Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Girl in the Spider's Web Book Review

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

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Blurb:

A genius hacker who has always been an outsider. A journalist with a penchant for danger. She is Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. He is Mikael Blomkvist, crusading editor of Millennium. One night, Blomkvist receives a call from a source who claims to have been given information vital to the United States by a young female hacker. Blomkvist, always on the lookout for a story, reaches out to Salander for help. She, as usual, has plans of her own. Together they are drawn into a ruthless underworld of spies, cybercriminals, and government operatives—some willing to kill to protect their secrets.

Review by Brittany:

I was a huge fan of the original Millennium trilogy, so I am very pleased that this is being extended into a series.

I thought this book was a fantastic addition to the series. Of course, it has been a while since I read Larsson's books, so I can't compare writing styles, but I devoured this book with the same anxious anticipation as I did all the others. Salander is a quirky character, one who I can't relate to and don't envy exactly, but she is so incredibly smart and brave that I find myself sometimes wishing I could be a little more like her.

As with the other novels, this one has a lot of computer science/hacking terminology and information that is way above my level of knowledge, but for me that doesn't take away from the story. I am still able to be just as invested in the characters and the story, even if I don't understand every little detail of what's going on. This one also had August, a young boy with Autism, and it explored different skill sets that he might have developed in part because of his having this syndrome. I found those parts of the story incredibly interesting to read about, and I fell a little in love with this poor, disabled boy who got drawn into a situation that he couldn't understand.

This book ended in such a way that I am anticipating there will be another in the series, which I'm pleased about. If you're already a fan of the series and haven't read this one yet, don't let the new author deter you. Pick it up!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Missing Book Review

The Missing by Caroline Eriksson

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Blurb:

An ordinary outing takes Greta, Alex, and four-year-old Smilla across Sweden’s mythical Lake Malice to a tiny, isolated island. While father and daughter tramp into the trees, Greta stays behind in the boat, lulled into a reverie by the misty, moody lake…only later to discover that the two haven’t returned. Her frantic search proves futile. They’ve disappeared without a trace.

Greta struggles to understand their eerie vanishing. She desperately needs to call Alex, to be reassured that Smilla is safe, or contact the police. But now her cell phone is missing too. Back at her cottage, she finds it hidden away under the bedsheets. Had she done that? Or had someone else been in the cottage? But who, and why? As Greta struggles to put the pieces together, she fears that her past has come back to torment her, or she’s finally lost her grip on reality…

In this dark psychological thrill ride—with more twists than a labyrinth and more breathless moments than a roller coaster—Greta must confront what she’s always kept hidden if she has any hope of untangling the truth.

Review by Brittany:

This book. I spent the entirety of it feeling like I had no idea what was going on, and by the end of the book I realized it was totally different than I was expecting. I know that's vague, but it's hard to talk about it without giving something away, and I don't want to take away from the joy of discovering.

Greta makes a really interesting protagonist because it's hard to tell for sure whether or not she's a little crazy. She reveals piece by piece faults in herself, which left me wondering if she was a narrator I could trust. How much has she lied to me, and how much more will she do so? It was interesting trying to piece together what was really going on versus what Greta perceived to be going on.

There were also bits of the book that were told from another person's perspective, but it's not revealed to the reader who this other person is until nearly the end of the book. The way these two stories end up intertwining was surprising to me and was also a little heartbreaking. Greta's past is revealed in pieces, and it slowly starts to explain the struggles she has as an adult.

This story starts out about two people going missing and ends up being about relationship struggles and self-esteem issues. (I know.) Despite the constant feeling of having no idea what was going on, I enjoyed this book. It left me with the feeling of being a little off kilter, like I wasn't on comfortable ground, and I definitely couldn't guess the ending. I really enjoyed this one.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Everything Belongs to Us Book Review

Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz

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Blurb:

Seoul, 1978. At South Korea’s top university, the nation’s best and brightest compete to join the professional elite of an authoritarian regime. Success could lead to a life of rarefied privilege and wealth; failure means being left irrevocably behind.
           
