Becky’s One Hundredth and First Book Review: “Dawn” by V.C. Andrews

“Dawn” by V.C. Andrews is the first book in the Cutler family series. This is only the second series that I have read by Andrews, but I find myself devouring the books very quickly. One thing that I have noticed about V.C. Andrews’ books is that often times you can get the entire plot off of the back of the book. Her books are part of the reason that I have stopped reading the back of books. I like to be surprised when I am reading and that doesn’t happen if I have everything given away to me.

There is a little blurb at the very beginning of the book. “Momma once told me that she and Daddy named me Dawn because I was born at the break of day. That was the first of a thousand lies Momma and Daddy would tell me and my brother Jimmy. Of course, we wouldn’t know they were lies, not for a long time, not until the day they came to take us away.” The book dives immediately into Dawn’s life. The book opens on her and her family. We quickly learn that she has had to travel constantly from place to place for reasons unknown to her. She has an older brother, Jimmy whom she is forced to share a pull-out sofa bed with. This is especially awkward for them because they are both blossoming into adulthood. You can easily tell by both Dawn and Jimmy’s reactions when they accidentally touch how uncomfortable they both are with the situation.

Then they find out that things are about to get even more crowded. Her mother comes home one day very upset and Jimmy and Dawn find out they are going to have a new sister. Life becomes even more complicated for them and then their dad lands a job at a fancy private school. For once the family isn’t packing up in the middle of the night and Dawn thinks that maybe this new school will be a nice change. So Dawn and Jimmy are pulled out of public school and sent to this new one. This is the first domino that sets off a series of events that leads to Dawn’s life changing dramatically. She discovers many skeletons that were in her family’s closet.

Dawn is a very likable character. I see a lot of similarities between Dawn and Heaven, who was the main character in the first series that I read by V.C. Andrews. They both have had many hardships to endure, but they both manage to take advantage of their hardships to build their character and become stronger people. They both came from families with a big secret, one so big that it changed their lives when they found out.

There are a number of other characters in “Dawn” who were significant. Some of these characters I liked very much, like Jimmy and some I didn’t like at all such as Clara-Sue, Grandmother Cutler, and pretty much everyone that Dawn meets in the second half of the book. V.C. Andrews is very good at forming characters to be either very likable or completely detestable. 

Would I recommend this book? Meh, maybe. I found it to be rather entertaining although it would probably be something that would appeal to female readers more. I was a little disappointed seeing so many similarities between the Cutler series and the Casteel series. Hopefully this is a fluke and the rest of the series will be more original. I would hate to think that I got all the books that she has written just to find out that each series is just like the other.    

Becky’s One Hundredth Book Review: “Dope” by Sara Gran

“Dope” by Sara Gran was a very interesting read. I am very impressed with the sheer volume of surprises that Gran is able to put together in her novels. This is the second book of hers that I have read and now that I have finished it I feel the need to go back and reread the first one again.

In the book “Dope” Josephine is an ex-addict who has been clean now for two years. She is recruited by the parents of a girl who is missing. The girl’s name is Nadine and she has become part of the world that Josephine used to know so well. Joe is offered $1,000 up front to find Nadine and an additional $1,000 when she finds her. Joe takes the grand and considers leaving it at that. Then she decides that finding Nadine might be worth her while. So she looks. Joe once again emerges herself in the world that had claimed so much of her life. She is forced to face her demons on a regular basis and try to not succumb to her desires of just a taste, because it is never just a taste.

Gran’s ability to dive so deeply into the world of dope was impressive and convincing. “It’s wasn’t that being high felt so good, especially not when you’d been shooting as long as Yonah had. You could hardly even call it being high. It was that nothing else felt bad. There were no aches, no pains, no memories, no shame. Nothing mattered now. It was like junk took you up just a few feet above everybody else, just enough so you didn’t have to involve yourself in all the petty problems of the world. Those weren’t your problems anymore. Let someone else worry. You could watch it all and feel nothing. For that little piece of time you had everything you needed, everything you ever wanted.” (Dope, pg 66-67). I love this passage for several reasons. First of all, it puts getting high into a whole new perspective for me. Personally, I’ve never been one for drugs, so whenever I hear about someone who has overdosed, whether it be a celebrity or someone I went to high school with, I just cannot fathom why a person would start in the first place. Reading “Dope” by Sara Gran made me realize that sometimes it isn’t about what the drugs make you feel, but rather the fact that they make you not feel.

