Thursday, April 28, 2016

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

"Am I a vigilante? A self-destructive freak? How about a self-defense enthusiast? Maybe I'm all of those things. Maybe I'm none of those things. Maybe I'm a girl who once upon a time thought of the world as a shiny, happy place. And now...  I'm a girl who went missing too many years ago. And remained away from home and from herself for way too long."
 Kidnapped while on spring break, imprisoned in a pine box, and held for 472 days, Flora Dane is both a victim and a survivor. She's also not the girl she once was. Now in her late twenties, she's a girl who understands criminal behavior in ways she never imagined she would. She's a girl who's taken a thousand self-defense classes. She's also a girl who's reckless, completely empty inside, and more comfortable when she's alone. But when she's abducted again, she's going to need all her hard-earned skills in order to save herself.

This psychological thriller is gripping, irresistable, and a little terrifying. While I didn't always agree with Flora's choices, I ended up really liking her. She's tough and determined, but vulnerable, too. And as her story unfolds, both past and present, my respect and sympathy for her grew. I had a harder time warming up to the lead detective on Flora's case; at the start, D.D. Warren was a little too rigid for my liking, but her stubborn doggedness grew on me. And the mystery itself? Intense and completely unexpected. I could not put this book down. But you don't have to take my word for it. Check out  Nadia's compelling review... it's what made me want to read this book in the first place.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
     The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton
     What Doesn't Kill Her by Carla Norton

Monday, April 25, 2016

Lost Among the Living

"According to the official record, my husband had not died in the war. When there is a body, a grave, then a person has died. But no one ever tells you: When you have nothing but thin air, what happens then? Are you a widow, when there is nothing but a gaping hole in what used to be your life? Who are you exactly? For three years I had been trapped in amber--first in my fear and uncertainty, and then in a slow, chilling exhale of eventual inexorable grief."

England, 1921. Jo Mander's husband, Alex, was shot down over Germany in 1918. She now works for and lives with Alex's Aunt Dottie as a paid companion at Wych Elm House where Alex once lived as a boy. Jo hopes she'll feel closer to him there, but instead she finds herself haunted by Dottie's dead daughter, Frances. Jo hears footsteps in an empty hall; things in her room are mysteriously rearranged; and in the woods she hears the ghostly barking of a dog. It makes Jo wonder if she's losing her mind. Then there's the fact that Wych Elm House seems to be a house full of secrets and lies, and possibly a murderer. And Jo is right in the middle of it all.

What I love about Simone St. James' novels:

  • Her female characters, while often imperfect and flawed, are never spineless or stupid.
  • Her books are that perfect combination of mystery, romance, and ghostly suspense.
  • Rich prose.
  • Well-crafted plots that often have a surprising twist, or two at the end.
  • That eerie Gothic atmosphere.
Her latest novel, Lost Among the Living, does not disappoint. I loved the characters, and the mystery, and the quiet build-up of suspense; in fact, I loved every well-written page.

Happy Reading!

Other Simone St. James' novels that are must-reads:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Going Viral ...

"Something is happening in Russia. Something huge .... According to the Ministry of Health, we've reached the 'breaking point' in an epidemic, and a pandemic is now inevitable. It should hit Spain in a matter of days, if it's not here already. It happened so fast--just two weeks since it started .... The strangest part is the official secrecy surrounding the disease. No symptoms have been made public; neither has its incubation period, or how many people have died. Nothing. All we know is that it's highly contagious, it's very lethal, and its spreading .... News of the plague has been reported from every corner of the planet. The epidemic is now global."

I know half of you will probably stop reading this review when you come to the word 'zombie'. And that's okay. Zombie apocalypse novels are not everyone's cup of tea. But I like them. And Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Loureiro is better than most. It takes place in Spain. The main character, like the author, is a lawyer who lives and works in Galicia. He has a cat named Lucullus. And he narrates his story, and the end of the world, in a series of blog posts, which become journal entries when the power and internet go out. Before this crises, 'zombie' wasn't even part of his vocabulary; I mean, the man doesn't even know how to use a gun. But he's going to have to learn if he wants to survive. As the only living human among an endless zombie hoard, it's going to take everything he's got just to stay alive.
"I'd just learned an important lesson. The undead weren't the only things that could kill me. Accidents, disease, hunger--all the normal causes of death--were just lurking in the shadows, waiting for their chance. If I weren't careful, they'd catch me. I'd only been thinking about my stalkers. I'd forgotten something very basic: man is a fragile being."
My one problem with this book is all the f-bombs in it; I could have done without ALL of those, but other than that I liked this novel. I liked the pacing, the narration, and the rapidly devolving world. And I liked Lucullus, his cat. It's another zombie apocalypse at its terrifying best (or worst).

Happy Reading! 

Other great zombie reads:
     World War Z by Max Brooks
     Autumn by David Moody
     Devil's Wake by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due
     This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
     Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum
     Feed by Mira Grant
     Married With Zombies by Jesse Petersen

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


It was supposed to be a weeklong canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area south of the Canadian border. It was supposed to be a fun adventure for Emma and the other teens who signed up for the trip. It wasn't supposed to turn into a trip they might not return from alive. But halfway through their trip a freak windstorm destroys their camp and kills their guide. With limited supplies, no map, no compass, and no canoes, these four teen-agers must figure out how to survive storms, dehydration, hypothermia, wild animals and each other.

