Thursday, January 31, 2019

I hope we get out of this town: THE DREAMERS.

The DreamersThe Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

In Santa Lora, California, it all begins at the college. It precisely originates with Kara, who climbs into her bed and never wakes up. Her roommate, Mei, finds her, panicking when nothing rouses the girl. Then another girl falls asleep. And another. And then more. Soon classes are canceled. The kids on the floor are quarantined. And before you know it, things escalate from there. A mapping of brain activity shows that the sleepers are dreaming--dreaming extraordinarily active dreams in fact. But what are they dreaming of? And can anything stop "the sickness" from spreading?

"Whatever this is, it comes over them quietly; a sudden drowsiness, a closing of the eyes. Most of the victims are found in their beds."

I found this book to be utterly fascinating and such a wonderful change of pace. It was almost like reading a horror film at some points (and I'm not the type who likes scary movies). It was compulsively readable--I read it in five settings, completely drawn into the creepy, amazing, and sometimes horrifying story.

The book is told from the point of view of a variety of characters--all in short snippets--and through an often impassive narration style. Still, you grow to care for the few characters you do get to know: Mei and some of the other college students; kids Libby and Sara and their apocalyptic-fearing father; professors Ben and Annie and their new baby, Grace; a biology professor, Nathaniel, and his partner, Henry; and Dr. Catherine Cohen, a psychiatrist called in after the sickness starts.

There's really no way to describe this book, and I do not want to reveal too much about the plot. It's beautifully written, which is amazing, considering it's mostly a book about a near plague spreading through a town. The characters, even though their chapters are often short and sparse, are fully-formed. It's easy to get attached to them and pulled into their lives, which are so quickly altered by the sickness. And it's amazing how quickly the sickness changes life in Santa Lora: how a town can nearly become a war-zone due to illness. It was really intriguing to read about, especially when the narration style is so mesmerizing and presents such a creepy helplessness (I wish I could describe it better).

Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book. The subject matter was not what I usually read, but it was a fascinating, captivating read. I was drawn to the characters and the narration style. The book presented such an interesting scenario to think about too--what would happen if this occurred in real-life society? Walker's writing is beautiful, and I've already tracked down her novel, The Age of Miracles, on, and look forward to reading it soon. 4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!).

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Monday, January 28, 2019

I never meant to do you any harm: THE TEMP.

The TempThe Temp by Michelle Frances

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Carrie is a television producer married to Adrian, a television writer. She has signed him to an exclusive deal with the production company where she's recently started working. They've come up with what they think is a brilliant idea for their next show. But their big plans feel threatened when Carrie realizes she's pregnant--and she plans to keep the baby. Carrie and Adrian's glamorous life never included children, and it's clear he isn't keen on welcoming a child into their life now. Carrie and Adrian's boss brings on a temporary maternity hire, Emma, to assist. She's young, pretty, and while rather inexperienced, she's quite clever. Carrie is immediately threatened by Emma, but Adrian welcomes her input to his scripts and writing. Carrie's convinced Emma wants her job--and then some. Is she right?

"He was thinking of his career right now and part of her didn't blame him. The timing was awful. Everything had been going so well: the new job, signing Adrian, the green light! It was the worst possible time to be having a baby."

This was an odd yet very readable book. In some ways the story sort of meandered along, as the plot unfolds from Carrie, Emma, and Adrian's point of view. But I have to admit, it had me pretty well hooked. From nearly the beginning, I was curious as to what Emma's deal was. She clearly had some reason she wanted to be a temp for Adrian and Carrie in particular--we just didn't know exactly why. Figuring out her story was pretty interesting overall, and I enjoyed the read.

I was pulled into Emma's world--it took a bit of time to warm up to her overall character, but it was easy to be puzzled by her intentions. I wound up liking both her and Carrie and feeling a bit sorry for them. I also liked the backdrop of the TV writing world--it was an interesting background for a novel. There are not a lot of characters in this novel: we really have our main three, but they are fairly flushed out, and you get to know them well.

