23 February 2014

Murder in Pigalle; Cara Black

Murder in PigalleMurder in Pigalle by Cara Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my third Aimee Leduc mystery and the tics that bother me probably won't be enough to keep me from reading more (or reading the back episodes) but I will definitely have to space them out.

What tics? The over-explanation of the French phrases which leads to clunky writing, and the fashion comments. I think about writers who actually are French, or someone like Louise Penny writing about French-Canadians, or British mystery writers. They just use a phrase and assume that readers will know what it means or move on (it took me a while to understand why chalice was worse than merde but confusion didn't spoil my enjoyment of the Three Pines series). And after the first mention of Aimee's Tintin watch I got annoyed. Once was enough.

In this mystery the actual action seemed a little muted compared to the others I've read, with Aimee's pregnancy possibly leading to more caution? Or maybe there was more that got edited out? It felt a little jumpy and lacking a je ne sais quoi.

ARC provided by publisher.

Beyond the Door; Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Beyond the DoorBeyond the Door by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A must-read for readers who are not quite, but almost, ready for "The Dark is Rising" series.

The addition of old British myths, like the Greenman and the Jack, along with Welsh figures like Cerridwyn to an American landscape may leave some readers, those who know the myths, confused. Consider this a melange and move keep reading. Timothy and Sarah seem to be left alone a lot by their parents, but as with the best blended-world stories time moves differently in the Other world than it does in the real one. I also enjoyed Julian, a librarian in our world, and the Ogham text that runs at the bottom of each page.

The pacing was a little odd, and this was really two books in one - tying the two together more with deeper exploration of the mythology would have been better (IMVHO). And Jessica's change was too abrupt for reality, or what passes for reality in this world.

ARC provided by publisher.

Space Rocks! Tom O'Donnell

Space Rocks!Space Rocks! by Tom O'Donnell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I so enjoyed Chorkle and its world! The asteroid in which it lives is somewhat under attack, first from hoo-mans and then the Vorem. The first are there because of minerals, but the second have chased the Xotonians across the universe and now they're here to retrieve the Q-sik and wipe out Chorkle and everyone else. This is sci-fi from the alien's point-of-view and what a great view it is. Humans aren't treated as horrible, just fairly clueless and possibly friendly if given a chance; aliens are just like humans, only with more eyes and a love of ogg-ball. Here's hoping there's a sequel. Perhaps with more Pizza?

ARC provided by publisher.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight; Christopher Edge

Twelve Minutes to Midnight (Twelve Minutes to Midnight, #1)Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Probably a better book for the target audience than adults, as I didn't find the world particularly convincing. Penelope's life seems just a little too convenient for me to suspend disbelief entirely, and there's a lot of belief that needs suspending. London also feels too clean and poverty-free for the Victorian era, but perhaps in future episodes we'll see the grittier side.

ARC provided by publisher.

Ask Me; Kimberly Pauley

Ask MeAsk Me by Kimberly Pauley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Readers who enjoyed Ella Enchanted will appreciate the "curse" (or "gift", you decide) that Aria is under: she must - absolutely must - answer any question she hears, even those not actually addressed to her. This leads to her being rather unpopular at school, and all she wants is to get her GED and hope that the gift ends when she's 17 (as it did with her mother). Then the most popular girl in school is killed and, well, you can imagine how Aria does with all the "whodunnit" questions flying around school.

That was the part I enjoyed and what kept me reading. The love triangle was less interesting and while I understood why it happened, I wish it hadn't. I also wonder if there's going to be a sequel, given that Aria is descended from the Sybils and by the end of the book, her gift is still going strong.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Mark of the Dragonfly; Jaleigh Johnson

The Mark of the DragonflyThe Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The world-building worked for me, and I enjoyed getting to know this split society: some industry, but mostly poor settlements caught in the struggle between the King and the Dragonfly Territories. There's some magic, dragons and the mechanical aspects are fascinating. While those are familiar aspects, the question of Anna's identity and role as someone protected by the Dragonfly will keep readers from having that deja lu feeling.

ARC provided by publisher.

16 February 2014

Mind of Winter; Laura Kasischke

Mind of WinterMind of Winter by Laura Kasischke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Very nearly a DNF, but this was such a short read that I finished it anyway.

