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Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Some books we read for entertainment, others we read for enlightenment. Some books are fast paced, entertaining chapter churning fun. Others are relevant, important and thought provoking.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid is enlightening, relevant, and thought provoking. This book will not be for everyone – those who read solely for entertainment value will not enjoy this novel as much as readers who quietly contemplate the larger meaning of the text before them. Exit West examines the plight of the displaced and it is heart breaking and hopeful but most importantly, incredibly relevant.

It is the type of book everyone should read – but probably won’t.

 Set in an unnamed city at the edge of Civil War, Saeed and Nadia first meet in an evening class on Corporate Identity and Branding. They meet, he asks her to coffee, thus beginning a relationship both similar and dissimilar to any other budding courtship. They listen to music, send text messages, dream about traveling, explore each other and discuss the future. Yet their relationship is different from many, as their city falls into war and eventually they choose to leave – a part of a mass migration of people; displaced by man’s hunger for power and control.

The doors they pass through lead them to Greece, England and eventually the United States. They face opposition, loss, fear and hope as they journey from their homeland to one new land after another in hope of finding a place in the world where they may have safety and opportunity to begin afresh. The reader sees their relationship as it begins and as it shifts with time and experience. Their experience and growth beautifully captured with passages such as this:

”Every time a couple moves they begin, if their attention is still drawn to one another, to see each other differently, for personalities are not a single immutable color, like white or blue, but rather illuminated screens, and the shades we reflect depend much on what is around us.”

This is not a plot novel; its importance is not in the actual movement of the characters or development of their relationship, but rather the general themes and questions their movement evokes. It displays a unique literary structure – an omniscient narrator who keeps the reader at arm’s length and magical realism that straddles the line between fantasy and science fiction. Exit West does so much more than offer glimpses into the relationship between two people in a refugee camp who flee the war torn remnants of their homeland. It begs the reader to examine his or her own attitudes about immigration, colonialism, war, and human migration and the lens with which we view such people and institutions. My favorite chapter is about a woman, who having lived in the same house all her life, observes the coming and going of new people and despite her own stationary physical location realizes, “We are all migrants through time.”

This novel is a dazzling depiction of a modern dystopia that is alarmingly similar to a world we currently live in. It is a beautiful, yet ugly, frightening, yet hopeful, assessment of a world that could be not far into our future.

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Find Her (Detective D.D. Warren #8), by Lisa Gardner

This book made my stomach hurt and creeped me out.

Why do I read crime fiction?!

Ok, so remember earlier this week when I wrote a nastygram about All the Missing Girls? I know – it wasn’t nice, but if you recall, I mentioned that I want the author to surprise me.

Lisa Gardner surprised me.

Find Her is the eighth book in Gardner’s Detective DD Warren series and it was outstanding. The novel opens with Flora Dane dancing the night away at a local Boston nightclub, but her evening quickly goes downhill when she is abducted in an alley and wakes up in a vacant garage. However, unlike most abduction victims, this is not the first time Flora’s been taken, and her captor has no idea what she’s capable of.

Seven years ago, Flora was kidnapped while on Spring Break in Florida. 472 days later she was rescued.

Now five years after her re-entry to society she’s trained in self-defense and knows the limits the human mind and body can endure to survive. Her bedroom walls are papered with news clippings of other missing girls and she’s determined to help as many of them as she can.

But Flora’s missing again and this time, her abduction may be in connection with another missing girl’s case. Detective D.D. Warren and FBI victim advocate Sam Keynes find themselves scrambling to locate Flora before time runs out and she’s lost again forever.

Partly narrated in flashbacks from Flora’s first abduction, her present abduction and from D.D.’s position as a detective – this twisty, creepy thriller is everything that I want in a crime novel. It has a methodical, slow build format, each narrator only revealing a little bit at a time. The characters are fascinating and well developed and the storyline moves at a good pace. This novel was purely engrossing – I couldn’t put it down and it had me guessing all the way to the end.

If you love twisty, creepy crime novels you’ll probably enjoy this one too!

I’ve said it before, but I’m looking for recs from this genre! If you have one to share, leave it in the comments!

Bonus: You don’t need to read all seven of the other D.D. Warren books for this to make sense. It can be read as a standalone or as part of the series.

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Anything You Can Do by R.S. Grey

Well, this novel really was delightful.

I’ll be honest with you – I read this book as a rebound after finishing a crime novel that totally freaked me out.

{Book Confession: my husband does not like it when I read crime novels because they actually give me nightmares and I wake up thinking someone is trying to murder me in my sleep. That is not a joke. I’m a wuss.}

So it’s like the time I watched Rock of Ages – and was so totally disgusted by Stacee Jaxx (aka Tom Cruise) that I needed to watch Top Gun in order to restore him (aka Tom Cruise) in my mind. Mind you - I'm not a huge Tom Cruise fan, but I love Top Gun, it's my favorite.


If you’re not a fan of Top Gun – leave now. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

So that’s what this book was for me; a way to get rid of all the icky feels and replace them with warm fuzzy thoughts. And it totally worked!

