she’s reading: february into march

Dear TBR,

Truthfully, February and early March kind of did my head in. While the HarperCollins strike was ongoing, I was trying to finish my novel while worrying a little about my editor, and so writing up what I was reading was at the moment wasn’t really happening. Additionally, I had what I can only term a tiny reading slump, where I DNF’d a lot more than I actually read… So, I’m keeping my list slim, and only including books where I got past the 50% mark.

HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS AND UNFAIRLY CUTE: Talia Hibbert brings the same banter energy to her YA debut that she brings to her adult books. This is definitely a romance, but you don’t get that vibe entirely until at least a third of the way in (or, half, if you’re stubborn). Mostly you get a lot of pent-up aggravation. I remember (too, too well) relationships like these in school, where someone you know far too well knows how to get on your very last nerve. I appreciated most the male character’s OCD, and how those who know him best (his best frenemy) know to help him when he gets stuck or overwhelmed. I loved that Celine did this for him even when angry, and I appreciated how Brad cared about hurting Celine, even though he genuinely thought he hated her. The relationship is rekindles in an organic fashion (helped on by THE most meddling immigrant parents), yet there are hesitancies and fears surrounding getting involved when senior year has SO much going on. All in all, I was happy to gulp this one in a single sitting.

COFFEE, MILK, AND SPIDER SILK: Okay, this was cute. I’m admittedly biased in favor of coffee/tea shop novels, and this one gave me such joy. Of course, I am also arachnophobic to a ridiculous degree, so the fact that the main character is an eleven foot tall “drider” variant of battle spider didn’t… help me, but I was glad that they didn’t have her on the cover? ANYWAY, she’s a RETIRED cop, and she’s starting a coffee shop as a second job, because who doesn’t want to be a soft place for others to land? But, starting a business is, frankly, crappy, and it’s harder work than she expected. However, given time and the belief of her friends, she manages. And, that’s it. That’s the whole novel. It is cozy and lovely and makes you really need a milky cuppa and some scones. It’s a novel which is fantastical and magical, but the magic is mostly in the coziness, and the friendships. This was a gem.

MY LIFE IN THE FISH TANK: I appreciate Barbara Dee’s writing to the extent that I knew that I would find value in this book. Zinnia is part of a normal, busy family who basically has Life run into them. Zinnia’s older brother, Gabriel, wrecks a car… and isn’t quite acting right in the emergency room, so much so that Zinnia’s parents, when they go and get him, don’t come back for hours. It becomes quickly apparent that Something Is Wrong, but it’s more than bruises and a broken collar bone. Nobody tells the rest of the kids this, though, as communications breaks down almost immediately. Zinnia, her older sister Scarlett, and younger brother Aiden are left waiting fearfully. The thing that has happened is that Gabe has had a mental health issue, but Zinnia’s parents say it’s “Private,” which means …nobody talks about it. This is really hard on everyone, including, eventually, Gabriel. How a family deals with a.) the unexpected, b.) if the unexpected is a mental illness which is poorly depicted in popular culture, and c.) how each individual has to navigate a family crisis are the main focus of this book. I can’t say I “enjoyed” it, because it’s a problem novel in the traditional sense, in some ways, but it would be super comforting to a child with A Big Family Issue that is being kept secret.

BOOKISH & THE BEAST: Ashley Poston has been rewriting Disney films into Con Novels since her very popular Geekerella, and this is the third in the series. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which I’m a sucker for, which is why I picked it up. BUT, since BatB has some baked-in problematic tropes (a.) A beastly man just needs the “right” woman to train/reform/love him, b.) women should be pushovers/put men’s needs first if a man apologizes well and often enough for said beastly behaviors, c.) everyone in a relationship wants to own you, imprison you, save you, or needs to be saved BY you. I’m well aware it’s not the healthiest fairytale, so my DNF here is totally on me. The Beast in this novel is WAY too beastly for me. I mean, you can be a buttheaded character if you have a legitimate excuse, but “poor little rich boy” was not it for me. The character was emotionally empty and really seemed to lean heavily upon this girl and this “one perfect night” they had which drew him back to her, even as he’d been a real piece of work before. Additionally, the subplots which were included were so numerous that there didn’t feel like enough time to dig deeply into some of the emotional issues – it felt like the other storylines – a stalker-y classmate who is an absolute boor and insists she’s going to be his Homecoming queen, a dead mother, a stepparent relationship, etc. etc. Because this is a novel written in the “right now,” there’s a lot of pop culture references which are also right now. While many writers might be concerned that this potentially may date the book, for me, it made it a little distancing to read, as I am not on the bleeding edge of cool. This had a ton going for it, but when a “oops, ran into the boy I dislike and somehow, somewhere lost my phone” scene happened, I couldn’t go on.

Fresh onto the TBR:

  • The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor, by Shaenon K. Garrity and Christopher Baldwin
  • Red, White & Whole, by Rajani LaRocca


Until the next book, 📖

Still A Constant Reader

About the author

tanita s. davis is a writer and avid reader who prefers books to most things in the world, including people. That's ...pretty much it, she's very boring and she can't even tell jokes. She is, however, the author of nine books, including Serena Says, Partly Cloudy, Go Figure, Henri Weldon, and the Coretta Scott King honored Mare's War. Look for her new MG, The Science of Friendship in 1/2024 from Katherine Tegen Books.

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