31 December 2015

Walk on Earth a Stranger; Rae Carson

Walk on Earth a Stranger  (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #1)Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm being generous by rounding up from 2.5: the incredibly slow pace just did me in. A part of me enjoyed the trip, but anyone who remembers the Oregon Trail game will find this familiar. And gold dowsing (if I can call it that) wasn't as exciting as it sounds.

Pig Park; Claudia Guadalupe Martinez

Pig ParkPig Park by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Chicag0-based coming-of-age story? Sounds interesting, right? The setting and Masi are so clearly drawn, particularly the despair she feels at not just "normal" changes but at the larger ones of her school closing down and the neighborhood dying. It was the when they started building the pyramid that they lost me: how anyone thought this would revitalize an area required a suspension of belief that I just couldn't manage.

The Bones Beneath

The Bones Beneath (Tom Thorne, #12)The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maybe it's me, but this felt like the author didn't quite want to write a mystery but didn't know what else to do with the characters. We've met everyone before, and there's lots of referring to previous books/cases/events during the course of somehow moving this forward. The problem is that the movement is very, very slow despite a fairly fast start (an abduction and torture, but of whom? and why?). Setting this on a remote island is a variation on the locked room mystery, yet here we know we haven't met everyone so that felt like a loophole and lessened the impact of the setting. What worries me about this series is that the pattern of demoting Tom, promoting Tom and so forth will now be accompanied by lesser plots.

29 December 2015

Westley; Bryan Beus

Westly: A Spider's TaleWestly: A Spider's Tale by Bryan Beus
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I can see where younger readers will enjoy this, but for me there was a world that wasn't really built, leaving me to want to know much more. Perhaps that will be added in publication with images? DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

28 December 2015

The Kiss of Deception; Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles, #1)The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a book opens with a Gormenghast-esque feel (Tradition? rituals without current meaning? etc) it's great... but then, no follow-up. Once we got past that start, and the lack of a castle like Titus Groan roams, it's a relatively ordinary story about a girl fighting her role in life, then accepting it and "growing into herself". Oh, and a love triangle.

The Unquiet Past; Kelley Armstrong

The Unquiet Past (Secrets)The Unquiet Past by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The idea was interesting: a young orphan woman goes on a quest of sorts to find out something about her family where she learns that there are deep dark secrets to be uncovered. Sadly, the book doesn't live up to that premise, with things dropped in and then left (like Tess' fashion obsession) or never fully developed (the interior of the house could have been so much creepier had the description been done better). It wasn't clear why the setting was the 1960s except perhaps the treatments needed to be sufficiently outdated? And American audiences may not get the difference between Native and Metis, another thing that could have been easily dealt with.

More Happy Than Not; Adam Silvera

More Happy Than NotMore Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this, but, well, it felt like a number of other books I've read and ultimately won't be memorable.

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley; Shaun David Hutchinson

The Five Stages of Andrew BrawleyThe Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What were the five stages? While it was clear that they mimicked the Stages of Grief, in this case it wasn't always obvious which Drew was going through until the very end (acceptance). Drew's grief is mixed with guilt, which isn't one of the "official" stages and is an integral part of why Drew is still living in the hospital, doing the things he's doing. It felt as though that got some short shrift, dropping this down. And the Patient F comic? Either more or less would have been better.

Gabe Johnson Takes Over; Geoff Herbach

Gabe Johnson Takes OverGabe Johnson Takes Over by Geoff Herbach
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First of all, points off for changing the title from Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders. While one person I asked thinks this is the better title, there was something great about the first one. Gabe (or Chunk, aka the erstwhile titular Fat Boy) has a less-than-optimal family life and has gained weight, lost friends and self-esteem. What this book does well is show how he begins to turn his life around, and even though it's a little too facile and fast, it does show a hopefulness that was refreshing in a book about someone with weight issues.

