Thursday, September 28, 2017

We Hear the Dead...

Maggie:  I began the deception when I was too young to know right from wrong. No one suspected us of any trick, because we were such young children. We were led on by my sister purposely and by my mother unintentionally. Only with the passing of time did I come to understand the consequences of my actions.

Kate:  Maggie has a different understanding of all the events that have happened since that night in Hydesville long ago. To her the spirits were always a game. For my sister Leah they were a means to an end. For my mother, a miracle. And for me they were my life's calling. I have no regrets.

So begins Dianne K. Salerni's fictionalized account of the Fox sisters and the Spiritualist movement they spawned with their spirit rappings and messages from the dead. It was in a small house in Hydesville, New York, where these first ghostly encounters happened, but Maggie's and Kate's notoriety quickly spread. Their older sister Leah soon had them performing to much wider audiences, traveling from New York to Philadelphia and back. It seemed nearly everyone at that time was interested in the afterlife and in communicating with the dead. So much so some were even willing to pay for the privilege.

This is such an interesting time period in American history and Salerni does a good job of portraying the Fox sisters and relating the facts of their stories.  But I have to say, this one was a bit of a slog for me. Maggie is the main narrator, but it's like she's relating things that happened to her in the past. And maybe that's why this novel lost some of its immediacy. I actually preferred Kate's chapters, but they were few and far between.  It's not a bad read. And I did learn a lot about the Fox sisters and their lives that I didn't know before. Another bonus? This is one of the books that I chose to read for Lark's 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge because it's been on my TBR list for years. So, despite it being a a slow read, I managed to finish it! I just wish it had been a little more compelling...or 100 pages shorter.

Happy Reading!

P.S. I did really enjoy Salerni's other novel, The Caged Graves, which is more of a gothic mystery and would be a perfect October read. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Urban Fantasy Fun...

3 Reasons this one's worth reading:

  • Irresistible title:  It happened One Doomsday
  • Fun first line:  Dru Jasper had no idea that the world was prophesied to come to a fiery end in six days.
  • It's got magic, mayhem and some very engaging characters:  Dru uses her magical powers and the crystals she sells to help people with supernatural problems, which is good because Greyson Carter has a big one. He recently purchased a possessed black muscle car at an auction and because of it he's now turning into a demon. And not just any demon; he's turning into one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. And unless Dru and her sorceress friend, Rane, can figure out how to reverse the curse it just might mean the end of the world. And the end of Greyson, who's handsome and nice and who can amplify Dru's magic in ways she never expected. (Plus, he kisses great.)

Need more?

With scary demons and some awesome crystal-powered magic, memorable (and likeable!) characters and good writing, Laurence MacNaughton has created a magical roller coaster ride of a fantasy novel; it's humorous, entertaining, and a lot of fun. I can't wait to get to the library and check out the sequel, A Kiss Before Doomsday, to find out what happens to Dru next. This fun urban fantasy certainly cast a bookish spell on me.

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Final Girls...

Only Quincy remained.
All the others were dead.
She was the last one left alive.

Riley Sager's psychological thriller Final Girls is gripping, unsettling, and intense. It centers on Quincy Carpenter, the sole survivor of a brutal massacre at Pine Cottage ten years ago. By surviving this mass killing, she becomes a reluctant member of an exclusive club:  The Final Girls.  There are only two other members, Lisa and Samantha, who also survived horrific slaughters. Quincy has spent the last ten years proving that she's fine, that she's moved on. But she hasn't. Not really. And then Lisa dies. Murdered by someone who might be after Quincy next. And Samantha shows up on her doorstep, pushing Quincy to remember the past. And suddenly Quincy doesn't know who to trust; she's not even sure she can trust herself.

