Three books I liked that are not my sort of thing

I don’t read much in romance but the FB ads for LOVE ON THE BRAIN by Ali Hazelwood convinced me to check it out of the library. Protagonist Bee is a neuroscientist who sees her new NASA project as the chance to rebound from the collapse of her professional and romantic life. Only OMG, the Most Obnoxious, Most Irritating Scientist She Ever Met is her co-leader! Back when she was engaged (fiancee cheated with her BFF) the dude refused to talk to her, look at her or be in the same room with her, he hated her so much! And now he’s undercutting her authority and sabotaging the project! What’s with him!

As Roger Ebert put it, love is always a cliche but the changing players make it interesting (though fans of Hazelwood’s writing say the story is almost unchanged from her previous book). I did enjoy this though I found the male lead’s pining way over the top — if he’d confessed to kissing the ground she walked on, I wouldn’t have been surprised. And the Big Reveal who’s really sabotaging things relies on one of my least favorite twists, using “he’s barking-dog insane” as a motivation without setting it up at all.

THE LAST TSAR’S DRAGONS by Jane Yolen and Andy Semple is a fantasy about the Russian revolution only Tsar Nicholas has a squadron of dragons he periodically sends out to scour the Jews. I picked this up thinking it was exactly my sort of thing but no, history proceeds almost exactly as in our world, making the dragons pointless. As I’ve written before, I hate that. In this case, however, I enjoyed the book, so Yolen and Semple clearly pulled it off. Though I did notice that despite their assurances their history was indeed accurate, their version of Rasputin’s death is not (I’ve read other reviews that say their are multiple other errors I didn’t catch).

I’m not a big cozy fan either but MURDER THROUGH THE ENGLISH POST by Jessica Ellicott was a lot of fun. It’s the 1920s and series protagonists Edwina (village gentry) and Beryl (globe-trotting adventurer) run a small PI operation out of Edwina’s home village. When someone starts slandering the locals with poison-pen letters (a real thing back in the day — think of it as pre-internet trolling), the women go into action to find the culprit and keep tempers from becoming inflamed. I enjoyed the period setting and the drama was good, though the murder comes off almost as an afterthought to the main plot (but that didn’t stop me liking it)

The first volume of MISFIT CITY by Kirsten Smith, Kurt Lustgarten and Naomi Franquiz didn’t work for me at all. The four female teen protagonists live in a small coastal town whose only claim to fame is that it was the setting for the 1980s hit The Goonies —er, The Gloomies. None of the girls like dealing with endless tourists, they’re frustrated with their town but now they’re on a treasure hunt just like in the old movie … but I didn’t care. It feels like the creators are shooting for a Lumberjanes vibe but it’s not as fun as that or as well written as Paper Girls.

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