Monday, March 20, 2017

I've Got Sand in All The Wrong Places by Lisa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella

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Title: I've Got Sand in All The Wrong Places
Author: Lisa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Non-Fiction Humorist
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Mild Language
Premise: "Lisa and Francesca are back with another collection of warm and witty stories that will strike a chord with every woman. This six book series is among the best reviewed humor books published today and has been compared to the late greats, Erma Bombeck and Nora Ephron. Delia Ephron said of the fifth book in the series, Have a Nice Guilt Trip, "Lisa and Francesca, mother and daughter, bring you the laughter of their lives once again and better than ever. You will identify with these tales of guilt and fall in love with them and fierce (grand) Mother Mary." This seventh volume will not disappoint as it hits the humorous and poignant note that fans have come to expect from the beloved mother-daughter duo" (goodreads.com)
Opinions: Apparently I am late to the game on this dynamic mother/daughter writing duo. I've Got Sand in all the Wrong Places is the sixth book in the series, but the first one I've read/listened to. My husband and I listened enamored as we escaped our kids for our 15th anniversary for our first ever stay-cation (I know, we live life large). Their humorous take on events in their lives was brilliant, realistic, and hilarious. They didn't sugarcoat the rough parts, but tugged at our heart strings as they were honest about trials, muggings, their opinions on Spanx, Francesca losing her mother in the streets of New York, EXes, and so much more. We were both laughing, shaking our heads, and even teared up at several tender moments. And the quality of their writing was flushed with anecdotes, hidden gems, and beautiful flow. I especially recommend getting the audio version of their books, as the authors read their own work, which adds a brilliant Italian-American flare to their story that might have been missing otherwise.

Legion by Brandon Sanderson

Legion (Legion, #1)

Title: Legion
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Fiction
Rating: LOVE
Alerts/Warnings: Moderate Violence, Mild Language
Premise: "Stephen Leeds, AKA 'Legion,' is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the story begins, Leeds and his 'aspects' are drawn into the search for the missing Balubal Razon, inventor of a camera whose astonishing properties could alter our understanding of human history and change the very structure of society"--From publisher description.
Opinions: This short story is stinkin' BRILLIANT!!!!! Stephen Leeds may suffer from a variety of mental conditions, but he owns it, and lets it become his strength. The creativity of having arguments with your own hallucinations, as well as ensuring they have their own rooms in your mansion is outstanding. Throw in the feel of Sherlock Holmes, an international thriller/mystery, and assassins, and talk about mind flip. Legion is Brandon Sanderson at his best. The humor and creative are outstanding.  I only gave this a love rating instead of fabulous due to the content that might be too much for some teen readers. As such, I recommend parents read this story first, then be open to a discussion with their kids.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cress by Marissa Meyer

To read my reviews of other books in this series, click here: Cinder and Scarlet.


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Title: Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Dystopian/Steam Punk/Fairytale Retelling/Sci-Fi
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Moderate Violence
Premise: "Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they're plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth. Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl trapped on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company" (King County Library System).
Opinions: Brilliant. Absolutely stinkin' brilliant. The end.Okay, well not exactly the end. I mean the series isn't finished after all. Once again I listened to this on CD while on a long drive to visit family in St. George. Just ask my husband. I was laughing out loud. I was yelling at the car stereo. And I hated to stop for gas because I'd have to pause the story.

In this third installment of the Lunar Chronicles series we are treated to the retelling of Rapunzel in the form of Crescent Moon (a.k.a. Cress) who is a shell--a lunar without bio-electrical manipulation abilities. And yet, Cress is my favorite character by far. In fact this whole book is my favorite of the series (which is saying a lot). She is spunky. She is naive. She is brilliant. She is funny. And she is out to help Cinder save the universe, if only she could ever leave the satellite that Mistress Cybil (the lunar queen's right-hand woman) has confined her to for the last seven years.

The way that Marissa Meyers interweaves these fairy-tale re-tellings in a new and creative light is brilliant. She ties the characters together with plot twists and character arcs that leave the mind whirling, but she's laid the foundation so smoothly that I buy it. I am SO loving being on this crazy journey with the whole menagerie of twistedly awesome characters that I cannot wait to listen/read the next book, Winter.  I seriously would tell you more about what I love about Cress, but as River Song (insert Doctor Who reference) would say---SPOILERS!!!!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Numbers Ignite by Rebecca Rode

To read my review of the first book in this series, click here: Numbers Games.

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Title: Numbers Ignite (Numbers Game #2)
Author: Rebecca Rode

Reviewer:  Karen
Genre: YA Dystopian
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: Moderate Violence associated with hostile takeovers
Premise: "Treena and Vance think they’ve pulled out of the numbers game forever. They’re wrong.

