Monday, April 30, 2012

A Former Pinkerton Spy On A Case in India? Intriguing, Indeed.

(Image from Deseret Book)
Isabelle Webb, a former Pinkerton spy, is still reeling after the recent assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.  She blames herself for failing to warn him, failing to save the great man from the bullet that took his life.  A vacation is exactly what the 26-year-old needs to take her mind off her part in the tragedy.  Accompanied by Sally Rhodes, her 16-year-old ward, Isabelle heads to Bombay aboard a steamer ship.  While en route to their destination, the women meet James Ashby, a Mormon blacksmith from Utah, who's traveling to India in the hopes of locating his younger brother.  Phillip Ashby, a charming but senseless 20-year-old, has disappeared while hunting down a mythical jewel in the company of a known shyster.

Although she has retired from the cloak and dagger life of a spy, Isabelle can't quite restrain her interest in the mystery.  She knows she should mind her own business, but the more she gets to know the serious-minded James, the more endearing she finds him.  And, the more she ponders Phillip's disappearance, the more she realizes how much she misses the rush of the career she's left behind.  So, with Sally in tow, Isabelle offers her sleuthing services to a reluctant, but grateful James.

It's not long before James has amassed a small group of searchers, an intriguing set of strangers, all of whom are intent on finding young Phillip.  While all members of the party insist they are helping only out of the goodness of their hearts, Isabelle questions their motives, especially as the journey becomes increasingly more dangerous.  Someone, it seems, is more intent on finding the jewel Phillip is hunting than the man himself and that person will stop at nothing to get the precious stone.  Even if it means killing a nosy former spy in the process.  With her life in danger, Isabelle must find the traitor—before it's too late.

Before picking up Legend of the Jewel, I'd never read anything by N.C. (Nancy Campbell) Allen.  A shame, because, apparently, she began writing about Isabelle and her cohorts in her popular Faith of Our Fathers series.  No matter.  Legend of the Jewel works well as a standalone, but even better as the first installment in an exciting new series.  Isabelle's a compelling heroine, someone who's tough, though grieving and vulnerable.  The romance between her and James develops in a believable manner, while never feeling dull or stale.  Although this is LDS historical fiction, it's not preachy (really, it hardly mentions religion at all); it's just a fun, clean mystery that's well-written and entertaining.  I loved it.    

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters)

Grade:  B+

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

To the FTC, with love:  I bought Legend of the Jewel from Deseret Book with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

TSS: Round Two


The Sunday Salon.com

Outside my window:  It's still dark (5:30 a.m.), so I'm not sure exactly.  It's been a little cooler around here this week.  We even had a grey, drizzly day, which was perfect!

I am listening to: Nothing but the birds singing outside.  It's lovely.

I am reading:Now that my reading for the Whitney Awards is finished, I'm focusing on getting through the small pile of middle grade novels loaned to me by the librarian at my kids' elementary school.  I need to read them and write tests for them by the end of the school year, which is less than a month away.  Gah!  At any rate, I just finished 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison.  It's a fantasy/mystery book that's sort of like Fablehaven meets Nancy Drew.  Now, I'm in the middle of the sequel, 13 Curses.  Both books are a little dark, but also clever and compelling. 

I am going to read:  I still owe Stephanie Worlton a review of her debut novel, Hope's Journey.  I'm also planning to read Psuedonymous Bosch's newest, since I enjoy his zany The Secret series and the librarian needs a test on it.  Also, since I've got a couple of airplane rides ahead of me this week, I'm thinking I may be able to get a good start on The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott.  We'll see what actually happens :)

On the Blog:I'm still way behind on reviews, but I managed to post 4 this week (Wow!  I did?).  I also shared some sweet pictures of my 3-year-old selecting books from her grandparents' Little Free Library.

Around the Book Blogosphere: Last week, in trying to figure out how this whole The Sunday Salon thing works, I found the TSS Facebook group.  Not only did the peeps there give me some good advice, but they led me to some fun, new book blogs.  Check out:  Books in the Burbs and Still Unfinished (His blog scrolls left to right, a design I've never seen before.)

I am thinking:  About my upcoming trip to Utah.  So much to do before I leave.  So much to do.

I am grateful for:  Lots of friend time this week.  I've been able to hang out and catch up with lots of lovely ladies.  I need to do that more often.

Around the house:  I'm gradually (very gradually) getting the kids' rooms cleaned out enough to have them painted.  The husband keeps threatening to have the rooms done while I'm in Utah, which makes me a tad bit nervous.  Especially because I think that by "painters," he means himself and the kids.

In the kitchen: Last weekend, we bought a big basket of produce from a local farmer's market, mostly because that's the only way to get the very yummy bread they sell.  So, I've got lots of vegetables.  It's too hot for soup, so I'm trying to decide how best to cook up all the veggies.  Suggestions?

High of the Week: Book Club!  My friends at church have tried several versions of book club, none of which have ever really worked.  A girl who's fairly new in town just started it up again and I think it's going to go well this time since she's both organized and enthusiastic.  We had our first meeting on Thursday, where we discussed (yes, we actually did discuss the book) Matched by Ally Condie and did a whole lot of chatting.  It was lots of fun.

Low of the Week:  My girls have both been scratching their heads a lot lately.  Since their cousins just had head lice, I feared mine might have it, too.  But, after thorough examinations of their scalps, I don't see any bugs or anything out of the ordinary, so I think it's just dryness and dandruff.  Keep your fingers crossed that it is so.

Family Matters:  Leaving my 3-year-old for a few days always makes me nervous since she's a *little* attached to her Mommy.  Hopefully, she'll behave for her Daddy, whom she also adores.

The coming week:  I'm heading to Utah on Thursday for the LDS Storymakers conference.  I'm excited to hang out with my good friend Robin, as well as lots of other writerly/readerly kinds of people.  I'm hoping to connect with some of my favorite Utah book bloggers as well (look for an email from me, Suey and Jenny—anyone else who wants to get together, let me know).

