Tuesday, November 27, 2012

2012 book 340

Janet Fox's Sirens
A YA historical mystery set in the 20s involving mobsters, bootleggers, a faked suicide, and flappers should have been right up my alley, but this book just plain annoyed me. For one thing, ALL the answers were in a journal that the protagonist was forever not managing to finish--completely unrealistic--and for another, ALL the answers were completely obvious, but she was too dumb to see them! Plus the end was completely bonkers, but not in a fun way, in a stupid way, and the romance is completely bland. I am actually angry at how this could have been an awesome book, but wasn't. Maybe it's because it's YA, but it's not like kids need to have every clue served to them on a silver platter, and I know that YA mysteries can be just as compelling as grown-up ones. C.

Monday, November 26, 2012

2012 book 339

Tarquin Hall's The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken
The third Vish Puri mystery involves the poisoning of a cricket player's father, with a secondary case involving a mustache thief. There's also something about diamond smuggling, but I already forget what it was related to and if it had any conclusion. I will say that Vish's mother is one of the more fascinating characters I've encountered recently, and every scene with her was absolutely great. B/B+.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2012 book 338

Tarquin Hall's The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing
The second Vish Puri mystery involved a famous skeptic who is apparently murdered by the goddess Kali (or perhaps by a vengeful swami using an illusion); meanwhile, Vish's mummy and wife are secretly trying to solve a robbery. This was just as funny as the first one. A-.

2012 book 337

Tarquin Hall's The Case of the Missing Servant
The first book in the Vish Puri series reminds me a little of the Precious Ramotswe books, at least in terms of tones/sense of humor--the mysteries are certainly a little bit more intense here. In this one, Private Detective Puri and his motley crew try and find out just what happened to a missing servant, who may have been murdered. They also have some smaller cases, and Puri's Mummy is on the case as well. I really did love the humor here, as well as the characters and their fleshed out world in Delhi. I'm definitely going to read the next one, this one was such a delightful read. A-.

Friday, November 23, 2012

2012 books 335 and 336

Jessica Day George's Dragon Flight and Dragon Spear
More crazy adventures as a girl and her dragon friends get embroiled in more politics--and more intense dragon wars. The first involves a war with a nearby land; the second, a crazy dragon kidnapping plot. Both are fun reads and both get a B+.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

2012 book 334

Jessica Day George's Dragon Slippers
A nice light YA fantasy involving a girl seeking her fortune, some dragons, and a pair of special slippers was just what I needed after reading Wolf Hall! Like all of the other books I've read by George, the characters are completely likable (except for the jerks), there are plenty of adventures, and girls get to save the day. Super cute. A-.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

2012 book 333

Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall
Well, I finally read this, and can say two things about it: it absolutely deserved the Booker, and it is NOT an easy read . . . which is weird, because everything that happens is pretty fascinating. For the first half, I kept wavering between thinking "this is GREAT" and "this is super boring" because the historical-style writing can really be a slog at times. And the story of Thomas Cromwell's rise to power under Henry VIII, and his efforts to make Anne Boleyn Henry's legal wife, should not feel like a slog (especially to someone who majored in History like myself). Plus, history led me to believe that Henry divorced his first wife without too many problems; this book shows that there were a LOT of problems and explains them all in great detail. Once all that is past, the story feels like it's moving forward more quickly (I liked the last quarter without any reservations). I actually feel like there is something wrong with me for not liking this more than I did (I did like it), but this book required much more effort to read than I normally expend. I wish this book had come out when I was a history major and would have unabashedly loved it, but reading it now felt just a teensy bit like doing homework. B/B+.

Monday, November 19, 2012

2012 book 332

Jessica Day George's Princess of Glass
In the second Princess book, one of the younger princesses, visiting relatives abroad, finds herself caught up in someone else's twisted Cinderella story. Again, great characters and a great sense of humor (and adventure) in the writing. A-.

2012 book 331

Jessica Day George's Princess of the Midnight Ball
So here's the first book in George's Princess series, basically a straight-up version of the 12 Dancing Princesses (though the girls get to be /slightly/ more proactive than in the traditional version). Really enjoyable writing and characters, still. I love that the main guy--a soldier turned gardener--is so into knitting! B+.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

2012 book 330

Jessica Day George's Princess of the Silver Woods
This book is actually the third in a series, which I didn't know until after I finished it, so thought it was a stand-alone with a great premise--what happens to the Twelve Dancing Princesses when the fairy kingdom tries to steal them once again. And also there is a bandit band that dresses like wolves that accidentally kidnaps the youngest princess, and realizes that she has bigger problems. I really loved all the characters here and was totally caught up in their story (even though I was mildly annoyed at a couple of plot points they were slow to figure out). I actually liked this so much that I'm going to go back and read the first two books. Bonuses: knitting (the book includes patterns), girls with guns. A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on December 11th.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

