Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Book Review: 13 Minutes, by Sarah Pinborough

13 Minutes, by Sarah Pinborough book cover and review
13 Minutes isn't an ordinary story.  Don't think you have it figured out -- well, at least not a first.

Tasha ends up in the freezing river and is clinically dead for 13 Minutes. She wakes up not remembering anything of the entire 24 hours before she ended up there.

Tasha is the most popular girl at school, and along with her two friends, Jenny and Hayley, are called The Barbies. Becca used to be Tasha's best friend, along with Hayley, but when Jenny showed up, Tasha was quick to discard Becca.

Now, after Tasha's accident, Becca decides to visit her in the hospital.  After Tasha recovers she reconciles with Becca and they start to build a new friendship.  Hayley and Jenny don't like this. And they are acting very weird about Tasha's accident.

So begins Tasha's and Becca's attempt to figure out what really happened to Tasha and what did Jenny and Hayley have to do with it?

That's really all I want to say about the plot. It seems like the ending--like we all know what happens--at about 60% of the book. I must say, I almost got a bit bored prior to this point.  There was a little bit of a drop in pace, but that makes the rest of the book even better! So how can the wrap-up be over 100 pages long? Like I said, you haven't figured it out--yet.

13 Minutes is a well-crafted page-turner that you won't be able to stop thinking about. It is very entertaining, if tragic, to see how everything unfolds.  Pinborough carries the reader along as all is revealed, and it's a juicy ride, fraught with betrayal, romance, back-stabbing, and lies!

Give 13 Minutes to your teens who love twisted, exciting mysteries that will easily keep their attention. I think 13 Minutes would be a great option for reluctant readers.  It grabs you, and it reads fast. Enjoy!

Published by Flatiron, October 3, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
343 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Book Review: The Great Alone, by Kristen Hannah

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah book cover and review
There are so many things I loved about Hannah's latest novel, The Great Alone. She once again proves what a talented writer she is.

Leni's father has PTSD since he returned home after being a POW during the Vietnam War.  It is 1974. He can't hold a job; he has terrible nightmares and a terrible temper that he takes out on Leni's mother, Cora. When the opportunity arises for them to move to a very remote part of Alaska, they pack up their VW van and move, hoping for a better life.  They are totally unprepared for the harshness of this place.  And the long, brutal, dark winters only serve to make Leni's father worse.

With the help of the generous and knowledgeable townspeople, they learn to grow and hunt for food and how to preserve it for the long winter. They also learn to protect themselves from predators, like bears.

I loved the historical aspect.  Leni was born the same year that I was.  I could relate to all the references, political and cultural, to the 1970s. Although, I wasn't as tough as Leni!

I loved the Alaskan survival aspect. These people spent every waking moment during the long days of a very short summer working to stock up enough food for the winter.  They had to tend animals and learn how to keep them alive during the winter.  They had no running water or electricity.  No indoor plumbing. Then they spent the long nights of winter trying to stay warm and safe.  Hannah doesn't make this sound like a romantic Alaskan adventure.  She's brutally honest.

I loved the family dynamic, and how the PTSD aspect played out. Leni's father, Ernt, is scary.  And her mother loves him and can't live without him.  It makes for a lot of tension.  It is scary when they realize he's about to go off, and there is nothing they can do to protect themselves. Cora is stupid and blind.  But she has memories of her husband before the war and can't let him go. He gets crazier and crazier, and Cora is more and more blinded. As a reader, you know that eventually, something has got to give.

I loved the romance. Leni falls in love with Matthew Walker whose dad is the rich guy in town, and of course, Ernt hates him.  I won't say too much more, but it's heartbreaking.

I loved the ending. It's tragic.  It's happy. It made me tear up (and, you may recall, I'm not a cryer.)  So yeah, Hannah got me.

The pacing is perfect.  I just can't think of anything even remotely negative about The Great Alone. It's a great book for teens.  There is nothing at all objectionable, and the main character is a teen. So those who enjoy "romantic survival drama" stories will go for The Great Alone. This is sure to be a favorite of 2018.

Published by St. Martin's, February 6, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley and Edelweiss
448 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Book Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton book cover and review
The Belles, while a bit bloated, ended up captivating, and I found my heart pounding at the end.

In Orleans, the fantasy world of the Belles, the people are born grey and ugly.  They must rely on The Belles (and a lot of money) to make them beautiful and refresh their beauty over and over. Camellia and her sisters have trained to be Belles their entire life.  At the final competition, one will be chosen as The Favorite and become the Belle to the queen and her court.

Camellia is disappointed when she is not chosen as the favorite, but her best friend, Amber is.  Soon, however, Camellia is summoned to the palace to be the favorite, and she has no idea what has happened to Amber. Thus begins her slow realization that the secrets of Orleans and the Belles are horrific, all the while realizing she is helpless to change anything.  She finds herself in grave danger and the tension mounts as she tries to do what is right without risking life and limb.

