4.5 star

Review: The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.

The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge

Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.

I always love a good closed-room mystery, and this was really no exception. I’m generally a fan of Lucy Foley’s work, and this one didn’t disappoint me—though I have heard mixed reviews from others.

The Paris Apartment takes place in…you guessed it, a fancy apartment in Paris. The neighbours we meet are certainly something, and above all, of course, suspicious. Just what is going on with these weird neighbours? Each one has their own story to hide, and it all seems to have something to do with Ben, the protagonist’s half-brother, who is missing from the very start. What is the connection between all the neighbours, including the concierge who always watches out front?

The characters were all fantastic. Each was so suspicious, mostly so deplorable and annoying that a reader’s natural biases start to come up, which is a fantastic play on tropes by the author. There were the more foil characters, and then there were the more complex characters that we see play out. However, it does not become immediately obvious who the perpetrator is because of who was focused on more. There was an appropriate level of character development and although it wasn’t a major factor in the development of the mystery, there was enough to satisfy the readers so that we could understand their motives and goals.

I personally felt the plot was excellent. There were so many twists and turns, some obvious, some not, but all equally surprising anyway. Having read many mysteries and thrillers, at this point, most things aren’t a straight-up surprise. But, it also means that the author is able to play on the “obvious” plot lines that I expect with their signals and red herrings. I also enjoy her writing style. Foley likes to do a lot of these short, parallel chapters to build effects and suspense, and that it something I enjoyed both in The Guest List and in this one. Just when I thought there was a reveal and all was solved, there was always so much more. This helped to create drive so that I did not get bored when I figured out one of the surprises in the book. I certainly didn’t see the final few surprises coming, and I had to keep re-wrapping my mind around it. There was one chapter that I think could have been re-ordered for a little bit more dramatic effect at the end but overall I thought it was really excellent how everything built up to the climax and denouement. I definitely didn’t see it coming fully.

Overall the mystery and thriller elements were good, with the slightly unreliable protagonist (but not too much), and the way every character seems shady, and how you just cannot trust anyone you meet. The result is a very exciting story which I plowed through quite quickly. The ending was also pretty exciting, and like I said, I didn’t really see it coming fully so I was pretty genuinely satisfied. I don’t expect endings to be surprising often, but rather I look more for the execution of the ending and how the author ties up certain loose ends (or doesn’t tie up certain loose ends) for a satisfying ending. I definitely enjoyed this one.

Overall Recommendations

The Paris Apartment is a typical closed-room mystery that takes place in a rich apartment. Jess moves to her half-brother’s beautiful apartment, although it seems like he has gone missing and is unable to receive her. So, of course, it is up to Jess to speak with all the neighbours and any contacts Ben might have had in order to figure out where he is. The more she looks, the more locked doors she finds—which means she’s getting closer, right? Just what is the mystery of this Paris apartment, and what lurks behind closed doors? Fast-paced, thrilling, and exciting, this one is sure to be for you if you like a good closed-room mystery novel!

4.5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Other Side of Infinity by Joan F. Smith

They Both Die at the End meets The Butterfly Effect in this YA novel by Joan F. Smith, where a teen uses her gift of foreknowledge to help a lifeguard save a drowning man―only to discover that her actions have suddenly put his life at risk.

It was supposed to be an ordinary day at the pool, but when lifeguard Nick hesitates during a save,
seventeen-year-old December uses her gift of foreknowledge to rescue the drowning man instead. The action comes at a cost. Not only will Nick and December fall in love, but also, she envisions that his own life is now at risk. The other problem? They’re basically strangers.

December embarks on a mission to save Nick’s life, and to experience what it feels like to fall in love―something she’d formerly known she’d never do. Nick, battling the shame of screwing up the rescue when he’s heralded as a community hero, resolves to make up for his inaction by doing December a major solid and searching for her mother, who went missing nine years ago.

As they grow closer, December’s gift starts playing tricks, and Nick’s family gets closer to an ugly truth about him. They both must learn what it really means to be a hero before time runs out.

Overall Recommendations:

The Other Side of Infinity packs a punch while also drawing a more reflective side in its readers. Following an intriguing protagonist who knows everything, past and future, I loved learning how December sees the world while also figuring out what happened to her mother, the one thing she didn’t know. Balancing both complexities in character with an underlying plot driving the story, there’s something about this book that stays with you long after the final page is turned. A definite must read!

**The Other Side of Infinity comes out April 25, 2023**

Thank you SparkPoint Studio for this copy in exchange for an honest review

What would you do if you knew everything that has happened, and everything that has yet to pass? Do you let these events occur as you know it will, or do you wish you could be more than just a passive observer, especially for bad events?

That’s something that was super interesting about our omniscient protagonist, December. All her life she knew what has happened to other people, both present and past, as well as events directly related to her. Knowing something will happen is largely different from feeling what it would be like in that moment when it is about to happen. And that is how December finds herself changing events by her interactions with Nick.

