Monthly Archives: February 2015

Down from the Mountain is a well written if predictable glimpse inside cult life

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Down from the Mountain is a well written if predictable glimpse inside cult life

Religious cults, by nature, inspire a lot of curiosity.  Down from the Mountain by Elizabeth Firmer is a book that will give a fairly textbook example of what life in one of these communities is like, but it won’t be a book that surprises you.  The isolation and abuse at the hands of a false prophet is exactly what readers expect to find, and as the plot takes place just as the ties that bind these believers is unravelling, there is little insight about what makes this type of community so attractive to people.  Still, this is a book that can reveal the way power and faith is warped in the hands of the wrong people.  It is also a coming of age story, set in the transitional teen years when many begin to question the previously sacred teachings of their parents, so middle and high school readers may find it engaging.  More discerning readers will most likely find it bland.



Goodreads Summary
Eva just wants to be a good disciple of the Righteous Path. She grew up knowing that she and her mother are among the chosen few to be saved from Armageddon. Lately, though, being saved feels awfully treacherous. Ever since they moved to the compound in Colorado, their food supplies have dwindled even while their leader, Ezekial, has stockpiled weapons. The only money comes from the jewelry Eva makes and sells down in Boulder–a purpose she’ll serve until she becomes one of Ezekial’s wives.  But a college student named Trevor and the other “heathens” she meets on her trips beyond the compound are different from what she’s been led to believe. 
Expected publication: March 1st 2015 by Albert Whitman Teen (first published January 1st 2015)
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So, You Seem to Attract the Dead.  Two Books featuring Lucky Ladies With Ghosts in Tow.

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The last time I purchased a scary book for myself was when I read the Mara Dyer books, and the first one was so upsetting that I put it down and didn’t come back for a year after reading just a couple of chapters. However, I’ve encountered a lot of YA horror/mystery since I started reading for NetGalley, and since I can’t really resist a ghost, especially one with an intriguing cover and a price tag of free, I’ve read at least ten in the past few months. I can’t say it is my favorite thing to read, and I think I judge this sub genre more harshly than I do others, so I offer up two ghost stories today, neither of them particularly great in my opinion. However, for those of you who fondly remember that little scamp by the pond in “Wait Till Helen Comes,” these might just be the high school equivalent you have been seeking.

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 Phoebe moves into her step father’s ancestral home in England and discovers her family is not alone, and whatever is living with them wants her baby sister. I’m lukewarm about this book. It reads quickly, and the writing style is professional and engaging. Phoebe, is an admirable character who loves her family, but she is honest about being a little jealous of her baby sister. She reads as realistic and relatable. There is a nice little twist to the narrative that many readers will enjoy. The problem for me was really that, even in this context, the explanations for the haunting seemed so far fetched and my disbelief couldn’t extend that far. I think middle school readers are more likely to appreciate the light horror and suspense of Haunted, and they are less likely to be bothered by the weak back story. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7 and up.

 

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 Recovering from a near deadly ordeal that left her with the power to sense the dead, Mary is expecting a boring vacation with her parents and the ghost of her best friend, Lacey. It doesn’t take long for Mary to find herself, once again, battling an evil entity determined to leave death and revenge in its wake — the ghost of a murdered girl has been taking lives for the past five years, waiting for the perfect moment to get even, unless Mary can stop her. This book hits the mark when it comes to horrifyingly vivid descriptions. There were some pretty scary images of the ghost that I could visualize in detail. In other respects, it was rather disappointing. It lacked the atmosphere I expected in a horror novel, mostly because it was dominated by vapid teen talk and bestie drama. There wasn’t really any suspense and the romance was weak. A lot of readers said you didn’t need to read the prequel novella to enjoy this book, but I have to disagree. Almost all of the character growth had to do with Mary coming to terms with an experience I had not read about, and that was frustrating. The resolution was disappointing — it was just too easy after all the build up. The language and situations are appropriate for high school, and maybe a high school reader would have better luck connecting with this character, but she just didn’t feel real to me.

I recieved copies of both Mary Hades and Haunted from their respective publishers via NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.

Human Sacrifice, Oracles, and Cannibals, Oh My!

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Human Sacrifice, Oracles, and Cannibals, Oh My!

