#9: The Other Woman’s House

The Other Woman's House by Sophie Hannah

The Other Woman’s House by Sophie Hannah

Date Started: May 24

Date Ended: May 31

Author: Sophie Hannah

Genre: Mystery

Pages: 464

It was nearing Memorial Day weekend, and I was looking for a few books to take to Myrtle Beach with us on our annual long weekend trip. As I often do, I just went to the library to browse & pick up whatever seemed to jump out at me on that particular day. As it was, I picked up this book along with a few others. After I made it to the beach, I decided to read the backs of my books aloud for my family to help me choose which book I should read first. They were all in unanimous agreement that The Other Woman’s House should be my first pick.

The back of the book often gives us more insight into the book than what the characters even know about themselves (a lesson I teach to my 5th graders) and this one did a great job of setting you up with the plot. It is late at night, a woman is looking at the virtual tour for the dream home (that she is obsessed with) she wants to buy, when the image in the living room pans around and a dead woman’s body is laying there in a pool of blood. Of course, she screams, runs to get her husband, and when he comes to see for himself, Surprise! the body is gone- no sign of blood or anything out of the ordinary.

The main character, Connie, wrestles with going to the police. With no proof, she basically has nothing, other than suspicions from her family & the police that she is crazy. The police, of course, say they will look in to it, but what can they do? That is of course, until someone else comes forward claiming to have seen the exact same thing.

This book is FULL of plot twists. I sat for a while, with the book closed, close to the end trying to make sense of it all in my head, trying to decide how it was all going to come together, and I just really couldn’t do it. I couldn’t piece it all together on my own. Some may think that is quality mystery writing, but for me (trying to explain it all to my husband) it seemed a little too far-fetched, but then again I don’t read too many mysteries, so what do I really know.

This book is set in Britain, so sometimes I felt there were some little details lost in “translation”. I’m not all that familiar with British slang, but it wasn’t anything detrimental to the book & usually I could figure out most of the unusual words by using a few context clues.

Overall, I wasn’t 100% sold on the author, but she has more books that I may try one day. If you like mysteries & plot twists-try it out!

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#s 6, 7 & 8: The Matched Trilogy

# 6,7,8

By Ally Condie

3 book series: Matched, Crossed, Reached

Date started/Date Ended: April 1- May 24

Author: Ally Condie

Genre: YA Fiction

Pages: 366, 400, 520

This series was another series that I decided to pick up from my Pinterest board 25 series to read if you liked The Hunger Games.  This book reads more like The Giver, than The Hunger Games. In the society where the main character, Cassia, lives The Society chooses everything for you. They decide who you love, where you work and even when you die. Since The Society controls every aspect of the community they have been able to completely get rid of disease, and violence and as long as you follow the rules you live a happy 80 year long life. But of course, there is always someone who bucks the system.

The first book starts on the day of Cassia’s Matching Banquet. This is the ceremony that happens when you are seventeen and The Society tells you who you will be matched with. All the people of age gather, have a nice meal (not from a foil packet-like most of their meals) and then the society shows each person their match on a large screen. They get to see their match (who is most likely from another community) on the screen and they are given a micro-card with information about their match to take home to learn more about who they will be entering a Marriage Contract with. Of course, when it is Cassia’s turn to see her match the screen turns off, because her match is right there in the same room, someone from her community. As it turns out, she is matched with her childhood best friend, Xander. She gets his micro-card and takes it home, and when she puts it in the port, someone else’s face appears, someone that is not Xander, not her match. Has the society made a mistake? Was this meant for her?

Cassia is then faced with a choice, live a happy life with her true match Xander, or investigate more into this “glitch”  that caused her to see someone else. A love triangle of sorts is created, and Cassia is faced with tough decisions and learns more about The Society than she ever knew existed.

I can’t really say too much about the other books plots without giving too much away. Just know that the 3 books follow the same characters through their journey to find out secrets about The Society.

Like many trilogies, I think the second book is the hardest to read.  At some points the story was more romance than adventure, which is fine if you like that sort of thing. I remember thinking that there wasn’t quite enough action happening to keep me hooked throughout the series as a whole, especially during the second book. I was a little bored at times, but this series is YA fiction, so it was a pretty quick read and didn’t require much deeper thinking. I liked the third book the best. It had the most adventure and action.

Overall, a good little series if you are looking for more dystopian fiction books to read and you like romance served with a side of adventure.

“In the end you can’t always choose what to keep. You can only choose how you let it go.”         -Crossed

#5: The Storyteller

By Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller By Jodi Picoult

Dates Started/Ended: March 24-March 30 (I’m behind, I know.)

Author: Jodi Picoult

Genre: Fiction with historical ties

Pages: 480

This book. I was HIGHLY anticipating this book and for good reason. First of all, Picoult is my favorite author, so naturally, I was ecstatic to find a new book coming out; then I read the synopsis. People who know me well know that high on my interest list you will find serial killers, the Holocaust, & football among other things. So when I found out my favorite author was publishing a book about the Holocaust I couldn’t wait to read it.

