The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

*This is a spoiler-free review* 4/5 Stars

The Maidens is a well-written, page-turning adventure that will leave you guessing. The novel has so many red herrings woven into the beautiful text that, even when I thought I had figured it out, I was (somewhat correct) but still surprised when the mystery is unraveled.

The imagery evoked in the text will transport you to ancient Greece, and the academic setting contrasts warmly with the foggy, mysterious history of Greek mythology. Mariana, a group therapist still grieving the loss of her husband Sebastian, is called to Cambridge University after her niece’s friend is murdered on campus. Enter Edward Fosca, a handsome, charismatic professor who seems just a little off to Mariana, and his specially-selected group of female students, known as The Maidens. Immediately, Mariana suspects that something is suspicious with this group and the close relationship the professor seems to have with them. From there, the story takes the reader on different twists and turns as Mariana applies her knowledge of psychology to find the killer before more women are killed on campus.

Overall, the story is captivating and beautifully written. The only character I didn’t enjoy was Fred, a young man Mariana meets early in the story. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say I highly doubt any woman would want be interested in someone who is that aggressive and persistent.

Expected publication: June 15th 2021

Thank you to Macmillan Publishers/Celadon Books and NetGalley for sending me an ARC of The Maidens.

Recursion by Blake Crouch

Wow. Just…wow.

My mind is still reeling from this novel! Blake Crouch has done it again. In this novel, Helena Smith is a neuroscientist who sets out to create a device to allow those with memory loss to experience their preserved memories over and over again, in light of her mother losing her memory to dementia. Barry Sutton, a NYC copy, is investing a new illness called False Memory Syndrome, which causes its victims to suddenly remember entire lifetimes that they never experienced.

From the first page I was immediately hooked. While it became a little confusing when the story jumped around multiple timelines, the root of the story was in humanity and the desire to change the past if you had the option. It addresses the dangers of such abilities falling into the wrong hands and, how humankind can’t handle that type of power. No spoilers, but the ending of the novel was beautifully written, philosophical in nature, surprising and I was completely satisfied by the conclusion. With sci-fi novels like this I find that the conclusions tend to be either predictable or disappointing, but Recursion exceeded all expectations.

Thank you to Net Galley for sending me an ARC of this book!

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler tells the story of a librarian in charge of raising her two kids, ages 12 and 15, after her husband John suddenly up and left their family 3 years prior to move to Hong Kong. In that period, Amy dedicated her existence to being the best mother she could be, in addition to working hard to support her family on a single income, while her husband created a new life for himself. Out of the blue, John shows up and wants to be a father to his kids again. Amy is presented with an opportunity to stay with her friend Talia, who runs a women’s magazine, in NYC and ends up being the inspiration for a big summer feature. Amy spends the summer getting a makeover, hitting the gym, dating and finding herself (and also taking care of herself, putting her needs first for once!). At the end of the trip, she finds herself grappling with the feeling that she was a bad mother, that she was selfish to take the time for herself, and that her kids are going to like their father more than her because of all the fun they’re having.

I loved this book because it was so realistic. A single mother putting her needs first and feeling guilty for that is a feeling that resonates with many other mothers. The novel tackles issues of the modern woman/mother with witty humor and candor with clear feminist ideals. It’s not about being the perfect mother or trying to be the perfect wife at the sacrifice of your interests, personal needs and independence. It’s about giving it your all as a mother but making sure you’re dedicating just as much of an effort to yourself. Amy Byler learns that motherhood is not the only way she can define herself. She’s a librarian taking the literary world by storm with her innovative ideas. It’s a woman who can feel attractive and go on dates. It’s a woman who takes care of her health and wellness. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is one of the best women’s fiction novels I have read.