The Belles, at almost 500 pages, is overly descriptive and drags a bit at the beginning. The whole beauty transformation that the Belles perform is very vague.  We are told over and over about all the equipment, makeup, and potions in their toolbox, but almost none of this is ever used.  The transformation seems to be purely magical.

Why does every YA book have to be pushing 500 pages? *steps on soapbox* I just find it disappointing that I will have a very hard time getting a large portion of my students to even take this book off the shelf because of its size, even though it is a compelling novel that lovers of fantasy worlds and the underdog fighting for justice would really enjoy.  And there is no reason it needs to be this long. Even the first Harry Potter book was only 300 pages long. (The last book was significantly longer, but we were hooked by then!) *steps off soapbox*

However... I really enjoyed The Belles. Once I got to the final third of the book, the tension is building, the danger seems insurmountable and the pulse quickens.  There is a nice, complete ending, although still enough questions to be answered that the next book will be anticipated. Teens who enjoy fantasy involving royalty where the weak and powerless are trying to break the oppression of the powerful will enjoy The Belles.

Published by Freeform, February 6, 2018
ARC obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
497 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Book Review: The Traitor Prince, by C. J. Redwine @cjredwine

The Traitor Prince by C. J. Redwine book cover and review
I really enjoyed The Shadow Queen and The Wish Granter, so there was no way I wasn't going to experience The Traitor PrinceThe Ravenspire series are companion novels so you can read any of them separately.

The Traitor Prince is a retelling of The False Prince and The Prince and the Pauper. But Redwine's retellings are very loose. This one, like the others, is action-packed and filled with quite a bit of violence.

Javan, the real prince, has been away at school for ten years.  While there, his father, the king, is being slowly poisoned by his uncle.  The uncle has been training his son to take the prince's place.  The plan is to kill the prince before he returns home after his graduation.

But Javan survives, although he is thrown into a brutal, deadly prison.  He must figure out a way to survive, escape, and convince his father that he is the true prince. With the help of a prison slave, Sadja, he works toward this goal.  But the obstacles seem insurmountable, given that Javan must survive the powerful beasts in the annual tournament.  The prize is an audience with the King.  But the beasts are terrifying and nothing like anything Javan has ever faced.

Javan is a good guy.  You can't help but root for him, given that he has been treated so unfairly. Sadja is also a sympathetic character, given that she has been enslaved since she was a child.  She has magical powers that she can't use, but she's tough. The romance is inevitable but doesn't overpower the story.

I did think the middle part of the book, when Javan is in prison, goes on a bit long.  But there is a lot of action, so I guess I just wanted Javan and Sadja to get to the happy ending. Mostly just impatience on my part.

Even if you aren't a fan of retellings, this is an enjoyable fantasy/adventure.  And if you do like retellings, I would highly recommend The Traitor Prince, as well as the entire Ravenspire Series.

Published by Balzer + Bray, February 13, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review: The Grave's a Fine and Private Place, by Alan Bradley

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley book cover and review
It sounds like The Grave's a Fine and Private Place, at number nine, may be the final Flavia de Luce novel.  And I am so going to miss her!

If you are at all a fan of murder mysteries and haven't experienced Flavia, I strongly encourage you to pick one of these books up.  She's a very precocious and intelligent young lady that will keep you in stitches. Any fan of chemistry (and especially poisons) will fall in love.

In The Grave's a Fine and Private Place, Flavia and her sisters are on holiday with Dogger, the family servant.  It turns out Dogger is a pretty astute sleuth himself, and the pairing of Flavia and Dogger is priceless.

While in a rowboat on a river, Flavia sticks her hand in the water and comes up with a dead body.  Only Flavia! Of course, thus begins her relentless pursuit of the criminal, even though the local constable says this drowning was an accident.  Flavia is out to prove otherwise, and in the process, finds herself in grave danger (as usual.)

These stories never get old.  Each episode of Flavia's antics is new and exciting in its own way.  The chemistry and poisons are always different too!

I've already said it.  You need to experience these for yourself.  The first one is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and it has won all sorts of awards. So it's not just me. I hardly ever re-read books, but I'm seriously considering starting at the beginning of Flavia's adventures again.

Published by Delacorte, January 30, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss

Rating: 5/5

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Furyborn by Claire Legrand @clairelegrand

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Breaking the SpineI'm not sure I've ever participated.  Not for a long time, at least.  So I'm not sure if anyone is hosting this anymore.

Anyway, I was given an ARC for review and I loved it so much that I wanted to bring it to your attention so you can be on the lookout for it!

Furyborn by Claire Legrand book cover

Two Queens will rise.
One with the power to save the world.
One with the power to destroy it.
They carry your fate in their hands.

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed...unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable―until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire's heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world―and of each other. (Publisher's marketing.)

Furyborn, by Claire Legrand
On-Sale- 5/22/2018
ISBN: 978-1-4926-5662-3
Young Adult Fiction
Published by Sourcebooks Fire

I really enjoyed this one and, unfortunately, there will be a long wait for the next book in The Empirium Trilogy.  Look for my review in early May.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review: Sunday Silence, by Nicci French

Sunday Silence by Nicci French book cover and review
Sunday Silence is, I believe, the fifth novel in the Frieda Klein series.  Even though I've not read any other books by French, I enjoyed this one very much.

