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Book Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Book Review: Night Film by Marisha PesslNight Film by Marisha Pessl
Published by Random House LLC on 2013-08-20
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Random House
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On a damp October night, the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. By all appearances her death is a suicide--but investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. Though much has been written about the dark and unsettling films of Ashley's father, Stanislas Cordova, very little is known about the man himself. As McGrath pieces together the mystery of Ashley's death, he is drawn deeper and deeper into the dark underbelly of New York City and the twisted world of Stanislas Cordova, and he begins to wonder--is he the next victim? In this novel, the dazzlingly inventive writer Marisha Pessl offers a breathtaking mystery that will hold you in suspense until the last page is turned.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’m not usually into mytery/thriller/suspense novels.  Granted, I have a few authors I follow pretty religiously (Ahem, Tana French, I’m so ready for your next), but mostly 10 years of reading James Patterson and Stuart Woods books pretty much put me off from the genre for the last few years.  When the buzz about Night Film started to emerge I took one look at the cover and dismissed the novel.  It didn’t appeal to me at all.  But then, something strange happened.

Have you ever looked at something and thought, nope, not interested, but then it lingers in the back of your mind and you start to think about wanting it and then that thinking turns into looking at it online…but then just before you decide to take the leap you worry that maybe you have built it up to be something it’s not and you dread the inevitable disappointment?  No? Yes? Beuller? Well, welcome to what my mind is like.  So I didn’t take the plunge, I didn’t make the purchase, but I did put the book on my wishlist.

No one got me it for Christmas.

So how did I finally manage to get to it?  Let me tell you a bit of a story (please, indulge me because a real review is coming up and this is necessary for me to review it).  I didn’t go to the library, I didn’t manage to win a gift card or stumble across it on paperback swap.  Nope. I went home for two weeks over Christmas/New Years (my folks home where I lived while going to school.  I haven’t been back since moving to Hawaii last May) and spent a total of 11 of my 14 days home there, looking at my beloved book shelves filled with books, and not noticing a thing until day 12.  On day 12 I noticed something odd.  A book in a strange place, right in the middle of a series. What was it?  Why it was an advance paperback copy of Night Film.  Weird, right?  It was the ONLY book that missed my change of address and so there it sat while I sat in Hawaii wondering whether I should finally take the plunge.

So I read the book during a 40 hour trip back to the islands. I devoured every word, sometimes more than once or even twice.  I pored over all of the “extras” inside.  And the entire time I was immersed in this book I kept thinking of the circumstances that led to it being in my hands.  You see, this book is about something dark and deep, but also it’s about being caught up in something that’s bigger than yourself.  And that’s what happened here.  Someone knew I wanted this book before I even knew it myself.  And so there it sat, waiting for me.  It’s so strange that I didn’t see it right away (my mother confirmed it arrived during the summer so it wasn’t a recent placement), because I am usually very in tune with my system and what’s on my shelves.

I loved Night Film, folks.  I mean… I loved it so much that I’m going to sit right here and type that it will be in my top five books of 2014, and the year has barely begun.  The amount of detail put into this story is unreal.  From the articles to the entire persona built up by Pessl – the atmosphere is set right away and not once does the pace slacken or let loose its grip on the reader.  I actually had to put down the book and just absorb some parts because so much happened in certain scenes that I needed to take time to process and remember what had come before.

So yes, Night Film is hands-down a favorite.  And now I know that I need to buy that hardcover edition – not just for myself but for the readers around me as well.  Marisha Pessl has a new fan right here and now I will add another author to that shelf that is anxiously awaiting my other favorite authors next releases.

Check out these reviews!

