Friday, September 22, 2017

2017 book 166

Elizabeth Jane Howard's Marking Time
The second book in the Cazalet Chronicles picks up a year after the last one ended--in 1939, on the verge of war. I meant to note in my last review that some of the characters express anti-Semitic views, but the author clearly thinks this is bad, so I was feeling quite pleased with Ms. Howard, when she drops the descriptor "n-word brown" into the text in this one. Describing a skirt! What on earth! So then I was reading with quite a bit of side-eye going on, especially when said description recurred. What on earth sort of way is that to describe a color in the 1990s?? As for the plot, there are a ton of characters, and I am more interested in some (Sybil, Zoe, Clary, Polly) than others (Louise trying to be an actress, her philandering father Edward). I find these books fairly engrossing, even when Howard isn't focusing on the things I wish she would. B/B+.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017 book 165

Elizabeth Jane Howard's The Light Years
One of the Fug Girls mentioned the Cazelet Chronicles the other day, and the entire five book series--tracing a well off English family from the late 1930s to after WWII--was only 99 cents as an e-book, so I figured, why not try it? This first volume covers 1937 and 1938, and there are a lot of cousins to keep track of (I am positive that even the author got confused about the characters' relationships at one point), but it is all very riveting--affairs, secret lesbians, unexpected pregnancies, lumber mills, tree climbing, etc-- and only a tiny bit trashy. Content warning for a couple brief mentions of sexual abuse. Sidebar, apparently Howard's third husband was Kingsley Amis! I like her work better. A-.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

2017 book 164

Naomi Alderman's Disobedience
After reading Alderman's The Power, I wanted to check out some of her earlier work--and then I read a review of a new movie starring Rachels Weisz and McAdams, based on a novel by Naomi Alderman, about the Orthodox Jewish community in London, and I was like, well, there you go. Anyway, the book is primarily about two women--one, Ronit, no longer observant, the daughter of a renowned Rav, who is returning home after his death; and the other, Esti, her SECRET TEENAGE GIRLFRIEND WHO IS NOW MARRIED TO RONIT'S COUSIN DOVID. Okay, also, I want to see this movie asap. Anyway, I have a lot of complicated thoughts and feelings about Orthodox Judaism, but I think Alderman paints a realistic yet sympathetic picture of this particular community (and also of someone who left it), and I loved all the characters and also how this wrapped up. Really excellent. A/A-.

Friday, September 15, 2017

2017 book 163

Seanan McGuire's The Brightest Fell
The most recent Toby Daye book finds Toby being forced to track down her long-lost sister, missing for over a century. I mean, that's basically it. It's more straightforward than some of the other books in this series, but once again it just feels like it is building up to some sort of epic series finale that I hope comes sooner rather than later. Not to say that this wasn't entertaining, because it was, but I want to know that this is really all going somewhere eventually. B/B+.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

2017 book 162

Ruth Emmie Lang's Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance 
This was just a lovely and sweet and magical book, the sort of story you want to read in one sitting just because it is honestly delightful. It centers on a boy with mysterious powers, living with wolves, and his story is told through the people he encounters throughout his life. I liked this very much. A/A-.

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

2017 book 161

Claudia Gray's Leia: Princess of Alderaan
Gray's Star Wars books have been hit or miss for me (I loved Lost Stars, but thought Bloodline was a bit dull), but you had better believe I am here for a novel about teenage Leia dealing with princess duties, finding her first love, and getting involved in the Rebellion. Yesssssss. I especially enjoyed seeing a lot of Leia's mother-- Bail Organa has been a big prescence in the series, but I appreciated a Star Wars property looking at a mother-daughter relationship for a change. Plus the Luna Lovegood-esque friend was pretty great. So, yesssss. A-/B+.

Friday, September 08, 2017

2017 book 160

Ellen Raskin's The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues
Something I read recently reminded me of this book and made me want to reread it--obviously Raskin's The Westing Game is a masterpiece, but her other novels are good too, and underrated. This one involves an art student who goes to work for a painter with a houseful of secrets, and what happens when they begin to assist the police with weird crimes. Which all makes it sound slightly more serious than it actually is, when really it an interesting series of puzzles and compelling characters. I actually learned about a few artists and poets from reading this book as a kid, now that I think about it. Content warning for some ableist language bc it was written in 1975 (one of the characters has brain damage).

Thursday, September 07, 2017

2017 book 159

Seanan McGuire's Once Broken Faith
The 10th Toby Daye book returns to the series' roots as Toby is tasked with solving a mystery--the murder of a King at a conclave of nobles, called to deal with stuff from the previous book. I don't have much else to say about it, though in general I found this one more entertaining than a lot of the previous volumes. B+.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

2017 book 158

Seanan McGuire's A Red-Rose Chain
There's a new Toby Daye book out and it seemed kind of interesting, but I was told I have to go back and read the ones I skipped for it to make sense. So here I am, catching up on book 9. In this one, Toby and her entourage are sent as diplomats to try and stop a war between two fairy kingdoms, which goes about as well as everyone expects. I think I did like this better than some of its predecessors (despite the excessive exposition), or maybe a three year break is what I needed to refresh my interest in this series. B+.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

2017 book 157

E. Lockhart's Genuine Fraud
I guess E. Lockhart is doing psychological suspense fiction now? Still, I liked it better than her last book. This reminded me of Patrice Kindl's most recent book, though it is not really funny in the way that one could be, or maybe Lockhart is going for a Patricia Highsmith kind of vibe. Anyway, it centers on a teenage girl juggling identities, and her best friend, and privileged lifestyles, and lies, etc, flashing back each chapter to show the whole scope of the thing. I thought the end was a little bit of a letdown but this was definitely entertaining. B+.

Monday, September 04, 2017

2017 book 156

Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes
This book came up in conversation recently--as well it should! We should all be talking about this book, always!--which of course made me want to reread it. I can't believe how well it holds up considering how very OF ITS TIME it is, but who would not be enchanted by the story of three very different little girls, adopted by an eccentric explorer and raised by his great-niece (and her nurse), who learn to make their ways in the world through the performing arts (and auto repair). Really interesting class issues to think about here, too. But mostly three awesome girls.

2017 book 155

Tessa Dare's The Duchess Deal
Dare's historical romances are hit or miss for me--they are always a ton of fun, but sometimes I wish there was more to the plot--and this was definitely one of those times. This one involves a Duke--badly scarred from the battle of Waterloo--proposing a marriage of convenience to a seamstress (a vicar's daughter who was caught canoodling with the local squire's son and then kicked out of her home and forced to make her own way in the world--which is about as much detail as Dare provides for this backstory). The Duke has a whole Beauty-and-the-Beast-meets-Batman thing which is fairly hilarious, and the new Duchess soon befriends a group of eccentric spinsters (who will presumably feature in later volumes of this series, but who are not well developed here). Anyway, like I said, this was fun, but there wasn't much meat to it. B+.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

2017 book 154

Libba Bray's Beauty Queens
The kerfuffle over a couple of dude filmmakers wanting to do an all-girl remake of Lord of the Flies made me want to reread this book, one of my favorites of 2011. I was worried it wouldn't hold up, but it was as funny and feminist as ever, and honestly feels like an even more trenchant comment on our society now than it did six years ago. I will say that the language involving a trans character feels slightly dated, though on the whole the plot point is handled well. Bray pulls no punches here, and I love it.

Friday, September 01, 2017

2017 book 153

Sarah Beth Durst's The Reluctant Queen
I have been semi-eagerly awaiting the second book in Durst's Queens of Renthia series (after The Queen of Blood), which is odd because I only sort of liked the first one! (I blame my anticipation on waiting for the library to order it, and then waiting for the person who checked it out before me to relinquish it when their three-week hold period was up.) So, did it satisfy me after I waited almost two months for it? More or less! It takes a while to get going--overwrought writing, the queen needs an heir, blah di blah, but then it gets interesting when said heir is not a young girl trained for years, but a talented mother of two (with an awful husband) who just wants to live her life in peace. Some plot points were obvious, others surprised me, which means I am still very interested in reading the next one. B+.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2017 book 152

Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman's Basic Witches
I LOVED THIS BOOK! It is just the book I needed to give me strength in these troubled times. It is both empowering and funny, AND it's beautifully designed--the illustrations are perfect. I am gonna go out and get some candles for sure so I can ritualistically improve my life. ;)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

2017 book 151

Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl
I was in the mood for some straight up fantasy, so decided to revisit Hale's Books of Bayern series. This first one is a fairly straightforward adaptation of the traditional fairy tale (which I find weirdly stressful, even though I know it turns out okay), but Hale breathes life into the characters and into the friends the goose girl princess makes along the way.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

2017 book 150

Mamen Sanchez's The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman
This was a very cute (if heteronormative) novel, translated from the Spanish, about an English publisher whose son has been sent to Spain to shut down a literary magazine run by five women-- and then vanished. But like I said, it's super cute, it's not at all a mystery. It's the sort of heartwarming European novel that is eventually made into a movie starring Dame Judi Dench, or anyway a heartwarming novel that warmed even my curmudgeonly heart. Really great characters here and a lot of humor. A-/B+.

