Review: The Likeness by Tana French

Book/Author: The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad # 2) by Tana French
Publisher/Year: Viking Adult, 2008
Pages: 466 pages
Where I got it: bought at Borders
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Six months after the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox is still trying to recover. She's transferred out of the murder squad and started a relationship with Detective Sam O'Neill, but she's too badly shaken to make a commitment to him or to her career. Then Sam calls her to the scene of his new case: a young woman found stabbed to death in a small town outside Dublin. The dead girl's ID says her name is Lexie Madison (the identity Cassie used years ago as an undercover detective, and she looks exactly like Cassie.

With no leads, no suspects, and no clue to Lexie's real identity, Cassie's old undercover boss, Frank Mackey, spots the opportunity of a lifetime. They can say that the stab wound wasn't fatal and send Cassie undercover in her place to find out information that the police never would and to tempt the killer out of hiding. At first Cassie thinks the idea is crazy, but she is seduced by the prospect of working on a murder investigation again and by the idea of assuming the victim's identity as a graduate student with a cozy group of friends.

My thoughts: I read Tana French's In The Woods a few years ago and I absolutely loved it. I final got the chance to pick up the sequel this October and was not let down. French has a gift for creating suspenseful situations. I'm not usually too interested in murder mystery novels but this series has me hooked. I will definitely be putting the third book, Faithful Place on my wishlist for this holiday season. The Likeness starts out with a bang as detective Cassie Maddox is called to the scene of a murder where the victim is shockingly identical to her. Thus begins the undercover operation to discover who killed this mysterious doppelganger.

This book took me longer to read than I would have liked but it was not for lack of interest. I was itching to pick it up at any free moment I had. The relationship development between Cassie/Lexie and her roommates was so descriptive and interesting to me. They were SO close, I was holding my breath so many times because I was worried that she would be discovered as an imposter. As the story unfolds, the secrets slowly pour out of the walls of their old house. 

The one thing that really bugged me about this novel is that Lexie had stolen the identity of a false identity made up by Cassie years ago. It was never addressed how exactly Lexie came upon that identity or how it was possible they could look and sound so much alike but not be related at all. Other than that, The Likeness was a great psychological thriller that definitely messed with my mind. Even if you don't typically read mystery novels, I would suggest stepping out of your comfort zone with this. I doubt you will be disappointed!

My rating: 4 stars 


Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Book/Author: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth #2)
Publisher/Year: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2010
Pages: 407 pages
Where I got it: bought at Borders
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

My thoughts: I must have the worst memory in the history of people under 60 who have not suffered some traumatic memory loss. I read the first book in Carrie Ryan's series, The Forest of Hands and Teeth just two years ago and I hardly remember a thing about it. The only thing I really remember is that I wasn't very crazy about the first book and most people thought it was really good. In her second novel, The Dead-Tossed Waves, the story of the undead continues as we learn that Mary has grown up and now has a teenage daughter who is the MC of this book. It's rare for me to enjoy the sequel far better than the first book but this was an example of that. Right from the beginning there is action as Gabry and her friends jump the barrier that separates their relatively safe town and the unknown area where the unconsecrated roam. Her friends are attacked and those who aren't infected end up imprisoned for crossing the barrier. So much action and conflict, I was hooked!

When Gabry meets a stranger across the barrier who looks at her as if he recognizes her, I was intrigued. It takes almost the whole book to find out the deal with that and it did a good job of keeping me engaged. I was trying to figure out what the big secret was, but I ended up being so far off with my guesses anyway. As for the characters in The Dead-Tossed Waves, I thought Gabry was much more tolerable than her mother had been. I couldn't stand Catcher from the start but was routing for her and Elias to get together.

I wasn't sure about this one after being let down by the first, but I'm glad that I read it because Ryan has redeemed herself. I will most likely read the third book because I'm interested to see how Gabry's story ends up. If you haven't read any of the series, I would honestly recommend skipping The Forest of Hands and Teeth and moving right on to The Dead-Tossed Waves. There isn't much pertinent info in the first book that sets up for the second. This could very well have been a stand alone novel, minus the cliffhanger. Speaking of the cliffhanger, eeeesh! I want to know what the heck happened to Gabry and Catcher, and if she will ever see her mother or Elias again. Well worth the read, especially in October. The mudo (zombies) make for a creepy story!

