Monday, October 30, 2017

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Broadway Books
Pages: 464
My rating: 2.5 stars
Ages: 16+

The death of a teenage boy in Salem on Halloween brings up memories of a 25 year old murder of three women that is still unsolved. The people of Salem are calling for the arrest of a homeless woman, while the chief of police has to decide whether or not to reopen the case. The only living witness to the murders was five at the time and is trying to discover what happened the night her mother and the others where killed.

I think that this book is part of a series of books about Salem, because there were some things that were referenced, but never explained. That isn't to say that it doesn't stand on its own, just that I was confused in some parts.

I felt that the beginning was really good and interesting, with the introduction of the murders 25 years before and how they connected to the modern day. But near the end I felt that the pacing was just too fast, gliding over other parts to get to the end of the discovery of the murderer.

There was at least one instance of the f-word and some sex.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, October 23, 2017

There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Dutton Books
Pages: 287
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 16+

When teenagers in small town Nebraska start being brutally murdered, Makani and the rest of the high school students are horrified, feeling that any of them could be next. What's the link between the victims and who in their town could do such terrible things?

 This is about as scary as I get for Halloween. More than the descriptions of the murders themselves, what I found more chilling was the games the murderer played with his victims before hand. Moving things in their house, opening doors, stealing things—someone hiding in your house and doing things. That's what scares me.

I liked the beginning, which made me believe the story was about someone else before turning that around. (I obviously hadn't read the summary before starting to read it.) The mystery was intriguing, though I feel like we were told too early who the murderer was. And I think I would have liked more of an explanation or understanding of why he did what he did to his victims.

The descriptions of the murders got more and more gruesome and graphic with each one, until it got to the point where I was thinking that I didn't need to know that much information.

There were some f-words and sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Dutton Books
Pages: 304
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 16+

Aza Holmes finds herself on an ever tightening spiral of thoughts and compulsions, unsure why her friends stay with her and how to be better. When the father of an old acquaintance goes missing, Aza finds herself in the middle of Davis's life and worries.

This isn't so much a mystery story as it is about a girl trying to live with her mental illness. What I appreciate about this is that Aza's illness isn't shown as some quirky thing that helps her solve the Case of the Missing Father. It isn't something that is easily overcome or only happens when it's convenient. But at the same time, it doesn't mean that she also isn't just a teenager at times. It is neither consuming of her every moment nor only in some moments.  It's a spiral, which sometime is tight and unmanageable and sometimes wide and maintainable. If these descriptions seem to contradict themselves, it's because that is what mental illness is—a conundrum of inconsistencies.

I found Aza somewhat relatable, as I did her friend Daisy and her mom and Davis. People are more than just one trait and I think that Green showed that. Compared to The Fault in Our Stars, this wasn't as emotionally wrenching (I didn't find myself sobbing), but more true to life.

There was some hard language and talk about sex (not explicit).

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Lucky in Love by Kasie West

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Point
Pages: 352
My rating: 2.5 stars
Ages: 13+

Maddie spends most of her time studying, when she isn't at her job at the zoo. With the money problems her family has, she needs to get a scholarship for college and earn money to help out. So it's on a whim when she buys a lottery ticket on her eighteenth birthday. Her life changes over night when she realizes she won the 50 million prize.

This is the second book I've read this year about a teenager winning the lottery. I'll admit that Windfall was a better story, but Lucky had a simpler plot with more likable characters. Of West's books that I've read, I think this is probably the weakest. I just couldn't believe that Maddie, who we know is really smart with a GPA above 4.0, would be so dumb after she wins the lottery. Every time she mentioned that she should meet with a financial adviser, I'd yell at her in my head "Yes! Go! Now!" But who knows, maybe I would have been the same if I had won the lottery when I was 18.

The book does put forth the problem of not knowing if people are your friends because you have a lot of money or not. I think that I might have been more suspicious earlier than Maddie was, but seeing her trust and positive outlook on life crash down was a little heartbreaking. I'm glad that she had Seth, who was the one person who treated her the same after she won.

There is no language or sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Banned Books Week takes place the last week of September every year. It's a time to bring awareness of the banning and challenging of books that is still prevalent in our society. To support the freedom to read, I choose a banned/challenged book that I've never read before. Because of this, my review is slightly different, as I tend to focus on the reason it was banned or challenged for most of the review. For more information on Banned Books Week, visit ala.org.


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Publication date: 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 325
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 16+

New girl Eleanor is too different, with her wild curly, red hair and her men's shirts. Park is different too, but since his family has lived in town for generations, he can get away with it. When Eleanor sits next to Park on the bus, neither of them could have guessed how things would turn out.

Eleanor and Park was challenged on the basis of the profane language used throughout the novel. I won't lie, there was quite a bit of language (including the f-word), maybe a little more than *I* am comfortable with. But it's not up to me, or anyone, to control what society can read or consume. There is also some references to sex and sexual situations.

Despite the language, I think that the story that is told is important and heartbreaking. It's so much more than just learning to stand out and stand up. It's about being strong enough to know when to fight back or leave.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father by Jonathan Hennessey and Justin Greenwood

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: 10 Speed Press
Pages: 176
My rating: 2.5 stars
Ages: 15+

Who was Alexander Hamilton? What led him to become such an important, and at times controversial, figure in American history? Learn about the man and legend through this graphic novel.

I have to start by admitting that I'm not very familiar with graphic novels; this may only be the third one I've ever read in my life. With that admission, I have to say that I just didn't feel that a graphic novel was the best form to use for this. I usually think the words and pictures work together to tell the story, but I didn't even look at the art most of the time. The only time that I felt it was done well was at the end during the duel, where the story was told by the characters speaking and by the pictures showing their actions. Most of the rest of the time, there was hardly any dialogue, just exposition.

This book would be much more approachable to younger readers if the author had taken a more creative nonfiction direction. As it was, it took a long time for me to read because it was things that I already knew and presented in a way that wasn't too interesting.

Some of the art was interesting. When Hamilton first came to America, he was a teenager, but he was drawn like a middle-aged man. Then there was some symbolic or metaphorical art that I could never really understand. I also felt that all the women were drawn too modern, with smirks and sass (this especially bothered me with Elizabeth Schuyler, Hamilton's wife).

There was talk of sex, with pictures of Hamilton in bed with a woman, which is why I put the age where I did.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, September 15, 2017

What To Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 287
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 14+

The day Kit decides to sit with loner David at lunch is the day that both of their lives start changing. Kit is dealing with the aftermath of losing her father in an accident and is tired of the exasperated pity and sympathy she gets from her friends. David lives his life to be invisible and to survive high school—a place that he doesn't understand no matter how hard he tries. Can the two of them help each other overcome what they are both going through?

This book is told through alternating the POV from David to Kit and back, each chapter. I think this is really important because to see things from just one point of view wouldn't have worked for the story. David is very literally, falling on the autism spectrum, so if it were told completely from his view we wouldn't get the nuances and subtleties. Kit is seeing things very emotionally, so we need David's straight forward view. They perfectly balanced each other out.

The book plays with tropes usually found in high school movies and novels, sometimes completely rejecting them and sometimes embracing them. I liked that our main characters were different than the majority of main characters in American novels.

There was very minor language.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.