Saturday, January 21, 2017

Stacking the Shelves: A Collection from the Last Several Weeks

I haven't been keeping up very well with my new additions, although I haven't received too many books.  So here's the update:

For Review:

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian book cover
The Sleepwalker, by Chris Bohjalian from Edelweiss
This one came out last week, so I'm already behind.  His books have been hit or miss with me, but this one is blurbed by Harlan Coben, which is a definite positive.

The Wish Granter, by C. J. Redwine book cover

The Wish Granter, by C. J. Redwine from Edelweiss
This is the companion to The Shadow Queen. I don't think it's a sequel.  Shadow Queen was a favorite cover of mine.  This one, not so much.

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau from Edelweiss
I love this cover! The plot sounds kind of familiar, but I'll give it a chance since I enjoyed The Testing Series.

A Promise of Ruin, by Cuyler Overholt from Edelweiss
I'm excited for this second book.  I really liked Dr. Genevieve Summerford in A Deadly Affection.

That's it for me for now.  Please visit Team Tynga's Reviews to see all the participants.  Thanks for stopping by.  Leave me a link, so I can add to my wish list!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney

The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney book cover and review
The Girl Before is a unique and compelling tale that, unfortunately, fizzled at the end.

The Girl Before incorporates a dual perspective of both time and characters. The character from the past is Emma.  From the present, we have Jane. They have a lot in common, and it starts with them renting a house.  The house is very unique.  It is austere, and there is a very long list of rules that you must agree to in order to live there.

Both of the girls end up in a relationship with the architect, Edward.  As we weave through both of their stories, we see that their relationships are very much the same, following the same patterns as Edward asserts his dominance.

Emma has a violent past.  She was attacked in her old apartment where she lived with her boyfriend, Simon.  They move into the new house to help Emma get over it.  She and Simon soon break up.

Jane's past involves a still-born daughter.  She is also trying to heal. Jane finds out that Emma died in this house, and becomes somewhat obsessed with finding out how.

They both find out that Edward's wife and daughter were killed while the house was being built and are forever interred in the foundation.

The Girl Before is a weird story.  This house is very high-tech.  And between that and the rules, it seems to change the personalities of the people who live there.  It's hard to explain without your reading it, and I don't want to spoil too much.

Ultimately, it's a mystery about just what happened to Emma, as well as Edward's family.  But the journey to these answers is very entertaining.

I found the lack of quotation marks annoying.  And even more annoying is at some points Delaney uses them, and then other times not.  It had to do with which character was talking, but it was hard for me to adjust back and forth. I didn't see a need for this technique.  In other books like this, I eventually got used to it, but with The Girl Before, it kept switching back and forth.

While I was suitably surprised by the outcome, I still felt the ending needed some more punch.  I was expecting a weird, exciting twist, and I just didn't get it.  I would still recommend The Girl Before. I found it easy to read and very engaging. I'm not sure I would recommend this to most teens because of the sexual situations; it's definitely an adult book.

Added note:  the Amazon entry for this book says it's soon to be a motion picture directed by Ron Howard.  I'm looking forward to it.

Published by Ballentine, January 24, 2017
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

The Passion of Dolssa, by Julie Berry book cover and review.
When my book club chose The Passion of Dolssa for our next selection, and I read the description, I wasn't sure I'd like it.  But...I was captivated by this story.

There are several points-of-view, but the two main ones are Botille and Dolssa.  It is 1241 (a long time ago) and we have just been through the crusades and are entering into the inquisition. Dolssa hears the voice of Jesus, and refers to him as her love.  She has the power to heal (or, Jesus heals through her.) This is very dangerous. She is labeled as a heretic, and she and her mother are to be burned.  Dolssa escapes and is found, almost dead, by Botille.

Botille takes pity on Dolssa and brings her to the tavern that she runs along with her sisters.  They keep Botille hidden and nurse her back to health. Her powers to heal become known in the little town, and as hard as they try to keep a secret, soon the inquisitors who have been searching for her show up.

It becomes a battle for Botille to hide Dolssa and save her, as well as save herself and her sisters, because anyone helping a heretic is also guilty.

The book is exciting, but I would not say it is action-packed--more of a bbuild-up of tension.  I really liked it because of the characterizations.  Each one is distinct and varied.  Botille is a matchmaker; her sister is a fortune teller.  They have a drunken father who seems unimportant but isn't. There are many others that add depth to the story. Romance isn't the focus, but there is a bit.

