Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: Revolution
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: Teen Fiction, General Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publication Date: July 26, 2011 (Paperback);  October 12, 2010 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Ember
ISBN-13 Book: 9780385737647
Publisher CD:  Listening Library
ISBN-13 CD:  9780307746214
Source: I purchased a copy for review for my book award committee and checked out the audio from my local library. This is my honest review!

RevolutionRevolution by Jennifer Donnelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After the death of her brother Truman, Andi is consumed by guilt and sadness. Her mother has retreated inside herself painting portrait after portrait of Truman, but never finding them quite right. When Andi’s father hospitalizes her mother, and hauls Andi off to Paris, Andi is furious. All she wants is to get as far away from her father as possible. When she stumbles across a diary of a girl written during the French Revolution, Andi becomes engrossed in Alex’s story. In Alex’s words Andi finds a story of love, betrayal, and misery as ghosts from the past become more and more real, and past and the present collide.

At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this novel. I found the narrator, Andi to be a caustic. I know she has her reasons for pushing everyone away and for popping the pills she does, but at first I had difficulty connecting with her. I am so glad that I stuck with this novel, because there is so much more to Andi than her bitchy attitude.

Andi knows pain, and no matter what she does, how many pills she pops, the pain doesn’t relent. When her father drags her off to Paris with him, Andi doesn’t want to go. She doesn’t want to be anywhere near her father, or anyone else. In her misery she finds a diary of a girl named Alex who lived during the French Revolution. In that diary she finds another type of pain, in the story Alex recounts.

This is where I admit the faults in my education. I never studied the French Revolution in school—I don’t think it was even mentioned in any of my history classes. In high school we only really covered American history and even then we never made it to the 20th century. In college, my interest was in ancient history, the Mesopotamians, ancient Egyptians, and the beginnings of civilization. The latest dates I studied in college history and humanities classes were in the 1300s. Despite my spotty education, I have managed to fill in some gaps, and acquire some knowledge since graduating.

Some people think you can’t learn anything from fiction. That it is all fluff and nonsense. I am not one of those people. I have learned more about history and the world from fiction books than I ever did in school. Revolution is a perfect example of this. Donnelly presents fact about the French Revolution, creates characters from people of that time, and that entices me enough that I found myself in the history books looking up the names she mentions, and the places and events. I learn from fiction, and it inspires me to learn more.

Donnelly is a gifted storyteller. She lured me in to her novel, and wouldn’t let me go until I finished the last page. I became addicted to this book, similar to the way Andi was addicted to her pills and guilt. I loathed to put it down, I wanted to know more, and at the same time I hated how close I was getting to the end.

Admittedly the beginning is slow, but the rest of the novel makes up for it. You need the foundation that Donnelly lays in the beginning of the novel to understand the choices Andi makes later on and her intense connection to Alex.

The audiobook is produced by Listening Library. Emily Janice Card and Emma Bering do the narration for this novel. While I don’t recall listening to their narration in any of the other audiobooks I have listened to I must say I am impressed. Their narration is perfectly performed. The audiobook is wonderfully done, and is definitely worth listening to. It is 12 CDs long, so definitely not one of the shorter novels, but pacing and narration are perfect.

Overall, this is a beautifully written novel that has become my favorite read this year. This is the type of book that frequently puts me in a reading funk, because I know whatever I pick up next will pale in comparison. I want more!

Vivid and poignant, Revolution is a novel that will haunt you long after you turn the last page.

I don’t usually do this, but I am going to include a couple of my favorite quotes from the book.

In this scene Andi is in the catacombs of Paris:

“There are skulls piled on skulls. Femurs on femurs. Some are neatly stacked. Others are worked into decorative patterns—stripes and bands and crosses and flowers. It feels like I’ve stumbled into the basement of a mass murderer with a flair for interior design.” (pg. 236)

This quote is from Alex as she talks about the massacres in Paris:

“The decent people of Paris had hidden themselves behind closed doors as decent people always do. Massacres could not happen if it were not for decent people.” (pg. 296)

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2011 CYPD Conference: Free Your Mind

I spent Sunday and Monday at the CYPD conference in Indianapolis.  CYPD is the Children and Young People's Division of the Indiana Library Federation.  It is an annual conference that is held every year in August.  I love going to CYPD because I get to see old friends, people I went to library school with, and others in my field who have some great new ideas for reaching out to teens.

This year I was a presenter too.  Abby from Abby the Librarian and I did a presentation called "Staying On Top: Using Blogs for Children’s and YA Collection Development." We had over 60 people attend our session about using blogs for collection development.  Unfortunately we ran out of handouts, but it was a fun presentation and I really enjoyed working with Abby on the project.  I had never really thought about how much I relied on using blogs until we sat down and started putting this presentation together.  Blogs have become essential to what I do, and help me stay informed about what is going on in the publishing world.

For those that didn't get a handout because we ran out (we only made 50) you will be able to find the PDF version of the handout and handouts from the other sessions on the CYPD wiki soon.  If you can't wait, here is a link to the PDF version:

http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/63573569?access_key=key-np0cgmfdw97wz339hv7

I want to thank Abby for partnering with me--I really enjoyed presenting with you!  If you want to find Abby on the web you can visit her at Abby the Librarian--she definitely has a blog worth following!

Some other things I did at the conference:

Sunday: 

The Welcome and First General Session featured Alexis O'Neill who spoke about authors who had been Dis-Invited to an event or a signing.  It was an interesting session where she told us many of the reasons authors had been asked not to come after being invited to a school or event.   

After the general session was over I attended a breakout session on Spontaneous Programming put together by librarians Lisa and Benita from the Pontiac branch of the Allen County Public Library.  What they do for their teens is amazing and they had some really great ideas for spontaneous programming.

