17 July 2019

The Topeka School; Ben Lerner

The Topeka SchoolThe Topeka School by Ben Lerner
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

DNF - too many timelines and digressions to be followed. Such promise, but sadly realized.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January; Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryThe Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved the idea of the doors leading to other worlds (wish there'd been more of them), and loved how Julian's, Ade's and January's journeys unfolded. We lingered a little too long in January's childhood, but the reading of the Ten Thousand Doors book was fascinating. More about June and Samuel would have been great, ditto more about Locke House (which sounds a little like Misselthwaite Manor), so this is actually rounded up from 4.5 stars.

eARC provided by publisher.

16 July 2019

The Hive; Barry Lyga

The HiveThe Hive by Barry Lyga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved Lyga's Jasper Dent series so was really excited to see that he's got a new book and how it would compare to them. In this case, it's as though Lyga is channeling Cory Doctorow, and I mean that in a very good way. "The Hive" was founded on the idea that peer pressure/peer justice would get rid of online bullying and shaming (although it's very much about shaming!) and is government run. When someone does or says something online, people can "like" or "condemn" it and when the algorithm shows a bad condemn to like ratio, the group can - in real life, in public - exact some sort of punishment. What could possibly go wrong?

Our heroine is the daughter of a Latin professor (living) and an infamous hacker/programmer (now dead) and the government is convinced that when her father died, he left something behind, something the government wants (what, they're not quite sure, but they know it exists... probably). So when Cassie, in an attempt to fit in with the cool girls at her new school, posts a somewhat questionable joke online, the Hive decides that what she said was unacceptable and that she should be severely punished. No spoilers, but there are some parts that require a suspension of disbelief as she goes on the run, trying to avoid "justice" and repair her reputation. She's kind of like Katniss but with code, not arrows.

What doesn't require that suspension is the existence of the Hive and the idea that an entire society, so addicted to its devices and its desire for likes (or upvoting or whatever the term is on different platforms) could create such a thing and then use it to mete out justice. Or that the government would use it to try to control events and people, becoming more authoritarian in the process.

eARC provided by publisher.

Pretty Guilty Women; Gina LaManna

Pretty Guilty WomenPretty Guilty Women by Gina LaManna
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Pretty much a knockoff of Pretty Little Liars, set in a California resort during a destination wedding week (yes, week, not weekend). The bride has invited her three best friends from college, two of whom had a serious falling out "back then", and the groom's extremely large, wealthy family is also there. Instead of it being about the four college friends, this is more about the three invitees and two other women related (by marriage, in one case) to the groom - these women begin to bond over a long evening's drinking in the resort bar, and their relationship continues the next day with massages and Deep Discussions and... no spoilers. We do get the background on each of them, none of them happy in the present and four of whom are hiding something.

I'm not sure any of them are particularly likable, although Lulu comes closest. For that reason, and because this is such a derivative read, only two stars.

eARC provided by publisher.

15 July 2019

Sword and Pen; Rachel Caine

Sword and Pen (The Great Library, #5)Sword and Pen by Rachel Caine
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Only for those who have read the earlier books in the series, as the characters and world depend on prior knowledge. For those who have.... this is probably the ending you've been waiting for. There's a lot of action and tying up loose ends - Jess even gets some resolution with his family! Each of the main characters finds their true purpose in life, while the Great Library is both saved and changed as the old Archivist's rule is ended (in Book 4, Smoke and Iron).

eARC provided by publisher.

Death in the Covenant; D. A. Bartley

Death in the Covenant (Abish Taylor Mystery #2)Death in the Covenant by D.A. Bartley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another mystery series set in the LDS world? Sure, I'll try. Unlike Mette Ivie Harrison's Linda Wallheim series with its amateur detective, Abish Taylor is a police detective descended from an 1800s Prophet and very well known to church leadership. That is a blessing and a curse: she knows the ins and outs of the Church and the religion (nicely explained here for those who don't know a lot about LDS theology or practices) but as someone who hasn't been a part of the church life since her return to Utah she's also an outsider. As far as procedurals go, this plays by the rules of the convention and wraps up just enough of the whodunnit and whydunnit to satisfy readers while leaving a little something left out that could become part of the next book in the series. I'm definitely going to find the first book and will keep my eyes open for the next.

eARC provided by publisher.

