Sunday, April 26, 2015

Everything I Never Told You

Book: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins this debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart.-Goodreads

Review: "Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." This is one of the strongest opening lines of any book I've ever read. This book is not a thriller or a murder mystery (what I initially thought based on something someone told me). This is a family drama that explores the Lee family in the 1970s. While there is love and friendship, there is also dysfunction, racism and misguided parenting that has devastating consequences. My heart absolutely broke for Lydia and her siblings. While I understood her parents motivations it was tragic how they were unable to truly "see" their own children. 

This book resonated with me on many levels. As a parent, it made me evaluate how I treat my children (am I pressuring my kids to do activities because of unrealized personal dreams? I don't think so but I ran the question by my husband just in case). It emphasized how important open communication is (of course, my kids are little and I can imagine there is no such thing as 'knowing everything' as they get older). Remembering my high school years, I understood Lydia's struggles to fit in (I'm sure every girl feels like this at some point in her life). 

The weakest part of this book was the ending. I'll avoid spoilers but I was not satisfied with how Ng decided to resolve Lydia's death. Even though I think she should have gone a different direction, this is a book I cannot stop thinking about. Strong read. 

Grade: 4/5

Night Film

Book: Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl

Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn't been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an engima. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father.

On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty.

For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid.

The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality.


Review: This book had the misfortune of being my first non-D.D. Warren thriller this month. I was used to the fast-paced "I cannot put this book down" feeling from that series and this book was very slow and boring. I like the concept of the book and Pessl's use of articles, photos and blurbs from blogs and webpages mixed in with traditional chapters, but I found McGrah unbelievable as a seasoned investigative journalist. He was quickly strapped with 2 sidekicks he didn't want (one of which had a big reveal toward the end that was obvious several hundred pages earlier) due to poor decision making. It seemed like almost everyone McGrath talked to immediately told him everything he wanted to know. At one point, he interrupts a college professor mid-lecture and the guy, after chastising McGrath, decides to stand there and answer all his questions. What?! The author also had a very bizarre habit of using italics throughout the book to get point across. Bizarre. It was seriously throughout the entire book, I kept wondering where the editor was. Seriously

Overall-an okay read. Had some decent creepy elements and I wish the ending was not so open ended. 

Grade: 2/5

Love You More

Book: Love You More
Series: Detective D.D. Warren #5/Tessa Leoni #1
Author: Lisa Gardner


One question, a split-second decision, and Brian Darby lies dead on the kitchen floor. His wife, state police trooper Tessa Leoni, claims to have shot him in self-defense, and bears the bruises to back up her tale. For veteran detective D. D. Warren it should be an open-and-shut case. But where is their six-year-old daughter?


As the homicide investigation ratchets into a frantic statewide search for a missing child, D. D. Warren must partner with former lover Bobby Dodge to break through the blue wall of police brotherhood, seeking to understand the inner workings of a trooper’s mind while also unearthing family secrets. Would a trained police officer truly shoot her own husband? And would a mother harm her own child?

. . . TO SAVE HER?

For Tessa Leoni, the worst has not yet happened. She is walking a tightrope, with nowhere to turn, no one to trust, as the clock ticks down to a terrifying deadline. She has one goal in sight, and she will use every ounce of her training, every trick at her disposal, to do what must be done. No sacrifice is too great, no action unthinkable. A mother knows who she loves. And all others will be made to pay.

Love you more . . .-Goodreads

Review: Another great book in the D.D. Warren series and it also serves as the first book in a new series, Tessa Leoni. Tessa's husband has been shot and killed. She's confessed to the crime and says it was self defense. Her child is missing and she claims she doesn't know where she is. Is she telling the truth about her husband's death and her child? D.D. does a good job working the case and not jumping to conclusions. Meanwhile, Tessa clearly has an agenda, but will she succeed? 

I really enjoyed this one and could see this being a fantastic mini-series or movie. There were a few instances where Tessa was extremely lucky (I'll avoid spoilers but there is an incident in the police car that required...let's just say several things to go exactly as planned). 

Overall-fun book!

