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SECRET: A SECRET Novel

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I liked that this book had a great story – it’s not just a string of sexual encounters. Cassie is a well-developed, fun character. I also liked that Cassie’s sexual awakening was driven by her own fantasies and that she didn’t need to be forced, even pretend forced into doing anything she didn’t want to do. It’s not like 50 Shades of Gray in that regard.If you are just starting to read erotica or if you are not a fan of what some may think are crude or vulgar words for sex organs, than this would be a good book for you. The author never uses any descriptive words for genitalia, just vague references like himself, myself, me, and him. If you are an experienced erotica reader like me, then you may feel like the sex scenes lacked “oomph”. There is only so much that can be described if descriptive words are not used.This book ends with a major cliff-hanger which will hopefully be resolved in the sequel that is set to be released later this year. I’ll be reading it for sure – I want to find out what happens to Cassie.
Holes

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The author did a fantastic job of weaving the past and present together and bringing everything full circle in this book in a way that even young children could understand. It could have easily gotten very complicated and convoluted but he managed to make it intricate yet understandable. My second grader read this book on his own and figured it all out. I read this book aloud to my first grader which worked out nicely because I could discuss it with him as we went along and make sure he understood it. Most of the time he did on his own and he always did after we had a conversation.Both my boys can be sensitive to darker plots and humor but they both really enjoyed this book - it wasn't too much for them. It's recommended for third grade and up but I found it appropriate for my first and second grader. The only mildly inappropriate instance is when one character says, "What the hell?" I didn't even notice when I was reading it but my first grader was quick to point out at our book club meeting that it was his favorite part - because of the "bad" word. Such a proud parenting moment.Speaking of book club, this was a great selection for the Intergenerational Book Club (IGBC) at my church. There were kids from first through fifth grade (mostly boys) and all of them enjoyed this book. For snacks we had worms and dirt (made by the kids), doughnut holes, and pumpkin onion cookies. (Onions play an important role in the story.)
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

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I thought The Girl Who Fell From the Sky was a wonderful portrayal of the identity crisis a lot of young bi-racial people face. When Rachel arrives in Portland to live with her grandmother, she hasn’t been around many other black people. She actually doesn’t even realize that because she appears black, people will think she is black and expect her to act like the black people in her community do. She doesn’t fit in with the black kids at her school because of how she acts and she doesn’t fit in with the white kids because of how she looks. Even her good friend Jesse, an open-minded white boy, doesn’t understand. When someone drives by and yells the n-word at Rachel, he brushes it off, saying, “Don’t mind them.” As if that’s all that needed to be said.The book starts when Rachel is eleven and goes through her teen years. Ms. Durrow does a great job of matching Rachel’s inner monologue to the age that she is in the story. As Rachel matures, so does the way she thinks to herself about her place in the world. The book switches back and forth between first person narration by Rachel to third person narration from the point of view of several other characters. I liked the way this made the story come together. Even though it’s primarily Rachel’s story, we get to delve in the minds of the other characters and find out their motivations and dreams.The Girl Who Fell From the Sky was chosen by Barbara Kingsolver as the winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice. It is truly deserving of such an award.
Sharp Objects: A Novel

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It’s hard not to make comparisons to Flynn’s 2012 novel, Gone Girl, when reading Sharp Objects, which was her debut novel. I had to remind myself that since Gone Girl was my favorite book of 2012, it was highly unlikely that Sharp Objects would be as good. And that’s true it wasn’t – but it was still very, very good. Gillian Flynn has created complicated, creepy characters and a complex plot with a nice twist at the end. Flynn makes Camille’s hometown’s thick, gothic atmosphere jump off the page. And somehow she made me sympathize with Camille, even though she made so many bad choices. This book is an excellent thriller – a must read.
Here I Go Again: A Novel

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Have you ever wondered how your life would be changed if you made different decisions in high school? Lissy Ryder is about to find out. Here I Go Again is an early 90s twist on It’s A Wonderful Life. What would the world be like if Lissy Ryder wasn’t a mean girl?I thought this book was so much fun! Lissy is a great character – she’s so self-absorbed, I just wanted to strangle her but at the same time I thought she was really funny. I was surprised by the way her classmates present day lives changed after she went back to high school – it wasn’t what I expected at all. My only quibble with the time travel is that when Lissy came back to the present after going back to high school, she didn’t remember the past twenty years. It seems like a shame to change the path of your life but not get to remember the journey of getting to your new reality. Perhaps Deva will give her a potion that will allow her to do that. That would be a great sequel!Fans of 80s and 90s pop culture will appreciate all the glam rock and grunge rock references. It was like a trip down memory lane for me since I’m the same age as Lissy. Because of the title, the Whitesnake song, Here I Go Again was in my head pretty much the entire time I was reading it.Jen is primarily known for her hilarious memoirs (Bitter is the New Black, Such a Pretty Fat). This is her second novel and I think she’s really coming into her own as a fiction writer. I can’t wait to see what her next fiction offering is like. (Jen has traded her trademark footnotes for parenthetical phrases so there shouldn’t be any trouble reading Here I Go Again on an e-reader.)
Junie B. Jones: Books 23-24: Junie B. Jones #23 and #24

