Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons Review

sightsGenre: Adult Fiction

Plot According to Goodreads: To the people of Bend of the River Road, Maggie Barnes is “the Barnes woman with all the problems.” To her family, she is the unpredictable wife, elusive mother, and adored daughter-in-law, and to her maid, Pearl, she is the mistress who must be cared for like a child.
Between the suicidal lows and delirious highs, young Hattie Barnes struggles to find a place in her mother’s heart. She observes her mother’s vain attempts at normalcy, and then watches as she is driven off to the hospital psychiatric ward. Only later will Hattie discover the deep-seated hopes and fears of the woman she loves unconditionally, and her inevitable connection to her family’s past.

My Thoughts: This story is told by Hattie, whose mother has manic depressive disorder, which was later renamed Bipolar Disorder. The reader sees the struggles that a family faces when someone they love has a mental illness. I’ve never really thought about the effects on the children of those who suffer from mental illnesses. This book was sad but hopeful. It was also very interesting to read about the treatment methods that were used in the 1960s (the time period of the book).

What I Liked: Hattie’s feelings really came through and it was very sad to read about her very abnormal home life. Although we never actually heard first hand from Hattie’s mother, we could feel her pain and the struggles she went through. The story was short but it packed a big punch. The story is one that will stick with the reader long after they finish it.

What I didn’t Like: This wasn’t exactly an entertaining story…I had more appreciation for it than pleasure from reading it.

My Rating: 5/5 stars.

Hyacinth Girls by Lauren Frankel Review

hyacinthGenre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Plot According to Goodreads: Thirteen year old Callie is accused of bullying at school, but Rebecca knows the gentle girl she’s raised must be innocent. After Callie is exonerated, she begins to receive threatening notes from the girl who accused her, and as these notes become desperate, Rebecca feels compelled to intervene. As she tries to save this unbalanced girl, Rebecca remembers her own intense betrayals and best-friendships as a teenager, when her failure to understand those closest to her led to tragedy. She’ll do anything to make this story end differently. But Rebecca doesn’t understand what’s happening or who is truly a victim, and now Callie is in terrible danger.

My Thoughts: This book took me through a gamut of emotions…frustration, sadness, and anger. It reads like an adult fiction story but it would be beneficial for both parents and teenagers to read. The story focuses on the hot topic issue of bullying and addresses it from many perspectives. It reminded me in many ways of 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher but, in my opinion, this book was much better in how it addressed the issues.

What I Liked: Although very clueless most of the time, I really liked and related to Rebecca. She wanted what was best for Callie and would stop at nothing to get it.  Callie frustrated and angered me in many ways but when a character can evoke strong feelings from me, I consider the author to be good at what he or she does. The story had great pacing, there were no moments when I felt like it was dragging.

What I didn’t Like: The ending left me feeling unfulfilled, things wrapped up but there were a few loose ends. There were a few moments that were a bit unrealistic.

My Rating: 4/5 stars. Definitely recommended for teenagers as well as parents of teenagers…worth the read!

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Velocity by Dean Koontz Review

velocityGenre: Adult Fiction, Thriller, Suspense

Plot According to Goodreads: Bill Wile is an easygoing, hardworking guy who leads a quiet, ordinary life. But that is about to change. One evening, after his usual eight-hour bartending shift, he finds a typewritten note under the windshield wiper of his car. If you don’t take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work. You have four hours to decide. The choice is yours.

My Thoughts: I read a lot of Dean Koontz books in my teenage years. His writing style is very easy to adapt to and the stories are usually fast paced and fun. I have found that his books can be hit or miss…I loved some and couldn’t finish others. Velocity ranks as one of my favorites by Koontz.

The Good: The author wastes no time in getting the story started. The reader is emerged in the action and adventure from the first chapter. The game of cat and mouse that is played between Billy and the unknown killer was a lot of fun and caused me to question what I would do in that situation. There were several twists that kept the story surprising and fresh. The book has many short chapters, which I prefer over few long chapters…it was a very quick read.

What I didn’t Like: Towards the end of the book, things became a bit monotonous and slightly predictable.

My Rating: 4/5 stars.

Popular by Maya Van Wagenen

Popular_comp9.inddGenre: Non-Fiction, Young Adult

Judging the Cover: This cover is adorable, I love the vintage feel, which really goes along with the story.

Plot According to Goodreads: Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,” Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular?
The real-life results are painful, funny, and include a wonderful and unexpected surprise—meeting and befriending Betty Cornell herself. Told with humor and grace, Maya’s journey offers readers of all ages a thoroughly contemporary example of kindness and self-confidence.

My Thoughts: I really wish this book would have been available in 1994…the 14-year-old me would have loved it. Middle School is an extremely difficult time and acceptance and being liked is so important…

mePopularity was something I always wanted but never achieved. I loved how this book comes to the conclusion that the outward appearance isn’t as important as personality and kindness. There were some great lessons to be learned in the book and it was a lot of fun to read some of the tips from the 50s. Maya was a very determined, driven young lady and I admired her courage (I would never have been able to do most of the things she did when I was in 8th grade).

