going above, but when her sister makes an unexpected choice, she finds herself stranded below.  Feeling hurt and alone, missing both Bay and her mother, Rio begins to seek answers to questions she didn't even know she had.  She also begins to understand just what the power of her voice might mean for her future.

My Thoughts:
I really love Ally Condie's way of writing.  I found the world she created here really interesting and I loved getting to know Rio and seeing where she grew up.  The idea of sirens was cool too and how their powers, etc, played a big part of the story.  It is kind of a quiet book, but I just thought it was so interesting - the place, the people, and motivations.  I was less interested in the last part of the book, though lots of action kept me reading.  I'm definitely invested if there are more books to come.
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In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo

Summary from goodreads:
Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.
Thomas and Charles are brothers who’ve been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can’t.

My Thoughts:
I totally enjoyed this unique book format - the story is told in alternating prose and pictures. I loved having words interspersed with the creepy details in the drawings. The story took me a while to figure out (the drawings especially) but when I finally felt things making sense it was awesome. Love these characters and the strangeness of the creepy story. Definitely need to reread sometime.


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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Authors

 

I really wanted to participate in Top Ten Tuesday again this week - I love seeing everyone's favorite authors.  Since I only have a few minutes to pound out this post, apologies for not doing it proper justice with pictures and links and such. 

Top Ten (of the many, many) Favorite Authors:
Jane Austen
Juliet Marillier
Laini Taylor
Shannon Hale
Cinda Williams Chima
Gary D. Schmidt
Richard Peck
Brandon Sanderson
Robin McKinley
J.R.R. Tolkien

And there you have it.  Any you haven't read? Let me convince you :)

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

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mini Reviews 16


The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah M. Ladd

Summary:
Amelia Barrett is a wealthy heiress and content in life, until her friend dies and begs Amelia to care for her baby.  Amelia is ready to do everything in her power to honor that promise, including proposing to the child's father, despite all social expectations.

My Thoughts:
A sweet and fun historical romance that had a different enough plot to remain interesting, if predictable and a bit forgettable. I rather liked the religious aspect too.
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Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

Summary:
Sherlock Holmes is only fourteen and not yet grown into his powers of observation and deduction.  But when he determines to discover the cause of the deaths of two people while he's on break from school, he is about to begin a life-long career of solving mysteries.

My Thoughts:
Kind of a fun book introducing us to a young Sherlock and his first mystery adventure. I found some of it a bit dull, but managed to enjoy it despite its rather implausible plot.
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Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Summary: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
Blue and her friends are getting closer and closer to finding Glendower and the path to him is becoming increasingly perilous.  When Blue's mother goes missing, they become even more hopelessly tangled in the search for the king.

My Thoughts:
I still love these characters and I crave more of their adventures. I'm somewhat tired of waiting for the end to come, but I enjoyed the story, if not the smattering of f-bombs.
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Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Summary:
Nyx is betrothed to the monster that enslaved her people. Her destiny is to marry him and discover a way to kill him so they can all be free.  But she doesn't count on the unyielding attraction she feels for the smooth, charming monster.

My Thoughts:
I listened to this audio and it took me forever, but every time I started listening I was sucked into the story. It felt unique despite being a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and some Greek mythological inspiration. I adored the very much flawed characters, especially Nyx. The ending was strange and surprising and also satisfying. I was deliciously entertained and can't wait for more from her! (I'm currently reading Crimson Bound and enjoying it, though somewhat less than this one.)
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Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Summary:
Avery Roe is desperate to take her place as the witch on her island, protecting the people from storm and other dangers at sea.  Her mother is determined to keep her from that destiny.  But when Avery sees a disturbing vision of her own future, she must find a way to escape her mother and become the witch.

My Thoughts:
I really wanted to like this more. I tried to love the characters, but really just hated Avery. She did some really stupid things and didn't often realize how dumb they were, even later. Her obsession with her magic and how to get it felt just a bit ridiculous to me. I did enjoy the writing, the vivid setting and some elements of the plot, but ultimately felt like it fell short and was forgettable. Especially the romance. Meh.


