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Thoughts on Buzz Books: Spring/Summer 2021

Have you heard of Buzz Books? I did it once a few years ago when Netgalley had a Buzz Books for YA titles. I’m not sure why I never went looking for more until now!

Buzz Books is a collection of new book release samples. It’s free on Amazon, NetGalley, and other book sites.

How it works: Publishers contribute the first 1-3 chapters of the newest releases they like best. Genres range from thriller to mystery to romance to nonfiction. They always start with the beginning of the book, and they run about 30 pages or so per book. I’ve been in such a reading rut lately, always starting and rarely finishing new books. This was a great solution for me! No commitments required!

As I read Buzz Books (Spring/Summer 2021 edition), I will post my thoughts here. I’m reading the stories in the order they are presented, but I’ll be honest…some get a pass early on. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts as the reading continues. Keep in mind that as of this writing, I have not read any of the full titles. This is just my first impressions of the samples. I think I will break up my reading and mini-reviews into groups of five since there are so many books. Watch for a new post in a couple of days!

All are recommended for adults except where indicated. There are 3 titles that are YA in the sampler, and some may also work for high school students.

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett

I really liked this one! It reminded me of the movie The Good Son (creepy Macauley Culkin!) and Lionel Shiver’s incredible We Need to Talk About Kevin. My first impression of the mom–called Sammie–is that she maybe isn’t the most reliable narrator. She appears to be trying to be a good mom, but some things about her just seem…off.

The boy–Sampson a.k.a. tommy–seems to be on the spectrum. He’s nearly non-verbal, speaking infrequently and only in 1-2 word sentences. There’s a scene with a school project though that was really interesting. You can see and certainly understand Sammie’s frustration with him.

There also seems to be more going on with the mom’s relationship with her wife. Monika does not appear in the sample, but she is there in photos and remembered stories. It seems Monika denies that there is anything wrong with Sampson. She wants the picture-perfect gay family, but from Sammie’s stories, it seems like gaslighting to me. Based on the two scenes shown in the sampler, Sammie is right to be concerned about Sampson, but from Sammie’s point of view anyway, Monika waves away her concerns.

  • GENRE(s): thriller, suspense
  • PUB DATE: June 1, 2021
  • PROTAGONIST: white woman, married to another woman, the couple has one son
  • CONTINUE READING? YES! I want to know more about these characters. Is Sammie all there? Or is she just high-strung and stressed-out? What’s going on with the marriage to Monika? Is Sampson as bad as he seems, or is he just a misunderstood kid with some learning differences?

 

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict (Author) and Victoria Christopher Murray (Author)

Before the first chapters are given in the sampler, each book features the book cover and publisher’s summary. Even though I’m a librarian, the blurb for The Personal Librarian didn’t interest me from the very start. This is about the personal librarian to J.P. Morgan–yes, that J.P. Morgan. I’m sure he was a fascinating figure in history, but I don’t know much about him. I read about half of this one and then moved on.

  • GENRE(s): historical fiction
  • PUB DATE: June 29, 2021
  • PROTAGONIST: white woman, librarian
  • CONTINUE READING? No.

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry

This is about an Irish woman (Tessa) living in a present or possibly near-future Ireland that has had a major increase in terror attacks from the IRA. She’s a BBC TV producer who one day sees her sister (Marian) on a TV news report. Marian, who is supposed to be vacationing, is robbing a gas station with the IRA in the video footage. The big question is, could her sister actually be involved with the IRA, or is she being held against her will?

I liked this one pretty well, but it won’t be at the top of my TBR. I’d have to do some research on the IRA first, too. I know very little about it.

  • GENRE(s): thriller
  • PUB DATE: April 6, 2021
  • PROTAGONIST: white Irish woman, works for BBC as a producer, lives in Ireland
  • CONTINUE READING? Possibly. It was interesting, but I’ll want to learn some more background on the IRA first.

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

This one was interesting! Libertie is young at the start–maybe 13 or so. The book starts in 1860, but Libertie and her mother, both Black, are free and living in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother is a doctor with skin so light she can sometimes pass as white. One evening, Libertie’s mother receives an old friend who brings her a coffin. Inside the coffin, a dead Black man. Except…Libertie’s mom gives him some treatment and he comes back to life! Libertie is shocked, but it becomes clear to the reader that this is no magic. The “dead” man was a slave escaping the south. His death was faked, and he was taken to Libertie’s mom to (hopefully) be revived.

I liked this one! I’m guessing the story will skip a few years because it starts out in 1860 but the blurb says it’s Reconstruction-era (officially, 1865-1877).

  • GENRE(s): historical fiction
  • PUB DATE: March 30, 2021
  • PROTAGONIST: young, darker-skinned Black woman in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn
  • CONTINUE READING? YES! It’s on the TBR!

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

Set in New York from 1976-1996. This is another one where the blurb just did not interest me. I read the meet-cute story of the woman and her future husband, who suffers from dementia later in life (the main part of the book). I didn’t finish the rest.

  • GENRE(s): romance, historical fiction
  • PUB DATE: June 15, 2021
  • PROTAGONIST: white woman and her husband; both highly-educated and financially well-to-do
  • CONTINUE READING? NO

 

Click here to read my next five Buzz Books Spring/Summer 2021 “first impressions.”

So what do you think? Have you read any of these samples or the full titles?

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