Book Review, Fantsy, Fiction

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab ~ Book Review

Tor Books
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: October 6, 2020
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5

This book had so much hype that I was kind of terrified that I’d read it and be let down, especially since I’m not much of a fantasy person. That being said, I never REALLY felt overwhelmed with fantasy. Yes, the whole premise is that Addie makes a deal with the Gods that come out after dark, but the day-to-day elements of the story were fairly mundane. Don’t be scared away by thinking this is super fantastical!

Once Addie is cursed, everyone who meets her forgets her as soon as she’s out of sight, which is especially exhausting since she lives forever. One day, after hundreds of years of living this way, someone remembers her.

I loved the juxtaposition of present day New York City with Addie’s experiences in the 1700’s in France and around Europe. It’s so unusual to be following the same character through such different times and places and it was fascinating. It felt like reading multiple books in one.

The premise of this story is fascinating and it was so interesting to see how Addie dealt with her curse on a daily basis in order to survive and how she found little ways to leave an impact on the world around her.

I found Addie’s relationship with Luc, the God who cursed her kind of random and confusing, and this was the one part of the story that didn’t totally grab me. That being said, there was so much rich, intricate, totally unique narrative woven throughout the hundreds of years of this book that I was still entirely enrapt.

Buy The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue at an indie bookstore near you
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue on Goodreads

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Book Review, Fiction, thriller

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth ~ Book Review

St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: April 13, 2021 (Thanks to Libro.fm for my copy!)
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

The Good Sister tells the stories of Fern and Rose, twin sisters who are vastly different. Fern works at the local library. She’s masterful at selecting book recommendations for patrons, but she struggles with sensory overload and sometimes has trouble understanding people if they aren’t speaking literally. She has dinner with her sister Rose three times a week. Rose seems to act almost as a guardian figure for Rose, since their mother is in an assisted living facility following a stroke, but it slowly because clear that Rose may not be the supportive sibling she appears to be.

I loved Fern’s character and the way she slowly became empowered to live independently throughout the book. She had always seen her differences as detrimental, and been told (by Rose) that they meant she couldn’t live a normal life. As Fern becomes romantically involved with a library patron, she comes to realize that there are other people like her and that, with a little planning, she can fully live her life like anyone else.

It was pretty clear to me that Fern had been manipulated for her entire life, but the extent of it was shocking and the twists toward the end were well implemented. This definitely wasn’t a typical thriller — it had an element of romance, and Fern was a unique main character who I came to care about a great deal.

Buy The Good Sister at an indie bookstore near you

The Good Sister on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, thriller

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson ~ Book Review

William Morrow (Thank you to the publisher for my copy!)
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: April 6, 2021
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪.5

The beginning of this book doesn’t do it justice as a whole. It starts when Bree Cabbat sees a ‘witch’ outside her bedroom window. In reality, it’s just an old woman, and this unnecessary descriptor made me confused about if I was reading fantasy — I was not. So ignore the witch part.

When Bree’s baby disappears, she immediately suspects the old woman, and begins to receive messages telling her what she must do to get her son back. These seemingly small actions add up and begin to paint a picture of a much larger, sinister narrative at play. Bree tries to navigate her relationships as a mother and a wife while retaining a normal facade as she attempts to get her baby back safely.

As Bree uncovers hints about the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping, she begins to suspect that something from her husband’s past is influencing her terrifying present. The unveiling of these past actions and the understanding of their long lasting impacts is woven seamlessly into the narrative.

I wasn’t totally convinced of all Bree’s actions and reactions in the book, and the romance that was included seemed kind of random, but overall, this was a solid thriller.

Buy Mother May I at an indie bookstore near you
Mother May I on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen ~ Book Review

Forever
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: April 20, 2021 (Thank you to NetGalley for my copy!)
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪.5

The Paris Apartment is a split-timeline narrative, alternating between 2017 and the 1940s. In 2017, Aurelia inherits her grandmother’s apartment in Paris and discovers a bevy of beautiful paintings. She hires Gabriel, an art restorer, to help her try to identify the art and figure out if it was stolen during World War II, as she fears. Aurelia grapples with everything she didn’t know about her grandmother’s life as the past slowly comes into focus through artifacts scattered through the apartment.

