Thursday, September 03, 2015

2015 book 212

Sylvia Izzo Hunter's Lady of Magick
The second book in Hunter's Series (after The Midnight Queen) finds Sophie and Grey in this fantasy world's version of Scotland for educational purposes, though political and magical plots soon come to light. Once again, I liked the pacing--everything feels built up to and nothing feels rushed; we get a chance to know all the characters. I did think it ended too soon, like there should have been one more chapter, but I guess that's just giving me more incentive to read the next book. Props for several adorable lesbians and for a nice portrait of the central marriage. A-.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

2015 book 211

Terry Pratchett's The Shepherd's Crown
Shut up, I'm not crying, you're crying. OK, everyone is crying, because this is Terry Pratchett's last book. Despite being apparently unfinished (it's a complete work, but I guess there would have been at least one more draft), it's a pretty great send-off to Tiffany, and to the Discworld. It mainly centers on Tiffany being overwhelmed with witch business (for spoiler-y reasons), a boy who wants to be a witch, and some elves determined to make trouble. But it ends on a really nice little hopeful note and I really was crying that it was over. A/A-.

Monday, August 31, 2015

2015 book 210

Sylvia Izzo Hunter's The Midnight Queen
Well, this book was as up my alley as any book could be, just about. It's set in an alternate version of historical England (both in terms of actual history and in terms of magic), and focuses on a young man at a magical version of Oxford, when things go terribly wrong and he ends up stuck at the house of a professor who hates him. Luckily, the professor's second daughter is basically the awesomest person ever, the kind of girl who's secretly studying magic and is also just a decent human being. There's also a housekeeper who's more than she seems and a ballsy little sister. (Great ladies here.) Not to mention a bunch of magical adventures, political machinations, and even a little romance. The pacing is good, and even the far-fetched plot twists worked for me. I liked this a whole bunch and am psyched that the sequel is out tomorrow. A/A-.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

2015 book 209

Lisa Goldstein's Weighing Shadows
Here's the thing: this book was frustrating as hell, because it came SO close to being REALLY good, and missed the mark. I wish an editor had really kind of dug in and asked for certain things to be developed more, because it feels like there's stuff missing. But the premise is great!! A young woman is recruited by a mysterious agency that it turns out sends people back in time to make small changes!! What, I love time travel! But there is definitely not enough disbelief about the whole time travel concept from the recruits. And then someone from within the agency who disagrees with their mission turns up, and the main character is like "what, I love the agency and am super loyal to them, you're crazy" and we have never seen her be grateful or happy about the agency at all, really. Major telling, not showing. But towards the end the plot gets so interesting, there is some great stuff with patriarchal vs matriarchal societies and female goddesses that I loved, plus fun time travel shenanigans. I really liked that part! The first half just feels so rushed and underdone, though. And historical dudes are always threatening to rape the main character (at least three rape threats!) which I could have done with less of. Bleah. B.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in November.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

2015 book 208

Susan Coolidge's In The High Valley
OK, I think I see why these last two weren't in print when I was a kid--they are super boring compared to the first three. This last one in particular is kind of a dud. It introduces a couple of new characters, but one isn't interesting and the other is pretty insufferable, at least until Clover teaches her otherwise, of course. And they then inevitably get married off, also of course. There's no conflict in these last two books and there's less cute stuff in this one, because Clover and Elsie are grown and married. What a disappointment this was!

Friday, August 28, 2015

2015 book 207

Susan Coolidge's Clover
I found out a year or so ago that the What Katy Did series actually has five books, not three! But I've been putting off reading the last two in case I didn't like them. Clearly, I'm finally getting to them. In this fourth one, Katy gets married, and then Clover takes their youngest brother out West for health-related reasons. Lots of funny little moments ensue, along with lots of descriptions of scenery and food. It's all a sort of cheerful industrious Christian sort of story (actually, the Christianity is sliiightly toned down here compared to, say, the first one in the series. Why did I love that book so much? I guess Katy is just that awesome?). All is nice and pleasant. No complaints, though I also wasn't really /excited/ by much of it. That's how these sorts of stories go, though.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

2015 book 206

Jaclyn Moriarty's The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie
What I really admire about Moriarty with this one is how effectively she takes Bindy from being someone who's COMPLETELY intolerable to someone who's sympathetic. And I like how she sneaks a little mystery element into the story. And I love all her characters, both the ones we've met before and the ones who are new here. She so nails being a teenager.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2015 book 205

Jaclyn Moriarty's The Year of Secret Assignments
Jaclyn Moriarty's stories are like potato chips--you can't read just one Ashbury/Brookfield book! Haha. Seriously though, I'm not sure how this series became my comfort reading go-to, but they are immensely satisfying. 

2015 book 204

Jaclyn Moriarty's Feeling Sorry for Celia
I am feeling out of sorts today, and have started and failed to get into FOUR different books, which means I needed to reread some Jaclyn Moriarty.  I love that this is first and foremost a book about friendship and family, with romance a thing that's just sort of there but not at all the focus of the story. Instead it's about two nice girls having hard times making friends through letters! And helping each other. Hooray for great friendships and now I am off to read the second one.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 book 203

Tessa Dare's When a Scot Ties the Knot
Tessa Dare writes the funniest, silliest, cutest historical romances, and her Castles Ever After series (where a rich guy has left each of his god-daughters a castle) is by far the pinnacle of her works, In this third one, Maddie is a naturalist/scientific illustrator who is painfully shy, and instead of going to London for her season, invents herself a love interest, a Scottish captain away at war, and diligently writes him letters. So imagine her surprise ten years later when same Scottish captain shows up at her Scottish castle and demands that they get married (he needs land to provide for his soldiers!). I was cackling with laughter throughout and totally rooting for this couple despite their ridiculous situation. Tessa Date, I love you, please write ten more books a year for me to read. A-.

