Look Alive Twenty-Five (Stephanie Plum, #25)

⇒Apparently, Cinderella isn’t the only one leaving shoes behind and disappearing anymore. Trenton has a new kidnapper and, unfortunately, Stephanie Plum is on the case!⇐

Author: Janet Evanovich

(3.99 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Humor

Published November 13, 2018, by Putnam Pub Books

Format: Audiobook

Pages: 320 (Hardcover)


Once again, the key to true happiness is lowered expectations.

What do you love about your favorite literary characters? Are they intrepid travelers? Ultra-genius spies? Are they strong-willed detectives? Beautiful romantics?

Why does that particular character stand out to you? Are they creative problem-solvers? Handsome mavericks? Are they earthy survivalists or alien wise men/women? Are they powerful and heroic or freaky and flawed? Lovers or fighters?

Most consistent readers have at least one lit character that they label as a favorite for one reason or another. One of my faves is Stephanie Plum. Steph is the protagonist of Evanovich’s Plum series that began with the book One for the Money (You may have accidentally seen the 2012 movie adaptation of that book starring a brunette Katherine Heigl – if you did, I won’t judge you because I’ve seen it more than once). The reason I like Stephanie Plum is that she is quirky, energetic and ultimately average, but – when pushed – she becomes brave and heroic. Maybe I see a lot of who I am and who I’d like to be in her.

I’ve been following this Evanovich character from Book 1, so I feel like she and I are friends. I’ve made decisions on love and doughnuts for her (we agree on Boston Cream doughnuts, but she’s stubbornly resistant to my plans for her long-term hookup with Ranger), and her family and friends are as familiar to me as my own. That is why each time one of the Plum books is released I eagerly devour every chapter. Although my anticipation for Look Alive Twenty-Five was no different, my overall opinion at the end of the book definitely was.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb for Look Alive…
There’s nothing like a good deli and the Red River Deli in Trenton is one of the best. World famous for its pastrami, coleslaw and for its disappearing managers. Over the last month, three have vanished from the face of the earth, the only clue in each case is one shoe that’s been left behind. The police are baffled. Lula is convinced that it’s a case of alien abduction. Whatever it is, they’d better figure out what’s going on before they lose their new manager, Ms. Stephanie Plum.

Some readers characterize themselves as “mood readers”. When I’m not under blog or release-day deadlines, I’d say I fit into that category.  One of the reasons I look forward to these Plum books is because I can always count on them for genuine LOL comedy. That’s the feel-good mood that I want to be able to always count on. I want those actual, literal laugh-out-loud moments.

Stephanie’s antics and those of her friends and family – particularly Lula and Grandma Mazur – have sent me into side-splitting spasms. I mean happy tears rolling down my face and everything! I kept waiting for that moment to happen in LA25, but it never came. I was underwhelmed.

I’m like an inept pet, beloved but pretty much a disaster.

The story started off well enough – favorite characters in their true forms doing wackadoodle things and actually achieving little or nothing. Usually, that formula is hilarious; however, in this book the wacky seems more nonsensical than usual, and the buildup to action goes on for far longer than necessary.

So what could have made it better? Here are some of my unprofessional but I’m-seriously-invested suggestions:

  • More, more, more Grandma Mazur. She’s the sole source of so many LOL moments and this book needs more of them and her.
  • Less Wulf. Correction, no Wulf. He is annoying and even though I do get the Wicked series tie-ins, Wulf’s paranormal presence in all-too-real Trenton, New Jersey feels like too much of an incongruent twist when compared with the rest of the action.
  • Pacing. The daily grind for Stephanie and Lula at the deli feels too much like reading about someone’s whole day at a real job. That’s not why I read these books. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of why I read these books.
  • No car explosions! Did I miss a chapter? Usually, I can count on someone blowing up one of Stephanie’s cars in some dramatic fashion. But not in book #25. So disappointing.

