I had to do a quite a lot of scrolling to find my last review, making this post very easy to find options to talk about. Some of these titles I don’t know how to review. (Poetry, I’m looking at you.) Others were great, but like…can’t I just have a treat for finishing a book?
These are the ten most memorable books I’ve read that deserved reviews if I weren’t such a trash fire of a book blogger.
*****Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins
Published by Random House on April 5, 2011
Buy on Amazon
Billy Collins is widely acknowledged as a prominent player at the table of modern American poetry. And in this new collection, Horoscopes for the Dead, the verbal gifts that earned him the title “America’s most popular poet” are on full display. The poems here cover the usual but everlasting themes of love and loss, life and death, youth and aging, solitude and union. With simple diction and effortless turns of phrase, Collins is at once ironic and elegiac, as in the opening lines of the title poem: Every morning since you disappeared for good, I read about you in the newspaper along with the box scores, the weather, and all the bad news. Some days I am reminded that today will not be a wildly romantic time for you . . . And in this reflection on his own transience: It doesn’t take much to remind me what a mayfly I am, what a soap bubble floating over the children’s party. Standing under the bones of a dinosaur in a museum does the trick every time or confronting in a vitrine a rock from the moon. Smart, lyrical, and not afraid to be funny, these new poems extend Collins’s reputation as a poet who occupies a special place in the consciousness of readers of poetry, including the many he has converted to the genre.
My introduction to Billy Collins was through his Masterclass on poetry. I’m going to excuse this massive lapse in judgment with the fact I was a preteen when he became the United States Poet Laureate. I had other things going on like permanently weird bangs, crippling crushes, and trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Fast forward twenty years, and the only thing I have now is better hair.
Thanks to his class, I have a reawakened love of poetry. Both his collections and several others have been a steady pull throughout quarantine. The titular poem of this book remains my favorite. My world is a little richer for having read it.
*****The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Published by Scholastic Press on May 19, 2020
Buy on Amazon
It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.
The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined -- every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.
I’m happy to report I am not too old to massively fangirl over anything Hunger Games related. Collins still knows how to sucker me in with a happy scene and make me gasp/cry/swear in the next paragraph when she turns it all to shit in the best way. I didn’t know I needed more from Panem, but I did, and I do, so keep on bringing it.
*****They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall
Published by Forge on April 9, 2019
Buy on Amazon
It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime.
Delighted by a surprise invitation, Miriam Macy sails off to a luxurious private island off the coast of Mexico, with six strangers—an ex-cop, a chef, a financial advisor, a nurse, a lawyer, a young widow.
Surrounded by miles of open water in the gloriously green Sea of Cortez, Miriam is shocked to discover that she and the rest of her companions have been brought to the remote island under false pretenses—and all seven strangers harbor a secret.
Danger lurks in the lush forest and in the halls and bedrooms of the lonely mansion. Sporadic cell-phone coverage and miles of ocean keeps the group trapped in paradise. And strange accidents keep them suspicious of each other, as one by one . . .
They all fall down
My biggest issue with this book (which was perfectly fine), is that it was repeatedly sold as a retelling/the next And Then There Were None. I should have known better than to read a new and different version of my favorite whodunnit of all time. I’m hopeful one day I will find a book who boasts the next Agatha Christie and it will be the real deal. This just wasn’t it.
*****Lovewrecked by Karina Halle
Published by Karina Halle on April 25, 2020
Buy on Amazon
From the NYT bestselling author of A Nordic King comes an all-new standalone romantic comedy.
A grumpy groomsman. A surprise shipwreck. Stuck on a deserted island together? Worst maid-of-honor gig ever.
Daisy Lewis is experiencing a relentless string of bad luck.
Fortunately, Daisy has her sister’s destination wedding coming up. A week of sand, sea, and sun in the South Pacific as the maid-of-honor is exactly what Daisy needs to forget her upturned life and focus on the positive.
That is until Daisy meets the best man.
If you take tall, dark, and handsome, and add a dash of rugged, a pinch of brooding, and a whole lot of sexy, you’ve got Tai Wakefield. Unfortunately he’s also a major grump, total alpha, and seemingly out to antagonize Daisy at every turn.
As if being part of the wedding party with Tai wasn’t bad enough, Daisy’s bad luck soon resurfaces when she ends up on a cramped sailboat with Tai and the newlyweds.
Which then shipwrecks on a deserted island near Fiji.
Okay, so they aren’t completely alone. There’s an oddball research scientist who has been isolated for far too long, they have rundown bungalows as shelter, stores of water and canned food, plus a feral goat named Wilson.
It’s Lost…without the smoke monster.
But with rescue weeks away, Tai and Daisy realize the only way they’re going to get through this mess is to stop fighting and start working together.And with their guards down, they get closer.
A lot closer.
Soon, Daisy realizes that the only thing worse than being stuck on a deserted island, is being stuck on a deserted island with a man she hates to love and loves to hate.
A man that can break her heart.
Ok, we have a shipwreck, a sexy brooding hunkahunka, a strong-willed heroine, and one sassy-ass goat. There was really no chance I wasn’t going to be in love with this book. Well done, KH.
