Recursion, by Blake Crouch (Review)

by Blake Crouch

Genre: Science Fiction

Length: 336 Pages

Release date: June 11, 2019

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group


Memory makes reality. That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

Neuroscientist Helena Smith already understands the power of memory. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious moments of our pasts. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?


My thanks to NetGalley and Crown Publishing Group for sending me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. 

Crouch’s last novel, Dark Matter, is very preoccupied with the road not taken. Recursion, despite all of its differences, continues in the same vein in that regard. What starts as an attempt to map and artificially store memories so that they may be experienced again turns into something quite different, with far-reaching consequences.

This is a difficult novel to review. I will keep this brief, because I think readers should ideally know very little about the story going into it. It’s a story best discovered organically, watching the plot unfold as the author intended. I will say that the story is very fast-paced, twisty, and intricate. You will want to pay close attention as the timeline jumps around.

Despite all of the action and food for thought, at the heart of this book is really a love story, which was very unexpected. This part of the book is thoroughly intertwined with the science fiction aspects of the book, making for a really interesting dynamic between the two characters at times.

“False Memory Syndrome” brings up lot of interesting question for the reader; what are we without our memories? If we cannot trust our own minds, how do we go on? The answer for many people in Crouch’s book seems to be simply “we don’t.” Part of the urgency surrounding FMS is that it brings with it a rash of suicides, as people wake up one day and suddenly remember a life lived with a spouse they’ve never met, raising children who don’t exist. The existential horror and loneliness are too much.

I enjoyed Dark Matter, and I think Recursion has proven to be somewhat of a step up. The science fiction aspect is a bit mind-bending, but not difficult to follow. The pacing is spot-on. The love story kept me emotionally invested in the outcome, perhaps more than the fate of the world at large did. While we never really get as much in-depth exploration of the mechanics of the sci-fi aspect as we do in Dark Matter, it’s hard to mind very much; the book is just so much fun.


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Thank you for reading! If you could store one memory so that you could experience it all over again, what would you choose?


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The Binding, by Bridget Collins (Review)

The Binding
by Bridget Collins

Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy

Length: 437 Pages

Release date: April 16, 2019


Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.


“Who the hell are you?”
“I’m the witch’s apprentice. Who the hell are you?” 

The reviews for The Binding  seem to be all over the place; either it will totally enchant you or bore you to tears, apparently. I think part of the problem for some readers is that the synopsis and marketing leave one expecting a full-blown fantasy novel. While there are fantasy elements and magic in this book, the overall feel is much more “historical fiction.” If you’re going into The Binding ready for a magical adventure, you may be disappointed.

But there’s a lot to love about this story. We get to watch the characters struggle with thorny ethical questions; what are the ramifications of helping someone to forget that they’ve done something terrible? What about forgetting the terrible things which have been done to them? What about binding good memories in exchange for money? If a person is so desperate for money that they’re willing to sell off their knowledge of, for example, their wedding day, are they really in a position to be capable of consenting to such a thing? Is offering money for something so treasured and irreplaceable inherently predatory?

At the heart of this novel is a love story, complicated by circumstances and drastic power imbalances. It’s messy, high stakes, and gut-wrenchingly genuine. It’s also the rare enemies to lovers story that doesn’t make me cringe. I don’t want to spoil anything, but Emmett has problems processing his feelings towards the love interest, for reasons that are obvious to the reader but not to him. His confusion manifests as hostility, and Collins managed to write the transition from that mindset into the love story very convincingly.

The Binding is slow, intricate, and contemplative. I think it’s somewhat a victim of poor marketing. Do not pick up this book expecting a fairy tale with loads of magic; with the exception of the ability to bind memories to a book, Emmett’s world is basically the real world of a few hundred years ago. Fans of detailed historical fiction or magical realism may want to sink their teeth into this novel.


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Thank you for reading! What was the last book you read that was completely different from the impression given by the synopsis? Let me know in the comments!


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Next Year in Havana, by Chanel Cleeton (Review)

Next Year in Havana
by Chanel Cleeton

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 361 Pages

Release date: Feb. 6, 2018


After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.


Have you ever finished a historical fiction novel and been left feeling like you’d have been better off reading nonfiction? That was my experience with Next Year in Havana. I love historical fiction, and (as much as I love WWII fiction) I’m always on the lookout for something interesting outside of the over-saturated WWII historical fiction genre. (Other time periods exist!)

