Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 book 156

Taylor Jenkins Reid's Maybe in Another Life
This novel basically has the same premise as the movie Sliding Doors, which is great, because I love books about alternate universes! Our protagonist is a woman in her late 20s who's returning to Los Angeles (where she grew up) after things turn sour in New York. On her first night back, her best friend takes her out, and her high school boyfriend shows up--does she leave with him, or go home with her friend? Each possibility plays out in mostly predictable ways, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. The writing is occasionally a bit awkward--lots of monologues, discussions of fate, lack of contractions, etc--but the friendship between the main character and her best friend is strong enough to keep things going for even this slightly prickly reader. Cute book all around, perfect for a lazy beach day. B/B+.

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 book 155

Mary Anna King's Bastards
King has been making the rounds of blogs I like to promote this memoir (cf this piece on The Toast), and though I don't read a lot of non-fiction, her writing and the description of this book were both pretty intriguing. King grew up in a poor and complicated family, where she was the second oldest of seven (the younger ones also all girls), and where her four youngest sisters were all given up for adoption, not knowing the older siblings existed. But King knew they would come looking eventually, and wanted to be ready for them. The writing here is just excellent--the story moves along really quickly, and I loved King's descriptions of the various reunions, even if a lot of questions go unanswered. But it's almost like everything else besides the siblings is extraneous--this works fine just as it is. Really tender and also, at times, really funny. A/A-.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

2015 book 154

Terry Pratchett's Nation
I really think this stand-alone YA book by Pratchett is his most underrated--I don't think I even saw one person mention it when he died, and that's such a shame, because it's GREAT (and works just as well for adult readers). It's set in a slightly different version of history, where a boy's entire island is washed away by a giant wave and he's the only survivor, and that same wave shipwrecks a little British girl (who wants to be a scientist! She is of the Tiffany Aching school of sensible heroines) on said island, and they sort of rebuild civilization. There is some really great stuff here with belief, and family, and history, and friendship, and knowledge. I feel like Pratchett handles the cultural stuff pretty well (setting it in a parallel world helps) and anyway, all these characters are just so great, and he keeps the story moving along. It's been a long time since I first read this, and I was so glad to still love it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 book 153

Rufi Thorpe's The Girls from Corona del Mar
So this is a story about a pair of friends over the years, from their younger years as teens in California--when one thinks of herself as the "bad one," and the other leads a seemingly charmed life, at least until tragedy comes her way--to their disparate, globe-trotting adulthoods. There's some interesting stuff here on motherhood, family, friendship, romance, and the goddess Inanna, but I wished for things to be fleshed out a little more. And as the book went out, I got kind of stressed out and had to put it down for a while. Both girls are occasionally assholes, which I guess is realistic, but makes for some cringe-worthy reading. I also wished for a little more from the ending, which was a tiny bit abrupt. Solid writing here, though, and good characterization. It just kind of bummed me out. B/B+.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015 book 152

Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer's The Mislaid Magician
I don't think my feelings have greatly changed from the last time I read this, so I'll just add on that it's all very charming and entertaining, etc, and I wish there were more books like these.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

2015 book 151

Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer's The Grand Tour
Look, it's the end of the fiscal year and libraries just aren't adding e-books right now, which means I'm revisiting ones I already own. The second book in the Cecelia and Kate series starts off a little bit slowly, as all the pieces are set into motion, but things pick up in the second half as both pairs of newlyweds have to work together to foil an international magical plot. I really like the characters and the world-building in this series, and it's been fun to reread. Looking forward to the third one. B+.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

2015 book 150

Robin Benway's Emmy and Oliver
Benway's latest (after The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June, along with some other books I haven't read) centers on teenage Emmy, whose best friend/next door neighbor was kidnapped by his father when they were seven--and now, ten years later, he's coming home. There are some good parts here--I liked Emmy's relationship with her friends, and with her father--but most of this book is suuuuuper cheesy. I mean, it's an engaging read? But it's all really . . . obvious. Emmy's whole characterization is that she has overprotective parents and she rebels by SURFING. It's mildly ridiculous? And seeing Oliver's experience and emotions through her eyes, instead of his, really lessens them. I'm sure this will be popular with actual teenagers but it didn't really do much for me. B.

