BOOK REVIEW: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

32148570Title: Before We Were Yours

Author: Lisa Wingate

Book Length (Audiobook): 14 hours 34 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: March 5, 2019

Read Finish Date: March 27, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.”

My Review: Before I read this book, I had no idea that it was based upon a true story – the afterward gives a short summary of the real life events. Georgia Tann, was a real person in the early 1900s, who more or less stole children from poor people and gave them up for adoption to rich people. At the time she was heralded as the savior of children, but it eventually came out that these children where essentially kidnapped, and often were mistreated and abused (sometimes sexually) in the orphanages.

I was really surprised that something like that could happen in America, and at times I felt myself overwhelmed with emotion. It reminded me also of all those stories that recently came to light of the orphanages in the UK, where many children were mistreated, and sometimes died, only to be buried in mass graves. Children are supposed to be protected, not bought and sold like commodities.

Even though the book jumped back and forth between the past and the present (the two perspectives of Rill and Avery), it was done in a brilliant way, which made me yearn to keep turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. The characters were great — I really liked the perseverance and strength of little Rill, and the dedication of Avery to find out the mystery behind her family. There was even a little romance thrown in to the story line, which supported, rather than detracted from, the story.

I read this book as an audiobook that I rented from the library. About 2/3 of the way through the book, my loan expired and I had to wait a few weeks to get it again. It.was.torture.

Don’t do this to yourself. If you read this book (which I totally think you should), make sure that you have enough consecutive time to do so because you will not want to put it down.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

32075671Title: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 44 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Read Start Date: March 24, 2019

Read Finish Date: March 26, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

My Review: I had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it — honestly, I do not remember how it ended up on my holds list at the library. I am struggling to write a review of this book, as it has raised many mixed emotions for me. I have mixed emotions because on the one hand, I understand that there are bad cops out there that give good cops (like my brother) a bad name — but I also know there are criminals out there who give non-criminals out there a bad name.

The theme running throughout the book, and the meaning behind the title, is from Tupac’s famous quote, that Thug Life means, “The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everybody”. The plot of this book could be ripped straight out of today’s headlines, i.e., Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, African-American vs. Police, etc.

Living in Europe for the past two years, I have not really been following the recent movements, but I can understand that it is a very contentious issue. This book takes the view of an African-American teenage girl, and more or less paints the police in a bad light.

Starr is traumatized when her best friend Khalil is shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Starr takes a deep look at what being African-American means to her. Starr has many juxtapositions in her life. Her father, Maverick Carter, a formal gangbanger, enrolled Starr and her brothers in a mostly white school in a better neighborhood. During the school week, Starr has white friends, and even a white boyfriend. On the weekends in her African American neighborhood (Garden Heights) she leads a different, and separate, life.

This book (and the movie version that I watched afterward) really moved me – at some points to tears. I really felt bad for Starr and her community, especially Khalil, who was shot because the police officer was scared he was reaching for a gun. Khalil wasn’t doing anything wrong, but the police officer didn’t know that. This happens in real life, and it is very, very sad.

There is so much broken with American society, and this book poignantly shows that. Not all African-American men are gangbangers and thugs who sell drugs, and not all police officers are dirty, trigger happy cops who murder African-Americans without provocation – but it is these stereotypes which keeps everyone imprisoned behind walls of hate and suspicion, and forces our collective children to grow up with fear and a learned hatred.

This book may be fiction, but it might as well be nonfiction. Too many times in recent history there have been police shootings of African-American men. Sometimes it is justified, but I can only imagine that sometimes stereotypes and racism (whether conscience or not) have played a part in such a shooting. Sometimes the office responsible for the shooting is indicted, and sometimes he is not. Each time the media and the parties involved become incensed, and it only adds more fuel to an already out of control fire.

Even though this book is supposed to be for teenagers, I would also recommend it to any adult. I usually read only for entertainment, but sometimes it is good to read a book that provokes thought and introspection.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

36381091Title: The Cabin at the End of the World

Author: Paul Tremblay

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours 31 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Read Start Date: March 23, 2019

Read Finish Date: March 24, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts adds an inventive twist to the home invasion horror story in a heart-palpitating novel of psychological suspense that recalls Stephen King’s Misery, Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, and Jack Ketchum’s cult hit The Girl Next Door.

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

Reviewer’s note: I really loved that the family in this book was a modern style family with two dads and an adoptive daughter. I think that this is not done enough in mainstream literature.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”.

Reviewer’s note: If it wasn’t obvious enough that something weird was happening (like why would this guy be talking to this young girl?) when Leonard said that line I was thinking “uh oh”. My first thought was some weird paranormal stuff was about to go down like in that movie Sinister.

Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”

Reviewer’s note: unexpected twist there. Maybe less Sinister, and more The Cabin in the Woods?

Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay.

Reviewer’s note: That last paragraph is a bit hyped. I didn’t feel the tension at all. I was a little disappointed actually.

My Review: Where to start with this book? Okay, so first I should say that I don’t know whether I liked or disliked this book, which is why I gave it 3 stars, as it came somewhere in between. It was an interesting premise, but I think that the author could have done more with it. Having less than 10 hours of listening time (272 pages), there really wasn’t much room for character building. I can’t say that I really felt anything for any of the characters, even little Wen. This was ultimately disappointing. In a horror story, who doesn’t want to feel at least some empathy toward the characters?

However, I didn’t dislike any of the characters either. As I mentioned above, I liked how the family had two dads and an adoptive daughter.

Since the book was so short, and since the author tried to give time to the back story of each character, it felt more like a summary of their lives than character development. For an example, it turned out (maybe — it was never really proven or not) that one of the strangers was possibly a guy that one of Wen’s dads had beaten up in a bar years earlier. I didn’t really think that this added anything to the story, other than a side comment that maybe these people were “gay bashers” and were therefore just lying about the whole apocalypse thing.

On the other hand, was character development really so important to the story? Could it have been rather that the story itself was more the focus?

I am also currently reading a book by Stephen King and Owen King called Sleeping Beauties. Similarly, it is about the end of the world, so to speak — but it is more than 700 pages long. I am not saying that you need 700 pages to truly develop a character or story, but it might have been nice if Tremblay had allotted a few more pages to the task.

I finished The Cabin at the End of the World in two days because I listened to it over the weekend, and I tend to listen to audiobooks a lot on the weekends. Had this been a paperback book, or had I started the audiobook on a Monday, I am not sure whether I would have been able to finish it in so short of a time, so I cannot say that the pace at which I read the book is any indication of the likeability of the book.

That’s not to say that I didn’t like the book. I typically like books that fall within the horror genre, and I don’t ever expect to be scared, but I do expect some sort of feeling that what I am reading is disturbing or creepy. Even if the story was more the intended focus than the characters for me, I would have liked to have liked the characters more, especially in light of what happened to them in the book.

This book reminded me a bit of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, except that I liked The Road a lot more. Let’s face it, cannibals (especially as vivid as McCarthy’s descriptions were of them) are always super disturbing, and are always going to beat out weird kidnappers / slashers in that department.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so it is really hard to give further examples of how the story fell a little short of expectations.

Have you read The Cabin at the End of the World? What did you think?

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

12291438Title: The Madman’s Daughter

Author: Megan Shepherd

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 50 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads : Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. MoreauThe Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

My Review: After a horrifying scene in London, where Juliet walks in on some medical students performing vivisection of a live white rabbit, Juliet discovers that her father was in fact alive (although presumed dead for many years). The author describes the scene with the rabbit so vividly that it left me queasy for days. I still shudder when I think of the rabbit’s screaming. I know it is imaginary, but things like that really hit me hard. I cannot stand to think of animals suffering, even fake ones.

Similarly, that Dr. Moreau performed his operations on his creatures without any pain killers or anesthesia is just terrible, unthinkable even. I wanted to cry just thinking of the pain inflicted on these poor animals. What a sick and twisted character. What makes me more upset is thinking that maybe in real life back in those days scientists really did perform these types of “surgeries” on animals. Animal cruelty is just so not okay. I was bothered that no one tried to stop Dr. Moreau. Why didn’t Juliet or Montgomery just kill him? I felt like maybe they were a little brainwashed, or maybe this was supposed to be an indication that they had “morals”? That they were not killers like the mad doctor. I don’t think that I could have stood by and let that go on.

I read some reviews which pooh-poohed the love triangle between Juliet, Montgomery, and Edward, but I didn’t feel the same. I didn’t find it sappy, or unbelievable. Montgomery was Juliet’s childhood friend (even though he was their servant’s son), and as an adult her childhood affections had turned romantic. She had conflicting emotions, however, because he was helping Dr. Moreau torture animals to make his “creations”. With respect to Edward, there was something in him that Juliet was physically drawn to despite her mental reservations about it, although we don’t really find out what that physical draw was until the surprise ending.

The writing was very good, and the story was suspenseful. Although I liked this book, it left me unsettled — the same feeling I came away with after reading H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. I cannot fathom why this book would be classified as “young adult”. I wouldn’t say this book was “scary”, but it certainly was very disturbing, and I think that the story will stay with me for a while.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Parasite by Mira Grant

13641105Title: Parasite

Author: Mira Grant

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 6 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives…and will do anything to get them.”

