Thin Ice

Thin

Thin Ice by Nick Wilkshire

Expected Pub: Oct 6, 2014

When a pro skater’s body is found in Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, Jack Smith must find the murderer among the growing list of suspects who had motive to harm him.

Opening lines:

Jack Smith sat on his balcony in the warm morning air, sipping his coffee and trying to ignore the little voice telling him to head down to the corner store for a pack of cigarettes.

Full review coming in October!

Overall: A good mystery for folks that love a mystery, but follows the tropes too closely for my tastes.

Me Before You

MeMe Before You by Jojo Moyes

Pub: 2012

A twenty-something with a quiet life becomes a caregiver for a wealthy quadriplegic man who hates how small his life has gotten since being injured in a motorcycle accident.

Opening lines:

There are 158 footsteps between the bus stop and home, but it can stretch to 180 if you aren’t in a hurry, like maybe if you’re wearing platform shoes.

I’ve had the ARC for this book sitting on my shelf for months, but have trouble talking myself into reading books that I know are going to be sad. When our book club suggested it, though, I jumped right at the opportunity, glad to have someone “force” me to read this book that I’d heard so many good things about.

What I liked: Unlike most books that deal with end-of-life issues, disabilities, and depression, in this one, the author inserts a certain amount of humor that keeps the book away from the cliff-edge of despair. Although I did have my qualms about the main character, at least her point of view was interesting to read, and kept the book more lighthearted, despite the heavy subject matter.

I also thought it was really interesting to step into the world of people with disabilities and learn — through the narrator’s eyes — just what it means to have a disability, and how society really treats them as somewhat less-than-human, even in today’s world.

What I didn’t like: I have no idea where in England this story was supposed to have taken place, but the main character doesn’t know how to use a computer? The man she’s caring for has never used computerized dictation devices? Maybe ten or fifteen years ago, but it made the story seem out-of-date.

But my biggest issue of the book was the ending. It left such a bad taste in my mouth, and sent a contradictory, even hypocritical message.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

So Will hates how everyone’s been making decisions for him, how he isn’t able to live his life as he wants to? So what does he do — then proceed to make all sorts of decisions for Lou, berate her for wanting to live a quiet life close to family (which what’s wrong with that? what’s wrong with WANTING to work in a cafe, if that’s what she enjoys?), and convince her, basically, that life isn’t worth living if it isn’t big, exciting, full of world-travels and money. And she buys into it — yay, he saved her! Um… what?

I love sad endings. This one wasn’t sad; it was just frustrating. I felt like any sort of potential character growth was reversed — Will did what he wanted to regardless of anyone else, just as he always did, and Lou was content to let someone else tell her what she should be doing with her life.

Had Will died when he got pneumonia, there would have been the opportunity for a message about how life is precious, how even when we think we’re in control, that we’re not, and to life each day as our last. It would have been sad, but then Will’s gift to Lou could have been seen as a true gift, rather than a “consolation prize.”

 

Heads up: Sexual content (including a rape), some minor language

Coraline

CoralineCoraline by Neil Gaiman

Pub: 2002

When a little girl goes exploring behind a locked door in her home, she ends up in an alternate world with a button-eyed “other mother” who wants to keep her there.

Opening lines:

CORALINE DISCOVERED THE DOOR a little while after they moved into the house.

After reading Gaiman’s Stardust, I figured I’d better have a go at his other popular book-to-movie — one which I haven’t seen before, basically because in the puppet stop-animation that’s used, even the non-creepy characters look kind of creepy:

coraline

 

What I liked: Well, it was definitely creepy and imaginative. I liked Coraline’s character — she was clever, determined, and smart.

What I didn’t like: Parts of it seemed to move slowly, and other parts were a little too simplistic. Although it was definitely creepy, I never felt like she was in any real danger; she seemed to have the situation pretty well under control and seemed to take it all in stride, which probably isn’t a particularly realistic reaction.

Heads up: Some major creepiness

Panic

Panic_HC_JKT_des4.inddPanic by Lauren Oliver

Pub: March 2014

Small-town teens Heather & Dodge participate in an elaborate game of daring feats to win $67,000.