*****Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Published by Avon on November 5, 2019
Buy on Amazon
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?
• Enjoy a drunken night out.• Ride a motorcycle.• Go camping.• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.• And... do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
I can’t believe *this* was my first Talia Hibbert, but I have found my new obsession. The highest praise I can give a book is before I’m even finished I’ve gone out an bought several other titles by the author because I don’t want to be without my next read, and that absolutely happened with this book.
*****Plunge #1 by Joe Hill
Published by DC Black Label on February 19, 2020
Buy on Amazon
In the aftermath of a devastating tsunami, an exploration vessel known as the Derleth begins sending an automated distress signal from a remote atoll in the Bering Strait. The only problem is that the Derleth has been missing for 40 years. Marine biologist Moriah Lamb joins the Carpenter Salvage team to recover the Derleth’s dead...only to find that in this remote part of the Arctic Circle the dead have plenty to say to the living...Joe Hill and Stuart Immonen’s Plunge into terror begins here!
I’m still a bit grumpy I don’t have issue 2 in my possession yet. I bought Plunge for my birthday on my last trip to my comic book store before shutdown. I really, really want to know what happens next. I think like most graphic novels, the intro only left me wanting more.
*****In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on October 6, 2020
Buy on Amazon
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but thirty-year-old Maelyn Jones is in the midst of a major crisis. She’s living with her mom, hates her boring job, and has yet to make any romantic progress with Andrew, the friend she’s been in love with for the last thirteen years.
But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born. Devastated as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple wish to the universe: show me what will make me happy.
The next thing she knows there’s a screech of tires and metal, followed by Mae gasping awake…on an airplane bound for Utah. Now Mae has the chance to live the holidays all over again but with one disaster after another sending her repeatedly back in time, she has to figure out how to end this strange holiday loop and get Andrew under the mistletoe. Otherwise, she’s going to need a miracle.
With Christina Lauren’s trademark “heartfelt and funny” (Kirkus Reviews) prose, this swoon-worthy romance will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.
I have been pretty moody with my fave author duo for their last few books, but I think they’ve broken through the funk with this one. It reminds me of the good old days when I would stay up an entire night, holding my eyelids open to finish reading a chapter after a long day at work. This certainly doesn’t push out my reigning sappy or funny favorites, but it’s a solid romance that has me hopeful for even more CL in my future.
*****House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on March 3, 2020
Buy on Amazon
Bound by blood.Tempted by desire.Unleashed by destiny.
Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.
I feel like I could copy and paste the same review from above here. After flat out ruining my favorite series and then delivering another lackluster end to the other, I wasn’t sure I was going to read any more SJM. This was my last ditch effort before I decided whether or not the magic was gone. While I reserve the right to be royally miffed if she can’t close on this series, for now, the opener was everything I was hoping against hope it would be.
*****Devotions by Mary Oliver
Published by Penguin Press on October 10, 2017
Buy on Amazon
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver presents a personal selection of her best work in this definitive collection spanning more than five decades of her esteemed literary career.
Throughout her celebrated career, Mary Oliver has touched countless readers with her brilliantly crafted verse, expounding on her love for the physical world and the powerful bonds between all living things. Identified as "far and away, this country's best selling poet" by Dwight Garner, she now returns with a stunning and definitive collection of her writing from the last fifty years.
Carefully curated, these 200 plus poems feature Oliver's work from her very first book of poetry, No Voyage and Other Poems, published in 1963 at the age of 28, through her most recent collection, Felicity, published in 2015. This timeless volume, arranged by Oliver herself, showcases the beloved poet at her edifying best. Within these pages, she provides us with an extraordinary and invaluable collection of her passionate, perceptive, and much-treasured observations of the natural world.
Have you ever read something and thought, “ah, this person and I have kindred souls.” Well that’s me and Mary Oliver. One poem describing a walk through the forest, and I knew it.
*****Paper Girls, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, Jared K. Fletcher
Published by Image Comics on November 30, 2016
Buy on Amazon
Brian K. Vaughan, #1 New York Times bestselling writer of SAGA, and Cliff Chiang, legendary artist of WONDER WOMAN, return with acclaimed colorist Matt Wilson and innovative letterer Jared K. Fletcher for the second volume of PAPER GIRLS, as the hit series continues with a bold new direction.
After surviving the strangest night of their lives in the Cleveland suburb of Stony Stream, intrepid young newspaper deliverers Erin, Mac, and Tiffany find themselves launched from 1988 to a distant and terrifying future... the year 2016.
What would you do if you were suddenly confronted by your 12-year-old self? 40-year-old newspaper reporter Erin Tieng is about to find out in this action-packed story about identity, mortality, and growing older in the 21st century.
Collects PAPER GIRLS #6-#10
I’m really glad I impulse-bought all six volumes of this series, because I’ve been slowly chipping away through them over the past few months. Which is a feat as they are darn near unputdownable.
My conscience is a smidge clearer now, even with these half-assed reviews. What’s the best thing you’ve read during our trip in the Upside Down?