Friday, September 22, 2017

2017 book 166

Elizabeth Jane Howard's Marking Time
The second book in the Cazalet Chronicles picks up a year after the last one ended--in 1939, on the verge of war. I meant to note in my last review that some of the characters express anti-Semitic views, but the author clearly thinks this is bad, so I was feeling quite pleased with Ms. Howard, when she drops the descriptor "n-word brown" into the text in this one. Describing a skirt! What on earth! So then I was reading with quite a bit of side-eye going on, especially when said description recurred. What on earth sort of way is that to describe a color in the 1990s?? As for the plot, there are a ton of characters, and I am more interested in some (Sybil, Zoe, Clary, Polly) than others (Louise trying to be an actress, her philandering father Edward). I find these books fairly engrossing, even when Howard isn't focusing on the things I wish she would. B/B+.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017 book 165

Elizabeth Jane Howard's The Light Years
One of the Fug Girls mentioned the Cazelet Chronicles the other day, and the entire five book series--tracing a well off English family from the late 1930s to after WWII--was only 99 cents as an e-book, so I figured, why not try it? This first volume covers 1937 and 1938, and there are a lot of cousins to keep track of (I am positive that even the author got confused about the characters' relationships at one point), but it is all very riveting--affairs, secret lesbians, unexpected pregnancies, lumber mills, tree climbing, etc-- and only a tiny bit trashy. Content warning for a couple brief mentions of sexual abuse. Sidebar, apparently Howard's third husband was Kingsley Amis! I like her work better. A-.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

2017 book 164

Naomi Alderman's Disobedience
After reading Alderman's The Power, I wanted to check out some of her earlier work--and then I read a review of a new movie starring Rachels Weisz and McAdams, based on a novel by Naomi Alderman, about the Orthodox Jewish community in London, and I was like, well, there you go. Anyway, the book is primarily about two women--one, Ronit, no longer observant, the daughter of a renowned Rav, who is returning home after his death; and the other, Esti, her SECRET TEENAGE GIRLFRIEND WHO IS NOW MARRIED TO RONIT'S COUSIN DOVID. Okay, also, I want to see this movie asap. Anyway, I have a lot of complicated thoughts and feelings about Orthodox Judaism, but I think Alderman paints a realistic yet sympathetic picture of this particular community (and also of someone who left it), and I loved all the characters and also how this wrapped up. Really excellent. A/A-.

Friday, September 15, 2017

2017 book 163

Seanan McGuire's The Brightest Fell
The most recent Toby Daye book finds Toby being forced to track down her long-lost sister, missing for over a century. I mean, that's basically it. It's more straightforward than some of the other books in this series, but once again it just feels like it is building up to some sort of epic series finale that I hope comes sooner rather than later. Not to say that this wasn't entertaining, because it was, but I want to know that this is really all going somewhere eventually. B/B+.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

2017 book 162

Ruth Emmie Lang's Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance 
This was just a lovely and sweet and magical book, the sort of story you want to read in one sitting just because it is honestly delightful. It centers on a boy with mysterious powers, living with wolves, and his story is told through the people he encounters throughout his life. I liked this very much. A/A-.

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A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on November 7th.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

2017 book 161

Claudia Gray's Leia: Princess of Alderaan
Gray's Star Wars books have been hit or miss for me (I loved Lost Stars, but thought Bloodline was a bit dull), but you had better believe I am here for a novel about teenage Leia dealing with princess duties, finding her first love, and getting involved in the Rebellion. Yesssssss. I especially enjoyed seeing a lot of Leia's mother-- Bail Organa has been a big prescence in the series, but I appreciated a Star Wars property looking at a mother-daughter relationship for a change. Plus the Luna Lovegood-esque friend was pretty great. So, yesssss. A-/B+.

Friday, September 08, 2017

2017 book 160

Ellen Raskin's The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues
Something I read recently reminded me of this book and made me want to reread it--obviously Raskin's The Westing Game is a masterpiece, but her other novels are good too, and underrated. This one involves an art student who goes to work for a painter with a houseful of secrets, and what happens when they begin to assist the police with weird crimes. Which all makes it sound slightly more serious than it actually is, when really it an interesting series of puzzles and compelling characters. I actually learned about a few artists and poets from reading this book as a kid, now that I think about it. Content warning for some ableist language bc it was written in 1975 (one of the characters has brain damage).

