The Inspection by Josh Malerman

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Title: The Inspection

Author: Josh Malerman

Pages: 400

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Publication Date: March 19, 2019

Genre: Horror

Rating: 3/5

Boys are being trained at one school for geniuses, girls at another. And neither knows the other exists–until now. The innovative author of Bird Box invites you into a tantalizing world of secrets and lies.

J is a student at a school deep in a forest far away from the rest of the world.

J is one of only twenty-six students, who think of their enigmatic school’s founder as their father. And his fellow peers are the only family J has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, but their life at the school is all they know–and all they are allowed to know.

But J is beginning to suspect that there is something out there, beyond the pines, that the founder does not want him to see, and he’s beginning to ask questions. What is the real purpose of this place? Why can the students never leave? And what secrets is their father hiding from them?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the forest, in a school very much like J’s, a girl named K is asking the same questions. J has never seen a girl, and K has never seen a boy. As K and J work to investigate the secrets of their two strange schools, they come to discover something even more mysterious: each other.

In Inspection, the masterful author of Bird Box crafts a sinister and evocative gender equality anthem that will have readers guessing until the final page.

Goodreads

To me this is actually a two star read but the actual idea of this story is so compelling to me that I just felt like I needed to give it a three. Also, when the book is actually focusing on giving answers to what is happening it really shined and if the book had been more of that I probably would have given it a four. So my compromise with myself is a three and I feel comfortable with that.

The pacing was really off in this book. There were so many unnecessary pages of details into what certain characters were thinking that it really started to take away from the story. This book would have been a much better story with at least 50 pages cut. I also wish that the characters were older than 12 because it made certain things that happen later on in the story very uncomfortable for me. This is might just be a me thing though because my oldest is a few weeks away from being 10 so it hit pretty close to home. I think 14 would have been a more believable and appropriate age for the kids to be. Also, this whole experiment hinges on the fact that the opposite sex is a distraction preventing us from reaching our true potentials but it is never brought up that there are plenty of people in this world who are attracted to their own sex. It is disappointing that a whole group of people are never even mentioned in this book.

My favorite part of the book was the end because of all the action. I have read one other Malerman novel (Bird Box) and I noticed he did the same thing at the end of that one too. The story just goes along with tiny sprinkles of action throughout the bulk of the story but the end is almost constant action. I would love to read one of his other books and see if he does the same thing in those ones. I’m not against it and I actually think it would be pretty cool if that was his style of writing because I feel like the suspense the reader would be in just knowing that the ending is going to be full of so much horror, action and answers would be a fun reading experience.

I have seen some people classify The Inspection as a dystopian but to me this is a straight up horror novel. Beyond the actual horrific acts that happen or are alluded to the real horror of the story is how these boys and girls are being raised. If you like the Hunger Games or the Divergent and are interested in something darker than I suggest this book to you. Or, if like me, you find the synopsis interesting then I think you will be happy that you picked this one up.

~Cassie

ARC Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for letting me read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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Title: Red, White & Royal Blue

Author: Casey McQuiston

Pages: 425

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Queer

Rating: 5/5

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Goodreads

I don’t read a lot of romance but when I read the synopsis of this book I instantly wanted to read it because it is such an original idea. And it definitely delivered. I am obsessed with the romance between Alex and Henry and I loved how real their relationship felt. I can honestly spend pages gushing about how freaking cute the two of them are together but I want you all to discover that all on your own.

In fact, all the relationships in this book are incredibly well done and realistically told. All the flaws felt so real and the characters were all so well rounded. Also, this gives such a positive spin on politics and politicians and it was a breath of fresh air from the world that we live in. The characters were all working towards making the world a better place and it was done in a really non confrontational way.

This is a world that I want to live in. I was crying at the end of this book because I so badly want this to be the kind of world that my boys have when they are older. Where all our differences are celebrated and it’s ok to love whoever we want. Where people are strong enough to push past old ideas and ways of thinking. But it’s done from a place of love and compassion and not from a negative place.

Honestly, this book is just amazing and I really hope that everyone gives it a chance. This is such a positive book with an amazing love story that I think so many people will relate to. I liked how much Alex grew as a character throughout the story and watching him fall in love with Henry was one of the sweetest things I have ever read.

