Because of my temporary blog hiatus during the end of the school year, I shut down ALL writing, so I have no mini book reviews for April and May. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t share with y’all what I read and how I rated each book.
I had six five-star reads, which I know seems a little excessive on the five-star ratings, but you can fight me on those ratings. I’m fully prepared for fisticuffs.
And one of those five-star ratings is more than likely my favorite fiction read published in 2021.
There are two solid beach reads on this list, too.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Fable (Fable #1) by Adrienne Young—published 2020—357 pages—YA fantasy-ish—three stars.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Later by Stephen King—published 2021—248 pages—horror—three stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros—published 1983—110 pages—YA—four stars.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson—published 2014—1,087 pages—high fantasy—five stars.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant—published 2021—307 pages—nonfiction—five stars.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Broken by Jenny Lawson—published 2021—285 pages—humor/memoir—five stars.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo—published 2020—304 pages—nonfiction feminism/race—five stars.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain—published 2021—415 pages, mystery—three stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke by Rainer Maria Rilke—published 1989—356 pages—poetry—four stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Edgedancer (The Stormlight Archives #2.5) by Brandon Sanderson—published 2017—272 pages—high fantasy–four stars.
Rating: 2 out of 5.
Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Suntanto—published 2021—320 pages—romance—two stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Tell Me My Name by Amy Reed—published 2021—336 pages—YA retelling—four stars.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas—published 2021—384 pages—YA retelling—three stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan—published 1989—288 pages—historical fiction—four stars.
Rating: 2 out of 5.
Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery #1) by Mia P. Manasala—published 2021—336 pages—mystery—two stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Namesake by Adrienne Young—published 2021—360 pages—fantasy-ish—four stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Look Both Way: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds—published 2019—204 pages—middle grade fiction—four stars.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost—published 2020—336 pages—memoir/humor—five stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry—published 2021—384 pages—romance—four stars.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Teacher Misery: Helicopter Parents, Special Snowflakes & Other Bullshit by Jane Morris—published 2016—245 pages—nonfiction/education—three stars.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir—published 2021—476 pages—science fiction—five stars.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
That Summer by Jennifer Weiner—published 2021—432 pages—contemporary fiction—three stars.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams—published 2021—384 pages—legal thriller—three stars.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley—published 2021—368 pages—romance—three stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand—published 2020—432 pages—romance—four stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis—published 2003—243 pages—historical fiction—four stars.
So the key takeaways? Any of those nonfiction reads that are five-stars are outstanding, but fiction-wise, GO READ PROJECT HAIL MARY RIGHT NOW. I guarantee it’s one of the “it” books this year.
Looking for the best beach read? Check out People We Meet on Vacation.
Mini book reviews will be back next month!
(Also, know how I mentioned fisticuffs earlier? Yeah, well I’m about to duke it out with WordPress right now. I apologize for all the weird formatting going on with this post. Get it together WordPress!)
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 Wifeby 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 Buckby 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.)
These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) by Chloe Gong—published 2020—YAL fantasy/retellings—three stars: I have a love/hate relationship with retellings. I have an even stronger love/hate relationship with Romeo and Juliet. So a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in Shanghai during the 1920s sounded torturous. Perfect! There’s even a water monster! And gangs! And Cabaret! A beautifully written first chapter starts the book, and Gong weaves in some of the play’s original motifs like day vs. night and birds. However, I couldn’t handle the fluff between the first chapter’s end and the book’s last twenty-two percent.
Enjoy the View (Moose Springs, Alaska #3) by Sarah Morgenthaler—published 2021—romance—four stars: Have I read the first two books in this series? No. But the cover and the blurb begged me to read it. The beginning confused me, but the storyline drew me in. River, a Hollywood actress who’s looking to make the switch to behind the camera, is on the side of a road hauling a suitcase of rocks on the outskirts of Moose Springs, Alaska, attempting to shoot footage for her documentary when Easton—gargantuan, bearded, and man-bunned—pulls over to offer her help. Furious that her shot is ruined, she enlists him to hold a pizza box sign that will deter other good samaritans from ruining footage. Sparks fly between the two. When the Alaskan Tourism board sidelines her documentary because she can’t get any filming permits signed because Moose Springs hates tourists, she takes her chances and her documentary outside the city limits and up a mountain, with a gargantuan, bearded, and man-bunned Easton as her guide. I had too much fun reading this. Easton and River’s banter was cute. A marmot thinks Easton is its soul mate and follows them up Mount Veil. Once my Libby queue dwindles, I’ll read the series’ first two books.
The Push by Ashley Audrain—published 2021—thriller—five stars: I never would have guessed that my first five-star 2021 read would be a thriller—but holy shit. The Push. Is. Sooooooooooo. Damn. Good. After giving birth to Violet, Blythe is unsettled by her little girl. Violet screams when in Blythe’s arms, and the baby’s father can only comfort the infant. As Violet grows, Blythe has an even harder time connecting with her precocious child, especially once she witnesses a tiny Violet do something maliciously unthinkable. While Blythe’s story unfolds, the story of her own mother and grandmother, both unmotherly women, is told. You will question Blythe’s sanity and capability as a mother. You will cry. At first glance, the novel doesn’t look well written. The sentences are short, but it’s for effect. It even says in the narrative: Before. After. After felt curt, my sentences abrupt and sharp, like every paragraph could hurt someone. There was so much anger on the page, but I didn’t know what else to do with it. This gave me We Need to Talk About Kevin vibes. READ THIS BOOK!