So I went into this book with high hopes. I can’t recall ever reading a book that takes place in Cuba, so I was looking forward to a nice change of pace in terms of time period as well as location. The author clearly desperately wanted to write about Cuban history and culture… to the point where the narrative itself and the characters felt like very thinly veiled excuses to do so.

Fiction can of course be great and also heavily steeped in real history and culture (In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez, is an example of a book which I think accomplishes this better), but the narrative needs to be interesting in its own right. The characters need to feel genuine. Next Year in Havana never felt like more than a vehicle to write about Cuban history.

As you can tell from the synopsis, this book is made up of two alternating time lines; one in the modern day told from the point of view Marisol as she returns to Cuba to spread her grandmother’s ashes, and one telling the story of her grandmother’s youth in Cuba. Both of these timelines have a romance sub-plot, and neither feels really justified. This is particularly true in the case of Marisol, who falls madly in love in the span of the maybe two weeks that she spends in Cuba. Both romances feel insta-lovey to an extent.

Overall, I did enjoy delving into a different culture and historical period, and I felt like I learned a good bit about Cuba through this book. Ultimately, though, I can’t help but feel like the time would have been better spent on a documentary on the same topic.


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Miracle Creek, by Angie Kim (Review)

Miracle Creek
by Angie Kim

Genre: Mystery

Length: 357 Pages

Release date: April 16, 2019

Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books


My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie. He probably didn’t even consider it a lie, and neither did I, at first . . .

In the small town of Miracle Creek, Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine—a pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic “dives” with the hopes of curing issues like autism or infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.

Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night—trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges—as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.

Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author’s own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life “submarine” patient. An addictive debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng, Miracle Creek is both a twisty page-turner and a deeply moving story about the way inconsequential lies and secrets can add up—with tragic consequences.


Miracle Creek is the best kind of mystery novel in the sense that it is so much more then just a puzzle to solve. The story is filled with fleshed-out, complicated, morally gray characters and loads of food for thought. As you can tell from the synopsis, the parenting of disabled children is a major theme of the story, particularly in regards to autism.

Elizabeth, the mother of Henry (the boy whose death provides the focal point of the trial), is hyper-fixated on her son’s autism, to a nearly obsessive degree. This opens the door to explore the “hierarchy” of disability among parents of disabled children. Henry was relatively high-functioning compared to a lot of the patients at Miracle Submarine, and there’s a sense that many of the other parents, particularly those with children who would likely never be independent, were skeptical of Elizabeth. Was her obsession with making Henry fit into a socially acceptable box more harmful to him than his autism could ever be?

I love books that aren’t afraid to face the darker side of human nature, even when it comes to relationships which we value overall. Kim wrestles with the frustrations of parenting and the fleeting thoughts that are, if we’re being honest, are totally normal… but too awful and shameful to voice aloud. I’m not a parent myself, but I think we’ve all had moments of frustration where we’ve wished a loved one would disappear. And we all know how devastating it would be if it actually came to pass. Miracle Creek brings this scenario front and center.

Another theme which worked really well in this novel was that of an immigrant’s experience in America. The Yoo family moved to the US from Korea, primarily to provide greater opportunities for their daughter, Mary. Kim explores Mary’s struggles to adjust in a new country and the way those struggles differ from those of her parents beautifully. Each member of the family is experiencing a sense of isolation in their own way, and the difficult transition, combined with the tragedy of the explosion, drives a wedge between all of them.

Finally, I was so interested to learn that the author, Kim, is a former lawyer. The trial plays such a huge role in the novel, and those scenes were all so engrossing. It’s not surprising that Kim’s personal expertise helped to bring the courtroom to life.

In looking over other reviews, I noticed some of the lower ratings pointing out that the disabled children in the novel never get much focus. None of them are point of view characters, and they don’t feel particularly developed as people. I think this is fair, but I also think that was kind of the point, especially when it comes to Henry. Elizabeth had a hard time viewing her son as a person rather than simply some embodiment of autism. Part of the tragedy of the story seems, to me, that she missed out on ever really knowing her own child because she was so fixated on his diagnosis. We never learn much about Henry in the course of the story. Sadly, it feels like none of the people around him ever did, either.


