Monday, November 12, 2018

2018 book 174

Stephanie Burgis' The Girl With The Dragon Heart
The sequel to Burgis' The Dragon With The Chocolate Heart is cute, but not quite as good as its predecessor.  In this one, the fairy royals come for a visit and the crown princess enlists the best friend of the girl from the first book to act as a spy. She isn’t very . . . measured in her approach and I found it mildly frustrating. Just didn’t hit the heights of the first in the series, for me. B.

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

2018 book 173

Agatha Christie’s At Bertram's Hotel
This is a later (the Beatles are mentioned) and somewhat lesser Miss Marple story. For one thing, she’s not in it enough; the central figure is the Chief Inspector, and she helps a little. For another, the mystery itself is kind of all over the place and not too hard to figure out. Still entertaining enough, but not one of her stronger works.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

2018 book 172

Tansy Rayner Roberts' The Shattered City
The second book in the Creature Court series is more of the same, but it feels duller and more repetitive here. I thought about just stopping several times while reading, but I didn’t have anything else I wanted to read, so slogged along with a sigh. I mean, it's interesting enough, I just think it could have used a tighter edit. I am not sure if I’ll read the third. B.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

2018 book 171

Jaclyn Moriarty's The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars
I swear, there is no author who writes such consistently charming books as Jaclyn Moriarty. This is a follow-up to Bronte Mettlestone, set fifteen years earlier (but featuring several familiar characters). It's the same sort of hilarious, sweet, and action packed story, narrated in turns by a boy from the local orphanage and a girl from the local ritzy boarding school, who . . . Well, that would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say there are adventures and magic afoot. Great and delightful stuff. A.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

2018 book 170

Tansy Rayner Roberts' Power and Majesty
I no longer remember why I backed this author's Kickstarter that gave me the Creature Court trilogy (of which this is the first) and a new novella in the series. Anyway, it's nice to have a big hunk of a story to read, though this does lean into the dark fantasy stuff (lots of violence, erotic blood-sucking, chaos and mayhem, etc. A content warning for rape and associated trauma, not to mention abuse and torture, seems appropriate here too). In this world, cities are protected by magical people who can transform into animals, and they're all decadent hedonists with weird power struggles. A young seamstress had this power but it was stolen from her; now, years later, the thief has died and her powers have been restored, and she (and her friends) are thrust into this shadowy world. I liked the human characters in this a lot; the magical people were mildly annoying in that melodramatic way. If this was slightly less grim, I’d love it, but instead I just liked it a lot and am looking forward to the next one. B+.

Monday, November 05, 2018

2018 book 169

Makiia Lucier's Isle of Blood and Stone
This is a sort of fantasy-mystery hybrid and I LOVED IT! So eighteen years ago, the two little princes were kidnapped, along with the king's mapmaker, and everyone else at their picnic was slaughtered. A man from a neighboring kingdom confessed, saying their king was behind the kidnappomg, but everyone taken drowned in a shipwreck, leading to war and chaos. But now two maps have been discovered that indicate the mapmaker did not die that day, and his now-grown son and the king's (lady) spy cousin must figure out what the heck happened, who was behind the terrible event--and are the princes still alive? The villain is not too hard to puzzle out, but I found the story very satisfying anyway, and the characters were all extremely well drawn. I can’t wait for the follow up! A/A-.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

2018 book 168

Eugenia Kim's The Kinship of Secrets
This book is a sequel to Kim’s The Calligrapher's Daughter, which I read like eight years ago and in fact have no memory of reading, so it works fine as a stand-alone. It takes place from the 1950s to the 1970s and centers on two sisters—one, the elder, who was brought to America with her parents in the late 40s, and the other, who was left behind with family but then is stuck there through the war years and beyond. Sections of this are told in letters and diaries, but they appear seemingly at random, and it’s a little bit of a jarring shift in the narrative each time. I also thought the back half felt a little bit rushed. Still, an engaging and interesting read. I liked the relationship between the sisters a lot. B/B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on Tuesday.

