Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 book 202

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
OK, so you all know I am a major HP fan, like I even like the epilogue and don't mind that everyone marries the person they started dating at like age 15. But I will forever give side-eye to the major Invisibility Cloak-related retconning here. And don't even get me started on Dumbledore. Even in death, Dumbledore gives rambling exposition-filled crybaby speeches. I would like him so much more if an editor had had a slightly heavier hand here! And Snape just can't be redeemed--fine, he (and Draco) aren't purely evil, but they are still both total jerkfaces. High five for awesome lady battle scenes though. And for a world so rich and full that it makes me wonder if they have like, wizard optometrists. (Where does Harry get new glasses from?? Can wizards just fix eyesight? Wand laser eye surgery?)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 book 201

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I think my feelings about this book are still a little bit colored by being so rudely spoiled before it came out, though I do appreciate how well Rowling matches up teenage hormonal drama with a big ol' exposition dump. It's all very gripping, despite a few moments of melodrama (I hate when Dumbledore gets all teary and cheesy). Sometimes I wish this series was told from Hermione's point of view--wouldn't that be hilarious, especially here?

Monday, December 26, 2016

2016 book 200

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Sometimes I like this book more than others--sometimes I can't deal with CAPS LOCK TEEN ANGST HARRY POTTER, and sometimes the message of resistance really resonates with me. This was . . . one of the latter times.  Plus, the introductions of Luna and Tonks, more screen time and badassery from Ginny and Neville, and a lovely poignant ending all combine for a very satisfying reading experience.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016 book 199

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I guess it shouldn't surprise us that Rowling started a mystery series after the Harry Potter books--this one in particular is structured JUST like a classic mystery novel, which I think is why it's so strong. But packed with lots more magical adventures, of course, which makes it even better!

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 book 198

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Remember when we were all waiting ages and ages for book 5 to come out, and had endless debates over which HP book was best? And I think a lot of us thought book 4 was "better" but that this one was our FAVORITE. It's where Rowling really starts to expand the wizarding world and its backstory, and also it is just awesomely action-packed (and Hermione gets to shine!). I admit that the werewolf revelation was never a shock to me--I took Latin in middle school, and we all had Latin names (I perpetually added on to mine, so by the end of 8th grade my Latin name was Claudia Olivia Lana Diana Saturnia Aventina Frumentumvir), and one of my good friends was [Latin version of her first name] with the middle name Lupa. And we used to draw little wolf faces on our notes. So if there was one word from Latin class I remembered, it was the word for wolf (and "Remus"--come on! be a little subtle!!). It doesn't matter, this book fits together so well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 book 197

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Closing out the year by rereading some Harry Potter seems like a fine idea to me. I actually plan to reread the series fairly often but then am like, eh, I don't wanna reread Chamber of Secrets, and then I just stop! Because I'm a completist, and because there's so much here that's important for the later books so I can't just skip it, but also there are so many annoying parts in this one. I mean, I reread the first one back in September and am just now getting to this one, AND it took me a few days to read. This book needs more Hermione!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Favorite stuff of 2016!

2016 was not a great year by any stretch of the imagination, but there were some bright spots.

I did read a lot of really good books this year, but not many that I flat-out LOVED. So first up, here are my top five favorite books of 2016--plus two more that will be released in early 2017! And then some other things I loved this year. :)

Top Five Fave Books (+2!)
-- Louise Erdrich's LaRose
-- Melina Marchetta's Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
-- Maggie Nelson's The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial
-- Emma Straub's Modern Lovers
-- Jacqueline Woodson's Another Brooklyn

Plus two:
-- Kayla Rae Whitaker's The Animators
-- Shannon Hale and Dean Hale's The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World

Top Five Fave Albums
-- Eric Bachmann, Self-titled
-- Beyonce, Lemonade
-- A Giant Dog, Pile
-- Lady Gaga, Joanne
-- Ladyhawke, Wild Things

Top Five Comics
(I am seriously behind on my comics to-read pile, so I am probably missing something awesome that came out in 2016--oh well!)
-- Ghosts (by Raina Telgemeier)
-- Lumberjanes (ongoing)
-- March (by John Lewis et al)
-- Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (ongoing)
--The Wicked and the Divine (ongoing)

And finally . . .

Number One Clothing Item Purchased
-- Sherpa cardigan from The Gap. So freaking cozy.

Oh, and also this. We all need comfort food to cuddle in these troubled times.

Monday, December 12, 2016

2016 book 196

Elle Katharine White's Heartstone
I don't know why I keep trying to read these reworkings of classic texts--I always get distracted comparing the new version to the original (and usually finding the former wanting) and can't get caught up in the story. When I heard that a Pride-and-Prejudice-with-dragons had made the LibraryReads list, I thought maybe this would be good--maybe it would be more Jo Walton and less Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But it is more in the mold of the latter--the characters are all themselves but with vaguely fantasy-ish names (Aliza and Leyda Bentaine instead of Elizabeth and Lydia Bennet, Darcy is Daired, etc), and the high-class people ride dragons and fight gryphons and whatnot. Maybe I would have liked this more if it used the source material somewhat subtly, but it sure didn't.  And White takes out all the funny parts! Things do pick up toward the end--but that's Austen's doing, not White's, who adds in a heap of dragon-battle-drama that I wasn't super interested in--though the Wickham-character stuff worked better in this than in some other versions I've read. Anyway, this is fine or whatever, but I'd recommend sticking to the original. B.

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

Friday, December 09, 2016

2016 book 195

L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle
Nicole Cliffe was tweeting about this book a couple months ago, so of course I immediately wanted to reread it--it's one of my childhood favorites--but Christina suggested we read it in our book club, so I held off. I am interested to see how our book club likes it--three of us are like serious stans for it, and the others are totally unfamiliar. One friend actually texted me recently to say "Valancy is a major downer, I am 20 percent in, should I keep going?" and I was like . . . yeah . . . but on this reread I see that Valancy doesn't get more awesome till right after that! So I hope she read on. Anyway, I have read this many many times and still love it--though I always wonder what made Valancy the L.M. Montgomery character I related to most, even when I was a kid. Like . . . hm. But anyway, I love this story and I love the little funny bits. It makes me want to go hang out in the woods in Canada and look at nature. Valancy 4-eva!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

2016 book 194

Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns
Blake's latest has a premise that feels like a lot of other books I've read recently (particularly Sarah Beth Durst's Queen of Blood): it's a fantasy world where the queen always gives birth to triplet daughters, each with a magical gift, and when they are sixteen, one becomes the new queen and kills her sisters. But when you are reading library e-books, sometimes you end up reading something you might not otherwise choose. Anyway, I found parts of this fairly gripping and parts super cheesy--I was entirely uninterested in the love triangle presented here, but liked the two underdog sisters and their friends pretty well. The end was mostly very frustrating, but I guess I am intrigued enough to read the followup when it comes out. B/B+.

2016 book 193

Jordan Stratford's The Case of the Missing Moonstone
I borrowed this first book in the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series (which features young Ada Lovelace and young Mary Shelley solving crimes together--an author's note does explain how this is historically inaccurate in every way, but sure) from a local almost-nine-year-old. She told me, "I solved the mystery pretty early on, so I bet you will too, but it's a good story anyway." Thank you for your confidence in my detective skills, local child! Anyway, she was right--the mystery is not at all hard to figure out, but this is a fairly enjoyable story--perhaps more for almost-nine-year-olds than thirtysomethings, though. Like as an adult, I thought it was creepy that Percy Shelley is the tutor of the girls here (Mary has been aged down, but he has not)--although their future marriage isn't mentioned, an adult obviously knows about it and can't help but be weirded out. I guess in the end (and because of the end!) I was more annoyed by the (many) historical inaccuracies than charmed by a pair of girl detectives. B.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

2016 book 192

Rachel Aaron's No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished
The third Heartstrikers book has more complicated dragon/family/magical politics, and then brings governmental politics in to boot. I think it suffers a little from having the two main characters largely apart for the majority of the book, though appreciated getting to see more from various lady dragons as a result (I enjoy all the dragon sibling relationships). This does also have a little more speechifying than I might usually want in a fantasy series (like, shut up and get on with the plot), but it's still good fun. And as usual, Aaron sticks the landing, leaving me eager to read the fourth one whenever it's released. B/B+.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

2016 book 191

Rachel Aaron's One Good Dragon Deserves Another
The second book in Aaron's Heartstrikers series (after Nice Dragons Finish Last) is more of the entertaining same: lots of dragon politics (and family politics), magic, action, adventure, etc. It felt a bit overstuffed at one point but Aaron does a good job tying all the threads together for a pretty great ending. I am looking forward to the third. B/B+.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

2016 book 190

E.K. Johnston's Spindle
Johnston's latest is a companion/sequel to her book A Thousand Nights, but it's just not as compelling as its predecessor. It's a Middle Eastern-tinged version of Sleeping Beauty set in the same world a couple hundred years later, focusing on the children of the spinners who were exiled when the princess was cursed by a demon. The characters are all interesting enough, but the plot is fairly weak--the story moves pretty slowly and not that much happens. It just didn't have the magic as the first one--and I kind of mean that both ways. B.

