The Book Blag

Book reviews over anything and everything

Review: Mercury November 6, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews — Carrie @ 10:13 pm
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Mercury follows the stories of two young girls; Tara, a present-day teenager who is struggling with the recent loss of her home in a fire, and her ancestor Josey, living in the house in the 1800s. Events unfold in Josey’s life that lead to treasure being hidden on the land, which Tara eventually discovers. Mercury is a combination of graphic story-telling, history, and magical realism.

This is a good introduction to graphic novels for those who are unfamiliar; it’s light reading and well-illustrated. I really had to plug away to get to the meat of the story… it’s worth reading to the end, but at times it feels like the story isn’t going anywhere. However, the illustration is captivating and the glimpse into 1800s Nova Scotia is enough to keep the reader engaged. I enjoyed the nuggets of Canadian slang footnoted in the various panels.

Elements of romance permeate both the historical and present-day plotlines, as well as typical teenage angst and self-discovery. Girls aged 12 and up will enjoy this story – there isn’t much out there for young girls in the realm of graphic novels; I’d recommend this for any YA or school library collection.

My rating: 3.5 stars


In My Mailbox October 26, 2010

MailboxIn My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren. I have been very lucky the last couple of weeks, and I won two books from blog giveaways! Yesterday, I received my copy of The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff that I won from Melissa’s Books and Things Halloween Giveaway. You can see Melissa’s review of The Replacement at her blog. Today, I received Beat by Stephen Jay Schwartz that I won through a giveaway at Cheryl’s Book Nook. You can read Cheryl’s review of Beat here. I want to thank them for my upcoming reads, just in time for Halloween! Reviews to follow after I’ve read the books.
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff:
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.
Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs. (Description from Goodreads)
Beat by Stephen Jay Schwartz:
LAPD Robbery-Homicide Detective Hayden Glass has always had trouble controlling his urges. No longer trolling the streets looking for working girls, he has a new obsession–the Internet. Infatuated with a woman he finds on a website, Hayden Glass’s sex addiction drags him to San Francisco and into a web of corruption and crime.
Glass’s search for this woman leads him to a massive sex slave trade, run by the Russian mafia and protected by a group of powerful and corrupt San Francisco cops. Glass gets co-opted by the FBI to aid in their investigation…but his presence is doing much more harm than good. (Description from Goodreads)


Review: Girl, Stolen October 24, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews — Tara @ 9:54 pm
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Girl, Stolen by April Henry is a young adult book about a 16-year-old girl named Cheyenne who is in the backseat of her stepmother’s car when it is stolen. Cheyenne is blind due to an accident three years earlier, and sick with pneumonia. The boy who stole the car, Griffin, did not realize Cheyenne was in the back seat and returns home to his father’s chop shop unsure of what to do. The story unfolds from here.
The story is told from third person point of view and alternates between focusing on Cheyenne and focusing on Griffin. Although Griffin’s dad and his friends are clearly “bad,” it is really hard not to feel sorry for Griffin. “Good” and “bad” are not clearly defined in this character. He seems to be doing bad things only out of a desire to be accepted by his father, and he feels an inner conflict between this and his desire to protect Cheyenne.
I had only two real problems with this book. It is classified as a young adult book, and Amazon lists it for grades 7-10. The book is such an easy read, and I was reading adult novels in grades 7-10. The writing seems more appropriate for ages 9-12. On the other hand, there is definitely one part of the book I wouldn’t want my 9-12 year old reading due to violent sexual language. Cheyenne seems like a wise character because she has been through so much since she became blind. I was very appreciative of the backstory so we could better understand what happened to her. However, Cheyenne and Griffin’s language felt younger than 16, having been 16 myself within the last decade. The second issue I had with the book was the ending. I enjoyed the fast-paced climax toward the end of the book, but just one or two more lines tacked on to the end of the last chapter would have left me so much more satisfied. It was not a cliffhanger, but I wanted a little more information.
That said, the book was an enjoyable read, and I liked it more than I disliked it. I think this would have been a book I would like in late elementary school. A relatively fast reader can read it in its entirety in a few hours.
My rating:  3.5 stars
Where did I get this book? ARC received from publisher through Goodreads

2010. New York: Henry Holt and Company. 213 pages.


Review: Sarah’s Key October 10, 2010

Sarah's KeyJulia Jarmond, an American journalist living in France, is told to write an article on the 60th anniversary of Vel’ d’Hiv, a roundup of Jews by the French police in 1942. As Julia discovers more about the Vel’ d’Hiv, she becomes fascinated with the story of a particular ten year-old girl and her family who were arrested. Julia discovers that Sarah, this girl, locked her little brother in a hidden cupboard during the arrest, thinking they would be back shortly. Julia uses this intricate research as an escape from her own life, her own little girl, and a husband who is becoming increasingly distant. The life of Sarah even begins to parallel Julia’s life in certain ways.
Tatiana de Rosnay wrote a masterpiece in Sarah’s Key. For the first half of the book, the story jumps from Julia’s life with first person narration to Sarah’s life with third person narration. I appreciated that different styles of narration were used because it is more difficult to follow otherwise. Eventually, we stop following Sarah and only find out things about her life as Julia discovers them.
To be completely honest, I was not enamored with Julia as a protagonist. Sometimes I just wanted to shake her and yell that she was doing it all wrong! On the other hand, Sarah’s story was absolutely captivating. I wanted more, more, more! Eventually, I had to just tolerate Julia in order to find out what happens to Sarah. I do not think we are supposed to love Julia as a character–she is meant to be stubborn and self-absorbed (at times). In an author’s interview in the back of my copy (Reading Group Gold), Tatiana de Rosnay states she “created a character who could really exist and that women can identify with!”
I was a child who was always fascinated with the Holocaust. I mainly could not believe people would do something like that! Of course, politics and war are lost on a child, but I could certainly understand the horror and tragedy. There are many children’s books written about the Holocaust, particularly about Jews in hiding, and Sarah’s Key took me back to those. Even if it takes a little while to get into, this book is a must read for people interested in the Holocaust or historical fiction in general.
My rating:
Where did I get this book? Paperback purchase from Amazon

