Monday, October 27, 2014

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

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Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 389
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 15+

Gretchen's family are particular favorites of Uncle Dolf's--ever since her father died saving his life. But when Gretchen meets a young Jewish reporter, her life starts turning upside down. The National Socialist party and her Uncle Dolf--or Adolf Hitler as he's known throughout Munich--aren't the innocent politicians she had grown to believe. Then there is the truth to her father's death. In order to find the truth, Gretchen puts herself and her family in danger, but she can't stay ignorant anymore.

This was a book recommended by my library for people who liked Code Name Verity. While I don't think it was as riveting and interesting at Verity was, the amount of true history in the story was intriguing. I don't think many people know much about the early years of the National Socialist (Nazi) party.

There was a chronological error near the middle, which the editor in me couldn't seem to shake off. Other than that one instance, it seemed rather impeccable, with nothing dragging me out of the story. It took me a little while to warm to Gretchen--I thought her ignorance was a little too childish, especially for a 17 year old, but eventually I was able to put aside my 21st century sensibilities and grow to like her.

Strong recommendation for those with a high interest in WWII.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

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Publication date: 1900 (original), 2005 (this edition)
Publisher: Barnes and Noble Classics
Pages: 213
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 10+

In Baum's classic story, Dorothy travels by way of cyclone to the enchanting land of Oz. In order to get back home to Kansas, she must make her way to the Emerald City to see the wizard. On her journey she makes friends with a scarecrow, a tin woodman, and a cowardly lion, with which she shares adventures as they travel West, North, and back again.

I was surprised when I was at the bookstore and realized that I had never read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I was in the play in fifth grade, and the movie is probably one of my favorites. But I had never read the original book. So of course I had to buy it and read it.

The book is enchanting. Younger readers will like the story and the characters. Older readers will pick up on the symbolism, themes, etc. I was surprised that the movie had added so many characters, but really, it's pretty true to the main feel of the story. I was a little surprised at how violent it could be at times. The Tin Woodman at one point chops off the heads of 40 wolves. More than one thing is dashed on rocks. Of course, every thing and person that is killed is wicked.

The person who annotated this edition called Dorothy a flat literary character, which I suppose in a sense she is, though I think that the innocent, wide eyed main character is fairly typical in children's literature, and I find it a bit charming. She knows what she wants, and she helps others get what they want. There is so much conflict in the story surrounding the band of four's quest to get brains, heart, courage, and home that having a more complex character isn't really that important.

In all, a great story that will be enjoyed by all ages.

*I do not receive compensation from Barnes and Noble.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

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Publication date: 2010
Publisher: Tor
Pages: 302
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 15+

At 28, Jane Ellsworth is starting to come to terms with her spinsterhood. Her younger, and prettier, sister has charmed the man Jane loves, and though Jane is more skilled in glamour and arts, it's not enough to recommend her. That is, until Mr. Dunkirk starts paying her special attention, and the arrival of glamourist Mr Vincent sparks her interest.

In Kowal's debut novel the reader is introduced to an England with magic, the ability to manipulate how things look, sound, and smell. Other than that, this is a great example of Regency romance. The dresses, the handsome men, the social mores, balls, accomplished woman, scandals, it's all there. And gratefully, with none of the gratuitous sex that pervades so many historical romances.

This is the first in the Glamourist Histories, of which at the moment there are four. However, one of the best things about Shades is that it is a standalone novel, even with the following books. I've already requested the next one from the library and look forward to reading more about Jane, but those of you who only want to read one--you can! You won't be left hanging.

I'd definitely recommend this book to a fan of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, or the book Sorcery and Cecily; or the Enchanted Coffee Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. I'd even recommend it to those who like period movies, but have not yet ventured into reading the books. It's a great introduction to the time period, and the bit of magic makes it appealing to fantasy fans.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, October 6, 2014

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

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Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Broadway Books
Pages: 452
My rating: 2 stars

Seventy-five years after the last of the gods disappeared, the people of the Continent are still discontent with their new life. When a foreign professor is killed, Shara Thivani is sent to the capital city to discover what happened. While she's there, strange things start happening--things that hint that the gods might be returning.

I didn't finish this book. I very rarely do that--especially when I know that I'll be writing a review. But I had to force myself to read it, I never felt drawn in, and it got to the point where I told myself that I had to at least read half of it in order to give any sort of honest review.

I was only partially drawn into this book when I read the synopsis, but it seemed like it could be interesting. Unfortunately, in the 200 or so pages I read, I never felt that interested. And then there was the hard language and sex. It was more the way that these two things were approached more than that they were used, I think. It was the casual, almost tainted way that it was talked about. I've mentioned before that I'm a bit more conservative when it comes to those kinds of things, though.

I did think that the world and mythology building was amazing and full of depth. Bennett obviously put a lot of thought and effort into creating the gods and the stories surrounding them; I almost feel as if he must have studied many different religions and peoples, because I could pick out little things that reminded me of things I had learned in history classes, or religion classes. For someone interesting in those kinds of things, who isn't as sensitive about language as I am, and possibly those who like writers like Brandon Sanderson, this might be a book you would really enjoy.

Unfortunately, it just wasn't for me.

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

Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt

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Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Walker Books
Pages: 274
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 15+

Jonah started at Cross Pointe High in the middle of his senior year and he can't wait to get out of town. Brighton is a cheerful leader, popular and socially active. The two of them are thrown together for one night, but can two people from different worlds really come to understand and like each other?

Bright is told from both Jonah's and Brighton's point of views, with alternating chapters. This means that we get a background look at their lives and see the misunderstandings both have of each other. I found it a fast read--finishing it in just a few hours--but also an interesting look into communication, especially between men and women.

My biggest criticism of this is that Jonah seemed just a little too obsessed with sex. Maybe I'm a prude, and I know that teenagers think about/have sex, but everything seemed to turn his mind to it. It wasn't graphic or anything, but I guess I just believe that boys can (and do) think about more than sex. I know, I'm a revolutionary.

This book didn't stand out to me more than other contemporary teen novels, and I don't know if I would think about recommending it to my friends, but if you're just browsing and need a quick read, this is a good book to pick up.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Banned Book: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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

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Publication date: 2002
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 372
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 16+

"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Suzie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Once Suzie is murdered, she follows her family, friends, and murderer from her view in Heaven. She watches as her family falls apart and changes without her there. Will she ever find the peace she needs to move on with her life after death? What will become of her parents, sister, and brother? These are the questions that are answered throughout the course of Suzie's story.

This book was banned in a least a couple of middle schools due to the nature of the story, mostly, I think, because of how Suzie was killed. When this book was first published, I was in middle school and I remember it making a big splash with a lot of people my age. That being said, I was in ninth grade. Because Suzie is raped and then murdered, I don't know if I would recommend it for kids under the age of 16, maybe 15, even though Suzie is fourteen. Mostly I think it's just because teens younger than that would 1) have a hard time understanding what's happening, and 2) be more mentally disturbed by it.

As for how I felt about the book as a whole: when it first started I was kind of interested. I felt like it was a mystery, but one where you already knew who the criminal was and you're just waiting for everyone else to find out too. I was sure that at some time they would catch the man who murdered Suzie. By the time I got to about the last 150 pages, the story seemed to change and everything seemed to be going really fast. To me, it was almost as if it became a completely different story. I wasn't that satisfied by the ending. This is probably just because it wasn't what I expected. The writing was good and kept me interested.

There is some language and sex, which also caused me to put my recommended age higher.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.