Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

Sycamore RowFrom Goodreads: Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten, will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County’s most notorious citizens, just three years earlier.

The second will raises far more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly? And what does it all have to do with a piece of land once known as Sycamore Row?


I have loved all but one Grisham book that I’ve read—I used to be an avid reader of his series, reading nearly all his books, but in the last decade I haven’t read much of his work as the premises haven’t really interested me. However, when Sycamore Row came out, I knew I wanted to read it badly as it’s the second in the Jake Brigance series—jumping off of A Time To Kill, a most phenomenal novel written 25 years ago that is still a bestseller today!

But… Sycamore Row was just… well, long. There were a lot of characters, true to Grisham’s style, but for some reason, they just put me to sleep. None of them were very likable; even Brigance got on my nerves in some of his scenes, and let’s not get started on Lettie, a woman who seemed to have no backbone and wouldn’t listen to anyone concerning the inheritance. I really felt like I was caught in limbo as I read, sometimes interested in the events and characters unfolding, and sometimes not. And truth be told, I feel like Grisham gave away the secret a bit too early in this book. Of course, it’s a very well written book, but I just didn’t feel like enough was happening throughout, and when we learned the potential reason for Seth giving 90% of his money/land to Lettie, well, it became clear quite that that was EXACTLY the reason, even though Grisham tried to make it seem like maybe it wasn’t. After the “possibility” came to light, I knew what was going to happen in the rest of the novel, and that’s never fun. So, while I liked much of the novel overall, I wasn’t extremely impressed like I was with A Time to Kill or any of his other novels written before 2005. Two stars.

2 stars

I borrowed this novel from the library.

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cover32102-mediumFrom Goodreads: Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader,” but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?


Truth be told, this novel started off a little slow for me because I didn’t refresh my memory about the prequel, The Darkest Minds, and so I felt like I was playing catch-up a bit in the beginning.  This is not fault of the author, but rather a reader error that I now know to remedy for the third installment, because I can’t wait for it to release next year!  As certain events from the first novel began to clarify in my mind as I read, the novel picked up speed and I soon found that it was a nonstop action packed sequence novel that had my stomach dropping all over the place.  If you’ve read The Darkest Minds, brush up on the major events because they’re going to come back to haunt Ruby in this novel, and it really helps to remember them from the get-go.  And if you haven’t read The Darkest Minds?  Do it.  It’s a very interesting tale, and this sequel knocked my breath away—but these novels really need to be read in order.

Ruby is an Orange.  That means she can root around in a person’s head and make them believe things that aren’t true, see things that aren’t there, erase entire memories and people from a mind, and this makes her extremely dangerous.  And awesome.  Because Ruby doesn’t exploit her power; she hates it, internalizing her terror and referring to herself as a monster.  In truth, Ruby’s life has been shattered on more than one occasion, and she hasn’t known much happiness since the catastrophe that changed the face of America’s children.  Living in constant fear, and having ripped the memories from the one boy that mattered, Ruby reviles herself.  And yet, there is a glimmer of hope as she sets off to find Liam and the flash drive that has the potential to answer her deepest questions and save the exploited and abused children of the world.

I spent a lot of this novel wondering whether The Children’s League was truly good or bad.  The first novel makes readers think one way, and this novel hovers between the two, sometimes pointing in one direction, and sometimes in the other, but in the end, the true threat lies with the government.  I still can’t say whether The Children’s League is good or evil, but many of my questions have been answered, and as Ruby and her friends traipse off into the wilderness and band together time and time again against other children, the pursuers of the League, and the government, the novel swallows the reader whole, dropping us right into the middle of this war, making it impossible not to root for Ruby and her unlikely team of misfits.

Reader beware, not everyone goes unscathed in this novel, and with the death of a character I initially disliked and learned to love, I suggest you keep a box of tissues handy.  This is war.  People die, people turn on each other, and lives are ruined.  And it’s one hell of a ride.  Four and a half stars.

4.5 stars

Disney-Hyperion has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on October 15, 2013.

The Darkest Minds (#1)

Never Fade (#2)

et cetera
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