BOOK REVIEW: FIVE TUESDAYS IN WINTER by LILY KING


Five Tuesdays in Winter

A lot of the time when I read slice-of-life short stories, I feel underwhelmed more than anything else. It’s not that I dislike these stories, exactly, but rather that they often end up feeling ungrounded, “slices” that don’t evoke any underlying sense of the totality that they’ve presumably been “sliced” from. That is, the characters and their stories feel like props on a stage, a tableau contrived for the sake of the short story but that falls apart as soon as that story is over.

I bring this up because you will find none of that in Lily King’s excellent collection. King’s stories are slice-of-life, yes, but far from feeling flimsy or ungrounded, they are substantial and, more remarkably, moving. The stories in Five Tuesdays in Winter find their characters–children, teenagers, young adults, mothers, fathers–in singular moments in their lives, times during which their ways of thinking–and living–have been called into question, brought into the light, disrupted, shifted. All these moments hinge on the interpersonal, on a growing relationship or a severed one, or else on a relationship that a character must now renegotiate on different terms: a mother trying to connect with her daughter in the wake of her husband’s death, a boy learning to see his life differently in the absence of his parents, a man reuniting with the college roommate he used to be infatuated with. To say that these moments are singular, though, is not to say that they entail some kind of monumental upheaval; they are small moments, but just because they are small does not mean that they register as any less important to the characters who experience them.

More to the point, what I love about King’s stories is that they feel meaningful without being dramatic; they convey a real sense of impact without resorting to overblown scenes or language. The writing is measured and graceful, the stories pared down in a way that feels compelling rather than plain: you want to know more, but you are only given enough to know that you want more. Nowhere is this more evident than in this collection’s characters: the characters in Five Tuesdays in Winter feel fleshed out not because we’re given some perfunctory background on them in each story, but rather because we are allowed illuminating little glimpses into the lives they lead.

(My favourite story was by far “Five Tuesdays in Winter,” but I also especially loved “When in the Dordogne,” “North Sea,” “Creature,” and “South.”)

The stories in Five Tuesdays in Winter are by turns affirming and unsettling, hopeful and melancholy, but regardless of tone I thought this was just an all around lovely collection.

Thank you to Grove Atlantic for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!


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BOOK REVIEW: IN THE EVENT OF LOVE by COURTNEY KAE


4.5 stars

Friends to lovers! Second chance romance! Homecoming story! Small town charm! I was pretty much destined to love this, and I DID.

God, this was just the sweetest romance. There is so much that I loved about it. First and foremost, the romance itself: Morgan and Rachel are so incredibly cute together. What I always look for in a romance is a sense that the characters need to be together; like if I’m not rooting for them, then what even is the point of reading the romance to begin with? And listen, I was rooting for Morgan and Rachel so hard!!!! You really get a feel for how much history they have–I loved the little tidbits we got of their time together as kids and teens–and that history translates so well into the dynamic that they come to have as adults. They care for each other so deeply, and you see it in every one of their scenes, in the big moments and in the small ones–and Kae is especially good at writing those small moments, too, the little things and details that, to me, speak so much louder than the big, punchy moments often do.

Aside from the romance, there are also so many other things that impressed me about this novel. For one, the narrative voice is pitch perfect. I feel like when it comes to narrative voice, a lot of the contemporary romances I’ve read try really hard to be quirky and funny in a way that ends up being offputting rather than charming. You feel like they’re trying really hard because they are trying really hard. I never felt like that was the case here, though. Morgan’s narrative voice was just right all the way through: fun in a way that gives the narrative levity without it feeling forced or cringey.

Another thing that stood out to me about In the Event of Love is how it manages to effectively develop a sense of community with memorable side characters and plots. The story is set in a small, tight-knit town in the winter, and Kae does such a great job at bringing to life the charming ~vibes~ of this town. It’s a setting I normally don’t gravitate towards–I was never a Cozy Winter kind of person–but it just worked so well here. Plus you’ve got a host of other side characters that get their chance to shine–namely Morgan’s friends, Ben and Adam (I can’t wait for their book!!!!), and her dad–without detracting from or overpowering the main romantic plotline.

