Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Rating: 5 out of 5.

THIS BOOK WAS WILDDDDD! I read this in a single day, and literally could. not. put. it. DOWN! Best thriller I’ve read in awhile, inspired by my favorite novel by the legendary Agatha Christie – with a twist!

On Daisy Darker’s grandmother’s 80th birthday, the family assembles at their estate, Seaglass, to hear her deliver her final will and testament: Nana, mother Nancy, Dad, her older sister Rose, the middle sister Lily, her niece Trixie, and an old family friend, Conor. At midnight, they find Nana dead on the floor – not of the natural causes she suspected would take her in her 80th year, but of what appears to be murder. Someone at Seaglass is picking off the Darker family, one by one.

Everyone is a suspect, and nothing is as you think it is!

This book was just an utter surprise from what I was expecting, and it was so, so welcome. This book will probably end up in my top ten this year, if not my top five. THAT’S how good it was!!

Obviously, for good reason, I disliked most of the characters. The family is despicable and annoying, all in their own ways, and the only ones I really cared for were Nana and Trixie. Even Daisy herself could get to be a little much at times, and they all had their faults. No one, however, was quite as annoying and irritating as Lily. That woman was a nightmare!! Feeney creates such an atmosphere ripe with hatred and dislike that you can’t help but root for the evil that lies in just the other room. This family tore itself apart, murderer not necessary.

I felt for Daisy, but I think even she was hard to love at times. She was heavily mistreated by her family, and you do sympathize with her as the reader, but I think what will strike you about her character is that she never really moves on from that. It’s both depressing and telling.

Huge, huge fan of this twist. You will never see it coming – my mouth formed a perfect O for the last five or ten chapters! Things fall apart so insanely quick…wild. Just wild.

Highly recommending this for all my thriller AND horror lovers, if you haven’t gotten to it already. My favorite Book of the Month pick thus far. I’ll be checking out more of Feeney’s work after reading this masterpiece!

Have a wonderful weekend!

No Exit by Taylor Adams

No Exit by Taylor Adams

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There is a fabulous, cinematic thriller in No Exit. I had watched the movie several months back without realizing that it was actually a book first – I prefer to read before I watch – but ultimately decided I still wanted to read it even though I knew what would happen. Glad that I did!!

Tearing across the country to get to her dying mother, Darby Thorne ends up stranded in the Rockies, at a random rest stop, in an absolutely incredible snowstorm. Inside, she finds four strangers, and a young girl locked in one of their vans in the parking lot. Unsure of the suspect, but desperate to get the girl to safety before plows and police can arrive in the dead zone, she hatches a plan.

This book reads like a movie. Once I got going, I couldn’t put it down. I knew what was going to happen and I still couldn’t tear my eyes away; it’s amazing in the suspense department and it’s written a quick-paced way that, shockingly, doesn’t skimp on plot or character development.

And speaking of character development: I *love* Darby; she is smart and heroic, quick-thinking and selfless. I thought her character was both brilliant but believable. The supporting characters – the other strangers at the bus stop – were also well-rounded enough that their actions were predictable without being dry. In fact, the book dives even deeper into the characters than I could recall from the movie, and I thought it better served the story. The small cast of people allows for the story, the plot, and the action to unfold in a way that’s not distracting, but makes it the absolute focal point.

I already knew the twists from having seen the movie, but credit where credit is due in its originality, they would’ve surprised the heck out of me had I not already known them. You expect a run-of-the-mill action thriller, but there’s a bit of mystery to this as well. I think anyone walking into it blind would be pleasantly surprised by everything within it.

Highly recommend – it’s not only making me want to rewatch the film, but read more Taylor Adams books (I require more, sir). Happy reading!

Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q Sutanto

Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q Sutanto

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Bruh. This is somehow even worse.

After killing a guy and covering it up at the last wedding they worked, Meddy is now marrying her own man, Nathan, in London – and the aunties are up to their usual antics. Having hired a Chinese-Indonesian family of wedding vendors they are somehow related to, the Chans now face down the fact that they have hired the mafia, and they’re looking to kill someone at Meddy’s wedding. Trying to salvage the day, they identify the target and dedicate themselves to protecting her. And, you know…craziness ensues.

