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Archive for April, 2014|Monthly archive page

Say It Ain’t So

In YA Book Reviews on April 29, 2014 at 6:05 pm

18077825by Josh Berk

Mystery/©2014/279 pages/Recommended for ages 8-12

Publisher’s Summary (Goodreads):

Lenny, Mike, and Other Mike are back in school for the glory that is seventh grade, and this year, Mike is determined to make catcher on the middle-school team. When Mike’s hard work pays off and he wins the coveted postition, Lenny is a little jealous, but he’ll settle for being the team’s unofficial announcer.

The team has a brilliant new pitcher, Hunter Ashwell, and though he’s a bit of a jerk, he and Mike have a great pitcher/catcher dynamic that could make the team champions. But things take a strange turn when Hunter’s perfect pitching streak goes downhill, and Lenny suspects foul play—specifically, someone stealing Mike’s catcher signals. But who could be responsible, and why?

My Thoughts: I found out about this book in the Goodreads’ Mock Newbery 2015 group, and I can definitely see why it is a possible contender. It is second in a series, but the series part has to do with the continuity of characters not continuity of story arc, so it is not necessary to have read the first book (Strike Three, You’re Dead). This book is hilarious! The story is told from Lenny’s viewpoint, and he learns some important life lessons as he goes about trying to solve the mystery. Great characters, excellent writing, and just an overall pleasure to read. It is going to definitely appeal to the middle grade student, but I think adults will get a kick out of it as well. I certainly did!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

 

Dreams of Gods & Monsters

In YA Book Reviews on April 20, 2014 at 3:53 pm

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 by Laini Taylor
YA Fantasy/©2014/613 Pages/Third in a Trilogy/Recommended for age 13 and up

Publisher Summary(Goodreads):

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?

My Thoughts: There is just so much to truly appreciate about the conclusion of this trilogy – the absolutely incredible writing, the amazingly complex plot with all its didn’t-see-this-coming twists and turns, the added dimensions to and the fabulous sense of humor embedded in the main characters. All in all, it has been an amazing read. It may not have been a perfect conclusion. A few loose ends were tied up a little too quickly and a few loose ends weren’t really tied up at all. That said…still a very satisfying conclusion to an epic read. Especially satisfying, I might add, because the ending looks a lot like a set up for more books to come. Be still my heart. My hat is off to Laini Taylor. She is an amazing writer.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Favorite Quotes (Goodreads)

https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/19221595-dreams-of-gods-monsters

More Detailed Thoughts from Other Reviewers:

http://katiesbookblog.com/2014/04/dreams-gods-monsters-dosab-3-laini-taylor.html

 

Loving Frank

In My Book Club Books on April 19, 2014 at 9:07 pm

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 by Nancy Horan

Publisher’s Summary:

I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current.

So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.

In this ambitious debut novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America’s greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Cheney’s profound influence on Wright.

Drawing on years of research, Horan weaves little-known facts into a compelling narrative, vividly portraying the conflicts and struggles of a woman forced to choose between the roles of mother, wife, lover, and intellectual. Horan’s Mamah is a woman seeking to find her own place, her own creative calling in the world. Mamah’s is an unforgettable journey marked by choices that reshape her notions of love and responsibility, leading inexorably ultimately lead to this novel’s stunning conclusion.

Elegantly written and remarkably rich in detail, Loving Frank is a fitting tribute to a courageous woman, a national icon, and their timeless love story.

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Book Club Discussion: I would say we all enjoyed reading this book and agreed that it was full of things to discuss – definitely a good choice for a book club group!  We were all impressed with the amount of research that went into writing this book, how she gathered together all of the facts and weaved a very plausible story. Both main characters were definitely flawed, both having left their respective spouses and children (eight between them), to carry on their affair until Mamah’s untimely death. Of the two, however, Frank garnered the least sympathy and understanding. We all agreed he was a jerk of the highest order (not  our exact words, but close enough). A main point of discussion was the fact that Mamah could leave her children for FLW. How would that Mamah be perceived in today’s society? Have we as women progressed beyond the ideas of Mamah’s time? Was what she did acceptable in terms of her right to live a life that is more fulfilling for her? Sadly, we agreed that women are still held to different standards from men even today, and women’s rights haven’t advanced nearly enough in the hundred years that have passed since Mamah’s time. Definitely thought provoking questions that yielded lively discussion.

More details of our meeting: Our book club discussion took place over dinner. In addition to an Easter themed table setting, a Frank Lloyd Wright design piece took center stage.IMG_6990

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Book Club Wisconsin Cheese Inspired Menu

Hors d’oeuvres: cheeses/crackers, hummus/pita chips, green onion dip and vegetables, blue cheese popcorn
Main Course: Coconut Lime Chicken Soup with Dutch Crunch Bread
Chop Chop Salad
Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate Sauce
Macaroni and Cheese
Dessert: Chocolate Fondue with Fruit, Pound Cake and Angel Food Cake

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Days of Blood & Starlight

In YA Book Reviews on April 19, 2014 at 6:32 pm

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 by Laini Taylor

YA Fantasy/©2012/518 Pages/Second in a Trilogy/Recommended for age 12 and up

Publisher Summary:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is–and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

My Thoughts:

There is a definite shift in tone in this book, some added characters, and a much darker story line. That said, Laini Taylor continued to weave her magic as a master storyteller and writer. Interestingly, the author chose to shift from telling the story from Karou’s viewpoint in the first book to telling the story from several different characters’ perspectives in this book. Without revealing the main details, suffice it to say that the twists and turns were breathtaking. I especially appreciated the increased involvement of Zuzana and Mik and the introduction of several new characters, especially Akira’s siblings and Ziri. They all added greatly to the story. All in all, reading this book was quite the roller coaster ride.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Another Review (with spoilers):

http://thebooksmugglers.com/2012/11/book-review-days-of-blood-and-starlight-by-laini-taylor.html

 

Daughter of Smoke & Bone

In YA Book Reviews on April 11, 2014 at 8:01 pm

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by Laini Taylor

YA Fantasy/©2011/448 Pages/First in a Trilogy/Recommended for age 12 and up

Publisher Overview:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

First Sentence: “Once upon a time an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”

My Thoughts:

This book has been out for three years and has generated major acclaim. I kept considering it, rejecting it, reconsidering it until someone just handed me the book (thank you, Katy Johnson!). Let me just say, the book is completely worthy of every wonderful thing ever said about it. The characters are fascinating and well developed. Karou (the double life leading, blue-haired, martial arts trained heroine) is my favorite. She had me hooked from the beginning with her hilarious way of dealing with an ex-boyfriend, but I also liked Brimstone, Issa, Twigga, Zuzana, Yasri, and Kismish – all incredibly unique characters with creative and interesting relationships with Karou. The plot is complex and engaging, filled with twists and turns, and the writing is stellar. Ms. Taylor creates quite the fantasy world with precision word building and details. The cliff hanger ending leaves you wanting more. I may be a little late to the party on this one, but at least I timed it well so the second and third in the trilogy have been released. No wait time to find out what happens. Win-win!

Great Quotes:  https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/13355552-daughter-of-smoke-bone

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Awards:
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Kirkus Reviews – Best Young Adult or Starred Review
YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults
YALSA Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults

More Detailed Reviews:

http://www.bookaddictsguide.com/2013/08/01/daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-1-laini-taylor/

http://lostinagreatbook.com/2012/07/29/review-daughter-of-smoke-bone-by-laini-taylor-summer-read-a-long-edition/

http://thebooksmugglers.com/2011/09/joint-review-daughter-of-smoke-and-bone-by-laini-taylor.html