Book Review

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

After recently reading Katherine’s new book, Things You Save in a Fire, I immediately looked up the rest of her bibliography and decided to start with How to Walk Away. I decided to go into the book blind – I didn’t even read the back cover summary before I dove in. That gamble paid off in spades – this book was just as emotionally packed as her latest book, but offered a totally different main character to root for.

Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment.

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.

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Book Review

One of Us is Lying by Karen M McManus

It’s clear that One of Us is Lying was trying to be the teenage answer to acclaimed domestic mysteries such as Big Little Lies and Gone Girl. While it did succeed in creating a fun mystery in the young adult space, it definitely falls short of being a memorable and lasting entry to the genre.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

My main issue with this book was it’s poor character management. While a bigger cast of core characters can be fun, it requires a lot of plotting and balance that this book sorely lacked. Most of the five characters were pretty bland and didn’t have a lot of personality, not to mention that they weren’t used very effectively. All five characters should have been utilized to keep the reader on their toes and to maintain more of a whodunit vibe. Sadly, at least two of the characters could have been cut with little impact to the story, which really speaks to their poor character definition and lack of contribution to the plot.

The plot itself of this book is nothing new, but it’s still a fun ride. It has a strong Pretty Little Liars vibe – the main plot focuses on an anonymous figure releasing the group’s darkest secrets. The story is mildly twisty, and is a decent mystery – though it is easy to guess the ending. Further, the mystery was pretty forgettable. I’m writing this review about a week after I read the book, and already the details are getting pretty fuzzy. One notable thing about the plot was that it was largely driven by cliches. Each character represented an overused trope from every popular high school movie, and all of their fears/secrets/motivations, were just as cliche. Any one of the characters could have been swapped out for a different cliche driven character with little impact to the book overall.

This book strives to be taken seriously and clearly wants to be considered in the league of modern mystery giants such as Gone Girl or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It fell leagues short of that bar, but would still be a decent (and easy) read if you wanted a lighthearted mystery. 3/5

Book Review

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

Normally, Sophie Kinsella’s books are a mix of cringe comedy, dumb antics (that lead to easily avoidable problems), and a healthy dose of uber-cute romance. It’s the third part of this recipe that keeps me coming back and reading more of her books. This one, however, lacked the spark between the romantic leads and veered much further into the territory of unbelievable than any of her other books.

Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She’s made a mistake so huge, it’ll wreck any chance of a partnership.

Going into utter meltdown, she walks out of her London office, gets on a train, and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she’s mistaken for an interviewee and finds herself being offered a job as housekeeper. Her employers have no idea they’ve hired a lawyer–and Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. She can’t sew on a button, bake a potato, or get the #@%# ironing board to open. How she takes a deep breath and begins to cope–and finds love–is a story as delicious as the bread she learns to bake.

But will her old life ever catch up with her? And if it does…will she want it back?

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Book Review

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Honestly I only picked this up because it was immediately available from my library – I had no idea what reviews were like or even what it was even about. Tell Me Three Things  was a pleasant surprise – it felt like reading an old school Sarah Dessen book or dipping back into the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books – it was a cozy coming of age, a genre that seems to have all but disappeared since the early 2000s.

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

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Book Review

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott

I didn’t expect to really enjoy this book – I read that it was actually a novelization of the movie (of the same name) and I wasn’t really sold that it would be worthwhile. I also thought it was trying to cash in on the tragic love story genre that The Fault in our Stars kick started in the YA genre. All of my assumptions were luckily wrong, as this was one of the best YA contemporary books I’ve read in a while.

Can you love someone you can never touch?

Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.

The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments, or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.

Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment.

What if they could steal back just a little bit of the space their broken lungs have stolen from them? Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?

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