A decomposing body has been found under the floor in Frieda's house. Freida knows this is a message from Dean Reeve, even though everyone else thinks Dean died over seven years ago.  The case goes cold until violent acts against people close to Freida begin to occur.  But is this the work of Reeve?

The tension mounts nicely as Frieda and the police scramble to figure out what is going on.  And of course, the police don't always agree with Frieda. At about the halfway point the reader finds out who the perpetrator is, and at about 2/3 of the way, Frieda figures out who it is.  But that doesn't take away from the suspense.  And finding the necessary proof won't be easy.

I didn't know Frieda, and if I had read some earlier books, I'm sure I would have related to the characters a bit more easily.  She's a psychologist who has assisted police investigations in the past, with mixed reviews. Prior cases are mentioned, and several may be related to this case.  But I did get to know Frieda and the other characters well enough while reading Sunday Silence. These stories are British, and I enjoy that aspect also. I think you might as well start with the first one, and I'd like to do that someday.

French writes suspense well. Sunday Silence moves quickly and easily held my interest.  I was a bit confused by the ending -- not quite sure what happened there. But it seems like Frieda is going to be back. I would recommend this author and this series if you like a suspense-filled crime drama.

Published by William Morrow, January 9, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Annette's Book Spot 2017 End of Year Musings and Statistics

Best books of 2017

Once again, Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner has provided us with an end of year book survey. Thanks! As usual, I'm skipping some questions and adding some more statistics and comparisons. I like to do these summary posts mostly for me, so I have a record, but if you are interested, here's my reading accomplishments and thoughts for 2017.

You can see the detailed list of all my reviews on my 2017 Review Archives Page.

Here's a link to my Goodreads Year In Books, if you want a more visual representation.

Number Of Books You Read: 80 (up from 77 in 2016, but still way behind the 124 from 2015). First year I've had an increase in a long time!

Number of Re-Reads: 2. One inadvertently, and one for book club.

Genre You Read The Most From: I read mostly YA, but read more adult books this year, since I'm retiring and looking forward to having time for those.  Historical fiction is my favorite, but not what I read most.  Probably fantasy/adventure.

If you look at number of pages, I read 31,025, which is about 3,300 pages more than the 27,745 I read last year. Average book length: 388 pages, which is always pretty consistent. Two thousand fifteen's 56,824 is my all-time record for number of pages.

Forty-five books read were eBooks and 11 were audiobooks.  Also pretty consistent.

Average book rating (out of a scale of 5) was 3.94. This may seem a bit high, but I never give a "1" rating -- if a book is that bad, I don't finish it. I DNF (did not finish) 9 books this year, almost the same as last year. And I rarely give "2" ratings (this year I didn't give any "2" or "2.5" ratings!) But, only 6 books got a 5/5 rating this year, compared to 11 last year.  I must be getting tougher! 

1. Best Book You Read In 2017?

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Heartless, by Marissa Meyer (I didn't finish it, that's why there isn't a link.)

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

Love May Fail, by Matthew Quick

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

The Empress, by S. J. Kincaid. Mostly to my teens, since we read The Diabolic for book club, and there wasn't supposed to be a sequel.  Boy am I glad there was! 

 5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?

Started: Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen
Sequel: Other than The Empress that I just mentioned, The Court of Wings and Ruin, by Sarah J. Maas
End: Wayfarer, by Alexandra Bracken

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?

Well, I'd have to say Laura Creedle, author of my favorite book of the year!

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

The Thirty-Nine Stepsby John Buchan. I'm leery of classics, and I picked this one totally at random.  A very short book that I enjoyed.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Empress, by S. J. Kincaid (again.)

 9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz book cover and review
I'm not a big re-reader, so none.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?

The Midnight Dance, by Nikki Katz

11. Most memorable character of 2017?


 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? 

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

16.Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2017?
Shortest: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by L. Frank Baum
Longest: Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles
 17. Book That Shocked You The Most
The Empress, by S. J. Kincaid (again.)
21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
March: Book One, by John Lewis. This is on our list of nominated titles for the Teen Choice award in Illinois.

23. Best 2017 debut you read?

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily, by Laura Creedle (of course.)

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

A Court of Wings and Ruin, by Sarah J. Maas

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Merry and Bright, by Debbie Macomber

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?

Out of Darkness, by Ashley Hope Perez. This book elicited many emotions of all kinds.  Mostly anger.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Odd & True, by Cat Winters. I've loved all of her books and never think she gets enough attention!

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

I'm not sure what that means, but this book just...well, it's so weird...and emotional, so I'm putting it here.  (as well as in the next question.)  Confessions, by Kanae Minato

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?

Confessions, by Kanae Minato
Genuine Fraud, by e. lockhart

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Out of Darknessby Ashley Hope Perez. 

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