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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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

- Australia (1)
- Canada (1)
- England (8)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (2)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

21 / 50 books. 42% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

43 / 50 books. 86% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

38 / 52 books. 73% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

25 / 40 books. 63% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

9 / 25 books. 36% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

6 / 26.2 miles (second lap). 23% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

21 / 100 books. 21% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

59 / 165 books. 36% done!
Tuesday, March 31, 2015

TTT: Recent Additions to My TBR Mountain Chain

A couple weeks ago, the Top Ten Tuesday topic was books on my Spring TBR list.  Today's isn't much different, but that's okay.  I love TBR lists in any form.  Book recommendations come at me all the time from all kinds of sources, so I'm happy to share them with you.  I love seeing yours as well. Joining the fun is simple:  click on over to The Broke and the Bookish for instructions, then create a TTT list on your blog, and share it with the rest of us.  Easy peasy.

This week's topic:  Top Ten Books You Recently Added to Your TBR List

1.  The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury—I just finished a Christian novel about a sin eater in Appalachia and found the idea fascinating.  This YA book continues the theme, but in a completely different way.  It will be interesting to compare/contrast the two stories.

2.  Something by Kristin Hannah—I just finished Hannah's newest novel, The Nightingale, which I enjoyed.  I'm looking for something else by her.  Any recommendations?  I already have Fly Away, so I'll probably start with it.

3.  Kick Back by Chelsea Cain—I try to avoid the type of "gory thrillers" Cain writes, but I got totally sucked into One Kick.  The novel features Kick Lannigan, who was famously kidnapped as a child.  Now a tough, paranoid adult, she's roped into helping find children missing in the Portland, Oregon, area.  As gruesome as the book is, it's also a compelling, adrenaline-rush of a read.  I'm anxiously awaiting the publication of Kick Back, the next installment in the series.

4.  Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke—This one has been getting so-so reviews, but I'm still intrigued by the premise.  A couple adopts a little girl from a Siberian orphanage.  A short time later, in the middle of a blizzard, the child is acting mysteriously and her mother begins to wonder just what she's brought home.

5.  One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis—My kids' elementary school has a homegrown reading program that requires lots of volunteers, of which I am one.  Because of that, I spend a couple of hours each week at the school library.  As you can imagine, the topic of books often comes up among the volunteers, teachers, librarians, etc.  During one such conversation, one of the librarians mentioned how much this book kept her guessing.  I like a good psychological thriller, so I stuck One Step Too Far on ye olde TBR list pile mountain mountain chain.

6.  The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths—I need to stop perusing Kay's Reading Life because Kay's always got great-looking recommendations.  My TBR mountain chain can't take it!  She loves Griffith's series about a forensic archaeologist who helps to solve mysteries.  The Crossing Places is the first installment.

7.  Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan recently published a Top Ten list of their favorite WWII novels.  The Nightingale is among their selections, as is this novel about an American scholar interviewing an elderly woman who has dark secrets connected to the war.  Not the most original premise in the world, but one that always manages to hook me nonetheless!

8.  Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz—I noticed this YA novel while perusing Scholastic's catalogs on Edelweiss.  It's about a girl dealing with her mother's schizophrenia and her own emotional/mental issues.

9.  Fifth Avenue Fidos by Holly Schindler—I always enjoy Schindler's books, so I'm looking forward to reading her first new adult novel.  Fifth Avenue Fidos is a fun love story about two lost souls—and their dogs.  Sounds super cute.

10.  All About Aussies: The Australian Shepherd From A to Z by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor—Speaking of poochies ... The breeder from whom we bought Rory, our Aussie puppy, really recommended this book as a great guide to the breed.  Unfortunately, it's out of print.  None of the libraries in my area have it, nor can I find a copy online for less than $30.  Boo hoo.  I really want to read it.

So, there you have it, ten books I've recently added to my TBR list.  How about you?  Have you gotten any good recs lately?  Any great titles I should be snatching up?  Leave me a comment and I'll be happy to stop by your blog to check out your list.

Oh, and before you go, don't forget to enter my giveaway for a $20 Barnes & Noble gift card and two Book Buckles.  A winner will be chosen (randomly, via Rafflecopter) on Easter Sunday, so don't miss your chance to win!

*All images from Barnes & Noble or author websites
Sunday, March 22, 2015

One, Two, Buckle My ... Book? (With a Giveaway!)

