May books

61. When She Was Bad – Jonathan Nasaw
Story – While this is the 4th book in Nasaw’s series about former FBI detective Pender, it is also pretty much a direct sequel to the first book in the series, The Girls He Adored. In this book, set three years later, former multiple personality host Ulysses Maxwell has spent three years in the psych ward and is, apparently, cured…down to the single persona of Lyssy. But then he meets Lily, a fellow sufferer of DID, and it becomes clear that perhaps his other personas are not as gone as he thought. Combined with Lily’s murderous alter, the two of them plot an escape, and for Pender and psychiatrist Irene, all hell breaks loose.
Thoughts – I enjoyed this a lot. I’ve got no idea of its accuracy in regard to DID, but I enjoy that psychiatric element to understanding the killers. It’s fascinating to think about the possibilities and the way someone with multiple personalities might function. I like Pender as the detective protagonist too, he’s sympathetic and over the course of the series his character is coming more to life. Like his other books, this one is pretty heavy on the blood and gore of the crimes, which might put people off. Nasaw seems to be becoming one of my favourite crime thriller authors though.

60. Orange is the New Black – Piper Kerman.
Story – Piper Kerman was a young woman when her drug dealing lover convinced her to carry a suitcase full of cash across country borders. Ten years later Piper is a productive citizen with a good job and a fiancé who loves when the law catches up to her and she is sentenced to fifteen months in federal prison. This is the story of the thirteen months Piper spent inside.
Thoughts – I have to admit, I am fascinated by prisons. I love watching documentaries about people in prison and the way prisons are run, so I was pretty excited to read this. It was really interesting to read about all the little details of life in prison and how it works, about the official rules and the unspoken rules. It was interesting to see the disconnect between Piper’s privileged life on the outside and the way she was getting through her sentence.
I would have liked more details about the other prisoners though. Piper talked about a lot of different people, but the characterisation was shallow and I had a hard time keeping them all straight. I would have liked to find out more about how they felt about their prison life, and about the lives they had come from on the outside.

59. House of Glass – Sophie Littlefield
Story – The Glass family live an enviable life until the day two gunmen break into their house and take them hostage. Now their lives are in danger, and the family must put their differences aside to keep themselves safe as they wait to discover what it is the gunmen have planned.
Thoughts – This book was an interesting mix of psychological thriller and the emotional story of a family. The book deals not only with the families reactions when they were under duress, but also explores some of the cracks and flaws in their relationships and the choices that led them to where they are. It was very well done, and I enjoyed it.

58. Life By Committee – Corey Ann Haydu
Story – Tabby’s life has been changing. Without the support of her friends, who no longer want anything much to do with her, Tabby finds herself joining an online community- Life by Committee, who require members to share secrets and then follow the committee’s suggestions.
Thoughts – The storyline was kind of unrealistic, but I liked Tabitha and her family and the other characters. I thought it was some nice character growth, not just from Tabitha but from some of the other characters, like her dad and some of the other school kids.

57. These Things Hidden – Heather Gudenkauf
Story – Five years ago Allison Glenn was sent to prison. Now she is out, living in a half way house and trying to pick up the threads of her life and move forward. But all the secrets of the past have not been laid to rest, and as they threaten to spill out Allison is not the only one who might be hurt by them.
Thoughts – This was a sad book. The story was sad, the characters were sad, there was kind of a sad ending….it was sad. It was good though, I cared about the characters and wanted to see how the story unfolded. If you want a sad book this would be a good one, and I’ll try this author again.

56. Then I Met My Sister – Christine Hurley Deriso
Story – Summer has always known she was born to make up for the older sister she never knew, who died just before her senior year. Summer has grown up hearing about how perfect Shannon was, how loved, how missed, and has always felt she can never quite measure up. But as Summer approaches the same age at which Shannon died, her aunt gives her the diary that Shannon kept the last months of her life.
Thoughts – I never understand how people get things like a mystery diary from their dead sister and then prolong the reading of it over weeks! Obviously it makes for a better book than if Summer had just sat down and read it in one sitting, but it always stretches credibility.
That aside, this was a good book. Summer was a good character with a few different facets to her, and I always like reading about the emotional layers of family relationships. I also liked the romance in this one, I thought it was true to life with its sweetness and lack of manufactured drama.

55. Two Little Girls in Blue – Mary Higgins Clark
Story – Margaret and Steve Frawley are devastated when their three year old twins are kidnapped. Then a ransom demand is made for eight million dollars. Steve’s company put up the money, and the kidnapper promises that both girls will be returned safely. However only one girl makes it home. At first the family believe the missing twin is dead, but then the surviving girl begins talking about what her sister is telling her- is this a sign of her grief, or something more?
Thoughts – Meh. A tight, well-plotted mystery, this book just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t connect with the characters particularly, I didn’t feel any great rise in tension, I didn’t feel the desire to sit up late at night so I could read more. There was nothing wrong with it, it was just a good, solid, uninspiring crime novel.

