25 April 2019

Last Things; Jacqueline West

Last ThingsLast Things by Jacqueline West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Faustian bargains that you're not sure you've made, guilt over what you might have done and trying to still be true to who you think you are can be tiring. And Anders is tired. Then there's Thea, who hides in plain sight in an almost stalker-ish manner and with something "other" about her. The best part is that Anders surprised me, so four stars despite a mostly predictable book.

eARC provided by publisher.

Working; Robert A. Caro

Working: Researching, Interviewing, WritingWorking: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unlike most of Caro's work, this is a very quick read. My initial thoughts were that this is was disappointing but that's only because I'd just watched Caro's interview on Q&A, where much of this was repeated virtually verbatim. Beyond that, this is the perfect book to highlight how a serious researcher does the work: turning over every page, asking questions (then knowing to "SU") and re-asking questions. It also made me wonder about future researchers looking at modern figures and events and the absence of any paper trail given our electronic era.

I've already recommended it to my History Department for their annual research prize and for a summer reading list that will be published by MPOW.

eARC provided by publisher.

24 April 2019

Second Sight; Aoife Clifford

Second SightSecond Sight by Aoife Clifford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had to continually remind myself that this wasn't set in the US, which just shows how narrow my view of this genre is. As far is the plot goes, this was very predictable: the one you least suspected as being the good or bad guy is, well, the person you should have suspected. Family secrets will be exposed and the misunderstandings will be resolved. Nothing surprising, but the writing makes up for it.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Farm; Joanne Ramos

The FarmThe Farm by Joanne Ramos
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having read A River of Stars I feared the worst, but this is a more high end operation than the one Scarlett experiences. There quite possibly are places like Golden Oaks, and quite possibly they're filled with people like the people we meet here. Where this failed for me was the ending, which was rushed and ultimately didn't leave me satisfied regarding what happened back at Golden Oaks or with any of the main characters. Plus, too many POVs. Mae and Jane, fine. Everyone else was unnecessary.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Last Stone; Mark Bowden

The Last StoneThe Last Stone by Mark Bowden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are a true crime fan, this is for you. Shows like "Waking the Dead" or "Cold Case" are predicated on one fact that then leads to a fairly rapid solving of this previously unsolvable old crime. Unlike tv or movies, much police work is plodding, plodding and more plodding, even the cold case work. The author reported on the disappearance of the two Lyons sisters in 1975, so when the cold case was reopened in 2013 he of course wanted to follow the trail to its end. But is there an end when many witnesses and suspects are either dead or continuing to lie to the police, knowing that nearly 40 years later there's little that can be proven?

ARC provided by publisher.

23 April 2019

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors; Sonali Dev

Pride, Prejudice, and Other FlavorsPride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great beach read with an Indian twist. Not sure what else needs to be said except this is higher on the "flavors" than the "pride/prejudice".

ARC provided by publisher.

No Place Like Home; Christina June

No Place Like HereNo Place Like Here by Christina June
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nothing surprising here (and really? Hansel and Gretel is not an influence. Sigh.) - a fish-out-of-water summer spent in an outdoor summer retreat place that reads like Sarah Dessen. Perfect for those looking for teen romance light.

Jada Sly, Artist & Spy; Sherri Winston

Jada Sly, Artist & SpyJada Sly, Artist & Spy by Sherri Winston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jada's mixed race, mixed nationality, moved from her home in France to her home in NYC and mourning her mother's death. What could the next year possibly hold? Well, it holds new friends, a new school and a mystery surrounding several people who keep interrupting her life searching for... something. And what did happen to her mother? And the museum her family runs? Fun start to a series.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Absence of Sparrows; Kurt Kirchmeier

The Absence of SparrowsThe Absence of Sparrows by Kurt Kirchmeier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a really dark cloud covers your town and suddenly some people are turned to a glassy stone... and later shatter... what would you do? How would you protect your family or yourself? How obsessed would you be with listening to the radio, and would you follow along with some bizarre plan to solve this global problem? That's the tension Ben deals with when his summer plans are upended by the glassification plague. There were several plot lines that weren't wrapped up as well as they could have been given the strength of the first half of the book, hence only 3 stars.

ARC provided by publisher.

22 April 2019

Hurricane Season; Nicole Melleby

Hurricane SeasonHurricane Season by Nicole Melleby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Our view of Fig's world - her life with her erratic, once brilliant musician father and trying to keep things hidden from outsiders - is very clearly told by a sixth-grader. Her questions and fears, friendships and relationships with adults and peers have no moments of "adult" POV sneaking in. We learn what's wrong with her father as she does, and her investigation of how to help is our investigation. Even her perception of one teacher's actions is clearly age-appropriate without a wink to the reader that she's not seeing things properly. That's the good. The "meh" is that the ending feels pre-ordained and there's no surprise.

ARC provided by publisher.

