30 August 2019

The Girl Who Reads on the Metro; Christine Feret-Fleury

The Girl Who Reads on the MétroThe Girl Who Reads on the Métro by Christine Féret-Fleury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's nothing really new in this story about a socially reclusive young woman who becomes friendly with an even more reclusive bookseller, but oh, is it charming. The "bibliotherapy via passeur" idea is simply perfect and warms my heart. Where are those people in my life? And how can I be like that in theirs? The title and author dropping made me want to re-read so many books. Most of the characters are lightly drawn, with only Juliette having any depth or color. That rarely works but here it does. Such a wonderful back-to-school read.

eARC provided by publisher.

29 August 2019

Where Bodies Fall; Shelia Kindellan-Sheehan

Where Bodies FallWhere Bodies Fall by Shelia Kindellan-Sheehan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Despite many visits to Montreal, the Westmont area isn't one I know at all well, so this setting was greatly appreciated. More of that would have been great for me, but possibly not other readers. As for the mystery, there was one decent twist but otherwise it was pretty standard.

Two odd things though. First, this is the only book by the author here and yet I see that there are several others that she's written about most of the characters here (not just the police, but also the Donovans and Camille/Carmela). Next time I'm there, I'll see if I can find them. Second, the procedures didn't seem set in the same system as those in the Inspector Gamache books, making me wonder if there's a difference between city and province Surete? Or perhaps there's something else I'm missing that does tie the two together?

Copy provided by publisher.

The Gravity of Us; Phil Stamper

The Gravity of UsThe Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you're a teen and want to be a journalist, creating a blog/Tumbler/podcast/Instagram account to promote your talents is not a bad idea. Cal sees himself attending journalism school, so is working now doing more in-depth things like covering the elections (national and local) or what is going on around him. That part was the best of the book, with the rest a fairly standard romance fitted in around a NASA-based Mars mission. If this inspires either an interest in NASA or in journalism and how it can be used for good, it'd be great.

ARC provided by publisher.

28 August 2019

Cursed; Thomas Wheeler

CursedCursed by Thomas Wheeler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is less a YA updated version of Mists of Avalon than something completely new that uses the names of the Arthur saga to tie it in to the story. I think that what threw me a little, the waiting for the Arthur stuff to match what I knew of his story. The mix of POVs and what seems to be a mix of eras and fashions and beliefs get a little confusing (eg Druids during the Middle Ages). Having said that, had the author used different names and belief systems this could have been a great book. We have a strong heroine who decides lead her people (kind of like Joan of Arc) against those who think they're heretics/pagans/a threat, fight scenes, romance - what more could you ask for?

eARC provided by publisher.

The Third Rainbow Girl; Emma Copley Eisenberg

The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in AppalachiaThe Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In addition to following the murder, the author goes off on long tangents about her life working in Appalachia that distract from the book's arc. More about the girls, more about how the murders affected the town and the investigators, and something about how it affected the Rainbow people (and future gatherings) are sorely needed.

ARC provided by publisher.

27 August 2019

The List of Things That Will Not Change; Rebecca Stead

The List of Things That Will Not ChangeThe List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My parents were happily married for nearly 60 years, so what it would have been like for them to divorce and to live between two houses is unimaginable for me. Bea is in that situation, trying to figure out this new life but armed with a notebook that includes a list of things that will not change despite having two rooms, two apartments and the possibility of her parents finding new partners. There have been many books that cover similar territory, including this summer's The Year We Fell From Space, but what sets this apart is Mission and how his character stays true to himself.

ARC provided by publisher.

Ivory Apples; Lisa Goldstein

Ivory ApplesIvory Apples by Lisa Goldstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Books about books are one of my favorite things, particularly when I really would love to read the book we're talking about. And Ivory Apples, one written by Adela Martin, sounds like one of those books. At first I thought that Adela/Maeve would be one of those who had spent their lives trying to get back to the world of Ivory Apples, but that's not what this is - it's about others trying to get into that world and her family trying to protect her. Which works, somewhat. There's more going on here but no spoilers. I just wish we heard more about the original story and less about Kate Burden.

eARC provided by publisher.

