taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #42: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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Cannonball Read V: Book #42/52
Published: 2005
Pages: 576
Genre: Young Adult

Liesel Meminger is dropped off at a foster home by her mother at the onset of World War II in Germany. Her younger brother has just died and she is now dealing with her new home and new parents. Her foster father (“Papa”) is a kind man who teaches Liesel to read (she’s far behind the other kids in school) after she steals her first book – The Gravedigger’s Handbook.

This book was hard to get into. First, it is narrated by Death. Which is…weird. It’s hard to grasp and I mostly wondered why Death cared so much about Liesel’s story. It’s tragic, but I’m sure Death sees thousands of tragic stories every day. It was also sort of slow and I wasn’t sure where the story was heading at all. But the writing is poetic and beautiful, so I kept going.

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taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #41: Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff

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Cannonball Read V: Book #41/52
Published: 2011
Pages: 384
Genre: Nonfiction/History

Lost in Shangri-la is a non-fiction account of a group of soldiers stationed in New Guinea during World War II. In the middle of the island was a flat valley that was home to thousands of native tribes that had never seen the outside world. During a scenic tour over the valley, an American plane crashed into a mountainside, killing most of the passengers. One of the survivors was a member of the WOC (Women’s Army Corps) named Margaret Hastings. She, along with the two other survivors, John McCollum (who lost his twin brother in the crash) and Kenneth Decker, have to survive in the jungle amidst possibly hostile native tribes until they can be rescued. On top of everything, they are doing all of this with horrific burns and injuries from the crash.

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taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #40: Dust by Jacqueline Druga

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Cannonball Read V: Book #40/52
Published: 2002
Pages: 288
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Dust follows a group of people in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Jo has been preparing for this most of her life by stockpiling supplies into her basement and encouraging her friends to do the same. Still, she never actually expected it to happen. When the bombs hit, she takes her teenage son and her young nephew she is babysitting into the basement cellar. Her daughter, Matty, is at the school a few miles away. While waiting out the initial few weeks until she can safely go upstairs, Jo makes a list of her close friends and family and it becomes her goal to try and find them.

This book was unique in that it wasn’t a YA book. I can’t remember the last time I read a post-apocalyptic book that wasn’t teenage based. I like YA, but this was refreshing. I also thought it was unique that it followed a woman who had prepared for this scenario. Most of the book took place in her basement or within a few blocks of her home — no traveling across the countryside or anything. The characters were great. I liked that there was a pretty wide variety of people’s reactions to the bombs. Some went psychotic, some stopped talking, some pretended nothing happened, and some simply used sarcasm to make it through the day.

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taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #39: Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales by Marni Mann

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Cannonball Read V: Book #39/52
Published: 2011
Pages: 256
Genre: Fiction

First of all, this book is not an actual memoir, contrary to the title. It’s the fictional account of a young girl’s descent into drug addiction. Nicole was sexually assaulted her freshman year of college and decides to flee her home in Maine and make a new start in Boston with her friend Eric. They both experiment with other drugs before eventually becoming hardcore heroin addicts.

This book is dark and ugly. If you’ve ever read anything by Ellen Hopkins, this book is very similar to her books (minus being written in verse form). It’s just one horrible thing happening to these people after another. It’s also beautifully written and you can tell the author did her homework. It was very hard to distinguish between this novel and an actual memoir.

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taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #38: Abandon by Blake Crouch

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Cannonball Read V: Book #38/52
Published: 2009
Pages: 452
Genre: Thriller

Abandon is a thriller that is told in two parts. Half of the book is set in the present day and follows a group of people who on an expedition to explore the old abandoned mining town called Abandon. The other half is set in the late 1800s and tells the story of how Abandon became, well, abandoned.

I had a really hard time getting into this book. I thought the two stories meshed well together and I really liked how they paralleled each other, but I just couldn’t get into the characters. I finished this book a week ago and can’t recall a single character’s name. I could barely keep track of who they were while I was actually reading the book. I know there was a father/daughter duo in the present-day exploration, but I thought their rocky relationship could have been fleshed out more.