Normally, I would be the very last person to have even one critical thing to say about one of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books; however, her latest effort left me wanting more (or less). Even so, I’m not yet soured on the series, and I am still looking forward to Book #26.

Read an excerpt of Look Alive Twenty-Five here.

(courtesy of evanovich.com)

Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, the Lizzy and Diesel series, twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels and Trouble Maker graphic novel, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, as well as the Fox and O’Hare series with co-author Lee Goldberg. 
(Bio from Goodreads)

A Court of Mist and Fury

by Sarah J Maas
(4.71 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 3, 2016, by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA

Format: Paperback

Page Count: 626

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)It had been a year since I had stalked through that labyrinth of snow and ice and killed a faerie with hate in my heart.

When I was growing up (in the 80s), little extravagances were luxuries. And one such extravagance was Neapolitan ice cream. Three flavors in one! No longer were you stuck with a choice of just chocolate or vanilla or strawberry (blech!) alone – you could have a combination of two or (gasp!) all three!!! One of the world’s greatest inventions: Neapolitan ice cream.

What in the world does Neapolitan ice cream have to do with A Court of Mist and Fury? It’s immediately where my goofy mind went as Feyre began to discover all of her many (and varied) High Fae powers. Because she was knit back together and resurrected Under the Mountain by power from all seven High Lords, she has a bit of each of their extensive abilities – command over water, air/wind, fire, the night/darkness, the day/light, the ability to shapeshift, and the ability to heal (among others). So, she not only became High Fae, she became Neapolitan High Fae!

You forgot that strength, and that you can burn and become darkness, and grow claws. You forgot. You stopped fighting.

OK, in all seriousness – and in the interest of somehow saving this crazy review – I really liked this sequel.

I wonder if – after the success of ACOTAR, Sarah J Maas sat down with George R R Martin and said, “George, how many pages can I stuff into one book before readers start to question my sanity (and their own)?” I have a pretty good idea that George would have topped her out around the 975 mark, which makes the 626-page A Court of Mist and Fury seem altogether manageable.

I had let them make me weak. Bent to it like some wild horse broken to the bit.

Quick summary: Feyre has survived the horrors of Amarantha and Under the Mountain and is living with Tamlin in the Spring Court. But she’s bored. She has things to do, parties to attend, her wedding to plan, but we know Feyre – she wants excitement and adventure! And that’s exactly what Tamlin wants to protect her from. Tamlin knows she’s had enough adventure and doesn’t want her forced to face any more danger. After all, she’s already being called Feyre the Cursebreaker by the people who are in awe of her. So he has to keep her safe for their sake and her own. Feyre’s still having nightmares about being a captive and let’s not forget that there is still the bargain struck with Rhysand to spend a week with him in the dreaded Night Court each month. A bargain that Feyre resents and Tamlin will do anything to break. Anything.

The issue isn’t whether he loved you, it’s how much. Too much. Love can be a poison.

Now, I’m not going to go into any more of the plot because, well… spoilers. But really, it gets juicy! We meet new heroes and new scarily powerful fae-folk. Feyre makes new friends and has to deal with old ones again (in new ways). And just when you thought that Amarantha was the dirtiest and most evil of all of Prythian’s enemies, here now enters Lord Hybern – the evil from which Amarantha’s evil was spawned. (ugh, he makes me want to spit just thinking about him).

I know, I know, this review is a bit all over the place, but for good reason. I’ve just only moments ago finished reading this book and my emotions are going all Willy Wonka right now! I’m satisfied that I finally read this monstrous tome and that it was good! I’m excited to get the next book maybe as soon as tomorrow in the mail. I’m anxious about how this story ended and the tenuous state of my beloved characters. And I’m angry that I ran out of words to read about them until the next book gets to me!

He thinks he’ll be remembered as the villain in the story. But I forgot to tell him that the villain is usually the person who locks up the maiden and throws away the key. He was the one who let me out.

