12 November 2017

A Line in the Dark; Malinda Lo

A Line in the DarkA Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oddly predictable. I'd expected more from Lo, plus the cover is completely misleading. There's also the problem of lapses in plot (that thing that happens offstage that cracks the case), something that mystery writers often do but here just is annoying when dealing with the death at the center of the book.

28 October 2017

That Inevitable Victorian Thing; E.K. Johnson

That Inevitable Victorian ThingThat Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Liked the idea, but it felt a bit cluttered by trying to do too much with the idea of diversity and alternative Canadian/Victorian Era history. As a result, the writing and world building beyond that diversity isn't as strong as it could have been. I know that won't be a popular opinion, but it's mine.

Everless; Sara Holland

Everless (Untitled #1)Everless by Sara Holland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

That there's a clear indication that this will be part of an un-as-yet-titled series (trilogy? more?) is a little disheartening. I'm so tired of the non-standalone books. Ok, I get it as a publishing necessity but as a buyer and reader? So tired. And that ends that rant.

Sempera's reliance on blood to extend lives or as currency is unusual, to say the least. The near-feudal world will feel comfortable to readers, as will the mysterious reasons why Jules' father has hidden them away from the Gerling family (and Jules' eventual relationships with the two Gerling sons). So what makes this different? The world building is a bit more detailed, a bit more original and a bit more real-feeling than is usual. And that made me want to read more, to explore more, particularly as Jules begins to come into her own.

ARC provided by publisher.

Ink, Iron, and Glass; Gwendolyn Clare

Ink, Iron, and Glass (Ink, Iron, and Glass, #1)Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh, if only "ink" weren't in the title: the creation of a world by writing it can only draw comparison to Funke's Inkheart. And this doesn't deserve that comparison because it's not close to being the same thing. But then, there are bits of Narnia (the World Between the Worlds) and other novels inside.

The world that Clare has created here is a great mix of European steampunk and what might be called pre-industrial, with call outs to writers and events that teens may (I hope) be interested in seeking more information about. Example? Garibaldi's unification of Italy. Which was an interesting choice of focal point, IMVHO, because Italy and that history is not a common setting for us (France and Amsterdam also play fleeting roles).

How this plays out, and what happens in the "real" world that Elsa comes from (although I suspect a love triangle in the next book, which... really hoping not) I can't wait to read.

ARC provided by publisher.

Image and Imagination; C.S. Lewis

Image and Imagination: Essays and ReviewsImage and Imagination: Essays and Reviews by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Honestly, for real Lewis fans only. Many of these are reviews of books (Lewis' reviews, not reviews of his books) that only make sense if you know the book, while others are essays on topics that appealed to him and probably won't be of interest to the general reader.

Having said that, if you, like me, are a Lewis fan, this is a great addition to your bookshelf. His voice ad his writing are as clear as ever and sorely missed.

The Snowman; Jo Nesbo

The Snowman (Harry Hole, #7)The Snowman by Jo Nesbø
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Read this because the movie was coming out but now that I've done so, perhaps I don't need to see it on the screen. Hole remains one of the more compelling leads: so very contradictory in nature (is he a drunk? an addict? compassionate? decent? all of the above or none? does it matter?). And while usually it doesn't matter whether you read this series in or out of order - note, I haven't been - I can see where understanding the relationship with Oleg and Rakel would help with the "outside" mystery of his life.

As mysteries go, this isn't bad. A couple of times there were red herrings, and once I found an annoying clue that only Hole sees, not the reader, so there's no way to solve this on your own. Beyond that, far less gruesome than the next book will be, with some nice tinges of local color that really set the books in their place (as opposed to a generic Scandinavian setting, a la Lackburg).

25 September 2017

Mad World; Lori Majewski

Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980sMad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s by Lori Majewski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Very different from the last book entitled Mad World I read!

This is, as other reviewers have mentioned, very much a "bathroom" book - one that you can dip into and out of easily. The caveat is, of course, that you have to have either been a fan of the 1980s New Wave or curious about it, and that may be a limited audience. A music loving friend of mine claims that no one does care, these days, and several groups (Thompson Twins) are so irrelevant to today's scene, blah blah blah... Maybe. I confess to having skimmed many entries and quarreled with others because my favorite song by a group was overlooked or only glancingly mentioned. If you're a fan of the music or any of the groups, this is a interesting backwards glance into the era with just enough gossip to be spicy (the playlists I could have lived without).

