Author: Anna Todd
Page Count: 582
Series: After, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 21, 2014 by Gallery Books
Review: This book is incredibly difficult to rate. As many reviewers before me have noted, there are so many things that are problematic with this book. The dialogue is whiny and repetitive, the relationship between Hardin and Tessa is borderline abusive, and the twist at the end was not at all original…and yet it kept me up reading late into the night. I can’t really explain it. It cast some sort of weird spell over me. Maybe because the plot is a smutty amalgamation of two of my favorite 90’s flicks, or maybe because the “hot bad boy falling for the good girl” formula is catnip for the avid romance reader. Whatever it is, it kept me turning pages, all 582 of them. I generally read 2-3 books at a time, but all the other books I am currently reading were set aside to finish this one. I have already told myself that I need to finish the ARCs I am currently reading before I even think about reading the next book in this series, but like Tessa and Hardin, I may not be able to resist.
Title: We Set the Dark on Fire
Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia
Page Count: 384
Series: We Set the Dark on Fire, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 26, 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
Review: I enjoyed this book and I can see a lot of potential in this series. This book was mainly setting the stage and the characters for the overarching storyline, so it doesn’t feel like a lot happens, but it is clear that there is a lot more action yet to come.
This book draws a lot of interesting parallels with current events, and I thought that the mythology aspect was very expertly woven into the threads of the story. The author did an excellent job establishing the conflict, and I am excited to see where the story goes from here. Also worthy of note is that all the characters are Latinx and there is an LGBT romance that is central to the story.
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: Unbreak Me
Author: Michelle Hazen
Page Count: 304
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 13, 2019 by Berkley
Review: Reading this book felt like being locked in somebody else’s fantasy. Despite the serious subject matter in the two characters’ backstories, there was surprising little substance to the storyline. Pretty much anything worthy of note about the characters is described in the book’s synopsis, and both characters were just too…perfect. Any perceived “flaws” in their personalities were a direct result of their trauma, and were therefore not really flaws at all. And of course both were tall, beautiful people with bangin’ bods. By the end of the book I still knew very little about the characters other than they had both lived through a traumatic experience and loved working with horses. The sex scenes also seemed wildly unrealistic (this is one of those books where the woman is achieving orgasms almost instantaneously, and of course a double climax at the end!). *insert eye roll here* I’m sure some people can enjoy this type of romance novel, but alas it just wasn’t for me.
Title: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan
Performer: Lynn Chen
Length: 13 hr, 53 min, 16 sec
Series: Crazy Rich Asians, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2013 by Books on Tape
Review: This book has been extremely popular at the library thanks to the breakaway movie success that hit theaters last year. I was finally able to reserve an eAudiobook copy after a long wait, and I am glad I held out to get the book in that format. The reader, Lynn Chen, did a great job bringing the variety of characters to life. I think I enjoyed the book a lot more than I would have if I had read the print version.
This book is very heavy on description, which I generally enjoy, but I was surprised at how fast I became desensitized to the opulence of the setting and the decadence of the food described in the book. After awhile, I became entirely unimpressed by the flashy displays of wealth. This book really does live up to the old adage, “money does not buy happiness.” It seemed to me that the wealthier the character was, the more miserable they were and the more miserable they made those around them. This left me feeling frustrated as a reader, and it didn’t feel to me that the book had much substance beyond these observations. I did not feel deeply connected to Rachel or Nick as characters, so I did not feel deeply connected to their romance. Other characters, such as Astrid and Eleanor, had much more impactful character development in my opinion. Rachel and Nick were just too perfect, and not nearly flawed enough for my liking.
The book was certainly better than the movie (no surprise there), but it didn’t wow me. I probably won’t be reading the next two books in the trilogy.
Title: The Bride Test
Author: Helen Hoang
Page Count: 320
Series: The Kiss Quotient, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 7, 2019 by Berkley
Review: The Kiss Quotient set an impossibly high bar as one of my all-time favorite romance novels. I was ecstatic when I found out that Helen Hoang would be publishing another love story following a periphery character from her stunning debut.
The story, which follows Michael’s cousin Khai and the delightfully independent Esme, is undeniably sweet, but somehow lacked the same swoon-worthy quality that made the The Kiss Quotient so unforgettable. It’s hard to say exactly what it lacks, but it just doesn’t have “it”. The characters were likeable, and the plot was cutesy, but it felt to me like it was just running in a very predictable circle.
I appreciate that this romance is focused on somebody with autism, and if you read the first book, it was nice to see that Khai’s autism isn’t portrayed exactly the same as Stella’s. There is so much diversity on the spectrum, and it is refreshing to see this represented.
I hope this book is going to be part of a trilogy, and I suspect that if it is, the third book will focus on Khai’s brother, Quan. He is also a very likable character, and it would be great to follow his story next.
Title: We’ll Always Have Summer
Author: Jenny Han
Performer: Jessica Almasy
Length: 6 hr, 45 min
Series: Summer, Book 3
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2011 by Recorded Books
Review: I wasn’t particularly surprised by the ending of this book, but the author really does make you wait until the epilogue to know which brother Belly ends up with. I felt Belly’s anguish was very relatable throughout the final book, and it is a relief to know that she ends up happy despite it all.
My feelings regarding Conrad and Jeremiah are mixed. Both characters are deeply flawed, and it was difficult for me to determine Conrad’s motivators in particular. His love for Belly did not feel very authentic to me, even after I was given insight into his feelings.
To be perfectly honest, I was not as invested in this book as I was in the two that precede it. I had a very strong suspicion about how it would all play out, and I was pretty much on the mark. I’m glad that I finished the trilogy though and I would very much consider reading other books written by this author.