Side note, a bunch of characters are referred to as "Gypsies," and I'm not sure if that is the author or translator's choice.

Friday, August 25, 2017

2017 book 149

Megan Hunter's The End We Start From
This was an interesting and poetic little book about new motherhood during some sort of post-apocalyptic scenario (London flooding, refugee camps, etc). I think this would have resonated more with me if I actually had kids, but it was very well written and compelling. A-/B+.

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

2017 book 148

Patricia Wentworth's Death at the Deep End
I like mysteries about sassy old ladies getting things done, so a few people have recommended the Miss Silver books to me. I no longer remember why I was particularly interested in this one--it's the 20th (!) in the series, first published in 1951--but I found it satisfying as a stand-alone. Miss Silver is apparently a former governess turned private detective, and in this story, she is looking for a missing woman and so goes undercover as a replacement governess at a colony of eccentric artists to see what she can uncover. There are plenty of red herrings and I admit I was imagining some fairly contrived things, only some of which were correct, but Wentworth did have some surprises in store. I liked no-nonsense Miss Silver a lot and may check out more of this series. B+.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017 book 147

Ladee Hubbard's The Talented Ribkins
This is one of those books that I enjoyed while I was reading, but was never in a huge hurry to pick back up (though I did read the last 2/3rds in one sitting in a coffee shop today, so it is very readable). It centers on a aging black man from a family full of people with interesting talents--his is for making maps, a skill he has sold to a nefarious businessman, from whom our protagonist has embezzled, and now he has a week to track down 100,000 dollars or else. So he sets off on a road trip around Florida to uncover his old secret caches--and also discovers the niece he never knew he had. I really liked how this wrapped up, though the journey was a little slow (I mean that both literally and metaphorically). I loved the look at his life in Florida and his past as a freedom fighter (or rather, a freedom-of-movement fighter)--really an interesting character. I did wish there had been a little more to this, but it was enjoyable. B+.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

2017 book 146

Kate Milford's Ghosts of Greenglass House
I'm not sure if the sequel to Milford's Greenglass House is AS awesome as its predecessor, but that book is a tough act to follow, and this is certainly still pretty awesome. It's Christmas at Greenglass House again, with just one guest staying at the hotel, when two of the characters from the previous book show up needing a place to lay low after a HEIST GONE WRONG. And then a whole bunch of mysterious characters show up, things go missing, and everyone is a suspect! Milford does a deft job of layering a fun YA mystery with ghost stories and more serious stories about racism and insensitivity. I will say that I spotted one twist immediately and so the conclusion was not AS exciting, but there were still a few twists to go. Really a fun and satisfying story. A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on October 3rd.

Friday, August 18, 2017

2017 book 145

Rainbow Rowell's Attachments
I have been longing to reread this for ages, since my mom and my sister and a friend had all recently read it for the first time and loved it! But we're reading it for book club next month and I really prefer my book club reads to be fresher in my mind. Sometimes, though, you've had a long-ass week and all you can do on a Friday is sit on your comfy couch and reread a favorite book all in one sitting. So that is what I did. Rainbow Rowell writes the best dudes (and Lincoln may be my favorite of her dudes) and I love the friendship between the two central women characters (and, actually, all of Lincoln's friendships as well). I mean, I am very excited that Rowell is going to be bringing back Runaways, but I wish she would write like six new perfect novels every year.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

2017 book 144

Octavia Butler's Kindred
I think I say this most months, but the best part of running a book club is forcing my friends to read my beloved books and discuss them with me. :) This is just a masterfully told story, and somehow the visions of the 1810s and the 1970s feel just as relevant today. If you have not read this book, it is the story of a young black woman, a writer, living in California in 1976 with her white husband, when she is suddenly whisked back to antebellum Maryland to save a little boy--a little boy who turns out to be her ancestor. But 1810s Maryland is not a safe place to be a black woman. Not that 2017 is much better. Anyway, this is a book I highly recommend.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017 book 143

N.K. Jemisin's The Stone Sky
AAAAHH here it is, the final book in Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, very much anticipated (especially since the first two both won Hugos and many other awards). This wraps things up with three narrators: the mother and daughter from the first two books, as their paths begin to draw together, and a third character, who predates the world's destruction and tells of its downfall. And it is really good and very satisfying and a thrilling conclusion to an excellent series. Soon I will reread them all in one go so I can really see how all the details come together. A.

Monday, August 14, 2017

2017 book 142

Jodi Lynn Anderson's Midnight at the Electric
Well, here is an interesting and engaging book, the story of three women all tied to a farmhouse in Kansas* across different time periods. Starting things off is young Adri in the 2060s, training for a mission to Mars and recently come to stay with a distant relative in Kansas, when she discovers the diaries and letters of the other two--a girl growing up in the house during the Dust Bowl, and a friend of that girl's mother in post-WWI England--and longs to discover how their stories turned out. And all three stories are really interesting! And there is a Galapagos tortoise! I liked this very much. A-.

*The description says "Oklahoma" for the section set during the 1930s, but that is annoyingly incorrect. I think the person who wrote the description just didn't know the Dust Bowl was a thing in the entire Midwest, and clearly they didn't read this book. I mean, the characters specifically say they get called Okies despite not being from Oklahoma.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

2017 book 141

Ashley Weaver's The Essence of Malice
The fourth book in the Amory Ames series has an intriguing plot--someone has murdered a famous and wealthy French parfumier, and pretty much all of his relatives are suspects, so Amory and her husband befriend them under the guise of creating a custom scent for Amory. I am here for all the perfume talk, but I am not here for the continual marriage problems between Amory and her husband. For four books she has mistrusted him and he has been keeping dumb secrets. I am tired of them going in circles in every single book. Just leave him and go solve mysteries with your sassy maid! Otherwise, this was entertaining, and I liked the end quite a bit. B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on September 5th.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

2017 book 140

Joanna Scott's Careers for Women
This novel starts off really promisingly, focusing on a young woman in New York in the 1950s working at the Port Authority under an interesting woman mentor, the head of PR. But then it just starts jumping around all over the place--New York in the 60s-70s; planning and building the World Trade Center; a young single mother who is befriended by the protagonist, and her little girl; the head of some sort of aluminum company (the father of the aforementioned little girl) and the environmental problems it causes in upstate New York across a couple of decades, and his wife and son and his son's fiancee and the son's fiancee's dead father, etc etc. It is just a lot and it takes too long to come together. I wanted to read the book that was described, about a young career woman in New York, and this was just doing too much. I mean it is interesting from a literary standpoint, but was a bit of a slow read. B.

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

2017 book 139

Keris Stainton's If You Could See Me Now
Rainbow Rowell was recommending this on Twitter the other day, which makes a book like must-read for me. And this was super cute and very silly and just what I needed. It centers on a woman in England with a crappy boyfriend and job stress and an awesome best friend--and then something totally unexpected happens. And I won't tell you what bc I was awesomely surprised. Anyway, this has a cute romance, some really great woman empowerment (seriously, this book echoes a lot of conversations I have had and seen other women having about like cat-callers and other indignities suffered upon us by jackass men), and is generally just a lot of fun. An honestly feel-good read. A-.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

2017 book 138

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
I remembered thinking this was not that great, but actually it is okay! The bones of an interesting story are there, but the play format doesn't give much to work with--like it's hard to build narrative tension and have good character development with just dialogue, I guess. Is it just my everlasting fondness for (most*) of the characters that makes me like it? Or my love of time travel and alternate universes? I guess it is interesting to read a story that is primarily about someone trying to learn to be a good father, and also magic. Would this be more satisfying if I were seeing it performed, and not just moderately entertaining? I mean, it does read almost like fan fiction, but pretty good fan fiction. Heteronormative fan fiction though.

*Dumbledore remains The Worst even in painted form.

2017 book 137

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The thing about trying to redeem Snape at this late date is that he never ever once showed any kind of kindness or a softer side throughout all these books. Like, even if you excuse his cruelty to Harry by blaming it on his grudge against Harry's father--how can you write off the way he treats Neville? Or Hermione? Fine, maybe he doesn't work for the most evil wizard of all time, but he is still an awful person. And for his only sign of goodness to be "I was in love with your mom for my whole life in a kind of creepy way and then was bummed when she died"--it's not really enough. There needed to be more than a shred of decency. Also Dumbledore is annoying and I am still not sure the wand stuff holds up. Of course, those are minor quibbles to a book that I have read and enjoyed and thought about many, many times. Snape is terrible though.

