Friday, September 26, 2014

8 Teens + 1 Harmless Prank Gone Wrong = Too Many Lives Changed Forever


One sultry summer night in a Chicago suburb, the fates of eight teens collide when a harmless prank goes horribly wrong.

Brendan needs to blow off steam, needs to forget about the way his dad turns violet when he's mad.  Which is all the time.  He needs this end-of-summer party, needs the booze, needs anything that will help him bliss out—just for one night.  But Brendan can't quite forget his dad, especially when he discovers the nasty little surprise the older man left in the glove compartment of his car ...

Emma just wants to have fun before the new school year starts, but her boyfriend's drinking too much and being a huge jerk.  She's worried he's going to do something really stupid.  Trying not to be too big of a buzz kill, she masks her anxiety as best she can ...

Chloe is a beautiful blonde who's got her own troubles to forget.  And she plans to do just that with a few drinks and her new boy toy ...

Anil knows he doesn't belong with Chloe's crowd.  He's still shocked that she wants to be with him at all.  Blinded by her many charms, he goes along to the party, but the later the night gets, the larger his feeling of dread grows ...

Maxie knows Emma only invited her to the party as a favor to Maxie's mom.  Back in town after four years away, Maxie feels lonely and stressed about starting school without really knowing anyone.  Emma used to be her BFF, but things have changed a lot since Maxie left Chicago ...

Felix deals with his father's deployment in Afghanistan and his worry about his exhausted mother by smoking weed.  He's not opposed to other methods, though, so he tags along with Emma and her gang to what promises to be an epic party.  The fact that his old friend Maxie is coming along makes the prospect even more appealing.  But as Felix smokes away his worries, the night is progressing toward its horrifying conclusion.  Will he be too high to stop things before they get too crazy?

What will happen when these six, plus two others, have to face the consequences of the terrible choices they all make on one fateful night?  How will they react?  How will they cope?  How will they survive?

The plot to Ghosting, Edith Pattou's YA novel in verse, is almost too simple to describe.  Something horrible happens and everyone reacts to the tragedy in their own individual way.  End of story.  Except it's not.  Told from varying viewpoints in sharp, nuanced poetry, Ghosting explores how profound, life-changing events often strike on the most ordinary of days in the most mundane of circumstances.  It examines the sometimes fatal results of thoughtless decisions and impulsive actions—on the innocent as well as the guilty.  Haunting, but hopeful, it's an impacting story told in a poetic voice that, nonetheless, cuts to the very heart of things.  

(Readalikes:  A million other YA books should be coming to mind, but I've got nothing.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder invectives); violence; sexual innuendo; and depictions of illegal drug use and underage drinking/partying

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Ghosting from BookSparks as part of its Fall Reading Challenge blog tour.  Thank you!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

TTT: What Books Are You Falling For This Autumn?


It's Tuesday and you know what that means ... it's time for my favorite weekly bookish meme.  I haven't participated in a few weeks, but I love this week's easy-breezy topic.  I'm guaranteed to get some great reading recommendations while looking at people's lists for Top Ten Books on My Fall To-Be-Read List.  Want to join in the fun?  Click on over to The Broke and the Bookish and link yourself up.

Here's my list:


1.  Doll Bones by Holly Black—I recently made my kids watch an old X-Files episode about a creepy doll.  This looks like the perfect follow-up read aloud.  Hee hee.



2.  Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult—I can't wait for this one to come out in a few weeks.  I love Picoult and this novel about a woman trying to find the mother who abandoned her as a child sounds excellent.



3.  Sweet Unrest by Lisa Maxwell—This YA ghost story, which comes out on October 8, revolves around a girl who starts having odd dreams after moving into an old Louisiana plantation home.  Sounds like a good Halloween read!



4.  Gathering Blue, Messenger and Son by Lois Lowry—Yeah, yeah, I know this is technically three novels, but I recently purchased the Giver quartet in the lovely omnibus edition you see above, so I'm counting them as one book.



5.  UnDivided by Neal Shusterman—Man, I better start playing the lottery so I can afford to buy all the great books that are coming out in October!  This is the final book in what has been a thoroughly compelling and always thought-provoking series.


