Thursday, November 27, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: THE HERE AND NOW by Ann Brashares




Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Genres: YA, Sci-fi
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 4/5

SUMMARY

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. 

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. 

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. 




REVIEW

Time travel being one of my favorite topics, The Here and Now certainly got my full attention. Prenna James, an immigrant from a distant, gloomy future, is here to make the change that will ensure a different future. Slightly supernaturally gifted Ethan Jarves wants to help. Only, do the authority figures from Prenna's time really want things changed?

This short, fast moving novel has a captivating start, several clever plot twists throughout the story, and an unusual but highly satisfying end. Until the second half of the book I really struggled to connect with the characters.

When Prenna, however, shakes off the fear she feels for her authority figures, she seems to come alive. Even her sense of humor seems to gain momentum. As though encouraged by Prenna's sudden awakening of personality, Ethan Jarves also becomes a bit more lifelike.

This meticulously planned tale shows what can happen when several people travel to a certain time from different times, and the devastating results when those same people are not careful about the diseases they bring along from their time. Although The Here and Now is a light romance, it is also a story of choices, decisions and sacrifice.

I would recommend this book as a light, engaging, often suspenseful, but very relaxing read.







Amazon    *    Barnes & Noble




ABOUT the AUTHOR


Ann Brashares grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with three brothers and attended a Quaker school in the D.C. area called Sidwell Friends. She studied Philosophy at Barnard College, part of Columbia University in New York City. Expecting to continue studying philosophy in graduate school, Ann took a year off after college to work as an editor, hoping to save money for school. Loving her job, she never went to graduate school, and instead, remained in New York City and worked as an editor for many years. Ann made the transition from editor to full-time writer with her first novel, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Ann and her husband live with their three children in New York.


Website    *    Facebook    *    Twitter    *    Goodreads



Follow us with:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

REVIEW: THE SWEET REVENGE OF CELIA DOOR by Karen Finneyfrock




Title: The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door
Author: Karen Finneyfrock
Publisher: Viking Children’s
Publication Date: February 21, 2013
Genre: Young Adult
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 3/5

SUMMARY

Celia Door enters her freshman year of high school with giant boots, dark eyeliner, and a thirst for revenge against Sandy Firestone, the girl who did something unspeakable to Celia last year.

But then Celia meets Drake, the cool new kid from New York City who entrusts her with his deepest, darkest secret. When Celia's quest for justice threatens her relationship with Drake, she's forced to decide which is sweeter: revenge or friendship.




REVIEW

If I had read this book a few years ago, I probably would’ve given it a five-star rating. As it is, I’ve read too many similar books in the past couple of years to still be impressed or affected by this type of story. I expected revenge, but that’s not what I got.

I appreciate the positive messages hidden in this story and how it focuses on more than just a girl being bullied at school. What also makes it slightly different from other such books is that it shows how revenge can sometimes backfire and that it might not always be the best solution. Still, I wanted Celia to get even with Sandy and Mandy (original names for two bullies, right?), because I felt they deserved it. Yet, it seemed that The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door should’ve more aptly been titled, The Angst-ridden Coming-Out of Celia’s Gay Best Friend and His Obsession with a Certain Self-help Book.

Oh, alright, that might be a little harsh, but honestly guys, I’m rather disappointed that the title is somewhat misleading.

Speaking of gay besties coming out…I was not impressed by all the drama surrounding Drake falling in love with Japhy. (Japhy???? Who names a character… Never mind). It was just too much. Drake was constantly fretting about Japhy not coming out the same time he did, and whether Japhy has the same feelings for him, and, and, and… It was all he could talk about THE. ENTIRE. TIME! He carried on worse than a hormonal love-struck girl!  So, that’s all I have to say about that.

Apart from love-sick Drake, the rest of the story was okay. I like how things got resolved at the end between Celia and her mother, and that everything wasn’t too much of a happy ending. I don’t care for poetry at all, but I did enjoy Celia’s poetry entries into her journal. It gives the reader a deeper insight into her thoughts and feelings. Many times I felt sorry for her; especially when it came to light about “the book” that nearly destroyed her life. But like they say: all’s well that ends well.

