Readers' Favorite

November 21, 2023

2 Great Character-centric Stories

by Donna Huber

I love a great character-centric story. I've been known to overlook problematic plots when there are awesome characters. If you love character-driven books, then I have two different books that really delve into the inner workings of the characters.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Search History by Amy Taylor

book cover of women's fiction novel Search History by Amy Taylor
November 2023; The Dial Press; 978-0593595572
audio, ebook, print (288 pages); women's fiction

After fleeing to Melbourne in the wake of a breakup, all Ana has to show for herself is an unfulfilling job at an overly enthusiastic tech start-up and one particularly questionable dating app experience. Then she meets Evan. Charming, kind, and financially responsible, Evan is a complete aberration from her usual type; Ana feels like she has finally awoken from a long dating nightmare.

I love women's fiction, but I haven't read much of it lately - probably because a few of my favorite authors in the genre didn't publish books this year. When I saw Search History I thought it would be a good book to try and with its premise, I thought for sure it would be one of the popular books of fall.

I almost put it down before finishing the first chapter. I don't like descriptive sex and there was a bit of that in the first chapter. I also didn't think I would be able to connect with the main character as she admitted that she was just looking for casual sex. I knew I couldn't read a book that was just her bouncing from one casual encounter to another unsatisfactory encounter.

But I try to give a book a few more pages before deciding to stop reading and I'm glad I did. Search History wasn't just about sex (and there aren't as many sex scenes as I feared). It was really more about Ana learning who she really is and understanding how her past has shaped her approach to relationships. 

I definitely could identify with some of Ana's behaviors and I think a lot of women will see themselves reflected on the page. I really liked her introspection.

While it probably won't make any of my best of lists, it is a solid read. Ana is a sympathetic character and her self-reflection may help you understand yourself.

Be sure to check out MK French's review for another perspective.

Buy Search History at Amazon

The Block Party by Jamie Day

book cover of domestic thriller The Block Party by Jamie Day
July 2023; St. Martin's Press; 978-1250283191
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); domestic thriller

The residents of the exclusive cul-de-sac on Alton Road are entangled in a web of secrets and scandal utterly unknown to the outside world, and even to each other.

The Block Party got kind of buried in my review pile among all the summer beach reads that came out. But now is a great time to pick it up if you too missed it this summer.

The gated or exclusive community is a pretty popular trope in the mystery genre. I've read several over the years but the trope didn't feel tired as the characters are really interesting.

The story is told from alternating points of view - Alex and her daughter Lettie. I thought Lettie was an interesting choice as she is a high school senior. I see why she was chosen as it gives the reader access to some of the things going on below the surface of the adult relationships that might not have come to light if only adults had been used as the narrators. 

I enjoyed Alex's chapters more because Lettie's sometimes felt a little too much like reading a young adult novel. However, I do commend Day for capturing the young adult voice in those chapters.

I kept forgetting that this was a murder mystery as there was so much focus on the characters and their inner-workings. It very well could have been women's fiction. 

The Block Party opens with the annual Memorial Day block party on an upper-middle-class suburban street. The story then goes back 1 year to the previous year's block party and moves forward. Keeping with the the block party theme, several holidays are the focus such as Halloween, Friends-giving, and the Christmas holidays. This made the book feel less like a summer read and more of a year-round read. 

As i said the characters are interesting and we really get to know them as their private lives are revealed either by the character's own admission or through another character's discovery. The murder (and even the Memorial Day block party) were very secondary for me as I just wanted to know what was going on with the characters. Though as the story progressed I did get more curious about the murder.

This is definitely a great book for a long weekend as I wanted to devour large chunks of the story as I got engrossed in the lives of the characters.

Buy The Block Party at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read for free)

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us. Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up for our newsletter today! Or Follow Girl Who Reads with Bloglovin. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.