Monday, January 21, 2013


on a
mini-semi hiatus
due to personal things and the flu

(blog/book tour commitments will be fulfilled/posted
& I definitely will be back once I can think again!)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Uninvited ~ Liz Jensen (earc) review

The Uninvited
Bloomsubry USA
January 8, 2013
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon
A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother's neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious? As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry.
Liz Jensen is an author who knows how to write books that give good synopsis, no? I bought (but still need to read!) her earlier novel My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time based just on the synopsis Lenore Appelhans (of Presenting Lenore) gave of it. (I'm reviewing Lenore's novel Level 2 crazy soon!)

With that said, The Uninvited started out quite differently than I expected. We delve a lot more into Hesketh, who he is, his life and his side of the story before the children and the murders become much more than just a mention.

Hesketh has Asperger's Syndrome which does make him good at observing behavioral patterns, but bad with relationships. His personality, along with his job and the situation he finds himself in, make for a terribly interesting character. His love of paint chip colors didn't hurt, either.

What makes both Hesketh the character and then the story work so well is how fully Jensen inhabits this character she's writing. It doesn't just feel like she wanted to create a quirky or different character for The Uninvited, Hesketh Lock really feels like a fully developed, real character with a breadth of traits unique to him that make him him.

When more of the 'creepiness' starts to come out, it does get rather creepy - especially as it's not present or overbearing for the entire novel. That it develops and builds makes it even better. The way thins progress is also unexpected - both for the character and then for the reader, yet not always both at the same time.

The Uninvited was a great book to read and has bumped Liz Jensen's other books up my to-read list -- I'm so, so happy that this one was offered on NetGalley. I'm also happy I've gotten a closer look at the cover, I had thought it rather ordinary, but it's a bit ominous if you see a full version.

Rating: 9/10

thank you Bloomsbury & NetGalley for my earc

Friday, January 4, 2013

Janie Face to Face ~ Caroline B Cooney (earc) review

Janie Face to Face (Janie Johnson #5)
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
January 8, 2013
352 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

She's been the face on the milk carton, discovered just how much turmoil that could immediately cause her life (and we found out whatever happened to her), been betrayed by the voice on the radio, and then found something shocking in one of the last places she expected.

Now readers get the conclusion to Janie Johnson's (slash Jennie Spring) story. Was the boy next door really the one? Or have Janie and Reeve moved on from each other. And we'll finally find out if the person who took Janie all those years ago will be caught.

Janie Face to Face catches readers up on all of the different characters central to the series -- from Janie, Frank and Miranda, and the Spring family to Reeve and his family, as well. While it is a conclusion to the series and brings things to a close, it doesn't stray from what made the other books so much fun.

There's still Janie's struggle between her 'real' family and her 'kidnap' family and how to be a part of both, especially as the novel starts. There's also the big, looming possible disaster that could cause things to crumble for all involved, or at least most of them.

What's different, however, is that in Janie Face to Face we're given more insight into the kidnapper and her state of mind. No longer just an almost mythical, somewhere-out-there character that some characters just hate and others have mixed emotions towards, she's real in this book. Some chapters are from her perspective, which adds a lot to not only this fifth book but some of the events from previous books.

I did feel anxious for several characters and/or worried about them, in places where I don't think that was the intent. Some of the choices they were making (even some deemed good/smart/okay by other characters) seemed . . . not quite right to me. That, though, is the possible problem when a series is concluded.

Though I didn't like the direction some of the characters ultimately took or some of the decisions made, it did all seem to work from them based on the input of the other characters. It's also a testament to how gripping this entire series has been that I didn't really care that I ended up not loving what the characters did because it was still nice to have the knowledge.

Certain parts of the plot were predictable as to their outcome. Yet the time between when you might figure out what that outcome likely was and the actual outcome was filled with enough interesting and intriguing events an bits about the characters, that the predictability was almost forgotten.

Janie Face to Face is not my favorite book of this series (that's still probably one of the first two), but it's a really good conclusion and it was fantastic to see what happened to all of the characters. (And to even get some more insight on past parts of the story.) Read this one if you've read and enjoyed the series -- it does give enough background to read it separately, but it wouldn't be as much fun.

