Monday, September 24, 2018

2018 book 145

Kitty Zeldis' Not Our Kind
It's the late 1940s, and a young Jewish woman is on her way to a job interview at a school--for a job she really needs--when she's involved in a car accident. The society woman in the other car feels bad about it, and invites her home for lunch, and decides to hire the young woman to tutor her daughter, who is recovering from polio.  I appreciated (and was of course infuriated by) the depiction of sort of high-class anti-Semitism (as the title suggests) and liked the characterization here. Sometimes the dialogue felt a little wooden, especially toward the end, but this was in general a satisfying read. B+.

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Content warning for a scene of attempted rape.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

2018 book 144

Tasha Suri's Empire of Sand
So this is an interesting and engaging fantasy novel sort of inspired by the Mughal Empire of India, centered on a woman who is half magic on her mom's side (I really don’t feel like explaining the world building and magical system here, so just go with it), and what happens when the creepy religious leader of their empire finds out about her. I liked the central relationship here a lot, as well as all the relationships between various women characters, but be warned that the middle section of this is somewhat grim. This wraps up on a satisfying way, but is apparently the first in a series, and I am curious as to where it will go next. A-.

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

Saturday, September 22, 2018

2018 book 143

Mary H.K. Choi's Emergency Contact
Rereading this for book club, and it is just as cute and charming and captivating as last time I read it! I mean, not to make it sound TOO fluffy, bc the characters have legit issues. It centers on a college freshman at UT Austin who wants to be a sci fi writer, and the coffee shop dude/wannabe filmmaker she starts texting after helping him with an emergency. It’s just really great and honest about relationships and friendships and mental health issues. I can’t wait to read whatever Choi writes next.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

2018 book 142

Robert Galbraith's Lethal White
Insert usual spiel here about the author being JK Rowling. Anyway, all I remembered from the previous book in this series is how furious the very end made me. This one picks up right where that one left off, which is fine, but the character drama seems like it’s taking precedence over the whole mystery part of the story—and the mystery has a bit of a slow start in general. Plus having to read about the crappy relationship is just infuriating. “Leave him, girl! You’d be better off alone! You don’t have to leave a guy for another guy, you can just LEAVE! DON'T STAY WITH SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T SUPPORT YOU!!!” was my internal monologue on at least twelve different scenes. (I read a lot of this book on Yom Kippur, when admittedly I am extra cranky. But my point stands.) Anyway, eventually the mystery gets going, with blackmail, politics, and a possible cold case all in the mix, and the back half moves more quickly. I liked how this one wrapped up, even if one character does do something implausibly stupid. I don’t know enough about British politics and classism to say if that aspect was accurate or not, but I enjoyed this. A-.

Monday, September 17, 2018

2018 book 141

Natasha Solomons' The House of Gold
Solomons' latest novel is another engrossing historical story, this time centering on an influential European-Jewish family of bakers (loosely inspired by the Rothschilds), primarily through the lens of one of the Austrian daughters, who is being married off to one of her unknown British cousins. The story begins in 1911 and draws to a close toward the end of WWI, which was a bit disappointing as this was billed as a “sweeping family saga,” in which case I wanted more than seven years of story. I did find the story of her marriage (and garden) compelling, as well as her relationships with her brother and mother, but I just wanted a little bit more here. Maybe because I enjoyed reading this so much and wanted the story to keep going? Or maybe because some parts, particularly the subplot with the orphaned Jewish boy, don't come to any conclusion. Either way, the end was a trifle unsatisfying to me. Still, another solid one from Solomons—I enjoy her books a lot. A-.

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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

2018 book 140

Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City
I think being holed up at home during a hurricane is the perfect time to reread a great adventure story about a band of girls with unusual talents exploring the underground tunnels of NYC—and maybe solving some mysteries along the way. This is the first of a series of three books, though I always hope Miller will find time for a couple more (she is currently busy co-writing a bunch of books with actor Jason Segal). A/A-.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

2018 book 139

Vic James' Bright Ruin
The final book in James' Dark Gifts trilogy—set in an alternate version of England ruled by elite people with magical powers—is more of the fun same. James brings all the various threads together here—politics, revolution, historical research, family drama, etc—and it all works out in a more or less satisfying way. I was delighted by one romance here, felt some characters were underserved, but in general liked this a lot. If you want a slightly dark but enthralling series (with a little bit of humor), this is definitely one to check out. A-.

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

Sunday, September 09, 2018

2018 book 138

Kate Milford's Bluecrowne
I think, with this latest book, Milford has managed to smush together something from all of her previous books! It centers on the first residents of Greenglass House, and is billed as a Greenglass House story, but the characters are from her book The Left Handed Fate, among others. Well done, Ms Milford. Anyway, 12 year old Lucy finds herself off a ship for the first time in her life and settling into Greenglass House with her stepmother and little brother—at least until some mysterious men come for him and his talents. Lots of adventure, time travel, family, fireworks, and magic, though this felt a little darker than some of its predecessors. A-.

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

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

2018 book 137

Kendare Blake's Two Dark Reigns
The latest in Blake's Three Dark Crowns series, the third of I believe a planned four, is more of the same--magic and politics and friends and romance and sisters and rivals and cliffhangers galore. I do feel like the rebellion aspects needed a bit more buildup, and this one's ending isn’t as HOLY WHAT as the previous two, but I definitely still want to see how this all comes together. B+.

