Welcome to the May 2014 edition of WRT’s What’s coming up.
Boston. Pirio is helping her godson’s father Ned on his lobster boat, when they are hit by a freighter. Pirio is recued after four hours in the frigid ocean, but Ned is not. When signs suggest foul play, Pirio investigates. Strong language, some violence, and some descriptions of sex. 2014.
The Boston Globe calls Elo’s novel, North of Boston, a “murder mystery, an environmental thriller, and a domestic drama.” Apparently it’s a modern day story that just sounds old in the annotation. Pirio is the daughter of Russian immigrants, her family owns a perfume business(?), she has an uncanny sense of smell, she’s mysteriously impervious to hypothermia, and she’s kind of a wild-woman. The reviewer goes on to talk about a series of twists and turns that will satisfy the reader.
The review on Kirkus Reviews tells us right off that this is the beginning of a new series starring Pirio Kasparov. Overall, the reviewer likes the book and says that it’s “well-laid” groundwork for the rest of the series, but didn’t offer much more than another description of the novel.
Our trusty Goodreads commenters are the first to give us an idea about how people actually “feel” about Pirio. With an average review of 3.67 stars our of 5; most people are impressed that this is the author’s debut novel. Some detractors called the book “contrived” and that the author sometimes “rambled” on about unimportant things. But, to be honest, I had to go through 4 pages of reviews to find one that was actually negative. Many reviewers gave 3 stars, but still wrote favorable reviews about the writing, characters, and plot.
New York City, 1990. After losing his temper and severely injuring a coworker, twenty-one-year-old college dropout Jack dives into the seedy side of the city. Soon Jack is toting a gun and smuggling stolen goods—and uncovering secrets others want hidden. Violence, strong language, and some descriptions of sex. 2012.
An independent reviewer’s blog, LayersofThought.net calls this, the first of a set of prequels in the Repairman Jack series, a “fun, action-oriented piece of escapism.” Critically, he is not happy with this book having so many loose plot threads. His complaint is that most books in series will at least wrap up a single story or have a clear climax but that this book did not. The reviewer gives this book 2.5 stars out of who knows how many so it’s tough to gauge the severity of the rating.
Amazon readers give Cold City 4.5 out of 5 stars and some highlights claim that the book is an excellent introduction to an already well established and well loved character, but that, without knowing this character as well as fans already know him, you might not get much out of this book. So, hearing that, keep in mind that a new reader to Repairman Jack should probably not start out with the prequels of the character.
The website for Crimespree Magazine’s reviewer points out that this book has almost no supernatural elements (which explains the Amazon reviewers’ points) but that the book is still a great example of “pure crime fiction done at its best.” Quite conversely, this reviewer says that this book is a great read even for series first-timers and that, if this book is any indication of what’s to come, the reader is in for a “hell of a ride.”
In the poor town of Carp, New York, graduating high school seniors enter a high-stakes game called Panic. Contestants work through deadly challenges all summer, hoping to win the grand prize of more than $50,000—and to start a new life. Some strong language. For senior high and older readers. 2014.
The Guardian’s U.S. edition reviewer calls Panic “brilliant…fast paced and even when the pace drops, the plot still keeps you hooked.” Obviously we’ve moved on from vampires to dystopian society so here is another book to recommend to those who have liked The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.
Goodreaders have given 3.59 out of 5 stars but some of the reviewers are a little tired of the Hunger Games’ trope and are dubious that this book will truly be a “stand alone” in a world where it’s almost illegal for a YA writer to write a single novel to tell a story. One YA reader posted an entertaining review made almost completely from GIFs. As you read through the reviews, though, you see that teens must rate books with more stars than you would expect based on their actual reviews. Looks like the kids may be over the Hunger Games, Battle Royale, and everything in between.
Deseret News out of Utah calls Panic “well-written, unpredictable and entertaining.” This review is provided by an adult reader and mother. She briefly comments on the language, sexual references, and injuries that take place in the book.
Dragons once called Caithen home, but five hundred years ago the Empire conquered the kingdom and bound them into service. Now the dragons want Corin, crown prince of Caithen, to free them. His task seems hopeless—until he meets Tam, a seer, and realizes her powers may be his salvation. 2014.
So, right off the bat, from reading the joint review at Dear Author, I learn that the dragons in Moth and Spark owe a lot to Ann McCaffrey’s dragons in the Pern series books. So, keep that in mind when recommending this book. They did complain a bit about the world building and called it confusing because it’s supposed to be a Europe inspired world, but, unfortunately, uses place names that are very similar to the names of known places from ancient Greece. They enjoy the story, the politics, and say that it’s not as heavily detailed as many sci-fi/fantasy novels usually are. They called it a “romance in a fantasy setting” which might work for romance fans who are getting bored and looking for a change of pace but aren’t ready to give up romances yet.
