Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 book 217

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I maintain that this is the weakest of the HP books, but the creation of Gilderoy Lockhart is an all-time winner. A champion example of a hilarible mansplainer. I will also submit a hot take at this time: I do NOT understand y’all who are into Draco Malfoy. In the first book he is a snobbish asshole; in this one, he is straight up racist and relishes the thought of Muggle-borns dying. So like, what is the appeal there? Anyway, Hermione manages to save the day while basically in a coma, so yay for that.

It looks like this is the last book of the year for me—here’s to more good reading in 2018!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 book 216

Kim Fu's The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore 
This book has been getting a TON of buzz and let me tell you, it lives up to the hype. It’s centered on a group of young girls at a summer camp in Vancouver, and a kayaking trip that goes awry, flashing back and forth between that event and the girls' young adulthoods. It’s compelling and evocative stuff. Just really outstanding. A.

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

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 book 215

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
I will very soon be going to THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER, fulfilling what feels like a lifelong dream—even though I know that is not logically possible—so of course I had to immerse myself in some HP to prepare. This is such a good intro to the world and sets up so much of the later stuff, though I do think Dumbledore is way more problematic than intended. This is balanced out by NEVILLE. I LOVE YOU, NEVILLE.

Monday, December 25, 2017

2017 book 214

Thisbe Nissen's Our Lady of the Prairie 
Literary novels about middle aged academics having affairs have never been something I was particularly interested in, but this one grabbed me—at first—with its strong narrative voice. The fact that the narrator is a middle aged Jewish woman theater professor also made this feel a bit fresher, plus the first half of the novel turns on her mentally ill daughter's marriage to an Amish man—so a lot of balls are being juggled, but I found it compelling enough. Things start to drag as the narrator becomes mired in indecision and self pity, and I could have done without a lengthy dream sequence about WWII French collaborators as well as the lengthy retreads of the Bush-Kerry election (the novel is set in 2004 for some reason). I just found this all to be more insufferable the longer it went on. B-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on January 23.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017 book 213

Melissa Albert's The Hazel Wood
Protagonist Alice is a teenage girl whose single mother has moved her from place to place, trying to outrun their bad luck. She is also the granddaughter of a reclusive author of creepy fairy tales who has a cult following. When they hear said grandmother has died, they think they are finally free, but that is when things really start to go wrong. This story was weird, and creepy, and unexpected, and awesome. I read this all in one sitting and loved almost every second of it. A/A-.

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

Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017 book 212

Ann Patchett's Bel Canto
I have had three separate conversations about Patchett recently, which of course made me want to reread some Patchett! I am personally not into opera, but this story is so operatic (and I guess they did actually make an opera of it recently, to boot) that it makes me want to try and get into it! If you have somehow not read this book, it is the story of a group of South American guerillas who take a party of fancy people hostage. It is beautiful and tragic. State of Wonder is probably an even stronger novel, but this one really speaks to me.

Monday, December 18, 2017

2017 book 211

Jodi Lynn Anderson's My Diary from the Edge of the World
This is a perfectly fine middle grade book set in a world that is very similar to ours, except that it's also got a lot of paranormal creatures wreaking havoc--oh, and it's flat. The book is meant to be the diary of a middle-schooler but the narrative voice was not particularly authentic to me. Still, it's an interesting story of a family on the run, trying to escape a terrible fate, and maybe make it to the Extraordinary World--our world. I liked the family relationships here but wished for a little bit more, I guess? B/B+.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2017 book 210

Sage Blackwood's Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded
This was a very cute MG fantasy centered on a girl at the titular school, who has to band together with her friends to save the city with magic and heart and the occasional crossbow. The book doesn’t make light of the cost of war but there are some funny moments, and I especially liked all the little magical schoolgirls (and Anna!). I also liked that it talked about things like the inaccuracies of history lessons. Good stuff. A-/B+.

Monday, December 11, 2017

2017 book 209

Erika Johansen’s The Fate of the Tearling
The conclusion to Johansen’s Tearling trilogy improves on a second reading, when you can see her laying the groundwork for how things are going down. There is still a lot going on, but not in a bad way, and I appreciate how she humanizes (some of) her villains in this volume. Still a lot of sexual violence and rape threats, which I personally prefer less of in my epic fantasy. I’ve read that the author is planning more books set in this universe, and I’ll read them, or anything else she writes, because she has a deft hand with plot and characterization.

