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2022 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska (1)
- Arizona
- Arkansas
- California (2)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia (1)
- Hawaii (1)
- Idaho
- Illinois (1)
- Indiana (1)
- Iowa (1)
- Kansas
- Kentucky
- Louisiana
- Maine (1)
- Maryland (2)
- Massachusetts (4)
- Michigan (2)
- Minnesota (1)
- Mississippi (1)
- Missouri
- Montana
- Nebraska
- Nevada
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York (5)
- North Carolina (2)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (1)
- Oklahoma
- Oregon
- Pennsylvania (2)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (1)
- Texas (2)
- Utah (1)
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (1)
- Washington (3)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin (1)
- Wyoming
- Washington, D.C.* (1)


Antarctica (1)
Australia (2)
Egypt (2)
England (11)
Italy (1)
Nepal (1)
Romania (1)
Scotland (3)
Sweden (1)

My Progress:

27 / 51 states. 53% done!

2022 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

18 / 50 books. 36% done!

2022 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

19 / 25 books. 76% done!

2022 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge

My Progress:

40 / 53 books. 75% done!

Booklist Queen's 2022 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

38 / 52 books. 73% done!

Aussie Author Reading Challenge 2022

1 / 24 books. 4% done!

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge

3 / 20 books. 15% done!

2022 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

My Progress:

29 / 50 books. 58% done!

The 52 Book Club's Reading Challenge 2022

The 52 Book Club's Reading Challenge 2022

My Progress:

37 / 52 books. 71% done!

2022 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

33 / 50 books. 66% done!

2022 Support Book Bloggers Challenge

2022 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

Friday, August 31, 2012

A is For Alright, But Not Amazing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Tink Aaron-Martin's got some time to kill.  That's the thing about being grounded—it's a vast, endless ocean of empty hours, minutes and seconds.  What's a 12-year-old aspiring writer to do?  Why, create her own encyclopedia, of course!  Starting with Aa (a type of lava) and ending with Zoo (of course), Tink takes the reader through the alphabetized story of her life.  She tackles brothers (she has 2), parents (2, although it might as well be none thanks to the long hours they work), her brother's autism ("Let's talk about this endlessly!  By which I mean, let's not"), her BFF (who's smarter, prettier, funnier than Tink and maybe, too mature to hang out with her anymore), and a new friend (a blue-haired skateboarder named Kai, who is of no interest to Tink—none at all).  Mostly, though, it's a story about growing up, because that's what Tink does during the "weirdest, most wonderful summer of my life."

There's not a lot of plot going on in The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers, which makes it a difficult book to describe.  Still, it's an entertaining read, with a clever format, a lovable heroine and some poignant thoughts on friendship, family and finding oneself.  Although the snark sometimes feels overdone, Tink's narration is what makes the novel so fun.  She's a funny girl, full of all the angst and insecurity that comes with being almost 13.  I appreciate the fact that Tink's bi-racial, although there's little else that's really unique about her or her story.  All and all, I wanted more from The Encyclopedia of Me, especially in the way of plot.  It's a fun read, but one that wanders rather aimlessly and doesn't leave much of an impact.

(Readalikes:  Nothing comes to mind.  Any ideas?)

Grade:  C+

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG; Because the book talks a little bit about puberty and has some kissing in it, it would probably be most appropriate for children ages 11 and above

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Encyclopedia of Me from the generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you!   
Monday, August 27, 2012

Poetic and Powerful, The One and Only Ivan Truly Is One-of-a-Kind

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's not easy being a silverback gorilla.  Especially one who's caged up at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.  Just ask Ivan.  He's been the main attraction there for most of his 27 years.  The wild, he knows from experience, is a dangerous place and, yet, he longs for his lost home and the family he left behind.  Those memories are dim, though; to survive, Ivan must push them away.  It's the only way to be satisfied with a life spent behind bars.  So, Ivan concentrates on his friends, his paintings, and the tiny world of the Big Top Mall—the only world he's really ever known.    

Then Ruby arrives.  The terrified baby elephant is slated to become the Big Top Mall's new star, but she's too scared to cooperate.  Ivan knows he has to protect little Ruby.  His jungle instincts haven't been totally erased by his pampered life and yet, Ivan can't think of how to save her.  He only knows he must.  And soon.

