“This Is Not Over” by Holly Brown

I just finished reading This Is Not Over by Holly Brown, and I wish it weren’t over! Although this book has gotten mixed reviews, I really enjoyed it for entertainment’s sake. I found the plot line different and interesting, and the story jogged along at a pretty captivating pace.

This Is Not Over starts with Miranda getting a negative review on Getaway.com, a fictional Air BnB short-term rental site. Since she regularly receives rave reviews for her gorgeous Santa Monica mansion, the negative remarks floor her. Miranda prides herself on being fair, honest, and a superior hostess. She normally has great communication with her renters, is upfront and prompt, which is why she thinks charging Dawn $200 for the damage done to her sheets is more than fair.

Dawn can’t believe that Miranda had the nerve to charge her for ruined sheets that she most certainly didn’t ruin. When Dawn and her husband left the home, everything was in perfect shape. Dawn views herself as an honest, respectable renter, and believes that Miranda must be trying to run a scam. Her Getaway.com review wasn’t rude, it was just the facts.

What starts as a simple online argument blows up into full on obsessions of vindication between two grown adults. As the feud progresses, both women learn more and more about one another and eventually find themselves entangled in a mess that is much larger than an internet review.

This premise in and of itself is intriguing enough to run a plot line, but the back stories of Miranda and Dawn give the book an extra layer of depth. Miranda’s son has a methamphetamine addiction and Dawn has an unhealthy history with her parents and upbringing. Yes, both characters are exceptionally unlikeable, but I’ve never been a reader who insists on falling in love with my protagonists. I don’t mind reading about completely despicable and unreliable humans; after all, that is what fiction reading is all about, stepping into a world outside of your own.

Since I am someone who tends to keep my Facebook comments to myself, I did, at times, find the extent of Miranda’s and Dawn’s feud a bit extreme. However, a simple browse through the comment section on any online political article will show you how quickly these differences of opinion can heat up with keyboard warriors and trolls.

Some readers have felt that the ending of this book was too rushed, and I do have to agree. The climax of the story happens with mere pages until the ending, so it did feel that there were some loose ends that were never fully tied up.

But, overall, I found This Is Not Over to be an entertaining and exciting read, one which I sped through in three days. I even had a dream that I was addicted to meth after reading some of Miranda’s chapters before bed. I woke up in a sweat thanking God I was sober and had all of my teeth!

3/5 stars

http://hollybrownbooks.com

“Beautiful Animals” by Lawrence Osborne

Beautiful Animals isn’t the type of book I typically read. This would be considered more of a “literary thriller,” where there is a suspense aspect to the plot line, but the majority of the book is location description and character driven. I prefer my books to be on-the-edge-of-my-seat and to-the-point. With that being said, this novel wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, although I can appreciate it for being a lovely work of literature and certainly some peoples’ taste.

Set in Hydra, a small island off the coast of Greece, Beautiful Animals tells the story of a summer spent between two newfound friends and the trouble they find themselves encountering together. Naomi’s father, Jimmy, is a wealthy English businessman who purchased a home on the island long before it was fashionable or cool. Naomi has spent every summer living on Hydra, but, since the death of her mother, the summers are not nearly as enjoyable with her stepmother, Phaine. Naomi is rich and bored and sort of an odd duck. She’s in her mid 20’s,has been recently been fired from her job, and has no friends on the island. Until one morning after a swim, she meets Sam.

Sam is an American whose family is visiting Hydra for the first time. Sam is beautiful, but insecure, and immediately smitten by the more sophisticated Naomi. They quickly form a friendship over weed, booze, and their mutual distaste for their family, and find themselves spending every day with each other.

One afternoon, after a yacht trip to a remote part of the island, Naomi and Sam stumble upon a runaway from Syria, by way of Turkey, who has nothing to his name except the clothes on his back and a bar of soap. Faoud, they learn, was from a wealthy family in the middle east, but fled to Hydra to escape into Europe under asylum. Naomi and Sam have differing opinions as to what to do with their discovery, and the decision results in a disastrous tragedy neither could have imagined.

Beautiful Animals deeply investigates the psyche of two unstable young women in their quest to do the right thing. It also examines how far humans will go for greed, money, and freedom. This novel’s biggest strength is its setting. Osborne does a phenomenal job painting a picture of Hydra for the reader. I’ve always wanted to go to Greece, but now it is on my bucket list for sure. I found myself googling pictures of Hydra as I was reading, and understanding why someone would spend their entire summer in such a lovely place.

The biggest drawback was the disjointed character perspectives and slow plot. Osborne regularly switches back between Naomi, Sam, and Faoud, all within the same chapter and even the same paragraph. I found it somewhat hard to follow with the jumping back and forth. I appreciated the underlying story and character development of Beautiful Animals, but it didn’t get to the action quite quick enough for my liking, and never fully accelerated for me.

2.75 out of 5 stars. 

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/247814/beautiful-animals-by-lawrence-osborne/

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All thoughts and opinions are completely my own. 

 

Latest Library Picks

This past week I had a “staycation.” I took a week off of work with absolutely no plans whatsoever. It was amazing. My past eight days have included a lot of napping, laundry (this is the first time I’ve seen the bottom of my closet in months,) catching up on Game of Thrones, snuggling my pup and new foster pup, and, of course, reading! I couldn’t let my free time get away from me without taking the opportunity for a library trip.