Monday, August 07, 2017

2017 book 136

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
You know I have read these books too many times and spent way too much time thinking about them, but I still can't puzzle out how the detection of underage magic works. So in past books, the Ministry could tell when anyone (Harry or Dobby) did magic in Privet Drive, and in this one they say that the ministry doesn't track this (as far as I can tell) in wizard homes, because they rely on parents to monitor children's behavior. And then there is the whole thing with the Trace in book 7, which implies that the Ministry CAN detect specific underage wizarding magic. My point is: how can Dumbledore do a whole bunch of magic in Privet Drive in this book and no one says a thing? (Similarly, we don't SEE Arthur Weasley use magic there in the beginning of book 4 but it is implied that he used magic to repair the living room.) Is it like a proximity thing, and it's just that Dobby was closer to Harry than Dumbledore was? Am I (definitely) spending more time trying to figure this out than JK Rowling did? Anyway, I like this book, Harry is kind of a doof but backstory and teen hijinks are entertaining and the end packs a wallop.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

2017 book 135

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I feel like on past reads of this book, I have been like "ugh, Harry, you're so whiny and angsty, get your act together!" but this time was more like, man if Dumbledore had been willing to have an honest conversation or if Snape could get his head out of his own butt for five minutes (like, he must see that Harry is nothing like James Potter when they have their occlumency lessons, but he is still a grade-A jerkface to Harry)--well, let's just say I am much more sympathetic to Harry now and maintain that Dumbledore is kind of the worst. Him and his dumb trickling tear. Meanwhile, I really just want like one scene of Hermione having a conversation with her parents. They seem so supportive and nice but they never get one line in these books! Not really relevant, just so,etching I was thinking about.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

2017 book 134

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I went to see Belle and Sebastian on Monday, when I had just started rereading this, and at one point they has a backdrop of old album covers and I had a very vivid memory of a college summer in the attic room of a rented yellow house, listening to Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, and rushing home from my summer job to read this for the very first time. And rereading it now is still just as thrilling and heartbreaking.

Monday, July 31, 2017

2017 book 133

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
And here is where the story really kicks it up a notch, and it's easy to just sit down and read the entire rest of the series from this point on. (Though am I the only one who thinks of Kate Beaton every time Sir Cadogan and his fat pony are mentioned?) But seriously, the temptation to stay up late to finish rereading this is REAL, and I have read this book easily 15-20 times before. Just gripping stuff. Though I do side-eye Harry for trying to kick a cat. Leave Crookshanks alone, ya big jerk. Of course, that is nothing compared to Snape in this book. That guy is really awful and no one will ever convince me otherwise. ANYway, Happy birthday, JK Rowling and Harry Potter!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

2017 book 132

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I guess I am back to rereading Harry Potter while I wait for the public library to have the budget for e-books again (massive sigh). But I mean, any reason is a good one to reread Harry Potter books, especially on Harry Potter weekend! I do admire how much Rowling laid the groundwork in the early books for everything that happens later--really solid details for sure.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

2017 book 131

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's The Beautiful Ones
I admit to being a little bit surprised by Moreno-Garcia's latest--it feels a little more conventional, a little more Western European, than her previous two novels (Signal to Noise and Certain Dark Things). It's set in what seems to be a historical Western Europe analogue, in a world where some people have telekinetic powers--including two of our main characters, a man who makes his living performing magic tricks (but like, actual magic) on stage, and a naive young woman who is interested in the natural sciences--and in him. The third point of this triangle is the performer's first love, a bitter woman who was forced to marry for money--to the naive girl's cousin. I read parts of this with dread because I honestly couldn't tell if it was the kind of book where things were going to work out or not, and I really liked the young girl character and worried about her. This was an enjoyable read, but it didn't feel that different from other books I've read (which means it will probably appeal to fans of like Mary Robinette Kowal). B+.

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

2017 book 130

Leena Likitalo's The Five Daughters of the Moon
This is a pretty interesting fantasy novel--the first in a duology--inspired by the Russian Revolution and the Romanov children--only here, all five are girls (and the youngest is afflicted with something more magical), in a more matriarchal society, each of whom takes turns narrating the story of their crumbling empire. The Rasputin analogue here is even more disturbing than the real deal (trigger warnings for mind control and mentions of rape) but I loved all five sisters and their relationships, and am eager to read the sequel (out in November). B+.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

2017 book 129

Kate Racculia's Bellweather Rhapsody
This was one of my favorite books of 2014, and I realized recently that I remembered almost nothing about it besides the first scene--where a little girl witnesses a murder-suicide at a hotel--and that the action takes place years later, when a girl goes missing from that same hotel room at a high school music competition thing. Which, I mean, is the bare bones plot! But it isn't really a mystery, it is more just a really compelling story about music and family and finding connections, and also trying to solve a mystery a little bit. I declare that this book HOLDS UP and also that it is set in 1997 and the pop culture references are on point.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

2017 book 128

G.L. Carriger's The Sumage Solution
I like Gail Carriger, so figured I'd try her latest, her first under the G.L Carriger name, a contemporary novel set in San Francisco involving gay werewolves and mages and various other supernatural creatures. And I am here for gay werewolf erotic romance novels, don't get me wrong (I mean, how much Teen Wolf fanfic did I read back in the day?), but I kept getting distracted because the mage protagonist works in a government office and has the most inappropriately sexual conversations with his coworkers and boss. Do supernatural societies not have HR??? Otherwise, this was an entertaining story, even if it did follow the usual story beats. B+.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2017 book 127

Jennie Melamed's Gather the Daughters
Hoooooo boy. Let me start with a trigger warning, which I'll explain in a minute, but just imagine giant flashing lights here. So this story is set on an isolated island, in a community that fled the wastelands of our world several generations ago and set up their own little religious cult community. And here is where the giant flashing trigger warning lights are: because it is a community where one of the central tenets is incestuous sexual abuse of children. And also the usual patriarchal cult bullshit where girls are married off as soon as they're fertile. The story is told from the POVs of several girls, nearing or just past puberty, and all are heartbreaking and real. The other stuff going on is not too hard to figure out if you've ever read a book or seen a movie before, but the story itself is well-done, if utterly nauseating. Another one of those that is well-written but that I for one plan never to revisit and cannot really recommend it in good faith unless you have a strong stomach. B/B+.

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2017 book 126

E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Apparently this year marks the 50th anniversary of this book, which of course made me want to reread it. It is a testament to the writing here that the story feels so timeless, even this many years since its publication. Is it because the narrative voice is so witty, the characters so likable and funny, the story so engaging? How many generations of children have dreamed of hiding overnight in a museum? I truly think this is a perfect book.

Friday, July 14, 2017

2017 book 125

Vic James' Tarnished City
The second book in James' Dark Gifts series, after Gilded Cage, is more of the entertaining if slightly overwrought same. This one is even more no-holds-barred though, as the resistance ramps up, the ruling elite clamps down, and everyone gets into some murder and mayhem. This series is a little bit goofy but I still am excited to see where it goes next. B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on September 5th.

2017 book 124

Louise Erdrich's Future Home of the Living God
I am both intrigued and depressed by this wave of post-apocalyptic fiction that is looking at issues of women's fertility. In this one, an unexplained event is causing evolutionary throwbacks--things seem to be going backwards. And so a pregnant woman begins writing a diary for her unborn child, chronicling political and natural events, domestic and larger-scale, as she (a Native child adopted by white upper class parents) meets her birth family, and is also wanted by the authorities because of her pregnancy. Compelling stuff and wonderfully written. I also loved everything about a local saint appearing in visions to gamblers. Erdrich is one of my favorite authors and this is an interesting departure for her. A.

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017 book 123

Veronica Chambers' The Go-Between
This was an entertaining if slight YA book about a teen girl in Mexico whose mother is a famous telenovela star who moves the family to LA for work, where the girl begins attending an elite high school. And then her classmates assume she is there on scholarship, and she just . . . goes with it. And of course lying about your entire life is complicated! There is also an underbaked plot that could have been great about the girl getting into cooking and befriending the school's fancy chef, as well as an underbaked romantic plot. Still, I needed something frothy as a palate cleanser and this did the trick. B/B+.

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

2017 book 122

Linnea Hartsuyker's The Half-Drowned King
This is the first in a trilogy, retelling the story of the rise of the first King of Norway, from the POVs of a young man and his sister who become central to the various political conflicts. Normally I am not super interested in violent epics, but the writing here kept me intrigued, and I was of course very interested in the sister's story as she chafes against the roles women are confined to in the 9th century, and instead takes inspiration from legendary tales. Parts of this were a bit slow, and there is a lot of carnage (and mentions of rape), but I will refrain from googling so I can be surprised at where the story goes in subsequent volumes. B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on August 1st.

Monday, July 10, 2017

2017 book 121

Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach
Egan's latest is eagerly awaited--it's her first since A Visit From the Goon Squad won the Pulitzer-- is, maybe surprisingly, a fairly straightforward historical novel. Still, it is a really EXCELLENT historical novel! It centers on a young woman growing up in Brooklyn in the 1930s, her relationship with her father (shades of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn there), and what happens after he disappears--and what happens years later when she encounters the mysterious man she met with her father one day. And meanwhile, its WWII, and she gets a job at the Navy Yard to support her mother and disabled sister, and everything about her job was really fascinating! Anyway this is perhaps not a literary groundbreaker, but it is immensely satisfying, and sometimes that is just as good. A/A-.