2017 book 208

Erika Johansen's The Invasion of the Tearling
Another gripping one, even though I have read it before! In the second Tearling book, the narrative is divided between the young queen, and a woman from our near future (a future that feels nearer every day, frankly), which answers a lot of questions about the world and how it came to be. Unfortunately this volume ramps up the sexual violence, which does make a lot of it hard to read. Still a solid story though.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

2017 favorites!

All right, we've reached the point in the year where I admit to myself that I am not going to read any more of the big 2017 books and have succumbed to the peer pressure to tally up my favorite books and albums!

2017 was mostly a terrible year but I did get to see Hamilton on Broadway with two of my closest friends and also I knitted several giant shawls, so I call that a win. It was also a great year for STUFF!

Alicia's Top 10 Albums of 2017 (in alphabetical order)*:

Aimee Mann's Mental Illness
All Our Exes Live in Texas' When We Fall
Alvvays' Antisocialites
Belle and Sebastian's How to Solve Our Human Problems (Part 1)
Charly Bliss' Guppy
Coco Hames' Self-titled
Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton's American Dream
A Giant Dog's Toy
Slowdive's Self-titled
Sweet Spirit's St. Mojo

*I acknowledge that this list is not very diverse.

Alicia's Top 11 Books of 2017 (in alphabetical order):

Naomi Alderman's The Power
Kristin Cashore's Jane Unlimited
Louise Erdrich's Future Home of the Living God
T. Kingfisher's Summer in Orcus
Meg Howrey's The Wanderers
N.K. Jemisin's The Stone Sky
Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere
Elizabeth Strout's Anything is Possible
Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give
Scarlett Thomas' Dragon's Green
Gabrielle Zevin's Young Jane Young

Here's hoping to a better 2018 with lots more great books and music!

2017 book 207

Erika Johansen's Queen of the Tearling
Rereading this for book club, I was struck anew by what a compulsively readable book this is. I mean, I've read it several times and remembered it pretty well, and I still had a hard time putting it down. I will say that, having now read the third book, it seems clear that Johansen had something different in mind when she wrote this one, but that is not a major complaint. I really enjoy this story of a young queen coming into her own in the far future with the help of magic and her trusty Guards. Content warning for many mentions of rape, though there are no graphic depictions.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

2017 book 206

Elizabeth Hand's Waking the Moon
This was a weird moment to read this particular book, because a large part of my brain was yelling "BURN IT ALL DOWN!" and almost cheering on the character trying to resurrect the moon goddess and her matriarchal, sacrificial murder cults, despite the, y'know, murders. But to back up for a second: I like Elizabeth Hand a lot, though I do find some of her books to be a bit unsettling, and this was definitely one of those times. The action starts at a mysterious college in DC in the 1970s, where warring religious secret societies enter the lives of some first-years. The protagonist is your usual girl who feels out of place and doesn't really know what's going on and is consumed by feelings for various beautiful people, and then things go very awry and her story picks up almost twenty years later. I did like this book but thinking about it too much makes my head hurt, and I am not gonna get into the inappropriate yet mystical romances. It is VERY atmospheric though. A-.

Monday, December 04, 2017

2017 book 205

Mitali Perkins' You Bring the Distant Near
This seems to be marketed as a YA title, I assume b/c Perkins' previous works were YA, but this is definitely a crossover title. It centers on three generations of Indian-American woman as they struggle to reconcile their cultures and their issues with each other (there is also a fair amount of focus on their romances). Very readable and great characters, if a teensy bit on the cheesy side. Nothing wrong with the occasional multicultural heartwarming read! A/A-.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

2017 book 204

Frances Hardinge's A Skinful of Shadows
Hardinge is an author I have heard good things about, ans her latest novel seemed really interesting—set at the beginning of the English Civil War, it centers on a young girl from a family with mysterious powers that she wants nothing to do with, so she ends up on the run to escape them—and to maybe find a way to save her brother from their clutches. I really liked this and loved how it wrapped up. A-.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

2017 book 203

Catherine Lloyd's Death Comes to the School
The fifth Kurland St Mary books finds our protagonists dealing with marital discord (after a pair of miscarriages) as well as the murder of the awful local schoolteacher, who may have been killed after writing a series of poison pen letters. Of course, the former could be handled with one honest conversation, but the latter is a fairly interesting mystery. I still enjoy this series a lot. B+.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

2017 book 202

Kari Maaren's Weave a Circle Round
Maaren's debut novel reads like a modern Diana Wynne Jones story to me, which is one of th highest compliments I can give. It centers on a fourteen year old girl in Canada who just wants to pass through life—and high school—unnoticed, which is complicated when a pair of eccentric strangers move next door and become entangled with her sister, their stepbrother, and herself. The story touches on English poetry and mythology from around the world, had great characters and great adventures, and I pretty much loved it. A/A-.

