Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review: As Red as Blood, by Salla Simukka

Do not go into As Red as Blood thinking it's a Snow White retelling. There's very little to connect this book to the fairy tale. However, it is an interesting book.

Lumikki, a teenager in Finland, attends a prestigious school and lives by herself in a studio apartment, having left her parents. She walks into the school darkroom and discovers a LOT of money hanging from the lines drying. She figures out who comes to pick up the money and follows him. This is the beginning of a big adventure for Lumikki and three other teens as they try to figure out where this money came from and why it was covered in blood. Well, actually it's an adventure for Lumikki and Elisa. The two boys do nothing except play video games and act like the whole thing is no big deal.

The plot of As Red as Blood kept me engaged, although parts were a bit far-fetched for me. This is supposed to be a YA novel, but at times Lumikki seemed like an adult -- although the other kids seemed like teens or even younger. There is enough tension and anticipation to make you want to find out how it all ends. And Lumikki does dress up like Snow White, so I guess that's why the series title is The Snow White Trilogy.

It's Lumikki that is the problem for me. I just didn't connect with her as a character. I felt detached much of the time. We get details of her past a bit at a time and then in a big info dump right at the end of the book, and I felt like this should have been more of the story. Her troubled past didn't seem to connect to the present, it didn't have the impact that it should have, and I couldn't get emotional about her predicament. The books is a translation, so maybe that's why the story didn't seem to flow smoothly.

She is tough. And brave. And As Red as Blood definitely has closure, even though it's the first book int a trilogy. I assume Lumikki will get into totally different situations in the next books. As Red as Blood has been compared to Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, and I can see why. But the Larsson's books have much more complex plots and better characterizations. (They are also much longer and written for adults.) Other books in this series are As White as Snow, (March 2015) and As Black as Ebony.

For teens who like troubled, mysterious female protagonists who are trying to save the world, As Red as Blood might be the book for them.

Published by Skyscape, August 1, 2014
eBook obtained from School Library Journal
272 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer

Although there is a supernatural element in Belzhar, this is a contemporary story about teens overcoming difficulties. And it's a good one.

Jam hasn't been the same since her boyfriend died. Her parents finally decide to send her to a boarding school called The Wooden Barn for students who are "emotionally fragile and highly intelligent." So all the kids here have been through something.

Jem is chosen, along with only four other students, to be in a class called Special Topics in English. She has no idea why she was chosen, but other students are jealous of this very secretive, highly selective class.

The other students in the class are quiet and all have been through traumatic experiences that they can't get over. It really isn't clear what those experiences are, but slowly they are revealed. The students in the class become close, especially after they realize that their required journal writing sends them back in time to the happier time right before this traumatic event.

They begin meeting in secret and trying to figure out what is going on and whether their teacher knows these red leather journals she gave them possess some kind of magic.

Belzhar is really about growing and changing and learning from mistakes. The title is pronounced "bell jar" because the Special Topics class is reading only Sylvia Plath this semester, and the students name the place their journaling takes them "Belzhar."

There's a bit of romance and a shock when we learn Jam's story. There is heartbreak, and loss, and healing. All of these students come out stronger in the end.

I loved Belzhar. I was afraid the magic would be hokey, but it felt right and suitably magical. I enjoyed learning about all the characters and their struggles, big or small. The writing was great, and pulled me into the story.

I need to read The Bell Jar and some of Plath's poetry. I would highly recommend this book to teens who enjoy contemporary stories that they can easily relate to (even though they hopefully have not experienced the trauma that these teens have!)

Published by Dutton BFYR, September 30, 2014
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine
264 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stacking the Shelves -- Some Unknown Titles

I got a couple titles this week that are unfamiliar to me, but look good.

For Review:
Deadly Odds, by Allen Wyler, from the publisher

Fiercombe Manor, by Kate Riordan from Edelweiss
They had me when they compared it to The Little Stranger.

So what's new in your TBR? Thanks for visiting and please visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Have a great week!

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2014 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 12, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday -- Before Blogging...

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

Here's this week's question from Parajunkee and Alison:

Before blogging (dark times people!) how would you find out about new books or did you? - Suggested by A Great Read

Well, it helps to work in a library! You get a lot of marketing catalogs and emails. And, by talking to other teen librarians, you get to know what's coming out that's good. I still missed a lot though. I still do! When books are your job, it's a bit easier.

How about you? Leave me a link. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your weekend!

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2014 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Audio Book Review: The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom and Elizabeth and John Sherrill

What a wonderful, heartfelt story The Hiding Place is  I was captivated by this true story of real-life heroes.

Corrie ten Boom repaired watches in her father's Dutch clock shop. After the Germans invade Holland during WWII, her life changes. She becomes a leader of the underground, trying to save as many Jews as possible and keep them hidden and safe.

The story starts out and gives us the background for Corrie and her family's life. Family was always most important, and once blood relatives were gone, the ten Booms began adopting children in need. God was the center of this Christian household.

The activities that Corrie participated in after the occupation are dangerous and fascinating. She and her sister eventually end up in a prison camp for their part in the resistance, and this section of the books is heartbreaking. It wasn't just the Jews who suffered under German occupation.

Their steadfast belief in the Gospel, and their commitment to spread the word of God under dangerous conditions is truly unbelievable. I consider myself a Christian, but I'm not sure I could dig deep enough under circumstances like these, to not only become stronger in my faith, but actually give thanks for my predicament and the opportunity to minister to others! I readily admit - I'm not that good.

