24 January 2015

I Was Here; Gayle Forman

I Was HereI Was Here by Gayle Forman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So very close to perfect for me! First, the great. Cody's voice, Scottie (all of him, what little we see), and the question of the culpability of All_BS in Meg's death. I've even mentioned that aspect to the ethics teacher at school. The idea that Cody cannot understand, or accept, Meg's suicide is powerful and completely reasonable for someone of her age and experience, as is the guilt she feels about not having been as close with Meg as she used to be when they were in school together. The problem for me was twofold: Cody's seeming passive acceptance of her life was a problem, and the way in which she went about her investigation just felt slightly contrived. Still, I know that this will be a Great Next Read for Forman's many fans.

The Secrets of Midwives; Sally Hepworth

The Secrets of MidwivesThe Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've said it before, and I'll repeat it here: not every novel needs multiple narrators, and here, the intertwining of the three women's stories (Floss, Grace and Neva) doesn't serve the story well.

As for that story, it's predictable. The only real surprise is who the father of Neva's baby is, and had that never been revealed it would have been absolutely fine - that revelation did nothing to advance the plot. Having said that this is predictable doesn't mean that it was bad, by the way, because this does feel like the perfect beach (or tanning booth, given that it's winter) read.

One major quibble: back with Grace was in training, in England, would they really have measured dilation in centimeters? England was still using the Imperial system, not the Metric.

ARC provided by the publisher.

Where They Found Her; Kimberly McCreight

Where They Found HerWhere They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Far too many authors have a "second novel" problem. Not McCreight! This follow-up is as good (in its own way) as Reconstructing Amelia and to my mind counts as a second even though she's written others. The small-town atmosphere works well, even though the town isn't really small, it just feels that way because so many of the characters knew each other "back when". Of course there are hidden secrets, scandals that need to be brought out into the open, and Molly, new to the area and not part of the "back then" crowd, is just the person to do it.

Her flashbacks to therapy were the one thing that really didn't work for me - they felt like a distraction. What did work was Molly's determination to prove she could be a real reporter, that she was better and making an attempt at restarting her life and career. And while I've been very cranky about the spate of multiple narrator novels recently (what is it with that device? was there a memo readers don't know about?) here it works... mostly. More than it doesn't, any way, probably because it's not a revolving door of narrators, with each getting equal time - here, each says what they need to say, when they need to say it. Which really does work!

ARC provided by publisher.

Audacity; Melanie Crowder

AudacityAudacity by Melanie Crowder
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I don't know why the author chose to do this as a novel in verse - it distracted me from the plot (which focuses on an important part of history that girls should know about) and caused a DNF. I ran this ARC past a few students and they were, like me, interested in the topic but the verse? It felt like a gimmick not a necessary device.

ARC provided by publisher.

17 January 2015

Our Endless Numbered Days; Claire Fuller

Our Endless Numbered DaysOur Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one bizarre book, one that will appeal to anyone who read and loved Room or the upcoming Descent. Instead of a stranger kidnapping a child, it's a father - clearly mentally ill - taking his daughter away to a remote cabin for a "vacation" in Germany that turns into a several years long stint as the only two survivors of a global disaster. The problem is, there was no disaster.

We know this because part of the book is told in flashback, as Peggy thinks back to her time in die Hütte after returning to her mother and England. How Peggy eventually escapes may surprise readers more than why.

There's a lot here that is left out, and those omissions actually work in the book's favor. This is Peggy's story and reads that way.

ARC provided by publisher.

Second Life; S.J. Watson

Second LifeSecond Life by S.J. Watson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When an author has a great debut, it's disappointing when the second falls so short of the mark. This was one such instance. The entire premise is that Julia is so distraught after her sister's murder that she will make bad choices. Not just bad, they're horrible choices. I'm not sure even PTSD could explain how bad they are. Then there's the twist at the end. Even less believable. Still, there's something going on here that kept me reading, so it wasn't all bad.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Country of Ice Cream Star; Sandra Newman

The Country of Ice Cream StarThe Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The good thing about the book is the author's creation of a Pigeon English to illustrate Ice Cream's world. The bad, DNF part? Her world is predictable, as is her story. Others might not have read as many of these dystopian novels with some Big Search to fix what's wrong with the world/population as I have, but there just wasn't enough here for me to continue.

ARC provided by publisher.

11 January 2015

Tiny Pretty Things; Sona Charaipotra

Tiny Pretty ThingsTiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One really wonders what research the authors did to get so much of the world of SAB (fictionalized here, of course, because the real SAB doesn't have academic classes) right. Things like the anxiety over roles, weight and getting the approval of the teachers/choreographers. Things like the dedication and commitment to dance above all. The missing was not enough of the actual ballet: stretching and a few pirouettes, plus mentioning fifth and first position doesn't really do it justice. Yes, more would have taken away from the Mean Girls bullying and the romance parts, but it felt as though that was just tossed in at times to set the place.

The ending apparently has been left loose and open because there's a sequel in the works. I actually hope that's the case, because otherwise the ending is just sloppy.

ARC provided by publisher.

Watch Me Go; Mark Wisniewski

Watch Me GoWatch Me Go by >Mark Wisniewski
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Again with the alternating narrators! And in this case, there seemed to be nothing - and I mean nothing - past the prologue to connect them. At 25% I couldn't connect with either, nor with their stories. DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

Faithful Place; Tana French

Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #3)Faithful Place by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sigh. I really should have paced myself while reading these. Now I have to wait at least a year before there's a new Dublin Murder Squad book. Rats.

The first person narrative, each time from another detective's point-of-view, makes these feel very personal. And then there's the sense of place (no pun intended, given the title!). As for this particular installment, we're actually not part of the Murder Squad but peeking in another detective's life, a detective who should know better about getting involved because it's his family and his first love. That was the one thing that didn't ring quite true: wouldn't he have been firmly warned off?