26 August 2019

The Library of the Unwritten; A.J. Hackwith

The Library of the Unwritten (A Novel from Hell's Library, #1)The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So much promise here, and with a little tweaking it could have been an easy four star. The problem was the action sequences felt a little unplanned, or rushed, or something. I also could have used more of how the library worked: how were books acquired (particularly in the Unwritten Wing)? what were the librarian's daily duties? how did they get appointed?) and what other branches we might explore in this series. Here's hoping the next book covers some of that. Points for creativity (the gargoyle!), the Hero and Claire's relationship, and Ramiel.

eARC provided by publisher.

Look Both Ways; Jason Reynolds

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten BlocksLook Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is going to be interesting getting student reactions to this book. On the one hand, they love Jason Reynolds. On the other, they don't love short stories (I have no idea why). This book combines the two, loosely threading the life of several students in middle school. It's one day in their lives, in just a few hours, during their walks home. Block is a story, separate from the others and yet tied together by the fact that these students all attend the same school and share teachers and some of the same route. Will my readers see this as a whole, or as ten stories? I can't wait to find out.

eARC provided by publisher.

25 August 2019

Before the Devil Fell; Neil Olson

Before the Devil FellBefore the Devil Fell by Neil Olson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second book this summer set in/near Ipswich (the first was The Chain - is there something going on? Anyway, this one does a decent job of placing the action in a small town near enough to a bigger town and even bigger city, with all the claustrophobic "everyone knows everything about everybody" small towns engender. The everyone in this case are members of the Seven Families, a group that seem to have migrated from Wales to England to Maine (back when Maine was still part of Massachusetts) and then to Massachusetts. Some - a few - have escaped to other parts of the country, but there are enough still in town to know each other's business.

That business seems to have something to do with a spirit circle and Something That Went Very Wrong when Will was five years old. Decades later it's still a problem that must be dealt with, and Will knows just enough to get in trouble yet not enough to really figure things out. As always, there are problems that could have been solved if people just actually explained things and/or asked questions. To be honest, that's one of the weaker parts of this book, the explaining the Seven Families and what they do or how they interact (or not). Added to that are some flat characters that are difficult to connect with, and you get three stars.

eARC provided by publisher.

One Night Gone; Tara Laskowski

One Night GoneOne Night Gone by Tara Laskowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Small towns that swell in the summer have their own peculiar social strata and ethos. The locals tend to stratify between those who work in the shops over the summer and do the general work of the town and those who own those shops and lord it over the town, while the Summer People are both needed and despised by the locals. Add to that a missing "local" (a runaway from home who becomes one of the locals) who was never found and a Summer Person (over the start of winter) who could help solve that mystery, and you've got a decent mystery. Even better? A twist I nearly missed and didn't only because I've read so many of these books, especially this summer.

eARC provided by publisher.

23 August 2019

Curse of the Evil Librarian; Michelle Knudsen

Curse of the Evil LibrarianCurse of the Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good follow-up to the previous books in the series, and possibly the end of our following Cynthia and Mr. Gabriel. Cynthia's voice is very Buffy here, which I loved and LB was a great addition to their quest. Usually I'm against the whole love triangle thing but in this case I'll make an exception for Cynthia/Ryan/Peter. If this is the end, that's fine. But I'd be happy to meet them again.

eARC provided by publisher.

22 August 2019

Raven Lane; Amber Cowie

Raven LaneRaven Lane by Amber Cowie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I could never live on Raven Lane - all that forced togetherness. And sadly it leads to tragedy, when our MC's husband accidentally backs up and hits one of those neighbors, killing him. Or was it an accident? Esme is pretty sure it is, but there are enough questions about her past life that might bias her judgement. The ending twist is the best part of this book, taking me by surprise even though I suspected that there was more to what happened than we knew.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets; Sarah Miller

The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne QuintupletsThe Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets by Sarah Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This seems to be the summer of the Dionnes, between Quintland and this book. During the SLJ Teen Live event the author mentioned that most YA readers won't have heard about them, which is true... unless they've heard Sondheim's "I'm Still Here" and looked them up. There's also been some coverage of them as the original "kidfluencers" but that may be escaping teen notice.

This is NF and pretty well done. Because the Dionne family hasn't been all that forthcoming there's a lot of unknowns about their lives, especially life once the girls moved home and what their siblings thought/think. Their exploitation by everyone, from their doctor to their neighbors, is truly tragic. Equally tragic are the statements made later by several of the nurses in charge of their care as they realize the effects of their treatment on the family and the girls.

eARC provided by publisher.

