Monday, March 25, 2019

2019 book 45

Agatha Christie's 4:50 From Paddington
The public library recently added a bunch of e-books by Christie, and here we go, a Miss Marple mystery I hadn't read yet! I had actually seen an adaptation of this in one of the tv shows, but it was still an exciting read. It centers on a middle-aged lady, returning from a shopping trip, who sees a man strangling a woman in a passing train! But no one believes her--except Miss Marple. So Miss Marple--and a very capable assistant put into position as a housekeeper--take the case! And she is is much more efficient than the police, haha. I love Miss Marple. A/A-.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

2019 book 44

Ann Leckie's The Raven Tower
In general, I eagerly await new books from Leckie, but was especially anticipating this one—her first fantasy novel! It’s narrated by an old god, in the second person singular, directed to the young (trans) aide to the local leader's heir. Lots of interesting politics and adventure and gods and power and a bit of mystery, etc etc. I enjoyed this a lot! Great characters and world-building. I think I wanted sliiiiightly more from the end, but I did find it fitting. Yeah, this was good. A/A-.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

2019 book 43

Miriam Toews' Women Talking
Toews' latest novel was inspired by a true story--where the women and girls in an isolated Mennonite community were repeatedly drugged and raped, and finally the eight men behind the heinous acts were caught. In Toews' novel, in the aftermath of the event, two families of women are meeting to decide what to do in two days when the men return from being bailed out of prison--will they do nothing, and forgive the men (as their pastor urges, and to ensure they are admitted to heaven), will they stay in the community and fight back, or will they leave? The novel is narrated by a man, something of an outsider, who is taking meeting minutes as none of the women can read or write. It’s a stunning novel, almost entirely a conversation among these women, who are basically having a philosophical debate. And it’s not too brutal, considering the subject matter. I do actually think “stunning” is the best word to describe it, because it’s so well written but also I feel a bit stunned. A.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on April 2nd.

Monday, March 18, 2019

2019 book 42

Ursula Vernon's Castle Hangnail
Sometimes you just want to reread something cute and funny and SATISFYING! And this fits the bill. It’ll have you rooting for the heroes . . .  even if they are twelve year old Wicked Witches, minions, and Minotaurs! Which, I mean, they are, and it’s awesome.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

2019 book 41

Linda Holmes' Evvie Drake Starts Over
Do you want to read a book that is really GOOD, with a cute romance, but that is also really REAL? Read this book, y’all. It’s set in a small town in Maine, where the titular Evvie is a young widow—who secretly was planning to leave her husband the day he died. And now her best friend has a friend who is coming to live in her attached apartment, and he is a famous baseball player suffering from THE YIPS. Their burgeoning friendship is really satisfying, I found all the characters to be really realistic, flaws and all, and I was rooting for pretty much all of them. I just like reading a book where nice people get their shit together, you know? Just really engaging all around. A/A-.

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

Thursday, March 14, 2019

2019 book 40

Penelope Fitzgerald's The Bookshop
I don't think I've read anything by Fitzgerald before, but this volume was a good introduction. It centers on a middle-aged widow who decides to open a bookshop in her small town--thereby igniting a very slow-moving war of wills with a local prominent society woman. Also, her bookstore has a poltergeist. This did not go where I expected it to, though it was a realistic view of society. Great and powerful story but definitely got me in the gut. A-.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

2019 book 39

Julie Berry's Lovely War
It's 1942, and the Greek god Hephaestus has just trapped Aphrodite and Ares with a golden net, and now Aphrodite is telling the story of one of her great works of love, of a young girl and a soldier during WWI. It is convenient for an author to have a love goddess meddling in the story, as the reader can more easily buy into the characters' insta-love. I was caught up in the story for a while, but eventually grew impatient with the melodrama and cheesiness. Just not for me. B/B-.

Monday, March 11, 2019

2019 book 38

Helen Oyeyemi's Gingerbread
I’ve been a fan of Oyeyemi's writing for a long time, but I am really feeling her recent books in a big way. When I finished this one, I seriously like sighed and said out loud, “that was AWESOME.” I am not going to try and summarize the plot because I don’t think I can do it in a way that makes it properly appealing. Instead I will say that it involves fantasy and fairy tales and gingerbread (this made me so hungry for my own lost-childhood-gingerbread) and mothers and daughters and and and anyway I loved it. It WAS awesome. A.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

2019 book 37

Amy Rose Capetta's The Lost Coast
I am pretty much here for any and all books about queer teen witches, so enjoyed this for sure. There is kind of a lot going on here, with new girls and magic and spells and storms and romance and a whole murder mystery element. I actually think the book would have been better without the mystery stuff, which just popped up occasionally, felt shoehorned in, and had an unsatisfying conclusion. The story about a group of girls bonding and trying to rescue one of their own was enough on its own, for me. Anyway, this should be made into a movie, because today's teens need their own version of The Craft. B+.