The story is definitely more geared toward the teenage population…there were some moments that were a bit boring to me. Overall, this was a great book that I am going to encourage my daughter to read when she hits those difficult middle school years.

My Rating: 3/5 stars.

Trance by Linda Gerber Review

tranceGenre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Judging the Cover: This cover has a holographic effect to it that I really like.

Plot According to Goodreads: Ashlyn Greenfield has always known when bad things are going to happen. Each time that familiar tingling at the back of her neck begins, she knows what’s to come: a trance. She’s pulled in, blindsided, an unwilling witness to a horrible upcoming event. But she’s never been able to stop it; not even when the vision was of her mother’s fatal car accident. When soulful Jake enters Ashlyn’s life, she begins having trances about another car accident.

My Thoughts: The premise of this book sounded very interesting to me, so I was eager to read it. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed.

The Good: The main character, Ashlyn has a pretty rough life…her mother was killed in a car accident where Ashlyn was the driver, her father is practically absent from her life, and her sister moved away and Ashlyn has no way of contacting her…not to mention the fact that Ashlyn experiences premonitions that she is unable to control. I really felt sympathy for Ashlyn and felt that her character was well developed. Romance in books usually annoys me, especially young adult romance, but the romance in this book was sweet and realistic.

What I didn’t Like: The entire story felt like a huge buildup that didn’t really amount to much. The story dragged a lot in the middle and the ending was extremely predictable. I am not a fan of paranormal elements or things that have to do with the occult, so I didn’t like the numerology element.

My Rating: 2/5 stars. This wasn’t the book for me.

Sister by Rosamund Lupton Review

sisterGenre: Adult Fiction, Mystery

Plot According to Goodreads: When her mom calls to tell her that Tess, her younger sister, is missing, Bee returns home to London on the first flight. She expects to find Tess and give her the usual lecture, the bossy big sister scolding her flighty baby sister for taking off without letting anyone know her plans. Tess has always been a free spirit, an artist who takes risks, while conservative Bee couldn’t be more different. Bee is used to watching out for her wayward sibling and is fiercely protective of Tess (and has always been a little stern about her antics). But then Tess is found dead, apparently by her own hand.
Bee is certain that Tess didn’t commit suicide. Their family and the police accept the sad reality, but Bee feels sure that Tess has been murdered.  Single-minded in her search for a killer, Bee moves into Tess’s apartment and throws herself headlong into her sister’s life–and all its secrets.
Though her family and the police see a grieving sister in denial, unwilling to accept the facts, Bee uncovers the affair Tess was having with a married man and the pregnancy that resulted, and her difficultly with a stalker who may have crossed the line when Tess refused his advances. Tess was also participating in an experimental medical trial that might have gone very wrong.  As a determined Bee gives her statement to the lead investigator, her story reveals a predator who got away with murder–and an obsession that may cost Bee her own life.

My Thoughts: This story was a police procedural with a twist…instead of the police and detectives investigating the disappearance of Tess, the investigator is Tess’s sister, Beatrice. This approach was a nice change from the standard approach to crime fiction stories.

The Good:

  • The relationship between the 2 sisters in the book was very special. Bee would stop at nothing to find out the truth of what really happened to her sister.
  • The author does a great job slowly peeling back the layers of the story in a way that keeps the reader interested in the mystery.
  • This is one of those books that has a large twist that I was unable to see coming…it’s the kind of twist that causes the reader to rethink the entire story.

What I didn’t Like:

  • The author uses a unique narration in the story…it’s told by Bee, speaking to Tess about what has happened (almost as told in a letter or journal form) and also told by Bee, speaking to the District Attorney after events have occurred. This was very unique and interesting but also became confusing at times, trying to orient yourself to whether the narration was occurring in the present or the past.
  • There were some dry moments that dragged and were a bit boring.
  • The story was enjoyable but not very memorable.

My Rating: 3/5 stars.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan Review

graceGenre: Fantasy, Adult Fiction, Dystopian

Judging the Cover: This is one of my favorite book covers of all the books that I own. I love the colors and the cover depiction of Callanish in the graceyard was very helpful in picturing the world.

Plot according to Goodreads: 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.

My Thoughts: This book is described as a cross between Station Eleven and The Night Circus. Although I haven’t yet read Station Eleven, The Night Circus is one of my favorite books. Stories with a circus or amusement park setting always interest me so I was eager to pick this one up. I was not disappointed. As with The Night Circus, the imagery is the star of this book…the author’s imagination and creativity shines through every page.

