October Wrap Up & November TBR

Happy Halloween Everyone! Hope everyone had an amazing October and is enjoying everything that fall has to offer. Below is a recap of what I read this past month followed by what I’m planning on reading in November. Let me know what you’re looking forward to reading in November in the comments below!

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October Reads:

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
5 out of 5 stars

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
3.5 out of 5 stars

Out of Play by Joy Norstrom
5 out of 5 stars

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
2.5 out of 5 stars

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry
2.5 out of 5 stars 

November TBR:

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Frederik Backman

Hello Me, It’s You by Anonymous (edited by Hannah Todd)

The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam

Review of Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

Amy Gentry’s debut novel Good as Gone is the story of thirteen year old Julie Whittaker who is kidnapped at knifepoint out of her bedroom while her younger sister Jane watched in horror. After eight long, grueling years filled with the rest of the Whittaker family struggling to cope with this loss, a woman claiming to be Julie appears on their doorstep. As much as Anna wants to believe that it is her daughter, a private detective raises her doubts, thus sending her on a desperate search to uncover the truth.

On the Book of the Month Club website, where I first heard about this novel, Good as Gone is described as a “gem in a world cluttered with lousy thrillers.” However, I can’t help but disagree. The lack of character development leading up to Julie’s return made it quite challenging to empathize with the complex mixture of relief and doubt that Anna, Tom, and Jane were inevitably feeling. Furthermore, the strained communication between the characters makes it quite difficult to fully understand their perspective on the events of the novel. While I understand that this tension was mostly the result of Julie’s disappearance and reappearance, I found it very hard to empathize with the characters when they couldn’t even empathize with each other.

I also found the overall structure of the novel to be quite choppy and very detrimental to Gentry’s attempt at building suspense. The changing of names in each of the past chapters is so confusing that it hinders the reader’s ability to fully understand what this person claiming to be Julie endured over the eight years that she was missing. As a result, I found the end of the novel to be very abrupt and ultimately, lacking the closure I was looking for.

Although the overall plot of Good as Gone proved to be slightly more interesting that I had anticipated, the unlikable characters and lack of suspense left me very unimpressed. To compare this book with an absolute masterpiece like Gone Girl, as Refinery 29 did is just ridiculous in my opinion because Good as Gone is nowhere near the same caliber of writing. Ultimately, I found myself  being motivated to keep reading in hopes of my opinion changing instead of being truly captivated by the plot.

Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts were on Good as Gone by Amy Gentry or what your favorite thriller is!

2.5 out of 5 stars

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Review of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I’ve had The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion sitting on my nightstand since June after I went for a walk around my neighborhood and suddenly found myself in a bookstore with an armful of books. I finally decided to read it after seeing it on a list entitled “13 Books to Read After A Man Called Ove”, alongside of some of my all time favorite books such as The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Although I haven’t read A Man Called Ove yet, I fell in love Backman’s second novel Britt-Marie Was Here earlier this summer and therefore, had very high hopes for The Rosie Project. Unfortunately, I was very unimpressed with this novel. Below is the Goodreads synopsis followed by my review!

Goodreads Synopsis

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper

Review:

The main character Don is so quirky and lovable however, I found the way in which Simsion portrayed him to be overwhelmingly insensitive. It is very apparent early on in the novel that Don suffers from an autism spectrum disorder and as a result of this, struggles to interact with others in social situations. With this type of protagonist at the forefront, Simsion had an incredible opportunity to create a story that had unconditional love at its core, yet instead this was muddied by the stereotypical portrayal of Don’s ASD. Specifically, I was extremely frustrated by Don’s “friends” Gene and Claudia who seem to do more laughing at him and trying to change who he is as a person than actually accepting him and helping him to navigate the social norms of this world. Furthermore, I found the insinuation that Don “couldn’t feel love” as a result of this autism spectrum disorder to be completely inappropriate.

Although I had very high hopes for this novel based on the other novels it was compared to, I was very disappointed. Personally, I don’t think The Rosie Project belongs in the same league as anything written by Frederik Backman or Rachel Joyce. Even though Don and Rosie are both very interesting characters, the caricature of autism spectrum disorders in combination with the misguided help of unlikable supporting characters was enough to leave me very underwhelmed and unwilling to give the sequel The Rosie Effect a chance.

I apologize that my review is on the shorter side. I hoped that letting the book sink in for a few days would allow me to be able to speak about both positive and negative aspects of this book however, with time, my distaste for this book has only grown. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts (positive or negative) about The Rosie Project! I’d love to hear from you 🙂

2.5 out of 5 stars 

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Review of Out of Play by Joy Norstrom

To be honest, I wasn’t super excited about reading Out of Play by Joy Norstrom. When I first read the description and saw that a main part of the plot would include larping (live action role playing), I was worried that the novel would veer too far into the fantasy world for my tastes. However, I was completely blown away by this book. It was simply perfection and I’m so grateful to NetGalley and the folks at Crooked Cat Publishing for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you guys before this novel is released on October 27th.

