Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Review: Pandemonium, by Lauren Oliver @OliverBooks

Pandemonium was a great "second book," even though it was a very different story set in the same world as Delirium.

Pandemonium is a book of survival. Lena is in the wilds, fighting for her life.

Pandemonium didn't require the world building of Delirium, so we pretty much jump right in to the action.

Pandemonium is told from two different periods, the "before" and "after." Both of them focus on Lena. It is interesting how the different story lines parallel each other; they have the same rhythm. The peaks of suspense and danger match in each section, even though it's a different situation--a different threat. Lauren Oliver is brilliant.

Pandemonium has a different, more frenetic feel than Delirium. The new characters introduced are, as expected, intriguing and the reader is compelled to feel for them. Emotions run the gamut - fear, sadness, relief, love - you will go through all of them.

There is much to keep us interested in the next installment -- I don't want to say too much, but a couple characters that were barely introduced will be revisited in the next book, I'm sure. My only "complaint" (and it really isn't one) is that I read so many reviews of the stunning ending -- I wasn't that stunned. Totally expected it. But that didn't take anything away from Pandemonium.

You must read Delirium first. You must read Delirium if you haven't. If you have read Delirium, you must read Pandemonium. I won't need to do much marketing of this one in my library -- it will "sell" itself...

Published by HarperCollins, February 28, 2012
Purchased copy (to be donated to my library)
384 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: Grim, by Anna Waggener @AnnaWaggener

Grim is an unexpectedly deep, dark fantasy about the afterlife that gently sucks you in.

The summary for this one is going to be difficult -- that's probably why the summary on the book isn't very good.  Erika has died in a car accident. She's in the afterlife, being led to her final destination by Jeremiah. She has left behind three children (Rebecca, Shawn & Megan) and a boyfriend, Matt.

The story alternates between the children's perspective as they deal with her death, and Erica's perspective as she figures out where she is, what she is, and who Jeremiah is. And, there's some short sections, typed in white text on black (at least in the ARC) about a king and queen and their kingdom that really baffle, but will eventually make sense.

Erica and Jeremiah end up in Limbo, and it's bizarre. Waggener has created a unique world here, with dead people who can't accept their deaths, and a crazy royal family whose king rules over Limbo. The procedures for entry and exit are unclear. There's evil things living in the water, and a bird who lives with Jeremiah that seems to be important, but that's never really explained. Confusing? Yes. But the confusion is part of the experience.

Erica wants to see her kids, which causes all kinds of problems. Jeremiah is much more than he seems at first -- his back story is extraordinary (and adds more confusion.)

I'm not a big fan of high fantasy, and this one is pretty fantastical. I did enjoy the pace and the writing. Since this is such an unbelievable fantasy, I felt detached from the characters, reading the story to find out what was going to happen but without any real emotion. And, there's room for emotion -- don't expect everyone to live happily ever after. It's pretty dark.

I guess you could say I didn't love Grim, but I have a great appreciation for the creativity of Waggener. The world building and settings were vivid and very uniquely done. I would recommend Grim to fantasy fans who want a darker story involving death and the afterlife. While not for everyone, I'm certain I can find a teen audience for Grim.

Published by Scholastic, June 1, 2012
ARC obtained from the publisher
320 pages

Rating: 3/5

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: Miracle, by Elizabeth Scott @escottwrites

Miracle left me absolutely heartbroken. It was difficult to read about someone in so much pain for so long, while everyone around her denied her condition.

Megan is the only survivor of a small airplane crash, and everyone keeps insisting she is "a miracle." Megan doesn't feel like a miracle. In fact, she doesn't feel anything. She doesn't remember anything about the crash, but has told her friends and family she's fine and dealing with it.

It very quickly becomes obvious, at least to the reader, that Megan is NOT fine. She quits the soccer team, she can't sleep, she's having visions of the other people on the plane, she's alienated herself from all her friends, and she very seldom can go to school. But, all is forgiven by her parents, coach, and teachers. Even after her coach and teachers begin to realize that Megan is failing miserably, her parents still don't call her on her behavior. They are just so happy she's alive that nothing else matters.

There are a couple of redeeming people in Megan's life. Her neighbor, Margaret, seems to be very perceptive. She tries to help Megan, but with Megan's parents' disbelief and dislike of Margaret, nothing much can be done.

There's a neighbor, Joe, who begins to talk to Megan. He's had his own problems -- his little sister died several years ago, and Joe's family has fallen apart. Joe is the only person who Megan feels understands her at all.

