Reading List: March 2018 – July 2018

the perfect nanny review, an american marriage review, circe review, the girl before review

An American Marriage

My goodness, this was a heartbreaking read. Roy and Celestial are young newlyweds with a bright future ahead of them, until Roy is wrongfully convicted of a crime. It’s told from multiple perspectives as the couple tries to grapple with this event that’s derailed their lives.

This looks at the disproportionate incarceration of black Americans, something that’s been a major problem for decades. Oooof, this was a bit tough to read at times. I felt bad for all of the main characters in this because it’s a terrible situation to be in. I was rooting for them so hard.

The story moves through time fairly quickly, but the best part was how well the author conveyed the emotion and heartbreak of the story. The writing and emotions felt raw and honest.

We all make mistakes and life may throw you a curveball, but sometimes you can rebuild and pick up the pieces. You can’t start over though because those previous experiences will always be there and they have shaped you into the person you are now.

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Perfect Nanny

This was one of those books that wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. It opens with the death of a child (side note: 5 points to this book for a super strong opening line that totally grabbed my attention). We know right away that the nanny murdered the child. The question is, why?

The book then jumps back in time to the events leading up to the death and shows how the nanny became involved in with this particular family.

I found the tone of this book interesting. It was a bit sparse and distant, somewhat matter-of-fact, and even abrupt at times. I don’t think that was a factor of this being a book in translation. I believe the author chose to tell the story in that manner, and I think that choice of tone helped maintain a sense of unease throughout the novel.

It explores society’s expectations of mothers and the concept of having someone else take care of your children. Since it did feel distant, I don’t think I ever truly connected to the story, but I felt it was an interesting and chilling read.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I See You

I was hyped to read another Claire Mackintosh book after I Let You Go and I liked this one even more.

What if someone was watching you on your daily commute? What if they were tracking your every move? Zoe doesn’t realize that this is exactly what’s happening to her until she sees her photo in the classified ads of a newspaper.

I loved the premise of this one because it felt completely plausible. How much attention are we really paying on our daily commute? Not that much, probably.

I wanted Zoe to make it out of this creepy situation alive. She was a well-developed character, flawed but endearing. Also, when she first starts to suspect something is wrong and goes to the police department, she has a hard time getting people to take her seriously, which is awful. I just wanted to shake them and tell them to believe her, believe women!

There is one police officer that takes an interest in Zoe’s case, DC Kelly. I think she was one of the strongest characters in the book (in fact, I’d read a whole spinoff about her). When reading the author blurb, I found out that Mackintosh used to be a cop. Makes sense, given that her descriptions of the police and their procedures felt really solid and believable.

Mackintosh considers how justice has different definitions for different people. To some, it involves revenge, and others want nothing more than to put everything behind them.

Overall, this was a really solid and enjoyable read!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Behind Her Eyes

Tbh, I’m not even sure I fully understand what happened in this book. I think my mouth actually dropped open at the last couple pages.

But let’s back up a bit, and talk about Lousie, David, and Adele. Louise is a single mom, who meets David in a bar one day. She’s thrilled to meet a nice, attractive man that she actually gets along with, and they end up kissing at the bar. Soon after though, she find out that not only is David her new boss, he’s also married to Adele. David and Adele seem like the ultimate couple, except something is slightly off.

This one was pretty twisted, which I like. At any given time, it was hard to know who was actually telling the truth. I immediately disliked David because 1. he’s cheating on this wife, and 2. he’s so controlling of her. And I wanted Louise to find love, because it seemed like she worked really hard to take care of her son, which I’m sure is not easy as a single parent. Adele was a difficult nut to crack and it’s hard to tell what to make of her until her backstory is revealed.

The timeline in this book jumps around quite a bit, which was confusing at first. And again, I still have no idea what that ending was about (I mean, I think I understood, but does the author really expect us to believe it?!?), but it was an entertaining ride nonetheless.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Children of Blood and Bone

I wanted to looooove this book, but I simply liked it. That doesn’t mean I thought it was bad. I was just hoping it would be a 4 or 5 star read, but I ended up giving it 3.5 stars. Zélie is a maji, but she’s not allowed to use her magic because it’s banned throughout the land. There was a great purge several years ago, when they rounded up all the maji in the country, including Zélie’s mother. Zélie is strong and independent, but naturally she’s still haunted and traumatized by the loss of her mother. Soon, Zélie’s life changes forever when she gets the chance to restore magic throughout the land.

This book has a lot of potential, but it didn’t suck me in like I was hoping it would. It was predictable at points, and I also thought it was too long. Also, the love story made no sense. I could see these two characters coming together, but I couldn’t believe that they would ever be in love, given their backgrounds. One more thing that really bothered me was the way that the author altered animal names. I thought it was distracting and unnecessary.

