Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Review: The Devil's Intern, by Donna Hosie

To be honest, I really didn't like The Devil's Intern at first, but once the book got going and the setting changed, I enjoyed it much more.

Mitchell has spent the last four years in Hell. He died at the age of 17 when he got hit by a bus. Mitchell cannot accept his death, and when he finds out his boss, Septimus, has access to the Viciseometer he plots to steal it. You see, the devise is a time machine and Mitchell wants to go back and change his life so that he doesn't die.

Mitchell takes three friends along, who have died at various times, so they can change their outcomes also. Alfarin is a Viking prince, Elinor is an English peasant from the 17th century, and Medusa is a child of the 1960s. Medusa is the romantic interest. They visit each of the periods of their deaths, and....well...I'm not going to tell you what happens.

The beginning of the book really annoyed me.  Mitchell describes a very weird version of Hell. Hosie tries to make humorous references and analogies, and most of it just made me roll my eyes. It was too over the top and much too prolific. Hell is depicted as a fairly normal place where you go to work, eat, and even go to dances. I think Hell would have been more entertaining if it were a bit darker, and more as we traditionally think of it. I had a hard time not skimming and potentially DNFing.  But, I persevered.

I enjoyed the story much more after they began time travelling. It was more exciting, and not so light-hearted. The entire tone of the book changed. Time travel is always tricky, so it's best not to analyze the scientific principles too much. Some of it didn't make sense to me, but it can make your head spin if you try to sort it out.  I just went along with it and was very satisfied.

I also wish we got to know the characters a bit better before the time travelling. I didn't understand their connection and got their backgrounds confused at first. I didn't feel attached to them until they started on their adventure, then the attachment slowly grew.

Also, they make some stupid decisions. If you want to change the outcome of an event using time travel, wouldn't you plan to arrive some period BEFORE that event? And, if you are going to order McDonalds in the current time period, would you send the Viking prince to the counter to do so? This was used as comic relief, I think, but wasn't placed well. I guess you can see, I just didn't mesh with the "comedy" in The Devil's Intern.

The resolution is probably my favorite part. I found it creative and appropriate.

For time-travel fans, or those who like their depictions of the afterlife a bit lighthearted, The Devil's Intern might be appealing.

Published by Holiday House, August 1, 2014
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine
229 pages (Qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 2.5/5

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Review: Tabula Rasa, by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Tabula Rasa is a great teen survival story that is action packed.

Sarah is in a hospital in the middle of nowhere. She's having all her memories erased via an experimental procedure called Tabula Rasa (latin for "blank slate".) She believes that she somehow was a bad person, or is suffering from debilitating PTSD, so she has been sent here to have this procedure done.

Things go wrong during one of her procedures; the hospital becomes under attack and Sarah is running for her life in the middle of one of the worst blizzards ever. She teams up with a boy who helps her survive. Sarah has taken two pills given to her anonymously, and her memories have started to come back. But they must find the third pill that Sarah needs to take in order to get all her memories back, or else she will be brain damaged. And she must take the pill 24 hours after the last one.

Tabula Rasa moves. There's always something going on, and some new danger to face. There's some scary bad guys, and also some characters that keep you guessing. And a romance slowly develops, but doesn't take over the story. Sarah slowly figures out her past, and of course she was being deceived. But why?

My issue with Tabula Rasa is the entire premise. It's way out there--not really easy to believe. But once you go with it and just enjoy the survival story and the characters it is very entertaining.

The ending of Tabula Rasa comes together nicely, and things are resolved. Teens who love a fast-paced adventure and a heroine who just won't give up will enjoy Tabula Rasa.

Published by EgmontUSA (September 23, 2014)
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: Remember Me, by Romily Bernard

I really enjoyed Find Me, the first book in this series, but Remember Me just seemed like more of the same, bringing nothing new to the table.

Wick is still working for Carson, because she has no choice. He knows too much about her. They are after another bad guy and Wick is using her hacking skills to help Carson. Griff and Wick are still a couple, but Griff doesn't understand why Wick won't stop helping Carson. He doesn't like what Wick does.

I enjoyed the scrapes Wick gets into, and how she works her way out of them. The individual situations have tension and are entertaining. I like Wick, and I really like the new character, Milo.

