Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Review: The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

Title: The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi
Author: Neal Bascomb
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 256
Genre: Non-fiction, History, Young Adult
Rating: 3.5/5
Source: Netgalley

The book blurb:

“A thrilling spy mission, a moving Holocaust story, and a first-class work of narrative nonfiction.

In 1945, at the end of World War II, Adolf Eichmann, the head of operations for the Nazis' Final Solution, walked into the mountains of Germany and vanished from view. Sixteen years later, an elite team of spies captured him at a bus stop in Argentina and smuggled him to Israel, resulting in one of the century's most important trials -- one that cemented the Holocaust in the public imagination.

THE NAZI HUNTERS is the thrilling and fascinating story of what happened between these two events. Survivor Simon Wiesenthal opened Eichmann's case; a blind Argentinean and his teenage daughter provided crucial information. Finally, the Israeli spies -- many of whom lost family in the Holocaust -- embarked on their daring mission, recounted here in full. Based on the adult bestseller HUNTING EICHMANN, which is now in development as a major film, and illustrated with powerful photos throughout, THE NAZI HUNTERS is a can't-miss work of narrative nonfiction for middle-grade and YA readers.”

Reading ‘The Nazi Hunters’ was definitely an eye opener to the trials the Jews faced during the Holocaust. With vivid images and word descriptions, the true challenges that occurred during this time period were eloquently displayed.

This book also had a great plot and an engaging tale as well as suspenseful characters. The whole story, was entertaining to the very end. And honestly, when I first realized what details Bascomb was going to go into, I silently groaned. Like, why in the world did I choose this book? But to my pleasant surprise, every detail helped better portray the plot – everything required attention and thought. Basically, ‘The Nazi Hunters’ definitely isn’t a light read to pick up out of nowhere; you have to actually be ready to pay attention and focus on the tiniest of details.

The characters in this book were also very enjoyable. As the reader, you are introduced to each individual and their motives behind the attack as well as what they have against Eichmann. But even though the characters were good, at times I felt that Bascomb just shoved them all into your face. Yes, you learned about them, but it was just so much information to comprehend at one time. And I know there was more than one moment where I had to go back and recall who this or that character was.

All in all, ‘The Nazi Hunters’ was quite an enjoyable book. A bit out of my usual reads, it ranked quite high in my eyes. I recommend this book to people ages 12/13+, mainly because of the violence at certain parts.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

Title: Defy
Author: Sara B. Larson
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 236
Genre: Romance, Adventure, Young Adult
Rating: 4.5/5
Source Netgalley

Alexa Hollen is not an ordinary girl. In fact, for all her friends know, she isn’t a girl.

When Alexa and her twin brother, Marcel’s parents were murdered, the two were forced into lying about their identity, and that “Alex” was actually a girl. Now the twins live in Antion and guard the spoilt Prince Damian. But even though Alex is the best of the guards, she is no match for the powerful sorcerer who kidnaps her, fellow guard Rylan, and Damian, and takes them to Blevon, an enemy country.

The longer they’re held in Blevon, the more secrets are revealed, and Alexa’s is at risk of being divulged. It is only a matter of time before everyone else figures out what she has been hiding for the past 3 years. But there is a bigger problem; King Hector, Damian’s father, has been ruling his land with a cruel heart. An end needs to be put to his reign, but it won’t be an easy task. Alexa will need all the help she can get, but will she be strong enough to protect everyone she loves?

Alexa is an amazing character to read about. I found myself completely captivated as I read about her adventures throughout this book. One thing that I really liked about this heroine is how caring, loyal and brave she is. Not only is she loyal to her friends and family, but Alexa will sacrifice everything she has to save them.

Although the author did a good job presenting Alexa, Damian and Rylan’s characters seem inconsistent. Larson portrays Rylan as a nice, kind and thoughtful boy in the beginning of the book. But after that, it feels as if Larson couldn’t have cared what Rylan did; through the middle and end, Rylan began to fade out of the story and loses importance. Again, in the beginning Larson makes Damian seem as if a spoilt brat, but in the span of a page he becomes a sympathetic and righteous figure. Let me say, this was incredibly hard to believe. How could someone’s whole character change in just a few pages?

