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Fabulous Friday – 19 January 2018
2018-01-19 06:00 UTC by Michelle

Fabulous Friday Button

We should always find ways to celebrate the little things in life. What better day to celebrate these little things than the best day of the week? So, here are the things that make this a Fabulous Friday for me this week.


  • JOB INTERVIEWS – We knew that things would pick up on the job search front after the holidays and indeed they have. Jim had one in-person interview this week and has another one next week. Plus, he has at least one phone interview as well. These are all very good things and hopefully mean multiple job offers in the near future.


What makes this a Fabulous Friday for you?

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A Quiet Kind of Thunder
2018-01-18 06:00 UTC by Michelle

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

BOTTOM LINE: So sweet and so good

Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Young Adult
Publication Date: 9 January 2018
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis from the Publisher:

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.

Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life. The condition’s name has always felt ironic to her, because she certainly does not “select” not to speak. In fact, she would give anything to be able to speak as easily and often as everyone around her can. She suffers from crippling anxiety, and uncontrollably, in most situations simply can’t open her mouth to get out the words.

Steffi’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to help him acclimate. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk. As they find ways to communicate, Steffi discovers that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. But as she starts to overcome a lifelong challenge, she’ll soon confront questions about the nature of her own identity and the very essence of what it is to know another person.”

My Thoughts: There are some young adult relationship books which are too saccharine. These are the kind which idealize every aspect of first love and often describe the type of behavior you would scorn in real life. Then there are other stories that get it just right. These are the ones that capture the awkwardness, the doubts and myriad questions, the goofiness, the sheer joy, and the absurdity of it all. These stories are the ones that put a smile on your face and have you looking at your old yearbooks to reminisce about past relationships. Sara Barnard‘s A Quiet Kind of Thunder is one of the good ones.

It is not just Steffi’s and Rhys’ relationship with makes A Quiet Kind of Thunder so good though. If anything, that is icing on the cake. It is Steffi herself that makes the story special. Her honesty about her mental health issues, her frustrations at the arbitrariness and cruelty of anxiety, her desperation to get better and prove that she can live out her dreams – all of this contributes to this special story.

It would be so easy to make Steffi a caricature, a symbol for all teens suffering from anxiety. Instead, Ms. Barnard takes this fragile character and makes her unique. Instead of being a trope, she is her own person. Ms. Barnard takes care to develop her to the point where she stops being a fictional character and becomes real. Everything about her, from her insecurities about her appearance to her severe anxiety to her love of animals creates a character who is more than just words on a screen. In doing so, we are drawn in to her story. We become active in support of her, urging her towards certain decisions and groaning when she makes a poor choice. We are vested in her success, whether that is with Rhys or with overcoming the challenges set in place by her parents and her anxiety, and the story shines as a result.

The other thing to love about A Quiet Kind of Thunder is the honesty with which Steffi explains her anxiety. She does not just cover the clinical definitions of what is occurring in her brain, nor does she focus on how it makes her feel. We get to know the nuances of anxiety, from her selective muteness to panic attacks to general worry. We understand what causes her to be silent and what allows her voice to flow. Most importantly, for any reader who also suffers from anxiety, we learn we are not alone. Steffi’s feelings are your feelings, and her struggles are your struggles. As such, it is the type of novel I want everyone with anxiety to read because those feelings of loneliness can be crippling in their own right.

As for Steffi’s and Rhys’ relationship, Ms. Barnard portrays it just right. She affords it the right amount of happiness and rainbows that all first loves should have, but she also keeps it real. She shows the awkwardness, the should-I-or-shouldn’t-I doubts, the compromises required. She explores the importance of communication in all relationships, especially ones that you want to last. She also mentions the need to keep your identity, to be yourself, and remain independent while also part of a couple. It is a fabulous template for any relationship made all the more poignant because it is also that very special first love.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder made me laugh and most definitely made me cry. Most important of all is that it made me smile, a goofy grin that I could not erase while reading. Even now, while thinking about the story, I find myself smiling with fondness because it is such a sweet story but one that has heart and honesty at its core. There is nothing false or saccharine about any of it. When you are feeling low, when the news has you questioning whether there is any good left in the world, A Quiet Kind of Thunder is the perfect reminder that good still exists.

