Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review: Sunday Silence, by Nicci French

Sunday Silence by Nicci French book cover and review
Sunday Silence is, I believe, the fifth novel in the Frieda Klein series.  Even though I've not read any other books by French, I enjoyed this one very much.

A decomposing body has been found under the floor in Frieda's house. Freida knows this is a message from Dean Reeve, even though everyone else thinks Dean died over seven years ago.  The case goes cold until violent acts against people close to Freida begin to occur.  But is this the work of Reeve?

The tension mounts nicely as Frieda and the police scramble to figure out what is going on.  And of course, the police don't always agree with Frieda. At about the halfway point the reader finds out who the perpetrator is, and at about 2/3 of the way, Frieda figures out who it is.  But that doesn't take away from the suspense.  And finding the necessary proof won't be easy.

I didn't know Frieda, and if I had read some earlier books, I'm sure I would have related to the characters a bit more easily.  She's a psychologist who has assisted police investigations in the past, with mixed reviews. Prior cases are mentioned, and several may be related to this case.  But I did get to know Frieda and the other characters well enough while reading Sunday Silence. These stories are British, and I enjoy that aspect also. I think you might as well start with the first one, and I'd like to do that someday.

French writes suspense well. Sunday Silence moves quickly and easily held my interest.  I was a bit confused by the ending -- not quite sure what happened there. But it seems like Frieda is going to be back. I would recommend this author and this series if you like a suspense-filled crime drama.

Published by William Morrow, January 9, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Annette's Book Spot 2017 End of Year Musings and Statistics

Best books of 2017

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 and adding some more statistics and comparisons. 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 and thoughts for 2017.

You can see the detailed list of all my reviews on my 2017 Review Archives Page.

Here's a link to my Goodreads Year In Books, if you want a more visual representation.

Number Of Books You Read: 80 (up from 77 in 2016, but still way behind the 124 from 2015). First year I've had an increase in a long time!

Number of Re-Reads: 2. One inadvertently, and one for book club.

Genre You Read The Most From: I read mostly YA, but read more adult books this year, since I'm retiring and looking forward to having time for those.  Historical fiction is my favorite, but not what I read most.  Probably fantasy/adventure.

If you look at number of pages, I read 31,025, which is about 3,300 pages more than the 27,745 I read last year. Average book length: 388 pages, which is always pretty consistent. Two thousand fifteen's 56,824 is my all-time record for number of pages.

Forty-five books read were eBooks and 11 were audiobooks.  Also pretty consistent.

Average book rating (out of a scale of 5) was 3.94. 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) 9 books this year, almost the same as last year. And I rarely give "2" ratings (this year I didn't give any "2" or "2.5" ratings!) But, only 6 books got a 5/5 rating this year, compared to 11 last year.  I must be getting tougher! 

1. Best Book You Read In 2017?

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

Heartless, by Marissa Meyer (I didn't finish it, that's why there isn't a link.)

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

Love May Fail, by Matthew Quick

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

The Empress, by S. J. Kincaid. Mostly to my teens, since we read The Diabolic for book club, and there wasn't supposed to be a sequel.  Boy am I glad there was! 

 5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?

Started: Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen
Sequel: Other than The Empress that I just mentioned, The Court of Wings and Ruin, by Sarah J. Maas
End: Wayfarer, by Alexandra Bracken

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?

Well, I'd have to say Laura Creedle, author of my favorite book of the year!

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

The Thirty-Nine Stepsby John Buchan. I'm leery of classics, and I picked this one totally at random.  A very short book that I enjoyed.

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

The Empress, by S. J. Kincaid (again.)

 9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz book cover and review
I'm not a big re-reader, so none.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?

The Midnight Dance, by Nikki Katz

11. Most memorable character of 2017?


 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? 

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

16.Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2017?
Shortest: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by L. Frank Baum
Longest: Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles
 17. Book That Shocked You The Most
The Empress, by S. J. Kincaid (again.)
21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
March: Book One, by John Lewis. This is on our list of nominated titles for the Teen Choice award in Illinois.

