Title: It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell
Published by St. Martin's Press
Published: May 16th 2017
Source: Book Sparks
Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, even though they are as different as three women can be. Twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge . . and someone else is urging her to jump.
How did things come to this?
As the novel cuts back and forth between their college years and their adult years, you see the exact reasons why these women love and hate each other—but can feelings that strong lead to murder? Or will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?
Michele Campbell’s It’s Always the Husband
has a blurb on the cover that compares it to one of my favorite books of all time, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History
, so that was one of the big excitement draws from me toward the book. I like campus stories, especially involving societies on campus and the terrible things that end up happening as a result of their collective behaviors because let’s face it, going to college and living on campus is one of the first times a lot of us experience living on our own without our parents to help guide the way. And a lot of the time, that innocence and lack of experience translates into some pretty catastrophic stuff.
This is a hard one to review, because I think I expected too much by having that comparison given to me from the get-go, and usually I’m pretty good about being wary of such comparisons because very few things do actually compare. Anyway, it’s very obvious from the beginning that Campbell knows her stuff. She’s very familiar with the ins and outs of prestigious schools and established, wealthy families. She’s done her research on twisted murder cases and the lengths people go for self-preservation. Campbell’s history as a federal prosecutor gives her that knowledge and makes this story seem entirely plausible.
But. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters or feel sympathy for them. I thought the title was a bit of a misnomer, because it’s not always the husband (and if that’s the joke, I feel like it’s a little off the mark). It seems like this could have been two separate stories, or even a fully-developed college story, and then a sequel of what comes after. It’s odd because it felt both drawn out and really rushed, depending on what was going on. I either would have liked everything to have taken place on campus or have had a shorter flashback sequence with more focused on who the women became in the present.The writing is taut and sharp and kept me reading even though the plot was a little heavy-handed at times; but based on the advertising and blurbs and comparisons to Tartt, Flynn, and Ware, I was expecting a thriller, and instead I got a thrilling character-driven novel. Not a bad thing, but not what I was ultimately expecting or hoping for.
A copy of this book was provided to me for review by Book Sparks and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Title: Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey
Published by Swoon Reads
Published: April 11th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Historical, Fiction
She quite enjoyed the intensity of the stranger’s gaze whenever their eyes met, and her sudden shortness of breath was not in the least alarming.
Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father's choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.
Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won't hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert's help, Lydia strives to keep her family's good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…
Cindy Anstey’s Duels & Deceptions is incredibly adorable, and that’s not a word I really use to describe YA fiction. Not lately, anyway. I think this book suffered one of those cute, but wrong moment kind of reads. It also didn’t have the same pacing that her first book had, so I didn’t feel as swept away in the cute Regency romantic adventure of it all like I was with the first. However, it is incredibly rare to find a YA romance that’s cute, fluffy, and ultimately free of sex? Like, it’s exactly what you might expect from a fluffy romance – breathlessness, lingering glances, fluttery hearts, etcetera. I’m also a sucker for the slow burn stuff, and this is full of that longing.
Anstey plays with the idea of what’s appropriate in Regency society, and most of the tension and drama in the novel comes from an incident in which Lydia and Robert are kidnapped. The two main characters are already aware of each other and already feel something toward each other but haven’t quite figured out what that feeling might be. The story was a bit slow from the kidnapping until the final, somewhat predictable reveal of some bribery and of who arranged for the kidnapping, but it wasn’t a terrible sort of slow. I think, like I mentioned before, I was expecting more of that constant feeling of adventure and excitement like I got from her other book to be present in this novel, especially with the word duels in the title!
If you like cute, fluffy historical romances and are in the mood for a few giggles, Duels & Deceptions might be right up your alley. I’ll certainly be recommending it to readers who are ready to bridge from the children’s section but aren’t quite ready for the heavy-handed drama, tension, and sex often found in the pages of some YA romance!
A copy of this book was provided to me for review by the publisher and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme thing hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is best reads (so far) of 2017! As of writing this post, I’ve read 65 books this year, and here are the ten that I think absolutely shone. Some were released this year, but not all of them! These are also not in any kind of order!
