Monday, May 26, 2014

The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio

The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio
Random House Children's Publishing
Publication Date:  May 13, 2014
Date Read:  May 14, 2014

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Random House Children's Publishing and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.

5 Stars

I was one of the many people who fell completely in love with the book Wonder, which told the story of a boy who was born with a facial deformity.  I fell in love with Auggie as I devoured Wonder in one sitting.  In that book, Julian was the bully at the school that made things difficult for Auggie.  When I saw that Julian's story was being released, I jumped at the opportunity to read it.

This work is short, approximately 84 pages, and can easily be read in a single sitting.  The entire story is told from Julian's point of view.  The first part of the story goes over some of the events that happen in Wonder.  After reading Julian's point of view, I can understand why he acted as he did towards Auggie.  There were times that I found myself feeling badly for Julian because of the lessons he was being taught by his family.

Julian finds himself spending time with his grandmother in France in the second part of the book.  He tells his grandmother the events that had happened during the school year.  After hearing what Julian tells her, she tells Julian her own story which is the most powerful part of this piece.  His grandmother's story helps Julian and his family see the events concerning Auggie differently.  While I was not convinced that his parents turn around was permanent, Julian's remorse seemed authentic.

I would definitely recommend this short story to anyone who enjoyed Wonder.  Because this story is so closely tied to that book, I would recommend that Wonder be read prior to reading this piece.  I look forward to future works from this author.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
Publication Date:  June 3, 2014
Date Read:  March 4, 2014

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.

4.5 Stars!

I ended up reading this entire book in the course of one day.  It is a short book but it really tells a powerful story.  I found myself really feeling for Alice and wanted everyone to know the real truth about Alice.  Even though I am much older than the probably target audience of older teens, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

This book is told from multiple points of view.  This worked well for me by actually adding layers to the story that I do not think would have been present with a single narrator.   The reader learns Alice’s story from the popular girl, Elaine, Alice’s best friend, Kelsie, Brandon’s best friend, Josh, and the school nerd, Kurt.  Alice’s point of view only appears at the very end of the book and I actually found her voice to the least powerful.  Each of the narrators had a part in Alice’s fall from popularity.

Alice is a popular girl in a small town until the rumors start.  The rumor spread that she had sex with two boys in one night at a party.  Before Alice can recover from that rumor, one of those boys dies in a car accident which is also blamed on Alice.  Soon, nobody want to be around or talk to Alice except for Kurt, the school nerd.

The characters were well developed although a bit stereotypical.  The book illustrated quite well how a single lie can grow out of control.  One lie stacked with other lies can result in devastation for the target.

I would recommend this book.  This book does deal with some difficult subjects so it would probably be best for older teens and beyond.  Younger audiences may not be ready for some of the issues in this book.  I think that the author, Jennifer Mathieu, did a fantastic job with this novel.  I do plan to read future works by this debut author.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Am the Weapon by Allen Zadoff

I Am the Weapon by Allen Zadoff
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:  May 13, 2014
Date Read:  May 12, 2014

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.

4.5 Stars
Do you know how sometimes a book you are reading just sucks you in and you have to know what happens next?  That book that you can not seem to be able to put down even though you have lots of other things that need to be done?  This book was that kind of book for me.   I literally found myself making dinner while holding this book with one hand.  That kind of thing rarely happens in my world but I sure do love it when it does.

This book is about a teenage assassin who can become a part of someone's world, eliminate his target, and then leave without anyone even suspects that a murder has even taken place.  He has been highly trained by The Program and works as a solo agent in the field.  His only communication is with "Father" and "Mother" who issue his assignments.  

He has a new assignment for which he will become Benjamin.  He will need to go to New York and become close to Sam.  His assignment is to kill Sam's dad and he has only 5 days to accomplish this task.  Sam's dad happens to be the mayor of New York City making this job more difficult.  

We know very little about Ben.  His real name is not used until the end of the book.  The circumstances that turned him into the killer he is in this book are shared with the reader in short flashbacks as the story progresses.  

I thought that this book was remarkably well written.  I always felt compelled to read just a bit more to find out what was going to happen next.  This book would probably work best for an older teen audience.  Obviously this book is about a teen assassin but it also has a few scenes with teenage drinking and an off stage sex scene.  

I would recommend this book to others.  It appears that this is the first book in a new series and I am looking forward to the next book already.  This was the first book that I have had a chance to read by Allen Zadoff but I plan to watch for this author in the future. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry

The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry
Random House Publishing Group
Publication Date:  May 20, 2014
Date Read: May 11, 2014

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Random House Publishing Group and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.

