31 December 2016

Click Here to Start; Denis Markell

Click Here to StartClick Here to Start by Denis Markell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Escape rooms are quite the thing these days, aren't they? So no wonder there's a book that uses that as its main plot device. And it goes a good job of it, overall. The problem is less with the puzzles than with the characters, who exist to serve that part of the plot. The BFFs (Ted and Caleb), the girl who becomes part of their BFFdom (Isobel), the "evil people" all fell a little flat - but the puzzles? Quite nice.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Moth Catcher; Ann Cleeves

The Moth Catcher (Vera Stanhope #7)The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ok, Ms. Cleeves, I get it: Vera Stanhope is fat. Can you cut the references to that down to perhaps once a book? Even Rex Stout only referred to Nero's "eight-of-an-acre of yellow pajamas" infrequently.

Beyond that, if you like this series you'll like this entry. It's been interesting watching how Vera interacts with her team versus the public and how she has grown (kind of) as a result. Mystery-wise, the whodunnit isn't obvious except at the end. There are hints, there are clues brushed off as not being important - but once you hear whodidit, it isn't impossible to figure out. Difficult, yes, but not impossible.

A Necessary End; Peter Robinson

A Necessary End (Inspector Banks, #3)A Necessary End by Peter Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been a fan of Robinson's for a while. Even though this is a series, you can read it totally out of order (which I have been doing) and this is the earliest book I've read yet. Banks' wife is out of town during this episode, his kids are youngish and he's living in the old house; if you read the later books you know how much this all changes. As far as plot and mystery go, it's good... but Banks does get better over time. There's a lot of music in this, and several red herrings - including a near-useless map at the start. My only quibble is that the solution is one of those "magic" ones, with some intuitive leap that readers might not make along with the detective.

And yes, the earlier books are on order for future reading.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies; Louise Gornall

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesUnder Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a difficult book to review, as I don't know much about OCD and mental illness. But I do wonder if the ending isn't too pat, too "YA perfect". It's obvious that Norah is supposed to be our window into this illness but... something just doesn't work. Maybe it's the meet-too-cute situation, or the convenience of mom being out of town?

ARC provided by publisher.

You Don't Know My Name; Kristen Orlando

You Don't Know My Name (The Black Angel Chronicles, #1)You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kind of a cross between the Boy Nobody and Gallagher Girls series. I'm not sure I bought the ending, which seemed a bit rushed and trying too hard to lead to the Big Cliffhanger. Regan's parents, particularly her mother, are stock characters. Regan herself has promise but ultimately there's not enough character development and too much fake teen angst.

ARC provided by publisher.

15 December 2016

The Radius of Us; Marie Marquardt

The Radius of UsThe Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It's a pity that the characters were so flat, and the POVs were so bland. DNF.

Still Life with Tornado; A.S. King

Still Life with TornadoStill Life with Tornado by A.S. King
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Maybe it's me. Everyone loves - loves! - A.S. King's work. And earlier books really worked for me but this one? It just didn't even begin to make sense, and I never began to care about Sarah. DNF.

17 November 2016

You in Five Acts; Una LaMarche

You in Five ActsYou in Five Acts by Una LaMarche
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Trying very hard to be clever when a straightforward book would have worked far better. The shifting POV, so we're not entirely clear who "you" is at any given time, doesn't help make the story come to life it just creates a pause while readers figures out who and what. Once the gimmick is dispensed with, this is a standard last semester of school novel, one with all the fears about the future, taking last chances, etc.. It might have helped if the situations weren't so obvious, or if there had been a true Roshomon-effect with the differing POVs.

09 November 2016

Weregirl; C.D. Bell

WeregirlWeregirl by C.D. Bell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not sure if the "were" part is supposed to be symbolic, or if the author is trying for horror - better readers than I can figure that out. What I got was a relatively standard high-school story about a character that isn't quite likeable (likeable enough for me to finish, but not for me to want to learn more about should this turn into a series) with a unique challenge: managing her change into a weregirl. And then there's the love aspect which wasn't convincing. There was promise here, unfulfilled promise.

