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

 

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.