Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

I have a pretty long commute to work and as a result, I have been listening to audiobooks through OverDrive and One Click Digital in my car. (If you don’t know what either of those resources are, come in and ask a librarian or give us a call. They’re fabulous!) Anyway, I’ve been finishing an audiobook at least once a week and I have discovered I have a type. I LOVE gruesome mysteries, the more complicated a plot the better. Add in strong women who can defend themselves and I’m hooked. My latest audiobook listen fit into that plot perfectly and I couldn’t get enough.

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens is a piece of riveting suspense fiction that covers many years in the lives of the Campbell sisters: Jess, Courtney, and Dani. Their life has never been easy with their mother dying when the girls were young and their father away for weeks at a time working. The three girls live on a remote ranch and must provide for themselves when their father is gone. When he is home, they struggle to stay out of his way, as he is very abusive and has an explosive temper. One night, he comes home in a particularly foul mood and a fight gets out of hand. The sisters have to leave their home and go on the run.

On their way to a new city, their truck breaks down and the girls find themselves facing a new nightmare. What seems to be two good Samaritans offering help devolves quickly into a worst-case scenario with the girls struggling to survive. Jess, Courtney, and Dani don’t know if they will ever be able to escape this new problem or even if they will be able to come back from what has happened to them. Starting completely over in a new town with new names and new lives is their only chance at redemption, revenge, and escape from both the fight with their father and this new terror.

While this book can be a bit of a downer at times, the sisters have an extremely close bond that pulled me in and had me rooting for them to finally get what they wanted. I’ll admit that I had to start this book over twice because I found the beginning to be a little slow, but once the action picked up and I had listened to it for about 15 minutes without stopping, I was hooked. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live a horrifying, depressing, and nightmarish life, but through it all, they stick together and they know that the others will always have their back no matter what.


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See Me by Nicholas Sparks

It’s time for me to be honest. I have not read a Nicholas Sparks book since high school. The movies never caught my interest either, so I just steered clear. In order to become a more well-read librarian, I have decided to expand my comfort zone and read books I normally wouldn’t. See Me by Nicholas Sparks is my latest outside-my-comfort-zone read. I started reading See Me thoroughly expecting a flowery romance with some kind of damsel in distress scenario and a dashing male hero coming to the rescue. I. Was. So. Wrong. Well sort of.

Maria Sanchez and Colin Hancock are the two main characters in this book and while they fit into some stereotypes, in other ways they completely break them. Maria is a lawyer and daughter of two Mexican immigrants who came to the US with nothing and now own a thriving restaurant. She has worked very hard to better her career with the end result being that her social life and friend circle is rather lacking. She does have a very close relationship with her parents and her younger sister though. Maria’s life is not all perfect. She is haunted by events in her past, events that ultimately led her to leave her previous job and move to a totally new town.

Colin is a 28 year old college student who is struggling to get his life back on track. He works out religiously and is avoiding all the people and places that led him to destroy his life before. Colin has spent most of his life tangled up in the legal system, as a result of a major anger problem and a myriad of other issues. He worked out a deal at his last court appearance, a deal that says that if he stays out of trouble, his criminal record will be completely expunged, his felonies erased, allowing him to become a teacher. However, if Colin gets back into trouble, he will go to jail for ten years and his record will not be cleared. Colin has stayed out of trouble with help from his best friend, Evan, and Evan’s fiancée Lily.

Colin and Maria have a chance encounter one rainy night on a highway in North Carolina. Maria tells her younger sister, Serena, about the man who changed her tire and Serena realizes that Colin is one of her fellow students. She arranges a meetup between Colin and Maria, hoping sparks will begin to fly. They do. Opposites obviously attract. Everything is going swimmingly between the two until a person from Maria’s past pops up who may ruin it all. Their budding relationship is put to the test as Maria struggles to figure out who is doing these horrible things to her. Colin also has to work through his anger issues and his protective instincts to put Maria’s wishes and well-being first.

Despite my reticence, I actually enjoyed this book. The story pulled me in and I found myself rooting for the characters. I also was not able to predict how the story would end, which is a major positive in my book.


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Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley deals with tragedy and its aftermath. On a warm, foggy summer night, eleven people board a private jet heading from Martha’s Vineyard to New York. Sixteen minutes later, the plane plunges into the ocean, breaking apart. Two people survive: Scott Burroughs, a down-on-his-luck painter who was invited to fly by the wife of a wealthy media mogul, and a four-year-old boy J.J., the media mogul’s son. Scott swims in freezing cold water to save himself and the boy, his only thoughts on their survival.