There's no way to capture the essence of The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate in a simple plot summary.  I'm convinced it can't be done.  Why?  Because the story inside this unassuming book packs a wallop so big that it can't be contained, let alone explained.  In spare, but lovely prose, Applegate tells a beautiful tale that's poetic, powerful, and purposeful.  I can't begin to describe how deeply it touched me, so just trust me on this one—you want to read Ivan's story.

Note:  Although The One and Only Ivan is a work of fiction, it's based on a real story, which you can read about here.    

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

Grade:  A

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for some disturbing content (animal cruelty)

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed The One and Only Ivan from my kids' elementary school library as part of my volunteer work with the school's reading program. 
Saturday, August 25, 2012

TGIS - A (Belated) Book Blogger Hop

I'm a little late to the party this week, but that's okay!  The Book Blogger Hop is in full swing and I'm joining in the fun.  You can, too—just go to Crazy For Books to get all the details.  It's a good ole time, a great opportunity to find awesome new blogs and spread the word about yours.

This week's question is:

What is your favorite thing about blogging?

- Easy.  For me, it's all about mingling with other book lovers.  I love talking about what I'm reading, my favorite authors, what's new in the book world, etc. with other people who get it ('cause, you know, not everyone does).  It's just a whole lot of fun for me.  Because of this blog, I've gotten to "meet" tons of readers, authors, bloggers, publicists, booksellers—both in the virtual world and the real one.  I learn something from each and everyone one of you.  What's not to love about that?

What about you?  What's your favorite part of blogging?

If this is your first visit to BBB, welcome!  I'm so glad you're here.  Take a look around, leave me a comment (or two or three or ten) and I'll definitely return the favor.  If you've been lurking around this joint for awhile now, thank you!  Your support means so much to me.  

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!  I'm going to be spending the next few hours watching my daughter get her hair braided, then I'll be back to do some hopping.  See y'all soon.     
Friday, August 24, 2012

E-book Gift Cards—Catchy Concept or Not?

Like most bloggers, I get my fair share of requests to review different products and services.  I turn down the majority of them since evaluating sunglasses or diapers or whatever isn't really consistent with what I'm trying to do here at BBB.  However, when I get an offer to try something cool and bookish, well, I'm all over it.

Naturally, then, I was thrilled to hear from Livrada, a new company that sells e-book gift cards.  These are physical cards sold at brick and mortar stores, each of which is good for the redemption of one e-book.  Like a traditional book, each card features beautiful cover art and a plot summary for the novel it represents.  The e-books are easily downloaded to all Kindle and Nook devices.  Currently, the cards are being sold at Target and are available for the following titles:  State of Wonder by Ann Patchett; Fifty Shades of Gray by E.L. James; Odd Thomas by Dean R. Koontz; Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson; and 44 Charles Street by Danielle Steele.  They're fun, personal gifts that are perfect for the booklovers in your life.

The generous folks at Livrada gave me a choice of titles.  I selected Odd Thomas.  Redeeming the gift card and downloading the e-book to my Kindle Fire was just as quick and easy as promised.  I haven't had a chance to read the novel yet, but I will soon.

So, as much as I enjoyed using my gift card, I'm not sure I would actually buy one.  Why?  Well, unless I knew a person's reading tastes really, really well and knew exactly which books they did/did not have, I would be hesitant to give them a title-specific gift card.  A generic e-card to say, Amazon, wouldn't be as personal, but it would be more practical, you know?  I would be much more likely to go that route.  I'm also not sure about how the pricing works.  I went to my local Target the other night to do a little research and couldn't find the gift cards anywhere, not in the book section, not in the gift card section, nowhere, so there also appears to be an availability problem.  At any rate, I think Livrada's come up with a fun concept.  I'm just not sure it's going to catch on all that well.  What do you think?      
Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One of Those You'll-Laugh-You'll-Cry-You'll-Jeer-You'll-Cheer Kind of Stories