No, I haven't been living under a rock.  Yes, I do know we're already 1/4 of the way through 2015.  I'm still celebrating the new year.  Why?  Because I finally finished reviewing all the books I read last year.  So, yay for me!  Now, I can move on and start talking about what I've read in the last three months.  Which still means writing 30+ reviews.  Yikes.  I'll catch up eventually, right?

Since we're partying it up here at BBB today, I thought I'd do something a little different.  As much as I love writing book reviews, I also really enjoy trying out new, bookish products.  A few weeks ago, Jennifer at Book Buckles contacted me about giving the product she, her sister, and her mom invented a whirl.  I enthusiastically agreed.

What is this cool, new product, you ask?  Book Buckles are fabric bookmarks that attach to your book using a belt-like D-ring system.  It's a secure way to mark your place.  Available in bright patterns, with a fun charm attached, they're also super cute.  You can customize your Book Buckles by choosing size, fabric designs and charms.  Prices run from $4.99 (sale items) to $8.99.  Shipping is always free.

Using a Book Buckle is pretty simple, although I did have to watch this video a few times (I'm slow like that):


So, what did I think of Book Buckles?  It's an innovative product for people who not only love books, but also using pretty bookmarks.  If you've ever purchased a bookmark with a fluffy tassle or a shiny charm just to have it fall apart after a couple uses, you'll appreciate how well made these bookmarks are.  If you get frustrated by paper versions that flutter out of your book, get lost, or bend/fray after a short amount of time, you'll like the security and permanence of a Book Buckle.

Personally, while I love the concept of this product, it's a little too complicated/fussy for me.  I gave up on fancy bookmarks awhile ago and now just use those I grab for free at bookstores or receive from authors/publicists as swag.  For me, $8.99 is spendy, even for a bookmark that will likely last years.  The ladies at Book Buckles were kind enough to send me three different bookmarks for free (Thank you!) and I'll definitely enjoy using them.  I just don't think it's a product I would buy on my own.  However, because of the cuteness factor, I can see myself buying them as gifts for other people, either to give along with a special book or on their own as stocking stuffers, Easter basket fillers (hint, hint), or as part of a book lover's bundle.

So, what do you think?  Are Book Buckles a good idea?  Something you would use?  Would you like to try them out for yourself?  The generous ladies who make Book Buckles are offering a great prize to one lucky BBB reader:  a $20 Barnes&Noble gift card, plus two Book Buckles (one small, one large) that you can customize with your choice of fabric and charm.  Nice!  All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below.  The giveaway is open to those with U.S. mailing addresses only.  You have until midnight on Easter Sunday (April 5) to enter.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Saturday, March 21, 2015

Atlantia Too Rushed to Feel Real

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Built as a refuge from the toxin-coated land Above, Atlantia is an underwater city, a safe haven for those fortunate enough to have earned a place there.  Although it's possible to leave, few do. Those left Above spend their lives slaving away in the diseased world in order to ensure the survival of those in Atlantia.  It's considered a noble sacrifice to toil away for the good of the underwater world, but not one many are willing to make.   

Although 15-year-old Rio Conwy loves Atlantia, she's always longed to live Above—to see the stars, to feel the sun, to roam in a vast land without walls.  She's finally old enough to choose her own fate, but things have changed.  With her mother dead, Rio can't abandon her fragile twin sister, Bay.  Staying Below forever is a sacrifice she has to make, no matter how much it hurts.

When Bay makes her own unexpected choice, Rio is stunned.  Her world flip-flops.  She knows she can't remain in Atlantia, but her chance to go Above has passed.  It's a trip she is now forbidden to make.  No one has ever successfully sneaked out of Atlantia on their own, but she has to try for her sister and herself.  As Rio attempts the risky escape, she must also be careful to keep her true nature a secret.  If anyone finds out what she really is, Rio would never—never—be allowed out of the Council's sight.  When she stumbles on some disturbing secrets about her world, she's even more determined to leave.  But, making enemies with the Council is not a good idea.  Can Rio make her escape?  Can she find Bay?  Or is she destined to remain trapped forever in a snowglobe beneath the sea?

