29 March 2018

The Inventors at No 8; A.M. Morgan

The Inventors at No. 8The Inventors at No. 8 by A.M. Morgen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Poor George, Lord Devonshire. Poor in the sense that he's reduced to selling his grandfather's clothing, and poor in the sense that he is, in fact, the unluckiest person in the world. Down to an unpaid manservant, Frobisher, and one thing he might be able to sell for money (a map), he's trying to figure out what to do to survive and then... someone tries to steal the map. And thus starts his trek to rescue Frobisher, find the Star of Victory and restore his fortunes. Alone? No, he's got inventress Ada Byron (daughter of the mad, bad, dangerous to know Baron), abandoned-by-his-pirate-father artist Oscar, and Oscar's friend, chimpanzee Ruthie on his side.

If you know Byron's life, you'll recognize several locations and set pieces. But beyond that, and more importantly for MG readers, there's a great sense of mystery and fun here.

ARC provided by publisher.

14 March 2018

In Sight of Stars; Gae Polisner

In Sight of StarsIn Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Klee's depression over losing both his father and his home in New York is understandable, as is his anger at his mother (who forced him to move, and who he somewhat blames for his father's suicide). His only focus for now is his art, creating the portfolio that will get him into his college art school and away from all that. Until it all crumbles when he brings a knife to a party and ends up in a mental institution. The depression, the treatment and Klee's reactions are all well described and can, to some extent, help demystify what happens when someone needs inpatient help.

What would have been better is showing more of that - how long recovery can take. How many times the medications might have to be adjusted. That recovery isn't always quick, or complete. Two weeks isn't enough, honestly, as I've (sadly) seen with some friends. So ultimately 3.5 stars, rounded up.

ARC provided by publisher.

Time Bomb; Joelle Charonneau

Time BombTime Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If I hadn't gotten this ARC at ALA Midwinter in February, I might have thought that the author and publisher were capitalizing on recent events in Parkland and other places. While I'm not a fan of the multiple POV technique, I can understand why it was chosen and how important it is to get to know who these teens are (except, of course, we don't get to know one of them really, until the end). Sadly, this doesn't feel like fiction as much as prognostication.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Science of Breakable Things; Tae Keller

The Science of Breakable ThingsThe Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Predictable story of a biracial girl who is dealing with her mother's depression. Except, there's a great STEM twist, as Natalie, best friend Twig (don't ask - it's a model thing) and new friend Dari join forces as lab partners and then as partners in the Egg Drop Contest. Each chapter starts with a science thought/theory, and the only teacher included is the science teacher. Plus depressed mom? A botanist. For that alone, four stars. If only there'd been more on the S'meggs construction, perhaps without all the glitter.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Pros of Cons; Alison Cherry

The Pros of ConsThe Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you know nothing about cons or fandoms or how different people mixing at a convention space can make for interesting (and awkward) meetings, this book will enlighten you. That a group of taxidermists, a percussion competition, a fan convention and a "tinies" beauty pageant could all co-exist in the same space was something that I wouldn't have believed until I started going to conferences and yes, in fact, they do sometimes co-exist.

Beyond that, however, the book is predictable. That doesn't make it bad, just that there was nothing particularly new about any of the characters and their lives, dilemmas and resolutions. Most readers won't mind, but I was hoping for something different.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Devil's Star; Jo Nesbo

The Devil's Star (Harry Hole, #5)The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbø
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, Harry... This took me by surprise, in that I know what's coming after this book and still managed to make me wonder/worry about Harry during the book. As far as the mystery part goes, the red herrings were not quite red, more pink, in that there were good reasons for them to be there and yet, they weren't the killer or his motives. The bigger question is, is what happened plausible and the answer is, "yes". Both the "red herring " killer and the real killer both were plausible (or more accurately, plausible enough, given that that is fiction). And something about reading a book set during an Oslo heat wave while there's a New England blizzard outside made this even better.

Ghost Boys; Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost BoysGhost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really powerful read, centered on a young boy bullied in school who, on the day he makes his first school friend, is shot by a police officer who mistakes him for a grown man. Told through the voice of both the living and dead boy, we see him struggling to survive his daily life and watching people cope with his death. And then there are the ghosts of other boys killed, all black, all "errors". My biggest problem with this book was that the boys included Emmett Till - to me, having them be the (to the majority of the world) nameless many killed in Chicago over the past few years would have made this even more powerful.

ARC provided by publisher.