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

Sunday, July 09, 2017

2017 book 120

Natasha Pulley's The Bedlam Stacks
Pulley's second novel, after The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, is more of the delightful same, though this one is more interested in South American/Incan folklore and the British East India Company. It centers on a young man, injured in his work for said company, recuperating in an unwelcoming home, when he is talked into going to the deep forests of Peru to obtain quinine treee samples. Honestly, this all could have been very boring, but I was so interested in the protagonist's relationship with his guide, and all the things they uncover. I really liked the collision of fantasy and nature here. And the end was great. A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher, this book will be released on August 1.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

2017 book 119

Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere
Ng's sophomore novel, after the highly acclaimed Everything I Never Told You, totally lives up to and builds upon its predecessor. It's set in Shaker Heights, Cleveland, in the late 90s, and centers on two families who end up intertwined-- teens and adults both (I was a high schooler around this time and appreciated the appropriate period references, as well as the occasional Pittsburgh references). It is also the story of a fraught inter-cultural custody battle and how that heightens all the tensions of the town. Maybe that makes it sound boring but it's beautifully written and totally compelling--I also loved all the art talk. Really a very strong second novel, very recommended. A.

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

2017 book 118

Kelly Jones' Murder, Magic, and What We Wore
This was a really fun historical fantasy mystery romp--maybe for Gail Carriger fans, though there is less of a focus on romance. It's about a young girl who discovers that her father--a spy for England in Regency times--has been murdered, and determines to become a spy herself and avenge him. Luckily she has magical sewing glamour powers and a talented maid on hand to help in her quest! Jones does a good job looking at the precarious financial situations of women in this period, and if the mystery is not super well developed, it is still just a super enjoyable read. A-.

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

Friday, July 07, 2017

2017 book 117

Zinzi Clemmons' What We Lose
This is perhaps more a meditation on loss and identity than a straightforward novel--I don't know anything about the author but this book feels very personal. It centers on a young woman, whose South African mother has recently died of cancer. That is basically it! I didn't love the narrative voice here--it felt too matter of fact, maybe, to really draw me in--but the character felt real. B+.

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

Thursday, July 06, 2017

2017 book 116

Kristin Cashore's Jane, Unlimited
Cashore's latest--her first since her Graceling trilogy--is a standalone that shows she is a great author across multiple kinds of stories. This centers on young Jane, a recent college drop-out at loose ends after the aunt who raised her dies, who is invited to a very mysterious and fancy isolated home by an old friend--and her aunt once made her promise that if she was ever invited to said house, she would go. So she does. BUT this is not one of those books about a poor girl being seduced by the rich lifestyle, and although the house is chock full of secrets, this isn't a mystery--instead, it is a story of possibilities. Here, I will quote the official copy: "Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns." Yallllll . . . . alternate universes are one of my very favorite things and this is a very interesting and fun version. It also goes somewhere I didn't expect. VERY ENJOYABLE. A/A-.

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

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

2017 book 115

Ruth Nichols' A Walk Out of the World
Inspired by this piece about obscure childhood favorite books, some friends and I were talking about our own obscure childhood favorites, and one enthused about this one. It's a pretty typical portal fantasy-- a brother and sister walk through the woods into another world, one full of magic and political intrigue, and they may be the key to solving various issues. Comparisons to both Narnia and the Tolkien books are apt. I would have definitely loved this as a child, but as an adult, I wished for a little bit more to the story. Great ending though. A-/B+.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

2017 book 114

Mackenzi Lee's The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
I have seen this book getting a lot of buzz, and was excited to read a historical romance centered on a young bisexual lord who is secretly in love with his biracial best friend, and is about to embark on a year-long tour of the Continent with said friend and with his younger sister (who yearns to be a scholar). BUT the plot here is just beyond far-fetched! Like you can excuse one or two completely ridiculous plot elements, I guess, but once you've hit four and climbing, there is no reason to be invested in the story anymore. (And that is not even getting into the fact that an honest conversation would clear up 100 percent of the angst here--my pet peeve in a book.) I thought this was going to be a cute romance, but it is actually a very silly historical action-packed novel that happens to have some cute romance in it. I was much more interested in the characters dealing with historically-accurate attitudes toward their sexualities and ethnicities than in how they were going to get out of their 10th stupid scrape. And they do get into some stupid scrapes, because the main character is frequently very stupid. Just a frustrating book. I loved the sister, though, and am somewhat tempted to read the inevitable sequel about her. B.

Monday, July 03, 2017

2017 book 113

Maria Turtschaninoff's Naondel
The second book in the Red Abbey Chronicles, after Maresi, is actually a prequel--the story of the woman who founded the abbey. I will say that there is a lot of sexual violence in this book, since said woman are the wives and concubines of a power-hungry and cruel man. Normally that would turn me off of a book completely, but the women here, and their relationships and journeys, were so compelling to me that it was worthwhile. A/A-.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

2017 book 112

Naomi Alderman's The Power
Oooohhh lordy, do I have a lot of so-called feels about this book. It's not out in the US till October, but it's been out in England for a while, and I just really felt like I NEEDED a book where the premise is that girls the world over suddenly develop electricity powers. and can awaken it in other women, and THEY TAKE THE EFF OVER. I mean, that last part is hyperbole, but barely. There were moments when I was simultaneously teary eyed and cheering as women took vengeance against men abusing them, but then there were some parts that were not-cheerable at all. Really great characters and plotting here, though I do think the framing device could have been sliiiiiightly more subtle. But then stories like this perhaps cannot be subtle. It was blurbed by Margaret Atwood and A.L. Kennedy, and I think you can favorably compare this to The Handmaid's Tale (which is kind of weird if you think about it, but the point still holds). Anyway, I still really want electricity powers. The end. A.

Content warning for . . . Lots of bad stuff that goes down.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

2017 book 111

Riley Sager's Final Girls
This has been getting a lot of pre-publication buzz and has a blurb from Stephen King, so I was expecting something creepy, dark, and maybe smartly playing with tropes. It . . . was not really any of those things. Like I am a mega wuss, and I never felt scared or heart-poundy while reading this--just impatient for the inevitable twists to be revealed. It centers on a young woman, a survivor of a massacre, one of three such women dubbed "final girls" by the media in a nod to horror movies. She's determined to live a normal life (and as such has a baking blog and a very boring boyfriend who I was sure would turn out to be a psychopath b/c he is so thinly drawn)--at least until one of the other so-called final girls commits suicide. I admit that there was a big twist I didn't see coming, but that's because it was pretty off-the-wall. The end of this was more ridiculous than any cheesy horror movie I have ever seen, and I have seen a fair number. Disappointing. B-.

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

Note, July 21st: I have just discovered that Riley Sager is the pen name for a man, despite misleading information otherwise available on the internet.

2017 book 110

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The 20th anniversary of this book's release (and the Pottermore book club) made me think I should reread this, even though I just reread the whole series in December! I mean, I could read Harry Potter any time and be fine with it, really. The funny thing about rereading is how much the movie actors have taken over their characters for this one in particular--I just hear Emma Watson and Robbie Coltrane especially saying all these things.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

2017 book 109

Gabrielle Zevin's Young Jane Young
I think I have read and enjoyed everything Zevin has written, but I am really especially enjoying the stuff she has been putting out recently (I am hoping this one will be as much of a sleeper hit as The Storied Life of AJ Fikry). I went into this knowing absolutely nothing about this, and I think that made it even more compelling--told in varying POVs, it is the story of the aftermath of a young intern's affair with a congressman in the late 90s in Florida. But each woman's POV is so interesting and bursting with personality--as much as I liked each one, I was always sorry when the one before ended. OK, this is not a literary tour de force or whatever, but it IS a really readable and likable novel, which made me want to pump my fist more than once, and there are too few of those in this world.  Highly recommended. A/A-.

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 book 108

Diana Wynne Jones' Castle in the Air
I sometimes like this second Howl's Moving Castle book more than others, because sometimes it really annoys me what a schmoe the protagonist here is (plus he is a fat-shamer). Things do pick up once cats and witches and princesses enter the scene, but it is a bit of a slog until that point. Still, it ends on a high note.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

2017 book 107

Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle
I am perpetually grateful that Goodreads counts rereads now, because it means when none of my to-read list strikes my fancy, I can just enjoy an old favorite and not having to worry about not meeting my reading goal (whether that is honestly something to worry about is another issue). This book is so charming and funny, every time I read it.

