We’re just going to pretend like it’s perfectly normal to review books
three four months after I read them… (because yes, I wrote half this post in May and am only just now coming back to it!)
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.
The Substitute Guest by Grace Livingston Hill – 3.5*
Are GLH’s books predictable and cheesy? Yes. Is that what I want sometimes? Also yes. This one was pretty normal GLH fare, but that’s not actually a bad thing in my mind – sometimes I just want something warm, relaxing, predictable, and happy. It’s rare that GLH doesn’t deliver.
Gods of Jade & Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – 3.5*
This was one of those books that I wanted to like more than I did. While the concept was quite good, somehow the book just lacked magic. The third-person narrative – which I usually prefer – here felt distant and almost stilted. There were times that there would be an somewhat lecture-y tone to the tale, filling the reader in on a piece of culture or fable, rather than letting those things be a natural part of the story’s flow. This was also a book that definitely needed a map, as I had no real grasp on the distances they were traveling. All in all, while it was a fine one-off read, it didn’t really make me interested in seeing what else Moreno-Garcia has written.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever by John Donohue & JT Malloy – 3.5*
It’s always hard to review a book that’s memoir-ish, and this one is no exception. The author was in his late 20s during the Vietnam War. He had been a Marine straight out of high school but was considered “too old” to enlist for Vietnam, so he was working as a merchant marine. When the war protests started to turn on the soldiers themselves, the guys from Chick’s hangout-bar thought it would be amazing if someone could go visit all the active duty guys from their neighborhood, take them some local beer, & reassure them that what they were doing was appreciated & they were missed & loved. Chick’s job enabled him to hop on a boat headed to Vietnam with the idea that he would take 3 days shore leave when he got there & find some of the guys. What with one thing & another, his boat left without him, leaving him stranded in Vietnam in the days leading up to & the first couple of weeks of the Tet offensive!
Reading this book is basically like listening to your old uncle tell his stories from the war. It wasn’t a bad book at all, but it did tend to ramble off & sometimes go into back stories not directly related to the main plot & it wasn’t always easy to tell what was happening “now“ & what was an explanation from the past. (i.e. a few paragraphs telling a story to illustrate why Chick doesn’t like ship captains – it was hard to tell if it was THIS ship captain, or one from his past.) Chick is also very pro-unions, which I’m not against unions but I also got a little tired of every chapter having at least a few sentences explaining why unions are awesome & solve everyone’s problems.
For the most part it doesn’t get too political & there’s some great perspective here on how basically the soldiers were just doing their best to do what they were told. Most of them had been drafted, they weren’t passionate about being there, & they didn’t have the ability to see any kind of big picture concerning how the Vietnamese people really felt about the situation. In the end, Chick decides that the protestors weren’t wrong to protest the war, but still felt that harassing the young men being sent to fight wasn’t the right way to execute that protest.
This is a memoir so it’s inherently biased, but was overall an interesting read for a bit of a different look at the war – Chick is pro-soldier, but also a civilian. It was a pretty fast read & I appreciated that the author decided to keep the language pretty clean throughout.
The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold – 4*
I’ve read a couple of Arnold’s books now and have enjoyed them all. This one is his newest and I read it as part of my personal campaign to read new books by authors I like as they come out instead of just sticking them on the TBR and maybe getting to them in five years. This one is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with a girl who has to take a cross-country journey to find a mythical portal that her father is convinced is real. She meets up with several other travelers on her way. This was a book that was eerie and engaging, and one that folded back on itself in a way that was somehow believable. It had just a few too many unanswered questions for me in the end, but still completely sucked me in and kept me turning the pages. Like Kids of Appetite, it had elements that it felt like I shouldn’t like, but somehow worked.
You Have a Match by Emma Lord – 3*
After really enjoying Tweet Cute last year, I was interested to read Lord’s new book. However, this one just fell short for me. Mostly, there was just too much going on. The main character, Abby, finds out that she has an older sister who was adopted. She and Savvy start communicating without telling any of their parents and agree to meet at a summer camp. There was a lot of potential here to explore the dynamics between the two sisters and how they related with the adults involved, but Lord’s writing gets sucked into typical YA drama, with way too many pages spent on Abby’s crush on her best friend, Leo. This was definitely a story that would have been significantly better without the love story aspect. I was looking for an adoption story with Parent Trap vibes and instead got boring YA-romance angst with bits of adoption drama thrown in. It made the story feel rather choppy and disconnected. All in all, it wasn’t a bad read, it just wasn’t for me.