23. Best 2017 debut you read?

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily, by Laura Creedle (of course.)

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

A Court of Wings and Ruin, by Sarah J. Maas

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

Merry and Bright, by Debbie Macomber

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?

Out of Darkness, by Ashley Hope Perez. This book elicited many emotions of all kinds.  Mostly anger.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Odd & True, by Cat Winters. I've loved all of her books and never think she gets enough attention!

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

I'm not sure what that means, but this book just...well, it's so weird...and emotional, so I'm putting it here.  (as well as in the next question.)  Confessions, by Kanae Minato

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?

Confessions, by Kanae Minato
Genuine Fraud, by e. lockhart

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

Out of Darknessby Ashley Hope Perez. 

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Book Review: Renegades by Marissa Meyer @marissa_meyer

Renegades by Marissa Meyer book cover and review
Renegades is an exciting, hard-to-put-down adventure full of magic and intrigue.

Prodigies are people with certain magical powers. There are two groups of prodigies:  The Renegades, who saved society from the awful reign of the Anarchists, the second group. A group of Renegades called The Council are the rulers and they are like rock stars. And other Renegades are used to keep order and administer justice.

But humans are suffering almost as much as when the Anarchists ruled.  And the Anarchists have been driven into hiding.

Nova, also know as Nightmare since she can put people to sleep, is an Anarchist.  She is determined to seek vengeance.  She becomes a Renegade to infiltrate their organization and defeat them from within.  She is on a team of Anarchists led by Adrian (called Sketch - because he can make drawings come to life). Adrian and Nova become close, and the distinction of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys is very hazy.

That's one of the best parts of Renegades for me.  The fact that neither side are really doing the right thing.  They are all misguided by different things, but neither group is accomplishing enough to improve this society.

The superpowers are interesting and very unique. (A woman that turns into butterflies??) There are great action scenes and battles.  The characterizations, with the exception of our two main characters, are not very deep, but the deceptions on everyone's part keep you turning the pages. It is never clear until the very end...and unfortunately it isn't clear then either, since there's a startling revelation and a huge cliffhanger!

The conclusion (yes, only two books!) doesn't come out until November, 2018, so patience is required.  My book club is reading Renegades this month.  I cannot wait to see what they have to say. I always say I'm not a fan of books with a lot of magic, but Renegades sucked me right in!

Published by Feiwel & Friends, November 7, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
556 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Book Review: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum book cover and review
Merry Christmas! I thought this would be an appropriate review for today.  Hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

I didn't realize L. Frank Baum had written a story about Santa until I saw it on my Serial Reader.  So I couldn't resist reading The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.

In this depiction, Santa, a mortal, was raised by a fairy.  He was good and kind and loved to make toys for children.  This expanded into the annual Christmas Eve trek around the world with his reindeer pulling his sleigh.

Baum explains how these traditions started and grew, including hanging the stockings and the Christmas Tree.  He even explains how Santa got around the problem when houses stopped having big chimneys that he could go down!

Most of us are familiar with Clement Clarke Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, which is really titled, A Visit from St. Nicholas. Baum's book was originally published in 1902 and Moore's poem was published in 1823.  So why didn't Baum use Moore's names for the reindeer?  And in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, there are ten reindeer. It doesn't really matter, but Moore's names have won out!

The story is enchanting and delightful to read.  I think more young children should be exposed to The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.

Published by Bowen Merrill, 1902
eBook obtained from Serial Reader
56 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Book Review: Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber

Okay, I'm done with Christmas romances for the season.  Merry and Bright gave me that warm, holiday feeling I always look for.

Merry has a temporary job and is working on a hard, fast approaching deadline.  She's working overtime, and it is difficult during the holiday season.  Especially when her mother is ill, her father travels, and her brother has Down syndrome. It doesn't help that her boss, Jayson Bright, is such a crab.  He never smiles and doesn't appreciate Merry or the other employees.

