26 April 2013

The Girl who swam to Atlantis by Elle Thorton

This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review

Recommended for: middle school students, teachers, and the parents of middle schoolers.
Genre:  Modern Historical Fiction
Score: 4 stars

With all of the "boy meets girl" and fantasy YA books out there, it is always refreshing to find a book that deals with a more serious issue. The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis by Elle Thornton is just such a book. Gabrielle Winter is 13, and like many 13-year-olds, she is not sure of her place in the world. Complicating matters is the fact that Gabrielle is spending the summer at an Army base in North Caroline where her father, a general, is stationed. It is the summer of 1957 and racial tensions in the area are high.

This book was an excellent, easy read. Elle Thorton does an great job of capturing the angst of a 13-year-old trying to define who they are in the world. In the character of Gabrielle, she balances just the right amount of insecurity and exploration. For me,though, it was Gabrielle's naivete of the racial tensions that were prevalent in the South at this time that was the best part of her character. I really liked the way that Ms. Thorton used that naivete to explore the issue of race relations in the 1950s South. I thought that this exploration was done with thoughtfulness and care, exhibiting a good balance of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

If I had one complaint about the book, it would be that the author did not go into enough depth on the subject. I am aware that the target audience for this book is the middle school crowd, of which I am not a member, but even so, I felt that Ms. Thorton could have fleshed the subject out just a bit more. As it is, she touches on many subjects that will hopefully entice the young minds to explore the subject further, and that is a plus with me. I would class this book as an excellent read for the 11 - 14 age crowd. In addition, I would suggest that parents read along with their middle schoolers and perhaps use this book as a jumping off point for discussion. As such, I think this book is an excellent choice and am giving it 4 stars

24 April 2013

Celebrating the short story: If Snow Hadn't Fallen, a Lacey Flint short story by S. J. Bolton

In my continuing quest to celebrate the short story this year, I have come across yet another story by an established author that is noteworthy.

As soon as I finished Now You See Me, the first Lacey Flint book by S.J. Bolton, I knew I was hooked. I immediately went and purchased If Snow Hadn't Fallen, the short story that occurs between books 1 and 2. Although only about 92 pages long, this entry into the Lacey Flint series is perfect for those who are waiting for something to keep them riveted between books 1 and 2. in my case, that was because I had to wait for book 2 to come in at the library. Lacey Flint is one of the most fascinating characters that I have come across in quite a while. I love multi-layered characters, and with Lacey, things are never quite what they seem. My other favorite characters from the first book only play small roles in this story, but they are all there, which allowed me to get my fix while waiting to read book two. The plot in this story is typical Bolton, too, with crisp writing, wonderful details, and enough twists to keep me satisfied. Plus the book had one of the best ending lines that I have read in quite a while.  I give this story 5 stars. It was just what I needed to keep me invested in Lacey and the gang. This is my new favorite thriller series and I am anticipating book two (should be in soon) and looking forward to much more.

23 April 2013

Tuesday's Review: The Wanderer by Robyn Carr

Although I am not a huge fan of romances, I actually found The Wanderer byRobyn Carr quite engaging. Really, my experiences with romance books consists mainly of Nora Roberts, and over the years I have come to enjoy the mystery and life stories that she uses to showcase her romances. I found this same situation inThe Wanderer. Hank "Coop" Cooper takes a trip to Thunder Point, Oregon, which is on the Oregon Coast, ostensibly to get some closure on the death of his best friend, Ben. Ben is a long time resident of Thunder Point and ran a bait shop, food store, bar combo. Once Coop arrives in Thunder Point, he begins to get involved in the lives of the inhabitants of this small town and......well, you can probably guess where the story goes from there. 

There were a lot of things I really liked about this story. I liked the non-romantic relationships that developed between some of the characters. The relationship between Coop and Landon was extremely well done and allowed the author to make some statements about bullying, a problem which is all to pervasive in our schools today. In addition, I really liked the unconventional family situations that she included in the book. I thought she especially did a good job with the both Mac's family dynamics, and Gina's. I did find it interesting, though, that none of the families in this books seemed to be two parent conventional kind. If there was anyone in Thunder Point who was happily married and raising a family, they were not evident in this book. 

Another thing that I really liked about this book, and this is something that is just a "me" type of thing, was the fact that the book took place on the coast of Oregon. I have travelled extensively on the coast of Oregon and been to many of the peripheral places mentioned in the book. As such, I felt that the author did an excellent job of highlighting, not only the feeling of a small town, but the feeling of the Oregon Coast as a whole. 

Even the straight out romance parts of this book were well done. I found myself alternately rooting for the characters, and wanting to slap them upside the head for being stupid. Of course, that's not to say that it wasn't a bit formulaic, but then, that type of formula is why we read romance novels, right? I mean, you know the characters are going to fall in love, have doubts, dance around their relationship, and ultimately succumb. That is the formula that allows us to really feel for them. 

As a result, I have decided that Robyn Carris definitely on the list of potential guilty pleasures, and as such, I have already decided to read her other romance series, both the Grace Valley series and the Virgin River series. Thumbs up to Ms. Carr for a job well done. 

I would like to thank both Netgalley, and the publisher for the chance to read this book in return for an honest review.