“Normal: A Novel” Graeme Cameron

April 16, 2015 Leave a comment

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. ARC. Published March 31, 2015. MIRA Books.

Normal“Normal” takes readers into the mind of a nameless serial killer who is not a “Silence of the Lambs” chop them up and eat them for lunch kind of a guy, but someone his victims may have seen regularly and dismissed as ordinary. As he describes how he stalked, killed and hacked up the body of an 18-year-old girl, readers will feel a shudder of revulsion for this heinous crime as they are ready to confine him to the deepest, darkest jail cell and throw away the key.

However, as a bit of humanity begins to peek out from his depraved life after he meets the woman of his dreams, readers begin to feel a bit guilty to find themselves feeling sympathetic towards him. How could they care, and laugh at some of his antics, knowing he is a cold-hearted murderer and is holding someone hostage in his soundproof basement? The answer lies in the author’s ability to create a character that, even with his many flaws, keeps readers invested and interested.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“Shadow Scale” Rachel Hartman

April 11, 2015 Leave a comment

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. ARC. Published March 10, 2015. Random House.

With the city of Goredd preparing to battle its dragon enemies, Seraphina is called upon to travel to various lands to find the ityasaari, which have been dwelling in her mind garden. These ityasaari are rumored to have the means of saving Goredd, and Seraphina is the only one who can convince them to help the Queen.

However, Seraphina soon finds out that one of the ityasaari has a unique ability to infiltrate minds. Soon, almost everyone she knows is under powerful mind controls, and it will be up to Seraphina to release them before it’s too late for Goredd.

“Shadow Scale” is an ingenuously written, fantastical tale of love and betrayal as seen through the eyes of dragons and half dragons. Humans are secondary to the story, since Seraphina is half dragon and “Shadow Scale” is her story.

I am not a big fantasy fan and, in the past, have enjoyed some fantasy books I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy. However, I had a really hard time making it through this book. The abundance of philosophical thoughts from Seraphina and her dragon friends may have played a part, as well as the lack of real action. It really doesn’t matter because Seraphina’s true fans will enjoy reading about her latest adventure.

Recommended for ages 13-16.

“My best everything” Sarah Tomp

March 22, 2015 Leave a comment

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. ARC. Published March 3, 2015. Little, Brown & Company.

MyBestEverythingSeventeen-year-old Lulu tells her story through a letter to the boy she met and fell in love with during the summer she graduated from high school. Falling in love was not part of her plan, as she was supposed to leave Virginia in just a few months. She planned to say goodbye to her best friend Roni and to her backwoods town of Dale so she could start a new life at the University of San Diego. For her part Roni is certain her future lies in marrying her boyfriend Bucky and living in Dale forever. Neither of them can understand why Lulu is so anxious to leave, but Lulu is undeterred. She will leave Dale.

Unfortunately all of Lulu’s plans come to a screeching halt when her father loses her college money in a poor financial move. She is devastated, but is determined that she will get out of Dale no matter the cost. When a moonshine still is delivered to the junkyard where she works with Roni, Lulu is sure selling moonshine will be the answer to her problems. Bucky’s friend Mason has been in the moonshine business with his cousin Seth, and offers to help with their endeavor.

As Lulu, Roni, Bucky and Mason work together to secretly make and sell their illegal moonshine, Lulu again finds her life turned upside down. Her need to leave Dale has compromised everything she has ever believed in, as she finds herself turning into someone she doesn’t recognize. Confused over her feelings for Mason, and now questioning her desire to leave Dale, Lulu’s summer turns into a bubbling mess that will rival any moonshine in her secret still.

Determination, strength of will, and stubbornness are just a few of the adjectives that describe some of the characters in “My best everything.” Though I don’t agree with the way Lulu decided to try and solve her problems, I admire the way she owned up to her mistakes.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Since you’ve been gone” Mary Jennifer Payne

March 18, 2015 Leave a comment

Rated 4 stars **** Ebook. ARC. Published February 17, 2015. Dundurn Group.

SinceYou'veBeenGoneTenth grader Edie Fraser has always wanted a stable life. Ever since she was 10 years old, she and her mom have moved from place to place trying to stay one step ahead of her abusive father. With no chance to make friends or have a social life because her father won’t stop searching for them, she is always the new girl at school. Her mother has now brought them to London, England where she hopes they can freely live their lives without having to run. Edie is, once again, the new girl at school but now has to learn about a new culture and put up with the school bully.

