Great Reads

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

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Publish Date: 
1/2/18
Author:
 A.J. Finn
Started:
4/22/19
Finished:
4/24/19
Pages:
449
Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

My Review:

I am well aware of all of the controversy hovering around the author of this book. I want to focus solely on the book itself though and leave you to make your own choices about Finn.

This book has been all over the place since its publication and I can understand why. I won’t say that it didn’t have some faults because it did but I really enjoyed this psychological thriller. Ana is all kinds of messed up and it made me question much of the book. She is such an unreliable narrator that makes for the reader to even question motives and events.

I want to say that I figured out the ending but even so, I only figured out certain aspects of it which is why I enjoyed it. I hate reading predictable thrillers and this was somewhat predictable but not entirely which helped in my eyes. I also want to say that the character development was fantastic. This gave us just enough of what we needed without becoming too character driven which is a major plus in my character driven hatred life.

Although it looks like a long book, I whipped through this just as fast as books half of its size. I didn’t want to put this down and I really enjoyed this one just as much as many other readers have.

Great Reads

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

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Publish Date:
1/22/09
Author:
 Sherri L. Smith
Started:
4/24/19
Finished:
4/26/19
Pages:
285
Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.

When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots – and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.

My Review:

I love historical fiction and this was a good book on a topic that I haven’t read much about even if it is written about the overly popular WWII era. I also know this was written for the young adult genre but I felt like a mark was missed here. There was excitement that was missing from such an exciting time. I also didn’t approve of some of the messages that were highlighted. I understand that passing during the time was something that many African Americans resorted to and I understand that Ida didn’t have much of a choice other than to pass in order to get where she wanted. I just wish that Smith would have focused on a more realistic approach. Ida lied not only from passing, which again, I understand, but also lied on the grounds of having a pilot’s licence to begin with. I think the book would have been better if that was acknowledged at all during the novel. As far as I know, the book was written loosely around true events but loosely in my opinion, gave room for Smith to at least bring up more realistic scenarios with a woman who was found lying in more than one way. I would have even enjoyed Ida being found out but honoring her status just for what she had accomplished. That too may have been unrealistic. All in all, the fear that Ida has of being found out is there but I think it would have been beneficial if readers gathered a more truthful sense of what could have happened had she been. It would help young readers realize the harsh reality of the time and helped them see our ancestors truly went through.

With all of that being said, I again enjoyed a fresh take on a WWII story. Ida and the real Women Airforce Service Pilots should be honored for their epic journeys that they took during a time period when being a woman was a handicap in itself. It’s a true eye-opener on how far we have come even when we have more to go. With its faults, I still found it to be an important story that young adults should dive into for at least a little bit of truthful knowledge of the time period.

Great Reads

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Publish Date: 5/30/17
Author:
Karen M. McManus
Started:
4/18/19
Finished:
4/21/19
Pages:
361
Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little LiarsOne of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

My Rating:

I can see why young adults would truly love this. It was way slower for me than I anticipated. I kept slugging through because I’ve read so many positive reviews on the book and all in all, I’m glad I continued to read because the last bit of the book was its savior for me.

This reads not only as a young adult thriller but a young adult romance which I wish I knew before jumping into it. I may have thought more of it had I known that. The summary compares this to The Breakfast Club and although the typical high school stereotypes are there, it lacked the entertainment and humerus facets which I would have enjoyed. Although stereotypical, the characters felt real which is important. They were in no way relatively perfect

The read was fast and fun but it lacked a little bit of the mystifying factor that I search for in thrillers. I still look forward to reading Two Can Keep a Secret as well as the future  sequel to this,  One of Us is Next.

Great Reads

Dear Lily by Drew Davies

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Publish Date: 
5/17/19
Author:
 Drew Davies
Started:
4/28/19
Finished:
4/30/19
Pages:
292
Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Many thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley who provided me this book to read in exchange for my honest opinion.

Goodreads Summary:

Dear Lily,

It’s me, Joy, your much wiser and (very slightly) older sister. I thought I’d start a new tradition of letter writing – now that we’re long distance.

On the plane over here, I began to cry in seat 21C. I think the magnitude of it finally hit me, after everything that happened…

I haven’t even unpacked yet – the only thing I’ve taken out of my suitcase is Harville, your beloved childhood teddy. Sorry for stealing him, but I need him more than you do. Every time I look at that little brown bear I think about our childhood. Remember that dance we made up to Annie’s ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’? (Remember the broom choreography?)