What I really had problems with is the overall supposed danger that Wick's family and friends are in. We are told, every few pages, that Wick is doing all this to keep her new mom, Bren, and her sister, Lily, and Griff safe. We are TOLD that. But the danger never seems real. I just felt like she could have gone to some grownups and told them her situation and they could have helped. But, then we wouldn't have this story. So there's that.

As in Find Me, I suspected who the bad guy was about halfway through. It's a bit disappointing, but I still enjoyed the rest of the story, and there was another big surprise that I didn't suspect at all.

The epilogue (titled "What Happened After") is a lead up to the next book, and I just didn't buy it. And I didn't buy that Bren would be so gullible.

I'm being a bit picky because I did enjoy reading Remember Me. The scenarios were creative and the resolution exciting. I just couldn't get into the deep dark danger that is the impetus for the whole story.

Published by HarperCollins, September 23, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Afterworlds is a very different book than usual (not sure he really has a "usual") from Scott Westerfeld, and while I love some of his other books, I didn't enjoy this one as much.

There are two stories in alternating chapters. Darcy is a teen author who has just sold her first book for a lot of money. She decides to forgo college and move to New York to work on the edits for her book and write the second book in the series. She meets a lot of famous authors, begins a romantic relationship, and experiences all the ups and downs of the publishing industry.

Meanwhile, we get the story of Lizzie, in Afterworlds, the novel that Darcy has sold. It's a paranormal story where the main character survives a terrorist attack, but is changed forever. She can now visit the Afterworld, where the dead and the live meet. She also experiences some romance and some danger as she learns the rules of this place and tries to reconcile this new existence with her own life in the real world.

I enjoyed Darcy's story a lot. And I understand why we need to know what happens in her book, but I really didn't like the novel. It didn't illicit any emotional response from me. I never felt any tension or connection with the characters. Maybe because I knew it was a "novel." I found myself just wishing to get back to Darcy's story.

I appreciate the unique way Westerfeld created this story. I'm a huge Westerfeld fan; the Leviathan series being among my favorites of all time. It took me about 5 or 6 days to finish Afterworlds. The fact that it's over 600 pages didn't help. But,this is unheard of for me, but I found myself easily finding other things to do besides read. I think that is telling.

Afterworlds is well written, just not my thing. I think it is worth the time just because it's different. And if anyone, especially teens, are interested in publishing, they will definitely be interested in Darcy's experiences.

Published by Simon Pulse, September 23, 2014
Copy obtained from Edelweiss
608 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Happy Blog Birthday to Me! - Four Years and Counting

This week marked the fourth anniversary of my creating Annette's Book Spot. I've learned so much since then. Looking back at some of my original posts is really embarrassing. I can't believe how time flies and that I still really enjoy doing this. As long as that is the case, I'll keep it up.

Also, this week I tried my hand at folding a book.

I'm pretty happy with the result and plan to put this on my desk in the library. I got help from a great tutorial that you can find here and here. It was fun to make.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great week!

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - Book Club

I brought home one book this week -- my book club is reading it.

From the Library:
The Eye of Minds, by James Dashner

So how'd you do this week? Anything good? Leave me a link and thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to visit Team Tynga's Reviews and all the participating blogs.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs

Bones Never Lie is yet another engrossing story about forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan. Reichs manages to make each story unique and unforgettable, while still endearing us to the characters.

This time the victims are children, and the crimes have been committed over several years. The authorities are just now beginning to think that some of these murders may be connected and that they are dealing with a serial killer who is still on the loose.

It soon becomes apparent that a perpetrator from Tempe's past who almost killed her is involved. I've read most of this series, but I know I've missed a few. I didn't recall this episode from a prior book, but it seemed like it would be there.

Bones Never Lie is a very difficult, confusing, painstakingly slow investigation. Numerous times they think they have things figured out, only to find out their theories are incorrect. It's delicious. (Where does she come up with this stuff???)

It wouldn't be a Tempe Brennan book without Ryan. He reappears after a long absence, but the relationship between Tempe and Ryan is strained and nothing but platonic. *sigh* There still are some interesting conversations between the two, but this relationship is on the back burner in this book.

I complained about the last book, Bones are Forever, because Tempe didn't spend enough time actually doing forensic investigating. In Bones Never Lie, she doesn't spend a great deal of time in the lab, but she does do a lot of investigating and figuring out the clues, so I wasn't disappointed.