2007. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. 293 pages.


In My Mailbox

Filed under: In My Mailbox — Tara @ 12:31 am
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In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren. Today, I received my first ARC I won through Goodread‘s First Reads program:

Girl, Stolen by April Henry
Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what’s happening, their car is being stolen–with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin’s dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price? (From the Publisher, Macmillan)

It looks like a great YA book. Stay tuned for book review!


Review: The Hunger Games October 6, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews — Carrie @ 9:17 pm
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Once known as North America, Panem is comprised of 12 districts under the control of a callous dictatorship. Citizens of Panem are poor and starving, and two children from each district are forced to compete in an annual televised fight to the death — The Hunger Games — as punishment for an uprising long ago. The story follows sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take the place of her little sister, Prim.
The Hunger Games takes a hard look at the effects of political unrest and oppression on young people. The author’s take on this concept is fascinating, and the characterization of the protagonist is positively gripping. Katniss is a survivalist. She carries a manner of stoicism about starvation and death — the intriguing part of her characterization is the transition from indifferent acceptance of the Capitol’s power over her situation to the spark of rebellion that rises up in her as she experiences the injustice of the Games.
Speaking of the Games… once we’re in the arena with Katniss, this book turns into a non-stop thriller. Danger, fighting, desperation, sneakiness, mercy, cold-bloodedness, and even some cool sci-fi elements comes into play here (mutated animals and creepy medical advances are a couple of examples).
The author, Suzanne Collins, manages to include the requisite romantic component (between Katniss and her male counterpart in the Games from District 12, Peeta, as well as her undefined relationship with best friend back home, Gale) present in most young adult fiction aimed at girls. The interesting thing about this romantic twist is that Katniss is playing a part. It’s obvious there are some stirrings of true feeling, but for the most part Katniss is worried about staying alive and using the relationship with Peeta as a survival technique (I won’t go into more detail for fear of spoiling the story).
At times the romantic element feels forced and unnecessary — the concept behind The Hunger Games is so compelling on its own — but the plot is definitely driven by the circumstances between Katniss and Peeta. Compared with other popular young adult novels, this one deals with teenage romance in a very mature way, and thankfully, ooey-gooey feelings do not dominate the storyline.
This is a modern classic in the making… I was reminded of Ayn Rand’s Anthem when reading this book. It is riveting and horrifying. The novel makes serious issues of injustice, death, and oppression palpable for young people. Excellent characterization, eloquent writing, and poignant moments pervade The Hunger Games. This book kept me up at night, and gave me nightmares (but in a good way). I don’t believe in censoring books from children, but ages 12 and up will probably take something profound away from the story more so than those younger… it may be extra frightening and the message might be lost on the very young. Great book for getting non-readers hooked.
My rating: 5 stars


Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain October 5, 2010

Filed under: Book Reviews — Tara @ 2:58 am
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The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is the story of a dog and his family from said dog’s point of view. The dog, Enzo, is looking back on his life and telling the story of his masters’ lives as they have unfolded. Enzo’s master is a race car driver (hence the title), and a wife and daughter join him in the course of the story.
I read this book for a book club, and I was surprised at how many people just loved this book. Many online reviews say people don’t like the book because they don’t like dogs or they don’t like car racing. I DO love dogs, and I hate car races… However, I found the dog’s narrative to be lackluster and the race metaphors to be surprisingly interesting. But I do give Enzo props for peeing on something to show his disapproval.
This book made me angry. No spoilers here, but this guy (Enzo’s master) cannot get a break! One bad thing after another keeps happening to him. I was pleased that the book had a somewhat happy ending. At one point, I was skeptical whether a happy ending was even possible. The plotline was what kept me going, though. The book sat unfinished with the bookmark only about 20 pages in for weeks because I couldn’t get into the writing style. When I finally got into the meat of the plot, though, I found myself wanting to finish it.
Although this is a story about loss and fighting to keep what one loves, some of the emotion is taken out of it by the canine narrator. None of the human characters were particularly remarkable, but I did think Enzo’s master was an overall “good guy.” I was very pleased to see the positive portrayal of a straight male/gay male BFF relationship. Such relationships are not represented often enough in any of today’s media.
I hate to start off with a bad review, so I want to say the book is worth reading (once)! I wouldn’t read it again, though.
My rating:
Where did I get this book? Public library