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The Red Labyrinth, by Meredith Tate (Review)

The Red Labyrinth
by Meredith Tate

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Length: 352 Pages

Release date: June 4, 2019

Publisher: Flux


The massive labyrinth was built to protect Zadie Kalver’s isolated desert town. Unfortunately, living in the maze’s shadow makes her feel anything but safe. Even without its enchanted deathtraps and illusions, a mysterious killer named Dex lurks in its corridors, terrorizing anyone in his path.

But when Zadie’s best friend vanishes into the labyrinth-and everyone mysteriously forgets he exists- completing the maze becomes her only hope of saving him. In desperation, Zadie bribes the only person who knows the safe path through-Dex-into forming a tenuous alliance.

Navigating a deadly garden, a lethal blood-filled hourglass, and other traps-with an untrustworthy murderer for her guide-Zadie’s one wrong step from certain death. But with time running out before her friend (and secret crush) is lost forever, Zadie must reach the exit and find him. If Dex and the labyrinth don’t kill her first.


My thanks to NetGalley and Flux for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. 

“People are more than the worst things they’ve ever done.”

Oh, gosh, this book had so much potential. There’s something so terribly frustrating about a fantasy novel with an interesting concept but paper-thin world-building. The world Zadie inhabits is intriguing, but seriously lacking in development. Zadie lives in a small town surrounded by a massive and ominous labyrinth. The town’s Leader lives in a remote mansion inside the labyrinth, seriously isolated from the people he’s meant to be leading and protecting, which doesn’t seem ominous at all to anyone, for some reason. Also, there’s Absolutely Nothing beyond the labyrinth beyond a total wasteland (according to Dear Leader), and no one really questions this much, either.

I’m not necessarily opposed to stories about brainwashed populations revering an undeserving leader; certainly this can be portrayed convincingly… but the dynamic here feels very odd. The Leader’s characterization of the outside world is accepted at face value despite the dismal conditions in Trinnea, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a cult-like level of devotion to the Leader which would make sense of this wholesale acceptance. Particularly among the “blanks” like Zadie, who are treated as second class citizens in every possible regard, one would expect more skepticism and resentment than is really seen in the story.

And, goodness, the character arcs. The two major male characters have painfully predictable developments from start to finish. (Minor spoilers ahead, I guess, but really it’s painfully obvious very early on that this is how things will develop.) Zadie has a huge crush on her best friend, Landon, and it’s obvious to everyone except the two of them that the feeling is mutual. (This is the friend the blurb mentions disappearing into the labyrinth.) Zadie has to rely on Dex, a ruthless killer and “devil of Trinnea,” to lead her to the center of the labyrinth if she has any hope of helping Landon.

Dex, of course, turns out to be a bad boy with a heart of gold who obviously just needed Zadie to bring out the good in him. (Ugh.) This leaves Landon on the outs, and since the good guy always has to get the girl, it turns out that Landon was a secret villain all along. Because of course he was.

The whole concept of the journey through the labyrinth was fun, but I wanted more from it. The trials felt a bit underwhelming and it always felt like the stakes could be a lot higher than they were. In one stage of the labyrinth, for example, Zadie has to give up her most treasured memory in order to get through. This could have been such a poignant moment were it not for the fact that Zadie feels rather under-developed as a protagonist.

Finally, the ending feels very rushed and abrupt, and the main focus there is clearly trying to set up a sequel. Unfortunately, given the lackluster opening of this story, I don’t think I’ll be able to stick around long enough to get a real conclusion.


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WWW Wednesday 05/22/2019

Welcome to another WWW Wednesday! This meme is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To participate, just answer the following three questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


I’m currently reading…

readingBad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicone Valley Startup
by John Carreyrou
This is a nonfiction book about Elizabeth Holmes and her infamous startup, Theranos. It’s exactly as wild and weird as you think it is.

The Red Labyrinth
by Meredith Tate
(Review copy provided by NetGalley.)
This is a YA fantasy novel. It has a pretty interesting concept, but it feels very YA.

The Plot to Cool the Planet
by Sam Bleicher
(Review copy provided by the publisher.)
I’ve kind of stalled out on reading this one. I need to get back to it.

I recently finished reading…


Everything I Never Told You
by Celete Ng
Full review to come! I’d been meaning to read this for ages. I read Little Fires Everywhere when it came out, and that was my first Celest Ng book. Everything I Never Told You is kind of a family drama told in two separate timelines, detailing the events leading up to a young girl’s death and the aftermath.

The Radium Girls
by Kate Moore
Full review here. This is a nonfiction book about the medical and legal struggles of a group of women who worked with radium in factories around the time of the first world war.

