Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Review: His Right Hand by Mette Ivie Harrison

His Right Hand by Mette Ivie Harrison book cover and review
I chose to read His Right Hand because I had read Harrison's first book, The Bishop's Wife and I wanted to see what our characters were up to now. I enjoyed His Right Hand, but not as much.

A little background. Linda is the Bishop's wife. His Right Hand is not only a mystery, but a book about the Mormon faith. One of the Bishop's closest assistants, Carl, is found dead in the church. He seemed to be a pillar of the community and a loving and supportive husband and father. But after his death, startling secrets are discovered that change everything. The autopsy reveals that Carl was biologically a woman.  This would be startling in any situation, but as a Mormon there are additional complications.

Linda, as always, can't let things go. While trying to support Carl's family she can't help but get mixed up in the investigation.

I thought His Right Hand was a bit more preachy than the first book. This might be because a lot was repeated from the first book about the Mormon faith. I also didn't think the mystery was as compelling as The Bishop's Wife, but it still kept my interest. In the first book, there were multiple issues and more complexity. It gives a good introduction to the faith, and has stirred up some controversy for the author because of her questioning certain things about her faith. I also didn't get that as much in His Right Hand. This second book is just a straightforward murder mystery, complicated by some interesting issues.

I would recommend reading The Bishop's Wife first.  I liked the characters and setting and would recommend His Right Hand if you enjoy the first book.

Published by Soho Crime, December 1, 2015
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Reminder: Last Day to Enter my Giveaway!

In case you're interested, just thought I'd put this out there again.  Giving away two books. Details about my giveaway are here.

Have a great day!

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Stacking the Shelves - Yet Another Library Book

I don't have many review books for a while, so I continue to pick books from the library. I love catching up! (Although I really never will...)

The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau book cover
The Tapestry, by Nancy Bilyeau
Next book in the Joanna Stafford Series which I have really enjoyed so far.

That's it. Hope you are having a great holiday weekend. Remember to visit our hosts Team Tynga's Reviews and come back soon!

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving -- and a Giveaway

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving if you live in the U.S. I also wanted to give you the opportunity to enter my givaway if you haven't already.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh book cover and review
The Wrath and the Dawn  is an exciting albeit loose retelling of One Thousand and One Nights and The Arabian Nights. I'm must admit I'm not familiar with the details of those stories, but this retelling hit the right notes for me.

The Caliph of Khorasan takes a new bride each evening and executes them at dawn. After her best friend becomes a victim, Shahrzad volunteers so that she can execute the Caliph and get her revenge.

She manages to stay alive by beginning a story that she hasn't finished before dawn, so the Caliph agrees she can finish it the next night. Well, after that he just falls head over heals in love with her, so he can't execute her.  Yea, there was a bit of instalove that seemed a bit unlikely. Especially when Shahrzad begins to have feeling for her captor just as quickly. Yes she's torn because she's supposed to hate him and murder him, but it seems instantly that she is swooning instead of hating.

Other than that, I really like the storytelling and the pacing. The excitement builds, since there's obviously a reason the Caliph has behaved this way, because Shahrzad sees his softer side.  And Shahrzad was practically engaged to someone and he, along with Shahrzad's father, is bound and determined to rescue her -- except she doesn't really want to be rescued. Oh, and there's a magic carpet that doesn't play much of a part here, but I'm certain we'll see it in future books.

Shahrzad finally convinces the Caliph to explain why he's been compelled to be such a brutal leader and shortly after that, The Wrath and the Dawn ends, so yes, there's a huge cliffhanger.  The sequel, The Rose and the Dagger is scheduled to be released in May. If you like books with curses, magic, and evil plotting, then The Wrath and the Dawn is one to check out.

Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons BFYR, May 12, 2015
eBook obtained from the library
416 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: The Christmas Wedding Ring by Susan Mallery

The Christmas Wedding Ring by Susan Mallery book cover and review
While The Christmas Wedding Ring is a cute romance, I wouldn't really call it much of a Christmas book. It just happens to take place around Christmas.