14 July 2019

Crown of Coral and Pearl; Mara Rutherford

Crown of Coral and PearlCrown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So much here that was derivative and reminded me of so many other recent books. Plus the weak world building: more on why New Castle was perhaps unhealthy (or is it just being in a mountain with no sunlight and fresh air?), more on the daily life of the Varenians (there are only 600 of them? what was the village like?) and more on the history of the countries was needed. There were things dropped in, like the succession, that didn't really make sense in writing and a little more care would have helped.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Booklsh Life of Nina Hill; Abbi Waxman

The Bookish Life of Nina HillThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This an unsurprising romcom beach read, which usually gets a 3-star review from me. So why 4 stars? It made me giggle. Yes, folks, Nina's comments and take on life plus her love of books and trivia added another star. Plus Clare and that camel. That picnic wedding (seriously - sounds like the kind of wedding I'd want to attend). The street food fight.

Read it. Trust me.

eARC provided by publisher.

13 July 2019

Darkdawn; Jay Kristoff

Darkdawn (The Nevernight Chronicle, #3)Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good ending to the Nevernight Chronicle, but not a book you should read if you haven't read the first (you could, if you needed, skip book two). The world building is complex but mostly handled in the first book, as is the character introduction. There are some great new places and people, like the whole pirate world (and the Rumpelstiltskin-like game she plays with the captain), but the ending feels really rushed while other places/scenes could have been tightened up. And the whole meta thing, where the Quiet Mountain's library holds the first two books? That could have been done a little better.

eARC provided by publisher.

There Will Come a Darkness; Katy Rose Pool

There Will Come a Darkness (There Will Come a Darkness #1)There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good start to a series? trilogy? - the world building did need work, ditto the belief systems that ruled this world, but there's a lot of promise there. The Pale Hand was a great creation, and the way Hassan deals with his role in the Last Prophecy felt very real. Too many POVs became confusing, though. Why authors feel the need to do that is beyond me: choose one, possibly two, and move on. It will be interesting to see where this goes next: whose story will be told? will we continue to have this fracturing of the plot between the main characters or will there be more focus? what will happen with the Graced? will we go to the other cities?

eARC provided by publisher.

12 July 2019

Run, Hide, Fight Back; April Henry

Run, Hide, Fight BackRun, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My first thought? At least this wasn't a school shooting. Second thought? There was very little compelling about any of the characters - no one to really root for or care about. There are other books that have tackled similar topics (although usually at a school, not a mall) and some do give us characters we become attached to. Let's face it, the news gives us so much of this anyway that without some real hook it's not compelling.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Swallows; Lisa Lutz

The SwallowsThe Swallows by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've read this before, this tale of Boys Behaving Badly Towards Girls (both in the news, at St. Paul's, and in books). One other readers suggested that there were something like six teachers for 400 students, but my reading showed that there were a few others - what surprised me more was the idea that there were two dorms with only one faculty advisor mentioned. And all that alcohol? Setting this in the 80s maybe, but today? Nope. The world of the school really rang false on so many levels, while the student experience was nothing new.

eARC provided by publisher.

11 July 2019

The Turn of the Key; Ruth Ware

The Turn of the KeyThe Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you didn't know that this was based on The Turn of the Screw you wouldn't necessarily know that, and that's actually a good thing (if I'm honest, I never quite got how TotS became such an exemplar of horror). Told as a letter to a man who might become her barrister, representing her at trial, the story of Rowan's week-ish as the nanny to four girls (one away at school but returning at the end, three much younger and very much opposed to having yet another new nanny) and how it spirals completely out of control.

Of course Rowan admits that she made mistakes. And it's clear that there's something wrong at the house and with the (mostly) absent parents. Plus there's Happy, the house's app, that turns the house into a high-tech horror show by not only controlling all lights, temperature and nearly all doors, but also the curtains, in-room cameras and microphones, and who knows what else. I'll stop there to avoid spoilers but it's enough to say that we have an unreliable narrator, and a final twist that slightly damages the plot.

eARC provided by publisher.

