Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Likeness

The Likeness
by Tana French

Genre:  Fiction
Published:  10/27/08 by Recorded Books
Length:  22 hours and 30 minutes
Format:  Audiobook

My rating:
3.5 out of 5 stars

The Likeness by Tana French is the second book in the Dublin Murder Squad Series.  It has been a while since I read the first book, In the Woods, which I really liked.  But I was pretty foggy on what happened in the first book (except I remember I didn't like the ending too much).  The two books are loosely connected with some of the same characters, but each one works as a stand alone story.  So it is not necessary to read In the Woods before reading The Likeness.

The Likeness features Detective Cassie Maddox, who is sent on an unusual undercover mission.  A woman's body is found, and the woman happens to look identically like Detective Maddox.  So Cassie pretends to live this woman's life, infiltrating her closest group of friends in an attempt to find the murderer.

If you are looking for a true to life crime story, this one doesn't quite fit the bill.  The idea of Cassie looking exactly like Lexie, the victim, is hard to believe, not to mention the idea of Cassie being able to act exactly like Lexie and convince all of Lexie's friends that she is actually Lexie.  You have to be willing to just accept this plot and go with it.  If you can do that, it is kind of a fun story, even it is far fetched.

I listened to the audiobook version of this book, and it took me a really long time to finish the whole 22 hour book.  I'm not sure if I would have felt this way if I was reading the book, but listening to it, I felt like it was just a little too long-winded at times.  

I found this to be an entertaining crime story with interesting characters.  I would definitely like to continue reading the books in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, as I have read good reviews of her other books as well.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Leaving Time

Leaving Time
by Jod Picoult

Genre:  Fiction
Published: 10/14/14 by Random House
Pages:  416
Format: Hardcover

My rating:
2.5 out of 5 stars

Jodi Picoult's latest novel, Leaving Time, is about a teen girl named Jenna who is on a search to find her mother, Alice.  Alice, an elephant researcher, disappeared after an accident at the elephant sanctuary where she lived and worked.  Jenna enlists the help of a psychic and a former detective to help with her search as she refuses to believe that her mother is dead.

If you love elephants, then you might love this book.  You really have to love elephants though because there is a lot of talk about elephants.  Too much, in my opinion.  I just didn't care about the elephants that much, which led to me skimming through many sections of this book.

Also, I just wasn't interested in the psychic parts of this story either.  So when you combine the elephants with the psychics, there was a huge portion of this book that did not hold my interest at all.  

Then there is the twist ending.  If you are familiar with Jodi Picoult at all, then you know that her books always have a twist ending.  Honestly, I think the best twist that Jodi Picoult could ever write would be to not write a twist at all, and then we would all fall out of our seats from shock!  In the case of Leaving Time, I did not see the twist coming at all.  So she did manage to surprise me.  However, I didn't like it all.  It was not an original idea.  It's been done before and better.  A certain movie comes to most people's minds, but I was reminded of another (much better!) book that I read earlier this year with a similar ending.  In Leaving Time, the ending didn't work and it felt like its only purpose was to surprise the reader.  I didn't feel like the ending worked in a believable way with the story she was telling.

With all of that said, I did read this book very quickly.  I will give Jodi Picoult credit...even when I don't like her books, I still find them to be very readable.  She can keep me turning pages, even with a lame story like this one.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer

The Retribution of Mara Dyer
by Michelle Hodkin

Genre:  Young Adult
Published:  11/4/14 by Simon and Schuster
Pages:  480
Format:  ebook

My rating:
4 out of 5 stars

I have been waiting (for the past three years!) to give my final rating for these books until I could read the final book. I truly enjoyed the first two books in the Mara Dyer series,b ut I didn't even write reviews for them.  I felt like the answers provided in the final book would help me to know just how much I liked (or possibly disliked?) these books. 

The Retribution of Mara Dyer was the series finale. It was not perfect, and I have a few major complaints (to be discussed below). Yet despite my complaints, I still really liked the series as a whole. I would give this book 4 stars, and I would rate the series as a whole at 4+ stars.

This series is about Mara Dyer, who has suffered through a serious accident and is experiencing hallucinations and other strange things.  She moves to new town, meets the mysterious Noah Shaw, and they both discover that they have unusual gifts/powers that they don't fully understand but which result in dangerous consequences and new enemies.

