Recollections: Reviews by a Book Lover


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!

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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.


New reviews on the way

Expect to see new book reviews this week!


Let’s Get Graphic

I’ve been reading a lot of graphic novels lately.  Here are some short reviews of my favorites:

 

Friends

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Maggie is about to start high school after being homeschooled her whole life.  Maggie’s mom left her and her three brothers and nothing has been the same since.  Maggie’s brothers have been her only friends until she meets Alistair and Lucy. 

I love this book because it’s all about friendship, growing up, learning to forgive and move on.  I almost forgot to mention, Maggie is haunted.  While trying to deal with her brothers and her new friends, she is also trying to figure why she is being haunted and how she can help the ghost. 

 

Page

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

Paige Turner just moved to New York.  She is trying to adjust to the big city while making friends and her sketchbook is helping her do just that.

This is a great book because Paige is in her head so much, and her sketchbook helps her get it all out there.  She learns to open up and share her sketchbook and thoughts/feelings with others.   It’s about finding yourself and learning to be comfortable enough with that self to share it with the world. 

 

 Will

Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Will lost her parents in an accident and now she lives with her aunt.  She has two best friends and loves to make lamps.  She is also afraid of the dark. 

Will’s lamps help her deal with her fear of the dark, but she hasn’t come to terms with the loss of her family.  She tries to avoid it, but when a storm knocks out all the power in town, Will can’t hide from the dark anymore.  This is a story about coming to terms with loss and your fears.  Will is lucky because she has her friends to help her. 

 

Amulet

Amulet Volume 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

Emily and Navin move into their great-grandfather’s house with their mother after their father dies.  However, this house proves to have dangerous secrets and soon Emily and Navin are on journey to save their mother after she is taken by monsters to an underground world.  Soon siblings meet others and find allies. 

I love the storyline and the characters are great.  I love Miskit the mechanical rabbit, and all the other friends Emily and Navin make along the way.  Emily lost her father, but she isn’t going to let her mother be taken away from her.  She will do anything to protect what is left of her family, something we can all relate to.

 

 

Astonishing X-Men (volumes 1-9) 

The first four volumes were written by Joss Whedon, and I loved them.  The story arc was fantastic.  Cyclops and Emma Frost have reformed the X-men, but something threatens the existence of mutants, and it is up to them to stop it.  Out of the 9 volumes I’ve read so far this was my favorite story arc.  The other arcs include ghost boxes, parallel universes, the brood, and Monster Island.  Some arcs are better than others, but all have kept me reading. 

 

The artwork in all these graphic novels is amazing.  Gulledge’s art is black and white (which I normal don’t care for, I love color!), but she is such a great artist I hardly notice the absence of color.  The X-men volumes have different artists and writers, some artists are better than others.  A few of the volumes felt a little dark, and I didn’t like how some of the artists drew certain characters. 


Summer Time When Blogging Takes a Backseat

I’ve been neglecting my blog all summer, and I’m sorry for that. It’s my first summer as a librarian, and everyone was right when they said summer in a public library is BUSY! While I haven’t had time to blog, I have been reading. Posts are on there way, I promise!


Review: Catch & Release

catch

Catch & Release by Blyth Woolston

What it is about:  Polly Furnas had The Plan for the future. Get married to Bridger Morgan, for one. College, career, babies. Etc. All the important choices were made.  It was all happily-ever-after as a diamond-ring commercial.  But The Plan did not include a lethal drug-resistant infection. It did not include “some more reconstruction and scar revision in the future.” And it certainly did not include Odd Estes, a trip to Portland in an ancient Cadillac to “tear Bridger a new one,” fly fishing, marshmallows, Crisco, or a loaded gun.  But plans change. Stories get revised and new choices must be made.

Polly and Odd have choices: Survival or not. Catch or release.  (Summary from Goodreads.com)

What I thought:  This book got really good reviews on the book blogs I read when it first came out (2012), and I had been planning on reading it but things kept getting in the way.  I finally picked it up when it turned up on a list at my library of books which have never circulated.  And I’m really glad I did.  This is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Polly and Odd are suffering from loss.  They are mourning.  It’s not just the physical loss of Polly’s eye or Odd’s leg.  It’s also the loss of the futures they had planned out.  When you expect your life to go one way, and everything changes you have to say goodbye to the life you imagined.  It is a real loss and it hurts to have to give up the future you dreamed of.

Polly thinks Odd is the one with the problems but her road trip with him forces her to come to realizations about herself.  In the end the road trip with Odd was the best thing for Polly.  It forces her to confront her loss, both physical and emotional, and start to move on.  Odd pushes Polly but it is because he sees what’s going on with her better than she does.  And Odd is working through his own stuff too.

I was worried about the fact Polly and Odd are going on a fishing trip.  I don’t have any interest in fishing and was afraid it could get boring.  This book is so much more than fishing though.  It uses the metaphor of catch and release (a great one I may add), and Polly does fish, but you won’t get bogged down in the fishing aspect.

And what’s more….this isn’t a love story.  Yes, it is about a guy and a girl who go on a fishing trip turned road trip together.  Yes, Polly learns to like Odd and gets to know and understand him better by the end.  But this is NOT a love story.   They don’t fall in love, they never kiss, nothing, because it is about so much more than love.  It is about acceptance.  Learning to accept what has happened to you and learning to move on and build a new future for yourself.  The old future may be gone, but you can create a new and better future.

I recommend picking up a copy of Catch & Release.


Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll Bones

Doll Bones by Holly Black

What it’s about:  Poppy, Zach, and Alice have been friends forever, and for almost as long they have been playing a continuous game with pirates, mermaids, and the Queen.  One day everything changes when Zach has to give up playing the game, but he doesn’t explain to Poppy and Alice why he has to stop.  Poppy and Alice are afraid Zach is moving on from them.  Then one night Poppy tells Zach and Alice the Queen (a bone china doll) is actually made from the bones of a little girl, and now her ghost is haunting Poppy.  Poppy tells them they have to go on a quest to find the girl’s grave and put her spirit to rest.

What I thought:  Everyone loves a quest, and everyone understands a quest.  So I understood why Poppy had to do this, and why despite the trouble they could get in Alice and Zach decided to go with her. Like all quests, things don’t go according to plan.  Thus a lot of adventure occurs as they try to find the grave.  But I’m not going to talk about that because you have to go on their adventure yourself.

Is the doll really haunting Poppy?  That’s something you will have to decide for yourself in the end.  I’d like to believe the ghost was real.  Don’t worry Holly Black does a great job in providing just enough creepy, it isn’t too much to really scare kids but it’s enough to give you goose bumps.

I really liked Doll Bones because besides the creepy it also addresses growing up.  How everything changes, not just physically but emotionally and mentally.  How sometimes we feel like our friends are changing and we are going to be left behind.  It’s hard to watch the people you have known all your life change, but it’s not necessarily bad.  We all grow up but that doesn’t mean we have to grow apart or that we have to stop playing.


Nonfiction Audiobooks

Some great nonfiction audiobooks to check out:

Wheels

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy

This is a great history book.  It talks about how the bicycle helped empower women.  Not only did the bicycle provide women with a new mode of transportation they could use on their own, it also inspired social change and influenced women’s fashion.  It is amazing to see how something we take for granted (who never rode a bike as a child?) helped improve the lives of its first users.  *The audiobook was really well narrated, but I think I missed out not getting to see the photos.

Growing Up

Growing Up in Coal Country by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

This is also a history.  Bartoletti gathers the voices of those who grew up in coal country in northeastern Pennsylvania at the turn of the nineteenth century.  This is the story of what it was like for immigrant families trying to make a life in America.  It’s about the working conditions men and boys had to endure.   This was a really interesting look at life at the turn of the century, but it was sad and beautiful at the same time.  The children had to work and endure cruelty, yet they still found ways to have fun.   A great look at what working conditions were like before laws were enacted to ensure safety and protect children.  *The audio was excellent!


Review: Etiquette and Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

 Etiquette

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly.  It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time.  Welcome to Finishing School. 

Sophronia’s mom has sent her off to finishing school.  At first Sophronia is upset at this development. Is it really so wrong to enjoy climbing trees and taking apart dumbwaiters?  Much to Sophronia’s surprise, and ultimate delight, she discovers that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s is not your normal finishing school.  Yes she will learn all about proper etiquette, but she will also learn to espionage skills, such as throwing knives and passing secret messages.

This is the first book in the series, and the main plot point of this book is Sophronia trying to find out where a fellow student has hidden a much desired prototype before it gets in the wrong hands.

What I thought:  I loved the premise of Etiquette & Espionage when I first picked up a copy.  I love steampunk, and I also love Victorian Era women doing things which they would never have been able to do in that time period.  I also liked Sophronia.  She has spunk and determination.  There are other great characters in the book too; they are unique and interesting and you want to learn more about them.  While you learn bits and pieces there is still a lot to be learned (hopefully in the next book).

You also learn a lot about the finishing school and how Sophronia was recruited, but there are a lot of holes there too, which I’m hoping will be answered later in the series.  While I enjoyed the plot of the book, it didn’t really grab me.  I wanted to keep reading, but I wasn’t up late into the night unable to put it down.  I was expecting something a little more exciting.  However, I think the framework to a good series has been laid out, and with a lot of the important background information now taken care of the other books may have a faster pace.


Review: Jenna Fox Chronicles

Jenna Fox

The Jenna Fox Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson

Disclaimer:  This is going to be a review of the overall trilogy

There are three books in the Jenna Fox Chronicles:  The Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Fox Inheritance, and Fox Forever.

Here is the summary for The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Goodreads.com:

“Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn’t remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?”

So what has happened to Jenna that put her in the coma?  Her parents have moved in the year she was in a coma across the country, but why? That is the mystery which Jenna tries to solve.

I’m not going to give summaries for the other two books in the trilogy, because they will give away the mystery in the first book.  I will say they are set in the future after America has had a war separating the country and robots are common (from taxi drivers to maids in a house).

Here’s why I love these books:  It makes us think about medical ethics.  More than that it asks us what makes us human?  Can robots develop feelings and thoughts of their own?  Can they dream of freedom?  Dream of becoming more?  I love the concept of robots wanting more.  While this is not a new concept (iRobot for example), it is something I enjoy thinking about.  These books also explore how the world changes.  Places change, they grow different through the years; some buildings are put up while others are knocked down.  The Jenna Fox Chronicles reminds us the world will change in good ways, but also bad ways.  While the world changes and moves forward there are things which remain the same; some things are timeless.

I think these are great questions, and you will think about them long after you finish the book.  Is it my flesh and blood which makes me human, or is it the fact that I can think, feel, and dream that truly makes me, me? That makes me human?  Who decides how far science should go to save a life?  Who decides what the standard for being human is?

I will also mention how eerie it is to hear Jenna describe what it felt like to be in a coma.  While we ultimately learn the circumstances of her comma, it is interesting to consider what it must be like for the mind to be trapped liked that.