26 December 2015

Truthwitch; Susan Dennard

Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A world in which there's magic (different types of magic) and political/religious struggle? This could have been great, but instead of building a world the author throws readers in - all too frequently with no explanation of what/who - and then overwrites things so that there's So. Much. Tension. The moments that could have been down times, for example early on at the ball, were also treated this way, rather than calming and explaining some of what was going on. There is a market for this, but for me this was one and done.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Theory of Everything; J.J. Johnson

The Theory of EverythingThe Theory of Everything by J.J. Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I got it. Sarah's grieving for her lost BFF, convinced it was her fault. Some of her thoughts get expressed via drawings, diagrams, etc.. But there was nothing really special here, nothing that would make me recommend this to a student who might be in a similar situation (the grief, not the guilt, but one never knows, right?). And the Crisco at the end lost me - it was somewhat in character, but less convincing as something that would work.

A Step Toward Falling; Cammie McGovern

A Step Toward FallingA Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm probably giving this more than it deserves because Belinda's voice is one that I wanted to hear more of: the way in which she describes her world and her feelings was refreshing in the same way that Christopher's was in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Don't feel sorry for her, feel hopeful. As interesting and also contributing to the rating were the people in the Life Center classes. Kudos to the author for making them all different and not making all of them ultimately lovable. But Lucas and Emily? They were predictable.

24 December 2015

Starflight; Melissa Landers

Starflight (Starflight, #1)Starflight by Melissa Landers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Predictable story about a lowerclass/outcaste girl trying to make a new life for herself but somehow tied to the Golden Boy from school (who, of course, is rich, gorgeous, snobby). Shock/spoiler: they become a team and make things work together. The world created is also predictable but teens won't care.

ARC provided by publisher.

Flawed; Cecelia Ahern

Flawed (Flawed, #1)Flawed by Cecelia Ahern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While the dystopian genre might be played out, I know several teens who are looking for new versions. The world here might appeal in part because it's not a version of America (I'm guessing it's a future Scotland) and in part because it's less about adhering to a group or being physically perfect/forever young and more about following societal rules (a good follow-up would be Jordan's When She Woke).

Since this was an ARC, I'm hoping the cover artwork isn't final. Our heroine, Celestine, is the product of a mixed-race marriage and the artwork here doesn't show that as clearly as it might. Given the whole #weneeddiversebooks movement it seems like an easy choice to make.

ARC provided by publisher.

It's All Your Fault; Paul Rudnick

It's All Your FaultIt's All Your Fault by Paul Rudnick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There's something charming about this utterly predictable story, but possibly it's because of the Singleberry's resemblance to a Partridge Family/Up With People mash-up. Or maybe it's Rudnick's humor? It was a little difficult to take his constant sneering at people who do, truly, believe in a Christian lifestyle but beyond that this is good, teen fun.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Bitter Side of Sweet; Tara Sullivan

The Bitter Side of SweetThe Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What is it with Tara Sullivan's works? The Africa they illuminate is one we suspect exists, but one we hope doesn't (selling albino body parts? isn't that so 19th century? apparently not, per Golden Boy). Here we're drawn into the world of child slavery tied to the cacoa trade - it just might make you rethink your chocolate addiction or go completely fair trade! The lives that the child workers "live" isn't a thing of the past, it's still ongoing. The kidnappings, beatings and rapes might bother teen readers, but they're not gratuitous, they're a necessary part of this story.

ARC provided by publisher.

Under Their Skin; Margaret Peterson Haddix

Under Their Skin (Under Their Skin, #1)Under Their Skin by Margaret Peterson Haddix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Because this is Haddix, it's understood that there will be a twist of some sort; what pleased me was that I didn't quite expect this twist (my initial thoughts were more along the VC Andrews' lines - is it too much of a spoiler to say I was wrong?). And, of course, this is part of a series so the answers aren't all there... yet. There are parts that were less plausible than others, but teen readers may not notice. Nor, I suspect, will they have read as many other books of this type so that once the surprise twist happens, there is a sort of a letdown because, well, the rest felt predictable.

ARC provided by publisher.

