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Sunday, May 17, 2015

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven



All the Bright Places is at its heart a story of an unlikely friendship and then love between a girl named Violet and a boy named Finch. However, it's not your average YA romance, and there are richly created scenes and moments. It has been compared to The Fault in Our Stars, but I found it to be so much more than just another story dealing with loss. I chose to read this book after a recommendation from a good friend who loves YA. The story takes place in my home state of Indiana, which is where the author grew up. I appreciated the amount of research the author completed about the different "bright places" of Indiana, as well as the way she wove in so many passages and quotations from famous literature and writers. This was a beautifully written, touching story, and I would recommend it wholeheartedly. The story touches on so many important issues which teens unfortunately may face on a daily basis: loss of a sibling, survivor's guilt, grief, abuse, mental illness, bullying, and suicide. Both Violet's and Finch's narration captivate the reader, and both have important stories to tell. After reading, you'll have a new appreciation for Post-it notes and teenagers. Read it, read it, please read it!

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Blue by Lucy Clarke



The Blue by Lucy Clarke will be published on August 4, 2015.

This book had a little bit of everything I look for in a quick read: suspense, mystery, romance, twists and turns in the plot, and adventure. Lana and Kitty, best friends since childhood decide that they have nothing holding them to their current lifestyles and set off for adventure and a carefree life. They find exactly the thing when they happen upon The Blue, a yacht with a crew of young, beautiful, and intriguing people. However, as the weeks at sea become months, Lana soon gets to know the crew and wonders if they made a mistake diving into this lifestyle with a bunch of strangers. Aaron, the skipper, has a carefree attitude about ship safety, but strict rules about relationships other crew members. The other crew members are Denny, Heinrich, Joseph, and Shell. It's interesting to see how Lana's various relationships develop with each of them, and even how things change with Kitty, who she thought she knew so well. If you are in for a fast paced adventure on the sea, this is the book for you. I really enjoyed the characters and the story line.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ashfall by Mike Mullin



Ashfall is the first in a 3, and planning to be 4 book series by Mike Mullin. Mike Mullin is an Indianapolis based author, whom I met at an ALA conference last year. He is well spoken, super smart, and the most down to earth guy. After reading his first book, I have even more respect for him and his awesome talent. The book was published in October, 2012. However, I finally got around to reading it after hearing my students rave about how amazing it is. The book is written for the YA crowd, but there are certainly many adult themed scenes. I enjoyed the book very much, for the suspense, and the non-stop action which kept the story propelled forward as if the reader was actually there with Alex and Darla making their way through the ashfall. The story supposes that the supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park erupts with no warning and ash covers the earth for thousands of miles around the eruption site, including Alex's hometown while he is home alone for the weekend. Alex is determined to get to where his parents are and reunite with his family. The readers can assume it will not be easy if only for the ash covered landscape and extreme weather fluctuations, but there are so many other obstacles Alex must face which make for a nail-biting read. This is one of my all time favorite YA books so far. I couldn't put it down. Well done, Mike. I look forward to reading Ashen Winter, Sunrise, and the upcoming 4th installment.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins



After seeing all the buzz for this book and all the comparisons to Gone Girl, I decided I would give it a try. Then, I was on a hold list forever and that caused me to want to read it even more. Funny how that happens! Well, I finally read it and I'm not entirely sure what the big hubbub is all about. It wasn't as crazy weird as Gone Girl, and I do believe this story would make a better movie than Gone Girl. There are three characters who are narrating the story, Rachel, Anna, and Megan. The chapters switch back and forth between the three women and also back and forth over the span of a few months. I wouldn't advise trying to pay attention to the timeline while you read, because I tried and got too caught up in it and lost momentum for reading.

Rachel is an alcoholic, and therefore, a mostly unreliable narrator. Anna is Rachel's ex-husband's new wife, and she is not a fan of Rachel for various reasons which you will soon figure out by reading the beginning of the book. Megan is a neighbor down the street from Anna's house (which is also Rachel's old house). Rachel rides the train every day and becomes quite interested in watching Megan's house, while trying to avoid looking at her old house. One day she sees something out of place, and her obsession builds from there. Meanwhile, Megan goes missing and the night it happens, Rachel is so drunk that she blacks out and has no memory of where she was, or why she came home battered and bloody. Could she have done something to Megan? Does she really know what happened? Did she see who took Megan? The story does move along rather quickly, and I'm glad I read it. But, I just didn't have the feeling that I couldn't put it down and I'm not in love with it. If you like psychological suspense and stories where all the characters are a bit off their rockers, this is the book for you.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Grown Ups by Robin Antalek