Faye, Farawayby Helen Fisher—published 2021—time travel—four stars: One day Faye, married to an aspiring vicar and the mother of two beautiful girls, steps into an old box, a relic from her past, in her attic to avoid broken glass, and she crash lands in the seventies at her childhood home. Getting the chance to see her mother again, who died mysteriously when Faye was 8, is a balm to Faye’s soul, but the time travel, which she feels like she can’t discuss with her husband, creates a rift in her marriage. Ultimately, Faye has to decide if she’s going to travel back one last time to save her mother or to leave the past behind to repair her marriage. Ohhhhh this book. I loved it so much, but I hated how Faye talked directly to the reader like she was trying to make the reader believe in her story. I believed her. The choice for the time travel portal to be a Space Hopper box was overkill in its blatant symbolism, too. But, damn—that ending had me misty-eyed.
The Ex Talkby Rachel Lynn Solomon—published 2021—romance—three stars: As an NPR freak, I loved that this book was set at a public radio station, but the storyline is meh. The radio station is floundering and needs a fresh show. That’s where Shay, a self-conscious-about-her-radio-voice producer, and Dominic, a hot-shot newbie who talks about his masters from Northwestern constantly, come in. Their snarky, hate-filled rapport inspires a show called The Ex Talk. As co-hosts, Dominic and Shay pretend to have dated each other (throwing journalistic integrity out the window into the Puget Sound) and explore the ins and outs of dating. I guess it’s a fresh take on fake-enships that run rampant in romances, but it wasn’t a particularly interesting read.
The Projectby Courtney Summers—published 2021—YAL thriller—four stars: Is there another YAL thriller writer out there better than Courtney Summers? Summers, once again, writes a solid thriller. Cults? Mystery? Unlikeable characters? Cringe-y storylines? The Project has them all.
Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon—published 2021—romance—three stars: Why do I keep reading romances???? Both love interests meet at a conference in Vegas and have a steamy fling. Fast forward, and the boy’s company moves into an office next to the girl’s company’s office. She’s trying to launch an app called Make Up, and he has a newly successful app called Break Up. She accuses him of stealing her business idea, and, gah. You know what happens next. They make up, then they break up, then they make up.
From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout—published 2020—new adult fantasy—four stars: Real talk. Yes, this is a four. No, I will not be reading the next book in the series. I’m over fluffy, drawn-out, commercial fantasy juggernauts. The Maiden, Poppy, is the Chosen One. Secluded and veiled, she must wait until the day she can Ascend to save her people. Throw in a secretive, sexy personal guard and vampires and, BAM, you get new adult fantasy dynamite.
This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith—published 2021—contemporary fiction—three stars: The title describes how I feel about the novel after I finished reading it, which is disappointing because it’s peppered with great writing. But the dialogue broke me. As did pumpkin overabundance. As did the whole there’s a therapist-who-rescues-a guy-from-jumping-off-a-bridge-and-then-lies-to-him-about-actually-being-a-therapist-and-then-brings-him-into-her-house-for-the-whole-weekend concept… HE COULD HAVE BEEN A SERIAL KILLER!!!!!!
You Have a Match by Emma Lord—published 2021—contemporary YAL—three stars: Abby gets her DNA tested through an Ancestry-like company as an act of solidarity with her best friend Leo, who is adopted and looking for clues about his birth parents. While Leo’s results are a wash, Abby discovers she has a sister. Her sister, Savvy, reaches out to her, and they try to unravel the mystery of their parents together while they spend time together at summer camp. Lord can write a damn cute story, but this was just too much. Leo and Savvy have known each other forever from attending the same summer camp. And Leo just so happens to be Abby’s best friend? In the book, it says Abby and Savvy’s story sounds like a Disney Channel movie, and it does—or at least a modern-day,Instagram-heavy The Parent Trap. And Savvy’s parents used to be best friends with Abby’s parents, which is THE mystery to be unlocked, but still… And without giving anything away, things were tooooooooo tied together at the end, and Lord, just like she did in Tweet Cute, wrote an unnecessary sugary-sweet epilogue, #deathtoYALepilogues. At least from reading this novel, I can add “Finsta” and “spon con” to my vernacular.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah—published 2021—historical fiction—three stars: I almost DNF’d this book at the 20 percent finished mark, but I kept reading because my bestie in Milwaukee said it had redeeming qualities. She also gave it three stars. The book is set during the Great Depression amidst the Dust Bowl, and Elsa Martinelli. Cannot. Catch. A. Freaking. Break. Sheltered, Elsa longs to go to college and feel pretty. When she breaks her family’s rules, she ends up pregnant and has to marry a man whom she desperately loves, but he doesn’t love her. She moves in with his family and raises their children. When times get even worse, the dust forces Elsa to leave Texas and head to California to save her family. Where do I start? Hannah’s writing style with this was mainstream, melodramatic, lackluster. A drunk Italian husband? Hello, trope. A fiery daughter who resents a mother who bends over backward for her family? Hello, trope. A thin blonde woman who thinks herself ugly and unlovable? Hello, what? (This was one of Milwaukee bestie’s criticisms.) Hannah harps on the drama here to exploit hardship after hardship. I had this same issue with Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. Despite all this, it’s bingeable; otherwise, I would have ranked it two stars.
Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: And Other Questions About Dead Bodies by Caitlin Doughty–published 2020–nonfiction/science–four stars: Ummmmm, well, that was equal parts fascinating and horrifying. Did I need to know any of this dead body trivia? Nope! But now I’m as full of corpse facts as a cadaver is full of funky smells. Also, my mind is still reeling from now knowing that in Germany and Belgium graves are rented and that instead of eating eyeballs cats would more likely eat their dead owner’s noses or lips. I’m never looking at my already evil cat the same way again. From now on, I’ll be smearing orange essential oil (you know, because cats hate oranges) all over my body daily–in case I die an untimely death alone in my own home–in an attempt to repel my cat from feasting on my carcass.
A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3) by Sabaa Tahir–published 2018–YAL fantasy–four stars: I put off reading the third installment of this series because I was terrified it would disappoint me. IT DIDN’T! Now I finally understand the choice to have the Blood Shrike as a narrator, which I disliked in book two. And hello unpredictable plot twist!! Since the Nightbringer is brought in as a narrator in the last chapter, does that mean he’s going to have his own chapters in book four? Also, Elias–Is. Making. My. Darn. Heart. Hurt. I have so many questions.
Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson–published 2020–YAL mystery–four stars: Seventeen-year-old Enchanted wants to be a music star, and when uber-famous musician Korey Fields wants to take her under his wing to groom her, she convinces her parents to allow her to go on tour with him. The book begins with Korey’s murder and flashes back to Chanty’s story of being caught in his predatory snare. Did Chanty do it? I rounded up my rating for Grown. The plot is compelling and hits relevant criticisms of our racist, sexist society. There’s an R. Kelly/Jeffrey Epstein vibe to Korey, and Jessica is totally a more vengeful Ghislaine Maxwell. Parts are hard to swallow because of the ick factor, but it doesn’t get explicit. My main issue with this book and why it’s not a flat-out four is because I found it dialogue heavy with light narration. The dialogue felt cheesy too.
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria–published 2020–romance–three stars: Jasmine, an up and coming Latinx soap opera star, lands a lead on Carmen in Charge, a telenovela on a big-name streaming service. When the actor originally slated to be her love interest falls through, he is replaced by Ashton Suárez, a dashing telenovela staple. After their meet-cute where Ashton spills coffee all over Jasmine on day one on set, Jasmine can’t deny that he’s unbelievably sexy and more than a little aloof. But before she knows it, their chemistry on screen and off has her “Leading Lady” plan all in a tailspin. I liked that this wasn’t first-person alternating chapters between Ashton and Jasmine. A third-person narrator slips in and out of both their minds throughout the narrative. I liked that this was different from any other romance I’ve read. A romance novel set on a Telenovela with a wide range of Latinx characters? Heck yeah! And it’s so steamy in places that I had to turn the fan on. It’s a fun read, but it lacks real substance and quality writing.
A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes #4) by Sabaa Tahir–published 2020–YAL fantasy–three stars: A disappointing end to the series. I’d like to chalk up my disinterest to being preoccupied, but the storyline had major gaps, particularly at the beginning. The cliffhangers were anticlimactic and pedestrian. When POVs switched, I couldn’t keep track of who was telling the story–because Laia, Helene, and Elias all read like the same character by the end. And the characters who were killed off? I didn’t even cry. And I should have, but they were obvious choices. I hated the last few chapters because things felt too perfectly wrapped up. After reading, I get the uneasy feeling that Tahir is planning to write a prequel featuring Keris’s story, even though all the Commandant’s loose ends were tied up.
How to Be an Antiracistby Ibram X. Kendi–published 2019–nonfiction/race–four stars: A fascinating argument. I liked how Kendi examined his own ideas about race and explained how his own thinking had been wrong.
People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd–published 2021–thriller–three stars: And my first published in 2021 read features…wait for it…an influencer who has a stalker! Didn’t I read four different variations of this book last year? Except this time, it’s set in England and features an Insta-mum and her has-been novelist husband…
The Last Wish (The Witcher, #0.5) by Andrzej Sapkowski–published 2007–fantasy–two stars: Can a girl Witcher wrong? I started with the book that should have appeared chronologically first, but ughhhh. It’s a whole bunch of long-ass short stories, so every time one would end, I felt like I needed to read a different book. The stories were confusing. This was originally published in the 90s in Polish. I don’t feel like it aged well. It’s pretty heavy on let’s-kill-lady-monsters in the first few stories. Is it any good on Netflix?