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

2017 book 201

Jasmine Guillory's The Wedding Date
Do you want to read a super cute romance novel that might as well be a 90s romcom? Then order this book immediately! It centers on a black woman from Berkeley, the mayor's chief of staff, who meets-cute in a broken elevator with a cute white doctor who needs a date to his ex's wedding, and the usual romance story shenanigans ensue, but it was all very charming and I liked how Guillory handled the interracial romance. Basically a fun delight about the importance of good communication. A-.

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

2017 book 200

T. Kingfisher's Clockwork Boys
A new Ursula Vernon book is always an event, and this one is the start of a series, which is even better. It centers on your usual group of ragtag misfits on a suicide mission in a fantasy world, but of course with the usual Vernon sense of humor and twists and turns. Great stuff and can’t wait to see what happens next. A-.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

2017 book 199

Leni Zumas' Red Clocks
Continuing my habit of reading feminist dystopian fiction with this one—set in the near future, in a world where the US has finally granted personhood to fetuses, this story focuses on four women in a small town in Oregon. Obviously I found some of these women more compelling than others, but it was interesting to see them through each other's eyes. I think Zumas is a very fine writer, this is a very well done book, and I eagerly await whatever she does next. A-.

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

2017 book 198

Karen McManus' One of Us is Lying
It is once again time for THANKSGIVING SISTER BOOK CLUB, where my sister and I read the same book and then discuss it during Thanksgiving break, sometimes over fro-yo. This one has a great premise--it is Breakfast Club with a murder mystery! Yes, five teens are in after-school detention, and one of them--who just happens to run a gossip app (why is it an app and not like a Twitter account? Who knows)--ends up DEAD. Who killed him, and what secrets are they hiding? Was it the brain, the princess, the jock, or the Judd Nelson one? The story is told from all four POVs and McManus does a pretty good job of making each character believable and interesting, and of ramping up the tension. The end is fairly silly, but I expected nothing less. B+.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

2017 book 197

Marian Keyes' The Mystery of Mercy Close
Ah, and now we arrive at the fifth Walsh sisters book, the one Rainbow Rowell recommended, and it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Protagonist Helen, the youngest sister, has appeared in all the previous books as a bit of a troublemaker, who eventually becomes a PI, and this story does focus on her trying to track down a missing former boy-bander—but it also deals quite a bit with her struggle with mental illness. It is less funny than its predecessors but just as moving and entertaining. I really liked how this one wrapped up. A-.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

2017 book 196

Marian Keyes' Anybody Out There?
The fourth Walsh sisters book is I think the strongest of the series (I say that without having read the 5th one yet)—even though I pretty quickly picked up what Keyes was throwing down, I still cried several times. This one centers on fourth sister Anna, who in the previous books was kind of hippy dippy, but now has her act together and works as a publicist for a cosmetics company in New York (which was of course  right up my alley). I really liked the family relationships and friendships in this one, particularly. Really surprisingly moving. A-.

2017 book 195

Marian Keyes' Angels
The third Walsh sisters book focuses on second sister Margaret—the “good one”—who, after her marriage falls apart, goes to stay with her best friend, a struggling screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles. I liked the narrative voice here, and the way things were gradually revealed, but I found this to be the least satisfying of the three I’ve read. Keyes also sometimes leans a bit too heavily on racial stereotypes, which feels unnecessary. I mean, I was still entertained, and Maggie is a great character, but this wasn’t my favorite. B.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

2017 book 194

Marian Keyes’ Rachel's Holiday
After the first Walsh sisters book, I was expecting something on the chick lit/women's fiction lighter side spectrum, but this was a bit more serious. It centers on middle sister Rachel, who is forced into a rehab center by her parents and gradually comes to terms with her drug addiction. It is super compelling and moving. A-.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