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The Immortalists didn’t quite impress me
2018-01-17 06:00 UTC by Michelle

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

BOTTOM LINE: Good but I read a similar story I liked a lot better

Genre: Literary Fiction
Publication Date: 9 January 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.”

My Thoughts: In many ways, The Immortalists is an adult version of They Both Die at the End. Both explore the idea of fate versus choice. Both deal with the idea of living your life knowing when your last day is. Unfortunately, as good as Chloe Benjamin‘s novel is, I do think Adam Silvera did it better.

The thing is, The Immortalists is a well-written novel. The Gold children each deal with the knowledge of their death date in different ways, with a wide variety of success and tragedy. Simon’s story is particularly poignant and inspiring. No matter how you react to each of the siblings, however, Ms. Benjamin gets you to react. You care enough to feel for these four children and the lives they lead. Their deaths, while not unexpected, are still tragic in the fact that they happen if not how. You want the psychic to be wrong and hope the kids can beat back any demons that haunt them. It is an emotional novel that questions the idea of fate versus choice.

In spite of all that emotional goodness, I am left feeling rather unsatisfied. One could debate for days whether each of the siblings would have acted in the same way had they never learned about their death date and therefore knowing this information contributed to their demise. It makes for a fascinating but ultimately unsatisfactory discussion because there are no definitive answers to either point. Regardless if there was, this is not the point of the story. The story is about family and about living a genuine life. The thing is that no one really learns these lessons. The siblings part ways early on in the novel and remain apart from one another if not completely estranged in some form. As for living a genuine life, well, that too may be up for debate. This all makes me question whether the learning lessons are more for readers rather than the characters, which I find somewhat disappointing. The Immortalists then becomes a 352-page lecture, albeit a well-told one.

I suspect my feelings about The Immortalists would be different had I not read Adam Silver’s latest masterpiece a few short months ago. In his story, the focus is two characters and one day, allowing readers a greater opportunity to get to know them and to experience their last day alongside them. Ms. Benjamin has us as silent witnesses versus silent participants. Not only that but by keeping the focus to one day, we see the difference it makes when one truly lives their life without fear and without worry. Ms. Benjamin’s version, by occurring over five decades, makes this more nebulous, and we don’t necessarily see the Gold siblings living without fear or worry. We see them, for the most part, as adults worried about the same things as every other adult.

For me, The Immortalists is good but it cannot be as good as Adam Silvera’s novel. This is not only because I read it first but also because I remain more impressed with how he told his story, with his characterization, and the method by which he laid out his theme. Ms. Benjamin’s novel suffers from uneven characters, a theme which makes no sense in the context of the story, and from the feeling of repetitiveness that comes with having recently read a more impressive and memorable similar story.

The post The Immortalists didn’t quite impress me appeared first on That's What She Read.

The Lost Plot makes me love Irene and Kai even more
2018-01-16 06:00 UTC by Michelle

The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

BOTTOM LINE: If you have not started this series yet, for what are you waiting?

Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: 9 January 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“After being commissioned to find a rare book, Librarian Irene and her assistant, Kai, head to Prohibition-era New York and are thrust into the middle of a political fight with dragons, mobsters, and Fae.

In a 1920s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force; fedoras, flapper dresses, and tommy guns are in fashion: and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon political contest. It seems a young Librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him, there could be serious repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai are locked in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail, and the Library’s own Internal Affairs department. And if it doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences on Irene’s job. And, incidentally, on her life…”

My Thoughts: It would be easy to dismiss The Lost Plot and the entire series as fluffy fantasy involving a weird Library, dragons, Fae, and dimensional time travel, and in some regards this assessment is true. It is rather fluffy in that the stories are not literary in nature but purely entertaining. You are not going to learn much about history, life, or yourself while reading them. To dismiss The Invisible Library series, however, is to ignore all that is right with storytelling for Genevieve Cogman tells one hell of a story.