But I was fascinated by the attitude of these characters and the difference they made in so many lives. Even after the war, Corrie ten Boom continued to minister to those who were suffering from its effects.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about WWII and how it affected Holland. The Hiding Place would be a good one to pair with Rose Under Fire because it is about strong women using every means available to survive and assist others.

As far as the narrator, Bernadette Dunne, she was really slow. I must admit, I listened at 1.5 speed. It made her voice a little funny, but still very understandable. I just couldn't stand how SLOW it was read.

Published by Chosen Books, 1971, audio by Christian Audio
Audio book obtained from Sync YA Literature
272 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

DNF Book Review: Get Even, by Gretchen McNeil

I read 45% of Get Even before I decided to give up. I really wanted to find out what happened, but I just couldn't do it.

To quickly summarize, there's a group of kids at a private school who are "getting even" with other students and teachers who are bullies. Then, one of their targets gets murdered, and the group is under suspicion. But it's pretty hard to do anything about it, because no one knows who they are.

I had a minor issue with the whole concept of these activities going on in a school. I'm a school librarian, and although I've only worked in one school, that's my life, and something like this would never happen. At least not in the schools that I'm familiar with. I remember feeling this way about The List, but I still enjoyed that book, and I really thought I'd enjoy Get Even too. So that's not the problem.

I couldn't keep the characters straight. There were so many characters introduced in the first couple pages, that I was overwhelmed. I thought they would soon be developed enough that I could keep track of which was which. But no. I think it was because each character (or set of characters) gets only a page or two then we switch again. And new characters keep getting introduced for a while. I suppose this is a personal thing, because I've read a few reviews and no one seems to be bothered by this. One review did mention that we slowly get to know each character's back story, but thought that was a plus, not a minus.

I considered making a list with their characteristics, but if you have to do that to read a novel, then it's just too much work.

I was excited by the murder. I thought the plot really picked up after that, and I wanted to know who did it. But as I read on, skipping from character to character, I realized that it was likely the murderer would be revealed and I wouldn't know which character he or she was anyway! That's when I decided to give up.

So, there you have it. Just know that you must read carefully and remember what is revealed about each character as you go along, because characters get introduced and set aside at a rapid pace. If you can keep them straight, I think Get Even might be a worthwhile read. Good luck.

Published by Balzer + Bray, September 16, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
180 of 400 pages

Rating: DNF

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Book Review: Blackbird by Anna Carey @AnnaCareyBooks

Blackbird certainly kept me on the edge of my seat.

The opening scene is our main character waking up on the subway tracks right before a train runs over her. She is stunned and cut, but mostly unharmed. As rescuers try to take care of her, she realizes she has a backpack and in it there's a phone number that says she needs to get away and call as soon as possible. She remembers nothing from before this moment.

So she goes on the run, gets framed for a burglary, and runs from someone trying to murder her. She also realizes she's being followed.

She runs into a boy, Ben, in a supermarket who takes pity on her, and ends up giving her his phone number. She eventually uses this number, and this is where the romantic interest occurs.

The whole book is this girl narrowly escaping death, trying to figure out who she is and what has happened to her, and trying to keep Ben and others she has contact with safe. She's not very successful.

She's had a few flashbacks but they don't make much sense. She's clever and finds out she has some surprising abilities that help her fight off her attackers.

Notice I've called her "she?" Blackbird is written in the second person so that you feel like you are right there with her. I found this effective, and it didn't bother me, but I'm not sure it was necessary. I'm kind of indifferent, but not having read the book written in a different POV, I can't really compare it.

I don't want to say too much more about the story, except that it ends in a huge cliffhanger which only brings up more questions and no answers. I won't give my usual rant, but just say that I really think authors should write entire stories before they publish. Even if it's a series, each book should have an ending that ties up the issues in that episode. Otherwise it should all be one book. OK. I guess I did rant a bit....

I liked the main character. My heart pounded for her, and I sympathized with her confusion. I thought she was fairly intelligent and didn't make stupid decisions (like so many stories where the tension is based on those decisions), so I bought into her world.

Carey's blog says this is a two book series and the second book will be released in the spring of 2015. This is a compelling and entertaining read, but you might want to wait until the second book is out so you can read the entire story.  I'll be enthusiastically recommending Blackbird to my teens.

Published by HarperTeen, September 16, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
256 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Other Side of Life -- Wedding and New House!

I'm using these posts to occasionally describe other things I enjoy (besides books.) I used to post these projects on my other blog, but I posted so seldom that I decided to include them here. Feel free to skip this one, if you are strictly in it for the books.

My son got married in May, and I haven't posted any pictures yet, so here's a few. It was a beautiful wedding at the farm that my husband's family owns.

And, my son is also building a house (really condos). He and a co-worker come home from their constructions jobs and work on it in the evenings and on weekends. It has been a slow process, but yesterday was truss day! It really looks like a house now!

So that's the excitement in my world. Thanks for sharing a minute with me.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - Good Stuff!

Found a lot to be happy about this week! Here they are:

For Review:
The Cure for Dreaming, by Cat Winters from NetGalley
I loved In the Shadow of Blackbirds, so I was really happy to get this one.

The Prey, by Tom Isbell from Edelweiss

No Parking at the End Times, by Bryan Bliss from Edelweiss

As Red as Blood, by Salla Simukka from the publisher and School Library Journal

Polaris, by Mindee Arnett from Edelweiss
Avalon wasn't my favorite, but I enjoyed it enough to read the next one

Tabula Rasa, by Ruth Downie from Edelweiss

Pretty awesome! I hope you got some great stuff too. Leave me a link in the comments. Please make sure you visit our host, Team Tynga's Reviews too. Have a great week. Thanks for visiting.

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