Saturday, May 31, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - Getting Ready for Summer!

Monday is my last official day of school, so I'm ready to read, read, read! Here's what I got this week:

For Review:

A New Darkness, by Joseph Delaney from Edelweiss

The Jewel, by Amy Ewing, from Edelweiss

From the Library:

The Disenchantments, by Nina LaCour

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, by Morgan Matson

The False Princess, by Ellis O'Neal

UnWholly, by Neal Shusterman

Just One Day, by Gayle Forman

Hopefully this week I'm going to the book store to buy some new releases that I've been wanting to get, so see you next week for those! Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to leave a link so I can see what you got. And, also visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews to see all the participating blogs. Enjoy your weekend!

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Review: Curses and Smoke, by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Shecter writes another compelling historical novel in Curses and Smoke. I really enjoyed Cleopatra's Moon, so when I saw her name on another title, I had to have it.

We are in Pompeii, and the earth is rumbling. We as readers know what is destined for this ancient city, but before that happens, we get to know some individuals who will be affected by this tragedy. Our first perspective is Lucia's. She is the daughter of a wealthy man who owns a school for gladiators. Actually, he's lost some of his wealth, and has arranged for Lucia to marry a gruesome 80-year-old man to help him regain some money and power. Lucia prays fervently to the gods to somehow escape this arranged marriage.

The second perspective is Tag, a slave who has been trained as a healer and recently returned to Pompeii. Tag and Lucia used to play together when they were young. When Lucia realizes that Tag has returned, a secret romance ensues.

All the while, the earth is rumbling and Lucia is convinced something is wrong, but she's only a woman so no one will listen to her.

To round out the colorful characters, there's Lucia's friend who is pregnant, a royal who wants to attend the gladiator school (and may have an ulterior motive), and a little boy who idolizes Tag and wants to learn to be a healer. Lucia learns some awful secrets about her father, which makes her even more determined to get out of this marriage.

Things blow up in Lucia's and Tag's lives (as well as literally.) The ending is a bit unexpected, but we know at the outset that this isn't going to be a "happily ever after" story. The characters are fictional, although Shecter did her research to depict what might have happened before and during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and explains her thought processes in an author's note at the end of Curses and Smoke.

Historically, this probably didn't add much to my understanding, and I didn't seem to connect with these characters as much as those in Cleopatra's Moon. However, given that I'm an historical fiction fan, I really enjoyed every minuter of Curses and Smoke. I think anyone who wants a romanticized version of a horrible historical event will enjoy this one too.

Published by Arthur A. Levine, May 27, 2014
eARC obtained from NetGalley
336 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: See You at Harry's, by Jo Knowles

What I got out of See You at Harry's was unexpected, but I still really enjoyed it.

I'm not big on reading blurbs. I just knew that we had middle school kids, an ice cream shop, and some family drama. Well, the "devastating event" referred to in the blurb is quite tragic, and sad. So, I shed some tears and, like I said, I wasn't expecting that.

Fern's family owns a restaurant, Harry's, so a lot of their lives revolve around supporting this business. Her dad drives the kids crazy with his hair-brained advertising schemes. Fern's little brother, 3-year-old Charlie, is a nuisance. Her older brother, Holden, is gay, but hasn't come out. Charlie is understandably upset when she realizes how he is bullied at school. And she has a really good friend Ran, who keeps her grounded and obviously has a crush on Fern. Well, it's obvious to everyone except Fern.

The characters are the stand out element in See You at Harry's. The family dynamics ring true. The story revolves around all of the characters trying to come to terms with this tragedy, and the reactions were very realistically portrayed.

The end is subtle. There is somewhat of a defining moment, and  you get the feeling that things are going to be OK, so I was comforted. See You at Harry's is touching and sweet. It's a sad but also a feel-good story. It's also a very quick read, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good contemporary. See You at Harry's is geared towards middle school kids, but I would easily recommend it to high school students too.

Published by Candlewick, 2012
Copy obtained from the library
310 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Review: The Body at the Tower by Y. S. Lee

The Body at the Tower is the second book in The Agency series, and I enjoyed it as much as the others. (Yes, I've read them out of order.)

I really enjoy the premise of these detective stories. It's the mid 1800s in London. Our main character, Mary, is a detective working undercover from The Agency, which is known as Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. It's a bit far-fetched. This teen girl was plucked off the street from a life of crime and trained to be a sleuth in a time when women couldn't even appear in public alone. But...

These books are really a lot of fun. In The Body at the Tower, a man has fallen to his death from Big Ben's tower -- still under construction. So Mary poses as a boy and gets a job on the construction crew.

She gets in all kinds of close scrapes and daring situations. She always manages to come out on top. We do get to see James Easton again -- the romantic interest from the first book, A Spy in the House. And, the romance STILL doesn't sizzle.

I'm partial to historical fiction and I really enjoy detective stories, so The Body at the Tower probably couldn't miss. Yes, it has some flaws. Mary is VERY lucky a lot. But I'm totally entertained and get caught up in these quick little books. I would recommend you read A Spy in the House first to get Mary's background. Give them a try!

