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Review – Keeping Corner – Kashmira Sheth

keeping cornerKeeping Corner
Author: Kashmira Sheth
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
“Pretty as a peacock, twelve-year-old Leela had been spoiled all her life. She doesn’t care for school and barely marks the growing unrest between the British colonists and her own countrymen. Why should she? Her future has been planned since her engagement at two and marriage at nine.
Leela’s whole life changes, though, when her husband dies. She’s now expected to behave like a proper widow: shaving her head and trading her jewel-toned saris for rough, earth-colored ones. Leela is considered unlucky now, and will have to stay confined to her house for a year—keep corner—in preparation for a life of mourning for a boy she barely knew.

When her schoolteacher hears of her fate, she offers Leela lessons at home. For the first time, despite her confinement, Leela opens her eyes to the changing world around her. India is suffering from a severe drought, and farmers are unable to pay taxes to the British. She learns about a new leader of the people, a man named Gandhi, who starts a political movement and practices satyagraha—non-violent protest against the colonists as well as the caste system. The quiet strength ofsatyagraha may liberate her country. Could she use the same path to liberate herself?

Review:
One of my favorite things to do at the library, if I have a bit of time, is to randomly pick a shelf and then browse the books on it for something that looks interesting. In this case, I was wandering through the YA section and looked at the Fiction, R-T authors (my library has YA divided up into general fiction, genre fiction and then series). Something about Keeping Corner caught my eye and I am so glad that I picked it up to read. It is probably one of the more intriguing books that I have read in the last year.

I’ll admit that my knowledge of India’s history is rather lacking – I know very little about it, because it never really intrigued me to study it. Of course, everyone knows who Ghandi was (or at least the vast majority of us do). Keeping Corner takes place as he was starting his long-journey of activism – he wasn’t too widely known in the more rural areas of India (where Leela and her family lived), but was in the cities (where Leela’s brother lived). But while Ghandi is mentioned frequently through-out, Keeping Corner is more the story of Leela.

A young girl and soon to be child-bride, Leela is living her life as expected – waiting for her marriage to occur, so she can move in with her new husband’s family. But that all changes drastically when her soon to be husband is bitten by a snake and dies. Now she is expected to mourn for a year, in a tradition known as “keeping corner” – isolated from the world she has grown up in, not allowed to express joy, limited in interactions. I don’t know if I would have had the strength to survive what Leela did for a year – it took mental acuity that I don’t know that I possess (or many people today may possess). She faced the loss with bravery, and while at times she acted like the young girl she was (only 12) – she also displayed at times, the maturity of someone far older.

The author wrote Leela’s story in a way that would be engaging to both Young-Adults and adults who were reading the book. It has made me want to explore and read more about India’s customs, when it comes to death, weddings, births etc. although I haven’t found any books yet that I can recommend. Overall, I gave Keeping Corner 4 stars and I can’t wait to find more books by the author.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Searching for Grace – Juliann Rich

searching for graceSearching for Grace
Author: Juliann Rich
Series: #2 in the Crossfire Trilogy
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided By Author

Description:
Camp is over and Jonathan Cooper returns home—to life with his mother whose silence is worse than anything she could say, to his varsity soccer teammates at East Bay Christian Academy, to the growing rumors about what he did with a boy last summer at Bible camp.

All the important lines blur. Between truth and lies. Between friends and enemies. Between reality and illusion.

Just when Jonathan feels the most alone, help arrives from the unlikeliest of sources: Frances “Sketch” Mallory, the weird girl from his art class, and her equally eccentric friend, Mason. For a short while, thanks to Sketch and Mason, life is almost survivable. Then Ian McGuire comes to town on the night of the homecoming dance and tensions explode. Fists fly, blood flows, and Jonathan—powerless to stop it—does the only thing he believes might save them all: he prays for God’s grace.