Magic Lessons (Practical Magic, #0.1) by Alice Hoffman–published 2020–historical fiction/fantasy–four stars: Can we just appoint Alice Hoffman witch laureate already? That’s a thing right? Get ready to find out how the Owens’s family curse began.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas–published 2020–YAL LGBT fantasy–three stars: Fifteen-year-old Latinx Yadriel, trans and gay, lives in a cemetery and can see ghosts. His father, head of the brujos, refuses to let Yads join their magical ranks because his father doesn’t think that the brujo’s magic will extend to Yadriel. When Yadriel’s cousin Miguel goes missing, Yadriel takes matters into his own hands and performs the rite of passage ceremony anyway with the help of his cousin Maritza. While searching for clues for Miguel, Yadriel summons another ghost Julian, a recently deceased boy of his own age who’s hyper and inquisitive, and promises Julian to help find out who murdered him. I wanted to love this book, but I anticipated the major twists.
Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida–published 2021–romantic comedy–four stars: Apparently cracked screens are the new book jacket rage?Mia wakes up in a hospital bed with amnesia, but she’s donning a fantastic designer dress, so she figures she’s a big deal. Using Instagram and her boyfriend’s (who she hasn’t met yet and isn’t sure she trusts) housesitter as a guide, Mia sashays (bumbles?) her way into unlocking her true identity. In order to completely enjoy this book, disband your sense of reality. Its premise is pretty far out there, but I found it funny and lighthearted. It reminded me of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, total guilty pleasure reads.
Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women #1) by Evie Dunmore–published 2019 historical romance–four stars: A COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE GENERIC BAND-AID TO SLAP OVER THE GAPING WOUND LEFT AFTER BINGEING AND FINISHING NAME BRAND BRIDGERTON.
Concrete Rose(The Hate U Give #0) by Angie Thomas–published 2021–YAL–four stars: Once 17-year-old Maverick (Starr’s daddy from The Hate U Give) finds out that he has a son, he struggles between cleaning up his act or continuing to deal drugs. I love that this is written from Mav’s first-person perspective. Overall, it’s not as well done as THUG–enough with cheesy dialogue in YAL already–but it’s still a great book.
1984 by George Orwell: I read about 130 pages. It was boring. It was narration heavy, and I couldn’t figure out if Orwell hated women or loved them.
How to Be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century by Erik Olin Wright: I quit this one after 50 pages or so. I wasn’t expecting a history lesson about communism.
(P.S. WordPress and I are fighting today. I apologize that some cover art is bigger than others and that Concrete Rose is left aligned. It won’t let me left align the other pictures now either. Hmmmmppphhh. There’s some glitch that’s preventing me from fixing these unsightly things.)
I hope you and yours had a merry merry merry insert-whatever-holiday-you-celebrate-here!
Little Thing came home from school last Friday with a sore throat that progressed to “the bad sneezes” and a cough. So a week later, guess who got a cold and some chapped lips for Christmas? Me!
I’m still feeling under the weather, so I’m not feeling prolific or revelatory in regards to today’s post. . . but I am looking forward to next week’s post–my favorite reads from 2020. I’ve read 176 books so far this year, and I’m hoping to make it to 180 before 2021 hits.
If anyone could help a sick girl out and make a few easy, breezy, heartwarming, or funny book recommendations, I’d appreciate it. I’ll get back into some heavy reads in 2021.
Who is ready for some quasi-coherent (I haven’t been sleeping and have been putting too much distance between finishing a book and actually writing a review! Meep!) mini book reviews?
I had a great reading month and promise there’s a book on this list for every type of reader!
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager—published 2020—horror—four stars: I’m conflicted on this rating. No joke: this is a wannabe Haunting of Hill House. If you ask me, it’s a mashup of Shirley Jackson’s novel and Netflix’s interpretation. But I’m wary of the “horror” genre: most aren’t scary. I also thumbs-down dislike reading books within books (BWBs) because BWBs have shitty writing. But. But. But. It’s a great thriller.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender—published 2020—YAL/LGBTQIA+ romance—four stars: Felix—Black, transgender, and queer—attends a private art school in New York City. He bounces between staying with his dad, a doorman, and his privileged bestie, Ezra, who has his own apartment close to school. A mystery student at the school hacks into Felix’s Instagram account, stealing images of him from before his transition. The perpetrator blows the photos up and puts them in the school gallery, also deadnaming Felix. Felix, angry and embarrassed, resolves to discover who the culprit is. An important YAL book. I learned things from this book. The cover is gorgeous. My only criticism is that I didn’t think it feasible for a NYC doorman to be able to afford private high school tuition and still be able to rent an apartment in the city. And you know how I feel about YAL protagonists yearning to attend Ivy League universities.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks—published 2020—middle-grade fiction—four stars: Oh, I needed a good middle grade read, and this hit the spot. When the mail arrives on her birthday, Zoe finds a letter from her father, who’s in prison and has never written to her before. She starts sending him letters and, convinced of his innocence, tries to prove that he’s been imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall—published 2020—nonfiction—five stars: Holy shit. A must-read. White feminists? We’re doing it wrong. I’m just going to leave this quote right here: If mainstream white feminism wants something to do, wants to help, this is one area where it is important to step back, to wait to be invited in. If no invocation is forthcoming? Well, you can always challenge the white patriarchy. There’s always space to combat the prison industrial complex, to advocate for the reduction of incarceration as a solution for societal concerns. There’s space to limit the harm done to marginalized communities without intruding on the internal work that insiders can and must do. And that space can operate from the outside.