54. The Summer I Wasn’t Me – Jessica Verdi
Story – Since Lexi’s dad died a few years ago, she has done whatever she can to hold what remains of her family together- her and her mum. Nothing is more important to Lexi than seeing her mother overcome her grief and start living again, so when her mum makes the discovery that Lexi likes girls and is horrified, Lexi is more than willing to do whatever it takes to make it better. Even if that is spending the summer at a ‘degayifying camp’, trying to override her natural instincts and learn to live up to a rigid definition of femininity.
Thoughts – I was absorbed by this book. The idea that these sort of camps and programs exist that use religion to attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation seems crazy to me, although I know they do. It honestly made my heart hurt for the poor, confused kids who end up, basically being told that they’re evil and wrong for what they feel.
I thought the book handled the topic well. I liked Lexi, and I really liked that the book explored the motivations for her behaviour and actions. I thought the romance angle was cute, and the supporting characters were well-rounded and lent weight to the story.
This might be a bit of a spoiler, so stop now if you want, but I do want to say that I didn’t really like the subplot of the director and Matthew. It felt to me like the author really wanted to make him a Villain, so she put that in. But for me it detracted from the seriousness of the damage being done to these children just by the camp. You don’t have to make it physical to make it wrong.

53. Can You Keep a Secret? – Sophie Kinsella
Story – Emma, on a flight back to London after a disastrous business meeting in Scotland, finds herself seated beside a good looking man. And when the flight hits turbulence and Emma starts to panic that her life is at risk, it’s the man beside her who suddenly becomes the recipient of all her confidences, as Emma spills all her secrets. Never mind how embarrassing it might be, Emma consoles herself later, it’s not like she’s ever going to have to see him again…
Thoughts – Sophie Kinsella basically writes the same character in all her books, and Emma was very much like Becky Bloomwood. But in all honesty…why do I care? I like that character, I like the way she can be so embarrassing and funny and vulnerable, and also have it in her to stand up for herself and kick some ass if someone else criticises her for being a bimbo. I like that these books are cute and funny and fluffy, with enough humour in them to stop them feeling saccharine. Emma was great, and if the author is looking to write a sequel she could do worse than see how things go with Emma in the future.

52. Beautiful Lies – Jessica Warman
Story – Rachel and Alice are a rare kind of identical twins, with a bond that goes beyond normal understanding. So when one of the sisters is kidnapped, the other knows immediately that something has happened. And when she begins to experience physical signs of trauma even though no one has touched her, she knows that she has to find her sister before it’s too late.
Thoughts – The previous book I read was by Jessica Warman and I was unsure whether it was the story or the author that I didn’t respond to, so I thought I’d give her another try. Turns out I still don’t know if it’s the author or what she writes about! Most of the writing is good, the creepy atmosphere was there in this story, I loved some of the sense of character I good, but there were long times that I was reading this book with no idea of what was going on and not enjoying it in the least. The end also failed to really have the impact on me that I’m sure was intended.
I also have to say that I didn’t really enjoy the mixing of mental illness and supernatural ability- bipolar and schizophrenia don’t usually mean people are getting visions from the future and having psychic flashes and I’m sick of books that make them equal the same.

51. Where the Truth Lies – Jessica Warman
Story – Emily seems to have the perfect life, living at an exclusive prep school where her father is headmaster. She’s close to her parents, has supportive friends, and has just hooked up with the new guy at school. But everything is not as it is on the surface, and when things go wrong Emily has to make a lot of hard decisions and find out who she really trusts.
Thoughts – I both liked and disliked this book, which probably makes it better than one I think about merely with indifference. I liked the setting, and the teen atmosphere of it, and there were a few characters that I liked (Renee, Ethan) but there was a lot about this book that annoyed me. Emily, for instance! I get that she has always has hideous nightmares, but she isn’t honest with her therapist and parents about them and she doesn’t take the medication that’s supposed to help with them…why not? Her friends are awful to her, well actually they’re awful to each other. Her relationship with Renee seemed good, based on mutual liking and spending time together, but the girls in her room were horrible. I also had a hard time swallowing the whole idea of Emily keeping her big secret from her parents, after always talking about how close they were. I get that it would have shocked and disappointed them, but even so she took a pretty extreme way out. Not to mention the unrealistic bit when Del came back…I don’t know. This book was engaging but irritating, and I have no clear opinion on it other than that.

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