Recollections: Reviews by a Book Lover


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Book Reviews category.

Review: The Girl in the Blue Coat

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I received an advance reading copy of the Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse from the publisher.

I’ll start off by saying that World War II historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. With that said I really enjoyed Girl in the Blue Coat.  It is well researched and thought provoking.

There is so much going on in this novel.  Amsterdam has been taken over by the Nazis.  Hanneke (the main character) is working for a funeral home, while also working in black market trades.  She is grieving the death of her boyfriend, while struggling to provide for her family.  Then one day Hanneke is asked to find a missing girl who is Jewish.  Hanneke has always felt her black market work was her way of rebelling against the Nazis, but she isn’t sure she wants to take on something that will be even more dangerous.  Soon she is thrust into the world of the underground resistance, discovering just how ugly Hitler’s war machine is, all while trying to find a young girl before it is too late.

This book has a lot going for it.  It’s part mystery. It deals with grief, and finding the courage to do the right thing.  Many people risked their lives during WWII to help in resistance work.  It was often difficult to know who could be trusted, and even more difficult to make the tough decisions about what chances the resistance could and couldn’t take when it came down to it.  Hanneke doesn’t want to get involved with the resistance, all she wants to do is find Mirjam.  The resistance wants Hanneke’s help in finding hard to find goods to help feed people in hiding.  They will help Hanneke but not at the cost of putting anyone else involved in the resistance in harms way. And Hanneke isn’t sure how much she wants to get involved in the resistance because she is the only one her parents have to take care of them. The more Hanneke learns about what the Nazis are really doing the more she understands  what is truly at stake.

I was up late reading this book every night wanting to know if Hanneke would succeed and at what price.

This book goes on sale April 2016, and if you love World War II historical fiction as much as I do then it needs to be on your must read list.  It is a beautifully written story about love, grief, war, and redemption.

 

 

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April Showers Book Display

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April Showers Book Display…I’m a little late with this post.


Blind Date with a Book Display

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February’s Blind Date with a Book Display in honor of Valentine’s Day.

All books were wrapped in paper to disguise the title.  The first line of the book was printed on the front of each.  Hopefully patrons will be intrigued by the first line and pick up something they wouldn’t normally read. 


Banned Books Week

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I created a display last week to celebrate Banned Books Week. I wanted the books to look like they were in jail for their “alleged” crimes. I wrapped each book in orange wrapping paper, and gave it a Department of Corrections ID (the book’s call number). On the back of each book was a list of the reasons the book has been banned or challenged. I titled the display “Orange is the New Book”


Let’s Get Graphic: Graphic Novel Roundup

I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels lately, probably more graphic novels than books actually. Below are some of my favorites.

The first 3 are Advanced Reader Copies through Netgalley:

Picture from GoodReads

Picture from GoodReads

First one I’ll mention is The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen & Sonny Liew. It doesn’t come out until July, so I’m going to hold off on a full review for now. I will say it’s about the Green Turtle, the first Asian American super hero, and I will say I really enjoyed it. Fans of Gene Luen Yang won’t be disappointed. My copy was an e-galley through Netgalley.

 

Picture from GoodReads

Picture from GoodReads

The Return of Zita the SpaceGirl by Ben Hatke comes out this month. This is the third installment of Zita the Spacegirl. Again my copy was an e-galley through Netgalley. I loved the two previous Zita’s, and I loved The Return as much as the first two. I love Zita’s spunk and determination. She is loyal and a true friend to all who need her help. If you are looking for a graphic novel with loveable characters then check out Zita, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Picture from GoodReads

Picture from GoodReads

The last e-galley I read recently was This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki. Every summer Rose and her family go to a Lake House in Awago Beach. Rose hangs out with Windy, whose family also always vacations there. Rose’s parents are constantly fighting, so Rose and Windy find ways to distract themselves, like swimming, going to the local convenience store, and watching horror movies. This is the summer of growing up, transitioning from child to teen, and learning all the heartbreak and wonder that come along with it.

