Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell @rainbowrowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell book cover and review
Finally a contemporary book that I can sink my teeth into. I've been DNFing or not even starting many contemporaries lately, but I should have known that Rowell's characters would win my heart. I thoroughly enjoyed Fangirl.

Cath and her twin sister Wren are leaving for college and they are going to live in separate dorms. They will be apart for the first time. Cath is nervous, especially when her roommate shows almost no interest in getting to know Cath, and Cath is to frightened of everything to put herself out there.

All Cath wants to do is write her fanfic, which has a huge following on the internet. About the only thing she's excited about is her fiction writing class that she managed to get in as a freshman.

I think what makes Rowell's characters so easy to love is that they have multiple aspects to their lives. They are well rounded. I don't want to say too much but there are issues besides surviving their freshman year at college. Their father has some mental health issues, and Cath is worried about leaving him alone....since their mother left them when they were eight years old. Mom has suddenly decided she wants to be a part of their lives, much to Cath's dismay. Wren takes a different path through her freshman year, partying too much and paying the consequences. And, of course, there's a romance. A really sweet romance that melted my heart.

Cath has problems getting her priorities straight, as is common for freshmen in college, and following her through this process is both frustrating and satisfying.

I'm not sure I have anything negative to say. It did take me a while to immerse myself in Fangirl. But I think that's more of a personal thing -- only reading in short spurts. I do better if I can get a huge chunk of reading time all at once. That's not always possible, of course.

I was starting to think I shouldn't try any more contemporaries (maybe I'm too old for teen situations?) but Fangirl has renewed my faith. I'm going to have to start pushing this one to my teens. It's been nominated for our Abraham Lincoln High School Book Award, so that will help.

Published by St. Martin's Griffin, 2013
Copy obtained from the library
435 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

DNF Book Review: The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman book cover
It's been a rough week for me book-wise. This is the second book I haven't been able to finish. So, is it me? Maybe. But they were very different books and I quit for different reasons. The first one, I'm not even going to review because it was one of those "just not for me" books. Nothing wrong with it, just too cute and predictable for me.

The Waking Dark, however, I'd like to say a few things about. Mainly that I read so many reviews that said this is a page-turner, and I found it to be totally the opposite.

We are introduced to several settings and characters very quickly as twelve people are murdered in one day in the town of Oleander, Kansas. Then we skip ahead to follow the lives of the people who witnessed these killings and survived, as well as the only surviving murderer.

Some other bad stuff happens to the town, including a tornado. And then they are quarantined by the government but no one knows why. And that takes 200 pages. You get bits and pieces of plot progression. Like, the murderer isn't being held in a normal prison or a mental hospital; something is weird about that.

But I waited and waited for some breadcrumbs, and honestly I got tired of these characters interacting with each other without any progress or even the beginning of an investigation into what is happening. They are just living their lives, trying to survive. Ok, but for how long? Are they ever going to even get suspicious? Throw me a bone!

I did skim the end of the book, so I know the basic premise of what is going on, but I just didn't enjoy the meandering around without any build up of tension. The Waking Dark has been compared to Stephen King -- uh -- just, no. And King writes some really long, overly descriptive books, but he ratchets the tension and hooks you and Wasserman did not.

Since many reviews found The Waking Dark to be a page-turner, you may too.  This is only my opinion, so take it for what it's worth.

Published by Knopf BFYR, 2013
Copy obtained from the library
200/452 pages

Rating: DNF

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Book Review: The Leveller, by Julia Durango @julia_durango

The Leveller by Julia Durango book cover and review
I tend to like books about virtual reality games, and The Leveller is no exception.

Nixy has found a unique part-time job. Parents pay her to go into the MEEP, a virtual reality gaming world, and bring back their children. She's really good at it and has built up a reputation. It helps that both her parents are designers of this world, and Nixy has access to some things other players may not have.

When her parents' boss, the creator of the MEEP, comes to Nixy for help, she can't really say no. It seems the boss's son has run away -- into the MEEP. He's left a suicide note and whenever anyone has tried to go in a get him, they have met with such horrific obstacles that they have come back with some PTSD symptoms.

Nixy isn't worried too much about that. She knows it's just a game, but what she faces is pretty scary -- snakes, zombies, sharks -- and the descriptions will give you chills. Finally, after she reaches the son, Wyn, she finds out things aren't at all what she thought. And so the challenges continue.

The Leveller is action packed and features a kick-ass female character. It moves. It's short and easy and exciting. Great for reluctant readers who are interested in gaming. The characters are real enough to make you root for them, but The Leveller is really about the action. And there's a little romance too.