Yale Needs Women; Anne Gardiner Perkins

Yale Needs WomenYale Needs Women by Anne Gardiner Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We read a lot about how co-education was a natural outgrowth of the upheavals of the 1960s, but there's not much written about what it was like for the first women to attend schools like Yale (or Princeton). Most dissertations-turned-books are virtually unreadable by those who haven't also studied the topic but not this book! It's very readable, sharing the experiences of not just the young women who were in the first few classes but the administrators and even some young men.

ARC provided by publisher.

10 July 2019

The Star Shepherd; Dan Haring

The Star ShepherdThe Star Shepherd by Dan Haring
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So charming! A world where stars keep out horrible creatures, hung in the sky by long-vanished Elders, sounds like some origin story. Yet it's not - it's those stars really do keep out the horrible creatures and so there are Star Shepherds so rescue falling stars and send them back to the sky to keep standing watch. Of course something starts to go horribly wrong, and it's up to young Kyro to figure out how to right things.

However... there's nothing that makes sense about this world geographically. A journey to the other side of the country taking only a day? And that's in "kid steps" not adult steps. Yet a journey to a relatively nearby area takes over a day by land or sea? If that part had been more carefully thought out, this could have been a five star read. As it is, I'm rounding up from 3.5

ARC provided by publisher.

09 July 2019

The Magnolia Sword; Sherry Thomas

The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of MulanThe Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I confess, I avoid Disney's animated 'princess' movies as much as possible, so I hadn't seen "Mulan" and only knew the bare outlines of her story. The author apparently takes some liberties with the source material but readers won't care. There is a lot of history here and at times I stopped reading to check maps and to look up names of kingdoms - despite having taken some Asian history, China in this time period wasn't something I'd studied. That is not a bad thing! If this can inspire some readers to learn more about the history of Ancient China, all the better.

As for plot, there's a predictability here that is comforting. In addition to the excitement of training and tracking down the invaders, the fighting and double-crossings, there are several hidden identities and sexualities to figure out. Plus a lovely romance. What's not to love?

ARC provided by publisher.

Invisible as Air; Zoe Fishman

Invisible as AirInvisible as Air by Zoe Fishman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How easy is it to slip in addiction? Very. And this book does a great job of showing a family slowly dissolving under the weight of Sylvie's addiction (which she's sure she's hiding well) and how son Teddy and husband Paul cope with that as well as their own issues. Making this a solidly upper-middle class family drives home how easily these things can happen, how they're not confined to rural lower class families, makes the rather soap-operaesque plot more relevant to readers.

ARC provided by publisher.

08 July 2019

Child of the Dream; Sharon Robinson

Child of the Dream (A Memoir of 1963)Child of the Dream by Sharon Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My middle school students have been exploring memoirs so I'm always on the lookout for a new one that they can read. This is a different take on 1963, written by the daughter of Jackie Robinson, centering on her life both as his daughter and growing up in Connecticut in the early 60s. A definite purchase.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Last Widow; Karin Slaughter

The Last Widow (Will Trent, #9)The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another mystery/thriller series I'd never heard of, and while there's some backstory included the vast majority of the book has no connection to the others so is easy to pick up on. There's a lot here about how people become radicalized, how they can consider following a leader who is clearly outside the mainstream. There's mention of Ruby Ridge and Waco but not of the most obvious (unnamed to avoid spoilers) group. Because this is the kind of book it is, everything works out well in the end for our Hero and Heroine although not before a lot of sometimes implausible drama.

ARC provided by publisher.

07 July 2019

The Bitterroots; C.J. Box

The Bitterroots (Cassie Dewell, #4)The Bitterroots by C.J. Box
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My first Cassie Dewell, and I'm probably going to explore the previous books. There are some surprises, particularly regarding who Cassie can trust and why, and I wonder if those are in the other books. The private investigator genre isn't my favorite, but this isn't a bad example.