There are some good twists and turns in this one. I would still describe it overall as a meandering read in some ways. We sort of wander along with Emma, Carrie, and Adrian, discovering bits and pieces of their lives, especially their pasts. Then, with only a very small percentage of the book left, we're thrown one very abrupt twist, which, while quite a surprise to me, seemed really thrown in out of left field. I would have maybe liked to have seen a bit more lead up to that one.

Still, even with the abrupt, twisty ending, this was an enjoyable read. It kept me engaged and guessing. I liked being sucked into Emma and Carrie's worlds and wondering about Emma's motives. 3.5 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!).

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Friday, January 25, 2019

Can I live long enough to be alive: DON'T WAKE UP.

Don't Wake UpDon't Wake Up by Liz Lawler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alex Taylor is excited to head off to a nice dinner with her boyfriend. But instead, she wakes up strapped to an operating table. She quickly realizes the man above her isn't a doctor, but he intends to do unspeakable things to her. However, when Alex wakes up, she appears unharmed. She's back in the parking lot of the hospital where she works. Even worse, no one believes her when she shares her story. Not her boyfriend, not her friends, and not her medical colleagues. Alex becomes haunted by what happened that night, performing badly at work and becoming convinced that there are other victims like her. Did something really happen to Alex, or is she going crazy?

This was one of those books that I won on Librarything and then totally enjoyed being introduced to a new author. It was a little wild and crazy in places, but it kept me engrossed and reading, which I really appreciated. I was amazed that absolutely no one seemed to believe Alex: I understand that she had no real evidence to back up her story, but it seemed tragic to me how quickly her friends and family abandoned her to sadness and despair.

I wasn't sure I would like this book at first, because I'm not a huge fan of the unreliable narrator to begin with, especially the self-pitying alcoholic one, which seemed to fit Alex quite well. But, I won't lie, she definitely grew on me. This was *even with* the fact that something else had happened in Alex's life thirteen months ago--something that her friends and co-workers felt she had conflated with her "pretend attack," and everyone, including Alex, referred to incessantly. But, of course, it took forever for anyone to tell us what had actually happened, which drove me a little insane. There's dragging something out for suspense and then there's annoying your reader to no end!

However, I really enjoyed the fact that we couldn't trust any of our characters--even the policewoman investigating Alex's case, Laura Best, who was only out to further her career, not actually seek justice for Alex. My favorite character was Laura's boss, Greg Turner. He was a great detective, and I could totally root for him in his own series. Not being able to trust anybody else, though, was kind of fun. It kept me constantly guessing. The book was surprisingly compelling: truly a page-turner. There were some great twists and turns in this one. I guessed a couple of pieces, but not all of them. In the end, I stayed up late to finish this book, which is always a sign of a winner for me (my sleep is a precious commodity!).

Overall, this was probably a 3.5 star book in many ways, but I was impressed that this was the author's debut. I also enjoyed how it kept me madly flipping the pages, trying to figure out what happened. In the end, a 4-star rating. I see Liz Lawler has another book out now, and I'll definitely be checking that one out at some point.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Librarything in return for an unbiased review (thank you!).

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Of the feeling in my bones: THE GOLDEN TRESSES OF THE DEAD.

The Golden Tresses of the Dead (Flavia de Luce #10)The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Flavia's sister, Feely, is finally getting married. But at the wedding, as Feely and Dieter cut their cake, Feely slices into a human finger! How very Flavia! It's certainly a case for Arthur W. Dogger & Associates, with Flavia being the main associate, of course. And, not long after, the two are hired by a Mrs. Prill to help track down some missing letters. Flavia and Dogger barely know where to focus first. Then someone else winds up dead--with Flavia and Dogger in the thick of things--and things spiral from there..

"Aside from that-except for the human remains-it was a beautiful occasion."

So says Flavia of Feely's wedding, in very Flavia fashion. By now, if you've read the first nine books in this series, this one will feel quite familiar and sweet to you. Flavia is her usual fun, clever self, and I can't help but love her to pieces. She's up to her usual tricks in her laboratory and busy working away with her beloved Dogger, who may be the best butler/sidekick/friend in the history of mystery novels.

