The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

Sometimes a book is so endearing and nostalgic to teenage years that you can’t help getting brought along for the ride. For me, The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak is one of these stories. The book feels like a shout-out to all the teenagers  who feel out of place and awkward.

Billy is a fourteen-year-old teenager who spends most of his time hanging out with his friends, playing video games, and thinking about girls while also avoiding them. Despite having terrible grades in school, Billy’s brilliant with computers and has taught himself to code his own games.

When an edition of Playboy is released featuring Vanna White, Billy and his two best friends will do just about anything to see the photos. Because they’re under eighteen (and cannot legally purchase the magazine), they develop an elaborate plot to get their hands on a copy. In the process, Billy meets Mary Zelinsky and everything changes. She’s an expert programmer and together they develop The Impossible Fortress, a video game, to enter in a large competition. Of course the plan gets off track and Billy finds himself torn between what he knows is right and peer pressure.

One of the major themes of the book is sharing what it feels like to be a teenager when anything feels possible and you’re at the beginning of rest of your life. I really felt for Billy, a shy, hopeful, and at times, naïve kid. Despite his principal openly telling him that his future is drear and video game programming isn’t a career option, he works even harder to complete The Impossible Fortress. I was rooting for him!

In the end I was a bit confused about Mary’s motivations (Jason Rekulak, I have a few questions for you!) that I don’t feel were well explained, but overall this book is really good! The Impossible Fortress shares many similarities with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (which I really liked as well) and I recommend both!

I thought this quote sums up Billy’s teenage temperament well:

“I didn’t try to compete with either of them. All I knew was that I didn’t know anything.”

 

 

Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay

monsters-a-love-story-by-liz-kayAre you looking for a romantic comedy with some sharp edges? Check out Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay for a book filled with sarcasm, romance, and quite a bit of swearing.

Stacey Lane is a poet, a widow, and a mother. When her husband Michael died, she quickly begins to feel like she’s losing control and focus. The story begins when her book of poetry is chosen by an A-list Hollywood actor Tommy DeMarco to be made into a film. From the first time they meet, a romantic tension builds between them and is filled with snarky banter and physical connections. Before long, these feelings grow into something neither of them knows how to handle.

Throughout the book, which spans years as the movie goes through production and it’s release, everything seemed to fall into place too perfectly. It’s not only the positive things; the bad things seemed to fit too easily into place as well. Unfortunately, the story felt unrealistic and slightly predictable, but sometimes that’s what makes a light story enjoyable in it’s own way.

I found it strange that at times Stacey’s character would say things that implied she’s a feminist fighting off unrealistic expectations of women, but then her actions would prove to be the opposite. Regardless of her stance, the character felt inconsistent. On the plus side, I thought Stacey’s son Stevie was very sweet!

Monsters: A Love Story is a light read (ideal for a vacation), however it wasn’t one that would make the list of my favorite reads.

 

My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

my-husbands-wife-by-jane-corryThis twisty, psycho-thriller will make you question relationships and the intentions of those within them. Even the title of the book, My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry, is eerie.

Lily and Ed are newlyweds, and after a very brief engagement, they have hopes for a happy future together. While living in London, they be-friend a young girl named Carla who lives in their building. We quickly learn that Carla knows how to keep a secret and tell a well-placed lie.

When Lily takes on her first murder case as a lawyer, she’s catapulted into a world of crime and deceit. Her client (Joe Thomas) both captivates and scares her at once. Although Lily may not see it upon meeting him, Joe goes on to play a part in her life for years to come.

Throughout the book it’s very clear that Lily has a big secret that she’s hiding from everyone – her husband, her friends, even herself at times. When Carla comes back into the lives of Lily and Ed (more than a decade later) everything Lily has worked to hide is at risk of coming to light.

my-husbands-wifeThe book is told from both Lily and Carla’s perspectives and without giving away any spoilers, I can say that my predictions had crossed back and forth quite a few times by the end of the book.

Quotes that stood out to me:

 “But that’s how lies start. Small. Well meaning. Until they get too big to handle.”

“It occurred to me then, as it occurs to me frequently, that one never really knows a person properly. Especially ourselves.”

“If I was in my right mind, I’d go straight to the police… But instead I’m going to pay a visit. To my husband’s wife. “

The Dry by Jane Harper

the-dry-by-jane-harperSo. Good. I didn’t want to put down Jane Harper’s suspense novel, The Dry, until the mystery was solved. Set in a small town in rural Australia, this chilling whodunit novel follows multiple unexplained deaths spanning 20 years.

Aaron Falk fled from his hometown 20 years ago when Ellie Deacon, one of his close friends, was found dead. The kicker? A note with Falk’s name and the date of her death was in Ellie’s pocket. When Aaron couldn’t provide an explanation, he was pegged as a killer. In response, he avoids the town for years, that is until his childhood best friend, Luke, and his family are found dead. Only then does Aaron finally return. Despite his best efforts to leave, he’s pulled back into this secret-filled town.

The small town setting (where everyone knows everyone else’s business and memories span decades) really contributed to the development of the story. When Aaron returns to the town, it’s experiencing a serious draught, which contributes to the high tensions. Through Harper’s vivid descriptions, I could almost feel the dry air and heat. I mean seriously, I felt like I needed a water bottle while reading.

the-dryI was surprised by the ending in a way that only a good mystery novel can evoke. The writing style was interesting as well. For the most part, the book is written in third person from Aaron’s perspective with scene snippets from other characters’ perspectives throughout the last 20 years. I thought this was a great touch because it gave the audience visibility beyond what Aaron was experiencing.

I really enjoyed The Dry and would happily recommend it!

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!