18 October 2016

Saving Phoebe Murrow; Herta Feely

Saving Phoebe MurrowSaving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is definitely one of those timely books, with cyberbullying being such a problem in schools. So why only three stars? Because there was no nuance. It read like an issue book, rather than a book with interesting people and characters that happened to deal with a sensitive issue. Which is, of course, too bad. The biggest problem is with the mother, who is perhaps a little idealized here (is this what we expect of mothers?) rather than Phoebe. Perhaps a less well-intentioned book would have been better.

20 September 2016

Our Chemical Hearts; Krystal Sutherland

Our Chemical HeartsOur Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed meeting Henry, not quite as much meeting Grace. His attempts to get to know her and befriend her felt real, as did his neatly slotting her in to that Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope (despite her not fitting it). After all, we always try to fit people into neat stereotypes, right? Grace's "issues", on the other hand, felt a bit forced. Maybe it was one quirk too many? or that the whole seemed less than its parts? Still, a reasonable teen romance that it's too painful for adults to read.

ARC provided by publisher.

05 September 2016

Klickitat; Peter Rock

KlickitatKlickitat by Peter Rock
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Is Vivian an unreliable narrator? What happened to Audra? What's wrong with home and Vivian's parents? Is ham radio really still a thing? So many questions still remain at the end of this book that more than three stars felt wrong.

On the one hand, you have Vivian, who has some anxiety (possibly ASD) issues requiring heavy medication. On the other, you have free spirit Audra. They both run away - somewhat implausibly - and then, something happens. Or did it happen before, and the running away didn't happen quite the way it's described? So many of my students dislike the ambiguity at the end of The Giver, which makes me wonder how they'll feel about this.

Sheldon and Mrs. Levine; Sam Bobrick

Sheldon and Mrs. Levine,  An Excruciating CorrespondenceSheldon and Mrs. Levine, An Excruciating Correspondence by Sam Bobrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good parody but relies too much on the easy/lazy stereotype to earn five stars.

Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down; Anne Valente

Our Hearts Will Burn Us DownOur Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Too many POVs, but the hint of paranormal/mystery raised this from a two to a three star. The school shooting part is done enough off-stage (this is more Hate List than This is where it Ends) to be almost unimportant but the way the parents deal with their children felt forced.

ARC provided by publisher.

03 September 2016

Julia Vanishes; Catherine Egan

Julia VanishesJulia Vanishes by Catherine Egan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world Julia (or is she Julia?) inhabits has the potential to be very interesting; it is now, but my question is whether the author sustains what she's built! The plot is well-paced, failing (yay!) to fall into the trap of "I have to end this quickly" or "let me leave a huge cliff-hanger/plot hole for the next book". As for Julia herself, she seems to be pretty empowered and perhaps just a little older than the target audience may be comfortable with - if you've read it, you know the scene I mean.

ARC provided by publisher.

Howard Wallace, P.I.; Casey Lyall

Howard Wallace, P.I.Howard Wallace, P.I. by Casey Lyall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute, and reminded me of Grisham's Theodore Boone series.

ARC provided by publisher.

Class Election; Neil Swaab

The Secrets to Ruling School: Book Two: Class ElectionThe Secrets to Ruling School: Book Two: Class Election by Neil Swaab
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not sure I'd be happy if any of the students I work with take any of this advice, but I can see the Wimpy Kid appeal.

ARC provided by publisher.

