Mini DNF reviews: Why We Sleep & The Last Time I Lied

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
Rating: n/a
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source: Borrowed

The first sleep book by a leading scientific expert—Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab—reveals his groundbreaking exploration of sleep, explaining how we can harness its transformative power to change our lives for the better.

Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive.

An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.

Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses. Clear-eyed, fascinating, and accessible, Why We Sleep is a crucial and illuminating book.

The synopsis of this book is going to be longer than my review because…

DNF @ 1%.

This is my first DNF in probably at least a year and I don’t even know if I got far enough into this book to really consider it a true DNF. I was listening to the audiobook and the narrator was spouting off all these statistics about how if you don’t sleep enough, you’re going to get cancer or die in a car accident or just generally shave years off your life… and it was too much for me. I have such trouble sleeping and it stressed me out so much that I had to stop. Five minutes in. Sorry but also not.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Rating: n/a
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
Source: Book of the Month

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

DNF @ page 75.

In case you didn’t know, I work in a dermatology office. The main thing we do is skin cancer removal, so we get a lot of cranky elderly people coming through the door. One day, a few weeks ago, I was covering the front desk because someone was out sick. I was checking out a very cranky woman who’d just finished a several-hour-long surgery to remove skin cancer from her ear. As I often do when someone is cranky, I tried to make polite conversation.

Me: “Oh, you’re reading The Last Time I Lied! I got that book a couple months ago but haven’t read it yet. How is it?”
Cranky Patient: “IT’S TERRIBLE!!!”
Me: “I’m so sorry to hear that! What don’t you like about it?”
Cranky Patient: “It’s TERRIBLE! It’s slow and repetitive and TERRIBLE!!!”
Me: “Hmm, wow. Okay.”

So, needless to say, I was a little nervous to start reading this. I wanted to love it because first of all, it sounds good, and second of all, the author is from my town! And my town really isn’t that big, so I could see him every week at the grocery store and not even know it. He could be the mysterious neighbor that I’ve never seen even though I’ve lived in this house for a year and a half. Who even knows.

But you know what? That cranky patient… she was kind of right. The book is slow and repetitive and, honestly, kind of terrible. It took me five days to get to page 75 and absolutely killed my love of reading. I might pick it back up at some point, but for now… I’m done.

Have you read either of these books? Should I give them another try?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place by Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #5
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Source: Purchased

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

Two fun facts before I get started with my review:

  • I was on a book-buying ban when I bought this because I’d just spent an unreasonable amount of money to go visit my mom in Wisconsin and I also had no room in my carry on for anything other than what was already packed, but I got to the bookstore and this was 50% off, so I couldn’t not get it.
  • I was forced to have lunch with my mom’s boss (who is maybe her best friend also? I’m unclear) right after I bought it and this boss told me she actually knows Tana French? I just about died right there in the office. But then I was talking with Daniel and he found some holes in the story… like Tana French doesn’t even live in the US, so how does that work? brb, flying back home to Wisconsin to interrogate my mom’s boss.

Anyway, it took me forever and a day to read this book (or 11 days if we’re actually counting) because I didn’t want to miss anything. I probably still missed a bunch of clues that were scattered throughout the book, but that’s okay. I had such a great time reading this book.

I’m not really going to say anything about the plot because I’m so paranoid about accidentally spoiling anything that happens, but I loved this book. I loved the characters, I loved the mystery, and I loved the final reveal at the end. I had absolutely no idea who the killer was up until the reveal and now I need to read everything else that Tana French has ever written. I just bought In the Woods, so hopefully I’ll be reading that one soon.

Highly recommended.

Have you read The Secret Place? Are you a Tana French fan?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: People Like Us by Dana Mele

People Like Us by Dana Mele
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.

People Like Us was my most anticipated YA thriller of 2018. I love boarding school books, I love books about cliquey mean girls, and I love reading debut novels. The plot of the book gave me some real Pretty Little Liars vibes, and let’s be honest, I was so into that show that it’s actually a little embarrassing. So what did I end up thinking about this book? Not a lot, actually.

