31 August 2018

Lies; T.M. Logan

LiesLies by T.M. Logan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I kept telling myself "just finish this chapter..." and then starting the next. While much of this is familiar, there's a great twist that made this rise above the normal thriller. Of course, had Joe just trusted his lawyer, half the book wouldn't have been necessary but then, that suspension of belief is what makes books like this so much fun.

ARC provided by publisher.

Feeder; Patrick Weekes

FeederFeeder by Patrick Weekes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The world building was a little weak, ditto the Tia Lake/Lake Foundation mythology (and the "gods exist until they're forgotten" was better done in Pratchet's Hogfather). On the other hand, the relationship between Lori and Ben was very sweet, and the Handler/Lori pairing was interesting. The members of the Nix seemd to be all one note until the end, and there's a Big Reveal that felt incongruous and unnecessary.

A World Below; Wesley King

A World BelowA World Below by Wesley King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A varient on the Lost World theme, but set in the US. The teacher was overly dorky, and separating Eric from the rest of the class made minimal sense except as a major plot device. It would have been nice if the map wasn't so blurry, and if we'd seen the map that Eric created.

Zap! Martha Freeman

Zap!Zap! by Martha Freeman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I almost DNF'd this, but it was easy enough to skim. The book read more like someone trying to explain electricity and the dangers of simply clicking on an image or link than anything else. Luis' questions felt so forced that it was really a science class clothed in a mystery.

The Rising; Brian McGilloway

The Rising (Inspector Devlin, #4)The Rising by Brian McGilloway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My second Inspector Devlin and I'm still not sure if I need to read this in order or not. The personal parts lead me to believe that yes, I do, but the murder parts don't really require it. Any thoughts?

I did like the twist on whodunnit, and without giving any spoilers, there's a thought-provoking take on groups that claim to be working on one thing but are secretly promoting another agenda.

Baby Teeth; Zoje Stage

Baby TeethBaby Teeth by Zoje Stage
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since reading Tryon's The Other as a teen, I've been a sucker for the seemingly normal child who is, well. not really normal. Baby Teeth is a great addition to the genre. There are no surprises here, just a steady undercurrent of something very, very wrong. Perfect read for a stormy day or evening!

29 August 2018

From Twinkle, with Love; Sandhya Menon

From Twinkle, with LoveFrom Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Reading about Twinkle is a little painful - at first she's one of those wryly observant/sarcastic teens, then she becomes very strident and angry - and the unrealistic ending where everything seems to be ok between her, her friends and her new boyfriend just felt off given the compressed time frame. Also unrealistic for me were the diary entries, where she writes to various famous female film directors and addresses them by their full name. Wouldn't you say "Dear Sofia" instead of "Dear Sofia Coppola" in your personal diary?

The Killing Habit; Mark Billingham

The Killing Habit: A Tom Thorne NovelThe Killing Habit: A Tom Thorne Novel by Mark Billingham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know I've missed a few Thornes and now I have to go back and get them.

What at first appears to be three separate mysteries might actually end up all interconnected, and it's down to DIs Thorne and Tanner to discover if that is the case. I loved meeting the Duchess and Andrew Evans, and trying to figure out how (if) they connected to the cat killer/serial murders. It was also great having the others back, like Uncle Fester and Russell, Brigstocke, Christine Treasure and Phil Hendricks. Will Dr. Perera be back? That might make an interesting addition to the crew.

There was a level of sadness here, between Thorne's self-doubts, Tanner's mourning Sandy and Beth's problems with her sister, that makes the characters feel a little more real and less rote. I also appreciated that the cat killings are just talked about, nothing gruesome.

28 August 2018

The Witch Elm; Tana French

The Witch ElmThe Witch Elm by Tana French
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not part of the Dublin Murder Squad series but a great standalone.

Toby has had what might be called a charmed, or lucky, life - things come easily to him, trouble usually passes him over, he's always been part of the popular crowd, and he's from a loving family. That changes one night when he's brutally beaten during a burglary, leaving him with some very slow healing injuries. Luckily, his beloved uncle Hugo is in need of some care after his diagnosis of a brain tumor, so Toby and his girlfriend move in to the Ivy House "for a few weeks". Those weeks slowly become months and then, one day, a skull is found in the wych elm in the garden. Whose skull is it? How did it end up there? (semi-spoiler, it's not cannibalistic Druids)

The unraveling of that mystery will also unravel Toby's charmed life as he questions not only his friends and family but his still-fractured memory of events. This is really well done, with a few surprises but nothing so out of the realm of possibility that credulity is strained.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Darkdeep; Ally Condie