Monday, June 19, 2017

2017 book 106

Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me
The best part of running a book club is making everyone read my favorite books so I can talk about them with people. :) One friend finished this recently and said that she thought it would be just as good on a reread, and I think it is actually better, because you can see all the clues adding up (I start crying in anticipation every time). On the surface, it's a story about a girl in 1970s New York who is having friend issues and has an unconventional-ish home life and loves A Wrinkle in Time, but there are some weird things happening on the edges of the story and gradually it all comes together in a way that I personally love wholeheartedly. Even if it does make me cry buckets.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

2017 book 105

Carrie Vaughn's Bannerless
Vaughn's latest (after the Kitty Norville books, the Golden Age books, and a ton of other books) is a POST-APOCALYPTIC MURDER MYSTERY. Oh boy, you betcha I am here for this. Really interesting world-building in a semi-far-future California, with a woman who serves as an investigator asked to look into a suspicious death. The world-building and the characters are more interesting than the mystery, but I was certainly fine with that, as they are VERY interesting. It looks like this is the start of a series and I look forward to seeing what else will happen in this world. A-.

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

2017 book 104

Kevin Kwan's Rich People Problems
I actually wish they were making like a limited series of these books instead of a movie, because there is just so much delicious stuff going on and they can never do it justice in two hours! Do I remember all the specifics of the ups and downs of this one? Nah. But did I enjoy every moment of reading it and leave feeling satisfied? Hell yeah. Now I need more dishy novels to read! These were so fun. A/A-.

2017 book 103

Kevin Kwan's China Rich Girlfriend 
Yes, I DID stay up too late reading this, because you just can't put these books down, because there are so many interesting characters (so many interesting WOMEN) getting into so many shenanigans! Kwan can plot a book for sure. And these books are like my beloved K-dramas had a love child with Dynasty. Which is to say, I love them. A/A-.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

2017 book 102

Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians
OOOOH y'all, if you need some good summer reading, grab this book immediately. It had been on my (lengthy) to-read lost for a long time, but when I heard they were making a movie starring Constance Wu (and other awesome ppl), it shot to the top of the list. And it was SO entertaining! Soapy, but not trashy. It centers on a Chinese-American woman, a professor, who accompanies her boyfriend to a wedding in Singapore--only to be blindsided by his crazy rich relatives. And we get a lot of their POVs as well. It's a quick, fun, and satisfying read, and I already bought the sequel. A/A-.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

2017 book 101

Joshilyn Jackson's The Almost Sisters
OMG, did Joshilyn Jackson write her latest book targeting it directly at me, or what? I love all her complicated-Southern-family books, but the protagonist of this one is a woman who makes a living as a comic book artist/graphic novelist, and also has weekly board game nights (Jackson doesn't entirely nail comic book culture but I had no major complaints). Things start with the protagonist discovering she's pregnant, the result of a one night stand at a comic book con with a guy dressed as Batman (omg), but things get more complicated when she discovers her grandmother has dementia and has to suddenly head down to Alabama. I liked the family stuff here a lot-- interesting characters and dynamics and secrets-- but there is a lot of like white lady thinking about race and trying to solve racism stuff going on (the baby she's carrying is biracial). I liked it a lot despite all that. A-.

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

2017 book 100

Gin Phillips' Fierce Kingdom
I read this all in one gulp yesterday because it was such a completely gripping book. It's the story of a woman who has taken her young son to the zoo for the day--but as they go to leave, she realizes there's a gunman shooting people, and she has to hide to save herself and her child. And everything with her narration is so intense and compelling--my heart was in my throat for just about every page. The problem really is that there are brief interludes from three other POV characters, who aren't given enough space for a reader to get to know them (the Robby POV, in particular, needed to be beefed up or eliminated completely, because it just raises a lot of questions that felt unnecessary). It kind of took me out of the story. Still, a really interesting read, even if I did want slightly more from the end. B+.

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

Thursday, June 08, 2017

2017 book 99

Michelle Cooper's The FitzOsbornes at War
Excuse me, I'm just over here sobbing and feeling all the feels that you could feel while reading a book. What a great capper to this series--and educational, without shoving lists of historical facts in your face! I love these characters and their interesting and sometimes unconventional lives so much.

207 book 98

Michelle Cooper's The FitzOsbornes in Exile
This is such a good second chapter in a trilogy--completely gripping and engaging on its own, but still building to a big finale. Of course, how could a story of a small country and its royal family caught in the political turmoil of the late 1930s NOT be compelling, especially with the narrative voice here? Plus alongside all the important political talk--lots of references to Mitfords and Kennedys. This book has everything I love.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

2017 book 97

Michelle Cooper's A Brief History of Montmoray
The end of the fiscal year means library e-books are thin on the ground, and thus it is time to reread recent favorites! I was pleased that this book held up, though really I read it for the first time not that long ago. And I am realizing that I just love books about girls living in genteel poverty in crumbling old castles (cf Dodie Smith and Patrice Kindl), particularly those told in the journal format. Anyway! This is the story of a fictional royal family, who reign over a small island off the coast of Spain--only it's 1936, and politics are beginning to encroach. And it is also the story of an eccentric family and some awesome girls--my favorite kind of story. Very well-done.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

2017 book 96

Callie Bates' The Waking Land
I was eager to read this because the publisher compares it to Naomi Novik's Uprooted, but it doesn't have the charm or skill of that book. I mean, it's fine, it's your usual girl-with-magic thrust into a position of power amidst political turmoil fantasy kind of book--which I like--and the magic and politics here are pretty interesting, as are most of the characters. The problem is really the protagonist, who clumsily changes her mind about EVERYTHING like every five pages, so she seems really petulant and wishy-washy--which I doubt is the intent. I actually think this book would have benefited from being longer, when usually I feel like this kind of story is dragged out too far--this could have really benefited from some character development, and the end feels really rushed. There is also a romance and it is fine, if occasionally overdone. Shrug? B.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on June 27th.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

2017 book 95

Sarah Gailey's River of Teeth
Well, this book has basically the best premise ever: apparently at some point in American history, some people wanted to raise hippos for meat down in the marshy south parts of the US. And this book posits: what if they actually DID that? And . . . what if it was a terrible idea, because hippos aren't exactly docile. Anyway, this book centers on a team of awesomely diverse characters, including a non-binary demolitions expert/love interest, who are working on a CAPER to move some feral hippos out to the Gulf of Mexico. It's great. They're like cowboys but they ride hand-raised tame hippos around. The visuals alone! I read an NPR review that was like "the only problem is that this book is too short!" which is true, but that's because the pacing feels really off--there just is no room for the characters or the plot to breathe. It's all super rushed. And there is a big "reveal" that I was pretty sure the protagonist already knew, so then I thought he was basically a major dope. BUT it has people riding hippos planning a caper, so like, it is still pretty awesome. There is a sequel due out in September. B+.

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

2017 book 94

Sandhya Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi
OK, y'all know YA romances are NOT my jam, but this book was SO ADORABLE that I could not even deal. Like I was rooting for this couple so hard because their story is so cute and their characters are so likable and sympathetic and Menon's plotting and humor are both seriously on point. It centers on recent high school graduates Dimple and Rishi--Dimple wants to be a web developer and is super excited about going to a pre-college summer nerd program, and is surprised that her parents are so supportive . . . but it's because they're trying to matchmake with their friends' son, who is also attending the program, and is totally on board with an (eventual) arranged marriage to Dimple. But he is totally great, despite how my description may make him sound. I totally wanted them to grow up and get married and have awesome careers and lots of makeouts. I mean, the ending feels a bit after school special and a bit rushed, but seriously, super cute. A-.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

2017 book 93

Patricia McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
This is one of those classic fantasy novels people are always recommending to me, but it was never available in a digital format so I was kind of like eh. But now it is being reissued--with an intro by Gail Carriger!--and will finally be available digitally. It's the story of a young wizard girl, from a line of wizards who care for fantastic creatures of legend, and what happens when a young warrior brings her an infant prince to care for. I will say that it is somewhat rapey (and the protagonist is threatened with even worse things, it is all very upsetting, should we blame it on a 1974 publication date or nah?) but it is beautifully written and well-plotted and moving and etc. Lessons are learned and hugs are given. Good times. A-/B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This edition and the digital version will be available in September.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 book 92

Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None
It's odd that I had never read this one before--I know I used to have a copy on my shelf--and then I started reading and right away on page 5 is some fairly vile anti-Semitism, and suddenly I remembered why Past Alicia gave that book away. (There is also a lot of racism here! Both on the part of the characters and the author. The original title of this book is also horrifically racist!) At least I knew that all the jerkfaces would die because, of course, that is the premise of the mystery. I actually think this would be almost a horror story without the explanatory epilogue, which falls flat. I admit that my feelings about this are colored by the bigotry on hand, and I am definitely taking a break from Christie for a bit.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 book 91

Dodie Smith's I Capture The Castle
What a delight to revisit this for book club! This book never fails to charm--the narrative voice and the plot are just both totally on point. I don't even want to try to summarize the plot because I could never properly describe its sweetness, humor, realism, etc etc. I should really try more of Smith's work but it's hard knowing they wouldn't be as awesome as this.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

2017 book 90

Allegra Goodman's The Chalk Artist
Goodman is an author that I am generally into, though this one left me feeling a bit puzzled. It centers on an inter-related cast of characters in Cambridge, Massachusetts--a young teacher, her love interest (the titular artist), a couple of students at the school, and so on--and touches a bit on issues of class, though doesn't delve very deeply there. A lot of the action involves a new mmorpg that several characters are tied to, which is interesting. Basically, I found all the characters here compelling--though they are all very young and very dumb--and enjoyed reading this novel, but the end left me wanting something more. B+.

