Recent Reads #5

12/03/2020


I'm thinking of scrapping these 'Recent Reads' posts in 2021 and will instead go back to the OG format of monthly wrap-ups. I thought these would be less stressful but it's somehow easier to fall behind? Bless my confusing brain. This list of books definitely had some ups and downs. Let's get into them!

Thornhill

by Pam Smy 

Parallel plotlines intertwine as a young girl unravels the mystery of a ghost next door. It's 1917 and Mary is an orphan at the Thornhill Institute for Children, living in the attic with her doll creations. But when a bully goes too far, Mary's revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself. Meanwhile, in 2017, Ella has just moved into the house opposite of the abandoned Institute, feeling lonely as her dad works most days, she begins wandering the grounds of Thornhill and finds a diary written by a girl named Mary. 

This graphic novel is pushed as a horror but in reality, it's more of a rather depressing look at neglect in childhood. I guess the photos were eerie, but I never once felt creeped out by this book and the story ended rather abruptly. Mary was an interesting character and I enjoyed reading about her love for creating dolls, but Ella was very stereotypically bland. Her character suffered from being underdeveloped, we didn't get any of her backstory nor did we find out much about her father. All in all, this book was just a little bland with no good pay off. Fun for a quick read, but I'd never reread it.

The Crane Wife

by Patrick Ness

An old man finds a crane in his garden with an injured wing. Saving the majestic animal is the start of a new life for him. But how did a bird bring him love?

This is Ness's only adult contemporary novel and he really flourishes with the opportunity to experiment with his writing. This book had a hauntingly beautiful feel to it, and despite the story sometimes feeling scattered and without purpose, I was always immersed in his ability to create a world that is so much more lovelier than ours. If you enjoy Ali Smith or Fredrik Backman, give The Crane Wife a go.

Home Before Dark

by Riley Sager

Maggie Holt's father has just died and he's left her their family's biggest regret - Baneberry Hall. When Maggie was a child her family fled Baneberry Hall and never looked back. Her father soon wrote a novel exposing the house of it's ghosts, weirdness, and violence. But how much of his book is true? Returning to her childhood terror in the hope of renovating the house and selling it for a profit, will Maggie find the answers to the questions she's always had?

It's no secret that I tend to always enjoy Riley Sager's books. They're fast-paced with good characters and decent twists. Home Before Dark is his latest release and.. it was fine. I really enjoyed the chapters that were from Maggie's dad's book, but the main plot got a little boring, something I never thought I'd say about a Sager novel. The ending wasn't satisfying to me. Maybe it's down to having listened to the audiobook instead of physically reading it? I also had an issue with Maggie as a character. She was rather dull and incredibly indecisive. It was frustrating to read from her POV. 

Brooklyn

by Colm Tóibín

Read my full review for Brooklyn HERE. Spoiler: I loved this! What a beautifully written book about first loves, homesickness, and growing up. 

A Very Punchable Face

by Colin Jost

It's always hard reviewing memoirs as it's like saying "I did not like this person's life!". I only very recently begun watching Saturday Night Live with my husband but Weekend Update is my favourite segment and I really enjoy Colin Jost's humor, so naturally, when I saw that he had brought a book out I wanted to read it. I wasn't expecting this to be as funny as it was, I laughed multiple times and even got choked up when Jost was writing about his mother, a firefighter who was at ground zero during 9/11. All in all, this book gave more than I was expecting it to. If this has been on your radar at all, I urge you to pick it up. 

His Only Wife

by Peace Adzo Medie

Afi Tekple is a young seamstress who is offered a life-changing opportunity—a proposal of marriage from the wealthy family of Elikem Ganyo, a man she doesn’t know. She acquiesces, but soon realizes that Elikem is not quite the catch he seemed. He is devoted to another woman who gave him his first daughter, can Afi look past his betrayal to keep a better life?

I didn't know what to expect from his having heard absolutely nothing about it, despite it being a Reese book club pick. I saw it on my libraries 'new in' section and really liked the cover. Yay for random spurts of requesting tons of books at the library! This was a very good contemporary. The author did a truly remarkable job at writing about the experience of an arranged marriage. My heart broke for Afi, even when her decision making was questionable at best. She was a very complex character who had amazing growth for a less than 300 page book. 

Birthday Girl

by Penelope Douglas

Read my full review for Birthday Girl HERE.

Luster

by Raven Leilani

Edie is a young black woman struggling with life. She's just got fired for 'sexual misconduct', is having an affair with a married man, and has absolutely no idea what to do with herself. When the wife of her lover, Eric, invites her to stay with them, it starts a journey of self discovery for Edie. 

I wanted to love this book. I had high expectations that it would be similar to Queenie or even My Only Wife which I spoke about in this post. I like contemporaries that revolve around young woman putting their lives back together after a change or depression. However, I really hated this book. I can't discuss how the author handled writing about the black experience as a young woman, but I can comment on how I hated the writing. It was too dry and I felt like all the characters were kept at a huge distance from us. Edie was an annoying protagonist as she did absolutely nothing to help herself, unlike say, Queenie, where the main character could see where she was going wrong in life and was making an effort to love herself. The side characters all seemed to be written as villains without depth, and the overall pacing of the book felt off. Maybe this is just one of those situations where a book didn't work for me but might for you. All in all, I was very disappointed. 

The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig

A woman tries to commit suicide and instead wakes up in a library full of books of alternate lives she could've led. Given the opportunity to 'try on' each life, she learns that maybe regrets are better than the outcomes. 

The moment I first heard about this book through the book community, I knew I wanted to read it. The premise sounded very original and who doesn't libraries? It did not disappoint. This was a very moving story about a woman who has given up on life, and I think Haig does a phenomenal job at writing the journey of her falling back in love with living. It was such a quiet journey that I didn't even fully realize she had a new attitude until tears were running down my cheeks. I definitely want to read The Humans now. I highly recommend the audiobook for this as it really worked in that format.

Cilka's Journey

by Heather Morris

This is the follow-up to the controversial The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Cilka is a side-character in the first book and this is the continuation of her story after she was "freed". Unlike so many of her fellow prisoners, she was accused of being a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and was immediately sent to a Siberian prison camp. Like The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, this is based on a true story. 

Cilka's story is one of humanity and survival. I felt very tenderly towards her and had a constant knot in the pit of my stomach at how unjustified her punishment was. However, the pacing of this book felt very off. There was something about the execution of the novel that was very broken. There was a large list of characters that we seemed to meet all at once, and though the second half of the book really picked up and I found myself more immersed in the story, it couldn't rectify the 'meh' feeling I had had for so many chapters. Also, it sometimes felt like Cilka could do no wrong. Heather Morris couldn't interview Cilka herself as she had passed years ago, so perhaps that was the problem. Morris wanted to show Cilka as an angel so it felt very.. unrealistic. I don't know. My thoughts are still all over the place with this one.

Are there any books on this list that you've been meaning to pick up? Let me know!

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