  • “This is an up all night book. I stayed up until 1 AM, in spite of an exam the next morning. And if that isn’t a testament to how good Night Film is, then I don’t really know what else to say—especially coming from me, as I rarely forgo sleep in favor of reading. ” – Respiring Thoughts
  • Night Film presents itself as a mystery, but it flirts with the occult and the horror in a way that reminded me of uncertain gothic novels. I was seduced and intrigued from the first scene, and I ended up entranced by it, pacing my reading to make it last. ” – The Infinite Curio
  • “[Pessl] just seemed to be having so much fun with it that even a wimpy reader like me (one who can’t watch even the campiest horror film) was swept up and enthralled with every dark turn of the author’s imagination.” – Reading the End

Book Review: Saving Paradise by Mike Bond

Saving Paradise by Mike Bond

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Mandevilla Press
  • Release Date:  11.20.2012

Affiliate Links:

        

When a beautiful journalist drowns mysteriously off Waikiki, Hawaii, Special Forces veteran Pono Hawkins, now a well-known surfer and international correspondent for surfing magazines, soon gets embroiled in trying to find out why she died. What he quickly learns makes him a target for murder or life in prison as a cabal of powerful corporations, foreign killers and crooked politicians places the blame on him. Haunted by memories of Afghanistan, and determined to protect the Hawaii he loves from dirty politics tied to huge destructive energy developments, Pono turns to Special Forces buddies and his own covert skills to fight his deadly enemies, trying both save himself and find her killers. Alive with the sights, sounds and history of Hawaii, SAVING PARADISE is also a deepy rich portrait of what Pono calls the seamy side of paradise, and an exciting thriller of politics, lies and remorseless murder.

I recommend:

My Review:

Since moving to Hawaii, I have been all about reading books by local authors.  I love immersing myself in the culture and I work to do that through reading, through conversing with my neighbors and friends, and through just living life here on O’ahu.  Mike Bond speaks with knowledge about the island, and life on the island; but he does so with a bit of an attitude that, frankly, turned me off quite a bit as I was trying to push myself through his story.  Saving Paradise is not so much a book about the investigation of a woman’s murder as much as it’s a diatribe against big businesses and the changes occurring on the islands.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am all for the preservation of the beautiful islands and the habitats they boast of.  I’m on the side of the whales, the seals, the sharks – basically the marine life… as well as the natural life that flourishes (and some that doesn’t) on the land.  I hate to see beauty marred by skyscrapers and signs of progression and, I can tell you from personal experience, living on O’ahu is one of the biggest disappointments and thrills of my life.  It’s paradise, but a dirty, sludgy paradise that I share with almost a million people in a 560 sq mile space.

Bond chose to make a novel his platform – railing against real companies and real issues facing the island in recent years.  He loudly speaks out against windfarms and the proposed line that would upset more than a few marine habitats and coral reefs.  He uses derogatory language to speak of current and past presidents and the government – both national and state levels.  And he does all of this through the mouthpiece of his character, Pono Hawkins, a retired special forces veteran.

It was difficult to believe that all of the hate coming out toward the people in power was purely fictional, and since real life was being pushed on me through the pages of Saving Paradise, it was difficult to lose myself in the story.  Instead, it became sort of a game to see who would be attacked next… and the mystery I lost complete interest in.  What I appreciated most about Saving Paradise was not its literary merit (there is none, really), nor it’s riveting story (hardly existed) – what I appreciated was the wealth of information about the islands.  Now I know that instead of visiting Kaua’i, I want to go to Moloka’i.  I want to visit that Chinese restaurant down on King Street here on O’ahu.  I want to experience life like an islander does – to live with the aloha spirit and to hang loose.

So while I am disappointed by not getting a good story, I do appreciate that I walked away from Saving Paradise with more information about my home since May.  I hope that I will come to love Hawai’i with the same passion and learn about my own special places that I can one day then turn around and share with another newcomer.

Check out what these bloggers had to say! 

