Today’s book review roundup includes; Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six, Karen Hamilton’s The Ex-Husband, a collection of fairy tales by Angela Carter and Sally Thorne’s 99% Mine.
DAISY JONES & THE SIX – ★★★★
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things. Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend. The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.
Taylor Jenkins Reid has done it again, folks. While Daisy Jones & The Six was no match for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I’m still in awe of Reid’s talent to write such unique and evocative stories filled to the brim with compelling and complex characters that make me nostalgic for an era that I wasn’t even alive for.
Everyone and their mother has surely seen the Prime TV series adaptation by now but the book is far superior. Told via interview transcripts of the band members as well as their friends and family, I was initially hestitant about the format. I’ve never read anything in a similar style and, at the start, it felt quite impersonal. However, once we got to the meat of the story, I was captivated and it became easy to connect to the various characters and their individual quirks.
Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing is so evocative that it’s easy to forget that this is a fictional band. While it never quite reaches the rawness of Evelyn Hugo, Daisy Jones & The Six was an electrifying read. It’s full of the standard sex, drugs, rock and roll but there’s also plenty of heart.
THE EX-HUSBAND – ★★★
Charlotte has an unsavory past, but she’s on the straight and narrow these days. She was so young then—she married the wrong man, falling for Sam’s sweet-talking charm and charisma, and got caught up in his con artist games. If only she’d left him before things went too far. Now Sam is missing. But before he disappeared, he left urgent, cryptic messages about someone threatening him—someone who has been threatening Charlotte, too. So Charlotte takes a job as a personal assistant for an engagement party aboard a private luxury cruise ship, the Cleobella , to get far away from anyone who means her harm.
But as the Cleobella sails through its glittering destinations, increasingly sinister events haunt the guests, and the turquoise waves and sun-drenched beaches give way to something darker. Someone knows what Charlotte did. Is it the blushing bride? The seemingly placid mother-in-law? Or the mysterious heiress? Someone knows, and someone wants revenge—before the ship reaches its final port.
The Ex-Husband has an intriguing premise: married con artists, swindling rich cruise ship guests now getting their just desserts. With her ex-husband Sam presumed dead, Charlotte has taken an intimate job on a yacht to escape the threatening notes she’s been receiving following Sam’s disappearance. Yet, the notes don’t stop and whoever is threatening Charlotte is also aboard the ship. The downside? It’s just too slow!
As far as thrillers go, The Ex-Husband is pretty tame. It lacks the extreme intensity and suspense that one would like in a thriller. However, Hamilton’s writing and characters were intriguing enough to sustain my interest. While it didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, it is a fun beach read. It benefits from the claustrophobic setting of the yacht as well as the idyllic exotic locations of the Caribbean.
Without spoiling it, the ending was …meh. It felt a tad too disappointing and open-ended given all the build up. It leaves you wanting more but not in a good way. That being said, if Hamilton does intend to follow this up with a sequel, I wouldn’t rule out reading it.
ANGELA CARTER’S FAIRY TALES – ★★
Once upon a time fairy tales weren’t meant just for children, and neither is Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales. This collection contains lyrical tales, bloody tales and hilariously funny and ripely bawdy stories from countries all around the world – from the Arctic to Asia – and no dippy princesses or soppy fairies. Instead, we have pretty maids and old crones; crafty women and bad girls; enchantresses and midwives; rascal aunts and odd sisters.
I thought I’d be a huge fan of this one. I mean, The Bloody Chamber is one of my favourite books of all time! And I love fairy tales in general! I should have loved it. I desperately wanted to love it. However, after I got over the initial wackiness of Carter’s fairy tales, the collection was just an exhausting, repetitive slog.
The absence of magic and enchantment in these stories was beyond disappointing. It was heartbreaking, especially given the soulless writing present in this collection. While it was interesting to get a glimpse into the various fairy tales from around the world, the writing is concise, unengaging and plain. Maybe it was the translation that made them sound too straightforward and blunt, but most of the stories ended up being clunky and emotionless. This is not what I expected from the woman who wrote The Bloody Chamber!
It also didn’t help that the stories are grouped into common themes. I understand what Carter/the publishers were going for but it results in multiple iterations of the same story. Some of which have the exact same characters but with a different setting or title which I assume is to demonstrate the various retellings in different cultures but there’s only so many times one can sit through what is essentially Cinderella.
As a fan of fairy tales and mythologies, this collection could have been extraordinary. There are enough stories from cultures in different parts of the world that there’s no excuse for the repetition. Truthfully, this should’ve been a shorter, more considered collection. The bland narration meant that no story really stood out as the shining star as they all just sort of blurred into one and I had to skip over the more perverse ones – a grandma pulling sea scorpions out of her vagina until she dies is just not for me, thank you, Angela! To be honest, it has put me off trying to read anything else from Carter for a while, which is devastating given how perfect The Bloody Chamber is.
99% MINE – ★
Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.
When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade. Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.
Truthfully, I gave up about 100 pages in. It’s bad. Like, really, really bad. The stream of consciousness style narrative had me questioning if I even knew how to read – it was that confusing! Darcy’s thoughts would just interrupt ongoing dialogue and descriptions that it would completely take me out of the scene that was happening on the page.
Not only was Darcy an absolutely insufferable character but the story was just… boring. I don’t have much to say about 99% Mine other than that I am appalled that this is written by the same Sally Thorne behind The Hating Game aka one of the greatest romcom reads of all time! This just didn’t work for me. I could not connect with the writing or the characters at all and I definitely won’t be racing to read more from Thorne in the future.