Friday, August 16, 2013

Review #1619 Skippyjon Jones Cirque de Ole by Judy Schachner

Review: #1619
Book: Skippyjon Jones Cirque de Ole
Author: Judy Schachner
Rating: three stars (out of four)
Release date: Oct. 16, 2012
Publisher: Dial
Pages: 32

One thing I especially love about the Skippyjon Jones books is the rhyme and alliteration throughout! Schachner nails it by creating whimsical stories with delightfully amusing sentences and antics. She does a good job of incorporating Spanish words and allowing the context to illustrate their meaning. This story was wacky, as usual, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the wild and colorful pictures. Definitely a must-read for people who’ve enjoyed past Skippyjon Jones books. And I'm sure Cirque de Ole will delight new readers with its zany tales about wildly imaginative kittens.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Gated by Amy Christine Parker Blog Tour!

Review: #1615
Book: Gated
Author: Amy Christine Parker
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: Aug. 6, 2013
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley

We have a special book review for you today! I'm part of the Gated Blog Tour! To see the other spots on the tour, check out this link

She thought the evil lived outside the walls.

She was wrong.

In the Community, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban development have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives.

Lyla Hamilton and her parents moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader.
Will is her Intended.
The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves and prepare to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound's underground fortress--the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she'd rather think about a certain boy outside the development than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But as the end of days draws near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.

Review: From the start, Gated does a good job of creating an interesting narrator who believes in her society and upbringing. I wasn't sure how well that would work since readers know she's in a cult and that her beliefs will be tested. But I found the story believable and I related to Lyla and her questions. I was intrigued to see how the premise would hold up once the story started getting "sticky" and the pace picked up.

For the most part, I read with equal parts fascination and grim horror. Especially because of the way Pioneer was leading this community. It's one of those books where you know something bad is lurking around the corner and you're sitting there, shoulders tense, mind wandering, thinking all sorts of horrible possibilities, knowing you're not going to like what's happening next, but still unable to put down the book. I so wanted to know what would happen. I wanted to see if all the crazy scenarios I was imagining in my head would actually come true. And in some cases, my crazy guesses were way off, but others were even scarier and I was blown away by some of the plot twists.

I liked Lyla and I thought her progression throughout the novel was realistic. There was a good balance between her being deeply rooted in this way of life and being able to finally ask questions. I wasn't sure how I felt about Cody. He seemed a little too nice. (Or maybe at this point I was just super paranoid and was reading into EVERYTHING). I was also a little miffed at Will too. You know how much I enjoy love triangles (sarcasm, internet, sarcasm.)

Anyway, when the end of the world started looming closer and the stakes started getting higher, THAT'S when the story really picked up. All I wanted to do was sit on my couch and finish it. I was afraid of how things would turn out. I mean, this is a cult novel after all and these types of scenarios don't tend to have happy endings. But things definitely escalated near the end and it was pretty thrilling. I was worried about how things would end...and I don't want to say much more because I don't want to spoil it, but it was a pretty satisfying conclusion.

While I liked the premise and thought the author did a good job of showing the inside of a cult, there were still parts throughout the novel that felt a little off, particularly the romance and aspects of the plot. Overall I enjoyed the story and I'd probably recommend to people who are as interested in this type of subject or enjoy thrillers.

About the author:  Amy was born in Pennsylvania and spent most of her early years there. Many of her best memories are of hiding out in her room where she made up elaborate pretend play scenarios most often involving orphaned baby dolls and Barbies dressed in fashions made out of Kleenex. 
Amy was always attracted to writing, but she tried a lot of other jobs on for size first before settling into writing full time. At some point or another, she has been a collectible doll-maker, a fondue waitress, an inner city school teacher, and a stay at home mom. Currently she is writing full time and lives in a suburb of Tampa, Florida with her very supportive husband, their two creative and energetic daughters, one absurdly fat orange cat, and two escape artist mice.

*ARC generously provided through NetGalley by publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review #1613 That is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

Review: #1613
Book: That is Not a Good Idea!
Author: Mo Willems
Rating: three stars (out of four)
Release date: Apr. 23, 2013
Publisher: Blazer + Bray
Pages: 48
Source: own

I'm pretty sure I get excited whenever I see a new Mo Willems book set to hit the shelves. In this book, I especially loved how you could tell immediately what the central conflict would be just from looking at the cover and seeing the Goose and Fox. Clever, oh so clever, Mo.

The book's style was engaging and amusing - I especially liked how it was reminiscent of old-fashioned silent movies. It featured black and white captions every couple of pages to let you know what was going on, just like a silent film. The little chicks who kept popping up were so good as building up the tension because you could tell something was going to happen and you just KNEW the outcome might not be pretty.

But, if you're a long-time reader of Mo Willems, you know things are not always as they seem and he's quite fond of surprising endings. I'm typically amused by how he wraps things up in unexpected ways. I also love looking at every page to see where The Pigeon will show up. I love that he's included that easter egg in his picture books. I think this story is delightful. I can easily picture kids and adults enjoying the story together. Definitely check it out!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Review #1612 Reality Bites by Melissa J. Morgan

Review: #1612
Book: Reality Bites
Author: Melissa J. Morgan
Rating: one star (out of four)
Release date: May 10, 2007
Publisher: Grosset and Dunlap
Pages: 160
Source: Scholastic Warehouse Sale

I picked this book up while I was volunteering at the scholastic warehouse sale. It was an especially slow shift. I was looking for something I could finish in an hour or so and this looked half-way interesting. I didn't realize it was part of a series and I don't know if that knowledge would have made the book more enjoyable or not. As it was, I found the book fairly melodramatic and juvenile. I wasn't sure how old the kids were supposed to be until the very end of the book, but I found myself thinking they were much younger because of how they acted. These characters were annoying. They were whiney and I had a hard time relating to their problems and conflicts. The voices were also hard to distinguish from each other and I didn't feel like the kids were fleshed out. Overall it helped pass the time while I was working, but it's not something I really enjoyed.