Mystery Maven | Big Daddy’s Place | Mina’s Bookshelf

 

Book Review: Morning Glory by Sarah Jio

Morning Glory by Sarah Jio

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Plume
  • Release Date:  11.26.2013

Affiliate Links:

        

New York Times bestselling author Sarah Jio imagines life on Boat Street, a floating community on Seattle’s Lake Union—home to people of artistic spirit who for decades protect the dark secret of one startling night in 1959

Fleeing an East Coast life marred by tragedy, Ada Santorini takes up residence on houseboat number seven on Boat Street. She discovers a trunk left behind by Penny Wentworth, a young newlywed who lived on the boat half a century earlier. Ada longs to know her predecessor’s fate, but little suspects that Penny’s mysterious past and her own clouded future are destined to converge.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Morning Glory is my first novel by Sarah Jio in spite of having some of her previous books (The Violets of March and The Last Camellia) on my to-be-read list for quite some time.  Name recognition is a big pull for me, so when I picked up Morning Glory I made it a priority – I had to read something by Jio and this is where I would be starting.  The end result is enough pleasure that I am bumping up her other books and looking forward to reading them.  Still, Morning Glory was not quite perfect and in this review I’ll be discussing a few of the things I had a bit of an issue with (although, mind you, it wasn’t enough of an issue for this to be a negative review!)

One of the things I loved about Morning Glory was the sense of history that came attached to the story.  It started with page 1 and just wove its way throughout Penny and Ada’s respective stories.  Tie those stories in to one of the best settings (think Sleepless in Seattle and houseboats) and you have a heck of a story.  It’s not often when there is a split narrative (moving from the present to the past) that I get thoroughly engrossed in both stories, but that definitely happened during my time reading Morning Glory and I anxiously hurdled on to the end of the book, wanting to wrap everything up with a neat, tidy bow.

And everything did get wrapped up – but this is where my bit of a complaint comes in.  I’m so tired of contrived “coincidences.”  You know, those surprise twists that make it so that this person meets that person who was connected to them in this way and they all live happily ever after.  It’s unrealistic and detracts from the story for me and, unfortunately, instead of leaving a good ending where it was Jio chose to take that extra step.  It immediately left a bad taste in my mouth and, instead of feeling satisfied as I put the book down, I rolled my eyes and sighed.

So, if you take out the bit of the ending that caused me to feel as if I’d just read a juvenile piece of fiction, the rest of the book was fantastic.  The mystery was interesting and kept me going, the struggles of both women were ones that I could relate to (and possibly shed a few tears over), and the writing was cozy and immersive, making When we dress in a way that has even the potential to cause a man to lust, we create an unnecessary war against his soul. one of those books that you should probably pick up over your Christmas break for some feel good reads.

Check out what these bloggers had to say! 

Rainy Days and Mondays | Chick Lit Central | Mom With a Book

 

Book Review: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

  • Method of Obtaining: I obtained my copy from my local library.
  • Published by:  Razorbill
  • Release Date:  01.08.2013

Affiliate Links:

        

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.

I recommend:

My Review:


I really hate not liking a book.  Especially when that book has a fantastic cover and title and a great premise backing it up.  But this is the second time Brenna Yovanoff has tricked me into picking up a book with her pretty covers and interesting premises and the second time I’ve been disappointed by what I’ve read.  And folks, that breaks my heart, because I really, really wanted to love this book and I really wanted to love Yovanoff as a writer.  I kept making excuses all the way through Paper Valentine but finally, about 3/4ths of the way through, I decided to finish the book because I needed to finish it and not because I wanted to finish it.   My excuses ran dry.

There are several big issues that I have with Paper Valentine.  I’m going to go through them one at a time.  You may disagree with me – but as someone who reads a lot of books each year, I can tell you that there is a lot of great stuff and a lot of crap going through my hands at various times and you quickly learn to pick out what is just not good.

First: Hannah.  Where do I begin?  She’s haunted by the ghost of her best friend.  She seems to have no backbone, then suddenly has backbone.  She is into boys – but only those who seem to have hurt her at some point in her past.  She is so many fragments of so many different things that I had a major issue trying to just figure her out.  The real mystery of the story was “Who is Hannah” – because if I cannot identify with the main character, any other mysteries or strange happenings just don’t make sense to me.