Molly has had a bad week. I'm not going to tell you what happened because that is slowly revealed during the book. She decides to get away for a while, before she goes to visit her sister's family for Christmas. She finds an old wedding band and it reminds her of one of her sister's old boyfriends, Dylan.

Dylan gave her the ring as he left town and told her she should come find him when she grew up and wanted an adventure. Wonder what ever happened to Dylan? Well, Molly decides to find out. Dylan, it turns out, is quite successful himself, but he's also dealing with a difficult decision and is happy to get away for a while with Molly. They vow to split the costs and not sleep together.

That's the premise. I don't think I need to say much more. The Christmas Wedding Ring has a bit too much drama, but I find most romances do. It's heartwarming and I liked the characters. I'm still looking for the right Christmas book, though.  Any recommendations?

Published by Harlequin HQN, 2014
eBook obtained from the library
336 pages

Rating: 3/5

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Stacking the Shelves - More Library Goodness

I don't have many review books for the near future, so I've been enjoying pulling books from the library that have been on my TBR for a while.

From the Library:
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh book cover
The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh

If You Could be Mine by Sara Farizan book cover
If You Could Be Mine, by Sara Farizan

Fracture, by Megan Miranda
This is our book club pick for this month!

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell book cover
While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

For Review:
With Malice by Eileen Cook book cover
With Malice, by Eileen Cook from Edelweiss

I'm looking forward to reading some older books and trying to catch up a bit. How about you? What's new? Leave me a link. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to visit our hosts Team Tynga's Reviews.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Blogoversary! Annette's Book Spot is Five Years Old!

This blog turned five on September 17 and I didn't post anything then because I was going to participate in The Fantastic Fives Event that some bloggers put together for several blogs that turned five this year. At the last minute I was told I didn't qualify because I had posts from 2009 on my blog. I explained that those were copied from an old blog and that my statistics clearly indicated I started Annette's Book Spot in 2010, but to no avail. Here's my post from September 2014 celebrating my 4th Anniversary.

So it IS my 5th Blogoversary. I'm not a part of that celebration, but I have already acquired books for my giveaway, so let's celebrate!

I'm giving away two books to one winner. The Diviners, by Libba Bray (paperback) and The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau (hardback.) I really like the simplicity of using Google forms for entries. No hoops to jump through. You don't need to follow or comment or tweet. (Although all of that would be appreciated.) Just one entry per person please. Contest closes on November 29 at midnight. The winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond with their address. Good luck!

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book Review: Audacity, by Melanie Crowder @MelanieACrowder

Audacity, by Melanie Crowder book cover and review
I've been on an immigration kick lately. Not that I meant to, but I just happened to grab three books about immigrants and they have all been excellent. Audacity is about Jewish immigrants from Russia at the turn of the century and it is based on a true story. (Girl in Translation and Orphan Train are the other two books in case you're interested.)

Clara comes from a very traditional Jewish family, so when they arrive in New York she and her mother must find work. Her father and brothers are to spend their time studying God's word.  I had a hard time not throwing the book across the room. Her mother is taking in piecework and Clara is working in a sweatshop barely making anything. And the males in the family go to the temple and study all day.  I'm all for faith, but how can one justify this in the name of any religion?

Anyway, Clara can't deal with the working conditions and starts looking into unionizing. The men are beginning to become organized, but they see no need to include women. So not only does Clara have to fight the women to get them to join, but she has to fight the men to include them.  She spends many days picketing, loses her job, and is beaten more than once. Ultimately her efforts lead to a massive 20,000 worker uprising.

She's an inspiration. One that most people have probably never heard of. This is a story worth hearing, and it's quick. Audacity is written in verse and is easy to follow. I wasn't blown away by the format, but it also didn't hinder me. The Historical Note at the end and the interviews with Clara's family add much to the story.

Audacity would be a great classroom read that would provide a lot of food for discussion.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire occurs shortly after this and might be an option for further study. Yet another historical fiction that I need to push to my teens. I think they will like Audacity, if I can convince them to try it.

Published by Philomel, January 8, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
388 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book Review: Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

Mesmerizing historical fiction. Orphan Train highlights a little known piece of American history while connecting it to the present.