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

2016 book 189

Mindy McGinnis' The Female of the Species
This book is CRAZY, y'all, and I don't know what to say about it, really. My emotions really ran the gamut while reading it.  It centers on a teenage girl whose sister was brutally murdered, and when the murderer couldn't be convicted, she killed him herself as revenge. Because she has ANGER and FEELINGS. But the local teen boy who is great at everything is falling for her, and the preacher's daughter is becoming a friend, so she's slowly being drawn into the world (those two are also POV characters). First I thought all three kids were super cliched, then I found them really compelling, and then I sort of thought they were all a cliche again (the boy is particularly unbelievable as a character, but I loved the preacher's daughter). McGinnis sort of is saying some interesting things about rape culture here, while also having several characters go through various sexual assaults that are not fun or easy to read. I think I would have liked this more if the end didn't feel like a major cop-out? But also, I like the female solidarity? How did this get so many good reviews, this book is honestly kind of insane. B.

Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 book 188

Kayla Rae Whitaker's The Animators
Was I predisposed to love this book, or was it really just that mind-blowingly good? Either way, I for sure loved it. It's the story of two young women, best friends, both with troubled childhoods, and the partnership they create as they make indie animated movies. It tracks their ups and downs and it just is really beautifully written--I cared so much about both these women and their journey(s). It covers so many aspects of life--friendship and love, families of all kinds, womanhood and girlhood. Really, really great. A.

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2016 book 187

Shannon Hale and Dean Hale's The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World
I am being one hundred percent sincere when I say that this may be the best book I have ever read. It was completely adorable and hilarious--I was giggling out loud all evening--and it honestly restored my faith in humanity during a dark time. This Squirrel Girl origin novel--focusing on a 14 year old Doreen starting a new high school in New Jersey--totally channels the humor and personality of the comics and kicks it up a notch. Plus it is effortlessly diverse and effortlessly charming. I love all of Hale's writing, but Hale doing Squirrel Girl is a complete dream team. Seriously. GREAT. A.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016 book 186

Una LaMarche's You In Five Acts
I only feel a little bit bad admitting that I only wanted to read this because Lin-Manuel Miranda mentioned it on Twitter (apparently he and the author are friends from college) and thus it became this year's selection for Thanksgiving Sister Book Club. It was a pretty solid read--it's about five teens at a performing arts high school, told from each POV, leading up to some terrible act. The foreshadowing, especially early on, is way too heavy handed, and the nature of the act is not super hard to guess--but otherwise the writing is actually really good, and I found Joy in particular to be a compelling character. The end was a bit too cheesy/melodramatic for me but I can see how it would appeal to an actual teen. B/B+.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

2016 book 185

Zadie Smith's Swing Time
I've been reading this off and on for a couple of weeks now--unusual, because usually I read a book in as close to one sitting as possible, or give up on it.  I think it's that I really WANT to like this book--it's ZADIE SMITH--and some of the writing is really beautiful, but I don't really care that much about the plot or the characters. The story centers on a young biracial woman who, at the start of the book, seems to have been disgraced and fired from her job as a pop star's assistant--but it also flashes back to her childhood best friend and their relationship. The thing is, it's just not that compelling--I was WAY more interested in the protagonist's mother!--and things really bog down once the pop star decides to build a school in Africa. Like I think I can see what story Smith wants to tell here, it just doesn't come together for me. It is an interesting meditation on race and dance and friendship and human relationships, but it just felt like something important was missing to tie it all together. B/B+.

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

2016 book 184

Zoraida Cordova's Labyrinth Lost
So this started off super promisingly--a girl in Brooklyn, from a family of brujas, is about to come into her magical power, but she doesn't want it. I loved the way Cordova depicted the family and the magic here, and especially enjoyed seeing the three sisters interacting. Then of course things go wrong b/c the protagonist is dumb, and it quickly turns into a dangerous magical journey story (very later and lesser Rick Riordan). Like, just constant bickering and serious stupidity. It was so frustrating! I also just was not feeling the male love interest (the female love interest was super cute though). Oh well. B.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

2016 book 183

Jaclyn Moriarty's A Tangle of Gold
I don't know what it is about Jaclyn Moriarty, but her books are the ultimate comfort reads when times are tough. And the third Colors of Madeleine book is such a nice wrap up--lots more characters and action and intrigue and a little romance, but Moriarty weaves all the crazy story threads together and makes it work. I did wish for a little more from the sister relationship this go-round, or maybe it's just that I wanted more of the story because I loved these girls so much (and all the other characters too). And I also loved forgetting about the real world for a while and being so engaged with this one. Sigh.

2016 book 182

Jaclyn Moriarty's The Cracks in the Kingdom
Totally solid second outing in a trilogy--this one ramps up the intrigue and adds a little romance, and keeps things interesting and engaging, even if you've read it before. I love these characters and they are making me feel better today.

Friday, November 11, 2016

2016 book 181

Jaclyn Moriarty's A Corner of White
When the world is a terrible place, the only thing to do is to get caught up in an entirely different world--so I am rereading the Colors of Madeleine trilogy. And to this book's credit, I got so engrossed that I really did forget the world's terribleness while reading. I love this story--two teens in different worlds (one, our Cambridge, the other, a place with weird magical happenings) communicating through a crack between said worlds (located in a parking meter and a broken tv, respectively). Really compelling characters and great plotting, even on a reread. Plus the occasional really lovely turn of phrase. Moriarty is such a great writer!

Saturday, November 05, 2016

2016 book 180

Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity
I guess I've been a little more quiet on this blog than I usually am, but I've been going back and forth between two e-books and the audiobook of this all week--my heart just wasn't into the other two books, because I was so caught up in this story (as usual), so finally I decided to just switch to the e-book, which is so much faster! (Can I say, I love the syncing between audio and e-book feature--so useful!) Anyway, this is one of my top five books, amazing story of female friendship and also a major WWII adventure story, etc etc. I only sobbed like six times on this re-read! I am forcing yet another book club to read this and look forward to seeing what they all thought.

Monday, October 31, 2016

2016 book 179

Patricia MacLachlan's The Poet's Dog
Newbery winner (for Sarah, Plain and Tall, etc) Maclachlan's latest centers on a dog who has learned how to speak--but only poets and children can understand him--and what happens when he rescues two children from a snowstorm. Delightful and bittersweet. Teddy is one of the great dogs of literature. A/A-.

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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

2016 book 178

Rachel Hartman's Shadow Scale
The followup to Hartman's Seraphina is just as satisfying, but discussing the plot means spoiling the first one, so I won't! I believe Hartman is working on another duology set in this universe, and I can't wait to read it!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

2016 book 177

Rachel Hartman's Seraphina
For some reason I was in the mood to reread this--I have read it several times before and it never stops being GREAT. It's the story of a girl who is secretly half-dragon, and gets involved in some complicated court and dragon politics. The world-building here is really cool, but Hartman really excels in characterization. So good.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

2016 book 176

Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed
I've been dragging my feet on reading this one, a little bit, mainly b/c the other books I've read in this reimagining Shakespeare series have been kind of mediocre. But I needn't have worried--Atwood's take on The Tempest--a play within a play, set in a prison!--is totally engrossing. And honestly, educational! The Tempest is not a play I know super well, but I really learned a lot about it from reading these characters discussing the work. My main complaint is that Atwood leans way too heavily on the rap version of Shakespeare thing. For one thing, it's like the recent Lin-Manuel Miranda SNL sketch about the enthusiastic substitute teacher. For another, reading rap verses on a page will NEVER have the same effect as hearing them, and honestly, it didn't feel authentic at all. By the end I was pretty eye-rolly about it. But like, otherwise this was good? B+.
Content warning for a lot of discussion of rape threats in a Shakespeare play. 

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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

2016 book 175

Megan Shepherd's The Secret Horses of Briar Hill
Oh lord, this is a weepy. Like sheer ugly crying through the last bunch of chapters. But what did I expect from the story of a little girl living in a tuberculosis clinic in England during WWII--a little girl who sees winged horses in the mirrors, and becomes determined to save one who is injured. Beautifully written and illustrated, a magical story--but seriously, bawl city. A/A-.

