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


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

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


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

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


My Reading List: August 2017

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Aside from one book, my August reading list was all about the thrillers. Maybe it was because of the early fall weather we were having? Regardless, there were two books that I thought were really great, and another two that were just good. Keep on reading for the reviews, and here’s the link to last month’s massive book review post, just in case you missed it!

The Hate U Give

My favorite read this month was The Hate U Give. You never know how it’s going to turn out with buzzy books, but I’m happy to report that I loved this one.

The book follows Starr Carter, who witnesses the murder of one of her good friends. Two black teenagers are driving around, minding their own business. A cop pulls them over and murders her friend, Khalil. As you can imagine, Starr is devastated and Khalil’s death causes her to reevaluate her life and the community she’s a part of.

Obviously, the book is timely, and on top of that, it’s so heartfelt. I connected with Starr’s character almost immediately, and was very invested in her entire emotional journey. Starr is just a kid and deals with a situation that is absolutely terrible, but not unimaginable in today’s world.

Starr attends an elite, private school in a different neighborhood than the one she lives in. Sometimes she feels like she has to be two different people. One version of Starr is one of four black kids in her grade, surrounded by white classmates and teachers all day. The second Starr acts differently with her family and the people in her neighborhood. I could identify with Starr’s struggles and the feelings that she was either “too black” or “not black enough.”

This book has humor, warmth, and strength, all while tackling a very difficult and sensitive subject. I cannot wait to see the movie version. I’ve been following the casting announcements and the list is pretty 100 right now.

The Girl Before

When I was looking through my Goodreads TBR and spotted this book, I noticed that there’s another thriller with the same title, by a different author (The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney). After a brief internal struggle, I chose the book by Rena Olsen because the synopsis sounded a lot more interesting to me.

At the beginning of this novel, police storm into Clara’s house, arrest her husband, and take her into protective custody. Her husband tells her one thing before he’s dragged off: “Say nothing.”

I hadn’t read a good psychological thriller in a while and I thought this was pretty great. The pacing is steady, slowly and carefully giving you pieces of the puzzle until you’re able to put together the big picture. Clara was a pretty fascinating character. The book is told from her first-person perspective, so we are really in her head as she tries to figure out how to handle her husband’s arrest. Also, the narrative moves back and forth between the present and the past so that we see how Clara ended up where she is today.

It’s a fascinating look at the human mind, and the ways in which we can convince ourselves that something is the truth, or is a lie. It’s a dark and thought-provoking read, which is just the way I like my thrillers.

The Ice Beneath Her

I forgot how much I like Nordic Noir. I picked up this book based on Abby’s (also known as Crime by the Book) recommendation, and she was right, it’s a great read. The book is told from three main perspectives. There’s Peter, the detective who’s investigating the murder of a young woman who is found beheaded in the home of a infamous CEO. Emma is the fiancé of that CEO, or at least she was, up until he disappears without a word. And finally, there’s Hanne, the psychologist who’s called in to consult on the case.

I think the characters are the best part of this book. The author does an excellent job of making them fully-realized, so that I understood who they are as people. For example, Peter is kind of a jerk and a coward, but he’s still a fascinating character, and I still wanted to root for him. The writing is atmospheric, and while I was reading it, I felt like I was there in Sweden, experiencing the cold, brutal winter.

It’s a story about love and betrayal. Sometimes the ones we love the most have the ability to damage us the most. If you’re looking for a thriller with depth and strong characters, I’d recommend this one.

Girl in Snow

Remember when I talked about the danger of buzzy books? Well I’d seen a quite a bit of buzz about this book, but it disappointed me. Not to say that it was bad, but my expectations didn’t match the reality. After reading two solid thrillers, I wanted to dive into another one. This book is described as a thriller, but really it’s an exploration of these characters that happens to include a mystery, which is not as central to the story as you might think.

Lucinda Hayes is the girl who was murdered. Cameron is the boy who was in love with her, Jade is the girl who grew up with her, and Russ is one of the cops handling her case. The story is really about these three characters and their ideas about who Lucinda was. It’s set in a small town in the mountains of Colorado, one of those towns that doesn’t have much going on.