6.  Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd—I didn't love, love, love The Madman's Daughter, but I'm interested enough to give the sequel a whirl.



7.  Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson—Woodson always draws me in with her stories about family, friendship, ethnicity, etc.  This one is a collection of poetry about her experiences as an African-American girl growing up during the 1960s and 1970s.  It looks excellent.


8.  We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni—This one just looks fun.


9.  Contaminated by Em Garner—I'm reading this novel about zombie rehabilitation for Carl's R.I.P. Reading Challenge.  It looks interesting.


10.  Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith—I've heard a lot about this thriller and figure it's about time I got around to reading it.

What about you?  What books are you planning to read this Fall?  Which should I add to my list?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Psychological Thriller Fans, This One's For You

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Residents of Gardnerville live in a paradise unlike any other place on earth.  Within its borders, no sickness or disease exists.  People routinely live past 100 years old, even though they always look decades younger than their actual ages.  Those wracked with incurable illnesses in the outside world flock to Gardnerville, where their lives are magically prolonged.  The town bestows other gifts as well, like 16-year-old Skylar's ability to "read" people's deep, dark secrets.  

No magical utopia comes without a price, however—and Gardnerville's is steep.  Every four years, the town's strange magic overtakes a teenager's mind, causing them to create a terrible crime.  The perpetrators are locked up in the reformatory; when they return to their families years later, they're different.  Forever.

Four years ago, the crazy overtook Piper, Skylar's older sister.  Skylar's never recovered from the shock of watching Piper force her classmates to jump to their deaths.  Forget-me-not pills help numb her, erasing the awful memories from her hazy mind.  But lately, the drugs aren't enough.  Skylar knows the only way to end Gardnerville's horrific cycle of violence is to stop it.  But how can one zoned-out teenager do that?  The messages Piper left behind may hold the key to ending the fourth year problem for good—if only Skylar can find the courage to remember the very things she's trying so desperately to forget.

In (Don't You) Forget About Me, Kate Karyus Quinn blends many elements (mystery, magic, romance, horror) into a unique and compelling psychological thriller.  It takes some patience to understand the world she's created since the rules aren't too clear, especially in the beginning of the novel.  Still, the story's different, which makes Gardnerville and Skylar's struggle to solve its mysteries even more intriguing.  Multi-layered and full of surprises, (Don't You) Forget About Me is is as mesmerizing as it is haunting.  If you dig a good psychological thriller, this one's for you.  

(Readalikes:  Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language (about a dozen F-bombs + milder invectives), violence/gore, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of (Don't You) Forget About Me from the generous folks at HarperCollins.  Thank you!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Koryta Thriller Not Quite Thrilling Enough

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When 14-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder involving local law enforcement, his family knows it's not safe for him to stay in his hometown.  Violent killers are on the loose—and they're looking for Jace.  Using a false name, he is enrolled in a wilderness survival program for troubled teens.  Off the grid in the Montana mountains, he should be safe while the police hunt down the murderers.  Should be.  

The Blackwell Brothers, a dangerous duo, know their continued freedom depends on the elimination of Jace Wilson.  No matter where he flees, they will find him.  Only three people stand in their way:  Ethan and Allison Serbin, the couple who runs the wilderness survival program, and Hannah Faber, a lonely firefighter who battles her demons from the tower where she watches the forest for flare-ups.  Compared to the Blackwells, it's not much of a defense.  As the murderers come ever closer to Jace's hideout, it's up to him and a trio of unprepared adults to keep them all alive.  But the Blackwells, as everyone knows, never allow witnesses to live ...

Given all the hype surrounding this book, I expected a lot more out of Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta.  I figured it would be an exciting, fast-paced thriller—and it was.  It just wasn't much else.  The characters—with the exception of the Blackwells, who were delightfully unique (in a scary, cold-blooded kind of way)—didn't get developed much in the course of the story.  Plotwise, the novel remained pretty generic.  On the whole, I found the whole thing depressing and disappointing.  I wanted—expected—too much from it, I guess.  Overall, it's an average thriller, entertaining enough, but with few surprises.

