Book Reviews by Ms Colson
One of us is Lying, by Karen M. McNamus
Genre: Young Adult Mystery / Thriller
The story: Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose?
Opinion: A good addition in this genre that kept me guessing until the end! I liked the characters, I liked the pace, I liked the story, and I thought the characters had some depth despite being stereotyped fairly heavily. Very enjoyable read - in fact I couldn't put it down.
The Dry, by Jane Harper
Genre: Thriller / Mystery
The story: After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead. Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.
Opinion: A fine novel in this genre, set in Australia during the worst drought ever, with a good pace and a few twists that keep you wondering until close to the end. The writing is also very good, descriptive when needed, and keeps you enthralled. I read this very fast as I was so engrossed in the story! I would definitely recommend this book.
To all the boys I've Loved Before, by Jenny Han
Genre: YA Romance / Chick Lit
The story: Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
Opinion: This book was chosen for our Book Club, which explains why I actually finished it. If I hadn't had to read it, I probably would have abandoned after a few chapters. I found the story insipid, slow, and the characters unrealistic and lacking depth. Overall, not my best read in this genre!
The Neapolitan Novels, by Elena Ferrante (My Brilliant Friend; The Story of a New Name; Those who Leave and Those who Stay'; The Story of the Lost Child)
Genre: Literary Fiction
The story: "My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila. "
Opinion: After a really gripping opening, I struggled to get into the story for a while. And suddenly, I was hooked. I wanted to know more about Lila and Lenu, their strange love-hate relationship, and what brings them together and separate them. The portrayal of Naples from the 1950s to now is fascinating, and the style of writing unusual, with some long sentences, some new characters introduced continuously, as if the book had never been edited.
This was a book chosen for our Book Club, and I am very glad because this is never a book I would have chosen for myself. I ended up buying the next book, and the next and the next... I just wanted to know what happens!
Lie to Me, by J.T Ellison
Genre: Psychological Thriller
The story: "Sutton and Ethan Montclair's idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her. Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel."
Opinion: Some great twists in the plot, but I grew a bit annoyed at the 2 main characters, who always seemed to be unable to make their minds up. Very much a love/hate relationship which I found a bit too repetitive in the book. Overall, this was a decent psychological thriller, even though I figured out the plot quite early on!
Rating: 5 /10
Since We Fell, by Denis Lehane
The story: "Rachel's husband adores her. When she hit rock bottom, he was there with her every step of the way as she slowly regained her confidence, and her sanity. But his mysterious behaviour forces her to probe for the truth about her beloved husband. How can she feel certain that she ever knew him? And was she right to ever trust him?"
Opinion: My first time reading a book by Dennis Lehane (author of Shutter Island), and it did live up to my expectations.
First of all, one thing to know about this book is that it is a long one.
The second thing to know about this book is that it is incredibly well written. Poetic at times. Eerie.
The third thing to know is that even if it was sold on the market as a psychological thriller, it felt more like a character study or a literary work of fiction than a real mystery. The story of Rachel is very interesting, in a way a lot more than the rest of the plot, and the ending was a bit disappointing. I did like the book, and it's made me want to read more from the same author.
Rating: 7/10 (but only because the ending was disappointing, otherwise it would have been 8!)
The One Memory of Flora Banks, by Emily Barr
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
The story: "Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora's brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend's boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora's fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life. "
Opinion: Ok, so this book was really confusing at first, mostly because the author wants to make the reader feel exactly the same way Flora does all the time. So on that level, great strategy, because I felt lost a few times!! However the story picks up and I did feel for Flora and felt compelled to see her go through her quest. A great twist in the plot came to top it all up. Overall, a good YA read.
Just Friends, by Tiffany Pitcock
Genre: YA Romance / Chick Lit
The story: "Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heart breaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth. With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all."
