Hi there! I don’t know about you, but my stress levels have been way up lately! I’ve read quite a few studies that say most Americans feel really stressed out because of the divisiveness of this election. For the sake of my health and sanity, I’ve been doing a few things to lessen the stress:
- Reading international news: I think it helps to get a perspective outside of the US these days. Reading national news is pretty depressing lately; however, I don’t want to be uninformed. The Guardian, BBC, Reuters, and Al Jazeera have been my go-tos because they focus on more than just our election (although there’s enough of that thrown in there that I still feel informed).
- Staying off social media when I can: This is tough, but it sometimes helps to take a break from Facebook and Twitter for a while. Everyone is so passionate about politics right now (which is great!) but it can get overwhelming to read everyone else’s thoughts all the time. This is why I would NEVER want my superpower to be mind-reading!
- Reading escapist books! I’ve read two mystery/thrillers and one fantasy novel over these last two weeks. I swear, escaping into the problems of a novel’s protagonist is the best way to relieve stress!
So here’s what I’ve read lately:
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena, mystery/thriller (320 pages)
This is the kind of book you can reading in a weekend because from the first page you’re dying to know whodunit.
The story begins with Anne and Marco Conti, an upper-middle class couple in their thirties, having dinner at their neighbors’ house. Anne and Marco began the night with a disagreement about coming to this party; Anne wanted to stay home since they babysitter had cancelled and Marco insisted they could put the baby to bed and bring the baby monitor with them since the houses are so close together. Every thirty minutes, the couple has taken turns checking on the baby. However, when they get home late that night their front door is ajar and the baby’s crib is empty.
Everyone in this novel has secrets and it’s up to us and the detective assigned to the case to figure out whose secret has compelled them to kidnap (or even murder) the child. As ransom demands start to come in, secrets start to come out. It’ll keep you guessing until the very last page!
(New mothers, I don’t suggest you read this one! Just reading the words “baby stolen out of its crib” is triggering!)
The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad #2) by Tana French, detective procedural/thriller (466 pages)
I read the first novel in this series a couple of weeks ago (I wrote about it here), and after reading this one I am a Tana-French-aholic. The Dublin Murder Squad books are kind of like the TV series True Detective in that they each star a different detective. The first one was from the perspective of Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox was his partner. The Likeness is from Cassie’s perspective and I believe each one follows that formula (the protagonist of each novel is featured in the one before it). Though I loved In the Woods, this one was even better!
In In the Woods we learn that Cassie was in Vice (undercover) before she got on the Murder Squad. During her time in Vice, she posed as a college student named Lexie Madison to infiltrate a drug ring. At the beginning of the novel, Cassie is called to a murder scene in a secluded cabin. There, she finds a girl who looks exactly like her carrying an ID with the name Alexandra Madison on it. In order to find out who killed this girl, Cassie agrees to go undercover again. In doing so, she hopes to find out how this girl slipped into her made-up alias from long ago, who she is and how she looks so much like Cassie, and whether the group of tight-knit friends she was living with had anything to do with Lexie’s death.
This is a brilliant mystery. I’ve always like novels about a too-close group of college friends who find themselves wrapped up in a murder (both Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates and The Secret History by Donna Tartt come to mind). This one fits that bill and also offers up some great character studies and a satisfying ending. I loved it and can’t wait to read the next one in the series!
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, young adult/fantasy (416 pages)
I’m telling y’all, fantasy is where it’s at if you want to escape from the everyday stuff for a little while.
Think about living in a society ruled by a queen. Every generation that queen births triplet girls imbued with magic: one poisoner, one naturalist, and one elemental. These girls hone their magic in separate kingdoms for years until The Beltane Festival celebrating their sixteen birthday comes around. Then, during a time called The Quickening, the girls are to show off their magic. With this, it’s open season on queens and each sister must try to kill the others in order to rule the kingdom.
Three Dark Crowns follows each of these sisters during their fifteenth year up to The Quickening. Katherine, the poisoner, is trained to eat tainted food without dying as well as how to use poison to kill others. She, however, is a weak queen and the poison her caretakers use on her makes her sick and small. That is, until Pietyr comes along to train her. Will he be able to make her strong and cunning enough to kill her sisters?
Next there’s Arsione, the naturalist queen. Though naturalists are supposed to be able to control vegetation and animals, Arsinoe has never been able to do this. Her caretaker and friend Jules, however, is the strongest naturalist the island has ever seen. And then there’s Joseph to round out this trio of friends; we learn that Joseph and Jules once tried to help Arsione off the island so that she wouldn’t have to die at the hands of her sisters. It was no use, however, and as Beltane draws nearer Arsione finds herself going to extreme lengths to try and call her magic.
Mirabella is the strongest of the three. An elemental, she can control the air, water, and fire. She is so strong, in fact, that the priestesses at the temple watch and support her every move so that when she becomes queen they can become more powerful. The problem with Mirabella, however, is that she does not want to kill her sisters. She will try everything she can to avoid the events of the Beltane year, even if it means throwing away her crown.
I absolutely loved this book and can’t wait for the next one to come out (I think it’s going to be a trilogy). I’ve decided I would want my power to be naturalist because they get to have “familiar” (animal soul-friends). Forget controlling the weather or being immune to poison, I want a cat with me at all times.
So that’s all this week. I hope to read a little more Dublin Murder Squad in the coming weeks as well as my new BOTM club pick, The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang. Happy reading and keep your stress in check!