31 August 2014

The Bishop's Wife; Mette Ivie Harrison

The Bishop's WifeThe Bishop's Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is being billed as a "Mormon Mystery" but it's not really a mystery. Yes, there are mysterious disappearances (Tobias' first wife, for example) but for me the sense that this was a Mystery with a Detective (official or not) was missing. Instead we read a book about a woman who finds herself, because of her position in the community, in the middle of some family dramas and she tries to puzzle out what's going on in much the same way that many of us would if in a similar situation.

To be honest, many of the "accidental detectives" I read are less plausible than Linda so YAY!

As for the Mormon aspects, unlike several other books I've read where the focus is on the Church's history or on splinter groups, this was a pretty reasonable introduction to their lives. At times some of the traditions are even gently mocked, as Linda reflects on what outsiders must think (the comment about Twilight made me so happy). For those wondering if the religious aspects are overwhelming, they're not. They're necessary, but there's no proselytizing nor is there a superior tone about the religion.

ARC provided by publisher.

Tabula Rasa; Kristen Lippert-Martin

Tabula RasaTabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Must.Stop.Reading.Blurbs.

This is nothing like Divergent, so please don't let that influence you. It does have some similarities to The Bourne Identity, which means "they" got at lease part of that right.

We're in a hospital of some sort, with an unknown, unnamed girl who is undergoing some strange brain surgery - something that will erase her memories, giving her a new lease on life and a second chance. The others in the hospital are also undergoing the treatment, and they're all kept separate and sedated. Until the last operation, when things start going weird and Sarah (or Angel, depending on what you want to call her) begins to remember who she is and what she's capable of. The majority of the book spans only a few days with Sarah and a few others literally fighting for their lives against mercenaries. The fight, the allies and the ingenuity are all the big plus in this book. Sadly, this is all marred by the end of the battle, with the Big Bad Behind It All doing one of those "here's why I'm such a baddie... now you must die!" exposition scenes. And we all know how those end.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Long Way Home; Louise Penny

The Long Way Home (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #10)The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'd wondered how this series would progress, given Gamache's retirement. Would it go in the direction of Rankin's Rebus? Or would this be more like the tv series "Lewis"? And now we have the answer - Gamache has definitely retired, but he's willing to help his Three Pines friends solve problems. Well, in this case, one friend (Clara) solve one problem (why didn't her husband, Peter, return when he said he would?).

As always, the sense of place makes this series unimaginable elsewhere. Not just the Three Pines setting, but the trek to the Lower North Shore and Charlevoix. While we don't go to Dumfries (Scotland) I confess I went online to see what the Garden of Cosmic Speculation was, if it even existed. At times Three Pines can feel claustrophobic so it was good that we left the village for the first post-Surete adventure.

The mystery itself was not quite telegraphed, but by the end it seemed so obvious even if the method was odd and unexpected. And while we see the "usual suspects" (aka the Three Pines townspeople) they do seem to be less quirky than before; having said that, Ruth's mellowing is a tad disappointing. That's not to say she's mellow by normal standards, but by hers...

Here's to the next in the series!

29 August 2014

Alistair Grim's Odditorium; Gregory Funaro

Alistair Grim's OdditoriumAlistair Grim's Odditorium by Gregory Funaro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know this isn't steampunk, but it certainly has elements that are similar (the animus and the way the Odditorium moves) nicely mixed with fantasy elements like the Black Fairy. Plus samurai! And a Dickensian hero named Grubb (like the insect but with two bs). The adventure Grubb goes on is one that will excite readers, especially as he meets the people in Grim's world (like Cleona) and goes on to fight to save his new friends.

ARC provided by publisher.

Migrating Voids; David H Walker

Migrating VoidsMigrating Voids by David H Walker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Too many adjectives (the adjectives have adjectives!) and some seriously heavy-handed writing get in the way of the sense of setting, which is the strongest part of the book. The plot is fairly pedestrian (ancient family, deep secrets buried in the archives, etc.) but had the writing been cleaner - or had an editor worked with the author - this would have been a much better book.

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.

The End of Days; Jenny Erpenbeck

The End of DaysThe End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Maybe it's the translation? Of course, it could be the plot itself. Which ever it was, I managed to get through the first of the five lives and the Intermezzo, and realized it just wasn't doing anything for me. Too confused a story, with narrative lines that didn't make sense.

DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

Sometimes the Wolf; Urban Waite

Sometimes the WolfSometimes the Wolf by Urban Waite
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What would you do if your town sheriff father was tried, convicted and jailed for drug smuggling and distribution? Dropping out of college and joining the local police force probably isn't your first thought, but Bobby Blake does just that. When Patrick is, after 12 years, released from prison, Bobby and wife Sheri take him in, all the while wondering whether Patrick can stay out of trouble. How has prison changed him? Has prison changed him? The answer, of course, is yes... and no. Trouble from before Patrick's arrest follows him, and the ways in which he's changed lead to trouble for his family and former deputy, now sheriff.

The metaphor of the wolf is a good one. Not only is there a search and hunt for a lone female wolf roaming the area of the Cascades where the action takes place, Patrick could be seen as a lone male wolf. He's violent, but it's because that's how nature sometimes is, not because he wants it.

The writing is something of a mix between Kent Haruf and Mickey Spillane, which can be an interesting mix as well as annoying. Overall, this was really more of a 3.5 but I was feeling generous.

ARC provided by publisher.

10 August 2014

Autumn Falls; Bella Thorne

Autumn FallsAutumn Falls by Bella Thorne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another predictable teen romance, albeit one with a Diverse Character (Cuban and dyslexic!).

ARC provided by publisher.

Gretel and the Dark; Eliza Granville

Gretel and the DarkGretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Such a difficult book to read, given the three (or four, depending on how you count) narratives. And just as difficult to review because of the Big Twist towards the end.

So here's what I'll say: Krysta (the most recent of the three women we meet) uses fairy tales, like "The Pied Piper" and "Hansel & Gretel" to help both her and Daniel survive. How much of her life story is real and how much is also fairy tale is questionable. Because her story (or stories, since we also get flashbacks to her life with Greet) is intertwined with the story of Lilie and Gretel, often with no differentiation between the them, it can take a little to catch when we are in time.

The one real quibble I had that I can talk about is the splicing of Freud's work with Dora onto Breuer's work bothered me. If only that had been switched to some other type of mania.

Why only three stars? Because - and I've gotten in trouble with this before - it covers the Holocaust. This is really well done, and the story lines are interesting, but the Holocaust just makes me say "enough". There are more atrocities out there to be covered.

ARC provided by publisher.

Get Happy; Mary Amato

Get HappyGet Happy by Mary Amato
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Perfectly serviceable teen romance. Nothing unique about this, except maybe the whole ukelele sideplot.

ARC provided by publisher.

Gutenberg's Apprentice; Alix Christie

Gutenberg's Apprentice: A NovelGutenberg's Apprentice: A Novel by Alix Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of my colleagues said she DNF'd this, and I can easily see why. There are many very slow passages, ones that could easily have been excised in favor of more about the political and religious issues that Gutenberg (and Mainz) were dealing with while he was creating the press and his Bible. His apprentice, based on a real person, is apparently best known as someone whose press took up where Gutenberg left off and as a font designer (the first. ever.) and we get Peter's story of how the press came to be.

And therein lies the problem: he's boring. Pages, literally pages, on how the press was created, and maybe a few paragraphs about the politics of the guilds. The archbishop's power plays were mentioned, but readers won't get a great sense of how that affected everyone except the occasional mention of scarce goods or taxes. More about that, more about the struggle over whose Benedictine Rule would be printed, and more about the disruption to scribes would have helped move the story along.

ARC provided by publisher.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors; Nayomi Munaweera

Island of a Thousand MirrorsIsland of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Years ago (early 70s) I had a friend from Ceylon, and she'd occasionally mention problems "back home" (we weren't even teens then, so deep political discussions weren't really part of our lives). As I've grown and read news reports about what was going on in Sri Lanka, it's been truly disheartening to hear about this beautiful island's recent history.

This book covers decades of that history, with one story from the Sinhala and one story from the Tamil side. Neither appear to be completely at fault, and neither are completely innocent - which is perfect. How the conflict unfolds, what it does to families and neighbors, is not new to anyone who has read about similar "problems" (in Bosnia... Rwanda... anywhere there is ethnic strife). The specific Sri Lankan slant is what gives this so much power, and lead to the four stars. Points were deducted because the stream of consciousness was sometimes difficult to follow.

ARC provided by publisher.

