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-.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

2017 book 43

C.S. Harris' Where the Dead Lie
The 12th Sebastian St Cyr mystery is exceedingly unpleasant, as it involves St Cyr trying to track down a serial killer who rapes and tortures children. So like, yeah. And this is sliiightly balanced by how much I love his marriage (though a new character introduced in that arena is SO CLEARLY a spy and a murderer and it is making me so angry that that isn't addressed in this book), but that is not enough. And maybe if the mystery itself was better, this would be less awful to read, but it's just St Cyr bouncing around trying to figure out which disgusting man is also a disgusting serial killer--there aren't really any clues and the resolution isn't that satisfying. I mean, I will keep reading this series, but I did not enjoy this one. B-.

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

Monday, March 06, 2017

2017 book 42

Octavia Butler's The Parable of the Talents
Oh good gravy, Octavia Butler was a prescient woman. In the second Earthseed book, the daughter of the protagonist from the first book is piecing together her mother's writings and philosophies--while chronicling the rise of a white supremacist/evangelical/tyrannical presidential candidate who talks "of making America great again." There is a line like "Their leader has come to power. They have acquired...if not legitimacy, at least a shadow of sophistication." Ugh. This book would have been hard to read even in better and less frightening times, but reading it now was honestly horrifying and I just found parts of it to very upsetting. And that's not even getting into the fairly tragic mother-daughter story. This was so good but it REALLY bummed me out. A-.

Content warning for a lot of rape, child abuse, and other violence.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

2017 book 41

Robin Stevens' Mistletoe and Murder
Here is how much I love the Wells and Wong series: I was eager to read this EVEN THOUGH it was Christmas themed! Luckily, it was also Cambridge themed (no worries: Gaudy Night is referenced), as the girl detective society goes to visit Daisy's brother (and other acquaintances) for the holidays--where foul play seems to be afoot, and where a rival detective agency is also on the scene! I love it so much!!!!! I really find these characters so fascinating, and Stevens does a really good job with acknowledging the racism of the 1930s. She is also great at writing a story that truly is appealing to all ages. GREAT stuff. A.

2017 book 40

Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower
At Comic Book Book Club last week, one of the members said people kept comparing our current country's situation to books like 1984, but he thought Butler's Earthseed series (particularly the second one) was way more relevant--so I thought I'd reread them, since I haven't read them since college. Or maybe I've never read them, or maybe reading them now makes everything more resonant, because holy hell, did I not remember any of this. It's the story of a black teenage girl in California in the very near future (slightly less near when this was written in the 1990s), who a) has some very definite thoughts about God, and b) is pretty sure society is about to collapse even more than it already has, and maybe she should be prepared. And she is. She is great. A/A-.

Content warning for mentions of rape and other violence (though there are no graphic details).

Thursday, March 02, 2017

2017 book 39

Heather O'Neill's The Lonely Hearts Hotel
I am a fan of O'Neill's from way back (Lullabies for Little Criminals was great) and was excited that this book was getting a lot of buzz, being compared to The Night Circus, etc. I guess it is Night-Circus-y, in that there is a circus and a tiny bit of magic, but it's way more depressing and less epic? There is a lot of physical and sexual abuse of children and all sorts of things I found really hard to read. I mean, it's just relentlessly cruel/weird/unpleasant/frustrating/obsessed with sex. ( I am all in favor of sex-positivity but there is a REALLY odd focus on sex here.) I mean, I cared enough to keep reading, just to see what would happen, but I was just left feeling puzzled and sad for most of the book. I did kind of love the very end though. B?

Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 book 38

Elizabeth Wein's The Pearl Thief
I was more than a little wary when I saw that a prequel to my beloved Code Name Verity--ONE OF MY TOP FIVE ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS--was being released, but this story--involving a teenage Julia at her recently deceased grandfather's estate in Scotland dealing with some missing pearls and a missing scholar--is a different kind of story altogether. But Julia is still Julia, and spending time with her--and her friends, including a librarian with a genetic disorder and a shotgun, and two Traveller teens--is a delight (even if she didn't solve the mystery as quickly as I did). Plus, I am now positive that Julia is canonically bisexual, for those who are interested in that little factoid! This is another great story about friendship and family and overcoming the odds and archaeology and everything great in the world (aside from two scenes featuring unwanted sexual advances, anyway). Elizabeth Wein, thank you for giving me a little bit more Julia. A/A-.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

2017 book 37

N.K. Jemisin's The Awakened Kingdom
I am having wrist issues so can't type a lot, unfortunately. Here is what I wrote last time, which I still agree with.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

2017 book 36

N.K. Jemisin's The Kingdom of Gods
The third book in the Inheritance Trilogy is a fitting conclusion to the series, though I don't like it quite as much as the first two--I think I'm just not as invested in the characters in this one. It still is really interesting and action-packed, just not quite as resonant for me.

