Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Gather the Daughters Book Review

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

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Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers--chosen male descendants of the original ten--are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires.

The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly--they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers' hands and their mothers' despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.

Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

Review by Brittany:

I have so many feelings about this book. I was fortunate enough to request an advance copy of this book off NetGalley and get approve, so I was able to read it well before it's release date in July.

This book takes place in a time period that feels almost ambiguous. The world as we know it is gone, and instead there is a vast wasteland from which a society has been built on its own island. This society is one in which woman's main role is to reproduce. They are married off - carefully, so that they don't end up with someone to whom they are related - and expected to build a home and a life for their husband and children. They have no knowledge of what happens outside of the island, and they have no opportunities to gain knowledge. There are no hospitals, no modern medicine, and women are expected to simply follow what their husbands want.

It is a hard time for women. They watch as their daughters are raised by fathers who are allowed to visit their bedrooms at night. They fear having daughters and weep when one is born, and they only celebrate when sons are born because of the privilege they will get to experience. Women cannot gather without chaperones unless it is at a birth, which means they rarely get to build relationships or discuss anything that happens to them on the island.

At some point, the younger girls decide they don't want to do it anymore. They are tired of being abused, married off, discarded. The girls escape to the beach to try to live, but with limited food and only the outdoors as shelter, this is not a promising way to live.

I had so many feelings when I was reading this book - interest, sadness, shock, anger, pride. There aren't many happy moments in this book, but there are moments of small triumphs that made me feel good about being a woman. I struggled with how these women could possible allow things to happen to their daughters and fellow women, but the reality is that this is how it works in society. We mold and move along with the flow more often than we don't, and that's what happened in this book. And those who question are punished for their bold willingness to say what a lot of others are thinking.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It's not going to give you a happy, tied up ending, but it's a well-written, striking story with characters that I learned to love as I read.

Notable quote:

"I know it's not perfect, but it's the best I can give you." 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Suicide Med Book Review

Suicide Med by Freida McFadden

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There’s a reason Southside Medical School has been nicknamed “Suicide Med.” For the last six years, every year one student has taken his own life. Except for last year. Last year was a murder-suicide. The press has pointed to the heavy workload as the culprit in the high suicide rate. Some students believe that the school is cursed. And others believe that the deaths may not be suicides at all—that it’s no coincidence that Dr. Conlon, Southside’s quirky but beloved anatomy professor, joined the staff on the very year that the suicides began. Either way, the same question echoes through the minds of every first year student at Suicide Med: Who will be next to die?

Review by Brittany:

This book was unexpectedly great. I downloaded it when it was free on Kindle because the blurb sounded interesting, but I wasn't sure entirely what to expect from an unknown author.

This one had me hooked from the start. The prologue jumps right in with a gun wielder threatening the life of another med student. From there, the story is divided into multiple parts in order to give all of the main characters an opportunity to tell their side of the story.

Heather is barely scraping by, studying but struggling to pull the information out when she needs it. She has a long-distance boyfriend, Seth, but that relationship falls apart and she quickly finds herself in a new relationship with Abe. This one isn't moving at a great pace, and Heather slowly starts to realize that there's a secret that Abe is keeping.

Abe's secret is revealed through the story that's told from his point of view. He quickly falls for Heather, almost from day one, but he's embarrassed about a "growth" on his body. Little does he know that having it removed could cause some unexpected consequences.

Rachel seems not to care too much about anatomy. She's not really passionate about becoming a doctor and is used to cheating her way through classes. Dr. Conlon, her anatomy professor, lets her think she's going to con him into changing her grades, but he pulls one over by figuring her out. The development of that relationship was an interesting twist to the story.

Mason is clearly the head of the class. He knows the material like the back of his hand, and he is determined to be a plastic surgeon, the head of his class, and to prove himself to his dad. However, the unknown cause of death to his lab cadaver slowly starts to make him fall apart. Or could it be due to something else?

Ginny is quiet with no charisma, so even though she's an excellent student, she is often overlooked in favor of Mason, with his big personality and charm. She gets fed up with him taking her spotlight and decides that she's going to try to knock him off his pedestal a little. Are her actions the cause of Mason's completely crazy turnaround?

Each character has their own secrets that they're keeping and their own link to the tragic events that are the climax of this book. I was taken in by each part of the story, and realizing that no one truly knew anyone in this book was incredibly interesting. The pressure and competition of med school was enough to make each person crumble in their own. I definitely recommend this book as an easy read that will be pleasantly surprising.

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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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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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.