Scott is hailed as a hero, but mysteries surround his background and news stations can’t find much information about him. The bodies of the other people on the flight are still missing as news reporters struggle to get the real story and government and investigative officials work to recover the plane’s wreckage. Family, media, money, and conspiracy drama galore rampage through this book, leaving readers on the edge of their seats wondering what really happened and wondering what people’s real motives are.

This book alternates between the present and past, highlighting each person who was on the plane, from the security detail to the pilots, the flight attendant, the media mogul, his wife, and young daughter, as well as a money launderer and his wife. As each character’s introduction and background story are revealed, a web of intrigue, lies, deception, and mystery comes to light. A conspiracy seems to unravel, only fueled by the 24-hour news cycle and the way the media has sensationalized this catastrophe. Everyone is drawing their own false conclusions with what really happened on the plane remaining a mystery as the book goes on.

I listened to this book through OverDrive and greatly enjoyed it. I stayed up way past my bedtime and woke up very early on the weekend to finish it, which is something I only ever do if a book has really captured my interest. The narrator had me hooked by adding in voice inflections and nuances that brought eash character to life. Add in a captivating story and a mystery I didn’t figure out until the very end and I was fully drawn into the world Hawley created from the very beginning.


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Huck: Book 1: All-American by Mark Millar

huckI love superheroes, but lately I’ve been burnt out on spandex superheroes in my own reading. Needing a mental reading break for myself, I scoured the new shelves looking for a hero without a leotard. I found my good ol’ hero in Huck: Book One: All-American.

Huck begins in a quiet seaside town with a large muscled man bouncing around on top of several cars on a busy interstate. He then runs exceedingly fast and dives into the ocean. He lifts heavy objects, finds what he’s looking for, and deposits it on a local woman’s doorstep. With that quick introduction, readers are left wondering who exactly that mysterious person is. That’s Huck.

Huck is a local gas station clerk who uses his special gifts every day to do a good deed for someone. Huck can find anything and anyone. Seriously. It’s one of his gifts, besides super-duper strength and general all-around awesome good guy-ness(Is that a word? I’m making it a word.) Everyone in this small town knows to keep Huck’s good deeds and gifts a secret because he needs to be protected. Seems easy, right? Nope. A new person moves into town and, of course, ruins his anonymity. With this new person blabbing his story to the media, Huck soon finds himself unwillingly famous and hounded at every turn by anyone and everyone. With this fame, people start coming out of the woodwork looking for help, to introduce him to the world, and to solve the mystery of his past. Huck naturally believes the good in all, but to the people in this small town(and to the readers), it quickly becomes obvious that his new friends may not actually be his friends and the people in danger may not really be the ones in danger. Things can actually be too good to be true.

If you want a superhero without spandex or even just a good old feel-good helping story, check out Huck by Millar and let me know what you think!

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

the-way-i-used-to-beThe Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith is a deeply moving, traumatic examination of one young woman’s struggle to overcome the aftermath of a rape. Eden, a 14-year old teenage girl, is raped by Kevin, her older brother’s best friend and college roommate. Her family is asleep down the hall while he crawls into her bed. Eden is the typical band geek, good girl who lives in fear of Kevin as he tells her that he will kill her and that no one will believe her if she talks. She is paralyzed with fear and doesn’t know what to do except try to live her life like normal, an idea that quickly fails as she becomes a new person overnight.

This book follows Eden through all four years of high school, highlighting her relationships with friends and family as she keeps this dark secret under wraps. School becomes increasingly more difficult for Eden as she turns to lies, booze, sex, and parties to smother her emotions. Kevin’s younger sister, Amanda, who Eden used to be friends with, turns against her and begins spreading vicious rumors about her around school. Eden’s best friend, Mara, knows nothing about what happened to her and the two move through high school experiencing some typical high school activities: dying their hair, first crushes, getting piercings, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes for the first time, going to parties, doing drugs, and getting their drivers’ licenses. All the while, distance begins to grow between the two. Eden also finds herself separated from her other friends and her family. She has buried who she used to be, buried her emotions, and buried her secret deep inside.

