Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: February 2011
Pages: 272
Source: Review copy from Publisher
For: Review (and Newbery)

Summary from goodreads: 
No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.
Things I Liked:
What a wonderful story!  I loved seeing what it must have been like for a young girl growing up in Vietnam during the war.  I know next to nothing about the time period or the war or Vietnam, so this was a true eye opener for me.  It was so interesting to read about the hardships they endured pretty much everywhere they went, but so sad to see how they were received in America.  And I really liked that it was in verse.  I admit to not reading a lot of books in verse, but this was well written and the format only contributed to the story.  Obvious reasons that this was the National Book Award winner and a Newbery Honor book.

Things I Didn't Like:
Hm, not much.  I wish we could have had a few more details about what her family experienced in America, but it was told from her viewpoint and the limited detail was quite accurate.

Can't think of anything...

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
well, maybe not violence, but some bad stuff does happen to her

Overall rating: *****

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: War Brides by Helen Bryan

War Brides by Helen Bryan
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: 2007
Pages: 496
Source: Purchased e-book
For: Book Group

Summary from goodreads:
With war threatening to spread from Europe to England, the sleepy village of Crowmarsh Priors settles into a new sort of normal: Evacuees from London are billeted in local homes. Nightly air raids become grimly mundane. The tightening vice of rationing curtails every comfort. Men leave to fight and die. And five women forge an unlikely bond of friendship that will change their lives forever. 

Alice Osbourne, the stolid daughter of the late vicar, is reeling from the news that Richard Fairfax broke their engagement to marry Evangeline Fontaine, an American girl from the Deep South. Evangeline's arrival causes a stir in the village but not the chaos that would ensue if they knew her motives for being there. Scrappy Elsie Pigeon is among the poor of London who see the evacuations as a chance to escape a life of destitution. Another new arrival is Tanni Zayman, a young Jewish girl who fled the horrors of Europe and now waits with her newborn son, certain that the rest of her family is safe and bound to show up any day. And then there's Frances Falconleigh, a madcap, fearless debutante whose father is determined to keep her in the countryside and out of the papers. 

As the war and its relentless hardships intensify around them, the same struggles that threaten to rip apart their lives also bring the five closer together. They draw strength from one another to defeat formidable enemies: hunger, falling bombs, the looming threat of a Nazi invasion, and a traitor in their midst, and find remarkable strength within themselves to help their friends. Theirs is a war-forged loyalty that will outlast the fiercest battle and endure years and distance. When four of the women return to Crowmarsh Priors for a VE Day celebration fifty years later, television cameras focus on the heartwarming story of these old women as war brides of a bygone age, but miss the more newsworthy angle. The women's mission is not to commemorate or remember; they've returned to settle a score and avenge one of their own.
Things I Liked:
There really is no concise way to summarize the book.  I was really immersed in the historical story, the war story of all the very different women's lives.  I found the details and the interactions of each of the women fascinating.  I wanted to laugh and cry with them and all they struggled with.  During that portion of the book, I really enjoyed the story.  It was fantastic historical fiction and obviously well-researched and well-written.  I had some real issues with the end, though, that kind of tainted my enjoyment.

Things I Didn't Like:
As I mentioned, there were a number of things I didn't like.  First, the prologue was very confusing.  I found that starting in the "present day" (1995, I think) left me just not sure what or who or anything.  But most of what I didn't like was the ending.  The very last parts of the historical story were rushed and then abruptly cut off.  It seemed only half-finished, and obviously Bryan wanted to complete the story from the present looking back, but I think it could have been more gently done.  I was a bit angry that we didn't get more of Alice at that point, as things were going in an interesting direction (finally).  And at the end when they are having their reunion I was just plain appalled at what happened.  It seemed really out of character for some of them and completely out of the blue.  I can understand some of what they are feeling, but honestly, it did not seem to fit the rest of the story.  Despite my disappointments with the way things ended for the characters back in the 40s, the ending of the book really made me end up disliking the whole thing. 

Well, the historical part reminded me a bit of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

s-factor: !@

mrg-factor: XX
a bit too descriptive at times

v-factor: ->
some, since there was a war, but not too graphic

Overall rating: **

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: January 2014
Pages: 400
Source: e-book from Library
For: Fun!
Series: Under the Never Sky, Book 3

Summary from goodreads: *Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books*
The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.

Within the confines of a cave they're using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn't just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival--he's also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most.
Things I Liked:
Exciting, fast-paced end of a good series.  I like this series a lot, especially because it doesn't seem to fall into the second and third book issues I don't enjoy.  I did think things got a little convenient in the end, and I wasn't happy with how things happened with Cinder, but overall, a good end to the series.  A fascinating world and pretty well fleshed out.  Loved the many different kinds of characters and how they all felt very individual.  Aria and Perry were a little too cheesy at times, but I guess they earned it.  But Roar is the one who fascinates me.

Things I Didn't Like:
It has its flaws, but I really just enjoyed the read.  The end, as I mentioned, sometimes was a bit too convenient, particularly in what happened with Perry, but still.

Still reminds me a tiny bit of Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Dust Lands series by Moira Young
s-factor: !@

mrg-factor: X
generally implied

v-factor: ->->->
quite a bit

Overall rating: ****

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Dangerous by Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication date: March 2014
Pages: 416
Source: Purchased
For: Hale!

Summary from goodreads:
Maisie Danger Brown just wanted to get away from home for a bit, see something new. She never intended to fall in love. And she never imagined stumbling into a frightening plot that kills her friends and just might kill her, too. A plot that is already changing life on Earth as we know it. There's no going back. She is the only thing standing between danger and annihilation.
Things I Liked:
This was a departure from Shannon Hale's usual fare.  But I loved it.  I liked our main character Maisie and I watched what happened to her with great interest.  There were many surprises in store, only a few of which I actually guessed before hand.  I thought the story was pretty cool, even if it didn't seem terribly original.  I love superhero stories, so it was kind of destined to be enjoyed by me.  I really liked how not everything worked out to make Maisie happy ever after.  It felt more real.  Good story!

Things I Didn't Like:
I pretty much just liked it and didn't notice any flaws that may have been visible to others.

False Memory by Dan Krokos
I'm really drawing a blank, seems like there are a lot!

s-factor: !
I think there may have been one or two

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
there are some surprisingly violent scenes

Overall rating: ****

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

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Literary Costume

Better start indoctrinating her while she's young :). Literary costumes are the best! Here's our very hungry caterpillar:

And the two pear(ent)s that she ate through:

Of course, for our church trunk or treat, I figured, why not?

Now I've got to decide what I can dress her as next year...
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