December 31, 2013

Review: The Republic of Thieves

Republic of Thieves Book Three in the Gentleman Bastards sequence
By Scott Lynch
Available now from Del Rey (Penguin Random House)
Review copy
Read my review of Red Seas Under Red Skies

RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES came out in 2007, a little over six years ago. The one-two punch of the hilarious, complicated, and inventive THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA and its sequel had fans eagerly awaiting the third book in the Gentleman Bastards series.  (Especially because it promised a reunion between Locke and his love Sabetha.)  Now, it's finally here and almost guaranteed to be disappointing because there has been so much time to anticipate it and wonder about what would happen.

I breezed through THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES, happy to be reunited with Locke and Jean and see them get out of their last scrape and straight into a new one.  As always, the story alternates between an episode in their past and their present.  I quite enjoyed the past, which reveals how Locke fell in love with Sabetha and wooed her.  I found those sections funny and liked how the ending forced the Gentleman Bastards to rely on their developing skills.  I also liked the development of Locke and Sabetha's romance, which is complicated by Sabetha's resentment of Locke's place in the gang.  They're similar in skill, but Sabetha is the outsider and Locke is the leader because of their sexes.

The present plot, which involves Locke and Jean trying to rig an election and Sabetha working for the other side, was less satisfying.  Yes, I liked spending time with the characters, but . . . there is no heist here, no clever unfolding of tricky plans.  The trickiest thing that happens in THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES is about on par with Locke not even trying in one of the first two books.  The biggest revelation occurs in a bit of awkward exposition.  There's barely any plot here.  My disappointment isn't so much from over anticipation as THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES not much resembling the first two books.  Not to mention there's no danger.  Each side is forbidden from killing the other.  If Locke and Jean win, they get to leave with protection.  If they lose, they just get to leave.  Those are possibly the lamest stakes ever.

I'll be back for the fourth installment in the Gentleman Bastards series.  The ending of THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES remembers that there is a series arc and that danger is tantalizing.  The past bits are good and there's plenty of fun banter.  It's just that the main plot of this entry is oddly airless.  On a whole, this book is a nice diversion for an afternoon, but not what I expected from a favorite series.

December 30, 2013

Review: Fangirl

Fangirl By Rainbow Rowell
Available now from St. Martin's Griffin (Macmillan)
Review copy

FANGIRL: the novel that launched a thousand laudatory reviews.  It's a little difficult to be just one more, sometimes.  If you haven't heard about it, FANGIRL is the story of Cath, a freshman in college.  She's long found solace in fandom and has become a popular writer of Baz/Simon fanfiction (basically Harry Potter).  She's had some difficulty in her home life: her mother left when she and her sister were eight and her father is bipolar and sometimes has breakdowns.  Now at college, she doesn't even have her twin by her side.  Wren decided to room with someone else at the last minute.

The first reason FANGIRL is easy to love is that its very relatable.  Freshman year is a liminal time.  Some people spend it getting drunk, like Wren.  Some people spend it huddled in their dorm room, like Cath.  Often times things happen to shock people out of their patterns, which of course happens in the book.  The second is that FANGIRL is a total female fantasy.  Cath is hippy but still considered attractive, has no less than two potential love interests, is adored by a professor, and finds fame online.  Her college life is, in many ways, the life other socially anxious internet dwellers dream of.  There are some downsides (anxiety) (parental abandonment), but on the whole it is just plain fun to spend time in Cath's life.

FANGIRL is the cherry on top of a wonderful year for Rainbow Rowell.  She's really arrived as an author, and I am looking forward to her next book.  This book is a great choice for anyone going to college, or who has been to college, or who didn't go and wants proof that college quite often bites the monkey.