Monday, September 03, 2018

2018 book 136

D.E. Stevenson's Anna and Her Daughters
Stevenson wrote pleasant British books where everything works out in the end, and sometimes that’s what I’m in the mood for! This one is narrated by the youngest of the titular daughters, and details what happens after her father dies and it turns out they have very little money—so the family decamps from London to their mother's small hometown in Scotland. The youngest had hopes of attending Oxford, but ends up working as an assistant to a local writer, while her older sisters fall for the same guy (who, of course, she also likes). I did wonder how this would work out in the end, but it mostly did (with perhaps a little bit of moralizing). I especially liked the relationship between the mother and the narrator. Side note, some scenes are set in Africa and the characters express racist/colonial views. So not my favorite of Stevenson's works, but entertaining enough. B.

2018 book 135

Lauren Oliver's Broken Things
Ok, I loved this book, except for one minor thing that made me FURIOUS, which I will get to in a moment. Now here is the usual stuff: I think Oliver is a great author and this has been getting a ton of really interesting buzz, so I was super looking forward to it. And it is soooo up my alley—it’s about two middle school girls who were accused of the murder of their best friend, because it was done in a ritualistic manner that was straight out of the fan fic they wrote for an obscure portal fantasy novel. But there was really no evidence against them, so now it’s five years later and they’re total outcasts in their town, and one of them thinks she’s found a clue to the real murderer. So they get together with a motley assortment of friends and love interests to see if they can figure this thing out. And it is GREAT.

Now here is what made me mad—one of said friends is a teen plus size Instagram model, which is awesome. But Oliver says she is 5'4' and 180 pounds, which is . . . not that large? And both she and her best friend talk about how fat she is, in a negative way, not in a reclaiming the word way. Like, maybe the numbers didn’t need to be specific here? Don’t girls have enough issues without seeing a fairly normal number and then characters saying the girl is FAT, has pre-diabetes, etc.? So judgy!!

Anyway, that was a minor thing, and I really liked the rest of this. A/A-.

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A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on October 2nd.
Content warning for graphic violence to an animal.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

2018 book 134

Ashley Weaver's An Act of Villainy
The latest Amory Ames mystery finds Amory and her husband investigating a series of threatening letters directed at the star of a new play—who happens to be having an affair with her director. I like these characters a lot, but this mystery didn’t work for me. It’s one of those where they all just have a lot of conversations until the solution is revealed. I did guess one major portion of it, but then the end strained credulity so much that I probably would have thrown the book across the room had I not been reading on my Kindle. I will probably give this series another chance but this one did not work for me. B/B-.

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

Friday, August 31, 2018

2018 book 133

Claire Legrand's Furyborn
Hey, it's the start of another fantasy trilogy about queens with magical powers etc etc. This is a pretty good entry in the genre, focusing on a young woman who is revealed to be the prophesied Sun Queen, and has to prove herself through seven trials, and then another young woman a thousand years later who knows the legend of the Sun Queen but has her own stuff to deal with, namely being a morally ambiguous assassin who is also one of those stubbornly stupid YA characters. I got a pretty strong Queen of the Tearling vibe, which is generally a good thing. Parts of this were easy to predict and some of the romances were underbaked, and I’ll give a general warning that some of this is grim, but I'm interested enough to read the next in this series. B/B+.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

2018 book 132

Melina Marchetta's Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
It's been long enough since I read this that the details were pretty murky, which meant it was the perfect time for a reread! This is sort of a mystery but more of a story about families, loss, justice, and love. It centers on a disgraced London police officer whose teen daughter's school trip is interrupted by a bomb--a bomb that may be related to a bombing from years ago. And so some higher ups ask him to do some informal investigating, to find some missing kids and figure out what the heck is going on. There are so many great moments here and I love all of the teens, especially the surly ones. Marchetta does write the best teenagers. Anyway, this book makes me sob buckets and I love it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

2018 book 131

K.E. Ormsbee's The House in Poplar Wood
The plot of this one is a little weird to explain so bear with me: there are two boys, twin brothers, and their father works for Death and their mother for Memory, and each has one son as an assistant, and because of an Agreement the two sides can never meet, living in a house divided in two. Until a local girl decides she needs their help to solve a MURDER (this isn't really a mystery, though) and the three of them determine to change their town, and their fates. Really good stuff! I could have done without the minor romance subplot but enjoyed all the family stuff a lot. A-.

Monday, August 27, 2018

2018 book 130

Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver
I loved this so much when I first read it that I made book club read it as soon as possible just so I could reread it. And even having read it before, it's still the sort of story that just hooks you and you sink right into it. I like that Novik centered this in a (more or less) specific place and time in history, unlike the vague Eastern European forest of Uprooted, because making it explicitly about Jews in Lithuania in the pre-war years adds a large chunk of verisimilitude. Anyway, the story itself is a sort of take on Rumplestiltskin, focusing on the Jewish daughter of a moneylender who says she can turn silver into gold . . . and then the local gold-stealing fairies come for her. There are several other POV characters, primarily women struggling to make the best of their limited options, but also a couple of interesting males, who help round out the story. Anyway, I love this, it makes me cry, it’s awesome, great ladies, etc etc, A.