Tuesday, June 30, 2015

One Sentence Reviews: June

I was really certain I'd get at least Rose Madder done before the end of the month, but moving has really taken it out of me. That, and I've just read my eighty-eighth (88th!) book of 2015.

Until I get my properly grumptastic feet under me again, have some one sentence reviews for the month of June!

JUNE 2015

  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (2013, time-traveling thriller)
    • Depression-era drifter finds a house which opens onto other times, already full of memorabilia from the murders he then feels compelled to commit. -- Like most time-travel stories, it's a fun head exercise tracking how all the pieces will fit together, but it has very little heart. 3/5 stars.
  • A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman (2014, contemporary)
    • Journalist's attempts to distance himself from his Jewish family fail when his grandfather enlists him to falsify his memoirs, so that he and his peers can benefit from grants set aside for Holocaust survivors. -- You know you're reading Literary Fiction when the author writes the essay for you. 2/5 stars.
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (2006, graphic novel memoir)
    • Cartoonist records accounts of her childhood in a funeral home and contrasts her coming-out experience with her memories of her closeted father. -- Well-composed and thought-provoking, at least for an afternoon. 3/5 stars.
  • Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel (2012, graphic novel memoir)
    • Cartoonist records the process of trying and failing to write about her mother, punctuated with Freudian dream analysis. -- I was just about clawing at the walls to get out of this suffocatingly neurotic meta-book; I can't deny that I think in similar patterns, but seeing them all laid out on the page was exasperating beyond belief. 1/5 stars.
  • Tea With The Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy (1999, magic-realist mystery)
    • Alarmed by her daughter's cryptic messages, a traveling musician enlists the help of a polite Chinese stranger to find and rescue her, unaware that he is an ancient creature looking for his own lost meaning. -- It's a comically bland thriller, but I enjoyed it for being exactly how I'd picture an encounter with a dragon in modern times to go. 2.5/5 stars.
  • Rose Madder by Stephen King (1995, contemporary thriller)
    • Battered wife flees to make a new life, finding courage in her recurring dreams of a labyrinth and in a mysterious painting, while her cop husband tracks her down. -- This is the scariest story King has written, but it's paradoxically one of his rare tender, affirming novels. 4.5/5 stars. (Full review here!)
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (2012, fantasy)
    • Aging ghoul-killer investigates a growing number of monsters while his apprentice bickers with the local shape-changer. -- There are very few books that I don't finish, given how quickly I read... but this one wasn't even worth the remaining two hours it might have taken to get to the end. 1/5 stars.
  • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (2010, afrofuturism)
    • Doubly condemned for being both female and a child of rape, a mixed-race girl fights for her village sorcerer to train her before her powerful father kills her in the dream world. -- I couldn't pull away from this fascinating and unusual story... until the halfway point, when it devolved into juvenile love triangles, and finished on a sickeningly awful note. 2/5 stars.
  • Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert (2014, historical)
    • Apiring jazz singer chases elusive fame, while a long list of heartbroken lovers and her own daughter cling to the scraps she leaves behind. -- I liked the dichotomy between seeing Naomi as a terrible mother and the great grief of her neglected child's life, and seeing Naomi in her own narration as a brave and terrible person fighting wildly against the limitations placed upon her. 4.5/5 stars,
  • Mariel of Redwall by Brian Jacques (1991, YA fantasy)
    • Shipwrecked amnesiac enlists the aid of Redwall Abbey and its allies to fight the corsairs who still hold her father hostage. -- This was my first Redwall book and it still--clearly--has a place in my heart, like all stories about heroic mouse girls punching villains in the face. 3/5 stars.
  • Pink by Lili Wilkinson (2009, YA contemporary)
    • Resenting the categories she has been placed in, lesbian punk teen transfers to a prep school to try out being popular and straight. -- Boy, this author had a weird bee in her bonnet: "Don't accept me so easily!" 1/5 stars.
  • Wildthorn by Jane Eagland (2009, YA historical )
    • Forced into a Victorian-era mental asylum by unknown betrayers, aspiring female doctor strives to escape and confront the truth. -- A moderately fun historical piece, not terribly memorable. 3/5 stars,
  • Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle (1999, YA ghost story)
    • Sulky young American expat helps her new stepparents restore a historic (read: haunted) farm in Dorset and takes it upon herself to free the ghost she loves. -- Better on the reread than my first try, and thanks to Della for making me pick it up again; Jenny is a strikingly charismatic narrator in a tale with good twists. 3.5/5 stars.
  • Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters (2009, YA contemporary)
    • Young teen's attempt to support her troubled girlfriend creates a cycle of abuse instead. -- This was so much an Issue Book that I couldn't even describe the characters to you; that said, the Issues at hand were ghastly and worth discussing. 2/5 stars.
  • Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden (1982, YA contemporary)
    • A chance meeting in an art museum turns into a close friendship, which turns into more. -- I knew this was a Lesbian Classic and assumed it was because the pickings were slim; I didn't realize it was because this was the sweetest, gentlest story of falling in love I've read in a long time. 4/5 stars.
  • We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach (2015, YA contemporary)
    • Ensemble cast of teenagers band together in the face of a potential meteoric apocalypse, hoping to make their final days count for something. -- Throughout the entire reading experience, I kept thinking "Life As We Knew It did it better." 2/5 stars.
  • Empress of the World by Sara Ryan (2001, YA contemporary)
    • Various characters at an intensive summer school work through various family-, identity-, and romance-related issues. -- It has a few good moments, but nothing you would regret not reading. 2/5 stars.
  • Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters (2003, YA contemporary)
    • Class president never thinks about diversity until a new transfer student lobbies for a lesbigay club; class president then thinks about it a lot harder, falls in love, and becomes villainized by parents, schoolmates, and former friends. -- Julie Anne Peters writes really well-developed characters in bizarrely underdeveloped relationships, but I can see why this particular one of her books gets discussed a lot in alternative YA circles. 3.5/5 stars.
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe (2014, YA mystery)
    • High school senior exits rehab to conduct an investigation of her best friend's murder while battling her own crippling injuries, a painkiller addiction, and the aspects of the mystery she'd rather stayed secret. -- It starts out like the author is ticking off her research points, but develops into an emotionally mature mystery (the ending of which I sincerely did not see coming.) 4/5 stars.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book Grumps isn't moving...

... but the grump herself is!

Let this stand as my apology to you, dear reader, for the lateness of June's book reviews. Most of the time, when I'm not at work, I'm packing boxes. Still, I'm really excited about the books in my review stack. Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming reviews of Stephen King's Rose Madder, Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death, and the Alison Bechdel's Fun Home!