Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell Fangirl. Finished 7-5-19, 4.5/5, YA, pub. 2013

Unabridged audio read by Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caulfield.  13 hours.

In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.  from Goodreads

I really got sucked into this book and was actually looking forward to my time driving Gage around for summer camps!  Cath was so very real, meaning that I identified with her and I wanted to shake her at the same time, as were all of the characters.  She and her twin sister were once very close, but the differences between them grew and now they are barely speaking.  Cath is not doing so well being thrown into the college life alone.  Good thing her roommate Reagan feels this way, “I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”

Cath was a popular fan fiction writer for a series that is loosely based on the Harry Potter series and excerpts from these stories was interspersed throughout the book.  I have to admit that was my least favorite part of the story, but I imagine if you like fan fiction it would be refreshing.  She is a talented writer, but thinks she needs the world already created for her.  Her professor tries to get her to spread her wings.

There were so many on point aspects to this young adult novel.  Being a social misfit, alcohol abuse, mental illness, plagiarism, friendship, and forgiveness just to name a few.  And did I mention there was a boy?  There’s a boy and he’s wonderful.  This was my first Rowell book and I can see why she’s so popular.

Pleased To Meet Me: Genes, Germs, and the Curious Forces That Make Us Who We Are by Bill Sullivan

Pleased to Meet Me: Genes, Germs, and t… Pleased To Meet Me. Finished 8-7-19, 4.5/5 stars, 335 pages, pub. 2019

I want to thank TLC Book Tours for asking me to participate and apologize for not getting this up last week when I should have.

Why are you attracted to a certain “type?” Why are you a morning person? Why do you vote the way you do? From a witty new voice in popular science comes a life-changing look at what makes you.

“I can’t believe I just said that.” “What possessed me to do that?” “What’s wrong with me?” We’re constantly seeking answers to these fundamental human questions, and now, science has the answers. Clever, relatable, and revealing, this eye-opening narrative from Indiana University School of Medicine professor Bill Sullivan explores why we do the things we do through the lens of genetics, microbiology, psychology, neurology, and family history. From what we love (and hate) to eat and who we vote for in political elections to when we lose our virginity and why some people find drugs so addicting, this illuminating book uses the latest scientific research to unveil the secrets of what makes us tick. Filled with fascinating insights–including how experiences that haunted our grandparents echo in our DNA, why the bacteria in our guts mess with our minds, and whether there really is a “murder gene”–this revolutionary book explains the hidden forces shaping who we are, pointing us on a path to how we might become our best selves.   from Goodreads

There is so much to unpack in this book.  First, I need to mention that it’s written with a lot of humor to make it more readable, especially the first half or so.  Second, any book that tells of the Kenny Rogers Seinfeld episode has already won me over.  Just so you know there is a scientific reason why I agree with Newman that broccoli is a vile weed.  Third, there’s a lot of information in here that I think women should be aware of BEFORE they get pregnant.  For reals, I felt that I failed Gage in so many ways just by what I ate or didn’t eat in pregnancy.  And lastly, this book attempts to make scientific studies fun and does a really good job.

I love when mainstream books make the gut-brain connection and that showed up here.  Your gut is your brain people.  This is an issue that I’ve studied quite a lot for Gage.  Many kids on the spectrum have compromised guts and healing them can go a long way in their future diagnosis.  And autism isn’t the only brain condition that this applies to, so I was glad to see it featured.  Grumpy old men is a real thing – who knew?  There was an interesting idea on the Chicago violence (hint-lead).  In the last bit of the book he talked about politically leanings and I was intrigued.  Just by looking at someone’s brain scan they can predict with 72% accuracy their political leanings.  (hint-conservatives scare more easily than liberals)  But both sides, once entrenched find it almost impossible to change because of the way our brains work.  Interesting stuff that explains a lot of what’s happening today.

This is a fun book with something for everyone.

How It Happened by Michael Koryta

Title: How It Happened, Author: Michael Koryta How It Happened. Finished audio 5-31-19, 4.5/5 stars, thriller, pub. 2018

Unabridged audio read by Robert Petkoff with Christine Lakin.  11 hours.

Kimberly Crepeaux is no good, a notorious jailhouse snitch, teen mother, and heroin addict whose petty crimes are well-known to the rural Maine community where she lives. So when she confesses to her role in the brutal murders of Jackie Pelletier and Ian Kelly, the daughter of a well-known local family and her sweetheart, the locals have little reason to believe her story.

