By Cara Bastone
This story was absolutely adorable and I loved it!
The main premise is that Elliot sends a voice message text at 2 a.m. to a wrong number. JD (not her real name, but what she’s referred to for most of the story) is already awake to receive said voice text. She responds, and they go back and forth before Elliot realizes that he hasn’t been talking to his sister. JD knows who Elliot is immediately – she had him saved in her phone, after all. But Elliot has no idea who JD is (her name in his phone is just a jumble of letters, and he calls her by the last two to call her something.) JD has no intention of ever letting Elliot know who she is, for multiple reasons, only a few of them being her major crush on Elliot and her belief that she is in no way his type. But they keep talking.
I think my favorite part was that neither main character was perfect. JD has multiple reasons for keeping her identity a secret, and they are realistic and valid. Many in her situation would never have continued the conversations, let alone the secrecy. It was too risky. And Elliot. Well, he’s a bit unrealistic in his rating of 0% on the asshole scale. But he does have flaws! He has dyslexia and is impulsive if he doesn’t keep a lid on his behaviors. But he’s gone to therapy and knows where he struggles in life, and he’s worked hard to be a successful functioning adult.
The story is sweet and funny and touching at times. I highly recommend it!
(This fulfills the 2021 CBR 13 Bingo square of “Cityscape” because of the cover.)
What the Hex
By Alexis Daria
Well, this was a departure from the last romance I listened to! Sweet Talk was exactly that, sweet, and this one gets pretty spicy. And by spicy I mean the s e x. Which always seems a bit more awkward to listen to than to read.
Catalina is a fashion designer coming home for her sister’s wedding. Only, home is an enchanted island full of Latinx witches and magic users. Cat quickly discovers that all is not well at home, especially with her sister’s fiance being possessed by a demon who has enchanted most everyone else in the family. Luckily, Cat doesn’t have to deal with it alone. The possessed groom’s brother, Diego, is ready and willing to help (and not under the demon’s spell, which is handy.) He’s also her high school rival. And he’s become super hot (because of course he has.)
The overall structure of the magic is pretty interesting. Cat used to specialize in enchanting fabric and designs before going off to be a ‘normal’ fashion designer in New York. Her grandmother specializes in glamours, and her mother is a necromancer. Her father does something with storms, I think? I forget what everyone does, but it’s well thought out.
There are some very witchy cliches in here that happen a lot. And the title (or a slight variation on it) gets dropped at least once a chapter, or at least it feels like it. I mean, they acknowledge the cringey lines a few times and laugh about them, but sometimes they’re serious. The narrator is very good, but sometimes I feel like I’m in a grown up Dora episode with all of the Spanish phrases thrown in there. There are a lot of people who understand those phrases, but there are also a lot of us who don’t, and it feels like those phrases are emphasized just a bit. But maybe it’s just me.
(This fulfills the 2021 CBR13 Bingo square of “Landscape” because of the nice island in the background)
The Magic Flower Shop
By Gina Mayer
This is a lovely quick story that teaches both not to meddle in things you don’t understand, and that even if magic exists, sometimes the problem is mundane. Nine-year-old Violet is staying with her Aunt Abigail and helping with her flower shop when suddenly Abigail has to go out of town after a mysterious customer comes to the shop. Not willing to miss out on an opportunity to snoop, Violet decides to stay at the shop on her own (with her two best friends, Jack and Zack, of course!) The three discover a magic book that explains how magic flowers work, and they decide to test it out. Of course, it goes horribly wrong!
I do enjoy certain elements that the author included. Violet lives with loving foster parents, even though Abigail is her biological aunt. It’s nice to see all three get along and not fight over custody, while still allowing Violet to have healthy relationships with her foster parents and her aunt. Another part of the story that I appreciated was the dynamics of Jack and Zack. The two are twins, but not identical, because Jack’s full name is Jaqueline. Jack prefers sports and action, while Zack likes cooking and art. Jack dresses and presents as a boy because they were sick of being treated like a girly-girl. While the author may intend Jack to be seen as a tomboy or as a transgender character is yet to be seen. I could see this becoming a series, as it’s hinted that Violet will not get the answers she wants from her aunt until she’s older, so we will hopefully see more of the twins as well! There is also a cautionary tale for adults in there, as well as a message for children who may be being pushed too far! (There’s also a code word for “help” and if you know your Baronness Orczy, then you’ll know what it is immediately! I suppose a bunch of nine-year-olds can be forgiven for not knowing it’s meaning, but it’s one of my favorite Broadway shows!)
Overall, this is a cute story for kids, and would probably be a good option to break up a long car ride (it’s only 1 hour 45 minutes.) The issue I have with it is not in the story itself, it’s with the narrator, and the choices she made. The story takes place in England somewhere, I assume, and the characters all speak with a British accent. The narrator handles that well enough. But unless there’s dialogue, the narrator reads in an American accent. To me, that’s a bit jarring, and I see no reason for that choice, other than maybe the narrator’s comfort. Accents are hard, I get that, but I feel like it would have been better if she had chosen to read at least somewhere between an American and British accent to make the difference less noticeable. And even certain words, Aunt for example. When not in dialogue, she reads it like “ant” but when in dialogue it’s more “ont.” It might be picky, and it also may have been a choice made by the director and not the narrator at all.
(This fulfills the 2021 CBR 13 Bingo square of “Flora” because flowers)