REVIEW: I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK by MICHELLE MCNAMARA

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What a ride this book was. I knew very little about the Golden State Killer (GSK) and the investigation behind it going in, and I finished the book with a newfound respect for homicide investigators. What a crazy search for this guy!

That being said, this book was full of incredibly information. I learned a lot about the police detectives, the seeming randomly targeted victims, the layout of the areas that the GSK attacked, and so much more. I was grossed out by it, but not because of the way it was written, just because of the crimes themselves. And yet, it was like a train wreck – awful to watch but you cannot look away.

The writing of this book felt choppy to me, though – the time frames jumped all over, there were too many detectives spoken of, and I got things mixed up. I was happy that I read it on paper so I could flip back and forth and figure out what year an event happened.

Because McNamara passed away tragically before the book was published, there are sections that were finished by her editor and pieced together from her notes. Those sections were harder for me to get through as they felt unfinished (probably because they were) and the writing was not in a similar style.

The book kept my interest, though, and I’m glad I read it.

REVIEW: NOVEMBER 9 by COLLEEN HOOVER

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3.5 stars rounded up to 4

I picked up November 9 during a major reading slump – nothing was making me turn pages quickly and I was getting really frustrated. Many people recommend Colleen Hoover to me in the past, so I thought that this was an opportune time to pick up one of her novels.

After the first couple of chapters, I felt absolutely captivated by the story. Not only was it reading really quickly, the concept of two strangers meeting up once a year every five years (without any contact in between) felt different from any other book I’ve read before. I also felt really connected to both of the characters – I love stories told from dual POV’s.

The book as a whole was definitely 4 stars for me – the storyline, the characters, their chemistry. But what I didn’t realize before going into this book was how sexually graphic it would be in comparison the majority of novels that I read (my fault for not realizing that the book is classified as romance). For my personal taste, it was really overdone, and I found myself skipping over the sex scenes. They did not add to the story for me.

I also struggled with the age of the characters and just how unbelievable their interactions were for people their age – they spoke as though they were late 20’s, but their ages span from 18-23 as the book goes on. I know I should throw realism to the side when reading a romance novel, but I found some of the cheesiness to be eye roll worthy and their conversations to be far more romantic/deep than what people their age have.

Overall, a solid read. Not sure if I will read the other CoHo’s that I own for a while, but I’ll definitely save them for a reading slump when I need a fast paced book to bring me back!

REVIEW: FIVE FEET APART by RACHAEL LIPPINCOTT

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“Everyone in this world is breathing borrowed air.” Rachael Lippincott, Five Feet Apart

I have to give a little bit of a preamble before I get into this review. Firstly, I want to point out that I do not know anyone on a personal level with cystic fibrosis. Secondly, I am writing this review based off the way that this book made me feel, not based off of its medical accuracy or how realistic the story was. That being said, this book was a solid 4.5/5 stars for me.

I read this book in the middle of what us readers call a “reading slump”…for me, a reading slump means that I find myself doing unnecessary household tasks instead of reading my book. After about a week of that, I picked up Five Feet Apart in hopes of finding a story that captivated me. I can happily say that it did exactly that and more!

This story possessed strong, relatable characters that felt like friends by the end of it. I could see so much of myself in Stella and her desire to do everything right to keep herself alive (where are my other enneagram 1’s at?). And I also saw so much of my husband in Will, a kid who gave up trying simply because he was tired of being told what to do. An unlikely pair, maybe, but their differences and chemistry made for a good ole tug at your heartstrings young adult masterpiece.

The story was written in dual POV and, while that can sometimes be overwhelming for me in a book, Five Feet Apart mastered it by allowing us to get into the head of each character without overlapping the story. I liked how one chapter would end in Stella’s perspective and pick up seconds later in Will’s. The story flowed seamlessly and allowed me to feel like I was friends with both of the main characters, just doing life by their side. I felt a great amount of affection for both Will and Stella and was able to connect with their ups, downs, triumphs and frustrations.

