skywalker

Star Wars, Vol. 1-Skywalker Strikes

Luke Skywalker and the ragtag rebel band opposing the Galactic Empire are fresh off their biggest victory so far–the destruction of the massive Death Star. But the Empire’s not toppled yet! Join Luke, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2 and the rest of the Rebel Alliance as they fight for freedom against the evil of Darth Vader and his master, the Emperor! But when a Rebel assault goes very wrong, Han and Leia will have to think fast to make their escape–while Luke finds himself face-to-face with Darth Vader! In the explosive aftermath, a humbled Luke returns to Tatooine to learn more about his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi. Meanwhile, Leia and Han undertake a vital–and dangerous–secret mission. But can they succeed without Luke? Plus: the menace of Boba Fett!  goodreads.com

circle

Circle

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency.

As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO.

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America – even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge  goodreads.com

Beneath

Beneath

Pat’s older brother, Coop, has always been obsessed with the underground. He almost killed Pat when the mile-long tunnel they were digging through their neighborhood hit a gas line. Since then he has done his underground exploring on his own. After he turned 18, their parents wanted Coop to go to college and make something of himself. Instead Coop takes off and no one hears from him for a year. Their parents split up with mom moving to Florida and dad staying with Pat. They are even more uninterested in being parents than they were before.

Then one day Pat receives a package from Coop with a voice recorder and instructions for mail drops. Coop is in New York City and exploring the underground world there. When Coop disappears once again, Pat knows something is really wrong. Not able to get either of his parents’ help, he heads to New York on his own. It is Christmas break, his parents are both traveling and each thinks he is with the other. In New York, Pat uses Coop’s recordings to retrace his footsteps. He is introduced to the world of The Community, a group of people who live underground and off the grid, but still have dealings with the above world. They are much different from their counterparts from The Deep.

Pat meets Kate, a member of The Deep, who knows that Coop has been taken by their leader Lod. Kate agrees to lead Pat to The Deep and together they hope to rescue Coop from Lod’s clutches. The Deep is not like The Community. They have cut all ties to the above world, but are still technologically sophisticated and deadly. They will stop at nothing to keep their world a secret, keep the inhabitants in and keep outsiders out.

It turns out that Lod is actually Lawrence Dane, a member of the Weathermen Underground. The Weathermen were a domestic terrorist organization in the 1960s and 1970s. It was believed that they were all killed or captured, but Dane had escaped and spent decades in The Deep plotting his to overthrow the government. It is up to Pat, Coop and Kate to stop him and let the authorities know about his plot. First, they have to escape The Deep!

I could not put this book down! It was so intense once Pat got underground. There were times I felt claustrophobic just reading about the tunnels and paths he had to travel. I think the fact that there actually are underground places in New York like the ones described here and that the Weathermen did exist made the book even more intense.

When Friendship Followed Me Home

When Friendship Followed Me Home

Ben Coffin has had a hard life. His parents died when he was young and he spent several years in foster care. He was finally adopted by Tess whose partner died. Tess promises they are going to leave New Jersey and move to Florida one day, so Ben is careful about becoming attached to people. Then he meets Flip, an abandoned dog. Flip steals Ben’s heart and the two become instant friends. Ben starts training Flip to be a therapy dog with the help of his friend Halley who he met at the library. Ben is bullied at school and spends a lot of time in the library reading scifi books. His favorite librarian, Mrs. Lorentz helps him out a lot. Halley is Mrs. Lorentz’s daughter and she is very sick. She is fighting her disease with everything she has though and her and Ben start writing a book together.

When Tess unexpectedly dies, Ben goes to live with her sister Jeannie and her boyfriend. Jeannie is nice enough and genuinely wants to take care of Ben. Her boyfriend is completely opposite. One day he is drunk and hits Ben. That is the end of it as far as Ben is concerned. He plans on never going back. He ends up with the Lorentz family who agree to take him in. Tragedy follows tragedy for young Ben and Halley gets worse and things go progressively down hill.

