Monday, March 12, 2018

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

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Publication date: 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 374
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 13+

Abby is in love with her best friend, but after having her confession been blown last summer, she has tried to be content with just being friends. Abby also wants to have her art displayed in a gallery show at the museum she works at, but is told that her art lacks feeling. These two things bring about the "Heart List"--a list of things that will help Abby experience more emotions to put into her art and to help her overcome her lingering feelings for Cooper.

I liked this book a lot better than the West's last book. I didn't feel like the main character was dense or stupid. She's still 17, so she had a lot of growing up to do. I think that the idea of a "Heart List" is a great idea on how to do that. Abby was able to experience different things, meet different people, and understand herself and those around her better. That improved not only her art, but her relationship with Cooper and those around her. She was able to learn something about herself.

This is mostly a cute, light book, but touched on some interesting subjects. I never felt like the more serious things were treated lightly or glossed over, but they also weren't the main part of the story. It was just that people are more than just background characters or circumstances are more than just plot points.

There was no sex or language.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Friday, March 9, 2018

New Boy: William Shakespeare's Othello Retold by Tracy Chevalier

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Hogarth Shakespeare
Pages: 209
My rating: 2 stars
Ages: 14+

Osei has been the new boy and the outsider at several schools across the world. Dee has never been anywhere but the DC suburb where she has grown up. When the two meet on the playground on O's first day, there is an instant interest in each other. But it's the 1970s and the rest of the school isn't ready for a black student.

When I came to realize that the entire book was going to take place over just one day, I felt like that was unbelievable. For everything to happen within an 8 hour time period, to have a character completely change the way Osei did, it seemed too exaggerated. Then as I continued to read, I started to feel a strange discomfort--something that I can't put into words--and while I think that that discomfort was probably purposeful, it made it so I dreaded reading it and wanted it to end. There was something about the kids and the adult way they acted or thought, the adult things they did, that was really uncomfortable to me.

I've always liked the play Othello--I think it's an intriguing look at how a good person can be manipulated into becoming a bad person. Iago is that whispering devil on Othello's shoulder, saying just the right thing to make Othello doubt Desdemona. But they also had a history with each other. Ian, Osei, Dee, Casper . . . there was no history between them. Osei had been the new boy before; he'd been the black boy, he'd experienced prejudice and he had borne it all. Why was this time any different? I couldn't see Ian being that good at pushing anyone over the edge the way he did to Osei.

There was some sexual references and one swear.

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

Monday, March 5, 2018

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

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Publication date: 2003
Publisher: Soho Press
Pages: 292
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 15+
Series: Maisie Dobbs Mysteries

After studying with her mentor Maurice Blanche for years, Maisie is finally taking over his investigative business. It's 1929, but England is still recovering from the Great War which had taken so many of their boys. Maisie was in France as a nurse, and the things she saw and experienced are still with her. So when she's asked to investigate a farm for wounded soldiers called The Retreat, Maisie must face her past if she's going to be able to close the case.

This wasn't a book I chose from myself, but instead got as part of a book exchange I participated in. I was immediately drawn to the premise: mystery in 1920s/30s England with a female lead. It didn't disappoint.

Maisie is one of those female characters that I really like, because she's strong and yet still feminine. She doesn't have to sacrifice her womanhood in order to do what needs to be done. In fact, there are even times when being a woman helps her.

This first book did focus a lot on the past and Maisie's part in WWI, but I think it was necessary to set up the character and what life is like even 10 years after the War had ended. And the mystery focuses on those who have been affected by the War in such a way that it will never go away.

No language and no sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 455
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 13+
Series: The Numair Chronicles

Before he was Numair, he was Arram, son of a draper and student of magic. When his talent with his Gift is discovered, he becomes friends with two other talented students. As he advances through the university, Arram meets gods, slaves, and talented magicians, all of who shape his world view as he learns what kind of person he wants to be. Will he stay with his friends or seek out the larger world?

The Tortall books were such a big part of my preteen and teen years. I still read them and love them. This book was exactly how I remember the other books to be. In a way, it was like being transported back to reading about Alanna when I was 12. I'm excited to learn more about Arram and how became the Numair I came to love in The Immortals series.

