Review ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ by Michelle McNamara

This review has been a hard one for me to write, because I have mixed feelings about Michelle McNamara’s “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.”

I’ll start by saying I honestly did not know that much about the Golden GSK.jpgState Killer before reading McNamara’s book. I had heard the name GSK before and knew vaguely of the case, but the finer details were unknown to me. When I heard the news of his capture, and subsequently of this book (which has flown under the radar for me), I immediately wanted to get my hands on a copy.

And, for those who don’t know, the Golden State Killer is a serial rapist and murdered who terrorized California in the 1970s and 80s. The mystery of who he was went unsolved for decades, until just about a month ago.

I didn’t read too many articles or too many reports on the GSK’s arrest before reading the book, because I wanted to see the case through Michelle’s eyes. Her writing in this book was fantastic and the research that went into it remarkable. It was creepy in all the best ways, and the descriptions of the neighborhoods this man stalked and how his acts were carried out made you feel like you were walking beside him. Yet, she also did a fantastic job of not sensationalizing the case, or making his attacks to detailed and horrifying to bear.

All of that makes me on the line between giving this book three stars and four.

One issue I had with it, unfortunately, is the timeline. I read this book in spurts over a few weeks, and maybe not reading it straight through is what got me mixed up. In some parts McNamara jumps back and forth in time, and I often felt lost as to when we were, the year and the number of attacks in. It also became clear that McNamara

was not part of the finished project (for those who don’t know, she died unexpectedly before publication, which is so sad.) There were chapters that didn’t flow as well as others, some where the writing wasn’t as captivating or crisp.

In the end, this is about 3 1/2 to 4 stars for me. I definitely recommend it for people interested in the Golden State Killer and lovers of true crime, it’s a meticulously researched and at times captivating read. It just left me wishing there was a bit more organization to the chapter arrangement and a clearer timeline to keep me hooked.

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Review: ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller

CirceIn January 2013, I read the book “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller. I don’t remember why I picked it up, probably because I heard about Miller winning the Orange Prize for Fiction for the book, or maybe because it got rave reviews.

Either way, I read it and I loved it. When I heard Miller would be releasing a new book this year, this time about the goddess Circe, I was so excited. And it did not disappoint. It was my first selection for Book of the Month club, and the perfect way to kick-off my subscription.

Circe is a goddess, one with magical abilities who was banished by her father, Helios, god of the sun, to a desert island. It is on that island she learns more about her magic, and crosses paths with legends in Greek mythology: the Minotaur, Daedalus and his son Icarus, Hermes, and Odysseus. Eventually she finds herself fighting against Athena to protect what she most loves.

“I would say, some people are like constellations
that only touch the earth for a season.”  – Madeline Miller

This book is beautiful, gripping, exciting, and heartbreaking. Circe is a complex character, so fully realized I felt as if she could be someone who walks this earth. She’s strong and stubborn and brave and vengeful and Miller gives her more agency than I’m sure Homer did in his original telling.

If you love novels that are vibrantly written,  thrilling and character-driven, epic in scope but still hold quiet, beautiful moments, this is a book for you.

This book made me want to learn more about Greek mythology and these characters that Miller brought to life. It also made me yearn for more of Miller’s writing; I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Five out of five stars.

A Slow May of Reading

This year of reading so far has been really good, both in the quality of the books I’ve read so far and my ability to get a lot of reading time in. Well, that was until this month. I haven’t yet finished a single book, and have been slowly making my way through I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and Circe, but still haven’t finished either one. It’s not because they’re not good, but because some days I’ve felt too tired to read, others I was busy with end of the semester school work, and some have been busy with fun outings and friend visits.

Still, it’s a little disappointing to be halfway through a month and still have a pile of books waiting to be read and two half-way read. I’m setting a goal for myself to finish Circe (which is so good maybe it’s slow-going because I don’t want it to end) and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by mid-week.

I have both The Hate U Give and Illuminae out from the library, and need to finish those pretty soon because they’re library books due back at the end of the month. Hopefully if I can get through those and my two aforementioned reads, I’ll be able to check four books off the list for May. Next weekend is the 8-in-2 readathon through bookstagram (you can find me at @kmdbookworm) where the challenge is to read for eight hours in two days. I think that’s definitely do-able!

Then, it’s summer! And that means getting my summer reads in order. I’ll post about that in June, once I come up with my to-read stack for the summer (my TBR stack is always pretty flexible, but I like kind of laying out what books I want to try to tackle in any given month, otherwise I get overwhelmed with all the unread books vying for my attention!)

Review: ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ by Tomi Adeyemi

Image result for children of blood and bone charactersSet in the enchanted world of Orïsha, Tomi Adeyemi’s “Children of Blood and Bone” is a powerful, magical read from a new author. The story is compelling, the characters fully fleshed out and her world-building, inspired by African mythology, is some of the best in current YA fantasy.

The story follows Zélie Adebola and her quest to return magic to the land of Orïsha, magic that disappeared one night and allowed for the killing of all maji. Zélie watched her mother die that night, and the memory has haunted her every step.

But a fateful encounter with a runaway princess gives Zélie the chance to bring magic back, and return lost powers to her people who have long suffered the king’s vengeance. Along the way, there are people to help Zélie, and people who will do anything to stop her. There’s also people she must learn to trust, even if they have the power to betray her and all those she loves.

I greatly enjoyed this book, especially the action-filled ending. It left me wanting more and glad that this is only the first book in a series. I thought Zélie was a terrifically developed character, as well as that runaway princess, Amari.

