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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

REVIEW: Darktown, by Thomas Mullen

Responding to orders from on high, the Atlanta Police Department is forced to hire its first black officers, including war veterans Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith. The newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers; they aren’t allowed to arrest white suspects, drive squad cars, or set foot in the police headquarters.
When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man turns up dead, Boggs and Smith suspect white cops are behind it. Their investigation sets them up against a brutal cop, Dunlow, who has long run the neighborhood as his own, and his partner, Rakestraw, a young progressive who may or may not be willing to make allies across color lines. Among shady moonshiners, duplicitous madams, crooked lawmen, and the constant restrictions of Jim Crow, Boggs and Smith will risk their new jobs, and their lives, while navigating a dangerous world—a world on the cusp of great change.

Pre-civil rights Atlanta, Georgia. Black officers, policeman almost in name only, as far as the department is concerned. It really didn't matter what you "said" they were, they dealt with discrimination and hate just like any other non-white person.

Really an amazing book. Detailed, graphic, and real. Real in ways I wish I knew a little more about now, and wish no one had ever had to know about. The racism, especially within the police department, was hard to stomach. I don't like the derogatory language (the "n" word), but I accept that it's part of the culture and times the story is set in. There's a lot to think about in just considering this aspect of Darktown. A lot.

The crime drama story line is a vehicle for all of the cultural/societal/historical dealings in this story. The mystery is well-crafted, thought out, but not too exacting. I really didn't know for sure what the answers were until the police did. I can't frequently say that, since I usually have it sorted out and only continue reading the book to see how long it takes the characters to figure out the story.

Challenging read if only because it makes you think quite a bit about the time period. Definitely Adult for YA, in terms of school library collections. It will engross many different readers.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Atria Books through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

REVIEW: The Leaving, by Tara Altebrando

Eleven years ago, six kindergartners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.
Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max--the only one who hasn't come back. Which leaves Max's sister, Avery, wanting answers. She wants to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story. But as details of the disappearance begin to unfold, no one is prepared for the truth.

Could be one of those "ripped from the headlines" kind of stories. Where did 6 five-year-olds disappear to, literally from under the noses of parents and school officials--ON A SCHOOL BUS even. (Frankly, if this ever really did happen and I learned of it, I'd quit working and never let my child near a school bus. Ever.) 
I enjoyed the whole book, really had to tear myself away from it and deal with reality. The characters are really interesting and I feel like Altebrando did a great job with an interesting development challenge. I mean, seriously, how do you develop characters who have zero memories of the last 11 years, and only marginally more of their 5 years before that? In my mind, that's more than creating a character, that's creating a character who doesn't even know himself.
The story itself is wonderful. The switch in perspectives (2 of the returned and 1 family member of another of the kids) is really interesting. The clues they have and the questions that come up for each of them. I would've like to see more of the other returned teenagers, because I don't feel like some of the ultimate resolution was as "neat" as it appeared to be.
The only real "ehs" I have about this book is the timeline and resolution. Unless I missed some queues, time from "return" to "all questions answered" was 2 weeks-ish. Yeah, not realistic. I know there's a difficulty in dragging things out in YA, and the chance of losing readers because of it, but...too fast. This isn't CSI.
As for the resolution, timeline aside, it was too quick. There were some interesting twists (one I'd never seen coming, one that is hinted at a couple of times if you're observant), but it felt like a punch list was created for the ending and it had to be run through. That being said, not ALL questions are answered, but that just adds to the really good premise and character line--the kids STILL don't know what really happened in those 11 years, and have scant half-memories.
Would I add it to my library? Yes. And I'd use it for book club because I think it could stem some great discussion and encourage my writers.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Bloomsbury USA Children's through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

REVIEW: The Hidden Twin, by Adi Rule

For eighteen years a girl with no name, a Redwing, has been hidden away in a small attic room within a city of hissing pipes and curving temples perched on the side of the great volcano, Mol, while her sister, Jey-identical except for her eyes-has lived her life in public as an only child. Their father had hoped the hidden girl would one day grow up to be a normal human girl and not the wicked creature mythology has promised, so he secretly spared her life as an infant.
But when she switches places with her sister, striking up a flirtation with the son of the Empress while working in the royal gardens and gets attacks by two suspicious priests on her journey home, she is forced to call forth fire to protect herself, unleashing her previously dormant powers and letting her secret out. She soon catches the attention of a cult with a thousand year old grudge as well as a group of underground rebels, both seeking her for their own gain. But when her sister goes missing and the Redwing uncovers a great plot to awaken Mol and bring fiery destruction upon them all, she is forced to embrace her powers.

