Saturday, November 30, 2013

2013 book 305

Louise Penny's A Rule Against Murder
Much to my relief, the fourth Inspector Gamache book doesn't take place in the small town of Three Pines (though a few of its denizens show up eventually)--I just can't believe that one town would have so many murders! Instead, the action is set at a remote resort where Gamache and his wife are celebrating their anniversary; a large, rich, horribly dysfunctional family is also vacationing there and one of them is MURDERED! It's one of the more unusual murders I've ever read, too. There's also a lot revealed about Gamache's past, to good effect. I liked this one a lot. A-.

2013 book 304

Louise Penny's The Cruelest Month
I liked the third Inspector Gamache series a little bit less, mainly b/c there's a fair bit of malicious lying and lots of double-crossing going on. The central mystery is interesting enough--who scared a woman to death, and why?--though I am starting to wonder how one small idyllic town can have so many murders! Is it like the flu and murder is contagious? The whole police force vs Gamache thing came to a head in this one, which was a relief, too. B.

Friday, November 29, 2013

2013 book 303

Louise Penny's A Fatal Grace
The second book in the Inspector Gamache series is even better than the first (despite the presence of the annoying rookie from the last book, who does not work for me as a character at all). I really like the small town of Three Pines and its motley assortment of denizens, as well as Gamache and his team. There's just a palpable feeling of niceness about most of it--I mean, besides the murder of an aspiring lifestyle guru. But she's awful, so it's ok? There's also an interesting through-line about faith that I found really compelling. Maybe there are a few too many coincidences, and an apparently ongoing police power struggle is introduced here and left unresolved, but that just makes me more eager to read the next one! A-.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

2013 book 302

Brigid Pasulka's The Sun and Other Stars
This book was beautiful. I say that as someone who knows next to nothing about soccer (and has even less interest in it), and as someone who has only the vaguest memories of Dante's Inferno from a college lit class. But somehow it's still just beautiful. It's the story of a young man, the son of a butcher in a small Italian village, whose brother died in an accident and whose mother committed suicide a year later. Then he meets a girl--the sister of a famous soccer player. Don't worry, this is not a book where a sad boy is rescued by a manic pixie dream girl--it is a book about a small town, and loss, and family, and friendship, and love. And soccer. Really well done. A.

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2013 book 301

Charles Finch's The September Society
The second Charles Lenox mystery finds Lenox investigating the mysterious disappearance of two Oxford students--which quickly turns out to be something more complicated. One plot point was obvious to the reader but annoyingly hard for Lenox to figure out, and the solution was honestly kind of silly. But the characters and setting were still enjoyable--I look forward to seeing Lenox train up an apprentice in subsequent books, and to more dinners with Thomas and Toto. B.

Monday, November 25, 2013

2013 book 300

Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret
For the past couple of years, my sister and I have had what we call Thanksgiving Sister Book Club, where we read a book we might not normally read and then chat about it over fro-yo (it's GREAT!). My sister had expressed some interest in reading this one, and though initially I was turned off by the title, the cover, and the premise, I realized Moriarty wrote a book I enjoyed and figured, what the heck. Butttttttt I really didn't like this book. It has three plotlines involving a bunch of intersecting characters--one involving the titular husband's secret, as revealed in a secret letter; another, involving a woman whose husband and cousin/best friend have fallen in love, and a third, involving a woman whose daughter was murdered almost 30 years earlier. But almost all the characters are somewhere between unbearable and reprehensible.  And I absolutely hated the end. The last line is soooo dumb. This book was written for the book groups that drink a lot of wine and shriek about crazy decisions made by the characters and their dysfunctional relationships. Which is fine, it's just not really my thing. C.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013 book 299

Charles Finch's A Beautiful Blue Death
This is a perfectly serviceable historical mystery involving a gentleman in Victorian London who is am amateur detective, mainly b/c he's good at it and finds it interesting. Sure, why not! Anyway, his dear friend, the young widow next door (who seems like she'll become a love interest eventually), asks him to investigate the murder of her former housemaid, who now works in a house with a series of suspicious characters. Good characters here, and I like that Finch refers to past cases--it helps flesh out the world a little. I think these books will help me nicely kill time till a new CS Harris book comes out. B+.

Friday, November 22, 2013

2013 book 298

Louise Penny's Still Life
I've been hearing a lot of good things about the Inspector Gamache series--the latest one has made a bunch of year-end lists--and this first one was better than I expected. It involves the murder of an elderly woman in a small Canadian town and Penny really kept me guessing the whole time. Really good pacing and characters, barring the extremely annoying and grating rookie trying to prove herself. Otherwise, very solid mystery and I'll definitely be reading more in this series. A-/B+.

