Book review round up

Thought I’d pop on to the blog for a review round up of some recent reads!

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The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Thanks to Pantheon Books for the review copy! I flew through The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa. This book is set on an island where things disappear. Perfume, emeralds, even birds. When an object disappears, all memories of the objects fade. The disappearances are reinforced by the Memory Police, who track down those who remember and make them disappear too. The unnamed narrator of this book is a novelist. She decides to take a risk and hide her editor, R, who remembers things, with the help of her friend the old man.

The tone of this book is chillingly calm. The narrator and others on the island accept the disappearances as a fact about which nothing can be done, for the most part, and go about their “normal” lives the best they can. It’s quietly terrifying.

In this book, you also get to see the book the narrator is writing, about a woman who has lost her voice. The parallels to her life on the island are unnerving. Throughout the book, our narrator worries about what will happen if words disappear.

My favorite part of this book was the relationship between the narrator and the old man. It isn’t clear exactly who he is to her, besides the husband of her former nanny. Their care for each other and commitment to helping R despite the high stakes and consequences if they were to be caught left me feeling so much hope and fear at the same time.

I highly recommend this eerie and unsettling book. I read it so fast - it will for sure be in my top books of the year. Perfect for women in translation month, too. 

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Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Thanks to my friend Hunter (@shelfbyshelf on Instagram) for sending me his review copy of this book! Ask Again, Yes starts with the stories of two families in a suburban town outside of NYC, and the friendship and romance that blossoms between Kate, the youngest daughter of the Gleeson family, and Peter, the only son of Brian and Anne Stanhope. Anne’s struggles with mental illness lead to a night that will change the trajectory of all of their lives.

I really liked the characters in this book, but I’m not sure how accurately mental illness and addiction are portrayed. I felt a little bit like mental illness was sensationalized and used as a plot device. However, that didn’t keep me from enjoying the story and the book.

This book was entirely readable, and I did find myself drawn in by the characters and their experiences. I especially liked Kate. There were some moving moments as well that almost made me shed a tear. If you like family dramas, this is a pretty good one. 

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Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Thanks to Random House for the review copy! Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner is a tough book for me to review. I hated basically every character from the get go, did not root for anyone, and yet really enjoyed the book? It was confusing. I felt like I was hate reading a little bit but also I was loving it at the same time.

Toby Fleishman, recently divorced from his wife Rachel, is doing surprisingly well on online dating apps. Everyone wants to date him. But, when Rachel drops off the kids and doesn’t come back, his new freedom is interrupted, and he spends a lot of time ruminating about what went wrong in his marriage.

I don’t want to say too much about this book because I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say I loved the ending. It was satisfying. The book is a quick read. The writing is digestible and smart. At the end of the day, I would recommend it. 

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The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

Thanks to DoubleDay for the review copy! The Most Fun We Ever Had follows the various members of the Sorenson family. David and Marilyn have four daughters - Wendy and Violet are Irish twins, followed by the effectively middle child Liza and the much younger baby of the family Grace. Wendy is a young widow, Violet is a mom of two young boys, Liza is pregnant with a child she’s not sure she want, and Grace is living across the country and lying to her family about what she’s actually doing.

I found this book to be very readable, and I really liked some of the characters (Marilyn and Wendy in particular). Of course, as with most family dramas, secrets come out and things aren’t always as they appear.

This book is about marriage, the sacrifices of parents, family secrets, and sisterhood. It’s engaging, and the characters are well developed. I definitely felt that each character was their own, and I think that’s impressive for a debut, especially in a book this big with this many characters. I also found the story compelling enough that there were times I didn’t want to put it down.

I did have a complaint that the characters used the R-word multiple times in the book, which rubbed me the wrong way. There’s really no reason that particular word needed to be used. Also, everyone in the family is gifted and smart and beautiful, and although they deal with some struggles and tragedies, there is no real examination of that privilege.

Overall, though, this is an entertaining read and I was invested in the stories. I also think it would be a great TV show. If you like big family sagas, this is a good one.