Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: While You Were Gone

While You Were Gone (Duplexity, book two)
By Amy K. Nichols
Expected publication August 4, 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

To read my review of book one, go here. 

Eevee is an artist in a world where art is highly regulated. She must work extremely carefully to not upset the status quo, despite hidden desires to create more abstractly. Things only get more complicated when she meets Danny, a boy who has somehow slipped here from another world.

After feeling mostly ambivalent about book one, when I spotted book two available for download, I figured I'd read it and get it over with. I feel even less warmly about this one than I did the first.

In my review of book one, I stated that I could tell what would happen in book two. I was wrong. Because book two is not really a sequel. Book two is more of a companion, telling the story that's happening in the alternate dimension during the same time frame as the story in book one. If it sounds a bit confusing, well, that's parallel universes for you.

Most of what I felt about book one I felt again here. While the story is quick-moving and engaging enough that the 300 pages pass by swiftly, most of it feels underdeveloped. I still found myself wanting to know more about the world and the characters. I felt that the problems and the big secret discovered in this volume were solved far too quickly to really make a satisfactory conclusion. Similarly, the overall issue of the parallel universes in both books was tied up far too neatly in a short epilogue in this volume. The romance felt even more false in this universe - it seemed out of character for both and made them both seem...feeble? I don't know how to describe it but it seemed to undermine both of their characters.

Overall, this was a bigger disappointment than book one and reminded me why I usually stay away from science fiction.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.

Another quick note: I apologize again for what has essentially been a multiple-week absence from the blog. As I mentioned, I moved and it took a lot out of me. I have fallen behind in wedding planning so that has been stressing me out. In addition, I haven't been terribly excited by most of what I've read over the last month, making me not terribly excited to write about it either. As I said, I'll likely be posting short reviews to catch myself up and only slightly longer reviews for the ARCs I read during my absence.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Review: The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose and Me

The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose and Me
By Sara Nickerson
Expected publication July 21, 2015 by Dutton Books for Young Readers

Missy and her brother somehow convince their mother to let them get jobs as blueberry pickers this year. For Patrick, it's a chance to earn money to change his identity when the next school year begins. For Missy, it's an opportunity to keep herself busy while everything around her seems to be changing. But neither is prepared for what this summer will really have in store for them.

This book came my way through the Penguin Young Readers Author Program. I hadn't really heard much about it prior to reading, and haven't seen much talk of it since either. I'll admit that it caught my eye with the title - I kind of assumed it would be set in Maine (it's not).

I'm a bit conflicted with this book. I think Nickerson does a decent job of capturing the struggle of remaining true to oneself while everything around you seems to be changing. She also deftly explores how relationships can change even when that may be the last thing we want and we may do everything in our power to stop the change from occurring. I liked the exploration of both friendships and familial relationships and I loved Missy's discovery of a truer sense of self while in the blueberry fields.

But, I had a really difficult time sympathizing with Missy. I could not relate to her at all. Maybe it's because I didn't experience a lot of what she does, but, really, I don't think that's it. I think part of it is that Nickerson doesn't fully explain the reasoning behind many of Missy's actions until much later. Because of this, her actions often seem out of proportion to the instigator she is reacting against. This makes it difficult, at least for me, not to judge her for behaving in ways that I find awful and mean.

Additionally, this book felt overly long. It seemed to drag a bit and I'm not sure the connection between the brothers of the blueberry field and Missy's own life was made as strongly as it could have been.

Ultimately, this book was disappointing for me. It will likely find readers among girls who gobble up all my middle-grade contemporary stock, but I'm not sure I'll be endorsing it too heavily.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Quick Note...

Hello out there!

For any regular readers of the blog, my apologies for not posting in a week or so. I have a couple reviews lined up still and a half dozen more still to write. The reason for the radio silence is, of course, my personal life. I had to move unexpectedly, so that has taken up all my free time over the last few weeks. I have barely been reading during this time and haven't had any time to write reviews of things I finished at the end of June.

I'm hoping that the move will be all squared away shortly and then I can get back in the swing of things here. You may still see abbreviated reviews of those final June reads, though - I haven't felt like I've had terribly much to say about what I've read lately (with a couple exceptions), so it might not be exactly like old times for a little while here.

I hope you all have been having more successful reading adventures!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Review: The Thief and the Sword

The Thief and the Sword (Cleopatra in Space, book two)
By Mike Maihack
Published 2015 by GRAPHIX

Read my review of book one here.

Cleopatra just recovered the ancient sword - and now a thief is trying to steal it! Cleo is determined to get it back, but her teachers have other plans for her. And what's the deal with that pesky prophecy anyway?