I just hate that these books have so much genuine potential and it is WASTED by how cringey the writing style is – I really thought in my last review that the problem must be the narrator, but I think it was a combination of her and the writer herself. There are just *unnecessarily placed sentences* here and there that just reiterate previously made points that were cringey the first time, and continue to be cringey a second time around. Not to repeat myself, but if this was written with more of Finlay Donovan‘s humorous situational irony, with regard and self-awareness for how ridiculous it is, I think it would be much better. Instead, Sutanto leans into it, and makes the book borderline uncomfortable.

The plot in this one was also lacking substantially in comparison to the first one. I thought the storyline in book one was far more well-developed; this book felt much like running in circles and repeating the same “issues” over and over (like we’re worried about Nathan, we’re worried about the uncles, we’re worried about Nathan, just over and over again in circles like that the whole book with no real plot developments). I think it lacked originality and dragged on too long.

I like Meddy, but she made some poor decisions in this book. Like, worse than accidentally killing a guy, I guess – since that is the standard here. Her relationship with Nathan is unbelievable because it’s built on far too many lies. She treats him like garbage this whole book, and yet he’s kind and polite and patient with her. No one is that patient! Wild.

The aunties remain funny and witty and enjoyable – even if you are crying a little every time they use a British accent or insist on komodo dragon fascinators. They just make the book a bit more warm and a bit less forced. I think this is what Sutanto draws from real life; the aunties of this book are based off her own family and you can feel a better sense of authenticity from them than from the rest of the characters. I know this isn’t supposed to be a wildly realistic story; they’re meant to be humorous and a bit ridiculous and I get that. But when you’ve read humor that still jibes and makes sense without being over the top, it’s hard not to compare the two. This one just falls short in that department.

I don’t think I feel the need to continue this series at this rate. I wish I was enjoying it more, but it’s not a good fit for me I guess. Have a fabulous weekend!

The Wrong One by Dervla McTiernan

The Wrong One by Dervla McTiernan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Talk about a freaky read. This quick novella story captivated me for three consecutive hours as I walked around the house, shaking my head at it all. What a great thriller and an interesting plot!

When widowed mother Clara is taken to jail for the murder of her Lavender Valley neighbor, Rachel Stapleton, her son Sebastien immediately calls an old family friend and detective, Simon. They left Simon behind in Hartford after the loss of Clara’s husband, and an investigation that left the family permanently marred when it unfolded. Clara isn’t thrilled about the detective’s presence, but Simon is determined to prove Clara’s innocence, and begins an investigation into the incident and the town itself. Their presence in Lavender Valley simply doesn’t feel right to Simon.

I just grabbed this one on a whim on Audible, as I think I get a free Audible Original once a month? I have no idea what I even pay for, if it’s not painfully obvious. I originally thought it was a true crime (doesn’t the cover kind of look like one?) but it became pretty obvious at the start that it’s not; it’s written with quite a bit of emotion and in the first person, so it doesn’t have that clinical true crime vibe to it either. Definitely, firmly in the mysteries and thrillers category.

This short little novella packs a punch. The plotting and character development in such a short span is nothing short of impressive, and makes for a terribly fun read. Everything unfolds *perfectly*, even in such a short amount of time, and it holds all the elements of a full length thriller.

Everything ties together really nicely in the end, but I liked that everything felt sort of off right from the start. I didn’t really pick up on the actual ~guilty party~ until it was pretty much revealed to me as the reader, but it adds up, so points for everything making sense. In fact, much of what made me suspect my number one choice was directly related to the relationship to the actual guilty party – if you can wrap your head around that unfortunate word vomit story. Basically, what I’m trying to get at here is that the author did a great job throwing me off the truth trail and I thought that was pretty dang cool, for such a short book.

Highly recommend this one; it’ll only take you a few hours to listen and the narrators were great. Happy reading!

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This one was kind of a letdown from my expectations and at least half of that was the narrator’s fault. I made the mistake of *listening* to Dial A for Aunties instead of just reading it, and the narrator’s bubbly, over-hyped voice made things that could’ve been humorous, even if a little weird, sound just plain cringey.

Meddy works for the family wedding business as their photographer, with her three aunties and mom. The family is apparently cursed to be left by every man in their lives, so it’s just the five of them remaining in California and working many of the Chinese-Indonesian weddings in the area. Leading up to a huge and fancy wedding they’re working, Meddy is convinced by her mother to go on a blind date, and *accidentally* kills the guy. Literally. And she looks pretty guilty, so instead of going to the police, the aunties help her cover it up…

But dragging a body around a luxury wedding in a hotel owned by your ex is kind of a lot.

