Monday, February 17, 2020

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

My Lovely Wife book cover (a woman looking at her reflection in the blade of a kitchen knife, on a pure white background) This is the story of a marriage. A marriage in which the husband is afraid that his wife may leave him if he ever screws up. A marriage in which the wife is in complete control of everything. Including their murders. In this story, a seemingly perfect family slowly starts to unravel as the police come closer and closer to solving the murders of several missing women. Then, because of all the lies and secrets, it all falls apart in a matter of hours.

The book was an easy read, with short chapters and an original storyline. Although it was slow to pick up speed, there was a shocking twist, reminiscent of Gone Girl, that shocked me, but only for a moment before realizing I should have seen it coming all along.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Rosie Project book cover (the "i" in "Rosie" is dotted with an atom, as a man on a bicycle rides in a heart-shaped line around the title, on a solid red background)Professor Don Tillman is a brilliant academic. He lives in a world ruled by logic. His people skills, however, are rather poor. In order to find a wife, he comes up with a questionnaire for women to answer. It’s succinct, quickly weeding out the candidates who do not match his requirements. One day, his friend offers to set him up with someone. When Don meets Rosie, he immediately determines that she doesn’t measure up. Poor math skills. Vegetarian. Can’t cook. Doesn’t exercise. A smoker. But Rosie has a problem that Don finds intriguing. She is trying to find her biological father. As a result, he puts his “wife project” on hold, and instead, Don begins his “father project,” and as a consequence, his once orderly world begins to shatter.

This is a light, amusing, and easy-to-read story for fans of unconventional romances. While it can be appreciated on its own, The Rosie Project is the first in a series. For fans of audiobooks, the narrator for this one has a bold, appealing accent that really underlines the novel's Australian setting.

Monday, February 3, 2020

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage book cover (an intricate, metallic gold silhouette of a leafless tree, as it is falling over, on a teal background) An American Marriage is a story about two people in love, newly married, who are suddenly and harshly pulled apart by a corrupted justice system in the South. Celestial and Roy were visiting family in Louisiana when in the middle of the night, police break down their hotel door and arrest Roy for a crime he did not commit. Thus begins the story of their marriage, a heart-wrenching tale of unfortunate events, chaotic feelings, and coming to terms with the unfair and unforeseen circumstances of everyday actions.

This is a fantastic book, told via a multi-narrative format that translates beautifully to audio. The narrators speak as if they are their characters, full of feelings and emotions, with conviction and rawness. While the story of Roy and Celestial hurt my heart, I couldn't stop listening. This book is highly recommended for readers who enjoy multi-perspective stories and literary fiction.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Questioneers series by Andrea Beaty

Ada Twist, Scientist book cover (two children scribbling science drawings over a graph paper background)Each main character in Andrea Beaty’s books is curious and asks questions, and in each story, they are celebrated and encouraged to think different and be different and to pursue answers to their questions. Iggy Peck (Iggy Peck, Architect) is fascinated by buildings, and by thinking about how things are constructed, he is able to help his class when they find themselves in a pickle. Sofia Valdez (Sofia Valdez, Future Prez) wants to transform a dangerous trash mound, and her dogged pursuit makes the seemingly impossible, possible. Ada Twist (Ada Twist, Scientist) becomes intrigued by a smell, and she attempts, through scientific method, to discover its source. Rosie Revere (Rosie Revere, Engineer) has great thoughts about creating a flying machine for her aunt, but failure almost makes her stop. However, she like the other children in Andrea Beaty’s stories learns that “the only true failure can come if you quit.”

Iggy Peck, Architect book cover (a boy standing on a tower of apples, drawing a skyscraper with a pencil)Though they are children, their inquisitiveness and determination are amazing and inspiring. This is a wonderful series of books. Each can be read on its own, and while they are geared for kids in Kindergarten through second grade, the fun rhythm of the story can be appreciated by many outside this age group. Recommended for holiday gifts, birthday presents, baby showers, and library checkouts!

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince book cover (a bare, jagged tree branch with one bright green bug and a golden crown hanging from its branches)At seven years old, Jude’s parents were murdered by her older sister’s biological father, Madoc, and stolen away to live in the High Court of Faeries. Raised as one of Madoc’s daughters, Jude and her twin sister had to learn to survive in the cruel world. Ten years later, Jude is desperate to be accepted, but as a human, she is tormented by the mischievous games of the Fae and their ability to glamour. To prove herself and escape her powerlessness, Jude matches the Fae’s penchant for wickedness, especially against the youngest prince, Cardan Greenbriar. When Cardan’s older brother, Dain, recruits Jude to be his spy, she finally believes she can start to make a difference for herself and her family. As she gets deeper entangled in court machinations, a civil war threatens her position or it could end up being her greatest opportunity.

Full of drama, action, and intrigue, Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince is a dark fairy tale that is mesmerizing and addictive. Jude is a strong, intelligent heroine that you will root for, and her chemistry with Cardan is electric. It’s the first in the Folk of Air series, but with the third and final book’s release in November 2019, there’s no need to wait to finish this bestselling series.

Monday, January 13, 2020

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

City of Girls book cover (fluffly pink feathers falling down a teal background) City of Girls is about Vivian Morris, told in firsthand account by Vivian herself. The story starts with Vivian addressing a woman who has written her to find out what she had meant to her father. After a long but entertaining and intriguing life story, her moving to New York twice, her sexual escapades, her girl crush on Celia, the death of her brother, and finally finding love with a man whom she never touched, we find out the relationship between this woman’s father and Vivian. 

This was a charming story: endearing, insightful, and very well told. I listened to this in audio and the narrator, Blair Brown, did an absolute fantastic job telling this tale! It didn't disappoint.

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

Count of Monte Cristo book cover (a watercolor painting of a castle on a hill under an ominous cloudy sky) Edmond Dantes, a sailor in 19th century France, is set to marry the woman he loves when he is falsely accused of plotting to return Napoleon to power. Edmond is thrown in prison, where he meets an Italian abbe who, following years of friendship and escape attempts, bequeaths a hidden fortune to Dantes. Dantes finally manages to escape, acquires the abbe’s vast treasure, and vows revenge against those who put him in prison, plotting to destroy their lives as absolutely as he can.

While most think of The Count of Monte Cristo as being a story of revenge, and it foremost is, it also has a central focus on drama. Those who conspired against Dantes become rich and powerful, and a large portion of the story focuses on the drama that unfolds around their families in Paris, decades after Dantes is imprisoned. Daughters are married off against their will, sons duel to preserve their family honor, and estranged wives plot the financial ruin of their husbands. There are a number of chapters where Dantes is relegated to the backseat, so the focus can instead be entirely on these other characters, at times causing the plot for revenge to be forgotten.

This would be the only warning to give anyone interested in this book. If one seeks a tale of swashbuckling action, grab Treasure Island instead. But if you’re looking for a literary classic with incredibly well thought-out drama, I recommend this book.