18 February 2017

Frogkisser; Garth Nix

Frogkisser!Frogkisser! by Garth Nix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I never thought I'd read a Garth Nix book and think, he's channeling Terry Pratchett, but... he did. He is. And it's delightful. (Nix also has touches of Patricia Wrede and others, just adding to the yumminess).

This is sort of a fractured fairy tale, with elements we know thrown in in unusual ways. Snow White makes an appearance, there are many heralds named Gerald (it's a thing), far too many frogs to be kissed, flying carpets, dwarves, evil stepstepfathers and so. much. more. And I can't believe I'm saying this but, more please. I love this world - I actually forced myself to stay up and finish this book rather than waiting until the next day.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Hanging Valley; Peter Robinson

The Hanging Valley (Inspector Banks, #4)The Hanging Valley by Peter Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When authors create realistic landscapes and villages it's annoying because I want to visit... and I can't. The world Robinson has created for Banks is based on reality, but isn't quite. Pout.

This one took a little more suspension of belief for me: the old, unsolved murder and disappearance were fine, as was the one that started the book. But the second? I'm not sure I believed it as much. And the close-lipped natives sometimes felt put there so that the murder wasn't easily solved rather than simply how the town was. It was also a little unclear how big Swainshead really was. A few hundred people? A few thousand? Under a hundred? Banks' trip to Toronto is fun, however, as is his incomprehension about baseball.

Past Reason Hated; Peter Robinson

Past Reason Hated (Inspector Banks, #5)Past Reason Hated by Peter Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another DCI Banks (yes, I'm on something of a roll with this). This time, we're meeting a new member of CID and investigating a murder of a lesbian who has a murky past. There's a lot about music here (Vivaldi's Laudate pueri and a modern-day classical composer play roles) and my To Be Listened To list is growing bigger. But back to Banks. He's clearly not tempted by other women yet - although he does seem to have really good relationships with them. By "good" I mean, he seems very comfortable with women and very much enjoys their company, whether they're suspects, helping the case or his wife. It's not a bad thing, and he's definitely not a playboy detective, but it's an interesting twist on the detective personality.

Mystery-wise, there are a few red-herrings, but as a reader it was easy to follow along. I didn't get there before Banks, but it wasn't impossible to get there. The fact that it was Christmas time, there was snow and evening, made it easier for the author to keep the whodunnit part hidden longer than had this been summer, or daylight.

Two quibbles: one, the referencing of "real life", as in "that doesn't happen in real life" or "this isn't television". I know it's a thing authors do to try to get readers to buy in to the realness of the world they're creating or as a flag that they're really following police procedure. Still don't like it. And two, there's a Dalgleish reference that goes awry. I didn't mind it, per se, but first Banks doesn't know who he was (or that he wrote poetry) and then somehow intuits it later? It just didn't work for me.

12 February 2017

RoseBlood; A.G. Howard

RoseBloodRoseBlood by A.G. Howard
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Oh, I so wanted to love this: set in France, based on The Phantom of the Opera? Please! But... well... not so much. If the interweaving of the two stories had been slighter, and there was less of a feeling of "was there a first book I missed?", it might have been better. As it is, however, there's a strong sense that there's something that we're missing (perhaps to be revealed later? perhaps never to be revealed) and far too many adjectives and adverbs for my taste. DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Harlem Charade; Natasha Tarpley

The Harlem CharadeThe Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another book about finding/reclaiming heritage (will this be a trend? hmmm...). Under the guise of the ever-popular class project, Jin teams up with the odd-girl Alex to learn more about Harlem. Turns out, there's a mystery or two around: who attacked Elvin's grandfather? what happened to the paintings that Henrietta created as part of the Invisible 7 collective? While at times there was a little too much info-dumping and a level of implausibility regarding how Jin, Alex, Elvin and Rose are allowed to just roam around, the sense of place and history will perhaps encourage readers to learn more about their neighborhoods and history.

ARC provided by publisher.

Me and Marvin Gardens; A.S. King

Me and Marvin GardensMe and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A.S. King's first middle grade attempt has many of the hallmarks of her young adult books: the main character is something of a loner (here, he's lost his bff and is being bullied) and there's something unusual/magical (Marvin Gardens, a plastic-eating creature of some sort). While it's never clear what Marvin is, the message of pollution and environmental change is clear, though not in a "hitting you over the head until it hurts" way. It was also interesting to see how closely Obe identifies with the Devlin property and the heritage it implies; in our ever-building modern age, that sort of rootedness is missing and readers may begin to think about this more.

05 February 2017

Goldfish Ghost; Lemony Snicket

Goldfish GhostGoldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lemony Snicket writing children's stories? Yes, please! Goldfish Ghost is cute, and might even make children who have lost goldfish feel better about their loss (I had at least three that failed to thrive).

ARC provided by publisher.

Now; Antoinette Portis

NowNow by Antoinette Portis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How like a child: each thing they're doing NOW is their favorite (or best, or most hated, etc.) and having a book that acknowledges that is wonderful. I do wish that part had been stressed a little more, but otherwise...

ARC provided by publisher.

Flunked; Jen Calonita

Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School, #1)Flunked by Jen Calonita
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love me some updated fairy tales and this is a cute entry into that genre. I wish there'd been more from familiar tales, which in this book appear mostly as the teachers and princessess. Still, first book in a series? There's definite promise.

ARC provided by publisher

Little Plane Learns to Write; Stephen Savage

Little Plane Learns to WriteLittle Plane Learns to Write by Stephen Savage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So cute. I wish Little Plane had written more..

ARC provided by publisher.

The Cruelty; Scott Bergstrom

The Cruelty (The Cruelty, #1)The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quick review: The Gallagher Girls meet Boy Nobody meets You Don't Know My Name. The problem is that rather than the careful training that all of the leads in those books get, here we have Gwendolyn, skilled at languages but otherwise "normal". Her life with her State Department-based father consists of moving, moving, moving so she doesn't have many friends (which doesn't feel completely real: wouldn't she have made friends at each of her schools? and, in this day and age, kept in touch?). Then her father goes missing and she goes to find him, relying on those language skills and a few weeks martial arts training? Suspension of disbelief required.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Sweetest Sound; Sherri Winston

The Sweetest SoundThe Sweetest Sound by Sherri Winston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Predictable but charming story about a girl, Mouse, who wants to grow out of the life she's been assigned since her mother left but is too shy to really do it. Interesting that Luna, based on her mother's nickname for her, is not just for Moon Goddess but also Luna Butterfly.

ARC provided by publisher.

City of Saints & Thieves; Natalie C. Anderson

City of Saints & ThievesCity of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Knowing that these types of people and events actually exist is sobering. Tina's search for her mother's killer while trying to protect her sister, Kiki, and friend Boyboy feels very real; at times it's difficult to remember she's only 16. The problem isn't her truncated childhood, it's that she is a bit of a cipher, never really coming clearly into focus. That somewhat vague quality extends to all the characters and to the setting, a fictitious city in Africa. So, points off for that. But added points for bringing the struggles and trauma suffered by people in Congo and nearby countries.