 

This was a great book. It follows the lives of Bella, Sam (male), and Suzie from the time they are 15 until they have reached adulthood. The story switches back and forth between the characters, giving the reader glimpses of each as they grow older and experience love, loss, marriage, children, etc. The author does a nice job of keeping the interest level high, even though much of the plot consists of everyday life. The romance is sweet, and it's not overdone. I would recommend this book as a quick read for those who like realistic fiction.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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I've heard a lot about this popular YA book and I've been meaning to read it for some time. This past week, one of my students checked it out from the public library and put it on my desk with a demand to "read it!" So, I did. And, I am pleased. It was a beautifully written story spanning 3 (what should have been) idyllic summers with the Sinclair family, as they spent time on their own private island wanting of nothing. However, money doesn't buy happiness, as they say. The book is surrounded by mystery as the reader follows the main character, Cadence or Cady, as she tries to remember what happened during the summer she was 15 that caused her to have such terrible migraine headaches. She remembers small details, but can't quite put together the whole story, and no one will answer her questions or tell her what happened, because they don't want to upset her. By the end the book, I was glad to finally figure out what happened, but it was definitely not what I expected. It's a quick read, and I would recommend it to my HS kids. I've ordered a copy for our school library.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The First Wife by Erica Spindler



This was a good book. It isn't one of my favorites, but it was a good "quick & dirty" suspense read. I use that phrase for books that you can easily get into and finish because the plot moves along fast and there isn't too much fluff to cause the reader to get sidetracked or slow down the pace. I had never read a book by Erica Spindler prior to this one. The story follows young newlywed, Bailey, as she meets and then very quickly marries her "Prince Charming" Logan and then moves onto his horse farm and into his life without much thought about his past. She soon finds out that there are many secrets regarding the "disappearance" of his first wife, along with other young women from the area over a span of a few years, secrets which someone close to her is trying to keep hidden. Much of the story is predictable and the romance is a bit canned at times. However, it's a good read for anyone who enjoys a little suspense.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey



Letters to the Lost will be published on May 26, 2015.

This is one of the best and most beautiful stories I have read in a while, which is saying a lot because I read so many different types of books. I've not read anything by this author previously, but I do hope she writes more! The book has two separate story lines going on, one in 1943 London during WWII with Stella and Dan and the other in present day London with Will and Jess. Stella is a young Vicar's wife who married too soon and not for love. Dan is an American pilot stationed in London for a short time. On the flip side, Jess is a young woman on the run from an abusive boyfriend and Will is a young man living in the shadow of his extremely handsome, successful brother, and dealing with loneliness and general unhappiness. When the characters meet up both in the past and present story lines, it is breathtaking. I won't give away too much of the plot because I don't like to be a spoiler. However, I will say that I was absolutely captivated by this story. I couldn't put the book down, and when I was forced to stop reading, I couldn't wait to dive back in and find out what happened next. The romance between both character sets was just beautiful and heartbreaking in times. It reminded me a little of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and I enjoyed it just as much. Well done, Iona Grey. I'm a huge fan!!!

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Attachments by Rainbow Rowell



I picked up this book because I'm giving my HS students an April Reading Challenge, and naturally, I'm taking it too. This book fits the category of "A book a friend recommended." I'm really glad I decided to give it a try. It was a quirky, cute romantic comedy sort of book. At its center is Lincoln, a young man in his late 20's who still lives with his mother and plays Dungeons & Dragons with friends occasionally. Otherwise, his social life is a bit dull. His "security" job in IT at a large newspaper forces him to read interoffice emails and items that are caught in web filters. While doing so, he catches some extremely personal back and forth emails between two women named Jennifer and Beth. He finds himself unable to turn them in or warn them of company policy of sending personal emails because he genuinely likes them. Instead he begins to look forward to their daily banter, no matter how personal, hilarious, or serious at times. He starts to wish he actually knew them, especially Beth, who is in a relationship, but seems to be very lonely like himself. Meanwhile, Beth & Jennifer start talking about a "very cute guy" at work and wishing they knew who he was, etc. Could it be Lincoln?

This is a light read, with not too much harsh language and the romance is very PG. I really enjoyed Rainbow Rowell's writing style. Thanks for recommending this one, Cameron. I'm glad to have read it!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand



The Rumor will be published on June 16, 2015.

