what I’m reading: the wedding date by jasmine guillory.

The last couple of books I’ve read hadn’t really held my interest so I was pretty excited when I saw that this book had become available from my hold list at the library. The Wedding Date did not disappoint and it was the perfect book to push me out of my reading slump. I adored this book and the characters.

Alexa and Drew meet when they are stranded in an elevator during a power outage. Needing a date to a friend’s wedding the next day, Drew impulsively asks Alexa to go with him. After the two have perhaps too much fun at the wedding, Drew flies back to Los Angeles and Alexa heads home to Berkley. When they can’t stop thinking about each other, Alexa and Drew embark on a long-distance relationship.

This is an adorable and romantic story that I could not put down. I loved the flirting between the two characters; they had so many fun and sweet moments. Also, both characters are constantly eating! I wanted to eat all the food they talked about – cheese, crackers, doughnuts, french fries, all of it.

The story just didn’t focus on the two main characters. It delved into both of their careers and their friends. Drew has some great moments as we see him working as a pediatric surgeon. Alexa is smart and focused on her career as the mayor’s chief of staff. Both of them have awesome best friends and co-workers that contributed on their own to the story.

I think this is my favorite book so far I’ve read this year.

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what I’m reading: the girl before by rena olsen.

The Girl Before was my bookclub’s latest book read and I have to say I was not a fan. Everyone else seemed to like it, but I thought this book was terribly boring.

Clara’s life is devastated in an instant – the police knock down her door and invade her house, arrest her husband Glen, and take her children. Clara is sent to a women’s institution where she is questioned by the police. Despite the continued interrogations, Clara refuses to tell the police about her former life before the police raided her home, her husband Glen and their family, or her in-laws.

The book goes back and forth between the past and present – Then and Now. ‘Then’ is Clara’s life growing up and meeting and marrying Glen. ‘Now’ covers the present and the time that Clara is in the women’s institution. Clara’s past is slowly untangled as we learn about her life growing up with Mama and Papa G. She doesn’t understand why Glen has been arrested and why the police keep asking her all these questions.

There are 2 main reasons why I didn’t care for this book:

1. The book goes back and forth between Then and Now. What I found annoying was that each Then/Now part is only about 2-3 pages before it switches back. It was a bit jarring, like when you watch a movie and the scene keeps changing to a completely new scene after only 1 or 2 minutes. I found myself reading and thinking I’m in the past, I’m in the past, nope now I’m in the present, in the present, and now I’m back in the past. I recognize that telling a story in the past and present is a good technique that authors use, but here it was annoying and I just wish the author had made the scenes longer as I kept getting pulled out of the book.

2. Nothing happens. A huge part of the Now section in the book involves the police interrogating Clara about Glen and his family. Predictably, Clara stays quiet and doesn’t answer any of their questions. The problem is that this same scenario is repeated for over half the book. I was reading this on my Kindle I got to over 50%, probably more like 65%, before Clara finally did something and started answering the police’s questions. It was just the same, repetitive, boring scenes over and over. The rest of the book is just Clara telling the police what they want to know and getting them information. Seriously, over half the book is the police trying to get Clara to cooperate with them and her saying no.

I didn’t feel there was a lot of suspense in this book because I figured out what was happening within the first few pages; there was no real reveal for me. I thought Clara had the capability to be an interesting character but she was too frustratingly naïve, even when the truth about Glen was right in front of her.

On a side note, I looked this book up in Goodreads to add to my books and there are tons of books that begin with “the girl before”. What’s the deal? What are they all before of?

what I’m reading: the taster by v.s. alexander.

It’s 1943 and Magda Ritter is sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Bavaria. While Magda is German, she is not part of the “party” and has no interest in joining. Nevertheless, she is expected to do her part as a German girl and manages to become employed at the Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat. Not knowing what her job will be, Magda shows up on her first day only to learn she will be risking her life every day as one of Hitler’s tasters – young women who taste Hitler’s meals before he eats them to guarantee they haven’t been poisoned.

I had such high hopes for this book but it just didn’t work out.

I felt the story was engaging and I enjoyed this new perspective on World War II. The life that Magda lives during the war is so different than many of the other characters I’ve read about in other WWII books. She is far from the realities of the war, well-fed, has plenty of money, and lives in a mountain retreat where the guards and employees are treated to movies, dances, and tea parties. Magda even becomes friends with Eva Braun.

However, even though I liked the storyline, I felt the characters were a little flat and thought some scenes could have been fleshed out more. The book is written in the first person point of view, and I thought there could have been much more details into what Magda was thinking and how she felt. Some scenes are completely glossed over and I never really connected to the characters. There is a lot of telling in this book, but not much showing.

Magda’s story is loosely based on a real woman named Margot Woelk who was one of Hitler’s tasters. She chose to keep her real-life story a secret until she was 95 years old. In some of the articles I read online, she talks about how her and the other tasters would cry every time they sampled the food because they thought it might be the last thing they ate. Her descriptions of her job and life were intriguing but I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be in her position.

what I’m reading: into the drowning deep by mira grant.

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” about mermaids. All contact was lost and when the ship was finally located, it was deserted. The only sign of the crew was bits of found footage that showed the crew being slaughtered by some sort of mermaid-like creatures. Most people wrote the footage off as a hoax, but there are those that believe the footage is real. Now, a new crew and boat has been assembled. Their mission – to go back to the Mariana Trench and discover what happened to the Atargatis. For Victoria Stewart, this might be the only chance she has to figure out what really happened to her sister all those years ago.