I feel like I might have missed a lot of the emotional impact of this story by listening to it instead of reading it. It is a sad story with a lot of tragedy, but also with a lot of heart. Ben is a really resilient character who has been through a lot in a short amount of time. However, he doesn’t seem to let that get him down. This was well written and a moving story, but I just didn’t feel emotionally connected to it. I do think this was because I listened to it instead of reading the physical book.

blind date

Blind Date

A KILLER IS ON THE LOOSE–AND HE’S DYING TO MEET YOU…

After the death of her husband four years ago, Hartley Watson is finally ready to meet someone–and maybe even have a second chance at love. But then, just as her dating life seems to be getting started, Hartley is struck with a horrifying realization: Someone is watching her. Entering her own home. Even knows the intimate details of her life. How else to explain the strange deliveries, or the sudden appearance of mementos from her dead spouse–ones that she had kept for so long in storage?

If only Hartley could know for sure whether what is happening to her is real or if her grief is making her lose touch with reality. Those around her aren’t convinced that she’s being stalked, nor is the wonderful, supportive man Hartley’s started dating. The exciting new life she has created for herself is slowly becoming a nightmare. . .How can Hartley seek protection when nobody believes that she’s at risk–and the only one in the world she can trust is herself?

–from Goodreads.com

My Brigadista Year

My Brigadista Year

Lora and her family live fairly comfortably in Havana, Cuba. They aren’t wealthy but Lora is able to go to a very good school in the city. Then Baptiste is overthrown and Fidel Castro comes in to power. One of Castro’s initiatives is the quest to end illiteracy in Cuba. He recruits young people to be teachers in the country. Lora’s family doesn’t want her to do this, but she is determined to be a brigadista and do her part for her country. She is accepted into the program and heads off to training camp. There she is taught how to teach the farmers she will be living with for the next year. She is sent to the mountains and lives with the Santanas. She also teaches another family, the Acostas. Of course there are hardships as she tries to convince some of the older men they should be literate. There are also rebels in the hills who are against the Castro regime. Lora succeeds in her quest to help end illiteracy and returns to her family triumphant.

I recently reread Bridge to Terabithia so I was a bit excited about a new Katherine Paterson book. I will admit to being disappointed. For one, I felt like this was a bit of a propaganda piece for Cuba. I am not intimately familiar with Cuban history, but I would think those Cubans that fled the Castro regime would not agree with the portrayal hear. This book really made it seem like things vastly improved when Castro took over. People learn to read and write! Youth helped their country improve and went on to successful lives! Rebels kill children! It didn’t show any of the negatives that Castro brought to the country, though Paterson does address that in the afterwards. Maybe things were fantastic when he came to power? I just don’t know enough to know.

The other thing I wasn’t thrilled about was how boring this book was. It reads like a young girl’s diary, which it turns out is what it is. But you don’t know that until the end of the book. There is a reason most young girls do not publish their diaries. They are boring and of no interest to others for the most part. This book was super thin, but took me forever to read simply because I wasn’t excited to pick it up. Even the parts where Lora was in danger were boring and you really knew that nothing bad was going to happen. There was no tension or drama to be had here.

So I was disappointed, but I am sure this book will find its fans. It did offer a glimpse into a time and place that is not often covered in middle grade literature. It also did a good job of showing how even young people can make a difference in the lives of others through sacrifice and service. It was just a bit idealistic for my tastes.

I received it from Netgalley to review.

cousin

My Cousin Rachel

Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and there he dies suddenly. Jealous of his marriage, racked by suspicion at the hints in Ambrose’s letters, and grief-stricken by his death, Philip prepares to meet his cousin’s widow with hatred in his heart. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious Rachel like a moth to the flame. And yet… might she have had a hand in Ambrose’s death? goodreads.com

it

IT

To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live.

It was the children who saw – and felt – what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .

The adults, knowing better, knew nothing.

Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality. goodreads.com

index

King’s Mountain

Sharyn McCrumb’s novel King’s Mountain is a fictional tale of the true story of the battle of King’s Mountain in Appalachia during the American Revolution. Once again, she brings colorful and historic figures to life from the Carolina mountains. The homesteaders in the mountains had taken little interest in the revolutionary war. After fighting the Indians and settling in the wilderness to build farms and raise their families, they took no interest in a war occurring in the eastern part of the country, including John Sevier.  Yet, when an arrogant British Officer sends a message that he will destroy their farms, burn their homes, and kill their family members if any of the “Over the Mountain Men” decide to join the war on the American side, hackles are raised and the mountain homesteaders are filled with a fighting spirit to the detriment of the British regiment.