Like all good series, each story builds on the other. In this fourth novel in the series, we know more than we did about the Library. We understand Fae and dragon lands. We know about dragon politics. We understand Irene’s mission and her relationship with Kai. What The Lost Plot does is provide us with just a bit more knowledge about each of these areas to further solidify our understanding. Dragon politics is at the heart of this particular novel, and for the first time we see how Irene’s relationship with Kai and their relationship to the Library could be in jeopardy thanks to his family. In the previous novels, this was something hinted at more than explored, but now we get to see firsthand the high-wire act Irene has been performing to keep both Kai and the Library safe. Her willingness to do so speaks volumes about her feelings for her apprentice, and we finally see some movement in that area as well. In addition, the time spent in various dragons’ company affords us a greater understanding of their strict rules and hierarchy. Plus, there are mobsters, holier-than-though cops, and dragons flying around fighting each other. What more could you want?

After the heavy action in The Burning Page, The Lost Plot does feel rather slow and less informative than previous books. Yet, I suspect this was done for a purpose. There has always been more to the story than just Irene and Kai traveling to different lands to collect rare books for the Library. Book three brought us closer to understanding that overarching mystery, so book four is a time to pause and establish greater understanding of our heros and the political minefields that exist in their line of work. It is not a filler episode so much as it is a breather episode, there to remind us of simpler times when we first met Irene and Kai and to confirm all that we now know. All long-running series have such lulls in action, if you will, where the main story gets set aside for a bit while we reintroduce the characters, discover how much they have changed since we first met them, and get the chance to process everything that has previously happened. For any series to be successful, having this relative lull in the action is essential and welcome.

This is not to say that Irene becomes dull and safe in her efforts to fulfill her mission. It is rather the opposite in fact. If there is any impending danger, she will find it. If she can find a way to wreck havoc, she takes it. This is the Irene we know and love, the one who will do whatever it takes to keep her friends safe and complete her mission, the one who is afraid to jump but will do it anyway because she knows it is the only way. There is plenty of action and destruction to whet any Irene Winters fan.

After three books in the series, there is not much more to say except to remind people just how much fun it is. Irene is hilarious in her practical, no-nonsense way with her affinity for a warm fire, a snifter of brandy, and a pile of books at war with her propensity for danger and mayhem. Kai has a chance to shine on his own this time too, as we see him forced to make decisions without Irene’s guidance and apply his understanding of the politics at play to his decision-making. The Prohibition-era like version of New York City is amusing and adds an extra layer of intrigue to the whole story. The Lost Plot is immensely satisfying and thoroughly entertaining, as is the whole series. The only bad part is now having to wait yet again for the next book.

The post The Lost Plot makes me love Irene and Kai even more appeared first on That's What She Read.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 15 January 2018
2018-01-15 06:00 UTC by Michelle

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Button
Hosted by Kathryn from Book Date, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. To learn more about each book, just click on the book cover!

For the first full week back to work, I managed to read less than I hoped but at least I enjoyed two of the three books. I am so close to being caught up on electronic galleys that I find myself focusing on reading in lieu of everything else. It has been a long, long time since I have been caught up like this!


Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan The Taster by V. S. Alexander

Maureen Johnson writes such great stories. They are dark without going overboard. They are intense. They have great characters. Her latest series opener is a fantastic mystery in the mode of traditional murder mysteries complete with majestic but eerie setting and characters with secrets. You expect Hercules Poirot to walk into the scene twirling his mustache. I loved every minute of it.

Sarah Vaughan’s novel has SO much potential to inform and change the narrative about sexual assault crimes. Sadly, it failed to live up to that potential and left me feeling not only disappointed but frustrated that even with the #metoo movement still staying strong we cannot seem to change the way we talk about such crimes.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the V. S. Alexander novel. It was exciting and historically interesting not to mention entirely plausible. I found myself compelled to keep reading it and enjoyed it in its entirety.


