For those of you who still know what a rotary phone is… this one’s for you!
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Magical Realism
No. of pages: 310
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.
Maybe that was always beside the point.
Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…
Is that what she’s supposed to do?
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?
Who here doesn’t want to discover a magical phone and talk to someone in their past to fix mistakes and head-off roadblocks? Sign me up! Girl, an Accounting degree was never your calling, and stop falling for gay guys – you don’t have the equipment for that.
A lovely concept, and a cute romance. But half the story felt whiny, and there were so many moments with other characters that got me frustrated, like Georgie couldn’t control any aspect of her life.
There were long expositions on her inner thoughts and her relationship with Neal. There were also a lot of flashbacks – on top of the magical telephone where she was speaking to a younger Neal. It felt… messy.
The pacing felt slow, because there was just too much cringey, long-winded, wallowing in self-pity. I wasn’t sold much on the romance either, I loved the connection Neal and Georgie had, but the description of their lives made me feel a bit hollow. It’s not the kind of relationship I fantasize about, or even like to read about for entertainment.
Rainbow Rowell has a delicate writing style, but this felt bogged down with too much regret and sorrow. I did love some of the relationships with other family members (even if at times they were frustrating) because they added colour and levity to the narrative. It did feel like a short novel, but it could have been edited at least another 50 pages shorter to keep the pace going so I wasn’t skimming forward in parts. I love me some angst, but this was lamenting over Georgie’s misgivings…. I’m like: girl, snap out of it and do something. Take control of your life.
Georgie does have a small character arc which is quaint, but this book didn’t give me the sucker punch I wanted. And very little feels to be honest, which pains me because I’ve really enjoyed the other titles I’ve read from Rainbow Rowell.
I’m not sure I’d recommend this one, its okay, but I’d feel much more confident recommending other titles and different romances with a magical realism element.
Discussion post: What’s the best source to find great books to read – and how does that compare to the most popular ways to market a novel?
I did a poll over on Twitter last week because I was thinking about where I get my reading recommendations from (out of the popular spaces.)
I have never done a poll on twitter, but have participated in many and I thought it would be a great resource to get large numbers of participants to vote and get some balanced results. But I guess I grossly underrated my reach and willingness for people to simply click on a choice. (Girl, you thought you were popular!) Because it shows I only reached 52 people and only 2 voted. I did get a written response which was also book blogs so I think this twitter poll experiment was a massive fail. Maybe I should save face and blame it on the algorithm? A pox on you interwebs!!
In truth, my personal book recommendations most likely come from everywhere. I never use just one source, but the majority of recommendations come from book bloggers. Then, it’s depending on where I’m spending my time…
It could be catching up with friends. It could be chatting in book club. It could be attending a Con or writerly event. Or just browsing an online bookstore.
After the fail of the twitter poll I did the leg work myself hitting up people I’ve connected with on all of my socials. I asked colleagues and students, friends and family.
I guess this kind of information could be real handy for anyone wanting to market a novel – they’d know where to spend their marketing dollars. (For readers like me.) But this analysis, like reading tastes, is subjective. It’s through the lens of my demographic and those I’ve connected with over social media… so again the results are skewed.
The only reason I am discussing this topic is when I was thinking about how my reading habits have changed over the years in my last discussion post, and how much of it relies on having certain types of books available for me to purchase, the same goes for how I was recommended books.
It makes me cringe saying this, but in my teen years the internet was not a thing. The only way I’d get a book recommendation was either from a friend at school, or from browsing bookstores and libraries and spending the time to read book blurbs to see what interested me. Maybe I’d read an article in the newspaper or magazine (or occasional in-flight magazine,) but that was pretty much it.
In the last 10-15 years with the explosion of social media, online stores, and blogs, nearly all of my recommendations have come from online. I read reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, I follow copious book bloggers, I peruse top 100 lists, New Release lists, I chat in online book clubs, connect with authors and other readers on social media. More so since I moved to a remote location from the city.
Juxtapose that with how authors and publishers market their books… I have never bought a book from an ad on social media at any time. Ever. I hear all this talk that authors must buy paid ads to help market their book, but my behaviour in getting book recommendations makes that argument moot. Word of mouth is still the biggest way I get my recommendations – from sources I trust and know have similar tastes to my own. I don’t get influenced by pretty Instagram pictures and I’m not on TikTok to understand all the BookTok craze. Plus, I like to research the books I’m purchasing so that they are genuinely something I’m interested in reading rather than follow a popular hyped craze.