Published by Candlewick, 2010
eBook, purchased
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Stacking the Shelves

Good to see you again. Here's what I managed to grab this week:

For Review:

Servants of the Storm, by Delilah S. Dawson from Edelweiss

Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld from Edelweiss

The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen from Edelweiss

Small week, but I'm excited about these. How about you? Make sure you visit Team Tynga's Reviews to see all the participating blogs. Thanks for visiting.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Wedding!

My son is getting married this Saturday!

Aren't they cute? Well, you can imagine I'm busy this week, so this blog will probably be a bit quiet. Especially next week, since I tend to write posts about a week in advance. I'll do my best to keep up with my Feedly, but commenting may suffer too.

Next week is BEA, and I'm supposed to be doing the Armchair BEA, so we'll just have to see how it goes. Hopefully I'll post some wedding pictures next week too. They are getting married outside, so we are praying for good weather. So far, the forecast looks promising.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Book Review: In the Shadow of the Lamp, by Susanne Dunlap

In case you didn't know, or don't remember, I love me some historical fiction. In the Shadow of the Lamp just hit all the right spots for me.

It's the 1850s and Molly gets fired from her job as a maid when she is accused of stealing. As she's dejectedly walking home, she hears a discussion about Florence Nightingale. The Crimean War is heating up, and Nightingale is looking for nurses to go to Turkey to help nurse the wounded.

Molly decides she will pose as a nurse, even though she can barely read. I won't tell you how she manages it, but she does end up in Turkey. She is helped by a good friend, Will, and there may be more than friendly feelings between these two. She's one of the youngest nurses and befriends the only other younger nurse, Emma.

We get a pretty good feel for the horrors of war without being too gross. Nightingale is depicted as a take-charge person, quickly organizing the hospital and even has the nurses make straw mattresses for the wounded because many of them are just laying on the floor. Nightingale is definitely depicted as a hero, and should be credited with saving many lives. The author has a good discussion of the actual historical accuracy at the end of In the Shadow of the Lamp.

Molly, it turns out, has a knack for nursing. She becomes attracted to one of the doctors. Emma falls in love with one of the patients and finds herself in quite a predicament. Nightingale strictly forbids any fraternizing with the opposite sex, so Molly and Emma are risking being sent home. Molly also finds out Will has joined the army and is in Turkey.

The romance blends well with the horrors of war. The girls end up on the front, they take a lot of risks, and the ending is exiting and not what I predicted. In the Shadow of the Lamp reads easily and quickly and would be appropriate for middle school as well as older teens.

Published by Bloomsbury, 2011
Copy obtained from the library
293  pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, May 19, 2014

DNF Book Review: Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff

At 41% (about 164 pages) I gave up on Guy in Real Life. Let me tell you why.

There are pages and pages of descriptions of the characters playing MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games -- like World of Warcraft.) To me, at least so far, these episodes did nothing to advance the plot of Guy in Real Life whatsoever.

In the blurb the author is compared to Rainbow Rowell and John Green, and I can understand the comparison, but don't let that cause your expectations to be too high. The characters are colorful and interesting. Lesh gets drunk one night, and on his way home he runs into Svetlana, who is on her bicycle. She crashes and in the process one of her prized possessions, a sketchbook, ends up in a puddle. Lesh's best friend, Greg finally convinces him to create a persona and pay his favorite MMO with him. Greg doesn't know that Lesh has become obsessed with the game too, but he's using another character he created. An elf named Svvetlana. And this is who we spend pages and pages with -- the elf Svvetlana in the MMO.

It turns out Lesh and Svetlana go to the same school and they begin to spend lunches together. There are other nuances to the story and characters that make it interesting. Their quirkiness gave me a bit of an Eleanor & Park vibe. But...unless you are interested in MMOs, there's a lot of extra material here that I found overwhelming. It seemed nothing much was happening in the "real" story. I don't really know what was happening in the MMO, because I skipped over most of that.

I've read that there is a good twist at the end of the book, and I really wanted to get there. I just couldn't sift through what seemed to me to be filler in an already long (400 page) book. If those parts end up being important, somebody let me know and maybe I'll give it another go.

Published by Balzer + Bray, May 27, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
164 of 400 pages

Rating: DNF

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Stacking the Shelves -- The Great Books Keep Coming!

I never have trouble finding books to read, whether it's from the library, for my Kindle, from review sites like Edelweiss and NetGalley, or from the book store. I love that! Here's what I decided on this week:

For Review:

Burn, by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge, from Edelweiss

Lies We Tell Ourselves, by Robin Talley from Edelweiss

Complicit, by Stephanie Kuehn, from NetGalley

From the Library:
See You at Harry's, by Jo Knowles

Vortex, by S. J. Kincaid

So how about you? Please leave me a comment, so I can check out your haul. Also, be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Thanks for stopping by.

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2014 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved


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