ARC REVIEW: An American Marriage – by Tayari Jones

Title: An American Marriage
Author: Tayari Jones
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: January 29th 2018
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Finished reading: February 7th 2019
Pages: 320

“There are too many loose ends in the world in need of knots. You can’t attend to all of them, but you have to try.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Oneworld Publications in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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There has been a lot of hype around An American Marriage ever since it first came out last year, so much that I decided I wanted to see how I would react to this story myself. I was definitely excited when I was approved for an ARC of this version with a new cover! Nothing can beat that other gorgeous blue cover for me, but I do love how well this new cover fits the story. The two main characters back to back, the handwritten letters as a background, the use of contrasting colors… Truly eyecatching. Now that I have finally had the chance to read An American Marriage, I can understand why it has been praised this much. Powerful, raw, moving, emotionally draining… This story will most definitely leave its mark. Let’s start with the fact that sadly having an innocent man going to prison is something that still happens even to this date. Prejudice and racial discrimination are two phenomenons we cannot seem to get rid of in society, and Southern US does have its history. The way this story is told and the different elements are introduced and incorporated into the plot is brilliant. An American Marriage proves to be an eye-opener as well as an emotional and heartbreaking story about two persons being ripped apart by a wrong conviction. The story is told from three different POVs, all three characters being key to this story. Celestial, Roy and Andre each have their own role in An American Marriage, each has their flaws and each is developed realistically and evolves during this story. Unfortunately for me, I was never able to fully warm up to them though, which is one of the things that prevented me connecting to the story fully. The pace was also considerably slow at points, which might be a turn off for some. These are only minor complaints compared to the wonderful writing style and the way this story is constructed though. I really like how we go from different POVs to letters written between Celestial and Roy during his stay in prison and back to regular prose afterwards. It’s a representation of how the characters were limited in their communication during this difficult time and it adds a little something extra to the story. The representation of the failed justice system and how screwed up things were this close to the present days is both shocking and a revelation. I’ve read stories about innocent men in prison before, and Tayari Jones’ voice is a welcome addition to the group. Could I have done without the love triangle? Yes. But I guess it does help showcasing just how far the consequences of that wrong conviction will go. It’s without doubt a powerful read I’m glad I finally had the chance to read.

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Celestial and Roy come from different backgrounds, but are both well on their way to success. Roy is a young executive and Celestial an artist with a promising career, and when they marry they see themselves with a wonderful future. They settle down in a routine that seems to work for both and everything seems to be right on track… Only for everything to be ripped away one fated night. Will they be able to overcome the obstacles put in their away and prove for once and for all they locked an innocent man behind bars?

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I already had some ideas about An American Marriage when I first started reading it, but I didn’t realize the full extent of this powerful and emotionally draining story until I was already in way too deep. While it is true that I failed to connect to the characters completely, I wasn’t happy with the love triangle and the pace was a bit slow at points, it was the story itself that made me forget about those minor complaints. An innocent man behind bars just because someone pointed their finger (basically), the struggle to prove the truth, the strain the situation has on a relationship and those close to Roy in general, the racial discrimination, the failed justice system, the family history… Powerful elements that have been excellently developed and executed and which turn this story into one well worth your time.


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WWW Wednesdays #209 – February 13th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m currently reading Colombiano by Rusty Young, an ARC that is also be my first 800+ pages read. This means I can cross of this goal very early in the year… It’s a fascinating read so far, so I don’t mind it being that many pages! I also started Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, and I guess I should have listened to my instincts and stayed away from it… I REALLY can’t stand the writing style and I’ll most likely DNF.

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson (4/5 stars) REVIEW 19/02
The Bitter Kingdom definitely made this series end on a high note! I’m not sure if it is my new favorite, but I’m happy to say that all three Fire And Thorns books stay consistently strong and the final book doesn’t disappoint at all. The high fantasy worldbuilding is one of the best features of this series and it’s always great to see it expand. The end did feel a bit too easy, but overall it does provide closure for this series and its character. I really enjoyed my time with this trilogy and can highly recommend it to fans of the genre.

2. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (4/5 stars) REVIEW 15/02
I already had some ideas about An American Marriage when I first started reading it, but I didn’t realize the full extent of this powerful and emotionally draining story until I was already in way too deep. While it is true that I failed to connect to the characters completely, I wasn’t happy with the love triangle and the pace was a bit slow at points, it was the story itself that made me forget about those minor complaints. An innocent man behind bars just because someone pointed their finger (basically), the struggle to prove the truth, the strain the situation has on a relationship and those close to Roy in general, the racial discrimination, the failed justice system, the family history… Powerful elements that have been excellently developed and executed and which turn this story into one well worth your time.

3. Mona Lisas And Little White Lies by John Herrick (3/5 stars) REVIEW 21/02
If you enjoy cute ‘love at first sight’ stories with quirky and flawed characters that are easy to like, you will probably love Mona Lisas And Little White Lies. The general idea behind this story is interesting and I loved the many art, car and Thailand references. The plot did get a bit predictable and cliche at points, and the dose of drama was a bit high towards the ending, but overall this was still a satisfying contemporary romance read.

