Books I Read This Month - May 2014

Far from You by Tess Sharpe
I hadn't read a Young Adult novel in a while, and this thriller sounded like something I would enjoy. It was a quick read, as I expected it to be and as I was in the mood for, but that doesn't mean it wasn't powerful. This book follows high schooler Sophie in the few weeks after she is released from a drug addiction treatment center. Right before she was sent there, her best friend was murdered in front of her, and now she is determined to find the killer. The pace is quick, which makes the narrative heart-pounding, though it feels like not a lot of space to fully develop the characters. Sophie and her deceased best friend are the most developed and well-rounded, with Sophie flaws making her realistic and her hopes and motives making her someone to root for. There are some big themes that are perfectly developed and rare in YA fiction: love, friendship, coming out, drug addiction, etc. Recommended for readers of thrillers.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
At over 600 pages, this book took me a while to read, meaning I had to put off reading others on my list. But it was totally worth the time and effort. The narrator, a recently unemployed married man in Japan, is a bit of a downer in that he has zero ambition. However, as he goes searching for his wife, who leaves him for another man, the story gets more and more surreal. He is on a journey toward finding his identity in a world that is strange and unpredictable. This is a wonderful read for those who enjoy literary fiction, as well as some supernatural themes. Murakami is one of my favorite authors. I wish I could write like him.

Leverage by Nancy Thompson

I waited for Nancy Thompson’s sequel to her high-tension debut novel, The Mistaken, with a lot of excited anticipation. And it lived up to my expectations.

Leverage takes place a few years after where The Mistaken left off and follows Tyler, Hannah, and Hannah’s son Connor as evils from their past, which they thought had been long-buried, return with vengeance. Connor believes his college friend was pushed off his balcony to his death rather than having jumped, and then he falls in love his dead friend’s girlfriend. Tyler looks into the death of Connor’s friend to find that the Russian mafia folks he thought he’d dealt with a few years ago may be back for him. Tyler will do anything to protect his family from the rage and menace of the mafia, even if it means committing the one act he promised himself he’d never do again: murder.

Leverage has a high level of suspense, even more so than The Mistaken. The non-stop action makes it impossible to put down. The plot points are strung together will skill at a perfect pace, forming a cohesive story that is satisfying emotionally. Similarly, the characters have realistic emotions that are relevant to their situation and are superbly portrayed in the writing on every page. The only times where the characters’ reactions are a bit strange are when they have sex at relatively unrealistic times, like when they are in extreme danger. However, these scenes are written well and will have romance fans enjoying the story and these sensual scenes immensely. Nancy Thompson shows her skill in developing and conveying her characters’ emotional depth to great reader satisfaction in Leverage.

While all the protagonists are super attractive (which is sometimes hard to believe but definitely fits as a trope of the romance thriller genre), their personalities are what shine in the story. Tyler's flaws are real and scary, making him a very complex protagonist. His anger issues and secret-keeping are part of what makes this novel so emotionally engaging. Since his character is so well developed, I felt true frustration when he did something he thought was for the best but which definitely was not. Tyler's perspective makes sense based on his prior experience. He doesn't succumb as a character to being too good or bad to be true: he feels like a real person, and his personality is consistent throughout the book. Same goes for Hannah and Connor. It's because they are not perfect protagonists that they feel real and therefore emotionally compelling.

It's hard to tell if there could be a third book in the series, based on the book's ending. But no matter what happens, I will be eager to read the next book Nancy Thompson publishes!

You can find Nancy Thompson on her blog here, and on Twitter here.

A Summer of Flash Fiction

Due to the lack of me having an actual writing schedule, I have decided to do what I’m calling “A Summer of Flash Fiction” this June, July, and August. By writing a posting one short piece of flash fiction every single week for those three months (that is 14 pieces total), I hope to build a nice writing habit of getting at least 2000 words in each week. This will, theoretically, get me in the habit of writing daily, evolving into a steady writing schedule of at least 1000 words each day. Because I work full time and have just graduated from college, I have not had the time to write as often as I would like. So I’m making the time. Look forward to one short story every Sunday this summer. Your input on the writing is welcome, and you are also welcome to join and post your own short story every week this summer!