The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

I have my first DNF. I am sure this is a great novel. I could not get past the simplistic sentence structure and the characters. The sentences read like a child wrote them. As for the characters, well, the ridiculously wealthy wife with an oddly close relationship with her son was not doing it for me. I probably could have pushed through it and even found myself enjoying some of it, but I didn’t think it was worth the initial aggravation.


The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert


White Trash by Nancy Isenberg


January Review Copies remaining:

The Night Child by Anna Quinn

So, what are you reading?

The post It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 15 January 2018 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Sunday Reflections – 14 January 2018
2018-01-14 14:00 UTC by Michelle

Sunday Reflections Button

Happy Sunday!

It was an unexpected sick day today as I was felled by either a stomach bug or something I ate. I am feeling better but still planning on taking it easy for the rest of the evening. I had plans to get all sorts of things done today but took a nap and read a book instead. I think my alternate activities were better than my plans.

Back to normal meant back to dance and work. With just over a month before the first competition, every rehearsal counts. The new schedule means she has some form of dance every day but Tuesday. It will be worth it, but it means not doing much on the weekends. That is perfectly okay because there are always things we can do around the house.

Jim’s job search is going well. Interest and activity has picked up, like we thought, and he has two interviews this week. Both potential jobs he finds interesting, so we shall see how they go. We are still taking it one day at a time though and remain hopeful that the right job is right around the corner.

Connor started his second semester last Monday and dove right into the thick of things. His second semester is a little more challenging, complete with both early morning classes and late evening labs. However, he learned a lot his first semester about college and just how much work is required of each class, so he entered the week with a good plan of action for success.

As for me, it is year-end. It means crossing every t and dotting every i as we close the books. We still do not have an approved budget either, so I have had a few meetings about that as well. It really feels like business as usual with the added pressure of having to be even more careful because we have the year-end audit right after we close the books. Fun times indeed.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend and will have a fantastic work week! I’ll see you back here next Sunday!


Here are past posts from the last few weeks in case you missed them the first time:

The post Sunday Reflections – 14 January 2018 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2018-01-14
2018-01-14 05:00 UTC

  4. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 8 January 2018

What’s for Dinner? – Week Starting 6 January 2018
2018-01-13 06:00 UTC by Michelle

What's For Dinner Button

People are forever asking how I manage everything with such a busy schedule. I love to cook, but I don’t always have time to do so in the manner I would like. This weekly journal is a way to keep it real and show that while my intentions are good, sometimes life and all of its activities get in the way of serving a delicious, home-cooked meal and that it is perfectly okay.

  • ********************

  • Saturday: Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers. Connor left for school today, and no one felt like making anything. The pork chops from last night provided plenty of leftovers for Jim and me while Holly made due with a salad and some macaroni and cheese.
  • Sunday: It was a lovely lazy Sunday, but lazy Sundays mean no one wants to cook. Jim made everyone grilled cheese sandwiches instead, and we all cheered.
  • Monday: Jim and I tried something completely different tonight with an Italian Sausage Swiss Chard White Bean Soup. I love soup but adding white beans and Swiss chard pushed my taste and texture envelope to the limit. Surprisingly, we liked it a lot. It won’t make the regular rotation but as a great, flavorful alternative to the cream soups I favor it works really well.
  • Tuesday: Jim had a mentally taxing visit with a neurologist this afternoon, so I knew that he was in no frame of mind to sit around the house while I prepared dinner. Instead, we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant, where he was able to stay distracted and recover a bit from the fears that surfaced during the appointment. I can never say no to Mexican food.
  • Wednesday: Jim and I further pushed our culinary palates with tonight’s Baked Chicken Parmesan with zucchini noodles. The chicken was fabulous, and the zucchini noodles were not bad as a side. When eaten together, I barely noticed I wasn’t eating my beloved pasta. Will I trade all pasta for zoodles? Hell no. Would I make this again? Absolutely.
  • Thursday: An unexpected cancellation of dance classes meant Holly got to eat dinner with us. Tonight, we tried Oven-Baked Risotto with Roasted Mushrooms and a side of garlicky chard and beans. The risotto was delicious, especially once I added a little butter and some freshly shredded Parmesan cheese. The chard and beans was passable. I have learned I am not a beans/chard fan. Yet, it was probably one of the healthiest meals we have eaten in a while, and the whole thing took less than thirty minutes to pull together and cook. There is something to that.
  • Friday: Back to a normal schedule means back to dance classes on Friday evenings which means no cooking. Instead, we stopped at Chipotle and picked up burrito bowls to take home to eat. Chipotle chicken burrito bowls never get old.