The most gut wrenching part of this story for me was learning just how isolating cystic fibrosis is. The story really brought to life the struggle of not being able to show any physical affection toward the only people who know what you’re combatting on a daily basis. I have the luxury of not having to live with something so isolating, and feeling the emotions that Will and Stella and Poe feel through the book really shattered my soul. The world really needs to know more about this disease and work toward a cure.

Any book that can evoke so much emotion from me is a win in my book. I am not one to cry while reading, but this one definitely filled my eyes with tears more than once. I learned so much, felt so much, and will absolutely recommend this one to everyone who enjoys a good story.

REVIEW: THE KALEIDOSCOPE SISTERS by RONNIE K. STEPHENS

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4/5 stars

This book, folks. This book broke my heart in so many ways. I chose to read this in February for congenital heart disease awareness month, and I’m so grateful that I did.

This book taught me so much about what life would be like to live with someone with a heart defect – a harsh reality that I have had the privilege of not having to face. I was so connected to the characters and saw a little bit of myself in both Quinn and Riley. Quinn is mature, selfless, responsible and kind, while Riley is strong, loving, and hates being tiptoed around when it comes to talking about her illness.

While I am not usually a fan of any type of story that takes place out of this world, I admired the way that the two worlds intertwined so flawlessly in this story. I also loved that the dimension that Quinn found herself in wasn’t too difficult to understand, never left me feeling confused, and was described in a dream like way. The chapters alternating between reality and the world that Quinn discovered flowed seamlessly and kept me wanting to read it – if I got somewhat bored with one world, I would be very interested in the next.

My favorite part of the entire story was the relationship between the two sisters. What a beautiful representation of the bond that two siblings can have. As someone who doesn’t have a sister, I was able to see what life would be like with one. I love an unrelenting hero and Quinn did this perfectly.

My heart trumped for Quinn and for Riley, but it broke for their their mother. Having a child who is sick from the start cannot be easy for anyone, but as a single mom, she really went through the ringer. Her strength and strong character showed in not only herself but in the daughters she raised as well – a wonderful legacy to leave.

REVIEW: TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET by KAREN MCMANUS

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I don’t usually run to the bookstore (or Amazon) to order a book right when it comes out. After binge reading Karen McManus’ One of Us is Lying last summer, I knew that I had to get my hands on her new release, Two Can Keep a Secret. It showed up in my mailbox so I put everything I was reading aside and I started it that same night!

I loved this one just as much as One of Us is Lying but for different reasons. Two Can Keep a Secret is told from two rotating viewpoints of two characters that I absolutely adored – and this is McManus’ strongpoint. While each of the lead characters had their flaws, they both were lovable for different reasons. They had relatable characteristics, raw thoughts, and all of the qualities I would want in a friend.

The supporting characters in the story remained slightly mysterious and that helped to build suspense. While they were incredibly important to the storyline, they were just enough in the background that I was able to focus on the main characters. I enjoyed seeing them develop and watching how they played into the story.

The last thing that I really enjoyed about this story was the romance that came into play. It felt really natural and unforced and I was totally rooting for it! I usually don’t care for unnecessary romance in books, but this one felt just right.

The only reason I took off a star is because I was able to guess the ending, but that didn’t make it any less satisfying. Will definitely read the next one McManus comes out with! 4 out of 5 stars.

REVIEW: THE EXPEDITION by CHRIS BABU

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*I was given this book courtesy of TLC Book Tours and the author in exchange for an honest review*

I am going to start off saying that I have read very, very little dystopian in my day. Not because I don’t like it, but just because I am not drawn to it. I consider myself to be a slightly paranoid person, so reading about a future that could potentially happen can give me the creeps. This one, however, didn’t scare me, and I liked that about it. I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

This book picks up right off where The Initiation left off, with the new members of the bureau headed on a mission to see if there is life outside of “New America”. Four 16 year old kids are expected to lead themselves and several armed guards on a mission from the old New York City to Boston. Fearing that they will catch the superbug that wiped out most of humanity, fighting for their lives takes on a whole new meaning as they struggle to make it to Boston alive.

