The Secret History by Donna Tartt

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Title: The Secret History

Author: Donna Tartt

Pages: 523

Genre: Literary Fiction, Modern Classic

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: October 16, 1992

Rating: /5

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.

Goodreads

I went into this thinking it had a mystery aspect but oh no it doesn’t. The very first page, two paragraphs in, we find out who is killed and who killed this person. The Secret History is really about what led up to the killing of this person and then it deals with the consequences of this action. And I loved it. But I also just don’t know how to talk about it. This book seems so big in my head that I have a hard time explaining all the different parts of it.

I very much enjoy character driven stories and this is definitely one of them. In fact, Donna Tartt is probably one of my top favorite authors because she is so incredibly talented at writing characters. All the characters in this group of college kids felt so real to me but at the same time we only see them through the lens of Richard. I can see why some people might not like this aspect but I found it really enjoyable. We get to know a lot about Richard through his interactions with the people around him and less from him explaining things to us the reader. If you are familiar with my reviews you will know that I really appreciate it when an author shows the reader things versus telling us. Also, the other members of the Greek class are very complex. I could honestly write whole essays on each of the characters and how their story progresses throughout the book. Bunny, Francis, Henry, Charles and Camilla are where The Secret History really shines.

Another plus to Tartts writing is all the foreshadowing she does in the story. There are so many times when we are just moving along in the story and then Richard drops a line alluding to something (usually shocking) that is going to happen. I would get so excited by these little nuggets of information and it made it hard to put the book down. I also love how well Tartt brought the environment of the book to life. If you want to know what America was like in the early 90’s this book will tell you. The good, the bad and the ugly.

The only reason that I couldn’t give this book five stars is because I do think that it lagged  at times. The Goldfinch is a bigger book than this one but to me that book had perfect pacing. This book sometimes felt stuck at some parts. I think for me it was exhausting to read about all the times Richard drinks and does drugs away from the other characters. I didn’t mind when it was mentioned here or there but when whole pages were devoted to it I felt myself not caring. Perhaps, my issue with this book really lays with how I only felt connected to Richard when it came to his interactions with the other characters.

Honestly, Tartt is one of the best authors of our time and everyone should read her books. Also, if you enjoy true crime shows like Snapped or Dateline than I think you will appreciate this book. One of the appeals for me in watching those shows is how people can actually commit murder and that is one of the main themes in this book. This is a book that will stay with me for the rest of my life and I look forward to rereading it one day.

~Cassie

ARC Review: Last Girl Lied To by L.E. Flynn

I received this ARC on Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

 

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Title: Last Girl Lied To

Author: L.E. Flynn

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary

Pages: 352

Publisher: Imprint

Publication Date: April 16, 2019

Something made him angry that night.
Something made her cry.
Something made Trixie disappear.
What if it was all the same thing?

Fiona claims she doesn’t remember anything about the night her best friend left a party early and walked into the ocean. But the truth is, she wishes she could forget.

Trixie’s disappearance is ruled a suicide, but Fiona starts to believe that Trixie isn’t really dead. Piecing together the trail of a girl who doesn’t want to be found leads her to Jasper, Trixie’s former friend with benefits, and Beau—the boy who turned Fiona down, who loved someone else, who might be happy Trixie is gone.

The closer Fiona gets to finding out what happened, and the closer she gets to Jasper and Beau, the more she realizes that the girl she knew better than anyone may have been a carefully constructed lie—and she might have been waiting to disappear the entire time.

Told in alternating chapters between the past and the present, Last Girl Lied To is a gripping emotional thriller.

Goodreads

This is a fantastic YA mystery. I flew through this book and it was so hard for me to put down. I really connected with the main character, Fiona, so much. And I’m in my early 30’s. If I was still a teenager I would have loved her even more. Fiona is messy and sometimes makes wrong choices but most of these choices come from her being in pain or her need to feel loved. The characters in this book all felt realistic which kept me wanting to find out what was going to happen next to them. The pacing of the story was also really well done. There would be some stuff happening and then it would skip ahead  in time but nothing ever felt rushed. I actually liked that not everything happened in a short amount of time.

Also, the mystery of her trying to figure out what exactly happened to her friend, Trixie was giving me major Pretty Little Liar vibes. The stories aren’t all that similar but it is about a friend dying and trying to figure out what happened in the backdrop of high school drama. So, I guess sort of similar. Except it’s basically just Fiona trying to figure stuff out and there is no A or threatening text messages.  It could be that I have PLL on the brain since the spinoff has started but I do really think that if you enjoyed PLL that you will like this book too.

