Literary Fiction

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

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It’s brave if you make it, foolish if you fail.”

Hey guys!

I actually read this book a month or so ago and have been sitting on this drafts for a bit. Whoops. Sweetbitter was a highly anticipated book from Stephanie Danler and was given to me for Christmas by my roommate. I have a huge obsession with big cities, and New York was one of my favorites to visit. This novel was actually recently turned into a STARZ series and I am also excited to see how the show stands up to the book. Sweetbitter took a total of seven years for Danler to write, and thus I had very high expectations.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The bestselling novel about a young woman’s coming-of-age, set against the glitzy, grimy backdrop of New York’s most elite restaurants. Now a STARZ Original Series.

Newly arrived in New York City, twenty-two-year-old Tess lands a job as a “backwaiter” at a celebrated downtown Manhattan restaurant. What follows is the story of her education: in champagne and cocaine, love and lust, dive bars and fine dining rooms, as she learns to navigate the chaotic, enchanting, punishing life she has chosen. As her appetites awaken—for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging—Tess finds herself helplessly drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle. In Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler deftly conjures with heart-stopping accuracy the nonstop and high-adrenaline world of the restaurant industry and evokes the infinite possibilities, the unbearable beauty, and the fragility and brutality of being young in New York.

My thoughts:

At first, I really enjoyed the book. The writing style was beautiful not only as a whole, but on the sentence level as well. It seemed so fitting for the setting, an overwhelming New York City and fine dining restaurant. But then the further I got into the book, the less I liked it.

Each time I put down the book, it was harder to pick up. I found myself forgetting what was going on between reading sessions. However, I can’t blame that on my memory. The plot was just simply nonexistent. Technically this is a coming of age book (which isn’t really my style either), but nothing really happened in Tess’ life. One moment she’s learning about wine and the next she is snorting coke with her coworkers. There’s little to no transition and development to get to that point in her life. While drugs are looked at nonchalantly (something I actually liked about this book), there is little to explain why Tess is actually doing the things she is doing. There is little to no contact with family or explanation as to why they’re really not present. It is almost as if Tess just appeared one day rather than moved to New York from a small town.

I was also extremely underwhelms by the other characters. I found myself confusing them, unable to keep them separate. They each felt underdeveloped and flat. Most of them were cardboard cutouts, only existing to further the idea of Tess rather than being individual people themselves. I was also underwhelmed by Simone and Jake, though the whole book seemed to be centered around her obsession with them. It is clear that Tess only sees them how she wants to see them, but I think the book would have benefitted more from showing that Simone and Jake are real people, not just the romanticized images that Tess wanted them to be. For a book that took so long to write, I expected much more from the plot and character development.

Final thoughts:

Sweetbitter is a hit and miss. It’s full of beautiful descriptive writing that makes it impossible to give it a completely bad review, but the characters and plot were extremely lackluster. It’s a decent book for a beach read, but I’ll probably enjoy the show better. I give it 3/5 stars.

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Thriller

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen

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I believe that every experience, every wrong decision, teaches us something. That’s why we shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

Rizzoli and Isles is one of my favorite book series’. I got into it mostly because my mom would not let up about how much I needed to read it. At first I didn’t take her too seriously because a lot of the time we have vastly different tastes in books but once i picked up the first one, I couldn’t stop. Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen, or The Killing Place depending on which version you have, is the eighth book in the series.

In this installment, Maura is away on a conference trip when she turns up missing, trapped in a mysterious valley called Kingdom Come where all of it’s inhabitants have disappeared with no way to contact anyone for help. When Jane Rizzoli gets word of her disappearance it is up to her, along with the help of Gabriel Dean, Daniel Brophy, and Anthony Sansone.

Tess Gerritsen continues to amaze me with every book she publishes. I love her characters, the relationships they share, and the plots she creates. Ice Cold started in a way that left me confused and longing for more information, slowly revealing the truth to me bit by bit, page by page, ultimately bowling my mind with the way in which each event, person, and place tie in together. Ice Cold is impeccably planned out and structured, leaving no loose ends untied.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series! I definitely give it a full five stars.

Fiction, Thriller

Accidents Happen by Louise Millar

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Monsters are made, not born.”

I found this book as I was wandering the library looking for some light summer reading. I had never heard of it before but the title grabbed my attention. Also, who doesn’t love a cover of a woman running away in the woods?

Accidents Happen by Louise Millar focuses on Kate Parker whose terrible bad luck has caused her a lot of anxiety that is seriously affecting her and her son’s life. Kate meets a man named Jago who has decided to help her overcome her anxiety about what could happen to her or her family. However, is it really a streak of bad luck or something much worse?

Starting out, this book was effortless to read and felt pretty straight forward (minus the names of the characters that felt like they were plucked from a Top 20 names from the 90s). It is immediately obvious that Kate is actually being stalked which I found fairly interesting. I almost always enjoy when you can see the point of view from the antagonist. As the book went on though, it really seemed to feel more like a romance between Jago and Kate as the chapters from the stalker decreased.

I did, however, love the ending and the way it made me feel anxious and stressed. And by the ending, I mean the last eighty pages. I just wish that the rest of the book (which is categorized as a thriller) made me feel that way. I feel like if the pacing were done a little better  I would have enjoyed it much more. Most of the time I forgot I was reading a thriller due to the constant obsession with Jago.

Overall, It wasn’t a terrible book but it won’t be one that I read again or purchase. It’s great for some light beach reading but if you’re looking for a keep you on the edge of your seat thriller, this book isn’t for you. I would give it 2/5 stars.