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

Thursday, March 07, 2019

2019 book 36

Margaret Dumas' Murder at the Palace
Don't be fooled by the title--this isn't like a Regency-era historical mystery. It's contemporary and the titular Palace is a movie theater that shows classic movies! Our heroine is fleeing Hollywood and her famous actor husband (and his famous affair with a famous actress) and her best friend sets her up managing said movie theater in San Francisco. Of course she immediately finds a dead body and we're off to the races. Also, the theater is HAUNTED! There is not a ton of plot to the mystery, and the Macguffin is pretty obvious, but the characters and setting were a lot of fun—this is the first in a series that I’ll definitely be reading more of. A-.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

2019 book 35

Melina Marchetta’s Quintana of Charyn
Marchetta's Lumatere trilogy concludes with a book that feels lighter-hearted than its predecessors, despite having more battle scenes. There is just more humor and more justice in this one! And more kindness. A satisfying final chapter.

2019 book 34

Melina Marchetta's Froi of the Exiles
Woof, I forgot that a lot of the plot of this one revolves around sexual assault/unwanted sexual contact (a princess who has to try and conceive a child to reverse a curse). So major warnings there. Otherwise, this is a solid second chapter of an interesting epic fantasy trilogy--lots of politics and action and newfound families and friends, and stubborn men dealing with their romantic feelings. I am sometimes more interested in the secondary characters in this one, but that's because Marchetta makes them so compelling!

Sunday, March 03, 2019

2019 book 33

Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock
I wanted to read another epic fantasy sort of story, but nothing I started was hitting the right note, so I decided to reread this. I like this story a lot—Marchetta is one of my favorite authors—but there is a lot of rape and brutality that makes it hard to read. Anyway, it’s kind of your classic fantasy story, gotta reclaim a kingdom from a magical curse, but the focus here is really on the relationships between the characters, which I appreciate.

Friday, March 01, 2019

2019 book 32

Victoria Goddard's The Hands of the Emperor
Sometimes the best thing is just to sink into a very long and very interesting fantasy novel! This is a stand-alone, I think, but set in the same universe as Goddard's Greenwing and Dart books. And like those, the central relationship is a friendship between two men—only here, one is the Secretary and de facto head of the government to the other, the Emperor, who is also a living god. I will say this is a very absorbing story considering that it is not particularly action-packed—there’s lots of politicking, and feelings, and improving governments, and family stuff, and friendships between a bunch of middle aged men, and I enjoyed it very much. I did wish there had been a closer edit—there are several typos and a fair number of repetitions. That is a minor quibble, though. I am definitely excited for whatever Goddard does next. A/A-.

Monday, February 25, 2019

2019 book 31

Minnie Darke's Star-Crossed
I wanted to read something cute, and the description of this made it seem like it could either be cute or kind of annoying. Unfortunately, it was more of the latter. It’s about a young woman (in Australia) who wants to be a journalist. Then she encounters the boy she grew up with—and had a crush on—and uses her job at a local paper to start messing with his horoscope in an effort to spark a romance. I was not at all invested in either of them, but Darke does introduce some little side characters who are ALSO impacted by the fake horoscopes, and that little throughline was a lot more interesting to me. Still, I kept putting this down to play iPhone games and was in no rush to get back to it. It was FINE, just not particularly satisfying to me. B.

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

Friday, February 22, 2019

2019 book 30

Lauren Wilkinson's American Spy
I was really excited to read a spy novel centering on a black woman in the 1980s, and while the book does get a bit into the discrimination she faced, it went off the rails a bit for me. Like, I wanted her to be competent, and we don’t see that much—instead she is distracted by romantic feelings. The novel is written as a letter to her young sons, so some information is missing by default, but it also means the end is somewhat inconclusive. I liked the way the character and her relationships with her family were all written, but just found the actual spy parts kind of disappointing. B.