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

2017 book 89

Megan Whalen Turner's Thick as Thieves
Turner's long-awaited latest novel is a standalone set in the world of her Queen's Thief series, which was handy because I only vaguely remember those books (I think this book would have been stronger if I had remembered more of them, actually). It centers on a slave who, through a circuitous series of events, ends up fleeing with a soldier working for the king from the earlier books. It is basically your typical fantasy road trip novel, a genre I find suuuuuper boring, though I did enjoy some of the conversations between the two men and found their relationship interesting. But like they are just traveling around getting into scrapes for 90 percent of the novel. The last ten percent was great and I wished the rest of the book was like that. B.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

2017 book 88

Agatha Christie's Cat Among the Pigeons
This is another of the Christie books that Robin Stevens had particularly mentioned as an influence, and who can resist Poirot getting involved in a mystery at an elite girls' boarding school? Unfortunately, this one is rife with Orientalism, like if you ever wondered exactly what Orientalism was, you could read this and see a thousand examples and shake your head in dismay, as I did. Still, the plot--involving missing jewels and murders and boarding school girls--is entertaining and surprising, and it's got that trademark Christie humor. Interestingly, Poirot himself doesn't come into things until rather late--I like how Christie just wants to tell a good story and not just focus on the famous character. And she writes such fascinating and vivid women. A- due to period racism but an otherwise top-notch story.

Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 book 87

Erin Beaty's The Traitor's Kiss
This book has gotten a lot of good reviews that were all like "this is not your typical YA fantasy book," which is a total lie, but for most of the story I was feeling it as a solid B+: plucky heroine who wants MORE than to just be married in her dumb patriarchal society ends up apprenticed to a matchmaker, and gets involved in all sorts of political machinations, and there is a cute soldier, and everyone is spying on everyone else. I actually didn't hate the love story here, though of course it was overwrought at times. But there are a lot of rape threats, and man, the last quarter of this book is a complete bloodbath. Just made me feel sick to my stomach. And then to just top it off with a whole quart of cheesiness didn't sit well with me. I am not even super interested in what happens next in this trilogy--more political drama and battle scenes, presumably, but this read almost like a standalone in the lack of cliffhangers. Oh well. B/B-.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

2017 book 86

Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express
My Christie kick continues with one of her most famous works--one that I feel like I /must/ have read before, but remembered absolutely nothing about, so was experiencing it fairly fresh. I admit that Robin Stevens' homage gave me some good clues, though not enough to figure out that ending! What a plotter Christie was. And this book is way funnier than I was expecting, too. It does lean on some really broad ethnic stereotyping, but primarily toward Western Europeans, so I didn't find it too offensive. Definitely a classic for a reason.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

2017 book 85

Alison Goodman's The Dark Days Club
Goodman's books are reaaaaaallllllly hit or miss for me, but I am a sucker for a fantasy novel set in the Regency era, and I had a few friends who liked this, so I figured I'd try it out. But my GOD, it is SO SLOW. I considered giving up several times, but after getting to page like 250 decided I would just stick it out. But seriously, so slow. Just fight some demons already or whatever. Things don't pick up till page like 350. After that it is mildly interesting, but I don't think I care enough to read the sequel. B.

2017 book 84

L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables
The new CBC Anne miniseries comes to Netflix tomorrow, so everyone has been talking about ANNE and of course I had to stop the other two books I was reading to revisit this one! I always forget how funny it is--not just all the trouble Anne gets into, but Montgomery's descriptions of the characters. And of course it is also lovely and sweet and moving and wonderful in every way. But also kind of hilarious.

Monday, May 08, 2017

2017 book 83

Gail Carson Levine's The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre
Levine's latest is a prequel to The Two Princesses of Bamarre, or maybe even just a stand-alone novel set in the same universe centuries earlier. Levine is using the Rapunzel story as a framework at first, but quickly departs from the traditional version of the tale, as this princess is told by a fairy that she has to lead a revolution for her oppressed people. Good stuff. A-.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

2017 book 82

Gail Carson Levine's Two Princesses of Bamarre
After that last book, I needed a bit of a palate cleanser, and this predictable but sweet YA fantasy suited perfectly. It centers on a pair of sister princesses in a kingdom plagued by dragons, gryphons, ogres--and a mysterious and deadly disease. The older sister longs to go off on adventures and to find the cure, but has promised to wait until her fearful younger sister is settled. I did like how the bones of the story revolve around the kingdom's folklore and storytelling, and the characters here are all really likable. Like I said--predictable but sweet. B+.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

2017 book 81

Maile Meloy's Do Not Become Alarmed
I always eagerly await a new Maile Meloy book, because I think she is such an interesting and compelling author, but oof, this one was a little much for me. It centers on an extended family going on a cruise, and you can tell something is going to go wrong, but it was so much worse than I had anticipated. And Meloy is trying to tell a story about privilege and parenthood in these modern times, but it was so hard to read ("hard to read" is another way of saying "content warning for rape and violence!!!!!!"). I mean, I was so invested in and worried about the characters, but a lot of the plot felt contrived and I just felt relieved when it was over. I never know how to rate books that make me feel so bad about the world. B?

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on June 6th.

Friday, May 05, 2017

2017 book 80

Lauren Wolk's Beyond the Bright Sea
Wolk's latest centers on a young girl in 1925 living on a small island near Massachusetts, where she was apparently found as a baby in a tiny boat by the reclusive man living there, who decided to raise her. But now that she's older, she is consumed with curiosity about where she came from. Really a lovely story about family and history, great writing here, even if the villain of the piece is under-explained. I liked this a lot. A-.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

2017 book 79

Sylvia Townsend Warner's Lolly Willowes
My feminist reading streak continues! This novel was first published in 1926, but it has a really timeless kind of feel. It centers on the titular Lolly, a middle-aged spinster who tires of living with her demanding relatives, and decides to live on her own in the country. And then her nephew follows her there, intending to write a book, and she is Fed Up with taking care of all these people and begs the universe for help. Whereupon she finds a kitten in her bedroom, which bites her, and then she is all "oh, I guess I've made a pact with Satan and this kitten is my familiar and now I am a witch." At first I was confused about whether or not she was just being silly, but no, she's made a pact with Satan and now is a witch. It is amazing. I did wish for a little bit more from the ending, but the last paragraph is a zinger. A-.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

2017 book 78

Maria Turtschaninoff's Maresi
Well, this was the perfect book to read after rereading The Handmaid's Tale! It's a really wonderful YA fantasy out of Finland, first in a trilogy, all about a young novice living in a cloister of women on a remote island, and what happens when a new novice arrives, fleeing her terrible (in the literal sense) father. But it is ALSO about female empowerment, and the importance of education and knowledge, and great friendships between women, and using religion and magic to defeat terrible men. So I loved it a lot. Can't wait for the sequel. A/A-.

Content warning for attempted rape and other terrible actions by men against women.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

2017 book 77

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale
It was my intention to wait to reread this until after the miniseries had finished airing, so as to sort of watch it with the book not so present in my brain--but then I watched the first three episodes and was like EFF IT, I am rereading this NOW. (For the record, I agree with the show that the protagonist is named June, because of all the names listed at the beginning when they say their names, June is the only one who doesn't appear as another character. I also like how the show is handling diversity. Anyway.) I had not read this in several years, but of course it still holds up, and is even more chilling in these troubled times. Atwood is such a genius.

Friday, April 28, 2017

2017 book 76

Siobhan Dowd's The London Eye Mystery
I heard about this book only recently, because Robin Stevens is working on a sequel, which of course meant I had to read this one! It focuses on Ted, a boy on the autism spectrum, and what happens when his cousin disappears while riding the London Eye (some sort of giant ferris wheel tourist attraction), and now Ted and his neurotypical teenage sister have to figure out what happened. I was SURE I had solved the case and so read a little bit impatiently, even though I turned out to be partially wrong, but the story was still entertaining--really good characters here. I look forward to seeing where Stevens takes them next. B+.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 book 75

Cindy Anstey's Duels and Deception
This is a pretty cute YA Regency romance that I couldn't quite decide how seriously to take itself. At first I was like, this is going to be one of those sweet and pleasant books where a girl has some obstacles in her live and then squares everything away and everyone lives happily ever after--then she gets kidnapped and there's a vague mystery element sort of tacked on, which was fine but not particularly compelling. I wished the writing was a little more consistent--it kind of bounces between trying to be like Jane Austen and a much more contemporary tone--but it was entertaining overall. Nothing super special but a nice diversion. B/B+.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2017 book 74

Val Emmich's The Reminders
Whoops, I accidentally read a book by a white dude, not having looked into this author beforehand (and he's not just any white dude: he played the cute young coffee guy Liz briefly dated on 30 Rock! Which explains all the Hollywood stuff in this book!). Anyway, this debut novel focuses on two people: a little girl with HSAM, that thing that Marilu Henner has where you remember every single thing that ever happened to you on every single specific date, and a Hollywood actor whose partner has suddenly died, and he's awash in grief, and goes to stay with some old college friends (the parents of the little girl). I liked both of these characters and their respective journeys a lot, and thought the exploration of grief was really moving, but the little girl's narrative voice didn't always work for me, and the end was a little predictable. Still, an entertaining and cute story. B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on May 30th.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

2017 book 73

J. Courtney Sullivan's Saints for All Occasions
Sullivan's latest is fine, though not my favorite of her books--it doesn't have that special spark to distinguish it from every other book about a complicated family with secrets. Also, it ended just when it was getting interesting! I did like the look at the mid-century Irish immigrant community in Boston, but the generation after felt a lot more generic (I guess I appreciated the nods to diversity, but I wished to see more from those characters). I also thought the descriptions of the cloistered convent where one character lives were pretty interesting. But like I said. It ended just where I was finally getting into it! The plot and characters just felt underdeveloped. I think this will be popular with book clubs though. B.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on May 9th.