Words of Wisdom:  Have a great week, everybody!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Biblical Drama Lacks ... Drama

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I try to review books right after I've read them—that way, the story's plot, character, tone, etc. remains fresh in my mind while I dissect it for your reading pleasure.  The longer I wait to write about a book, the more my memory seems to desert me.  Especially in the case of a novel like Marilyn Brown's Fires of Jerusalem, the details of which stand out in my mind not at all.  I remember slogging through the book, turning pages (well, scrolling through screens on my Kindle Fire) as quickly as I could so that I could move onto something more exciting.  So dull was this reading experience for me that I remember almost nothing about it.  Except that the story's chock-full of historical detail, while it skimps mightily on things like plot, character development, and engaging prose.

Since there's not a lot of plot to move the story along, it's going to be difficult to describe Fires of Jerusalem.  There's no jacket copy to help me along either.  Bother.  Well, here's my best attempt at a summary:

The story concerns Jeremiah, the Hebrew prophet who's credited with authoring the Old Testament books of Jeremiah, 1 Kings, 2 Kings and Lamentations.  It begins when Jeremiah is a young man, working in the Jerusalem's temple archives as an apprentice scribe.  The city around him has become a dangerous place, filled with violence, crime, poverty and despair.  Many who live there, and in surrounding lands, have turned away from God, choosing instead to indulge in drunkenness, whoring and idol worship.  As the son of a high priest and as a scribe whose job it is to preserve holy scripture, Jeremiah finds the situation troubling, but believes there is little he can do to change it.  

It's not until 14-year-old Jeremiah receives a vision from God that he realizes he not only can do something about the people's wickedness, but that he must.  He has been commanded to warn the people that they—and their great city of Jerusalem—will be destroyed if they do not turn away from lawlessness and sin.  Jeremiah accepts the assignment with great reluctance.  Ultimately, though, he spends decades preaching to the wicked, risking his future, his family, even his life, to cry repentance to a people who would rather imprison a prophet than listen to him.  Even though Jeremiah is not alone in his work (he gets a little help from people like Lehi, of Book of Mormon fame), he is ultimately on his own to save his people, his religion and himself.     

There's more than enough raw material here to make for a very entertaining historical novel, but Brown weighs down the story with so much detail that it plods along far too slowly.  The author's intense research is probably the most commendable thing about this book, it just isn't woven into a compelling plot, so Fires of Jerusalem reads more like a textbook than a novel.  Other reviewers have commended the author for using her artistic license to make a dull prophet more vivid and interesting—I'm not sure what they're talking about since, to me, Brown's version of Jeremiah still seems very flat and dull.  I think what the novel really lacks, above all, is dynamic storytelling.  Because, I'm telling you, I had to fight to stay awake through this one.  Now, I absolutely admit that I'm not a huge fan of fiction based on scripture and that I never would have picked up this book if it hadn't been chosen as a Whitney Award finalist, but still, the book had a whole lot of unrealized potential.  It could have been a riveting page-turner, it just...wasn't. 

(Readalikes:  I don't read much in this genre, so I'm drawing a blank here.  Any suggestions?)

Grade:  C

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for violence and mature subject matter 

To the FTC, with love:  I received a PDF of Fires of Jerusalem from the generous folks at Parables via the Whitney Award Committee.  Thank you!


     

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Bookish Baby

Someone (I believe it was Gaye of Inside a Book) recently accused me of not posting any new pictures of my baby on this here blog.  In my defense, it's a book blog, not a Mommy blog, so I try to keep things mostly book-related.  However, my daughter has grown a lot since I last showed you a photo of her.  She hardly even resembles the cute little toddler I'm holding in the photo on my right sidebar (*sigh*).  Obviously, she's still cute, it's just that she's such a big girl now.  It makes me a little sad to watch her getting so grown up and independent.  Really, where has the time gone?

Luckily for Gaye, my mother-in-law shot some pictures of little Miss J. just a couple of weeks ago.  not only are they dorable, but they're also bookish in nature.  So, here you go:


Isn't she just too cute for words?  That huge grin is always on her face.  It's absolutely infectious and has gotten her out of trouble many, many times.  Someone once said that this little girl's special talent is making people happy and I couldn't agree more.  She brings joy into our lives every single day.  

The pictures are of J. using the Little Free Library my in-laws set up in their front yard.  Have you heard about this small, but ingenious movement?  It's been a fun little project for my in-laws.  Their lush, well-maintained yard has always received lots of attention, but now that it's got this small, take-a-book-leave-a-book library, it's become an even more popular spot!

In other news, I'm now only 8 reviews behind.  Maybe I will finish writing them sometime in this lifetime!  One can always hope ...

Book of Mormon Girl Power Story Has Definite Potential

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Maybe it's because she's got three brothers.  Or because her best friend Ezekiel "Zeke" is a boy.  Or maybe it's for some other reason entirely, but 15-year-old Keturah wants to be a soldier.  All the teenage boys in the land of Zarahemla are gathering, forming an army they hope the prophet Helaman will command in the war against the Lamanites.  Keturah longs to be part of that army, to prove herself on the battlefield.  She knows she's at least as tough as her 12-year-old brother, who's getting combat training every day.  So, she watches the boys in secret, practicing the moves they're taught, hoping to learn enough to show Helaman she can fight just as well as any boy.  Maybe better.  

Not everyone is thrilled about Keturah's desire to fight.  Her mother and brothers would prefer she stick to something more ladylike.  Keturah's boldness angers Zeke, her intended husband, even as it amuses Gideon, an intriguing stranger who's training with the other boys from Melek.  Since she's the only girl in her household, Keturah's job is to help her mother.  Keturah has no intention of shirking her responsibilities at home; she wants to train in addition to doing her chores.  And she will—no matter how hard she has to work, no matter how much others disapprove, no matter what her nontraditional desires will cost her.  