The book explores how we become who we are as people. Are we shaped by our environment, or the people who raise us, or the way we are treated by others? The answer is all of these things, and more.

While the writing was lyrical, and often beautiful, I wished that the story was stronger. The characters were strong and it was interesting to be in their minds for a while, but I lacked a deeper connection to the narrative.

Final Girls

Final Girls is the most entertaining thriller I read this month and I can see why it’s popular. The media labels Quincy as a “Final Girl” after she is the lone survivor of a horrible massacre. The storyline flashes back and forth between the day it happened and the present. The flashbacks are pretty unnerving because you know that something really terrible is about to happen. Even though we know what the horrible thing is, we don’t know how it happened. The author does a great job of building up that suspense.

Just when you start to think that you have it all figured out, the author throws some curveballs at you. It’s also fascinating the way that the author starts to reveal the cracks in Quincy’s perfect facade.

I had a few small complaints (the ending and some of the dialogue felt off to me) and one major one that had me shaking my head incredulously. I won’t mention it here, because spoilers, but if you’ve read it, let’s chat in the comments below. Overall though, I thought this book was an easy and pretty compelling read.

Book Reviews: March-July 2017

 july reads, summer reads, wonder book review, the course of love review, six of crows review, sweetbitter review, because you love to hate me review, exit west review

March: Book One

I’m slowly, but surely, adding more graphic novels to my TBR. In March, I read the first book in this trilogy about the life of noted Civil Rights activist John Lewis. As you can imagine, Mr. Lewis has led a very interesting life and I loved learning more about his history. I really like the artwork as well, and as a graphic novel newb, I’m still amazed by how much detail can be captured in a single page, and the different styles of images and lettering that are used to convey different feelings. The first book describes Mr. Lewis’s childhood and his first encounters with the Civil Rights movement. This is a beautifully told story about a critical part of American history and I’m looking forward to continuing the series.

The Woman in Cabin 10

I got along fine with Ruth Ware’s first novel, In a Dark, Dark, Wood, so I was willing to give this book a try as well. Turns out I much preferred this book. Funny enough, I was recently chatting with a friend who has read both books too, and she felt the opposite! I thought the main character, Lo, was much more believable, the setting was appropriately creepy, and the tension was high. Lo is a travel journalist who is invited to attend the maiden voyage of a new, boutique cruise ship. One night on the ship, she hears something terrible- the sound of someone falling overboard. The only problem is, no one is missing from the ship. Lo begins to investigate what she saw and heard, and doubts herself as she keeps coming up empty.

I can’t help but compare the two books, so I’ll tell you what I preferred about this one. I felt that Lo’s occupation as a travel journalist was much more believable than Nora as a writer. Lo at least tried to do her job throughout the story, even if she wasn’t always succeeding. Also, Lo’s ambition and desire to do well on this trip really comes through.

I’ve never been on a cruise before and I might be a bit scared of them after reading this book. The idea of being trapped on a boat for several days with nowhere to go does not seem ideal, particularly in the scenes that take place below deck and below the water line. I’m not really claustrophobic, but the idea of being in a tiny cabin room, underwater, had me taking deep breaths of air in gratitude. There’s also something so isolating about the sea, which certainly played into this story. Ware did a good job of setting the scene and creating a claustrophobic, stifling atmosphere.

The mystery in this book is less predictable, which I was quite happy about. Once you know the main secrets, the plot pretty much goes along as you’d expect, but I was in the dark for most of the book.

Overall, for me, this was certainly an improvement from In a Dark, Dark, Wood with better characters and a more compelling and believable plot. It was also a quick and entertaining read- perfect to take on your next trip.


Hmmmm, where to begin with Sweetbitter, a buzzy book from last spring? I’ll start by saying that this book is not for everyone, but I’m glad I read it and I do have an appreciation for it. The reason that I think I got along with this book is that it hits a lot of my literary checkboxes. It takes place in NYC and it’s about a young twenty-something coming of age. Tess moves to NYC with very little to her name and lands a job at the famous restaurant, Union Square Café. It’s about becoming a part of the fast-paced restaurant industry and trying to find your place in the world.

