Friday, October 28, 2016

Flatland

Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction
Review: I thought the premise of this book was really great, and I wasn't even too put off by the poor plot mechanism (a fog that seems to have a mind of its own in that it comes and goes as needed at exactly such intervals that will create maximum plot tension, really?) that Gideon uses to make it happen.  No, what bothered me about this book is that all the characters seemed completely affectless.  This seems strange to say since many of the characters demonstrate great emotion, from joy to extreme grief, but I never bought it.  Characters appeared grief-stricken over a death of someone who was "like a sister," except that up until that point, I'd thought the characters didn't even like each other that much.  About 25 pages from the end of the book, I was caught up in one character's emotions, but it only lasted for about 3 pages, and then I was back to Flatland again.  For all that, I liked the book, and read on to find out what would happen and how it would all be resolved (out of curiosity, rather than any concern for the characters), but this was not a book that kept me up at night.

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

Saturday, October 8, 2016

placeholder

Changers, Book 3: Kim by T Cooper & Allison Glock-Cooper
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Review: Have I mentioned the plot holes?  Yeah, ok.  Moving on.  After all the drama that happened in Book 2, this book was pretty tame.  Yes, Kim has to deal with some fat-shaming and body image issues, but those don't get much emphasis in the story.  Instead, this story seems to be mostly a gap-filler.  Kim learns some things about how the Changer world really works, does a little rebelling, and ultimately comes back home ready to move on to senior year and whatever identity s/he will inhabit then

The authors are clearly trying to build up to a big show-down between the Changer establishment and those who seek to change it (and a proxy show-down between Ethan/Drew/Oryon/Kim and his/her father).  Although there wasn't much substance in this book, I'll be looking for the next book to see how it all plays out, and ultimately which identity s/he chooses.

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

Saturday, October 1, 2016

overreact much?

Yesternight by Cat Winters
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction
Review: This was a good story, but told with the wrong characters.  This story desperately needed characters who didn't over-react to absolutely everything.  Examples abound in the book, altercations on train platforms and people jumping out windows, to name just two.  Perhaps Winters thought having her characters react in this way added atmosphere, but not only did it become eye-rollingly annoying in short order, but she was wrong: the story would have been much more compelling if told with characters who could just stay calm and REact, or possibly just ACT, rather than OVERreact.

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

Saturday, May 14, 2016

inevitable

Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction
Review: By observing the lessons of the children he serves, Jonah, a slave in North Carolina, has taught himself to read and write.  When this secret is discovered and he is accused of stealing the book he is reading, he is whipped, and runs away with a head full of maps and very little else.  Along the way, he meets Angel, who decides they are meant to be together after a single drunken night.  Somehow she is able to keep finding him as he journeys northward, despite his best efforts to lose her, and this is not the only part of the book that feels inevitable.  Throughout all the Jonah's travails (and there are several), I never doubted that he would reach the North and freedom.  This inevitability took the tension completely out of the story for me and made it hard for me to care much about what happened to Jonah either along the way or in the end.

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

better than the original

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Review: Knowing that Vinegar Girl was a "modern re-telling" of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, I made the mistake of reading the play so that I would be able to understand the allegory.  Never mind that Shakespeare should not be held to a modern-day standard when it comes to something like gender equality (feminism is much to strong a word to even wave in the direction of The Taming of the Shrew), but the play doesn't even make sense.  What is the point of Christopher Sly, and why do people keep using fake names?  Fortunately, Anne Tyler had the good sense to leave those parts out, not to mention making her characters human and sympathetic, in further contrast to the original.

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

Monday, February 1, 2016

niggling doubts

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction, middle grade
Review: Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I thought the language was lovely.  However, the faults in the premise kept niggling me, even in the best parts of the book.  The premise that bothered me was not the magical realism.  I actually thought that was beautiful.

What bothered me was the idea that there's an old (old) man living alone on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, who starts getting dementia, and someone notices.  The man has no car.  There's nothing to indicate that he has any contact with anyone off the ranch.  But somehow there's a doctor who is so concerned that he calls the man's son (who hasn't spoken to his father in 12 years, since his mother died), and says that the old man must be moved to a nursing home immediately.  And then the son decides that he has to uproot his entire family (including his two children, who have never met their grandfather) and they're all going to spend the summer on the ranch caring for the grandfather and fixing up the ranch house.  In the middle of nowhere.  In a drought.  Except it turns out that no-one is surprised when the buyers are just going to tear the building down anyway, because who wants a who-knows-how-old ranch house in the middle of nowhere, no matter how clean it is, anyway?

So yeah, that bothered me.  In the few moments that I was able to ignore that, I found the story of a tween girl getting to know her grandfather and listening to his stories of love and magic and really coming to care about him (and the ranch) quite nice.  Niggle niggle.

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