30 July 2014

Hold the Dark; William Giraldi

Hold the DarkHold the Dark by William Giraldi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ok, the ending? I was surprised: didn't see that one coming. Looking back, I probably should have (there were clues... I just ignored them). Alaska really does seem like a different place, with a very different view of 'outsider' than the rest of the forty-eight. Cheeon and Vernon's friendship was... words fail me. How anyone does what Cheeon does because of friendship? Surely there was more. As for Cole and Marium, I liked the partnership.

In a weird way this reminded me of Haruf's work because the writing was relatively sparse. No lengthy passages of explication, instead there's a lot held back that adds to the tension and atmosphere.

ARC provided by publisher.

I'll Give You the Sun; Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You the SunI'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's difficult to know what to say about this: at times both voices are incredible, but when Jude's the voice that you want to hear, Noah's voice isn't as strong and vice-versa. If only only they'd talked, or listened, to each other.

As for plot, the Big Twist was no surprise but it was well done. And the pain that both Noah and Jude feel? Very, very real in different ways. Still, despite the writing and the voices, there was nothing new here.

ARC provided by publisher.

28 July 2014

Good Grief; Ellen Stimson

Good Grief: Life in a Tiny Vermont Village Starring One Dead Guy, Some Naked People, and Quite the Little House FireGood Grief: Life in a Tiny Vermont Village Starring One Dead Guy, Some Naked People, and Quite the Little House Fire by Ellen Stimson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ms. Stimson is an engaging author, which probably accounts for why this book was published. Unlike most books about death/coping with death, this has no deep lessons, no deep insights. Instead we have humor, quirky people and events, and a death that, while it does effect her family, doesn't seem to do so so deeply that she can't write about it lightly. I did find her thoughts about Vermont and Vermonters to be reasonably accurate (speaking as a flatlander with family in the NEK).

ARC provided by publisher.

Rooms; Lauren Oliver

RoomsRooms by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh, how I wanted more creepiness, more horror, more of a gothic feel! This was horror-lite, which relatively benign ghosts and a troubled family. The deep secrets that supposedly Must Be Revealed so that everyone can have a happy life (or death, in the case of Alice and Sandra) aren't really deep secrets. With one exception, they're all just mistakes or depression or something other than what they're being built up to be. It was also disappointing that everyone seemed to be somehow connected (Sandra befriends Minna, Alice's daughter, for example). The only character I liked was Trenton and only because he was less objectionable than anyone else.

ARC provided by publisher.

Badger Knight; Kathryn Erskine

The Badger KnightThe Badger Knight by Kathryn Erskine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good historical fiction, a little PC in places but younger readers won't notice. And was Badger an albino or not? At times he's described as being one, but it's never clear.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Future for Curious People; Gregory Sherl

The Future for Curious People: A NovelThe Future for Curious People: A Novel by Gregory Sherl
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rather typical rom-com with one difference: the "envisioning" process. Unfortunately, that's what lost me, because the explanation of how it worked and what it did was so implausible. As for the characters, well, let's just call them stereotypes and have done with.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Vampires of Manhattan; Melissa de la Cruz

The Vampires of Manhattan (Vampires of Manhattan, #1)The Vampires of Manhattan by Melissa de la Cruz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Despite this being the first in the series, there's a lot of reliance on the previous books (Blue Bloods) - so why is this a new series? Beats me. As vampire books go, this was less about blood than it was a sort of murder mystery, mixed with vampire politics and high society. So, not a good read for anyone looking for a "real" vampire book (having said that, not every vampire book needs to be dark; just look at Yarbro's St. Germaine Chronicles). The problem for me was that this just felt slight, without enough to keep me interested in the world or characters.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Magician's Land; Lev Grossman

The Magician's Land (The Magicians, #3)The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perfect ending, and in many ways the best of the trilogy.

I know this is supposed to be "Harry Potter meets Narnia" but there are other glimpses, like Buffy, Discworld and even a little Christopher Robin, in there. That's part of the enjoyment, for me: playing spot-the-allusion. Quentin's banishment from Fillory and return to Brakebills, along with the death of his father, were great boy-becoming-man moments, although even as a man he doesn't seem to be, well, emotionally an adult. His partnership with Plum was a good balance, and perhaps his best relationship (but not a "relationship") with any female. And the library/map of Fillory? I want to be one of the monks tending to the collection. With or without golden hands.

The ending to the Fillory story is disappointing, but understandable. On the other hand, the Neitherlands could be a great entry to other worlds...

ARC provided by publisher.

Bombay Blues; Tanuja Desai Hidier

Bombay BluesBombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The clash of cultural expectations that permeates Bombay Blues is interesting: the more modern (aka "raised/living in America") Dimple, Karsh, Kavita and Dimple's parents versus the traditional (aka "stayed in India") Sangita, Flip, Deepak and Sangita's parents. Karsh's DJ-ing in NYC includes bahngra, which is not what the clubbers in Mumbai/Bombay want to hear is a problem... Sangita's arranged marriage that will keep her from persuing her art studies is a problem... Kavita's lesbianism is a problem... and there are many others. They're handled deftly here, albeit with too-neat wrapping up towards the end.

It was, sometimes, difficult to remember that Dimple was 19 because she seemed to be a very young 19, making her choices regarding Karsh and Cowboy a little questionable. I found that repeating "she's 19" helped.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Fourteenth Goldfish; Jennifer L. Holm

The Fourteenth GoldfishThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a great book for the girl who is just a little different, but not in the artsy/quirky way. Unlike her drama teacher mom, Ellie isn't convinced that being a theatre geek is for her - she doesn't know what is for her until her suddenly-12-again grandfather moves in and introduces her to science. As she moves away from her younger self, and former BFF, towards a better idea of who she is, what she wants to do, and how to make friends, Ellie changes in ways that are very real for her age.

There's great humor here, as well as a gentle insertion of scientific principles (the fruit/seed discussion, for example) that may encourage girls to explore a "boy interest". The best part is that there isn't a heavy-handed "STEM is good for girls, too" message. Bonus: boys and girls can be friends!

ARC provided by publisher.