Tuesday, November 21, 2017

2017 book 199

Leni Zumas' Red Clocks
Continuing my habit of reading feminist dystopian fiction with this one—set in the near future, in a world where the US has finally granted personhood to fetuses, this story focuses on four women in a small town in Oregon. Obviously I found some of these women more compelling than others, but it was interesting to see them through each other's eyes. I think Zumas is a very fine writer, this is a very well done book, and I eagerly await whatever she does next. A-.

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

2017 book 198

Karen McManus' One of Us is Lying
It is once again time for THANKSGIVING SISTER BOOK CLUB, where my sister and I read the same book and then discuss it during Thanksgiving break, sometimes over fro-yo. This one has a great premise--it is Breakfast Club with a murder mystery! Yes, five teens are in after-school detention, and one of them--who just happens to run a gossip app (why is it an app and not like a Twitter account? Who knows)--ends up DEAD. Who killed him, and what secrets are they hiding? Was it the brain, the princess, the jock, or the Judd Nelson one? The story is told from all four POVs and McManus does a pretty good job of making each character believable and interesting, and of ramping up the tension. The end is fairly silly, but I expected nothing less. B+.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

2017 book 197

Marian Keyes' The Mystery of Mercy Close
Ah, and now we arrive at the fifth Walsh sisters book, the one Rainbow Rowell recommended, and it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Protagonist Helen, the youngest sister, has appeared in all the previous books as a bit of a troublemaker, who eventually becomes a PI, and this story does focus on her trying to track down a missing former boy-bander—but it also deals quite a bit with her struggle with mental illness. It is less funny than its predecessors but just as moving and entertaining. I really liked how this one wrapped up. A-.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

2017 book 196

Marian Keyes' Anybody Out There?
The fourth Walsh sisters book is I think the strongest of the series (I say that without having read the 5th one yet)—even though I pretty quickly picked up what Keyes was throwing down, I still cried several times. This one centers on fourth sister Anna, who in the previous books was kind of hippy dippy, but now has her act together and works as a publicist for a cosmetics company in New York (which was of course  right up my alley). I really liked the family relationships and friendships in this one, particularly. Really surprisingly moving. A-.

2017 book 195

Marian Keyes' Angels
The third Walsh sisters book focuses on second sister Margaret—the “good one”—who, after her marriage falls apart, goes to stay with her best friend, a struggling screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles. I liked the narrative voice here, and the way things were gradually revealed, but I found this to be the least satisfying of the three I’ve read. Keyes also sometimes leans a bit too heavily on racial stereotypes, which feels unnecessary. I mean, I was still entertained, and Maggie is a great character, but this wasn’t my favorite. B.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

2017 book 194

Marian Keyes’ Rachel's Holiday
After the first Walsh sisters book, I was expecting something on the chick lit/women's fiction lighter side spectrum, but this was a bit more serious. It centers on middle sister Rachel, who is forced into a rehab center by her parents and gradually comes to terms with her drug addiction. It is super compelling and moving. A-.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

2017 book 193

Marian Keyes' Watermelon
Rainbow Rowell recently recommended the fifth book in this series on Twitter, but I am a completist and so I started with book one. The series focuses on five sisters from an Irish family; in this first one, eldest sister Claire has just given birth when her husband announces that he's leaving her for another woman. Like literally, the day she gives birth! So she goes home to Dublin to stay with her parents and two youngest sisters (I loved the sister relationships here) to try and figure out what to do next. At first I was like, this is a cute mid-90s women’s fiction sort of story with occasionally brilliant humor, but towards the end I was super engaged with the heroine's emotional journey—it just really resonated with conversations I am having with friends right now. There is a great moment where she just runs out of f—ks entirely and I was practically cheering. I will say that this did not seem like an accurate depiction of new motherhood to me, but it was a very entertaining story and I already have the rest of the series checked out from the library. A-/B+.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

2017 book 192

Dara Horn's Eternal Life
A new Dara Horn book is always an eagerly anticipated event for a Jewish nerd such as myself, and this one did not at all disappoint. Our protagonist is a woman who has lived many lifetimes—2000 years worth of them, in fact—and is reluctant to leave her current family behind—even though one of her granddaughters is a scientist working with gene therapies. And meanwhile, one other immortal person exists—a guy who has been obsessed with her for these same 2000 years. I found her story to be amazingly compelling (and of course loved the depiction of ancient Judaism) and such a fascinating look at motherhood, and I loved the way things concluded. I was less interested in the weird/toxic romantic relationship dynamics on display, but on the whole thought this was excellent. A/A-.

