REVIEW – Columbine by Dave Cullen

I have to give props to Dave Cullen for this compelling, emotional, in-depth account of the Columbine shootings and the events surrounding that day.

I consume a lot of true crime – mostly in the form of podcasts and books. This is the first time I’ve read a book about an event that I remember, instead of events that occurred before I was born (the Manson family Murders, Bundy, etc.) This book is probably one of the most disturbing, frustrating and heart wrenching things I have ever read.

Columbine was a defining moment for my generation. I was finishing up elementary school, just about to enter 7th grade, when the shootings took place. They undoubtedly had an effect on my junior high and high school experience. I remember rumors about the “goth” or “skater” (oh man, so 2000!) kids being violent, hating the “preps” and having so-called hit lists. I remember a bomb threat in 7th grade that forced the school to evacuate us to the gym of a nearby church – we spent the afternoon waiting for answers and eventually learned it was a hoax.

Of course, 9/11 had a much bigger impact on the nation a few years later, but Columbine always stuck with me because it seemed much more real to me. I had never been to NYC, but I had been in a school. I had known those stereotypical “goth” kids who were (wrongly) vilified in the media.

I think I would have struggled a bit less with this book if I had read it 10 years ago. Now I’m married to a high school teacher. I’ve experienced active shooter training. Some of the chapters of this book hit too close to home – frequently I had to pause, put the book down for a moment, and tell my husband I loved him. This will stick with me for awhile.

I can’t imagine the emotional toll that researching and writing this book might have had on Cullen, but I do think it needed to be written and I think he did an incredible job.

REVIEW – The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

I would recommend going into this book blind, and I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.

[spoilers start here!]

This book is not at all what I expected. I thought our main character Melanie would be some sort of amazing X-Men type character, but she’s actually a highly intelligent zombie that can control her “hunger.”

This book was SO GOOD at the beginning, and just sort of devolved in my opinion.

I was pretty bummed when Sergeant Parks had to die, because he was probably the most interesting and complex character in the book.

REVIEW – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Do you like Agatha Christie? Do you have fond memories of the game Clue? Do you like absolutely insane, twisty mysteries?

This book was not at all what I expected – it was SO. MUCH. BETTER. I don’t want to give anything away because I think it’s best to go in knowing only what’s in the synopsis.

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Aiden Bishop is attempting to solve her murder, but each time the day repeats he wakes up in the body of a different person. That’s all you need to know because nothing can prepare you for the labyrinth that is this book.

Turton is an absolute master. There are so many characters in this story, and he does a great job of making each one distinct and memorable.

REVIEW – The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne

I didn’t know what to expect heading in to this book and I’m honestly not sure how I would explain it to someone else because I wouldn’t want to spoil anything.

Cyril isn’t a “real” Avery. He’s reminded of that his entire life. We follow him from his birth in 1945, meeting up with him every seven years until 2015.

At times this book dragged a bit for me. Some of the more dramatic plot points hit all at once, which isn’t really necessary for a book that’s almost 600 pages. That being said, it’s still worth a read.

A lot of people say this book made them cry, but I would like to add that this book made me laugh more than anything. Even when covering heavier topics, Boyne was still able to weave a little bit of humor between the sadness (and appropriately, nothing felt forced or out of place).

[major spoilers start here!]

I wasn’t shocked when Julian ended up being one of the patients with AIDS, and although I found that part of the book sad, it wasn’t what stuck with me.

I’ll preface this by saying I am not an emotional reader by any means. I assumed the saddest part of the book was Julian’s death. Then Bastiaan (which just made me so angry – not at the author, but because it’s grounded in reality and just so horrific and unfair). Still, I didn’t cry throughout the entire book. Until the very last page…which definitely made me tear up a little.

Overall, this is a wonderful story about a man’s life over the course of 70 years. It’s amazing what changes and what stays the same.

REVIEW – Verity by Colleen Hoover

WARNING: This review contains major spoilers!

Verity had me hooked from the first sentence. I tore through this in one day – although I will say it’s not incredibly long and it reads fast.

The main “twist” was predictable, but that also could be because I read a lot of thrillers. Or it could be that from basically the minute we meet Verity, we are led to wonder if it’s all an act. And how the hell did she fool countless doctors and nurses into thinking she was legitimately injured?

Ultimately, I’m left not knowing exactly what to think. That ending – wow. I honestly believe that the letter was written as a ploy to save her, vs her actually being a decent person…I just can’t imagine a sane person pretending to basically be disabled and practically brain dead for months. It doesn’t add up.

Verity’s voice reminded me a lot of Amy from Gone Girl, but multiplied by a thousand. Absolutely insane.

REVIEW – Beartown by Fredrik Backman

I knew I had to pick this up after reading Ove about a year and a half ago.

Beartown is a wonderful book. So many characters you’ll love. So many characters you’ll hate. I teared up reading this book. I yelled at this book. Backman is a master at getting an emotional response out of his readers.

If you love any sport (not just hockey) you’ll understand and appreciate the way Backman describes Beartown’s love for their hockey team. His writing is poetic without being overly flowery or stuffy. His characters are complex and well-developed.

REVIEW – All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

This book was frustrating for me. It is the perfect example of what unrealistic, overly romantic expectations can do to a marriage, combined with personal trauma/grief and a severe lack of communication.

The writing is decent. This is not a criticism of Colleen Hoover as an author, this just isn’t my preferred genre. I’m sure others who enjoy love stories would enjoy this book.

REVIEW – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

What a beautifully written book about the collapse of humanity. Sounds crazy, right?

A flu starts to spread. People die quickly, and in massive numbers. Life as we know it ends. But a new way of life begins.

The beginning terrified me. The thought of a flu that deadly spreading that fast, with no way to stop it. I read another “flu epidemic” book last year and Station Eleven just felt more real and believable.

Part of that might be attributed to the setting. The “future” part of the book takes place in Michigan. Places like Traverse City, Petoskey and Mackinaw City are mentioned. When I read the line about the Mackinac Bridge, I had to pause for a moment. I’ve spent a lot of time in northern Michigan so it was easy for me to picture exactly what Mandel was describing. (I understand this varies by reader.)

I love how this book reminds the reader about what was lost in the collapse. Sure, you might think about living without the internet, without electricity. But ice cream. Baseball. Even adding milk to tea.

I also love how the book jumps two decades into the future – so many apocalyptic novels (at least the ones I read) deal solely with the immediate aftermath.

Overall an emotional, immersive book.