All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Still Missing – Chevy Stevens

Still Missing wrapped up my Read-A-Thon. When the clock struck 11pm here in Australia, I was approximately two-thirds of the way through this novel. I paused briefly, to write a wrap up post and then I went to bed and finished it. It was incredible.

Annie O’Sullivan is a 32 year old real estate agent. She has what she would term as a good life – she has her own house, a lovely boyfriend, a devoted dog. She has a fractured relationship with her mother and she has some tragedy in her past with the loss of her father and sister but she is doing well. Then along comes the open house day that changes her whole life.

Just as Annie has given up and is about to leave, an unassuming, polite man arrives and asks to look at the house. Annie is keen to really leave and go and meet her boyfriend Luke for dinner but she decides that there’s no harm in showing him around. She has a good feeling about him, and feels like that maybe, he’s ready to buy and she can close the deal. Oh, how wrong she is. Annie is kidnapped by the man at gunpoint and bundled into his van. He takes her to an isolated cabin that he has ‘fitted out’ especially for her. She can’t escape, she can’t even access the stove or the oven, all the crockery is actually heavy duty plastic, furniture is bolted to the floor. Here, the man (the name he gives her at the house is David, but Annie begins to refer to him only as The Freak from her time in the cabin onward) plans to keep her, to be self-sufficient, to escape society. He rapes her, he beats her, he starves her, he acts out bizarre rituals with her, he enforces strict rules on her, he plays mental mind games with her.

None of that is a spoiler as the book begins after Annie escapes and is told through flashback in scenes with her therapist. We don’t ever hear from the therapist, it reads as if Annie is writing letter after letter, or speaking completely uninterrupted, like an internal monologue. She spares no details in these sessions and we are treated to the sheer horror that she experienced every day at the hands and will of The Freak. He kept her for almost a year and it’s a year that has scarred itself onto her psyche almost irreparably. Some months after Annie has escaped and is back in her own house, she cannot break the habits that The Freak enforced upon her, like only going to the bathroom a certain amount of times per day and at certain times of the day. Her body and mind has been so trained by him, by his will, and knowing what will happen when she breaks the rules, that even after she is free of him, she cannot be free of his rules. She is trapped mentally long after she has freed herself physically.

This book was one heck of a ride. It was absolutely engrossing from the start and I was sucked in only to be spat out again 4hours later feeling like I’d run a marathon. It’s disturbing, it’s cruel, it’s sickening, it’s disgusting and it’s also amazing. It’s a show of incredible strength and Annie is something to be admired. She’s a basket case but she’s a functioning basket case and she’s trying hard to be ‘normal’ again. It makes you wonder, with so many of these kidnapping cases reported in the media the past few years (the Josef Friztl case, the Natascha Kampusch case, the Jayce Lee Dugard case) you wonder how the victims cope with entry into the real world again. So much is made of their experiences during the kidnapping, and rightfully so, but I can’t help but wonder how the story goes for those victims after they are found/freed/etc. How do they cope with their new-found or returned freedom? This novel deals with that issue in a believable and heart-wrenching way. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be locked up in a cabin, raped repeatedly, beaten repeatedly but I have no trouble believing in the character of Annie, a woman who still sleeps in her closet weeks, months after her escape.

This book was really an up and down read and I can’t say I enjoyed it every step of the way. In fact it made me cry at one point but no matter how it made me feel, I still had to keep reading. A gripping, polished debut and I can’t wait for her next novel.

8/10

Book #77 of my 100 Book Challenge

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Mortal Remains – Kathy Reichs

This was the 3rd novel I read for the Read-A-Thon.

I quite like the Temperance Brennan novels. I’ve read all of them and so far there had been only 1 that I really didn’t enjoy at all, which I think is a pretty good strike rate when there’s 12 novels to the series. Well unfortunately, my toll now stands at 2/13. I didn’t get into this book either.

Like Brennan, Reichs herself is a forensic anthropologist and she always claims that she never writes a novel and puts Temperance in a medical situation that she herself hasn’t been in personally. She’s obviously very smart, very knowledgable in her field but for the average layman who doesn’t have a science brain (like myself) the long winded descriptions of procedures, tests, etc can, very occasionally, feel like a lecture. Even when Temperance is supposed to be using “dumbed down” language in this novel, it often doesn’t feel like that. Or maybe I’m just more dumbed down than the people in the book she’s explaining things to? Anyway, it sometimes leads to me flicking pages in boredom until the pages of scientific descriptions stop. And that happened quite often in this novel.

