The Lies That Bind by Lisa & Laura Roecker

The Lies That Bind by Lisa & Laura RoeckerThe Lies That Bind by Lisa & Laura Roecker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars!

Sequels don’t always live up to their predecessors, but THE LIES THAT BIND certainly delivers. I wasn’t sure what to expect from book 1, THE LIAR SOCIETY, but I found it to be a terrific read. I really liked Kate, and I was personally glad (since she’s 15) the book didn’t move into any “edgy” territory where her teenage love drama is concerned. THE LIES THAT BIND was equally satisfying on that score. The story is engaging and, while I had my suspicions, the mystery kept me guessing and turning pages right to the very end. The ending was perfect and set the stage for an exciting finale. I’m eager to see what the Roecker sisters have up their sleeves for Kate in book 3. I’m also curious to know what color Kate’s hair will be next! ūüôā

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Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtOkay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars!

This may well be the best book I’ve listened to this year.
(Although honestly the title and the cover still baffle me.)

Set against a back drop of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, this coming of age story will have you rooting for Doug Swieteck from the very start.

It’s Doug’s voice that gives this story both its charm and its unexpected power. No self-pity. No angst. He’s just a troubled 14-year-old¬†junior high school boy from a troubled home, trying to make his way in a new town and a new school. His simple acceptanace of the way things are compelled me to WANT things to change for him for the better.

After an unplanned visit to the local public library, Doug is captivated by the beauty of several [art print] plates of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. It’s through his study of these plates that Doug discovers not only an unexpected talent for art, but a new way of understanding his own life through the paintings themselves which become a powerful theme running throughout the book.

This is one story I absolutely did not want to see come to an end.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa MeyerCinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars!

If you like Science Fiction and classic fairy tales, read this book!

Cinder is one of the most interesting characters I’ve read in a while. Unlike her fairy tale counterpart (Cinderella), Cinder is smart, brave, not helpless, and lots of common sense. ¬†I liked her immediately. ¬†Cinder also has a fantastic voice that drew me in and kept me wanting to know what would happen to her.

Set on Earth in the post-WWIV future, the story takes place in New¬†Beijing, the plague-ridden capital of the new Eastern Commonwealth. ¬†Make no mistake, this isn’t another futuristic dystopian fantasy; this story is pure Science Fiction where cyborgs, androids and netlinks abound!

While there are places the writing could have gone much deeper into¬†world-building: fleshing out the intricacies of this new futuristic society, its complicated politics, its culture, etc., I for one appreciated Ms. Meyer’s light touch. ¬†Even so, there’s plenty of world-building here¬†to set the appropriate tone for a story that has real emotional power.

Initially, I simply enjoyed the clever ways Cinder mirrors the classic elements of the original Cinderella fairy tale (no spoilers), but the deeper I got into the story, the more I appreciated how much work went in to crafting this unique retelling.  Although the novel uses the well-known Cinderella tale to organize the high-level plot structure, the story that unfolds from there is nothing like what you might expect and still manages to hold some delightful surprises!

I read a lot in the young adult space and I’m always on the lookout for a well written story I’d feel comfortable in recommending to my 14-year-old daughter, who loves both classic literature and classic fairy tales. ¬†Cinder is one book recommendation I’d happily pass along.

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Pearl by Jo Knowles

Pearl by Jo KnowlesPearl by Jo Knowles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars!

A beautifully told story of friendship, honesty, love and forgiveness. ¬†Thoughtfully written and expertly told, the characters are lovingly drawn and every one of them feels like someone I might know in real life. ¬†Pearl is one of those rare books I know I’ll treasure reading again and again.

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Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe by Beth RevisAcross the Universe by Beth Revis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars!

A delightful surprise!

This book was not at all what I was expecting. The story is a compelling blend of science fiction, mystery, love, secrets, intrigue and more all unfolding within a society specifically engineered for life on a generation ship – Godspeed. Thoughtful and exciting, parts of the story will keep you guessing until the very end!

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Chime by Franny Billingsley

Chime by Franny BillingsleyChime by Franny Billingsley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars!

I admit when I first read the description of this book where the character of Eldric is described has having “golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair” I almost passed it by.¬† I was afraid I might be in for a glossy romance novel. (Not my thing).¬† However, several friends on Goodreads whose opinions I regard gave it high marks, so I decided there must be more to it.¬† There is.¬† And thankfully, none of it is glossy romance.

The characters are well-crafted and appropriately sympathetic, while the language used to describe them is in keeping with the setting of the novel.¬† And speaking of setting (The Swampse), I don’t recall when I’ve last encountered a book where the setting so thoroughly permeated the story that it felt like a character all by it self.¬† It is quite beautifully done.

