Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book Review: Cloaked, by Alex Flinn

Cloaked is a fairy tale mash up that fans of retellings will certainly enjoy.

Johnny repairs shoes at the nicest hotel in South Beach, Florida. His mother helps, but she has another job, so Johnny is on his own much of the time. And money is very tight, so he works long hours to make as much money as possible. Meg's family runs the coffee shop next to Johnny's shoe shop, and they have been best friends since they were young.

When Princess Victoriana from Aloria stays at the hotel, things get a little crazy. She secretly contacts Johnny and begs him to rescue her brother, Prince Phillipe, who has been turned into a frog, and is lost. If Johnny finds the prince, Victoriana will marry him. This could make life so much easier for Johnny and his mother, so who cares if he doesn't love her.

Thus begins a fantastical, fairy-tale adventure involving six swans who used to be human, a fox that used to be human, some magic earbuds, two giants, a lucky opal ring, and a magic cloak. Johnny is sent from task to task by various magical creatures -- always given specific instructions what to do and, more importantly what NOT to do. Of course, in typical fairy-tale fashion, he breaks almost every rule, ends up not completing the task, therefore not getting the promised information or assistance. This caused some frustration on my part, but I kept telling myself, "fairy tale!!"

Since Johnny makes and repairs shoes, one of the most entertaining parts of the book for me are the quotes about shoes. I wish I had made a list, or at least highlighted them on my Kindle. Who knew so many people had so much to say about shoes!

The action really never stops, and Meg eventually partners with Johnny to add to the danger. If you are familiar with fairy-tales you may be able to identify all of them in this story, but if not, Flinn lists them at the end in the author's note. Many of them were obscure and unfamiliar to me.

I don't think it's a spoiler to say, "they all lived happily ever after," but the journey to that point is a wild ride that will keep you giggling and guessing. For me, this story is all about the plot. There is some sweet romance, but I didn't really feel a connection to any of the characters, and that was OK. They are just kind of "tools" for the story.

I enjoyed Beastly very much, and this one is even more over-the-top. So prepare yourself to suspend disbelief and enjoy the magical adventure. Cloaked is appropriate for younger teens as well. If you aren't a fairy-tale fan, of course, this one isn't for you, but as far as retellings go, don't miss it!

Published by HarperTeen, 2011
Purchased eBook
352 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: Forbidden Mind, by Kimberly Kinrade

Forbidden Mind is a gripping story of teens in a seemingly inescapable, but dire situation.

Sam reads minds. She's been raised in a special school for kids with paranormal gifts, and she has never met any of her family. After they are trained, these teens are rented out, usually to very rich clients, to do tasks for which they are suited. Usually for Sam, this involves spying (and of course reading minds.)

When the teens are 18, they are allowed to leave the school and pursue their own paths, attend college, and live a normal life. Sam will be 18 in a few weeks. When she returns from her last assignment, she sees something she shouldn't. A boy, strapped to a gurney, being brought to the school clinic. He cries out for help (in her mind.) This is unusual, because all of the students at the school are brought there when they are very young.

Soon Sam realizes she can communicate telepathically with Drake, the boy on the gurney. He has been brought to the school against his will, and is being drugged to keep him from using his powers -- super strength. And he can also read minds, like Sam. Together they discover that all is not as it seems at the school, and they are determined to do something about it, but how?

This is a short book that never quits. It has a scary premise, and the teens are very resourceful and creative in their attempts to discover the truth and escape. My only complaint is with the ending. The book ended at a good "stopping point" but that's all it was. A chapter ending. It felt very abrupt, and I would have liked a denouement.

I enjoyed the ride. It's an interesting premise, well-told.  I'm beginning to become attached to the main characters, but that's one of the problems I have with shorter stories--I need more time. Even the villains could have been more villainous, if given more pages. I'd be interested in reading more about Sam and Drake, I just think there could have been more about them in this installment.

Published by CreateSpace, 2011
eBook obtained from the author, for review
132 pages (I did read this in a day, but it's really so short that I'm not going to count it towards my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge.)

