23 Quick Book Reviews: Novel Ideas July 2020
It’s beach read season, but our reads were heavier than typical for this time of year. We tackled voting, racial injustice, and coming out, in addition to the usual beach read fodder. Like 2020, this round-up is a mixed bag so there should be something for everyone in the Novel Ideas July 2020 quick lit reviews.
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The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams
This historical fiction story takes place in the Bahamas during WWII. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor are prominetly featured, though the main story revolves around the murder of a man named Harry Oaks, life in Nassau, and the romance between the female lead and her beau. There is also a bit of a flashback type story that plays out in parts too. It’s a lovely little novel that had me flipping pages quickly and kept me entertained by the pool. 4 stars
I wanted to like this story so much because the subject matter is so important, but writing and the character development of this YA novel fell short for me. Still, as a commentary on hate, racism, anti-muslim sentiments, and internment camps, it was such an important read. For me, the majority of the issues focused on the boyfriend character, who should have just been cut from the plot. The scenes set within the actual internment camps were gripping and scarily accurate given the current political climate. I think if I was an actually a member of the target YA audience, I would have liked it more. 3 stars
Did you read and love #thetwolivesoflydiabird ? Then the premise of this book – a recent widower who gets to see her deceased husband again – may sound familiar…..but the execution on the two novels could not be more different.
Where Lydia Bird was poignant and sorrowful, Come Again had me outright giggling. I don’t normally associate depression and widowhood with romantic comedy, but this story was lighthearted and lovely!
Come Again finds Kate at the bottom, widowed and contemplating suicide. But then she goes back in time to 1992 for a chance to save her husband from his slow-growing cancer to hysterical results. Her whole 2020 women trapped in her 18-year-old body was funny and endearing. As she attempts to save the man she loves, she puzzles over wether she can even fall in love with him again. If you liked the movie #thespywhodumpedme , then you would love the mad-dash, slapstick humor of this story. I certainly did.
The Great Gatsby: Graphic Novel by F. Scott. Fitzgerald
I’ve been a fan of Fitzgerald’s classic for quite some time, so I jumped at the chance to see it rendered in a new medium. (thanks to Scribner for my advanced copy.) Graphic novels are not a way I do much reading, but I appreciated how the artist rendered this world so much.
The pastel watercolor rendering of the homes, gowns, costumes and people were gorgeous. I spent more time looking at the art than reading the words!! Generally, I felt like some of Fitzgerald’s prose were lost in the retelling, but the artwork made up for that loss. 3.5 stars.
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
I love a good thriller, but I’ve found that they become predictable after a while. I adore Pretty Things because it kept me on my toes! I loved that it switched narratives between the grifter and the heiress she is trying to rob. The twists kept coming until I wasn’t sure what was going to happen or who was the person actually being conned. I listened to this one, so I can tell you that the audiobook was one of my favorites of the year. 4 stars.
Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu
I’m obsessed with Destination Wedding. It’s a wonderful read for wedding season. I knew very little about Indian weddings but now I’m dying to be invited to one! They sound like so much fun! This book takes place in India, but the main character is American born. This could be a light, beach read, but instead it’s more.
The author touches on racism, and what it means to be an American born child to parents who are from India. The feeling of not being at home in either location is explored in a way that I found very relevant to today. I actually highlighted a few lines because they were eye-opening to me. It’s a summer read that has heart. 4 stars
The Life and Medieval Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton
I adored Well Met last year which is about a renaissance faire, so I knew I would be interested in a book set at a fictitious Medieval Times….as in the restaurant. I loved the feminist angle of this book which featured a group of female wenches who were fighting the patriarchy for a chance to ride out as knights. They wanted the glory (and the pay raise) that were denied to them after years of service because they were women. I was so impressed with this YA stories tackling imporant issues of today. 3 stars.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Ya’ll know I love a good royal read, so obvi I had to read this adorable story. We don’t think about royals and the LGBTQ community because we don’t usually see gay royals, which is so sad in today’s society. This charming romance was absolutely adorable. I crushed hard for their romance and found myself smiling the entire time. (Also love the nod to a female president…where do I sign up for one of those?) 3.5 stars.
