Whatcha Reading?

Time for some new book reviews – lots of fall releases happening now!

–Marissa

“The Girl in the Mirror” by Rose Carlyle was a palate-cleanser suspense novel that was just right for tearing through in a day! Twins Summer and Iris may look identical, but whereas Iris is struggling to find her way through the world, Summer has the perfect husband, is financially secure, has a perfect life, and no worries. But when Summer begs Iris to come to Thailand to help her sail their yacht home to Australia under duress, things go sideways, and quickly. This novel definitely has three parts – the third on the yacht with the twins and the isolation of the ocean, the third where Iris has to deal with her own tragedy and some, uh, poor decisions, and the last third where all the pieces come together in a seriously weird way – but oh, that ending *shakes fist*. Easy, fast, absorbing and atmospheric, I dug it!

“Dancing with the Octopus” by Debora Harding is a memoir of two kinds: a memoir of her abduction, rape and abandonment at the age of 14, and a memoir of the mentally ill parents Harding was raised by, and how both of these experiences shaped who she became as an adult. The writing style of this one is a bit weird and stilted, and while I was interested in her recollections, I found myself not fully engaging, perhaps due to the writing style.

“Dear Child” by Romy Hausmann has been getting a lot of buzz and is touted as “Room” meets “Gone Girl”. Set in Germany, this is the story of Lena, who disappeared 14 years ago – but when she is found in the hospital with injuries from an accident, the family swears this isn’t THEIR Lena. The author packed a lot into this one – we have multiple points of view, shifting timelines, red herrings, a complex weaving in the plot, a who’s who and a whodunit! This one obviously has a lot of trigger warnings for abduction, sexual assault, etc. but was definitely a page turner!

“Take a Hint, Dani Brown” by Talia Hibbert is the second in the “Brown Sisters” trilogy from UK author Hibbert. This time, it pairs professor Dani with surly security guard (and former rugby phenom) Zafir, and the sparks fly between these two even as commitment-phobic Dani and romance-lover Zafir dance around each other! Swoony, sexy, smart and full of diverse characters (Dani is a Ph.D, bi, and black, Zafir is a Anglo-Pakistani Muslim), this is just a well-structured, feel-good, warm and sexy romance novel, and I was here for it!

“In Case You Missed It” by Lindsey Kelk is just a warm romance novel, and was exactly what I needed after my last few reads! Ros has moved back to England (and with her parents!) after three years ago, and is determined to pick up life where it left off, with her best friends and good times. But, even though a old boyfriend reappears, is he the right bloke for her? I really loved all the characters (the gal pals, the love interests, the parents, Ros) in this warm romance novel!

Wintering” by Katherine May is a tough non-fiction book to summarize, but I really loved it! Told in gentle prose, the subtitle of this memoir is “The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times”, and that’s what May does, discussing her personal difficulties while also embracing what a pause in our life – and our seasons – can look like. She combines travel anecdotes with nature reflections, the cyclical nature of our seasons with ways to cope in darker days, and just… makes the reader feel nestled in and comforted even in tough times of winter (in both senses of the word). I really loved spending time with this one, even if I’m not describing it well!

“Goodnight Beautiful” by Aimee Molloy was a PAGE TURNER of a suspense novel, and I flew through this one! Sam and Annie are newlyweds, and Sam is establishing his therapy practice in a small town in upstate New York… but what Sam doesn’t know is that his sessions can be overheard through a vent in the ceiling. I don’t want to say anymore for fear of spoilers, but this one had some DOOZY twists that made me literally close the book and stop for a minute to rethink what I just read. Fast-paced and well plotted, I dug this one!

“The Book of Two Ways” by Jodi Picoult… man, this is tricky. I really loved all of Picoult’s older works, but her last few titles have just been, well, unreadable. I was determined to get through this one (despite slogging through PAGES AND PAGES of Egyptology minutiae, quantum physics, fat shaming, the mechanics of hospice care, and a bunch of fairly unlikable characters doing not very much), and while I finished, I’m also resentful I had to sit through Picoult’s overblown research and lectur-y tome, instead of being told a compelling story. I would say the story picked up a bit around the 3/4 mark, but after reading 300 pages of drivel to get there just WASN’T WORTH IT. I’m not sure I’ll ever read another Picoult novel, and that makes me so sad when I consider that some of her titles have really moved me and stuck with me for YEARS. Give this one a miss.

“The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by VE Schwab just… transported me, and in the very best way. This lengthy novel (coming in at almost 500 pages) tells the story of a girl who made a hurried deal with the gods of the dark, and now is doomed to live forever… but no one will ever remember her. Until a boy named Henry… does. The storytelling of this novel is breathtaking – how Addie moved through the world and made her way across 300 years… her relationship with that darkness that cursed her… the arc of her relationship with Henry… I was utterly transported. My heart broke for Addie again and again as she tried to leave her mark, could feel her yearning to be a part of the world she moved through. This novel is a love letter to art and beauty, the power of words and names, and of course, love and longing. I admit, I was skeptical about this one (lotsa press, lotsa pages!), but now I’m a believer, and this will certainly be on my “best books of the year” list. I was sad to leave the world of Addie LaRue…

“Three Little Truths” by Eithne Shortall had promise but just didn’t hold me til the end, which is a bummer because I liked her previous novel, “Grace After Henry”. This time, we’re in a sort of Wisteria Lane of Dublin, and the ladies who live there have marriage woes, that one overbearing neighbor, secrets and lies, blah blah. None of the characters stood out (I even kept mixing some up), the plot sort of devolved, and I ended up skimming the last third. Bummer. :-/

I also read “Check, Please!” by Ngozi Ukazu, a young adult graphic novel, which was really cute!

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