19 December 2015

Even Dogs in the Wild; Ian Rankin

Even Dogs in the Wild (Inspector Rebus, #20)Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I confess I'm not sure where this series is going. Rebus has retired, worked on old cases, unretired, retired again and is now a consultant; Fox was introduced as the main detective in The Complaints but maybe people complained (see what I did there?) and Rebus was brought back. Now they're together less as partners and more as possible mentor/mentee, which works but for how much longer? Rebus' era in policing is over... his contacts are retiring (if not dead already)... and Edinburgh itself has changed. Fox is showing more spine and creativity, which may or may not lead to a better character in later books that are Rebus-less.

As for the plot, it's one of those Old Nasty Events Stirring Up Troubles Today plots. Of course that makes connecting the dots more difficult (and when Big Ger points out the connection, it felt a little too Hand of the Creator for my taste) and it's only by digging deep into the archives that it gets solved. There's also the Changing of the Guard subplot, with Big Ger and Joe Stark on one side, Darryl Christie and Dennis Stark on the other. Much as with the Rebus/Fox partnership, seeing Joe and Darryl join forces feels like a way forward with the series. But wither Big Ger??

Dumplin'; Julie Murphy

Dumplin'Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars It wasn't another Big Fat Manifesto but Dumplin' (or, to call her by her real name, Willowdean) is less strident about her size and more like an average girl who happens to be fat. Problems with friends, boyfriends, mom, jobs and all those typical things are more the issue than mere size - a good thing, IMVHO, because that should be the focus, not just weight. For that reason, four stars. Willowdean makes a good role model for those teens; but beyond that, the plot is unremarkable.

06 December 2015

The Underground Abductor; Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor (An Abolitionist Tale about Harriet Tubman)Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I loved this retelling of Harriet Tubman's life, there were (for me) some problems. First, the panels are too crowded and the greytone some times got a little blurred. Second, there's the hangman, who pops up to ask questions and made comments, which I suppose are meant to be funny but in reality take away from the serious nature of the topic and get distracting.

Secret Coders; Gene Luen Yang

Secret Coders (Secret Coders, #1)Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yang's graphic novels are always fun to read (even for people like me, who don't do well with this genre). Here he seems to be going for a younger audience than in Boxers/Saints or American Born Chinese. The introduction to binary as a code is really well done but the abrupt ending was a little problematic. Until the second book in the series is out this may not catch on as a result.

The Walls Around Us; Nova Ren Suma

The Walls Around UsThe Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's an odd book when the sympathetic character is the one in prison and the one you really don't like is the one on the outside, isn't it? On the one hand, we have Amber, in a maximum security version of juvenile detention, a book lover and loner who just wants to get through the day, week, year and has what appears to be a nice streak. And on the other, Violet who has ego to spare, a ballet dancer convinced she's the next prima assoluta at NYCB. They never meet, because in Violet's timeline, Amber has been dead three years. The tie is Orianna, Amber's friend, who three years earlier is sentenced to the prison that houses Amber. Ori's voice is the one thing that is seriously missing here and as much as I hate the newfound love of multiple narrators, in this case it would have led to an even stronger book (particularly at the end).

We Are the Ants; Shaun David Hutchinson

We Are The AntsWe Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Henry's life is complicated, to be sure: his boyfriend's suicide, his father's disappearance, grandmother's Alzheimers are all weighing on him. And then there are the abductions by the "sluggers" who, after years of experimenting give him a button and charge him with figuring out if the world should, or should not, be saved from destruction in January 2016. So the last thing he needs is the complication of relationships with Marcus and Diego, right? But that's what he (and we) get, a teen whose life is overflowing with "stuff". For me, the big unknown was the sluggers. Are they real? Are the abductions and the Red Button To Avoid Doom real? Or is this a way for Henry to cope with what otherwise overwhelms him? Being Space Boy isn't easy - far from it - but a part of me wondered if the reason he's known as Space Boy is all in his head. Readers will have fun deciding that for themselves.

ARC provided by publisher.

04 December 2015

The Only Thing Worse Than Witches; Lauren Magaziner

The Only Thing Worse Than WitchesThe Only Thing Worse Than Witches by Lauren Magaziner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maybe it was me, but reading this I kept thinking about Buffy's friend(?) Anya - the bunnies! the bunnies! As for plot, it's pretty cute and light with enough humor and drama to keep middle grade readers wanting a sequel. And those ice cream flavors were just genius.

