Review: All the Missing Girls

All the Missing Girls, Megan Miranda

Kindle Edition, 384 pages

Expected publication: June 28th 2016 by Simon & Schuster

Source: e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley

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Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

When I heard this was a mystery told in reverse I was really unsure how I’d feel about it.  I have to say that this book was basically a mind fuck. We start in the present as Nicolette returns to her rural home town of Cooley Ridge to help convince her ill father to sell her childhood home.  She leaves her fiancé behind and he’s unaware that Nicolette will be facing down both memories of her high school best friend’s disappearance and her physical high school boyfriend who she’s never really said goodbye to.

We then go two weeks into the future when there’s been another disappearance and Nicolette is being told to run – I won’t tell you who from. The book goes through each day and then flashes back again.  This was such a great way to tell a mystery!  I thought that I had everything figured out as Nic flashed back through each day – and I was always wrong! I loved how Miranda was able to drop clues that made so much sense in the end but totally threw me off as I was reading.  

If you need a summer thriller this is it!  Suspenseful and well written – definitely one to read at the beach!

Thank you Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

DNF: Relentless

I really don’t do a lot of DNFing (that’s Did Not Finish). I suppose that is, in part, because I’m generally quite deliberate with the books I choose to start. And it’s also because sometimes I’m willing to let reading experiences drag on to great lengths – case in point, this book, that took me half of 2015 to finish, and this article, that sat in my inbox for 3 years. (For the record, both were totally worth the time).

Anyway, a team of my co-workers and I had recently decided to do a little work-book-club, where we’d read a business-related book to discuss. After soliciting nominations, and voting on the top choices, we came up with a book called Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable. By title, of course, this sounds like a great choice, right? Let’s push ourselves to be the best we can be, and all that jazz.

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But no.

It was so, so bad. So bad, that I officially/inadvertently killed the book club (or, more accurately, killed that book, so we moved on to choice 2, but it sounds so much more dramatic to say “I killed the book club!”)

To save you from this reading experience, I’d like to share some of the quotes from this book. To give you the proper context, the author Tim Grover, is a trainer for elite athletes. Primarily, he references his work with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade. Anyway, Grover’s “leadership” model is based on 3 types of people, “coolers, closers, and cleaners.” You don’t really have to understand anymore than that to get the most out of these quotes.

Here’s the first place I almost stopped reading, on principle:

A Cleaner controls his urges, not the other way around. The dark side isn’t about taking stupid risks and getting in trouble; that would show weakness. You can feel your desires and act on them, or not act on them; your self-control is what distinguishes you from everyone else. You can walk away or hold back whenever you choose. You reach for the bottle because you want a drink, not because you need one. You can have the hottest women, enjoy them all, but never get too involved.

Wait, did he seriously just say that? Objectifying women as something you “have,” as part of what you should aspire to be if you want to be relentless? *Vomit*

Yet I continued:

Cleaners go home to detach from the dark side; it’s the built-in safety valve. That’s why so many men fight to stay in their marriages even after they’ve been caught doing something they shouldn’t have been doing: home is the only safe place they know. Home surrounds you with comfort and security; the force of the dark side comes from somewhere else. You go home to feel safe and loved, you go out to feel excitement… you may not want to admit it, but you can’t deny it. The fire in your gut comes from the dark side, and the dark side has no place at the family dinner table…

I don’t know if there’s a better example than Tiger Woods, who’s now-famous dark side led him to become involved with a dozen or so women who were not his wife. Of course, that number of women would be a slow week for some pro athletes…

WTAF? So, “relentless” individuals must cultivate a safe space at home, but then also find outlets for their “dark side.” Is that what he is saying?

Why, yes, actually it is:

When a cleaner wants a break from the pressure he puts on himself, he escapes to the dark side. Something else for him to control, a temporary fix that maintains the pressure but allows him to shift his focus from one addiction to another for a while. Instead of working, he reaches for sex.

This book is shit.

I killed* the book club, and I’m not sorry about it.

*Not entirely true. We’ve moved on to the second choice: Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by the CEO of Zappos. Hello, shoes. Goodbye, sleazeball misogynist athletic trainer.