The World War II excerpts tell the story of Estelle and Sophie, two daring and intelligent women doing their part to spy on members of the Nazi party. Their friendship and experiences of loss and bravery were beautifully crafted, intriguing, and heartbreaking. I found these sections of the book far more captivating than the modern storyline. The details of what they went through to try to make a difference in the war effort were thrilling and painfully believable in their detail.

The burgeoning romance between Aurelia and Gabriel seemed largely unnecessary and there wasn’t enough detail given to them to make it seem realistic. If the book was meant to be a romance, this needed to be fleshed out more fully, instead of rushed, however, I think the narrative would have been just as powerful stripped entirely of their romance.

Buy The Paris Apartment at an indie bookstore near you
The Paris Apartment on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, thriller

He Started It by Samantha Downing ~ Book Review

Berkley
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: July 21, 2020
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪

When Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan were kids, their grandfather took them on a cross-country road trip. The kind that was less a fun vacation, and more a kidnapping them from home situation. Each night they would hear their strained parents’ voices on the phone as their grandfather let them check in with them. Once their grandfather dies, the siblings are slated to get a large inheritance, but he notes in his will that they must first reenact the road trip.

They set off, with Beth and Eddie’s spouses in towe and relive the extremely strange journey their grandfather took them on. The narrative bounces back to flashbacks of the first trip, detailing how the eldest Morgan sibling, who is mysteriously no longer with them, sabotaged their grandpa by drugging and threatening him. The premise of this book was very unique and intriguing, and the details along the way were extremely dark.

I had a lot of trouble staying invested in the storyline. It seemed weird to me that the siblings would be so immediately cool with reliving such a traumatic time from their past. The stops they made along the way seemed repetitive and the twists were so convoluted it was hard for me to follow. The ultimate conclusion didn’t feel like it wrapped up the entirety of the narrative and it left me feeling kind of neutral about the story as a whole.

Buy He Started It at an indie bookstore near you
He Started It on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, Romance

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren ~ Book Review

Gallery Books
Genre: Romance
Release Date: April 10, 2018
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪

When Macy runs into Elliot, she is pulled back in time to eleven years earlier when the two of them were madly in love. Now engaged to an older man who she agreed to marry months after meeting, Macy feels her life immediately lose stability when she’s faced with Elliot.

The story is told in alternating timelines, introducing the reader to a young Macy and Elliot as they meet and develop feelings for one another. I loved this part of the story. Macy and her dad buy the house next door to Elliot’s as a vacation home and the two of them spend their time in Macy’s closet reading. Their relationship was cute and original — I loved that they always asked each other their favorite words. I was rooting for them as their friendship tenuously blossomed into something more, and was driven to keep reading by the need to know what ultimately went wrong and kept them apart for the next decade.

The present day Macy and Elliot really annoyed me. After seeing Macy one time for a few minutes, Elliot breaks up with his girlfriend and starts subtly hinting that Macy should break off her engagement. Yikes. I didn’t get the same sparks from their reintroduction and the way they approached their relationship felt reckless and selfish toward everyone else in their lives.

The circumstances surrounding Macy and Elliot’s breakup as teenagers and the reason they completely lost touch were heartbreaking and shocking when they finally came to light. This emotional heft would have been a lot more meaningful if their grownup relationship seemed healthier and was something I was excited about.

Buy Love and Other Words at an indie bookstore near you
Love and Other Words on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, thriller

The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney ~ Book Review

Ballantine Books
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: August 6, 2019
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

Talk about an original thriller! The main character, Abby, is an AI robot created by her ‘husband,’ Scott, to replace the real Abby who mysteriously vanished five years prior. Scott runs a successful AI company in Silicon Valley, and Abby is the culmination of his expertise. As Abby learns and remembers more about her life, her autistic son, and the circumstances surrounding human Abby’s disappearance, she grows suspicious of Scott’s true motivations.

I was a huge fan of Westworld, and this book made me want to rewatch the show immediately. I found the discussions of AI rights and issues around robot sentience so intriguing, and loved the merciless Silicon Valley setting. These factors really set this thriller apart from any I’ve read before. Delaney always comes up with premises that surprise me and keep me on the edge of my toes and The Perfect Wife was no exception.

The book is split in dual timelines so that we see how the real Abby met Scott when she was hired as an artist in residence at his company, and the details of their courtship made me increasingly uncomfortable, coupled with the realization that AI Abby didn’t have the full picture. The narrative took the unpredictable narrator trope and flipped it on its head, since AI Abby was only provided with certain memories.

