claudiaslibrarycard's reviews
991 reviews

Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera

Go to review page

challenging dark mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

Listen for the Lie is a mysterious and engaging, well produced audiobook with multiple narrators and a podcast element. This will be perfect for fans of Megan Goldin's The Night Swim. Five years ago, Lucy's best friend died and Lucy doesn't remember anything from that night. She's always been suspected but without evidence, her life has gradually reached a new normal over time. That is until a true crime podcast decides to feature Lucy for their new season. 

As the podcast is quite popular, Lucy's life is quickly turned upside down and she has to face her past in the small Texas town of Plumpton where everyone knows everything about everybody. Finally at the request of her grandmother, Lucy comes home to Plumpton and faces her biggest fears. 

Told from many perspectives and full of questions, this is an engaging read from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this, but I did find the end fell just a bit flat for me. I think it will be a stunner for those who don't read thrillers too often, this is just a hazard of the number of thrillers I read each year. I am hard to surprise. 

Last, I think this is an audiobook for anyone. Even folks who don't typically like audiobooks or have trouble paying attention can give this a shot; with the great production value, multiple narrators, and fantastic podcast aspect, it is so easy to visualize and stay engaged with. Highly recommend!
The Woman Who Lied by Claire Douglas

Go to review page

challenging dark mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A

3.5

Claire Douglas presents us with a solid twist on a police procedural with The Woman Who Lied. Told from several points of view, our main character is an author who is putting the finishing touches on the tenth book in a very successful police procedural mystery series. Emilia feels done with this series, despite her agent's pleading, and decides to kill off her beloved Detective Moody at the end of book ten. There are also chapters by a young woman named Daisy nearly twenty years go and another perspective as well. 

But things go sideways for Emilia when events from her books, including book ten that isn't even out yet, start happening in real life. She calls the police, who advise her to tighten up security at home and remain calm. It's probably no big deal. Of course, that's not the case and the events progress in severity. 

My quibble with this book is that it felt tedious and overwrought in the first half, but when a major twist occurred at 51% the pages started flying by and the writing was a better balance of descriptive and well paced. I would have liked a bit more character development for Emilia, but the characters did feel real enough for me to enjoy it. I predicted two of the major twists but not the final kicker, and I couldn't put this down for the second half so I'm calling it a win overall. 
Hard By a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili

Go to review page

challenging dark emotional mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

Hard by a Great Forest is the story of Saba traveling back to his childhood home of Tbilisi to search for his missing father. Over twenty years ago, Irakli left Georgia with his two sons, Saba and Sandro. Their mother couldn't get papers to leave the country, so they fled to England without her. 

Now Saba arrives in Georgia to find his father and brother, following a breadcrumb like trail of clues reminiscent of fairy tails. As he disembarks the plane, he arrives in a city in crisis. The recent flood has caused many of the zoo animals to escape and roam the town. And on top of that Saba doesn't even know where to begin to look, so he leans on the support of his cab driver turned friend Nodar. 

This book is a beautiful, gut wrenching story of Saba and Nodar following the trail of clues to discover the memories Saba has forgotten and to try to heal the trauma of Nodar's recent past. Through absolutely harrowing challenges, this unlikely pair become family and stick by each other to try to solve Saba's family mystery. 

I loved the vivid descriptions of the mountainous landscape and way Vardiashvili's characters persevere through brutality and loss. There are elements of imagination and so many metaphors, this book reads easily and tugs at your heart while it is also full of so much depth and intention that it begs to be read again. (And I plan to.) 

Hard by a Great Forest will grab your heart and squeeze it until after you put this book down at its last page. I cannot say enough about this one. If this is his debut, I wait with baited breath for Vardiashvili's next novel. 
What Stalks Among Us by Sarah Hollowell

Go to review page

adventurous dark mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.5

I rarely read horror and even more rarely read YA horror, but this cover spoke to me at the library and I am so glad! What Stalks Among Us is about two best friends who skip school because there's a field trip to an amusement park and Logan knows Sadie is worried that she won't fit on any of the rides. 

So Logan and Sadie go on a drive instead, and they find themselves in a mysterious unending corn maze. Cool, cool. Sadie loves a corn maze, but it's quickly clear that this maze isn't following the rules of the universe as we know it. For quite a few times in the first 50 pages, I thought I had zoned out while reading or missed something. Nope, I had read it correctly. Hollowell is just that good at creating a sense of confusion and therefore establishing a creepy mood right off the bat. 

So I won't tell you much about this corn maze other than Sadie and Logan keep finding dead Sadies and Logans. Yup, the maze can kill you and there's some repeating/parallel universe stuff going on. But the best part is how Hollowell uses this unique horror setting to talk about personal traumas that most people would dismiss. Heads up, this book has a lot to say about emotional abuse and it says it well. 

Long story short, I flew through this book and can't wait to see what Hollowell writes next. Pick this up for a fat FMC, an awesome friendship, and finding healing under pressure. I don't think you'll be disappointed. 
Just Happy to Be Here by Naomi Kanakia

Go to review page

challenging emotional informative fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

Okay, so first I thought this was a memoir until 71%. So that says a lot about the great character development of the narrator, Tara, and about the author's ability to make the events feel so grounded in reality and to establish emotional connection with the reader. 

Now that we've established that I don't read a synopsis to save my life, let's talk about Just Happy to Be Here. This YA gem is about Tara, a trans girl of color, who has fought to be the first trans girl at her new all girls school. Tara wants to be a member of an exclusive club called the Sibyls. Her desire to fit in and be part of a group is a huge focus of the novel, and she experiences people solidly in her corner and those fully opposed to her presence, and even her existence. 