Opinion: I liked the idea of the story 'bad boy meets top of the class girl', but the writing put me off a little bit... (although it was written from alternative points of view, which I have to admit was a nice touch.) It was at times too descriptive, and the dialogues didn't feel like they were coming from the mouths of normal teenagers. And no surprise with the ending there! However, that said, Jenny and Chance were quite endearing characters and I grew attached to them as the book went on. Overall, OK read, but there's better YA Romance out there!
The Start of Me and You, by Emery Lord
Genre: YA Romance / Chick Lit
The story: "It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?"
Opinion: I really liked this story! I thought it was well written, the dialogues were at times hilarious, and I felt very entertained. The story is as much about making friends as it is about growing up and falling in love. A great read in this genre.
The Girl Before, by J.P. Delaney
Genre: Psychological thriller
The story: "Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection... but can you pay the price? Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there - and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma's past and Jane's present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession."
Opinion: I finished this book in 2 days! I was so taken with the story that I just kept going. That minimalist house seemed so intriguing, the architect a complete lunatic, and the sense of tension rising as the story unfolded was palpable. Really enjoyed that book!
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
The story: "Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life."
Opinion: I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book!!! I can't say it enough. It's been my best read of the year. I laughed, I cried, felt moved - I was just gripped by the story from beginning to end. The writing was amazing, I really felt like I was in Starr's head the whole time. I don't want to give too much away, so you'll just have to read it! HIGHLY recommended.
Sleeping in the Ground, by Peter Robinson (Inspector Banks series, Book 24)
The story: "At the doors of a charming country church, an unspeakable act destroys a wedding party. A huge manhunt ensues. The culprit is captured. The story is over.
Except it isn't. For Alan Banks, still struggling with a tragic loss of his own, there's something wrong about this case — something unresolved. Reteaming with profiler Jenny Fuller, the relentless detective deeper into the crime... deep enough to unearth long-buried secrets that reshape everything Banks thought he knew about the events outside that chapel."
Opinion: So as you can guess, since this is book 24, I am not new to this series! I have been reading these books for over 15 years, and I just HAVE to buy the new Alan Banks every time Peter Robinson publishes a new one in the series (which is pretty much one every year). I can't help it :) I love his writing, I love the characters, I love the Yorkshire Dales setting, and this story was particularly gripping, with a more than impressive opening scene!
If this is your first time trying a book featuring Alan Banks, I'd suggest you start with an earlier book in the series so that you get more of an idea of the whole back story. You won't regret it.
Need You Dead, by Peter James (Inspector Roy Grace series, Book 13)
Genre: Crime / Thriller
The story: "Lorna Belling, desperate to escape the marriage from hell, falls for the charms of another man who promises her the earth. But, as Lorna finds, life seldom follows the plans you’ve made. A chance photograph on a client’s mobile phone changes everything for her.
When the body of a woman is found in a bath in Brighton, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first it looks an open and shut case with a clear prime suspect. Then other scenarios begin to present themselves, each of them tantalizingly plausible, until, in a sudden turn of events, and to his utter disbelief, the case turns more sinister than Grace could ever have imagined."
Opinion: Awesome read from Peter James yet again. I'm so hooked on this series that I will just keep buying the new ones every time they come out! A very satisfying plot and some underlying tense atmosphere throughout the book, and a Roy Grace in great form.
Alex Approximately, by Jen Bennett
Genre: YA Romance
The story: "Bailey “Mink” Rydell has met the boy of her dreams. They share a love of films and talk all day – Alex is perfect. Well, apart from the fact that they’ve never actually met… and neither of them knows the other’s real name.
When Bailey moves to California to live with her dad, who happens to live in the same town as Alex, she decides to use her sleuthing skills to find him. But tracking someone down based on online conversations alone proves harder than Bailey thought, and with her irritating but charismatic colleague distracting her at every turn, will she ever get to meet the mysterious Alex? "
Opinion: A cool little chick read. Well written, the story progressed very nicely and the characters were pretty awesome. A good read in this genre.