2017 book 72

Lisa Ko's The Leavers
Ko's debut novel received the Bellwether Prize, which is awarded annually by Barbara Kingsolver to a novel that deals with issues of social justice. But this isn't a moralizing sort of story; it's a personal story about a young man who feels lost, and about belonging, and about the way cultures intersect and don't. The protagonist is a Chinese-American boy in New York City who, after his mother doesn't come home from work one day, is eventually adopted by a pair of white college professors and moved upstate--and renamed. His story is compelling, but I admit that the second half of the novel--when his mother's story comes into play--was a lot stronger for me. The interplay in their narratives was really well-done. Just a moving and well-written story. A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on May 2nd.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

2017 book 71

Robin Stevens' Jolly Foul Play
When you are in the middle of a couple of different books and just feeling meh about them, the only cure for your reading rut is an awesome middle grad historical British boarding school mystery! (My reading ruts have very specific cures.) The fourth Wells and Wong book is just as good as I remembered, as the Head Girl of their school is murdered--apparently by one of her prefects!--and everyone's secrets are starting to spill out. It's up to the Detective Society to solve the case and save the day--and the school! Yeah!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

2017 book 70

Becky Albertalli's The Upside of Unrequited
I really, really liked Albertalli's first book, so I was very much looking forward to her second, and it did not disappoint. It's one of those lovably chaotic and relatable and heartwarming-but-not-TOO-cheesy YA books, with a really cute and compelling narrative voice. It centers on a teen--the chubby one of a pair of twins, who always has a hopeless crush and never does anything about it--and what happens when her sister gets her first girlfriend. Lots of good diversity here too. Super nice fluffiness. A-.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

2017 book 69

Elizabeth Strout's Anything is Possible
Strout's latest is basically a sequel to My Name is Lucy Barton, in that it returns to Lucy's hometown and its various denizens, including the Bartons themselves. I think it's tackling some different themes--there is a large sense of kindness and family and love here, despite the fair share of small town secrets--but it's just as excellent as its predecessor. Just gorgeous writing and characterization--Strout is so good at taking these little pieces of a person's life and using them to show the whole. Great, great stuff. Totally the sort of book you can just get lost in. A.

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

2017 book 68

Robin Stevens' First Class Murder
Ah, finally, a text and a title left alone for the American audience! How can you improve upon perfection? Heh. Anyway, the third Wells and Wong book finds the pair investigating a spy--and a murder!--on the Orient Express--hampered by competing detectives and Hazel's disapproving father. These stories definitely hold up on a reread.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

2017 book 67

Robin Stevens' Poison is Not Polite
I was pleased to see that the second Wells and Wong mystery is less Americanized in the version that came out here (though the original title is better--Arsenic for Tea!). This is a classic English house party murder mystery--except that the house in question is Daisy Wells', and most of the suspects are related to her. Having read it before, I can say that the story totally holds together and is just as satisfying a second time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

2017 book 66

Robin Stevens' Murder is Bad Manners
Despite having a bunch of library books checked out right now, I had a hankering to revisit the Wells and Wong series! I'm reading the American versions now, which besides having inferior titles, are also totally Americanized! Like, let American children figure out that cookies are called biscuits in England--it is totally inauthentic to change that for American audiences. And like can Americans not figure out what a bunbreak is from context? Does it really need to be explained? OK, petty griping aside, I love this series and this is a great introduction to the characters, their friendships, Hazel's issues as a person of color in a very white 1930s England boarding school, not to mention their mystery-solving skills. So delightful.

2017 book 65

Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer
Ah, new Laini Taylor, you made me feel so many feels. For the first few chapters, I was messaging a friend who had already read it like "This jerkface is such a JERKFACE!!!!!" "This is making me SAD, this poor lil librarian boy!!!" "Why aren't there any GIRLS?" Rest assured that eventually girls do appear, and they are interesting! And poor lil orphan librarian boy gets cool stuff to do too. Taylor is an accomplished world-builder and pulls in a lot of interesting mythology and lore and gods and ghosts and monsters here, to great effect, and her characters are all compelling, multi-faceted, and so on--I just wish her romances were less OVERWROUGHT. They are so melodramatic that it really pulls me out of the otherwise awesome story a bit. Like there are world-changing events going on, can you save your makeout sessions for later? I also had many feels about the end and am so angry I have to wait months and months to see what happens next. A-.

Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 book 64

E. Nesbit's The Lark
Today I made the exciting discovery that a) E. Nesbit wrote books for ADULTS, and b) this adult novel centers on a pair of plucky cousins! Plucky down-to-earth young ladies are my favorites! And these two are in something of a pickle: their guardian has gambled away their inheritances and has left them high and dry (with a house and 500 pounds) to make their way in the world. Which they do, with aplomb, and with a lot of sheer hilarity I had not entirely expected from Nesbit. Too delightful, and just what I needed. A.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

2017 book 63

Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
When this book begins, you're going along like, oh, I see, Eleanor is one of those narrators who's a little offbeat, socially inept, maybe on the spectrum, but she'll learn just enough to have a cute romance or something, like in The Rosie Project. And then you realize Honeyman is sowing the seeds for a totally different kind of story--one that is a lot more heartbreaking and upsetting, but still a bit hopeful. I will just lay out a general content warning here, though the warned content is counterbalanced by some really nice examples of human kindness. Ah, this was really good, I think it is going to stick with me for a while. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on May 9th.

2017 book 62

Rachael Herron's The Songbird Sisters
Just throwing this out to the romance authors out there--maybe dooooooon't have your male love interest explain about consent to a character who has been sexually assaulted? I get that you want to be relevant/address "issues"/be educational, but that is kiiiiiiiiinda gross. Like mega mansplainy? Like I was not really into the characters in this book compared to its predecessors before that conversation, and that absolutely killed it for me? Jesus, you can't have a rich country singing dude "heal" a woman who feels damaged with the power of his words and his penis. Men are not going to rescue women and it is bizarre to read! Get a therapist, girl! Yoy. B-.

2017 book 61

Rachael Herron's The Songbird's Call
The second book in Herron's Darling Songbirds trilogy follows the same formula as the first in terms of story beats, but I found the characters in this one (the middle sister, the "chubby one," and the local sheriff) more compelling--like the first thing the couple does is rescue a kitten! I am here for this! Herron attempts to bring in real life issues like domestic violence to some good effect, which I appreciate. I am now off to read the third one, which I do hope varies slightly. B+.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

2017 book 60

Rachael Herron's The Darling Songbirds
The first book in Herron's trilogy about a trio of sisters who used to be famous country singers--and now are struggling in various ways--centers on oldest sister Adele, who makes her way to her father's hometown after her uncle's death, to deal with his various businesses--and to deal with the bartender who wants to buy his saloon. These two are mostly cute together, though Adele has some moments of incredible bitchery (she is very cruel about an alcoholic woman the reader knows is her love interest's mother) and slut-shamery (Adele is sexy in a classy way, not like all those OTHER women in their low-cut tops). Otherwise this is nice, light entertainment, and I am curious to read the followups. B/B+.

Monday, April 03, 2017

2017 book 59

Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library
A few months ago, I watched a bunch of the Miss Marple mysteries on Hulu, and this one was my favorite (primarily because it involved Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous constantly bragging about how awesome her friend Miss Marple was, but also because it was just a cleverly told mystery), so I was interested to see the source material (which does differ in some large respects). And it was just as good--really well-plotted and with a hilariously dry narrative voice. I love how all the important police dudes are like "But what does Miss Marple think???" the whole time. Old ladies getting stuff done. Totally my jam. A/A-.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

2017 book 58

Jacqueline Winspear's In This Grave Hour
In the latest Maisie Dobbs book, WWII has just been declared, and Maisie is asked to investigate the murder of a man who came to England as a Belgian refugee during WWI. There is also a whole thing with a little girl evacuated to her family's house, who doesn't speak. I like the characters in this series a lot, and like that Winspear is just as focused on them and their lives as on the mystery aspects, but the latter were a bit weak here for sure. And the writing is occasionally awkward--lots of awkward exposition, lengthy monologues, etc. Still, I am interested in these characters and their journeys, and certainly plan on reading the next one. B/B+.