~Cassie

ARC Review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker

Thank you to Netgalley and St.Martin’s Press for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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Title: The Night Before

Author: Wendy Walker

Pages: 320

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 2.5/5

First dates can be murder.

Riveting and compulsive, national bestselling author Wendy Walker’s The Night Before “takes you to deep, dark places few thrillers dare to go” as two sisters uncover long-buried secrets when an internet date spirals out of control.

Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.

Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date.

When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him…

Goodreads

This is my second Wendy Walker book and I think she does a fabulous job writing characters. She does such a great job of putting the reader inside the character’s heads and making them feel so real. There were obviously some things I didn’t like about this book but her characters were a high point.

For most of the book I thought this was going to be a three star read because while I do enjoy her characters I didn’t connect to the actual story the way I wanted to. There were a few things that I didn’t see coming but I figured out the final twist pretty early on. Since I figured out the end twist so early I was really just anxious to get to that point so I don’t think I enjoyed the lead up to there as much as I could have.

The pacing of the story is really well done though so I feel confident that most of my problems with this book are an “it’s me not you” situation. The story is told from both Laura and her sister Rosie’s perspectives as well as parts of Laura’s therapy sessions. All these different parts helped tell the story in a suspenseful way. Things would build up to something and then it would switch to another perspective. Because of that this book just flies by and I really liked all the different reveals.

Some of the things that I didn’t like would be spoilers so I can’t really go into them. I can tell you that I knocked half a star off at the very end because I really don’t like when authors booksplain (I heard this recently and thought it was genius). I don’t need pages at the end of the story to explain things to me. If an author feels it is necessary than maybe a paragraph at the most but any more than that and it comes across as lazy storytelling. Sorry if that seems harsh but booksplaining is one of my bookish pet peeves.

Overall, this is an average (average doesn’t equal bad!) thriller that I think anyone who is a fan of thrillers will enjoy. I know I rated it low but I did enjoy 99% of this book. I also think that someone who enjoys women’s fiction would also like this book because a lot of Laura’s story has to do with dating and relationships. I am also going to link the other Wendy Walker book that I read because I gave that one four stars and I do think she is so great at fleshing out characters. Also, if you aren’t familiar with the name Wendy Walker I bet most of you have heard of her last book Emma in the Night. I think she has written five novels and I plan on reading all of them.

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

~Cassie

Netgalley Review: The Better Sister bay Alafair Burke

Thank you to Netgalley and Harper for allowing me to read this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

 

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Title: The Better Sister

Author: The Better Sister

Pages: 336

Publisher: Harper

Publication Date: April 16, 2019

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Rating: 4/5

From Alafair Burke—New York Times bestselling author of the runaway hit, The Wife—comes another twisty tale of domestic noir. When a prominent Manhattan lawyer is murdered, two estranged sisters—one the dead man’s widow, the other his ex—must set aside mistrust and old resentments . . . but can they escape their past?

Though Chloe was the younger of the two Taylor sisters, she always seemed to be in charge. She was the honor roll student with big dreams and an even bigger work ethic. Nicky was always restless . . . and more than a little reckless—the opposite of her ambitious little sister. She floated from job to job and man to man, and stayed close to home in Cleveland.

For a while, it seemed like both sisters had found happiness. Chloe earned a scholarship to an Ivy League school and moved to New York City, where she landed a coveted publishing job. Nicky married promising young attorney Adam Macintosh, and gave birth to a baby boy they named Ethan. The Taylor sisters became virtual strangers.

Now, more than fifteen years later, their lives are drastically different—and Chloe is married to Adam. When he’s murdered by an intruder at the couple’s East Hampton beach house, Chloe reluctantly allows her teenaged stepson’s biological mother—her estranged sister, Nicky—back into her life. But when the police begin to treat Ethan as a suspect in his father’s death, the two sisters are forced to unite . . . and to confront the truth behind family secrets they have tried to bury in the past

Goodreads

The beginning of this book I was disappointed because it was resembling a book that I had recently dnf’d but thankfully it made a sharp right turn and got a lot better. The reason I didn’t like the beginning is because the author, Burke, heavily took from current events, which is fine by itself, but when page after page is the the main character, Claire,  thinking all these thoughts about current events and no actual story building is being done it got to be annoying. What Claire does is an important part of the story but it is not necessary to spend so much time on just building up her character when the author would have been better off building up the relationships that she has with the people around her. We know from the synopsis that Claire’s husband, Adam, is murdered but we don’t get to see much of their relationship before that happens. Which, if I had a choice in how the author started this book I would much rather they spent their time on Claire and Adam and not Claire and all the amazingness that she has done with her magazine.