My final thoughts are that it’s a good book if you haven’t read many such books before. Otherwise, it doesn’t really offer anything new, and I was glad when it was over and I could move on to a different book that would hopefully be more engaging.




  


Amazon    *    Barnes & Noble



ABOUT the AUTHOR


Karen Finneyfrock is a poet, novelist and teaching artist in Seattle, WA. Her second book of poems, Ceremony for the Choking Ghost, was released on Write Bloody press in 2010. Her young adult novel, The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door, is due from Viking Children's Books, a division of Penguin Group USA in February, 2013. In 2010, Karen traveled to Nepal as a Cultural Envoy through the US Department of State to perform and teach poetry and in 2011, she did a reading tour in Germany sponsored by the US Embassy.

  
Website    *    Facebook    *    Twitter    *    Goodreads



Follow us with:
 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: NECESSARY LIES by Diane Chamberlain




Title: Necessary Lies
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm.  As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed.  She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients' lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband.  But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed.  Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong.




REVIEW

Although this is not the kind of book I would normally choose to read, I'm so glad I took the time to read through Necessary Lies. Enlightening, touching, and often thoroughly suspenseful, this tale of oppression, prejudice and the few who truly cared, is most certainly going on my to-be-read-again shelf.

Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated
sterilizations and racial tension, this book alternates between the points of view of Ivy Hart and Jane Forrester. Ivy, a fifteen-year-old girl who has to take care of her grandmother, retarded sister, and nephew needs to trust somebody with her biggest secret of all. Can the enlightened social worker, Jane Forrester, be trusted?

Told in first person by, mainly, the two main characters, Ivy and Jane, this book truly reaches out to the reader. As both the dialogue, as well as the narration of the two characters, are written in the prose of the period, it places the reader right there in North Carolina’s countryside.

Although this is not exactly a romance, the masterfully written romantic element was presented in a positive way with a slightly cryptic twist. To make things truly interesting, the answer to said cryptic twist is only revealed at the end of the book.

I was appalled at the injustices perpetrated by both the state and the rich farmers who had control over the less fortunate people in the community. At times I really sympathized with Jane as she tried to sort through the net of intrigue and lies spun by both the welfare workers, as well as the farmers.

Despite the heartbreak, unfairness, and despair depicted in this novel, it is a heartwarming and captivating tale that I definitely recommend as a must-read.



  


 Amazon    *    Barnes & Noble



ABOUT the AUTHOR


I'm the author of 23 novels published in more than twenty languages. I like to write complex stories about relationships between men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters, and friends. Although the thematic focus of my books often revolves around family, love, compassion and forgiveness, my stories usually feature a combination of suspense, mystery and intrigue.

I live in North Carolina with my significant other, photographer John Pagliuca, and my shelties, Keeper and Cole--the only non-reading members of the household!


Website    *    Facebook    *    Twitter    *    Goodreads


  
Follow us with:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: TORN AWAY by Jennifer Brown




Title: Torn Away
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.

When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?

In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.




REVIEW

It seldom happens that a book captivates me to the extent that I would set aside all else and simply read through it without stopping. This, however, was the case with Torn Away. Irritated with her little sister's pleas to dance, glad that said sister is out of the way and off to dance class, Jersey is just ready to start cooking a meal for her family when the tornado sirens go off. How Jersey wished, after the disastrous tornado, that she had danced with her sister or spent more time with her mother.

I simply couldn't put this book down. The vivid and absolutely horrifying descriptions of the tornado, the devastation afterwards, and the lost feeling of, not only the main character, but everybody who had been affected, kept me turning the pages.

Although I certainly didn't always agree with Jersey's thoughts and decisions, I feel that the author created a truly believable character. I could honestly feel Jersey's sense of denial after she had lost everything, and her desperate despair when she was separated from everything familiar and taken to relatives whom she didn't know at all. Throughout the story Jersey finds herself in realistic scenarios—never unimaginably horrible nor magically good.

