November books

120. All That is Left of Us – Catherine Miller
Story – Dawn is a single mother to an autistic son, Archie. When her brother and his wife are unable to have a child, Dawn takes on the role of surrogate to help them create their family.
Thoughts – Another book that completely failed to pack any emotional punch for me. And really, there were so many elements that spoke to me on a personal level, what with the autism angle and the post natal depression angle. Maybe that’s why I found it more irritating than engaging though, because I have some experience with it and the way it was written here just didn’t seem emotionally honest to me. Besides, I hate surrogacy, so reading about that is always somewhat uncomfortable.

119. This is How You Die – David Jester
Story – A boy discovers that his late father was a serial killer known as The Butcher, and decides to follow in his footsteps.
Thoughts – This book really left me with one thought, and that was WHY? Why did someone write this, why did someone publish this, and why did I spend any time at all reading it?

118. Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick
Story – Bits and pieces by Anna Kendrick about her life.
Thoughts – This was a fun read. Anna has a wry and sarcastic outlook on life, and there is a lot of humour in the way she writes. She had some interesting stories to share, although she is one of those people who are so talented it just kind of makes you shrivel up with unworthiness.

117. Mercy Killing – Lisa Cutts
Story– A police procedural story about the aftermath of the murder of a paedophile.
Thoughts – This book was just all over the place. There were far too many characters with far too much personal drama going on and none of it seemed to connect to anything. The unfolding mystery just seemed confusing rather than suspenseful, and by the time it got to the end I didn’t even care who did it because the whole story made so little sense.

116. Afterward – Jennifer Mathieu
Story – When Caroline’s little brother is kidnapped, his rescue also leads to the rescue of Ethan, a teen who has been living with the kidnapper since he too was taken as a young boy. But life afterward is not easy for anyone involved. Caroline’s autistic brother is unable to give voice to his experiences, and Caroline begins to wonder if maybe Ethan holds the key to healing for Dylan. Home to a family and life he lost years ago, unable to move past the trauma of all that happened to him, Dylan is in desperate need of a friend. Even if the circumstances that brought them together are awful, maybe a friendship can make some of it better.
Thoughts – I love books about friendship. I love books that explore how deep and special friendship can be, and how painfully and beautifully it can impact people’s lives. In that vein, Afterward was a really good book. Ethan and Caroline were characters that drew me in and made me care about them, and I thought the subject of the traumatic experiences that Ethan had had was handled with sensitivity and skill. I was also impressed with the way Dylan, Caroline’s autistic brother, was written. Overall this was a really lovely book, and I’d recommend it.

115. In Sickness, In Health, and In Jail – Mel Jacobs
Story – A true story of an Australian woman whose husband was sent to prison for two years, leaving her to take over their business and raise their two young children on her own.
Thoughts – This was really interesting. I’m always interested in prisons and prison life, and this was an aspect of that that I haven’t ever really read about previously. I thought Mel really coped amazingly well, especially given that she had to take over the business and had the two very young children to deal with. Visits, letters and reintegration home were all touched on, and it really gave a clear picture of how that kind of situation might feel. Although I sincerely hope it never happens to me!

114. The Murderer’s Son – Joy Ellis
Story – A woman is killed, stabbed to death in her own kitchen. A man walks into the police station, claiming responsibility. But his behaviour is erratic and there is no evidence tying him to the crime, so procedure dictates that the man be released. But the killings continue, and when the police attempt to find the man they let go, he has disappeared…
Thoughts – I liked this one. It was well written, with good pacing and some interesting turns of story. The primary detectives, Rowan Jackman and Marie Evans, were well written and likeable characters who made for an interesting and fresh pairing, something that doesn’t always go along with police procedurals. As of now this is a stand alone novel, but I’d read more with these characters if it was expanded into a series.

