Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green @realjohngreen

The Fault in Our Stars tore me apart. I'm not a crier--when a book gets to me, I usually get watery eyes. With this book I was sobbing out loud -- and not only at the end, but for much of the book. I had to clean my contacts -- they got so cloudy, I couldn't read. I remember crying this hard when I read The Notebook. I read one other Sparks book after that and decided never again. I don't like books that do this to me (not that The Fault in Our Stars  is anything like The Notebook.)

So, besides the crying this was a great story. I loved Hazel's voice. And when combined with Augustus, there were many touching and funny moments. I'm glad that we meet Hazel long after her diagnosis. This isn't about learning to deal with  cancer -- she is already doing this when we meet her. It's a romance -- under special circumstances.

I loved that The Fault in Our Stars was a problem novel with useful parents. They weren't out of the picture like we see in so many contemporary books. I loved that Hazel was intelligent and liked to read. The main story line (other than the "kid with cancer" one) is that Hazel wants to meet the author of her favorite book because he didn't tie up all the loose ends -- and she wants to know. We've all been there, right? But the author is a recluse and won't even answer her mail until Augustus comes along.

The slow developing romance was sweet and believable. I did anticipate the ending pretty early in the story, but it really doesn't matter. It doesn't come as a huge surprise, given the circumstances. The characters are so genuine, not over-the-top, as is the tendency when covering a heavy topic like cancer. Of course, this is not unexpected from John Green.

There have been so many rave reviews of The Fault in Our Stars, most of them much better than this one, so I'll just quit. Like everyone says, get out your tissues. I was really glad to finish The Fault in Our Stars, but I'm really glad I read it. I can easily recommend it to many teens in my library.

Published by Dutton Juvenile, January 10, 2012
Copy obtained from the library
313 pages (qualiifes for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 5/5

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

Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: Rikers High, by Paul Volponi

Rikers High follows the pattern of all Volponi novels -- disadvantaged teens in trouble, trying to find their way through, while some adults are helpful and others totally useless.

In this case, Martin is in jail at Rikers Island. He's being accused of "steering" -- when an undercover officer asked him where he could score some dope, Martin told him. Because of the system, his hearing has been postponed several times, so Martin has been in jail for about five months and this story covers the last two weeks.

Volponi is clear in his Author's Note that these characters are fictional, but everything that happens in the book has actually happened to prisoners. I have no doubt it has, which makes this book even harder to stomach. I feel angry and frustrated at the injustices doled out to these kids, and I was saddened by their helplessness.

In typical Volponi style, Rikers High is short and simply written. It's told from Martin's POV, so the language is simple and easy to follow. The pace is quick. Martin is fairly smart about keeping himself safe, and we get his inner dialog and explanation of why he behaves in the way he does. We get to know some other inmates a bit, and a variety of teachers who try to help these kids get through school (well some of them do...), but this is Martin's story. He's the one we care about.

Rikers High is a boy book, but some girls will enjoy it. These are great book for reluctant readers, and while they are a bit formulaic, all of Volponi's books spend a lot of time checked out of the library. If you can get a kid to read one of them, then they will usually continue and read them all. By the way, Black and White is my favorite.

Published by Viking, 2010
Copy obtained from the library
246 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3.5/5

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

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Stacking the Shelves - Hidden

Welcome to another week of Stacking the Shelves, courtesy of Tynga's Reviews. Make sure you stop at her blog and check out all the entries!

I only got one book for review this week. But it's a good one!

Hidden by Sophie Jordan courtesy of Around the World ARC Tours

Also wanted to remind you of my giveaway for Pushing the Limits. I haven't had many entries, and you really shouldn't miss this book!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great week. Two more weeks and I'm "back to school," so I have lots of plans! Can't wait to see what you have acquired this week. Come back soon!

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

Friday, July 27, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday - Assigned Reading

Alison & Parajunkee's Feature & Follow Friday question is:

Q: Summer Reading. What was your favorite book that you were REQUIRED to read when you were in school?

I find it interesting that I this is headed "Summer Reading" because I was NEVER required to do reading over the summer for school. That was unheard of in my day...(I'm dating myself, I know.)

I loved The Outsiders. I know they read it in middle school now, but we read it in high school If you haven't read it, you should. It holds up well after all these years. (It was written in 1967.) And, S.E. Hinton is FEMALE. That was also a surprise...

Thanks so much for stopping by. I'll be looking forward to visiting you and seeing your answers. Have a great weekend!

