Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2017 book 33

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

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Content warning for a lot of casual animal cruelty.

Monday, February 20, 2017

2017 book 32

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

2017 book 31

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


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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 book 30

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

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

2017 book 29

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


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

2017 book 28

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


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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2017 book 27

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

2017 book 26

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

2017 book 25

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

Thursday, February 09, 2017

2017 book 24

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

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

2017 book 23

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


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

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

2017 book 22

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

Thursday, February 02, 2017

2017 book 21

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


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