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
Thanks to Libro.FM and Disney for my review copy. All opinions are my own. I LOVE that Brandy Colbert wrote a book for YA readers about the importance of voting WITHOUT BEING POLITICAL. It was so impressive. Never did the characters bring up political affiliations, but instead they focused on the importance of the act of voting, as well as how prevalent voter suppression actually is. This would be a great gift to any new 18-year-old to convince them to register! 3 stars.
I’m always down for a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite books of all time. I was particularly interested in this take because it features modern, black teenagers. At this point in our country’s awakening, it’s important to read from diverse perspectives. I’ve never tackled a retelling from a non-white author before, but I’m so glad I did. I absolutely adored this version. Yes, I obviously knew what would happen, but this is about the journey, people!!! 4 stars.
The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
I am a huge royal lover, and The Royal We is probably my favorite royal read of all. That’s why The Heir Affair was an immediate pre-order for me. How could I not read the sequel? This book picks up immediately where the first leaves off – dealing with the same scandal and the fall-out over the disastrous royal wedding. As the newlyweds try to recalibrate their image, they also need to make amends to their royal family members. This book dove into some deeper topics, but I found it to be a wonderful follow-up. A true delight of a story and a perfect addition to the pool reads for summer 2020 list!
Thanks to Simon and Schuster for my review copy. All opinions are my own. This non-fiction story tells the history of two iconic shows, Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street, with different approaches to teaching children through television.
I enjoyed reliving parts of my childhood as I eagerly looked up the songs and skits referenced in this book. The behind-the-scenes look added even more magic to the shows I know and love. I had no idea that the advent of children’s tv was so politically charged, but I learned that and so much more in this book. I also learned just how little our world has changed around racism and schooling in the time since these programs started. 3.5 stars.
A Star is Bored is a funny, yet poignant look at the life of a celebrity personal assistant. Charlie hates his life working on the graveyard shift as a writer for the news. When he miraculously lands his dream job as a personal assistant to Kathi Kannon, Hollywood royalty, he is sure that he is set for life.
Kathi is known for her last roles and her current crazy life. As Kathi and Charlie embark on trips and shopping sprees, they become more than just an employer and her enamored employee. Charlie must eventually come to terms with his life as his own leading man. What a great first book by Byron Lane who was once a personal assistant to Carrie Fisher. This book is based on the author’s time in that job. Crazy, funny, and at times sad, I really enjoyed this book. Thank you to Bookspark and Henry Holt Books for my Advanced copy. 4 stars
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vanishing Half is a captivating and thought-provoking story about the Vignes Sisters. Stella and Desiree are twins who grew up in a small Southern Black Community that prides itself on the lightness of their skin. When Desiree convinces Stella to run away at 16, she doesn’t realize that they have set themselves on a path where their lives diverge for the first time.
Stella disappears when she decides to live her life as a white woman. Her husband and blond-haired daughter Kennedy have no idea she has this secret. Desiree, on the other hand, returns to Mallard with her dark-skinned daughter Jude. The story spans decades and is a remarkable exploration of race, identity, familial ties, motherhood, love, and lies. It’s not a surprise this made our best books of 2020 list. 4.5 stars
An Imperfection the Kitchen Floor by Heather Greenleaf
I loved the pace, the writing, and the two main characters in this book. The story is told from the point of view of two women living in the same house 100 years apart. Tish grows up in Willow Grove around WWI and Molly who is married to Tish‘s nephew, Corey. When Tish passes away, she leaves the house to Corey who decides that moving into the house with pregnant Molly is the perfect place to raise their family.
The writing was very captivating and captured a lot of the confusion and exhaustion and that comes with being a new mother in a new place when you don’t have friends or family around. The writer also captured a sense of obligation towards family and difficult life choices. However, I felt like some of the characters fell flat for me. In particular, Molly‘s father. I also felt like Molly‘s story was wrapped up a little too neatly but without an explanation of how we arrived there.
