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-.