The King Slayer; Virginia Boecker

The King Slayer (The Witch Hunter, #2)The King Slayer by Virginia Boecker
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Relied too much on the previous book while at the same time feeling like there was nothing new added to the genre. DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Boy with 17 Senses; Sheila Grau

The Boy with 17 SensesThe Boy with 17 Senses by Sheila Grau
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute overall, with a hint of otherworldliness: the world Jaq inhabits has synthesia, but that's the norm. So of course Earth will feel weird to him. What will make Jaz feel familiar to readers is his being such a sad sack - bullied, at risk of losing his home and his friend (a whippet) - and his attempts to overcome all that. Even those who don't like fractured fairy tales will enjoy this; for me, it's what lifted the book from a two to three star.

ARC provided by publisher.

31 August 2016

The Thousandth Floor; Katharine McGee

The Thousandth FloorThe Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lots of diversity for those who want it: POC, economic differences, educational differences all get their own voice. The problem is that it reads like several short stories (no pun intended) shoehorned into a novel, or a tv series like "Gossip Girl" and "Good Times" meet "Love Boat". Too many narrators, too much going on. Really only 2.5 stars.

ARC provided by publisher.

His Right Hand; Mette Ivie Harrison

His Right Hand (Linda Wallheim Mystery, #2)His Right Hand by Mette Ivie Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second outing for Linda Wallheim is just as good her first. Less mystery and more human nature, with a lot of Mormonism thrown in, this is perfect for those not in love with hard boiled or cozies and who are looking for an interesting amateur detective. The mystery itself resolves relatively slowly, but what sets this apart is how it ties in to the Mormonism - no preaching, no proselytizing, just demystifying about the beliefs and daily life by showing this world as "normal" (which, of course, it is, "Big Love" and "Sister Wives" aside).

Just My Luck; Jeff Anderson

Just My Luck (Zack Delacruz, #2)Just My Luck by Jeff Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Poor Zack! Lots of misunderstandings, more than the average kid will have, but all of a sort that readers will relate to (like wearing embarrassing underwear to school) and appreciate. Great sequel - more please!

ARC provided by publisher.

Foxheart; Claire Legrand

FoxheartFoxheart by Claire Legrand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not a spoiler, but don't trust the blurb: there's very little "sleeping on rooftops" going on here. Instead this is a good middle grade adventure story, with some magic mixed in (plus libraries!). Quicksilver's faithful dog, newfound friends and allies and the world in which they live is going to appeal to readers; that there's more to come will make them happy.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Graces; Laure Eve

The Graces (The Graces #1)The Graces by Laure Eve
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Cullens meet Suburban Strange. Nothing new.

ARC provided by publisher.

Labyrinth Lost; Zoraida Cordova

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1)Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you're looking for a paranormal type YA series with POC leads, this is it. But... for me this missed. There's a rather abrupt jump into the story, while in reality some backstory is needed: the world seems to be clear to the author, but for those of us not privy to those thoughts, a little more telling (or showing - either work) would have been nice. Once we got into Los Lagos it felt like there was a Mexican gloss over a familiar landscape with little truly new or original.

ARC provided by publisher.

Blood on Snow; Jo Nesbo

Blood on SnowBlood on Snow by Jo Nesbø
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A stand-alone book (ie. not a Harry Hole mystery) that proves that Nesbo can step outside his comfort zone in terms of characters; the tone and feel of this book is still very familiar. Rather than a somewhat conflicted policeman with questionable morals and methods, we have a hitman who is aware of his mental limits, although he's very good at what he does and has definitely overcome the dyslexia he perhaps has. This last month or so in Olav's life - or is it? love the uncertainty at the end - is wonderfully detailed, with a nice blend of violence and love blended with a solid moral code.

If this is the only time I meet Olav, fine. But perhaps? Please, Mr. Nesbo...

Goldenhand; Garth Nix

Goldenhand (Abhorsen, #5)Goldenhand by Garth Nix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This doesn't quite pass the stand-alone test, with ideas and people sprinkled in throughout that require prior knowledge to fully appreciate. But if you do have that knowledge, this is a great addition to the series. I did wonder on occasion why Nix has returned to the Old Kingdom (some authors return to old works - IMVHO - because it's easy, rather than because they have something truly new to add) but the ending clearly indicates that yet another entry will be on its way.

