Well happy Saturday everyone! Haley here. This week has been crazy but I’m excited to sit down and share some reviews with you for a few books that released in January and that I have really strong opinions about. Basically, I either loved them or hated them and there was no in between. I have rounded a few of the ratings up because I’m very aware that for some of these it was just a case of right book, wrong reader. Anyway, without further preamble, here are my reviews
*The following titles were free copies provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own and do not reflect the views of the publishers or authors.Sue Rainsford
Published by Doubleday on August 8, 2019
'Equal parts beauty and horror, and unlike anything you will read this year’ TEA OBREHT
'Seethingly assured debut fuses magical realism with critical and feminist theory' GUARDIAN
In house in a wood, Ada and her father live peacefully, tending to their garden and the wildlife in it. They are not human though. Ada was made by her father from the Ground, a unique patch of earth with birthing and healing properties. Though perhaps he didn’t get her quite right. They spend their days healing the local human folk – named Cures - who visit them, suspiciously, with their ailments.
When Ada embarks on a relationship with a local Cure named Samson, and is forced to choose between her old life with her father, and a new one with her human lover. Her decision will uproot the town – and the Ground itself – for ever.
A poised and simmering tour-de-force, FOLLOW ME TO GROUND is a sinister vision of desire and freewill, voiced in earthy prose and eviscerating detail by an astoundingly original new writer.
'Fierce, palpable, hynoptic. A dazzling, troubling dream' COLIN BARRETT
LONGLISTED FOR THE DESMOND ELLIOT PRIZE 2019
Quick Takes: In this story of magical realism with a touch of body horror, Ada and her father have magical abilities which they used to heal illnesses by physically breaking open the bodies of the Cures or burying them in the ground outside their home. Ada cares little for The Cures until she falls in love with Samson. There are various point of views that discuss Ada and her father’s activities with Ada and Samson’s affair at its center.
What I Loved: I listened to this one on audio and the narration is fantastic. Going into this book I knew full well that it was full of body horror and it lived up to that promise. There were definitely plenty of squeamish moments and I was fascinated by how the magic system worked and grotesque and visceral many of the scenes were. Honestly, as someone who loves body horror, it was what restrained me from giving this one a lower rating.
What I Didn’t Love: I listened to a podcast recently that talked about weird fiction and the whole time I was listening to it I couldn’t help but think how much I love those kinds of books. But then I read books like this that seemed to fit the category and it just doesn’t land for me for whatever reason. I just wasn’t invested in the characters and I don’t know if it was because of the journalistic style narration, with individuals commenting on situations like they are being interviewed.Tiffany Tsao
Published by Atria Books on January 21, 2020
Named one of the most anticipated books of the year by The Millions, CrimeReads, HelloGiggles, and The EveryGirl
“A dark, delicious tale that will creep its way into your brain and leave you examining your own soul for signs of moral rot. I downed it in one greedy shot.” —Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs. the World
“Tiffany Tsao’s visceral debut…reads a bit like Crazy Rich Asians if the book began with familicide instead of romance. . . Why not start off the new year with the perfect tear-it-all-down read?” —CrimeReads
In this riveting tale about the secrets and betrayals that can accompany exorbitant wealth, two sisters from a Chinese-Indonesian family grapple with the past after one of them poisons their entire family.
Gwendolyn and Estella have always been as close as sisters can be. Growing up in a wealthy, eminent, and sometimes deceitful family, they’ve relied on each other for support and confidence. But now Gwendolyn is lying in a coma, the sole survivor of Estella’s poisoning of their whole clan.
As Gwendolyn struggles to regain consciousness, she desperately retraces her memories, trying to uncover the moment that led to this shocking and brutal act. Was it their aunt’s mysterious death at sea? Estella’s unhappy marriage to a dangerously brutish man? Or were the shifting loyalties and unspoken resentments at the heart of their opulent world too much to bear? Can Gwendolyn, at last, confront the carefully buried mysteries in their family’s past and the truth about who she and her sister really are?
Traveling from the luxurious world of the rich and powerful in Indonesia to the most spectacular shows at Paris Fashion Week, from the sunny coasts of California to the melting pot of Melbourne’s university scene, The Majesties is a haunting and deeply evocative novel about the dark secrets that can build a family empire—and also bring it crashing down.
Quick Take: Gwendolyn is the sole survivor of her sister Estelle’s attempt to kill their whole family by poisoning everyone during a family meal. As Gwendolyn regains consciousness she tries make sense of what happened and tried to understand what happened to push Estella to such a tragic and murderous act.
What I Loved: The writing of this book was beautiful, lush, and immersive. Each character that was introduced (and there were a lot!) was distinct and complex, and I found myself genuinely invested in all of them. Underneath the narration was a sense of unease that permeated the story as the reader, per Gwendolyn’s guidance, worked to figure out what exactly happened. While I saw the twist coming a few chapters in, Tsao unveiled the truth in a way that was both shocking and heartbreaking and it made the slower pace worth it in the end.
What I Didn’t Love: I feel like a broken record saying this but I frequently struggle with character driven novels and this was the epitome of a slow burn, character focused family saga. This book is receiving high praise and I completely see why. The pace was just a little too slow for me even though the book itself wasn’t that long. I think there are a lot of people who will enjoy this one, it just won’t make my list of favorites for this year by any means.Pintip Dunn
Published by Entangled: Teen on February 4, 2020
What I know: a boy in my school will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.
What I don’t know: who he is.
In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out his identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill him. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice they’ve lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way—because now they’ve drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved...
Quick Take: One fateful morning, Alice hears a voice in her head claiming to be from the future and telling her that she has to figure out which boy in her school will grow up to create a world-ending virus. She only has so much time to do it and her one rule: she can’t fall in love with the boy who she believes will eventually destroy the world.
What I Loved: There is so much that I loved about this book. Alice as a narrator is strong, confident and her acerbic humor had me laughing on numerous occasions. When I first dove in I worried that the time travel elements would become confusing and overwhelming but Dunn does a fantastic job explaining everything clearly and succinctly while keeping the reader invested and engaged. The love story in the book was also sweet and felt natural, which isn’t always the case and is typically the reason I avoid romance tropes in YA. Overall, fantastic and would definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys a good sci-fi romance.
What I Didn’t Love: If I had one critique it would be that some of the characters seemed a bit one-dimensional and stereotypical. However, the other characters and fast moving plot more than made up for this short coming. I really enjoyed every other aspect of this book and don’t have anything further to say that’s negative so I’ll just stop gushing now.
What About You?
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? We love chatting with you so let us know your thoughts in the comments!