Fall 2020 Mini-Reviews

These are some books that I’ve read recently that I think are perfect for the fall season. Atmospheric, lyrical, and perhaps a little spooky.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

This book is centered around Shakespeare’s family–specifically his wife and children. It’s interesting, though, because Shakespeare himself is never actually mentioned by name. Despite that, Agnes (his wife) is such an interesting character and Shakespeare’s absence just made me want to pick up a biography on him. This book took me a little while to get into and I thought the writing was a little too flowery for my taste, but in the end I still really enjoyed it. I could definitely tell that this book hit me different now that I’m a parent than it would have before I had kids. There were just so many mom feels–the desperation to protect your kids from anything and everything…it was real.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None

Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

Order: Hardcover | eBook

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

I honestly can’t believe I haven’t read this book before now! Holly Black is so masterful in creating these parallel worlds that are close to what we have now, but with one fantastical twist. I thought the beginning of the book very smoothly introduced the world and its rules. I also thought the flashback chapters were a great way of creating context without interrupting the story or forcing characters to unrealistically reflect on something. I really liked Tana as a main character and loved that she stuck to her guns throughout the story. I often have a problem with these “immortal beings falling in love with average mortal girl” story lines, but I thought for once we were given a compelling reason as to why Gavriel fell in love with her–there legitimately was something different about Tana. I definitely thought something was up with the San Francisco Coldtown and that they were get involved, but that didn’t end up happening. I can’t believe this is a standalone book! I really feel like we need a book specifically exploring the San Francisco Coldtown.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Order: Paperback | eBook 

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I just want to start this review by saying that I enjoyed this book. Reading over my notes, I had some issues with it so it might seem like I didn’t, but I really did. It’s very The Westing Game meets Knives Out and I was super into it. In general, I liked Avery as a character, though it feels like JLB tends to write the same protagonist into all her books. Don’t get me wrong, I like that character, but they’re pretty interchangeable between books. I liked that Avery had a strong relationship with Libby and I hope that gets explored more in future books. I also really liked the puzzle aspect and it was enjoyable for me to watch Avery try to figure them out. My main issues really all center around the romantic subplot. First of all, I hate–HATE–love triangles involving siblings (usually brothers). It just feels like there’s no way for that to end well in the long run. Second, I’m really over the “hot bad boy gives protagonist an annoying nickname” trope. It just feels so cringe to me. Every time. Lastly, THERE IS NO COMPELLING REASON WHY JAMESON AND GRAYSON ARE SO PROTECTIVE OF AVERY. They just ARE all of the sudden and it’s like…why? In the end, though, I liked this book and am FOR SURE reading the next book in the series.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Order: Hardcover | eBook

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Okay, since finishing this book I’ve read some pretty negative reviews about it and that just makes me so sad! This book has my whole heart and I realize it’s not going to be for everyone, but some people are really just missing out. This is different from any other book Schwab has written, but it still has her signature worldbuilding. It’s more magical realism than fantasy like some of her other books have been, but I feel like that makes the entire story more poignant. There’s this pervasive sadness throughout the book–even when Addie is with Henry, you just feel like any happiness cannot possibly last. I really liked that Schwab didn’t gloss over the beginning of Addie’s story while she’s figuring out her curse. I feel like I really liked having that backstory as a reader and her struggle provided some good perspective. Despite the romantic subplot with Henry, this story is not about the two of them or even about Addie and Luc–it’s about Addie alone and the ending makes that very apparent. This story was beautiful and heartbreaking and I’ll admit to sobbing through the last couple chapters. (Honestly, my only qualm is that Schwab used the word “palimpsest” like 50 times throughout the book).

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Order: Hardcover | eBook

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

I very much enjoyed Turton’s debut, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and was pleasantly surprised to hear that he had a new book coming out! This book is just as twisty a mystery as Evelyn Hardcastle was, but with even more of a supernatural element to it. Right off the bat, it felt like there was a lot going on–we were meeting all kinds of characters and learning the backstory for the legend of Old Tom–but at the same time nothing was really happening. Our characters were running around doing a lot of things, but not learning anything. As the book progressed, I did feel myself getting more and more invested in figuring out what the heck was going on, but I also became certain that there were only two possible endings. One of those endings would be a great payoff, but the other would be incredibly lame and ruin the book. In the end, I thought the “solution” was pretty good, but felt a little rushed in its explanation. Regardless, this was the perfect book to be reading this time of year. Slightly spooky and very atmospheric.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Order: Hardcover | eBook

Let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve read some of these books [Mini-Reviews]

There are so many books that I read last year that I still haven’t gotten around to reviewing. Hopefully, this post can make a (small) dent in that list.

