Book Review: Baby-Sitting is a Dangerous Job by Willo Davis Roberts

Title: Baby-Sitting is a Dangerous Job
Author: Willo Davis Roberts
Publisher: Aladdin
Paperback: 161 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

From the moment she set eyes on the three Foster kids, Darcy knew being their baby-sitter would be no picnic. But the pay was twice her usual rate, and the job was only for a few hours a day – surely an experienced baby-sitter like her could handle it.

But Darcy hadn’t counted on the mysterious things that started happening at the Fosters’ home after she took the job. She did everything a good baby-sitter was supposed to do: she didn’t let the stranger claiming to be from the gas company into the house and she called the police when the burglar alarm went off in the middle of the afternoon. But that wasn’t enough to prevent a baby-sitter’s worst nightmare from coming true. Now it’s up to Darcy to rescue the Foster kids – and herself – from three ruthless kidnappers.

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Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

This was a book that somehow ended up in my family’s bookshelves when I was a kid and I never got around to reading it, but the title stuck around with me, so I finally decided to request it from the library.

Overall, it was fine. It’s a children’s thriller about a young teenage girl named Darcy who baby-sits to earn herself a little extra money. She decides to take on the Foster job, even though she knows the kids are going to be bratty, but she’s getting a lot of money out of it, so why not? Right from the start, weird things start happening in the book — she and her brother seem to be followed by a black car on their way back from the Foster home to their home; and later, while walking with her friend, Darcy sees the same black car. At the same time, her friend has run away from home to escape her father’s abuse, so she tries to help her out. The main conflict of the story, though, is that Darcy and the Foster kids get kidnapped to earn a ransom and they want to figure out a way to escape from the kidnappers before they get hurt, or worse.

Basically, there’s a lot going on in this book and I’m not sure it holds up. It was written in the 80’s, and a lot of stuff is thrown out that isn’t taken very seriously. And yes, this is a thriller and not a Judy Blume book, but it’s troubling to see abuse get thrown out and not really addressed properly. It seems like the book’s message is: no, don’t talk to the proper authorities, running away is a good option sometimes, which isn’t a great message for kids. Even later, when the kidnapping is resolved, Darcy talks about it like she just had a daring adventure, calling her friend late at night to fill her in on all the “drama.” No mention of trauma? No parental check-ups? They hug her, give her an extra dessert, and let her talk on the phone. It’s all very strange.

With that said, it’s a fairly enjoyable story if you don’t think about it too much, which pretty much fits into the thriller genre overall, in my opinion. It’s nice to see Darcy realize that the kids she watches are more than burdens, so her character growth is interesting in that she starts actually caring for the kids she baby-sits rather than inwardly complain about how spoiled they are. And it’s nice to see the kids go through a change with how they treat her. This is an entertaining story, but not one I think kids today would enjoy, and not something I’d recommend as a “good read” to anyone, but it’s not bad either.

Book Review: Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Title: Industrial Magic
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Series: Women of the Otherworld, Book 4
Publisher: Spectra Books
Paperback: 528 pages
Source: Chicago OverDrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

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Paige Winterbourne, a headstrong young woman haunted by a dark legacy, is now put to the ultimate test as she fights to save innocents from the most insidious evil of all…

In the aftermath of her mother’s murder, Paige broke with the elite, ultraconservative American Coven of Witches. Now her goal is to start a new Coven for a new generation. But while Paige pitches her vision to uptight thirty-something witches in business suits, a more urgent matter commands her attention.

Someone is murdering the teenage offspring of the underworld’s most influential Cabals—a circle of families that makes the mob look like amateurs. And none is more powerful than the Cortez Cabal, a faction Paige is intimately acquainted with. Lucas Cortez, the rebel son and unwilling heir, is none other than her boyfriend. But love isn’t blind, and Paige has her eyes wide open as she is drawn into a hunt for an unnatural-born killer. Pitted against shamans, demons, and goons, it’s a battle chilling enough to make a wild young woman grow up in a hurry. If she gets the chance.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

While I am usually very strict about only reading series in order, for some reason, I’ve skipped around in this one a lot. Maybe because different books are from different perspectives? Anyway, I picked this up after being away from this series for a while, so it took me a bit to figure out exactly where I was in each character’s storylines. Having already read sequels, I must say it was way too much fun meeting Jaime the necromancer for the first time. Her first impression is as ridiculous and wonderful as I wanted it.

This book is a fun mystery/thriller with supernatural aspects involved, and of course, it includes all of our favorite characters from the Otherworld series; I love that the werewolves make an appearance in this novel. (Since the series started with Elena, I have a feeling that she and Clay will always be my ultimate favorites.) But I really would recommend this book for thriller lovers, I kept referring to it as the “supernatural serial killer” novel I was reading, and it fits so perfectly. Basically, Paige and Lucas agree to help the Cabals (supernatural mafia-like groups) to help find the person who’s been killing teenagers of Cabal employees. It follows the typical thriller-style of stories where they think they have the whole thing solved, but it turns out that they were missing a couple pieces of the puzzle, which makes for an interesting, surprising read.