(Readalikes:  Although I haven't read the novel versions of these movies, Those Who Wish Me Dead reminded me of The Client [book by John Grisham] and Stand By Me [based on The Body by Stephen King])

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, and scenes of peril 

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Friday, September 19, 2014

Comfort or Cold-Blooded Murder: What Really Happened at Memorial During Katrina's Aftermath?

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As Hurricane Katrina barreled toward New Orleans in late August 2005, residents braced for impact.  Many headed for Memorial Medical Center, a sprawling hospital in the heart of the city that had, for generations, provided sturdy shelter through violent storms.  When the hurricane hit, around 2,000 people—including patients, doctors, nurses, other hospital employees, and their friends/family members (many of whom brought along pets)—sought safety inside its walls.  Although the hospital suffered some damage from the storm's initial battering, it continued to operate, surviving as it always had.

When floodwater began to rise, swamping the city and causing widespread panic both within the hospital and without, the staff at Memorial started to realize they may not be as safe as they had previously thought.  With complete power failure becoming increasingly likely, the evacuation of Memorial's nearly 200 patients become necessary.  Stranded people all over the area were in dire need of rescue.  With few vehicles available, hospital staff had to make some tough decisions:  Which patients should be evacuated first?  The tiny babies in the NICU?  The sickest adults?  The patients who were healthiest?  A decision that seemed simple at the time, but later became critical, was made: patients with Do Not Resuscitate orders would be taken out of the hospital last.  

Those in charge at Memorial believed the hospital would be emptied completely within a matter of hours.  This did not happen—and would not happen until September 11th, when coroners removed 45 corpses from Memorial's chapel.  What occurred to the more than 100 patients who remained after the hospital's initial evacuation during the five harrowing days between August 28, when the storm hit, and September 1, when all living patients were rescued from Memorial?  Why did so many people, more than at any other medical facility of comparable size, perish?  As the power died, causing the failure of lights, air conditioners, and life-saving medical equipment, conditions inside the hospital became unbearable, not just for patients but for the doctors and nurses who were rapidly losing hope in the promise of rescue.  With no end to anyone's misery in sight, those in charge at Memorial made a critical choice—to make suffering patients "comfortable."  Were those decisions merciful acts or cold-blooded murder? 

Five Days at Memorial, an epic work of investigative journalism by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Sheri Fink, presents the chilling facts, allowing the reader to come to his/her own conclusions about what really happened at the hospital.  Well-balanced and exhaustively researched, it's a haunting account that asks important questions about disaster preparedness; medical ethics; end-of-life care; and the responsibility of doctors toward their patients, especially when under extreme stress with their own lives in danger.  At just under 600 pages, Five Days at Memorial looks intimidating, but it's actually very readable.  It didn't bore me in the least.  Eye-opening and thought-provoking, the book is an intense, compelling piece of non-fiction that should not be missed.  

For a shorter, but just as riveting account of the situation recounted in the book, click here to read "The Deadly Choices at Memorial," an article Fink published in The New York Times Magazine on August 25, 2007.  

(Readalikes:  Although Five Days at Memorial is different than anything else I've read about Hurricane Katrina, it does remind me of fictional accounts of the storm, like Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes and Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana)

Grade:  

If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, and intense scenes/situations

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, September 18, 2014

In Spite of Triple Digit Temperatures, Fall Is On My Mind ...


Even though we don't start getting Fall weather here in the Phoenix area until oh, around December, I still love this time of year.  It reminds me of autumn in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge (Washington/Oregon), where I grew up—I loved the crispness in the air, the golden colors of the changing leaves, the smell of ripening apples, and the feel of soft sweaters and flannel against my skin.  None of those things are happening around me at the moment, but here's one sign of the season that remains the same no matter where I live:  the start of the R.I.P. (Readers Imbibing Peril) Challenge over at Stainless Steel Droppings.  I get excited about this reading challenge every year, even though I haven't participated in awhile.  Things have been a little slow around old BBB lately, so I thought, why not liven things up with a little challenge?  This one, which is in its ninth year (wow!), celebrates things that go bump in the night, particularly horror stories, dark fantasy, mystery, suspense, supernatural, gothic, etc.  I'm a little late to the party this time around, but I'm going to go for broke and sign on for Peril the First which requires me to read four books that fit in with the RIP Challenge genres.  Here's what I'm planning to read:




1.  Contaminated by Em Garner -- This YA novel about rehabilitating zombies sounds like ... fun?

2.  Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd -- The second book in a YA series starring 16-year-old Juliet Moreau, daughter of H.G. Wells' famous mad scientist.

