Book Review | Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia

leave no trace cover.jpgA psychological thriller, Leave No Trace details the story of two traumatized young adults. Maya is in her early 20’s and works at a mental health facility. Upon emerging from the Boundary Waters after having been missing for ten years, 19 year old Lucas is committed to said facility. Maya and Lucas begin with rocky interactions, but forge a connection that allows them to help one another. As the book progresses, they deal with some dark secrets from their pasts.

This is a solidly average novel that begins with a bang and continues to simmer throughout. There was nothing spectacular in this book. Despite the characters dealing with difficult situations, the text did not evoke much emotion. The novel can be read quickly and may appeal to those who consider living off the grid or have a particular interest in the Boundary Waters. There may be holds at your local library since this title was just released in September.

*Fans of Leave No Trace, may enjoy Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St.Vincent (2018).

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Book Review | Anna by Niccolò Ammaniti

anna cover.jpegA dystopian young adult novel, Anna is reminiscent of several previous works. After the Red Fever virus has swept through the world infecting and killing all adults, but sparing youth until puberty, a child only society takes hold. The plot focuses on the survival of Anna and her younger brother Astor. In their quest to traipse across Sicily and head to the mainland of Italy, they encounter various difficulties.

Though the written word in this text is appealing, the plot and characters are somewhat lacking. Despite having a strong female protagonist, none of the characters are particularly like-able, and are somewhat flat. The story flows at a decent enough clip that the book can still be finished, but it may leave a reader feeling their time could have been better spent. It would serve as a quick read for an adult seeking temporary distraction, or could be used in a t(w)een book group to generate discussion. Though translated from Italian, a fair number of libraries have it, so check with a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

Book Review | The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya

More than surreal, this collection of almost otherworldly short stories are sure to open your eyes wide with the unexpected. I offer a one sentence introduction for each of the 11 tales.

The Lonesome Bodybuilder: A woman working at a department store decides to pursue bodybuilding.

Fitting Room: A retail clerk goes to excessive lengths attempting to find the perfect garment for an unusual customer.

Typhoon: A youth at a train station takes cookies from a stranger who doles out strange predictions about umbrella-wielders in a typhoon.

I Called You by Name: A woman in a business meeting is completely unable to pay attention when she perceives a bulge she thinks may be moving behind a curtain in the meeting room.

An Exotic Marriage: A woman and her husband begin to resemble each other as their marriage progresses and they lose themselves.

Paprika Jiro: A market is repeatedly terrorized by a strange tribe of invaders who may or may not be real.

How to Burden the Girl: The girl next door cries tears of blood and is attacked by a rival gang members, some of whom are killed and buried in the forest behind the house.

The Women: Women challenge their partners to duels and take them to the riverbanks to fight it out.

Q&A: An advice columnist shares truths during a final interview prior to her retirement.

The Dogs: A woman living in solitude on a mountain befriends a pack of wild dogs who encompass her as she sleeps standing up.

The Straw Husband: After taking his wife running, a man made of straw berates her for her careless attitude about his fancy new car.

While some have compared this Motoya collection to writings of Haruki Murakami, I’d have to call the connection slim. Though a few of the stories do bring thoughts of Murakami, for the most part this collection is much farther out there. Though a few tales may leave the reader bewildered, some do provide some food for thought. The book is a quick read and would work well for entertainment while commuting. Check it out from a library near you!

Book Review | Death and Other Holidays by Marci Vogel

death and other holidays book cover.jpgVogel offers a straight-forward piece that dives directly in like a one night stand with no strings attached. Protagonist April is in her late 20’s, living in Los Angeles and working as a curatorial assistant. The novella includes her narration of a series of events that take place over the course of a year following the death of her step father. Chapters are very short with sections broken up by season. This book is a very quick read.

Vogel’s writing style is fabulously direct. Without overbearing and complicated sentences, she still evokes imagery and creates dynamic characters. Death and Other Holidays seems to shed new light on everyday occurrences and give meaning to the mundane. This would be a great read for an airplane ride because there aren’t pages and chapters of introduction, the story grabs from page one. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of Death and Other holidays, may enjoy The Story of a Brief Marriage by Geir Gulliksen (2018).

Book Review | The Unforgotten by Laura Powell

the unforgotten book cover.jpgAt 15 years of age, Betty is old enough to take care of her manic mother when she drinks herself into a stupor, rendering her unable to run the bed and breakfast she manages. Betty is strong and takes on her mothers duties, cooking for and serving the boarders. When a string of gruesome murders begins in their small Cornish town, it brings a slew of reporters, one with whom Betty falls in love. Fifteen though, isn’t quite old enough for him not to be in danger of a prison sentence for being her lover, even if Betty is the sole witness to the Cornish Cleaver’s latest act.

The Unforgotten is a good read. The story alternates between Betty’s teen years in the 1950’s and the present, 50 years later. This choice works well and serves to involve the reader mentally. In addition to having plotted a mysterious psychological thriller, Powell has also penned a love story here. Despite thinking I knew what was coming, the final twists were certainly unexpected. This book would be great for fans of suspense who enjoy a bit of heartbreak. Check it out from a library near you!

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

*Fans of The Unforgotten, may enjoy Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St.Vincent (2018).

Book Review | The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

the girl he used to know book cover.jpgRead this book if you enjoy a well written love story. Annika is on the autism spectrum and doesn’t function like the other kids at University of Illinois. Once she joins the chess team, she meets Johnathon, who she eventually dates. Their story is romantic in how they relate to one another. Although they are eventually driven apart, they reconnect after 10 years, at different points in their lives and welcome the idea of starting anew.

The Girl He Used to Know is a very enjoyable read. It brings laughs and tears. The story alternates between the present in 2001 and their college years in 1991. This format works well to create a space for unexpected events to come out. Anyone who has been in a relationship with someone on the autism spectrum will especially enjoy this novel and be able to relate in many ways. General fans of love stories will appreciate how this one is heartfelt in it’s own way. Publication is slated for April 2019, but Worldcat says some libraries may already have it. Check a library near you!

*Fans of The Girl He Used to Know may enjoy Oola by Brittany Newell (2017), Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik (2016), or The Only Story by Julian Barnes (2018).

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St.Vincent

ways to hide in winter cover book.jpgSet in the Appalachians of Pennsylvania, Ways to Hide in Winter is a slow burn, psychological thriller. Kathleen, a widow in her late 20’s works up a mountain at a state park’s general store. As sole shopkeep, she sees to the needs of hikers in summer and hunters in the off season, brewing coffee, flipping burgers and selling canned goods. When a stranger from afar appears at the hostel next door, her curiosity is piqued and the two develop a friendship of sorts. As the title suggests, they both have some dark secrets in their past that they’re choosing to confront at a later time.

Immediately, the writing style of this book grabbed me. St.Vincent’s style is clear without being simplistic and her sentences provide imagery giving life to a place very far from regular urbanity. This is a successful novel that draws the reader in and continues to simmer throughout. It may be especially appealing to those who have thought of abandoning their regular lives for a more stark and natural existence, further away from people. There may be holds at your local  library  since this title was just released in November, but it’s worth the wait.

*Fans of Ways to Hide in Winter, may enjoy I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid (2016).