Not Rob Barrett, the FBI investigator and interrogator specializing in telling a true confession from a falsehood. He’s been circling Kimberly and her conspirators for months, waiting for the right avenue to the truth, and has finally found it. He knows, as strongly as he’s known anything, that Kimberly’s story—a grisly, harrowing story of a hit and run fueled by dope and cheap beer that becomes a brutal stabbing in cold blood—is how it happened. But one thing remains elusive: where are Jackie and Ian’s bodies?   from Goodreads

“When you kill someone, you have two choices. The first one is to try to hide how you did it, which is what almost everyone does, and almost everyone gets caught. The second one is to show exactly how you did it – and then prove it couldn’t have happened that way.”

Rob Barrett got the confession he wanted.  For all the good it did him since it the evidence showed it to be a lie.  But Rob knows who did it and it doesn’t matter if he gets demoted and sent away to an FBI outpost he will find his way back to Maine and the truth.

I liked Rob’s backstory and his connection the the small Maine town and I was kept guessing, maybe not as much as who did it but how.  Not all things wrapped up happily, but enough to satisfy.   Koryta always comes through for me with his thrillers.

Run Away by Harlan Coben and meeting the man himself

Title: Run Away (B&N Exclusive Edition), Author: Harlan Coben Run Away. Finished 3-30-19, 4.5/5, thriller, 367 pages, pub. 2019

You’ve lost your daughter.

She’s addicted to drugs and to an abusive boyfriend. And she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to be found.

Then, by chance, you see her playing guitar in Central Park. But she’s not the girl you remember. This woman is living on the edge, frightened, and clearly in trouble.

You don’t stop to think. You approach her, beg her to come home.

She runs.

And you do the only thing a parent can do: you follow her into a dark and dangerous world you never knew existed. Before you know it, both your family and your life are on the line. And in order to protect your daughter from the evils of that world, you must face them head on.    from Goodreads

Harlan Coben is always a treat.  One of only a few authors who have gotten me to read all of their books.  I love the Myron Bolitar series best, but some of his standalones, like this one, stand out to me too.  What parent can’t relate in some way to the horror (or fear) of losing a child to the street and drugs?  As always, Coben always seems to have his hand on the pulse of what’s happening in current affairs.

I am not going to give away anything but the ending, lol.   The ending, while twisty, bothered me in so many ways.  These ways have nothing to do with his writing, but with my own feelings.  Jason just finished it and didn’t have the same reaction and he liked the cult storyline.   Have you read it?  Did that last twist affect your view of the whole book?

IMG_0282Harlan came to town and my mom and I went to the filled 600 seat stage that our central library has for the big time authors.  The event was happening on the first weekend of March Madness so it’s a real testament to his appeal that he was able to get so many men to come hear him speak.  As much as Jason loved him he told me it would be okay if I wanted to take my mother, haha.  So, I left him in peace and took my mom.  This is my second Harlan meeting, the first being in Houston about a dozen years ago.  He is always a witty delight.

 

 

 

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

Title: Lethal White (Cormoran Strike Series #4), Author: Robert GalbraithLethal White. Finished 5-3-19, 4.5/5 stars, mystery, pub. 2018

Cormoran Strike #4  (1-The Cuckoo’s Calling, 2-The Silkworm, 3-Career of Evil)

Unabridged audio read expertly by Robert Galbraith.  This man has become Strike for me and I will continue with the audios of this series for as long as he’s reading them.  22+ hours of listening.

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.     from Goodreads

I love Cormoran Strike and Robin too, mainly because of his feelings for her.  At the end of the last book (my least favorite of the series) Robin marries the easiest man to hate I’ve come across in a while.  I understand that they’d been together a long time, but she knew, we all knew, that he was not for her.  The fact that this book took place a year later and they were still married was perplexing, but I think it took that long for Robin to be strong enough to admit her mistakes.  Anyway, it’s a year later and she’s married and Cormoran has a very nice girlfriend.

The thing I love about Rowling’s mysteries (is there anyone who still doesn’t know that Galbraith is JK Rowling?) is that they are all so layered and complicated.  Strike can pull clues from all around and eventually put them altogether with help from Robin, who managed to go undercover a few times in this go round.  Actually Robin’s undercover activities were some of my favorite parts of the book.  Eventually, we think we know what happened, but there’s more.  All major loose ends were handled and the book ended perfectly.

