Thursday, June 12, 2014

Blur by Steven James - Review

Book 1 of the Blur Trilogy
Author: Steven James
Publisher: Skyscape
ISBN-13: 978-1477847275
Paperback: 368 pages
Genre: Young Adult, paranormal mystery

About the Book:
The isolated town of Beldon, Wisconsin, is shocked when a high school freshman’s body is found in Lake Algonquin. Just like everyone in the community, sixteen-year-old Daniel Byers believes that Emily Jackson’s death was accidental. But at her funeral, when he has a terrifying vision of her, his world begins to rip apart at the seams.

Convinced that Emily’s appearance was more than just a mere hallucination, Daniel begins to look carefully into her death, even as he increasingly loses the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

What’s real? What’s not? Where does reality end and madness begin?

As Daniel struggles to find the truth, his world begins to crumble around him as he slips further and further into his own private blurred reality.

Full of mind-bending twists and turns, Blur launches a new trilogy of young adult thrillers from Steven James, a master of suspense.
My Thoughts:

If I had to sum up this book in one word, I'd choose "captivating". From the first page, "Blur" holds and air of mystery that continues throughout the whole story. Daniel Byers is a 16 year old that has lost one of his classmates, Emily Jackson, to an accidental drowning. He really didn't know her except for seeing her in school, so when things start happening to him that involves Emily, it not only shakes him up to the point of questioning his sanity, but he continues to question why. Why him since he really didn't know her?

This YA paranormal mystery was an interesting and captivating read. I sailed through it continually wanting (probably needing is a better choice of words) to know what would happen next. I also was pleased with the ending, as the story itself is finished - no cliffhangers here. Yet at the same time, it's left to let one know there can be more to the story. I appreciate that as I am not one that likes to be held in mystery for a year or so until the next book comes out, and then find I have to go back and reread the book before to refresh my memory.

If you enjoy mysteries, like paranormal stories and/or appreciate younger and impulsive characters, then you will certainly enjoy "Blur". This is definitely a trilogy that is worth considering and I'm excited to say that the next book, "Fury" is scheduled to be released in Spring 2015. I can't wait!

This book was supplied through the Amazon Vine Program for me to honestly review.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Roomies by Sara Zarr &Tara Altebrando

Authors: Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Hardcover: 288 pages
ISBN: 9780316217521
Genre: Young Adult

About the Book:
It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.
My Thoughts:

Roomies sounded like it was going to be a fascinating read and a book that would take me back to the summer just before I started college. I so wanted to go on a walk down memory lane and thought this would take me to that place when I received my letter telling me about my roommate and our summer "friendship".

For me, this book fell short. I really couldn't connect with either girl and I waited and waited for something to happen. It took me back and forth between the girls and I thought it would build up to something, but instead, just left me hanging. My thought was "I went through this whole book for NOTHING?!!!"

This did end as a cliffhanger and is certainly set up for the next book. Unfortunately, I'm not at all interested in finding out what happens now. I felt lead on and cheated with no resolution. Maybe it's because I'm an older reader and the younger adult would appreciate it and identify with it more.

Don't take my word for it. Head to your library and get a copy over the summer. I'd love to hear how you felt about this book and why.

 I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han - Review

To All The Boys I've Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9781442426702
Publish date: April 15, 2014

About the Book:
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

My Thoughts:

I must be the odd one, because I really can't figure out why this book has received the high ratings and why book groups (like mine) are going crazy over it. For me, it was difficult to read. The main character, Lara Jean Son is a weak and sniveling girl that can't seem to figure out how to do things on her own. She's afraid of everything and she's basically helpless. It took everything I had not to toss the book aside but finally, after about 70 or so pages it began to pick up and get more interesting. Laura Jean starts to grow and learn things, and by the end of the book, I found that I was glad that I didn't give up reading it. This story redeemed itself enough that I might just consider reading the next book to see what happens to Lara Jean.

The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel - Review

The Murder Farm
Andrea Maria Schenkel
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 9781623651671
Hardcover: 208 pages
Published: June 3rd 2014
Original Title: Tannöd

About the Book:
The Times Literary Supplement said of The Murder Farm, “With only a limited number of ways in which violent death can be investigated, crime writers have to use considerable ingenuity to bring anything fresh to the genre. Andrea Maria Schenkel has done it in her first novel.”

The first author to achieve a consecutive win of the German Crime Prize, Schenkel has won first place for both The Murder Farm and Ice Cold.