Bone Gap; Laura Ruby

Bone GapBone Gap by Laura Ruby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Throughout this book I went from loving to being confused to not caring and back again. Perhaps the magical realism needed a bit more magic, or the realistic parts needed to be more clearly separated? For example, the whole castle sequence was interesting, but it wasn't clear if that was a hallucination or reality or magical realism or a combination. Readers may have to go back a few times to figure out which portions are which. On the other hand, I did love the bees!

A School for Unusual Girls; Kathleen Baldwin

A School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House, #1)A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Regency romance meets spy school. Ok, but the Garriger "Finishing School", LaFevers "His Fair Assassin" and Carter "Gallagher Girls" series do virtually the same thing, so what makes this special? Answer, not much. Even the heroine seems muted, not putting two and two together about the Stranje School or her classmates yet supposedly incredibly intelligent. Some of the references to the era feel forced ("night rail" for example, which becomes "night gown" later, or the ton mention) as if something was needed to create a more of a sense of setting, so why not this phrase or that artifact?

From Where I Watch You; Shannon Grogan

From Where I Watch YouFrom Where I Watch You by Shannon Grogan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Why is it authors assume that if a student's life is falling apart, with dysfunctional parents, no one in a school will notice? Particularly if the student has a supportive, caring faculty member to recommend they enter a contest and gives them time to do their own work? I just don't get it. And then the stalking and the low self-esteem that leads Kara to accept an awful friend... sigh. Finally, the flashbacks to years prior to The Summer of No Fun seemed there just to pad the book. Kellen hated Kara (although there are flashes of a nicer sister). She let Kara down. We got that. All that was needed was That Summer, and life after Kellen's death. Oh, and more cooking. It seemed thrown in more to make Kara interesting and give her some escape than an integral part of the story.

Everything, Everything; Nicola Yoon

Everything, EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The good was the voice of Madeline and her spoiler book reviews, but the plot was too Bubble Boy/Fault in Our Stars/House episode for me to love it. That the nurse, Carla, didn't once question the care really bothered me (wouldn't a home care professional want to see a doctor's notes, not just the patient's mother's notes, even if the mother was a doctor?!), but of course for her to do that would pretty much kill the plot. So if you don't let reality intrude, it's probably a better read.

25 November 2015

Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum; Gregory Funaro

Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum (Odditorium, #2)Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum by Gregory Funaro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Odd Aquaticum is just another version of the Odditorium, and this story is simply too much like the first book to really excite me (granted, I'm not the target audience!). What would have moved this from "average sequel" to "interesting entry in the series" would have been more about the Odditoria in the story - more than what there is, because there is some there - as they're far more intriguing characters than Alistair and Grubb. When the focus is on Cleora or The Golden Fairy there's something a little special there, but the whole Grimm/Prince Nightshade story just doesn't move me.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Wild Swans; Jackie Morris

The Wild SwansThe Wild Swans by Jackie Morris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I served on ENFYA we frequently talked about trim size, and one of my favorite books is a Bloomsbury edition of Julian Barnes' Flaubert's Parrot which, I confess, I bought solely based on trim size! Here we have a small size book, one that could be taller and thinner but then it would be less bijoux and have less impact. The story is a familiar one ("The Wild Swans") but the combination of size, illustration and text in sepia tint just make this version special.

And Yet...; Christopher Hitchens

And Yet ...: EssaysAnd Yet ...: Essays by Christopher Hitchens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some of these essays were familiar from past issues of The Atlantic and Vanity Fair, while others were new (to me), but even the familiar ones were worth the re-read (yes, even the "improvement" series) simply because the authorial voice is so good. Perhaps it's not the case, but I have this vision of the articles springing whole from his head, no research needed for the allusions and historical context (see the essay on Che Guevara). Whether or not you agree with his political or religious views, Hitchens' writing is glorious and may - as it did me - leave you feeling intellectually inadequate.

ARC provided by publisher.