This book combines horror, science, and humor, and I really liked it. There is a huge cast of characters, and I thought they all brought something interesting to the story. There are big game hunters brought on board to hunt the mermaids, media personalities to report on everything that is happening, security, doctors, and of course scientists. There are many different types of scientists, as well as plenty that I had never even heard of before. The story is told from a variety of view points and I liked reading about the story from the different characters.

The science plays a large role. This book is science fiction and is filled with a plethora of scientific “facts”. I’ll be honest – I don’t know how much of the facts in this book were real. But I kept reading like it was all real. The facts just made the story all the more compelling.

There’s a lot of tension in the book. Mainly because the characters are trapped in the middle of the ocean on a boat and have nowhere to escape to. You know something is going to happen, but you don’t know what it is. This isn’t a book that wonders if mermaids exist. We, as the readers, know that they do. We are just waiting until the characters in the book figure it out as well.

I don’t know much about the author but I have to wonder what her background is. It wasn’t until I was finished reading the book that I realized there is a prequel that explains exactly what happened to the Atargatis.

what I’m reading: lilac girls by martha hall kelly.

Lilac Girls tells the story of three very different women during World War II. Caroline is a New York socialite who volunteers at the French consulate and works tirelessly to send care packages to orphans in France. In Poland, a teenager named Kasia is caught working for the Resistance and is arrested and sent to Ravensbrück, a concentration camp exclusively for women where prisoners were subjected to horrific medical experiments. There we are introduced to Herta, a German doctor assigned to work at the concentration camp and who performed many of those experiments.

The lives of these three women are intertwined in this remarkable story that is based on true people and events. While I was aware that medical experiments had been performed on prisoners during the Holocaust, I had never heard of Ravensbrück before reading this book.

This isn’t necessarily a happy book. I definitely did not have a feel-good feeling when I was done reading. There’s a lot of sadness, but I think that just makes the happy events stand out more. I loved the friendships that formed between the prisoners and the little things they did every day to make their time at the camp bearable. Caroline’s role wasn’t fully recognizable at first, but I ended up loving her storyline and the part she eventually plays.

Lilac Girls is a captivating piece of historical fiction. The author includes a note at the end of the book detailing her research process and how she came to write the book. She writes about how she spent time at Caroline’s home in Connecticut and traveled to Poland to interview some of the Ravensbrück survivors. It’s obvious that much research went into this book and I am interested to read what the author comes up with next.

what I’m reading: memory man by david baldacci.

Memory Man was my book club’s latest pick. Everyone loved the book; it was a great read.

After being violently injured in a football game, Amos Decker was left with an unbelievable side effect – a photographic memory that ensures he will never forget anything. It’s that memory that made him a great police detective, and it’s that memory that hasn’t let him forget the tragic murder of his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law. Since that horrific night, Amos left his job and his home and ekes out a simple living as a private investigator, living out of a motel. More than a year later, Amos is pulled back into the police world when a horrific event occurs that becomes linked to the murder of his family. In order to find out the truth of what happened, Amos must revisit that night and brave the memories he cannot forget.

I really enjoyed this book. The character of Amos Decker is an interesting and complex character. I loved that he is flawed and not a typical protagonist – he is overweight and out of shape, he has no tact, and doesn’t care what most people think. His memory makes him incredibly brilliant, as he is able to rewind and replay any event he has experienced since his football collision. He’s extremely curt and blunt and it takes a while to warm up to Amos, but I enjoyed the character.

I found this book to be a quick read, as I could not stop turning the pages. I found myself reading at random times because I would get sucked in. I would read on the bus to work and then would get angry when I was at my stop because I had to stop reading and I wanted to know what happened. I was constantly on the edge of my seat.

Memory Man is the first in a series and sets the basis for an interesting series. Without a doubt, I will be continuing reading.

what I’m reading: white bodies by jane robins.

From a young age, Callie has been obsessed with her twin sister Tilda. Callie spends her time watching and observing as Tilda grows up to be an actress while Callie spends her days working in a bookstore. When Tilda invites Callie over to meet her new boyfriend Felix, Callie is struck by how neat, tidy, and domineering Felix is. Callie watches as Tilda seems to stop eating, stop acting, and does everything that Felix tells her.

Callie becomes even more worried when Tilda shows up with bruises on her arms. Convinced that Felix is hurting Tilda, Callie joins an internet support group for controlling men where she becomes friends with some of the anonymous women posting on the forum. But when one of the women is killed by an abusive man and then Felix turns up dead, Callie begins to doubt herself and soon starts to wonder if Felix was murdered.

I’m sitting here, thinking of what I want to say about this book. On the one hand, I didn’t like any of the characters and I didn’t connect to anyone in this book. The characters were unreliable, creepy, and I didn’t understand anyone’s motivation. The central premise of the book revolves around Tilda and Callie’s strange twin/sister relationship. Callie is odd and a bit too obsessed with her sister. I found myself cringing at most of the things she did and conclusions she would jump to. We don’t learn much about Tilda, as we only see her through Callie’s eyes and how she interacts and speaks with Callie. Tilda’s motivations were always unclear and I didn’t really understand either her or Callie.

On the other hand, I thought the overall plot was creative and it kept me reading, despite the lack of character development. There’s a nod to “Strangers on a Train” and I felt that the mystery surrounding Felix’s death was really intriguing.

I would have liked a longer ending. I think that if there were more explanation, the characters would have seemed more real. Additionally, although the mystery was solved at the end, there were a couple of minor plot points that weren’t resolved which bothered me. This book may have been just a little too peculiar for me.