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

2016 book 174

A.S. King's Still Life with Tornado
King's latest (after I Crawl Through It) finds her once again experimenting with surrealism, but in a much more low-key and relatable way. It centers on a teenage girl who has stopped going to school. stopped making art, and is in a fair amount of denial about recent events in her life--and about her family. I did find the narrative voice somewhat tiresome at first, but as things progressed, I got much more into her story, and by the end, I was pretty sucked in. Really interesting and compelling. B+.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

2016 book 173

Becky Chambers' A Closed and Common Orbit
The sequel to A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is more of the delightful same, focusing on two of the characters from the previous book--an AI with a lot to learn, and her techie friend. The AI's storyline is perfectly interesting (I particularly liked her fascination with tattoos), but it was the techie's backstory that I found really compelling. Still, I love the portrayal of friendship and discovery here--there may be all sorts of unusual aliens running around, but this is at its heart a story about family. I will definitely keep reading whatever Chambers writes. A-/B+.

Monday, October 17, 2016

2016 book 172

Ashley Weaver's A Most Novel Revenge
The third Amory Ames mystery finds Amory and her husband at a house party at the request of her cousin--and all the other guests are the very same guests who were there years ago when someone mysteriously died. And then one of them wrote a notorious novel about it, ruining the others' lives! So Amory is on the case--what DID happen that night, years ago? And will someone be murdered again?? I mean, duh. This was pretty fun, though not quite as engaging as the first two. I did like that Amory's marriage is on much more solid ground in this one--let's get some Nick and Nora action going with this series! B/B+.

Friday, October 14, 2016

2016 book 171

Erika Johansen's The Fate of the Tearling
Well, I will say, that was not what I was expecting--not that I was sure /what/ to expect, exactly. Johansen adds a slight horror element to her fantasy/scifi hybrid world with this one, which kind of just made things feel all over the place. I did like the continued investigations into the birth of their society, and how things fell apart, but there is . . .  a lot going on. Warning for more rapiness than in the previous books, or at least more evidence of a rapey society where people with power feel entitled to grope those who are powerless. (Johansen is prescient.) I actually did like the end quite a bit and cried a little, even as it left me feeling a little bit empty. I have Thoughts but don't want to be spoilery. Anyway, I will definitely read more by Johansen--she is one of the few writers I can just sink right into, and I love her book nerdery--but this was a B/B+ to me.

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

Thursday, October 13, 2016

2016 book 170

Erike Johansen's Invasion of the Tearling
The second Tearling book is a solid middle chapter--it advances the political intrigues from the first one, while doing more to explain the world and how it came to be (through the story of a battered wife in near-future Manhattan, content warning here). I mean, it's good enough that I just read it in one sitting EVEN THOUGH I HAD READ IT BEFORE.

2016 book 169

Erika Johansen's The Queen of the Tearling
The third Tearling book comes out next month, so I wanted to reread the first two so everything would be fresh in my mind. For some reason, though, I wasn't in a rush; this book is long and I was like, what if it's not even as good as I remember? BUT IT IS! It's just really compelling! I don't know that Johansen is doing anything particularly new with this first volume, but she tells a story really well. Content warning that although I would not say the /book/ is rapey, the /society in the book/ is rapey, so there are a fair number of mentions of rape. But it isn't described in detail or anything.

Monday, October 10, 2016

2016 book 168

Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale
Although this book isn't out for a few more months, I've started seeing a lot of buzz about it and was eager to read it. The publisher compares it to the works of Neil Gaiman and to Naomi Novik's Uprooted, but I thought it had more in common with Catherynne Valente's Deathless. Set in the far north of 14th Century Russia, the story centers on a girl with a mysterious heritage, on Russian folklore, and on the clash of Christianity and traditional beliefs. I did think the middle dragged on a bit too long--or maybe I just got tired of dreading all these terrible men and beasts plotting against and being "tempted" by a young girl (historically accurate, I guess!). I mean, the narrative tension is thick enough to cut with a knife. There are some pretty awesome horses and hearth spirits, at least! And good relatives.  Eventually things come to a head, though I did wish for a little bit more of the end. Really evocative writing and great atmosphere--I look forward to seeing what Arden does next. A-/B+.

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

2016 book 167

Eloise Jarvis McGraw's Greensleeves
Whenever I reread a book, I am always struck by which parts stuck with me, and which I didn't remember at all. In this case, I remembered a teenage girl going undercover as a beehived waitress to investigate the beneficiaries of an unusual will--and learning a lot about herself along the way. I vaguely remembered that there was a romance, but not the somewhat intense love triangle. (I actually recently recommended this to someone who wanted to read something gentle, without much romance--whoops.) Still, the focus is very much on this girl's coming of age story, and I once again enjoyed it very much.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

2016 book 166

Lauren Oliver's Replica
Much is being made of the format of Oliver's latest--it's the story of two girls, told in parallel, but I guess in print you literally flip it over to get the second story (and can read it in either order), whereas the Kindle version has links so you can flip back and forth between the stories*, or read all of one and then all of the other, or whatever you want! It's pretty cool, especially once the stories come together. I did worry a little bit that because the WAY the story is told was being so hyped, the story itself wouldn't be that great, but I should have had more faith in Lauren Oliver! Both girls here are super compelling--one, a replica raised in a research facility full of human clones; the other, a girl who's had all sorts of medical issues and is not-fondly called "Frankenstein" by the mean girls in her class. Things are moderately predictable, but I didn't mind--the characters are really engaging. But because this is YA, there is a lot of emphasis on romance which I could personally have done with less of, and because of the format, I got confused at the somewhat abrupt ending and thought I had missed a chapter. Instead I am left hoping for a sequel! B+.

*This did . . . not actually quite work. Like, I would read chapter 4 of Lyra, and then click to read chapter 4 of Gemma . . . where there was a link taking me back to chapter 4 of Lyra. So then I was trying to read TWO chapters of each at a time, but getting caught up in the story, and then having to remember where I left off in the other one . . . I love this idea but the technology is not quite there yet.

Friday, September 30, 2016

2016 book 165

Tessa Dare's Do You Want to Start a Scandal
I generally trust Tessa Dare to tell a smart, funny, and sexy story, and this was no different, even though it started off very abruptly. Like, build things up a little, girl! Let me get to know the characters before they're accidentally getting caught in a library (because the heroine is beyond-disbelief stupid) and everyone assumes they've been getting into trouble, so therefore they have to get engaged. Maybe since this book continues both Dare's Spindle Cove series and her new Castles Ever After series*, she assumes we remember this specific young woman and her Mrs Bennett-esque mother (at one point her mothers tells her to TALK LESS, SMILE MORE OMG hahaha), but like, that's every romance character (she's from this book, and from a novella I haven't read). At least the dude is both a wealthy marquess AND an undercover secret government agent with a DARK PAST (he's also the older brother from this book). I just kept wanting them to run away and solve crimes together. Instead, they have frequent floridly described makeout sessions. Hey, that works, too. The plot picks up eventually, but I did definitely want more from the female friendships. I liked the end a lot, though, This one is definitely on the sillier side, even for Dare. B+.

* Dare seems to have dropped the central conceit of this series, wherein a rich old man has left various castles to each of his goddaughters. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

2016 book 164

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Certain Dark Things
At first when I heard about this book, I was like, are vampires coming back into fashion? I don't wanna read a vampire book. But Moreno-Garcia has a lot of goodwill with me due to her first book, so I figured what the hey! Anyway, this centers on a street kid in Mexico City--a place where vampires are supposed to be banned, except the pretty girl he meets on the subway turns out to be a vampire, on the run from a vampire drug war. I really like the way Moreno-Garcia uses vampire folklore from different cultures and thought this was super compelling, though found the psychopathic vampire chasing the vampire girl to be pretty gross (I mean, I know that's the point, just like, giving you all a content warning). I thought the end was fitting but did wish it went on for just a bit longer--or maybe I just cared about the characters and wanted to know what would happen to them, after! In summary, if you are gonna read a vampire book, this one is a pretty solid choice. B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on October 25th.