3.  Needful Things by Stephen King -- I think I read this waaayyyy back in high school.  What better time for a re-read?

4.  Sweet Unrest by Lisa Maxwell -- This book, which comes out in a couple of weeks, involves a teen girl who's trying to solve the mystery of the troubling dreams she's had all her life, which are becoming even more strange since her family moved into an old Louisiana plantation house.

What do you think?  Can I handle it?  We shall see, we shall see ... What about you?  Are you brave enough to imbibe?  Want to join the challenge with me?  Click here for all the details.  Also, don't forget to show some love to the talented Abigail Larson, who designed the challenge banners.

Happy haunting reading!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sequel Disappointing After Archetype Build-up

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Prototype, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Archetype.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Having narrowly escaped the possessive clutches of Declan Burke—the man who claims to be her adoring husband—Emma is on the run.  Desperate to find the parents she never knew, she's spent the last year searching the globe for any sign of them, but to no avail.  While questioning a promising source in far-off Mexico, she receives shocking news.  Declan, whom she believed to be dead is, in fact, alive.  Not only that, but he wants her back.  And has promised to make the person who can produce his missing wife a very, very wealthy individual.  

With a target on her back, Emma has little choice but to go underground.  Although the Resistance leaders allow her to hide with them, no one—least of all Noah Tucker—can quite trust the clone who wears the face of their dead friend.  Emma doesn't want to intrude on the life Noah has made for himself with another woman, even if that woman is now helping him raise their daughter.  Still, she can't help feeling envious.  Still unsure of what she actually is, Emma can't help questioning what she wants and where she really belongs.  Should she reconcile herself to being Declan's dutiful wife or should she fight for what was Emma Wade's—even if she's not exactly Emma Wade?  As Declan's forces close in on her, Emma must chose her fate, once and for all.

After the thrill ride that was M.D. Waters' Archetype, I couldn't wait to delve into its sequel, Prototype.  I expected the same kind of taut, twisty plotline; intriguing world-building; and psychological suspense that kept me so riveted in the first book.  Did I find it in Prototype?  Not so much.  The plot suffers because of Emma's weak story goal, dissolving into a generic dystopian cat-and-mouse adventure with an irritating love triangle at its center.  There are a few psychological thrills thrown in to make Prototype interesting, but not quite enough to make it as enjoyable as Archetype.  All in all, I did find this one entertaining, just a little disappointing after the build-up of the first book.  

(Readalikes:  Archetype by M.D. Waters)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Prototype from the generous folks at Penguin.  Thank you!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Archetype a Taut, Twisty Genre Mash-up

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When 26-year-old Emma Burke awakes in a hospital with only the foggiest of memories to keep her company, her doctor explains that she's been in a horrible accident.  Because of her injuries, she can't remember the most mundane things—like her husband.  Declan tells her stories about how they met, fell in love, and lived happily ever after, but they might as well be fairy tales.  These beloved memories should feel familiar, but they don't.  Not at all.  The strange dreams that fill her nights seem more real.  But, they project impossible images, false memories of violence, a camp where young girls are trained to be perfect wives, and her love for a man who is not Declan.  Emma can't make any sense of anything.  She should be able to confide in her husband as well as her doctor, Declan's trusted friend—if it weren't for the warning voice screaming in her head, maybe she would.

Meeting Noah Tucker, the head of a security company engaged by Declan, changes everything for Emma.  She's almost positive he's the man in her dreams—the one who makes every nerve ending in her body tingle with joy—so why is he trying to kill her? 

More confused than ever, Emma must decide who to believe—her husband or the man who haunts her dreams.  The story Noah tells her feels nearly as false as the one Declan has spun.  Which version of her life is the true one?  Both?  Neither?  Who is Emma Burke, really?  The more she learns about herself, the more horrified she becomes ...