I know you all know I’m going to say this, but I picked this book up because I was told it’s like Only Murders in the Building and it’s not. Story of my life. I never watch television, leave it to me to find the one show I adore and yet cannot replicate the vibe of in my reading habits. I’ve liked most of the picks I got from that list, but they are really not the same. Dial A for Aunties was pretty cute and pretty hilarious, but yea, not Only Murders. Nothing ever will be, lol.

I do have to give credit where credit is due, I loved the antics and the hilarity of this book. Like Finlay Donovan, you need to maintain that suspended disbelief, but if you can, it’s a laugh out loud riot. The aunties were hysterical. The situational irony, totally on point. And Meddy was both real and likeable, so that said, I really enjoyed this book.

I absolutely should have been reading my paperback, and not listening to the audiobook. The narrator made this book sound really childish and immature, which I guess it was, but she just made it so much worse. Read in the correct tone, I think this could’ve landed closer to a Finlay Donovan, but I don’t even know what I would call this. Romance plays a larger role in this story, and it’s not exactly a mystery who killed the guy…so it’s more of a comedy with a romantic element. Suffice to say this is not a genre I would typically pick up.

I think I will definitely be reading the sequel, Four Aunties and a Wedding, and hopefully I will settle into that story a bit better. I’ll keep you posted. 😉

Have a fabulous weekend.

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was the weirdest and most delightful piece of art I have had the fortune of reading lately. Completely unexpected but painfully imaginative, reading Our Wives Under the Sea feels much like staring at fine art: somewhat confusing, utterly beautiful.

Leah has returned from six months in a submarine a different person, or something different altogether. Plagued by whatever she found at the bottom of the ocean, she spends several hours a day in the bath, spacing out, and worrying her wife, Miri. What was supposed to be three weeks under the water became six months with no answers, and even with Leah back, Miri still has no idea what happened there. Whatever stuck with Leah, like leeches on her skin, is slowly dragging her farther and farther from Miri and the life they once shared together.

This book was, again, totally not what I expected. I would classify this more in literary fiction with an element of romance, than in the horror/sci-fi I was originally expecting. I didn’t dislike that at all, in fact, Armfield’s writing style is really suited to this in-between space of contemporary magic. The narrative felt rooted in life even as it was carried away in fantasy; her prose was utterly human and naturally, heartbreaking. This is the story of a marriage uprooted by uncontrollable circumstances, but so strong in its love that it endures even tragedy.

Some comments, with no particular feelings about them: I couldn’t quite pinpoint what this was supposed to be a direct comparison of. “Our wives under the sea” as a concept comes from Miri exploring chat rooms of people with missing family members, and stumbling upon one where wives pretend their husbands have gone on missions to space. “My husband in space”, or MHIS, sparks Miri’s thoughts about her own loneliness and sense of abandonment, as Leah is missing and not heard of for several months. She jokingly suggests the direct comparison name for her own situation, Our Wives Under the Sea. The chat room comparison feels like it could be hinting at military relationships, or those who have missing family members as one suggested. The fact that Leah returns changed and hard to connect with or “save” furthers this theory, but I don’t really like it as a comparison for these relationships and situations – so I prefer not to think that’s the point here. If you live it, and then read this, the two don’t fit in my eyes.

Further, the plot line is wildly interesting and intriguing, but (spoiler alert) comes to nothing concrete. The ending does not wrap anything about the mystery of Leah’s change into a neat little bow. As a horror fan, I wish it did, but as someone who read and understood this story as one of marriage and the strength of love, I understand it is not strictly necessary. And, in fact, maybe even more terrifying for not having the answers, but having to accept things for what they are.

This oddly compelling novel will probably top my list for general recommendations this year – I think anyone can take something from this book and I will keep trying to sell it to my fellow readers! This is a bit of a long-winded review, but this is really an interesting book to dissect. This would make an amazing book club pick, as I think a group read would generate tons of conversation. Weird as it turned out to be, I highly recommend Our Wives Under the Sea.

Have a fabulous weekend. 😉

My Houseplant Changed My Life by David Domoney

My Houseplant Changed My Life by David Domoney

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I bought this one amidst my blossoming houseplant obsession last year (pun most certainly intended), along with a few others that focused on plant varieties and care on a more basic level. I’m not so daft as to believe my green thumb could understand the intricacies of plant biology enough to get a real gardening book, so this one is my base-level, art-filled compromise.

My Houseplant Changed My Life is the infographic version of a houseplant companion; it takes you through nearly one hundred common houseplants, how to care for their basic needs, and important or interesting facts about each. It also highlights the importance of color (particularly green) in the home, teaching children responsibility through houseplants, and how to use houseplants to improve your health and mental well-being.