Second: Hannah’s parents.  I know little about them except they sometimes cook together and her step-father has a sleeve tattoo.  Seriously – it’s mentioned at least three times.  I don’t know why this is relevant – is he some kind of badass?  Is he a cool guy? Does he represent something in Hannah’s life?  Where is her real father? How long have her mother and step-father been married?  Is Hannah’s younger sister a product of the marriage of Hannah’s mother and step-father?  These are valid, real questions and would have done wonders for fleshing out Hannah’s background.

Third: Lillian.  I get what Yovanoff is trying to do here with the guilty that Hannah is struggling with due to Lillian’s death but.. seriously, repeating the same things over and over does not make Lillian’s death more powerful.  It becomes redundant and feels like a gimmick.  Oh – Lillian died slowly, cue the tears.  Sound harsh?  Perhaps it is but I got so tired of reading the same lines (almost word for word) describing Lillian’s passing.  I wanted to know more about Lillian and why she ticked the way she ticked.  Why Hannah didn’t say anything. Why no one stepped in, even when the signs were visible, and most importantly, I wanted to see some kind of message on the right way to handle that situation if you ever see your friend experiencing it.  Not just guilt after all is said and done.

Fourth: The mystery/thriller section.  Okay, so I didn’t get the significance of the birds. Yeah, it’s creepy but it didn’t fit.  I could understand the constant descriptions of the heat – it set the mood (but mostly I just wanted to sit in front of a fan while I read the book).  And finally, I was beyond surprised when we went from knowing nothing about this murderer on the loose to when all of the sudden it seemed solved.  A mystery/thriller writer Yovanoff is not.  This would have been better off as an exploration of the issues that Hannah was dealing with as a result of the death of her friend.  The addition of a murder mystery plus all of the other elements put into the story was just too much.  Also – what was the point of the paper valentines??

So those are my issues.  Unfortunately, I cannot overlook them and so I will have to say that, unfortunately, I will not be picking up Yovanoff’s future books – no matter how pretty those covers are.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Cuddlebuggery | Library Lady | Respiring Thoughts

 

Book Tour: The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

  • Method of Obtaining: I obtained my copy TLC Tours.
  • Published by:  Pegasus Books
  • Release Date:  10.10.2013

Affiliate Links:

        

To Sam Blount, meeting Julia is the best thing that has ever happened to him.

Working at the local college and unsuccessful in his previous relationships, he’d been feeling troubled about his approaching fortieth birthday, “a great beast of a birthday,” as he sees it, but being with Julia makes him feel young and hopeful. Julia Stilwell, a freshman trying to come to terms with a recent tragedy that has stripped her of her greatest talent, is flattered by Sam’s attention. But their relationship is tested by a shy young man with a secret, Marcus Broley, who is also infatuated with Julia.

Told in alternating points of view, The Preservationist is the riveting tale of Julia and Sam’s relationship, which begins to unravel as the threat of violence approaches and Julia becomes less and less sure whom she can trust.

I also recommend:

My Review:


I thoroughly loved Finny by Justin Kramon. I remember it surprising me but I don’t remember exactly why it did.  Maybe it was the cover.  Regardless, Kramon’s name, when it showed up on a tour offering, rang a bell and I remembered having a love affair with his writing in Finny.  So I signed up for The Preservationist and waited until the right time came along to read it.  Folks, I don’t know why I waited.  I inhaled this book in a single afternoon.  Everything flooded back to me – the style of writing; the dry, sarcastic humor; the dark themes – it’s all there.  And, the cherry on top?  Finally an author who can write about music, classical music and technique, in an intelligent way.

Kramon switches perspective throughout The Preservationist but it’s not the normal, run of the mill, put the name at the start of the chapter, type of switching.  He doesn’t insult his readers, he knows we’re smart enough to pick up on what he’s doing, and I thoroughly appreciated that as I moved from one perspective to the other.  So what does that trust in the reader mean for the actual story?  It allows for a thriller that doesn’t give away the mystery; it gave me goosebumps as I struggled to understand just who did what.  Sam, Julia, Marcus… all three characters have their back stories and all three are flawed – more human that any character I’ve read as of late, and the result was some of the best storytelling I’ve read this year.

