Adult Fiction

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Considering how much I loved and appreciated the imagination and prose of J.K. Rowling’s writing in the Harry Potter series, I’m surprised it took me this long to come to Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series. The Cuckoo’s Calling is a page-turner, and Galbraith writes lyrical and descriptive sentences.

I had an idea of who the killer was, but I couldn’t figure out the “how” or the “why” until the reveal at the end. The story kept me guessing, and I loved the relationship between Cormoran and his temporary assistant, Robin. Those two characters were well-developed, and I appreciated how even the most minute details had a connection to the outcome in some way. Even though it nears 500 pages, it goes quickly and doesn’t have slower moments common of books of this length.

I’m hoping that The Silkworm is just as strong of a novel as this one is.

Truly Madly GuiltyTruly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book gave me so much to think about, yet it wrapped up so nicely. I loved the style and the suspense leading up to what really happened at the barbecue. This is my second Moriarty (after Big Little Lies), and I’m excited to read her others.

I appreciate how it delves into real issues, and the characters work through them in realistic ways. No one felt like a caricature; I can imagine meeting any one of them out on the street.

The Light We LostThe Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely incredible. This is one of those books that makes you question every moment in your own life and leaves you short of breath as you digest everything that happened. I can’t even express how I’m feeling right now — numb but alive; sad but hopeful. This is the best romance/women’s fiction novel I have ever read.

The Underground RailroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is powerful. It starts off slowly and is hard to get into at first. The changing perspectives right off the bat made it hard to follow the storyline and connect with the characters, but as soon as Cora was running and on the Underground Railroad, the pace picked up and it was easier to connect with Cora. I liked how Whitehead explored the experiences in different states for his characters — it showed the range of horror (and occasional kindness) in the different areas. However, I didn’t like the interpretation of making the Railroad a real underground train. That magical view made the story feel less real, and therefore, it didn’t have as strong an impact on me. I wanted to experience the grueling travel alongside the characters. I was also surprised since I thought this book was supposed to be incredibly historically accurate.

Without giving too much away, I felt that the ending chapters were the strongest, conveying the message that there is no true escape from the horror, no matter how far you run and how long you have been in a “safe” place. Until we can change the view of all of society, there is always a danger.

I think a lot of the minor character chapters were frivolous and a distraction, but judging the story as an overall experience, I enjoyed it. This book is an important reminder about the struggles and torture half of our country endured at the hands of our own.

MeternityMeternity by Meghann Foye

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an easy, chick-lit type of read that you don’t take too seriously. I enjoyed the story line, although I had so much anxiety for Liz as she wound herself deeper into the web of lies. I can see how certain companies may cater more to working moms allowing them to be more flexible with their schedules, and in turn forcing childless women to pick up some of the slack. For that reason, I understood Liz’s frustration and the driving force of the book. However, I can also understand why a lot of moms would be offended by this story as it makes it seem like being a working mom is “easy” compared to the stressful working life of a single woman. Even as a single woman, I believe that Liz’s view makes the rest of us look entitled. I personally appreciate companies that have flexibility for working families as it shows that after I put in my dues, I can have those same benefits once I’m a mom.

In all types of chick-lit, I think it’s important to suspend your disbelief a bit, so a lot of the negative reviews are unfair. These stories are meant to be more “fun” than full of life lessons. I enjoyed the story immensely, and it was a perfect beach read.

NutshellNutshell by Ian McEwan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Nutshell by Ian McEwan is one of the strangest books I’ve read. The concept immediately pulled me in — a baby still in the womb being the sole witness to a murder. However, amongst all of the literary fluff, some logistical aspects don’t make sense. The baby “sees” or “senses” people and scenery from inside the womb, and although some of the explanations for that work, other times that narrator just wouldn’t have that omniscient view.

The book is slow moving as there is only one plot point and about 200 pages to fill. Probably about half the book is filler description. I am one that can appreciate beautiful writing, but to me, the style in this novel is tiresome.

The pace picked up decently in the second half, but I thought it took too long to get to the ending, and then the final chapter seemed cut short.

I really wanted to love this since I heard so many good things and the concept is intriguing, but this one just wasn’t for me.

Everything We KeepEverything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook of this one and it was a great listen. The narrator did a wonderful job creating distinct voices for each character.

As far as the substance of the book, I enjoyed it and got through it rather quickly. However, Aimee (the main character) often annoyed me, and some of the twists and plot points seemed implausible. The ending definitely left it open for a sequel, and I am intrigued as to where the author will take the series next.