I’m glad to see this rebound.  I gave the first two in the series 4.5 stars but the third only 3.5, so she’s back on track with this one.  I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Cormoran and Robin!

Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin and meeting the man himself!

IMG_E5464Last month Ian Rankin came to town and on a cold, snowy night and he had a packed house with fans that came from as far as Pennsylvania and New York.  I must again give a shout out to our library system, who always brings in the big names (this month I’m seeing Harlan Coben and next month Stephanie Evanovich and Heather Morris).  Anyway, I loved Ian’s first Rebus book and really wanted to spend an evening with a legit Scottish accent.  So my mom and I went (he is signing her book here).  He was delightful.  He spoke for about an hour and took a lot of questions, some very serious ones about current affairs, like Brexit, and managed to educate and entertain.

Title: Hide and Seek (Inspector John Rebus Series #2), Author: Ian Rankin Hide and Seek. Finished 3-7-19, 4.5/5 stars, mystery, 272 pages, pub. 1990

Book #2 in the Inspector Rebus series (1-Knots and Crosses)

A junkie lies dead in an Edinburgh squat, spreadeagled, cross-like on the floor, between two burned-down candles, a five-pointed star daubed on the wall above.

Just another dead addict – until John Rebus begins to chip away at the indifference, treachery, deceit and sleaze that lurks behind the facade of the Edinburgh familiar to tourists.

Only Rebus seems to care about a death which looks more like a murder every day, about a seductive danger he can almost taste, appealing to the darkest corners of his mind …    from Goodreads

So, Inspector Rebus is back.  I looked back at my thoughts on the first book and saw that I was concerned about how much alcohol everyone drank.  Well, I’m happy to say that Rebus, at least, was a bit more restrained.  It’s a year later and he has no contact with his family and his girlfriend is gone and he seems…okay?  He gets an invite to the big boys club and he takes it, if a little unwillingly.  He needs to sign off on an overdose and move on to a more cushy job, but he just can’t let it go.

When we met Ian I mentioned how much my mom enjoys dead bodies and he said that his series had a low body count.  That may be true later in the series (it’s over 20 now) but this one seemed to have its fair share of corpses.  All well deserved in my opinion.

As with the first book I love the Edinburgh setting and the often surly Inspector Rebus.  The plot will keep you reading, I promise.  I can’t wait to continue with this series.  And if you get a chance to hear Rankin speak, take it!

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Title: Still Me (Me Before You Trilogy Series #3), Author: Jojo MoyesStill Me. Finished audio 2-14-18, 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 20118

Unabridged audio read by Anna Acton, 13.5 hours

Third in a trilogy  1- Me Before You 2- After You

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She has been hired by the superrich Gopniks—Leonard and his unhappy, much younger second wife, Agnes—and finds herself amid a never-ending array of household staff and hangers-on. But Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her job and this very privileged New York life.

As Lou tries to keep the two sides of her world together, she finds herself carrying secrets—not all her own—that cause a catastrophic change in her circumstances. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?     from Goodreads

Louisa Clark is one of the best heroines in the last few years.  I fell in love with her infectious spirit and have loved seeing her grow into a confident career woman following dreams she didn’t even know she had.  The Louisa we cried with in Me Before You still had me shedding a tear or two in this one, but I’m left with all good feelings about her journey.

This one opens with Louisa moving across the pond to the Big Apple and taking a job as an assistant to a wealthy wife.  She is well suited to the job.  For some reason she thinks she can keep her boyfriend through the move, but the distance proves problematic.  This was no surprise, of course, and it did take the shine off Sam for me.  Alas, our girl is a little too good at her job and is fired.  And did I mention that she met a Will look-a-like who is interested in her?

I loved it and am sad to say good-bye to Louisa, even if we are leaving her in a good place.

 

 

 

 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Title: Where the Crawdads Sing, Author: Delia OwensWhere the Crawdads Sing. Finished audio 2-8-19, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2018

Unabridged audio read by Cassandra Campbell.  12 hours 12 minutes.