The Good:

  • The setting of the story (a world that has been flooded and all that remains are small islands dispersed throughout the ocean) was very interesting. I was able to easily visualize the world and felt like I was part of it.
  • The story was very unusual…I haven’t read many fantasy books and this was a great place to start. The plot was different than anything I’ve read before.
  • I enjoyed the hierarchy that was present between the Damplings and the Landlockers…there was a lot of tension between these two groups of people and I found it very interesting.
  • The circus aspect was fun. The circus traveled in a large boat with several smaller boats (coracles) attached with chains. When they docked, the larger boat became the stage and the large sail became the tent. I felt like a member of the audience when reading the circus scenes. These scenes were among my favorites in the book.

What I didn’t Like:

  • The pacing…this wasn’t a book that I flew through, it took some time to read and was a slower paced story.
  • Some of the aspects of the story weren’t explained fully and left me with a few unanswered questions.
  • This was the type of book that was easy to put down and difficult to pick up (but when picked up, was enjoyable to read). It didn’t have that indescribable quality that sucks you into the story and won’t let you go.

My Rating: 4/5 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book from blogging for books in exchange for an honest review.

The Ruining by Anna Collomore Review

ruinGenre: Young Adult, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Mystery

Judging the Cover: The sinister image of a girl going underwater set against the backdrop of a gorgeous mansion is a great representation of the story.

Plot according to Goodreads: Annie Phillips is thrilled to leave her past behind and begin a shiny new life on Belvedere Island, as a nanny for the picture-perfect Cohen family. In no time at all, she falls in love with the Cohens – especially with Libby, the beautiful young matriarch of the family. Life is better than she ever imagined. She even finds romance with the boy next door.
All too soon cracks appear in Annie’s seemingly perfect world. She’s blamed for mistakes she doesn’t remember making. Her bedroom door comes unhinged, and she feels like she’s always being watched. Libby, who once felt like a big sister, is suddenly cold and unforgiving. As she struggles to keep up with the demands of her new life, Annie’s fear gives way to frightening hallucinations. Is she tumbling into madness or is something sinister at play?

The Good:

  • There is a lot of mystery in this book. The story begins like a typical young adult story but quickly turns into something a bit darker.
  • There are some parts to the book that cause a lot of confusion to the reader. The main character, Annie, is telling the story in first person and it’s hard to tell whether she is a reliable narrator or not. This was interesting and fun, but could also be a bit frustrating at times.
  • There is a romance in the book that is sweet and develops in a realistic way. I am not a fan of romance but I didn’t mind this one.

What I didn’t Like:

  • I never really felt like I could connect to any of the characters. I felt very disconnected from the story and didn’t feel invested in it.
  • The characters could have been developed a bit more. I wanted to know more about Libby and Annie.
  • The ending felt rushed…things were resolved in about 2 paragraphs and it felt like a lot of build up for a very quick resolution.
  • As mentioned above, the confusing parts were enjoyable at first but quickly became frustrating to me.
  • The story had many aspects that seemed very unrealistic. There were many things that I doubt would occur in “real life”

My Thoughts: Overall, it was an average read. I think I expected more from it than I got. It wasn’t a bad book but it’s nothing to write home about.

My Rating: This was a solid 3/5 star rated book.

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas Review

dgGenre: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery

Judging the Cover: The cover pictured is the edition of the book that I own. I love the color combinations but I prefer the original cover of the book, which features a pair of handcuffs buried in the sand…that image goes better with the story.

Plot According to Goodreads: It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations.
As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.
As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine…

My Thoughts: I had only heard positive things about this book so my expectations were high. I was not disappointed. This book was easily one of my favorites of the year, possibly even number one of all the books I’ve read in 2015. The young adult thriller genre seems to be a bit lacking, but I am hoping that we will see more books like this in the future. This book has not received the attention it deserves, so if the synopsis sounds interesting to you and you are a fan of mystery, pick this one up!

The Good:

  • The book opens with a bang…it begins with the 911 call transcripts from when the group of friends discover their friend’s body. I was glued to the book from the first page.
  • This story jumps around to many different time periods throughout the book. For the most part, I dislike the jumping from past to present, at least in the format of a continuous story in the past and a continuous story in the present (leaving the reader with constant cliffhangers). This book jumped to many places in time in a way that made sense and did not leave me feeling confused or frustrated with the changes in time. It is done very well.
  • There are several twists and turns, which I love as a reader. I had an inkling of one of the bigger twists but still found myself surprised when reading it.
  • The ending is done in a very clever way that leads the reader to use their imagination instead of spelling everything out. Some people would probably hate this, but I love pondering over the possibilities.
  • There are a plethora of suspects in the story so the reader is constantly trying to solve the case. My final guess was not correct but I had fun trying to figure it out.
  • It was an unputdownable book. I could easily see myself rereading this one in a few years.
  • This book caused me to think about the impact the media has on crimes. The court of public opinion is a scary thing.

What I didn’t Like:  I got nothing…I tried to think of a negative for this book but I truly loved it all.

My Rating: Without a doubt, this was a 5 star book. Definitely worth picking up!