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taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #37: Not Without My Sister by Kristina Jones, Celeste Jones, & Juliana Buhring

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Cannonball Read V: Book #37/52
Published: 2008
Pages: 432
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir

Like other people have said, the title of this book is a little misleading. The book does follow three half-sisters who grew up in the Children of God cult. However, they are in and out of each others lives and barely know each other, much less refuse to leave without each other. The first half of the book is divided into three large chunks with the background of each sister – Celeste, Kristina, and Juliana. The second half weaved the sisters’ stories together and quickly changed narrators every few pages. I found the second half was really hard to keep track of everyone because their backgrounds, childhoods, and family members were very similar.

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taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #36: Locked Up in La Mesa by Steve Peterson & Eldon Asp

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Cannonball Read V: Book #36/52
Published: 2011
Pages: 230
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir

In the 70’s, Steve Peterson got arrested for smuggling marijuana across the Mexican border. He ended up in a notoriously bad Mexican prison for almost a year due to the large amount of pot he was smuggling. La Mesa reminded me of the South American prison in the tv show Prison Break. Inmates were sort of thrown in there and left to their own devices. Some inmates had their entire families living in there with them. A hierarchy was structured with the “leader” of the prison living in an onsite house with a jacuzzi. The inmates could buy property from him (Peterson bought a small cell with cardboard walls for a few hundred dollars) and he controlled all the buying/selling/trading that went on within the prison.

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taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #34: The Troop by Nick Cutter

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Cannonball Read V: Book #34/52
Published: 2014 (expected)
Pages: 368
Genre: Horror

**I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley. It is expected to be released on January 7, 2014.**

Scoutmaster Tim takes his troop of 14-year-old boys to a remote island in Canada so they can earn a merit badge. Unfortunately for them, the island isn’t quite as remote as they thought. A sick looking man shows up at their cabin on the first evening and since Scoutmaster Tim is a doctor, he invites the man in to see if he can help. Turns out, the man has FRICKIN WORMS basically eating up his insides. As you can imagine, it all goes downhill from there. It doesn’t help that one of the boys ends up being a certified sociopath.

Don’t let the Boy Scouts trick you – this is a full on horror novel. There are WORMS. And lots of blood and gore. I am terrified of most worms and the idea of parasitic worms makes my skin crawl. That may be why I found this book to be so terrifying. I read a lot of horror novels and parts of this book made me ill at times.

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taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #33: Room 3 by Jonathan D. Allen

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Cannonball Read V: Book #33/52
Published: 2012
Pages: ebook
Genre: Scifi

Kelli Foster is living a regular small-town life as a bartender when she gets abducted one night from the street. She is taken to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and held prisoner in a room with another girl. They  are occasionally taken to the mysterious “Room 3” where they are given a drug to make them vividly hallucinate. For some reason, these hallucinations and the puzzles within are very important to the people who kidnapped Kelli.

Room 3 is written in a journal format from Kelli’s point of view. She begins each entry with her current circumstances (running from someone) and then writes down things she remembers from her captivity. Eventually, the two stories intertwine with each other and we find out why Kelli is running and who her companion is. I love the format because it allows the reader to slowly piece things together.

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taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #32: The Descent by Jeff Long

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Cannonball Read V: Book #32/52
Published: 1999
Pages: 598
Genre: Horror

The Descent started off really strong with several stories that hinted of the underground horror to come. The first (and strongest in my opinion) followed a group of explorers headed by a guy named Ike who take cover in a cave from a snowstorm. Then they find a creepy-as-hell dead body with disturbing writing all over it in the cave with them. That probably should have been a sign not to further explore, but they descend through the cave anyways hoping to find a way out and they all end up slaughtered. There were a few other opening stories that introduced us to Ali, the sort-of nun (she’s supposedly a Nun, but besides helping lepers in Africa, there’s not really much else that would categorize her as a nun) and Elias Branch, a military officer. Basically, they find out that a bunch of mutant freaks live under the earth and have for millions of years. They’re savage, but based on some of their dwellings may have been more advanced than humans at one time in history. Humans are trying to eradicate the “Haddies”, as they are called.

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