At another point in the book, Gran once again addresses the appeal of getting into drugs in the first place, “That’s why you start, and that’s why you stick with it, so you can finally be someone: a junkie.” (Dope, pg 105). It’s a depressing way of thinking about things, but at the same time, it makes sense in a morbid way. There are so many people who spend their time trying to understand the why of living. So many people aren’t satisfied with who they are and feel the need to turn in different directions to find an answer. Joe puts it quite simply – you start to be someone.  

As I mentioned before, I was very impressed with Gran’s knowledge about dope and the world around it. She is able to describe the nitty-gritty in a way that only someone who has been there could possibly explain. It makes me very curious about the author. Did she just do the research that thoroughly? Or does she have skeletons in her closet on which she was able to build a story? I also really liked the character Josephine. She has a sarcastic attitude which I always find appealing. She is able to find the humor in things that aren’t normally funny.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, it was very well written, but I would probably only recommend this book to a certain audience. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a happy book. But even for a fictional novel, it has a strong air of truth to it. I also like the way that Gran is able to keep her readers guessing until the very last page. The first book that I read by her was that way as well. I cannot wait to get my hands on more of her work.   

Becky’s Ninety-Ninth Book Review: “The Girl Next Door” by Brad Parks

Although I was tweeting about my upcoming review on “The Girl Next Door” a few weeks ago, I am only just now getting around to actually writing it. Before I review the book, I’m going to do a quick review of “The Nightgown”.

“The Nightgown” by Brad Parks is a Carter Ross short story that is actually a prequel to the first Carter Ross novel. It details how he got his job at the Eagle Examiner. It is short and sweet and leaves the reader wanting more – which seems to be a Brad Parks specialty. I’m just glad that I have been savoring the series and was especially pleased to find out that there was a Carter Ross short story. “The Nightgown” is only available in kindle edition, but it is only $0.99 and totally worth it. I really enjoyed reading about Carter Ross’s initial impressions upon meeting Tina for the first time and his initial impressions with the Eagle Examiner in general. On to the book… 

“The Girl Next Door” was yet another wonderful novel with Carter Ross sniffing around, stirring up trouble, and causing me to ignore everything else in my life just to devour the novel as quickly as possible. One thing that I really like about series in general is that you get to revisit certain characters over and over again. There is a reliable feeling, a comfort-level if you will, that reading a series allows you. So one thing that I was very pleased with in this Carter Ross novel was the revisiting of characters. For example, Buster Hays is a recurring character and you just have to love the interactions that he has with Carter Ross. “I certainly don’t like him, inasmuch as I consider him an archaic, cantankerous, condescending pain in the ass. He also doesn’t like me, inasmuch as he considers me a snot-nosed, spoiled, overeducated pretty boy. Other than that, we get along great.” (The Girl Next Door, pg 106). In addition to having all my favorite characters showing up in “The Girl Next Door” we meet yet another new intern in this novel. This one is a big guy nicknamed Lunky who turns out to be a lot different from Carter Ross’s first impression of him. Lunky is quite an amusing character – one that I found to be even more fun to read about than Sweet Thang.  

In “The Girl Next Door” Carter Ross is one minute reading the obituaries and the next minute deciding that he should write an extended obituary about a girl who died who worked for the Eagle Examiner, thus causing him to get into trouble. The girl he is writing about delivered newspapers and was killed in a hit-and-run accident. Carter Ross soon finds out that he has bitten off more than he can chew. Things start out subtly enough, but soon he is even getting threatening notes – and not very good ones, “It’s one thing to be threatened. It’s quite another thing to be threatened in grammatically incorrect fashion.” (The Girl Next Door, pg 229). I love this quote because I completely sympathize. Granted, I don’t spend my time going around and solving mysteries causing me to get threatening notes…but my second job is Editorial Director. Poor grammar is one of my biggest pet peeves. Editing books is like a game for nerds like me. 