The characters in this book are really well fleshed out, and I felt like I connected with them more in this sequel than I did in the first book. I found myself holding my breath when one of my favorite characters was in jeopardy and sighing relief when they turned out to be okay. I could identify with different characteristics in most of them, and also find characteristics in them that I aspire to be.

The storyline itself is relatively strong, keeping me engaged and guessing. I actually found some aspects of this book keeping me more on edge than a few thrillers I have read lately but without the spooky vibes that a thriller can bring. I enjoyed the imagery in this book; I felt like I could see the wreckage that America would be a few decades after civilization crumbled apart.

I took off one star because the dialogue in the book was incredibly cheesy, to the point where it was distracting at times. The characters use a variety of their own curse words, calling each other “flunks” and saying “oh shkat.” While I definitely appreciate an author that cleans up the language for a YA novel, I found these variations irritating.

I took one other star because the of the pacing of the book. When the storyline picked up and started going, it REALLY went quickly. I read 150 pages one day because I couldn’t put it down. But I found myself dragging through and skimming on the days where it went slowly as I was reading about the awkward romance between two of the main characters, the descriptions of the maps the characters were reading, etc.

Overall, I recommend this series to anyone who likes YA dystopian. I also think it would be great for younger readers that are just starting to read dystopian because of the clean language and the easy to follow storyline.

REVIEW: THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by MACKENZI LEE

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I am so glad that I picked this book up! It made me laugh out loud in public and feel so much love for exceptionally flawed characters – something that I haven’t felt for many books prior.

The main character, Monty, is an 18 year old piece of work troublemaker that gets into all kinds of trouble, like running through Versailles naked and getting purposefully getting arrested. He is taking what we would now call a “gap year” to tour Europe before taking on his adult responsibilities. He travels with his best friend (that he also happens to be hopelessly in love with), Percy, and his sassy sister, Felicity. The chemistry between the characters is unlike any other book I’ve read, filled with wit, sarcasm, and charm.

The one liners in this book are so quotable and hilarious, and I definitely choked on my coffee when Felicity said, “Ladies haven’t the luxury of being squeamish with blood”. ICONIC.

REVIEW: ThHE BOOK OF ESSIE by MEGHAN MACLEIN WEIR

REVIEW: The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclein Weir, ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

The Book of Essie had me completely hooked from the first chapter. A tale of betrayal, compromise, a tangled web of lies, and familial tension, I never felt bored. Narrated by 3 very different and dynamic characters, the story took unexpected turns each time I felt like I was figuring things out. I enjoyed the depth of each character as we learned more of their story, and found myself rooting for all the right people to find happiness in the end. I wanted to crawl into the book and smack a few people, shake a few by their shoulders, and hug the rest.

A quick read with lots of discussion topics, The Book of Essie was everything I hoped it to be.

REVIEW: WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? by MARIA SEMPLE

REVIEW: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 /5

This book was a refreshing change from the heavier, more “think-y” books that I’ve been into lately. There’s something about cooler weather that makes me change my taste in books – picking up a 500 page book doesn’t make me bat an eye the way that it would in the summer. This one was a quicker, shorter read, though, and I enjoyed it.

Bernadette Fox was the most outlandish character I think I’ve encountered in the last year, and I’m okay with it. I found myself laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of her antics while I read through them on the bike at the gym (my fellow YMCA members probably think I’m crazy, oh well). As a mom, I could relate to how frantic Bernadette felt at times, but I couldn’t look away as she derailed.

My biggest struggle with this book was the lack of likable characters. Bee was the best part of the book, but we don’t hear a whole lot about her in comparison to the adults. These adults are all kinds of atrocious and embarrassing, with little to no care about how their actions will effect other people.

I liked this lighter approach to mental health awareness, however, and felt that the book had a great message – when someone shows signs of a mental break, get them help before it is out of control. Or else the person may end up like Bernadette, and just disappear one day.