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I've tried about a dozen times to write an adequate plot summary for The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield, but I just can't get it right.  I'm thinking the simpler the better for this book, so here's the short-and-sweet description that appears on Barnes & Noble and Amazon:

Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core and setting the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change. 
The plot of the novel is difficult to describe, probably because there isn't much of one, especially not at the beginning of the book.  In fact, yesterday, I was reading it while waiting for the dentist to examine my teeth.  I was about 100 pages into the story when he asked me what The Homecoming of Samuel Lake was about.  My response?  "Um, hm, now that you mention it, I have no idea."  Which isn't to say the tale isn't interesting.  It is.  It's just that the author takes her time setting the stage for the main conflict of the story (which doesn't present itself until around Page 150).  With a less skilled writer, this could have been a problem.  But, Wingfield's lush, tantalizing prose charmed me so much that I almost forgot about plot altogether (until my dentist reminded me, that is).  Also, because the author gives the reader time to really get to know her characters before abusing them with savage plot twists, the reader cares and cares deeply about what happens to them.  The book's finale is an excellent case in point—I sobbed through the majority of the last 100 pages, because by then, the Moses Family felt like my own kin, their tragedies seemed like my own.  The Homecoming of Samuel Lake isn't a perfect book, mind you, but it's one of those you'll-laugh-you'll-cry-you'll-jeer-you'll-cheer kind of stories, the kind that touches your heart and makes you believe that no matter how much ugliness exists in this world, it will always be trumped by the beauty that lives here, too.     

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

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), mild sexual content, and violence (including the abuse of women, children and animals)

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake from the generous folks at Random House via the lovely ladies at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bones Are Forever Injects New Life Into One of My Favorite Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Bones Are Forever by Kathy Reichs, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier books in the Temperance Brennan series.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is used to dealing with grisly crime scenes.  It's part of her job.  But, when she finds three dead infants hidden in the walls of a rundown apartment in Montreal, she can hardly stand it.  Tempe's shocked, horrified and filled with an anger so hot she can barely see straight.  What kind of monster kills babies?  Was it the children's mother?  If so, why?  What could possibly have driven her to do such a horrific thing and not once, but thrice?  Tempe cannot even begin to imagine the answers, so she does what she does best:  she reads the bones.

Based on evidence Tempe discovers, police track the mother to Yellowknife, an isolated diamond-mining community deep in the Northwest Territories.  Tempe's invited along for the manhunt.  The last thing on Earth she wants to find is more tiny corpses, but she's determined to bring the babies' killer to justice. Tempe needs to focus on the case, but travelling with two former lovers makes concentration a bit difficult.  The situation is awkward enough:  Tempe's working with Detective Andrew Ryan, her sexy on-again-off-again (currently off) boyfriend and Ollie Hasty, a sergeant with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with whom Tempe had a long-ago dalliance.  The men's constant bickering only adds to the tension—sexual and otherwise—already crackling between the three.

As the case gets even more complicated, Tempe finds herself embroiled in a mess that involves not just dead babies, but also prostitutes, drug dealers, the lucrative diamond business and, of course, a cold-blooded killer.  The closer she gets to the truth behind the infants' deaths, the closer she comes to unmasking the murderer.  And becoming his/her next victim.

It's no secret that I'm a huge Kathy Reichs fan.  Ever since reading Deja Dead, the first novel in her popular Temperance Brennan series (which inspired the hit tv series Bones, by the way, although you really don't want to get me started on that ...), I've been hooked.  Tempe's a smart, funny heroine with an admirable passion for her work.  I love her character as well as the way Reichs makes forensic anthropology accessible for those of us whose only background in the science is the hundreds of hours we've logged watching CSI.

As much as I love the series, though, I have to admit it has—at times—lagged a little.  Well, no more!  Bones Are Forever (available August 28, 2012), the 15th Temperance Brennan book, just may be the very best.  With a unique locale, an intriguing mystery and a whole lot of sparks zinging between one of my favorite literary couples, the novel kept me thoroughly engrossed and wholly entertained.  Bones Are Forever injects new life into one of my favorite series, reminding me just how much I adore Kathy Reichs.  I seriously cannot wait to see where she takes Tempe next.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Temperance Brennan series, including 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; and Flash and Bones)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language, sexual innuendo, violence and adult situations

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Bones Are Forever from the generous folks at Scribner (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) via Edelweiss.  Thank you!   