Firstly – the abbreviations. There are oh so many of them and my brain can only keep track of so many acronyms at a time. It’s even harder because I’m not American and don’t have even a passing knowledge with some of these organisations. But I’m getting ahead of myself…plot first.

A floater is found somewhere in Quebec, Canada and due to being in the water, the body isn’t easily identifiable so Tempe is called in to do her thing. Fingerprints identity the man as John Lowery which is a slight problem, as it’s 2010 and apparently, John Lowery was declared dead in 1968 in Vietnam after a Chopper crash. Everyone is much confused – if Lowery was a Vietnam soldier killed in action, how did he come to be in Canada? Tempe exumes the grave of John Lowery in North Carolina and finds that there is a partial skeleton inside that is supposed to be Lowery. Tempe decides to head to Hawaii to the headquarters of JPAC (one of those acronyms!) an organisation who dedicates itself to recovering American soldiers killed in conflict and bringing them home. Soon after arriving in Hawaii there turns up another body and this one has John Lowery’s dogtags. So 3 bodies, all supposedly the same man. Which is the real Lowery and who are the other two? Tempe as always, is determined to find answers and justice for the fallen. Add in a threat on her life, her daughter Katy in a depression and Ryan and his daughter Lily and that’s about the ballgame.

The plot was actually kind of interesting but I’m used to more action within these novels. There’s always lots of creeping around and questioning people and Tempe usually getting herself involved in all sorts of things that she shouldn’t be involved in and a pretty decent climax. This book lacked…a lot of things. Okay there was an attempt on Tempe’s life but it was pretty lame, came out of nowhere and then totally fizzled out and was related to some random side case that Tempe got pulled in on out of no where. There was so much talking and explaining of organisations and DNA and other sorts of procedures and it was boring. The idea of an organisation that works to bring fallen soldiers home to their families for a proper burial was nice but there were some glaring errors made by an incompetent employee that led to remains being identified incorrectly which has potential disaster written all over it. I’ve no idea if that sort of thing occurs in real life, it probably does. Mistakes are made every day, I know it sometimes can’t be helped, but you’d have to feel for people who were told remains were those of their son/father/brother/husband/etc and then later it turned out that they weren’t.

Tempe’s daughter Katy features more prominently in this one than she does in other novels and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Katy is a selfish and often immature 24yo who is best left to just being the voice on the end of the phone whining about how much she hates her boring job now that she’s graduated from university after a whopping 6 years. Ryan’s daughter Lily appears more in this book too, mostly just to squabble with Katy. They both act like they’re 12 years old for most of their time together and it’s mostly just irritating. I think both of them could do with a good slap. Even Ryan was a nothing character this time around. And yes, she’s still calling him Ryan! Can’t she call him Andy even once? Or Andrew? Anything other than his last name, which, for a guy that she’s slept with on and off for years now, is fairly ridiculous. It bugs me probably more than it should but hearing her refer to him as Ryan was confusing because I started to think his name was Ryan for a while, forgetting about the whole Andrew bit. At least this book laid off the devotion to describing his eyes twenty-seven different shades of blue.

I usually don’t mind the fast pacing but the sentence fragments in this novel were very offputting and a bit reminiscent of the other book in this series I didn’t enjoy, Cross Bones. At least Tempe and Ryan weren’t acting like 4yos although I swear at the end of the previous book, 206 Bones that they were just about back together. However when Mortal Remains opens up it’s pretty clear that they are most definitely at an ‘off’ stage of their relationship. Ryan does a bit of half-hearted trying to get things going again but that mostly just involves him making vaguely suggestive remarks about getting back into Tempe’s pants and Tempe pretending that she doesn’t hear/understand what he’s saying. Usually there’s a bit of sexual tension between them but in this novel it was completely absent! I think the time has come for Tempe to make a decision about Ryan and if Reichs has no intentions getting them back together than they need to move him into the background. And if they are going to get back together, well then they need to do it. Without them having issues and breaking up in like every book from here on in. It’s just getting really old.

Choppy disjointed writing, far too much explanation and lecturing on details of everything, lack of character development/growth, lack of sexual tension between anyone, confusing plot with far too many bodies and too many peripheral characters, not to mention what felt like hundreds of acronyms. It was confusing – I had trouble remembering what organisation did what, what they used to be called before X happened, or they merged with Y, etc. If I hadn’t of been reading this for the read-a-thon it’s quite likely I might never have finished it. That’s kind of sad, because I normally like these books quite a bit.

