Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A REUTRN TO VIRTUE by Elaine S. Dalton

When Elaine Dalton's oldest son left for his mission, she wanted to do something that would help her develop some of the same kind of discipline and self-control that he was learning as a missionary. So she decided to run a marathon.
Now, years later, she has taken her experiences and insights related to running and woven them into an analogy for an attribute and value she feels passionate about: virtue.
"I have embarked on a journey to reinstate the word virtue into our vocabulary and our lives," Sister Dalton writes. "We call for a social reform, but what is really needed is a moral reform — a call for a return to virtue." As we run life's race, it is virtue, meaning purity and power, that will sustain us through the long miles.
A Return to Virtue is an invitation and a guide to running well the marathon that we call mortality. "Give it 100 percent," says Sister Dalton, "and one day we will be hugging each other and celebrating — victorious — at the finish line!" 

First line:
"Several years ago, I qualified to run the Boston Marathon."

Good, uplifting LDS book on virtue and modest. It's not just about the clothes, but it's also about attitude and what is in your heart. Where can a virtuous woman be found in this world? In the mirror. We all can strive to be virtuous and examples of modesty to those around us.
This book is full of stories, thoughts, experiences and scripture.

A couple of my favorite quotes from the book:
"When you were baptized, you left the world and entered the kingdom." Elder Hales

"Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is non more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth." President Gordon B. Hinckley

4 STARS

Monday, July 29, 2013

THE EMPEROR'S SOUL by Brandon Sanderson

A heretic thief is the empire’s only hope in this fascinating tale that inhabits the same world as the popular novel, Elantris.

Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead.

Probing deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that Shai’s forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.

Brimming with magic and political intrigue, this deftly woven fantasy delves into the essence of a living spirit.


First line:
Gaotona ran his fingers across the thick canvas, inspecting one of the greatest works of art he had ever seen."

I'm pretty sure I've never read anything of Brandon's this short. Not even a prologue. :)
 In Shai's world, any object or person, can be rewritten. Their 'soul' can be manipulated to resemble or become something it isn't. Shai is given the task to rewrite the Emperor's soul and bring him mentally back to life. Many of the leaders come to her and ask her to write a back door to the Emperor so they can control him and the kingdom.
Shai has one hundred days to study the Emperor's life through journals and interviews. Then she has to make sure the 'soulstamps' work for which she will apply them to the Emperor.
It was fun to read this book. I enjoyed to smarts of Shai and the intrigue of Gaotona. And the magic was cool. 
This book is up for a Hugo award for novella.


Rating: G
V: No
S: No
L: No

Liked:
Shai
Gaotona
Storyline
Book Cover
Short ;)
  
Disliked:
Nothing

4 STARS

DARK MEMORIES by Jeffrey S. Savage

There are things in the darkness—things much worse than the tracks and abandoned pieces of equipment that trip the children up and gash at their feet and legs—things that brush silently past them, touching their faces before disappearing again.

1977—In the sleepy Town of Twin falls, Colorado, what starts as a carefree school picnic ends in tragedy when six children disappear into an abandoned gold mine. Six enter the dark void—and days later, only five emerge. After an arduous search, the hunt for the last child is called off and the mine entrance is blasted. Little Frankie is left behind, alone in the darkness.

He is coming.

2011—Police Chief Cal Hunt’s investigation into the recent string of bizarre murders in Twin Falls takes a chilling turn when he learns that each of the victims was a survivor of the Seven Stars mine incident. Cal realizes that they share a dark secret—the truth about what happened to Frankie.

To drag them deeper.

With time running out for the remaining survivors, Cal must face a killer that defies all logical explanation. Because no matter how Cal analyzes the facts, there is only one conclusion: A supernatural force is reaching out from the depths to reclaim those who escaped more than thirty years before. And it will not rest until it takes them all . . .


Into the darkness


First line:
"What do you mean you can't find the children?"

And that is how you start out a horror novel. 
Three things I liked about this book:
1. Jeff is a good, clean writer
2. He develops his characters well
3. He had a few red herrings in this story to throw off guessing who was the killer

This is a darker book of Jeff's. It wasn't so scary that I couldn't sleep at night but I did tense, once or twice, when I heard a mysterious noise outside. 
In the 1970's, six children were lost in an abandoned mine; only five were found alive. The story that unfold in 2011 is sad, horrible and scary. Cal, the local police chief, has to solve one mystery after another and is chilled by the clues tracing back to the tragic mine accident. 
Who is cold enough to kill? All signs point to the poor, dead boy who was buried forever in the mine when the authorities blew up the entrance. Has he come back from the dead to exact revenge on those who left him behind?
Or is there something deeper, more evil happening?
I recommend this book if you enjoy a good, clean, scary book.
I don't recommend this book if you don't like the supernatural and demons.


