Summer Reads

Hey y’all!

I thought I’d take a quick second to jump on here and update on my current reads! Currently I’m reading The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz, and I have almost finished it. The author was so nice to send me a copy to read and review, and I can confidently say I recommend this book without even finishing it yet. It’s such a great read, and it goes quickly. Andi is a wonderfully captivating writer and I know big things are coming her way!

I am also listening to My Story by Elizabeth Smart on my favorite audiobook app: OverDrive. It’s incredible to hear her real life story, especially since she is the narrator. What an incredibly brave and inspiring woman she is.

I tabled The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling for now. I will eventually return to it, but life is short and there are too many books I’m excited to read right now to pause too long on ones not holding my interest.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in New York City for a wedding. I made time to go check out Strand Bookstore and Books are Beautiful. Both of these stores are a Bookstagrammers dream, and I so enjoyed getting lost there. If you haven’t been into Strand Bookstore before, prepare to be blown away and possibly a bit overwhelmed.

Let me know what you’re reading this Summer in the comment section below!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Rediscovering Lois Duncan

I vividly remember being in middle school and hoarding every Lois Duncan book that came through our school’s library. She was my favorite writer and I inhaled her books in a way that I hadn’t from anyone else.

When I was in my favorite secondhand book store recently, I found two Lois Duncan books that I hadn’t read (or at least at my old age of 27, don’t remember reading). One was Ransom and one was Locked in Time. Of course I bought both of them.

Locked in Time was my favorite of the two. It was unlike any other story I’ve read before. It has it all- murder, mystery, and fantasy. The story is of a girl named Nore trying to accept her new stepfamily. The catch though, is that they are strange and full of secrets. There are constant references to the step-mother Lisette, step-brother Gabe, and step-sister Josie being from a different time period.

Lisette’s goal from the start was for Nore to die, so that no one would come looking for Chuck, and that she would be free to murder him and take his money.  Lisette sends Gabe out to take care of Nore by having her drown in the swamp, but it does not work and Nore survives. Nore knows she is in danger, but she cannot convince her father.

The story takes place in Louisiana- home of weird magical happenings. Nore is correct and Lisette and her children are in fact from a different time period many years ago. Lisette struck a deal with her first husband’s mistress, and in turn Lisette and her children would never age. Nore finds the evidence for this, but is never able to produce the evidence for her father though. When Chuck leaves on a business trip, Lisette attempts to end Nore’s life, but with the help of Gabe, Josie,and Nore’s friend, she survives. Gabe drives off with his mother, leaving Josie behind, and gets into a wreck killing himself and Lisette. Josie goes on to live with Nore and Chuck back in New York, and they put off telling him about the non-ageing Josie, until he figures it out for himself.

I finished this book in two days. It was exciting and different. The book is an easy read, and I highly recommend it. She wrote it in 1985, and it won several awards. The one most notable to me though is the 1988 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, since I am from South Carolina.

Ransom was also a good book, but I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed it like I enjoyed Locked in Time. It was written in 1966, and one thing I love about reading old books is immersing myself into the language and style of a different time period.

It is the story of five students held hostage while taking a bus home from school in New Mexico. There are three criminals, and they each play different roles; one in charge of phone calls and collecting ransom, one in charge of driving the students and getting them to the cabin where they are being held hostage, and one who plays the “motherly” role. The kids are all very different, one sociopathic all-american guy named Glenn and his brother Bruce, one loner named Dexter, one beautiful girl who has daddy-issues named Marianne, and one well-traveled, intelligent girl named Jesse.

While they are being ransomed for $15,000 each, the kids themselves are hatching a plan to escape. A couple of them are successful in escaping, and when one kidnapper comes after them in the car, he goes over a cliff, dying instantly. I call Glenn a sociopath, because throughout the book it is revealed to us that Glenn is not capable of loving anyone else, but he is capable of doing things like leaving a child to die after hitting him with his vehicle. Even Glenn’s parents have a moment between themselves in the book where they doubt Glenn would save the others if he could get himself out. (They were right).

The book shifts viewpoints between each of the hostage’s views, and the views of their parents. In the end, the same step-dad that Marianne has resented is the one who saves the day. It was a little predictable, but what makes this book so great is that this is such a chilling, realistic scenario. Lois Duncan does a great job at capturing a very real fear that most parents have when sending their kids to school, which is that something bad could happen to them.

The book was a bit rushed, especially at the beginning, but it was still a great read. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Young Adult fiction or any young adult that loves reading.

I’m so glad I picked these two books up. They helped remind me why I’ve always wanted to write Young Adult fiction. I hope that one day far into the future, people will read my books with the same fondness that I have for Lois Duncan’s books.

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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Smart Women- First Book Review of 2019

Good Morning!

I finished my first book of 2019 on Saturday, and I wanted to go ahead and write this while it was fresh on my mind.

Smart Women by Judy Blume was different from the only other adult appropriate book I have read by Judy Blume. Until I read, In the Unlikely Event (which I reviewed on here a while back), I only ever thought about Judy Blume being an other for children and pre-teens. I loved her books when I was little, so I was thrilled to learn she also writes books for adults.

Smart Women was definitely not a child’s book to put it mildly. It’s set in the early 1980s. There’s a lot of sex. At some times, I even thought it was a bit much. The book needs it though, because it is an integral part in how the characters progress.

