Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: Fields Where They Lay, by Timothy Hallinan @TimHallinan

Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan book cover and review
I usually read a couple sweet, heartwarming, romantic holiday novels each year.  When I saw Fields Where They Lay was a holiday detective story, I was all in.  And it proved to be an entertaining Christmas read.

Fields Where They Lay is a Junior Bender Mystery (#6).  The main character, Bender, is a thief turned investigator, which gives the story a different twist.  This time he's been hired (actually forced) to work for a member of the Russian mob.  This person is part owner of a shopping mall that has had a sharp rise in the amount of shoplifting it is experiencing.  Bender is supposed to figure out what is going on but not tell anyone what he is doing.

The mall is on its last leg. Many shops are closed and the rest are doing poorly. During his investigation, one of the shopkeepers, a dear sweet older lady, is murdered.  Bender resolves to find the killer -- whether he finds the shoplifters or not.

The investigation is interesting and takes some unusual turns.  All is not what it seems, which is great.  The people who Bender rely on for assistance, while maybe a bit shady, are full of personality. Bender has issues going on in his personal life that also add a bit of tension.

During the investigation, Bender relies on the mall Santa, who is Jewish, to help him understand more about the working environment.  Santa ends up telling his own Christmas story from World War II.  While I liked this story, I really disliked how it pulled the reader out of the main storyline.  I found it very disruptive and unnecessary.

Fields Where They Lay is appropriate for mystery fans of all ages, including teens. The ending is surprising and satisfying.  It also is a great setup for Bender's next mystery.  I'll be on the look out for it.

Published by Soho Crime, October 25, 2016
eARC obtained from NetGalley
384 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Book Review: The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Kiss is the concluding book in the Winner's Trilogy, so if you haven't read The Winner's Curse and The Winner's Crime, you may want to stop reading this review, although it is spoiler free.

The Winner's Kiss brings Kestral and Arin back together (eventually) but their relationship still isn't solid.  I can't say why, but it's heartbreaking. As they are trying to build a relationship, they are also trying to win a war, so that complicates things.

I really don't have much to say about the plot, but if you enjoyed the first two books, you will certainly want to pick up The Winner's Kiss. As I said in my review of The Winner's Crime, things would go a bit smoother if they would just tell each other the truth about how they feel, although that wasn't as much of an issue in this book.

I did feel that The Winner's Kiss dragged a bit, especially after Kestral and Arin are traveling together and the war has begun.  The plot just seemed to be in limbo there for a while.

I loved the ending.  Sometimes you just need to have all the loose ends tied up and a least some people need to be happy!

The Winner's Kiss is a satisfying conclusion to the series, and if you want to know more about the world and the characters, read my reviews of the earlier books linked above. A great series that I've been recommending to a lot of my teens.

Published by Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, March 29, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
484 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Stacking the Shelves - Ready for Christmas

I've been very sporadic about doing these posts, so here's a few that I've gotten recently.

For Review:

Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan book cover
Fields Where They Lay, by Timothy Hallinan from NetGalley
Always need a Christmas book or two, and I'm happy this is crime fiction, not a romance.  A new author to me.

A List of Cages, by Robin Roe from NetGalley
I'm not sure what attracted me to this one, except I do like a story about friendship once in a while.

Always, by Sarah Jio from NetGalley
A favorite author of mine; I've read most, but not all of her books.

From the Library:
The Winner's Kiss, by Marie Rutkoski
I finally had time to grab something that I've been wanting to read from the library.  I'm about halfway through and loving it!

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber
I got this one in audio so I have something to get me in a holiday mood.  (Dracula just isn't cutting it!)

To those U.S. folks, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and get some time to relax (and read.) So, what did you get this week? Are you gearing up for Christmas? Let me know in the comments.  Thanks for stopping by and be sure to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews.

Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2016 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book Review: The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan

The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan book cover and review
The Bitter Side of Sweet is emotional and powerful.  The story of these poor children will break your heart.

Fifteen-year-old Amadou's main concern is taking care of his little brother, who is too young to be held to the standards of the masters who set the quotas for harvesting the cacao. Two years ago, when they signed up for a season of harvesting to help out their impoverished family, they had no idea that they were signing up for a life of slavery.  They have never been paid, and have no way of escaping this life.  They are beaten regularly, hungry all the time, and Amadou has taken more than his share of the punishments because he covers for his brother.

When a girl arrives and is expected to join them in their harvesting, everything changes.  She is a fighter -- much like Amadou used to be.  He tries to convince her that there is no escape, but she continues to fight and be beaten for her behavior.

These three kids do manage to escape, in an unbelievable set of lucky circumstances, but their journey is only beginning.

They are surprisingly resilient, and they finally find a few adults who are willing to help them (barely.) The story of the girl and how she got herself into this situation is slowly revealed. And the mostly happy ending is a relief.

You can't help rooting for them.  I did have a minor problem with the lucky breaks they got, but there were plenty of hardships to go along with them.  The Bitter Side of Sweet is supposedly based in truth. There are children right now, mostly in Africa, harvesting cacao so that all of us on this side of the world can get our chocolate fix.  It makes you think.

