30 July 2019

Harley Quinn; Mariko Tamaki

Harley Quinn: Breaking GlassHarley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For fans of Batman, Gotham and the DC universe.

ARC provided by publisher.

Snowflake, AZ; Marcus Sedgwick

Snowflake, AZSnowflake, AZ by Marcus Sedgwick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Snowflake refers to both a town and a character (real name, Ash). Ash has traveled to Snowflake to find his brother, whom he thought was in SF becoming a police officer. Turns out, Bly and everyone else in "the forties" is suffering from Multiple Chemical Sensitives or Environmental Illness or both. Houses are lined in aluminum foil, products are off-gassed, and some of the residents live outside to avoid illness. Is it psychosomatic? Is it real illness/sensitivity? There's a lot of jargon and science thrown around and for some reason none of the characters feels real or sympathetic.

ARC provided by publisher.

29 July 2019

Cold Storage; David Koepp

Cold StorageCold Storage by David Koepp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The science is frightening: a fungus that intelligently mutates fell back to earth when Skylab crashed - so deadly that it's buried deep inside a salt mine so that no one ever finds it. Except climate change has changed conditions in that salt mine and that fungus is on a rampage. And with its usual efficiency, the government hasn't kept the information about what to do In Case updated, so our only hope is the retired team who helped bury the fungus in the first place. While there are parts that seem over the top, as with Outbreak it feels like this could possibly happen.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Fire Keeper; J.C. Cervantes

The Fire Keeper (The Storm Runner #2)The Fire Keeper by J.C. Cervantes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second in a series, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that this is the perfect read for those students who loved Percy Jackson, they'll love Zane Obispo and the Mayan pantheon. With Rick Riordan's eye on things there's quality control that will count for a lot with middle grade readers. Plus there's the whole focus on Mayan gods, an area that students know a little about but this really helps bring them to life.

ARC provided by publisher.

28 July 2019

The Chestnut Main; Soren Sveistrup

The Chestnut ManThe Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

ScandiNoir isn't just Sweden or Norway, it's Denmark too. Hess and Thulin would be great partners in a future series, but if this is a one-off it's a very good one. There's a dead girl, the daughter of a Minister in the Danish government. And now, several murdered mothers with amputations start appearing - are the two related? And why was Hess sent back to Denmark from Europol? All Thulin wants is to get into another department, all Hess wants is back to his partner in Europol and yet... The ending is a little rushed, but otherwise it's a great read for anyone enjoying this genre.

ARC provided by publisher.

If Only I Could Tell You; Hannah Beckerman

If Only I Could Tell YouIf Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Great beach read about how families can be destroyed by a small misunderstanding between members. Two sisters, Jess and Lily, haven't spoken in 30 years and their daughters have never met. Their mother is torn between the two and desperate to find a way to bring them back together. There are no surprises here, just a good read.

ARC provided by publisher.

26 July 2019

Life Undercover; Amaryllis Fox

Life UndercoverLife Undercover by Amaryllis Fox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ms Fox does a great job showing what life can be like for those working for the CIA, particularly those who work in the undercover area - the pressures on your personal life and how the need to pretend to be a "normal" person can lead to some dissociative experiences. The CIA's hot dog machine was one of the many tidbits that brought humor and life to what could have been a relatively dry book. For teens thinking about a career like this, it might be a cautionary read. For others, an great peek behind the curtain.

ARC provided by publisher.

Imaginary Friend; Stephen Chbosky

Imaginary FriendImaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Years ago a friend said that most speeches could be half as long, twice as nice. I'd argue that this book could be a third as long, three times as creepy. Why? So. Much. Repetition. The cloud, the baby teeth, the girl with the painted nails, etc. etc. etc.. Several sections went on far too long, dragging action out that, if there had been some editing, would have been scarier. And then there's the typography, where in some places it means quite a lot and in others is just distracting as readers will try to figure out if it actually does have a meaning. This is nothing like Perks of Being a Wallflower, so reader beware!

ARC provided by publisher.

25 July 2019

Girl Under a Red Moon; Da Chen

Girl Under a Red Moon: Growing Up During China's Cultural Revolution (Scholastic Focus)Girl Under a Red Moon: Growing Up During China's Cultural Revolution by Da Chen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another view of the Cultural Revolution in China, this time from a more rural perspective. Chen's work is consistently wonderful and does not disappoint.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Shadow King; Maaza Mengiste

The Shadow KingThe Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I went to high school with a member of the Selassie family and my uncle worked in Addis Ababa for a few years, so Ethiopian history has always been of interest to me. Beneath the Lion's Gaze was a look at the end of the reign of Haile Selassie and the start of the Derg's rule. This book has a younger Selassie dealing with the second war with Italy and follows an imagined general, the general's wife and several slaves as well as an Italian general and photographer. The life of the women is highlighted, along with the cruelty and class issues in Ethiopian society; there is also that is disturbing about the Italian invasion and treatment of prisoners. As with her earlier book, this is difficult to read but the illumination of an era and events that many Americans are not aware of makes this a should read. For me, this was a better book than the first - no sophomore slump! - and a must read.