08 August 2014

The Secret Sky; Atia Abawi

The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in AfghanistanThe Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan by Atia Abawi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Yet another "Romeo & Juliet"-esque story, this time against the setting of Afghanistan and the threat of the Taliban. She's from the Hazara tribe, daughter of a peasant farmer who works land owned by a Pashtun khan. He's the beloved son of the Pashtun landlord, and they grew up together, friends until puberty and he went to a madrassas. In such a proscribed society, can their love flourish? Add to the mix his cousin, a Taliban member. Sadly, the plot doesn't deviate from the usual.

It's the injection of Afghanistan and its tribes, tribal customs that differentiates this from the normal R&J story. If only Rashid (the Taliban cousin) had been slightly different, this would have been a four-star.

ARC provided by publisher.

07 August 2014

brown girl dreaming; Jacqueline Woodson

brown girl dreamingbrown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's always difficult to take issue with a memoir, because this is the author's version of their life, giving them the ability to delete, gloss over or highlight events and feelings. It's also difficult for me to read novels in verse, which this is. Hence the three-stars: a format in which I'm not completely comfortable and a memoir about an author whose works I know but whose life story is unfamiliar. What was left out? What would an objective person say?

Still, for those without my verse issues, this is an interesting way to approach Ms. Woodson's life. There are some events and themes that appear to have informed her work, which will definitely appeal to her fans.

ARC provided by publisher.

06 August 2014

The Way Inn; Will Wiles

The Way InnThe Way Inn by Will Wiles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As someone who has been to quite a few conferences (not as an exhibitor, just as an attendee or presenter), there is something to the idea of a conference surrogate that's just... intriguing. Seriously intriguing. Of course, to use a service like that would be wrong. But... well... And the bland sameness of chain hotel rooms is something with which I'm familiar, so there's that part of this book I identify with.

Had there been less soliloquizing (if that isn't a word, tough) and fewer descriptive passages, particularly in the last third of the book, it could have been an easy 5 star. But that last third? Sorry. It just needed something - editing? direction? Something, anyway.

ARC provided by publisher.

Grim, various authors

GrimGrim by Christine Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's always difficult rating an anthology, because one story may really be wonderful, others are "meh" and one really stink. That's not the case here, with several hitting the "wonderful" mark ("Beauty and Chad", I'm looking at you especially) and most being better than average. Does it matter if you don't know the lesser-known stories being retold? Not really. They're enjoyable on their own.

If only my students enjoyed story collections more... maybe this'll help.

ARC provided by publisher.

Skink - No Surrender; Carl Hiaasen

Skink--No SurrenderSkink--No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I could riff on the title, because I did surrender. This just didn't do it for me: where was the humor others mentioned? And the last straw was when Richard's mother let him go off with Skink, despite Malley's running away/kidnapping. DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

Amity, Micol Ostow

AmityAmity by Micol Ostow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe it's because I'm old enough to remember the book/movie about the Amityville Horror (really: it's a true story ) but I liked this take on the theme. No, there was nothing "new" in terms of what happens, right down to the blood/sludge coming out of the tap or the "window eyes", but that doesn't matter. The sense of menace and horror is less than the earlier book but then, this is YA not adult. My only quibble is that if this is set in Massachusetts, there's no "downstate" (mentioned several times as the origin of Connor's family). But beyond that, it's all good.

I can imagine pairing the two and getting teens to talk about the differences, and what they prefer (or dislike) about each.


ARC provided by publisher.

Blind, Rachel DeWoskin

BlindBlind by Rachel DeWoskin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It feels wrong to say that a book about a newly blind girl, one trying to live with sightlessness, was one I couldn't finish but... that's the case here. It reads as though the author had two books in mind, meshed them and then padded with a lot about being blind in a way that just doesn't work. DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

04 August 2014

Belzhar; Meg Wolitzer

BelzharBelzhar by Meg Wolitzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally, a book about a poet other than Emily Dickinson! Belzhar is the Special Topics in English classes code for a place (or alternate reality) that they go to; the name derived from The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath's novel. Each has come - or been sent - to The Wooden Barn boarding school because there something they need to work through, some tragedy they need to get over. The five Special Topics students find themselves working through things with the help of Belzhar and the red journals their teacher gives them to use.

It's disappointing that the writing doesn't quite live up to the book - at times the author seems to be talking down to us, and at others it's as though she doesn't like her characters that much. There is a Big Twist at the end, but afterwards it's a letdown because there doesn't seem to be any unexpected payoff (what I mean is, you anticipate xx is going to happen, Big Twist appears, but rather than something new happening, xx happens anyway).

So let's call this 3.5 and move on.

ARC provided by publisher.