Am I missing out on something – is BookTok any good? With all the governmental bans on that platform I’m unsure that it will last too much longer.
I was getting some great reviews from YouTube about ten years ago, but the number of book reviewers on that platform has decreased: and most of them tend to review popular new releases to make sure they get the clicks and views (it is a business for the majority of content creators at the end of the day) so I wasn’t really discovering many new books.
I get emailed directly often with authors and publishers offering a free ebook in return for a review – but pretty much all of those offers have been for books that don’t even match my interests. It’s like the sender truly didn’t read any of my previous reviews or glance at any part of my blog. It feels disingenuous. Like they are not really wanting to build a reader/reviewer relationship. If an author invested the time to do that properly, I’d shout their praises from the roof tops.
Going back to authors using paid ads, Instagram and such – although they don’t directly influence me to buy a book, if I later read a review about it, it does help with brand recognition. I’d seen the book about before, so will take the time to read the review to see if it is any good. But again, it has to be from a trusted source.
Does anyone check out the ‘Recommendations’ tab on Goodreads, or scroll through recommended books on Amazon? I take a peek every now and then.
It’s becoming less available to me here, but when I get into the shopping centre in town and they have those pop-up stores with fire sales on books I will always wander through and hardly ever leave without purchasing something. It’s not necessarily a recommendation, again it’s picking things up and reading blurbs to see if the novel sounds interesting. Blurbs are by far the most important tool in recommending me a book.
So at the end of the day the place I get most of my recommendations from is other book bloggers, followed by reading blurbs while browsing bookstores (either physical stores or online.) All the other social media advertising only influences me with brand recognition – not in actually recommending me a novel. From canvasing the pool of participants that I reached out to, most said they get recommendations from reading my posts – they don’t know anyone who’s as obsessed with reading and reviewing as much as me. The other source was from emails sent out by Amazon, either from their followed authors or suggested reading on their e-reader device. And the reasons because of this was that they are time poor and tend to stick to reading similar types of novels. The third source was from magazine articles and reviews when certain book clubs of reading lists are showcased.
When I asked about things like recommendations from TikTok, YouTube, Instagram etc. most of those I approached did not realise there was a presence around literature on the platforms, or didn’t place much credence in those recommendations. Like it wasn’t anything serious. I did try to canvas a wide age and gender range and cover readers’ interests of a wide selection of genres. I only got a sample size of just under 500, so not so large.
What about you? What are the best sources for reading recommendations?
Part of this is every mother-daughter relationship ever, part is an over-dramatised trope.
Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance
No. of pages: 354
Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.
Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.
With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.
While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.
This is a difficult one for me to review. I enjoy Colleen Hoover’s work so much; she always manages to pull out all the feels and notch up a great amount of angst.
‘Regretting You’ was a little off kilter for me. The pacing is slower, even though the alternate perspectives between mother and daughter Morgan and Clara switch with each chapter respectively and move the plot forward; there was a lot of misunderstanding, blustering off without getting the full picture, having a spat…. it felt all very over-dramatised. Plus – and this is my personal preference – I did not entirely like any of the characters.
Clara was doting one moment and irrational the next. Morgan was a people pleaser who drifted through life and felt washed-out as a character for me. The love interests were all-too-doting and secretly in love with the protagonists and felt like Hoover was painting the men with the same brush. Miller felt clingy and something about his characterisation made me feel very uncomfortable – like he was over-compensating for something. Johan is probably the one character I liked the most, but still, I wanted more dimension from him. Like I said, it’s just my personal impression of the cast.
The characters develop nicely, are complex and have different motivations. I think there was an element of emotional connection I wasn’t getting. Maybe I’m turning into a cold-hearted shrew? Maybe I’m tired of romance? Maybe I’m just dead inside? Only joking. Some books connect really well with certain readers, and ‘Regretting You’ didn’t do that for me. I still love Colleen Hoover’s writing and will continue to indulge in her books.
There are some nice reveals and a well written plot, I think it was somewhat simple, and the whole misunderstanding/misjudging trope in contemporary romance can be great if executed well, but it is so overused that may had added to some fatigue in my reading of ‘Regretting You.’
Overall a fun read, but one I did not enjoy fully. I’m on the fence recommending this one – probably for those who loved contemporaries and big fans of Colleen Hoover.
Roast your pizza and your tweets all in one tasty read.
Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance
No. of pages: 368
Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.
Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.
All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.
As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.
