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A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness, Jim Kay

This book is difficult for me to review. Not because it wasn't good. It was a good story and it was well written. Unfortunately, I'm conflicted about the content. While I felt a great connection with Conor, every adult in the story was a huge disappointment.

First the dad, or sperm donor, as I prefer to call him. He is a sorry excuse for a man and a human being. He makes lame excuses for his lack of involvement in his son's life. He lets his new wife dictate the terms of their relationship. She tells her husband he must come home when his son needs him the most. Sperm donor and his wife are the most selfish, self-absorbed creatures I've seen in a while.

Then, there's Conor's mother. Working in healthcare, I see this more than I should. Just because a child, or spouse, or other loved one, knows the truth deep down, doesn't mean it's OK to lie about it. The child needs to talk, and in my opinion, needs to hear the truth from adults. And in the end, the child/person you are trying to protect will find out the truth anyway and will be understandably angry at the deceit. It doesn't make any sense to lie.

Of all the bad adults, the grandmother is the one I like the most. She is hard to get along with, and is clueless about young boys, but at least you know she gives half a crap about Conor.

There were two things I really liked about this book. I like the whole part about being invisible and Conor not wanting special treatment. He wants to be punished for beating the snot out of Harry, because that would be normal. He wants things to go back to normal, even if that means losing his mom. Such a real emotion and a real truth.

Finally, I love the yew tree. I love the stories it tells and the lessons it teaches. The tree is the only thing in the book that didn't let Conor down.

Graduation Day - Joelle Charbonneau

Actually rating: 3.5/5 stars.

Graduation picks up with Raffe telling Mya that Professor Holt knows they left campus and Griffin has started looking for Damone. President Collindar wants to end Dr. Barnes' reign and end the Testing procedures. There will be a vote on the chamber floor to try to end it. The problem is, she doesn't have enough support. Mya has learned that Symon, the leader of the rebellion, is actually in league with Dr. Barnes and they don't want the testing to end. Mya's brother Zeen has joined with the rebels, mistakenly believing he is on the right side.

Although Mya hates killing, she is continually put in positions where she feels she has no choice. She puts her "friends" through tests to find out if they're loyal. Many of these tests are deadly, and it seems like an extreme way to find out if your friends are with you or against you. I found it odd that even after knowing they were tested, some with very bad outcomes, her friends weren't upset with Mya for putting them through it. Most still believed she should be in charge and make decisions.

President Collindar presents Mya with a list of twelve assassination targets. Raffe's father is on the list and while he agrees his father needs to be killed, he doesn't think all the people on the list need to go. Without consulting the president, Mya narrows down the list to four who actually are involved with the Testing. The ending is reminiscent of Mockingjay and the showdown with President Snow and President Coin, but I won't give any spoilers.

While the writing is fine and the story was interesting, I found I had to suspend belief a lot. I understand characters need to go with their gut sometimes, but with Mya, it seems like going with her gut is her default position. Very often she makes decisions on sketchy info and just a "gut" feeling. Also, I'm still not sure what the point of the Testing is. While you may want to test the mettle and the integrity of the government officials in charge, why do school teachers need to be able to kill fellow students in order to go to University? Why must doctors be able to manipulate and trick others? And shouldn't scientists be judged on their contribution to society and not on their ability to survive in the wild?

Perhaps a fourth book will answer some of these questions. Overall, it was an enjoyable book and an interesting concept. If you like dystopian series and can go along with the premise, this book might be perfect for you.

The Mad Scientist's Daughter - Cassandra Rose Clarke

When I first read the description of this book I thought of Data from Star Trek TNG.

You know the episode. The one where Data gets a girlfriend. But this is very different. When we first meet Finn he is introduced as Cat's tutor. She literally grows up with him. When she is older, her parents force her to go to high school although she would prefer to stay home and learn from Finn.


Cat has a lot of issues. She is not scientifically minded like her parents and this is a huge disappointment to her mother. She indulges in many self-destructive behaviors. (Chain smoking, lousy relationships) Whenever she gets into trouble, she turns to Finn for help. There is no insta-love here, but a true friendship that builds into something else. He is always there for her even though she knows and he knows that she is using him.

It is ironic that while others can see that she is hurting Finn, Cat is in denial. She is in denial about a lot of things and that is why she marries Richard in the first place. He calls her the Ice Queen and it is an apt description.

