If you are interested in my Summer Reading List, here's the link to the original post.
The Spellman Files (The Spellmans #1) by Lisa Lutz: 4 stars
Great book. Really enjoyed this -- a little reminiscent of Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, but overall I liked Izzy better. What a dysfunctional family, but not in a necessarily negative way. Sometimes the dysfunction is just too much to handle but here it's just a little odd and worthy of some chuckles. The saving grace is that Izzy is messed up but at least she KNOWS that she's messed up. Entertaining voice, pacing is fantastic, and the short chapters/lists/etc are a nice break from the norm. Great start to a fun series -- I'll be looking for more.
The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard: 3 stars
I'm really torn on this one. On one hand, I could not shake the feeling through the entire novel that I was reading something that was entirely too similar to Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides. Granted, it's been quite a while since I've read TVS, but once that comparision popped into my head, I could not shake it. And while I don't consider myself a prude, I really thought the book's emphasis on sex and physical relationships -- even if it is supposed to be told from the collective viewpoint of the neighborhood boys -- seemed heavy-handed and overdone to me, as though the author thought I would need that much convincing that this story was being told from a male perspective. At times, this was effective, because it helped to capture how helpless and unsure these boys/men felt when it came to establishing and protecting relationships with the women in their lives. But at other times I just felt like I was being hit over the head with the information. Luckily, Pittard's writing is a real plus here, although this definitely has the feel of "literary fiction." There's an awareness of style that is almost precious and too self-aware, and that's one of my pet peeves with literary fiction. Just tell the damn story, I want to shout. That's why I'm really reading in the first place!
The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston: 3 stars
I think this works in terms of historical fiction; I see that a lot of people have labeled it as fantasy (even the book jacket does so) but it really doesn't fit my idea of a fantasy novel. The witchcraft just doesn't have the right feel, but I think that's because even the "modern" sections feel dated to me. Anyway, the writing is okay -- a little dense at times with some annoying constructions (totally an issue of personal taste, though), but otherwise pretty strong. My biggest complaint is that this felt really unbalanced. We're provided with three "historical" sections that show Bess in different time periods, but the sections get increasingly shorter and they don't really seem to add anything to the novel, as a whole. They don't really bring anything NEW to the story or even do a good job of advancing what we already know about particular events or characters.
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards #1) by Scott Lynch: 5 stars
Oh, I love finding a good new fantasy series. Locke is a great character (and I particularly loved Jean Tannen, too), with an authentic voice and a realistic set of strengths and flaws. Lynch has created a realistic world of nobility, magic, and con artists, and he's got the writing talent to pull it off. I'm definitely looking forward to book #2.
The Enchantress (The Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel #6) by Michael Scott: 4 stars
I've got mixed feelings about the final installment of this series. First of all, I think that one of the key themes -- whether humankind is worth saving -- is developed beautifully through the book, and the closer, more intimate look at many of the Elders and their relationships helps to bring this theme to life much more richly. There are some very moving conversations and scenes. However, I still had issues with the pacing -- some scenes moved entirely too quickly, some dragged on for what seemed like forever, and some really key scenes got summed up in a way that just made me angry. (Had I been reading the book instead of listening to the audio version, I might very well have put it down and walked off at that point.) Several of my hunches paid off, and ultimately I was satisfied with the way things ended -- although I worked myself into a time-travel-themed snarl inside my head, trying to figure out some details. I'm still not clear on them, but I can't really discuss them here without revealing spoilers.
I listened to the audio version, and I'm amazed at how well the narrator was able to keep the different voices and characters separate. However, I do think that the audio version unfortunately emphasized many of the weaknesses in Scott's writing, particularly when it comes to dialogue and description.
Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame: 1 star
So I'm probably one of the few people left on the planet that hasn't watched Downton Abbey, but I at least have a feeling for the general premise of the show. This book alludes to the show on the front cover with a tagline, which obviously would be quite attractive to fans of DA. However, the storytelling, character development, and plotting are all sub-par, resulting in a poorly written YA novel that reads more like a weak attempt to cash in on the DA popularity. There's not much here at all to make me recommend this one. I'd go with The Luxe series instead.
The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan: 5 stars
Obviously, this is a creative approach to telling the story of a relationship, but I think it goes beyond creative -- the combination of word choice and the sheer poetry of Levithan's writing add up to a story experience that just took my breath away with its beauty. Aside from the words and ideas, I thought it was brave of Levithan to bare all with this kind of glimpse into a relationship, as it forms and as it falls apart. There's an autobiographical touch to it, although it could be completely fictional for all I know. Still, there seems to be an honesty and bareness here that makes it feel realer and more intimate than fiction usually feels.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith: 3 stars
I'm just sort of "eh" about this one. There's nothing that stands out -- though there's less romance and more family drama than the jacket blurb leads you to think. I wobbled back and forth about the writing for most of the book; most of the time I thought it was okay, there were some parts where I think the verb tenses were jacked up, and then there were some really stellar one-liners (mostly connected to the family drama, actually). The swoon isn't all that swoony, although Oliver's dialogue is pretty clever. Still, as far as teen romances go, I've read better.