Reviewing the Unreviewed: January 2015

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. I thought I’d start doing a post once a month  with just the couple thoughts I shared on Good Reads.

Cross (Alex Cross, #12)

Cross (Alex Cross #12) by James Patterson. Read January 8-17. 3 stars. (This is also my hard copy book of the month that I borrowed from a friend at work!)

This is my first James Patterson book and I have to say I was a little disappointed in it. Maybe it’s because this is the 12th book in this series? I thought it was book #2 when I started it. I liked that the chapters were short and the story went pretty fast. However, I never really felt a connection to Alex and found any character development to be lacking. Though, again, this could be because it’s so far into the series and I haven’t read any other books. I was also expecting the writing to be a little more sophisticated then it was.

The Chance

The Chance by Karen Kingsbury. Read January 17-18. 3 stars.

Despite several unrealistic plot points, I really enjoyed this book. I liked that we got to see everyone’s point of view, though at times it was a little much. I loved the overall message of faith in God and forgiveness. And I LOVED Nolan Cook.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

As You Wish: The Inconceivable Tales from the making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes w/ Joe Layden. Read January 29-31. 3.5 stars.

The Princess Bride was always one of my favorite movies growing up and reading this book really made me want to watch it again. Then I realized I don’t own a copy (which is something that will soon be rectified) and it’s not on Netflix, either! Anyways, I enjoyed reading about some of the behind the scenes info. I love that almost every member of the cast still loves the movie to this day. So often you read about actors who hate their iconic roles because that’s what they’re known for, but Elwes says that he’s perfectly fine if “As You Wish” is written on his tombstone.

My only real problems with the book is that a lot of information seemed repetitive and often when someone was mentioned, a copy of his or her resume seemed to follow. While I loved the little anecdotes from other actors and the director included throughout the book, they were often oddly placed.

Overall, I found As You Wish to be enjoyable and it’s a must read for fans of the film!  

*************************************************************************

BACK ON THE TBR SHELF

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Stephanie Perkins and more. I had been looking forward to this book forever, but when I got it, the holidays were over and I just wasn’t interested in it anymore. Sad day. I’ll try requesting it again from the library next year. I did, however, read Rainbow Rowell’s NYE story (because how can I resist Rainbow Rowell) and rather enjoyed it!

*************************************************************************

DNF-ED

Ugly Girls

Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter. I thought this book sounded interesting, but I started reading it and right off the bat hated the characters and didn’t care for the writing. I thought about putting it back on the TBR shelf, but really, I just don’t see myself ever trying to read it again.

 

Review: What If by Rebecca Donovan

What If

Synopsis from Good Reads:

A new novel by the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Breathing Series . . .

What if you had a second chance to meet someone for the first time?

Cal Logan is shocked to see Nicole Bentley sitting across from him at a coffee shop thousands of miles from their hometown. After all, no one has seen or heard from her since they graduated over a year ago.

Except this girl isn’t Nicole.

She looks exactly like Cal’s shy childhood crush, but her name is Nyelle Preston and she has no idea who he is. This girl is impulsive and daring, her passion for life infectious. The complete opposite of Nicole. Cal finds himself utterly fascinated-and falling hard. But Nyelle is also extremely secretive. And the closer he comes to finding out what she’s hiding, the less he wants to know.

When the secrets from the past and present collide, one thing becomes clear: Nothing is what it seems.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

This book was so not for me. I found the characters super annoying and the plot very predictable.

First off, I’m going to try very hard not to say any spoilers because there is a specific note from the author where she asks not to reveal spoilers and ruin the story for other readers. She also suggests a re-read now that I know the ending and can connect all the dots. Which is a nice idea, but this isn’t exactly The Sixth Sense, you know? I don’t mean that the ending is like The Sixth Sense, but I remember watching that movie in high school and being shocked by the ending and having to watch it again to see all the scenes that I thought was one thing but turned out to be something different. In What If I got all the clues the first time. I saw the truth coming from far, far away.

Ok, so what can I say that’s non-spoilery? The book is told mainly through Cal’s 1st person POV, with each chapter ending in flashbacks from the point of view of Richelle or Nicole, his childhood friends that he’s since lost touch with. Cal is a nice enough guy, but he’s kind of wishy-washy, an idiot with girls, a little obsessive, and a little cowardly. He runs into this girl that looks almost exactly like his old friend Nicole, but her name is Nyelle and she doesn’t act like she recognizes him. They slowly become friends. She’s flakey and free-spirited, and maybe a little (or a lot) crazy.