I read the first volume in this series for last year's 48 Hour Book Challenge and thoroughly enjoyed it - it was entertaining and diverse and an extremely quick read. I was eagerly anticipating the second volume. When it was ordered at my library, I put my name on the waiting list and finally got around to it in June.

Much like the first volume, this second entry in the series is highly visual - it's mostly action panels for the first several pages and continues in this vein for much of the book. There is not a lot of text, making this a very quick read (though not quite as quick as the first). This has a bit more of tween angst in it - Cleopatra is not really fitting in at the Academy and her friend Akila is a bit jealous of all the attention she's getting. There is still lots of action throughout, but the addition of some drama might make the story a bit more relatable for readers. I'm still anxious to see how the prophecy develops, particularly with the twists of this volume. I was extremely interested in the introduction of the thief here - I won't spoil his identity, but it definitely seems he'll be making many more appearances in future volumes. I really enjoy this series and I'll be happily recommending it to patrons all summer long!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: Sea Hearts

Sea Hearts (alt. title: The Brides of Rollrock Island)
By Margo Lanagan, read by Eloise Oxer and Paul English
Published 2014 by Bolinda Audio

Misskaella discovers a powerful magic on remote Rollrock Island - she can make a woman from a seal. Soon, her seal-wives are in high demand by the men of the islands. But at what price?

I was really excited to see this title as one of this summer's Sync titles - this book got tons of buzz the year it was published and I thought it sounded really interesting. After reading one of Lanagan's short story collections (and enjoying it quite a bit), I was even more excited to read one of her novels and get a better sense of her writing.

When I first started listening, I was quite enchanted. Her way with words is evident and magical and the story reads like a very dark fairy tale - my favorite kind. I liked that Lanagan used multiple narrators and points of view to tell the strange story of Rollrock Island and its seal-wives. The multiple POVs were also quite confusing - not only are we navigating between characters, but we are moving between time periods. It's sometimes quite difficult to figure out where in the story we are situated at any given moment. This is especially tricky with an audio version of the story.

As the story continued, though, I began to wonder what the point was - and then I came to the end. There is no point. There isn't really a climax to this novel and, when readers get to the end, I'm not sure they'll feel like they're in a different place than where they began. So, while the writing is lovely, I don't normally enjoy prose for prose's sake - I also need a story I can lose myself in. This one just didn't work for me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June Check-In

It's time for the monthly check-in! Here are my stats for June!

Early-chapter: 3

Middle-grade: 8

Teen: 9

Adult: 0

Picture books: 25

Library books: 38

Books owned: 7

Overall, not too bad a month for me. Slightly lower number of books than normal when you don't include the early chapter books, and no adult reads this month (I started a couple but haven't finished anything). I am still ahead with my digital galleys, but that might change over the next month. We are unexpectedly having to move, so now we are a bit behind in wedding planning. I imagine I will not be getting much reading done over the next month as all my free time will be spent moving or working on the wedding. I know I will probably still try to read more than I'll really have time for, so we'll see how it goes.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Review: Plague

Plague (Gone, book four)
By Michael Grant
Published 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books

WARNING: Spoilers for the earlier books in the series. Read my reviews here, here, and here.

It seems that things can always get worse in the FAYZ; the list of problems they've faced just gets longer and longer. Now, they're dealing with a sickness that causes kids to cough themselves to death, one that even Lana can't heal. Add to that bugs that eat you from the inside out (and seem invulnerable) and the monster Drake, who has miraculously reappeared.

I'm determined to finish this series before the year is through, so I've taken to checking out the next one whenever I bring one back (I'm still trying to read down the piles of books I own).

I was looking forward to this entry in the series - my fiance, who read them all this winter, told me it was one of his favorites. But he'd also told me that book three, which I loved, was his least favorite, so maybe I should have taken his opinion with a bit of salt. That being said, I think this volume is MY least favorite so far.

I'm pretty surprised to not have enjoyed this one - I generally like plague/epidemic novels. I find them fascinating. I did like that this plague evolved to be immune to the healer - it made it so there was no easy solution to the problem. What's interesting is that, while I liked the plague evolving an immunity to the characters' powers, I was irritated that the bugs were immune to pretty much everyone's powers. Maybe I'm just getting a little tired of all the tribulations these kids are enduring, particularly when there is no way of knowing if they'll ever get a happy ending.

For the most part, I just found this entry in the series kinda boring. Like I said, I might be getting tired of the never-ending list of problems the kids are facing and I'm having a hard time imagining how the final two books will be unique enough to really stand out. I'm still planning on finishing out the series, but I'm a little less excited than I was initially. Well, less excited for book five - I still can't wait for answers about the FAYZ and whether or not the kids will ever get out in the final book.