Friday, August 17, 2012

TGIF—Time to Hop!

It's Friday and you know what that means here in book bloggerland—it's time to hop!  This is my favorite weekly event because it's just a good ole time.  I love finding new book blogs to follow.  It's always fun to see what's going on on other blogs and to see what books everyone's recommending.  If you want to join up (and you really should), click on over to Crazy For Books to get all the details.

This week's question is:

What is the one genre you will NEVER read?

- Easy—I'll never read erotica.  Ever.  There are other genres I shy away from (poetry, comic books, textbook-ish non-fiction, etc.), but, if a book in those genres sounded intriguing enough, I would still pick it up.  Not so with erotica.  When I say never, I mean never.  

What about you? 

If this is your first time visiting BBB, welcome!  I'm so excited you're here.  Please take a look around, make a comment (or two or three or ten) and, most of all, enjoy yourself.  I'll definitely return the favor.  If you're an old follower, a thousand thanks for your support of my blog.  I love writing it and it makes me happy to know that other people enjoy it, too.

Have a great weekend, everybody.  Happy reading!  

Old-Fashioned Animal Tale A Little Dull For My (Always Discerning) Tastes

(Image from Barnes & Noble)   

Although she lives inside a grand plantation house, Celeste longs for a real home. The tiny, timid mouse yearns for a place where she can nestle, safe from rat bullies and the threat of the housecat's claws.  A cage isn't exactly what she has in mind, but that's where she ends up after she's forced from her nest under the dining room floorboards.  Captivity, it turns out, isn't so bad.  Not when your captor is a nice boy like Joseph Mason.  Joseph's staying at the plantation while he and his teacher, John James Audubon, study the local wildlife.  Curled up inside Joseph's pocket, Celeste gets to experience things she never even imagined, things like the great outdoors, the perplexing behavior of humans, the excitement of flying like an osprey and, most of all, true friendship.  But when Joseph finishes his work in Louisiana and returns to Ohio, what will happen to Celeste?

Although I expected A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole to be a sweet, simple tale, it actually delves into a fairly dark subject.  Not only does it discuss animal cruelty, but it paints a famous naturalist in a rather unflattering light (Audubon, according to Cole's Author's Note, killed almost all of the birds he painted so lovingly).  At its heart, though, the tale is exactly what it purports to be:  "A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home."  Readers will sympathize with the book's kind heroine, although they may find that her story drags a bit.  Although A Nest for Celeste is a quick read with lots of illustrations, I yawned through a good portion of it.  I'm not sure how appealing this one will be for children, if even I found it a little dull.  Or maybe I'm full of prunes and they'll totally love it.  At any rate, I wasn't all that impressed.  

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

Grade:  C+

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for scenes of peril and scenes involving animal cruelty (not horribly graphic, but still might be disturbing for young children)

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed A Nest for Celeste from the library at my kids' elementary school as part of my volunteer work with the school's reading program.   
Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Twitterpated Another Upbeat, Enjoyable LDS Romance From Melanie Jacobson

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After a painful breakup with her childhood sweetheart, Jessie Taylor wants nothing to do with love.  The 25-year-old accountant has dated a little since arriving in Seattle three years ago, but all that's done is convince her that her perfect man does not reside in the Emerald City.  Not that she's looking for him.  Because she's not.  And if she was, she certainly wouldn't be searching for him on an online dating site.  No way.  She may be in a bit of a love slump, but she's not totally desperate.  Yet.  

Jessie's mortified when she discovers that she does, in fact, have an active profile on LDS Lookup.  Thanks to her pesky roommate, Jessie's become a hot item on the Mormon dating site.  She's seconds away from deleting her account altogether when one guy catches her eye:  Ben Bratton.  His profile picture is fuzzy, but his description of himself seems almost ... normal.  Jessie takes a chance and it pays off.  Ben is normal.  In fact, he's kind of incredible.  Does she dare get to know him better?  Can her trampled heart take any further abuse?  And what about her intense work schedule—if she spends all her time with Ben, how is she going to prove to her boss that she deserves the promotion he just gave her?  And, the biggest question of all:  Is Ben worth the risk?

