November 13, 2018

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal. 

 I’m not sure how this book turned out to be a feel good story. Nothing during the reading of it suggested it would be that way except, maybe, for the fact that it’s a Young Adult novel. I find, more often than not, Young Adult goes the feel-good route instead of soul-crushing route.

Now, there was one twist in this book that shook me to my core and nearly made me cry. I had to put it down and process it for a minute before I could continue.

The two main characters, Alex and Miles, are very strong and well developed. Made You Up gives you an interesting take on mental health and high school. There is a really weird side plot with the principal which ends up being an important plot point in the end, but I just thought it was really strange an unnecessary.

Overall, this book was really easy to get through. It doesn’t take long to read, and the characters are likeable. If you’re looking for a lighter read (with difficult topics) I would recommend it. Be warned, it will make you question everything that you know while reading it.

4/5 Stars

November 11, 2018

Traffick by Ellen Hopkins

In her bestselling novel, Tricks, Ellen Hopkins introduced us to five memorable characters tackling these enormous questions: Eden, the preacher’s daughter who turns tricks in Vegas and is helped into a child prostitution rescue; Seth, the gay farm boy disowned by his father who finds himself without money or resources other than his own body; Whitney, the privileged kid coaxed into the life by a pimp and whose dreams are ruined in a heroin haze; Ginger, who runs away from home with her girlfriend and is arrested for soliciting an undercover cop; and Cody, whose gambling habit forces him into the life, but who is shot and left for dead.
And now, in Traffick, these five are faced with the toughest question of all: Is there a way out? How these five teenagers face the aftermath of their decisions and experiences is the soul of this story that exposes the dark, ferocious underbelly of the child trafficking trade. Heartwrenching and hopeful, Traffick takes us on five separate but intertwined journeys through the painful challenges of recovery, rehabilitation, and renewal to forgiveness and love. All the way home.
To be honest, it’s been a long time since I read Tricks. I remembered the premise, but not all of the characters or what happened. So, jumping into Traffick – it was hard to keep all of the characters straight until about halfway through the book. I probably should have made myself a key so I could remember everything. 

The best way to sum it up is a novel about lost kids finding their way back home. 

I liked it. It’s always nice to jump back in to an Ellen Hopkins book with her unique writing style. They’re deep, they hit hard, but they stick with you and are easy to get through. 

It would be easy to leave this universe and stick with just two books, but I wouldn’t mind another book showing if they can really integrate themselves back into their families after spending time turning ‘Tricks’ in Vegas. The addiction and the PTSD are interesting storylines that could be further explored, and I think Ellen Hopkins would do a great job writing it. 

4/5 Stars

November 7, 2018

Elevation by Stephen King

Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.
In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face–including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.

I’m . . . not really sure what I just read if I’m being honest. I don’t really know what the point of this book was. It seems like it was supposed to be a social commentary. I guess, in a way, it was.

I appreciate King accept LGBTQ folks, so that’s a plus. But I don’t really understand what Scott’s place in the story was. Unless it was the typical “man saves the women” trope. We also get absolutely zero answers about his condition. He just. . . floats off into space after uniting the gays and the religious people?

I don’t . . . get it? It also wasn’t written with any real sense of intelligence. I know Stephen King is a very good writer and his books can have some great depth. So I’m left sitting here confused about this one. It kinda felt like one of James Patterson’s bookshots.

I don’t know. It was okay. I don’t think I would recommend it. The cover art is beautiful though!

2/5 Stars

Fifty Fifty by James Patterson

It’s not easy being a good detective – when your brother’s a serial killer.
Sam Blue stands accused of the brutal murders of three young students, their bodies dumped near the Georges River. Only one person believes he is innocent: his sister, Detective Harriet Blue. And she’s determined to prove it.
Except she’s now been banished to the outback town of Last Chance Valley (population 75), where a diary found on the roadside outlines a shocking plan – the massacre of the entire town. And the first death, shortly after Harry’s arrival, suggests the clock is already ticking.
Meanwhile, back in Sydney, a young woman holds the key to crack Sam’s case wide open.
If only she could escape the madman holding her hostage . . .

I took a break from fiction for a few weeks to dive into True Crime books. The total heaviness of them made me come back to fiction for a quick break before I dive back in. I don’t know why I even tried. Once I got to the end of this one, I started stress eating and my heart rate was rising with each chapter.

And then I got hit with a completely emotional ending that I was not prepared for and I almost cried.

So, thank you for that. I thought I was escaping harsh emotions for a bit, but I was plunged right back in. At least they were fake characters this time. But, now that we are more than one book into the series, you start becoming attached anyways.

So, this is the second book in the Harriet Blue series. We see her get shipped off to the Australian desert to try to solve another case. What seems like just a homicide turns into so much more and she is forced to choose between saving herself or saving a whole village that she has come to protect.

Meanwhile, the search is on back home for who is framing her brother of serial murder. Strides are made in the case, but will it ultimately be solved? Almost. It leads into there being at least one more book in the series, but I can only imagine how emotional it will be.

I’ve had some issues with some of James Patterson’s recent releases. The writing doesn’t seem to be up to snuff, and they just haven’t stuck with me like they used to. This budding series seems to be bringing fresh life to his resume. I can only assume that’s through the help of his co-writer Candice Fox.

4/5 stars

November 5, 2018

Zodiac by Robert Graysmith

A sexual sadist, he took pleasure in torture and murder. His first victims were a teenage couple, stalked and shot dead in a lovers' lane. After another slaying, he sent his first mocking note to authorities, promising he would kill more.
The official tally of his victims was six. He claimed thirty-seven dead. The real toll may have reached fifty.
Robert Graysmith was on staff at the The San Francisco Chronicle in 1968 when Zodiac first struck, triggering in the resolute reporter an unrelenting obsession with seeing the hooded killer brought to justice. In this gripping account of Zodiac's eleven-month reign of terror, Graysmith reveals hundreds of facts previously unreleased, including the complete text of the killer's letters.