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

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Review: Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas @SJMaas

Throne of Glass has characters you will fall in love with, as well as a story that will keep you turning the pages.

Celaena is an assassin. That's right -- she's already kick-ass when the book begins, and this is more of a story of her trying to prove that she's a compassionate human, even though she's a trained killer.

Prince Dorian and his captain of the guard, Chaol, have come to get Celaena out of prison so that she can compete for the king's title of champion. If she wins, she will be the king's assassin for four years, then she will be free. If she loses, she will be returned to the salt mines of prison.

Celaena has been through hell. She's been beaten and has the scars to prove it. She's survived harsh winters in prison with little food and no medical attention. She shouldn't be alive. Of course she agrees to enter the competition and earn her freedom. She returns to the castle with the prince and is treated well. She begins to get back into shape with Chaol before the competition begins.

As the various competitors begin to train and take their various tests, some of them are being murdered in a most gruesome manner. Their insides are ripped out and it appears some wild beast has killed them and eaten their organs. Wyrdmarks are also present, written next to the bodies. These are ancient symbols that Celaena notices are also on the king's tower. No one seems to know what they mean, but Celaena is determined to find out before she is the next victim.

The characters are delightful. There's much court intrigue -- the prince needs to find a wife, the king is a brutal conqueror, there's a visiting princess that Celaena becomes friends with. Celaena finds secret passages and enjoys a vast library. All of these characters and situations make this a full, rich story to be savored.

Of course there's romance too. Prince Dorian enjoys Celaena's company, and can't seem to leave her alone, even though their relationship is totally inappropriate. Chaol appears to hate Celaena and cannot trust her, however, she's so confusing. She's funny and loves to read and play the piano. She's a mystery to Chaol, and he can't seem to stay away either. The repartee between Celaena and her suitors is one of the best aspects of Throne of Glass.

A paranormal element exists too, in that Celaena sees the ghost of an ancient queen, who seems to want to help her solve the castle's mysteries. Some other magic is present, but I don't want to say too much. This is probably my least favorite part of the book -- I could have done without the visions and magical elements, but they end up an important part of Throne of Glass.

There's never a dull moment. We fall in love with Celaena, and want so badly for her to be champion and be happy...but that might not be possible -- I'm not going to tell you. The pace moves quickly, with something always happening -- a competition, a murder, a piece of the puzzle figured out, or a step ahead in the romance department. The evil in Throne of Glass is really evil, enough to truly frighten me at times. Maas never confuses the reader, but keeps us guessing and frantically turning pages.

Fans of kick-ass girl heroes and court intrigue with a hint of magic will enjoy Throne of Glass. I would compare it to Grave Mercy, which I loved, so I'll be recommending these widely to many of my teen readers.

Some information from Sarah J. Mass' website:

Before the release of THRONE OF GLASS, Bloomsbury will be publishing four e-novellas, all set before the events of the novel. The first three novellas, THE ASSASSIN AND THE PIRATE LORD, THE ASSASSIN AND THE DESERT, and THE ASSASSIN AND THE UNDERWORLD are available wherever Bloomsbury e-books are sold! The fourth (and final) novella, THE ASSASSIN AND THE EMPIRE, will release on July 20th!

I've heard these novellas are great too, so I'm putting them on my list!

Published by Bloomsbury, August 7, 2012
eARC obtained from NetGalley (warning: this is one of the worst formatted eARCs I've ever read.)
416 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Audio Book Review: Pathfinder, by Orson Scott Card

I don't really know what to say about Pathfinder. It's epic. It's long. It's science fiction, time travel, and otherworldly. I'm glad I chose the audio version, because I'm not sure I would have made it through if I were reading the book. The small doses I take when listening worked well for Pathfinder.

There are two stories. First, Rigg can see people's paths. From recently or long ago. He can tell who or what traveled a certain path, and can approximate how long ago they were passing by. He and his father are trappers, and live a simple life off of the land. Rigg's father is very wise, and they spend much time discussing philosophical as well as scientific issues. When his father is killed after a tree falls on him, Rigg is left by himself. However, before he dies, his father tells him to go to the capital city of Aressa Sessamo to find his sister. Rigg didn't even know he had a sister.

So begins an epic journey. His friend, Umbo, ends up going with Rigg in order to run away from a father who mistreats him. Along the way, they meet an innkeeper, Loaf, who also becomes a major player. Their journey is long and fraught with danger. But Umbo has the power to change time, seemingly moving back and forward. The travelers use these powers to assist them many times, and each time they learn more about how their powers work. There are many discussions about time travel, and how it affects them as well as others they come in contact with. It's very complex, and Card doesn't leave anything to guess about, the characters hash this out relentlessly.

