Sunday, December 27, 2015

all lead-up

Eleanor by Jason Gurley
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: Fantasy
Review:  I don't know how to rate or review this book.  I feel like I started at least three separate books between the same covers.  One book was a fairly normal story of a family broken by tragedy.  Another took place somewhere outside of reality.  And the third took place in a very contained world populated by a single person.  Although all of these stories came together well, I couldn't decide whether I was supposed to be reading "normal" fiction with a touch of fantasy, or the other way around.

The writing itself is lovely, at least in 2/3 of the stories I was reading.  Gurley's descriptions are vivid, and the pace of the novel is very well done.  I think my ultimate problem with this book was that I didn't get the story I wanted.  The bulk of the book is taken up with the idea that Eleanor's ultimate mission is to unravel the tragedy that happened to her family, which she ultimately does.  But I found myself not overwhelmingly compelled by the lead-up to the reversal (i.e. the entire book), because I wanted to know what happened next.  Maybe Gurley will write that story, along with 2 or 3 others, in his next book.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Friday, October 23, 2015

inspirational but interesting

Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports Legends by David Stabler
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: non-fiction, middle grade
Review: Although a little too inspirational for my tastes, these vignettes about the childhoods of famous athletes are also interesting stories about the families and educations of the athletes.  Young sports fans will enjoy learning more about their heroes, and the short format of each story will also appeal to reluctant readers.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

uneven treatment

The Symbolism and Sources of Outlander: The Scottish Fairies, Folklore, Ballads, Magic and Meanings That Inspired the Series by Valerie Estelle Frankel
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: non-fiction
Review: Fans of the Outlander series who, like me, will read anything to get just a taste of the books (in between our periodic re-readings of the entire series), will pick up this book just for that taste, and maybe also in hopes of gaining some deeper understanding of the world that Diana Gabaldon has created.  In some areas, readers will be rewarded, such as in Frankel's exploration of Caribbean voodoo practices.  In other areas, readers will be disappointed by Frankel's lack of exploration.  It's ironic that I should say this because I was always the one in English class complaining about having to find symbolism everywhere, but I think that if you are going to mine a book for its symbolism, you should do some delving into what those symbols mean.  For example, Frankel lists many of the Biblical references in the series, but without any hint of what meaning understanding those references might bring.  The treatment of the "symbolism and sources" is quite uneven, and more than a little dry, but it all adds up to an exploration of the series that fans will appreciate.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

'ware the derivative novel

After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy
Review: I'm very grateful to Gregory Maguire that he chose not to set the entirety of the book with Ada after she falls down the rabbit hole after Alice.  The parts that were set down there were tiresome enough.  Lewis Carroll did Wonderland and Gregory Maguire has nothing new to add there, aside from more convoluted language that can be painful to read.  I love Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and I smiled to see some favorite characters again, but even those smiles were few and far between, and bookended by frustration at having to wade through tortured language (yes, I get that he was going for a style similar to Carroll's, but it didn't work for me).  Unfortunately, although the "real world" scenes provide relief from Maguire's interpretation of Wonderland, there's very little else to recommend them.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Monday, July 6, 2015

nothing new here

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason
Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)
Genre: romance, historical fiction
Review: I've read enough romance novels to know that there is usually a formula, and the formula is so plain that many people think that anyone could write one.  Apparently, Susan Anne Mason falls into that category.  Unfortunately, she's wrong.  She adheres to the formula admirably well (young people hopelessly in love but horribly unsuited to each other because of class differences? check.  forbidding father? check.  conflict to keep the lovers apart in the middle of the book? check.  conveniently timed illness to shift the plot onto different rails? check.), but the writing is so trite and predictable, it's almost painful to read.  Fortunately, it also has the required happy ending, which doesn't even seem particularly contrived, so there were warm-fuzzies all around.  It wasn't enough to make up for writing that preceded it, but, you know, all's well that ends well.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Who Am I?

Changers, Book 2: Oryon by T Cooper & Allison Glock-Cooper
Genre: YA
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Review: Let's get this out of the way up front - Hannibal could drive his army through the plot holes in this series.  And yet, I'm oddly willing to overlook them (so far) in the interests of following through with the main character.  The premise is that Changers are an ancient race of humans who live 4 different lives in each year of high school.  In the first Changers book, we meet Drew, a white girl, who had previously been a white boy who was completely unaware of his Changer heritage.  For sophomore year, Drew becomes Oryon, a black boy who must contend with knowing everyone around him while no-one knows who he really is.  Drew encounters some fairly predictable attitudes from the "queen bees" at school, as well as some harassment from the boys, and Oryon is exposed to racism he never even thought about it before.

But the main focus of the series seems to be more about the relationships s/he forms and the choices s/he makes.  Does s/he toe the Changer line and keep the secret, or tell the truth in the interest of preserving her/his friendships and relationships from one identity to the next?  These aspects of the story are what will keep me reading until the conclusion of the series.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

still waiting

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fantasy, YA
Review: In my review of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, I wrote that Ransom Riggs is clearly a talented writer, but that his talents didn't seem to be up to the task to explaining the system of time loops that are at the center the book.  I said that I hoped that the second book in the trilogy would offer some fuller explanations.  Unfortunately, I'm just as much in the dark as I was before, perhaps even more so.  No better explanations of the time loops were forthcoming, and some additional twists were thrown in to make them even more confusing.  Still, the characters and story were just as good, and I'm excited to see how Riggs wraps things up in the third book (and still hoping for an explanation of the time loops that I can wrap my head around).

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.