My Review: The main character, Sally Mitchell “Sal” awoke from a coma without any memories of her life before the accident. Her life was saved by the tapeworm living in her intestines. The book starts six years after she woke up. Her relationships are complicated, due to the fact that she was not a very nice person before the accident. Everyone in her life of course remembers this person, but she herself does not. Although Sal is an adult, she is often treated like a child by her parents (Sal’s Dad is the head of USAMRID), and her doctors at SymboGen see her as an anomaly and therefore study her and monitor her every move. In fact, the only person in Sal’s life who treats her with any normalcy is her boyfriend, Nathan (a parasitologist at the hospital).

Despite the coma and memory loss, Sal seems to be living a pretty average life, that is, until things start to get strange. People start developing a “sleeping sickness” and the infection is spreading. It is not known until the end how Sal fits into this sickness, and I won’t spoil it for you.

When I first started to read this book, I had been expecting something a bit more “apocalyptic”– so I was a little bit disappointed when it wasn’t; but, maybe this comes in the next 2 books?

I was also surprised to find out that this wasn’t a Young Adult book, because it certainly read like one. Other than the occasional swear word, the language of this book was super easy. The romantic relationships were PG all the way, and despite the family drama, other relationships in the book were rather uncomplicated and one-dimensional. The characters were interesting, when they were not totally unrealistic.

SPOILER ALERT: One of the characters that I did not like at all was Tansy. Tansy was a human who had been taken over by the tapeworm — so basically, Tansy was a tapeworm wearing a human shell. The only problem with Tansy was that her character was supposed to be crazy, and I guess the only way to illustrate this was to have her act like an unhinged Rambo who sometimes had cringe worthy one-liners? I think that the author could have developed the characters better. I also did not understand why the description of the characters was necessary — did the fact that Tansy have pink streaks in her hair make her seem more “crazy”? Otherwise, it just seems like these descriptions were just fillers without any real motivation.

This book was entertaining; I listened to the audiobook while running / walking. If you are looking to be entertained, you should give it a go. I would just caution to manage expectations.

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Origin by Dan Brown

32283133Title: Origin

Author: Dan Brown

Book Length (Audiobook): 18 hours 10 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery,

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself… and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery… and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.”

My Review: This is the 5th book in the Robert Langdon series. Dan Brown has his formula down pat for his books: male and female protagonists, with a twist at the end. This book fit right into the mold. The book was fast paced and I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out what the big secret was. I was entertained throughout. I am only giving it a 3 out of 5 stars, however, due to the below aspects:

1. Eye Rolling Repetition of Phrases

I found myself rolling my eyes at several points and cringing at the repetition of some phrases. For example, if the phrase “where did we come from and where are we going” was stated once in the book, it was stated 100 times. It was the theme of the book — but one I guess that needed to be bashed over my head. Also, how many times did we need to hear that Ambra Vidal was the “future queen of Spain”? We get it Dan Brown. Thanks.

2. Bad Ending

The ending was also not what I was expecting, and left me frankly disappointed. The book did not make any new revelations about “where did we come from” — evolution. And as for “where we are going”, well, SPOILER ALERT (do not read on if you want to read the book), humans will become integrated with science / technology. This will be the next evolution of the species. I was like really, that’s the big reveal? I thought it was a bit unoriginal.

3. What about Inferno?

At the end of Dan Brown’s last book, Inferno, the entire population was infected with some pathogen that made 1/3 of the planet infertile. Why wasn’t this mentioned at all in this book? Did Kirsch take this into account when he made the model / prediction for the future?

4. Romantic Interest, Or?

I was also really confused about the relationship between Vidal and Langdon. Did they have feelings for each other or not? Although there was no chemistry at all during the entire book, the ending made it sound like they were beginning to fall for each other, and that they would each miss each other in the romantic sense. I found this strange given the lack of intimacy or flirting between them during the story.

Despite the above 4 negative aspects, I would still recommend this book to anyone who liked the other Langdon books. I would just caution that one should manage expectations because Origin is definitely not the best one of the 5.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Outsider by Stephen King

36124936

Title: The Outsider

Author: Stephen King

Book Length (Audiobook): 18 hours 49 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Horror, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Link: Goodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.”

My Review: I have very mixed feelings about this book, and I have really struggled with this review. On the one hand I liked it, but on the other hand I was not that impressed. I have some spoilers in this review, but i cannot give my full opinion without giving away some of the story. The beginning of the book starts out like any other murder mystery / crime novel. As with all of his books, King’s writing is impeccable, and the characters are well-developed.

