So many fantastic books came out over the past few months. Get a taste of what we consider to be some of the best books of the first quarter of 2020 with these bite-sized book reviews!
With all of the many wonderful books that cross our desks here at Hypable, it’s sometimes really difficult to decide which books to write full reviews for.
So, as not to let any books we enjoyed slip through the cracks, we thought we’d try our hand at bite-sized book reviews. The hope is that they’ll be enough to entice you to pick up some of the best books we’ve read over the last few months.
Take a look at some of our favorites below!
January, February, March 2020 bite-sized book reviews
‘The Queen’s Assassin’ by Melissa de la Cruz
Set in a medieval-like kingdom where myth, legend, and hints of magic pervade even the most mundane aspects of daily life, The Queen’s Assassin follows Shadow, a young woman who dreams of becoming a member of The Guild (a secret society tasked with protecting the monarchy) and Caledon, the Queen’s Assassin. The two set out on a journey that, unsurprisingly, has a few twists and draws the two closer together than they ever could’ve imagined.
The Queen’s Assassin is an incredibly fun adventure story that has a healthy (and swoon-worthy) share of angst and romance. It’s not all that fast-paced, but the story still moves along at a pace that will keep you compelled to continue turning the page. And if the story doesn’t do that, Shadow and Caledon’s chemistry sure will.
This book also does a good job with setting up the magic well enough where it makes sense without requiring a deep dive. It’s mysterious enough to intrigue, but not enough to frustrate. It’s also, thankfully, not all that big of a player in this story, meaning the characters must rely on themselves and each other to get through situations.
If you’re looking for a fun and swiftly-paced YA fantasy to curl up with over the weekend, The Queen’s Assassin is sure to scratch that itch.
‘Wife After Wife’ by Olivia Mayfield
Olivia Hayfield takes the infamous story of Henry VIII and his numerous wives, and spins it into a really fascinating look at the life of a powerful man who follows both of his heads (one more than the other, if you know what I mean…) to the detriment of those around him.
Written from the perspectives of both Henry and the women who loved him, Wife After Wife provides insight into the minds of everyone involved through the #MeToo lens.
Henry is still very much an antagonist of sorts in this historical retelling, but he’s not necessarily a villain. As for the women? The book allows their thoughts, feelings, and motivations to be heard loud and clear, and it really validates each and every one of them. Nobody in this novel is perfect, but they all have agency.
Though this novel takes some liberties when it comes to the lives of all involved, it feels familiar in that the multiple perspectives constantly center upon Henry’s, for better or worse.
In other words, we only see what the other womens’ experiences are like when they’re closely associated with Harry. We don’t meet and get to know them before they enter his life nor are we able to get back into their heads and check in on them afterwards. (That is, for those who HAVE an “after.”)
All in all, this was an enjoyable read and a worthwhile one for history buffs.
‘What Kind of Girl’ by Alyssa Sheinmel
What Kind of Girl is nuanced story that focuses on the fall out of domestic abuse between two people in a romantic relationship, as well as all of the grey area and guilt that goes along with it.
What constitutes abuse? Do intentions matter? Is there some scale of people who have it worse, negating the experiences of women that aren’t necessarily in peril? What authority figures are the best to report to and what can they do exactly? Will anyone believe the victim?
Taking place over the course of a single week in these students’ lives, What Kind of Girl follows the story of high school students whose worlds get rocked when one of their own accuses another of domestic abuse. Tackling everything from culpability to feelings of guilt, this novel tackles stereotypes, society’s inability to believe accusers outright, and the grey areas that accompany abusive situations.
What Kind of Girl is less about the story and plot than it is about the introspection of what goes on in the minds of women and all of the secrets we keep. Reading this book, it’s difficult to not be reminded of that quote about how women contain multitudes.
We’re not just one or two things. Sometimes we’re so many things at once that it’s incredibly overwhelming. But we don’t discuss it because it looks like weakness and everyone else alleges appears to manage just fine. That’s very much the stigma that this book aims to break down (in addition to domestic abuse).
