Finished Guns by Stephen King.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In a pulls-no-punches essay intended to provoke rational discussion, Stephen King sets down his thoughts about gun violence in America. Anger and grief in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School are palpable in this urgent piece of writing, but no less remarkable are King’s keen thoughtfulness and composure as he explores the contours of the gun-control issue and constructs his argument for what can and should be done.”

You probably already know whether you want to read this, based on your political affiliation and Stephen King’s.  If you’re a conservative, you probably should read it, but you won’t want to.  If you’re a liberal (as I am), it’s probably not necessary to read it because you already agree with it…but it’s still worth the read.

One thing you should know is that Stephen King owns guns.  (Which makes sense, given that he’s incredibly famous and that there are a lot of crazy people in the world.)  He’s not advocating for the government to take everyone’s guns; he’s proposing sensible changes (better background checks and delays; fewer rounds, things like that).

I don’t understand how people can say that guns aren’t at least partially to blame for these tragedies that keep occurring.  Even making people wait a couple days to be able to buy a gun could theoretically be able to put a stop to things.  (It’s easier to do horrible things in the heat of the moment and sometimes even a little time to stop and think is enough.  Obviously that wouldn’t stop all of them, but it certainly would stop a few.)



In the Unlikely Event

Finished In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In her highly anticipated new novel, Judy Blume, the New York Times # 1 best-selling author of Summer Sisters and of young adult classics such as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, creates a richly textured and moving story of three generations of families, friends and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by unexpected events.

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.”

Like every woman of my age, I am a huge Judy Blume fan.  The news that there would be a new novel by her (the first, I think, since Summer Sisters back in the 90s) was a huge delight and I have been eagerly anticipating this for a year.

This is Judy Blume at her best.  While it’s a novel for adults, the main character is a teenager, and I think this is appropriate for YA audiences.

This is based on a true story (over the course of a couple of months, three planes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey) and that is completely shocking to me.  How is that not something that everyone knows? Three fatal plane crashes in something like two months?

Anyway.  So a lot of the different characters react to that but, because they are people, there are also a lot of smaller, more personal dramas going on.  (To say more would be to spoil things.)

Highly recommended.

Finders Keepers

Finished Finders Keepers by Stephen King.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A masterful, intensely suspenseful novel about a reader whose obsession with a reclusive writer goes far too far—a book about the power of storytelling, starring the same trio of unlikely and winning heroes King introduced in Mr. Mercedes.

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.”

I absolutely loved this book, probably even more than Mr. Mercedes.  Obviously the idea of a reader so obsessed that they would kill an author just to be able to read their unpublished work…well, I think every book blogger would be like, “THAT IS CRAZY!” but I think most of us could understand the impulse.

That’s probably my favorite thing about Stephen King.  In his books most of the time, the scariest thing is the evil that humans do to each other.  Yes, obviously there are terrifying paranormal things, too (hello, Pennywise!).

There is another book coming in this trilogy, and I cannot wait.

Highly recommended.

PS I Still Love You

Finished PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too.

Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.”

I was a huge fan of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and was very happy to learn that there would be a sequel.  (Unfortunately, it’s only a duology, which means that—unless Jenny Han changes her mind—my time with Lara Jean is over.)

I love the way Jenny Han wrote these two books.  There were multiple boys and all of the potential love interests for Lara Jean were good guys.  I feel like most of the time in love triangles, there is a clear “good choice” and the other person is basically filler until the two that are supposed to be together actually make it work.

I hope that maybe there will be a companion novel (come on, you know Kitty deserves her own set of books!) or something about Lara Jean in college.

Highly recommended.

All the Light We Cannot See

Finished All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.”

Oh wow, this book.

Pretty much every actively literate person I know has already read this and has raved about it.  I have no excuse for not having read it before.  (Fortunately, thanks to (a) receiving it as a birthday present and (b) it getting chosen as a book club book, this FINALLY HAPPENED.)

Obviously because it’s set during World War II, there is a lot of sadness in this book.  On the plus side, there’s also…well, at least some hope.  Plus, the writing is gorgeous.

Several of the reviews I read said that the last 50 pages or so weren’t necessary.  I completely disagree.  Obviously, I am a huge fan of longer books, but if the book ended where those reviewers wanted it to, the tone would have been far different.  (Granted, the final 50 pages are basically vignettes of where the survivors ended up, but it was still nice to see that everyone who survived had happy, healthy lives.)

Highly recommended.

A Book of Spirits and Thieves

Finished A Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan Rhodes.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Modern-day sisters discover deadly ancient magic in book 1 of this Falling Kingdoms spin-off series!

Worlds collide in this suspenseful, page-turning Falling Kingdoms spin-off series, which explores a whole new side of Mytica—and an even darker version of its magic.

Crystal Hatcher, Modern-day Toronto: It’s a normal afternoon in her father’s antique bookshop when Crys witnesses the unthinkable: her little sister Becca collapses into a coma after becoming mesmerized by a mysterious book written in an unrecognizable language.

Maddox Corso, Ancient Mytica: Maddox Corso doesn’t think much of it when he spots an unfamiliar girl in his small village. Until, that is, he realizes that she is a spirit, and he is the only one who can see or hear her. Her name is Becca Hatcher, and she needs Maddox to help get her home.

