Archive for January, 2018

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The Vanishing Game – Kate Kae Myers

January 10, 2018

vanishingJocelyn’s twin brother Jack is dead. At least that’s what she thinks until she receives a letter from him that sends her on a wild chase. First stop: Noah Collier.

Noah becomes a reluctant participant in Jocelyn’s search after her car and belongings are stolen. She’s come to Noah looking for help because Noah had been Jack’s best friend. They’d both worked for the same computer programming company, ISI.

Kate Kae Myers’ YA novel The Vanishing Game is a twisty turny mystery novel that follows Jocelyn and Noah as they race around following Jack’s complicated clues. (Complicated enough that I stopped trying to figure them out, but I was wayyy distracted when I was reading this book.)

Jocelyn, Jack and Noah spent their adolescence at Seale House, a foster home run by Hazel Frey, a drug addict who locked kids in the basement as punishment. Jocelyn is convinced that there are clues in the ruined remains of the place she once called home. (Half the building had burned down.) It’s the first stop on her journey to finding out exactly what happened to her brother and if he is actually really dead.

Jack leaves a series of puzzles for Jocelyn and Noah to solve, puzzles reminiscent of the games they used to play as kids at Seale House. But the clues aren’t they only mystery: Seale House has some ghosts to give up and someone is following the pair as they try to get to the bottom of Jack’s death.

The Vanishing Game will intrigue careful readers

 

 

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Off the shelf – looking ahead to 2018

January 8, 2018

Listen here.

I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions because it just makes you feel more miserable when you fail, but I do resolve to be a better reader in 2018. I am outing myself here, but 2017 was not a good reading year for me. If I look back at the titles I read in 2017 – there are really only a handful of memorable books, and I think I sort of got into a reading rut. My expectations were really high, but after a few bad reads I just sort of lost the plot, so to speak. So – as I look ahead to 2018 I am going to make a few changes in my reading life, not only in an effort to read more, but just in an effort to waste less of my precious free time. (Candy Crush – I’m looking at you!)

According to an article by Charles Chu at Better Humans, it is actually possible to read 200 books per year. 200! He did the math and that’s helpful for those of us who are mathematically challenged. Apparently, it would take the average reader about 417 hours to read roughly 10 million words at 400 wpm. And where are these hours coming from? Um – the average American, so let’s just say North American – wastes 608 hours a year on social media and 1642 hours per year on TV. Talk about a time suck. So, if you want to read more – put down your electronic devices and pick up a book

There are all sorts of reading challenges out there – something for book lovers of every stripe –  some that encourage you to Read Harder (as Book Riot’s challenge encourages you to do); or  PopSugar’s 2018 Reading Challenge. These sorts of challenges just give you a list of categories  and your job is to read a book that fits. Categories include things like “A book set at sea” or  “A  book with an ugly cover”. The one challenge I do every year is on GoodReads – which requires  nothing more from me than to decide how many books I am going to read over the course of  the year. I guess that’s 200 this year, right?

I think reading challenges can be good motivators – even just as a way to remind yourself to read (and no, Facebook doesn’t count!) – or as a way to help you decide what to read next if you get stuck. Also – if you tend to  read the same sort of book over and over, a reading challenge might encourage you to read outside of your comfort zone and that’s never a bad thing.

 

Book clubs are another great way to guarantee you’ll read this year. My book club has been at it over 20 years and although we have certainly read our fair share of duds – we’ve read a lot of great books, too. Book clubs are easy to start and can be as simple as meeting at a local coffee shop/ bar to discuss the book to hosting elaborate meals at members’ houses to discuss the book. All you need are a handful of people willing to read and meet on a regular basis and a few ground rules. I think the best way to find a book club is to ask around, but there is also a local chapter of Girly Book Club  – which is an international reading group started in the UK in 2014 and now boasts clubs in 6 countries. Kinda cool.

 

As for my own reading list for 2018? Oh dear. The list she is long.

At the top is John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down.

turtlesI love John Green and I bought this book pretty much as soon as it came out…and it’s been on my bedside table ever since. I know it’s easy to hate on John Green – but I kind of love him and he totally loves teenagers and writes them so well. Turtles all the Way Down is the story of Aza, her best friend Daisy, and Davis, the son of a missing millionaire who has disappeared. Aza is determined to find him to claim the reward.

I am also most anxious to read Celeste Ng’s second novel Little Fires Everywhere.