YA fantasy fans will appreciate the careful world-building descriptions and back-stories. Love-starved (sex-starved?) adults will relish the intimate scenes (boom chick wow-wow! No, seriously, she doesn’t hold back in this one). And readers who love good books will recognize Sarah J Maas’s careful attention to detail and respect for the genre.

I’m typically not a bandwagon reader. I don’t immediately read the most popular, the most critically acclaimed, or the most tweeted-about titles just because 100 bookstagrammers are highlighting them in their shelfies. That’s probably apparent simply by the fact that it has taken me so long to even become interested in this series. You can also probably blame that on my infinitely long TBR list too. But when I finally do discover gems hidden in that ever-growing pile (which is rarer than you’d think), I like to give them my version of virtual all-hail, hands-raised, dirty-kneed genuflection – or rather, a great review.

Get it here: AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBoundBooks-a-millioniBookstoreKoboAudible, and Book Depository

About the Author

Sarah J. MaasWebsite






Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)




A Court of Thorns and Roses

by Sarah J. Maas
( 4.28 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 5, 2015, by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: Fiction / YA Fantasy / Romance

Format: Trade Paperback

Page Count: 448

thorns and rosesAll I had wanted — all I had dared want, was a life that was quiet, easy. Nothing more than that. Nothing extraordinary. But now… now…

Feyre Archeron is the sole provider for her household. Her father is crippled and her sisters are lazy and still clinging to ideals from their former lives as wealthy members of their society. But things have changed. Enough so that Feyre finds herself hunting in the woods in holey boots to bring home enough meat to keep her family alive. That’s when it happens. A dangerous predator. A well-aimed arrow. And now Feyre’s life has been irrevocably changed.

There are those who seek me a lifetime but never we meet, And those I kiss but who trample me beneath ungrateful feet.

ACOTAR – as it is commonly called – is a young adult (YA) fantasy book that, at first, was completely off of my radar. Primarily because YA isn’t my usual genre of choice, and also because (outside of A Game of Thrones) I haven’t read a whole lot of fantasy. Movies, yes. Books, no.

But despite that, I ran into a trade paperback version of this book in my local Goodwill store and decided to give it a try. I don’t regret that decision one bit.

At times I seem to favor the clever and the fair, But I bless all those who are brave enough to dare.

What initially pulled me in is that the book doesn’t immediately start off with people with pointy ears and tails. It begins as more-or-less a survival story. Feyre and her family have fallen on hard times and it’s up to her to not only protect them but to feed them and clothe them as well. She’s a young woman (late teens), so taking care of three other (mostly capable, but lazy) adults is a formidable task. But she does it. And she does it well.

I love a book with a strong female lead. I’m not the world’s best feminist by any means, but strong female characters make me feel like I could survive if I got dropped on a deserted island. Maybe.

Feyre is fierce and formidable. Even though she’s “only human” she is relentlessly brave.
However, even though Feyre is cunning and strong, as the story progresses and she enters the world of the faeries, we see that she sometimes makes unwise decisions. I always appreciate when an author is confident enough to make strong MCs fallible.
It’s her ability to survive those errors in judgment – sometimes not without help – that make the story compelling.

At times I seem to favor the clever and the fair, But I bless all those who are brave enough to dare.

Sarah J. Maas has dropped us into a world filled with beautiful flora, handsome men, and deadly enemies. And I loved it all.

A skilled writer, SJM’s buildup is slow and steady. Nothing is rushed, and that gives us time to get to know the characters, their motivations, and the complex world in which they exist. She writes so that we are constantly able to the see the world she has built as it surrounds us in the story. We’re never plopped into scenery that we have no basis of reference for.

Details are key in fantasy, and ACOTAR melds them perfectly into the story without it ever feeling like drudgery to read them.

By large, my ministrations are soft-handed and sweet, But scorned, I become a difficult beast to defeat.

You may have noticed that I’m not talking about the plot much. I know. That’s on purpose. The plot unfolded in a way that made me glad that I hadn’t previously read a lot of reviews and spoilers for it even though this book isn’t exactly new. I think readers who aren’t sure about exploring this world should definitely do it, but shouldn’t be spoiled on the nuances of it that ultimately pull you in.

