Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

1 star

Australia, Family, Trips, Old People Romance, Vandalism

Millie is a child, mucking about in the mall, as you slowly realized her mom is never going to come back for her, but she ends up striking up a friendship with a creepy old man and her equally disturbed neighbor, and they go on a cross country trip to find her mother. The characters are all horrifying people in their own way, but together they cause so much trouble that it is jarring to read.¬†Overall, this was a book that was meant to be about characters, but the plot didn’t make enough sense to allow for the necessary expression of the various neuroses and psychotic tendencies of the three main characters, and it fell flat. The language was mediocre, the scene changes were jarring, and it lacked emotional resonance.

Under the Light by Laura Whitcomb

2 star

Ghosts, Haunting, Growing Up, Young Love

Helen accidentally starts haunting Jenny in this sequel (to the book where she was possessing Jenny’s body) when she tries to check on her to make sure she didn’t ruin Jenny’s life. The book shows what happened to Jenny while she was out of her body, and shows her trying to put her life back together while Helen tries to point her in the right directions. The sequel was really unnecessary: it had none of the tension or passion of the first book, Jenny’s romance with Billy felt incredibly forced, and there was so much navel-gazing from Helen and Jenny that none of the unanswered questions from the first book were answered. Whitcomb has a lovely way with words, but this was disappointing.

Previous book: A Certain Slant of Light

Favorite Books

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Since asking book review bloggers that question is far too overwhelming, the two of us have chosen a few favorites.

The Animorphs for most incredible overall series.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane for most heartwarming.

First Grave on the Right for best girl detective.

This Is My Beloved for best poetry.

Poison for strangest fairy tale.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns series for best characters.

The Palace Job for most exciting fantasy heist.

The Flora Segunda trilogy for most unique world building.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

5 star

Magical Realism, Amsterdam, 1600s, Rich People Problems, Trust

Nella arrives in Amsterdam, barely eighteen and ready to start a life with her new husband. She isn’t expecting a man who ignores her, a sister in law who runs the house, and an impertinent maid — but when she starts receiving gifts from an anonymous miniaturist, she begins to see the secrets and the darkness around her. Burton’s sentences hit the page with the force of a shotgun and the precision of a sniper rifle. She does an amazing job of showing Nella’s growth and slowly revealing each of the characters and how they have been formed by the contradictory city of Amsterdam. This book is an absolute gem.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

2 star

Fractured Fairy Tales, Mermaids, Sisters, Memory, Choice

Fathomless is told in two perspectives: one is Lo, an “ocean girl” who does not remember her past until she saves a drowning boy and meets a girl with the power to show her her own memories, and Celia, the girl who can see into the past, who struggles with sister problems and boy problems and ocean girl problems. A lot of the story was consumed by Lo’s struggle to remember her life and how she was essentially two people; it wasn’t that the narrative was confusing so much as it was nonsensical. None of the characters were likable, and there was very little forward plot motion. Pearce set herself up for some great moments and let them slip by. Overall a disappointing retelling of the Little Mermaid.

Companion to: Sisters Red, Sweetly, Cold Spell

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

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3 star

Fractured Fairy Tales, Werewolves, Family, Friendship

Sweetly is the companion to Sisters Red (no crossover characters, same universe), about a brother and a sister who lost her twin and have taken refuge with a girl some believe to be a witch—but instead of finding a safe haven, they find the same monsters and prejudices they were running from. I had hoped to see growth in Pearce’s writing, but this book tends to tell not show, so Gretchen reminds the reader of her missing sister six times a chapter, but you have no real sense of what her character is like or even what anyone looks like, for that matter. I liked the mystery aspect and Pearce is great at action scenes. She doesn’t go for the obvious solution which I loved; it is great to see the way everything ties together. I would recommend it to fairy tale fans, especially ones who like mystery.

Companion to: Sisters Red
Later Companion Novels: Fathomless, Cold Spell

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

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4 star

Fractured Fairy Tales, Little Red Riding Hood, Family, Purpose

Scarlett is the older sister, scarred from an encounter with a werewolf, and Rosie is the younger sister, so sweet and innocent that Scarlett wants to protect her despite her self-sufficiency. They have been surviving on their own for years now, hunting and killing werewolves and pretending to social services that their mom is still around, but when several packs start to converge in the area they know something is going on—and they aim to find out what. The story starts a little too slow but it picks up halfway through when they leave town with Silas, a fellow hunter, and start throwing themselves into hunting and research. The characters are well drawn and it is full of really well-paced action; the fight scenes were what impressed me the most about the book.