To be honest, I don’t know how to write a review for this book. The case of Zodiac is one of the most interesting serial killer cases to me. I’ve heard about this book time and time again. Once I picked it up, I dove in and finished it in 2 days. I really enjoyed the read. 

So, I did some internet-ing upon finishing it and learned that a lot of things in this book are not factually correct. It has some good info, but I don't have the energy to separate the truth from the made up details. 

So. . . it’s good if you don’t care about facts. But, right now, I am just really angry. 

1/10 stars. 

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The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

Utterly unique in its astonishing intimacy, as jarringly frightening as when it first appeared, Ann Rule's The Stranger Beside Me defies our expectation that we would surely know if a monster lived among us, worked alongside of us, appeared as one of us. With a slow chill that intensifies with each heart-pounding page, Rule describes her dawning awareness that Ted Bundy, her sensitive coworker on a crisis hotline, was one of the most prolific serial killers in America. He would confess to killing at least thirty-six young women from coast to coast, and was eventually executed for three of those cases. Drawing from their correspondence that endured until shortly before Bundy's death, and striking a seamless balance between her deeply personal perspective and her role as a crime reporter on the hunt for a savage serial killer -- the brilliant and charismatic Bundy, the man she thought she knew -- Rule changed the course of true-crime literature with this unforgettable chronicle.
So, this book is the most complete novel I have ever read. There is no doubt in my mind. There is a beginning. There is an ending. There are all sorts of gruesome details in between. It all ties up neatly and, WOW. What a ride of emotion it is. 

I can’t imagine how confusing it would be to be friends with such a horrible monster like Ted Bundy. On one hand, Ted was this nice man that Ann new as they both tried to help people in crisis. But, what was hidden from her was this awful murderous personality. 

I love how she freely expresses her emotions surrounding the case - her disbelief, sadness, and her conflicting thoughts. It really takes you inside the life of knowing a serial killer and it’s very interesting. 

Ann Rule also has a way of taking you to every case with a tenderness of approaching each topic with care. Her descriptions paint a horrific picture, but you can just feel the amount of effort she puts into her work. 

This is a book that pulls you right in and doesn’t let go. I felt truly devastated when I turned the last page. I didn’t want it to be over. It makes you feel emotions for Ted Bundy while also knowing he is a terrible person that deserved what he got. 

A truly amazing True Crime novel. 

10/10 Stars

October 18, 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

"You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark."
For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.
Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.
At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I have to start this review by saying – I LOVE THIS BOOK. I feel so passionately that it is, without a doubt, one of the best True Crime books ever written. If you’re a fan of True Crime, don’t even bother finishing this review, just go right down to the amazon link and purchase it.

Now, this book is about the Golden State Killer, so it is full of horrific details. If you aren’t prepared for topics of rape and murder, this one isn’t for you – fair warning. I think Michelle does a great job of taking you straight to the scene without making the experience of reading way too overwhelming. She gives a lot of detail but knows when to pull back. That said – these topics are not triggering to me, so I understand that someone else’s experience may be vastly different from mine.

Not only is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark about the horrific moments in the lives of California residents, but also it’s about Michelle and her relentless pursuit of the truth. She brought every incident to life with her words. It’s deeply moving, it’s gripping, it’s heart wrenching. It’s just an incredibly written novel and quickly shot up my list to one of my favorite books of all time.

Reading this book is heartbreaking. After it was released, the Golden State Killer was caught. But, Michelle also passed away before the book was completed. Her obsession with finding this killer and not letting this case die surely led to the eventual discovery of his identity, but she was not alive to witness this historic moment. I almost felt empty when I turned the final page because her story was complete, but his keeps going.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a fantastic book. 10/5 stars.

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September 27, 2018

'P' is for Peril by Sue Grafton

Kinsey Millhone never sees it coming. She is mired in the case of a doctor who disappeared, his angry ex-wife, and beautiful current one–a case that is full of unfinished business, unfinished homes, and people drifting in and out of their own lives. Then Kinsey gets a shock. A man she finds attractive is hiding a fatal secret–and now a whole lot of beauty, money, and lies are proving to be a fatal distraction from what Kinsey should have seen all along: a killer standing right before her eyes. . . .

Man, I don’t know what it is about this book in particular but it took me what felt like forever to get through it. I couldn’t find myself caring at all about the missing doctor or his family.

It felt more like reading about Kinsey running in circles than actually doing anything, and it was missing a lot of her wit that we are used to. It was there, it just wasn’t as strong. So, that, along with a case that I didn’t care about made it a struggle.

It started to get intriguing once we learn the twist about her new office landlords. That storyline seemed to carry it until the end as the other one was winding down.

It was an interesting book that I probably would have gotten bored with if it wasn’t a Kinsey Millhone book. It wasn’t written differently than the other, I just couldn’t make myself care about the other characters.

3/5 Stars

Memorable Quotes: “This sandwich, I confess, was the highlight of my weekend, which is what life boils down to when you’re celibate.”

“I hadn’t even realized I’d fallen asleep, except for the drooling, which I don’t ordinarily do when awake.”

“Who were these two? Maybe we were on the verge of a burglar’s jamboree, all three of us stealing files for differing but nefarious purposes.”

“Death, by its nature, reshapes the connection between family members and friends. Survivors tend to gather, using food and drink as a balm to counteract the loss. There is usually laughter. I’m not quite sure why, but I suspect it’s an integral part of the healing process, the mourner’s talisman.”

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