Recollections: Reviews by a Book Lover


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.

 

 


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!


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. 


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: 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.


Book Trailer

Check out these book trailers:

Eve by Anna Carey:

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers: