Book Review: You Will Know Me


You Will Know Me

Megan Abbott

Little Brown

352 pages

Devon is only 15, but she’s not your average teenager. She has dedicated her life to becoming a world class gymnast, and she will do whatever it takes to succeed. A wrench is thrown into her plans when someone close to the gymnastics center where she trains dies suddenly. Devon remains stoic but is relentless in her quest to become an elite gymnast. Her mother, the narrator of You Will Know Me, struggles with coming to terms with the death and also with how to best serve her family, including Devon’s younger brother.

Seemingly straightforward, the book ends up becoming darker and creepier as the story unfolds. I wasn’t necessarily expecting a mystery, but You Will Know Me does qualify as one, which is why my synopsis is so cryptic. Devon was a difficult character for me to get a grasp on, and I believe that was intention on the author’s part. No one seemed to know what to make of her, including her own parents.

The parenting struggles that Devon’s mom, Katie, constantly seemed to be struggling with resonated with me as a parent. It’s impossible to ever know whether we are making the right decisions for our children, and Katie was often conflicted about how to juggle her family life and all of the obligations of each family member. Her son was often overlooked in the chaos of Devon’s gymnastics career, and Katie felt a lot of guilt over that.

You Will Know Me wasn’t one of my favorite books of the year but I felt it was well written. The mystery kept my interest and I appreciated that the book was multi dimensional and focused on other issues as well.




Book Review: June



Miranda Beverly-Whittemore


386 pages

Living in Ohio, I have certainly driven past crumbling homes in the more rural part of the state. Once loved and lived in, these homes are now left to the elements. Two Oaks in St. Jude, Ohio is one such home. Once the grandest home in the area, Two Oaks is now weathered and beaten.

Told as a dual narrative, part of June takes place in 1955. Two Oaks was still inhabited and was the town’s crown jewel. June lives there with her widowed mother Cheryl Ann and the home’s owner, a distant relative named Lemon Gray Neely. June, and the entire town, are all enthralled with movie star Jack Montgomery, who is in town filming a movie. The entire town is involved in the hustle and bustle of filming and all that goes along with it.

Meanwhile, in the modern day setting, Cassie Danvers has returned to her grandmother June’s now dilapidated home, Two Oaks. Cassie and June had a tense relationship in recent years, and now that June has suddenly passed away, Cassie is at a loss on how to move forward.

Typically I give a more in depth synopsis with my reviews, however with June there was so much going on that it is hard to go into a lot of detail while still being concise. I also think this is a great book to go into not knowing much. Touted as a mystery, Cassie spends a lot of time attempting to discover the grandmother she thought she knew, but although the pacing was good, it didn’t have the same feel as your typical thriller. Instead, it was a great look into how we view others, and what defines a close relationship.

My biggest issue with June was that it felt way too long. I felt that a lot could have been edited out to make a more cohesive story. I think the author included too many details that detracted from the story as a whole. It was made all the more irritating by the fact that it actually was a good story, just not told in a way that was engaging to me as a reader. Cassie’s part especially seemed repetitive to me and overly drawn out, almost as if the author struggled to line up the dual narrative.

To sum it up, I felt that, personally, the great story and setting were bogged down by the actual writing.


Book Review: All at Sea


All at Sea

Decca Aitkenhead

Fourth Estate

240 pages

I am an avid fan of Book of the Month Club for a myriad of reasons, one of them being that it introduces me to books I wouldn’t otherwise have read. This is one of those books. I had never even heard of it prior to the reveal of the September selections. There are so many books on my TBR list that I rarely read books that haven’t been fully vetted or where I am unfamiliar with the author, publisher, etc., but I made an exception for this one based on the synopsis (and just the fact that the BOTM judges chose it in the first place).

Decca Aitkenhead is on vacation in May of 2014 with her partner Tony and their two boys, ages 3 and 4. Decca is off further along the beach one morning when she spots her 4 year old in the ocean alone. She quickly realizes that her son, a novice swimmer, is drifting out to sea fast. She races out to save him, and notices that Tony, coming from the beach closer to their son, is attempting to swim out to him too. Decca and Tony are able to get Jake to safety, and Decca is relieved that they have avoided disaster. Until she realizes that Tony is dying before her very eyes.

All at Sea literally made me hold my breath multiple times. The rawness of Aitkenhead’s grief was difficult to read. As a reporter for the Guardian, Aitkenhead talks about how she is faced with this type of tragedy all the time, but it doesn’t have that realness unless you’ve actually experienced it. I understand what she means, because in reading things like this, I often think about how it is one of my worst nightmares, and yet I truly can’t fathom the pain and grief.

Aitkenhead was completely honest and open about her relationship with Tony, and his flaws. I was shocked to read that he was a crackhead. It’s one of those things–you hear crackhead and you can’t imagine that person being a contributing member of society. It may sound silly, but that stuck with me, that we don’t really know people, and not everyone is what we expect.

If you’re a fan of memoirs, this is a great one.  Just beware–it will break your heart.

Book Review: All the Stars in the Heavens


All the Stars in the Heavens

Adriana Trigiani

Harper Paperbacks

480 pages

I am not a big movie buff, but ever since seeing Gone With the Wind, I have had a thing for Clark Gable. Never mind that that is the only movie of his I have ever seen. I love legitimately love him. So when I heard about this book, which is a fictionalized account of his love affair and secret love child with Loretta Young, I had to read it. I love historical fiction that is based on true events and real people from history.

