In a Dark, Dark Wood (Ruth Ware, 2015)

So, to start off before I forget, I now have a Twitter!  I’m still mastering the art of the tweet, but feel free to follow me @biblioventuring!  Creative name, I know.  😉

Why did you choose this book?

I’ve heard so much buzz about Ware’s second book The Woman in Cabin 10.  I’ve been going through a Jennifer Weiner phase recently (no, I haven’t been blogging about it), so I decided this would be a welcome change from that type of fiction.

What’s it about?

Nora (not to be confused with another main character – Nina) has been invited to her high school best friend’s (Clare’s) hen party (bachelorette party).  The two haven’t talked in a decade, but for some reason, Nora decides to go.  Upon arriving, she realizes they will be staying in a huge glass vacation home in the middle of nowhere (cue creepy music).  The other guests include Flo (OBSESSED with Clare), Tom (nonchalent, coke-snorting theater guy), and M-something (Melanie? Melissa?) who leaves halfway through to spend time with her baby.  Some sketchy things start happening, and the chapters at the party are interspersed with present-day Nora laying half-dead in the hospital with amnesia.

Categories

Suspense

Review

Looking at the reviews on Amazon, it seems like many people didn’t enjoy this book.  As for me, I definitely did!  Was it a spine-chilling, heart-pounding suspense read like I expected?  No.  But I was so absorbed in the story that while reading it at work I wouldn’t hear people approaching and when they greeted me I would experience temporary disorientation as I pulled out of the fictional world to respond.  I’ll definitely be reading Ware’s next book.

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

I’m starting to do this section so with books in a series, I don’t have to re-read the whole series to get caught up.  It’s also a good way for me to quickly remind myself of a book in case I’m recommending it to someone and get it mixed up with a similar title.

So, it turns out that the bad blood between Nora and Clare happened after Nora became pregnant by her then-boyfriend, who is now Clare’s fiance, James.  James texted Nora and ended things suddenly, and Nora went into a self-preservation flight and fell out of contact with everyone.  At the party, we learn that Clare actually sent the break-up text so that she could have James to herself.  She also encouraged Nora’s abortion.  Clare is the one responsible for setting the events in motion that killed James, and for trying to place the blame for those events on Nora’s shoulders (phony texts, unlocked doors, false testimony, etc.).

 

A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini, 2007)

A_Thousand_Splendid_Suns

Why did you choose this book?

This was the group read for our LEI Around the World in 80 Books class.  I was not excited about reading it but my opinion changed considerably by the time I was finished.

What’s it about?

This is the story of two women growing up and living in Afghanistan.  Mariam is the illegitimate child of a middle-class theater owner, who built her mother a shack in the woods.  After a tragedy, her father arranges her marriage to a cobbler named Rasheed.  Mariam is barren and Rasheed mistreats her horribly.  After a tragic bomb blast, Laila has been orphaned and Miriam nurses her back to health.  Rasheed takes her as a wife as well.  I won’t say more here at the risk of spoiling the story for you.

Categories

Historical fiction, Middle Eastern

Other recommended reads?

The only other fiction works I can think of are Hosseini’s other books.  For nonfiction, you might try The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg.

Review

The only words I can use to adequately describe this book: heartbreaking and important.  Every time I thought Mariam and Laila could take no more hardship, something else would happen to them.  Mariam was always my favorite and I just wished she could find some happiness in her life.  I guess in the end, she did.

Up next?

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Glass Sword (Victoria Aveyard, 2016)

glass sword

Why did you choose this book?

Because the rest of the series has been amazing!!!!

What’s it about?

Please see my previous post to learn about the amazing magic system in this book.  In short, Silvers (the ruling class) have magical powers.  Reds do not.  Until Mare Barrow appears, no Red had ever been known to have powers.  At the end of Red Queen (SPOILER ALERT), the kingdom has fallen into the hands of the evil second son, Maven Calore.  His older brother, Cal, and Mare are on the run.  They have joined forces with the Scarlet Guard and are on a mission to find other Reds like Mare with never-before-seen abilities, and to create an army to take down Maven and his evil mother, Elara.

Categories

Teen, fantasy

Other recommended reads?

The new series by Sabaa Tahir is another fantasic teen fantasy read.

Review

Oh my goodness so good!  That’s not to say that the book was perfect.  I think I should have reread Red Queen first.  But you find yourself rooting for Mare and Cal throughout the book, as well as constantly curious to find out about the new abilities popping up throughout the kingdom.  There were a couple of betrayals that shocked me, and it ended on a cliffhanger that left me uber frustrated and flipping pages to be sure there wasn’t more on the endpapers.  So good!

Up next?

This is a two-part answer.  If I decide to finish it, Ronald Feinman’s Assassinations, Threats and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama.  If I don’t, Court of Fives by Kate Elliott.

The Martian (Andy Weir, 2014)

the martian

Why did you choose this book?

As I mentioned before, I’m leading all of the fiction book discussions at our library this year.  This book was the February pick.

What’s it about?

Astronaut Mark Watney was left for dead on Mars, but due to a freak coincidence, he survives his injuries and begins to make a life for himself.  But without communication with Earth, will he be rescued?  How long can one man survive on a solitary planet?

Categories

Science fiction-unquestionably

Other recommended reads?

I’m not a big science fiction fan, but I’ve been told that this book is similar to those written by Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton.