mini-reviews

The Conspiracy of Us and Map of Fates by Maggie Hall

map of fates

conspiracy of us

I really thought I was going to like these books because it seemed like it was going to be one massive treasure hunt. Instead, we’re gifted with insta-love and a completely unnecessary love triangle. I also don’t really understand why there’s this slight magical element? I mean, one of the characters is literally fireproof and I don’t know how that can be explained without magic. The main character is so naive and very annoying. I never understand why protagonists have such a hard time being left behind on “missions” when they have no training and would clearly only get in the way. I, personally, would be happy to sit on my behind in the hotel room and let people with ACTUAL TRAINING take care of the dangerous stuff. I honestly don’t know why I even bothered with the second book, but I am definitely NOT going to be reading the third one. 3/5

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Orphan Monster SpyI wasn’t super impressed by this book. I thought it actually started off pretty strong, but it didn’t maintain that excitement through to the end. While I felt like it had a different tone from most books, that didn’t really make things any more interesting. The plot was fine, but not super engaging and I had a hard time figuring out what the end goal was supposed to be. Our main character is going through a bunch of stuff, but for what? I also didn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters. The main character was…fine. Kind of bland–you really don’t get to know her that well. The author also chose to include some pretty messed up characters, but I didn’t really feel like they added to the story. 3/5

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The ArchivedThis book had been on my TBR forever because I really liked the Monsters of Verity duology. Also, I love any kind of twist on the “library” so if you know any good alternate library books, let me know in the comments! To get into my review, I felt like the world was pretty complex and didn’t really get explained very well at the beginning, which just left me feeling confused. I was also very confused for the first three chapters because I didn’t realize that Da and Dad were not both Mackenzie’s father. I liked Mackenzie as a main character, but she made some really questionable decisions. I never really understood her resistance for sharing information with the librarians, but especially Roland. He seemed to obviously be on her side and some things could have been prevented if she had been more transparent. I thought Wesley was a bit much as a character, but I did like watching his relationship with Mackenzie develop. Owen, on the other hand…that relationship seemed to come out of nowhere. In the end, there was a twist that I did NOT see coming and I’m just left with so many questions. Like, what is up with Ms. Angelli? Such a mystery. 4/5

ebook | Paperback

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

The ChristmasaurusThis is such a fun middle grade Christmas book. The language was pretty silly throughout, so I would definitely recommend for younger middle grade readers, but I think that age will find the silly language really enjoyable. This book has wheelchair representation which I don’t think I’ve seen in any other books–let alone middle grade. I’m no expert, but it felt like it was portrayed accurately and definitely felt super respectful. I also thought that the characters developed in a realistic way. Even though Brenda is horrible, I felt like I understood her and that’s not always the case with antagonists. I loved all of the illustrations throughout and the Christmas feels were SO STRONG. There’s a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming (am I just oblivious???) which was such a fun surprise. I recommend getting the version of the book that comes with the soundtrack–not necessary, but a really fun and festive bonus. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Musical Edition

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Two Dark ReignsOkay, I’m hoping to get through this review without any spoilers, but it’s book three in the series, so I’m really sorry if I reveal anything from the first two books–unintentional. After the second book I wasn’t sure how invested I would be in the rest of the story–I didn’t really see where Blake could take it from there. However, the third book got me reinvested real quick. I found myself liking this book much more than the second one and the different POVs continued to be a nice change of pace. I enjoyed each POV equally. There continue to be many, many questions and I need the next book asap. The ending took me by surprise and I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on or what’s going to happen. There’s some interesting things going on on the island and I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton

my plain janeI love this series! The tone is fun and light and easy to enjoy. Once again, I thought the rotating perspective worked well, but Jane’s sections were probably my least favorite. I do wish that I’d read Jane Eyre first, though, because there are certain plot points that were so strange and I don’t know if they were extra or if they’re part of the original text. This is partly why one of my 2019 reading goals is to read Jane Eyre. I also liked that this is somewhat of a “Jane Eyre origin story”. The plot itself was good, but not completely thought out or explained. Why do the talismans work on ghosts? What really determines if a ghost moves on or not? Is a special “moving on” room really necessary? I also felt like red rooms were mentioned several times and I don’t really know why. Despite all that, the tone of the book is so enjoyable that I happily overlooked the times when things weren’t fully explained and I’m excited to continue on with this series. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover


Recommended from this post:

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas [ARC]

Evelyn’s sister, Rose, has been kidnapped–only, no one believes her. There is the little detail of Rose’s goodbye/apology/”I’m running away from home” note…but Evelyn knows that it’s actually a clue left for her by Rose. The only thing left for Evelyn to do is to follow Rose to London and try to bring her sister back home herself. If only that annoyingly Byronic Mr. Braddock would stop talking about her and Rose’s “special powers” and let her search in peace!

I23688792 saw this book advertised as “X-Men meets Jane Austen”. I thought to myself, “I like both of those things. I guess I’ll give this book a try…” Honestly, I didn’t expect much–I thought it would be a dud. Boy, was I wrong. This book really delivered on that initial promise! Everything that I love about X-Men and everything that I love about Jane Austen were combined in an utterly believable way. At first I was worried that the characters’ powers would be lame or wouldn’t make much sense in the context, but I thought they were all interesting and unique.