Rating: 3.5/5

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson

Most unexpectedly, I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Why unexpected? Well, I'm picky about my fantasies, and when I found out a girl had a jewel embedded in her stomach, well, I was skeptical.

I loved Elisa. She changed from a winey, self-centered princess to a smart, brave, and determined queen. And the transformation was very entertaining.

Elisa is chosen, and at her christening, a godstone was placed in her navel. This happens to one person every century. Along with this stone, comes a prophecy that Elisa will be very powerful. She is also to marry Alejandro, King of Joya d'Arena. Her father has promised troops to help fight an inevitable war with the Invierne, if the king marries Elisa. So, she gets dragged to this new land, with new people and unfamiliar customs. And, no one knows she is the new queen. Elisa isn't powerful, beautiful, strong, or smart, at least in her own eyes. She's overweight, and the reader never forgets this, because Elisa is so self-conscious about it.

Before she even gets settled in her new kingdom she ends up getting kidnapped, and this begins her tremendous transformation. Because of her hardships, she becomes strong. Because she finds out the true story of her captors, she uses her knowledge of war to become a real force in the fight against the Invierne.

At one point, I realized, uh-oh there's going to be a love triangle. But this never really develops very far--and the way Carson handles it is unique -- I don't want to say more than that.

Elisa is very devout and prays all the time. However, this book isn't preachy. I see quite often that religion in books bothers some people. It really doesn't bother me. It's just like real life; there are many people with diverse beliefs that we meet along the way. So, you should know these people, at least some of them, are Godly, in case that is something that bothers you.

This is a story about Elisa. Don't get too attached to anyone else because they are all expendable. They come and go from her life very easily. There are some important side characters, but we don't get to know any of them very well. This really didn't bother me. Elise's story is compelling, and I was perfectly happy being in her head the whole time.

I also absolutely LOVED the ending. This is the first in a trilogy, and I'm certainly anxious to find out what's up next for Elisa, but this story ended. No cliffhanger!! Exactly the way a series book should be.... I'll recommend this to fantasy/adventure lovers. I think boys or girls would enjoy this one, even though the main character is a girl. There's war, and battles, and strategy, and dirt, and death.  Lots of "boy stuff." And if you shy away from fantasy, you may still want to give this one a try.

As a side note -- the back of the ARC compares this to Graceling (which I enjoyed) and Pierce's Tortall books (which I couldn't get through.) So, be careful of book blurbs!

Published by Greenwillow, 2011
ARC won from Small Review & Ruby's Reads
432 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

IMM - Things Have Picked Up Again

It's time, once again, to showcase what's new in our "To Be Read" pile. Here's what I've grabbed this week:

For Review:

Unbreak My Heart, by Melissa Walker, from NetGalley

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, from NetGalley

Open Minds, by Susan Kaye Quinn, from the author

From the Library:

Song of the Sparrow, by Lisa Ann Sandell
 I recently read a review on a blog (which I can't find now) that said this was a "must read."

I'm really excited about all these book. Just wish there were more hours in the day. So, what did you add to your pile this week? I'll be looking forward to visiting your mailboxes. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to Kristi, The Story Siren, for hosting.

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2012 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Book Review: The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel, by Y. S. Lee

The Traitor in the Tunnel, the third book in The Agency, is as entertaining as the first book and left me, once again, wanting more.

I love Mary Quinn. She's plucky, brave, and intelligent. She's working as a maid at Buckingham Palace to find out who is stealing valuable trinkets. But that's not really the story here -- there's so much more. These mysteries always turn more complicated for Mary than she expects, and the twists and turns are part of what is so special about these books.

And James is back, so there's more romantic potential, which aren't we all hoping for? I won't say any more about that except the relationship does change -- I just won't say how.

And, after the first book, I was hoping to find out more about Mary's father, and in this book that plot progresses also, and I must say, the direction is unexpected.