21 August 2019

What Makes Us; Rafi Mittlefehldt

What Makes UsWhat Makes Us by Rafi Mittlefehldt
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I was interested in Eran's story up until we started to explore his mother's past, at which point it all felt very forced. DNF.

eARC provided by publisher.

A Madness of Sunshine; Nalini Singh

A Madness of SunshineA Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A relatively ordinary mystery/romance elevated by the setting (hence raising it from 3 to 4 stars). There's such a great sense of modern New Zealand life here, how a small town with a mix of whites, Maoris and others forms a community that watches out for each other. There's the typical wariness of outsiders and socioeconomic divides, etc. etc. Having said that, the whodunnit follows the genre's usual format and becomes more obvious as the book progresses, despite the author's attempt to add red herrings.

eARC provided by publisher.

20 August 2019

Good Girls Lie; J. T. Ellison

Good Girls LieGood Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The author's note says that many of the traditions and setting were taken from her college alma mater (Randolph-Macon Woman's College) the location of the Goode School appears to be Chatham Hall. Not that it matters, except that there are some things that make more sense for a college than an all-girls prep school. I'm not talking about the secret society parts, or the tunnels (I worked at one school with the former and attended a school with the latter) but the college acceptance part. There are schools with high acceptance into the Ivies. But The Goode School's rate? No. Plus the school appears to look down on the SLACs and the Southern Ivies, many of which are just as competitive and prestigious. And the idea that a non-athelete could get accepted into college pretty much on the Head of School's say-so? Maybe before World War II (I've seen the letters at MPOW and know that held true for other New England schools) but not now. Not for several decades.

It was also puzzling as to when this was set. Javascript is apparently a huge new thing, which suggests mid-90s but then there's a reference to Billie Ellish which suggests this year. You can't have both! There's a big plot twist that is strongly hinted at throughout the book that wasn't surprising, and all I'll say is that I've recently read other books with a similar twist that were done better.

eARC provided by publisher.

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The Poison Garden; Alex Marwood

The Poison GardenThe Poison Garden by Alex Marwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A lot of promise here but the title and one scene gives away a major plot point (not as We Have Always Lived in the Castle as I'd hoped, though). It was a little surprising that in this day and age the whole "being acclimated to the real world" thing was done so poorly by the child services people and by the people working with Romy. Sarah is given no information about their beliefs and practices, nothing about how to help them integrate into school. Granted, her story isn't the happiest either given her parents' religious bent. Still, had that part been better covered it would have bumped this up to a four or five star. As it is, the ending feels like a cop out.

eARC provided by publisher.

19 August 2019

The Wives; Tarryn Fisher

The WivesThe Wives by Tarryn Fisher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thursday is a plural wife who doesn't live near the other two (aka "Monday" and "Tuesday") but has her own condo and life in a nearby city. She's never met the others, only knows what she hears from her husband. And what she knows is that she can be the perfect wife, the one who gives him the perfect life that they can't provide - like home cooked meals and adoration. So far, so good. But Thursday seems to like alcohol a little too much... and obsesses a little too much about the others. Not a good combination, particularly when it comes to reliable narration. There are a few moments when the plot twists in such a way that you're not sure whom to believe, but because none of the characters really gel this only rates a three star.

eARC provided by publisher.

Ali Cross; James Patterson

Ali CrossAli Cross by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved most of this but there were some real holes in the story. Ali, son of Alex Cross, is going to appeal to MG readers and perhaps provide some crossover to other mystery/thriller writers. His caring about his missing friend and determination to find him is appealing, but there's where the holes are: surely the police would have been a little more involved? Either a missing person's report was filed by the parents or it wasn't. If it was, wouldn't they have interviewed Ali? and if not, wouldn't they have said something to him about the parents claiming he's ok? so confusing.

There's a substory about Alex being sued by the family of a man he possibly shoved and put in a coma (Alex says he slipped). I have no idea if this is part of a story from the Alex Cross books, but it won't matter to MG readers because it's explained well enough for them without requiring them to have read another book.

ARC provided by publisher.

18 August 2019

Highfire; Eoin Colfer

HighfireHighfire by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved Vern. He's worth one full star. And because of the way this ended, I suspect we haven't seen the end of him. YAY! It would be nice to see Waxman again, but that looks unlikely. I'm a little confused about how this is an "adult" book, though, because it really feels like there's nothing here that couldn't be read by teens, and it might be overlooked by adults. We'll see. As for plot, it's your typical dragon vs. mankind and corrupt constable vs. honest townspeople story set in the Louisiana bayou. And who doesn't love that?

eARC provided by publisher.