The Darkdeep (The Darkdeep, #1)The Darkdeep by Ally Condie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set on the coast of Washington State, Timber is a small town on the downswing, in part thanks to Nico's father's saving owls and the mill laying off workers as a result. There's also the mysterious Still Cove, permanently covered by clouds and known as a place Not To Go. So when Nico and his friends end up there, finding an odd houseboat with a basement, readers know that something is going to happen that can't be good, right? There are familiar themes here, and yet it feels very fresh. Some other reviews are saying this is similar to Stranger Things but I've never see that so I can't make that comparison. What I can say is that this might be a bit darker than younger readers can handle, but those in grades 6 and up should be fine.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Shadow of the Fox; Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox, #1)Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's a lot here that feels familiar: an orphan is somewhat different from others, and is raised in a secluded environment; a boy is trained to be an assassin who has no feelings or emotions. They meet, etc.. What makes this special is the setting (a vaguely medieval Japan-like country), the mythology and the writing. The action set pieces are separated nicely, giving readers an opportunity to get to know the characters and the place rather than jumping from action to action to more action. I can't wait for Book 2.

eARC provided by publisher.

What If It's Us; Becky Albertalli

What If It's UsWhat If It's Us by Becky Albertalli
My rating:3 of 5 star

Boy meets boy. Boy doesn't get boy's name or number. Boy finds boy.

Told in alternating chapters, and with two authors, it's disappointing that the voices of Ben and Arthur weren't that different despite being presented as such different people (one is from Georgia, the other a Native New Yorker; one is into arcade games, the other into Broadway, etc.). There were a few cliches here, too, that made my eyes roll. Still, not a bad romance to share with teens.

eARC provided by publisher.

Grim Lovelies; Megan Shepherd

Grim LoveliesGrim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anouk looks 17, but she's really much younger (in human years). In fact, she's only been human for about a year and has no idea what she was before then. She's one of five "beasties" enchanted by Mada Vittoria, kept inside away from the "pretties" (real humans) and other members of the witch world, only seeing people who enter the Mada's home. Then the Mada is killed, and suddenly Anouk and her friends have a mere three days to find someone else to keep the enchantment going. But who? Another Mada? A Royal? That search will lead them around Paris and France, entangling them with humans, Madas, Royals and goblins.

As a start to a series this isn't bad, but the world building is at times rushed. There are several characters I hope to meet again.

eARC provided by publisher.

27 August 2018

In the Night Wood; Dale Bailey

In the Night WoodIn the Night Wood by Dale Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very British sort of horror, with shades of Harvest Home and The Wicker Man and nods to Celtic gods. At times, it does go a little over the top with detail on the pub and house (and walls) but the wood's menace isn't quite as overdone. It's to the author's credit that we don't sympathize with either Erin or Charles, making the mystery of the Eol Wood, what happened to Caedmon Hollow (Erin's ancestor) and how his book "In the Night Wood" came to be written take center stage. There are a few times when the mystery/horror is a little too much, and the ending is disappointingly abrupt. Still, it's a quick read and perfect for a stormy, rainy fall day or evening.

eARC provided by publisher.

Ignite the Stars; Maura Milan

Ignite the StarsIgnite the Stars by Maura Milan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ia Cocha is an outlaw feared by the Olympus Commonwealth, lionzed by those outside (like the Tawneys), and when Ia is captured, it's cause for celebration. Turns out Ia isn't a man, but a young woman, and when she's sentenced to the Commonwealth's elite equivalent of Starfleet's Academy, it's clear that won't go well. Friendships, betrayals, romance, characters surprising you by being something/someone different than presented - you name it, it's here. Of course this isn't a stand-alone, and the alternating POVs caused a loss of points. Still, it's great that this isn't a dystopia or fantasy but real SF.

eARC provided by publisher.

Rabbit & Robot; Andrew Smith

Rabbit & RobotRabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Having read previous Andrew Smith books, I knew that sometimes it takes a while to get into the world (eg, Grasshopper Jungle) but this? Trying to figure out when and where things were, who Rabbit and Robot and Billy were, why there were so many wars on Earth and what Woz was took far too long for me and at 25%, I just gave up.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Boy at the Keyhole; Stephen Giles

The Boy at the KeyholeThe Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Boy, named Samuel, is convinced that the housekeeper, Ruth, somehow has killed his mother. That Ruth is not a warm fuzzy type, and that Samuel's mother appears to be less than maternal (per the letters he discovers) leads to a house filled with tension and angst. That a boy of nine could begin to imagine this type of thing isn't implausible, especially when egged on by his best/only friend, and the author does a decent job of putting this in Samuel's voice. Yet there's something a little off here, perhaps the rushed nature of the ending after the incredibly slow pacing of the rest of the book? It just misses being a good horror book.

eARC provided by publisher.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle; Stuart Turton

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Who will kill Evelyn Hardcastle? Who is the man in the plague doctor mask? Who is Aiden, and why is he living some sort of Momento/Groundhog Day life?