My rating: 3 stars


Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Book/Author: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Publisher/Year: Dutton/December 2010
Pages: 372 pages
Where I got it: bought at Borders
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

My thoughts: I'm a little late to the party on Anna and the French Kiss but as with any book that gets a lot of good buzz, I was nervous that I'd be let down. I wouldn't say I was let down because I definitely fell in love with the idea of this book. However, I didn't think it was the "OMG skfhsdkjghf this is my new favorite!" that I thought it was going to be. I loved the characters and the slow build of the love story between Anna and St. Clair. It also made me want to get my butt on a flight to Paris right away. I've never traveled abroad but I enjoy planning trips that are probably pretty unrealistic and Anna had me thinking I should just quit my job and run off to Europe for awhile. I am kicking myself for never spending a semester abroad.

Anna was a really likeable main character. She was hilarious, down to earth and someone I would totally want to be friends with if she were a real person. And St. Clair.... ah, how swoonworthy! With his English accent and obvious crush on Anna, it drove me nuts how he kept going back to his stupid girlfriend. It's rare to have a book with characters who are so widely liked by readers. I don't know a single person who didn't like Anna and the French Kiss or the characters of Anna and St. Clair. Stephanie Perkins has a talent for knowing how to make her characters so relatable and fun. I find it funny that bloggers will refer to this book simply as "Anna" and people know exactly what is being referred to.

Other than Anna and St. Clair, I thought a lot of the other characters were also well done. The friendships that Anna built with the other kids at SOAP and the things that she learned about being a true friend added another dimension to the story that made it more interesting. I'm ready to run out and grab myself a copy of Stephanie Perkins' second novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door, because I've heard it's even better than Anna and the French Kiss.

My rating: 4 stars


Review: Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

Book/Author: Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman
Publisher/Year: Harper Perennial/ August 2011
Pages: 352 pages
Where I got it: received as e-book on NetGalley
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day.
The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety.
Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.) Domestic Violets is the brilliant and beguiling story of a man finally taking control of his own happiness—even if it means making a complete idiot of himself along the way.

My thoughts: Domestic Violets surprised me in a very good way. It reminded me of a few different books and movies all mashed into one. There was a nice balance of humor and seriousness between the protagonist's work life and home life that made for an interesting story. For the most part I really liked Tom Violet, except when he was flirting with Katie, his fellow copywriter at work. I know without that aspect we wouldn't have the conflict but I really wanted him to get it together with his relationship with his wife. Tom became a hero when he finally stood up for himself at work and made a fool of his boss and company. He did what anyone who has ever worked in a monotonous office job has only dreamed of, and in that moment he became a bit of a local celebrity.

Tom has always struggled to be different from his Pulitzer Prize winning father, famous author Curtis Violet, so when he writes his first novel in the same style as his father, it leads to realizations about himself and his relationship with his dad. I think one of the things I liked so much about Domestic Violets was that despite all of the things going wrong in Tom's life, he finds a way to pick up all of the broken pieces of his life and reassemble them into something better. He had a failing relationship with his wife, an unbearable crush on a coworker and he's still able to muster the courage to quit his day job to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. He fixes the relationships with the people who are most important to him and realizes what he needs to make him happy. I'm not sure it's all believable but it was nice to get that happy ending for a guy who went through a lot of crap throughout the rest of the novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Norman's writing is humorous and poignant and he has the rare ability to write a likable character who is also flawed in so many ways. Tom has a lot of baggage and he screws up A LOT but I was cheering him on throughout the novel. I think I also may have developed a slight crush on his character. I'd recommend this book for fans of Joshua Ferris, Jonathan Ames or anyone who enjoys routing for the underdog.

My rating: 3.5 stars 


Review: Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Book/Author: Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster/ May 2011
Pages: 232 pages
Where I got it: bought at Borders
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): From Jessi Kirby, a debut novel about confronting the past in order to move ahead.

I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both.

Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.

While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.

My thoughts: I feel like I've unintentionally been reading a lot of the same types of books lately. I recently read Twenty Boy Summer, which also deals with loss and life at the beach. In Moonglass, Anna and her father move to the beach town where her parents met. Anna is forced to confront her past in this new town where there are reminders of her mom all around her. This was more than just a summer beach read like the cover leads you to believe. There is a darkness in Anna's life that she has tried to bury and when it's finally let out after so many years of buildup, it's pretty shocking how broken she is.