If you didn't know that the author was a poet, you might be puzzled by the repetition and some of the writing. As it was, I was annoyed because what works in poetry doesn't always work well in prose. The phrase "something followed them home from Russia" could have been placed at interesting junctures as a way to keep the tension going but it seemed to be sort of randomly inserted. And the psychological tension was just lacking - in retrospect, I could say "oh, ok, that was a clue" but at first read it just felt like a mother/moody daughter in the middle of a blizzard with unnecessary digressions into the past.

ARC provided by publisher.

Her Dark Curiosoty; Megan Shepherd

Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter, #2)Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good follow-up to The Madman's Daughter - better pacing and plotting. We're back in London, with Juliet now living with her guardian, Professor von Stein. There's a serial killer, the Wolf of Whitechapel (any similarity to Jack the Ripper intended), who seems to be killing people Juliet has been wronged by and she's trying to figure out how to complete her father's work finding her a cure for her "problem."

So yes, this is better than Book One. But the plundering of Victorian Classics in addition to Jack means that there's less imagination here and more "oh, yes, I can figure out what's coming" for the reader.

ARC provided by publisher.

13 February 2014

Half Bad; Sally Green

Half Bad (Half Life, #1)Half Bad by Sally Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this - although I can see where some of the other, less excited reviews are coming from. There's a Potter-esque vibe, with White and Black Witches living amongst us (Whites try to blend, Blacks don't). The Council and its Requirements felt very familiar, too. Having spoken with the author, I know that she based Nathan on Aiden Turner from the UK's Being Human and, well, sometimes a little more of that show than just the look of the lead leaks in.  Marcus and Mercury weren't as believable as they might have been, but perhaps they'll become more real in future volumes.

Still, this was a world I believed in most of the time. The idea of a coming-of-age that includes being given three gifts in order to find your Gift and that Gifts could be stolen was intriguing. The persecution of non-full-blood Whites reminded me of Germany's purity laws, as did the increasing strictures the Half Bloods faced (or did they? was it only about Nathan?). The best part was the beginning, which immediately brings you into the story part-way in without a ton of explication, then backtracked thoughtfully to show how we got there.

Can't wait for Books Two and Three.

ARC provided by publisher.

Evertrue; Brodi Ashton

Evertrue (Everneath, #3)Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

After 50 or so pages I still didn't understand the world the author had built. We open essentially one sentence after the previous book (which I haven't read), which makes the book difficult to access for newbies. DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

Codename Zero; Chris Rylander

Codename Zero (The Codename Conspiracy #1)Codename Zero by Chris Rylander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where was the humor? We started out with the school's best prankster, but the guy who unleashed a herd of fainting goats on the school so he (and his friends) could glue classrooms and offices shut isn't the guy we get through the rest of the book - and that's not great. There were many times I was convinced that his caper was just some elaborate prank on him but, well, no. If only the book hadn't just missed with the mixture of humor to action...

ARC provided by publisher.

Grasshopper Jungle; Andrew Smith

Grasshopper JungleGrasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Very interesting concept: what would happen if some mutant virus got into the general population and created a genetic mutation, much like Them? Could we survive? What if the people who created the virus were long gone, so no one knew it existed?

The commentary by Austin was fairly realistic, very close to what I imagine a teen boy in the midwest would sound like in this situation. Mixing the "thinking about xx made me horny" with the reality of the situation and the mutating people was done well. However, the long digressions into his family's history? Those lost me and wouldn't have been missed had they been edited out.

ARC provided by publisher.

12 February 2014

White Space; Ilsa J. Bick

White Space (Dark Passages, #1)White Space by Ilsa J. Bick
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Oh, where to begin?? Such an interesting premise turned into such a hot mess: too many POVs, too little world(s) building, words that don't make sense and a desperate need for sharp editorial shears. It's like five stories were running around in the author's head, then she saw The Matrix or read Inkheart (or both) and decided that combining everything was the way to go. At 560 pages for volume 1, that's just wrong. I did try! It's just that every time I got interested or figured out who/what, the chapter ended and there'd be a new POV and storyline.

