Review | Providence | Caroline Kepnes

Providence Review | TBR Etc.

I received Providence as an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: 6/19/18

Publisher: Lenny

Page Count: 384

Why I read it: I loved Caroline Kepnes since her debut book, You, and couldn't wait to read her latest! 

Synopsis: From Amazon-

Best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe share a bond so intense that it borders on the mystical. But before Jon can declare his love for his soul mate, he is kidnapped, his plans for a normal life permanently dashed.

Four years later, Chloe has finally given up hope of ever seeing Jon again. Then, a few months before graduation, Jon reappears. But he is different now: bigger, stronger, and with no memory of the time he was gone. Jon wants to pick up where he and Chloe left off . . . until the horrifying instant he realizes that he possesses strange powers that pose a grave threat to everyone he cares for. Afraid of hurting Chloe, Jon runs away, embarking on a journey for answers.

Meanwhile, in Providence, Rhode Island, healthy college students and townies with no connection to one another are suddenly, inexplicably dropping dead. A troubled detective prone to unexplainable hunches, Charles “Eggs” DeBenedictus suspects there’s a serial killer at work. But when he starts asking questions, Eggs is plunged into a whodunit worthy of his most outlandish obsessions.

In this dazzling new novel—and with an intense, mesmerizing voice—Caroline Kepnes makes keen and powerful observations about human connection and how love and identity can dangerously blur together.

My Thoughts: This is going to be a very polarizing book. Caroline Kepnes's first book, You, was such an iconic hit and people are not going to be able to resist the temptation to compare her latest to that. While I can tell this is a book written by the same author, this is completely different from a Joe Goldberg book and you have to be okay with that going in. 

Her strength is her character writing. Right from the beginning, I was drawn into the story. Jon is an outsider with odd interests like the daily news and Chloe is his best and only friend. Jon gets kidnapped early in the book- not a spoiler, just an early plot point- and he emerges as...changed several years later. We're not entirely sure what happened to him, only that things are very, very different and that it's going to be hard for him to get close to anyone. Chloe mourns the loss of her former best friend but grows up, finding solace in her art. Down the road, we're introduced to Eggs, a dogged detective, and Lo, his wife. Eggs and Lo have a son with a serious disability and the couple works to find a way to best care for him. 

There were a few too convenient plot points used to drive the narrative along but nothing to distract too much. My attention was certainly held. There's a lot of Lovecraft references that I absolutely skimmed over, but perhaps if you're a big Lovecraft fan you might like that element. I found myself rooting for Jon to fix himself, for Eggs to find Jon, and for Chloe to find herself. It was interesting to find myself rooting for characters, even when their best interests were in direct competition with one another. I would rather read a unique story like this from a writer I already love than the same stories written with different characters over and over. I usually like to recommend 'read alikes' to help other readers decide if they should read a book, but I honestly haven't read anything like Providence. One thing I'm sure of is that I wouldn't call this a thriller- it's more supernatural fiction than anything else. 

Read Alike: I really can't think of one! The closest is a stretch- but Eggs reminded me of Detective McKenzie from Clare Mackintosh's Let Me Lie

Rating: 3.75/5 

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Review | Tangerine | Christine Mangan

Tangerine Review | TBR Etc

Many thanks to Ecco for sending me a copy! #partner

Publication Date: 3/27/18

Publisher: Ecco

Page Count: 308

Why I read it: I reached out to the publisher to see if they would send me a copy because the synopsis sounded so up my alley- the beautiful cover didn't hurt! 

First Sentence: "It takes three men to pull the body from the water."

Synopsis: From Goodreads-

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country. 

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

My Thoughts: This is an inside look at a toxic female relationship. The girls meet in college as Lucy and Alice are paired as roommates. They come from a similar background- both lost their parents when they were young and have had to fight to get where they are. Quickly, they come to rely on one another, but soon the relationship becomes unbalanced. Alice has her own interests and tries to break away from her enigmatic roommate, but when she does things start to unravel. She thinks. We flash between their college lives to a year or so later, when Lucy unexpectedly shows up at Alice's new home in Tangier.  She's living with her husband, who she married after knowing only a little while. For a minute, Alice is happy to have some familiarity but she quickly finds that she's losing herself again. Alice is an unreliable narrator throughout and you almost always questioned her perception of what was going on versus what was actually going on. Lucy is a feminist and I loved reading about the roles that were expected of women during this time and what happens when a women doesn't play into it. I got sucked into their relationship- the jealousy, the posturing, the competition, the closeness. It was cloying and I loved hearing the narrative from both sides. It felt luxurious to read this and Tangier served as such a rich background. Tangier is Christine Mangan's first novel, but she has a PhD in English and a MFA and her writing made this storyline work. The publishers compare her to Donna Tartt and I can definitely see the similarities. High praise! 

Overall, I enjoyed reading this and would recommend. It's a slow-burn with an atypical setting, time period, and characters. It has a familiar unreliable narrator - but because you hear from both sides you're in on the scam. 

Favorite Quote: "...I knew there was no such thing as an absolute. Everything changes, sooner or later. Time moves along, without constraints- no matter how hard one may attempt to pause, to alter, to rewrite it. Quite simply, there is nothing to stop it, nothing at all." 