An adorable tale of modern technology and the love of pizza! The title is a pun on ‘meet cute’ and is exactly that. This was cute.
The characters are all likeable and well rounded. There is a sense of angst, anxiety, and pressure to be perfect and know your direction in life. ‘Tweet Cute’ is told in alternating perspectives each chapter from our protagonists and love interests Pepper and Jack. Pepper is a high achiever in school and runs her mother’s pizza chain’s social media account with a heavy dash of sardonic wit. Think how Wendy’s roasts its competitors on twitter. I had a bit of an issue in how Pepper’s mother laid a lot of pressure on her daughters head in basically heading the marketing department for a major fast food franchise… it felt unrealistic and irresponsible. But it was a great set up for an environment ready to launch so many tropes in contemporary romance.
Jack is a hard-working student and employee in the family pizzeria, shouldering a lot that is essential for their family’s well-being. Again, a lot of inappropriate pressure placed on the head of a teen who should be focusing on school and their future, not managing his parent’s affairs. He struck me as that always positive type, goody-two-shoes, underdog.
Though it took a while to go anywhere. The first half of the novels pacing is on the slower side, but after that the book gets a lot better. The plot is very predictable, but there were a few surprises that popped up which delighted me. The storyline unravelled very cleverly in the last quarter of the novel.
The perfect light-hearted, family-friendly space adventure.
Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure
No. of pages: 304
Kyler Centaurus isn’t your typical runaway. All he wanted was a quick trip to the legendary Fasti Sun Festival. Who wouldn’t want to see new stars being born? Um, try Kyler’s entire family. They couldn’t care less about mind-blowing wonders of science.
When an accidental launch sequence ends with Kyler hurtling through space on the family cruiser, the thrill of freedom is cut short by two space pirates determined to steal his ship. Not happening!
Luckily, Kyler bumps into Fig, a savvy young Wanderer who makes a living by blowing up asteroids. She could really use a ride to Earth and Kyler could really use a hand with the pirates.
But when Kyler learns the truth about Fig’s mission, the two must put aside their differences long enough to stop the threat of astronomical proportions racing towards Earth?
I enjoyed this book so much, it was literally like watching a Disney movie (no wonder Disney Hyperion published this.) Great family friendly hijinks. ‘Blastaway’ is every kid’s fantasy of running away from home on a spaceship with a robot sidekick to boot. There were elements of Home-Alone-in-space, and the robots is reminiscent of ‘Short Circuit,’ ‘Wall-E,’ and the two robots from ‘The Black Hole’ V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B.
We face pirates sans ‘Home Alone,’ and rescue planet Earth from a runaway star. There was adventure and action, and a lot of hilarity. If this ever gets the film treatment I’m definitely buying a ticket. It managed to capture the child hidden inside me, entertain me with jokes, and have enough sci-fi elements for me not to get bored. ‘Blastaway’ has a whip-cracking pace and I read the entire book in one sitting. My other half kept looking at me because I was giggling frequently.
The narrative is told from two different perspectives, having a number of chapters each. Kyler Centaurus is a privileged Earth boy who inadvertently steals his parents spaceship after a family tussle in which he comes off second best, after the fact he decides he may as well make the most of it since he is going to get punished anyway, and heads off to see the spectacular display of his favourite scientist create an artificial sun. He feels misunderstood and underappreciated, and the fact his brothers are always picking on him – and that it took nearly a day before his family realised he was gone – proves the point.
Figerella ‘Fig’ Jammeslot is an orphan runaway, grown up on ships and satellites after her parents were killed, snatching jobs where she can as a sharpshooter to destroy asteroids. She is the typical streetwise ruffian always on the take. She sees Kyler as an easy mark, and their destinies become intertwined.
For a light-hearted space romp we see both characters grow and develop, their motivations change, and real, heart-felt ‘ah-ha’ moments. I even developed an emotional connection to the robot Cabe.
I’d like to say I predicted the outcome of this novel, but I didn’t really. I misread the relationships (maybe just like the author wanted me too?) and was too wrapped up in the fun of it all to get out my detectives monocle and start looking for clues. Melissa Landers has a young breezy tone throughout the novel that completely engages the reader. I’ve enjoyed much of her back catalogue, so I knew I would like this one, but ‘Blastaway’ really surprised me. I love it. In fact if ever I’m in a down mood, I may just pick this up again for a re-read.
