Three Star Books 2013

When I was brushing my teeth before bed at around 2 a.m. on January 1st, it occurred to me that I should recall which book I last read in 2013. It was Hyperbole and a Half (I gave it to my sister and Matt's uncle for Christmas: my brother-in-law gave it to me), which I sat down with for half an hour before I started cooking stuff to receive company. Seems like a pretty good book to end the year with. On January 1st, I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which could not have been more perfect for a first read of the year.

Forty-six three-star reads this year.

Merciless by Richard Montanari: Goodreads synopsis: On a frigid December night, Karen sits at the edge of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, dressed in a flowing gown, like a visitor from the distant past. A beautiful and shining young woman, she gazes up at a bone-white winter moon like a fairy-tale princess frozen in time. At first glance, one might not even notice that she is dead, coated in a glistening patina of ice.
Homicide cops Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano take the lead on the case, uncovering a plethora of eerie clues–each more warped and spine-chilling than the last. Yet the identity of Karen’s pitiless killer remains a mystery. Then the next victim is found upriver at an abandoned waterworks, posed with an unlikely object in her clasped hands. Struggling to link the victims and make sense of the madman’s agenda, Byrne and Balzano follow his twisted trail, which stretches into a past of dark crimes forgotten by all but a few. 
Now the past roars back into the present with a vengeance as the ingenious killer unleashes a torrent of rage upon the streets of Philadelphia. As Byrne and Balzano sift through suspects and clues, they unearth a shocking secret history: a legacy of malevolence and cold-blooded retribution dating back twenty years. And the farther they make their way up the body-strewn banks of the Schuylkill River, the closer they get to a villain from their worst nightmare, an evil as patient as it is merciless. 
Lightning fast and razor sharp, this jolting thriller from acclaimed author Richard Montanari coils back in time to deliver a fiendish mystery, a shattering revelation, and one hell of a wild ride. Lock your doors and turn up the lights. Montanari’s terrifying bedtime story will keep you up all night.

I remember that I liked the characters, but nothing about the mystery. Oops. 

Defending Jacob by William Landay: Goodreads synopsis: Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.
Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.
Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.

My review from Goodreads: Another good-ish book that could have been great, with a little more time or skill or editing or something. It's a slightly dated style of storytelling, to my mind, and early on there is some incisive musing about human nature. But the dialogue, particularly between the husband and wife regarding the son, and between the main character and his father, is just sort of shallow and repetitive, and could really have used more thought. The author may have been going for uncertainty as to Jacob's character, but instead he just seems insufficiently fleshed out. The ending was surprising but could have been devastating in more careful or skilled hands.

Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory: Goodreads synopsis: It is a world like our own in every respect . . . save one. In the 1950s, random acts of possession begin to occur. Ordinary men, women, and children are the targets of entities that seem to spring from the depths of the collective unconscious, pop-cultural avatars some call demons. There’s the Truth, implacable avenger of falsehood. The Captain, brave and self-sacrificing soldier. The Little Angel, whose kiss brings death, whether desired or not. And a string of others, ranging from the bizarre to the benign to the horrific.
As a boy, Del Pierce is possessed by the Hellion, an entity whose mischief-making can be deadly. With the help of Del’s family and a caring psychiatrist, the demon is exorcised . . . or is it? Years later, following a car accident, the Hellion is back, trapped inside Del’s head and clamoring to get out.
Del’s quest for help leads him to Valis, an entity possessing the science fiction writer formerly known as Philip K. Dick; to Mother Mariette, a nun who inspires decidedly unchaste feelings; and to the Human League, a secret society devoted to the extermination of demons. All believe that Del holds the key to the plague of possession–and its solution. But for Del, the cure may be worse than the disease.