What was for dinner at your house this week?

The post What’s for Dinner? – Week Starting 6 January 2018 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Fabulous Friday – 12 January 2018
2018-01-12 06:00 UTC by Michelle

Fabulous Friday Button

We should always find ways to celebrate the little things in life. What better day to celebrate these little things than the best day of the week? So, here are the things that make this a Fabulous Friday for me this week.


  • BACK TO NORMAL – I like the holidays. I love having time off from work and the family together. But I am really happy to be back to our normal school-year schedule. This was the first full week we have had where everyone is back to school and work (except for Jim but he did have an interview and a culture survey this week), and I enjoyed it so much. Even the dog seemed more relaxed this week because her schedule was not all wacky. I know this is not going to last, but I am going to enjoy it while it does.


What makes this a Fabulous Friday for you?

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Dangerous Crossing is quite charming
2018-01-11 06:00 UTC by Michelle

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

BOTTOM LINE: A fun novel that makes me wish we still traveled on ocean liners

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 9 January 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

The ship has been like a world within itself, a vast floating city outside of normal rules. But the longer the journey continues, the more confined it is starting to feel, deck upon deck, passenger upon passenger, all of them churning around each other without anywhere to go…

1939: Europe is on the brink of war when young Lily Shepherd boards an ocean liner in Essex, bound for Australia. She is ready to start anew, leaving behind the shadows in her past. The passage proves magical, complete with live music, cocktails, and fancy dress balls. With stops at exotic locations along the way—Naples, Cairo, Ceylon—the voyage shows Lily places she’d only ever dreamed of and enables her to make friends with those above her social station, people who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings.

But Lily soon realizes that she’s not the only one hiding secrets. Her newfound friends—the toxic wealthy couple Eliza and Max; Cambridge graduate Edward; Jewish refugee Maria; fascist George—are also running away from their pasts. As the glamour of the voyage fades, the stage is set for something sinister to occur. By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and Lily’s life will be changed irrevocably.”

My Thoughts: There have been many a novel that looks at the world as it was in 1939 and on the brink of its second world war. There have been many a novel set at sea. I do not imagine there have been many novels that have both as their setting. Dangerous Crossing is one such novel as it explores one young woman’s travel across the world to a new beginning on board a luxury ocean liner right after Germany invaded Poland. It is, in many ways, a coming-of-age story not just for the main character but for the rest of the passengers as well.

Lily is a wonderful main character. She is young and inexperienced, and her excitement for this adventure to her new life is infectious. Yet, she is not completely naive and therefore not an easy target for someone looking to take advantage of her. She has a sharp mind and is quite observant in one so young. She is not perfect, but her mistakes are almost endearing. Her vibrancy and eagerness to explore the world opened to her is so infectious that it is easy to ignore any annoyances she might cause you.

For as fun as it is to see the story unfold through Lily’s point of view, the true star of the story is the ocean liner and entire voyage. Ms. Rhys’ descriptions are stunning and make you feel like you are there alongside Lily. Everything from the odor of the cabins after a long night to the sun on the horizon is crystal clear and compelling. Even those scenes that take place off-ship are evocative and vibrant. You find yourself so caught up in the descriptions that the story fades in importance.

