30 August 2015

The Girl with Ghost Eyes; M.H. Boroson

The Girl with Ghost EyesThe Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A strong 3.5 starts for this mix of historical fiction and martial arts, plus a strong female character. I know that the author (or publisher) is going for some sort of "Girl with..." recognition but I did take offense that the "girl" here is in her 20s and a widow, not a teen! The author's notes at the end, explaining the melange of belief and fighting systems that was created here are helpful, particularly for those who might want to learn more and find things aren't quite the way they're described in this book. At the end, readers will wonder if this is part of a series or not (either way works).

ARC provided by publisher.

The Smell of Other People's Houses; Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

The Smell of Other People's HousesThe Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm never sure if this qualifies as historical fiction (it's set in the 1970s) or contemporary (because it's in my lifetime), nor is it clear why that era is the one chosen for the setting. Perhaps it's because today we have cell phones, and the internet, and Alaska doesn't feel quite as foreign as it did then? The revolving narrators, at this point, feel like some sort of editorial mandate: thou shalt write multiple narrators and first-person POVs. So that's the lost star.

Beyond that, however, this is a very powerful book. People forming a mixed community in Fairbanks, one where the children go to school and play together without really thinking much about their differences in terms of race but do in terms of what the family is like and what the financial situation is. That felt very real. The intersections of their lives, particularly at the end, were sometimes a little forced but that also was somewhat the fault of the narrative device. The comparisons to Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdrich are spot on.

ARC provided by publisher.

Pieces of Why; K.L. Going

Pieces of WhyPieces of Why by K. L. Going
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The cover doesn't match the book: the model looks older than I felt Tia is (she's 12, but I get the sense she's younger than her years). As for the rest, it was surprising that Tia had never Googled or looked up her father and what he did, because if you're curious in this day and age, isn't that what you do? The resolution with her mother felt a little fast - people don't change that quickly, even if they mean to! Tia's life as a poor white living in what appears to be a mostly black community in NOLA did feel real and highlights a population that many may not remember exists.

ARC provided by publisher.

Life Unaware; Cole Gibsen

Life UnawareLife Unaware by Cole Gibsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not quite sure about this - the lead is unlikeable, and the way in which she's redeemed seems very contrived. Plus, the Big Problem (all her really bitchy texts spread around for all to see) has featured in several middle grade books, so it's not quite new ground. I did wonder about two things: 1. why was Reagan less curious about who had done this (surely, a small group)? and 2. how did it spread so quickly, because all we're told is they're printed out and posted on her locker? Surely someone could pull it down? Still, if there are teens out there who haven't gotten the message about how texts, etc. can be made public, this might be a good read.

Copy provided by publisher.

The Santa Klaus Murder; Mavis Doriel Hay

The Santa Klaus MurderThe Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another of the Golden Age yet forgotten mysteries being returned to the public by Poisoned Press. The writing is very much of its time, and the locked-room device works well here. Having multiple narrators was, at first, a bit annoying but then made sense; as far as the whodunnit part goes, it's clear from the start that the lost Santa Klaus suit will come into play, but it isn't absolutely clear until the end who or why. Which, for those who know me, is a good thing.

ARC provided by publisher.

24 August 2015

One of Us; Jeannie Waudby

One of UsOne of Us by Jeannie Waudby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hoodies vs. Citizens - in many ways, much like Muslims vs. Christians, or Sharks vs. Jets, or North vs. South. K's life as a citizen, then as a member of the Brotherhood could have (should have?) been better delineated: beyond clothing and fanaticism, what are the differences? what was the history of the split? Had that been added, this would have gotten a higher rating.

ARC provided by publisher.

Drowning is Inevitable; Shalanda Stanley

Drowning Is InevitableDrowning Is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What this book says about destiny and friendship is pretty powerful, but the overwrought writing at times lessened the impact. That Olivia has no one in her life who realizes that there is something seriously wrong going on (wearing her mother's clothes? her only goal to outlive her mother?) was also problematic for me - even the explanation that this was a small town didn't quite work for me.

ARC provided by publisher.

Trouble on the Thames; Victor Bridges

Trouble on the ThamesTrouble on the Thames by Victor Bridges
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is part of a series of reprinted/republished older mysteries or spy stories, hoping to bring them to a new, modern audience. I don't know if any editing was done, but because the last time I read an Ellery Queen mystery I found that the phrasing was... quaint and very outdated (in other words, things we no longer say but were commonly said back then), so I wondered. There wasn't anything here that surprised me in terms of language, and in terms of the plot, again, no surprises. We're in the run-up to World War II, the Nazis are trying to infiltrate England and steal military secrets and there's romance in the air. All good, if a tad quaint by John le Carre standards.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Murder Road; Stephen Booth

The Murder Road: A Cooper & Fry MysteryThe Murder Road: A Cooper & Fry Mystery by Stephen Booth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, I'm a little confused: are we heading for some sort of love triangle with Cooper torn between Fry and Villers? If so, what's going on with Diane? She made the briefest of appearances in this book - and possibly won't even appear in the next one. And this after I thought Booth was finally figuring out what to do with the couple.

Mystery-wise, the opening really reminded me of another book (turns out it was In the Dark Places by Peter Robinson) but quickly turned into something else. The "why" was satisfying, but the "how" didn't quite work for me. And the "why" isn't as telegraphed as it might have been, but it is there for those closely following. What didn't work for me was the inclusion of far more Peak District information than usual, at times just sounding like a history brochure rather that organically arising from the plot.

ARC provided by publisher.

Reawakened; Colleen Houck

Reawakened (Reawakened, #1)Reawakened by Colleen Houck
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

My faint hopes that the author had grown in style and ability since her Tiger Saga were, well... This was as confused in terms of plot, with far to many adjectives. DNF.