Even more books, glorious books (might as well make the most of the lockdown)…

Book: โ€œThe overdue life of Amy Bylerโ€
Author: Kelly Harms
Source: Amazon Kindle and Audible
Rating: ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ–ค๐Ÿ–ค
Plot: Byler is readjusting her life following a cheating husband, her return to the workforce and an overdue existential crisis.
Positives: itโ€™s charming. Thereโ€™s enough in it that I can empathise with and the characters are not flat. An easy read.
Negatives: chick-lit just isnโ€™t my genre. Some of it is a little trite, predictable and saccharine.

Book: โ€œDiary of a confused feministโ€
Author: Kate Weston
Source: Netgalley ARC (advance review copy)
Rating: ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ–ค
Plot: Kat is writing a diary to help her to do โ€œgood feminism.โ€ Itโ€™s a cathartic coming of age story.
Positives: honest insight into the lives of young women. Itโ€™s effortlessly inclusive, which is refreshing. It raises some big issues but handles them well to avoid lecturing the reader.
Negatives: itโ€™s slow to start and it took me a while to like Kat (Weston might have done this on purpose). Some of the humour was a miss for me but Iโ€™m unlikely to be its target audience.

Book: โ€œGrief angelsโ€
Author: David Owen
Source: Netgalley ARC (advance review copy)
Rating: ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–
Plot: Owen has recently lost his father, Duncan has diagnosed depression, Lorenzo, Matt and Saeed are also dealing with issues, including relationships, confidence, grief, exams and body image. The book explores a group of boys as they navigate the route from adolescence to adulthood.
Positives: the fable-like narrative structure is clever, whipping the protagonist from this reality into a fantastical realm that evokes images of Greek mythology. Itโ€™s thoughtful and unyieldingly honest about grief; moreover, the characters are complex and realistic. Whilst there is growth and development, thereโ€™s none of that Hollywood-happy-ending that can damage authenticity.
Negatives: not everyone will get along with the to-and-fro of the narrative.

Book: โ€œLast lessonโ€
Author: James Goodhand
Source: Netgalley ARC (advance review copy)
Rating: ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–
Plot: I can’t really tell you without ruining it!
Positives: the writer is a genius. This book joins the ranks of “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Atwood), “The Power” (Alderman) and “The Lord of the Flies” (Goldman) because they are all stories which echo and itch – refusing to leave my skull.
Negatives: …

Book: โ€œUndertowโ€
Author: K.R. Conway
Source: Netgalley ARC (advance review copy)
Rating: ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ–ค๐Ÿ–ค๐Ÿ–ค๐Ÿ–ค
Plot: Eila Walker inherits a mansion with a dark past around the same time that she finds out her own history and genetic makeup is unusual. Essentially, she is Lunaterra who don’t get along with Mortis and she’s discovered she’s in the middle of a centuries-old feud.
Positives: until the scene described below, I did like the protagonist and how she viewed and described the world around her. Whilst it was a plot-device, I did also like seeing an alternative family set-up (Eila lives with her mother’s best friend following the deaths of her parents).
Negatives: it’s pretty predictable for this genre. Likeable protagonist โœ” Range of sidekicks โœ” Forbidden love story โœ” Drip-drip-drip reveal of details โœ” Lots of money โœ” Parents / guardians conveniently out of the picture โœ” But it’s not the predictability that got my goat. I more annoyed about the handling of important real-life issues. For instance, “spazzed” is not an acceptable verb choice for how Eila’s heart reacts to her love interest and nor should I have to go into details about why. Moreover, when Eila is sexually assaulted, everyone (including Eila) brushes it under the carpet and blames the alcohol the young man consumed. Er, what?! “He has a low tolerance for beer” (so do I but I haven’t assaulted anyone whilst drunk); “he tripped and fell on me, and then got other ideas” (ideas that show he’s a sexual predator); “he’s not that type of guy” (he’s groping Eila without consent so he is that type of guy); and, from Eila, “I knew he was drunk and hopefully wouldn’t act like such a moron when he was sober, but the alcohol was clouding any decent judgement he had.” This last one is particularly grim. Eila’s character admits that she doesn’t know Teddy at all so how would she suppose that the alcohol was steering his behaviour? And I doubt, whilst fighting him off, mid-attack, that she would really concern herself with how he might behave when sober. The whole passage was irrelevant in terms of moving the plot on or developing characters so it seemed to only serve the purpose of justifying drunk jock behaviour, minimising the experience of victims of sexual assault. Not good in a YA book. After this passage, the whole novel was soured for me and I had no affinity with the author.

Book: โ€œA court of thorns and rosesโ€ (Book 1)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Source: Audible
Rating: ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ–ค
Plot: Feyre (pronounced Fey-ruh – cheers, Audible!) is a human who lives very near the boundary between the human and fae worlds. She is the sole provider for her starving family and when she shoots a wolf-that’s-not-a-wolf so that she can claim the rare doe they are both hunting, everything in her world unravels. She ends up in the fae world, prisoner in the Spring Court. Blah blah blah romance… blah blah blah mythical history… blah blah blah heroes and villains. Etc.!
Positives: Maas is able to create whole, intricate worlds – like Trudi Canavan and George R Martin – allowing me to get lost in them and slightly peeved when I have to leave them behind. I can predict small plot developments and twists but, on the whole, she’s adept at surprising me and imagining ideas beyond my scope. I am looking forward to reading more of the series and finding out more about the world beyond the wall.
Negatives: in a few ways, it’s quite similar to her other series, Throne of Glass. I suppose that’s not really a negative as one of those similarities is headstrong, independent, female protagonist. The problem with first-person narrative is that I can’t ever escape the romance. It would be nice to read a book where that isn’t a main thread or integral part of the plot.