I never expected the way the story concluded, and I thought the wrap-up was smart and thought-provoking, although I wish it had been slowed down just a little bit. If you’re interested in thrillers, artificial intelligence, or startup culture, I highly recommend The Perfect Wife. 

Buy The Perfect Wife at an indie bookstore near you
The Perfect Wife on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, thriller

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Minotaur Books
Genre: Mystery
Release Date: February 2, 2021
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

Finlay Donovan is Killing It put such a spin on your typical mystery book. Finlay writes crime novels. As she discusses her latest book with her agent, a woman sitting nearby overhears her and mistakenly thinks she’s a contract killer. She leaves a note for Finlay with details about how much she’s willing to pay for Finlay to kill her husband. When Finlay inadvertently accepts the offer, she decides to look into the man she has been asked to kill, just to see what’s so terrible about him.

I loved the combination of the mundane with the mysterious and criminal in this book. Finlay is a single mom trying to grapple with her ex-husband’s new engagement and ensuing custody battle. She goes to Panera, she takes a spin class, she may or may not kill a man.

The lighthearted nature of much of this story flowed smoothly through the less believable parts of it and tied the narrative together. When I say ‘less believable,’ I mostly mean Finlay’s character’s terrible decisions and uncanny ability to be misinterpreted by people again and again. She seemed almost like a caricature, but it worked really well for this story.

My only real qualm is that I would have dialed the crime back just a little bit. Toward the end of the book it felt like more kept piling on unnecessarily. 

Buy Finlay Donovan is Killing It at an indie bookstore near you

Finlay Donovan is Killing It on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, YA

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp ~ Book Review

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Romance
Release Date: April 6, 2021
My Rating: 🍪🍪.5

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a YA love story that’s loaded with heavy topics and real-life struggles. Pen works for her dad’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos, and has always dreamed of opening her own place nearby. Her parents think she’s going to school after work every day, but instead she sits in her car, torn apart over the fact that they don’t support her dream. Xander, an undocumented teenager, comes to work for Nacho’s Tacos and plans to use the money he makes to pay an investigator to locate his dad, who walked out on him when he was little. Pen’s dad is known for employing undocumented people and for helping those in need. I loved this dynamic and the community it created at the restaurant, and the focus on this subject in a YA book.

I enjoyed Pen and Xander’s relationship and banter. The descriptions of their conversations seemed natural and adorable. This book is written with wonderful depictions of food and creates a vibrant, seemingly real community.

Although I appreciated that this story covered heavy topics, it really glossed over Pen’s struggles with her mental health and self-harm. I felt like this deserved a lot more time and unpacking. A lot of the games and conversations between the teenage workers at Nacho’s Tacos felt very repetitive, making much of the book feel slow until the last third, which was overloaded with action. This imbalance made it hard for me to fully become immersed and enjoy this story.

Buy Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet at an indie bookstore near you

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder ~ Book Review

Scribner
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: February 2, 2021 (Thank you to Libro.fm for my copy!)
My Rating: 🍪

I think a big part of the reason Milk Fed put me off was because I didn’t realize how erotic it was going to be — you’ve been warned. It’s the story of Rachel, who was taught by her mother to obsess over calorie counting, and now does so religiously on a daily basis. Her days are dictated by what she’s allowed to eat and she panics when put in a situation where she can’t control what she has to eat. I found pieces of this narrative painfully relatable and extremely well written.

Rachel’s therapist suggests she goes on a detox of talking to her mom. Without her mother’s constant obsession over Rachel’s weight, Rachel begins to eat what she wants during her detox, spurred on by Miriam, who works at a frozen yogurt shop that Rachel frequents. As Rachel is drawn into Miriam’s world, she becomes infatuated with indulgence, of food and her wildest sexual fantasies.

This story explores Rachel’s experiences as she lets go of her food rules and restrictions. It explores her sexuality and the difficulties she faces as she gets closer to Miriam. It also touches on religion and Rachel’s reaction to Miriam’s orthodox Jewish family in contrast to Rachel’s own lapsed Judaism. The topics in Milk Fed are important and interesting, but Rachel’s vivid sexual fantasies distracted me a lot from the actual story.

Buy Milk Fed at an indie bookstore near you
Milk Fed on Goodreads