Another reviewer, however, at GoodBooksandWine.com says that the book is very dense and that the author goes into great detail really setting the scenery. She did enjoy the book and says that if you liked Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell that you will like Moth and Spark. I happen to have really liked that book so maybe I’ll have to check this one out. She gives 4.5 out of 5 stars on her own scale.
Goodreaders give 3.3 out of 5 stars which is on the liked-it low-side of things. The most recent review spells it out pretty clearly. This reader DNFed (did not finish) this book 15% into the story because there was very little magic or fantasy and the main female character is unlikeable. She actually says that she “hates” her and agrees that that’s pretty strong emotion for a fictional person. I can kind of relate. I hated A Discovery of Witches but read it c2c (cover to cover) but DNFed the second book after 5 pages. While that’s totally irrelevant, I just felt like sharing. I’m pretty sure nobody reads these, but it’s kind of my job so I’ll keep it up for the typing practice.
Six days after becoming the first man to walk on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is caught in a windstorm. Though his support crew thinks he died, Mark survived and now faces abandonment, failed machinery, and a hostile environment. Strong language. Bestseller. 2011.
The Martian will be released as a feature length movie in 2015, starring Matt Damon, so it’s no surprise that Entertainment Weekly took the time to review the book. They give it a B on an A-F grade scale. The reviewer says that it’s “relentlessly precise” and has plenty of suspense. He specifically notes that that the book has more science than fiction, so that’s probably good to keep in mind for a science minded reader.
The A.V. Club’s reviewer gives The Martian an A grade. She says right in the review title that the books “makes the tale of an engineer stranded on the red planet gripping.” She also points out that the book does not focus solely on the main character, Watney, but also spends time on NASA and the spaceship and crew that accidentally leaves the main character behind, describing it as an “Apollo 13-style look at the organization in crisis mode.
Lastly, our friends at Goodreads have given the book 4.33 out of 5 stars—high praise! I won’t bother with any specifics of their reviews because the people who liked it…and that was almost all of them, REALLY really liked it. Like, 5 stars-why aren’t there 6 stars?-liked loved it. So, space nerds, science nerds, survival nerds, nerdy nerds, and book nerds should pick up The Martian by Andy Weir.
History of the clandestine program that brought top minds of the Third Reich to the United States after Germany’s defeat. Focuses on more than a dozen scientists who contributed their expertise in rocketry and medicine to help America during the Cold War. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. Bestseller. 2014.
The New York Times reviewer, who also happens to be a Hitler and Nazi scholar pens a review that basically gives us all a history lesson and explains pretty much all of the book…in detail. She mentions that the book is “crowded” in places and that the narrative becomes “muddled” when stories of various Nazis are told along side of the stories of present-day historians. I guess she didn’t hate it though because she titled her article “Willkommen” and not “Scheisse.”
The NPR book review “staff” (sorry, no individual listed) also provides an audio interview with the author. I didn’t listen because I was…well, I was busy trying to get this review post done. I’m only writing May’s reviews in early August, so yeah, I’m way past any deadline that may have existed. Let’s just assume that NPR liked the book though, because I’ve never heard them do an interview with an author and be all like, “Yeah, your book. It seems to be horribly written and completely irrelevant.”
The Goodreaders give 3.81 out of 5 stars. One helpful review calls it a “very readable book about a very ugly story.” Another reviewer says that although it’s long and detailed that it’s still very readable. Probably a great suggestion for a history buff or WWII enthusiast.
1943. Women from across America and overseas follow their husbands into the desert of Los Alamos, New Mexico. As the men toil on a top-secret project, their wives try to adapt to this strained, military community with its rationing and censorship. 2014.
Boston Globe correspondent Daneet Steffens reviewed Wives in February and praises the author for bringing to life a story about the scientists’ wives of the Manhattan Project. She does say that it may take a while to really get in to the author’s style but that it will be worth it overall to stick with the story.
The Santa Fe New Mexican book reviewer enjoyed the novel and says that it belongs in the canon of other such stories told about Los Alamos during WWII. She also comments on the unique prose style but it seems like she enjoyed it as well. We learn during this review that TaraShea Nesbit is a first time novelist. No star out of star ratings given to either of these reviews.
