Wednesday, May 31, 2017

2017 book 94

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

Saturday, May 27, 2017

2017 book 93

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

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 book 92

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 book 91

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

2017 book 90

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

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

2017 book 89

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

2017 book 88

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 book 87

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

2017 book 86

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

2017 book 85

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

2017 book 84

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

Monday, May 08, 2017

2017 book 83

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

Sunday, May 07, 2017

2017 book 82

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

Saturday, May 06, 2017

2017 book 81

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

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

Friday, May 05, 2017

2017 book 80

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

Thursday, May 04, 2017

2017 book 79

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

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

2017 book 78

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

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