After Treena’s disastrous attempt to unite the nation, she has the deaths of hundreds haunting her dreams. Now, with hatred and accusations following her past the border, she’s determined to leave that horrible day behind and find a peaceful, uneventful life with Vance and the settlers. But when she starts seeing mysterious figures hiding in the abandoned cities at night and uncovers a strange desert population, she realizes there’s a danger much greater than NORA to worry about—and she just abandoned her people to their fate.

Vance is a prisoner. Being rejected by the girl he loves and put on trial for betraying his clan are bad enough, but now he’s been framed for a crime he never committed. Their less-than-perfect refuge has become the political game of a madman, and Vance is the only one who can stop it—if he can keep from being executed first.

Treena and Vance are still very much in the game, and this time it will take everything they have to save those they love" (GoodReads.com).

Opinions: I liked Numbers Ignite more than the original Numbers Game.  Sequels tend to lose some of the initial intrigue and spunk that the reader gains in the first book. In fact, Treena feels more real to me now--the struggles and decisions she faces and the choices she has to make. Even Vance feels more three-dimensional to me, which is impressive because I loved Vance from the first story. Both characters endure a personal journey that gives them growth, tenacity, and more strength. The expansion of secondary characters is intriguing and I love where its going. The story development still fascinates me and Rebecca Rode does a great job of placing me in her world to the point I can visualize everything.  I still want to punch Dresden in his pretty Bike Boy face, but that just means that Rode did a great job of making me care about the characters. Overall, if you are into YA and/or Dystopian, then you should most definitely read this series.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

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Title: Percy Jackson's Greek Gods
Author: Rick Riordan
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Myths/Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: High Violence, Bad Behavior, and lots of High Gross Out Moments
Premise: "Percy Jackson, a modern-day demigod, tells the origin stories of the gods of Olympus and provides an insider's point of view - with plenty of attitude - in this illustrated collection"-- Provided by publisher. "A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week. So begins Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic--and sarcastic asides--to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who's who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. "If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that." Dramatic full-color illustrations throughout by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco make this volume--a must for home, library, and classroom shelves--as stunning as it is entertaining"-- Provided by publisher. 
Opinions: If you want to learn about the Greek myths, but some of the more traditional tellings are way too daunting, then this is book is your solution. I love studying mythologies and was fascinated with Riordan's ability to bring them to life in new and intriguing manner (and besides, I am a huge Percy Jackson fan--the books, not the movie). In this particular book you learn all about the history of the titans, Greek gods, and other mythological beings with the modern day humor only teenagers can master. The stories are fascinating and frequently gory (as many mythos are), and yet Riordan faces them head on in a manner that makes them still pg-13 (which is an impressive feat) and all told from Percy Jackson's viewpoint.

Note: Keep in mind, the Greek Gods are not known for being moral compasses. They often had affairs, committed murder and other heinous acts, that might not be appropriate for your particular teen. So I recommend that parents either read this book first, or read it with their kids so that you can have any necessary discussions. I mean, I'm an adult (half the time) and even I cringed at some of the stories, even after they were cleaned up. So be prepared.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

To read my review of the first book in this series, click here: Cinder.

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Title: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Dystopian/Steam Punk/Fairytale Retelling/Sci-Fi
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: Moderate Violence
Premise: "Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Half way around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner" (King County Library System).
Opinions: In Scarlet the point of views switch between Scarlet (a new vision of Red Riding Hood) and Cinder (Cinderella) from book one. The concepts and twists in this book are amazing and a breath of fresh air. I love the interplay between characters. I admire the creativity in Meyer's world building. I actually LOVE the men more in this book than the women--wolf and Captain Thorne leaped of the page (or well audio system) for me. While Scarlet's character was fascinating, her mood swings were a bit much for me at times, and yet they were completely and utterly understandable. I actually listened to this book on cd while in the car, and the voice actor did a beautiful job making each character stand out well in the story.  The struggles both Cinder and Scarlet faced were three-dimensional and the way Meyer's interwove their stories beautiful. The violence was a bit gory at times for my taste, but did fit with the overall stories. I'm very intrigued to see where the next book in the series, Cress, goes.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

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Title: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)
Author: Rick Riordan
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Mythic battles in modern settings maybe slightly much for younger readers
Premise: "Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother's mysterious death, he's lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he is tracked down by a man he's never met -- a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god. The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants, and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years. When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision" (King County Library System).
Opinions: This book is EPIC!!!!  I have always loved Norse mythology. Now Rick Riordan brings it to life in modern times with absolute brilliance and humor. Even better is that he does awesome tie-ins to the Percy Jackson series by mocking the stories he wrote. Then, to top it off, he makes references to Doctor Who. Seriously, Rick Riordan's writing just keeps getting better and better. The first line of every chapter was spot on brilliant, and the last line of each chapter jaw-dropping. The characters are well developed, diverse, and intriguing. Trying to keep all the Gods and their history straight was a bit overwhelming at times. Plus, like most mythologies, some aspects are violent and gross, but Riordan does a fabulous job keeping it all teenager approved.  I cannot wait to read the next book in this series.