2013 book 297

Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Goes to Washington
The second Kitty Norville book finds Kitty in DC to testify at some Senate hearings about paranormal research. There's also some followup on the weird cult from the first book that claims to cure paranormal people, some interesting new characters (including an actual psychic, a kindly vampire queen, and a hot were-jaguar), and the usually muddled motivations from the bad guys. But that's ok--these are quick and fun reads and don't really need to be analyzed that much. B/B+.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

2013 book 296

Carrie Vaughn's Kitty and the Midnight Hour
I really like what I've read of Vaughn's work--particularly After the Golden Age, which has a sequel coming out in January!!--so figured it was high time to check in with her long-running urban fantasy series, which seems to center on a werewolf with a late-night radio show. How did I wait so long to read it?! Anyway, it's not like exceptional or anything, and the bad guy's motivations are kind of all over the place, but it is really fun and I like the premise a lot. Plus, it's $1.99 for Kindle right now! B+.

2013 book 295

Kate Atkinson's Case Histories
Case Histories is one of those books that is always satisfying and always good, no matter how many times you read it. Even remembering all the details of the various cases, the way the story is structured makes it a great story. Not to mention Jackson Brodie and all the other characters. Remember what a revelation this book was when it came out? A literary mystery! And then Atkinson wrote three more! I am deeply grateful these books exist, because they always hit the spot.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

2013 book 294

Benedict and Nancy Freedman's Mrs Mike
I think my life is complete now that Mrs Mike is available for Kindle, b/c my old childhood copy is falling apart. I read this SO many times when I was a kid--it was one of the many books that my mom loved and gave me to read. I thought it was SO romantic (both in terms of romantic love and romanticizing the wilderness lifestyle), though it is really, really grim at times (it's also very funny at times). It's about 16 year old Kathy, an Irish Bostonian, who travels up to Canada in 1907 for her health and immediately meets and marries a hot Mountie. Then they go deep into the wilds of Canada to start a life. It's (in theory) based on a true story! But, because it was written in 1947, it's amazingly racist/paternalistic about the indigenous population. So that's kind of a downer. Apparently a couple of sequels were written in the early 2000s, and they look terrible, so I'll just keep rereading this one over and over. Way better than the Little House books.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 book 293

Joshilyn Jackson's Someone Else's Love Story
The author's note at the beginning of this book signs off with "Shalom, y'all" and so right away I was like, two thumbs up! Trying to summarize the plot won't do it justice or make it sound appealing, so I'll just say a few things--it involves a young single mother, Shandi, who was a virgin when she got pregnant, and a man who's doing a poor job of recovering from a tragedy, and the unlikely way they meet. But like the title says, it's someone else's love story. I really like Jackson's books, and this may actually be my favorite of hers--not just for the Jewish content (Shandi is from an interfaith marriage that didn't last). Really, really compelling reading, amazing characters, and it all wraps up in a satisfying way. I accidentally took a long lunch today because I was so caught up in the story. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book is available now.

2013 book 292

Annabel Pitcher's Ketchup Clouds
Pitcher's latest (after My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece) requires so much suspension of disbelief that I never really got past it. It's about a teenage girl in England involved in a love triangle with a pair of brothers--and look, teenage girls do a LOT of stupid things in the name of hormones, but I really can't believe that a girl who had an /amazing connection/ with one boy would keep hooking up with his brother once she realized who they were. Just, no. And also, this whole thing is told in letters to an American killer on death row (because apparently she killed one of the boys and got away with it), which, also, no. I mean, I like epistolary novels, but what teenage girl would spin her story in such a literary way--because you don't know which boy died. A teenage girl would not write letters in a way as to build suspense, right? It just kept throwing me out of things. It may have worked better as a diary kind of book. And then when the reveal finally comes, it's the most melodramatic reveal it could possibly be. Weirdly, the ending is then kind of nice, but in general, this book was not for me. I bet teenagers will eat it up though. B/B-.

Monday, November 18, 2013

2013 book 291

Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart
At Comic Book Book Club last month, the conversation turned to novels about superheroes (b/c dang, I love novels about superheroes) and one of the group members recommended this book to me. Of course, it's not really about superHEROES, but about superpowered individuals who have taken over--particularly one Steelheart, who rules over what I think is near-future Baltimore with an iron fist. Well, actually, more like a steel fist. Anyway--it's a superpowered dystopia! The protagonist is teenage David, whose father was killed by Steelheart a decade ago, and David's been planning his revenge ever since. He's determined to join up with a group of non-powered rebels to bring the powered villains down! I did like this a lot, but wish that David's crush on hot Megan (hotness is her main personality trait, unfortunately) had been a little more downplayed. Nothing is more annoying than a teenager pining over someone when he should be fighting bad guys with superpowers! Sanderson does bring a couple of interesting twists, though, and though there is a nice conclusion, there's room for a sequel that I'd definitely read. B+.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

2013 book 290

Natalie Standiford's How to Say Goodbye in Robot
I had to reread this for FYA book club (because all I remembered was the radio show)--NOT that I'm complaining, since I think I liked it even more the second time. Great, sad and beautiful, but maybe hopeful sort of story. And a nice change of pace from the dense historical book I spent all week reading. I almost wish Standiford would write a sequel, even though that would maybe ruin things?