Every year Shirley Mullin, owner of Kid's Ink Children's Bookstore in Indianapolis speaks about books.  I wouldn't miss her breakout session for anything.  This year she presented with her son, YA author Mike Mullin (http://www.mikemullinauthor.com/), whose novel Ashfall comes out in October. Together they spoke about how important it is to have a collection that includes a diverse range of titles.  How libraries and bookstores need to include books that meet the needs of all patrons.  Like in years past, she provided us with a list of books that we should be aware of and have in our collections!  Did I mention I love attending her sessions!

(Note: Ashfall is a great book!  Don't miss your chance to read it.  It reminds me a little of Gary Paulsen's Hatchet and Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life as We Knew It--definitely a great read.)

At dinner we listened to author Alex Sanchez talk about how librarians can help inspire young people.  He talked about many of the kids that have contacted him through the years and shared their stories with him.  Unfortunately, I was sitting in the back of the room and had difficulty hearing him, but his session was still quite enlightening.

Monday:

First thing the next morning we had another General Session.  This was with Doug Archer who has worked with the Intellectual Freedom Committee.  He had many interesting tales to tell about censorship.

My first breakout session on Monday was one about Teen Book Clubs and a relationship one librarian forged with her local school.  She told us how she got into the schools and how important those open lines of communication are between schools and public libraries.

The second breakout session of the day was the one I presented with Abby.  Boy was I glad when that was over--I get nervous speaking in front of people. :)

Next came lunch and and the final General Session.  E. Lockhart was our scheduled speaker, but due to hurricane Irene, she couldn't make it to our conference.  Instead Valarie Marsh and taught us various storytelling techniques.  She also told us about Bikes4Kids.  What I thought was so amazing was that she put together a keynote speech with less than 2 days notice.  It was fun and entertaining.

Finally it was time to attend the last breakout session of the day.  I chose to go to "How to Own the Night: Ideas for SRP 2012." Librarian Staci from the the Anderson Public Library shared several program ideas all with monstrous themes--Zombiepalooza, Werewolfs, and a twist of word How to own the Knight.  It was fun.

The conference was immensely informative, but I can't tell you how glad I was to go home and sleep in my own bed last night.  I literally went home and went to bed--at a little after 5.  I was wiped out, but I learned so much and had so much fun.

If you have any questions about the conference, or the presentation Abby and I gave feel free to contact me or visit me on twitter (@wheems01).


 


Bout of Books Read-a-thon Finish Line


Okay, I realize that this is a couple days late, but I promise I have a good excuse--I was at a conference Sunday and Monday.  So here is my wrap up post for the Bout of Books Read-a-thon hosted by On a Book Bender


Before I start I want to say that this was a really great event.  I am so glad to participate.  I loved that it was a full week, so even when I had days that were too busy to read, I was still able to participate. 

Not as good as I had hoped, but not too bad considering everything I had to work on this week.


Here is how my reading went this week:

Day One Update:

Okay, I didn't finish anything today. Big Surprise! Since this is my late night working I didn't get anything finished.

I did get some reading done on Cinda Williams Chima's Gray Wolf Throne.

Back to the books!


Day Two Update:

Haven't had much time to read today because I have been so busy!  Still working on Gray Wolf Throne.


Day Three Update:

I am still trying to finish Gray Wolf Throne.  Should be able to finish the book tomorrow.  I am cutting myself a little slack on this one since it is 528 pages! :)


Day Four Update:

Finally some progress!!!  I finished two books today:


Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima
Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams


I am still listening to Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly in my car.  The book has me hooked and I can't wait to find out where its going to lead.

Day Five Update:

Migraine--no progress. :(

Day Six Update:  

Read some chapters in Starcrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce.

Day Seven Update:

Today is the first day of my conference.  I listened to Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly on my way to the conference, so I did make some progress there.  I also picked up some new books at the conference--more to add to my TBR pile. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Want to Know More About Me?

As you can see by the button near the bottom of the page, I signed up for the Ultimate Reviewer's Challenge for August hosted by Karen from For What It's Worth Reviews, Tiger at All Consuming Books, and Lena at Addicted 2 Novels.  Actually, this was a good month for it too, because I am in crunch time with my reading list.  While signing up for the Challenge, I also signed up for Better Know a Blogger with Karen from For What It's Worth Reviews.  Visit her site and check out my interview! Better Know a Blogger Interview



Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon Update: Day Six 8/26


Day Six Update:

It was a busy day today, so not much time for reading.  I am up to page 78 in Starcrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce.  While the book is interesting, it seems to be a bit of a slow go.  There is a lot of world building going on, and sometimes that can really slow down a fantasy novel. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon Update: Day Five 8/26


Day Five Update:

After some progress yesterday, I fell flat on my face today.  I read one chapter of Elizabeth C. Bunce's Starcrossed.  Why so little?  Killer migraine that lasted all day.  Oh well, maybe tomorrow will be better.

Book Review: Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams

Title: Glimpse
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Novel in Verse
Publication Date: June 22, 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN-13 Book: 9781416997306
Source: I received a copy for review from the publisher for my book award committee. This is my honest review!

GlimpseGlimpse by Carol Lynch Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Liz and Hope, sisters separated by a year, have always taken care of each other.  When Hope finds Liz in the bathroom with the shotgun, Hope wonders what could have done this to her big sister.  As Hope remembers more about the past few months, she begins to see a darkness that she never saw before, a darkness and secrets that may swallow Liz and their family whole.

Glimpse is a novel in verse, and a very fast read.  Told from the perspective of Hope, flashbacks from her memory show us pieces of the puzzle leading up to Liz’s extreme actions.  It is amazing how much can be told with so few words.

This book is skillfully written, and the sparseness of the book reflects the lives of these two girls.  They have nothing solid they can cling to other than each other and the format of the verse and shortness of the pages reflect that.  While not quite as well done as Ellen Hopkin’s book Crank which made the read feel they were coming down from a high as the words crashed down the page, Williams has written a novel that is at once sparsely formed, yet fully fleshed out. 

