Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Teenage suicide is a difficult subject to tackle. First-time author Jay Asher puts a spin on the subject by having Hannah, the girl who committed suicide, send out cassette tapes to select people, outlining why she did it and how each of the recipients of the cassettes played a part. Clay Jensen had a crush on Hannah and was very surprised to receive the mysterious package containing the tapes. The book follows Clay as he listens to the tapes and follows the trail that Hannah outlines. Very very emotional and disturbing at times, it could also engender some good discussions of how our actions can affect others and other pertinent topics for teens. I didn't think that it would be good for younger teens at first but after thinking about it, teenagers face alot of this type of behavior starting in middle school so unless they aren't mature enough to handle discussions of rape or molestations, maybe it would be good for younger teens to read. Rated PG-13 for the rape scenes, discussion of suicide and other difficult topics.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Walk by Richard Paul Evans

Alan Christofferson's life has completely fallen apart. Everything that had been so good about it is now gone and he considers ending his life. As he is making the decision to do so, six words enter his mind: Life is not yours to take. He decides instead to walk across the country from his home in Seattle to Key West, Florida. This book is the first in the series, in fact he only makes it to Spokane by the end of the book. So far, once he starts walking anyway, the book is a collection of little stories of the interesting characters he meets and the places he stays. I'm not sure if the entire series will be like that. There is some indication that there will be some characters that continue to play a role in his life.
I liked the book despite it having some of the same attributes that James Patterson's books have, ie: very short choppy chapters with lots of blank spaces. Honestly, it could have been half as many pages and I did find the short chapters to be rather distracting at times but noticed it less the more I got into the story. I liked Alan. He seemed to be persevering and caring despite his problems. Of course, the book was quite clean like you would expect it to be. In fact I can't think of anything objectionable in it. Rated G.

Witch and Wizard by James Patterson

Of course, after I say how much I love young adult fiction, I read several in a row that I really didn't care much for. This one was the worst and I really couldn't even finish it. The writing is horrible! I don't care for James Patterson's style and won't read his adult fiction any more because of his language but I was willing to give his young adult stuff a try. The language didn't seem to be bad and I didn't really find anything objectionable in it (I didn't finish it though) but it was so poorly written that I couldn't go on. The chapters were, again, way too short and choppy. The plot seemed like it could have been decent if better written, a brother and sister are kidnapped by the government and accused of being a witch and wizard and condemned to die. They deny it and then discover that they are a witch and wizard. I rate it PG based on what I read but really can't recommend this one at all.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I liked Shiver better than the last two reviews but just a little. The main character, Grace, at least has a brain and uses it. Sam isn't a bad guy. He truly loves Grace but he knows that at some point he will change into his werewolf form which is what provides the tension in the story. Grace has known Sam for years, ever since she was dragged away and bitten by wolves and he rescued her. He has been her wolf that she looked for every winter but never saw in the summer until now. In this book, werewolves are wolves when it is cold and human when it is warm and as they get older their time as humans gets shorter and shorter. He manages to remain human by staying with Grace but they both know their time together is short.
I thought that this story was more inventive than some of the others but there were definitely holes in the plot. Grace's parents are conveniently very neglectful and in fact hardly seem to live in their own home which makes it possible for Sam to live there for months without them being aware. What really bothered me was that he slept in Grace's bed for months and yes, they eventually make love. I really don't think this one is appropriate for teens at all because of those two things: neglectful parents which some teens may wish for and a boyfriend sleeping in the girl's bed for months. Rated PG-16.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Another fallen angel book that doesn't quite hit the mark. I liked Fallen better though. This one has the main character, Nora, falling for a guy who treats her horribly for seemingly no reason. She also makes poor decisions that leave her in very dangerous situations. Unfortunately there weren't any interesting secondary characters to prop up the likeability of this book. They all felt like cardboard cutouts of characters rather than fully fleshed-out ones. There needed to be a whole lot more about the fallen angel/good angel battle and less of the sexual tension/angsty parts of the book. I wouldn't bother with this one. Rated PG-13 although I don't think I would like my teenage daughter to read too many of these books. I feel like that whole bad boy/good girl thing with all the sexual stuff isn't really a good to read very often.