Moonglass is a wonderfully written debut novel that will keep you turning the pages. I know what it's like to be the new girl in a new school and I think she fit in quite well. Her romance with Tyler was very realistic with a slow build that added to the drama and almost forbidden aspect because of her father's disapproval of him (and any other lifeguard). Her friendships were interesting as well. Her character was so open to people who were complete opposites of her and she was able to develop strong bonds with both Ashley and Jillian.

I really enjoyed how Kirby wrapped the story up, in fact I feel like it was one of the few novels I've read lately that I got complete closure on. It deals with some pretty heavy stuff but the writing flows so well that it doesn't feel like work to get through. I never felt depressed while reading about the loss of Anna's mother and the burden that she has carried since that night. Instead, I was optimistic about how it would all be resolved. There's a reason the dust jacket is covered with praise from Sarah Dessen- her fans would love this book.

My rating: 4 stars


Top Ten Tuesday - Books I want to reread

Top Ten Books I want to Reread

1. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - this was one of my immediate favorites when I read it about 6 years ago. As with any old favorite, I want to see how it holds up with time. Plus I could use a reread of such an epic love story.
2. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss - I remember this story being beautifully written and inspirational. I think it's one of those books I might like even more the second go round.
3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - I read this one more recently so I might not revisit it for a bit, but it's definitely on my to be reread list! Oskar is one of my favorite fictional characters ever.
4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - This book made me cry more than any book ever has and I think that's a great thing. I will probably reread The Book Thief over and over.
5. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky - I've reread this a few times already and I think some days are just days you have to sit and read this in one sitting.
6. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - I'm already in progress with this (sort of). I began listening to the audiobooks but have only completed the first two. I'm not sure if I'll continue with the audio version or if I'll pick up the actual books instead. Either way, this is a series that I'm sure I will continue to reread over and over for a long time.
7. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - I read this during a somewhat difficult time in my life and I remember relating so much to the main character. I'm not sure how it will be on a reread but I'd like to find out.
8.  Looking for Alaska by John Green - I love John Green and this was the first book by him that I read, before I realized that he has a formula for his characters. I thought it was such a good book and it's pretty perfect for a rainy day reread.
9. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath - I just really enjoy Ms. Plath's writing and I'm planning on reading her journals soon. I think after getting a little more insight into what went on in her head, it'd be good to reread The Bell Jar.
10. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller - I read this in college when I first started getting back into reading for pleasure again and I remember being a little overwhelmed with schoolwork at the time. I'd like to reread and see if it's more enjoyable to me now.


Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Book/Author: Bossypants by Tina Fey
Publisher/Year: Little, Brown and Company/ April 2011
Pages: 277 pages
Where I got it: bought on Amazon
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): In her acceptance speech for Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Tina Fey announced that she was proud to make her home in "the 'not-real America'." It is perhaps that healthy sense of incongruity that makes the head writer, executive producer, and star of NBC's Emmy Award-winning 30 Rock such a cogent observer of the contemporary scene. Bossypants, her entertaining new memoir, shows that strangeness has been her constant companion. Fey's stories about her childhood in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania are only appetizers for LOL forays into her college disasters, honeymoon catastrophes, and Saturday Night Live shenanigans. Most funny read of the month; the best possible weekend update.

My thoughts: I don't have much more to say about Bossypants other than you should read this now, whether you're a fan of Tina Fey or not. This book is laugh out loud funny. In fact, I started reading it on a day out at the beach with a bunch of friends and they all kept looking at me like I was either crazy or annoying (or both?) because I couldn't stop giggling. I've always been a Tina Fey fan and an even bigger Liz Lemon fan. Bossypants made me realize they are probably the same person. I love how much Fey embraces her goofy, awkward side because let's face it, we were all a little awkward at some point. I still am.

If you're a weirdo and don't like Tina Fey (and the haters do exist as she mentions several times in this book), read this and I'm fairly certain you're view will change. Bossypants is witty and sarcastic, and the cover is so creepy I just can't stop staring at it. There were so many quote worthy passages, but I'll leave you with one of my favorites.

"Little kids’ birthdays in my neighborhood were simple affairs. Hot dogs, Hawaiian Punch, pin the tail on the donkey, followed by cake and light vomiting. (Wieners, punch, and spinning into barfing would later be referred to as “the Paris Hilton.”"

My rating: 5 stars