4 Stars

This is the ninth book in Steve Berry's Cotton Malone Series.  Generally, I like to read books that are part of a series in order.  I jumped into this series on this book which is the ninth book in the series.  There is a part of my brain that screamed "NO" and wanted me to first go back and read the 8 prior books in this series before starting this book but I ignored it and moved ahead.  This book reads just fine as a stand alone novel in my opinion.  There were a few points in the book that I had wished I knew some of the back story regarding character relationships but it was not necessary to enjoy this book.  

This was a very fast paced and exciting book that was focused on a mystery that began early in our nation's history.  This book had a large focus on the Mormon church, both past and present.  There is a mystery surrounding a document that could endanger the United States as we know it today at the core of this novel.  This mystery stretches back to the men involved in writing the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln, and Brigham Young to name a few.   

Cotton Malone was one of many major characters in this novel.  Cotton is a retired Magellan Billet agent who is asked to do a favor for his former boss.  He agrees and is pulled into something larger than he expects.  His girlfriend, Cassiopeia Vitt, has also been recruited to the cause without Cotton's knowledge.  The story plays out in several settings with no shortage of action or suspense.   

I found that I enjoyed this book quite a lot.  It was fast paced and exciting with tons of action.  I also enjoyed the parts of the novel that had a historical setting.  Since this book is a work of fiction, I read the book assuming all of the historical parts of the book where nothing but fiction.  I did enjoy the author notes at the end of the book that did explain which parts of the book might have a basis in actual history and which parts were fabricated to fit into the story.  

Overall, I found this to be a well written book.  I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a quick moving mystery full of action.  This was the first book that I have had the chance to read by Steve Berry and I look forward to reading other works by this author in the future. 

The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.     

-John F. Kennedy

Friday, May 9, 2014

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
Publication Date:  May 27, 2014
Date Read:  May 8, 2014

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.

3 Stars

This was an OK book.  When I saw this book on Net Galley, I checked the reviews on Goodreads and saw that everyone seemed to LOVE this book.  I was so excited to get the chance to sit down with it myself because I wanted to love it too.  I love a good coming of age story as much as anyone else.   I did not love it.  To be perfectly honest, this is probably going to be one of those books that I have read that I will not even be able to remember much of in a few months.  

Alek is a 14 year old Armenian boy.  I loved the fact that Alek's Armenian culture played a huge role in this book.  I would actually say that this aspect is the strongest point of the book.  Alek's parents decide that he will have to attend summer school because they want him to be on the honor track in high school.  During summer school, Alek crosses paths with Ethan.

Alek is best friends with Becky, whose character I found to be the most interesting in this book.  Becky is a free spirit who is not afraid to go for what she wants, and she thinks she might want Alek.  During an awkward encounter, Becky learns that those feelings are not mutual.

It turns out that Alek has never thought about whether he might be gay but he is attracted to Ethan after spending some time with him.   The pair spend a lot of time together over the course of the summer and become a couple. 

Alek's very traditional parents are very supportive of the fact that their son is gay.  While I think that this is wonderful, I do not feel that it fits in with their personality as written.  These are parents who have not allowed their son to pick out his own clothes in the past.  I just do not see this type of parent being as supportive as they were in this story.  

This was a book that left me wanting a bit more.  Alek was able to come to terms with his sexuality with no issues.  I think that in most cases, there would have been a lot more difficulty in coming out.  Everything in the book wrapped up quite easily in the end.  In my opinion, it was a little too easy and not authentic. 

This book had some strong points and some not so strong points.  I ended up finding it a somewhat enjoyable quick read. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Penguin Group
Publication Date:  April 14, 2011
Date Read:  May 4, 2014

I received an advance reader edition of this book from Penguin Group and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.

3 Stars

I was so excited to see Attachments available on Net Galley.  I have wanted to read something by Rainbow Rowell for quite some time so I snatched this book up right away.  I liked this book but I was not blown away by it.   I admit that I am a bit let down because I was really hoping to be blown away.

Lincoln takes a job at a newspaper and his job is to monitor employee emails.  Beth and Jennifer are friends who also work at the same newspaper and like to email each other during the day.  Their emails are constantly getting flagged so Lincoln ends up reading what they write to each other.  Lincoln does not send them any kind of warning but continues to read what they write to each other.   Lincoln starts falling for one of the women through the emails she writes to her friend.

In this book we get to see Lincoln's life but we only see Beth and Jennifer through the emails.  I wish that Beth and Lincoln would have met in person before they did in the book.   They don't meet each other until the very end of the book and I guess I am just not patient enough to wait that long.  Of course, to be fair the story would be pretty much over once they meet and fall in love.   I just got tired of waiting for Lincoln to do something.  Every time I have started a new job, I have taken the time to introduce myself to my co-workers.  Couldn't he have done that at least so he would at least know what she looked like?

Despite my impatience, I did like the writing.   I believe that this is Rainbow Rowell's debut novel.  I have definite plans to read other works by this author.
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