Monday, August 24, 2015

2015 book 202

Kate Elliott's Court of Fives
I don't think I've read anything by Elliott before, but I'm going to change that pronto, because this was really entertaining. It's definitely on the Hunger-Games-y side, though it's just an athletic competition and not a battle to the death here--but the heroine is mildly Katniss-y and the hero is a nobleman version of Peeta. Anyway. The great thing here is really the world-building--there's race stuff (the heroine is biracial and people are SUPER racist to her), there's class stuff, there's two cultures clashing. And there's a GREAT and interesting family. Honestly, the romance to me felt really unnecessary, and I wasn't even sure that the protagonist was super into the guy, because she had so much other stuff going on! Who has time to make out with boys when your family is at stake??? Plus creepy mystical stuff is maybe happening! The very end was a little bit eh but I am definitely looking forward to seeing where this story goes next, and to exploring other worlds by Elliott. A-/B+.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

2015 book 201

Shira Glassman's A Harvest of Ripe Figs
The third book in Glassman's Mangoverse series finds Queen Shulamit solving the mystery of a stolen violin (I guess her kingdom is peaceful enough that she can solve mysteries in her spare time as a hobby? OK, sure). I immediately pegged the villain and so was mildly annoyed that it took the Queen so long to figure it out, but everything else about this was pretty charming. The writing is coming along, too. I just like reading and supporting Jewish-themed fantasy, but I'm glad that the series is improving and I'll probably read the next one when it comes out. B/B+.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

2015 book 200

Nina LaCour's Everything Leads To You
Rereading this for FYA book club, I was relieved to still find it completely charming! I mean, maybe not 5-star charming, but pretty high up there. It's hard to go wrong with cute teenage love, a Hollywood mystery, and lots of into on the production of a movie. I am sure there is a lot to poke holes in here, but I see no reason to. I really love LaCour's books and can't wait to see what she does next.

Monday, August 17, 2015

2015 book 199

Shira Glassman's Climbing the Date Palm
The second book in Glassman's Mangoverse series is stronger than the first. It takes place a few years later, and finds all the characters from the first one getting involved with a prince from a neighboring kingdom, who has come to find help for his engineer boyfriend, sentenced to death by the king (for both political and homophobic reasons). The writing here is a lot more confident,  although some of the dialogue is still awkward, and the engineer's "hilarious" jokes were . . . not. The characters are all likable, though, and I like the use of magic in this world. B/B+.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 book 198

Shira Glassman's The Second Mango
I was SOOOO excited when I heard about this book--a fantasy novel that's straight up JEWISH! But I feel like it needed one more pass with an editor. The bones are pretty solid--young Queen Shulamit has only been queen for a couple months, and she's lonely since her girlfriend abruptly left the palace, so when she meets a woman warrior disguised as a man (who just happens to have a horse that can turn into a dragon!) they go off on a quest to . . . find a lesbian who might be into the queen? It's not a well-thought out plan and it's pretty crappy Queensmanship! Plus that all happens in like the first five pages--the friendship isn't really built up at all, they're just suddenly best lady-bros. There is good adventure here, so the story mostly works despite the awkward writing (sooo awkward, and don't even get me started on the random Yiddish interjections). I think the best part is warrior Rivka's backstory--those sections are much stronger. I really want to like this--JEWISH FANTASY!!!!--so I might give the second one a chance. B.

2015 book 197

Hilary Liftin's Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper
Liftin--who has ghost-written celebrity memoirs for people like Tori Spelling, Miley Cyrus, Mackenzie Phillips, and Tatum O'Neal--has written a novel that is very very very much based on Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' marriage. Which is interesting enough, but I wasn't really a fan of the way she fictionalized EVERYTHING. All the celebrities, even all the film festivals are made up, but context doesn't always do enough to help figure out equivalencies. And the fake version of Scientology doesn't really seem sinister enough here. I think the problem is the narrative device--that this is actually a book by the Katie Holmes character--so it can't be dishy enough! I mean, it's entertaining, but most of the characters aren't really fleshed out, and it didn't have the fun tone I really wanted from this book (again, that rings true to the narrative voice). I dunno. B.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book is available now.

Friday, August 14, 2015

2015 book 196

Lisa Kleypas' It Happened One Autumn
The second book in the Wallflowers series is also pretty good--it centers on an arrogant Earl and a brash American nouveau riche girl--but I feel the need to complain about the rapiness of this series. In the last book, there was a gross old man who kept threatening to rape the main character (and WAS regularly having not-really-consensual sex with her mother), and the main character here is also threatened with rape. I like my romances sweet and happy and WITHOUT RAPE THREATS, thank you very much. I am definitely bailing on this series, as much as I like everything else about it, because the rapey dude in this one is the hero of the next! I don't care how poor you are, you can't kidnap a drugged woman and attempt to marry her against her will and then expect me to like you! UGH.