19 March 2017

Bang; Barry Lyga

BangBang by Barry Lyga
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lyga has a real ear for how teens speak, and a great sense of how to portray their lives. Bang, his latest, may feel "ripped from the headlines" and perhaps sensationalistic, but with only one blip, it really worked for me. I won't spoil it for others, so I can't comment on that blip now... but the five stars is really four-and-a-half rounded up.

Sebastian's pizza, though? No recipes? Perhaps it's for the best... or maybe there'll be a real YouTube channel for the videos. A pizza lover can hope.

ARC provided by publisher.

The Star Thief; Lindsey Becker

The Star ThiefThe Star Thief by Lindsey Becker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the problems of reading as much as I do is that it takes a lot to surprise me, to feel that a book is doing something new. And one might argue that The Star Thief is an astronomer's version of the Percy Jackson stories but... it feels new. It feels fresh. It read wonderfully.

The orphan-who-is-really-special here is Honorine, who learns that her life of drudgery is merely a ploy to keep her safe (from her father, no less). So far, so normal. But the who of her mother and father, the how of the adventure (and where they go) is what makes this special. I particularly loved that this wasn't all about the typical North/West constellations and I had to go to do research into some of the less-familiar (to me) ones.

I could see this becoming a series, but it could also be a stand-alone. I'm happy either way.

ARC provided by publisher.

17 March 2017

Genius: The Game; Leopoldo Gout

Genius: The GameGenius: The Game by Leopoldo Gout
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, clearly the first book in a series (or trilogy? duology?) because far too many loose ends were left. But beyond that, not a bad book.

Of the three main characters, I liked Cai/Painted Wolf the most (Tunde seemed really stereotypical, and Rex was oddly flat). Had the entire book been about her, it would have been even better but we need Rex and Teo to set up the second book, sadly. Kiran's ethics and motivations were also stereotypical and I often wondered if the author was trying to subtly(?) comment on global networks and the so-called flattening of information, along with our addiction to social networking. Or maybe I'm reading waaay too much into this? The stereotypes and fake African patois cost the book stars.

Blood Family; Anne Fine

Blood FamilyBlood Family by Anne Fine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Much of this was really well done, despite being one of those multi-POV books (please, can we just STOP THIS TREND???). Edward's life and reactions to the way in which he's treated are very real up and to the point he starts going off the rails. I'm not suggesting that part isn't real, as well, but it's the ending that bothered me: he seems to recover from that too quickly, too well. Or perhaps it's more that the author glosses over that part? Because I really don't buy that he's recovered, that it happened that seamlessly. And I don't buy that his descent into "problem" territory was that mild or short (again, it could have been the way in which it's depicted but still...).

ARC provided by publisher.

The Beast Is An Animal; Peternelle van Arsdale

The Beast Is an AnimalThe Beast Is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

DNF. I tried - but about 100 pages in it just wasn't working for me (plucky heroine, puritanical village, dark forest? nothing new in any of that). YMMV.

13 March 2017

A Good Idea; Cristina Moracho

A Good IdeaA Good Idea by Cristina Moracho
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nothing surprising here. Fin's grief and reaction to Betty's death, her search for the killer and interactions with people in the incredibly small Maine town she mostly grew up in are all predictable. The unpredictable? Her relationship with Serena, which didn't feel quite real (not that it couldn't happen, just that given her feelings for Owen it wasn't plausible except as shock value... or someone suggesting to the author that adding it would be a good idea). Teens might enjoy this more than I did, hence the three stars.

ARC provided by publisher.

Eyes of the World; Marc Aronson

Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern PhotojournalismEyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism by Marc Aronson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Robert and Cornell Capa (along with their mother) are buried in my Meeting's cemetery, and I've been involved in creating some signage explaining who they were and why they're there. So a book about him and his contribution to our understanding of war? Yes, please. The Spanish Civil War is one of those "I think I understand it... but it's incredibly confusing" events, and this book does a decent job of explaining the various factions and what happened. For that, two stars.

However the book itself? So problematic. Starting with, why present tense? It's an odd choice for non-fiction about the past. The framing device of D-Day doesn't work well and could easily have been done without (although the part about Capa's post-Spanish Civil War career needed to be told). Some people, like Capa's mentor, are paid short shrift, while others are hinted at (there's a couple mentioned on page 180 that are never named, but there's a hint that these are Important People). And Appendix C, the one with the comparison to the Syrian Civil War? My head hurt. There were other things that were problems that might be changed by publication, like failing to credit the photos on each page (were they Capas? Taros? someone else?). I could go on, but then I'd need another drink.

ARC provided by publisher.

11 March 2017

Deadly Tasting; Jean-Pierre Alaux

Deadly TastingDeadly Tasting by Jean-Pierre Alaux
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It feels harsh DNFing a 100 page book, so I finished this. The writing style (either in the original French or in translation - I don't know which to blame) is overly ornate, with many, many subordinate clauses and far more commas than necessary. I like amateur detectives, especially those with interesting careers, like Lovejoy. The amateur detective here is a wine rater but the bits about that part of his life are, sadly, boring. And let's not get into the fact that he, his sidekick and the police detective are just annoying.

Denton Little's Still Not Dead; Lance Rubin

Denton Little's Still Not Dead (Denton Little #2)Denton Little's Still Not Dead by Lance Rubin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to admit it, I totally squeeed when I saw the ARC at ALAMW. Sadly, this suffers in comparison to the first book: Denton's wry take on life and - more importantly - death aren't as much in evidence this time around. Instead, we get a suspense/chase book featuring Denton and Paolo, Paolo's girlfriend(?), Denton's possible girlfriend/Paolo's older sister and Denton's older brother. Add two wacky mothers, a government conspiracy or two and some implausible escapes and stir. The goodness is that sprinkled in both books are some interesting thoughts about life, death, birth and what we can/should do (or know) about each.

ARC provided by publisher.

After the Fall; Kate Hart

After the FallAfter the Fall by Kate Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Incredibly predictable - no character and no plot point surprised me. Not sure that will matter to the teens reading this, though.

Raychel ("Raych" to her friends) leads a very working class life, except that she's BFF's and almost a member of Andrew's family. Her reputation is that of a semi-slut who only does college men, while Andrew pines from not-so-afar. And then there's Matthew, Andrew's somewhat annoying not-that-much-younger brother. Fans of love triangles can see where this is going, at least in Part One. Part Two deals with the aftermath (no spoilers) and how lives can change in an instant, while at the same time remaining remarkably the same.

ARC provided by publisher.