ARC provided by publisher.

28 July 2016

On the Edge of Gone; Corinne Duyvis

On the Edge of GoneOn the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

On the edge of a DNF, more like. The inclusive nature of the characters (multi-ethnic, autistic, etc.) was well done, as was the portrayal of an autistic lead. But the plot wasn't anything new, despite every now and then appearing to be prepared to head into new territory.

ARC provided by publisher.

Resist by Ilima Todd

Resist (Remake, #2)Resist by Ilima Todd
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Got 25% in and realized that the world wasn't new and there was nothing really tying me to the characters. Perhaps if I'd read the first book it might have been different, but I hadn't. DNF.

Red Bones; Ann Cleeves

Red Bones (Shetland Island, #3)Red Bones by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I couldn't believe I'd missed this one when I did my binge read of the Shetland books. I think there isn't much more to say, except I can't wait to read the next book in the second series.

Where Girls Come First; Ilana DeBare

Where Girls Come FirstWhere Girls Come First by Ilana DeBare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a proud alumna of an all-girl's school and as a former employee of another, my interest in the topic is long-standing. For the most part, this is a good overview of the history and development of all-girl's schools and the wide range in styles and missions. Where this fails is that there are several areas left uncovered and schools unmentioned. Example? Georgetown Visitation, the oldest school (albeit not as academic in its earliest centuries as it is now), or the Sacred Heart network, which marched to such a unified drummer that a student (Cokie Roberts) could leave a school in Maryland on Friday and pick up without a pause at the New Orleans school on Monday. Still, until someone updates this, it's a great entry in to this world.

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard; Jonathan Auxier

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard (Peter Nimble, #2)Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved the concept, but at times the pacing felt off: there's world building going on and then ACTION intrudes. Still, most readers will enjoy this book - prior knowledge of the Peter Nimble character not necessary.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Best Worst Thing; Kathleen Lane

The Best Worst ThingThe Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I know that this is supposed to be a wonderful exploration of someone with OCD and other issues but for me, it just was confusing. DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

Camp Rolling Hills; Stacy Davidowitz

Camp Rolling Hills (Camp Rolling Hills #1)Camp Rolling Hills by Stacy Davidowitz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The riffing on the various "hills" was fun. TBH, though, this didn't remind me much of the overnight camp I attended - no color war, for example. And reading between the lines, I'm guessing the author went to Jewish camps and the one I attended was nominally kosher, with Shabbat and Havdalah services. That was missing, possibly to make the story more relatable for non-Jewish campers but (and I'm willing to admit, this might have just been me) it occasionally felt that there could have been more and whatever that was didn't quite make it in.

ARC provided by publisher.

Seven Ways We Lie; Riley Redigate

Seven Ways We LieSeven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Disappointing. The ways we lie weren't as fully explored or exploited as they could have been. And really: seven narrators??? A more unified narration and less muddled concept and this would have been far better.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Wild Robot; Peter Brown

The Wild RobotThe Wild Robot by Peter Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Words can't express my love for any book that references Karel Capek! Roz' growing awareness and personality was so wonderful and felt plausible (as plausible as any robot learning animal language can be). And that ending? Sigh. If only this had had the final artwork, I'm sure it would have been a five star!

ARC provided by publisher.

The Seventh Wish; Kate Messner

The Seventh WishThe Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Loved the Irish Dance parts and the friendships. Not so in love with the predictable "younger sister gets ignored" plot, however.

ARC provided by publisher.

Falling Over Sideways; Jordan Sonnenblick

Falling Over SidewaysFalling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I always want to love the Sonnenblick books more than I end up loving them - why is that? Claire's life isn't going well, but it's all in predictable, middle-school ways (boys, friends, family). Of course it's all tied up with a nice bow at the end, which is possibly why I wasn't overly excited. But, as always, the target readers won't notice so...

