Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton—published 2021—336 pages—contemporary fiction/mystery—three stars: This screams wannabe Where the Crawdads Sing and Where the Forest Meets the Stars. Dalton writes on the literary side with pretty prose in places like when describing rural New Hampshire forests but stumbles when trying to build suspense regarding the mystery surrounding a murder that Cadie, now an entomologist, helped cover up during her childhood. Cadie got away with tons of illegal crap—hello white girl privilege.
Shipped by Angie Hockman—published 2021—336 pages—romance—four stars: Henley works in marketing for a cruise company based in Seattle and is full of ambition and good ideas. When she’s up for a promotion, her no-good, woman-hating boss informs her that her nemesis Graeme, who she’s never met in the flesh because he works remotely from Michigan, is up for the position, too. Henley hates Graeme because he took all the credit for a viral video she created, but he posted. Their boss sends them on a company cruise to the Galapagos Islands as a competition to see who can come up with a new, innovative marketing campaign. Whoever wins gets the promotion. Henley’s sister, showing up on Henley’s doorstep after a bad breakup, tags along to help offer insight. When Henley figures out Graeme isn’t a conniving butthole after all, she struggles between her growing feelings for him and wanting to win the competition. I’m not going to overthink this romance review. I enjoyed reading it—hence the four. Other people will probably disagree with me. I liked the little twist at the end. I really did think the names “Henley” and “Graeme” were cringe-y, but everything else worked.
Lore by Alexandra Bracken—published 2021—480 pages—YA fantasy—three stars: Orphaned after her entire immediate family is murdered, Lore is the last remaining mortal descendant of Perseus and the only person who can wield the aegis, a hidden ancient weapon that holds the secret to ending the Agon. Every seven years, the remaining descendants of the ancient Greek gods hunt new and old gods during the Agon, when the gods lose their immortality and whoever kills them becomes the new god. Lore has tried to leave her past behind her, but when a wounded Athena shows up on Lore’s New York City brownstone’s steps, Lore decides to join the hunt to avenge her family’s murder. Lore has been described as “Greek mythology meets The Hunger Games,” and I agree, but it also has notes of Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and even The City We Became. It’s also just not as good as any of the previously mentioned books. Things move from one thing to the next too quickly, making the story hard to follow. It could have benefited from being told from Lore’s first-person perspective. There was little character development. I read this as an ebook, and I’ve never seen an ebook, that wasn’t self-published that is, as poorly formatted as this one. In several spots in the middle of a line, a new line was started. In other places, words should have been capitalized that weren’t. Bracken can end a chapter on a cliffhanger, though.
The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey—published 2021—256 pages—science fiction/thriller—four stars: Y’all. I totally forgot to write book reviews as I finished each book, starting with this read right here. Be prepared to be underwhelmed with all subsequent reviews. When Evelyn Caldwell’s clone, Martine, created by Evelyn’s ex-husband in secret to become his submissive version of his brilliant ex-wife, kills Evelyn’s ex when he tries to murder Martine and their unborn child, the two decide to make a clone of him to cover up the murder. This is so twisted and messed up. I’m a huge Gailey fan.
A Pho Love Story by Loan Le—published 2021—416 pages—YA romance—three stars: Bao’s parents own a Vietnamese restaurant, and Linh’s parents do too, directly across the street from Bao’s family restaurant. The two families hate each other in the Romeo and Juliet fashion. When Bao helps out Linh at her family’s restaurant unbeknownst to Linh’s parents on a busy night, Bao and Linh can’t help but become friends. They partner together through their school’s newspaper to review other restaurants in the area, keeping it a secret from both their families. Bao writes the articles and Linh sketches the restaurant. Bao discovers he loves writing. Linh wants to pursue art, but her parents make it loud and clear that becoming an artist isn’t a viable career option. This is a perfectly acceptable YA romance, but it was pretty boring. And about 100 pages too long. It did make me terribly hungry while reading it.
Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen—published 2020—288 pages—nonfiction—four stars: Totally fascinating. All millennials would gain something by reading this book. Boomers should probably pick it up too.
The Survivors by Jane Harper—published 2020—384 pages—mystery—two stars: My least favorite read ever by an author who I’ve consistently loved. This vibes more whodunnit compared to her other books. There’s zero character development and just, ughhhhhhhhh.
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour—published 2021—400 pages—contemporary fiction/humor—three stars: Buck is more than comfortable working at Starbucks forever, despite graduating as the valedictorian from a prestigious NYC high school. When a white start-up entrepreneur recognizes Buck’s talent, he offers Buck a job. Buck is the only Black person, and one of the other bigwigs oozes Neo-Nazi from his preppy, privileged pores and targets Buck from day one. Buck ends up saving the company from going under. Once this happens, he launches an underground society to help Black people and other racially diverse people become as successful as he is. But when white people start noticing what’s happening, they launch a white-nationalist counterattack against the group. This book had moments of greatness like these lines when Buck is discussing losing a game of pool: “This game’s fixed,” I said, after he whooped my ass. Any game where one white ball can beat the crap out of every other nonwhite ball on the table has to be rigged. But ultimately, the storyline got super bizarre, and I love an unconventional storyline, and made it really hard to connect with this book.
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner—published 2021—320 pages—historical fiction—three stars: Caroline travels to London for her wedding anniversary by herself after discovering her husband has been having an affair. One afternoon she stumbles upon a gentleman who leads groups of people on excursions to find items along the banks of the Thames. Caroline finds an old apothecary bottle and unravels the mystery of the bottle while coping with her husband’s infidelity. While Caroline’s narrative is happening, the apothecary’s and a young girl’s story, set in 1791, unfolds. The apothecary, who sells poison to desperate women to help them murder men, finds herself in an unsavory situation when one of her well-to-do patrons wants a concoction to poison her husband’s lover. I didn’t feel like this was very “historical.” I didn’t really learn a lot about the time period by reading this novel. I disliked how parallel Caroline’s and the apothecary’s stories ended up being; it’s a SUPER annoyance of mine.
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot—published 1939—56 pages—poetry—how can I rank something so overtly racist—zero stars: So, I’ve had this book for ages, but I’d never opened it. Poetry about cats? Why wouldn’t I love this book? Sounded right up my alley (cat, sorry, couldn’t help myself). But as I read, I was seriously disturbed by the racist language in several of the poems.
A Vow So Bold and Deadly (Cursebreakers, #3) by Brigid Kemmerer—published 2021—408 pages—YA fantasy—three stars: I didn’t have high hopes for the ending of this series so I wasn’t disappointed when the ending was lackluster. Thirty percent of it is fluff, and the ending, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, was. So. Freaking. Rushed. And Rhen. Rhen. Rhen. Rhen. But, ugh, I can’t give you any spoilers, but Lilith could have been dealt with in so many other ways. Harper was pretty much ignored towards the book’s end. Isn’t this supposed to be a trilogy? Kemmerer left it wideeeeeeeee open for a spin-off or a prequel or another book or 15.
(I also reread Romeo and Juliet this month for the zillionth time.)
(All cover art taken from Goodreads.)
As always all discussion is welcome!