My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I think technically the average rating is 3.5?? Short story anthologies are so hard to review, honestly!! I’m gonna do what I’ve done in the past and look at each story on it’s own for the rest of the review, cause my feelings are genuinely really mixed….
Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo – ★★★★★
Leigh Bardugo is absolutely the reason I picked this book up. I adore her storytelling and honestly I just wanted to dive back into one of her worlds. I was really really delighted to see a soft summer romance with more than a smidge of magic. I mean I’ll read pretty much any kind of magic, but I am so soft for that storybook blurring of the lines between magic and the real world, and the legends that have more than a little truth in them. Eli was a delight, and once I worked out what was going on under the surface I was (somehow) even more endeared. The dynamic between Gracie and Eli was just so sweet. I loved watching that friendship blossom into a crush and then beyond so much. Also I just really like the dialogue Leigh writes?? I’m not sure I’ll stop gushing if I start, and I don’t want to spoil how it all unfolds, so I’m gonna leave it at that.
The End of Love by Nina LaCour – ★★★★
This was sweet!! It didn’t have the same sense of place as the first story had, but I was definitely drawn in by how soft this felt…. Flora escaping her parent’s divorce was a common thread through the story and her way of dealing with it (and slowly growing in that regard) was really nicely done. It’s was a surprisingly solid arc for a short story! I also really liked her crush, Mimi, she was so sweet! I loved the insight on perspective — Flora assuming that she’d be unwanted by Mimi’s group, and Mimi’s group feeling that she doesn’t want to be with them. Just super cute all round.
Last Stand at the Cinegore by Libba Bray – ★★
Aaaaah I really wanted to like this one. I love a lot of what I’ve read that Libba Bray has written, and I’ve always clicked well with her sense of humour. But this one… I’m just gonna blame it on me not being a horror movie fan. Or a scary thing fan lol. I’m too much of a wimp for a lot of it to seem appealing. I didn’t particularly connect with any of the characters, and I think that’s really didn’t help with feeling the romance ahahaha. The movie scene near the end confused me a lot. Probably another horror thing? I dunno, I will admit that I stopped reading this super closely when I realised how central the scary movie was.
Sick Pleasure by Francesca Lia Block – ★★★
Honestly one of the few things that kept this story from being getting a higher rating from me was that the character’s names were all letters and I found it harder than it should have been to keep them all straight. I was reading this one after studying, so I should get a pass but… I am a little torn about the plot in general though. I mean, on one hand there’s my love for the aesthetic, and a girl growing bolder. But the way it all ended….. Like I didn’t read it THAT long ago but the details are all so hazy. I guess I liked what it was doing, but the ending felt a little too lesson-y for me.
In Ninety Minutes, Turn North by Stephanie Perkins – ★★★★
Okay so this was cute! I feel like I was a liiiiittle bit at a loss (especially at the start!) because I haven’t read the other story with these characters. I appreciate that she kinda explained some of their backstory, but I would have preferred to see it play out for myself. That’ll teach me to pick anthologies at random… But I really liked Marigold. I liked her determination, and that familiarity between her and North. I’m not normally a fan of noble break ups, but it did make me happy to see them get at what had caused it in the first place. Also North seemed like a sweetheart. A bit of a noble one, but I liked his stage presence on the tram/cart thing.
Souvenirs by Tim Ferderle – ★★★
This one was confusing! I think it was one of the more realistic portrayals of love, but at the same time I was not a fan of Kieth, so it was difficult to like this one as much as I could have. My dislike of Kieth was probably mostly personal bias and dislike of that brand of manipulation… But it influences how I saw him. I did like that he was rounded out a little more toward the end, but if anything for most of it I thought it better that they did break up. Break up day is a neat concept though, and I liked that this explored that side of summer romances. Matt was a soft (and did not deserve Kieth’s shit!!). I liked his insight (also that bit at the end with the highlights in the book). Also his mum, and her pep talk over the phone. Good for the realism, but I was low key hanging out for a twist at the end to fit with the rest of these super romance-y ones.