My only complaint is that the book dragged a little toward the middle, and there was a romance plot that felt too forced to be believable. However, those two things aside, this book was beautifully written, and I can’t wait to see what Adeyemi has in store for us next. She is a promising talent.

Four of five stars.

Review: ‘The Immortalists’ by Chloe Benjamin

91NmVdhZX0LFour siblings with the last name Gold, travel to see a psychic they’ve heard tales about. A women who can tell them the date on which they will die. Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya leave her rooms with a date spinning around in their heads, a date that may be in a few years or one that may not be for a few decades.

The premise of the book looks like it’s addressing how each child would live their lives if they believed in their death date. What the book really asks is do we ourselves have control over the decisions we each make, or does fate have its way no matter what?

This book was well-written, thought-provoking and unique. But it wasn’t cohesive, nor well balanced. Each section follows a different Gold sibling as he or she grapples with whether the date given to them is real or fake, whether it should define their lives or not.

The first section is the strongest, following Simon as he and Clara move from New York to San Francisco. It’s in San Fran that Simon can truly explore his sexuality and figure who he is and where he fits in. His story is riveting, heartfelt and heartbreaking. I wanted to stay in Simon’s story much longer.

Second we learn about Klara, as she tries to make it as a magician and performer, meeting a man and falling in love and the happiness and strife that comes with growing up while wanting to pursue a different path. Klara was a captivating character, but at times her story seemed to fantastical, too different from the (mostly) very real situations Simon found himself in. She takes her fate into her own hands, but at what cost?

Then comes Daniel’s chapter, the weakest of the bunch. I feel like I still don’t understand Daniel as a character, and his obsession with the psychic seems forced. He was the most underdeveloped and least interesting of the four siblings.

Last we get to Varya, the most bookish child who now works in medical research with monkeys. Varya is the sibling who plays it the most safe, but her plot line also seems to veer into a forced direction.

The jumps from sibling to sibling are a bit jarring, as each leads such a drastically different life and reacts to their death date in very different ways. I just in the end didn’t get invested enough in anyone but Daniel, and found the novel too unbalanced to really enjoy.

Three of five stars.

Review: ‘The Music Shop’ by Rachel Joyce

MusicShop“Real love was not a bolt out of the blue, it was not the playing of violins, it was like anything else, it was a habit of the heart.”

“The Music Shop” by Rachel Joyce is an ode to the power of music, both to heal and to inspire. It’s a delightful, beautiful and charming book, and my favorite of 2017 so far.

The book is set in 1988 on a small street in England. There are a few shops on the run-down row, including one owned by Frank — a bright and eclectic music shop. Frank has a knack for knowing what someone needs to listen to at exactly the right time, whether it be to get over heartbreak, feel joy or fall in love with music again; but his own heart is often a mystery to him. The book is filled with wonderful oddball characters, from the owner of a tattoo parlor, to a former priest and an eccentric young clerk.

These characters add to the charm of the book, but Frank is at its center. And when one day a woman in a green coat faints in front of his shop, his life is changed in ways he couldn’t imagine. The mysterious, witty Ilse Brauchmann steals his heart, but Frank has a thread of loneliness running through him, and the question is whether Ilse can untangle it. Toward the middle of the book confusion and disaster strikes, and Frank and Ilse’s futures lay in question. After the joy and upbeat nature of the start of the book, the change was a bit of a shock, and I felt myself scared I wouldn’t like the outcome. However, I was very pleased with the way the book ended.

It’s like the perfect record, filled with upbeat tunes, a few more somber tracks, and one at the end that ties it all together.

This book reminded me greatly of Nick Hornby, one of my favorite authors. Fans of his should get this book immediately, as should anyone who believes in the power of music.

Five stars out of five! (A rare rating for me)

 

Review: ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ by Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan’s funny, engrossing “Crazy Rich Asians” was first published in 2013. Recently, with a movie in the works, the book has garnered even more buzz, which led me to finally getting my hands on a copy. And, readers, it did not disappoint.

The story centers on Rachel Chu and her boyfriend Nicholas Young, heir to a gigantic Asian forbooktune, which Rachel knows nothing about. Living in New York, everything is perfect for this young couple, and it finally becomes time for Nick to bring Rachel to his home of Singapore for the wedding of his best friend Colin. Rachel soon realizes that the trip she had envisioned is nothing like the one she’s on. Nick’s relatives and friends have wealth beyond belief.  Nick brings her to meet his grandmother in an estate straight out of Downton Abbey, and she watches in shock as the fiancee charters a private jet just for a two-day bachelorette getaway.

There’s also another shock awaiting Rachel, one even more head spinning than her boyfriend’s family’s ostentatious wealth. Obviously I won’t say much more on that, but it was an interesting twist, and one I wasn’t expecting. I’m also glad there are other books in the series, because this plot point wasn’t fully fleshed out by the end of this book.

My one complaint may be that mostly I wanted to spend time with Rachel and Nick, and by extension Nick’s cousin Astrid, but there are other characters we meet whom I wasn’t as keen on and felt myself rushing through their story lines to get back to Nick and Rachel.

All together I found “Crazy Rich Asians” to be a thoroughly fun and satisfying read. It also made me both wish I had thousands of dollars to blow on diamonds (erm, books) and very glad that money is far from the most important thing in my life. It also may have caused me to take a quick trip to the mall, though I’m sure the wealthy characters in Kwan’s novel would not approve of the $30 dress I bought at Ann Taylor Loft.

Four stars out of five!