Friday, February 24, 2017

2017 book 35

N.K. Jemisin's The Broken Kingdoms
I think when I first read this series, this one was my favorite--I still liked it very much, but certainly saw the appeal of the first one even more this time, and am eager to read the third (and the novella) to see how it all comes together. Anyway, this one takes place ten years after the first one, and involves a fallen god, a blind artist with magical abilities, and someone attacking local godlings. Can they figure out what is going on, and can the world recover from the events of the first book? And will the story be moving and exciting and sad and wonderful? Um, yeah.

2017 book 34

N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
I kept wishing I could read something like The Inheritance Trilogy--something epic and engrossing and wonderful--and then I realized I could just reread The Inheritance Trilogy. :) (But if you have epic book recs for me, feel free to share.) I had forgotten a few of the details since the last time I read it, but the bones of the story have stayed with me. I like how Jemisin puts her own twist on the usual story of a girl coming to court to take her place as leader and deal with politics--not to mention gods.  And I found the narrative voice much more effective and interesting this time. Ah, NK Jemisin, can't you write a book every month?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2017 book 33

Diana Wynne Jones' Dogsbody
I wanted to reread something to test Goodreads' new rereading function, and it had been long enough since I read this that I didn't remember the details any more. Anyway, it is a lovely story full of stars and dogs and star-dogs, as the dog-star Sirius is convicted of a crime he didn't commit, and his sentence is to be reborn on Earth as a puppy! Can he save the day in a dog's lifespan, with the help of the sun and a sweet little girl? Will the story be delightful along the way? I mean, it IS Diana Wynne Jones.

Content warning for a lot of casual animal cruelty.

Monday, February 20, 2017

2017 book 32

Vic James' Gilded Cage
This very interesting first book in a trilogy takes place in a world where the monarchy in England was never restored, and the country is now ruled by a parliament of magic-users, where non-magic users have to serve a ten-year period of slavery for some reason that isn't entirely clear, but makes for a compelling story. (Sidebar: the Civil War in the US apparently involved issues of both slavery and magic, and the Union did not win. That's not pertinent here though.) Anyway, the central characters are two teenage siblings whose family is about to start their slavery period--one falling for a wealthy aristocrat (both these characters aren't super interesting but could become interesting later), the other falling in with a crowd of rebels--and the powerful youngest son of a magic-using family who has plots galore. I like the intersection of history, magic, and politics, so this book was pretty much right up my alley, even if it did have a couple of weak spots. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes next. A-/B+.

2017 book 31

Kathy Hepinstall's The Book of Polly
This was recommended for fans of Joshilyn Jackson, which I generally am, so I figured I'd check it out, but it was just okay. It centers on a girl with an eccentric, older mother (the titular Polly), and the first half, which focuses on that relationship, is much stronger than the second half. The daughter is obsessed with the secrets of her mother's past, which, when revealed, are not that interesting (I mean, they could have been, but are not presented in a particularly interesting manner). There are also two attempted rape scenes, a very weird raft journey, and an ending that just can't bring it all together. Maybe one for a wine mom kind of book club, but not really my thing. B.

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 book 30

Meg Howrey's The Wanderers
Howrey's latest--after The Cranes Dance and Blind Sight, both of which I ALSO loved, and so clearly I need to pay more attention to this author--is an excellent, excellent literary novel about a trio of cosmonauts training for a mission to Mars--and the families they're isolated from. Just totally gripping, compelling, interesting, engrossing, and every other adjective that means I didn't want to put this down. I mean, this is much more psychological than action-packed, but it is not any less fascinating for that (and maybe more so). I have not read The Martian and so can't compare them, but I definitely highly recommend this. A.