As Eden grows older, readers are able to dissect the way her rape has affected her personality and her relationships. The way Eden treats herself changes drastically from her freshman year to her senior year of high school, as evidenced through her inner monologue throughout the book. How she believes others to see her changes throughout the book as well. The long-term view of the effect this trauma has on Eden allows readers to gain a better understanding of the guilt, hatred, and complex emotions survivors face in the aftermath of rape and sexual assault. The Way I Used to Be is not an easy book to read as watching Eden disintegrate is painful, but the truth and emotions revealed are so vivid and true-to-life that this book becomes a necessary read to understand the emotions survivors experience on a day-to-day basis.  Eden carries a double burden – the weight of carrying her secret and the violation of rape. She shows strength, power, survival, disappointment, pain, heartbreak, and massive loss throughout this book, leaving readers to grow attached to her well-being and her journey through a troubled adolescent made even more difficult by rape. The Way I Used to Be takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster as Eden struggles to find her way back to herself in the aftermath of her rape.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

the house girlThe House Girl by Tara Conklin follows the lives of two women: Lina Sparrow, a first-year associate in a Manhattan law firm, and Josephine Bell, a slave living on a plantation. Lina lives with her father, a famous artist, while she works at the law firm. Her mother died when she was younger and as a result, her father seldom talks about her. When Lina discovers that her father is planning to open up a new art show and that the subject matter is her mother, she finds herself wondering who her mother really is and what happened before her death.

While she digs into her personal history, Lina is picked to work on a reparations case at work for the millions of descendants of American slaves. This historic class-action lawsuit would lead to trillions of dollars in reparations for all of the descendants of the slaves. Lina is in charge of finding the perfect plaintiff, a person that will bring a compelling back story that will catch the public’s eye and help sway the courts. She stumbles upon the life and work of Miss Josephine Bell.

Josephine Bell worked as a house slave on a plantation. Her mistress, Lu Anne Bell, taught her to read, draw, and paint without her master knowing. Josephine’s life was easier than the lives of the slaves working in the fields, but that doesn’t mean that her life was all sunshine and happiness. Balancing between house and fields left her with a sense of discontent. Her master’s continued unwanted advances combined with her mistress’s multiple miscarriages over the years made the house a turbulent area. Her mistress’ health is also declining rapidly with no cure seemingly in sight. With her friends being sold off, Josephine herself has caught the bug to escape and runaway. Will she? What about the people she will leave behind?

Lina stumbled upon artwork that was attributed to Josephine’s mistress Lu Anne, but historical research has come to light refuting this claim and showing that Josephine may actually be the artist. If this is indeed true and if Lina can manage to track down one of Josephine’s heirs, Lina will have found her perfect plaintiff. Digging into historical records, wading through murky legal territory, and convincing people to come forward becomes a major part of her life while she is simultaneously digging into her own past and learning about her parents’ relationship and their separate lives. Tara Conklin has woven together an intriguing tale of love, life, and the familial and friendship bonds that bring us all together across the years. Highly recommended.


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Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

vinegar girlVinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is a modern retelling of the classic Shakespeare play, The Taming of the Shrew. Initially I picked this book to listen to through OverDrive for two reasons: the cover looked interesting and it was available for checkout. I’m glad I checked this out. This was very quick to listen to, the characters are all excellently developed, and the narrator hooked me in.

In this retelling, Kate Battista lives with her father, Dr. Louis Battista, and her younger teenage sister, Bunny. Kate works as a nursery school assistant, takes care of the family house, and has watched her younger sister ever since their mother’s early death. Dr. Battista, a research scientist studying autoimmune disorders, is eccentric to sat the least. His compulsiveness shines through in his work and the way he wants Kate to run the house. Everyone’s laundry is done on a different day of the week, Bunny has to follow her father’s behavior rules 100%, and meal prep is down to a specific science. Kate follows her father’s computer-generated grocery list and makes the family’s “meat mash” at the beginning of the week, a less-than-appetizing-sounding food concoction that contains all necessary nutrients that they then eat for the rest of the week.

Dr. Battista has gone through a number of different lab assistants, the current one, Pyotr Shcherbakov, being his favorite. Pyotr is apparently a star scientist from Russia that Dr. Battista, who is equally famous in Russia, was lucky to get. Unfortunately for everyone, Pyotr’s three-year work visa is about to expire, meaning he will be deported back to Russia unless he marries an American girl. Dr. Battista has the perfect girl in mind for Pyotr: his oldest daughter, Kate, who has never turned down any of his crazy schemes before. This retelling of Shakespeare’s classic veers from the powerful emotions in the original, but is a delightful and positive retelling that leaves readers wondering what will happen between Kate, Pyotr, and her father? Will his research be successful? Will Kate and Pyotr get married? Will the meat mash ever change? Tyler’s quirkiness adds a new level to this classic Shakespeare, something that will have readers clamoring for more.


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There are many other clever adaptations of The Taming of the Shrew, some of them you may not realize. Check out this list of my favorite adaptations (and call the library for more suggestions!).
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Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

furiously happyFuriously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson is the story of one woman’s journey through mental illness and the many places she finds herself. Jenny has been battling mental illness her entire life, so she considers herself to be an expert at how she handles her crippling depression and anxiety. She’s an expert at terrible ideas and writing a funny book about horrible things may be her best terrible idea yet.