2012 book 329

Tanya Huff's The Silvered
I think I've only read one book by Huff before, but that might have to change, because this one was pretty great. It's got complicated--but really fascinating--world-building, but basically a country of werewolves/wolf shapeshifters (only some aren't shapeshifters, some are Mages and can control different elements, I don't know) is at war with The Empire, a country all about science and determined to stamp out the abominations. And to that end, they kidnap five powerful lady-Mages for their own (creepy) purposes, leading one young wolf and a young lady-Mage who hasn't done super well at Mage School on a fantasy epic road trip (lots of fantasies involve epic road trips) to rescue them. We also get to know a few soldiers on the Empire's side who are tasked with dealing with all these Mage ladies. I really enjoyed the characters here and Huff keeps things moving along at a good clip. I believe this is the start of a series, but for once things do actually wrap up, which was SO SATISFYING. I think I'll give it an A just for having a proper ending! (And lots of badass ladies.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

2012 book 328

Cheryl Strayed's Wild
Last year my sister and I started a new annual tradition--Thanksgiving Sister Book Club, where we read a book before Thanksgiving and then go and talk about it over froyo (or whatever). I like to pick a book I wouldn't normally read, and Strayed's memoir about hiking the Pacific Coast Trail after the death of her mother and after a divorce is definitely on that list. But it had gotten some great reviews, and I liked her writing on Dear Sugar, so it seemed like a good choice. And  . . . it's a good book, I guess? Great writing, totally evoking the experience of hiking the trail when COMPLETELY UNPREPARED TO HIKE A TRAIL. I mean, this book is like Annie Dillard meets Stephen King, seriously. I honestly wanted to shake Strayed and be like "stop being a moron already" more than once. It's frustrating how stupid she was! I don't even know how to rate this, I mean it's a solid book, but I don't feel enlightened or inspired or even particularly glad I read it. B/B+?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

2012 book 327

Annabel Pitcher's My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece
Sooo this book is basically a huge bummer. It's about a ten-year-old boy whose older sister (one of a set of twins) was killed in a terrorist bombing in London, and now it's five years later, their mother has left them, their dad is a racist drunk, and his poor anorexic pink-haired sister is trying to keep everything together. And then he starts a new school and the only person nice to him is a Muslim girl, so things are obviously going to go badly. The characters are fine (I obviously loved pink-haired Jas, and Sunya was great as well) but the beats of the story feel pretty predictable. A reality show is shoe-horned in, and (spoilers) something terrible happens to his cat, which sucked to read. It does end on an up note but man was it depressing. B.

2012 book 326

Rhys Bowen's The Twelve Clues of Christmas
The latest Royal Spyness mystery finds Georgie at a country house for Christmas, where an extremely large number of accidental deaths in the village is starting to look suspicious. Plus her love interest and Noel Coward are there. You have to suspend a little bit of disbelief for everything to hold together, but this series is a lot of fun--the characters and setting are actually more interesting than the mysteries. A-.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

2012 book 325

Cate Tiernan's Eternally Yours
The third book in the Immortal Beloved series is more of the same--snarky, insecure immortal protagonist dealing with immortal stuff and trying to be good, not evil. I like that there is a romance here, but it's not the focal point--the learning and improving (and occasionally battling) is. I think this is the last book in the series--at least all the major plotlines have wrapped up--but I honestly would read more of them, because they're very entertaining. A-/B+.

Monday, November 12, 2012

2012 book 324

Jessica Warman's Beautiful Lies
This is kind of a YA thriller, I guess, set just outside Pittsburgh, involving two super special twins who have a super special twin connection, and when one vanishes, the other knows something terrible has happened to her--because suddenly she's getting injuries out of nowhere. Interesting concept and a quick read, but most of the characters aren't that well-developed (besides the protagonist) and Warman leans a little too heavily on the mystical stuff. But like I said, a quick and entertaining read. B.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

2012 book 323

Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton
I wanted to reread this--because it's been a few years since I last read it--so I convinced Lady Doctor book group to give it a go. I only hope they like it as much as I do (or at least not actively dislike it). This was one of my favorites of 2008 and I still love it.

2012 book 322

Mary Robinette Kowal's Glamour in Glass
The second book in this series is more action packed (and less straight-up Austen-y) than the first, as our protagonist and her husband take a belated honeymoon to Europe--just as Napoleon is about to return from exile. Most of the major plot twists were easy to see coming, but this was still a very enjoyable, light read. A-/B+.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

2012 book 321

Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey
This has been described as basically a Jane Austen novel with magic and . . . it's basically a Jane Austen novel, with magic. Nothing wrong with that! A-/B+.