2017 book 193

Marian Keyes' Watermelon
Rainbow Rowell recently recommended the fifth book in this series on Twitter, but I am a completist and so I started with book one. The series focuses on five sisters from an Irish family; in this first one, eldest sister Claire has just given birth when her husband announces that he's leaving her for another woman. Like literally, the day she gives birth! So she goes home to Dublin to stay with her parents and two youngest sisters (I loved the sister relationships here) to try and figure out what to do next. At first I was like, this is a cute mid-90s women’s fiction sort of story with occasionally brilliant humor, but towards the end I was super engaged with the heroine's emotional journey—it just really resonated with conversations I am having with friends right now. There is a great moment where she just runs out of f—ks entirely and I was practically cheering. I will say that this did not seem like an accurate depiction of new motherhood to me, but it was a very entertaining story and I already have the rest of the series checked out from the library. A-/B+.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

2017 book 192

Dara Horn's Eternal Life
A new Dara Horn book is always an eagerly anticipated event for a Jewish nerd such as myself, and this one did not at all disappoint. Our protagonist is a woman who has lived many lifetimes—2000 years worth of them, in fact—and is reluctant to leave her current family behind—even though one of her granddaughters is a scientist working with gene therapies. And meanwhile, one other immortal person exists—a guy who has been obsessed with her for these same 2000 years. I found her story to be amazingly compelling (and of course loved the depiction of ancient Judaism) and such a fascinating look at motherhood, and I loved the way things concluded. I was less interested in the weird/toxic romantic relationship dynamics on display, but on the whole thought this was excellent. A/A-.

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

Monday, November 06, 2017

2017 book 191

Leena Likitalo's The Sisters of the Crescent Empress
The second book in Likitalo's duology, a fantasy/alternate history inspired by the Romanovs, left me almost breathless! I loved the journeys of the five sisters (though Elise is more sympathetic and compelling in the first one) and the end had me going “oh whaaaaaaat” but like in a good way. I a, pretty sure this is the end of the story, and while I found the ending fitting, I would one hundred percent read more in this universe. And will definitely read more from this author. A/A-.

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

Sunday, November 05, 2017

2017 book 190

Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace
I had intended to reread this before the Netflix miniseries was released, but time got away from me, so I ended up reading and watching in tandem (it is an excellent and faithful adaptation). This is maybe one of my top three Atwood books—it is a retelling of the famous story of a young Irish-Canadian girl convicted of murder, but it is also a story about the ways women are viewed, and judged, by society. Just excellent.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

2017 book 189

Katherine Rundell's The Explorer
Oooh I do love a good survival novel, and this middle grade story was pretty satisfying—it centers on four children who survive a plane crash in the Amazon and have to figure out what to do—and signs suggest someone else has been in their deserted spot in the past. I liked these characters a lot, though of course wished the main POV character was one of the little girls. (Both girls are pretty awesome though, pet sloths for life.) A/A-.

Monday, October 30, 2017

2017 book 188

Maggie Stiefvater's All the Crooked Saints
Even when I don’t love a Maggie Stiefvater book, I inevitably think it is interesting, which was the case here. And I mean, I didn't /dislike/ it, really. I am predisposed to like magical realism, especially magical realism that also has a pirate radio station, and I love stories that weave in folklore the way this one does. I did not love the narrative voice and was at times uncomfortable with a white author writing about Mexican magic and religion (an author's note at the end explains that she did consult experts and had sensitivity readers). This was good but could have been better if an editor has pushed it a little. B+.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2017 book 187

Catherine Lloyd's Death Comes to the Fair
In the fourth entry in Lloyd's Kurland St Mary series, romances are progressing, but the town is up in arms due to some poor judging of vegetables at the local fair (who can’t relate to that, am I right), and when the winner of the prizes is found dead, the two protagonists wonder if it was foul play. But of course things go deeper than carrots, leading to another fairly predictable but still mostly satisfying conclusion. I like seeing the rector's daughter chase against the sexist restrictions of her time, and I like that her love interest respects her and sees her as a partner in their crime solving. I mean this series is fairly silly but I like it anyway. B/B+.