The characters are well developed, you can see their strengths and their weaknesses, their dreams, and the harsh reality that is their life.  The way the story was told worked well and kept the reader hooked—wanting to know the whole truth of the story.

Overall, this was a wonderful yet shocking novel in verse.

View all my reviews

Book Review: The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

Title: The Gray Wolf Throne
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: Teen Fiction, Fantasy
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN-13 Book: 9781423118251
Source: I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest review!

The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms, #3)The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As Raisa races back to the Fells to take her rightful place at the Queen’s side as Princess Heir, assassins will stop at nothing to make sure that she doesn’t make it home.  Following closely behind for reasons of his own is former thief and fledgling wizard Han Alister who has been called home by the clans to fight their battle against the wizard council.  With so much at stake for them both, will they survive to confront their enemies? Harsh truths, assassination attempts, and plots galore adorn this third installment in the Seven Realms series.


First off, if you haven’t read the first two books, The Demon King and The Exiled Queen this will not be the book for you.  Go back, read those two, and then come back to this one because it is one wild ride. 

This book starts off where we left off in The Exiled Queen.  Raisa, the Princesss Heir to the throne of the Fells, is racing home to her kingdom to help her mother face down the opposition that wishes to steal the throne from Raisa.  Beloved characters from the last book return once again and we see how the world around them is changing so quickly.

Chima is a talented author who has filled this book with exquisite details and settings, wonderful characters, and a detailed plot.  Some might find this book a little on the slow side, but if you see it as Williams setting up pieces on a chess board, you will see the novel for what it is; a foundation for the next book in the series and a lead into the battles that will shape the Seven Realms in the book to come. 

Overall, I love Chima’s writing and I positively adore this series.  I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves fantasy.  This book is an excellent addition to this series, and I am dying to find out what happens next.  Book four, still untitled, cannot come soon enough for this readers liking.   


View all my reviews

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon Update: Day Four 8/25


Day Four Update:

Finally some progress!!!  I finished two books today:

Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima
Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams

I am still listening to Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly in my car.  The book has me hooked and I can't wait to find out where its going to lead. 

Well I'm off to write reviews!

Author Book Picks from The Revenant Author Sonia Gensler [Teen Book Scene Tours]

The RevenantToday I have the pleasure of welcoming The Revenant author Sonia Gensler to my blog.  The Revenant is the story of a seventeen year-old Willie, a teacher who fakes her credentials to get a job at a Cherokee boarding school.  Little does she know there are secrets at the school more haunting than her own.   

Today Sonia is going to share with us some of her favorite books!  Thank you for joining us today! 


A short list of favorite books I’d recommend:

(based on a quick scan of my bookshelf, so doesn’t include ARCs, books on my kindle, or things that are misplaced, hee!):

This is quite an eclectic group, but one thing all these books have in common is beautiful characterization.

Middle Grade
The Penderwicks (+ sequels), by Jeanne Birdsall
The Wild Girls, by Pat Murphy
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead**
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (+ sequel), by Maryrose Wood

Young Adult
Chime, by Frannie Billingsley
Plain Kate, by Erin Bow**
The Hunger Games (+ sequels) by Suzanne Collins
A Brief History of Montmaray (+ sequel), by Michelle Cooper
A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly
Flash Burnout, by LK Madigan
Set in Stone, by Linda Newbery
How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff**
Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys**
The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusack
**warning for MAJOR BLUBBERING POTENTIAL. Tissues recommended. Keep water on hand in case of dehydration. :)

The kind of books you’d find in my library:
My “library” is spread out all over my house. In my office, I have two main categories of fiction – classics and MG/YA – and then certain shelves devoted to research books for different stories I’m writing or already have completed. I also have a section for general writing reference and a large section for “to be read” (which is bursting at the seams). In my living room are the shelves for mainstream adult fiction. Upstairs I have shelves for mystery, fantasy and sci-fi. I know it sounds like I’ve ghettoized genre fiction in my own household, but it’s really that my mass market paperbacks fill that upstairs bookcase perfectly. And my guests can browse and read when they stay in the upstairs bedroom!

Thanks for having me, Mel!


Thank you for joining me here on my blog.  I think I might add ** to The Book Thief too, because I remember how upset I was at the end! :)  This is a great list, and I see some books I am definitely going to add to my "To Read" list.  

Thank you again Sonia and congratulations on your book The Revenant!



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon Update: Day Three 8/24


Day Three Update:

Still reading Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Chima Williams. Day three has brought me within 30 pages of finishing the novel so I should have no trouble wrapping this up tomorrow.  Since it is 528 pages I am cutting myself a little slack--it is a really long book, and her writing is very descriptive. (I don't want to miss a word!)

Soundtracks for E-Books? It's True and Coming to a Book Near You!

The Power of Six (Lorien Legacies #2)I read a lot of book news, and for the most part I rarely comment, but this article caught my attention: 

Bells and Whistles for a Few E-Books

Did you know that they are coming out with e-books that will include a soundtrack?  Booktrack, will be releasing e-books with soundtracks starting with The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore.

I read a lot of books and I listen to a lot of audiobooks, but a book with sound effects will definitely be a new experience.  I am just not sure what I think of this.  I find sound effects in audiobooks annoying at times, and while this will be more like a movie soundtrack, how will it work for those of us who aren't fast readers?  I know that they mention the reader will set the pace, but still, how accurate is this technology?

I admit I have my curiosity peaked, but will that be enough for me to pay the extra charge for the soundtracks?  Right now I am pretty skeptical, but I am curious to see what other readers think of this.  To quote my library co-worker, "What's next? Smell-o-vision?"

Do you think a book soundtrack will be something you would enjoy? 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon Update: Day Two 8/23


Day Two Update:

Still reading Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Chima Williams.  It's a long book, so I am going to cut myself some slack on this one.  Hopefully I can finish it on day three!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon Update: Day One 8/22


Day One Update:

Okay, I didn't finish anything today. Big Surprise! Since this is my late night working I didn't get anything finished.