McCrumb has given us a well-researched account of the fight at King’s mountain between an unpaid American volunteer militia and a professional British military regiment. Although well-documented, King’s Mountain is little known outside of some obscure history books and McCrumb felt the story needed to be told.

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Ever After

The ever after, the demonic realm that parallels the human world, is shrinking. If it disappears completely, so does all magic. It’s up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to avert catastrophe and keep life from changing… for the worse.

While saving the world is important, it isn’t Rachel’s only motivation. There’s also the small fact that she caused the ley line to rip in the first place, setting off a chain reaction of unfortunate events. That little mistake has made her life forfeit unless she can fix it. It’s also made her more than a few enemies, including the most powerful demon in the ever after—a terrifying entity who eats souls and now has an insatiable appetite for her. He’s already kidnapped her friend and goddaughter to lure her out, and if Rachel doesn’t give herself up soon, they’ll die.

But Rachel has more than a few impressive and frightening skills of her own, and she isn’t going to hand over her soul and her life without one hell of a fight. She’s also got a surprise: elven tycoon Trent Kalamack. With this unlikely ally beside her—a prospect both thrilling and unnerving—she’s going to return to the ever after, kick some demon butt, rescue her loved ones… and prevent an apocalypse before it’s too late. Or, at least that’s the plan.

 

Goodreads.com

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The Great Questions of Tomorrow: The Ideas that Will Remake the World

With the world at the threshold of profound changes, the question becomes: Where are the philosophers? Where are the great thinkers of today? Where is the next Jefferson, Curie, or Mandela? Which technologies and changes in the nature of life will they harness, embrace, or be inspired by? As the world’s center of gravity has shifted over the centuries from Europe and then to the US, so too has the center of intellectual gravity. With that center shifting to Asia and also to the emerging world, will those places produce the transformational thinkers of the twenty-first century?

Embarking on an around-the-world search, David Rothkopf strives to answer these questions, uncovering what the next big ideas are and where they’re emerging. Who are the people behind the ideas, and how they will be colored by their place and culture of origins? Many of these ideas will be sought from unexpected markets—the way mobile money is being pioneered in Tanzania and Kenya, for example, or the way that access to the Internet is being explored or treated as a basic human right in Costa Rica, Estonia, and Finland. Along the way, Rothkopf highlights key areas in which transformational thinking will be needed. Core notions such as democracy and government, war and peace, money and markets, human rights and philosophy, and work and identity. Through fascinating and thought-provoking stories, Rothkopf ultimately reveals ideas that are being debated now—ones that will produce incredible breakthroughs in the years ahead

goodreads.com

 

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Dragon Teeth

The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate America’s western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.

Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition.  But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions.  With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and William’s newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the West’s most notorious characters

goodreads.com

Probably Michael Crichton’s worst book.

On the chase

On the chase

After witnessing a horrifying crime, Kaylee is forced to flee to a small Colorado mountain town and take on a new identity. There she becomes Grace, a dog kennel worker trying to avoid the dangerously attractive K-9 Officer Hugh Murdoch.

When an accident leaves Hugh and his K-9 partner, Lexi, on desk duty, both are anxious for Hugh to heal. Until then, the highlight of his day is teasing the beautiful but mysterious new kennel employee. Their simmering attraction fuels a passionate kiss—interrupted by a sniper’s bullet. With targets on both of their backs, Grace and Hugh will do whatever it takes to stay alive…not realizing the most dangerous threat of all is hiding right in front of their noses.

–from Goodreads.com

Tinderbox

Tinderbox

In the volatile tinderbox of the Horn of Africa, Morgan Adler has made the paleoanthropological find of a lifetime. The discovery brings her to the attention of a warlord eager to claim both Morgan and the fossils, forcing her to make a desperate dash to the nearby US military base to beg for protection.

Master Sergeant Pax Blanchard has orders to intercept Dr. Adler before she reaches the base, and in so doing saves her life. After a harrowing afternoon he safely delivers her to his commanders, only to find his responsibilities toward protecting the obstinate archaeologist have only just begun.