Certainly makes for an interesting story. Different kind of fantasy world, with its own lore and mythology, that apparently has some truth to it. I like the internal struggle the Redwing has going on, "am I good, or am I bad?" I loved that the the "hidden" twin is the one that is real and the sister with the life is so one dimensional (and not just because the story is told by the Redwing). It's rather telling about the society in general.

But, the world. Part of me felt like this was a story that took place in a world I should already be familiar with from a previous novel. Only, from what I can tell, this may be a one and done for this story line/world. It seemed to be taken for granted that the reader knew whys and whats for things that happened and existed in the world. And was this a world-world, or a part of a bigger picture world. I just don't know. Being a reader that is drawn to the world as much as the characters and stories themselves, this one lost me. 

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from St. Martin's Press/St. Martin's Griffin through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, February 19, 2016

REVIEW: Firstlife, by Gena Showalter

Firstlife (An Everlife Novel)



Tenley "Ten" Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she'll live—after she dies. 

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death. 

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she's drawn to isn't where the boy she's falling for lives? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

Oh my, what a story of good and evil, love, soul-searching, and coming of age. It's a unique premise, very detailed, very complex. To think that you get another chance at life, but it's based on an eternity changing choice you'll make in the first one. To essentially be free to make that choice, but both sides (and sometimes your parents) are doing everything they can--and then some--to tip the scales. I have to admit, I loved the story.


The entire book (read it on Kindle, but it's like 400+ pages in print) is about Ten not being able to choose a side, or a boy. I sped through some sections because, I get it, she can't choose. Sure the story elements kept me involved, but it just kept circling back to her not being able to choose.

That aside. The action draws you in. The fight scenes are a bit gory, and the love triangle is predictable. But there are some serious twists in the family story that surprise.

I'm looking forward to the next installment in the series. There are some holes to this story, leaving me as a reader wanting some answers and clarification.

**This book will be available for purchase February 23, 2016.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Harlequin TEEN through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

REVIEW: The President's Shadow, by Brad Meltzer

Book 3 of The Culper Ring Series

A severed arm, found buried in the White House Rose Garden.

A lethal message with terrible consequences for the Presidency.

And a hidden secret in one family's past that will have repercussions for the entire nation.

I'm not sure I can be objective in this review. You see, I seriously seriously  "heart" Brad Meltzer and everything he writes or does with History Channel.

This book is actually the 3rd in the Culper Ring Series. There's a lot of history (George Washington formed the Culper Ring) mixed in to this modern day mystery. The book stands alone, despite being very tied to the series. You don't "hurt" for not having all the details of the back stories, but you'll likely find yourself hunting down books 1 and 2 to get them. 

Meltzer paints pictures. You can't help but vividly imagine locations and scenes. Character development (which I tend to find tricky for most authors) is really well done. Not only are they described in such a way that you can easily visualize and build in your own mind precisely that person--mannerisms, psychological profiles, even speech patterns. I tend to "hear" voices in my head as I read, and there is a distinct voice for each major player in this story line.

In a YA collection, this book might fill a very specific niche (mystery loving future-archivist/librarian sorts) or it might fit a wide-range (mystery lovers, stories with ties to history, people who just enjoy a good story and get invested in characters). It's worth the read, and so are the first 2 books in the series.

**This title will be available June 16, 2015.

Book 1 of The Culper Ring Series
Book 2 of The Culper Ring Series

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Grand Central Publishing through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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