Sacrificed: The Last Oracle by Emily Wibberly is full of enticing elements. It evokes Aztec and Mayan culture and involves some rather vivid human sacrifices. The strong female protagonist is an oracle who doesn’t believe in oracles. There is a good man in a bad position who wants to take care of said protagonist despite her fierce independence. Also, cannibals!

Sacrificed (The Last Oracle, #1)Sacrificed by Emily Wibberley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clio ran from her fate as a vessel to the Oracle, but fate has other things in store. When a tragedy leaves her the sole surviving Oracle, Clio must battle her conflicted feelings about what it means to sacrifice and to be a sacrifice. Clio is an interesting character. She has been isolated from the outside world because of her intended destiny, but she is resourceful and resilient. She acts on impulse and is fiercely independent. When her future is decided for her and she has to come to terms with her fate, it creates a good dynamic for her character’s growth. The love interest in this book is also swoon worthy. He is noble and kind, but circumstances, too, have given him a fate that he has some trouble embracing. He has it all worked out in his head, but his heart is a different matter. When these two characters get together, prepare for a lot of disagreements and lots of action. The pacing is designed to accommodate the action more than the development of a relationship, so don’t expect a lot of elaborate romancing (I’m personally okay with that). I did notice a few times when the language was a little more modern than the setting, but it wasn’t often enough to annoy me. This book is appropriate for high school students. I am adding it to my classroom library wish list because I think the premise, the action, and the romance will engage many of my high school readers. At $2.99 on Amazon, it is a solid purchase.

But . . . I won us an autographed copy, so you can check it out from our classroom library.  If you destroy it or even bend a single page, your tail is mine!

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

The Secrets Between You and Me

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<em>The Secrets Between You and Me</em>

The Secrets Between You and Me Is an easy read, and a clean, contemporary YA romance. She seems to have it all, and he appears to have nothing left, but a little summer romance based around a big white lie might be just what they both need to get a fresh start. While this isn’t a book I will revisit again and again, I did enjoy it while it lasted. Fans of Sarah Dessen et al will enjoy this book.

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Hannah’s “perfect” life is imploding. She is looking forward to spending time at her aunt’s house and playing at being a different Hannah. When she connects with Jude, a young man who is dealing with the death of his brother, she begins to figure out who she really wants to be. This was a good YA contemporary romance. It is a companion book, but was easy to read as a stand alone. The pacing is a little fast for the relationship, but it was believable enough. Themes of defining yourself, being honest, and stepping outside of your comfort zone add depth. I didn’t particularly care for Hannah at times, and I found Jude to be somewhat of a mystery when it came to his motivations, but I was engaged and pleased with the ending. Language and situations are appropriate for high school students. I will add it to my high school classroom library wishlist because my readers are always looking for YA contemporary romance, and this is one I could feel good about putting in their hands.

Seeker isn’t what the PR machine promised, but I liked it anyway

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Seeker isn’t what the PR machine promised, but I liked it anyway

Hype is going to kill this book! Ignore every blurb comparing this book to something else — it isn’t what they lead you to believe, but it is a good book in its own right. Think female hero’s journey in a time and place that feels medieval then modern then futuristic and back again. Imagine houses battling for an object that can transport through space and time using an ancient magic. Imagine being torn between giving something to the one you love most or fighting to keep it from them because it will destroy them. Engaging SciFi/Fantasy.

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Trained from birth to fulfill her destiny as a Seeker, Quinn believes her hard work and sacrifice will set her on a path to bravery and noble deeds. When her first mission leaves her disillusioned, Quinn must decide how far she will go to escape a horrifying future. Quinn’s cousin and her boyfriend each have a stake in her decisions, and as the line between ally and enemy blurrs, Quinn must choose between the two people she loves the most. I enjoyed this book very much once I quit resenting it for not being the book I thought I wanted. It isn’t perfect — I was annoyed with characters and their weaknesses. Quinn’s cousin made horrible decisions, and I just wanted to take a sword to a couple of die-hard baddies myself. There is also some work involved in reading this book — the changing settings and unfamiliar powers wielded by the characters required some time to understand. However, I was definitely engaged. I think my high school students will be as frustrated, surprised, and ready to talk about this book as I am, and I want to get a copy in their hands right now! Language and situations are appropriate for 9th grade +. Characters do commit violent acts, try to escape guilt through drug abuse, and contemplate suicide, but each of these actions are shown to have negative consequences.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Look for it in our classroom library after March 19, 2015

