The Good Liar: This book follows three women in the aftermath of a 9/11-esque disaster that takes place in Chicago. I liked it ok – I didn’t care all that much for the characters but the story was pretty interesting and there was a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. Overall I didn’t love or hate it, it was just ok for me.
Fitness Junkie: Fitness Junkie is a sort of fitness satire that follows Janey Sweet, the CEO of a successful fashion line founded by her lifelong friend and business partner Beau. When Beau sees pictures of Janey eating a “bruffin” in the front row at Fashion Week he demands that she lose 30 pounds or else be ousted from the business. What follows is a sendup of the cult of “wellness” that honestly had me laughing out loud in places. I loved this – just light, funny, and well done. I’m such a fan of Jo Piazza and she didn’t let me down with this one.
Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win: Another Jo Piazza! This one follows Charlotte Walsh as she runs for Senate and encounters all of the sexism and difficulties that one might expect, while also struggling to keep on top of her family and marriage. It was more serious than other books I’ve read from Jo Piazza but no less enjoyable. It was definitely an interesting look inside what it’s like to run a campaign, but at the same time it wasn’t overly partisan so I think people from both sides of the aisle could be fine reading it. Becca and Grace read this for their podcast Bad on Paper (which I highly recommend!) and Becca mentioned that she’d read that this was the first book ever written about a woman running for Senate! Pretty interesting.
Ghosted: Loved this book! It’s about a girl (Sarah) who meets a guy (Eddie) – they spend a magical seven days together and utterly fall in love (I know, but just go with it), and then he completely disappears. I totally did not see where this book was going and I was completely caught off-guard when you find out what’s going on. I thought it was completely charming, engrossing and full of emotion…just really enjoyable. Fans of Me Before You will love this. Highly recommend!
The Immortalists: I thought this book was really interesting. It’s about four siblings in the summer of 1969 who, as a lark, go to a fortune teller who’s reputed to be able to tell you the date of your death. What follows is a family saga, exploring how each child grows into an adult and reckons with the knowledge (or prediction – depending on your point of view) bestowed on them by the fortune teller. I was really impressed by the way the author handled the story. Although I felt it lagged a bit at times, it was well-written and thought-provoking…I read it a while ago and it’s stuck with me.
The Witch Elm: The latest Tana French, which I was eagerly anticipating as she’s one of my favorite authors. Honestly, this wasn’t my favorite of hers (that would be, in order, Broken Harbor, In the Woods, and The Likeness, not that you asked or anything ;). This is her first standalone novel outside the world of the Dublin Murder Squad, and it follows a young man named Toby who goes to live with his uncle after he (Toby) is badly hurt in an apartment break-in. While there, a skull is discovered in an elm tree on the property and from there a police investigation ensues. The things I love about Tana French were all here – the incredible writing, the psychological component that brings you inside the main character’s head, and the suspense that keeps you turning the pages. However, I found this one to be less of a page turner than her others and I just didn’t find the story as compelling. Also it was quite slow which has never been the case with her books. I still enjoyed reading it because I love her writing but it wasn’t my favorite of hers.
All the Beautiful Lies: This book follows college student Harry who goes home to his stepmother after his father passes away, and starts to suspect that she isn’t all that she seems. I didn’t like this book very much. It had that thing I kind of can’t stand where a character is murderous and unfeeling for no discernible or explained reason. I guess we’re supposed to just surmise that the character is a psychopath or sociopath? But with no psychological probing or exploration of that personality disorder, it just feels lazy. This is my third Peter Swanson – the first book of his I read was The Kind Worth Killing and it’s gotta be one of my all-time favorite thrillers. The second I read was Her Every Fear and I liked it almost as little as I liked this one. Overall, I’d pass on this one but DEFINITELY read The Kind Worth Killing!
The Ramblers: This follows three young adults as they sort of work on finding themselves after college in New York City. It was kind of middling. I thought the writing was good and the author made an effort to sort of create a deeper meaning in the story but overall I just didn’t find any of the three storylines very compelling. It just didn’t come together for me.
