Friday, January 4, 2019

Book Reviews: First Four of 2019 - Math, Milk & Mysteries

With a new year, it's time to start my reading anew!

Janie Face to Face by Caroline Coomey was my final revisiting of the Janie Johnson saga. While the first two books were full of all the nostalgia feels (which I loved), the second two were just kind of "meh" for me. For this one, I have a mixed bag of emotions. First, there is a true crime writer who wants to cover Janie's story via a book called The Happy Kidnap. There was something to that title, and that was an unexpected twist I quite enjoyed. Second, I struggled with some of the timing. The references to social media didn't align with how old the characters should have been based on the years/ages of the characters in the first books. As a nostalgic reader, it bothered me. I think it was done given this book was written in 2013, but it still was an annoyance for me throughout. I like accuracy and consistency. Third, there is the continuation of the story of Janie and Reeve. I sort of liked this, and I sort of didn't. I don't want to spoil how this goes down here, so I won't. Overall, this one had some thrills and twists that gave some closure to the series. Would I have been fine had I just the original two? Absolutely. However, once I started reading, I couldn't stop. So, if you grew up with this series and start re-reading, you either need to just re-read the first two, or you need to read all five. You do you, y'all.  

Read this book if - You've read Books 1 through 4 of the series.

One of the loves I found in 2018 was middle grade/J fiction. I read more of it than I have since I was of the age for the genre. I'm continually amazed at how much heart and depth these stories have, and I anticipate you'll see many more of these in this year's reads.

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen was a story I just loved. The story is told from Felix's eyes. Felix is a 12 year old who lives with his mom. Due to an unfortunate series of events, he and his mom are living in a van. Felix keeps this secret from everyone, including his closest friends and teachers at his mom's request. She also assures him that it's only temporary, and throughout you see how Felix explains different scenarios, as well as how he and his mom learn to get by. Through Felix's eyes, there is a heartbreaking and honest portrayal of the experience. It conveyed to me a better understanding of the realities of this situation as it's certainly not uncommon. In addition to navigating his lack of a home, Felix is trying to make it onto his favorite TV quiz show. This was a humorous subplot that fit quite well even with the emotion of Felix's living situation. Ultimately, his reality and appearance on the quiz show come to a head in an unexpected way. Y'all, this book had so much heart through Felix's reality, and I absolutely loved it.

Read this book if - You want to look at poverty, resilience and friendship through a kid's eyes that has honesty and heart.

The Night Before by Wendy Walker was a thriller that I could not put down. Literally, y'all, I read it in one sitting. Laura decides to give online dating a go. However, when she doesn't return home, her older sister Rosie is convinced something terrible must have happened. The story is told through both Laura and Rosie's eyes. Laura's is told in the night before (annnd the title makes sense!), and Rosie's is told in the day after. Through alternating narrations, the timelines converge, and the truth is revealed. The twistiness of this one was so great! I thought for sure I had it figured out, and then the twists went in a completely different direction, and then they did again. This one isn't out until May (thanks for the sneak peek, St. Martins Press), and I feel quite confident in telling y'all that this will be a thriller that people are going to be buzzing about, and they 100% should be! Is the first week of the month too early for me to say this is one of the best thrillers of the year? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Read this book if - You love a thriller with all the unexpected twists. You want something that'll keep you turning all the pages to know what went down.

One of my goals for my 36th year is to read #36booksfor36 that have been recommended to me by friends and family. Y'all, so far, this has been a fantastic endeavor. Two recommendations were already on my best of 2018 list. For this one, at the recommendation of one of my best friends from college, Hillary, I read her favorite play.

Proof by David Auburn is a play that has just four characters. However, with these four, there is so much depth. Catherine has spent years caring for her father, Robert, a brilliant mathematician. With his death, her sister Claire has returned, to get his estate in order, and to get her sister to move to New York City with her. In addition, Hal, a former advisee of Robert's, is looking through his papers trying to understand and learn from the work he left behind. He looks to Catherine for one particularly significant discovery, and it might not be at all what it seems. Y'all, this had me so absolutely captivated. I would not have guessed just reading dialogue (much of it around math notes) could pack so much emotion and intrigue!

Read this book if - You want to read a play that has so much depth and emotion in unexpected ways. 

Onto the next quartet! Let's do this 2019!