There is an author's note at the end where she explains a bit about this mostly ignored problem.  I would have liked a bit more about this.  There is an act that has been passed to protect these children, but she states that it isn't doing much good. She gives suggestions about contacting chocolate companies in this country.  She mentions "fair trade" cocoa, but I'm not sure how to get such a thing.  She does refer to her website ( for more information.  The Bitter Side of Sweet would be a great classroom read and provides a good start to get students to do some research.

The Bitter Side of Sweet is a quick, easy read and does a good job of keeping you turning the pages.  This would be a good one for middle school or high school, including reluctant readers, who enjoy survival stories.

Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons BFYR, February 23, 2016
Copy obtained from the library
310 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Book Review: Cross the Line, by James Patterson

Cross the Line by James Patterson book cover and review
Alex Cross novels never fail to entertain, and Cross the Line is no different. I've read several other books and series that Patterson has written, but I don't enjoy any of them as much as Cross novels.

The plot details probably aren't important.  If you like these novels, then you'll like this one.  But here's a bit about it anyway:

A few things going on.  A road rage vigilante killer, who preys on those that drive expensive, fancy cars.  And another killer has killed a police officer. Then there's the terrorist group killing large numbers of people involved in drug manufacturing and trafficking.

So, Alex (and his wife, Bree) are working on all of these cases.  Are they connected?  I'm not going to say, but you can probably guess.

The investigating is always action packed, and the path to the answers is interesting and exciting.  I love how fast moving and easy Cross the Line is to read.  Patterson is just really good at weaving a plot together and keeping you on the edge of your seat.

Are these books a bit formulaic?  Of course.  But it's not like I read them every day.  I love the relationship that Alex has with his family. After so many books, you feel like you know these good people.  And, yes, they are too good to be true.  But I can overlook these deficiencies.  If you can too, you will love Cross the Line.

Published by Little, Brown & Co., November 21, 2016
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
400 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Book Review: We are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen

We are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun, Susan Mullen book cover, review
Delightful! Just as a reminder, I'm not a huge contemporary fan, but once in a while I see one that looks appealing.  We are Still Tornadoes is just that book.

We are Still Tornadoes is told entirely in letters sent back and forth from Scott to Cath.  Cath has just gone away to college, and Scott is back home working at his father's clothing store.  They have lived across the street from each other their entire lives and are best friends.

That's right.  I said letters.  No email, no texting.  We are Still Tornadoes takes place in the '80s and the references to the music of that time added to the entertainment.

It is no secret where this book is heading, but that is OK.  Because these two encounter a lot of bumps along the road, and they help each other through. Along the way, they are very entertaining.  I literally laughed aloud several times at their clever comebacks.

It's mostly a story of true friendship; the romance part is only at the very end. So if you want heat, this isn't the book. It's been compared to Eleanor & Park, and while I can see that, it's really not the same.  Scott and Cath aren't really misfits. They are fairly normal kids going through the stresses of adolescence and experiencing big changes in their lives.

We are Still Tornadoes is a quick read that will entertain contemporary friendship/romance fans of all ages. I can't wait to recommend this one!

Published by St. Martin's Griffin, November 1, 2016
eARC obtained from NetGalley
304 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Book Review: The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid book cover and review
The Diabolic is a thrilling adventure that kept me glued to the pages.  But -- Red Queen meets The Hunger Games (from the blurb)? I don't really see that comparison.

Nemesis is a diabolic, basically a robot who looks and acts like a human.  Diabolics are bonded to one person, to protect them for life at all costs.  Nemesis is bonded to a senator's daughter, Sidonia.

When it is decreed that diabolics are illegal and all must be destroyed,  Sidonia's mother plots to keep Nemesis a secret to protect her daughter. Sidonia is in danger because her father is rebellious.  He wants to learn about science -- something that is forbidden in this world.  The emperor summons Sidonia to the Galactic Court. Since her mother is so fearful, she decides to train Nemesis to pose as Sidonia and go in her place. It is very difficult for Nemesis to hide her special abilities and act like a human, but she must or all will be lost.

Once Nemesis gets to the court, she learns quickly of the corruption and pure evil of the emperor. She also learns more about herself and her capability to be much more like a human.

The tension ramps slowly but steadily.  No one can be trusted, and Nemesis witnesses betrayal after betrayal. At the same time, she also learns to accept her feelings -- things she's never felt before -- and create a bond with someone besides Sidonia.

There is a nice balance between science fiction, political intrigue, and the emotional aspects of Nemesis' growth. The Diabolic has a solid ending and appears to be a stand-alone (surprise!) But the world is such that more stories could be coming, and I would welcome them.

I'm looking forward to recommending The Diabolic to my teens.  They will certainly enjoy it.

Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR (November 1, 2016)
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

2016 EBook Challenge - Post Your November Reviews Here

We are winding down the year, and as so, also winding down the 2016 EBook Reading Challenge.  Let's make one last push to reach our goals!

You can sign up for the 2016 EBook Reading Challenge here.

You can see my progress on my 2016 Reading Challenges Page.

Here's a link to the page to record you October Reviews.

Post your November reviews below:

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