In terms of plot, there’s not much happening in this book. Instead, it’s all about Tess, whose name we don’t even learn until well into the book. We do know that she is young, carefree, and trying to reinvent herself. I was talking to someone who described this book as “self-indulgent,” and they were not wrong. That’s why I think that if you can’t connect with Tess in some form, then this is not the book for you.

Sometimes, the writing is really good. There are a few, beautiful passages that made me wistful and nostalgic about my move to NYC several years ago. At other times, the writing feels pretentious. Ahh, but again, there was so much that I could identify with in this novel. I remember moving into my first place on my own, like Tess does. I remember the hot, humid days of my first summer in New York. I remember some of the places that Tess haunts, because I’ve been there as well. I remember trying to get used to this supersonic pace of life and trying to feel like I belonged here. In some ways, the book is a love letter to NYC, and I throughly enjoyed that aspect of it. I also found her descriptions of working in the restaurant industry really fascinating and eye-opening.

Tess can be a frustrating character, and I believe she is meant to be. There are actions that she takes that I just don’t understand, which make me want to shake her and say “Grow up!” But, I suppose, that’s the whole point. I also didn’t understand the love interest in this story because he sounds like the worst, and I had a hard time seeing what Tess saw in him.

In the end, there were parts of this novel that really grabbed me and which I’m still thinking about now. I think my personal connections to the story definitely shaped my experience in a more positive light. This book seems to incite pretty polarized views, so if you’ve also read this, I’d love to hear what you thought.

You Can’t Touch My Hair

I listened to the audiobook version of this book, and I think it was the right call. Before reading this, I wasn’t super familiar with Phoebe Robinson, but I knew she was a comedian and that she has a podcast with Jessica Williams called 2 Dope Queens. I was sold by the title (seriously, so good), and the description. The book is full of essays about race, gender, pop culture, and more. This was a pretty fun to listen to. I was able to identify with some of her experiences and, as a black woman, I found a lot of Robinson’s observations on race spot on. Of course, she puts a humorous spin on things, but sometimes she takes a step back and uses a more serious tone. At some point, she talks about using humor as a coping mechanism, as a way to deal with and process some of the experiences she’s had to face. She and I have led very different lives, but it’s always nice to read something by someone who gets it, who knows what it’s like. Consider me now a fan of Phoebe Robinson, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for whatever she does next.

Exit West

This book felt like a beautiful indie film to me. It was quiet, evocative, and completely drew me in. The main characters are Saeed and Nadia, two people who fall in love in a time just before their country is devastated by a civil war. However, contrary to what I thought before I started reading it, this book is less about the love story, and more about the horrors of war and what people have to do to survive.

The tone is detached and somewhat wistful and whimsical. The detachment doesn’t prevent you from connecting with the characters, and perhaps it is necessary in order to process the terrible events that take place. The idea is that horrible things happen, but as things get worse, the original horrors start to feel almost normal (which is its own type of horror).

There’s certainly a lot to think about in this novel, particularly in relation to the themes of displacement and migration. The situation becomes so untenable that Saeed and Nadia decide they must flee. They have to leave behind their friends, their family, and everything that they previously knew. Hamid describes what it’s like to be a refugee and how refugees are treated (unsurprisingly and sadly, the answer is not very well). We see Saeed and Nadia struggle to build and settle into new lives, apart from their previous lives.

Magical realism is a tool used subtly in this book and it fits in quite naturally with the story. The entire book is graceful and thought-provoking. People suffer and struggle, but in some ways, it’s amazing that people are able to live through and survive these experiences. I think this is an important and worthwhile read, particularly given the current state of affairs.

The Dark Days Club

This book made me remember how much I enjoy historical fiction. The Dark Days Club revolves around Lady Helen, a young lady living in the Regency era. Shortly before her debutante ball, Helen begins to develop certain abilities. Soon she learns that there’s a whole underground world in London, full of demons and the people that protect the innocent. When Helen discovers this world, she struggles with the societal expectations for a young woman of her breeding, and the powers she has to combat evil and make the world a better place.