I did get some reading done on Cinda Williams Chima's Gray Wolf Throne.

Back to the books!

Book Review: Split by Swati Avasthi

Title: Split
Author: Swati Avasthi
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: March 9, 2010
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13 Book: 9780375863400
Source: I received a copy for review from the publisher for my book award committee. This is my honest review!

 SplitSplit by Swati Avasthi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When sixteen year-old Jace arrives on the doorstep of his estranged brother he doesn’t know what kind of reception to expect.  For years he has stepped between his father and the abuse that he dishes out to his mother, and now his father has kicked him out of the house.  With no place else to go, Jace turns to his brother who left home years ago, without any word to the family.  Jace tries to move on from his past and his father, but sometimes the past follows you no matter where you may go.

I think the most remarkable thing about this novel is that it doesn’t pull any punches—pardon the pun.  There is no easy way out, no quick fix, no ready-made solution.  In this novel the character’s emotions feel raw and real.  This is not a book that slaps a band-aid on the problem and everyone lives happily ever after.  In that respect this novel was outstanding.

The characters in this novel feel real.  Their emotions and actions are realistic and sometimes very raw.  Both brothers, Jace and Christian have a lot of baggage they carry around after years of living in an abusive household, and the two of them deal with it in different ways.

The pacing of this book could be a bit frustrating at times.  I wanted the book to go more quickly than it did.  While the story does a good job of propelling you through the novel, there are times when it was just too easy for me to put down.  Thankfully the audio got me through those parts.

The audio book is produced by listening library and read by Joshua Swanson.  I have listened to Swanson perform before and liked his narration. Last year I listened to The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.  During that performance I felt like he did a remarkable job with the narration, but while narrating Split the narration felt stilted in places.  Since I don’t remember the narration in The Lost Hero being that way, I have to wonder if that is because of the way the book is written.  It wasn’t a major problem, but it was a bit distracting at times.

Overall this is a realist and raw portrayal of two young men dealing with the consequences of domestic abuse.  Well written.


View all my reviews

Book Review: Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney

Title: Blue Plate Special
Author: Michelle D. Kwasney
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: September 23, 2009
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN-13 Book: 9780811867801
Source: I received a copy for review from the publisher for my book award committee. This is my honest review!

Blue Plate SpecialBlue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Three girls, three generations, three stories of life, loss, and finding your way in a complicated world.

Madeline’s mother is an alcoholic.  Madeline takes care of herself, her mother, and the house.  Overweight and underappreciated, everything changes for Madeline when she meets Tad.

Sixteen year-old Desiree has a mother who simply doesn’t care.  She calls her daughter a slut, and doesn’t believe anything Desiree says.  When her mother’s boyfriend rapes her, Desiree turns to the one person in her life she can count on, Jeremy.

Ariel’s mother may seem a bit strict, but she cares for her daughter.  Shane, Ariel’s boyfriend of two months, seems to care for Ariel too…Perhaps a bit too much.

Three stories, three threads, weaving together a tale of mothers and daughters.


This was another novel that I managed to finish in one day.  This one perhaps needed a little time to sit.  When I first read the book I was ready to give it three stars.  It seemed perhaps a bit too melodramatic, but after I had taken a little time to process the novel, I began to realize that I did enjoy it. 

The stories of the three girls show all three teens attempting to get through the toughest years of being a teenager.  Dealing with boys, self image, and families is never easy and each day is a struggle for these three girls. 

The characterization in this novel is superb.  While some characters come off a little flat, the main characters shine. 

The pacing in the novel is perfect.  Although you may begin to unravel the threads of this novel long before you get to the end, you will want to stick with it to the end.  There is something to keep you reading in every chapter making this a quick and easy read. 

Overall, an interesting story of teens growing up and discovering what they need for themselves.  Keep in mind some mature themes are explored in this novel, and that it might not be for everyone. 


View all my reviews

Book Review: What Can(t) Wait by Ashley Hope Perez

Title: What Can(t) Wait
Author: Ashley Hope Perez
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: April 27, 2011
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
ISBN-13 Book: 9781423118985
Source: I received a copy for review from the publisher for my book award committee. This is my honest review!

What Can't Wait (Carolrhoda Ya)What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Pérez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Seventeen year old Marisa doesn’t know what she wants from life.  What she does know is that her parents expect her to help support the family, and if working as an assistant manager at Kroger would make more money for her family then that is what they want her to do.  Marisa enjoys school and her calculus teacher tells her that she could get into the Engineering program in Austin.  For Marisa that would be a dream come true, but how can she accomplish so much when her home life is a mess?


Realistic fiction isn’t usually my genre of choice.  Anyone who has read my blog probably knows this by now.  Perez has created an interesting novel with a likable character who is stuck in circumstances beyond her control.  Along the way, Marisa does have some allies, like her best friend, her boyfriend Alan, and even on occasion her sister. 

While some characters like Marisa, her sister Cecilia, her best friend Brenda, and even Alan her boyfriend are well drawn.  Other characters simply dot the background and are a bit stereotypical like her parents and her brother. 

I really liked Marisa and could understand the difficult choices she is forced to make between family and her own future.  This book is well written and the pacing is quite quick.  I read the book in a day.

Overall, a great realistic fiction read with a likable heroine in difficult circumstances.

View all my reviews

Bout of Books Read-a-thon Starting Line and Progress Updates


Today is the first day of the Bout of Books Read-a-thon hosted by hosted by On a Book Bender.  I am so excited that this read-a-thon is a whole week long, because I have so little time to read and have so many deadlines looming. 
Curious to see what is on my reading list?  I hope to have a couple of these finished before the read-a-thon, but here is what I need to read and my due dates:

Well that is my literally "overbooked" reading list! Luckily, I did finish three books this weekend before the start of the read-a-thon so the list isn't looking quite as daunting as it was on Friday.  I hope to read at least four this week.