For though each of my strikes lands a powerful blow, When I kill, I do it slow… 

I would recommend this book quickly and easily to lovers of YA fiction who love a good complicated romance along with their fantasy. I am not a young adult (anymore), but I still enjoyed the story, the skilled writing, the characters, and the promise of future adventure that will also appeal to series-lovers like myself.

I would also recommend it to those who appreciate a good bad-a$$ villain!

Get it here: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Half Price Books

About the Author

Sarah J. MaasWebsite






Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)



Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(4.17 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published September 12, 2017, by Penguin Press

Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 338

little firesAll up and down the street the houses looked like any other – but inside them were people who might be happy, or taking refuge, or steeling themselves to go out into the world, searching for something better.

I have movies that I watch whenever I see them listed on the guide as I’m scrolling past 1000 things I’m 100% not interested in. There are those few that I will always stop for: The Princess Bride (of course, it’s my favorite), The Fifth Element, Clueless, The Color Purple, The Holiday, and Chocolat.

That’s right, Chocolat – and not just because of Johnny Depp either! I get something from that movie every time I see it – a sense of adventure, of bucking the system, and a feeling of being inwardly powerful enough to affect a whole town just by being yourself.

If you’re not familiar with the story, Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk quite literally blow into the quiet, puritanical French town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes and immediately set up a chocolaterie (chocolate shop) – much to the dismay of several townspeople, including the town mayor, Comte de Reynaud. After all, what have these quiet, God-fearing people to do with chocolate? – And especially during Lent! They consider Vianne to be an immoral witch capable of leading them all astray into gluttony and sensuality all through the temptation of her delectable chocolates.

In the end, Vianne’s effect on the town is a marked one. She shows them all that sometimes old stodgy ways are just that, and that to be welcoming and nonjudgmental is sometimes all it takes to have a different and more positive outlook on life. Vianne’s free spirit doesn’t let her stay long in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, but we see that she made an impact that altered all the lives around her.

Now, you may be asking, what in the whole entire world does any of this have to do with Celeste Ng’s beautifully covered book, Little Fires Everywhere? Well, a lot actually.

In Ng’s book, Shaker Heights, Ohio is an idyllic town where Mrs. Richardson fits in perfectly with her husband and four children. Theirs is an orderly and purposeful world, where expectations are known and fulfilled for the most part (the youngest daughter, Izzy, does give Mrs. Richardson a run for her money). There are the usual community scandals occasionally, but nothing an orderly town like Shaker Heights can’t put to rights very quickly. That is, until two new tenants move into the Richardson’s rental duplex. Mia and her daughter blow into town and disrupt the status quo.

See the comparisons starting now?

I refuse to spoil this book for anyone, so I won’t disclose the events that lead up to some life-changing moments for every one of the characters. But I will say that, like Vianne Rocher, Mia Warren is that free-spirited soul – either by choice or necessity – dragging her daughter Pearl from city to city changing lives and making marks that cannot (should not?) be erased.

This book is better if it is revealed slowly, unfolded like the carefully tucked paper of a middle school note, or gradually developed like a photograph.

Celeste Ng writes what our hearts wish we could articulate about life, about intimate feelings and those ultimate longings that pull on us a little more every day. Little Fires is sincere and relevant; it will catch you by the heartstrings and hold on tight. You will feel emotionally tangled, angry, joyful, indecisive, and bitter. You may also find yourself battling with your own senses of conformity versus rebellion and wondering where you would fit into the juxtapositions of Shaker Heights society. And you will feel all those emotions because Ng is a master at her craft.

Politics, social norms, privilege, free-will, and the greater good all battle for scrutiny in this book, but all are deftly woven (without “preachery” or judgment) into the lives of this particular group of people who each – for better or worse – left a mark on me. I didn’t want their stories to end.