It would be fun to have another book about these characters in this game. I'm not sure if that is planned or not, since the ending of The Leveller is pretty resolved and satisfying. I recommend you take a couple hours and get lost in the MEEP.

Published by HarperTeen, June 23, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
256 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Stacking the Shelves - A Few

Happy Weekend everyone. Hope you are enjoying it. Here's what I acquired this week:

For Revew:
Trust No One by Paul Cleave book cover
Trust No One, by Paul Cleave from NetGalley
Sometimes a book just jumps out at me. "Psychological thriller" gets me every time...

DaVinci's Tiger by Laura Malone Elliott book cover
DaVinci's Tiger, by Laura Malone Elliott from Edelweiss
YA historical fiction. Can't pass those up either.

Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown Book Cover
Velvet Undercover, by Teri Brown from Edelweiss
YA historical fiction

Illuminae by Kaufman and Kristoff book cover
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff from NetGalley

That's what caught my fancy this week. How about you? Anything good I need to get my hands on? Leave me a link! Thanks for stopping by. Please visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews.

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2015 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book Review: The Young Elites, by Marie Lu @Marie_Lu

The Young Elites by Marie Lu book cover and review
Marie Lu has created and exciting fantasy world in The Young Elites.

Ever since Adelina became very ill as a small child, she has been marked. These people are called "malfetto" by society, and they are discriminated against and sometimes even killed. Some of these malfetto have fantastic powers, and Adelina's father wishes she did so that he could sell her for a lot of money. But, no, it appears Adelina does not. Her father is terribly cruel, and eventually Adelina decides to run away.

She leaves her sister, sworn to secrecy, and escapes. But her father catches up, and Adelina uses her newly realized powers to kill him. Adelina is thrown into prison and sentenced to burn at the stake. She once again uses her powers to escape and is rescued by a member of the Young Elites, who will try to train her as one of them, if she's capable.

Enzo is the leader of these Young Elites called the Dagger Society. He is the crown prince and longs to take over the kingdom so that the malfetto can live a better life. The Dagger Society is working underground to make this happen.

Teren works for the king (and mostly the queen) and is out to destroy every malfetto he can find including those in the Dagger Society.

Adelina doesn't have it easy. She's attracted to Enzo, but can't be totally honest with the Dagger Society because Teren is dangling her sister's life above Adelina's head. So there's betrayal. I didn't think Adelina made very good choices in regards to Teren. She understandably doesn't trust anyone, but I think everyone would have fared better had she been honest. But then, there wouldn't be such an exciting tale!

I didn't enjoy The Young Elites as much as Lu's Legend Series (one of my all-time favorites) mostly because I just like dystopian books more than fantasy. The Young Elites is very engaging, but just relies too much on magic for my taste.

There are some twists and turns at the end, and some sadness too! There is an interesting epilogue which sets up the next book in the series, The Rose Society, nicely. I'll be looking forward to picking that one up in October.

Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons BFYR, 2014
Copy obtained from the library
355 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: Every Last Word, by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone book cover and review
Tamara Ireland Stone’s take on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in Every Last Word is believable, interesting, and serves to add to this story rather than overpower it.

Sam was diagnosed with OCD at a very early age, and has been seeing a psychiatrist for a long time. One of Sam’s problems is that she becomes obsessed with negative thoughts and can’t get them out of her mind. So beginning a new school year brings on all sorts of trauma. Sam is a member of the Crazy Eights, a group of the most popular girls in the school that can be quite demanding.

Her psychiatrist, Sue, has always encouraged her to break away from this group and find new friends, but it has been difficult. When Caroline befriends Sam, new opportunities open up including writing poetry and even romance.

The characters are complex and interesting. The perceived stress caused by the Crazy Eights, whether real or not, is palpable and I could understand Sam’s need to lead a double life. AJ, the love interest, is almost too good to be true, but that’s love I guess. Sue is exceptional. If nothing else, I hope Every Last Word encourages people to seek out a therapist if needed. Sue is a great example of how a therapist can be a positive influence. I loved how Sam felt comfortable telling Sue everything, and in crisis, Sue was the first person she went to.

The twist towards the end of the book shocked me. I wasn’t expecting it, and I wasn’t sure if it was necessary, but Stone handles it well, just like everything else in Every Last Word. Sam grows and changes and makes progress – there are steps forward and back, but in the end she’s in a good place. Of course, everything isn’t perfect – I don’t think you “cure” OCD, but it is a hopeful ending.

