Monday, September 29, 2014

The Giver (The Giver #1)

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I simply loved this book. I picked it up to read in honor of Banned Books Week, and I'm glad I did.

Jonas lives in a quasi-Utopian society where everything is strictly laid out for them. From birth to death, the people follow the rules, or are "released". When the children turn twelve, they are placed in their job, and Jonas is selected to be the next Receiver of Memories, a rare and honored position in the society. As the Receiver, he uncovers things that he didn't know, and did not want to know, about his life and the lives of those around him. He and the former Receiver (now the Giver) are left with their singular knowledge of life and are faced with the hard choices that come with the knowledge of both good and evil.

Definitely not an uplifting book, but one that will stay with you afterwards.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Silence (Silence #1)

Silence (Silence, #1)Silence by Natasha Preston

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

When I was in 7th grade, my best friend and I wrote a book together. It was written much like this one. Teen angst, cringe-worthy dialogue, and a weak plot. And I could forgive all of these things from a budding author, but what I can't forgive is the lack of editing. Riddled with typos, poor punctuation, and grammatical errors, this book was nearly unreadable. Quite frankly, I am shocked that the overall star rating is 3.86. When an author confuses "you're" and "your", it makes it nearly impossible to take anything else seriously.

Silence had the potential to be riveting. It's a sensitive topic and the author builds it up around the mystery of why Oakley hasn't spoken since she was five years old. But instead of drawing you into a dramatic storyline, we have 150 pages of, "Does my best friend Cole like me?" "Oh, I hope he likes me!" "Does she like me back?" I felt like I was reading a note passed in fifth grade English. "Do you like me? Check yes or no" and the girl makes a new box that says "maybe". Come on. Nothing struck me as realistic, from the dialogue to the characters. Also, I found her brother Jasper to be one of the most unlikeable, annoying characters ever written. A disappointment overall, and not recommended.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Banned Books Week 2014

"Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate."

Hubert H. Humphrey

FREEDOM!  Freedom of thought.  Freedom to choose.  Freedom to learn about anything and everything.

As Banned Books Week draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on the dangers of censorship.  Books are my refuge, my delight, my passion.  I am curious about everything in the world, and want to read it all--no topic is off limits.  

Much like the society in The Giver, censorship can stifle learning, ideas, and progress.  We must allow people access to knowledge we deem both good and bad to help them make their own decisions and choices.  Diversity of thought is one of the things that makes life so interesting.  

Join me in my challenge to read one banned book per month.  Pick up something outside of your comfort zone.  Gain a perspective different than your own.  And share your thoughts and ideas afterwards.  Debate.  Explore.  Challenge.  Come away different than what you were before.

Will you take the challenge?

What is Banned Books Week?  The site says it best:
"Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 307 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2013, and many more go unreported."

To read more about Banned Books Week, visit

Thursday, September 25, 2014


MockingbirdMockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this little book! What an unexpected surprise.

Mockingbird is told in the voice of Caitlin, a young girl with Aspergers, moving on with life after her brother is killed in a middle school shooting. She is working to understand her father's feelings, being accepted at school, and living life without her older brother. I enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes, and often found myself completely understanding her point of view. Like the book says, we all fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum. I may be a little closer to Caitlin than other people, and that's ok.

If you like getting inside a character's head who might cause you to view the world a little differently, it's definitely worth the read. So good!

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Monday, September 22, 2014

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2)

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am really enjoying this series. I love both Cormoran and Robin, and can't wait to read about their next big case.

I enjoyed The Silkworm a bit more than The Cuckoo's Calling. I feel the characters were better developed, and the mystery had great twists and turns. In fact, I thought I knew "whodunit" for 3/4 of the book and was surprised by the ending, and the clues I had missed along the way.

I really enjoy Cormoran, and my only complaint is I don't get insights into what he is necessarily feeling. Some of the sections were leaving us in the dark by design (Robin's mysterious errand, for example) but I do want to know a bit about his motivations.

Also, I am dearly hoping we have heard the last of his terrible ex-fiance. She is absolutely the world's worst. Please put that to bed and leave her in the past. More of Al, though. Let's dig into the family stuff a bit to give us more insights into Strike.

Looking forward to reading book #3. This may become one of my favorite private detective series.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

A Million Suns (Across the Universe #2)

A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2)A Million Suns by Beth Revis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We pick up where we left off at the end of Across the Universe. Elder is now running things on Godspeed, and Amy is struggling to accept her life onboard now that she has been unfrozen a few months. Elder and Amy stumble upon a big, big secret, and it changes the lives of everyone aboard. Decisions must be made, but at what cost?

Part sci-fi, part teen angst, part political exploration, book 2 is action-packed. The people on board now have free will, and many struggle with it after a lifetime of control. Rebellions, deceptions, and deaths are happening throughout. And you are left at the end waiting to see how it all will conclude in the final book.

I am definitely enjoying the storyline in this series, but I don't feel emotionally connected to any of the characters. I want to better understand the motivations and feelings in both Amy and Elder. The chapters are from their first-person POV, and we could go so much deeper. We could have better insights into the inner struggles of both main characters, but we don't. Still, it's an entertaining story, just lacking in character depth, keeping it in solid 3-star territory.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Story

My StoryMy Story by Elizabeth Smart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have let this books sit in my mind for a couple of days before writing my review. As the mother of a 14-year-old daughter, I can't imagine the pain and suffering Elizabeth Smart and her family went through during her nine month ordeal. I want to approach my review with sensitivity and the knowledge that I can never truly understand what she was thinking or feeling during her kidnapping and captivity. But, as always, I need to be honest with my opinions as well. Please understand this while you read my thoughts.