 You might recall that I was in love with her debut novel Everything I Never Told You alittlefires couple years back. Little Fires is set in the late 1990s in Shaker Heights, Ohio and is a story of  both a literal fire (one of the main characters watches as her house burns down in the novel’s opening pages) and figurative fires: race, rebellion, family tensions. By all accounts it is a literary page-turner. So I am looking forward to that,

I am also really looking forward to reading Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling

myabsolutedarlingThis is Tallent’s debut novel and despite the tricky subject matter – sexual abuse – the reviews have been uniformly fantastic. Stephen King called it a ‘masterpiece’ if you care about that sort of thing. It’s probably helpful to know going in that this is the story of Martin, a survivalist, and his fourteen-year-old daughter, Turtle and that – from the sounds of things – there is plenty to make readers super uncomfortable, but it’s also been called “a devastating and powerful debut.” So I have to read it.

Then of course, I will be adding scads of new titles to my reading queue courtesy of Litsy and the dozens of Best Of and Most Anticipated lists out there. I’m pretty certain my 2018 reading year is all booked.

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The American Girl – Kate Horsley

January 4, 2018

american girlMeet Quinn Perkins, a seventeen-year-old American exchange student spending a semester in the small French town of St. Roch.

Meet the Blavettes, Quinn’s host family. Sixteen-year-old Noemie, her nineteen-year-old brother, Raphael, and their mom, Emilie.

Meet Molly Swift, an American reporter for American Confessional, an podcast series that takes on “stories of police incompetence or just general incompetence, and find[s] the real story.”

When Quinn wanders out of the woods “barefoot and bloodied” only to be hit by a car (the driver of which doesn’t stop) and left in a coma, Molly and her journalistic muse, Bill, think Quinn would make a perfect story, something about “a young American girl coming of age, going into the world on her own only to encounter the unkindness of a stranger.”

Quinn’s story is slightly more complicated than that, though. Through a series of flashbacks, readers are introduced to the toxic Blavette household: father Marc  has left the family after an incident at the local school (which is attached to the house the family lives in and has subsequently been closed). Madame Blavette now takes exchange students as a way of making ends meet.

First thought to be away on a holiday, it is soon revealed that the Blavette family has disappeared without a trace. When Quinn wakes up in the hospital after her accident, she has no memory. Good thing, too, since Molly feels like the best way to get close to Quinn is to pretend to be her aunt. (Quinn’s father back home in America, is too busy with his much-younger pregnant wife to make the trip to France after Quinn’s accident.)

Kate Horsley’s The American Girl would make a terrific Netflix mini series. It’s populated with a cast of characters who all seem to have ulterior motives making it impossible to decide who is telling the truth. There are subplots galore including threatening Snapchat messages, sinister caves, locked doors and menacing strangers.

If this seems like a lot – it’s really not. The book was a lot of fun to read.

 

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Pretty Baby – Mary Kubica

January 2, 2018

pretty babyHeidi Wood seems to have it all going on. She’s happily married to Chris, successful dude (mergers and acquisitions), and mother to twelve-year-old, Zoe. They live in a spectacular condo in Chicago. But Mary Kubica’s novel Pretty Baby wants you to believe that Heidi’s life is precariously perched on a knife’s edge and all that it takes to set it off is Willow and her infant daughter, Ruby.

The first time I see her, she is standing at Fullerton Station on the train platform, clutching an infant in her arms….The girl is dressed in a pair of jeans, torn at the knee. Her coat is thin and nylon, an army green. She has no hood, no umbrella….The baby is quiet, stuffed inside the mother’s coat like a joey in a kangaroo pouch.

Heidi can’t get the girl and her baby off her mind. Partly it’s because she “work[s] with people who are often poverty stricken.” But there’s another, deeper reason. In any case, Heidi can’t stop thinking about the girl and when fate brings them into each other’s path again, Heidi acts. Before you can say, wtf, Heidi has moved Willow and Ruby into the condo with her family.

If I can say one thing about Pretty Baby, it’s that it’s overstuffed. So, first there’s Heidi and her fascination with this young girl and her baby, despite the fact that she has a (largely ignored) daughter at home. Then there’s Chris, who despite loving the woman he’s spent almost half his life with, finds himself wondering what the comely Cassidy Knudsen (new to his team) might wear to bed. Then there’s Willow, who tells her tale to the decidedly unpleasant Louise Flores, and it’s quite a story. Pull any one of these threads and you’d have enough for a novel, but Kubica tries very hard to weave them together and I can’t say that it was altogether successful.

Just a ‘meh’ for me.