27 September 2015

Worlds of Ink and Shadow; Lena Coakley

Worlds of Ink and Shadow: A Novel of the BrontësWorlds of Ink and Shadow: A Novel of the Brontës by Lena Coakley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When an author feels the need to hit readers over the head with place and character, I begin to worry. Example? Starting sections with "Charlotte Bronte wrote..." or "Emily Bronte stood at the window." (note: I'm not quoting the book, just giving an example of the writing style) Exactly which Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Bramwell could have been established in other ways. Beyond that, this is a good blending of what we know about their lives with their juvenalia, and watching those worlds emerge - or take on their own lives - may interest readers who have been forced to read a Bronte novel for school and not see what everyone else loves about their works.

ARC provided by publisher.

Placebo Junkies; J.C. Carleson

Placebo JunkiesPlacebo Junkies by J.C. Carleson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Are there really people who make a living (such as it is) enrolling in medical trials? Somehow, that seems like something the FDA and Big Pharma would be aware of and trying to stop. Of course there's a huge twist at the end... The loss of a star was because the language sometimes got a little over the top (and not just because Our Heroine was in the middle of some drug trial or other).

ARC provided by publisher.

This Is Where It Ends; Marieke Nijkamp

This Is Where It EndsThis Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very difficult book to read, and one I'd only advise reading if We Need To Talk About Kevin, The Hate List and Finding Jake are your cup of Earl Grey; for many adults I know, that's not the case and for teens, reading about a school shooting strikes too close to home. While the multiple narrators made sense, the lack of hearing from Tyler was a little problematic for me since it gave everyone else an opportunity to speak for him without giving him a voice. There were far too many secrets each narrator held and sometimes those seemed to be added just for dramatic reasons rather than being necessary or organic to the plot.

ARC provided by publisher.

Ashley Bell; Dean Koontz

Ashley BellAshley Bell by Dean Koontz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Knowing the author, I knew there had to be some sort of twist to this book but it wasn't quite what I'd thought it would be (always a good thing). Who is Ashley? Why is Bibi's life entwined with hers? What was the memory trick the Captain taught Bibi? All those and more are answered, along with an interesting glimpse into surfer-speak. The loss of stars was due to the overwriting, with Koontz often telling a bit too much (description, emotion, action) rather than showing. After the third or fourth time, I really did get that the fog was almost a character in this book. And, sadly, I missed the Hermiones.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Curse of Crow Hollow; Billy Coffey

The Curse of Crow HollowThe Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Talk about Southern Gothic! A small town, relatively isolated, with a bunch of teens who are, well, teens. Doing what teens do: ignoring town rules and breaking into the abandoned mines, plus going up the mountain to confront the witch (who has stolen a diamond bracelet from one of the teens). That's just not going to go well, is it? There's the expected small town reactions, with everything from moonshine runners to the Klan to revival meetings and an all-out panic or two. The reality is, of course, quite different than what the town believes... with one huge twist at the end that may or may not make the narrator unreliable. Not for the faint of heart to read at night.

08 September 2015

The Borden Murders; Sarah Miller

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the CenturyThe Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn't the first exploration of the Borden story I've read (the most interesting was by an FBI profiler, The Cases That Haunt Us) but it is the best YA version... thus far. My quibbles come when I put on my ENFYA hat, and even then I have to wonder if they'll be corrected when the final version is published. Quibbles like: the odd placement of the pullout information; the photos being clumped into two sections, rather than spread throughout; the resolution on the blueprints for the house is poor and a better drawing would have been very helpful; and did the author actually get to see the house as it is now? And then there was the weird phrasing about how the myth or question has spanned three centuries. Technically, yes - this all happened in the late 1800s and we're now in the 2000s. But, well, it's been slightly over a century since the murders and that phrase implies it happened nearly 300 years ago.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle; Janet Fox

The Charmed Children of Rookskill CastleThe Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Creepy (perhaps a bit too creepy for younger readers) and a little more about why the children were sent away (American readers won't know about the Blitz and child evacuations). Beyond that, what happens to the children - all of them - at Rookskill, and how they react is a great blend of realism (rebelling against an older sibling) and fantasy (Lady Eleanor's plans for them).

ARC provided by publisher.

04 September 2015

The Nature of the Beast; Louise Penny

The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #11)The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At the end of The Long Way Home I wondered what would happen, and by the end of this one, I suspect I know: Gamache has options. And he's not sure retirement's quite the thing for him or Reine-Marie.

There's real-life history here, Project Babylon, something with geopolitical implications, and yet, somehow, this tiny village gets involved. There's also a brilliant play written by a sociopath that is supposed to be produced by the nearby amateur group. Are the two connected? And how many times will we go to the B&B, or hear Ruth and Jean-Guy insult each other? Which of our friends in the Sûreté will make an appearance? There's something comforting about the latter questions, and a little disconcerting about the first one. Because yes, in fact, they are related.

By the end, I have to say that I was feeling some sympathy for Ruth(!) and don't know quite what to do with that feeling. As for the continued intrusion of the outside world into Three Pines, again I don't quite know what to do with that. Unlike, say, Cabot Cover, there's no real reason for so many people to show up - although with each book I'm reminded that this village is a little larger than I remember it being.

Because I don't want to include spoilers, I'll just end with the "hee" moment for me: the people in charge of Project Bablyon (in this book, at least) were Dr. Bull and Dr. Couture. You guess which was the salesperson and which did the designs.

Essentialism; Greg McKeown

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of LessEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three word review: less than essential.

More? Well, that's the problem. So much padding, so little attention to the author's premise that, you know, less ends up being more.

(ps - go read some blog posts on simplicity or mindfulness instead)

How (Not) to Fall in Love; Lisa Brown Roberts

How (Not) to Fall in LoveHow (Not) to Fall in Love by Lisa Brown Roberts
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Trite. Very trite. Rich girl's father disappears, ditto her rich lifestyle, and mother falls apart - I'm sure you can figure out the rest. However, YA readers will love the story because Lucas is, well, gorgeous.

Copy provided by publisher.

The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen; Katherine Howe

The Appearance of Annie van SinderenThe Appearance of Annie van Sinderen by Katherine Howe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always been a sucker for time-travel books, like Dumaurier's The House on the Strand, and this is a good variation on that theme. It was particularly interesting that the "g-word" never gets mentioned (watching Wes trying to avoid saying it was great), and even better, the era Annie inhabits was one about which I knew something but not a lot, so some research was necessary. And ok, any book that contains a scene at NYU's Bobst Library gets my vote.

ARC provided by publisher.

Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? Stephen Dobyns

Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? by Stephen Dobyns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is getting five stars despite my quibbles with the narration moving between omniscient ("if we look to the left, we'd see...") and third person ("Connor walked to the door"). Moving past that, Dobyns has once again written a great mystery - gruesome at times (a biker getting cut in half by a truck!), but also very character oriented. Who is Fat Bob? Why does anyone want him dead? Is it something to do with Connor's brother? Or maybe it's all a mistake? Even better is the relationship between Vikstrom and Streeter, which ranges from passive-aggressive to just plain aggressive. Best? Fundraising for the nicotine addicted beagles and orphans from outer space.