Before Edie can even begin to find her place in this new world, her mom disappears. Edie is frantic as she is afraid the police will send her to Child Services or back to her father. With nowhere to turn hope comes from a strange place, and Edie will have to decide if she will take a chance with hope or give her life over to despair.

“Since you’ve been gone” carries a sense of urgency and despair mixed with hope, which will resonate with its readers.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“On the other side of the bridge” Ray Villareal

March 16, 2015 Leave a comment

Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Arte Público Press. 227 pp.

OnTheOtherSideOfTheBridgeThirteen-year-old Lon Chaney Rodriguez was named for an old horror movie actor, as he and his dad shared a love for horror movies his mother didn’t understand. His dad drank a few too many beers after he lost his trucking job, which really bothered his mom as she had to work extra hard as a security guard to make up the difference in their income. Things were a little rough at home, and Lon wasn’t doing too well at school, but everything seemed okay until the night his mother was killed at work. Suddenly Lon’s life was a mess.

With his dad refusing help from family members, and drinking heavily every day, Lon was at his wit’s end. His biggest fear was that they would become homeless, which seemed to be next on the horizon if his dad didn’t get his act together.

Villareal takes a typical seventh grade boy and thrusts him into an arena of responsibility, which should never be the lot of a child. As he tells Lon’s story readers are educated about poverty, homelessness and the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Recommended for ages 11-14.

“1999: A novel of the Celtic Tiger and the search for peace” Morgan Llywelyn

March 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Rated 4 stars **** 2008. Irish Century Novels #5. Tom Doherty Associates. 399 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters,Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1999 AnoveloftheCelticTigerandthe searchforpeaceBarry Halloran’s personal fight as a photojournalist against Ireland’s occupation by the British continues in the last book of The Irish Century series. In “1999” readers are infused with information about the various IRA Republican factions which continued their battles for a united Ireland, contrasted with crimes committed against Catholics by British and Protestant organizations aided and abetted by local police.

As usual, Llywelyn summarizes information covered in previous books to bring the reader “up to speed.” However I found a glaring error in “1999,” which disappointed me since the author has always been very good at seamlessly joining all her books.

The error was a complete changing of an event that happened in “1972” in which Barry woke Barbara Kavanagh from a deep sleep and proposed to her. Afterwards they both woke up his best friend Séamus to ask him to be the best man.

I was very dismayed to have the marriage proposal be completely changed in “1999”, as the proposal now occurs while Barbara is having an argument with her mother over the telephone. Later that evening, Séamus returns home and is asked to be Barry’s best man.

I am at a loss as to why Barry’s proposal was changed from one book to the other. Did an editor not catch the change? If Morgan Llywelyn were to read this review I would ask why she changed such a romantic proposal from “1972” into this “ho hum” proposal in “1999.” In my opinion, a change was not necessary.

Other than having a problem with this change, I enjoyed “1999.”

Recommended for Adult readers.

“1972: A novel of Ireland’s unfinished revolution” Morgan Llywelyn

February 28, 2015 Leave a comment

Rated 5 stars ***** 2005. Irish Century Novels #4. Tom Doherty Associates. 365 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters, the Bipartisan Declaration from 1949, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1972Barry Halloran, Ursula’s son and Ned’s grandson, now takes up the centuries long fight for Ireland’s independence in Llywelyn’s latest book.

Eager to fight for his country Barry joins the IRA as a foot soldier, and is soon enamored with the feeling of camaraderie amongst the men in the army. He has hope for his country’s future but, when he actually killed someone, Barry decided there had to be a way to make a difference without killing. In time he became a demolition expert for the IRA, but insisted his targets be places where lives would not be lost. Soon, he became the best demolition expert in the army.

With Northern Catholics experiencing severe civil rights violations, various political factions within the country sought to copy the nonviolent civil rights movement undertaken in America in an effort to reunite the country. Now an experienced photojournalist, Barry is in the midst of the action as Northern extremists clash with Catholics. Ireland and Barry’s coming of age story are uniquely joined, culminating in the terrible events known to history as Bloody Sunday.

Recommended for Adults.

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