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

Monday, November 06, 2017

2017 book 191

Leena Likitalo's The Sisters of the Crescent Empress
The second book in Likitalo's duology, a fantasy/alternate history inspired by the Romanovs, left me almost breathless! I loved the journeys of the five sisters (though Elise is more sympathetic and compelling in the first one) and the end had me going “oh whaaaaaaat” but like in a good way. I a, pretty sure this is the end of the story, and while I found the ending fitting, I would one hundred percent read more in this universe. And will definitely read more from this author. A/A-.

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

Sunday, November 05, 2017

2017 book 190

Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace
I had intended to reread this before the Netflix miniseries was released, but time got away from me, so I ended up reading and watching in tandem (it is an excellent and faithful adaptation). This is maybe one of my top three Atwood books—it is a retelling of the famous story of a young Irish-Canadian girl convicted of murder, but it is also a story about the ways women are viewed, and judged, by society. Just excellent.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

2017 book 189

Katherine Rundell's The Explorer
Oooh I do love a good survival novel, and this middle grade story was pretty satisfying—it centers on four children who survive a plane crash in the Amazon and have to figure out what to do—and signs suggest someone else has been in their deserted spot in the past. I liked these characters a lot, though of course wished the main POV character was one of the little girls. (Both girls are pretty awesome though, pet sloths for life.) A/A-.

Monday, October 30, 2017

2017 book 188

Maggie Stiefvater's All the Crooked Saints
Even when I don’t love a Maggie Stiefvater book, I inevitably think it is interesting, which was the case here. And I mean, I didn't /dislike/ it, really. I am predisposed to like magical realism, especially magical realism that also has a pirate radio station, and I love stories that weave in folklore the way this one does. I did not love the narrative voice and was at times uncomfortable with a white author writing about Mexican magic and religion (an author's note at the end explains that she did consult experts and had sensitivity readers). This was good but could have been better if an editor has pushed it a little. B+.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2017 book 187

Catherine Lloyd's Death Comes to the Fair
In the fourth entry in Lloyd's Kurland St Mary series, romances are progressing, but the town is up in arms due to some poor judging of vegetables at the local fair (who can’t relate to that, am I right), and when the winner of the prizes is found dead, the two protagonists wonder if it was foul play. But of course things go deeper than carrots, leading to another fairly predictable but still mostly satisfying conclusion. I like seeing the rector's daughter chase against the sexist restrictions of her time, and I like that her love interest respects her and sees her as a partner in their crime solving. I mean this series is fairly silly but I like it anyway. B/B+.

2017 book 186

Catherine Lloyd's Death Comes to Kurland Hall
The third book in the Kurland St Mary series picks up shortly after the last left off, and finds our intrepid duo trying to solve the murder of a blackmailing woman who everyone had reason to dislike. The resolution is fairly obvious, though I admit there were a couple of twists I didn't expect. The dude is a little bit more heavy-handed/slightly sexist in this one which I didn't LOVE but it was fine. I'm still going to go ahead and read the next one. B/B+.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Belated book review -- book 185

Agatha Christie's The Seven Dials Mystery
I actually read this back in September, but scheduled this blog post for October 23th because I was reading it for a LearnedLeague One-Day I was co-smithing and didn't want to give anything away to any of my LL friends. :) This centers on a clock-themed secret society, some murders, and the Bright Young Things (led by "it girl" Bundle Brent) who are determined to get to the bottom of things. A lot of this is very funny, though I could have done without the casual anti-Semitism. I also felt conclusion was a little silly. Entertaining, though! B/B+.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

2017 book 184

Catherine Lloyd's Death Comes to London
In the second book in Lloyd’s Kurland St Mary series, the two protagonists find themselves in London—she's there for the Season, trying to find a husband, and he's there to receive a baronetcy. And soon they are on the trail of a POISONER! Again, I like the characters a lot, though the resolution to the mystery was pretty obvious. I do want to see what these wacky kids get up to next. A-/B+.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

2017 book 183

Catherine Lloyd's Death Comes to the Village
This is the first book of a series, historical mysteries set in a village in Regency England. In this one, the rector's eldest daughter teams up with the local lord—bedridden due to an injury at Waterloo—to look into a series of thefts and the disappearance of a housemaid. I liked the characters here a lot, and the mystery was fairly well plotted. It looks like these two might eventually have a romance, but it will be a slow building one, which I always like. I will definitely check out the next book in this series. A-/B+.