There's the setup.  Merry and Jayson both try using an online dating service and end up communicating via chatting, but they don't know that they know each other.  This goes on for a while, and they really like each other, so they decide to meet.  I think that's all I'll say because if I tell you too much more, I'm telling you the whole story.

I enjoyed Merry and Bright, but it's a short novel, and it still dragged on too long.  We hear way too often about how Merry loves Christmas, and how she would do anything for her family.  We hear way too often about how Jayson had a horrible upbringing and his family didn't care about him, and he doesn't care about Christmas.  I just wanted to say, "Tell each other who you are, for God's sake!" The tension didn't really mount the way I like it too.  It was just more of the same for the middle of the book until the final resolution.  Which is happy, of course.

I enjoyed Merry and Bright, don't get me wrong.  I read it in one day, so even with the middle feeling kind of repetitive, it was still quick.  This is Macomber's newest Christmas story, so at least I hadn't read this one before! If you need a quick, Christmas romance, here's your book.

Published by Ballentine, October 3, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
224 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Book Review: Genuine Fraud, by e. lockhart

Genuine Fraud by e. lockhart, book cover and review
I loved the way that Genuine Fraud was told.  The book is very creative, although along with the backward format came a bit of a disappointment.

Each chapter in Genuine Fraud happens before the chapter you just read (until the very last chapter.) Once you get into the rhythm, it is really compelling.

At the beginning of the book (which is the end of the story), Jule is on the run. She's an unreliable narrator, so it is hard to believe everything she says. As we travel back in time, we figure out the path Jule has taken to get to this point in the story. And as the blurb says, it involves a murder, or maybe two.

I was really sucked into this story at first.  I read about 3/4 of the book the first day.  I had several possibilities as to what happened to Jule and her best friend Imogen, and none of them were exactly correct.  But you know something is twisted about this story.

My issue  has to do with the ending (or beginning, depending on how you look at it.) When I got towards the end of my reading, I just felt underwhelmed.  I think it's because books are more exciting at the end, and the beginning of the story is just the setup.  And I was reading the setup last.  I just felt like after all that reading and anticipation of where this all started, my reaction was just, "Oh." Not really disappointed, but just okay.  And I didn't have the problem that not enough loose ends were tied up, as I read that many other reviewers had. I was satisfied with what we know by the time we get to the end.

If you liked this book, you should see the movie Memento.  It is about a guy who loses his short-term memory and is told backward, just like Genuine Fraud.

I would definitely recommend Genuine Fraud just because it's unique.  It's a quick read.  I had difficulty keeping track of a couple of characters, but for the most part, this was really fun.

Published by Delacorte, September 5, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
265 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Book Review: The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber

The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber book cover and review
The Perfect Christmas is the finally the Christmas story I've been looking for.  (After two previous attempts -- see here and here.)

Cassie and her best friend Angie are looking for husbands. Cassie, in particular, wants to find the perfect man and have the perfect Christmas.  Angie suggests she enlist the help of a professional matchmaker, Simon, at a price of $36,000.  It's hefty, but Cassie is desperate, and there is a money back guarantee.

Simon is cold and off-putting, and Cassie tries desperately to break through his facade.  But she's after a husband and will put up with almost anything to meet Simon's pick for her.  And she does put up with a lot.

As in most of these types of stories, the reader can see where this is going.  And Angie is going to find someone too, and it's pretty obvious who that will be.  But that's all I'm saying. That's what is expected when you pick up a book like The Perfect Christmas.

The Perfect Christmas is a delightful, heartwarming, happy Christmas story that I crave every year.  Macomber's stories are always clean and appropriate for teens. This edition contains another story, Can This Be Christmas? that I didn't read. I have another Macomber Christmas story coming from the library, so if I have time, I'm going to read that one too!  I'm such a mushy romantic around Christmas!

Note: WOW.  I just realized I read and reviewed this in 2013.  I have no recollection of this story!  It is "fluff," and I don't read a lot of that. But that's never happened before.  I mean, I read a lot, but still...

Published by MIRA, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
187 pages


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Monday, December 18, 2017

Book Review (DNF) - The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand book cover and review
The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a cute book, and I would recommend it if you want a lighthearted Christmas story, even though I didn't finish it.

