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Friday, January 24, 2014

Book Review: The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer

The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date: September 2013
Pages: 432
Source: e-book from Edelweiss
For: Review
Series: Sequel to House of the Scorpion

Summary from goodreads:
The new book continues the story of Matt, the boy who was cloned from evil drug lord El PatrĂ³n in The House of the Scorpion. Now 14 years old, Matt rules his own country, the Land of Opium, the only thriving place in a world ravaged by ecological disaster. Though he knows that the cure for ending the suffering is hidden in Opium, Matt faces obstacles and enemies at every turn when he tries to use his power to help.
Things I Liked:
I have to admit I had really high expectations on this one, as I adored House of the Scorpion.  While it still had a lot of the same stuff that was so good about the first: the medical ethics of clones and eejits (implanted with brain chips), the corrupt and difficult world of drug trafficking, etc.  I found it to be a LOT slower and a lot less exciting than the first.  It wasn't that I didn't find it interesting, because it was.  I loved Matt discovering what else was going on in his world and what other things El Patron had hidden away.  There was a lot for him to find out.  I enjoyed seeing a more complete picture of Opium as well.  The end did pick up quite a bit and things began to be more exciting, but then I found some of the resolution to be a bit disappointing.

Things I Didn't Like:
As I mentioned, it moved along at a very slow pace, story wise.  It seemed like nothing ever really happened, except Matt would tour his new lands and see lots of new things he didn't know about.  There was some careful plotting involved in seeing all those things, but not enough to make this a quick read.  It took me a long time to finish.  The ending, as I said, picked up quite a bit and things began to get more intense.  But, the ultimate resolution to one of the biggest things Matt faced was so quick, easy, and complete that I couldn't believe it just happened.  It felt like a big cop-out.  Things ended really neatly as well and seemed a little bit too happy for the place/time Farmer had created.  I don't know, I felt a bit cheated.  Still, overall, I enjoyed seeing what happened after the events in House of the Scorpion, but I think I expected a bit too much.

Read-alikes:
Definitely start with House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

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

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
definitely some fighting and other difficult/abusive things discussed

Overall rating:***.5

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
Publisher: Listening Library
Publication date: January 2012
Length: 7 hrs, 56 min
Source: Audiobook from Library
For: Fun

Summary from goodreads:
“We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful” is the motto of Deza Malone’s family.

Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie’s beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father.

The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.
Things I Liked:
Oh I love it when a book like this steals into your heart.  I read Bud, Not Buddy a looong time ago and loved it, but didn't even remember Deza Malone from that.  Still, I fell for her, hard.  This book tore me apart, feeling happy, sad, and everything in between.  Deza is a girl with fire in her heart and an irrepressable spirit!  I absolutely adored her "second brain" because I think a lot of us feel that way.  So much made this book just so great, not the least of which were the many historical details that painted her life in color.  It was sobering but hopeful.  Just loved it.  The narrator, Bahni Turpin, did such a fabulous job too; I felt like she was spot on for Deza's voice.

Things I Didn't Like:
I don't even know if I can think of something I didn't like about it.  I'm sure there are flaws, but I didn't see them.

Read-alikes:
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
A bit like Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

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

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review: Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Publisher: Flash Point
Publication date: September 2012
Pages: 272
Source: Library
For: Fun (and Newbery reading)

Summary from goodreads:
In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.
Things I Liked:
It's no secret that I don't read a lot of non-fiction.  It's not even that I don't like it, it's more that I have a hard time deciding what will interest me and what won't.  Well, this book had no trouble at all interesting me.  I was fascinated from beginning to end.  It was energetic and it never seemed to drag or get too detailed or boring.  I loved seeing the story from so many different perspectives and it really was interesting to hear about people who wanted to build it, steal it, and find out where their enemies were at in this same process.  Great, great nonfiction.

Things I Didn't Like:
The only thing I wished was that there were more photos/news clippings or something throughout the text.  It definitely could have done with some breaking up of the chapters more with visuals.  There were some at the beginning of each chapter and some at the very end, but seeing them while you're reading about it is my favorite.

