2016 Book #77 – The Form of Things Unknown by Robin Bridges

61+KY1TUYgLTitle: The Form of Things Unknown
Author: Robin Bridges
Date finished: 8/18/16
Genre: Young adult
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Pages in book: 304
Stand alone or series: Connected to previous publication, Dreaming of Antigone
Where I got the book from: Author/publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the Author/Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Natalie Roman isn’t much for the spotlight. But performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a stately old theatre in Savannah, Georgia, beats sitting alone replaying mistakes made in Athens. Fairy queens and magic on stage, maybe a few scary stories backstage. And no one in the cast knows her backstory.
Except for Lucas—he was in the psych ward, too. He won’t even meet her eye. But Nat doesn’t need him. She’s making friends with girls, girls who like horror movies and Ouija boards, who can hide their liquor in Coke bottles and laugh at the theater’s ghosts. Natalie can keep up. She can adapt. And if she skips her meds once or twice so they don’t interfere with her partying, it won’t be a problem. She just needs to keep her wits about her.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book will count towards my ARC August 2016 Reading Challenge. This book tells the story of Natalie Roman, who has recently moved with her family to Savannah to take care of her grandmother, a once stable woman who has recently decided to stop taking her prescription medication to treat her schizophrenia. Natalie herself was somewhat glad to move since all the kids at her new school won’t know that she recently spent some time in a psych ward. So Natalie begins her new life in Savannah and makes new friends. But she’s worried about what will happen when her new friends find out that she’s not quite sane. And there seems to be a good chance they’ll find out since one of the guys in Savannah spent time in the same psych ward as Natalie.
Overall I liked this book. I liked Natalie for the most part, although I thought she became a tad bit whiny at times. I think that those scenes were supposed to underscore her extreme insecurities but it made it hard for me to connect with the character. And while overall I liked the plot line, the premise behind some of it didn’t really make sense. Like why would Natalie’s parents put her in a psych ward after one drug-induced psychotic episode, when her only other history was that her grandmother also has schizophrenia. I feel like Natalie should have shown more of a psychotic pattern before being hospitalized? Other than that is was a cute and sweet story about second chances and learning to appreciate who you are and I thought it was nice that Natalie found someone that she cares about. I would recommend.

The bottom line: I liked this book, though not as much as I liked Dreaming of Antigone. I had more trouble connecting to Natalie’s character. I still think the author did a great job of dealing with common teen issues in this book though: bullying, insecurities, drugs, alcohol and mental illness. A good read and I would recommend it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #61 – The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

61kbMRxYPpL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Girls in the Garden
Author: Lisa Jewell
Date finished: 6/11/16
Genre: Fiction, suspense
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE:I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?
On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?
Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense. Fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes will be captivated by The Girls in the Garden, the next unforgettable novel by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of a number of families living in a complex in Central London, with the complex surrounding a three acre communal park. No one has their own “back yard” all residents share one very large and well groomed garden for a back yard. Clare has just moved into a small apartment with her two daughters, Grace and Pip (whose real name is Lola). Clare is trying to hide from a recent traumatic situation with her husband, the girls’ father. She finds comfort at first in the friendship that comes with sharing the communal back yard. Her girls seem to be adapting well, especially Grace who is spending a lot of time with another set of sisters who live across the way. Once Grace is found unconscious and bloody though, Clare learns about what her daughter has really been doing when she’s not at home and that the other girls are not exactly as innocent as they seem.
Overall I really liked this book. The story line was interesting and I thought the author did a great job with how she made the story flow. The story begins with Pip finding her sister after Grace had been attacked. Then the story back tracks to the six months leading up to the attack and then continues past the attack to what happened after Grace was found. The story was also told from Pip’s point of view as well as Clare’s and Adele’s (the other set of sisters’ mother) with two more points of view added in the last few chapters. The ending didn’t turn out quite as I expected but I really liked the plot and it was a fairly quick, fast-paced read. The author really did a great job with creating tension in the story, the drama and tension was coming off the book in waves and we kept finding out more scandalous tidbits the more the characters delved into the mystery. I think this will be a great read for this summer, I would definitely recommend trying this one!

