Friday, May 29, 2015

I hear their voices, sirens singing in the street.

I've been working like crazy lately, so working my way through all these library books hasn't been easy! I was laughing when I saw them stacked on the counter and noticed some similarities in the titles. Therefore, you get them all in one post!

Before He Finds HerBefore He Finds Her by Michael Kardos

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In 1991, Ramsey Miller holds a huge block party for his neighborhood. Then, the story goes, he drunkenly and angrily murdered his wife and young daughter.

However, that's not exactly the case: his daughter got away, via the Witness Protection Program, and is living in a small town in West Virginia. Renamed Melanie, she lives with her father's close friend and his wife; it's a cautious life, as her father was never found. However, as she nears 18, Melanie is tired of this life of secrets and hiding. Finding herself pregnant, she decides she doesn't want this life for her own child, so she heads back to her hometown to find her father herself.

The book weaves in Melanie's current life and discoveries with narrative of Ramsey's life leading up to the days of the block party, allowing us to figure out what happened along with Melanie.

This novel started out really well, and for a while, I was thinking it was going to be one of my favorites read so far this year. However, it soon petered out a bit, and the more I thought about it, I liked it less. There are just some odd plot holes that doesn't really make sense and leave you wondering. Further, even accounting for her upbringing, Melanie as a main character is so "blah" and doesn't stand up for herself, thereby making it very hard to root for her. I really found myself pulling for Ramsey at many points. Lots of potential, but doesn't really follow through.

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Where They Found HerWhere They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The body of a baby is found in a small New Jersey town, close to the town's prominent university. Molly Anderson is asked to cover the story for the local paper -- her first big break since becoming a reporter, but both she and her husband are concerned it will dredge up memories of the loss of her own baby. Meanwhile, across town, teenage Sandy searches for her own missing mother. At the same time, Barbara, the wife of the local police chief who is investigating the baby's death, is busy trying to deal with her young son, who is having trouble in school and acting strangely.

McCreight weaves together the stories of these three very different individuals, as we learn what happened to the baby and more. I confess that I figured a lot of this out early on, but was still intrigued enough to keep reading. It's a very enthralling storyline and I found myself staying up late to find out what happened to the baby and the various women involved.

The story winds up being tied to another death nearly 20 years and it's well done, if not a little easily tied up at the end. The characters were a little flat for me - I had a tough time empathizing with Molly or Barbara, which made it harder to get into their stories, though I did like Sandy. It's still a good page-turner and a quick read.

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Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)Where She Went by Gayle Forman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a sequel, of sorts, to "If I Stay" and picks up three years after Mia leaves Adam to start a new life at Juilliard. We learn that Mia has become a star in her own right, while Adam is rock star: the main focus of his band, Shooting Star. He has a celebrity girlfriend, a major tour, and a crazy life. But is he happy? And is Mia content with the choice she made to walk away from Adam?

This book is told from Adam's point of view and we learn about how Mia's decision has left him devastated. It's another rather short book, but it's also lovely. I am not sure exactly how to describe it. I liked "If I Stay," but I truly loved "Where She Went" -- it was beautiful and poignant and touching. Even though Adam (and Mia) could be a bit frustrating at times, it was certainly a worthwhile read.

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Saturday, May 09, 2015

Dreams and plans are in the making.

First Frost (Waverley Family, #2)First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Claire and Sydney are sisters. Claire is the more practical of the two and lately, she is drowning under the weight of a blossoming candy business. Sydney runs a hair salon and worries about her teenage daughter, Bay, who seems to be drifting away from her. In addition, Sydney longs for another baby. One day, a mysterious stranger shows up in their tiny town and threatens to disrupt their lives, especially Claire's.

This was an interesting read and definitely more on the 3.5 star end. I was about halfway through when I realized there was a book that came before this one - I'll probably read that one at some time, but I was already committed to this one. The book has a mystical edge to it; supposedly, each of the Waverley women are blessed with a gift, and Claire's house - the old Waverley home - has strange powers and a mind of its own.

At first it's a little strange to add the magic to the story, but it actually works well. Claire, Sydney, and Bay are all interesting characters. I actually found myself hoping there will be a third book that focuses more on Bay, because she's a compelling person. In a way, not much happens in the story, things just sort of float along as the women wait for the "first frost" to occur, but I still found myself compulsively flipping pages, wondering what would happen next. All in all, that's a sign of a good tale. Definitely a fun little read.

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Like a thief in the night you ran away with my heart.

Little Black LiesLittle Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Catrin Quinn is still reeling from the loss of her two sons nearly three years ago. Her grief and anger is exacerbated by the fact that Catrin blames her (now former) best friend, Rachel, for their deaths. Catrin lives on the isolated community of the Falkland Islands, where people generally know one another - and everyone's business. When several children go missing over a short period of time, even the tight-knit community must admit that something is going on. Catrin finds herself drawn into the search for the latest missing boy, despite the fact that she just wishes to wallow in her grief as the third anniversary of her sons' death approaches.

This was a great book - I love all of Bolton's Lacey Flint novels, but this standalone is excellent, too. It's told from the varying viewpoints of three people - Catrin, her ex-best friend Rachel, and Catrin's acquaintance, Callum, a former solider who was once stationed on the island. Bolton goes back and forth over a short time period, slowly unraveling events, first from Catrin, then Callum, and finally Rachel. It's a mesmerizing approach, as we try to decipher how much to trust each of our narrators. During each character's turn, I found myself completely enthralled and wrapped up in their life. I eventually stayed up far too late the final night, frantically finishing the book to find out what happened. Bolton has created yet another fascinating mystery that will have you guessing the entire time.

(Note: I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.)

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Friday, May 01, 2015

It's been a while since you've treated me right.

The Bones of YouThe Bones of You by Debbie Howells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When local village teenager Rosie disappears -- and later is discovered murdered, fellow villager Kate is understandably upset. Kate has a daughter Rosie's age and also spent a little bit of time with the quiet teen and knew her mother, Jo, somewhat.

Rosie's murder causes quite a stir, especially because her father, Neal, is a well-known journalist. Kate becomes closer to Jo after Rosie's death and starts to learn more about Jo, Neal, and Rosie's younger, Delphine. As she gets pulled into the family's secrets, Kate finds herself more and more intrigued and confused about what happened to Rosie.

I tore through this book in a couple of days. The reviews comparing it to "Lovely Bones" or a Gillian Flynn novel are certainly not wrong. It's compelling and chilling. The book switches narrators and we "hear" from Rosie, as well, but the format isn't hokey or silly, as it often can be if done incorrectly.

I figured out some of the plot fairly early on, but it didn't make the book any less complex or exciting. The characters are well-drawn and interesting, and there's just *something* about the book that draws you in. Definitely recommend for those in the market for a good psychological thriller.

(Note: I received an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.)

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