It Ends with UsIt Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing! I devoured this book in two days. The insights you get about Lily during her “situation”, which I won’t mention in order to avoid spoilers, are raw and real. A powerful yet joyful read. Hoover successfully writes a romance novel that isn’t all fluff, but it still achieves the enjoyable aspects known and loved by readers of the genre.

I Let You GoI Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Still trying to wrap my head around this one. There are two major twists that blindsided me completely. I haven’t read a twist that unpredictable since Flynn’s Gone Girl. I had to go back and read part of the beginning again to see if I could catch the clues.

There are multiple narrators, but it’s easy to follow and they all have such distinct voices. The story has more than one driving force, and it’s the perfect read for anyone looking for a new psychological thriller. There are a lot of triggering scenes, however, which can be difficult to read.

4.5 stars! (Deducting .5 because there were a couple things that just didn’t add up, but not enough to affect the outcome of the story).

The Girl BeforeThe Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the best thriller I’ve read in a long time. I devoured it quicker than THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. It reads fast since the chapters are short and switch between Then-Emma and Now-Jane. The house in which they both lived has a personality of its own, and there are so many lies and half-truths, you will be second-guessing what you thought you knew throughout. This will definitely be the next big seller, and I cannot wait to see how they make this movie.

Pre-order this one right away! Publishes January 24, 2017!!

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1)In the Woods by Tana French

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have heard so much praise for Tana French lately, and now I know why. This book is a literary thriller masterpiece. The descriptions take you right into Dublin, and the characters come alive in front of your eyes. The mysteries hold your attention the whole way through. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read another book where the suspense and the climax seemed to last for 100+ pages as “whodunit” is revealed, and all the pieces begin falling into place. Even though it was already 400+ pages (and the type is small), I wish it was longer. I would’ve liked a bit more from the original case, and I’m disappointed to hear that the other books in this series don’t cover it.

Regardless, I am officially a Tana French fan, and I can’t wait to read more about Cassie in the next book.

RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw the movie first, not realizing this book even existed, and the heart-racing action, the tenderness and love, and the strength of Ma and Jack in the movie convinced me to seek out the novel. A year later, I have finally read it, and I loved it! Hearing the story from five-year-old Jack’s perspective just seemed natural. I am amazed by the way in which Emma embodied that character in her writing. I never once questioned if a character that young would say or do certain things he did because it is all so convincing and real. The “dialect” is perfect, and although there are tragic and upsetting moments, there is still a lot of joy and innocence in the pages that make the whole situation more bearable.

Five stars.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by John Tiffany

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Going into this book, I realized that it would not be the same as a full story by Rowling. The play format takes a lot away because you miss all the magical descriptions and explanations that made the series so wonderful. It also moves way too quickly, preventing build up for the dramatic scenes. It’s definitely meant to be watched and experienced, not read; still, it was enjoyable and full of nostalgia. Any Harry Potter fan will get something out of this story simply because it brings the characters back to life after the epilogue.

However, I was disappointed in the way Thorne wrote the familiar characters. They didn’t appear to be the same. I realize with age that people grow and change, but I felt like Harry specifically had a completely different personality. It clearly wasn’t Rowling’s work, but I still tore through it, and I hope I have the opportunity to experience the play in the format it’s meant to be enjoyed.

Me Before You (Me Before You, #1)Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not what I expected at all. Based off of all the pull quotes, the way the movie trailer is portrayed, and other readers’ reviews, I was under the impression that this is a love story. There is a love aspect, but it doesn’t develop until much later in the book, and I don’t believe it’s the main focus at all. This novel is about self-discovery and unraveling the ethics of our choices.

The writing is engrossing and witty. I love Will’s character and the banter between him and Louisa as the novel progresses. In the first few chapters, I actually found Louisa to be quite unlikeable–she was self-centered and bratty. She still had moments throughout the book where she was annoying, but it was much improved.

Besides that, I don’t have anything else negative to say about it. The story is well-paced, I easily lost myself in the story, and I was dreading reaching the end–not only because I was afraid of how it would end, but because I wanted to stay in Will and Louisa’s story much longer.

I’m curious to see if the movie is much more romantic than the novel–since its Hollywood, it probably will be. (view spoiler)

Readers that love witty characters, self-discovery books, and hints of romance will thoroughly enjoy ME BEFORE YOU.

The Heart Goes LastThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

THE HANDMAID’S TALE was brilliant and one of my favorite books, so it was quite a disappointment when Atwood’s THE HEART GOES LAST just didn’t meet the same expectations.