Rating: 8/10

Series order:
The Face on the Milk Carton
Whatever Happened to Janie
The Voice on the Radio
What Janie Saw (ebook short story)
What Janie Found

thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my e-galley of this title

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sworn to Silence ~ Linda Castillo (audio) review

Sworn to Silence (Kate Burkholder #1)
Minotaur Books
June 23, 2009
321 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

Painters Mill is almost like any other small town. In the rural Ohio town, both the Amish and the 'English' residents live together well. One thing does separate Painters Mill from most small towns: the Slaughterhouse Killer.

The killer and the killings, sixteen years ago, took some of the innocent small town feeling away. At the time, just a teenager, Kate was Amish but surviving an attack changed her and set her on a new course.

Recently returned to her hometown -- as Chief of Police -- Kate's determined to move on from those tragic events and help her town. Something that looks like it will be harder to do when a body is found (something not common for Painters Mil) and Kate knows that to solve the crime and stop the killer, she may have to reveal a secret.

A secret that may put the future of Kate, her career, and possibly her family in jeopardy.

Sworn to Silence had been hanging around the lower part of my to-read list for quite a while, but I decided to read (well, listen to) it now as it's going to be a TV movie on Sunday. (Short article on it here.)

Castillo's first Kate Burkholder book has quite an interesting main character. Kate is not only young and female being the Chief of Police -- which introduces some of its own elements and issues for her -- but she's formerly Amish. I did like that Kate's past as well as the fact that Painters Mill is an Amish/not Amish divided town was not just there to be there. The Amish residents as well as their way of life was a definite part of the story.

The mystery and suspense of Sworn to Silence were quite good, picking up especially after the whodunit was revealed (or seemingly revealed). Prior to that there was more character development and we saw Kate's struggle over what to do with her secret.  The ending of this one wasn't a big revelation where a whole set of clues from throughout the novel came together. There was a lot of character development in the beginning while the mystery was happening, ruling people out and so forth.

Now that the characters are introduced, we know their backgrounds and Kate's been introduced pretty well, I'm interested to see if there's more intrigue in the latter books or if the characters are as central to the beginning of those stories as well.

As for the content in general, this is a pretty adult book. From the killing and the graphic descriptions that brings to a few other things, this isn't a YA/Adult book, but one that fits firmly in the Adult category.

Rating: 8/10

Other books you might also enjoy:  Taylor Jackson series by JT Ellison (my reviews)


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dog Diaries #1 & #2 ~ Kate Klimo reviews

Ginger (Dog Diaries #1) (earc)
Tim Jessell, illustrator
Random House Books for Young Readers
January 8, 2013
160 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

"Born in a puppy mill, Ginger the golden retriever looks back on her life and the various people who have "owned" her. Abruptly separated from her mother, littermates, and the wire cage that was her whole world, Ginger is shuttled from one harrowing situation to another until she finally escapes, living as an outlaw with a pack of wild dogs. But freedom doesn't feel so good once she becomes hungry and cold and sick. Will Ginger ever find a furever family to call her own? With realistic black-and-white illustrations by renowned illustrator Tim Jessel, and an appendix featuring information about puppy mills, breed rescue groups, animal shelters, choosing a pet, and the history of golden retrievers, dog-crazy early middle-grade readers will beg for more!"
Starting from Ginger's life as a puppy, with her littermates and mother and following her through all of her different residences and humans,  Ginger (Dog Diaries #1) is told from Ginger's point of view. Seeing things through a puppy's eyes - and then a dog's as Ginger grows - is a unique way to look at things that we've likely either not looked twice at or never paid any attention to in the first place.

It's a great way to get the, sometimes heavy handed, message that Ginger has across. While it's definitely easier for readers to connect with Ginger with her telling the story than if it were told in the third person (or dog?), a few places felt like they were pushing a point just a bit more than necessary. A conversation one character has with a veterinarian, for example, seemed not very realistic but did make a point.