Jenny believes in living her life furiously happy. Her depression, anxiety, and other myriad mental illnesses may run her life at certain moments, but she has decided that in the moments when she is not hiding in her bedroom, she’s going to live furiously happy. She’s going to do anything that pops into her head, anything stupid or irresponsible like having a raccoon rodeo with your cats or trying to convince your husband that having kangaroos would be a good idea. This book is packed full of stories of Jenny turning moments when things are just fine into amazing moments for herself, her daughter, and her husband. Because she doesn’t know exactly when her next down swing may happen, Jenny chooses to LIVE her life and not just survive it.

Jenny has written this book as a way to show the rest of the people in the world that the best way to live our lives is to embrace our weirdness 100%. She wants to show that by building up furiously happy moments in our okay moments, we are arming our brain with positive moments when those same brains decide to fight against us and try to kill us. Her moments of hilarity are paired with moments of such brutal honesty that you’ll find yourself on one page in the kitchen with Jenny as she plays with her taxidermied raccoons and then a few pages later sitting in the bathroom with her as she cries and pulls out her hair until she bleeds. The dichotomy between those beautiful, loving moments of happiness and the flawed, immensely overflowing, just trying to survive moments is where Jenny thrives. She encourages you to embrace yourself no matter what label you’re given and to find ways to find joy and happiness no matter what.


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Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

dark placesDark Places by Gillian Flynn completes my mission to read all of Flynn’s work. Living in my own little bublle, I only became aware of Gillian Flynn as an author when Gone Girl became a movie. After it came out on DVD, I quickly checked it out and watched it, which lead me down a quick path to reading everything that Flynn has ever written (I’ve written blog posts about her other works, so search this blog for more info!).

Dark Places is a gripping piece of suspense fiction following the life of Libby Day, a thirty-one year old woman whose mother and two sisters were brutally murdered twenty-five years ago when Libby was just seven years old. Based on her testimony, Libby’s fifteen year old brother Ben was sentenced to prison for life for the murders. After a meeting with her trust fund manager, Libby, who has never worked a day, realizes that the public donations and life insurance money that she has been living off is almost gone. She has no idea what to do next.

A chance phone call from a man named Lyle, who is a member of the Kill Club, proves to be Libby’s somewhat salvation. The Kill Club is a club for people who are obsessed with murders, serial killers, violence, regular killers, and a wide variety of related subjects. She meets with the Kill Club and realizes that she can get them to pay her; the only caveat being that she has to dig into her brother Ben’s case and the murders of her family. Once she starts talking to people and answering the questions the Kill Club has for her, Libby starts questioning if what she thought she saw twenty five years ago was what actually happened. Did Ben really commit those heinous crimes? Or is someone else responsible. This book will have you sitting on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next.

Dark Places was also made into a movie that came out in 2015 starring Charlize Theron as adult Libby Day. The library has this movie available in DVD and Blu-ray.


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Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

don't you cryDon’t You Cry is a psychological mysterious thriller. It falls along the same lines as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, but I found the twists that happened in this book to be less predictable, at least to me. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica is a twisting tale of deception, obsession, strangers, friends, and missing people. Quinn Collins is a young woman living in downtown Chicago with her roommate, Esther Vaughan. Everything seems to be going perfectly fine in Quinn’s life until she wakes up one morning and discovered that Esther has disappeared from their apartment without a trace. reporting Esther as missing only results in Quinn being told that Esther will probably come back in 48-72 hours and she should just wait. Quinn decides to take matters into her own hands and goes through Esther’s room looking for any clues. What she finds there leads Quinn to question who Esther really is and where she has disappeared to.

Alex Gallo is an eighteen-year-old boy working at a coffee shop an hour outside Chicago. Alex lives in this small lake town with his alcoholic father across from an old abandoned house that everyone thinks is haunted. One day, a mysterious woman walks into the coffee shop and Alex finds himself drawn to her. Alex is quickly pulled into Pearl’s spell, feeding and clothing her even though he knows nothing about her. Alex gets closer and closer to Pearl and realizes that he actually knows almost nothing about the town that he lives in.

While Quinn searches for Esther and Alex tries to learn more about Pearl, there are other factors simmering in the background of the book that demand the readers attention. This book is told in alternating voices, a fact that I enjoyed since I listened to this book through OverDrive and was able to dive into the characters more. Mary Kubica does a fabulous job of weaving a missing person story with family drama, mysterious pasts, old ghost stories, and alternate life stories. The tension slowly lives under the surface of this book until the end when the narrative explodes. Highly recommended.


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