There's a great sense of place here, with the Montana mountains and the fires they experience playing a role that was unexpected (at least it was to this New Englander, who only hears a lot about the California wildfires). Small towns and the oversized influence some families can have isn't news, nor are difficult family dynamics. How the Kleinsassers operate, and that the official name of their farm is the Iron Cross(I was surprised that Cassie didn't make more of that) won't come as a surprise. The relationships between Ben, Isobel and Cassie are perhaps the best part of the book.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Record Keeper; Agnes Gomillion

The Record KeeperThe Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dystopian race relations can be complicated - here we have a bit of "gee, nothing has changed". There are the English, who essentially run what's left of the world, the Clayskin (whom we hear a little about, but not much, and appear to be of part Asian, part native and part Indian extraction) and the Kongo, split into First Brother and Second Brother but who live further south and provide most of the food for the others. We see things through Akira's eyes, from her distress at being separated from her "mother" through punishment when she doesn't want to conform to extreme conforming in school to finally rebelling against the English head of school. The world building is slight, but the character building is very strong and redeems the book. There's a lot to chew over regarding the racism and how even after a disastrous war little has changed in terms of how the "first world" (English) treat the "lesser" Clayskin and Kongo. The ending leads me to believe there will be another book, and it could be an opportunity to make some serious societal changes.

ARC provided by publisher.

06 July 2019

Titans; Kate O'Hearn

Titans (Titans #1)Titans by Kate O'Hearn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is billed as the first in a series, but apparently is a spin-off of the authors' Pegasus series. Does it matter? Somewhat - there's background and world building that would have helped. If you know Greek mythology then some of the characters make sense, but the whole "Titans v. Olympians" thing isn't as clear thanks to mixing Roman and Greek gods (eg., the titans were Greek, but Jupiter was not one nor was he Greek). Definitely for fans of the earlier series, but perhaps not for those who haven't read it.

ARC provided by publisher.

Goodnight Stranger; Miciah Bay Gault

Goodnight Stranger: A NovelGoodnight Stranger by Miciah Bay Gault
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Less of a thriller than the blurb might suggest, this is more of a study of two siblings stuck in the past until a stranger shows up and changes their lives. There is some thriller-type content but that's towards the end and feels something at odds with the tone of the book overall. Lydia's suspicions and fears are more about Lucas than herself until that end and is a little unsatisfying.

ARC provided by publisher.

Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? Brock Clarke

Who are You, Calvin Bledsoe?Who are You, Calvin Bledsoe? by Brock Clarke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not sure what to think about this, especially given the emphasis on John Calvin and his many quotations. You'd think that that would mean a more quiet book not a thriller-like book that includes an international hunt for something that Calvin may or may not have access to, or Beatrice's decisions to not explain things to Calvin. I mean, he's a blogger for the pellet-stove industry! There's supposed to be humor here but I only found that in his blog posts. Otherwise, I was as confused as Calvin.

ARC provided by publisher.

05 July 2019

Start Here; Trish Doller

Start HereStart Here by Trish Doller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two semi-friends, held together only by their relationship with their now dead friend Finley, embark on a sailing trip the three of them planned as a post-high school graduation event. There's predicable drama in their relationship and their voyage, but what elevates this is the ending realization that "best friends" aren't always forever.

ARC provided by publisher.

Too Close; Nathalie Daniels

Too CloseToo Close by Natalie Daniels
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is Connie an unreliable narrator, an amnesiac or simply a woman who has been pushed to the edge by events? That's Emma's task, deciding which is the truth of Connie's life and in trying to figure it out she steps over the line personally and professionally. There's nothing really new here, but there's something about Emma and Connie's relationship that really works and figuring out what happened is fun.

ARC provided by publisher.

When We Were Lost; Kevin Wignall

When We Were LostWhen We Were Lost by Kevin Wignall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Clearly influenced by books like Lord of the Flies (but really, is that only read in AP English?), Alive with maybe some Damselfly or Gone thrown in but not as good as Beauty Queens. Still, Tom's relationships with his classmates is worth reading the entire book despite the plot's predictability.

ARC provided by publisher.

04 July 2019

Cosy; Laura Weir

Cosy: The British Art of ComfortCosy: The British Art of Comfort by Laura Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Very quick read, and definitely for British readers (or serious Anglophiles with access to products like Bovril). The content could have been expanded a little more with ways to carve out cozy time or examples of coziness that aren't UK-oriented.

ARC provided by publisher.