As the bloodthirsty Lamanites make their way toward Zarahemla—a place full of adults who have buried their weapons of war, vowing never to take them up again—every member of the rising generation must do what he/she can to defend the land of their inheritance.  Keturah wants a chance to do just that.  If only she can show the men in charge that she means business.  It's a question of how far she's willing to go, how much she's willing to risk to get what she wants.  As the Lamanites march ever closer, Keturah must battle her own heart to decide whether she should do what's expected of her or follow her own path, even if it means endangering her reputation, her family's good name, and her future marriage to the man who loves her as much more than just a best friend.

Obviously, Daughter of Helaman by Misty Moncur, isn't the only novel ever to have been inspired by stories from The Book of Mormon; it is, however, the only one I've read.  For some reason, I shy away from this genre.  I don't have a problem with it per se, I just find it a little ... strange.  Is that weird?  I don't know, something about a Nephite boy uttering, "Whatever, dude" (or some such) just rubs me the wrong way, you know?  

 At any rate, Daughter of Helaman has the potential to be a really exciting and inspiring story, especially since it features a heroine who's not only tough physically, but valiant spiritually.  The problem is that Keturah's a little too tough.  She shows little vulnerability and even less humility.  Worse, she achieves her goal with almost no resistance—and in the middle of the novel, too!  Plus, Keturah spends the majority of her time in training, not doing any real life-or-death type fighting.  While her skirmishes with Gideon keep things interesting for awhile, nothing real really happens until the very end of the book.  Now, I'm guessing (guessing, because I don't actually know) this is because Moncur's setting us up for a sequel, but still, nobody likes stories where nothing happens.  Unfortunately, Daughter of Helaman qualifies.  I would have liked the book a whole lot better if Keturah actually had to work to achieve her goal, if she had to suffer a little humiliation, if she had to struggle a bit to get what she wanted.  As is, the heroine achieves her goal way too easily, the climax of her story comes way too soon, and I stopped caring about what happened to her way too early.  I wanted to love this one, I really did, but I got bored with it long before I had a chance to get into it, you know?  And that's a real bummer because I think this one has definite potential.  It just didn't quite reach it, not in my mind, anyway.             

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

Grade:  C

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received a PDF of Daughter of Helaman from the generous folks at Cedar Fort via the Whitney Awards Committee.  Thank you!   

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Miss Delcourt II Another Light, Fun Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Miss Delacourt Has Her Day, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

It's been a week since 21-year-old Ginerva "Ginny" Delacourt became engaged to marry the debonair Sir Anthony Crenshaw and she couldn't be more thrilled.  So deliriously happy is she that nothing can drag her down from the clouds on which she floats.  Until Sir Anthony's cousin dies, leaving Sir Anthony as the "recalcitrant heir to death, duty, and the Duke of Marcross" (2).  The event calls everything into question—Sir Anthony's future, his feelings toward Ginny and, most especially, their upcoming nuptials.  Ginny can only stand helplessly by, her heart torn to shreds, while Sir Anthony decides what to do.

The last thing Sir Anthony wants is the heavy responsibility that comes with his soon-to-be elevated status.  He would much rather frolic in the countryside with Ginny than play society games with London's elite.  But that is not to be, not if Sir Anthony's uncle has his way.  According to the ailing Duke of Marcross, Sir Anthony must choose a wife worthy of the title Duchess—not a lowly minister's daughter like Ginny Delacourt.  

As much as Sir Anthony loves Ginny, he knows he cannot cross his uncle, especially not while the man lays on his deathbed.  So, when the Duke comes up with a proposal of his own, a way for Sir Anthony to win the Duke's approval to marry Ginny, Sir Anthony doesn't hesitate.  The tasks required of him are impossible, but he has to try.  Whether it results in injury, even death, Sir Anthony will make sure that Miss Delacourt finally has her day.

Like Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind, this second novel in the series is a fun, lighthearted Regency romance.  The characters may not be wholly original, but they're likable and compelling.  The plot gets silly at times, but really, Miss Delacourt Has Her Day is lots of fun.  I enjoyed this light, easy read about a resolute young woman, her dashing fiancee and all the loops through which they have to leap before they can achieve their Happily Ever After.   


Grade:  B-

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

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

LDS Historical Novel Offers Fascinating Look at Maoist China

(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Truth.  In mainland China from 1949 to 1976, truth is all but eradicated, suppressed and supplanted by the iron will of Mao Tse-tung.  Millions of people suffer untold anguish as their history, their culture, and their lives are brought under communist rule.  Many flee to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

As a child, Chen Wen-shan was taken from her family home in mainland China and sent to live with her great-uncle—a former general in the Nationalist Chinese army who had become one of the first converts to the LDS Church in Hong Kong.  For ten years, Wen-shan has carried the sorrow of abandonment in her heart, with few memories of her life before.  But at the death of Chairman Mao, fifteen-year-old Wen-shan receives a mysterious wooden box that holds a series of beautiful paintings and secret letter that reveal the fate of the family she has not heard from in more than a decade.

As Wen-shan and her great-uncle read the letters in the jade dragon box, they discover an unbreakable bond between each other, their family—both past and present—and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Letters in the Jade Dragon Box is a beautifully written LDS historical novel inspired by the real life experiences of one man who was offered truth that would heal his heart, his spirit, and his family.  His story helps shed light on a time and a place where, despite all odds, truth refused to be broken.  (Text taken from jacket flaps of Letters in a Jade Dragon Box by Gale Sears)

As she did in her last novel (The Silence of God), author Gale Sears again takes a unique moment in not only world history, but also in LDS history, and weaves an inspiring fictional story based on the real people who experienced it.  Letters in the Jade Dragon Box, however, focuses less on the Church and more on the devastating effects of Chairman Mao's vicious rule.  Through feisty Wen-shan, we begin to understand—at least a little—the sorrow Mao wrought on the people of China, even those fortunate enough to escape the mainland.  While the novel lacks a bit in plot and depth, I found the historical detail fascinating.  Overall, the book is a fast, compelling read that I found both interesting and entertaining.  
(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for violence and mature subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Letters in the Jade Dragon Box from the generous folks at Deseret Book.  Thank you!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

TSS: Am I Doing This Right?