 

Great graphic novels I’ve read lately that are already out include:

 

Picture from GoodReads

Picture from GoodReads

Zombie’s Calling by Faith Erin Hicks. Joss loves zombie movies, but will her knowledge of the rules of a zombie movie be enough to save her and her roommates when her university is taken over by a zombie plague? Great story, loveable characters, and I personally appreciated the commentary on the price of higher education (as I, like Joss, will be paying off my college education for the rest of my life).

Picture from GoodReads

Picture from GoodReads

Mind the Gap by Jim McCann. I’m on volume two of this graphic novel series, and I am HOOKED! Elle is attacked in the subway station, and now she is lying in a hospital in a coma. Who tried to kill Elle and why? Elle’s spirit is detached from her body and trying to put all the pieces together. This is a fantastic thriller with a supernatural twist. I’m really intrigued by this story, and I can’t wait to get volume number 3.

MorningGlories

Morning Glories by Nick Spencer. I picked up with graphic novel series at work because the back said it was about six brilliant new students at a sinister boarding school. I love a good boarding school story, add mystery and something deadly lurking and I’ll pick it up! I’m on volume #3 so far and I haven’t been disappointed. The twist and turns are never ending. The teachers are straight up evil, almost drowning the 6 student on their first day. There is a weird cult and strange medical experiments. So far this series is keeping me hooked and on the edge of my seat.

 


Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
By Jesse Andrews

 

What it’s about: Greg Gaines is just trying to get through high school by flying under the radar. Earl Jackson is Greg’s only friend (although he prefers to refer to him as a coworker), and together they make movies they never let anyone else watch. Greg is very satisfied with the way his senior of high school is going, he has no real friends but he is friendly to everyone and therefore no one actively dislikes him or makes fun of him. But as mothers will often do, Greg’s mother puts a kink in his high school plans to have no friends. A girl Greg knew in middle school (and kind of dated but didn’t because his intention in talking to her had been to make another girl jealous) is diagnosed with leukemia. Greg’s mom tells him he has to hang out with her because he was so good at making her laugh when they used to hangout.

 

What I thought: Greg tells you right away that this book is not a romance nor is it a book in which he learns some great life lesson from hanging out with the dying girl. I appreciated the honesty. And he is honest about it not being a romance. Whether he learned anything from it is up for debate. Greg visits Rachel and tries to cheer her up. Sometimes his attempts are successful, other times they’re not. Then one day Earl brings some of their movies to the hospital for Rachel to watch. Greg is extremely annoyed with him, but Earl puts him in his place. Rachel’s cancer seems to hit Earl harder and in a different way than it affects Greg. Despite what Greg thinks Rachel loves the movies and so Earl brings her different ones to watch. She respects that Greg doesn’t want anyone to see them and she never shows anyone. Greg has no real plans for his future. He avoids the topic of college with his parents, saying he would just go to Pitt. He’s grades end up suffering though because of the time he is spending with Rachel, and also because of how his mother ruined his life (that’s all I’ll say because I don’t want to ruin it for you). Rachel wants Greg to apply to film school, he thinks it’s a terrible idea, but maybe in the end Greg did learn something from his time with Rachel.

 

I highly recommend Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I’ve heard if you like The Fault in our Stars than read this when I’ve read stuff about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. While I think those who love TFIOS will love this book as well, it isn’t exactly like TFIOS.

 


Infernal Devices – Book 1 & 2

After reading all of the Mortal Instruments books to date by Cassandra Claire, I have to admit I have become addicted to the sci fi world she’s created. There’s something fun and exciting about having all these demons, angels, vampires, werewolves, and superhumans called shadow hunters all in one novel running around and fighting each other. So I decided to check out the Infernal Devices, which is a prequel to the Mortal Instruments and follows the tale of another heroine, Tessa Grey.

 
Tessa starts off the first books captured by some evil witches who are holding her for some authority figure called “The Magistar”. One thing I do like about Claire’s writing is that she definitely knows how to dive right into the action parts. Within a chapter or two she is being rescued by some shadowhunters, most notably a boy named Will Herondale. His personality matches up with Jayce’s from Mortal Instruments very much, which makes me a little sad because it seems like she’s almost recycling the same character with a different name.