There's excitement, royal intrigue, danger, sadness, and romance. All in this little bitty story. These books are definitely worth it if you like historical romance or cozy mysteries. The plot doesn't stop, the pace is brisk, and the pages fly by. These characters have found a place in my heart, and I hope Lee isn't finished yet.

Published by Candlewick, February 28, 2012
eBook obtained from NetGalley for review
384 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Friday, February 24, 2012

TGIF - School DAZE....

Ginger is making me feel old this week:

Required Reading: Which book from your school days do you remember reading & enjoying? Is there a book published now that you'd like to see in today's curriculum for kids?

It's been so long, I can hardly remember what we read in high school. I know we read: Hamlet, Great Gatsby, and A Separate Peace. But my favorite was definitely The Outsiders. This book was about 10 years old when I read it in high school, and it was groundbreaking. It's about 45 years old can do the math...

As for current books -- gosh, there are so many that I wish "every kid could read." I think the literature selection for high school student is only going to get "worse" (that is dictated by standards, and heavy on classics) with the new Common Core Standards. I'm not an expert, though, and I hope I'm wrong. And I do like the standards -- I think they are a step in the right direction! But, I digress...

I think every kid could read Ruth Septys Between Shades of Gray. Or, books like Jennifer Brown's Hate List or Picoult's Nineteen Minutes. There are many historical fiction books (my fav) that I've learned more history from than in any history class. Madame Tussaud comes to mind, only because I read it recently (Robespierre...I had NO IDEA!) There are many others. I could make a case for Harry Potter, if it really came down to it.

OK. I should stop now. I could go on. When you read as much as I do, this list could go on and on.....

Happy Weekend, everyone. Thanks for stopping by. I'm looking forward to your answers to this one.

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2012 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Review: The Priest's Graveyard, by Ted Dekker

The Priest's Graveyard is an unusual book about the vigilante mentality, that weaves a complex web of injustice and murder.

The story is narrated by Danny Hansen, a priest who originally came from Bosnia, and escaped to the United States after witnessing the horrors of that civil war. He has taken it upon himself to rid the world of people who have committed atrocities that Danny deems beyond redemption.

The second narrator, Renee Gilmore has led a troubled life, being orphaned at an early age and living on the streets supporting a drug addiction. Lamont Myers rescues her, takes her in, and creates a new, albeit unusual, life for her. After Lamont disappears, Renee vows to go after the man that killed the only man she ever loved.

This is when Danny and Renee's paths cross, and I really don't want to say much about what happens, other than there are several unexpected twists and turns, things go bad, and we are never sure what the outcome will be.

Dekker's plot was completely original, at least to me. There were shades of Dexter, but that still isn't a complete comparison. The characters were complex, and bizarre. But justifiably so. I really didn't like Renee, and one of my only complaints is that I couldn't believe how stupid she was. Some of the decisions she made really made me angry. However, she comes from such a warped past, that even her outlandish actions became believable to me.

The characters are unusual, the plotting is unexpected and elaborate, and the pace is steady and compelling. I would recommend this one to psychological thriller or crime drama readers who enjoy unusual protagonists. It's an adult novel, but mature teens would enjoy this one too.

The audio was excellently narrated by Rebecca Soler and Henry Leyva. They both were easy to listen to, not overdoing the inflections, but adding enough to distinguish the characters and emotions.

Published by Center Street and Hachette Audio, 2011
Copy obtained from the library
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: Fall for Anything, by Courtney Summers

Fall for Anything is a realistic contemporary story that many teens will enjoy.

Eddie is obsessed with figuring out why her father committed suicide. He was, at one point, a famous photographer, but had run away from that fame. He still took pictures, just didn't publish any of them. Unlike Eddie, her mother has shut down, spending most days in bed or wondering around in her husband's robe, seemingly unconcerned about Eddie or her father's motivations.

Often, in the middle of the night, Eddie visits the building that her father jumped off when he committed suicide. One night, she meets Culler Evans, who claims to be her father's student. Eddie begins a strange attraction to Culler, as they both try to figure out why her father chose this path.