December 27, 2013

Review: The Engineered Throne

The Engineered Throne By Megan Derr
Available now from Less Than Three Press
Review copy

When this book popped up on Netgalley, I was intrigued by the main character's job.  You don't see many military engineers in fantasy or romance.  And let me tell you, THE ENGINEERED THRONE delivers on that promise.  Vellem's career is quite important to both the plot and his own decisions.  The book will certainly make you think about the importance of having someone around battles who can take bridges down, put bridges up, plan a demolition, and such.

The other point of interest was arranged marriage.  Let's face it, during the holidays I want to read fun books.  Arranged marriages are a classic trope.  Vellem is a war hero, which makes him high profile enough to marry the youngest prince of a neighboring country in order to seal a peace treaty.  However, he might not get to marry Perdith, because someone is trying their hardest to assassinate Vellem.

Despite being 312 pages, I felt that some parts of the story were glossed over.  Vellem starts a dangerous journey, then the book cuts to him arriving at his destination.  Vellem and Perdith are at first uncomfortable and unsure whether to trust each other, then they're totally into each other.  Other parts worked better.  There is a core of grief and rage to THE ENGINEERED THRONE that works very well.  If you pay attention to the title and blurb of the book, it is easy to guess what's coming.  But the book works to make it painful, not just a rote plot point.

I enjoyed THE ENGINEERED THRONE quite a bit.  It was a quick read with lots of action and a touch of romance.  Vellem was an interesting character to spend time with - excellent at his chosen profession, but a bit at sea elsewhere.   It was fun to see him earn a happy ending.

December 24, 2013

Review: Roomies

Roomies By Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Available now from Little, Brown BFYR (Hachette)
Review copy
Read my review of The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life

I love that the explosion of sexy reads about twentysomethings is starting to bring about interest in books that are about life in college, or just before college, without necessarily being about an intense romantic relationship.  I wish there'd been more books about this time of life back when I was in college.

ROOMIES is about the last summer before college for the alternating narrators, EB and Laura.  EB a New Jersey girl is excited to move across the country to San Francisco and hopes to make friends with her roommate because, well, she won't know anyone else.  Laura hoped for a single because she's moving out of her house with five siblings and just wants some alone time.  EB's perky email introducing herself was not what Laura hoped for.

It's a great premise for a novel, because the roommate relationship is such a unique one and so very variable.  You could be best friends with your roommate and hate living with them.  You could hate them but think they're great to live with because they never eat your food or steal your makeup.  Or anywhere in between!  Pre-move-in email exchanges are basically the only thing you know about the person you'll be living with for a year before you make that plunge.  (Unless you decide to room with a friend when you go off to college.)  Plus, it's a situation ripe for misunderstandings.  Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando clearly had a great deal of fun playing with the idea.

I found it a little hard to warm to EB and Laura at first because they were both determined to think the worst of each other based off of some pretty ungenerous readings of each other's emails.  Then I started really getting into their stories.  Laura's is the simpler one.  She's preparing to move away from her close family, which is difficult even though it's something she really wants, and maybe starting a relationship with a coworker.  Her coworker is black, and ROOMIES does a great job of dealing with how people act like they don't notice that but do.  EB, meanwhile, is having to deal with her mom's affair with a married man, the new guy she likes despite having a boyfriend, and getting up the courage to talk to her estranged gay dad who lives in San Francisco.  It is to the book's credit that it refers to this storyline as a soap opera but doesn't let it get too overly dramatic.

I really loved how many relationships are woven into ROOMIES.  There is the girls' growing, fraught relationship, of course.  But both of their family relationships are explored, as are their relationships with boys, and their relationships with their best female friends, all of which are changing because going off to college is a huge transition.  It's very realistic, which helps keep ROOMIES moving smoothly along instead of feeling overstuffed.

I think ROOMIES will be a big hit with contemporary fans and anyone who is making their own transition to college.  It's very positive while not ignoring potential negativity, and often just sweet and funny.  Just don't be fooled by the cover: they don't make it to the dorm room until the very end.  And you'll have to read the book to find out whether EB and Laura decide to live together after all.