Book of Colours; Robyn Caewallader

Book Of ColoursBook Of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical fiction about an atalier of limners working on a Very Important Commission for a lower noble, as well as that noble's wife's life. We move between those two stories, learning the secrets held by most of the characters and how people struggled during the 1320s in England. The headings for each chapter were really interesting, forming the book that Gemma is creating to "train" her son (and others) in the art of illumination. Sadly, some of the build up to the Big Secrets was better than the actual secret and the way in which they were revealed was a let down.

There's not a lot of action here beyond a few brawls and the tension of when (or if) London would be invaded by the Marchers armies. However, for those looking for historical fiction about that era, it's a good read.

ARC provided by publisher.

17 August 2019

Karen's Witch; Ann M. Martin

Karen's Witch (Baby-sitters Little Sister Graphic Novel #1): A Graphix BookKaren's Witch (Baby-sitters Little Sister Graphic Novel #1): A Graphix Book by Ann M. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

MG graphic novel that will appeal to those who love the Babysitter's stories, or serve as a gateway into them. There is<'/i> a moral here, that you shouldn't prejudge people and make assumptions based on fear, but it's done in a way that won't give readers that Being Hit Over The Head headache.

ARC provided by publisher.

Creatures; Crissy Van Meter

Creatures: A NovelCreatures by Crissy Van Meter
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I tried. I really tried. But I just couldn't care about the characters or the setting. DNF.

ARC provided by publisher.

16 August 2019

Stealing Green Mangoes; Sunil Dutta

Stealing Green Mangoes: Two Brothers, Two Fates, One Indian ChildhoodStealing Green Mangoes: Two Brothers, Two Fates, One Indian Childhood by Sunil Dutta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm rounding up from 2.5 because there were flashes of really interesting stuff, but this was very all over the place with timeline and "plot". It takes a while to get to a point of caring about either brother or why their lives diverged which doesn't make sense for a biography.

ARC provided by publisher.

Olive, Again; Elizabeth Strout

Olive, AgainOlive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was lucky enough to hear the author speak about this book and her description of Olive as being a quintessential Maine WASP really rang true. It's a world that I know pretty well, and getting to enter it via Olive and her interactions with others was a pleasure. As with Olive Kitteridge is a series of vignettes that take us from a few years after we last see Olive through old age as she deals with many later in life issues. How do you make or maintain friendships? relationships? Can people change after decades of being 'themselves'? Her meeting with a former student, now a prize winning poet, could be the perfect summary of Olive's life writ small.

ARC provided by publisher.

15 August 2019

The Giver of Stars; Jojo Moyes

The Giver of StarsThe Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Decent historical fiction about the horseback librarians in the 1930s. I wished there'd been more about the books they were sharing, but that's probably just me as a librarian. Beyond that, this was true to the era and the prejudices and expectations that existed in rural Kentucky, familiar to anyone reading Christy. For some reason, I wasn't as interested in the characters as I have been with other Moyes characters although I did love reading about the world created.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Dark Lord Clementine; Sarah Jean Horwitz

The Dark Lord ClementineThe Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Clementine's life is almost completely silent, thanks to her father's aversion to noise. The castle is staffed by automatons who take care of the poison apple orchard and the nightmares (among other things). Her father is Dark Lord Elithor, feared by the villagers and the hedgewitches who live nearby. That doesn't help when Elithor is cursed and Clementine has to figure out how to save and protect her home and her father, though. We meet the Lady in the Lake, unicorns, witches and even some knights in training - the humor is wonderfully inserted into the story. Plus, those letters! For those looking for a more serious side, the questions of revenge and loyalty are raised in ways that don't hit readers over the head but linger after the story is done. It would be great to meet Clementine again.

eARC provided by publisher.

14 August 2019

The Furies; Katie Lowe

The FuriesThe Furies by Katie Lowe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Readers will spend much of the book trying to understand why this was set in 1998 (I know I did, because there's nothing that would not have fit in to 2018) but at the end it becomes clear why. It could be seen as a version of The Secret History story, or perhaps the more recent Bunny, but for the YA set, but that part doesn't work as well. Every time Annabelle started lecturing it made the story drag some, and those lectures didn't seem to move the story as much forward as they could or should have. Violet herself is a bit flat as a character, somewhat passive due to the grief she's feeling over her sister and father's death; even in the middle of a real action sequence she feels removed and not particularly alive. It is also worth noting that this is set in England at a sixth form college, which explains some of the differences between what US readers would understand and how the school is set up.

eARC provided by publisher.