Monday, September 26, 2016

2016 book 163

Maria Semple's Today Will Be Different
Semple's latest is in the same mold as her bestselling Where'd You Go, Bernadette, dealing as it does with frazzled motherhood and marriage in a complicated age, but it doesn't hold together quite as well for me. It has some really intriguing parts--I loved the parts about the protagonist's long-ago work as the art director of a cartoon show, and the reveal of her family background was very well done--but it is a bit scattered, and the end just felt very abrupt. Now, it is also highly readable and entertaining! Semple is super funny and I love the way she tells a story. This just kind of veered away from being compelling and then came to a screeching halt, sort of. B/B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on October 4th.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

2016 book 162

Sally Andrew's The Satanic Mechanic
The second Tannie Maria mystery is perhaps more interested in Maria's personal life than in the murder mystery part of things, but I had no major problem with that. As Maria's new romance is progressing, she's dealing with some serious PTSD from her abusive former husband. And meanwhile, a San man who's part of a group that's just won a big land claim trial is murdered right in front of her. I really like the characters here; even if her love interest isn't particularly interesting, everyone else is, and I especially like the people who write in to her advice column. I hope to see more in this series, for sure. Content warning for mentions of marital rape. A-.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2016 book 161

Sally Andrew's Recipes for Love and Murder
The first book in Andrew's Tannie Maria mystery series, about a middle-aged South African widow who writes a cooking/advice column for a local newspaper and who gets involved in a murder investigation when one of her correspondents is killed, somehow manages to be both serious/realistic, and super cute. Like several of the women, including the protagonist and the murder victim, are survivors of domestic violence, and Andrew doesn't shy away from the trauma of that--but also Tannie Maria is so sweet and Andrew tells such a heartwarming story (despite the murder) that I cried from cuteness more than once. I am so here for meddlesome middle aged ladies solving crimes (and maybe finding new romance). A-.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

2016 book 160

Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown
I keep thinking that I am just not in a reading mood lately, but it turns out I am totally in a reading mood if it means rereading one of my favorite books for book club! And this was just as good as the first time around--it just hits all my sweet spots--it's funny, a little romantic, focuses on underrepresented populations in history, and has MAGIC. It's the first in a trilogy and I cannot wait for the next one.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

2016 book 159

Paulette Jiles' News of the World
Jiles' latest centers on an old man in Texas just after the Civil War--normally he makes a living by traveling town to town, reading out newspapers from near and far, but now he's been tasked with returning a little girl, kidnapped by the Kiowa, to her relatives. I loved both these characters and their relationship, and the western atmosphere is really well done. There is a pretty sweet shootout scene, too. I did think some things wrapped up a bit too neatly--there was never a ton of narrative tension--but this was an enjoyable read. Content warning for someone attempting to buy the little girl for nefarious purposes. :( B+.

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

2016 book 158

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
When you're tired and cranky, Harry Potter is the only cure. I will say that my dislike of Dumbledore has grown so much in the last few years that even in this first one I kind of want to kick him in the shins. But hooray friendship and teamwork and bravery and whatnot.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

2016 book 157

Laure Eve's The Graces
This is one of those books with a plot that sounds like a cliche--a girl moves to a new town, where she becomes intrigued by a trio of mysterious, beautiful, popular siblings, and wants to be part of their inner circle. Yeah yeah, it's been done before. BUT these siblings are maybe witches? Which actually still sounds like a cliche, I guess. It's all super silly, lots of descriptions of flowing skirts and knee high boots and golden boys, but things eventually devolve into overwrought melodrama, and the main character is terminally stupid. I think I'm past the stage where I commiserate with teen girls who want to be part of the school ruling class. Like, get over yourself, get some magic powers, and get off the pot, you know? Learn a life lesson from The Craft. Find a hobby. (I think this is aiming for a Twilight-y audience: the main character is never described, not even her hair color until she gets a makeover, so impressionable young girls can better imagine themselves hanging out with magical beautiful teens.) I did kind of like the ending but this book is VERY ridiculous. B.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

2016 book 156

Kelly Barnhill's The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Barnhill's latest, after The Witch's Boy, among others, is a perfectly fine middle grade fantasy story about witches, stories, and families of all kinds, and magical girls. I think it's one that would work better for younger readers than thirtysomething me--I wanted it to be a little more subtle, I guess. I loved the Witch and the titular girl, plus their dragon and monster companions, but some of the other characters are a little underbaked. And I guess this is a really nice book with a good message for adopted children, but again. that just doesn't resonate with me. A sweet story, I just wish there was a little more to it. B/B+.

Monday, September 05, 2016

2016 book 155

Melina Marchetta's Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil
When one of my favorite YA authors writes her first novel for adults, you had better believe I am THERE for it. And it's Marchetta at her best--some parts made me cry, but ultimately it gave me hope. Which is saying a lot, since it centers on the bombing of a bus of teenagers, and on the father of one of the girls, who is attempting to investigate the crime--which might relate to a major bombing from thirteen years earlier. But it is also about family, and love, and friendship, and grief. These characters all feel so real and are so compelling--Marchetta excels at characters--but the mystery-ish plot works really well too. I had to force myself not to stay up all night reading it. I mean,  I guess you could argue that some parts were a little pat, but I don't WANT to argue that, I just want to keep feeling how this book made me feel.  A.

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

Saturday, September 03, 2016

2016 book 154

Affinity Konar's Mischling
This was one of those books that I found engrossing while I was reading, but was never in a hurry to pick back up. As the second half dragged a little, I realized I was primarily reading out of a feeling of obligation as a Jew. That's a weird way to feel while reading a novel. Anyway, it centers on a pair of twin sisters being experimented on by Dr. Mengele at Auschwitz; since I once wrote a high school term paper on said Angel of Death ( . . . why?), I didn't really find anything here surprising--just sad. The whole thing is just sad. And then the end feels a little rushed and also left me with some questions. The characters are really well done and Konar does a good job differentiating their narrative voices, and I found Stasha and her journey to be particularly compelling, but like, it IS a book about terrible Auschwitz experiments and the survivors of same. Not an easy read. B/B+.

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

Thursday, September 01, 2016

2016 book 153

Fiona Davis' The Dollhouse
I keep starting books and just not feeling them, which honestly was also the case with this one, but I was determined to just finish one and to break my curse! The writing here is just awkward as hell and both storylines are completely ridiculous and full of majorly unrealistic moments. In the present, a woman living in the Barbizon (everything about her is basically a terrible rom-com, so I'm not even gonna get started) becomes intrigued by the mystery of one of the long-term residents, and that woman's story--of arriving at the famed hotel in the 1950s to go to secretarial school, though eventually things turn tragic--is interspersed throughout. This book is basically about a bunch of sad-sacks with a super stereotypical Puerto Rican friend for good measure. I just thought this was so dull and cliched, though I did chuckle a little when someone threatens to go to Gawker with a scoop--how untimely this book's publication was. Content warning for attempted rape. B-/C+.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

2016 book 152

Patrice Kindl's Don't You Trust Me?
I'm partway into like three different books right now, but all were (metaphorically) tossed aside when I got the email that this one was available (thank goodness for pre-orders!). NEW PATRICE KINDL!!! Yeah! Suck it, other books. At first I was just generally bummed this wasn't the third book in her Keeping the Castle series (hilarious Austen-ish antics), but even though it is the polar opposite--it's about a teenage sociopath who assumes another girl's identity--it's still pretty great.  I really love how all of Kindl's books are so different from one another. This one is hilarious and TERRIBLE (in the sense of someone going "you are TERRIBLE!"). Well, and also it's about a terrible person. I liked it anyway. B+.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

2016 book 151

Brit Bennett's The Mothers
This is one of the big fall debut buzz books, and rightfully so--it's a beautifully written and powerful story of a small Black church community in California, and what happens when the pastor's son knocks up a congregant's daughter--whose mother has recently committed suicide. The titular Mothers are the elderly church ladies, who narrate parts of the story as a Greek chorus--those were my favorite sections. They fade out of the narrative a bit as the story goes on (and characters do frustratingly stupid things), so that I felt the first half was a bit stronger than the second half. I loved the end, though. And the writing here kind of grabs you by the throat and won't let go. Content warnings for mentions of rape and child abuse. A-.

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

2016 book 150

Mary E. Pearson's The Beauty of Darkness
Well, the third book in the Remnant Chronicles is here, and like the first two, it has a super stupid and generic title but is pretty good anyway. This one actually takes a while to get going--the first half has a lot of moments of character stupidity, boring political stuff, and leans too hard on the previously-resolved love triangle. Things pick up a little in the second half when a bunch of the (women) characters finally all come together and start getting things done, though it is still all very melodramatic, very predictable, and occasionally silly. Would I like the first two less if I read them now? Am I over these YA trilogies? B.
Content warning for rapiness and violence, and also a lot of annoying typos.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

2016 book 149

Anna Solomon's Leaving Lucy Pear
The story here starts when a well-off Jewish teenager finds herself pregnant in the early 1900s, and not wanting to send the baby to an orphanage, instead leaves her for a family who annually steal a bunch of pears from her uncle's orchard. OK, sure. And then the little girl's adoptive mother becomes said uncle's caretaker. And there are a bunch of other characters, and Solomon throws in all sorts of things about Sacco and Vanzetti, and labor movements, and the temperance movement, and secretly gay men, and anti-Semitism, and Freudian analysis, and and and. There is way too much going on here, the tension of waiting for everyone to find out about where the little girl is is unbearable, there are ridiculous coincidences galore, and a reveal at the end totally cheapens everything that came before (even if everything that came before was kind of a muddle). This is just all over the place. It wants to be the sort of books that wine moms talk about in book club, but it just never manages to come together. Content warning for mentions of rape and child abuse.  B-.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016 book 148

Juliet Marillier's Den of Wolves
I really love Marillier's Blackthorn and Grim series, and so was very excited to see this third volume, where our duo has to solve another magical mystery (this one involving a mysterious house and a girl who speaks to trees) while still recovering from their past traumas. I love their relationship and the very slow building romance--I really feel how much these characters care about and depend on each other. My main problem with this book is that the author doesn't seem to know if her publisher wants any more in the series, and so has to wrap things up--and the ending of the over-arching plot felt rushed, to me. I mean, maybe that's just me, but like if you're under a fairy curse, you have to fulfill the terms of the curse! That is how fairy tales WORK. OK, but aside from the rushed ending, this was really great. I do hope there will be more of these characters and this world. A/A-.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2016 book 147

N.K. Jemisin's The Obelisk Gate
So this is a super compelling and interesting followup to The Fifth Season, but I felt it did suffer from middle chapter syndrome a little bit. All sorts of exciting stuff happens, but it's all building to . . . something in another book. Totally engrossing, though. A/A-.