Wish me luck!  How many do you think I will finish?

----

Day One Update:

Okay, I didn't finish anything today. Big Surprise! Since this is my late night working I didn't get anything finished.

I did get some reading done on Cinda Williams Chima's Gray Wolf Throne.

Back to the books!

----

Day Two Update:

Haven't had much time to read today because I have been so busy!  Still working on Gray Wolf Throne.

----
Day Three Update:

I am still trying to finish Gray Wolf Throne.  Should be able to finish the book tomorrow.  I am cutting myself a little slack on this one since it is 528 pages! :)

----
Day Four Update:

Finally some progress!!!  I finished two books today:


Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima
Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams


I am still listening to Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly in my car.  The book has me hooked and I can't wait to find out where its going to lead. 


Friday, August 19, 2011

Bout of Books Read-a-thon


 You have probably noticed the number of reviews this week exceeds my normal reviewing pace.  Well, I have deadlines pending which includes reviewing a serious number of books by September 26th.  I am not a fast reader, but right now I need to seriously pick up the pace and get books read for this upcoming deadline.  Yesterday, while reading a number of the blogs I follow, I noticed that several had signed up for the Bout of Books Read-a-thon hosted by On a Book Bender.  Not only did I find a new blog to follow, I found a read-a-thon with perfect timing.  So we are going to see what I can do!  

If you are interested in joining this read-a-thon visit On a Book Bender and sign up for the Bout of Books Read-a-thon.

Curious to see what is on my reading list?  I hope to have a couple of these finished before the read-a-thon, but here is what I need to read and my due dates:

Well that is my literally "overbooked" reading list. I hope to have Split and What Can't Wait read before the start of the Read-a-thon, and maybe another one too, but who knows what I will really get done.  During the Read-a-thon I would love it if I could get a minimum of four more read.

The Read-a-thon starts Monday so wish me luck!

How many do you think I will finish?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Review: Riding Invisible by Sandra Alonzo

Title: Riding Invisible
Author: Sandra Alonzo
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: March 2, 2010
Publisher: Hyperion
ISBN-13 Book: 9781423118985
Source: I received a copy for review from the publisher for my book award committee. This is my honest review!


Riding InvisibleRiding Invisible by Sandra Alonzo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In his family Yancy is invisible.  He is the good kid, the perfect one, the one his parents never have to worry about.  Beside his brother Will, Yancy is an angel.  Will has conduct disorder, and despite the best efforts of his parents and numerous psychologists, no one can control Will.  When Will threatens to kill Yancy’s horse Shy, Yancy and Shy take off, hoping to find someplace safe from Will. But you can’t always run from problems this big.

This novel is written in journal format.  Yancy tells his story with a combination of journal entries, drawings, and cartoons.  The format is very visually appealing and would appeal to reluctant readers because of the great white space and the visual appeal. 

The pacing of this novel is well done.  The story is told at a moderate pace that never feels rushed or too slow.  The ending feels a tad rushed, but at the end you are willing to let that go. 

Yancy is a likable character.  His home life is a nightmare that he really wants to escape from.  His parents spend so much time trying to control their older son that Yancy is completely ignored.  When he tells them about Will’s behavior and actions against Shy, they downplay the situation and say Will didn’t mean what he said.  While everything is told from Yancy’s point of view you can really see that perhaps his parents have blinders on.

My one complaint about this novel was perhaps the repetition.  I got that Will was a bad guy, who couldn’t be trusted, and that Yancy felt like he was invisible.  I just kind of felt there could have been more to the novel. 

Overall, this is a great pick for the reluctant reader crowd.  It is a book with a good kid in a tough situation, who has a great adventure with his horse.  I loved the horse!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Review: Witch Song by Amber Argyle

Title: Witch Song
Author: Amber Argyle
Genre: Teen Fiction, Fantasy
Publication Date: September 1, 2011
Publisher: Rhemalda Publishing
ISBN-13 Book: 9781936850167
Source: I received a e-galley for review from the publisher. This is my honest review!

Witch SongWitch Song by Amber Argyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Brusenna’s world is changing. The nearest village to her home is plagued by drought and the villagers blame her and her mother because they are witches. When her mother goes off to fight the evil witch Espen who is wreaking havoc on nature, she leave Brusenna with nothing but a journal and a note. Then the witch hunters come for Brusenna and she must find a way to save her mother and all the witches captured by Espen.

This riveting tale takes you across the world and back. Brusenna, who later goes by the name Senna, is a remarkable character who goes from fearful little girl to strong and independent witch. It is entertaining to watch her grow and change throughout the course of the novel.

The characters are well developed and people you would want to know (with the exception of the witch hunters of course). There are people in Brusenna’s world who would risk everything to make the world right again.

Argyle’s world building is exceptional. I could believe that Senna’s world existed and see it in my mind. At first the seeds and the way the witches worked was so foreign to anything else I had read, but as the novel progressed I felt more comfortable with the setting and the world building.

The pacing of this story is perfect. Although years pass from the beginning to the end you don’t feel it. The story progresses naturally and is an incredibly fast read.

Overall this was a fabulous story of a girl growing into a young woman and attempting to save the world and the ones she loves against all odds. Definitely a great read for lovers of fantasy looking for something a little different than the standard fair. Refreshingly unique and compelling, don’t let this one get away from you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Review: If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser

Title: If I Grow Up
Author: Todd Strasser
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: February 24, 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
ISBN-13 Book: 9781416925231
Source: I received a copy for review for committee work. This is my honest review!

If I Grow UpIf I Grow Up by Todd Strasser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Growing up in the projects leaves a person with very few options. DeShawn, an intelligent young man knows this very well as he watches the young people around him join gangs, drop out of school, and fall between the cracks of society. The educational system fails them, and society fails them, leaving boys like DeShawn struggling to make ends meet in a world that doesn’t care if he grows up.