I would characterize this more of a survival story, rather than historical.  I'm not sure why, but I don't feel like I learned a great deal about the period.  Although, the extensive notes at the end help.  I was worried when I saw a glossary of foreign words at the end of the book, but I found most of the meanings were apparent by the context in which they were used, so I only used the glossary a couple of times. There is also a cast of characters, historical notes, bibliography, place names, and additional reading.  Don't be put off by all of it.  I found the story easy to follow without any of that.

I'm curious to see how my teens like this one.  I'm not sure it's for everyone, but I have some that I will definitely encourage to pick this one up.

Published by Viking BFYR, April 12, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
478 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Review: Wayfarer, by Alexandra Bracken

Wayfarer is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read when it comes to the time travel aspects, but I wish it would have been a bit shorter. Wayfarer is the sequel to Passenger, and if you check out that review, you will see the first paragraph says almost exactly the same thing.

I think Wayfarer starts shortly after Passenger ends.  But my first issue with the book is that it didn't give me enough reminders about what happened in Passenger.  I read it a year ago, and the details are fuzzy.  I know there's a fine line when it comes to recaps.  I certainly don't what a review of the entire story, but some authors do a better job of just dropping reminders every once in a while.  I was lost at times,  especially trying to remember all the names and relationships.

We switch POVs (and times) between Etta and Nicolas as they try to find each other as well as the astrolabe. They encounter several people who help them and several that are trying to stop them. Almost everyone is lying about something. During the first half of the book, they are mostly jumping from time to time, building relationships and investigating, but they aren't getting any closer to each other or to the astrolabe.  It just goes on and on. The book turned out to be over 500 pages long, so there isn't a need to pad the story.  Once we get to the second half, the pace ramps up a bit and you can feel the tension mounting as we reach the stunning conclusion.

It isn't that the writing is bad.  The descriptions are beautiful.  The setting and characterizations are vivid.  There's just too much setup before we get to the action.

I really enjoyed the end.  It was unexpected and intriguing. It is refreshing to have a two-book series for a change. I will recommend Wayfarer to my time travel fans for sure.

Published by Disney-Hyperion, January 3, 2017
Review copy obtained from the publisher
532 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 - Statistically Speaking

I like to do these summary posts mostly for me, so I have a record, but if you are interested, here's my reading accomplishments for 2016.

You can see the detailed list of all my reviews on my 2016 Review Archives Page.

If you are interested in favorite books of the year, you can check out my 2016 End of Year Book Survey.

The numbers:

I read 77 books in 2016, which was actually 47 less than the 124 I read in 2015. That's four years in a row I've read less books! And this year, much less. What's up with that? Kind of the same excuse as last year.  That beautiful granddaughter of mine.  But mostly, the new house.  We started in the fall of 2015 and moved in July 2016. And I've been working on it a lot all year.  It's been fun, and reading has just not been a priority.

So I'm a bit disappointed in my numbers, and I'm disappointed that I'm disappointed! 77 books is a lot of reading! I'm not going to force myself to read just to meet some arbitrary goal.

If you look at number of pages, I read 27,745, which is about 19,000 pages less than the 46,874 I read last year. Average book length: 360 pages, which is always pretty consistent. Two thousand fifteen's 56,824 is my all-time record for number of pages.

42 of the books I read were e-books and 9 were audiobooks.

Average book rating (out of a scale of 5) was 3.95. This may seem a bit high, but I never give a "1" rating -- if a book is that bad, I don't finish it. I DNF (did not finish) 7 books this year, the same as last year. And I rarely give "2" ratings (this year I gave one "2" and one "2.5"). Eleven books got a 5/5 rating this year. (15 last year.)  That's about 14% of the books I read, which is the same as last year.

Here's a link to my 2015 statistics, for comparison.

Reading Challenges:

Here's a link to my 2016 Reading Challenges Summary Page.

The You Read How Many Books Challenge, hosted by The Crafty Engineer's Bookshelf: I read 77 books, so did not meet my goal of 150 books.

The 2015 Ebook Challenge hosted right here at Annette's Book Spot: I challenged myself to read 75 Ebooks. I read 41. Another fail.

The I Love Libraries Reading Challenge, hosted by Bea's Book Nook:  I failed last year, so I lowered my expectations to 36 library books.  I read 21.

A new challenge for me this year is the Cloak and Daggar Reading Challenge, hosted by Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My! I tried for 20 books; I read 12.

I'm not planning on joining any challenges this year.  I will keep statistics, so I'll know how much I've read, but the challenges just stress me out too much. It's not the kind of reader I want to be.

How did your year go? Did you meet your goals? Are you surprised by anything? What about 2017? Are your goals the same, or are you making adjustments?

