25 August 2014

Touch; Claire North

TouchTouch by Claire North
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What is with Claire North and time travel? First The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, now Touch.

Here we have a... being? entity? consciousness?... who transfers from body (or skin) to body via touch - and it can be one fingertip that manages to touch an centimeter of another's skin and the transfer happens. We're experiencing a very difficult few weeks of one such entity, named Kepler by an organization out to kill him, as he tries to avoid said assassination. He jumps from person to person (or skin to skin) throughout this story, sometimes confusingly for the reader. Also confusing was the exact reason why he was targeted (and, as with the earlier book, why others of his kind are targets).

The writing style, the jumps, and the motivation of both "Kepler" and the others are all somewhat jagged, but it all works. It'll be interesting to see what a third book brings: more of the time theme or if she'll veer into new territory.

ARC provided by publisher.

22 August 2014

Dreamwood; Heather Mackey

DreamwoodDreamwood by Heather Mackey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in an imaginary part of the Pacific Northwest, Dreamwood is a new take on fantasy/adventure/ecological fiction. The affects of logging are talked about, but more as "we've now got a problem with Rust destroying the trees" rather than "logging is bad" - this gentler approach makes it easier to read the fantasy/adventure part because we're not being hit over the head with that message.

As fantasy goes, the idea of a nature god (or spirit?) that rules this peninsula, and who has become angry (or turned evil) was done well. There's a sense of menace, but as with all fantasy/adventures, if you follow the rules you'll manage to survive. Those times when the rules aren't followed it's clear that there will be Consequences.

If only there were more about the Lupine Indians. Maybe it's me, but that name seemed to evoke one thing and it never quite happened. As for the vaguely steampunk aspect of all the ghost equipment, that bothered me less than steampunk usually does.

ARC provided by publisher.

Unmade; Amy Rose Capetta

Unmade (Entangled, #2)Unmade by Amy Rose Capetta
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Whenever I DNF a book I wonder if it's my fault - what didn't I get about this book? In the case of Unmade what I didn't get within the first 100 pages was a clear idea of who was who and what was going on. In part that's because this is a sequel and there was no real "Previously..." provided (there are allusions, but nothing direct to say "this is my friend --- with whom I ----" or somesuch). It was as if the author had one large manuscript and just halved it to make two books.

So if you did read the earlier book, this might be for you; this is not a good stand-alone.

ARC provided by publisher.

Her; Harriet Lane

HerHer by Harriet Lane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Told from two points-of-view, Emma and Nina, Her definitely brings on the creepy, stalker vibe. Emma is a little on overwhelm with her son and pregnancy, and later a toddler and newborn - and of course she's given up her career for this. So when Nina enters her life seemingly by accident, she's too easily accepting and grateful. On the other hand, only we, the readers, get Nina's side and learn (slowly, very slowly) her motivations.

The slowness is both a good thing and a detriment: we need it to get fully creeped out by what Nina's doing and to understand the depth of her problem, but at the very end it isn't clear if Emma finally understands who and what Nina is and either faster pacing or another chapter might have served the ending better. Readers might start to reflect on their history a little, on the unconscious affect they've had on others... and hope there are no Nina's in their lives.

ARC provided by publisher.

21 August 2014

The May Bride; Suzannah Dunn

The May BrideThe May Bride by Suzannah Dunn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wolf Hall is really having its moment, isn't it? Ditto the Seymour family! This is supposed to be Jane's story, very much pre-her becoming King Henry VIII's wife, but really most of it is Jane's impressions of, and reacting to, her sister-in-law Katherine. The reality is the very little (virtually nothing) is known about Katherine, which gives the author a lot of room to play.

It's a pacing problem that cost this stars: if this were a longer book, the slow pacing would have been more appropriate, but as it is the ending is rushed while our getting to know Katherine and the life at Wolf Hall take too long to unfold. Because this is from Jane's point-of-view, there are things that happen that somewhat escape her but are critical to the story.

While I love historical fiction and nonfiction about this period, this isn't a book I'd necessarily recommend before works by Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir or Hilary Mantel.

ARC provided by publisher.

