by C. B. Lee
I don't know what it is about Treasure Island, but I can't help but be drawn to it. It's one of very few classics that I enjoyed. Of course, I absolutely love Muppet Treasure Island, and I was completely obsessed with Black Sails. Now, A Clash of Steel can be added to my list of adored Treasure Island retellings. I was very excited for it, but also extremely nervous going into it. But that was unfounded because I was quickly hooked!
A Clash of Steel starts of a bit slow, but I liked Xiang right away. She's living in a small fishing village while her mother is off running her teahouses and selling salt. All Xiang wants is to see the city, learn the family business, and make her mother proud. She finally gets her chance when her mother agrees to take her to Canton to learn about running the teahouse there. This is when the story really picks up, and I didn't want to put it down.
If you're familiar with Treasure Island, I'm sure you can guess how the story unfolds. That doesn't mean A Clash of Steel is predictable. Not at all! This is its own complete story with interesting characters, adventure, and twists and turns. Aside from being set in China, there's also a sapphic romance between Xiang and the daughter of the captain she winds up sailing with to find a long lost treasure. It's super sweet to see Xiang come to terms with where her affections lie, since she's never realized that she could love another girl. It's just not something she was exposed to in her village. They're not the only queer couple either.
I just really enjoyed A Clash of Steel. I'm a huge fan of pirates, which is probably what drew me to Treasure Island in the first place. But there's something about this mysterious treasure that calls to me, as it did to Xiang. It's a fun adventure, and I was never sure how exactly it would end. It could have gone in any number of ways, but where it winds up was satisfying. I did wish for a bit more though, maybe an epilogue of where Xiang wound up. But as it stands, I fully recommend A Clash of Steel if you're looking for a feminist adventure.
by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick
Proceed With Caution:
This book contains alcoholism, jail, social anxiety, and internalized racism.
She Gets the Girl is narrated by eighteen-year-old college freshmen Molly and Alex. Molly is hoping to finally make some friends, overcome her anxiety, and possibly talk to her long time crush. Alex just wants to make ends meet while attending classes, taking care of her mom, and proving to her girlfriend that she can be faithful and emotionally available. The two girls meet and Alex offers to help Molly get the girl, while also having something to show her own girl that she's changed.
I really enjoyed She Gets the Girl from the very beginning. It did lose me a bit at the end, but overall it's nearly exactly what I wanted to read! Alex is this player who wants to prove to her girlfriend that she can change. Molly is shy and awkward and adorable. The two couldn't be any more different except for their lack of friends and real relationships. Basically, it's an opposites attract romance with a dash of fake dating (kind of, it's cute!).
While the romance is super cute, it was not my favorite part of the She Gets the Girl. We already know where it's going, it's in the title! What really stood out to me was Molly and Alex making friends and having the college experience. Molly was especially relatable to me since I'm not good with people, but I do have two close friends. But we both basically rely on our moms for all relationship needs. It was always nice to see Molly open up bit by bit and realizing that she can be herself and still liked.
Molly's crush on Cora was the most relatable thing though. I know most of us have had a crush on someone that we only ever admired from afar. We put them on a pedestal, and if we get the chance to know them, we realized that we don't really know them at all. It's all in our head. It's not necessarily a bad thing, because we can get to know them. But...it's a hard thing. Something Molly has to learn, but the lesson is kind of wasted since she has Alex right there.
She Gets the Girl absolutely dropped the ball on what I considered the most important plot thread: making friends! Yes, I know this is a Romance, but Molly and Alex desperately need friends. Alex only ever has a temporary girlfriend or a series of hook-ups; she needs someone that she's not dating or sleeping with in her life! Poor Molly also jumped the friend-zone with her crush, only to have that crash and burn, and wind up with Alex. By the look of things, neither girl is going to be friends with Cora despite heading in that direction for most of the book. Platonic friendships are so important! I would have loved to see both of them find their friend group outside of their relationship.
I also didn't like how Alex's girlfriend Natalie wound up being the villain. I completely understood her frustration at Alex flirting with every girl she meets. But once they reunite and Alex is trying to show her how she's changed, she just isn't listening. She's very nasty to Alex, which was uncalled for. There was a way to make it so that she was maybe indifferent because she's ultimately getting what she wants anyway. But to be outright awful? It didn't fit. We already know Alex wants Molly. We don't need to villainize Natalie to make their break-up legit.
Overall, She Gets the Girl is wonderful. It's extremely relatable and I loved Alex and Molly. Yes, I had some complaints about the direction the plot took, but it didn't really dampen my enjoyment. Although this could have easily been five stars if it hadn't derailed a bit.
Thank you NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for the chance to read and review The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill.
The Woman in the Library came out on the 7th of June. This is not Sulari Gentill’s first book; she also has a 10 book long series Rowland Sinclair WWII Mysteries. The Woman in the Library is 292 pages long (at least the kindle version is) and it’s a work of epistolary fiction. It’s currently top of that list on the amazon charts.
Sulari Gentill's new book is set towards the start of the pandemic. It starts off fairly wholesome. Our main character, Hannah, is writing another book (she’s a published writer) and corresponding with her pen pal and fan, Leo, and sending him chapters. Leo is also writing a novel but has been getting turned down by agents and publishers. As the pandemic sets in Hannah’s plans to visit the US get derailed, but she keeps writing the book. It’s an amateur sleuth novel (which is one of the genre’s that The Woman in the Library belongs to), while Leo keeps helping her by digging up information on the city the book is set in. Of course, as the novel progresses, we realise that there is much more going on.
Within the novel that Hannah writes we have four strangers bonded by a scream in the library. They end up becoming friends bonded by the murder and the weird stuff that happens to Freddie, the main character. We’re told by Leo who the killer is early (we can only presume that this is an email from Hannah to Leo as we never do see her emails), and it’s interesting to see the characters come to that conclusion slowly. We’re shown that Freddie really liked the killer and doesn’t want to believe it’s him; she’s the unreliable narrator but we’re also still curious to see if she’s right or not.
The woman in the library has a banging plot. Like the plot is phenomenal (I’m not revealing anymore because spoilers) and so interesting that I had to finish the book. I just wish that Sulari Gentills writing matched up. This book has so much potential but it just fell short and it’s hard to explain that to another person unless they’ve read it but I’ll try.
Hannah sends each chapter to Leo to read. Leo reads the chapter and writes a short email back on how much he loves everything and sends her helpful information on the US. Those chapters are not well written. I couldn’t fathom anyone liking Cain or Freddie or chapter-Leo, or Whit or Marigold. Leo’s love of Marigold and love for everything Hannah wrote was a little annoying. On the one hand, that could be intentional, to show that this is a writer working through things, but on the other hand, as it formed the bulk of the book, it also took away from the novel, even though that plot was great. I would have liked to have seen better chapters sent from Hannah to Leo, and smaller corrections like phrases and things.
I saw the thing with email-Leo coming. I don’t know if other readers did or did not, but I didn’t mind that. Again, the plot is great. But my problem is that the chapters were not good enough to hold my interest and by the end I was skimming; at that point if there was a change in the style of Hannahs writing (which Leo pointed out was getting heavy handed), I didn’t pick up on it. Had those earlier chapters been more put together I would have loved seeing this happen. I also didn’t like the ending to the chapters, which could have been better done. I wish the killer was different; this felt like garbage.