The plot is actually pretty amazing. It wasn’t over-simplified considering the target demographic, but not too complicated to leave it unrelatable to YA readers. I found depth and complexity in both plot and character for ‘Blastaway.’ I was already a fan of Melissa Landers, but now I stan her real hard.
I realise this novel may not be for all, but if you like a fun light read, something that feels like a good Disney movie, (and take note this is targeted towards tweens and teens) than I whole-heartedly recommend ‘Blastaway.’
Overall feeling: Captured my childish imagination.
Enlightening personal history of identity, country and family.
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction, War, History
No. of pages: 400
Magda Szubanski’s childhood in a suburban migrant family was haunted by the demons of her father’s life in wartime Poland. At nineteen, fighting in the Warsaw resistance, he had been recruited to a secret counter-intelligence execution squad. His mission was to assassinate Polish traitors who were betraying Jewish citizens to the Nazis. The legacy of her father’s bravery left the young Magda with profound questions about her family story.
As she grew up, the assassin’s daughter had to navigate her own frailties and fears, including a lifelong struggle with weight gain and an increasing awareness of her own sexuality. With courage and compassion Szubanski’s memoir asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.
Magda Szubanskiis one of Australia’s best known and most loved performers. She appeared in a number of sketch comedy shows before creating the iconic character of Sharon in ABC-TV’s Kath and Kim. She has also acted in films (Babe, Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet, The Golden Compass) and stage shows. Reckoning is her first book.
Magda Szubanski is an impressive woman and a magnanimous writer. Her style is beautiful, melancholic, and haunting. I was bursting with pride and envy upon reading her memoir – her writing skills are first class.
I’m not big on memoirs or autobiographies, but frequently pepper them in my reading schedule because I like to take in a wide breath of writing styles and subjects. ‘Reckoning’ first attracted me because Magda has been the one Australian actress/comedian that has been a constant with me throughout my life. I was always amazed at her work, her humour, her skills in all the endeavours she put her hand to. Then as I started to get into the memoir, I discovered that we were kin on so many other levels. Her father is Polish and served – and survived – the war; my partner is part Polish, descendant from the royal family, and served in the NZSAS, and some of the atrocities he has lived through quite frankly scare the bejeezus out of me. Magda counts herself as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community as do I, and issues pertaining to identity, coming out, admonishing over labels and perception I can fully relate to. The loss of loved ones – check! And trying to navigate the world as a woman in male dominated industries… need I say more. Though in having said all that, ‘Reckoning’ heavily deals with history and identity of a country which was just about wiped off the face of the earth. A people who only have a history of pain, death, and displacement.
‘Reckoning’ is a lot to digest. It’s full of a time of humanity at its worst, mixed together with Magda coming to terms with her families role in that period, and, like a heavy sweater, something she drags around with her, trying to fit in today’s society. So I had to put this down a lot. It was emotional, difficult, and confronting subject matter. Distinctly Australian and nostalgic. But also triggering. It brought up all my insecurities again, as Magda faced hers, and had me reliving precious childhood memories that I don’t even have the opportunity of sharing with family again because they have all passed on.
We also get snippets of her professional acting career; and not really a behind the scenes feel, but a glimpse into her emotional and mental states around those events. I loved how this is not anything like the memoirs I’ve recently read from other famous female actors and comedians. In comparison those are fluffy, feel good pieces, where ‘Reckoning’ is a soulful powerhouse.
This memoir feels more like a love letter to her father, and the Polish people. It’s about her discovering her heritage and using that as a lens to confront her own identity. Though this writing was completely unexpected, I can say with all honesty this memoir is the best of this genre I have read to date. The only down side is that it may isolate some younger readers and can get a little bogged down in history. But this is definitely a memoir I will be recommending to everyone.
A cute story of a transgender male finding his place in the world…
Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT+
No. of pages: 294
“Last week I cut my hair, bought some boys’ clothes and shoes, wrapped a large ACE bandage around my chest to flatten my fortunately-not-large breasts, and began looking for a new name.”
Angela Katz-McNair has never felt quite right as a girl. Her whole life is leading up to the day she decides to become Grady, a guy. While coming out as transgendered feels right to Grady, he isn’t prepared for the reaction he gets from everyone else. His mother is upset, his younger sister is mortified, and his best friend, Eve, won’t acknowledge him in public. Why can’t people just let Grady be himself?
Grady’s life is miserable until he finds friends in some unexpected places — like the school geek, Sebastian, who explains that there is precedent in the natural world (parrotfish change gender when they need to, and the newly male fish are the alpha males), and Kita, a senior who might just be Grady’s first love.