Rigg is so intelligent and has been taught so much by his father. This is evident by his entertaining dialog that even the other characters tease him about. He can play a rich uppity kid just as easily as a poor kid from "upstream." He, Umbo, and Loaf are in for many surprises, challenges, and some serious danger.

There's a separate story about Ram, who leaves Earth on a spaceship to find and populate another planet in case Earth is ever destroyed. Ram is the pilot, along with an "Expendable," which is basically an android robot. They have many people with them in stasis for when they reach another planet.

For a long time, these two stories just didn't fit together. Maybe I'm slow, but I think I was about half way through before I began to understand how they were related. There's also some complex science about a  jump that the ship makes, which inadvertently makes the ship go back 11,000 years in time, and also duplicate itself 19 times. Of course, there are lots of discussions about how and why this happened.

Sometimes the descriptions of the time travel and the nineteen duplicate ships hurt my brain, but I did still understand and enjoy the story. Pathfinder just ends without solving much. There is a big revelation, but this really just causes more questions. This is the first book in a planned trilogy, and I feel like I've invested so much into this story, that I need to know what happens. But I don't really want to read it. I'm pretty sure if I ever do decide to read the second one, I will choose the audio version again.

As far as the Pathfinder audiobook, there's a main narrator Stefan Rudnicki, and four others who read when the story is told from another perspective, such as that of Umbo or Loaf. I thought all the readers did a great job except Loaf's who really annoyed me because he was so dramatic. It was like he was performing on stage, not reading, and I hate that. Fortunately, he only narrated for one short period.

Pathfinder is really a very creative, interesting story. There are lost of interesting characters who are distinct, and their situations and conversations are entertaining. I wouldn't even say it is overly detailed. It is long, but every detail is important to this multifaceted tale, and the plot is always progressing. Hard-core science fiction or time travel fans will enjoy this.

Published by Simon Pulse, 2010 (Brilliance Audio)
Copy obtained from the library
672 pages

Rating: 4/5

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review: Intangible by J. Meyers @jmeyersbooks

It's a harsh, difficult world that Meyers has created in Intangible, and the fact that our main characters have no idea what they are up against just made me root for them all the more.

Sera and Luke are twins with special powers. Sera is a healer, and Luke has visions of the future. No one except these two know about their powers (so they think) and they are determined to keep it that way. But, unbeknownst to them, because of these powers, they are being hunted -- and not by just one entity, but by several at the same time!

The danger just keeps coming at them. Their best friend Fey is secretly protecting the twins. They don't know that she is special; they just think she's a great friend. So as Fay is stopping all these vampires from finding Sera and Luke, they are just going about their business. Fey inadvertently uses her healing powers to turn a vampire back to a human, and in the vampire world, all hell breaks lose -- they all want her dead because she is a threat to their realm. Jonas is the vampire "voice of reason." He is trying to help Sera and Luke too, but they don't trust him.

Luke is having visions of Sera's death, and his visions have always come true, so he's panicking -- trying to figure a way to interrupt a vision and make it not happen.

When Marc, a new kid, shows up, it seems easy and natural for Sera and Luke to become friends with him, even though they are very selective about their friends. What they don't know is that Marc is special too. He can hear others' thoughts. So much so, that it makes him ill -- he gets terrible headaches. So these sinister creatures that he calls Shadows have provided him with medicine to make the headaches stop, as long as Marc finds out where these special twins are and turns them over to the Shadows. Marc is very conflicted about this, since he begins to really care about the twins. A bit of romance occurs here, and while it's cute and interesting, it's not a main issue in Intangible.

Well, that's a lot of plot. And there's much more to the story, which is the biggest strength of Intangible. There's a lot going on, the tension never lets up, but it's all easy to follow and shall I say, "believable" (in a paranormal sort of way.) Luke and Sera are as good as gold, but fairly naive. It does take them quite a while to figure everything out, and still most of it has to be explained.

A couple minor difficulties I need to mention. I thought the middle of Intangible was a bit long. The exposition and introduction was fine. The ending was great, but in between all that it was kind of slow with not much happening. I thought it could have been tightened up a bit. Also, the other best friend, Quinn, was barely mentioned, so I didn't really see why he even existed. He didn't contribute to the plot. The only explanation I can see is that he's going to have a bigger part in book 2. And that would be fine with me. Sera and Luke both make stupid decisions (like leaving when they are supposed to stay put!), but this goes along with the fact that they are so naive.