Elin Hilderbrand has done it again - created a beautiful story that I absolutely couldn't put down! Although her books are mostly all set during the summer on the island of Nantucket, she manages to create distinctly different story lines and characters that blend perfectly. The Rumor is a story of Grace and Madeline, who have been friends forever. As each woman deals with their own family issues and stress, rumors start to swirl throughout town. One thing I really loved is that each chapter has a different character perspective, and Elin gives makes the island of Nantucket a character in itself. The chapters titled Nantucket are informative about just how skewed actual events become when they are turned into rumors. I found myself laughing out loud at the absurdity of some of the rumors. Another awesome thing is that Elin wrote this book while also battling breast cancer, and as such, she dedicated it to her doctors and medical staff. I won't give away much about the plot, because you have to read it for yourself to fully appreciate the story. No spoilers! I absolutely loved this book. Thanks, Elin, for keeping my must-have-great-books addiction in control.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Doomsday Equation by Matt Richtel




My favorite author, James Rollins, endorsed this book, which is the main reason I gave it a try. I normally do not go for fictional bordering on sci-fi, or technological thrillers. However, I enjoyed The Doomsday Equation. It reminded me a little bit of Dan Brown's work, but heavier on the technology aspect. The story line is fast paced as it is a race against the clock situation where one guy, Jeremy, a computer genius with a major lack of social skills, knows what is going to happen and is trying to prevent it, while also trying to determine who he can trust and who is trying to stop him. He has built a computer program which is able to predict conflict, and it has predicted a conflict on a global scale which would be catastrophic and end life as we know it. And, the kicker is that the computer tells him it will happen in less than 3 days. Get ready for a thrill ride, readers. Good luck trying to figure out who is really with Jeremy, and who is against him. I was shocked to figure out the truth. Overall, a good read.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen



Saint Anything is a YA novel which is set to be published on May 5, 2015.

First off, this book didn't read like a typical YA novel, with some of the same overused themes. More than anything, it is a story of family relationships and resilience in times of great stress, grief, and heartbreak. While Sydney's family is trying to deal with her older brother, and the true golden child, being in prison after many mistakes have caught up with him, another family enters the picture and the story blossoms from there. The Chathams is a family as different from Sydney's family as possible. Readers will love the relationships that Sydney develops with the youngest sister, Layla, brother Mac, and even their mother, Mrs. Chatham who is battling MS. As Sydney gets to know a new family and close friends, she begins to feel less invisible and is allowed to come out from behind her brother Peyton's shadow a bit. Unlike some YA novels which have cheesy or sappy romantic scenes, the romance in this story is touching and subtle, as young love should be. This is a beautiful story, and I would recommend it for young adult readers, as well as adults.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb



Publication date: August 24, 2015

I enjoyed this book, mostly because of the fact that the narrator is man with autism and the story follows his unique perspective of his childhood and adult life. He has lived in the same institutional home since the age of 11, and though he misses his family, his positive outlook and honest portrait of day to day happenings around him are touching. The way he describes his emotions and relationships with others allows for a truly moving look at a life lived in the moment. Sad at times, and bittersweet at others, this is a book that I would recommend.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Summer of Good Intentions - Wendy Francis



This novel will be published July 7, 2015.

This was my first summer read for the season to come. When I saw that my favorite summer read author, Elin Hilderbrand, endorsed this book and author, I simply had to read it. I enjoyed the story line, and the writing kept me entertained and intrigued. I appreciated that their wasn't a lot of nasty language or graphic sexual scenes. The story follows three sisters and their divorced parents as they make their annual trek to their summer house on the Cape for the month of July. Each chapter switches back and forth between the perspective of one of the three sisters, Maggie, Jess, and Virgie, as well as their aging father, Arthur. The month starts out with not much excitement, as each sister and their families learn to wind down from the hustle and bustle of busy lives. As the month goes on, however, there are some minor and some major events which shape the story line. At times, I laughed out loud, and cried at others. I hope Wendy Francis writes more of these summer reads, because I really enjoyed it.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Where They Found Her - Kimberly McCreight



This book will be published April 14, 2015.

I really enjoyed this suspenseful, fast-paced psychological thriller. The author weaves together multiple story lines of four women living in the same community with loose ties to one another. As the story line progresses, much of the plot comes together in startling ways, with connections to past covered up crimes. I was hooked from the beginning and had to find out what happened. This caused me to read it very quickly. I haven't read any other books by Kimberly McCreight, but I think after reading this, I would enjoy her other works. Her writing is crisp and real. My only criticism is that I wasn't a fan of the harsh language that was used in the book. I think some of it would have been okay, but it was used a little too much. A story can be a good story without throwing vulgar words in as adjectives all over the place. However, I did enjoy the thrill of this story and I would recommend it to fans of suspense and thrillers. It may keep you up at night!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Trauma - by Michael Palmer & Daniel Palmer



Trauma will be published and released to the general public on May 12, 2015. Author, Michael Palmer, passed away suddenly in October 2013. His son Daniel Palmer picked up the story idea and finished the book. Daniel would have made his father proud, because the story was seamless and entertaining. I had recently read Michael Palmer's medical suspense thriller Resistant, and Trauma was just as good.