Thursday, September 07, 2017

2017 book 159

Seanan McGuire's Once Broken Faith
The 10th Toby Daye book returns to the series' roots as Toby is tasked with solving a mystery--the murder of a King at a conclave of nobles, called to deal with stuff from the previous book. I don't have much else to say about it, though in general I found this one more entertaining than a lot of the previous volumes. B+.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

2017 book 158

Seanan McGuire's A Red-Rose Chain
There's a new Toby Daye book out and it seemed kind of interesting, but I was told I have to go back and read the ones I skipped for it to make sense. So here I am, catching up on book 9. In this one, Toby and her entourage are sent as diplomats to try and stop a war between two fairy kingdoms, which goes about as well as everyone expects. I think I did like this better than some of its predecessors (despite the excessive exposition), or maybe a three year break is what I needed to refresh my interest in this series. B+.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

2017 book 157

E. Lockhart's Genuine Fraud
I guess E. Lockhart is doing psychological suspense fiction now? Still, I liked it better than her last book. This reminded me of Patrice Kindl's most recent book, though it is not really funny in the way that one could be, or maybe Lockhart is going for a Patricia Highsmith kind of vibe. Anyway, it centers on a teenage girl juggling identities, and her best friend, and privileged lifestyles, and lies, etc, flashing back each chapter to show the whole scope of the thing. I thought the end was a little bit of a letdown but this was definitely entertaining. B+.

Monday, September 04, 2017

2017 book 156

Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes
This book came up in conversation recently--as well it should! We should all be talking about this book, always!--which of course made me want to reread it. I can't believe how well it holds up considering how very OF ITS TIME it is, but who would not be enchanted by the story of three very different little girls, adopted by an eccentric explorer and raised by his great-niece (and her nurse), who learn to make their ways in the world through the performing arts (and auto repair). Really interesting class issues to think about here, too. But mostly three awesome girls.

2017 book 155

Tessa Dare's The Duchess Deal
Dare's historical romances are hit or miss for me--they are always a ton of fun, but sometimes I wish there was more to the plot--and this was definitely one of those times. This one involves a Duke--badly scarred from the battle of Waterloo--proposing a marriage of convenience to a seamstress (a vicar's daughter who was caught canoodling with the local squire's son and then kicked out of her home and forced to make her own way in the world--which is about as much detail as Dare provides for this backstory). The Duke has a whole Beauty-and-the-Beast-meets-Batman thing which is fairly hilarious, and the new Duchess soon befriends a group of eccentric spinsters (who will presumably feature in later volumes of this series, but who are not well developed here). Anyway, like I said, this was fun, but there wasn't much meat to it. B+.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

2017 book 154

Libba Bray's Beauty Queens
The kerfuffle over a couple of dude filmmakers wanting to do an all-girl remake of Lord of the Flies made me want to reread this book, one of my favorites of 2011. I was worried it wouldn't hold up, but it was as funny and feminist as ever, and honestly feels like an even more trenchant comment on our society now than it did six years ago. I will say that the language involving a trans character feels slightly dated, though on the whole the plot point is handled well. Bray pulls no punches here, and I love it.

Friday, September 01, 2017

2017 book 153

Sarah Beth Durst's The Reluctant Queen
I have been semi-eagerly awaiting the second book in Durst's Queens of Renthia series (after The Queen of Blood), which is odd because I only sort of liked the first one! (I blame my anticipation on waiting for the library to order it, and then waiting for the person who checked it out before me to relinquish it when their three-week hold period was up.) So, did it satisfy me after I waited almost two months for it? More or less! It takes a while to get going--overwrought writing, the queen needs an heir, blah di blah, but then it gets interesting when said heir is not a young girl trained for years, but a talented mother of two (with an awful husband) who just wants to live her life in peace. Some plot points were obvious, others surprised me, which means I am still very interested in reading the next one. B+.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2017 book 152

Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman's Basic Witches
I LOVED THIS BOOK! It is just the book I needed to give me strength in these troubled times. It is both empowering and funny, AND it's beautifully designed--the illustrations are perfect. I am gonna go out and get some candles for sure so I can ritualistically improve my life. ;)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

2017 book 151

Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl
I was in the mood for some straight up fantasy, so decided to revisit Hale's Books of Bayern series. This first one is a fairly straightforward adaptation of the traditional fairy tale (which I find weirdly stressful, even though I know it turns out okay), but Hale breathes life into the characters and into the friends the goose girl princess makes along the way.