Review Time: Find Her

516p-LaK7vL._SY346_

It only took me almost a year, but I finally made it. Find Her is the most recent addition to Lisa Gardner’s D.D. Warren series, aka Adult Nancy Drew. The book was actually the reason that I started reading the D.D. Warren series to begin with, so I’m glad I finally got to circle back around to it seven books (and 10 months) later.

Flora Dane, an innocent and naive girl, found herself separated from her friends during Spring Break and nothing was ever the same again. Flora was kidnapped from the sunny Florida beach and held in captivity, inside (and out of) a small wooden box, for 472 days. Miraculously, though, she manages to escape her real life nightmare and tries to return to a normal life.

But Flora can’t really leave her nightmare behind. Since her escape five years ago, she’s worked to make sure that no one else has to go through what she did — though her tactics are a bit guerilla. One night, while working her recon, Flora finds herself bound and gagged in a dank garage, her only company the exceptionally muscular man that put her there. But she’s not a victim any more, she refuses to be, so she does the only thing she knows how to do. She escapes. Again. And she takes the man down in the process. Enter D.D. Warren.

D.D. is not a fan of vigilante justice, so she has some questions for the girl. But, not long after her run-in with D.D., Flora disappears. Again. And this time, she doesn’t surface in someone’s garage. She doesn’t surface in a seedy motel. She doesn’t surface at all. Suddenly D.D. knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that something is very, very wrong. And it’s her job to make sure Flora the Survivor returns — it’s her job to Find Her. (lol get it? SO corny, I know.)

I love D.D. and I love all of Lisa Gardner’s stories. They keep you guessing, keep you turning the page and keep you up at night because “just one more chapter, Mom!”. The end of this one had a massive twist I didn’t see coming  but that made everything come together magically. So, so good.

Grade:★★★★★

 

Review Time: Daisy in Chains

51DnIxj1jUL

I found this book at one of those rare moments in time when I literally had nothing else to read. My local library puts together a “Best of the Month” list every month — which are apparently wildly popular because the vast majority of the books they showcased weren’t available for checkout. Luckily for me, Daisy in Chains — which was of course a murder mystery — was available so I decided to give it a try. Side note: I really do need to branch out.

Anyway. Back to the story. So a devilishly handsome man, who goes by the name Hamish Wolfe, has been tried and convicted of brutally murdering a string of obese women. But, of course, Hamish has always maintained his innocence. Enter Maggie Rose, the scrupulous attorney — and impressive novelist — who has decided that Hamish’s case is interesting enough to warrant a second look. She doesn’t think he’s innocent, mind you, but she’s fascinated nonetheless.

In addition to steadfastly maintaining his innocence, Hamish has a fan group of sorts, led by his mother, that assembles occasionally to discuss the facts of Hamish’s case and conspire to get him out of maximum security prison. These folks are… interesting, to put it lightly.

Maggie meets with Hamish, attends these group discussions and liaises with local law enforcement. And she begins to put together her next novel, based on the murders of the four women and her client’s involvement in the deaths. As she becomes entrenched in the case, things start to spiral out of control, and by the end, you don’t know which way is up. Or which way you want to be up, quite frankly.

This story was gripping and fast-paced and twisty — just how I like my murder mysteries. So the lesson here is: the next time your library is out of the book you intended to read, take a little browse through the stacks. You never know what you might stumble upon.

Grade:★★★★☆

To Read: June Edition

toread_june

This month, this first month of “summer,” is really where the temptations and nostalgia lie. The skies are sunny. The wind is brutal. And we’re stuck inside all. day. long. It really is heartbreaking. These are the days when I reminisce about the days of old when I used to drag my blanket and pillow into the backyard, set up my own little reading corner and work on my suntan. But now, no more reading corner and definitely no more suntan. Though I’m not sure there ever was much tanning to begin with… I’m pretty sure I could give Snow White a run for her money these days. Though my hair is less perfectly coifed and wild animals don’t like me that much…

BUT. Back to the important things. Even if there are fewer hours to devote to diving into new reads, that doesn’t mean I won’t try my darnedest. So let’s get reading.

Daisy in Chains: A serial killer. A defense attorney turned writer. A claim of a wrongful conviction. A recipe for a page-turner.

Find Her: This one is yet another installment of the D.D. Warren series, the kick-ass Boston detective who don’t take no shit from nobody. This time, a kidnap victim goes missing again and it’s a race against the clock to find her before her demons do. You can do it, D.D.

All the Missing Girls: A decade after one girl’s heartbreaking disappearance, another has gone missing in a sleepy North Carolina town (can you sense a theme here?). And one person seems to be connected to them both. Dun, dun, dun.