Be sure to visit on January 10th when I post my own Roomies story and give away a copy of ROOMIES!

December 23, 2013

Mini-Middle Grade Reviews on a Monday

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
By Kathi Appelt
Available now from Atheneum BFYR (Simon & Schuster)
Review copy
Read my review of Keeper

The eponymous scouts are Bingo and J'miah, raccoon brothers keeping an eye on the Sugar Man Swamp from an old, overgrown DeSoto.  They're to wake the Sugar Man, a Yeti-like figure, if the swamp is in trouble.

It quickly becomes apparent that the swamp is in trouble.

Kathi Appelt weaves together a tale of humans, animals, and cane sugar in a sweet, down-home voice perfectly suited to the material.  It's so beautifully descriptive that I wanted illustrations even as I was happy that everything was left to me to imagine.  It's funnier and less dark than her other books, although it still touches on important issues.  THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP is definitely worthy of that National Book Award Finalist medal on its cover.

Listening for Lucca Listening for Lucca
By Suzanne LaFleur
Available now from Wendy Lamb Books (Penguin Random House)
Review copy

LISTENING FOR LUCCA is the tale of Siena, who has just moved to a beach house with her parents and younger brother Lucca, who doesn't talk.  She quite likes their new hometown, but she and Lucca both suspect that their house is haunted.

I really enjoyed LISTENING FOR LUCCA.  This is a quiet, simple book.  The fantasy elements are likewise quiet - these are fairly passive ghosts.  Thus, LISTENING FOR LUCCA reads almost like a contemporary.  The family is well realized, both agreeing to let Lucca talk in his own time and individually worrying about how to convince him to talk.

I suspect lots of readers will identify with Siena, who struggles with fitting in and being a patient big sister.  I think this novel will appeal to fans of Mary Downing Hahn.

In Search of Goliathus Hercules In Search of Goliathus Hercules
By Jennifer Angus
Available now from Albert Whitman & Company/Open Road Media
Review copy

Henri is a normal nineteenth-century boy until he goes to live with his aunt.  There he starts to realize that he can speak to insects.  But he runs away to the circus to escape his aunt's sinister neighbor, Mrs. Black, who might know his secret.

I liked how this story combined a mystery about Henri's father's disappearance, the mystery of Mrs. Black's motive and powers, and an adventure about life in the circus.  There is, of course, a search for a large insect known as the Goliathus Hercules as well.

In the end, I had niggling questions remaining about how some of the magic worked, but I did like IN SEARCH OF GOLIATHUS HERCULES.  Few books are so passionate about the insect world, and Jennifer Angus clearly knows her subject.

Magic Marks the Spot Magic Marks the Spot
Book One of The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates
By Caroline Carlson
Illustrated by Dave Phillips
Available now from HarperCollins
Review copy

I do enjoy books about pirates!  MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT tells of Hilary Westfield's journey to become a pirate, complicated by the facts that she's a girl and the daughter of an admiral.  I have always enjoyed girl-crossdresses-as-a-boy stories, but that is not this one.  Hilary is determined to do it all as a girl.

MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT is a very fun story, filled with a search for treasure and mysterious thieves and unexpected magic.  I'm not sure it's a great start to a series, because it stands very well on its own.  There are no loose ends here.  The only real problem is that the chapters end with bits of letters and newspaper articles.  This would be a nice way to catch up with what's going on with other characters, except at least half of the letters are in a little cursive font on a darkened background.  It's hard to read as an adult who was taught cursive - I can definitely see it tripping up kids.

The Savage Lands The Savage Lands
Book Three of Tarzan
By Andy Briggs
Available now from Open Road Media
Review copy

I read the original TARZAN by Edgar Rice Burroughs back when I was a kid and Disney's Tarzan came out.  I must say, I never was a real Tarzan fan.