I’ve been reading more of the thriller/suspense genre this year – mostly because the stuff being put out is better than the average cookie-cutter type stories.  But Kramon’s story in The Preservationist takes the thriller idea to a new level.  This is a psychologically impacting book, yes, but it’s also a character study, and in a way, an essay on the realities of college life today.  Having recently experienced college as an adult this time around, I can testify that Kramon was spot on with his descriptions.  I felt like I knew of Julia (a girl like Julia would not have been in my social circle really – or any, she kind of lives on the outskirts).  I could put a face to Sam, and I knew Marcus’ type.

This is a book that will not disappoint.  You will laugh out loud even as the hair raises on the back of your neck – at least, I did.  If anything, if you pick this book up (and you should) you will be highly entertained… and that’s one of the best gifts a story and its author can give.

About the Author


Justin Kramon

Justin Kramon

Justin Kramon is the author of the novels Finny (Random House, 2010) and The Preservationist (Pegasus, 2013).

A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has published stories in Glimmer Train, Story Quarterly, Boulevard, Fence, TriQuarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, and others. He has received honors from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America, Best American Short Stories, the Hawthornden International Writers’ Fellowship, and the Bogliasco Foundation.

He has taught undergraduate and graduate fiction writing courses at Gotham Writers’ Workshop, Haverford College, the University of Iowa, Arcadia University, and elsewhere.

He lives in Philadelphia.

 

For more reviews on The Preservationist by Justin Kramon, please visit the book tour.

Book Review: This House is Haunted by John Boyne

This House is Haunted by John Boyne

  • Method of Obtaining: I obtained my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Doubleday
  • Release Date:  4.25.2013

Affiliate Links:

        

1867. Eliza Caine arrives in Norfolk to take up her position as governess at Gaudlin Hall on a dark and chilling night. As she makes her way across the station platform, a pair of invisible hands push her from behind into the path of an approaching train. She is only saved by the vigilance of a passing doctor.

When she finally arrives, shaken, at the hall she is greeted by the two children in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There are no parents, no adults at all, and no one to represent her mysterious employer. The children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, a second terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong.

From the moment she rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence which lives within Gaudlin’s walls. Eliza realises that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall’s long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past.

I also recommend:

My Review:


I’m a huge fan of gothic mysterious tales.  From classics by the Bronte sisters to more modern day gothic tales written by authors like Kate Morton, I admit to being an absolute sucker for them.  So it was with absolute glee that I requested access to This House is Haunted by John Boyne.  Let me tell you right now, I was not disappointed.  I laughed and loved every single minute of this story – and I am a scaredy-cat when it comes to truly scary stories so let me assure you that this one is not your typical run-of-the-mill ghost story.

This House is Haunted is what would happen if Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, and Wilkie Collins all got together and created a story-baby.  Throw in a bit of modern sensibilities through the use of incredibly witty writing and you will have this brilliant, fun book by John Boyne.  I thoroughly enjoyed having a heroine who not only recognized her plain looks … but repeatedly made reference to them in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way.  I loved the old-fashioned language, the poking fun at various customs, but also the independence of young Eliza Caine as she tries to ferret out just what is going on with her new employer.

Boyne draws heavily from Jane Eyre, and I think anyone will recognize that story as being a primary influence on This House is Haunted – but he twists the story a bit.  I’d be interested to see a companion book or sequel, however, similar to Wide Sargasso Sea, to get the other side of the story.  A bit of mystery, a bit of ghost, some twists that you can see coming but, still, make the story one that is thoroughly enjoyable – all of this is contained within the pages of Boyne’s gothic ghost story.

So what are you waiting for? When is the last time you were both intrigued, mystified, and amused by a gothic story?  Never?  Well then – pick up This House is Haunted by John Boyne.  I think this book might just be my favorite of the month.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Readful Things Blog | Caffeinated Life | Fiction is Like a Box of Chocolates

 

Book Review: The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

  • Method of Obtaining: I received a copy of this from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Viking Adult
  • Release Date:  5.28.2013

Affiliate Links:

        
Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes ofShadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.