Even for those who are not familiar with the other series, this book would be a good place to start. There isn't really any prerequisite knowledge needed to enjoy this book, as it takes place before or during the events of the first Alanna book, but in a different country.

There were a few parts that seemed to drag a little, but that is really my only criticism.

There is some things of a sexual nature, but nothing graphic.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Last Stop in Brooklyn by Lawrence H. Levy

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Broadway Books
Pages: 305
My rating: 2.5 stars
Ages: 18+
Series: Mary Handley Mystery

When Mary Handley gets her next case, it seems to be a simple open and shut case of extramarital affair. But the discovery of her best friend's husband involved in the affair, a man following her, and a line of Jack-the-Ripper-like murders turns the case into something much more.

This book was pleasant enough to read, without being predictable. Because this was the third book in a series, it was hard to get into at first since I hadn't read the other books, but throughout the book I was given enough information to understand how Mary became a detective and other things that I had to know. However, as good as the story and mystery were, there was more that kept me from fully enjoying the novel.

My biggest critique is that the story seemed anachronistic in parts. This was mostly in word choice, but it could have easily been set in the present day with very little changes. Every time something occurred that seemed wrong for the late 19th century, it pushed me out of the story. The chronology also was hard to keep track of. I felt like Labor Day happened at least three times, because I had felt that we had already passed that point in the story before changing characters and then learning it was still Labor Day weekend. The characters were hard to keep track of too--there were so many of them and sometimes we'd go several chapters between them appearing or being mentioned so I would forget who they were. And then in a middle of the scene, the point of view would change from Mary to one of the other characters. I felt that the POV was set up to be the third person limited for Mary, and it was for most of the book, but several times it became omniscient. It was jarring.

There was liberal use of the f-word and sexual situations, including prostitution.

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Pages: 552
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 15+

Before the Age of Anarchy, prodigies (those people with special powers) were persecuted and forced to hide. Now ten years after the renegades, the "super heroes" killed off Ace Anarchy and started a new age and government, Nova and the remaining renegades are forced to stay underground and submit to the Council's rule. Nova isn't having this--the Council isn't as great as everyone thinks and it's time that their rule end. The only way to do that is to discover their secrets, which means becoming a renegade herself.

Meyer's writing is solid, just as it was in the Lunar Chronicles, but I found myself taking a long time to get into this book. The characters were interesting, the world well built, but there was something I just felt was missing. But I can't quite put my finger on it, because by all accounts, it was a well-written book.

The characters were hard to keep straight, since they all have a super hero name and a regular name. And then I couldn't keep track of their powers either. There is a guide in the front of the book that I could have referenced, but I don't like having to flip back and forth while I'm reading.

I think that what is really interesting is that we get both sides of the story. It's not that one side is bad and one side is good, but that both sides are working toward what they believe is right and both sides make mistakes but also do good things. And Nova kind of realizes it. So while we do see the renegade side through Aiden, Nova is seeing both sides. She's able to come to terms with what both are trying to do and what can be done.

This does have a sequel coming out this year and so it ends a little bit on a cliff hanger, which I'm not a fan of. But I guess I'll just have to wait until the fall to see what happens.

No language or sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

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Publication date: 2017
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 384
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 15+
Series: DC Icons

Diana, though princess of the Amazons, has tried to prove her place an Themyscira her entire life. When she rescues a human from a shipwreck, she has the choice to either let her die or to save her. Alia has been overprotected her entire life and just wanted to experience some freedom. What she doesn't realize is that, as a warbringer (a descendant of Helen of Troy), she creates a spirit of discord wherever she goes. It's up to Diana to try to break the warbringer line and bring peace to the world, even if it means sacrificing her place as an Amazon.

There is something I learned from reading this book, and that is that you can't try to fit these new superhero books into what you know about the character and their story line. If you'll remember, I had a problem with that before. It's important to keep this in mind because it doesn't follow the time line of the old TV series, or the new movie. Instead, Warbringer takes place in the present day, though Diana is still a teenager.

I felt like it was slow to get into, with the middle being interesting and intriguing, and the end again slowing down. The twist was unexpected, though I'm not sure how well I liked it, even if it did go against cliches and tropes.

I was also a little disappointed when my copy came and the cover had been printed incorrectly.

There wasn't any language that stood out to me, and very little mention of sex.

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