I enjoyed the story, and I think it flows well, but unfortunately, the plot just isn’t fully developed. As I read, I kept waiting for the big moment, or a plot twist, or something unexpected and exciting to happen in this dystopian America, but I got to the end thinking, that’s it?

There are appalling ideas and comments about the political and socioeconomic structure of this future America, but it didn’t affect me like the ideas in THE HANDMAID’S TALE. I don’t think the world had enough details to flesh out what was really happening. I could picture the scenes, but I still don’t understand the society’s structure as much as I should have after reading a 300 page book about it.

SPOILER: (view spoiler)

I had been dying to read this book for awhile, and now that I have, I am so disappointed that it isn’t even half as great as I thought it would be. I have no interest in what happens to the characters, I wasn’t upset when the characters were in seemingly dangerous situations, and I know Atwood is so much better than this.

Sadly, I have to give this 2.5 stars.

 

Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and PrejudiceEligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just finished listening to Sittenfeld’s ELIGIBLE in audiobook, and I’m not sure how I feel. To start off frankly, and probably to the distress of all my literary friends and co-workers, I’ve never actually read Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Therefore, I can’t say much about its truth to the original besides the fact that there is a Jane, a Liz, a Darcy, a Bingley, and a smattering of the other classic characters.

As a standalone contemporary romance, it’s entertaining, a quick read (despite it being almost 500 pages), witty, and there were a few moments I laughed out loud. Whenever I had a few moments, I would immediately listen to the story and always be disappointed when I had to turn it off. On my commutes, I would find myself getting annoyed at the rumbling subway cars for being so loud when I was trying to hear Liz’s next thought. It’s clearly an addicting story and one I completely enjoyed on a surface level.

If I’m being critical, however, in a Mary, the scholar, sort of way, there are a lot of issues with it. (view spoiler) Also, Mary had few lines in the story, but for some reason Sittenfeld decided to shift the perspective to hers for the last chapter. (view spoiler) Finally, Liz is an unlikable character during the majority of the middle of the novel. She was bratty, rude, and difficult during many scenes, so it was hard to be sympathetic of her “broken heart.”

If you aren’t easily offended and you don’t want to think too much into the story socially and politically, it’s great! I especially enjoyed the last quarter of the book, and how Sittenfeld played out the relationships on the Eligible show. I’m glad I read it, and I’m determined to read the real Pride & Prejudice once and for all so I can actually understand the analogies (and also be taken seriously by the literary community).
3.5 stars.

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As anyone who has read it will say, it’s beautifully written. Descriptions float off the page and permeate the room like expensive perfume. It’s pleasant, rich, and alluring, but in the end, the effects fade and everything is as it was before.

I know I’m in the minority, but ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE didn’t capture me like it did with most readers. I appreciate the prose and Doerr’s way with words, but the story is flat. Readers are saying that this is a character-driven novel, and the minimal plot is essentially irrelevant, but in my opinion, an amazing novel should shine in all aspects. We do get a deep understanding of many characters and their motivations (Marie-Laure, Werner, and Etienne); however, I didn’t think Von Rumpel was well fleshed-out, or even relevant to the overall story. He appears as a main point of view several chapters after we’ve met everyone else, and I never connected with his story. I couldn’t wait to get through his sections.

Also, I often felt like the flowery language masked the urgency that occurs in war, and dulled the horrors associated with it. When characters died or tragic events occurred, I almost didn’t care because it was stated so beautifully and gently, that it no longer seemed horrific, and that’s a problem. This book is full of tragedy and I’m quite an emotional person, yet I never felt real emotion or connection towards the characters.

Since I listened to the audiobook, that could be the reason I struggled with the flow of the novel, but I did not like the time switches. Listening to a book doesn’t allow you to flip back and figure out what year each chapter took place and do the math to figure out how far in the future or past the next section is, so that was frustrating. I also didn’t think the switching of time was necessary. I don’t believe telling it chronologically would have taken anything from the story. If anything, some of the suspense was removed because we already knew what was coming.

Reading over the contents of my review, I realize I have more problems with the book than I thought. I originally gave the book 4 stars because it’s so beautiful, but beauty isn’t only on the surface; it needs to be embedded into the characters, the plot, the style and flow. There were many things I did enjoy about this book besides the language–the meaning and understanding of the title, watching the characters grow and change over time, and the narrator, Zach Apelman, was wonderful in the audio version–so I hate that my review has been so negative. However, this book has received so much hype and praise and has won so many awards that my expectations were sky high. It’s been on the New York Times Bestseller list for over 100 weeks now, and I understand the attraction and love for it, but unfortunately, it doesn’t meet my very high, possibly unattainable expectations.