I had a bit of a slow start with this book. Since I knew that magic was involved, I kept waiting for that aspect to appear in the plot. That said, the beginning of the book really sets the historical context, and I enjoyed that. I love reading descriptions of fashion and style in books, which are happily quite plentiful in this novel.

In addition to the normal struggles of growing up and reconciling the person that you’re expected to be with the person that you want to be, Helen has magical abilities that she didn’t expect and doesn’t necessarily want. As you can imagine, being a woman in this time period was very limiting. I love that even before she discovers her powers, Helen fights against societal norms and wants to be independent. I thought Helen was a strong, intelligent character, and even when I didn’t agree with her decisions, I was rooting for her.

Although it took a while for the magical elements to emerge, I thought they were pretty compelling, particularly in the way that they interacted with more normal aspects of life. However, I have some questions about the world that Goodman created, which will hopefully be answered in Book 2. I thought certain words were a bit overused and some of the dialogue made me question if people ever really spoke like that. Despite a few qualms and the slow start, I was engaged by this story and really curious to read about how Helen would fare with her powers. I’m looking forward to picking up the next book in this series when it comes out!

The Song Rising

The best part of a series is having the chance to revisit a world that you love and so far, I’ve really liked all the books in the Bone Season series. It’s rather interesting to compare the Paige that we met in the first book, with the Paige in this third installment. She’s grown so much as a character, and even though she’s much stronger now, she still doubts herself sometimes.

I love this world and I continue to be impressed by Shannon’s abilities. This world is so rich and yet it seems that there’s still much more to explore. In terms of plot, it’s somewhat unbelievable how quickly things progress in the second chunk of the book, but it does make it pretty exciting. We also learn some interesting information about Paige’s past, which gives us further insight into what motivates Paige. I can’t wait to see how those details from her past play out in future books. Nick is probably my favorite character after Paige, so I was very glad that he’s more involved in this book. I think their friendship is strong and they really have been through so much together.

The book ended on a pretty exciting note and I really cannot wait to see what happens next!

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom

Guys guys guys. Multiple people told me to read these a while ago and I had it on my TBR for ages. I wish I’d listened to them and read this right away because I loved. this. series. Witty dialogue, action and adventure, a fantastic world, amazing characters- these books had it all.

Let’s start with the characters. Ugh, they were so good. If I were to give a very brief description of the plot, I’d say that it’s about six characters who band together to pull off a heist, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Each character has their specific skill set and distinct, unique personalities. I love when a group of different people band together for a common purpose, and this book delivers that in spades. I can’t talk about how great these characters are without mentioning my favorite, Inej. She’s a young woman who’s been through so much trauma, but is somehow still standing. She’s learned how to take care of herself and survive in a cutthroat world. She fiercely protects the people she loves, and at the same time, can show compassion to her enemies. All of the characters are really well done in these books, but I couldn’t help but gush a little about Inej because her grace and strength really spoke to me.

These are the first books I’ve read by Leigh Bardugo, so I was completely unfamiliar with the Grisha universe. That meant that was I rather confused by some of the terms in the beginning. Once I caught up though, I was completely fascinated by this world. The Grisha have special powers, such as the ability to heal or to manipulate the weather, and because of this, they are hunted. I love the way that the real and magical worlds blend in these books. The “real” world of Ketterdam is just as compelling as the magical elements. It’s full of fascinating details, from the structure of the gangs, to the languages, to the descriptions of other countries in this world.

Each of the characters has a pretty colorful past, and each must reshape who they are as people, to varying degrees. The books also explore the various forces that drive people, whether it’s love, greed, duty, revenge, or something else. The reason that I love books that feature people from different backgrounds who come together is because there is something very powerful about the families that are forged not by blood, but by choice. I loved reading about the various relationships between these characters, and what brought them together in the first place. I really appreciated that Bardugo doesn’t rush these relationships and really takes the time to show us they’ve developed over the years.

These books had me on the edge of my seat. There’s so much action and excitement- I was practically biting my fingernails because I was anxious to know what happened next. I also have this bad habit of skimming forward a couple of paragraphs when something really exciting is happening before I catch myself and go back. I found myself doing that a lot with these books. I could go on and on about these books, but I’ll stop myself here (but if anyone wants to discuss in the comments, I’m game!). I do think that Leigh Bardugo left the ending rather open-ended and she could totally write a third book if she wanted to. Fingers crossed that that wish comes true one day- I’d be thrilled to revisit this world!

