Monday, February 29, 2016

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 317
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 18+

For every "Chosen One" there are a dozen normal kids just trying to live their lives during each apocalypse. Mikey is just a regular kid trying to get through the last few weeks of high school with his friends, but strange things start happening and it starts to look like the high school might get blown up once again. But that's not nearly as important to Mikey as Mel, Henna, Jared, and Meredith. What do you during an apocalypse when there isn't anything you can do?

Let me start with the things I liked. First, the representation and handling of mental illnesses. They weren't used to be make a character quirky or funny, but were represented as things that are hard and painful. Then there was the discussion of how to handle them and what it means to get help for them. I found this very unique and a great way to discuss the ongoing stigma associated with mental health issues.

Second, I loved the satirical way Ness approached "Chosen One" stories. In a way, you were getting two stories, and it was hilarious. The names of the "Indie Kids," the things they would do, the love triangle--everything was so on the nose that I couldn't help but laugh at it.

Now, the things I didn't like so much. I don't think it's any secret that I tend to lean more toward the conservative side of things. So the amount of sexual language and innuendos was way overboard for me. I've never been a teenage boy, but I just don't think that they actually think about sex that much and that it's a disservice to teens to portray they as such. Then again, maybe they do. I don't know.

There was also a lot of strong language, most of which seemed completely unnecessary.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Elements of Landscape Oil Painting by Suzanne Brooker

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Watson-Guptill Publications
Pages: 195
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 16+

Meant for the intermediate painter, this book talks through the various elements contained in landscape painting, how to do them and how to fix specific problems. Everything from water to clouds are discussed, with helpful step by step photos.

This is a different type of book than I usually get, and I have to admit that I didn't read it cover to cover, though I did glance through the part I didn't read. The reason I chose this book is because I have recently taken up oil painting, and since I'm being self taught, I thought it might be helpful. However, I'm not anywhere near the level that this book caters too.

That being said, this book is beautiful. Hardback, large, with full color photos of paintings that show what is being discussed. Paintings from many different artists in many different styles. The writing is encouraging and positive, instead of critical of other methods and people, like so many painting blogs I have come across.

In all, a great book for the painting who would like to improve their landscapes, though not great for the beginner.

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

Monday, February 22, 2016

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 399
My rating: 2.5 stars
Ages: 13+

Eight years ago, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow, returned to Ukraine to finish off the man who created her, Ivan. In destroying Ivan's work, S.H.I.E.L.D. inherited his last project--a young girl name Ava. Eight years later, Ava—haunted by dreams she doesn't understand—learns that Ivan isn't as dead as everyone thought. It's up to Natasha and Ava to get rid of him, once and for all.

I was SO excited for this book. I love the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and the women in the movies are awesome. I thought this book would give me a closer look into Natasha's training in the Red Room and perhaps how she came to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. Imagine my surprise when the book wasn't really about Natasha at all. Sure, Nat was in it and played a large role, but really it was about 16 year old Ava. I found the parts with Natasha much more interesting than the rest of the novel.

The whole time I was reading, I was trying to fit the book into the MCU. I don't know if it's meant to, but the inclusion of Phil Coulson as a character (a character who was created for the MCU) made me believe it. But there were too many inconsistencies regarding the Avengers and Coulson.

The book changed limited third person POV, and it would say at the beginning of each chapter which POV it was going to be told through. That was nice. What wasn't nice was that there were at least three chapters where the POV was labeled as one character, but then halfway through the chapter it would change over to another. This was most common with Ava and Natasha. I also felt that the love story was a little . . . strange. I didn't like it in the context of this story--it felt rushed and unbelievable.

There were a few blatant errors that should have been caught by a proofreader before it went to press.

I do have to give some props to the overall story and the dialogue. The characters that we know from the movies sound like their characters, for the most part, with Stohl creating her own twist on them.

No swearing or sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, February 15, 2016

It's a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Pages: 306
My rating: 4 stars

If it weren't for that gypsy, RJ would have had a long and fulfilling life—she's sure of it. That's why she is determined to get it back, no matter what her grim reaper or guardian angels say or what she has to do.

From the very first page, RJ's never-give-up attitude will draw the reader in. She's got spunk and spirit, and there is no way in Heaven or Hell that she will go to either one. Every character is unique and interesting, either intrigued, annoyed, or drawn to RJ's plight to get her life back.

But the story of RJ's death is also, in a way, philosophical. How do our lives intersect with each other? Can one life change the course of history? How could one decision change the rest of our lives? There is an honesty to this book, beyond it's surface.

I definitely cried a little near the end.

Little to no language and vague sexual references.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Pages: 183
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 13+

When Jack's parents decide to take in a troubled foster kid, Jack is ready to welcome him. But Joseph has more than his share of problems. He won't let anyone touch him, he tried to kill a teacher, and he has a daughter he's never seen. Being with Jack and his family, things start changing for Joseph, but he can't stop searching for Jupiter.

Schmidt has a magical way of writing. His characters are young, and he is able to perfectly capture their youth, naïveté, and complexity. The stories may seem simple on the surface, but there is so much heart in them.

There was a welcome appearance of a character from Schmidt's novel Okay for Now. And, as I have come to expect, wonderful teachers who can see so much more in their students than anyone else. The characters are developed and the stories wonderfully diverse.

While I find that I like some other of Schmidt's books more, his special touch is still evident in this one; as well as his ability to make me cry.

No language and only the smallest mention of sexual situations.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, February 1, 2016

All Fall Down by Ally Carter

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 310
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 14+

Three years ago Grace witnessed her mother's death—which everyone says was an accident, but she was sure was murder. After three years of therapy and meds, Grace has been sent to live with her grandfather, the US Ambassador in Adria. Everyone is expecting this change to be good for Grace, but when she sees the man she is sure murdered her mother, things start falling apart. Can Grace convince her friends and grandfather that this time she's right, before the Scarred Man kills again?

Carter uses the same fast paced intriguing writing that made me love the Heist Society books, adding in political intrigue and more interesting characters. This is what kept me reading and why I finished the book in less than 24 hours.

It's interesting to see what life might be like for the children and families of those who work in various embassies. Would they be friends? What would happen if they bumped into one of the ambassadors of another country? And then there's the twist at the end . . . I definitely recommend this book.

No sex and little to no swearing.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.