Shiny New Book Reviews

I always have high hopes that I’m going to plough through lots of books in January, but somehow “beginning of year stuff” always intervenes… but here’s what I’ve read lately!

–Marissa

The Push by Ashley Audrain was a page-turner (and GMA picked it for their book club, so it’s getting lotsa press)! This novel unpacks the complicated history (going back two generations) of Blythe, after she has her daughter and feels… Violet simply isn’t a good child, no matter how much Blythe tries to be a good mother. No one believes that Violet could be capable of ugly deeds… until Blythe and her husband have a second child who Blythe connects with right away, and Violet becomes more and more distant until things take a truly ugly turn. This suspense novel grabbed me – is Blythe right or wrong? Is Violet evil? Does Blythe’s own family history come into play in her parenting? If you are feeling a “The Bad Seed” vibe, this is the novel for you – I devoured it! The writing style took me a bit to get used to, but the payoff was wellllll worth it. Recommended!

People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd was such an interested “peek behind the curtain” novel about what the life of Instagram influencers is like… but this one, of course, takes a sinister turn! Emmy is the top “Instamum” in Britain, but not everyone thinks she should be put on such a pedestal (cue suspenseful music!). I most loved the glimpse of how “influencing” takes a toll on families, the constant need for crafted photos and DM responses, how families try to protect their loved ones from being found, and just what hard work it is! Fast and satisfying!

Outlawed by Anna North got oodles of pre-press buzz, and was also a Reese Book Club pick, so I made sure to grab a pre-release review copy. This is an alternate/speculative history of the West in 1894, and Ada is a young bride, who, after a year, still hasn’t conceived a child, and in this universe, that is directly tied to her fate. Run out of town, she joins a notorious gang full of other barren women, non-binary characters, queer characters and a lot of survival and scheming. Though I wanted to love this premise so much, I found the novel really dragged for me, and I never really engaged with the plot line – I think this must be a case of “wrong book, wrong time”, because lots of folks really dig it!

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous is her follow-up to The Au Pair, which I really loved. This one echoes some of the themes from that novel – great atmosphere, family secrets, isolation – but has a different twist, of course. I tore through this one, but by the end, was a bit fatigued with all the twists and turns and “who’s who” of it all (trying to summarize this one is a toughie but here’s the blurb), but I still really enjoyed it!

The Dead Mom’s Club by Kate Spencer has been a must-read for me for ages (I loooove her on the Forever35 podcast that I’m devoted to!), but I had to gear myself up to read it, as I reel even a dozen years later from the death of my own mom from cancer. It was EERIE, how many of our experiences echoed each other, how perfectly she captured so many of the experiences before and after Mum’s passing, but I loved Kate’s humor and snark and sincerity in dealing with such an emotional, no-on-understands-what-I’m-going-through topic as this. It was hard to read, but was also pitch perfect. Thanks, Kate.

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