The Sunday Salon.com

I've never done one of these before, but I wanted to do something a little more personal today.  One of the problems with reading (almost) exclusively Whitney Award finalists for two months is that I'm reviewing lots of books that are kind of obscure and therefore, don't generate a lot of commentary.  And, darn it, I like commentary.  So, since I couldn't find an "official" format for this thing, I stole Suey's approach.  I'm sneaky like that.  You experienced Sunday Saloners, tell me if I'm doing this right, okay?  Here goes nothin':

Outside my window:  Ugh, it's hot.  Already.  It's only 6:30 in the morning, but the heat already feels oppressive.  It was 100 degrees here yesterday, so my kids spent a good portion of the day in the pool.  I was too wimpy to get in, even though the kids assured me the water felt great—after you got used to it, of course :)

I am listening to:  Uh, nothing.  Everyone is asleep but me and my 10-year-old daughter.  She's reading a book, so a tornado could pick up the house and toss it into the Grand Canyon and she wouldn't notice.  Haven't heard a peep out of her.

Song of the week:  I've been listening to a lot of Disney princess songs in the car with my 3 year old.  Does that count?

TV Talk:  You know, I don't watch much t.v. anymore.  I watch recorded episodes of Jeopardy! while I fold laundry and I listen to Battlestar Galactica while my husband and son watch it on Netflix.  I don't really watch it—although my husband insists I should because it's just like all those end-of-the-world novels I like so much.  He's probably right, but I usually spend the time reading or playing Words With Friends instead. 

READING REPORT:  

Books Finished:  I finished my reading for the Whitney Awards.  Phew!  That was a lot of work.  Books I took down this week (I think) are Smokescreen by Traci Hunter Abramson; Bloodborne by Gregg Luke; Acceptable Loss by Anne Perry; and Asfall by Mike Mullin (This one isn't a Whitney finalist—I read it for fun).  

Books Started:  Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin.  This is the sequel to Ashfall, a YA novel about what happens when a dormant volcano in Yellowstone erupts, causing widespread post-apocalyptic destruction.  I got it via Netgalley (Yes, I have finally taken a baby step into the 21st Century!).  The book doesn't come out until October, so I'll probably wait until then to review it. But, so far, it's got lots of action.

Books Up Next:  Well, now, that is a very good question.  I've been pondering what to read next.  I'll definitely read Hope's Journey by Stephanie Connelly Worlton this week.  It's about two LDS teenagers dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.  I've only read a chapter or so, but already I like Worlton's realistic portrayal of the situation, which I believe is based on her own experience.  After that, I have a few middle grade books I need to read for the reading program at my kids' elementary school.  Of course, I still haven't gotten to Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver or Defending Jacob by William Landay.  So, yeah, we'll see.  

I am thinking:  About how even though I look really nasty in this picture, I want to post it because it represents the fun Suey (It's All About Books), Melissa (One Librarian's Book Reviews), Gaye (Inside A Book) and I had meeting each other and chatting it up at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona.  Picture is courtesy of Suey's cell phone. 
(l to r: Melissa, me, Suey, Gaye)

I am grateful for:  Modern medicine.  Reading Ashfall, in which the survivors have to use primitive methods to take care of common health problems, reminded me of the fact that a person with my issues (Type 1 Diabetes, cancer, reading OCD [Ha!], etc.) would have a very hard time surviving in anything but the most modern of conditions.  So, I'm thankful I don't live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and that I have ready access to modern medicines.  Also that I can afford (barely) to pay for them.

Around the House:  We moved the boys into one bedroom and let the toddler have her own room, so there's been a lot of cleaning and organizing going on around here.  As soon as I get things completely sorted out, we're going to have all the bedrooms painted.  Finally! 

Recipe of the Week:  Recipe?  Ha ha ha ha ha.  Does strawberry cheesecake from Costco count?  It's really good :)

Favorite Thing of the Week:  Clothes shopping at Old Navy with my 10-year-old daughter.  It was fun to hang out together. 

Least Favorite Thing:  Triple digits.  Gah!  The heat just zaps me of all energy and motivation.  I think I might actually get in the pool this week.

Family Matters:  We've been thinking a lot about what to do with all of ourselves over summer break.  The oldest (13 yo) will be going to Scout camp and taking a swimming class at BYU.  My 10 yo will be attending a fun bookish event in Provo, Utah, with her grandma.  She's also planning to take a couple of art classes.  The 7 yo is going to do a football camp at BYU and the baby (3 yo) will be taking swimming lessons and dance class.  She'll be starting Preschool in August—we can't wait!

The Coming Week:  I'm heading off to LDS Storymakers in Provo in about a week and a half, so I've got lots to do around the house to get ready for that.  I also have book club, a wedding reception and who knows what else.  I should probably take a glance at my calendar so I'm ready for whatever's coming ...

Blog Report:  Just the usual reviews, with more to come.  I'm about 10 books behind on reviews, so, yeah, I'll be playing catch up this week, too.  

Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone!
     

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Well-Balanced Plot Makes LDS Historical Romance A Charmer

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After breaking her engagement to her righteous, but utterly predictable, fiancee, 27-year-old Julia Darling knows she needs to get out of the Salt Lake Valley.  Longing for adventure, she answers a newspaper ad written by a "desperate rancher" in Wyoming looking for a "chef of mature years" to cook for him and his ranch hands.  A graduate of Boston's most renowned cooking school, Julia certainly knows her way around a kitchen.  She ignores the "mature years" bit and accepts the position.  

Before Julia's really had time to think about what she's doing, she's packed and on a train to Wyoming.  Her new boss, a crusty rancher named Paul Otto, is startled by her youth, even though, at 35, he's not as seasoned as he made himself sound in his ad.  More concerned with his empty stomach than by the impropriety of a young, unmarried woman living on a remote ranch full of men, Mr. Otto hires Julia.  His new cook is nervous, but determined.  Until she sees The Double Tipi.  It's obvious she can't cook—let alone live—in such a wild, untamed place.

