Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Publisher: Knopf 2015

Format & Page Count: eBook, 303 pages

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Date Read: February 7, 2015

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

My Thoughts: All the Bright Places is advertised as a cross between The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, both of which I adore, so I was naturally curious about this book. This book basically follows the common contemporary love story plot of two characters with tragic back stories and opposing outlooks on life falling in love after a chance encounter. But of course these love stories can't be simple and happy, there has to be a dramatic and sad twist about two thirds of the way through the book that is supposed to make you burst into tears and grieve for the characters.

If you can't tell from my semi-sarcastic introduction, I did not love this book as much as I was promised. It was funny and cute and clever, but also predictable, expected, and over done. When it comes to contemporary love stories, I do not think this book really added anything new or exciting to the genre. It fell short of my expectations. I expected to be a pile of tears by the end, but I honestly was never hooked emotionally. There were moments when I felt a twinge of heartache, but there was no lasting effect from this book.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book, is the theme of mental illness and suicide. These are topics that I feel need to be expressed more in young adult literature, because many teens struggle with these things. If people read more books with characters facing similar struggles, they can connect and recognize that there is nothing wrong with who they are, which is a common issue teens face. While I commend the attempt at exploring these issues, I do not think it was done properly, but I can't get into the reasons why without entering spoiler territory. Basically, this book includes a suicidal character, but does little to promote teens with similar circumstances to seek help nor does it make it seem like things ever get better for a suicidal teen, which is important to write about. This book somewhat romanticizes suicide, which was problematic for me.

I do have to commend the author for her writing. I loved the characters and all the quirks they have. They seemed believable and I was even able to see some of myself in them. The way they communicated and their references to quirky things such as Virginia Woolfe and the Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect. There were also many interesting facts and tidbits that I found extremely compelling, so I definitely enjoyed those little touches.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, but it definitely felt like the author was beating a dead horse with this overly cliche and tragic love story. I will definitely consider seeing the movie when it is released and would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick contemporary read.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review: Dark Places

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books 2009

Format & Page Count: eBook 373 pages

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Date Read: December 21, 2014

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (from book): Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in "The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived - and famously testified that her fifteen year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club - a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes - locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She'll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club for a fee. As Libby's search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started - on the run from a killer.

My thoughts: Immediately after reading The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galibrath, I was enthralled with the mystery genre. I also had much more free time, since I was home from college for break, which led me to want to get my hands on another mystery novel as soon as possible. I had heard nothing but good things about Gillian Flynn's books and decided to give this one a shot.

Dark Places is a captivating and entrancing story that kept me guessing until the very end. The book is written through varying perspectives of Libby's mother and brother on the day of the murders and also of Libby currently. During each chapter, a tiny piece of information is shared that alters any perception previously formed. I was constantly changing my predictions about what happened to the family, but never was able to piece everything together on my own.

If you enjoy unsuspected endings, this book is sure to satisfy. Personally, the ending is what dropped the rating of the book down a star. Although it was surprising and unpredictable, which I normally enjoy, it felt entirely unsatisfying. Based on the circumstances provided, it was definitely a realistic conclusion, but I was hoping for something a bit more shocking, scandalous,  and jaw dropping than what was provided in this story.

Overall, Dark Places is a well written and captivating thriller that any mystery lover will enjoy.

Review: The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galibrath

Publisher: Mulholland Books 2013

Format & Page Count: Paperback, 384 pages

Genre: Crime, mystery

Date Read: December 16, 2014

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide. After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office. 
Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man. 
You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.

My Thoughts: By now pretty much every book enthusiast knows that Robert Galibrath is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, which generated most of the publicity for this book. I had only heard about it after Rowling was revealed as the author, otherwise I doubt I would have heard of this book, let alone read it. I am very glad I discovered this book because it has sparked a love for crime and mystery novels, which are genres I generally do not find myself compelled to read. This is definitely a good book to read by the fire in the winter when you can curl up in a comfy chair with a blanket and a hot cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate.

This was a book that took me awhile to really get into. The beginning was interesting, but the exposition tended to feel dragged out. The information about the crime was repeated multiple times and reviewed with a fine-tooth comb before something of significance seemed to stand out and grasp interest. It wasn't until halfway through the book that I found myself finally grasped in the story. I ended up staying awake util 3am just to finish the last 200 pages of the book because I was so engrossed in the story. All the clues finally began to erupt and melt together to slowly for a satisfying and realistic conclusion.

My favorite thing about this book is that it was never predictable. I constantly tried to put the clues together myself in order to figure out who the culprit is, but never could guess the actual conclusion. In the end, I was completely taken by surprise, but after everything was revealed, I was completely satisfied, for the motive remained completely realistic.

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