Mini Reviews: War, Missing kids, and Smuggled immigrants.

It’s Thursday! I feel like we haven’t had a “normal” Thursday in awhile, and so we’ll get back to our regular programming: book reviews! Let’s see what we’ve got…

Book147The Leaving, by Tara Altebrando (Bloomsbury, 2016, 432 pages, hardcover). I took a risk and bought this during one of Kim and I’s many trips to the bookstore(s). It has a very Katie premise: six kids disappear during their first day of kindergarten. Eleven years later, five of the kids come back…with no memory. The plot unfolds like The Maze Runner or 5th Wave. Very teen sci-fi/drama. It didn’t cross over well. I couldn’t connect to the characters. Altebrando wrote down, rather than opting for rich description that teens could tangle themselves in and be lifted up, unawares. I couldn’t get lost in the story and didn’t really care what happened. A total miss for me, but I could see it very much being Gracie’s cuppa tea. 2 of 5 stars.

Book141The Small Backs of Children, by Lidia Yuknavitch (Harper, 2015, 224 pages, ebook). I had been lusting after this book since before it came out, and one day it was an ebook deal of the day. $1.99 cannot be beaten! It’s a solid story, one that belongs on my War-torn Eastern Europe Tales shelf. It tells the story of a small girl who barely survives a bomb and flees into the woods, and the American photographer who was there to snap a picture of the incident – that, and the fallout that happens to both (and a few others wrapped up in their stories). The writing didn’t feel as natural, and so the flow wasn’t as readable as, say, Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena or Sara Novic’s Girls at War, but I would still borrow it sometime if you’re interested in these kinds of tales. 3 of 5 stars.

Book143Because You’ll Never Meet Me, by Leah Thomas (Bloomsbury, 2015, 344 pages, library ebook). I have certain niches of YA literature that I can’t pass up. Kids with some sort of medical or emotionally related issue – my jam. Kids who are isolated, especially in the woods? I will knock you over to get to it. This book combined the two and so I snapped it up…and then paused. It’s a decent read – said protag is isolated because his body is “allergic” to electricity (it causes him to go haywire, have headaches, auras, and seize all over). His doctor puts him in touch with a pen pal who has a pacemaker. The two write rambling letters back and forth – this is where I sort of fell out of love with the story. The premise was great, and I get why some people really enjoyed the book (debut literary awards and everything), but I didn’t think Thomas really sounded authentic writing teen boys’ voices. They just sounded a bit off to me. And so I was partially disconnected the entire time I was reading. And that sucked. 2 1/2 of 5 stars.

Book144The Year of the Runaways, by Sunjeev Sahota (Picador, 2015, 468 pages, library ebook). This is the story of illegal immigrants who have fled to the suburbs of London, cramped in a small flat and working as day laborers. The stories of who and why they are were fascinating and unfolded a layer at a time, always hinting at more – more you had to work for, be patient for. The unfolding was a beautiful, well-told, natural-feeling thing. There was subtlety and realism on every page. I am a very picky reader (you’re shocked, I know), and I gloried in this. I don’t often read immigration stories from the Indian sub-continent, but I need to read more. This very nearly tore four stars out of me. I held back only because I didn’t fall in love with any of the characters, even if I was rooting for several of them.  3 1/2 of 5 stars.

Book145The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson (Random House, 2016, 496 pages, library ebook). When I read Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, I was charmed. I loved lonely Major Pettigrew and cheered his every move. Naturally, I held similar expectations going into The Summer…and found myself drowning. Too many characters thrown at us for once, too many confusing living situations, and the characters edges were a bit muddled. The characters sort themselves out, even if nothing else does. Everything else was a bit mucky, if only from the residue. I’m afraid the charming feeling wasn’t present – at least not for me. I wanted a slow pace, and though that was there, it was too bogged down. Simonson is not my favorite author for this sort of book, I’m afraid. If she wants to write a character piece with a tighter focus, I’ll be back. Otherwise… 2 of 5 stars.

Book146A Murder Is Announced, by Agatha Christie (1950, 288 pages, paperback). This was a fun re-read for me, great comfort food for after my surgery. It’d been on my To Be Re-Read list for ages and I found the perfect time to indulge. It’s not my first re-read and I’m happy to say that it held up well again. I remembered just enough about the who-dunnit and forgot enough about the why to keep me turning pages. Charming, all the way through. The dated bits were easy enough to overlook (though I am very cognizant that that won’t be the case for every one). Miss Marple never lets me down! If you like mysteries and you haven’t had the pleasure, you should try her. This was my first Miss Marple story, and so naturally I suggest this title as your jumping in point. 5 of 5 stars. (Still.)

Book147The End of Everything, by Megan Abbott (Reagan Arthur, 2011, 246 pages, ebook). I’ve read a few Megan Abbott books (my favorite still being Dare Me), so I grabbed this when it was a $1.99 Deal of the Day. It was a decent read, though not her best. I’d lump it in with my Teen Girl Goes Tragically Missing novels, subset: Those With Nostalgic 1970s Feel. It entertained and kept me turning pages, though not that quickly or investedly. I paused, even, in the middle to read another book, going back to finish when the second book was done. So it’s good, but either borrow or grab it on sale. 3 of 5 stars.

And there you go! I’m still working on some good ones. I’m still working on Long Ghosts of Small Children, and I’m devouring A Study in Charlotte. I’ll have those and more mini-reviews for you next week. Promise!

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