Tristan Strong Punches A Hole in the Sky; Kwame Mbalia

Tristan Strong Punches A Hole In The Sky (Tristan Strong #1)Tristan Strong Punches A Hole In The Sky by Kwame Mbalia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The note by Rick Riordan made me think this was going to be more like his Percy Jackson series but with African-American folklore and myths. That part is there, but the Percy part isn't as much - Tristan doesn't interact with others his age, only with the myths (John Henry, Gum Baby, etc.). There's more of a quick dive rather than the slow immersion into those stories which may be a problem for readers who don't understand the terms (Maafa) or the significance of Uncle C in that world.

eARC provided by publisher.

13 August 2019

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts; Kate Racculia

Tuesday Mooney Talks to GhostsTuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A treasure hunt set in Somerville/Boston is so right up my alley. And then there's Tuesday, who could be me in another life. We never really learn why she is the way she is, but it doesn't matter. What matters is that she's smart and her sense of humor is so wonderfully quirky (example? she calls her neighbor "Next Dorry"). It would have been nice had the treasure hunt itself been a little more complex and gone on longer rather than the two or three clues we get. There's another mystery here, with hidden motives and characters who may or (obviously) may not be who they say they are.

eARC provided by publisher.

Anthem; Deborah Wiles

Anthem (The Sixties Trilogy #3)Anthem by Deborah Wiles
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't care about Molly or Norman and their read trip, and the insertion of the Allmans and other 1969 icons. The best part were the photos and quotes from the real actors during that time, and there is a great playlist at the start of each chapter (sadly, the songs mentioned don't seem to have much to do with the chapters themselves).

ARC provided by publisher.

12 August 2019

Metropolitan Stories; Christine Coulson

Metropolitan StoriesMetropolitan Stories by Christine Coulson
My rating: 3 of 5 star

I'm putting this in the speculative fiction category but it's more magical realism than SF or Fantasy. The stories about artworks that are sentient, or tunnels that lead to 1920s excavations, or the various people who work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art are only tied together by the setting. That's not a bad thing because the breadth of the Met's collections give the author a lot to work with. Three stars because some stories worked better than others.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Glass Woman; Caroline Lea

The Glass WomanThe Glass Woman by Caroline Lea
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another look at the Rebecca/Jane Eyre story, this time set in late 1600s Iceland. Instead of moors, we have remote villages living on the edge of survival at the whims of weather for how the crops and fishing fare. There's a lot of superstition and suspicion of those who are "different", including those who come from outside the village, and the claustrophobic life that Rosa lives post-marriage only adds to the mounting sense of doom.

ARC provided by publisher.

11 August 2019

In the Hall with the Knife; Diana Peterfreund

In the Hall with the Knife (Clue Mystery #1)In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not really sure what more to say than this is a "locked room" (locked island?) mystery with characters named Peacock, Greene, Plum, White, etc.. There's a library, a conservatory, hidden passages and all the other things you'd expect from something based on the board game. There's even a sort of cliffhanger that definitely leads to Book Two - will the same characters reappear, or will we meet new ones?

eARC provided by publisher.

The Starless Sea; Erin Morgenstern

The Starless SeaThe Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Best read in one session: it's that immersive. The imagery here is incredible, but occasionally the world building fails (so many corridors, so many levels). At times this is like a series of short stories, only they've been cut up and intertwined and sometimes you're not sure whose story you're reading about and when you are. Granted, this was an ARC and perhaps in the finished version readers will get more of a clue about that! I did keep thinking about the movie version and how in many ways "The Russian Ark" felt like an appropriate template. As for the characters, they're almost beside the point. Given that this is about stories, and stories about stories, the occasional flatness doesn't matter.

eARC provided by publisher.

10 August 2019

The Nanny; Gilly Macmillan

The NannyThe Nanny by Gilly Macmillan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of those Deep Dark Family Secret books where everything could have been solved had people just talked to each other. Instead, we have Lady Holt desperate to keep up appearances and hiding things from her daughter Jo, recently widowed and returned to the UK with her daughter Ruby. The defining break between Jo and her mother was the abrupt disappearance of favorite nanny, Hannah, and thirty years later the reasons why and what happened to Hannah take an unusual turn. There could have been more malice, and Jo's naive (or childish) assumptions made me shake my head at times. Something just a little off here that lessens the impact of what the author intended in terms of creepy/horror.

eARC provided by publisher.