The storyline is equally engaging.  It is as much an exciting mystery, full of danger and old swamp magic, as it is a thoughtful examination at the power guilt and shame have in affecting our experience and our memories.

I’m so glad I didn’t pass this one by.

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The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood by Margaret AtwoodThe Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Year of the Flood is a dystopian novel told from the perspective two characters with different points of view. The first is a first person account from a character full of youthful innocence. The other is a third person account of a character, faithful, dutiful and full of survival wisdom born through life experience. The story shifts between these points of view as well as shifting in time from the days directly following ‚ÄėThe Flood‚Äô to the events during the years preceding it.

The Year of the Flood is a thoughtful exploration of a culture similar to 21st century western society yet even more deeply defined by vain consumerism and corporate power. Atwood doesn’t shy away from putting more than a few thumbs subtly in some deserving societal eyes without ever actually naming any names.

Beautiful writing, memorable characters and plenty of thoughtful insights offer the reader plenty of opportunities for reflection. If you’re looking for a thoughtful, well-written, dystopian novel, The Year of the Flood may be just what you’re looking for.

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Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis Elijah Of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautifully and lovingly told, the story of 11-year-old, free-born Elijah Freeman is one planted firmly amid the harsh reality of black slavery, yet rooted by an uplifting and enduring hope. Seeing the world through Elijah’s eyes in some ways is like seeing the world for the first time. Just spend a little time with Elijah and then you’ll understand.

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Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver by Maggie StiefvaterShiver by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to try this one based on the ratings and comments of my Goodreads friends though I was skeptical.¬† I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.¬† I’m not at all into werewolf stories (this was my first in fact) and I was prepared for a tale of a dangerous werewolf boyfriend who’s bad but really good and just misunderstood.¬† Ack!

This story isn’t like that.

It’s first and foremost a love story, not a horror story.¬† What I appreciated the most is that the werewolves in this story aren’t “monsters”.¬† Unlike some stories where the protagonist’s risk of being murdered by their monster lover (should that lover give into their “true” nature) is somehow supposed to add to the elicit danger of the story, the power in this book is emotional as the protagonists themselves grapple with a reality that constantly threatens to keep them apart, yet neither character poses a direct threat of mortal danger to the other.

The writing is beautiful.  The characters are well-drawn, believably flawed and grow and change naturally as the story unfolds.

I’m definitely considering giving Linger a try.

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Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century #1) by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At its heart,¬†Boneshaker, set in 1880, is the story of Briar Wilkes and her son, Ezekiel, estranged from society and from one another by the mysterious and fateful actions of Briar’s husband (Zeke‚Äôs father), Leviticus Blue, and Zeke’s desperate attempt to rewrite history to try and clear his father’s name (along with the threat of zombies thrown in for good measure).

As genre goes, Boneshaker falls under the growing genre of steampunk.¬† Boneshaker was my first real experience with steampunk; it was definitely a worthwhile introduction.¬† What makes Boneshaker unique within that genre (zombie infestation aside) is that it’s set in North America rather than the traditional Victorian setting of London, England.¬† The zombie aspect provides an element of danger and even a touch of horror, but never pushes the horror envelope very far, lacking the overly-gratuitous descriptions of zombie carnage that might turn off slightly more sensitive readers, like me.

Ms. Priest takes nice advantage of the classic scary movie technique where moviegoers can more often hear the monster, without actually seeing it.¬† Throughout the story, thundering hoards of zombies (“rotters”) can been heard shambling with hunting intent behind closed doors, in outer hallways, on upper floors and outside just beyond the range visibility thanks to the fog of Blight gas filling the streets of downtown Seattle.

It’s clear from reading Boneshaker that Ms. Priest has done her homework on Seattle history. However, unlike some stories where the author‚Äôs research ends up written into the story as lots of unnecessary, albeit sometimes interesting, descriptive information, Ms. Priest uses a light touch so the story flows quite naturally without giving the impression she‚Äôs trying hard to squeeze in her research so it doesn’t go to waste.¬† Additionally, Ms. Priest has intentionally crafted her setting as an *alternate* history, taking liberties where necessary to tell the story she wants to tell the way she wants to tell it.¬† The result is that the story‚Äôs history comes off quite believably (again, zombie infestation aside) although I‚Äôd be curious to know what Seattle area readers might have to say after reading it.

In addition to its two main characters, Briar and Ezekiel, Boneshaker hosts a number of memorable characters (both likeable and unlikeable) which further bring the story to life; although it hardly seems appropriate to refer to them as secondary both because they are complexly written and because they are so essential to the integrity of the story.  By the end I found myself caring as much about what happens to each of them as I did about Briar and Zeke.

I definitely have Boneshaker on my list of books to read again.

NOTE: At the time of this review Boneshaker has been nominated for a Hugo Award.

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