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Luce has been expelled from her exclusive private boarding school due to an unfortunate incident that led to her being charged with manslaughter. She is sent to a reform school called the Sword and Cross where she meets some very interesting characters and manages to get in trouble once again. She is torn between two boys, Cam and Daniel. Cam is very tempting and makes it hard for Luce to say no, Daniel is very intriguing and leaves her wondering.
I liked some aspects of this book and thought that the actual writing was solid. However, some of the secondary characters were actually more interesting than Luce who came across as wimpy and wishy-washy. I didn't like seeing her make so many poor choices that led to her needing to be rescued. I would have liked to see her stand up and do what she knows she should instead of just going along with whatever someone else decides. I didn't really like her very much. I thought that the story itself was interesting. There seem to be a lot of fallen angel story lines lately. There were a lot of things that didn't get resolved because a sequel is coming out in September. I would have liked a lot more answers to things instead of being left hanging. The book tends to drag at times.
This one is definitely for teens, not any younger. There is a lot of sexual tension, some language, violence, and some scary intense scenes. Rated PG-13.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

Honestly, I am liking young adult fiction more and more. This one was labeled as for ages 9-12 but I felt that it could appeal to anyone, and could be a bit too difficult for younger readers. It involves the same characters as her previous books (The Thief, The King of Attolia, and The Queen of Attolia) but is not considered a sequel. However, I would recommend reading the others first because I found some things a little confusing for awhile.
Sophos, who is next in line to be Sounis (the king of Sounis), finds his home suddenly attacked. He is kidnapped, beaten, and finally sold to work as a slave in the most humble of circumstances. I don't want to say too much more than that other than I found the book quite enjoyable and plan to read the others! There is some violence and a few swear words, enough for a PG rating.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Especially after those last two books, it was really nice to read just a sweet nice novel, which is exactly what this is. It almost reads like a young adult book, except for some love-making scenes. Those scenes weren't really too bad but keep the book just out of young adult range.
Emily was raised by her single mother in Boston. She literally knew nothing about her mother's past so when her mother was killed in a car accident, she was shocked to find out that she had a living grandfather. Not just any grandfather either, hers was literally a giant standing 8 feet tall. He was willing to take her in to his home so she made the trip from Boston to the small town of Mullaby, North Carolina. There she found that her mother's past, the one she had run from, was not anything like what she expected. She also found quite a few quirky characters and town secrets.
I really enjoyed the story. It was just right for a quick light read. There was very little objectionable language and the other stuff I mentioned before. Rated PG-16 for the sex scene.

Solar by Ian McEwan

Written by the author of Atonement, which I haven't read or seen the movie but is supposed to be really good, there were high expectations for this book. I don't know if the critical expectations or met, they didn't seem to be according to many of the reviews, but since the whole subject matter was rather repugnant I failed to read the entire book. I got fairly far into it before I just got sick of it.
The main character is Michael Beard, a Nobel prize-winning scientist who is on his 5th marriage. The first 4 failed mostly due to his numerous affairs but this time his wife is cheating also and is much more blatant about it than he is. She had found out about his affairs and decided that she could cheat too. (You see what I mean about the subject matter?)
I just got sick of the whole thing. Yuck. There was enough language and other stuff to make it a definite R.

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

This novel of the Vietnam War got rave reviews and is supposed to be a very accurate portrayal of what the war experience was like. Knowing this before I started reading the book, it came as no surprise that the f-word was very prevalent in the book. I didn't get very far into it and have to just assume that there was a lot of violence and possibly other things that I didn't want to read. I assume that most of you wouldn't be all that interested in this type of book anyway but just in case you or someone you know has an interest, be aware-the language is awful! Rated R.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hell Gate by Linda Fairstein

Alexandra (Alex) Cooper works for the DA's office in Manhattan. She gets called to the scene
of a ship grounding where dozens of the passengers, illegal aliens from the Ukraine, have panicked and jumped into the waters. Several of them have lost their lives but at least one was dead when she hit the water. It turns out that this is a case of human trafficking, sex slaves being brought to this country much as other slaves were brought here a couple of hundred years ago. The same night a congressman, Ethan Leighton, is in a car accident and is found to have a mistress who has borne him a child. Alexandra is working both cases and it soon becomes clear that they aren't entirely unrelated.
With political intrigue, scandals, and a good smattering of local history, I enjoyed reading this book even though the action lagged at times and the plot wasn't as tight as I would have liked. This is the 12th book in the series and I think that it would be beneficial to start at the beginning. There were quite a few references that I just didn't get. Despite the subject matter, the author really kept things quite clean. There wasn't much swearing or sex in the book, some violence and of course the subject matter itself is very adult. I especially liked the interplay between the main characters of Alex and Mike. Rated PG-13. She has a wonderful website at

Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers

Marta Schneider was born to an abusive alcoholic father and a sickly mother in Switzerland in the late 1800's. She desperately wants to get an education but her father forces her to quit and go to work when she is 12 years old. She is still determined to succeed despite the constant negative comments from her father. Her mother tells her to follow her dreams. She manages to eventually find her way to Canada where she buys and runs a small boarding house. She meets a man who becomes her husband whom she follows first to western Canada and then to California. Life is still a struggle for Marta but she never gives up hope that things will be better for her four children. She is especially hard on her daughter Hildie whom she fears is too weak. Hildie has dreams of becoming a nurse but her mother protests that nursing is too much like being a servant. Hildie becomes a nurse despite her mother. Eventually the frustrations she has had with her mother leads to a confrontation with her.
This is the first book in a two-parter. The second will come out about 6 months from now. The story is based on the lives of the author's mother and grandmother and came out of her trying to understand the rift that took place between them. The author, Francine Rivers, is known mostly as a Christian author and the book reflects her belief. It is filled with religious references, to prayer and faith mostly.
I really liked this book and read it quickly even though it is nearly 500 pages long. There is very little swearing or sex, mostly just adult situations such as rape, infidelity, racism, etc. I would rate it PG-13 for those situations. I am looking forward to the next book called Her Daughter's Dream!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew is a 68-year-old widower who seems to be a bit of an anachronism is modern-day England. He may live in a small country village but even they have access to modern amenities yet he distrusts things like the internet and cell phones and clings to traditional morals and manners. Mrs. Ali is a 58-year-old widow of Pakistani ancestry who runs a local shop. She doesn't quite fit in local society because of her race despite having been born in England. The two meet and discover that, notwithstanding the obvious differences, they have much in common including a love of Kipling.

Major Pettigrew has always been conscious of how others view him which is at least partly why he clings so much to old-fashioned manners. He can get quite tedious about them in fact, which is why when he defies local convention to be with Mrs. Ali, it is quite delightfully shocking!

I loved these two main characters enough to tolerate all the deliberately-annoying minor characters in the book. At times I wish that Major Pettigrew were a little less polite and had a little more backbone and would tell them all off! I'm just glad that he had enough spine at the end to do the right thing.

I found this to be a pleasant enjoyable book and with very little objectionable parts. There was some minor swearing and some instances of unmarried adults sleeping together but no graphic details were involved. Rated PG-13 for some adult situations.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

I thought that this book sounded really good. It had some good things going for it: set in my home state, historical novel-WWII which is my favorite era, focused on female characters, what's not to like? The small town in Cape Cod has a female Postmaster (as she says, it is Postmaster not Postmistress no matter who holds the job) and a newly married doctor's wife who has suffered her share of heartache, and the whole town listens to the radio show of an American woman in London. America has yet to enter the war and the townspeople try to live life as normal but fears are still present.

I knew soon after I started reading that this book was going to irritate me because the author places the town of Franklin in Cape Cod. There is a Franklin Massachusetts but it is nowhere near Cape Cod. The town described in the book is Provincetown. If she didn't want to call it Provincetown why use the name of another real town? Why not use a fictional name?
My other beef with the book was that some of the characters behave in a way that makes you want to shake them and ask "What's wrong with you?". (If you plan on reading this you may want to skip to the next paragraph. I don't want to give anything away.) For example, when the doctor goes missing his wife does Nothing to try to find where he is! for months! His landlady notices that he is gone and that he left his wallet and all his clothes behind but does nothing! What?!? Other that and the fact that I prefer at least some happiness in the end, it was a pretty good book.
I liked the historical references especially the stories of some of the Jewish refugees. I like most of the characters, especially Frankie and Iris. I appreciate reading about strong female charaters.
However, I didn't appreciate some of the language. There were several f-words (but not much else by way of swearing) and there was a sex scene that was too much for my taste. Rated R.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Maybe it says something about my level of maturity, but I really like children's books and young adult books, quite often more than a lot of the adult novels out there that seem to be trying too hard to be adult. The Graveyard Book is targeted to 9-12 year olds but anyone could enjoy a nice little book like this. Some reviewers put the age as 11 and up. I think that some 9 year olds would like it if they aren't too squeamish. It does start with murder and was written by the author of Coraline. I didn't read the book of Coraline but I saw the movie and thought that it was rather creepy.
As I said, the book starts with murder, in fact the first sentence is: "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife." The villain kills 3 members of a family but the author gives just the bare minimum of information necessary to know what has happened. The 4th member of the family, a toddler known for getting out of his crib, manages to escape down the street and into a graveyard. The villain, who has been told he must eliminate all members of the family, follows but is scared away by the inhabitants of the graveyard, the ghosts who come out at night and who decide to adopt the toddler as their own. They name him Nobody Owens, Bod for short. The ghosts teach him and care for him until he is old enough to go out on his own but the danger still lurks out in the world. For reasons that I never fully understood, the entire family including Bod needed to be killed.
What I really like about this book were all the quirky characters found in the graveyard and how much they cared for little Bod. I also liked watching Bod grow up and learn about the world around him, a world much different than most of us experience. Apparently, the book is loosely based on The Jungle Book, with a graveyard full of ghosts instead of a jungle full of animals. Actually, I was reminded of the Series of Unfortunate Events books where creepy characters and bad experiences happened to the children in the book but they remained resilient. I would rate this PG with a caution for parents. Some 9 and 10 year olds might find it a little too creepy and spooky.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