Our House: This book follows Fiona Lawson who comes home one day to find strangers moving into her house and her husband missing. Where is her husband? And why are strangers moving into her house?…these questions are answered pretty quickly and then the book sort of shows you how it all came to pass. In that way it was a little boring because once you understood the endgame, it was just watching the scenario unfold – not that that was bad, it just wasn’t the most exciting. It was still interesting but you kind of knew where it was going…although I will say there was a bit of a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming…and one twist in the middle that I did kind of see coming eventually. It was good though, I would definitely read another from this author.
The Swimmer: This came highly recommended from my friend Will and it’s something of an international spy novel/thriller, about a girl who sees international information on a laptop that puts her in grave danger. There were a ton of twists and turns and I had no idea what was going to happen. I’d never read anything like this and I think fans of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or those types of books would enjoy this. Definitely a page turner!
The Winters: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review and it’s basically a modern day interpretation of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. It was good, but it wasn’t Rebecca, I have to say that. It took the basic plot and reworked it for modern day but that was really where the similarities ended…it just didn’t have that creeping, Gothic feel of the original. That being said, it was a good book and a page turner – I wanted to see what was going to happen and I didn’t guess the end. There were some choices the main character made that were a little eye-rolly, but not enough to be a total turnoff as long as you can suspend some disbelief. So as a novel and a thriller it was good but the whole “modern day version of Rebecca” hook felt a little gimmicky.
Providence: This book was so strange to me. First of all I LOVED the authors first two books, You and Hidden Bodies. This book is totally different from those, which I knew going in and which is fine. I went into this book with literally no knowledge of what it was about and I kind of don’t know what to say about it that wouldn’t be a spoiler so I’ll just say read the description online if you want! I feel like I can say that it’s about two people who desperately want to be together and cannot, and that was sort of my biggest complaint about the book. That’s a plot point that I’m all set to love, but here I didn’t get it. I felt like she didn’t set it up that way, but then all of the sudden they’re deeply in love and that’s the crux of the book. I was kind of like, where did that come from? I didn’t feel that we had seen that love or connection grow and develop, and so I had a tough time feeling it and buying into it. Aside from that though, there’s a very strange affliction that forms the basis of the whole book and which made for a very original story. It was a book that I kept thinking about while I was reading it, and I definitely wanted to see what would happen…but something about it was a little off for me. However, I will be eagerly anticipating her next book!
Little Darlings: LOVED this! Total page turner and I feel kind of bad writing about it because I read a galley and it doesn’t come out until spring, but mark it down on your wishlist because this is so good. Lauren, our main character, gives birth to twins. She’s exhausted, underslept, and overwhelmed, but she knows what she saw….in the middle of the night, a woman crept in and tried to replace Lauren’s babies with her own…creatures. This book was like a modern day take on a Grimm’s fairy tale (LOVE), and it had undertones of Rosemary’s Baby and The Changeling (I’ve read the former, not the latter). Aside from being compulsively readable and totally creepy it was also an honest portrayal of the challenges of new motherhood.
From the Corner of the Oval: LOVED. This is a memoir by Beck Dorey-Stein of her time as a stenographer in the Obama White House, a job she stumbles upon on Craigs List and which takes her all over the world and all over the map emotionally. It was equal parts substantive and light, fun reading…there’s politics and world events but there’s also office romances, strong friendships, nights out drinking in DC. Beck’s writing is so fresh and relatable and the story so interesting, I couldn’t put it down. This one is very partisan, FYI. I can’t wait to see what she writes next!
Bitter Orange: Hmm, really thought I would love this one but it fell short for me. It’s about a woman who goes for the summer to a crumbling Georgian mansion in the English countryside (right up my alley!) to do some inventorying of the architecture for an American who just bought the property from across the pond. She winds up there with a couple who are also working for the summer and drama between the three ensues. The author certainly created an atmosphere…a sort of creeping sense of unease and isolation that told you something was going to go wrong, soon. I think what I didn’t like was just how unpleasant and unlikable the main character was. I’m not against unlikable narrators as a rule but I just did not enjoy spending time with this character, and the other two (the couple) weren’t as intriguing as they were meant to be. However I do think the author did a wonderful job of painting a picture of place in the reader’s head, as well as creating a feeling and atmosphere that made you feel as if you were there.