2017 book 186

Catherine Lloyd's Death Comes to Kurland Hall
The third book in the Kurland St Mary series picks up shortly after the last left off, and finds our intrepid duo trying to solve the murder of a blackmailing woman who everyone had reason to dislike. The resolution is fairly obvious, though I admit there were a couple of twists I didn't expect. The dude is a little bit more heavy-handed/slightly sexist in this one which I didn't LOVE but it was fine. I'm still going to go ahead and read the next one. B/B+.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Belated book review -- book 185

Agatha Christie's The Seven Dials Mystery
I actually read this back in September, but scheduled this blog post for October 23th because I was reading it for a LearnedLeague One-Day I was co-smithing and didn't want to give anything away to any of my LL friends. :) This centers on a clock-themed secret society, some murders, and the Bright Young Things (led by "it girl" Bundle Brent) who are determined to get to the bottom of things. A lot of this is very funny, though I could have done without the casual anti-Semitism. I also felt conclusion was a little silly. Entertaining, though! B/B+.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

2017 book 184

Catherine Lloyd's Death Comes to London
In the second book in Lloyd’s Kurland St Mary series, the two protagonists find themselves in London—she's there for the Season, trying to find a husband, and he's there to receive a baronetcy. And soon they are on the trail of a POISONER! Again, I like the characters a lot, though the resolution to the mystery was pretty obvious. I do want to see what these wacky kids get up to next. A-/B+.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

2017 book 183

Catherine Lloyd's Death Comes to the Village
This is the first book of a series, historical mysteries set in a village in Regency England. In this one, the rector's eldest daughter teams up with the local lord—bedridden due to an injury at Waterloo—to look into a series of thefts and the disappearance of a housemaid. I liked the characters here a lot, and the mystery was fairly well plotted. It looks like these two might eventually have a romance, but it will be a slow building one, which I always like. I will definitely check out the next book in this series. A-/B+.

Friday, October 20, 2017

2017 book 182

Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage
You had better believe that I made an exception for my "white dude writers--who needs 'em?" rule when Pullman is writing a new trilogy set in the His Dark Materials Universe. Apparently this new trilogy is an "e-quel" as opposed to a sequel or prequel, as its events will unfold alongside the previous books'. This first volume centers on a boy who gets tangled up with baby Lyra--and with a young woman academic who is part of a secret liberal spy group! Pullman knows how to write a story that just grabs you--though toward the end I was like "please stop having this poor boy get distracted by puberty, there are kind of a lot of other things going on!" Anyway, this was pretty awesome and I eagerly await its follow-ups. A/A-.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

2017 book 181

Ann Leckie's Provenance 
I enjoyed Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy, and so was eager to read another book set in that universe, but I found this was slightly underwhelming. The characters were all really interesting, I just wish there had been more going on in the plot. There are plans, and counter plans, and political shenanigans, and everyone is obsessed with “vestiges,” which basically seem to be historical ephemera (you would think as someone trained as a librarian, this would be up my alley! But it was just endless). The story picks up in the last third and I liked how it wrapped up a lot, it was just a bit of a slog to get to that point. B/B+.

Monday, October 16, 2017

2017 book 180

Carol Rifka Brunt's Tell the Wolves I'm Home
This was my first time rereading this novel since I first read it, back when it was one of my favorite books of 2012. I sometimes treat my book club as an excuse to revisit books I've loved and to make my friends talk about them with me. :) I think this held up really well--it still felt really visceral and moving, but I had forgotten how uncomfortable some parts of it are. It's set in the 80s and centers on a girl whose beloved uncle has just died of AIDS--and then the partner she never knew he had gets in touch with her. There are other interesting family dynamics at work here too. I just like this book a lot.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

2017 book 179

Chloe Benjamin's The Immortalists
This book centers on four Russian-Jewish siblings in 1969 New York who go to see a fortune teller who tells each of them the day they will die, and then the story follows each of them until their fateful days. I enjoyed parts of each of these stories, primarily Klara's struggles to be taken seriously as a magician, but I found both her ending and her elder brother's to be beyond implausible, and young Simon, a gay man in early 80s San Francisco, was largely a cliche. Benjamin attempts to end things on a hopeful note with eldest Varya, but I found this whole book to be kind of a bummer. Parts of it were really interesting, but I felt like it was trying too hard to be a Serious Literary Work Saying Something Profound About The Human Condition. B.