Our Goodreads friends gave the book 3.31 out of 5 stars which is sort of on the low side and, you guessed it, it was the unique style that really put off the detractors. Apparently the story is told from a first person plural style. One review, to illustrate the annoying style writes, “We didn’t like this book. We don’t like stories told in the first person plural. We felt this made the story unnecessarily vague …We felt that the author perhaps…” and so on. But those who enjoyed the book really enjoyed it. The ratings were almost exclusively 1-2 or all 5.
That’s it. See you in September when I’ve be telling you what’s coming up in June. Timeliness is mine!
Welcome to the WRT (Who’s Reading This) What’s Coming Up portion of this blog. Each month, after I finish cataloging the month’s PICS download from NLS I will highlight a few titles that are coming up. These will be fairly random is selection. I will try to avoid the popular authors and series as they get plenty of attention in our collection. My goal is to try to show off a few titles that caught my eye but may not get many direct requests from readers. It’s also meant to bring your attention to some titles that may help that one picky reader this month.
With no further ado, here’s March 2014:
Washington Post reporter dissects the March 2011 murder of a young saleswoman by her coworker in an upscale yoga-apparel boutique in Bethesda, Maryland–a killing overheard but ignored by employees in the Apple Store next door. Violence and some strong language. 2013.
Washington Post review praises the book for its detail regarding the crime, those involved, the investigation, and the families affected. However, they also bemoan the same attention to detail when the author relates seemingly obscure facts about the victim’s mother and the medical examiner. Good Reads provides access to user-driven reviews. Some reviews are more professional level while others are more gut-reaction. What’s nice about Good Reads is that you can get a quick idea of how actual readers like or dislike a book. With nearly 4 out of 5 stars overall the readers enjoy the book. It’s full of detail and really tells the story about the crime. It would seem that anyone who enjoys true crime stories in the style of Ann Rule will like this book. Finally, take a look at the review at crimelibrary.com. It would be nice if this site gave a quick thumbs-up, thumbs-down rating, but at least the review is brief and to the point; they liked it and found it engaging and not dry at all.
When William Ashe steps between Shandi Pierce’s three-year-old son and an armed robber, Shandi believes destiny has brought her and William together. It has, but not for the reasons Shandi believes. Some strong language. 2013.
USA Today gives immediate gratification in their review article: 3 out of 4 stars! It begins by trying to jump right into the story–the way the actual book begins—in media res. A young woman, a chaotic situation, lots of “mahem,” and possibly a little bit of magical realism. The Good Reads readers give the book almost 3 out of 4 but it’s important to note that when a reader doesn’t like this book, they really don’t like this book. There is a date rape scene (apparently drunken-roofied, non consensual sex) near the beginning of the book and the haters feel like the author is sympathetic to the rapist and downplays the act. Finally, DearAuthor.com featured this book as a “recommended read” in November 2013. The reviewer won’t give up much besides the basics of the story, southern set, but not stereotypically southern, characters with issues…but not your typical love story. All she will say is that it’s a worthwhile book and that there is a payoff at the end…do not skip ahead!
A year after the events in City of Dark Magic (DB 75832), Sarah Weston returns to Europe. She must convince a doctor to give thirteen-year-old blind musical prodigy Pollina Rutherford an experimental alchemical treatment for her rare autoimmune disorder. Strong language, explicit descriptions of sex, and some violence. 2013.
I selected this book because of the interesting author name and the reference to “experimental alchemical treatment.” Turns out, Magnus Flyte is a conglomeration of two authors and City of Lost Dreams is book two in a series. No worries! Tor.com’s reviewer found the book weak but an enjoyable read nonetheless. The story is fantasy that does not take place in space or in the future. It’s not a steampunk alterative reality fantasy either. It is however “absolutely swimming with badass female leads.” And, while this is a follow up, be sure your reader has read DB75832 first; she doesn’t recommend Lost Dreams as a stand-alone. Good Reads readers give it almost 4 out of 5 stars (I’m noticing a pattern). One reader review calls it a “great smart-girl-slightly-smutty-beach-read.” The Kirkus review calls the book an “amusing romantic mystery” and then goes on to describe it much like the Tor.com review but adds at the end that it is “sensual, witty, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.” So, there you go.
Rose Weiss rebels against her ultraorthodox Jewish parents in 1960s Brooklyn and runs away from home. Forty years later, Rose–who is now an award-winning photographer–is stunned when her niece Rivka appears, seeking refuge from her traditional family. Some descriptions of sex. 2013.