I thought Evelyn was a spunky main character and I really enjoyed viewing the world through her eyes. At the same time, her sister Rose is a great compliment and they’re both portrayed as strong women which was just great to see. A warning to readers: there is a love triangle in this book. With that being said, I was legitimately torn between our two suitors which usually doesn’t happen. Typically I pick a favorite pretty early on and stick with it, but with this book I kept switching between the two. Mr. Braddock and Mr. Kent are very different from each other in nearly every way which is an interesting and fun contrast. Overall, the love triangle felt a tad forced perhaps and didn’t seem overwhelmingly necessary, but I’m willing to overlook that.

The pace of this book was a little slow at times, but the characters and the world created were so enjoyable that I didn’t mind. There are a lot of times throughout the book when Evelyn is forced to pause in her search for Rose so she can participate in Society in order to maintain her reputation. This creates some downtime for the reader as well since the story is only told from Evelyn’s point of view. It’s interesting though, because the reader is also left wondering where Rose is and what’s happening to her–but can’t answer those questions because we’re forced to watch a play along with Evelyn.

I thought the ending was very interesting…I won’t go into any detail, but I liked it. I don’t think everyone will, but I thought it was a bold choice that I honestly did not see coming. My only complaint is that the last chapter seemed a little too much like X-Men. We have one person who has the ability to find other “mutants” and one person who has a demonstrable ability to convince their fellows to join with them. We’ll see how this series progresses, but I for one am excited to see what they come up with next.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han [Spoilers]

Warning: This post will contain spoilers. I normally try to steer clear of those, but I just can’t talk about this book without spoiling some things.

Lara Jean likes Peter for real and it looks like he likes her back, but she’s not quite sure how to act in this new, real relationship. So she and Peter draw up a new contract. Peter will not be more than five minutes late. Lara Jean will not make Peter do crafts of any kind. Peter doesn’t have to call Lara Jean before he goes to bed at night, but he can if he feels like it. Lara Jean will only go to parties if she feels like it. Peter will give Lara Jean rides whenever she wants. Lara Jean and Peter will always tell each other the truth. Peter and Lara Jean will not break each other’s hearts.

p-s-i-still-love-you-9781442426733_hrI FEEL SO CONFLICTED ABOUT THIS BOOK. I remember really liking the first one, but as I started to read this one, I couldn’t remember why I liked Peter or even why I liked Lara Jean. I will say, though, I still LOVE Kitty. She’s probably my favorite character. I’m sure she’d be hard to live with, but she’s awesome to read about. But back to Peter and Lara Jean. I just didn’t get why they were together. I didn’t see what Lara Jean saw in Peter besides his good looks. What else is there about him? He just doesn’t seem like her type at all. It was also hard for me to see what Peter saw in Lara Jean. Why does he want to be with her so bad? I just don’t get it. Somehow they made sense to me in the first book, but not in this one.

So…the love triangle. I agree with some reviewers that it was a little much to add a second love triangle to the series. But let’s be honest, Jenny Han loves writing about love triangles (I mean, you guys have read her Summer series, right?) What I’m trying to say is, this shouldn’t have been unexpected and frankly, I like John better. I think he and Lara Jean are MUCH better suited for one another. Just take the end and compare John’s birthday present versus Peter’s. John gives her this wonderful gift, a snow globe that Lara Jean LOVES. He obviously thought really hard about what to give her and just naturally seems to be on the same wavelength. Peter’s gift, on the other hand, pales in comparison. He gives her back the necklace (which he took back from her in the first place) and it’s not even like he came up with that idea on his own. Lara Jean had told him that she liked the necklace. No way Peter would have thought to get that for her by himself. Also, John definitely would have written an original poem for Lara Jean on Valentine’s Day.

In the end, not only do I feel like Lara Jean chose the wrong guy, but it was also very sudden. First Peter’s kind of being a jerk but then all of a sudden he wants Lara Jean back and it all seems very random and happens within five pages. Honestly, it seemed more like Peter wanted to keep John from having Lara Jean than Peter actually wanting Lara Jean for her. Whatever. I don’t get it, but whatever.

Last thing: there was one part of the book that especially bothered me on a more personal level. Lara Jean and Peter are in the tree house and their conversation leads to Peter saying something like, “Any guy who says he doesn’t watch porn is lying” and Lara Jean isn’t even fazed by it. What? First of all, what Peter is saying here isn’t true. It’s just not. Second of all, Lara Jean should definitely be bothered by this! Ignore any moral or religious beliefs regarding porn–porn is scientifically proven to be damaging to individuals and relationships. Porn is harmful and addictive and–despite the attempts of the media to normalize it–is not okay. Go to www.fightthenewdrug.org for more information on how Porn Kills Love. I’ll get off my soapbox now. Sorry, not sorry.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate. A few scenes with strong language.
Violence: None
Sexual Content: Heavy. Nothing explicit, but pretty constant talk throughout.
Smoking/Drinking: Mild