A Review of One of Us Is Lying and Girl in the Blue Coat

These two audiobooks I listened to were absolutely amazing. Both of them get 5/5 stars, and it’s going to be hard to describe them.

One of Us Is Lying reminded me so much of Pretty Little Liars. It was a web of developed characters that tied together perfectly in the end. Each character had a secret that they didn’t dare tell, because they were terrified of what it would do to their futures. This book is a Young Adult mystery that is your classic “who dunnit” but in a high school world.

It begins with the death of Simon- an outcast aching to be accepted that runs a gossip app- and Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper all in detention. They all maintained being in detention because they were set up. Simon, who has a peanut allergy, dies from drinking from a glass found in the room.

The police immediately make everyone suspects, and one by one each student’s biggest secret comes out. I don’t want to give away the end if you haven’t read it, so I will just say that it took until near the very end for me to put loose ends together and figure out who actually killed Simon. Simon is a complex character whose sole desire was for each of the other main characters to be outed for their secrets. The group works their way through each of their own issues, and while doing so solves the mystery.

I highly recommend this book no matter your age. It’s full of twists and turns, and it’s a fun read. I was invested in it from the start right up until the last page.

Girl in the Blue Coat  is a story set in Amsterdam in 1943 during World War II. Our main character named Hanneke spends each day working at a funeral home, and also working on the black market. She is enlisted to help locate a girl who has gone missing from a secret room in the home of a lady she delivers goods to. Hanneke is still grief-stricken by the loss of her boyfriend, Bas, in the war, and I think that’s what drives her to help because she thinks if she finds her, then her guilt may subside.

Hanneke is taken on a journey over the course of a week that concludes with her solving the mystery. For me though, the point was not to find out what happened to the girl, or to bring her back; this book is about Hanneke’s internal struggle to forgive herself and also her journey of realizing what was happening in her country. She doesn’t seem as aware at the beginning of the book about what the Nazi’s were doing to the Jewish people, as she does at the end of the book. It’s odd, because she hates the Nazi’s because they killed her boyfriend, but she blames herself more than them for his death. She believes that if she had not encouraged him to join the military, then he would not have died. Through a lot of revelations from Bas’s brother and the events that unfold in the book, she begins to forgive herself and can see that she will have peace again one day.

The book started a little slow, but when it did pick up I was obsessed with it. The book and its history components were well researched and thoughtful. The events in the book have stuck with me long after I finished it, because while the characters are fiction, the War was real and the Nazi invasion was real. It was not a huge jump to think that this could have been a real event either.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading both of these. Let me know if you’ve read them also and what you thought!

Audiobook Reviews: Sadie and Camino Island

Happy Friday! I’ve listened to two new audiobooks recently, and I wanted to go ahead and review them for y’all!

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Sadie by Courtney Summers is a great young adult fiction book. I chose to forego the traditional read of this, and instead I went with the audiobook version through the app Overdrive. I am so happy that I chose to go with audiobook for this, because the way the book is written, it almost makes it better than to read it traditionally.

The book centers around a girl who goes missing while searching for her younger sister Maddie’s killer. The missing girl has a bad stutter, and the impact of it would not have been the same to just read it. The point of view shuffles between the missing girl and a man named West McCray, who is looking for her. West is a radio personality and was contacted by Sadie’s grandmother. He develops a podcast series about the girls Sadie and Maddie, and is always one to two steps behind Sadie in her quest. During the book, West hosts episodes of the podcast. I think I would have missed out on a lot by simply reading this book. It  was almost as if it was written with the specific intent to be listened to in audiobook version or to be made into a movie.  The story itself was great, it was full of emotion that tugs at your heart and makes you wonder what you would do if you found yourself in a similar situation with a sibling. Sadie is brave and a hero in her own, messed up way. The ending was abrupt, but I think it was supposed to be. The ending of Maddie’s life was abrupt, and whatever happened to Sadie should be seen as abrupt also. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys Young Adult Fiction, especially mystery.

John Grisham’s Camino Island is beautifully written, per usual for John Grisham. I like to always have an audiobook to listen to on my way to and from work. John Grisham is a writer I really respect, because I hope to follow a similar path in my writing and career.

In this book, a young novelist named Mercer is in a confusing time in her life not knowing what her next book will be about or how to pay for anything, is approached by a security team to help infiltrate the friendship circle of a group of writers that live on Camino Island, a beach where Mercer spent all of her summers growing up with her beloved grandmother Tessa. Mercer had not been back since her grandmother tragically died, and even more than just the money she is being paid for this operation, Mercer has benefited from being back at the beach. She does infiltrate the circle, and even gets romantically involved with the man she is trying to find out the real information on- a man named Bruce who not only owns the bookstore but also deals in rare, expensive books. The security team believes that Bruce has original manuscripts of books by F. Scott Fitzgerald, including The Great Gatsby, that were stolen from Princeton’s library. No one is expecting the danger that is headed to Camino Island, in the form of the original thieves of the manuscripts. Mercer is out of her league when it comes to solving this mystery, but she makes for a great heroine. The ending is great, because it isn’t what you’d imagine the tidy end to a mystery would be. It’s not tidy, but it’s brilliant. I really enjoyed this listen and would recommend it to anyone who a) loves John Grisham books and b) likes mysteries. He never fails to keep me at the edge of my seat.