It's tough to describe Archetype, a debut novel by M.D. Waters, without throwing spoilers all over the place.  Suffice it to say, the story's a taut, twisty genre mash-up (sci fi/psychological thriller; romance; dystopian-ish) that will keep you guessing.  Or maybe you'll have it all figured out by the second chapter.  Even then, I dare say, you'll keep reading.  Because, whatever else Archetype may be, it's an edge-of-your-seat, mind-bending adventure that will leave you clamoring for a sequel (good news: Prototype came out in July).  

(Readalikes:  Prototype by M.D. Waters; also reminded me of Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Archetype from the generous folks at Penguin/Dutton.  Thank you!

Friday, September 12, 2014

In a Handful of Dust A Compelling and Worthy Sequel

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for In a Handful of Dust, it may inadvertently expose plot surprises from its predecessor, Not a Drop to Drink.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Even though Lynn has learned the value of trusting other people, the 26-year-old is still watchful, still cautious.  Unlike Lynn, Lucy—who is now 16—has grown up in a close community, surrounded by friends.  She knows little about vigilance or surviving in the world beyond their small village.  But, when a deadly disease strikes, killing almost everyone in its path, that's exactly what Lucy must do.  Led by the unyielding Lynn, she leaves behind the people she loves, including the boy she hoped to marry, for the promise of a "normal" life in far away California.

There are a lot of miles between Ohio and the Pacific Ocean, all of them fraught with danger.  It's not just the threat of wildlife or human violence that threatens them, but all the mundane problems as well—hunger, thirst, blisters, sunburns, injuries, squabbles, etc.  Although Lucy pines for her lost love, both women are determined to reach safety on the West Coast.  No matter what it takes to get there—and it will take everything they have.  And more.

One of the reasons I liked Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis' debut novel, so much is that it offered an original take on a familiar story.  That, combined with compelling characters, vivid prose and tight plotting made it stand out from all the other YA dystopians out there.  With its sequel, In a Handful of Dust (available September 23, 2014), the story bends in a more generic The Road-type direction.  Still, McGinnis knows how to keep things from getting too stale.  With the bleak, spare style that defined Not a Drop to Drink, she continues to develop the relationship between Lynn and Lucy while hurling enough obstacles in their way to keep their journey exciting.  Although I liked the first novel better, In a Handful of Dust is still a compelling and worthy sequel.  Overall, I enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis; The Road by Cormac McCarthy)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder invectives), violence/gore, sexual innuendo and references to rape

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-galley of In a Handful of Dust from the generous folks at Harper Collins via those at Edelweiss.  Thank you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Original Alternate World Makes Inventive Middle Grade Novel Exciting, Absorbing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When 13-year-old Jax Aubrey awakes to an empty world, he assumes he's the sole survivor of some crazy apocalyptic event.  Except nothing seems damaged or different—all the people have just up and disappeared.  If it's a nightmare, it's the most realistic one he's ever had.  When Jax notices his 18-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, moving around as well, he learns the truth: he's a Transitioner.   People like him and Riley are among the few who are able to slip beyond the week's ordinary seven days into a special eighth day.  

There's little to occupy Jax's time on the eighth day—until he discovers a mysterious girl hiding in the house next door.  Unlike Jax, Evangeline Emrys exists only on this extra day.  Curiosity piqued, Jax determines to find out everything he can about her.  Riley warns Jax to stay away from Evangeline, but Jax can't understand the harm.  As he gets to know her better, though, he realizes who the girl really is and why Riley's so determined to keep her existence a secret.  By nosing around, Jax has added fuel to an ancient feud—now it's up to the two boys to protect Evangeline from an enemy as old as time.

I love books that fire up my imagination by offering me unique, alternate worlds.  The Eighth Day, the first book in Dianne K. Salerni's inventive new middle grade series, does just that.  Although the plot's a little skimpy, its focus being more on world-building, the story is still exciting and absorbing.  It's a fun, original read.  I'm counting down the days until January 27, 2014 when the sequel finally comes out!