While I haven’t quite read all of Picoult’s books (I like to save a few for when I need a go-to book) I am willing to bet that this will remain my #1 favorite. It will take a lot to knock this one down from the top spot. So, about the book…

This main character of the story, Sage Singer, is a woman who has suffered great loss in her life. She is a baker, she works at night and is just, in general, what I consider a lost soul. She meets an elderly man named Josef Weber in her grief support group & they strike up an unlikely friendship.

At first glance, I would imagine that every small town has their own Josef. He is known around town, volunteers, he even is the umpire for the local little league. Then, he reveals his deepest, darkest, corrupt secret to Sage. He asks something of Sage that if she were to do, would test more than just her morals.

What I love about this book: Like every Picoult book, the story is told from multiple perspectives of the characters. One chapter you are hearing Sage’s thoughts, the next, it is Josef narrating the story. She does this extremely well and really allows for deep character development. Instead of knowing one character really well, you end up knowing everyone in the story on a deeper level. The characters are really well done & I felt an attachment to them from the very beginning.

I also like the choice that you will wrestle with, like in any Picoult book. She puts the character in a tough situation, between “a rock and a hard place” if you will, and you journey with them through their decision making process. In this particular book you will find the character in a struggle between what is morally right for her family, her friendship and her country and at what does it take to truly forgive someone for the darkest of secrets.

Be prepared. The story is excruciatingly authentic to the time period it is set in. There were definitely some points that I just had to close the book and just think. . .about what life had to have been like for Jews during that time period in history.

If you are looking for something to read I would highly recommend this!

# 4: The Book Thief

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Dates Started/Ended: Early February/Early March

Author: Markus Zusak

Genre: Historical Fiction with a unique twist

Pages: 576

I first saw this book in the book room at my school. The cover caught my interest, and I added it to my mental “want to read” shelf. Just so happens, that a few days later, I was visiting the library to pick up some books for my classroom for a project, that I saw this gem sitting on the used book sale shelf at my public library, and for the price of $2.00 I couldn’t pass it up.

This book, is undoubtedly the most unique book that I have ever read. It tells the story of a young girl named Lisel, who is sent to live with another family during World War II. Her mother takes her to her new home by train, and that is when her story begins. On the train, her young brother dies (not a spoiler, I promise.) The namesake for this book, comes from Lisel, stealing books. She steals her first book at her brother’s burial. What book would someone steal from a burial site, you may ask? The Grave Digger’s Handbook, of course.

This book quickly becomes Lisel’s most prized possession, after she arrives at her new home, with the Hubberman family. Her new “mother” is a very strong willed, crude German lady. Her father, on the other hand, is the more quiet type, who paints houses, and storefronts for a living. Lisel and her father bond over the words from The Grave Digger’s Handbook, in the still quiet of the middle of the night, each night when Lisel awakes from nightmares. Her father is always there to comfort her when she wakes from nightmares and little by little teaches Lisel to read.

Soon, Lisel understands the magic of books and the story they can tell, and steals more and more books any opportunity she gets (from Nazi burnings, and the Mayor’s library, just to name a few.)  Meanwhile, the Hubbermans decide to take a huge risk during this time, they decide to hide a jew in their basement. Lisel and the jew find they have a lot in common and spend a lot of time together. She brings him news and stories from the outside world, which help him survive more than she knows. Lisel’s love for books help comfort many people in difficult times throughout the story.

What I love about this book: I could really go on and on about this book, but I want you to read it instead!  The thing I actually love the most about this book, is the unique perspective of the narrator. A quick look at the back cover will tell you that this book is “…narrated by Death…” Think about it, WWII, Nazi Germany, and death as a narrator. I don’t think you will be disappointed by this book.

Something else that is unique about this book, is how it is divided into sections. Each section is titled by the book that Lisel steals. Within those sections, there are many smaller sections. There are also bold print “announcements” for a lack of a better word, when the narrator just needs to tell you something. The format is captivating, for sure.

Have the tissues handy, because like many WWII books, it toys with your emotions. Be prepared to read long in to the night, because the narrator has a way of “throwing you a bone” so to speak, with things to come. It is a fairly easy read though, since it is YA fiction.

“Death’s Diary: 1942 A SMALL PIECE OF TRUTH: I do not carry a sickle or scythe. I only wear a hooded black robe when it’s cold. And I don’t have those skull-like facial features you seem to enjoy pinning  on me from a distance. You want to know what I truly look like? I’ll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.”                               -Death, himself

# 2 & # 3: Divergent & Insurgent

#2 & # 3

by Veronica Roth

Dates Started/Ended: Read both of these between January and February sometime.

Author: Veronica Roth

Genre: Dystopia Fiction (I think I make up my own genres.)