** Please note: In the US (and probably everywhere else) this novel goes by the name of Spider Bones. I have no idea why it has a different name here, all previous 12 books have all had the same name as international versions. The title of Spider Bones actually makes much more sense, as John Lowery, who the whole novel is basically about, goes by the nickname of Spider.

4/10

Book #75 of my 75 Book Challenge. Wow, I’m so pleased that I reached the second leg of my challenge so quickly. I was going to upgrade my challenge from 50 Books for 2010 straight to 100 but I changed my mind thinking that I might not have enough time. I’m going to have a go now, of getting to 100 novels for the year before 31st December.

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Forget You – Jennifer Echols

This was the second book I read for the 24hr Read-A-Thon. I’m just going to get this out of the way right now – I love Doug. Love him utterly as a character, wish I could kidnap him and keep him sort of love. Okay now that I’ve got that embarrassing fangirl moment out of the way, let’s go.

On the outside, it looks like Zoey has it all. She’s attractive, popular, rich, the captain of the high school swim team. Her father owns a water slide park and she works there over the summer and has used that to get most of her swim-team friends summer jobs also. Unfortunately, look a bit below the surface and you’ll see that Zoey’s life is about to hit meltdown point. Her dad has knocked up his 24yo girlfriend who works at the amusement park and Zoey and her mother have had to leave the family mansion and live in a rental apartment. To top  it off, Zoey came home and found her mother unconscious from a dose of pills and she is rushed to the hospital.

Zoey’s dad – pretty much a douche. Not only was he cheating on her mother and seems to keep everything in the separation despite Zoey’s mother coming from money, but when he arrives at the hospital after Zoey’s mother has had her overdose, all he seems to care about is bullying everyone who knows. He threatens Zoey, the police officer who arrived on the scene etc – to keep quiet so that no one finds out the ex-wife he left has tried to top herself and had to go to the loony bin. Zoey has noticed in the waiting room that the cop’s younger brother has turned up with food for him. Aah, enter Doug. Doug who is on the swim team with her, Doug who asked her to the year 9 dance just before he disappeared into juvie, Doug who has seemed to loathe her ever since he got back. Zoey realises with horror that if Doug knows, then soon enough everyone is going to know.

After leaving the hospital, Zoey is feeling reckless enough to go down to the beach for one of the swim team parties where she hooks up with Brandon, who works at the amusement park with her and who is on the football team. Inexplicably, especially after listening to and giving Brandon advice on all his summer conquests, Zoey seems to think that her and Brandon are going out after they seal the deal in his Buick at the beach. I don’t quite understand why she thinks that, but she does. They have sex, then they basically go back to the party and go their separate ways.

Zoey has to move in with her dad while her mother is in a psychiatric ward getting diagnosed and treated and her father and his girlfriend are planning to elope to Hawaii. Zoey goes to yet another party (a record for her!) and she has a wreck in her Bug on the way home which Doug pulls her out of. She can’t remember anything for a couple of hours prior to the wreck or anything after Doug pulls her out of the wreck until she wakes up in her bed the next morning. When her dad realises that she can’t really remember what happened, his reactions is something along the lines of “oh God, we’ll have to cancel Hawaii because someone else is loony now!”. He is a lovely person, yes? Zoey quickly realises that pretending that she remembers everything is the only way to go here, so that’s what she does. To everyone. And that is why she is massively confused when Doug comes over to see how she is and seems to be under the impression that they are together…. And where is Brandon? He’s no where to be seen. Zoey needs to find out what the heck happened that she can’t remember but the only person who seems to know is Doug. And is she ready to hear it?

Firstly, Zoey irritated me just a little. I can understand why she didn’t want her father to know why she couldn’t remember but the way she went about getting Doug to tell her what happened was a bit silly. I understand that she thinks that she can’t trust him because of the whole thinking-he-hates-her thing and the juvie thing but honestly, he does nothing for her to think that and she must realise pretty quickly that he’s not going to tell anyone about her mother. And the whole “but Brandon is my boyfriend” when clearly he was not was just ridiculous. For a smart girl, when it comes to Brandon, Zoey really is quite stupid. But despite that, I liked her as a character. She was flawed, she allowed herself to read more into a hook up than there really was, which I found very real. She was obviously under a lot of mental stress with not being able to see her mother while they were treating her (this turns out to be pretty important) and the callous disregard for her welfare shown by her own father and she made decisions that I think she would probably not have made if she wasn’t under so much pressure.