I feel a little conflicted with ‘Parrotfish.’
This novel is a great tale of learning how to accept change. It tells an experience, but maybe not a well-researched one of a transgendered FtM teen. But I think this represents more about learning to deal with how life evolves. How we grow up. How our needs and wants shift as we progress through like. No-one and nothing stays the same forever. It can be scary. It can be exciting. ‘Parrotfish’ illustrates a small slice of some of those things and how a group of family and friends adapt to the evolving situation.
I also liked how it approached bullying and relationships. It was a little romanticised, but kept the scenes grounded in reality.
The big thing I enjoyed is that ‘Parrotfish’ stayed focused on the human being, and did not try to force identity defined or authenticated through a romantic relationship. Too many times have I read a coming out story of a protagonist affirming their gender identity only to have it given weight, or rewarded with a love interest – when neither need this validation, or are about love. They are about the self, and I think ‘Parrotfish’ bulls-eyed this tone intelligently.
I didn’t get any gut-wrenching feels or angst typical from this genre; and to be honest. I preferred this. Family, friends, and teachers all play and important and active role in Grady’s growth.
‘Parrotfish’ did feel too short. Like a drive-by toilet paper attack, it was quick, made its point and was gone just as quick. I will say I did not expect to laugh as much. Especially towards the end of the novel. I’m really impressed with Erin Wittlinger’s writing and will look into exploring some of her other titles in the future.
It was a bit hard to predict the path of the story. Obviously there is the theme of self-acceptance, but apart from that, given the more composed tone of Wittlinger’s writing style, I only had notions of what would eventuate, and they changed from chapter to chapter. I was never certain of what was going to happen. ‘Parrotfish’ ends on a positive note and was a sheer delight to read. I’ve read many novels dealing with a protagonist transitioning from female to male, and this one really grabbed my heart. It feels more inclined to the younger end of the YA demographic to help educate and increase awareness of people who struggle fitting in to rigid gender norms. The attitudes of the cast vary in their outlook to gender and sexuality as well in an un-obvious way that I found charming and delightful. I certainly wanted to go to high school with this gang of odd-balls.
I’m actually really proud to add this to my library and can see myself revisiting this story again.
Much of what I mentioned above is a typical straight cis-gendered response to ‘Parrotfish,’ but if you pass a more discerning eye over ‘Parrotfish’ you see elements of bullying and discrimination are greatly watered down. The internal torment and doubt someone like Grady faces is nearly non-existent. So too are the discussions over changing gender identity and sexual orientation… a mish-mash of coming out as a lesbian and then as a transgender male. In fact, I know most transgender men may find this story insulting and diminishing of their experience. Which plays into the need for real voices in this genre. So while ‘Parrotfish’ feels like it is a story given the ‘Disney’ filter from a cis-gendered heterosexual, I think it will add awareness and help start a conversation for those ignorant of the pressures transgender men growing through high school face; but it by no means represents the true experience.
I’m glad for the representation, the cute and funny story, but a little saddened for the misfire in the full picture of life a transgendered teen lives through. But given that ‘Parrotfish’ was published back in 2007, we will find there are more authentic stories out there now, especially coming from own voices authors.
Kita’s portrayal can also be seen as problematic. Yes she is a great ally, but as a love interest she is somewhat fetishized. Also, being set up as a love interest, and then the way the story was resolved adds to judging the worth of a transgender man… it felt icky.
So, if anything, ‘Parrotfish’ has stirred feelings (both good and bad) over transgender representation in literature, authentic or not, and the need for own voices in this genre. Which is a plus in my book – inciting a conversation over a minority that faces a great deal of discrimination. Though ‘Parrotfish’ at is a core is a fluffy, humorous tale and has a great theme that is well worth a read.
Overall feeling: Loved the story if a little conflicted….
Fun and weird characters, murder, humour and a twist I didn’t see coming.
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
No. of pages: 401
Jimmy Tock comes into the world on the very night his grandfather leaves it. As a violent storm rages outside the hospital, Rudy Tock spends long hours walking the corridors between the expectant fathers’ waiting room and his dying father’s bedside. It’s a strange vigil made all the stranger when, at the very height of the storm’s fury, Josef Tock suddenly sits up in bed and speaks coherently for the first and last time since his stroke.
What he says before he dies is that there will be five dark days in the life of his grandson—five dates whose terrible events Jimmy will have to prepare himself to face. The first is to occur in his twentieth year; the second in his twenty-third year; the third in his twenty-eighth; the fourth in his twenty-ninth; the fifth in his thirtieth.