21 November 2015

Resurrection; Wolf Haas

Resurrection (Brenner, #1)Resurrection by Wolf Haas
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Whenever I read a book in translation that has what I'll call a challenging writing style, I wonder if it's me, or if it's the book, or if it's bad translation. In the end, it doesn't matter: I struggled with this and finally gave up reading carefully in favor of flipping through to figure out whodunnit. The breeziness of the writing, the semi-jokey narrator and the asides just didn't do it for me.

Palimpsest; Matthew Battles

Palimpsest: A History of the Written WordPalimpsest: A History of the Written Word by Matthew Battles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disappointing: all too often when I was reading this I thought, "where's the photo/illustration?" and, well, it wasn't there. Battle's would have done us a great service by showing, not merely telling, how the written word developed. There were times when I wondered if this had originally been a series of lectures because the tone is pedantic and rambling, and it's clear that the author didn't do deep research (too few sources cited at the end).

15 November 2015

The Green Road; Anne Enright

The Green RoadThe Green Road by Anne Enright
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So many wonderful reviews of this book, and yet... for me it was close to a DNF. It wasn't just the family saga part (I knew that going in, and was in some ways looking forward to a potentially new version of that genre), or the multiple narrators (although that's becoming annoying), but the fact that it was difficult for me to care about any of the characters. For example, Mom's taking too her bad after Dan announces going into the priesthood plays a largeish role, but it doesn't feel as though it does nor does she really take to her bed. Dan's decision and her reaction didn't make sense, so I started wondering what I'd missed out on. But by the end of Constance's first section, I'd ceased to really care and flipped through the books, skipping whole chunks.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Nest; Kenneth Oppel

The NestThe Nest by Kenneth Oppel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perhaps a little too creepy for kids already scared of wasps and the like? I enjoyed the mystery about who, exactly, was talking to Steve in his dreams, the realistic way in which Steve was worried/scared about his brother and what could be done to "fix" things. When the story veers into horror, readers will go right along with it because by then, we're invested in figuring out what Steve will do and if it will work. Even better, this is longer than a short story but not so long that readers will start to get annoyed by the size - strong readers can finish it in a day or less.

Keeping and Eye Open; Julian Barnes

Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on ArtKeeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art by Julian Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've said it before, but I'd read the phone book if Julian Barnes wrote it. So there's that. This isn't a book by an art historian, nor is it a book by an artist, however it is a book by someone who appreciates art. As a collection of essays, the theme seems to be about works of art that are, in a very loose sense, connected, and ones where the subject matter of the painting or the artist's life is somehow compelling. Barnes isn't saying "Hey, this is an important work because..." here, he's saying "These works compel me for these reasons, perhaps you, too, will feel the same." It's a very human, personal and yet intellectual look at these works. Some may not appreciate the style or the opinions; I enjoyed the former, and occasionally the latter.

08 November 2015

Triple Moon; Melissa de la Cruz

Triple MoonTriple Moon by Melissa de la Cruz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not quite what I expected: I hear witches, I expect witches. Molly and Mardi are actually the daughters of the got Thor and part of the Norse mythos. No, this isn't Rick Riordan's version of half-breeds or Alice Hoffman's magic world, this is something else, more a retelling of the Rhinegold story than either of those two genres. My other problem was that neither are particularly likeable, even when they're supposed to have learned lessons from their summer in North Hampton with their aunts, Freya and Erda.

I can see this being a good lead-in to people reading the original, adult trilogy or going to Netflix to bingewatch the (now cancelled) tv series.

The Visitors; Simon Sylvester

The VisitorsThe Visitors by Simon Sylvester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not quite sure what the rules of SPOILERS are, as this was published a while ago in the UK but hasn't yet been published here in the US... Anyway, this is a cross between a mystery (what happened to and/or who killed the missing men of Bancree?) and a selkie story (our heroine is obsessed with them). How Flora moves from being the relatively outcast girlfriend to being a woman in her own right is also an interesting story, and the first moves come early on as she realizes that her boyfriend has already - before leaving for college on the mainland - moved on and is trying on a new personality. So where does that leave Flora, who has one year left on the island before she, too, can leave? Her response to that dilemma leads to a new friend, a girl who moves to an island off the "mainland" of Bancree Island and is thus even move isolated and outcast than Flora. Add to that the disappearance of three of the island's outcast men and her growing obsession with selkie stories and you have a really intriguing mix for a story. The sense of place is well done, but what lost a star was that the ending seemed a bit rushed and some opportunity to expand on what's come before is lost.

