Title: Luck of the Titanic
Author: Stacey Lee
Page Count: 368
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 4, 2021 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Review: I really enjoyed Lee’s The Downstairs Girl, so I was surprised by how little I enjoyed this book. The heroine, Val, felt like a regurgitation of Jo in a different setting. Not a whole lot actually happens in this book until the end, and her charade as the Merry Widow seems highly implausible throughout. There are a bunch of jumbled subplots that don’t add much to the story overall, and the relationship building between characters fell flat for me. I appreciate what Lee is trying to do with this novel, but the slow pacing and convoluted storyline made it hard to get through.
Title: The Heart Principle
Author: Helen Hoang
Page Count: 320
Series: The Kiss Quotient, Book 3
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 31, 2021 by Berkley
Review: Hoang captured my heart with The Kiss Quotient, and though I didn’t enjoy The Bride Test nearly as much, I was still eager to read The Heart Principle when I saw it offered on NetGalley. The Heart Principle is written in a different style than it’s predecessors, and the result is a deeply felt and raw portrayal of love, loss, and learning self-acceptance. The main character, Anna, struggles with hiding her social difficulties and exerts great effort to mold herself into the person her family and boyfriend expects. At the end of each interaction she is left mentally and emotionally drained, hardly able to take care of herself. She is completely blindsided when her boyfriend proposes an “open” relationship, and as she grapples with this new reality, she meets Quan, the “bad boy” with a heart of gold. Both Anna and Quan are wearing masks to hide their inner struggles, but once together, they find a safe space to be authentic within their burgeoning relationship.
This really was a beautiful story, though much sadder in tone than the other two books in the series. The author’s note at the end is worth reading and explains why she chose to make this book different.
Title: The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig
Performer: Carey Mulligan
Length: 8 hr, 50 min
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 29, 2020 by Penguin Audio
Review: This book had good pacing and although predictable, had a great message. Life is full of choices, and it is easy to get bogged down with regrets. Perhaps we could have had a “better” life if we made different choices, but ultimately this may have resulted in unexpected outcomes. Outcomes that would not necessarily be good. Keeping this in mind, I think this book gives the reader a healthy dose of perspective. We all occasionally have “what if” thoughts, and sometimes we need to reframe our way of thinking to see things in a more positive light. In some respects, this almost felt like a self-help book and it serves as a gentle reminder that we can all be kinder to ourselves.
Title: His Only Wife
Author: Peace Adzo Medie
Performer: Soneela Nankani
Length: 9 hr, 3 min
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 1, 2020 by Workman Publishing
Review: This book very comfortably fits the vibe of a chick lit drama. I wouldn’t say there is a lot of depth to the story, but I did really enjoy the character arc of the main protagonist, Afi. I wouldn’t really categorize it as a “coming-of-age” story, however, Afi grows and changes a lot as a person as she gains exposure to more modern ideas of womanhood. I’m categorizing this as a contemporary romance for reference purposes, but this label doesn’t quite fit either. Yes, indeed there is a romance, but it is sandwiched between two distinct time periods of uncertainty. It’s less about the romance and more about how the mysteriousness of this man, Eli, drives the plot of the story. When Afi marries him, he is not even present at the wedding, and he doesn’t enter the scene until much later in the story. Yet even with his marked absence, Afi is expected by her family and in-laws to play the role of dutiful wife. She eventually finds her voice (the time alone gives her LOTS of time for introspection), and the end result is rather satisfying. I felt a strong sense of liberation on her behalf when all was said and done. Overall, a very interesting glimpse into the traditions and culture shaping modern-day Ghana.
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.
Title: Written in the Stars
Author: Alexandria Bellefleur
Page Count: 384
Series: Written in the Stars
Publishing Date/Publisher: November 10, 2020/Avon
Review: I loved this book- it was just so much fun and the characters were well flushed out with realistic arcs. The book is somewhat Pride and Prejudice but it takes a life of its own with pop culture references and fake dating (best romance trope, let’s be honest. Tied with ‘oh no, there’s only one bed’). And the fact that they did not have a ‘meet cute’ whatsoever. It was a disaster, and I loved every second of it.
It was so, so easy to fall in love with the characters, with Elle and Darcy both being so well-rounded and flawed but perfect. I also greatly appreciated the fact that there was both no homophobia in it, so it felt like a very safe place to just get lost in.
I absolutely cannot wait for the follow up Hang the Moon, starring Darcy’s adorable brother and best friend. Seriously. I need that book.
Author: Bram Stoker
Performer: Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, plus cast
Length: 15hrs 28 mins
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 20th, 2012/Audible Studios
Review: This was a fun listen and the cast brought the characters to life (with the exception of Lucy’s, which was just very annoying, to be honest). The classic was enhanced by an all-star cast and unique storytelling method Stoker used was perfect for an audiobook.
Dracula is a classic for a reason, but I wasn’t completely blown away by it. I think that might be because I’ve watched too many film and tv adaptations that the original just felt a bit ‘been there, done that’. I still recommend it for a fun way to escape for a bit, or to have on in the background while working or cooking.
Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author: Samantha Shannon
Page Count: 830
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2019/ Bloomsbury Publishing
Review: Going to start this one off with just ‘wow’. I love fantasy but sometimes high fantasy can be dull and take ages to get anywhere (both in reference to the plot but also they always have to walk everywhere, which annoys me- buy/steal a horse) but this one starts off strong and that carries throughout the whole 800+ pages. Even following the one character I wasn’t super invested in, it was fast and interesting.
The writing was superb, the plot was so engaging, the characters were so well thought out and developed, the magic system was unique, and the relationships? Chef kiss. And dragons. Come on. I would give this book seven stars out of five if I could. Ten maybe. I just really loved it, plain and simple. It was one where I wanted to stay within its pages and world for as long as possible, and since it’s a mammoth book, that was pretty easy.
BRB, I’ve just convinced myself to go re-read it while writing this.
Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Page Count: 401
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 13, 2017/Atria Books
This book completely broke me. I was crying at two in the morning while I finished the book, it was just so good and beautiful and well written.
It addresses some very important issues: racial prejudice, domestic abuse, homophobia, and what it was like to be an LGBTQ+ person in a historical setting. And from my own perspective, I think it was handled very well.
I typically don’t like books with multiple first person POVs, I think it gets complicated and messy and rarely works well (multiple third person POVs are great, though), however I think this worked really well in The Seven Husbands because it is as if we are reading Monique’s book in the chapters that we are in Evelyn’s perspective, or even just listening to her through the tapes or sitting down to the interview and hearing her story.
It was compelling, heartbreaking, and profound. So when I say ‘it broke me’, I mean that in the best possible way. I highly recommend it, but be sure to have some tissues handy.