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

2017 book 29

Scarlett Thomas' Dragon's Green
Sometimes when an author who normally writes for adults writes a book aimed at a younger audience, it feels majorly dumbed down--and I was not sure how Thomas, whose books are somewhat eccentric, would pull it off. But I should not have doubted an author I love, because this was GREAT. It's a middle grade fantasy full of magic, friendship, villains, annoying relatives, and best of all: BOOKS. I feel like most of these pieces are familiar to fans of middle grade fiction, but Thomas puts them together in a really smart way. It centers on a girl whose mother vanished after a mysterious worldquake (which wiped out the internet!!), and . . . well, I am not going to get anywhere with a plot summary, except to say magical adventures are afoot, an entire library needs to be rescued, the characters here are charming, and Thomas has set a lot of things in motion to sustain a series. A series I am VERY much looking forward to reading. VERY MUCH. A/A-.

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

2017 book 28

Julianne Pachico's The Lucky Ones
Pachico's debut is sort of a series of interconnected stories revolving around Colombia in the 1990s and 2000s--when things were more than a little unsettled and disappearances were rampant. Some sections worked better than others--most of the characters are absurdly well-off, but when we finally get the POV of one of their maids, it's not that compelling (and features perhaps one coincidence too many). Just a few too many young, wealthy girls as characters--although I imagine that is a world the author knows well, I would have liked a little more variety. (But don't even get me started on the bunnies.) I did like how some of the storylines were unresolved, which of course fits in with the themes of the disappearances. Strong writing here, I just wished for a bit more from the characterization and plot. B+.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2017 book 27

K.B. Wagers' After The Throne
The second book in Wagers' Indranan War series is more of the same, but heightened--lots more politics, action, outlaws (with hearts of gold), etc. It hits a lot of the same beats as the first one, though does harp a little more on men wanting equality in the matriarchal society (which would maybe feel more legit if so many of the primary and secondary characters weren't strong, powerful men). The villainous plotting is also fairly predictable and silly. The writing here is just not quite enough to grab me--I am mildly interested in where the author is going with this, but don't really feel invested in the world. Not sure if I'll read the next one. B.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2017 book 26

Nina LaCour's We Are Okay
I feel like I somehow was super out of the loop not to know Nina LaCour--an author I LOVE--had a new book coming out this week until like a week ago, but hey, it is out and I did find out so it all worked out. This one doesn't have quite the depth of some of LaCour's other works--it's a bit shorter--but touches on familiar themes of grief, coming of age, family, friendship, romance, bisexual and lesbian teens, etc. I really liked the story here--it is full of raw emotion and it's pretty compelling. And the writing is stunning. A-.

2017 book 25

K.B. Wagers' Behind the Throne
This sci-fi book centers on a runaway princess (who left home to track down her father's killer and then she became a gunrunner, as one does), forced to return home after decades away after her sisters and niece are murdered--because it's a matriarchal (and Indian-themed) society, and so now she's the heir. The usual political and diplomatic shenanigans ensue, but the characters and world-building are likable and interesting, even if some of the plot points are a bit obvious. And I would describe the writing as "adequate" or "workmanlike." Maybe that all sounds negative, but I liked the book enough to want to read the next one in this series. B/B+.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

2017 book 24

Jessica Day George's Saturdays at Sea
The latest book in the Tuesdays with the Castle series is also apparently the LAST, which I am hugely bummed about, because this series is SO CUTE. It is full of adorable griffins and puppies--and in this one, a magical ship AND a quest for unicorns. I really feel like this series could have gone on a little longer--or at least, I would have been eager to read more magical adventures. A-.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

2017 book 23

Judith Flanders' A Cast of Vultures
I really, really enjoy Flanders' Sam Clair series, about an editor who finds herself mixed up in mysteries. Her writing is just really funny and engaging, and Sam is a likable and entertaining character. Flanders also tooooootally nails the intricacies of the publishing world--and I'm just as interested in her assistant and their office politics as I am in the case of the moment (this one involves a friend's missing neighbor, though things quickly grow more complicated--as they are wont to do, in a mystery!). I could quibble a bit with the plotting of this mystery, which relies on a lot of coincidences, BUT I enjoyed this book so much--seriously, really strong writing and characterization--that I don't even care. I can't wait for more from Flanders. A/A-.

