Welcome to Take Me Away!!

Hello! Thanks for stopping by Take Me Away, where I review books of a variety of genres. My favorite genres are literary and contemporary fiction, though I also enjoy some mystery/thrillers. I also enjoy sociological and psychological non-fiction. Check out the tabs across the top to navigate the site. All the reviews on this site are categorized by title (fiction or non-fiction) or by author. Check out the "About Jenny" section to learn a little more about me. Thanks again for stopping by, and feel free to leave a comment even if it's just to say hi! =)

Review: Don't Try to Find Me by Holly Brown

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Title: Don't Try to Find Me
Author: Holly Brown
Pages: 384
Genre: fiction
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: July 8, 2014

The reason I decided to read this one was because it was compared to both Reconstructing Amelia and Gone Girl, both of which I loved... it is about a 14-year-old girl, Marley, that runs away. Her parents set up a website to find her as well as a Facebook page and a Twitter account and do a "publicity tour" all in an effort to find her. But then all the social media involvement unleashes some secrets that make the parents start to look suspicious. Did Marley really run away?? Or did her parents have something to do with her disappearance??

In terms of comparison to Reconstructing Amelia: It is extremely similar. The chapters alternate between the mother and a journal written in by Marley. There are a handful of Facebook conversations thrown in with a few "imaginary Facebook" status updates. We simultaneously see some scary stuff that a teenager is dealing with (which is very relevant today!) and how her relationship to her parents contributed to this. It did a very good job of demonstrating how the relationship between them went wrong which makes sense because the author is a marriage and family therapist. It also had the same suspenseful feel in figuring out the "mystery" which made the book difficult to put down. There is an aspect that is related to the show, "Catfish", which added suspense to the story too.

In terms of comparison to Gone Girl: Okay, so I can see where they are trying to go with this one... but it is definitely no Gone Girl. And the aspect in which there is an even slight comparison I thought was anti-climactic. I would have liked the book much better if what could be considered somewhat of a "twist" was more fleshed out and played a larger piece of the story. I didn't see it coming, really, so once I realized it I thought "Ah!!" and then that was it... it went nowhere.

So overall, I thought Don't Try to Find Me was an okay read. It was suspenseful and difficult to put down but, ultimately, the ending didn't satisfy me as I'd hoped.

Personal Rating: 3/5

Review: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Title: Mr. Mercedes
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 448
Genre: Fiction; mystery/thriller
Publisher: Scribner (Simon & Schuster)
Pub. Date: June 3, 2014

Stephen King's latest book, Mr. Mercedes, starts off with a psychopathic killer driving his car through a mass of people waiting in line for a job fair, murdering several and hurting others. He manages to escape and his case essentially becomes cold. The owner of the car whom he stole it from then kills herself, presumably from the guilt of leaving her car accessible.

Retired Detective Hodges then enters the story; he's experiencing a newly retired life which feels pointless until he is drawn into this case, basically by Mr. Mercedes himself, and decides to try to find the killer on his own. In the meantime, Mr. Mercedes has plans for more evil, so the retired detective's search for him becomes a race to save thousands of people.

I read through this one quickly. I liked all the characters (well except Mr. Mercedes of course, but his character was done well for who he was). Mr. Mercedes, of course, was creeeepy. Reading his thoughts was often cringe worthy for so many different reasons. There were lots of cliffhangers, and I never wanted to stop reading when the chapters ended. I felt like there was an element of "true crime" to it as well in that this story was relevant to some of the scary things our country has experienced in recent years in terms of mass murders... I always find myself wanting to understand more, so even though this was fiction, reading from the killer's point of view was informative in a way (though disturbing!)

What I did not like was the significant amount of references to race... for Mr. Mercedes they made sense because they were part of his character and thoughts.. But there was a large amount of focus on Det. Hodges's lawn person and his race and how he overcomes the stereotypes, etc., but they have this inside joke about how he refers to Hodges as "Massa Hodges", and this joke is really played out, and I'm not completely sure what the point of that was. That was slightly distracting for me.

Would definitely recommend this, and a good starter for those who have not read King before and maybe are afraid of some of his scarier stuff. Also, Mr. Mercedes is apparently the first in a planned trilogy! The second book comes out in 2015.

Review: That Night by Chevy Stevens

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Title: That Night
Author: Chevy Stevens
Pages: 370
Genre: Fiction; mystery/thriller
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (Macmillan)
Pub. Date: June 17, 2014

I read two of Chevy Stevens's previous three books, Still Missing and Never Knowing, and found both to be great thrilling and suspenseful reads. So I was happy to have the opportunity to read her latest.

