How is it already February, and how am I already woefully behind in my reading for the year?! Nonetheless, even though I have 8072450987245 advanced readers’ copies (ARCs) on my Kindle, here are the ones I’ve managed to plow through lately…
The Survivors by Jane Harper is her fourth novel, and I’ve loved her previous three so I was excited to dig into this one, but it didn’t have the same *zing* as her previous novels. But, as always, great atmosphere and sense of place – Kieran and his wife Mia have returned to their coastal hometown of Tasmania to help his mum transition his father to better long term care, but end up reliving a tragedy from a dozen years ago when a young woman is found dead on the beach – echoing deaths from their past. Honestly, no one is *super* likable in this one, I felt, and though I could picture the scenery and loved the sense of place, the “mystery” left me a bit cold, as did the super abrupt ending. I’ll still read anything Harper writes, though!
Girl A by Abigail Dean was going to be a dark one going in, with comparisons to Room and Sharp Objects. This has been getting RAVE reviews, but I’ll be honest: it so didn’t spark for me. It had a good set up: adult Lex Gracie was the young heroine of the “House of Horrors”, which she escaped as a child, thus rescuing her siblings from horrid abuse at the hands of her parents. Now adults, they are all dealing with that shared trauma in different ways. Normally, this would be right in my wheelhouse, but mostly I was… bored. Bored with the monologues, the time jumps, the internal navel-gazing, all of it – including the twist I saw coming a hundred pages away. I think I wanted more suspense and thriller-ness, but instead got a lot of… plodding internal thoughts. Bummer. Just not for me…
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason pulled me in with that cover first, and then with her amazing mix of truly funny exchanges between characters and heart wrenching sadness at watching the main character – Martha – deal with an (unnamed) mental illness and the dissolution of her marriage because of it. This is quiet, character-driven novel (no car crashes or chase scenes!), but I loved spending time with Martha and her husband, her sister, her parents, and Martha herself. The writing was a bit stilted to me at times, but overall, thumbs up!
Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad was just… amazing. The first have of this memoir details Suleika’s discovery of a leukemia diagnosis at 22 years old, her years-long battle to beat it, and her decision to travel around America (alone but for her dog) once she is in remission. Suleika peels back the curtain on young adults with cancer, her friendships and losses from the cancer ward, her relationship with her boyfriend during her treatment, and how she stretched and grew as she went on her solo trip, meeting people along the way she had previously connected with on her cancer journey. Her writing is just easy and absorbing and heartbreaking and amazing, and I couldn’t put this one down. I really did love it, despite the tough subject matter. Raw and honest and hopeful, for sure.
This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith pulled me in from page one, and I couldn’t stop until I resolved the story of Emmett and Tallie. Tallie screeches to a stop on a Louisville bridge when she sees Emmett poised to jump. She convinces him away from the edge, and they spend the entire weekend together unpacking – separately and together – their issues… and their secrets from each other. This is just SUCH a beautiful character-driven novel… these two characters are gentle and warm and human and flawed and lovely together, and I relished the time I got to spend with them, and to see how their secrets came to light and affected their tenuous relationship. I’m rooting for this novel – and these characters – all the way. Loved, loved!
Black Widows by Cate Quinn hooked me with the premise – a man is found murdered, but WHICH of his plural wives (from his polygamist marriage) did it? Rachel, Tina and Emily couldn’t be more different, and I liked the aspect of learning about their sister wives relationship with each other and with Blake, the murdered husband, but ultimately, this one fell a little flat for me. It just… went on a bit and I started to lose interest in what had captured me from the beginning. I appreciate a good red herring or two, but the ending was pretty… well, no spoilers! A solid mystery, but not my favorite.