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Book Review: Oxblood by Annalisa Grant

oxblood by annalisa grant.jpg
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Title: Oxblood
Author: Annalisa Grant
Series: Victoria Asher, Book 1
Publisher: Open Road Media Teen & Tween
Paperback: 300 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

How far would you go to save the only family you have left? Victoria “Vic” Asher is finally finding some balance in her life. Though she’s still reeling from her parents’ death in a plane crash, she’s content with waiting tables at the Clock; window shopping with her best friend, Tiffany; and hanging out with her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Chad. But when she receives a mysterious package in the mail from her brother, Gil–a law student doing research in Italy–she knows immediately that he’s in danger. Vic isn’t about to risk losing her only brother, so she sets off for Italy to find him. But when she runs into Ian, the gorgeous leader of Interpol’s secret Rogue division, who’s also searching for Gil, she quickly realizes that her brother is in much deeper trouble than she ever could have imagined. Vic will stop at nothing to locate Gil, but doing so could cost her her life–and her heart.

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I love YA thrillers and strong female characters, so when I saw this on NetGalley, I knew I had to take a look and see what it was about.

Let’s go through the bad stuff first. There were a few things that bothered me about this story. The first is that a lot of the conflicts were made overly simplistic by the fact that they were resolved so quickly. The second is that most of the action and exposition takes place through dialogue. This is a huge pet peeve of mine — if you wanted to write what people say — write a screenplay. If you want to write through description and exposition, write a novel. Overall, it’s a not a huge deal, but it really does bother me when the whole novel basically takes place through conversations.

With that said, I enjoyed the story overall. I think it had a good amount of suspense and a few twists that I didn’t see coming, which was fun. Victoria is such a cool character, with her ability to adapt to situations, and I like that her skill in observation came in handy in her search for her brother. I hope that she grows more as the series continues and is able to get past the aren’t-I-such-a-sad-baby thing, because while she certainly has it tough, she also certainly loves lamenting over the fact that her life is tough. This one wasn’t a must-read for me, but I definitely can see people loving it for its constant stream of surprises.

Fun, quick read if you’re interested in a YA thriller. It certainly delivers on intrigue!

Book Review: Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

Real Murders by Charlaine HarrisTitle: Real Murders
Author: Charlaine Harris
Series: Aurora Teagarden, Book 1
Publisher: Berkeley
Paperback: 290 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Lawrenceton, Georgia, may be a growing suburb of Atlanta, but it’s still a small town at heart. Librarian Aurora “Roe” Teagarden grew up there and knows more than enough about her fellow townsfolk, including which ones share her interest in the darker side of human nature.

With those fellow crime buffs, Roe belongs to a club called Real Murders, which meets once a month to analyze famous cases. It’s a harmless pastime – until the night she finds a member dead, killed in a manner that eerily resembles the crime the club was about to discuss. And as other brutal “copycat” killings follow, Roe will have to uncover the person behind the terrifying game, one that casts all the members of Real Murders, herself included, as prime suspects – potential victims…

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I’ve been trying to branch out of the Sookie Stackhouse series to see what else Charlaine Harris has to offer — after all, she started out as a mystery writer before she started the paranormal romance stuff, and I loved early Sookie for its wonderful mysteries and plot developments. So far, I have not been disappointed.

The main character, Aurora Teagarden is a librarian who is part of a group that meets occasionally to learn about famous historical murders and discuss them, so when she finds a dead body mimicking a famous murder, the whole group is put under suspicion. Overall, the premise is amazing. I loved how it just keep getting more complicated and dangerous for all the members of the murder club as more people were killed.

Aurora wasn’t my favorite character, however. I just didn’t know what to do with her. She was kind of boring and I hated the love triangle thing between her and the writer and cop. Like, how does such a boring person end up in a love triangle? She wasn’t even properly distressed about it. I felt like a lot of things about her personality didn’t match up. Since she is the main character, it affected my whole reading of the story. The plot itself is quite good and really just a solid mystery, but Aurora annoyed me quite a lot.

With that said, I still enjoyed myself. This is a quick read — the writing is light and easy, and the plot moves along at a steady pace. I’m definitely planning to read the sequels, if only to see if Aurora ever stabilizes as a character, and of course I’m interested to see what problematic situations Harris puts her in next.

I’d recommend this for mystery lovers and/or Harris fans. This is something quick to keep you interested, but definitely not “you must read this before you die!” material.

Audiobook Review: Timeline by Michael Crichton

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Title: Timeline
Author: Michael Crichton
Narrator: John Bedford Lloyd
Publisher: Books on Tape
Duration: 15 hours 11 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

In an Arizona desert a man wanders in a daze, speaking words that make no sense. Within twenty-four hours he is dead, his body swiftly cremated by his only known associates. Halfway around the world archaeologists make a shocking discovery at a medieval site. Suddenly they are swept off to the headquarters of a secretive multinational corporation that has developed an astounding technology. Now this group is about to get a chance not to study the past but to enter it. And with history opened to the present, the dead awakened to the living, these men and women will soon find themselves fighting for their very survival–six hundred years ago. . . .