Well-plotted, full of suspense, and with some unexpected twists along the way, I'd characterize this book as a good read except for one thing. The characters. I wanted to like Quincy, but I found her passiveness in certain situations and her reckless self-destructiveness in others, especially when she's around Sam, completely frustrating. And I thought Sam was a lying bitch through most of the novel. Then the one character I liked from the start turned out to be someone completely different than I thought. Which made me not like this novel quite as much. I'd still classify it as a good read, and a compelling one, too; I just prefer novels with characters that I can like and root for all the way through, which is why I didn't love this one.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads (that I liked a little bit better):
     The Never List by Koethi Zan
     The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week's topic is Top Ten Books on my fall TBR list.  And though it was hard to narrow down my list to just ten, I finally did it.  Here they are:

1.  Ghost Song by Sarah Rayne

2.  The Shining by Stephen King

3.  The Dire King by William Ritter (Jackaby #4)

4. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

5.  Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

6.   The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse:  An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue by Piu Marie Eatwell

7.  Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

8.  They Came From Baghdad by Agatha Christie

9.  Hello Again by Brenda Novak

10.  Girl Last Seen by Nina Laurin

Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A compelling read...

Work harder than anyone.
Be the most talented.
Sacrifice everything.
And if you're lucky, maybe you will go to the Olympics.

Five gymnasts:  Grace, Leigh, Monica, Wilhelmina, and Camille
One shared goal:  to make the Olympic team

Caela Carter's Tumbling tells the story of 5 elite gymnasts over two days as they compete at the Olympic Trials and try to make their Olympic dreams come true.  Each girl has her own struggles and insecurities from weight issues (too much and too little), to pressure from coaches and parents, to her own doubts and fears, to the push and pull of having friends who are also rivals.  And I found it a compelling look into the hearts and minds of incredibly talented and hard-working athletes who give up everything for this one dream.

As for the girls, I liked all five, and I wanted them all to make the team.  It was very hard not to cheat and flip to the end of the novel early to see who made it and who didn't. But I was good and let the suspense build...and it is oddly suspenseful.  There's so much at stake for these young girls. I got caught up in the drama of each of their stories. (I'll never watch gymnasts and gymnastic competitions in the same way again!) This is a fascinating read. So well-written and unexpected. And I totally loved it.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September's Bookish Art...

Pieter Jannsens Elinga--Reading Woman, 1668

"Books make such good friends and quiet neighbors."
--Catriona McPherson

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Only Daughter...

I've always been good at playing a part...

It's the look in their eyes that does it. A mix of pity and disgust. Like I'm worth nothing, just another stray for them to clean up. A memory slowly opens and I realize I know exactly how to get myself out of this. The power of what I'm about to say is huge. It courses through my body like a shot of vodka, removing the tightness in my throat and sending tingles to the tips of my fingers. I don't feel helpless anymore; I know I can pull this off.  "My name is Rebecca Winter. Eleven years ago, I was abducted."
But she's not Rebecca. She's an imposter who only intends to borrow Rebecca's identity until she can get the police off her back. But having a nice home to go to, and a warm bed to sleep in, and loving parents is appealing. Plus, there are things in her own past she's trying to escape. So she continues the charade. And being Rebecca isn't so bad...until she begins to suspect that something's not right in the Winter home. Plus, a black van keeps following her. Bec's parents and twin brothers are acting strangely. And what if whoever caused the real Bec to disappear decides to come after her?

Anna Snoekstra skillfully interweaves Bec's story with that of her imposter in this compelling psychological suspense novel. Trying to figure out what happened to the real Bec kept me guessing all the way to the unsettling ending. And the impending danger to her imposter added another chilling layer. I liked this one. I also liked how Snoekstra played off the name Rebecca Winter, so similar to Daphne du Maurier's own character--and just like in her novel, Rebecca, we never learn the real name of Rebecca's successor in this book either.