Milo is Eddie's best friend since second grade. He has been supportive and has stuck around, even when Eddie hasn't been totally honest. There's a bit of a love triangle here, but it doesn't overpower the story. It's a story about a teen who's struggling, and at this point doesn't have much support from her mother. She has friends, and of course, latches on to Culler, who she believes can help her do the one thing that will make her life better - find out why her dad did what he did. In the end, after suffering even more betrayals, there is some hope that Eddie and her mother will find some closure, but it's not perfect.

I enjoyed reading this story. Summers' writing flows well and is easy to read. I never felt strong emotions towards any of the characters. I never wanted to quit reading -- I was invested -- but this isn't a story that will stick with me for a long time. It was a good story, nothing more. I would recommend this to teens who like this sort of problem novel, filled with teen angst, but there are probably other books I would recommend first.

Published by St. Martin's Griffin, 2010
Copy obtained from the library
230 pages (tried to read this for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge, but didn't quite make it.)

Rating: 2.5/5

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: The Manufactured Identity, by Heath Sommer

The Manufactured Identity has a very unique and intriguing plot, but my impatience compelled me to skim.

It's one of those books where you just can't figure out what is going on. And I like those book. We are introduced to a lot of characters, but I didn't have trouble keeping track, so that isn't a complaint. Some of them are loosely related, and that helped.

The book isn't very long, but I just got really impatient for the "reveal." Not enough happens to these characters as we go along. I read over half the book, and a little past that, something happens that connects two of the character, and then I pretty much thought I had it figured out. Not all the details, but I had another 150 pages to read. So, I skimmed the rest of the book. I'm sure this is partly due to my reading "mood."

Like I said, I thought is was a great, unique plot. It's psychological and complex.  There's a lot going on. But I had trouble with the pace. And, the writing, at times was a bit overly descriptive and even a bit ostentatious. Here's a couple examples:

"The problem with all mysteries is that once a coincidence is established, probability sets its ugly face into yours and tries to undermine the veracity of the complex." p. 136

"She pulled out her sword and cut through the aggregated flaxen of her depression." p. 139

I read mostly young adult, so I'm not generally a literary reader. But I do enjoy some literary fiction. Some of this language was just a bit much for me. Others may think it colorful and entertaining.

This is part of a trilogy that I won, and I know Marce absolutely loves these books, so you should check out her thoughts too.

Published by Tate, 2009
Autographed copy won from Tea Time With Marce
308 pages

Rating: 2/5

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Memories: Cut

Welcome to my meme, Monday Memories, where I feature favorite books we've loved from the past. You can link to an old review, or write something new about a beloved book from your past. Really, what's important is not the book, but why it is memorable to you. So, have fun reminiscing, and leave a comment below, so we can all enjoy your memories.

I also wanted to let you know about another wonderful blog that you should check out. Ashley @ Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing does a weekly post called Memory Monday. She has been posting about her childhood memories of books. What's great about Ashley's site is that she is asking for guest posts for her Memory Monday event!  So hop on over there and check it out.

Cut, by Patricia McCormick is such a powerful book. It's one of the first YA books I read that made me think, "Wow! Every teen girl would love this!" I thought it was something true to their voice, dramatic, and delivering a message. It's also helpful that the book is relatively short.

Since then, there have been many books that have had this effect on me. Ellen Hopkins' books, for one example. But Cut was my first. It still gets checked out regularly, without my prompting. We have a couple of copies, and have replaced this book more than once. It's one of those books that teens read and then ask, "Do you have any more books like this?" Written about twelve years ago, it still packs a powerful punch. If you read teen contemporaries and you haven't read this one, it's worth your time.

Share one of your cherished book memories!

You can do a Monday Memories post on your blog. Copy my button and link back here, so others can see all the other posts.  Leave a comment below with the link to your post.

Or, just leave one of your Monday Memories right here in the comments.

Be sure to visit some other blogs that have posted their links. Thanks!

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