"I'd like to remark at the outset that I'm a girl with better than an average brain."

These books are always wonderfully descriptive, and I love seeing the world from Flavia's unique point of view:

"I don't know if you've ever dissected a rat, but to me, there was only one word for it: exhilarating."

Flavia and Dogger have two cases to solve here--and they intersect quickly. We get plenty of Flavia and Dogger time, which is great. Unfortunately, Feely is shipped off on her honeymoon, and we barely see any of Daffy. I missed the usual sarcasm and biting wit that comes with de Luce sister time. There is more of Flavia's cousin, Undine, who I admit is growing on me (and perhaps Flavia?). She will be a good companion Flavia, I think.

Sadly, though, I've read in several places that this is the last of the Flavia de Luce series. If so, this book felt woefully unresolved on several fronts for me. The mysteries felt underwhelming, as if the loose ends didn't really tie together; I was confused about how it all wrapped up in the end. And if this is really the last book, it just didn't seem as if it did our amazing heroine justice. Flavia went out with a whimper, not a bang. I would have liked to see more finality, more resolution somehow, instead of some partially ended cases and no real conclusion. It just didn't feel like a satisfactory end to what has been an amazing series featuring such a plucky girl who has been through so very much.

Still, I'm really glad I've had a chance to read this series, and I certainly enjoyed this book and all of Flavia's adventures. She's such a fun, unique character, and I can't recommend this lovely series enough. 3.5 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!).

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Friday, January 18, 2019

We saw the worst years and the best: THE SUSPECT.

The SuspectThe Suspect by Fiona Barton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eighteen-year-old Alexandra O'Connor and Rosie Shaw are backpacking in Thailand for three months. But when they don't contact their families as scheduled, panic ensues. They are reported missing, and journalist Kate Waters begins covering the case as well. But this one feels especially close to her heart, as she can't help but think of her own son, Jake, who has been overseas traveling for two years. As it quickly becomes clear that there's more to Rosie and Alex's case than meets the eye, Kate will soon be drawn to into their world.

For some reason, I must have forgotten that this was another Kate Waters book, so I was really excited when I started reading and realized that both she and DI Bob Sparkes were back in this one. I really liked Barton's previous two books featuring Kate and Bob, THE WIDOW and The Child, and this one was no exception. By this point, they are starting to feel like old friends.

The story is told via short chapters from various points of view: Kate, Bob, and Alex's mother, Lesley. We also get flashbacks to Alex in Bangkok. It's all very effective, as the result is very easy-to read. The story moves along steadily, and it kept me very interested and wondering what had happened to the girls. I also found the story a little frightening and, as many thrillers do, it made me quite frightened for my children to grow up and leave the house!

Kate was her usual self--I just always find myself drawn to her. She's determined and tough, yet vulnerable. I don't know much about the press, especially not in the U.S., but Barton's take on Kate always seems really authentic to me. This makes sense, considering Barton is a former U.K. journalist: it shows. I always enjoy how focused Kate is: ready to do nearly anything to get her story. What's great about this novel is that Barton throws in a compelling personal aspect for both Kate and Bob; for Kate, it really shakes up her take on reporting, which is truly her one constant in life. While it's not easy for her (or for me, really, since I have grown to care for her), I found it interesting to watch her grapple with this. Kate also has to look at the truth and how she might present it when it's more personal for her. It's a stark dilemma, and made the book more fascinating.

"Being a reporter is touchy-feely...We're not here to observe the news happening through a telescope--or Google. You've got to plunge yourself into this job so you can feel things, see things up close, understand them. You've got to get your hands dirty. Right up to the elbows."

At the core, though, there's a very intriguing plot here: what happened to Alex and Rosie? I found the book to be really interesting, and I was sucked up along with Kate and Bob, trying to piece together the various clues as to what had happened. There are several great twists and turns thrown in: a few I guessed at, several that really surprised me. The book does a great job at exploring how the media can put a person on trial, as well as the way we portray ourselves on social media versus what's really happening behind the scenes. All the various shades of truth being presented in different facets--all quite interesting.