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Many might be familiar with Timeline from the movie adaptation with Paul Walker and Gerard Butler — I saw that movie ages ago when it came out and finally got around to reading the book. I can’t really compare it to the movie, because I saw that so long ago, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Timeline is about a group of archaeologists who must travel to the fourteenth century (during a time of war) to rescue their professor.

Honestly, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Though I love audiobooks, I’m always wary of committing myself to anything over seven or eight hours, because listening to the same voice for longer than that can get tedious. Thankfully, John Bedford Lloyd is a brilliant narrator and really brought life to the characters and the story. In fact, I enjoyed spending the extra time with this novel and being able to immerse myself in its world.

Anybody who likes an adventure story would probably like Timeline. My favorite part about it is that it has a nice mix of historical fiction, mystery/thriller, and science fiction. There’s something for everyone, and I love reading a story that is able to successfully bring together a variety of genres. Although, I have to say, some of the science fiction explanation was a little too detailed, making it confusing and leaving quite a few plot holes. It would have been better without the attempt to explain the time travel scientifically, I think. But putting that aside, Crichton has created a solidly entertaining story.

There’s action, adventure, romance, intrigue, etc. Like I said before, there’s something for everyone. It’s told from multiple viewpoints, but at no point was I confused or lost. If you enjoy audiobooks, don’t let the length scare you — I had a great time listening to it. However, if you’re not an audiobook fan, I think that reading it would be just as satisfying.

Book Review: The Stand by Stephen King

Title: The Stand (Uncut edition)
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Signet
Paperback: 1141 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.

And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides—or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail—and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.

In 1978 Stephen King published The Stand, the novel that is now considered to be one of his finest works. But as it was first published,The Stand was incomplete, since more than 150,000 words had been cut from the original manuscript.

Now Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil has been restored to its entirety. The Stand: The Complete And Uncut Edition includes more than five hundred pages of material previously deleted, along with new material that King added as he reworked the manuscript for a new generation. It gives us new characters and endows familiar ones with new depths. It has a new beginning and a new ending. What emerges is a gripping work with the scope and moral complexity of a true epic.

For hundreds of thousands of fans who read The Stand in its original version and wanted more, this new edition is Stephen King’s gift. And those who are reading The Stand for the first time will discover a triumphant and eerily plausible work of the imagination that takes on the issues that will determine our survival.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

As with most crazy-long books, The Stand was a bit slow to start off. A lot of establishing characters and backgrounds, but once it got going, it never stopped. King is obviously an awesome writer, and this is my favorite book that I’ve read by him so far. He’s not afraid to sacrifice lovable characters (yes, you will probably cry while reading this), and he’s not afraid to let things get completely hopeless. These things make for one awesome read. Add all the weird paranormal stuff to it, and you have probably one of the best books ever written.

I usually don’t like to read descriptions of books before I read them — a vague idea of what’s going to happen is fine with me. And I don’t know how I managed to live 23 years without hearing the plot line, but I did it, so I had absolutely no idea what this book was about nor why it was so good. I was shocked (in a good way) to learn that not only is this about a plague that kills 99% of the population, but there’s a paranormal element to it and a sort of devil-dude is trying to gain followers to wipe out the decent people that are left. (Side note: Can King think of an awesome plot, or what?!)

The page length will probably scare some people off, but I actually enjoy longer books. You get to know the characters so much better, and that is definitely true of this book. I felt like I was with these characters; their problems were my problems, and I found myself worrying about the same things as them and rooting for them all the way. There is also a lot of room for growth and change, which definitely happens. My advice: don’t let the length scare you. It’ll take you some time to read, but it’s worth it.

I did think that the good guys should have recognized some of the practically-converted-devil-followers fairly quickly. Yes, they’re busy trying to put the world back together and survive and stuff, but with all this weird telepathic/psychic stuff going on, you think at least one of them would have picked up on it, and, being in survival mode, done something to prevent these people from wreaking havoc. Yes, it’s a novel and crazy stuff happens, but I thought it could have been more intelligently done. While I liked the good guys, I didn’t find them particularly smart, which bothered me a little.

Overall, I think this is a brilliant book. Strip away the world and most of society, and you can get a good look at true human nature. King gives an insightful view into what an apocalyptic world would look like: the chaos, the re-establishing of order, and how people come together (or tear each other to pieces). Some people can’t make it, and the people who are the most successful often aren’t the ones that would be successful in the society we live in today. It’s about family, friends, survival, and of course, the destructive force we humans have on ourselves and on our world. I never recommend a book for everyone, because we all have different tastes and there will never be one book that’s a perfect fit for every single person, but this is one that everyone should at least try hard to read. I highly recommend it.