Review: The Gracekeepers

The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan

Hardcover, 320 pages

Published May 19th 2015 by Crown

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, sending the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives–offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

This was a very strange book.  It was I think a future on Earth in which water has taken over most of the world.  We have the damplings who live on boats vs. the landlockers who live on what islands are left or what they can build out from those islands.  North dances with her bear on a circus boat and Callanish is a Gracekeeper.  If this had been a story just about the Gracekeepers I might have been into it.  The Gracekeepers perform ritualistic burials at sea for the damplings – this was still odd but kind of beautiful.  I think more worldbuilding in the beginning might have set me up to enjoy this book more.  I felt like I was just dumped onto a boat without enough perspective.

North was born to circus life, while Callanish chose to leave her island and live in a hut at the equator to perform restings.  What exactly brought Callanish to this decision was never totally laid out which frustrated me.  North’s path seems fraught with danger and I read with a feeling of dread throughout.  Oddly enough that’s what kept me reading, but that really didn’t pay off for me.  I knew something terrible would happen, I just thought something amazing could still come from it.  The writing was beautiful at times, but this book was just not for me.  All around I just would have liked more – what was given of each character’s story could have had so much more depth and too many questions were left unanswered.

The sea was an endless battlefield, and the deeper you went the worse it got, because everything that died had nowhere to go but down.  In its darkest depths, the sea was nothing but an endless rain of bone, teeth, scales and flesh.

2 stars

Thank you Crown and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

All quotes taken from an unfinished copy in advance of publication.

Review: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black, E.B. Hudspeth

Published May 21st 2013 by Quirk Books

Hardcover, 208 pages

Source: Publisher for review

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Philadelphia, the late 1870s. A city of gas lamps, cobblestone streets, and horse-drawn carriages—and home to the controversial surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a grave robber, young Dr. Black studies at Philadelphia’s esteemed Academy of Medicine, where he develops an unconventional hypothesis: What if the world’s most celebrated mythological beasts—mermaids, minotaurs, and satyrs—were in fact the evolutionary ancestors of humankind?

The Resurrectionist offers two extraordinary books in one. The first is a fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, from a childhood spent exhuming corpses through his medical training, his travels with carnivals, and the mysterious disappearance at the end of his life. The second book is Black’s magnum opus: The Codex Extinct Animalia, a Gray’s Anatomy for mythological beasts—dragons, centaurs, Pegasus, Cerberus—all rendered in meticulously detailed anatomical illustrations. You need only look at these images to realize they are the work of a madman. The Resurrectionist tells his story.

This was a crazy book – and I often really like crazy books!  This was a really, really fast read as the actual story of Dr. Spencer Black was less than 100 pages.  I was intrigued by Dr. Black and his whacked out story – but I feel like I just read a novella more than a BOOK.  Dr. Black goes down a scary road from investigating birth defects to chasing tales of mythical creatures and even trying to create his own.  From the size of this striking hardcover I just expected a lot more.  I enjoyed the fictional biography as it was, but I would have really been into a lot more detail about Dr. Black and his poor family so I’m a bit bummed this was so short.  I know the ending was meant to be a mystery – but I want to know more!

Clearly so much work went into this book.  The illustrations in the Index are really cool – The Siren, Cerebus or the Canis Hades, and the Pegasus to name a few.  These were really amazing to flip through.  Looking at the illustrations definitely left me wondering about what the history of the mythical creatures could have been.  But in the end I would have loved more story about Dr. Black and even the mythical creatures versus pages of drawings.  This was an impressive read just for being so different and I’d recommend reading it because of that, just know what you’re getting into.   I would also check out anything else Hudspeth publishes because this was obviously a product of a lot of love and work!

3 stars

Thank you Quirk Books for this copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: Illuminae

Illuminae,  Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff

Published October 20th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Hardcover, 608 pages

Source: ALA Midwinter Meeting

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This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

This book can basically be summed up as totally cuckoo-bananas.  There really just aren’t enough words for me to describe this book without getting dangerously close to spoiling things.  Kady is completely a bad ass.  Ezra hurt my heart.  And AIDAN – I don’t think I have the words.  If I did find the words I think that AIDAN would appear into my computer to black them out – much like large portions of the book!  I didn’t know that reading something with so many portions blacked over would be so fascinating. Or so many pages with so little text.  Cuckoo bananas I tell you.  

I didn’t think I was going to pull for Kady and Ezra to be together when I started reading.  After all, they break up as the book begins and then they’re on completely different rescue ships.  But in drunk emails and then in hijacked IM sessions I fell for the two of them and I was pulling for a Happy Ever After ending.  Foolish foolish me.  AIDAN had other plans.  AIDAN sucker punched me through the book quite a few times while reading.  