There is great information in Ginger on how to care for a puppy. As it's not the basic step-by-step how-to book, it may appeal to a different set of readers, as well. There are things in the novel that I think some adults even don't always consider when adding a new dog (a puppy, especially) to the family and it's great that they're included here.

The situation that the 'escape' in the synopsis refers to was a good point to have in the story - a good what 'not' to do. It's too bad there wasn't a what 'to' do either in the story or in the appendix (for reference, reassurance, etc).

Ginger and her story do well in telling what really owning a dog is like - that it takes responsibility, know how, patience, and forethought. Klimo's book isn't one that's going to glorify owning a dog and make everyone want to rush out and get a golden retriever, but it also shows the joys of having a pet, a true best friend.

While absolutely applaud Ginger for having the message that adoption of pets is better than from a breeder or, in Ginger's case, a puppy mill and pet store situation, but I felt it could have been done with a bit more grace, especially given the target age of the book. It seems possible to convince elementary readers that they should adopt their first/next dog without making them feel bad if the family pet they currently have was bought. It's possible the author and I just differ on how to get a message across.

Jessell's illustrations are fun and it's nice to be able to actually see Ginger at the different stages in her life. The black and white works very well within the book and the art contributes to the story.

Rating: 7/10

Dog Diaries #1: Ginger will likely present new things to think about in adding a canine to your family -- even what type and Dog Diaries #2: Buddy with Buddy the German shepherd is here to tell you about another breed of dog . . .

Buddy (Dog Diaries #2)
Tim Jessell, illustrator
Random House Books for Young Readers
January 8, 2013
160 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

A German shepherd—the first dog trained at Dorothy Eustis's famous Seeing Eye guide-dog school for the blind—looks back at her life. Chosen for her intelligence, obedience, and willingness to learn, Kiss knows there is more to life than chasing balls and chewing bones. She is a Noble Creature and Great Things await her. But after spending months learing to take care of her beloved trainer Jack, why does he suddenly want her to take care of Morris—a strange, clumsy man who wants to wants to change her name to Buddy? Could it be that Morris needs Kiss to take care of him even more than Jack did? Based on a true story, and featuring realistic black-and-white illustrations by Tim Jessell (plus an appendix with information about German shepherds, the history and training of guide dogs, hosting guide-dog puppies, and much more), this canine confessional is pitch-perfect for smart, dog-crazy, early middle-grade readers!

Buddy's story is a bit different from Ginger's. As the first Seeing Eye trained dog, Buddy doesn't experience the tumult in her life that Ginger does. Rather, Buddy's life is one of training and purpose.

I started Buddy only knowing that the book featured a German shepherd and not knowing what it was about. I'm actually glad I did that. It was fun to discover Buddy's journey in life as she did. Buddy is a very relatable character. She's a great narrator and tells her story in a very connectable way.

Like Ginger, Buddy is told from the first person(/dog) point of view and gives a unique look into how the character (the canine) views things in their life as well as in the human world. Things that would be viewed much differently if told from a human's perspective or even in the third person are given a great take by Kate Klimo and her canine main characters.

As Buddy progresses through her life and her training the things she experiences are ones that many readers will likely have read about or seen played out before in other tales about either sightless people or even about seeing eye dogs. What keeps this book so fresh and interesting - for even older readers interested in the subject - is who is telling the story.

Buddy doesn't have the same care and how-to that Ginger had, it doesn't tell you how to take care of a German shepherd or what to do if adding one to your household (Ginger does that for all dogs in a general sense). Rather, Buddy is the tale of the remarkable German shepherd who became the first Seeing Eye dog. The appendix has great information on the history of the breed as well as on Seeing Eye dogs.

Tim Jessell's illustrations are quite good and add enjoyment to the story as readers can see Buddy as she does her different jobs. We see her grow from a young dog, into a more mature one. The art makes it easier to imagine certain scenes and it seems like the correct scenes were chosen to be illustrated.

Kate Klimo seems to have started a really fun new series. I don't read many children's series, but I'll be on the lookout for #3 Barry in August).

Rating: 10/10


thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for my egalley of Ginger and to Nicole at Random House for my copy of Buddy!
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