I had some problems with the basic premise. First of all, wouldn't doctors realize that it is likely that Megan doesn't remember the accident? Why didn't they push harder to get Megan some help? Also, even after her coach realized Megan was failing, all he did was talk to her about working harder and catching up. Why didn't it occur to him that this was a cry for help?

Megan, by her actions (not her words), really begged her parents for help. I refuse to believe that two caring, intelligent people could remain in denial for so long. I know Megan's brother, David, had something to do with this, since they had experienced the stress of his illnesses, but I still didn't buy it.

However, Scott writes great characters that you can't help but care about. I really got wrapped up in Miracle, and it is a quick read that will appeal to my reluctant readers. The pace moved along, and I never felt it dragging, although I was sometimes frustrated with the plot.

Miracle is a very accessible book for teens and preteens. It's prose is simple, but still beautiful. The story is dramatic enough to hold attention, and the characters, like I said, are relate-able if not always likable. There's also a teeny bit of a romance, just to tug a bit at your heart. I'll encourage teens to give Miracle a shot if they like contemporary "problem" novels.

Published by Simon Pulse, June 5, 2012
ARC obtained from Around the World Tours
 217 pages (qualifies for my BYCRID Challenge!)

Rating: 3.5/5

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

Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Memories - The Girls

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. I hope you find much to enjoy during this holiday!

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.

The Girls by Lori Lansens was published in 2006, and I read it shortly after its publication. I was fascinated by this book because it was about conjoined twins and gave such a unique perspective about this condition. There are so many issues with being attached to another person that one doesn't consider. These women were adults with jobs and relationships. It may seem like this is really a sad book, but it is really upbeat.

I still think about this book a lot after so many years. I've never re-read it, but it is a book that I would consider re-reading. Although, I do remember a lot of the details -- as I said, it left a huge impression. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in these two women's unique struggles and triumphs.

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!

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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Do I Have Anything to Discuss? The Wedding Edition

My daughter got married last Saturday, and I cannot tell you what a wonderful day it was. They were so happy, everyone had a great time. It was a great celebrations and all the decisions and planning were well worth it. It was a perfect day.

Just a few shots -- compliments of Bernie Elking Photography....

And a snapshot:

That's me with my daughter. I don't have a really good picture of the bride with the groom yet, so I'll have to post that later.

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

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Stacking the Shelves -- I Did it Again

I've been doing a pretty good job staying away from review books from authors, NetGalley, and Edelweiss. But then this happened....

For Review:

The Dark Winter, by David Mark, from Edelweiss

Burn for Burn, by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian, from NetGalley

Guilty, by Norah McClintock, from LibraryThing

Intangible, by J. Meyers, from the author

Zelda Price: The Razor's Edge, by Joss Llewelyn, from the author

Embrace, by Jessica Shirvington, won from Jen at Lost in the Library

Not to shabby, eh? Thanks to Tynga for hosting Stacking the Shelves! Hope you have a great week -- let me know what good stuff you got....

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

Friday, May 25, 2012

TGIF - Bad Cover, Great Book

Yea! It's Friday, and time for Ginger's TGIF:

Show Me Your Cover: What are some of the worst book covers, but hold some of the best stories inside? Don't be embarrassed, show us your cover!

OK. I've never told anyone this, because I think most people really like this cover. Its:
The Vespertine, by Saundra Mitchell

The link goes to my review, and even one of my commenters mentioned the beautiful cover! I think she looks funny. Like a Barbie doll. And her arm looks bent at a wonky angle. And her head is cut off. And the colors are drab. I really liked this book, but I just don't see anything special about this cover.

OK. I'm tough. Let me have it.....

Thanks for stopping by. I will visit your post even if you don't agree with me, so leave me a link. Have a great weekend!

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

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Review: Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein @EWein2412

While the story of Code Name Verity is interesting, the rambling, disjointed narration may be enough to keep many teens away.

Our narrator has been captured by the Germans after her plane crashed in France during WWII. She has been tortured and is writing a confession to save her life. She's a radio operator, and she's giving up secret radio codes. But she also tells her story and the story of her best friend, who was also on the plane.

I've read many reviews that said Code Name Verity is hard at the beginning but stick with it. Let me tell you, I quit two different times to read different books, but after reading more reviews, I was determined to make it through this one.