‘Defy’ is a splendid book. The relationships between the characters were well thought out, the plot was full of mystery.  There was some interest-piquing suspense, and throughout the story there was always one secret that was hinted at. But my favorite part of the plot is Alexa’s secret. I found it quite exciting reading about how Alexa tried to keep the truth of her gender from her coworkers.

The romance plot in this book was stunning as well. It wasn’t overpowering, but it wasn’t a minor part of the story either. The feelings that Damian and Rylan have for Alexa are clearly portrayed. And then, of course, there is Alexa’s confusion on who she should pick of the two. But even though the love triangle worked exceeding well in ‘Defy’, there was still a part of me that was annoyed Larson had to use such a cliché to bring some romance to this book. Everything else in this book creatively portrayed, yet the structure of the romance is ordinary.

Altogether, ‘Defy’ is an excellent book about a girl who must strive to protect the kingdom she loves. If you love romance, adventure or young adult books this is a book you must read. People younger than 13 won’t want to read this book because of language coupled with the breeding houses and violence that occurs. The next book in this series is to be released in 2015.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Title: These Broken Stars
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Publisher: Disney Book Group
Pages: 374
Genre: Romance, Science Fiction, Adventure, Young Adult
Rating: 4/5
Source: Netgalley

Lilac LaRoux has never learned what it truly means to work. Why should she? After all, she is the daughter of the richest man in the galaxy. Everybody knows her name. She’s a princess; one of a kind. And then, there was Tarver Merendsen. He was worth nothing, until he became a famous war hero. But even as popular as he has become, he knows that girls like Lilac are not worth the trouble. However, everything changes when the luxurious spaceship Lilac and Tarver are on is pulled off its course and crashes into the nearby planet. And the only two survivors are Lilac and Tarver.  

Now the two must band together to go seek help, and venture across the land that separates them from safety. But when their last chance of rescue is destroyed, Lilac and Tarver begin to realize that staying on this planet may not be a bad thing after all. Yet, there is something eerie about their new world. Voices, mirages, hallucinations – there is life here, and it’s haunting the two of them. The two survivors might find a way out, but the price of escaping might be too high to risk.

Out of Lilac and Tarver, I have to say that Tarver is my favorite character. Lilac is haughty, spoilt and selfish. Yet somewhere deep insider her, there is a girl who wants to break free of the chains her father has set around her, and it is amazing reading about her struggle to overcome these boundaries . On the other hand, Tarver is kind, calm and collected. Yet through his quiet demeanor, he also does not agree with Lilac’s father, the one who is controlling everything. But besides the first impressions, it is  easier to connect with Tarver than Lilac. Throughout the book, Lilac’s emotions aren’t clearly portrayed and it is hard to see at times what she is thinking. I didn’t have that problem at all with Tarver. Throughout the book his emotions are easy to connect with. And even beyond that, it’s easier to connect with his lifestyle than Lilac’s. He lives a more practical life, while she could have the whole universe if she so desired.

This is a pretty good book. It is unique, has a great plot and has fantastic characters. This story is exceptional because of how smoothly the genres change in the middle of the plot. In the beginning this book seems like an outer space-love fantasy, but towards the middle, it becomes a, haunting sci-fi-romance. I loved how they were stuck on this new planet that nobody had explored. Sure, the fact that only Lilac and Tarver survived was kind of clichéd. But, it was nifty how the whole plot tied together as the mystery of the planet was solved.

One thing I liked about this book was the adventurous plot it had. The mysterious life forms are my favorite part of the book. The details that describe the strange happenings are mesmerizing and as the book progresses that’s the main thing that I’m thinking about. And when you take into account how Lilac and Tarver also have to escape the mysterious forces, this book was full of suspense that had me hooked. Throughout the book, I was anxious to figure out what was going to happen. There are so many possibilities, but in the end, only one can actually occur.

The one thing I didn’t like about this book was the romance plot. In the beginning it was good; you can see the feelings they have for each other. But towards the end in the book the romance plot takes over the whole story. As the book progressed the time spent discussing how Lilac and Tarver would reach their goal decreased, and was just replaced with the feelings the two have for each other. It’s okay to have some romance, but there’s a line which the author crosses, between having a good amount of romance and having so much romance that it takes over the whole book.