The answers to those questions are eventually answered, as well as many others, but the plot's convolutions may turn off some readers. There are a lot of characters to track here, some with multiple motives, and the closed world setting is a little claustrophobic. None of the characters is fully fleshed out, including our hero, although there is a ton of description to wade through. It was a little interesting to me that our hero never becomes a "downstairs" character, only "upstairs". And some of the plot twists strain credulity.

eARC provided by publisher.

26 August 2018

Dracul; Dacre Stoker

DraculDracul by Dacre Stoker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who better to write a prequel to Dracula than a Stoker? There are no sparkly vampires here, nor are there many deviations to the Dracula that Bram Stoker imagined, instead there is the understated menace of the original with several set pieces that heighten the horror. By giving Bram the lead in the story, and setting it in Dublin, Dracul creates a world where the fictional Dracula came from Bram's real life experiences. Perhaps a little slow moving for some, but it does feel like the original.

ARC provided by publisher.

Monstrous Devices; Damien Love

Monstrous DevicesMonstrous Devices by Damien Love
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Golems are interesting, frightening creatures, aren't they? One could also argue that automata are similarly interesting and frightening. So a book that combines both with adventure and chase scenes (including one on the rooftops of Paris) is a book I want to promote to my readers. Alex's life is somewhat like that of Milo's in The Phantom Tollbooth, albeit with a bit of bullying added, and the excitement of the toys his grandfather brings him lessens that somewhat. But this time, the gift is a little too exciting and Alex's life will never be the same. There are many questions not answered, which makes me believe that this will be the first in a series (leading to one huge question: can the series maintain the quality of this book?).

ARC provided by publisher.

An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason; Virginia Boecker

An Assassin's Guide to Love and TreasonAn Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical fiction featuring a bold girl isn't new, nor is it new to have a female assassin (see Grave Mercy for example). The Catholic plot part might confuse readers who don't really understand the whole Henry VIII/Mary/Elizabeth I religious tussle and could have been better explained. Ditto who Kit Marlowe was. For those who do understand those subplots, this could be a fun read.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Similars; Rebecca Hanover

The Similars (The Similars, #1)The Similars by Rebecca Hanover
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cloning has really advanced by the time this book is set, yet having a human clone is considered a bad thing (I was reminded of The Adoration of Jenna Fox and Revived). Ethical questions aside, the elite boarding school Emma attends has decided to accept the only known six clones, all of whom happend to be "matches" to six students there (and those six are the children of parents who were all at that same school as students themselves). Of course there's an elite society in the school, and deep dark secrets to uncover, and questions left unanswered until Book #2 (or perhaps Book #3).

ARC provided by publisher.

The Red Address Book; Sofia Lundberg

The Red Address BookThe Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Little does her grandniece Jenny know, but Doris' life has been one of adventure and some excitement. After Doris falls and is hospitalized, Jenny begins reading about the red address book, filled with the names of people Doris knew, worked for or loved, and their history. The conceit of tying the story in to those entries (all of whom, but one, are marked "dead") doesn't quite work as the story is told in chronological order. Beyond that, this is a well-told story with many vivid characters and may lead readers to wonder about their older, seemingly boring relatives and the lives they've led.

ARC provided by publisher.

11 August 2018

Dear Evan Hansen; Val Emmich

Dear Evan HansenDear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was told that this book had All. The. Feels. and it does.

Confession: I knew there was a Broadway show called "Dear Evan Hansen" and vaguely understood what it was about, but had no real connection to it. That meant I came to this book with no idea that some of the lyrics had been turned into prose, or what was going to happen. Still, I don't want to spoil things for readers who (like me) have no prior knowledge.

At times I was reminded of a recent read, That's Not What Happened, and how difficult it can be to correct the record at times of high emotion. Evan's senior year and how events around Conor's suicide are well depicted, and the focus on mental health is really timely.

ARC provided by publisher.

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Summer at the Garden Cafe; Felicity Hayes-McCoy

Summer at the Garden CafeSummer at the Garden Cafe by Felicity Hayes-McCoy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Relatively quiet beach read with a library and romance at the center.

ARC provided by publisher

Exit Strategy; Martha Wells

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4)Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Watching Murderbot evolve over these four novellas has been such a treat. Even though it claims all it wants to do is quietly watch its serials, clearly the relationships with people, ART and Miki have changed it beyond all recognition. It's to the author's credit that this never feels forced. Best news: there's going to be more of Muderbot, this time as a novel.

eARC provided by publisher.

