Monday, February 18, 2019

Book Review: Immoral Code by Lillian Clark

Immoral Code by Lillian Clark book cover and review
For teen fans of Ocean's Eleven, this story, Immoral Code, about a group of smart teens undertaking a daring caper, will surely entertain. I'm not a teen, and it entertained me.

These five teens decide to take on Bellamy's (one of the teens) long-lost father. You see, she's never known him. Her mother gets a monthly check from his lawyers, but that is it. Bellamy is already a brilliant scientist who has been accepted to MIT. However, when her financial aid request is denied, she knows she will never be able to go. You see, her father is rich. Very, very, like Bill Gates rich. So his income was taken into account, even though he hasn't agreed to help Bellamy with college at all.

Her friends are seriously affronted by this. The hacker of the group, Nari, figures out a way to hack into Bellamy's father's accounts and skim enough so that Bellamy will have enough money for college, but her father will never know. The only problem is, they must break into his office to install some software on his computer.

There are five first-person points-of-view. One for each teen. Each teen is distinct, however some of the chapters are so short, I would forget which one was currently narrating.

The best thing about Immoral Code is the relationships between these five. There is an established romance, and a potential one in the group. You can tell they have spent a lot of time together because of the inside joke, games, etc. that are mentioned. And they are brilliant, so they do things like give each other points for great SAT Vocabulary words.  It's all very intelligent, and I loved that.

There is also tension, because one of the group has serious moral questions about what they are doing. And the ending, while turning out happily-ever-after, provides even more tension.

A charming book that took me only a couple of days to get through (which is refreshing in itself), I would recommend Immoral Code to those who enjoy fast-paced stories about high school friendships.

Published by Knopf BFYR, February 19. 2019
Copy obtained from NetGalley
320 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Audiobook Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware book cover and review
The Death of Mrs. Westaway is a slow, meandering story, but the writing is excellent. I couldn't wait to get back to it as my anticipation of the outcome continued to grow.

After the death of her mother two years ago, Hal is barely able to survive. She has creditors breathing down her neck (literally). When she gets a mysterious letter saying that her grandmother has left her some sort of inheritance, she is understandably intrigued, as well as confused. Hal knows of no grandmother, and given the information in the letter, she is fairly certain that they have got the wrong person.

She's desperate enough to see how things play out, so she attends the funeral, meets her supposed uncles and cousins, and tries to play the part of the long-lost granddaughter. As the situation unfolds, Hal becomes more baffled, but wary. It seems her mother did have a connection to this family. As she begins to feel a sense of belonging, she also feels a profound sense of guilt.

As a reader, I knew Hal didn't have the whole story -- but I didn't know what that story was until the end. You know there is going to be a twist, but it isn't clear what direction things will go. As I said, the plot meanders, but the background information serves to intensify feelings, and I found myself just getting more and more involved in the story.

I loved The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and I'm glad I listened to it. I think if I had read it, I might have been tempted to skim ahead to discover the conclusion. Imogen Church, the narrator, did a wonderful job. The voices were distinctive but not over the top.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway is plenty popular without my recommendation (I waited a loooong time for this one to be available), but I will  still give my enthusiastic thumbs up. If you love those twisted family mysteries, you should try The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

Published by Gallery/Scout, 2018, Simon & Schuster audio
Audiobook obtained from the library
368 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Book Review: Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers book cover and review
I was very happy to return to the world that LaFevers created in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. Courting Darkness was an interesting continuation.

Courting Darkness is the story of two women, Sybella, whose story we heard in Dark Triumph, and Genevieve, a new character. The stories are entirely separate, narrated alternately, and I waited the entire time for their stories to collide. Let's just say, I'm still waiting!

Sybella accompanies the Duchess to France, where she weds the king. Sybella has discovered that there are two trained assassins from St. Mortain’s convent deep undercover in the French court, and she must find them before the danger to her and the Duchess becomes too great.

It has been so long since Genevieve has heard anything from the convent that she isn't sure they even remember her. She finds a forgotten prisoner in the dungeons and decides to escape with him and use his identity to help her save herself and the convent.

The politics, the world, the religion, and the number of characters are all a bit overwhelming, especially since it had been so long since I had read Mortal Hearts, the last book in the previous series. At over 500 pages, I also found Courting Darkness to drag on a bit, especially the part when Genevieve and her escapee are traveling.