Twitterpated by Melanie Jacobson is another fun, lighthearted read about a 20-something Mormon girl finding love online (Jacobson knows of which she speaks—she met her husband on an LDS dating site).  The story gets predictable, of course, and a bit contrived, but like I said, it's entertaining.  I would have liked more conflict, (it almost seemed like Jessie had to invent reasons not to be with Ben), as well as better character development, (Ben had no discernible personality and Jessie was a little too independent to win my sympathy) and a little more story (the subplots didn't get enough playing time for me).  Overall, though, Twitterpated is another upbeat, enjoyable romance from an author who actually makes me excited about the future of LDS fiction.  Jacobson's got a lot of exciting projects coming up.  I, for one, can't wait to see what she does next.         

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Melanie's other books, The List and Not My Type; also of My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions by Becca Wilhite)     

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for very mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I bought Twitterpated from Deseret Book with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.  
Monday, August 13, 2012

Compelling Mind-Bender My Favorite Wells Book Yet

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When 20-year-old Michael Shipman wakes up in a hospital bed, he's confused.  He can't remember where he's been for the last two weeks or why he now needs medical care.  Vague images of an empty, hollow city are the only memories swimming through his muddled mind.  Michael has no idea what happened to him, but he knows who's responsible—Them.  Of course, the doctors don't believe in Them.  They might even be Them.  He can't trust his medical team any more than he can trust anyone.  His best bet is to convince the doctors he's healthy and get the heck out of Dodge.

But, Michael's not going anywhere.  Especially not after the authorities name him as a suspect in a string of grisly murders in the Chicago area.  Michael can't remember killing anyone, but then, he can't remember not killing anyone either.  The voices in his head say he couldn't have harmed another person.  They say lots of things, not all of which are real.  In fact, the longer he stays in the mental hospital to which he's now confined, the less anything makes sense at all.

In his heart, Michael knows he's not a killer.  And yet, he's pretty sure his alarm clock will attack him if he doesn't keep it covered.  What is real?  What's only true in his head?  In order to save himself, Michael must figure it out before he's condemned to a lifetime of incarceration in a mental hospital—or worse.

The Hollow City, the newest adult novel by horror writer Dan Wells, is a riveting mind-twister.  I don't want to spoil it by saying too much, so I'll just tell you that I loved this entertaining psychological/supernatural thriller.  To me, it's more compelling, more entertaining, and a whole lot less gruesome than Wells' John Cleaver series.  I may be in the minority here, but I really think The Hollow City is Wells' best novel to date.   It's my favorite, anyway.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Dan Wells' John Cleaver series [I Am Not A Serial Killer; Mr. Monster; I Don't Want to Kill You] and a teensy bit of Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson)

Grade:  B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for mild language (no F-bombs), violence/gore and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Hollow City from the generous folks at Tor/Forge.  Thank you!

**Don't forget that you can win yourself a copy of this excellent psychological/supernatural thriller.  Click here to enter the giveaway.  It ends on August 15th, so don't delay!         
Friday, August 10, 2012

A Winner and a Hopper

First off, I want to announce the winner of One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf.  It's Linda Brower.  Congratulations, Linda!  If you would please send your snail mail address to me at blogginboutbooksATgmailDOTcom, I'll pass it on to the publicist, who will send the book to you.  
Thanks to all who entered the giveaway.  If you didn't win this time, don't despair.  You can still enter to win a copy of Dan Wells' new psychological/supernatural thriller, The Hollow City by clicking here.  And, of course, you must stay tuned because I will definitely be hosting more book giveaways in the near future.  


It's Friday again and, since my favorite book blogging party is back (Yay!), I'll definitely be taking part.  If you haven't heard of the Book Blogger Hop, click over to Crazy For Books to get all the details.  It's a fabulous way to discover exciting new book blogs and to help others find yours.  I love spreading the book blogging love every week.  So.  Much.  Fun.

This week's question is: Who is your go-to author when you are in a reading rut?