There was a lot I liked about this though. The premise and magic system was interesting, as well as the social commentary. You have a group of people, the maji, who are persecuted and despised just because they’ve been born with special abilities. The book looks at the struggles that marginalized people have to go through and gives them a voice through Zélie.

I thought this was a good start to the series. Although there were some aspects that I struggled with, I want to read the next book in the series to see where this goes. And I believe they’ve already optioned the film rights. I’d love to see this turned into a movie- I think it could be really awesome!

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Lying Game

I’ve started gravitating toward Ruth Ware’s books because I know they’ll be decently written and relatively entertaining. This one’s about four girls who are friends in boarding school. They play a game called The Lying Game, where they tell lies and receive points based on how convincing they are. After an incident though, they are forced to leave school in disgrace. Years go by and they move on with their lives, until one day they get a text from their friend saying “I need you,” a text that brings them all back to the school where they first met.

I was hoping this story would be a lot juicier than it was. I tend to like stories that take place in a campus setting, so I enjoyed that aspect of this. However, I didn’t think any of the core characters were interesting, and I thought the narrator was particularly bland. While I was reading, I wished I had a better sense of who these characters were and what motivated them.

I tend to generally feel fine about Ruth Ware’s books. I’d rank this one towards the bottom of the list of her books that I’ve read as it just didn’t do it for me.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Good as Gone

Julie was kidnapped when she was 13 years old. Her family searched for her everywhere and held out a small nugget of hope that she’d return one day. And she does return eight years later. As you can imagine, her family is shocked and they’re not sure how to treat this person who disappeared as a young girl and returned as a woman.

My general feeling after finishing this book was meh. The writing was ok, the characters were flat, and the story lacked urgency. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to think someone was dead and gone, and then have them pop up on your doorstep eight years later. Of course you’d wish that you could see them again, but how do you cope when that wish comes true?

There are religious undertones in here that the author tried to weave into the story, but to me, they didn’t quite fit. Some disturbing events take place in this novel, but they didn’t have much impact on me since I wasn’t invested in the story. I finished this book because I am very bad at DNFing, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Girl Before

This follows two women who live in the same house in London at different times. It’s not just any house though. One Folgate Street is an architectural innovation, a home that responds to its owner and comes with its own set of rules. As their lives cross paths, all sorts of lies start to come to light.

I loved having the house as such a prominent setting. It makes you consider what makes a house a home and what possessions you actually need in life. The writing kept me hooked throughout and I really wanted to know what happened to these characters.

The ending felt a bit muddled as a few things were revealed at once, but overall, I enjoyed this thriller.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Circe

So good, so good! Definitely one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. I absolutely loved all things mythology when I was younger, so I was immediately drawn to this retelling of Circe’s story. And then there was the treat of Madeline Miller’s writing! I definitely want to go back and read her earlier book, Song of Achilles.

This is the story of Circe, a lesser goddess, who is famous for turning Odysseus’s men into swine. But this is a much fuller story of Circe, from childhood to adulthood, not just the sliver we get in Odyssesus’s tale. Other characters are in and out of her life, but she is always the main focus.

Miller’s imagining of Circe’s life is fascinating and she’s made Circe such a compelling character here. She uses her powers for both good and evil. She is drawn to humans and repelled by the gods. She’s an utterly complicated woman. It is very, very interesting to have a main character who’s not exactly good and never claims to be. More characters like this please!

Circe is motivated by her desire to connect with people and to find her place in the world. She’s actually viewed as an odd duckling within her divine family, and I think many people can relate to that feeling of not belonging. The author also explores divinity and mortality. Does anyone deserve to be immortal? And what do you do with a life that will never end? How do you spend the time?

Miller’s writing is so rich and evocative and I felt transported back to ancient times. The way she captures Circe’s emotions and vulnerability is just beautiful.

I kind of wish I’d read this with someone because I think there are a lot of interesting things to discuss. If you have any interest in mythology or just enjoy a really compelling main character, then I definitely think you should read this book.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Our Kind of Cruelty

This is really all about one character, Mike. Mike’s always been in love with Verity, since they first met. They have a special relationship that sets them apart from other couples. That’s why Mike can’t accept it when he and Verity break up. He knows it’s just temporary, part of an elaborate game they like to play. He has no doubt in his mind that he and Verity will end up together forever.

How creepy does that description sound? This is about a man who’s obsessed with a woman. It’s told from Mike’s perspective and it’s completely focused on his thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I didn’t realize it was structured that way when I first started reading (I didn’t read a synopsis), so I kept hoping that we’d get to read from Verity’s point of view.

I was thinking about why the author chose to write from Mike’s point of view. I think it was perhaps to show how easy it is to be perceived as the nice guy, the good guy, even when that’s nowhere close to the truth. The society we live in gives the benefit of the doubt to guys like Mike.

