In The Woods by Tana French

in-the-woods-by-tana-frenchTana French is a name one hears floating around a lot in the book world. She’s a bestselling mystery author and I’ve finally read one of her books: In The Woods. This mystery novel stood apart from others I’ve read because of the two intertwining (but at the same time, separate) mysteries within one story.

Schools out for the summer and a trio of best friends fill their days by playing in the woods of the Dublin suburb where they live. One evening, when it’s time for dinner, the children are nowhere to be found. The parents panic, the police are called, and only one of the three children is found and he has no memory of what’s happened.

20 years later, Rob (the boy who was found in the woods) is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad when a girl is found dead in those very same woods. Rob and his partner, Detective Cassie Maddox, are on the case to find what (who) happened to this little girl. Although Rob doesn’t remember what occurred that terrible day 20 years ago, he has the eerie feeling that it might be connected to his current investigation. Throughout the story, Rob attempts to find the little girl’s killer as well as solve the mystery that’s been haunting him for two decades.

in-the-woodsFirst, I want to say that I enjoyed this book. I thought the characters were believable (and at times likable) and the plot was well constructed. However, this wasn’t an un-put-down-able mystery for me. It was slow going.

I’m not going to share any spoilers – however, the ending left me both satisfied and unsatisfied at the same time. I’m tempted to pick up the next book in the series just to get some answers! I recommend buddy-reading In The Woods with a friend who you can discuss all these plot twists with.

Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

“He loved the woman I was before I was in love with him.”

marrow-island-by-alexis-m-smithAlthough Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith begins when Lucie Bowen returns to Marrow Island, Washington, the story really begins 20 years earlier when the May Day Quake (a huge earthquake) rocked the west coast. At the same time, Lucie’s father died in an explosion at the oil refinery on Marrow Island. To escape this tragedy, Lucie and her mother left the islands and didn’t look back. That is, until her childhood friend Katie tells her that a community is living on Marrow Island again and that it’s no longer uninhabitable.

Lucie returns to the islands and finds a tight-knit community (with a slight cult-mentality in my opinion) restoring the land on which they live. In their quest to restore life on Marrow Island, the group takes things too far and Lucie walks right into the middle of it all…

I’m from the Pacific Northwest and I really enjoy reading about places you’ve lived from someone else’s perspective. Although Marrow Island is fictional, it’s based on real places and I could see similarities in the story to cities and islands in Washington. Marrow Island also focused on how people recover and move forward after huge natural disasters like the one described in the story.

marrow-islandWhile I think the idea for this book is interesting, the story jumps around and leaves a lot untold (allowing for readers to fill these gaps with assumptions), which isn’t my favorite writing style.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

the-girl-with-the-lower-back-tattooThis is what I like to call a “mixed review.” The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer is a collection of essays ranging from her very first stand-up comedy show to the time she got arrested with her sister for shoplifting (she clearly points out that she doesn’t condone stealing). If you pick up this book, expect stories that are funny and raunchy along with ones that are serious and sad.

I read the first half of the book, but the format lost me. I think Schumer is quite funny, however, I don’t think her humor translated well to the written word. I put down the book for a while and placed a hold for the audio version from the library, and that’s how I finished the book. What’s really great about the audiobook of The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo is that Schumer reads the story herself! So on the one hand, I didn’t really enjoy reading the book, but I definitely connected with the story while listening to Schumer read the essays herself.

Beyond stories of her career, childhood and relationships, Schumer also discusses sexual assault, domestic abuse, body image and much more. These essays aren’t just funny bits filled with fluff; Schumer uses the book as a way to discuss serious issues as well. At the same time though, I didn’t need to hear so much about her beloved stuffed animal collection.

I recommend this one for big fans of Amy Schumer; otherwise, I might suggest another book instead!

To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

to-capture-what-we-cannot-keep-by-beatrice-colinThe year is 1886 and Caitriona Wallace, a young Scottish widow, has come to Paris as the chaperone of the young and naïve Alice and Jamie. While on a hot air balloon ride, Cait meets Émile Nouguier, one of the engineers working on the Eiffel Tower, and an instant connection sparks between them. To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin is a patient love story crossing social classes and countries.

In contrast to Cait’s calm and composed demeanor, Alice and Jamie are both slightly obnoxious and unaware, although they aren’t malicious about it. During 1886, women don’t have many rights and acting as a chaperone is the best option Cait can find to secure an income.

An ongoing focus of the story is the construction of the Eiffel Tower and how controversial it was at the time. I had no idea how negatively people felt towards the tower, especially because it’s become a world-famous landmark. This was one of my favorite aspects of the book.

to-capture-what-we-cannot-keepReading To Capture What We Cannot Keep felt like a trip through time to the beautiful streets of Paris. I definitely recommend this one!

Here are a few quotes that I marked:

“Possession in the beat of the blood, but not in the heart.”

“…The city had been constructed for one class at the expense of another.” 

“And he wanted to capture what he couldn’t keep, the fleeting, the transient.”

“And the memory of her spun through him like a wheel on an axle, around and around without any sign of slowing.”

“She looked at him directly when he spoke, as if seeking him out, as if trying to read everything he had ever been and ever would be.”

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.