The Murder Farm begins with a shock: a whole family has been murdered with a pickaxe. They were old Danner the farmer, an overbearing patriarch; his put-upon devoutly religious wife; and their daughter Barbara Spangler, whose husband Vincenz left her after fathering her daughter little Marianne. She also had a son, two-year-old Josef, the result of her affair with local farmer Georg Hauer after his wife’s death from cancer. Hauer himself claimed paternity. Also murdered was the Danners’ maidservant, Marie.

An unconventional detective story, The Murder Farm is an exciting blend of eyewitness account, third-person narrative, pious diatribes, and incomplete case file that will keep readers guessing. When we leave the narrator, not even he knows the truth, and only the reader is able to reach the shattering conclusion.
My Thoughts:

"Murder Farm" is unlike any other mystery that I've read. It starts with a farm scene and gives hints as what is really going on, then continues with interviews of people and finally you find out why you are being led down this path and what has happened and with an interesting conclusion.

I was fascinated with both the way the story unfolded and how I was fed things piece by piece until I saw the whole picture. By the time I was nearing the end, I couldn't put the book down and was reading it any chance I could get and sometimes it was only a page at a time as I tried to sneak it in between household chores.

I so want to tell more about this story, but I can't think how to without spoiling something. All I can say is this was a fascinating read and it comes highly recommended!!

"The Murder Farm" is a translation of the original book "Tannöd"

 I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Medici Boy by John L’Heureux

Donatello: Art, Pain, Passion, Murder
Renowned Literary Writer Renders Controversial Life of
Mysterious Renaissance Genius

“John L’Heureux has built a gripping story of love, genius and betrayal.”
--JM Coetzee, Nobel Prize for Literature, Booker Prize Winner

“Deeply enjoyable, The Medici Boy soars like an operatic aria, before breaking our hearts.”
--David Henry Hwang, playwright, M. Butterfly, Chinglish

“L’Heureux’s is certainly one of America’s greatest living writers. I’d put him in the top ten...And now he’s come out with his first new novel in ten years, The Medici Boy, and it’s a masterpiece, the most ambitious, beautiful, and complex novel I’ve read this year…”
--David Vann, Financial Times of London

Astor + Blue Editions is proud to release perhaps the most passionate work of master storyteller, John L’Heureux, in The Medici Boy [ISBN:  978-1-938231-50-6 (Hard Cover); ISBN: 978-1-938231-48-3 (E-book); US $25.95; Historical / Literary Fiction; 346 Pages, April, 2014].  Described as “one of America’s greatest living writers” by the Financial Times of London, L’Heureux returns with a long-awaited new historical fiction novel; the result of years of research—backed by a Guggenheim Grant—on location in Europe.

In this well-conceived, historically accurate rendering, the Renaissance worlds of art, politics and passion collide. With his distinct style and rich, sinewy narrative, L’Heureux ingeniously transports the reader to Donatello’s Renaissance Italy—directly into his bottega, (workshop), as witnessed through the eyes of Luca Mattei, a devoted assistant.

While creating his famous bronze of David and Goliath, Donatello’s passion for his enormously beautiful model and part time rent boy, Agnolo, ignites a dangerous jealousy that ultimately leads to murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save Donatello, even his master’s friend—the great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici.

John L’Heureux’s long-awaited hardcover delivers both a monumental and intimate narrative of the creative genius, Donatello, at the height of his powers. With incisive detail, L’Heureux artfully renders the master sculptor’s forbidden homosexual passions, and the artistry that enthralled the leading—and competing—powerbrokers of Renaissance Florence: the Medici and Albizzi families. The finished work is a sumptuously detailed narrative that entertains while it delves deeply into both the sacred and the profane within one of the Italian Renaissance’s most consequential cities, fifteenth century Florence.

Award-winning poet, novelist, and short story writer, John L’Heureux has taught at Georgetown University, Tufts, Harvard, and (for more than 35 years) in the English Department of Stanford University where he was Lane Professor of Humanities.  There he received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and earned it again in 1998.

A prolific writer, L’Heureux has written more than twenty books of fiction, short fiction and poetry.  His works have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and have been included in dozens of anthologies including Best American Stories and Prize Stories: the O. Henry Awards.

John L’Heureux has twice received writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and in 2006 he was awarded a Guggenheim Grant to do research for The Medici Boy, his new novel.

He is retired and lives in Palo Alto with his wife Joan.