Richard, the self-made millionaire can have anything he wants--except Cat. On the surface their relationship seems perfect. He is a workaholic and she doesn't want a clingy boyfriend. This reader believes it is Cat's "I can take you or leave you" attitude that makes Richard want her more.

Although she and Finn are physically and emotionally disconnected for years, Cat eventually sees the error of her ways. She realizes that Finn can and does hurt and that she has driven him away.

This book brought out so many emotions in me. It is a love story; it is a tragedy. It is about how flawed people waste precious time by hiding the truth from one another.


Sometimes I wanted to slap some sense into Cat for not seeing what is evident to her friends. For denying the one person who can make her happy. And then there's the smoking. I cringed every time she lit up. I know people like her; people who know the risks of smoking and continue to do so. Still, it seems so selfish once she has a young son who depends on her and when she realizes that Finn will long outlive her.

Cat wondered how old she would be when she died. Forty-seven? Sixty? One hundred twenty?

Finn would never die. He would never leave her as her parents did, but one day, she would leave him.

Newsflash: You'll be lucky to live to forty.


I hate to sound like Hazel Grace, but I have to ask you, Cat, "Your father died of cancer. You're worried about Finn and, I hope, your son, so why are you trying to acquire cancer?"

Put that cigarette out!


Independent Study: The Testing, Book 2 - Joelle Charbonneau

Cia is at the University but her testing isn't over. Her memory has been wiped and she has to rely on the recordings from her brother's Transit Communicator to figure out what happened during the testing. She knows that Tomas knows what happened to Zandri and that Will cannot be trusted, but now she must meet a whole new group of students from Tosu City, the capital of the United Commonwealth. Just like <i> the Hunger Games,</i> the kids from Tosu City have privileges the kids from the colonies don't have. For one, they don't have to go through the Testing.
I liked this book but felt it bogged down during the Induction testing. Induction was very similar to the Testing that the colony kids had to go through in the first book, only less dangerous. It seemed kind of like rehashing it a bit. Towards the end, I realized the Induction part was necessary to let the readers know who were the good guys and who were the bad guys, as well as other vital information.
Cia is so methodical about everything-not just problem solving. Even in her relationships she thinks things through like a machine. I hope at least that she can see Tomas's side of things after having to resort to violence with Damone. She didn't want to kill so maybe she can forgive Tomas for his part in Zandri's death.
I am looking forward to book three. I still have a lot of questions. We know what happens to colony students who are redirected, but what happens to the Tosu city students? Why is Dr. Barnes hell-bent on killing so many gifted students? What will happen with Tomas and Raffe?

The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau This book reminds of a lot of other books such as The Hunger Games, Under the Never Sky, The Giver, and Divergent, but it is unique in its own way. In a future earth, ravaged by seven wars, the United Commonwealth mandates that gifted young students participate in the Testing. Only a fraction will pass and go on to attend the University, where they will become the future doctors, scientists, teachers and leaders of the society. As the main character soon finds out, failing can be deadly. The Main Character, Cia, is all-around smart. First of all, she is intelligent enough to be chosen for the Testing, an honor reserved for only the smartest students in each colony. She is clever. She discovers the cameras watching them at all times long before anyone else does. She also figures out the bracelets are monitoring devices and figures out how to remove them without alerting the Testing officials. She is wary and heeds the warning her father gave about the other candidates. She knows to count her roommate's homemade corncakes and checks if she's eaten any. When she doesn't, she knows they are poisoned. She is intuitive. Cia listens to what the Testing officials say and what they don't say. She knows that asking for help, medical or otherwise, will be regarded as a weakness by the Testing officials. She also figures out that Roman has set a trap for the rest of the team and figures out a way to avoid it. She is a problem solver and mechanically gifted. She fixes up bicycles for the fourth part of the Testing that enable Tomas and herself to cross the finish line. Although her father tells her to trust no one, she does tell Tomas about her father's testing experience and how they erased his memories. Tomas, like the vast majority of candidates, has questionable morals. Still, to his credit, he doesn't harm Cia, and helps her to make it through the fourth test. She is the only one he does seem to trust. I don't think this makes her naive. She realizes she has to trust some people or she won't survive. More surprising is Will and his cutthroat nature. The ending leaves you with a lot of questions. Does Tomas retain his memories? And what happened in those few hours between Will, Zandri and Tomas while Cia was out looking for food and water? I'm starting book two right now.
Silver Tides - Susan Fodor

A girl from Australia. A guy with amnesia. Twilight references and a royal lineage. It kind of sounds like Melanie's Evanescent Journey until the guy returns to the sea. This is the first book I've ever read where mythical sea creatures were the main characters and I learned a lot I didn't know.

