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And I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you… “Meddling Kids” Book Review

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Author: Edgar Cantero

Publisher: Doubleday Books

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️✈️ ✈️

Synopsis:

It’s the summer of 1977 and the small mining town of Blyton Hills, located in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon, has it’s very own teen detective agency, the Blyton Summer Detective Club. Comprised of tomboy Andy, kid genius and budding biologist Kerri, horror nerd Nate, jock Peter and their faithful Weimaraner, Sean. During this fateful summer, the Blyton Summer Detective Club finds themselves facing their most terrifying and dangerous mystery yet. One that leaves a permanent scar on all of the members and leads to the disbanding of the group.

Fast forward to 1990 and the kids are grown and still suffering from the fall out of their final case. Thus, Andy decides that it’s up to her to get the gang back together to solve the case once and for all. After convincing Kerri, and her Weimaraner Tim (a descendant of Sean the groups original dog) to help her, the three break Nate out of the asylum he currently resides at in Arkhum, Massachusetts. Unbeknownst to Kerri and Andy, Peter is coming along for the journey, despite the fact that he’s long dead and can only be seen by Nate. With the group back together, they make the journey back to where it all began and find that the evil they unwittingly unleashed all those years ago has been waiting for their return in hopes of being made free once and for all.

Thoughts:

This was one of those books that I decided I just had to read it based solely on the title as it brought up memories of watching Scooby Doo, Where Are You? as a child and the infamous line said by every villain in the series who had their plot foiled by the group, “And I would’ve gotten way with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids.” I did make a point to read the description of this newfound book that was invoking childhood nostalgia, and after reading the description I knew that this was the book for me. I immediately put in a hold request with my local library, despite the fact that the book had yet to release, and was beyond excited when my request came in and I was the first to read the copy that waited for me.

I’m happy to say that for me Meddling Kids did not disappoint. I loved all of the references to such childhood favorites: as Scooby Doo with the name of the valley in which the town sits being the Zoinx River Valley after Shaggy’s favorite exclamation; and local newspaper reporter Nancy Hardy, a reference to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books of my youth. Reading this book made me feel like I was looking into an alternate Scooby Doo story where the teen detectives not only grew up, but ceased to solve mysteries after suffering a huge trauma that continued to follow them into adulthood. A trauma that resulted in alcoholism, crime, insanity and suicide. This is the story of what would’ve happened if the Scooby Gang had failed and needed to make one final attempt in order to heal once and for all.

I loved the characters in this book and seeing how their shared trauma affected each of them in turn. They each work to show the reader that although various people may experience the same event, what they take away from it and how they react and learn to cope with that event is different for every individual. The one character I loved the most, would most definitely have to be the dog, Tim. Tim, being a lovable dog obsessed with his penguin squeak toy reminded me of my own dog Ripley who also loves his squeaky penguin. Tim was the perfect comedic relief to what would’ve been a truly dark and unsettling story. He helped to lighten the mood while doing his duty of protecting his humans, especially Kerri.

Although there are those who won’t enjoy this book, either because they don’t like the style or find that it isn’t exactly what they were hoping for, I loved this satirical look at the teen detective genre and the childhood nostalgia it invoked for me. Now that I’ve read and enjoyed this book so much, I look forward to reading his first English language novel, The Supernatural Enhancements.

 

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“The Flight Attendant” Book Review

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Author: Chris Bohjalian

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: March 13, 2018

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️.75 out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Description from the book jacket:

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets.

Afraid to call the police–she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home–Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet, The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home.

Thoughts:

Earlier this year Chris Bohjalian came to Denver’s Tattered Cover Bookstore to read from and discuss his, at the time, latest novel, The Sleepwalker. During that discussion, the question that all authors are inevitably asked, “what are you currently working on?” came up. In answer to this, Chris shared that he was working on a book about a flight attendant who wakes up next to a dead body in a hotel room in Dubai. I couldn’t help but squeal when I hear this, turns out my squeal was quite loud as it caught Chris’s attention and I went on to share that I was excited because I am a flight attendant. This exchange resulted in not only email correspondence, but also a mutual following of one another on various social media platforms.

It was thus with much anticipatory breath that I waited for Chris to finish his book and for the galley’s to be produced, for I kept my fingers crossed I would get to read a galley of the book. Needless to say, my wish came true and I received my very own galley of the book. Thank you to both Chris and Doubleday for providing me with this wonderfully suspenseful book about a character with my same job.

Now for my thoughts on this book, both from a reader and a flight attendant’s perspective. As a reader, I found the book to be engaging right from the start as the reader is introduced to the main character, Cassie, and the body of the man she spent the night with lying next to her in bed. From those opening pages, I found that at no point did the story lag or lose my interest. I wanted nothing more than to keep reading, to see what would happen to Cassie and if her need for alcohol would be her inevitable downfall.

