I See You by Clare Mackintosh

i-see-youI sped through I See You by Clare Mackintosh like I was in a race. It was easy to get into, with a thrilling plot and conversational tone, so I couldn’t put it down beyond breaking for snacks.

As Zoe Walker is commuting home on the London Tube from her 9-5 job, she sees her photograph in the classifieds section of the newspaper. This both shocks and disturbs her because the advertisement seems to be for a dating service that she didn’t register for. The next day another woman’s photograph is in the ad followed by a different woman the day after that. When one of these photographed women winds up dead, Zoe begins to panic…

Readers are brought along on an eerie twist-filled ride as Zoe discovers what her photograph in the advertisement means and just how it got there without her consent.

A common theme in I See You is the idea of our routines, especially commuting to and from work each day. In particular, the things we don’t pay attention to because we’re each absorbed in our own thoughts as we’re trying to get from one place to the next, hopefully without delay. This really sparked my interest and Mackintosh spun a gripping story from it.

i-see-you-by-clare-mackintoshI had high expectations when I started reading because I loved I Let You Go (one of my favorite reads in 2016), which is another book by Clare Mackintosh. I See You did not disappoint, although the plot twist wasn’t quite as stunning as the one in I Let You Go.

I definitely recommend I See You by Clare Mackintosh and if you haven’t already read it, I Let You Go as well! I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta

the-last-good-girl-by-allison-leottaThe Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta hits home. These days the news is filled with stories of sexual assault on college campuses; Leotta has created a mystery novel that brings this issue to light through a gripping chase. I want to point out that this is the fifth book in the Anna Curtis series, however it’s the first one I’ve picked up and it was easy to read as a standalone.

Emily Shapiro, A freshman at Tower University, is excited to go to her first college party. A party filled with dancing, maybe a little drinking, and boys. Little does she know that the party won’t hold the happy memories she hopes for – instead she is drugged and raped. When Emily goes missing, prosecutor Anna Curtis is called in.

Emily was last seen on video running away from her accused rapist and the story spirals from there. The book is told from multiple perspectives. From Anna, from Emily’s video blogs leading up to the time she went missing, and from a freshman pledge in the fraternity where Emily was raped. These were really contrasting perspectives that gave the story some depth.

The Last Good Girl kept me hooked, because of the horrifying and terrible occurrences of sexual assaults on college campuses, and by the chase to find Emily. I definitely recommend this book (warning: there’s some graphic content) and would read another by Allison Leotta. I appreciate her ability to write a gripping mystery novel that brings attention to such a serious issue – for that, I want to thank her.

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

you-will-know-me“She turned and, for the first time ever, he looked at her like he knew she was lying. Which she was, though she wasn’t sure why. But in that look, his eyes dark and sad, she knew something had ended, that great parental loss, the moment they realize you’re not perfect, and maybe even a little worse.”

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott is one of the Book of the Month Club December selections. This story is about the Knoxes, a family that revolves around the gymnastics career of the daughter, Devon, who has dreams of going for Olympic gold. While Devon spends countless hours training for this dream, her family spends just as many transporting her to and from practices, events, and more. It’s a huge commitment and because of this, the gymnastics community is tight knit and gossip-filled. When a member of this group dies, it sends the community spiraling and threatens to ruin everything that Devon, and her family, has worked for….

Filled with lies, rumors, and betrayals, You Will Know Me is a fast-paced chase to find out how a man died and whether Devon has what it takes to make it to the top.

you-will-know-me-by-megan-abbottDespite the interesting dynamic of the ultimate gymnastics dream, this book underwhelmed me in the end. It was a quick read, which I appreciate in mystery novels, but the plot twists were a bit predictable and most of the characters (besides the youngest Knox child, Drew) were unlikeable to me. Overall, You Will Know Me is a quick-paced mystery from a unique perspective, but it wasn’t one of my favorites this year.

Look at You Now by Liz Pryor

look-at-you-now-by-liz-pryorWhen Liz Pryor, a senior in high school about to graduate and start the rest of her life, finds out that she’s pregnant, her parents decide to send her away. The year is 1979 and according to her parents, no one can know about it, not even their friends, family, or Liz’s siblings. Liz is sent to a facility for girls “in her condition” and her world shifts while she’s there. The place turns out to be a locked government-run facility.