Perfect Husband: Because I can’t get enough, I’m diving into yet another Lisa Gardner detective series. And it looks like it’s going to be awesome. In this first installment, a hardened killer has escaped from prison and is coming after the woman who helped put him there — his wife. And she’s going to be ready for him when he gets there.

Maybe next month I’ll pick something that isn’t a murder mystery. Maybe.

Review Time: Don’t You Cry

dontyoucry

Like I mentioned earlier, I put Don’t You Cry on my library Holds list as soon as I finished The Good Girl and MAN am I glad I did. This story about the search for a missing woman is told by her roommate who is desperately trying to find her and a boy in a small town in Michigan who quickly falls for the new girl in town is captivating, to say the least.

Similar to The Good Girl, Mary Kubica uses an alternating narrative to help drive the story and maintain the suspense. And it just works. Be warned that the two narrators in this story lean on the side of VERY ANNOYING sometimes. But once everything comes full circle, you can’t help but love everyone which really is Kubica’s best quality. I did NOT want to love these characters but I couldn’t resist in the end.

Quinn Collins wakes up one morning to find that her roommate, Esther Vaughan, has vanished out of her room on Chicago’s north side. As morning turns into night turns into morning, Quinn realizes that Esther might not have left of her own volition. Quinn employs her friend, Ben, to help her search for her missing roommate. And what they find during their search slowly changes their perception of who Esther was and makes them question if they ever really knew the girl. Also, as previously mentioned, Quinn is annoying. She obsesses over pretty much everything — Esther, Ben, Esther’s previous roommate, papers in Esther’s room, everything. But, in the end all of her obsessions are justified so… 

Alex Gallo lives a pretty drab life in a small lakeside town in Michigan, busing tables during the day and taking care of his alcoholic father all night long. One day Alex spots a new, beautiful young woman at the diner where he works and he’s immediately transfixed. Alex’s whole life becomes waiting for the girl, whom he calls Pearl, to show up at the diner. She comes and goes, never sticking to a schedule. And Alex loves her. Then one day, Alex finds Pearl living in the abandoned house across the street from his own. And he finally starts to learn about this mysterious girl, though turns out to not be quite who Alex imagined her to be.

Alternating between both Quinn and Alex’s obsessions is as exhausting as it sounds, but eventually, their obsessions become yours and you care as much about finding Esther as both of them do. I will say, though… That ending… I did NOT see that coming. 

Another Chicago-based, suspense-filled story. Another home run.

Grade:★★★★☆

Cookbooks You Need, ASAP

cookbooks

Cooking is something that I’ve come to really enjoy as I get further and further into this “adulting” thing. Cooking my own food has definitely helped me expand my palate–and more importantly, my boyfriend’s palate. A recent win? Getting him on board the quinoa train. He’s now even more on board than I am, which I’ll count as a win because damn brown rice takes FOREVER to cook on the stove and I despise cleaning the microwavable rice cooker.

Now that’s not to say that all of my kitchen experiments end up in the “tasty” category, but most of them are, at the very least, edible. Except once when I tried to make creole-style red beans, ended up with weird bean soup and then SCORCHED the bottom of the soup pot trying to remedy the situation. That was a disaster that ended with Chinese take-out and a soup pot in the trash can. And a fair amount of tears because I don’t take failure well.

Thankfully, my cooking has improved since that fateful experience (though I haven’t touched a red bean since). And a huge part of my improvement can be attributed to an investment in pretty-much-fool-proof cookbooks from some of my favorite food bloggers. These cookbook authors/bloggers are HILARIOUS. I followed each of their blogs for a while before getting the real life cookbooks. I wasn’t disappointed at all and neither will you once you check out these three kick ass food tomes. Happy cooking!

  1. The Dude Diet: Clean(ish) Food for People Who Like to Eat Dirty – This cookbook, authored by Serena Wolf of the blog Domesticate ME! Is the newest addition to our kitchen and definitely the one that’s gotten the most work recently. Serena is awesome, the stories of her food-chugging boyfriend Logan are hilarious and her recipes are delicious. The premise of The Dude Diet is “healthifying” some of our favorite, not-so-healthy foods like nachos, burgers and any other standard “bar food” that I’d absolutely order on a Saturday night and then regret come Sunday morning. The lightened-up recipes are pretty simple to make (something that I’m super grateful for when I’m making dinner on a weeknight) and absolutely pass the boyfriend test, so this one will be sticking around for awhile at our house!
  2. Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Totally Love Food – Jessica Merchant is the blogger behind How Sweet It Is and again, I absolutely adore her. I’ve been reading Jessica’s blog since before she was even pregnant with her now two year old nugget, Max. She embodies that ‘90s child that still lives in all of us and is not ashamed of it one bit. She is a FABULOUS cook and her recipes are out of this world. So much so that some of them are a little out of my comfort zone, but I like having the challenge available to me if I have the time/bravery to attempt one of her masterpieces. Even if some of her recipes are too advanced for me, her blog and cookbook are still one of the places I check every single time I have a food/recipe-related question because chances are she’s done/cooked it and it’s going to be awesome. Also, the pictures in this cookbook are some of the most beautiful food pictures I’ve ever seen, so even if I can’t master the recipes, I can stare at what the final product is supposed to look like. And they look SO GOOD.
  3. Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half – I think Beth Moncel’s blog, BudgetBytes, was the first food blog I ever read and her cookbook is definitely the first one I ever bought for myself. The premise of BudgetBytes is pretty straightforward – good food that won’t break the bank. I LOVE her blog because she lists out how much each ingredient should cost and includes the total price of the recipe plus the cost per serving… It satisfies my (maybe sometimes too thrifty) mind so much to see how much something is going to cost me before I ever step foot in the grocery store. This is especially helpful when I was first starting to cook for myself and didn’t want to spend a ton on random ingredients that I’d probably never use again. BudgetBytes is definitely my main go-to when I need a quick, affordable and delicious recipe to whip up on a weeknight. SO. GOOD.