Rated: PG 15
V: Scary, tense moments. People murdered (but not graphic)
L: No
S: No

Liked:
Cal
Touch of romance

Disliked:
No solid clues as to the real killer
Demons

(I'm rating this lower only because it is dark).
3 1/2 STARS

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

INVALUABLE by Holly J Wood

help wanted
Sixteen-year-old girl seeks advice on how to reach out to a sister who has become distant; how to make up with my best friend, who spends every moment with her new boyfriend;how to avoid losing my job over working on Sundays; and how to figure out who has been putting love notes in my locker.
Applicants are also required to provide advice on how to handle being head-over-heels for my prom date's best friend—who happens to be the hottest guy in school.
Math tutoring a plus.
Interested persons may contact Eliza Moore.
Sound like a tall order? Well, that is what Eliza Moore is up against during her sophomore year of high school. But when her great-grandmother begins visiting Eliza in her dreams, everything starts to change. These dreams take Eliza back in time to see extraordinary women who help teach her about eight important values. As Eliza learns more about these women and the values they lived by, she discovers the courage and confidence she needs to face her challenges—and her secret admirer.

First line:
""Eliza! Honey, please hurry down for breakfast.""

Rating: PG
V: No
L: No
S: No

Good, clean LDS book about virtues and standing for what is right and righteous. Young Women will enjoy this book as it addresses temptations and worldly conduct and what they can do to strengthen themselves.


Liked:
Young Women values

Disliked:
Nothing

4 STARS

Monday, July 22, 2013

TRANSPARENT by Natalie Whipple

Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.


First line:
"I nearly died the second I was born."

Pitched as Godfather meets X-Men is a pretty good assessment. There is a mafia and there are people with special powers.
And a story about an invisible girl? Cool. Poor Fiona is a teen and invisible. Literally, invisible. I enjoyed reading her storyline and how she changed and grew as a person.
I liked the neighbors! And Seth.
I hoped for more reconciliation between Fiona and her mom.  And maybe a little more scenes with her dad.
A quick, fun story with a cast of interesting characters. Ms. Whipple has debuted a great book. Keep 'em coming, Natalie!


Rating: PG 13
V: Some fighting
L: Sprinkling of swear words
S: Kissing

Liked:
Seth
Special abilities
The twist

Disliked:
Fiona's treatment of her mom
Ending came too quickly

4 STARS

Sunday, July 21, 2013

CODE WORD by Traci Hunter Abramson

The media portrayed the military operation as a complete success, but Navy SEAL Jay Wellman wouldn’t describe it that way. He was there. As he tries to come to terms with his role that fateful night, he notices something different about his teammates and wonders if there may be more to their beliefs than he first thought.

When she heard the gunshots, Carina Channing knew the past had caught up with her. She may have changed her last name, but she can’t change who her father is. Carina understands the evil that lurks in “The Family,” and she is determined to steer clear of that life and any other emotional connections.

When they meet, it seems Jay and Carina have only two things in common—mutual attraction and the fact that they are both struggling to overcome devastating trauma. But when a member of The Family arrives and upsets the delicate balance in Carina’s life, Jay chisels away at the barrier Carina has erected around her heart and offers himself as her protector and friend. But can Jay’s Navy SEAL skills, military connections, and loyal Saint Squad friends keep Carina and her sisters safe? And with their different beliefs, can Jay and Carina’s friendship grow into anything more?


First line:
"Carina Channing navigated her way through the outskirts of Denver and listened to her two younger sisters chat about their summer plans."

I enjoy reading Traci's stories for three reasons:
1. She knows what she's talking about when it comes to knowledge about CIA, FBI and other secretive stuff.
2. She develops her all characters really, really, well.
3.  She always has great romantic tension.

Carina's father is a mob boss and in prison for killing his wife. Lou, a friend and bodyguard, has helped Carina and her two sisters stay away from the family and safe. Carina meets Jay, a Navy SEAL, and there is a connection between them but Carina doesn't trust anyone because of her crazy family. 
Jay is a good, strong man who isn't easily intimidated, even by people sent from the Mafia to gather up Carina and her sisters. Jay helps keep them safe when the bad guys come looking for them.
I enjoyed reading Jay's story and the story between Jay and Carina. I did skim a little on the parts where there was a lot of interior dialogue. But overall, this is a good, clean, intriguing read. Keep up the good work, Traci!


Rating: PG 13
V: Mafia, shootings, intense moments
L: No
S: No

Liked:
Jay! I loved Jay!

Disliked:
I had to wait to long for the main couple to get together :)
Skimming a little 

4 1/2 STARS

Monday, July 15, 2013

THE LOST GIRL by Sangu Mandanna

Eva's life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination—an echo. She was made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her "other," if she ever died. Eva spends every day studying that girl from far away, learning what Amarra does, what she eats, what it's like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But sixteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything and everyone she's ever known—the guardians who raised her, the boy she's forbidden to love—to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.


First line:
"I remember being in town with minna ma."

I can't rate this book. I never finished it. I tried. I got about a third of the way through and had to stop. I love the premise of the book, just not the way it was written. I never really connected to the characters except Sean. I was hoping it would be more unique but it followed the same formula of other books. Girl doesn't fit in; love triangle; girl must fight against prejudice, etc etc. It's not bad, it's just my expectations weren't meet.