Read Alike: A Hundred SummersThe Secret History, Sometimes I Lie

Rating: 3.75/5 An intoxicating debut! 

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Review | Let Me Lie | Clare Mackintosh

Many thanks to Berkley for sending me a copy of Let Me Lie! #prhpartner

Publication Date: 3/13/18

Publisher: Berkley

Page Count: 382

Why I read it: It's Clare Mackintosh! I loved the last book I read from her- I Let You Go - and jumped at the chance to pick up her new one. 

First Sentence: "Death does not suit me."

Synopsis: From Amazon-

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They're both wrong.

Last year, Tom and Caroline Johnson chose to end their lives, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents' deaths, unwilling to accept the verdict of suicide.

Now with a baby herself, Anna feels her mother's absence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as she digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her.

Sometimes it's safer to let things lie....

My Thoughts:

We start out meeting Anna, a young woman who is learning how to be a mother while simultaneously mourning the loss of her parents. It seems that her father committed suicide, and, overcome by grief, her mother follows suit. Her partner, Mark, is supportive but he is getting used to his role as a first time father while also still getting to know Anna. The two weren't dating long when she got pregnant and their relationship got off to a strange start, seeing as he's her former grief counselor.

I started off uncomfortable. This was a slow build and the beginning starts off so heavy. Anna's grief is palpable and the whole situation feels off. Then, on the anniversary of her mother's death she gets a card in the mail that says suggests that her parents' deaths may not be suicide after all. Panic-stricken, she takes the card to her beloved uncle, who immediately dismisses it. The police have long ago ruled out any signs of foul play, but she takes the card to them anyway and we meet Murray.

Murray is a retired detective who still works at the station on civilian duty. He's still working because while he loves his wife and would like nothing more than to spend all of his time with her, she suffers from borderline personality disorder and is often in the hospital. He works as a distraction and because he can't quite walk away entirely. I loved reading about Murray and his struggle with transitioning out of the job. Murray and Sarah were my favorite characters by far. Mackintosh was so careful with her description of mental illness and I can tell Sarah's condition was added thoughtfully and with purpose and she discusses her mental illness with frankness and respect. 

Clare Mackintosh is a master at creating tension and crafting a compelling police procedural narrative. She's also a master at alternating viewpoints and creating shocking twists and I found myself flying through the book to get to the end. I was questioning everybody. Just as I thought I knew what was going on, another piece of the puzzle would fall into place and I'd be left guessing again. I will say, this is a slow burn that felt rambling in sections and by the end it felt like the characters got backed into a corner. I can't say much more than that without spoilers, if I'm being objective this wasn't my favorite by the author. Still, I would recommend you give it a try because of Murray and the cliffhangers, especially if you're a fan of the author or crime thrillers. It's entirely possible that my expectations have been set too high by her other books!

Favorite Quote: "People liked boxes...You were ill or you were well. Mad or sane. Sarah's problem was that she climbed in and out of a box, and people didn't know how to deal with that."

Rating: 3/5 

Have you read this? What do you think? Of course I love reading new books from my favorite authors but sometimes I struggle with writing reviews, especially if it's not a 5 star! 

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Review | An American Marriage | Taryari Jones

ARC REVIEW | TBR ETC.png

Publication Date: February 6th, 2018

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Page Count: 320 pages

Why I read it: I saw it on Netgalley and loved what I saw. A black man being wrongfully incarcerated is unfortunately not new news, but I was drawn in to the synopsis and wanted to explore effect it had on one couple. 

First Sentence: "There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don't." 

Synopsis: Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
 
This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward--with hope and pain--into the future.

My Thoughts: This is one of those books that I had to step away from a bit and digest before reviewing. The story is told from three separate POVs: from that of Celestial, the wife, Roy, the husband, and Andre, the childhood friend. You will love them and hate them each at different times. After about a year and a half of marriage, Roy is in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. Celestial knows he didn't commit this crime because she was with him when the crime took place. But none of this mattered. We get to learn about their relationship largely through their letters to one another. At first, I was thrown off by the lack of dates on the letters, but I came to understand that the lack of dates was probably a choice. We see time as Roy sees time, through the changes in Celestial. It was so interesting to see how much of Roy's identity was wrapped up in things: his degree, his job, his relationship, his shoes. He scraped and fought so hard for these things, but none of these accomplishments saved him from getting wrongly incarcerated. He does get released after several years, and comes to find out that everything has changed. This is a book about family, obligation, and choices- the choices that we want to make and those that are forced upon us.

The writing was incredible. Jones was able to quickly draw me into the relationship and get me to care about and empathize with the characters right from the beginning. There was beautiful description of time and place that was evocative without being distracting. Jones describes racism in American via her characters in a very straightforward way. I can see this book being read 50 years from now as a study to see what life was like in America for people of color in the South in this decade. The fathers in this story were some of my favorite characters- Big Roy and his devotion to his wife and Celestial's dad refusing to give her a free pass. I know it sounds heavy handed, and it was sad in many places. But it was also a hell of a pleasure to read. Get your hands on this one. It'll definitely be on my favorite books of the year list.

Favorite Quote: "Memory is a queer creature, an eccentric curator."

Companion Read: The New Jim Crowe

Rating: 5/5 This is why I read- I love human stories like this. 

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