June Minireviews – #20BooksofSummer Kickoff!

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Turns out that this month’s minireviews are also my first few #20BooksofSummer reads!!  Of course, I ended up posting the review for Swallows and Amazonsmy fifth read, first, so I’m out of order as usual!

Cliff’s Edge by Meg Tilly – 3*

//published 2019//

A while back I read Solace Island, which I found to be a decent, if not stellar, read.  It was good enough to intrigue me to read the second book, Cliff’s Edge, which was just published this spring, mainly because I really liked Maggie’s sister, and she was the main character of this book.

All in all, I had a lot of the same problems with Cliff’s Edge that I did with Solace Island.  Both books are labeled as romantic thrillers, but both were a lot more romantic than thrilling.  And, in my mind, both would have been a lot better if they had been written as straight romances.  In this book especially, the thriller aspect of the story definitely brought down my overall enjoyment and rating of the book, as it always felt clunky and stilted, and mostly consisted of brief chapters of Eve’s stalker lusting after her and being sexually aroused by the thoughts of what he would do once she was in his power… ugh.

The romance part, however, was great fun.  Eve and Rhys have great chemistry (although I could have done without the sexy scenes) and it felt like they each had a lot to offer the other.  But while I enjoyed that part of the story, it just wasn’t enough to bring the overall rating of the book any higher.  I don’t really see myself pursuing any other books that appear in this series.

Book #1 for #20BooksofSummer!!

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills – 4*

//published 2017//

My second read for #20BooksofSummer, Foolish Hearts was everything I’ve come to expect from an Emma Mills book.  The characters were likable and snarky, the angst level felt realistic, and the main character had a family that loves her, with parents who actually like each other!  I really liked Claudia overall.  In some weird way she reminded me of Lincoln from Attachments, I think because Mills did a great job of letting Claudia’s character growth be natural.  In the end, Claudia still was playing her goofy video game and still had her awkward sense of humor, yet she had matured as a person.  It was the same with some of the other characters, Iris in particular – like Iris didn’t suddenly turn into this warm, bubby person.  Instead, she simply began to acknowledge that sometimes showing love means stepping outside our comfort zones for the person we love.

This wasn’t a perfect book by any means, but honestly I think Emma Mills is everything YA ought to be – funny, gently thoughtful, and not full of sex.  She creates characters – even secondary ones – that I like and care about.  She hasn’t written very many books, so I think First & Then is sadly the only one I have left to read.  Hopefully she has something else in the works.

Stephanie’s reviews are the ones that first brought Emma Mills to my attention, and you can read her review of Foolish Hearts here.

Dreamology by Lucy Keating – 3*

//published 2016//

This was a YA story that had a fun concept, but it just didn’t play out well at all.  For Alice’s entire life, she’s had a constant character who has appeared in all of her dreams – a boy named Max.  Alice feels like she knows Max better than anyone, after all of the adventures they’ve shared.  When Alice and her dad move to Boston, Alice is stunned to see Max – a real, live, actual Max – at her new school.

The premise presented this as a thing where other parts of the dream worlds were starting to merge in the real world and all this stuff blah blah blah, but what followed was a really disjointed story that didn’t seem to know where it wanted to go, and didn’t do a particularly good job of getting there.  Max himself was completely annoying, since he couldn’t seem to decide if he wanted to acknowledge Alice or not, plus he was dating someone else in real life, so he basically is cheating on this other girl with Alice, which I found completely unacceptable.  Meanwhile, Alice makes friends with another guy at school, Oliver, who was like a thousand times better than Max on every level, but Alice kind of treats him like trash because she’s so obsessed with Max.

The actual dream-part of the book is just SO poorly done, to the point that it makes no sense.  For instance, Alice and Max both act like they aren’t in charge of what happens in their dreams, just like real dreams.  So they don’t control where they go or what happens, yet apparently they DO control what they say?  Alice goes on and on about how she knows Max is funny and adventurous and thoughtful because that’s how he is in her dreams – except I thought they had no control over what happened in dreams??  So why would dream-Max be the “real” Max? There were just a LOT of logic-loopholes in a book that was overall very disjointed and uneven.

This was my #3 read for #20BooksofSummer.

A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay – 3.5*

//published 2018//

My fourth #20BooksofSummer read was my first Linwood Barclay book, and actually is another book I added to the TBR because of Stephanie’s recommendation!  Her minireview of this title really captures a lot of how I felt about it – the rather unexpected ending wasn’t exactly what I wanted to have happen, but it was ballsy and Barclay more or less made it work.  However, there are times that I am reading a thriller and the book just goes what I consider to be one twist too far.  A twist really only works if it makes sense, but sometimes authors want to add just one more “What?!??!” moment, and are willing to sacrifice credulity to get there.  This was one of those times – while it mostly made sense, it felt like a lot more of a stretch than I wanted it to.  I felt the same way when I read Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson earlier this year.

Still, I would definitely be into trying out another of Barclay’s books, especially since there are about a million of them.  Any suggestions on which one should be next??

April Minireviews – Part 3

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

More minireviews… apparently I’ve been reading a lot of books that don’t inspire strong feelings.  Or the weather is so perfect that I’m spending way more time outside in the garden than I am inside blogging.  :-D

Solace Island by Meg Tilly – 3.5*

//published 2017//

In my mind this was going to be more thriller than romance, but it’s more romance than thriller.  There are also several scenes of sexy times, which I wasn’t expecting either.  The romance part was pretty happy, and I liked both of the main characters, although they were pretty instalovey – and in some ways it wasn’t even the instalove that bothered me as much as Maggie just telling Luke everything about her horrible ex-fiancé on basically their first date.  The thriller part kind of spiraled from the realm of slightly unbelievable to completely unbelievable, but it did move everything along.  All in all, not a book I want to reread, but I enjoyed it enough to read the sequel about Maggie’s sister, which is coming out sometime this spring.