Things with the plague went just a bit too far for me – but other than that I was completely sucked into this book.  The size is intimidating for sure, but this book flies!  The format is unlike anything else I can think of and definitely helped keep this so compelling.  I was up and down and mad and laughing while reading this.  I was also a bit shocked at the violence and grossed out  at times – so keep that in mind if you’re squeamish.  I would never have believed that I would have enjoyed two AI book characters so much this year – though Erin Bow’s Talis in The Scorpion Rules wins on personality I think.  (Sorry AIDAN – be merciful)   If you’re at all curious about this  story-telling format and can handle the violence and the sucker punches in plot you definitely should give Illuminae a chance.  I cannot wait to get my grabby hands on the next book!   Nikki at There Were Books Involved has a fantastic review if you don’t believe me. 

4 stars!

Thank you Knopf Books for Young Readers for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

2015 TBR Challenge Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Published September 27th 1995 by Del Rey Books (first published 1979)

Mass Market Paperback, 216 pages

Source:  Borrowed from the husband!

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Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Can I simply say I don’t know that I’ve done enough drugs in my life to fully get this book?  Or are you not supposed to get this book, I don’t know?

I knew this was going to be a bizarre read, but I think I expected more substance?  Maybe I’ll find it as I continue in the trilogy.  I am very curious to see what happens to this motley crew and the depressed robot at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  I was definitely entertained, and I’m curious as to what else Adams says about the meaning of the universe.  

On the upside, I do know where my towel is!  On to the next TBR Challenge book! 

Review: The Library at Mount Char

The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins

Published June 16th 2015 by Crown

Hardcover, 388 pages

Source: Blogging for Books

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From Goodreads…

Carolyn’s not so different from the other human beings around her. She’s sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn’t gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient Pelapi customs. They’ve studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.

Sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She’s sure of it. What she doesn’t realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she’s forgotten a great deal about being human.

I’ll be honest, if you give me a book and compare it to a Neil Gaiman book then I am most likely going to take a chance on it. So when I heard Gaiman comparisons and read that this was about a creepy library I couldn’t pass up a chance to read The Library at Mount Char.  I think this is the strangest book I have ever read – stranger than a Gaiman book for sure!  I mean, we have a male murderer who wears a tutu all the time – and that is no where near the strangest thing in this book.   I don’t know that I agree with the comparisons to Gaiman, it wasn’t on that level for me, but it was a really entertaining read.  

To go back to the beginning – the Library is inhabited by 12 librarians – each of whom has a separate catalog- and their Father. To name a few of the librarians: David’s catalog is war and fighting, Jennifer’s is healing, Michael speaks with animals of all kinds, Margaret can talk to the dead, and Carolyn’s catalog is all of the languages on Earth ever spoken.  No one is allowed to delve into a subject that is not in their catalog, if you do the punishment is terrible.  The books in the Library are even color coded by subject so there can be no innocent mistakes – though I’m not sure there are any innocents in the Library.  

When we meet Carolyn she is “blood-drenched and barefoot” and she’s smiling about it.  Her Father is missing and the Library has locked everyone out.  Carolyn has to work with her siblings to figure out who might be acting against their Father and how to find their way home.  This is not a book for the squeamish.  Once you get past the gore and the violence (and the tutu) though there’s humor and hope, bravery and kindness, and a library that sounds kind of amazing despite the scariness.  

I’ve realized the best comparison I can think of – The Usual Suspects, a movie I completely love.  

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Something about the feeling of “WHAT THE EFF just happened” that you have at the end of the movie combined with the realization that every piece of the plot was nearly perfectly orchestrated – that’s kind of how I felt at the end of The Library at Mount Char.  No one realizes they’re being manipulated until it’s too late.  I have to say I loved the revelation of where the title came from – loved how it came about!  I was really impressed at how Hawkins wrapped all his threads of the story around in the end – I’m very curious to see where he’d go if there is a sequel in the works.  I would love to know more about the catalogs- not David’s though. I’m done with him and his tutu.  

Shania at Shania Reads was one of the bloggers that had me curious to read this book and had a fun Q&A with Hawkins.  If you want more about this book you should definitely check it out here!

Basically to sum this up- this book was crazy, it was magical, it was violent, it was funny, it was smart.  You should read it!  I’m going to need to read it again soon so you should talk to me about it!

4 stars!

Thank you Blogging for Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review!