Emily Gee, Thief with No Shadow
I recently reread Gee’s The Laurentine Spy and quite enjoyed it, so I decided to dust off this book too. The plot is tricky to summarize, but it involves sinister magical creatures, a stolen necklace, and a curse. Melke and Bastian hate each other at first; he needs the necklace to break the curse, but she stole it to save her brother’s life. When they’re forced to spend time together as her brother heals, they begin to understand one another better. I found this book very compelling and stayed up too late last night to finish it. But at the same time, I’m not sure I actually liked it that much. I love an enemies-to-lovers romance, but Bastian is so furious and straight-up mean for most of the novel that it’s hard to accept him as a hero. There’s also some weird sex stuff in the book; not all of it is consensual, and some of it involves nonhuman magical creatures. Granted, the book knows this is icky, not sexy, but it’s still unpleasant to read about! So, while I’d consider reading more by this author, I don’t think this particular book is for me.
Manda Collins, A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem
Lady Katherine Bascomb owns and writes for a London newspaper. Her latest article criticizes Scotland Yard for negligence in investigating a series of shocking murders, and the article causes lead investigator Andrew Eversham to be taken off the case. But when Kate later stumbles on another dead body, and the methods are similar to those of the previous murders, Eversham is assigned to the new case. He and Kate work together to discover the killer and navigate a growing attraction to each other. I really liked the premise of this book, with its blend of historical romance and mystery, but for me the execution fell flat. Kate and Andrew are 21st-century characters in period dress, and I just didn’t find them believable. The mystery plot is also disappointing; the villain’s motive is ridiculously farfetched. I don’t plan to continue this series, but considering how many others I’m trying to catch up with, that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Rachel Bloom, I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are
I’m a huge fan of the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which is an insightful, at times painful exploration of mental illness wrapped in a musical comedy. So I was excited to read Rachel Bloom’s memoir — she co-created and starred in the show and was also one of the writers and composers. But to my disappointment, the book doesn’t focus much on the show; instead, it delves deep into Rachel’s awkward childhood, her experiences with bullying, her love of musical theater, and her struggles with depression and anxiety. Still, there were things I enjoyed about this book — the chapter that’s presented as a musical (which you can hear Rachel perform on her website!) is a particular delight. But I also thought some of the humor was a bit labored, and overall I just didn’t like the book as much as I was hoping to.