Monday, April 12, 2021

The Syrena Legacy Series by Anna Banks

When Emma literally stumbles into a violet-eyed stranger on the boardwalk of a Florida beach, it's definitely not love at first sight, more like humiliation at first sight.  The encounter is quickly forgotten, though, when Emma's beach trip ends in tragedy.  That is, until the handsome stranger shows up again in her New Jersey high school classroom.  

Galen is a Triton royal given leave to live life on land and be a Syrena ambassador to humans.  When he spots Emma using a gift that has disappeared from among his people, he can't believe it, and he really can't believe she doesn't know she even has the gift.  Determined to find out her secret, he follows her home, but he has to admit that it's not the importance of Emma's gift to his people that attracts him to her.

Unbelievable hijinks ensue as Emma and Galen's relationship blossoms from suspicion to love.  Soon Emma is exploring a world she never knew existed and is suddenly plunged into the dramas of mermaid-kind that strike even closer to home than she could ever have imagined.  

When I'm looking for something a little lightweight and fast reading to enjoy, YA romance is what I

reach for.  The premise of Of Poseidon is a little absurd, but Banks sells it and I couldn't pull myself away from Emma and Galen and their star-crossed romance.  The main character's irritating penchant for childish verbal ticks ("ohmysweetgoodness" or "fan-flipping-tastic") tested my patience, but the fast moving plot saved me from putting this down.  The second book, Of Triton, is arguably the better of the two with Emma maturing into her new life and Galen's chapters revealing more of the Syrena world.  

The second book has a satisfying conclusion, while the third, Of Neptune, shoots off in a new direction, a direction with an overprotective love interest and the beginnings of what looked to be an irritating love triangle, not to mention the return of "ohmysweetgoodness."  I decided within 60 pages that while Banks wrote a trilogy, I was happy to leave this series a duology.  

Monday, April 5, 2021

Good Company by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

On the afternoon of her daughter Ruby's high school graduation, Flora Mancini, while hunting for an old family photo, stumbles across a lost wedding ring, a ring that was supposed to have been lost and forgotten at the bottom of a pond for years, but somehow has reappeared.  The discovery of the ring throws Flora's life into turmoil and casts her history with her husband, Julian, into doubt.  Flora always thought she and Julian were the real thing, now she's not so sure.  Over the course of the book, Sweeney weaves the present with the past of Flora and Julian and their friends Margot and David, creating a rich drama of family and relationships that comes to a reckoning at the very place where the photo that lead Flora to the ring was taken. 

Poor Good Company seems to be having a rough go of it in Goodreads reviews.  People seem to think it doesn't live up Sweeney's smash hit debut, The Nest.  Lucky for Good Company, I suck at reading books, so I haven't even read the much-acclaimed The Nest, so Good Company gets to stand on its own merits.  And it has them!  Frankly, the way that the plot unfolded, acquainting readers with the characters and the histories by spending time with each character reminded me a bit of Maggie O'Farrell's style, which I love.  I love a story with layers that slowly pulls them off until the characters and their stories feel real, and I long for their redemption as much as they do. I love the slow burn of this style, and I love the payoff, the moment of redemption or the moment when that redemption at least seems possible.  I think Good Company accomplishes that without making things that are hard seem too easy.  

In addition to what Sweeney does with her characters, I appreciated her talent for setting the scenes.  The book takes place primarily in three places - California, where Flora and Julian are finally both making a good living after years as struggling theater actors; New York City, where both characters got their start in the theater; and Stoneham, an idyllic upstate New York farm that hosts a yearly outdoor, avant-garde theater production.  Sweeney captures the languor of a countryside summer interrupted by the excitement of a theater production.  She brings to life a California that was meant to be a temporary stop for Flora and Julia, but a sun-washed spot where they made a home.  New York and the theater scene is arguably the most well-drawn, and Sweeney captures the excitement of the theater people with big ideas trying to make them work and eke out a living, the scraping and struggling for roles, the living in a miniscule apartment, but also the magic of when it all just works.  

I enjoyed Sweeney's sophomore effort, and if it is, indeed, the lesser of her two novels, then I imagine I'll quite love The Nest!  

(Disclaimer: Review copy received from the publisher via NetGalley, but as ever, all bookish opinions are rendered honestly.)