As much as she wants to run straight home to Utah, Julia's struck by how much she's needed at the dilapidated ranch.  There are empty bellies to fill, an orphan child desperate for a mother figure, and, of course, an uncouth cowboy who grows more intriguing by the hour.  It's adventure she's craving—this qualifies in spades.  But can she really survive for a year out in the wilderness, so far from her family, her friends and her faith?  She'll find out as she battles everything from rats to snakes to deadly weather to the traitorous yearnings of her own heart.

Before reading Borrowed Light, a historical romance by Carla Kelly, I'd never heard of the author, let alone read one of her books.  Which is a darn shame because, frankly, I loved this one.  It's one of those novels that has everything—adventure, mystery, romance, humor, even spirituality.  Don't be turned off by that last one because the religious aspect of the story is interwoven so well with everything else that it doesn't come off as didactic or heavy-handed.  In fact, it's that balance between all of the different story elements that make Borrowed Light so enchanting, so compelling and so thoroughly enjoyable.  It might be a little far-fetched (Would a single LDS woman in 1909 really have been comfortable—not to mention safe—living out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of men?  Would her conservative, protective parents really have given her their blessing to do so?), but I don't care, I loved this book.  And, believe you me, it won't be the last Kelly novel I read.

(Readalikes:  Captive Heart by Michele Paige Holmes; the Sarah Prine novels [These Is My Words; Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden] by Nancy E. Turner; Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner; and a little like Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson)

Grade:  B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for scenes of peril and mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a PDF of Borrowed Light from the generous folks at Bonneville Books (an imprint of Cedar Fort) via the Whitney Awards Committee.  Thank you!
  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Like Watching The Bachelor? How 'Bout Reading It?

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After being left at the altar by the man of her dreams, 26-year-old Kelly Grace Pickens doesn't know how to feel.  She's humiliated, of course, not to mention lonely, angry, worried, and—most of all—confused.  She hasn't heard a word from her fiancee.  Is he lying dead in a gutter somewhere or, worse, has he just changed his mind about marrying her?  With no answers, no money, and no husband, Kelly Grace can't just sit around tormenting herself with what ifs.  She has to do something.  But what?

Becoming a contestant on a reality t.v. show—especially one where a bunch of desperate women vie for the "love" of some narcissistic pretty boy—is a possibility that's never, ever entered Kelly Grace's mind.  But when her cousin, the co-producer of America's most popular dating show, begs Kelly Grace to fill a last-minute spot on this season's cast list, she reluctantly agrees to participate.  Kelly Grace is only in it for the money, of course, and has no intention of throwing herself at the show's star.  No matter how good-looking or sweet or wealthy Dillon Black might be.  Of course, things get mighty complicated when the suave bachelor puts the moves on Kelly Grace, who suddenly finds herself having to trying very, very hard to resist.  The question now is:  What (or who) does Kelly Grace really want and how far will she go to get it (him)?  

I should probably mention right off the bat that I'm not a fan of The Bachelor or anything of its kind.  Maybe that's what made Count Down to Love by Julie N. Ford so difficult for me to enjoy.  Or maybe it's because the novel got so far-fetched, melodramatic and contrived I could hardly stand it.  I think I would have actually found a behind-the-scenes look at reality t.v. interesting, but Ford skimps mightily on the "insider" details, focusing instead on the developing relationship between Kelly Grace and Dillon.  Which might have been okay, except that the romance was totally predictable.  Now, I realize it's a romance, so the guy and girl are going to get together, but to keep my attention, an author has to make me wonder if the couple can really overcome all the odds that stand in the way of their Happily Ever After.  Ford didn't do that.  I think the real problem with the book, though, is that Kelly Grace has no real goal, nothing admirable she's trying to do, nothing to make the reader root for her.  Plus, she gets the guy way too easily, which throws the plotting all out of whack because the climax of the story comes in the middle of the book instead of at the end.  So, yeah.  While I kind of liked the premise of Count Down to Love, it just really didn't deliver for me.    

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of Not My Type by Melanie Jacobson)

Grade:  C-

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received a PDF copy of Count Down to Love from the generous folks at Bonneville Books (an imprint of Cedar Fort) via the Whitney Award Committee.  Thank you!   

Monday, April 16, 2012

LDS Romance Funny, Uplifting And NOT Totally Nauseating

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Staggering under the debt of the fancy wedding she financed, but never got, 23-year-old Pepper Spicer has come back home to lick her wounds.  There's nothing glamorous about the life she's living now—she's sleeping under her parents' roof, bunking with a 7-year-old, and working a dead-end job at a sandwich shop.  She's got no social life, no romantic life, no life at all.  Pepper's got plenty to complain about.  And she does.  Loudly.  Constantly.  Exhaustingly.  It's wearing her—and everyone around her—out.  

It's not until Pepper's therapist father suggests she start expressing a little gratitude that Pepper realizes her life might not be a complete waste.  Through the weekly thank you notes she writes (at the insistence of Dr. Dad), she begins to see the truth:  Pepper Spicer might not be quite as pathetic as she seems to be.  She's got connections, a support system, maybe even some prospects for a brighter future.  With that little glimmer of hope leading her on, she starts taking chances, praying they'll lead to something better than Handy's Dandy Sandwiches.  

Before too long, Pepper's traded in her hairnet for a writing job in the city.  It's a dream position at a start-up online magazine, something that doesn't pay a whole lot, but has enormous career-making possibilities.  There's only one problem—she has to work her way up by producing a column on her experiences with online dating.  By actually experiencing it.  It's not an ideal assignment for someone as jilted and jaded as Pepper, but her snarky outlook on the whole thing strikes a chord with Salt Lake's similarly frustrated single crowd.   Pepper's pleased with her popular column, even if she doesn't feel right about deceiving her dates.  But, when she finally finds a man who's actually worth dating, her dubious job may be the one thing that stands in the way of Pepper getting what she really wants—true happiness.  