For the most part, ‘These Broken Stars’ was an above average read. It had a delightful design and simply splendid characters. This book is probably for people ages 12/13+ mainly because of the death, violence and romance that happens throughout the story. If you like science fiction or love stories, this is a book you will definitely want to try. Don’t miss the second book in this series, ‘This Shattered World’ coming out later this year.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review: The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Title: The Enchanter Heir
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: Disney Book Group
Pages: 458
Genre: Magic, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Rating: 3.5/5
Source: Netgalley

For those of you who haven’t read any of Ms. Chima’s books, this is the 4th book in The Heir Chronicles and is a spinoff from the original trilogy.

The Thorn Hill Massacre killed thousands of Weir [magical people] and only a few hundred children lived. The survivors, also known as the savants, each had a magical trait that made them unique. Jonah Kinlock, a  savant, also had such a magical trait: the ability to kill by touch.

Emma Claire Greenwood always thought she was a normal, everyday girl. But when she realizes she is a savant, everything changes. Now the Weir are restless over killings occurring in Trinity, Ohio, leaving only one explanation: the murderers of Thorn Hill were killing the Weir in Trinity. Only Jonah and Emma have the power to save the Weir, but doing that might be suicidal.

Jonah and Emma are both intriguing characters to read about. Jonah is kind and careful. He knows that one wrong touch, and someone he loves will die.  Emma is practically the opposite - brash and headstrong. I have to say that Jonah is the better character because it is easier to see how he reacts to the new alterations in his life. Emma is also an entertaining character, but her life and emotions seem artificial when compared to Jonah’s.

Honestly speaking, I can’t really say this book met the expectations that I had. The characters were good, but while I was reading, I didn’t really get what the point of this book was. It seemed as if there was no real focus, a problem that continues throughout the story.

But on the other hand, it was fun reading the romantic plot. You have Emma, who is undeniably attracted to Jonah. And then you have Jonah who likes Emma but is too afraid of his own body – literally- to do anything. It was amusing to read how the two characters were going to solve that dilemma. Also the feelings between the hero and the heroine were well expressed. Additionally, the romance continued to  build up throughout the whole book, which I enjoyed.

My favorite part of this whole story would be how the author builds up a whole different world from the one introduced in the previous three books. It was fascinating to read about how the characters of this book interacted with the characters from the past books.

In general, ‘The Enchanter Heir’ was a magical read that I found interesting. I recommend this book to people ages 12+ because there was a bit of violence. If you like books that have to do with magic, then this is one that you will want to try out. The previous three books in this series are ‘The Warrior Heir’, ‘The Wizard Heir’ and ‘The Dragon Heir’ respectively. Reading the series in order would help the flow of ideas and would make the books easier to understand.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review: Falling Hard by Megan Sparks

Title: Falling Hard
Author: Megan Sparks
Publisher: Capstone Young Readers
Pages: 255
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 3.5/5
Source: Netgalley

Annie R. Key is in for a huge change – she’s moving to the States. After living in London her whole life, this 14 year old is moving to a whole other continent with her father. But fitting in with the crazy, high-school students in her new hometown is harder than Annie had ever thought it would be. Between making an enemy of the most popular girl in school, and falling for the cutest guy ever, things are off to a hectic start. It’s only her newfound love for roller derby that can tide her through all this American craziness. Annie’s going to have to figure out the secret to fitting into high school – but she’s going to need all of her new friends to help her do it.

My favorite character in this book would be Annie. At the beginning, she was shy and not very confident, but as the story progressed, her character developed; she essentially grew a back bone and became more outgoing. One thing I liked about Annie’s character as the book progressed was her smart-alecky attitude. The following quote describes her snarky thoughts when yet another person remarks on Annie’s English accent. This leads Annie to think about asking her friend Lexie, who has an abundance of buttons, to help her out with this problem:

“Maybe Lexie could get her a button that said, ‘I’ve got an English accent. Get over it’.”

I enjoyed phrases such as this one because they were hilarious to read, and they provided some insight on what Annie truly felt.

Overall, this book is very cute. The characters and how they interacted were like a fairytale; everything ended out working well and everybody’s happy. It’s a feel-good book.

I liked the plot of ‘Falling Hard’. Towards the beginning, the pacing was just right. The plot wasn’t going too fast, or too slow; it was going at a speed that made it easy for me to acquaint myself with Annie and her life. As the book progresses, the plot begins to speed up, becoming more interesting. And towards the very end, the whole book is thrumming with energy.

