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What She Knew-Book Review

What She Knew by Gillian Macmillan

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Rating: 4/5

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Rachel lets her 8 year-old son Ben run ahead to the swing as they take their regular walk through the woods. That is the last time she sees him. He has been taken and there are few clues left behind to help her find her son.

This was a pretty compelling book. Macmillan does a great job of offering up a variety of plausible suspects which kept me reading and trying to figure out who the actual bad guy was before they were revealed in the book. I wasn’t successful in my guessing which to me makes for a great suspense novel. It is told in alternating perspectives between the mother, Rachel and the lead detective which made it more interesting because you get to see all sides of the case. Also, as a bonus, I listened to this on audio and it is a British narrator, which I just love ūüôā ¬†It made it even better¬†to listen to.

In a nutshell: A well told story that kept me not only guessing but (metaphorically) turning the pages to find out if Ben would be found and if he would be found alive. 

Violent Ends-Book Review

Violent Ends by Shaun David Hutchison (and various other YA authors)

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Rating: 5/5

Genre: YA Contemporary

Kirby Matheson brought a gun to school to kill his classmates and himself. But this isn’t really a story of the actual shooting. This tells the interactions people had with Kirby throughout his life. Told through 17 different perspectives (each written by a different YA author), snapshots of Kirby’s life, the good and the bad, come together to paint a picture of this boy who thought a gun was the answer.

An amazing book! I literally could not put it down. ¬†As a disclaimer, I do have a weird interest in books about school shootings (being a teacher it is unfortunately something I think about too often). ¬†At first the idea of 17 perspectives scared me a little. That’s a lot of people to keep track of, but each person is the voice only once in the book. They each get their own chapter although the characters do intertwine a bit at times. ¬†

I also thought it was a cool idea to have different YA authors pen each chapter. Each author brought their own unique voice and perspective to the book. For the most part it is not actually about the day of the school shooting. It doesn’t detail all of the terror and the minute by minute actions and feelings of that day. ¬†These authors detail events from Kirby’s childhood, through high school, a bit about the day of the shooting, and even the aftermath. ¬†With all these different perspectives, the reader gets to see so many different sides to this killer some point clearly in the direction of a heartless and cruel killer and others paint a picture of a caring and thoughtful young man.¬†

In a nutshell:¬†Fantastic writing. Intriguing take on a book about a school shooting. Will be on the top of my “must read” recommendation list.¬†

Most Wanted-Book Review

Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline

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Rating: 3/5

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Christine and her husband Marcus have been desperate to have a baby but after many tests and doctor visits, they decide that they need to use a sperm donor.  Unfortunately after only a few months into her pregnancy, Christine sees the picture from their donor profile flash on the screen. He has been arrested for not just one murder but for a string of murders. Her donor is a serial killer.  But was it really him that she saw? Is he really guilty of brutally killing these women? Is this type of behavior genetic? Christine decides she must find out the truth for herself and her new family.

I absolutely LOVED the concept for this book! The whole nature vs nurture debate. Serial killers! I mean, who doesn’t like a good serial killer story? The struggle between Marcus and Christine to decide what was or was not a deal breaker when it came to this child. ¬†

However, I was not as thrilled with this book once I cracked it open. Overall the storyline was decent, although a bit predictable at times, but it seemed to take a long time to actually get the story out.  I recall one scene where Christine goes to question the neighbors of the murdered victim to see if she can find out more info. Scottoline tediously outlines every conversation (of at least eight different neighbors) and in the end (spoiler!) no information of any real value is revealed.  

I suppose it is just a matter of preference and/or the changing pace of writing in the 21st century, but I like a little quicker delivery in my stories. I don’t want lengthy descriptions about what people are wearing or what a room looks like (unless of course it is imperative to the storyline-which in this case it was not).¬†

In a nutshell: Drop the extra chatter and speed things up a bit. ¬†Would make a good audio book because I tend to zone in and out on those ūüôā

 

Me Before You-Book (and movie) Review

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

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Book Rating: 5/5

Movie Rating: 4.5/5

Genre: Contemporary Lit

At the open of the book, a 26-year-old Louisa Clark has just lost her job of six years and is in search of a new one to help support her family.  After going through a few different jobs that she hates, she finally lands the job as a caretaker for Will Traynor, a quadriplegic of two years.  She has no experience being a caretaker much less helping a man in wheelchair.  Without revealing too much, Louisa makes it her mission to cheer Will up and help him to see that there is still a life to live despite his limiting disabilities.

Book review: I LOVED this book!  It is hard to even put into words how much I liked this book. I did listen to an audio version (I love a good British accent) which helped to more clearly show the sarcastic and then caring relationship between Louisa and Will.  Moyes does a wonderful job of pulling the reader into the world of these two people. Having really no knowledge of the life of a quadriplegic, this book helped to show the struggles Will, and really his entire family, go through.  Half way through the book I felt I had a pretty good idea of how this book would end, but I just had to keep listening to see not only if I was right but also to just stay with these characters a little bit longer.