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As a parent, I don’t especially like Junie B. Jones. She’s obnoxious, has poor grammar, and uses words like stupid – a bad word in our house. These are all the same reasons my first grader loves her! He’s a bit of a reluctant reader so if Junie B. gets him excited about reading, then I’m willing to tolerate her.Shipwrecked sneaks in quite a few facts about Christopher Columbus and his voyage to America. Children won’t have any idea that they are actually learning because the story is entertaining and funny. Since this book is for first graders, it doesn’t go into the ethical issues associated with Columbus’s journey, like imperialism and genocide. It actually doesn’t say anything about what happened after Columbus landed – the focus is entirely on the voyage.If your child is a Junie B. Jones fan, he or she will definitely enjoy this book.
Never Cross a Vampire

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Originally written in the 1970s and set in the 1940s, this mystery had a very film noir, dark and gritty atmosphere. I liked Toby as a character but I could not follow the murder mystery plot or figure out how he was solving it. I’m not sure if this was because I listened to it on audio and so I couldn’t flip back and re-read parts or if it was the book’s fault. I suspect some of both.I liked all the voices the narrator did except for Toby. The book is written in first person from Toby’s point of view so there is a lot of Toby’s voice. I think he was trying to make Toby seem cool and confident but most of the time Toby sounded bored.The author often had Toby commenting on how much something costs or what news is on the radio as he’s driving around. If you have nostalgia for the 1940s or the past in general, I think you’ll find this interesting.
The Stonecutter: A Novel

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The Stonecutter is the third book in the Patrik Hedstrom mystery/thriller series by Camilla Läckberg. I haven’t read the previous two books but I don’t think there are any spoilers for them in this review.Listening to the audio book was great fun. David Thorn, the narrator, had a very dramatic British accent complete with rolling “R”s. It was really interesting hearing all of the Swedish people and place names correctly pronounced because they usually sound nothing like they are spelled. For instance, Patrik is pronounced “POOR-trig”.The character development in this book is outstanding. This book has an ensemble cast and Läckberg has given each character as much attention as if they were all main characters, with each character having a detailed back-story. Because of this, I was continually going back and forth on who I thought killed Sara and was second guessing myself until the very end. It was great. I was worried that with so many characters with unfamiliar (to me) names, that I would have a hard time keeping track of them on audio since I couldn’t flip back and forth like with a paper book. However, the names were all different sounding enough that I didn’t have any problems.In addition to the main present day plot of Sara’s murder, there is a subplot about a stonecutter that starts in the 1920s. It’s apparent that it will somehow tie into the present day story but it’s not revealed until late in the book. It was really a second mystery trying to figure out how it would eventually be weaved in to the primary story and I was surprised by how it did.Even though I haven’t read the first two books in this series, I didn’t have any trouble jumping right in. It doesn’t quite stand alone because one of the subplots ends in a cliffhanger that is no doubt the focus of the fourth book. The mystery of Sara’s murder is solved in this book though.From what I’ve read, Camilla Läckberg is immensely popular in Sweden and after reading The Stonecutter, I can see why. I highly recommend this book, especially for fans of Nordic crime novels.
Chronicles of Egg: Deadweather and Sunrise

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Deadweather and Sunrise is a great pirate adventure that I think will appeal to its target audience – middle grade boys. The hero has some familiar qualities – a dead mother and a father and siblings who don’t treat him that well. I haven’t seen a pirate adventure recently though – I think it will be a nice change for boys who have already read all the wizard and dragon books out there. This is the first book of a trilogy so I think some of the characters will be fleshed out more in the next two books. I know that Guts, a thirteen year old pirate missing a hand, must have a great back-story that comes out at some point. I’m also looking forward to finding out why the pirate Burn Healy is so helpful to Egg when he is ruthless to everyone else.This book is recommended for 5th grade (10 years old) and up, which I think is spot-on. It’s packed full of adventure, which I think boys that age will love, but it does have some killing and death and threats of killing that may be too violent for younger readers to handle even if they are reading at the 5th grade level. Also, when a 13 year old girl gets captured by pirates, it’s clear to an adult reader that she’s in danger of being sexually assaulted. However, it’s written cryptically enough that I don’t think the middle grade reader will catch on. They might ask you a question about it though. I have an 8 year old that could read this book but I’m going to wait a couple of years to pass it on to him. When I do, I think he’ll really like it.
Minion

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I really, really wanted to like this book but I just could not get into it. Normally it would only take me a couple of days to read a book like this but I struggled with this book for about a week. The main problem was I just didn't understand what was going on. I thought maybe it was just me but after reading some other reviews, it turns out that's not the case. In the first half of the book, not much was happening. It was written as if the reader should know what the characters were talking about but I did not. I actually had to check and make sure I was reading the first book in the series (I was) because I felt like I was jumping in the middle of something. Then in the second half of the book, the very complicated vampire mythology was presented in one long information dump. I couldn't sort it all out.Several of the reviews indicated that the subsequent books in this series are much better. Honestly, there are so many vampire series out there that I want to read that I don't know if I want to take the time to see if the second book, The Awakening, is better.
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