Noodling on Some New Reviews

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately, friends… what’s on your nightstand?

–Marissa

“Leave the World Behind” by Rumaan Alam both engrossed and infuriated me in equal measure! I feel like there are three parts to this slender novel; first, Amanda, Clay, and their children are spending a week in an isolated Long Island AirBnB when a knock on the door at night reveals an older couple who own the house seeking refuge (this part features distrust, fear, and race and class discussions). The second part is trying to figure out what has happened in the world to drive the older couple out of New York City amid a blackout and mounting fear (a difficult feat in an isolated place with no news and cell coverage). And the third is mounting fear, paranoia, and confusion about what happens next. This is an incredibly suspenseful, beautifully written, thought-provoking read but fair warning: I did NOT like the incredibly incomplete, anti-climatic, “that’s all folks” ending AT ALL! You’re going to see this one all over the place this fall, and I can see why – so keep an eye out!

“Just Like You” by Nick Hornby was just… sweet and light and warm, and exactly what I needed after my last few reads! White, middle class Lucy is in her forties, divorced with two sons, and established in her career; Joseph is 22, black, and working multiple “blue collar” jobs as he tries to find his own path… so what happens when these two opposites begin a flirtation that may become more? Throw in the Brexit debate (this is set in 2016), and see how Lucy and Joseph navigate the world, their relationship (and all its complications), and their expectations of each other. This is a story where nothing really *happens*, but you love the characters and are happy to drift along with them for a few hours. I enjoyed this one!

“Invisible Girl” by Lisa Jewell was a snappy suspense novel that knit together several storylines – the story of the at-times rocky marriage of Roan and Cate (and their two teenage kids), the troubled teen Saffyre that Roan used to counsel, and admittedly “odd duck” Owen who lives across the road and who can’t seem to connect with women – and the sinister man who tries to steer him down a dark path. When Saffyre goes missing, everyone is trying to unpack how these people intersect with each other and whodunit. I liked the points of view of the various characters, the English setting, and seeing how all the threads came together. A good suspense novel!

“The Last Story of Mina Lee” by Nancy Jooyoun Kim sounded like my wheelhouse: an immigrant story, the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, LA, and a mystery… and while I liked the story, I didn’t really *sink* into it the way I thought I would, and by the last third, found myself kinda… bored? Margot has returned to LA to find her mother Mina has died, leaving behind lots of unanswered questions. I liked the cultural aspects of this story, but the “villain” storyline and slow pace just didn’t do it for me right now. Bummer.

“Luster” by Raven Leilani has been SUPER buzzy this summer, so I had to give it a read! Edie is a twenty-something black woman who is stumbling through life in New York City (dead end job, empty sex, crappy apartment) when she begins an affair with married Eric – and then in a series of events finds herself living in the family home. The writing style of this short novel is incredibly distinct – and, let’s say it, definitely not for everyone – staccato and sharp with no holds barred. I didn’t really like Edie – or anyone for that matter – and yet, you want to see what happens. This is a weird one to categorize, y’all…

“One by One” by Ruth Ware is her latest, and has been billed as an Agatha Christie-esque locked door mystery, so I was in! Small tech startup Snoop’s team are going on a corporate skiing retreat in the Alps, under the luxurious care of chalet keepers Danny and Erin. But when in-fighting combines with a potentially deadly avalanche, nothing is so cozy and nice anymore. I really tore through this one – easy to read, absorbing, atmospheric and with a good “whodunit” vibe (though I wish I had a helluva more knowledge of skiing, because I have precisely zero). This is a great “locked door” mystery novel!

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