ARC provided by publisher.

All in Pieces; Suzanne Young

All in PiecesAll in Pieces by Suzanne Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Problematic: the anger issues, the way the school operates, the "mom left so life has completely ended" vibe. Sigh.

ARC provided by publisher.

Unfolding; Jonathan Friesen

UnfoldingUnfolding by Jonathan Friesen
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

25% of the way in, didn't care enough to unfold the rest. Why? Pacing (too slow), too many teasers as to what was going on with the town and Stormi (but paced so slowly), and did I mention slow? So many promising notes, but terribly drawn out. DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

Ghosts; Raina Telgemeier

GhostsGhosts by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much to love here, but one problem (YMMV): the cystic fibrosis part needed to be explained at the end. Unless they know someone who has it, knowledge of treatments and prognosis won't be understood by the target audience, so a page or two of information at the end feels necessary.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Replacement Crush; Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement CrushThe Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

No surprises in this contemporary romance, but who needs them? Overall, a very satisfying beach read.

ARC provided by publisher.

View all my reviews

02 July 2016

Finding Perfect; Elly Swartz

Finding PerfectFinding Perfect by Elly Swartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rounding down from 4.5.

The portrayal of OCD and stress were spot on: how Molly's life is seemingly out of control, and perfection is the only way to gain some sense of "normal". It's easy to see kids in a similar situation having a similar reaction/solution. What felt a little off was the ending, that the resolution felt pat in some ways. Still, that may not matter to the target audience and this exploration of how things can spiral out of control is well worth the read.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Replacement Crush; Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement CrushThe Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

No surprises in this contemporary romance, but who needs them? Overall, a very satisfying beach read.

ARC provided by publisher.

Unfolding; Jonathan Friesen

UnfoldingUnfolding by Jonathan Friesen
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

25% of the way in, didn't care enough to unfold the rest. Why? Pacing (too slow), too many teasers as to what was going on with the town and Stormi (but paced so slowly), and did I mention slow? So many promising notes, but terribly drawn out. DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

Ghosts; Raina Telgemeier

GhostsGhosts by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much to love here, but one problem (YMMV): the cystic fibrosis part needed to be explained at the end. Unless they know someone who has it, knowledge of treatments and prognosis won't be understood by the target audience, so a page or two of information at the end feels necessary.

ARC provided by publisher.

28 June 2016

The Loose Ends List; Carrie Firestone

The Loose Ends ListThe Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dealing with a beloved grandparent's death is never easy, and it's even harder when you know it's imminent. So the part of the book that dealt with that issue, of coming to grips with the loss of a stable, loving influence, is wonderful. The love story, the over-the-top trip? Meh. Been there, read that. Also, the idea of euthanasia, while timely, may be problematic for readers - this book does a decent job of talking about the pro side, but still...

Change by Design; Tim Brown

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires InnovationChange by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not the worse buzz book I've read but still far too heavy on the "here's how I/my company became great" and too light on the "steps you can take". I get it - IDEO does some interesting things and using design thinking can help change how your workplace does things beyond the same old/same old but there were far too many repetitive moments.

The Little Water Sprite; Otfried Preussler

The Little Water Sprite (New York Review Books Children's Collection)The Little Water Sprite by Otfried Preußler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank all the publishing gods for New York Review Books and their reprints - this is so cute and wonderful and I can't wait to share it with my greatnieces and -nephews. The Little Water Sprite does just what you'd expect in exploring the world around him, experiencing life on land, meeting people and finally ice in winter. Love!

Frayed; Kara Terzis

FrayedFrayed by Kara Terzis
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Maybe this was a problem caused by reading an eARC, but often it was difficult to tell which was the letter and which was backstory. Even during the obvious letter parts the writing sounded like it was supposed to be backstory (and there's far too much description in each than necessary - surely Kristen would know what things looked like at home). DNF. ARC provided by publisher