Tangerine by Christine Mangan

It starts out as a nice story. A woman moves to Tangier with her new husband. Suddenly a friend from her past appears, and the perfect exotic-ness of Morocco begins to fall apart. In her debut, Christine Mangan has created a thrilling, page-turning read. Her characters are rich and she takes an interesting look at the psychology of friendship. This book leads you to believe that it is just going to be a traditional piece of historical fiction, from the opening chapter to the cover design.  But boy does it take a turn and become so much more than that.  This book is straight up terrifying at times.  (Not like spooky monster terrifying but a reminder of how messed up people can be.)  I look forward to what Mangan has in store for us next.

4-stars

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

This is the kind of thriller I like.  Told in three parts, Alice Feeney has created an engaging mystery that kept my interest without being over the top and unbelievable.  At heart, Sometimes I Lie is the story of a woman dealing with problems of love, work, and family.  From the outside it looks like she has the perfect life but nothing is ever perfect.  I listened to this as an audiobook and it was beautiful.  The narrator is perfect.  Now don’t let my review confuse you.  This book has shocking twists and turns.  It kept me on my toes.  I wish every thriller I read were as well written and as intriguing as this one.

4-stars

The Infinite Future by Tim Wirkus

Half of this book worked for me and the other half just really didn’t.  Formatted like my favorite novel, The Princess Bride, the first half of the book is a fictionalized retelling of how the book came to be while the second half is the book itself.  I very much enjoyed the sections talking about finding the lost Salgado-MacKenzie manuscript as well as the adventure to discover his identity was a joy to read.  Wirkus created a fun cast of characters that came together over a shared love even though they never should have met.  The second half, Salgado-MacKenzie’s lost novel, was less entertaining.  Leading up to it, many characters describe it as being a bad book, which already didn’t make me excited about it.  The story was weirdly complicated seeing that very little actually happened.  And it’s trying too hard, in my opinion, the mirror the meta-ness of the first half.  I would have very much enjoyed this book if it was just the first half but instead it didn’t end there and I found myself slogging through to get to the end.

3-stars

My Plain Jane by The Lady Janies

I loved My Lady Jane and Jane Eyre is my favorite classic so this book felt like it was made for me.  I was nervous going in because My Lady Jane was so great but My Plain Jane did not disappoint.  Filled with even more references than the first one, The Lady Janies had me laughing out loud so many times.  (Their Trump jokes are amazing.  Absolutely amazing.)  Don’t worry if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, you can still enjoy this book.  The plot is so incredibly different from the source material that you will catch certain jokes if you have already read it but you don’t need any knowledge going in to have a fun time reading this book.

These women are amazing and I can’t wait to see what they have thought up next.

5-stars

The Midnight Gang by David Walliams

David Walliams has delivered yet another charming middle grade book.  Set in a hospital, The Midnight Gang follows the children from the children’s ward as they go on a series of adventures.  Walliams has created a book that is both incredibly entertaining (with fantastic illustrations by Tony Ross) as well as reminding kids that it is important to treat everyone with respect.  Walliams has been compared to the next Roald Dahl and while I think no one will ever replace Dahl, I believe that he has carved out his own voice and place in the kidlit world.  Don’t let the size of this book scare you.  It’s an incredibly fast read.

4-stars

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

I was pulled in to this book by the awesome title and the great cover and the inside of the book didn’t disappoint.  Aven is an awesome protagonist.  Not only was she born without arms and knows how to do everything people with arms can do, she is a strong-willed and smart girl that makes a great role model for young girls today.  Bowling did a lot of research about what life for Aven would be like and it shows.  She has created three-dimensional characters and placed them in a fun setting, a run down amusement park.  Part mystery, part realistic story about friendship, this book is a fun ride that you will be thrilled to take with Aven.

4-stars

Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

I am so excited for the Chicago Young Adult Book Festival this year because I am absolutely loving the books by this year’s authors.

I am going to start by saying that this was a book I don’t relate to at all.  I come from a very supportive family who let both my brother and I follow our passions and major in theatre in college so I didn’t grow up in a world at all like Maya’s.

Samira Ahmed is a great new voice in YA literature.  She has managed to craft a book that deals with hard and heavy subjects while still managing to stay a fun and goofy romance at heart.  Even though I couldn’t relate to Maya’s specific experiences, she is a very relatable teenager, talking with a very believable teen voice.  Ahmed also makes sure to shine light on hate crimes, something that I think is so incredibly important.  The world is scary and we need more stories of acceptance.  This book is a good addition to the YA world.