Overall, this one was a winner for me. It featured some characters that are old favorites, a compelling mystery, and some intriguing personal elements for said characters. 4+ stars. I certainly hope Bob and Kate make a return appearance in another Barton book.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!); it is available in the U.S. everywhere as of 1/22/2019.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Gone away is the steady hand: HOW TO MAKE A WISH.

How to Make a WishHow to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Grace has had to grow up too quickly, thanks to her unpredictable mom, Maggie. So when Grace returns from piano camp and realizes that the flighty, alcoholic Maggie has forced her to move in with yet another of her boyfriends, it feels like the last straw. Even worse, his son happens to be Grace's ex--the same ex who posted their sexts all over Tumblr after their breakup--and Maggie has no clue. It feels like the last straw. But then Grace meets Eva, who has moved in with Grace's best friend's family after her own tragedy. Eva and Grace form a fast friendship, and Grace feels her world shift slightly when Eva reveals to her that she's a lesbian. But there's still Maggie to deal with, and her erratic behavior. Grace feels tied to her mother above all, but those ties are preventing her from happiness. Can Grace find the strength to choose herself for once?

Ashley Herring Blake's HOW TO MAKE A WISH was one of the best books I read in 2018. It was gorgeous and heartbreaking and amazing. This book certainly had some echoes of that one; Blake is a wonderful writer, and I will be continuing my quest to track down all of her books.

So Grace is a tough character. I felt for her immensely: she's living the life of adult, basically, trying to care for and worry about her mother, who is a real piece of work. By doing so, she's essentially paralyzed and unable to live her own life. Grace is a talented pianist who dreams of moving to New York to study at a conservatory there, but she lives in fear of living her mom behind. Her mom manipulates this fear, leaning on her daughter at every turn. (She was really a terrible woman; I couldn't make myself feel sorry for her, even though she'd lost her husband when Grace was small.) Still, there were times when I wanted to shake Grace: you have a group of people who do love you and care about you! Go to them, use their support, stop defending your mom, you're not a child anymore! I took this as a sign of Blake's excellent writing abilities, as I was totally immersed in the book to the point that I was frustrated with and in love with her characters.

"I can't leave her. She's my mom; I'm her kid. We belong together."

I really, really loved the Grace/Eva relationship in this book. I mean, what is there not to love? For one thing, Eva is a biracial lesbian. Can we say hurray representation?! I adored this sweet, fragile, yet incredibly tough girl. She was so funny and real to me. And then we have Grace, who was such a realistic bisexual. It's just so heartening to see well-done bisexual relationships portrayed in YA books. Oh my goodness, I wish I had this to read when I was struggling with my bisexuality as a teen. And it makes me so happy to think about teens today reading this and seeing this representation as completely normal.

"But... well, I like who I like. I like the person."

This book definitely sucks you into the characters' lives. It's quite well-written, and I really liked the supporting characters, especially Grace's best friend, Luca and his mom. He's a good friend. These poor kids are dealing with a lot, and your heart goes out to them, watching them struggle. At the same time, Grace and Eva's relationship is so lovely.

"I know a lot of people on this godforsaken waste of space and a lot of people know me. But no one really knows me... I've had a handful of friends here and there, but with the ebb and flow of my existence, it was easier to keep my world as small as possible. Less explaining. Less lying to cover up why I'd moved again. Less worrying about what totally messed-up situation I'd encounter when I brought a friend home."

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It features intricate characters and a great relationship in Eva and Grace. It's sweet, funny, and heartbreaking at times. 4 stars.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Show me trouble I'll take him down: LAST WOMAN STANDING.