The Grammarians; Cathleen Schine

The GrammariansThe Grammarians by Cathleen Schine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Twins are always an interesting subject, and this book plays to all the usual tropes - from the secret twin language to the suspicion of others that there's something not quite right about identical twins to the feeling that changing one somehow negates the other and even the having similar lives and switching identities. Laurel and Daphne's story could be slightly less cliche, although I really was hoping for more of a Dear Abby/Dear Ann-but-with-grammar showdown. The grammar and word parts were my favorites, it was just too bad that there was more soap opera than needed.

eARC provided by publisher.

09 August 2019

The Painted Castle; Kristy Cambron

The Painted Castle (Lost Castle #3)The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another "lost artwork" novel set in England, moving between the 1840s, the 1940s and today. Our Heroine is trying to rebuild her life post-cancelled-engagement/post-deserted-dissertation and gets an opportunity to look at a painting that needs authentication. We also get the backstory on the creation of the painting and why it was hidden away, with a cameo by Queen Victoria. Apparently this is part of a series, but it can definitely be read on its own. Great beach reading, or for Winter Holiday escapism.

ARC provided by publisher.

Devotion; Madeline Stevens

DevotionDevotion by Madeline Stevens
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A milder version of Single White Female-meets-The Nanny. None of the events or characters was particularly interesting nor did I end of caring about them. Also, why substitute Rev. Legrand's name with LeRoi?

eARC provided by publisher.

08 August 2019

A Better Man; Louise Penny

A Better Man (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #15)A Better Man by Louise Penny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd wondered how the story of Gamache, Beauvoir and Lacoste could continue after Kingdom of the Blind and I should not have wondered! The demotion from Chief Superintendent of the entire Surete to Chief Inspector in homicide (or perhaps it's co-Chief Inspector, as Jean-Guy also is Chief Inspector in homicide?) doesn't seem to bother Armand, who is more worried about the potential for catastrophic flooding in Quebec. His moral authority and ability to inspire is still there, leading to some power struggles and questioning of his methods. Life in Three Pines is disrupted by the rising of the Riviere Bella Bella... and the discovery of a dead woman's body near where the town (under Armand's direction) digs a breach of the banks to divert the excess water. We meet more misfits placed in or seconded to homicide, and by the end I think we have one who will join Gamache's team in future books. We'll find out in 2020, right?

ARC provided by publisher.

The In-Betweens; Mira Ptacin

The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp EtnaThe In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna by Mira Ptacin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Such promise, but poorly executed. I didn't mind the blend of the author's experience with the people in Camp Etna and this history of Spiritualism because it did bring to life what the people who attend or work at the Camp believe and practice. But more was needed to flesh out those beliefs and practices, perhaps tying it more fully to the history. For example, when she's having her house cleansed, adding the history of cleansing and more about the herbs and current practices would have been helpful.

And then there's the problems with the timeline. It could have just been an editing issue and will be corrected but there's a whole paragraph that just threw me and I couldn't get over it. We're talking about 1926 and placing the Spiritualist movement in context. But then there's a claim that Disney World opened then. Ummm.... Disney LAND opened in 1955, while Disney WORLD opened in 1971. Mickey Mouse, however, was "born" in 1928. Perhaps that's what was meant? Later the author makes the claim that color television came in that year (late 40s).

Here's my problem: if I can spot easily corrected mistakes, what mistakes am I missing elsewhere?

ARC provided by publisher.

07 August 2019

The Secrets We Kept; Lara Prescott

The Secrets We KeptThe Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I've never read Doctor Zhivago, I have watched the movie several times. Ms. Prescott looks at the lives of the women who graduated from the Seven Sisters school, perhaps worked in the OSS during World War II, and were now relegated to the typing pool at the CIA, intertwining that with the story of Boris Pasternak's mistress-muse, Olga Ivinskaya, without any of whom we probably wouldn't have read the book. From Olga's time in a gulag through the CIA's operation to hand out Russian language copies at the 1958 World's Fair using agents disguised as nuns and priests to Pasternak's death, this is great historical fiction. The author also adds in the sexual politics and layers of class and education that existed at the time, bringing all the people to life in a way that usually doesn't happen when blending real and created historical characters.