Monday, July 8, 2013

BOYS, GIRLS & OTHER HAZARDOUS MATERIALS by Rosalind Wiseman

Looking for a new beginning after a terrible mean girl past, Charlie Healey realizes there's no escaping high school drama...

Charlie Healey thinks Harmony Falls is the beginning of a whole new life. Middle school was brutal. But high school is Charlie's big chance to start over and stay out of drama, except that on her first day she runs into Will, her ex-best friend, who had moved away. Now a varsity athlete and hotter than Charlie remembered, Will hangs with the crowd running the school. But Charlie doesn't understand their power until an innocent delivery guy falls victim to a near-deadly hazing prank.

Torn between doing what's right and her secret feelings for Will, Charlie must decide whether to turn in her very best friend or live with the guilt of knowing what he did.

Rosalind Wiseman's first novel for young adults is a fresh, funny, and juicy read about friendship, betrayal, and how far some will go to be accepted.


First line:
"Here's the deal."

What will you put up with to have friends?
Charlotte, AKA Charlie, was in a negative relationship in junior high and was ecstatic to leave it behind when she entered a different high school. The girls were mean, degrading and enjoyed putting others down. When something happened they didn't like, they resorted to bullying and cyber bullying.  Unfortunately, Charlie did not stand up for the other person nor did she stand up to her friends. That is hard to do!
But after Charlie finds friends who like her and are positive and stand by her, she develops into a stronger person. So when she gets the chance, she tells off her ex friends. Her BFF, Sydney, watches the exchange and is pretty proud and amazed at Charlie. So when a boy starts bullying Sydney, she takes a page out of Charlie's setting-down-mean-frenemies and tells him off. But she takes it a little further and Charlie feels she has to tell her friend to stop.
In the meantime, their is hazing going on and someone gets hurt. Charlie saw the whole incident and feels she has to tell someone but she's stopped by others because who do you tell? Adults? They don't really care. They are all about image and the schools reputation.
So Charlie has to make amends with her friend, find the courage to turn someone in for a hit-and-run and try to figure out the boy she's crushing on.
This is a good story about healthy relationships from girls to girls, boys/girls to girls/boys and teens to adults. The story was pretty balanced in adults who will help and understand to those who turn their head and ignore. And a good balance with stupid girls and smart ones. Also, the problems were real life problems that can be handled and this book teaches some ways to handle them.
The characters were written well and grew throughout the book.
I think this book is worth teens, boys, girls and parents, reading.



Rating: PG 14
V: Bullying, hazing
L: Swearing sprinkled throughout
S: Kissing

Liked:
 Sydney
Charlie
Will
Good look at healthy relationships

Disliked:
Excessive use of exclamation points!!!!

3 1/2 STARS

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

SONGS OF WILLOW FROST by Jamie Ford

Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.
Determined to find Willow, and prove his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigates the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive, but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.
Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping book will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.



First line:
"William Eng woke to the sound of a snapping leather belt and the shrieking of rust springs that supported the threadbare mattress of his army surplus bed."

Jamie Ford is a gifted writer. His talent is bringing places and times to life through good storytelling. This newest book of his is no exception.
Willow's life is never really her own. She does as others ask or demand. The era she lives in is not kind to the Chinese and everywhere she turns, she is looked down on, even in her own family. Her parents were singers and actors. Willow inherited a beautiful voice and is able to earn money by singing.
The chapters are either set in 1934, William's time (Willow's 12 yr old son), or 1921, telling about Willow's younger life.
I enjoyed Jamie's last book and was excited to see this one on netgalley so I requested it. I had a hard time reading it. Without spoiling the story, let's just say I got very frustrated with the story. I learned how hard and prejudice society was toward unwed mothers AND the Chinese people. The injustices were pointed out again and again and again and again. So much so that I started skimming. I wanted something positive to happen sometime!
I never really empathized with William. He didn't act twelve. I actually thought he was younger.
 I did like the romance between Willow and Colin but that one left a bitter aftertaste as well.
Finishing the book was hard, but I was determined to get through it. If not for Jamie's writing ability, I would have given up one third of the way through.



Rating: Adult reading
V: Bullies
L: No
S: Yes: one scene of rape, implied prostitution

Liked:
love story of Willow and Colin

Disliked:
Willow's constantly harsh life


3 STARS

Thanks to netgalley for the preview

Monday, July 1, 2013

TIGER'S CURSE (The Tiger Saga #1) by Colleen Houck

Passion. Fate. Loyalty.

Would you risk it all to change your destiny?

The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.

Tiger’s Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.


First line:
"The prisoner stood with his hands tied in front of him."

I really liked the idea of this story. A curse that spanned hundreds of years that needed broken, a beautiful tiger and handsome prince. What could be better? Well, maybe an editor who put this book through one more revision. But I did enjoy the story and adventures.

Rating: PG
S: No; teen lusting, some kissing
L: No
V: Some fighting, intense scenes

Liked:
Ren 

Disliked:
Constantly referring to Ren's strong chest, cobalt blue eyes, beautiful face. 
Kelsey's tantrums 

2 1/2 STARS