For childhood friends Jisun and Namin, the stakes couldn’t be more different. Jisun, the daughter of a powerful business mogul, grew up on a mountainside estate with lush gardens and a dedicated chauffeur. Namin’s parents run a tented food cart from dawn to curfew; her sister works in a shoe factory. Now Jisun wants as little to do with her father’s world as possible, abandoning her schoolwork in favor of the underground activist movement, while Namin studies tirelessly in the service of one goal: to launch herself and her family out of poverty.
           
But everything changes when Jisun and Namin meet an ambitious, charming student named Sunam, whose need to please his family has led him to a prestigious club: the Circle. Under the influence of his mentor, Juno, a manipulative social climber, Sunam becomes entangled with both women, as they all make choices that will change their lives forever.
           
In this sweeping yet intimate debut, Yoojin Grace Wuertz details four intertwining lives that are rife with turmoil and desire, private anxieties and public betrayals, dashed hopes and broken dreams—while a nation moves toward prosperity at any cost.

Review by Brittany:

I was offered the chance to read this book through NetGalley, and while it didn't sound totally up my alley, I decided to give it a shot.

I'm on the fence about this book. It opens with a women's protest, which I found extremely fitting for the current times our own country is experiencing. However, the cultural differences were definitely pronounced in this book. The stress that Namin is under to try to make a successful life for herself and her family is immense. She is what her entire family is relying on - only her success will pull them out of the poverty they are facing. Her older sister was passed over and works in a factory, doing the same work that is being protested across the country.

Jisun, on the other hand, actively participates in the protests, despite having no true experience of what those other women are going through. She tries to separate herself from her father's wealth, but her family name is something that she cannot discard.

Sunam becomes Namin's boyfriend, even meeting his family and carrying on this relationship, despite the fact that he is in a separate class from her. However, Sunam finds himself a bit intrigued by Jisun and a bit exhausted of Namin's desperate race to be a successful doctor.

The storyline here is interesting. I loved reading about Namin's struggles with her family and the ways in which she was impacted by the poverty into which she was born. Her relationship with Sunam gives her a chance to prove that a person is not merely how they grow up, but also the drive that they have themselves. Her friendship with Jisun is fraught with tension throughout the entire novel, to the point where it is often difficult to see that there is actually a friendship there.

Where this book falls short for me was on the pacing. There were often times when I found myself just waiting for something to happen, and by the end of the book I was ready for it to be over. I think that with some quicker moving action this book would have been better.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Trapped Girl Book Review

The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni

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Blurb:

When a woman’s body is discovered submerged in a crab pot in the chilly waters of Puget Sound, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with a tough case to untangle. Before they can identify the killer, Tracy and her colleagues on the Seattle PD’s Violent Crimes Section must figure out who the victim is. Her autopsy, however, reveals she may have gone to great lengths to conceal her identity. So who was she running from?

After evidence surfaces that their Jane Doe may be a woman who suspiciously disappeared months earlier, Tracy is once again haunted by the memory of her sister’s unsolved murder. Dredging up details from the woman’s past leads to conflicting clues that only seem to muddy the investigation. As Tracy begins to uncover a twisted tale of brutal betrayal and desperate greed, she’ll find herself risking everything to confront a killer who won’t go down without a deadly fight. Once again, New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni delivers a taut, riveting thriller in the fourth installment of his acclaimed Tracy Crosswhite series.

Review by Brittany:

I have become a huge fan of Dugoni's Tracy Crosswhite series, devouring the other three books before this one. I was able to get an advanced copy of this one through NetGalley, and I devoured it in just the same manner.

One thing that I love about Dugoni is that he is able to make each novel just that little bit different enough from the last that they don't all feel like the same book, even though the characters are the same. In this one, Dugoni gives little snippets from the point of the view of the victim, either confirming or disproving piecing of evidence that the homicide team has found. This added a layer of intrigue, while also allowing the reader to get to know the victim on a more personal level. This technique hooked me.

As usual, the dialogue between Tracy and partner Kins is both character building and story telling, developing their relationship more and more throughout each novel while also filling the reader in on the thought processes of the detectives as they work on solving the crime. The same thing happens with detectives Faz and Del, with a little comedy thrown in the keep some light in what could otherwise quickly become a heavy murder story.

