Category Archives: Reagan Arthur Books

Review: Dare Me by Megan Abbott

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; First Edition edition (July 31, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0316097772
  • Source: Publisher (via BEA)

Addy Hanlon and Beth Cassidy, it seems, have always been a duo, a force to be reckoned with. They are revered, and feared, by their peers. Now at the height of their high school, career, the girls are seniors, heading up the school’s cheer squad. Beth, always the head cheerleader, is thrown off guard when a new coach, Colette French, comes to the school.

Coach French quickly forms a ring of adoring girls around her. She compels the girls to go beyond what they believed they were physically capable of, trying out stunts they wouldn’t have dared previous. Beth is the only girl who remains out outside the circle, refusing to allow someone to take over the reigns as leader of the squad. When French’s attention focuses on Addy, Beth loses it. She begins a vicious obsession with bringing down Coach French, not caring who stands in her way. She has a history of evil and deceptive moves so the girls, especially Addy, don’t doubt what she is capable of.

When a suicide hits close to home, the police investigation focuses on Coach French and the squad, especially Addy. Addy soon comes to realize how insignificant Beth finds their friendship, their loyalty to one another is truly tested.

Dare Me is a truly honest, albeit frightening, glimpse inside the world of teenage girls. It deftly explores such things as ambition, friendship, and love. The girls on the cheer team are so dedicated, willing to risk bodily harm in order to get the limelight and attention of others. Failure isn’t an option, the girls are willing to risk anything, and anyone, to protect the bond they have formed. Normally incredibly loyal to one another, that loyalty is tested when one of their own steps beyond the bonds of what is acceptable to seek revenge for the perceived attacks against them.The most frightening aspect of this thriller are the girls, their deception and pure disregard to those not in their group.

Honestly, I thought I had this all figured out, certain I knew who was behind the act that sent ripples through the stability of the squad. When the truth was revealed, however, I was completely stunned! Abbott through me for a complete loop, leaving me cheering for her in the end! A perfectly executed thriller, one that took this former cheerleader back to high school. I thought my high school experience was tough…

Dare Me is a completely chilling, incredibly creepy yet addictive read. Abbott has already proven herself to be a truly talented writer of thriller, this novel just verifies it even more. How is it possible that an author so sweet and adorable in person can write such a disturbing novel? Talent, pure talent! Highly, highly recommended.

Review: So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books (May 29, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0316097691
  • Source: Publisher

Kathleen Lynch is a widow working as an archivist in a library. She lost her husband early in life, her daughter was a mere toddler. Years later, she also loses her daughter, who runs away as a young teen. Despite the time that has passed, Kathleen is full of guilt believing that she could have somehow prevented her daughter’s disappearance.

One day at work, a young girl comes into the library where Kathleen works. It’s the middle of the school day, yet the girl, thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher, claims it’s an early release day. She states she’s working on completing a project her father started: tracing her family’s roots. Kathleen is immediately taken by Natalie’s resemblance to her own daughter. The first visit is a brief one, Natalie leaves before getting much information. Before she leaves, Kathleen notices a haunting text on Natalie’s phone: “WE KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT U NATALIE.” Kathleen, having some unexplained need to protect Natalie, gives her a card with her contact information in the case of an emergency.

The reader is provided a bit more detail about Natalie. Her parents are separated, her mother spending most of her time sleeping, aided by pills. Her father, completely ignorant of the situation with her mother, has started his own new life. But worst of all, Natalie is being tortured by vicious cyber-bullying at the hands of her former best friend.

In her basement, searching for information on her family’s history and ultimately hoping to put an end to the rumors being spread by the bullies at her school, Natalie uncovers a dusty old diary. Unable to decipher the old text herself, she returns to the library and seeks the aid of Kathleen.  Kathleen’s coworker, Neil, is able to decipher a great deal of the text, and the two lose themselves in the life of Bridget, an Irish immigrant from the 1920s suffering from her own loss. Bridget’s story brings Kathleen and Natalie closer, providing both of them the hope they each so desperately need.

Moore has so eloquently brought together the lives of three different women who, despite being at different points in their life, still feel a similar pain.  I became so invested in the stories of these three women that I couldn’t bear to tear myself away from this book. Their stories are captivating, I wanted so much more for each of them.  Poor Kathleen suffers from a pain decades old. Natalie, already dealing with a great deal of turmoil at home, can’t face school without being tormented. Even outside of school she’s not safe.  And poor, young, naive Bridget. Coming from poverty in Ireland, working for a wealthy family caring for their young son, her innocence is taken from her.
So Far Away is a book that without a doubt will be popping up on reading group lists, for it contains a wealth of topics and themes to discuss, including love, loss, motherhood, friendship and more. Highly recommended.

Meg Mitchell Moore is the author of The Arrivals (now out in paperback!) and the forthcoming So Far Away. She worked for several years as a journalist. Her work has been published in Yankee, Continental, Women’s Health, Advertising Age and many other business and consumer magazines. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and their three children.

Review: The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; 1 edition (April 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0316185906
  • Source: Publisher (Netgalley)

It’s 1914. The Empress Alexandra, bound for New York, suffers a fire on deck and the passengers are forced to flee the ship, five days out of Liverpool.  Some survivors make it on board lifeboats. The sinking of the Titanic two years prior is fresh on the passenger’s minds.

