Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: Endangered by Lamar Giles

Title: Endangered
Author: Lamar Giles
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA Fiction (mystery)
Pages: 280
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (VA)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
 Her name is Lauren, but everyone calls her Panda. What they don't know is that behind their backs, she also goes by Gray. As in Gray Scales, the photoblog that her classmates are addicted to because of the secrets Gray exposes: a jock buying drugs, a teacher in a compromising position, a rich girl shoplifting. But no one knows Panda's the vigilante photographer behind it all. At least, she thinks no one knows--until she gets a note from the Admirer, who's not only caught her redhanded acting as Gray but also threatens to reveal everything unless Panda plays a little game of Dare or ... Dare.

Panda plays along. Anything to keep the secret she's protected for years. But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn't know what to do. And she might need to step out of the shadows to save herself...and everyone else on the Admirer's hit list, including some of the classmates she's loathed and exposed for years.

Review: I like a good mystery and this book definitely had that. I also think the story could resinate with teens because it draws on the feelings of high school bullies, those that we feel deserve karma payback, and wanting revenge when someone makes you feel "wronged." In that way the book is realistic. However, there are some aspects that seem far-fetched and I haven't decided if I am okay with that yet.

I think my favorite thing about this book is the feelings it evokes. Panda really feels like she is doing the right thing by exposing the "mean" people at her high school for what they are: the bully is shown doing drugs, the mean-girl is shown in a compromising situation, etc. But what damage does she do by exposing them? She didn't really think about that aspect of it. While she sees herself as a vigilante, many see her as cruel. Thinking about the motivation behind our actions is an important theme of this story.

I also like the look into friendships. What happens when you stop dating someone? Do you remain friends, ignore each other for ever? Hold a grudge? What if that person comes back to help? And best friends share everything. Panda's best friend is always there for her, until Panda is outed as Gray. Panda cannot believe her best friend's reaction and feeling alone isn't so great. I think a lot of teens go through similar situations with friends: we aren't always sure what went wrong and we don't know how to fix it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: Lock and Mori by Heather W. Petty

Title: Lock and Mori
Author: Heather W. Petty
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA Fiction (mystery)
Pages: 245
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)UK

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
 WFact: Someone has been murdered in London'g Regent's Park. The police have no leads. Fact: Miss James "Mori" Moriarty and Sherlock "Lock" Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene. Fact: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted. Fact: Despite agreeing to Lock's one rule-they must share every clue with each other--Mori is keeping secrets. Observation: Sometimes you cant' trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.

Review: This is a twist on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, obviously, but this time it's set in present day London with two teenagers who stumble upon a dead body in Regent's Park. One of the things I liked about this book is that both kids are smart. I don't mean they are smart because they solved the mystery, but they smart. Like book smart. They are pretty darn brilliant in fact. And both of them are, not just the young man.

They also have family lives that are real (except we don't ever really see Lock's parents). And in this book I'd say real means raw. Families are often not what they seem to the outside observer and this book does that very well. I can't say more or I'll give the plot away.

And there is a twist. Of course, but it's a fascinating twist and one I didn't see coming. That's a good thing. So there's a mystery, a bit of romance, some family drama, and a great friendship. All pretty good ingredients for a quick YA read.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern

Title: A Step Toward Falling
Author: Cammie McGovern
Year Published: 2015

Genre: Young Adult fiction (romance)
Pages: 361
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (??)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
 Sometimes one mistake can change everything. Emily doesn't know why she froze. Or why Lucas did too. Afterward, she thought of different ways to rationalize it. But the truth is, they could have helped Belinda, and they didn't. It's a mistake they'll both have to live with.

Sometimes doing nothing is the only way to cope. Belinda doesn't want to talk about what happened. Because when she does, it feels like it's happening all over again.

Sometimes good can come from bad. Emily and Lucas' punishment is community service at a center for people with disabilities. People like Belinda. Soon they feel like maybe they're starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing if they could do that night all over again. Like they could help not only those at the center but also each other. But when Belinda returns to school, Emily and Lucas have to figure out if they can do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most.

Review: There are a lot of things I liked about this book though I will admit that half way through I felt my interest starting to wane. Then I got sucked in again and read the second half all in one sitting!