Grade: 4/5

Live to Tell

Book: Live to Tell
Series: Detective D.D. Warren #4
Author: Lisa Gardner

A savage crime has rocked a working-class neighborhood of Boston; four members of a family have been brutally murdered. The father is lying in an intensive care unit, his survival in doubt. He is the principal suspect. Female police detective D.D. Warren, however, is not one to take things at face value. At the same time, Danielle Burton is about to have her life thrown into turmoil; a nurse whose life is at the service of her profession, she has tentatively recovered from a devastating family tragedy of decades before – and the investigation by Warren and her partner is about to throw Danielle’s life into chaos once again. There is one more angle to the triangle: the devotion of a mother, Victoria Oliver, to her disturbed son is about to be tested to the limit.-Goodreads

Review: Once again, Gardner is the master at multiple narratives. She pulled me into the story and I could not put this book down. Detective D.D. Warren was a much better investigator this time around (compared with the previous book) and the story was compelling. Almost 25 years ago, Danielle's father murdered her family and she was the lone survivor. Now, close to the anniversary, two other families have been massacred. Are they related to what happened to Danielle's family? This was fast paced and intense. This book addresses mentally ill children and it was both frightening and heartbreaking. 

Great read-This is officially one of my favorite series. 

Grade: 5/5

The Immortal Crown

Book: The Immortal Crown
Series: Age of X #2
Author: Richelle Meade

Gameboard of the Gods introduced religious investigator Justin March and Mae Koskinen, the beautiful supersoldier assigned to protect him. Together they have been charged with investigating reports of the supernatural and the return of the gods, both inside the Republic of United North America and out. With this highly classified knowledge comes a shocking revelation: Not only are the gods vying for human control, but the elect—special humans marked by the divine—are turning against one another in bloody fashion.

Their mission takes a new twist when they are assigned to a diplomatic delegation headed by Lucian Darling, Justin’s old friend and rival, going into Arcadia, the RUNA’s dangerous neighboring country. Here, in a society where women are commodities and religion is intertwined with government, Justin discovers powerful forces at work, even as he struggles to come to terms with his own reluctantly acquired deity.

Meanwhile, Mae—grudgingly posing as Justin’s concubine—has a secret mission of her own: finding the illegitimate niece her family smuggled away years ago. But with Justin and Mae resisting the resurgence of the gods in Arcadia, a reporter’s connection with someone close to Justin back home threatens to expose their mission—and with it the divine forces the government is determined to keep secret.-Goodreads

Review: This series has all the ingredients for an amazing story. The world building is fantastic and probably the most ambitious of all of Mead's series. Mae is an interesting character and I appreciate Justin's intellect. The religion and god mythology are intriguing. It's well written. I really wanted to love this, but I found myself bored with the story several times and felt like I had to force myself to finish it. I don't buy Justin and Mae as a romantic couple but I will definitely keep reading the series and hope the next book is better. 

Overall-I liked it. I bizarrely love this world more than another of the others Mead has created but the main characters are flat. 

Grade: 3/5

The Neighbor

Book: The Neighbor
Series: Detective DD Warren #3
Author: Lisa Gardner

This is what happened...

It was a case guaranteed to spark a media feeding frenzy--a young mother, blond and pretty, disappears without a trace from her South Boston home, leaving behind her four-year-old daughter as the only witness and her handsome, secretive husband as the prime suspect.

In the last six hours...

But from the moment Detective Sergeant D. D. Warren arrives at the Joneses’ snug little bungalow, she senses something off about the picture of wholesome normality the couple worked so hard to create. On the surface, Jason and Sandra Jones are like any other hardworking young couple raising a four-year-old child. But it is just under the surface that things grew murky.

Of the world as I knew it...

With the clock ticking on the life of a missing woman and the media firestorm building, Jason Jones seems more intent on destroying evidence and isolating his daughter than on searching for his “beloved” wife. Is the perfect husband trying to hide his guilt--or just trying to hide? And will the only witness to the crime be the killer’s next victim?-Goodreads

Review: While this is the 3rd book in the series, this is the first where Detective DD Warren plays a main role. I wasn't overly impressed with her investigation skills but Gardner excels are sucking me in with her multiple narratives. So, a lackluster lead detective didn't hurt this for me at all. I literally could not put this book down and read it in one sitting. This was 5 stars until the very end. The conclusion wrapped up too quickly for my taste but this was still a great thriller. Another huge plus-I was convinced I knew the mystery but was surprised that I didn't have it all figured out. 

