The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen | A Review

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is one of those thrillers that’s best enjoyed if you go in knowing very little to nothing. The description on the inside flap says to throw away any assumptions you may have, so I’ll simply say that the story deals with a seemingly jealous ex-wife, Vanessa, stalking her wealthy ex-husband and his young fiancé, Nellie.

unnamed-3Going solely off the GoodReads synopsis, you’d think The Wife Between Us is an absolutely mind-blowing read. It’s not. Still, it’s a very good psychological thriller – both gripping and suspenseful. It’s just nothing that hasn’t already been done before.

The first major twist is cleverly done, and all of the little twists and turns that follow surprised me, but are not over-the-top or shocking just for the sake of being so.

Also, the ending is surprisingly satisfying. Rarely do I find I’m totally satisfied with the ending of a thriller. As I mentioned in my review for Final Girls by Riley Sager, thrillers always seem to do such a good job of hyping up the reader only to let them down in the end. But by the end of The Wife Between Us, all the loose ends feel neatly tied up and we’re not left with too many questions.

You may find yourself rolling your eyes at the tacky-looking cover or the cliché title, but the writing is strong. I love that this was written by two people, because I would have never been able to tell! The authors play off of each other very well.

Though this is an entertaining read overall, there is too much meandering at points. For instance, it feels like some of Vanessa’s revelations are repeated more than once, which really slows down the pacing of the book, causing it to teeter on the edge of being boring. The first and last thirds of the book are perfectly paced; it’s the middle that sort of drags.

In essence, The Wife Between Us is a twisty and compelling mystery that’ll take your emotions on a bit of a ride. Though the pacing at the middle of the novel takes a hit, the suspense-filled beginning and end, along with the clever writing style, more than make up for it.

Rating: 4/5

Check out The Wife Between Us on GoodReads.

Advertisements

A Few of My Mom’s Favorite Books

In honor of Mother’s Day, I interviewed my mom, asking her to share a few of her favorite books. Below is a list of some of her favorites!

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 12.32.19 PM

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This is one of my mother’s childhood favorites, a cozy classic that helped her to fall in love with reading. She recalls enjoying the different personalities of the sisters, the familial themes, and the historical perspective into the mid-to-late 19th century.

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 12.55.52 PM

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

My mom still remembers writing a book report on this beloved novel in grammar school. She remembers the newness of the subject matter while reading it as a child. The story shocked her, with its honest account of racism in the South, but also touched her and gave her a sense of hope in humanity with characters like Atticus and Boo Radley.

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 12.55.34 PM

 

The Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene

The Nancy Drew Series is yet another one of her childhood favorites. When reading a Nancy Drew book, it was pure fun to get to the bottom of the mystery and then move on to the next book in the series.

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 12.54.53 PM

 

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This was a book club read that really stuck with her, as she found the story both relevant and insightful, in its explorations of friendship, forgiveness, and the bond between a father and son.

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 12.55.12 PM

 

On Persephone’s Island: A Sicilian Journal by Mary Taylor Simeti

This is a memoir about an American woman living in Sicily. My mom read it after just having visited Sicily. She related to the author’s perspective while also finding comfort in the descriptions of the island and its beauty throughout the seasons.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers out there! I hope your day is filled with joy. And Happy Mother’s Day to you, Mom! I love you and appreciate all that you do!

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson | A Review

Jacqueline Woodson’s novella Another Brooklyn is about a woman named August as she reflects back on her childhood in Brooklyn in the 1970s. She recounts what it was like to grow up with her brother, to watch her father as he discovered Islam, to ache for her mother who they left behind in Tennessee, and to navigate Brooklyn with her friends Gigi, Sylvia, and Angela. She recounts the beautiful moments of their childhoods, along with the sad, frightening ones.

unnamed1-e1525701716927.jpg

A few years ago, I read her Newbery Honor-winning book Brown Girl Dreaming. I found the story beautiful and heartbreaking, but I was not a fan of the fact that it was written in verse. For me, it felt like prose broken up at random into lines of poetry. Another Brooklyn is written in prose, but it retains its poetic quality, as it’s composed in short vignettes, and as August tells her story with a tinge of sadness and nostalgia in her voice. 

Another Brooklyn is fragmented – as I’ve seen people criticize – but I think it works. At points, this novella feels distant, and perhaps too flowery to be real life. But August herself recognizes that it’s not the moments in our lives that hold the power; its the memories. And the structure and style of the story capture this idea perfectly. The writing paints a hazy but potent picture for the reader, just like memories, and August often acknowledges the lack of specifics of her storytelling by stating, “this is memory.”