Inertia by Veronica Roth – ★★★★
This one had such a neat concept!!! I love the idea of this technology that allows you to someone’s memories to contact them for potential goodbyes in the case of serious injuries that may cause death. Like how wicked?? (Yes, I’m forever weak to sci fi). I do also like the best friends with drama between them having to deal with that while potential death looms over one of them. It was a weird balance because Matt genuinely had me emotional in some of the memories, but I struggled to connect with some of the choices they made in other places/memories. The art stuff swung between cool and hipster esq for me, which was probably the root of some of that disconnect. But I’d definitely read more in this world, just saying…
Love is the Last Resort by Jon Skovron – ★★★
This was such an odd?? story? But I mean that in the best of ways. I don’t know what it was about the voice, but it very much stood out. I’m not sure I always loved it, but I did genuinely enjoy it. The cast of characters was pretty vast, especially given how short it was, but I liked pretty much all of them, and their various dynamics. I’m not exactly sure how it came all together how it did, but I was very pleased with the ending, so.
Good Luck and Farewell by Brandy Colbert – ★★★★
This one has me torn up. I love a story that looks at more than just romantic love, and I think the sisterly love between Rashida and her cousin Audrey, and the swirling family drama that kinda circled all that. I liked that it explored a more complex take on the good and bad of moving away with the one you love. Like on one hand Audrey has a new future with her girlfriend, and on the other she has to leave family behind. I like it a lot more than running off into the sunset for the HEA. I did like the romance with Pierre in the end, though I’ll admit I wasn’t sold by them at first. I was glad that it ended on a happier note than it started one!
Brand New Attraction by Cassandra Clare – ★★
I honestly should have loved this one!!! It was a carnival! I know I said earlier in this review I’m a wimp when it comes to dark things, but carnivals are the one exception. Or at least, carnivals in books/movies, where the clowns can’t actually jump out at me… But seriously, the carnival aesthetic is an automatic soft spot, and I still didn’t really like this one. I think the concept of carnival demons were really cool, but the timing of a few things plot wise made them difficult to understand. Also the lack of backstory, like do they just run wild on earth? Do you summon them? Are they under your control? Or just chained there? Do they want to be there? Even getting over that I wasn’t super into the romance. The love interest really shouldn’t have been her cousin, I’m sorry. Like I know he’s a step cousin but nO THANKS. He could have been an apprentice and the plot would have worked exactly just the same, except I wouldn’t have been turned right off her falling for her cousin…. The plot outside of the romance was cool but a little rushed in the resolution… I feel like it would have been better as a whole book. (I had a lot to say about this one, apparently! I’m just sad because carnival concept but so many things that didn’t work for me)
A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong by Jennifer E Smith – ★★★★
This was cute!! I really liked the way Annie and Griffin came together. It seemed very early on that this was going to be a pretty standard romance, but the more that we got to know Griffin the more that changed for me. I really liked his connection with Noah (?), one of the kids in Annie’s group at camp. The autism rep was really nice to see presented in much the same ways the other romances were. I can’t speak for accuracy, but I enjoyed reading the characters!
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman – ★★★★
What a good way to end the anthology!! I’ve got to say I’m a big fan of the way they mixed math/physics into this, and I never thought I’d say that about a romance. I really really liked the musings on the statistical probabilities of miracles, and how there are so many out there for you to see if you’re looking for them. That’s such a cute note. I really really liked when we learnt a bit more about the reasons behind the world being stuck in a time loop for a day, like that definitely got me a little emotional ngl. The romance between Mark and Margaret wasn’t, for me, as compelling as the plot. Like I don’t not like them together, but I also wasn’t crazy about them. I thought Mark was sweet to Margaret and sheer time spent together would bring them closer but the whole you’re here for me to love is… not as a great as the rest of it.