Monday, August 15, 2016

2016 book 146

Brigid Pasulka's The Sun and Other Stars
I reread this for book club--and I don't think my feelings have changed much since the first time! Though this time, I was slightly amazed that I love a book that talks about soccer SO MUCH. ;)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

2016 book 145

Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad
Whitehead's latest--after Zone One, among others--centers on a young slave in Georgia fighting for her freedom with the help of the Underground Railroad--here, a literal railroad that has been built in tunnels underground. This is so much more than a slightly alternate history, though--it's really a trenchant comment on the issues facing our society today (perhaps why Oprah made it a book club pick and it came out over a month earlier than it was supposed to). I did think the first half was a lot stronger than the second, mainly plot-wise--the writing and characterization are both really strong throughout. I think this is going to be called an "important" work, but don't let that scare you away--it's definitely very readable. A-.

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

Thursday, August 11, 2016

2016 book 144

Jacqueline Woodson's Another Brooklyn
This book is a perfect counterpart to Emma Cline's The Girls, and if you have read and enjoyed that one, I urge you to read this one too. It's also set in the 1970s and also deals with girlhood and girls coming of age, but it's set in gritty 1970s Brooklyn and focuses on a group of young black girls. Parts of this are hard to read, but the matter of fact narrative voice, the atmosphere, and the frankly dazzling writing balance that out. There is so much to delve into here in terms of class, race, and gender--I think this is Woodson's first novel for adults (she's an award-winning YA writer) and it packs a wallop. It's beautiful and sad and GREAT. A.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

2016 book 143

Jaclyn Moriarty's The Year of Secret Assignments
I think one of the reasons I like this book so much--besides that it's such a lovely portrait of friendship and grief and also funny as heck--is that it eventually takes on, like, elements of a mystery and/or a revenge story! You are just rooting for these kids to succeed and/or make out. Preferably both.

Monday, August 08, 2016

2016 book 142

Jaclyn Moriarty's Feeling Sorry for Celia
As usual, when I am feeling down and can't seem to get into any of the books I try to start, the Ashbury/Brookfield books are completely satisfying and wonderful. I don't know why these books soothe my soul but I find them so enjoyable, funny, and kind-spirited. I love the two girls at the heart of this book, the letters they write each other, and their growing friendship. It's all just NICE.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

2016 book 141

D.E. Stevenson's The Two Mrs Abbotts
I didn't like this one as much as the others in the series--for one thing, it doesn't have enough of the titular two Mrs Abbotts, busy being focused on various other romances and other goings-on instead. It was just a little too much all over the place--one romance is never resolved, there's a random chapter with one character at war in Egypt and then we never see him again, etc. It just feels unfinished. I was also not into the classism and the weird phrenology references. I did like the parts that focused on a woman who writes romance novels, but otherwise this was sort of a dud. B.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

2016 book 140

D.E. Stevenson's Miss Buncle Married
This was just the mix of comforting and funny that I needed this week. Can't wait to see what Miss Buncle gets up to next!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

2016 book 139

Nadja Spiegelman's I'm Supposed to Protect You From All This
With this outstanding work, Spiegelman--daughter of Art Spiegelman--enters the family business of writing about family. But instead of rehashing the stories told by her father, she's focused on her mother, and her mother's family, and in fact four generations of complicated mother-daughter relationships. There is so much good stuff here, particularly on the nature of memory, and the writing itself is beautiful and evocative. I did wish she didn't go quite so easy on her grandmother toward the end, but I suppose I can see why. This made me very thoughtful about the way we tell our stories and writer, and rewrite, our own histories. Very engaging. Content warning for mentions of sexual violence and emotional abuse. A/A-.

Monday, August 01, 2016

2016 book 138

Delia Sherman's The Evil Wizard Smallbone
Sherman's latest, after The Freedom Maze, had a very Diana Wynne Jones vibe to me. It centers on a boy running away from an abusive uncle, only to find himself on the doorstep of an evil wizard--who promptly makes the boy his unwilling apprentice. There is also a pretty cool science-minded local girl, part of the mysterious community, AND a magical bookstore! My main beef with this book was that I had a really hard time sympathizing with the main character b/c he's occasionally a real little jerkwad and is not always nice to the many awesome animal friends. I mean, I also hate when dogs jump on me, but I don't KICK them when they do it. Otherwise, it's a fun and action-packed fantasy story with a good sense of humor. I just don't get why random acts of animal cruelty are part of it. B/B+.

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

2016 book 137

D.E. Stevenson's Miss Buncle's Book
I basically cackled while reading most of this book--it's about a woman who is in somewhat dire financial straits (I think it is set in the early 1930s) so she has written a novel to try and make some money--but seeing as she has little imagination, she just wrote about all her neighbors and their lives, barely even disguising their names--though she is smart enough to use John Smith as a nom de plume! And the town is not happy with their portrayals. And it is hilarious and charming. This is the third book I've read by Stevenson and all three have been absolutely delightful. A-.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

2016 book 136

J.K. Rowling et al's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
I probably haven't read a play since college, so I wasn't sure how this was going to go, but it's a quick and enjoyable read (even if some of the stage directions are too novelistic, like, "his face turns white"--how is an actor going to do THAT?). I mean, I am primed to love any and all Harry Potter related content, so found this satisfying--there's some good Hermione stuff, some lame Dumbledore stuff, a lot of heteronormativity, but also a lot of moments that made me cry and/or cheer. It's fairly predictable but that's ok. I don't know that I am eager to see this on stage (it's no Hamilton), but I am glad this content exists and that I read it.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

2016 book 135

Amy Stewart's Lady Cop Makes Trouble
The sequel to Stewart's Girl Waits With Gun is more of the same, though I was definitely way more interested in the characters than the story this time around. When things start off protagonist Constance is now a deputy, but not really officially--and when a prisoner escapes on her watch, things aren't looking great for her new career. She's determined to catch him and prove herself. That part isn't as interesting as her making some career women friends (including a reporter!) and trying to figure out how to help a new prisoner who cheerfully confesses to shooting someone. I appreciate the feminist perspective here, but I guess I just wish this was slightly more /exciting/? I mean, it is all based on a true story, which limits the excitement, I guess! Anyway, it is well written and I enjoy Constance very much. And I LOVE the cover. B+.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2016 book 134

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's June
The plot synopsis of this novel made me look past that I was pretty meh on Beverly-Whittemore's last one, but I was pretty meh on this one too. It centers on a young woman, depressed, living in the bordering-on-derelict house that belonged to the grandmother who raised her, when a man shows up telling her she's inherited 37 million dollars from a movie star who might have had an affair with said grandmother--and his daughters are determined to prove he didn't. This is all interspersed with flashbacks to the summer before her grandmother's marriage, when a movie was being filmed in town, and there's a little neighbor girl (apparently in love with the grandmother? possibly genderqueer?) working on the set. Oh, and the house is sentient? Things vary between being implausible/being draggy, particularly in the modern chapters ("instead of doing a DNA test, let's INVESTIGATE!") and being melodramatic, though I did enjoy the parts involving the movie set. I mean, this was fine, just not really my thing. B.