4-stars

The Devil In Silver by Victor LaValle

Since I read The Changeling last year (and had it immediately become one of my favorite books of all time) and now I find myself buying any book of Victor LaValle’s that comes through the store.  (Well, I made my parents buy this one from the bookstore I work at as a Christmas present for me when they came to visit.)  LaValle is the master of magical realism.  Each of his books that I have read so far start out as a completely normal novel of realistic fiction until it suddenly isn’t.  And this book was no exception.

The Devil in Silver follows Pepper, a man who ends up in the mental ward of a hospital one night because the police don’t feel like doing paperwork.  From there, LaValle shows a crossroads of America, showing us all different kinds of people who call this hospital their home. From the quite old to the quite young, he gives lives and full backstories to characters who, in other literature, tend to just become flat characters.  Added to all that is the man with a bison head who climbs through the ceiling and attacks people.

LaValle questions what it means to be “sane” as well as looking at the good and bad sides of mental illness treatment.  On top of that, he has created a crazy mystery plot that never stops moving (even when the characters themselves are having a hard time moving due to being drugged and/or tied down).  Out of the three LaValle books I have read, this is my number two.

4-stars

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

I have had friends telling me to read Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series for years and just haven’t gotten around to it so I jumped at the chance to listen to the audiobook of her newest book.

Renegades questions what it means to be good or bad.  In a world where those lines are very defined, Meyer brings us two protagonists, one from each side, that really mess with your brain.  From Nova’s point of view, the Renegades let her down and let her family get killed and the Anarchists took her in, gave her a place to live.  To Adrian, the Renegades are the only family he has ever know and he, as a Renegade, is made to feel like a hero on a regular basis.  So what happens when their paths cross?  Who is on the right side of history?  Is there a right side?

Meyer not only manages to deal with these difficult questions but also creates a great adventure.  The plot never stops moving (which is super impressive because this is a super long book) and she takes the reader through endless twists and turns.  She has thought up a really interesting world filled with superpowers that, at least to me, seemed incredibly unique.  Even when I started to get worried about the book slipping into YA trope world, she managed to pull it out and put a fun spin on things.  Nova and Adrian both don’t fall into the stereotypical gender roles that YA books tend to.  This book was a commitment (especially when listening to it) but it was worth it.

4-stars

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

I have to admit, I am usually a little skeptical when a thriller is getting a lot of press because I have been burned too many times before.  But The Perfect Nanny was showing up on so many lists and there was a galley taunting me in the back so I decided to give it a try.  I finished it in less than 24 hours and it only took that long because I had to go to sleep and work.  Otherwise I don’t think I would have moved until I had finished it.

This book is more of a character study than a stereotypical thriller, which is why I think it worked for me.  There isn’t anything surprising that happens, really.  You are told on the first couple of pages what happens and the rest of the book goes back in time.  Even though I knew what was going to happen, I kept hoping that something might change.  The mystery and intrigue was happening more in my own head than in the actual book.

Slimani has created such interesting characters.  They all felt so incredibly real and it hurt my heart knowing what was going to happen to them.  There is something insanely fascinating in watching a person completely fall apart and Slimani shows us that like a wizard.  If you are looking for a lot of action and intrigue, this isn’t the book for you.  But if you want a well written book with great characters, you need to read this.

4-stars

Satellite by Lauren Emily Whalen

I love when I have to read books for work and end up loving them! (Because when the other direction happens, it is so incredibly heartbreaking.)  Satellite, Whalen’s first YA novel, is a great piece of realistic YA fiction.  She deals with first love, family dynamics, as well as confusion as to what it means to be a person.  Her characters sound like real teenagers, smart yet still confused in certain aspects of the world.  Quite a few YA novels these days aren’t able to do that and it breaks my heart.  Thankfully, Whalen has nailed their voices.  She also also managed to create a family mystery that kept me hooked from the very beginning.  The novel is short but packed full of entertainment.  No word or page is wasted.  I even read the whole thing on the computer because I needed to know what was going to happen (which isn’t a normal thing because I have a hard time reading off computer screens and they hurt my eyes).  A well crafted, fun (yet quite sad at times) read.

If you are in Chicago on Friday, join us at The Book Cellar for Lauren’s launch party at 7pm!  There will be cake!

4-stars

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

In a world where women’s rights to their own bodies are constantly being threatened, Red Clocks by Leni Zumas doesn’t feel so far fetched.  While not being as immediately horrifying as The Handmaid’s Tale or Future Home of the Living God, Zumas has crafted a tale that shows how women from many different walks of life are changed as the laws are changed.  Her writing style is unique, using descriptors rather than names to describe characters, which causes each character to be very much their own person as well as being very relatable.  Everyone will find someone or parts of many different characters that they relate to.  I absorbed this book and believe that it is an important read.  A good reminder that only slight policy changes can completely uproot people’s lives.

4-stars