My review from Goodreads: I was eager to read this, and then had trouble getting into it. I'm not sure why - the characters are likable and the family dynamic is completely realistic, but the events of the first third of the book or so seemed confusing to me, as if the author was having some trouble bending the events to fit the premise. The rest of the book picks up momentum, and the ending is quite affecting.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford: Goodreads synopsis: In the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.
This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry's world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While "scholarshipping" at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship - and innocent love - that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.
Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel's dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice - words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

Sweet. Almost too sweet, maybe a bit toothless. Might have done better as a YA novel. Wait, is it a YA novel? As a YA novel it's very good. Captures the flavour of the Japanese internment, but not much of the horror. Renders the miscommunication between generations, but wraps it up a touch too neatly. Lovely story, though, and good history lesson.

Crewel by Gennifer Albin: Goodreads synopsis: Incapable. Awkward. Artless. 

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: She wants to fail.
Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. But if controlling what people eat, where they live, and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.
Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and used her hidden talent for a moment. Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her dad’s jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because tonight, they’ll come for her.

My review from Goodreads: In many ways it follows the formula of all the other trilogies of this ilk - heroine with unsuspected special talent, repressive regime, hints of subversiveness and coming revolution - but the weaving device is original and works well, and the heroine is very enjoyable, gutsy and wise-cracking and strong. I don't know why I'm such an idiot that I pick these up and don't realize until I'm halfway through that I'm headed for an 'end of Book One' type of ending. Sigh.

Somewhere Beneath Those Waves by Sarah Monette: Goodreads synopsis: The first non-themed collection of critically acclaimed author Sarah Monette''s best short fiction. To paraphrase Hugo-award winner Elizabeth Bear's introduction: "Monette's prose is lapidary, her ideas are fantastical and chilling. She has studied the craft of fantastic fiction from the pens of masters and mistresses of the genre. She is a poet of the awkward and the uncertain, exalter of the outcast, the outre, and the downright weird. There is nothing else quite like Sarah Monette's fiction.

My review from Goodreads: Wildly uneven. Some are mere vignettes, which bothers me when they are included in a short story collection, because they should be stories, dammit. I felt like I was being led down the garden path by someone who wanted to dazzle me with her labyrinthine prose for the first few entries, but then I read one that I actually liked, so I decided not to give up. The ones that I liked, I really liked. I'd be interested in some of her longer fiction.

Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb: Goodreads synopsis: Like Brick Lane and The Kite Runner, Camilla Gibb's widely praised new novel is a poignant and intensely atmospheric look beyond the stereotypes of Islam. After her hippie British parents are murdered, Lilly is raised at a Sufi shrine in Morocco. As a young woman she goes on pilgrimage to Harar, Ethiopia, where she teaches Qur'an to children and falls in love with an idealistic doctor. But even swathed in a traditional headscarf, Lilly can't escape being marked as a foreigner. Forced to flee Ethiopia for England, she must once again confront the riddle of who she is and where she belongs.

My review from Goodreads: It's interesting that Clara Callan is recommended on the Goodreads page for people who like this book, because they do strike me as very similar - a nicely-told story that richly evokes a specific time and place. The prose doesn't scream 'look at me' and there are no bells and whistles, but the characters are fully fleshed out and the setting is impeccable.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain: Goodreads synopsis: At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.
Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.
Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts--from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a "pretend extrovert."
This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.

I didn't like this quite as much as I expected to. There were certainly some interesting observations and persuasive insights, but the author herself was a little bit annoying, and the tenor of the book was too much "introverts rule, extroverts are too dumb and loud and golden-retriever-leaping-about to recognize it" and not enough "we need both". 

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: Goodreads synopsis: In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.
The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them.

Meh. Yeah. I dunno. The time and place and steampunk elements are cool. The clockwork army is neat. I like the Shadowhunters device. But the tortured love triangle is SO rote and formula - well, okay, the friendship between Will and Jem makes it a little different, but the whole fact of Will being cruel to Tessa because he loves her but some deep dark secret means he can't be with her was positively vomitorious. 