The House in the Cerulean Seaby T.J. Klune—published 2020—fantasy/LGBTQIA+–four stars: T.J. Klune has written a story with Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett style. At first, this feels like it should be a children’s fantasy, vibing Peter Pan and A Series of Unfortunate Events, but the love story weaves in a beautifully written adult romance. Think whimsy meets universal truths. Can we talk about Chauncey? He’s perfect.
You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Mattersby Kate Murphy—published 2020—nonfiction—four stars: As a teacher and as a human being, I find this book fascinating. Here are some gems I highlighted:
“To listen does not mean, or even imply, that you agree with someone. It simply means you accept the legitimacy of the other person’s point of view and that you might have something to learn from it.
“Good listeners know that understanding isn’t binary.”
“Good gossip smells like bourbon to me.”
“While gossip often has a negative connotation, it actually has a positive social function. There’s a reason why as much as two-thirds of adult conversations is gossip…”
“Evolution gave us eyelids so we can close our eyes but no corresponding structure to close off our ears. It suggests that listening is essential to our survival.
“Early humans had to listen and collaborate or die. Norms of behavior and rules of civility emerged from those early joint activities, which later informed our ideas of morality.”
“Our modern selves talk more and listen less despite the fact that understanding and responsiveness to one another’s stories, ideas, and concerns have defined all our achievements from hunting wooly mammoths to putting a man on the moon. Not listening to one another diminishes what we can achieve and in that way, too, can be seen as a moral failing. We not only fail one another as individuals, we also fail to thrive as a society.”
And who knew that everyone literally possesses an emotional ear—the left one—versus a logical ear—the right???? Mind blown emoji.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab—published 2020—fantasy/romance—four stars: If you need a slow burn fantasy romance with lyrical prose, then Addie LaRue is for you. Addie makes a deal with the devil so she can live forever, but he, in return, curses her. He makes her easy to forget. Over the centuries, she learns to manage and leaves her impression in famous works of art. When Addie meets someone who can finally remember her, she must face the devil once again. I love Schwab’s range as a writer and how distinctly different all of her middle grade, young adult, and adult stories are. I loved the language motif woven into her story like here: “Bad Night.” A question without a question mark. I loved the repetition of “palimpsest.” I loved the little snippets of gorgeous writing sprinkled throughout like here: The world goes muffled, a cotton kind of quiet. And if it were not for the icy damp leaching through her clothes, she thinks she could stay here forever. She decides she will at least stay here for now. And then this: So she longs for the mornings, but she settles for the nights, and if it cannot be love, well, then, at least it is not lonely. However, I did hate this book at certain points too. It’s long. I felt it read more like young adult literature. I wasn’t happy with the ending. Because I’m a terrible human being, I found myself rooting for Stockholm syndrome. But lawd have mercy, what a lovely ride.
Malorie (Bird Box #2) by Josh Malerman—published 2020—horror—four stars: Who wouldn’t want to read a sequel to Bird Box? You learn more about the monsters. Malorie’s children are teenagers. When Malorie learns that her parents might still be alive, she packs up the teens, and they set off on an adventure, including a ride on a blind train. Despite its repetitiveness and not being as good as the original, I enjoyed reading it.
The Switch by Beth O’Leary—published 2020—chick lit—three stars: A mediocre read in the middle of a great reading month. I enjoyed O’Leary’s The Flatshare more. When Leena is forced to take leave from her high-powered job, she decides to move into her granny’s house, taking on the old lady life. Meanwhile, her granny, Eileen, moves into Leena’s London flat and tries her hand at online dating. Meh? Very predictable.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman—published 2020—contemporary fiction—four stars: I hated this book at first. I couldn’t get into it. Backman kept repeating parts of the story that had already been established, ugh. Despite finding the repetition nauseating, Backman must have slipped some Zofran into his narrative because by the end I’d settled in and my appetite was restored. He makes it clear from the beginning that it’s a story about idiots—but they’re endearing idiots, except for the real estate agent, she’s awful. The worst bank robber in existence tries to rob a bank, but it’s a cashless one. When trying to get away, the bank robber stumbles into an apartment viewing and takes the would-be buyers hostage. The book tackles death, suicide, homelessness, and love with such a light, humourous touch while at the same time being deeply moving and respectful–Backman signature style. And this line kills me: But if there’s one thing modern life and the internet have taught us, it’s that you should never expect to win a discussion simply because you’re right. And Zara, where do I start with Zara? She rivals Chauncey from The House in the Cerulean Sea as my new favorite character.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi–published 2020–contemporary fiction–four stars: Gifty, a Stanford doctoral student, studies addiction and depression and their effects on mice. When her mother has a mental breakdown, she moves in with Gifty. The narrative gets interrupted by flashbacks to Gifty’s childhood, outlining her brother’s life as an addict and her Christian faith. Gifty struggles with justifying her religious beliefs to her Ivy League science community. While this book is beautiful, it is dull. I liked this more than Homegoing.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke–published 2020–fantasy–three stars: Piranesi lives alone in a labyrinth of halls. The whims of nature and the tides batter his world. Occasionally he meets with the Other, a mysterious man. When Piranesi suspects another person has penetrated the labyrinth, he questions his entire reality. The writing style was a bit too repetitive for my taste.