If anything, the book is a little too PLL for my tastes. It feels like it would make an awesome CW show, but as a book? I don’t know. It’s a little disappointing. I was entertained and I would never call this a bad book, but I never really got a sense that Kay was all that concerned about the threatening website or that she really cared too much about being blackmailed. I also tend to dislike books with love shapes, and this was more of a love… hexagon? I don’t even know. It’s a tangled web, that’s for sure.

I appreciated the representation and that nobody really made a big deal over Kay’s sexuality (or anybody else’s, for that matter), but that wasn’t enough for me to love this book.

#mm18: vacation reads

Have you read People Like Us? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Novella review: The Secrets of the Starbucks Lovers by Larissa Zageris & Kitty Curran

The Secrets of the Starbucks Lovers by Larissa Zageris & Kitty Curran
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Goodreads • Purchase
Publication Date: 2016
Source: I actually paid for this.

The world’s most popular pop star moonlights as a Girl Detective in THE SECRETS OF THE STARBUCKS LOVERS—a thrilling and illustrated tale that depicts the hilarious (and high fashion) hijinks that ensue when Taylor Swift: Girl Detective takes on the case of a struggling actress receiving threatening messages on her skinny mochas.

Set against the glamorous backdrop of New York City (and even Brooklyn) there is no shortage of intrigue, love interests, sisterhood, and Starbucks jokes in this captivating caper.

“Where are we going?” asked Lorde.
“To Starbucks.” Taylor put on her trademark really cool sunglasses.
“Which one?” Lorde did the same.
Taylor applied a fresh coat of her signature red lip, and smiled.
“All of them.”

I… don’t even know how I found this and I can’t believe I just read it and I really can’t believe I paid $7.50 for it, but it. was. hilarious. It’s packed full of references to Taylor Swift’s songs, Detective Olivia Benson (the feline) plays a minor role, and I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so much while reading a book. Honestly, I don’t even know if this is a good book or not, but I had so much fun reading it that I can’t go any lower than 4 stars.

If you’re a fan of Taylor Swift and you can spare the $7.50 and you feel like laughing out loud, you really can’t go wrong with this book.

Did you know this book existed? Do you love Taylor Swift as much as I do?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious #1
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

Truly Devious has been on my radar forever, it just took me awhile to get around to actually reading it. June’s Monthly Motif (Crack the Case) was just the push I needed to actually dive in. To start off, I guess I should say that this book was completely not what I expected. I don’t know what I was expecting, but not this!

Anyway, I really liked Stevie. She’s a true crime fanatic, she fancies herself a detective, and she’s almost too curious about everything going on around her. She gets herself into some trouble with her snooping. And her parents just don’t understand! I’m definitely not a Young Adult anymore, but I related to Stevie so much.

First of all, I’m 28 and I feel like I’m still having this conversation with my mother:

Her parents had no idea that you could meet people outside of school and it wasn’t freaky and the internet was the way of finding your people.
(I think the next generation of parents will have a totally different outlook on this.)
But also, this quote about anxiety!!!

People say depression lies. Anxiety is just stupid. It’s unable to tell the difference between things that are actually scary (being buried alive, for example) and things that are not scary at all (being in bed under the covers). It hits all the same buttons. Stop. Go. Up. Down. It’s all the same to anxiety.

It’s like Maureen Johnson took the words straight out of my head.
I don’t even know what to say in this review because I feel like I’m going to spoil everything, so let me just say that I liked:
  • the setting! I love boarding school books!
  • the teensy bit of romance that develops between Stevie and one of her classmates!
  • the totally platonic friendship between Stevie and a different classmate!
  • Stevie’s ability to make weird connections in the two different mysteries!

I didn’t really like:

  • That cliffhanger!
I just need The Vanishing Stair right now.