The issue I have is with the supernatural monster, who turned out to be the real killer. In a nutshell, this monster was a shape shifter that was capable of becoming other people, even down to the DNA level. This is how he would perpetrate the crimes, and the humans from whom the monster had stolen the DNA (like Terry Maitland) would get the blame. The monster fed on children and thrived on the grief the killings caused the family members. It had white blood filled with worms, and it would use the worms to infect humans so that it could control them to do its bidding.

After Detective Anderson (and his team) figure out that the real killer is some sort of monster, they track it down to a cave system and ultimately destroy it.

Elements of this story heavily reminded me of It (also by Stephen King) and the Strain series by Guillermo Del Toro — which is why, for me, the story did not really feel all that original. It reminded me of It because the monster went after children, hibernated after feedings, and lived underground in an abandoned mine. It reminded me of The Strain series because of the worms and the white blood (in The Strain, the vampires made new vampires by infecting humans with worms, and said vampires had white blood).

I was on a business trip in Japan while reading this book, and was severely jet lagged for most of the week. Since this book received very high reviews in general, maybe the jet lag prevented me from really appreciating the story, as every time I read the book, I was very tired. In any event, since Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, I would still recommend to read this book.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

17667561Title: The Shadow Throne

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours 53 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: The Shadow Throne is the last book in the Ascendance Trilogy following The Runaway King (see my review here) and The False Prince (see my review here). The book starts off about three weeks after the ending of The Runaway King, and war has come to Carthya. Imogen is captured by the King of Avenia, and Jaron sets out to save her. Tobias and the Princess are sent to the Princess’s country to get aid, and Roden is sent away to the border to stop an invasion. While Jaron is on his quest to save his love, war is erupting all around him.

My Review: SPOILER ALERT. I liked this book a lot less than the other two books. Although it was entertaining, and was a fast paced story, Jaron’s “wit” was getting super annoying. I mean, how cool is it when everything coming out of someone’s mouth is a quip or a one-liner? Talk about eye roll inducing. This book could have been full of action, but instead of following the battle scenes, most of the book followed the story of Jaron who was captured several times, tortured / beat up several times. It just got a little tedious. And to be honest, I didn’t really understand the whole point of having this war — except for maybe to get three books out of the storyline. I do not see how Jaron even won at the end, since everyone surrounding him was against him. It was a bit unrealistic. But of course, everything had to end so neatly with a happily ever after.

I have to say that I was kind of disappointed in the ending, but maybe Game of Thrones has made me expect too much from these medieval kingdom type books.

The Audiobook Recording: SPOILER ALERT. At the end of the recording, there is a special scene involving Bevin Connor and the King of Avenia. Connor is betraying Jaron in exchange for becoming King of Carthya after Jaron is dead. During this scene, Connor began to regret his traitorous ways and vows to help Jaron win the war. This seemed unlikely that after everything Connor had done he would for some unknown reason turn coat (again) and be loyal to Jaron…but okay. I guess it was needed to help the plot. Jaron of course had to win the war in the end (aforementioned happy ending) and there really were insurmountable odds without Connor’s help.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The 17th Suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

35212978Title: The 17th Suspect

Author: James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Book Length (Audiobook): 7 hours 4 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Thrillers, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Crime

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: The 17th Suspect is the 17th installment in the Women’s Murder Club series by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. You don’t really need to read the other books in order to understand what is happening in this 17th book (the author gives a brief summary of the events relevant for the book, if necessary); however, I always like to read the books in order, but that is just me. Honestly, I am debating reading the books over in order to give a real review on them.

Generally, though, the Woman’s Murder Club is a group of women who are friends and get together to solve crimes. Per the James Patterson official website, the cast of characters is as follows:

Detective Lindsay Boxer: “a homicide detective for the San Francisco Police Department. Lindsay is five foot ten. She was a sociology major and graduated from San Francisco State (to which she transferred from Berkeley when she found out that her mother had breast cancer). She loves beer and butterscotch praline ice cream. She has a border collie named Martha. She enjoys running, loves to read travel books and mysteries and her secret hobby is tai chi. Lindsay has been divorced once and is now married to long-time boyfriend Joseph Molinari. She has a younger sister named Cat and a father named Marty, who was also a member of the SFPD. Marty left Lindsay’s mother when Lindsay was 13.”

Cindy Thomas: “pretty, blonde and city cool. She’s a crime desk reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. Cindy is a graduate of the University of Michigan where she was a sociology major. She loves yoga, jazz music and, like her friend Lindsay Boxer, loves to read travel books and mysteries—she’s even a member of a book club. She also has a tattoo, but unlike Lindsay, she has two small G-clefs on her shoulder.”