The Jewish Book council not only calls this novel “riveting” but includes a set of discussion questions at the end of the review! One of the most interesting things pointed out in this review is that, while the novel is noteworthy, it will also be educational for people unfamiliar with the “laws of strict Orthodox life,” which should be comforting for our Jewish readers and interesting for our readers looking to expand their world-view. The Goodreads readers? Nearly 4 out of 5 stars! That almost never happens. RTbookreviews.com (Romance Times) gave The Sisters Weiss 4 out of 4 stars. Their reviewer praises the novel’s “clear prose” and says that “women of different faiths can connect with [the story] as they struggle to find their personal heaven.”
Judith and her best friend disappear for two years without a trace. One day Judith returns, scarred and with her tongue cut out. The townsfolk want to know what happened, but she is afraid to share the truth. Some violence. For senior high and older readers. 2013.
The “by kids, for kids” reviewer at theguardian.com calls this book a “dark and chilling tale of abuse and secrets, of love and loss, of silence and courage.” Overall, this young reader was very impressed by the story in this book. Unfortunately, beyond reading her full review of the book, there is not a “star rating” to share here. Sounds like one of those great unrequited love-drama-feelings kind of books that teens and young adult readers will eat up. Good Reads ruins a perfect track record by giving All the Truth 4.01 out of 5 stars! The Good Reads reviewers called it stunning, compelling, unlike any other, intoxicating…they basically love it. The New York Times review is worth the read. While the annotation alludes to the historical fiction nature of the story, the rest almost sounds too modern. The NYT review gives a much more detailed picture of this story, the conflict, and the characters. Once again, no star rating, but it’s clear that the reviewer recommends this read.
From the NLS annotation:
Since his father’s untimely death, seventeen-year-old Cas and his Wiccan mom have continued the family trade–hunting down vengeful, murdering spirits. But when Cas goes after ghostly Anna, an unexpected occurrence changes everything. Violence and some strong language. For senior high and older readers. 2011.
Let me guess…it’s LOVE isn’t it? The unexpected occurrence is that Cas has feelings for “ghostly” Anna. Is she GHOST-ly, I mean, is she sort of like a ghost, or is she an actual ghost? Wait wait don’t tell me. I’m sure that I’d rather be shocked when it’s all revealed 30 pages in to the 320 page book.
You know, if I were a teenager I would be super pissed that YA classified books almost exclusively have to do with either the supernatural or falling in love–typically both. I know the whys and the wherefores to writing supernatural for young adults; spare me the lecture. I’m just saying that as a reader of books and a librarian, I’m just wondering if somewhere teens are getting burned out on being constantly bombarded with the SSDD (same shit…).
Anyway, today’s offering is called Anna Dressed in Blood and it is the first book in the…wait for it…ANNA series by Kendare Blake. Yes, Kendare Blake. Let’s all make a little offering to the Goddess in hopes that Kendare is her pen-name. And “Blake?” Please. We get it, you’re material pays homage to both the Gothic and the Romantic periods.
Today’s entry comes from the book Laced With Magic of the crapity-crap-crap, who-gives-a-crap (Sugar Maple Chronicles) series by Barbara Bretton.
From the NLS Annotation:
Part-sorceress, Chloe Hobbs, from Casting Spells, discovers that her boyfriend Luke was once married and had a daughter, Steffie, who died two years ago. Chloe wants to help Luke with Steffie’s spirit but also fears for the town’s safety. Some strong language and some descriptions of sex. 2009.
This book was written in a post-Harry Potter world so I’m going to call BS right off. How is a person going to be “part-sorceress?” Sorcerers aren’t an ethnicity. You can’t be part-one. You are either a sorceress or you are a mortal (or Muggle, if you will). Period. And besides, it says on book one that she is the daughter of a sorcerer not a sorceress, so, like, is she part sorcerer, or was her dad, the assumed sorcerer, a transvestite or MTF post-transition? Get your damn masculines and feminines straight people…this matters.
And besides, who cares whether or not her dad wore dresses. If she does magic (or witchcraft) then she is a sorcerer or sorceress–she can’t be only “part” magic. You either are of your aren’t. No “parts.”
Thanks, that’s all.
Wow. It’s that time of the month again: cataloging time! And, boy-oh-boy, this one just begged to be made fun of. Actually, upon reading the annotation, my initial response was, “well, that could have been worded differently.” This week’s offering is a romance novel by Sandra Brown called Tempest in Eden. From the NLS annotation (brace yourselves people):
When divorced artist’s model Shay Morrison, who poses nude, meets her new step-brother, minister Ian Douglas, he makes clear his disapproval for her lack of modesty. Annoyed, Shay decides to seduce him–only to fall in love. Explicit descriptions of sex. 1996
Oh my goodness’ sake. I’m assuming that Shay and Ian are adults, or let’s just say, I’m really hoping that they are adults. As such, is it really fair to refer to them as step-siblings at this point in their lives? The annotation refers to him as her “new” step-brother, and in the vernacular, I take for granted that “new” refers to them being introduced recently. And, as adults, they really aren’t necessarily brother and sister; “step” or otherwise.