Winterhouse; Ben Guterson

Winterhouse (Winterhouse, #1)Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cute and fun for puzzle lovers. Sometimes the setting was confusing - how big could that hotel really be? But readers won't care, they'll just want to visit. The Big Mystery is actually a few mysteries and their solutions aren't always telegraphed, which is always a good thing. That this is the first in a series may also be a good thing... I'll have to wait and read.

ARC provided by publisher.

19 September 2017

The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole; Michelle Cuevas

The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black HoleThe Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Cute, but so woefully wrong scientifically that it's difficult to recommend. I got the analogy and that this wasn't a real black hole but still!

Not Now, Not Ever; Lily Anderson

Not Now, Not EverNot Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another book about super smart teens at some super smart place that just misses by focusing more on the relationships and less on the super smart part. If only there'd been more about the SF nerdiness and less about the family, the budding romance, etc.. The blurb promises genius nerds and instead, it's normal teens. Sigh.

ARC provided by publisher.

18 September 2017

Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall; Suzette Mayr

Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley HallDr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall by Suzette Mayr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So unsure about the author's intent: is this about academia and the infighting/tension over tenure and publication? is this about racial and socio-economic tensions in academia? is this about a woman in over her head and going mad? all three? more? When the book clicked it was wonderful, but there were also times I just shook my head and wondered where the editor was.

The Midnight Dance; Nikki Katz

The Midnight DanceThe Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Definitely creepy and far less about ballet than the cover promises. The biggest problem is that the suspense parts are a little muddy or perhaps poorly plotted, certainly far less so that the life at the school and the confusion Penny has about who she is and what's happening to her. It also would have been nice had more of the characters been fully fleshed out, but overall that matters less than the mystery of the Gran Teatro.

ARC provided by publisher.

Jane, Unlimited; Kristin Cashore

Jane, UnlimitedJane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

DNF: The first half was wonderful, but then... WTH happened? I skimmed on, hoping it was a dream sequence but no such luck. The incredibly abrupt change in tone and plot just did not make sense.

The Hollow Girl; Hillary Monahan

The Hollow GirlThe Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sigh. Such a struggle to read: the revenge part was ok (if you like this type of story) but the part about the Roma was so stereotypical it was difficult to read. In this day and age, more could have been said and more delicately.

ARC provided by publisher.

Jek/Hyde; Amy Ross

Jek/HydeJek/Hyde by Amy Ross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not sure readers even need to know the source material for this book because that might ruin the suspense over What Will Happen. As it is, Jek's chemistry experiments (designer, barely legal drugs, of course) will intrigue them, as will who Hyde is and why his relationship with, or hold over, Jek is so strong. The false notes that I noticed - the school's administration's laissez-faire attitude towards students, the town's structure - will probably not occur to teens, and my bigger quibble about Lulu's somewhat dispassionate account does get answered at the end (no spoilers!).

ARC provided by publisher.

04 September 2017

We Now Return to Regular Life; Martin Wilson

We Now Return to Regular LifeWe Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There was something a little off about the ending here and I can't quite put my finger on it. Josh's side of the story was paler than Beth's, and while I understood his conflicted feelings they just didn't move me as much (and what Sam thought/knew was very unclear). Beth, on the other hand, had reactions that felt very real to me: her confusion about who to be friends with now, could she go back to that moment before Sam returned? That we see this through their eyes, not those of Sam or any adult, was a choice that blurs some of the impact but does so in a way that may feel realer to readers because while few people will be in Sam's position it is plausible that they might know people who have been.

Warcross; Marie Lu

Warcross (Warcross, #1)Warcross by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reminds me of last year's Arena with a younger cast and more of a mystery. The questions about who can and who cannot be trusted and what motivates the various players and hackers are well presented; the worldbuilding, on the other hand, is weaker than is usual in a Lu book (hence the four, not five, stars). At times it felt like Warcross was something like Capture the Flag in a virtual environment, but then there were other elements that weren't completely explained but hurried through. On the other hand, the worldwide fascination with the game and the obsession with gathering points and "leveling up" feels very real in a world where getting "likes" and "follows" is important. How the series progresses will be interesting.