Like The List, Melanie Jacobson's debut LDS novel, Not My Type offers a fun, lighthearted story about a girl struggling to understand who she really is and what she really wants.  Unlike the former, the latter gives us a much more likable heroine, someone who's self-deprecating and sympathetic, with a focus that extends beyond just herself.  The warmth and humor that has become Jacobson's trademark writing too, comes through loud and clear with this one, making Not My Type a quick, enjoyable read with a lesson about gratitude that's difficult to ignore.  The story did get a bit contrived, with some bits that were difficult to believe (How does Tanner not realize Pepper's really Indie Girl?), but all in all, it's a happy book that's clean, uplifting and, unlike other LDS romances, not totally nauseating.  As a matter of fact, I quite enjoyed it. 

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of The List by Melanie Jacobson and My Ridiculous, Romantic Obsessions by Becca Wilhite)

Grade:  B

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

To the FTC, with love:  I bought Not My Type from Deseret Book with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.   

Friday, April 13, 2012

If It Wasn't For That Big, Gaping Plot Hole ...

(Image from Deseret Book)

Bostonian Emmalyne Madsen thinks she's ready for a big adventure.  But when outlaws attack the train that's carrying the 22-year-old schoolteacher to Colorado, she realizes with a jolt that her "adventure" could very well end in her death.  Or worse.  Abducted at gunpoint, she's forced to follow grizzly Thayne Kendrich into the desert with no food, no water and no cover from the unrelenting sun.  Emma's parched, sunburned and beyond exhausted—if the gruff bandit's going to kill her, why doesn't he just get it over with already?  She can't understand the strange man who's dragging her away from his cohorts, deeper and deeper into the wilderness on some mysterious errand.  Thayne insists no harm will come to her, but how can Emma trust the man who's just kidnapped her?

Thayne leads Emma into South Dakota's Black Hills, which can only mean one thing:  he's going to sell her to a savage Indian tribe.  But, as she soon discovers, that's not it at all.  Thayne has an entirely different reason for abducting a schoolteacher.  As realization dawns, Emma must ask herself who the man beside her really is, what he really wants, and how far he'll really go to get it.  Can she escape his clutches, gain back her freedom?  And, more importantly, does she even want to?

I didn't expect to enjoy Captive Heart, a historical romance by Michele Paige Holmes, nearly as much as I did.  But, to my surprise, the novel offered an exciting, well-told story along with characters who sprang to life, quickly capturing my heart.  Holmes did the romance the right way, too, taking time to really develop the relationship between Emma and Thayne, so that it felt authentic.  True, the story itself gets predictable (it's a romance), contrived (Really?  Emma's mother just happens to be deaf?), even melodramatic at times (the ending), but I still found it enjoyable.  The main thing that stopped me from really loving Captive Heart is that I couldn't figure out why the kidnapping was necessary in the first place.  Considering what I found out about Thayne along the way, it just seemed like the most difficult, illogical way he could have possibly chosen to accomplish his purposes.  That gaping plot hole bugged big time.  Still and all, the novel kept me entertained.  If it weren't for that one little (okay, huge) problem, I would have really, really liked this one.   

(Readalikes:  Borrowed Light by Carla Kelly)

Grade:  C

If this were a movie, it would have been rated:  PG for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received a PDF of Captive Heart from the generous folks at Covenant Communications and the Whitney Awards Committee.  Thank you!  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Debut Regency Romance Not Without Its Charms

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

The last thing Sir Anthony Crenshaw wants to do is waste a day escorting a silly young woman out of London and into the English countryside.  He's got much more pressing matters to attend to—sleeping the morning away being the most desirable.  But the Dowager Duchess of Marcross has assigned him the task and Sir Anthony wouldn't dream of disobeying his grandmother.  

Ginerva "Ginny" Delacourt feels much the same—she isn't at all enamored with the idea of traveling even a kilometer with the fussy Sir Anthony.  But, as an unmarried woman of only one and twenty, not to mention the grand-niece and ward of a duchess, she has little choice in the matter.  It's suffer the presence of a snobby, egotistical social climber or spend even more of her time trapped in the stifling confines of London society.  

Both settle in for a dull, unpleasant journey.  When their carriage is attacked by highwaymen, it becomes apparent that the trip will be anything but boring.  Indeed, it grows more interesting by the hour.  Forced together on this unlikely adventure, Sir Anthony and Ginny will spend considerable time together.  Enough time to realize just how different they really are—and how little that matters when it comes to affairs of the heart.  

Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind by first-time author Heidi Ashworth is an enjoyable Regency romance.  The story is predictably lighthearted and humorous, with characters who aren't exactly original, but who are entertaining nonetheless.  Though the plot gets a little silly (all the confusion between the characters could have been cleared up easily if they had just spoken plainly to one another), I still found the book to be a fun, easy read, the kind I like to enjoy between more demanding books.  Like I said, it's not all that original or surprising and yet, it definitely has its charms.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of books by Sarah M. Eden)

Grade:  B-

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

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Snark Is Good; The Selfish, Not So Much

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If there's one thing 24-year-old Ashley Barrett has learned from her older sisters, both of whom married early and started families right away, it's this:  that life isn't for her.  Oh, she'll do the whole marriage/kids thing, alright—just not until she's good and ready.  There are things she wants to do first.  Twenty-five things to be exact.  Things like skydiving, buying a sports car, and helping the disadvantaged in a third world country.  Only after she crosses everything off The List will she even consider settling down.

Before starting graduate school in the Fall, Ashley decides to spend the summer in Huntington Beach, California, in order to work on #13.  Learning to surf shouldn't be that tough, but Ashley doesn't seem to be catching on fast enough.  That's why she needs Matt Gibson, a gorgeous 26-year-old surf god who just happens to attend the same singles ward she does.  If she can snatch Matt's attention away from the gaggle of flirty girls that always surrounds him, she might even be able to kill two birds with one stone.  After all, #17 on The List just so happens to be Have A Summer Fling.  