  • I liked the writing of this book, it's a quick YA read but packs a ton into it
  • There are two main characters and we get to hear the story from both of their perspectives; I always enjoy multiple narrators.
  • The main event that sparks the action in this book is such an important one: that of a bystander. What is someone's responsibility when they witness a crime? Are we responsible if we aren't the ones who do the bad act? What if we could have done something to prevent it and didn't? For teens, this is a tough issue and handled so well in this story.
  • Romance. There's a bunch of it in this book and it is mostly so sweet, I loved it! Friends who have crushes is the name of the game in this one. No one is having sex, no one is doing drugs, no one is drinking alcohol, no one is swearing. It's quite refreshing.
  • Belinda, one of the main characters, has a disability that is never named. The author has a son with disabilities and I am sure that's why she did such a great job with the character of Belinda and her friends. Belinda is lovable and so real. My heart ached for her and the other characters as they all struggled to figure out how they fit into the larger world of high school and beyond.
I recommend this book!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Review: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Title: Everything Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Year Published: 2015

Genre: Young Adult fiction (romance)
Pages: 306
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (??)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
 My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I'm allergic to the world. I don't leave my house, have not left my house in 17 years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He's tall, lean , and wearing all black--black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can't predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It's almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Review: A librarian friend recommended this book to me. She loved the first and last thirds and felt neutral about the middle. I liked the whole thing.

It's such an interesting premise: a girl is so sick, with an immune system so compromised, that she cannot leave the house. She has a full time nurse, Carla, during the day. Carla and she have been together for almost 18 years and love each other like family. At night, her mom, a doctor, takes over. They have a great relationship, playing games, talking about books, discussing the world, and more. The house is totally set up to allow her to live as normal a life as possible, even though she cannot leave the house. Ever.

And along comes a boy. A nice boy. A cute boy. He disrupts everything. And I mean everything.

Yoon's story is one that will pull you in from the start and makes you want to know if she leaves the house. Does she meet the boy? I won't reveal anymore than that so I don't ruin the story.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell

Title: Red Mist
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Year Published: 2011

Genre: Adult fiction (mystery)
Pages: 498
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (Georgia)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
 Dr. Kay Scarpetta is driving through Savannah's Lowcountry, on her way to the Georgia Prison for Women. She has agreed to meet with an inmate there, a convicted sex offender and the mother of a vicious and diabolically brilliant killer. Against the advice of her FBI criminal intelligence agent husband, Benton Wesley, Scarpetta is determined to hear this woman out, and ton continue on her quest to find out exactly what happened to her former deputy chief, Jack Fielding, murdered six months before.

The quest is personal, but also professional. As the director of the new Cambridge Forensic Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and with her connection at the Department of Defense, Scarpetta has urgent reasons to learn more about a string of grisly killings that she feels are somehow linked to Fielding's death. The murder of a Savannah family years earlier, a young woman on death row, and then other inexplicable deaths that begin to occur at a breathtaking pace--all of these are related, but who is behind them, and why? Driven by inner forces, Scarpetta discovers connections that compel her to conclude that what she thought ended with Fielding's death and an attempt on her own life is only the beginning of something far more destructive: a terrifying terrain of conspiracy and potential terrorism on an international scale.

Review: I am a real Patricia Cornwell fan and have read almost all 19 of her Kay Scarpetta mysteries. I tend to read about one a year to get my "fix." I wouldn't rank this one in the top, but as always, it was intriguing, informative, and a pretty good storyline.

I liked that Cornwell included a lot of characters we have met before in her previous books. The victim, Jack Fielding, has been in and out of the books, Jamie Berger is a DA we've seen quite a bit of. Of course, Benton (husband), Lucy (niece), and Marino (colleague) all  play major roles, which I like. I love having characters that I am comfortable with: I know their personalities; their backgrounds; etc.

The reason this book didn't quite resonate with me is that I found the storyline confusing. It was vague in the first half and I felt a drift. By the end it made sense, but it felt a little late for me. I do really enjoy reading about the forensic parts of the Patricia Cornwell novels, how medical examiners go about using DNA, fibers, toxins, etc is fascinating.