The book was as I expected it to be, just not much else. It didn’t astound or wow me, but it had some great starter-knowledge and some really cute art. I guess this just isn’t the groundbreaking wonder of The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food or something, but it’s certainly not bad.

One of my biggest complaints was that it didn’t actually cover the majority of plants I have in my home. Only four of the nearly fifteen plants I have in my house made it into the book. I was hoping reading this might further enlighten me to some of the tips and tricks of the plants I have, but no such luck. In fact, the majority of the plants featured in this book, I noticed, were not pet-safe (and some not even child-safe!). I don’t actually feel like that’s accessible or makes sense for the common person looking into getting houseplants. Like, I can’t tell you how many of these had non-pet-safe notes! When I go to my local plant shop/nursery, they’re awesome about telling me which ones are safe and which aren’t. The only ones I have currently that are problems are the ones my friend has had to relegate to my care during her three month trip to Ireland – and they’re high up and away from my kitties. But regardless, I don’t usually invite plants that aren’t safe for my bajillion cats into my home, and I’m guessing most other people don’t either. This seems like a better fit for a city person, living in an apartment where they can’t have pets, than the common person who typically has a pet or child or maybe both.

Additionally, some of the pages felt repetitive in nature. It’s difficult for me to gauge how big of an issue this is because I don’t think it’s meant to be read cover to cover (which is how I read everything, of course), but I also don’t think it makes a good “field guide” type book either, because it lacks many of the basic plants not only in my house but found at shops in my area. So the repetitive nature of it was noticed by me, but may go unnoticed by someone using the book in a different way.

Cute as this book was, I was definitely looking for something *slightly* more comprehensive. I’m hoping Houseplants for All ends up being better suited to the point I’m at now with my little indoor jungle.

Have a fabulous weekend and happy spring!

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Damn, dude. I knew from the rave reviews this had to be a good one. I was not disappointed in McCurdy’s writing, though heartbroken and left raw from her story.

Jennette McCurdy is well known for her Nickelodeon roles as Sam Puckett on several popular kids shows. She was a huge part of my own childhood, and that is why I felt it so important to read this story, detailing the real life behind the mask she wore on television. McCurdy experienced every kind of abuse at the hands of her mother, who forced her into acting as a child, taught her the eating disorder that still plagues her today, and continued to emotionally destroy her through many of the years that we saw Jennette on screens in our own homes.

The writing in this book is absolutely top notch. The pacing, the voice behind it, are absolutely incredible and showcase McCurdy as an up-and-coming writing talent. I would be honored to read more of her work. I don’t want to acknowledge the substance in this book until I’ve acknowledged that, because as important as it is to read this story for the perspective shift it will create in your childhood memories, it’s just as important to know that this is no ordinary celebrity memoir. Jennette has real talent for writing and creating art from the written word. I was highly impressed and truthfully surprised by that.

That said, it was really hard to read about all that she endured from her mother through her childhood. You can see the echoes of the abuse and the way she’s been programmed to think about herself and others following her into adulthood, with her own relationships and relationship to her mental health being the most critically affected. My heart was breaking and simultaneously screaming over the internalized and broken sense of self that Jennette’s mother created in her.

Terribly disturbed and kind of disgusted that the negative reviews of this book were just mad because they thought Jennette was handling adulthood badly, or not actually looking to grow from her trauma…or even suggesting that the title showed a lack of maturity. I would like to tell those reviewers to kindly !&($ off, and how dare you. I don’t know how anyone can read this and not see an authentic account of what it’s like to come to terms with your own grief and mental illness. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It sure as hell doesn’t have to be wrapped up neatly with a bow. Her angst and impassivity and even her desires not to change or confront the issue were real: I think it’s just as important and poignant to write about a journey towards betterness as it is to write about being better.

I think, by the end, it’s easy to see why Jennette would be glad her mom died. I know the title has created a lot of shock value, but if you step back from it, I think understanding the mixed feelings of grief and growth make it true. She’s glad her mom died, because under her suffocating abuse, she could never grow beyond the problems she created for her. She’s glad her mom died, because she couldn’t be her own person until she did. She’s glad her mom died, because holding your breath and waiting for it to finally happen when you’re expecting it can be crushing, draining, and exhausting. And I don’t blame Jennette for anything she feels in the wake of her mom’s death. I genuinely wish her the best in continuing to get well.