He Started It by Samantha Downing–published 2020–thriller–three stars: When Beth, Eddie, and Portia’s grandfather dies, the siblings recreate a harrowing, murderous road trip that their grandfather forced them to take as children. If they don’t, they won’t receive their millions in inheritance. Not gonna lie, this book is pretty twisty, but it was long for a thriller despite being written in a whole bunch of short sentences. The ending was a complete surprise.
Rosemary’s Babyby Ira Levin–published 1967–horror–four stars: I might be the only person on the planet unfamiliar with this book’s premise. I pictured myself huddled up under the covers, scared shitless, the entire time while reading, but it wasn’t scary. However, I appreciated the writing, the layered details that melded together in the last chapters.
A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik–published 2020–fantasy–four stars: A heroine 95 percent unlikeable? Check. A magic school that tries to kill its students? Check Check. Novik killing it at worldbuilding with a super original storyline? Check Check Check. Is this Uprooted, one of my all-time fantasy faves? Absolutely not. This is dark. And that damn cliffhanger at the end. Ugh!
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson–published 2015–thriller–four stars: Truth bomb alert: because school’s back in session, I’ve had less time to write book reviews as I finish each book. I’m typing this three weeks after finishing the book. Yes, I enjoyed this thriller. Was it twistier than Twister? Sure! Can I tell you the main characters’ names without revisiting the book’s blurb on Goodreads? Nope.
The Year of the Witchingby Alexis Henderson–published 2020–fantasy/horror–three stars: Think feminist dystopian literature meets witches rebelling against oppressive religion. Also, prepare yourselves for religious men taking multiple wives, you know, because, oppressive religion. The book read more like YAL than true adult fiction. Some parts were scary. Others weren’t. The pacing was off.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier–published 1938–classics/gothic/mystery–four stars: I dislike when authors layer on the imagery thick right at a book’s beginning, which happens here. Just begin in medias res, please! And while I wasn’t necessarily creeped out, I enjoyed the slow burn of the mystery surrounding Rebecca’s death.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby—published 2017–nonfiction/essays/humor/memoir–five stars: All I want to do in real life is meet Samantha Irby. Her writing IS goals. I had to put the book down at one point because I was laughing so hard my whole body shook. Irby makes writing about literal SHIT, mainstream (mainpoop?), and she deserves all of the claps (and chorusing of toilet flushes?). I too suffer from IBD, and we should flush the talking about poop taboo down the toilet.
September wasn’t a great reading month for me. Don’t get me wrong, I read some pretty great books, but I didn’t read very many books.
I read three books that were over 400 pages. Long books means less books read.
I discovered TikTok.
Hybrid teaching leaves me brainless by the time I get home.
I am doing more work at home than I usually do–because hybrid teaching leaves less time to get lessons made and papers graded at work.
Did I mention TikTok?
I quit reading two books: The Guest List by Lucy Foley and The Dragonette Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland.
Tokking of the Tik.
Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson–published 2020–romance–two stars: Jesse’s foster mother, who owned a knitting shop, passes away, leaving the shop to not just him, but his three foster brothers too. They’re all dangerously sexy, but Kerry, a woman who worked in the store and looked to Mama Joy as a mother as well, has always had a thing for Jesse, a bit of a fuck-up. She’s finally finished with school and looking to make her way in the city, but she agrees to help Jesse tackle running the store. Maybe I’m too critical of this genre, but it was just so bland.
Making Faces by Amy Harmon–published 2013–YAL romance–three stars: When the small-town golden boy Ambrose convinces his buddies to join him in the military after the September 11th attacks, Fern Taylor, a small, nondescript redhead who is the preacher’s daughter, pines for him. She’s been in love with him for years. When he returns from war drastically changed, she and her cousin Bailey, who has muscular dystrophy, convince Ambrose to ease back into life in the small town. There’s something very wholesome and innocent about this book, but this book didn’t age well. Be prepared for a tearjerking ending.
Afterlandby Lauren Beukes–published 2020–dystopian fiction–four stars: A virus plagues the world, killing off most of the men. After her sister betrays her, Cole tries to keep her son, one of the few remaining males in the world, safe from the government by dressing him as a girl and joining a traveling nun cult. Totally Atwoodian but with song lyrics and less serious. It’s refreshing to find a contemporary novel that isn’t completely beholden to some rigorous genre-specific plot line. I totally dug Beukes’s writing style.
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip–published 1974 –YAL fantasy–four stars: Beautiful. I had a hard time keeping the beasts’ names straight until halfway through the book, but it was a nice change of pace in comparison to the contemporary YAL that gets published anymore. I’ve been slowly making my way through some older fantasy books, and I’m really enjoying them.