If you check out the description of this title on the Amazon link it simply says:
This novel follows the growing relationship between Shay Morrison, a nude model for artists, and Ian Douglas, a conservative minister who disapproves of her lifestyle but cannot resist her.
So, for once, I have to lay the blame with the person at NLS who entered this record. You really should have thought about adding a few words to your description. I mean, I’ve seen much longer annotations, so I know you all aren’t paying by the word. A very simple, and easier to palate, wording could be “…meets the son of her mother’s new husband…” and you take all of the “ick” factor out of this novel. I forgot to mention that; my issue with this annotation is all about the “ick” I felt after my “oh my goodness” reaction.
This unfortunate annotation just goes from bad to worse in the course of one wordy sentence followed by an equally idiotic short sentence. We’re told immediately, and without preamble, that that nasty little nude model Shay is going to seduce her step-brother. Okay, forget the “ick” factor; this is so wrong it’s starting to feel right. I’m not gonna lie; the fact that Sanctimonious Ian is a minister only makes things hotter. What’s that Sandra Brown? Explicit descriptions of sex? Yes please!
Before I get completely off track and set this laptop on fire, let me point out the really offensive part of this poorly written annotation. Prior to the laptop-melting dirty parts, I originally thought that there was a divorced artist whose model, Shay, was in the process of meeting her new step-brother and… I was like, what does this damn divorced artist have to do with this book? Huh? Wait, did that just use the words seduce, step-brother, nude, and explicit? Oh my goodness.
This week’s selection comes on the suggestion of a fellow LBPH Librarian friend of mine, MW. I haven’t started cataloging this month’s selection of audio turds, so MW helpfully passed along this overly complicated Victorian Romance novel.
Untie My Heart by Judith Ivory is set in Victorian England and sounds like a room-temperature mess. I’ve heard that in England you can’t get cold water because they haven’t invented ice, or something, so everything is room temperature and all the food is boiled. So, this one is a room-temperature mess, not a fully “hot mess.” From the NLS annotation:
1890s. Returning to England to claim his inheritance, Stuart Aysgarth, the new viscount Mount Villiars,
accidentally runs over one of widow Emma Hotchkiss’s lambs. Emma schemes to recoup her loss while Stuart concocts his own plot involving revenge on a usurping uncle. Includes recipes. Some explicit descriptions of sex.
I count 4 periods in this annotation, but there are really only two sentences. Yet somehow, in these two sentences, this annotation manages to confuse the crap out of me. It seems to be mainly made up of just keywords: England, inheritance, viscount, widow, revenge. Add to that the following ridiculous words that really don’t need to be part of any romance novel: runs-over, lamb, schemes, recoup, concocts, usurping. But the most bizarre of all is the phrase: “includes recipes.” Recipes for what? Lamb? English food? How does this story, as I understand it from this annotation and the Publishers Weekley review found at Amazon.com, lend to effing recipes?
Then you’ve got these ridiculously named characters: Aysgarth and Hotchkiss. Have we run out of traditionally “English” names for romance novels? While people in the “real world” may be naming their kids “Haylee” and “Joarden” and “Tyffany” and even some “Apples, Suris, Bronxs”, et. al. I see no defendable reason to start giving the characters in books set prior to the 20th century these whacked-out, overly spelled and underly considered, monikers.
What may recommend the book more than the plot, run over lambs, and recipes(?) is the sex. All the sexy, sexy, sex. The PW review on Amazon makes reference to this “sensual tale,” a series of “sexual games,” some more “sexual interludes,” and an overall, “warmly spiced” atmosphere. No mention of food though. PW did mention that the heroine is found out to have “cooked his books” but I’m pretty sure that it isn’t a sex- or cooking reference.
PW does mention something that really grates on my nerves and I’m glad they did, because even if the stupidly described plot hadn’t been enough to warn me off, this did the trick. The reviewer mentions “expository and noticeably anachronistic prose” and I’m telling you, that burns me up like nothing else. Either keep your dialogue and exposition brief so you can’t funk it up, or LEARN TO SPEAK VICTORIAN ENGLISH. It isn’t difficult. Just read half a dozen actual Victorian novels. If you write your book fast enough after reading, you can’t help but achieve the proper lingo.
As usual, reading is not something to be taken lightly. Always use the proper safety restraints. Check your mirrors, and watch out for lambs.