Monday, July 25, 2016

2016 book 133

Tracy Barone's Happy Family
This starts off really interestingly--it's the early 60s and a young girl gives birth, then immediately flees the hospital--and her baby is taken in by the family of a young orderly on staff before being adopted by a childless couple. I was really interested in those three stories--the two families and the girl--but then things skip ahead 40 years to the now-adult Cheri, a struggling academic in the year 2002, stuck in a marriage with a washed-up documentarian (so then there were two things that annoyed me on top of wanting to know about all the other characters: she works on the Ancient Near East, a field I know WAY too much about to enjoy reading about for fun, and plus there are all these really artificial political conversations that scream "HEY! It's 2002!!!"). Cheri also, somehow, used to be a police officer, and that comes up as well (you would think between the ANE and the cop stuff, I would really relate to this character, but I found her annoyingly wishy-washy). And I'm not even going to get started on the black housekeeper character. I really wanted to like this, but I didn't care about most of the characters, found the dialogue to be really unbelievable, and thought the whole thing was kind of a slog, until the mildly silly ending. SIGH. B/B-.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

2016 book 132

Gail Carriger's Imprudence
As much as I enjoy this world and these characters, I felt just a little bit impatient with this followup to Garriger's Prudence. Once again, I wasn't feeling the romance--which played a much bigger part here than in the first one--and there wasn't much to speak of, plot-wise (attacks for a reason that is not revealed in a timely manner, secrets for no reason, the inevitable journey on a dirigible, etc). At least the mild Orientalism is balanced out by a character who calls out imperialism? And Alexia is in fine form, and I liked the budding romance between two ladies. But otherwise I was kind of eh about this? B.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

2016 book 131

Laura Thompson's The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters
OOOHHHH y'all it is a new bio of the Mitford Sisters--the first since the last sister, Deborah, passed away in 2014, so I was hoping it would be more no-holds-barred than some of the others. Thompson takes her task seriously, though--I mean, of course there is plenty of gossip here, but there are also extensive footnotes and literary analysis. ANYWAY: MITFORDS!!! [If you are sort of going "who?" right now, read this right away! The Mitfords were the daughters of an English Lord and they all came of age in the 1930s and Nancy was a novelist and Jessica was a Communist and Debo became a Duchess and was sisters-in-law with Kick Kennedy and Diana was married to the head Fascist in England and Unity hung out with HITLER. And the sixth, Pam, was like, I'm living on a farm, peace out.]

Thompson focuses primarily on Nancy and Diana--her thesis seems to be that their relationship and personalities dominated and shaped the other sisters--but is less nakedly sympathetic to Diana than Mary Lovell was, while clearly finding her fascinating (Thompson, to my relief, talks about what a freaking bigot Oswald Mosley was and doesn't attempt to make excuses for Diana). I also loved how much attention was paid to Nancy's life and works (if I had to guess, I would say that Thompson liked Debo and Nancy best). As usual, there is little about Pam (surely there is more information on her apparently late-in-life lesbianism) and not too much more about Unity, and some fairly critical remarks on Jessica (perhaps fairly), but of course I completely devoured this! I also appreciated that Thompson tries to come at things from a psychological and feminist point of view, to varying degrees of success, in my opinion. Her discussions of the Mitfords' mother and her relationships with her daughters was spot on, though. Oh, MITFORDS. You really did exemplify an era.  (Thompson also does a good job of explaining why me, and endless other people, being excited about MITFORDS! is a thing.) RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS. A/A-.

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

Monday, July 18, 2016

2016 book 130

Alissa Johnson's A Gift for Guile
The second book in Johnson's Thief-Takers series, after A Talent for Trickery, is more of the historical-romance-cum-mystery same, focusing on the younger sister and friend/co-worker of the couple from the first book (as predicted). This one didn't work quite as well for me--the pacing was a little bit off (it dragged at times) and there are like, weird interludes where they play badminton. Sure, whatever. I just wasn't super invested in either the romance or their macguffin quest. I did like that the couple makes an effort to clearly communicate, which is a nice change of pace, but it all eventually descends into the usual melodrama. I did like how things wrapped up and will maybe check out more in this series (if any are forthcoming), but am just feeling kind of meh about it. B.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

2016 book 129

Jean Hegland's Into the Forest
I guess this is now a movie starring Ellen Page, which is how I first heard about it, but you'd think this book would have been on my radar before: it's about a pair of teen sisters living deep in the woods in a cabin, alone, after society has sort of fallen apart. I love those realistic post-apocalyptic books! This one didn't quite work for me--mainly b/c the narrative voice just never rings true. It's ostensibly narrated by a seventeen year old girl, and even though she dreams of going to Harvard, there is just nothing realistic about it! I don't mean thematically, I mean it sounds like a literary adult writing it. It just threw me out every time. Even a pretentious teen would not write that way. Still, parts of this are very well-done--particularly everything with their father, and with plants--but the improbable event that occurs halfway through just bugged me and it was sort of all downhill from there. Content warning for rape and other stuff. C.

I just went to rate this on Goodreads and I'VE READ IT BEFORE. I completely blocked it out! Please ignore the first sentence of my review.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

2016 book 128

Mara Wilson's Where Am I Now
Wilson--best known for her work a child actress and (at least to me) a popular Twitter account--has written a nice little memoir/essay collection about her time working in movies, her mother's death, her family, her teenage and college years, and how she's now started to really find herself. Parts of this made me cry and parts made me laugh out loud, though a couple parts made me think like, why is someone still in her 20s acting like a wise ol' owl. Like, she is not far enough removed from like, toxic friendships to reflect on those, maybe. BUT most of this is really well-written and entertaining and uplifting and stuff. I like her narrative voice a lot. B+.

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

Monday, July 11, 2016

2016 book 127

Genevieve Valentine's The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
This was one of my favorite books of 2014, and I was glad to see that for the most part, it held up. It's a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale--but it doesn't have anything fantastical about it. It's set in New York in the 1920s, and centers on the twelve daughters of a cold businessman who are basically being held prisoner--but they sneak out to dance at a speakeasy almost every night, for a taste of freedom. Can't wait to discuss this one with my book group.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

2016 book 126

Sarah Domet's The Guineveres
This is one of the fall releases I was most looking forward to reading--it's about four girls growing up in a convent home, all left there by their families, but brought together by the one thing they have in common--all four are named Guinevere. They long to escape their dull days and return to the world--but everything changes when several comatose soldiers are brought to the convent to recover from The War (WWII maybe? It's not made explicit). The story is narrated by one of the girls, looking back on her youth, and occasionally dispensing information about the girls' futures, interspersed with stories about various female saints, and I liked it very much until the ending, which I found relatively disappointing from both a character and a storytelling perspective. I think it is meant to be bittersweet, but I found it fairly depressing, and it also left me with a few unanswered questions--and just a general sense of dissatisfaction. B/B+.

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

Friday, July 08, 2016

2016 book 125

Michael Chabon's Moonglow
The conceit of this novel is that, just before he died, Chabon's grandfather, tongue loosened by medication, told him all sorts of stories about his life (particularly his service in WWII). The story is imbued with so many details from Chabon's actual life--or maybe they are just details that FEEL like they're part of his actual life--that it creates a really interesting tension between fiction and memoir. I found the character of the grandfather quite compelling, especially as he ages, but being me, was way more interested in the grandmother, and, particularly, the narrator's mother. And I loved how Jewish it was--of course this aspect especially reminded me so much of my own life and my family, though our stories are mooooostly less dramatic/novelistic. But there are references to so many places I have been, and the narrative voice strikes just the right tone, that I almost felt like I was in conversation with the narrator. Anyway, I liked this very much, even if I did wish for more ladies. A/A-.

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

Thursday, July 07, 2016

2016 book 124

Sarah Beth Durst's The Queen of Blood
Here's the thing: this book is the start of a series that has the potential to be really good and/or interesting, but this first volume is SO formulaic that I'm honestly not sure! The world-building is cool--lands are controlled by a queen who has power over spirits who otherwise would destroy humans, and girls with the affinity to control spirits are trained as heirs. Our protagonist is from a village that was completely decimated, and she goes through the usual training/trials, etc, to try and prove herself worthy of being an heir. And there's also a whole thing with an exiled champion/former lover of the queen's. I mean, the writing is fine and the characters are great, but the plot is like cliche-o-rama, so majorly predictable. I liked that sex was treated matter-of-factly (and happened off-screen) and am intrigued by the whole sort-of-matriarchal society, and if the next book focuses on the political stuff, I might read it, but this is like . . . just a good example of the usual Hunger-Games-y fantasy book that I have read a million times lately. B.

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

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

2016 book 123

Kate Saunders' The Secrets of Wishtide
My new favorite genre is sensible middle-aged ladies solving crimes and getting things done, and this is an outstanding example! Set in Victorian England (and a little bit inspired by Dickens), it centers on a widow whose lawyer brother occasionally enlists her help with his cases, and this one seems simple at first--she's been hired by a wealthy man to investigate the past of the woman his son and heir hopes to marry. But things quickly become more complicated (though are a teensy bit predictable) and it's up to Mrs. Rodd to save the day! I liked this a lot--great characters, great atmosphere, great narrative voice, great stuff with family and female friendships. A/A-.

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

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

2016 book 122

Peter S. Beagle's Summerlong
It's hard for me not have giant expectations going into a new Peter S. Beagle book--The Last Unicorn is one of my top five favorite books, and I've enjoyed all the other ones I've read by him. And this was enjoyable enough, though on the seriously bittersweet side, for me. It centers on a middle-aged couple (and her lesbian daughter) and what happens when an entrancing new waitress comes to town (town being an island off Seattle). Magic and mystery ensue, but I found the ending mildly dissatisfying. Was it too realistic? Was it that this book felt a bit like Beagle calling it a day? Is that all just an extrapolation from the recent lawsuits and concerns about his mental state? Was it just that no book can ever be The Last Unicorn? I mean, nothing about this was bad and parts of it were very good, it just wasn't as magical as I wanted it to be. B/B+.