Review Time: Commonwealth

commonwealth

As promised, Commonwealth had no murders and no mysteries. There was heartbreak and glamour and drama, though, so fear not. The story starts with the meeting–and subsequent disbanding–of two LA families in 1960s and follows the melded group over the course of the next five decades.

There’s the expected drama that comes from breaking up two marriages and vacationing with six kids (four from the Cousins’ marriage, two from the Keating’s). But within the usual drama, there’s an interesting dynamic that forms between the six kids who only spend their summers in the same state.

As the story weaves through the family’s long-ago drama and present-day trials, we follow Franny Keating’s accidental voyage to literary muse-hood. While working at Chicago’s Palmer House, Franny meets her most favorite author, Leo Posen, and they begin a years-long love affair (which is where all of the glamour and most of the drama comes from).

Over the course of their courtship, Franny tells Leo the story of her childhood–from the way her mother and stepfather met to the tragic death of an innocent boy on the family farm to the arsonist tendencies of her youngest stepbrother. None of her life is off-limits to her lover and he takes advantage of the opportunity. A few years into their relationship, Leo publishes his next bestseller, Commonwealth (of course), and Franny’s life turns into an open book, though he claims that the story came “most from his imagination.”

Whether from Leo’s “imagination” or not, the Cousins and Keating families have to deal with the aftermath of the book’s release and the wrath of all those memories they worked so hard to forget.

I really liked this book, espeically the way the story separately focused on each of the Cousins-Keating kids as adults, letting us get small glimpses into the full backstory of their childhood. The intrigue of the backstory snippets kept me intrigued (see what I did there?) and kept the story moving forward at each turn. I didn’t love the way the book ended, but I won’t fault a final few paragraphs when the rest of the 300 pages were top notch. So check it out. It’s worth it.

Grade:★★★★☆

Review Time: The Good Girl

thegoodgirl

Like I said earlier, I’ve been on quite the mystery/thriller quick lately so I was stoked when I got my hands on The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. It’s a story of a girl kidnapped during what she thinks will be a one-night stand, but it turns out to be much, much more than that. And it was fantastic.

The book is written from the back-and-forth perspective of three influential characters: the kidnapper, the kidnapped woman’s mother and the detective trying to find her. Hearing the various stages of the story from these three very different people with three very different intentions is… well ‘emotionally chaotic’ might be the best way to put it.

Colin Thatcher is paid a hefty chunk of change to kidnap Mia Dennett, the daughter of a prominent Chicago judge. But instead of handing the young woman off to his employer, Colin takes her to a secluded cabin in Minnesota until he can figure out his next move. You really want to hate Colin because what kind of dirtbag kidnaps a woman? But hearing a third of the story from his perspective makes hating him an uncomfortable task because maybe he’s not so bad after all (even though he’s still kind of a dirtbag).

Eve Dennett, Mia’s mother, just wants her baby back, even though Mia moved out of the house the minute she turned 18 and Eve hasn’t had a ton of contact with her since. A large portion of Eve’s third of the story revolves around flashbacks to when Mia and her sister when children and the regrets that Eve has about how their childhood played out. You can’t help be feel for her because we’re all doing the best we can, aren’t we? Also, her husband is a jackass, which tends to complicate things even more.

Gabe Hoffman, the detective assigned to Mia’s case, is the final third of the story. While he’s the least emotional of the three (four if you’re considering Mia), he still pulls some heartstrings during his search for the kidnapped woman and his interactions with her devastated mother.

I love, love, loved this story because the continual switches in narrator kept things fresh and the pace of the story kept you on your toes. And the Scorsese-esque twist at the end really put the nail in the “I love this” coffin for me. All in all.. Get this, read this, love this. You won’t be disappointed.

Grade:★★★★★