Brandon is a bit of a cliche (do people really act like that? maybe they do) but as previously mentioned, I did love Doug. Yeah he starts off looking a bit 2D – the bad boy who has been to juvie who apparently hates our main character. But the more we get to know him we realise that he is so much more than just the bad boy. It was a really wonderful journey, learning all the little intricacies and personality traits of Doug and I almost started to think he was too good for Zoey when she couldn’t see what was right in front of her face! But Zoey’s journey is one of discovery too and there are several things she must learn and see for herself before she can make the decisions that are right for her.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a nice, easy read that I flipped through in probably under two hours but it wasn’t silly or vacuous or anything like that. I have heard pretty good things about Jennifer Echols and if all her books are like this, I can well understand why. I’ll definitely be looking for some more of hers because I really think she can write a story. She sucks you in and gives you characters you can relate to (or dream about!) and a plot that is as interesting as it is easy to read. This book is like fresh strawberries rather than candy- sweet but not saccharine and it leaves you satisfied.

9/10

Book #74 of my 75 Book Challenge

Looking for another review? Check out Shannon’s over at Giraffe Days

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Before We Say Goodbye – Gabriella Ambrosio

This was the first book I tackled for Dewey’s 24hr Read-A-Thon. I picked it up from the Book Depository in the first order I did with them after reading a review on The Book Whisperer. I’ve mentioned before I have a long standing interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that comes from my studies in political science and international relations. I’ve written a couple of papers on it and although I’ve slacked off in recent years on keeping up with the issues as much as I did, I still take an interest. So I wanted to read this book the moment I heard about it.

Before We Say Goodbye is written as a third person narrative switching between quite a few people in the lead up to a terrorist suicide bombing. Dima, a Palestinian girl of eighteen who is thinking of her future – marriage to her cousin Faris, further studies, quite a lot of freedom. Myriam, a Jewish girl of the same age has yet to recover from the loss of her best friend Michael, who himself was the victim of a bombing recently. They had plans to return to America, where they had both lived at various times in their lives, looking to return to the land of the free. That plan has been cut short now and Myriam is lost. She doesn’t know what she wants to do. Abraham is a store security guard, possessed of an uncanny ability to know when someone is walking into his store with plans. Plans that could be deadly. He receives a call in the morning and is given the choice of two locations and he chooses the supermarket so that he may get home early to spend time with his younger wife and their two sons. It is a choice that will end his life. Ghassan is 23, a Palestinian and explosives expert who is co-ordinating the next attack. He is meeting with the young girl who has made the choice of self-sacrifice.

Before We Say Goodbye is a tiny novel, clocking in at just 145 pages. Each ‘chapter’ is an hour out of the eventful day, clocking in with each character so that we can see what they are doing. Starting at 7am and ending at 2pm when the bomb goes off, the author manages to pack the small novel full of thoughts, emotions and actions. There is no judgement here, there is no preaching. There is no Israeli propaganda, there is no Palestinian propaganda. That isn’t the point. You are given just a snippet of this conflict, just an insight into the lives of two similar girls – same age, who live near each other and study, who have seen terrible things as a part of their everyday lives. Who have faced losses and felt anger. One of them makes a choice, to fight back against the injustices she has seen, to bring about the kind of suffering she has experienced. She is determined to take out many – her life is worth a hundred lives!

This novel has been made required reading for high schoolers in the author’s native Italy and in universities in countries like Australia. It has been published in both Hebrew and Arabic and is used in both Israel and Palestine as an education tool which I think is just an incredible thing.  If you’re interested in reading a wholly non-judgmental book free of opinions and bias then this really is a book you should pick up. It’s so many things – engrossing, insightful, balanced and the translation, by Alastair McEwan, is perfect . I’ve already moved it to the top of Rob’s TBR pile!