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.  from Goodreads

Down in the North Carolina low country there was a girl the locals called the marsh girl.  Abandoned by her mother, her siblings and then by her abusive father, before the age of ten she fended for herself trying to survive.  Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel take pity on her by providing her a way to earn money and giving her a few necessities and friendship. Kya was truly isolated in extreme poverty at a very young.  The social workers came around and they even got her to school one day, but never could find her after that.  She knew the marsh better than anyone.  Tate, who worked in the waters with his dad befriended her and taught her to read, but too soon he was off to college and Kya was alone again.

This is a beautiful debut novel.  The writing was therapeutic to someone holed up for the winter, say, someone like me.  Kya was a great character and one made richer after you’ve finished the novel and had time to reflect.  Her extreme isolation and poverty gave way to her extreme self-sufficiency and loneliness and all of this led to the prejudice that landed her as a murder defendant.  In what could have been just a sweeping coming of age story, there comes a turn that puts her in town and on display for all of those who have shunned her for years.

I loved it and Kya will surely be sticking with me for a while.

 

Liars’ Paradox by Taylor Stevens

Title: Liars' Paradox, Author: Taylor Stevens Liars’ Paradox. Finished 12-26-18, 4.5/5, thriller, 326 pages, pub. 2018

They live in the shadows, Jack and Jill, feuding twins who can never stop running. From earliest memory they’ve been taught to hide, to hunt, to survive. Their prowess is outdone only by Clare, who has always been mentor first and mother second. She trained them in the art of espionage, tested their skills in weaponry, surveillance, and sabotage, and sharpened their minds with nerve-wracking psychological games. As they grew older they came to question her motives, her methods–and her sanity . . .

Now twenty-six years old, the twins are trying to lead normal lives. But when Clare’s off-the-grid safehouse explodes and she goes missing, they’re forced to believe the unthinkable: Their mother’s paranoid delusions have been real all along. To find her, they’ll need to set aside their differences; to survive, they’ll have to draw on every skill she’s trained them to use. A twisted trail leads from the CIA, to the KGB, to an underground network of global assassins where hunters become the hunted.   from Goodreads

It’s been too long since I’ve read a book by Taylor Stevens.  I loved her Vanessa Michael Monroe series and am happy to report that I loved this start to a new series too.  Jack and Jill are twins with a complicated history and a rocky present, but their obligation to their mother forces them to come together and harness their skills.

I loved the family dynamic and international intrigue, somehow managing to make the Cold War into a love story.  Clare was a driven woman, who we saw through the lens of her kids who had believed her crazy most of their lives.  Jack was the favored child and Jill lashed out in all the ways she could.  When an assassin takes out one and comes for the other two, all hell breaks loose.

I can’t wait to get my eyes on the next one!!

When I received this to review I did a search of the blog to remind me of the first time I met Taylor at Bouchercon in 2012.  I had actually forgotten the Mary Higgin Clark story so I was happy to revisit the post.  Maybe you’ll get a chuckle too 😉

 

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

Title: On Second Thought, Author: Kristan HigginsOn Second Thought. Finished 12-14-18, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, 470 pages, pub. 2017

Ainsley O’Leary is so ready to get married—she’s even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn’t anticipate is being blindsided by a breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her older half sister, Kate, who’s struggling with a sudden loss of her own.

Kate’s always been the poised, self-assured sister, but becoming a newlywed—and a widow—in the space of four months overwhelms her. Though the sisters were never close, she starts to confide in Ainsley, especially when she learns her late husband was keeping a secret from her.

Despite the murky blended-family dynamic that’s always separated them, Ainsley’s and Kate’s heartaches bind their summer together when they come to terms with the inevitable imperfection of relationships and family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.    from Goodreads

I’ve read one series from Kristan Higgins and adored it (Blue Heron series) and thought I’d try one of her mainstream titles.  I loved this one.  Same humor, same tension, and same heart. I’m excited to read more of her standalone titles.

This is a story of two sisters sharing a father and a complicated family history.  Kate, after being labeled a spinster, loses her husband of four months to a freak accident.  Ainsley, who, like Kate, you rolled your eye at for a while, grew on you and by the end you wish you could be more like her.  These two sisters, who were never close, find themselves at a crossroads that they need each other to get through.  I loved them and their strange family dynamics, but more than that I loved the true friendship that developed through circumstance.

There were guys at the ready to help both women, of course.  The boss who noted every minute you were late and Daniel the hot firefighter (no, really, this is his name) were excellent additions and made happy endings more than a possibility.  I loved them both.

I recommend it.  But then I recommend everything she writes 🙂