Sunday, October 25, 2015

Book Review: Grant County Series AND Will Trent Series

Yep, you read that title correctly. I am reviewing two series, each made up of six books. That is twelve books total and the best part? I read the entire twelve books over the course of three weeks. My husband thinks I have a sickness, but regardless, I hope that (combined with the craziness of the first quarter of the school year) explains me being MIA since late-August. Now on to the book review....

The weekend prior to Teacher Work Week, I read Cop Town by Karin Slaughter on suggestion from my bestie. It was fantastic and an incredibly quick read, so I decided to delve into Slaughter's first series, the Grant County series, which follows Dr. Sara Linton, the pediatrician and county coroner of Grant County and Jeffrey Tolliver, Grant County's Chief of Police and Sara'a ex-husband. All of the novels in the series (Blindsighted, Kisscut, A Faint Cold Fear, Indelible, Faithless, and Beyond Reach) read like episodes of Law and Order: SVU. Simply put, they include so much sexually-motivated killings. I love SVU, or, as my husband calls it, Rape Case, so the content of the novels really did not bother me, but I understand how someone with a queasy stomach may not enjoy them so much. The storylines are fascinating and connect well, so it was super easy to breeze through that series. There were characters in the series, though, who I began to thoroughly dislike as the series went on (stupid Lena) and the ending of the series was heartbreaking.

After wrapping my mind around the final scene of the final book, I went to the library and checked out the Will Trent series (Triptych, Fractured, Undone, Broken, Fallen, and Criminal), which takes place in Atlanta and follows Will Trent, a GBI special agent, his partner Faith Mitchell, and his sometimes wife Angie Polaski. While the two series are connected, it is not until the third book that any of the characters from the Grant County series are introduced. I really enjoyed reading the Will Trent series because I felt Will was such an interesting character and actually reminded me of some of my students. I did, however, want to punch Angie in the face on the regular because of her horrible treatment of Will.

In all, I think I liked the Will Trent series better because the storylines were so varied (rape, kidnap, drugs, etc.) and were not all SVU episodes like in the Grant County series. Plus, I liked the ending of the Will Trent series MUCH better than the Grant County series (stupid Lena). Regardless, both series completely sucked me in and I now want to read all of Slaughter's books. Definitely a 9/10 for both series!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Review: Pretty Baby

Mary Kubica writes some seriously twisted, psychologically creepy books. Her first book, The Good Girl, was good, but I think Pretty Baby was even better...and even more messed up.

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Like many novels that fall into the psychological thriller realm, Pretty Baby is told in the alternating voices of Willow, Chris, and Heidi. Willow is a young, homeless girl who is alone in Chicago with a baby. She is filthy, secretive, and desperate, not knowing where to go or what to do until she is noticed by Heidi while standing on the train platform in the rain.

Heidi is a mother, wife, and has a soft spot for those less fortunate, as is shown in her inner monologue when thinking about Willow and those individuals she has helped while working at a non-profit organization. When she sees Willow at the train station holding four month old Ruby, her natural disposition is to help. Heidi, however, has a sad past, one that will come into question when she invites Willow and Ruby into her house, a decision her husband, Chris, and twelve year old daughter, Zoe, are not thrilled with.

Chris is a loving husband and father who recognizes that his past with Heidi is not without sadness and hurt. However, Chris thought those wounds had long ago healed. Having Willow in his home causes him to question not only what his wife was thinking, but also how healed those traumas in his wife's past truly are.

Pretty Baby is a page turner, filled with twists that I was truly not expecting. Most of the chapters end on a cliffhanger and unforeseen circumstances had me reading well into the night (by flashlight as to not disrupt my peacefully sleeping hubby). After finishing the book in less than 24 hours, I give it a 9 out of 10 and highly recommend Pretty Baby to everyone, especially those who enjoyed The Good Girl. Well done, Mary Kubica, on another literary success. :)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Review: The Other Daughter

So I am going to be honest took me FOREVER to get through this novel. The premise is super intriguing, but for some reason, I just had a hard time getting into it.

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The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig centers around Rachel Woodley, a governess living and working in France when she receives a telegram alerting her to her mother's failing health in England. Upon her return to England, she discovers she is too late: her mother has succumbed to influenza. While going through her mother's things, Rachel finds a picture of the father who had presumably died twenty-three years prior. The only issue is that the picture came from a recent issue of a gossip magazine and he is posing with a woman who is listed as his daughter. Rachel realizes that everything she had been told about her father had been a lie; not only is he alive, but he is an Earl and has another family.

