Red Dragon

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Red Dragon

By:  Thomas Harris
Published: 
1981
# of pages:  464
Series: Hannibal Lecter (#1)
Challenge:  A to Z, Print Only

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Goodreads description:

In the realm of psychological suspense, Thomas Harris stands alone. Exploring both the nature of human evil and the nerve-racking anatomy of a forensic investigation, Harris unleashes a frightening vision of the dark side of our well-lighted world. In this extraordinary novel, which preceded The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, Harris introduced the unforgettable character Dr. Hannibal Lecter. And in it, Will Graham — the FBI man who hunted Lecter down — risks his sanity and his life to duel a killer called the … RED DRAGON

Review:  Of course I’ve heard of The Silence of the Lambs, both the book and the movie, and I’ve even seen part of the movie.  However, I never had a strong desire to read the books in the series.  A friend let me borrow the entire series so I decided to go ahead and check it out, starting with the first book in the series.  I was a little confused, when, a few pages in, it is clear that this book chronologically takes place after The Silence of the Lambs.  I wondered if I was supposed to read this last even though it was published first, but sure enough, it is number one in the series and most people recommend reading it in the series order even though they don’t line up chronologically.

The story is about a retired investigator named Will Graham.  He’s enjoying his well deserved retirement with his wife and stepson in Florida after hunting down several serial killers, including the famous Hannibal Lecter.  However, his peaceful life is interrupted by a FBI agent asking him to temporarily leave retirement to help track down another serial killer who is already responsible for murdering 2 entire families.  Investigators are stumped and they know Will Graham is the best at understanding and predicting the behavior of serial killers.

Graham ends up immersing himself in the investigation of the “Tooth Fairy,” who eventually morphs into the “Red Dragon.”  He’s willing to do anything to track down the person responsible for 8 murders who will most likely kill again within the next few weeks, including consulting Hannibal Lecter, who is locked up in a high security mental facility.

This book is filled with fairly graphic descriptions of horrific murders.  I was wondering if I would be really disturbed, but it reminded me of some of Stephen King’s books, especially the Bill Hodges trilogy, so I felt prepared.  The reader hears about the horrible stuff through Graham’s point of view and also the killer’s point of view.  It’s weirdly intimate and emotionally confusing being able to see into the killer’s mind and past and sometimes even feeling sorry for the murderer.

I ended up really enjoying the story.  I couldn’t put it down and kept thinking about it throughout the day when I wasn’t reading.  While the content was disturbing, I didn’t feel traumatized by the descriptions, although some people may not have the same experience.  I recommend this to adults who are fans of crime fiction/mysteries.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  This has been added to my favorites list because of the engaging plot and interesting characters, but it wasn’t as well written as some of the other books that have received a 5 star rating from me in the past.

The Witch Elm

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The Witch Elm

By:  Tana French
Published: 
2018
# of pages:  464
Challenge:  Monthly Motif (new to you author)Book Bingo
Quote: “The rain had started, a light unobtrusive patter, its shadows down the windowpane mottling the sill and the bare floorboards. I stayed there for a long time, watching the drops merge and course down the glass, picking two and betting on their race to the bottom, the way I had when I was a kid.”

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Goodreads description:

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life: he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

Review:  I saw a review about Tana French’s books and decided to check this one out after hearing it was good.  French is a new-to-me author, so it counts for January’s Monthly Motif challenge.  I enjoyed The Witch Elm so much that I’m planning to check out more of Tana French’s books soon!

I spent much of this book feeling amazed that the author could think of something so complex and keep it going for so long.  The whole book is intricate – from the plot to the many characters.  The story mainly follows Toby, a young man whose life is abruptly ruined when he’s attacked in his own home and almost killed.

Toby is an interesting character because the reader can’t help but like him and root for him, but also feel dislike for him at times.  And honestly, don’t we all know people like Toby, people with the gift of gab and with enough luck to easily swim through life’s ups and downs?  Sometimes you wonder what that person would do if something truly awful happened to them, something that would be difficult or impossible to talk their way out of or ignore.  That’s partly what this book is about and I commend the author for writing her character so well and avoiding what was probably a temptation to dilute him and make him “better.”

