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