Thanks for visiting and Happy Reading!

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2017 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016 End of Year Book Survey

Once again, Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner has provided us with an end of year book survey. Thanks! As usual, I'm skipping some questions.

Reading Statistics:

Number Of Books You Read: 77
Number of Re-Reads: 0
Genre You Read The Most From: Young Adult, Fantasy/Adventure

Best in Books:

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?

By far the best book I read this year was The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.  This book is one of my All Time Favorites!

If I'm just considering YA books, it would be We Are Still Tornadoes by Kun and Mullen. Kind of surprising since YA Contemporaries are not usually my thing.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Probably The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, since everyone hyped this book so much.  I didn't even finish it.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

The Plot to Kill Hitler, by McCormick.  I really learned a lot. It gave me a new perspective on WWII.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

The Crown's Game, by Evely Skye.  I'm working on The Diabolic, by Kincaid, but I haven't got many takers yet.

 5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

The Diabolic, by Kincaid
The Glass Sword, by Aveyard
Blood for Blood, by Graudin

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?

Evelyn Skye, The Crown's Game

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Torn from Troy, by Bowman.  It's middle grade.  And mythology.  Not my thing.  But I really enjoyed it!

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King.  I probably should have put this one for my Best Series Started because I really want to read the other books.

The Fireman by Joe Hill is up there too.

 9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

This rarely happens....

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

The Crown's Gameby Evely Skye.

11. Most memorable character of 2016?

Sarah from The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?

The Plot to Kill Hitler, by McCormick. I don't know about "life changing," but definitely got me thinking.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?

Anna Karenina, by Tolstoy.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?

I know I quoted a book in a review at least once this year.  But I can never remember when it comes time for this survey! I'm not a big "quoter."

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?

Shortest: October Mourning, by Leslea Newman, 111 (powerful) pages
Longest: Anna Karenina, by Tolstoy, 1000 pages, depending on what edition you are reading.

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most
(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

The TERRIBLE cliffhanger in The Glass Sword by Aveyard.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

Scott & Cath from We Are Still Tornadoes by Kun and Mullen

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

I know I keep saying this, but remember this is an ALL TIME favorite....

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

We Are Still Tornadoes by Kun and Mullen

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?

I can't think of one.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?

October Mourning, by Leslea Newman

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Bitter Side of Sweet, by Tara Sullivan

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2017 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 2, 2017

Book Review: Factory Girl by Josanne La Valley

Factory Girl by Josanne La Valley book cover and review
Factory Girl is a story of a group of young Uyghur girls, one of many ethnic minorities living in China, that will pull at your heartstrings.

Roshen is sixteen and looking forward to becoming a teacher and marrying her sweetheart. All that changes when she is forced by the Chinese government to become a factory girl to serve her country for one year. Her family risks losing their farm if she doesn’t go. The location of the factory is very far from her home in a totally different part of the country.

Factory Girl is a familiar story. The girls are isolated, abused, underfed and overworked. The setting is different, but this is a sweatshop story. It's unfair, and makes the reader feel indignant. Their treatment is cruel, they are offered no protection, and have no contact with the outside world. The threat of sexual advances is always real.

Roshen exhibits growth and matures throughout the story, but the other girls’ characterizations are indistinct. A note at the end clarifying what is fiction and nonfiction would be helpful. I'd like to know the "real story." I wondered whether Factory Girl was set in the present time or if it's historical. It is hard to tell because of the cultural differences. The ending is a bit abrupt and convenient, however, this story of survival and resilience will appeal to younger readers who are interested.

Published by Clarion, January 10, 2017
ARC obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
265 pages

Rating: 3/5

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2016 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Book Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy book cover and review
I thought a review of Anna Karenina would be appropriate on the last day of the year, since it took me about six months to read it.  I used my Serial Reader app on my iPad.  I love this app, and I think it's the only way I will read some of these long classics that have been on my list.  The Serial Reader app gives you a short segment of the book each day.  I did end up reading ahead to finish by the end of the year. It costs $2.99 to be able to read ahead, otherwise, the app is free.

Now for the book.  I'm not including a summary, you may click on the Wikipedia link if you need one. I really didn't enjoy Anna Karenina very much.  Here are some of the reasons why:

1.  There are too many characters, and they each have two or three names.  I had trouble keeping track.

2. Related to that, there are so many different (unimportant) tangents.  If you are interested in Russian politics in the 1800s, this is your book. If we could have just had Anna's story and Kitty's story, I would have enjoyed it more. I know this is often described as "the best book ever written," but I guess I'm not cultured enough to see it.

