Review of Dominicana by Angie Cruz | An #ownvoices immigrant story set in 1960s New York City #BookReview #DominicanaTheNovelRead More
Publication Date: December 5th, 2017
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Page Count: 288 pages
Why I read it: I'm generally always in the mood to read a book about serial killers. What can I say?
First Sentence: "It's too dark to go out but too hot to sleep."
Synopsis: Ellery Hathaway knows a thing or two about serial killers, but not through her police training. She's an officer in sleepy Woodbury, MA, where a bicycle theft still makes the newspapers. No one there knows she was once victim number seventeen in the grisly story of serial killer Francis Michael Coben. The only victim who lived.
When three people disappear from her town in three years, all around her birthday—the day she was kidnapped so long ago—Ellery fears someone knows her secret. Someone very dangerous. Her superiors dismiss her concerns, but Ellery knows the vanishing season is coming and anyone could be next. She contacts the one man she knows will believe her: the FBI agent who saved her from a killer’s closet all those years ago.
Agent Reed Markham made his name and fame on the back of the Coben case, but his fortunes have since turned. His marriage is in shambles, his bosses think he's washed up, and worst of all, he blew a major investigation. When Ellery calls him, he can’t help but wonder: sure, he rescued her, but was she ever truly saved? His greatest triumph is Ellery’s waking nightmare, and now both of them are about to be sucked into the past, back to the case that made them...with a killer who can't let go.
My Thoughts: Ellery Hathaway is a survivor. She was abducted as a kid but lived long enough to be rescued. She tries to move on and starts over as a police officer in an anonymous town, but comes to realize she's not as anonymous as she thinks she is- every year, she gets a mysterious birthday card in the mail and someone else in the town disappears. No one believes her when she says they're connected so she enlists the help of FBI agent Reed Markham, the profiler who found her. Her birthday is coming up again so it's a race against time to stop the killer from finding his next victim.
Right off the bat, I could tell this protagonist was written by a woman. She was strong without being too hard headed and believably flawed. I loved the first chapter. I feel like we got to know just enough about her to see where she came from without spoiling everything. Clues about her past were dropped throughout the story until we get the whole picture. The writing was tight and straightforward. It was short of dialogue but long on internal monologue- I enjoyed the author's style. This was not a raging page turner, but I thought the story was compelling and well crafted. There were some plot points that were a little too convenient, but nothing too distracting. My favorite element was the mentor/mentee relationship between Ellery and Reed- it was so fun to read them profiling the criminal. I did finally figure out what was going on but was kept guessing until the very end!
Favorite Quote: "... Yet if viewing skin flicks could turn a person into a homicidal maniac, the county would be strung with bodies like paper dolls, lined up from end to end."
Publication Date: April 25th, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Page Count: 432 Pages
Why I read it: I saw it EVERYWHERE on Instagram, and I didn't see one person who had something bad to say about it.
First Sentence: "Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger."
Synopsis: People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain.
My Thoughts: I won't lie. It took me a minute to find the motivation to get Beartown to the top of my list. I have only heard great things, but nothing about the synopsis grabbed me. I don't tend to love books that are rife with super small town drama and, even though I'm a sports fan, I wasn't all that interested in reading what I assumed to be a hockey version of Friday Night Lights.
Was I ever wrong.
This book is about so much more than small town small drama or gossip, or about hockey. The story features rich, well thought out characters that don't always do what you expect them to do. Some of them are very well developed (Benji, I love you) and others are barely named (Kevin's mother), but I thought he used this as a technique to help set the tone. Right from the beginning, it's ominous. You know something bad is going to happen (starting with one of the best opening lines I've read in awhile). You get the sense the town has been doing things the same way for as long as anyone can remember, and that they'll do anything they have to to maintain the status quo. It took me about 10% of the book to get into it, but once I got there I was hooked. I now know why there aren't very many captivating synopses about this book- it's better to go in relatively blind. This book is about about family and about power. It's about life's fleeting moments and the things we do to protect the ones we love. There are no black and white answers here; the book is comfortable with exploring grey areas. (I should say, to me the answer is black and white. And it should be very clear who's in the wrong, but the discussions had about where to place the blame is realistic.) This book is so timely and current and I am very happy I read it when I did. I just found out it's going to be a series and I can't wait to get my hands on the next one! This is definitely a world I would be happy to know more about.
A part of what initially turned me off from the book was my assumption that it would be all about the boys. However, the female characters in this were some of the most interesting. I loved Kira and her talking about her struggle and desire to want to be a "career woman" and a good mother. I loved that the girl was inspired to do the right thing because she wanted to protect girls in the future. Bachman's writing is lush and evocative- I can't believe he's only 36. He uses a lot of imagery and foreshadowing and I found myself doing copious amounts of highlighting. It's a perfect winter read, and I think anyone who likes books with heart will like this book, no matter what their relationship to hockey.
Favorite Quote: “The only thing the sport gives us are moments. But what the hell is life, Peter, apart from moments?”
Read Alike: This Is How It Always Is for the examination of family and the feels.