Bitten (Otherworld #1) by Kelley Armstrong–published 2001–urban fantasy–three stars: And then I read something like this and am proven wrong by the last sentence of the last review I wrote. I don’t think urban fantasies age very well, and I know to keep in mind the time period in which they are written, but I didn’t much enjoy The Mortal Instruments series either . . . and it could have had something to do with the fact that I read them wayyyyyyy after they’d originally been published. I was totally into Bitten, but parts of it weren’t very fleshed out and it was pretty predictable. I thought maybe Elena lacked a female protagonist’s depth because the book was written by a male author, but nope. Totally penned by a woman. I guess I was expecting a bit more of a badass female werewolf? And it had a totally sexist storyline and it is part romance novel, but . . . Give me Vampire Academy instead?
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid–published 2015–contemporary fiction/romance–three stars: Hannah moves back home to L.A. from New York to be closer to her best friend and to distance herself from a bad relationship. She has high hopes of rekindling a love affair with her old high school flame Ethan. But on the evening of her welcome back party, she has to make a decision to go home with Ethan or not, and the audience gets to see how her life plays out if she makes either choice. You can tell that this is an early novel from Reid. It’s not as well done as Daisy Jones & The Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and there’s way too much emphasis placed on Hannah’s high bun and cinnamon roll obsession.
The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones–published 2019–YAL fantasy–four stars: A zombie fairytale? Lovely and a bit scary. A great October read.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism–published 2019–nonfiction–four stars: If you are a white person and haven’t read this book yet, you should do so. It’s an uncomfortable read. But being uncomfortable is key to growth. I still have so much work to do in identifying and correcting my own behaviors, thoughts, and speech when it comes to discussing race in America. And I still have so much work to do in identifying and correcting my own behaviors, thoughts, and speech when it just comes to existing in a racist society. I learned from this book that we need to rethink what it means to be racist. I learned from this book that relying on intelligence and hiding behind the guise of reading certain books has racism behind it. Earlier this year, I made of list of recommended books to read about racism in America and posted it on Facebook. Was that racist? Yes, because I hid behind intellectualism. I learned about how Black people view white women’s tears, and my gut reaction was, tears? Really? This book points out how our emotions are a product of socialization. Did I mention that I have a lot of work to do?
Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles–published 2020–YAL fantasy–four stars: Caravel meets Night Circus, but sexy, in a young adult way, and a bit of Stockholm syndrome? Yes, please! It was bit too long though. This is a great October read too.
Anybody have any great October reading recommendations? I want to read something that will scare the shit out of me. Please!
Approach my August mini book reviews with caution. Here’s what you shouldn’t read (and four books you should)!
Anna K: A Love Story (Anna K #1) by Jenny Lee–published 2020–YAL romance/retellings–three stars: I never read book blurbs fully before diving into a book, and sometimes it backfires worse than taking a sip of Coke when you’re expecting unsweet tea but occasionally I’m rewarded with an unforeseen, delicious book flavor. Anna K is room temperature water. Parts were witty and then others were listy. It’s Crazy Rich Asians plus Gossip Girl, butit lacks the glamorous good fun the characters in those series have so it’s hard to get past the entitlement here. I liked Dustin (because he isn’t entitled), but he’s choppy.
The Strangerby Albert Camus–published 1942–classics–three stars: I’m not exactly sure what I just read here. Mind you, the writing is startlingly clear, but . . . I’m confused as to why the protagonist killed another person. And just who is “the stranger”? The protagonist? The guy who the protagonist kills? Imma just back away from this one slowly like Homer Simpson disappearing into the bushes.
Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta’s Academy #1) by Sandhya Menon–published 2020–YAL romance/retellings–two stars: For the love of books, y’all! When am I going to learn my lesson? Once again, I walked into a book without reading the blurb and ended up with another retelling–this time a Beautyand the Beast varietal. This is the most unimaginative, repetitive retelling I’ve ever read. There’s a bunch of bratty rich kids sent to a boarding school in the middle of Colorado. Woohoo, another story featuring children of the one percent! Jaya and her sister, Indian princesses, enroll there after a scandal at home. Jaya finds out that her family’s nemeses–the Emersons–have a son that attends St. Rosetta’s too, and she plots to use her feminine wiles to seduce him into destroying his family’s good name as revenge for destroying her family’s good name. She’s beauty. He’s beast. There’s nothing original here, and it gets too teach-y. However, Menon can rock a metaphor; that’s the only reason I finished reading this. Read A Curse So Dark and Lonely instead.
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner–published 2020–LQBT romance–one star: I don’t often distribute one-star ratings, but there’s nothing that makes this read stand out. Jo, a Hollywood producer, invites her assistant Emma to accompany her to an awards show, not as a date, but as a buffer between Jo and the paparazzi. Rumors swirl anyway, and the two deny that they have feelings for one another. Zero character development? Check. Generic, boring writing? Check check.
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig–published 2019–YAL fantasy/retellings–two stars: Another freaking retelling???? I’m smarter than my August book choices, promise. A reimagining of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Again, no character development. Book lovers, throw a four or five star read my way soon like a life preserver. I’m drowning in a salty sea of terrible writing and its sorrows.