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare: Goodreads synopsis: In magical Victorian London, orphan Tessa found safety with the Shadowhunters, until traitors betray her to the Magister. He wants to marry her, but so do self-destructive Will and fiercely devoted Jem. Mage Magnus Bane returns to help them. Secrets to her parentage lie with the mist-shrouded Yorkshire Institute's aged manager Alyosius Starkweather.

Why yes, yes I did read this one too. More of the same. The deep dark secret was - well, okay, legitimately deep and dark. The love triangle has reached ludicrous proportions. Still kept my attention. 

The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianna Malone: Goodreads synopsis: Almost everybody who has grown up in Chicago knows about the Thorne Rooms. Housed in the Children’s Galleries of the Chicago Art Institute, they are a collection of 68 exquisitely crafted miniature rooms made in the 1930s by Mrs. James Ward Thorne. Each of the 68 rooms is designed in the style of a different historic period, and every detail is perfect, from the knobs on the doors to the candles in the candlesticks. Some might even say, the rooms are magic.
Imagine—what if you discovered a key that allowed you to shrink so that you were small enough to sneak inside and explore the rooms’ secrets? What if you discovered that others had done so before you? And that someone had left something important behind?
Fans of Chasing Vermeer, The Doll People, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will be swept up in the magic of this exciting art adventure!

My review from Goodreads: Two and a half stars. Sweet, slight. (I think maybe I was a little hard on this. It's classed for eight and up. What did I expect, exactly? Or maybe I shouldn't second-guess myself. If I remember correctly, the writing was simply NOT as good as E.L. Konigsburg's, even though the plot was cute. So THERE).

Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien: Goodreads synopsis: Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?

My review from Goodreads: Interesting move, creating a whole new setting from the first book's. Isn't Gaia Stone a fantastic name? Suffers a bit from Insurgent Syndrome, i.e. independent sympathetic heroine becoming a bit annoying and doing inexplicably dumb stuff. And the romantic square, because a triangle wasn't complicated and contrived enough? And the wildly improbably conceit of a small number of women completely dominating a large number of men? 

Seriously, WHY does everything have to be a trilogy?

Dexter is Delicious by Jeff Lindsay: Goodreads synopsis: Dexter Morgan's happy homicidal life is undergoing some major changes. He's always live by a single golden rule - he kills only people who deserve it. But the Miami blood-spatter analyst has recently become a daddy - to an eight-pound curiosity named Lily Anne - and strangely, Dex's dark urges seem to have left him. Is he ready to become an overprotective father? To pick up soft teddy bears instead of his trusty knife, duct tape, and fishing wire? What's a serial killer to do?
Then Dexter is summoned to investigate the disappearance of an eighteen-year-old girl who seems to have been abducted by a bizarre group...who just may be vampires...and - possibly - cannibals. Nothing like the familiar hum of his day job to get Dexter's creative dark juices flowing again. Assisting his bull-in-a-china-shop detective sister, Deborah, Dex wades into an investigation that gets more disturbing by the moment. And to compound the complication of Dexter's ever-more-complicated life, a person from his past suddenly reappears...moving dangerously close to his home turf and threatening to destroy the one thing tat has maintained Dexter's pretend human cover and kept him out of the electric chair: his new family.
From an uncharacteristically racy encounter in the Florida Everglades to the most bizarre fringe nightclub in the anything-goes Miami scene,Dexter Is Delicious is an ingenious journey through the dark recesses of Dexter's lovably cold soul. Jeff Lindsay is once again at the top of his game, with this new novel that will thrill fans of his bestselling series.

I pick one of these up periodically, just to savour the delicious weirdness of a mystery series wherein the tv show is actually better - more nuanced, more profound, more substantial - than the books. Oh, the books are diverting, amusing, fun enough. But if you were going to consume one or the other, I'd steer you towards the show. Actually, SPOILER ALERT

I like the way the books handled Dexter's sister finding out about his pastime a little better than how the show did it. But I hate how dumb Rita is in the books. I loved her in the show, and in the books she comes across as borderline mentally challenged. Rita's kids being as sociopathic and murderous as their stepfather is amusing in the books, but wouldn't translate well to television.