What Kind of Girl is worth a read, definitely in this day and age. Out of all of the bite-sized book reviews here, this is the one we think everyone should read and put the book on their to-read list.
‘Salty, Bitter, Sweet’ by Mayra Cuevas’
I’m not kidding when I say that Salty, Bitter, Sweet will make your mouth water from the very first page.
Chock full of discussions about delicious foods and all types of love, this is a story of family and the ways in which food brings us together and witnesses the majority of the most impactful moments of our lives. It’s also a story of dreams and duty, and how sometimes, outside forces influence us all to conflate the two, leading us down the wrong path.
In attending a prestigious culinary program, Isabella Fields believes that her life is on track and her successes (as well as her many sacrifices) will lead her to the Michelin-starred prestige she has always dreamed about.
But when her new family dynamics and a handsome stranger, as well as a fast-paced culinary program in a French kitchen, force her out of her comfort zone, she’s forced to re-examine just who she wants to be and what she wants out of life.
Word to the wise: Don’t read this book on an empty stomach (or if you have an empty kitchen). Food is very much a main character here, taking up quite a bit of real estate within every chapter.
From delectable desserts such as apple pie and flan, to chicken dinners and even hamburgers, there’s so much joy in the descriptions of food, even when situations are less than joyous in the characters’ lives. You’ll want to make (or just eat) every morsel that pops up in this book.
But Salty, Bitter, Sweet isn’t all about food or dreams all the time. It’s also a coming-of-age novel, which means the exploration of emotions and attraction. Honestly, I think the things that surprised me most about this novel were the intimate moments between characters and frank discussions of not only sex, but also drug use and broken families.
While it’s not dirty or inappropriate by any means, Salty, Bitter, Sweet embraces all aspects of humanity, even the spicy and the unsavory. I greatly appreciated the frank discussions of sexuality and just how Isa *feels* from moment to moment, as well as the lasting effects of grief.
Salty, Bitter, Sweet is a wonderful contemporary YA novel full of heart, hope, and, of course, mouth-wateringly delicious descriptions of food. It’ll inspire you to grab an apron, get in the kitchen, and start whipping up something tasty for your loved ones. It’s a balm for the soul and an inspiration for the cook inside you!
‘The Vanishing Deep’ by Astrid Scholte
The Vanishing Deep is a fascinating story of life, death, and responsibility, both to the ones we care about and to the larger world.
When seventeen-year-old Tempe’s sister, Elysea, drowns a few years after their parents’ own horrible deaths, Tempe works overtime to earn enough money to revive her sister for 24 hours. She’s driven by rumors that her sister had a hand in their parents’ deaths and she won’t stop until she uncovers the truth.
But, as you can imagine, her scheme doesn’t go as planned. When an astonishing revelation comes out, the two sisters embark on a race against the clock to seek the truth. They’re followed by two individuals, both weighed down by their own burdens, who work in the revival facility and need to return the sisters before 24 hours is up.
While there’s quite a bit of action woven throughout the novel, this is first and foremost a character piece. The tension and excitement arises from the ways in which these characters relate to each other as well as how their relationships change moment to moment.
Though The Vanishing Deep takes place over the course of only 24 hours or so, we spend enough time with the main characters to get a real feel for who they are and what they believe in. They’re definitely a group of people I’d love to spend more time with.
Secrets are the name of the game here, with quite a few coming to light at the most unexpected times. If anything, this book demonstrates the idea that you can never really know a person, even if that person is someone you love and consider a close confidante. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that there is a character-related twist that really surprised me, as it took the story in a slightly different direction than anticipated.
The Vanishing Deep is an enjoyable, escapist novel. Though it has its moments of levity and joy, it’s a surprisingly dark and introspective book that will make you want to keep turning the page until you can uncover all of its secrets (more than we could ever get to in this bite-sized book review).