Monday, June 19, 2017

The Undateable by Sarah Title

The Undateable
Melissa "Bernie" Bernard can't help but feel that love has passed her by, and she'll happily complain about it to any who will listen. Though she enjoys her work as a college librarian in San Francisco, deep down she wonders if there could be more. So when a video of a marriage proposal at the library catches Bernie rolling her eyes, Bernie is shocked to find that she's become a viral sensation. Just as she's ready to go into hiding and permanently bury her nose in a book, a handsome reporter appears with a proposal of his own - he will find dates for the undateable. Bernie must go on 30 different dates in 30 days. With one disastrous date after another, she's ready to give up, until the reporter proves he'll do anything to find her the perfect match, even if it means putting himself up for the role.

Funny, and adorable, The Undateable is perfect for readers who like their romance light and fluffy. The characters have a nice chemistry, especially if you enjoy clever banter, and the friends-to-lovers trope. This is the first in the "Librarians in Love" series, and is even written by an actual librarian.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray
Lina is just like any other 15 year old Lithuanian girl in 1941, until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home and tear her family apart. Lina, her mother, and her young brother are taken north, across the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Under Stalin's orders, they must dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions. Hoping she can send a message to her father, Lina uses her art as a way to let him know they are still alive.

Between Shades of Gray is a difficult read due to the subject matter, but ultimately it is necessary. Though it is technically a book for young adults, it is easily a cross over book for adults interested in a different World War II story.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Buttons and Bones by Monica Ferris

Buttons and Bones
Betsy is headed to the country with her friends, the Larsons, to visit their newly purchased cabin located on one of the many lakes in Minnesota. While new to the Larsons, the cabin dates back to well before World War II. Over the course of several weekends, the Larsons had been working hard to get their cabin back into shape. In fact, the weekend Betsy comes to visit, they all work together to pull up the old carpet and linoleum. All are surprised to see a trapdoor hidden underneath. They open the door to investigate and discover a body. More accurately, they find a skeleton of someone who had been long dead. Over the course of the story, Betsy works with her friend Jill to try and discover who the bones belong to, how they ended up in the Larson’s cabin, and who the killer is.

While this is the 14th book in Monica Ferris’s Needlecraft Mystery Series, the book can stand on its own, without need for knowledge of the previous titles. Recommended for those who like their mysteries without gore and violence.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

Menagerie
Delilah Marlowe is living an ordinary, if boring, life. Then, for her birthday her boyfriend buys tickets to the most spectacular menagerie traveling show. This menagerie is comprised not of ordinary animals, but human shifters, nymphs and other fae folk, and even a minotaur. Seeing the poor treatment of one teenage wolf shifter, Delilah morphs into an unknown, terrifying creature. Stripped of her human rights, Delilah is sold to the menagerie and has to adapt to living caged and putting up with abuse from the humans who run the show. But not all the crew members are as they seem, and one might just give Delilah the chance she needs to break free.

Fantasy readers will rejoice in the wide variety of fantastic folk not seen in other urban fantasy series. Violent treatment toward Delilah and her fellow captives will have readers rallying behind her efforts to get free. The suspense builds quickly and doesn't let up for the entire read, even the ending will have readers wanting to move on immediately to the next in the "Menagerie" series, Spectacle, out now. Perfect for fans of darker urban fantasy stories.

Spectacle by Rachel Vincent

Spectacle
Delilah Marlow and the rest of the renegade cast and crew of Metzger's Menagerie don't have long to enjoy their hard-earned freedom from captivity. Quickly into the second of the "Menagerie" series, Delilah and many others are found to be impersonating humans and are quickly captured and bought by The Savage Spectacle. Once again imprisoned, Delilah and other non-humans are forced to serve the rich patrons who visit The Savage Spectacle. Now, instead of being held captive in a cage, non-humans are surgically implanted with tracking devices that electrocute the wearer if s/he misbehaves or tries to escape, and this time, Delilah's protector, Gallagher, is also caged.

Vincent crafts an even more brutal edition in the "Menagerie" series, where some non-humans have to battle against others gladiator style to the death as entertainment for the rich. The sense of injustice as well as suspense is just as high in this installment as in the first book, Menagerie, although a too-convenient twist and ending may stretch credulity a little too far for some readers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dark Season by Joanna Lowell

Dark Season
Ella Arlington flees her home when her cousin inherits and plans to commit her to an asylum because she has epilepsy. Now destitute and on the run in London, Ella attends a séance hoping to speak with her beloved father but instead has a seizure. Confusing Ella’s episode with possession by her dead daughter, Phillipa, the wealthy Mrs. Trombly takes Ella into her home to act as her private medium. During a visit to Mrs. Trombly, her daughter’s former fiancé, Viscount Isidore Blackwood, meets Ella and is furious that she has duped Phillipa’s grieving mother into hiring her services, vowing to reveal Ella as a fraud. However, Isidore’s friends are hiding terrible truths, and he will need Ella’s help to uncover what really happened the night Phillipa died. The mystery surrounding Phillipa’s death may be too predictable for some, but readers will still be enthralled, wondering if Ella’s epilepsy will be discovered and what her fate holds.

Verdict Debut author Lowell has crafted a lavish Victorian gothic romance with a rare disabled female protagonist who refuses to be a tragic victim of her time. Highly recommended for the frank portrayal of living with the stigma of a neurological disorder without sacrificing romantic tension.

This review was originally published in Library Journal Xpress Reviews: E-Originals, June 10, 2016.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

The Animators
Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses met in an art class in college. Mel is the self-assured wild child willing to stand up to their bullying professor. Unsure of her talent, Sharon is happy to hang out with Mel, when the two discover their mutual love of animation. Ten years later, the two hit the big time with the success of their first full-length animated film recalling Mel's disturbing childhood. Then tragedy strikes, Sharon suffers a debilitating aneurysm and must struggle to slowly recover. Always doubting her own talent, Sharon loses even more confidence in her work, and tensions arise between the two after they win an award that allows them to create a second film. This time the film will focus on Sharon's childhood and the criminal who lurked next door.

Whitaker doesn't shy away from uncomfortable, brutal truths, capturing the shortcomings of both Sharon and Mel, highlighting their multitude of problems. Despite this, Whitaker makes the strong bond of friendship between Mel and Sharon shine throughout, and their dedication to each other and their art is clear. The complexity of relationships can be bittersweet, and The Animators displays this tendency to the fullest. An excellent debut and highly recommended.