2013 book 289

Nicola Griffith's Hild
I don't know what it is with long books--and this one isn't even that long!--but for some reason I find it hard to dedicate time to reading them, even when I enjoy them (as I did with this one). It takes place in the very early days of Christianity in England (or whatever England was then--lots of little warring kingdoms), and centers on the girl who grows up to be St Hilda. I have to say, I think this book might piss off people who take their saints seriously, for a VARIETY of reasons--but as someone who's never heard of St Hilda before this, I thought it was GREAT. I mean, aside from the fact that Hild is clearly in love with a guy who is clearly her half-brother. Otherwise, though, GREAT. Hild is a seer, and steered by her ambitious (read: Lady MacBeth-esque) mother, becomes indispensable to the king. There are lots and lots of political machinations--I think this might be a good pick for fans of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall series, and not just because of the historical English setting. I really liked the level of historical detail, too; Griffith clearly did her homework. This is a good book to hunker down with this winter and be grateful for our cushy modern lives. A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book is available now.

Monday, November 11, 2013

2013 book 288

Octavia Butler's Wild Seed
This is one of those books that deals with really important historical/cultural issues, but that I almost wish I hadn't read, because everything about it was very upsetting. It deals with two immortals--Doro, who steals other people's bodies to live, and who is obsessed with breeding (and controlling) humans with supernatural powers, and Anyanwu, who can change her shape and heal herself and others. A lot of the book is very very unsettling, and the end is kind of enraging. I hate trying to grade books that I recognize have literary merit but don't particularly like, and my default is usually a B.

Friday, November 08, 2013

2013 book 287

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
For the first time ever, reread a Harry Potter book felt kind of like a chore. Harry is just so annoying in this one--more so, even, b/c he's right about Draco and all that. But he's just so dumb about how he does everything. I guess this book gave shippers a lot of fodder (Harry is straight up obsessed!), though I don't see the Harry/Draco appeal myself. Rowling does do a good job of balancing teenage hormones with depressing stuff, at least.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

2013 book 286

Gail Carriger's Curtsies and Conspiracies
The second book in Carriger's prequel series, was, I think, a lot more fun and a lot more solid in general than the first one (which I still liked!). This one involves vampires doing weird experiments, more spy lessons, and a whole bunch of visiting boys. PLUS more characters from the Soulless series make an appearance (and, having recently reread those, Captain Niall suddenly has taken on new prominence). I like this series so much that I can even forgive that it takes place on a dirigible, which is by far the silliest place a girls' school could possibly be. A-.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

2013 book 285

Seanan McGuire's Velveteen vs The Multiverse
If there's one thing I like, it's novels about superheroes. And if there's another thing I like, it's parallel universes. And if there's a THIRD thing I like, it's books by Seanan McGuire. So I was all over this sequel to Velveteen vs The Junior Super-Patriots, which has more awesome superhero team-ups, angst, major actions scenes, and lots of GREAT lady-friendships. Very fun read and I really hope McGuire revisits this world. A/A-.

Monday, November 04, 2013

2013 book 284

Kerry Greenwood's Murder and Mendelssohn
The Phryne Fisher series is really one of my favorites. I loved this one, even though a great chunk of it involves a bunch of choir people talking about choir things--not really one of my interests. But everything else is so great that I didn't mind at all! Phryne and Detective Robinson are trying to figure out who killed a conductor; meanwhile, an old wartime lover and his new crush are in town and she's determined to do some matchmaking. The best part of this is that they are VERY clearly based on Sherlock Holmes and John Watson from the BBC Sherlock series. Does that make this fanfiction? It's an AU! Anyway, it's all fairly adorable, there are lots of other funny parts, it's pretty easy to guess the killer but everything is so entertaining that it doesn't even matter. Modern sensibilities transposed onto the 1920s really make for good reading. A-/B+.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

2013 book 283

Erin Bow's Sorrow's Knot
I really liked Bow's debut, Plain Kate, so was excited for her new one. And it mostly lived up to my expectations. The mythology of the world is too complicated to get into in a brief blog entry, so I'll just say that there's a girl, Otter, and her two best friends, Kestrel and Cricket (who are, refreshingly, themselves a couple, and there's no love triangle), living in a matriarchal society trying to keep themselves safe from malevolent ghost-things. Really great world-building, and I have no complaints about the characters or plot, aside from the fact that I found parts of the ghost stuff to be mildly confusing. Enjoyable read, for sure. B/B+.