28 February 2015

Painless; S.A. Harazin

PainlessPainless by S.A. Harazin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

David's life is a fairly constrained one due to his CIPA (a genetic inability to feel pain). He lives with his grandmother, is watched over by his best friend/caregiver Spencer and Joe, the family lawyer. He's been homeschooled, never had a girlfriend and is, like many late-teenage boys, eager to actually have a life; unlike most of his peers, he's socially awkward and immature. Over the course of Painless his life changes immeasurably: Nana dies, Spencer quits to go to college and have a real life, and David learns to drive and goes away from home for the first time.

All of that makes for an interesting book - I loved that David wasn't some savant or mature beyond his years given his isolation. But the trip he takes? It felt like it was injected just to create some tension, unnecessarily so.

ARC provided by publisher.

Daughter; Jane Shemilt

DaughterDaughter by Jane Shemilt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine you have a normal, loving family, even if your teenage children are a bit sullen and uncommunicative at times. Then your family gets ripped apart by the disappearance of your daughter... and suddenly all the assumptions you have about your family, your friends and your life are upended. That's what happens here, as Jenny pieces together what her family members are really like and who may have taken Naomi.

The constant back-and-forth in the timeline, jumping from slightly before Naomi disappears to about two years later, gets a bit tiresome, hence the loss of a star. On the definite plus side, there's a single narrator and a good twist at the end.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Penderwicks in Spring; Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks in SpringThe Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The popularity of this series gives me hope that maybe readers will read (and enjoy) some of the books I enjoyed as a child, books like Enright's Saturday's series, because the pacing is similar and there's a decided lack of fantasy, wizards or princesses. Having said that, from an adult point of view, there's a slightly moral tone and resolution that bothered me; there's nothing wrong with them, per se, but I did feel as though the plot was a bit too predictable.

ARC provided by publisher.

22 February 2015

Where All Light Tends to Go; David Joy

Where All Light Tends to GoWhere All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Words fail me about this book - it's very powerful. Jacob's life, how he seems to have some idea that he could be more than what he knows he will be, is truly tragic. Trying to maintain a relationship with his meth-addict mother, trying to be strong enough to let his girlfriend Maggie go and trying to maybe be a bit more than just Charlie's son just seems like such work. The compression of time, only a month of his life, adds to the intensity. A must read for fans of Wiley Cash or Winter's Bone.

ARC provided by publisher.

Unlikely Warrior; Georg Rauch

Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler's ArmyUnlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler's Army by Georg Rauch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

War is truly hell, which got this book three stars. It's a great account of how harrowing it was to be in World War II, at the front. But the subtitle led me to believe there'd be more about that aspect and there really wasn't. Yes, there was discussion about his non-Aryan status, and how that affected him, and worrying about his family's hiding of Jews in their attic, but any real reflection? Not really.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Truth About Twinkie Pie; Kat Yeh

The Truth About Twinkie PieThe Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The target reader will have far fewer problems with this than I did: the inconsistencies in the story and the Southern stereotype will probably go unnoticed. How GiGi managed to be so clueless about her background (really? never tried to look for that shade of lipstick before? not buying it) and DiDi for so long just irritated me. It also felt like forced tension between Mace and GiGi, rather than a natural relationship. Still, as I said, middle grade readers will not notice that and will be eager to try those recipes!

ARC provided by publisher.

21 February 2015

Shutter; Courtney Alameda

ShutterShutter by Courtney Alameda
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Maybe it's me, but the world building here just seemed like there was something lacking - while the author has created a vocabulary and a setting, the explanations of what each of them were are (to my mind, anyway) just a little vague. That's not to say I want everything spelled out, but understanding what exactly Micheline does, what her mother did, etc. would have helped a lot. And Luca? Was she supposed to be mesmerized and entranced by him? Because I didn't get that.

ARC provided by publisher.

Hush Hush; Laura Lippman

Hush Hush (Tess Monaghan, #12)Hush Hush by >Laura Lippman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've never read any of the Tess Monaghan mysteries, so coming to a series this late is always a little fraught; in this case, there is just enough backstory given so I caught up quickly, but not so much that I felt it detracted from the current mystery or shamed me for not having read the previous ones.

So, what about the mystery itself? There are several potential suspects, all with equally valid motivations and access. Lippman does a good job of misleading the reader so that the ending is - as it should be, IMVHO - a surprise. And even then, do we have it right? Maybe. I think.

And now I'm off to find other Lippmans...

ARC provided by publisher.

Finding Jake; Bryan Reardon

Finding JakeFinding Jake by Bryan Reardon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The big question here is "Did he... or didn't he..." and it isn't until near the end that we find out what Jake's involvement with the school shooting is. Living relatively near Sandy Hook and reading this shortly after the report about how to deal with the memorial and protect children cam out was a little emotional for me. Having said that, this is a very powerful look at how a child, raised by his stay-at-home introverted dad, a little quiet, into war/gun games, not the most popular kid, can have those qualities used against him in the face of a tragedy (I'm not trying to spoil this! honestly!). But when we look at what's traditionally said about the Sandy Hook, or Columbine, or other school shooting perpetrators, it's "introvert", "quiet", "not popular", etc., and that becomes code for "sociopathic killer" - Reardon faces that issue head on.

What didn't work for me was the ending, which felt as though the author was trying to somehow leave us with a happy ending, and the mother, who was really unsympathetic and at times unnecessarily so.

I'd hesitate to recommend this book to people who couldn't read Room, Descent or news stories about child abductions or school shootings without serious depression.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Ghost of Heaven; Marcus Sedgwick

The Ghosts of HeavenThe Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The four stories here seem to be only lightly related, so it's a little difficult to review the entire book. To me, two worked well, one really didn't work, and one was very similar to another YA book. The one that didn't work was the first story, told in verse (which I'm never really a fan of) about the invention of writing; the one that resembled another book was the final story, which had an Across the Universe vibe to it, and perhaps that got in the way of my enjoying the story. The English witch trial and the modern day insane asylum did work for me, even if the former was a familiar theme (yeah, I know, I've just contradicted myself, but I don't mind witch hunts and I didn't enjoy AtU so...).

ARC provided by publisher.