September 11, 2022

Short & Sweet: The Silence of Bones

The Silence of Bones by June Hur

1800s Korea and the persecution of Catholics was an entirely new setting/topic for me, and I appreciated learning about it through the eyes of Seol, who was an engaging narrator. I did find it hard to keep track of all the characters and their connections throughout the story (I wish there'd been a character list provided!). 
There was a long section in the middle of this book that dragged, but the ending made up for it, pulling things together and feeling finished without being overly happy or artificial. While the middle lulled, the intensity ratcheted up in the last several chapters, making it hard to put down at that point. 

All in all, a different sort of historical murder mystery from most of the offerings in YA, and well worth the read as long as you are willing to be patient.

4 shooting stars.

Short & Sweet: Big Lies in a Small Town (Adult)

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

I found the first two-thirds of this book quite slow -- it's a dual timeline story, and I was enjoying Morgan's voice from the contemporary timeline, but nothing much was happening in either era. Then there's a big event that occurs in the historical timeline about two-thirds of the way through, and after that the historical timeline held more interest for me. The premise stands out as being a bit different from your average mystery -- the art restoration was a neat element -- but it is definitely not a suspense/thriller type read. It's a much quieter, secrets-hidden-are-slowly-revealed sort of story. Also, some of the reveals are pretty guessable. I was motivated to keep reading once I got to the last 
third of the book, as I wanted to see how everything played out, but in a sea of dual timeline mysteries, this would not be one of my top recommendations. The best part about it was really the focus on art, and art restoration, which made it more memorable than it would have been otherwise.

3 shooting stars.

Short & Sweet: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Starr is a relatable protagonist with a distinct voice, who draws the reader into her world and the injustices (arising from systemic racism and discrimination) her community faces on a daily basis. Despite having a different background than Starr, I was easily able to connect to her character, her troubles, and her deep desire to make change happen. There were a lot of side characters in the story, and some (such as Starr's brother Seven, who was a favourite of mine) were more fleshed out than others; it was difficult for me to keep track of all the characters at times. The other stumbling block I had was that most of the story is made up of conversations, so it felt quite slow-moving to me. Plot-wise, events do pick up towards the end, but I do think that perhaps some of the conversations could have been shortened/cut, as there is some repetition of content. 

Overall, I think this book does an excellent job of giving non-Black readers a better understanding of what it is like to be a Black person living in the US.

3.5 shooting stars.

June 14, 2022

The Lifeboat: A Rambling Review (Adult)

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

This was a book that kind of quietly crept up on me without me exactly realizing it. I found it initially quite slow-paced, and there's a certain tedium to the constrained nature of the characters' situation -- stuck in a lifeboat, day in and day out, with only each other and the occasional fish for company. There are a lot of characters, and I confess I had a hard time keeping track of who was who; a "cast of characters" list at the beginning would have been helpful. Certain characters come to the forefront as the story goes on, though, the most ambiguous (and yet most interesting) being the narrator herself, Grace. As a reader, I felt distant to Grace, never quite feeling like I understood her entirely. I believe this was a conscious choice on the author's part, to keep the reader guessing about Grace's motivations and character. It felt, even to the last page, as though there were secrets Grace wasn't telling anyone, even the reader. She's a character who you are not entirely sure you want to root for, and yet somehow, she wins you over anyway. Her matter-of-fact nature, her apparent honesty and at times bluntness -- juxtaposed with the sneaking suspicion that actually, she may not be all that honest -- makes for a narrator who entices the reader to dig deeper to try to figure her out. 

This is certainly more of a character study than an action-filled story, although there are moments of tension, particularly in the latter half of the book. I did find the climax scene somewhat unrealistic, and had to suspend some disbelief there (spoilers in white, highlight to read: I have a hard time believing that none of the men, who were all on Hardie's side, even tried to stand up for him against Hannah, Grace, and Mrs. Grant. Hardie's being overpowered and thrown overboard and no one doing anything to try to stop it seemed unlikely). 

This is not a flashy story; those looking for a fast-paced thriller will be disappointed. Those who don't mind enigmatic characters, an uneasy atmosphere, and being left with more questions than answers might find a real hidden gem here.

4 shooting stars. 

Red Sister: A Rambling Review (Adult)

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

I found most of this first book in the series to be quite slow-moving, except right towards the end where it feels like everything is happening at breakneck pace. It reads more like a set-up for the rest of the series than a story in its own right. But I very much enjoyed getting to know the characters and seeing their friendships form and strengthen. Nona is a gutsy protagonist, although by the end of the book I found her to be somewhat "overpowered" -- she is portrayed as almost indestructible, and I feel like her personality shifted rather suddenly towards the end. She "comes into" her powers and skills so rapidly as to be somewhat unrealistic (granted, she has had training throughout the rest of the book). I also enjoyed getting to know the world, although bits and pieces of information were sprinkled here and there in such a way as to leave me feeling confused as I read (I still don't entirely understand the origin story of the Ark, or how the "focus" works, or any number of other world-building snippets). I really wish a map had been included to help me better visualize the world and the layout of the convent!

3.5 shooting stars.

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