- The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher. I think, like a lot of people, I regret not having read any of Carrie Fisher’s writing before her death. This memoir is one of the funniest memoirs I’ve read in a while, and she writes with an openness and a frankness I someday aspire to have.
- Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman. It’s Gaiman. It’s Norse mythology.
- The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden. A really lovely, atmospheric fairy tale with bits of Russian and Western fairy tale essences woven in. I’m really excited for the followup because so much excitement of the story seemed to happen in the last third.
- Moby-Dick; or The Whale, by Herman Melville. Uh, if you would have told me a couple of years ago that Moby-Dick would become one of my top favorite novels of all time, I might have laughed in your face. But seriously, my dudes. This is a classic case of learning about the history surrounding a novel and then diving into it, because it makes the experience all the richer. I devoured this monstrous beast of a novel in mere days. DAYS.
- The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. So heartbreaking, so touching, so relevant. I’ve been telling everyone to read this book.
- The Stars are Legion, by Kameron Hurley. I pitch this to people who are looking for new science fiction to read like this: Do you like military-esque, dramatic sci-fi? Do you like weird sci-fi? Do you like gross sci-fi? How do you feel about womb-punk? (What? they often ask.) I respond with a: this book is like a birth-is-war and war-is-birth kind of thing. I generally get one of two responses: I’M SOLD OMG and YOU READ SOME WEIRD SHIT, MEG. Read it, now.
- The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, by Ken Liu. THIS JUST WON A LOCUS AWARD and has a lot of other accolades. The stories range from fantasy to sci-fi and are all well written and full of life. It’s just a good anthology, period.
- The Whole Art of Detection, by Lyndsay Faye. I don’t think I can stop babbling about this or thinking about this collection of Sherlock Holmes pastiches. They’re just so well done and evoke Doyle’s atmosphere so well while at the same time being fresh and modern. I’ll read anything Faye writes, and she’ll always be at the top of my recommendations lists.
- Borne, by Jeff VanderMeer. Flying bears? A blobby, morphing person-thing? Examinations on what it means to be a person? Yes, yes, yes. This feels like an Atwood extension that’s thoroughly VanderMeer’s stuff. If you’ve read his Southern Reach trilogy and liked it, why haven’t you picked this up yet? It’s dystopian, but it’s not an in-your-face one. Everything is centralized, and the characters are so well developed.
- Wake of Vultures, by Lila Bowen. THIS ONE CAME OUT OF NOWHERE?? I’ve seen lots of writers I like mention this and blurb for it, so when it was a Kindle daily deal, I bought it. I didn’t start reading it until a bit later, and it was everything I needed at that moment: a protagonist dealing with gender identity and expression, the old west, MONSTERS and creepy things, AH so many things that I’ll get into in a proper review soon.
THIS CONCLUDES THE TEN. I’m thinking I’ll do a ten best for the second half of the year and then do a final post narrowing those twenty down to the overall best ten of 2017!
Have you read any of these?
Title: The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
Published by St. Martin's Press
Published: May 2nd 2017
Source: Book Sparks
The Best of Adam Sharp
From the #1 bestselling author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect, an unforgettable new novel about lost love and second chances
On the cusp of turning fifty, Adam Sharp likes his life. He’s happy with his partner Claire, he excels in music trivia at quiz night at the local pub, he looks after his mother, and he does the occasional consulting job in IT.
But he can never quite shake off his nostalgia for what might have been: his blazing affair more than twenty years ago with an intelligent and strong-willed actress named Angelina Brown who taught him for the first time what it means to find—and then lose—love. How different might his life have been if he hadn’t let her walk away?
And then, out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously?
is the latest by Graeme Simsion, the author of the highly-acclaimed The Rosie Project
. The Best of Adam Sharp
follows the life of a British man at fifty-something reminiscing about a relationship he had twenty years ago with Angelina Brown, an intelligent and beautiful actress. When the two had a chance to be something more than just a passionate fling, Sharp doesn’t take the chance and the two part ways. Twenty years after the two part ways, Adam receives a message from Angelina, and it causes him to wonder about the stability of everything in his life.