03 March 2018

The Broken Girls; Simone St. James

The Broken GirlsThe Broken Girls by Simone St. James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Switching between two timelines (2014 and 1950) had the unfortunate effect of lessening the tension and suspense - not quite sure how this could have been done better, however, unless the author had decided to trace other deaths attributed to Mary Hand. The stories of how Sophie and Deb died are well-done (letting people know that not everyone who was in a concentration camp was a Jew, particularly those in Ravensbruk, was a good choice; might I recommend A Train in Winter for those wishing to learn more about the French women rounded up?) although the "investigation" is a little predictable.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Cabin at the End of the World; Paul Tremblay

The Cabin at the End of the WorldThe Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 1 of 5 star

Not as suspenseful as I'd hoped, nor was the resolution satisfying. It felt as though there was something that perhaps was edited out, or that I was totally missing about this - not the Tremblay technique that I've come to expect. I nearly DNFd it but it was so short I finished it anyway.

ARC provided by publisher.

This Heart of Mine; C.C. Hunter

This Heart of MineThis Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fairly standard YA romance mixed in with a Serious Heart Condition, and then a mystery surrounding a death. Leah's reactions to her parents, friends, her new relationship with Matt and trying to come to grips with having a new heart (the physical and emotional recovery and implications) are very real. The mystery part? Not so much. Yes, Matt's grief over Eric's death was human (could he smile while grieving? can he have a good time while wondering what he didn't notice about his twin's life?) and his desire to definitively understand what happened was equally human. But beyond that it feels forced, the who and why and how parts of figuring out the details surrounding that death.

Because this was an ARC, there wasn't as much as I would have liked about being an organ donor - how to donate, more of a plea for donations, etc.. There were times when that could have been woven into the story, or explicitly stated in backmatter, that were not taken advantage of.

ARC provided by publisher.

Your One & Only; Adrianne Finlay

Your One & OnlyYour One & Only by Adrianne Finlay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know some readers who are unhappy with ambiguous endings - I'm not one of those readers. So when this book ended on something of a questionable note, I was fine except for the fear that this will become the start of a series. Why? Because this could be a complete book, one where we don't fully understand the "previously" or the "next time" parts. Here's hoping the author (and publisher) agrees.

As for the plot, the blurb/description is pretty accurate. There are no huge plot twists, even when it's clear that we readers were supposed to be surprised (maybe for those who haven't read standard dystopian fiction there are surprises). Luckily it's clear that we're 300+ years into this communities existence, and we know that there are clones, so the lack of very different personalities is no surprise.

ARC provided by publisher.

Eternal Life; Dara Horn

Eternal LifeEternal Life by Dara Horn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Would you want to live forever? I'm not sure I would. It's clear that Rachel has no idea what she's agreed to, although it is clear that she would love to go back on the bargain... probably. We get a clear sense of her first life, glimpses of the many lives she had after that one, and then a clear view of her current (modern day) life. Yet even in this life, she's making some of the same mistakes she made over and over again - isn't that disappointing? Still, the idea of eternal life and what that really means is thought-provoking.

ARC provided by publisher.

I Hear the Sirens in the Street; Adrian McKinty

I Hear the Sirens in the Street (Detective Sean Duffy #2)I Hear the Sirens in the Street by Adrian McKinty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Worthy follow-up to In the Cold Cold Ground, with more of The Troubles' effect on daily life in Belfast forming the backdrop to the hints of the start of the Emerald Tiger era, namely the DeLorean factory and the hopes for investment and employment in Ireland. Of course, both historically and to conform to the dictates of the genre, nothing will go smoothly. I'm starting to enjoy the incidental characters as much as the team Duffy works on - his neighbors, the news seller, etc. - because they feel real, not comic relief. One concern is the number of bullets and beatings he's going to take before totally breaking down, physically and mentally, or are we readers supposed to suspend belief regarding their toll on the body and mind?

Sci-Fi Junior High: Crash Landing; John Martin

Sci-Fi Junior High: Crash LandingSci-Fi Junior High: Crash Landing by John Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Standard Middle School student stuff but in space - the usual needing to fit in, crushing on the girl/boy, joking, nicknames, etc. set in a space station with a variety of species. Plus, saving the world(s)... again.

ARC provided by publisher.

Before I Let Go; Marieke Nijkamp

Before I Let GoBefore I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Small towns that close ranks against outsiders are nothing new, but a small town closing ranks against an "outsider" who moved away less than a year ago? That is new. So, why did Kyra die? Was it depression? an accident? something else? That's only one of the things that Corey wants to discover when she returns to Lost, but because she's now an outsider she discovers that nothing is the same, nothing is familiar in the town she once knew so well. There are undertones of Harvest Home and "Insomnia" here, leading to a feeling of claustrophobia and confusion that readers will share with Corey during her time in Lost.