I started reading The Afterlife of Holly Chase in October, before the release date and just couldn't get into the story.  It seemed too silly.  But, after reading some excellent reviews and since it's the Christmas season, I thought I'd try again.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase is based on A Christmas CarolI wouldn't call it a retelling, but maybe a modernization.  Holly is awful.  She's the Scrooge.  And she's visited by three ghosts and still doesn't change her ways.  So, she dies.  As a ghost, she works for a company who finds a different Scrooge each year and sends them their ghosts to try to get them to change.  Holly is the ghost of Christmas past.  She has to do a lot of research throughout the year to learn about this year's Scrooge so she knows what to show him/her from the past.

This year's Scrooge is a rich, spoiled teenager, just like Holly.  He's hot too. So you can probably see where this is going.

I read 1/3 of The Afterlife of Holly Chase. It's well-written, well-paced, and entertaining. It was just too goofy for me.  I just couldn't buy in.  I was doing the eye roll too often.  And it seemed a bit predictable, but that's not really why I quit. (And maybe my predictions aren't correct since I didn't finish it!)

If this sounds like something you would enjoy--go for it! It's a great read for the season.  And if you want something light-hearted that can't be taken too seriously, The Afterlife of Holly Chase will fit the bill.  And the references to, A Christmas Carol make it even better.

Published by HarperTeen, October 24, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
132/389 pages

Rating: DNF

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Book Review: The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle book cover and review
I loved The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily in so many ways. 

The story is told by Lily, who has ADHD.  She struggles to stay in school, to follow directions, to keep track of papers and things, to keep track of time. She has difficulty following some conversations if things go too fast.  She is dyslexic, so sometimes she can't read fast. She often breaks things. She wants to visit her father in Portland, Oregon, during the summer.  Her mom has told her she must pass all her classes and not skip school in order to do so, but her medication makes her feel different and when she quits taking it, things happen.

She gets in trouble at school for breaking something, and it turns out Abelard was in on it, so they both get detention.  Abelard is high-functioning autistic.  He is very smart but lacks social skills.  He doesn't like to be touched. He loves routine and can't stand it if people aren't punctual.

These two unlikely teens fall in love.  The relationship is rocky, and because of their neurodifferences, unusual situations cause more problems than the usual teen relationship.

I loved that I learned so much about what it might be like to be ADHD.  The author has this condition, so I'm assuming this is pretty accurate, at least for some kids. I loved that the ending is hopeful but very open.  Not a perfect "happily ever after." The pacing is excellent. I couldn't stay away from this book.  It's not that it is action-packed, but it's that enough happens.  But mostly it is Lily and Abelard--and their families, who really wanted what is best for these kids.  No crazy parents in this one.  Both of these teens are really intelligent and well read. The title of the book comes from The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise, which they have both read and quote a lot in this book.

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily gave me such warm fuzzies.  I've already recommended this to several people.  One of my favorite books of the year (And a contemporary! Who would have thought!)

Published by HMH BFYR, December 26, 2017
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
352 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

The Phantom of the Opera is a tragic and exciting tale.

I've seen the musical a couple of times live, as well as the movie, so I have always wanted to read the book. For a classic, it's pretty easy to read and follow.  I'm going to assume you are at least familiar with the basic premise of the story.  (If not, click on the link for a summary.) The beginning goes much like the story in the musical, but after Christine is taken by the Phantom (although he is never called that in the book), it is much more exciting!

There is an additional character, the Persian, not in the musical, who along with Raoul are tortured and barely escape with their lives! We also learn about the Phantom's past, which helps explain why he is so evil. The reader is asked to have sympathy for him, but it is difficult, given what he put everyone through.

I'm glad I read the story, but I wouldn't read it again.  If you are a true fan, it's a must-read. If you enjoy macabre classics, this is a good one.

Published by Pierre Laie (originally), in 1910 (in English in 1911.)
eBook obtained from Serial Reader
270 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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