Claire Washburn, “Claire is black and heavyset; she always jokes, “I’m in shape… round’s a shape.” Claire is wise, confident, kind, and the Chief Medical Examiner for San Francisco. She is married to Edmund, a kettle drum-player in the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Claire and Edmund have two teenage sons and a young daughter named Ruby Rose. Her tattoo: an outline of a butterfly just below her waist. She also goes by the nickname “Butterfly” and has it embroidered on her lab coat at work.”

Yuki Castellano: “an ambitious, young San Francisco district attorney who is passionate, brilliant, given to speaking at 90 miles per hour, and sometimes wears a magenta red streak in her glossy, black, shoulder-length hair. Her parents met at a graduate school mixer for foreign students and married within three weeks. Her mother is Japanese and her father Italian American. Yuki’s favorite drink, when out with the other members of the Club, is a Germain-Robin sidecar.” Yuki joins the Women’s Murder Club in book #5. She replaces another lawyer, Jill Bernhardt who was killed.

As with the other books, this book takes place in San Francisco and has two main cases. In the first story, a man is going around the city shooting homeless people, and Boxer has to investigate the murders (this story is more focused on the police side). The second case is about a man who has accused his boss of rape, and Yuki is prosecuting the woman for rape. It is a controversial case because usually women are not accused of raping men (this story is more focused on the legal side and the other girls are not really involved). Cindy and Claire only make cameo appearances in this book, as both stories are more focused on Lindsay and Yuki.

My Review: As with most of the James Patterson books, the writing is nothing special. Patterson’s books are classic beach reads. Quick and entertaining for a day at the beach. I read this book during the winter while running, but it kept me entertained, so that’s something. The stories remind me of Law and Order Episodes, as there are usually two stories, one focused on “the law”, and the other on “the order”. My feelings overall are rather ambivalent. As with most beach reads, the book isn’t meant to stir up any emotions, it is just there to entertain you.

The Audiobook Recording: Nothing to report.

Expectations/Recommendations: Since I have read many of Patterson’s books before, I knew what to expect, and I was not disappointed. I have to say though that the Patterson and Paetro collaboration is one of my favorite collaborations from Patterson. If you are looking for a quick read, and aren’t expecting anything intellectual, this is the right book for you.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

15703770Title: The Runaway King

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours 27 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: The Runaway King is the sequel to the False Prince (see my review of the False Prince here). First, I guess I should explain that Sage the orphan from the first book was really Prince Jaron in disguise. At the end of the book, he reveals his true identity, and takes his rightful place on the throne. At the beginning of The Runaway King, King Jaron has been king for 1 month, and everything is already in shambles. The Princess who was betrothed to his older brother Darius, is now betrothed to Jaron. The only problem is that the two of them dislike each other, and she is courting favor and winning allies among Jaron’s regents (behind his back).

At the funeral of Jaron’s family, Roden (one of the other orphans from the first book) tries to assassinate Jaron. It is discovered that the pirates (who everyone thought killed Jaron in the first book) are trying to kill him again — and it is possible that they are being paid to do so by another country, which has neighboring lands to Carthya. This neighboring country is on the brink of declaring war against Carthya. Jaron, not knowing who to trust (and because the regents decide to put a Steward in place until Jaron comes of age), leaves the castle and becomes “The Runaway King.” His plan in to infiltrate the pirates and to stop the coming war, or to at least be better prepared.

My Review: I liked this book. It was entertaining and was a fast paced story. However, it didn’t have the same “I need to get to the ending as fast as possible to find out what’s happening” pull as the first book did. The reader knows that Jaron is hiding as “Sage”, and knows what Jaron intends to do. The book is about the unfolding of these plans. Since there is a third book, I could only assume that Jaron would pull off whatever scheme he cooked up — and I had no illusions that it would be like Game of Thrones where the author killed off my most favorite characters because it would happen like that in real life. This is a YA book after all.

One of the things that I don’t like about YA in general, is the age of the main characters. Jaron is supposed to be 14 years old, but acts like he’s 34. Maybe I am just showing my age a bit, but I don’t remember being so capable when I was 14. Another thing that struck me as weird, is the Imogen / Jaron relationship. They are friends, but also more? This did not seem well fleshed out, but rather only mentioned in a few lines of dialogue toward the end of the book. It left me confused as to whether they did have romantic feelings for each other, or was it really only a friendship? Maybe this will be explained in the 3rd book.

The Audiobook Recording: Nothing special to report.