Book Review Round-Up #5: The ARC Edition

Book Review Round-Up is a series of posts I started to talk about all of the books I’ve been reading but haven’t been able to talk about!

*A Quick Note: All three books I am talking about were received from netgalley.com, which hasn’t influenced my reviews or thoughts on the books in any way.

Book #1: Down From The Mountain by Elizabeth Fixmer

Down From The Mountain CoverBook Info: Published March 1 by Albert Whitman Teen, read the e-ARC

What It’s About: Eva just wants to be a good disciple of Righteous Path. She grew up knowing that she’s among the chosen few to be saved from Armageddon. Lately, though, being saved feels awfully treacherous. Ever since they moved to the compound in Colorado, their food supplies have dwindled even while their leader, Ezekiel, has stockpiled weapons. The only money comes from the jewelry Eva makes and sells down in Boulder–a purpose she’ll serve until she becomes one of Ezekiel’s wives. But a college student named Trevor and the other “heathens” she meets on her trips beyond the compound are far different from what she’s been led to believe. Now Eva doesn’t know which is more dangerous–the outside world, or Brother Ezekiel’s plans.

What I Thought: I thought Down From The Mountain was okay.  There is something fascinating to me about reading books about people in cults but this one didn’t quite work for me.  There are a lot of things that are pretty stereotypical of cults, but also a couple of things that seemed really odd.  Like, Narnia was mentioned several times but it didn’t really seem to fit with everything else going on.  You really do feel like you know what’s going on at the compound, and you really feel like you know what’s going on with Eva there and in the outside world, but I also wish we had more of her life before Righteous Path.  And more about Righteous Path.  The ending also seemed a little rushed, and I felt like we could have seen more of her life after leaving Righteous Path.  There is something about the book that made it seem like it was set far earlier than it was, but that might be because of all the time spent on the compound.  It is a pretty predictable book, and how everything went wasn’t surprising.  and it’s been just over a week since I’ve read it…and it’s pretty forgettable.  Nothing has really stayed with me since finishing it. It’s not bad, it’s just not for me.

Rating: 2 stars.  It’s okay, but also a little forgettable and not for me.

Book #2: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

The Walls Around Us CoverBook Info: Published March 24, 2015 by Algonquin Young Readers, read the e-ARC

What It’s About: “Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices — one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

What I Thought: I actually spent a lot of the book really confused about what was happening.  I know Ori got the justice she deserved or whatever, but I honestly am really unclear about how that happened.  I feel like I need to read it at least once or twice more just to figure out what on earth happened.  There was the whole escaping prison, and all of the dead girls who were at the prison and it’s definitely a mess of a confusing story.  I found I couldn’t connect with anyone, and I really wanted to know more about Ori, who is still shrouded in mystery…to me, at least.  I kind of felt like things made less sense at it went on, especially since things weren’t explained…either that, or it was super-subtle and I wasn’t paying enough attention to what was going on.

It is an interesting way to tell a story, and I think it’s the sort of story that needs at least 2 or 3 reads for everything to sink and make sense.  I will say that it was hard to put down, and it is page-turner because you want to know what happens.

I don’t know if I’m necessarily the right reader for this book, because I do like having answers to my questions, and I do like things to make sense, but with the right reader, I can see how this would be an awesome book.

Rating: 2 stars.  It’s definitely hard to put down, and there is a really creepy aspect that I love, but I think I need to read at least once more for everything to sink in.

Book #3: Disappear Home by Laura Hurwitz

Disappear Home CoverBook Info: Published March 1, 2015 by Albert Whitman Teen, read the e-ARC

What It’s About: In 1970, as the hippie movement is losing its innocence, Shoshanna and her six-year-old sister, Mara, escape from Sweet Earth Farm, a declining commune, run by their tyrannical and abusive father, Adam. Their mother, Ella, takes them to San Francisco, where they meet one of her old friends, Judy, and the four of them decide to head off and try to make a life together. Finding a safe haven at the farm of kind, elderly Avery Elliot, the four of them find some measure of peace and stability. Then their mother’s crippling depression returns. Confused and paranoid, Ella is convinced that she and the girls must leave before Adam finds them and exacts revenge. The girls don’t wish to leave the only stable home they’ve ever had. But as Ella grows worse and worse, events conspire to leave them to face a choice they never could have imagined. Shoshanna has always watched over her sister and once again she has to watch over her ailing mother. Will she ever live a “normal” life?

What I Thought: I wanted to like Disappear Home, but found that I couldn’t.  I honestly didn’t get why they were terrified of Adam, and how horrible Sweet Earth Farm was, and I feel like if we had spent some time there with Mara, Shoshanna and their mom, them leaving would have more more sense and given everything more context.  It was very moving at the end, but I felt like it was too late at that point.  We definitely are told what’s going on, and I wish we saw what was happening.

I understand why the mom acted the way she did, and she did have the sense to get the kids out of there, but at the same time, I disliked her so much.  It was just so hard to care about any of them, even the girls, and it was hard to get invested in their story when I feel like we know so little about them.

It also didn’t really feel like it was set in the 70’s either.  Granted, this book takes place during a time long before I was born, so I don’t really know what the 70’s were like, but it really could have happened at any point in time.

Rating: 1 star.  It was an interesting premise, but I couldn’t get into it, and it felt like too much was missing.

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