Mya is a high school senior trying to make it through to graduation. When she finds a drowning boy in the bay and administers CPR, her peaceful life is upended. When he awakes, the boy has no memory. He is drawn to Mya and she feels responsible for him. The boy's biological parents show up. He learns his name is Daniel and his father owns a huge oil company. His parents tell him he was dying from a skin condition. He has been missing for two years. His parents feel indebted to Mya, and soon Mya's parents and his become good friends.

Miranda, leader of the popular crowd and alpha mean girl, wants to get close to him. But Daniel rebuffs her. There is a lot of mean girl drama/conflict and it seems kind of overdone until you read the ending and realize it was put there for a reason.

Once Cordulla, Daniel's sea mom shows up, the plot plows forward at a rapid clip. Now Daniel knows where he's been for the past two years. He won't give up Mya. He is convinced she is to be his queen.
Many secrets come out and Mya learns she has a different heritage than she thought. Once Daniel goes back to the sea, everyone around him develops amnesia. Except Miranda. It's like he never went to high school.

I liked that Mya's parents were present in her life, but Mya's mother was an enigma to me. She is portrayed as a compassionate, selfless, tree-hugger, but when Miranda hurts Mya she is out for revenge and even wants Miranda's dad to lose his job. She has always been one to preach forgiveness but not now. When Mya and Daniel are on a mission to save five lives she gets upset that they desecrate a grave and try to retrieve an ancient artifact. She lectures Mya on respecting people's property until Mya reminds her she is doing it to save five lives that are worth more than a piece of rock. There was a disconnect between word and deeds, but maybe Mya's mom is just a hypocrite like the rest of us.

Being a native Texan, it was fun to read about Australia and learning a bit of the lingo like op-shops, pop peeps, and pash. Can't wait to see what happens in book two.

Romance short

Model Position - Kitsy Clare

I received this book from Netgalley for an honest review.

Sienna is a student trying to make it in the competitive world of art. Dave is a guy with connections that can get her a showing in his aunt's studio. The trouble is, Sienna is attracted to Erik, the male model in her art class. She is faced with the moral dilemma of dating Dave to get in with his aunt or following her heart and giving Erik a shot.

Of course, the petty jealousies and manipulations are just the back drop of this fast-paced, romance short story. It is mostly about the steamy fantasies of Sienna and her desire to hook-up with Erik. The writing flowed well and it works as something easily read in one sitting. I would recommend this as a quick, beach read, or something to read on a road trip.

Sixth Grave on the Edge  - Darynda Jones

Darynda Jones brings back the funny. In this latest book, Charley and her nigh fiance have multiple riddles/murders to solve. From a soul-stealing demon, to a book of prophecies Swopes got from hell to a naked dead man in Charley's jeep and who Angel actually is. There's quite a few more story lines that Charley must tie up but I'll let you read it and see for yourself.

Of course, every female with a pulse is hanging out at the bar to get a glimpse of the Son of Satan. I can relate to the silver foxes. BTW Charley, we prefer the term Cougar.

Two of my favorite quotes:
"Don't get any ideas about us, Swopes. I'm nigh affianced. And I only put out for coffee."

"With one corner of his mouth tipping sensually, he asked, "Want some coffee?" And I fell. I fell hard.

I love all the bumper stickers and T-shirt sayings. Always fun. I only have one piece of advice for you Charley. #marryhimalready

Horrorscape - Nenia Campbell

Ms. Campbell ratchets up the creep factor in this second book in the Horrorscape series. Gavin, or GM, as he calls himself, has turned freakish whack job into an art form. I know the book is a chess game, but to this reader, it kind of felt like playing Clue with Hannibal Lector: You know who did it (or is going to do it) but you have to figure out which weapon and in what room.