ARC provided by publisher.

Shallow Graves; Kali Wallace

Shallow GravesShallow Graves by Kali Wallace
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At first I thought this was a Lovely Bones-type novel, but then it became more paranormal than LB was. The world it's set in, ours but with "monsters" out there (monsters being harpies, nightmares, ghouls, ghosts and other things), is very well drawn even if the characters and the monster-types aren't. At times I wondered what Breezy's motivation was (she seems unfocused, but that might be because she's dead) and the ending felt a little tentative. Still, despite the paranormal genre fading from my students' interests, this might just get them back into it. Bonus: no real romance but a nice boy-girl friendship.

ARC provided by publisher.

Everyday Holiness; Alan Morinis

Everyday Holiness: the Jewish Spiritual Path of MussarEveryday Holiness: the Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar by Alan Morinis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For the past three years I've read this in conjunction with a Mussar group (most of the time I didn't attend but got the group e-mails) so several sections have been read more than once. The thing about Mussar is that you really shouldn't do it alone - Jewish or not, this is an interesting way to do some self-exploration and reflection - but with a group. The problem is that the book by itself tends to ramble and reads more like a series of transcribed lectures than essays. As a result, it's clearly delivered to a specific socio-economic group and won't resonate with anyone outside that, which is a pity because had he taken a broader approach it would have been a far better tool.

31 October 2015

A Banquest of Consequences; Elizabeth George

A Banquet of Consequences (Inspector Lynley, #19)A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Inspector Lynley has seemed a little lost since Helen's death, and the author has been trying different things to move him (and the series) forward. This is the first one where I've thought she might succeed, but she desperately needs an editor to trip at least 100-200 pages. The earlier books were less fraught with emotional and inessential sidestory and much tighter as a result. Also, more Simon and Deborah, please.

As far as the mystery goes, there was a moment about 60% through where I thought I'd solved it but luckily it was the same mistake that Alistair makes. Very satisfying to have such good misdirection! But the ending felt very forced (I'm not sure I believed in India's decision, and if Havers is heading in the direction I think she is... just no. Please not!). At least Isabelle is giving Havers more "rope" so the next book will, I hope, see her and Lynley together again and working as they used to.

ARC provided by publisher.

When Tom Met Alison; Philip Street

When Tom Met AlisonWhen Tom Met Alison by Philip Street
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading the Globe & Mail in the 1990s and 2000s meant getting my daily dose of Fisher, and now I troll the website (sadly, Philip Street ended the series in June). The story of Tom and Alison is only part of the charm of the strip - and luckily here you see some of Tom's work at Waverly & Mogul (love the Toast campaign! so glad it's here), Bixby and others. I so hope the publishers create other Fisher anthologies.

25 October 2015

The Girl with the Wrong Name; Barnabas Miller

The Girl with the Wrong NameThe Girl with the Wrong Name by Barnabas Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Theo's life changed forever towards the end of her junior year of high school, when something happened in her room late one night. Since then she's been hiding from friends, rarely going out unless it's to film others (using a button cam). One day she meets Andy, a young man obsessed with a woman he met in a "Before Sunrise" type encounter. Her desire to help him find her leads to all sorts of revelations about her life and her family, and the truth what happened That Night. Sadly, the denouement doesn't live up to the rest of the book, otherwise this would have been a solid five stars; as it is, 4.5.

ARC provided by publisher.

Pretending to be Erica; Michelle Painchaud

Pretending to Be EricaPretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A young girl is kidnapped - years later, she reappears. Or does she? "Erica" is actually a grifter named Violet, and her entire life has been perfecting her role before she reappears in the Silverman's life. But this is a grifter with a heart and something of a conscience, so you can imagine how well this all goes. Her struggle with her identity as Erica and her real life as Violet is very well drawn and any fish out of water readers will identify with it.