Inherit Midnight A Dark and Engaging YA Adventure

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<em>Inherit Midnight</em> A Dark and Engaging YA Adventure

Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers has been betrayed by the publisher’s blurb. It implies that teen black sheep, Avery, is going to compete in a lighthearted competition with her family members to see who inherits the family’s vast wealth. She competes alright, but there is nothing lighthearted about her family. Seriously, no drunk uncle or uppity cousin you have compares to this cut-throat crew. Darker than I expected. More intense and engaging as well. If you like suspense and betrayal in your around-the-world scavenger hunts, this is a book to add to your TBR list.

My rating: 4 stars

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Avery has been raised by her grandmother, a rich and distant woman, because her mother is dead and her alcoholic father is always missing in action. The stifling demands made by Avery’s grandmother have forced Avery to rebel in tiny ways, but one rebellion is documented and sent to her grandmother who immediately sends Avery to a prison-like boarding school. Isolated and ignored, Avery attempts to escape from the school only to learn the way out of her nightmarish limbo is to actively participate in her grandmother’s inheritance and heritage challenge. With no real support, a vicious group of competitors, and few resources, Avery accepts the help of one of her grandmother’s lawyers and sets out on the adventure that will reveal a lot about her past and who she really is inside. I read this straight through because I found the storyline compelling, and I had a genuine interest I finding out what would happen to Avery. There are a few over-the-top events, but they didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. There is a nice pace, and nothing is drawn out too long. There is a good attempt to round out some of the characters beyond the protagonist, which allows many of the relationships to seem likely. I think YA readers will warm to both Avery and Riley quickly, and I think they will feel compelled to follow this one to its resolution. I’m definitely adding this one to my classroom library wish list, and I’m going to recommend it to our school librarian. Language, situations and interest level will probably be high school, but I wouldn’t stop younger readers from giving it a try.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Soulprint envisions a world where sins of past lives are punished in the present

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<em>Soulprint</em> envisions a world where sins of past lives are punished in the present

Past lives have always been a fascination of mine, and Soulprint by Megan Miranda played on that fascination. In a future where your soul is traced by a blood test at birth, how far will society go to make sure the sins of our pasts aren’t repeated in our present? I thought this was an intriguing concept. This is a pretty action packed book, and I admit that I devoured it in a day just because I had to know exactly what Alina’s former self had really been up to.

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Alina has been raised on an island to protect her from society and to protect society from her. Her fate was decided when she was born and identified as the reincarnated soul of one of the most despised criminals of her century. Though Alina doesn’t feel any connection to her past soul, plenty of people are willing to believe she carries answers somewhere inside herself that could bring them power and wealth, and they have no compulsions about doing what it takes to force her to remember what she knew and died for seventeen years ago. Fast paced and full of action, this was a pretty intriguing concept wrapped in an engaging package. I think plenty of people like past life stories, but they are often turn into historical fiction. Soulprint takes this in another direction. This is a contemporary story that, though it is set in the future, is a recognizable and pretty believable future. While I didn’t care for or trust many of the characters beyond the protagonist, it didn’t take away from my reading pleasure. The tension and suspense were sustained throughout this book, and it really took me the entire book to figure out exactly what was going down. There was a romantic element I could have lived without, but if you lock up a teen on an island for her whole life . . . I think my students will find this concept intriguing and they will enjoy this book. Language and sensuality are appropriate for high school readers.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is available in the MHS Library.

YA Mystery Delves Into The Dark World of Sex Trafficking

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YA Mystery Delves Into The Dark World of Sex Trafficking

The Forgetting is a YA mystery that longs to push its readers into seeing their own lives, and the lives of the unacknowledged people around them, in a new light. Does it succeed? I’m not sure. The prerequisite romance sort of takes it down a level, but a writer’s gotta do what it takes to being in the readers, I guess. This is a book for fans of dark YA contemporary mystery.

