Month: August 2014

The Body in the Woods by April Henry | Mini Book Review

Posted August 27, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 5 Comments

The Body in the Woods by April Henry | Mini Book ReviewThe Body in the Woods by April Henry
Series: Point Last Seen #1
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 17, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 263
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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1 Stars

In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.

*sigh* Maybe April Henry and I just aren’t the best match? I don’t know! I love mysteries. LOVE them. They are all I’ve been wanting to read lately. And sadly, The Body in the Woods did nothing for me. I thought the idea had potential, but I was also worried that reading about teenage detectives would cause the “you-have-to-suspend-a-lot-of-logic” disease. It did. I felt that the entire story was improbable, and that made me focus less on the story and more on the details that made me go, “Ummm… No, that would never happen.” And I know that this book was inspired by a real teen volunteer search and rescue team, but still. I felt like the kids in this book got into way too much danger, went against the police officers they were working with way too often, and basically took over the entire investigation. I can’t imagine real life teenagers getting into the kinds of situations the teens in this book did.

At times I felt like I was reading an episode of CSI or any other crime drama on TV. I drowned in the endless details of how the characters performed searches, etc. I usually love detail, but the writing was so uninteresting and almost mechanical. There was no fluidity from sentence to sentence, and frequently there wasn’t even continuity between chapters. I liked the idea of the story being told from multiple perspectives (those of the three teens), but they were written in such a way that I never connected with the characters. When they spoke to each other or to officers, they spoke in a way that made them sound like they had memorized their training manuals and were just regurgitating information in the hopes that they were right. This made them come off as immature, leaving me to believe even LESS in their abilities as members of a search and rescue team.

The mystery seemed very thinly weaved. I knew who the culprit was almost immediately. His chapters were the most interesting, and I wished I had been more in his head than in the heads of our manual-reciting teenagers. The why’s were not given much attention, and I was never entirely clear on the motives of the culprit. I found it odd that the mystery would not have been solved if these kids had not been involved, yet they caused so many additional problems for the police that they seemed useless at times. Are the police really supposed to be that dumb? They arrested someone early on in the story with no actual evidence, and then closed the case. They had nothing on him except that he was making drugs. Drugs does not equal serial killer. When I think of all the times I’ve heard of the bad guy getting away on a technicality or a screw-up regarding the handling of evidence, I have NO idea why this guy was arrested at all. I just did not believe it.

Maybe I am just too old and skeptical to enjoy this book. Maybe I possess too much common sense, have read too many intricate and nail-biting mysteries, or have watched way too many crime dramas. Perhaps a younger audience would love this. Perhaps someone capable of suspending their disbelief would enjoy it as well. I just could not stop thinking how unbelievable this story was, not to mention the endless technical details and play-by-plays had my gasping for air. I felt completely disconnected from the story, and I’m super disappointed about that. I would not recommend this title to potential readers.

1 Stars

That Artsy Librarian | This Semester Might Kill Me

Posted August 22, 2014 by Jana in About Me, That Artsy Librarian / 8 Comments

 

That Artsy Librarian is a feature all about my journey through graduate school as I work towards my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science.

 

So, I officially began my second year of graduate school on Monday, and I am already stressing to the max. I guess it’s not the beginning of the semester unless I’m flailing throughout the first week, before realizing I can do this because I’ve done it before. The thing is, though, I’m serious this time! I might not survive!

I’m taking two classes this semester (my counselor considers this a full load, and I’d be rather nuts for trying to stack on three courses, thus the reason the program takes three years…). One of them is Library Programming for Children and Young Teens. This one should be fun! I get to visit libraries, visit children’s book sections, interview a children’s librarian, develop a program (with a CRAFT. This is artsy librarian to the FULLEST.), and then present the program to a group of kids. How fun does that sound!? I’ll be fine. It’s the OTHER class I’m scared of.

I’m also taking The Organization of Information this semester, which is a required core course or I would have stayed as far away from it as possible. Basically, this class’s name is fancy talk for Cataloging. *cringe* My professor is very nice and helpful so far, but I am worried my brain is just not big enough for this class. He has mentioned several times that it’s a complicated course. He has mentioned that we will need to read some of class readings multiple times before they sink in. And he has said we have to learn two (TWO) cataloging coding languages (AACR2 and RDA). WHAT. I don’t even understand this class enough to tell you what our projects are like. I’ve begun reading the manuals for the coding languages, and I guess I’m too dumb to even figure out what I’m reading. The manuals are written using English words, but the way they are strung together has me so confused that I would probably understand Japanese better. I’m terrified. TERRIFIED. I can only hope that things will make more sense as we continue through the course, because right now I look pitiful.