Friday, November 02, 2018

2018 book 167

Jaclyn Moriarty's The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone
I am rereading this delightful book because the second in the series is on its way to me! It's about a ten year old girl whose parents, who have been away her whole life adventuring, have been killed by pirates, and their will forces her to go on a series of adventures (to deliver gifts to her many aunts). This book has it all--eccentric and adorable relatives, water sprites, magic, helpful librarians, dragons, and a bunch of bad-ass ladies (and children). I can’t wait to see what the second book brings!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

2018 book 166

Marian Keyes' The Break
I am still digging the Marian Keyes vibe. In this one, the protagonist's husband announces he needs a six-month break from their marriage to travel in Asia and find himself. But of course, that means she's in a break too. As always, I loved Keyes' characters and their complicated families, and I enjoyed reading this very much, though I did find the ending to be mildly unsatisfying. B+.

Monday, October 29, 2018

2018 book 165

Laura Weymouth's The Light Between Worlds
Weymouth's debut novel is working in the aftermath of a portal fantasy; sixteen year old Evelyn and her two older siblings spent years in another world, escaping from a London bombing in WWII, but were eventually sent home. Five years have passed and her older brother and sister are making the best of things, but Evelyn is determined to return. (I feel like Seanan McGuire has been doing things in this realm as well, kids traumatized after returning from a magical land, but I've only read the first of those and didn't love it.) Anyway, the first half of the book is from Evelyn's perspective and the second is from her sister's, and I thought both were very well-done. I have not yet decided how I feel about the ending, but on the whole this was a really good read. A-.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

2018 book 164

Nicole Chung's All You Can Ever Know
I feel like I have been waiting foreverrrrrrr to read this, but it was undoubtedly worth the wait! Chung's memoir is beautifully written, intensely personal, and extremely compelling, discussing her childhood as a Korean-American adopted by a white family (in a very white area of Oregon), and then her journey to find her birth family as she was on the verge of having her first child. A quick and moving read. A/A-.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

2018 book 163

Marian Keyes' The Woman Who Stole My Life
I was in the mood to read something . . . I don’t even know what, but this satisfied! I liked the other Keyes books I had read, she is sort of on the meatier side of the women's fiction beat. This one, which bounces around time-wise, centers on a woman who wrote a book, had a major health crisis, has various family and romantic issues, and is now flailing a bit. I loved the narrative voice, loved the characters, and even if it was a tad silly, found it very enjoyable. I need to read more of Keyes' work. A-.

Friday, October 19, 2018

2018 book 162

Kij Johnson's The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe
Ooh, this was so up my alley. It centers on a woman, a professor at a prestigious women's college, who sets off to find one of her star student, who has eloped with someone from our world, and he plans to bring her there from their world—the world of dreams. Plus she is accompanied on her journey by a little black cat! This did get a teensy big draggy toward the end (but then picks back up), and I guess there were Lovecraft references I was missing, but I enjoyed this a lot and would read more set in this world. A-.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

2018 book 161

Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, The Serial Killer
Well, this was an exceedingly entertaining novel! If the title didn’t clue you in, the story here centers on a young woman, a nurse in Nigeria, whose beautiful younger sister is, yes, a serial killer, who has killed several of her boyfriends. And now a doctor at the hospital—the very one our protagonist has a crush on—wants to date her! This is a quick read and a lot of fun (aside from, you know, the murdering. And also some mentions of domestic violence), really strong writing and characterization here. Gonna be a big fall hit for sure. A/A-.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

2018 book 160

Louise Candlish's Our House
This novel centers on a fortysomething mother of two who returns home from a trip to a family moving into her house . . . which has apparently been sold. And now she's telling the story on a podcast. This is interspersed with her husband's POV, ostensibly in a word doc, along with some brief scenes from their actual lives. The problem is that both the word doc and the podcast read like . . . a novel, and not like a word doc an actual human would write, or like a podcast (I did like the little fake tweets about the podcast though). As is par for the course for this sort of book, there were plenty of twists and turns, some guessable, some infuriating. Candlish does kind of nail the ending, but on the whole this was a little bit slow and EXTRA implausible. B.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

2018 book 159

Jen Doll's Unclaimed Baggage
This was a fairly cute YA book about three teens who becomes friends while working at a store in Alabama that sells unclaimed baggage from airports. I liked the friendship between the two girls a lot, and found the boy's struggle with alcoholism to be compelling, but the romance didn’t feel organic, and some of this veered a little bit into after school special territory. Enjoyable read though. B+.