Books I read this week: April weeks 1-2

I haven’t been posting because I haven’t been finishing a lot of books recently. I’m still in the middle of long books, and I’ve started and put down a number of other books because they just didn’t fit my mood. But I have managed to finish a few in the last couple weeks.

 

Now You’re One of Us by Asa Nonami has one of the most subtly creepy covers ever, which is fitting, because the book is insidiously unsettling.  Noriko is a young Japanese woman who has recently married into the perfect family. Though she’s not sure about living with the entire extended Shito family, and though they didn’t reveal that some of the family members may have deeper needs than were originally indicated (Grandfather is mute and bedridden, the brother is mentally challenged), the whole family welcomes Noriko with open arms and calls her their treasure. But when the home they are renting out to a poor family burns down in a propane explosion and Noriko overhears discussions about the family’s part in the explosion, she begins to suspect something more sinister is under the surface.  Reviews compare the book with Rosemary’s Baby and Rebecca, and I can definitely see the connection- a young woman struggles to sort out if what she is experiencing is just the normal adapting that everyone must do to a new life, or whether there is something more going on. Spoiler- there is something more going on, and the process of breaking down Noriko’s resolve, self confidence, and trust in her own instincts is fascinating and horrible to watch. This is classified as a horror book, and while the secret at the core of the book isn’t necessarily horrifying in the manner you’d expect, Noriko’s transformation into “one of us” is definitely disturbing.


The FabYOUList: List It, Live It, Love Your Life by Susan Campbell Cross is basically a bucket list story, without the spectre of death hanging over it. Cross is turning 40, and decides to make a list of 40 things that she wishes that she’d done before that point. Then she sets out to do them before her birthday. The strength in the book comes from her analyzing why certain goals are appealing to her, or how they help her work through lifelong fears or issues. Some of her experiences are life changing. Others, like “ride my bike again” are disappointing as a reader, as she has an attainable image in her mind of her family riding bikes together, and then tries for one day to ride her bike and decides that it’s just not for her because it makes her bum hurt and isn’t comfortable. You leave some of those thinking- if you’d just stuck it out a little longer! But it’s her list and her life.  The book itself was an enjoyable little read. It wasn’t life changing for me because the concept isn’t a new one to me- I make lists each year of things I want to do, mundane and crazy alike. But it was nice to read someone else’s take on it.


Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch was a bookstore buy- I totally judged this book by it’s cover, and I am an excellent judge. (EDIT- apparently the US version is called Midnight Riot and is available at that link. I think I have the British version.) Peter Grant is a probationary constable for the London Metropolitan Police until one night when, during a routine watch over a brutal crime scene, he interviews a witness who just happens to be a ghost. And in that moment, the reality of London cracks open. He is assigned to work with Inspector Nightingale in a department of two, where he learns that there’s a whole other world in London- Mother Thames and Father Thames are real, feuding beings, river nymphs and vampires and spirits and magic are real- and the balance between the two worlds is slipping. Something is taking over the bodies of perfectly rational people and turning them into rage filled killers, and he’s going to have to figure out what it is and how to stop it, while also keeping up with his magic lessons.

It’s urban fantasy but subtly done, and masculine in tone. Peter becomes an apprentice wizard but is always trying to understand the science behind the magic. He’s desperately attracted to his hard working, beautiful co-worker and to the lovely river nymph he meets during his investigations, but there’s no “romance novel” feel like there is in some fantasy series. There are no sparkles or  fairy dust- Peter would be played by Martin Freeman rather than Tom Hiddleston,  and Inspector Nightingale would be played by Christopher Eccleston instead of David Tennant, if that makes sense. (And now I really want to watch that show.)

The book is firmly localized in London, the geography and history and culture of the city playing an integral part in the story. Like American Gods and The Secret History of Moscow, it plays with how gods of cities (or countries) manifest in modern day life. This is the first of a series, and I’m excited to read the rest of them. PSA: There is some cursing, but it’s not gratuitous.

I also read a novel written by a friend, which I will only mention here to keep my count consistent, but since it’s still being worked on that’s all I’ll say.

What are you reading right now?

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