Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads – May 2021
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Find book reviews of new 2021 books to read this spring, including Other People’s Children, Meet Me in Another Life, The Plot, One Two Three, and One Last Stop, plus 2020 release The Bear .
Happy spring! It feels like lots of new beginnings around here, with things starting to open up, more people getting vaccines (I got mine!), and lovely spring weather. We’ve also been getting more rain than we’ve had in 70 years–so welcome after a summer and fall of wildfires last year.
I’m loving all the fresh greenness of the world, and this year’s fresh books are just adding to that excitement. My reading has had great variety, and my TBR is exploding–there’s just not enough time to read everything on my list!
If you’re feeling the same, I hope this month’s reviews will help you narrow it down a bit. Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:
Other People’s Children
Author: R.J. Hoffmann
Source: Simon & Schuster via Netgalley
Publish Date: April 6, 2021
After three miscarriages, Gail and John Durbin are ecstatic when Carli, a pregnant teenager, chooses them to adopt her daughter. But Carli’s mother, Marla, is determined that she won’t miss her granddaughter’s childhood as she did with her own children. She pushes hard for Carli to change her mind.
Fueled by love, intense emotions, and conflicting dreams, each mother makes impulsive choices that send them down a dire path–with a newborn baby at the center of it all. This book starts slowly down an expected path through the emotional process of adoption–and then it twists in some unexpected ways. It’s a bit of a wild ride for a book that starts out quiet and literary, but I had to find out what happened. Overall, a fascinating premise that was well-executed–save for a few outrageous turns that required some suspension of disbelief. 4 stars
Related: 17 Books about Motherhood and Mothers
Meet Me in Another Life
Author: Catriona Silvey
Source: William Morrow and Custom House via Netgalley
Publish Date: April 27, 2021
Thora and Santi meet at a clock tower as college students in Cologne and see in each other a kindred spirit. They share a fascination with the stars and with exploration. But their bond is quickly cut short by a tragic accident…
Until they find each other again, in another life. This time, Santi is a teacher and Thora is a young child in his class. And then another, in which they are married. And another, when they are colleagues. The book moves through these vignettes of multiple lives, and with each subsequent life, they remember more of their past lives. Soon, they are on a mission to understand and end the loop.
I had mixed feelings about this book. The walk through their lives and connection is lovely, and feels a bit mystical (though I lost track of “who” they were each time I put it down). It then takes an unexpected turn to sci-fi, which felt a little unsatisfying after a long journey through a more literary, existential journey. This is certainly unforgettable, though, and you’ll want to pick it up if you love genre-benders. 3.5 stars
Related: 11 Mind-Bending Books Set in Alternate Realities
Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
Source: Macmillan Audio
Publish Date: May 11, 2021
Jake is an author whose best days seem to be behind him. After the respectable showing of his first novel, he’s now teaching in a relatively unknown MFA program. When arrogant student Evan Parker proclaims the plot of his book “a sure thing,” Jake is doubtful–until he hears the plot.
Several years later, Jake learns that Evan has died, and the book has never been published. So Jake takes the plot and writes his own version–to astounding success. But then the messages start coming in, accusing him of stealing the story. As Jake chases the sender and learns more about Evan Parker, he finds out that his fictional story may be truer than he thought.
This fast-paced novel-within-a-novel is a fun ride, though it didn’t quite deliver on the promise of the can’t-miss plot in either book. I predicted the twists and endings in both–something I don’t consider myself particularly good at. An enjoyable listen, but all the hype made the predictability quite a let-down. 3.5 stars
Related: 11 Mysteries and Thrillers to Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat
One Two Three
Author: Laurie Frankel
Source: Macmillan Audio via Netgalley
Publish Date: June 8, 2021
Seventeen years ago, the water in the town of Bourne turned green. An unusual number of residents got cancer. Some died. Babies were born with disabilities, physical and mental. The chemical plant closed, but no one could ever prove it caused the problems. Now, Bourne is a dying, insular town. The teenage Mitchell triplets–Mab, Monday, and Mirabel–are well-known and beloved, but they each have challenges stemming from that environmental disaster, and their mother Nora remains obsessed with bringing the company to justice.
When a family moves into town–the first in years–they present new opportunity, but the town is divided on what kind. Some hope for revitalization, while others hope for justice. The triplets are determined to learn the truth about what happened. With captivating, alternating voices, Mab, Monday, and Mirabel tell their story.
This book from the author of the wonderful This Is How It Always Is was fantastic on audio–the characters were distinct and quirky, perceptive, and heartfelt. I’ve seen other reviewers say they are tougher to distinguish in print, so I do recommend the audio. 5 stars
Related: 17 Books About Sibling Relationships
One Last Stop
Author: Casey McQuiston
Source: Macmillan Audio via Netgalley
Publish Date: June 1, 2021
Twenty-three-year-old August is ready to escape her past. After spending her life helping her mother investigate the disappearance of August’s uncle, August is now an ace detective—with little to show for it. She’s hoping for a new start in New York City. She soon falls into a community, with her welcoming and quirky new roommates and job at a beloved diner. But it’s the intriguing girl on the subway who really piques her interest. As she and Jane grow closer, August discovers a new mystery to solve: Jane is from the 1970s and forever stuck on the subway. Why, and how can they fix it?
McQuiston—best known for the wildly popular Red, White & Royal Blue—brings us this new LGBTQ romantic comedy, set in a slightly alternate universe and filled with their signature banter and diverse characters. The narration is excellent–I highly recommend this on audio. 4 stars
Related: Light-but-Smart Audiobooks for Easy Summer Listening
Author: Andrew Krivak
Publish Date: February 11, 2020
In a post-apocalyptic future, a man and his daughter are the only remaining humans. Nature has survived (or revived–we don’t know), and he teaches her to live in harmony with it. He tells her stories of a bear that saved a village, and of her mother, buried on a nearby mountain.
The girl soon finds herself alone and needing to draw on those lessons and stories from her father. The Bear is a short, sparse, and beautiful fable of the natural world. It’s reminiscent of The Road, but feels more hopeful–nature goes on, even when humans don’t. 4 stars
Related: 13 Eco-Fiction Novels to take You Back to Nature
What have you been reading this month?
The Bear is on my list!
I’m in the midst of Meet Me In Another Life so I had to scroll quickly through your review but will definitely come back to it once I finish – so far I’m enjoying it.
I have seen the cover and blurb of Other People’s Children and wasn’t sure at all what I would think about the birthparent aspect of the book – is it believable? Is it simply dramatic for storytelling? Am I going to be mad? – I appreciate your review, makes me feel like I should skip it.
Here’s Here’s my quick lit for the month (and my family’s reads are in there too) with a wide range of genres including completely agreeing that ONE TWO THREE is an amazing book and so good on audio – https://www.everyoneslibrarian.com/blog/quick-lit-may-2021
We are in complete agreement on The Plot! I’m not a good guesser either, but this one felt SO obvious to me.
I loved One Two Three as well, but you have me thinking I should listen to it. To actually hear the girls compared to how I heard them in my head.