I do want to point out that Fiona does reference her weight a lot in the book and I know for me, that would have been really triggering if I was still a teenage girl. It was making me uncomfortable at times reading it but I do think that it also helped to make Fiona more of a realistic character. I think a lot of people will identify with her but I know that for some of us that kind of talk can be harmful. There is no reference to her actual weight in the book just how Fiona feels in her body and how she perceives others to see her.

For me the ending of this book was predictable but I still really enjoyed it. There were parts of the final reveal that I didn’t see coming. Also, the way the reveal was done was so good. We had been building to the reveal the whole book and it didn’t disappoint at all. The actual ending was a pretty typical YA ending but since I was so invested in the characters I didn’t mind it too much.

This book comes out today and I hope that if it at all sounds intriguing to you that you check it out. If you usually shy away from mysteries but enjoy YA contemporaries than I strongly recommend this book to you. Even if you don’t really read YA but enjoy mysteries or contemporaries than I still think you would enjoy this book. I will definitely be checking out Flynn’s past novel and anything else she writes in the future.

~Cassie

Do I Still Want to Read it?

Currently on my want to read shelf on Goodreads I have 651 books. What??! That is a ridiculous amount of books especially since I can’t even think of what half the books on there could be. So I thought it would fun to periodically go through that shelf with you and see what I actually want to read and what I am no longer interested in.

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11/22/63 by Stephen King

Yes, I very much still want to read this! My plan for the past few years is to read it during the month of November so maybe this year will finally be the year 🙂

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Deception Point by Dan Brown

I’m going to leave this one on here because I physically own it and it does have an interesting synopsis. I have been putting this one off because there are so many other books that I would rather read first but I definitely plan to read this sometime. In the vague future. So perhaps this is a maybe?

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The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice

I have quite a few Anne Rice books on this shelf but I plan on removing all of them. I no longer have any interest in the stories so I am happy to let them go.

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The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

I used to love Philippa Gregory’s books but for whatever reason I haven’t read one in years. I do still want to read this. Her Tudor books are my absolute favorite and she is how I discovered my love of historical fiction.

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If Looks Could Kill by Kate White

I had totally forgot that this book even exists but I reread the synopsis and I still want to read this one. It sounds like such a fun chick lit mystery and I am a total sucker for a mystery.

The only books that I took of my TBR shelf were the Anne Rice ones so maybe there really are close to 600 books that I want to read! I also rediscovered a couple of books that I had forgot about so I would say that this was pretty successful.

~Cassie

Netgalley Review: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

Thank you to Negalley for giving me a free copy of this book to read in exchange for my honest review. 

 

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Title: The Perfect Girlfriend

Author: Karen Hamilton

Pages: 352

Publisher: Graydon House

Publication Date: March 26, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 5/5

YOU’VE NEVER READ A LOVE STORY AS TWISTED AS THIS.

Juliette loves Nate.

She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back.

She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

Goodreads

The main character, Juliette, is such a twisted character but by the end of the book I felt like she was a friend. Which is such a bizarre thing to say about someone who is a stalker and sees nothing wrong with doing whatever it takes to achieve her end goal. Books like this almost make you question yourself because I felt so connected to Juliette even though she was doing these terrible things. So many times throughout the book I just wanted to shake her and tell her not to do it, that it wasn’t worth it, that she could be better. To me this really speaks to what an amazing job the author, Hamilton, did because in any other situation I would have been totally freaked out by someone doing what Juliette does.

There was a couple of moments about a third of the way through that I found myself annoyed with the flashbacks to Juliette’s past. However, I really think that these flashbacks are what cemented in me the way I felt about her character. Also, they do serve a greater purpose because not only is she stalking her ex boyfriend she is also obsessively stalking a girl that she used to go to school with. The more the story unfolded the more I appreciated what the author was doing with the story. And this story has turned into one of the best thrillers that I have read this year.

Juliette is one of the most twisted characters that I have ever read before. She is able to justify every wrong decision and every bad action that she makes. It was entertaining to see her do these things and then normalize it when as the reader you know that she is so out of control. Since the book is told in first person this became a very powerful narrative tool. I think that if the author had chosen to tell this story in a third person narrative that it would have fell flat and ridiculous. The things that Juliette do are so over the top but it works because of the way the story is told. The books that I connect to the most (and probably most people) are ones that feel real even though they aren’t and this easily felt real to me.

This book immediately brought me back to when I read You by Caroline Kepnes. Even though the stories are different they also have a lot of parallels. So if you liked that one than I feel confident that you will enjoy The Perfect Girlfriend. Honestly, I can see myself rereading this book throughout my life which feels unnatural to say about a thriller. So, if you are a fan of thrillers than I believe you will enjoy this and hopefully love it as much as I do.