I chose to listen to this book on audio rather than read it because Elizabeth Smart narrates it herself. I wanted to hear her words in her own voice, and I'm glad I did. It was a constant reminder of how young she was when she was taken, and how young she still is now. The teenaged inflections, the utter disdain that comes through, really made her thoughts come to life.

But while she was very detailed about the beginning weeks of her captivity, she time-jumped quite a bit towards the end. They spent six months in California but she told fewer stories about that time. I don't know if it was from monotony or if she has forgotten or did not want to share specifics, but it left me with some lingering questions. And that's ok; it's her private life.

A few things I am left with: 1) it bothered me that she kept referring to herself as a little girl. She was adamant about this, and referred to herself as "just a little girl" numerous times. As the mother of a 14-year-old girl, and having once been a 14-year-old myself, I found this odd. I understand that people are different, and perhaps it was because she was somewhat sheltered, but I don't know any young lady around that age who refers to themselves as a little girl. That is the age they are entering high school and are striving to grow up. I feel it is more likely that she now looks back on it and realizes she was way too young to experience such depravity, and is applying it to how she might have felt at the time.
2) she was very adamant that she did not bond with her captors or attempt to get along with them. This seems unlikely as well. She made it a point to tell us this so many times that I felt it was like she was testifying at a parole hearing to keep them behind bars. Elizabeth, absolutely no one would blame you if you did whatever it took to stay alive. If you were pleasant to them or tried not to make waves, we completely understand. This is at complete odds with the fact that you had numerous opportunities to either escape or alert someone, including police questioning you, of your identity. I am not saying you wanted to be with them, not at all. But you were in public places many times in both California and Utah with questioning eyes on you, and I would think that you would have wanted to get to safety at any cost. That's all. Again, I'm not judging, just speculating what I would do in that situation.
3) her faith is amazing. I can't imagine holding onto faith in a god who would allow me to be kidnapped, raped, and emotionally terrorized for nine months. My brain can't wrap around it. It is nice that she still has her faith, because I'm sure other people would be bitter after what she has been through. She claims to have seen no counselors, received no therapy, and has grown up to be a successful young woman, so good for her.

Overall, an interesting story, and I would definitely recommend the audio version so you can hear it in her own voice.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

White Night (The Dresden Files #9)

White Night (The Dresden Files, #9)White Night by Jim Butcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Still loving my Dresden Files journey. Book 9 doesn't disappoint. Harry is still deeply flawed with a heart of gold, solving crimes and keeping the streets of Chicago safe from the supernatural.

It begins with Harry reluctantly continuing to be a warden, and also tutoring Molly so she doesn't turn to the dark side. Murphy has been busted down to Sergeant, and she brings Harry in covertly on a murder masquerading as suicide. Harry catches the clues, naturally, and it's off to catch another supernatural killer. Yes, the White Court is still up to their shenanigans, and Laura Raith is still running the show. It ends in a fantastic battle that will not disappoint.

Things I loved: Gentleman Johnny Marcone. I like him now that we see more of his layers. He's complex, conflicted, and the enemy Harry knows. Rameriz as Harry's warden partner (love him even more now that Laura outed his secret). Thomas as a White Court knight in shining armor (literally). Murphy because she kicks ass, always. Mouse. He's simply the best part of Harry's life. The conclusion with Lasciel was more satisfying than I would have imagined.

Things I didn't love: Not enough Bob. Elaine. She's bad news for Harry, and I don't want her around. No Michael Carpenter--every book should have Michael.

Butcher has set things up for an interesting showdown between the White Council and the Black Council, but I'm ready for the war with the various vampires to be over. Looking forward to the next book in the series.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's KillerManhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Manhunt follows the events surrounding the days before Lincoln's assassination and the 12-day search that followed for John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators. It is a fascinating true story of how the plot was hatched, how each piece fell into place (and the ones that didn't) on that tragic night in April 1865, and how Booth ultimately evaded capture until his luck ran out.

As I was reading, I kept reflecting on how much our world has changed with technology. Part of Booth's luck in escaping Washington was due to people not hearing about the assassination yet. Now we hear almost instantly when something happens, good or bad. I don't think Booth or any of his cronies would have made it 1 hour if they attempted their scheme today. I also thought about how, due to events like this, our presidents would not be able to freely ride about town with their spouse in an open carriage. Thanks a lot, John Wilkes Booth. Jerk. Crazy zealots like you ruining it for everyone.

Great book! I enjoyed it more than "Killing Lincoln". A definite recommendation for history buffs.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky #3)

Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky, #3)Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm a little disappointed in the final installment of the trilogy. I had a hard time staying focused on what was happening. Sable was a terrible character--predictable and a bit ridiculous. I liked that everything wasn't a happy ending, though, the bad guys were overcome by the end, as you would expect.

We join the Tides as they are looking for a way through the Still Blue to what they hope is safety from the Aether storms. After several run ins and nonsense plot twists with Sable and Hess, we finally get on our journey. By the end of the book, everyone loses someone dear to them and while they ultimately reach their goal, they are each left a little broken for it.

Still an ok series, but I guess I wanted more. 2 1/2 stars.

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