Friday, November 09, 2012

2012 book 320

Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
This is the story of what happens when a retired man receives a letter from an old friend dying of cancer and decides that if he walks to visit her, he can save her. But it's a 500 mile walk. Really lovely writing and characterization--I can see why it's gotten so many stellar reviews, even if the plot summary seems a little weird. Harold and his wife are both fascinating and sad, and this is well worth reading. A/A-.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

2012 book 319

Juliet Marillier's Flame of Sevenwaters
The latest Sevenwaters book features yet another Sevenwaters daughter getting into crazy adventures, though she's really likable (if very annoyingly manipulated) and has a bunch of awesome animal friends. I was not as keen on this for a while--stuff that's obvious to the reader but that the characters are clueless about is frustrating--but I did really like the wrap-up. B+.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

2012 book 318

Laini Taylor's Days of Blood and Starlight
I can't really say anything about the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Blood without giving massive spoilers for the first book, so I'll just say that a) it was pretty great, b) it was at times very hard to read, c) I'm still not super interested in the main romance, and d) BUT this had a pretty crazy ending and I'm really looking forward to the 3rd book. A-.

Monday, November 05, 2012

2012 book 317

Jane Yolen's Briar Rose
After reading that Patricia Wrede book the other day and getting mad that this isn't available for Kindle, I dug out my old paperback copy. It's the first time I've read it in YEARS--since before this blog existed, maybe?--though I read it over and over in middle school and high school. Only Jane Yolen would take the assignment to write a new version of a fairy tale and turn it into a (fairly haunting) Holocaust story. I didn't remember much of the story going in (though it really all came rushing back) but I do think it still holds up.

2012 book 316

Sarah Jio's Blackberry Winter
This book was just terrible. It has a pretty good premise-- a reporter who lost her child in an accident is investigating the story of a little boy who disappeared in a snowstorm in 1933--but everything that happens is predictable and, honestly, stupid. It's like, she meets one old lady who's like, I have a friend whose dad was a lawyer, and OF COURSE he was the very lawyer she needed to track down and his 80 year old papers are conveniently still around. And her story is alternated with the missing boy's mother, which is an even worse bundle of cliches--poor girl meets kindly rich guy with an interfering family, blah blah. Plus all of the absolute ridiculous drama with her husband that could be solved with one conversation. I could rant about the awfulness of this book for a while longer, but don't want to waste any more time thinking about it. F.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

2012 book 315

Elizabeth Wilhide's Ashenden
So this novel is basically the history of a house (or even, the history of England as viewed through one of those big fancy houses) and its residents over two hundred years. The problem is that two hundred years of residents means a lot of characters--each chapter is basically its own vignette with its own characters, though some do recur.  Obviously, some parts are much stronger than others, and the more modern stuff is better than the historical stuff, in general. It's apparently kind of based on the story of a real house, which appeared in the Keira Knightly Pride and Prejudice. I'm not entirely sure what the point of it was, though. B.

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

Saturday, November 03, 2012

2012 book 314

Patricia Wrede's The Far West
The conclusion to Wrede's alternate-American-magical-historical series is perfectly fine--more adventuring, more magical discoveries, more learning, etc. I did get annoyed at all the fake names for everything after a while, but Eff is likable and I always like when romance in a YA book is on the back-burner and not the central plot. This isn't really my favorite series of Wrede's, though. I just didn't feel that invested in it. B.

Friday, November 02, 2012

2012 book 313

Tamara Ireland Stone's Time Between Us
This was a perfectly serviceable YA version of The Time Traveler's Wife (I actually hate to even say that, because mysterious boy's deal isn't confirmed till more than a third of the way through, but it's in the official descriptions, so . . . ). Actually, the writing was pretty good, the main character was decent, and I enjoyed it until the end, which I was really hoping would go somewhere else entirely. Because it was sooooo stupid! (I am, like, angry about the end.) Plus, there are hardly any details about the 90s besides occasional references to Pearl Jam (the guy time-travels from 2012 to 1995) and many questions are left unanswered. Actually basically every question is left unanswered. Like, the guy just decides to be a time traveler? How does that work? Can't you at least give him a weird gene like every other author? BUT if you like YA romance this might be for you. B/B-.

2012 book 312

J. Robert Lennon's Familiar
So the premise of this book is: a woman is driving home from visiting her son's grave, when suddenly everything changes--the car, her clothes, even her weight. And suddenly she's in a world where both of her sons are alive, and everything is different. Very well-written and compulsively readable, but I'm not entirely sure I understood it. I have to think about it more. A-/B+.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

2012 book 311

Patricia Wrede's Snow White and Rose Red
Entertaining retelling of the fairy tale set in Elizabethan England, where John Dee's magic sets events in motion. The characters aren't that well-developed but the story moves along quickly. This is part of that fairy-tale series Terri Windling edited, and seems to be the only one available for Kindle--a bummer, because I'd like to revisit Jane Yolen's Briar Rose (I read that over and over again in middle school/high school and have no idea if it holds up). B.