The Seven Day Switch – Kelly Harms

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler was fantastic, so of course I had to read this book. Who could resist an adult Freaky Friday retelling, with two moms swiping bodies? Wendy and Celeste lead very different lives. One is a full time worker, the head of the household, whereas the other is a full time stay-at-home mom who fully depends on her (luckily devoted) husband for financial support. They each make assumptions about one another, and judge each other’s actions mercilessly, until they experience firsthand what the other is feeling and just how wrong they might be about each other. Not always, but by switching bodies, which proves to be super awkward at first, they find themselves learning from one another and growing into better, stronger, more fulfilled women.

I had fun with this story and these two women. Kelly Harms writes with energy, detail, realism and humor. At times, there was too much description to my liking. I don’t, as a reader, necessarily need to know every single back-story or detail, so I could have done with less of that. The best part is the growing relationship between the two women. They have their ups and downs, their confusions and moments of revelation, their anxieties and bursts of happiness—overall, they slowly realize that maybe this ‘‘experience’’ is happening for a reason. I do believe this story could have benefitted from even more nuance. Of course, Wendy and Celeste are learning that things are not always as they seem and that some people struggle in silence, but there are still many clichés about these two women’s motherhood and wifehood experiences that made me want to roll my eyes at times. Working all the time vs. being a stay-at-home mom? Both come with pros and cons, but neither felt balanced and balance is something that they both need more of us and are not done learning.

In the end, though it wasn’t as fun as Freaky Friday, I really enjoyed the friendship featured and all the learning that occurred. Though it’s shelves as ‘‘magical realism’’ on Goodreads, aside from the body swap it felt believable and the kind of life experience I wouldn’t mind going through. Come on, universe, make this happen!

Thank you Amazon Publishing for the copy in exchange for a review.

You Will Know Me – Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott is scary. It’s not usual for me to be scared of a writer—a person—after reading their work, but Abbott has such a way—a natural way—of creating an ominous atmosphere in her novels that I have no idea how it would feel to be in her presence and that’s scary. I’d probably be super nervous and still and captivated… and more.

Abbott is also scary because she doesn’t care about doing what is expected, making her characters feel what would be socially acceptable for them to feel—or say, or do. The good thing about this is that she cannot be predicted, and her stories make you a little obsessed. Not the kind of obsessed that makes you feel like you simply have to read this in one sitting, and cannot let go of it, but the kind of obsessed that, whether you’re reading it or not, you’re thinking about it still.

I have this theory that the best way to create atmosphere in your stories is to try to feel yourself what the characters do and picture in your mind the sort of vibe you want any scene to have and really feel it, conjure it inside of you in some way. So, if I’m happy, I won’t write about unhappy characters, or if I’m self-conscious I’m not going to write about confident heroines. Maybe there’s no correlation between our own mood, personality, demeanour and the characters we write about, but if there is then let’s just say that if I’m ever in the same room as Megan Abbott, I’ll seriously take note of the nearest exit. Just in case.

This is my second book from her – after Dare Me – and I am very excited about reading more. Thank goodness there is more! The good thing about being familiar with someone’s writing style is that you know what to look forward to (and not) and when is the best time for you to pick up their books. For instance, if I’m feeling particularly nervous about something in my life, perhaps I would do best to pick up a light contemporary romance from Kasie West. Megan Abbott’s books are for when you want to feel, when you don’t mind being in a sort of trance and when you’re okay with being aware of your blood crawling inside of you.

I mean, Stephen King blurbed this book, what did you expect? Have fun.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

Burn It All Down – Nicolas DiDomizio

I knew I would love this, and not just because James Patterson blurbed it, raving about its addictiveness. It is, by the way, super addictive. It’s the type of story that you start and finish deep into the morning. Forget about getting your beauty night sleep, which likely won’t happen when it comes to this book. In my particular case though, I’m simply typically a night owl and prefer to fall asleep when I just can’t keep my eyes open anymore and fall into slumber the moment I close my eyes. This book will make it hard to close your eyes, but hey, I’m not complaining.

I also knew I would love it because after I finished watching the movie French Exit, I was subconsciously dying for another mother-son story. This is very different from the movie mentioned above, but it does feature that strong mother-son connection that I really liked from the movie and touched the part of me that adores seeing strong familial connections. Joey and his mother Gia Rossi certainly have that connection, especially when it comes to men. They both get their hearts broken by jerks and handle the heart breaks together. This time, however, they both got their hearts broken at the same time and they decide to get their revenge on. It’s cathartic for them and entertaining for the reader.

The first 100 or so pages of this book are thrilling, the rest are a bit calmer. I do admit that I prefer when it’s the other way around—when stories start in a chill way and gain energy the more I read—but for Joey and Gia Rossi, the storm never really dies. After completing their revenge plans, exteriorly they might seem okay-ish and certainly the environment they are in is more peaceful, but both mother and son are actively dealing with the aftermath of what they’ve done and how they feel, sometimes together and sometimes on their own. Of course, as interesting as it was to see Joey and Gia interact, more like friends than mother and son, it is not necessarily a very healthy type of dynamic, and both have to grow up in their own ways.

It’s part thriller, part literary, part romance and almost all coming-of-age. There are secrets and revelations, beautiful and dark moments, tears of happiness and despair and a lot, lot, lot of love. I adored it. If you like unconventional stories, this one is for you. Enjoy.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

The Startup Wife – Tahmima Anam

This is such an interesting story. I love books with characters that readers can follow for years and see how they change and grow (or not) over time. Such is the case here with Asha Ray and cie. When we first meet her, she’s a Ph.D. student, doing research in a field that is meaningful to her. But when she is reunited with her high school crush, Cyrus Jones, her focus shifts. It shifts even more when she doesn’t get the results she hoped for from her research and she starts to think about doing something else with her life, as in create an app whose popularity surpasses everyone’s expectations.