ARC provided by publisher.

Dear Edward; Ann Napolitano

Dear EdwardDear Edward by Ann Napolitano
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What happens if you miraculously survive a horrible event where everyone else died? What trauma do you endure, physically and mentally? And what do you owe the families of those who died? These are the questions that the author explores in this story about a pre-teen who is the only survivor of a plane crash that kills 191 others. Edward's life post-crash, his struggles to figure out who he is now and how to live a life worthy of the "honor" of surviving feel very real, and the presence of social media, with all the good and bad that it can bring to this type of situation provides a cautionary tale. That we flashback to the flight and learn more about Edward's fellow passengers is mildly helpful, but the long, drawn-out crash sequence could have been condensed.

ARC provided by publisher.

06 August 2019

Dreams of El Dorado; H.W. Brands

Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American WestDreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West by H.W. Brands
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This will make a great research tool for those looking to understand some of the history of events like the Gold Rush of 1849 or the Indian Wars. Sadly, there are connections missing between events and it feels as though the author isn't making a coherent argument or telling a full story. That's not to say the individual chapters/vignettes aren't well told, just that there seems to be more here that is needed for a real understanding of how the American West evolved.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Remaking; Clay McLeod Chapman

The RemakingThe Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was apparently inspired by a true story, that of "The Little Witch Girl of Pilot's Knob". We have three timelines that all involve Amber Pendleton as an actress, first as a child actor, then as an adult cast playing the mother of her original character and finally as a woman hiding from her past; each timeline also features a new technology, ranging from 70s film through modern podcasting. If only this had been done slightly differently, with a Blair Witch treatment in the 90s or more of the original story, and each section had been fleshed out! As it is, there's a lot implied here that is less creepy and more sloppy storytelling.

ARC provided by publisher.

05 August 2019

The House of Brides; Jane Cockram

The House of BridesThe House of Brides by Jane Cockram
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An English manor house on the coast filled with dark family secrets and a young woman in disgrace looking for a place to hide from the world - the perfect summer read, right? There's little doubt where the author got her inspiration from with characters named "Max Summer" and "Daphne" and "Mrs. Mins" (whom I was really hoping would be named "Jane" but no such luck). Daphne's diary/letter felt so forced and stilted: surely there was another way for that backstory to be revealed? Some of the scenes do drag on too long, and again it's as though there could have been at least one real conversation that could have avoided all the the issues that followed. Still, it's a good example of the genre and perhaps a gateway for readers into the original inspirations.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Year We Fell From Space; Amy Sarig King

The Year We Fell From SpaceThe Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another MG book from Amy Sarig King that blends a lonely/unhappy child with something somewhat magical. Instead of an environmental crisis (as in Me and Marvin Gardens) we have astronomy and the creation of new constellations by Liberty. She's obsessed with stars and finds a meteorite that she begins talking to (yes, it answers back) partly in response to the stress she's feeling at home. There's a lot here about divorce and depression as well, and I wish the information and resources about that had been in the front, not back, of the book. As always, King's deft touch will resonate with readers who may either be dealing with similar issues or know those who are.

ARC provided by publisher.

04 August 2019

The Butterfly Girl; Rene Denfeld

The Butterfly Girl (Naomi Cottle, #2)The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In some ways this was better than the first book, The Child Finder, as we spend more time in the world of the Celia and the other homeless children in Portland. Still, less on the Naomi/Jerome relationship would have been better - as friends, sure, but as husband/wife? That was the relationship that didn't feel quite real to me. How Naomi relates to the children, especially Celia, is interesting because it reflects her sense of her life and loss at that age; the hunt for Sarah could have been more detailed.

ARC provided by publisher.

Five Days Gone; Laura Cumming

Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother's Disappearance as a ChildFive Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother's Disappearance as a Child by Laura Cumming
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Laura Cumming's mother was raised in a rather stern household on the English coast. Kept isolated from much of the community, Betty finally escaped to college and then marriage. There was one incident on the bus home from school, when a complete stranger accosted her saying that her grandmother wanted to see her... but Betty knew of no grandmother. Years later, Laura and Betty begin to unravel the mystery of Betty's parents and life. It's a tale that could only happen in relatively rural, untechnological times, when communication and information could be controlled. Having said that, there were a number of digressions and timeline issues that lessened the effect of the mystery - for example, all the talk about art and artists. Otherwise this would have been a solid five star.

eARC provided by publisher.