Only Daughter is a fun, fast-paced read. What made it even better was reading it along with Melody. So be sure to check out her review and see what she thought of this psychological thriller. She also asked me a couple of questions when we were done. Here they are along with my answers:

Q. What do you think the real Rebecca Winter and the imposter have in common and do you like any of them?
Bec shoplifts and then flaunts her new acquisitions while the imposter pretends to be someone she's not and never flinches as she tells lie and lie, so I think they both have a similar kind of recklessness about them. I also think both of them have the same tendency to run from their problems rather than face the truth. And while I liked both girls, I liked the imposter a little bit more than the real Bec. To me, she just seemed like more of a scrappy fighter/survivor. And I liked that about her. 
Q. Who do you  most sympathize with? The real Bec, the imposter, or both?
I sympathized with both characters, but at the end of the book I was rooting for the imposter while feeling mostly pity (along with a little frustration) for Bec.
Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Another zombie read...

"Twenty-two days. Michael lifted his finger from the Sharpie'd tally in his journal. Wow. Man. Twenty-two days since Halloween. Twenty-two days since Michael followed the Game Master's instructions and carried Patrick through a door into the night and saw their first Bellow. Twenty-two days since that moment, since the world seemed to end, but then instantaneously resurrected to a frightening and beautiful life."

T. Michael Martin's The End Games is a novel about zombies (called Bellows here) and surviving the end of the world. It is also a novel about love and loyalty between two brothers. Because seventeen-year-old Michael Faris will do anything to protect his little brother, Patrick. Even invent a Game involving the Bellows and earning points and following a mysterious Game Master's instructions until they reach the Safe Zone in Charleston, West Virginia, where they hope to find their mom. And five-year-old Patrick, who suffers from extreme anxiety, believes and plays along. Because Michael is his hero. But it's not just the undead that they have to worry about. There's the crazy cult of religious fanatics in Coaltown, and the army soldier in Charleston who promises to protect them. The one thing Michael knows for sure is that he has to keep his little brother safe.
"Because Patrick ... looked so small, so sweet, that Michael thought, not for the first or final time, that he would shoot all the monsters in the world he had to, he would do anything to reach the Safe Zone in the capital city of Charleston, to win the Game for Patrick."
There are a lot of mediocre and disappointing zombie reads out there, but this is one of the good ones. I liked Martin's style of writing and his take on the undead is different and fun. But his main focus is on his characters. I may not have liked all of them, but I did really like Michael. And as I learned more about his and Patrick's back story, I liked him even more. This entertaining apocalyptic novel ended up being a perfect end-of-summer read for me.

Happy Reading!

Other good zombie reads:
Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End
World War Z

Monday, September 4, 2017

Two Fun Reads...

The Road to Winter by Mark Smith

This entertaining YA dystopian novel is set in an Australia where an unknown virus has wiped out most of the population. For the last two years, Finn and his dog, Rowdy, have been on their own. Finn traps rabbits and harvests abalone for food, trades for veggies with an old man who lives nearby, and tries to avoid the gang of raiders known as the Wilders. Oh, and he surfs to stay sane. Then a girl named Rose enters his life. She's on the run from the Wilders and Finn knows he will have to risk his own life in order to save hers.

Not all dystopian novels are worth your time, but if I were grading this one I'd give it a solid B. It's well-paced. It wasn't too long, which means it never dragged. I really liked the survival aspects of it; I liked the characters, too, especially Finn. And I'm actually looking forward to reading the sequel.

To Suit a Suitor by Paula Kremser

Insipid characters, stilted dialogue, conflicts that could be resolved in two seconds, and/or an overly contrived plot will make me DNF a Regency romance every time. Luckily, this particular Regency romance by Paula Kremser has none of these deficiencies. Instead, Kremser has created two main characters who are believable and very likeable. I enjoyed their witty bantering and their tentative friendship.

Julia North, who is in her third London season, has just been abandoned by her latest suitor, much to her mother's chagrin. Julia knows there must be something wrong with her, she just doesn't know what. So she retreats to her cousin's house in the country where she meets Mr. Henry Chamberlin, who is still mourning the death of his fiancee three years ago. He's handsome, but truly believes he'll never fall in love again. Then he meets Julia. This charming romance, while not on the level of Austen or Heyer, is a light-hearted, well-written and fun read. And I liked it a lot.

Happy Reading!