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

Friday, June 19, 2015

2015 book 149

Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer's Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
I was in the mood to read something just straight-up charming, and it had been a long time since i read this one, and it was just great! A really well-done epistolary novel between two cousins in England in 1817--well, an England with magic, anyway. And it's up to the cousins to foil some evil magical schemes--and maybe fall for some eligible dudes in the process. CHARMING.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

2015 book 148

Michelle Cooper's The FitzOsbornes at War
The final book in the Montmoray series is a well-done look at England in wartime--the various ages/genders/classes of the characters make for a varied portrait, and Cooper portrays Sophie really growing up in a nuanced way. Are parts of this maybe unrealistic? Sure. Are parts heartbreaking? Yes.  Did I like how all the various romances ended up? Definitely (especially the surprising one that I would like to talk about at length but spoilers. Weirdly the second YA book I've read recently with such a resolution). High fives all around. A/A-.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

2015 book 147

Michelle Cooper's The FitzOsbornes in Exile
The second Montmoray book finds Sophie and her family in England in 1937 and 1938, and besides being generally delightful and charming, there are plenty of references to the Mitfords and the Kennedys (Kick Kennedy is actually a character and JFK appears a couple times too--DID YOU KNOW that Kick Kennedy and Pamela Mitford were sisters-in-law? I mean, a few years after the events of this novel). I freaking love Mitfords and Kennedys. ANYWAY. A lot of times with YA books, I feel like it's too modern POV/ahistorical for the upper class characters to be pro-Jew, anti-Nazi, etc, but these characters have plenty of reasons to hate Germany and be against appeasement, which is nice, I guess. UGH sorry, I am tired and only talked about the Mitfords when they aren't even really in it and there is so much good stuff here (secretly gay/bisexual boys! Fighting for justice for one's home! Ladies getting s--- done! etc). I also appreciate the lack of attention on romance (well, none of the main characters are really interested in it, despite their aunt's efforts to marry them all off) since there are way more important things going on. I totally want to start the final book right this second but I need to get to bed at a reasonable hour, alas. A/A-.

Monday, June 15, 2015

2015 book 146

Michelle Cooper's A Brief History of Montmoray
I heard about this book through one of Nancy Pearl's recommendations (comparisons to I Capture the Castle are pretty apt)--it's told through the journal of a 16 year old girl in 1936, who happens to be a member of the (fictional) royal family of the (fictional) Montmoray, a basically empty island between England and Spain. And of course, it's 1936, so a small island near Spain is not a suuuuuuper safe place to be. I really enjoyed the narrative voice here, and loved all the characters, particularly the relationship between the protagonist and her slightly older (history-obsessed) cousin Veronica, not to mention the adorable dog. There are two sequels and I'm definitely going to dive right in. A/A-.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

2015 book 145

Sarai Walker's Dietland
I finished this book a few hours ago and still have no idea what I think about it. I definitely found the first 2/3rd intriguing (you can see a description on Goodreads) but it was sort of anti-climactic after that. I'm not sure WHAT I wanted this book to be, but whatever it was, it didn't quite manage. Plum is an interesting protagonist, definitely sympathetic, but the Jennifer stuff didn't pan out in a way that I found meaningful, and the very end left me wanting more. B?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2015 book 144

Mary Balogh's Only a Promise
The latest book in Balogh's Survivor's Club series is more of the same--world-weary war vets falling for sassy/sprightly women (it looks like the next book features the sole woman in the club, which will be an interesting change of pace). I like these books despite their being fairly formulaic, mainly b/c I like Balogh's sassy women so well! The one here has been surrounded by gossip and scandal, none of it her fault, and has retreated to be a guest/companion to her mother's elderly godmother. And then said elderly Duchess' grandson comes to visit, and he's the only heir, and he's being pressured to marry, and the women overhears all this and proposes a marriage of convenience! I actually liked how much of this centered on their families, and of the two being supportive of one another as they dealt with their past traumas. Plus there were a bunch of appearances from Balogh's Bedwyns to round things out. Generally cute/entertaining. B+.

Monday, June 08, 2015

2015 book 143

Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road
I am just like, urgle burgle, I love Melina Marchetta's books so much! I wanted to reread this one for some cathartic crying, and also it's been a while and the details were hazy. It focuses on a teenage girl at a school in Australia, who's trying to untangle the mysteries of her past (with the help of a manuscript detailing events from a generation before) while also leading her school in annual territory wars against a troop of cadets and the local townie kids. Marchetta does troubled kids and romance and friendship and family sooooo well.

2015 book 142

William Ritter's Jackaby
First of all, I really resent that FYA keeps picking books by male authors when I'm trying to only read books by women. I also resent that this book was kind of dumb. The writing style is pseudo-old-fashioned, except when it's anachronistic (did they really say "stuff" in the 1890s?), and while there's plenty of plot and action, there isn't much character development, and most of the story is predictable. It's about a young runaway woman who's come to America and ends up working as an assistant to a paranormal Sherlock Holmes type (he sees creatures) to solve a murder. Things move along quickly, but I found the characters, especially the main girl (whose name I've already forgotten) to be pretty unbelievable. I also guessed the culprit REALLY early on, which lessened the suspense a lot. I mean, this was fine, just not particularly compelling. B.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

2015 book 141

Rebecca Stead's Goodbye Stranger
SHUT UP, I can stay up late reading beautiful books by Rebecca Stead if I want to! Because once I started, I just refused to put this one down. Stead focuses here on the friendships of girls--healthy ones, and unhealthy ones--along with issues like cyber-bullying, and first crushes/relationships. It's the story of Bridge, who survived a horrible accident several years before, and now that 7th grade is starting, she's taken to wearing a cat-ear headband. It's also the story of Bridge's two best friends--the three have vowed to "never fight," though a complicated school year might make that tough. This is all interspersed with one day in the life of a high school freshman--whose identity gradually becomes clear--who's playing hooky from school. Is this as earth-shattering (for me) as Stead's When You Reach Me? No, but it hits some of the same emotional high notes, and was just as satisfying. Highly, highly recommended. A.

