Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

So I didn’t love this book. The good and bad of it were inextricably intertwined – Kaz’s grand plan to set everything to rights was incredibly detailed and all-encompassing. Over and over the book took me to an emotional edge, and it wore on me. It may have been a case of bad timing – maybe I needed something a little lighter?

First of all – don’t read this book if you haven’t read the first one. Second of all – read this book if you have read the first one. Bardugo is genius. The total package. Her stories have depth, smarts, great characters, action and brilliance. You stay on the edge of your seat. You care.

This book was more finely crafted than the first. The plan was more detailed. The characters further developed. It overwhelmed me. The wrung emotions, the over-the-top plan, the lengthy book – it just became too much and lost its luster at some point.

I love the series, but I’m exhausted by this book.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

I’m not addressing plot – it’s too much fun to let you travel down that path with the book.

It’s no secret that I love Victoria Schwab. Vicious remains one of the most unique and memorable books I’ve read. TSS was enjoyable – action, an interesting and likable hero, and a really really cool premise. But…for me the book lacked compulsion…charisma…that thing that makes it so I can’t put it down. I expected more oomph in a book with such a cool story idea. It wasn’t that this book was bad – nowhere close to it – it’s just that it lacked that undefinable something. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, but I don’t feel like I have to read it now.

PS – if you haven’t read Vicious and you’re a fan of the weird, wild and out-there you should check it out.

Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

The long and the short of it is Hiaasen is Florida canon. I’ve read nearly everything he’s written. He’s like the beach – part of the landscape of my soul. I read Skin Tight at 13-years-old, and i’ve not looked back since. I’ve seen him speak twice. There’s no recommending him. No reviewing him. His books are what they are – and that’s fabulous. Moving. Funny. Sad. Passionate.

If you haven’t read him start with Sick Puppy and then go anywhere from there. He’s a sure thing. Promise.

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

I think this is a good example of what it is. Nothing flashy. Nothing exciting. A writing style that creates some distance and little anxiety.

Not going to talk about the plot much bc there are things to give away. Clara’s house is stormed by men with guns who take her to a room for questioning. Clara has to decide whether she should answer these questions and what it will mean for her. I was drawn into the story – wondering what she should do and what it would mean for her.

The book picked up around the middle. Honestly, not a ton for me to say here. I love thrillers. This was a non-flashy-but-still-enjoyable toned-down version of a “thriller.”

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

Listen, man. You can’t just be pretty. You need a point! I guess this is a story about a criminal father (arguably a “bad guy”) and his love for his spunky daughter. But there’s hardly any real point. The writing is lovely – lots of imagery – maybe too much detail. Even while tons of things happen – nothing happens! I can understand why other readers love it. It is beautiful, and the love between father and daughter is sweet. But it wasn’t enough for me. I got so excited at the promising beginning and then so disappointed when we were still treading water 100 pages later.

Unspoken by Jen Frederick

There were aspects of this book that I really enjoyed. It went deeper than the average NA. I’ve read at least 10 books where the heroine was slut-shamed, but usually there’s little detail or else it’s completely over the top. Frederick found a balance to make AM’s experiences feel real. I also liked that there was a build-up to the physical aspect of their relationship. There may have been some Insta-lust upon first sight, but things developed at a non-terrifying speed.

AM is the target of college slut-shaming and bullying. Bo is a kind of badass ladies’ man. (There’s actual self-reflection about Bo’s sexual exploits. And no weird scenes with him and other women. Plus there is fully-realized irony when comparing Bo’s behavior to AM’s and the general reaction to men’s sexuality v women’s.) They dig each other, but they have reservations. These weren’t issues that could be resolved with a conversation. AM and Bo had things to work on and work out before they had a chance at being together.

I thought things got a little clunky in the second half. Frederick, in an effort to step outside the mainstream “tell tell tell” had a stretch where the sequence of events was a little muddy. And I thought the ending was too long. (That’s completely subjective though – some readers want to see their characters happily-ever-after. I don’t need everything tied with a bow and dropped in my lap. I just like to know they’re okay.) I’m going to check out the first book in this series – I’ve read Frederick before – loved some and hated some. I feel like I could really enjoy this series, so let’s find out.

Anything You Can Do by RS Grey

Read in one afternoon. A spunky enemies-to-lovers with a couple of adorable one-liners. Daisy and Lucas have been in competition their entire lives. Neighbors – they terrorized their small town from elementary school on. As adults (and Drs) they move back to town to compete for the same job. Most of the story is told from Daisy’s perspective – and she’s a little bit insane. This competition with Lucas has become her life and unhinged her slightly. Lucas…is a different matter.

This is somewhere btwn 3 and 4 stars. Daisy really is kind of an idiot for far too long. Still, it kept my attention and made me chuckle.