#mm18: crack the case

Book review: Faithful Place by Tana French

Faithful Place by Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #3
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: July 13, 2010
Source: Borrowed

That which was buried is brought to light and wreaks hell — on no one more so than Frank Mackey, beloved undercover guru and burly hero first mentioned in French’s second book about the Undercover Squad, The Likeness.

Faithful Place is Frank’s old neighborhood, the town he fled twenty-two years ago, abandoning an abusive alcoholic father, harpy mother, and two brothers and sisters who never made it out. They say going home is never easy, but for Frank, investigating the cold case of the just-discovered body of his teenage girlfriend, it is a tangled, dangerous journey, fraught with mean motivations, black secrets, and tenuous alliances. Because he is too close to the case, and because the Place (including his family) harbors a deep-rooted distrust of cops, Frank must undergo his investigation furtively, using all the skills picked up from years of undercover work to trace the killer and the events of the night that changed his life.

No matter how good you are, this world is always going to be better at this game. It’s more cunning than you are, it’s faster and it’s a whole lot more ruthless. All you can do is try to keep up, know your weak spots and never stop expecting the sucker punch.

Alright, so this was my first book by Tana French and I am not disappointed. I had expected your standard murder mystery, but what I actually got was a story about a dysfunctional family and young love that ends too soon. I’m not even really sure what I can say about this book because my mind is kind of all over the place right now.

So, sure, there’s a murder mystery here. More than one, actually, but I’m not even going to get into that. The mystery is secondary to Frank’s relationship with his family and all of the backstory about his relationship with Rosie. Tana French has a way with words and even though she broke my heart with this book, I guess I’ll keep coming back for more. I don’t know if I can really say any more about this book without blurting out all of my feelings (and the associated spoilers), so I’ll stop here.

Thanks to Daniel for the recommendation!

#mm18: crack the case

Book review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz


She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . .

The duo who captivated millions of readers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest join forces again in this adrenaline-charged, uniquely of-the-moment thriller.

I read the first three books of the Millennium trilogy when I was in college, back when it was still a trilogy and before the news that David Lagercrantz would take over. I actually bought The Girl Who Played With Fire first. It was an impulse buy based solely on the cover and I didn’t even realize it was the second in the series. Imagine my surprise when I got the syllabus for that semester’s lit class — lo and behold, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was assigned reading.

The tables turned a couple weeks into said lit class. We were assigned slots for 75-minute presentations and I was assigned The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I have a lot of anxiety and am, in general, very bad at public speaking, so I proceeded to have a bit of a meltdown as I tried to come up with 75 minutes of things I could say about that book. I did it, somehow, though I don’t remember a single sentence of what I said. Presumably, I did just fine, seeing how I passed the class. It probably helped that I really enjoyed that book.

I flew through the rest of the series and was thrilled when I heard that it would be continuing on through David Lagercrantz. I got this book for Christmas in 2016… and avoided it for the next year and a half or so. I’ve (obviously) finally picked it up and I’m just disappointed.

I’m not sure if it’s because I read the other books seven years ago. I’m not sure if it’s because of the change in author. I’m not sure if I’m maybe just not that into Swedish crime fiction anymore? But I was so bored while I read this book that I had to force myself to keep going. I kept zoning out and then I’d get to a part where it’s like, “THEN SHE TOOK HIS TROUSERS OFF AND TOLD HIM I’M GOING TO CUT YOU WITH A KNIFE” and I was like… Wait… What just happened…? How did we get here again?

There were a lot of characters in this book. Of course, I remembered Blomkvist and Salander. I didn’t remember a single other character. Or maybe the other characters weren’t in the previous books? Regardless, there’s a lot of time spent on characters that I cared very little about and hardly any time spent on the actual heroes of the story. Another issue that I had was that so much time was spent describing the scenery or the intricate details of Millennium’s operations that there was little time left over for the plot. This book felt so long, but what really happened? Not too much.

I’m glad that I can finally take this book off my TBR, but unfortunately, I have zero desire to read The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

#mm18: book to screen (the movie is set to release later this year)
#killingthetbr: one year, five months on shelf