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

Friday, June 05, 2015

2015 book 140

Rainbow Rowell's Attachments
I'm having a really crappy week at work, which meant I needed some really solid comfort reading. Thanks for this one, Rainbow Rowell. I just love this story--it shouldn't work, but somehow it does. And it's so easy to get caught up in it, and thus forget all my website-related woes.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

2015 book 139

Carrie Ryan's Daughter of Deep Silence
I was curious about Ryan's latest, after her zombie trilogy, since it was contemporary YA. It centers on a girl who has survived a brutal cruise ship attack--and the only other survivors are claiming that a wave sent the ship down, and not a bunch of dudes with guns. (Of course the other survivors are the hot boy she had a shipboard romance with, and his senator father.) Now it's four years later and she's been living under her shipboard friend's identity (it kind of makes sense in context?) and is determined to finally set the story straight--and take the Senator down. The writing here is amazingly overwrought, even by YA standards, and the story is fairly silly all around, despite its efforts at being a mystery/thriller. It honestly feels like a teen version of the tv show Revenge. But like, the later, dumber seasons. The romantic stuff just makes things worse (I actually said "gross" and "uch" out loud at various points). On the other hand, this is certainly summer popcorn reading, and it kept me engaged, even if I was rolling my eyes basically the whole time. I mean, I didn't like this at all, but it was still entertaining? Is this what hate-reading is? C.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

2015 book 138

Eva Ibbotson's Magic Flutes
So in this one, Ibbotson's guy is actually named Guy; he's a foundling raised by a washer-woman, but he's made something of himself and is now MEGA RICH. He decides to up and buy a castle in Austria for the girl he loved--and was rejected by!--when he was younger, who is clearly mainly interested in his money. Meanwhile, he has encountered a scrappy young girl who works backstage at an opera company, and unbeknownst to him, she is actually the princess of the castle he's bought. Everything works out as it must, though this one is a little more predictable than the other Ibbotson romances. I also didn't love the way the Jewish opera-company-owner was described in a bunch of scenes--it wasn't overtly anti-Semitic or anything, just off-putting. I mean, this is cute, but it's not my favorite of these. B.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

2015 book 137

Jessica Lawson's Nooks and Crannies
At first I couldn't get over how predictable this book was (I mean, if you've ever read any books before) and was a little disappointed, because I like middle-grade mysteries. Then Lawson through in a couple of twists I didn't see coming, and I could just enjoy this charming story--about a reclusive Countess who invites six children to her home for the weekend, to try and discover which is her heir! Our main character loves detective stories and is determined to solve the mystery--along with several other mysteries that crop up. There is also a super awesome pet mouse involved. The only kind of false note is that the parents of several of the children are EVEN WORSE than, like,  Roald Dahl parents, and since this isn't really a comedic story, it's a bit jarring. I loved the way this wrapped up though. B/B+.

2015 book 136

Sara Novic's Girl at War
This first novel from Novic centers on a ten-year-old girl in Zagreb at the start of the Croatian War for Independence, and it gets pretty dark, as you might imagine (she is briefly a child soldier). It also flashes forward to ten years later, when she's a college student in New York during 9/11, still unable to deal with her childhood traumas. The story flashes back and forth a bit more, fleshing out her story as she attempts to come to terms with the tragedies in her past. I will say, I was surprised when it ended, and was left wishing for more. Not that the ending shouldn't be up in the air--it's not like trauma /has/ an ending really--but I was really enjoying her journey and would have liked to see it go further. Still a solid read--Novic's language occasionally veers toward the melodramatic, but that's not really out of place. B+.

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

Monday, June 01, 2015

2015 book 135

Eva Ibbotson's The Star of Kazan
This is more of a middle-grade book than the other Ibbotson books I've been reading--it centers on a little girl who was abandoned in a church as a baby, and has been raised by the two maids who found her (and, to a lesser extent, by the three professor siblings they work for). She's perfectly content, but still imagines that one day her mother will find her--which is exactly what happens, though things don't go at all as she expects. It's all VERY predictable to a modern adult reader, and so it's a little frustrating to read, but there are still plenty of funny, touching, and surprisingly dark moments to balance things out. B/B+.