Sunday, February 24, 2013

Altered Book Review

Title: Altered
Author: Jennifer Rush
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 1, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0316197083

336 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Altered by Jennifer Rush is a real thrill ride of a novel. Lots of action, lots of twists and turns.

The story centers on Anna, who lives in an old farmhouse with her father. Downstairs is a secret lab where four young men are kept in high-security cells for tests and observation. Anna long ago figured out that her dad works for the Branch and that the four men are genetically altered super-soldiers. She befriends the guys, smart-ass Cas, studious Trev, angry Nick, and the leader of the group, Sam.

On the day that the Branch comes to collect their test subjects, Anna is caught in the mayhem that occurs when the guys make their escape. Soon she's on the run with them as they follow clues that they hope will tell them who they really are. The clues also lead Anna to question everything she thought was true about her life.

Altered is well-paced, with just the right mix of high energy action sequences and quiet moments. There's also more than a dash of romance between Anna and Cute Boy Sam, which ups the stakes.

Overall, Altered is a quick, fun read that I would recommend to readers who enjoyed The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or Angelfire by Carolyn Allison Moulton.

Listen to the first chapter of the Altered audiobook:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Safekeeping Book Review

Title: Safekeeping
Author: Karen Hesse
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1250011343

304 pp.

ARC provided via publisher

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse is a bit of an odd duck. It's a quiet book, an interior journey as much as it is a physical one.

It's the story of Radley, a young woman who was volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti when America implodes in civil unrest. She rushes home to Vermont, or at least tries to, but finds that new security measures means she own her own, on foot, trying not to be noticed by police.

When she gets home, her parents have disappeared. She decides to hoof it to Canada, where many Americans are seeking asylum. Along the way she meets a girl with a dog and a secret.

The book is interspersed with black and white photographs that Radley's mother supposedly took. They are stark, lonely photos of found objects and isolated landscapes.

The story is really Radley's journey as a pampered, protected girl who first learns in Haiti what hunger and sorrow is. But there she was merely an observer. Back in America, she learns first-hand what it means to survive and what it means to be truly alone.

The blurb on the book may make it sound like a dystopia, but anyone expecting the heart-pounding action of the The Hunger Games or the fight the power resistance of Delirium will be disappointed. Safekeeping is not a dystopia. It is a long trek of being left with your thoughts when you're walking in the rain and you have miles to go.

I think the book is more of an experiment rather than a cohesive narrative. The photographs added nothing to the story for me. There is a character that's introduced near the end that's too deus ex machina and whose actions (or lack of action) make no sense.

But I admire Karen Hesse for trying something different, even though it wasn't entirely successful for me. I'd recommend Safekeeping to die-hard Karen Hesse fans.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Reader's Corner - January 2013 Update

"Wasn't this supposed to be a 3-hour tour?"
I hope 2013 is treating you well so far!

I'm still behind on some book reviews, but I hope to catch up on those later this month.

The most recent book I've added to my to-be-reviewed pile is Altered by Jennifer Rush. Also on the to-be-reviewed pile is Safekeeping by Karen Hesse.

I've barely cracked open the first few chapters of Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, but lots of fun packed into those beginning pages.

Lately, I've had some trouble with audiobooks (the downside to borrowing them from the library is that you can get a couple of discs in and then get a disc that WILL NOT PLAY). *sigh*

But I did get to listen to the complete audiobook of Nation by Terry Pratchett. Librarian confession: I've never actually read a Terry Pratchett novel before. Love Doug Adams and Neil Gaiman, but Terry Pratchett has escaped me.

So happy I finally got a chance to experience Terry Pratchett with Nation. It's a Printz Honor book and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. Mau is on his way to become a man when his village is wiped out in a tsunami. Ermintrude (aka Daphne) is a Victorian young lady on her way to meet her governor father when the tsunami strands her on Mau's island.

Nation is filled with big ideas about race and class and religion and nature and gender and science and a few other things, but populated with compelling, real characters that I became fully invested in. The novel ends unconventionally, but honestly, and I may have teared up a little.

Bonus video: Terry Pratchett discusses Nation

Happy Reading!


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