March Book Reviews

Good Company by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

I was thrilled to be invited on this blog tour for Good Company, the new novel by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney out today! This family drama about two struggling couples was engrossing, heartwarming, and thoughtful.
From the beginning, I loved the ‘inside baseball’ aspect of show business. Lots of frothy, dishy and scathing takes on life in Hollywood and then on Broadway. The unraveling of long buried secrets keeps the narrative propulsive, but I think the character development is where the author really shines. Sweeney perfectly encapsulates, with precise minutiae of everyday life, what it is like to be a young and in love, a young mother and a seasoned one, a best friend, even a teenager on the precipice of flying the nest. (Hey look! I managed to incorporate the title of her previous book, also excellent, The Nest!)
If you enjoy family drama, told from multiple POVs, flawed character study and not necessarily a neat and tidy ending, I HIGHLY recommend this accessible and engaging novel.

The Stationery Shop Marjan Kamali

The Stationery Shop was a Bookstagram influenced pick and, though I can see it’s broad appeal, I wasn’t wowed by this novel. It’s a quiet and sweet love story of two teenagers torn apart during the 1953 coup in Iran, and how it affects the young girl’s life as she eventually moves to the United States and crosses paths with her lost love decades later.
What I enjoyed: learning details of Iran’s political history, Persian traditions and FOOOOOD.
What didn’t work for me: insta-love, big reveals that were obvious, threads that could have been expounded upon that were not, a whole lot of breadth and not a lot of depth.
If you are a fan of a comfortably predictable love stories and being transported to a different part of the world to learn a bit about a culture that might be unfamiliar to you, I’d give this one a shot!

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder

I went into Milk Fed without knowing much about the story, just that it might center around the main character’s eating disorder. And, certainly that was prevalent throughout the book: Rachel’s relationship with food, and how it changes based on her surrender to happiness and untethering from her overbearing mother. But the narrative centers mostly around her sexual desires and how one relationship helps her change into her truest self.
I was not bothered by the overtly erotic nature of the text, just a little... WOAH, what? It was honestly much easier to identify with Rachel as someone falling in total LUST as opposed to someone so rigidly controlled by food. Sadly, I feel like one of the few women in society who dodged that bullet and didn’t have a fraught relationship with food for most of my life. Fair warning, it may be VERY triggering for those who have struggled with eating disorders, and um... not your cup of tea if you skip open door sex content in books!
Overall this was a surprisingly sweet and empowering story of self actualization and overcoming one’s demons. And it was a hypnotic listening experience, read by the author on audiobook.

Made For Love by Alissa Nutting

Made for Love was my Evergreenreaders book club pick for March and it was all my fault we read this WILD novel (or ‘thanks to me’ depending on one’s point of view). Although, I did give three selections to choose from - yet it seems no one could resist the cover and what indeed sounded like a wild ride. And I’m glad I read it! I think the rest of the club is too, whether we enjoyed the reading experience or not. It is rife with inside jokes for us now and laugh out loud material to dissect, which is one of the reasons I put it on the list!
This story of a woman running away from her psychopath husband who has implanted her brain with a chip to monitor her thoughts, while she hides out with her father and his sex dolls, (also there is a subplot of a man who is turned on by dolphins) is full of dark and satirical comedy. I haven’t guffawed out loud at a book in a long time. (If you have read this book, all of the stuff with Dolphin Savior had me cry laughing.) The plot also had me turning pages wondering what crazy sh*t was going to happen next, and the ending goes full pedal to the metal. But there is also a lot to unpack about how we interact with trauma, groupthink, technology and media.
I know I will think about the themes in this book for a long time and NEVER forget it! In the book the main character recalls a time when she went to an art museum with her mother and says:

“what’s it called when you’re looking at something, I mean staring at something, like how we are doing, but not at something pretty? That’s the whole reason to stare usually, right? Because something is beautiful. What about when something isn’t nice to look at but you’re still looking at it and thinking and stuff?”

The mother goes on to say that is REALITY, and I’d venture to say that also includes art - the provocative variety of which category this novel certainly falls under. It will undoubtedly be one of the most interesting television adaptations in recent memory, out next month on HBO Max. If anyone else has read this book, I would love love love to hear your thoughts on it! And if you plan to watch the show.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

It is absolutely no surprise that this book has been chosen for so many book clubs and subscriptions, including my first installment of the Third Place Books signed first editions club!
Infinite Country is one of those slim volumes that packs a lot in a little. From the very first sentence “it was her idea to tie up the nun” I was riveted by Talia’s story. After escaping from said nun, it was impossible not to be completely invested in her fate as well as the fate of her family, fractured between Columbia and the United States. Novels with multiple narrators always appeal, and Engel masterfully switches between them - as well as timelines, to build the narrative.
What is so important about reading Own Voices work is that we get a better picture of the realities for the people being represented. This story felt so very real, extraordinary but also ordinary in that it actually represents the lived experience of so many immigrants. It does not need to be flashy or full of action in order to be utterly compelling. A must read and beautiful book about home and family, heartbreak and hope.

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

It’s been a loooong time since I read a YA dystopian novel, but the buzz around The Electric Kingdom was irresistible and I feel like I’m in a headspace now where I can handle a post apocalyptic tale.
The beginning chapters are cryptic, purposely so, and once I was introduced to the main characters journey, as they wind their way together in this vivid landscape, I was hooked. I never give a synopsis in my reviews, but even the usual amount of plot I supply would be spoiler-y for this book. It’s best to go in without expectations, even if some of the mystery might be easy to figure, the ‘how and why’ is original and cunning.
As with most dystopian fiction, there is a lot to chew on regarding our shared humanity. Arnold did this in a such a moving and poignant way, not at all saccharine as some YA can tend to be, and not excessively didactic as some dystopian tends to be. If, like me, you enjoyed The Fifth Wave, The Passage or Blake Crouch’s novels - DEFINITELY pick this one up!

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Just like every other person who has read this book, I encourage all to read it. What made Caste so impactful for me was Wilkerson’s very organized journalistic structure - it definitely soothed my type A brain.
She gives a clear definition of Caste, how it undergirds our society, how it affects us all in the most harmful ways, and what the future may hold. All of this is laid out with compelling and clear comparison to caste systems throughout the world/history, easy to grasp metaphor, and her (infuriating) personal stories. Many books I’ve read on racism focus mainly on impactful personal stories, but Wilkerson really lays down the irrefutable case for structural racism in our society. This is one that my kids will be reading, FOR SURE.
Also, the audiobook is excellent and Robin Miles’ voice is soothing and personable at any speed.

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Ah, it’s always such a comfort being back in Three Pines and checking in on beloved characters! A Trick of the Light brought all the usual excellence I expect when reading Louise Penny‘s novels: great atmosphere, character study, humor and wit, as well as intricate and thoughtful themes. Additionally, this book introduced a lot of drama that will continue throughout the books between the main characters Chief Inspector Gamache and Inspector Beauvoir. I have been consuming Penny’s series at a nice and slow pace, this is book seven and I read Still Life almost four years ago, in order to enjoy them for as long as possible. But now I am kind of anxious to see how some of these underlying plot threads will unravel! If you haven’t delved into these novels yet, I am yet another Penny Pusher encouraging everyone to do so. They are magical.