Review:
When I finished Caught in the Crossfire a couple of months ago, I was intrigued to see how Ms Rich was going to continue Jonathan’s story and with Searching for Grace, she didn’t disappoint. Searching for Grace picks up almost immediately following the conclusion of Caught in the Crossfire, when Jonathan returns home from summer camp, away from Ian and struggling with thoughts and feelings in direct conflict with how he was raised in his chuch (as a note, I’m not acknowledging that it is right or wrong, but that is how it is presented).

I will admit that I was a little bit confused at the beginning with how the story was being told because it appeared to be in a flashback format but it wasn’t easy to identify. And it was weird/ hard for me in trying to figure out who Grace was, but about halfway through, it clicked for me and I liked how the author continued to address the conflict between religion and feelings/love.

The cast of secondary characters in Searching for Grace were much more well-developed to me than the ones in Caught in the Crossfire (not saying that they were bad but I just enjoyed the SfG ones more). I loved that the author worked Simon from CitC into this story because I felt like he was one of the stronger characters in the first one, along with Jonathan. But for me, the duo of Sketch and Mason were the top. They kind of reminded me of Janis and Damien from Mean Girls (if you haven’t seen it, they are the duo that take Cady under their collective wing before she becomes entangled with the mean girls). I loved how they lived their lives and didn’t really seem to care how they were the odd-balls (for lack of a better word).

There was much more conflict within this book than the previous one, but I don’t feel like it was overly done – it felt like it would feel, if this went down in a small town – the people talking behind backs, the rumors, the feeling that everyone is talking about you and that was just the beginning. That being said, I kind of felt the Ian storyline was bordering a bit too much on the angst storyline, I know why everything went how it did, but I don’t know – it just felt a bit too forced for me – but then as a character he just felt too different from how he appeared in the first book that it felt weird. I will be interested to see where the author goes in the last book in the trilogy as she ties up all the threads.

Overall I gave Searching for Grace 3.5 stars, although it was very nearly a 4 star read for me – there were just a few things that niggled me enough that I went down half a star. I’m looking forwarding to reading the third book when it comes out.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Review – Dirty Little Secret – Jennifer Echols

dirty little secretDirty Little Secret
Author: Jennifer Echols

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
I was being given the chance to do the one thing I wanted most in the world. The chance was presented to me by a guy so gorgeous, he turned my skin to fire when he touched me. And joining a band was the one thing I was most forbidden to do, the thing that would ruin my future forever.

There are too many secrets in eighteen-year-old Bailey’s life. Not just the obvious one: that she told her grandfather she was going on a date, and instead is playing fiddle in a Nashville bar. There’s all the stuff that makes it worse. Like how her younger sister, Julie, was offered a recording contract, and her family is terrified that Bailey is going to mess the deal up. Like the way that Bailey has been acting out. Like the way they’re all mad at her, even Julie.

Bailey’s parents don’t want her playing any gigs at all, but when they leave her with her grandfather in Nashville for the summer so they can tour with Julie, he lands her a music job that’s beneath the radar, playing old country songs in cheesy costumes at a local mall. That’s where she meets Sam. . . .

Review:
I have to admit that I primarily requested/downloaded this book because I fell in love with the cover. It just was to me, eye-catching. You could tell by looking at it, that the story behind it was going to be interesting – so many different elements – the violin, the picture of two people kissing…I wondered how it was all going to play out. And I’m pleased that say that it was well-worth it. In this case, the picture on the cover lived up to the story in the book (it is always disappointing when it doesn’t…).

It was also nice to see a young adult/new adult romance (since it kind of falls into both worlds), where there wasn’t a root story that involved rape (attempted or occurred); molestation; kidnapping etc. But rather, an almost normally, albeit slightly screwed up family. Sure Bailey probably got the wrong end of the stick and I felt back for her – but it was nice to see some semblance of normalcy.