In many ways, I like the idea of a rebooted Tarzan, with modern technology and such.  In execution, Andy Briggs' THE SAVAGE LANDS didn't do anything more for me than the original.  I did like that Jane is very active in the series.  Why, the first thing she does is save a man with a well-timed machete swing.  You can certainly try this book with the young action/adventure fan in your life.

December 21, 2013

Ned Vizzini, December 19, 2013

I don't often mention it when authors die on my blog.  I'm afraid that I'll miss an author and insult someone and often I don't feel like I have anything to say that isn't being said better by someone else.  I'll not say much here.

Ned Vizzini's books spoke to so many of the difficulties that many people, young adult and adult adult, struggle with every day.  He spoke about his own struggles with depression.  His words have helped, and will continue to do so.  The manner of his death does not change the way he lived his life.  He wrote and spoke about mental illness, one of society's last remaining taboos.  He did not shove it under the rug, pretend that it was easy.  If only it was easy.

My condolences to his family and friends.

And for any of my readers struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, my best wishes go out to you. 

December 16, 2013

Review: Charming

Charming Book One of the Pax Arcana
By Elliot James
Available now from Orbit (Hachette)
Review copy

I loved the premise of CHARMING.  The protagonist, John Charming, is from the Charming family - a long line of monster hunters who inspired the various Prince Charmings in fairytales.  However, the book wasn't quite what I expected.  It's a fairly typical kitchen sink urban fantasy setup with nary another fairytale related character in sight.  I started reading the book to find out where Prince Charming came from, and that has absolutely zero to do with what actually happens.  Now, as urban fantasy goes it wasn't bad, just not what I expected when I started.

"Wasn't bad" is actually about the sum of my reaction to CHARMING.  I think the Pax Arcana series will grow into something I really like.  John has been a loner for a long time, but he ends up working with a group of monster hunters who have been together awhile.  I liked their camaraderie and personalities and look forward to seeing John really become a part of the group.  There's a lot of potential here for a fun series with a strong ensemble, but the first book does have the burden of having to provide all of the set up in addition to a story.

CHARMING combines a case plot with a strong romantic plot - stronger that I've seen in most urban fantasies with male protagonists.  Everything starts when a blonde walks into John's bar.  That blonde is Sig, a Valkyrie.  As the two work together to figure out what's up with the vampires lately, they start feeling an attraction.  The problem: Sig already has a boyfriend.  John's pursuit of an attached lady could be off-putting, but author Elliot James simplifies the potential conflict by making Sig's current squeeze loathsome.  However, Sig herself is strongly moral and loyal.  She's neither going to throw over her guy without good reason nor cheat on him. 

Again, what I really have to give props to is the ensemble.  For instance, two of the people on Sig's team are humans who stumbled into the whole monster fighting thing by accident: an exterminator and a priest.  It's totally reasonable that they would happen upon things that go bump in the night, be traumatized by it, and keep fighting.  The priest, Molly, was a particular highlight in all sorts of ways that I won't spoil here.

For now, I'd stick to renting CHARMING from the library if you're into slightly silly, slightly generic, slightly romantic urban fantasy.  Still, I think this is a series to watch.  I'll definitely be reading DASHING.

December 11, 2013

Review: Ascension

Ascension The first Tangled Axon novel
By Jacqueline Koyanagi
Available now from Masque Books (Prime Books)
Review copy

I was excited about ASCENSION when everyone started talking about it on Tumblr.  If there's one thing blogging has taught me, it's that there is a demand for stories with diverse characters.  Along comes a science fiction tale with characters of varied ethnicity and sexualities, plus the protagonist has a debilitating chronic illness.  Unfortunately, you can't build a story on diversity alone.

ASCENSION suffers from a serious lack of plot, first of all.  There is a major, devastating event at the beginning and a flurry of activity at the end.  Between that, not much happens.  And the ending isn't enough to save it.  The reveals about the true nature of the Tangled Axon were things I'd figured out long before, much like main character Alana's older sister Nova.

