#85 – Wolves of the Calla, by Stephen King
The story is solid, the illustrations in this edition are gorgeous (and often a trifle unnerving), and I enjoyed the whole read.
Did it knock my socks off like Wizard and Glass did? No, no it didn’t.
Does it have one hell of a cliffhanger to keep me going to book 6? Yes, yes it does.
My major complaint about Wolves is the pacing. The characters remark that they’re going to a whole lot of trouble to prepare for “five minutes of blood and stupidity,” and they’re right–the month they spend in Calla Bryn Sturgis takes the first 600+ pages, and the “five minutes” comes only at the very, very end, with the tiny epilogue afterward to set up the cliffhanger. Now, I love the worldbuilding–the Calla definitely seems real, or at least as real as anything can seem in this series that abandoned coincidence several books ago–but Father Callahan’s backstory in the middle was a real slow point for me. I haven’t read ‘Salem’s Lot (though now I most assuredly will) so I didn’t already know Callahan from it, which made it harder for me to get invested in him. (Not like the thrill I got in W+G when I recognized Randall Flagg from The Stand, one of my all-time favorite books.)
So it’s not bad, not at all, but there’s a definite dip in quality from the previous book. Though, how could there not be?
#86 – You Know Me Well, by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
This story scratches a lot of itches for me. It’s about facing changes. It’s about friendships of all kinds–the firmly entrenched, the slowly fading, and the possibly transient.
It’s about a bunch of teenagers who are hella queer and their lives aren’t terrible and only about tragedy, misery, and pain.
The world needs this book, and more like it. Happy queer kids, or at least queer kids who are only unhappy in the same ways everyone else is as a teenager–unsure of their place in the world as adults, under enormous pressure to figure out their whole lives right now.
I could relate to both of the protagonists easily–Kate for her crippling case of Imposter Syndrome, and Mark, because I too was once desperately in love with my best friend who had no chance of ever returning my feelings. Not that that’s not common, but in this case, it was really damn convincing, and I like the way it was handled in the end.
#87 – More Than Music, by Elizabeth Briggs
I came across this last year when the second novel in Briggs’ Chasing the Dream series got recommended to me, and I saw the first novel was (at the time) being offered for free, so I picked it up. I can now delete this one and take More Than Comics off my to-read list, because Music didn’t impress me at all.
Maddie Taylor is the bland narrator who displays most of the qualities I’d expect from a typical YA heroine, despite this clearly being a New Adult work with college-age protagonists. She’s a self-proclaimed “geek” who’s clumsy, insecure, and down on herself about her looks. Yet she manages to capture the attention of a bad-boy up-and-coming rock star who’s obviously out of her league, because she only dates nice boys even though they don’t actually seem to interest her much.
I’m bored already. But wait, it gets worse!
The plot, once past the initial set-up, is predictable beyond belief. Maddie and Jared (the rock god) have an improbable moment of “connection” when she sneaks off at his party and ends up playing his guitar and singing one of his band’s songs. Then the band’s bassist quits, so Jared takes over her role so they can ask Maddie to take his place on guitar. “Just for the audition,” he asks. What audition? For a reality show that’s clearly a whole-band take on The Voice.
But when they show up to audition, what do you know? No changes to the band are allowed post-audition. (An incredibly sensible, obvious rule that I saw coming a mile away.) So Maddie takes the plunge and joins the band. (Duh.) They make it onto the show. (Duh.) There are a number of falsely tense moments when the reader is supposed to wonder if they’re going to survive elimination from week to week. (They always do.) And the whole time, absolutely everything about the band’s image, popularity, and Maddie’s own puny sense of self-worth are telling her not to get involved with Jared, because it’s just about the worst idea in the world, since she (and everyone else) thinks he’s a playboy.
So of course they hook up! There wouldn’t be a story if they didn’t! And what do you know, it’s a terrible idea and causes all sorts of problems (like both she and the reader could see it would) until somehow magically at the end, Jared turns out to be a great guy after all and declares his love on stage for everyone to see. And that makes it all okay, right?
I kept waiting for the story to surprise me somehow, to give me something beyond plodding to the next inevitable plot point, but it never did.
#88 – Adam, by Chris Keniston
This romance was outside my usual tastes for a number of reasons, but in an interesting way. I’m no stranger to small-town romances or family-based romance series, and this is both, but with a hint of cowboy thrown in. Adam’s a veterinarian, not an actual cowboy, but who doesn’t love a man who loves animals?
And I’m no stranger to brides-on-the-run stories either. Meg ends up in Adam’s town when her car breaks down, and with no money and no place to go, she (of course) becomes a waitress. Yes, it’s clichéd, but Meg is well aware the whole time of how lucky she is that the townspeople are being kind and helping her out. It’s played straight, and her honest gratefulness goes a long way to making me less annoyed with the set-up.
The main issue, to me, was that the story felt rushed. This romance is much cleaner and more wholesome than most–both leads have the stray dirty thoughts to go with their obvious sparking chemistry–but the story arc ends with their second kiss and declarations of love after only having been on one proper date. It’s not the lack of sex itself that irks me, because the attraction between Adam and Meg was well-developed enough for a decent slow-burn-style story, but the fact that it couldn’t be a slow-burn because the book was too short to support it!
That being said, I did enjoy it, and I’ll put the next book in the series on my TBR to remind myself to pick it up later, when I’ve whittled down my stacks enough.
#89 – Last Resort, by Jill Sanders
DNF @ 18%. I didn’t need longer than that to come to a conclusion about this book: it’s bad.
In fact, the quality of the prose is so awful it angered me. Among the flaws I noted were repetitive sentence construction, awkward similes, dangling modifiers, and unnecessary apostrophes. Did anyone edit this?
The icing on the cake was at the point I gave up, where Cassey (the MC) watched Luke (the love interest) do the same action twice in one page. Now, that’s not to say he did the thing twice–I assume he opened and walked through the gate to her patio once, and didn’t walk back out so he could do it again. No, she “watched” him open the page at the top of the page, then “watched” him do it again half the page down. Was he still doing it? Did it really take him that long?
And that’s another thing about the writing–it’s stuffed with filter words. Cassey knew things, and she watched things, and she heard things. That’s not to say these verbs never have their uses, but the reader had to observe Cassey observing everything else–nothing just happened. It’s tiring.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the 18% of the story I read was simply boring. The prologue was long and melodramatic. I assume it’s paid off later in the story, but at the moment, it’s just jarringly disconnected, which is why avoiding prologues is such a common piece of writing advice. Luke isn’t introduced until about 13% in, and when he is, he’s a cocky corporate bad guy who’s trying to get Cassey to sell her business. Okay, that could be the central conflict between them, and it’s a solid one, but when we switch to a narrative from his perspective, his thought process basically boils down to wanting to seduce her into selling. NO THANK YOU I’M DONE NOW. I could accept his unwillingness to take her refusal to sell at face value when it was purely a business matter, not a personal one–his job is to convince her, so even though no should signal the end of most conversations, he needs to be persistent. It’s unpleasant, but it’s not gross.
Seducing her into selling is gross. No matter what happens in the rest of the book, it can’t redeem Luke for me. He’s a sleazebag. So why bother reading it?