Five enthusiastic and well-earned stars for a book that I wanted to hold on to even after I’d read the last page. And, as you know, those are the good ones.

Get it here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Half Price Books

About the Author






Celeste Ng is the author of the bestselling novels Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

(Bio adapted from Goodreads)



Final Girls

by Riley Sager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

(3.8 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published July 11, 2017, by Dutton

Genre: Thriller / Mystery / Horror

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 342

final girls“Final Girl is film-geek speak for the last woman standing at the end of a horror movie.” We were, for whatever reason, the lucky ones who survived when no one else had. Pretty girls covered in blood.

It hadn’t all started with blood and horror. It had started with six college friends on an exciting trip to Pine Cottage. There was the usual: drinking and dancing and, oh yes, a little debauchery. But by the end of the night, Quincy was alone in the darkness of the woods, bleeding and running for her life.

Quincy Carpenter survived a bloody massacre. She’d had her 15 minutes of fame for it, and she’d survived that too. Now she was all about being “normal” again, whatever that meant.
But when an unexpected visitor shows up to remind her of a past she has spent a decade trying to forget, can anything ever be normal again?

Nothing is wrong. I’m completely normal. If I believe it enough, it’ll come true.

Final Girls is a taut crime thriller about one survivor’s reluctant journey into the truth of the tragedy that she refused to let define her. She is all but forced to face the past she’d been successfully able to forget about by a surprise visit from another sole-survivor: Sam, another final girl.
When Sam infiltrates Quincy’s life and guilts her into embracing that night’s horrific events, Quincy must decide if it’s the truth or a bed of lies that’s motivating Sam’s sudden friendship.

With an unreliable narrator and increasingly suspicious circumstances in every chapter, the reader is unsure about who to trust just as much as the main character is. Everyone seems to be under suspicion just as much as no one is.
This was my first book by this author, and it was a mighty fine introduction. It will hook you and keep you guessing – and second-guessing. Apparently Hollywood agrees as the book has been picked up by Universal Pictures in conjunction with Anonymous Content and Sugar23 for a motion picture adaptation.

About the Author

Riley SagerWebsite




Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.
Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, “Final Girls,” was a national and international bestseller that has been sold in 25 languages. A film version is being developed by Anonymous Content and Universal Pictures. His next book, “The Last Time I Lied,” will be published July 10, 2018.
A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.


The Weird Sisters

by Eleanor Brown
Rating: ⭐⭐

(3.36 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 20, 2011, by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam

Genre: Fiction / Literary Fiction

Format: Trade Paperback

Page Count: 374

weird sistersSisters keep secrets. Because sisters’ secrets are swords.

The small college town of Barnwell, OH welcomes back three of its native daughters whose lives are all in varying degrees of utter catastrophe. Rose, who never truly left home, but is feeling the pressure of a fiancé whose big dreams lie overseas. Bean, whose New York aspirations have ultimately grown into something nefarious and criminal. And Cordy, the youngest, whose Bohemian lifestyle has finally managed to catch up to her in one big long-term way.

Long ago she had thought bravery equaled wandering, the power was in the journey. Now she knew that, for her, it took no courage to leave; strength came from returning. Strength lay in staying.

Written in a type of omniscient first person/third person voice who is basically a conglomeration of the psyches of all three sisters, this story of the Andreas girls commences with a reunion – of a sort – at their childhood home after receiving news that their mother is ill.

Brown does a fine job of weaving us through the present and past, nicely transitioning us through prom dates and managerial meetings, untraditional grade school classes and grown-up career choices without jarring us with abrupt chapter changes and awkward character shifts. With so many main characters, you would think that one would take precedence or that another would fall by the wayside becoming a bit less developed than the others. However, that is not the case. Brown fleshes them all out equally. We learn their tastes, their vices, their singular sins, and their hearts’ desires. I didn’t personally connect with all of the characters, and that’s perfectly fine. If I had, I think I’d be characterized as quite a split personality. Brown made sure that these were sisters, but not triplets. They each had their own unique traits and eccentricities, which isn’t an easy accomplishment for any author.