Unable to stop thinking about what might have been, Adam takes the chance and reconnects with Angelina, only to find out that it’s probably better to let what happened in the past and what fizzled out in the past remain in the past because it’s never going to be what you think and hope it will be, because Angelina is with someone else and really has no intention of ultimately shaking up her own life just to have a taste of that “what could have been.”
As I was reading this, I kept thinking I am not the target audience for this book. I’m about twenty years too young to really relate to anything that’s going on in the story, except for the flashbacks to Adam and Angelina’s initial romance. I think this would be a better read for someone who is a bit older than I am, someone who has had the chance to love and let go in this kind of way or for someone who is a little bit more of a romantic than I am. I also found it interesting that it played with the idea of polyamory and extra people in a relationship for a bit, and that’s the first time I’ve seen it in commercial fiction in a somewhat positive light. Then again, I don’t always gravitate toward commercial fiction with a romantic bent, so I might be completely off the mark in that! However, the writing made this a highly compulsive read, and I definitely wanted to see how everything played out for Adam and how it resolved itself. In the end, I felt that Adam got what he wanted and what he deserved as fairly as the universe could possibly present it to him. It’s never easy coming to terms with a lost love and the chance and failure of reconciliation, but sometimes it’s the journey that really matters.
I received this book from Book Sparks and the publisher for review! All opinions are my own.
Title: Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Published by Hogarth Press
Published: May 9th 2017
Source: Book Sparks
“You think you know how a story begins, or how it’s going to turn out, especially when it’s your own. You don’t.”
A sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles, from the New York Times bestselling author of California.
High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. She’s going to need a hand with her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In comes S., a magnetic young artist, who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s young toddler son, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage, one. S. performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady. But as the summer wears on, S.’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. Lady and S. will move closer to one another as they both threaten to harm the things they hold most dear. Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.
I’m participating in Book Sparks’s Summer Reading Challenge this year, and Edan Lepucki’s Woman No. 17 is one of the books I read as part of the challenge that I couldn’t put down. I’m branching out of my reading comfort zones by participating in this challenge, and I think it’s helping me figure out why it is I gravitate toward certain genres and styles of fiction and it’s also showing me that branching out every now and then is an amazing palate cleanser.
Woman No. 17 explores the upsides and pitfalls of self-expression in the name of art, and I liked that S was not that likable of a character from the beginning, but she’s also a character a reader can empathize with because I feel like so many of us go through all of those loops and twists to try to understand our parents without actually going to the source because that’s awkward and uncool. It seems more interesting to our weird brains to do the roundabout thing and figure things out for ourselves when a lot of the time, our answers can be easily gained with time and the right questions. Anyway, I digress.
S, following in her mother’s footsteps, becomes a nanny to Lady, a woman living in southern California, and her youngest son. S finds out that Lady has an adult son, Seth, who is mute, and it’s revealed throughout the novel that Lady has a difficult time letting Seth go and grow up. The dynamic between S’s projection of her vision of her mother’s self, Lady, and Seth becomes pretty predictable by the middle of the novel when Seth and S begin communicating with each other without Lady’s knowledge. I think this is where the novel ultimately lost me because it was so predictable, especially in the connection between S and Seth by the end, and I felt that just one more twist in the whole thing might have made me enjoy this book that much more.
There’s a lot of drinking and a scene of animal abuse that caught me off guard (I’m not generally disturbed by these things, but it is worth mentioning for those who might be), but the writing itself is sharp, well-paced, and kept me reading even though I found myself rolling my eyes at S’s behavior. Lepucki shows her familiarity with the southern California landscape and the sorts of people who inhabit it and the people it attracts, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. The characters, while ridiculous to me at times, seemed realistic within the setting and I didn’t feel as if it was completely unbelievable. Woman No. 17 is an enjoyable summer read that will take you away from the world for a few hours and leave you feeling quite entertained.
I received a copy of this book from Book Sparks and the publisher for review! All opinions are my own.