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After working nonstop since the day of his father’s death at 16 years old, his job one day told him he should slow down and forced him to retire. He feels he has no purpose in life anymore and tries to end his life. Before he has a chance, however, new neighbor’s arrive, disturbing the order of things, which Ove must be sure is fixed before he leaves the earth. He can kill himself the next day. These neighbors turn out to be a handful though and his plans are thwarted several more times. He can’t even die in peace!

Unexpected friendships and situations bring humor, charm, and a heartwarming story to life.
Ove may be a curmudgeon, but his personality is not one that is easily forgotten, and this book will not be either.

Hidden Bodies (You, #2)Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m obsessed with this story. The first book, You, was great and worked well with the rare second person perspective; but HIDDEN BODIES, even though it didn’t have the perspective gimmick, was even better. It feels terrible to admit it, but you can’t help but root for Joe to find love and happiness, even if he is a murderer. I’ve never loved a bad guy more, and even though I don’t think there is more to this story, I want to know what happens after the book ends.

Kepnes is a master of character development and engaging writing. She was also able to connect and incorporate so many other literary works into her own, and now I have a bunch of books to read for my own growth, and to better understand the characters in this novel.

Anyone who loves a thriller and some twisted romance needs to read YOU and then immediately devour HIDDEN BODIES.

You (You, #1)You by Caroline Kepnes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book I’ve ever read in the second person, but Caroline Kepnes did an amazing job bringing the voice alive. Joe Goldberg, a stalker and psychopath, uses second person to talk to Beck, the “love” of his life. This stylistic choice strengthens the connection to the reader because it makes you feel like you’re the target of Joe’s obsession. Similar to Raphael Montes’ new book Perfect Days, I felt sympathy towards the protagonist even though he has committed some heinous and unforgivable acts. It’s a new experience to get deep into the mind of a psychopath, and although I’m not sure if this is really how people with those kinds of mental health issues think, it does create a better understanding of those diseases.

YOU kept my attention and had me anxious to find out what would happen next. Reading it, I had no clue what direction it would take or how I would even want it to end because of the sympathy Kepnes creates for her troubled characters. I can’t wait to start reading the sequel, Hidden Bodies.

A strong 4.5 stars.

The WidowThe Widow by Fiona Barton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book. Everyone at Penguin Random House has been buzzing about this title, but I just didn’t feel that same connection as everyone else. It’s not that it isn’t good. It had a good pace (except maybe for a chapter here or there), and I didn’t want to stop reading it at any point because I was curious to find out how it would end; but it wasn’t anything new or different compared to any other average thriller.

The book is told from different points of views, which I enjoy in thrillers because it helps encapsulate the whole picture, but the widow’s chapters weren’t as interesting to me as the reporter’s chapters. When the author came to speak to us at PRH, she even mentioned that she felt the book was more about Kate, the reporter. However, Kate’s perspective disappears after the first ten chapters and doesn’t return until almost the end. Also, I kept waiting for the big moment–a twist or something revolutionary in the story–but it never comes.

I enjoyed the story, but it didn’t leave any lasting mark on me. Unfortunately, it was average.

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A unique read as it’s an adult book told from the perspective of a teenager and it’s a compilation of letters, faxes, emails, transcripts, and more. There’s mystery, humor, and so many relatable moments. The format is a bit hard to get into at first, but once you do, you’ll scour the documents and the narrative as you try to solve the mystery first. Loved it!

Perfect DaysPerfect Days by Raphael Montes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t even know what to feel right now! PERFECT DAYS plants you into the mind of a stalker and psychopath. I’m afraid to say it because sympathizing with the main character makes me feel sick and twisted myself, but I really do feel bad for Teo. He’s infatuated with Clarice, a girl he met at a BBQ, and he ends up stalking her and kidnapping her to make her realize that she will feel the same love towards him once she gives him a chance. The novel is dark and disgusting, yet oddly humorous as Teo’s lack of human understanding doesn’t allow him to see what he is doing his terrible and unforgivable.

If you enjoy unexpected thrillers and feeling a whole mess of emotions, read Raphael Montes’ PERFECT DAYS. It won’t disappoint, although you may be left questioning your own morals.

