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Read This: What She Knew

If you’re like me, the weekend isn’t only a time to recharge your batteries for the week, but if you’re lucky it’s a chance to dive into another new book and not have to worry about how late you stay up reading it. A few weeks ago I picked up Gilly Macmillan’s What She Knew. I saw it on a list of suggestions if you enjoyed Gone Girl. Okay, first of all – I really enjoyed the plot twists of Gone Girl. They were shocking, and unexpected. Unfortunately, now I compare any mystery novel with a female narrator to that story. After reading Girl on the Train I thought maybe some of these mysteries were starting to run together in their run of the mill use of plot devices. I’ll admit, I think I ill-judged What She Knew for about the first sixty pages.
In this novel, young mom Rachel is at a park with her 8-year old son Ben and their dog Skittle. Ben begs to run ahead to the rope swing, and Rachel agrees trailing behind him. When she reaches the swing, as it sways in the empty clearing, Rachel doesn’t see Ben – instead of assuming the worst, she thinks maybe he’s playing hide and seek. That is until all the normal go-tos don’t bringĀ  him out of hiding. Of course, Rachel starts to panic. Thus begins a mother’s (and the father who she’s divorced from) worst nightmare – her son has been abducted. I found this story very well written, and hard to put down because I desperately wanted to know what happened next. Rachel’s sister and her journalist friend end up being her main avenues of support in this harrowing ordeal. Unfortunately, Rachel is put in the media spotlight and it does not bode well. Then there’s the blogging world that turns ugly, pointing blame and suspicion on her. The detectives try to research everyone involved in their lives on a daily basis, from friends and parents on the soccer team, to school personnel, to old patients of Ben’s father who’s a pediatric surgeon who may have a vendetta against him.

This is one of those stories that makes readers question the information in front of them. If Rachel a reliable narrator? Are we getting the whole story? Are the investigators sidetracked by their own personal grief?

The story digs into the personal lives of these people, and long buried revelations are revealed. I have to say there were some surprising elements to this story, that I was extremely pleased with. The novel wasn’t entirely predictable, which can be hard to do sometimes. The suspense was carried out though the end. I think the story also lent itself to an introspective reading – displaying so many sides to a story and all of the emotions that go with it. If you’re looking for a fresh mystery novel, check this one out.

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Meg Says Read This: My 2016 List

Happy New Year friends! Hope everyone had some great days this holiday season. I know I haven’t posted as nearly as often as I should lately. Although we’re five days into this new year, I thought it’d be fun to share my reading list from 2016. I’ll let you know, which ones were my favorites (and I’ll even add in some of the books I started but didn’t finish *insert eye covering emoji here.*) Some of these books have stuck with me in such a way that I think about them several times a week. When you find books like that, it’s hard to find a follow up. What were your favorites you read last year? What are you most looking forward to reading this year? Right after Christmas I started reading A Game of Thrones, but this one is going to take me a while. These are in the order I read them, not by my affection for them. The titles listed in bold were my favorites, and if I already featured it on Meg Says, I linked to the original post. See below for a variety of non-fiction, adult fiction, and young adult books I found this year!

*Note: I apologize for any weird formatting issues, I’ve been trying to sort out the kinks.*

How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran (Adult Fiction)

This story of a young girl without much worldly experience, who decides to ditch school and write about bands in a magazine. Made me a little uncomfortable at times, but probably because it’s so real. Moments were laugh out loud funny. It’s well written and unique, and there’s a reason so many celebs were buzzing about it on their Instas this year.

Save the Date by Jen Doll (Adult Non-Fiction)For my girlfriends that are always attending weddings – bridesmaids, guests, etc. you will probably find yourself relating to some of these stories. Some of them are funny, and some you’d feel the embarrassment, or you’d get the tensions that can fly in these situations. Nothing too crazy or surprising, but a reminder that a lot of us might feel like we’re in 27 Dresses (as my brother’s friends used to point out about my life, haha.) We probably all have enough of our stories to compile a book like this.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Adult Fiction)

Soon to be a mini series on HBO with a stellar cast, you should read this before it airs. I was HOOKED, immediately. I love multi-view point stories, and this is a little bit mystery, somewhat amusing, a touch sad, but all around intriguing. It’s one of my favorite “fun” books to recommend.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (Adult Non-Fiction)

Mindy Kaling never disappoints. I love how real she is, and getting a peak into her life and relationships. She is definitely comfortable and completely embraces all that she is – brilliance and flaws, and all. I feel like I’m having a couch convo in my PJs with a friend while I read her stories.

30 Shades of Grayton by Kyle Petit (Adult Non-Fiction)

I picked this up at one of my favorite little independent bookstores over in Seaside, Florida. It’s a quick read, and was mildly entertaining about a woman in a small coastal town dating after a divorce.

Room by Emma Donoghue (Adult Fiction)

A story abut a young woman who was taken, and brought to live in a room. She doesn’t know life outside of those walls anymore, until one day she has a son. Her son changes everything, as she tries to create a world for him within this space. This was another book I just couldn’t put down. I still haven’t seen the Oscar nominated film, but I was convinced it was finally time to set aside any fears I had that this was going to psychologically torment me and finally read it. I’m so glad I did. This is a beautiful story that I’d say is more about love and life, and the ties that bind then about the awful abduction and treatment during that time. It’s written in a format I wasn’t expecting, and I think it’s completely original.

Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas (Adult Fiction)

This little British book kept calling to me from the shelf at the library. It felt like I was immersed in a reality television show. A story about a group of random strangers brought together by responding to an ad. I still feel unsettled by the ending, but it was definitely interesting and not like the other books on my list.

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Adult Fiction)

I know it’s unfair to compare this novel to Gone Girl, but I think that was expected as it’s written in a similar vein. This one’s hard to provide details without ruining anything but our main character has blurred memories of a variety of events she’s witnessed. Her alcohol issues have caused her to lose her job. Instead of admitting this to her housemate, she continues on her way with her daily train commute. When a woman she’s seen from the train (and has watched her relationship) turns up missing – she gets involved. It had a bit of a slow pace for me, but still managed to create suspense and I’ll admit it took me more than three quarters of the book to “figure it out.”

The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian (YA Fiction)

Undoubtedly, hands down one of my favorite books of the year. Not just the year – all time. I freakin’ love this book, and you should read it. The first several chapters were released online prior to the pub date to increase anticipation and oh my goodness – I was glued to my computer screen. I’m not even going to tell you more, but get this book in your life.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (Adult Non-Fiction)

My favorite non-fiction book of the year. Aziz is brilliant. He’s hilarious, and he’s so insightful. I only wish I had been a collaborator in this creation. A look on modern dating, and how it’s evolved over time, and what it looks like in different parts of the world. Simply fascinating.

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (Adult Fiction)

I have to admit I was majorly disappointed in this book. I finally got around to reading it when I saw the film trailer released, (which I never ended up seeing the movie). The trailer made me cry, and all of my friends thought the book would destroy me. A story of a young woman who is out of a job, and ends up taking on the job of caring for a man who’s been injured and permanently paralyzed and lives in his parent’s home. There were somewhat tender moments, but everything seemed so shallow. The characters were apparently experiencing intense emotions, but they were so poorly conveyed that I was unable to connect.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Shneider (YA Fiction)

Schneider just crafts such beautiful stories. I thought, “oh! I’m going to make it through this one without crying.” Joke was on me, as this story inevitably ripped my heart out. It follows a group of people who are brought together by an usual connection (their TB diagnosis), where they’re all living in a boarding school/treatment center of sorts. It’s one of those stories that extra makes you appreciate the beautiful intricacies of relationships.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichiw (Adult Non-Fiction)

Short, but powerful. Read it if you haven’t!

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn (YA Fiction)

Morgan Matson’s alias. I was excited to finally dive into the Finn world, and while it was somewhat amusing I didn’t feel compelled to read the follow-up novels. Though the light read that has some of the appeal of an MTV reality show like Laguna Beach could be something fun to try.

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close (Adult Fiction)

This novel was fantastic. Following the relationship of a young couple who met in New York, and later move to DC as the husband pursues a career in politics. This is a work of fiction, but it felt so realistic. I felt like I was reading a blog, or my friend was emailing me about her life. It definitely made me want to read another Jennifer Close book.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (Adult Fiction)

READ THIS. My only qualm with this one was the designer brand name dropping. Once I got beyond that, I was mesmerized by the story. I knew it was building up to something, but I was taken by surprise when I found out what. (Like gasp a loud, close my eyes surprise.) Then when you find out the similarities of Jessical Knoll’s own experiences, it’s even more heart-wrenching. This is a powerful story that I have chills just referring to right now.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (YA Fiction)

With this historical fiction novel, Ruta Sepetys raced to the top of my list of favorite authors. It’s a unique take on parts of history, and some of it I was ashamed to realize I was unaware of. It’s painful to read at times, but also beautiful. It’s another book that reminds about the strength love gives us, and the grit and determination fueled by that love can pull us through even the seemingly most impossible situations.

The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick (YA Fiction)

Huntley Fitzpatrick is so great at weaving stories about friendship, love, family and the importance of trust and communication in our relationships. There’s always a twist in her stories, that you’re not expecting and I think that just adds to the appeal. I felt like my heart was literally aching for the characters in this story. Tim Mason grows immensely in this book, and it felt like watching a friend experience some really hell situations and come out the other side.

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler (YA Fiction)

This story had me fired up. Especially because I was reading it around the “grab her by the p****” comments from earlier this fall. It’s just one of those that drove me crazy because unfortunately you can’t shake your shoulders and say it’s just a story. It’s real, it’s inspired by true events, and victims of sexual assault have been shown over and over that even with video proof of them being violated, people will still try and silence and discount their stories. I think this is an important book to read. I think it shines light on a different perspective. And it takes you outside of the exact event that happened to third party characters which I think lends an interesting view point. This text also lent one of my favorite quotes of the year:

“You’re doing the right thing,” she says.
“Doesn’t feel like it.” I wipe my eyes. I am so tired of crying. She nods, reading back over her list and flipping to a new page in herĀ  steno pad. “Sometimes, that’s how you know,” she says without looking up. “That’s how you know.”