Last Woman StandingLast Woman Standing by Amy Gentry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dana Diaz is an aspiring comedian trying to make it in Austin, TX--with the ultimate goal of making it back to L.A. someday. She once lived there with her best friend, Jason, but left in a bit of disgrace. While performing in L.A., she meets Amanda Dorn, a computer programmer who applauds during her set and catches Dana's eye. The two bond over being women in a man's world and soon learn that both have had similar struggles with harassment. But then Amanda proposes a plan: they'll each seek revenge on a man that has harmed the other. Dana quickly finds herself pulled into Amanda's revenge schemes. She also finds herself unable to trust anyone--even her friends.

I really loved Amy Gentry's GOOD AS GONE, so I was so excited to read this one. It didn't appeal to me as much as GOOD, but I enjoyed pieces of it. This was a weird but also interesting book that certainly capitalized on the momentum of the #metoo movement and did a good job of highlighting the aftermath of sexual assault and violence against women.

Dana is an intriguing character; I liked that she was a comedian, because that's not a character you usually see in books! She's also a minority and a fairly strong female--all pluses. No one expects her to be a comic or funny. It's also heartbreaking and eye-opening to see how much she's been through: as we learn about her experiences, we see how often she's had to endure sexual harassment, sexual violence, assault, and more during her career and life.

"It was true that my appearance--short and brownskinned and shaped like my mother minus the control-top pantyhouse--did not prepare most people for my extracurricular activities."

Even worse, so many of the women in the book seem to take this behavior as par for the course. To get ahead, they must endure being harassed, or they see this sexual assault as part of life. For instance, maybe it's just part of the acting business, Dana rationalizes.

"Maybe I really was the only one who couldn't take the joke."

The plot of this book was a little complicated for me; it seemed to struggle to find itself between fiction (a struggling comic attempting to find herself) and thriller (revenge scheme gone horribly wrong). For me, it really took off when it became more of a thriller. There were lots of twists and turns, most of which were quite surprising. Some of them were bizarre. Amanda and Dana's plans are a little crazy and things sort of spiral from there.

Still, I liked Dana overall, even if she made some questionable decisions. I appreciated how her character highlighted the plight of violence of women. As the book went on, it became more exciting and interesting, even some parts were a little crazy. 3+ stars.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review; it is available everywhere as of 01/15/2019.

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

In our spiral down from grace: SHE LIES IN WAIT.

She Lies in Wait (DCI Jonah Sheens, #1)She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Aurora Jackson disappeared thirty years ago at age fourteen. She went camping with her sister, Topaz, and five of Topaz's friends. Topaz reluctantly let her kid sister tag along. No one ever saw Aurora again. Thirty years later, a body is found. DCI Jonah Sheens and DC Hanson are called to the scene, but Jonah already knows that it's Aurora. He's been waiting for this discovery for years. During the original investigation, all six friends maintained their stories and their innocence. But now Jonah is determined to find out what really happened to Aurora.

"It was where seven kids had bedded down thirty years ago, but only six of them had got up in the morning."

This was one of the ARCs that I requested simply because the story sounded interesting, and it really was. I couldn't shake the feeling while I was reading that the storyline felt somewhat familiar, but that didn't detract from what was a pretty strong police procedural, especially for an author debut. The book is fairly long--there is a lot of buildup to our ending--but I thought it was all well-done. Jonah is an intriguing character; it's made known early on that he had a small role in the first investigation when Aurora disappeared, and he clearly is hiding something, which isn't revealed for quite some time. But he's a good investigator, too, and it was sort of fun wondering if you could fully trust him (with Hanson, the newbie, as his foil).

"He found it impossible not to remember this place as it had been back then. The car park had all been bark and mud, but it had been just as overrun by police. The haircuts different; the faces somehow the same."

The way the story is told--snippets of the past (including from her point of view), plus Jonah and Hanson investigating in the present--is interesting and moves the story along. It certainly keeps you wondering as things unravel. While the limited number of characters (especially at the camp ground thirty years ago) lowers our amount of suspects, it's easy to speculate about each one.

Plus, all the characters in this one are detailed. I found it a little complicated to keep track of everyone at first--especially all the boys at the campground--but they were strong characters and knowing so much about them made figuring out who killed Aurora all the more compelling. Aurora herself is a lovely character, and I felt for her. When our suspect was revealed, it all ended a little crazily yet easily, but this was still a good read for me.