Once the story really got going though it was a fantastic thriller. There were a lot of twists and turns and I loved watching the story unfold. If thrillers aren’t a favorite genre of yours then you might find some of the plot overdone with all the different reveals. For someone like me, who loves mysteries and thrillers, than this will be a fun adventure for you.

I also really enjoyed the pacing of this book. This book would jump forward in time at different plot points and I really felt like it kept the book from getting too stale. It also helped it to feel more realistic since everything wasn’t happening in the span of a few days. Burke also did a great job of balancing all the drama and different storylines that were happening. We know going into it that their is obviously some drama with Claire and her sister and I liked how their relationship unfolded throughout the story. Going between the drama between them, the mystery of who killed Adam and Claire trying to deal with the police and social media kept me engaged in the story.

Overall, this was a really well done thriller/mystery and I highly recommend that anyone who enjoys this genre check this book out. If you like Law & Order: SVU I also think that you would like this book. It follows the basic narrative of the episodes where there is a crime, the police investigate and then there is a court case. Also, I know I spent some time talking about how I didn’t really like the beginning but the rest of the book more than made up for that.

~Cassie

Book of the Month

A couple people that I watch on Booktube have recently shared their Book of the Month collections and I thought it would fun to share mine today. Not only am I an avid reader but I am a book collector and I take pride in my little library. (My oldest was doing a project about himself a few months ago and his fun fact about himself was that his mom has her own library *insert heart eye emojis here*).

Just to give some background, Book of the Month, is a monthly subscription box where for $14.99 you get to choose one book from five new releases for that month. For an additional $9.99 you can add a second book to your box. You can also add a third for another $9.99. Which is pretty freaking great in my book (ha) since they are hardcover copies and most of them have a Book of the Month emblem on the spine so they look so nice all shelved together. You also get a bookmark with every order and it is free shipping. The only downside is that is a U.S. only service but hopefully one day that will change. They recently adopted a reward system once you get your 12th box which is exciting because I’m only one box away!

Already Read

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Review

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Circe by Madeline Miller

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

#FashionVictim

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Killer Across the Table by John Edward Douglas, Mark Olshaker

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak

Bought Used

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Goodreads

I love this book service so much and I highly recommend it to anyone living in America to give it a try. I am going to leave my referral link below if you want to use it to sign up for Book of the Month. You get a free book for using the link and I get a free book as well. Or if you are interested but want to support a favorite American booktuber that uses Book of the Month they almost always have their referral link in their description boxes. (I signed up using ChelseaDollingReads code.) Or you could just go to the website and sign up that way if you want to.

Book of the Month referral link

~Cassie

 

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

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

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Title: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

Author: Lindsey Lee Johnson

Pages: 288

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Rating: 1/5

A captivating debut novel for readers of Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth unleashes an unforgettable cast of characters into a realm known for its cruelty and peril: the American high school.

In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for her kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public postable, shareable, indelible. With the rare talent that transforms teenage dramas into compelling and urgent fiction, Lindsey Lee Johnson makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with the sorrow, passion, and beauty of life in any time, and at any age.

Goodreads

As you can see from my rating I really did not like this book. Fun fact: I have never in my 32 years DNF a book. I have nothing against other people doing it but I always want to know how a book finishes. Until this book. I didn’t DNF it but I really should have. But I told myself to hold out and finish it because then I will probably understand the point of the book. No. It didn’t work. There is no actual point to this book.