Six Months Later by Natalie Richards – 3.5*

//published 2013//

Chloe, an average student with an average life, falls asleep in study hall one May afternoon.  When she wakes up, it’s November and she can’t remember the last six months.  But somehow, during that time she’s started dating one of the most popular guys in school, has turned into a star student, and scored ridiculously high on her SAT, meaning that she’s being courted by several fancy colleges.  Unfortunately, Chloe’s best friend is no longer her friend, Chloe likes the resident bad guy more than her perfect boyfriend, and nothing about the missing six months seems to match Chloe’s personality…

This book had a really fun premise and was overall done well, but there were some clunky parts that left me feeling like this book could have used one more round of ruthless editing to really make it shine.  There were some parts where the motivation of various characters stuttered a bit, and the ending seemed very rushed.  But overall I really liked Chloe and I also appreciated when she frequently told people about her problems instead of just trying to do everything/figure everything out by herself.  I think a little more time spent before she falls asleep and loses time would have helped to emphasize how different her life was when she woke up, especially regarding Adam, the “bad boy” – like I know nothing about this guy, so I couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t just dump the other guy and start dating Adam.  One sentence about him being a troublemaker isn’t really enough to give me a feel for the relationship Chloe and Adam had before all this started.

If you’re looking for a quick, fun thriller-esq read, Six Months Later fits the bill.  But if you’re looking for a story where everything is polished and flows perfectly, you may want to give this one a pass.

The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal – 3.5*

//published 2011//

This wasn’t a bad story, but it never really felt magical to me.  I liked the concept – basically, just after her sixteenth birthday, the princess is told that she isn’t actually the princess.  Instead, the real princess has been hidden in a convent her entire life because of a prophecy that said she may be murdered before she turned 16.  So the girl who has thought she was the princess is now just plain Sindra.

I think part of the problem was it never really felt like this book knew what it wanted to do.  Sindra herself wasn’t particularly coherent, and she really exasperated me a lot.  She had a bad habit of just saying mean things to people whenever she was feeling frustrated with life, and frequently had a very woe-is-me attitude about things.  So while this was a perfectly pleasant one-time read, it wasn’t one that made me want to dash out and see what else O’Neal has written.

Better Than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts – 3*

//published 2012//

I really enjoy fluffy chick lit series that focus on a group of people or place, where I can get to know and enjoy different characters, so I’m always on the lookout for new ones.  I can’t remember when Icicle Falls came to my attention, but the premise of the first book is that three sisters are putting on a chocolate festival in their small town to help save their business, and it sounded like fun.  However, the execution was very choppy and scattered.  I found the main character, Samantha, to be alright at best – most of the time she was just plain obnoxious, and literally only cared about the business and not her family.  And while she spent time thinking things like “Oh I’m a terrible person who only cares about this business and not my family,” I never really felt like she changed at all.  Like in the end, the business was still the most important thing to her.

There was also supposed to be an enemies-to-friends aspect in the romance, which I usually really enjoy, but it was done quite poorly here, with basically no conversation between the two other than “You suck” and yet in the end I’m supposed to buy not just that they are happily ever after, but that the dude is loaning Samantha a crapton of money with no ulterior motives, despite the fact that she immediately falls into his arms after that…????  It felt really weird that he gave her the money to save her business and then suddenly she started dating him.

At first I was going to go ahead and try the next book in the series, but I honestly realized that I didn’t really feel that attached to anyone in this story enough to see how things go for them next.  Plus, I was really put off by the way this book ended, which lowered the entire book to a 3* rather than 3.5*.  There are a lot of chick lit series out there, so I don’t think I’m going to bother finishing this one.

Miss Lucas by A.V. Knight – 3*

//published 2018//

Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I go through random, arbitrary times in life where the only thing I want to read are terrible Pride & Prejudice variations.  I just started one, and I’m here to assure that the overwhelming majority of P&P variations are, in fact, terrible.  Still!  So addictive!

This one actually focuses entirely on Charlotte Lucas – Elizabeth’s story, in the background, is following canon almost completely.  In this story, Mr. Collins doesn’t quite bring himself to propose to Charlotte – at the last minute he decides that he ought to have Lady Catherine’s permission first, since technically she sent him to propose to one of his cousins, not some random woman in Hertfordshire.  A few months later, instead of Elizabeth and (Charlotte’s sister) Maria going to visit the already-married Charlotte, Lady Catherine via Mr. Collins invites Elizabeth, Charlotte, and (Elizabeth’s sister) Mary to stay basically so she can look them over and decide who Mr. Collins should marry.  This means that Charlotte is still single when she meets Colonel Fitzwilliam…

While I did enjoy this story and really liked the overall idea (I’ve always shipped Charlotte and the Colonel), the execution was rather mediocre.  I never quite bought the romance between Charlotte and the Colonel, and the ending of the story felt very rushed.  There were also instances where it felt like the author was trying to shoehorn Charlotte into Elizabeth’s story so that we would still know what was going on with that part of the action, even implying that Charlotte and Elizabeth were closer than Elizabeth and Jane, which I think is categorically false.  So a decent little story, but one that really lacked some spark.