Like No Other; Una LaMarche

Like No OtherLike No Other by Una LaMarche
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, definitely one for the #weneeddiversebooks lists - but is it a great book?  Not really.  It's predictable, despite being set in two worlds (that of Devorah's Chabad Lubovitch sect and that of the outsiders, in this case a West Indian-American boy named Jaxon).  The worlds collide in a Hurricane Sandy-like event when Devorah and Jaxon trapped in a hospital elevator and fall for each other. So far, so Romeo & Juliet.  For me, the only real question was about Devorah's real feelings for Jaxon: she feels that she's in love, but is it really him, or is it the allure of the Other, the frei life?  I did like that the author doesn't go out of her way to explain the Chabad rules and life, letting us learn either via Jaxon's eyes or contextually as Devorah's life unfolds.  Teens may enjoy the romance more, despite the predictability of it all.

ARC provided by publisher.

02 August 2014

We Should Hang Out Sometime; Josh Sundquist

We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true storyWe Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Poor Josh: no girlfriend, no kisses. But why? This investigation of why is quite charming, with equal measures of social awkwardness and self-deprecating humor. My guess is that quite a few teen boys will be able to see themselves in Josh, and perhaps some teen girls will see the nervous, awkward boy they know and have an idea as to how to approach him (or at least have the RDT).

ARC provided by publisher.

Salt & Storm; Kendall Kulper

Salt & StormSalt & Storm by Kendall Kulper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At times, the writing resembled that of Melville (the whale passages, for example), at other times it's less wordy and that combination is a little confusing. Because the nature of the Roe witches power is so varied and different, it makes sense that the author doesn't explore that aspect more, but it would be been nice if we'd gotten more of what/how Avery's mother could have done as a witch or what her foremother's powers were like.

I got a little tired of Avery's near hysteria at all times, and her inability to articulate her feelings (even to herself) about why she wanted to be a witch. And the ending? It felt rushed and made less sense as an ending should have done, given the earlier plotting.

ARC provided by publisher.

Very Bad Things; Susan McBride

Very Bad ThingsVery Bad Things by Susan McBride
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So predictable. So very, very predictable. There was nothing here that surprised me, no plot twists or character twists - tight down to the guy hiding his sexuality. Even the tunnels were unsurprising (my high school has them, now mostly closed off but they're still there). With just a little more, the story could have been something much better.

ARC provided by publisher.

How to Build a Girl; Caitlan Moran

How to Build a GirlHow to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I so wanted to like this book far more than I did: as a former fat teen with social issues, it should have been easy to see myself in Johanna (or Dolly, whichever). But, well, no. This is about a seriously unpleasant, self-centered girl who - I think - is less socially-awkward and more socially-inept and stupid. All that drinking, all that Awesome Sex Adventure stuff? Sigh. More of the music would have been interesting, or her writing (the anti-fan and the fan stuff), less of the other.

If this is supposed to be YA, it misses. Perhaps it fits better as "New Adult" (not just because of the sexytimes, but because it just doesn't seem to be written as a YA book).

ETA: This book does meet the needs of one of the girls at the Best Fiction for Young Adults teen feedback session this past ALA; she said, quite passionately about Grasshopper Jungle, "girls get horny, too" and wondered where the books for them are. This is that book.

ARC provided by publisher.

Evil Librarian; Michelle Knudsen

Evil LibrarianEvil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I dare anyone to read this and not think of "Buffy" with Evil Giles, with a side of "Glee": humor, musical theatre, demons and high school. Which basically tells you everything you need to know about this book and the obvious sequels.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Marco Effect; Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Marco Effect (Department Q, #5)The Marco Effect by Jussi Adler-Olsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second of the Department Q books I've read, and still a little unsure of my thoughts. As far as the mystery part goes, it's minor - these are more books about the people, less about whodunnit (or what or why). Like Lackberg's books, there's a seemingly unrelated couple of events that all tie in together, and the only mystery is who's behind the murders (pretty clearly telegraphed, with a minor twist that ultimately doesn't really surprise). So what we're left with is, how do you feel about the people in Department Q.

And that's where I get stuck. At times I do like them, especially Assad (so much more to him than meets the eye). Rose I'm wavering on, but I think the author's in the same place. It's Morck that bothers me - I just can't decide if he's supposed to be too like Rebus (a throwback to old police methods) or if he's just too old to do the job well, or something. Whatever it is, it's difficult to read about his exploits with ease. I guess it'll take another look at the series to tell for sure.

ARC provided by publisher.