This was a hugely emotional read and I think you will find it to be a rollercoaster of feelings, but I think it’s well worth it. I will read anything else McCurdy publishes; she is a very talented writer and I’m excited to see how she grows.

Enjoy the weekend, friends.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wow. I waited way too long to read this book. I haven’t been this emotionally impacted by a book in a long while, and I can’t even think about this one without tearing up all over again.

This multi-generational drama follows two women living in Afghanistan from the 1950s up through the early 2000s. Mariam is a harami, born outside of wedlock and forever doomed by this fate. Married off at fifteen, she struggles to bear children and fears the daily storm of her husband.

Laila, a child of Kabul, is a teen when revolution hits the city hard, forever changing her own fate as a brilliant, college-bound young Muslim woman into something far more darkly shadowed. Laila and Mariam end up tied to the same cruel man, Rasheed, as the country they love crumbles around them.

Reading this book can be overwhelming and heavy at times, and I had to take quite a few breaks while listening in order to breathe and separate myself a bit. It’s really, really hard to read some of the intimate abuse as well as the harshness of the regime governing them in Afghanistan. I never knew the half of it, what women in this country faced for years and years and I’m sure even now, and there was almost a shock of disbelief for me with each new chapter.

For example, when the Taliban takes over, Laila talks about the new rules being played out on loudspeakers and written on flyers strewn all over Kabul. Things like women cannot leave the house unless accompanied by a man, no films or television, etc – and as I’m listening to that, it suddenly hits me that while what I’m reading is technically fiction, this is rooted in truth. This detail really happened. And I just…it didn’t even hit me the reality of these rules, this situation until I was reading about how affected these women on an everyday level. That’s why I think books like this are so important; I personally didn’t connect with the real world counterpart until I was emotionally connected to the characters in this story who were experiencing it.

I loved both Mariam and Laila for different reasons. I saw more of myself in Laila’s feistiness, but Mariam’s gentle nature was warm and inviting, and made me care for her and her happiness. Their interactions with the other characters in the book were also enlightening, and I feel like they were just as important to telling the story as the actual plot; the way everyone interacts is informative of the culture in its own way. Everything about this book feels thoughtful and artfully composed to be heart-wrenching.

Sad as it is and hard as it is to read, this is just such an important book. It really shifted my perspective on world politics and opened my eyes to things I didn’t previously get/understand. I’m so glad I read it, finally pulling it out of the tbr pile – I wish I hadn’t waited so long to do so.

Have a fabulous weekend.

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Well, this is quite possibly the strangest thing I’ve read in awhile.

Called back by her dying mother to return to her childhood home, Vera Crowder heads home after more than ten years apart from the house her father was arrested in for serial killings.

Once she arrives, however, it’s clear there will be no somber reunion with her mother, Daphne. She is incredibly close to death, and Vera is merely here to pack the boxes. The more she takes apart, though, the more she finds that things in the Crowder House are not as they seem. Something is causing a chill in the back of her neck…

The first half of this was honestly one of the scariest things I’ve read in a long, long time. I totally got the creeps, sitting in my car, yelling lots of expletives with every passing page. What I loved so much about it in the first half is that there was clearly something horrible happening, and yet we weren’t naming it or putting a face to it; the terrifying reality of whatever it could be left to the reader’s imagination. I had several guesses…but let me tell you, I was not correct.

But, in the second half, when things are unveiled – also creepy as hell. It takes an especially twisted mind to conjure up something with enough horrifying detail that you can picture it in your mind and you are disturbed. Gailey whole-heartedly achieves that when we learn the true nature of the haunting at Crowder House.

This book is not what I expected it to be, and I bet you like a hundred bucks it won’t be what you expect either. Nothing is as it seems, and Gailey’s imagination ran wilder with this story, characters, and setting than my mind ever could on its own. And I loved it. It was deeply original, creepy af, and still left me haunted to the very end. Like what even?!

I’m not going to remark too much on the characters in this novel, particularly because not a soul is who you think they are. The one character I consistently did not like, and even at the end couldn’t discern the point of, was the “parasitic artist” James Duvall – son of the author who originally wrote about the Crowder family. He’s mostly just a giant pain the entire time, though he does appear to have some small role in the story…you’ll see what I mean. Regardless? Not a fan.

So yeah – big huge fan of this one. Thought it was super weird and super creepy and exactly the vibe we’re looking for right now. Highly recommend!

Have a great weekend!