The bottom line: I found this book very interesting and at the same time slightly disturbing. Not disturbing in a bad way, more in a suspenseful way. The author creates a real world for the reader inside the communal garden and the separate points of view added a lot of different pieces to the story line. I would definitely recommend this one!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #58 – Frayed by Kara Terzis

51zDAx+FX2L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Frayed
Author: Kara Terzis
Date finished: 6/2/16
Genre: Young adult
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Pages in book: 304
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE:I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Dear Kesley,
My therapist tells me I should write you a letter. Like flushing all my thoughts and feelings out of my system and onto paper. I tell her it’s a stupid idea.
But here I am, writing a letter to a dead girl. Where do I start? Where did our story begin? From the moment you were born…or died?
I’ll start with the moment I found out the truth about you. Your lies and my pain. Because it always begins and ends with you.
And that end began when Rafe Lawrence came back to town…
Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister’s killer…although she’ll wish she hadn’t. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger.
And Kesley’s murderer could be much closer than she thought…
A debut novel from Wattpad award-winner Kara Terzis, Frayed is a psychological whodunit that will keep you guessing!

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. Also, this book will count towards my Book Riot 2016 Read Harder reading challenge, marking off the “read a book with a main character that has a mental illness.” I’m not going to say who because you should read it to find out but one of the main characters in this book is suffering from a mental illness. This book tells the story of Ava Hale, beginning about a month after her sister dies while she tries to figure out who murdered Kelsey. The police have no leads and as Ava starts to delve a little deeper into Kelsey’s life before her death, she discovers that she didn’t know her sister as well as she thought. Kelsey managed to hide a lot of things from her little sister Ava, including the fact that she tried to buy a gun to protect herself. But what exactly was Kelsey scared of? And why didn’t she think she could tell Ava about whatever was scaring her?
Overall I really liked this book. It was intriguing and kept me hooked right up until the end. I honestly didn’t see the ending coming, it was one of those great shocker endings. The ending was a little sad for me because I just felt so bad for Ava. The reader learns a lot about Ava through the book and it seemed like at every turn there was someone else betraying Ava’s trust. It was very sad. Other than that though I liked the book a lot! I don’t want to give too much away with the review so I would tell everyone to go read it for yourselves and find out!

The bottom line: I really liked this book, it was definitely a heart-pounding thriller and it kept me guessing right up until the very end. I just felt so bad for Ava, it seemed like there wasn’t anyone who cared about her enough to have her back and it saddened me a little. Other than that, this was a great thriller and I would definitely recommend it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #33 – Remember My Beauties by Lynne Hugo

516VRbAfTYL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Remember My Beauties
Author: Lynne Hugo
Date finished: 4/12/16
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Switchgrass Books
Publication Date: April 18, 2016
Pages in book: 194
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE:I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Imagine a hawk’s view of the magnificent bluegrass pastures of Kentucky horse country. Circle around the remnants of a breeding farm, four beautiful horses grazing just beyond the paddock. Inside the ramshackle house, a family is falling apart.
Hack, the patriarch breeder and trainer, is aged and blind, and his wife, Louetta, is confined by rheumatoid arthritis. Their daughter, Jewel, struggles to care for them and the horses while dealing with her own home and job—not to mention her lackluster second husband, Eddie, and Carley, her drug-addicted daughter. Many days, Jewel is only sure she loves the horses. But she holds it all together. Until her brother, Cal, shows up again. Jewel already has reason to hate Cal, and when he meets up with Carley, he throws the family into crisis—and gives Jewel reason to pick up a gun.
Every family has heartbreaks, failures, a black sheep or two. And some families end in tatters. But some stumble on the secret of survival: if the leader breaks down, others step up and step in. In this lyrical novel, when the inept, the addict, and the ex-con join to weave the family story back together, either the barn will burn to the ground or something bigger than any of them will emerge, shining with hope. Remember My Beauties grows large and wide as it reveals what may save us.

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. Also, this book will count towards my “PopSugar 2016 Checklist” reading challenge, marking off the “a book that takes place during Summer” since this book mostly takes place during the summer, though the last quarter of the book is in October. This book is about Jewel and her family, including her daughter Carley, her husband Eddie, his children Chassie and Rocky, and her parents Louetta and Hack. I don’t even know where to start really because there was just so much going on in this less than 200 page book. There are a lot of drug problems in this family. Jewel’s sister and brother are both drug addicts and so is her daughter Carley. Jewel tries to help Carley as much as she can but she can’t ever seem to find a way to pull her out of the hole that she’s in. Also, Louetta and Hack are invalids and Jewel takes care of them as well. Her parents aren’t especially affectionate people so they don’t really say things like “I love you” or even “thank you” very much. Jewel takes care of her father’s horses too plus holds a full time job so she’s got a lot on her plate right now. It all seems to start going downhill when her mother asks her brother Cal to come stay at the family home with them. From there things unravel in a family drama that is both intense and very dark at times.
Overall I thought this was an interesting book. It is hard for me to say with books like this that I liked/loved the book because it deals with difficult subject matter and what the characters go through is really just heart-breaking. I have to say that I am one of those readers that my emotions get linked up with what I’m reading so this book was a difficult one for me to get through, it was very dark and I found my mood blackening the more I read. The ending was a little more towards healing and heart-warming but still the story line of this book really affected me. It was definitely an interesting book though and was a quick, fast-paced read. I didn’t want to put it down even though it was creating such a riot of emotions within me. The author did a great job of capturing the reader and I think the story overall was wonderfully written. The story switched between character points of view but the transitions were smooth for the most part and it was the best way for the reader to see all the inner-workings of the character’s actions. I especially loved the pieces that were from the horses point of view, it was really a creative move for the author to give the horses a voice.