Into the Dangerous World; Julie Chibbaro

Into the Dangerous WorldInto the Dangerous World by Julie Chibbaro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a teen visiting NYC in the 70s and then as a young adult living there in the 80s, I remember the graffiti covered trains and stations (and the movie Turk 187 - anyone else remember that?). While some was really beautiful, most of it was just tags defacing others property. The author here has tried to explain the why of how teens get into tagging, in some ways glorifying it; using a very naive character, Ror, as our entry into this world was a good choice. However, Staten Island is not the boonies (sorry, Manhattanites, but it isn't!) and the trauma of being ripped from her live on the commune to life in NYC isn't explored as deeply as it should have been. I also didn't see why it was set in 1984, when tagging and graffiti is still going strong (Banksy, anyone?). Maybe because there was no other way to give Ror the commune background?

Noble Warrior; Alan Sitomer

Noble WarriorNoble Warrior by Alan Sitomer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading Sitomer's first book, Caged Warrior, and didn't really see the need for a sequel but, well, here one is. This is a little bit more like Zadoff's Boy Nobody series, only with MMA rather than exciting technology. Sending a teen, even one like MD, into a prison seems excessive, and what happens there didn't ratchet up the tension it just saddened me about how MD was going to have to compromise who he was to survive. That, along with the double and triple crossing, lost stars.

Shattered Blue; Lauren Bird Horowitz

Shattered BlueShattered Blue by Lauren Bird Horowitz
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I loved the beginning of the book (except for the sheer number of time we were told that the school was called Harlow; on one page I think that word appears 10 times!). Noa's life post-Isla's death isn't easy and she's trying to hang on to "normal"; Callum's appearance is possibly a way back to that. But when who/what Callum is gets revealed, I lost all interest. This wasn't the best book in the Fae/Human genre and the writing just didn't hook me in enough to care. DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

A Blossom of Bright Light; Suzanne Chazin

A Blossom of Bright Light (Jimmy Vega Mystery, #2)A Blossom of Bright Light by Suzanne Chazin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was oddly mixed: at times boring and at other times sad. The fictional setting, a town with both very wealthy whites and day-laboring Hispanics, is very well described, as are the people. The central mystery of whose baby, and what happened to the mother, is rather sad and realistic. But the interactions between Jimmy and Adele were what sank this for me - too much of the internal monologues, too many switches between narrators. This trend towards multiple POVs and creating "real" characters doesn't always work and editors should try to caution writers against it.

ARC provided by publisher.

15 October 2015

The Luckiest Woman Ever; Nell Goddin

The Luckiest Woman Ever (Molly Sutton Mysteries Book 2)The Luckiest Woman Ever by Nell Goddin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sophomore slump, or downward trend? I was less impressed with this mystery than the first Molly Sutton, but not enough to give up... yet. The good is that there was no discussion of "the girls", but the bad is the tincture showed up, sometimes the French was translated, and Molly's nosiness borders on absolute rudeness (how many cafe/restaurant scenes were there where she ignored her friend/companion in order to either mull over a clue or eavesdrop?). As for the mystery, the who was surprising but seemed to lack the evil intent of the serial killer. More of a mystery was who was leaking information to her Moroccan vacationing town bff, and whether or not they'll team up next time.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Guest Room; Chris Bohjalian

The Guest Room: A NovelThe Guest Room: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading this, I kept thinking of Bonfire of the Vanities. The world Richard Chapman has constructed is destroyed in one evening, much like Sherman McCoy's does. And like that earlier book, we have three main voices: Richard, wife Kristin and Alexandra, the stripper hired for Richard brother's bachelor party. That last voice is the most difficult one to read as we hear her tale of life in Yerevan dancing, then being stolen and turned into a prostitute. Richard's voice vacillates from being angry to defensive and never quite becomes sympathetic; Kristen's is the most human of the narrators, the one we hope will have the happy ending - one she can live with, not necessarily the one we think is "happy". Ultimately what lost this book a star was the unsurprising ending. After Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, I'd hoped for something a little more.

ARC provided by publisher.