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

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Book Review: The Swap by Megan Shull

A Karissa Review
 The Swap by Megan Shull
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication date: August 2014
Pages: 400

Summary from GoodReads:
YOU BE ME...AND I'LL BE YOU.”
Ellie spent the summer before seventh grade getting dropped by her best friend since forever. Jack spent it training in “The Cage” with his tough-as-nails brothers and hard-to-please dad. By the time middle school starts, they’re both ready for a change. And just as Jack’s thinking girls have it so easy, Ellie’s wishing she could be anyone but herself.
Then, BAM! They swap lives—and bodies!
Now Jack’s fending off mean girls at sleepover parties while Ellie’s reigning as the Prince of Thatcher Middle School. As their crazy weekend races on—and their feelings for each other grow—Ellie and Jack begin to realize that maybe the best way to learn how to be yourself is to spend a little time being someone else.
Things I Liked:
I picked this up just because it was new, but I didn’t expect much from it. I was pleasantly surprised – it’s a light read, but still goes deep in some parts. I really, really liked it. It deals with kinda the stereotypical mean girls and jr. high mumbo jumbo, but it does it well. Plus, adding the wrinkle of a boy being in the girl’s body is fun. (In fact, one of my favorite parts is, soon after they switch, Ellie has to go to the bathroom, but doesn’t exactly know how to do so as a boy – Jack’s coaching made me laugh out loud.)
I really liked the ending, as the characters were strong for each other in a way they couldn’t be for themselves.
Now, if Disney did this as a teen flick, they’d totally ruin it and do this Lindsey Lohan kinda thing to it, so this is one book I hope they don’t turn into a movie.

Things I Didn't Like:
I initially didn’t like the stereotypical stuff, but as I said, it goes further, so it turned out okay.

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none
sorta – there is a small kissing scene, and a “teen boy” part – but both not dwelt on

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ***.5

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

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Mini Reviews 15


The Caller by Juliet Marillier

Summary:
Some spoilers for the previous two books in the Shadowfell series
Neryn is seeking to complete her training with all the guardians, but the task is proving difficult.  Then, just when she thinks she might finish in time, another unforeseen threat arises that makes her position even more precarious, and Neryn must decide to put herself in a dangerous situation to help save them all.

My Thoughts:
I really enjoy everything by Juliet Marillier that I read.  She has an amazing writing talent, in her descriptions and word choice, but especially in her ability to bring fairy stories to life.  The fairy world she's created feels very real and the characters, both human and fairy, are so intriguing and fascinating.  I love the way the fair folk speak, because it honestly makes them even more real.  And makes me want to visit this place, despite its despicable tyrant.  The story was a bit contrived and the ending rather convenient, but I still enjoyed it.  Can't wait for more from this author!
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The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Summary:
Colonel Protheroe was murdered - at the vicarage, in fact, and the police are having a difficult time figuring out just who might have done it.  Everyone seems suspect, especially considering how unpopular the colonel was.  But the unlikely Miss Jane Marple, a white-haired old lady, is the keenest detective in town and will have the mystery figured out in no time.

My Thoughts:
It took me ages to listen to this on audio (thank you, Sync), but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I'm not much of a mystery person, but there's a reason Agatha Christie is famous for her books.  Throughout the story, I was sure the murderer was one person, then another, then someone else entirely.  I was completely surprised.  Interesting characters and story, not to mention the look at small-town life where everyone knows and talks about everyone else.
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Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

Summary from goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her hacking skills to stay anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in a warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side.

Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa’s talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation threatens his life in no uncertain terms. But what Noa and Peter don’t realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who’d stop at nothing to silence her for good.
My Thoughts:
I really tried to like this one more (I couldn't even write a summary).  I thought it sounded intriguing and loved the idea of it.  The characters were uninteresting and worse, I disliked them.  I couldn't even bring myself to root for them.  The story seemed to be a little bit all over the place.  It's been a while since I read it and I can't even remember much of what happens.  Too bad, since it really sounded interesting.
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Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Summary:
Not sure I can even do a summary.  Let's say this: evil emperor, underdogs making an effort to overthrow him, seriously cool powers: allomancy, fabulously created fantasy world.

