“Everything You Want Me To Be” by Mindy Meji

Last night I finished Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia. It had been on my TBR list for some time and I was excited to finally grab a copy at the library. I absolutely adore the cover of this book, it just screams dark and twisted. This book was labeled as a thriller/murder mystery, but I’d put it in the sub-genre of “high schoolers having inappropriate relationships with adults/teachers.” I’ve actually read and watched a surprising number of books and shows with this theme lately (The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, Dare Me, Pretty Little Liars, Riverdale, etc.) so I feel like I’m a little burned out, but Everything You Want Me To Be did it well.

The book opens with a dead, mutilated body found in an old shed, which turns out to be that of Herietta “Hattie” Hoffman, all-American high school senior and star of the school play. Hattie is a good student, a promising actress, and a kind, albeit sharp-tongued young woman. She has a happy home life and dreams of moving to New York City after graduating to pursue a career on Broadway. Hattie has no enemies, or so it seems, which makes her death within a small town even more shocking.

The investigation soon reveals that Hattie is having a fiery internet relationship with a stranger named “LG.” But when it turns out that Hattie and LG are less of strangers than they think, he calls their relationship off and sends Hattie spiraling. The story is told from alternating points of view between Hattie, her English Teacher Mr. Lund, and lead detective, Del. The mystery has your classic lead suspects: a lover scorned, the cheated-on spouse, the ex-boyfriend, the jealous best-friend, etc. While there are several minor red-herring moments, the big reveal didn’t prove to be terribly shocking.

This book has a few holes and lose strings, and I found myself being less intrigued in “whodunit” and more invested in Hattie’s illicit relationship with the older man. You start to feel empathetic to the adult in charge, as his and Hattie’s feelings and relationship seem to be genuine, real love. Thinking about this too much made me feel a bit uneasy and sick to my stomach. But, maybe that was the point. An overall enjoyable read.

3.5/5 stars.

www.mindymejia.com

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“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

“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

Recently Read Books

Hey guys! My friends ask me all the time “what books do you recommend I read?” When you read as much as I do, that’s a really tough question to answer. I have a really high-tech (sarcasm) way of keeping up with books I’ve read recently, as well as my to-be-read list–I keep them in the “notes” section of my iPhone. I really need to create a spreadsheet and some sort of cool rating and classification-by-genre system, but for now they go in the notes with the title and author, and they get a green emoji check mark when I’ve read them. So I wanted to share with you the books that I’ve read in the past few months, probably since around February or March or so. I have considered giving each one a rating, but then what would keep you coming back to my blog? 😉 If you have any questions or are curious about any of the books listed, feel free to comment and I’ll give you my super quick mini-review! So here it goes, in no particular order:

In the Blood by Lisa Unger
The Girl Before by Rena Olsen
Find Her by Lisa Gardner
The CircleI by Dave Eggers
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson
The Ex by Alafair Burke
Birdbox by Josh Malerman
The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
Love You More by Lisa Gardner
Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger
All the Summer Girls by Meg Donoghue
Little Deaths by Emma Flint
The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe
Pop Goes the Weasel by M.J. Arlidge
Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Perfect Days by Raphael Montes
In the Woods by Tana French
The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
The Life We Bury by Alan Eskens
Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf
The Widow by Fiona Barton
Those Girls by Chevy Stevens
The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan
Dare Me by Megan Abbot
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman
Saving Grace by Jane Green
Blonde Hair Blue Eyes by Karin Slaughter
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

 

“Find Her” by Lisa Gardner

I love a good crime story. I enjoy the suspense of the “whodunit,” piecing together clues and sorting through red herons. But I am always hesitant to start “detective series” because I’m not a huge fan of police procedurals. I can often get too bogged down in the details, and, sometimes pointless, backstories of the detectives and police personnel. So I was a little hesitant to begin Find Her by Lisa Gardner, as it is a part of the Detective D.D. Warren series. Number ten, actually. I also try my hardest not to read series out of order—I hate reading things in more recent books which can be spoilers for those that came before. But thanks to Find Her’s rave reviews and the fact that my employer’s library had it in stock, I picked it up and was pretty impressed. Gardner’s alternating perspectives between the aforementioned Detective Warren and the victim-turned-potential-perpetrator makes this book a perfect blend between thriller and crime.

Flora Dane has recently returned home after a 472-day abduction, during which she was brutally raped and tortured. While her family desires for her to return to her normal life, normal is no longer enough for Flora. She sets out on a vigilante mission to stop other abductors before it is too late. But when she pursues the disappearance of local college woman, Flora quickly finds herself reliving the nightmares of her own captivity and unable to cope.

This book is extremely fast paced and has constant twists and turns to keep the reader’s interest. In addition to the alternating perspectives, Gardner adds in some flashbacks of Flora’s time with her abductor, which makes the story even more engrossing and gives the reader internal conflict regarding siding with Flora, or, with the law. While some of the plot line may be rather far-fetched, Find Her is an entertaining read, sure to keep thrill seekers and crime enthusiasts on their toes. This was my first novel by Lisa Gardner (pretty insane considering she’s written almost 30,) but I’ve since read Love You More and have Right Behind You  on my TBR list. Reviews promised to come soon!

4.75/5 stars! 

www.lisagardner.com

“Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler

I was super excited to read Sweetbitter after seeing celebs rave about it on Instagram: Eva Longoria, Emma Roberts, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Troian Bellasario, etc. The pink book jacket with broken wine glass cover art was practically screaming my name, and its Insta-fame had me dying to dive in.

I have to be honest, I really disliked this book at first. There was so much restaurant lingo, half-finished conversations, and narrator ramblings that I couldn’t quite catch what was going on and found myself utterly confused. I hit my 100 page mark and really almost gave it back up to the library. But I could feel Spencer Hastings and Chanel Oberlin begging me to read more. And you know what? I’m glad I did. I ended up really liking it. This book was certainly different than my recent reads, and I agree with many Amazon reviews that there really is no true “plot.” But once I stopped searching for the storyline and quit stressing my brain trying to understand the different types of oysters and regions of wine, I let myself enjoy the reality of Tess’ navigation of adulthood. I really truly enjoyed it.

While Sweetbitter is strictly a novel and not memoir, it closely mirrors the journey of author Stephanie Danler as she makes her start in New York City and the restaurant business. The story opens with Tess moving from her vaguely unhappy life in Ohio to a microscopic apartment in Williamsburg (Brooklyn, not VA, for you Virginians like myself.) Determined to find employment of any kind, and with a resume boasting previous barista work, snags a job as a back-waiter in one of Union Square’s most prestigious restaurants. Tess is in over her head, navigating a new city, new job, and completely new lifestyle, all while facing the typical challenges of  young adulthood. She experiments with drugs, alcohol, sex, and her newfound freedom in the city. She experiences complicated adult relationships, as well as heartache, loneliness, and wondering “is this it?” While Tess’ coming-of-age was much wilder and exotic than my own, I felt nostalgia for that confusing and blissful period of early womanhood. By the end of the novel, I felt I had grown up with Tess and could really feel the transformation she underwent in just one short year.

If you are interested in an action-driven, event-filled, cant-put-down read, this novel may not be the best for you, but I would encourage you to give it a go (past the first 100 pages) to experience beautiful writing, gorgeous metaphors, and an appreciation for growing up and figuring out life.

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My blind beagle Gracie loved it, too.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

www.stephaniedanler.com