Tidelands; Philippa Gregory

Tidelands (Fairmile #1)Tidelands by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Philippa Gregory is exploring a new era in English history, this time the religion wars during the Stuart's reign/the Cromwellian rule. Understanding the differences between Cromwell's religious leanings vs. the Anglican Church vs. the Catholic Church as well as the ins and outs of which king was on the throne (or not) might not be easy for American readers but that is a lesser part of the plot than one might expect. The bigger problem is a pacing issue and far too much time spent setting the scene, when more action might have been helpful. As the first book in the series I can understand why that was needed but still...

eARC provided by publisher.

The Whisper Man; Alex North

The Whisper ManThe Whisper Man by Alex North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thriller with a definite twist? That's not unusual but in this case it's a twist that comes as a surprise, which is unusual because readers are expecting them and are rarely surprised by them. The Whisper Man himself could have been scarier, with readers getting more of a sense of what he does, or did, to his victims while "caring" for them (amping up the menace factor). However, the creepy factor is certainly present, between Jake's imaginary friend - or is she imaginary? - and Norman Collins' collecting serial killer memorabilia.

ARC provided by publisher.

03 July 2019

Martin McLean, Middle School Queen; Alyssa Zaczek

Martin McLean, Middle School QueenMartin McLean, Middle School Queen by Alyssa Zaczek
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clearly the next step up from the currently popular Drag Queen Story Hours, here were have a seventh grader who decides that drag is one facet of his personal expression (mathelete is another). How these two sides can integrate, and how his friends will react, is something that Martin will struggle with throughout the book. The description of drag culture and norms is well done, and Martin's friends are enjoyably normal.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Doll Factory; Elizabeth Macneal

The Doll FactoryThe Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical fiction starring the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood? Yes, please. Sadly, the real PRB makes a tangential appearance with "Johnnie" Millais being the most frequent member we see. There's a good description of London during their era and the art scene, along with some talk about their philosophy of art (and a cameo by Ruskin) but the real focus is on the obsessions of Silas and the life of Iris as a worker and then model. For me, either more PRB or more on the Silas/Iris relationship would have worked but the combination doesn't.

eARC provided by publisher.

Gods of Jade and Shadow; Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade and ShadowGods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this I wished that mythologies other than Greek, Roman and Viking were covered in school - I knew a little but not nearly enough about Mayan gods and mythologies. There's a good glossary at the end (moving it to the front might have been helpful, or at least moving some of the mythological descriptions there would have been) to help readers. Cassopeia's life is Cinderella-esque until one day when she accidentally helps the Lord of Xibalba escape from his younger twin brother's confinement and then helps him reclaim his throne. It's clearly hinted that there's something about Cassopeia's father that gives her an edge, but what that is is only hinted at; her mother's family is the family she references most often and the one from which she escapes.

Apparently this book is based on the Popul Vuh, and as with A Spark of White Fire (based on the Mahabharata) having more books based on other, lesser known to most US readers stories is a welcome trend.

eARC provided by publisher.

02 July 2019

Guts; Raina Telgemeier

GutsGuts by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We have so many Telgemeier fans at my school and it's easy to see why: her ability to speak to middle grade readers without reaching for arch commentary (a la Lemony Snickett). This is a biographical graphic novel about Raina, who is scared of a lot of things, so scared that she starts having panic attacks and refuses to eat. That's a topic that so many can relate to (adults included) and one that is dealt with so well here.

ARC provided by publisher.

Murder in the Crooked House; Soji Shimada

Murder in the Crooked House (Kiyoshi Mitarai, #2)Murder in the Crooked House by Sōji Shimada
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who doesn't like a locked room mystery? Especially one that hearkens back to And Then There Were None? The solution is surprising, and unlike Christie's masterpiece the clues are all there, ready for you (if you know where to look). Add to that the setting and the way in which the author's descriptions of the house, the surrounding land and the people in the house and, well... definitely a five-star read. The "why" part might surprise readers, and I'm not sure how I feel about the main detective, who appears to be a little quirkier than I like. Still, I'm going to look for the first in this series and am eagerly awaiting the third.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Gifted School; Bruce Holsinger

The Gifted SchoolThe Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having lived through the >scandals surrounding the 92nd Street Y's nursery school, and having worked at several "prestigious" K-12 schools, I know the pressure to get into the "best" schools. So nothing that happened here surprised me, not the soap opera-y relationships between the four best friends and their families and not the jostling to get into this new school. If only there'd been one decent twist! Still, good beach read this summer.

eARC provided by publisher.

