Title: Firekeeper’s Daughter
Author: Angeline Boulley
Page Count: 496
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 16, 2021 by Henry, Holt and Co.
Review: A beautifully written portrayal of a bi-racial young woman navigating through the complexities of identity, family, and the social issues plaguing both of her communities. There are a lot of difficult topics broached in this novel, and Boulley deftly tackles each one as she uncovers the mystery at the heart of the story. I have to admit that I especially enjoyed the time period this book takes place in. Daunis is roughly the same age as I am and grew up in the same era. I experienced some level of nostalgia with the pop culture references and other time period identifiers. I was also delighted by the mention of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, my very own alma mater.
Some readers may feel that the pacing of this “thriller” is too slow, but I personally enjoyed the gradual unfolding. This book is packed with social commentary, so I think it was appropriate for Boulley take her time and dive deeply into the subject matter. I look forward to future works by this debut author.
Title: Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Performers: Lauren Fortgang and Michael David Axtell
Length: 16 hr, 29 min
Series: Alex Stern, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 8, 2019 by Macmillan Audio
Review: Grishaverse fans beware…this is a complete departure from Bardugo’s previous work. Luckily for me, I am also a fan of the paranormal/urban fantasy genre, so there is some crossover appeal for me. This book was a little too gritty for my personal tastes, but the character development really impressed me. Alex’s character in particular is incredibly complex and multi-layered. People who enjoy stories about secret societies are especially in for a treat because Bardugo really has a knack for the intricacies of incorporating the paranormal into realistic settings. She makes it completely believable that this type of world could exist within the shadow of our own.
The dynamic between Alex and Darlington was a bit confusing to me, so I am really hoping for more page time with them in future books. I liked the readers chosen for both of their characters, so I will probably try to continue forward with the series in audiobook format.
Title: The Project
Author: Courtney Summers
Page Count: 352
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 2, 2021 by Wednesday Books
Review: Looking for a cliché and utterly predictable book about cults? Look no further, because this is your next read. Don’t get me wrong, the author is not a bad writer, but if you have seen any movies/tv series/documentaries or read any books with cults as a theme, then you know exactly how this story is going to play out. I wish I could say there was even one plot twist that caught me off guard, but I can’t. I have heard really good things about the author’s book Sadie, so this was a bit of a disappointment for me.
Author: Darcie Little Badger
Performer: Kinsale Hueston
Length: 9 hr, 1 min
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 22, 2020 by Dreamscape Media, LLC
Review: I personally did not find this book to be a thrilling read, however, I will most certainly be recommending it to young readers. Aside from a few curse words scattered here and there, it is actually a pretty “clean” book. It read more like middle grade fiction, despite the fact our amateur sleuth is an older teenager. Because the main protagonist, Elatsoe, is asexual, there is no romantic angle whatsoever. The setting is interesting and would likely appeal to young readers – kind of a re-imagined United States where the paranormal is considered normal. All things considered, I think I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I had read it as a pre-teen.
Title: Then She Was Gone
Author: Lisa Jewell
Performer: Helen Duff
Length: 10 hr, 13 min
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Dreamscape Media
Review: Stylistically, this book was very similar to a Liane Moriarty book (one of my all-time favorite writers). In fact, even the reader of this book had a very similar voice to the woman who performs most (if not all) of Liane Moriarty’s audiobooks. The major difference between these two authors, however, is I think Jewell reveals too much too early in her story. A huge part of what makes Liane Moriarty’s books so fantastic is her perfect timing in making big reveals. She also usually hangs onto a big plot twist to blow your mind at the end. Jewell does not quite have the same finesse with her plot twists, and for the most part I was able to predict each plot twist well before it was actually revealed. I think perhaps this could have been avoided if Jewell had arranged her content differently. I was also not a big fan of the ending. It bothers me when endings are tied up in a way that feels inauthentic, and unfortunately this book had one of those endings.
Despite the ways this book fell short for me as a reader, I still enjoyed it and would consider reading other books by this author.
Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens
Page Count: 325
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 14, 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Review: This book has been at the top of the NY Times Bestsellers List for awhile, and I have had several patrons ask for read-alikes, so I decided to see what all the fuss is about.
This book started out slowly and kept a steady pace. The author did an excellent job crafting the setting. I could practically feel the marsh; the languid air, the movement of the water, the teeming abundance of life. It was absolutely gorgeous in every sense, and I felt deeply connected to the land, the animals, and the “Marsh Girl.”
Owens has created incredibly unique characters, and truly captured the sentiments of small town living. There are many layers to this book – race, gender, social class, and sexuality to name a few. All the elements are very well crafted and it is easy to see why this book has been so well received.
The reason I am not giving this book five stars is because I was extremely conflicted about the ending. To be honest, a big part of me wishes I had not read the final chapter. There is a certain amount of power in the unknown, and I think I would have been more satisfied not knowing what precipitated the mysterious death of Chase Andrews. Perhaps this will seem like an odd sentiment to some, but I truly feel that in this case, I would have preferred to be left speculating about what happened on that fateful night.
Title: The Psychology of Time Travel
Author: Kate Mascarenhas
Page Count: 372
Publishing Date/Publisher: 12 February 2019 by Crooked Lane Books (originally published August 9th 2018 by Head of Zeus)
I don’t think I can accurately describe just how much I love this book, but I will try.
It had me hooked from the start, grabbing me instantly with the strong, smart, vulnerable women, and kept me hooked through the entire story. The relative lack of men was an added, welcome, and refreshing change of pace from most books I’ve read. I’ve also noticed that most books and movies/television shows involving time travel make the reader/viewer do some mental gymnastics in order to wrap their head around the whole concept, however Mascarenhas does all that for you, leaving your brain free to try to dissect the murder mystery.
I also loved how the story is woven together and how organized it is, despite it being about a very disorganized subject. This made it easy to read and impossible to put down.
I have already started telling all my friends about this book and will continue to bother them until each and everyone of them reads it. I was utterly blown away and loved every minute of it.
Review: This book thoroughly boggled my brain. The concept of time travel makes absolutely zero sense to me. This book is technically a murder mystery, but oddly it didn’t feel to me like a murder mystery at all. The mystery itself became more of a subplot as I struggled to wrap my head around the various concepts detailed in the book pertaining to time chronology, “genies”, and other time travel concepts. I liked the book, but I was honestly too confused by it to love it.
Title: The Butterfly Garden
Author: Dot Hutchison
Page Count: 288
Series: The Collector, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 1, 2016 by Thomas & Mercer
Review: Holy. Freaking. Wow…..There are some books that really stick with you, and this is one of them. From page one I was so completely engrossed that I would find myself staring longingly at the book during work, anxiously waiting for my next break. I so desperately wanted to know what would happen to the women in the story that I would be thinking about it constantly, even as I drifted off to sleep at night. The narrative is very well written, and the narrator of the story is so easy to trust and to like. The only reason I am not giving this story five stars is because there were a couple elements of the story that bothered me. For one, the FBI agents that were questioning the narrator kept insisting that she was not being forthcoming and that she was keeping secrets. I did not get this feeling at all from the narrator, and I think in a situation such as this, the victim would need to be allowed to tell the story in the way that is most comfortable to them. Secondly, they kept alluding to the fact that the narrator was hiding something, but when they had the big “reveal” at the end, it did not truly seem to fit with the rest of the narrative. To be honest I am not entirely sure why it was included in the story at all, as it didn’t really seem to add anything revelatory to the plot.
This book is what I like to call a “thinker” because it makes you reflect upon yourself and how you would respond if you were trapped in this type of situation. I would like to think that I would have the compassion of nurturing Lyonette and the strength of straightforward Maya, but to be honest I really don’t know who I would be. What really made this story intriguing was the women, and how each of them coped with the extreme trauma while still managing to carve out meaningful relationships with one another. In this sense, the story was as beautiful as it was terrifying. I highly recommend reading it.