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

Monday, July 04, 2016

2016 book 121

Caroline Leavitt's Cruel Beautiful World
Weirdly, this is the third book I've read recently with references to the Manson Family--this is truly the summer of Manson and looking back on the turbulent 60s, I guess! Of course, it's not a main focus here--the story here is about a woman and her two adopted daughters (relatives taken in after their parents died) and what happens when the younger runs off with one of her high school teachers in the late 60s. Parts of this are majorly heartbreaking, and parts didn't work as well for me, but I was very into the story of the adoptive mother and would have been happy to read a book just about her. Really good stuff on family, and grieving, and finding love again here. B/B+.

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

2016 book 120

Sarah Kuhn's Heroine Complex
If you like your urban fantasy superhero-flavored, then this is the book for you! It's pretty cute and effortlessly diverse, focusing on the personal assistant (and best friend) of San Francisco's premier superheroine--but the assistant has some secrets of her own, and some issues come to a head when she's forced to impersonate her boss. Like a lot of urban fantasy, this is fairly predictable, with amazingly cliched romantic scenes and some underbaked characters (the protagonist's little sister in particular), but it was pretty cute and managed to throw in a couple of surprises. I just wished it had slightly more depth. B.

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

Sunday, July 03, 2016

2016 book 119

Tana French's The Trespasser
AHHHHHH new Tana French!!! So intense and crazy!! This latest in her Dublin Murder Squad series focuses on rookie Antoinette and her partner, working the homicide of a pretty young woman, but maybe it's more than the usual domestic? I was sure I had figured it out very early on and so spent the entire book reading in an even more heightened state of tension, wondering if I was right, and then alternately being annoyed that neither detective was picking up the obvious. But I appreciated French's look at being the only woman on a police unit like that, and really sympathized with Antoinette. And I definitely thought French stuck the landing. I seriously could not put this down to go to bed, so it's the usual engrossing stuff--it just wasn't the strongest in this series, to me. B+.

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

2016 book 118

Mary Robinette Kowal's Ghost Talkers
Kowal's latest is a departure from the world of her Glamourist Histories, but still a compelling read. It focuses on a young woman during WWI, part of a special group of the British Army--they're mediums, and dead soldiers report to them to get up-to-the-minute intel. But soon it becomes clear that a traitor is in their midst, and is targeting said Spirit Corps. I think the concept here was great, and was definitely emotionally invested in the characters--I cried more than once--and I think Kowal does a good job with the hardships of war. The sort of mystery element--tracking down the spy--was not as effective for me, and I definitely wished the heroine was threatened with rape fewer (or no) times. It seems like this is the start to a series, and I'm intrigued enough by where things ended that I would probably read another one. B/B+.

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

Saturday, July 02, 2016

2016 book 117

Ann Patchett's Commonwealth
New Ann Patchett is ALWAYS a treat, and this one felt somehow unexpected. It's sort of domestic in sphere but feels far ranging, focusing on two complicated families--or rather, families that become complicated when one husband marries the other wife and their children become step-siblings, having effects ranging far into the future. Not that any plot is the point here--I felt like the point here was really the characters, and how they grow, and change--or don't change. Just really engrossing and interesting. I feel like I'm talking around things, but I'm not sure how to describe it, except to say that I liked it VERY much. A/A-.

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

Friday, July 01, 2016

2016 book 116

Darcie Wilde's A Useful Woman
Hooray for a historical mystery set in Regency England! All my Jane Austen and romance reading prepared me to like this quite a bit, and the story mostly lived up to my high expectations. It centers on a woman whose father ran off after some major financial problems, and now she survives by helping gentlewomen with party planning and other useful things. But! An acquaintance is found dead at Almack's! And his sister asks her to investigate! And his sister is engaged to the man SHE hoped to marry! Also there is a Bow Street Runner on the case! The solution was pretty predictable and I wasn't super interested in the love triangle being set up for future books, but I found the main character to be interesting and liked seeing all the relationships between the women, as well as their class tension. I would definitely read another one in this series. B/B+.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2016 book 115

Bob Proehl's A Hundred Thousand Words
Proehl's debut novel was right up my alley--and will probably be right up the alley of any comic book or sci-fi nerd. It centers on a woman who once starred on an X-Files/Fringe-ish tv show, and married and had a child with her co-star--but after things went badly, she took the little boy and headed to New York. Now she's on her way back to Los Angeles for the first time in years, stopping to make appearances at comic book conventions along the way. We also get the POV of her son, a budding storyteller, along with the only woman comic book writer at a DC-ish comic book company (or maybe it was the Marvel counterpart--I got a little confused with the fictionalizations of all the real life stuff), and a young male comic book artist working on a smaller press book. I actually thought this was a really woman-friendly book--I worried about how the issues surrounding women and comics would fare with a male author, but he did a pretty good job (I especially appreciated his takedown of the Alan Moore analogue). The writing here is strong--I like stories about stories--and I found it all satisfying--I loved how all the threads came together. I /did/ wish for just a little bit more from the ending, but I can see why Proehl wrapped it up the way he did. Really, I had no major complaints--this managed to be both fun and moving. A-.

2016 book 115

Bob Proehl's A Hundred Thousand Words
Proehl's debut novel was right up my alley--and will probably be right up the alley of any comic book or sci-fi nerd. It centers on a woman who once starred on an X-Files/Fringe-ish tv show, and married and had a child with her co-star--but after things went badly, she took the little boy and headed to New York. Now she's on her way back to Los Angeles for the first time in years, stopping to make appearances at comic book conventions along the way. We also get the POV of her son, a budding storyteller, along with the only woman comic book writer at a DC-ish comic book company (or maybe it was the Marvel counterpart--I got a little confused with the fictionalizations of all the real life stuff), and a young male comic book artist working on a smaller press book. I actually thought this was a really woman-friendly book--I worried about how the issues surrounding women and comics would fare with a male author, but he did a pretty good job (I especially appreciated his takedown of the Alan Moore analogue). The writing here is strong--I like stories about stories--and I found it all satisfying--I loved how all the threads came together. I /did/ wish for just a little bit more from the ending, but I can see why Proehl wrapped it up the way he did. Really, I had no major complaints--this managed to be both fun and moving. A-.

Monday, June 27, 2016

2016 book 114

Dorothy Gilman's A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax
The fourth Mrs. Pollifax book finds our intrepid New Jersey grandmother/spy jaunting off to a hotel/rest home in Switzerland on the trail of some stolen plutonium. And of course she befriends the usual assortment of eccentrics while trying to figure out who the villain of the piece is. This one definitely veers into Orientalism/overtly offensive stereotypes of Muslims, which was a definite bummer and downgrades it to a B+.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

2016 book 113

Maggie O'Farrell's This Must Be The Place
O'Farrell's latest (after Instructions for a Heatwave, The Vanishing Ace of Esme Lennox, and The Hand That First Held Mine, among others) is more of what she does so well: complicated families with complicated histories, just trying to figure it all out and make it through. The main figure here is American Daniel, an academic, center of a web of wives, exes, children, and others--all of whom get to have their say. Daniel is actually the weak spot here--I was never really invested in him as a character and didn't really care about his issues, whereas his mourning, eczema-suffering son, intriguing wife (a famous actress who ran away from her life and now lives isolated in Ireland), and charming stepson were all much more compelling to me. But I was definitely caught up in these interwoven figures and, as always, enjoyed O'Farrell's writing. I definitely recommend this as a summer read for those who want something a little meatier but still satisfying. A-.

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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

2016 book 112

Robin Stevens' Jolly Foul Play
I LOVE Stevens' Wells and Wong series, and this fourth one was just as delightful as the other three. The girls are back at their boarding school (the series is set in England in the 1930s), now under the reign of a terror of a Head Girl--when said Head Girl is MURDERED, by one of her prefects! Of course Daisy and Hazel are on the case, with the assistance of their dorm-mates and a certain pen pal. I love the focus here on female friendships and find these characters super likable and interesting. Plus really solid mystery plotting! I wish Stevens would write four more of these immediately. A/A-.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

2016 book 111

Sarah-Jane Stratford's Radio Girls
This book is primarily the story of a young Canadian woman in London who gets a job as a secretary at the BBC in its infancy in the late 1920s, with all sorts of great female camaraderie and mentorship, great period details, etc. I did wish that a somewhat underbaked political/corporate espionage plot didn't appear partway through--I was much more interested in a woman working a professional job, learning the ropes, helping to plan radio programs, and so on, and just when all of that was getting really interesting, a sort of mystery element would take over. It just wasn't necessary! The characters and settings and office politics and secretly gay people and proto-feminism (women in England get the vote during the course of the story) are perfectly interesting without villainous fascists interfering. I was psyched to read the author's note at the end that several of the characters were actual historical figures, and that Hilda Matheson really was that awesome. Fun stuff! A-/B+.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

2016 book 110

Dorothy Gilman's The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax
I think the third Mrs Pollifax book is my favorite so far--the plot works a little better than the others (though they are all fine, I never felt like Mrs Pollifax was doing anything dumb here), there's no period-appropriate racism, there are a bunch of fun new characters, etc. Plus, let me just describe the premise to you: Mrs Pollifax is being sent to Bulgaria (remember, it's 1971 and there's the Cold War), smuggling eight passports IN HER HAT! And of course she randomly befriends a bunch of young hippies and all sorts of mishegas ensues and she GETS THINGS DONE. I LOVE that there is a series about a grandma spy, please someone make this into a Netflix series. It would be a period piece! A lighter version of The Americans! Surely other people would watch that. A/A-.

