At one point, I had ten books for review releasing today. Now, I am down to five because of the pandemic date changing debacle. I was going to split them up, but having 5 books on 5/5 is just too perfect, so here we are! Also, they’re all pretty good, and there are a ton of delightfully pink covers. Happy book birthday to these, and happy Cinco de Mayo! Enjoy!
In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
There is a lot to love about Clap When You Land. Like, a lot. So I want to talk about it all!
The Things I Loved:
- The characters were incredible, and the author did an amazing job of distinguishing between the two voices. Camino and Yahaira are so different from each other, in so many ways. But they also are more similar than they may initially seem, especially that they are both stronger than they should have to be, and stronger than they ever knew. And obviously their common tragedy plays a big role in their character development.
- This is a very family-oriented story and I was totally here for it. Camino lives with her Tía most of the time. Tía is such an amazingly strong, caring, wise, perfect character, I don’t even have the words for how much I adored her. Camino lost her mother early in life, and her father was absent most of the year, working in the United States. So these women are each other’s rocks, and it is a beautiful relationship. Yahaira lives with her mother and father in New York, and has an incredible girlfriend named Dre, who is a great support, as is Dre’s mother. Honestly just having our characters surrounded by so much love makes you feel like they will be able to come out the other side of this tragedy. Their support systems give so much hope.
- Both settings were done so well. Whether I was reading scenes in the Dominican Republic or New York, they both were incredibly authentic, and I could get a real feel for the girls’ lives. Obviously, they come from totally different worlds, but being immersed in both of them was a pleasure to read.
- So many strong and beautiful women. While family is a huge focus, the fact that it is women gathering strength from each other, whether they’re family, friends, or lovers, is a really great concept. Of course there were men in their lives that they loved, don’t get me wrong, but having this story be so female-centric was a really powerful choice.
The One Thing I Had Trouble With:
- Especially during the first half of the book, while I really appreciated the story and characters, I just didn’t feel fully emotionally connected. The best way I can describe it is that I felt empathetic from a distance. And perhaps that is on me, maybe I just have problems with verse? It really may be. But even with such an emotional plot, it took until at least halfway before I really felt the emotions, rather than merely acknowledged them.
Bottom Line: It was an absolute joy and heartbreak to take this journey with Camino and Yahaira, and I absolutely recommend that you do too.
In the vein of The Book of M comes a fast-paced, character-driven literary apocalyptic novel that explores life, love, and loss in a post-truth society.
In the aftermath of a deadly outbreak - reminiscent of the 1962 event of mass hysteria that was the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic - a city at the tip of Africa is losing its mind, with residents experiencing hallucinations and paranoia. Is it simply another episode of mass hysteria, or something more sinister? Ina quarantined city in which the inexplicable has already occurred, rumors, superstitions, and conspiracy theories abound.
During these strange days, Faith works as a full time corpse collector and a freelance "truthologist", putting together disparate pieces of information to solve problems. But after Faith agrees to help an orphaned girl find her abducted baby brother, she begins to wonder whether the boy is even real. Meanwhile, a young man named Sans who trades in illicit goods is so distracted by a glimpse of his dream woman that he lets a bag of money he owes his gang partners go missing - leaving him desperately searching for both and soon questioning his own sanity.
Over the course of a single week, the paths of faith, Sans, and a cast of other hustlers - including a data dealer, a drug addict, a sin eater, and a hyena man - will cross and intertwine as they move about the city, looking for lost souls, uncertain absolution, and answers that may not exist.
This is a bizarre and timely book about what happens after the pandemic has wreaked havoc. I mean, I won’t pretend it didn’t scare the hell out of me to think that the world could be like this for the better part of a decade, but alas. In this book, set in South Africa (which yes please, more of this!), one of the symptoms of the disease is uncontrollable laughter. The bananas part is, people in our timeline are vilified for coughing, much like these folks are for laughing. Obviously, laughing in public is not allowed. People wear masks everywhere. People attend online funerals only. There are random temperature checks. Honestly it hits really close to home.
Luckily, this book doesn’t focus on the plague itself so much as the aftermath. It follows several characters (maybe one or two too many, if I am being totally honest, but it wasn’t a dealbreaker, just… a thing) throughout their new normals. Gone are the jobs of yesteryear, they now do things like ferry bodies. Engage in fight clubs. Steal and sell hair. Look, when the apocalypse comes to town, you sometimes have to find some… inventive ways to make a dollar. And that’s the whole thing- the severity in which life has changed, and how these people have come to adapt when the only choices are adapt or die.
