I don’t tend to read many anthologies because the stories featured are usually too short for my taste, and when I do read them, it is because at least one of the authors is someone whose work I’ve read and liked. That was not the case with this book. I received 90’s Playlist Anthology as an ARC through, Brighton Walsh, the author of the first novella in the book. I loved the idea that these are all stories that take place some time in the 1990’s and are based around a specific song from that time period. Basically, I wanted a reason to play my 90’s playlist and this book gave it to me.
If by Brighton Walsh:
If is the first installment and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It is told in first person, switching POV from Tia, the heroine, and Mason, the hero. Tia considers herself to be a bit of an outcast–if this took place in the present, she would probably be considered Emo. She wears all black, has body piercings, and is a film geek. Mason is her total opposite. He’s the star quarterback for their college football team and the Vice President of his frat. He knows that if he’s seen with Tia that it would blow his chances of making President.
Both Tia and Mason were likable characters and it was easy to understand why they would feel the way they did about their situation. I also liked Ms. Walsh’s writing style, although I don’t typically like first person narratives. The only thing that I wasn’t crazy about was that this should have been a full length novel instead of a novella. There were many issues that should have been dealt with more than they were and that’s the problem with novellas. Not exactly a complaint, but I also felt that this story would have worked better as an m/m, especially considering the fact that frats are very homogeneous and don’t seem to take well to anyone that doesn’t fit their ideal. 4 Stars
Creep by Lorelie Brown
Lorelei Brown’s Creep confused me. There were a few things that bugged me and I wonder if this is meant to be a prequel to another story she’s written. Our main characters are Roni and Tom. Roni wants to feels special and thinks that Tom can do that for her, but she’s not sure if the only thing he wants from her is help in finding his brother, Corey/Skittles. As for Tom, we never really learn what it is he wants.
If this story is more than 50 pages, I’ll be astonished, especially since it seems as if you’re only at the beginning when it just ends. I felt as if there should be a big TO BE CONTINUED stamped on the last page because nothing is wrapped up–not the relationship between Roni and Tom and not the truth of what is going on with Skittles/Corey.
My other issue with Creep is that Roni is into habitual drugs. She goes to raves and likes getting high off of MDMA. This is how she knows Skittles because he’s her dealer (of course he is–the only other job he could have with a nickname like that is a DJ). I don’t like to think of myself as a prude and I am aware that a lot of people were doing Ecstasy at raves in the early 90’s (and they probably still are now), but I just didn’t care for the fact that drug use was treated as a normal thing when kids are OD’ing on Molly (the 21st century version of MDMA) every day. 2 Stars
The Belle vs. the BDOC by Amy Jo Cousins
I don’t know what to make of The Belle vs. the BDOC; there doesn’t really seem to be a plot. From what I was able to get based off of the two chapters I read, Shelby wants to get in Florence’s pants because she dresses like Annie Hall and reminds her of a character from Steel Magnolias, but Florence is convinced that Shelby is straight and doesn’t want anything to do with her. Trivia Night at the local bar is a big thing for both of them and Shelby decides she needs to beat Florence to put her in her place for not wanting her.
The writing isn’t bad at all and this one is actually in 3rd person POV, but there are some weird sentence formations and grammar errors that make me cringe and wonder how they made it past the proofreaders. There is one sentence that ends with the word “the.” I’ve got no idea where that sentence was going. There’s another where words are missing. Bizarre. DNF
Worthwhile by Audra North
I really liked Worthwhile, although it really didn’t feel like it took place in the 1990’s. There were mentions of Cher Horowitz style platforms and babydoll tops, but that was really about it. Anyway, Jill has just started a semester long study abroad program in the UK and wants nothing more than to go home to Pennsylvania because her boyfriend of two years broke up with her almost immediately after setting foot on English soil. Stuart is a nice guy, going through a rough time. After a meet not-so-cute, the two start spending time together and come to care for each other.
There wasn’t really anything wrong with this one, except for it not feeling like the 90’s, but that isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things. I would have liked it as a full novel and to see some of Stuart’s POV, though. 5 Stars
Smells Like Teen Spirit by Rebecca Grace Allen
Smells Like Teen Spirit perfectly matches the song its named after–Rory is lonely. She’s working a dead end job in a town that is mostly filled with college students. She watches all the happy undergrads and wishes for the life she used to have, knowing that she could never get it back exactly as it was. One night, she meets James. He’s two years younger than her and a student at her alma mater. He’s a nice guy with impeccable manners and she’s thoroughly attracted to him. The way she feels scares her because she’s been hurt and doesn’t want that to happen again.
I did like this novella. It was well-written (for the most part) and there is an actual emotional arc that Rory travels from the start to the end. I also think that of the couples in this anthology that Rory and James might make it last. My biggest issue with this was the editing–or lack thereof. There were sentences in which function words and even verbs were missing. Others featured repeated words. You can actually see where Ms. Allen deleted her original words to replace them with something else because some sentences included extraneous words that could only be the start of how she planned for the sentence to go. Unlike The Belle vs. BDOC, I was able to overlook the editing issues because I could see where the story was going and the plot was good enough (compared to being absent) for me to forge on despite being a total Grammar Nazi. 4 Stars
Little Red Thong by Jennifer Blackwood
Little Red Thong takes place during Spring Break 1999, which is a bit of a problem, considering the fact that Sisqo’s The Thong Song wasn’t released until December of that year (it wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t mentioned several times in the story). As I read, I distinctly remembered hearing it on my walkman (ok, my dad’s walkman that I stole some time in the mid-90’s) while on a bus to Six Flags with my 8th grade class in June of 2000, and hearing the DJ on Z100 saying it would be the Song of the Summer of 2000. Maybe the characters are time travelers?
Emily is almost done with her BA from Stanford and has just scored 4 free tickets for a cruise to Mexico, so she, her brother, and a couple of their friends take off for some fun in the Mexican sun. After all, she’d be starting her 1L year at NYU in the fall. Chase has known Emily his entire life and has been in love with her for just as long. He sees the cruise as his last chance to tell her how he feels.
This was a fun story and a great end to the anthology. I liked both Chase and Emily and I really hope that they make it past graduation, despite the 3000 mile distance that will be between them. My biggest issue (obviously) was the error about when The Thong Song came out, although I also had a problem with the fact that Em somehow took the Bar before graduating from college. Um, what? That’s not possible and I’m fairly certain that it wasn’t possible 16 years ago. Also, which Bar did she pass? The California Bar or the New York Bar? Maybe she meant the LSAT, but then, she would have taken that in her Junior Year, not her Senior. Definitely confused. 4 Stars
Overall, I really liked this anthology. The weakest installment was The Belle vs. the BDOC, but the others mostly make up for it. One thing that anyone who wants to read this should know is that this is New Adult, so the oldest character is 26. Also, if you’re prudish/puritanical in your reading tastes, this is not for you. These all feature some pretty hot sex scenes and Creep, especially, was more sex than it was plot. Based on an average of scores, the overall score is: 3 Stars
90’s Playlist Anthology is currently available for Pre-Order and will be released on October 13th.
Romance novels have been a part of my life since I was 14 years old and one of my neighbors dropped off a laundry basket full of Harlequins. From that day on, my nose was always in a book. I started my first review site in 2013, but took some time off for personal issues in 2018.