There is no doubting Strasser’s talent for getting a reader into the lives and minds of the characters. Strasser took a young man whose intelligence and street smarts attract the reader and shows how he develops over a period of several years. Looking closely at how a smart young man can become a gang member.

I’ll admit, this isn’t my usual type of book. It isn’t one that I would have willingly picked up on my own, but it is one that I am glad I read because it is remarkable. The characterizations are beautifully done. Gang members, who in other hands would have been superficial stereotypes, are wonderfully developed into people you can believe exist. The pacing is perfect. I literally flew through this novel in on sitting—rare for me because I am such a slow reader. Strasser hooks you with the gunshots at the beginning and propels you to the end at breakneck pace. You won’t believe where this novel will take you.

Overall this was a remarkable piece of fiction. Not a book I would have picked up on my own, but one that I am glad to have read. It is a fast, interesting read, with superb characters and remarkable writing.

View all my reviews

Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: Bullet Point by Peter Abrahams

Title: Bullet Point
Author: Peter Abrahams
Genre: Teen Fiction, Mystery
Publication Date: April 27, 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN-13 Book: 9780061227691
Publisher Book on CD:  Recorded Books
ISBN-13 Book on CD:  9781440753817

Source: I checked out a copy from my local library. This is my honest review!

Bullet PointBullet Point by Peter Abrahams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
When his home town of East Canton cuts funding to the school and Wyatt’s high school stops offering baseball and all other extra curriculars, Wyatt sets off for Silver City with the hopes of being able to play ball again. While there he meets an intriguing girl, Greer, who has met his father in the prison nearby. After talking to Greer Wyatt begins to believe that his father wasn’t guilty of the crimes he was imprisoned for, and begins to investigate. What he finds will change his life forever.

Poor reviews are rare for me. This is because I rarely finish a book I don’t like. When I realize that I am not going to like a book, I will put it down, and usually don’t get back to it. When that happens the book doesn’t get reviewed because I believe that I have to finish a book in order to accurately review it. On occasion though, there are those books that I have made a commitment to read. Books that I must finish regardless of how I feel about them. This was one of those books.

I don’t know exactly what it was about this book that made me first suspect that it wasn’t for me. Perhaps it was the characters, not their development of course, but the fact that I was frustrated by their actions and eventually I lost the ability to care what happened to them. Greer frustrated me most of all because she was so moody. In the end I was just happy to have finished this one so I could cross it off my list.

I have read other books by Peter Abrahams, and I was looking forward to reading this one. I enjoyed the mystery he created in Reality Check and hoped to find something similar in this novel. What I found in Bullet Point was less a mystery and more a tale of self-discovery and self-destruction. Wyatt goes looking for his father to prove that his father was innocent, and ends up finding more out about himself.

Without giving away the story and the mystery it is hard for me to say what I exactly didn’t like, but I will give it a try. I didn’t like that I couldn’t feel anything for the characters in this novel except being frustrated by their actions. I didn’t like the lying in the novel, because it felt like every page was coated with a lie or a half-truth. I didn’t like the pacing of the novel, because I felt like it was dragging on and on. I didn’t like the fact that Greer and Wyatt hop into bed at the drop of the hat, sometimes without resolving issues with their relationship first.

I did listen to this book in audio format. The audiobook is produced by Recorded Books and is narrated by Rich Orlow. Orlow does an excellent job narrating the book and keeping the reader engaged. This is one of those books that I might not have finished if it weren’t for the audio.

Abraham’s is a talented author. As I said before I have read other things by him that I really enjoyed. It isn’t the skill of the writer that I find fault with. This story is well executed, and extremely well written. Perhaps the ultimate fault lies with me as the reader. I can’t accept the characters as they are and I wanted so much more from them.

Overall, this story will appeal to male mystery fans who like their stories a little on the gritty side. Unfortunately, this reviewer is not one to fall into that category. I look forward to seeing what Abraham’s writes next, I hope it is more like Reality Check or even his Echo Falls novels rather than this one.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill

Title: Black Hole Sun
Author: David Macinnes Gill
Genre: Teen Fiction, Science Fiction
Publication Date: August 4, 2010
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
ISBN-13 Book: 9780061673047
Source: I checked out a copy from my local library. This is my honest review!

Black Hole Sun (Black Hole Sun, #1)Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Durango is a Regulator haunted by his past.  He lives his life by the Tenets, helping people and fighting for what he believes is right.  On Mars life can be rough.  When a group of miners asks Durango for his help fighting the Draeu, a cannibalistic race, he has no choice but to help.  But is he willing to risk everything he is and he believes in to save them?

Once more I have come across a book that has me at odds.  Black Hole Sun is a fast and enticing piece of science fiction.  It hooks you in the beginning and the action and rapier wit propels you through the novel.  My only complaint is that I felt that there were missing pieces or holes in the story that I would have felt more comfortable if the pieces had been filled in.

The characters are interesting and intriguing.  You like Durango and want to root for him, but so much of who he is now is deeply rooted in the tragedies of his past.  I believe with more detail, he could have been a more sympathetic character, one that would have been easier to relate to.  What exactly were his father’s crimes, tell me more about the Tenets and the honor code Durango is bound by.  I just needed more.  Vienne was the same way.  I really could have used more information about her history and her actions. 

Pacing in this novel is spot on.  The action starts from the very beginning and carries you through to the end.  It was really an easy book to keep reading because you felt like you always wanted to know more and were excited to find out what will happen next. 

I guess my biggest concern about this novel is the world building aspect.  This is a science fiction novel set on Mars.  There are some mentions of Earth and a plague.  There is obviously a history of Mars that is being referred to.  There are terms and terminology that are unique to this world.  I guess what I am saying is that there wasn’t enough explanation given to the history, the terms, and terminology.  We are thrust into the action of the story without any explanation of events.  It leaves the reader floundering somewhat as the story progresses, trying to fill in gaps in their knowledge of this world.