So, is anyone else worried about this semester/year?
Have any of you taken Cataloging and survived?
Do any of you know AACR2 or RDA? Will I survive?
Basically, I need a pep talk here.


The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry | Mini Book Review

Posted August 18, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 1 Comment

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry | Mini Book ReviewThe Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 11, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 213
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3 Stars

“Take her out back and finish her off.”

She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know where she is, or why. All she knows when she comes to in a ransacked cabin is that there are two men arguing over whether or not to kill her.

And that she must run.

In her riveting style, April Henry crafts a nail-biting thriller involving murder, identity theft, and biological warfare. Follow Cady and Ty (her accidental savior turned companion), as they race against the clock to stay alive.

I have been on a real YA mystery kick lately, and The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die was the next one on my list. The premise sounded pretty exciting, and I had a feeling I would fly through it pretty quickly. I gobbled up the entire book in about two hours, which is pretty rare for me. April Henry laid the book out in such a way that you could not help but continue to read way past your bedtime. The chapters are short, the story never stops, and she wrote it in short, choppy sentences that made me read a lot faster than I usually do.

While I did read it super fast, and the book really kept me interested and intrigued, it was not the most memorable of mysteries. I feel like the kidnapped heroine frequently has amnesia in stories like these, and that plot element is getting pretty worn out. I know that in some cases it adds more mystery and excitement, but I feel like it’s a bit of an easy way out. There are many other ways to create a suspenseful mystery, and I would have liked to see something new. Amnesia also prevents readers from really getting to know and caring about the character, which is not always necessary in a mystery, but would have been nice in this case.

The main guy of the story, Ty, is a very likeable character, but I had a hard time believing that he would put himself in so much danger, skip school, and spend all of his money on a girl he doesn’t know at all. I don’t know, maybe I’m just not a charitable enough person, but I was really surprised at how quick he was to believe everything she said and make himself a target for the men after her. There was a little interest, but no romance at all, so I’m just surprised at how conveniently he fell into her life and pretty much saved her.

I was enjoying the story quite a bit until the huge info dump regarding biochemical and biological weapons. Things became even more outlandish and unbelievable as I began to learn who Cady was, why she was wanted, and what she had to do in order to fix everything. Things wrapped up so easily and seamlessly, even though these events in real life would have been a lot messier. I began to think of the book as science fiction, which helped me.

All in all, The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die is enjoyable and entertaining as long as you are willing to turn a blind eye to certain details and suspend quite a bit of disbelief. The characters and storyline are not memorable and the resolution comes faster and neater than I was expecting. I have read stronger mysteries, but April kept me reading late into the night and I’ll give her credit for that!

3 Stars

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn | Book Review

Posted August 14, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 3 Comments

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn | Book ReviewBroken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn
Series: Broken Hearts & Revenge #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends on May 13, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 339
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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1.5 Stars

Hot sun. Blue waves. New romances. Old secrets.

Gemma had her summer all planned out, but it takes a sharp turn when she gets dumped and finds herself back in the Hamptons after a five-year absence.

Being there puts her at risk of bumping into Hallie, her former best friends (that is, before Gemma ruined her life). But people don't hold grudges forever. Do they?

Gemma intends on making amends, but a small case of mistaken identity causes the people she knew years ago—including Hallie and her dreamy brother, Josh—to believe she's someone else. As though the summer wasn't complicated enough already.

Filled with summer sun, boys, and friendships gone sour, Katie Finn's first novel in the Broken Hearts and Revenge series sizzles and delights.

I was very excited to read Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend, because I was expecting a fun summer romance in the Hamptons. I knew Katie Finn was a pen name for Morgan Matson, and since I had not read any of Morgan’s books I was looking forward to seeing what kind of an author she is. Sadly, this book was not at all what I was hoping for. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. We’ve got Gemma, a 16-year-old girl who has been haunted by the fact that she literally ruined the life of her best friend, Hallie, and Hallie’s family when she was 11 years old. Oh. My. Gosh. When I say ruined, I mean RUINED. When I heard the story of what Gemma selfishly did this poor family, I lost all respect for her and never gained it back. Some might argue that she was just a kid, but she was not 5 or 6. She was 11. She totally knew what she was doing and the ramifications behind it.

