Is there such a thing as too much?

John Clark pondering whether there’s time left in life to read all the books I lust after right now. The answer is hell to the no. I’ve read 75 so far this year while completing one manuscript. I’ve gone back to finish Thor’s Wingman a story I started writing in 2017. I’m at the point where I have gone through what I wrote back then and am now about to take Jared and Twyla into the land of Norse Mythology. For that portion, I’m challenging myself to write some pretty dark stuff.

However, there’s also a growing pile of new YA books that have me drooling. Most are just published and I got them on interlibrary loan. For the remainder of this post, I’m sharing three reviews all of books I read last week.

Stateless by Elizabeth Wein: While the mystery unveils well before the end, the tension as this group of teen and early twenties fliers realize what’s happening keeps you reading. Stella North represents England in a flight competition around pre-World War Two, ostensibly to promote peace while the Germans and Italians are destroying Spain and Ethiopia. Her parents were killed by the communists when she was a toddler and she survived by hiding in a dark cellar for days. The other pilots have similar scars, some psychic, some physical that are revealed as the story progresses. When Stella witnesses an attack on the Italian pilot resulting in a crash in the English Channel and his death, it sets in motion numerous attacks on other competitors. What makes this a great read is how events in Europe are portrayed and what their emotional impact is on everyone in the story. The young pilots come together in ways that shame the adults time after time. This is a great historical mystery, carefully researched with a fine cast of players.

A Long Stretch of Bad Days by Mindy McGinnis. I’ve been a Mindy fan since her first book was published, so I have high hopes for each one. This one has a different flavor. There’s a dash of Thelma and Louise, some highly refined snark, distilled flavor of small town, complete with open secrets that are part of the backbone of rural life with these poured over two girls who think they’re completely different until they discover they aren’t. Lydia lives with her family heritage…their last name of Chass is everywhere, but the facade of well to do is cracking. Dad defends the worst people in town as an attorney, Mom retreats into glasses of wine, and Lydia is busting her butt in order to get into an Ivy League school. When she learns she’s one credit short, mostly thanks to one of those open secrets, she’s mad, but hides most of that rage under polite, but cutting sarcasm. She ends up with what the school considers a fluff assignment; complete several more podcasts under her ‘On the ground in flyover country’ title. Unfortunately, her content hasn’t been what she believes will get the attention she needs from her intended schools. Enter her new and unexpected partner, Bristal Jamison who also needs one credit to become the first in her family to graduate from high school. She’s profane, addicted to vaping, and has absolutely no verbal filter, but she grows on Lydia. Granted, there are moments where each wants to strangle the other, and their path to finishing that project resembles a logging road during mud season, but once they decide to dig into the events in a week where there was a murder and a devastating tornado thirty years before, the rocks they turn over have all sorts of creepy things emerging. Their efforts to find and podcast the truth put both of them in danger. The reveals are deftly done and the chapter where Bristal narrates a podcast on a day spent with her older cousin, picking up roadkill is worth what you pay for the entire book. I defy you to read it without going into hysterics. I almost fell out of bed.


Stars and Smoke by Marie LuThere are numerous elements in here that could have ended up as ‘less than’. The hot rock star, the hard-edged teen girl survivor, the secret organization, the uber-criminal, the private concert. None of them do. The rock star is driven and hides real pain. The hard edged teen spy is also very human and sympathetic, their gradual attraction is perfect, the action around his concerts and the people in his entourage is smoothly crafted, the crime is complex and their attempts to stop the resulting disaster fun to follow, and the ending is perfect. This is one of those books I slipped into and stayed in it until I closed the cover. These ‘in one sitting’ stories are my favorites.

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2 Responses to Is there such a thing as too much?

  1. Kate Flora says:

    They all sound great, John, but my TBR pile is already dangerous.

  2. Julianne Spreng says:

    Always appreciate book and author suggestions. The YA designation does a lot of these stories a disservice as the label encourages older readers to overlook excellent material. Looking forward to the Norse mythology adventure!

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