21 February 2016

God Among the Shakers; Suzanne Skees

God Among the Shakers: The Search for Stillness and Faith at Sabbathday LakeGod Among the Shakers: The Search for Stillness and Faith at Sabbathday Lake by Suzanne Skees
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been reading a lot of darkish adult books for the Alex Awards, so finding a "palate cleanser" on my shelves was important; as we Quakers say, this spoke to my condition. Skees' stay at Sabbathday Lake and inquiry into the life of the few remaining Shakers was interesting from both a historical and a current world perspective: how did this sect manage to survive and continue to inspire? Some answers are given, along with Skees' theories on why Mother Ann may have insisted on things like celibacy.

The problem is when Skees inserts herself into the story, continually questioning how celibacy can be possible in this world. More about how she spent her time working with the Shakers or comparison between her modern life and this "throwback" would worked far better.

I did wonder how different the "Shaking Quakers" were from the original Quakers (so-called because they quaked with spirit)...

15 February 2016

A Drop of Night; Stefan Bachmann

A Drop of NightA Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Disappointing. There's virtually no relationship between the kids (once the action gets going, that totally would have happened); there's virtually no explanation about why they might have been chosen in the beginning, while the real explanation is too little, too late; there's no real sense of what the Palais des Papillons looks like in either timeline. I could go on. Oh, and the ending? Abrupt and unsatisfying.

ARC provided by publisher.

One Wish; Michelle Harrison

One Wish (Thirteen Treasures, #0.5)One Wish by Michelle Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a semi-prequel goes (although, let's be honest, calling something .5 in a series is just weird) this isn't bad. Tanya, Ratty and Turpin are fun and well-drawn, but the adults are less so - problematic with the role Bob plays in this book. There's also some unevenness in the way the various types of fey and locations are depicted: some are described well and given personality, while others are given a few quick strokes and we're expected to guess the rest. I did love the Wishing Tree and wish we'd spent a little more time in the castle.

ARC provided by publisher.

13 February 2016

Burning Midnight; Will McIntosh

Burning MidnightBurning Midnight by Will McIntosh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked the world created here: very similar to our own with one major twist, the colored balls that grant "superpowers" (or merely "enhanced abilities"). Where it fell apart a little was understanding exactly what the balls were, and if you needed two of them to get the enhancement (it seemed like it, but sometimes it seemed like one was all you needed - maybe something that will be solved in the finished product). Still, teens probably won't care about those niggly things.

ARC provided by publisher.

Unbecoming; Jenny Downham

UnbecomingUnbecoming by Jenny Downham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are no real surprises or twists here, just a great description of a woman's descent into Alzheimer's (Mary's flashes of memory and clarity while the rest is fog were compelling) and ordinary family angst stuff. My biggest problem was that there was one too many issues: Mary's Alzheimer's... Caroline's anger at Mary, her ex and 'past self'... Katie's coming out... Chris' learning issues and missing his father. That may be why there are no surprises, or it may be that the author felt that each character needed something special to make them compelling. It didn't really work for me.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Imitation Game; Jim Ottaviani

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing DecodedThe Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottaviani
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Perfect for fans of graphic novels and fans Alan Turing or the start of the computer era. Some of the math and logic was a little rushed (possibly due to format?) and my ARC didn't really provide enough of an explanation in the back matter. Oh: no "Heil bloody Hitler" moment, which may disappoint fans of the film.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Steep and Thorny Way; Cat Winters

The Steep and Thorny WayThe Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't get all the supposed Hamlet references, but maybe that's because I was concentrating on the whole KKK issue, with a side-serving of gay bashing. The Author's Note says that this was originally two stories and I wasn't surprised: at times it did feel as though that was what had happened.

What I mean is, the story of Hanalee, a young mulatto girl, and her search to figure out what exactly happened to her father (killed in a car accident... or maybe not) while avoiding the increased racism and activism of the KKK in Oregon was compelling enough. Adding the gay bashing as another KKK "no no" didn't necessarily make the story of Joe any more compelling, as his involvement in the accident could already have made him a target.

My quibbles aside, teens may find this an interesting introduction to a non-Southern side of the KKK. Many may not realize how active and powerful (and public) they were in some other areas of the country - I hope that the finished copy provides some places for them to start learning more.

ARC provided by publisher.

05 February 2016

Some of the Parts; Hannah Barnaby

Some of the PartsSome of the Parts by Hannah Barnaby
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unclear whether the theme was teen guilt or some statement on organ donation.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Secret Language of Sisters; Luanne Rice

The Secret Language of SistersThe Secret Language of Sisters by Luanne Rice
My rating: 3 of 5 stars\

Rounding up because the ultimate message (Don't text and drive. Ever) is important - my school is behind the #textlesslivemore initiative. But the story itself falls short for me: Tilly is scapegoated and treated poorly, the treatment felt far too hopeful for what most 'locked in' victims will get, and why did Roo have to be a talented photographer? Wouldn't the story have worked just as well if she was average?

ARC provided by publisher.

Children of the Revolution; Peter Robinson

Children of the Revolution (Inspector Banks, #21)Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some great scenes (the one between Annie and Gerry is priceless) mixed in with an ok mystery. Once again, I thought I'd solved it and knew whodunnit and why but noooo. I was wrong. Who could ask for anything more? Oh, and those playlists.

So why only four stars? The Marxist dialectic and all the pseudoinetllectual stuff got a little boring after a while. We got it. These people met or worked at uni. Enough.