Monday, June 20, 2016

2016 book 109

Loretta Chase's Silk is for Seduction
My friend Erin read this recently, and based on her review, it should have been right up my alley--it centers on the oldest of three sisters from a good family who are now super classy dressmakers trying to get more noblewomen to come to their shop, so she's determined to get some Duke's attention so his future wife will shop there (which in my opinion is a very silly plan). I think I wanted this to have a little more plot and a little less lusty thoughts--they are just ogling each other from the moment they meet, so there isn't any buildup, and most of the story is about them having makeouts and falling for each other. I loved the three sisters and their relationship, though, and also really liked the girl the Duke is expected to marry (I didn't really like the Duke, who is the sort of domineering type that's meant to be romantic, and in fact kind of wished the two ladies would run off together). The writing was also a little more overwrought than I usually like. I mean, it's a super cute story, I just wanted a little bit more. B.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

2016 book 108

Virginia Zimmerman's The Rosemary Spell
First of all, I really think the publishers did this book a disservice with this cover--it looks like a cliched YA book about witches, when actually it's a sweet middle grade book about book nerds, growing up, family, Shakespeare, and a little bit of magic. (It also namedrops Rebecca Stead and Edward Eager, two of my favorite authors, so I know the author here is a kindred spirit.) It centers on thirteen-year-old Rosemary, her best friend Adam, and Adam's older sister--they've always been a trio of kids reading and talking about reading, but now Shelby is sixteen and doing teenage things and Rosemary feels left behind. Which is of course when she discovers an old book with what seems to be some magical properties, and things quickly go awry. Not in a wacky Edward Eager way, either. I felt like this book pulled some of its punches but that was sort of a relief, I guess? I really liked the writing here--it felt very natural--and enjoyed the characters a lot--it came really close to being GREAT. I will definitely read whatever Zimmermann does next. B+.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

2016 book 107

Tamora Pierce's Wild Magic
After seeing adult Daine--who has magical powers with animals--in action in the Protector of the Small series, I was excited to check out this earlier series by Pierce and get her whole story. I didn't really feel this though. I didn't love the way Pierce wrote her (particularly her dialogue, which had some really inconsistent dialect going on), and also just had mixed feelings about her as a character (whereas usually I am rooting for Pierce's heroines in a major way). She is just kind of blah, despite her cool animal powers! It was all just a little too overly written for my taste. I also admit that knowing adult Daine ends up with the guy who is her much older teacher here squicked me out a little. Like, how is that going to go down? I'm not sure I'm going to read the sequels--are they better? B/B-.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2016 book 106

Dorothy Gilman's The Amazing Mrs Pollifax
The second book in Gilman's Mrs Pollifax series is even awesomer than the first one. I can't believe an author in the 1960s wrote a whole series about a New Jersey grandma GETTING S--T DONE!!! In this one, Mrs. Pollifax's CIA contact rushes her off to Istanbul to try and meet with a defecting spy--who is also a middle-aged lady! (There are so many awesome older ladies in this book, it just made me super happy.) This one also has surprisingly little 1960s racism (though the depiction of the Roma is slightly romanticized). I mean, Mrs Pollifax is a TERRIBLE spy, but she is so funny and resourceful that she makes it work. I love it! A/A-.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

2016 book 105

Alison Umminger's American Girls
I feel sort of bad for Alison Umminger, because who could have known her book that heavily references the Manson Girls would be released as Emma Cline's book of the summer, which is also about the Manson Girls? Of course, Umminger's book isn't /really/ about them--it's about a teenage girl, fleeing family problems and other issues, who runs away to her older sister, a young, struggling actress in LA. And of course she ends up hanging out on various sets and meeting celebrities--but she's also hired to research the Manson Girls for her sister's ex-boyfriend. Umminger is straight up telling a story about the American Dream, and family, and how even being a "regular" girl is hard, and so on. It's definitely engaging, if not entirely believable. But I hope it will be a hit with the teens. A-/B+.

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

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

2016 book 104

Dorothy Gilman's The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax
Another charming old book as a Kindle Daily Deal! This is the start of a series that I have to think is at least a little bit hilarious--in this one, the protagonist, the titular Mrs. Pollifax, a widow in her 60s, decides she's bored of being a respectable member of the Garden Club and jaunts off to DC to ask to become a spy. AND THEY'RE ALL, SURE! We totally need someone to go be a tourist in Mexico and pick up a package! Off ya go! Things quickly go awry, but Mrs. Pollifax is pretty effing great--I mean, you never see a character like this. I want to see like Helen Mirren play her (except that Mrs. Pollifax is from New Jersey). This was written in the 60s and the CIA here is very concerned about "Red China," so there is a little bit of racism, to forewarn you all. I definitely am going to read more of these. Heh. A-.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

2016 book 103

Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing
This seems to be one of the big summer buzz books--and with good reason, because it's excellent. It's the story of a family, from the 1700s to the present, each chapter recounting a new generation--and it's also a pretty solid history of the slave trade, as the family originates in what is now Ghana. Although Gyasi does not shy away from the brutality of the slave trade, she doesn't dwell on it either, and I didn't find this to be an upsetting read--instead, a compelling and ultimately hopeful one. Really strong writing, excellent atmosphere, great characterization. Because of the structure, we never get to know the characters in great depth, but their stories drift down through their descendants to good effect. A/A-.

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

Monday, June 06, 2016

2016 book 102

D.E. Stevenson's Celia's House
Like the previous Stevenson book I read, this was recently a Kindle Daily Deal--but I one hundred percent would have paid full price for it. At first I was like, this is just one of those delightful old British books about nice, friendly upper class people, and good things happen to good people, and it's all just satisfying. Which is TRUE, but then at the end I saw where Stevenson was going and just straight up burst into tears of happiness and RIGHTNESS. SO charming. I just loved this. A.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

2016 book 101

Simone Zelitch's Judenstaat
The premise of this book is: what if, after the Holocaust, instead of founding a Jewish state in Palestine, they founded a Jewish state in part of Germany (and it turned into a weird mish-mash of Israel and divided Berlin)? And now the fortieth anniversary of said state is approaching, and a film editor/archivist is working on a documentary to celebrate the occasion--at least until she is derailed by news that her husband's political murder three years earlier may have been something else entirely. So it's sort of a mystery, sort of an alternate history, sort of a political thriller, and certainly a political statement. It kind of left me with a lot of questions. It's an interesting book, and certainly the subject matter interested me, but I'm still not sure what sort of story it was trying to tell. B/B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on June 21st.

Friday, June 03, 2016

2016 book 100

Claire Legrand's Some Kind of Happiness
So this is a pretty good MG book dealing with depression/anxiety, centering on a young girl whose parents' marriage is hitting a rough spot, so she's being shipped off to spend the summer with the grandparents--and aunts and cousins--she's never met. And there are forbidden neighbor boys, and Family Secrets, and her own made up fantasy Everwood all colliding. And parts of this made me cry, and I liked the fantasy/storytelling elements, but a lot of this felt like a lesson book. Like, let me explain how depression feels and how you can deal with it. And, actually, maybe I needed a book like this when I was a kid! But I'm a grownup now. B+.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

2016 book 99

Rainbow Rowell's Carry On
I wanted to reread this for book club so it would be fresh in my mind--and I think I liked it even /better/ this time! I didn't think about Harry Potter while reading it at all--and it was so interesting to see how the pieces came together, knowing where the story was leading. I still ended it kind of saying, "oh, poor Lucy," though. That plotline is honestly tragic. Ranbow Rowell knows how to get you right in the guts, man. So good.

Monday, May 30, 2016

2016 book 98

Daniel O'Malley's Stiletto
I am hesitant to say /anything/ about this book, because I don't want to spoil the first one for friends who haven't read it yet, so I will just say that there are two new POV characters--interesting and likable and badass, just like in the first book! And things are action-packed and exciting and occasionally slightly gory. I liked this so much, though the very end is mildly silly. I have no idea if there will be more books in this series, but if there are, I will be eagerly awaiting them. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on June 14th.