I did like the idea behind the formatting of the book and it maybe could have worked if two huge things had been different. This story is told through alternating points of view. One point of view is a teacher at the school, Ms. Nicoll and her story is told every other chapter behind a story dealing with a student. Each student story is like a short story of that specific character. All these short stories even have their own story name for the chapter which further enforced the short story vibe to me. Which is the first thing that I would have changed about this book. It would have worked better to just be a collection of short stories about the students in Mill Valley.  For that to really work though you would have to do the other big change which is to take out the character of Ms. Nicoll. There was no narrative point to her being in the book. She didn’t further the plot at all. Especially since there is no plot which is why a short story collection would have worked so much better. Besides her character being pointless she aggravated me every single time it was her story. She seemed to think her goal as a teacher was for the kids to be her friend. Uh no and she crossed so many lines it was uncomfortable and cringy.

Speaking of uncomfortable and cringy so was pretty much every situation a character was in. There were so many lines crossed in this book that it became overkill and ridiculous. It was way too much for one book. (I feel like putting in trigger warnings here would be spoilers but please check the Goodreads link above to find out what they are. There are a lot of good reviews that list them all.) I’m not sure if this was why the characters were all so unlikeable but they were all either annoying or terrible. Sometimes both. The only character that I felt anything for was Emma.

However, there is some good news in this depressing review that I wrote. This book has won awards. Barnes and Noble and People Magazine have both spotlight it. HBO has bought the rights to turn it into a tv show. (All of this I got from the author’s bio page here). There are obviously a great number of people who enjoy this. Who saw and understood what the author was trying to do. Unfortunately, I am not that person.

~Cassie

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillian

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Title: What She Knew

Author: Gilly Macmillian

Pages: 512

Genre: Mystery, Crime

Publisher: Harpers Collins Publishers

Publication Date: December 1, 2015

Rating: 4/5

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion. 

As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking…

Goodreads

This book had me hooked from the beginning. The prologue starts us off 1 year past Rachel’s son, Ben, going missing. The story is told from Rachel’s perspective and one of the lead investigators Jim. Some of Jim’s story is also told through notes his therapist took. I really love when books are able to play with different formats because when done right it really keeps up the momentum of the story. I read this book on my kindle and I had no idea until I was putting this blog post together that this is 512 pages. It honestly felt like a 300 page book which I really feel like speaks to what a compelling story this is.

I really like the character of Rachel and I quickly connected to her. Ben is a 8 year old boy and my two oldest are 7 and 9 and I couldn’t help but put myself in her shoes. Her son asks if he can run ahead to the car while they are walking the dog and she lets him. When she gets to the car she obviously can’t find him or the dog and this sets off the judgement of people everywhere. Throughout the book there are blog posts and news articles with comments at the end that are filled with so much judgement and hate for Rachel and her decision to let him go ahead. Rachel’s story felt so real to me and I appreciated how flushed out her story felt with all the people in her life. She has to deal with her ex husband and his new wife, her best friend and also her sister, along with Ben’s school. It was interesting to see how people reacted and dealt with Ben missing and all the different dynamics.

The other big part of the book is the police investigation to find Ben. This was a very comprehensive look at how an investigation is run and all the people involved. This was the part of the book that frustrated me the most because it was so irritating some of the stuff they would and wouldn’t do. But I also think that was the point since this is the first book in a series starring Jim. Obviously from the first time we meet Jim we know that things don’t end up to great for him and this is the story of explaining how he got there. It just really rubbed me the wrong way when the cops would get a piece of evidence and then say that it probably wasn’t too important and they will look into after they go down this other avenue of investigation. To be fair though, a lot of that frustration could be due to the fact that I watched the first 3 episodes of the Adnan Syed documentary on HBO while I was reading this. Syed was convicted based on a timeline that the cops forced to fit into their evidence even though it doesn’t hold up once you start looking at it. (Just for the record I’m not saying he did or didn’t do it. I just don’t think a person should spend their life in prison based on a flawed timeline. Our justice system needs to be better than that.) If the evidence is taking you in a different direction you should follow the evidence and not get fixated on the person you think did it. This is obviously quite different than the Syed case where that is a murder and this is a missing kid. You obviously need to find the perpetrator as quickly as possible so you can find the child as soon as possible. But you can still do that while also looking at all the new evidence at the same time.

So now that I have gone on a mini rant about our justice system let me wrap this up by saying that this is a fantastically written mystery and crime fiction novel. I thought for a long time that this would be a five star read but I unfortunately really struggled with the actions of the police. I do plan on continuing on with the series and I am looking forward to seeing Jim handles another investigation and how this first one changed him.

~Cassie