01 July 2019

The Murder List; Hank Phillippi Ryan

The Murder ListThe Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many years earlier, Rachel was part of the Boston political world, working for a state senator and harboring ambitions. All that comes crashing down when an intern in the office is murdered shortly after Rachel's stint on jury duty ends. Now marriTed and reinventing herself as a law student, Rachel takes a summer internship with the Middlesex County DA's office and learns that case is being reopened. The murderer thinks they're smarter than they are, and the DA is supremely confident she'll be able to convict - with Rachel's help. There are a few unsurprising twists here, but as a summer thriller read you can't go wrong. Plus, the setting is in my hometown!

eARC provided by publisher.

The Oysterville Sewing Circle; Susan Wiggs

The Oysterville Sewing CircleThe Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Perfectly fine beach read that includes a Very Heavy Topic: spousal abuse. The blending of that with the romcom / prodigal daughter returning home main plot may distract readers. It did sometimes appear that the abuse part was almost an afterthought that got added in to make the book more relevant, and how the Sewing Circle's first meeting's information about what the purpose actually is was a little unclear (was there coded language? was there word-of-mouth? something else?). More could also have been done with the copyright lawsuit, and with Addie and Flick's move and readjustments.

eARC provided by publisher.

Nottingham; Nathan Makaryk

NottinghamNottingham by Nathan Makaryk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A version of the Robin Hood story that sounds as plausible as any other: Robin is the son of a local lord, a fighter in Richard the Lionheart's army and sent home to find out why arms are not making it to the Holy Land for the Crusaders. The premise here is that Robin is an accidental leader of the Merry Men (actually, Marion's Men - he mishears that) and is more interested in completing his task and getting back to the Crusade. Of course, events conspire against him... but again, in a plausible way. King John's portrayal will surprise readers, as will the ending. Points off for the multiple POVs (far too many) and the sheer length. There was a lot that could have been snipped that would have made for a stronger story with no bits that lag as they do now.

eARC provided by publisher.

14 June 2019

House of Salt and Sorrows; Erin A. Craig

House of Salt and SorrowsHouse of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses set in an alternate world, a world with different gods and goddesses, religions and rules. The islands that the Thaumus family rules over are remote and devoted to Protus, god of the sea - the customs are different than those on the mainland, including a yearlong mourning period. After the death of her mother and four older sisters, Annaleigh hasn't been out of mourning for years yet her reaction to her stepmother's suggestion that the family cease and instead have a ball celebrating both the sixteenth birthday of "the triplets" and the pregnancy that might finally bring boys to the family doesn't excite her. At the ball, she realizes that the family is scorned for being cursed (in addition to breaking with custom) but her sisters are desperate to find husbands. And thus the dancing begins... There is a great twist here, and the world of the islands is well-realized. I'm hoping that the author revisits other old tales but sets them in this world as there are realms I'd love to explore.

eARC provided by publisher.

Murderfunding

#Murderfunding (MurderTrending, #2)#Murderfunding by Gretchen McNeil
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nice follow-up to #MurderTrending, allowing for a slightly different take while still giving readers the Paniacs and Postmanmania the previous book gave. In an e-version some of the social media posts didn't show up as well as they probably do in print, but it was still readable. I mention that because it is never clear who is behind the posts and that might lead to a third book. Nothing more because. well, that would be a spoiler.

eARC provided by publisher.