In That Night, we follow the story line of Toni, a woman in her mid-thirties, who has spent almost the last twenty years in prison for the murder of her sister. The only issue is she was falsely accused and no wants to find out what really happened. The book is told through two different timelines - the current one in which Toni is trying to be straight and not get in trouble with her probation officer while still trying to find out the truth about who killed her sister - and the past story line from when she was a teenager, was arrested, convicted, and then her time in prison.

This was a fast and suspenseful read that kept me guessing. I did guess one thing but was still surprised to find out I was right about that. I disliked some of the girls in the book, but it does well at depicting high school cliques and bullying. The author's reference to pop culture and trends was so reminiscent of junior high for me (the character is in high school) and transported me back to my 1996 as well! The relationship between the main character and her sister bugged me because I wish they were closer, and the mom in this book made me so mad! But that was just part of the story and not a writing or character issue. ;)

I would definitely recommend this for fans of this genre.

Review: The Most Dangerous Animal Of All by Gary L. Stewart & Susan Mustafa

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Title: The Most Dangerous Animal of All
Subtitle: Searching For My Father and Finding the Zodiac Killer
Pages: 334 (367 including notes, etc.)
Genre: Non-ficiton; True crime; Memoir
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: May 13, 2014

In 2007 I went to the theater and saw the then latest Jake Gyllenhaal movie, Zodiac. It was based on the true story of the Zodiac Murders in the 70's which I hadn't known anything about up until then, but it was interesting and the movie itself was really good. And then, coincidentally, I watched the movie again last month when a friend of mine was visiting because she hadn't seen it before and it was on Netflix. So I was super interested in this book when it came out. (And just a side note, the cover is so interesting. The front and back cover is a picture of the believed-to-be serial killer and the dust jacket is red and clear. My hubby is reading this one too, and he and I agreed to keep the dust jacket on while reading this, because I can't just have a large serial killer's face sitting around my house!)

Anyway, it took me a minute to get into the book, but then once I did it was hard to put down! One of the authors, Gary Stewart, was surprisingly reunited with his birth mother at the age of 39. This eventually led him to look more for his father. He started to find signs that his father may have been the infamous Zodiac killer of the 70's, so he continued to research it for the next twelve years and provides his evidence and reasoning for how he believes his father, Earl Van Best Jr. "Van", was this serial killer.

The book is broken up into three parts: first he writes about the history of the romance between Van and his mother and then the second two parts are about his investigation and when his father becomes the Zodiac. It was fascinating and, especially if you are into true crime, you will fly through it. I can't remember if the author's conclusions were the same as the movie's or not, but I feel like the movie thought it was someone else. It's convincing in the movie, but so is the book, so I'm not sure about all that. I do wish that the author would have mentioned the movie and his thoughts on that, since he was doing all his investigating already when the movie came out. But other than that and feeling like it ended somewhat abruptly, I really enjoyed this book. If nothing else, it is an interesting look at the factors that influenced the development of a possible serial killer.

Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Title: Americanah
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
Pages: 588
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Anchor Books (Random House)
Pub. Date: May 14, 2013 (hardcover); March 4, 2014 (paperback);

I am having a serious book hangover after reading this. I'm writing this review a couple days after finishing the book, and I have had serious issues with trying to start another book because this has been in my head. I mean, it's not that this was my favorite read ever, because it wasn't, but it was very good and really threw a lot out there. I have not read a book as direct and straightforward, especially related to the topic of race and belonging, as Americanah.

I'm taking the synopsis from bn.com for this one: Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

So, really, this book was not about their relationship as the synopsis makes it out to be. That's sort of the backdrop to everything, but the real story is about life in America, London, and Nigeria for Ifemelu (mostly) and Obinze. It's about life as an American Black (AB) and a a Non-American Black (NAB) and how their experiences are different, how non blacks respond to them in general and to them as different groups, the ways in which they (ABs and NABs) relate and in which they can't. It's about the dynamics of Nigerians in Nigeria and how they are changed after moving abroad.

There is really a LOT about race and belonging throughout the book - so much insight and so direct. I laughed because at one point I started to feel like everything was so in-your-face (just totally straightforward) and shortly after that the characters in the book are at a dinner party talking about publishing books and how readers want things to be subtle because they're uncomfortable with reading about this topic unless it's barely there, only understandable by reading in between the lines. Oops!

Americanah is such a social commentary on our society. Through Ifemelu's journey from Nigeria to America and back we learn from her experiences and from her blog posts about race. But even though that is the focus, there is also a story, and I miss reading about Ifemelu and her friends and family! I would recommend this to anyone who loves literary fiction. And I've said this before about other books, but it's one of those that I feel would be a huge benefit to people learning about or who are interested in sociology.