 
Anyway, after she is rescued, she goes to live with the Shadowhunters at the institute, which is the same institute from the Mortal Instruments book, so that is a nice tie in. The Shadowhunters have offered to help her find her brother in exchange for her helping them find the Magistar. I should mention at this moment that Tessa has the power to transform completely into another person, which was why she was being held by the witches, they were honing her power before turning her over to the Magistar. Of course, there is a love triangle in the books, involving Tessa, Will, and Will’s parabatai Jem. For those who haven’t read the Mortal Instruments book, which you don’t need to in order to enjoy these, Will and Jem are basically closer than brothers, according to the parabatai bond. Naturally, this makes things complicated for the relationship part.

 
Without spoiling anything, they eventually find out who the Magistar is in book one, and spend all of book two trying to track him down, all while Charlotte and Henry, the caretakers of the institute, are fighting to hold onto the institute amidst the governing body of the shadowhunters trying to take it away from them for letting the Magistar get away. I’m trying not to spoil anything, but they are very entertaining reads, and I’m excited to finish the 3rd book in the series.


Review: Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders

Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach

Picture from goodreads

Picture from goodreads

My copy is an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher.

What it’s about: Gabe (aka Chunk) has a rule he learned from an old woman who used to clean his house, “Better laugh than cry.” For most of high school he has pretty much lived by that rule. Someone is making fun of him for being fat? Then do a dance and make everyone laugh. But when the soda machine money (to which Gabe has given a lot of money) stops going to the band, and starts going to the cheerleaders’ dance squad, well, Gabe is done laughing. It is an all-out war between the band Geekers and anyone who gets in their way, and Gabe is the unlikely leader.
What I thought: I loved this book. I was laughing out loud throughout – which for me is always a sign of a good book. I love how much Gabe grows and changes as the story goes on. Gabe’s friends call him Chunk (yes that is a Goonies reference for all you who know great movies ) and other kids (like the Jocks) choose other words to describe Gabe’s size which are much harsher. So Gabe gets called names a lot, and with his anger over the soda pop money comes the realization he doesn’t like being called fat. Gabe is no longer laughing because the only time it’s better to laugh than cry is when you can’t do anything about it. Gabe can do something about it, and he does. He starts working out with his Grandfather (you’ll love his grandfather) and eating healthier; he isn’t going to let food and soda control him, or use it as a way to deal with how he feels. Gabe starts to take control of his life health wise. He also starts to realize he also calls people names, and maybe the jocks, cheer bitches, and Goth, may not like those names any more than he likes being called fat. As for the war over the vending machine funds, well Gabe learns what it means to be a leader. He also learns a lot about his fellow classmates and friends.
I love Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders because I was laughing throughout, but also because I saw Gabe grow. As you read the book, you see as Gabe realizes, yes he is picked on but he is also the one who picks on others too. He just never realized he was name calling too. Gabe realizes a lot and you can’t help but cheer him on.
I highly recommend this book.

 


Review: Noggin

Image Cover photo from Goodreads

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

 I won an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through a Goodreads giveaway

The Cover Story:  I love the cover of Noggin.  It’s funny and it’s fitting.  I have to admit I hated the cover of the hardcover edition of Whaley’s first book, Where Things Come Back (sorry!) (the cover of the paperback was much better).  Noggin’s cover, however, is the type of cover that makes me pick up a book and say I wonder what this book is about?  It’s perfect!