It’s disturbing to read how Mike takes everything and twists it to fit into his own narrative. The author examines truth and how easily truths can be twisted into lies. It’s a story about love and obsession and lust and how those are three very different things.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Film Photo Diary

brooklyn bridge park yellow flowers

I bought my first film camera a few months ago. I’d been thinking about trying out film for a while, and I spent several weeks researching what camera would be best for a film newbie. I ended up buying the Canon AE-1 Program from a very nice guy on Craigslist. The camera was in excellent condition, and he even threw in a few rolls of film and a teleconverter too.

I was surprised by the weight of it when I held it for the first time. I was expecting something lighter, but it’s actually really solid and sturdy, which is nice. I can see how these cameras that were manufactured in the 70s and 80s have lasted so long. I love the design of it too. It’s a beautiful camera.

twin star orchards apple picking brooklyn block party

The great/scary thing about film is that you just have to shoot and hope for the best. No taking dozens of photos of the same shot, because film is not cheap! It definitely made me more precious and more considerate of each shot.

It took me a couple months to get through my first roll of film and I was so excited to develop them. I really thought there was a good chance that they’d all turn out to be horrible. In reality, there were a few duds, but most of them turned out much better than I thought.

The color and quality of the photos is just so lovely and shooting on film is a nice change of pace from my DSLR. When I had the film developed, I also got some prints and man oh man, professional prints are so much better quality than Walgreens/CVS prints.

brooklyn book festival 2018

clinton hill

For my birthday last month, I received another film camera, a Nikon point-and-shoot. This camera is quite different from my Canon film one. It’s much more compact and more automated. It’s so portable, which is really convenient, and it’s been fun trying out a different camera. I just finished my first roll in the Nikon, so hopefully I’ll get those developed soon and see how those photos compare to the ones taken on my Canon.

I’m starting to develop a little camera collection, which makes me really happy. Now let’s end of a shot of a delicious pizza, shall we?

speedy romeo's pizza

 

Reading List: September 2017 – February 2018

The Likeness Review, Book Reviews, Heartless, Lie to Me, I Let You Go, The Woman in the Window Review, Since We Fell

The Likeness

I just love Tana French’s writing. Love it. I was excited to read this one because I knew it dived into the life of Cassie, who was one of my favorite characters in the first novel.

When a murder victim turns out to be her doppelganger, Cassie agrees to go undercover to determine who murdered the victim. This book definitely gave me Secret History vibes, since the four main suspects are university students.

French really does have a way with words. I always find myself immersed in her stories, and the setting and characters are so vivid to me. She foreshadows certain events, but doesn’t overuse that technique. When she dropped little clues, I was on the edge of my seat, dying to know how it all turned out.

In the book, she explores the subject of family, both the family you are born into and the family you create. Often the people you choose to surround yourself with are the most important people. And as Cassie dives into this case, she understands more potently how the lines between right and wrong can be blurred.

This was such a good read. Can’t wait to pick up the next one in the series!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Lie to Me

It’s about this couple, Sutton and Ethan, who seemingly have a picture-perfect life. That all starts to unravel when Sutton disappears. Suspicion immediately falls on Ethan, but as secrets are revealed, it’s difficult to tell who’s the victim and who’s the perpetrator.

I do like a good domestic thriller, but I found this one disappointing. The characters were so one-dimensional and cliché, and the plot felt scattered. The dialogue was also pretty cringey.

Right away, we know that the husband is no-good and mysogenistic. All signs are pointing to him, but it’s too obvious and you know he didn’t do it. Also, Ethan and Sutton are supposed to be writers, but I did not for one second believe that they were good writers. It seemed like Ethan was only a famous novelist because of his good looks and charm.

Back to the scattered plot. I felt like there was a lot happening in this book, but most of it was not purposeful. It seemed like the author just threw some things in because she could.

Ok, I’ll stop complaining now, but this wasn’t nearly as good as I was hoping it would be. On to the next one!

Rating: 2/5 stars

Heartless

I definitely enjoyed The Lunar Chronicles series. I thought they were fun, entertaining fairytale retellings. Heartless didn’t quite live up to The Lunar Chronicles for me, but I still thought it was a fun read.

It’s all about the Queen of Hearts, and shows the journey of how she went from a young girl with hopes and dreams, to the villain that we know from Alice in Wonderland. Our protagonist, Cath, is a bit annoying and privileged, but becomes more nuanced as her character develops.

I really like the way that Meyer writes her retellings. She has a great balance of putting her own spin on the story, while weaving in elements from the original story that are fun to spot.