Everlasting Lane; Andrew Lovett

Everlasting Lane: A NovelEverlasting Lane: A Novel by Andrew Lovett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I almost DNF'd this, but settled for just skimming the last 3/4. There's supposed to be some Big Secret that will be revealed, but it's too little, too late. There are passages that really work, but at other times? It just seemed that the author tried to be too lyrical, to inject too much mystery when plainer writing would have sufficed.

And then there are the characters. I just didn't really care about any of them, and it would have been very easy for Peter to have been more interesting, someone we did care about. As for "coming of age"? The time-table's too compressed, too few lessons learned or maturity gained.

ARC provided by publisher.

Princess of Thorns; Stacey Jay

Princess of ThornsPrincess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a huge fan of the fairy/folk tale update, so this was getting off to a good start just by virtue of being a version of the Sleeping Beauty story - except it's really about SB's daughter, Aurora. Apparently Dear Old Dad (aka "the prince who woke SB up") had another wife, an ogress who is not pleased about the new family and not just because she doesn't like humans. At the time of this story, Joram (Aurora's younger brother) has been captured by the ogres, and Aurora's trying to raise an army to rescue him and save her kingdom from destruction (the ogres suck out human souls... don't ask). Nicklaas, a prince from a neighboring country, is looking for Aurora so he can marry her before his 18th birthday, which would then break a curse his father placed on him.

Confused? It's less so in the actual reading. Of course there are confused motivations and mistaken identities, action, love, witchcraft and much more. Even better, this appears to be a stand-alone! So why three stars? Because it didn't do anything really new with the themes and motifs. Plus, the ending? It felt rushed, and I just didn't believe the Big Change of Heart. YMMV, of course.

ARC provided by publisher.

A Plague of Unicorns; Jane Yolen

A Plague of UnicornsA Plague of Unicorns by Jane Yolen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Why so short? I wanted more!

The title may make readers think this is a girls book, but wrong - boys will enjoy this just as much (I know, I tested it on one). James' curiosity, and people's reactions to it, will resonate with them. And the Knight he calls on to help save the Abbey from the unicorn plague? Pretty clever.

More on life in he Abbey, more on James, just more... please!

ARC provided by publisher.

16 August 2014

The Corpse Bridge; Stephen Booth

The Corpse Bridge (Ben Cooper & Diane Fry, #14)The Corpse Bridge by Stephen Booth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What is Booth doing with the relationship between Fry and Cooper? It's... befuddling. There's no way Ben's over Liz' death, and last book had them at loggerheads, but by the end of this they're sharing champagne? Ooookay.

As for the plot, it's Booth's usual mix of local knowledge/mythology/tradition and modern motivations and murder. Is the Corpse Bridge a massive red herring, or is there a reason the bodies fall along the corpse roads? The reason for the bridge and roads in the first place is important, and I wish there'd been a bit more about them (ditto the witch bowls). And as usual, Ben's ties to the local terrain and all that goes with it leads him in one direction while the others feel that perhaps he's heading down the wrong path.

At the end of the last book, I wasn't sure I'd stick with the series. After this one? Can't wait to see what happens next.

The Book of Strange Things; Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New ThingsThe Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd started this thinking it'd be a variant on the Stranger in a Strange Land but it's definitely not. Instead, this is a human-meets-aliens story, with meditations on what makes us human, what life is worth, and what faith means. Christianity is the "hook" (the title refers to what the Oasans' call the Bible), and Peter (yes, yes, a Very Symbolic Name) is the messenger. His decisions to live among the natives and to translate the Bible into words they can actually say and concepts they can understand are a variation of going native; the results are a little surprising. It was also surprising how quickly he forgot what his wife looked like, even while yearning to be with her as the Earth dissolves into chaos (tsunamis, food shortages, etc.).

One of the interesting things is the depiction of the Oasans: their faces, if you can even call it a face, is virtually indescribable, while their bodies may not even have a skeleton. Their speech is unreproducable by human vocal cords. So for readers used to the Star Trek humanoids with the universal translator, this will be a very different experience.

ARC provided by publisher.