As much as I wanted to see what would happen to Cassie next, what she would say and do, I also feared what actions and decisions she would make. Cassie is perhaps one of the most complex characters I’ve read this year. At her heart she is a good person, but her drunkenness leads to such horrible decisions that I couldn’t help but want to reach into the pages and try to shake some sense into her as I feared both for her life and her career. Not wanting to give anything away, I will say that the climax of the book is like that final steep climb to the top of the tallest roller coaster and upon reaching its crest, you’ll find yourself wanting to throw your hands in the air and scream with the excitement of it all as it makes its final drop.

You’re probably asking yourself, if I loved the book so much, why the 4.75 airplane rating instead of a full 5 airplane rating? Well, this is where the flight attendant part of me responds to the book. Chris did a wonderful job in crafting and delivering this story, but there were some things about airlines and being a flight attendant that he got wrong. Although these few areas are ones that I know readers with no personal relationship to the airline industry (either work for an airline themselves or have a close relative who works for the industry) will pick up on these discrepancies, I unfortunately picked up on them immediately.

Despite this quarter point deduction, I still recommend this book and will even say that it’s my favorite of Chris’s books to date. This book is one that fans of Chris Bohjalian will not want to miss. It’s also great for readers who enjoy a good mystery packed with nonstop suspicion and thrills. For those who are going on vacation, whether it be to a beach or not, this is a great book to join you on your travels.

“Final Girls” Book Review

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Author: Riley Sager

Publisher: Dutton

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

It’s been ten years since Quincy Carpenter found herself the sole survivor of a horrific mass murder at Pine Cottage, which left her five college friends dead at the hands of a knife wielding madman. Having blocked out the events of that night, Quincy finds herself a member of the one club that no one wants to have to belong to, that of the Final Girls as dubbed by the media. Other survivors include, Lisa, who lost nine of her sorority sisters one night the knife wielding college dropout; and Sam, who survived an attack from the Sack Man while on duty at the Nightlight Inn.

Each woman has worked to put the events that forever changed their lives behind them by trying to move on with their lives as much as possible, despite the media’s attempts at disrupting their lives further. Quincy has worked hard to move on with help from her Xanax prescription, her baking blog, her caring boyfriend Jeff, and the constant reassurance of Coop, the cop who saved Quincy’s life all those years ago. For Quincy, she truly has moved on as the events of that night at Pine Cottage were so terrifying that she has completely blocked everything and suffers from total memory loss.

It’s after the first of the Final Girls, Lisa, is found dead in her bathtub with slit wrists, and the second Final Girl, Sam, shows up on Quincy’s doorstep, that she finally finds herself having to revisit the events of that night once and for all. Quincy finds herself in a race to learn the truth about Sam and why she’s there, evade the police and reporters, and to remember once and for all what truly happened that night at Pine Cottage if she has any hope of ensuring that she remain a survivor and Final Girl.

Thoughts:

I am an avowed life long horror movie fan and it is because of my love of this genre, especially the slasher movies of my childhood and youth (Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream to name a few), that I knew I had to read this book after reading the synopsis. I made a point to reserve the book at my library before it was even released, in order to ensure that I would be one of the first ones to read it, that’s how excited for this book I was. I am happy to say that this book did not disappoint as it pulled me in right from the start and held my interest up to the very end.

I found the author’s writing style to be not only engaging, but vividly described. I was able to picture everything as though I were watching it unfold before me on TV. It was because of this wonderful storytelling, that I felt more and more like I was reading the story of my new favorite slasher movie. In fact, this book made think so much of those classic slasher flicks, that I finished the book wanting nothing more than to have a horror movie marathon.

Something I appreciated about how Final Girls was told, was that the reader was told not only what each of the women went through and how they survived, but it also showed what happened to them years after their respective attacks. This is something that few movies do, usually they end with the main character surviving the attack and being surrounded by emergency personnel as they clean up the scene. I liked getting to see how each of the women responded to what happened to them. From Lisa who went on to help other women who had survived violence against them, Sam who went off the grid, and how Lisa resorted to prescription drugs to cope.

One of the things I loved most about this book, aside from learning about the three women and their stories of survival, were all the red herrings that were dropped throughout the book. Just when I thought I knew where the story was heading and what actually happened to Quincy at Pine Cottage, something would be presented that completely changed my supposition and proved that I was wrong in my thinking. At no point was I able to figure out where the story was going and I greatly appreciated that, as too often I find that I can figure out the plot and ending long before its revealed. It was indeed a joy to have been surprised by the ending and I couldn’t be more satisfied with how everything was wrapped up.

I don’t want to give away too much about the plot or how things turn out, so I’ll just say that if you are a fan of horror movies, teen slasher movies and a good thriller that keeps you guessing up to the very end, then definitely read Final Girls. Now if you will excuse me, I think it’s time I re-watch some of my favorite slasher flicks and the strong women who survive them to the end.

“Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” Book Review


Author: Becky Albertalli

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Type: Young Adult, LGBT, Romance

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of  🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Simon Spier is a sixteen-year-old junior with a secret from his friends and family, he’s gay. The only person with whom Simon has been able to share this secret with, is a fellow student he exchanges emails with. Before Simon knows it though, Simon’s email fall into the hands of another student who uses them to blackmail Simon into helping set him up with one of Simon’s friends. Simon finds himself faced with the choice of either helping his blackmailer, Martin; or refuse to do so and have his secret laid bare for the entire school. Even worse, Simon fears that if his pen pal, Blue, who is also not out in the open, finds out about Simon’s carelessness that he’ll lose the boy he’s falling for forever.

Thoughts:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of those books that’s I’ve seen in bookstores, but I had no idea what it was about. It wasn’t until I came across a tweet from Penguin Platform about the books they were going to be discussing for their #PrideBookClub that I finally got around to reading the description and decided to check it out from the library.

I loved this book, so much so that I read this book in one sitting. This was such an enjoyable book to read in large because of Simon. I found Simon to be a highly realistic character. He does his best, but he messes up sometimes and has to learn from those mistakes and keep moving forward. It was nice to follow Simon’s growth throughout the book and get to see him become more comfortable with who he is and opening up to his friends and family as a result of his conversations with Blue and Blue’s courage in coming out to each of his divorced parents.

The romance between Simon and Blue was so sweet and gave me butterflies as it reminded me of what it’s like to have a crush. I really enjoyed following the progression of their relationship: from two students operating under assumed names looking to discuss their sexuality, to a friendship that evolved into deeper feelings for one another. When Simon and Blue finally meet in person, I couldn’t help but release a huge sigh of contentment as I was so deeply happy for each of them as they had each overcome varying obstacles to find themselves and one another.

Reading this book, I couldn’t help but think back to when I was in high school and two of my friends came out to me. Each of these friends chose to inform me prior to informing the rest of our group of friends. I remember when I asked them why they chose me over other friends of ours they were closer to, they each said because they knew I loved them and accepted them for who they are and wouldn’t judge them. Much like Simon, it took a lot of courage for my friends to come out to me and our other friends. What Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda did for me was to remind me of these occasions from my teen years, when homosexuality wasn’t discussed the way it is now, and how important it is to have those friends you trust and know will love and accept you no matter what.

I’m so glad that I stumbled across Penguin Platform’s #PrideBookClub and finally read this book. It’s the kind of book that I will gladly recommend to fellow readers and that I would assign as part of a summer reading list if I were and English teacher. If you’re interested in learning more about what other books Penguin Platform has chosen for their book club, be sure to check them out @penguinplatform. They will be discussing this book and others through the end of August.

 

“The Hate U Give” Book Review

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

Publisher: Balzar and Bray

Type: Young Adult

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Starr Carter is sixteen and trying to navigate two different worlds. In one she comes from a poor black neighborhood where gangs rule the street and people are afraid to speak out against them. In the other world, Starr is a student at a predominately white prep school in the suburbs. As Starr walks the line of these two worlds, that line becomes blurred when Starr witnesses the shooting of one of her childhood best friends, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. The catch though, Khalil is unarmed.

Struck with fear of speaking about what really happen out of fear about police retaliation against her family, as well as fear of what her friends at school will say if they find out, Starr has to work to not only overcome the horror of that night but to also find her voice if she hopes for any kind of justice to be brought about. As racism starts to rear its ugly head at school, Starr’s neighborhood goes from protests to full on riots in a matter of moments.

Thoughts:

I will be the first to admit that I did not have anywhere near the same kind of upbringing as Starr. Where Starr comes from a poor black neighborhood and her father is a former convict; my father was an officer in the US Air Force and we were considered upper middle class. Despite these differences in our upbringing, I could relate to Starr in other ways. As an African-American young woman, I was able to empathize with Starr when she was questioned about having a white boyfriend and if it was because she thought she was too good for the black guys. I know what it’s like to get looks from those around me when I’m seen holding hands with a white boyfriend. I know how it feels to have other African-Americans try to put you down for wanting to get good grades, go on to college and succeed in life.

Angie Thomas’s debut novel is a timely and poignant novel that takes a close look at what its like to witness a police shooting and feeling powerless and afraid to do anything. The day I finished reading this was the same day that the jury decided to acquit the police officer of all charges in the shooting and death of Philando Castile. I’m sad and sorry to say that I was not at all surprised that the jury chose not to convict the police officer. As is discussed in the book, it seems like anymore, anytime a black man is shot and killed by a police officer, that they’re not going to be charged. That’s a horrible thing to think and believe, but that continues to be the case.