I’m recovering from a surgery on my nasal passage to correct a deviated septum, so maybe that’s affected my thought process, but I couldn’t stop thinking of this book over the days I spent reading.  I wanted so badly to figure out the mystery of the skull.  I sort of figured it out, but that wasn’t even the main point of the book.  The story took a weird turn at the end, but overall I enjoyed it thoroughly and would recommend it to adults who enjoy mysteries.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Interesting plot, intricate and realistic characters, thought provoking.

Where the Crawdads Sing

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Where the Crawdads Sing

By:  Delia Owens
Published: 
2018
# of pages:  384
Challenge:  A to ZBook Bingo
Quote:  “Kya bit her bottom lip as she watched. Wondering how it would feel to be among them. Their joy created an aura almost visible against the deepening sky. Ma had said women need one another more than they need men, but she never told her how to get inside the pride.”

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Goodreads description:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Review:  My first book read in the new year and it was worthy of five stars and a place on my favorites list!  In a way I hate reviewing amazing books because I can’t do them justice.  This book is beautifully written, has a great plot full of thought provoking subjects and an intriguing mystery, and the character of Kya is one easy to emphathize with and understand.

Kya was abandoned by her mother at age six and in the short years that follow, her siblings and father leave her as well.  She makes do in the marshes of coastal North Carolina, but while she doesn’t physically starve, she often feels emotionally starved.  In order to feel connected to the world, she falls in love with the nature that surrounds her on a daily basis.  Where the Crawdads Sing is the story of how she interacts with all of nature, that of the marsh environment and that of the townspeople floating by on the fringes of her existence.

At times this story made my heart ache, but it was also inspiring.  Kya led a rough life that no one deserves, but she made the best of it and handled situations with strength and resolve.  This would be a good book club read.  The way Kya interacts with people and the mystery that’s presented throughout the novel made me want to discuss the book with someone!  I recommend it to all adults.  And I also recommend visiting the NC coast if you haven’t done so yet, it’s a beautiful place.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Interesting plot, beautiful story, strong characters.

Sometimes I Lie

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Sometimes I Lie

By:  Alice Feeney
Published:  2018
# of pages:  264
Challenges:  Full House (new author from another country: UK)

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Goodreads description:

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me: 
1. I’m in a coma. 
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore. 
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

My review:  Someone on the Silent Book Club I’m a part of on Facebook mentioned how the newest trend in titles now is the word “lie” or “lying.”  We’ve got The Lying GameOne of Us is LyingLet Me LieLie to Me, etc.  And here is Sometimes I Lie.  For a good part of the book I was a little annoyed by the title.  I felt like there was probably a better title the author could have used.  However, towards the end the title became a lot more appropriate.

I usually don’t read any Goodreads reviews of a book before or even after reading.  However, after you finish this book you will want to talk to someone about it, you will want to read what others have to say.  So I went onto Goodreads.  A lot of people were complaining that it was confusing and they missed the plot twist and had no clue what was going on at the end of the book.  I didn’t feel that way because I followed along pretty well, but I can see why it’s confusing to some people.  This is one of the few books I want to read again just after reading it for the first time.  I probably won’t do that, but it would be interesting to read it again after knowing the plot twists.  Yes, twists plural.  Also, it’s really hard for me to type the word twists for some reason. 😛

The story is about Amber Reynolds, who begins the book with the revelation that she’s in a coma.  She can’t remember what happened in the days before she regained consciousness, but while she is unable to move or communicate in any way, she has plenty of time to try to remember.  The book alternates between NOW, when Amber is in a coma, THEN, which is the days leading up to her coma, and BEFORE, when she was a child.

Some of the reviews I read accused the author of adding too many details to throw off the reader, but I wonder if there was more purpose than we think to many of the descriptions.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the author writes a sequel that explains the ending and other things that happened throughout the novel.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars: Suspenseful and well paced story, interesting characters, plot twists I didn’t see coming.

