Book reviews are among my favorite blog posts to write. However, I sometimes struggle articulating reviews for books that I might’ve really enjoyed, but don’t know what exactly to say about them. I’ve read the following books in April and May, and they include: a book by a much beloved contemporary author, a 2018 release that hasn’t received too much attention, a vey much hyped and loved book, and a VERY current read.
First & Then by Emma Mills
Rating: 4/5 Stars
After really enjoying This Adventure Ends, I decided to go back and read Emma Mills books in publication order. Not only was I just genuinely excited to pick up her first book, First & Then, but its Friday Night Lights meets Pride and Prejudice premise had me sold at the get-go. You’ll know from my wrap-ups that Friday Night Lights is one of my most recent all-time favorite TV shows that has transformed into a more recent obsession with football documentary series. While I wouldn’t call it Friday Night Lights, I enjoyed First & Then’s football aspect. I thought it was really accessible to readers who may or may not be familiar with the sport.
First & Then is not really a plot-driven story, but rather focuses on relationship growth. Devon is figuring out relationships with many people in her life: her cousin, Foster, who has just moved in with her family; Cas, her best friend, who she’s always had feelings for; Ezra, the star running back, who unexpectedly chooses Devon as his gym class partner. Devon also must do some self-exploration, trying to figure out if she even wants to go to college. I didn’t mind that First & Then is quiet and on the shorter side, but I felt that the plot needed more. Although this book is very much about character and relationship growth, nothing much really eventful happens aside from the formation of Devon’s one relationship. I recommend this book for readers looking for quiet YA or a quick read on a beach or pool day this summer.
Tell Me No Lies by Adele Griffin
Rating: 4/5 Stars
I had wanted to read a book by Adele Griffin for a long time. I decided on Tell Me No Lies mostly for its late 1980s backdrop, and yes, its gorgeous cover. Its mixed reviews on Goodreads made me put it off reading it for a little longer than I should have, but I am trying to somewhat prioritize books on my physical/owned TBR. Ultimately, I ended up really enjoying Tell Me No Lies! I really liked Adele Griffin’s writing style, especially for the book’s atmosphere. Our protagonist, Lizzy, rebels from her suburban and over-achiever life during her senior year and explores night life and the art scene in Philadelphia with the new girl in school.
At one point I had been reading for so long that I lost track of time and realized I was late meeting up with friends! I found Lizzy’s balance between her longtime old friends and her new crew interesting. I was most curious about her exploration of one of the latter friends, Claire, enjoying the book’s mystery vibes. However, I do agree with some reviews saying that the book could have done more to feel more like the 1980s. The major elements I really picked up on included the obvious lack of cell phones, Lizzy having to mail her college applications, and the small, yet still present, discussions surrounding AIDS. Although I don’t mind where we left the characters off at the end, as Lizzy finds a balance between her old and new personalities, I could have used a tad more resolution about her and her friends’ futures.
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
I was most definitely going to pick up Daisy Jones and the Six at some point because I love Taylor Jenkins Reid and its premise, following the rise and downfall of a hit 1970s’ rock band. However, I felt a bit guilty for not picking it up sooner because everyone and their mother in my book blogging circle was absolutely loving it. I ate up TJR’s latest release over one day. The interview style was very unique and I’m once again so impressed by TJR because it must have been such a hard process to create this book. The story just felt so real, from each character’s backstory to the creation of the band’s album. True to TJR, some of the reveals left me gasping. While the ways in which the book unfolds is really impressive, I did experience some disconnect with this story. Call it me being a lazy reader, but I had to pay extra attention to who was narrating and sometimes I lost track of the secondary characters. I additionally didn’t like the sparks between two of the characters, thinking that the book could have been altered in a way to not include that romance.
There’s no doubt that TJR is a talented writer. I’ve read three out of her four older titles, and she’s most definitely grown with her two latest releases, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and The Six. She expertly handles interview style narratives, flipping between the past and the present, and multi-perspective stories. Yet, I think I do enjoy her older and more contemporary-like reads a bit better for their coziness. However, I am more than excited to see what happens with the Daisy Jones and the Six adaptation, being produced by Hello Sunshine!
Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Girls on the Verge is all too-current read, in consideration of Alabama’s infuriating abortion laws here in the US. The book follows high school senior Camille, as she is pretty much forced to cross Texas state lines to get an abortion. Camille is joined by her two friends, Annabelle and Bea. While both girls support her, Bea and her conservative puts her at a cross-road in how to best support her friend.
Girls on the Verge was such a heart-breaking read, considering how many obstacles Camille faces just to get an abortion. Even before she finds out she is pregnant, she struggles even to just get a pregnancy test from the pharmacy. It was so frustrating to find out that many of Camille’s obstacles, from being tricked into going a fake crisis center to having to cross the border, are experienced by women in real life. This was a pretty eye-opening reading experience for me, considering that I live in a fairly-liberal part of the US. I couldn’t imagine hearing some of the vile and false things that came out of people’s (mostly male) mouths about Camille’s right to choose. While Camille’s pregnancy is at the heart of the story, Girls on the Verge is very much about friendship. There are a few lighter, comedic moments between the girls, but Annabelle and Bea are very juxtaposed. Annabelle is willing to do anything to help Camille, and although Bea is there for Camille, she does not necessarily support Camille’s decision at first. The girls and the friendship overall felt very real in this all too real situation.
Have you read any of the above books? Share in the comments!