Molly is in foster care. She might as well be an orphan, since she doesn't know what happened to her mom or if she's even alive. Molly is about to turn 18, and she has no idea what will happen after that. Foster care has had its ups and downs, and although her situation is currently better than usual, she's never had the love of a family. She gets caught stealing a library book and is assigned fifty hours of community service.

She ends up working for Vivian, and elderly widow, who lives in a mansion with an attic full of her old junk that must be cleaned out. Must it really? Vivian and Molly build an unlikely friendship, and it turns out they have more in common that you would think. Vivian was orphaned in New York at a very young age. This was shortly after her family immigrated from Ireland. Vivian ended up on an orphan train heading to the midwest where farmers, shopkeepers, or families could adopt these children. Many times it turned into nothing more than servitude for these children.

As they go through old belongings and Vivian's story comes out, the two create an unbreakable bond that ends up helping both of them. Orphan Train is cleverly written to let out bits of the story at a time and keep the reader guessing and pulling for a bright future for these two lost souls. It's heartwarming and ultimately hopeful, although some of the hardships they faced are horrifying.

Orphan Train is a short, well-researched book with a powerful punch making it easy to recommend to a wide audience, including younger teens. I adored it.

Published by William Morrow, 2013
Copy obtained from the library
278 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Book Review: Need, by Joelle Charbonneau

Need, by Joelle Charbonneau book cover and review
It's too bad Need has such a silly premise, because the writing is good and the story is actually pretty tense at times.

Kaylee Dunham wants nothing more than to get a new kidney for her brother. As a matter of fact, she's gone to great lengths and lost a lot of friends trying to get her classmates to get tested to see if they are compatible. So when she finds out about a new social networking site called Need, she thinks it is too good to be true, but she has to give it a try.

The site is open only to Kaylee's high school, and soon everyone is a member. You ask for something you need or want, and the site gives you a task to complete in order to fulfill your wish. Things quickly get out of hand, and even though the tasks seem harmless, people are soon dying. And wishes are coming true.

The stakes get higher and higher, and soon Kaylee wants to get out but can't. She tries going to the authorities but they don't believe her.

Like I said, this premise just had me rolling my eyes. And the ending was just way too unbelievable. Charbonneau can write -- I really enjoyed The Testing series, but this one I almost had to put down. I actually did put it down but then came back to finish it later.

I have mixed feelings about recommending this. It's exciting and an easy read. It's just so stupid. But maybe teens won't be bothered by that as much as I am.

Published by HMH BFYR, November 3, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
352 pages

Rating: 2.5/5

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Book Review: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok book cover and review
Girl in Translation is a heartbreaking story that gives the reader a lot to think about.

Kim and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to the United States believing that they will have a better life. They are sponsored by her mother's sister, Paula, and her husband. The life she describes is not just hard but unjust and cruel.

Because of the cultural and language barriers, Kim and her mother don't know how to fight for themselves. They let Paula dictate their lives, thinking she is doing the best she can. They live in an apartment in Chinatown infested with mice and roaches and have no heat during the cold winters. Kim's mom works at the garment factory being paid by the piece (which is illegal) and in order to meet her quota, Kim must come every day after school and help. They even take work home in the evenings and on weekends.

Kim is very intelligent, but it's hard for her teachers to tell because of the language. She's working very hard to improve that. She's resourceful and hardworking, thank goodness. Her aunt not only withholds money for their rent, but also they must pay her back for getting them to the US and for medication she paid for to cure Kim's mother's tuberculosis. They barely have enough to subsist.

It is very important to Kim to keep her situation a secret from the one friend she has and from the school authorities. It is such a horrible, no-win situation. I can't believe Kim ended up persevering in the end, because that's what made this worth reading. And the fact that she's so gifted is what made it possible. I'm heartbroken for those that have been in this situation or are still in this situation and never get out. It's hard to think about. I feel very lucky and also inadequate.

Kwok emigrated from Hong Kong when she was young and worked in a sweat shop with her family, so she writes from experience and it shows. Girl in Translation is very readable and engaging and should be widely read. I'll do my best to get it into as many hands as I can.

Published by Riverhead Books, 2011
Copy obtained from the library
307 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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