Rage (The Marcy Series, #1)Rage by Linda Burson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This debut has the perfect mix of romance and thrill! I bought it from the publisher last week, and as soon as it arrived, I read it nonstop. Each chapter has new surprises and the end will leave you shocked and desperate for book two. The tag line perfectly sums up this novel: “unanswered questions loom, rage ensues, and love divides.” I feel personally connected to the characters in RAGE. They are real and flawed–there were some moments where I couldn’t stand Marcy or Brad–but they also have charm, and the realistic characters (plus the sexy and shocking plot!) make this book great!

The writing is clear and simple, so the pages fly by. At times the narrative and dialogue seem a bit unnatural, for example, the characters speak in a way that is slightly elevated and more formal than you would expect during regular conversations. This is definitely a plot driven narrative, however, and although the writing style isn’t always perfect, it won’t bother you too much since you will not be able to help yourself from wondering what crazy plot twist is next.

MaestraMaestra by L.S. Hilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Judith is a strong female character who doesn’t let anything or anyone stand in the way of her fight for success. Her methods are unconventional and shocking, keeping the reader guessing and rooting for her. This book is not for anyone with a weak stomach or who is easily offended by sexually graphic material, but if you can handle this intense read, you’ll devour it.

This is the first book in a series, and I can guess that the rest of the series will be sexier, crazier, and even more disturbing.

Fates and FuriesFates and Furies by Lauren Groff

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This New York Times Bestseller just couldn’t do it for me. The whole first half told from Lotto’s point of view was boring, confusing, and a bit of a mess. I felt like Groff was so focused on creating ornate, literary sentences that the whole plot fell to the wayside. Events just happened without motivation or purpose. Nothing was clear or easy to interpret, and I’m not saying that books shouldn’t make you think and analyze the prose, but this was just pure frivolity. (view spoiler).

Mathilde’s half (the second half) was much more engaging, but I still didn’t care about the characters. I didn’t care about Mathilde’s revenge, her horrible childhood, or her current difficulties. (view spoiler). Mathilde is a character that is dead of emotion, so why should the reader feel any compassion for her?

I was impressed with some of the metaphors and language, when it wasn’t over the top, and I had brief moments where I wanted to read more, so I felt this book deserves more than one star, but not by much. This book is definitely for those who enjoy methodical literary fiction.

Luckiest Girl AliveLuckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After seeing this book on the NYTBL for the last several weeks, and seeing advance readers compare it to GILLIAN FLYNN’S works, I was really excited to read it. However, it was quite the disappointment. It’s quoted as “shocking” and “cunning”, but in all honesty, it seemed like glorified chick-lit. I was expecting more of a thriller or murder mystery based off of the comparisons, but it centers on TifAni Fanelli, a woman who cares more about her social standing than anything else. The book deals with rape, depression, and eating disorders, but it’s not delved into as much as it should be. It seems like those issues were just mentioned to add plot twists as opposed to actually driving the story in a particular direction.

The “shocking” plot twist was shocking, but that’s because it didn’t fit in the story. It seemed like Knoll picked random storylines from a hat and tried to combine them into something that just wouldn’t work.

I think this story would have been much stronger if it dealt solely with the rapes that happened when Ani was in high school. The author touched briefly on the ideas of victim blaming, and I felt for Ani in those moments, but it could have been expanded upon.

In addition, the side romance was never fully resolved, and it just angered me that it was there in the first place.

You may wonder why I’m still giving the book three stars. The first half, before the plot twist, was engaging and I thought Ani’s voice was unique. I loved the witty humor threaded into the narrative voice, and I couldn’t wait to read more of it. Some of Knoll’s figurative language was top-notch, and had me laughing out loud. It was entertaining, but I really think this book could have been so much more because the author does have the writing ability. I also think it’s not entirely the author’s fault that it is getting bad reviews because the marketing team misbranded the novel. Readers were expecting something totally different than what it is, and that is creating more disappointment than the actually story.

If you’re looking to read women’s fiction, with a snarky protagonist dealing with a scandalous past, then this book is for you. It’s not for thriller or mystery fans.

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was addicted. I could not put the book down and I finished it in a weekend, but the crazy “plot twist” was not all that crazy. I figured it out pretty early on, and I was disappointed to find out I was correct. Although it’s often compared to GONE GIRL, the shock I experienced while reading that book was just not there for THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

However, the characters were fleshed out and multidimensional. I hated Rachel, Anna, and Megan through most of the story. Actually, there wasn’t a single character I found likeable, but they were real and had redeeming qualities.