The sequel, Invisible Sun is scheduled for release on March 27, 2012.  I will definitely be picking that one up because I hope it will fill in some of the missing pieces from this book.  Gill caught my interest with this book, and left me wanting more.  So despite the flaws this is a world I am anxious to return to. 

Overall this was a fun action packed read.  I highly recommend it to fans of science fiction novels and I look forward to the release of Invisible Sun in 2012. 

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Friday, August 12, 2011

And the Winner Is...YA Bloggers Best Overlooked Book Battle







Threads and FlamesOut of My Mind


First let me start off by saying that both of these books are wonderful.  I am so happy that I got to read both of them.  They aren't books that I would have ever picked up on my own, so I am so glad that these were the two books assigned to me and my judging partner ReaganStarr (Star Shadow).

Threads and Flames is a fantastic piece of historical fiction.  The characters were wonderful, you adore the main character and you spend the entire novel wondering what will happen when the tragedy strikes.  who will survive?

Out of My Mind takes us into the mind of Melody, an eleven year old who is trapped in her own body.  Many people say that books can take you places.  This book took us into the mind of an exceptional girl who despite being a prisoner in her own body, doesn't give up and longs to communicate with the outside world. 


The winner of Bracket 22 and the book going on to the final round of this competition is....




Out of My Mind

Both of these novels are remarkable works of fiction, but I think our ultimate deciding factor was memorability.  Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is a novel that sticks with you.  Long after you have turned that last page, you can't get Melody out of your mind.  It is a book that reminds us that appearances can be deceiving, and a person can be so much more than what you see on the outside.  Seeing through Melody's eyes was like seeing a whole new world, and it is a book I will never forget. 

For more winners and more about the Battle visit The Shady Glade!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

YA Bloggers Best Overlooked Book Battle--I'm a Judge




Once again Alyssa at The Shady Glade is hosting a YA Book Battle.  This year we are looking at books bloggers thought were some of the best overlooked books.  Meaning they didn't get a lot of publicity.  We are nearing the end of the competition and will soon find out which is the best overlooked YA book.


Star Shadow


ReaganStar (Star Shadow) and I worked together to determine the winner for our bracket in the book battle.  We were to judge Bracket 22 which will decide which book will compete in the final book battle.  Our choices were Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind verses Esther Friesner's Threads and Flames.  Let me tell you it was a tough call.  You can read my reviews for both of the books below this post.

Which book do you think we picked?

Out of My Mind

VS 

Threads and Flames


Check back tomorrow morning for the winner! :)

Book Review: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Title: Out of My Mind
Author: Sharon Draper
Genre: Teen Fiction, General Fiction
Publication Date: March 9, 2010
Publisher: Atheneum
ISBN-13 Book: 9781416971702
Source: I checked out a copy from my local library. This is my honest review!

Out of My MindOut of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Melody is eleven years old and has cerebral palsy.  She cannot speak, move, or eat on her own.  Sometimes she may even drool, but don’t underestimate this feisty girl.  Beneath the body that barely works is a brain that never stops.  Melody has a photographic memory, and all she wants is to be able to share her ideas, thoughts, and feelings with those around her.  When she suddenly gains the ability to speak through a medical device, some people aren’t thrilled with what she has to say.

Melody is a brilliant character.  Although she is trapped in her body she is such a smart girl.  People constantly underestimate her because they can only see the outside.  That was what makes this book such a winner, we see things from Melody’s perspective from inside her head. 

The changing point in this story is when Melody finally gets a computer that allows her to talk and share her thoughts and ideas, people start seeing that Melody isn’t what they thought.  She is smart and some find that threatening. 

This book was fantastic.  You could understand and sympathize with Melody’s frustrations; of having thoughts and feelings and not being able to share them and of being constantly underestimated because of your outward appearance. 

I loved that Melody had champions who were both encouraging and willing to fight for her.  They spoke for her and stood up for her.  Mrs. V., Catherine, and her mother were wonderful characters.  Even though they had difficulty understanding her at times these three wonderful characters never gave up on Melody. 

This book was intelligently written and quite an eye opener—I would expect nothing less from Sharon Draper.  It is something that I want to put in the hands of every teen and adult I meet.  This book is one that everyone should read.  It reminds us that we shouldn’t underestimate someone’s abilities or intelligence just because of their outward appearance. 

View all my reviews





Book Review: Threads and Flames by Esther M. Friesner

Title: Threads and Flames
Author: Esther M. Friesner
Genre: Teen Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publication Date: July 12, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group
ISBN-13 Book: 9781101445389
Source: Purchased E-Book from BN.com. This is my honest review!

Threads and FlamesThreads and Flames by Esther M. Friesner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After just barely surviving a deathly illness in her small Polish shtetl, thirteen year-old Raisa travels alone to America to find her older sister in 1910 New York City.  When she arrives and can find no trace of her sister, Raisa finds a job to pay rent for herself and the young orphan, Brina, she took in during the voyage to the States.  Despite the daily mind numbing work and despair over her lost sister, she begins to make a new life in her new home with friends and even love.  But when a small spark ignites the scraps of fabric in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where she works, and tragedy strikes, Raisa’s life may be changed forever.
 
This year marks the 100th anniversary of this tragedy where 146 out of 500 workers perished in the fire.  In recent years there have been several works based on this tragic story including Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Uprising and Mary Jane Auch’s Ashes of Roses among others.  While I was familiar with the events of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, this was the first work of fiction that I had read on the topic and I admit that I am pleasantly surprised at how well Friesner did adapting her story to the historical events.

At first I had difficulty getting into this novel.  While the detail in this story is exquisite, it had a tendency to bog the story down making the pacing of the story a bit on the slow side.  In the end, though, that detail is the saving grace of this novel.  It invests you in the lives of the characters and will keep you reading, wanting to know what events lead Raisa to the tragic events of the fire.