I related most to Rose, the careful, mothering eldest sister who is always on time and can mend a hangover, but who also becomes irate over spilled water and lackadaisical attitudes. Like Rose, the callousness of her sisters often irritated me too. And I sympathized with her dilemma of having to choose between her dream career and the man she loves. And, like her too, I always like to have a box of tissues on hand.

Another reader may just as easily have been able to identify with one of the other sisters: The careless drifter who has just received a large dose of reality, or the middle child who was so sure that her escape from this small, sleepy town had been final.

I keep waiting to feel old, to feel like a grown-up, but I don’t yet. Do you think that’s the big secret adults keep from you? That you never feel like a grown-up?

Admitting that this book was a slow burn the entire way through is tough for me. I so wanted to immediately like it. I wanted to breeze through it and sit at the end thinking, “Wow, what a great read!” Sorry, that didn’t happen. It was often a sad, depressing, and disheartening look at the uncertainty and complexity of life. It stood as a reminder to me (as if I needed to be reminded) that being an adult is often fraught with sadness, dissatisfaction, and dangerous decisions.

We were fairly certain that if anyone made public the various and variegated ways in which being an adult sucked eggs, more people might opt out entirely.

Despite the enticing title, the sisters didn’t appear to be any weirder than any of the rest of us who are also tackling our day-to-day hills and valleys. They read books (hello). They quote Shakespeare (could have been movies, or poetry, or Game of Thrones). And they have each made messes of their lives in some way, shape or form (been there, done that).

The truth of the title lies a little to the left of “weird”. We think of someone who is weird as being strange, eccentric or a little off-kilter. But to Shakespeare, the word was actually “wyrd” and it meant fate. So his three weird sisters were considered goddesses of destiny; and in Macbeth, it was of the sinister kind. Since Brown’s three sisters were named for three of Shakespeare’s heroines, they also carry this mantle of unruly goings-on that may have been rightfully earned through this association.

We wear our names heavily. And though we have tried to escape their influence, they have seeped into us, and we find ourselves living their patterns again and again.

I could easily recommend this book to fans of family drama who don’t mind an angst-filled, guilt-ridden story that feels a little rehearsed and familiar. Nonetheless, it is well-written and the unique narrative voice adds a special perspective. However, I found myself plodding through portions of the text wishing for the good parts, or if that wasn’t possible, just an ending that didn’t make me regret picking up this book in the first place. And, in the end, I didn’t.

Get it here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Half Price Books

About the Author

Eleanor BrownWebsite





Eleanor Brown is the New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of The Weird SistersThe Light of Paris and the editor of the forthcoming anthology, A Paris All Your Own: Bestselling Women Writers on the City of Light. Her writing has been hailed by People magazine as “delightful” and “creative and original” by Library Journal. Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Eleanor now lives in Colorado.


The Child Finder

by Rene Denfeld
(4.04 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published September 5th, 2017 by Harper

Genre: Fiction – Mystery/Thriller

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 274

Have you ever been lost? ❞ ❝Oh yes, she answered… Once upon a time, before I can remember.

Naomi is an investigator who has found over 30 missing and/or abducted children and she is working on locating two more. At the same time, she is also piecing together the missing parts of her own mysterious discovery in the frozen woods of Oregon.

What I Liked: 
– The underlying mystery. This was a deceptively simple story, but the “creep” factor was boosted up to triple digits. The atmosphere of the book is about as potentially terrifying as the antagonist ultimately turns out to be.
– Naomi. The main character wasn’t anything cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill, or typical. At times, you wonder if you can even trust her. But you want to stick in there with her. You want to see her succeed – not just in her job – but in her life. Plus, you get the sense that the answers to her personal mystery are locked up inside her and you want to stay around to witness when it all unfolds.
– The supporting characters. Denfeld does a great job of placing a full cast of eccentric people around our main character, and she makes us care about all of them. Q: How is that possible in a book that is less than 300 pages? A: Skilled writing.