Rating: 3/5 stars

I Let You Go

I love when a book surprises me and this one definitely did. The main character, Jenna Gray, is running away from a tragic accident. She moves to a remote seaside town, and starts to try to rebuild her life. She can’t run away forever though, and soon enough, her past starts to catch up with her.

This book was definitely engaging. There’s a lot of tension, as the author explores feelings of grief, guilt, and shame. The author was really skilled at capturing these emotions and making these characters feel really believable

People cope with grief differently. Jenna’s decision to leave it all behind and attempt to start fresh made sense to me. This book made me think about how the people we love can hurt us, how we learn to live with that hurt, and begin to believe we deserve it.it

As I write this review, I’m still thinking about how this book caught me off guard. It was a great thriller and put Mackintosh on my list of ones to watch.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Since We Fell

What a strange book. I think I liked it? No, I did like it, clearly, because I rated it 3.5 stars. The thing I liked most about it was the writing. It’s descriptive in a way that really captures the settings and emotions, but it doesn’t go overboard and become overly descriptive.

The story follows Rachel Child, and goes back to her teenage years, and then continues with her adult life. It really is a character study of Rachel. She doesn’t know who her father is, and the book explores what it’s like to grow up without a firm sense of identity. Rachel’s relationship with her mother is fraught and the book explores the notion that you can love someone deeply and hate them as well.

This one has a bit of a wacky plot though, and it’s a complicated blend of literary fiction, thriller, mystery, and more. There are definitely some things that happen that stretch the imagination. I paused a few times while I was reading to think, “What is this book???

Is it a book I’d read again? I’m not sure (not that I reread that many books). But, I am glad that I read it and was able to experience Lehane’s writing. I would definitely read another one of his books.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Woman in the Window

I’m always wary of buzzy books, but I did like this book. The main character, Anna, lives alone in NYC. She’s afraid to leave her home, and yep, she’s got a bit of a drinking problem too. She loves spying on her neighbors though, and there’s one picture-perfect family that she likes in particular. One day when she’s watching their house, she sees something terrible happen, and she doesn’t know what to do.

Now that I’m writing that out, it sounds an awful lot like the plot of The Girl on the Train, right? Another similarity: between Anna’s mental health issues and alcohol problems, she’s an unreliable narrator that can’t be trusted.

Regardless, I thought this was a good read. I do love books set in NYC, and this was set in a part of NYC that I don’t frequent, so that was interesting for me. Also, I loved all the references to old black-and-white movies, although I wished that I was more familiar with them so that it’d have deeper meaning for me. I felt for Anna too. She just seemed so lonely, and like she’d been dealt some rough situations in life.

I don’t know that this explored any new themes, and I was hoping for a bit more thrill and drama, but this was an enjoyable read.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

Currently 06.

Death_to_stock_photography_bonus_floral_6

When you’ve been gone for so long, it can be difficult to come back. But I figured, let’s just dive right back in!

Well, it seems like I just can’t quit this blog yet. Every time I think I’m ready to let go, something just holds me back. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I missed writing and having this creative outlet.

So, I’ve written a new post for the first time since January. I can’t promise that I’ll stick to any sort of posting schedule, but I do have a few ideas circulating for new posts. For example, I enjoy writing down my thoughts about the books I’ve read and having those reviews to look back at. I’m working on writing reviews for all the books I read since my last books post, and plan to share those on the blog in the coming weeks (check back on Friday for the first one!).

Listening: Ever since I heard it on Insecure, I’ve been listening to it nonstop: “Make it Out Alive” by Nao (feat. SiR).

Watching: I just binge watched all of Sharp Objects this weekend and holy cow. It was so good. All of the acting in that series is superb, but Amy Adams just really blew me away. The raw emotions she portrays in her character, Camille, are simply heartbreaking. And that final episode had me shook. I read the book several years ago, so in theory I knew how it was going to end. But I didn’t remember all of the plot, so the ending totally caught me off guard. That was really excellent television (beautifully shot and edited), and it’s well worth a watch.

Reading: Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton. It’s about a woman named Louise, who lives in NYC. She meets a beguiling young woman named Lavinia, who invites Louise into her rich and glamorous world. Louise and Lavinia’s friendship is fast and intense, and they may not both make it out alive… I’m enjoying this so far. I understand the kind of person that Louise is, so I’m really curious to know what happens to her.

Eating: I’ve been working on changing my eating habits and trying to eat healthier. I tried the keto diet for a couple weeks, and I’m working on a whole post about that because it was quite the interesting experience for me. Do you guys have a resource you use for easy, healthy recipes?

I’d love to hear about any life updates that you feel like sharing in the comments below. Also, does anyone have any upcoming trips planned? I’ve got a couple things cooking on the backburner, but still need to finalize some plans.  I definitely have the itch to take another trip or two soon!

(image via Death to Stock Photo)