Another DNF clue? I started guessing how long it would take for us to find the chapter title inside the chapter. You know, like that Soprano's game.

09 February 2014

Fire; Mats Strandberg

Fire (Engelsfors, #2)Fire by Mats Strandberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Because I only semi-enjoyed The Circle, I approached Fire with some trepidation. I'm glad to report that this is a better book than the first, still too long and with passages that get a little confusing, but it was better.

Better how? The girls, the Chosen Ones, are better delineated than before, and the story is sharper. Having said that, if you haven't read The Circle it really won't make sense who's who and what their backstory is (even with that, it got confusing at times). The "Positive Engelfors" movement didn't need the magical intervention (although, of course, it had to have one in the context of this trilogy) because we've seen movements like that before in real life. And the final scene, in the gym, started to get a little too Carrie-esque but luckily it veered away from that before the comparisons got too close.

By the end of this middle book, the girls (now down to four) are closer and understand each other better; they still have no real guide, as the Council clearly against them and their mentor has disappeared. The apocalypse is still on its way and the Blessed One may not have been responsible for the PE events. An editors shears would have worked wonders on this trilogy, getting rid of the padding and confusion to really draw readers in.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things; Alice Hoffman

The Museum of Extraordinary ThingsThe Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Many times this book reads like a mash-up of Among the Wonderful (Carlson) and A Winter's Tale (Helprin). The problem is that the joins don't always fit in quite the right way: Coraline's story living in the Museum gets truncated by the life that Eddie lives in New York. There are digressions that seem promising (for example, Miss Block's social activism, which could have tied in with Hannah Weiss' but didn't quite) and extended passages that don't move things forward. Fitting all this around the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and the Dreamland Fire just felt like padding - one or the other would have worked better, but both was a little too much. I got that fire and water were supposed to be Big Themes here, but, to this reader anyway, it didn't quite work.

ARC provided by publisher.

08 February 2014

Game Slaves; Gard Skinner

Game SlavesGame Slaves by Gard Skinner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We start out with almost a Pratchett-esque Only You Can Save Mankind vibe, only this time from the POV of the "characters" in the game. Who are they? Where do they come from? These existential questions aren't the types of questions characters ask, but suddenly there's Dakota, the newest member of Phoenix' team, and she is asking these questions. Dakota also seems to have memories of something more, something else - and then she leads the team to another place, a place beyond the game, where Charlotte "lives". This part of the book is wonderful and I wished it had been all of the book!

Where the book lost me was when we then move to a dystopian America, with clear haves and have-nots. No surprise, there's also class warfare (or revolution). Sigh. With a first half so imaginative, the btdt second was a letdown.

ARC provided by publisher.

Split Second; Kasie West

Split Second (Pivot Point, #2)Split Second by Kasie West
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

DNF mostly because the world the author has built was impossible to get into without having read the previous book - no explication, not "previously", nothing to draw in new readers.

ARC provided by publisher.

02 February 2014

Manor of Secrets; Katherine Longshore

Manor of SecretsManor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sadly, this was nearly a DNF because it didn't capture the imagination and world as its inspiration (Downton Abbey) did; luckily, it was a very quick read.

Lady Charlotte is a Mary Sue who writes Mary Sue gothic novels - and is a constant disappointment to her mother. She isn't demure or interested in the handsome (yet boring) Lord her mother has picked out for her, and worse, begins to befriend one of the kitchen maids! Then Lady Beatrice, Charlotte's aunt, comes back with some Deep Dark Secret. If only it was all less predictable. Much less predictable.

ARC provided by publisher.

Mercy Snow; Tiffany Snow

Mercy Snow: A NovelMercy Snow by Tiffany Baker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not sure if this was supposed to be a mystery, a suspense or just a novel; I'm leaning towards novel with mystery/suspense overtones. Mercy Snow relies heavily on the landscape in which it's set and the author does a great job with that. Another plus? This is set in the present but there's only one mention of a cell phone. Authors who feel that they can only escape technology by arbitrarily setting their books in the past take note!!

If only the author had been brave enough to make the book a little quieter and the Deep Secrets to be a little less obvious, this would have been a clear five star.

ARC provided by publisher.