Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: Daisy to the Rescue by Jeff Campbell



Daisy to the Rescue
Jeff Campbell


Genre: Nonfiction
Hardback: 336 Pages
Publication: October 7, 2014
by Zest Books



Who rescued who? This popular animal-shelter bumper sticker captures an enduring emotional truth: With their love and companionship, animals of all species save our lives every day. But sometimes, to our utter amazement and everlasting gratitude, animals literally save our lives, and this heartwarming book collects over 50 real-life stories of animals rescuing people, in which the actions of animals have meant the difference between life and death. Today, scientists vigorously debate questions regarding the sentience, intelligence, and emotions of animals. In particular, they want to know whether animals share with humans the highest emotions of empathy, compassion, and altruism. This book also poses these questions for readers to consider, and using current research on animal minds and emotions, it examines these extreme life-saving situations for possible evidence. Where appropriate, skepticism and doubt surrounding particular stories is included, but gathered together, these anecdotes make a compelling case for the presence of altruism in animals. Thus, this book provides dramatic, thrilling, and moving stories that convey a hopeful message about our world. But these stories also provide startling evidence of the mental and emotional capacities of animals, those being we share the world with.


Review

As a child, I was obsessed with animals and read many nonfiction books about them. I'm still very fond of animals today and was delighted to be presented with the opportunity to review a book about animal heroes!

I was surprised to find that the stories were narrated like a report. I was expecting a little more narration. It does make sense though given that there are over fifty stories covered in this book. I like how the report style of narration helps to keep the author's bias and imagination from infiltrating the stories while leaving room readers to ask questions. If Campbell had taken liberties with embellishing the stories, it would be difficult to tell fact from fiction. The lack of embellishment doesn't take away from the emotions of the stories. In fact, many of them brought me to the verge of tears.

I like the layout of the stories. The opening page provides the story title and a cute drawing of the animal hero. Beneath the picture, the following information is provided: the animal's name, species, the date and location of the heroic event, the situation, who was saved (name and age), and the fame meter (how famous the animal became). In the story itself, bold heading divide the story into segments for clear reading. As I mentioned earlier, the stories are really like reports, and Campbell often provides backstory, other angles, and epilogues to the heroic tales. At the end of some of the stories, Campbell provides abbreviated accounts of similar incidents that have taken place; he does this in bullet points at the end of the "report."

It is clear that Campbell put much time and effort into the research for his book. Campbell compares tales of animal heroes and asks important questions about the validity of such tales. He also provides supplementary information on related topics to enrich the reading experience. For example, he provides a segment on mirror neurons as a possible reason for some accounts of animal heroics; another segment provides accounts of life-saving animals in pop culture. He also references some other books in his discussions of the heroic tales. I looked some of them up and plan to check them out in the future.

Though I would have liked to see more time spent on each individual story, the broad range of stories covered in this book make it a worthwhile purchase. I recommend this book to readers who love animals and reading about true tales of animal heroism.

An ARC was provided by Zest Books for review

Rating: 4 stars

Series
  • N/A

Content
  • Some gruesome details (like a dog losing a snout and top jaw in the process of saving some children from a motorcycle), but clean for the most part

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

DNF Review: The Memory Key by Liana Liu



The Memory Key
Liana Liu


Genre: YA Science Fiction
Hardback: 368 Pages
Publication: March 3, 2015
by Harper Teen



In a five-minutes-into-the-future world, a bereaved daughter must choose between losing memories of her mother to the haze of time and the reality-distorting, visceral pain of complete, perfect recall.

Lora Mint is determined not to forget.

Though her mother’s been dead for five years, Lora struggles to remember every detail about her—most importantly, the specific events that occurred the night she sped off in her car, never to return.

But in a world ravaged by Vergets disease, a viral form of Alzheimer’s, that isn’t easy. Usually Lora is aided by her memory key, a standard-issue chip embedded in her brain that preserves memories just the way a human brain would. Then a minor accident damages Lora’s key, and her memories go haywire. Suddenly Lora remembers a moment from the night of her mother’s disappearance that indicates her death was no accident. Can she trust these formerly forgotten memories? Or is her ability to remember every painful part of her past driving her slowly mad—burying the truth forever?

Lora’s longing for her lost mother and journey to patch up her broken memories is filled with authentic and poignant emotion. Her race to uncover the truth is a twisty ride.