 What it’s about: Travis Ray Coates has cancer.  The doctors have done everything they can, but the cancer has spread too far.  There is one chance though.  Travis can have is head cut off and frozen, with the hope that someday doctors can reanimate him on another body.  Travis decides to do this, not because he thinks they will ever be able to bring him back, but because he is tired and nothing else is going to work.  So Travis says goodbye to his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend, and he goes into surgery.  Then Travis Coates wakes up.  His parents are standing by his bed when he opens his eyes looking just as they did when he closed them, and he figures the surgery must not have worked.  What Travis doesn’t realize upon waking, is that what feels like a few minutes to him has really been five years.  Five years, that’s it!  Medicine progressed enough that in only five years doctors were able to connect Travis’ head to another body, and wake him up.  Travis never though it would work, and on the off chance it did he thought it would be long after everyone he loved was dead.  Now he is back, and still 16 years old, but everyone else is has grown up and mourned the loss of Travis.

What I Thought:  Travis was alive, then dead, then alive again.  It’s an amazing thing.  What is even more amazing is it all happened in such a short amount of time.  In 5 years a lot changes though.  It’s hard for Travis though, he has to adjust to the fact that although no time has passed for him it has for everyone else.  Travis has to finish high school, while his friends are now all in college.  Noggin touches on a lot of issues.  No one knew if the surgery would work or when they would be able to bring Travis back if it was possible, so his friends, family, and girlfriend had to mourn him as if he had died.  It was the only way they could move on.  Everyone is trying to adjust to this new reality now that Travis is back.  Travis has a hard time coping because he can’t accept the fact everything has changed, and you can’t blame him.  I had to ask myself what would be worse: waking up so far in the future, everyone you love is dead or waking up after just enough years the people you love have moved on and changed without you?  Honestly I don’t know which I would prefer.  The idea of never seeing the people I love anymore makes waking up seem pointless, but waking up and having to deal with how much has changed also seems painful. I felt for Travis and all he was going through.  At times I thought he was acting selfish, and in other moments I felt so bad for him my heart ached.

How do you start living again?  That’s the question Travis has to figure out the answer to.

Noggin was an amazing and I highly recommend it!


Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington

Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington

 Image Photo from goodreads

Advanced Reader Copy from the Publisher, Soho Teen.

The Cover Story:  I’m just going to start off by saying how much I love the cover of this book.  Lately it’s rare that I even like a cover.  I love that we don’t see the girl’s face on the cover; it’s just a floating body from behind.  It has this eerie, otherworldly feel to it.

What it’s about:  Liv Bloom is in the foster system, and when she lands a scholarship to practice art at Wickham Hall, an elite boarding school, things are finally started to look up for her.  Liv befriends a fellow scholarship student, Gabe, and starts to fall for Malcolm Astor, one of the more elite students at Wickham Hall, (who also falls for her).  However, Liv’s happiness is cut short when she is brutally murdered.  Now Liv, with the help of Gabe (who can see ghosts), Malcolm, and the other trapped spirits, must discover what evil lies in the hallow halls of Wickham.

What I thought:  Liv, Forever combines some of my favorite things: boarding schools, ghosts, and a good, creepy mystery.  I love when a Young Adult novel takes place at a boarding school.  Boarding schools take care of the simple question of why are there no parents around (because you know we all get annoyed when other novels exclude parents completely as if teens don’t live at home)?  Ghosts – Since I was young, I have always loved books with a paranormal twist.  It just makes life more interesting to believe that ghosts could exist.  Anyway back to the book.  You can’t help but like Liv Bloom.  She hasn’t had an easy life, but she doesn’t let that stop her.  She applies for the scholarship at Wickham so she can go to a good school to practice art.  Even after she is killed she doesn’t stop until she finds the truth, no matter what that may mean.  Fortunately for Liv, Gabe can see ghosts. Gabe however, does not find this fact so fortunate.  He has been haunted by the ghosts of Wickham Hall, and there are a lot of ghosts.  The question is why?  Why have so many female students died over the years?  Liv must try to convince Malcolm she is still alive, with Gabe’s help.  They need Malcolm to help to discover the truth, and Liv needs to know what she and Malcolm had was real. She also needs to convince the other ghosts to help, which isn’t easy since Gabe doesn’t like to interact with the ghosts, and most of the ghosts are too scared to talk.  What Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm discover is a grisly secret that dates back to the start of the school.  Question is can they stop it before anyone else dies?

I really enjoyed this book, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good ghost story.