At Briarwood School for Girls; Michael Knight

At Briarwood School for GirlsAt Briarwood School for Girls by Michael Knight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again I spent far too much time trying to actually place this school - I think it's in a now-defunct school, albeit one with teachers and students who are clearly fictional. Having said that, the story did read as real based on some of the traditions and the way the story unfolded. Setting it in the 1990s made for some eye-rolling because there were moments when it felt as though at any moment one of the girls would start texting, when they clearly couldn't. Aside from moments like that the life of the students was very similar to my life at an all-girls boarding school in the late 70s, so points for getting it right.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Library of Ever; Zeno Alexander

The Library of EverThe Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute story about a lonely girl with a self-involved nanny who ends up "working" in a library that is seemingly endless. Lenora's ability to focus on the seemingly trivial and then use that to assist patrons with research (or other needs) was fun to read, and might help readers realize that something you learned in the past can help you in the future. The ending implies that perhaps there will be more to Lenora's story, and I'd happily read that.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Poison Bed; E.C. Fremantle

The Poison BedThe Poison Bed by E.C. Fremantle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely for the Philippa Gregory readers. I'd not known about this particular incident in British history, so learning about it was interesting enough. That the Howard clan were powerful I already knew (I mean, who didn't know that?) but their jockeying for power post-Elizabeth was not familiar to me, and Frances Howard's family's machinations to oust their political rivals by installing a favorite at the court of James I, and then marrying her to that favorite was really fascinating. I loved that the author allowed for the fact that no one really knows what happened vis-a-vis the murder of Overbury by creating an unreliable narrator in Frances (sorry, but a 400-year-old murder doesn't allow for spoilers!).

ARC provided by publisher.

15 April 2019

The Guest Book

The Guest BookThe Guest Book by Sarah Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twilight of the WASPs, indeed. The intertwined timelines sometimes worked against themselves, as there were moments we readers needed to wallow in but were jumped forward or back. And for all the deep, dark family secrets that get exposed over the course of the book, that there is one death that completely escapes the younger generation's notice (seriously? Moss never remembered or mentioned his older brother to anyone?). I knew many families like the Miltons and their social milieu and the ways they interacted are well depicted here. That Blake gets when to use Farmington also shows she knows these people and their world. Nothing surprising, just a good read.

eARC provided by publisher.

William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Mean Girls; Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Mean GirlsWilliam Shakespeare's Much Ado About Mean Girls by Ian Doescher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you aren't comfortable with Shakespearean language, or you don't know the movie Mean Girls, this won't mean anything to you (even if you do know the movie, not being comfortable with the language might be difficult). If both hold true, this is a funny way to look at the movie and at Shakespeare's plots.

eARC provided by publisher.

Rising Water; Marc Aronson

Rising Water: The Story of the Thai Cave RescueRising Water: The Story of the Thai Cave Rescue by Marc Aronson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The author admits this was rushed into print and, well, it shows. There are some weird moments that taking more time could have avoided, like the discussion of what "stateless" means ("undocmented immigrants" would not have been my first comparison), or what the various ethnic groups the boys were and what that meant (historically and today). Even weirder was his mentioning of Elon Musk's Twitter activities in a passing - if you're going to talk about Musk's attempted involvement in the rescue and his use of Twitter, why not also mention how Musk then made comments on that platform that were seriously questionable? Or why the submarine he proposed wouldn't have worked, given the detail Aronson goes into about the route the divers took?

I'm waiting for another book on the topic to add to our collection as this is a topic I know my readers will want to learn more about; this is just not the book.

eARC provided by publisher.

12 April 2019

The Binding; Bridget Collins

The BindingThe Binding by Bridget Collins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Set in an alternate 1800s this more "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" than about books. I finished but really, it was very predictable despite the wonderful premise.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Devouring Gray; Christine Lynn Herman

The Devouring GrayThe Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe I've just read too many books like this, but there was nothing really new here - old town, deep secrets, ruling families, etc.. The multiple POVs didn't help, nor did the "you have to read the next book to get answers to stuff we've been teasing all along" ending. Tighter writing and making this one book would help.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Book of Dreams; Nina George

The Book of DreamsThe Book of Dreams by Nina George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I could have done without the flashbacks and pseudo time travel, this is a wonderfully heartwarming tale of how a boy, desperate to meet his biological father, invites his father to his school; when he doesn't show, Sam assumes his father doesn't care but then finds out that there was an accident. Cutting school, meeting a former girlfriend of his father's and spending hours in the hospital with his father (and another patient he meets by accident) Sam grows up. There is some great atmosphere here, and Sam, Henri and Eddie are so real I expect to meet them one day.

eARC provided by publisher.

11 April 2019

Killing November; Adriana Mather

Killing November (Killing November, #1)Killing November by Adriana Mather
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A secret school, teens familiar with weapons and poisons, family/class hierarchy - all sounds familiar, right? Luckily, this was a surprise. As November learns about the school and the history, we readers learn the same; unlike other books where the readers somehow know what's going on, we're as much in the dark as the main character is. There were a few surprises (and a few things I'd guessed) that definitely made me want to immediately read the second one.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Trial of Lizzie Borden; Cara Robertson

The Trial of Lizzie BordenThe Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read a lot about the Borden murders but didn't know as much about the trial before. How those men came to their conclusion is still something I don't understand, and probably will never understand until someone finds a journal or something from a juror explaining. Having said that, learning how hot the courtroom was, how Lizzie and others reacted to various pieces of evidence, and what conflicts of interest may have existed was interesting. If you don't know a lot about the murders, this might not be the book to start with, and for those who already know that is was her stepmother (not her mother, as the rhyme suggests) this is a good expansion.