Ever since I read the premise of Ally Condie's newest novel, Atlantia, I've been intrigued by it.  Especially once I figured out it's not a mermaid story, but an underwater dystopian adventure.  I expected a magical, atmospheric tale that would spellbind me with its beauty.  Did I get it?  Not exactly.  The world of Atlantia is unique, but its rules are dumped in such a rush that the setting never feels real.  The relationship between Rio and Bay unfolds in much the same way.  Their interactions are so quick and flat that, for the rest of the novel, I didn't feel any urgency for the twins to be reunited.  In fact, flat is a good adjective for my experience with this whole book—the setting lacks dimension, the characters remain mostly undeveloped, and the plot gets pretty blah in places.  All in all, I just didn't love Atlantia.  Too many leaks, if you'll pardon the pun.  While I did appreciate the risks Condie took with the story, as well as the fact that she kept it PG, overall, this one left me feeling very disappointed.  Ah, well.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of Dark Life and Rip Tide by Kat Falls)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and intense situations

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Atlantia from the generous folks at Penguin via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!
Friday, March 20, 2015

Overly Ambitious Southern Novel Just Okay

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When a freak bicycle accident takes her husband's life, Vidrine Bell snaps.  Needing "time to think," she dumps her 11-year-old daughter in Louisiana, at the home of the girl's paternal grandmother.  Liberty "Ibby" Bell has never seen anything like New Orleans, let alone the giant, crumbling mansion in which she's going to be living.  Then, there's Frances "Fannie" Hadley Bell, Ibby's eccentric grandmother who's been in and out of the insane asylum for years.  Queenie, the maid who "came with the house," warns Ibby never to bring up Fannie's past and never to ask questions if Fannie brings it up.

Intrigued by all the secrets swirling around the big old house, Ibby slowly learns about her family's history.  Under the tutelage of Queenie and her outspoken daughter, Dollbaby, she also gets an education about how to get along in the 1960s South.  As Ibby's friendship with Queenie's granddaughter grows, she gets a taste of the vicious racism of which some people are capable.  Despite the friction, Ibby feels her new home and family growing on her.  What once was foreign is now not just familiar, but also comforting.  As her definition of family changes, Ibby wonders what will happen when—and if—her mother comes to take her away.  Can she leave behind The Big Easy, with all its charms, secrets, and people she's grown to love?  

Told in the alternating voices of Ibby, Dollbaby and Fannie, Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal oscillates between the past and the present.  It tells a compelling story, made even more layered by the different voices through which it is filtered.  The novel definitely rambles in a way that feels unfocused and over-reaching, like the author's trying to cover a little too much territory.  Much of it feels cliché as well as predictable.  While these things tarnished my enjoyment of the novel, overall, Dollbaby kept me reading.  In the end, I didn't love it, didn't hate it, just found it okay.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a bit of The Help by Kathryn Stockett)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, depictions of illegal drug use, and sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Dollbaby from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.
Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tale of Friendship Shows Slavery Isn't Just About the Color of One's Skin

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Life is unbearably cruel for a 12-year-old Virginian girl who's been little more than a servant to her pa and brothers since her mother died in childbirth.  Abused daily by the males, she longs for escape.  For freedom.  When a runaway slave named Zenobia comes begging for help, the girl hides her, knowing she risks her own life to do so.  Protecting Zenobia gives the girl an idea—maybe she can run for her freedom, too.

Hiding during the day, running at night, the girls flee toward a Quaker settlement called Watertown.  As they dodge slave traders and other dangers, the two form a strong friendship.  Zenobia gives the girl a name—Lark—and shows her that, despite Lark's pale skin, the girls are more alike than different.  But will they accomplish their shared goal?  Will they reach freedom?  The girls would rather die than go back to their former lives—and that may be exactly what happens.

Running Out of Night, the debut novel of non-fiction writer Sharon Lovejoy, tells a tense, triumphant story about two brave girls fighting for the right to control their own destinies.  Drawing on old family letters as well as Lovejoy's lifelong interest in nature, gardening, and ethnobotany, it offers a unique twist on a familiar story.  I enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of Black Angels by Linda Beatrice Brown)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
Wednesday, March 18, 2015

YA Military School Novel A Fast-Paced, Girl-Power Thrill Ride

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Sam McKenna's never been able to back down from a dare.  Especially when it comes from her older brother, Amos.  In the wake of his suicide, 17-year-old McKenna is more determined than ever to fulfill the last challenge Amos ever flung at her.  Even if it's a crazy one.  And trying to get into the prestigious, boys-only Denmark Military Academy is insane—especially when you're a girl.  Still, Sam manages to break the barrier and become one of the school's first female cadets.  That's when the real nightmare begins.  

No one wants Sam to survive her first year at DMA.  Not even her brother, Jonathon, who's a cadet colonel at the school.  That becomes clear almost as soon as she steps onto campus.  Not only is she forced to work harder than her male counterparts, but she's mocked and abused at every turn.  Although she finds allies in surprising places, she soon begins to suspect that an archaic secret society is still at work on DMA's campus—and it wants her gone.