I don’t want to spoil but I felt like we got from point A to point Z without the journey. I feel like I’m missing a few chapters. I would’ve liked to have seen a little more time devoted to that part of the story because the rest was so emotional. 3.5 stars
His and Hers is the best psychological thriller I have read this year. Thank you so much to Libro.fm and and Macmillan Audio for my copy of this book. There are two sides to every story and this one had me guessing until the last page. I had to go back and re-read. Anna Andrews works at the BBC and has her dream job as an anchor until she doesn’t and she will do anything to get it back. When she has to return to her home town to cover murders that are centered around her, nothing could complicate the situation more…..until her ex husband is the lead investigator. Oh, and he knows the first victim as well. This book is a puzzle that isn’t complete until the last page. 5 stars
All Boys aren’t Blue by George M Johnson
I can’t say enough about this YA memoir. I love George M, Johnson’s voice as they talk about very difficult topics in such a way that they book is completely relatable to everyone. Everyone knows that memoirs usually aren’t my preferred genre but there was something about George’s story that had me hooked from the first sentence. This book is eye-opening and profound. It made me think about things from a different perspective and I was captivated by the story throughout the entire book. 5 stars
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
After Kirsten read this book, I knew I had to read it too because of her glowing review. And, even though it was published last year, it made our top of 2020 so far. I absolutely could not put this book down. Besides making me very hungry, I loved Emoni’s story. It is a true coming of age story of a young girl who must balance life, work, and family- especially her beloved daughter. I loved this YA. 5 stars
I have never read the Lost Boys and The Craft but I wanted to read it anyway. I hoped that I would not lose perspective without the prior knowledge of these books. Unfortunately, I think that some of the details were lost for me and I was left wanting more throughout the book. There were hints of things to come that were not fully developed. Even the description of the book had hints of details that were not fully developed in the story. That being said, I enjoyed the premise and the writing. The book would have resonated better if I didn’t feel confused throughout. The magic wasn’t clear, the ending wasn’t clear and I was left wanting more. All thoughts are my own. Thank you to Netgalley for my copy of this book.
10 things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon
I really enjoy Sandhya Menon’s books. They always leave me feeling happy. This book is no exception and while it is YA, I think it is completely appropriate for a middle-grade audience as well. Samir and Pinky are complete opposites. Pinky is a wild-child who is tired of her family thinking the worst of her. Samir is the type of guy that all parents love. When his internship at a law-firm falls through and Pinky lies to her family and tells them she has a new boyfriend, a scheme is hatched. Samir with come stay with Pinky’s family for the summer at their Cape Cod house and Samir does not have to go home to his over-protective mother. Of course, they both start to develop real feelings in their fake relationship.
This was a fun read that didn’t quite have the same chemistry as Dimple and Rishi. It may be that I related less because Samir and Pinky are high school students. Thank you to Netgalley for my advanced copy of this book. 3 stars.
Writers and Lovers by Lily King
I had high hopes for this book because I loved Euphoria. Although this was well written, I found it slow-moving and I had little emotional connection to the characters. I thought I would love a book about writers but I just could not get into the story. 2.5 stars
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
This is the second book I read this month about fake boyfriends but this one hit all the right notes. This was such an adorable LGBTQ 🏳️🌈 romance. When Luc, the son of two rock stars, needs a boyfriend who is respectable in order to keep his job, he is willing to fake a relationship. Oliver Blackwood is a barrister who needs a boyfriend to bring home to his family. It is a perfect situation until fake starts to feel real. Despite the fact that the two men could not be more different, the just might be the perfect Ying and Yang. This book was so enjoyable to take my mind off reality and it made me smile throughout the whole book. 3.5 stars
The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
This book is a sweeping saga that tells the multigenerational tale of the Tran family. The author is a Vietnamese poet which is obvious by the beautiful writing. Trần Diệu Lan was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Communist land reform. Hà Nội, her granddaughter, is raised by her grandmother in the Vietnam war. This is a beautiful story of love, family, loyalty, and survival 4 stars.