Hello everybody! Today, I have another set of reviews to share with you, this time with all the books having a number in their title, which I’ve had a lot of fun reading over the past few weeks. Onto the post!
Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis
I adored Dear Emmie Blue when I read it recently, so reading Lia Louis’s other books is now a huge priority for me, and I had a lovely time reading her new romantic contemporary which focuses on the serendipitous meeting of Noelle and Sam one snowy night in a traffic jam, and then the way they keep running into each other afterwards. I love the idea of fate and even though I’m turning into an absolute cynic, I’m all for being convinced by lovely books, and this one absolutely warmed my cold, dead heart. All of missed chances and almost-meetings were described and revealed in a really interesting way, and Noelle and Sam’s chemistry was palpable from the very first time they cross paths. I also liked them both a lot as individuals as well as rooting for them as a couple, and I really admired how caring and kind Noelle is, but I think Noelle’s best friend Charlie stole the show for me a little; I just adored her whole storyline and personality and she made me laugh a lot. I also think it was really impressive that Daisy felt like such a well-rounded, 3D person given she is dead by the time the book begins and we never really meet her, and it really emphasises how tragic her death was. Overall, this is a beautiful book about serendipity and soulmates and chasing your dreams after putting others first, and I already can’t wait to pick up more from Lia soon.
The Vanderbeekers on 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
I bought this book because it was on sale despite not having heard of it before, specifically so it could be in this post and I’m so grateful I did because it’s such a lovely book. It’s about a family who live in a Harlem brownstone, until their landlord Mr Beederman decides 5 days before Christmas that he wants to evict them, and the five VanderBeeker children subsequently decide to campaign to change his mind. This is very much a character led story, so I’m going to start out by telling you a little about the Vanderbeekers: there’s their parents Mama (who bakes delicious biscuits; their papa (who wears ridiculous coveralls when he does the building’s maintenance); Jessie and Isa, the twins, the former of whom loves science and the latter who adores playing violin; Oliver, the only boy of the family; Hyacinth, who is excellent at crafts; Laney, the littlest one, and an absolutely delightful assortment of pets, my favourite of which was Franz the dachshund. I wholeheartedly loved all of them; they all have their own strengths and weaknesses and problems and flaws and hobbies, and they just felt like a real family in every way. The dialogue is incredibly fun, I loved that it’s set around Christmas and the cosy, comforting vibe it has makes it perfect for curling up to forget the stresses of real life. I also really appreciated it’s messages about the importance of community and not judging people at face value, because they might be going through unimaginable pain. I will absolutely be continuing with these, and I seriously hope someone decides to publish them in the UK!!
A Half Baked Idea by Olivia Potts
I always feel very odd reviewing memoir-type non fiction, because who am I to judge someone writing about some very difficult, very personal subjects, so this will most likely be quite a brief review that could be summed up with: it’s stunning and it made me cry, but also felt very hopeful and I love Olivia’s humour, go and read it now please. It follows Olivia after her mum dies, and her subsequent change of career from a barrister to a trainee chef at Le Cordon Bleu. Olivia writes so beautifully and I took a few days to read this because I wanted to savour the writing, and also to take in all the fascinating information about both life in criminal law and as a pupil at what is arguably the world’s most famous cooking school. Also, this wasn’t a huge part of my reading experience because I’m not really into cooking, but if you are after some recipes for food that certainly sounds yummy, there are loads in this, all written personally by Olivia. I’m not sure if the writer plans to release any more books, but if she does, I’ll absolutely be picking them up.
Three Keys by Kelly Yang
I read the first book in this series at some point during the first lockdown last year and I loved meeting Mia Tang and her family (both biological and found) and so I was very excited to pick up this second book, which sees her family adjust to owning the Calivista Motel and also the campaign for a harsh new law that will punish illegal immigrants simply for being in the United States, and is also having a knock on effect on legal immigrants like the Tangs. These books take place in the early 90s, so they’re perfect for learning more about recent history that hasn’t yet made it into history textbooks. The parallels between this time and place and the here and now were honestly frightening and made me so angry while I was reading. That said, this somehow manages to deal with these difficult, hugely important topics and still end up being a comforting, wholesome delight of a book with so many heartwarming moments and huge dollops of humour (the goatscaping thing was my favourite line in the whole book!) and also hope. The characters are all so fleshed out and feel so real to me- I love Mia and her dream of becoming a writer, I love her parents’ work ethic and love for their daughter, I love Jason for learning and growing in these stories, I love Lupe for coping with what she goes through in this book and how brave she is in fighting injustice. I love Hank for his support of Mia and how noble and wise he always is, and I will admit also that I loved Miss Walsh after a very shaky start, for admitting she’s wrong and doing the right thing. I may need to import book 3 if Knights Of wait a year to publish it, because I don’t think I can wait that length of time for more of the Calivista crew!