It does get better, but I really found it difficult to follow through most of the book. There is a bit more action during the second part, but still the narration left me confused at times. The plot is very clever. Whatever you read you can pretty much disbelieve. The end was exciting, tragic, explained a lot, and was too drawn out.

I love WWII stories -- especially those NOT about the holocaust and those where the U.S. part in the war isn't the main focus. Code Name Verity meets those requirements, as well as being about women's roles in the war and  is an interesting, unique story with lots of surprises.

So, I guess I'm going to jump on the band wagon and tell you to put up with the difficult narrative style and get through Code Name Verity. The afterword written by the author is very interesting and there's an extensive bibliography.  I can see Code Name Verity being used as a classroom read. I think the discussions this book provokes would be very interesting. Anyone interested in WWII, especially the French resistance or women in the war should be directed to Code Name Verity.

Published by Hyperion, May 15, 2012
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review: Devine Intervention, by Martha Brockenbrough @mbrockenbrough

Devine Intervention is a sweet middle school book that presents a unique take on the afterlife.

Jerome is dead, and since he make some pretty serious mistakes during his life, he's been assigned to the "Soul Rehab" area of the afterlife, where he must be a guardian angel and prove his worth before he can graduate to heaven.

Heidi is his assignment. Heidi hears Jerome's voice in her head all the time as he gives her recommendations and generally helps her out throughout her life. However, tragedy strikes and Heidi drowns in a frozen lake. Jerome tries to save her, but he only saves her soul. Jerome then tries desperately to help her soul get into heaven.

The banter between the two characters is entertaining. Their relationship is unique, and Brockenbrough does a good job making the reader believe. But....I'm not in middle school, and as hard as I try to put myself in the mind of the intended audience, most of Devine Intervention seemed silly to me. The fact that the entire misunderstanding (which I won't explain any more) is because Jerome just decided NOT to read the instruction manual for being a guardian angel was too much for me to believe.

But, just get past that. There's an entertaining dog, a helpful best friend, and a cranky old lady neighbor. There's more to Jerome than we first realize, and he actually grows during his time in rehab, and learns a bit about his father that he never dreamed was true.

There's also a message about fitting in and coping with differences. Heidi is a misfit, and really doesn't want anything to do with most kids her age. She also grows during Devine Intervention.

By the way -- I'm not misspelling "Devine." It's Heidi's last name.

I did see the ending from way back in Devine Intervention. I'm not sure if middle school kids will or not, and it doesn't really matter. Either way, you are rooting for Heidi to find peace and Jerome to get to heaven! Recommend Devine Intervention to younger teens who like a lighthearted look at death and the afterlife.  On the Bright Side, by S.R. Johannes is a book that comes to mind as a read alike.

Published by Arthur A. Levine, June 1, 2012
ARC obtained from the publisher
295 pages

Rating: 3/5

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review: Dark Song, by Gail Giles

While Dark Song  has an interesting premise, I had trouble buying into some of the strange reactions and behaviors of the characters.

Ames' life is falling apart. She's always been the rich, private school kid who has never wanted for anything. Now, her father has lost his job because of illegal activities, which means he can't find another one. As things get worse and worse for Ames and her family, they end up packing up and moving across country.

The book's premise, according to the blurb, is that Ames gets involved with the wrong man and gets herself in trouble because everyone else has abandoned her. My first issue with the book is that we don't even meet this kid until over 150 pages into the book. The beginning is all about the family's slow demise.

Some of the pacing is "jerky." It takes only fifteen pages for the family to decide to move, sell almost all of their belongings, and pack up and drive to Texas.  The 120 pages before that just seemed to drag for Ames figures out just how different her parents are from what she believed.

I understand Ames' mother being totally livid about what her father did and her angry reactions to him. I didn't buy that the mom would just totally abandon her kids, lash out at them, and basically not give a shit about how this was affecting their lives. A loving mother one day, and a selfish bitch the next? I couldn't believe it.

Since I didn't buy the mother's behavior, it was difficult for me to sympathize with Ames and believe that she would just immediately jump into this loser's arms. She very quickly found out his strange quirks and could see the potential danger, but it didn't matter.

Giles did build up some tension, but the ending fizzled for me too. Everything got resolved fairly easily. Big showdown in five pages.

Dark Song is a quick and easy read. The story probably flows just fine for some teens, even considering the pacing problems I had. I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading it -- I did enjoy parts of the book -- but Dark Song isn't a book that will stick with me for very long.

Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2010
Copy obtained from the library
292  pages

Rating: 2/5

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