- Honestly, when people talk about reading ruts, I have no idea what they're going on about.  A reading rut? Isn't that like an oxymoron or something?  I never get tired of reading.  Never.  Are there times when I get a little cranky after reading a bunch of mediocre books in a row?  Sure.  When that happens, I do turn to some old favorites.  These folks can always reignite my reading passion when it starts to burn a little dim:  Kathy Reichs, Jodi Picoult, Neal Shusterman, Maeve Binchy (Just read on her website that Maeve Binchy died less than two weeks ago.  How did I miss this news?  Sad day for her fans, of which I am definitely one.), L.A. Meyer, Joanne Harris, Patrick Ness, Brandon Sanderson, Robyn Carr, and the list goes on and on and on ...

How about you?  Who are your go-to authors?

If you're visiting BBB for the first time, welcome!  I'm so glad you're here.  Take a look around, leave me a comment or two (or three or four), and, most of all, enjoy the browse.  I promise to return the favor.  And, to my trusty old followers, a heartfelt thanks for your support.  Happy reading, everyone!
Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Serious and Suspenseful, YA Whodunit Is A Sobering Pageturner

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Becca Williams can't wait to leave her tiny hometown in the dust.  With her high school diploma now in hand, she's ready to head off to college and forget she ever heard of a town called Bridgeton, let alone lived there her whole life.  Only one thing is holding her back:  James.  She loves him.  The small-town gossips think it's just a high school fling, but it's not.  Is it?  Becca's not sure anymore.

Her conflicted feelings are heightened by the discovery of a dead body on the side of the highway just outside of town.  Becca doesn't know why the young woman's death disturbs her so much—Amelia Anne Richardson wasn't from Bridgeton—but it does.  As the stunned townspeople try to piece together what happened to the woman, Becca grapples to gain her own understanding.  With real-world violence touching her safe existence for the first time, she's paralyzed by indecision.  Can Becca face the brutal realities of life away from home?  Or, even more frightening, accept the stale comforts of the life she's always known, in the place she's always lived?  Amelia Anne didn't make it far in the big, wide world—will Becca be any different?

The plot of Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, a debut novel by Kat Rosenfield, is difficult to describe.  No matter how I summarize it, it just doesn't end up making a lot of sense.  When you read the book, you'll see that it does, in fact, make all kinds of sense.  Maybe too much.  At any rate, it's a raw, sobering tale about two girls who have their whole lives in front of them, two girls who must make difficult decisions, two girls forced to choose between risk and suffocation.  Dark and haunting, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is one of those YA reads that feels older.  It's depressing—no doubt about that—but it's also a seriously compelling novel, one that had me tearing through the pages because I absolutely could not put it down until I knew how the story ended.        

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

Grade:  B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language, sexual content and depictions of underage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find 
Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Cove: Lush, Lyrical Prose Makes Up for Plodding Plotline

(Image from Barnes & Noble)
"Dead and still in the world was worse than dead and in the ground.  Dead in the ground at least gave you the hope of heaven" (171).
The Cove by Ron Rash is another one of those books that's proving too difficult for me to describe in my own words.  I'll give you the jacket copy instead, since it does a beautiful job:
Deep in the rugged Appalachians of North Carolina lies the cove, a dark, forbidding place where spirits and fetches wander, and even the light fears to travel.  Or so the townsfolk of Mars Hill believe—just as they know that Laurel Shelton, the lonely young woman who lives within its shadows, is a witch.  Alone except for her brother, Hank, newly returned from the trenches in France, she aches for her life to begin.

Then it happens—a stranger appears, carrying nothing but a beautiful silver flute and a note explaining that his name is Walter, he is mute, and is bound for New York.  Laurel finds him in the woods, nearly stung to death by yellow jackets, and nurses him back to health.  As the days pass, Walter slips easily into life in the cove and into Laurel's heart, bringing her the only real happiness she has ever known.