 

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A Monday Two Octobers Ago

I write a lot of stories involving scary things on here, and especially since it is October people are watching and reading scary stories. Two Octobers ago though, I met the subject of many nightmares I’d have for the two years since then.

In October of 2016, a man followed me into an elevator at my law school and assaulted me. Today, I felt like writing it all down. It was mid morning, sunny and in the middle of a school building- not exactly a time where I felt like I needed to put my keys through my knuckles like a weapon. The man was arrested, but only after a camera got a view of him assaulting another woman a block away a couple of hours later. I remain very thankful that the City of Charleston’s officers worked quickly and that he was arrested the same night of the incident.

When he was sentenced, I learned that Bob Drayton, Jr. was a schizophrenic, homeless man who had suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. Every time I think of this happening, I try to remind myself of those facts about him so that I am slow to anger. I try instead to think about if he had not been born into the conditions he was clearly born in, that maybe he would have had a chance to turn out differently. It’s not an excuse for him, but rather an attempt at understanding how a human being could be formed into what I can only describe as hollow.

Without going through every movement and every detail of the assault itself, the best way I can describe this was that it was mind altering. I grew up in a small town where I knew everyone and everyone knew me. I was never in a situation that I was worried for my safety, and I never wondered if I would be harmed or overpowered by a man. I understand how rare that feeling is, and how lucky I am to have lived in that bubble for so long.

Physically, I was fine after this. I was shaken, but as far as physical injuries go, there weren’t any thankfully. Mentally though, since that day I have not been the same person. I am a skeptical person now. I do not see the best in people initially like I once did, and I frankly don’t like being around new people who I don’t know in settings without other people around. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable, and I feel like I constantly have to keep my guard up. He shattered my trusting nature that had always come so naturally to me.

I do not go on elevators with men I do not know anymore. If someone isn’t with me that I know, I will wait until the next elevator comes or I will take the stairs. I’m not sure that this is something I will ever stop doing at this point.

For a long time I was angry at myself that I did not hit him or kick him or do something to stop him, so that at least he wouldn’t have done it to the next girl. I always thought that if I was ever in a situation like that, I would fight hard and that I would be able to defend myself. In actuality I froze, and I was unable to protect myself. My first instinct was flight, and as soon as the elevator doors opened, I ran. He got away because of me, or at least that’s what I told myself in the months following it. You truly don’t know what you’ll do in a situation like that. After learning about all of his mental illnesses, I started to forgive myself slowly, realizing that had I attacked him it was not out of the question he could have had a knife or any other weapon on him that he could have pulled on me.

My anger shifted more into just being thankful that it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. The anger came back when he was sentenced. I wasn’t angry at the judge, or really even him- I was angry at the laws we have in place in South Carolina.

Ultimately, he was sentenced to three years in state prison, with credit for time served. When he was sentenced, he had been in custody for almost a year. When I spoke at his sentencing, where he plead guilty, I told the judge what happened and I asked that he be sentenced to the maximum amount he could be. The judge did sentence him to the maximum of three years, but first he expressed his annoyance that there was only a three-year maximum for this offense, when minor drug offenses carried much harsher minimum sentences. He implored me to try to make a change one day after I became a lawyer.

I have subsequently been pissed off since then at the lack of common sense sentencing guidelines. It is a slap in the face knowing that someone can steal your peace of mind and alter your view of the world you thought you lived in, and only have to serve two years of his three-year sentence. Our state needs to fix not only its mental health system, but many outdated laws and sentencing guidelines in our prison system.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to change the laws to make a physical/sexual assault worth more jail time. It seems like common sense to me, but quite frankly this isn’t an issue that men are prioritizing, because for them it doesn’t have to be a priority.

He is out roaming the streets of Charleston again now, because there is nothing to stop him from doing so. Since he had a record that was pages long before my incident, I assume there is no one helping him try to get his life in order by giving him the medicine he needs or keeping him out of trouble. He recently entered a store downtown that someone I know owns, and even though he isn’t allowed near the school again, I have no doubt that he frequents the bus stop right beside it. I also have no doubt that he will do this again to someone else.

Maybe one day I will get on an elevator again without immediately side-eyeing the person next to me, and maybe one day criminals in our state will at least serve their full sentence out, even if the sentence isn’t what it should be.