Later Companion Novels: Sweetly, Fathomless, Cold Spell

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

4 star

Girl Detectives, Mystery, Romance, Family, Action

Stephanie Plum, a thirty-year-old divorcee, trips and falls into a career as a bounty hunter, when she realizes that not only is she a thirty-year-old divorcee, she is also unemployed, broke, and can’t afford an answering machine (this book was written in 1994, so the answering machine thing is a big deal). This blogger is on a girl detective kick so I picked this up and was inordinately pleased to find that despite the fact that it was written when I was four, it is still hilarious and entertaining regardless of Stephanie’s shoulder pads or cable television woes. She is an outrageous, desperate, tricky heroine who you root for because she is a normal woman trying to become successful at a risky career by enlisting the help of her stereotypical New Jersey family, her cop friend, and a badass bounty hunter known as Ranger. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun action read who doesn’t mind getting involved in a long running series.

Later books: A lot. There are a lot.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

3 star

Epidemics, Society, Creatures, Fear, Rebuilding Civilization

After a meteor shower that leaves blind everyone who watched it, a few lucky Englishmen (and presumably some other countries) are spared randomly, including our protagonist Bill whose eyes are bandaged after a fierce encounter with a triffid. Oh yeah—in addition to most of the world stumbling around blind, they’re being attacked by carnivorous seven-foot plants (the aforementioned triffids) with stingers that kill you. Wyndham does a good job of mixing horror, the crumbling of society, and the various points of view in how the remaining seeing members of society should rebuild. The story is just a little too spare in its description and a little extensive in Bill’s introspections (especially his obsession with the girl he meets), and it skipped through the years of rebuilding too quickly to make it interesting. It is a good light horror to read if you want something spooky at Halloween without being frightening.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

5 star

Civilization, Humanity, Mystery, Sense of Self

Four women make up the twelfth expedition to explore Area X, a place cut off from civilization that somehow gets inside of people’s heads and bodies (for example, the second expedition all killed themselves and the eleventh expedition all died from cancer after returning). As they map the area and find the remnants of the previous expeditions, the creep factor rises and they begin to turn on each other even as Area X turns on them. This was an extremely weird book but also an impossibly fascinating one: VanderMeer’s language, his pacing, and the biologist’s self aware point of view all contributed to make a story I couldn’t put down. The lack of names builds up an alienation and loss of identity that is oddly compelling in the face of the strange sights. I would recommend this for anyone looking for an unusual, thrilling, well-written book.

Later books: Authority, Acceptance

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

4 star

Fairies, Minnesota, Rock Bands, Fairy War

I liked how grounded this book was in the eighties; it made for an interesting read for someone who grew up listening to her parents’ stories about college in the eighties. I really liked the phouka and the secondary characters, and Eddi grew on me as the story went on. The pacing was handled poorly; a chapter spans a day and a half, and then the next chapter mentions how they have been a band for weeks — with no mention of what happened in those weeks. Or a scene would cut from one location to another in the same paragraph. Other than that disjointedness, it was such a cool story to read about fairies in Minnesota and see how they interact and fight.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

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4 star

Ghosts, Possession, Life, Love, Regret

Helen and James are ghosts—ghosts who can’t remember why they died or why they didn’t move on because only an overwhelming sense of guilt remains. When they both come to possess the empty bodies of two teenagers, their love for each other slowly causes the lives of those around them to change and they must decide if they want to stay or try and move on. It’s an incredibly sad book full of broken people and bad decisions and regret, but Whitcomb has a way with words that will make this story stay with you long after you have read it. It is a young adult novel in that it is about growing up, but it is more an adult classification in themes of family, need, and sacrifice. A strange and interesting little book.

Later book: Under the Light

Reflex by Steven Gould

5 stars

SciFi, Teleportation, Spying, Kidnapping, Torture

Years after the first book, Davy is living happily with his wife, Millie, and working occasional jobs for the government that he decides are a safe use of his teleportation powers. When Davy gets kidnapped by a group obsessed with brainwashing him into using his teleportation for their own nefarious purposes, Millie sets out to rescue him. Davy’s story is traumatic as he is tortured into submission and forced to work for his kidnappers. Millie is as tough and clever as her husband and willing to do anything to save him. Both halves of the story are riveting and will have you on the edge of your seat waiting to see how everything unfolds.

Previous Book: Jumper

Later Books: Shade (short story), Impulse, Exo

The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes

5 stars

Elaborate High Stakes Heists, Magic, Floating Cities, Humor

It’s been a long time since I’ve read fantasy that was this much fun. From the fabulously diverse cast of thieves to their monumental heist there is nothing of the traditional (sometimes yawn-inducing) high fantasy fare in sight. The mix of humor and seriousness and suspense is perfect.¬†And to top it off there are enough twists and turns to give you whiplash if you aren’t paying attention.¬†Weekes handles world building so unobtrusively that before you know it you feel like you’re reading about a real place where magic just makes sense— of course giant solar powered magic crystals hold a city in the sky why wouldn’t they? And although there wasn’t a traumatic cliffhanger, the sequel just came out and I expect it will be as wild a ride as the first book.

Sequel: The Prophecy Con