Friday, October 02, 2015

2015 book 330

Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows
You know, I didn't even know this was the start of a series till I got to the last pages and realized nothing was going to be resolved. It's a good set-up for a series--lots going on, lots of characters, lots of moral ambiguity--but I was still a little disappointed. Of course, that's my own fault! Anyway, Bardugo's new series is set in the same universe as her Grisha Trilogy, and you /do/ kind of have to read that one if you want to understand anything about the Grisha, though I think it's set in another country entirely. Basically it's a heist story, where a motley crew of six people have to accomplish an impossible prison break! And all fall in love! Seriously, six people, three couples--not that I wasn't rooting for the couples, it's just weird that every character has a love interest (and it's one of the other characters!). Also, only five of the six are POV characters, so the 6th is pretty under-developed, comparatively, and somewhat weirdly. I guess this sounds like a lot of complaints for what was generally a pretty entertaining story. I think I just have a higher bar for Bardugo based on her past work, and this one was not quite there. It was good though! B+.

Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 book 229

Adrienne Celt's The Daughters
This was a very pretty little book about a line of mothers and daughters, their musical talents, their storytelling, and so on. It centers on Lulu, a successful opera singer who has just given birth, as she meditates on motherhood and on the stories she was told of her great-grandmother in Poland. The writing here is really strong, but I did wish for a little bit /more/, particularly about Lulu's mother Sara. And about the Jewish people on the other side of the great-grandmother's town--there are some interesting hints dropped here that aren't really followed up on. B/B+.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

2015 book 226

Alison Goodman's Eona
I've been reading this book off and on for almost a week--more off than on, frankly, because I wasn't as nearly as into it as I was the first one. The protagonist feels a lot weaker here--I say weaker despite her dragon power because she's whinier, easier to manipulate--and she spends way too much time thinking about romance stuff, because Goodman sticks a (gross)  love triangle in the story (the first volume was blessedly without romance). Don't you have bigger things to worry about, like a civil war and all your mystical dragon stuff? And maybe don't be attracted to a dude who intended to rape you to access your power. By the end, I honestly hated almost everything about this book, and was so disappointed about it after loving the first one! I only finished it b/c I had already read so much of it and spent so much time on it (it's over 600 pages!).  UGH.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

2015 book 225

Theresa Romain's It Takes Two to Tangle
There was not really enough going on here, plot-wise, to make me care very much about any of the characters, but it was diverting enough reading on Yom Kippur. B.

Monday, September 21, 2015

2015 book 224

Alison Goodman's Eon
It took so long for this to become available from my library hold list that I forget where I saw a recommendation for it, but in some great synchronicity, Rae Carson recommended it just today over at Tor. It takes place in what seems to be a fantasy version of imperial China, where there's a whole thing with dragons that are aligned with the Chinese Zodiac, etc etc, and our titular protagonist is one of twelve boys who may have be chosen as a Dragon Apprentice and get glory and power and whatnot. EXCEPT our protagonist is actually a GIRL, and a disabled one at that! There are some really interesting political/cultural/gender things going on here, some great secondary characters, and good pacing. There is one thing that Eon is really dumb about, though, to the point where I had to keep putting the book down because she was being so dumb. But she works it out eventually, and things get pretty exciting, and I already bought the sequel because the library doesn't have it as an e-book. A-.

2015 book 223

Melissa DeCarlo's The Art of Crash Landing
Well, I'll say one thing for this book--I started reading it (stupidly) at 11 pm, and just couldn't stop till I was done.  I mean, it wasn't amazing or anything, but it had really good pacing, enough that I couldn't put it down! It's about an aimless 30-year-old who finds out she's pregnant, leaves her lame boyfriend, and goes to Oklahoma, where she's inherited her recently deceased grandmother's house--but mainly it's about her trying to figure out her mother's life. This was all a little bit over-dramatic and occasionally cheesy, but there are some great characters here (I particularly liked Luke and Tawny, and the protagonist's stepfather). I did wish for a more careful proofreader--there were noticeable typos/lack of commas, and that always bugs me. But otherwise, this was pretty good. B/B+.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

2015 book 222

A.S. King's I Crawl Through It
I have been, historically, a big fan of AS King's novels, but this one didn't quite work for me. I appreciate that King is experimenting with her fiction, I just am not personally into surrealism in my novels (I find it distracting, trying to sort out what the heck is actually going on). Her characters--four teenagers, all at least a little bit troubled--are interesting and likable and sympathetic, I just didn't understand what they were DOING half the time. Her depiction of a survivor of date rape is pretty compelling, nonetheless, and I did like how things wrapped up. I just would have liked this more if it had been a bit more straightforward. B/B+.

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

Thursday, September 17, 2015

2015 book 221

Mary Balogh's Only a Kiss
I was a little worried before starting this latest book in Balogh's Survivor's Club series, about a group of men and one women who have severe PTSD from the Napoleonic Wars, because it was the one focused on the women and Balogh's love interests for her women have disappointed me in the past (they tend to be jerks). Luckily, this guy's only thing is that he's kind of bored with his life! He needs a purpose. He has had a nice, easy life, and inherited a title, and so he decides to go check out his new estate in Cornwall--where our girl Isobel lives, because her husband (who was tortured to death in front of her) was the previous heir. The romance has a believable build, the pacing is strong, there's a pretty great subplot with a smuggling ring, AND there are some scrappy cats and dogs. I actually CRIED at one point. This may be a high point for Balogh for me. A/A-.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

2015 book 220

Rebecca Hahn's The Shadow Behind the Stars
Hahn's second YA fantasy novel (after A Creature of Moonlight) is just about as interesting as her first. It's narrated by the youngest of the three mythical Fates--the one in the eternal guise of a maiden, the one who spins wool into the threads of people's destiny. When a human girl comes to their home one day, it leads to a series of events that may cause the world to fall apart. I liked this a lot, but wished there was a little more THERE there, just a little bit more! More of the human girl, and more of the Fates, and more of the aftermath. Great writing though, very evocative. B/B+.