Dugoni also develops Tracy's personal life in this one, exploring the idea of Tracy and Dan having children and whether or not they want to move forward in their relationship or maintain the status quo. Having Dan there as a supportive character gives more insight into each case Tracy works, but it also serves to develop Tracy as a character.

The victim in this story, Andrea Strickland, turned out to be such a wonderful character. The glimpses into her life build her into someone who has struggled from the beginning, and yet she finds a way to survive. She keeps hoping that life will get better and she just keeps on going. And while there's a part of me that recognizes that people have no choice but to keep on keeping on, I still respect the fact that she did it.

The climax to this novel was, in typical Dugoni fashion, a last minute surprise to me. Just when I thought I had things figured out, Tracy gets that one last piece of evidence, makes that one last connection, and it totally blows the story open. There are few things that are greater than being continually surprised by a novel, and Dugoni does that extremely well.

If you aren't reading the Tracy Crosswhite series, you need to be. These books are all amazing, well-written suspense novels, with snarky and heartfelt characters built right in. Pick these up!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

You Will Know Me Book Review

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

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Blurb:

How far will you go to achieve a dream? That's the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits--until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk.

As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers--about her daughter's fears, her own marriage, and herself--forces Katie to consider whether there's any price she isn't willing to pay to achieve Devon's dream.

Review by Brittany:

I wanted to read this novel because it fits in with my current obsession with suspense novels.

There is something about the way this one was written that really appealed to me. The sentences tended to be choppy and parts were sectioned, and books like that always keep me thinking, "I'll just read the next section". And before I know it, I've completed the book. Of course, this one also had the suspense of trying to figure out exactly what happened to the person who died in a hit and run. (Sorry to be vague, but I want to avoid spoilers!)

I also loved how the author told the story from Katie's point of view, but then gave Devon a much closer, intimate relationship with her dad than her mom. This meant that Katie was constantly piecing together parts of Devon's life that she had no clue about, only to find out that often her husband did. They had almost banded together against her, leaving her feeling left out and always a step behind.

The author dropped clues throughout the novel that helped me piece together Devon's life outside of gymnastics, often before Katie would make that leap. Abbott also used some misdirection, leaving me wondering whodunnit until the end of the book. Abbott also created an entire novel full of suspicious characters, people who are keeping pieces of themselves hidden on a daily basis. This feels so true to life to me, although of course it is exaggerated for the purpose of fictionalizing, but who truly knows anyone else? This is illustrated most clearly in Katie's relationships with both Devon and Eric, but it's also made obvious with the other gymnastics mothers and coaches.

Abbott also knew how to pull me into the world of gymnastics and care. I have never had a particular interest in gymnastics, but the way Abbott illustrated the grind these young girls undergo and the fierce desire they have for success kept me hooked. There were also many comments on the girls "stopping the clock", referring to them training so intensely that they are able to postpone their own puberty - the mark of a true, devoted gymnast. The idea of this was completely absurd to me, yet it's a struggle that is very real. It also added to Devon's story line, a gymnast star who is struggling with also being 16 and the difficulties that come with that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Secrets of the Lighthouse Book Review

Secrets of the Lighthouse by Santa Montefiore

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Blurb:

Ellen Trawton is running away from it all. She hates her job, she doesn’t love the aristocratic man to whom she is engaged, and her relationship with her controlling mother is becoming increasingly strained. So Ellen leaves London, fleeing to the one place she knows her mother won’t find her, her aunt’s cottage in Connemara. Cutting all her ties with chic London society, Ellen gives in to Ireland’s charm and warmth, thinking her future may lie where so much of her past has been hidden. Her imagination is soon captured by the compelling ruins of a lighthouse where, five years earlier, a young mother died in a fire.

The ghost of the young wife, Caitlin, haunts the nearby castle, mourning the future she can never have there. Unable to move on, she watches her husband and children, hoping they might see her and feel her love once more. But she doesn’t anticipate her husband falling in love again. Can she prevent it? Or can she let go and find a way to freedom and happiness?