She runs into Hallie and Hallie’s brother, Josh (who she had no idea was Hallie’s brother–seriously?), during a return trip to the Hamptons and decides to lie about who she is in order to “make amends”. I’m sorry, but in what universe does lying about who you are and lulling your friends into a false sense of security before dropping the bomb on them that you’re the life ruiner equal making amends and living happily ever after? How can anyone in their right mind think this is going to work? So, Gemma becomes Sophie for the summer and becomes besties with Hallie and a love interest for the romantically scarred Josh. My mind is screaming at this point.

2. I can’t like a book character who continually lies. Sophie’s (Gemma’s) cover is almost blown multiple times, and I kept wishing it would be. I wanted her to be caught in her lies because I just could not stand how she was manipulating and lying to two people she claimed to care about. I kept hoping she would grow up, buck up, and fess up. But she kept weaving this hugely tangled web of lies that became way too much.

3. I kept thinking that the entire story was extremely childish and immature. I felt too old for the story. I rarely feel this way with YA books because I can almost always find something to relate to, either from my younger years or my current life situations. I just could not this time, and that was disappointing.

4. Obviously, I did not connect with Gemma/Sophie, but I did not connect with anyone. I liked Josh and thought he was way too good to be mixed up in all this. But I was never privy to what he was feeling or thinking. I liked Hallie ok, but never trusted her. Maybe all the lies prevented connections, but that’s not a good thing.

5. The only redeeming part of the book was Gemma’s dad’s boss, Bruce. Bruce is hilarious. He’s trying to lose weight in really weird ways, yet sneaks junk food when his helpful assistant is not paying attention. I really, really liked him, and he brought a lot of humor to the story that needed to be there.

6. I had the ending pegged from the beginning. I’m very surprised that Gemma didn’t.

7. The ending was one of the worst, most frustrating endings I’ve read and left me mad at every character.

8. There was NO resolution whatsoever. I have no problems with trilogies, but when the first book ends having given me absolutely nothing, it leaves me with very little motivation to continue on to book 2.

All in all, the shenanigans that ensued as a result of Gemma’s lies were funny, but only because they were so absurd and a touch infuriating that I had to laugh. I was hoping for so much more from this book, with its cute cover and a synopsis that screamed summer fun. I’m come away with the realization that I like reading about nice characters, not characters who lie, plot revenge, and hurt other people. If you’re looking for a light summer read, I would suggest looking in to some other titles. I’m still very interested in Morgan Matson’s books, but will most likely pass on other Katie Finn books.

1.5 Stars

Lola Goes to the Doctor by Marcia Goldman | Children’s Book Review

Posted August 13, 2014 by Jana in Children's Book Review, Inner Child / 4 Comments

Lola Goes to the Doctor by Marcia Goldman
Published by: Creston Books on July 29, 2014
Pages: 32
Source: From the publisher
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Children will identify with Lola as she nervously waits to be called into the doctor’s office. Lola feels a little bit brave when the doctor looks into her ears, a little braver when he examines her teeth, and bravest of all when she gets a shot.

Lola Goes to the Doctor tackles a very scary subject in the minds of young children. When my sister was young, she would cry and cry for days when she found out she had to go to the doctor. She was deathly afraid of needles, to the point she had to be put on Valium just to handle a blood test! I remember my mom reading multiple books to my little sister about Cabbage Patch Kids visiting the doctor, the Berenstein Bears and their visit, Arthur’s doctor visit, and I’m sure that we would have had Lola’s book in our collection if it had been around 15-20 years ago. Who wouldn’t be comforted by that sweet puppy’s face as she sits patiently in the waiting room with other animal friends, meets the nice doctor, gets weighed, has her teeth and ears checked, has her temperature taken, and even gets a shot? I’ll admit, her face does get a bit sad when she sees the needle, but it’s an adorable sad face that is encouraging. She presents the message that it’s ok to be scared, but that everything will be ok.

I had the pleasure of meeting sweet little Lola and her owner, Marcia Goldman, at ALA Annual in Las Vegas in June. She is adorable and so well behaved! I am not the least bit surprised that she was able to pose for all of these pictures. There are no illustrations in this book, just photos of Lola’s visit to the doctor. I feel like this is actually a huge selling point because it gives children the opportunity to see what a doctor’s office is like. It’s not scary. It’s clean, has fun toys in the waiting room, and smiling doctors roam the halls. The pictures are clear, colorful, and tell the story on their own. This is another huge selling point because children can flip through the book and understand its message without needing to know how to read. Lola talks about being brave like a big dog, and mentions her future visits to the doctor with a little bit of excitement. It’s no big deal at all!