As it turns out, getting Matt's attention isn't the difficult part.  Hanging out with him isn't exactly a chore either—Matt's funny, down-to-Earth and just as much of an adrenaline junkie as Ashley.  The problem is keeping their developing relationship from becoming more than just an easy, breezy fling.  Ashley's been up front with Matt about the fact that she wants to go back to BYU with no attachments, but is that what she really wants?  What's more important, after all, The List or Matt?  It's a decision she'll wrestle with all summer, a choice she'll have to make before her time in California dwindles away completely.

So, you know how I'm always dissing on LDS novels, calling them melodramatic, cheesy and unrealistic?  Well, I'm not going to hurl my usual accusations at The List, a debut novel by Melanie Jacobson.  Which isn't to say the book doesn't have its issues, because of course it does.  Still, it's much better written than most of the contemporary LDS  novels on the market today.  For one thing, it has a fun, lighthearted tone that promises a story that's quick, upbeat and, most of all, entertaining.  Plus, its heroine actually has a discernible voice.  And a personality!  Amazing!  Ashley's confident, sure of herself in a way most fictional females are not.  Plus, she's snarky, something goody-goody Molly Mormon/Peter Priesthood story people usually are not.  As a character, I must say I find Ashley Barrett quite refreshing.  Irritating, but refreshing.  What's not to like about her, then?  Well, here's the thing:  she's selfish.  And shallow.  Not to mention egotistical, self-absorbed and heartless.  There's a reason heroes and heroines are supposed to have a story goal that's selfless, or at least admirable in some way—if they don't, they come across as narcissistic brats.  Like Ashley.  I kept wondering what in the world Matt saw in her and why he would keep chasing her when it was perfectly obvious the only person she was interested in was herself.  So, yeah.  Without that unfortunate aspect of the story, I would have enjoyed The List a whole lot more.  Still, Jacobson's debut impressed me with its fun tone, its more realistic depiction of LDS life, and the fact that the cast (most of it, anyway) was made up of more than just the usual cookie-cutter Mormon characters.  All of which convinces me that Melanie Jacobson can and will create LDS novels I actually want to read.  And if that doesn't make her a writer to watch, I don't know what does.              

(Readalikes:  Not My Type by Melanie Jacobson)

Grade:  B-

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received a PDF of The List from the Whitney Awards Committee.  Thank you!  

Monday, April 09, 2012

Showoff Unexpectedly Entertaining

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Showoff, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier books in the Swindle series.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Hanging out with 12-year-old Griffin Bing, a.k.a. The Man With the Plan, can be dangerous.  Just ask his best friend, Ben Slovak.  He's already been roped into enough of Griffin's crazy schemes—he doesn't want to be involved in even one more.  So, when Savannah Drysdale's ferocious Doberman goes crazy at a dog show, leading to the injury of a prize-winning Beagle and the subsequent incarceration of the Doberman, Ben begs Griffin to just leave it alone.  The boys are both terrified of Luthor, but they can't stand to see Savannah so hurt by the loss of her beloved pet.  Besides, there's something fishy about the whole thing.  Luthor's not exactly the most docile pooch in the world, but why would he go bezerk all the sudden?  It doesn't add up.

When Griffin makes one of his famous plans, this time to break Luthor out of the pound, he and Ben are unwittingly thrown into a whirlwind adventure involving a monster dog and the fussy, but cutthroat world of competitive dog showing.  The misbehaving Doberman clearly isn't Best of Show material and yet, the only way to save Savannah's slobbering dog is to turn him into a model citizen.  In the meantime, the boys can poke around all of New York City's most prestigious dog shows for clues as to who was really responsible for Luthor's strange behavior toward the Beagle.  The boys will, of course, get more than they bargained for—the Man With the Plan wouldn't have it any other way.

Gordon Korman books are always hit and miss for me.  My kids adore everything he writes, but I find some of his stuff (like Swindle) to be too underdeveloped, too far-fetched, to be truly appealing.  Don't get me wrong—I love children's books, I just want them to be well-written, you know?  At any rate, I wasn't super excited when the librarian at my kids' school asked me to read Showoff, the fourth book in the Swindle series.  Being the dutiful volunteer that I am, I did it anyway.  And was pleasantly surprised.  Showoff turned out to be a fun, zany mystery that kept me laughing and turning pages.  It's not like my favorite children's book of all time, but I actually enjoyed this one much more than I thought I would.  My kids, of course, think it's Newbery material; I wouldn't go that far.  Still it's a fun one.   

(Readalikes:  Swindle and the rest of the books in the Swindle series by Gordon Korman)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed Showoff from the library at my children's elementary school and read it as part of my volunteer work with the school's Quest reading program.  

Friday, April 06, 2012

Zany Victorian Horror Story A Delightful Romp

(Image from Amazon)

If you're a Dan Wells fan—and even if you're not—you should be getting your hands on his hilarious novella, A Night of Blacker Darkness.  'Course, that's a lot easier said than done right now.  As far as I can tell, the only way you can get the book (until May, anyway, when the ebook will again be available) is to buy it at as an audiobook at Audible.com.  Luckily for me, Whitney Academy members have access to a PDF version, which I happily downloaded and read on my Kindle Fire.  It didn't take long for the story to make me laugh out loud. In fact, I decided pretty early on that A Night of Blacker Darkness is my favorite of Wells' books.  It's that delightful.  

I like the plot summary I found on Wells' website, so I'm just going to go ahead and use it:
It's 1817.  Wrongly imprisoned, Frederick Whithers is desperate to commit the crime he's already being punished for: defrauding the bank out of a vast inheritance.  He fakes his death to escape, but when he's seen climbing out of a coffin everyone assumes he's a vampire; when he shows none of the traditional vampire weaknesses, they assume he must be the Great One, the most powerful vampire in the history of the world.