There are several main characters, and each chapter comes from the perspective of a different person. The two main characters are Margo and B.B. They both are divorced and relocated to Colorado to start over. Their mutual friend Claire (on the verge of divorce throughout the whole book) is their mutual connection, but otherwise there isn’t much of a friendship between the two. B.B. (formerly Francine) has one living child, a preteen named Sara, and Margo has two teenagers Stuart and Michelle.

B.B. is a high-strung, type A personality who thinks everything is going perfect until her ex-husband moves to town and tosses her perfect world up in the air. B.B.’s world is not perfect, it hasn’t been; she is just good at pushing all of her emotions and the memory of her deceased son to the back of her mind. I mean, B.B. isn’t even her real name- that’s how far she’s gone to create a new life. In the end, it backfires on her and she ends up in a mental institution getting the help she desparately needs.

Margo is a loveable mess. She just wants to love and be loved, and she finds that in B.B.’s ex-husband Andrew. It is definitely a factor in B.B.’s eventual breakdown, but it certainly isn’t the reason. The two fall in love pretty quickly, and throughout the whole book I switched from being happy for her and sad for B.B.

The details aren’t as important as the theme of the book though, which is that in the end, a smart woman always knows what is good for her. The book revolves around love, divorce, and change. In the end, B.B. gets the help she needs, and Margo gets the love she deserves. Even the teenage girls go through lessons that require them to grow up sooner than necessary.

All in all, I thought it was a good book. I probably wouldn’t have read it if Judy Blume had not written it though. I don’t typically enjoy cheesy love stories, and while this had a lot of other themes, the main one was love and doing whatever was necessary to hold onto it. I think it felt a little cheesy because of when it was written more than anything, but even though it’s from the 1980s I think most women can still relate to the characters in the book.

I would recommend this if you’re looking for an easy read. It’s a fun book to relax with, and I’m glad I found it on the back of a shelf at my parent’s house.

NEW YEAR, NEW BOOKS

Happy New Year y’all!

I have made my “To Be Read List” for 2019, including the book I’m currently reading: Smart Women by Judy Blume. I’m planning to keep them next to my nightstand so that hopefully I can stay focused. I hope to finish these sixteen books well before the end of the year, so that I can add more to my list.

As y’all know my favorite types of books are mysteries/cozy mysteries but I did try to add a couple from other genres.

I’m excited for the New Year, and I’m especially excited for my new Bookstagram account!

 

Candy Cane Christmas

Christmas was Denise’s favorite holiday. That’s not unusual since it’s almost everyone’s favorite holiday, but her story was unusual. It was the Christmas season when her parents adopted her twenty years ago on December 21st, 1998. The anniversary of that with Christmas following soon after was always the best part of her year.

In the last two years though, she had lost both of her parents – one to cancer and one to what she can only describe as a broken heart. Since her Dad died in June, she had been dreading this Christmas season. That was, until around October when a little girl who was seven years old named Tiffany came through the agency she worked at. She was orphaned (both parents died in a plane crash) and had no other relatives to take care of her.

Denise worked at an adoption agency, because had it not been for an adoption agency helping, she never would have met the people who raised her. She wanted to give back, and she felt like this was how to do it.

When she met Tiffany, Denise felt an internal tugging to help. She had always planned to adopt, in a way of honoring her parents, but she planned to wait until she was married and a little older. After she heard Tiffany’s story though, she knew that it was her time now. So, she started the process of adoption (it tends to go quicker when the child is orphaned and when you work at an adoption agency). The Judge had planned to sign the official adoption order on December 19th, but Denise had explained the significance of the 21st, and they all agreed that it would be special to share that date together.

Tiffany had been living with Denise as a foster situation for a little over a month though. She was adjusting, but she didn’t come without issues. She had nightmares almost every night, and she was constantly anxious that something was going to happen to Denise. With everything Tiffany had been through, Denise told herself that it would just take a little bit of time.

The Judge did sign the Order of Adoption on December 21st, 2018, and the girls celebrated with a big lunch at Tiffany’s favorite restaurant in the city, followed by ice skating and a visit to see Santa. Denise was excited to help Santa out and give Tiffany the best Christmas she could afford on her salary. As they left, Tiffany stuffed several candy canes from Santa’s elf into Denise’s bag and took her hand. This little girl was so happy now, and so was she.

That next day Tiffany and Denise spent hours baking cookies and cakes for Christmas, and watching Christmas movies. Any doubts Denise had in the beginning about going forward with Tiffany’s adoption dissipated. She felt like nothing in the world could ruin this Christmas for them.

That night Tiffany had one of her nightmares again. It was different this time though, because once Denise woke her up Tiffany didn’t seem to snap out of it like she had every other time. Denise tried to go back to sleep, but she couldn’t get her mind to settle down. When Tiffany had one of her episodes, it always left Denise a little shaken. It was hard to describe, but her eyes were blank and she didn’t say anything when Denise tried to talk to her about it.

Denise went into the kitchen and made herself a glass of hot chocolate. She sat at the table stirring the marshmallows in her mug, wondering what she could say to help her.

Denise heard footsteps and turned around to see her new daughter in the doorway of the kitchen holding a sharpened candy cane.

“Merry Christmas” Tiffany hissed as she lifted the candy cane in the air and charged toward her.