This is something I know: no matter how far you have run, no matter how long you have been lost, it is never too late to be found.

What I Didn’t Like 
– I didn’t like the uncomfortable feeling that I felt as “Snow Girl” told her story. No spoilers, it’s just that portions were very hard to read even though much of it was left to the imagination. And, apparently, my imagination went to some very dark places. I was sickened, angry, and distraught. BUT that’s exactly how I was supposed to feel. So, yeah, I didn’t like that feeling; however, it was necessary and Denfeld did an amazing job at conveying the disturbing mood present during those parts of the book.

What I Wanted More Of: 
– I wasn’t ready for the story to end. I, like one of the characters in the book, wanted to know what happens to everyone after the mystery is solved. I want that story too. Could this possibly become the first book in a series for Denfeld? Well… she’s very enigmatic about her writing plans so we may not know that until a release date is announced. Denfeld does have a new book scheduled for release on or around October 15, 2018 called The Strawberry Palace, but that one is categorized as a romance, so it’s probably not the sequel I’m hoping for. However, I sure would love to spend more time with Naomi and her friends.

**Triggers for sensitive readers include allusions to sexual abuse and violence against children. However, Denfeld is very sensitive to these subjects and doesn’t exploit them just for the sake of a good story.

In the years since, she had discovered the sacrament of life did not demand memory. Like a leaf that drank from the morning dew, you didn’t question the morning sunrise or the sweet taste on your mouth. You just drank.

Get it here: Amazon ; Kindle ; Barnes and Noble

My Absolute Darling

by Gabriel Tallent
(3.76 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published August 29th 2017 by Riverhead Books

Genre: Literary Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 417

My Absolute Darling
❝He comes within ten yards of her, spreads his arms wide, his presence here a terrible trespass,
and she loves this about him, sits looking at him, the wind whipping his long hair around his big,
handsome face, him broad-shouldered and enormous as ever.❞

Turtle Alveston lives with her father in a remote little house where everything is functional but is really in a rather broken down state of disrepair. Everything is. Nothing is quite as normal as it should be, but who can judge what normal is supposed to look like for a girl like Turtle?

There is a challenge in these pages. Turtle’s story is an open invitation to know something you aren’t supposed to know and to learn it in a way that makes you feel contemptible. If you accept the challenge, you have to put aside a part of yourself; enough to understand that some things happen that you’re aware of and you still can’t change.

That’s the feeling this book left me with. I felt sick with that feeling and that knowledge. After reading it, I don’t feel satisfied with a resolution. I only feel that maybe the darkness in Turtle’s life was lifted a little to gray.

… you are hard on me, but you are good for me, too, and I need that hardness in you. I need you to be hard on me, because I am no good for myself, and you make me do what I want to do but cannot do for myself; but still, but still – you are sometimes not careful…

**Sensitive readers should be warned that there are many specific triggers in this book that make it unpalatable. The author does not shy away from describing instances of sexual abuse and sadistic violence. In fact, those instances are written in a way that almost physically made me nauseated because of the careful and almost poetic prose.

This book was beautifully written. This style of writing is what some readers yearn for with every new title they pick up. Tallent’s descriptive technique had me reading and re-reading certain lines out loud just to hear them come off my tongue. He made it so easy to hear the cadence of the characters’ voices, see their environment, feel their chapped or sunburnt skin, and hear the world immediately around them. It was almost like listening to an audiobook while reading the page.

If this is what has made this book so popular – its masterfully constructed prose – then it is well-deserved. As for content, it is a rough read. There are no unicorns and rainbows to endear it to its readers. In that, it resembles its main character – beautiful, with no good right to be so.

No, she thinks. No, it cannot be that in the end of it all, I am like you. That cannot be. Those parts of you I turn from, I will turn from forever and I will not at the end of it find that I am like you.

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