I can recommend Every Last Word to any teen who likes a contemporary story with drama and romance. Every Last Word is an excellent example of a realistic teen novel with all the feels.

Published by Disney-Hyperion June 16, 2015
eARC obtained from NetGalley
368 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: The Stellow Project, by Shari Becker

The Stellow Project by Shari Becker book cover and review
The Stellow Project is a fast-paced, entertaining novel with an interesting premise.

A big storm is going to hit New York, so Lilah’s dad wants her and her sister to go with their friend to their summer cabin in the mountains to ride it out.

Her father is away on business but will meet them at the cabin. After a harrowing journey to the cabin, they feel safer. But when Lilah doesn’t hear from her father, and then he doesn’t show at the cabin, she is worried. There’s also a strange car that seems to be following the girls.

Lilah is on medication to help her breathe. Without it she may die, and her dad is the one that gets it for her. And, of course, she runs out of medication. Lilah becomes very ill and wakes up in a hospital after being taken there by one of the kids in the town, Daniel. Turns out this isn’t just an ordinary hospital, it’s at a research facility, and Daniel’s mom is the head scientist. Lilah’s sister is being cared for by an older woman in the compound. So are they guests or prisoners? And where is Lilah’s dad? It has been broadcast on the news that he is wanted for shutting down the satellite system that predicts the weather thereby causing the storm to be much more devastating to the population of New York. Who can she trust?

The mystery surrounding the research facility, Lilah’s dad, and Lilah’s disease is intriguing and all linked together. As Lilah figures things out little by little, she realizes that she needs to escape. But where should she go? In the meantime, she has become romantically involved with Daniel and has begun to trust him.

Lilah becomes stronger as the story goes on. It’s easy to root for her. The writing is easy and the pacing is steady. I enjoyed getting lost in this tense story.

The ending, however, is disappointing. Once again, there isn’t an ending. You just turn the page and the book stops. I understand that publishers do this to sell books, but this is not an acceptable literary technique. There is no climax or denouement. Nothing has been resolved. Every time I have to write a review when a book  ends like this, I tell myself not to rant too much – but I can’t help it. I can’t stand it when a book isn’t a book – you need the rest of the series.

So, while I enjoyed The Stellow Project quite a bit, the ending left such a bad taste in my mouth. I really want to know what happens to Lilah, but I’m too angry to care right now. I’d suggest waiting until all the books are released to read The Stellow Project. I’ll recommend this to my students, but I’ll make sure they know about the cliffhanger ending.

Published by Skyscape, June 23, 2015
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine
318 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen book cover and review
Invasion of the Tearling continues the intriguing plotting and world building that was begun in Queen of the Tearling.

Kelsie spends most of the book trying to figure out a way to defeat the Red Queen, which given the strength of this enemy, is impossible. She doesn’t think her sapphire stones are working, but she is able to work a lot of magic that seems like it could only come from the stones.

Kelsie also continues to have visions that debilitate her. This time it’s of a woman in the past, before the crossing. She sees a United States that is in our future, but in Kelsie’s past.  We learn why and how the crossing was accomplished. I gotta tell you, the first time this flashback happened, I thought there was a mistake in my ARC it was so abrupt and jarring. I really thought a chapter from another book got included by mistake. Later in the book, when the visions were more a part of Kelsie, it made more sense.

As a matter of fact, as the book went on, it got much better. My first impression of Invasion of the Tearling is that it’s too long. Way too long. It takes so much time to actually get going. I got bored. I took a break and read another book and then came back, and things picked up.

We also learn why the Red Queen hates the Tear so much. I enjoyed the ending. Things are still dire, but Invasion of the Tearling ended with some things in a good place.

If you enjoyed Queen of the Tearling, I would recommend Invasion of the Tearling. Just be prepared for a slow start.

Published by Harper, June 9. 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
528 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Stacking the Shelves -- I Did it Again

My reading time has severely diminished because of other things going on in my life, so I'm trying not to add too many books since I'm not reading them. But sometimes I just can't resist. Here's what got me this week:

For Review:
One by Sarah Crossan book cover
One, by Sarah Crossan from Edelweiss
I loved The Girls by Lori Lansens which is also about conjoined twins, so I had to get this one.

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray book cover
Lair of Dreams, by Libba Bray from NetGalley
Sequel to The Diviners

Another Day by David Levithan book cover
Another Day, by David Levithan from NetGalley
Companion novel to Every Day

From the Library:
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne book cover
I just read All the Light We Cannot See and it made me want to read this book.

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave me a link so I can check out your haul. Don't forget to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Come back soon!

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2015 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved


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