Morgan and Pax are forced to work together in the Djiboutian desert heat, but it is the fire that ignites between them that threatens to combust them both. For the Green Beret, involvement with the woman he must protect is a threat to his career, while for the archaeologist, the soldier is everything she never wanted but somehow can’t resist. When Morgan uncovers a mystery surrounding Djibouti’s most scarce and vital resource, the danger to her reaches the flashpoint. For Pax, protecting her is no longer a matter of following orders, and he’ll risk everything to bring her back alive.

–from Goodreads.com

The Eye of the North

The Eye of the North

Emmaline’s parents are scientists of some sort. She isn’t really sure what all they do. They travel a lot and leave her at home. Emmaline believes in always being prepared. You never know what you are going to find in the family home or on the grounds. So she carries a satchel of useful things and tries not to be surprised by what she encounters. Then one day she receives notice that her parents are missing and she is being sent to Paris immediately. She has very little time to pack or mourn and very little idea of what is going on. On the ship to Paris she meets Thing. Thing appears to be a stowaway on the ship. He has no family that he knows of, but takes an interest in Emmaline. After they set sail, Emmaline and Thing discover someone searching her room. Then they meet Sasha and Edgar who claim to want to help Emmaline. Unfortunately, before they can make up their minds to trust them, Emmaline is kidnapped by Dr. Bauer who takes her to Greenland. Thing teams up with Sasha and Edgar to rescue Emmaline. Dr. Bauer has also kidnapped Emmaline’s parents and wants their help in awaking the kraken from beneath the glacier. He believes the kraken will lead to eternal life.

This was a fun adventure story, but I felt like it needed just a bit more work. There is mention that the world is flooding, sea levels are rising, coasts are disappearing, but really no explanation for it. Emmaline’s parents work for the White Rose Society, but that too isn’t really explained. Thing’s backstory is briefly touched on in a vision he has but then nothing more is mentioned. There are a lot of loose ends that were either left hanging or just didn’t come together that well. However, I did really like Emmaline’s resourcefulness and Thing’s tenacity. Why they were such fast friends isn’t exactly clear, but they were fun characters. The rest of it seemed like a bit of a mess.

I received this book from Netgalley.

Long Way Down

Long Way Down

Will’s older brother Shawn was just gunned down. Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Get revenge. Will has been taught the rules just like Shawn was. They live in a rough world and the rules are what keeps it together. So Will finds Shawn’s gun and thinks he knows who shot him. Now it is time for rule 3. He gets into the elevator early on the morning after Shawn’s death and his world changes. Seven stops to the lobby, each stop another lesson. First is Buck. Buck gave Shawn the gun. Buck was a surrogate father to Shawn. Buck is dead, shot like so many. Yet he still fills the elevator with his cigarette smoke. Next stop is Dani. She was Will’s friend when they were young. She took a stray bullet while they were playing at the park. She is followed by Uncle Mark, Will’s dad Mickey, Frick the guy who killed Buck, and finally Shawn. They were each killed by gun violence and they each have a story to tell Will, a lesson to impart, questions to ask. The final question…will Will follow them?

Wow! Just Wow! Jason Reynolds is a master storyteller. I didn’t realize this was going to be a novel in verse until I opened it up. I didn’t know Reynolds did verse. Now I know he is a master at verse. This story is powerful in a way not many stories are. It is going to speak to those who are victims of gun violence and gangs and to those who live far from that fear. Will has many ghosts and they all come back to him in that short elevator ride. He is young and scared, but he knows what he has been taught and plans on following through. Reynolds asks the question of whether what you are taught matters after you are dead. Is there a way to break the vicious cycle that has enveloped Will’s family and society? Can Will break the cycle? Will Will break the cycle? Or will he follow in the footsteps of those who came before him and died? We are left with an ambiguous ending. We don’t know what Will will choose. As a reader you want him to go back upstairs and hide the gun away again. As a realist you wonder if he is capable of ending that cycle of violence. That seems like a question you could ask so many young people who’s lives are enveloped by violence and gangs. Is it possible to break out of that life?

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PrinceLess: Raven, the Pirate Princess, Book 1: Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew

In the first in the graphic novel series PrinceLess: Raven the Pirate Princess, we find Raven capturing a ship and trying to get a crew so she can find her brothers and reap her revenge on them for taking her rightful heritage from her.  This was as enjoyable as the other PrinceLess books with a new protagonist in Raven. I am excited to read more of her adventures in the next volumes of the series.