8/10

(Book #73 of my 75 Book Challenge)

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Read-A-Thon Update #6 and wrap up

Title of book(s) read since last update: About 2/3 of Still Missing, by Chevy Stevens
Number of books read since you started: 4.5
Pages read since last update: 232
Running total of pages read since you started: 1276
Amount of time spent reading since last update: About 2hrs
Running total of time spent reading since you started: (keep track of this one to be eligible for a prize!) About 10.5hrs
Mini-challenges completed: 0
Other participants you’ve visited: About 15
Prize you’ve won: 0

Well my first Read-A-Thon has drawn to a close! It’s 11pm at night here now and I’m engrossed in Still Missing still but I’ve taken a brief break to do my final update post. Overall, considering I didn’t start until after 8am this morning I’m very happy with how I went today! I read over 4 and a half books in under half the time of the read-a-thon. I’d love to give 24hrs a go next time! It’s been fun! I’ll have to hop around to some blogs and catch up with what other people have been up to. I’ve been off the computer for the last 4hrs while I bathed my son and put him to bed and then got stuck into Still Missing. I’ll definitely be taking part in future read-a-thons! Hope everyone who participated had a tonne of fun!

I want to go to bed now but Still Missing has creeped me the heck out….and yet I must finish it. I’m going to have a tonne of reviews to do over the next few days.

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Read-A-Thon Update #5

Title of book(s) read since last update: The rest of Mortal Remains, by Kathy Reichs and Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Number of books read since you started: 4
Pages read since last update: 414
Running total of pages read since you started: 1044
Amount of time spent reading since last update: About 3hrs
Running total of time spent reading since you started: (keep track of this one to be eligible for a prize!) About 8.5hrs
Mini-challenges completed: 0
Other participants you’ve visited: About 15
Prize you’ve won: 0

There’s 3hrs and 20m to go and I’m hoping to maybe get in another book before the end. We’ll see how I go!

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Read-A-Thon Update #4

Title of book(s) read since last update: 2/3 of Mortal Remains, by Kathy Reichs
Number of books read since you started: Soon to be 3
Pages read since last update: 194
Running total of pages read since you started: 630
Amount of time spent reading since last update: About 2hrs
Running total of time spent reading since you started: (keep track of this one to be eligible for a prize!) About 5.5hrs
Mini-challenges completed: 0
Other participants you’ve visited: About 15
Prize you’ve won: 0

I’ve slowed down a bit as I’m reading a normal-length novel atm and I had a bit of a break to get us all lunch and have a chat to my friend Ree from over at Literary Obsession who is also participating in the readathon.

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Read-A-Thon Update #3

Well it’s midday here on the east coast of Australia and I’ve been going for just over 3.5 hours! I’m pretty happy with how I’m going so far – it’s a beautiful spring day here and it’s getting quite warm so I’m tossing up taking Read-A-Thon outside for a little while!

Title of book(s) read since last update: The other half of Forget You, by Jennifer Echols
Number of books read since you started: 2
Pages read since last update: 156
Running total of pages read since you started: 436
Amount of time spent reading since last update: About an hour
Running total of time spent reading since you started: (keep track of this one to be eligible for a prize!) Just over 3.5hrs
Mini-challenges completed: 0
Other participants you’ve visited: About 10
Prize you’ve won: 0

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Read-A-Thon Update #2

It’s been about an hour and a half since my last update so I thought I’d sneak in another one!

Title of book(s) read since last update: Almost half of Forget You by Jennifer Echols

Number of books read since you started: 1.5
Pages read since last update: 136
Running total of pages read since you started: 280
Amount of time spent reading since last update: About an hour
Running total of time spent reading since you started: (keep track of this one to be eligible for a prize!) About 2hrs
Mini-challenges completed: 0
Other participants you’ve visited: About half a dozen
Prize you’ve won: 0

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Read-A-Thon – Mid Event Meme

Ok so it’s not really the middle of the event for me given I’ve just started! But I thought I’d do this little meme anyway just for fun!

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? Forget You, by Jennifer Echols
2. How many books have you read so far? 1 – Before We Say Goodbye, by Gabriella Ambrosio
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I think finally starting The Hunger Games
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Mmm sort of. There’s stuff I should really be doing today but I’m trying to put it off in order to get a few books in.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Well, I had to sleep, as it started at 11pm for me 😦 I wish I could’ve stayed up all night but that’s not really an option when my partner works nights and we have a toddler. Someone needs to be half awake today to make sure he gets what he needs!
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? The level of participation! So many book bloggers out there all getting involved! It’s great
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Not really!
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Hmm, I’d probably try and work things out a bit better time wise. With more notice I could easily make some arrangements to get more reading time in
9. Are you getting tired yet? Well no, as I only got up 2hrs ago!
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? I don’t think I’ve been at it long enough to have any advice for anyone!
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