Rudy is all too ready to discount his father’s last words as a dying man’s delusional rambling. But then he discovers that Josef also predicted the time of his grandson’s birth to the minute, as well as his exact height and weight, and the fact that Jimmy would be born with syndactyly—the unexplained anomal of fused digits—on his left foot. Suddenly the old man’s predictions take on a chilling significance.
It has been a while since I’ve indulged in a Dean Koontz creation, and ‘Life Expectancy’ reminded me of all the things I love about his writing. Witty banter, fun and weird characters, a good chase, serendipity, and some obtuse cyclical element that you never expect.
‘Life Expectancy’ is a deliciously weird tale intertwined with prophecy, mad men, fate, and family. We get different sections of the novel centred around the dates Jimmy Tock’s grandfather foretold as days of great importance and sorrow.
Jimmy Tock, born in an electric storm at the same moment as the child of a weird man, who then goes on a killing spree through the country hospital kicks this story off with a bloody mess and dragged me into the narrative with ease. The different parts jump to the dates that Grandad Tock magic-eight-balled for Jimmy to look out for and keep the pace of this novel cranked up to maximum. Even when Jimmy meets love interest Lorrie, we get instant great chemistry, and I became besotted with the pair from the get-go. True to Koontz’s writing style, there is a brilliant mix of comedy (humour) and horror (needless death and destruction) that was cinematic in form.
We don’t just get one bad guy either… antagonists that are sociopathically driven to enforce their justified point of view, all interwoven together in a crazy plot really threw me for a six. It was such a delicious delight to have these little unexpected twists.
The quaint backdrop of Snow Village – somehow reminding me of the set from ‘The Ghost Whisperer’ television show. A small town with a square, around which all the important buildings orientate. It just goes to show the descriptive abilities of Koontz’s writing style.
Because I’m such a fan of Dean Koontz and read countless of his tomes, I can say with confidence I predicted the ending pretty early one – however, there were a few surprising serendipities to that ending. And they were doozies. A one-two punch that had me making googly eyes at the page.
This hits the sweet spot of all the things I enjoy about Dean Koontz’s writing and happily recommend ‘Life Expectancy’ for your TBR.
Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.
But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend … until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.
Another cute tome from Kasie West. While I like light romance-centric contemporaries which I can digest in a day, I feel like West’s writing is suffering as the last number of her novels have had my excitement wanning. The witty comical banter, the quirky characters, the angst; all these elements seem to be dialled down or completely absent. Now her books read like a direct to tv film for the Hallmark Channel. Predictable, cute, but overall, forgettable.
I’m hoping West starts to stretch her story-telling skills, because the first few novels of hers that I had read started on a trajectory that was headed for greatness. Rom-coms with style and kitsch. Those were the stories I indulged in and could see on the big screen of theatres.
Kate as the protagonist for ‘Listen to Your Heart’ is an adorable clueless teen. A bit too vanilla. No streak of rebelliousness or daring, no style, just an obedient workhorse teen from a big family. And there’s nothing wrong with that… just that there’s nothing particularly interesting about that either. To be honest, I had to flip through the book again to refresh my memory of her name after completing it the day before… that’s how memorable she was. Her character arc consisted of uncovering some misunderstandings and obtaining some courage to explore the world outside of her Lakeside community.
Her best friend Alana, had a bit of sass to her, and was the most interesting character from the novel. She was competitive, manipulative, and daring – now there’s a character I want to read more about. But even her execution by West was somewhat lacklustre.
Love interests Diego and Frank were on the same scale as Kate and Alana. Where Diego was fairly vanilla and uninteresting and Frank gave attitude and a stuck-up rebellious streak, I found myself wishing for more tension or some event to add something more to the plot.
One of the redeeming features of ‘Listen to Your Heart’ is the slow burn, understated narrative style. It’s as relaxed as the summer locale of the Lake. It really made me feel like I was on holiday – but again, I wanted more substance. The role of family – that of Kate’s extended family, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins – is integrated well into the storyline. It had that feeling akin to Jenny Han’s writing with a sense of love, duty, and safety all rolled up into the home-life that is hard to replicate. Though it still needs a bit of work to have that resounding utz of Han’s writing.
I think I’d only recommend this to West fans – there are better quaint contemporaries that pack a punch out there.
Overall feeling: A quick easy read that is saccharine sweet, but ultimately lacking substance.