Angelology is the study of angels and Angelologists and those who pursue the study of angels. In this case they are also pursuing the angels themselves in order to eradicate them because the angels or Nephilim (offspring of angels and humans) seek to dominate and control mankind. Both the Nephilim and the Angelologists are currently seeking something that has been lost for thousands of years.
Evangeline is an unsuspecting nun in a convent in upstate New York. She gets pulled into the search when a young man asks to do some research at the convent. It turns out that the convent has been involved with the angelologists for many years. Through the memories of one of the elderly nuns we get to go back to London in the 1930's and learn the background of the story. She and Evangeline's grandmother had been angelology students at the time.
Evangeline and the young man, Verlaine, along with a few other key players are in a race to get the hidden treasure before the Nephilim do and they must do it without the power of the Nephilim.
I thought that the book was interesting with a unique twist on angels and history. It moved along well for the most part, dragging a little in the middle but really a pretty good effort until the end. I really hated the end and felt that the rug had been pulled out from under me. There wasn't much language or sex, more violence than anything else. Rated PG-13

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

I was aware of the author's previous book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and was appalled that someone would desecrate that wonderful book in that way. How dare he!?! So I have to say that I was more than a little skeptical when I saw that this book was on the bestseller list. Surely not! But I have decided to be open-minded about things and so I read it and was pleasantly surprised at how well done it was. Was it perfect? Not at all. However it is still something fun to read. It is written in the style of David McCullough's books (John Adams, 1776, etc.) containing journal entries interspersed with narrative. The author claims that a secret journal written by Lincoln was found and he uses these "journal" entries to put forth the assertion that Lincoln was a vampire hunter, one of the best in fact. He also claims that the real reason for eradicating slavery has to do with vampires! I actually really enjoyed reading this one and might have to give that other book a try sometime.
Very clean, nothing objectionable whatsoever except for the violence, they are killing vampires after all and the vampires themselves are pretty violent too. PG-13 for the violence.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

I really love children's books and this one was particularly well done. It had the added bonus of having multiple pictures done by the author, pictures that were just beautiful. The cover art is a good example of it. The author is of Chinese descent and used the folk tales that she remembered from her childhood to create a wonderful story about a Chinese girl who wants to improve her family's fortune. The tales are woven into the storyline throughout the book and are very fun to read. It is written for ages 9-12 but would make a good read-aloud book for younger children. Rated G.

Deeper Than the Dead by Tami Hoag

After 4 children find a dead body while running through a park, a small California college town discovers that things there aren't quite as tranquil as they seem and that some families, or most families, have secret problems that they do their best to keep secret. The teacher of the 4 children who found the body, came upon them soon after the discovery and finds herself involved with the investigation especially after a handsome FBI agent comes on the scene.
I thought at first that this was going to be an interesting story but it turned out to be much more obscene, disgusting, and depressing than I thought. It was very very obscene and violent. Even without those issues, I would have a hard time recommending it because it was extremely depressing with physical and emotional abuse of the children involved, and one case in particular being very disturbing. Rated NC-17.

Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline

I've always wondered what it would be like to be a twin. Most of the time I think that it would be nice because you would always have someone who really knows you. They say that even twins that don't grow up together can be remarkably alike. In this book, however, the whole twin thing doesn't work out so well. I knew of identical twins who would trade places sometimes just for fun but Bennie didn't want Alice to take her place, didn't even know that she was going to try until after Bennie finds herself buried alive. Apparently Alice didn't like her own life too much.
This was a very fast book to read with lots of action and kind of fun. It is pretty predictable at times but I still enjoyed it.
The language wasn't too bad no f-words and only a few mild swear words, some violence, with sex the main problem. Alice is a naughty girl! There are romance novels out there that are more descriptive than this is however it is more than I would want my unmarried teens to read. I am wavering between a PG-16 and an R rating for this one. I think I would make it R because of what Alice does (not nice at all!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Big Girl by Danielle Steel

Why do I keep reading Danielle Steel? This book was awful! Not because of the language or anything but because it was poorly conceived and written. This "big girl" is 25 pounds overweight and a size 14/16. Somehow this ruins her life and her family is constantly pointing it out. Obviously Ms Steel, who is maybe a size 2, has no idea how much the average American weighs. And they still manage to have enjoyable lives. There were a few f-words and a couple of sex scenes but what I really found objectionable was the story line itself and Ms. Steel's poor writing. She tends to repeat the same phrases over and over. I'm not going to read her books any more. Rated R.