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Georgie’s new heart came with a few extras — she is remembering things from the life of another girl — a girl who lived a grim existence and experienced a lonely death. Determined to hold on to herself, Georgie seeks out the answers to the mystery of the Jane Doe whose death gave her a second chance at life. This book had a rough start — I was convinced it was going to be a silly mystery based on the first few chapters. Then, it got real — sex trafficking, failing foster system, entitled blinders. This was a dark look at what goes on just around the corner from your white picket fence. It was also about evaluating what you want to do about it, once the lace curtain has been pulled back. Georgie grows a lot as a character, and though her dumb risks are too often rewarded (setting a terrible example for budding do-gooders), she does a fair job of conveying key themes without making readers feel judged. There is a little too much of the hooker with the heart of gold in a couple of the characters, and the bad guys are also lacking nuances that would make them feel real. This is problematic because the theme plays on the idea that bad things are happening in plain sight to people like you and me. That is not supported when almost every villain is quickly identifiable by their attitude or appearance. Luckily, there are enough suspected bad guys to sustain the mystery until the reveal. I think my high school students will find the mystery compelling if they stick it out past the first few chapters. The topic is certainly one that they need to know more about, and while it is a mature and controversial topic, this book avoids graphic content and sensationalized scenes that would steer parents and librarians away. Both language and situations make The Forgetting appropriate for mature high school readers.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios is my #1 read for 2015

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I’ll Meet You There  by Heather Demetrios is my #1 read for 2015

I’ll Meet You There is the best contemporary YA romance I’ve read in a long, long time. In fact, I read it twice in one month because I just couldn’t quit thinking about it. I have a standard list of books I offer my high school romance readers, books guaranteed to please, and this one went straight to the top. If you like Because of Low by Abbie Glines or Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols, you are in for a treat with this one!

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Sky has big plans to leave her small town behind when her mom loses her job and maybe her mind. Josh did get out, until his leg got blown off in Afghanistan and he found himself back where he started. Drawn together by their jobs at the only motel in their one horse town, they are both looking for what the future holds and trying to let go of ghosts of pasts they cannot change. Sometimes a book just sticks with you, and this one has been on my mind since I finished reading yesterday. I really, really enjoyed this book. These characters felt like they were the real deal and they drew me into their dreams and problems so deeply that I couldn’t put this one down. The plot is not action packed, but it is nicely paced to believably develop a relationship between the characters. It is emotionally engaging, and I cared very much about the outcome, and I really wasn’t sure how it was going to work out until the final chapters. Themes of poverty, working for a future, revamping the plan that failed, and the true nature of war and military service add a lot of depth to this read. It has soul! This is contemporary YA, and the situations were very real, so there is language and sensuality intended for a more mature teen reader. High school and up, but I enjoyed it as an adult.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It is one of my most prized ebooks! Also, the author was nice to me when I sent in my fan/English teacher question on Goodreads. I think listening and speaking to your fan base is awesome, and being nice to your readers does matter.

Available in our classroom library!

Another entitled princess with First World Problems sorta learns to appreciate us real folks

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Another entitled princess with First World Problems sorta learns to appreciate us real folks

Sometimes I just have a bad attitude, so it is possible that you could read Paper or Plastic and think it is the best thing you’ve read in a long time. What you might enjoy about this book — the protagonist plays softball (hey, that’s big here), the romantic interest is sweet and self sacrificing, the cover is cute. Things you might not like — the protagonist and her “friends.”

Paper or Plastic by Vivi Barnes is a YA contemporary romance releasing February 3, 2015.

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Lexi’s adventure in shoplifting ends with a required summer job at the Smartmart she stole from, but her punishment might end up being the best thing that ever happened to her. A summer of unexpected friendships and possible romance is exactly what Lexi needs to see things more clearly. While this book offers an interesting complication to the summer romance, it was otherwise rather predictable. Readers who are looking for a YA contemporary romance will not be disappointed, nor will they be surprised. The romantic interest will appeal to most readers. The protagonist, on the other hand, comes across as spoiled and self centered. Lexi gains empathy for others during her time at Smartmart, but never really has the comeuppance growth I desired. The one minor character who is willing to call Lexi out for what she is disappears like smoke in the rush of the resolution (personally, I would rather have read the book from that girl’s perspective than Lexi’s). Ultimately it feels like Lexi got what Lexi wanted once again, at very little cost to herself. I was unclear what the ultimate message was, other than, “Hey, you need to be accepting of the working poor because they might actually be people, too!” Are my impoverished outsider roots showing? The language and situations are appropriate for grades nine and up.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.