Sunday, May 17, 2020

What I've Read Recently // April 2020

April was a slow reading month for me. I'm not sure why;* it's not like I was busy doing much of anything else... In any event, of the 4 1/2 books I completed, at least two were very good! I hope you enjoy the summaries below.
As always, I'd love to hear what you've been reading!

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Adapted from Goodreads:
Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored. We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive. Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.
What I thought: 7/10
You guys, this book is not your typical suspense-thriller. I you can see from the summary that this isn't going to fall into the run-of-the-mill "bad guy comes after innocent woman" kind of box. It's a well-written page turner that turns the stereotyped serial killer on its head. I won't say too much about the plot because I don't want to give anything away. I did not rate the book higher than 7 because the characters were fairly one-dimensional and their motives continue to allude me; however, I conjure Joaquin Phoenix (as the corrupt emperor, Commodus, from one of my all-time favorite movies, Gladiator) when he demands of the jeering crowd: "Are you not entertained?!" --and find that I'm holding my hand in a declarative thumbs-up.

Final Girls by Riley Sager
Adapted from Goodreads:
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. There are three Final Girls in recent history: Quinn, Sam, and Lisa. The three have never met. That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep.
What I thought: 6.5/10
This is the final of the three published Sager books books, to date. A fourth book is due out later this year (and truth be told: I will more than likely read it). Sager hooked me pretty good with Lock Every Door (7.5/10). Because it was such a quick and entertaining book, I felt compelled to read his most recent work: The Last Time I Lied (4/10). It was pretty disappointing. Other reviewers who found TLTIL less-than-great kept mentioning how it did not stack up to his first book: Final Girls. So... I felt I should give that one a chance. Final Girls started off with an interesting premise, following the sole survivor in the aftermath of a violent massacre as she tries to get on with her life. To his credit and true to other Riley Sager novels, this one had lots of twists and turns. There were enough threads woven through to keep me turning the pages and I did not see the end coming. However, I found the main protagonist, Quinn, to be terribly frustrating. The choices she made were usually questionable (to say the least) and her thoughts/actions from one paragraph to the next were contradictory. Having said that, I was entertained. If you like suspense/mystery and a quick pace, you'll probably like this one.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by
Adapted from Goodreads:
The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. It's time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn't convinced real life could ever live up to fiction.
What I thought: 8/10
This was such a fun read! I loved the playfulness in the writing. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill reminded me of a Gilmore Girls episode with quick wit/dialogue, humor, smarts, and whimsy. Nina is charming --but not overly so. She's a bookworm so of course she stole my heart from the get-go. Full of trivia tidbits, love for the comfortable life she's built, and working through her anxieties, Nina is a thoughtful and interesting character. The story pulled me along on a very pleasant and enjoyable journey. I wouldn't describe this story as suspenseful, provocative, or thrilling --but it is perfection for a relaxing afternoon in the sunshine, sipping coffee in the morning, or curling up in your favorite chair with a glass of wine. 

Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
Adapted from Goodreads:
A harrowing story of breakdowns, suicide attempts, drug therapy, and an eventual journey back to living, this poignant and often hilarious book gives voice to the high incidence of depression among America's youth.
What I thought: I stopped reading this book at 56% through.
First and foremost, I applaud Wurtzel for contributing to the conversation. I thought this book would be part memoir and part critical reporting of the scope and the shift toward psychopharmacology in America. It was not that. Instead, this book was incredibly self-indulgent, whiney, and tedious. The author did a good job describing how it felt to be misunderstood and unwell. She talked at length about how exhausting it was for her family and friends to maintain relationships with her. Definitely. I get it. The book is extremely exhausting. Between the totally random italicized rants shoved between passages, the prevalence of obscure words and book references (to show us how intelligent and well-read she is), name and brand dropping, and complaints about how little money there was for anything (except private school, summer camp, NYC apartments, therapists, cruises, etcetera) I found the book unreadable. Despite really not caring for Wurtzel or her writing, I did feel compassion for her in having to live through such intense depression and hopelessness. I wanted to bear witness to her struggle and listen to her story. However, after avoiding the book in favor of nearly anything else, I finally gave myself permission to just move on. *sighs with relief*

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
Adapted from Goodreads:
One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. The plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor. Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.
What I thought: 9/10
This was a fantastic book! While the subject matter is devastating and the journey for Edward is painful and incredibly difficult, overall, the story is beautiful. The characters here are layered and compelling. These people are flawed, honest, and worth your attention. Napolitano somehow manages to write Edward's grief into the pages with grace and unflinching detail. The journey from broken, to less-broken, and then to re-shaped is emotionally moving. I feel changed for having read this novel and I think you might too.

*I am sure why! The "problem" was how long it took me to give up on Prozac Nation. I have a hard time not finishing a book that I've started and only recently have I given myself permission to do just that. Life is too short (and my "to-read" list too long), to waste so much time with unenjoyable and/or tedious reads.

~ Pin for Later ~

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