Anything You Can Do by R.S. Grey is a super cute, witty romance (ie: there are steamy scenes, please be advised) novel that is just so fun that I read it in a day. Daisy and Lucas have been at war with one another since they were kids; their long-standing childhood and adolescent rivalry is legendary in their small Texas hometown and after graduating high school they are going to get as far away from one another as possible. Years pass as Daisy and Lucas attend colleges on separate coasts – each drifting apart but never forgetting their undying hatred of the other. Now, after years of schooling and medical residency, Daisy is returning home to take over the small family medical practice in her hometown. What she doesn’t know: Lucas has come home too and he’s going to be working right beside her in the same practice with the same goal of taking over when the current owner, Dr. McCormick retires. Witty banter, hilarity and some pretty steamy scenes ensue.

Think: Grey’s Anatomy’s On Call Room + No Strings Attached + Hart of Dixie’s small town charm and you’ve pretty much got this book.

As you can imagine – this book is incredibly predictable. But as with most romantic comedies, it’s the journey, not the destination, right? We all know where this is leading – but the fun part is getting there. I thought the banter between Lucas and Daisy was hilarious, the chemistry was off the charts and this book was just so fun. Daisy is a total knothead – I wanted to smack her in the face with her own book a few times, but she comes around eventually. Lucas is almost too good to be true, but for the sake of fictional characters in this genre, he’s better than most so I’ll take it.

Here’s the thing, in my opinion, most romance novels are not well written (please see: Fifty Shades). There is only so much steamy, instalove, spontaneous shagging one can take – and so often I veer away from this genre, but this book was actually well written and smart! The fact that this was well written yet very readable, had me actually laughing out loud and was fun made this a great read for me.

If you’re looking for a book to clear out the scary remnants of the last freaky crime novel you read – add this book to your TBR. It’ll do the trick, I swear.

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All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Once in a blue moon I go through a psychological thriller/suspense/crime novel phase. You may have noticed that I do not read and review this genre often and that is because I have a very hard time finding well-written suspense novels with characters that I actually can care about. I do not like unreliable narrators – I cannot trust them (which I suppose is the point) and I often find that they are ridiculously narcissistic, bleak individuals and in fact, I wrote a blog post about this last year - you can read it here.

So while I don’t typically pick these books up – I do keep an eye out for titles that may interest me and every once in a while I find a book from this genre that I really enjoy! 

All the Missing Girls was not one of them.

Sorry, not sorry.

I did not like this book at all. But I’m going to review it anyway because I would like to tell you why I didn’t like it. Then you can decide for yourself whether to read it or not.

You’re welcome.
So here we go!

Megan Miranda’s psychological thriller, All the Missing Girls, was one of the buzziest books of 2016. Hailed as a twisty, creepy, Girl on the Train or Luckiest Girl Alive (which I HATED BTW) esque suspense thriller that is – wait for it – TOLD IN REVERSE. I was completely intrigued and wanted to give this a shot. I mean it’s told backwards! Something new and different!

Well, friends, I was wrong.
So wrong.
While this novel had so much potential, the backwards plot structure and shallow character development fell completely flat for me. The writing was tolerable I suppose, but not twisty enough to keep me engaged and the plot was weak, which was most disappointing of all because there truly was potential there.

Nicolette Farrell left Cooley Ridge ten years ago – and never looked back. Until now.

Ten years ago, on a night that seemed like any other, Nic’s best friend Corinne vanished. Plucked from the face of the Earth, and never seen again, Nic and her friends attempt to make sense of their friend’s disappearance. In the days following, the police investigation targets Nic, her boyfriend Tyler, her brother Daniel and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson as suspects in the disappearance – but with no evidence and their young neighbor, Annaliese Carter, as their alibi, there isn’t enough information to make a charge stick and the case remains unsolved.

Now ten years later and fifteen days ago – Annaliese Carter (who happens to now be Tyler's girlfriend) is missing. As the residents and law enforcement of Cooley Ridge begin searching for Annaliese, old ghosts reappear and old wounds reopen as Nic and those who were with her the night Corinne disappeared try to find, yet, another missing girl. 

As I stated earlier, this story is narrated in reverse beginning on day fifteen and working backwards to day one. While this mechanism definitely adds an additional layer of intrigue – it actually hinders the plot construction more than helps it – and in my opinion served only to keep the reader from solving the puzzle early on. Honestly, I don’t think there would be much of this book if it wasn’t told in reverse. So while I absolutely love the concept of starting backwards – it just wasn’t executed well enough for me.

I felt that it aided in confusing me just enough that I wouldn’t catch on and nothing more. Some readers may really enjoy this set up, I didn’t.

Nicolette felt shallow and predictable to me, as did the supporting characters around her. They were utterly unmemorable - enough said.

But this is the most important thing I look for when reading these novels:

I want to know if the author can trick me.

I LOVE to try to solve the crime before everyone else. And I realize that this is probably presumptuous of me, but I want the author to be smarter than I am. Seriously, doesn’t everyone want to solve the crime before the characters do?