In this novel, Gillian Campbell is at her wits end with her husband. He dedicates all of his free time to his new hobby, larping, and views Gillian’s frustration with not spending time with him as a lack of support of his interests. In hopes of saving her marriage, Gillian seeks the help of a therapist who suggests attending one of these larp weekends in order to give her a better understanding of how her husband spends all his time. It was during this weekend that the root of many of Gill and Ralph’s marital problems surfaces.

First and foremost, I LOVED the voice of Gillian. There were countless moments while reading that I found myself laughing out loud at the way she processed the world around her because I would have absolutely reacted the same way, if I were in her shoes. I particularly loved her relationship with Jas. Norstrom effortlessly portrayed the type of friendship where each person will get behind the person’s convoluted schemes to solve their problems, drop everything when they are in need, and will call the other person out when they’re being crazy. She also astutely picked up on when the reader might need a bit of a break from the exasperated ramblings of Gill and offered Ralph’s perspective on the events that had just transpired in the previous chapter. This allowed for both a deeper understanding of the challenges they were facing as a couple as well as an effortless transition into the reveal of the tragedy that was truly at the root of their marital problems.

Without giving too much away, I also want to commend Norstrom on the way she revealed the tragic turning point of the novel to the reader. Gillian’s struggle to keep her emotions in check as she reflected on this moment combined with her realization that she needed to face her grief head on in order to move forward made this moment so poignant and real. Ultimately, the way in which Norstrom portrayed this moment heightened my understanding and respect for both Gillian and Ralph.

As you can tell, I was pleasantly surprised by Joy Norstrom’s debut novel Out of Play. I really cannot say enough positive things about this novel!  The character development of Gillian, Ralph, and Jas was absolutely amazing. Furthermore, the way Gill interacts with and perceives the world around her is so relatable and as a result, you can’t help but love and root for her! If you’re looking for a good laugh (followed by a good cry), I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of Out of Play when it is released on October 27th!

5 out of 5 stars

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Review of Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

***This review contains spoilers***

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is a story about the Jongas, an immigrant family from Cameroon who is living in Harlem and working hard to make a better lives for themselves. The story begins in the fall of 2007 where Jende cannot contain his excitement when he lands a job as a chauffeur for a big time executive at Lehman Brothers. However, when the financial world is shaken by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, both the Jongas and the Edwards’ are left reeling. Ultimately the Jonga’s are faced with a nearly impossible choice: remain in the United States or give up their dreams of a New York life and return to Cameroon.

As simplistic as it may sound, the main reason I enjoyed this book was because it was fundamentally about people. While many people have strong opinions about both immigrants and people who work on Wall Street, Mbue beautifully captured the people under those labels. She allowed the reader to see that despite the difference of circumstances between the Edwards’ and the Jongas, their emotional response to the hardships both families experienced as a result of the recession were quite similar. Mbue also provides a sobering perspective on the US immigration system. Despite their valiant efforts to provide a better life for themselves and their children, Jende and Neni’s fate is left completely in the hands of the US government. Mbue expertly brings this powerlessness and desperation to the forefront of the story which makes the novel such a powerful read.

The only issue I had with this book was the sudden change in Jende and Neni after Jende loses his chauffeur job. While I anticipated all the characters to have a visceral reaction to the 2008 recession, part of me feel as though Jende and Neni’s reactions might have gone a bit too far. I was quite confused how Jende went from a man who couldn’t bring himself to keep any of the money that Mrs. Edwards gave him to a person that easily concocted stories to cover up Mr. Edwards’ infidelities and beat his wife who did nothing but support and love him unconditionally. Furthermore, in terms of Neni, I was shocked, and frankly appalled by her decision to take advantage of a deeply troubled woman who often went out of her way to help her. While I respect the cultural differences that may have come into play and empathize with the amount of pressure they were under, the sudden change in Jende and Neni’s characters was a really tough pill for me to swallow.

Ultimately, Behold the Dreamers is a beautifully written and realistically paced story about immigration, but more importantly, people in general. Mbue easily leaves the reader pondering important takeaway messages about about the state of our immigration system, among many other issues. Although the change in Jende and Neni was a bit of a challenge for me to get past, I still really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.