The first thing that annoyed me in this book was that the first time  Cal talked to Nyelle he didn’t say something like, “Hey, you look so much like someone I used to know!” That would be natural. That’s what anyone would say. And over the course of the next couple hundred pages, he still never brings it up. His best friend from back home, Rae, comes to visit and she agrees this girl looks like Nicole, but she won’t bring it up either. They both suspect it to be the same girl, but don’t pursue it for the longest time. It was just pages and pages and pages of everyone avoiding the issue and Cal going along with whatever annoying, crazy thing Nyelle wants to do. And it just annoyed me to no end.

What did work for me was the alternating timeline. It’s done really well here, but maybe a little too well. I really wanted to read more of the flashback scenes instead of the present scenes. And maybe a little too much was revealed too early in the flashbacks because it was pretty easy to figure things out really early in the story.

Overall, this story just wasn’t for me. I found the characters annoying and the plot to reveal itself much too slowly. The characters kind of reminded me of the couple from Just One Day  that I really didn’t like, but a lot of other people did, so if you liked Just One Day, you may really like What If. I’m in the minority opinion about that book, so I might be in the minority opinion of this book, too! I was going to rate it lower, but I’m going to give What If two stars, just because I like the alternating timeline.

Overall Rating (out of 5)

2 stars

 

Review: The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

The Magician's Lie

Synopsis from Good Reads:

Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician’s Lie, a debut novel in which the country’s most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband’s murder –and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence.

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear.

But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free… and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors.

I found myself a little disappointed with this book. As much as I try not to let book comparisons influence my feelings, the main reason I wanted to read this book was the “Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus” comparison. I haven’t read Water for Elephants, but I saw the movie and wasn’t that impressed. However, The Night Circus is one of my favorite books ever. So  before I go any further, let me just say this: The Magician’s Lie is nothing at all like The Night Circus. Which isn’t a bad thing – unless you go in with the expectation that it is.

What worked for me in this book was the writing. I like multiple timeline stories when done well and I feel like it was done pretty well here. The majority of the book details Arden’s past and how she went from a child named Ada to the Amazing Arden illusionist. While not always the most likable character, Arden is very well developed. Though not given as much in depth information, I felt Holt was well developed, as well, and much more likable.

What didn’t work for me was the ending. I felt like I was supposed to be tricked along the way and shocked by the ending. However, I guessed the ending long before it was revealed and found much of the story leading up to it to be slow and drawn out. This wasn’t the mind-bending surprise I was hoping for.

Overall, The Magician’s Lie was an ok read for me. I think people who like historical novels or those that like information about magicians/illusionists might enjoy it, as long as you disregard the book comparisons. While the story wasn’t what I was expecting, I liked the writing and I’ll definitely be giving Macallister another try when she writes something else.

Rating (out of 5):

2 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Love to Read With My Book Club/If I Had A Book Club

2824d-toptentuesday2

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is: Ten Books I’d Love to Read With My Book Club/If I Had A Book Club (or you could pick a specific kind of book club — like if you had a YA book club or an adult book club or a science fiction book club etc.) I don’t have a book club and honestly I go back and forth on trying to find one in my area. I love books, obviously, and sharing my thoughts on them, but I don’t generally do well in group discussions. I’m usually far to quiet to be heard when I try to speak up and often just don’t want to. So for this exercise, I’m going to pick books I feel would have good discussion in my fictional book club where everyone is polite and no one talks over other people and everyone has their turn to speak, if they so choose.

Pride and Prejudice

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Of course there would need to be a classic book and there would need to be an Austen book! This is well known and there are many themes and character progressions to discuss! And of course we could then watch the mini series with Colin Firth afterwards.

Definitely, Maybe in Love (Definitely Maybe, #1)

2. Definitely, Maybe in Love by Ophelia London. After reading Pride and Prejudice, we would then read a modern retelling of it! We could discuss how faithful to the source material it was, what was different, what we expect in retellings.

Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman: Dispelling 10 Common Myths

3. Truth, Lies, and the Single Woman: Dispelling 10 Common Myths by Allison K. Flexer. We would need a non-fiction, reflective book. My fictional book club is comprised of both the chronically single and some in various states of marriage. We would discuss the myths, how they relate to us, what we believe.