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of an old, adult book—The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything by John D. MacDonald)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Tyger Tyger Pretty Generic Generic

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Teagan Wylltson lives an ordinary life.  She's just a 16-year-old girl from Chicago who spends her days studying, hanging out with her BFF and working with primates at the Lincoln Park Zoo.  She's no one special.  And she's certainly not crazy.  Except that she's been seeing things.  Strange things.  Things that cannot possibly be real.  

When gorgeous Finn McCumhail shows up out of nowhere raving about goblins, Teagan knows he's telling the truth.  There's no other way to explain what she's been seeing.  But, if Finn's stories about the ancient creatures from Irish folklore are real, that means Teagan and her family are in grave danger.  Finn claims they were born to fight all goblin-kind, but just the sight of the horrible monsters makes Teagan want to run away screaming.  Can Finn teach her how to resist their strange magic?  Can Teagan trust the beautiful boy who is, after all, a stranger?  What will happen to those she loves if she puts her faith in the wrong person?  What evil will she bring down on them all if she chooses the wrong side in the goblin wars?  With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Teagan must decide where her loyalties lie.  

Because I've read so many YA urban fantasies like this one, I put off reading Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton.  And really, the only reason I finally picked it up (so to speak) is that it caught my attention when I was browsing through books on my phone's Kindle app looking for something to keep me awake during a snooze-worthy Diamondbacks baseball game.  Tyger Tyger did the trick.  At least for the duration of the game.  The story drew me in enough that I kept reading, but in the end, I found the novel disappointing.  Why?  Generic plot, annoying insta-love, abrupt transitions between scenes, underdeveloped characters, and just general over-writing.  To me, the novel felt over-long and underwhelming.  I finished it, but I didn't care enough about the characters to bother picking up the sequel.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of The Iron King by Julie Kagawa)

Grade:

    
If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs) and violence/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Tyger Tyger from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.  

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

When the Taste of Sugar Ain't So Sweet ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although no one is allowed to own Sugar anymore, she still feels like a slave.  Spending long, grueling days cutting sugarcane under the sweltering sun doesn't seem very free to her.  She longs for a life beyond River Road Plantation, where she can do as she pleases without the master or the overseer or even her adoptive mama, Missus Beale, looking over her shoulder.  It's only when Sugar's traipsing along the banks of the Mississippi River, exploring and make-believing with the master's son, that she really feels free.  Even then, she can't let her guard down—if anyone catches her and Billy together, they'll both be beaten.  

When Billy tells Sugar a secret—his father is hiring Chinese workers to labor alongside the former slaves in the cane field—she feels a tingle of excitement.  She's the only one, though.  The rest of the plantation workers fear for their meager wages.  They look at their new co-workers with suspicion and doubt.  Sugar can't understand the tension as she finds the Chinese men fascinating.  There's one thing she does understand—she's the only one who can bring all the workers together.  But how?  And what will it cost her to take such a risk?  Her reckless bravery always leads to trouble—will this time be any different?

Sugar, like Jewell Parker Rhodes' first middle grade book, Ninth Ward, offers readers a strong, capable heroine who uses her wits to rise above a difficult situation.  Although she possesses courage and wisdom beyond her years, Sugar's childlike enthusiasm and imagination guarantee she remains both believable and relatable.  Young readers will relish her mischievous streak, while applauding her efforts to promote understanding and peace among two very different groups of people.  Hers is a quiet, enjoyable story that reminds us of the humanity we all share, regardless of our race or culture.   


Grade:

If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scary situations
To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, August 28, 2014

No Lie, Tempe's Latest Adventure Gives Me All the Feels

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Bones Never Lie, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Tempe Brennan adventures.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)    

With a vicious cold wreaking havoc on her nose and throat, the last thing Tempe Brennan wants to do is head to work.  But, unidentified corpses in need of her particular skill set to wrangle out their mysteries wait for no man—or woman.  Souped up on Sudafed, the forensic anthropologist reports to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, perplexed by the summons to powwow over a case long grown cold.  What she discovers chills her blood.  A sadistic female serial killer, whom Tempe has helped investigate in the past (Monday Mourning, 2003) is at it again.  Anique Pomerleau is Tempe's one-that-got-away.  This time, Tempe's not about to let her go.  She'll do anything she can to find the sick woman and see that she pays—once and for all—for her crimes.