I will have to admit though, that the blurb available on the authors website (as well as Amazon and other book-related ones), basically gives away the entire story. For what its worth, I edited out what you see here so it was shorter. Which is kind of disappointing…there wasn’t really that much mystery into how everything was going to play out…I wish that cover designers would go back to a more limited description, so that there is some surprise to the story…but back to the story.

The romance that developed between Bailey and Sam was sweet (there isn’t really any other way to describe it). It is definitely a book that I would recommend for older teens, because there are scenes that involve sex that would make it inappropriate for the younger people in the age group. But there was also some teenage angst (I mean, what would a YA romance novel be without the angst ;) ). But it wasn’t overdone, it felt more believeable than some of the scenarios that I have read about in different books.

This was my first book by Ms Echols, and it definitely won’t be my last. I think I have two more by her waiting on the pile at home. I gave Dirty Little Secret a solid 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan – Seth Rudetsky

the audies

awful awesome popularity planMy Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan
Author: Seth Rudetsky

Narrated by: Seth Rudetsky, Andrea Burns, Paul Castree, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Gad, Ana Gasteyer, Megan Hilty, Marc Kudisch, Will Swenson, James Wesley
Run Time: 5hr and 15 minutes
Produced By: Audible, Inc

Description:
Justin has two goals for sophomore year: to date Chuck, the hottest boy in school, and to become the king of Cool U, the table in the cafeteria where the “in” crowd sits.

Unfortunately, he has the wrong look (short, plump, Brillo-pad curls), he has the wrong interests (Broadway, chorus violin), and he has the wrong friends (Spencer, into Eastern religions, and Mary Ann, who doesn’t shave her armpits). And Chuck? Well, he’s not gay; he’s dating Becky, a girl in chorus with whom Justin is friendly.

But Justin is determined.

In detention one day (because he saw Chuck get it first), Justin comes up with a perfect plan: to allow Becky to continue dating Chuck, whom Becky’s dad hates. They will pretend that Becky is dating Justin, whom Becky’s dad loves. And when Becky and Justin go out on a fake date, Chuck will meet up with them for a real date with Becky. Chuck’s bound to find Justin irresistible, right? What could go wrong?

Review:
One thing I have loved about listening to books nominated for the Audie Awards is that it made me find authors that I had never before read and narrators I had never before listened to. And in the case of My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan, I got a double dose – with a new author, plus getting to listen to his narration/interpretation of his characters. I got to also listen to the fabulous narration by Megan Hilty (who stars in my favorite, although now cancelled show, SMASH – boo hoo). I think I spent almost the entire time chuckling at Justin’s antics. He was the epitome of the high school geek. I have to wonder how much of the book was based on the author’s experiences. There seemed to be a sense of realism that doesn’t always appear in books (that, or he never truly left his teenage years…).

To say where the plot put forth by Justin was insane, would be an understatement…I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. It was like listening to a comedy of errors as the school-year progressed. Rudetsky managed to pack nearly a full-year of high school trials and tribulations into a relatively short book (I mean, the audiobook was just over 5 hours long). I enjoyed the various narrators who participated in the book. I thought that the director found the right blend of youthful innocence and snarky humor in their voices. I also appreciated the fact that at the beginning of the book, the various narrators were introduced and the characters that they were portraying was mentioned. This really helped me be able to put a voice to a character rather than all of the various narrators blending together. This, to me, is something that I have discovered to be important in multi-narrator books.

I gave My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan a solid 4 stars and I know that I will be seeking out more books by the author in the future.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – UnWholly – Neal Shusterman

unwhollyUnWholly
Author: Neal Shusterman
Series: #2 in the Unwind Trilogy

Description:
Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

Review:
Sometimes there are books that just stick vividly in our minds and even a year or so after reading it – you can recall what happened in certain parts. For me, Unwind, the first book in this trilogy was like that. So I was excited to see the second book come out late last year…I pre-ordered it and everything…and then it sat, gathering dust on my bookshelf. I wanted to read it, but was too scared to, for fear that my memories of Unwind, would be ruined by a not so good second installment (I mean, it had been like 4 years since Unwind came out). Reviews among my friends were split – some loved it, others found it ok, but the majority of the reviews had the word BUT in them…like something was missing and that was concerning to me. However, I finally sucked it up and read it (or I think devoured might be a more appropriate description).

