5.27.2016

Book Review: June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

JuneJune by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary:  Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery's vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. 

As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.


This is the second book by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore I've read (Bittersweet being the other) and I while I wanted to love this, I liked it. A cross between historical and literary fiction, the story unfurled a bit more slowly than I wanted but it very much held my interest. I thought Cassie was well rendered even if I didn't always understand her. I most enjoyed the story of the past and the was there wasn't there a romance between June & Tate all with the Old Hollywood backdrop (that's what really drew me in to wanting to read this one, I admit). Also, how can you not like a story that offers a house as a character in its own right. As soppy as I feel saying it, I fell in love with the idea of a house having dreams and memories. Just on setting and tone alone, I'd definitely recommended for vacation reading.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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5.24.2016

Book Review: Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing, PresumedMissing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary:  At thirty-nine, Manon Bradshaw is a devoted and respected member of the Cambridgeshire police force, and though she loves her job, what she longs for is a personal life. Single and distant from her family, she wants a husband and children of her own. One night, after yet another disastrous Internet date, she turns on her police radio to help herself fall asleep—and receives an alert that sends her to a puzzling crime scene.

Edith Hind—a beautiful graduate student at Cambridge University and daughter of the surgeon to the Royal Family—has been reported missing for nearly twenty-four hours. Her home offers few clues: a smattering of blood in the kitchen, her keys and phone left behind, the front door ajar but showing no signs of forced entry. Manon instantly knows this case will be big—and that every second is crucial to finding Edith alive.

The investigation starts with Edith’s loved ones: her attentive boyfriend, her reserved best friend, and her patrician parents. As the search widens and press coverage reaches a frenzied pitch, secrets begin to emerge about Edith’s tangled love life and her erratic behavior leading up to her disappearance. With no clear leads, Manon summons every last bit of her skill and intuition to close the case, and what she discovers will have shocking consequences not just for Edith’s family, but for Manon herself.

Suspenseful and keenly observed, Missing, Presumed is a brilliantly twisting novel of how we seek connection, grant forgiveness, and reveal the truth about who we are.


This book was the sort that made me wish I had someone to chat to who was reading along & say "Can you believe that?!" There were moments when I actually recoiled in surprise and then there were the moments where I issued shocked laughter.

When I went into this I thought it was going to be mostly about the mystery of Edie's disappearance. It turned out that this read more like a first in a detective series. The case was followed but what shone through more importantly was the lives of the detectives and how those threads wove together in other ways (some case related & others not). They mystery, in its resolution, was a bit of a let down. I was glad to know the answers but the answers irritated me (as in "That's it? Seriously?!"). The only thing that pulled me back on my rage was realizing that I could completely see a case resolution going just that way in real life. It's not anything that will shock or amaze most readers but it did have all its threads neatly tied. The characters, Manon, Davy especially and to a lesser extent, Harriet, were where the best things about this book were hung. Of the Hinds, Miriam was the best rendered and I wish there was more Rollo. Fly was a very good addition and I liked him so much that I was actually sad when I realized I'd reached the end of the book.

If this is the first book in a series, I will be looking forward to reading the next. Definitely recommended and I'll keep a lookout for future books by the author. This is definitely a very good debut.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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5.09.2016

Book Review: The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

The Last OneThe Last One by Alexandra Oliva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary: She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.
 
It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.
 
Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.
 
But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.
 
Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgments, how easily we are manipulated

I quite enjoyed this one. Admittedly, the blurb referencing Station Eleven and also The Passage pulled me in. I'd read the former within the last month or so & had just finished reading the final installment in the latter's trilogy. So was I ready to read more post-apocalyptic fiction? Most definitely. I'm not exactly sure where this comes in as an intersection between the two but as a reader of both of those books, I did enjoy this, so the mentions worked this time.

Zoo (our main character, her name is revealed very near the end) is a participant in what promised to be a all out blockbuster budget reality show. I admit now that I've never watched any reality television so I can't say how the portrayal of that part of the story matches with actual. I don't know that I appreciated that part of the story as much as I could if I were more familiar with them. Honestly, none of the characters who peopled The Dark Wood stayed with me and ultimately, they didn't feel as important that the time spent with them would have suggested. What I did appreciate was the unvarnished look in at the staging of it all from casting to how drama and events may be created or obscured by a master manipulator, the editor. It was cringeworthy in a way that felt true and I thought it was well done.

What I very much enjoyed was the part of then story that was focused on Zoo once she is away from the group and after she's entered the world in the after. Her thoughts about her husband and parents were rendered well and also her anxiety about becoming a mother. She was an interesting character to follow and I cared about her mental state but also understood the duality of believing the game to be wholly immersive and the denial that the world has gone through something utterly cataclysmic and she may be alone. Who wouldn't want to cling to the idea that the game was still in play and everything in the wasteland is all a set piece? But I still desperately wanted her to have something happen that jarred her in a way that she could deny no longer. This aspect of the story held good tension. I won't spoil because the journey is so worth it but I will say that as a girl with glasses, I empathized with her trekking along with only one lens remaining from her broken pair. I don't know how long I could stand it, in the after, with my uncorrected vision. I was amazed she wasn't rooting through a drug store earlier on for a pair of Foster Grants or whatever. Who knew I could muster so much happiness to have a character finally come upon a Lens Crafters?!

I did think there were a few happenstances that felt a bit trite in the ending (spoiler removed) but I didn't mind them enough that my overall enjoyment was hindered. I loved all things Brennan.

Definitely recommended and I'll keep a lookout for future books by the author. This is definitely a very good debut.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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5.06.2016

Book Review: The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3) by Justin Cronin

The City of Mirrors (The Passage, #3)The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Summary: In "The Passage "and" The Twelve, "Justin Cronin brilliantly imagined the fall of civilization and humanity s desperate fight to survive. Now all is quiet on the horizon but does silence promise the nightmare s end or the second coming of unspeakable darkness? At last, this bestselling epic races to its breathtaking finale. 
"The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place?" 
The Twelve have been destroyed and the hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew and daring to dream of a hopeful future. 
But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy humanity s only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him. 
One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate.


And so it's come to an end. What began as a horrifying viral vampire apocalypse story has evolved and resolved into a story ultimately about family bonds, humanity, survival and spirituality. I can definitely say that I'd no idea this was the destination when I began The Passage. When this turn from vampire horror began in The Twelve, I was initially disappointed but now I have to admit that having read the complete story, I am very much satisfied. All the characters I grew to care about had what I felt were satisfying ends and they reached a peace that was long earned & oft long deferred. It was nice to have followed the lives of these characters and I also enjoyed reading about Zero, Timothy Fanning. His recitation was so long and so very Lestat-like (Interview With the Vampire) that I occasionally forgot that I was reading a book in the Passage series.

Definitely recommended for fans of the series. Finish this one.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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