~Cassie

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

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Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Author: David Grann

Genre: Non Fiction, Crime

Pages: 359

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: April 18, 2017

Ratings: 5/5

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

Goodreads

David Grann, the author, did a fantastic job writing this book. There is so much information packed into this 350 page book but the story never felt jilted at all. The book flowed so well together even with all the different people, crimes, and the history of everything. The pacing was perfect for me as well. I liked how we first got to see the story unfold from the perspective of the Osage Indians and then it switched to seeing how the story unfolded from the perspective of the FBI. Both of these perspectives were so fascinating to me for different reasons.

My biological grandma is/was a Shoshone Indian but she gave my mom up for adoption when she was born. My mom was raised by a white family and she has no interest in trying to find her birth family. So, although by blood I am part Native American it is a part of me that I don’t know at all culturally so it is not something that I claim. However, I have always wanted to learn more about my background but I also want to respect my mom’s wishes and so I do all of my learning from afar. The Native American culture is so beautiful and it is one of my life goals is to always be learning more. For this reason I was so heartbroken by this book. Although, even without my background this book is heartbreaking. The white man felt that they could do these terrible crimes of poisoning and killing and it didn’t bother them because they considered the Osage animals. It made me so disgusted reading this that people can believe that they are better than anyone because of the color of their skin. Although, it is even more disgusting that more than a hundred years later we are still dealing with the same issue.

I also really liked the FBI aspect of this book. I have mentioned before that I am a true crime junkie so this book really appealed to me. I definitely am on the lookout for a great non fiction book about J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI because the little tastes that I got of it in this book definitely intrigued me. The book mainly focuses on Tom White as he is the main investigator for the FBI. He is such a stand up guy and I really liked learning about his life and how he handled the investigation. It was also interesting to learn about how private investigators got their start and the different techniques that they would use.

This third act of this book deals with the author, Grann, and his research for this book. Which led to him putting together more information that what was done in the original FBI investigation. The whole story is so unbelievably sad and such a dark time in American history. As if what the American government did to Native Americans wasn’t awful enough this happened.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys true crime or anyone interested in the different histories of America. It is so important that we keep telling and reading these stories so we are always cognizant of our past. History is so so important to our lives and to society. We should always be striving to be better than we were.

~Cassie

2019 First Quarter Wrap Up

I thought it would be fun to track my reading quarterly to see if it changes at all with the different seasons. It’s funny to say but it never even crossed my mind to track my reading statistically until booktube. Then I was knee deep in babies and life and I just never took the time to figure it all out. I decided since my youngest (and last baby!) turned 2 in January that now was a good time to start. Before I share my stats I’m going to list all the books I read each month and link to any reviews that I did.

January

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36461454-1 Review (as part of a mini review post)

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16248068

38355282 Review

40389728

22471294

35396595

24765311

36626748

February

19161852

35133922

34810320

39873226 Review

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18905474-1 Review (first in a mini review post)

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March

42396951-1 Review

38244389 Review (part of a mini review post)

40969531-1 Review (part of a mini review post)

35054011-1 Review to come on April 16 its book birthday 🙂

28096541 Review

40717447 Review (part of a mini review post)

13220420-2 Review (part of a mini review post)

36269136 Review

32861089 Review

29496076 Review coming ASAP

Book Stats

Books read: 27/100

      January: 10

      February: 7

March: 10

Author

Male: 7

Female: 20

Genre

YA Romance: 1

Non Fiction: 3

YA Contemporary: 4

Mystery: 3

Adult Romance: 2

Cozy Mystery: 1

YA Mystery: 1

YA Fantasy: 1

Thriller: 7

Horror: 2

Sci Fi: 1

Fantasy: 1

Pages Read

1-300: 7

301-500: 17

500+: 3

Pages Read: 9,897

Star Ratings

1: 2

2: 3

3: 4

4: 11

5: 7

Best Book

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Worst Book

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Book Source

Libby Library App: 10

ARC’s: 4

Library: 4

Physical Own: 5

Kindle Own: 4

There you have it. All my book stats for the first three months of the year. I am the most pleased with how many 500+ pages books I have read so far. Especially since I didn’t read any last year! I am the most disappointed in how little I am reading my physically owned books. I have a five shelf bookcase that holds all my unread books and one of the shelves is double stacked. In three months I only managed to take five books off that bookcase which is pretty terrible. Let’s see if I can do better with that in the next three months.

~Cassie