And there's also all the other things going on in Tara's life, crushes, not being on T, wanting to be on T, navigating her identity with her parents, navigating being trans in Indian culture, making new friends at a new school... this book is rich and full of all the things in a real teen's life. 

This book will be triggering for some, with dead naming and transphobia that is very clearly on page. And it is also beautiful and important, as the author's note so poignantly explains. I am certain this will be on my list of top TA books this year. 
Come & Get It by Kiley Reid

Go to review page

challenging emotional funny fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

Kiley Reid has done it again! If you enjoyed Such a Fun Age, place your library hold or buy this book right now. Come & Get It is set on the college campus of the University of Arkansas. Millie is a 24 year old super senior and resident assistant in the dorm nobody wants to live in. Agatha Paul is a 38 year old visiting professor who writes unique nonfiction books that blend interviews and personal memoir. 

When Agatha Paul offers Millie an easy way to make a few bucks, Millie jumps at the chance and this launches a series of events that you will not be able to look away from. I cannot believe how quickly I read this book and how much I enjoyed it when it is, admittedly, full of college kid drama. 

This is a story worth just jumping into. You'll love and love to critique the characters- the mismatched roommates, the other RAs, Agatha's ex, they all are so vivid and dynamic. This story about race, class, money, and bad decisions is so good because in Kiley Reid's established style- she doesn't tell you what to think. Everything is up to you to interpret and nothing is black and white. I love when an author allows you to think so deeply and invites you to sit in that discomfit of morally ambiguous characters. 

So if that sounds good and you like a fun, fast paced read, you need to put this on your TBR! 
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

Go to review page

challenging emotional reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.5

The Covenant of Water is a sprawling family saga that covers several generations of a family with a mysterious curse. In this family, at least one in a generation dies of drowning. Told in ten parts, in some ways this book reads as a series of connected novellas. There are some characters that are in multiple parts and others that are only in one. Verghese writes absolutely beautiful characters that feel like they came straight from the past, not from his imagination. I found myself connecting to someone in each part, especially after part one wrapped up by establishing the horrible family curse. 

There's so much in this massive novel that I can't do justice to in a review. I am so glad I listened to the audiobook, which is deftly read by the author. His accents and narration are incredible. As he takes us from 1900 to 1977 in India, this book is also rich with historical information that will be new to many. The medical details are impressive and also far from overwhelming. Really, I'm convinced Verghese is capable of anything. What can't he do? 

The characters from this book will live in my heart for so long. I cannot recommend this book enough if you enjoy family dramas. If you loved The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois, this is absolutely a great comp. 
Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Go to review page

challenging dark emotional medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

Anita de Monte Laughs Last is the sophomore novel by Xochitl Gonzalez. Her first novel, Olga Dies Dreaming, was one of my top reads of 2022. Anita de Monte Laughs Last is similar in themes but very different in mood and style. This book is a good fit if you like stories that explore gendered power dynamics and classism and racism in the art world, especially towards women of color. 

Told in two timelines that seem unconnected for much of the story, the reader learns about Anita de Monte's untimely death and about Raquel, a first generation Ivy League college student. Anita de Monte was a rising star in the art world married to a famous white male artist, but she tragically died in 1986. Anita was frustrated with the controlling nature of her husband and was sick of his behavior. Later in 1998, Raquel starts dating an old art student from a wealthy family and she finds herself in new social circles. As she experiences the nuanced discrimination of these circles discovers a story relevant to art history that has been swept under the rug and she starts to explore it. 

I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about the plot and I loved it, but I did find the major style differences from Gonzalez's last book surprising. Mild spoilers:
This book is partially told from the perspective of a ghost who is able to impact the lives of the living.
Overall, I found this wickedly smart and unhinged in a way that was fun and horrible at the same time. This book tackles tough topics and there was one particular scene that made me feel almost sick- but it was important and well written. If you want a book that is entertaining and cuts to the quick of how society treats women of color, pick this up! 
Wait: A Novel by Gabriella Burnham

Go to review page

challenging emotional medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

Wait is an emotional novel about two sisters whose mother goes missing. I am a lover of books set on Cape Cod and Nantucket, and this hit many of the notes I expect and want when I pick one of these up. 

Set on the island of Nantucket, this story speaks to class dynamics and includes wonderful nature imagery and details. Burnham wrote so well to the divide between summer visitors and tourists and working class year-rounders. With beautiful and emotional details about plovers, an endangered species of the area, this really is a well rounded book. So to move beyond setting, this is a very character driven novel with a few key plot points but no clear climax and dénouement. The sisters, Sophie and Elise, are together again for the first time in four years since Elise has just returned from UNC Chapel Hill. There are clear rifts to repair as a result of Elise never visiting during her four years of undergrad, and when their mother does not come home for days on end the stress rises for everyone. 

Elise and Sophie spend much of their time with Sheba, the very rich heiress to the Play-Doh fortune who Elise met at UNC. Each girl has their own baggage and way of interacting with each other and the world, and that's really the meat of this book. In a short number of pages, these characters are so vivid and feel fully formed, ready to come off of the page and into the world. 

I had a wonderful time with Wait by Gabriella Burnham and I know I'll be reading her backlist. I highly recommend this one! 

Heads up: No quotation marks! However, Burnham's writing style is easy to adapt to and it becomes very clear what is spoken versus internal dialogue.