As Sam works to expose the school's dark side, she struggles to fit in, to outlast her tormentors, and to help the two other female cadets stay strong in the face of brutal intimidation tactics.  Then, there's her strong, but embarrassing attraction to her drill sergeant.  The longer Sam stays at DMA, the more dangerous her situation becomes.  Can Sam survive her brother's dare?  Does she even want to?  Is it really worth it, when the society is so obviously out for her blood?  Sam has never known when to quit.  This time, her stubbornness could cost her her life ...

While the premise behind Rites of Passage, a debut novel by Joy N. Hensley, isn't very original, it still makes for an intense, action-packed read.  With Hensley's insider's view of military academy life, the details of Sam's experience ring with authenticity.  Sam, herself, is empathetic and admirable—an easy character with which to side.  I definitely cared about what was happening to her.  The thing that bugged me about her story, though, is that it's all about a tough, kick-A heroine who can take care of herself—and yet, Sam repeatedly gets rescued by all the guys around her.  Solving all of these problems on her own, with only minimal help, would have made her a more inspiring character.  All in all, though, I enjoyed Rites of Passage.  It's fast-paced and compelling, a solid debut that makes me curious to see what the author will do next. 

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder invectives), violence, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Rites of Passage from the generous folks at HarperCollins via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!
Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My Spring-Has-Sprung TBR List

I've been so busy trying to catch up on reviews of books I read LAST year plus keeping up with those I'm scheduled to review THIS year that I haven't done Top Ten Tuesday in awhile.  I miss it!  This week's topic looks fun and easy, so I'm joining in.  You should, too.  All you have to do is click on over to The Broke and the Bookish, follow the directions, and you're in.  Easy cheesy.

Without further ado, here are the Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR List (ten I'm really looking forward to reading, anyway):

1.  Silence by Deborah Lytton—I'm hoping to get to this one really, really soon as I was supposed to have reviewed it a few days back.  It's about a girl with a golden voice whose greatest dream is to sing on Broadway.  Then, a tragic accident renders her deaf.  Sounds compelling, no?

2.  Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng—After a long wait, I've finally got this family drama/murder mystery out from the library.  I'm excited to see if it lives up to all the hype.

3.  Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez—I'm intrigued by this YA novel about a girl trying to shed her old identity in a new country, only to have someone from her past show up to complicate things.

4.  Descent by Tim Johnston—I'm on the waiting list at the library for this one, which looks fantastic.  It's about a family vacationing in the Rocky Mountains when one of their children goes missing.

5.  The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty—I loved Big Little Lies and I've heard that Moriarty's other books are even better.  Can't wait to read this one.

6.  On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee—This dystopian sounds different, therefore I must check it out!

7.  The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett—I'm actually in the middle of this family drama/murder mystery set in Pennsylvania's coal mining country.  It's about a girl who finds a body in an abandoned monkey hole, a find that uncovers family secrets long buried.  So far, it's excellent.

8.  Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen—I've only read a couple of Dessen's books.  This one looks like a bit of a departure for her, so I'm interested to see what it's all about.

9.  Dead Wake by Erik Larson—I don't read a lot of non-fiction (a problem I need to remedy), but this book about the Lusitania sounds fascinating.

10.  Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy—Several of my favorite authors, including Binchy, have died in the last few years, which makes me super sad.  I love Binchy's novels about everyday families in Ireland.  At the time of her death, she was working on a collection of stories about people living on an ordinary Dublin street.  Although I'm not big on short stories, I'll read anything by Binchy.

So, there you have it.  Kind of an eclectic list, but all ten are books I'm excited about.  Hopefully, I'll get to them this Spring.  How about you?  What's on your list?

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  And, as always, happy reading :)
Monday, March 16, 2015

Overambitious Far From You Not All That Enjoyable

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Sophie Winters has a knack for survival.  Three years ago, she almost lost her life in a car accident.  She walked away with her life, as well as a permanent limp and an addiction to OxyContin.  Now a recovering addict, the 17-year-old has just experienced another terrifying brush with death.  Although she survived being held up by a masked man with a gun, her best friend, Mina Bishop, did not.  Since the incident is believed to be drug related, Sophie is being blamed.  No one believes she's kicked her drug addiction.  No one believes she's not responsible for Mina's death.  