But on the flip side of things, I felt that the word choice that Megan Sparks used was overly simple, especially towards the beginning. While everything moving slowly in the beginning is a good thing, the vocabulary used makes this book seem very basic. The sentence structure is no help either. The phrases Sparks uses just don’t carry much emotion; it’s as if Annie didn’t have any strong feelings as the book begins. All the nervousness and excitement that a girl should be feeling on her first day of school are muted. But, as the book progressed, the words and sentences became more energetic and the increase in emotion made the book come alive.

Then, there is the romance plot, which I absolutely abhorred. Throughout the book, the romance plot grows, and grows, and grows some more. And I usually like it when the romance in a book is kept fresh. But, in a book where the main idea is for Annie to fit in a new environment, I most certainly did not want to read about some character she found handsome. That completely takes away from the main point of this book!

But, on the whole, ‘Falling Hard’ is an engaging book about a girl learning to fit in with others. I enjoyed the overall plot and recommend this book to people ages 10+ because of the exceedingly simple language. If you like reading novels about fitting in, this is definitely one you would want to check out. Don’t miss out on the second book in this series, ‘Hell’s Belles’.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta

Title: Entangled
Author: Amy Rose Capetta
Publisher: Houghton Miffin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Pages: 336
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 3/5
Source: Netgalley

Seventeen-year-old Cade has been alone for years. Aliens had invaded her planet long ago, changing everything. Now she lives apart from the other humans and aliens, having nothing to do with them for her own safety. The only thing she holds true to her heart is her cherry red guitar. But her thoughts of life change when she realizes that she isn’t as alone as she thought. Now hunting for the truth that was hidden from her for her whole life, Cade has no choice but to venture to other planets in search of one person: Xan, a boy from her past, whom she loves.

I enjoyed reading about Cade. She’s interesting, stubborn and determined. With her eye on the prize she’ll stop at nothing to succeed, which is one of the reasons I like her so much. But while Cade is a great heroine, at times I felt that she wasn’t described as much as I really wanted; it was hard to see clearly into her thoughts, which created a barrier in between the two of us.

This was definitely an interesting book. First of all, the futuristic theme of the book, extra terrestrial beings living together, was really fun and engaging to read about. There were a lot of creative details that described how Cade lived her life, which made it easy to compare her life to mine.

But, while the details were great to read about in some parts, in others it just made the book drag. Going to extremes was the biggest problem in the book; ‘Entangled’ is chock-filled with intricate ideas – which I won’t list here - but Capetta emphasizes each one to the point where the main plot is lost beneath a sea of details.

Now, the romance plot between Cade and Xan was probably the worst part of the book. In the beginning I didn’t think there was going to be any romance in this book, but then Xan’s character was introduced and that idea died. As the book progressed, the romance was built up to its height; it was good. It wasn’t embellished to the point that I was sick of it, yet it wasn’t completely dropped. I could definitely see how anxious Cade was to finally meet Xan and how he felt about her. And as the book proceeds, the tension between the two of them built to the point where I was bouncing up and down waiting for them to finally meet.

But somewhere over the second half of the book, the feelings between Cade and Xan faded – the romance was practically dropped. You could still see how Cade felt for Xan and vice versa, but in the end it was as if Cade’s feelings were shut off and instead there was this mindless needing. Just lust, no love. At that point it was hard to see what Cade was really thinking.

Essentially, it was as if a wall was put between the reader and Cade. And this isn’t for just the romance. Throughout the last quarter of the book, Cade was being described less and less, and it was as if she had no more heart-felt feelings.

Overall, this is a pretty interesting, but average book, mainly because of how Cade wasn’t described as much as I would have liked and the romance plot. If you like science-fiction or romance, this is a book you’ll want to read.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Review: Hereafter by Kate Brian

Title: Hereafter
Author: Kate Brian
Publisher: Disney Book Group
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
Rating: 3/5

This is the second book in the Shadowlands Trilogy. To see the review of the first book, ‘Shadowlands’ click here.