Although this is a work of fiction, Another Brooklyn reads like a memoir, making it all the more powerful. In the author’s note, Woodson explains that she crafted characters who are unlike her, but she was able to become one with each of them during the writing process. She also explains how she places them in a familiar setting, Bushwick, which is where she grew up. By doing this, she’s created something that feels true and authentic.

Another Brooklyn is an entrancing and gorgeously written coming-of-age story. It explores the imprints our memories leave on our psyches, along with the pain and loss that come with the passing of time. 

Rating: 4/5

Check out Another Brooklyn on Goodreads.

The Season of You & Me by Robin Constantine | A Review

Robin Constantine’s YA novel The Season of You and Me takes place over a summer at the Jersey Shore, during which Cassidy Emmerich stays with her estranged father at his bed-and-breakfast. After a dramatic break-up with her boyfriend, she attempts to move on as she works as a summer camp counselor at Camp Manatee. She then meets the charming and adventurous Bryan Lakewood, a fellow camp counselor who recently became paralyzed and must now use a wheelchair. The two get to know each other over the course of the summer, and in the process, each learn more about themselves.

unnamed

By now, I should trust that age-old adage to never judge a book by its cover. If I did, I’d have known not to assume that The Season of You and Me was just another poorly written, corny YA romance. The cover features two teens cuddling on the beach, with the title hovering above in a hot pink, whimsical font. But the story tells more than what the cover connotes.

While, yes, this is a summer romance novel featuring two teens, it’s also a coming-of-age story. It’s a story about finding yourself, overcoming real-life obstacles, living in the moment, moving on from the past, and taking chances. 

The story feels much like a Sarah Dessen novel, though I will say that it is lacking the character development and inner thinking that Sara Dessen’s books have. By the end of a Dessen novel, you feel like you’ve personally gone through the coming-of-age experience along with the protagonist; you feel like you’ve struggled through the same things and learned the same lessons. The Season of You and Me has this, but to a lesser extent for a couple different reasons.

Firstly, the alternating POVs, from Cassidy to Bryan, mean we never get a chance to fully understand either one of them. Just when we feel like we’re getting to know Bryan and the adjustments he’s had to make while learning to live in a wheelchair, we switch back to Cassidy. Just when we feel like Cassidy is moving on from her ex-boyfriend or bonding with her father and his new family, we’re back to Bryan’s POV.

Also, there’s some skipping ahead. Instead of showing us those in between, “getting-to–know-each other” moments between Bryan and Cassidy, the characters often skip ahead in time and simply summarize the fact that they’ve spent time together. As a reader, you want to experience those moments firsthand.

Though there were those points in the novel that left me wanting more, overall, this was a fun, enjoyable read, with its comforting descriptions of the beach, and its endearing characters and authentic dialogue.

And lately, I’ve been basing the quality of books on whether they do what they set out to accomplish. For instance, I’m not gonna go into a fast-paced thriller expecting Shakespearean prose, or a YA romance expecting something deeply profound. A YA romance novel, I assume, seeks to be breezy, light, entertaining, and just a touch thought-provoking. The Season of You and Me can be described in this way. Possibly my enjoyment of this novel is clouded by some nostalgia, because the beach setting and the female protagonist going through a major life change bring me back to Sarah Dessen, whose books I used to eat up in middle and high school. Either way, this book surprised me in a good way and I’m excited to pick up another one of Robin Constantine’s books.

Rating: 3.5/5

Check out The Season of You and Me on Goodreads.

Quarterly Reading Wrap-Up 1 (2018)

So it’s mid-April, which means 2018 is more than a quarter of the way over.  (Though it feels like New Years Eve was just last week and I was setting my GoodReads goal!) I thought I’d take this opportunity to check in with myself, to see what I’ve read so far and to look ahead.

What I’ve Read

  1. Without Merit by Colleen Hoover (My rating: 2/5 + Goodreads review)
  2. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter (My rating: 4/5)
  3. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (My rating: 4/5)Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 11.29.55 PM
  4. Paper Girls, Volumes 1-3 by Brian K. Vaughn (My ratings: 4/5, 3/5 & 3/5 + Goodreads review)
  5. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Fin (My rating: 4/5)
  6. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (My rating: 3/5)
  7. Sunburn by Laura Lippman (My rating: 4/5 + Goodreads review)Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 11.33.55 PM
  8. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (My rating: 4/5)
  9. It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover (My rating: 3.5/5 + Goodreads review)
  10. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (My rating: 3/5 + full-length review)
  11. Final Girls by Riley Sager (My rating: 4/5 + full-length review)Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 11.29.36 PM

FAVORITES!