But moving on – the one thing I really liked about UnWholly was how it took the same issue, but looked at it from a wider perspective. While Unwind really focused on the micro-issues of the kids who were subjected to being Unwound, Unwholly focused on them, as well as society. I liked the touches of written ads (very similar to those we see during elections) campaigning both for and against unwinding and the various “groups” who were contributing for/against it. There was also a lot more history involved in this installment.

Plus, Shusterman introduced Cam – who might be one of my favorite characters in the series so far. He is the complete opposite to an Unwind – someone that has been created from parts of kids that were unwound. It was kind of freaky (for lack of a better word)…but he was certainly intriguing.

I can’t wait to read the third book in the trilogy that is due out later on this year and see how he ties up all the bits and pieces. Overall, I gave UnWholly a solid 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – City of a Thousand Dolls – Miriam Forster

city of a thousand dollsCity of a Thousand Dolls
Author: Miriam Forster
Series: #1 in the Bhinian Empire

Description:
An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

Review:
When I first started to read City of a Thousand Dolls, I was reminded in part of the Kushiel series’ by Jacqueline Carey. There was something about Nisha that reminded me of Phaedre – the idea of the abandoned girl finding her way in the world and eventually knowing where she belongs. I also liked the idea of the city being the place where the abandoned children are sent. It made me wonder, in places like China, where there is a limit on how many children families can have, what would have happened, if children couldn’t be adopted or what to do with them. So it was an interesting take on a problem that I see could easily occur in the world in the future.

I have to admit that the reveal for the ultimate mystery was a bit of a disappointment – I had the potential suspects narrowed down to three, early on in the book, so for me it was more of a confirmation rather than a reveal. This was a bit disappointing for me – I was hoping for some out of the blue antagonist – even the ultimate actions of the main characters were fairly obvious as to what was going to happen. However, the world building was intriguing, I definitely want to read more in the series when the books are released. Overall, I’d give it 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Sanctum – Sarah Fine

sanctumSanctum
Author: Sarah Fine
Series: #1 in the Guards of the Shadowlands series

Description:
“My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

Review:
Its times like this, that I am thankful for recommendations from friends on Goodreads – because I can say for certain that I would never have found this book, let alone read it, without their recommendation. I am still conflicted over my final star-rating, but it has the potential to be one of my first 5-star reads for the year (and yes, I know its already 3 months into the year…) At first I was skeptical how the theme of youth suicide would be handled, especially when mixed with a fantasy type world – but I felt that the author managed to walk the fine line pretty well. It wasn’t until I looked at her biography and realized that she was a child psychologist that I realized why she did it so well – it (youth suicide) is obviously a topic that she is passionate about and has done research about/likely worked with children who have been affected by it.

It did raise a lot of thought-provoking ideas – most religions, if not all, have a form of heaven – but how many of them address whether people who commit suicide end up there – are they buried on un-consecrated ground (like the Catholic church) or what happened? And is there anyway for them to move from where they end up to heaven for real. I know that I had never really considered any of it until reading Sanctum – which to me is a sign of a great book.

However, about 2/3 of the way through, it did start to hit a bit on the teenage angst that was fustrating – I think the book would have automatically been a 5 star without that, and from how it ended, I have to admit that I am a bit concerned about where book 2 in the series is going to go…hopefully it will stay clear of the total teen angst/love triangle that seems to be so prevalent in a vast majority of YA books recently…Right now, I think I am going to give it 4.5, but rounding down to 4 on the Goodreads scale.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Book Review

 

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