The only way to convince people she's innocent is for Sophie to figure out who really killed Mina.  In the meantime, she must wrangle with her feelings of grief, of guilt, and of moving forward without her best friend by her side.

Far From You, a debut novel by Tess Sharpe, is many things.  Too many things, really.  It's a murder mystery, a romance, an issue novel, and an addiction/recovery story.  The problem is that there's a little too much going on.  I, for instance, would have liked a stronger focus on the mystery instead of Sophie's weird, obsessive romance.  Sophie's harsh, self-absorbed personality also made it difficult for me to care too much for her in general.  So, while the conflicts in the story kept me reading, I can't say I enjoyed Far From You all that much.  The characters didn't appeal to me, the plot seemed too ambitious, the big reveal too abrupt, and overall, the novel depressed me.  So, yeah.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, depictions of underage drinking/prescription drug abuse, violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Far From You from the generous folks at Disney/Hyperion via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!
Saturday, March 14, 2015

What's It Like to Be An LDS Missionary? New Picture Book Gives Kids an Inside Look.

(Image from author's website)

Do you ever wonder what it's really like to be a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?  

When David and Megan receive letters from their Uncle Clay, they get a little taste of what an LDS mission is all about.  They learn how elders and sisters teach people the Gospel, serve others, bear their testimonies, and invite everyone to come unto Christ.  They also hear about more mundane parts of the missionary experience, like learning to eat unfamiliar foods, living with a companion, dealing with rejection, and exercising to keep their bodies strong.  Most importantly, Uncle Clay assures them they don't have to wait until they're older to be missionaries—there are things they can do right now, as kids, to prepare themselves to serve the Lord.  After all, you don't have to wear a name tag to help and teach other people!

I don't review many picture books, but when Benjamin Hyrum White asked "Sister BBB" to take a look at his newest, I couldn't resist.  I Hope They Call Me on a Mission, written by White and illustrated by Corey Egbert, is an uplifting, informative tale about what LDS missionaries do day in and day out.  It gives a great overview, with bright, appealing pictures to enhance the text.  I especially like the "What Can You Do Now?" sections, which help kids understand that they can do many things right now to not only help them serve missions in the future, but also to live Christ-centered lives in the present.    

While I Hope They Call Me on a Mission may be difficult for young children to read by themselves, it's a great tool for parents/teachers to use for Family Home Evenings, Primary lessons, and Sacrament Meeting entertainment.  Middle graders will enjoy absorbing all the information in the book as well.  Personally, I plan on sharing it with my own offspring in an upcoming FHE.  You should, too.

Want more opinions of I Hope They Call Me on a Mission?  Follow the book's blog tour here.

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


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of I Hope They Call Me on a Mission from the generous folks at Cedar Fort.  Thank you!
Friday, March 13, 2015

Series Ender a Blood-Pumping, Edge-of-Your-Seat, Adrenaline-Fueled Thrill Ride—And So Much More

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for UnDivided, it may inadvertently spoil plot surprises from earlier UnWind installments.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

In UnDivided, the action-packed conclusion to Neal Shusterman's popular Unwind dystology, the tension and fury surrounding the controversial issue of unwinding is escalating.  While the Marcella Initiative—a law that would allow the unwinding of teens without parental consent—gains favor in the U.S., Proactive Citizenry plans to create an army of patchwork soldiers patterned after Cam Comprix.  Meanwhile, the increasingly maniacal Starkey, followed by his gang of angry disciples, target unwinding facilities with the intention of freeing prisoners and killing all their adult captors.  Stuck in the middle, Connor, Risa, and Lev race to find a solution that will end unwinding forever.  But, with ruthless black market harvesters hot on their trail, they may never get the chance.  All Connor wants is the guaranteed safety of unwanted children—will he finally see his dream realized?  Or, will the Akron AWOL meet the brutal end that's been his fate from the beginning?

While I've enjoyed all the books in this series, the first and last are my favorite.  Although in some ways, I didn't want to reach the end of UnDivided, once I started the novel, I couldn't stop reading.  To say it's a blood-pumping, edge-of-your-seat, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride is a vast understatement.  It's so much more than that.  The book is chilling, startling, funny, clever, provocative, and most of all, hopeful.  It's sad to see the end of a series that I've loved since its beginning, but I know Shusterman's got many more brilliant tricks up his sleeve.  I can't wait to see what he does next.  