Review

While the concept of memory keys is very intriguing to me, they are not the main focus of the novel. It keeps switching to Lora's love life and the problems she that has with her best friend. As a result, the world building is weak. The plot narration is also confusing and hard to follow; the narrative jumps between the present and the past through flashbacks. On top of that, I cannot connect with the characters. There is no character development. While I understand why Lora does not want to fix her memory key, I couldn't relate to her on an emotional level.

I would have stopped reading this earlier, but I thought that I should give it more of a chance.

DNF around 70%

An ARC was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 1 star

Series
  • N/A

Similar Books

Content
  • N/A

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard



Red Queen
Victoria Aveyard

Series: Red Queen #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Hardback: 383 Pages
Publication: February 10, 2015
by Harper Teen



Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood--those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.


Review

I wholeheartedly admit that, while I found the premise of Red Queen interesting, I read this for the cover. It is such a relief to see a cover that isn't an image of a girl and doesn't really have anything to do with the plot itself. That said, while the image is symbolic, the presence of the "queen" in the title doesn't have much to do with the plot. The idea of a Red Queen is more of a passing suggestion late in the novel. After having read the novel, I would have thought that this title would be saved for one of the future installments.

The world of Red Queen is interesting but doesn't fulfill all of its potential. A world where the population has been divided between the elite and the non-elite and where the people of each group have different statuses (such as if they can find work (the Reds) and the strength of their power (the Silvers)) . . . such a world holds the potential to explore the human condition and how power affects the haves and the have-nots. Rather than building court intrigue and the human condition, however, Aveyard seems to focus the plot primarily on Mare's personal interests after arriving at court.

Even with the stronger focus on the characters, the characters were one dimensional and easily categorized into a stereotype. To name a few, Mare is the gutsy, bullheaded heroine who charges into a situation without much thought for the consequences, Cal is the romantic hero who has a habit of ignoring his personal desires to fulfill his duties, and Maven is the younger brother who has grown up in the shadow of his older brother's superior talent. While some characters end up seemingly changing personalities at the end, the changes are sudden, unexpected, and sorely disappointing. I was expecting some of these to happen; however, they're clichéd, predictable, and overdone—and I was really hoping that I was wrong. The biggest problem I had with the characters is that their character motivations were difficult to discern. The most that we delve into any one character is on a superficial level. We don't get sufficient reason for why they behave in the way they do, and this makes it impossible to fully understand and connect with the characters.

Mare's voice also lacks a distinct personality. Reading her narrative, I wouldn't be able to distinguish her from many other YA heroines. If her character motivation was better developed along with her strengths and weaknesses (particularly emotionally and psychologically), then her narrative would be stronger. Mare also runs hot-cold, a problem that I've seen in many YA heroines. She will act one way one moment and a different way the next. This happens particularly around Cal; this doesn't make sense considering how her same reasoning could be applied on other characters. I would have liked to see the characters' relationships developed better. I would also like to see at least her closer friends developed into more multi-dimensional characters in the next installment. I would also also like to see more of Mare's family or at least her backstory. Blood is an important element in this novel, and some of Mare's most important decisions occur because of her desire to protect her family and those she considers family.

That said, the plot is dull to the point that I skimmed more and more as the novel progressed. (The only thing that kept me reading to the end was my curiosity on what would happen.) While it was interesting that I didn't know until the end who would be the true hero, it also means that the novel never let us get to know any of the guys. If the hero candidates were better developed, then the reader would be able to develop suspicions and rejoice or mourn in the end when these suspicions were proven right or wrong. That my discussion on the plot centers on the guys shows that there wasn't much else to the court intrigue. It isn't until the end that an important twist is introduced to us. Given Mare's unique situation, I would have expected more foreshadowing on this issue.

I do want to make a statement here that I do not approve of someone kissing another person against his or her will even if they end up enjoying the kiss. This is sexual harassment and should not be tolerated. Even if you like the kiss and want it, you still have the right to tell the other person that what they did was wrong. Even if you are in a dating relationship, your partner does not have the right to kiss you or do anything to you against your will. No is no. I am really disappointed that this happens in the novel, especially as I thought the guy was a decent person. Especially considering what their relationship (through another person) is.

On the bright side, even if it was clichéd and a total case of plot shielding, a character that I was hoping to see turns up in the end (hint: this person teleports).

I probably won't check out the second novel. I am curious about what happens, but I'm afraid to see the series end up like The Selection did for me. I may just wait for it to show up in my local library and skim the pages to see if I'd be interested in reading further.

