Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review: The Couple Next Door

My rating: 2

When my book club first chose The Couple Next Door, I was extremely excited. I have been really into suspenseful books that prove to be page-turners, which is how everyone described this one, and I don't deny that. However, overall, I was not that impressed with this popular hit.

The story is about a couple with a young baby who are invited to a dinner party next door. The babysitter cancels at the last minute and since no babies are allowed, the husband (Marco) convinces the wife (Anne) to just use the monitor and check on the baby every half hour. Weird to begin with, am I right?

They go home after the dinner party to discover the baby is missing, and the rest of the story is about them trying to find her while the police try to figure out who is to blame, and if the baby is dead or alive. The plot was fast at first but really began to become repetitive and slow as the book progressed. The whole thing also began to remind me of a certain movie (do you know it?), which left me feeling slightly cheated.

They end up revealing who stole the baby (guessed it) and added an ending that you would never predict, however, I cannot say that I feel this was a wise choice or that it added any real value to the book. In fact, I think it really just pissed me off more and made me mad I wasted my time.

Overall, not worth the hype the book is receiving and definitely not my cup of tea. Did you read it? What did you think?

-Busy Brunette 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Book Review: Carrie

My Rating: 4

While I am well aware that this book was published quite a few years ago, it took me a little bit of time to check this classic horror novel out. You may think you know the story of Carrie, especially if you have ever seen clips of the famous movie made after the novel, but you are probably completely mistaken unless you have ever read the book. 

I love Stephen King and admire him in an unhealthy way, so I knew that I had to read this book. If you enjoy his writing, you will want to read Carrie, one of his first published novels that made him famous, as well. 

The story is about an outsider girl who consistently gets made fun of by her peers. One event leads to another, and she finally has enough. What those around her don't realize, however, is that she has telekinetic powers, and can move objects with her mind. This leads to an ultimate and gory ending. 

What I found the most interesting about the book was the fact that although King originally wrote it in 1974, a lot of it is still relevant today. I think that while the book isn't intending to be moralistic in nature, that it should be seen as a warning against the destruction that can occur when we treat other people badly. Obviously it is meant to be a horror novel and a fantasy, but hurtful behavior has consequences, in some way or another. 

Overall, this book didn't disappoint and it was exciting to read one of the first major novels that catapulted a career. 

-Busy Brunette

Book Review: Leaving Time

My Rating: 5

I just finished this book about four minutes ago and was so excited to write the review. As I sped through the last 50 pages or so, I found myself constantly shaking my head in surprise, looking at my husband in shock, and alternating between “What!” and “I did NOT see that coming!”

Needless to say, this one got me.

Leaving Time was my first Jodi Picoult book and let me tell you, it was long overdue. Being an avid reader my entire life, I had heard of her as an author but had never taken the time to see what she was all about. I am now already looking forward to my next read by her.

Leaving Time’s main character is Jenna Metcalf, a thirteen-year-old girl who is wise beyond her years and is a self-proclaimed old soul. Her mother disappeared under mysterious circumstances when she was three-years-old and she has obsessively been trying to find her ever since. The grandmother she lives with is no help and her father suffered a breakdown the night of the disappearance and has remained institutionalized for the past ten years. She is determined to try to find her mother, who she is convinced did not leave her, and decides she will do it all on her own.

Well, mostly on her own.

She enlists a washed-up psychic, Serenity, and an alcoholic former cop, Virgil, who was part of the team that investigated that tragic night at the Elephant Sanctuary where Jenna’s parents worked and researched. Both of them have their own secrets they are trying to cope with and all of them must work together to try to make everything make sense again.

The book is told from multiple points of view, which in no way distracts or takes away from the story. I found it extremely intriguing to hear all of their sides of the story while trying to piece together the puzzle. I enjoyed that one of the voices was Jenna’s mother, Alice, in the past. I loved the research Alice shared about elephants and it was amazing to hear all of these extraordinary things about these magnificent creatures. Picoult definitely did her share of research and it made for an even more enveloping storyline.