Rogue Protocol; Martha Wells

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3)Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Murderbot is back! It's decided to help Dr. Mansah fight GrayCris by going off to a world that was a failed terraforming mission but is now being reinvestigated. After stowing away on a few transports, it gets to Milu and, well, hijinks occur. The Murderbot/Miki relationship shows just how much it has evolved (or how its circuitry has updated?). That these are novellas and not full novels means that there's little padding, which is all too often a problem in series.

eARC provided by publisher.

Tigerland; Wil Haygood

Tigerland: The Miracle on East Broad StreetTigerland: The Miracle on East Broad Street by Wil Haygood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Inspiring and informative look at a black basketball team and how the era in which it played (the 1968/69 school year) affected the players then and after. Perfect for bringing to life the events of 1968 and how people reacted.

ARC provided by publisher.

10 August 2018

Not of This Fold; Mettie Ivie Harrison

Not of This Fold (Linda Wallheim Mystery #4)Not of This Fold by Mette Ivie Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As with the previous books, I loved the insight into Mormon life more than the actual mystery. As an amateur dectective (emphasis on the amateur), Linda Wallheim doesn't really get as involved as others (I'm thinking of Rina Lazarus' first few outings) but her commitment to her ward, her religion and modernizing that religion is impressive.

ARC provided by publisher.

Max Einstein: The Genius Experiment; James Patterson

Max Einstein: The Genius ExperimentMax Einstein: The Genius Experiment by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who is Max (short for Maxine) Einstein? That's one of the central questions here, and one that never gets answered. Whoever she really is, whatever her background really is, she's incredibly smart and empathetic, something the other geniuses she meets aren't. The science here, including Albert Einstein's theories, is understandable to all readers and may inspire some to learn more.

ARC provided by publisher.

Bright Ruin; Vic James

Bright Ruin (Dark Gifts #3)Bright Ruin by Vic James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is rounded up from 4.5 stars because it really will make no sense to anyone who hasn't read the first two books (Gilded Cage and Tarnished City) but if you have read them, this is a great ending to the trilogy.

The political aspects of life between the Equals/Skilled houses (who rules? who succeeds whom? what makes you eligible to he Heir) all come to a head in this book. The revolt by the unskilled against them ramps up, still led by several Equals. And then there's the soap opera stuff about the Hadley family: will they ever be together again? will Luke find Abi? Best of all, we get Silyen's side and learn more about this enigmatic, "most powerful" Equal in perhaps ever.

I won't spoil things, so let me just say that until the last few chapters I didn't know whether James could actually tie all the ends up together and then she did. Reading other comments it's clear that some feel that the ending wasn't satisfying but for me, it very much was.

ARC provided by publisher.

Melmouth; Sarah Perry

MelmothMelmoth by Sarah Perry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Why has Helen Franklin hidden herself away in Prague, living an aescetic life that deprives her of all pleasure? The answer to that comes late in the book, which is mostly concerned with Helen's friend Karel's discovery of a letter and series of documents about Melmoth the Witness (the woman who denied seeing the risen Jesus and is thus condemned to wander the world witnessing similar shame and loneliness). That discovery - along with Helen's reaction to the reading of those documents, Karel's leving his stroke-victim wife, and the widening of Helen's world - are at turns fascinating and a drag on the books pacing.

ARC provided by publisher.

Dactyl Hill Squad; Daniel Jose Older

Dactyl Hill SquadDactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical fiction with dinosaurs? The combination just barely works (IMVHO) - the history occasionally got short-shrifted because the dinosaur part needed to be worked in. Luckily there are author's notes about the Draft Riots, the Colored Orphan Asylum, the period slang and dinorsaurs to help fill in blanks and point readers to additional information.

ARC provided by publisher.

Hey, Kiddo; Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Hey, KiddoHey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you know Krosczka's work and want to know more about how he became an artist, this is the memoir for you. If you don't know his work, this may inspire you to seek out what he's done. This is also a great read for anyone who is being brought up by their grandparents or who has a missing/uninvolved/impaired parent.

ARC provided by publisher.

09 August 2018

Sanity & Tallulah; Molly Brooks

Sanity & TallulahSanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Relatively predictable middle grade SF GN about two girls living on a space station who like science... but Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds? More, please.

ARC provided by publisher

06 August 2018

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone; Jaclyn Moriarty

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone (Kingdoms & Empires, #1)The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There were so many references here to other books (most obvious: the Mellifluous Orchestra / Chroma's symphony in The Phantom Tollbooth) and yet this was very fresh. I loved meeting all the aunts and watching Bronte have all those extremely inconvenient adventures. While there were some Kingdoms/Empires I would enjoy reading more about, it's good that this is a one-off book.

ARC provided by publisher.