Pages: 576 (Divergent)  592 (Insurgent)

I decided to do these two books as one post, since they are part of a trilogy. I picked up this book after seeing it on a board on Pinterest – “25 series to read if you like The Hunger Games.”  I was a bit skeptical of these books, because I didn’t want to read another author’s rendition of The Hunger Games, and I was pleased with the books overall.

In this series, all of society is divided into 5 factions. When they become 16 they have a choosing ceremony to choose which faction they want to spend their life living for.  The factions are based on virtues- honesty, bravery, intelligence, peacefulness, and selflessness. The main character, Beatrice, was born Abnegation (the selfless).

Before their faction choosing day, they take an aptitude test, unlike any we have ever experienced before. The testers inject them with a serum that causes them to enter a “simulation.” They monitor the person’s brain activity, and the way they interact with the events in the simulation determines the faction that they are the best fit for. Most people have results that show aptitude for one faction. However, the main character’s results show aptitude for multiple factions-Divergent-which she soon finds out is dangerous.

She is faced with the decision to abandon her family and her born faction, which is highly looked down upon, to go to a new faction for which she is better suited. She enters a competition in her faction to be the best among the initiates. Harboring her secret, during the competition she learns a lot about herself, her friends, and her “perfect” society.

The second book picks up right where the first one leaves off. War has broken out among the society and the factions. The characters are faced with choices about secrets that affect their family, their friendships, and even themselves. The second book is quiet the page turner.

What I love about this book: I love books that are set in this type of society. It really pushes you to think about side the box, and get to know the characters on a deeper level. I think authors that write these type of books are really creative, which is what makes the books so enjoyable to me.

The burning question: Was it as good as Hunger Games? I think it is going to be hard to find a series that will top Hunger Games, for me. It so far, has been a good trilogy, and certainly a good choice if you enjoyed the Hunger Games, but don’t expect this book to top the trilogy for you. But, then again, you never know!

The final book of this trilogy is coming out in October 2013. I am looking forward to reading it.

“A memorable, unpredictable journey from which it is nearly impossible to turn away.”                      -Publishers Weekly

#1 : Never Knowing

by Chevy Stevens

by Chevy Stevens

Date started: Sometime during Christmas break

Date ended: Right around new years, when I decided I would keep track of all the books I’ve read this year.

Author: Chevy Stevens

Genre: Psychological Thriller

This book, I purchased in the summer with a B&N gift card from one of my fabulous students last year, as an end of the year present. However, it sat on my shelf, until Christmas break, because I was dragging out The Hunger Games series, because I loved it so much.

This is the second book that Stevens has published, and I have read them both. Her first book, Still Missing, was my first purchase on my Nook, and it was a page turner! My fascination with serial killers (I promise, I am not weird) drew me to Still Missing, so I was highly anticipating reading her second book, Never Knowing, and it did not disappoint.

In this book, the main character, Sara, is adopted. Later in her life, she feels the need to look for her birth mother, only to find out that her birth mother wants no contact with her, whatsoever. Of course, that isn’t enough for her, and she continues to search, realizing that her mother was the only victim who escaped a serial rapist.

What I love about this book: She works to try to understand her father, and this book really puts your mind in a new place. I like books that force me to think about unusual situations, such as this one, that the main character is faced with.

These books aren’t really a series, however, her next book that is coming out later this year, Always Watching, will feature a pretty important main character that has made “appearances” in both of her books so far. The end of Never Knowing, kind of gives you a few hints towards the next book wrapped up in this story.

Overall, it was a great book especially for people who enjoy psychological thrillers. If you are looking for something to read, I’d recommend both of her books.

“A terrifying, chilling scenario that unfolds into a nightmare and had me keeping the light on at night.”

Rosamund Lupton, bestselling author of Sister

Why start a book blog…

…is a valid question. I don’t even really know. I just had the idea, and I figured I’d see where it takes me.

I wasn’t always a reader. In fact, I don’t remember even learning how to read. Thanks to an eager mom and “Hooked on Phonics” I entered kindergarten already “reading.” Although, I don’t remember much about reading, until 4th grade. And I didn’t LOVE reading then, either. I remember my teacher reading aloud to us the story of C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and something there lit a spark, not a fire, but a spark. Even after remembering that fantastical journey through that story, I still wasn’t in love with reading.

It wasn’t until a few years later, when a few things came together, did I really start to want to read on my own. Those things, for those who are curious were, my love for being outdoors, a library in walking distance, and a town-population 2500-where all my friends were out of town, it seemed, for the summer.

I remember walking with my dog to the library, where he’d sit and patiently await my return, just outside the door. One of my first books that I fell in love with was Hatchet. Not your typical choice of a tween girl. However, I remember reading outside, hearing the noises of nature, being right there with Brian, in that Canadian wilderness, and since that moment, I have always enjoyed losing myself in someone else’s story.

So why start a book blog…mostly, so that I can remember the stories I have read, and to keep track of it for myself [because I am that type of person.] But maybe, just maybe someone will get lost in a book, the same way I do every time I open The Cover. . .