How We Disappeared
by Jing-Jing Lee
Full review here. This is a WWII historical fiction novel with several different point of view characters; it takes place partially during WWII and partially in the year 2000, and the story focuses on Japanese occupied Singapore.

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna 
by Juliet Grames
Full review here. This is another historical fiction novel which takes place during WWII, but it focuses largely on other things. The main character, Stella, is a young girl when her family immigrates to America from Italy. The narrator is a modern woman who is a member of Stella’s family, and the novel is presented as her best attempt to piece together their family history.

Up next…


The Space Between Time

Charlie Laidlaw
(Free review copy provided by the publisher.)
There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.


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What are you reading this week? Any thoughts on the books listed in this post?  Please feel free to discuss or share WWW links in the comments!


The “Pancake” Book Tag

The Paperback Piano tagged me to participate in this tag!

Here are the rules for the tag:

  • Link back to the original creator in your post.
  • Feel free to use any of my pancake graphics in your post, or create your own!
  • Tag 5 other people at the end of your post, and let them know you’ve tagged them.

So let’s just jump into this! 🙂 pancake-book-tag-1.png

“Two weeks later, I wore a coat to school for the first time that year. Fall had made its presence known in the form of wet, earthy smells and shivering tree limbs shedding leaves in various shades of exotic cat. I walked to school that morning, listening to the crisp sounds that punctuated each one of my footfalls and the honks of geese flying overhead. I found it strange that there could be so much beauty in the death of all these living things. Maybe it was only beautiful because we knew they would be resurrected next spring. I don’t think I would enjoy fall quite as much if I knew there was an eternal winter to follow.” 

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, by Ruth Emmie Lang


7235533Shallan Davar from the Stormlight Archive books, by Brandon Sanderson.

“You have quite the clever tongue on you!”
“I’ve never actually had someone’s tongue on me,” Shallan said, turning a page and not looking up, “clever or not. I’d hazard to consider it an unpleasant experience.”
“It ain’t so bad,” Gaz said.” 

“The only time you seem honest is when you’re insulting someone!”
“The only honest things I can say to you are insults.” 

Shallan is a treasure and she’s truly at her best when she is bickering with someone.


“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” 

The Harry Potter books are the ultimate comfort read for me. The Sorcerer’s Stone was the first book I remember absolutely falling head over heels in love with, and to this day it gives me the warm and fuzzies.


“People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’- that’s intimacy.” 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid hit me so hard. I stayed up way too late to finish reading it the first time, and I cried like a baby when it was over. Evelyn felt so real to me and I was so emotionally invested in the story that it felt really hard to move on to another book after that.


The Editorby Steven Rowley. I have to admit that I felt kind of lukewarm towards Rowley’s first novel, Lily and the Octopus, but this one was a treasure. The perfect blend of emotion and humor, it was just so cozy.


Eleanor Oliphant! (Excuse the cameo from my chubby Wendy, but I’ve just realized I’ve never taken a “proper” bookstagram photo of this book.) If it hadn’t been for all the hype around this book, I would have dropped it like two chapters in. I’m so glad I didn’t. Eleanor wormed her way into my heart in a big way.

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.” 


Not a lot of books surprise me, but The Silent Patient probably had my favorite twist of all time!


“I used to think soul mates were two of the same. I used to think I was supposed to look for somebody that was like me. I don’t believe in soul mates anymore and I’m not looking for anything. But if I did believe in them, I’d believe your soul mate was somebody who had all the things you didn’t, that needed all the things you had. Not somebody who’s suffering from the same stuff you are.” 

I’m not big on romances in general, but I will say that the relationship between Daisy and Billy in Daisy Jones & The Six was a lot of fun.



Okay, to be fair, I know the author didn’t intend for me to like the protagonist of Lookerbut it was seriously insufferable being in her head. The POV character has been recently left by her husband after a long struggle with infertility and she has become obsessed with an actress who lives in her neighborhood. She’s… all kinds of awful.


The Gilded Wolves, by Roshani Chokshi! This book has a fairly large cast of major characters, and there’s diversity in terms of race, sexuality, and more. Also, it has a super fun heist story and a magic system. This book made my heart happy in all sorts of ways.

I know I’m supposed to tag other people to participate, but I always feel like people will feel pressured even if they don’t want to post it. 🤷 If anyone wants to participate, feel free to join in! 🙂