I loved how Hawkins set the scene and used the train as the backdrop for most of the work. It was real and relatable. As someone who rides the train all the time, I know that there are loads of fascinating people that board, but I thought it unique that the author focused on people in the typically blurred landscape.

I definitely recommend this novel for someone looking for a thrilling, fast-paced read.

The GrownupThe Grownup by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Short enough to read in less than an hour, but creepy enough to leave you freaked out for several.

The Gates of EvangelineThe Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m usually not one who loves paranormal or fantastical elements in adult fiction, but it was well-done here. The mystery and the twists were not predictable, and the characters were believable and likably flawed. I’m not sure I’ll read the rest of the series, but this one was definitely worth the read, and it stands alone just fine.

Everything I Never Told You
by Celeste Ng

Jul 23, 15
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves: favorites, literary
Read from July 18 to 23, 2015

One of the most well-written books I’ve ever read. The imagery is exquisite and unique. Every sentence is well-crafted and necessary to the story. The characters are real, multidimensional, and their flaws create this character-driven masterpiece.The simple story compels you to turn the pages and leaves you contemplating at the end of every section or chapter. One of the most thought provoking and beautiful novels I may have ever read.

Dark Places
by Gillian Flynn

May 27, 15
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves: mystery, contemporary, psychological, favorites,thriller
Read from May 22 to 25, 2015

Gillian Flynn is a master of darkness and creepy prose. Dark Places sucked me into its warped world within the first chapter and left me feeling sick yet desperate for more. Some scenes I tried desperately not to visualize because they were so grotesque and vivid. Each word, however, is essential to the story.

Just like with Gone Girl, I could not figure out the twist until it was meant to be known. Flynn leaves a great trail that has you doubting and wondering about every character.

Flynn’s prose is menacingly beautiful and her storytelling is perfect. Her characters are flawed and real and make perfect sense in the scenes. Although we should hate Libby for all the horrible things she does as the victim, Flynn somehow still makes us like her and feel for her.

I cannot wait to read more of Flynn. Five stars.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

May 21, 15
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves: contemporary, favorites, literary, publishing
Read from May 20 to 21, 2015

A.J. Fikry is a flawed character who comes across perfectly human on the page. In mainstream fiction, it’s rare for a character to be so realistic. He’s dynamic and although you hate him in the beginning, his faults are endearing. As a person who wants to open her own independent bookstore one day, like A.J., or work in publishing, like Amelia Loman, I relate to the scenery and the shared love of books. There are several literary quotes and allusions and they make The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry all the more ubiquitous.

The writing is flawless, and this is the first book I’ve read in a long time where I couldn’t locate any typos or grammatical errors. The language is beautiful in its simplicity yet there are philosophical passages full of hidden meaning. I’m now on a mission to understand all the allusions in the book, so I have more than a hundred novels, novellas, and short stories to add to my “to be read” pile.

Gabrielle Zevin is brilliant in literary knowledge and her craft since she created this work in which she scrutinizes literature, writing style, and bookish people with such a clear lens. I look forward to discovering more of her stories.

It’s always difficult to pinpoint a favorite book, which many people, just like A.J., think defines a person; however, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is my new favorite. The story has unexpected twists, but it’s the simplicity of the story that makes it so relatable yet engaging. It’s truly a story of a life, but no matter how many times people insist that mundane lives are boring, that’s simply not the case.

For any lover of books, and let’s face it, most readers are, this is a book you must read.

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood

March 29, 15
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves: classics, dystopian, feminist, favorites
Read from February 16 to March 09, 2015

Update: Just finished reading this for the second time. I took it much slower and tried to dissect every page in a new way. I got so much more out of it this time around. The concept is terrifying, especially considering the similarities of the “before” life to our current society.

I rarely read a book twice, but this is definitely one of my favorite books, and one of the most important fiction novels that you will ever read.

Original Review:
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has made me think about society and feminism more than any other book I have ever read. I was riveted and terrified of this story because of how realistic its totalitarian society becomes for the reader. It’s easy to imagine that this horrific lifestyle could become a reality, and I think this is an essential read for everybody.

Before I decided to buy it, I kept hearing how great this book is and that I needed to read it. The summary didn’t appeal to me much, but I decided to give it a chance. I am so glad I did. This is one of the few books that have made me see the world in a different light.