Farrell Grayson, Modern-day Toronto: Rich and aimless Farrell Grayson is thrilled when the mysterious leader of the ultra-secret Hawkspeare Society invites him into the fold. But when he learns exactly what he has to do to prove himself, Farrell starts to question everything he thought he knew about family, loyalty, and himself….

Fate has brought these young people together, but ancient magic threatens to rip them apart.

This was incredibly fun. I loved all the aspects/plotlines of this novel and am excited for further installments. 

This is a spinoff from her Falling Kingdoms series (which I love and am behind in) but you don’t need to have read that to enjoy this. 

Highly recommended.

Daughter of Deep Silence

Finished Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.

In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.”

This book should come with a warning label: absolutely do not start this book until and unless you have time to read the whole thing.  It was the last thing I did before heading to work for my last shift before BEA vacation, and I had a lot of plans for that shift: pack, laundry, get stuff together for my dog, who is also on vacation.

Here is what actually happened: I read Daughter of Deep Silence.

(Worth it.)

I don’t want to ruin anything, so that the book can unfold as it should.  But suffice to say that if you like revenge stories, this is for you.

I love Frances (who turns into Libby).  Yes, she is very, VERY focused on revenge, but she absolutely deserves it.  Horrible things happened to her, and I think if I went through even a tenth of what she did, I would be revenge-minded, too.

This book definitely functions as a standalone, but a door is left open for a sequel. (This is probably just wishful thinking on my part.)

Highly recommended.

Local Girls

Finished Local Girls by Caroline Zancan.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The first person to break your heart isn’t always your boyfriend. Sometimes it’s your best friend.

Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina have been friends for most of their lives. The girls grew up together in a dead-end Florida town on the outskirts of Orlando, and the love and loyalty they have for one another have been their only constants. Now nineteen and restless, the girls spend empty summer days bouncing between unfulfilling jobs, the beach, and their favorite local bar, The Shamrock. It’s there that a chance encounter with a movie star on the last night of his life changes everything.

Passing through Orlando, Sam Decker comes to The Shamrock seeking anonymity, but finds Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina instead. Obsessed with celebrity magazines that allow them a taste of the better lives they might have had, the girls revel in his company. But the appearance of Lila, the estranged former member of the girls’ group, turns the focus to their shared history, bringing all their old antagonisms to the surface—Lila’s defection to Orlando’s country club school when her father came into some money, and the strange, enchanting boy she brought into their circle, who fundamentally altered dynamics that had been in play for years. By the night’s end, the escalation of these long-buried issues forces them to see one another as the women they are now instead of the girls they used to be.

With an uncanny eye for the raw edges of what it means to be a girl and a heartfelt sense of the intensity of early friendship, Local Girls is a look at both the profound role celebrity plays in our culture, and how the people we know as girls end up changing the course of our lives.”

This book is a bit of a slow burn.  We know something bad happens and that something bad HAS happened, but a lot of those things—as well as why—are kept secret from the reader for most of the book.

The book goes back and forth between the girls’ night with movie star Sam Decker and to sometime in the past, explaining why there are only three friends now instead of four.  (Note: most of the book is in the past.)

The pacing is very deliberate (some would stay slow) and readers should stay patient.  Once I got the answers, I actually gasped; it felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

This is a book that will stay with me for a while, but I didn’t really connect with the characters.  I felt like if the book had been longer, that would’ve helped.  Even so, the plot carries the day here and patient readers will be rewarded.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

Finished The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

With a harrowing poetic voice, this contemporary page-turner is perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Julie Berry’s All The Truth That’s in Me, and the works of Ellen Hopkins.

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow By is a hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in oneself. ”

I absolutely love this book.  I have this weird fondness for cult stories (which this definitely is) but I also love stories about weird, damaged girls (which this definitely is) and stories of resilience (which this definitely is).  So this is basically perfect for me.

I loved Minnow.  Minnow is definitely prickly (which she should be, given all the horrible things she’s had to deal with) but she’s still eager to connect with people, even though she doesn’t really like to show it.

This book absolutely caught me off guard.  I expected to enjoy it, obviously, but I ended up absolutely loving everything about it.  (Especially the fact that Minnow’s cellmate, Angel, is huge into science and so Minnow—who has never had any sort of education—becomes really knowledgeable about astronomy.  Also, just in general, I LOVE ANGEL.)

Highly recommended.

Funny Girl

Finished Funny Girl by Nick Hornby.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the bestselling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down comes a highly anticipated new novel.

Set in 1960’s London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby’s latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.”

I’ve been a fan of Nick Hornby’s for something like 20 years, since I read High Fidelity and About a Boy.

Rebecca has known for almost her whole life that she wants to be famous and, more specifically, she wants to be a comedienne like her idol, Lucille Ball.  After she wins a beauty pageant in her home town, she knows that now is her time.

Shortly after (and now christened Sophie Straw), she starts auditioning.  It doesn’t go well—until it does, and she ends up on a hit BBC comedy.  Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, both for Sophie and for her coworkers.

All the once-a-year releases have spoiled me, but new Nick Hornby novels are an event.  (Even though now I probably have to wait at least four years for a new one.)

Highly recommended.