113. Keep Sweet – Michele Dominguez Greene
Story – Within the walled compound of a FLDS sect, Alva Jane lives contentedly with her father, her mother, her father’s six other wives, and her twenty eight siblings. Alva has never questioned her faith, or the strict rules that govern life at Pineridge. But after being caught in an innocent embrace with the boy she loves, Alva’s life changes utterly. Events force her to question everything she has been raised to believe, and confront the very real danger in trying to escape.
Thoughts – Cults are such fascinating things, and this book was an excellent exploration of the issues that such communities have. I loved Alva, and the writing made her story feel so real and urgent. It’s kind of horrifying to think that the FLDS still exists in this form and that there are still girls being forced to live that life, with no other option allowed to them. I would definitely recommend this one.

112. Beautiful Me – Natasha Jennings
Story – This is the story of Talia, hospitalised with anorexia and struggling to find a life free from the disease.
Thoughts – I haven’t read an anorexia book in years, and this one was not a good example of the genre. The swearing was ridiculous, and the whole story just felt rough. I don’t even know if it was a self published book, but it honestly felt like it was and that it needed a good hard edit.

111. Daisy in Chains – Sharon Bolton
Story– Hamish Wolfe is in prison, a convicted serial killer, despite his assertion of innocence. Maggie Rose is a lawyer and best-selling crime writer, who only takes on cases that she believes she can win. Now Hamish wants Maggie, and despite her initial refusal she may not be completely immune to his charms…
Thoughts – This was surprisingly good. It was as much about character as about the crime, and the story had several interesting turns that kept me guessing for a while. I’d be interested to read any of the author’s other work.

110. Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee – Mary G Thompson
Story – Amy and Dee were cousins and best friends who disappeared one summer day while they were playing by the river. Six years later, Amy reappears. But Amy is unable or unwilling to disclose the fate of her cousin, and the stress and strain of her return threatens to break her.
Thoughts – I found this book to be somewhat uneven. I thought the premise was fascinating, and I did enjoy reading it. There was some well-drawn insight into Amy’s character, but parts of it pushed the bounds of credibility and failed to really pack the emotional punch I was expecting.

109. The Other Boy – M.G. Hennessey
Story – Shane is a regular twelve year old boy. He likes playing baseball and hanging out with his friend Josh, and is just starting to explore the new territory of his first crush, on his friend Maddy. But Shane has something that he has never shared with his friends, but that might make all the difference in the world if it comes out.
Thoughts – Trans issues are pretty topical at the moment, so it’s not surprising that there are more books coming out about them. I thought this book was a good addition to that set – the storyline is simple and accessible for middle graders, and really carried along by the character of Shane who is done very well. I thought it had some good depth in the way it dealt with Shane’s feelings and the evolving relationships in his life. As a way for children to become aware of transgender children and what that means it was excellent, and as just a story to enjoy it also hit the mark. Recommend.

108. Something Wicked – Kerry Wilkinson
Story – Andrew Hunter is a private investigator, engaged in what seems at first to be a fairly straightforward missing person’s case. But as he digs deeper he finds disturbing links to the occult and things that are not as they first appear.
Thoughts – This was okay. Interesting and quite well plotted, but it didn’t really have much of a sense of urgency to it. I guess the pacing was a bit slow. On the other hand the mystery was quite good, and both the detective Andrew and his assistant Jenny were characters that pulled me in. I think it’s the first book in a new series, and I will probably pick up any following ones if I come across them.

107. Life as We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer
Story – One night, Miranda gathers with others to watch an asteroid that is predicted to crash into the moon. It’s meant to be fun, a once in a lifetime chance to see that kind of celestial event…but the collision takes place with such force that the moon is forced out of her usual orbit and is suddenly much, much closer to the earth. Dangerously close. Governments and communities are thrown into chaos as tsunamis and earthquakes leave devastation in their wake, and nuclear winter moves in to claim what is left. Through it all Miranda and her family focus on survival, desperate for ‘once in a lifetime’ to not be the end of a lifetime.
Thoughts – Good, solid apocalyptic YA novel. I really enjoyed it – the writing was good, the characters were relatable, and the world building was completely credible. Miranda was a strong character in an impossible situation, and I really liked that she wasn’t ‘perfect’ – the story included all her emotions and feelings, even when they weren’t those of a shining heroine. I liked the realism of it too, things like how long it took them to cut wood and boil water, and how much effort they went to collecting and hoarding food and how they had to ration it.