Off the Grid by P.J. Tracy: Goodreads synopsis: PJ Tracy, author of top 10 bestsellers "Play to Kill", "Snow Blind" and "Dead Run", returns with "Two Evils", a brand new, nerve-shredding Gino and Magozzi thriller that will keep you up well in to the night. When a missing teenage girl is found dead in a parking lot, her throat slashed, it's only the beginning. The discovery leads police directly to the bodies of two young immigrants killed in their run down apartment. The next morning three more men are found dead in the street nearby. Welcome to summer in the city. None of it makes any sense. But as Minneapolis Police Department homicide detectives Gino and Magozzi struggle to establish what's happened, they realise that the deaths may not be as random as they first appear. Nor, it seems, were they simply an isolated, freak twenty-four hours of violence in the Twin Cities. As the killings continue, Gino and Magozzi turn to maverick computer analyst Grace McBride for help. But Grace's contribution to the investigation depends on her staying alive long enough to provide it. And as the evidence mounts, piece by piece, it reveals terrifying intent. Ultimately, it forces the two detectives to make a dreadful choice: down which path does the lesser of two evils lie..."Two Evils" offers all the knife-edge plotting, rich characterisation and crackling dialogue PJ Tracy fans have come to expect from a thriller writer at the top of their game.

My review on Goodreads: None of the later books have captured the energy and excitement of the first three for me, but this one was better than the last one or two. (Strangely enough, this mother/daughter writing team seem to me to have STARTED the series at the top of their game. Their first book was outstanding, their second I remember as one of the best mysteries I've ever read, and the third (the first one I read) was great. Since then I just get the feeling that they're kind of phoning it in. They don't seem to know what to do with Grace and Leo, although they were doing fine early on. The books aren't bad, they're just sort of pale imitations when compared with the early ones).

Walls Within Walls by Maureen Sherry: Goodreads synopsis: After their father, a video-game inventor, strikes it rich, the Smithfork kids find they hate their new life. They move from their cozy Brooklyn neighborhood to a swanky apartment on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. They have no friends, a nanny who takes the place of their parents, and a school year looming ahead that promises to be miserable.
And then, one day, Brid, CJ, and Patrick discover an astonishing secret about their apartment: The original owner, the deceased multimillionaire Mr. Post, long ago turned the apartment itself into a giant puzzle containing a mysterious book and hidden panels—a puzzle that, with some luck, courage, and brainpower, will lead to discovering the Post family fortune. Unraveling the mystery causes them to race through today's New York City—and to uncover some long-hidden secrets of the past.
Maureen Sherry's page-turning debut novel is filled with adventure, intrigue, and heart.

Cute and fun, with some history and an obvious affection for New York City. A solid three stars, maybe three and a half. I'll make Eve read it if she ever gets done with Percy Jackson books. 

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: Goodreads synopsis: Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

My review from Goodreads: I started it, then put it down for a while because it wasn't living up to the other books of hers I had read. It seemed like more of a thought experiment about what it would be like to be a contemporary black woman transported back to the days of slavery than a true novel. But then I picked it up again, and I think I read in the meantime that she was quite young when she wrote it as a workshop project, and in this light I am more impressed by it. It is quite fascinating to contemplate whether it would be worse to be a slave with no knowledge of anything else and no hope that things would change, or to be forced to act subservient out of self-defense when it isn't your reality (although racism still exists). The complexity of Rufus's character, and Dana's feelings about him, is quite maturely done, although it sometimes stretched the bonds of credulity that she could still forgive him for increasingly inhuman behaviour. Or maybe it was just human weakness. Clearly, the book did make me think, so that's a good thing.(If you're interested in reading Butler, I would recommend Parable of the Sower or Fledgling before this: her short stories are also excellent). 