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

2017 book 178

Leila Sales' Once Was a Time
I am always here for TIME TRAVEL FRIENDSHIP books, and this was a pretty solid one. It centers on ten year old Lottie, living in England during WWII, hanging out with her best friend Kitty, with a dad who studies TIME TRAVEL for the war effort. And one night things get a little crazy and Lottie finds herself in modern times America--all alone, and with a hefty helping of survivors' guilt for leaving Kitty behind. I will say I found parts of the first half of his book implausible--not because of the time travel, but because of some of the character elements. But all the adults in this book are great--hooray for a helpful and somewhat realistic librarian, and hooray for kind foster parents. And the back half of this book was pretty great and had me weeping just a little bit. Good stuff. Makes me want to reread Charlotte Sometimes. A-/B+.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

2017 book 177

Laurie Colwin's Happy All the Time
I saw this book mentioned here and since it only cost 78 cents, figured it was worth a shot! Sometimes you just want to read a pleasant book about pleasant people! And this was actually pretty funny. It was written in the 70s (and is VERY 70s New York) and centers on two guys, cousins and best friends, and the stubborn women they marry. I was of course partial to the cranky Jewish girl determined to hide her soft interior, but all four are very likable, even if not very fleshed out. I mean, not much happens here besides pleasant people hanging out, but that was pretty good all on its own. A-/B+.

2017 book 176

Rachel Hartman's Tess of the Road
Hartman's latest is set in the same universe as Seraphina and Shadow Scale, but is not a direct sequel—instead it focuses on one of Seraphina's human half-sisters, a stubborn, troubled, irrepressible young girl who runs away from home and ends up on a quest straight out of her beloved stories. I found this book to be unexpected in a lot of ways, but really appreciated the story Hartman is telling about womanhood and family and finding—or making—a place for yourself. And I loved where it ended, and can’t wait to see what happens next. Content warning for a couple mentions of sexual assault. A/A-.

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

Sunday, October 08, 2017

2017 book 175

Rachel Hartman's Shadow Scale
I'm still reacquainting myself with the world of Seraphina before the new book in that universe comes out, and I forgot how intense this second volume in! A completely terrifying antagonist makes an appearance and many more political situations are afoot. I do love the world building here, and the characters are all really interesting. Total deus ex machina though, heh.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

2017 book 174

Rachel Hartman's Seraphina
Hartman has a new book coming out in this universe in February, so I wanted to reread this and its companion to re-a quaint myself with the world—not that I really need an excuse to reread a book I love! And I do still love it!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

2017 book 173

E.K. Johnston's That Inevitable Victorian Thing
All I knew about this book going in was a) the awesome title, b) the author, who I generally like, and c) it had a cool-looking cover. So imagine how delighted I was to discover this story takes place in an alternate world where Queen Victoria was apparently like "colonialism is dumb, let's unite the empire" and married her kids and grandkids off to rulers across the empire, instead of their European cousins. (It is unclear how this affected the Russian Revolution, though the United States are no longer so united.) Also she made it so her daughter could inherit the crown instead of having it go to a son. So now it is several generations later, and three young women are preparing for their debuts (because they still have those, whatever, let's just roll with it)--and one of them is secretly the Crown Princess, undercover. There is also a whole thing with a computer genetics/matchmaking system run by the Church of England. There is no way to describe this without sounding silly, I am starting to realize, but it is super charming and kind of fluffy over a steely interior. I wish to live in a world like this one (I initially typed “love” instead of “live”—that, too). A-.

Monday, October 02, 2017

2017 book 172

JY Yang's The Red Threads of Fortune
The problem with a novella is that often the story is a little bit thin--I wished the first one had more to it just because I enjoyed it and felt like there was room for more, but this one needed more to make the story work, for me. It is just kind of all over the place and nonsensical a lot of the time. Various political plots are happening, and the prophet character just keeps changing her mind about who to trust. I was interested in her exploration of grief, less so in her stupidity. I also wished, in both this and its companion, that there had been more time for the romantic relationships to build. I think this universe is interesting, but I hope the next few stories Yang is planning are meatier. B.

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

Sunday, October 01, 2017

2017 book 171

JY Yang's The Black Tides of Heaven
This is one of a pair of novellas released on the same day—which makes sense, since the central characters are a pair of twins, children of the ruler of their empire. Their mother has promised them to the local monastery, but when one of the children turns out to be a prophet, plans change. I chose to read this one first because it explains more of the background of the characters and their world (I think the fantasy classification here is silkpunk, which so far I like way more than steampunk) but am eager to see what the other one has in store. A-.