I don’t know what else to say–I just loved this a whole lot. It flows well, it’s well paced and well written, and it’s a debut to boot, which makes it that much more impressive. You can really tell just how much time and care has gone into this book, and that translates into such an endearing and moving reading experience. It’s one thing for a book to make me cry because it’s sad, but for a book to make me cry because it’s happy?? That’s when I know I have a new favourite on my hands.

Thanks so much to Kensington Books for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!


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BOOK REVIEW: THE OLEANDER SWORD by TASHA SURI


Sometimes I try to be fancy with my reviews but I’m just gonna cut straight to the chase with this one: The Oleander Sword was absolutely incredible–not just a stellar novel in its own right, but also a sequel that improves upon its (already excellent) predecessor in almost every way.

I don’t even know how to review this because I honestly don’t have a single bad thing to say about it. Everything about The Oleander Sword worked for me. It’s such an ambitious novel; it takes big leaps–with its characters, its plot, its worldbuilding–and it sticks the landing with every single one of them. The world feels so much more expansive in this installment, which is exactly what you want out of a sequel. Because Suri has already adeptly laid out a solid foundation for her world and characters in the first book, the sequel allows us to delve more into that world, and to get a broader view at how its pieces fit together. What’s more, The Oleander Sword takes seriously the ramifications of the events of its predecessor; where The Jasmine Throne planted some important seeds for us, The Oleander Sword allows us to see them grow. Maybe this doesn’t seem all that praiseworthy–aren’t all second books of a series expected to follow up on the events of the first?–but it isThe Oleander Sword is impressive not just because its excellent as its own self-contained story, but because it delivers on what its predecessor sets up. Suri’s writing promises, and then follows through.

Onto the characters, who are the beating heart of this book, and whom I ADORED. Of course, I have to start with Priya and Malini, whose dynamic just blew me away. The Oleander Sword is a much more romantic book than The Jasmine Throne, and it is so much the better for it. I say this not just because I love reading romance, but also because the romance adds a real sense of stakes and gravity to the story. Priya and Malini’s romance is tender and heartfelt, extremely personal to both them, but at the same time it’s inextricable from the political power dynamics that they find themselves instrumental to. Their relationship cannot exist outside their political circumstances precisely because it is very much part of shaping those circumstances. And let me tell you, it is just SO damn compelling to read about!!!!!! The intimacy! The honesty! The angst! More than anything, I found it all to be incredibly moving. Suri has such a deft hand when it comes to writing about these characters’ feelings and vulnerabilities; they never feel anything more, or less, than human.

I’ve talked a lot about Priya and Malini, but I also want to spotlight some of the other character dynamics that we get here. One of my favourite dynamics–one that was a real pleasant surprise for me–was the relationship between Rao and Aditya. We got to see a bit of these two in the first book, but the way their dynamic evolves in this one was so interesting. Aditya is very much still his elusive self, a little aloof and a lot inwardly focused; what changes here is the way Rao relates to him, and the way that the events of the plot alter their dynamics. And I loved getting to hear more from Rao, too. I felt much closer to him this time around, and could really sympathize with how adrift he felt amongst all the political machinations he’s caught up in. I also want to mention Bhumika, who is an absolute standout, as per usual; we’ve always known her to be ever competent and resourceful, but this book sees her challenged to her core. I don’t want to give too much away, but her POV was easily one of the most poignant ones of the book.

Finally, I want to mention the writing, because Suri’s prose is just luminous. I don’t know how she does it, but there is something about Tasha Suri’s work that is always so extremely readable. Her prose is easy to read but never plain or boring. It has a real sense of grace and economy to it; it says what it needs to say and says it well.

The Oleander Sword was a lot of things–emotional, engaging, well-paced and -plotted–but what stood out to me most after finishing it was how epic it felt. The story of this series has grown so much more expansive with this second installment, and I cannot tell you how unbelievably excited I am for the final book. Like, if the second book has already done this much, then I can’t even begin to imagine what the third one will do.

Thanks so much to Orbit for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!



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