When Jersey's friend is forced by her mother to betray her, Jersey seems hurt, yet understands that it was the parent, not the friend, who did the betraying. Unfortunately she has a much less mature attitude towards her maternal grandparents.

For a touching story of devastation, loss, personal growth, and an end that is so poignant that it would be wise to keep the Kleenex close to hand, I highly recommend Torn Away as a read that will stay with you long after you have read the final page.






 Amazon    *    Barnes & Noble



ABOUT the AUTHOR


Two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), Jennifer's weekly humor column appeared in The Kansas City Star for over four years, until she gave it up to be a full-time young adult novelist.

Jennifer's debut novel, HATE LIST (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009) received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA "Perfect Ten," and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. HATE LIST also won the Michigan Library Association's Thumbs Up! Award, the Louisiana Teen Readers Choice award, the 2012 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award, was an honorable mention for the 2011 Arkansas Teen Book Award, is a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback, received spots on the Texas Library Association's Taysha's high school reading list as well as the Missouri Library Association's Missouri Gateway Awards list, and has been chosen to represent the state of Missouri in the 2012 National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Jennifer's second novel, BITTER END, (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011) received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list and is a 2012 Taysha's high school reading list pick as well.

Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.

  

Website    *    Twitter    *    Goodreads



Follow us with:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

REVIEW: LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson




Title: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Publication Date: March 14, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 3/5

SUMMARY

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.




REVIEW

Clearly, from all the five-star ratings this book has received, I’m definitely in the minority here. I was very close to giving up on this novel, but then decided to read all the way to thirty percent on my Kindle before quitting so that I can say I actually gave it a fair chance. Well, lo and behold! At exactly thirty percent, when I was ready to bid farewell to Life After Life, it got its hooks into me and I couldn’t put it down.

From thirty percent to seventy percent the story intrigued me and I got swept along in Ursula’s multiple attempts at life. Nonetheless, after seventy percent finishing the rest of the book became a struggle again, and because it’s a fairly lengthy novel I was relieved when I finally reached the end. Speaking of which…the ending was rather disappointing and I couldn’t make any sense of it. The prologue was immensely promising and somehow I got it in my head that the rest of the story was meant as a build-up of events leading to that which occurred in the prologue. I was sadly mistaken and when the event, as foreshadowed in the prologue, happened in the story, it didn’t have the same impact as what it did at the very start of the book. That pivotal moment which I was looking forward to, ended up being watered down and rushed.

This is a slow-moving plot which I felt dragged along in a lot of places. The parts I enjoyed the most were those that focused on Ursula’s time in Germany at the start, and during, World War II, and her interactions with and thoughts about Hitler. I liked the family set-up of Ursula’s family, and I started feeling at home at Fox Corner. However, right from the start there is a boatload of characters to keep track of, and many times I got confused by who is who.

Life After Life is not a book I’ll recommend to just anyone because I don’t think it will be everybody’s cup of tea (despite thousands of glowing reviews). It is without a doubt a well-written historical fiction with a very interesting idea at its core that got me thinking. I’m glad I finished it and I might even read another of Atkinson’s books in the future.


  



Amazon    *    Barnes & Noble



ABOUT the AUTHOR


Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and she has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.



Website    *    Facebook    *    Goodreads



Follow us with:
 

Monday, November 17, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: HEART-SHAPED BOX by Joe Hill




Title: Heart-Shaped Box
Author: Joe Hill
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 13, 2007
Genres: Horror, Paranormal
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

Aging, self-absorbed rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for the macabre -- his collection includes sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman's noose, Aleister Crowley's childhood chessboard, etc. -- so when his assistant tells him about a ghost for sale on an online auction site, he immediately puts in a bid and purchases it. 

The black, heart-shaped box that Coyne receives in the mail not only contains the suit of a dead man but also his vengeance-obsessed spirit. The ghost, it turns out, is the stepfather of a young groupie who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne callously used her up and threw her away. Now, determined to kill Coyne and anyone who aids him, the merciless ghost of Craddock McDermott begins his assault on the rocker's sanity.