One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus
I’ll admit I was a little bit sceptical when this was announced as I think One of Us Lying is one of the all time greats of YA fantasy, but ended up buying it anyway, and to my delight I ended up really liking it in it’s own right too. It follows new characters: Bayview Four OG Bronwyn’s little sister Maeve, a girl named Phoebe whose family are still grieving her father’s tragic death, and Knox, who feels like an outcast in his huge family, both because he’s much younger than his sisters and also the only boy. The plot is connected to OOUIL but also stands quite well on its own; it sees the chaos and media attention of the previous year start back up again when an anonymous texter starts forcing people to play a vicious game of Truth or Dare, which quickly turns deadly. Maeve’s chapters were definitely my favourites, and one of the reasons for that actually had nothing to do with the thriller element of this book, but it was instead the focus on how being ill as a child and early teens has shaped her way of looking at things and really affects her. I got ill when I was 7 and it’s part of an ongoing condition that is pretty annoying day to day, but can also get scary very quickly and require me to have more surgeries, which is a horrible black cloud hanging over me at all times, and as such I really related to Maeve’s experiences and I just wanted to hug her so badly all through the book. I did like Phoebe and Knox too though, and more specifically their little budding romance they had going on, and Luis was also a delightful romantic interest. I obviously loved seeing the Bayview Four again and seeing what they were up to a year after their book, and the thriller/mystery part of the book was pretty exciting and I loved the reveal at the end, which I definitely did NOT see coming.
The Drowned Ones by Ellen Renner
The second book in this series was released all the way back in 2019, so I was absolutely thrilled to finally get my hands on the final part of the trilogy. It picks up pretty much straight after the ending of Under Earth, and sees Storm face a final battle with the Fire spirit, who is intent on destroying the world with its hate. The thing that has always been the standout for me with this series, is the incredible world that Ellen has crafted. I’m fascinated by the Elementals and the people they choose as their witches and emissaries, and also by the parallels between the idea of the Pact and certain people in real life. The plot is very fast paced and so much is packed into this final part of the adventure that it definitely felt like everything was wrapped up, although I do think there would be potential for other stories set in this world. Storm is an amazing character and I’ve loved spending time with her over the course of the trilogy, and I think Nim and Mer’s development throughout the previous books and this one have been so interesting. This is a very fitting finale for the series, and I can’t wait to read more from Ellen in the future.
The 24 Hour Café by Libby Page
I have a few Libby Page books on my TBR, but this was the first one that fitted into a post I had already planned, so I decided to start with best friends Hannah and Mona’s story, set over 24 hours in Stella’s Café, where they’ve both worked as waitresses for about 5 years. The book slowly reveals what their friendship has been and now is over the course of the book, from both of their perspectives, and I think this was a brilliant narrative choice as it made me consider the soecific situations that cause conflict from both sides, and I felt genuinely sympathetic towards both main characters. I also loved the little glimpses we get into the lives of other people who come into the cafe that day, my favourites being Dan and Monique and Joe and Hazim, but really I adored them all, and the cafe was such a lovely setting, to the point I sort of wish I could visit and experience its magic for myself. The epilogue made me cry more than a little, although I can’t tell you why, and it’s just a lovely, comforting book. This is the very best sort of contemporary, one that feels impossibly high stakes even though it’s just a slice of people’s lives, and I’m very much looking forward to reading more of Libby’s writing as soon as I can.
Beyond Platform 13 by Sibéal Pounder and illustrated by Beatriz Castro (with a world and characters inspired by Eva Ibbotson)
I read the Secret of Platform 13 in one sitting about two years ago, when I was feeling very stressed and upset and worn out by uni and just wanted a break. It was like a balm to my soul, and so I immediately bought the sequel brought out to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the book, by longtime fan of Eva Ibbotson and writer Sibéal Pounder, and have been saving it for a similar situation ever since, which made this a perfect time to pick it up. It sees the Island of Mist face a shortage of protective mist, leading to evil harpies taking control of the island and Prince Ben and his family having to go into exile to stay safe. Our lovable hag protagonist from book one, Odge Gribble, sets out to find the expert on mistmaking, and accidentally ropes an adventurous young girl named Lina into the rescue of Mist. I loved seeing all the familiar faces from Mist, especially Odge and Ben but lots of others too, and I also adored the new cast that is introduced. The world is so sweet and silly and lovely and fun, although of course in this book it’s a little less so under the harpies’ rule, and I think the wordplay and use of language really contributes to the overall joyful feeling it has too. In my opinion, Sibéal has done a truly magnificent job capturing the spirit and quirky humour of Eva’s original, while also putting her own stamp on the world and characters. This was extremely well done.
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Like most of the rest of the book community, I’ve loved everything Tahlor Jenkins Reid has released in the past 3 years or so, and as such decided I had to delve into her backlist. While this is quite a different sort of book in terms of narrative structure, it absolutely has the sort of genius hook I’ve come to expect, not to mention phenomenal writing. It’s about a woman named Emma who is having dinner with her new fiancé and her family, when her long lost husband calls and reveals that he is in fact alive, and has been trying to get back to her all these years. I’m a sucker for a good love triangle, and this is an absolute doozy; it’s one where I not only couldn’t pick a man to get behind and root for, but I kept flipflopping constantly between them because both shared such gorgeous moments and had so much history with Emma. I also enjoyed the exploration of the theme of what makes a true love and whether you only have one soulmate or could end up very happy with several people. I can’t wait to pick up more from the author, and just like all her books, I didn’t want reading this to end.
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read of any of these books? Which books with numbers in the title would you recommend? I’d love to hear in the comments!