Val has grown up a bit but still suffers PTSD from the mental trauma inflicted by Gavin her freshman year. With some reticence, Val agrees to go to a party with her boyfriend and a couple of friends. Soon after arriving, she realizes the host is not who he seems. GM is Gavin, although his appearance is different than when she last saw him. He has invited two sets of kids (teams)- one set wearing white and one set wearing black. Then the chess game begins.

As the game wears on, the players all realize that GM is playing for real and that their lives are in danger. Val and her friends must get out of that house and away from GM as soon as they can. GM's overconfidence in his ability to seduce Val and his misinterpretation of her wants is his ultimate downfall. The ending leaves possibilities wide open for book three.(less)

Fearscape - Nenia Campbell

Valerian is a young, rather naive teenager who is being stalked. Even though it's fairly obvious who her stalker is from the get-go, she lives in a world of denial about it. Maybe it's because of her young age (she's fourteen and admittedly innocent), that she cannot reconcile the high school TA of her art class to the threatening fb messages and disturbing "gift" in her gym locker. The imagery of a chess game and the hunter stalking its prey is very appropriate, but to this reader, another type of character is brought to mind. Lolita.

For a good part of the book, Val fights her gut feeling that he is dangerous and intends to harm her despite numerous warning signs. Her friend Lisa, flat-out tells him stay away and lets her know his nick name- "Hit List Guy". But like Lolita, Val is attracted to him. She even pursues him to an extent.

...I've been hunting you this whole time, waiting for you to stray from the path. But you-you came into the woods after me."

While Humbert Humbert of Lolita is quite a bit older than Gavin, Gavin speaks like someone in his thirties rather than in high school. Part of the reason Val can't believe her stalker is Gavin is due to the fact that on Facebook he sounds like an older man or someone from a different time period. That's where the similarities end, though. While Humbert Humbert tries to blame Lolita for his pedophilia, Gavin is completely cognizant of what he's doing and what a threat he is to Val. As far as I can tell, he never lies about his intentions. Even when she asks him directly about Facebook, he gives a non-answer, instead of a deceitful one. This reader tends to believe that he would have admitted to being a stalker if Val had asked him directly.

The adults in this story are quivering balls of ineptitude. Their absence/negligence gives Gavin free reign to hunt Val. (view spoiler)

Of course all of this is a great set up for a sequel. This book is a definite page turner and much like a horror movie, I found myself screaming at Val. "Don't go in there! Stop! Do you want to die?" The cover design of the chessboard is perfect. Moral of the story-listen to your gut, and your friend, Lisa.

Breakable - Tammara Webber

Ms. Webber has written another masterpiece. I first fell in love with her writing style and characters in the book Easy. When I learned she had written Breakable from Lucas's point of view, I couldn't wait to read it.
I love reading the background of characters and learning what happened in the past to bring them to where they are now. I knew of Landon's tragic past but I didn't realize there were some amusing and happy times as well. I would have expected him to be a bitter loner, but he was not. Even though his world had been up-ended, he still had friends (and surprisingly, girlfriends) and the relationship with his grandfather was touching. He did act out as a rebellious teen. There were drugs, drinking and a lot of fights, but he overcame a lot too.
Perhaps he needed Jacqueline to help him remember his mother in a positive way instead of blaming himself for not protecting her.
Lucas is and will always be one of my favorite book boyfriends.

More Buffy than Bella

Xoe: or Vampires, and Werewolves, and Demons, Oh My! - Sara C. Roethle

Xoe is definitely more Buffy than Bella. When she and her friends meet a strange guy at school, Xoe's spidey sense goes off. There is something not right about Dan. Allison blows her off and invites him to go to the movies with Xoe, Lucy, and herself. At the theater, Dan makes an odd comment to Xoe about how she smells different. Xoe doesn't like the way Dan looks at Lucy or herself but won't let her friends go alone.
When Dan later drops Lucy off at her house, he scratches her and Xoe and Allison realize their friend has been infected and will likely turn into a werewolf. In the woods, the girls are attacked by Dan and Xoe falls unconscious. She wakes up to find Jason, her rescuer. She learns he has been hired as a sort of bounty hunter by Dan's former pack to locate him. He is not a werewolf; he is a vampire. And just as Dan said, Jason tells Xoe she smells different, not human. Xoe must find out who and what she is, locate Dan, and keep her friends safe.