Opening line:

THE WATER WAS SO COLD IT TOOK HEATHER’S BREATH away as she fought past the kids crowding the beach and standing in the shallows, waving towels and homemade signs, cheering and calling up to the remaining jumpers.

Lauren Oliver’s novels have been a bit hit-or-miss for me — I loved Liesel & Po, and I liked Before I Fall and Delirium, but the final books of the Delirium series didn’t hold up for me. I’d hoped that since Panic was a stand-alone, it’d be more like Before I Fall, and in a lot of ways it was, but there were some things that held me back from loving it as much as I wanted to.

What I liked: The premise of a high-stakes small-town dare contest sounded really neat, and for the most part, it was. The author really captured the atmosphere of a dead-end small town, and although I’m not always a huge fan of realistic, contemporary fiction — wow — there are some really intense scenes as the players are narrowed down and the stakes get higher.

What I didn’t like: There was so much of the setup that I just couldn’t buy into. Every single student is bullied into throwing a dollar into the pot for each school day? Events are announced publicly (one was painted on a water tower, for goodness sake) and yet somehow ALL of the adults in the town are completely clueless about what’s going on or too dumb to show up until after the fact? (Keeping in mind that this has been going on for YEARS.) NO ONE in the town thinks that these kids might be communicating the info via email or texts? And the parents? Where are ALL of these kids parents and why don’t they care that their kids are playing Russian Roulette and starting houses on fire? I just can’t buy into it.

My other major issue was with the climax, or — more accurately — the lack thereof.

(Warning: vague spoiler-y stuff ahead)

Everything’s been building and tensions are mounting and everyone’s scheming about how they’re going to win the final challenge — which is basically a game of chicken (in which at least two of the competitors had to borrow someone else’s car) — and things are in place to have some real serious stuff happen… and then it doesn’t. Or, it kind of does, but not really as bad as it could have been. And then someone wins not by being clever or cunning or smart, but by sheer dumb luck. The end. And, presumably, life goes on until the next year when another batch of idiots tries it again. Huge letdown.

Heads up: Lots of underage drinking, some smoking and drug use, sexual references, and teens doing dangerously idiotic things

Murder on the Orient Express

MurderMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Pub: 1934

Detective Hercule Poirot works to solve a murder which has taken place in a snowbound train.

Opening lines:

It was five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Syria. Alongside the platform at Aleppo stood the train grandly designated in railway guides as the Taurus Express.

It was actually sheer coincidence that I post this the day after posting my review of The Boundless – another mystery on a train novel. I’m sure I’ve read this one or seen the movie or discussed its ending with someone at some point, though when it came right down to it, that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of it, because there was still the manner of why the man was murdered and how.

What I liked: Most of all, I love the plot twist here, the jigsaw puzzle that doesn’t quite line up and how the detective goes about extracting information from the suspects. His logic is impeccable, and it’s one of those mysteries where you look back and realize that the pieces were there all along, just waiting to be put together.

What I didn’t like: It isn’t a light read, and I seriously considered pulling out a piece of scratch paper to try to keep track of all the people and clues because there were so many and because the characters are all strangers to Poirot, we know very little about them and their personalities, so it was difficult to keep them straight.

Heads up: violence, including violence towards a child

The Boundless

Boundless

NEW this week…

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

 

4 of 5 stars

On the greatest train ever built, teenaged Will teams up with a traveling circus to save the train from bandits.

Something shifts inside Will, like a door opening.  Maybe it was meeting the circus girl, maybe it was the view of all these new mountains like a gateway to a new and dangerous world — but he feels like his whole life is about to be upended.

Fans of the Airborne series will absolutely adore The Boundless.  Will’s got the strength and courage of Matt Cruse, and Maren is similar to Kate de Vries in her spunk and devil-may-care sense of independence.  And, just like in Airborne, the heroes are working together on a fantastic piece of transportation — this time, the world’s longest, biggest train, that spans over seven miles long and contains over 900 cars.  The picture of the train itself is awesome and fabulous, and the world outside the train is just as exciting and unknown, with great beasts and mythical dangers lurking at every turn of the track.

Some may argue that this story follows a plot a bit too similar to Airborne, and, in fact, it did seem to take me a bit to get into the story simply because of that.  At one point, I wondered why the author didn’t just have Matt fly himself over to America, have Kate join the circus, and plop them both on a transcontinental train.

