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Thin Ice

Thin

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Thin Ice by Nick Wilkshire

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.

Ottawa, Ontario is one of my favorite cities and, feeling in the mood for a good mystery, Thin Ice seemed like a perfect choice for me.

What I liked: The story grew in complexity throughout the book, with plenty of suspects and red herrings to consider. It was a quick read, a great book for those that enjoy the genre. Plus, Ottawa!

What I didn’t like: Though there was one twist that I wasn’t expecting, the investigation and the characters seemed a bit stereotypical: the young, attractive cop… his older, family-man partner… the “one that got away” ex-girlfriend… a final showdown with the baddie in with help arriving at the nick of time.

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

Help for the Haunted

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HelpHelp for the Haunted by John Searles

Pub: 2013

When Sylvie’s demonologist parents are murdered, she must adjust to life with her difficult older sister, Rose, as her guardian, and try to piece together the events that happened that brought about her parents’ deaths.

Opening line:

Whenever the phone rang late at night, I lay in my narrow bed and listened.

This book is part creepy mind-bender, part coming-of-age tale, told in the voice of a troubled teen who is just coming to realize the realities of what her parents, renown demonologists, really do for a living. It features a creepy doll, a light in the basement that turns on seemingly of its own volition, a murder mystery, and an abandoned well — all some of my favorite horror story tropes.

My only small complaint is in regard to the ending *HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILERS* because the guilty party was such a minor character with so few clues pointing in that direction that it was nearly impossible for anyone to figure out. Never mind the fact that the answer was literally just handed to Sylvie by complete coincidence.

Overall, a creepy story, one that I enjoyed.

The Death of Lucy Kyte

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DeathThe Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson

 Pub: Jun 10, 2014

British mystery author Josephine Tey investigates at the Red Barn Cottage, the site of an infamous historical murder.

 

While I loved the concept of taking historical events and real-life people and working them into a fictional novel, this is one case where it just didn’t work out to be the right book for me. The combination of literary and mystery styles I found to be too drawn-out for my tastes, and it took too long to get to the actual mystery (or, to know what it was that even was the mystery). I also found it initially difficult to keep track of who was who in Josephine’s world, especially with the character names Maria and Marta being so similar. This may have just been because I hadn’t read the other Josephine Tey books prior to this one. I also had a difficult time placing the era of this story — there were small clues to indicate that this wasn’t happening during the present-time, but I had to really read carefully to determine what decade this story took place in.

If you’re interested in an atmospheric historical mystery and you enjoy books on the more literary end of the spectrum, this is definitely an intriguing story with some beautiful prose that many readers may enjoy.

Kristy’s Great Idea

Kirsty'sKristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin
The Baby-Sitters Club #1

Pub: 1986

Kristy and her best friends form a baby-sitting club to make some money and help out the parents in their neighborhood.

Opening lines:
The Baby-sitters Club. I’m proud to say it was totally my idea, even though the four of us worked it out together. “Us” is Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi, Stacey McGill, and me — Kristy Thomas.

My local public library recently got a bunch of BSC ebooks, and when I saw them, I just had to borrow a few. What better way to relive my childhood? I think the strangest thing about it was that I distinctly remember thinking that the 7th-grader BSC members were so old and mature, and now, reading the same book, that seems so laughable. Oh, third-grade me… you were so funny.

What I liked: Oh, goodness… the fashion descriptions will probably start getting to me if I re-read more of the series, but at this point, they’re just rather hilarious. I remember having my own pair of dangly skeleton earrings, just like Claudia! It’s clean, light-hearted fun, though it also deals with some pre-teen/teen issues (parents divorcing/remarrying, independence and responsibilities, arguments w/ friends, etc) without being too in-your-face about it.

What I didn’t like: The writing isn’t particularly fabulous. There were a few parts where I would have liked to go at some of the adverbs with a red pen, and some of the dialogue was laughably unrealistic. I remember now how much I HATED the intentional spelling errors in the journal entries (especially Claudia’s). The rest of my complaints (such as the predictability of the plot) I can chalk up to the fact that these really are intended for a young audience.

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.

Invisibility

Invisibility

Invisibility by David Levithan & Andrea Cremer

Pub: May 2013

A boy who has been invisible his whole life meets the one person who can see him, who can–he hopes–help him break his curse.

Opening line:

I was born invisible.

The first part of this book was just like I’d hoped and expected–the convoluted life of an invisible boy, the struggles to simply exist, and the awakening that comes when he finally finds someone who can see him. It was such a neat premise, and I loved how the authors worked it out so that it seemed truly plausible.

And then it got not so plausible. The secret underground world of spellseers and cursecasters took it beyond realistic fantasy (is that a thing?) to straightup paranormal. As far as paranormal goes, it was a fine story, but the latter section focused so much more heavily on the spellseeing ability than Stephen’s invisibility that for a lot of it, you tended to forget that he even was invisible (there was even a part that another character was glaring at him–glaring towards him is probably more like it). Also, I’m still not quite sure what I think about the ending.

Most Anticipated Books of 2014

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine...Hollow City (Miss Peregrine #2) by Ransom Riggs
YA paranormal fantasy
Release date: January 14
Looking forward to this mix of eerie vintage photography & gripping fantasy.

Panic

Panic by Lauren Oliver
YA contemporary
Release date: Mar 4
Looking forward to this stand-alone from the author of the Delirium series.

The Winner's CurseThe Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkowski
YA fantasy
Release date: Mar 4
Looking forward to this stand-alone from the author of The Shadow Society.

The Mirk and Midnight Hour (Strands of Bronze and Gold, #2)The Mirk and the Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson
YA fantasy
Release date: Mar 11
Looking forward to this retelling of The Ballad of Tam Lin, set during the civil war.