Before I dive more into Nick and December’s story, I just want to say that Joan made such an interesting analogy about December’s ability. It’s hard to understand from her perspective otherwise, but comparing each memory or event to a gumball in a large jar was super helpful. December just happens to have access to more than only her own past gumballs, but also everyone’s that she can mentally search through if she wanted. I love that analogy and it made December’s POV very enjoyable to read.

The storyline with Nick was what I anticipated. The only reason why this isn’t a 5 star read is the rapidness of their growing relationship. When December knows they’re going to fall in love and Nick just fell super hard super quickly, it doesn’t leave us much room to allow feelings to grow organically with these two at the pace they did. However, I did end up loving their relationship and how they each tried to help the other in their own way.

There is one major plot line focused on each of them. Nick’s guilty conscience as a hero when he might not have deserved all that praise alone took perhaps too much page time, especially the lead up to the big reveal for whatever event in his past that further aggravated his feelings of guilt in the present. I feel more time could’ve been given instead to December’s missing mother, the big Blank Spot among her gumballs of knowledge. What happened to her and why is anything related to her disappearance missing in her ability? I didn’t feel this wasn’t focused nearly as much, and the resolution left me yearning for more.

That being said, I don’t want to give away anything more, but I will add that I enjoyed the ending. I thought it was fairly predictable – if you know other books and what this one is being compared to – but I thought it was perhaps a lovely way of bringing this book to an end. Do I wish for more? Sure. It felt a bit rushed and abrupt at the end with no real build up to this climactic peak, but perhaps that’s just how things were meant to be.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book when I first jumped into it, but I can say it was hard to put down and I’m still processing all of my feelings now that I’m done. I fervently hope you give this book a chance when it comes out! It just may surprise you like it did for me.

4.5 star, adult

Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

Overall Recommendation:

Piranesi was this disorienting and immersive read that took me through the many Vestibules and Hallways of a grand House Piranesi introduced us to. I had no idea what I was signing up for in the beginning but by the end, I can honestly say I’ve never read anything quite like this book. The journalistic entry style made every new discovery interesting, and I was so excited to see where Piranesi’s journey would take him.

I’ll be honest, Piranesi is not a book I would’ve picked out for myself from the synopsis or even the first few chapters. Full disclosure, I read this book for a book club I’m joining at my work. BUT, that being said, this was perhaps one of the better books I’ve read so far this year. And here is why.

We are immediately dropped into this strange and disorienting world, seeing it through the eyes of someone who refers to himself by no name except “Myself”. It’s only later that we realize his name, maybe, is Piranesi, or so he’s called by the only other living person in this world of many endless rooms, hallways, antechambers, etc. There are statues everywhere depicting all sorts of people, scenery and items. A raging sea washes below in tides in the lower halls of this House, while clouds move about in the upper halls that occasionally provide rain.

Written in journal entries by Piranesi, the information we glean about this world comes in pieces. This makes it less confusing in some ways – definitely no information overload – but it’s also a little slow in the beginning for that reason. However, I will say having this story written in journal entries is truly a highlight for the story. We discover things in real time along with Piranesi as we learn things are not as he originally understood the world to be. So in later sections, the anticipation of what would pop up in the next entry is practically palpable.

The writing itself presents in a dreamlike state. Piranesi’s voice is calm, detail oriented and descriptive. Yes, this may not be for everyone, especially for those who enjoy more conversational writing. But this quality was needed, in my opinion, to immerse us into this world that is nothing like our own. I felt like I was walking those Halls with him, seeing the birds fly above, catching that fish for food and drying seaweed for clothes. By the end of it, I felt a little sad that I would no longer be reading about this calm world and its interactions with Piranesi. That’s the sheer beauty of Clarke’s writing that evoked such a 180 turn of emotion in me. I will say I was quite jaded at the beginning, and not the least bit annoyed, that this book was so wordy and full of descriptive pages. Oh how everything clearly changed!

Aside from the writing, there is in fact a plot in here. I know, right? But immediately after a couple of meetings with the “Other” as Piranesi calls him, there definitely seemed to be more information out in this World than what we were understanding from Piranesi’s POV. The mystery surrounding our gap in knowledge was intriguing, although I guessed quite early on what may be the case. I don’t think it’s a mystery meant to be unknowable to us, the reader. It’s seeing how Piranesi would have to reconcile with the changes in his own world perception that is highly interesting. And of course, what would be the ultimate outcome upon reaching such a conclusion about the World?

I’ve been raving so many positive things about this book so far, but the thing that sticks out the most is how much I adore Piranesi as a character. He’s such a pure and innocent soul, yet he also feels realistic even though none of us are really like that. What makes or breaks a book for me is whether your narrator is someone you can stand because we see the world through their eyes. And oh boy, it was truly a wonder to see the world through Piranesi’s eyes.

To conclude, I don’t think this is everyone’s cup of tea, but I didn’t think it was going to be a book for me either in the beginning. This is so far out of the norm of my reading genres, yet I’m so profoundly happy that I got to immerse myself in Piranesi’s story. All the accolades are very well deserved, and I encourage you to give this a shot even if the synopsis sounds like nothing you have ever read or wanted to read before. It may just change your perspective.