The bottom line: This was a short read (only 194 pages) and it was definitely not dull at all. I recommend it with a precaution that it does get a little dark so if you get drawn into books emotionally this will be a tough one. Also have a box of tissues handy. Really a powerful story though and very moving.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #22 – He Wanted the Moon by Mimi Baird and Eve Claxton

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Title: He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter’s Quest to Know Him
Author: Mimi Baird with Eve Claxton
Date finished: 3/28/15
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Pages in book: 250
Stand alone or series: Stand alone

Blurb from the cover:

A mid-century doctor’s raw, unvarnished account of his own descent into madness, and his daughter’s attempt to piece his life back together and make sense of her own.
Texas-born and Harvard-educated, Dr. Perry Baird was a rising medical star in the late 1920s and 1930s. Early in his career, ahead of his time, he grew fascinated with identifying the biochemical root of manic depression, just as he began to suffer from it himself. By the time the results of his groundbreaking experiments were published, Dr. Baird had been institutionalized multiple times, his medical license revoked, and his wife and daughters estranged. He later received a lobotomy and died from a consequent seizure, his research incomplete, his achievements unrecognized.
Mimi Baird grew up never fully knowing this story, as her family went silent about the father who had been absent for most of her childhood. Decades later, a string of extraordinary coincidences led to the recovery of a manuscript which Dr. Baird had worked on throughout his brutal institutionalization, confinement, and escape. This remarkable document, reflecting periods of both manic exhilaration and clear-headed health, presents a startling portrait of a man who was a uniquely astute observer of his own condition, struggling with a disease for which there was no cure, racing against time to unlock the key to treatment before his illness became impossible to manage.
Fifty years after being told her father would forever be “ill” and “away,” Mimi Baird set off on a quest to piece together the memoir and the man. In time her fingers became stained with the lead of the pencil he had used to write his manuscript, as she devoted herself to understanding who he was, why he disappeared, and what legacy she had inherited. The result of his extraordinary record and her journey to bring his name to light is He Wanted the Moon, an unforgettable testament to the reaches of the mind and the redeeming power of a determined heart.

My rating: 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will count towards my “Bookish Bingo” reading challenge, marking off the “Mental Illness” square. I can’t remember where I first saw this book but it immediately caught my interest. Mimi Baird never knew why her father (Dr. Perry Baird) disappeared or what really happened to him, but years later she obtains his manuscripts and discovers that he suffered from manic depression and that his disappearances were due to his staying at various mental institutions during his manic episodes. His manuscripts detail his care and treatments as well as different details of his life after he disappeared from her life. This book combines notes from the mental institutions where Dr. Baird stayed, narratives from his manuscript, as well as letters between Dr. Baird and various peers and friends.
The first half of the book was difficult for me as this is where the bulk of the writing from Dr. Baird’s manuscript was included. As Mimi describes in a later passage, Perry alternates between a clear line of thinking and being eloquent and scientific in thought, and ramblings of delusions. At certain points in his writings it was hard to tell if the scene Perry was describing was one of his own imagination or something that actually happened. Also the differences between what Perry describes of his actions in the mental hospitals and what the medical record notes describe are slightly different, making it difficult for the reader to know what is real and what is not. This did not at all detract from the seriousness or the subject matter discussed within the memoir and only compounded the ways in which a mental disorder can distort reality for the patient.
The second half of the book was mostly a narrative written by Mimi Baird, describing her journeys in compiling this book and also in learning more about the father she never really knew. I found this narrative to be very moving and extremely touching. I thought that this book was well put together and was a very interesting look into the mind of an extremely intelligent man suffering from manic depression.

The bottom line:  I found this book very interesting. While the first half of the book was slightly tough to get through, the daughter’s narratives in the second half added such emotion to the book. Very well done. I would recommend.

Link to Amazon