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter (YA Fiction)

The librarian seemed a little disturbed when I was checking out this title, but assumptions aside this is an important piece of work. Sure all families have their own sorts of dysfunction, but some have more than others. This one delves into that divide when parents have their own personal issues they project on their children, and take away the chance for their kids to bond with them in normal ways. Of course, that causes all kinds of psychological damage. I can’t imagine feeling the degree of betrayal Cassie experiences, but man what a journey she traverses to get through it. This is one of the grittiest stories I’ve ever read. Sure, there are some positive spots but there’s no glossing over the anger and heartache. I think the straight forward approach to all sorts of topics in this story is brave and important.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (YA Fiction)

The second book I read by Ruta Sepetys, and it was just as good as the first. Another look into world history, surrounding Stalin and Hitler but referencing some events I still had no idea about. Somehow Sepetys is able to expand your world view, and your heart at the same time. The friendships that blossom through the pages are just so endearing and painstakingly beautiful. It aches to think about the atrocities they witness together, but you’re glad they’re at least together. She has one more title I haven’t read, and this book dissolved any doubt (I didn’t really have) to read anything she’s ever written.

Bare Bones: I’m Not Lonely If You’re Reading This by Bobby Bones (Adult Non-Fiction)

A memoir from my favorite radio host. I laughed, I cried, I was amazed being reminded of the stories we all carry with us that make us who we are, and sometimes we have no idea what others around us are carrying. This is a great, inspiring story. And it’s all about stories.

The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn (Adult Fiction)

A little psychological terror short story. Definitely had no clue what to expect reading this one, and found it to be just the right amount of creepy.

What Light by Jay Asher (YA Fiction)

This was a perfect read in December with Christmas lights up in my room. A family who goes to their Christmas tree farm every December? Perfect. If you’ve read Thirteen Reasons Why – this one doesn’t have the same life changing punch, but it’s a sweet story. It’s also a good reminder to get to know people on your own, and don’t take their “reputation” at face value because who knows what you could be missing out on.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Adult Fiction)

In the last week of the year, this was the final book I read. It was actually the second time I’d tried to read it. This time I finished. It was an okay story. I really enjoy weird futuristic, post-apocalyptic stories (The Road, The Age of Miracles), and this one was interesting enough I guess, but it seemed to fall a little flat. There were multiple points of view, and I liked the way it came together in the last seventy-five pages or so, but there were so many more things I wished she’d done with it. Maybe it didn’t help that in December I also watched Netflix’s The OA and was obsessed with all the theories it made me think about. I just wish some of the stories had been further expanded on.

Unfortunately, I started but didn’t finish (and am still working on them):

  • Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (Adult Fiction)
  • The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (Adult Non-Fiction)
  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson (YA Fiction)
  • Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

A Few Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading in 2017:

  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zettner
  • Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
  • Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
  • Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King
  • The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
  • All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
  • Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
  • Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler
  • Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
  • The Girls by Emma Cline
  • Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
meg says read this

Meg Says Read This: “Girl On the Train”

22557272I know, you’re probably wondering what took me so long to read Paula Hawkin’s Girl On the Train, especially after my exaggerated enthusiasm for Gone Girl? I’m not sure either, but I’m so glad I finally did and before I saw the trailer to the upcoming movie! I don’t read too many psychological thriller novels, (mostly because my impatience to know what happens keeps me up all night turning pages, and then awake the following nights because I can’t quiet my mind.) While Gone Girl will probably hold the number one spot for me for years to come, Girl On the Train was full of quite a few twists and surprises of its own. I felt a relatability to our narrator Rachel (or main narrator I should say, as the book shifts between three view points) with her vivid imagination. After losing her job following some day drinking on work days, and a string of inappropriate behavior as a result of the fallout of her divorce and some personal traumas, Rachel moves in with an old college friend. Instead of coming clean about her employment situation, she hops on the train each day and continues about her old work day commute. Just instead of going to her old PR job, she pops into coffee shops to work on her CV, or visits the library, or does an inordinate amount of people watching. This combined with her active imagination brings us to one aspect of this jumbled up tale. Rachel witnesses an encounter of infidelity, though she doesn’t have a personal relationship with the people involved, passing them each day on the train makes her feel like she does. Then days later the woman involved goes missing! This mystery gives Rachel a new purpose in life, other than her hobby of drinking and obsessing over her philandering ex-husband and his new wife as she tries to piece together the random puzzle parts of these strangers lives. Of course this isn’t cut and dry, and her bouts of blackouts from drinking bring some complications to her reliability and memory recall. Such faults just add to the suspense and intrigue, though. Add in a jealous new wife, a troubled missing woman, and some manipulative but unsuspecting men and voila! We’ve got ourselves quite a story. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that jazzed when I finally watched the trailer to the film but I’ll probably give it a chance anyway. In the meantime, if you haven’t dived into this thrill ride of a story yet, I highly recommend it!

For those of you who are enticed to read a book when you see the film adaptation trailer, here you go:

(Image from Goodreads.)