The characters in this novel are amazingly well developed and very believable.  They envelope you in their stories and their hardships.  You find yourself cheering for their triumphs and tearing up at their sorrows and setbacks. 

My only complaint about this novel was the predictability and the amazing number of coincidences that strain the reader’s credulity.  Because this novel is based on historical events, you do know some of what was going to happen, but I didn’t expect to be able to predict the outcomes for many of the various characters.  It almost seems that there was too much foreshadowing leading up to the closing events of the novel.

Overall this is a touching and well written read.  Despite my criticisms I did enjoy the book and love the characters.  The novel was little hard to get into in the beginning, but worth sticking with to get to the end.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Cringe When I Say It....

Since our library has moved back into our newly remodeled building, my teen new books are now displayed outside the teen room.  This is great because where they are located is now by both the elevator and the stairwell.  When people come up to the second floor my teen new books are the first new books most people come to. 

The problem is when they ask me about the books and are picking them up and looking interested in them, they almost immediately put them down when they find out they are teen.  I cringe when I have to say the book is teen, or other books by that author are in the teen room, because then so often they move away from them.

I am baffled.  Up until the point when they find out the book is teen, they are completely interested in the book.  They read the book jacket, and were interested in other books by that author.  Why do they run like the book is carrying the plague?

I try to tell people about all the articles coming out lately talking about how more adults are reading YA books, and how I have gotten my mother and all the library staff hooked on YA books.  I also mention that YA is almost exclusively what I read anymore.  Still, they shy away from them. 

I know YA isn't for everyone, but the people I am talking to, are interested in the book until they find out it is YA.  I have even had a couple of them check out the books and come back saying they loved the book.  They didn't realize the book they read was teen until they ask for the sequel or other books by the author that are in the teen room.  Then suddenly they aren't interested anymore. 

I love teen lit, and I know not everyone does, but if it sounds good, and you like it--does it really matter where you found it in the library?

Friday, August 5, 2011

I'm Looking for a Book. I Think it is Blue.

Okay, any librarian can tell you that every so often we get patrons who come up to us and tell us they are looking for a "book with a blue cover."  You ask them a million questions about the book, get a little detail, and then if you are very lucky you can find it.

I had one of those today.  A gentleman came up to me and asked for a book on the cosmos that he saw on TV he didn't have a title and didn't know the author.  He did know that the author had a foreign sounding name which only contained four letters.  (Believe it or not I have found books for patrons with fewer clues than this--this gentleman had a veritable wealth of information by comparison!) After browsing the science shelves I was able to find the author's name, and from there the book:

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Change Daily Life by 2100


Sometimes you get lucky! :)

Follow Friday and Book Blogger Hop

Come and join the fun of the Friday Follow hosted by Parajunkee's View. You can find the instructions and rules on Parajunkee's Follow Friday post. Happy Hopping!






Question of the Week:  Talk about the book that most changed or influenced your life (was it a book that turned you from an average to avid reader, did it help you deal with a particularly difficult situation, does it bring you comfort every time you read it?).

The book that most changed or influenced my life was In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce.  It was the first Tamora Pierce novel that I ever read and I think the first novel that really turned me into a reader.  After reading that book I needed to read more, and was always looking for a new favorite read.  It is also the book that made me fond of librarians.  I had read that book so many times that my poor paperback copy was falling apart.  My middle school librarian saw me reading it one day and saw what condition it was in and offered to tape it up for me.  Once she was done with it, it was good as new.  I still have that copy, although I have purchased the newer ones because that one was so fragile.  When I met Tamora Pierce a few years ago at book signing at a library, it was that beat up old copy of the book I asked her to sign because it had so many memories.

Or if you would rather give the Book Blogger Hop from Crazy For Books a try you can find the rules at Crazy For Books Book Blogger Hop.

 Book Blogger Hop

Question of the Week: What is the one ARC you would love to get your hands on right now?

I would love to get my hands on Ally Condie's Crossed.  I loved Matched and can't wait to see where she takes us in Crossed.

Crossed (Matched, #2)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review: Siren's Storm by Lisa Papademetriou [Teen Book Scene Tours]


Title: Siren's Storm
Author: Lisa Papademetriou
Genre: Teen Fiction, Paranormal, Fantasy
Publication Date: July 12, 2011
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13 Book: 9780375842450
Source: I received a copy of the book for review from the publisher. This is my honest review!


Siren's StormSiren's Storm by Lisa Papademetriou
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A year ago Will went sailing with his brother, but only he made it back.  Now a year later, Will still has no memory of the events of that night, only the scars remain.  His best friend Gretchen seems troubled too, her sleepwalking is getting worse, and she seems to be keeping something from him.  When a new girl arrives in town, Asia, who is something of a mystery, Will begins to suspect that there is more to her than meets the eye.
Siren’s Storm was a difficult novel for me to get into at first.  The beginning is a tad bit slow, but the pace quickens somewhat as the novel progresses.  The mystery is intriguing and this book isn’t your common place supernatural story—there is definitely some mythology, and thought put into creating a believable novel. 

The setting is exquisitely detailed.  You feel like you know this little beach side town and that you have lived there.  While some of the characters are a bit stereotypical, you run into those that really shine, and are people you want to know.  Will and Gretchen were both believable and well developed characters. 

As I stated earlier in the review, the beginning was a tad bit slow and the pacing increases as the novel nears the end.  The problem is that the ending feels a tad rushed, and perhaps not as well developed or explained as the rest of the novel.  I ended with questions at the end, that still needed answers.  This perhaps opens the door for a sequel, but leaves the reader feeling a little frustrated. 

Overall this is an exciting mystery and an incredibly original novel.  I especially loved the sea captain’s journal and the history combined with the mythology.  I hope there is a sequel because I really want to see explanations for some of the events in the ending.  A nice summer read, with a tad bit of darkness on the side.  Enjoyable.

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