Going into this book, I knew a fair bit about Gable’s personal life. Married quite a few times, dying when his (I think was) fifth wife was pregnant with his first child in 1960. Apparently though that wasn’t his first child.

In 1935, 21 year old Loretta Young met the older Gable on the secluded set of The Call of the Wild. Stuck together in a hotel on site for weeks on end, the naïve Loretta and the womanizer Gable fell in love. Their affair was brief, and they went in different directions once the film was wrapped. Loretta continued to pine after Gable, and then she found out she was pregnant. Unable to make their relationship work due to their egos (some may find this to be harsh as far as Loretta goes, but going solely off the book, I definitely think she could have done things differently), Loretta secretly gave birth to their daughter Judy and fought for years to keep Judy’s parentage a secret.

The idea of two film stars having an illegitimate child in 1935 is almost unheard of. It would have destroyed Loretta’s career, not to mention the ramifications on the two actors considering they both signed “morality clauses”. Loretta instead hid Judy at an orphanage for years, eventually “adopting” her.


I loved the idea of this book. The story had so much potential. On the one hand, I do think Trigiani did a great job of bringing the characters to light. I actually read another fictionalized account of Gable a year or two ago, about his marriage to Carole Lombard, that I felt was pretty poorly done in terms of fleshing out the characters. All the Stars in the Heavens didn’t have that problem, however I did feel that it should have been more focused. Trigiani chose to start the book prior to Gable and Loretta meeting, when Loretta was falling in love with Spencer Tracy. It then meandered all the way to Judy’s adulthood. There was a lot of jumping around towards the end and the direction seemed confusing. I think Trigiani should have chosen to just write about the love affair and Judy’s first few years. It would have made the story seemed much more cohesive and refined.

I found it interesting that Loretta’s daughter in law came out after her death and claimed that Gable actually date raped Loretta, resulting in her pregnancy. Obviously that puts an entirely different spin on the circumstances of Judy’s conception and birth, and it made me wonder what the true story is. Either way, I truly admire Loretta Young. She had a few options open to her, and she took what was arguably the hardest road, despite the ramifications on her professional and even personal life. It could not have been easy.

Book Review: What She Knew (audiobook)


What She Knew

Gilly MacMillan


I was facing a road trip to Michigan last month with one of my sisters, so my mom recommended and audiobook. I typically do not listen to audiobooks for a few reasons. The main one is that I would mainly listen to it in the car, and I am just not in the car that often. And when I am in the car, sometimes my kids are with me. And my kids are 2 and 4, so not quite that age where I tell them mom’s the boss and just turn it on. Instead, I just hear a lot of whining and crying for The Lion Guard soundtrack or “Let It Go”. I know some bloggers like to listen to audiobooks when they cook or do housework but I just don’t see myself enjoying that, so I have never tried it. But our car trip was five hours each way, so when my mom handed me this audiobook, I figured why not?

Rachel Jenner is walking with her adolescent son Benedict in a local park/walking trail when her son asks to run ahead. Despite her qualms, Rachel allows him to. But when she reaches the clearing, Benedict is nowhere to be found. The next few weeks pass as the search for Benedict becomes frantic.

The viewpoints alternate between Rachel and DI Jim Clemo, who were narrated by Penelope Rawlins and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart. Having pretty much zero history with audiobooks, I obviously have no prior experience with the two, however I thought the narration was very well done. I ended up reading the final 1/3 of the novel once we returned from our trip and found that I actually preferred the audio version. I had really come to understand the narrators and I felt it enriched the book.

Overall, this was just an ok book for me. It was well written and I thought the author did a good job of drawing out the mystery and revealing key clues when necessary. But although I liked the pacing, I thought the story itself was overly drawn out. I also didn’t always understand where the story was going. For instance, the plot point involving Rachel’s sister, as well as the actual circumstances of Ben’s disappearance, seemed almost like afterthoughts. I found them, to far reaching and not entirely believable. I would certainly read more from this author, I just think that this genre is so over saturated currently that you really have to hit it out of the park.


Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air


When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

Random House

208 pages

There are always those books that are like a punch to the gut. The kind of book that resonates with you and sticks with you for a long time to come. This is one of those books.

Paul Kalanithi led an extraordinary life. At 36 years old, he was at the prime of his life. 10 years of non stop work to become a neurosurgeon was about to pay off when Kalanithi was plagued with debilitating back pain. He feared the worst but knew that the odds were in his favor. A terminal cancer diagnosis at 36 is almost unheard of. And yet, that’s exactly what it was. Stage IV lung cancer.

I loved how open and honest Kalanithi was. He shared the struggles he went through with his wife and how his marriage suffered initially, only to be strengthened by his battle with cancer. He shared the painful decisions he had to make about his life. How unbearable it is to go from having a life mapped out before you and then realizing that your time here is much shorter than you initially thought. Kalanithi and his wife Lucy had always planned on having children. Immediately, they were faced with the realization that it would be now or never. And then the question of his life’s work as a neurosurgeon. How can you give up on a career you’ve been building for over a decade? On the other hand, how can you spend what precious time you have left devoting your time and energy to such a demanding career?


When Breath Becomes Air had such a huge impact on me in a way I can’t really describe. I felt like I really got to know Kalanithi through his struggles and I really cared for him and grieved for him as well as his family. I was left with the feeling that the worl truly lost someone special. I loved this book in the sense that it really meant something to me, but I can only handle a book like this  every once in awhile.