This book is a short, quick, read. I wouldn't have minded if it were longer and bits of the plot were more fleshed out, but maybe that's for another book in this series. I would recommend this book for a younger teen audience.

Nash  - Jay Crownover

Another great Marked Men novel. Saint is a girl struggling with self-esteem issues stemming from a bad high school experience with one guy--Nash. She had a poor self-image, plus the awkwardness of being a teenager and she believed this boy was making fun of her. Years later she still struggles with these feelings of inadequacy despite the fact that she's a beautiful, intelligent young woman with a great future as a nurse. Perhaps that boy--Nash--is the only one that can show her just how wonderful she is.

Nash is dealing with his own problems. He is devastated by his dad's illness and poor prognosis. His dad, Phil, is the only parent who cared about him. His mother is selfish and his step father always thought he was a burden. <spoiler> Nash has the best friends in the world, but Saint is the only one who can give him the comfort he needs to go through Phil's final days.</spoiler> Will she let him in long enough to see how perfect they are for each other or will she let her feelings that she is no good and Nash will leave her for someone else overwhelm her and destroy what they are trying to build?

What can I say? I love the story, and while I never suffered the self-esteem issues that plague Saint, I can certainly understand her paralyzing fear of putting herself out there to be hurt again. Nash has all the elements of a great book boyfriend and I found myself cheering the two of them on throughout the book.

I love the Marked Men series from the first book I read--Rule. Jay Crownover, if you wrote a phone book I would read it and it would be fabulous.

Lutheran Ladies-scary

The Lutheran Ladies' Circle: Plucking One String - Kris Knorr;Barb Froman
Being a life-long Lutheran, (baptized in the church, confirmed in the church, married in the church and God-willing, buried in the church) I had to pick this up. When I began reading I thought, "Oh, no. This is exactly why people prefer corporate greed and the moral ambiguity of the workplace over trying to run the gauntlet of church politics." But thankfully, I was wrong. Yes, at first I looked at the characters and recognized them as people who sat in my pew, but as the book continued, I was more than a little surprised to see myself in the characters. I love how the author explains Lutheran theology and presents all its quirks and faults with a lot of humor. Some of my favorite lines:
"Why don't you ask God where your pen is?"
"I would never presume to bother God about a pen."
"Then your God is too small."

"The-I-can-do-anything. I'm-covered-because-of-grace doctrine. Right?"

"I wanted Easter to be perfect. Easter shouldn't change."
"That's what Pontius Pilate said, too. You crucify a guy, why can't he stay dead?"...
"This is different."
"And my favorite, and this is why I joined the church; 'Why can't that priest at that little church, what's his name? Martin Luther? Yeah. Why can't Luther juts shut-up and let us continue to sell forgiveness for sins? Little, nobody priest trying to change. things.'"

There are many more, but these were a few of my favorites. Recommended for anyone with even a nodding acquaintance of church ladies and all that goes along with their church work.

Of Sea and Stone (Secrets of Itlantis) (Volume 1) - Kate Avery Ellison

I have never read a story like this one before. The Village on the Rocks is above land but most in the village do not know about an entire civiliztion under the water.  Aemi, a servant, is kidnapped from her above land home and forced on to a ship with Nol, a childhood enemy of the upper class. Though they have never been friendly, they are all they have left. A soldier on the vessel saves them from execution and makes them promise to not mention where they are from. Both end up on Celestrus, in the same household as servants. The master is kind and his daughter befriends Aemi, but Aemi and Nol want to return to their home.

The master is trying to secure peace but someone is trying to blame problems on the Dron, enemies of the Itlanteans for a thousand years. When Celustrus is attacked, and many are killed, it is up to Aemi and the master to uncover the truth.

Nol is an intriguing character. For much of the book you are wondering if he is Aemi's friend, foe, or something else. The life giving kiss of breath he gives her as he pushes her to the surface is both sweet and sad at the same time. It reminded me of Titanic when Jack saves Rose. The last forty pages had my stomach in knots and as soon as I finished I put the next book in the series on my to read list.

Mercy in trouble again!

Silver Borne - Patricia Briggs

Another great book in the series. Mercy gets mixed up with the fae and the evil Fairy Queen in this one. Between saving others and saving herself she barely has a free moment. I love Adam's bond with Mercy. Very tender and sweet.