eARC Reviews: Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan, Apartment by Teddy Wayne

exciting times noise dolanExciting Times by Naoise Dolan

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Contemporary


I received an advance copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Exciting Times is the story of Ava, a young woman from Ireland living in Hong Kong and working as an English teacher. She has a complicated relationship with Julian, who’s not technically her boyfriend, and things complicate further when Julian leaves Hong Kong for several months and Ava meets Edith. She does not tell Edith about Julian, and doesn’t tell Julian about Edith. Hopefully things will just sort themselves out somehow…

Ava herself is not a very likable person, which for me is absolutely fine. It was so interesting to see her navigate her relationships and always make decisions that made me cringe. She’s cynical and with dry humor, which I really enjoyed – it reminded me of My Year of Rest and Relaxation, although only a little. The dynamic between Ava and Julian reminded me of Normal People – I was never too sure where they stood with each other. It was really interesting to see. Edith was the only character who actually showed vulnerability, who was open to let herself feel things and get hurt by others, and I really liked her!

The author also did a great job showing the complicated feelings Ava has, as an Irish person, about dating an Englishman, and being surrounded by English people, mocked by her accent and by stereotypes. She also touched on racism in Hong Kong, on culture differences and what being white and living there means. I found those parts really interesting. I wish there had been more of Hong Kong in the story, though, more about the cultural contrast and politics.

Overall, I thought this was a solid debut, I devoured it in two days and I really look forward to seeing what the author writes after this!

[Mild spoilers ahead]

My main problem with this novel is that it never felt really that the stakes were high enough. There is tension for Ava hiding her relationship from both people, yes, but even the resolution of that felt like it threatened to catch fire and instead evaporated into fine, harmless mist. I missed a little more emotional impact from this novel, but otherwise, it was a really good book, very witty and interesting!

apartment teddy wayne

Apartment by Teddy Wayne

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Contemporary


I received an advance copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Apartment is the story of a young man who’s attending a writing program at Columbia, living in his great-aunt’s apartment and with his father paying for tuition and living expenses. When he meets Billy, a classmate who desperately needs somewhere to stay or he’ll have to drop out, he offers the spare room in his apartment, rent-free. But living in this way highlights the social class issues between him and Billy, and their friendship starts to show cracks.

This was one of my anticipated reads of the year and, despite the lukewarm rating, I have quite  strong opinions about it. It starts out with the unnamed narrator as he starts his classes, and the meta humor is on-point, self-deprecating and I’m immediately hooked by a story about writers. I did not like the main character, he is self-centered, painfully awkward, whiny and his internal monologue was boringly verbose. This did not turn me off him at all, at least in the beginning, because it seemed to be intentional and, indeed, essential to the story itself. So I read on. Billy is also a painfully unlikable character, not just because of his obvious intentions of using the main character for money and for somewhere to live, but his entire personality is natural talent, macho man and womanizer. That the women in the novel have no personality, I thought that was excusable since no one outside of the main duo seemed to have any. It’s also a very clearly masculine novel – not just because it’s written by a man, but the entire story seems to revolve around masculinity.

Their dynamic feels claustrophobic very quickly, and you hold your breath awaiting disaster – that was one of the best aspects of the novel to me. And while the rest of the novel slowly got me disenchanted, I still loved that first chapter.

My main issues were that the writing style got old pretty quickly. I got tired of it, even though it was such a quick read (around 3 hours for me), and tired of the two main characters. They both were so pretentious and obnoxious I couldn’t stand either of them. I suppose if you enjoyed the purposeful pretentiousness in The Secret History by Donna Tartt, this would not bother you so much at all. It was, in my opinion, also done on purpose with Apartment, but it just bores me to no end.

Despite that, I was really hooked by the end, as I had no idea what direction it would take – it was clear that things would go really badly at some point, but I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I didn’t love the ending, though. So, all in all, I thought this novel is a good recommendation for someone who likes reading unlikable and pretentious characters, and perhaps also for those who like reading about aspiring writers.


10 thoughts on “eARC Reviews: Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan, Apartment by Teddy Wayne

  1. Great reviews! Both of these have been on my radar, and I’m particularly looking forward to giving Exciting Times a try! It’s good to know that the stakes are low, but I’m definitely intrigued by the character dynamics and am glad to see there’s some commentary on culture present as well. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I was intrigued by Apartment’s synopsis but wanted to see some reviews before deciding whether to pick it up. I don’t think anyone else I follow has read it yet, nor Exciting Times. But I definitely want to read the Dolan, and I’m even more excited for it knowing you enjoyed it!


  2. Great reviews! I am SO excited to read Exciting Times. Skipping your mild spoilers section, though I will come back and read it after I read the book (which will hopefully be soon as I do have the ARC)

    Liked by 1 person

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