The BoundlessThe Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
YA fantasy
Release date: Apr 1
LOVED this railway adventure by the author of Airborn.

GreatGreat by Sarah Benincasa
YA contemporary retelling
Release date: Apr 8
Looking forward to this modern retelling of The Great Gatsby.

Captured by LoveCaptured by Love by Jody Hedlund
Adult Christian historical romance
Release date: July 1
Looking forward to one of my favorite hist. romance novelist’s new book set on Mackinac Island, MI.

The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London #3) by Maureen Johnson
YA paranormal
Release date: unknown 2014?
Looking forward to the third book in this phenomenal, exciting series.

Undivided (Unwind #4) by Neal Shusterman
YA sci-fi
Release date: unknown 2014
Looking forward to the final book in this unnerving, intense series.

[Untitled] (Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stiefvater
YA paranormal
Release date: unknown 2014
Looking forward to the third book of four in this highly-original series.

Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson
YA fantasy
Release date: unknown 2014
Looking forward to the next book in this fun, exciting series.

My 13 Top Picks from 2013

Oh, how to narrow down the dozens of awesome books that came out this year?  There were 27 books published this year that I enjoyed well enough to give 4- or 5-stars.  27!  So, I tried to pick only 13 and give you a bit of an idea of what I enjoyed so much about them.

MIDDLE GRADE

The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle (The League of Princes #2)The Hero’s Guide To Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy
MG epic fantasy
I loved the world of The Hero’s Guide, loved the characters, loved the clever, witty humor, and loved how just downright FUN it was.

A Tangle of KnotsA Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
MG magic realism
I loved the twist of magic, how all the characters’ stories wove together, and — of course — the yummy recipes. Recommended for fans of Matilda.

Hokey PokeyThe Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli
MG fantasy
I loved the nostalgia of childhood that flowed from these pages, the fun that the author had with words, and the end was pretty cute, too.

YOUNG ADULT

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
YA real-world fantasy
I loved this one for the multi-dimensional characters and their relationships with one another.

Strands of Bronze and GoldStrands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
debut YA folk tale retelling
I loved this one for the lovely language and how it kept me on edge, wondering, and guessing. Recommended for fans of Entwined.

The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, #2)The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
YA paranormal
I loved the fun twist of creepy and clever, of macabre and mundane, and the cool concept made even more awesome with each plot twist.

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carringer
YA historical paranormal
I loved how witty and clever the author was, and how vividly and unapologetically she built this world of steampunk and secrecy.

Shades of Earth (Across the Universe, #3)Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
YA sci-fi
Though as a general rule, I tend not to like final books of series, this one I loved b/c it not only lived up to my expectations, but surpassed them.

ADULT

Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Adult sci-fi
I loved this one for the sheer sci-fi awesomeness of the concept, and the twists and turns that the plot took. Recommended for fans of Ready Player One.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
debut Adult biographical novel
I love reading about the Fitzgeralds and their fascinating life and the era they defined.

The Honest Toddler: A Child's Guide to ParentingThe Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting by Bunmi Laditan
debut Adult nonfiction parenting humor
I loved this book for being a hilarious parody of every parenting book I’ve ever read, and giving me a laugh when I desperately needed one.

A Noble GroomA Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund
Adult Christian historical romance
I love — ocassionally — a good Christian historical romance, and this was definitely a good one, with lots of great historical info and a heart-wrenching romance.

The Ghost BrideThe Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
debut Adult historical fantasy
I loved how this book was nothing like I’d read all the rest of the year, how atmospheric the entire thing was, and how I felt I actually learned something from it.

Secret Daughter

Secret

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Pub: 2010

An American doctor and her Indian husband adopt a girl from a Mumbai orphanage, who later travels to India in order to learn about her heritage and search for her birth parents.

At some point, the family you create is more important than the one you were born into.

This book reminded me a lot of Together Tea and A Thousand Splendid Suns.  Fans of those novels and others like it will likely enjoy the East-meets-West contrasts and insights into Indian culture that ran throughout this book.  The struggles that the poor of India — particularly women and girls — are faced head-on in this novel, with commendably blunt honesty.

Stylistically, there were some things about this book that detracted from my enjoyment of it, which some readers may not mind (or even notice!) — the greatest of which was the verb tense, which constantly jumped back and forth from present to past as people recalled whole scenes that happened days, months, or even years earlier — these constant flashbacks made the plot seem rather second-hand — something that the reader is told has happened, rather than something that we’re able to see for ourselves.  I also really did not care for Somer’s character or story line — I found it difficult to relate to her or understand her motives for the things she did.

Defending Jacob

Defending

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Pub: 2012

2.5 of 5 stars

An assistant district attorney must defend his 14-year-old son, who is arrested for the murder of a classmate.

“Andy, as hard as this is for you, it’s not about you.  It’s about Jacob.  The question is, how far will you go for Jacob?  What will you do to protect your son?”

What do I even say about a book like this?

Just the concept of having to stand by your child as s/he is accused of a heinous crime is just too horrible and depressing to even think about.  I’d never have picked this up if it weren’t a book club book, and for good reason — it’s an awful topic to dwell on, and the emotions experienced by the characters were just… painful.

I think what bothered me most, though, was the ending.  Highlight for spoilers: [The mother’s actions made me feel literally sick, and the fact that Jacob’s guilt or innocence was never determined made the whole thing feel unresolved, especially since we never find out what happened with the mother, either.]

While it definitely held my attention and kept me wondering, I’m not sure that I could really recommend this book.  It reminded me a lot of The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne, so if you enjoyed that, you may like this one as well.

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