Review by Brittany:

I picked this one up based on a recommendation I saw on Twitter, giving this author props for being one of the best.

This book has a little bit of all the things I like best: romance, mystery, family drama, and beautiful descriptions of the scenery. Montefiore took the time to describe Ireland in all of its finery, which I loved reading about and which made me long to be able to go. The romance part comes in with Ellen meeting Conor and falling quickly in love with him, but the mystery surrounding his wife's death leaves many people in the small town of Connemara warning her away from him. Gossip reigns supreme in trying to determine if he killed his wife or if it was truly an accidental tragedy. And of course, with Ellen abandoning her life in London and fleeing to Connemara, there is much family drama to be had.

What set this book apart from others in this genre was Caitlin's ghost. Despite her death, her soul still lingers, unwilling to let go of her children and the husband who has been grieving her for so long. When Conor begins to develop a relationship with Ellen, Caitlin can't handle it; her jealousy and selfishness leave her determined to drive them apart. Montefiore uses Caitlin's ghost as a way to move away from Ellen being the narrator and to give a different perspective of the events happening in the novel, but also as a way to give the readers some insight into what's going on with other characters. I thought this was a great technique to use and fit well with the dreaminess of the lighthouse.

The climax of the novel finally reveals what truly happened the night that Caitlin died, and it finally gives Conor a chance to come to terms with the realities of his wife.

I really enjoyed this book. The minor characters were refreshing and well-written, and the main themes of the plot kept me hooked until the end.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

After the Cure Book Review


After the Cure by Deirdre Gould

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Blurb:

Eight years ago the December Plague swept through the human population of earth. The Infected were driven mad by the disease, becoming violent and cannibalistic, killing even those closest to them without hesitation. Six years ago, the tiny surviving community of Immune humans found a cure, and the Infected began to wake up and realize what they'd done. Over time, society has begun to rebuild itself. It's now ready to judge those responsible for the Plague. Nella Rider, the court psychologist and Frank Courtlen a defense attorney are trying to establish the truth. But more depends on it than they know. Can they find the answers they need before the fragile remains of humanity vanish for good?

Review by Brittany:

I originally downloaded this book from Amazon because it was on a free promotion and the blurb sounded interesting. Who doesn't love a good zombie story?

This one had a really neat twist of taking place after a Cure was found. What would it be like to have to rebuild the world after 8 years of it falling apart? How would it feel to be Cured and yet remember all the terrible things you did when you were Infected? What lengths would you to go to prevent another Infection if you knew it was coming?

These are some of the questions that Gould explores in this novel. Frank and Nella are given the task of working with the courts to bring those responsible for the Infection to justice. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the scientists who were developing a new medicine did not follow the proper procedures for testing, which led to unexpected mutations and a plague of cannibalism across the world. Through interviews, Nella and Frank find out that there is another strain of the Infection that was created, one that is impervious to any Cure, and it has not been accounted for. Thus begins the search for the strain so that it can be destroyed before another plague destroys the world.

I loved Frank as a character. He is one of the Cured, which means he has insights into the Infection that Nella can't possibly have. This information comes in useful as they start piecing together where the new strain might be. He also reveals through the story that he is representing the man who is charged with starting the Infection to get to the truth of what happened. Frank suffered his own tragedies at the hands of this man, but he is using the court case to seek understanding. His noble intentions give a lot of indication of what type of man that he is.

I also loved that the author did not shy away from sharing gruesome details. Both Frank and Nella reveal some of the more tragic and shameful things that they did during the Infection, and gory details are not spared. I think this added a touch of realism to the novel and satisfied the creeper in me. It was also a great tool to help readers get a gauge on what the Infection was like and the way the world changed almost immediately.

The story itself kept me turning pages. I was always interested to see what was going to happen next and what piece of the puzzle Nella and Frank would find next. It does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving the reader wondering if the world is truly as safe as the characters believe it to be.

Overall, this was a really good read. I was pleasantly surprised by the character and relationship development throughout the book, and I am interested in reading more by this author.