I did enjoy the story but didn't enjoy so much the brutal cliffhanger...

I suppose it isn't necessary to read the His Fair Assassin books, but I think I would recommend it. I don't think you can understand the world and the religion without that background. You won't get enough out of this book if read alone. And, honestly, I enjoyed those initial three books better than this one.

If you've read the previous trilogy, then I highly recommend Courting Darkness, even with the problems mentioned above. You just have to experience this story. This is a duology, and I'll be waiting for the second book.

Published by HMH BFYR, February 5, 2019
eARC obtained from NetGalley
512 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Book Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell, book cover and review
I ended up loving Then She Was Gone, even after having my doubts at the beginning of the story.

It's been ten years since Laurel's daughter, Ellie, disappeared. And she's still trying to put her life back together. The disappearance caused a divorce from her husband, who seems to be doing fine with his new love. Her other two children have grown distant. Laurel just needs closure.

And she gets it. Finally, remains of her daughter are found, and they are able to put her to rest. Soon after, a chance meeting of a handsome, friendly man in a coffee shop changes her life. She finds herself unusually attracted to Floyd. He reminds her so much of her husband in many ways. He actually lives in her neighborhood. And she is stunned when she meets his 9-year-old daughter, Poppy, who looks so much like her Ellie. As their relationship progresses, so does Laurel's unease about Floyd, but she won't accept her feelings, because he is such a wonderful man and she's becoming very attached to Poppy.

It starts when she finds out there is a relationship between Poppy's mother (who has disappeared) and Ellie. I won't say much more about it.

At the beginning, I was kind of disappointed because the reader feels he or she knows what has happened to Ellie.  Well, not exactly, and that's what kept me reading. And I had strong suspicions about Poppy. But, the details aren't really known until the very end. Finding out about all of those details kept me enthralled.

The reader is sucked into the story, and we get flashbacks from Ellie, which add to the tension. Each part is from a different character's perspective, and one of them is Floyd, which I think was my favorite.

Very well done, Ms. Jewell. If you like contemporary thrillers with mystery and lots of intrigue, you will certainly enjoy Then She Was Gone. There is a reason the wait list for this book at the library is so long!

Published by Atria, 2018
eBook FREE from the publisher
359 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Book Review: The Suspect, by Fiona Barton

The Suspect by Fiona Barton book cover and review
In The SuspectBarton has returned us to the lives of Kate, the reporter, and Sparkes, the detective, from The Widow. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Two teenage girls have gone missing during a trip to Thailand. Their parents have contacted the police, but not much is being done. Kate becomes interested in the story, trying to draw some attention with publicity, but when the girls' bodies are found in a burned out hostel, she's all in. Especially since her son is in Thailand, and she hasn't heard from him in months. She hopes to visit him while she is in Thailand.

What they find when they arrive in Thailand is not encouraging. The police are quick to rule it an accident--a fire set by a candle. No witnesses are available until Kate finds out her son was living in this same place, and he's in the hospital being treated for burns. Things just don't add up. Her son wasn't supposed to be here; he was supposed to be away working on a farm.

Back in London, Sparkes is taking over the investigation, since the Thai police have botched it so bad. The bodies are returned and his investigating begins.

I don't really want to say much more. There are multiple perspectives, as in The Widow. And this technique is used masterfully (as in The Widow.) We get the girls' perspectives and realize this isn't turning out to be the dream trip they expected.

I liked The Suspect better than The Widow. There is a bigger twist that I didn't see coming. The situation causes tension between Sparkes and Kate. The parents of the missing girls have their own set of problems that we get from the perspective of one of the mothers.

The Suspect has a complex, twisty plot that kept my interest easily. There are several references to the plot of The Widow that I enjoyed but aren't necessary to the understanding of this story. Getting to know these characters on a continuing (and more personal) basis adds to the satisfaction.

If you enjoy detective/reporter stories, especially in a British setting, you will certainly enjoy The Suspect (and The Widow.)  Highly recommended.

Published by Berkley, January 22, 2019
eARC obtained from NetGalley
416 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Book Review: The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley book cover and review
It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I thoroughly enjoyed The Golden Tresses of the Dead. I'm a huge fan of Flavia de Luce, and I think this is the only long-running mystery (or really any) series that I've read every installment. This is the tenth book!

