What I'm Reading

This page is about what I'm reading for fun. None of my comments are meant to be intelligent reviews, recommendations, or condemnations, only my opinions and gut reactions to random books.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake
I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam
Gray Mountain by John Grisham
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater     

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
I've mentioned before that I'm a huge fan of Flynn. I'll read anything she writes. Always. She's masterful with quirky characters and going dark and deep into bizarre topics and social commentary and crass metaphors. This one, for me, was just meh. As always, her main character was great and oozed distinctive voice. The beginning was strong and engaging. But the plot, where Flynn usually comes through with twists and turns and heart-pounding awesomesomeness, fell flat. In my opinion, it should have either stayed in the anthology for which it was written, maybe popping up as a freebie on her website at some point, or it should have been fleshed out to be something more than it was. For me the hardest part to swallow was the cliche, big villain reveal, in which the "bad guy" tells her in great detail the entire plan, solely to spell it out for the reader. Even though we don't know how much of it is true, or whether the villain is really the villain, it still didn't make the plot anything special. I'll look forward to her next novel, where she takes the time and makes the effort to bring things together in the ways that her readers love and expect. 2/5

The Long Walk by Stephen King
I'm a fan of King. I think he's brilliant on many different levels, even though he sometimes gets a bad rap for writing genre fiction, especially science fiction and horror. But this was hands-down one of my favorites. I understand why it would get mixed reviews, but for me, it was perfect. I thought that King masterfully balanced the mundane details of walking for days straight with the horror of the circumstances, the terror of the unknown, and the pain of breaking down physically and mentally. I loved the way he made the characters unique and interesting, even though it could be easy to let them fade into an endless sea of teen boy faces. I laughed. I cried. I felt afraid. I felt hope. This short book illustrated to me, once again, that King is the master of detailed descriptions and illiciting visceral responses. I also loved that this one had some really brilliant insights. He picked apart the human psyche and assessed human nature in a way that very few authors are capable of. I loved the book, and I can't wait to read it again. 5/5

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
I read this because an agent I follow on Twitter said it had the best voice of anything she's read in a long time. That's all I knew about it. I will agree that the voice is incredible--I loved how distinct, and concise, and memorable it was. It seemed effortless and likeable, even though I had a better sense of the other characters than I did the main POV. I also loved the plot twist. Without giving away any spoilers, I think the ending left things open for a variety of interpretations, but I think the story was written well enough that the shock was earned and didn't feel contrived. There were a few moments that I felt weren't entirely believable or realistic, but overall, it's one of my favorite books I've read in a while, and I've already passed it on to half-a-dozen friends. 5/5

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
I loved Gone Girl so much for so many reasons, so I picked up this one. I didn't like it as much as Gone Girl, but Flynn is an incredible writer. She has a gift for details and explaining them in new and interesting ways. All of the examples that come to mind at the moment are crass, so I'll skip them, but she's another one that makes me quit writing for days afterward because I'm depressed that I'll never be as good. Her characters are great--rarely likeable, but so colorful and unique and fascinating. This book was dark and somewhat depressing, but I absolutely loved the way it unfolded. Flynn is fantastic with timing and tension and revealing information at the exact second it will make the biggest impact. Between this book, Gone Girl, and Flynn's blog, she's someone whose books I will always read, no matter what they're about. 3.5/5

The Selection by Kiera Cass
A friend insisted that I read this one, and the tagline of Hunger Games meets The Bachelor was definitely intriguing. I liked it. It was a quick read that was enjoyable on a long flight. The voice, characters, writing, and story didn't particularly stand out to me among all of the other teen trilogies I've read in the last few years, but I did like that she had an interesting family and wasn't super wishy-washy in her obligatory love-triangle; she was sure about what she wanted as circumstances changed. It was pleasant to read, but not my favorite book ever. If I ever catch up on everything else I want to read, I might finish the series. 2.5/5

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I didn't love this one with the same fiery passion that I loved Eleanor and Park. I enjoyed the unfolding story of the twins, Cath and Wren, but by three-forths of the way through, I was skimming the fan fiction sections. I realize that they were the premise for the story, but I didn't really feel like they added anything to it. I was waiting for some big moment where the fan fiction gave Cath a realization about real life, or they became connected in some way, but I didn't get that. In the end, I just felt like I'd read two different books smooshed together. However, as always, Rowell is masterful with characters. Fangirl is full of imperfect, colorful people who had cool quirks and distinct voices--they saved the story for me. I look forward to reading whatever Rowell comes up with next. 3.5/5

The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni
I read this while standing in a two-hour line at Comic-con, so it was slightly out of place among geek culture--it's definitely a curl up on a rainy day kind of read. It takes place post-Civil War, and I had a hard time getting into the voice at first. It seemed like it was trying too hard with the archaic words and stilted speech, and the protagonist seemed clueless and uppity. But once I got into it, it was a good mystery that had a lot of interesting history, fun characters, and unexpected twists. It has an awesome premise, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or cozy mysteries. 2.5/5

Misery by Stephen King
I haven't read this one since high school, so I picked it up again. It's always a classic. The book is genius at working in the creepy details, horrifying characters, and destructive spirals. I love that it's more realistic than most of his stories and plays more with psychological horror than anything supernatural or unexplained. To me, real crazy people are the most horrifying thing of all! This will always be a favorite. 4.5/5

Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu by Mercedes Yardley
I heard Yardley on an author podcast and kind of fell in love with her. She was soft spoken and seemed sweet, but she writes horror! She even calls it "whimsical horror"--how awesome is that?!?! So I picked up all of her books, and this is the first one I've read.

The book had me hooked from page one. It was unique and dark and fun. I did feel like it was more of a short story, though. It could have had a lot more to it. I liked the characters and their horrible lives leading to their horrible connection with each other and their horrible descisions, but it did feel a little too insta-lovey. Their love was based on a psychological NEED for each other/acceptance/companionship that they both lacked, and I would have loved to see that developed more.

On the flip side, I can see why their love needed to be fast and intense and destructive (Romeo and Juliet-ish) before they literally went down in flames. This was a fun, quick, morbid, read, and I'll look forward to reading more of Yardley. 3.5/5

Pivot Point by Kassie West
This one started slow for me. The concept was intresting enough to keep me reading, but the characters were stitled and the writing wasn't amazing. But, as is often the case, West seemed to hit her stride a few chapters in. The premise of splitting worlds in order to see both paths and make the right choice was fun. There were some details that were cool, and I enjoyed seeing how they connected in both story arcs. I'll likely read the sequel, but it wasn't a life-changing book for me. 3/5

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I loved this book. For me, it was one of the few that lived up to the hype. It was simple, but the characters were so beautifully written with interesting flaws and endearing quirks--and Rowell made it seem effortless with her straight-forward prose. I laughed. I cried. And more than once, I found myself in utter despair that I would never be able to write so well. It's contemporary YA at its best. 5/5

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman
This was a fun, fast read. It's pretty dark for YA and does a good job with the horror vibe and characters. I didn't ever get the sense that anyone was safe, and it felt like the horror played out fairly realistically instead of having conveniently contrived situations that left the characters unscathed. I think Wasserman did a good job with the villains--sure she had the obligatory religious fanatics, but she also had a few that were frighteningly believable in their brutality and insanity. It definitely feels like a plot Stephen King has done several times, but it's enjoyable if you like dark and gritty teenage tales. 3/5