Tahmima Anam writes with a lot of care and intimacy. I felt connected to Asha and interested in her life and thoughts from the very beginning. That does not mean that I agreed with every decision she made, especially the emotionally-driven ones, but it does mean that I was able to see things from her point of view, have sympathy when the moment called for it and not judge her too harshly for her weaknesses. I will admit that Asha Ray is too good for Cyrus though. She’s such a dedicated and smart young woman, whereas he wanders the world not getting too attached too things, too involved, too serious. He is serious about Asha, yes, because she is one of his two anchors, the other being his best friend, but they have such different ways of seeing the world.

This is why, as much as I felt proud of Asha at times for showing growth and strength, when it comes to Cyrus, I simply could not cheer her on. It is as though, where he is concerned, she has to make herself smaller to fit in his world. Things do change when he becomes the focus of the app, but not for the better. For this reason, the cryptic ending did bother me. I do wish the author could write a sequel or novella to let us know what really truly happens, because as comfortable as I am imagining endings for characters I care about, it always feels more real when the actual creator delivers on their characters’ futures with certainty.  

As I said, this is a very interesting story. It feels very realistic. Though I do admit the story would have shared the same quality even if the app created had been less popular, so there wasn’t a need to make it that big a deal. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of the app’s development through Asha’s point of view. I am very proud of her for many reasons. Even during the times I wish she had been stronger, I was proud of her. I am also proud of the author for letting herself be so original and embracing peculiarity through her writing. I did, however, dislike my experience reading the last chapter. Not only was the content disappointing but so was its title. Above everything, I just wish she hadn’t used a specific current event in her story, as I feel it took some of that creativity she developed so well away and simply left me with a bad taste. So as interesting a read as this is, the ending makes me not particularly want to reread it, ever. All of that to say that I have conflicted thoughts on it, but I was thoroughly engrossed so that has to count for something and be reason enough to pick it up if the premise catches your eye.

Thank you Simon & Schuster for the copy in exchange for a review.

Lanny – Max Porter

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Lanny by Max Porter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: PRH Canada
Published: May 2019
Publisher: Strange Light
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Fantasy, Mystery, Magical Realism, Dark, Creepy, Short, Family


REVIEW:

This is an odd little book that I did not want to stop reading one second. It’s perplexing, confusing and creepy at times, but it has a fairytale-esque atmosphere that gives it a mystical quality, as though you’re lost in a forest, trying to find your way out of it, and the only way you can do that is by getting to the end of this story. Continue reading

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Hank Green

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An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: 2018
Publisher: Dutton
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Science Fiction, Mystery, Social Media, Fame, LGBTQIA+, Friendship


REVIEW:

This book has rekindled my interest in the Science Fiction genre which, after so many past disappointments, was not an easy thing to do. But feeling indifferent about this story was close to impossible, especially with a narrator like April May who enjoys speaking directly to the reader, thus encouraging us to feel involved in whatever happens. I was also rather curious about the ‘‘Carls,’’ these impressive and mysterious sculptures found everywhere around the world that no one can seem to be able to make heads or tails of. Continue reading

My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite

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My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: November 2018
Publisher: Doubleday
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Siblings, Africa


REVIEW:

This is the story of a woman in love with a man in love with her sister, a serial killer. If that sentence alone doesn’t make you want to go, ”Ooooohhhh… intriguing,” then please do stop reading this review. My heart won’t break. Continue reading

The Girls at 17 Swann Street – Yara Zgheib

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The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: February 5th, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Realistic Fiction, Mental Illness, Anorexia Nervosa, Sisterhood, Support System, Recovery


REVIEW:

This is one of those rare books that you’re indifferent to when you start reading it but that becomes precious to you the more you read it. The narration style never changes, and neither does the writing, but the story progresses in a realistic manner and Anna undergoes an obvious and admirable character development. Continue reading

Daisy Jones & The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: March 2019
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Recommended Age: 15+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Romance, Music, Realistic Fiction, Addiction, Family, Love/Hate Relationships


REVIEW:

This was pretty darn fascinating. I have never read anything like it before and that alone deserves praise from me because I don’t frequently find myself reading something I have no clue what other book to compare it with. I also have no clue how the author came up with such an original idea, which makes me really want to develop superpowers in order to read her mind. Just a little. Continue reading

RANT: The Exes’ Revenge – Jo Jakeman

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The Exes’ Revenge by Jo Jakeman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received: Publisher
Published: September 11th, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Books
Recommended Age: 14+
Pacing: Normal
Genres & Themes: Adult, Psychological, Thriller? Suspense? Female Empowerment? MEH.


BLURB:

Divorces are often messy, and Imogen’s is no exception. Phillip Rochester is controlling, abusive, and determined to make things as difficult as possible. When he shows up without warning demanding that Imogen move out of their house by the end of the month or he’ll sue for sole custody of their young son, Imogen is ready to snap. In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable–something that puts her in control for the first time in years. She’s desperate to protect her son and to claim authority over her own life. But she wasn’t expecting both Phillip’s ex-wife and new girlfriend to get tangled up in her plans. These three very different women–and unlikely allies–reluctantly team up to take revenge against a man who has wronged them all. Continue reading