Movie review: The movie was very well done, but I was disappointed it left out a lot of the little details in the storyline, which I understand they have to do or the movie would be five hours long. The tension between the mother and Louisa, the dramatic ending, and even the love hate relationship between Will and Louisa were not as clearly portrayed in the movie, which I feel made it not quite as good. Having read the book just before going to the movie, these details were fresh in my mind and I was able to just fill in what was left out and connect with these characters even more.  If I had not read the book first, I think the movie would still be very good, but I am thankful that with the movie/book combo I got even more of the story of these two characters.

Either way, book or movie, tears were shed and to me that is always a sign of a great story.

 

This Is Where It Ends-Book Review

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

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Rating: 3.5/5

Genre: Contemporary YA Lit

Students have returned from winter break and are assembled in the auditorium to hear a welcome back speech.  As students are dismissed, they find they cannot leave. The doors are locked. Moments later shots ring out.  The entire student body is trapped in the same room as the shooter, an enraged former student looking for payback. Told through four different points of view, This Is Where It Ends tells the almost minute by minute events that take place during this school shooting.

I picked up¬†this book because I am slightly obsessed with this topic: school shootings. Having written my own novel about a school shooting called I’m Sorry for Doing Nothing (in the beginning stages of trying to get it published), I am always curious to see another person’s take on this subject. Also, being a teacher at a middle school makes this subject very relevant to my everyday life.

With that being said, I liked the concept of the book, but at times it was hard to understand the connections between people. I think that is what the author was going for: to slowly reveal how these separate people were all in some way connected to each other.  I liked the idea of going almost minute by minute for this book and slowly showing how the school shooting evolved.  The author does a good job of showing the anger and destruction of the shooter; the lack of caring for others and disregard for human life.

Overall, a good quick read but not a “must read” in my opinion.

 

The Passenger-Book Review

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

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Rating: 5/5

Genre: Mystery, suspense

The book opens with Tanya’s husband dead on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. She didn’t do it, but she knows the cops won’t believe her. And she can’t afford to have them find out who she really is. Ten years ago she went on the run and she decides she’ll have to leave her life behind yet again. ¬†Will her past ever catch up to her?

This book was a fantastic read! It was refreshing to finally get another book that I couldn’t put it down. So many books these days are called “The next Gone Girl” (which I absolutely loved) but I am always let down. The books never live up to the hype. ¬†I sort of wish publishers would stop making the comparison. ¬†This book however (although not the next Gone Girl but still very good) I¬†read in a day and half it was so good. ¬†

Lutz does a great job of giving just enough to keep you guessing and wondering if Tanya (who ultimately ends up adopting¬†many different names and personas) will get away with each scam or tough spot she finds herself in. ¬†You wonder how her life will ultimately end up because she can’t run forever (or can she?) Also, I had to keep reading to find out why she ran away all those years ago in the first place. ¬†If you’re looking for a book that keeps you hooked until the end, this book will¬†not disappoint. ¬†

The Devil You Know-Book Review

The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

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Rating: 2/5

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

When Evie was eleven, her best friend Lianne was murdered and the suspect, although they knew who it was, was never apprehended. ¬†Now years later as an adult, Evie is a reporter for the local newspaper and has been assigned to research about missing/murdered girls in the area. ¬†This brings back all the memories of Lianne’s death. ¬†Evie becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened. She thinks Lianne’s murderer has come back to town and is after her.

Sounds thrilling, right? That’s what I thought too. ¬†Then it was compared to Gillian Flynn’s¬†Sharp Objects (a favorite of mine-author and this particular book) and¬†The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison (another great read) and I was excited. This book was going to be AH-MAZING!

It wasn’t. ¬†Part way through I really wanted to stop reading, but a small part ( a very small part) wanted to find out about Lianne’s killer. ¬†I kept reading hoping there would be some big reveal in the end. Some big twist to make it all worth it, but (spoiler alert!) there wasn’t.

Part of the problem I had with this book was that there were no quotation marks used throughout the whole book. I know this sounds like a silly issue, but it made it very hard to tell what the characters were actually saying to each other and what they were just thinking. ¬†It was hard to also tell who was talking. Quite annoying which wasn’t encouragement to keep reading.

The other issue I had was that there seemed to be too many storylines going on at once. ¬†I won’t delve into all of them here but I kept getting lost on which case she was trying to figure out or research or who was the main focus. ¬†Finally, I couldn’t tell if what was happening to the character was all in her head or not, which started as one of the more interesting aspects of this book, but then got annoying as this idea was sort of beat to death.