Hallowe'en Party (Hercule Poirot, #36)Hallowe’en Party
by Agatha Christie

Nov 5, 14
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
bookshelves: mystery
Read from October 04 to November 05, 2014

Many reviewers mentioned that this wasn’t Christie’s best, so I really wish I had read a different novel of hers for my first try at her works. I struggled to pick up the book each time I put it down. It interested me as I read, but after a chapter, I never had a strong desire go read the next one, until the last five chapters or so. Also, I often found myself zoning out as I read and needing to reread several paragraphs. I enjoyed trying to solve the mystery before Poirot, and I guessed half of the mystery, which was exciting, yet disappointing because it was a bit predictable. However, I am not giving up on Christie yet. I think I’ll try one of her more popular novels and see if the “queen of mystery” can really “wow” me. She must have sold more books than anyone else besides Shakespeare or the Bible for a reason, right?

Gone GirlGone Girl
by Gillian Flynn

Sept 24, 14
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves: favorites, thriller, mystery, psychological
Read from September 17 to 24, 2014

There were so many twists and unexpected turns. Unpredictable and amazing. I was impressed by the character development in this story. Flynn was able to write her characters clearly and even show multiple sides of characters through her writing. Not a book I’ll forget soon.

The Shining GirlsThe Shining Girls
by Lauren Beukes

April 21, 13
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
bookshelves: mystery, thriller, psychological, sci-fi
Read from April 19 to 21, 2013

Wonderfully written with so many fresh images, but it’s not a book you can just sit down and read mindlessly–prepare to dive in and uncover the mysteries along with the characters. It’s also extremely disturbing and triggering, but a great read if you can handle it.

Title: The Shining Girls
Author: Lauren Beukes
Pages: 375

Price: $25.99
ISBN: 978-0-316-21685-2

Publisher: Mulholland Books
(Little, Brown and Company)

On-Sale Date: June 4, 2013
Genre: Science-Fiction/Crime

Source: Advanced Reading Copy

Lauren Beukes is a South African native and award-winning novelist obsessed with morbidity.  Her science-fiction novels Moxyland, Zoo City, her latest, The Shining Girls, and even her photo on her website, center on darkness.  Popular crime shows likeCSI and Criminal Minds meet The Twilight Zone in the sinister, time-traveling crime novel, The Shining Girls.

The House, which features prominently in Beukes’ novel, always defaults to November 22, 1931.  It’s the secret to time-travel and the inspiration for Harper Curtis’ murderous madness.  The House’s occupants can propel to any year and day between the default day and 1993 so Harper can complete his destiny of maiming, disemboweling, and killinghis shining girls—girls who literally shine for him since they thrive and prosper in their futures.  Objects in the House’s bedroom belong to various shining girls, and they thrum, jitter, and shine when it’s time to kill again.  He finds the girls and their objects when they are young, and he leaves them at the crime scene of another shining girl years in the future or past.

Kirby Mazrachi, the lone shining girl who survived his attack, is obsessed with her attempted murder, so she tracks down Dan Velasquez, the homicide reporter who covered her case, and interns for him at the Chicago Sun-Times.  Kirby, determined to catch the limping lunatic, Harper, uses her new-found resources at the newspaper to investigate what the police must have missed and to unravel the truth scattered throughout Chicago over six decades.

Beukes writes in a non-linear style which ensures this book is not a mindless read.  The reader embarks on a convoluted journey on the first page and needs to mentally (or physically) take notes at each turn in order to follow the timeline and character shifts.  Just like a real murder investigation, details are revealed in an order that makes absolutely no sense until it starts to connect.  To truly appreciate the book’s complexity and understand the jumping narrative, one must never zone out for a second because every sentence is essential.

But even with a reader’s meticulous attention, some questions are left unanswered.  How did the House operate?  Why Harper?  What happened in his past to make him psychotic?  Why did certain girls shine even when they seemed to lack the “burning with potential” characteristic required of a shining girl?  Beukes had the potential to answer some of these questions.  For instance, in one chapter, the reader gets a glint of Harper as a child, fascinated by torturing chickens and witnessing his brother run over by their truck, “[h]is pelvis [making] a sharp snapping sound like a pinecone in the fireplace.”  There should have been more details on why this pleased Harper so much, and what the connection is to the shining girls.

Beukes, however, does provide some solid background information that allows the reader to speculate about the House and how time-travel functions.  These unanswered questions aren’t necessarily essential to the story, and they would slow down the action.  Beukes does a great job keeping the flow of a novel that if executed poorly would have worked as well as a blind man on a scavenger hunt.  Thin threads connect details placed sporadically throughout the book, but eventually, the whole picture pieces together, like a constellation.  Although, connecting the dots in different ways may create a new picture.  Maybe “[t]here are patterns because we try to find them.  A desperate attempt at order because we can’t face the terror that it might all be random.”