The Retribution begins with Mara locked up and drugged. With the help of some friends (and an enemy), she escapes and begins her quest to find answers, vengeance and Noah Shaw. The book is full of action and violence and murder! Hodkin did not shy away from anything in this book, and it is very fast paced. I feel like Hodkin's pacing through this entire series has been perfect. Unlike many trilogies full of "filler" pages where nothing seems to happen, this story just keeps moving and moving. Never a boring moment.

After the first two books, I had a lot of unanswered questions. I'm sure there was a lot of pressure on Michelle Hodkin to provide a final story that answers all of those questions. I haven't sat down to think through every single question I had from the first two books, but my initial thought is that she did a really great job of answering most all of the questions I had and wrapping up any plot holes. I'm not sure if all of the answers provided in this final book make complete sense, but I am willing to suspend my belief for a book like this. She definitely tried to give a complete explanation for what was happening, and I am grateful for that.

Now for my complaints. A few of these are kind of spoilerish, so I am going to give a warning now. Don't read the rest unless you have finished the book or are willing to have some plot points spoiled for you....

Let's be honest about why we all loved the first two books so much. The answer: Noah Shaw. Noah's character and his relationship with Mara are a huge part of the appeal of this story. Yet, Noah remains MIA for the first two thirds of this book. On the one hand, this worked well to create suspense for me. I was frantically reading and turning pages, wondering when in the world will Noah show up? On the other hand, I missed him. Considering that this was our last chance to learn more about him, I was disappointed that he was absent for so long. When I think about the plot and the changes that take place in Mara's character, I understand why Noah had to be absent for the sake of the story. But for the sake of the reader, I think we needed more of him in this story.

Speaking of the changes in Mara, I personally didn't like the transformation that she underwent in this book. I am not a big fan of the idea of revenge in the first place, and I didn't like that Mara turned into such a vengeful person. When these changes first started happening to her, she wanted to stop them. In this book, she embraced them. While I understand how this fits in with the story, I didn't personally love it, and I wish she would have tried to keep fighting against the changes that were happening to her rather than being so willing to accept them. I am a bit fearful of what she would do if this story were to continue.

When Noah and Mara are finally reunited, they are different people and their relationship is different. It didn't feel the same as it did in the first two books, and I think this is purposeful on the part of the author. After all that has happened and all they have learned, their relationship won't ever be the same. I found this to be bittersweet. I did like the idea of how Noah's purpose was to slay the dragon and yet instead he fell in love with it. There is something beautifully tragic about that idea. It's sad to think of what could happen to their relationship in the future. I like how Hodkin left things open ended for Noah and Mara. I don't think this story was ever meant to have a happily ever after ending. But, I would also love to learn a little more about what happens to Noah and Mara, and whether or not she does eventually "love him to ruins." Perhaps a fourth book???

I really loved the last few pages of the epilogue. It summarized how I have felt about the series and its genre throughout all three books, and I loved how it cleverly tied back to the first book. This finale didn't quite end exactly as I would have chosen, but despite my personal preferences, I do have a great appreciation for the story as a whole. This was a crazy, fun, unpredictable series of books, and I enjoyed reading through Mara Dyer's journey.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Not Fade Away

Not Fade Away
by Rebecca Alexander

Genre:  Memoir
Published:  9/11/14 by Gotham
Pages:  320
Format:  ARC

My rating:
2 out of 5 stars

I received an advanced copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewer's program.

Rebecca Alexander has Usher syndrome, which causes her to gradually lose her eyesight and hearing throughout her life until it is completely gone.  This memoir tells her story from finding out the Usher diagnosis to describing what it is like to be in the middle of losing both her sight and hearing.  

The idea of losing both sight and hearing, both at the same time, with no way to stop it from happening, is horrific.  Reading Rebecca's story and learning more about her illness was interesting.  However, the actual writing and telling of the story was less than stellar.  The story was told somewhat chronologically but there were some chapters that felt very random.  Overall, I found the pacing of the book to be very slow.  I also felt like it was very repetitive, like she was explaining the same feelings over and over again.

I am glad that I read this book, as I had never heard of Usher syndrome before and I appreciate being made more aware of it and learning about Rebecca Alexander.  However, I can't say that I really enjoyed the actual reading of the book much at all.