Unfortunately, "anything" involves not just finding her longtime colleague (and on again/off again boyfriend), who flew off the grid after his daughter's death two months ago, but also convincing him to help her track down Pomerleau.  Tempe has personal reasons for wanting to see Andrew Ryan, the man who still makes her girl parts sing, but they're trumped by her professional need to catch the killer.  She knows the Brennan/Ryan team can nail this one.  But bringing a changed Ryan on the case leads to its own complications.

As Tempe and Ryan chase dead end after dead end, Pomerleau's victim count increases.  More young girls will die if they don't stop her soon.  Can they nab Anique before it's too late?  Or will she remain the one who got away—again?

Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm a huge Kathy Reichs fan.  More specifically, a huge Tempe Brennan fan.  I love the sassy, indefatigable scientist—her down-to-earth personality, her sense of humor, her passion for her work, everything.  She's the kind of vivid, complex character that I would follow anywhere.  Although Bones Never Lie (available September 23, 2014) disturbed me more than other of her adventures (something about a woman preying on young girls ... just ick), I still devoured the novel.  As with other Tempe books, this one offers a compelling mystery peppered with fascinating forensic detail explained in terms the average person can (pretty much) understand; exciting, didn't-see-that-one-coming plot twists; and, of course, the friction and sizzle that always accompanies Tempe's interactions with people like "Skinny" Slidell and Andrew Ryan.  Oh, and let's talk about the ending of Bones Never Lie for a minute—gave me all the feels, people, all the feels!  Love, love, love.  So, yeah, enjoyed the book, still adore the series.  Amen.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books in the Tempe Brennan series by Kathy Reichs [Deja Dead; Death Du Jour; Deadly Decisions; Fatal Voyage; Grave Secrets; Bare Bones; Monday Mourning; Cross Bones; Break No Bones; Bones to Ashes; Devil Bones; 206 Bones; Spider Bones; Flash and Bones; Bones Are Forever; Bones in Her Pocket; Bones of the Lost; Swamp Bones])

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, blood/gore, sexual innuendo, violence, and disturbing images/content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Bones Never Lie from the generous folks at Random House via those at NetGalley.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rollicking Western Yarn Has Heart

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Placid, Wisconsin; 1871—When 13-year-old Georgie Burkhardt lets a juicy secret slip, it sends her shocked older sister off in a huff.  A long ways off.  Two weeks later, the sheriff returns from his search for Agatha with nothing but a corpse.  The body is that of a young woman, but beyond that, the remains are unidentifiable.  Because it's dressed in a distinctive blue-green ball gown that belonged to Agatha Burkhardt, everyone assumes the dead girl is Agatha.  Everyone except Georgie, that is.  As guilty as she feels over the part she played in her sister's disappearance, Georgie refuses to believe Agatha is dead.  She can't stand the thought that "Agatha—sister, friend, guide to life, and the eighth wonder of my world" (15) could be gone for good.

Armed with her trusty Springfield rifle and mounted on a not-so-trusty mule, Georgie sets out on a quest to find her sister.  She knows only that nature-loving Agatha ran off with a suspicious-looking group of "pigeoners" following the birds' migration.  What happened after that is anyone's guess.  Despite her well-deserved reputation as a sharpshooter, Georgie's not as confident as she appears to be.  As she confronts all the dangers the western frontier has to offer, she'll have to harness every ounce of strength within her in order to find the sister she loves.  Even if—especially if—the trail leads straight back to a freshly-dug grave in Placid, Wisconsin.  

I can't remember which blogger recommended One Came Home by Amy Timberlake, but her review of the book immediately sparked my interest.  It sounded like a unique middle grade adventure story with a quirky heroine and a vivid historical setting.  Which it is.  Georgie brings a lot to the table with her strong personality, wry sense of humor and unwavering devotion to her sister.  She makes the story.  Her various adventures keep the tale interesting, as does the mystery of Agatha's fate.  For all the build-up, the ending of One Came Home did strike me as a bit anti-climactic.  Still and all, I enjoyed this rollicking Western yarn.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and vague references to prostitution

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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