Just as Starr believes that one day things will get better, I too believe that. But, it’s going to take hard work and diligence. It’s going to take continuing the dialogue and working together to find solutions. The Hate U Give serves as a wonderful way to open up that dialogue. It’s the kind of book that can bring wonderful discussions to mixed race book clubs and even to high school and college English and literature classes.

“One Of Us Is Lying” Book Review

Author: Karen M. McManus

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Type: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

On a Monday afternoon, five students find themselves in detention after all having been caught with cell phones in their bags during class, the thing is, the found cell phones do not belong to the offenders. Each of these students have been set up by an unknown figure and for an unknown reason. As they quickly come to realize that they’ve been set up, detention takes a turn for the worse when Simon dies in front of the other students. In what should be thought of as an accident is labeled murder by the local police, the four remaining students learn that the next day, Simon had planned to post scathing and true gossip about all of them to his app About That.

The book is narrated by the four remaining students, Bronwyn (the Brain), Addy (the Beauty), Nate (the Criminal) and Cooper (the Jock). Through the progression of the book, the reader learns of each characters secret that Simon had found out and the possible reasons they would want Simon dead. With red herrings being thrown throughout, and the characters questioning what they know and one another, the crime can only be solved if they all learn to work together and even trust one another.

Thoughts:

This is one of those books that is hard to discuss, because I don’t want to give anything away, so here goes. When I first heard about this book and that it was being referred to as “The Breakfast Club  meets Pretty Little Liars” I immediately put in a hold request for this book at the library so that I could read it as soon as the book became available. I’m happy to say that this book did not disappoint. I was drawn into the story right from the start and just as the characters questioned one another and possibility of it being someone who wasn’t in the room that had planned out this murder, I too was left questioning and working through different theories.

I found that the author did a great job of taking your stereotypical characters and high school personalities and turning them upside down. The criminal wasn’t just a criminal who got in trouble for selling prescription drugs, instead he was a more complex character who only got into drug dealing in order to stay alive and be able to support himself. The beauty turned out to actually be really smart and a fighter. Each of the characters proved that they were more than just what people saw and expected them, they were all flawed thus making them more realistic and relatable.

This is a debut novel that lives up to the hype. I cannot wait to see what Karen McManus comes up with next as she is a new favorite author that I will be sure to read more of.

“American Gods” Book Review


Author: Neil Gaiman

Publisher: William Morrow

Type: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Mythology

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Not wanting to give anything away about the story, all I will say, is that American Gods is the story of a war that’s brewing on Earth, in America no less, between the gods of old and the new gods of technology. Amid this growing battle, is Shadow, a recently released convict who finds himself encountering a strange man who goes by the name of Mr. Wednesday. What ensues is a strange and mind bending journey through the United States and all the ethnic groups and their belief systems which have created the country.

Thoughts:

American Gods is one of those books that I bought after my best friend told me that I had to read it since I love all things to do with mythology of any kind. After being told this, it still took me about a year or so before I finally purchased copy, selecting the 10th Anniversary Edition with the Author’s preferred text. It should also be noted this was the first book of Neil Gaiman’s I ever purchased for myself, all the other books I owned by him up to this point, my best friend (the one and the same) had bought for me as birthday and Christmas gifts. Yet, even after buying the book, it still sat on my bookshelf for another year. I finally picked up American Gods last month as I wanted to start reading it before the premiere of the television adaptation that Starz was heading up.

Having finished the book, managing to stay ahead of the show in my reading, my initial thought upon completion was “why did it take me so long to read this?” My best friend was right, I did love this book and it was right up my alley with my love of mythology and religion and how people’s belief systems not only affect them but society around them. For as Sam says to Shadow:

“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.”

This book posed the question of “what would happen if all the gods of old were brought to the new world and found themselves being forgotten as humans began to worship technology?” and it summarily answered that question.

I loved this story and all the detail that Neil Gaiman put into writing it. The small vignettes which were inserted at varying points throughout provided wonderful guideposts to help explain how all these vastly different gods found themselves in the United States as well as an idea of how the different cultures worshiped their deities to remember their heritage and what they had been taught as children. Reading this made me want to read more mythology, especially lesser known myths and gods that aren’t commonly taught, such as those from Africa that are not part of the Egyptian pantheon. Neil Gaiman has helped to remind me that not only is important to know the history of a people and where we came from, but part of that is also knowing their cultural and religious beliefs for all of those help to form not only a society, but we as individuals.

In the end, I’m glad that I finally read American Gods, I think it may be my new favorite book by Neil Gaiman. I’m also pleased that I started and finished it before the completion of the show on Starz, although now I must wait patiently for some of my favorite scenes to unfold on the show. If you are a Gaiman fan and haven’t read this book, read it already! If you’re a Gaiman novice but love mythology, pick this book up. Keep in mind this is not the easiest book to get through, but persevere and push through and let me know what you think.