Dr. Carrie Bryant is a neurosurgeon left to pick up the pieces of her career after a terrible accident during a routine brain surgery on a patient, of which she is at fault, though the circumstances are very unfortunate. She moves back home to her parents and brother, a vet who is suffering from PTSD. Carrie soon joins forces with Dr. Alistair Finley, a well-respected neurosurgeon with the VA, to perform what is presented to her as ground-breaking brain surgery to reverse the affects of PTSD. As with any great medical suspense thriller, things are not always what they seem. After two of the patients who have received the surgery have rather adverse side effects and then disappear from the hospital, Carrie, along with a resourceful (and single, hunky) journalist, David, begin to investigate even as the situation becomes more dangerous.

I wasn't a huge fan of the ending, but the story was fast paced and kept me intrigued. Well done, father and son Palmer!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline



Every Fifteen Minutes will be published April 14, 2015.

I enjoyed this book very much. It was a fast paced read, and most of the story line occurred over only a matter of a few days. The main character, Dr. Eric Parrish, is a well-known and respected psychiatrist and Chief of the hospital unit. Dr. Parrish goes out of his way and above & beyond the call of duty to help a new teenage patient, Max, who is very troubled after the death of his grandmother and main caregiver. Eric's comfortable life at home and at work then starts to quickly spiral out of control. Can Eric trust those closest to him? Or will he have to save himself before it is too late. The ending packs a big punch, as there are two major twists that the reader doesn't expect...or at least I didn't expect! Lisa Scottoline has once again written a winner.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Water from my Heart by Charles Martin



Charles Martin's new book Water from my Heart will be published May 19, 2015.

My favorite part of the book was the vivid description of the different places in which the story took place, such as Bimini and Nicaragua. The rich details of the setting cause the story to really come alive in the reader's imagination. The thing I didn't like about the book was that the ending was too predictable and sort of tied up with a neat tidy little bow. This book is not really like Charles Martin's other books. I really enjoyed The Mountain Between Us, Unwritten, and A Life Intercepted. The story line of Water From My Heart was very unlikely. However, the end-papers explain that the story was inspired by a real life situation and people the author met in Nicaragua who suffered similar hardships to the characters depicted in the book. The beginning was a little hard to get hooked, but once the character became immersed in the daily life of a Nicaraguan family, I was captivated by the story. Fans of mainstream or Christian fiction would enjoy this book.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah



The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a fabulous choice for historical fiction fans or any fiction readers. Set during World War II in and around war ravaged Paris, it is a story which alternates between two sisters and what they each must endure to survive the war. Older sister Vianne and her young daughter Sophie are left to fend for themselves when Vianne's husband Antoine is called away to serve in the war. The hardships begin when a series of Nazi soldiers decide to billet in their home, taking and using whatever and whomever they please. Vianne's younger sister, Isabelle is rebellious and passionate. She makes it her goal to make a difference and do something to fight back against the Germans who are taking over her city and her home, no matter the danger and risks. The thing that I loved most about this book is that is centered around female characters fighting for their lives and those of innocent children. It really paints a truthful (though heartbreaking and unfathomable at times) portrait of the war's effect on women. I challenge you to read this book with dry eyes. I certainly couldn't. I will even go out on a limb and say this is the best book that I have read about World War II and the Holocaust so far. Close seconds are Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller and Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. Amazing, just amazing.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

I Was Here by Gayle Forman


I Was Here is a new YA book that will be published Tuesday, January 27, 2015.

