2018 Book #75 – Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia

51E+x1+4uSLTitle: Leave No Trace
Author: Mindy Mejia
Date finished: 8/28/18
Genre: Suspense, thriller
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Pages in book: 336
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:

There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

Search teams found their campsite ravaged by what looked like a bear. They were presumed dead until a decade later…the son appeared. Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he was violent and uncommunicative and sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the last ten years of his life.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world.

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. I finished this book for ARC August 2018! Love this reading challenge. And this year I’m especially excited because as part of the challenge they added one of my favorite things, reading Bingo! This book will be checking off my “Finish a Mystery Novel” box, since its a mystery/suspense novel.

I read another book by this author last year, Everything You Want Me To Be, and Loved it! So I was excited to see her next release up for review. This book was very different from her first novel but was still a good read. Maya as a character was dark and complicated and I liked learning about her character a little more through each piece of the book. Her relationship with Lucas was intense and the emotion of it really captivates the reader. Lucas himself was also an interesting character. The plot itself was ok, the major plot twist towards the end I didn’t see coming but after that the rest of the plot felt a little off to me for some reason. I did still really like the book though, just not s much as I liked her first novel I think. This was a good book and I’d recommend it!

Link to author website

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

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2018 Book #59 – The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

51Xyv20J3RLTitle: The Home for Unwanted Girls
Author: Joanna Goodman
Date finished: 7/13/18
Genre: Fiction, historical fiction
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Pages in book: 362
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Library Thing NOTE: I received this book for free from  Library Thing 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:

Philomena meets Orphan Train in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and deceit—the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each other.

In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.

Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.

Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

My rating:  4.75 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.

I requested to review this book because of the description. I hadn’t heard anything about this particular historical event before but as horrifying as it is there is some truth to it. The children that lived through this horrendous event are sometimes known as the Duplessis Orphans, as Duplessis was the premier of Quebec at the time these events occurred. Maggie and Elodie’s stories are heart-breaking but more than that, there is a string of hope that can be felt and seen throughout the book that uplifts the story. Elodie suffered tremendously but she still hopes for a better future. I loved that the book was told from both Maggie’s and Elodie’s points of view, this added a lot of important details that the reader would’ve missed otherwise but also allows us to grow attached to both characters. Both their journeys were amazing and inspiring, and although the story is fictional (but based on true events) I found many of the ideas in the book to be thought-provoking. To imagine these things would have happened to real people is baffling to me, that humanity could be that cruel to children for money incomprehensible. Underneath all the tragedy I found that this was also an important story of love, specifically Maggie’s love for Gabriel and also for Elodie. I really very much enjoyed this book and I would highly recommend reading it. It was an engaging and interesting read, and I hope to have a chance to read more by this author in the future.

Link to author website

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

2018 Book #40 – A Harmless Little (series) by Meli Raine

Title: A Harmless Little Game / Ruse / Plan
Author: Meli Raine
Date finished: 5/14/18
Genre: Suspense, thriller, romance
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: October 18, November 18, and December 13, 2016
Pages in book: 227 / 179  197
Stand alone or series: A Harmless Little series (3 books)
Where I got the book from: The first book was advertised on Facebook and was free, the next two I purchased from Amazon

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: We went away for the weekend last weekend with my family and Sunday morning I was tooling around on Facebook and just scrolling through whatever when I saw the first book in the series advertised. I was in the middle of another book already, and to be perfectly honest I never start a new book when I’m the middle of one already but I decided to just read like the first chapter of this to see if it was something that’d interest me and I was HOOKED. I read all three books within like 36 hours, I couldn’t put them down. The emotions and anger and passions in these novels were just so raw and intense it was hard to get my head out of the story even when I wasn’t reading them. The books all had pretty good plot lines too, there were twists and turns around every corner. And there was like some crazy conspiracies going on. I would be interested to read more by this author in the future when I have free time (HA). My only issue with the books were how mushy and flowery the characters got with their lovey dovey crap. It got to be way too much, especially considering the other stuff that was going on in the novels were pretty dark. There was some gruesome stuff going on, I would definitely say these books are not for the faint of heart. I’d recommend checking them out though, I really liked the story lines.

Link to author website

 

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

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