The other element of the novel Ms. Rhys does well is establish the unrest caused by not knowing where the world stands as it pertains to Germany’s aggression. There is also the sense of timelessness that results from not having access to the latest news. It is such a unique perspective. The ship is literally in its own bubble out of time for as long as it remains away from its destination. It becomes something of an experiment then to watch the passengers interact without thought of the outside world and with no immediate worries to guide them. The not knowing is particularly profound given today’s instantaneous news access and rapidity of reporting, and the ease with which they accept the lack of news fills you with longing to be back in those blissful years of ignorance because the news took time to reach you.

There is something about the open ocean that calls to mind romance and adventure. Dangerous Crossing captures that feel with its impressive attention to detail and spirit of possibility that exists in each of the characters. Lily makes for a great heroine, full of adventure as only the young are, intelligent enough to discern harsh truths, and more than capable of speaking her mind. The big mystery of the voyage proves to be minor when compared to Lily’s growth, and that is okay. Ms. Rhys does such a great job establishing the characters and their interactions that the rest is not even necessary. I remain pleasantly surprised and impressed by this character-driven story on the sea and hope others take the opportunity to see the world through Lily’s eyes.

The post Dangerous Crossing is quite charming appeared first on That's What She Read.

Let go of Before I Let Go
2018-01-10 06:00 UTC by Michelle

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

BOTTOM LINE: Unsettling and dark

Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Young Adult
Publication Date: 2 January 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated—and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town’s lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets—chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter…”

My Thoughts:  Before I Let Go is a dark novel about one town that pretty much loses its collective mind. Fitting then that the town happens to be called Lost. What Corey finds upon her return to this remote Alaskan community is anything but normal and difficult to believe. Set during early spring in northern Alaska, when the sun returns but only briefly, the entire tone of the novel is disturbing as the answers Corey seeks prove to be dangerous to find.

It takes a lot to rattle me, but rattle me Before I Let Go did. The townspeople’s actions towards Corey are not just discomforting but downright sinister. It is difficult to envision an entire town ganging up on one of their own, making threats, and going out of their way to cause as many problems for the returnee as possible, and yet this is what happens to Corey. The unbelievability of it all as well as the sinister undertones make for damn uncomfortable reading.

Corey adds to your discomfiture by being a rather whiny character. She is completely unable to accept the truth until it is almost too late, long after you have already figured out what happened. Her unwillingness to see what is right in front of her is frustrating, especially as it causes her to make some poor choices. She also spends a lot of time contemplating her friendship and what it means to be a friend. We do get some good insight out of this, especially as it pertains to someone with a mental illness. However, the rest of the novel does not fit with this more internalized story. It is as if in Corey, the author tried to create a story within a story even though the two clash more than blend.

My overall problem with Before I Let Go is that I have no idea what it is meant to be. Is it a cautionary tale about friendship? Is it a thriller? Is it supposed to be realistic? Is it just supposed to be entertaining? Throwing me off even more is the introspection Corey does as she tries to learn more about what happened to Kyra. Does this make it a coming-of-age story? I just do not know, and this bothers me. I usually enjoy stories that cross multiple genres at once, but this leaves me perplexed. The two stories – why/how did Kyra die and how Corey is handling it – are not tightly woven together but appear as separate and distinct. Add in the creepy and highly unrealistic town transformation and you have a novel that is as confusing as it is disturbing.

The townspeople and their actions are so creepy and the story is so dark that I finished Before I Let Go with a sigh of relief and thankful to be able to put it behind me. This is not because the story is shocking. The answers, when you finally obtain them, are not much of a surprise even if they are as odd as you suspect they will be. I suspect my relief was more due to the fact that I was done with this weirdly unrealistic novel masking as contemporary fiction and could move on to more pleasant reading, which is not how you should ever want to feel finishing any story.

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