Read-alikes:
Not sure if I can think of any...

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !
a few here and there

mrg-factor:none

v-factor:->->
well, the bombs were dropped and it talks about first-hand experiences - not in too much detail though

Overall rating: *****

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: Fragments by Dan Wells

Fragments by Dan Wells
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Publication date: February 2013
Pages: 576
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: Partials, Book 2

Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first book, Partials*
Kira Walker has found the cure for RM, but the battle for the survival of humans and Partials is just beginning. Kira has left East Meadow in a desperate search for clues to who she is. That the Partials themselves hold the cure for RM in their blood cannot be a coincidence—it must be part of a larger plan, a plan that involves Kira, a plan that could save both races. Her companions are Afa Demoux, an unhinged drifter and former employee of ParaGen, and Samm and Heron, the Partials who betrayed her and saved her life, the only ones who know her secret. But can she trust them?

Meanwhile, back on Long Island, what's left of humanity is gearing up for war with the Partials, and Marcus knows his only hope is to delay them until Kira returns. But Kira's journey will take her deep into the overgrown wasteland of postapocalyptic America, and Kira and Marcus both will discover that their greatest enemy may be one they didn't even know existed.
Things I Liked:
This dystopian sci-fi book is exciting and fairly unique and has plenty of unexpected twists and turns.  I felt like there was a lot going on and I should never get bored.  I loved watching, especially near the end, how much Kira had to reevaluate the things she thought were true.  It was interesting to look at the moral and ethical dilemmas that she and many others in this world have faced.  Choices play a huge role and I thought this was the most fascinating part, despite the acid rain and the talking dogs.  Just a really good story.

Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit, I got a little tired of the sort-of sameness that went on for much of the book.  It seemed like it dragged on and on while they traveled and traveled and traveled some more.  Maybe my attention span has waned recently, because I just wanted it to be shorter.  Still, I found it fascinating and entertaining and exciting with a lot of things going on all at once.  I'm definitely invested enough to get that next book.

Read-alikes:
Start with Partials by Dan Wells
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
The Passage by Justin Cronin

BOOK CONTENT RATINGS:
s-factor: !@
not too many, no f-bombs

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
plenty of fighting, action, and killing - there is a war

Overall rating: ****

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

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Classic Double Challenge, 2014: Sign Up!


I'm so excited to bring back the Classic Double Challenge for another year!  Despite my spotty at best blogging of late, I wanted to do this challenge again for any of you looking for motivation to read a retelling or classic.  I love the idea of new retellings bringing love to our old favorites.

By "classics" I'm being very loose in my definition, as this challenge lets you read fairy tales, mythologies, classics, any kind of original story to compare with a retelling. Also "retelling" is pretty loose too - the original and the newer book have to relate in some way that you can define; it doesn't have to be a straight-forward retelling.  Hopefully these definitions allow you the wiggle room needed to find something to fit your fancy.

Here are a few examples:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  
The first is kind of a "classic" and in the second, the main character loves A Wrinkle in Time and it plays a part in the plot, but this is not a retelling. 
 
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series by Kenneth Oppel.
The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein is a prequel series to Frankenstein. 

 
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane by April Lindner.
Jane is a retelling of Jane Eyre, set in a modern day.


So, you can see there are lots of options for you.  If you need some inspiration for retellings, I've compiled a rather extensive list of retellings.  I have another list for fairy tale retellings.  Also, during the Retell Me a Story celebration next month I will be highlighting some newer retellings that have been released or are coming out soon. 

And, of course, there are levels of participation, so you can choose how much or how little you'd like to commit to:

Small: You read 2 related books.

Medium: You read 4 books (2 sets of related books).

Large: You read 6 books (3 sets of related books).

Super Size: You read 8 books (4 sets of related books).

Once you decide on your level of participation, post your pledge on your blog/tumblr/goodreads/in the comments and maybe give us some possibilities of what you want to read (obviously, these aren't set in stone).  When you complete a pair, feel free to write reviews/reactions/comparisons/whathaveyou about the books and I'll have a monthly link up here to share our progress.


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