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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Bern's Bookcase: Big Woods Book Review

Can you solve the mystery 
of the missing children in Big Woods?

It’s 1989 and ten year old Lucy disappears from small town Texas. The story is told in alternating POVs between Leah (big sister, age 14) and Sylvie a nurse who seems to know something about the missing children. 

The book starts off BIG with Lucy’s disappearance and an eerie line about “who will save the children”. Her disappearance is tinged with talk of satanic rituals and other bodies recovered in Big Woods. The police have no clues and search of the woods only turns up Lucy’s coin purse. The book quickly turns into more of a slow burn read as the weeks tick by. It kept me turning the pages because I needed to know what happened to Lucy and how Sylvie was connected to it all.

One of the things I really enjoyed was the connection between the two sisters. It was obvious that they had a powerfully strong bond. Leah refused to give up on finding Lucy, even when the adults around her seemed to accept that she was most likely dead and would never be found, including her parents. The sisters’ bond/connection was so strong that Leah was having visions/dreams that she felt certain were communications from Lucy trying to aid her in finding and saving her. The adults in her life worried about her visions but she carried on (getting into a few hair raising situations), filled with hope that she would uncover what happened to Lucy.

I connected with Leah's character the most. Her emotions, pain and struggle were well crafted. Sylvie was also a dynamic character for me. As her story unfolds and we see the twists & turns her life has taken her part in the story begins to make sense. I couldn’t help wanting to shout at someone to just listen to her! 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t a big fan of how things simply tied up neatly at the end. There were so many different elements brought up in the book - satanic rituals & devil worshippers, black roses being delivered at the high school, the church communities in an uproar, psychics, corrupt law enforcement officials, etc and those things were simply swept to the wayside and never mentioned again. I enjoyed how Cobb tied in all these aspects which were relevant in the 80s but it felt unfinished to me. 

Overall, I definitely enjoyed Big Woods by May Cobb and in some ways it was a great read. Yet, in others is was a bit lacking for me. This is May Cobb’s debut and as such I can see lots of potential but I also feel like she might have tried to do too much at once here so there were parts that were left undeveloped in my opinion. It was a good read, just not one that I think will remain vividly with me over time.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Bern's Bookcase: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett Book Review

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett was a fun, sweet contemporary YA/NA read. 

Sometimes you just need a fun contemporary YA/NA (I say NA due to some sexual content) read to lighten things up. This book did just that for me. It was a perfect summer read - camping, hiking, stargazing and a friends-to-enemies-to-lovers plot between Zorie and Lennon. Throw in family strife stemming from secrets and parental infidelity and you have a story that was relatable and engrossing.

Bennett's characters were very human and flawed. I really enjoyed that Jenn Bennett focused on nontraditional families. Zorie's relationship with her stepmother Joy was wonderful. It was a relationship built on love, mutual respect and support. The scene where Joy reassures Zorie touched me. It was perfect.

  "I am raising my own kid. You are mine. I didn't need to give birth to you to love you, sweet thing." 

Admittedly, I'm kind of a sucker for a friends to lovers story. Especially when it involves the adorable boy/girl next door. What can I say - I'm a cheesy romantic at heart! Zorie & Lennon's love story was just that and it was adorable. Amidst all the teen angst, misunderstandings, secrets and camping mishaps you could just feel their chemistry. I was rooting for Lennon from page 20 when he first appeared in all his side swept spiky hair, anime loving, teen goth glory. He was so snarky, witty and sarcastic. Luckily, he was also good out in the wild which comes in handy when their so-called friends leave them stranded out in the wilderness without a car or a way of getting home after an argument. Zorie and Lennon's story was adorable to watch unfold. It wasn't surprising in the least - more like you know it's coming and you're simply looking forward to it finally happening.

"A map of us. It's years in the making, and it's messy and convoluted, some of it even tragic. But I wouldn't change the route, because we walked it together, even when we were apart. And the best part about it is that it's unfinished. Uncertainty isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes it can even be filled with extraordinary potential." 

Zorie's dad - I have no words for him. He was despicable. Thankfully Zorie was surrounded by a strong support network with her stepmom Joy, her grandparents (Joy's parents), Lennon and Lennon's moms (yes moms - they were a lesbian couple!) and her friend Avani. Once again I have to mention how much I loved the strong family bonds presented, especially as they weren't related by blood but by choice.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Bern's Bookcase: You Were Made for This by Michelle Sacks Book Review

This was a dark, disturbing and dismal psychological thriller that's not for the faint of heart. 

I found You Were Made for This to be both enthralling and difficult to read. I don't think I have ever read a book where every character was so psychologically damaged, wretched and despicable. The story is told in 3 alternating point of views and there was no respite - not one of them had any redeeming qualities. Page after page, things went from bad to worse. The book was like a train wreck that I couldn't pull myself away from. I literally read pages with a feeling of revulsion in the pit of the stomach. Yet, I continued turning the pages. Drawn to the sadistic world these people had created for themselves.

There wasn't much backstory but I feel like that was deliberate. I don't think we are meant to fully understand why Merry, Sam and Frank are they way they are. Michelle Sacks drops hints here and there into the story and we know they were damaged in their childhoods but that's not the emphasis for this story. The story is deeply rooted in the tragic present. In the tangled web that is their current lives. There is almost a sadistic dependency on each other between Merry & Frank and Merry & Sam. So much hate intertwined with their dark need for each other. It's as if they fed off each other - for better or worse. Unfortunately, these relationships were nothing but destructive, taking the one good thing between them and ultimately destroying it.

 My momma heart could not bare to see how baby Connor was treated by these people. That poor innocent child did not stand a chance with these cruel sociopaths. The parts involving the baby left me feeling repulsed, angered and heartbroken.

The fact that Michelle Sachs was able to evoke so many emotions from me makes this an unforgettable read. I was pulled in from the onset and the story never let up. The last line - it will haunt me for a long time to come. 

Thank you to Michelle Sacks, Little Brown and Company, and Netgalley for the copy to review in exchange for my honest opinion.