3.  Something is lost in the translation.  The turns of phrase and weird affectations were too much for me.  I really got tired of their dialog starting with "Well, and." Maybe that makes sense in Russian, but it's just bizarre in English. I was also annoyed at the many passages in French, that were not translated or explained.

4.  The third-person point of view kept me very detached from the story.  I normally don't have trouble with POVs, but in Anna Karenina, it affected my feelings towards the characters and the book in general.

5.  I hated Anna.  I guess I didn't have much sympathy for her slow descent into madness.  She was just annoying, then all of a sudden, she's crazy.  It happened too fast and therefore I didn't feel for her as I think Tolstoy wanted me to. Or maybe you are supposed to hate her.  I never know how I'm supposed to feel when I read classic novels.

I feel accomplished that I actually read Anna Karenina. It is a story of Russian history, and I did learn quite a bit. I'm ready to watch the movie to see how it compares.  I don't think it could be worse! I've chosen Les Misérables for my next Serial Read.  You probably will see a review for that next New Year's Eve!

Published from 1873 to 1877 as a serial. First published in book form in 1878.
Copy obtained from Serial Reader
1000 pages

Rating: 2/5

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

I enjoyed Ever the Hunted even though I didn't find it very unique.

Britta is alone and on the run after her father dies.  She has no claim to his property and has been starving in the woods.  When she illegally kills an elk in the King's forest, she is arrested. She can save her life only by tracking down her father's killer, Cohen, and bringing him back to the King.

Cohen was Britta's best friend and trusted companion until he left and never came back.  Now Britta has trouble believing that he is the murderer, but the evidence against him is compelling.

There is a magical element in that Britta can tell whether a person is telling a lie.  The politics are complicated also.  The kingdom of Malam is on the verge of war with Shaerdanian.  Britta's father was Malam and her mother was Shaerdanian, so she's never been accepted in her country.  The Malams are afraid of the Shaerdanians and their Channeler's magical powers. If found, Channelers are executed.

Of course, things aren't as straight-forward as they seem. Britta must travel to Malam and seek out a Channeler to find out the truth of her father's murder.

There is danger and adventure and even a romance.  The characters are interesting and I wished for their success.  I was very happy that this episode had a definite ending -- no cliffhanger -- even though Ever the Hunted is the first book in a series.

While I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ever the Hunted, there wasn't anything exceptional or memorable.  I just don't think it will stick with me for long.  But that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It is a quick book.  The sentences are mostly very short and simple, which can be a good thing for reluctant readers.

I will not hesitate to recommend Ever the Hunted to my teens who enjoy magical fantasy adventures.

Published by HMH BFYR, December 27, 2016
eBook obtained from Edelweiss
400 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Book Review: Hunter, by Mercedes Lackey

I felt the tension slowly mounting as I read Hunter. The premise may not be particularly unique, but the story is still a good one.

Since the Diseray (which seems like nuclear armageddon) many years ago, monsters, or "Othersiders," from another dimension have been showing up on Earth.  They come in all shapes and sizes. Some familiar (such as Vampires) and some not (like Gazers.) They are all out to kill. Society has slowly been rebuilding and people have gathered in cities that are guarded by walls and shields to keep the Othersiders out.

There are Hunters who have special magical powers, each a bit different.  These Hunters can summon their own Hounds from the Otherworld that help them fight the monsters.  The Hounds also all have unique magical abilities.

Joy, our main character, has been called to Apex, to be trained as a Hunter to defend the city. The government and army in Apex don't know about the monastery where Joy has been that train their own secret group of Hunters.

Joy's uncle is the Premier of Apex, and when she arrives he secretly conveys to her that all is not what it seems.  She needs to be careful.  Something is going on.  He also can't show any favoritism towards Joy, so she's on her own.  Not only does she have to adapt to her new home, but it turns out that Hunters are like rock stars.  They each have their own TV station and are in a competition for ratings.  It's more than she can handle.  Fortunately, she makes some friends who help her.  Good thing, because there are enemies too.

Joy is a very good Hunter and soon moves up the rankings.  However, someone is after her.  She doesn't know who or why.  And she doesn't have very many people she can trust.  There is also a bit of a love interest, but it is a small part of the story.

Hunter is the first in a series.  The second, Elite, is already available.  I'm hoping to get to it soon. My book club read Hunter, and they all enjoyed it very much.  It's easy to read and keeps you turning pages.

Published by Disney-Hyperion, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
374 pages

Rating: 4/5

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