I really enjoy the way that Brad Parks writes his novels. He usually has the bad guy narrating chapters between Carter Ross telling the full story. I like how this gives the perspective of the bad guy in addition the perspective of the good guy. It is a really fun way to read a story. I also admire the voice that Brad Parks is able to have come across in the Carter Ross series. He seems like a sarcastic, pain-in-the-ass who would irritate me to no end in real life – probably because we would have too much in common. I’m going to include one last quote, “But one of the things I had (finally) learned is the importance of having friends whose worldview was substantially different from my own. For all the politically correct halfwits who defined “diversity” in terms of skin, color, or ethnicity — things that might just be window dressing, depending on the individual — the real value in diversity is having people around who think differently from you, friends who can tell you when your logical is someone else’s crazy.” (The Girl Next Door, pg 248). I felt the need to include this quote because Carter Ross is talking about some of my favorite characters with this statement, both Tommy Hernandez and Reginald “Tee” Williams. I guess it would be accurate to say there are very few characters which I do not adore. Brad Parks certainly has created a world full of people with fun quirks that I love to read about. 

Would I recommend “The Girl Next Door” by Brad Parks? Yes, most definitely. I am a big fan of the series (if I haven’t already made that obvious) and I hope to pass along the wonderful reading to as many people as I can. There is just something about a wonderful book that makes you want to tell absolutely everyone about it. I would go so far as to say that the Carter Ross series is something that would be enjoyed by even those who rarely can bring themselves to crack a book. Yes, it really is that good – go read it. 






Becky’s Ninety-Eighth Book Review: “To Die For” by Christopher Pike

“To Die For” by Christopher Pike is another combination of two books that were published together. The books are “Sleepover” and “Weekend”. Neither story had I read before but I enjoyed them both very much.

“Sleepover” is the first book in “To Die For” and it is about a group of girls who goes on a ski trip with plans to meet up with a friend they haven’t seen in a long time. The main character’s name is Lara. She drives up to the mountains with her friend Dana and her new friend Celeste. They are meeting with another group that drove up, Rachel and Mindy and the place they are meeting is their old friend Nell’s home. We quickly find out that Nell is disfigured from being burned and there are hints that the accident occurred while the group was together. Bits and pieces of the story soon come together so that we find out that the group hasn’t been all together pretty much since the accident. We also learn that Nell wasn’t the only one affected by the fire – she was just the one who survived. There is a lot of bickering between the friends and it is made clear quite quickly that they aren’t all close. Rachel and Lara seem to be constantly competing. Almost immediately at the resort, things aren’t as they seem. There were the usual twists and turns that I come to expect from a Christopher Pike novel, but I found the book to be a little predictable, although still worth the read.

“Weekend” is the second book in “To Die For” and is about a group of friends who go on a weekend getaway. The main character in this book is named Shani. There is a pretty big group at the getaway. There are Kerry and Angie, Robin and Lena, Park, Sol, Bert, and Flynn. We learn very rapidly that there are love triangles aplenty in this story and another secret. Christopher Pike does love to have his big secrets. In this book, Robin and Lena are sisters, although both were adopted, and they are the ones hosting this weekend getaway. Robin is suffering from kidney failure and it is unclear exactly how this came about. All the reader knows is that there was a party, an accident, and suddenly Robin is dying a slow death while she waits to see if a kidney becomes available. The group gets together and suddenly a lot of weird stuff starts to happen. The weekend getaway starts to turn into a nightmare and until the truth comes out, no one will be safe. I enjoyed this book better than “Sleepover” and I would definitely recommend it.

I do like the way that these books are put together. They are a fun read and personally, when I pick up Christopher Pike’s books I’m thrown through time — once again I am an elementary school student who thinks it is just the coolest thing that I have my own library card. I think that Christopher Pike’s novels – pretty much any of them – would appeal to a wide range of readers. They are geared towards young adults for the most part, but that just means you eat through them all that much faster.