REVIEW

Being a major fan of horror, I absolutely loved Heart-Shaped Box. As rock star, Judas Coyne, is a long time collector of unusual memorabilia, it isn't very odd when he purchases a ghost for his collection. Soon, however, said ghost turns out to be much more than he bargained for and Judas, his current girlfriend, Marybeth aka Georgia, along with everybody else they come in contact with, is in mortal danger.

I get to read a fair amount of horror, yet, it has been a while since I last read something that isn't just blood, guts and scary phenomena. Although this book most certainly has its ample share of bloody, gory violence, it is also a tale filled with realistic personalities with excellently fitting back stories.

The extremely well fleshed out characters truly come alive through the brilliantly written dialogue. All the characters, even that of the main character, Judas Coyne, is thoroughly and realistically flawed.

The author successfully creates atmospheres of fear, horror, despair and, yes, even hope, through his wonderfully detailed descriptions of anything from nature and the weather to indoor scenery and facial expressions.

Heart-Shaped Box isn't just the telling of a horrifying adventure, it is also a tale of revenge, remorse, and character development, as well as relationship growth.

Perhaps not suitable for readers under sixteen or for extremely sensitive readers, Heart-Shaped Box is an absolute must read for all who enjoy the best that horror has to offer.




  

 Amazon    *    Barnes & Noble



ABOUT the AUTHOR


Joe Hill is the author of three novels, Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, and NOS4A2, as well as a prize-winning collection of stories, 20th Century Ghosts. He also wrote a pair of comics: Locke & Key and Wraith (which ties into the world of NOS4A2). Some nice people gave him an Eisner Award for his work in funny books, which is a great honor, even if “funny” probably doesn’t do a good job of describing the kinds of things that happen in the comics. Come to think of it, his comics aren’t very comic either.


Website    *    Facebook    *    Twitter    *    Goodreads



Follow us with:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: GEEK GIRL by Holly Smale




Title: Geek Girl
Series: Geek Girl, #1
Author: Holly Smale
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Publication Date: February 28, 2013
Genre: Young Adult
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

Harriet Manners knows a lot of things. 

She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn't quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she's spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves. 

As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, she begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did. 

And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?




REVIEW

Having recently read several rather suspenseful and fairly serious books, Geek Girl turned out to be the perfect book to wind down with. Rather unpopular at school, geeky Harriet Manners tries to avoid being noticed by others, especially her nemesis, Alexa, and her even geekier stalker, Toby. Unfortunately, her loyalty to her best friend, Nat, lands her slap in the middle of the modeling world as well as in the center of more complications than she can deal with.

I so needed to read something like this delightfully relaxing and, most of the time, hilariously funny story right now. Even the serious, leaning to the disastrous, parts of the story is written in an upbeat way that just keeps the smile hovering.

Harriet is such a realistic, likable, and lifelike character, she makes the story come alive with her geeky statistics, natural doubts and fears, and often slightly off-beat observations. The even geekier Toby is absolutely lovable despite his weirdly accomplished role as Harriet's stalker.

Even Harriet's sometimes-less-than-completely-honest father, and her stern lawyer stepmother, turned out to be characters that I felt sad to say good bye to at the end of the book. Nick, Harriet's deliciously handsome co-model, comes across as a flighty, slightly untouchable character at first. Fortunately, the young man redeems himself towards the end of the story.

For a lighthearted, relaxing read full of laugh-out-loud humor and wickedly sharp wit, I recommend Geek Girl as an absolute must read.






 Amazon    *    Barnes & Noble



  
ABOUT the AUTHOR


Holly is the Number One bestselling, multi-award winning author of the GEEK GIRL series.

She fell in love with writing at five years old, when she realised that books didn't grow on trees like apples. A passion for travel, adventure and wearing no shoes has since led her all over the world: she has visited 27 countries, spent two years working as an English teacher in Japan, volunteered in Nepal, been bartered for in Jamaica and had a number of ear-plugs stolen in Australia, Indonesia and India.

Holly has a BA in English Literature, an MA in Shakespeare, and currently lives in London or at @holsmale.

  
Facebook    *    Twitter    *    Goodreads



Follow us with: