rom-coms, sarcastic teens, fighter pilots, and a serial killer
Hello!! I’m off my typical newsletter schedule partly because of family vacation at the beginning of June, attempting to find a summer groove, and needing to submit my final proofread of the With You manuscript (this is the hardest stage of editing for me. I either want to make changes that are too big for this point in the process, or I feel like my brain is glazing over from having read the story approximately a thousand times). My primary writing energy the last year or so has been spent working on a small collection of short stories starring characters from the world of You Again and With You, and offering it a a free ebook for email subscribers (i.e., all of you!). I’d like to get the collection finished by November, but we’ll see how well Summer Amanda can focus.
Now how about some bite-sized reviews?
This Time Next Year, and Just Haven’t Met You Yet, by Sophie Cousens. Sophie Cousens is a new to me author, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books. The premise for both felt fresh, and the main characters were endearing and easy to root for. Just Haven’t Met You Yet is set on the channel island of Jersey, and the setting was a fun and vibrant part of the story. It also had multiple laugh-out-loud moments, which is always a bonus. This Time Next Year had a perfectly paced slow-burn romance, and was as much about the characters’ growth as individuals as it was about their relationship to each other. Also, there were pies. Lots of pies. And now I really want a pie! On her website, Cousens says she writes books that feel like a warm hug, and I have to say that description is accurate. (and if you are in to audiobooks at all, both of these have a fantastic narrator and are great on audio).
The Switch, and The Road Trip, by Beth O’Leary. You might remember me raving recently about The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, so it’s no surprise I devoured two of her other books this month: The Switch and The Road Trip. I enjoyed both, but while one was a definite winner, the other was kind of meh. The Switch hooked me with the unique premise: a young woman and her grandmother swap places for two months: Leina (sp?) moves into her grandmother’s house in Hampshire for some forced relaxation, and Eileen moves to her granddaughter’s flat in London, finally making good on a decades-long dream to have a London adventure. There are hijinks and missteps, but mostly there are two women processing life changes and heavy grief, and learning some things about themselves and the people they love. And yes, falling in love too.
In The Road Trip, readers meet the main characters after their relationship has imploded. They’re forced into close confines (road trips really are excellent settings), both recalling their intense and passionate romance, its equally intense ending, and discovering what’s changed in the time since they’ve been apart. Misunderstandings are set to rights, and secrets come to light. Sounds pretty great, right? Unfortunately, it fell a little flat to me. I think some of that is the fact that the characters kept talking like it had been SO LONG since they’d broken up, and they’d lived SO MUCH life since then, but it had only been two years. Which, yes, a lot can happen in two years, but it made me roll my eyes a bit. Second, I think the book could have been longer. There was a lot of depth and interesting relationship dynamics happening that got kind of glossed over to move the plot along. And finally, to be honest, I think the intense-obsessive-love-at-first-sight trope just isn’t my favorite. But hey, the more books an author has, the more likely there is to be at least one dud. I will definitely keep reading O’Leary’s books, and The Road Trip may not have worked for me, but it might for someone else. (but read The Flatshare or The Switch first).
The Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen. This story was one about friendship and secrets, and while it was a bit lighter on the magic than some of Sarah Addison Allen’s other books, it still had her signature atmospheric, descriptive, and lyrical writing. There’s also a fun cameo from Garden Spell!! It was a nice, easy, feel-good read, and the perfect follow-up to a couple of darker mystery-thrillers.
Bardo by the Sea, by Chad Alan Gibbs has Gibbs’ trademark snarky, precocious teenage protagonist, this time tempered by the most perfect straight man. This mystery, set during the 2008 housing bust in coastal Florida, is brooding and atmospheric and full of just the right amount of teenage angst and grandiosity–which may not sound appealing to everyone, but I thought was entertaining. It would appeal to people who liked the vibe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The O.C.
The Nothing Man, Catherine Ryan Howard had a unique set up: a retired serial killer discovers that a survivor of his last crime has written a best-selling memoir, and becomes obsessed with reading it, allowing the story to shift between the past and present, and between both victim and killer. I almost put this book down halfway through, because I don’t usually enjoy thrillers where you spend a lot of time inside a serial killer’s head–it can get a little icky in there That said, Howard managed to walk that line between too much bad guy, and just enough to keep things extra tense and suspenseful. The book-within-a-book structure was really engaging and a nice twist on a familiar type of story, and the ending was surprising and satisfying.
Bravely, Maggie Stiefvater. One might think that writing a book that picks up where the Disney film Brave leaves off would be either boring, cheesy, or a little bit of both. Fortunately, this novel is neither of those things. It’s a coming of age story packaged in a fairy tale, in a setting that felt grounded in the bedrock of Scotland and Scottish history. I loved it, and found it immersive and delightful. And like a good fairy tale, while there is a happy ending, it’s not exactly what you expect.
Top Gun: Maverick. My not-a-book-entertainment review for the month has to be Top Gun: Maverick. I thought this movie was so much fun, a perfect summer movie theater movie. Some might disagree, but I thought that while Maverick mirrored the original in a lot of ways, it still felt like a true sequel, not just a retread. The cast was fantastic, and I liked how they really highlighted the work of an air craft carrier ground crew, as well as doing a fantastic job at making the actual flying as accurate as possible.
Ok, folks, that’s it for today! I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with another author interview. In the meantime, stay hydrated and tell me what you’re reading, and if you’ve seen Top Gun yet!