But Walter harbors a secret that could destroy everything—and danger is closer than they know.  Though the war in Europe is near its end, patriotic fervor flourishes thanks to the likes of Chauncey Feith, an ambitious young army recruiter who stokes fear and outrage throughout the county.  In a time of uncertainty, when fear and ignorance reign, Laurel and Walter will discover that love may not be enough to protect them.   
As you can probably surmise just by looking at its cover, The Cove tells a tale that's as haunting as it is heartbreaking.  Rash brings his characters and setting to such vivid life that the reader can't help feeling a part of them.  Laurel's about as sympathetic as she can possibly be—I wanted her to find happiness just as much as she did.  Her story starts out slowly, so slowly I almost put the book down.  It was Rash's lush, lyrical storytelling that kept me reading, all the way to the novel's inevitable, but still affecting, end.  All in all, I didn't love The Cove.  Still, it's worth the read, if only to experience the deft loveliness of the author's prose.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene and Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), violence and some sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Friday, August 03, 2012

A Hoppin' Good Time -- It's BACK!

I don't know if I'm the last to hear the big news or not, but the Book Blogger Hop is back in business!  Or, rather, it has returned in its original form.  Squee!  I understood why Jen had to change the Hop from a monthly thing to a weekly thing, but I was really sad about it.  My participation lagged, then stopped altogether.  A monthly meme was just too hard for me to keep up with.  But, now that it's back to weekly, I'm excited to join up again.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, let me explain:  The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly (YAY!) meme hosted by Jen over at Crazy For Books.  It's an opportunity to discover new book blogs, find new readers, and just show the love to others in this big, glorious book blogging world.  Fun, right?  If you want to join in (and, trust me, you do), you can find all the details here.

For those of you who are visiting Bloggin' 'bout Books for the first time, welcome!  I'm so glad you're here.  Please take a look around, leave me a comment (or two or three) to let me know you stopped by.  I will absolutely return the favor.  Also, check out my right sidebar—I've got two great book giveaways going on right now.  I don't have a lot of entrants, which means you have an excellent chance of winning.  So, please, enter and feel free to spread the word.

For my long-time readers, a heartfelt thank you.  Interacting with you all is what makes blogging so much fun.

Now, onto this week's question:

When a book goes “viral” (Hunger Games, Fifty Shades, Twilight), do you rush out to read it like everyone else, even if it’s not in your typical genre?

 - Not necessarily.  It really depends on what the book's about.  I don't mind reading outside my usual genres, but there are some novels that I'll never read no matter how many people rave about them (ahem, Fifty Shades).  Even if I do want to read a gone-viral novel, I won't necessarily rush right out and get it.  I'll stick it on my TBR list and get to it when I get to it.  What about you?

Happy hopping, everybody!

Good Sister/Bad Sister Murder Mystery Leaves Me Feeling Duped (and that's not a good thing!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Abby Goodwin has spent her whole life defending her screw-up little sister.  At least that's how it seems.  She's stuck up for 15-year-old Maya when she broke curfews, came home drunk, fooled around with boys, experimented with drugs—everything.  Even the girls' parents have given up on Maya.  Not Abby.  She'll always be there for sister, no matter what.

Then, Abby stumbles across the dead body of one of the most popular boys at her high school.  When she finds Maya's cell phone near the corpse, she's stunned.  Since Maya hasn't been home in weeks, Abby's not sure where to find her—she just knows she has to get to her sister before the police do.  Determined to protect Maya, regardless of what she may have done, Abby vows to find the real killer.  Maya has her problems, but she couldn't have murdered the guy she loved, could she?  As Abby investigates the crime, she's less and less sure of her sister's innocence ...

For me, The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer is one of those like-the-premise-not-the-execution type of books.  Novels about sister relationships always intrigue me and one played out against the backdrop of a murder sounded even more interesting.  And it would have been, had it been done well.  But, Schrefer's story got very unrealistic very fast.  The characters weren't developed enough, the plot gets seriously contrived, Schrefer tells more than shows and there's a twist at the end of the story that literally made me grind my teeth in irritation.  I can't say much without being spoiler-y, but the phrase "cheap tricks" comes to mind.  Making me feel duped is so not the way for an author/book to win my eternal love.  Hence the "D" grade.  Yeah, 'nough said.  

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't really think of anything.  Suggestions?)

Grade:  D

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), sexual innuendo/content, and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Deadly Sister from the generous folks at Scholastic.  Thank you! 
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