My Thoughts:
This was my first adult Brandon Sanderson book.  Wow, he really does have a talent.  Yes, the books are thick and detailed and full of world-building.  I loved every second of it.  I adored the characters and I need to find the time to read the rest of this series.  This world is fascinating and complicated and I am so in awe of Sanderson's ability to create multiple worlds of this depth.  Need more!
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Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers for the previous two books in the Lynburn Legacy series*
Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.
My Thoughts:
I have to admit, the first book in this series was my favorite. I found as I continued the series that I was less and less interested.  Yes, things are more scary and dark.  Yes, Kami is still fabulous and her entire personality fascinates me.  The dialog and the interactions of all the characters is the most interesting thing about this series.  I love the humor and how they still manage to be teenagers despite the horrible stuff they're fighting.  The end seemed a little crazy and all over and what in the world is going on here, but satisfying too.  Even if a cried so much over a particular part :(

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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mini Reviews 14

Time to play catch up on 2014 books and a whole slew of mini reviews are headed your way.  Enjoy?


Switched by Amanda Hocking

Summary: 
Wendy hasn't had an easy life, what with her mother trying to kill her when she was six.  But, things are about to get way more complicated when a mysterious guy comes to take her "home." She's a changeling and now she's thrown into a whole new magical world that she has no idea how to navigate.

My Thoughts:
Blech, blah, ugh.  If this hadn't been for a book group, I would have chucked it long and hard.  I did not enjoy the writing (a rather kind way of putting it), the characters made me crazy, the story was derivative, and I just didn't care what happened.  After having a book club member who loved it tell me what happens in the rest of the series, I'm soooooo glad I didn't bother reading more.  Save yourself from this book. (Whew, sorry that was such a nasty review - I had a pretty strong reaction. Lots of other people really like this series, so read some other opinions before writing it off completely :)
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House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini
Summary:
When Cordelia, Brendan, and Eleanor move into a mysterious new mansion, they expect to have adventures. Just not to be thrown into a world full of warriors, pirates, and evil queens. Now they have to figure out just where they are and how they will get home again.

My Thoughts:
I had a lovely friend recommend this to me. I still like that friend. I did not like this book. Almost in the first three chapters I wanted to stop reading, but made myself continue so that I could return it and tell her I finished. The writing left much to be desired. Every other sentence had a product drop (this will age the book very quickly) and I couldn't bring myself to care about characters who didn't have much in the way of personality. Also, the plot was very convoluted, all over the place, and not entirely sure where it was going. Not worth the time spent reading it, I felt.
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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Summary:
During an ordinary day at the gym, Alice falls and suffers some memory loss - as in the last ten years of her life. Alice only remembers being in love with her husband, expecting her first child, and loving where she was at in life. She is forced to face the truth of her 10 years older life - getting divorced, three children, and completely different from who she was before. So, which Alice is she?

My Thoughts:
Hey, I actually enjoyed this one :). I bet you thought this whole post would be full of negative reviews. Anyway, we read this for book group as well and I found it really fascinating. What I liked most wasn't even the story or characters, it was the idea of looking back at myself ten years ago and wondering if I would like who I am now. We change in such subtle ways we might not notice until we are somewhere completely different. Also, because of my personal experiences with infertility, I was dying for more of Elizabeth's story. Thought-provoking.
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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Summary:
This tells the story of Louis Zamperini, former Olympian runner who gets caught up World War II as an airman. His incredible story of survival of a plane crash, days adrift at sea, and as a prisoner of war will enthrall and horrify. But his survival and how he deals with all of it, will inspire.

My Thoughts:
This is a powerful story. I love how detailed and very well-researched this book was. As I was reading, I kept thinking Louis' life couldn't get any more horrifying. And then it would. It always seems like I read fiction because it is more interesting than real life. This disproves that 1000 times over. Near the end, I was super depressed, because he really just struggles so much and against such terrible odds. And then he finally comes home and he has to deal with the emotional and physical toll that being imprisoned and tortured left on him. But the most beautiful part of all is what the title suggests. He was unbroken. It's a tough read, but if you get to the end, you will see your life in a whole new way.
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Matilda by Roald Dahl

Summary:
Matilda is pretty much a genius, but brushed off by her uninterested parents. She hoped school would be different, but Ms. Trunchbull the evil school mistress is determined to squelch any fire of Matilda's spirit. But Matilda is determined to fight back.

My Thoughts:
I'd never read this book as a kid and I really enjoyed watching Matilda discover herself and deal with the difficult family she had. I was a bit surprised at how there doesn't seem to be much of a story, though. It was much more simplistic and convenient (particularly the very end) to be believable. I'm quite sure I'd have loved it as a kid, but reading it as an adult, I found it just a bit ridiculous.
If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage
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