4. Friend Request by Laura Marshall (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 19/02
Friend Request was a very entertaining psychological thriller with a few twists and turns I definitely didn’t see coming. The story starts slow and it takes a while for the pace to pick up. Basically, the first half has more of a character driven slower psychological thriller, while the second half is more of a suspenseful crime thriller with a fast pace and quite a lot of action. This made the story feel a bit unbalanced, but the second half made the story that much more thrilling. The story had a few flaws, but overall it was still a very entertaining read.

5. Half Lies by Sally Green (2,5/5 stars) REVIEW 22/02
Novellas are always short and not having a well developed plot and characters is not that much of a surprise. Still, I found myself craving to know more about their past in France and I would have liked to see more focus on magic as well. Instead, Half Lies was basically a sappy forbidden love story where two quite cliche characters fall in love a la Romeo and Juliet. My biggest struggle was with the writing style. There is just something about the way this story is written that is a huge turn off for me…

6. To Make Monsters Out Of Girls by Amanda Lovelace (4/5 stars) REVIEW 22/02
Her poems are easy to recognize and this was another excellent collection. It is true that the structure of the poems is simplistic and basically seems like hitting the space bar ever few words, but I personally think this simple style gives the words and message behind the poems even more power. Amanda Lovelace writes without fear and is fully open about her experience with abusive and toxic relationships in the past. It’s not the style, but the words and the emotions behind those words that make To Make Monsters Out Of Girls into such a success for me. Her poetry isn’t for everyone, but those who can connect to her words will be able to treasure it.

7. Until The Day I Die by Emily Carpenter (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 18/02
This is without doubt a very unconventional read and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I actually feel about this story. It’s a very original story for sure and really hard to place in just one genre… The second half was a lot faster than the first half, which tended to drag a bit in points. I liked Erin’s POV better than Shorie’s one mostly because I wasn’t expecting a YA feel POV in this story… There is no doubt it’s a fascinating story, but I wasn’t as blown away with it as I thought I would. Mixed feelings and a very difficult review to write.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m trying to get my pile of NG ARCs below 10, so I have another one coming up soon… The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson, a story with a gorgeous cover and one I’ve been looking forward to for months.  I also want to read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Woman In The Window by A.J. Finn as my next backlist titles. My new TBR jar pick is still Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson.


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WWW Wednesdays #208 – February 6th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m currently reading The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson so I can cross off another series while the things that happened in book are still sort of fresh in my mind. I’m also starting An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. I’ve been wanting to read it ever since it came out last year, so I was stoked when I was able to get an ARC of of this new version with a new cover coming out next month. I’m looking forward to finally read it!

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. Two Can Keep A Secret  by Karen M. McManus (4/5 stars) REVIEW 14/02
wo Can Keep A Secret was one of my most anticipated 2019 releases and this story definitely didn’t disappoint. While I think I found her debut to be slightly stronger, this doesn’t mean that I enjoyed this new story any less. I literally finished it in less than 24 hours and there is one thing for sure: she was able to surprise me completely with the ending. I had my suspicions, I had my doubts, but I’m so happy to admit I turned out to be wrong! I always love this feeling when it comes to murder mysteries, because it doesn’t happen all that often anymore. Another bonus: the romance only plays a minimal role in Two Can Keep A Secret!

2. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (2,5/5 stars) REVIEW 14/02
Even though I’m a big crime and detective thriller fan, I do feel like I’m the wrong target group here. Why? I think Raymond Chandler‘s writing style and tone are mostly ment for the male audience and I wasn’t as charmed with it myself. The same goes for the sarcastic ‘humor’ used; I like my sarcasm, but in this case sadly it all fell flat for me.

3. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine D’Engle (4/5 stars) REVIEW 17/02
I sure wish I would have been able to read it twenty years ago… Still, A Wrinkle In Time made a more than solid impression on me as an adult. I definitely understand the love for this story now! The writing style draws you right in and is very engaging and timeless. Even though the story was first published over 50 years ago, it will still be easy for children and adults alike to connect to this story. The plot itself is simple, but the setting in space and the time warps give the story a little something extra.

4. What The Wind Knows by Amy Harmon (5/5 stars) REVIEW 10/02
I think everybody knows by now I’m a huge fan of Amy Harmon‘s books and her newest story has only reconfirmed these feelings. It’s impressive how different and unique each story is! What The Wind Knows is one of my new favorites with a fascinating historical setting in the 1920s Ireland, a time travel twist and a romance and family story you cannot help but fall in love with. The writing and plot development are sublime, the chapters alternating between the journal entries written by Thomas and Anne’s POV as things happen to her. Beautifully crafted and simply splendid!