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Unwind series [Unwind; UnStrung (novella); UnWholly; and UnSouled)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

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

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of UnDivided from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.  
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's a Disease Novel, So, Yeah ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Nora Glass is more Martha Stewart than Martha Stewart.  The 44-year-old loves nothing more than reigning over her clean, orderly universe with precision and pride.  Her domestic supremacy has earned her legions of fans who turn to her syndicated newspaper column not just for household hints, but also for advice on weathering storms like divorce and single motherhood with grace—things at which Nora excels.  So what if her angelic daughter has morphed into a sullen teenager, whose words wound her mother daily?  Ellie's antics make Nora's readers laugh just as much as they did when she was a toddler.  So what if Ellie hates that total strangers know all the intimate details of her life?  Nora's ability to mine their everyday experience for nuggets of publishing gold is what pays the bills. 

When Nora receives a devastating diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease (EOAD), she feels her tidy world start to crumble.  Losing time, words and memories of things she did just moments ago terrifies her.  She can't stand what the disease is doing to her—taking away from her.  Knowing that EOAD is almost guaranteed to kill her within a few years doesn't make things any easier.  Nora can't stand the thought of 16-year-old Ellie, who has already been abandoned by her father, losing her mother as well.  Although Nora's fraternal twin, Mariana, promises to be there for both of them, that doesn't provide much comfort.  Marianna can barely take care of herself.  

As the symptoms of Nora's disease grow progressively worse, she must learn to let go—of control over her life, of grudges long-held, of perceptions that don't ring true, and of emotions she's always bottled up.  With all of it stripped away, Nora will have to put her trust in the very people she's had to care for all her life.  People who might fail.  People who might let her down.  People who will help her see that, sometimes, everything you need is right in front of you—if only you can remember to look.  

Disease novels are always a hard sell for me.  I'm sure they're not easy to write either—somehow you have to make them touching, but not sappy; affecting, but not melodramatic; realistic, but not depressing.  Original, especially surprising, disease novels are tricky to pull off (one of the reasons John Green's The Fault in Our Stars is so popular).  Considering all this, I didn't expect a whole lot out of Splinters of Light by Rachael Herron.  And that's pretty much what I got.  A character-driven story, the novel focuses on the relationships between the three Glass women—Nora, Ellie, and Mariana—and how they evolve in the face of Nora's illness.  Plotwise, there are small conflicts (Ellie's older boyfriend, Mariana's inability to commit to a relationship, Nora's romance with her neighbor, etc.), but mostly it's all about Nora's suffering.  I'm not going to lie: I got tired of Nora's wallowing.  In fact, I didn't find any of the characters that likable.  They depressed me, the lot of them.  Herron writes well, it's true, but, overall, I just didn't find this overly-long novel that enjoyable.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson and a teensy bit of Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord as well as almost every book I've ever read about someone dying of cancer)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, sexual content, and depictions of underage drinking and illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Splinters of Light from the generous folks at Penguin.  Thank you! 
Saturday, March 07, 2015

UnSouled: It's Not My Favorite of the Bunch, But Still ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for UnSouled by Neal Shusterman, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessors, UnWind and UnWholly.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Now that The Graveyard—the unwinds' sanctuary—has been destroyed, Connor Lassiter and Lev Calder are on the run.  Trying to keep a low profile, they head toward Ohio, where they hope to finally get some answers about Proactive Citizenry.  Their quest does not go smoothly, of course.  There's a kidnapping, a couple of car wrecks, an ostrich, and a band of Native Americans with their own agenda.  While all of these things distract them from their ultimate goal, neither Connor nor Lev will quit until they can stop unwinding forever.

Meanwhile, Camus Comprix, the world's first composite human being, is taxed with convincing the higher-ups that he's a worthy investment.  Risa's betrayal has made him suspect.  He wants to hate her for that, but he can't.  She's all he thinks about, whether he likes it or not.

Between Connor's adventures, Cam's exploits, and the increasing number of clapper attacks happening all over the country, the journey to stop unwinding is going to be one heck of a wild ride.

Although UnSouled, the third installment in Neal Shusterman's popular UnWind series, juggles so many different stories that it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, it's an exciting read, if an unfocused one.  Lev's back story gets filled in and we get to catch up on the doings of other familiar characters.  UnSouled is more humdrum than the first two books, but Shusterman's characters are compelling all on their own.  This isn't my favorite novel of the bunch, I admit, and yet, I still enjoyed it.  As a whole, I love this clever, thought-provoking series.  If you're not reading it, you should be.

(Readalikes:  UnWind, UnWholly, and UnDivided by Neal Shusterman)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, and mild sexual innuendo/content

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