An ARC was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 1.5 stars

Series
  • N/A

Content
  • Kissing
  • Violence

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson



Charlotte Temple
Susanna Rowson


Genre: HistoricalSentimental Novel
Paperback: 192 Pages
Publication: September 23, 2010
by Bedford/St. Martin's



A novel of seduction, abandonment and villainy, Charlotte Temple was initially published in England in 1791 before making its American debut in 1794. Susanna Rowson's short novel became the first bestseller in America and its most popular novel until Uncle Tom's Cabin, and has gone through more than 200 editions. This Bedford College Edition is based on the 1794 edition, and features editorial matter that engages key questions for responding to the novel, including those of genre, authorship, book history, gender, sexuality, family, class, and community.


Review

Charlotte Temple was so bad, I couldn't go to sleep until I had finished it. So many factors were working against Charlotte that I kept turning the pages to find out what happens to her. Yes, she does things that she knows she shouldn't do, but not-so-nice people also use her for their own gains. This was why I stayed up reading this novel; I felt so bad for Charlotte. With all the terrible developments, the plot moves forwards fairly quickly. There is also the time Charlotte faints, and we do not know if she would have had the willpower to resist the influences of the not-so-nice people.

A story of emotion and ethics, the goal of the sentimental novel (like Charlotte Temple) was to teach young women good morals and to warn them against associating with certain types of people who would certainly lead them to ruin. You can see the didactic messages in Charlotte Temple when the narrator speaks directly to the audience about what we should be learning from the story. The seduction plot teaches us the potential consequences of loving and following the wrong man. Of course, the consequences wouldn't be as bad today as in Charlotte's time, so the primary value of reading this novel would be to learn more about the culture during the colonial period.

That said, the characters are one dimensional for the most part. Mr. and Mrs. Temple are obviously the ideal sentimental hero and heroine respectively, Montraville is the seducer, La Rue is the seductress / temptress, and Charlotte is the naive heroine . . . to name a few. While there are a couple changes in some of the characters, they're very subtle and aren't enough to make them multi-dimensional. We also don't get to peer much into the minds of the characters other than those that contribute to the plot, so we don't learn much about them as people. While Charlotte Temple provides a different kind of read, it wouldn't be my first pick for leisure reading.

Nevertheless, despite the lack of intricate plot and character development, I did enjoy reading Charlotte Temple. I read this book for my American Heroine class, and it made for some fantastic discussion on the different characters and how they relate to one another. Fun fact to consider while reading this novel - though Rowson was a British writer, Charlotte Temple sold better in the Americas than in Britain.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Series
  • N/A

Similar Books
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Content
  • N/A

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes



Liars, Inc.
Paula Stokes

Genre: YA Mystery Crime
Hardback: 368 Pages
Publication: March 24, 2015
by Harper Teen



Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit?


Review

Liars, Inc is not only a murder mystery, but it explores relationships with family, friends and romantics.

Max, his girlfriend Parvati, and his best friend Preston start a business call Liars, Inc., which sells lies such as excuses, forged parental signatures, and alibis for teens who want to spend uninterrupted time with their boyfriend or girlfriend. The business is going well up until Preston disappears and later turns up dead. Worse yet, the evidence points to Max as the killer.

Max’s mom died in childbirth, and his dad died when he was young. He went through a foster home, ran away, and ends up in a boy's orphanage where he is adopted by his current family. Parvati is the daughter of a Colonel and a defense attorney who are over-protective parents. She is smart, rude, and rebellious. Preston is the son of Senator DeWitt. He is cute, funny, and the football star of the school. Nobody hates him,except for the local bookie (because of Preston's gambling addiction). I like how the author shows three different sets of parents and how these three teens have grown up under these parenting styles.

I also like the character growth shown throughout the novel. At first, Max makes some mistakes, holds back information, and makes bad decisions out of fear. The lies that he tells are like a tangled web. The more you try to lie, the tighter they wrap around you. Liars, Inc starts with one single white lie, and it ends up getting Max in serious trouble. If he told the truth from the beginning Max wouldn’t have dug himself into such a deep hole. Rather than burying himself in it, however, he learns from his experiences and gradually recognizes that he needs help. Trusting yourself and others is not easy. It takes a lot of time and patience, especially if you have a broken past. I really love the dynamics between Max and his family. It proves that you don't have to be blood-related to be true family.

I also enjoyed the journey to uncover all of the secrets surrounding Preston: the videos found from his computer, the situations with Parvati, and the secrets surrounding Preston’s family. It makes one wonder if we can ever really know the people around us, like our neighbors, friends, and colleagues.