I’m also sorry for abandoning you – I’ve always been your agony aunt, and a buffer in your infamous shouting matches with Mum. But I had to leave, Lily, I had to.

Anyway, I’m here now. I’m here to start over, and to face up to the past. I want to learn to laugh again, and to find someone to love who will maybe even love me back. You always told me I was just getting by, not actually living, so I’m finally doing it. Wish me luck, little sister.

Love,

Joy x

A beautiful book-club read for anyone who has ever hit rock bottom, longed for a fresh start, or needed to heal a broken, aching heart.

My Review:

There has been many books that highlight mental illnesses recently. I think it’s great but because I’ve read so many recently, I think that I need a break and it may have influenced my overall thoughts on the book. Many of these books have been giving us just a glimpse on how dark mental illness can actually be and they’re all too similar in my opinion. I have recently read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (review found here) and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill which I really enjoyed and the review will be posted closer to publication date. However, even though I enjoyed these books, they are all too similar to one another.

Dear Lily is a tad different as it is presented by letters to our narrator, Joy, to her sister, Lily. It’s through letters that we learn of the struggles Lily is going through in her new country of Denmark. The letters convey so many different levels of emotions. I found myself laughing, cringing, feeling sad, and even upset during some of the letters. There is  a lot of depth to Joy and the letters definitely portray that, however; I was always searching for more. Many of the books that I’ve mentioned have done a good job just portraying everyday humans going through hardships and mental illness, and maybe that’s what’s needed but I am always looking for more drama and more of a story line to follow. This is at no fault to the book itself but more of my preference so I can see many people really enjoying Dear Lily. 

Overall, it delivers a great message and can be very insightful. The format was unique and really helps the story feel personal. I commend Davies for this and do suggest it for a light read on dark themes.

Great Reads

A River in Darkness One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa

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Publish Date: 
6/26/18
Author:
 Masaji Ishikawa
Started:
4/21/19
Finished:
4/22/19
Pages:
172
Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

An Amazon Charts Most Read and Most Sold book.

The harrowing true story of one man’s life in—and subsequent escape from—North Korea, one of the world’s most brutal totalitarian regimes.

Half-Korean, half-Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa has spent his whole life feeling like a man without a country. This feeling only deepened when his family moved from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was just thirteen years old, and unwittingly became members of the lowest social caste. His father, himself a Korean national, was lured to the new Communist country by promises of abundant work, education for his children, and a higher station in society. But the reality of their new life was far from utopian.

In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life. A River in Darkness is not only a shocking portrait of life inside the country but a testament to the dignity—and indomitable nature—of the human spirit.

My Review:

I finished this a little while ago but have been struggling on how to fairly review it! I did enjoy the read but cannot talk smack, yes smack, about it just because I disliked the situations or ending because it’s a TRUE STORY!

I am always interested in Korea because my Grandpa fought in the Korean War. I feel like the war and time period is really forgotten. Although A River in Darkness doesn’t focus on the war on the specific time in the war, it’s a connection that is necessary to understand the United States entering the war.

I obviously understand the complexity of North Korea and it’s extremeness but this book still shocked me. The lifestyles explained were horrific, eye-opening, and heartbreaking. What Ishikawa and his family endured is hard to even wrap your head around. It’s hard to not literally believe what happened but believe that any of this has really been going on.

Although non-fiction, I find myself at a wall to be able to talk any more about the book without giving away the shock value of reading it yourself. I highly recommend this quick yet informative read. It left me in pieces.

Great Reads

ARC REVIEW OUT TOMORROW – The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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Publish Date:
5/14/19 
Author: 
Christna Lauren
Started:
3/15/19
Finished:
3/17/19
Pages:
323
Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Big thanks to Netgalley and Gallery Books by giving me a copy to read and review before pulication. All opinions are my own.

Goodreads Review:

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky. 

My Review:

I am aware of Christina Lauren books but I have never read any of her others. I was honestly drawn to the cover of this book before anything else. I don’t really enjoy romantic reads much and don’t pick them up often. I am so glad I did! This was a first romantic comedy for me in a long while as well as my first Lauren as mentioned and I was pleasently surprised. It was utterly hilarious! Even though the majority of it became predictable, many romantic comedies do and it didn’t take away from it. I loved Olive and Ethan as characters. Their dynamic together was hilarious and well written. I found myself laughing out loud multiple times and having a huge smile plastered on my face in many other parts as well.