These issues, however, are just minor quibbles in this gripping and sensational novel since the creative approach outshines these small problems in The Shining Girls. Beukes’ innovative setup is not the only thing that keeps the reader intrigued.  The book is full of fresh images and figurative language, some of which illuminate the book with humor and beauty—“The ice on the lake shifts and cracks musically like windchimes made of broken glass”—while others are immensely disturbing—“Her guts have been strung from the trees like tinsel”—however, both drag the reader deeper into the demented, time-warped world of Harper Curtis and of those who shine for him.

Beukes’ characters are also strong and have powerful interactions.  Harper is by far the strongest character.  It’s amazing and disturbing how evocatively Beukes was able to capture the mind of a serial killer.  Harper’s chapters, which should be avoided directly before sleeping, leave the reader with sickening and frightening images.  The reader feels tainted after seeing and feeling what Harper loves to do.

The Shining Girls is evocative, graphic, and intense.  It’s a thrilling read that stabs the reader with shock and can make one feel sick to their stomach, as if they have been disemboweled themselves.  Every page has triggering content, so it’s difficult to read, but if one can handle it, read it.

Sarah's KeySarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Sarah’s Key” was deeply emotional and had an intensity that lacks in many books. I enjoyed the switching of points of view; however, I was disappointed when we lost Sarah’s perspective halfway through. I enjoyed Sarah’s chapters much more, and they were much stronger and much more evocative than Julia’s chapters. Often Julia annoyed me with her complaints that paled in comparison to the severity of Sarah’s struggles.

Nevertheless, I’m glad I read it all the way through. The obsession Julia displayed was understandable and I could relate because I, too, was obsessed with finding out what happened to Sarah.

I never knew about the French involvement in the holocaust, so I appreciated this book shedding light in that. In regards to logistics, I enjoyed the very short chapters. The book was captivating and it was great to be able to sneak in a whole chapter randomly throughout the day without worrying about needing to leave off in a confusing moment.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in historical fiction and the holocaust.

Memoirs of a GeishaMemoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden

Oct 22, 13
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
bookshelves: favorites, historical, race-privilege, literary
Read from October 09 to 22, 2013

Memoirs of a Geisha had some of the most eloquent and beautiful language I’ve ever heard (I listened to the audio book). There was not a single cliché, and I was completely entranced by the story. I didn’t feel like the ornate metaphors and similes were over the top at all. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I listened to the book, but the whole book was pure poetry; and it was such a relaxing yet engaging and suspenseful listen.

I thought that Golden was very successful getting into the mindset of all the female characters. Sayuri was such a convincing character and narrator that the story felt like a true memoir, penned by Sayuri herself.

The book was educational and left me thinking for weeks after I finished it. Although it may not be completely culturally accurate, and I agree with many reviewers that the war scenes weren’t effective or as powerful as they should have been, I loved the book and will love to physically read it next time so maybe I will get something new out of it the next time around.

The Next Time You See MeThe Next Time You See Me
by Holly Goddard Jones

July 14, 13
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
bookshelves: favorites, psychological, mystery
Read from June 29 to July 14, 2013

Engaging, entertaining, and exceptional! The Next Time You See Me keeps you engaged till the very end with its eloquent yet believable language and dialogue and its characters so well-developed that you could expect to run into them at any moment. By the end of the novel, you know the characters on a personal level, and regardless of their flaws (no matter how big), you can identify and sympathize with each character. I would love to see where these characters end up in a future book. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys mystery, psychological, or just fantastic books.

Chasing Harry WinstonChasing Harry Winston
by Lauren Weisberger

June 30, 13
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
bookshelves: romance, publishing
Read in June, 2013

This book was exactly what I expected it to be: a fun, mindless beach read. In no way did I expect my worldviews to be altered or my mind to be intellectually stimulated. Sometimes we need to read books that are just silly and entertaining, and when that appears to be the goal of the book anyway, criticizing it for not being great literature, like many reviews do here, doesn’t do anyone any favors.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book because it was funny, scandalous, romantic, and even relatable. For once, after putting a book down I didn’t have to think about the meaning and the bigger picture. It was simple and it felt complete. Of course, I still love novels that leave you with unanswered questions and make your mind work, but sometimes, you just need to read for entertainment. This book did just that; it entertained me.

View all my reviews

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