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: A Blade So Black
Author: L.L. McKinney
Performer: Jeanette Illidge
Length: 11 hr, 24 min, 1 sec
Series: A Blade So Black, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by MacMillan Audio
Review: This book wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. It was sort of Alice in Wonderland meets The Mortal Instruments meets Social Justice Warrior.
The author was clever in how she wove the aspects of the original tale into her adaptation, which is why I thought it was an OK read. Unfortunately, many of the hot button issues that were addressed in the story such as race relations and violence were not fully fleshed out and I was bothered by the occasionally prejudiced dialogue, the selfish characters, and the anti-law enforcement undertones.
I will, however, note that many of the elements I found to be problematic are mostly in the first half of the book. The second half of the book is, in my opinion, a much more enjoyable read than the first half. I initially thought I would be rating this book with two stars, but it went up to three as I neared the end of the book. I believe this is McKinney’s debut novel, so I imagine her character/plot development and pacing will continue to improve in any subsequent books in this series.
I did listen to this book in audiobook format, and although I thought that the various voices chosen by the performer worked for the characters, I thought that she had some difficulty with transitioning between those voices. At times this was confusing, but overall I liked the cadence of her voice and thought she did a good job.
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.
Author: Alexa Martin
Page Count: 320
Series: Playbook, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 23, 2019 by Berkley
Review: This was one of those books that teetered between a 3 and 4 star rating for me. The story is very cute, and there were certain aspects that I thought were worthy of note, but there were also a few places it fell short for me.
The main character, Poppy, was great and I loved how down to earth she was. However, I personally did not think that there was enough build up leading to her rekindled romance with TK. He did not have to work very hard to be back in her life, and the attraction between them seemed mostly sexual. I would have loved to see them connect on a deeper level beyond their shared child. I did, however, really like that TK idolized her post-pregnancy body. This really spoke to me, because I have struggled with accepting the permanent changes in my body post-pregnancy, and it made me feel good to see stretch marks, saggy boobs, and a few extra pounds portrayed as desirable and beautiful.
I also don’t think that the author ever really provided an explanation as to how TK missed out on the news regarding Poppy’s pregnancy. It is implied that this was a machination of his meddling mother, but it was not explained how she got to his text messages before he did. And who was the girl that answered his phone? I suppose we may never know.
This is actually the second book in a series, and I like how the author incorporated characters and storylines from her first book into this one. From early on, it seemed pretty obvious that her next book will focus on a romance between two supporting characters, Maxwell and Brynn, and I think that will be fun.
It should also be noted that the author spent 8 years as an NFL wife, so I assume that her depiction of what life is like for the wives and girlfriends of players is pretty accurate.
Title: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
Performer: Bahni Turpin
Length: 11 hr, 56 min
Series: Dread Nation, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 3, 2018 by HarperAudio
Review: This book is fantastic, and I loved every minute of it. Bahni Turpin did an excellent job reading it, and I have come to expect nothing less from her than a stellar performance.
Shortly before finishing this book, I browsed through some of the reviews posted on Goodreads and was surprised to find that there has actually been some controversy regarding this book. After reading through these criticisms, I strongly believe that many people misunderstand the difference between author opinion and writing a story that is true to the era in which it is taking place.
Many people took issue with the fact that people of color are spoken of negatively in this book and did not like the way they were portrayed. I saw words like “colorism” being thrown around because of the way the main character describes herself and other people of color, but it is important to remember that people of this time period had been indoctrinated with a very negative view of people of color. It is not surprising that many people of color internalized this negativity, and it deeply affected the way they viewed themselves and others. This is largely the reason that colorism exists, and I think this book was a powerful commentary on how damaging that type of rhetoric is.
It also confused me that so many people considered this an LGBT+ representative book. Some people consider Jane bisexual, but I think that this is a stretch. I think it can be argued that she is curious, but her strong attraction to men is made apparent throughout the book. I understand that sexuality can fall on a pretty broad and fluid scale, but it does not seem that she considers herself to be particularly attracted to women. It is also stated by reviewers that another central character, Katherine, is asexual, but I think this is also a stretch. She admits that she has not experienced attraction to anyone, however, considering her traumatic upbringing and the near constant barrage of sexual harassment she experiences on a daily basis, I do not find this to be especially surprising. My point in all of this is that this book should not be touted as LGBT+ literature. Perhaps this topic will be explored more deeply in the next book, in which case I may change my mind.
There are so many positive things to say about this book. It features strong female characters who are equally clever and badass. It is a truly original story and the character development is quite good in my opinion. The author even hit me with a twist at the end that I did not see coming at all. I feel good about the ending, and I am so excited for the next book in this series!
Title: Belly Up
Author: Eva Darrows
Page Count: 384
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 30, 2019 by Inkyard Press
Review: There are so many things I love about this book. Most importantly, there are the characters. Darrows’ characters are full of personality and spunk and the dialogue between them sometimes had me snickering out loud. Bottom-line, I want all of them in my life for reals.
Teen pregnancy books often fall into the realm of “issue” fiction, but this is so much more than just a cautionary tale. Certainly the main character, Sara, has to come to terms with the repercussions of a single night of indiscretion, but she finds strength in herself and the people in her life as she navigates through some tough choices.
There is a whole lot of representation in this book. The main character is biracial and bisexual/questioning. Her best friend is asexual, another friend is transgender, and her boyfriend is demisexual. I have to admit that I had to look up several of the terms and identifiers used in this novel because I had no idea what they meant. The story really covers a wide spectrum of gender and sexuality, and it is rare to see that kind of fluidity represented in YA fiction.
I highly recommend this book. It is smart, it is funny, and it really shows how important it is to surround yourself with supportive and loving people…people who will be with you through thick and thin (pun intended).
Title: My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life
Author: Rachel Cohn
Page Count: 352
Publishing Date/Publisher: December 18, 2018 by Disney-Hyperion
Review: This is a cutesy Cinderella-esqe story about a girl who is lifted out of an American foster care system and whisked away to a faraway land by her absent until now, incredibly rich father.
It goes about how you would imagine, with Elle acclimating to a new life in a new place where she does not speak the language. Conveniently she is enrolled in an expat private school where classes are taught in English, but she still has to learn how to navigate through a nuanced culture that is vastly different from what she is accustomed to.
I like that fact that the author made Elle a multiethnic character, and it adds some conflict to the story as her “otherness” initially makes it challenging for her to ingratiate herself with her very traditional Japanese family members. It is also interesting to see how she adapts to a mostly homogenous world where customs and etiquette are a very important part of everyday interactions.
I felt like I learned a lot about Japanese culture (I am trusting that the author did her research), and I thought that overall it was an enjoyable read. I will be recommending this to readers who enjoy loose fairytale adaptations and gossipy teen dramas.