Another week, another reading roundup from me. Some of these I am sorry to not give more space to and some of these I’m just glad to have in the “done” column. We’ll start with the best of the bunch and then follow in no particular order.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
The third in the Brown Sisters trilogy and each has gotten better and better. They’re all just very solid romance novels – engaging plot, endearing characters, quick witted dialogue, just a delight. The youngest sister, Eve, has been in something of a state of arrested development, seeing failure as inevitable and therefore bailing before it happens. When her parents try give her a quick shove into adulthood, happenstance brings her to the sweet country B&B run by Jacob Wayne, who just so happens to be in desperate need of a chef. Worlds collide, coincidences happen, things are great and then they’re not and then they’re great again and it’s a delight.
Neurodivergence is significant element of this book. It’s been a hot minute since I read the book so I can’t recall if Jacob is explicitly stated to be autistic or if Hibbert lays the track work and expects the reader to get there on their own. He is someone who is accustomed to being labeled difficult and having to contort himself to be who society expects him to be and the more time they spend together the more Eve recognizes in herself what she sees in Jacob. It helps her better understand herself as she reflects on the life that led her here and helps her relate to him. It’s a slow burn romance that comes together just beautifully.
Transference by BT Keaton
On the other end of the literary spectrum, we have … this. Might be my first one star of 2021, this was straight garbage. I made it two thirds through this one (book club) before throwing in the towel, I honestly didn’t care how it ended. Basically it’s central plot device of Altered Carbon, really badly done. The author spends paragraphs and pages fleshing out parts of this world he’s created that ultimate don’t matter at all and distract from the story he is trying to tell. It’s like trying to solve a single puzzle when you have pieces from nine other tossed in alongside it and they’re all the same color. You get frustrated and quit long before you solve it.
So yeah. Basically both space travel and then “transference” have been discovered, transference being moving the mind from body to body. Our main character was on the spaceship that discovered the transference machines from another society but also back on Earth the church has so much power that they catch wind of this discovery and somehow immediately twist the narrative super hard so it was them that discovered it and this spaceship was traitors trying to steal it? Anyway. So our guy, Killraven (UGH) is the last surviving member of that ship and has been transferred into the body of some supercriminal at superprison and … I dunno. Book happens. I didn’t follow. It’s awful. Hard pass.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
This is the sequel to Children of Blood and Bone that I had been excited about but ultimately thought fell a little short. The story ideas were really spectacular but I think I was most turned off by the romance that felt shoehorned in (how convenient our female leads each have an eligible brother for their new friend to fall in love with). I listened to this one as an audiobook which kind of exaggerated what put me off about it – there were so many extended scenes where characters lashed out at each other when a five-minute conversation would have settled the whole thing. It felt like argument for the sake of moving the plot forward, not for what it did for the characters and in an audiobook, I struggle to just skip forward.
How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang
This book definitely suffered from my general resentment of Transference where I was just exhausted from reading something that disappointed me and then I only had a few days before this one was returned from the library. It’s a small story told well, about two Chinese-American siblings – Lucy and Sam – growing up and surviving in the American west in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Zhang made an interesting choice to tell the middle part of the story, then the beginning, and then the end, and it really worked for me. It’s about the poverty that followed the Gold Rush when the gold was gone but people kept coming and many ended up working in the coal mines instead, barely scraping by. It’s about the everyday racism the family faces from people who will never see them as equals. It’s about tradition and the idea of home and where we belong. I really wish I’d been in a better headspace for this one.