Rachel travels to London to learn more about her father and in the process, she meets Simon, a gossip columnist who helps her to come with a plan to gain access into the high ranks of society so that she can confront her father. What follows is a really unbelievable plan in which Rachel assumes the name Vera Morton, a distant cousin of Simon's, and she is set up in a lavish London apartment complete with a new wardrobe to help her assume her new identity. 

I found the concept of being able to change a person's personality and diction in a few days to be extremely hard to believe. Even Professor Higgins took more than a few days to get Eliza Doolittle ready for society in My Fair Lady. Regardless, the story continues with numerous mysteries being uncovered, flawed characters unveiled, and emotions running wild.

I think The Other Daughter has potential, but as a historical novel, it does not quite fit the mold. Not enough is discussed about what is happening in England during the late 1920s when the novel takes place. The only detail given is to the lavish furnishings and gardens of the entitles characters in the novel, as well as the clothing and partying life. Overall, I give Willig's novel a 7.5 out of 10, as the details of the minor characters and time period were not developed thoroughly enough for my liking.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Review: Yellow Crocus

The neighborhood we live in has a book group and while I have never actually been to a meeting, I do read the Facebook posts to see what book has been chosen each month and depending on how I feel about the book summary, I occasionally will read the selected book. Needless to say, when I read the summary for this past month's book, I was delighted.

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I have been on a historical fiction kick recently and have found myself reading more and more novels that deal with slavery and the Civil War. Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim follows the relationship of Lisbeth, the privileged oldest child of plantation owners, and Mattie, one of the family's slaves who becomes Lisbeth's wet nurse. As Lisbeth grows older, she finds that Mattie is more like family than either of her parents--the overwhelmed mother and cold, distant father--and her frequent visits to the slave quarters to see Mattie's own family brings them even closer together.

Yellow Crocus was a novel that I honestly could not put down. There is just so much that happens in the novel and so much that makes you think about the ways of the South during the 1800s. I was drawn into the setting and absolutely fell in love with the gentle, yet strong and brave character of Mattie. I literally finished this novel in one day; it just drew me in and kept me enthralled from start to finish. I could not put it down. The story just flowed seamlessly and you were left with a sense of satisfaction. 

I was amazed that the novel was written by a first-time author. Ibrahim's writing skills are truly fantastic. Every detail in the novel, from what Lisbeth wore for her dances to how Mattie speaks, just seems to real. I felt like I was there, watching the story unfold in person. The details, writing, and beautiful storytelling make it difficult to give Yellow Crocus anything other than a 10 out of 10. I just hope that Ibrahim decides to publish another novel (and soon!) because her writing is lovely. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why I Re-read Harry Potter

As I sat in the family room reading the last 130 pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Monday night, my husband sat on the couch across from me laughing. Why? He was laughing at the fact that I was legitimately crying over the events in the novel, a novel that I have read at least nine times. His thought process was simple: You know what is going to happen, so why do you continue to cry about it? For that, I have no response, because his logic does make sense, but regardless of how many times I have read the novels in the Harry Potter series, I get so caught up in the wizarding world that I find myself experiencing all those emotions as if I were reading them for the first time.

My students ask the same question every year when they realize that not only do I have Dumbledore's Army posters in my classroom, wear Hogwarts t-shirts with my pencil skirts, and use Ron Weasley's wand as a pointer, but I also re-read the entire series every summer (and have done so since middle school). They think I am crazy, but what I do not think they quite realize is that I essentially grew up with Harry Potter and even now as a 27 year old woman, it is a link to my childhood. 

The Harry Potter bookshelf in the office/library

My sixth grade teacher bought a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for everyone in our class as Christmas gifts. Right after Christmas, I moved to Richmond and was so utterly upset over moving that I lost myself in books, with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone being the first that I read. Needless to say, after reading the first, I was hooked and begged my mom to buy Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for me since those were the only books of the series that had already been released.

Fun Fact: The copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone that Mrs. Wilson gave me for Christmas in 1999 still sits on the bookcase in my classroom (and will do so until I quit teaching) and has been the most checked out book in my "library" for the past four years.

I still remember going to Barnes and Noble with my neighbor Ben to get the sixth book at midnight and rushing home to begin reading it. When my mom woke up the next morning to go to work, I was still in bed reading and when she got home from work, I was still there, except this time there were tissues all over my bed (RIP Dumbledore). Even now, after having read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at least ten times, I still cry during Dumbledore's funeral. 

I am sure that in five to ten years when I have children of my own, I will tear up in the same parts as I always have when I read the series aloud to them. A part of me is so emotionally invested in the series that the emotions are unavoidable. Plus, the storyline is AWESOME and who in their right mind would not want to be a witch/wizard?! There is an Alan Rickman quote that I think sums up my love of Harry Potter perfectly:

All the feels!!!