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2017 book 57

Benjamin Alire Sáenz's The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
I really liked Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, but the author's latest didn't really hit those high notes for me. It's about a teenage boy, his adoptive gay father, his best (girl) friend and her neglectful mother, another friend, nature vs nurture, whatever. It kind of goes around in circles and the writing and dialogue felt really awkward and slow to me. There is also just a lot of melodrama. There are some interesting thoughts about loss but the material just didn't connect for me. B.

Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 book 56

Robin Stevens' Cream Buns and Crime
The latest book in Stevens' Wells and Wong series is actually a series of short stories involving the duo and their friends, with interstitial material on codes and ciphers, baking, recommended detective stories, etc. I was of course more interested in the former--the latter is definitely geared to a younger audience, but it's all stuff I would have loved when I was a kid. Anyway, it's all a lot of fun, if not quite as compelling as the full-length novels in this series. And it definitely ends on a high note. A-.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

2017 books 53, 54, 55

I just got home from a trip where I did not bring my laptop, and I am tired, so I am blogging my vacation reads in one entry.

Kathleen Flynn's The Jane Austen Project
Up until the end, I'd have said that this book was way better than it needed to be. It's about a pair of time travelers from a dystopian future who are tasked with befriending Jane Austen, recovering the lost manuscript of a novel and her lost letters, and maybe find out why she died--which is all very ridiculous, but I am kind of here for it. And the main character being a Jewish woman doctor who has to hide a lot of her identity to fit into Regency times is pretty interesting. I didn't love the end, but this was definitely an entertaining read. B/B+. A review copy was provided by the publisher--this book will be released on May 2nd.

Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Rereading this for book club and it was a joy to revisit--such an amazingly vivid look at lower class life in Brooklyn in 1912 (complete with some very interesting opinions of Jews!). I still can't believe I read this in school in like 6th grade--not that we couldn't all relate to Francie, but this book has a lot of  . . . gritty and sordid parts. Still an amazing novel. Did you know Betty Smith lived in (and is buried in) Chapel Hill in her later years? A.

Stephanie Burgis' The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart
Burgis is a reliably good author, and her latest is a charming middle grade story about a young dragon who wants to discover her passion--and when magical hot chocolate transforms her into a human, she discovers her passion is chocolate (!!!) AND gets to have an adventure as she is trapped in human form and has to make her own way. This book was super cute and made me hungry. Excellent. A/A-. A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on May 30th.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 book 52

Hannah Tinti's The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
Tinti's long-awaited latest novel (after the great The Good Thief) was well worth said wait--it's one of those books you can totally rip through in one sitting, and you probably will want to. It's centered on a girl with an unconventional childhood, who, with her father, is maybe finally settling down--interspersed with tales from her father's criminal past. The two stories gradually intersect to strong results. I was not super into the daughter's love interest, who takes up way too much space in the story, but enjoyed her interest in astronomy, her dealings (and her father's) in a small town, family secrets coming to light, grand theft auto etc. Really entertaining and gorgeous writing. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on March 28th.

2017 book 51

Elif Batuman's The Idiot
Batuman's first novel is a semi-autobiographical tale involving a Turkish-American freshman at Harvard in the mid 90s, who falls for a totally unbearable and pretentious Hungarian guy, and so a lot of this novel involves them having meandering conversations and I wanted him to just GO AWAY. It was all very realistic to being in college in the 90s, which is maybe my problem! (I did love all the little period details--I was in college just a couple years later and nodded knowingly throughout. Also, this book made me miss taking totally random and fun college classes.) But seriously, I hated that guy so much and the story feels like wading through molasses whenever she is with him, or thinking about him, or emailing him, which is most of the time. It just felt so claustrophobic. Maybe that is the point, but I can't say I enjoyed it that much. B.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

2017 book 50

Darcie Wilde's A Purely Private Matter
The second book in Wilde's Rosalind Thorne series is just as entertaining as its predecessor--I love historical mysteries where ladies get things done! In this one, Rosalind is asked by a friend of a friend to help prove she is innocent of adultery--so the child she is carrying won't be labeled a bastard. Wilde does such a good job highlighting the issues of women in this era, while also filling her books with super awesome ladies. The mystery here is a bit convoluted but the storytelling is riveting--though I do hope the love triangle is resolved sooner rather than later, because that has the potential to become really repetitive. Anyway, I look forward to reading more in this series for sure. B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on May 2nd.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

2017 book 49

Catriona Lally's Eggshells
I had read several positive reviews of this that made it seem like it would be a sweet and satisfying story--my main concern was that it would veer into cheesiness. Instead it is aggressively, annoyingly, disconcertingly quirky. The narrator is supposed to be "whimsical" but instead reads as though she is a disturbed child locked into a fantasy world.  Like, she sounds and acts less sensible than some nine year olds I know. Like, I was really worried she was going to do something terrible and violent. There are also some gross parts (ie describing unbrushed teeth in detail, horrifying for this dentist's daughter to imagine). I kept waiting for the story to lead somewhere, but though it hints at childhood trauma, nothing is ever addressed head-on, and I didn't feel like there was any resolution. Just a sad, mad protagonist. B-.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

2017 book 48

Tricia Levenseller's Daughter of the Pirate King
I am SUPER HERE for books about girl pirates and this one did not disappoint. It starts with the titular daughter of the Pirate King being captured by enemies--but it is all a ruse, and she just wants to search their ship for a piece of a map to a magical treasure!! Or whatever macguffin. And she can't possibly let herself get distracted by the cute first mate who's hanging around (this romance starts in a way that I found really awkwardly written, but it was working better by the end). There is action galore and all sorts of secrets to uncover (I /did/ guess all the secrets but they were still pretty satisfying). This book was super fun and I can't wait to read the sequel for more GIRL PIRATE ADVENTURES. A-/B+.

Content warning for some gross wannabe-rapey dude pirates.

Monday, March 13, 2017

2017 book 47

Mohsin Hamid's Exit West
This seems to be an oddly timely novel, dealing as it does with a young couple, Saeed and Nadia, falling in love in an unnamed war-torn country, and then fleeing as refugees--which is where some magical realism starts to kick in, as their flight is through a mysterious doorway. I actually found the more realistic first half to be more compelling than the slightly more fantastic second half, though I did appreciate the look at how each character takes on adapting to and surviving in an uncertain new world. I don't know, I enjoyed this story and thought the writing was strong, but didn't really feel very connected to Saeed at all, and I wanted to see a lot more about Nadia. Anyway, it's a quick and interesting read. B+.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

2017 book 46

Claire Cameron's The Last Neanderthal
Cameron's latest, after the harrowing The Bear, is a slightly easier read than its predecessor. It centers on a Neanderthal girl in  . . . Neanderthal times? . . . who is struggling to survive and to maintain her family traditions. This is interspersed with the story of a (pregnant) archaeologist working on an important dig in France. I found the former much more fascinating--I think I just know too many stories about women struggling in academia and with finding grant funding AND with motherhood, though Cameron certainly nails all of that. But she REALLY nails the Neanderthal girl, and the modern segments put a lot of that story/history in context, so I suppose it all does work together. I also really liked the way she wrapped things up. A far cry from Clan of the Cave Bear. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Friday, March 10, 2017

2017 book 45

Eva Ibbotson's Which Witch
After my last few books, I wanted to read something on the sillier side, and this certainly obliged. It's the story of a very black wizard in England who decides he has to marry and have a child, and so he holes a competition for the local witches--one of whom is a very white witch who longs to be a black witch! And then an orphan, an earthworm, an ogre, and an enchantress come into play. Now, this is certainly a little bit sexist (though it does have some very funny women characters) and a few parts are APPALLINGLY racist/stereotypical, in that casual 1970s way, but it was cheerful and whimsical (and occasionally dark) otherwise. B+?

Thursday, March 09, 2017

2017 book 44

Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give
I saw just last night that this was number one on the NYT bestseller list this week, and that is honestly thrilling, because it deserves to be. Before publication, this was getting a ton of buzz as the "Black Lives Matter" book, and it is certainly a very human look at a teenage girl who gets caught up things after her childhood friend is killed by a cop right in front of her after a traffic stop. But it is also a really amazing story about a girl, about a great family (the relationships between the protagonists and her parents are especially well-done), class issues, white privilege, code-switching, injustice, and so much more. If my only beef if with the overly-positive portrayal of the protagonist's white boyfriend, well, that is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Everyone should read this book, and especially privileged people should read this book and really try and think about their privilege and maybe how they can try and improve things for everyone. Or just read a good story, whichever. A/A-.