Half horror and half farce, Frederick's tale is an ever-growing avalanche of bankers, constables, graverobbers, poets, ghouls, morticians, vampires, vampire hunters, not to mention some very unfortunate rabbits.  With a string of allies even more unlikely than his enemies, can Frederick stay alive long enough to claim his (well, somebody's) money?  And if he can't, which of his innumerable enemies will get to him first?
A Night of Blacker Darkness is even more zany, even more fun than it sounds.  It does get a little ridiculous, a little grotesque, a little  insane, but the crazier it gets, the funnier it gets.  I love—and totally agree with—what sci fi/fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson said about it:  "...[A Night of Blacker Darkness is] quirky and strange, but very amusing and borderline genius."  Amen, brother.

(Readalikes:  Nothing that I can think of)

Grade:  A-

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

To the FTC, with love:  I received a PDF of A Night of Blacker Darkness courtesy of Dan Wells and the Whitney Awards Committee.  Thank you!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Family: Isn't It About Love?

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Lara Reid thinks her family is just like every other one in the U.K.  Her father always tells her she's special, she just assumes that's the reason people gawk.  Turns out, that's not it at all.  According to the playground taunts, Lara's family doesn't "match" and everyone knows families are supposed to match.  Anyone with functioning eyes can see the one thing Lara's never really understood—a Caucasian couple like Barry and Pat Reid could never have produced a child with Lara's brown skin and bushy, black hair.  Realizing the truth in her classmates' insinuations, Lara comes to the only logical conclusion: she's an alien.

It's not until she's 8 that Lara learns her parents adopted her five years ago from an orphanage in faraway Nigeria.  Africa's just a place she hears mentioned on the telly every so often and Lara's got much more pressing concerns at home in Essex, so she doesn't worry about her mysterious past.  Much.  It stays in the back of her mind as she matures into an efficient, successful woman, but it's not until the day her birth mother shows up in England that Lara's forced to confront the past that has always haunted her present.  Caught between two cultures, two families, two histories, Lara must wrestle with all the truths, secrets and mysteries to answer the most important question of all:  Who is Lara Reid?

Anyone who knows about my beautiful, bi-racial daughter, adopted a few years ago from the bayous of Louisiana, will understand why I found Being Lara by Lola Jaye such a compelling novel.  I would have read the book based on the cover alone (when my little girl saw the model on the front, she exclaimed, "It's me, Mommy!"), but the plot line also intrigued me.  With themes of transracial adoption, racial/cultural identity, family, and other issues I ponder every day, I knew this story would speak straight to my heart.  And it did.  I sympathized with Lara, in all her confusion and vulnerability, as well as with her two mothers, both of whom narrate some sections of the story.  While I don't necessarily agree with how the Reids handled the whole adoption thing, I recognized all their feelings of anxiety, doubt, guilt and fear, as I've experienced them all since the day I decided to become an adoptive mother.  As for the actual story, it's fast-paced, well-told, realistic (except, perhaps, for the rather tidy end) and heartwarming without being sappy.  I'm not sure I buy the idea that Lara didn't notice her family was different until age 8 (after all, my 3-year-old will look at a picture of Disney princesses and identify herself as Tiana and me as Belle), but that's a small matter, really.  From the lovely cover (I need the number of the hairstylist responsible for that gorgeous hair!) to the important (and very relevant to me) themes to the globetrotting storyline (just try not to be affected by Jaye's descriptions of Nigeria, a place she once lived), I liked Being Lara a whole lot.  It reminded me that families aren't about "matching," they're about love.      


Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for language (2 F-bombs, plus milder invectives) and mild sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Being Lara from the generous folks at William Morrow (an imprint of Harper Collins) and TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!     

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Trilogy Ends On Not-Quite-As-Gory Note

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for I Don't Want to Kill You, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from the first two books in the trilogy.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

I have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with the John Cleever series by Dan Wells.  The books are all well-written, compelling and thought-provoking, to be sure, but they're also gory, violent and disturbing.  So, while I find them entertaining, I also find them a little hard to stomach.  The middle book (Mr. Monster) made me feel physically ill, so I was a tad reluctant to pick up I Don't Want to Kill You, the last book in the trilogy.  If it hadn't been nominated for this year's Whitney Awards, I probably would have put off reading it a bit longer, which would have been a shame because it's not nearly as unsettling as its predecessors.  Or maybe it's just me—it's entirely possible that prolonged exposure to the twisted mind of Dan Wells has deadened my frailer sensibilities.  

At any rate, I Don't Want to Kill You begins a couple of months after Mr. Monster ends.  John Wayne Cleever, a 16-year-old sociopath, is waiting patiently for the arrival of a demon named Nobody.  The monster is coming, John knows that; it's just a matter of when she'll show up.  Whenever she makes her arrival, he'll be ready.  He might study serial killers, he might dream of murder, but John's tired of watching people he knows die. It's time for him to take control, to destroy the demon who may already be darkening the streets of his hometown, masquerading as a normal, everyday resident of Clayton, North Dakota.  

John's unusual psychological makeup makes him the perfect demon hunter, but he can't let his darker impulses control him if he wants to have any kind of normal life.  And he does, he really does.  To triumph over Mr. Monster, the devil that lurks inside him, John must focus on the hunt for Nobody.  In order to save the people of Clayton, he has to take a careful, probing look at each and every one of them.  All of them, as he soon discovers, are hiding something, but which one of them conceals a demon?  It will take all of John's wit, all of his strength, all of his talent to find and eliminate Nobody before she takes over the town and everyone in it.  

Like the first two books in the trilogy, I Don't Want to Kill You explores the idea of people choosing their own destinies, in spite of all the things that might be working against them.  This intriguing premise is what elevates the novels above other horror stories.  In addition, John is a character who probably shouldn't be sympathetic, but is, simply because he's trying so hard to overcome his baser instincts.  He's a fascinating hero, one for whom I always find myself rooting, even when he's having homicidal thoughts toward his mother (shudder).  So, while the John Cleever books make me distinctly uncomfortable, I still think they're sort of brilliant.  Just in a gross, disturbing kind of way.      

(Readalikes:  I Am Not A Serial Killer and Mr. Monster by Dan Wells)

Grade:  B

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

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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