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November book reviews

This month I read five books, all given to me in exchange for an honest review. These included the 2nd and 3rd books in the Legacy of Loyalty thriller series (I reviewed #1 previously), a raw YA Contemporary novel, Touch, a poem anthology about the death of public figures, and a contemporary novel I didn't finish, Nothing's As it Seems.

Penance by James Clifton

Legacy of Loyalty #2 - Thriller

My Review: 5/5 stars

Another amazing Clifton thriller. Tight plot full of intrigue, satisfying resolution that somehow ties up all the disparate loose ends, and compelling characters. I’ve been in a reading slump but finished this in a day (!).

Clifton does an amazing job of balancing writing that pushes the story/characters forward with descriptive, show-not-tell language.

I was worried this wouldn’t live up to the first book since the original, captivating plot was wrapped up but thankfully I was wrong. Even better, I think this could be enjoyed as a stand-alone which is an impressive tribute.

Loyalty by James Clifton

Legacy of Loyalty #3 - Thriller

My Review: 5/5 Stars

Loyalty is another strong, tense Clifton thriller with compelling characters, intricate plot, and interesting themes. While the other books were violent as well, the torture component may be too much for some readers. That being said, this is a quick and engaging book, and a great end to the trilogy.

Touch by Rebecca Miller

YA Contemporary, mental health themes

My Review: 4/5 Stars

This book was really hard to rate.

What I didn't like: For one, there should have been trigger warnings at the beginning - this is not a light book nor does it pretend to be. There were a few unnecessarily grotesque words (ie f*g).

What I liked: I appreciate the tackling of such tough, but real, topics of male mental health, trauma, and trafficking. I thought the depiction of PTSD from the perspective of those supporting the individual was well-done without glamorization. The writing was overall solid, with sufficient tension. Definitely emotional, the symbolism was especially striking.

What I'm not sure about: I think the ending was fitting and realistic (likely the best possible choice) but I also really wanted more closure. There are times when Meg wanting to help Shawn veers into unhealthy "I want to fix/save my boyfriend" territory. Also, some of their interactions lack explicit, affirmative consent, which would have been particularly beneficial in contrast to his history.

Overall, I think this is a solid novel tackling important themes.

Death Never Dies: Mourning 2020 Through the Lives and Deaths of Public Figures

Edited by Lee Fearnside

Poem Anthology

My Review: 3/5 Stars

An interesting premise with cool artwork. A few of the poems really resonated with me and were expertly crafted, but a few fell flat to me. Perhaps some of this is a personal tendency to not feel intimately connected to public figures and, thus, not feeling the kind of grief at their passing that some do.

Nothing's As It Seems by Holly Brandon

Chastity Series #2 - Contemporary

My Review: 2/5 stars

DNF (did not finish).

This series has glowing reviews and won a few independent press awards, so I was disappointed by the on-the-nose dialogue and lack of editing down of superfluous description, starting on the first page. I tried to read it a few times and unfortunately couldn't connect with the work or the characters.

As someone in the mental health field, it was disappointing for a book published in 2021 to use phrases such as "you're so ADD". It's a disorder, not a personality quirk.

The upside: if you can get into the book, lots of reviewers say its a page-turner. I'd recommend trying the first in the series, rather than reading this as a stand-alone.

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