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.

10 June 2019

The Peacock Summer; Hannah Richell

The Peacock SummerThe Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great beach read material, with two time lines to contend with and one of those family secret plots. The older time line is somewhat predictable, taking place over one English summer in an old family home, while the other is a little less predictable (although it does stay true to the conventions of the genre). The hints of who the omniscient narrator interjecting comments is elevates the story and is never completely answered, although the list of possibilities is limited. At times this reads like a dark version of an AGA-saga - and I truly enjoyed that part.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter; Alexis Hall

The Affair of the Mysterious LetterThe Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes this is too deliberately trying to show the difference between it and Conan Doyle for its own good, with the "Watson" being far less aware than the original, and the "Holmes" being meaner and less cerebral. And the tone is often far archer than the original, also not helpful. However, the world created is worth exploring - the different countries (especially the underwater one!) and gods made me continue reading even if the mystery wasn't to my taste.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Miraculous; Jess Redman

The MiraculousThe Miraculous by Jess Redman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The idea that miracles and loss can be intertwined is nicely spelled out here, with Wunder serving as our reminder that life is a combination of both. His family's reaction to the loss of his sister feels real, and it's clear that his mother has a combination of postpartum depression and intense grief (though in this day and age, that no one notices or intervenes isn't realistic). I did get annoyed with Faye and her insistence on calling him Wundie and taking over his life, but Wundie himself gave up after a few tries. All in all, a great middle grade read.

eARC provided by publisher.