20 March 2020

Sin Eater; Megan Campisi

Sin EaterSin Eater by Megan Campisi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I kept vacillating about this one, with a semi-alternate history of England (Queen Bethany instead of Queen Elizabeth I, for example) and the idea of someone being branded and sentenced to being a sin eater, forbidden to talk unless hearing the confession of the near dying. There are lists of sins and their equivalent foods to memorize, some of which are make May - a newly created sin eater - gag.

Somehow, May stumbles into a mystery: a dying woman confesses, but at her Eating there is an additional item. Then this happens again. Who is adding this public display of sin to the Eating? And why? May's investigation seems to revolve around luck more than real detective work. There's also a question of why she was sentenced to the sin eating but that appears to get short shrift. Having said that, the originality of the parallel world and her life redeemed this story and the ending provides a good sense of "there's more to her story but you can imagine that part on your own," something a little rare these days.

eARC provided by publisher.

19 March 2020

The Decievers; Margaret Peterson Haddix

Greystone Secrets #2: The DeceiversGreystone Secrets #2: The Deceivers by Margaret Peterson Haddix
3 of 5 stars

A decent second book in the series, with the four children trying to find their mothers while keeping Natalie's father in the dark. We learn more about this Other Earth filled with doubles of our Earth's people, especially the politics and the rulers. There are so many possibilities for Book 3 that I hesitate to speculate about the direction.

eARC provided by publisher.

18 March 2020

The Chosen Ones; Veronica Roth

Chosen Ones (The Chosen Ones, #1)Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The premise here is sort of like that of Ness' Some of Us Just Live Here (which talked about the random other people who just happen to live in the same town as a "chosen one"), except here are five Chosen Ones who are trying to get on with their lives ten years after the Big Event. My first thought was that this was the second in a series - it's not, it's the first - because the characters kept talking about "before" and "what I/we did when...". Despite that initial confusion, it was easy to get into the book. Then there was the secondary confusion of who exactly this book was written for. It reads like Roth's YA books, but it's been published as an adult book; perhaps it best falls into that so-called New Adult category.

As far as the plot goes, it's pretty much standard for the genre: there is someone or, in this case, five someones, who fulfills some prophecy to rid the world of some Big Bad (to use the Buffyverse term). Many people die in the effort, the Chosen have to deal with their guilt/emotions/difficulties and there is a victory. So what if they're not cuddly and loveable? They saved the world! And Sloane fits that description to a T. And then, on the tenth anniversary of the victory, she and the other Chosens get a bit of a wake-up. If this were a stand-alone, the ending would have been perfect. As it is, it suggests a "more of the same" series.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Body in the Garden; Katharine Schellman

The Body in the Garden (Lily Adler Mystery #1)The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical mysteries are not my favorite mystery subgenre, to be honest, but if I'm going to read one it helps if the mystery is engaging and the "detective" makes sense given the times. Lily's life in Regency England is one of some privilege, yet she doesn't have a happy family life (husband recently dead, birth family estranged, in-laws supportive but wanting to marry her off). Returning to London she finds friends from school and more recently ready to welcome her, as well as a dead body she feels obliged to investigate.

A decent start to a series that those who love Regency-based novels and historical mysteries will enjoy.

eARC provided by publisher.

12 March 2020

The Silence of Bones: June Hur

The Silence of BonesThe Silence of Bones by June Hur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, first let's deal with the blurbage: there is no "ancient curse: 'May you live in interesting times.' " - it came from the British diplomatic corps in the 1800s. Now that that's off my chest, on with the review.

Usually I'm not a fan of historical romance, but if this developed into a series it would change my mind. To be honest, I don't know much about the late Joseon period in Korea and the history surrounding the backlash against Catholics by the police, under the direction of the ruling Dowager Queen. While there are really primitive methods of investigation, and torture is an approved technique for questioning, there is still the underlying question about who the killer is and why noses are being chopped off of the victims for Seol to solve. Perhaps "solve" is the wrong word, because she's just a female and just a servant, but Seol manages to manipulate things enough to get involved in the investigation. She's also trying to find her long-lost Older Brother (this reader figured it out long before the author lets us know what happens).

ARC provided by publisher.

11 March 2020

The Wolf of Cape Fen; Juliana Brandt

The Wolf of Cape FenThe Wolf of Cape Fen by Juliana Brandt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A town cut off from the rest of the world, kind of - the residents cannot leave, but visitors who are not there after First Frost can. There's something about wishes, or bargains, between residents and the Baron that Eliza wants to figure out, and how they tie into the Wolf and other strange events. Some of the mythology isn't as clear as it could have been, while Cape Fen itself treads the line between modern and something far older in a way that doesn't quite work. Still, I could see readers enjoying the book and hoping for a sequel.

ARC provided by publisher.

10 March 2020

Little Family; Ishmael Beah

Little FamilyLittle Family by Ishmael Beah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who knew that Ishmael Beah had become such a great writer? Apparently this is his sophomore fiction effort, and I'm definitely going to find his first novel and read that.

The idea of family and how we create our own, how they can mutate over time and sometimes reach a breaking point is wonderfully illustrated by the five members of this "little family" and their life together. We never learn their back stories because they've never told each other about "before", although they hint at it. There's also a serious distance between classes illustrated, with Khoudi trying to bridge that distance (successfully? perhaps) and causing a rift in the family. The family's story is told with sensitivity and care, with just enough detail to let our imaginations fill in important blanks (like the ending).

ARC provided by publisher.

09 March 2020

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires; Grady Hendrix

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying VampiresThe Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There were some moments early on when I thought that this would be the prefect mix of humor and horror (a Jude the Obscure joke was the clue) but then, well... it didn't quite live up to that promise. It's not even really Southern Gothic horror, and it's not quite a vampire slaying group, although it does try to do both. The book group that Kitty. Patty, Grace, Maryellen and Slick form is tight knit and supportive, while their husbands are sexists Southerners who embrace golf and the Citadel, and a man's word and honor are paramount. Of course the newbie in the neighborhood , James, is going to help create even tighter bonds between the women and tighter bonds between the men... but you just know that something isn't Quite Right. There are also race issues, with the Book Club trying to help Patty do something about the black children disappearing from her cleaner's neighborhood and, well, it doesn't quite go the way it's supposed to.

The characters are very much people of their time (the 1980s) so attitudes and responses reflect that era. Anyone wanting different, more modern, versions, will be disappointed.

eARC provided by publisher.

04 March 2020

The Midnight Lie; Marie Rutkoski

The Midnight Lie (The Midnight Lie, #1)The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We know the world... mostly. A new island, one that believes it has always been there, that the society has always existed as it is, and one that seemingly doesn't exist to others in the world we've previously explored in The Winner's Curse series.

Obviously, none of the above aren't true and over the course of the book, as we follow Nirrim and Sid in their adventures, much of the history Herrath becomes clear. And because this is the first of a duology (per the author) there are Questions Left Unanswered at a critical moment. What makes this a little deeper than many in this genre are the questions that get raised about relationships and power, with Nirrim serving as our surrogate for three different types of relationships (nicely realistic, despite the world in which they're set).

eARC provided by publisher.

Wicked As You Wish; Rin Chupeco

Wicked As You Wish (A Hundred Names for Magic, #1)Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Sorry, I just couldn't. After a great start (seriously, that OzCorp was named after the Nome King?!), there were too many moments when the world needed better building/explanation, and the fight scenes made less sense and went on far too long. DNF at 35%

eARC provided by publisher.