Overall, this was an interesting mystery, with a detailed plot and characters. I look forward to Lodge's next book. 3.75 stars.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!).

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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The map of my heart is torn at the corners: THAT NIGHT.

That NightThat Night by Amy Giles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's been a year since the shooting in their town changed everything, and Jessica Nolan and Lucas Rossi are each trying to manage in their own way. Jess is trying to care for her severely depressed mom, who can barely get out of bed. That means helping pay the bills, cook the meals, and generally take care of everything. She misses her best friend desperately, but Marissa is across the country at a school for those suffering post traumatic stress. Meanwhile, Lucas is coping by taking up boxing. It helps relieve some of his stress and anxiety--and get him away from the watchful eye of his newly overprotective mom. When Jess and Lucas meet at their after-school job, they realize they have one big thing in common: their shared tragedy. It's not exactly something they want to share. But slowly the two become friends. Can they help each other move forward from some of the horrors they've been through?

Oh this book. This beautiful, sad, lovely book. It's such an immersive, amazing read. Giles gives such a great voice to her characters; even though the book has a sad topic at its core, it's also hopeful and touching, and you want to keep reading it. You know how some books seem to go out of their way to have unlikeable characters and you have to like the book in spite of them? This book is the opposite. I dare you to not fall in love with Jess and Lucas. And, oh my goodness, my heart just went out to these kids. Poor Jess. She has so much to deal with it, and so does Lucas, too. The guilt these kids feel at being alive--Giles does such an amazing job at portraying their feelings and emotions. They come across so realistically and starkly. It also portrays mental illness very well: real, without embarrassment and shame; I was impressed and heartened. What a great thing for teens to read.

I really enjoyed the fact that this novel featured a sweet romance, but not a typical one. Jess and Lucas clearly like each other, but don't immediately "meet cute" or fall for each other the second they meet. You can see they need each other, but it takes them time to get there, which I appreciated. Their relationship is really well-done, and it was lovely to read about.

As you've probably read, Giles made the deliberate decision not to write about the actual shooting in the book--it's just the background event that has shaped so much of our characters' lives. We don't even hear about who the shooter was. I really like this decision, because we get to see the horror that a mass shooting can leave behind, without going into the sensational details. Instead we see, close-up, the humanity behind it--the real people affected and how much their lives have changed. There are sad moments mixed in with sweet and funny in such a beautiful way. It's incredibly well-written and I thought it was a very smart way to frame a shooting: it's almost more profound this way, honestly.

The depth of emotion in this book--the sadness, the unhappiness--and even sometimes the hope--is staggering. Honestly, this book left me in tears, and I don't cry easily when I read. As I said, I fell in love with Jess and Lucas. They were real people to me, and it takes an excellent writer to bring your characters to such detailed life as Giles did in this novel. I waited to read this book--after absolutely loving Giles' novel NOW IS EVERYTHING (which also made me cry!)--until my library got in my copy, which I had them order. I'm proud to say my lovely library system now has three copies of this book now, but I'll also be purchasing my own copy, because it's that good.

Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough, for teens and adults alike. This novel made me cry, and it made me laugh. I loved its characters and their supporting cast. It offers such a powerful way to look at the aftermath of a mass shooting. It's profound and poignant, and the way it conveys the terror, sadness, and hope of its characters cannot be praised enough. 4.5+ stars.

(Also, this book is full of Young Frankenstein references, as if I could not love Giles or her characters more.)

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Friday, January 04, 2019

But I grew tired of seeing through you like the bottom of an empty glass: SORORITY.

SororitySorority by Genevieve Sly Crane

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The girls of the sorority house are a close-knit--if not particularly happy--group. That is until Margot's death. When she's found dead in the house, it changes things, and each girl must deal with Margot's passing and its aftermath in her own way.

Well, this was a weird one. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. We are introduced to the sorority girls in the first chapter by a "chorus," who tells us who lives in each room and a small bit about each one. Except for Margot's room, we're told; Margot is dead.