Review

As I just said, I usually don’t like science fiction.  I think that comes from a childhood where my dad loved movies like 2001 and Silent Running, and I would sit there and fail to appreciate them.  It took me about 100 pages to really become invested in the story, but once those pages passed I loved it!  I became so invested in Mark’s survival and I loved that the book had just the right amount of scientific information.  It was a great read and has made my pile of books to reread in the future!

Up next?

The Forgotten Room by Beatriz Williams, Karen White, and Lauren Willig

When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi, 2016)

when breath

Why did you choose this book?

I can’t remember if I’ve touched on this before or not, so bear with me.  One year ago my mother passed away from glioblastoma (stage IV brain cancer).  Since then, these sorts of books about dealing with life and death have intrigued me.  See my earlier post about Home is Burning by Dan Marshall.

What’s it about?

Paul Kalanithi spent his life training to be a neurosurgeon.  Just as he was about to finish his residency, he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.  He has since passed away.

Categories

Biography/memoir, medicine, terminal illness

Other recommended reads?

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (2014 National Book Award finalist, graphic novel) and Home is Burning by Dan Marshall (2015).

Review

I read this entire book in 2 hours.  I finished The Dead Duke at 11:30 on a Saturday night and started this book.  I couldn’t sleep until I finished around 1:30 am.  First, it is full of insights into the struggles of a person entering one of the most challenging and strenuous medical specialties.  Second, it is the philosophy of someone whose sincere goal in becoming a doctor was to better understand the human mind and to make a difference.  He never stopped trying to become a better doctor and trying to understand more about people, the world, and the places where the two meet.  Third, Kalanithi had a gift for language.  The prose is some of the most beautiful I’ve read in quite a while.  Take, for example, the book’s final paragraph (best when read aloud, as stated in the book’s introduction).

“When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied.  In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

Up next?

The Martian by Andy Weir (yes, I’m finally reading it)

A Curious Beginning (Deanna Raybourn, 2015)

curious beginning

Why did you choose this book?

A historical mystery with a spunky female protagonist!

What’s it about?

Veronica Speedwell is a professional butterfly-hunter interested in all areas of natural history.  She is also an orphan, taken in by a pair of elderly sisters.  After the second sister’s funeral, she returns home to find a burglar.  He threatens her but she is rescued by a German baron, who whisks her away to London, promises to tell her about her family, and deposits her in the warehouse home of a tattooed taxidermist named Stoker.  When the baron is murdered, the two are on the run before either is arrested in connection with the crime.

Categories

Historical mystery, set in London, late 1800s

Other recommended reads?

This is the best historical mystery I’ve read in a while.  Another series set in historic London is the Lucy Campion series by Susanna Calkins, though that series is set much earlier.  If it’s the writing style you like, try Wendy Sand Eckel’s Murder at Barclay Meadow.

Review

I loved this book!  Veronica is a feisty heroine who never takes no for an answer and isn’t afraid to get her Victorian hands dirty.  Stoker is the gruff but intelligent male counterpart along for her adventures.  I love the hint of romantic tension between the pair without being smacked in the face by romance.  I really enjoyed the author’s writing style.  The language was stilted enough to keep the reader in the 1800s, but it was witty and made me chuckle.  It was also easy enough to understand that I didn’t have to think about it, like I do with older authors like Agatha Christie.  I enjoyed this one enough that I will be going back and reading her other series – Lady Julia Gray.  Have you read those?  I don’t know anything about them – so please share your thoughts but no spoilers!

Up next?

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell

 

Murder at Barclay Meadow (Wendy Sand Eckel, 2015)

barclay meadow

First, a bit of a disclaimer.  I apologize for the super-long delay in posts.  I’m back on blogging after a break over the holidays and some much-needed family time.

Why did you choose this book?

It sounded like an intriguing semi-cozy mystery.  Which it was.  More on that later.

What’s it about?

Rosalie Hart is living in her aunt’s historic home in Eastern Maryland after discovering that her husband cheated on her.  She’s finding it hard to fit into the community, so she joins a memoir-writing class at the local college.  When she finds the body of a teenage girl on her property, she decides to investigate.  With the help of her writing class colleagues, she begins to look into the situation…

Categories

Cozy mystery, mystery

Similar reads?

I’m a lover of most cozy mysteries.  This one doesn’t quite fit that genre for a couple of reasons.  First, the sleuth manages to investigate without the aid of any law enforcement officers (though she does get a couple of clues from the sheriff’s secretary).  Second, there is a little more detail of the gore involved (for example, that the body was bloated and starting to decompose).  That type of information isn’t usually part of a cozy.  That being said, some of my favorite cozies are Virginia Lowell’s Cookie Cutter Shop mysteries and Lucy Arlington’s Novel Idea mysteries.

Review

Overall, a well-structured cozy.  One of my favorite things about cozies is the richness of their language.  I just love the way the authors describe the characters and scenery.  I also really liked the supporting cast of characters and the fact that it was a group of amateur sleuths rather than a solo endeavor.  I wish we’d spent a little more time around the culprit, but I had trouble solving the crime (which is a good sign!).  I’ll definitely be reading the next book in this series!

Next up?

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten.  I know I said last time I’d be doing Mission: Hindenburg but it’s been so long since I read it that I’ll wait and review the next 39 Clues book I do instead.  It’s coming out this spring.