3.5 stars out of 5

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Review of Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

I honestly jumped up and down and screamed like a fool when I saw that I had been granted an advanced review copy of Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I am a huge Daily Show fan and as a mixed person myself, I have become completely fascinated with his story of growing up under the apartheid with a black Xhosa mother and white Swiss father. In this memoir of sorts, Noah gives us a glimpse of what it was like growing up in South Africa as as a poor, colored individual. Through this string of eighteen interconnected essays, he chronicles his rather mischievous tendencies as a child as well as his struggle to find his place in the world. He also explores his relationship with his number one fan and partner in crime, his mother, who has dedicated her life to giving Trevor the childhood that she never had.

Noah’s voice is both authentic and captivating. It is with humor, grace, and incredible wit that he unpacks the many struggles he faced growing up. Furthermore, he tells his story in a way that put the reader’s personal issues and more global issues into perspective. Specifically, his stories of racial divide force the American reader to reserve their judgement for the state of South Africa under the apartheid as we, as a country, still continue to struggle with racism.

I particularly loved Noah’s choice to structure the book as eighteen loosely connected snapshots from his upbringing, with the most traumatic of incidents being revealed to the reader at the end. Through this format, he shows the reader how you can be impacted by many things but you don’t have to be defined by them. The apartheid, poverty, and the abusive relationship between his mother and stepfather are all things that significantly shaped how Noah perceives the world around him, however he doesn’t allow them to limit him or be something worthy of pity. Ultimately, the overall flow of the memoir mirrors his incredible lack of a woe-is-me attitude and willingness to take everything life throws at him in stride.

I honestly can’t say enough good things about this novel. Trevor Noah’s ability to tell his story in such a way that makes the reader feels as though they are simply sitting across from him is amazing and truly unlike anything I have ever read before. I think everyone has a tremendous amount to learn from Noah’s unwavering spirit and therefore I would recommend this book to absolutely everyone.

5 out of 5 stars

**A special thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for giving me an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review**

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September Wrap Up & October TBR’s

Happy October Everyone!! Hope everyone had a relaxing first weekend of the month! Below is a quick recap of what I read in September followed by what’s on the docket for October. Let me know in the comments below what you’re most excited about reading this month!

September Wrap Up:

Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado
5 out of 5 stars

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
4 out of 5 stars 

The Magpies by Mark Edwards
4 out of 5 stars

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
5 out of 5 stars

October TBR’s

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (to be released 11/15)

Out of Play by Joy Norstrom (to be released 10/27)

Chronicles of a Last Summer by Yasmine El Rashidi

I will definitely be reading more than 3 books this month, however I can’t decide which books in the ever-growing pile of books on my night stand that I want to dive into. Guess you guys will just have to wait and see 🙂

Review of Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Happy last day of September! Apparently, this month has been all about psychological thrillers set in London so without further ado, here’s my review of Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris.

****

I picked up Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris simply because it was the September pick for my book club. While I wasn’t able to make it to this month’s meeting, I was able to carve out the time to read this absolutely spectacular psychological thriller. In this novel, Jack and Grace Angel are seemingly the perfect couple. Jack is a defense attorney who specializes in defending battered women and Grace is a flawless homemaker. They have a beautiful home in the English countryside and consistently have lavish dinner parties with their friends. While the inseparable nature of Jack and Grace’s relationship may seem loving at first glance, the truth of what goes on behind closed doors is unbelievably terrifying.

The tone that Paris sets immediately and carries throughout the novel is masterful. For the portions of the novel that the reader is still in the dark about the nature of Jack and Grace’s relationship, the language that Paris uses puts the reader completely on edge. All the red flags of an abusive relationship are there, yet is virtually impossible to foresee exactly what transpires throughout the rest of the novel. Furthermore, the flawless double entendres that Jack speaks in in order to keep up appearances and terrify Grace simultaneously speaks to Paris’ incredible literary talent.

The character development of Jack, Grace, and her sister Mille is phenomenal. The stark contrast between the facade that Jack and Grace put forth and the reality of their relationship is perfectly portrayed. Moreover, I cannot even find the words to express how grateful that every female character in this novel is portrayed as a smart, strong woman. With subjects such as domestic violence and special needs some authors tend to overdo the victim aspect of DV or allow a person’s disability to define them which is very frustrating and frankly unacceptable in my opinion. However, Paris absolutely nails it. Grace’s fighting spirit doesn’t waver for a moment and her love for her sister Millie is inspiring. Furthermore, Millie’s radiant personality and quick wit are rightfully at the forefront, rather than her Down’s syndrome.

Ultimately, I am so in love with this book. I absolutely devoured this book and have spent the last few days encouraging everyone around me to pick it up and start reading immediately. Frankly, if you thought Gone Girl was good, this is even better.

5 out of 5 stars

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