Dangerous Girls

4. Dangerous Girls by Abigial Haas. We would definitely need some twisty, mind-screwing mystery that would have us discussing our suspects and our reactions to finding out the truth.

One Plus One

5. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. As contemporary women, we would of course need some Contemporary Women’s Fiction. This book provides many POVs to discuss.

Me Before You

6. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. We would also need something with a controversial topic that will make us question our own moral beliefs.

The Best Man (Blue Heron #1)

7. The Best Man by Kristan Higgins. We would need a good old romance to swoon over and give us a break from the heartache of the previous book!

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)

8. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. We would need a great YA series to fangirl over. This series has so many wonderful and complex characters to discuss and deconstruct! And love the crap out of!

The Night Circus

9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. We need something with just beautiful writing.

Attachments

10. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. We would each get to pick one of our all-time favorite books and make everyone else read it!

Would this be a book club you’d want to be part of? What books would you want to read in your perfect book club?

Review: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

The Forgotten Girls (Louise Rick, #7)

Synopsis from Good Reads:

In a forest in Denmark, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of an unidentified woman. A large scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. After four days, Louise Rick-the new commander of the Missing Persons Department-is still without answers. But when she releases a photo to the media, an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a “forgotten girl.” But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates over 30 years ago. As the investigation brings Louise closer to her childhood home, she uncovers more crimes that were committed-and hidden-in the forest, and finds a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Forgotten Girls will be available February 3, 2015.

What I didn’t realize when I requested this book from NetGalley was that there were previous books involving the same characters. According to GoodReads this is book #7 in the Louise Rick / Camilla Lind series. However, most of these books are in Danish and there are only four, including The Forgotten Girls, that have been translated into English. I was a little confused by this and was afraid I would be missing too much, but Blaedel kindly answered my question on Twitter and this is the first book in the Special Search Unit trilogy and can be read without reading any of her previous books. That said, there were still a few times that I worried I was missing something from previous books, but Blaedel did a great job of including enough background information and context that I never felt lost.

Louise Rick is starting a new job heading up a special search unit for missing persons. As most of us feel when starting new jobs, it starts out not being what she expected and is having second thoughts. This is especially true when she’s assigned a detective that she didn’t want, Eik Nordstrom, who she finds passed out in a bar on his first day. I enjoyed watching how their relationship changed and developed throughout the story. Louise starts out very closed off and almost cold and Eik seems like an extreme chain-smoking slacker, but the more they work together, the more their true characters are revealed and they end up working very well together. Their relationship outside of the office evolves, as well. They actually reminded me a lot of John Tomasetti and Kate Burkholder from the Kate Burkholder series which is probably one of the reasons I liked them so much.

Their first case is to identify a woman found dead in the woods near where Louise grew up. The woman has very distinct scarring and they figure it will be an easy case to solve. However, no one matching her description has been reported missing. After releasing the photo to the public, the woman is identified as Lise. She and her twin sister, Mette, so close they were often referred to as just Lisemette, were patients in a home for the mentally disabled. The twist is that Lisemette died thirty years ago. Once Lise is positively identified, Louise and Eik begin the search for her possibly still missing twin.

It took a few chapters for the story to really take off for me, but once it did I was hooked. There were lots of twists and turns throughout the book. Woven along with the mystery of Lisemette is a killer rapist on the loose. As Louise and Eik investigate Lisemette, they find themselves involved in the rapist investigation, which also has ties to Louise’s past.  There was also some definite darker themes. The twins, who were mentally disabled, were put into a home when they were three. It was heartbreaking to read the way the mentally disabled were treated back then. Parents just gave up raising their children and institutionalized them. They were then discouraged from visiting their children and they became known as “forgotten girls”.

In addition to Louise, we spend some time with her best friend, Camilla, who is a major bridezilla. As the stress of the wedding begins to wear on her, she dusts off her old journalist instincts and delves into the case Louise has told her about. I have to say for most of the book I didn’t really care for Camilla. However, once she stopped being so uptight about the wedding, she became a little more likable.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Forgotten Girls. Though there were a few times I felt some of the writing was a little lost in translation, the plot of the story really made up for it. I was surprised by the resolution of the central mystery and it left just enough of a cliffhanger about a mystery from Louise’s past that I will be eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. I’ll definitely be reading Blaedel’s other books in the meantime. I would recommend this to fans of mystery/crime novels.

Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

3.5 stars