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

2017 book 170

Kendare Blake's One Dark Throne
The first book in this series was fairly formulaic, but the end intrigued me enough to want to read the second—and initially I thought this was a duology and things would wrap up here, but that seems not to be the case. Parts of this were too slow for me—I wanted things the audience knew to be revealed to the characters much quicker than they were—but once again Blake writes an intriguing enough ending that I am curious to see where the story goes next, even though I didn’t find this one super compelling. B/B+.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

2017 book 169

Elizabeth Jane Howard's All Change
All right, I am finally done with this series, which was admittedly addictive but also mildly annoying at times. (Howard seems to honestly think Archie is some sort of romantic figure when I found him manipulative and predatory--also she kind of keeps de-aging him but he is an old dude who creeps on vulnerable young women.) Anyway, this final volume--published more than a decade after the 4th one--finds the ever-growing Cazelet family in the mid to late 1950s, dealing with societal change and the usual personal misfortunes. This volume in particular had some completely over-the-top subplots and I could have done with less of a focus on thirtysomething horndog Teddy (also, a couple of the characters just completely disappeared--whatever happened to Wills?). I did like that it sort of wrapped up as Rachel's story--she was one of my favorites for sure. And it was nice to be immersed in another world for a while. B/B+.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

2017 book 168

Elizabeth Jane Howard's Casting Off
The fourth book in the Cazelet Chronicles is more of the same, as the family adjusts to post-war life, relationships change, etc. I am still primarily most interested in the women, but Hugh and Rupert were fairly compelling here as well. Edward remains the worst and although clearly the author wants me to find Archie romantic, I one hundred percent do not.

Monday, September 25, 2017

2017 book 167

Elizabeth Jane Howard's Confusion
The problem with reading all these books in a row is that all the events become sort of muddled and it's hard for me to say anything specific about this particular volume. I am a bit worried that a 40-something dude is going to mack on a young girl who sees him as a father figure, but so far he is reining it in. I mean, this is basically a soap opera, but I find the women still very compelling--Howard does not shy away from unhappy marriages, horrific childbirth experiences, etc. I still love Polly and Clary and so will plow forward. B/B+.

Friday, September 22, 2017

2017 book 166

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017 book 165

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

Saturday, September 16, 2017

2017 book 164

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

2017 book 163

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

2017 book 162

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

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

2017 book 161

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

Friday, September 08, 2017

2017 book 160

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

Thursday, September 07, 2017

2017 book 159

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

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

2017 book 158

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

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

2017 book 157

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

Monday, September 04, 2017

2017 book 156

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

2017 book 155

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

Saturday, September 02, 2017

2017 book 154

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

Friday, September 01, 2017

2017 book 153

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2017 book 152

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

2017 book 151

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

2017 book 150

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

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

2017 book 149

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

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

2017 book 148

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017 book 147

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

2017 book 146

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

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

2017 book 145

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

2017 book 144

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017 book 143

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

2017 book 142

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

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

2017 book 141

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

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

2017 book 140

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

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

2017 book 139

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

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

2017 book 138

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

*Dumbledore remains The Worst even in painted form.

2017 book 137

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

Monday, August 07, 2017

2017 book 136

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

Sunday, August 06, 2017

2017 book 135

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

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

2017 book 134

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

2017 book 133

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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

2017 book 132

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

2017 book 131

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

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

2017 book 130

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

2017 book 129

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

2017 book 128

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2017 book 127

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2017 book 126

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

2017 book 125

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

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

2017 book 124

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

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017 book 123

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

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

2017 book 122

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

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

2017 book 121

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

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

Sunday, July 09, 2017

2017 book 120

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

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

Saturday, July 08, 2017

2017 book 119

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

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

2017 book 118

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

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

Friday, July 07, 2017

2017 book 117

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

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

Thursday, July 06, 2017

2017 book 116

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

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

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

2017 book 115

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

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

2017 book 114

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

Monday, July 03, 2017

2017 book 113

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

Saturday, July 01, 2017

2017 book 112

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

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

2017 book 111

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

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

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

2017 book 110

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

2017 book 109

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

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 book 108

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

2017 book 107

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

2017 book 106

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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

2017 book 105

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

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

2017 book 104

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

2017 book 103

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

2017 book 102

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

Saturday, June 10, 2017

2017 book 101

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

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

2017 book 100

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

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

Thursday, June 08, 2017

2017 book 99

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

207 book 98

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

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

2017 book 97

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

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

2017 book 96

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

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

Thursday, June 01, 2017

2017 book 95

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

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

2017 book 94

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

Saturday, May 27, 2017

2017 book 93

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

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 book 92

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