I will rate a crime/suspense/thriller novel by the amount of shock value it has. I am absolutely looking for the plot twist in the book – and this book did not deliver. It just felt flat and predictable to me on every level. It was tired, pointless and to be honest, I'm bored writing this review!

Maybe I’m asking too much of this genre – but if I’m going to get worked up over a suspense/thriller I want it to be well done. If you’re like me, you’ll want to pass on this book. Maybe this type of book is right up your alley – if so, that’s great – you do you.
Have you read this book? What did you think about the plot structure and story? Did it work for you?

Also, help a girl out – I’m looking for some really interesting/crazy/twisty suspense thrillers to read – give me your recs!

Buy All the Missing Girls
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

How would you like to read a Romeo & Juliet story, set in a dark dystopian city divided by war, where violent acts breed actual monsters and there is NO ROMANCE whatsoever?

I’m guessing at this point you’re either thinking,
 “WTF?! Nope.”
“This sounds amazing – I must read it now.”
Or maybe you feel like Paul Rudd...
Really Confused...

I know, I know – it is a tough concept to swallow. However, stick with me for a second everyone; I am going to explain why you might actually like this book.

This book sounds at the very least, incredibly intriguing if not downright badass. The concept is something that is both familiar (is there anyone out there who does not know Romeo & Juliet?) and completely new and relevant. The two main characters come from opposite sides of a city divided by violence and crime; Kate is the only daughter of Verity’s infamous crime boss, who uses his monsters to ensure he maintains control of his half of the city, August is a monster, born out of tragic violence, who wants nothing more than to be human.

A human with a desire to control and frighten others into submission, and an actual Monster who wants peace but has the capability to cause mass murder. Who sounds more monstrous?

Victoria Schwab creates a dark, gritty urban landscape where monsters, both human and supernatural, lurk in the shadows. She is a superb writer – there is no arguing that the writing is brilliant while being easy to read. This is why I read her books; Schwab is an incredible storyteller with an innate ability to create a multifaceted world with complex, multidimensional characters and relationships. The lack of romance in this book is on point – if a romantic relationship had developed between Kate and August, it would not have worked for development of the story or the characters. So, if you are looking for a lusty, “instalove” relationship to drive a storyline, please look elsewhere as you will not find it here. This is a fast paced YA Urban fantasy with interesting characters and allusions to relevant social issues. It really is so well done.

That said – plot was lacking for me. I absolutely love the concept and character development in this book but am still unsure of where the plot is going with this. Plot development is slow throughout this book and as a reader, I have so many questions that I hope are answered in the sequel. I do not think that this will deter readers, however, because while plot is thin, there is plenty of action to get the reader through the book without being bored. Moreover, the cliffhanger at the end is perfect, leaving the reader in anticipation of the sequel.

At the end of the day, this is not my favorite Victoria Schwab book, BUT it is worth reading if you enjoy YA Fantasy that is original, well written and easy to read.
Buy This Savage Song

Mists of the Serengeti by Leylah Attar

Where are all of my Contemporary Romance readers?!
Have I got a book for you!
Rodel Emerson is looking for a place to call home. After a nomadic upbringing with her parents and sister, she yearns for roots and a place to plant them. Unlike her fun loving, free-spirited sister Mo, she is content with her position as a teacher and quiet afternoons spent reading in her library.

Jack Warden is as rugged and wild as the Tanzanian coffee farm where he grew up. A single father, he spends his days tending to the needs of his farm and doting on his daughter Lily who is the light of his life. Lily embodies everything free spirited and wonderful for Jack – sunshine, rainbows and yellow balloons, and together they live a happy existence on the farm.

When a bomb explodes in an attack at a local mall, Lily and Mo are caught in the blast, their lives abruptly taken from those they love, lost amidst the rubble and wreckage of the explosion.

Rodel comes to Tanzania to retrieve Mo’s belongings and finds that her sister’s time in Africa was spent helping children in danger find safe harbor – her mission only half complete. Rodel takes it upon herself to finish the work Mo started, and goes in search of a Tanzanian coffee farmer named Jack to help her. Bound by tragic circumstances, Jack and Rodel begin a journey to bring the children on Mo’s list to safety, and find their lives inextricably tangled in ways they never thought possible.

Mists of the Serengeti is a lush, evocative journey through the African plains. This book is beautifully written, emotional and stirring. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel; I found the setting to be unique and the characters well developed. The plot of the story falls a little flat for me – but this is not a plot book, it is a love story about grief, loss and finding purpose and new beginnings through tragedy. There are weak parts in the book where I feel like the author got a little caught up in the burning romance, but the final pages of this book are spectacular and soul crushing – I loved it.

Because I read and review a wide variety of books and genres and write for a broad audience, I feel a little compelled to let you know that while this book is categorized as part women’s contemporary fiction, part romance, it is largely a romance. If you are a reader who is sensitive to intimate love scenes, I would not recommend this book for you.
Just saying…

BUT - If you’re a fan of women’s contemporary/contemporary romance and are looking for a fabulous story with all the steamy, swoony scenes – you will not be disappointed.
You may even feel a little like Cher here...

Buy Mists of the Serengeti