The sororal relationship between Alana and Nova was my favorite part of the book.  They have very different outlooks and goals in life, which leads to quite a bit of friction.  At the same time, they love each other unquestionably and do quite a bit to keep the other safe.  The other relationships in the novel didn't move me as much.  Most of the Tangled Axon crew are underwritten and the romance is uneven.  Alana thinks Captain Tev is hot as soon as she sees her after she stows aboard.  She starts thinking about how she's falling in love before they have any real personal conversations, which just didn't work for me.  It was mostly Alana pining instead of real interaction, and I need interaction in my love stories.

Good worldbuilding could've saved ASCENSION.  But honestly, I couldn't tell you much about this spacefaring future.  There's a medical company, Transliminal, that's quite powerful, which is plausible.  Nova is a sort of religious witch, although I never fully understood how her powers worked.  Alana is an engineer in space for the first time, and while she's certainly fascinated by the Tangled Axon, we never really get scenes of her repairing or otherwise working on the ship.  How does space travel work in this universe?  Who knows.

It felt like ASCENSION wanted to be a romance novel above all else.  But the romance style didn't work for me, and that left the science fiction and action-adventure elements too thin on the ground.  ASCENSION is more for people who like their science fiction heavy on the philosophy.  I'm sure there is an audience for this book, but sadly I am not it.  I do, however, applaud Jaqueline Koyanagi for developing a diverse future.  That is a good start.

December 10, 2013

Review: Day One

Day One By Nate Kenyon
Available now from Thomas Dunne Books (Macmillan)
Review copy

DAY ONE takes a familiar premise (man vs. machine) and centers in on the very beginning.  John Hawke is interviewing James Weller, a tech mogul who left his former company under acrimonious circumstances and claims that he has a doozy of a story to tell.  It's strange that he would tell it to Hawke, a disgraced journalist (and hacker, of course).

I thought DAY ONE did a terrific job with the horror elements.  Several scenes are terrifying, and the expanse of the antagonist is daunting.  Even the coffee makers have turned against humanity, under the control of Doe.  I did feel that the protagonists sometimes made terrible decisions.  For instance, they decide that the best way to travel through New York is the subway tunnels.  They had a few reasons for that, but none of them make up for forgetting that subways tunnels are full of trains.  Who sets themselves up to be stuck in a small, dark area with a massive, fast machine that doesn't like you?

Some of that may come from the fact that I never really liked Hawke.  I thought that some of the other members of his party were more interesting.  Hawke is driven by the need to get back to New Jersey, where his wife and son might be in danger from their neighbor.  Obviously, everyone understands the need to be with and protect family.  But I just had to grit my teeth every time Hawke made a justification for not moving away from a scary guy who clearly has creepy designs on his pregnant wife.

Basically, I liked the action but thought that the attempts to make me bond with the protagonist fell flat.  I never cared about his redemption as a family man, I cared about these people escaping murderous technology!  I'd stick to checking this one out from the library.

December 9, 2013

Review: More Than This

More Than This By Patrick Ness
Available now from Candlewick (Llewellyn)
Review copy

A boy is in the ocean, tossed about and eventually bashed upon the rocks.  He then wakes up in his childhood home in England, not America.  From there, he begins to piece together who he is and what's going on.  Every time he dreams, he sees his memories.  Thus, he remembers that his name is Seth and assumes he's in hell.

You see, something terrible happened to Seth's younger brother back when their family lived in England.  Seth has felt guilty his entire life.  He's also struggling with memories of his friends and his secret boyfriend.  Then his ruminations are interrupted when he comes across two other people.

I flip-flopped back and forth between really liking MORE THAN THIS and being meh about it.  I felt that as more was explained, the book became sillier and less appealing.  But then Ness partially saved it by upping the ambiguity about whether the supposed explanation for what was happening was correct.  And honestly, I prefer to believe that it isn't, because it really doesn't make much sense.