ARC provided by publisher.

24 July 2019

Red at the Bone; Jacqueline Woodson

Red at the BoneRed at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I heard Ms Woodson speak at ALA this past summer and loved the way she talked about increasing awareness of the experience of both the 16th birthday celebration and the 1921 Tulsa race riot (which I'd learned about reading Dreamland Burning) through the blending of various stories. The story of Melody, her parents and their ancestors is told through first person points-of-view, sometimes in the present and sometimes looking back at their past. Issues of race, sexual identity and history are raised by all of them as is the way the past affects the present and the author is, as always, brilliant in those depictions. I was disappointed that the Tulsa massacre was not highlighted more, but perhaps in her next book?

eARC provided by publisher.

23 July 2019

Remarkables; Margaret Peterson Haddix

RemarkablesRemarkables by Margaret Peterson Haddix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Who are the Remarkables, these teenagers who seem to disappear when you get too close to their yard? Marin, new to the neighborhood and friendless, is happy to have a mystery to solve. This doesn't appear to be the start of a series, so all the questions are answered by the end of the book - and Marin has found not only her place in her new town but resolved old issues with her two BFFs from "back home". It's a great book for those starting a new level in school or those who have moved over the summer.

eARC provided by publisher.

Ninth House; Leigh Bardugo

Ninth HouseNinth House by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yale's secret societies have so many myths around them that what this author proposes makes sense: they're working various forms of magic. Alex comes to Yale as a delegate to the House that oversees that magic only because she sees dead people (sorry, had to say that) and not because she's qualified to go - somehow enough strings get pulled for that to happen. Of course there's a lot that she's not prepared for as a member of Lethe, and things start to go wrong in unforeseen ways. What's nice is that we are put in Alex's shoes, discovering the magics and rites as she does. I did wish she'd been more interested in going deeper so that we could learn more, and that we'd seen more of her life as a Yale student. Of course I'm looking out for Book Two!

ARC provided by publisher.

22 July 2019

The World That We Knew; Alice Hoffman

The World That We KnewThe World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit I'm not a fan of Holocaust literature, but I love this author and that there's a golem mixed in? Ok, I'll try. I'm rounding up from 3 stars because of Ava (the golem in question). Other than that, this is about the Jewish children who formed part of the French resistance and the righteous Catholics and others who helped them.

ARC provided by publisher.

A Treason of Thorns; Laura E. Weymouth

A Treason of ThornsA Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are Great Houses, somehow bound to various areas as a kind of caretaker for the surrounding lands. In England, those Houses are bound to Caretakers while the King holds the deed to the House. No, it's not quite clear how all that happened or why. We learn that Houses can reject Caretakers and they can lose their ability to hold their magic in check, and that there's some Key that can help Caretakers channel the magic. There's a lot that gets confused here in terms of the magic, and there's some mystery about Wyn that is never explained. At times the plot lags and tightening that up could have allowed for more explanation or better world building.

eARC provided by publisher.

21 July 2019

The Stranger Inside; Lisa Unger

The Stranger InsideThe Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three young friends, two abducted, one died. Years later there's a series of disconnected murders of people who have "escaped" punishment and no real suspects. The two survivors have created lives that are reasonably normal: Rain is now a stay-at-home mom, former journalist and researcher, while Hank is a psychologist who works with people who have experienced trauma. And yet readers of this genre will know that their "normal" lives are anything but, and the real question is in what way. There is one twist I didn't see coming, others that weren't a surprise. This would make a great beach read/rainy day scare.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Tenth Girl; Sara Faring

The Tenth GirlThe Tenth Girl by Sara Faring
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The main story, about Mavi, a new English teacher at an incredibly exclusive boarding school in Patagonia, takes places in 1978. Mavi's mother was one of the los desaparecidos and Mavi is looking for a place to hide, so this job at the end of the world seems perfect. The remoteness almost makes up for the incredibly restrictive rules and the sneering attitudes of the Head, her son and the students. There are supposed to be ten students, but this year there are nine - what happened to the tenth? Slowly, Mavi realizes that things are Not Quite Right with the Vaccaro School. The secondary story is that of Angel, set sometime in the present (lots of current references). But what is Angel? Why does he have "crystal" hands? And who is Charon?

The answers are all there at the end, but there are two huge twists before then. There are a few clues to the biggest twist, though not enough to really give it away. It's the ending that lost points for me because it felt very rushed and doesn't completely hold together.

eARC provided by publisher.

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.