Overall, this was a big let down ūüė¶

Tumbleweeds-Book Review

Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham

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Rating: 5/5

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary Lit

“Recently orphaned, eleven-year-old Cathy Benson feels she has been dropped into a cultural and intellectual wasteland when she is forced to move from her academically privileged life in California to the small town of Kersey in the Texas Panhandle where the sport of football reigns supreme. She is quickly taken under the unlikely wings of up-and-coming gridiron stars and classmates John Caldwell and Trey Don Hall, orphans like herself, with whom she forms a friendship and eventual love triangle that will determine the course of the rest of their lives. Taking the three friends through their growing up years until their high school graduations when several tragic events uproot and break them apart, the novel expands to follow their careers and futures until they reunite in Kersey at forty years of age” (Summary taken from Amazon.com)

Alright, I know it’s a cop-out to “borrow” a summary from another source, but I honestly tried for a very long time to sum up this book in my own words. There are a lot of moving parts and this novel spans at least 40 years of the 3 main character’s lives. ¬†Everything I wrote just didn’t do it justice, and this book deserves a quality summary.

Tumbleweeds¬†is now one of my favorites. ¬†A friend recommended it to me and to be honest I looked at the cover (and the length) and thought, “Really?? I don’t think this is my kind of read.” ¬†I didn’t want to dedicate so much time to book that was so long and wasn’t even appealing based on the cover. ¬†Yes, I did it. ¬†I judged a book by its cover.

After a few more people recommended this book to me (it made the rounds at work), I finally decided to check it out (get it, check it out, library. I amuse myself). I did end up getting the book on audio (if that matters to anyone) and there were many times I found myself yelling out loud, shocked by what happened . Utterances such as WHAT?!? and WHY?? spewed from my mouth.

I realize I’ve gone on longer than necessary for a review and I haven’t really even gotten to the review part yet. So here it is: I just loved this book and these characters. ¬†I got to know them and was sad when it was all over. I wanted to keep seeing what happened in their lives, which to me is an indication of a great book and even better author. ¬†Also, there were quite a few times where I was thrown for a loop. I thought I knew what was going on, or what¬†should be going on, but then I was wrong. Always wrong. ¬†I appreciated that this book spanned the lifetime of these characters (or at least into their 40s). ¬†It’s not often that an author can cover that amount of time without it feeling like the book drags. ¬†Overall, a great read that kept me turning pages (or listening rather) until the very end. ¬†¬†

If you’re looking for a good read, that includes a little love/romance, some mystery, and for you to be frustrated with the decisions the characters are making (but only because you love them so much and you want to shake some sense into them), then Tumbleweeds is a must read.¬†

The Crown-Book Review

The Crown by Kiera Cass

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Rating: 3/5

Genre: YA, Romance, Dystopian (sort of)

This is the final book in The Selection series and it shows the second half of Eadlyn’s selection process (The first of which was in The Heir). ¬†Eadlyn is the daughter of America (the main character for the first 3 Selection books). She is the first woman to be able to hold her own Selection (think The Bachelor meets the royal world) and she faces a lot of criticism from the public.

I was very excited to finish out this series and see how Cass wrapped up this world for the reader. I pre-ordered the book so I would have it waiting for me on my doorstep the day it came out, and I read it in one sitting. ¬†However, I was a little disappointed overall. ¬†It was a well written book, as expected, but I wanted more lovey stuff. I’m a sap, I know. The whole reason I love this series is because it lets me fall back into the feelings of first love and remember how exciting that time in one’s life can be.

The first 2/3 of the book seemed a bit more political and less focused on the actual Selection, which I can understand why Cass did this. ¬†She couldn’t simply re-write America’s selection process. Also, I think she may have wanted to show a stronger female lead who wasn’t just wrapped up with a boy. Eadlyn¬†has concerns for her country and wants to do what is best for her people. ¬†I get it. ¬†But the selfish part of me wanted mored lovey dovey stuff. ¬† I wanted to feel those butterflies (which I did once or twice but I’m greedy and I wanted MORE).¬†Overall, this was a great series and I’m glad we got to see a different perspective of the selection process with The Heir and The Crown.

Well done Kiera Cass! You’re on my To Be Read list for life now ūüôā

Time of My Life-Book Review

Time of my Life by Allison Winn Scotch

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Rating: 4/5

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Easy reading

Jillian has a happy marriage, sort of. ¬†She’s been married for seven years and has an adorable child. ¬†Everything seems to be going fine (“fine” being the keyword) until Jillian hears that her ex-boyfriend Jackson (yes from ten years ago) is engaged. ¬†This causes her to question whether or not she has traveled down the right path in life.

Through some weird twist, Jillian wakes up ten years ago back with Jackson.  She gets to see what her life might have been like if she had chosen to stay with Jackson all those years ago.  Did she make the right decisions in life? Does she want this new (old?) life with Jackson?

This is what I would consider a lighter read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. ¬†I’ve been in a thriller/murder mystery/suspense rut lately so it was nice to read something that didn’t involve someone being murdered (or does it??….Just kidding there are no murders in this one). ¬†

Scotch’s writing style flows well and drew me in from the first few pages. It was fun to see Jillian go back in time and know a little bit of what was going to happen to her so she could make adjustments to be even more successful. ¬†I kept reading because I wanted to see how her¬†life turned out and if she would decide to stay with Jackson, go back with her husband, or a different option entirely. ¬†A great read, especially if you’re looking for something in the “easy reading” category. ¬†