The ending of Bones Never Lie ties up the case nicely but leaves the reader begging for the next book. Again. As I've said many times, the books are much better than the TV series (Bones), although I do enjoy it too. Anyone who enjoys a good detective story should be pointed to these books.

Published by Bantam, September 23, 2014
eARC obtained from NetGalley and Edelweiss
336 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review: As Red as Blood, by Salla Simukka

Do not go into As Red as Blood thinking it's a Snow White retelling. There's very little to connect this book to the fairy tale. However, it is an interesting book.

Lumikki, a teenager in Finland, attends a prestigious school and lives by herself in a studio apartment, having left her parents. She walks into the school darkroom and discovers a LOT of money hanging from the lines drying. She figures out who comes to pick up the money and follows him. This is the beginning of a big adventure for Lumikki and three other teens as they try to figure out where this money came from and why it was covered in blood. Well, actually it's an adventure for Lumikki and Elisa. The two boys do nothing except play video games and act like the whole thing is no big deal.

The plot of As Red as Blood kept me engaged, although parts were a bit far-fetched for me. This is supposed to be a YA novel, but at times Lumikki seemed like an adult -- although the other kids seemed like teens or even younger. There is enough tension and anticipation to make you want to find out how it all ends. And Lumikki does dress up like Snow White, so I guess that's why the series title is The Snow White Trilogy.

It's Lumikki that is the problem for me. I just didn't connect with her as a character. I felt detached much of the time. We get details of her past a bit at a time and then in a big info dump right at the end of the book, and I felt like this should have been more of the story. Her troubled past didn't seem to connect to the present, it didn't have the impact that it should have, and I couldn't get emotional about her predicament. The books is a translation, so maybe that's why the story didn't seem to flow smoothly.

She is tough. And brave. And As Red as Blood definitely has closure, even though it's the first book int a trilogy. I assume Lumikki will get into totally different situations in the next books. As Red as Blood has been compared to Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, and I can see why. But the Larsson's books have much more complex plots and better characterizations. (They are also much longer and written for adults.) Other books in this series are As White as Snow, (March 2015) and As Black as Ebony.

For teens who like troubled, mysterious female protagonists who are trying to save the world, As Red as Blood might be the book for them.

Published by Skyscape, August 1, 2014
eBook obtained from School Library Journal
272 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer

Although there is a supernatural element in Belzhar, this is a contemporary story about teens overcoming difficulties. And it's a good one.

Jam hasn't been the same since her boyfriend died. Her parents finally decide to send her to a boarding school called The Wooden Barn for students who are "emotionally fragile and highly intelligent." So all the kids here have been through something.

Jem is chosen, along with only four other students, to be in a class called Special Topics in English. She has no idea why she was chosen, but other students are jealous of this very secretive, highly selective class.

The other students in the class are quiet and all have been through traumatic experiences that they can't get over. It really isn't clear what those experiences are, but slowly they are revealed. The students in the class become close, especially after they realize that their required journal writing sends them back in time to the happier time right before this traumatic event.

They begin meeting in secret and trying to figure out what is going on and whether their teacher knows these red leather journals she gave them possess some kind of magic.

Belzhar is really about growing and changing and learning from mistakes. The title is pronounced "bell jar" because the Special Topics class is reading only Sylvia Plath this semester, and the students name the place their journaling takes them "Belzhar."

There's a bit of romance and a shock when we learn Jam's story. There is heartbreak, and loss, and healing. All of these students come out stronger in the end.

I loved Belzhar. I was afraid the magic would be hokey, but it felt right and suitably magical. I enjoyed learning about all the characters and their struggles, big or small. The writing was great, and pulled me into the story.

I need to read The Bell Jar and some of Plath's poetry. I would highly recommend this book to teens who enjoy contemporary stories that they can easily relate to (even though they hopefully have not experienced the trauma that these teens have!)

Published by Dutton BFYR, September 30, 2014
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine
264 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stacking the Shelves -- Some Unknown Titles

I got a couple titles this week that are unfamiliar to me, but look good.

For Review:
Deadly Odds, by Allen Wyler, from the publisher

Fiercombe Manor, by Kate Riordan from Edelweiss
They had me when they compared it to The Little Stranger.

So what's new in your TBR? Thanks for visiting and please visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Have a great week!

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