28 August 2017

The Apprentice Witch; James Nicol

The Apprentice WitchThe Apprentice Witch by James Nicol
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Charming story about a world in which magic and non-human creatures exist (that moon hare? so cute!) but loses points because Our Heroine and the supporting characters are one note. We got it, Arianwyn is a klutz and something of a disappointment. While she does grow some in confidence during the book, every now and then it reads as though she was getting away from the author's first idea so let's bring back Clumsy Arianwyn. Everyone else was decidedly stuck as whomever they were when we first met them. The world-building was a little odd: is this closer to our world (telephones!) or an older, more medieval version? Having said all this, middle grade readers probably won't have these qualms and I can see this being a hit.

ARC provided by publisher.

Amina's Voice; Hena Khan

Amina's VoiceAmina's Voice by Hena Khan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh so predictable. But because this "stars" a Pakistani-Muslim-American (with a Korean immigrant BFF) it's a good addition to the collection as older, less circulated books about girls and friendship and overcoming fears are removed.

Telling Tales; Ann Cleeves

Telling Tales: A Vera Stanhope MysteryTelling Tales: A Vera Stanhope Mystery by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's weird reading this just days after watching the TV adaptation: the difference between Cleeves' Vera (suffering excema, grossly overweight) and Blethyn's (with a "bit o'lippy" and some decent clothes she'd be attactive) is highlighted. Also, the differences between the print and the tv treatments, where settings several characters are either added or missing.

Still... Here we have Vera technically out of her element, asked in to revisit a case rather than investigate a new one because as someone out of the area she can be impartial. Only later in the book does Joe show up (and her thoughts about him? interesting...) to lend a hand. Early Vera is an interesting mix of self-aware and bull-in-china-shop and I quite like her.

This is Book Two in the series, and in a few weeks the new book (Eight, I think) is coming out. Now that will be great to compare.

27 August 2017

Blindspot; Mahzarin R. Banaji

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good PeopleBlindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Slight, and very repetitive. Also, it's great that we get a long discussion about our blind spots (or, as the author calls them, mindbugs) but there's little to nothing about how to correct for them.

20 August 2017

The Hazel Wood; Melissa Albert

The Hazel WoodThe Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why do Alice and Ella keep moving around? Unexpectedly leaving homes and cities in the middle of the night, sometimes because something has happened. Something weird. Then Ella's reclusive author-of-tales-of-the-weird mother dies, and perhaps everything will be alright. And it is... for a few months. It appears as though Althea (Ella's mother and Alice's grandmother) and her stories may be behind it all... That search for answers is really well done.

The questions of what a Story is, how they get transmitted and how they live in the world aren't new. This exploration of some of the answers is certainly creative and doesn't give us cute Disney stories but more gruesome Gimm-like ones (a huge plus!!). If only the world building had been a bit stronger, this could have been a solid five star. As it is, it's a shade over four but a highly recommended read for those who love their stories a bit on the dark side.

ARC provided by publisher.

18 August 2017

They Both Die at the End; Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the EndThey Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ok, I confess: I like Death. I'm not saying I have a death-wish, but the idea of DEATH (in the Pratchettverse) and books about him (her? it?) as a character or plot twist (ok, reading Sunshine and Love Story as a young teen may have had something to do with that) is one of my jams. And books like Denton Little's Death Date or the "Dead is..." series play into that. So of course I wanted to read this!

The premise is akin to the Denton Little premise: you get a phone call that says, essentially, today's your last day. An entire industry has sprung up around it, complete with an app that pairs you with a Last Friend and a Make-a-Moment amusement park. We have Mateo and Rufus, from different worlds, using the app and spending their last day together, bonding a Last Friends. In a very odd way, this doesn't feel fake! Maybe the timeline is accelerated, but they do feel as though had they'd met elsewhere, they would still have connected and become friends. But the constant switching of POVs was annoying (please, publishers: make authors stop!!). So only four stars.

ARC provided by publisher.