While I certainly can’t guarantee that this book will solve all problems with the hard task of getting a child to the doctor (I still hate it myself!), I am sure it will aide in calming the child’s fears a bit. It presents information in a clear manner and encourages children to be big and brave like Lola. I’d definitely recommend it to elementary and public libraries, as well as to parents and/or caregivers who would like some help in presenting the concept of doctor visits in a delicate manner.


Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas | Book Review

Posted August 11, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 5 Comments

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas | Book ReviewDangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
Published by Simon Pulse on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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4 Stars

Paradise in Aruba quickly gets gruesome in this "ripped-from-the-headlines thriller (Kirkus Reviews)" with a twist that defies the imagination.

It's Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives.

But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations. As Anna sets out to find her friend's killer, she discovers harsh revelations about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.

Awaiting the judge's decree, it becomes clear to Anna that everyone around her thinks she is not only guilty, but also dangerous. And when the whole story comes out, reality is more shocking than anyone could ever imagine...

Ok, so I could not hold off on reading Dangerous Girls any longer after continually reading how insane it made my friends! Dangerous Girls came with a lot of dangerous hype, and I hoped so much that it would live up to the masterpiece I had assumed it would be in my own mind. it DID. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I think it goes without saying that my mind was completely shredded. I was flipping pages and staying up until all hours of the night, holding my eyelids open to try and figure out what was going on! My first thoughts upon finishing were (according to my Goodreads status after finishing the book at o’dark thirty):

What the HECK? What planet did this book come from? If I weren’t such a lady, I’d be swearing right now. What just happened?

2. Some people say Dangerous Girls is predictable, by I had NO IDEA who did it. None. I thought I had an idea, though, but my thoughts kept jumping around to everyone. And my lack of coherent thinking had nothing to do with the author’s writing style or her choices in the details she revealed. We were given so many clues, but I could not put them together until the book was over and I went, “WHAT THAT MAKES SENSE WHY DIDN’T I KNOW!!!??”. It was just so twisted and crazy! And the ending just iofhaergstgdrjtkgnsrgiaefiajefraorejfaerg.

3. I was so fascinated by Anna and Elise’s super weird relationship. These girls were TOXIC when mixed together. Were they friends? Enemies? Lovers? All three? None of the above? They brought out the worst in each other, and their intense obsession with being best friends forEVER was just creepy. These girls are not your typical best friends, allowing drugs, alcohol, parties, and shifty men to dull their senses and fuel their obsessions. So many lines were crossed that I honestly had no idea whether I should be ok with it or not.

4. I found myself not really liking anyone in the book, which I find very rare in books I actually liked. It’s hard to read books where you don’t like anyone. I felt extremely bad for Anna, and I wanted her to get out of prison SO BAD. But I didn’t like her. I’m not really sure why. And her “friends” became enemies very quickly after Anna was arrested, so I didn’t like any of them. I think I was so engrossed in the whodunit and the little details that the characters slipped through the cracks. I had absolutely no problems with this, though. I was actually happy it worked out this way.

5. EVERYONE is shady. The prosecutor, Anna, the boyfriend Tate, every friend, the men Elise meets before her death, the judge. Reporters kept digging up all kinds of information about everyone, which gave me more layers to think through. Everyone seemed to be hiding something. I just loved that I kept questioning everyone and everything.

6. The reader is witness to Anna’s interrogations, preliminary hearings, prison time, trial, TV interviews, etc. We also get to jump into her head and feel her thoughts and see her memories of happier times. She feels so much anger and frustration, betrayal, grief, and fear. She has flashbacks of her healthy relationships with Elise and Tate. We get to know Anna so well, even though people reveal details that make you question whether or not you know her at all. I loved being with her throughout the entire process.

7. The ending. WHAT. THE. CRAP. I still have so many questions and so many thoughts. Abigail Haas is brilliant.

Basically, you need to get yourself a copy of one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. It has every creepy element you could think of, plus everything else you didn’t realize you wanted. I can’t get over how I just didn’t see it. I’m thinking a re-read is in my future because I’ve just got to see what I missed! And I can’t wait to read more from Abigail Haas. She has a crazy imagination/mind, and I want LOTS more from her.

4 Stars