Strange the Dreamer

I throughly enjoyed the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, so I was pretty excited when I heard that Taylor was writing a new book. I have to say right off the bat though that this book disappointed me. I don’t think that it was bad, but it never really captured me the way that I wanted it to.

Lazlo is a dreamer. He always has his head stuck in a book and is fascinated by tales of a long-forgotten city known as Weep. He dreams about having the chance to rediscover this city. He can hardly believe it when one day, a group of people he’s only read about it appear in his city and present an opportunity to realize his dreams.

Naturally, I love that Lazlo is a bookworm and finds both solace and escape in his books.Throughout the book though, I wished I felt a stronger connection to Lazlo, or to any of the other characters in the book. The characters felt a bit one-note and I thought the book would have had a lot more impact if I had any strong feelings towards the characters. There’s also some instalove in this book. I think I have a relatively high tolerance for instalove and even I couldn’t understand what brought these characters together, other than circumstances.

There are some interesting thoughts on the idea that good people can do terrible things. If a good person commits a horrible act, can they still be a hero or are they a monster? It also explores the theme of the ordinary becoming extraordinary and the idea that unlikely people can become heroes. While I enjoyed Taylor’s writing style before, but it didn’t work as well for me in this book. Certain descriptions and phrases were repeated, which I found grating after a while. I also thought the ending was quite frustrating. This is entirely my fault, but I couldn’t help but compare this book to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, and I was just hoping for a lot more. There are certainly interesting elements in this book, yet it failed to come together completely for me.


I wasn’t expecting this to be so heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It’s a story about a 10 year-old boy named Auggie who was born with a facial deformity. At the beginning of the book, he starts going to school with other kids for the first time and we follow his journey as he struggles to be accepted.

Man, this one certainly tugged on my heartstrings. Auggie is such a sweet boy and school is just one of the many things he’s had to endure in his short life. What got to me the most were the people who didn’t intend or even realize they were being mean to Auggie. They’d make comments that they thought were harmless, but were really insensitive. He’d know the exact moment when someone saw his face for the first time and notice their reactions. At some point in the book, he talks about how he only has a few friends, but that’s all he needs, and he’s so right. A handful of true, loyal friends are worth a pack of superficial ones.

Writing from a child’s perspective is not an easy feat and I think Palacio did an excellent job in this book. I’m not sure if this book is considered middle-grade or YA, but really I think it can be read by a wide range of ages. The lesson is important and universal- we could all stand to be a lot kinder to each other.

The Wrath & The Dawn and The Rose & The Dagger

I cannot lie, these books were disappointing reads for me. The story is supposed to be a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, but in the first book, I didn’t find anything new or inventive about the story. I kept waiting for the author to put her own unique spin or perspective on the story, but it never happened. Instead, these books featured some YA tropes that tend to drive people crazy, including instalove (seriously, it takes the main character like 1-2 days to go from utterly vengeful to completely in love) and melodrama. I thought the main characters, Shazi and Khalid, were one-note, and I particularly expected better from our heroine.

I was really disappointed by the first book, but I decided to pick up the second anyway. The first one ends so abruptly and I wanted to know what happened next and how the author would change the storyline. Plus, I was hoping that the second book would be an improvement upon the first.

I did fare slightly better with the second book and I’d give it an extra half star for plot development because at least the plot finally deviated from A Thousand and One Nights. Still, a lot of the issues I had with the first book are prevalent in the second one. Sometimes I wanted to shake the characters and ask them why they were making the exact same mistakes they made in book one! Then, the main plot point of book one is resolved way too neatly and we get this other subplot that’s confusing and kind of appears out of nowhere. You know at the beginning of this paragraph, I was willing to give a half star for the plot, but now I think I’ve convinced myself to take it back…

Long short story, I wanted, and was expecting, a lot more from this series. If you’re looking to read an exciting retelling, I’d have to recommend that you look elsewhere.