The twists and turns in this book are unreal, and just when you think you have it figured out and that you are the best super-sleuth there is, BOOM, something else crazy comes your way and you have to start from scratch. There is no preparing for this one, and you will want to read it again as soon as you finish.

The characters are great. The writing is great. Overall, I was completely in love with it. Trust me when I say that you will love it, too. And don't worry, Jodi Picoult, I won't be leaving you anytime soon.

-Busy Brunette

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Book Review: Fractured

My Rating: 4

I finished this book in less than a day if that gives you any indication of how much I enjoyed it (and I have a young toddler so this was no easy feat). Every time I pick up a book that sounds like it will be suspenseful, I am hoping for an experience like this one. The writing was engaging, the plot gripping, and the emotions were electric. 

Fractured is the story of a famous author, Julie, who moves with her family to a new suburban neighborhood to escape an obsessed stalker that has haunted her for years. She is hoping the neighborhood will not only be a great place to start over, but will also be the perfect setting to help her write her second novel. This community with manicured lawns and impeccable houses turns out to be far from idyllic, however. 

The story alternates viewpoints between Julie and her neighbor across the street, John, which makes the reading go that much faster. It also switches between ‘then’ and ‘now’, a technique that basically causes you to never put the book down. ‘Then’ is the story describing Julie and her family's beginnings in the neighborhood while ‘now’ is John and his family going to court for a trial- about what we don't know. 

The neighborhood is run by gossipy women who quickly dismiss Julie after a few mishaps, and her only connection becomes John, which adds fuel to the rumor fire. John works from home and Julie is working on her book, so it only makes sense he should help her out when the threat of her stalker returns, right? 

Overall, this was a fast read that was full of interesting characters, a solid plot, and twists that I was not able to figure out. I loved that I wasn't able to solve the mystery and it left me feeling stumped, which was awesome. Catherine McKenzie is an excellent writer and I am excited to pick up some more of her books. If you are looking for your next thriller that is full of suspense and surprises, then Fractured is the one for you. 

-Busy Brunette 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Book Review: Hitler's Last Secretary

My Rating: 5

As an avid reader of anything about World War II, I was surprised when I realized I had never read this book. If you have any interest whatsoever about the final days of Adolf Hitler, this is definitely a must-read. 

Hitler’s Last Secretary is a one-of-a-kind piece as it gives you a perspective that you cannot get from any other book about World War II. Traudl Junge was Hitler’s secretary not only in the last couple of years of the war, but also the last few weeks of Hitler’s life in the underground bunker, and her chronicle of that time period is truly fascinating. 

The beginning was a little slow, as it gives a summary of Traudl’s childhood and family life, but I know it was necessary in order to better understand her background. I feel like those first chapters might turn you away if you think that's what the rest of the book is going to feel like, but just stick with it until the actual journals begin because you will not be disappointed. Traudl wrote down her time under Hitler in 1947, so everything was fresh in her mind, and this is evident in the amount of detail she shares as well as the emotions that are still fresh. 

This book was a little weird for me as I am so used to reading accounts of concentration camp survivors, American soldiers fighting in Europe, or other victims that suffered due to Hitler’s rule, so I am accustomed to only reading about how evil this dictator was and how he was such a monster. I'm not saying this book makes him seem innocent in any way, definitely not, but Traudl did something that no other book I've read accomplished: she made Adolf Hitler appear human. 

Traudl shares her duties as Hitler’s personal secretary, but mainly she talks about the daily routine, the people she lived and work with, conversations the group had, as well shares a softer and more personal side of Hitler that most historical accounts don't go into. What I found intriguing about seeing a different side of him was the fact that he must have qualities we don't usually talk about as so many people were literally so mesmerized by him that they would do anything for him. I think it is vital to see this person in his entirety so we can continue to try to understand how millions of people got completely seduced by a man with such radical ideas. 