As You Wish; Chelsea Sedoti

As You WishAs You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What makes the caves in Madison special? The wishing. The bigger question is why do the caves grant wishes? Of course, that's never fully explored. What does get explored is the tried-and-true cliche "be careful what you wish for" and how those wishes can really, years later, haunt you. Eldon's deep fear that he will wish incorrectly leads him to ask a variety of his townspeople about their wishes and their experiences in an effort to figure out his wish is done sensitively. However, the side plot about his sister detracts from that at important moments. His wish does tie in with what we know of him and who he's become; that we never really learn how it affects everyone else (beyond the short term) is a little disappointing but understandable.

ARC provided by publisher.

Nothing; Annie Barrows

NothingNothing by Annie Barrows
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is what teenage girls sound like: the BFF code/jokes, the levels of like/love/angst, etc.. Pitch perfect. And yes, this is (like Seinfeld infamously was) about "nothing", the "nothing" that goes into our daily lives particularly when we're teen girls in high school. What stopped this from being a five-star was the odd decision to alternate chapters between first and third person. No idea why that was thought to be a good idea (perhaps, better differentiate between Charlotte and Franklin?) but it does get distracting.

ARC provided by publisher.

I Hate Everyone But You; Gaby Dunn

I Hate Everyone But YouI Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Formatting as both texts and emails was innovative a few years ago. Now? Not so much. And the plot, such as it is, is not quite YA, not quite "new adult" but tries to be a little bit of both. Two BFFs, one on each coast, talking about their first year in college (plus sororities, boys, drugs, classes, etc. - in other words, normal life) really did read as being in a real voice but, as is real life, rather boring. That might appeal to teens, but I suspect they'd want something a little more to keep reading.

ARC provided by publisher.

13 August 2017

The Empress; S.J. Kincaid

The Empress (The Diabolic #2)The Empress by S.J. Kincaid
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Despite a decent attempt at "previously..." the mythology, history and plot really require having read Book 1. Readers coming into this series here will be totally lost.

ARC provided by publisher.

Moxie; Jennifer Mathieu

MoxieMoxie by Jennifer Mathieu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

i feel so old: the Riot Grrll thing feels like it happened yesterday, but it was 20 years ago. 20. And I was in my 30s, so a little old to embrace the "new" message of female empowerment. Still...

While the message here is great, that you can change things that are blatantly wrong and unfair by bringing them out into the light, the story is incredibly predictable. This may not matter to teen readers, particularly those who may decide to use some of the tactics and methods that Viv uses, but it bothered me that there was nothing surprising here. It's like Sarah Dessen went to feminism school.

ARC provided by publisher.

06 August 2017

Flame in the Mist; Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist, #1)Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The setting, feudal Japan, is evocatively described and made this reader want more. Unfortunately, the plot was weaker than the setting. The revenge theme was muddy, there's something that might be magic but might just be poison, and some of the action scenes felt a bit poorly planned. It was great that our heroine wasn't some superheroine but prone to rashness and making mistakes; the love story was less persuasive. There's a sequel, if not more, which may have been the problem - watering things down to stretch into more than one volume isn't always a good idea.

My Future Ex-Girlfriend; Jake Gerhardt

My Future Ex-GirlfriendMy Future Ex-Girlfriend by Jake Gerhardt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I suspect many male middle grade readers will find themselves here, as either Duke, Sam or Chollie. They may even learn something about relationships. Not a bad thing!

Felix Yz; Lisa Bunder

Felix YzFelix Yz by Lisa Bunker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A kind of odd mixture: there's a lot going on, but perhaps a bit too much. The major plot surrounds Felix, who at age three was somehow fused with an alien being during a scientific accident. This has led to physical issues not to mention the emotional and psychological ones of having another being inside his brain. And, in 30 days (the book is a countdown) there will be a Procedure to - they hope - separate the two. Then there's the Felix-and-Hector friendship, or possibly more. And Hector being mixed-race. And Felix's Granby, a gender-fluid grandparent who spends half the week as Vern, half as Vera (and one day naked) using the pronoun "vo". And Mom's soon-to-be former boyfriend and possible new girlfriend.

I love that the diversity isn't a preachy one. And that Felix is relatively normal, given the whole embedded alien thing. But, is it too much? I wonder if the alien part of the story, which is fascinating enough to hold our interest, isn't overshadowed by the gender-fluidity all the other stuff. Or how much stronger each side would have been had they been given their own story.