5. The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One by Amanda Lovelace (4/5 stars) REVIEW 12/02
Where Amanda Lovelace‘s poetry might lack in style, complexity and elaboration, it outshines other poetry with its overwhelming and powerful emotions and strong messages. It’s actually combination of the simplicity of the words and the overpowering message they are able to communicate that turns her work into something special for me. I admire her for being able to speak this openly about the past and what happened to her. What made The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One stand out from the others is that Amanda Lovelace mixes fantasy with reality this time, using not only poems but also short paragraphs with odes to famous stories by other authors. And that is not all: in the final part of this bundle you can find thirteen guest poems by other poetry writers with a similar topic mixed in between her work. An original touch and something I could really appreciate.

6. What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera (4/5 stars) REVIEW 17/02
This was such an adorable read! I knew I was probably going to like this one as I like both author’s books, but this was definitely a winner for me. The writing, the main characters, the geeky elements (go The Sims and Harry Potter references!)… It was just all so so cute and fluffy and I had a wonderful time reading it despite a few cliches and other minor complaints that fade away compared to the rest of the story.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m probably picking up my next NG ARC up after finishing my current reads. I can’t wait to read Until The Day I Die by Emily Carpenter, especially since I loved reading The Weight Of Lies last year. I also want to read Ivory And Bone by Julie Eshbaugh and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson as my next backlist titles. My new TBR jar pick is still Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson.


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WWW Wednesdays #207 – January 30th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’ve been neglecting those poor physical copies on my shelves, so I decided to pick up noir classic The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler on a whim. I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t heard of the author before, but so far my first experience with his work has been interesting. I’m also reading one of my 2019 most anticipated releases Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus. So far I’m flying through it!

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Psychology Of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas (4/5 stars) REVIEW 07/02
This story is part sci-fi, part psychology, part murder mystery, part family drama and part romantic fiction. There are a lot of different elements involved in The Psychology Of Time Travel, and somehow they all manage to work together and create a very fascinating debut. The complex plot will have you on your toes as you try to fit everything together, but only in the most positive way. It was interesting to see the different characters evolve over time and the psychology behind time travel is simply intriguing. I loved the details of the time traveler’s slang as well! This book definitely left a mark and will stay with me for quite some time.

2. Exquisite by Sarah Stovell (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 09/02
Exquisite is an excellent psychological thriller that will give you all the feels and will most definitely manage to shock you before you reach the final page. Simply exquisite and absolutely worth the read if you enjoy the genre! I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long to finally read it.

3. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon (4/5 stars) REVIEW 11/02
It might have to do with the fact I was in the mood for a feel-good story, but I enjoyed my time with this story so much better than I thought I would. This story is cute, fluffy, quirky, geeky and has unique characters and that #ownvoices element that seems to be so popular right now. Yay for etnic diversity and interesting characters that represent a different culture in a realistic way! The characters are what made this story into a success for me and I loved reading about Dimple and Rishi’s story. The coding, the comic art, the geeky elements in general… This was just quirky heaven for me.

4. The Familiars by Stacey Halls (3/5 stars) REVIEW 05/02
What seems to be a historical paranormal fiction story about witches, turns out to be a mostly historical and romantic family drama with only a hint of the supernatural. This lack of a role of the witches, familiars and the witch trials was rather a disappointment for me and not something I expected when I picked up my copy of The Familiars. The fact that Fleetwood was rather dull and lacked a proper personality didn’t really help either, as the story evolved around her and it was hard to keep myself invested in a story when I couldn’t care about the main characters. Having cheating and a love triangle involved didn’t really help either… But if you enjoy character driven and more romantic and family focused historical fiction stories, you will probably end up enjoying it better than I did.

5. How To Experience Death For Beginners by Jessica Branton (2/5 stars) REVIEW 08/02
I can’t deny that the idea behind this story is fascinating and shows a lot of promise, but I don’t think the execution lived up to expectations. The paranormal element of How To Experience Death For Beginners, by far the most interesting aspect of this story, lacked development for me as instead we get an uncomfortable mix of different and sometimes cliche elements that fail to combine into a coherent plot. The lack of credibility, the main characters, the way difficult topics were handled… Sadly this story just didn’t work for me.

6. The Shattering by Karen Healey (3/5 stars) REVIEW 11/02
Even though The Shattering didn’t turn out to be a big hit for me, I’m still glad I finally picked it up. This probably has a lot to do with the setting, since I hardly ever seem to read books set in New Zealand. It also doubles as a negative though, because I would have loved to see more local culture and descriptions included. As it is, The Shattering feels more like a melting pot filled to the brim with different story elements and bits and pieces, making each feel superficial and underdeveloped. The story itself has a lot of potential, with the paranormal aspect, the secrets of Summerton and three different POVs to follow. But with so many different elements distracting you, the story didn’t come out as strong as I thought it would be.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m definitely picking up What The Wind Knows by Amy Harmon next as she is one of my favorite authors and I’m dying to read her newest story. I’m also planning on making good to my promise to read more Agatha Christie and pick up the second Hercule Poirot book The Murder On The Links. And to further reduce my ARC pile, I’m also picking up An American Marriage by Tayari Jones soon (I’m not sure which cover I prefer…) And I have a new TBR jar pick: Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson.


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