Overall:  A fun alternate history adventure in the same vein as Airborne

Stardust

StardustStardust by Neil Gaiman

Pub: 1993

A boy leaves the mundane town of Wall on a quest for a fallen star in a fairy world.

Opening line:

There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.

I normally am adamant about reading the book before seeing a movie. However, when I’d seen Stardust years ago, I had no idea it was based on a book, much less one by such a well-known and much-lauded author. I’ve been telling myself for years that I’d read the book because I loved the movie, and well, I finally got around to it.

What I liked:

This is a classic adventure tale, with fairies and talking trees and whimsical things that aren’t as they should be and I love the amount of creativity and imagination that went into it. It’s been compared to Princess Bride (another book I have yet to see because I love the movie), and I enjoyed both of these 2nd-world fantasies (though this one is really more magical, and more of a portal fantasy than anything else).

What I didn’t like:

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall the movie having more humor. I *know* there was more involved in the story of the lightning pirates and the relationship between Tristran and Yvaine. Basically, I was ruined by seeing the movie first, as this is one rare case where I really did like the movie better.

Heads up: This book would receive even stronger ratings than the movie’s PG-13 rating for its sex scenes and graphic/gory violence.

Guarding Angel

GuardingGuarding Angel by S.L. Saboviec

Pub: May 19, 2014

While guarding reincarnated humans through the 17th century, Enael’s growing love for Kaspen, a fellow Guardian, is tested by the interference of his former lover, a powerful fallen angel.

Opening lines:

My Ward, Daniel Michael Wheaton, was a special assignment, direct from the Council of Seraphim — the highest rank of angel in Heaven — and I was determined to prove myself with him.

Full review coming in May!

Overall: An intricate paranormal romance about trust, destiny, and the sacrifices we make for those we love.

The Guard

GuardThe Guard by Kierra Cass

Pub: Feb 2014

The events of The Elite as told by Aspen. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’re probably not going to care about this book.)

Opening lines:

“WAKE UP, LEGER.”
“Day off,” I mumbled, pulling the blanket over my head.

I figured if I’m going to finish out The Selection series (if nothing else, to see Celeste get her comeuppance), I’d better keep up with the novellas along the way. Let me tell you right off: there’s really no need.

What I liked: Seriously, I didn’t hate this novella. It was a quick read, and probably would be a really good catch-up for anyone who’d read The Elite right away and wants a quick recap before The One.

What I didn’t like: That’s all it was. I can’t think of a single thing in this novella that hadn’t already been established in The Elite. I was hoping for some sort of inside info — WHY he says Maxon is a good actor, for instance or what REALLY happened when the king and prince were supposedly in New Asia, even more about what happened when America ran away from the rebels. Something! Anything! Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed.

The Whole Golden World

Whole

The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle

Pub: 2013

A small town is scandalized when news breaks of a 17-year-old girl who has been having an affair with her high school math teacher.

Opening lines:

Dinah felt the turning away like the snap of a rubber band that’s been pulled to far, finally lashing back, leaving a welt.

I don’t read a lot of Women’s Fiction. In fact, most of that genre I read only because that’s what our book club happened to have picked for the month. This one was not a book club book, but one that I’d seen a couple reviews for and thought I’d check out.

What I liked: This book reminded me a lot of other courtroom crime novel books I’ve read, like The Guilty One and Defending Jacob, where you feel like you just have to keep reading, if nothing else just to see if the guilty party gets his comeuppance, if justice prevails, and how these people whose lives are so completely shattered are able to come out of it on the other side. If that’s your thing, you’ll probably enjoy this one — the fact that the reader already knows who is ‘guilty’ and what really happened didn’t at all diminish my desire to see how everything panned out. I also really appreciated the multiple perspectives here, seeing the story from each of the three main women’s perspectives (teen, teen’s mother, teacher’s wife)

What I didn’t like: This whole book was a parade of dysfunctional relationships, which ended up being rather wearying. The female characters at least experienced growth at the end, though none of them really surprised me in any way — they all behaved pretty much exactly how I expected, leaving me feeling a bit lukewarm about the resolution.

Heads up: descriptive sexual content

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