Stranded by Melinda Braun is a fast-paced and suspenseful tale of adventure and survival. None of the four teen-agers--Oscar, Isaac, Chloe, and Emma--know much about survival, although Oscar does have a copy of Hatchet in his backpack. And they don't all get along either, which adds to the drama of their situation. Life-and-death situations like this always bring out the best, and the worst, in people, which is why I'm such a sucker for these kinds of books. I like trying to figure out what I would do in similar situations. Could I make fire? Find food? Build a shelter? Stay alive? And I also wonder if my own will to survive would negatively affect the way I interact with others; I hope it wouldn't, but you never know how you'll react in extreme situations until you're in the middle of them. It's fun to think about...especially from the comforts of my living room couch. I ended up liking this book a lot.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
     Trapped by Michael Northrop
     Girl Underwater by Claire Kells

Sunday, April 17, 2016

April's Bookish Art...

Fernand Toussaint -- Peaceful Reading

"...this young lady had been seated alone with a book. To say that she had a book is to say that her solitude did not press upon her; for her love of knowledge had a fertilizing quality and her imagination was strong."
--Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Bookish Thoughts...

On Umberto Eco.  One week after Umberto Eco passed away, I spotted a copy of his How To Travel With a Salmon & Other Essays in a used bookstore, and I just had to buy it. I was feeling sad and nostalgic for his writing, but while I'd read several of his novels, I had never read any of his essays. For over a month now, I've been dipping in and out of them. The book fits perfectly in my purse, so I've been carrying it with me and reading it in waiting rooms and when standing in long lines. There are essays on "How To Go Through Customs", "How To Eat Ice Cream", and "How To Organize a Public Library". They're clever and witty and delightfully humorous. I never knew that Eco was so funny. It makes me miss him even more.

On duality.  I am tired of novels written in dual narratives. I'm also tired of novels that take place in both the present and the past. But I'm really tired of novels that combine dual narratives with dual time periods. Pick one, people! One POV. One time zone. Because dual story lines never end up being equal; one is always better than the other. And that's the only one I want to read.

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Nobody's Secret

Title: Nobody's Secret by Michaela MacColl
Setting: Amherst, Massachusetts, 1846
Main character: Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, age 15
        "And whom do I have the pleasure of thanking for my gift?"
         He started to introduce himself, then seemed to think better of it. "I'm nobody important." He grinned. "Who are you?"
        Emily paused. She was the oldest daughter of one of the town fathers and everyone knew her name. ... How dreary to be somebody all the time, she thought. Feeling very mischievous, she said, "I'm nobody too."

Mystery: Emily's young and handsome 'Mr. Nobody' is in town on some unpleasant family business, but he won't tell her what it, or who he, is. Then he turns up dead in her family's pond. Unknown and unnamed, everyone assumes he drowned accidentally. But not Emily. She suspects he was murdered, and she's determined to learn who her Mr. Nobody was, who killed him, and why.

My thoughts: I wish this book were longer; I would have liked to spend more time with this intelligent, fiercely determined, slightly odd, and independent Emily Dickinson. She's always scheming ways to get out of laundry and baking, and scribbling notes and bits of poetry in her notebooks. And she's a pretty good amateur detective, too. With a little help from Vinnie, her younger sister, and despite her mother's objections and overprotectiveness, she manages to piece together the clues of this engaging mystery. I liked her and her poems more after reading this YA novel than I ever have before. In fact, this book makes me want to read more about her life. The author recommends My Wars Are Laid Away: The Life of Emily Dickinson by Alfred Habegger, but since it's over 700 pages, I think I might start with something a little shorter first.

Happy Reading!

(This would be an excellent book to read for Lory's Reading New England 2016 challenge. In fact, I wish I had read it as my Massachusetts book because I enjoyed this one a lot more than I did The Wolves of Andover.)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Ghostly Suspense...

When his mother dies, young Michael Vyner does not want to go live at Hawton Mere with Sir Stephen Clarendon or his sister, Charlotte. But Sir Stephen is now his legal guardian, and Michael has nowhere else to go. But Michael soon finds out that Hawton Mere is not exactly a warm and welcoming home.
"As soon as I walked through the door I sensed it:  a strange energy that filled the air and shone like a black light from every shadow. There was a whispering that rose and fell in volume--though I felt it rather than heard it. All my senses told me there was danger--deadly danger--and yet I saw nothing untoward, save for a grim and unwelcoming hallway."
The servants at Hawton Mere are kind, but Sir Stephen is ill and possibly mad, and while Charlotte tries to be friendly, it's clear to Michael that she is uncomfortable around children. And then strange things start to happen. Michael hears banging in an empty hall, sees a reflection of something moving in an old mirror when nothing is there, and glimpses a ghostly figure with a sad, pale face in the snowy courtyard below his bedroom window.
"What kind of place was this where the dead roamed among the living?"

The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestly is the kind of ghost story I like best: quiet, haunting, and suspenseful. I guessed part of the mystery surrounding Sir Stephen, but not all of it. And Priestly is a good writer. His young narrator, Michael, is engaging and likeable. And the ending didn't disappoint like ghost stories sometimes do. I ended up really liking this book.

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 4, 2016

A bookish update...

Happy Birthday, Maya Angelou!
Just finished reading: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Quote of the Week:
"Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead, 
and those over which we have traveled, and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, 
and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that as well."
--Maya Angelou

Recently checked out from the library:
(Since I have a few days off for spring break, I went for five frivolous, fun & fast reads.)

Heart of Fire by Linda Howard
Hostage by Kay Hooper
Stranded by Melinda Braun
Crimson Shore by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

What I'll be doing on my days off besides reading:  sleeping late, hiking, baking something yummy, watching movies, lunching with my sisters, and doing some spring-cleaning.

Up Next:

When Falcons Fall by C.S. Harris

Happy Reading!