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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

REVIEW: Coronation Year, by Jennifer Robson

Available April 4, 2023
It is Coronation Year, 1953, and a new queen is about to be crowned. The people of London are in a mood to celebrate, none more so than the residents of the Blue Lion hotel.

Edie Howard, owner and operator of the floundering Blue Lion, has found the miracle she needs: on Coronation Day, Queen Elizabeth in her gold coach will pass by the hotel’s front door, allowing Edie to charge a fortune for rooms and, barring disaster, save her beloved home from financial ruin. Edie’s luck might just be turning, all thanks to a young queen about her own age. 

Stella Donati, a young Italian photographer and Holocaust survivor, has come to live at the Blue Lion while she takes up a coveted position at Picture Weekly magazine. London in celebration mode feels like a different world to her. As she learns the ins and outs of her new profession, Stella discovers a purpose and direction that honor her past and bring hope for her future.

James Geddes, a war hero and gifted artist, has struggled to make his mark in a world that disdains his Indian ancestry. At the Blue Lion, though, he is made to feel welcome and worthy. Yet even as his friendship with Edie deepens, he begins to suspect that something is badly amiss at his new home.

When anonymous threats focused on Coronation Day, the Blue Lion, and even the queen herself disrupt their mood of happy optimism, Edie and her friends must race to uncover the truth, save their home, and expose those who seek to erase the joy and promise of Coronation Year.

Reading the title, I thought "ooo...a novel about Queen Elizabeth." No, this history adjacent. UK Royal Family adjacent. And a mystery and love story to boot. It's built on the hopes of change and a national rebirth of sorts that came with coronation of a new monarch. It's a new era, and only good things are possible.

Robson immerses us in the time period. The day to day grind of running a 400 year old family-owned hotel and its staff as a woman in the 1950s. The struggles of holding on to tradition and values, while moving forward into the new age. Facing bigotry and racism in the post-war world. She also showcases the idea that families can be created from those you do life with when you've lost your biological one.

The characters are relatable and both complicated and simple in their development. It was a delightful read, and I hesitated to end the story because I was so comfortable in it. 

It's a bit of a niche title for a high school libray, but I have a group who enjoys mysteries that are few steps above a cozy mystery, and another group that likes period stories. I could see some scenes being conversation starters for SEL lessons or history topics.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Enter Text Here through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

REVIEW: A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

"Mom seems off."

Her brother's words echo in Sam Montgomery's ear as she turns onto the quiet North Carolina street where their mother lives alone.

She brushes the thought away as she climbs the front steps. Sam's excited for this rare extended visit, and looking forward to nights with just the two of them, drinking boxed wine, watching murder mystery shows, and guessing who the killer is long before the characters figure it out.

But stepping inside, she quickly realizes home isn’t what it used to be. Gone is the warm, cluttered charm her mom is known for; now the walls are painted a sterile white. Her mom jumps at the smallest noises and looks over her shoulder even when she’s the only person in the room. And when Sam steps out back to clear her head, she finds a jar of teeth hidden beneath the magazine-worthy rose bushes, and vultures are circling the garden from above.

To find out what’s got her mom so frightened in her own home, Sam will go digging for the truth. But some secrets are better left buried.   

Well, you had me at "Southern Gothic." I love a good creepy story. As a lover of a good creepy story, I picked up on little things that I think any avid reader would. Noises, responses, reactions, things that are just a little off. Fairly standard, scary story fare and I settled in for a relaxing (*giggle*) creep out. Nothing over the top, just enough, you know? Then, the story amps up a bit and it's legitimately scary. And yes, a vulture showed up in my dreams afterward.

Sam is perfect. Realistic, concerned, but not dramatic or a pushover. She is the perfect narrator for a story that takes a little laxity on reality to deliver a truly well-turned tale. 

Kingfisher is pretty masterful. Just enough creepiness to make me look over my shoulder myself, mixed with some truly funny internal and external dialogue. I'm going to have to find her other books.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Tor Nighfire through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: And Put Away Childish Things, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Available March 28, 2023
Harry Bodie’s been called into the delightful fantasy world of his grandmother’s beloved children’s books. It’s not delightful here at all

All roads lead to Underhill, where it’s always winter, and never nice.

Harry Bodie has a famous grandmother, who wrote beloved children’s books set in the delightful world of Underhill. Harry himself is a failing kids’ TV presenter whose every attempt to advance his career ends in self-sabotage. His family history seems to be nothing but an impediment.
An impediment... or worse. What if Underhill is real? What if it has been waiting decades for a promised child to visit? What if it isn’t delightful at all? And what if its denizens have run out of patience and are taking matters into their own hands?

A dark take on fantasy worlds that collide with the "real" world. I've never read anything by Tchaikovsky, but I was captivated by this story.

Harry Bodie is relatable. A struggling TV personality. Okay, the blurb says "failing" and I have to admit, he's failing. His agent isn't much help in turning things around, and a family connection a beloved children's author should be a help. Only, he doesn't handle it well when family history is revealed on a TV show. 

It's a bit of a slow start. I found myself wondering when we'd get to something that felt less like a downward spiral for Harry. And then he has an encounter with a faun.

This isn't the niceties of Narnia or Tolkien, though even Harry tries to fit Underhill into these molds. It does make one think about the what-ifs of a fantasy world. What if those that made it live aren't there?

Little bit of langauge, little bit of reference to things that might take some explaining. I can think of some older teens who would eat it up.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Rebellion through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

REVIEW: The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Math Girls, by Tom Durwood

A collection of five historical fiction adventure stories, the second installment in the "Rubi Pi Adventure Series" to follow The Adventures of Rubi Pi and the Geometry Girls. Young heroines find themselves at turning points in history. Faced with colossal problems, they use math to find real-world solutions. How will their quick thinking and problem-solving direct the course of history?

A master of young adult historical fiction, adventure, and mystery writing, Tom Durwood gives a fresh look at some of history's pivotal moments-from a mathematical perspective! STEM meets literary finesse with his usual flair for intrigue, suspense, and immersive dialogue. In his latest collection of short stories, smart girls take on gambling, bandits, swordplay, probability, and Bayes' Theorem!

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this one. 

It's a collection of short historical fictions stories with female main characters using math. Okay, I can see a market. I can see it appealing to girls who love math and showing students creative ways math plays into the world outside of school. Each story is completely separate of the others and the author proivdes notes explaining the math concept and how his character used it after.

It was really choppy. The stories felt like they'd either been edited in chunks for space, or written with disjointed flow. It was hard to read stories that clumsy and cut off. And then I read in the notes after the fourth story that the author had pared them down a lot purposely because historical details "irritate most readers." Really? Not fans of historical fictions.

There are 5 stories. The first one takes up 40% of the book, making the others seem even skimpier and rushed. In general, every story needed more. More historical details, more flow, more....story.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from BooksGoSocial through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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This work is licensed by Jennifer Turney under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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