However, there were several aspects that worked wonderfully.  The flashbacks are all top-notch, particularly the ones dealing with Seth and Gudmund's relationship.  Regine and Tomascz are good characters, although noticeably less developed than Seth.  (How can they not be, when the entire first part of MORE THAN THIS is his inner monologue?)  They both have their own traumas that they are working through.

MORE THAN THIS is an unusual book, with some sections that are very philosophical and others that are horrific.  It's wonderfully written, as can be expected of Ness.  I don't think it's his best book.  However, while it might be messy, but it is also ambitious, and I always respect ambition.  I think the best parts of MORE THAN THIS outweigh its weaknesses.

December 5, 2013

Review: Hushed

Hushed By Kelley York
Available now from Entangled
Review copy

When I wrote about MADE OF STARS, I mentioned that I'd long been interested in Kelley York's first book, HUSHED.   What then pops up on Netgalley but HUSHED, with a new cover?  I seriously couldn't resist the bonkers summary.  Archer has been killing people to protect his best friend Vivian, because he once failed to protect her when they were younger.

I'll admit that I never quite warmed up to Archer.  There's a real sense of unreality to the premise, but the book was written more realistically than I expected.  Archer definitely has psychological trauma, but I never really fell into the revenge fantasy.  Maybe I'm just maturing.  It didn't help that I had very mixed feelings about the Archer and Vivian friendship.  Vivian eventually becomes outright villainous, but at the beginning she was much less manipulative than I expected.  She's a little shallow, but that's a minor character flaw comparatively.  Archer, meanwhile, is a full blown Nice Guy.  He thinks that if stays by Vivian's side (and kills enough people), then she'll realize he's been the perfect guy for her all along.

However, I liked Evan quite a bit.  Evan is the catalyst in HUSHED.  He's a new student at the local university who first meets Archer when he's alone on campus.  Their budding relationship forces Archer to look more critically at his relationship with Vivian.  It also starts him towards the realization that you can't just kill people.  Evan isn't just an instrument of the plot, however.  He has his own interests and family, and his ethical dilemmas about Archer become increasingly important as the story moves on.

I didn't love HUSHED as much as I expected, partially because it wasn't as campy as I was expecting.  It suffers a little from wanting to have its cake and eat it too, to portray Archer's crimes as real, unjustified crimes and still have him be the hero of the story.  It's pretty entertaining and there is interesting psychological and character work, but it's a little rough.  There are definable, understandable reasons for Archer and Vivian's behavior, but there was something about the story that kept me separate from them instead of buying in.  The sweet romance between Archer and Evan was a nice counterpoint to the murder and associated darkness, and it was easy to see how that would affect Archer so deeply.

In the end, I still thought HUSHED was worth reading.  It was certainly different from the other books I've been reading lately.

December 4, 2013

Review: The Real Boy

Book Cover By Anne Ursu
Illustrations by Erin McGuire
Available now from Walden Pond Press (HarperCollins)
Review copy

I think I have a weakness for stories about magician's apprentices.  Not that Oscar is a real apprentice.  He works in the basement of a magic shop, chopping and storing herbs, and other menial work.  He knows herbs and cats, but not people.

Then Oscar is thrust into the task of running the shop by himself, interacting with patrons and offering the right bit of magic to solve their problems.  It's not his strong suit.  Luckily, a fellow apprentice, Callie, agrees to help him understand people and run the store.  Although it is not said in the text, since THE REAL BOY is set in a fantasy land, Oscar is somewhere on the autism spectrum.  I thought this was well done, but I'm not sure whether it would work as well with the intended audience.

I do enjoy the fable-like style of THE REAL BOY.  Oscar and Callie live on the only island in the world with magic, but they soon discover that there are consequences of magic.  They also learn that things aren't always what they appear to be, nor are people.  On the other hand, I had issues with how the plot plays out.  It doesn't make much sense when you think about it, even if it makes sense with the themes of THE REAL BOY.