Grade: 4.5/5

In Your Wildest Dreams

Book: In Your Wildest Dreams
Author: Toni Blake

The author of "The Red Diary" pens an irresistible erotic romance about a woman posing as an escort to find her sister, and the sexy bartender who helps her.-Goodreads

Review: After Stephanie's younger sister moves to New Orleans and is dumped by her boyfriend, she becomes an escort and disappears. Stephanie takes a leave of absence from her job in Chicago and goes undercover as an escort to try to track her down. She soon meets Jake, a sexy bartender who agrees to help find her sister. 

Overall, this was boring and I could not stand Stephanie. For someone that was supposed to be smart and successful, her uncover plan was not well thought out nor executed well. She had a hangup about sex and when it was finally revealed 'why' I just rolled my eyes. Jake was a more compelling character and I think this would have worked he was the narrator. 

Grade: 2/5

Still Alice

Book: Still Alice
Author: Lisa Genova

Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life--and her relationship with her family and the world--forever.

At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Judith Guest's Ordinary People.-Goodreads

Review: Still Alice, a story about a professor who has early onset Alzheimer's disease, was extremely moving. I laughed, I cried and I was terrified (I actually considered getting a genetic screening after finishing it). My heart broke for Alice, her husband and children. I was especially moved by the relationship between Alice and her youngest daughter, Lydia. Their relationship changes drastically from the beginning of the book toward the end, and I love this conversation they have:

"You're so beautiful," said Alice. "I'm so afraid of looking at you and not knowing who you are."
"I think that even if you don't know who I am someday, you'll still know that I love you."
"What if I see you, and I don't know that you're my daughter, and I don't know that you love me?"
"Then, I'll tell you that I do, and you'll believe me." 
   Alice liked that. But will I always love her? Does my love for her reside in my head or my heart? The scientist in her believed that emotion resulted from complex limbic brain circuitry, circuitry that was for her, at this very moment, trapped in the trenches of a battle in which there would be no survivors. The mother in her believed that the love she had for her daughter was safe from the mayhem in her mind, because it lived in her heart. 

A fantastic read. Highly recommended. 

Grade: 5/5 


Book: Use
Series: Songs of Perdition
Author: CD Reiss

In the end, did I stab him to be free of him? And free to what? F*ck? Snort? Party? Or free to be normal?

It was a very interesting situation, up there on Maundy,” Elliot said.

“Nothing like it in the world. It’s a safe place for people like me.”

“People like you? Can you be more specific?” He ran his finger on the edge of his blotter, and a chill went up my inner thighs.

“People like me means, I don’t know. F*ckers. We f*ck because it’s what we do. Bus drivers drive. Accountants account. Policemen police. I’m a f*cker. I f*ck.-Goodreads

Review: Another compelling read by CD Reiss. Fiona's finally remembers what happened that ill-fated night in the stables (it ties into events from Monica/Jonathon's story) and we finally meet Deacon. Elliot, Fiona' therapist, takes a darker turn and once again I could not put this down. The book ended on a slightly open ended note and I can't wait for the installment to come out (if there is one, not sure). 

Grade: 4/5


Book: Kick
Series: Songs of Perdition #1
Author: CD Reiss

Fiona Drazen, sex addict, submissive slave, celebutante, trapped in a mental ward until Dr. Elliot Chapman can help her remember why she's there. But once she does, she might not want to go home to the Master she tried to kill.-Goodreads

Review: Wow-this was great on so many levels. I was sucked into Fiona's story (which is not a Twilight/50 Shades rewrite like so many of the other erotica stories out there) and could not put this down. The story was unique, dark and compelling. Fiona is one of the most damaged heroine I've encountered and I don't see how this series will end. Fab!

Grade: 5/5