The Lying Game

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The Lying Game

By:  Ruth Ware
Published:  2017
# of pages:  370

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Goodreads description:

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

My review:  I’ve read The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Death of Mrs. Westaway and enjoyed them, so I figured I’d check this book out as well.  This novel is told from Isa’s point of view as she goes back to Salten, the town in which her high school boarding school was located.  She leaves London (and her boyfriend) in a hurry after receiving a text from Kate, who still lives in Salten.  She’s joined by Fatima and Thea to find out just why Kate summoned them back after 17 years.

All of the women are immersed in memories when they arrive at Kate’s house, called The Mill.  Some of the memories are good, the four girls cuddling on the couch in The Mill’s living room, swimming in the sea, and spending time with Kate’s father and stepbrother.  Other memories aren’t so nice.  The mean spirited game they played while at school called The Lying Game.  As high schoolers the girls didn’t always realize the consequences of the game, but as an adult, Isa can’t deny how wrong it was to isolate herself from the majority of her peers.

The book is named after the game, but it really doesn’t have much to do with the main plot of the story.  As a matter of fact, it really doesn’t have anything to do with the women’s present situation.  I wish the past and present had tied together more.  Honestly, for most of the book I wasn’t even too interested in the problem the women faced.  It’s a cool concept for a novel, but it didn’t come across as well as I would have liked.

Anyway, it’s worth reading if you like a somewhat slower paced mystery, but it’s not very suspenseful or fascinating.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Neat concept for a story, so-so characters, slow paced.

Turtles All the Way Down

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Turtles All the Way Down

By: John Green
Published:  2017
# of pages: 
298
Challenges: 
A to Z
Quote:  “I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.”  -Aza

5Stars

Goodreads description:

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

My review:  I was amazed to discover that there’s a book about someone like me.  I not only suffer from depression, but also an anxiety disorder.  I also have undiagnosed OCD symptoms, but I know a large part of that is due to the anxiety.  My symptoms and thoughts are like a less exaggerated version of Aza’s, but I was stunned that there’s actually a book out there, written by a popular author, with a main character who struggles with severe anxiety.

This book is about Aza, who suffers from extreme anxiety on a daily basis.  Not only is she navigating high school, friendship, and her relationship with her mom, she’s also dealing with memories of her dad’s death, managing medications, and going to doctor’s appointments.  On top of all that, she is suddenly reintroduced to an old friend of hers, Davis, whose father is missing.  At first she wants to solve the disappearance to split the reward money with her best friend Daisy, but she quickly comes to care for Davis.

The story goes on from there.  I’m biased, but I felt entirely sympathetic for Aza.  The story also tells of her best friend Daisy’s feelings about Aza’s anxiety and shows how her mom feels.  I understand it’s hard living with someone who has anxiety and other mental issues, but nothing compares to living it yourself.

“Felt myself slipping, but even that’s a metaphor. Descending, but that is, too. Can’t describe the feeling itself except to say that I’m not me. Forged in the smithy of someone else’s soul. Please just let me out. Whoever is authoring me, let me up out of this. Anything to be out of this.”

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Well written, unique characters and story, interesting mystery, good representation of mental illness.

 

The Book of Blood and Shadow

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The Book of Blood and Shadow

By:  Robin Wasserman
Published: 
2012
# of pages:  450
Challenge: 
Full House (plot twist)

3Stars

Goodreads description:

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up.  When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love.  When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead.  His girlfriend Adriane, Nora’s best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

My opinion:  Man, I wrote most of this review and then saved it for later…except that it didn’t save properly so most of my review was erased.

This book sounded very intriguing and half of it was great and the other half not so much.  The story follows high school senior Nora just as she finds a place as an intern for a nearby college professor along with her best friends Chris and Adriane.  Everything is going great, especially after Max joins their group and finds a place in her heart.

But their lives suddenly change and they realize that the project they’ve been working on over the past few months may be of interest to people other than the quirky college professor.  Nora embarks on a quest to save Max and maybe even the entire world.

Like I said, this book had a lot of potential, but I feel like it kind of went off the rails in the last third.  It wasn’t bad or anything, there were just things that didn’t quite add up and the teenage angst mixed in with a world-changing adventure seemed forced at times.

Also, I’m a little tired of these modern titles.  This would have been better if it was simply The Book of Blood or, even better, a more original title entirely.  End rant.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Cool concept, okay characters, somewhat disappointing story line.