Rating: 5/5 Worth the hype. One of my favorite reads of the year.
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The Wife Between Us | Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Publication Date: January 9th, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Page Count: 352
Why I read it: While I received it as an ARC in exchange for an honest review, I requested The Wife Between Us because of the synopsis and the authors.
First Sentence: "She walks briskly down the city sidewalk, her blond hair bouncing against her shoulders, her cheeks flushed, a gym bag looped over her forearm."
When you read this book, you will make many assumptions. You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love. You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle. Assume nothing. Twisted and deliciously chilling, The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage - and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.
Read between the lies.
My Thoughts: I received this as an ARC in early Fall and couldn't put it down. I love getting books in advance- but how frustrating, to not be able to obsess over it openly! This comes out in January 2018 and I'm calling it as one of the best psychological thrillers of the year. (It's already getting huge buzz.) The story is told from two angles- from a young wife who is about to marry the enigmatic and powerful man of her dreams and from the ex wife of the same man. I tend to take notes when I read so that I can draw on them when writing a blog post, and all I have written for this one is "So enthralled. Haven't been taking notes. I'm so sweaty!!!" So that should tell you something!
The presentation itself isn't that out of the ordinary. You have one unreliable narrator who has become a shell of her former self after her marriage has imploded. The younger version of her is bright eyed and idealistic, ready to marry the tall dark and handsome stranger that's recently entered her life. But once you figure out- or think you figure out- what's going on, you won't be able to stop reading.
The story generally focuses on the first wife. She was well developed, but it took awhile to get there. I was annoyed with her at first and kept wanting her to pick herself up by her bootstraps, but I eventually came around. We get to watch as she slowly falls deeper and deeper into her obsession with her replacement, even going so far as to visit the same restaurants she thinks she might have frequented. I was really digging the single white female vibe. The writing was terse, and even elegant at times. So many thrillers are deemed good by the story itself despite lackluster writing, but that was not the case here. There was a lot of tension and uncomfortable scenes, and I was surprised on more than one occasion. Such a good read! If you're a Book of the Month Club member, you can get it now! It's a BOTM exclusive. If you're not a member, consider signing up with my referral link. You won't regret it.
Favorite Quote: "They say the wife is always the last to know. But I wasn't. I just chose to look the other way. I never dreamed it would last.
My regret is an open wound."
Rating: 5/5 It was a wonderful thriller that I will have to read again. Highly recommended!
Publication Date: October 10th, 2017
Publisher: Dutton Books
Page Count: 286
Why I read it: Because John Green is an insta-read author for me.
First Sentence: "At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time- between 12:37 P.M. and 1:14 P.M.- by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn't even begin to identify them."
Synopsis: "It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see." Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
My Thoughts: I have to admit that very little about the synopsis was compelling to me. The Best and Most Fearless Friend descriptor for Daisy sounded really juvenile and I wasn't really feeling the hi jinks that I thought were about to ensure with the billionaire fugitive.. Still, I pre-ordered this because I love John Green. I felt nervous for him. He has been so fantastically candid about his own struggles with mental illness (OCD) and with failing to follow up The Fault In Our Stars, and I knew he'd put a lot into writing this. I suppose the same is true for all authors, but when I get to peek behind the curtain I find it can make me feel compassion toward the author's process that I might not otherwise feel.
I am happy to report that I thought this book was fantastic. John Green is so incredibly skilled at capturing that feeling of young adulthood. That feeling where there are infinite possibilities ahead of you yet the present is all that you care about. Some criticize his characters and say that they're unrealistically deep for teenagers, but sometimes I feel like I was at my most thoughtful as a young adult. There is still so much to learn and so much to do as a teen and I remember worrying about the Infinite possibilities.
John Green's writing is like prose. I gobbled the book up in two days, but immediately after finishing I wanted to page back through and re-read my favorite parts. It is an introspective book. There wasn't a ton of action and I guessed correctly on some of the major plot points, but that didn't matter. The power of this book is in the way he describes Aza and what it is like for her to be caught in the ever tightening thought spirals. Page 228 was one of the most terrifying things I've read; it truly gave me a bit of anxiety reading it. I am very curious about how individuals who suffer with mental illness are going to find this book. I wonder if it'll be triggering, or if it will make people feel understood. I suppose it'll be different for everybody. I also wonder if Green's own OCD was made better or worse by writing.
Overall, this book is a hit. It's not likely going to be made into a movie a la The Fault In Our Stars, but in many ways I liked it better than TFIOS. Aside from Aza, most of the characters were flat, but I think that was a choice. Aza isn't yet at a place where she can get outside of her own head and see other people for who they are, and I found this choice to make the story all the more realistic.
Favorite Quote: "And I knew I would remember that feeling, underneath the split-up sky, back before the machinery of fate ground us into one thing or another, back when we could still be everything."
Read Alike: Eleanor and Park
Rating: 5/5 It's another John Green classic. There's something about his storytelling that when it hits, it sticks with you. (Not talking to you Paper Towns).
Have you read it? What are your thoughts?
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