ARC provided by publisher.

10 April 2019

The Bird King; G. Willow Wilson

The Bird KingThe Bird King by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world of this book is one that many don't think about when we think about Arabian history and mythology - how many books that include magical realism and Arabian myths are set in Spain just before the Reconquista? More, please. I wish we'd gotten more about Hassan's maps, less about the flight to the sea. And Fatima's ideas about who she is, what her role in life is and what she could be should lead to questions about what we think of as life "back then" and women's lives.

eARC provided by publisher.

Waiting for Fitz; Spencer Hyde

Waiting for FitzWaiting for Fitz by Spencer Hyde
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

DNF - the depictions of Addie's OCD and Fritz' schizophrenia felt so off, more as a "meet cute" than real disease diagnoses, and that hospital ward? Nope. Didn't buy it at all.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Lady is a Spy; Don Mitchell

The Lady Is a Spy: Virginia Hall, World War II Hero of the French Resistance (Scholastic Focus)The Lady Is a Spy: Virginia Hall, World War II Hero of the French Resistance by Don Mitchell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A little light on some details, but then, this is written for younger readers. When you think about how many books have been written about people involved with WWII, it's sometimes surprising that there are new stories out there. Virginia Hall's story - from losing half her leg to playing such a critical role in the Resistance - is one that needs to be told, and one that at least one student at my school wants to read as part of her history research projecct.

Because I read an ARC I couldn't tell if the images were ENFYA worthy, but if they are the committee should consider this book.

09 April 2019

Katt vs. Dogg; James Patterson

Katt vs. DoggKatt vs. Dogg by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ok, if you don't think I'm going to be Team Katt you don't really know me! Cute, definitely great for MG readers, filled with puns. What else needs to be said?

ARC provided by publisher.

The Better Sister; Alafair Burke

The Better SisterThe Better Sister by Alafair Burke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of those unreliable narrator/character books that also asks the question "if you're innocent, why lie?" There were two twists that surprised me, which is always nice. If this is your cuppa, it's a great vacation read.

ARC provided by publisher.

Kingsbane; Claire Legrand

Kingsbane (Empirium, #2)Kingsbane by Claire Legrand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Decent second-in-the-trilogy book but really only appropriate for those coming to this book without having read Furyborn (or those who, like me, aren't reading them one right after another - it took me a while to remember who was who and what was going on). As with the previous book, there's so much here that is religious that is not explained or expanded on, and that was frustrating.

The cliffhanger at the end raised the question of whether it was due to messing with the earlier timeline or if it would always have happened, something readers will debate until the next book arrives. It was refreshing to see that going back in time did have some consequences, as far too often it doesn't.

eARC provided by publisher.

08 April 2019

Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak; Adi Alsaid

Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid HeartbreakBrief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak by Adi Alsaid
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

DNF - this started as a book about a girl dealing with her recent break-up by possibly watching another couple, but by 20% she was simply unlikable.

Belly Up; Eva Darrows

Belly UpBelly Up by Eva Darrows
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rounding up from barely 2.5 stars. There were some moments of humor, but overall this felt like a generic teen pregnancy book with far too many quirky politically-correct characters (trans girl, Rom boy, grey ace bestie, mom who left an abusive relationship, cool grandmother, etc.). I almost didn't stick with this because of the overkill, but Sara could have been my biological mother 56 years ago and I wanted to see what happened. The ending was also a bit of a disappointment - did she graduate high school as planned? what about future plans? Less time on the quirky, more on the plot.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Library of Lost and Found, Phaedra Patrick

The Library of Lost and FoundThe Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sweet beach read - a middle age woman finally learns to live, rather than being somewhat frozen in the past. Despite the blurbage, there's nothing here that's really that surprising about the family secrets.

eARC provided by publisher.

07 April 2019

The Strangers; Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Strangers (Greystone Secrets, #1)The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With the movie Us in theatres, dopplegangers are somehow in the ether. Here, it's three kidnapped children who bear an incredible resemblance to the Greystone siblings, and when the Greystone's mother goes on a "work trip" that appears to be more than it really is (pre-sent text messages? leaving her work laptop behind?) it's clear that Something Is Up. And, of course, who better to investigate than the Greystone children and the daughter of the woman into whose care they've been placed? More would be spoiling things - suffice it to say that I'm eagerly waiting for the second book.

eARC provided by publisher.

With the Fire on High; Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on HighWith the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If only the recipes had been included! Oh well... This was a relatively generic teen mom story elevated by both the author's prose and the addition of some realistic elements and characters. These situations are never easy to describe, much less make them feel real, and this book definitely does that. The trip to Spain could have been something very different, with Emoni having an experience that felt wrong or somehow disconnected from the rest of the story and it was pretty pitch-perfect.

eARC provided by publisher.