Grace is a newlywed, traveling to New York with her husband, Henry, a banker. Grace is one of the survivors that is able to find space on a lifeboat among several other passengers. Their boat is “captained” by Hardie, a crew member from the Empress Alexandra. He’s their savior, sharing his nautical skills as a means of insuring their survival. He’s able to catch fish to nourish them, collect rainwater to quench their thirst.

It’s not long before they all realize their lifeboat is severely overloaded. Adjustments made to the size and structure of the lifeboat aren’t reflected in the passenger capacity sign; apparently a shortage in the ship’s owner’s budget prevented him from reprinting the signs. Additionally, a whole in the lifeboat requires the passengers to bail water constantly. The survival of the entire group is at risk; someone needs to sacrifice their own life to save those of all the others. Soon alliances are formed, survivors plotting against one another, bound to survive this incredibly traumatic voyage.

The Lifeboat is a narrative of Grace’s experience on the nearly three weeks spent languishing on the lifeboat. Grace is determined to survive, refusing to succumb to the death and dismay surrounding her. She retells the power struggle between Hardie and other survivors, of the act performed by some of the survivors, including herself, all in the name of safety and preservation of life for those on the lifeboat.

Grace’s narration alternates between past and present, between her experience on the lifeboat and her relationship/courtship with her husband, Henry, now presumed dead. Grace is a neutral character, in my mind: a character that I don’t necessarily root for but on the hand do not despise. To me, due to the circumstances, her narration and viewpoint are unreliable.  Her retelling of the saga comes from a journal. A journal that doesn’t exactly mesh with the actual events that transpire during the journey. Knowing that she may face repercussions for the act she performs on the lifeboat, I can’t help but wonder how truthful her retellings were. The atmosphere on the lifeboat was quite hostile from the beginning; several of the other survivors commenting that Grace’s position on the lifeboat was bought by her wealthy husband. She didn’t “deserve” the spot she now held; instead it should have gone to another passenger.  As the novel progresses, we witness just how manipulative Grace can be. It becomes obvious that she puts her own survival and desires above all others.

The Lifeboat is, at its core, a story of survival. Several issues of morality come in to play making this the perfect book for discussion. Rogan paints a setting so vivid and realistic, one can’t help but imagining themselves as a passenger on the lifeboat. Additionally, you’ll find yourself pondering what you would have done in their place.  Would you have risked your life for the sake of others? Or would you have taken some other individual’s life in your own hands?  These questions continued to pervade my thoughts days after completing this book. Highly recommended.

Rogan’s own story, her path to publication, is an inspirational one. She wrote this novel in secret, hiding it from her friends and even her husband. The inspiration for this novel came from a case in her husband’s criminal law texts, Queen v. Dudley and Stephens. In this case, two shipwrecked individuals kill and consume another castaway. While there is no cannibalism in The Lifeboat, it does explore some of the same issues of this case.

Be sure to check out the author’s web site for additional multimedia information on the book.

Review: The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

  • Hardcover:256 pages
  • Publisher:Reagan Arthur Books (July 7, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0316097799
  • Source: Publisher

Lizzie Hood & Evie Verner, thirteen years old, are neighbors and best friends, inseparable.  Lizzie adores Evie’s family, including her father & older sister, Dusty. 

One day Evie goes missing; the last Lizzie saw her was at school.  Everyone comes to Evie for answers: Was Lizzie unhappy? Was someone watching her? The only thing Lizzie can recall is a maroon sedan Lizzie saw trailing them a few days prior.

After the police invesigation comes to a stand-still, Lizzie takes things into her own hands.  She begins to investigate her best friend’s life and ultimately wonders just how well she knew Lizzie.

I was inspired to read The End of Everything after Julie (Booking Mama) indicated that I would love it due to the creepy-factor.  When I had the opportunity to meet Meg while in NY for BEA, that sealed the deal. I had to read this book. Little did I know how “creepy” this book would be.

Lizzie & Evie are at an age during which they are discovering themselves: their identity, their sexuality, their individuality.  At this age, they are incredible sensitive to affection or attention from those outside their immediate family.  Unfortunately, Evie’s quest at self-discovery is horribly taken advantage of and distorted.

I wondered about how I would review this book.  It covers some pretty dark subjects, not ones I would often recommend for reading material.  Ultimately, I believe that it was Meg’s writing style, the way she was able to detail the story through the voice of a teenage girl, that really lead to the impact of this story. Lizzie began her story, somewhat naive to the world, ultimately growing & maturing by discovering the secrets her best friend had kept long hidden. These secrets, and their outcome, force Lizzie to deal with scenerios no child should have to deal with, especially at such a sensitive age.

While I wouldn’t recommend this book to the sensitive or weak of heart , this would make quite the book club discussion. Additionally, while the characters are teenagers, I would not recommend that a teen read this alone.  It does cover a topic youth should be cognizant of, but not without the ability to discuss it with an adult. 

The impact of this book is lasting; I continue to feel for the characters days after finishing the book. Highly recommended (with caution).