Then the following chapters detail a snippet of time in each girls' life. Some chapters may take place before Margot's death; others take place after. I was really glad I was reading a hardcopy, because at the start of each chapter, I had to flip back to that first chapter about all of the girls and find that girl's little paragraph or so blurb that introduced them. I could never keep any of them straight--perhaps because there was so many or maybe because most them didn't really stand out to me.

Because yes: I didn't really love this one. The short bits of time spent with each character make it hard to get attached to anyone. While we are technically following the thread of Margot's death, there's really no arc to the story. The book probably speaks to some higher meaning that I just didn't get. Instead it's a bit disturbing (some of the chapters are really awful), and no one is happy at all, which was really depressing. Sure, some of these dark glimpses into people's lives can be a little oddly fascinating, but honestly, it was often horrifying too. For me, it felt like the book was trying to be literary and clever and it just didn't work for me (or, more likely, I'm just not a good candidate for literary, smart books, ha).

For instance, was this one praising or mocking sororities? I really don't know. Margot's death seemed so pointless, so it certainly didn't seem to be doing the idea of sororities any favors. A lot of the book didn't seem to show the sisterhood in a good light. Yeah, I just didn't get it. I'm not sure exactly why I slogged through it, except that the full details of Margot's death aren't completely revealed until the end. I actually liked Margot the best, but she was dead, and yes, that probably sums up this book the best for me.

Overall, this one was too weird for me. I can do dark, but dark, strange, no real plot, and few characters with any redeemable value--it just didn't work for me. I'm sure it is enjoyable for others, especially those that don't need a real plot arc. And I do feel the need to point out that there's a trigger for self-harm, suicide, and eating disorders in this novel. 2.5 stars.

I received my copy of this book through one of my favorite websites,, where you can swap copies of all your favorite books (hardcover, paperback, and more). (And it's already back out in the world!)

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Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Let him loose where he can run free: AN ANONYMOUS GIRL.

An Anonymous GirlAn Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jessica Farris, age twenty-eight, is a makeup artist for Beauty Buzz. She lugs her giant makeup kit all around New York City doing makeup for other people who are living their dreams. As for Jess, she's heavily focused on money, as her parents are stressed trying to provide all the medical support they can for her disabled sister, Becky. Even worse, her Dad is about to lose his job. So when she sees one of her clients get a text where she could enroll in a psychology study, answer a few questions, and make some quick bucks, it sounds ideal. But the questions rapidly grow more intense and soon Jess is asked back for further questions and extra sessions. She then meets the doctor behind the study, Dr. Shields, and becomes caught her manipulative web of experimentation--and obsession.

So I liked THE WIFE BETWEEN US but didn't *love* it like so many people did, and hence I wasn't entirely sure about reading this one. I definitely enjoyed AN ANONYMOUS GIRL more. This author duo is certainly adept at writing very readable, very wild books that are hard to put down. I found myself stealing away during the chaos of Christmas Eve to finish this book.

The chapters alternate between Jess and Dr. Shields. Overall, Jess is just your average likeable gal who gets in over her head. I didn't adore her or anything; sometimes she irritated me a bit, but she was fine. My biggest pet peeve with this entire book was the fact that Dr. Shields chapters were written almost entirely in passive voice. This was obviously done as a literary device and part of her character, but ugh! After a while, I could barely take it. I felt like I was at work, reading all of my colleague's proposal sections, and I felt as if I was mentally correcting each sentence as I read it. Not fun.

But, I digress. It quickly becomes apparent that we cannot really trust anything that's happening in this one, which is fun. You know there has to be more to everyone's stories, and the book constantly had me guessing. There are a lot of nice twists thrown in, and unlike the authors' previous book, I didn't guess the main one right away, so I really enjoyed reading the story. It did stress me out a bit, though - sheesh! It's very crazy, very unbelievable (but in a good way), often quite creepy, but an enjoyable ride.

Overall, this is a fun, twisty thriller that lets you just suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride. It's different, a bit spooky, and interesting. 4 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 01/08/2019.

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