13 June 2019

The Border Keeper; Kerstin Hall

The Border KeeperThe Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set on the border of the real world (albeit not one we know) and in various alternate realms, the relationship between Eris - or whatever name she's known by - and Sethe ebbs and flows depending on what world they're in and how Eris feels about things. There are rules they must live by in all worlds, usually stated when entering a new realm, and many realms rulers (or claimant) are vying for control of all Mklais with shifting alliances and loyalties. There's also a question of whether the border will be breached, and where those trying to are from. By the end we're not sure exactly who or what Eris and Sethe are, except that they aren't what we were told they were at the start. This is a short read, but not a quick one.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Family Upstairs; Lisa Jewell

The Family UpstairsThe Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not quite as good as Watching You and the thriller aspect is missing but it's still creepy. What made the Lambs give in to the intruders in the family as they did? Was there some plot at the start between Birdie and David, before they all moved in? Neither question is answered, which doesn't necessarily matter at the end. Moving back in time to some unknown POV (revealed at the end) and forward to Libby's discovery that she has inherited a house with A Past and her trying to unravel that past, this can get a little confusing at times. There's a definite twist regarding some of the relationships in the house and what that means for the present, but the rest is pretty standard.

eARC provided by publisher.

Home for Erring and Outcast Girls; Julie Kibler

Home for Erring and Outcast GirlsHome for Erring and Outcast Girls by Julie Kibler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really good historical fiction based on many real "erring and outcast" girls who lived in the Berachah Home in Arlington TX intermingled with a lesser modern story that mimics (in some ways) those stories. Lizzie and Mattie find their way to the Home in very different ways and their friendship and lives apart from each other is well-researched and very much alive. Cate's backstory and present life isn't quite as real, and I'd hoped that somehow she or Lauren would have more of a personal connection to the earlier stories but, no. Lauren's story is sketchy, and a little heavy handed at the end, which felt unnecessary.

eARC provided by publisher.

12 June 2019

Please Send Help; Gaby Dunn

Please Send Help (I Hate Everyone But You, #2)Please Send Help by Gaby Dunn
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Not an improvement on the first book. DNF

eARC provided by publisher.

All of Us with Wings; Michelle Ruiz Keil

All of Us with WingsAll of Us with Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At times it was difficult to remember how old any of these characters were, with the "elders" being under 30 and the youngest merely 12 yet wise beyond her years. Taking place in San Fransisco, near the Haight, and featuring a rock band, there are drugs and complicated sexual relationships and body modification and a general sense that there's something different going on here. That something different is two waterbabies, drawn to Xochi by her ritual spell at the Equinox party held in the mansion she's staying in while being the governess to Pallas (the 12-year-old). I wish there'd been something more about Levi's family, perhaps a meeting with a sibling. On the other hand, there's Peaseblossom and while I usually am not a huge fan of animal stories Peas is such a plus that there's an entire star just for him.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Chain; Adrian McKinty

The ChainThe Chain by Adrian McKinty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very different from the Belfast trilogies, but equally engaging. There's definitely less a sense of who these people are, of the history and the setting than in the other books but that doesn't matter. The Chain, similar to chain letters but far more dangerous, is a self-perpetuating kidnapping ring run by some mysterious voice (or voices) on the phone - but they've chosen the wrong victim this time. Rachel is determined not only to get her daughter back but to end The Chain's destruction of families; the way in which she does this isn't conventional, or necessarily believable. There's backstory to the creators of The Chain that also somewhat stretches credulity, and the last part of the book is somewhat faster paced, confusing and even less believable than the rest. Still, it's a fun read for those who like this type of thriller.

eARC provided by publisher.

11 June 2019

Wilder Girls; Rory Power

Wilder GirlsWilder Girls by Rory Power
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So much potential here, but ultimately it lets the reader down. With hints of Running Out of Time running through it, this boarding school goes bad story could have been stronger. The girls aren't that interesting (especially their backstories) nor is the mystery of what caused the Tox. Add to that the final "battle" scene being overwritten and, well...

eARC provided by publisher.

Layover; David Bell

LayoverLayover by David Bell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I almost bought the story of a rather lost young man who meets a woman and decides to change his plans to follow, and then help, her. But the coincidences and the way Joshua pursues Morgan (or whatever her name is) didn't quite convince me. As with Gone Girl, my favorite character was the detective. There's a nice twist on the ending, but otherwise it was "meh".

eARC provided by publisher

We Went to the Woods; Caite Dolan-Leach

We Went to the WoodsWe Went to the Woods by Caite Dolan-Leach
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Too predictable and filled with annoying characters - easy to speed through and skim. Tying this in to the Oneida Community didn't really help.

eARC provided by publisher.