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Review: In the Blood

April 24, 2014

In the Blood

At the advice of her college adviser, child psychology major Lana Granger gets a job babysitting eleven year old Luke.  Luke is extremely intelligent and difficult to handle but Lana doesn’t mind, since she’s got quite a past of her own – murder seems to run in her family.  Her grandfather was a killer and her father killed her own mother.   Lana’s previous roommate has disappeared and many people think Lana murdered her.

Things start out well with Luke and Lana but Luke quickly starts to manipulate things and it looks like Lana might be in a situation even she can’t handle.

In the Blood by Lisa Unger is a dark, twisted psychological thriller.  The book drew me in quickly and it didn’t take me long to figure out that Lana is an unreliable narrator so I began to question everything I read.  The story took a few strange turns that left me confused for a little while but there was so much tension in the story I had to know how things turned out.  Things came together for me, but this is one book you must suspend disbelief in order to enjoy.

The storyline alternates between Lana and the diary of a young mother struggling to raise her disturbed son.  (Although she was never named I assumed it was Luke’s mother.)  The two fill in their backgrounds and readers learn just how disturbed Lana and Luke are and sense that something bad will happen.  It’s that looming sense of danger that had me reading as fast as I could.  I did find the ending a little odd and, in the end, liked the book a great deal, but didn’t love it as much as everyone else has.  If it sounds good to you, you should definitely give this January 2014 Indie Next Pick a try!

The audio version of In the Blood is narrated by Gretchen Mol and Candace Thaxon and I thought they did a terrific job!  The audiobook is on 9 CDs and lasts approximately ten and a half hours.

Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.   I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

Wondrous Words Wednesday

April 23, 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative!   If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

I found my first word in Defending Jacob by William Landay.

1. scally cap – “He wore a jacket, golf shirt, and scally cap.”

After I read this sentence, I looked up scally but didn’t find anything that made sense in the context of the book, so I looked up scally cap and discovered it’s a specific type of hat.  Scally caps are rounded and have a small, stiff brim in front.

Scally cap

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My second word came from Take This Man by Brando Skyhorse.

2. nepenthe – “Her actual apologies came with a meek knock at my door and the greasy nepenthean scent of pepperoni pizza.”

Nepenthe was a potion used by the ancients to induce forgetfulness of pain or sorrow and has come to mean something capable of causing oblivion of grief or suffering.

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What words do you want to celebrate today?

Review: The Perfect Score Project

April 22, 2014

The Perfect Score Project

Debbie Stier was worried about her son Ethan’s lackadaisical attitude towards school and became frustrated when the public school he was attending thought it was acceptable.  Since Ethan was in high school she knew something had to be done or he wouldn’t get into the college of his choice.  She didn’t have the money to put him through school and decided he needed to earn a scholarship as well.  She enrolled him in a private school and then she set out to earn a perfect score on the SAT.  She figured she’d know how to help Ethan prepare for the test once she’d managed to conquer it.  She chronicles her year of test taking in The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT.

Debbie Stier is one intense woman!  Once she decides to do something, she is all in, so she became obsessed with the SAT while she worked on this project.  She read all she could about it and decided to test different variables.  She also tested many of the SAT prep methods and courses out there, giving feedback on each one.  I did think some of her feedback was flawed because the results of the test prep were cumulative – she didn’t “unlearn” what she learned from previous courses.

I did appreciate the fact that Stier was willing to jump right in and do what she expected her son to do but I found her overbearing at times.  She did learn a lot about the SAT and, if you or a child will be taking the test soon, you can probably learn quite a bit about the test from this book.  After reading the book, I feel like the SAT is pretty meaningless and really serves no purpose other than terrifying students and making money for the College Boards and test prep companies.

Speaking of test prep companies, I had no idea there are so many of them out there!  It almost made me feel like I was a bad mother because I did absolutely nothing when Vance took the ACT.  He was totally on his own and, after reading The Perfect Score Project, I think he was in the minority.  I never realized people start preparing their kids for these tests YEARS in advance.

In the end, I liked this book, but didn’t love it.  I’m not really the target audience for it, though, and I think readers with high school aged children will probably like it more than I did.  I did talk about it quite a bit as I read it so it would probably make a great book club choice.