Ever since being attacked by infamous serial killer, Steven Nell, Rory Miller’s life has changed. But everything is about to be changed yet again, when she realizes that her new home, in Juniper Landing, is more than it appears. There’s a secret that everybody knows except for Rory and it’s related to the deaths of the civilians who live in Juniper Landing and the fog that covers the island. There can only be one explanation, an explanation that will change Rory’s life again. This heroine is in for an eerie mystery that has to do with the people of Juniper Landing, and she will stop at nothing to figure out the answer.

It was interesting reading about Rory. She’s confident and outgoing – an enormous change from how she acted in the previous book of this series. It was enthralling to read about her experiences and how she reacted to them because of the enormous difference in how she would  have dealt with them before.

Some things I didn’t like about this book would be that it wasn’t as adventurous or suspenseful as I would have liked it to be. Instead, this book is more methodical, or formulated. It can be good because it makes keeping track of all the events is a lot easier. But it can also be a bad thing because the book loses the real-life quality that I wanted it to have. In ‘Shadowlands’, Rory is scared out of her mind, which was represented in the way the book was written – it made the story seem real. I can’t say the same for ‘Hereafter’.

But there was another reason that this book let me down. ‘Hereafter’ just didn’t pack the same punch as ‘Shadowlands’. At times, I felt as if I could just skip the next few pages and not miss any information. Basically, this book dragged, and that significantly lowered it’s ranking in my eyes.

On the other hand, this book did have some nice parts where Rory was finally piecing together the truth of her new home. It’s at these parts where this book truly shines and is very captivating.

Overall, ‘Hereafter’ did have its ups and downs, and in then end, I feel that this book is a bit above average. It isn’t the best book I’ve read, but it is one that I did enjoy reading. I recommend this book to people ages 12+ and to those who like reading mystery or young adult novels. If you are interested in reading this book, it would be more enjoyable if you read the first book of the series beforehand.  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review: Shadowlands by Kate Brian

Title: Shadowlands
Author: Kate Brian
Publisher: Disney Book Group
Pages: 328
Genre: Mystery, Young Adult, Thriller
Rating: 4/5

Rory Miller was never the type of girl you remembered. Sure, she was a genius, but compared to her popular, witty sister Darcy, Rory was insignificant. Everything changed, though, when she was attacked by a serial killer, the infamous Steven Nell. Rory survived and the serial killer escaped. Now there’s nothing Rory and her family can do but enter the witness protection program and move far, far away in hopes of evading Nell.

Starting in a new town isn’t easy, but eventually Rory and Darcy begin to like their new life at beautiful Juniper Landing. With a bunch of friends who have their back, the two girls are now used to their new life. But when one of their friends goes missing, is it just a coincidence or is Steven Nell back?

Rory was a great character to read about. She’s bookish, a bit nerdy and not the most famous girl around, which is refreshing because there are so many books where the hero/heroine is the most popular person around. She also isn’t too stuck up in her old ways of life; she’s ready to fit in and forget her past, which is an admirable quality.

I loved reading about Rory. Seeing how she was dealing with the incident with Steven Nell showed a side of this heroine that I immediately liked. But the best part about her, was that her emotions didn’t seem artificial. Having to read about emotions that don’t seem realistic makes the story seem boring, a problem I didn’t find in this book.

One thing that I honestly didn’t expect is how much I liked this book. And this isn’t because I had low expectations for it. It’s because this book had a great plot. Every single detail was placed specifically so that the suspense was drawn out. You could literally taste the mixture of emotions on the tip of your tongue as you read the problems Rory was facing.

I had only one problem with this book, and that would be the conclusion. The beginning and middle were perfect, and I was beginning to wonder how Kate Brian was going to close out the book. And then out of nowhere there’s this huge plot change. Now I’m fine with plot changes, but the reason that made this one different from the rest was that there was no explanation for what was occurring. Considering the fact that the plot change made the conclusion very confusing, it wasn’t a great way to end the book.

Overall though, this book easily became one of the better ones I’ve read recently. Filled with intricate plot twists, an intense mystery, and the looming horror of a serial killer approaching, Shadowlands is a great book to read.

Join Rory and her newfound friends on an adventure in the book Shadowlands by Kate Brian. If you aren’t a fan of blood and gore, this probably isn’t a book you want to read. I recommend this book to people ages 12+ and to lovers of mystery, thrillers. and young adult books. Don’t miss the second book of this series Hereafter. 
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