April 18, 2024

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Book Reviews, And Author Interviews

Two Highly Anticipated Books, Two Highly Disappointed Mini-Reviews

Disappointing Mini-Reviews

I don’t do mini-reviews often. In fact, I’ve only done two in, well, years. Those were Kendare Blake’s Champion of Fate and All These Bodies, and those were not disappointing. I love them both. So why now? Because I read two books in a row that weren’t good. Moreover, they didn’t have the courtesy to be bad enough for a salty review. In addition, I was eagerly waiting for both books. They were two of my most anticipated. The worst part? Both books were First Line Friday books. Maybe my FLF choices are cursed. So, here we are with disappointing mini-reviews of Cutting Teeth by Chandler Baker and The Quiet Tenant by Clemence Michallon.  And yes, I know I’m the lone wolf with The Quiet Tenant but whatever.

The Quiet Tenant By Clemence Michallon-Goodreads Summary

Aidan Thomas is a hard-working family man and a somewhat beloved figure in the small upstate New York town where he lives. He’s the kind of man who always lends a hand and has a good word for everyone. But Aidan has a dark secret he’s been keeping from everyone in town and those closest to him. He’s a kidnapper and serial killer. Aidan has murdered eight women, and there’s a ninth he has earmarked for death: Rachel, imprisoned in a backyard shed, fearing for her life.

When Aidan’s wife dies, he and his thirteen-year-old daughter Cecilia are forced to move. Aidan has no choice but to bring Rachel along, introducing her to Cecilia as a “family friend” who needs a place to stay. Aidan is betting on Rachel, after five years of captivity, being too brainwashed and fearful to attempt to escape. But Rachel is a fighter and survivor and recognizes Cecilia might just be the lifeline she has waited for all these years. As Rachel tests the boundaries of her new living situation, she begins to form a tenuous connection with Cecilia. And when Emily, a local restaurant owner, develops a crush on the handsome widower, she finds herself drawn into Rachel and Cecilia’s orbit, coming dangerously close to discovering Aidan’s secret.

Told through the perspectives of Rachel, Cecilia, and Emily, The Quiet Tenant explores the psychological impact of Aidan’s crimes on the women in his life—and the bonds between those women that give them the strength to fight back. Both a searing thriller and an astute study of trauma, survival, and the dynamics of power, The Quiet Tenant is an electrifying debut thriller by a major talent.

The Quiet Tenant By Clemence Michallon-Mini-Review

I’m starting with Clemence Michallon’s Quiet Tenant because it is the easier, shorter review to write. Quite simply, The Quiet Tenant is the most boring, aggravating, and flat book I’ve read in a long time. The characters weren’t engaging, and the plot was both predictable and repetitive. Also, to really buy into the plot, you have to suspend some belief.

Let’s go with Emily to start. The repetitive inner narrative having to do with Aidan is so over the top that it could propel me over the Empire State Building. Look. I get it. Emily is falling for a serial killer. She’s attracted to him, she wants him, and she can’t be without him. And yes, this is important to the storyline. But, oh my God. It beat the dead horse, repeating those feelings for Aidan ad nauseam.

Let’s move on to Racheal (his current kidnapped victim) and Cecilia (his teenage daughter). After his wife dies, Aidan just tells Cecilia, out of nowhere, that he is moving a “family friend” into the house because that makes sense. No. It does not make sense. No teenager is just buying into this scenario. Then, he changes it up and introduces Racheal as his cousin in town. So now she’s his friend or cousin, depending on who you ask. Don’t tell me this wouldn’t collide at some point.

Lastly, this book fell so flat I almost ate it like a pancake. It was boring and predictable. There was nothing new, no twist on the kidnapped victim storyline. Well, that is unless you include the parts that make absolutely no sense. The pacing is slow, and the predictable ending happens in a split second.

Aaaaand that’s all I got on The Quiet Tenant by Clemence Michallon.


Thank you to Knopf and Penguin Random House Audio for the advanced audio arc of The Quiet Tenant by Clemence Michallon

Cutting Teeth By Chandler Baker- Goodreads Summary

Darby, Mary Beth, and Rhea are on personal quests to reclaim aspects of their identities subsumed by motherhood—their careers, their sex lives, and their bodies. Their children, though, disrupt their plans when an unsettling medical condition begins to go around the Little Academy preschool: the kids are craving blood.

Then a young teacher is found dead, and the only potential witnesses are ten adorable four-year-olds.
Soon it becomes clear that the children are not just witnesses, but also suspects . . . and so are their mothers.

As the police begin to look more closely, the children’s ability to bleed their parents dry becomes deadly serious. Part murder mystery, part motherhood manifesto, Cutting Teeth explores the standards society holds mothers to—along with the ones to which we hold ourselves—and the things no one tells you about becoming a parent.

Cutting Teeth By Chandler Baker- Mini-Review

OH MY GOD. This is the most disappointing and confounding book I’ve read in a long time. And the review isn’t that cut and dry. Although, in the end, I can’t recommend it and have decided I just didn’t like it.

First of all, I loved The Husbands by Chandler Baker. Now maybe I went into Cutting Teeth with higher expectations and the wrong expectations for the plot, but I really don’t think so. I mean, reread the summary. Chandler Baker is providing an extremely unique plot involving the societal pressures on Moms, with children who basically turn into vampires at age 4. Then one of their teachers is found dead. And somehow, that becomes more of a mystery than the child vampires.

Here is what I liked about Cutting Teeth, although I’m not sure it was Chandler Baker’s intention. It was poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes, I was sure it was meant to be funny. Sometimes, I think I laughed AT the book, not with it. Here is an example where I’m sure it was meant to be both poignant and funny.

You know who else was probably a tiny bit weird? Mozart, Picasso, Bobby Fisher, if he’s even real. Though, so far, no signs point to Lola being a genius. Jeffrey Dahmer probably wasn’t the most normal four-year old either and he likely hadn’t even started eating people yet. So, in that regard Lola does happen to have a head start… I’ve been meaning to ask <her husband>… does my vagina feel different to you?

ReviewThank you to Flatiron Books for the advanced audio arc of Cutting Teeth by Chandler Baker.

This points to the obsessive nature that is created by the bond between mother and child, along with the worry over body image and sex lives. And it is, laugh out loud funny.

Look. I expected to have to suspend disbelief because… children sucking blood. But the premise just wasn’t utilized fully. The execution wasn’t there, and that was the worst part of reading Cutting Teeth. Were there spots here and there that were well-written? Yes. But the vehicle for the women’s issues and vehicle for the book just doesn’t carry out. And the mystery of the dead teacher overruns everything.

As for the characters? Was there one of a handful? I couldn’t tell them apart if they mugged me. Except for Rhea having her own business, they all felt the same. Hell, the husbands had more personality than the wives.

Lastly, it didn’t help that none of the points of view were labeled, making the changes in point of view (sometimes mid-chapter) jarring and hard to follow.


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