Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review - The Professionals

The ProfessionalsThe Professionals by Owen Laukkanen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Four young people, disillusioned by the job market after graduation, come up with a supposedly foolproof way to make a fortune. Kidnapping, involving relativly small sums of money that wealthy families can pay quickly and forget. They criss-cross the country, researching potential victims, taking the time to build up a next egg and plan to retire in a few years.

Then they discover that no plan is really foolproof.

Hunted by the Mob, state investigator Stevens and FBI agent Windermere, they learn their only hope of survival is to become as professional as their adversaries. And that means people have to die.

As i read this book I alternatly sided with the investigating team plodding through nearly invisible clues (is there really a crime if no one reports it), the mob queen our for revenge, the kids who discover that having a conscious and caring for each other might be fatal, and the crazy rich girl who decides to tag along thinking a life of crime could be fun.

Who lives and who dies were questions that kept me turning pages right to the end.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book Review - Never Fall Down

Never Fall DownNever Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This reads like fiction, but it's true to the core, a bigraphy of a victim of child war.

Eleven-year-old Arn Chorn-Pond is sucked into the Cambodian war when he, his sisters, aunt and entire village are taken into virtual slavery by the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Before they day he was force-marched fom his home under the promise that it would only be for three days, until the day almost four years later when he found himseld on a plane for America where he was adopted by an American minister, he was forced to endure an almost unimaginable hell where all he could do was survive while wondering if he should keep bothering. This is told from the child's point of view, his gradual realization that the three days might never end, watching people he knew being left dead at the side of the road or being led away to never be seen again, while the rotting pile at the edge of camp keeps growing larger. The broken English used makes the story all the more compelling. This is not a book for those with a weak stomach, and not just because diarrhea becomes a part of daily life.

Before he is fourteen he deals with the kinds of moral dilemmas that would destroy many adults. He faces a woman who first curses him for being an enemy and then begs him to kill her and save her from a slow painful death. Then he confronts his younger sister, gray as an old woman semi-conscious and dying by the side of the road, knowing that it would be a kindness to kill her and save her from future rape and torture or being eaten by animals as hungry as the people.

In spite of the death all around him, including being forced to witness executions of people he knows and help bury the bodies, he fights the growing "tiger in his gut." Somehow he is chosen to survive.

Even though we know this is the true story of a man who has become a powerful speaker for children and peace, founding Cambodian Living Arts ( the writing keeps us at the edge as we wonder what next can happen to this child, and how will he live through it and retain his humanity.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review - Cloaked

CloakedCloaked by Alex Flinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I met Alex Flynn at a conference last year and read one of her books (I won't say which one because I was seriously unimpressed by it) I just finished Cloaked. This one was an awesome page turner, I was immediately sucked into John the shoe repair guy's world. The mising father, the magic, the real life media-frenzy princess and the girl next door (okay the girl working in the coffee shop across the corridor from the shoe shop), it all flowed together into a really great story. Once I actually began to believe the princess wasn't insane and that her brother really had been turned into a frog - and John and I both had the same feeling when we first heard the story, I remained sucked into all the magic, the witches, the brownies, the magic cloak from the title, and everything else. Yes, I saw some twists coming, but the magic is in the journey, the destination doesn't have to be a secret.

I also loved remembering the fairy tales this story is based on, and the way the author skillfully intermingled the stories.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review - Crank

Crank (Crank, #1)Crank by Ellen Hopkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading this book it doesn't surprise me to learn the author suffered through a similar situation first hand with her own daughter. Because I did the same. There was so much in this book I recognized, and a lot that helped me understand my own child better.
Kristina meets Crank, a powerful street drug. The rest is pretty much a foregone conclusion. "The Monster" grabs her at first use. She becomes Bree, an alter ego that is almost her exact opposite, and that loves the monster, in spite of the dangers and cost.

This is not a book for anyone who wants a happy ending. Not even a hopeful ending. This is a book about reality. Yes the language is crude, the damage to Kristina/Bree is difficult to read. Authors are told to be cruel to their characters. Turns out the monster loves cruelty. What happens as Bree takes over and pushes Kristina aside make readers shudder, and so it should. This is the kind of YA book adults, especially parents, should read. Kristina really does love her family. She really does love the real world. She understands what is happening to her. But Bree grows stronger. And the monster never stops calling.

I can't believe it took me this long to get to this book. And, although I shudder, I'm heading out now to get the sequel, Glass.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

BOOK Review - Infinity

Infinity (Numbers, #3)Infinity by Rachel Ward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Every good thing must end. This, the third book of the Number trilogy has a good ending, but it's not the difinitive ending I had been longing for. Trilogies often have a weak point. Frequently its the middle book. In this case, number 2, The Chaos, was the best in the set. Number three, Infinity is good, but not as good.

Infinity, like The Chaos, is told using alternating points ov view between teens Adam and Sarah. But the standout character is Sarah's two-year-old daughter, Mia. Mia is Sarah's daughter, but not Adam's although he has assumed the role of father and people think she is his. Mia demonstrated the ability to exchange numbers with someone else in The Chaos. The action takes place in England two years after Adam tried to warn the world about the coming disaster, The Chaos. Now Adam, a 17-year-old black male, Sarah, her daughter Mia, and Sarah's two younger brothers are living on the run in a country that has gone back to a primitive level of existance after the disaster. He's on the run, his scars make him too easily recognizable. And what's left of the government want him, badly. He's cursed with the ability to see the date people die by looking in their eyes. Worse, he feels the manner of their deaths.

Sarah is tired of running. She's pregnant with Adam's child and she wants to believe they can join other survivors and be safe. All that changes when Saul finds them. He's a government agent with his own reasons for wanting Adam's child.  His number shows that he's due to die in days, its the worst death that Adam has ever encountered.  Turns out Saul knows his own death date. But, like Mia, he knows how to switch dates with others.  He plans to switch with a child who can give him the ability to see someone else's number. Adam's child.

Frankly, as a stand alone book it might have earned a four or five. By itself this is a good, worthy story that I would recommend to friends. I loved the characters, even Saul, the villain, and the action and tension were great. The ending is satisfactory. More than that, it has a happily ever after flavor. It just didn't leave the same emotional hit as the other two did. But it didn't have the same level of tension as Numbers or The Chaos, and I kept wanting more of Mia.

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