At first Liz (who is from an upper-class family) feels completely at odds with the girls (many of whom came from the foster care system). As she settles in though, she bonds with the girls and in some cases finds deep friendships. Liz gains a new perspective that causes her to reevaluate her own life.

I appreciated the honesty throughout the book and seeing Liz grow as she faced an incredibly challenging experience with grace and maturity, especially for someone so young. The book emphasized how much her pregnancy and her time with the girls shaped her. I wonder whether they are still in touch today or ever connected later on after leaving the facility.

look-at-you-nowI enjoyed both the pace and the length of the story, it was just right in my opinion. I definitely recommend Look at You Now and have quite a few follow-up questions – I may have to do some digging for a follow-up interview with Liz Pryor!

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

the-secret-historyAs soon as I finished The Secret History by Donna Tartt, I wanted to pick it back up and read it again. Needless to say, this is a very good story.

Richard, who is from an area of California described as dry and desolate, comes to Hampden College in Vermont. On campus, he sees group of Classics students (the only Classics majors in the school actually) and he becomes instantly infatuated. At Hampden, Classics is an exclusive course (only five students per one professor), but somehow Richard is accepted in.

The five, now six with Richard, students are misfits of sorts and are deeply influenced by the thinking and practices of their Greek studies. That is, until things go too far and everything seems to spiral out of control.

The characters, especially the six Classics students and their relationships with one another, fascinated me. Tartt is a master of dialogue – I could hear each character distinctly by the tone of their voice.

I also enjoyed that the narrator (Richard) speaks directly to the audience, pulling us readers into the story!

the-secret-history-by-donna-tarttI read another one of Tartt’s books, The Goldfinch, a few years ago and while I was intrigued by the story and the characters, the book lost me when it droned on and on in the end. I thought that it could have packed a bigger punch without the last 200 pages. BUT (and that’s a big but) I loved The Secret History.

Some of the passages I marked include:

“’Death is the mother of beauty,’ said Henry. ‘And what is beauty?’ ‘Terror.’”

“’…then what is desire? We think we have many desires, but in fact we have only one. What is it?’ ‘To live,’ said Camilla.” 

“But of course I didn’t see this crucial moment then for what it was; I supposed we never do.”

“She was the Queen who finished out the suit of dark Jacks, dark King, and Joker.” 

“He was like a propagandist, routinely withholding information, leaking it only when it served his purposes.”

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet

the guineveresFour girls, all named Guinevere, find themselves at The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent and quickly become an inseparable group. The Guineveres by Sarah Domet shares their story as the girls face the hardships of living in the convent, abandoned by their parents, and become one another’s family.

The nuns of the convent raise the girls and teach them to have faith and live obedient lives. After years of waiting, they grow weary and long for freedom so when a group of injured soldiers are brought to the convent to heal, The Guineveres see these boys as their way out. In other words, they become obsessed with the soldiers.

I thought it was interesting that at times throughout the book, the girls were described as a unit, as The Guineveres, rather than as each individual member of the group. Throughout the story we learn each of their heartbreaking revival stories and can begin to understand the circumstances that led them to their places in the convent.

the guineveres by sarah dometWhile the pace of the book quickened towards the end, the story didn’t really come to life for me as much as I would have liked.

Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

family treeTwo words: maple syrup. Not only is Family Tree by Susan Wiggs filled with the delicacy, I also think it’s a good representation of this sweet feel-good story. Family and friends, love and heartbreak, forgiveness and struggle, these are all themes within the story along with some incredibly decadent descriptions of food.

When the walls of Annie Rush’s well-constructed life (charming husband, dream job as a producer for a hit cooking TV show, beautiful LA house) come falling down, she retreats to her childhood home of Switchback, Vermont. Returning to her family, and seeing her long lost high school sweetheart so many years later, Annie must find herself again after losing so much. The book moves between scenes of her childhood, teen years, and adult life as we’re navigated through her experiences.

The characters were easy to like, especially Annie’s tell-it-how-she-sees-it nature. The Vermont setting is what differentiated this book in my mind from other easy-going reads. Wonderful descriptions of orange-hued fall leaves, softly falling snow, and maples trees pulled me into the story and left me thinking that it might be time to book a trip to New England.

Family Tree by Susan WiggsFamily Tree is a good chick-lit read, one that’s easy to fall into, with a satisfying ending.