There's a huge climactic ending that had my heart pounding. I loved that Intangible actually had an ending, but with the addition of a couple of hints at the end, we're ready for the next episode. I think paranormal fans will love this one. Those who enjoyed Paranormalcy, Nightshade, Clockwork Angel and those types of stories will want to grab Intangible.

This eBook was a joy to read. It is well-formatted, and I didn't notice any typos or other publishing errors.

Published by CreateSpace, January 29, 2012
eBook obtained from the author
348 pages

Rating: 4/5

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

Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: Skylark, by Meagan Spooner @MeaganSpooner

Skylark is a science fiction fantasy that reads like a dystopian. While the writing, characters, and pacing are good, some of the fantasy elements left me rolling my eyes.

Lark lives under a dome that provides a manufactured sun and runs on magical power which it harvests from its adolescents. Lark can't wait to be harvested. She will finally be an adult. And at 15, she's had to wait longer than most young people. However, when she gets harvested, it is much worse than she anticipated, and she finds out things aren't going to get better.  She seems to be a "renewable" - a person who can keep renewing their power. That's why the government wants to keep harvesting her forever. She must escape from the dome and from everything she's ever known.

She does manage to escape, and discovers she has much more magical power than she realized. She knows nothing of any other cities, but she is determined to find a place where there are more renewables. The rest of the book is her great adventure, where she meets horrible zombie-like creatures, magic like she's never seen before (both good and bad), and a friend, Oren, who helps her to the Iron Forest that she is looking for.

Lark isn't a strong character. Every situation she overcomes (except for the ending) is because someone or something assists her. Yes, she does use some of her power sometimes, but usually when she least expects it. I think Oren is the most interesting character. He's very mysterious and surprising.

I'm the first to admit I'm not a real fantasy fan. And when the trees tried to grab and eat Lark, I had to roll my eyes. I know that's a bit of a spoiler, but it really has nothing to do with the plot, and it was over the top.  Also, I wasn't a big fan of the pixies. I didn't really get them, and they were used too much. The "escape from the dome" theme seems to be quite common lately (Pure and Under the Never Sky are a couple that immediately come to mind) and I'm afraid it might be getting a bit tiresome for me.

Despite those few annoyances, I really enjoyed Skylark. The plot moves along and there are plenty of twists and surprises. There's enough details to sustain another book. Lark's brother, Basil, who left the dome before Lark, is missing, and she's also on a quest to find him. I'm interested in continuing The Skylark series. I hope Lark gets tough, and I'm willing to put up with the pixies....

Published by Carolrhoda Books, August 1, 2012
eARC obtained from Netgalley
344 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Announcing My Winners!

The winners of my ARC Giveaway:

Lori, from  http://www.writingmyownfairytale.com/ has won: Monument 14

Jinky, from http://booksthattugtheheart.blogspot.com/ has won: Storm


Kristina, from http://newborrowedused.blogspot.com/ has won Shadowfell

Congratulations to you all. Thanks for entering. I've emailed you for your mailing address and I'll be getting these to you soon!

Winners were chosen using random.org.

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

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stacking the Shelves - A Week to Rival Christmas!

I was very excited when I won "The BEA Friday Love Giveaway of Epicness" from Bewitched Bookworms, but I almost swooned when I actually got the package! It is indeed epic!

Won from Bewitched Bookworms:
Insurgent, by Veronica Roth -- SIGNED!!

Masque of the Red Death, by Bethany Griffon, SIGNED!!

The Divinersby Libba Bray, ARC

The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater, ARC

Shadows, by Ilsa J. Bick, ARC

And, bookmarks, some signed!

For Review:
The Dead and Buried, by Kim Harrington, eARC from NetGalley

And, as if I don't already have enough, I had to bring home a few From The Library:

Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

Whew! As I always say, I need more hours in the day. I don't really need to eat, sleep, or clean? Or go to work? I can just read 24/7, right? If only.....

Please make sure you visit Tynga's Reviews, to see other participants. I can't wait to see what you all post this week -- even though I will be sure to be adding more to my list because of it! Happy Reading! Thanks for stopping by.

Reminder: I'm having a GIVEAWAY for a copy of Pushing The Limits. You don't want to miss out on this book!

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


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