Monday, September 14, 2015

2015 book 219

Cecelia Holland's Dragon Heart
Well, this book is UNUSUAL, which made it an interesting read? It certainly didn't follow the usual fantasy tropes? But I'm not sure it worked--at least, not for me. It centers on a royal family dealing with an Emperor/colonial menace, trying to remain independent. Youngest daughter Tirza can't speak, jsut make noises, only it turns out she can talk to dragons. This book kind of gets grindingly depressing, the colonials are perpetually thinking rapey things about the locals, and the end made me think--what was the point of this? Like, I said, it was interesting, but not in a way that struck a chord with me. B.

2015 book 218

Julianna Baggot's Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders
I think the concept of this book is pretty cool--a cult author, her missing final book, her daughter and granddaughters and their unusual lives--but it was just a little bit muddled. It took me several days to read, which is unusual for me! There are some good things here but it was just a slog to read for some reason. B/B+.

Friday, September 11, 2015

2015 book 217

Juliet Marillier's Tower of Thorns
The second book in Marillier's Blackthorn and Grim series (after Dreamer's Pool) is a pretty strong followup to the first, as Blackthorn and Grim have to deal with breaking a curse--with the company of an old friend of Blackthorn's. Both characters are still totally traumatized by PTSD (partially caused, interestingly, by imprisonment) and their friendship and reliance on each other is really unusual for the fantasy books I read--and I appreciate that SO MUCH. We also get Grim's backstory this time, which manages to be fitting and a bit unexpected. Some of this was a little predictable, but the central relationship is great and I actually really liked all the monks in this one. I am really into Marillier's world-building and can't wait for the next one. A-.

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

Thursday, September 10, 2015

2015 book 216

Angela Thirkell's Pomfret Towers
I was so excited about this book that when I finished it, I immediately attempted to blog about it from my phone (I was babysitting)--of course, that didn't get much beyond the title, but that shows you how caught up I was in this charming and slightly silly story. It was written in the 1930s and it's about one of those house parties rich British people always seem to be having, but there's lots of interesting class stuff and some sly looks at the author/publishing types. There are some annoying people but no one is a villain, most of the characters are nice, and there are some super funny moments. I was just delighted the whole time I read this--Thirkell's writing really carries you along. I can't wait to read more books by her. A/A-.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

2015 book 215

Rysa Walker's Timebound
Sometimes, when I am in the middle of a book, I am so annoyed or excited about it that I immediately put the book down and start one of my little blog entries. For this book, I wrote and then deleted THREE different entries before I even hit page 100, because I was sooooo frustrated. So the story: Kate is a teenage girl whose grandmother is secretly from the future and worked for a time-travel agency, and now someone else is CHANGING THE PAST and founding a religion (!!) for nefarious reasons and Kate must stop them! Anyway, eventually the story picks up as Kate must prevent her grandmother (and thus, herself) from being erased from existence. Kate is suuuuper stupid though, it honestly got a little wearing after a while. And I couldn't even with the dumb boy love triangle stuff in this book. Every time I got annoyed enough to stop reading, though, something interesting would happen! (Unfortunately, at least once this involves a dude being rapey.) I didn't actively enjoy this book until past page 250, it was a major slog to get to that point, and I hated that the big ending involved the ridiculous romance and not EXCITING TIME TRAVEL STUFF. I also think the way her mother is treated is total BS. And yet I still want to know what happens next. UGH. B/B-.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

2015 book 214

Sigal Samuel's The Mystics of Mile End
Samuel's debut novel is delightfully Jewish. It's set in a Hasidic neighborhood in Montreal, and deals with a slightly dysfunctional family (and some friends and neighbors) and their varying relationships with Judaism and with kabbalah--not to mention with each other. I really enjoyed the brother-sister relationship at the heart of this book, though found some of the secondary characters to be a little underdeveloped, and particularly wished that their mother was less of a cipher. I also didn't entirely buy the sister's motivation for her spiritual journey, but found her experiences to be effective. It's generally a really engaging story, and I liked the ending. I am not sure how much non-Jews (or non-religion-nerds) will get, but maybe the human relationships will carry them through? A-/B+.

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

Friday, September 04, 2015

2015 book 213

Lorraine Heath's Falling Into Bed with a Duke
The title here really gets at the core of this book--it is basically about a girl who eventually sleeps with a Duke. This book is like thirty percent sex scenes and has little else going on, plotwise. Our dude has a tragic backstory--his parents were killed in a train accident when he was eight, and he and some other boys were raised by a crazy old Marquis. He also has a whole thing where he's dyslexic, but with numbers. Our girl is the daughter of some people who were in some other books by Heath--this one here is the first in a series, but set in the same world as a bunch of Heath's OTHER series and I definitely felt like I was missing backstory--and her whole deal is that she has a super big dowry BUT is opinionated and plain so the only guys who want to marry her are fortune-hunters. And do you know how these two meet? THEY MEET IN AN ARISTOCRATIC SEMI-ANONYMOUS SEX CLUB! Because he likes sex and she decides to lose her virginity to see what all the fuss is about. WHAT?!???!! Lorraine Heath, that is CRAZY. Anyway, this was pretty predictable, and while I liked the characters, I kind of found the story to be a little bit boring, and I didn't like that I felt like I needed to read 12 other books by Heath to understand the context here.  B.

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

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-.