More quick reviews as the 2020 deadline approaches…and yes, I’ll be including blurbs because I read some of these MONTHS ago.
The books I loved:
First off, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler.
Overworked and underappreciated, single mom Amy Byler needs a break. So when the guilt-ridden husband who abandoned her shows up and offers to take care of their kids for the summer, she accepts his offer and escapes rural Pennsylvania for New York City.
Usually grounded and mild mannered, Amy finally lets her hair down in the city that never sleeps. She discovers a life filled with culture, sophistication, and—with a little encouragement from her friends—a few blind dates. When one man in particular makes quick work of Amy’s heart, she risks losing herself completely in the unexpected escape, and as the summer comes to an end, Amy realizes too late that she must make an impossible decision: stay in this exciting new chapter of her life, or return to the life she left behind.
But before she can choose, a crisis forces the two worlds together, and Amy must stare down a future where she could lose both sides of herself, and every dream she’s ever nurtured, in the beat of a heart.
I…..honestly remember almost nothing about this book, other than the fact that I very much enjoyed it and was sad when it ended.
Amy Byler is a 40-something sort-of-single mom who needs a change. Her husband abandoned her and the kids a few years prior without a word, and she’s been raising them on her own without any idea when or if he will be back. When he reaches out to her out of the blue, asking to spend the summer with the kids, Amy decides to go to New York City for a librarian conference. She can stay with her college roommate and become reacquainted with herself.
While her husband works at trying to get her to take him back, Amy is busy exploring the dating scene in NYC. She meets a handsome librarian at her conference and sparks immediately fly.
I enjoyed the various plot points here: the single mom back on the dating scene unsure of how to proceed; the college roommates realizing that they may have taken different paths, but that they are still the same people they used to be; and the librarians who just love books and want to help kids love reading. Highly recommend.
Next, The House in the Cerulean Sea.
This book was simply a delight.
Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.
Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place―and realizing that family is yours.
Linus lives in a world where magical creatures are real, and spends his days working for mysterious government agency that keeps track of any children born with magical powers. These children are sent to live in “orphanages” that are managed by the government, and Linus’ job is to make sure they are being treated well and that the children all have their powers under control.
When he is sent to a secret orphanage on a month-long assignment, he meets a group of magical children (in more ways than one) and their guardian, Arthur. Over the course of his four weeks, the kids and Arthur change Linus’ life forever.
I loved every single thing about this book. I originally didn’t review it, because I just didn’t eat to talk about it. I wanted to keep it in my head and in my heart. I still don’t really even want to talk about the details, but just want to say: if you are looking for a book that might make you feel better about the shit year that 2020 has been, this might just be it.
Next up, a book I very much imagined I wold like that much, but ended up enjoying quite a bit, Boyfriend Material.
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way
Luc O’Donnell is tangentially―and reluctantly―famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.
To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately, apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.
But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.
I’m going to make a secret confession: last year I read Red, White and Royal Blue. And I didn’t love it. I really wanted to, but something about it really just didn’t work for me. I know that isn’t a very popular opinion, but I wanted to come clean about it.
This book was everything I was hoping RW&RB would be. I found it charming and funny. I rooted for the main characters and couldn’t wait for them to get together. I wanted nothing but the best for them. I wanted to be in their London — going to the same restaurants, sitting on the same park benches, visiting the same museums — and was jealous every time they went out someplace new.
I loved the secondary characters — Luc’s coworkers were hilarious, in particular Alex (who was like a Jeeves & Wooster character come to life); Bridget, who seems to have one work-related misadventure after another; and the James Royce-Royces.
I will 1000% be looking out for new books from Alexis Hall in the future. This was fun.
OK. So. Now that I’ve talked about the good books I’ve read this year, I need to take a few minutes to talk about a book that really annoyed the crap out of me.
A few years ago, I tore through a series of books about a young girl named Jessica Darling written by Megan McCafferty. When I heard that she had a new book about growing up in the 80s called The Mall, I was like TAKE MY MONEY, and pre-ordered on the spot.
I really disliked this book.
The year is 1991. Scrunchies, mixtapes and 90210 are, like, totally fresh. Cassie Worthy is psyched to spend the summer after graduation working at the Parkway Center Mall. In six weeks, she and her boyfriend head off to college in NYC to fulfill The Plan: higher education and happily ever after.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans…
Set entirely in a classic “monument to consumerism,” the novel follows Cassie as she finds friendship, love, and ultimately herself, in the most unexpected of places. Megan McCafferty, beloved New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series, takes readers on an epic trip back in time to The Mall.
Cassie was the worst. She was so annoying that I couldn’t enjoy the early 90s mall vibe that I should have loved. I hated every decision that she made and every word that came out of her mouth. She was spoiled and selfish and obnoxious and she infuriated me.
So many wasted opportunities here. In particular, the cute Asian potential boyfriend who worked in the record store and the former best friend, Drea. Here’s what I would have preferred: a story about a cute Asian guy in New Jersey who likes The Smiths and Joy Division and works in a record store while he figures out what he wants to do with his future. That might be a book I would enjoy, especially the part where he meets a horrible girl named Cassie, has a fling with her, and the dumps her and goes on to live a woderful life filled with new wave music.