Overall, this book was fascinating. It gives you a unique glimpse into the inner workings of one of history’s most hated men, and provides a perspective you will never get anywhere else. It is straightforward and unapologetic, yet also details Traudl’s life after the war and how this time of naivety affected her forever. If you have any curiosity at all, I encourage you to read this book. Whether you love it or you hate it, you won't forget it, and it stands as a lasting reminder of how one person can transfix a nation and change history forever. 

-Busy Brunette 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Book Review: The Girls

My Rating: 4

The Girls is a book that will hook you in, and make your stomach turn; it will make you think, and make you want to forget. 

Although the author never comes out and says it, The Girls is a fictional story based on The Manson Family and the Manson Murders. The characters are based on actual members of the Family, including Charles Manson himself, but the main character is completely fictional. 

If you are unaware, Charles Manson is an American criminal who was the leader of a type of cult that arose in the late 1960s. Manson believed there was going to be an apocalyptic race war, and he grew a following of people who shared his beliefs and basically idolized him. This following became known as The Manson Family, and he eventually convinced them to commit multiple murders in his name. 

The intention of this book isn't to detail the murders or to solve what happened, but rather, its main focus is to examine the psyche of the girls involved, as well as the members in general, and go into the situations that might make someone join something such as The Manson Family. I liked the fact that the author, Emma Cline, chose to focus on the psychological aspect of people who join groups like this, and I felt she told a convincing story of why Manson targeted specific people for his following. 

The book is written in a very dry, matter-of-fact style, similar to that of The Virgin Suicides, but it was the perfect choice. The main character, a young girl named Evie, is telling the story as an older woman, and is looking back at that time through a mature perspective of the events. She alternates between being somewhat proud of being part of something so notorious, and being shocked that she was seduced so easily, and it was engaging to hear her look back and reflect. 

Overall, The Girls was haunting and mesmerizing, sucking me in from the very beginning and not letting me go until the final pages. This was definitely not an uplifting book by any means and it could possibly make some readers uncomfortable due to its sexual content as well as its graphic violence, but it was eye-opening and intriguing to say the least. Although you won't be reading a historical account of The Manson Murders, you will be learning a lot about what might have been going through the minds of The Girls. 

-Busy Brunette 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Book Review: In a Dark, Dark, Wood

My Rating: 2

I started reading In a Dark, Dark Wood in the summer, and I was extremely excited to have a creepy thriller to speed through by the pool. I was, unfortunately, not creeped out or thrilled at all- honestly, I was bored out of my mind. 

In a Dark, Dark Wood starts off interesting enough and I was hooked for the first quarter of it or so. The main character, Nora, is invited to a hen party (bachelorette party) for a woman who used to be her best friend, but hasn't heard from in ten years. A mutual friend that is also invited ends up talking her into going, and the weekend getaway is at an all-glass house in the middle of the woods. Spooky setting, right? 

There are a few other people invited and they go through a weekend full of monotonous conversations and awkward situations. The characters are all unlikeable and I did not feel a connection to anyone, including Nora. The story alternates between the hen party and Nora in the hospital, being told there was a murder in the house, but not being able to remember what happened. This gave me just enough curiosity to be propelled forward through the story, but left me wanting to skip the pages in between. 

This book took me a really long time to read, and I actually had to take a break from it a couple of times. Although I am glad that I ultimately ended up finishing it, I can't say that I was truly surprised by any of the outcomes. The big twists at the end didn't wind up being very surprising, and by that point I didn't really care. I wish I would have liked the characters more as I feel this would have changed my feelings towards the book. 

Overall, In a Dark, Dark Wood was not dark or suspenseful. The plot was predictable at best and was hard to believe. Although the characters were not deep, the writing was at times, so I will definitely give another book by Ruth Ware a chance. I just hope it's a little more suspenseful and creepy. But for now, I need to get out of the dark, dark woods. 

-Busy Brunette