You May Already Be a Winner; Ann Dee Ellis

You May Already Be a WinnerYou May Already Be a Winner by Ann Dee Ellis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Predictable story about a young girl coping with a broken family (Dad gone, Mom unable to cope).

04 August 2017

Monsterland; James Crowley

MonsterlandMonsterland by James Crowley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We're definitely not in Kansas here! This quest adventure is a great twin to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz except with monsters (Franklin Prometheus! Dwight!). The sense of fun with the genre is evident and this is a great addition to the October scary/haunted/monster story display.

All the Crooked Saints; Maggie Steifvater

All the Crooked SaintsAll the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With so much attention today on diverse voices and different experiences, this could be a great addition to a collection; having said that, there will probably be some uproar over cultural appropriation and writing outside your experience. Neither of which should matter, as the culture being appropriated is essentially made-up/heavily fictionalized and the experience is magical realism within that culture so... just read, ok?

The writing is, as is all of Steifvater's work, both lush and precise. There are gorgeous images (the desert! the pilgrims!) and yet they're never overly written. As much as I appreciated the writing, at times I found some of the repetition annoying (but that's me, not all readers) and the plot a bit predictable. Overall, I can't wait to share this with readers.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Girl in Between; Sarah Carroll

The Girl in BetweenThe Girl in Between by Sarah Carroll
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Homeless teens are a rarity in YA lit, which makes this story so important and yet it's presented almost as an adventure thus lessening any impact it may have had on readers. It's clear that Ma has problems, and that our unnamed main character is scared (and hungry) but beyond that? Perhaps this was better in outline than fleshed out.

A Map for Wrecked Girls; Jessica Taylor

A Map for Wrecked GirlsA Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So predictable, both in plot and in structure (intercut "how we got here" sections). Yawn. Redeeming factor? Not too many lessons learned.

All Rights Reserved; Gregory Scott Katsoulis

All Rights Reserved (Word$ #1)All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The idea that your words - all words - and gestures are subject to copyright and royalty payments is a bit horrific but somehow makes sense given today's litigious society. So fast forward to an unspecified somewhat dystopian future and voila, the Word$ series. I know people today frequently don't know what is a trademark (eg, Xerox or Kleenex) vs the generic (eg, photocopy or tissue), and as we sue over perceived slights and infringements things could move in this direction; that families have to pay for ancestral "illegalities"is equally interesting, given the millions who used Napster and other such sites.

So far, so good. But... the dome. The plucky girl who decides, suddenly, not to be Branded or make her Last Day speech. The sparking of a resistance movement. It all sounds just a little too familiar. Still, the ideas are thought provoking enough to make this a recommended read.

ARC provided by publisher.

27 July 2017

Super Max and the Mystery of Thornwood's Revenge; Susan Vaught

Super Max and the Mystery of Thornwood's RevengeSuper Max and the Mystery of Thornwood's Revenge by Susan Vaught
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ending was a little rushed, so a loss of points. Beyond that, Max's wheelchair is such an important part of her life and a character in the book on its own. That's a very refreshing thing and a great addition to our diversity collections! Can't wait for the next episode.

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting; Joe Ballarini

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting (A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting #1)A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very Buffy. With maybe a little Susan Sto Helit from Hogfather. In other words, highly enjoyable.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Emperor's Riddle; Kat Zhang

The Emperor's RiddleThe Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh, how I wish there'd been more backmatter! All too often I had to stop and look up things: did the Emperor exist? What about the temples? etc. Oh well. Beyond that, the mystery and riddle solving will interest readers, and the diversity/identity issues are presented in a way that they can identify with easily.

Nevermore; Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan CrowNevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Why it took so long to read this I honestly don't know. But now I have, well... pity I can't ever read this again and discover it anew. I'll have to settle for reading and finding new things to enjoy.

There's such a great mix of influences here, from Oz to Narnia to Harry Potter to Peter Pan to Coraline to name every great MG/YA fantasy series. While most of the target audience won't necessarily get the references, it doesn't matter; I plan on doing a display with all of them in hope that they'll discover backlist titles that have been semi-forgotten as so many new books get published.

ARC provided by publisher.

