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We Were Liars

We

NEW this week…

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

★ ★ ★ ★

Cadence and her three best friends spend every summer together on her grandfather’s private island, until one summer when everything changes.

Opening line:

Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.

No one is a criminal.

No one is an addict.

No one is a failure.

There’s very little that can be said about this novel without giving way too much away, so let’s just suffice it to say that this is an awesome book with an unreliable narrator (Cadence has selective amnesia after her fifteenth summer), and a couple twists that will throw even the most careful reader for a loop.

It’s about love, friendship, family, and fallings-out, and written in lovely,  poetic prose, and even includes some mini-fractured fairy tales in which Cadence tries to sort through what really happened to her.

Heads up: A tiny bit of crude language (2-3 instances?)

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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

We Were Liars

We

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

★ ★ ★ ★

Release date: May 13, 2014

Cadence and her three best friends spend every summer together on her grandfather’s private island, until one summer when everything changes.

Opening line:

Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.

No one is a criminal.

No one is an addict.

No one is a failure.

Full review coming in May!

 

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Between

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

Pub: 2013

Strange things begin to occur when a stranger rents Violet’s family’s guest house in the sleepy, seaside town of Echo.

Opening line:

You stop fearing the Devil when you’re holding his hand.

This book has been on my to-read shelf for awhile, as it was marketed as a Gothic horror and compared with Daphne du Maurier. The atmosphere and descriptions were spot-on. Gorgeous. Deep and beautiful and rich. There was mystery and a creeping fear of… something that you couldn’t quite put your finger on. And even once you found out what was going on, there were unanswered questions and you weren’t sure when people were lying.

And then I was disappointed. I’m not even sure how to express it without getting spoiler-y, but essentially, it turned too gory, too ridiculous, too Twilight-esque for me. (Run, Violet, run and don’t look back!)

Heads up: some language, some sexual references, rather descriptive violence/gore

Period 8

Period

Period 8 by Chris Crutcher

Pub: 2013

The students in period 8 study hall face the disappearance of one of their peers and the lies and secrets that surround her.

Opening line:

Near midnight Paulie Bomb pulls his VW Beetle onto the shoulder of Ridgeview Drive and kills the engine.

Completely, totally not for me.

I almost put this one down a couple times,  but kept picking it up, thinking that maybe it was going to pull something off at the end that would make you go “ooooh, I get it.” It didn’t. Fact is, I just didn’t ‘get’ this book.

From long-distance swimming in near-freezing water, to extremely blunt talk to an almost-retired teacher who’s everyone’s BFF, to a really weird, bizarre sex trafficking conspiracy, there just wasn’t much for me to relate to. Even the dialogue seemed to be just trying too hard. Also, the suspense was a bit of a letdown, as with the multi-POVs, it was easy to figure out what had happened long before the characters did.

Heads up: Language, sex, drugs

Bellman & Black

Bellman

NEW this week…

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

3 of 5 stars

William Bellman is hardworking businessman who seems to have it all, until a plague hits town, taking those dear to him and planting in his mind the concept of a business with a curious partner and macabre purpose.

William lost himself in calculations.  What was the measurement for bereavement?  How to count, weigh, evaluate grief?

As much as I liked this book, it fell short of me loving it, though I so wanted to.  It was as if all of the elements were there for a dark, haunting, beautiful story of life and death and grief, but the pieces just failed to fall into place.  I think that having “A Ghost Story” on the front warped my expectations, so that when the “ghost” really ends up not being so much of a “ghost” as simply the dark presence of death overshadowing Bellman’s life, it’s quite the letdown.  The mysterious Mr. Black was both too present and too absent, and the deal he strikes with Bellman is vague at best and left me wondering — well, I think I understand what just happened there…?

There also seemed to be a number of subplots and threads that just didn’t have any sort of follow-through — characters who never tied into the main plot, questions that weren’t answered, and parts where the author went into great detail about the smallest thing that then never amounted to anything.  It left me feeling rather unsatisfied in the end.

Delia’s Shadow

Delia's

NEW this week…

Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

3 of 5 stars

With the 1906 San Francisco World’s Fair as the backdrop, Delia is haunted by the ghost of a murder victim as her killer once more terrifies the city.

A murder investigation was a macabre jigsaw puzzle, splashed with blood and the remnants of someone’s life.

This historical murder mystery ghost story borrows from many serial killer investigations, most obviously that of the Zodiac killer (though that occurred decades after the setting of this book), and the grim details and sense of fear are intense throughout the story.  The characters in this novel are particularly well-written, with relationships that felt genuine and strengthened the story.

On the flip side, there were still some unanswered questions that left me feeling somewhat less satisfied at the end of the story:

For instance (highlight for spoilers) –

  • what happened to the other officer who had gone missing?
  • why did the killer target Gabe’s father to begin with?
  • what happened to the killer while at his uncle’s that caused such a change in him?
  • why had Jack’s father kept his mother’s murder secret?
  • who were Teddy & Beryl?
  • how did Aileen know to ask Delia for help anyway?
  • why all the Egyptology?

I also think that the killer may have been a bit too… two-dimensional.  I was sincerely hoping for some sort of twist or shocker ending but was kind of disappointed when they figured out who it was and — sure enough — that’s who it was.  It was almost too easy, and made me wonder why it had taken them thirty years to figure out who it was.

Overall, though, good ghostly murder mystery with a bit of history and romance thrown in as well

The Clockwork Scarab

ClockworkScarab

NEW this week…

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
Stoker & Holmes #1

2 of 5 stars

Sherlock’s niece and Bram Stoker’s sister team up with Miss Adler to solve a mystery when society girls begin disappearing and dying under unusual circumstances.

I was going to be subjected to simpering young men and gossiping ladies simply so Miss Holmes could look for beetles?  The most dangerous and exciting part of the night would be to avoid getting my feet trod upon or a lemonade spilled upon my gown.

Every once in awhile I enjoy a fun steampunk, especially when it promises such exciting characters as Sherlock Holmes’ niece and Bram Stoker’s vampire-slaying little sister.  When it comes to Victorian steam-era meets alternate history, this book has it all: clockwork devices, vampire hunters, the power of deductive reasoning, buildings anchored to the sky with helium balloons, Egyptian superstition, and time travel.

Unfortunately, its strong points also end up being its downfall.  Much like a clockwork itself, this book contains so many elements meshed together that it becomes jammed and ineffective.  Had this story finished off with a perfect final piece, a conclusion that would connect everything together and bring resolution, then I would have highly recommended it, but as it stands, that piece is missing and the whole thing suffers.  I feel as if the author wrote a much, much longer story that involved all of these elements, and that this is just the first 300 pages of that.  Too many mysteries are left unsolved, too many relationships hinted at but undeveloped, too many subplots not even touched on (no, we don’t meet a SINGLE vampire in this novel, despite the fact that one of the main characters is a vampire hunter!).  Despite it’s length, it just wasn’t enough.

Also, stylistically, I’ve come to discover that I don’t particularly care for multiple first-person POVs. Evaline and Mina are interesting enough characters, but their fierce independence, stubbornness, and determination make it difficult to distinguish their voices.

Overall: A smorgasbord of steampunk elements thrown together in a mystery (or two or three) that never really ends up completely solved.

The Boundless

Boundless

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Pub: April 1, 2014

4 of 5 stars

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

Full review coming in April!

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

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