 I enjoyed this book, much more than Forman's If I Stay and Where She Went books. The book brings a serious and often overlooked issue on the subject of suicide to light. I can't spell it out because of spoiler alerts. Cody's best friend Meg has committed suicide and planned everything out, right down to the last detail of sending emails in advance to Cody and Meg's parents. Cody saw no warning signs and the suicide came as a complete shock. As she tries to come to grip with extreme grief and guilt for the situation, she also starts to dig and find out what really happened. In the process, she meets Meg's housemates, who are complete strangers to her, but so much more at the end of the book. Cody's no-nonsense, harsh perspective as a narrator is a breath of fresh air to the reader. Forman based this story on a true life story of a girl named Suzy, which she describes in more detail in the end notes. This book is really moving, and although extremely sad, it does bring out some ray of hope at the end. I would highly suggest it for adults and teens. Well done, Gayle.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway


Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway is a YA novel that is set to be published 6/23/15. Wow! I absolutely loved it. It packed a powerful punch of emotions, especially at the end. As a Mom reading it, I totally cried. Emmy & Oliver have been best friends and next door neighbors since they were toddlers. But, Oliver disappears when he they are only 7 years old, leaving his family, Emmy, and their other two best friends, Caroline and Drew absolutely heartbroken. Then, one random day 10 years later, Emmy gets the news that Oliver has been located and is on the way home. Will they be able to pick up the pieces of friendship (or maybe more) when he comes home? Is he a different person altogether? How strong are the bonds of friendship, family, and love? I will not give out any spoilers. Trust me; you will want to read this. It is a beautiful novel. Just read it.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Fifty Year Silence by Miranda Richmond Mouillot



I really enjoyed this book. It was in part a memoir and also in part a diary of the author's historical journey to discover the details of her grandparent's relationship during World War II. The author was never sure why; but her grandparents had not spoken to each other in 50 years. She decides to try to write their history and find out what happened by moving back to a small village in France where they once purchased a home and lived for a short time. However, in the process, the author discovers more about herself and finally allows herself to begin living in the present in order to love and be loved. The author weaves rich historical detail throughout the story, which makes for a beautifully written story. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of WWII fiction, historical fiction, memoirs, or family historical research.

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall



This is a brand new and refreshing YA (young adult) novel which was published today, 1/13/15. It was certainly a nice break from all the post-apocalyptic YA fiction that is constantly being published. This novel, which takes place in modern day, reminded me of a teen version of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code because it has some of the same elements, such as following clues in foreign countries and trying to trace historical happenings in order to solve a current day mystery. Also, who could forget the element of being chased and the character being in grave danger throughout the story. The difference is that the main character is just an average teenage girl (Avery) at the beginning of the book. She quickly realizes that others have plans for her life, which she knew nothing about. And, there is a bit of romance, which makes the story line even better. Two young gentleman, Jack and Stellan, are both dishing out affectionate vibes at times, even though neither one is actually allowed to be with her based upon their position in the Circle. Nothing wrong with a little love triangle to make a book more interesting! The book ends abruptly and makes me wish the sequel was already on my night stand waiting to be read next. I really must know what happens next with Avery, Jack, and Stellan! I would highly recommend this book to both teens and adults. It is a great first novel by author Maggie Hall.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly



I absolutely loved this fast-paced action thriller. I had never read anything by Matthew Reilly prior to this, but now I think I will go check out some of his other novels. It reminded me quite a bit of my favorite author, James Rollins', books. The story line is incredibly creative and interesting. It certainly does have some far fetched elements, but that is what makes fiction so much fun! From start to finish, this is a roller-coaster of non-stop action. It is a bit gory in parts, so I wouldn't advise reading it if you are squeamish with talk of blood. I would recommend it with flying colors, otherwise. Awesome!!!

The book will be published January 27, 2015.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

At the Water's Edge - Sara Gruen



I absolutely loved this book. I will admit that the first few chapters started a bit slow for me, but then it picked up the pace very quickly. Maddie, the main character, is a wealthy American housewife and newlywed in a loveless marriage. She has an overbearing,  controlling, and at times verbally abusive husband. Her husband and his best friend Hank drag her across the country to Scotland right during the middle of World War II on a wild goose chase to find the Loch Ness monster, which they are convinced is real and will make them rich and famous. The historical setting and rich descriptive detail of the Scottish Highlands are key for such a beautiful story. I would highly suggest reading it, because I can't give away the spoilers. The book reminded me a little bit of Sara's other bestseller, Water for Elephants, as well as Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (minus the sci-fi time portals and all of that).

The book will be published on March 31, 2015.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver


This was a really well written book that had me flying through the pages. The narrative goes back and forth between the perspective of two sisters, Dara and Nick (Nicole) who have always been inseparable, best friends prior to an accident a few months before the story begins. Not much detail is given about the accident other than pieces of information dropped like clues as the story unfolds. This makes for a suspenseful and pulse-pounding read. The ending packs a punch with a major surprise regarding one of the main characters. Great novel!!

This book will be published on March 10, 2015.