This time, a human finger is found in Flavia's sister's wedding cake. Ugh. And, then a mysterious woman comes to talk to Flavia and Dogger (the first client of Arthur W. Dogger & Associates) about some missing letters. Of course, these two situations are in no way connected ;)

Flavia, now twelve-years-old, is her usual astute and precocious self, but the addition of Dogger to the mix (he's much more talkative in this one) is splendid. Their banter, which as usual adds irrelevant and absolutely enchanting detail to the story, is priceless. I'm predicting we see more of Flavia's cousin, Undine, and her talents in future books too. I can't wait.

We don't see much of Flavia's sisters in The Golden Tresses of the Dead, and I missed their acrimonious relationships. All of the other standard characters make appearances. The other niggling thought I have is that there were several loose ends left hanging. There is closure, but Flavia and Dogger don't have all the details worked out. They leave it to Inspector Hewitt to fill them in! And we as readers are left.

But that is a small thing, and overall The Golden Tresses of the Dead is an excellent addition to the series. It isn't necessary that you read all of the books, but the background helps, I think. At least read the first one, which I think will always be my favorite, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. And if you are at all interested in chemistry or forensics, this series is a must!

Published by Delacorte, January 22, 2019
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Book Review: The Light Over London, by Julia Kelly @The_Julia_Kelly @GalleryBooks

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly book cover and review
Given that I'm a WWII Book junkie, I thoroughly enjoyed The Light Over London. It is one of those split-time-period novels, which may be common, but I still really enjoy this format.

In the current day, we have Cara, who works in an antique shop. She finds an old diary in a box that seems to be written by a woman who is shown in a picture in a WWII uniform. Cara decides she needs to find out who this woman is and return the diary to her or her family.

In 1941, Louise lives in a small village in the English countryside and seems far removed from the war, until she is swept off her feet by an RAF pilot, Paul. Their relationship is quick and intense, and when Paul gets shipped off to another post, they resolve to keep writing. Louise decides to join-up to help the war effort. She ends up scoring very high on tests and becomes a Gunner Girl, a dangerous assignment.

Part of Louise's story comes from the diary that Cara is reading and part from Louise's perspective herself. At times it is a bit confusing remembering that Cara doesn't know everything that the reader knows about Louise.

Cara's story is complicated by the fact that she is recently divorced and her parents were killed in a car accident shortly before that divorce. So we get that story in bits and pieces throughout the novel. Cara's new neighbor, a handsome, single gentleman, provides a potential romantic interest for Cara. Cara's grandmother also served in the war. Cara knows her grandmother has secrets because she heard her mother on the phone in an argument with Grandma right before her mother's death. Cara's grandmother is adamant that Cara not know anything about those secrets.

Louise's mother knows that Louise will marry the most eligible bachelor in town and settle down and have his children, like a good wife and daughter. Louise has no romantic interest in this man, and that is partly why she decides to escape her parents and her small-town life and join up.

The portrayal of these Gunner Girls and the atmosphere of London during the bombings is one of the most fascinating elements of The Light Over London. It is easy to feel the absolute terror and danger that they were in, firing anti-aircraft guns at Luftwaffe planes almost every night. Cara lives for Paul's letters, which at times are loving and at other times are somewhat angry about Cara's putting herself in harm's way.

The way Louise's story turns out is unexpected -- in a good way. I don't want to say too much more about it. Both of our main characters go through large, and believable, transformations. If you are a fan of WWII stores that put you in the thick of it and provide a dose of romance to boot, you should pick up The Light Over London. Also recommended to teens who enjoy the genre.

Published by Gallery Books, January 8, 2019
eARC obtained from Edelweiss and NetGalley
304 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Annette's Book Spot 2018 End of Year Musings and Statistics

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 2018.

You can see the detailed list of all my reviews on my 2018 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: 72 (down from 80 in 2017, but still way behind the 124 from 2015).

Number of Re-Reads: 0. Too many good books to read!

Genre You Read The Most From: Surprisingly, almost half of the book I read were adult books. Maybe not so surprising, since I retired from my high school librarian position in May.  Historical fiction is my favorite, but not what I read most.  Maybe mystery this year?

If you look at number of pages, I read 27,132, which is about 3,900 pages less than the 31,025 I read last year. Average book length: 377 pages, which is always pretty consistent. Two thousand fifteen's 56,824 is my all-time record for number of pages.

