10 May 2021

People Like Her; Ellery Lloyd

People Like HerPeople Like Her by Ellery Lloyd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another entry in the "social media influencers are stalked" genre, and one that suffers from a few annoying issues. While Dan and Emmy are clearly identified, there is a third narrator who isn't (which isn't the problem - the problem is that there's no clear demarcation between this third person and the preceding POV, so there's a little confusion as to who is speaking). As for Emmy, wow does she seem unlikable. I get that we're hearing her interior monologue but even her marriage to Dan seems to have been part of some manipulative plan; Dan seems more like a bumbler who is fine with going along with things but (luckily) by the end grows a spine. And that mysterious third voice? Standard obsessed stalker voice, chortling about the risks they took and how overlooked they were by their archenemy.

Points for an interesting "I'll make them pay" plot, though. And points for Polly, although I wish there had been a little more of her.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.

The Inheritance of Orqueida Divina; Zoraida Cordova

The Inheritance of Orquídea DivinaThe Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rounded up from 4.5 because of a few pacing issues (and typos that I'm sure will be caught before this goes to press). If you like magical realism, you'll love this; if you've never read any, this is a good book to start with as it bridges the border between fantasy and magical realism.

Orquieda Divina's story, from unloved daughter to family matriarch and beyond, takes place mostly in flashbacks as her family arrives in Four Rivers (located somewhere in the Southwest) to receive their inheritance and later as three of them attempt to cope with the aftermath of her death. Only at the end is the mystery at the heart of her life revealed, and readers will be sad their journey is ending. Getting to know Rey and Marimar, and through them Tatinelly and Rhiannon, and the multitudes of tias, tios and cousins they have felt like meeting real people. Even the family and other who made cameo are described as though readers are friends about to meet these people.

As for the magical realism/fantasy part, it is woven throughout the book, at first lightly and then taking centre stage as the story develops. Readers have an opportunity to get to know the characters and situation before things get, well, weird. And there is a lot of weird! Living stars, a multi-lived rooster, and a house with orchard that simply appears one day in an arid valley are just the beginning.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.

17 April 2021

Mirrorland; Carole Johnstone

MirrorlandMirrorland by Carole Johnstone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This started off on such a high note: mirror twins, separated by years and miles, are now separated by death. So Cat returns home, to the house she and El grew up in and had a very, very abnormal childhood in. The memories come back, aided in part by Ross, El's husband and the girls' next door neighbor all those years ago. Cat and El had such an intensely imaginative childhood and Ross managed to fit into that... but then there are Revelations and New Information. Some twists make sense, some feel more like a twist for twists sake. Overall, more meh after a very strong start.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.

The Last Thing to Burn; Will Dean

The Last Thing to BurnThe Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Have you read Room? Many are comparing the two and the big difference, and what made Room so effective, was the voice of the child. Here, this child is in utero so essentially not a character. Instead it's a trafficked Vietnamese woman, tortured and maimed by her captor, and sadly it was not a new plot, not a new take on the issue. No DNF but close.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.

16 April 2021

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur; Alka Joshi

The Secret Keeper of JaipurThe Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Somehow I missed The Henna Artist (I know! shame on me!) but I am so glad that I read the follow-up. If you're like me, don't worry: this could be a stand alone quite easily. Instead of immediately picking up where the first book left off, this takes us 12 years into the future, with Lakshmi and Malik now settled in Shimla and interacting with different people. The plot plays with time, opening with the collapse of the Royal Jewel Cinema, a new, state-of-the-art movie palace constructed by the palace for the people of Jaipur, leading to the question why did such an amazing building fail? Malik, working in Jaipur to learn the construction industry, begins to try to unravel the mystery, a process that will lead him to interact with people he knew years before, and linking back to Shimla and people there. Even Lakshmi gets in on the action, but this is not a murder mystery! This is more a character study with some incredibly well-drawn people, like Nimma, a tribeswoman who chose to stay in Shimla when her husband Dev dies and ends up part of Malik's and Lakshmi's lives.

I've enjoyed Thrity Umrigar's stories for years, and now Alka Joshi has been added to the "watch out for anything new" list.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.

15 April 2021

The Chosen and the Beautiful; Nghi Vo

The Chosen and the BeautifulThe Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A classic like The Great Gatsby can be difficult to measure up to, and Vo's attempt does some interesting things in pursuit of that goal. Making a very minor character in the original the focus is a great idea, since then all of the events can play out at a remove without trying to replicate Fitzgerald's work. Making Jordan Vietnamese and adding in some fantasy (the demonic drink, etc.) also helps make this an original look at an old text. The problem is, as with the original, none of the characters are particularly likeable! Even Jordan, who has the ability to turn paper cut animals into living things (cool, right?) doesn't give us someone to root for in the book. Readers not knowing the original may have less of a problem enjoying this version; I wished for more light froth than there was and for someone to make me care.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.

Anne of Manhattan; Brina Starler

Anne of ManhattanAnne of Manhattan by Brina Starler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Giving this two stars because I did finish it but... I understand that the author responded to a twitter request for an Anne update, and this is what she did. It's actually three books in one (Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island) moved from PEI to the Hamptons/Manhattan, and Green Gables is now a winery. Clearly there was a checklist of Things To Mention, like the infamous carrots incident or Diana meeting Fred or Rachel Lynde moving in with Marilla. Yet other things, like the equally infamous Ophelia boatride or Matthew and the brown dress, are left out. To be honest, I'm not against updating books, but I do expect something with a little more thought. This feels dashed off, rather than really trying to update the source material.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.

07 April 2021

Not Dead Yet; Peter Robinson

Not Dark Yet (Inspector Banks, #27)Not Dark Yet by Peter Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clearly Robinson is bringing this series to a close: Banks is nearing the end of his career (and I don't see any Rebus-like shenanigans in the future), his daughter has gotten married and his son's band is on a farewell tour. Once again we have two mysteries, one concerning an old rape and the current murder of a property developer and the other focusing on Zelda's past. Are they related? How does the past inform the present and can people find a resolution? These questions and more will get answered; the remaining questions are all about the future, including Banks' own. Music, one of the great loves of Banks' life, usually is sprinkled in well but for some reason it felt a little forced. Or maybe that was just me?

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.

06 April 2021

The Duke and I; Julia Quinn

The Duke and I (Bridgertons, #1)The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a book club read, and while I can see the appeal of the series I'm not sure I'll be continuing. The characters sound too modern for the time period depicted, which bothered me less watching it on tv than it does while reading. If you look at the entire series, the titles begin to be funnier than merely seeing one and apparently the books focus on different members of the Bridgerton clan. Whether the tv series will follow that I don't know.

If you want frothy historical romance, this is a great read.

05 April 2021

The Kingdoms; Natasha Pulley

< style="float: left; padding-right: 20px">The KingdomsThe Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I tried, but this got so convoluted so quickly that 25% in I couldn't see a throughline towards figuring out what was going on. The idea of worlds bordering on eachother made sense, as did the thin areas that served as portals between then; it was the reasons for how the split happened and what the political situation had to do with anything that confused me.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.