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

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

2017 book 22

Naomi Novik's Uprooted
Rereading this for book club was a special joy--it's so nice to have a story I can really just sink into and forget the world for a while. I had forgotten a lot of the details since the last time I read it, so it was nice to rediscover all the little things. I had especially forgotten how sort of dark and violent it was--but of course remembered all the good friendship and magic and prickly romance stuff! Typical Alicia. Still an A and I can't wait to see what Novik does next.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

2017 book 21

Mur Lafferty's Six Wakes
OK, this book has an AMAZING concept--it's a sci fi locked room murder mystery!! It takes place on a spaceship in the 2400s, heading from earth to colonize a new planet, and starts with all the crew awakening in their new clone bodies because all their previous bodies have been murdered! But they are all missing a looooot of memories, and have no idea who killed everyone, or why. And they all have a lot of secrets in their pasts! Now, the writing here is a little bit awkward--I definitely wished it would have been more polished. But the plot is great, and the last chunk moves a long really well. And NPR liked it! B/B+.

Full disclosure: Mur Lafferty did signings at a store where I worked and so I met her several times. She is super cool and nice.

Monday, January 30, 2017

2017 book 20

T. Kingfisher's Summer in Orcus
Ursula Vernon's latest under her T. Kingfisher brand (for her less kid-friendly stories--though I think this would be fine for older kids) is just as good as all of her other awesome books, so hooray! Originally published as a serial, this story centers on eleven year old Summer, with a very overprotective mother, and what happens when Summer encounters Baba Yaga and is granted her heart's desire. There are so many great characters here (you will be rooting for birds and trees galore) and I loved everything about it. There are a couple of typos (let me proofread for you, Ursula Vernon!!!!) but who even cares because this is great. Glorious, even. A/A-.

Full disclosure, Ursula Vernon did signings at a store when I worked there and I think she is super cool.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

2017 book 19

Claire Fuller's Swimming Lessons
Fuller's second novel (after the great but upsetting Our Endless Numbered Days) is the story of a family--or really, the story of a troubled marriage that ended when the wife disappeared--presumably drowned. Now it's years later and her husband (a famous writer) is sure he's seen her in passing on the street, but it's passed off as dementia as his daughters come to care for him. All of that is interspersed with the letters she wrote him--and hid in the books on his bookshelves--before she left. And those letters are so much more compelling than the modern stuff (none of those characters feel fully realized, especially the younger daughter's love interest who just hangs around to be an annoying fanboy--was I supposed to be rooting for them to make it?). I feel like there are so many literary novels about troubled jerkface writers cheating on their wives--and so I really found her perspective so interesting, as she deals with young motherhood, societal expectations, the loss of her own dreams, her philandering husband and his writing, etc. Emotional labor galore. I wish the book had just been her story because that's where it really shines--the rest is kind of sketchy. B/B+.

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

2017 book 18

April Daniels' Dreadnought: Nemesis - Book One
I am partial to superhero novels, but I think there's a lot to like here even for those of you who are less nerdy than I am! Daniels' debut centers on a teenage girl who's trans, but not out--largely due to her verbally abusive father--and what happens when she inherits the powers of a famous superhero--and suddenly her body looks the way she always thought it should. The writing and plotting here are both really solid--I was definitely caught up in the story, as the new teen superhero teams up with a cowgirl-themed classmate and deals with grown-up heroes and their superhero politics. Content warning for a few asshole transphobe saying asshole transphobic stuff. But seriously, this book was a lot of fun and I can't wait for book two. A/A-.

Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 book 17

Emily Bitto's The Strays
This book felt very familiar to me, though I can't conjure up what exactly it was reminding me of--maybe it's just that a middle-class girl becoming enamored of her friend's family's bohemian lifestyle is a trope? This one mixes in the 1930s Australian art scene, which does make it more interesting. The writing style here is very engaging and I definitely wanted to know what was going to happen, but found the resolution to be fairly unsatisfying and more than a little gross. Great commentary on women artists, women as wives and mothers, etc, though. B/B+.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

2017 book 16

Brittany Cavallaro's The Last of August
The second book in Cavallaro's Charlotte Holmes trilogy--about the teenage descendants of Holmes and Watson befriending each other and solving crimes--did not work as well as the first, for me. I feel like a lot of Sherlock Holmes adaptations lean way too heavily on the Moriarty stuff, and that is definitely the case here. The thing is that the mystery here--involving European art forgery and a missing uncle--doesn't really work for me either. It's kind of all over the place! The mystery is overly complicated and so is the relationship between the teen detectives (though I do find that more compelling--I think Holmes is a good depiction of a trauma survivor).  I still do want to see how Cavallaro wraps this all up, but given where this one ends, I'm just not sure what to expect. B.

