Sunday, May 29, 2022

She woke up with hope, but she only found tears: THE CHILDREN ON THE HILL.

The Children on the HillThe Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1978, Violet and Eric live in Vermont with their grandmother. To them, she's just Gran, but to others, she's the famous Dr. Helen Hildreth, a psychiatrist well-known for her work with the mentally ill. She does her work at the Hillside Inn, a massive facility next to their home. One day she brings home a patient, Iris, a scared and feral child. Violet and Eric bring her into their "Monster Club," where they catalog monsters and watch for them around the property. The three do everything together, including meeting at their clubhouse and hunting monsters--because they are everywhere. Cut to 2019, where Lizzy Shelly, the host of the podcast Monsters Among Us, travels to Vermont to investigate the disappearance of a teen. Lizzy knows that bad things can happen and monsters are very real--including her own sister.

This dark and brooding novel caught my interest right away. McMahon (always a favorite author of mine) presents a really different story here. It's told via excerpts from a book by a journalist written in 1980; excerpts from the book of monsters written by Violet, Eric, and Iris in 1978; Lizzy in 2019; Violet in 1978; and "the monster." This may sound like a lot but McMahon weaves together all the various storylines seamlessly. The chapters are short and between those and the varied format, the book is quite captivating.

I guessed one of the twists fairly early, but enjoyed reading to see if I was right. CHILDREN delves into some intense topics, especially mental health awareness, but also the meaning of sisterhood and family. The idea of monsters is complex--both the spooky kind and the kind that are true evil. I really enjoyed reading about the dichotomy.

Overall, this book is unique and delves into the meaning of evil and how it comes to be. It's dark and twisty and an enjoyable read. 4 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Gallery Books and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Monday, May 09, 2022

We built a wall around ourselves: INSOMNIA.

InsomniaInsomnia by Sarah Pinborough
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Emma Averell has worked hard to leave her childhood in the past. But as she nears 40, she cannot help but remember her own mother. When she turned 40, there was a terrible incident, and Emma and her older sister went into foster care. Emma has longed for stability ever since, and she's found it with her husband and two children. But now, she worries she's slowly going mad, just like her mother did at the same age. As she finds herself increasingly unable to sleep, wandering her home at night and losing time in the day, she fears her mother was right--madness is in her blood.

This book totally stressed me out with Emma's inability to sleep! It's very immersive, and you completely feel Emma's descent into sleeplessness and madness. INSOMNIA is a captivating and fast read. It certainly has its repetitive moments--there's a lot of scenes with Emma wandering her home, awake and pondering her life choices. At times, it's a bit much and it's painful to read about her "madness." But there's also an intriguing story, as Emma thinks back to her childhood, her mother, and what truly happened when she was young. I figured out a part of the plot fairly early on, but it didn't diminish my interest. As with most Pinborough books, there's a weird twist thrown in at the end--I wasn't sure this one was necessary and it sort of ruined some of the story for me. But overall, this is a quick and intriguing thriller. 3.5+ stars.

I received a copy of this book from William Morrow and Custom House, Scene of the Crime, and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Friday, May 06, 2022

She'll be the end of me and maybe everyone: LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE.

Like a House on FireLike a House on Fire by Lauren McBrayer
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Twelve years into her marriage, Merit feels exhausted by her own life. She's been staying at home with her two young children, trying to work on her painting career, but she eventually decides to return to work as an architect. At her new job, she works for a brilliant fellow architect, Jane, whom Merit finds amazing. The two quickly become friends, sharing nearly every aspect of their lives with one another. But soon Merit realizes Jane has become almost her entire life--and she's not sure what that means.

"She wanted someone to understand that it wasn't about competence; it was about being trapped in the double bind of being a working mom."

I loved this book! I found it to be utterly mesmerizing. This novel was certainly perfect for me, as a bisexual, and I'm truly disappointed that some of the low reviews reflect homophobia. Because, at its core, it's a character-driven novel about motherhood, marriage, and finding yourself, and I'd like to think that many people could relate to those topics on many levels.

FIRE is beautifully and wonderfully written. The way it explores motherhood and marriage is so honest and true--it resonated with me on a deep and emotional level. Merit is a working mom about to turn 40, so there's no surprise there! At times, the story is brutal and harsh, but there's also beauty and hope here. Merit and Jane are great characters--different but deeply and delicately portrayed.

Overall, this book is lovely--with sweet, tough, and gorgeous characters. It weaves an emotional and honest tale. 4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book PENGUIN GROUP Putnam and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2022

I try to get it out but all I hear from you are lies: THE YOUNGER WIFE.

The Younger WifeThe Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stephen Aston's daughters Tully and Rachel are shocked when their father announces he is getting remarried. Especially since he's still married to their mother, Pam, who suffers from dementia and resides in a care home. But Stephen is adamant he plans to divorce Pam and marry the much younger, Heather. Convinced Heather is only after their father's money, Tully and Rachel start trying to figure out Heather's end game. But the more they dig, the more secrets they undercover... of all kinds.

"The moment she laid eyes on Heather Wisher, Tully knew this woman was going to destroy their lives."

THE YOUNGER WIFE is a classic page turner--twisty and full of surprises. You are never sure which character to trust or believe. The book opens with an incident at Stephen and Heather's wedding, so we know something has happened... to someone. The rest of the book goes back in time, and while there certainly is a mystery in wondering what happened at the wedding, there is also a lot of character development as we learn about Heather, Tully, and Rachel. The book is told from their perspectives.

There are secrets aplenty in WIFE--we learn a lot about Stephen's daughters, and the book delves deep into their psyches. Many of their issues are serious, and the book covers dark topics such as mental health and sexual assault. WIFE is far more than a mystery, but also a multi-layered story. It's interesting and holds plenty of depth. 4 stars.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin's Press and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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