The Muse

My general impression of this book is that it was a pleasant surprise. This book revolves around two main characters, Odelle and Olive, and a special painting that impacts both of their lives. Throughout the novel, we find out the origins of this painting, as the book moves back and forth in time.

I think the author did a good job of making both time lines compelling. I’ll admit that the first switch was jarring because I was just starting to settle into the book and I wasn’t expecting it. Once I realized what was happening, I was eager to find out what happened in both stories, although I did have a slight preference for Odelle’s.

Either I was not paying attention when I first read the synopsis, or I just forgot, but I didn’t realize that this novel features a person of color. Odelle describes her experiences as a woman of color living in the mid-1960s and the microagressions that she has to face on a regular basis.

This book focuses on the artist and the art they create. It explores what motivates people to produce art, how different people interpret it, and the importance of art. I’ve always had an amateur interest in art, so I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel. It made me think of another novel that explores art and the art world, An Object of Beauty.

I’d say that is a fairly slow book. It’s also a much darker novel than I expected, particularly in Olive’s storyline, which touches on the turbulent political atmosphere in Spain in the later 1930s. While I really enjoyed this novel, there’s still something that prevents me from giving it four stars. I’m not sure if it was the distance I felt that prevented me from completely connecting with the characters, or the rather slow pacing. Still, I thought this was a very solid read and it certainly made me curious about Burton’s previous novel, The Miniaturist.

The Queen of the Tearling

I’ve had this on my TBR for ages and I’m very glad to have finally read it. Even better, since I waited so long, the full trilogy has been published and I was able to jump straight from the first book to the second. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Kelsea has had a rather lonely, isolated childhood, but she’s always know that it was her destiny to be queen one day. Shortly after her 19th birthday, the Queen’s Guard arrive to escort her to royal castle so she can assume her throne. However, the road is not an easy one, since both her uncle, the regent, and the witch queen of Mortmesne are trying to kill her. And, even though she’s been groomed for the throne, there’s still so many secrets that have been kept from her.

This was entertaining and full of adventure. I really liked Kelsea as a character. She’s strong, tough, determined, and not afraid to speak her mind. In this world, there are many sexist notions about what a woman should do and how women act. Kelsea constantly pushes against those boundaries and strives to be a great ruler for all her people. One thing that I’m not sure how i feel about though- there’s quite the fixation on Kelsea’s physical appearance and descriptions of how plain she is. It seems like an obsession, which somewhat makes sense when I think about the insecurities we all have, the things we constantly wish we could change. But still, it felt odd how frequently it was mentioned and I wished that focus would have been placed on Kelsea’s other qualities.

Originally I thought this was set in the past, but then I realized it’s set in the future, which was a fun twist for me (but again, if I’d read the synopsis, I would have known that!). It’s pretty fascinating to consider a world after this one which society has somewhat regressed. However, there are things that don’t change, such as the factors that motivate people, whether it’s greed, religion, ambition, duty, or something else.

This world also features magic, which I love. I think this first book did a really good job of setting out this world, and hooking me into the story. Aside from Kelsea, there are other great characters, like the Mace, and I got the sense that we’ve only scratched the surface of his background.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Minutes after finishing it, I’d already started reading the second book- that’s how engrossed I was! As I write this, I’m currently in the middle of book 2 and I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.

The Invasion of the Tearling and The Fate of the Tearling

After reading the first book in the series, I dove right into book 2 and then book 3. Now that I’ve finished the trilogy, I can say that overall, I did like the series. I think the character arc for Kelsea, in particular, is pretty great to witness. The world building was strong in the first book, and it was wonderful to delve deeper into the history of this world in the remaining two books.

I did feel like the pacing slows down over the next two books. Also, as a few new perspectives are introduced, the main storylines felt a bit convoluted, especially in the final book. While I didn’t always agree with what was happening, I did enjoy the journey these books took me on and I appreciate the world that the author built.

