North of Montana by April Smith

I pulled this book off the shelf and read it in about 3 days. With about 300 pages, it’s a pretty quick read and a page turner. However..

The novel follows Special Agent Ana Grey of the FBI in an exciting series of events that move her up the agency chain. After a single-handed bust, she’s put on a high profile case involving celebrity Jayne Mason. Eager to impress her boss, she digs into the claims only to find out that the truth is a lot harder to find that she thought. To complicate matters, a parallel situation occurs with a long lost relative, forcing Ana to piece together her questionable family history.

Maybe you can already see the problem post plot description, but if you can’t, let me spell it out for you. Smith created a stereotypical FBI heroine who predictably is off to prove herself in the male world of crime fighting and instead gets wrapped up in her own emotional past. Now, here’s the thing: If Smith had just made Grey a kickass FBI heroine, that would have been fine. Sure, give her a little conflict and some good plots twists. However,  throwing in the family conflict subplot flashbacks distracted from the main plot and made her unbelievably soft, a counter to what Smith set Grey up as in the first chapters. I get giving a character more depth, but if the story was made to be stereotypical, than the depth isn’t believable.

Nonetheless, I’d be interested in reading another novel about Ana Grey, for two reasons: one, I thought she was pretty badass, and two, to see if the next novel follows the stereotypical outline as well. I’ll let keep you posted, folks.

 

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The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

It didn’t take much for me to sign this book out of the library. I pulled it off the shelf, opened the cover, and saw that the main setting was in Vermont. Done. Signed it out, and 2 days later, finished reading it. “The Winter People” is a ghost tale thriller, and it had me turning the pages to figure out what would happen next.

The story revolves around main character Sara Harrison Shea and her daughter Gertie. Without giving too much away, Sara and her husband Martin lose their daughter in what was deemed an accident in 1908, and the aftermath of the way they handled the situation haunts to town for years to come. This tragedy sends Ruthie and her little sister Fawn, current residents of Sara’s old homestead, on a hunt for answers after they find a copy of Sara’s diary hidden in their mother’s room.

Now, I love a good ghost story, and as I said before, this book had me hooked. However, the review is that it’s not gripping enough to make my favorites lists. The plot itself is pretty good, as necessary information is leaked out with enough suspense that it doesn’t give everything away all at once. There were some good plot twists and although some might be able to predict the ending, I couldn’t with any certainty. However, the reading level leans towards more young adult, as it’s readability is a little simple and repetitive and I didn’t love the resolution as it seemed a little Hallmark to me, though it does have a bit of a cliffhanger in it, keeping the thriller theme.

If you want a quick, gripping read, I’d say check it out. If you’re from Vermont and are excited that an author decided to write about your pint-sized state, sure, pick it up. But if you want something that’ll truely scare you, or something more believable, don’t bother.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

After turning the last page, it’s no wonder why “Eat, Pray, Love” became a best seller. Now, I’m aware I’m about 10 years late on this band wagon, but honestly my 15 year old self wouldn’t have understood the beautiful journey that the author embarked on. Which also makes a point that even a decade later, this book is still entirely relative and just as inspiring to a younger generation. If you haven’t read this book, read it now. Don’t even finish the review- go get a copy, curl up somewhere really comfortable, and just read.

Ok, now that you’ve read the book- and those of you who ignored my advice- this book follows along the spiritual and personal growth of the author, Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s written as a personal account, and I promise it’s not some mumbo-jumbo point of view where she tries to push her religion on you. It’s funny, witty, heart wrenching at times, and so truthful. She spares some details, but nothing is left untouched as she describes how she changed her own life after falling apart during a failed marriage. She travels to Italy, learning the language and tasting the finest foods (Eat). She then spends months in an Ashram in India and reconnects with her spirit (Pray). And finally, she travels to Indonesia to find balance, and in turn finds peace and (Love). (See what I did there?)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and was constantly finding sources of inspiration from Liz’s (I feel like I know her, so I’m going first name basis here) writing. I had to keep a stack of flag-post-its to keep track! So, a few things that spoke to me:

  1. “L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle…. ” Italian for ‘The love that moves the sun and the other stars’. Speaking about the language and this example made me want to learn the language myself- or atleast make a better attempt at my dream to be bilingual.
  2. “Attraversiamo”. Italian for “Let’s cross over” as in cross a street. It takes on more meaning to the author, but she’s right- it’s fun to say!
  3. “”Dear God, that family needs grace.” She replied firmly, “That family needs casseroles,” and proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace.” Amen, Liz, amen.
  4. Om Namah Shivaya. I honor the divinity that resides within me.” A mantra that found its way into my head after reading the author’s tale about it.
  5. “You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.” The author’s friend’s advice is too good not to laugh or ignore!
  6. “Ray Charles could see your control issues!” When a book makes a joke and I laugh sincerely, that’s when I know it’s good.

I plan to buy this one for my personal library, and I encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already. I know it’ll be one that I’ll pick up for a little inspirational reading. So good you guys, so good. Okay I’m done gushing. Just read it!