I also recommend:

My Review:
I’ve noticed a lot of books that seem to carry the label “a booklovers book” in some way or form.  Basically, these books are just odes or sonnets to the bibliophile.  They prey on our love for old books and bindings, speak about the tantalizing smell of a well-worn book, and craft a story around the mysterious circumstances that can surround such a small, leather-bound thing.

The Bookman’s Tale is no different.  It took a gothic mystery with potential danger and married it to a beautiful love-story, full of tragedy on its own.  It spoke of rebinding old books as lovingly as I touch the spines on my precious hardcovers, and I felt immediately that I had a connection with the protagonist, Peter Byerly.  There really is no better formula when it comes to hooking me into a story.


I loved almost everything about this book.  I loved the tragic romance of Peter and flash-backs to better times.  I loved the dangerous mystery.  I loved the treatment of Shakespeare and all that jazz that goes hand in hand when talking about scholarly articles.  I loved the precious detail that was included on rebinding old treasures.  So, why do I say I loved almost everything?


As much as I hate to say it, the book was too long.  There were moments that dragged, and I think, if anything, the modern romance felt a little forced to me.  That may have been why the story dragged in parts – I’ve spent the last week or so since finishing this book trying to figure out what exactly made it drag and that’s the closest I can come.  But please, don’t let that deter you from checking it out yourself.  If you are a fan (like I am) of Carlos Ruiz Zafon, then I think this story will appeal to you greatly.


 Don’t just take my word on it! Check out these reviews as well:

Reading the Past | Blogcritics | Girl Lost in a Book

 

Book Review: If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Harper
  • Release Date:  6.4.2013
        

Magazine journalist McKenna Wright is chasing the latest urban folktale-the story of an unidentified woman who heroically pulled a teenaged boy from the subway tracks, seconds before an oncoming train. When McKenna locates a short video snippet that purportedly captures part of the incident, she thinks she has an edge on the competition scrambling to identify the mystery heroine.

She is shocked to discover that the woman in the video bears a strong resemblance to Susan Hauptmann, a close friend who disappeared without a trace a decade earlier. Investigating her disappearance, the NYPD concluded that the nomadic Susan-forced by her father into an early military life, floundering as an adult for a fixed identity-simply left town to start over again somewhere else.

But McKenna has always believed the truth went deeper than the police investigation ever reached, and sees Susan’s resurfacing as a sign that she wants to be found. Yet when she shares the image with her husband, Patrick, who was Susan’s classmate at West Point, he isn’t convinced.

What would have been a short-lived metro story sends McKenna on a dangerous search for the missing woman, a twisting journey through New York City that will force her to unearth long-buried truths much closer to home-to her own husband, who seems to know much more about Susan than McKenna could have ever imagined…

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’m fairly picky when it comes to thriller/suspense/mystery books. That said, when I see a new Alafair Burke book is coming out I feel pretty confident that, while I won’t necessarily be challenged by reading the book (like I would be reading, say.. The Silmarillion), I’m fairly certain that I will be entertained.  If You Were Here did not disappoint.

My biggest complaint when it comes to today’s suspense/thriller books is their formulaic nature.  Read one James Patterson book and chances are, you will know what will happen in every single one that comes after.  The main character or method of killing/intended killing may change but regardless, you know at some point about 3/4ths of the way through the book all will be revealed.  And, if you are anything like me, you will have figured it all out by then too.

What I like about Alafair Burke’s writing is she gives me something more.  It’s not all about the suspense or thriller, rather, there’s psychological stuff to figure out as well (that’s me being eloquent, it’s late, can you tell?).  I spent so much time trying to figure out the history of McKenna and Susan that by the time I remembered that I was supposed to be figuring out what was going on I felt like I’d been hit with a flurry of information.  The result?  Me frantically turning pages until 2am wanting to get to the end of the story so I could fall asleep.