Mind's Eye by Hakan Nesser: Goodreads synopsis: The highly anticipated first novel in the Inspector Van Veeteren series in now available in English. At last, American readers will be able to enjoy, from its very beginnings, this addictive series by one of Europe’s most beloved and best-selling crime writers.
Chief Inspector Van Veeteren knew that murder cases were never as open-and-shut as this one: Janek Mitter woke one morning with a brutal hangover and discovered his wife of three months lying facedown in the bathtub, dead. With only the flimsiest excuse as his defense, he is found guilty of a drunken crime of passion and imprisoned in a mental institution.
But Van Veeteren’s suspicions about the identity of the killer are borne out when Mitter also becomes a murder victim. Now the chief inspector launches a full-scale investigation of the two slayings. But it may only be the unspoken secrets of the dead–revealed in a mysterious letter that Mitter wrote shortly before his death–that will finally allow Van Veeteren to unmask the killer and expose the shocking root of this sordid violence.

My review from Goodreads: I think I read the second or third in this series first, and this wasn't nearly as good. Van Veeteren was intelligent and insightful in the one I read - in this one he comes across as more cartoonishly grumpy. It was still well plotted and interestingly offbeat - I will probably read the others in the series. But the first one I read was more reminiscent of Fred Vargas's Adamsberg books, which I adore. If I had read this one first, I probably wouldn't have continued. 

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes: Goodreads synopsis: THE GIRL WHO WOULDN'T DIE HUNTS THE KILLER WHO SHOULDN'T EXIST.
The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own." 
Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.
Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times. 
At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He's the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.
Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins theChicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . . 
THE SHINING GIRLS is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

My review from Goodreads: Three and a half, I guess. Interesting plotline, I loved Kirby, and I loved the way all the shining girls were completely fleshed out and given whole, deep stories even though they were about to be killed. I wanted more about the house, though, rather than just 'this is the way it is', and Harper could have been a more complex character who struggled more with the demands of the house. (This was a little disappointing purely because when I read the reviews and the synopsis it sounded SO COOL and the reality fell just ever-so-slightly short. It reminded me of the tv miniseries The Lost Room, which I really enjoyed). 

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes: Goodreads synopsis: Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons.
Being hired by reclusive music producer Odi Huron to find a teenybop pop star should be her ticket out of Zoo City, the festering slum where the criminal underclass and their animal companions live in the shadow of hell’s undertow.
Instead, it catapults Zinzi deeper into the maw of a city twisted by crime and magic, where she’ll be forced to confront the dark secrets of former lives – including her own.

Three and a half stars would be more precise. You know how when you read a lot of books, a lot of them kind of blend together in an amorphous mass? Kind of like if you travel a lot to similar places? This book made me feel like I was reading a DIFFERENT book, the same way going to Morocco made me feel like I was visiting a DIFFERENT country from mine. There are long sections where I suddenly realized that nothing had happened that was really germane to the plot, and yet it all was strongly evocative of Zinzi's life and reality, and I kind of loved her. The whole concept of the penance animals was really well-done too - reminded me of the daemons from The Golden Compass, but in an analagous cool way, not a derivative one. The Shining Girls might have been her breakout book, but I think I actually liked this one a little more. 

And now let's slap a PART ONE on this so we can all get some sleep. TO BE CONTINUED...


Maggie said…
Adding more books to my library list now! Spent this vacation consumed with Shelter among other books. Will be reading more of her stuff too!
StephLove said…
I listened to Kindred years ago as an audiobook on a long car trip (partially through the area where it takes place) and found it diverting for that purpose.
Nicole said…
As usual I will be bookmarking this and coming back through the years to look at your suggestions.
S said…
Wow. Lots of good ideas here. Thank you.

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