As I’ve mentioned on here before, I don’t pay for books. For a long time I went through a period of reading on my Kindle and purchasing eBooks, because, hey! they’re so much cheaper than regular! Then I decided that was a little unnecessary, so I started trying to shop at our local used bookstore, Blue Plate Books. I love Blue Plate, and still go there when I find myself having to make a book purchase, but then it dawned on me–why am I paying for books when I can get them fo’ free?

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I used to have the misconception that the library wouldn’t have what I wanted. Since it is in an old, historic building, I figured they would only have old, historic books. Perfect logic, right? Wrong! They have nearly every book on my TBR list! They aren’t always in stock as soon as I want them, but it’s cool, I can wait, if it means saving $14.99. Our local library system has three branches, all of which are within 15 miles of my house, so I can get a pretty great selection. I could always put a book on “hold” if it’s something I want particularly bad, but I think it’s part of the fun, part of the hunt, to check out what they have in stock on any given day. Luckily my TBR list is hefty enough that I can always find a good number of gems!

This week I got a particularly good haul. These five books are ones that I’ve reeeeeeally wanting to read. My favorite type of book is a psychological/domestic thriller, which each of these are.

So next up to be read:

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens
This is Not Over by Holly Brown
Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia
My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry
The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

Reviews to come soon!

Thursday: Copycat Starbuck Protein Bistro Boxes

This lunch is one of my favorite go-tos! The ingredients are cheap and there’s hardly any prep work outside of throwing items in a container. If you’ve ever had a Starbucks Protein Bistro Box, you know how good they are, but also how expensive. It is soooo much cheaper to make these on your own!

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Starbucks’ Protein Bistro Box

I packed a cluster of red grapes, hardboiled eggs (one for me, two for Joel,) a slice of multigrain bread cut into triangles, monterey jack cheese squares, an apple, and a side of peanut butter.   I prefer sliced apples to dip in my peanut butter, but I cut them when I set down to eat my meal. Apple slices turn brown too quickly after cut, and I don’t like how the tartness that lemon juice adds when trying to preserve them. Has anyone found a good way to keep apple slices from browning?

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My homemade protein bistro box

I love how easy this meal is to throw together and how tasty everything is combined as a meal! The sweet grapes and apples are balanced well with the salty egg and cheese and peanut butter is one of my absolute favorites so you can’t beat that!

What was your Thursday lunch?

“Where They Found Her” by Kimberly McCreight

This book was on my TBR list for a long time before I finally got the chance to read it! I read Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight a few years ago and was obsessed. It was definitely a high ranker on my list. For some reason my local library was late to the game in getting Where They Found Her, and since I absolutely refuse to pay for a book (the bane of my existence when my library doesn’t have one I crave) it waited and waited on my list. But lemme tell ya, it was well worth the weight!

When the body of an unidentified infant is found deserted in a New Jersey park, three unconnected woman find themselves tied together in ways they never imagined.

Journalist Molly Brown is assigned as the lead reporter on the case of the found baby. Having recently mourned the loss of her own child, the assignment becomes an emotional uphill battle for Molly.

High school dropout Sandy is navigating through her mess of a life which includes studying for her GED and trying to make ends meet, all while searching for her MIA alcoholic and destructive mother.

Wife of the lead detective in the unidentified infant case, Barbara is struggling to deal with the struggles of her own son, who has recently become the “problem student” in his school.

Where they Found Her alternates storylines and perspectives of these three women and leaves the reader dying to know how they will eventually intersect. Though at first it is hard to keep track of the numerous characters and minor storylines, McCreight pulls everything together nicely toward the end of the story. Her writing is detailed and precise, letting us into the lives of the three main characters in their separate, but similarly challenging, struggles. The only thing I didn’t adore about this book was some of the “fluff,” such as Molly’s newspaper stories. Since they typically reiterated information already discovered in the book, they appeared to me as more filler than pertinent to the novel. But, again, very minor flaw in a deliciously engrossing book.

I really thought I had the ending to this one “figured out,” but was wowed with a surprise ending that, while somewhat farfetched, was completely gripping. Where They Found Her kept my interest until the last page and left me both bewildered and very impressed.

4.25/5 stars!

www.kimberlymccreight.com

Tuesday: Salad with Grilled Chicken/Turkey Sandwich

For today’s lunch, Joel had exactly what I had yesterday. The only difference is he had a whole sandwich, while I only had a half.

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Joel’s turkey sandwich and sides

I had a salad. I much prefer spinach/arugula salads over lettuce salads. I am okay with lettuce if it is romaine and really green but I can’t stand white watery iceberg lettuce…yuck. My salad base was mixed greens and my toppings were blue cheese, blueberries, sliced almonds, and grilled chicken strips. I used a creamy poppyseed dressing. I know creamy dressings aren’t the healthiest, but I prefer a pretty dry salad so I probably don’t even use a teaspoon of dressing. For the sake of time in meal prep, I use pre-sliced Perdue grilled chicken slices, rather than  grilling and slicing my own.

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For my side, I had a pack of cheese and cracker sticks made by Laughing Cow. These are a throwback to the Kraft Handi-Snacks of elementary school, but healthier and just as tasty!

What was on your lunch menu for Tuesday?