Final Girls by Riley Sager takes the prize! I don’t know if it’s because it’s still fresh in my mind since it’s the last book I read, but I must say, this book sucked me in and refused to let me go.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green and Sunburn by Laura Lippman are tied for second place. Green’s latest novel had so much heart, and Sunburn introduced me to a new author whose slow-burning, noir-style writing had me in a trance.

GOALS!

Looking back on my reading year thus far, I see I’ve been reading quite a few new and recent releases. Looking forward, I’m hoping to read some older fiction along with more classics.

How has your reading year been going? Have you discovered any new favorites?

Final Girls by Riley Sager | A Review

Riley Sager’s Final Girls explores the horror movie trope of the final girl: the girl who survives and faces-off with the killer at the end of a horror movie. The story zeroes in on Quincy, a baking blogger who, years ago, witnessed the murders of her friends while vacationing in a cabin in the Poconos. Quincy has since tried to separate herself from the “final girl” label that the media placed on her. But when a fellow final girl, Lisa, dies, and another, Sam, enters her life, she is forced to face what happened head on.

unnamed

Final Girls accomplishes the main job that every thriller should: it’s thoroughly entertaining and on-the-edge-of-your-seat readable. Of all the books I’ve read this year, I think this was the one I was most engrossed in and eager to finish.

Quincy’s first-person narration works to build a connection between her and the reader. But because Quincy can’t remember most of what happened that night at Pine Cottage, we find our sympathy toward her mixed with mistrust. And the occasional third-person flashbacks of the night at Pine Cottage that are interspersed throughout the book allow the reader to know more than Quincy, building upon the tension of the present day.  But these flashbacks only reveal bits and pieces gradually – keeping that sense of suspense going – until we finally learn the full version of the truth at the very end.

Along with the pacing, I appreciated Sager’s interesting use of figurative language; he uses lots of original similes and images that make this more than just a “fluff” read. And the characters of Sam and Quincy are layered. They each do despicable things, yet you can’t totally hate them (though sometimes you really, really do). Even by the end, you don’t have them all figured out.

My issue with this novel is one that is kind of unavoidable with most thrillers: it’s that  inevitable twist that you’re so eager to figure out. If you’re like me and you’re running through all the possible scenarios in your head, the ending can’t possibly live up to your expectations. And it just seems too convenient that Quincy isn’t able to remember the bulk of the incident at the cottage, only to have it hit her all at once for that perfect twist ending! I had this exact experience while reading The Woman in the Window, where I was absorbed in the character’s journey only to be majorly let down by an absurd and out-of-left-field ending.

So while the end of Riley Sager’s Final Girls may have been a bit of a letdown, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the ride leading up to it!

Rating: 4/5

Check out Final Girls on Goodreads.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillary | A Review

Jasmine Guillory’s debut novel, The Wedding Date, is a love story between Drew, a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa, the mayor of Berkeley’s chief of staff. After just meeting Alexa in an elevator, Drew – who is a bit of a commitment-phobe – takes her along to be his plus-one at an ex’s wedding. Drew and Alexa immediately fall in lust, and the book follows their efforts to make sense of their feelings for one another, all while trying to achieve success in their professional lives.

unnamed-3

The Wedding Date is an enjoyable, easy read with good-hearted lead characters, each wanting to do good in their careers, and each wanting to treat each other with respect. Though both Drew and Alexa occasionally act immaturely, they are self-reflective enough to acknowledge and learn from these moments. 

My only issue was with the writing itself. The prose felt awfully shallow and one-dimensional. I wasn’t exactly expecting a heavy, complex read, but at times the writing felt so amateurish that it pulled me away from the story. And much of the story felt repetitive, including the sex scenes, the cliche language devoid of any nuance, but mostly the characters’ inner dialogues. I felt like Drew and Alexa spent a good 75 percent of the story questioning their feelings or describing their lust for one another; this would have been fine if it wasn’t expressed in essentially the same way over and over again.

At the end of the day, I went into this story expecting a sweet rom-com and that’s exactly what I got – with less emphasis on the comedy and more on the romance. Sprinkled in were some moments where Drew and Alexa learned from one another and where the characters, particularly Alexa, accomplished something important for their careers and for their communities. These elements of the story ultimately made it a worthwhile read. In essence, The Wedding Date contains lots of fluff and JUST enough substance to keep readers reading.

Rating: 2.5/5

Check out The Wedding Date on Goodreads.