The pictures by Erin McGuire are terrific.  They leave the characters' ethnicities ambiguous, so that kids can see themselves reflected in the pictures.  They also match the descriptions in the text well.

I thought THE REAL BOY was wonderful, but I'm not sure that its appeal will come across fully to younger readers.  It's not quite as accessible as BREADCRUMBS.

December 3, 2013

Review: Third Lie's the Charm

Third Lie's the Charm Third book of The Liar Society
By Lisa and Laura Roecker
Available now from Sourcebooks Fire
Review copy
Read my review of The Lies That Bind

Lisa and Laura Roecker bring their series The Liar Society to a close with a book that racks up the body count while delivering humor, romance, and mystery.  Be warned: minor spoilers for the first two books follow.

Kate Lowry has destroyed the Brotherhood, and she's feeling good about that, even if it didn't turn out exactly how she planned.  Now she just has to destroy the Sisterhood and her revenge for her best friend Grace's death will be complete.  Then she ignores a call in the pursuit of her goals, and another classmate ends up dead.  Kate has a new case to investigate in addition to her continued plans of sabotage.

I love Kate, who has a very masculine character arc.  She's willing to give up love in order to pursue vengeance.  And, well, if multiple guys are going to pursue her, she is going to worry about it when there aren't dead bodies on the ground and she's going to mock any and all displays of testosterone.  Kate is in way over her head, but she's been that way from the start and refuses to give up now.

I've just had so much fun with this series.  It is completely over-the-top with the almost all powerful secret societies, but that's part of what makes it so fun.  That craziness is anchored by the great heroine and her complicated relationships with friends, boys, and other classmates.

THIRD LIE'S THE CHARM did have some structural issues.  Things fall into place way too simply at the end of the novel because this is the end of the series and things have to wrap up.  There's a detour to a bizarrely short camp that is funny, but in the end could have been more relevant.  The plotting just isn't as neat, which is a shame since that's been a strength of this series.

But the characters and their interactions are as wonderful as ever, which makes the book worth it.  THIRD LIE'S THE CHARM and its two predecessors are excellent choices for young adult mystery fans.

December 2, 2013

Review: All the Truth That's in Me

All the Truth That's In Me By Julie Berry
Available now from Viking Juvenile (Penguin Random House)
Review copy

I love the cover for ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME.  It's stark, striking, and a beautiful fit for the contents within.  Judith and her best friend disappeared from their village four years ago, and Judith recently returned with half of her tongue cut out.   Her friend's body was found years ago.  Now Judith faces all sorts of suspicion, but can't respond.

I fell into the rhythms of this book almost immediately.  ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME is told from Judith in the first person, although many of her words are directed towards her crush, Lucas.  Her words are immediate, but have a poetry to them.  It's also an interesting head to be in - Judith's experience has aged her in some ways, but it's also kept her isolated from society since she was twelve.  It's a hard head to be in, because life has not been kind to Judith.  However, things begin to change for her.

ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME was a tense read.  As things change, I wasn't sure if everything would turn out alright or if it would only get worse for Judith.  Judith has to calculate the risks of what might improve her life and her control of it, and what might make it worse for her.

I found that the setting enhanced the story.  Although no specifics are given, it is presumable colonial America.  Religion has a great deal of power in the story, and there are local elements that aren't friendly with the townspeople, who have limited access to firearms.  Much of the difficulties Judith faces are because it is assumed that she is no longer a virgin.  And the townspeople seem to be simple archetypes at first, but many turn out to be more developed.  I particularly liked what Julie Berry did with the pretty, popular girl who is Judith's romantic rival.

ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME is an intense historical about a young woman's coming of age in adversity.  It's a book unlike any others I have read this year, powerfully feminist and told in beautiful language.


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