I get a monthly email from GoodReads with a breakdown of new releases by genre. Initially, I thought this would be a good way to find new books to review before they get released. I would stay ahead of the curve, somewhat.
Now I realise that this monthly email is going to wreck my bank account because I end up buying a bunch of books at the highest price they'll ever be. But at least I'm supporting authors, and at least I find interesting books I wouldn't normally know about.
That's how I found out about TIPS FOR LIVING, which we're now going to review. It's a fun suspenseful romp grounded within the very believable characters and scenarios of a messy divorce.
On the day Nora discovered that her husband, Hugh, had gotten another woman pregnant, she made a vow: I will come back to life no matter how long it takes…
It’s taken Nora three years. With the help of her best friend, she fled New York City for a small resort town, snagged a job as the advice columnist for the local paper, and is cautiously letting a new man into her life. But when Hugh and his perfect new family move into a house nearby, Nora backslides. Coping with jealousy, humiliation, and resentment again is as hard as she feared. It’s harder still when Hugh and his wife are shot to death in their home.
If only Nora could account for the night of the murders. Unfortunately, her memories have gone as dark as her fantasies of revenge. But Nora’s not the only one with a reason to kill—and as prime suspect in the crime, she’d better be able to prove it.
I do love a good unreliable narrator, and Tips for Living delivers. Nora is her own worst enemy in trying to prove her innocence. Her relationship with her ex-husband is also wholly believable and well presented. We've all wrestled with feelings of confusion after a difficult break up, and Renee does an excellent job portraying this turmoil.
The pacing is excellent, with tense moments appropriately interspersed with tender moments. I actually caught myself seeing how much of the book was left. There was no way so many loose ends could get tied up in such a short time frame! But they were.
As a writer, I was incredibly envious of the way she built up suspense and tension. It's something I've struggled with, so I'm always awestruck when someone makes it look so effortless.
Also, I was completely here for women being brave and supporting each other!
There are some deus ex machina moments that were disappointing, but they did at least make sense within the context of the story. But it would have been nice for Nora to be able to pull things off on her own.
Likewise, the deer analogy felt hamfisted. It was well-executed, but felt like symbolism for its own sake.
I also felt let down by the characterisation of the only specifically nonwhite character in the book, Abbas.
TIPS FOR LIVING is a gripping mystery with an unreliable narrator and generally unique character voices. It has enough twists to keep you on your toes and never gives away its ending.
Definitely worth picking up, but don't look to this title for anything trailblazing.
You can find the author, Renee Shafransky, on her website.