Loved the concept, loved most of the execution—I think this debut slightly fumbled the landing. BUT that being said, the vibes and concept were enough to keep this a personal favorite.
You visit an island. Something is off about it. The people are nice, albeit your standard rural area standoffish vibe. The island itself is a beautiful piece of land off the coast of Northern Wisconsin.
But there's something about these people—their clothes are dated, their cars are all rust buckets, their music is 20 years out of date. And weirdest of all... you can't find anything more tech savvy than a Walkman and a boom box.
You realize the town is acting like it's 1994.
And when you catch some members of the town captivated by seemingly "live" coverage of OJ Simpson's car chase in California—and then you catch them watching it multiple nights in a row—you realize something is seriously, seriously weird here. Because the entire town KNOWS it's not actually 1994. But they're acting out the scenario anyway.
And then you find out that people sometimes disappear.
Welcome to Clifford Island. You might not make it off...
Dead Eleven is a horror release that I found out about randomly on Goodreads one day, and IMMEDIATELY knew that I needed to have it. From that pitch you just read, can't you see why?? What a concept.
Layered into that killer concept was a mixed-media, brother/sister, and past/present timeline angle that I found too good to resist. So I bought this and read it almost immediately.
Ultimately, I think this debut did a few things perfectly: the vibes, the lingering/creeping dread, the pulse-pounding "I need to know what happened" element that keeps you reading late into the night.
Where this book fumbled was in the ending. I think it wasn't bad, but it wasn't as spectacular as its first half implied it would be. But then... maybe it will for you. Let me know!
Eagerly looking forward to more horror mixed media from this author.
This book was wayyyy too long. But I loved this small town and the family of characters! It gave me all of the fuzzies. (Knox though?? Good grief. Not my choice of male love interest, but that's okay.)
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2
Things We Never Got Over is a book that I have seen all over the place. It's an adorable cover. Every time I saw it on the shelves, I was like "man, I've got to check out that book!" Many props to the graphic designer for making a really appealing design.
So clearly, the marketing worked and I picked this book up! And the verdict is.... It was a fine romance read.
I don't often read random contemporary romances these days—there's got to be some sort of complicating hook for me, like motorcycle clubs or paranormal twists—so I'm not sure if this book was a standard for the genre or not. But I think it had some great elements and some meh ones.
The great: the sense of community, the character depths in the secondary arcs, the small town vibes, the family drama.
The not-so-great: the sheer length of this book, how annoyingly two dimensional the male love interest was, and the unbelievable romance dynamics between our two main characters. But the main con takeaway is the sheer length. This could have lost 100 pages without even FEELING it, and could have shaved 150 pages with a decent trim of the side quests.
However - if you're looking for a community-rich and lingering feel good read, give this one a try!
It's Ali Hazelwood, of course I devoured it. But it wasn’t *quite* the same level of awesome as her first two books for me. (Still dang good though.)
Characters: ★★ for him, ★★★★★ for her
Elsie Hannaway is a theoretical physicist struggling to make ends meet in adjunct professing hell. So to pay her bills, she sidelines as a fake girlfriend for hire.
This gig requires relatively little from Elsie. She's already used to morphing versions of herself for each person she interacts with—some call it masking, some (Elsie) call it being amenable and whatever said person in front of her needs.
Elsie is always looking out for those around her, even when it is at the expense of herself.
But her fake-girlfriending side hustle goes pretty poorly when her client's older brother, Jack Smith, ends up poking into her veneer. And then to make matters WORSE, Elsie discovers that Jack works in her field of physics and is on the hiring committee for a job that she's trying to get.
Will Jack stop Elsie from this job opportunity? Will he blow her cover as a fake girlfriend? Or will he do the unthinkable and wreck Elsie's chances just like he wrecked her field of study years ago when he torpedoed the field of theoretical physics in a scathing academic essay takedown?? (Oh yea, there's science issues too!)
Cue the drama...
Love, Theoretically takes the classic Ali Hazelwood fable and turns it further into the realm of STEM women in love with this latest installment of intelligent women falling haplessly in love with stoic yet heartwarming men.
I think this novel did several things incredibly well: Elsie's characteristics, her journey toward self-prioritization, the academic drama, the banter. You KNOW Hazelwood has her banter down.
But I do think this novel lost me a bit when it came to the love interest, Jack. Hazelwood seems to always write her men as internally heartwarming and loving with a gruff exterior—ripe for that miscommunications trope to come in—and then shows us their soft side as the romance progresses.
I felt like Jack was TOO nice, TOO accommodating. He felt like a 2D man who fulfilled Elsie's needs a bit too perfectly. You know? Elsie's not perfect and makes a fair few mistakes and offenses. And Jack just completely rolled with every one of them, no doubt, no drama, hardly any justification. And I felt the conclusion hinged too much on that and I didn't understand the full motivations of why Jack cared so much, and why he was obsessed with Elsie in particular.
I don't know. Love, Theoretically lost me a little bit because of that. I did still love it, but readers beware if you're the kind of person who needs some depth to your men. (Hazelwood always is lighter on her mens' character traits, so this was even more so in that line of thinking!)
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.