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.

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2019 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved

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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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Book Review: The General's Daughter, by Nelson DeMille

The General's Daughter by Nelson DeMille book cover and review
I almost forgot to review this book!  I'm not sure why The General's Daughter came on my radar, but I enjoyed it. It' is an old book, and only one other book has been published in the series (Paul Brenner Series). Maybe that's a good thing.  The General's Daughter has also been made into a movie starring John Travolta.

The general's daughter has been found dead on a firing range.  Naked, her hands tied to stakes, and her underwear around her neck. Paul Brenner, a member of the Army's investigative team, happens to be on base investigating another case, and he is called in. His involvement in the case is complicated by the politically charged atmosphere the case creates, as well as the fact that he will be working with a rape investigator with whom he has had a previous affair that ended badly.

Turns out the general's daughter, an upstanding Army officer, has secrets. A sex room is discovered in her basement with pictures of all of her conquests. Their faces are hidden, so did one of these men murder her? Or was this a risky sexual encounter gone wrong? The twists and turns keep you interested and guessing.

I liked how, with about 100 pages left, the investigators and the readers are pretty sure who the murderer is. It is still interesting though, as they work to get the proof (or the confession or the disproof.)  The banter between Paul and his ex is entertaining, and the idea that they might get back together adds another element of intrigue to the story.

I flew through The General's Daughter. It was the right book at the right time, and I enjoyed the military aspect, the politics involved, and the twisted lives these people lived. It all added up to a compelling mystery/thriller. Recommended to those who enjoy the genre.

Published by Warner, 1992
eBook obtained from the library
454 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Audiobook Review: Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover book cover and review
Westover's memoir, Educated, struck me as it explores the pull of a family connection no matter what sort of instabilities are present.

Tara grew up in rural Idaho in a Mormon family where her father was bipolar, and her mother overlooked all sorts of really terrible situations that her seven children were exposed to.

Facts of Tara's life: her mother is an herbalist, and they were not allowed to go to the doctor. For anything. Broken bones, burns--nothing. Her mother was also an unlicensed midwife and suffered brain damage in a car accident.

Her father is a survivalist hoarding weapons, gasoline, water, food, etc. The family owns a junkyard and Tara and her siblings were required to work in it. Safety was of no concern, and this is where many of the accidents happened, but "God would protect them."

Her older brother was physically abusive, and no one seemed to care.

They were not allowed to go to school. Their homeschooling was nonexistent, until Tara decided, at the age of 17, to study and pass the ACT so she could go to college.

While reading this, you keep thinking, "Don't go back!" Why would you want to subject yourself to the danger and instability of life at home? But Tara returns, again and again, even trying to crawl back after her entire family, and extended family, have disowned her. It's easy to think she was stupid, but I'm reading this having grown up in a "normal," safe environment surrounded by friends and family that were neither mentally ill, nor religious fanatics. My family was easy to love.

It borders on disbelief. But even if some of what she remembers isn't entirely accurate (and she admits this at times) it paints a picture of where her mind was, and is, and how her extreme changes in mindset came about after years of education and some counseling.

So what struck me after reading Educated is that everyone needs family or some type of substitute family. We crave it. We are compelled to return to our roots. And for Westover, this was the source of turmoil that took her years to overcome. I'm sure she is still working on overcoming it.

The narrator, Julia Whelan, is excellent. I believed that this was Tara telling her story.

Fans of memoirs of difficult childhoods (ex: The Glass Castle) will enjoy (well, that might not be exactly the right adjective) Educated.

Published by Random House, February 20, 2018
Audiobook obtained from the library
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Book Review: Orphan Monster Spy, by Matt Killeen @by_Matt_Killeen

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen book cover and review
Right before the holidays is probably not the best time to read Orphan Monster Spy, since it is a chilling tale about a child spying during World War II. It's a very compelling novel, but I'm glad I'm finished!

Sarah has nothing left. She's just witnessed her mother being shot as they were trying to escape. She's on her own, it is cold, she's hungry, and she has no papers. She gets some advice from a mysterious stranger as to how to get herself on the ferry to escape, but she ends up saving this stranger rather than saving herself.

An unlikely partnership begins, as she realizes this man is working for the resistance.  Sarah, although a Jew, is blond and blue-eyed, and she can help him.  After everything she's been through, what does she have to lose?

Orphan Monster Spy is an uncomfortable book. Sarah must decide to sacrifice--potentially everything--over and over again as she takes incredible risks to complete her mission. Her decisions are reckless and somewhat unbelievable, but they serve to mount the tension and danger to unbelievable heights.

Teens will get a different perspective of the war, and also see what a difference one person can make if committed to a cause. It is ultimately a story of triumph over all odds that is very satisfying. Orphan Monster Spy is written for teens but also recommended to adults who are interested in another perspective of WWII.

Published by Viking BFYR, March 20, 2018
eBook obtained from the library
432 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Book Review: A Christmas Revelation by Anne Perry

A Christmas Revelation by Anne Perry book cover and review
I’ve never read any Anne Perry before, and A Christmas Revelation was a sweet story that warms the heart at Christmastime.

We are in Victorian London, and Worm is a 9-year-old little boy who doesn’t even know what Christmas is.  The former street urchin has recently been taken in by Miss Claudine and given a job at her clinic.  When Worm sees a beautiful lady on the streets abducted by two men, he can’t forget.  He enlists the help of Squeaky, the bookkeeper with his own checkered past.  Together the two of them try to find and help the woman and get involved in a dangerous sting operation to save her.

This is during the Christmas season, and Squeaky is teaching Worm all about the holiday and its traditions as they prepare for the special day. Will they get to enjoy the feast? Or will the bad guys ruin it? You will have to read A Christmas Revelation to find out.

If you are into charming Victorian mysteries, with a bit of excitement and heartwarming characters that are easy to root for, you will enjoy A Christmas Revelation.

Published by Ballentine, November 6, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
192 pages

Rating: 4/5

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