Overall, Liars, Inc. is a great novel. I can't wait for Paula Stokes' next book.

An ARC was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 4 stars

Series
  • N/A

Similar Books

Content
  • Kissing
  • Sex
  • Arson
  • Violence (gun shooting)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Review: Finding Paris by Joy Preble



Finding Paris
Joy Preble


Genre: YA Contemporary, Mystery, Road Trip
Hardback: 272 Pages
Publication: April 21, 2015
by Balzer + Bray



An evocative and compelling story of two sisters who would do anything for each other.

Sisters Leo and Paris Hollings have only ever had each other to rely on. They can't trust their mother, who hops from city to city and from guy to guy, or their gambler stepfather, who's moved them all to Las Vegas. It's just the two of them: Paris, who's always been the dreamer, and Leo, who has a real future in mind--going to Stanford, becoming a doctor, falling in love. But Leo isn't going anywhere right now, except driving around Vegas all night with her sister.

Until Paris ditches Leo at the Heartbreak Hotel Diner, where moments before they had been talking with physics student Max Sullivan. Outside, Leo finds a cryptic note from Paris—a clue. Is it some kind of game? Where is Paris, and why has she disappeared? When Leo reluctantly accepts Max's offer of help, the two find themselves following a string of clues through Vegas and beyond. But the search for the truth is not a straight line. And neither is the path to secrets Leo and Max hold inside.


Review

I picked up Finding Paris because I love novels with strong family ties. It was disappointing that Paris and Leo's relationship and family situation isn't explored much beyond little snippets that kept the plot moving. However, I did get something more than I expected. With the fourth clue to Paris's location, I got a mystery that made stay up reading until I had finished the novel.

From the first pages, I knew that I would enjoy this novel. The writing is beautiful and descriptive, and I like how we really get into Leo's thoughts. Plus, Leo is an intelligent girl who tells Physics  / science-y jokes. Sure, they're cheesy ones that I've heard a lot, but how often do you get such jokes in a YA novel? It's rare that I find a protagonist who talks about the SATs, aims to attend a top-ranked college, and keeps the readers aware about these facts throughout the novel. It made me so happy to encounter such a girl in Leo. Better yet, she doesn't look like the stereotypical nerd.

I'm also very happy with how Max is also a science-y nerd and can keep up with Leo. He's a cool guy even if there are some questionable things about him, like his secret and how he offers Leo a ride even though they just met. That said, the romance was very rushed. The main events of this novel take place over the course of several days, and Max and Leo don't know much about each other even if they do learn some of their deepest concerns. As much as I've come to care about the two, I don't believe in passionately kissing a guy you just met the other day. Romantic relationships should take a little more time to build true intimacy.

I wish that more of Leo's home life and familial relationships were explored more. I especially would have liked to see Leo and Paris's relationship better developed before Paris leaves, setting the plot in motion, and perhaps afterwards as well through Leo's memories. I would have also liked to see more of Leo's home life growing up. These would have greatly helped me understand the circumstances leading to Paris's disappearance and the motivation behind Paris's behavior.

As it is, the ending felt rushed. I was particularly unhappy with the handling of the secrets. One secret leads to a plot twist that I didn't see coming. While it seems cool, I do wonder how the novel would have played out had there been more foreshadowing. I feel like such a secret should have influenced this character's behavior. Furthermore, we only see a partial resolution to one secret coming out into the open. We see progress towards resolving the other secret, but we don't get the satisfaction of seeing it carried out. If it's not going to be resolved for us, it would be better to tell us it's going to happen instead of setting it in motion only to end partway through. Overall, I would have liked to see both secrets play more of an overt role in the plot.

Finding Paris is a moving story about learning to open one's heart and facing the truth. While I did have some complaints, particularly entering the climax of events and during the resolution process, I very much enjoyed unraveling the mystery of Paris's disappearance. It wasn't on as large of a scale as I was anticipating with the road trip suggestion in the synopsis and cover, but the fourth clue raised the stakes and made me genuinely concerned with the outcome. Even before then, the beautiful writing and likable heroine in Leo drew me into her world. I recommend Finding Paris to those looking for a unique setting (in Vegas), sisterly bonds, road trips, and mysterious secrets.

A review copy was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 4 stars

Series
  • N/A

Content
  • Language (cussing)
  • Alcohol
  • Kissing
  • Sexual abuse
  • Some violence