Bad Boy; Peter Robinson

Bad Boy (Inspector Banks, #19)Bad Boy by Peter Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of these years, I'm going to read this series in chronological order. Not that it's necessary, but there are some characters and outside plot areas that would be great to get as they come along not as I find the books. Anyway... here we get to meet Tracy, Banks' daughter, which expands our world a bit. Her problems and the crime are intertwined nicely, and Banks' skirting the letter of the law (or coming close) feels very real. On to the next!

14 July 2017

Roar; Cora Carmack

Roar (Stormheart, #1)Roar by Cora Carmack
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading this, I kept thinking of the matrix stones in MZB's Darkover series (no idea if they were any influence on the author). The problem is that so much of this is fuzzy: what are the stones? who or what is the Stormlord? More worldbuilding, please. And did we need three devastatingly good-looking males? Far too much time spent with "Roar" and "Locke" flirting (rather childishly) and far too little time spent on the stormheart stones, the political stuff and poor Nova. I know this is the first in a series, but something is lacking.

ARC provided by publisher.

Little & Lion; Brandy Colbert

Little & LionLittle & Lion by Brandy Colbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I had breakfast with the author at ALAAC17

Such a lot going on here, sometimes a little too much. I'm not against diversity in books, but here we have diversity of race, religion, mental health, socioeconomics, hearing ability and sexuality. Whew! At the heart of all this is the story of Little (never explained as a nickname) and Lion (short of Lionel), siblings in a blended family. Blended = African-American women, converted to Judiasm, and Jewish men. That's a great story, right there. But add in all the other stuff and, well, it becomes just a bit player. Despite all that, I wanted more.

ARC provided by publisher.

Cyclone; Doreen Cronin

CycloneCyclone by Doreen Cronin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A little heavy handed on how bad guilt is and how peer (or cousin) pressure can literally hurt, but otherwise decent YA book about a traumatic injury and how it can bring families together.

The Glass Town Game; Catherynne M. Valente

The Glass Town GameThe Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to much to love this (Brontes!) but it was a DNF due to the Amelia Bedelia-esque nature (think: Napoleon's army are frogs) and the fact that all of that needed to be explained to readers.

ARC provided by publisher.

Three Pennies; Melanie Crowder

Three PenniesThree Pennies by Melanie Crowder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marin's life hasn't been easy: she remembers her mother literally giving her away and foster care hasn't even begun to give her love or care. Then, through a couple of coincidences, she ends up with Dr. Chang, a single doctor who really wants a daughter (and possibly a cat) to love. There are lessons learned, etc. but ultimately it's a happy ending. My quibble is with the owl - huh? Although it does make for a great cover!

Copy provided by publisher.

When Dimple Met Rishi; Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely a winner in the YA Romance genre. For me, though there was a loss of points because the tech stuff felt very rushed - all the build-up to InsomniaCom and then really, nothing. Only a few peeks into that world and the work that Dimple and Rishi were doing. Girls who code may feel slightly marginalized by this as the stress is on romance, not apps.

Shadowhouse Fall; Daniel Jose Older

Shadowhouse Fall (Shadowshaper, #2)Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I enjoyed the different take on the idea of a Chosen One and that this is set in Brooklyn, the problem for me was not having read the first book so much of the mythos was lost on me. People who read my reviews know that one of the ways I rate series is how easy it is to pick up the "previously" part if you're new to the series. This is not one of those books.

ARC provided by publisher.

Dreamland Burning; Jennifer Latham

Dreamland BurningDreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I had breakfast with the author at ALAAC17

There are many "lost" episodes in history and this is one. Given today's political and racist tensions, it's an important one to relearn and to remember. So, what happened? Tulsa Oklahoma was the site of what's being politely called a "riot" but honestly, the way in which it's described it sounds just like the one of the pogroms my family fled in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. Buildings looted and razed. People killed. Families terrorized. "Good" people coerced into committing horrific crimes and a few brave people who stood up or helped the helpless.

Framing this story by telling the tale of Rowan, a biracial teen on summer vacation when an unexplained corpse is discovered in the shed house behind her home, helps modern readers make sense of what happened all those years ago. Her journey regarding race, socioeconomic bias and friendship is really well told. At no point does this feel preachy or forced!

Copy provided by publisher.