When you have twenty-five books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. Have fun!
The Absolutist is another gorgeous story by John Boyne. Not only does he tackle post-war survivors’ guilt as well as the idea of objecting to a popular, patriotic war, he showcases the difficulties of finding and accepting your sexuality during a time when anything but heterosexuality was illegal. He tells this complicated tale with his usual delicacy to create a heartbreaking, horrifying, and yet poignant reading experience.
You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes is the continuation of a story I’m not certain needs to continue. It is slow, slow, slow. One good thing is that Ms. Kepnes changes things up this time by having Joe try to be a productive member of society without caving to his baser urges. Ironically, bad things still happen around him. While he remains a fairly unreliable narrator, his problems center on the blindspots he puts up and his complete underestimation of his acquaintances. While I liked this new Joe to some extent, I do think this new Joe is boring. Plus, I am not a fan of how this part of his story ends.
While I love mythological retellings and pretty much any fantasy story, I did not like These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy. Not only was it an extremely slow-paced story, but I also could not garner enough sympathy for one of the two main characters to move beyond the fact that she is a terrible person. Plus, the other main character takes way too long to accept her new normal in spite of the fact that she prepared her whole life for it. The whole story is nothing but a nature versus nurture argument with trauma at its core. Between the lackluster characters and a story that builds too slowly, this retelling of the Firebird myth is not something I want to revisit anytime soon.
Erin Bowman’s Dustborn is a decent post-apocalyptic story about limited resources and the fight to control them. There is a fabulous twist in the middle of the story that you don’t see coming and that drastically changes the narrative in a fun way. Meanwhile, Delta is a fantastic survivalist, reluctant to lead but knows the importance of loyalty and teamwork when it comes to survival. With good pacing, fun action, and a satisfactory ending, Dustborn is a solid story that is as entertaining as it is timely.
Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart is everything I love about fantasy novels. Simply, it is a fabulous story, rich in backstory and culture with its basis in Caribbean folklore. The two main characters play off each other to perfection with their opposing desires for revenge versus better leadership. I never knew what was coming, and I definitely didn’t know how it was going to end. While I find myself more sympathetic to one of the main characters, the entire story has me vested in both their stories, so much so that the sequel will be one of my more anticipated stories for 2022.