01 July 2015

The Library at Mount Char; Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount CharThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book so easily could have been the start of a series, or at least a trilogy but it seems as though it's a one-off. YAY! What a great idea: interesting plot, lots of action, good conclusion and done. It's been so long since that's happened.

The Library is almost like the Tardis, larger (far larger) on the inside than it appears, although "appears" is the wrong word since no one can actually see it. Some event happened a number of years ago, at a picnic, and Carolyn and several others were somehow in the care of Father, an incredibly stern and powerful man/god/something who can do some pretty amazing things. How Carolyn and the others grow up, learning from their specialized sections of the Library (though to what end is up in the air) may stand them in good stead when Father goes missing. If only they can work together...

I can think of so many readers for whom this will be the perfect summer read, particularly given the blend of genres (some horror, some fantasy with a dash of romance and philosophy).

ARC provided by publisher.

8; Elisha Cooper

8: An Animal Alphabet8: An Animal Alphabet by Elisha Cooper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute book that will be perfect for teaching both the number 8 and animals. Biggest quibble? Too small a font and the information about the animals could have been a little more expansive.

ARC provided by publisher.

Sunny Side Up; Jennifer L. Holm

Sunny Side UpSunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading the back matter, why Holm set this in the 1970s is clear. But not having read that, people might wonder why this is set then rather than today. After all, there are retirement communities today and families with the same problems today. The pages where we learn what the Bicentennial or a Polaroid was were nice, but felt a little like filler. Beyond that, however, is a book that might help readers who are having similar problems in their families, who might feel similarly confused and abandoned by their parents.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Only Child; Guojing

The Only ChildThe Only Child by Guojing
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh wow. The illustrations are just gorgeous. There's such depth here, worthy of more than a quick read but real study. As for plot? By the end I wasn't sure if this was a dream or a real adventure, which was ok. Ambiguity is good. And maybe, if I read and reread it, I'll decide. I rarely predict the Caldecott's but this one? It'd be very surprising if it doesn't get at least a mention.

ARC provided by publisher.

Slade House; David Mitchell

Slade HouseSlade House by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine my surprise at seeing a second new David Mitchell book in 2015! Slimmer than The Bone Clocks, Slade House starts as a paranormal mystery and ends much as the earlier book, with suasions and lacuna and orisons and characters returning from previous books. That's what cost a star. I know it's one of the things that Mitchell fans love, but for me, the story of Slade House didn't need all that: the mysteries of how these people get tricked into coming into the house, and what happens to them, and why it's only every nine years, and can they be stopped, are all that's needed.

ARC provided by publisher.

The League of Unexceptional Children; Gitty Daneshvari

The League of Unexceptional ChildrenThe League of Unexceptional Children by Gitty Daneshvari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every now and then I read a book and know exactly which students I want to give it to; this is one of those books. Rather than the child who has some special power, or was born into an unusual family, or anything like that, this is about two completely really, really "normal" - forgettable, even - teens who get to use that talent to help save the US from disaster. What a great read for all those kids who are average students, average athletes, average looking, average socially and just plain average.

ARC provided by publisher.

Goodbye Stranger; Rebecca Stead

Goodbye StrangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stead uses this book to tackle big issues, like feminism and body issues and first love(? maybe - they're just friends) as well as friendships and how they grow and change. That's the good part. Even better, she's a great writer who can tackle those things well. The relationships between Bridge, Tab and Em are not perfect but they are real; Bridge's relationship with her brother is equally well-drawn. Em's friendship with Joanna and her crush/cell relationship with Patrick? I've seen similar dilemmas in my schools.

The only problem I had was the addition of the mystery person playing hookey: someone clearly involved, somehow, with our three BFFs but with a different set of problems. Since this insertion ultimately has nothing to do with the main plot, it was a distraction and, well... But maybe I'm the only one that will feel that way? I can see committees loving this and rightly so.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Detour; S.A. Bodeen

The DetourThe Detour by S.A. Bodeen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There's nothing wrong with unlikable main characters, particularly if the story is compelling (like, Gone Girl). The story here is Misery for the YA audience, without the maiming. But the part about the unlikable main characters? Olivia/Livvy is not just self-centered - and let's remember, she's only 17, so that's somewhat allowed - but she's not at all sympathetic. Her issues and Deep Dark Secrets are typical teen, and I admit that I thought her captors were somehow related to them. That there's a surprise twist was a pleasure and raised this from a 2. But at the end, once she's free and knows why she was the target, she shows no signs of growth or understanding. Now, teens are not always capable of deep insights, but surely after this experience there'd be something? Nope. They were wrong, she's in the right and she has the power of her blog and press and fame to feed that impression. In many ways that was a true ending, but I'd hoped for more.

ARC provided by publisher.

26 June 2015

Lila; Marilynne Robinson

Lila (Gilead, #3)Lila by Marilynne Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How lucky am I? Reading Lila in the same week as a Julian Barnes and close to reading Kent Haruf's last? Very lucky.

There are people I know who don't like Robinson's Christian elements (especially in Gilead). This has some of that, but so much less. Lila's story is one of hardship before and during the Dust Bowl, taken by Doll (whose relationship to Lila is unclear, if one actually exists) from an abusive/neglectful family that necessitates them moving constantly, usually as part of a group of migrant farm workers. Eventually, after a long stint in St. Louis and an attempt to return "home" to find Doll, Lila manages to walk into the preacher's life (John Ames, from the two previous books). The twists and turns of her life, her relationship with Doll and John and God and religion are told in Robinson's usual wonderful prose. There are questions left unanswered, but isn't that life? We never know everything about people, no matter how much we might want to.

Cockroaches; Jo Nesbo

Cockroaches (Harry Hole, #2)Cockroaches by Jo Nesbø
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

By now I've read the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th and 9th Harry Hole books. Yes, I'm doing this haphazardly! This had everything I'd expected from the series but lost points on the stereotype of why people go to Thailand and the things they get up to there. The corruption angle was good enough, why muddy things with pedophilia? That would have been rather refreshing... As always, when I read mystery series out of order, it's interesting seeing how the relationships so taken for granted later in the books form and settle.