The City We Became (Great Cities #1) by N.K. Jemisin–published 2020–fantasy–four stars: Thank. God. Leave it to Jemisin to rescue me. I loved this more than Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Each borough of NYC manifests as a person, and those people must find each other in order to save the city from alternate universes. While the writing glows, the judgments and themes further illuminate Jemisin’s voice. Take a look: Innocence is nothing but a ceremony, after all. So strange that you people venerate it the way you do. What other world celebrates not knowing anything about how life really works? And But these people are always gonna tell themselves that a little fascism is okay as long as they can still get unlimited drinks with brunch! Don’t get me wrong, the novel is slow at first because it focuses on establishing the different characters and what they are doing when outside forces attack the city. It gets explain-y too at times when I didn’t think that certain plot points needed further clarification; I mean, it is a fantasy. Reading funk–officially over!
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens–published 2007–nonfiction–three stars: He fails to outline any new arguments in his position, and his tone is just so damn disdainful of believers.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson–published 2020–YAL LGBT romance–three stars: Moment of honesty: I can see the appeal to teenage readers here, and that’s why I rounded up. Liz, a band nerd, has gotten into the school of her dreams but didn’t get a much-needed scholarship. At her rich, suburban Indiana high school, prom is a big deal, and king and queen win not just crowns, but big buck scholarships as well. So, she decides to run for prom queen despite the odds against her. At the first meeting, she meets Mack, a new girl also running for court, and Liz is smitten-smacked. So where do I start? This high school is ridiculous. What high school makes prom a scholarship pageant? At one point, Guy Fieri caters an event (maybe prom itself? I can’t remember) . . . I mean, come on! The school has its own social media app, lording over Snapchat and TikTok and the like, just like in Tweet Cute. Also, is this a thing now? Where individual high schools have their own apps that trump mainstream social media? Also, Mack just so happens to be cousins with a member of Liz’s favorite band. And they just so happen to go on their first date to that favorite band’s show and then later on in the novel the lead singer surprises Liz at school. And all that just fits too nicely. And, what new girl runs for prom court? The people who run the school are idiots, and I hate seeing that repeatedly in YAL. And it took me forever to read this book because I just wasn’t that invested in it. The writing is cute-ish though, and Liz and Mack’s relationship will be relatable to high schoolers. And this cover? Swoon!
Brunch and Other Obligations by Suzanne Nugent–published 2020–contemporary fiction–four stars: The title had me at brunch despite the fact I’m not a huge fan of that whole let’s-combine-two-meals-into-one-on-the-weekends-meal vibe. Stop your gasping. If you had the stomach problems I do, you’d feel the same way. Brunch menus are limited and often revolve around gluten, making it damn near impossible for me to find a meal that I can actually eat AND fill me up, and Bloody Marys are the worst (fighting words I know) and mimosas give me heartburn to rival a pregnant woman’s who’s carrying a baby with a headful of hair. Anyway, when their mutual friend Molly dies, three women who grew up together but barely tolerate each other respect their friend’s last wishes and eat brunch together once a month. Because it’s light-hearted and funny, I’ll overlook its predictability. It gets a bottomless-beer cheers from me.
The Pull of the Starsby Emma Donoghue–published 2020–historical fiction–three stars: In Ireland during the 1918 flu outbreak, Julia works as a nurse in a large hospital in a small unit where pregnant women with the flu are treated. The first day takes up around 50 percent of the book and moves at a glacier’s pace. I might be mistaken, but the novel doesn’t possess a plot. However, it’s so very readable, and the last 30 percent makes up for a draggy first half. Unfortunately, it doesn’t use quotation marks to indicate dialogue. Vomit emoji.
Want by Lynn Steger Strong–published 2020–contemporary fiction–four stars: Despite having rich parents and being Ivy League-educated, Elizabeth and her husband struggle to make ends meet for their family while living in New York City. I loved how deep this novel dived into Elizabeth’s mind and how it explored her complicated friendship with her best friend from home Sasha. It felt like it needed more editing, and then on closer inspection, I liked its rambly stream of consciousness. Strong did a nice job portraying the ins and outs of charter school teaching in a big city (not that I’ve ever worked in one, but it’s how I envision it). I don’t know if I would recommend this to everyone, but if you err more on the side of literary, it’s worth the read.
Pericles by William Shakespeare–drama/classics–three stars: Not his best? Pericles, a king, thinks his wife dies during childbirth, so she receives a pirate’s burial. She washes ashore on a distant land still alive. After his wife’s supposed death, Pericles leaves his newborn daughter with a trusting family in a different foreign land. After the girl grows up, the family tries to have her murdered, but pirates kidnap her instead. When Pericles returns to check on her, he’s told she’s dead. Then at the end, they’re all reunited like the whole thing isn’t completely implausible anyway . . .
The Bird and the Sword (The Bird and the Sword Chronicles #1) by Amy Harmon–fantasy–published 2016–four stars: Because of a curse before her mother’s murder, Lark can’t speak, but with her inner voice, she can bend animals, nature, and inanimate objects to her will. Living in a world where magic is banned, her silence keeps her safe. When the king absconds with her to ensure her father’s fealty against battling unnatural magical creatures that threaten the kingdom, she must find her voice to keep the realm safe. My friend from high school pointed me in Harmon’s direction, and I must say, Harmon’s writing is magic and a welcome reprieve. What prevented this from five-star status? A predictable storyline.