Forty-six books read were eBooks and 8 were audiobooks.  Also pretty consistent.

Average book rating (out of a scale of 5) was 4.19. 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, the same as last year. And I rarely give "2" ratings. Actually, the lowest rating I gave this year was 3.5. Nine books got a 5/5 rating this year, compared to 6 last year.  It was a good year! Or, I'm getting less patient with mediocre books.

Here's a link to my 2017 statistics, for comparison.

1. Best Book You Read In 2018?

Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All, by Candace Fleming,  M.T. Anderson, Jennifer Donnelly, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park, and Lisa Ann Sandell
Fatal Throne, by Candace Fleming book cover

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

Circe, by Madeline Miller.  I loved Song of Achilles, but just couldn't get into the second. I see it on a lot of people's favorites, so maybe I should try again.

Also Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland. Also, just didn't like the supernatural elements. And everyone seems to have loved this one.

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

Elevation, by Stephen King. It's a feelgood book, not what I expected from King. Loved it.

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

I've only just started pushing this, but my teens loved Rot & Ruin, and Broken Lands takes place in the same world. If you like Maberry's zombies, don't miss Broken Lands.

 5. Best series you started in 2018? Best Sequel of 2018? Best Series Ender of 2018?

Started: Furyborn, by Claire Legrand. Can't wait for Kingsbane in May 2019!

Sequel: Eden Conquered, by Joelle Charbonneau

End: Morning Star, by Pierce Brown. I know this isn't really the end, but it says it's the conclusion right in the blurb. And I've read Iron Gold and loved it...

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2018?

Alice Feeney, Sometimes I Lie

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

Book Review: Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks, by Annie Spence. I don't read much humor, but this one is about books so...

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

Broken Lands, by Jonathan Maberry. Those zombies get me every time!

 9. Book You Read In 2018 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I'm not a big re-reader, so none.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2018?

The 48, by Donna Hosie.  I'm a sucker for pretty dresses, and this one has a bloody knife too!!

The 48, by Donna Hosie book cover

11. Most memorable character of 2018?

Anna, from The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2018 to finally read?

The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells

16.Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2018? 

146 pages
638 pages

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Sadie, by Courtney Summers

21. Best Book You Read In 2018 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From

Educated, by Tara Westover

23. Best 2018 debut you read?

Alice Feeney, Sometimes I Lie

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

The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black.  I've also read The Wicked King

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

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place, by Alan Bradley. Flavia always does it. I'm getting ready to read the newest one, first thing this year!

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2018?

I don't remember one.  And when I look through my list, I can't find any.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

The Warriors, by Paul Batista. Not the best book, but worth a look. I gave it 4/5. And I had to add it to Goodreads...

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Ape House, by Sara Gruen. Animals, you know...

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2018?

Girls Burn Brighter, by Shobha Rao. This probably should have been my answer to #28 too...

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

Girls Burn Brighter, by Shobha Rao. Again.

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Monday, December 31, 2018

Book Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black @hollyblack

The Wicked King by Holly Black book cover and review
Time for one last review before the end of the year, and it's a good one! The Wicked King, sequel to The Cruel Prince, incorporates the same slow building danger and tension as the first book.

If you haven't read The Cruel Prince, be warned --spoilers ahead!

Jude has control of Cardan, the King. The problem is, she only has it for one year and one day, not nearly enough time for her little brother, Oak, to be ready to take over as king.

And just because the king has to do everything Jude says, it still isn't easy being a human in Faerie. As she tries to build new relationships and keep up her relationship with the Court of Shadows she also must deal with the fact that someone close to her has betrayed her. She can trust no one. And the Queen of the Undersea is threatening war against Faerie. Jude ends up in the biggest fight for her life as of yet.

The Wicked King takes a while to get going. Maybe it is because I couldn't remember all of the details from the first book, but I had a hard time keeping track for about the first quarter of the book. This is a pretty complex world with lots of characters and alliances to remember. Black slowly gives out tidbits that helped me to recall the important facets of The Cruel Prince. And once I settled into this world again, I was sorely hooked. The twist at the end was stunning! Now there will be a long wait for the next book.

If you've read The Cruel Prince, don't wait to read The Wicked King. If you are a fan of fae books, this is a great series--not to be missed.

Published by Little, Brown BFYR, January 8, 2019
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
336 pages

Rating: 4/5

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