Check It Out!

Staff recommendations and reviews from the Plainfield Public Library


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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen finds a box on his doorstep with his name on it. He cautiously opens it to find a bunch of audio cassettes inside. Confused he pulls them out and sees that they are labeled on each side with a number. Thirteen numbers in total. What he hears  when he plays them shocks him. Hannah Baker’s voice. Hannah had killed herself a couple of weeks ago. As she talks she explains that if you are listening to the tapes then you are one of the reasons why she did it.

Clay is shocked. He continues to listen and is told to follow the map that was included and that whoever is mentioned after him on the tapes is the next person who gets the tapes. If these instructions aren’t followed someone who is watching will know and release a second set of tapes to everyone. Clay ends up staying up all night wandering around town listening, waiting to hear his name. Because he has no idea why he is on the tapes. And he can’t believe what Hannah is revealing about their classmates.

This was a very difficult book. It had a lot of serious material like suicide, date rape, and bullying. And unfortunately it is very relevant in today’s schools. Netflix made it into a thirteen episode series. It has had a lot of backlash and support. Thirteen Reasons Why is the book you need to read especially if you have teenagers.


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In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth

Leonora “Nora” Shaw is surprised to be invited to  Claire’s hen weekend (British slang for bachelorette party) and reluctantly agrees to go since her friend Nina will also be attending. Nina, Claire and Nora are childhood friends, but Nora hasn’t seen Claire since she was sixteen, which was over ten years ago, when Nora left school abruptly and never turned back. The Hen party is hosted by Flo, Claire’s maid of honor, at her aunt’s remote house in a wooded area in the middle of nowhere where there is no cell reception.

The weekend gets off to an odd start with Flo’s insistence that the guests play along with her plans so it’s the perfect weekend. To make matters worse, Nora learns that the only reason she was invited to the hen, as Nora didn’t even get a wedding invite, was so Claire could tell her in person that her husband-to-be is their fellow schoolmate and Nora’s ex, James. Devastated, although the reader doesn’t quite know what secrets she is holding yet, Nora’s goal is just to get through this weekend and get home.

But, things turn even weirder when on Saturday night, an innocent game turns into a scary premonition of future events and footprints in the snow suggest that someone is watching them. Nora ends up in the hospital covered in blood and the author unfolds the story by going back and forth between what happened leading up to Nora’s hospitalization and a murder at the house.

Murder, twists and lots of suspicion make for an engrossing page-turner in Ware’s debut psychological thriller. To be honest, I liked this one even better than her new novel The Woman in Cabin 10Be on the lookout for Ware’s next thriller, The Lying Game, out later this year.


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The Hate U Give

This was a terrific, eye-opening, Young Adult novel about Starr, a 16 year old African American girl who has to deal with the shooting death of her friend Khalil by a white police officer. Starr has a supportive mom and dad, along with two brothers, one who is her half brother. She lives in the ‘hood, but goes to a predominately white school where she has a white boyfriend, but feels she can’t be herself.

At first after the shooting, her parents try to shield her from the situation but Starr realizes she needs to stand up for Khalil and tell everyone what really happened that night.

The story follows Starr through testifying to the Grand Jury, riots in the neighborhood, her dad finding out about her white boyfriend, and protesting against the outcome of the investigation. Through it all you get a sense of her family and the love and support they give each other,  her neighborhood, as well as the racial injustice everyone deals with daily.

I loved this book. The story and characters felt so real to me, not forced or fake. The dialogue was sometimes sad, sometimes funny and always realistic. I highly recommend this book to everyone as it is a timely topic in today’s world.


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Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

On the surface, the small village of Beckford is just a sleepy little town beside a river. But the river has always held some secrets, and has long been the source of a strange fascination for Nel Abbott. Nel is a single mom who grew up in the village, and she’s been working on a book about the river and its sordid past – the drowning of witches, the Drowning Pool, the suicides. When Nel herself is found in the river,  her estranged sister Jules returns to the village to care for Lena, Nel’s teenage daughter, whose best friend was also recently found in the river.  Jules finds herself caught between her duty to Lena and her memories of the past, as the mysteries of the two women’s deaths are unraveled.

In Beckford, Ms. Hawkins has created a creepily atmospheric little village where virtually everyone could have “done it”.  Although uneven in spots, there’s enough intrigue in the story to keep you reading. You might need a character chart though. There are a lot of people in the story – all of them unreliable, and it gets tricky at times to keep track. Definitely well worth reading if you enjoy the psychological genre.


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Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra

A woman has been arrested for shoplifting at a grocery store. She tries to talk her way out of it but the police are called. There is no way she telling them her identity because there is no way she is going home. While she is trying to get out of this, she remembers the story of Rebecca Winter, the sixteen year old girl who went missing eleven years ago. This girl decides to try a see if she can convince them that she is Rebecca because they look a like. The next thing she knows, she is on her way to Rebecca’s house and family.

Rebecca’s family welcomes her and “Rebecca” knows that she can’t stay but she hasn’t had a family like this before and she loves it. Until she starts to notices that they seem a little off. She starts to investigate what really happened. But what she finds out shocks her. Will she be able to escape this situation she created?

This was a pretty good psychological thriller. I was surprised at the ending when it is revealed what really happened all those years ago. What a great start for this debut novel!


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Crazy For You by Rina Gray

Overworking her body, Charlotte Jones passes out at the nonprofit where she teaches dance. Yankees playboy pitcher Jake Ross happened to be nearby admiring her moves and rushes to her side. At the hospital, Jake poses as her boyfriend so the staff will let him in.

With a multi-million dollar endorsement on the line from a family-oriented company, Threx isn’t sure they want a notorious ladies man to represent their brand. His publicist Gina suggests Jake and Charlotte continue the “relationship” ruse so Jake can secure the contract. In return, Jake offers to be Charlotte’s personal trainer so that she loses the weight the right way. Although she is protective of her heart, Charlotte is falling hard for Jake even though she knows it is not forever.

When a stalker, who may be one of Jake’s former lovers, threatens Charlotte, Jake finally realizes he will do whatever it takes to protect the woman he loves.

In this series finale, Gray’s (It’s Been You) romantic set up starts strong but falls flat with a predictable and cliched subplot (the stalker uses cut-up magazine letters to draft the threats), and the readers will figure out the culprit early on. This is standard fare that most readers have seen before.

Originally published in Xpress Reviews: E-Originals | May 19, 2017


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The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapeña

28815474New York suburbanites Ann and Marco leave their six-month old baby alone in her crib to attend a dinner party next door. The sitter cancelled at the last minute, and Marco convinces Ann to go, and they will check in on baby Cora every half hour.

At the end of the night, after much wine and Cynthia openly flirting with Marco, Ann comes home to find that Cora is missing.

The detective assigned to their case is suspicious of Marco, and for good reason, as the reader soon realizes he has something to hide. And much to Marco’s chagrin, they are forced to go to Ann’s wealthy parents to pay up the ransom demand. Carefully laid plans begin to unravel as time passes with no one able to locate Cora, that is, if she is even alive.

This excellent psychological thriller will appeal to readers looking for a dark novel that reads fast and will keep you guessing.