So if you are tired of reading the same types of stories over and over and really don’t want to give up that suspense/thriller habit you have acquired over the years, I very much recommend that you pick up Alafair Burke’s books.  This one landed right smack dab in the “solid story” category for me, and that’s high praise.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Blogcritics | Jen’s Book Thoughts| Bookish

 

 

 

Book Review: The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon

The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by: William Morrow
  • Release Date:  1/2/2013
        

The summer of 1985 changed Reggie’s life. Thirteen, awkward, and without a father, she finds herself mixed up with her school’s outcasts-Charlie, the local detective’s son, and Tara, a goth kid who has a mental hold over Reggie and harbors a dark secret. That same summer a serial killer called Neptune begins kidnapping women. He leaves their severed hands on the police department steps and, five days later, displays their bodies around town. Just when Reggie needs her mother Vera-an ex-model with many “boyfriends” and a thirst for gin-the most, Vera’s hand is found on the steps. But after five days, there’s no body and Neptune disappears.

Now a successful architect who left her hometown behind after that horrific summer, Reggie doesn’t trust anyone and lives with few attachments. But when she gets a call from a homeless shelter saying that her mother has been found alive, Reggie must confront the ghosts of her past and find Neptune before he kills again.

Reason for Reading:
  • I’ve read Jennifer McMahon before and was interested in seeing what she has coming out.

I also recommend:

 

My Review:

The One I Left Behind is the second of Jennifer McMahon’s books that I’ve read and I have to say that, although I’m not a big fan of the suspense/mystery genre, McMahon does have a way of capturing my attention and propelling me quickly through her stories.

The One I Left Behind has two central themes: the first being that of the suspense/mystery – someone named “Neptune” is out there cutting the right hand off of women and then murdering them shortly after. The second theme is that of the relationship between a daughter and her mother (and aunt). There’s some issues there that, through the course of the book, need to be addressed and resolved.

McMahon continues to do what she does best in this book. She offers a no-frills, romping ride through clues and scary circumstances while offering glimpses into the life of her main character, Reggie, and letting her readers see how that character develops over time. Past and present are both touched and are pulled together in the end to provide a fun, interesting twist of events that (although somewhat predictable) was fun and fulfilling.

While this might prove a bit boring to someone who is thoroughly immersed in the genre, to someone like me who has spent very little time there in the past few years, it was new, fun, and something different to read. Also, I didn’t feel at any point like I was being treated like an idiot – which is why I had veered away from the genre to begin with.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

MarindaRue Can Read | The Book Pod | Minding Spot

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

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Reason for Reading:
  • I read Rebecca Stead’s, When You Reach Me and loved it.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

When seventh grader Georges (the S is silent) moves into a Brooklyn apartment building, he meets Safer, a twelve-year-old coffee-drinking loner and self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer’s first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: how far is too far to go for your only friend?

My Review:

I was already a fan of Rebecca Stead after her beautiful book, When You Reach Me. So when I saw Liar & Spy was coming out, I knew it would be something special.

My assumption was not wrong.

This little book reminded me of playing pretend, of dealing with bullies, of forging new friendships and dealing with change. With a quiet, leading voice, Rebecca takes her main character Georges (the S is silent) and leads the reader through a story filled with such small ups and downs that the ride seems like it’s going nowhere until the destination hits you and realization dawns. I don’t know how else to describe this journey.

Filled with surprises, revelations, and most of all, lessons about the importance of community and fellowship with other people – which includes the openness of mind to accept them, this is a middle-grade novel that, I suspect, will be knocking on the door of another award.

If you have middle-graders or contact to middle-graders, please recommend this book. It has such a story to tell and lessons to teach – but manages to be understanding and not preachy about those lessons. Most of all – it’s fun. I mean, what kid doesn’t imagine being in a spy club of sorts?

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

The Book Smugglers| Cheerful Book Reviews | Reading Everywhere

  • The publisher provided this review copy via NetGalley.
  • Published by: Random House Children’s Books
  • Release Date: 8/7/2012
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