I really can’t say much about the plot, because it takes some turns I did not see coming and obviously I have no plans to spoil them. I will say that it is a slower paced book, definitely dealing more with the character development and world-building than action. I loved all the little South African details that are seamlessly woven into the story. I had to look some of them up (though there is a glossary at the end in the eARC) and I absolutely loved falling into this culture. By the end, I even had a pretty good idea of the phrases and such without having to look them up!
Bottom Line: An incredibly timely look at what happens to a society after the end of the world. It asks all kinds of questions, and definitely provides a lot of character exploration. Perhaps you’ll find some of your own reactions in some of these characters.
Lost meets Stranger Things in this eerie, immersive YA thriller, thrusting seventeen-year-old Sia into a reality where the waters in front of her and the jungle behind her are as dangerous as the survivors alongside her.
Sia practically grew up in the water scuba diving, and wreck dives are run of the mill. Take the tourists out. Explore the reef. Uncover the secrets locked in the sunken craft. But this time ... the dive goes terribly wrong.
Attacked by a mysterious creature, Sia's boat is sunk, her customers are killed, and she washes up on a deserted island with no sign of rescue in sight. Waiting in the water is a seemingly unstoppable monster that is still hungry. In the jungle just off the beach are dangers best left untested. When Sia reunites with a handful of survivors, she sees it as the first sign of light.
Sia is wrong.
Between the gulf of deadly seawater in front of her and suffocating depth of the jungle behind her, even the island isn't what it seems.
Haunted by her own mistakes and an inescapable dread, Sia's best hope for finding answers may rest in the center of the island, at the bottom of a flooded sinkhole that only she has the skills to navigate. But even if the creature lurking in the depths doesn't swallow her and the other survivors, the secrets of their fractured reality on the island might.
Is and eerie and immersive YA thriller told through journal entries from a daughter to her father
Unfolds through the eyes of a narrator who keeps you guessing until the final pages
Is a gripping mix of suspense and horror; perfect for readers ages 13 and up
Fractured Tide is a frightening and quick-paced mystery/survival story, and I kind of love those. So suffice it to say, this one quite worked for me. There are a few things that didn’t as much, but as a whole this was a win! Let us divide it into the yays versus nays!
- Very full of action and adventure. We start out on a diving trip, which is quite routine for Sia and her family. They take people on diving excursions, but this time, things don’t go as planned. First, there’s the unknown sea monster. Which is bad enough.
I imagine he looked like Jaha’s sea monster, for obvious reasons. Anyway, then Sia finds herself on a deserted island and honestly at that point, the action and adventure has just begun!
- I was excited to keep reading to figure out what the heck is going on. I mean, I needed to know! Because things aren’t “right”, you can tell from the start. And I had to know all the details! I am so grateful that this book delivered on some key answers. It satisfied me, no question!
- Loved the twists and turns the story took. I did not see them coming whatsoever. And I enjoyed that the twists felt unique.
- Definite focus on family. Obviously it’s a very plot-driven book, but there’s still a big focus on family. And a bit of a romance, which was fine, but I was way more invested in the family stuff. The story is told through Sia’s letters to her incarcerated father, she’s fiercely protective of her little brother, and there’s clearly all kinds of tension to unpack between Sia and her mom. So I loved that even in the face of danger, Sia is still really concerned about her family.
- Sometimes the technical diving stuff was a little too technical? I found my eyes glazing over a few times when Sia started to get into the nitty-gritty of the diving, and terms, and such. I liked that it was such a huge part of who Sia was, I just had trouble following at times. Or caring to follow maybe, is more appropriate.
- I didn’t always feel particularly connected to Sia, despite enjoying her character. I liked Sia, don’t get me wrong! But I think partly because she was telling her father the story perhaps, it felt like I just didn’t get a feel for her as well as I’d hoped?
Bottom Line: Super exciting, I was compelled to keep reading to find out all the hows and whys of Sia and company’s creepy island situation!
A new swoon-worthy romance following a couple's love story on the same date over four years.
Every May 7, the students at Coffee County High School take a class trip. And every year, Lulu’s relationship with Alex Rouvelis gets a little more complicated. Freshman year, they went from sworn enemies to more than friends after a close encounter in an escape room. It’s been hard for Lulu to quit Alex ever since.
Through breakups, make ups, and dating other people, each year’s class trip brings the pair back together and forces them to confront their undeniable connection. From the science museum to an amusement park, from New York City to London, Lulu learns one thing is for sure: love is the biggest trip of all.