The Perfume Collector

I chose this book for its cosmopolitan setting. The story takes place in New York, London, and Paris, among other places, and focuses on a woman named Grace. Grace is a bored and unhappy housewife who wants a life with more meaning. One day, she discovers that she’s been named in a will and been bequeathed an apartment in Paris. The only problem is that Grace knows nothing about the woman, Eva, who left the apartment in her name, so she decides to uncover this woman’s story and her connection to Grace.

The writing was good in this novel and the author did a good job of evoking the different scents she described. I wanted Grace to have a bit more oomph and gumption as a character, which she did develop a bit over the course of the novel. There was a strong theme of independence and of a woman being able to choose her own path. Thanks to societal norms, women didn’t (don’t) always have a lot of choices, and it was interesting to see both Grace and Eva navigate around societal constraints.

I thought this was a solid piece of historical fiction and I loved reading about the lifestyles in the various settings, particularly the scenes that took place in New York City in the 1920s and 1930s. I would definitely read more of Tessaro’s work.

The Magicians

I started out loving this, but by the end, I was kind of tired of it. At the beginning of the book, Quentin, our main character, discovers that magic is real. He applies to and is accepted at a magical college named Brakebills, and the book takes off from there.

I will say that the writing in this book is really great, which is what kept me going, even when I found the plot a little boring. Quentin started to grate on me, however. He is often complaining, perpetually unsatisfied, and makes some pretty dumb decisions. The book takes place over the course of several years, so I was hoping we’d see Quentin grow up a bit, but that doesn’t really happen, at least not in the first installment of this series.

The magical system is interesting and seems a lot more technical than other magical worlds that I’ve read about. I felt that the book’s pacing was a bit strange and it seems like we fast forwarded through some of the more interesting times (when Quentin was in school) and spent too long on scenes where nothing was happening.

I was hoping to really love this book, but in the end, I wasn’t blown away. I think I’m to blame a bit. I read the book in short spurts over a few weeks, but I think I would have had a better reading experience if I’d read it in longer sittings. I wasn’t eager to read the rest of the trilogy after finishing book 1, but then I talked to a friend who told me that books 2 and 3 do get better. That gave me some hope, so I may decide to continue this series at some point.

Because You Love to Hate Me

This anthology was a lot of fun. The book is a collection of thirteen tales of villainy, written by different authors and based on prompts provided by booktubers. I thought it was such a unique setup and it was thrilling to see booktubers involved in this anthology.

The idea behind these stories is to add a twist to our traditional notion of villains and to show a different perspective. I loved the idea of blurring the line between villain and hero. These stories tackled questions such as: What makes a person fundamentally good or bad? Can heroes also be villains, and vice versa?

The best part was that this anthology introduced me to several new authors. My favorite stories had me rooting for the villain, including, “The Blessing of Little Wants,” “The Sea Witch,” “Marigold,” and “Sera.” Overall, I thought this was a really entertaining and fun collection, and I’m looking forward to checking out a few new-to-me authors

The Course of Love

After a couple meets and falls in love, what exactly happens during the “happily ever after?” This is the main question that de Botton seeks to answer in this novel. In the first few pages, Rabih and Kirsten meet, fall in love, and become a couple, but that’s only the beginning of their love story. Throughout this book, the author charts the course of their relationship and all the messy, complicated bits that happen in-between.

I’m a horrible romantic and at times it felt like this book was speaking directly to me and my lofty, idealistic notions of love. The book is structured so that the story is broken up by analytical asides from the narrator. There are a lot of interesting thoughts and ruminations on love in these passages, but by the end, I felt that they were too frequent and interrupted the story too often. It started to feel quite didactic, which I believe was the intention, but it was not what I wanted to experience while reading. Sometimes it felt difficult to form your own conclusions as a reader because you knew that the narrator would explain it all to you shortly.

That said, the writing is beautiful. I did enjoy the way the author broke down popular views on love. Rabih and Kirsten were also very strong characters and I could see bits of myself in each of them and they way they approached their relationship. The book does focus mostly on Rabih’s perspective, but I would have loved to learn more about what Kirsten was thinking or feeling in certain situations.

I’d be curious to know how someone who has been or is currently married feels while reading this book. Do the lessons ring true? Regardless, I enjoyed this thoughtful novel/essay on love and I’m looking forward to picking up another de Botton book in the future.