The audio version is narrated by the author and she does an okay job.  The audio is on 8 CDs and lasts approximately 9 hours.


Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.

Mailbox Monday

April 21, 2014

Mailbox Monday April 20

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued, and now hosted on its own blog.  I’m back home and trying to catch up on everything.  I’ve got a lot going on, though, so it probably won’t happen this week.  I’m beginning to accept that it will probably never happen.  Here are the books that showed up in my mailbox last week:

Monday

Friday

Saturday

Did you find any goodies in your mailbox last week?

Review: The Geography of You and Me

April 18, 2014

The Geography of You and Me

Lucy lives with her parents on the 24th floor of an expensive New York apartment building and Owen lives in the basement of the same building with his maintenance man father.  Owen’s mother has passed away and Lucy’s parents are generally absent.  The two meet when they get stuck in the elevator during a blackout.  They spend a magical evening exploring the city in the dark but go their separate ways afterward, each longing to spot the other.

Their lives take them in opposite directions so it seems like they’ll never be together again but that doesn’t keep them from hoping for a reunion.  In the meantime, they keep in touch through occasional postcards and emails.

I’ve read a couple of Jennifer E. Smith‘s books before so I was really excited to pick up The Geography of You and Me.  As I expected, it’s a sweet, romantic story that was a lot of fun to read.  I enjoyed it but didn’t think it held the magic that made Smith’s  previous books special.

Lucy and Owen are great kids and great characters.  They’re kind and caring and looking for some direction in their lives.  Smith “gets” kids that age and writes with a lot of heart so I felt like I knew Lucy and Owen as I read their story.  I think a lot of teens will relate to them and take comfort in their story.  Girls, especially, will like the romantic elements and the tension they create.

Smith’s books are free of language and sexual situations so even the youngest YA readers can enjoy them.  Even though The Geography of You and Me wasn’t my favorite of her books, I think it’s well worth reading.

kid konnection newI will link this up to Booking Mama’s Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, leave a comment as well as a link on her site tomorrow.

Review copy provided by Hachette Books. I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

Review: Byrd

April 17, 2014

Byrd

Addie and Roland are great childhood friends but they drift apart late in high school as friends often do.  After they graduate, Addie heads to college and Roland hits the road with his band.  They still think about each other, though, and after she breaks up with a boyfriend, Addie reaches out to Roland.  She visits him in California and returns home pregnant.  Without telling Roland, she decides to give the baby up for adoption even though doing so leaves a hole in her heart.

Addie names the baby Byrd and thinks about him constantly and writes him letters that she can’t mail.  She finally decides to try to find Byrd and realizes she must contact Roland again.  Things don’t turn out the way she plans, though – her decision changes her life and Roland’s forever.

Byrd by Kim Church is a fascinating book about the way relationships and decisions change our lives.  The story is told in the third person through short sketches and Addie’s letters to Byrd.  I have to admit it took me a little while to get used to the narrative but, once I did, I was hooked!  It’s fast paced and I found it compelling.

Both Addie and Roland are very well drawn and I found myself frustrated with them in turn.  They’re not honest with each other and both make poor decisions that come back to haunt them.  They felt very true to life, though, and I felt for them even as I wanted to shake them.

The storyline is terrific too and it made me think about why we make the decisions we do.  There’s a lot to discuss in Byrd, so I think it would make a terrific book club choice.

Review copy provided by Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

Wondrous Words Wednesday

April 16, 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative!   If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

It’s been a while since I’ve had to refer to my Word-a-Day calendar but, this week, I’ve had to go back to it.

1. gorgonize – “Dave joked that his boss’s angry glare could gorgonize an employee in mid-complaint.”

Gorgonize is a verb that means to have a paralyzing or mesmerizing effect on: stupefy, petrify.

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2. kvell– “Critics kvelled over the violinist’s triumphant return to the stage where she had made her debut many years ago.”

Kvell is a verb to be extraordinarily proud: rejoice.

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3. argy-bargy– “There’s no mention of the previous argy-bargy and she’s all over me like a cheap suit tonight.” –Irvine Welsh, If You Liked School, You’ll Love Work

Argy-bargy is a noun that means a lively discussion: argument, dispute.   I’m guessing it came from argument.

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What words do you want to celebrate today?

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