Well. This is delightfully adorable! Make no mistake, this is a fluffier sort of book than I am wont to review, but I liked it regardless. Lulu and Alex are an unlikely but very charming couple, and we basically take a journey through their high school lives, via four specific school trips. Granted, we see glimpses into other important parts, but it’s so fun that every time they go on a trip… something happens.
The author did a great job of showing how much these characters grow year by year, which is quite a feat honestly. To tell the story of these two people over four years in the span of a few hundred pages is impressive, to say the least. Because Lulu is so very well fleshed out, I felt like I knew her so well. She starts out…. well, like we all start out, especially as a freshman. She thinks she knows more than she does, and doesn’t always think before she speaks. And she and Alex are a disaster waiting to happen, it’s pretty clear. There’s chemistry, no doubt, but goodness, people change so much in high school, and I love that the author showed that. She showed that it is okay to make mistakes and even to be kind of shitty sometimes, as long as we never stop learning and growing.
Both characters had a great group of friends and families, which I also loved. Because when, inevitably, their freshman year kiss didn’t lead to happily ever after, they had such amazing support systems to help them through. And their friends were a big part of the reason that they were able to grow so much as characters.
And like I said, there is undoubtedly chemistry between these two. No. Question. I rooted for them the whole way, and really liked that they never ever gave up on each other as people, even when they weren’t together romantically.
Bottom Line: A charming story about growing up and figuring out who you want to be, all while trying to navigate first loves.
A gripping science fiction thriller where five women task themselves with ensuring the survival of the human race; perfect for readers of The Martian, The Power, and Station Eleven.
Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.
It's humanity's last hope for survival, and Naomi, Valerie's surrogate daughter and the ship's botanist, has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity like this - to step out of Valerie's shadow and really make a difference.
But when things start going wrong on the ship, Naomi begins to suspect that someone on board is concealing a terrible secret - and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared . . .
Goldilocks is The Handmaid's Tale meets The Martian - a bold and thought-provoking new high-concept thriller.
I had assumed that Goldilocks was going to be my kind of story. Space shenanigans often are, and desperation even more so. I am happy to report that this didn’t only meet, but exceeded my expectations. And I shall now tell you why.
- Badass female crew trying to save the human race. Okay this speaks for itself, yeah? Well, kind of. Naomi is the main character, but I think we learn quite a bit about all the women on the crew before the end of the story. Which was delightful. Sometimes the crew is more background, but I loved how interwoven the women became. In this book’s world, a
horrible racist, sexist, orange trollman eerily reminiscent of our current monstrosity of an administration has taken control of the country and basically deemed women useless. They no longer have a place in the workforce, and certainly not in space. Also, the world is a mess because humans have destroyed it, so again, pretty much the near future of our current climate. So Valerie takes it upon herself and the others to make sure the world will be saved, via an illegal trip on a stolen spaceship to Cavendish, a planet in a Goldilocks zone.
- Gray morality out the wazoo. I do not envy any of the decisions that had to be made in this book. I can’t really go into any detail, but pretty much every character in the story, at one point or another, is forced to make an impossible choice. And I love reading about those. This of course leads to a ton of thought-provoking self reflection, in the “what would I do?” sense. Love it.
- A “mother”-daughter dynamic that is full of complication is at its center. Oh boy is this one messy! Valerie isn’t Naomi’s biological mother, but Naomi has been living with her since the death of her parents, and sees Valerie as both a mother and a mentor. But Valerie is one hell of a force to be reckoned with, and life as Valerie’s protege has never been easy for Naomi. With the two women in close quarters with secrets between them, will they manage to work out their past?
- The science stuff made sense to my brain. I love when the science parts are explained in a way that the common, non-scientist can understand. When the author explained how certain aspects of the travel were possible, I didn’t have to suspend any disbelief, nor did I have to be confused by overly technical explanations. Also, there was a lot of algae talk that would have made Monty very proud.
- Tons of twists and turns. Goodness, there were so many things I did not see coming here! Some of them were brutal. Some just genius. But I was never, ever bored.
- But also, tons of character growth and development. When we meet Naomi, she’s a very different woman than she will be by the end of the story. So is everyone else. We also get a lot of insight into Naomi’s past, and it explains a lot about her dynamic with Valerie, and also how extra hard a lot of her choices will be to make. While Naomi seems cold and aloof at first meet, by the end she’s anything but.
Bottom Line: I fell in love with this tale of incredibly strong women on a race to save humanity. The twists and turns sucked me in, the characters were complex, and I fully enjoyed the whole ride.