Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

Here are the words that came to me as I read Mr. Splitfoot (2016) by Samantha Hunt:
A strange book, about which I was unsure for most of the time I was reading. Even more than half-way through, I was wondering why I was actually still reading it, especially as there was not nearly as much fantasy as the front flap description implied. But the story kept me going; I wasn't necessarily loving or even enjoying the book, but I really wanted to know what happened next.

Then twist ending made it worth it -- not only was it surprising, but it also resolved everything pretty neatly (which I always appreciate). A few things still left unsaid maybe, but anything not specifically explained was at least suggested -- good enough for me.

After I finished reading, this was one of those books that I had to just sit and think about for a few minutes, especially regarding people's general goodness (or lack thereof). The story really turned an unpleasant mirror on a sub-set of our culture most people try to ignore / forget about. Overall, this was a very interesting book that really made me think, and I was glad to have read it.
“Why do the living assume the dead know better than we do? Like they gained some knowledge by dying, but why wouldn't they just be the same confused people they were before they died?”

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona (2015) by Noelle Stevenson was originally published incrementally online, then combined into a graphic novel due to its runaway popularity thanks to the wonderful story and endearing visual style.

The story was lighthearted and humorous, but still had great messages about being different, following your instincts / conscience, and that good vs. evil is not always so black and white. Not everything was as it seemed all the way through, and so the book was very effective at making me think, at least a little.

Noelle Stevenson has a very distinct drawing style, as demonstrated both here and in her Lumberjanes series (see my review of that here). It's very casual and loose, without the rigidity often associated with some of the major publishers. This is not art to pour over each frame individually, but that moves you through the story quickly and with a great deal of interest.

My only real gripe is with the ending, which wasn't necessarily as definitive as I would have liked. I hope this means that Stevenson intends to continue the story with another series in the future?

Keep reading! Beth

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First Frost (2015) by Sarah Addison Allen was a lovely, uplifting sequel to Garden Spells (see my review of that book here). A heartwarming tale of belonging and families and relationships, knowing who you are and embracing that. Filled with very likable characters, who were flawed but (mostly) good, this book was an easy, comfortable read.

I really identified with Sydney's daughter Bay, now a high-school student set apart from her classmates by her different-ness. Though she is not shunned, she still feels 'other' and slightly isolated, knowing what she wants but not knowing how to get it -- while also dealing with the normal issues of growing up.

And even though I was frustrated by the way Sydney handled her receptionist Violet's issues, it was clear that Sydney knew it was frustrating for herself even, which made it much more understandable. (And, not to spoil anything, but I guess it worked out alright in the end...).

Overall, I would highly recommend both Garden Spells and First Frost when you want something that will captivate you without making you think too hard.
“It had taken her a long time to realize that a prison sometimes isn't a prison at all. Sometimes, it's simply a door you assume is locked because you've never tried to open it.” 

Keep reading! Beth

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ruth Galloway mystery series #5-7

Elly Griffiths continues her wonderful Ruth Galloway series in books 5-7, in which Ruth continues to solve crimes, inadvertently place herself in mortal danger, and struggle with her personal relationships in a rather endearing way. (See my review of book #1 of the series here, and books #2-4 here.)

#5: Dying Fall (2013) 

Yet another great entry in the series. I loved that Cathbad was a greater part of this story; we really got to know him better. And some additional insight into Nelson's character, being back in his hometown. Otherwise, it was a little silly that - having been in situations of mortal peril at least 3 times previously - Ruth still decides to go check out these bones with her daughter after getting threatening texts. Slightly unbelievable, but I guess it's good for the main character to have flaws and make bad decisions - it would be hard to really connect with her if she was perfect.
"'You need a break, a complete rest, recharge your batteries.' Recharge you batteries. What the hell does that mean? Nelson prides himself on not needing batteries. He's an old-fashioned, wind up model." (p. 21)

#6: The Outcast Dead (2014)  

The story in this one had a great sub-plot that really developed Judy's character especially. I'm very glad Tim has joined the team; I really like him. And so glad Cathbad has been given a reason and allowance to come back! Though I found his daughter, Maddie's, involvement in the case suspicious, it was nice to 'see' her again. And the way that the police case and the goings-on in Ruth's life intersected without Ruth officially working on the case was great and more realistic than Ruth officially consulting on every issue that comes to the police.

#7: The Ghost Fields (2015)  

It was -- interesting, I guess? -- that Nelson's wife Michelle got her own storyline in this book. I won't spoil too much by saying what this story was or my specific reaction to it, but regardless of what actually happened, I liked that she was given some additional character development outside of Nelson and Ruth. And I liked the way that Griffiths plays with suspicious of various characters, keeping you on your toes.

And that's me finally caught up on the Ruth Galloway series, just in time for the publication of book #8, The Woman in Blue, which came out May 3rd. Going to jump right into that one!

Keep reading! Beth