The Medici Boy may be purchased from the following:

Barnes & Noble:

My Thoughts:
I am having a difficult time with this review and have put if off a bit trying to decide how to write it. First let me say that The Medici Boy is very well written and comes from the first person point of view of Luca Mattei, Donatello's assistant. 
The opening of the book was captivating, but soon went downhill for me with the description of Luca's life as a child/monk. I know that there needs to be a certain opening, but the discussion of his frequent masturbation was a true turn-off for me. The first few chapters made me want to stop reading, but because of my curiosity about Donatello, I persevered.
I know this has been researched by a well know and respected professor, however, I had somewhat of a hard time swallowing all that was written about Donatello's homosexuality. I had hoped this would be more in tuned with the times and not so much a passionate love affair. It may have been historically accurate, but it wasn't what I had learned in art history.
I found the book itself to be captivating after the first few chapters. It is well written and gets one caught up in the passion and the affairs of the heart and what can happen when one is too dedicated to another.

Although this book wasn't for me because of the sexual nature, it probably will appeal to art history fans, those that like a well written book or just one that wants something captivating and not the normal "run of the mill" type reading.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions that are expressed here are my own. I was not required to write a favorable review.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight by Will Clower - Review

Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight
Author: Will Clower
Publisher: Rodale Books

About the Book:
Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight is a game-changing look at the world’s most surprising (and luscious) health food: chocolate.

Based on new groundbreaking research and the amazing results of his clients, who have lost more than 100 pounds, nutritionist and neuroscientist Dr. Will Clower dispels the myth that chocolate is just a "junk food" by revealing how this succulent food contains healthy antioxidants that can actually help you lose weight.

All you have to do is take the Chocolate Challenge: an 8-week plan that reveals which type of chocolate is the healthiest and exactly how you should be eating it to maximize all of its surprising health benefits, including:

Weight loss of up to 20 pounds in 8 weeks

Reduced food cravings and appetite

Prevention and reversal of diabetes

Improved dental health

Significant improvement in blood pressure

Enhanced energy levels (up to 50%!)

Increased skin moisture and UV protection

And more!

With Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, Dr. Clower is finally bringing his incredibly successful—and delicious—plan to chocolate lovers everywhere!

My Thoughts:

Since I decided to start eating better, I have been doing research on which foods will help and which will harm my body. One thing that I LOVE is chocolate, but I have been avoiding it because of the sugars that many candy bars contain. In my searches, I found that cocoa is an antioxidant, and is healthy for you, but how does one use it? I mean, chocolate and sugar have to go together, right?

When I discovered Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight, I HAD to read it. It had claims that I just couldn't fathom to be true, so my idea was to mark this one off as a hoax. Ahhhh, that was before I read and tried it. Since then, I've become a believer!

Yes, chocolate is an amazing food! It does help the body and raise metabolism. It is, in my book, a wonder-food! How can I say that? I've been using the book for more than 2 months now and I am so very pleased to report that I am losing weight (even over the holidays!) and I am NOT sacrificing, but instead taking care of my chocolate craving. When I went for my check-up, I was worried because the last time my blood pressure was higher than it should be and I was told we'd probably be looking at blood pressure meds next visit. Well, my BP was down to NORMAL!! And that's just the start.

My husband is diabetic, so he's limited - very limited. He decided to try chocolate for his diabetes and his last check-up was so good that they cut his meds in HALF and have said if it continues that he will be off meds soon!

Am I a believer? YOU BET! This book explains everything from the science behind chocolate to how much to use, etc. It's long and detailed, and very well written. Although there are times I felt that things were repeated more than I'd like, but overall, that is just a small irritant on my end.

This book is worth its weight in gold (in my opinion), but don't take my word for it. Get your hands on a copy and try it out. It will make a believer out of you - and make you more healthy. What do you have to lose?!

  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of Rodale Books. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci - Review

Tin Star
Author: Cecil Castellucci
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
ISBN: 9781596437753
Hardcover: 240 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi

About the Book:
On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist's leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula's desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind.
My Thoughts:

Wow! This book was a surprise and not at all what I had expected. Being a YA Sci-Fi novel, I had expected a lot of space battling and more of a"Star Wars" type story. I was thrilled to find that this story was so much more. It had a wonderful, strong female main character, Tula, who was someone that I came to love. She was tough, smart, and learned how to survive in a place where humans were not wanted. Under all that toughness she had a vulnerability that ended up putting her in a situation that changed everything.

A fast paced, must read, "Tin Star" is one of my favorite YA Sci-Fi's of all time! I has an appeal that will please both the YA as well as the adult audience and is sure to entrance the reader up to the last word. Make sure to add this one to your reading list - you'll be happy you did! Perfect for those that enjoy stories in space as well as those that enjoy a good YA story.

  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.


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