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

2017 book 15

Min Jin Lee's Pachinko
This was really a fascinating and great book focusing on several generations of a Korean family, starting in the early 1900s, and what happens when they end up in Japan. Besides being a great story, it has interesting looks at things like colonialism, discrimination (of various kinds), politics, the economy, etc. I also feel like Americans don't often read novels about the Asian experience of WWII/the Korean War, and this was very well-done in that regard. But mainly it is the story of a family. I did wish for slightly more from the end but found this to be a very engaging read overall. A-.

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017 book 14

Barbara Bretton's Spells and Stitches
I was pretty worried heading into this final Sugar Maple book that Bretton wasn't even going to address the boyfriend's child-related traumas as a magical baby (side note, why do women in fantasy books give their babies the dumbest names?) is born, but that turned out not to be an issue at all, which was great! What was not great was the boyfriend's little sister basically being brainwashed and kidnapped and becoming a sex slave. It was intensely upsetting, in fact, and it kind of just gets dropped. Totally gross. B-.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2017 book 13

Barbara Bretton's Spun By Sorcery
The third Sugar Maple book continues a downward trend in this series--it focuses much more on the protagonist's ancestors and manages to be dull despite involving the witches of Salem. I spent most of the book wishing Bretton (or her editor) would learn to use a comma (and wishing the two protagonists would stop being so wishy-washy about everything). The conflicts and magical battles just feel so repetitive. Like, I guess I'll read the fourth one since it's the last one and presumably things will finally come together, but I am not excited about it. B/B-.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2017 book 12

Barbara Bretton's Laced With Magic
The second Sugar Maple book was kind of a bummer after its predecessor! Sure, there's plenty of knitting and magic and magical knitting, but the plot hinges on the ghost of a dead child being trapped and tortured! And the author seems to think it resolves nice and neatly but I thought the end was kind of messed up. I mean, it's still a somewhat silly cozy fantasy type story and I did read it in one sitting, but man, seriously. Not a cheerful outing in this series. B.

2017 book 11

George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo
I normally don't prioritize books by white men, but was intrigued to read Saunders' first novel (after many short story collections), which supposedly centered on the death of young Willie Lincoln (son of Abe) in the White House. I found the sort of cemetery-ghosts-as-Greek-chorus/history-books-as-Greek-chorus style of narration to be interesting as a literary device, but somewhat annoying to actually read (will it be better in star-studded audiobook form?). But every time I put it down in disgust (most of the narrators are white men and some of them are gross, lots of talk of their protruding members and "sluts" and rape), I was like, well, I might as well pick it up again and read more, I want to see what happens to Willie. And it went pretty much how I expected it to go and was thus not particularly compelling (there are a few black voices in the second half, with period-appropriate bleak stories)--though the very last bit was pretty great, I'll give Saunders that. I imagine this is going to be popular but I wasn't really feeling its vibe. B.

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 book 10

S. Jae-Jones' Wintersong
I am gonna take a shot in the dark and guess that S. Jae-Jones is a huge fan of Labyrinth, because her Goblin King--in a story about a young woman whose sister is kidnapped by said Goblin King--is basically David Bowie. Which, hey, I am ALSO a fan of Labyrinth and David Bowie, and so have no real problem with this. My major beef with this book is that, when there are two sisters in a book, why is one always an overlooked brunette genius and the other a flirtatious blonde who loves shopping and clothes? It's such a cliche in what is otherwise a decent story, full of Eastern European mythology and magic. (And David Bowie.) I mean, the second half descends into sheer melodrama, (omg such melodrama) and I could have done with slightly less discussion of music composition, but it was pretty entertaining and generally well-written. B/B+.

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

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2017 book 9

Mette Ivie Harrison's For Time and All Eternities
The latest book in Harrison's Linda Wallheim series--about a middle-aged Mormon woman who finds herself solving crimes in her community--is the strongest entry in the series yet. In this one, her fourth son's fiancee asks Linda to meet her parents and see if she can suss out if one of her little sisters is being abused--which is harder to suss out than you might think, as the family is polygamous. And of course things only get more complicated from there. Meanwhile, Linda's own marriage is a little bit shaky due to conflicts over the Church's policy on LGBT individuals (the characters have a gay son), and reading about her experiences as a progressive Mormon woman is definitely fascinating and compelling to an outsider. This series is just really well-written as both a mystery series and a character study. Highly recommended. A/A-.

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