Lauren does an amazing job with connecting the reader to her character’s feelings in this book without over-doing it. I really enjoyed reading this even through all of the cringe-worthy parts.  Watching Olive grow as a character was also nice. She goes through a bunch of “unlucky” circumstances but throughout everything ends up growing as a person and her self transformation is just as wonderful as her and Ethan’s transformation.

I devoured this book and highly reccommend to read it. It is a perfect vacation, beach, by the pool, book and I will definitely have to go back and read some of Lauren’s previous works. This is out tomorrow so make sure you get your hands on a copy!

Great Reads

Normal People by Sally Rooney

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Publish Date:  
4/16/19
Author:
Sally Rooney
Started:
4/30/19
Finished:
5/2/19
Pages:
273
Rating:⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to Netgalley and Hogarth for providing me an e-copy in exchange for my honest review.

Goodreads Summary:

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

My Review:
I do not really know what I think. I know most people are raving over this but it was not for me. I did enjoy the complexity of Marianne and Connell’s relationship but it ends there for me. This was completely character driven and although the two characters were complex together, I was not very interested in scenes when they were not.

I also know that I was warned that this was a challenging read with little punctuation. I did not find it necessarily challenging but annoying. I could not understand the reasoning behind the absence of punctuation, and when I say no punctuation, I really mean NO punctuation. It was like Rooney was trying to redefine English grammar rules because she felt like it. Voices were so hard to differentiate and different characters were introduced at random times.

There were strong themes of sex in the book. I felt like the author could have made Marianne and Connell’s relationship even more complex with adding more elements of friendship. I know that they were there but I was wanting more of that and less of the physical aspect. I know that the lack of the emotional attachment was there for a reason but when that emotional aspect was brought up, it felt more forced and out of place.

Another issue of mine is that I think the author wanted to highlight normal people leading normal lives but missed that mark making Marianne and Connell a little less than normal. The sexual themes, themes of domestic violence, and hard times could be viewed as normal but I still feel as y pro: it definitely highlights normal people leading normal lives were a little different than what I would consider normal. 

I understand that so many people enjoyed the book but I really did not. I rated it three stars because I can recognize what the author was trying to do and she succeeded in many people’s opinions. For me I just couldn’t get invested. On to the next I guess!

Great Reads

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

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Publish Date: 
3/1/06
Author:
Rick Riordan
Started:
4/13/19
Finished:
4/18/19
Pages:
377
Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse – Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena – Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

My Review:

My students kept telling me to read this! I am in the process of starting to set my students up for reading The Odyssey. I had a ton of students answering questions and comparing lessons to circumstances in The Lightning Thief so I knew that I had to read it. I always am happy to read something that my students recommend and in this instance, it’s been such a help now that I can use it for my students to reference during reading.

I loved this. I am so happy to have finally gotten to it. Percy and the other characters were so likable. This also serves as a great outlet to Greek mythology. I found myself reading and recognizing so many characters and instances in the story and was in awe on how Riordan was able to utilize all of it.

The best part about this is how Riordan was able to modernize Greek mythology. He didn’t stray from the gods’ characteristics in any way but was able to incorporate them into modern times in such an amazing way. The setting was even more surprising as Mount Olympus was found on the top of the Empire State building where Hades was found in good ol’ L.A (can you imagine why?). It serves as a great outlet for kiddos to learn about Greek mythology and making it feel relevant.

I left this book excited to read more of the series and if I didn’t have so many deadlines for other books at the moment, I would have already dove into it! I HIGHLY suggest giving this middle grade novel a chance no matter what age you are! You won’t regret it in any way.

Great Reads

April Wrap-Up

I am still working through my Spring Summer Bingo list. I’m doing really well even though I’ve deviated off of my TBR. Because of this deviation, I AM NOT setting up a TBR list for May. I am going to try and knock out some bingo squares but I am not in any way going to set anything specific because I’ve been changing so much around anyway.

All in all, April was AN AWESOME MONTH! I read more this month than I think I have any other month with a total of 12 books! I finished:

A Painted House – Review will be posted soon.

The Hunting Party – Review found HERE

Daisy Jones & the Six – Review found HERE

Tiny Hot Dogs: A Memoir in Small Bites – Review found HERE

The Lighting Thief – Review will be posted soon.

If Cats Disappeared from the World – Review found HERE

A River in Darkness – Review will be posted soon.

One of us is Lying – Review will be posted soon.

The Woman in the Window – Review will be posted soon.

Flygirl – Review will be posted soon.

Things You Save in a Fire – Review will be posted soon.

Dear Lily – Review will be posted soon.

What did you read this month?