I received an advance review copy of this book via Netgalley and Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.
It's been nearly 30 years since I firsI received an advance review copy of this book via Netgalley and Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.
It's been nearly 30 years since I first read My Sweet Audrina. I loved the book, and read it many times over the years. I always wished a set of sequels had been written for this book, as there had been for the Dollanganger and Casteel series. When I heard a sequel had finally been written, I was very excited to read it. I was looking forward to finding out what came next for Audrina, and hoped the sequel would be a worthy follow-up to the story Virginia Andrews wrote so beautifully.
I was sadly disappointed, however.
Whitefern definitely had potential. Arden, once a loving husband, is now cruel to Audrina and obsessed with making money. Her father dies, leaving Audrina controlling interest in the family business, which surprises her and enraging Arden. Why did Arden change? And why did her father change his will? The answers to those questions were not nearly as shocking as I'd hoped they would be.
In fact, none of the major plot points delivered any shocking revelations. Every moment that was meant to leave the reader wide-eyed and thunderstruck fell flat, because I'd been anticipating it practically the entire time. There was only one thing that happened regarding a secondary character that actually surprised me, but given the explosive potential that could have played out involving multiple characters in the story, that one surprise didn't pack much of a punch. The final conclusion was unimaginative, and boring in its predictability.
Whitefern is a pale imitation of the brilliant and hauntingly tragic My Sweet Audrina. As readers, we often crave to know what happens next with characters we've grown attached to... but —as the sequels to Gone with the Wind have proved— sometimes 'what happens next' is best left to the reader's imagination....more
I received a review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and First Edition Design Publishing.
By the time I started going to school, legally enforceI received a review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and First Edition Design Publishing.
By the time I started going to school, legally enforced segregation was a thing of the past. I never saw the ‘whites only’ and ‘colored only’ signs that were displayed everywhere in the South. I didn’t know that in the not-so-distant past there were places African-Americans were not allowed to go, things they were not allowed to do. And I didn’t think it was upsetting to have an African-American boy in my class. I do clearly remember being curious as to why his skin color was so different from mine when I first saw him, but only for a little while before I shrugged it off and decided it didn’t matter. He was just a boy going to school for the first time, the same as me.
Growing up in the South, racism was (and still is) all around me. It wasn’t until I was nine or ten that I began to understand what it was. It was a terrible shock for me to realize that others were hated or thought inferior simply because of the color of their skin. When I became aware about segregation and the Civil Rights Movement, I wanted to learn more about it, and have done so whenever possible in the years since then.
What It Was Like is a collection of short stories describing Lois Watkins’ personal experiences of growing up in the segregated South. Her memories are shocking, horrifying, and heartbreaking to read, particularly if the reader has no personal knowledge of what things were like in those dreadful times.
Some of the memories she spoke of involved people or places I was somewhat familiar with, but didn’t know the complete story. The one that disturbed me the most was how, at age 11, she saw a photograph of a deceased Emmett Till in an issue of Jet Magazine.
At the age of 14, Emmett Till was beaten, mutilated, and shot. His body was discovered three days later in the Tallahatchie River. His mother insisted on an open casket, wanting the world to see what had been done to her son in retaliation because he supposedly flirted with a white woman.
Commonly known as the Tulsa Race Riot, the story about the destruction of Black Wall Street (a thriving, successful community of African-Americans in Tulsa’s Greenwood District) is similarly hard to read. On May 30, 1921, an African-American boy was falsely accused of raping a white girl. The district was burned to the ground, leaving thousands of people homeless. The numbers on casualties vary widely, from as little as 30 to as many as 300 or more. Upwards of 1,000 people were admitted into hospitals for treatments of injuries. 191 businesses were destroyed, along with over 1200 homes.
Ms. Watkins gives several examples of the things she experienced herself—such as the painful ordeal of having her hair regularly straightened and why she had to do it, the forbidden taste of water from the ‘whites only’ water fountain and the discovery of how even the things they were allowed was sub-standard to what white people received, and always knowing she had to remain in her ‘proper place’. It was heartbreaking to read of how her family moved to California, thinking they were leaving segregation behind them, only to discover that the ways of segregation were not exclusive to the South.
The best way to learn about something is to hear (or read) stories about it from someone who experienced it… particularly when it deals with something that was part of America’s shameful past policies. History is often revised to be more palatable to modern society, and it’s only by hearing personal experiences of others that we can be certain those shameful parts of our history are not left to fade from memory.
I learned a lot about what things were like during segregation from reading this book. Anyone who is interested in this part of America’s history would likely find this book to be an informative, as well as emotional, read. The only way to avoid the mistakes of the past is to know your history. Given the state of things in America at this time—the debate over Syrian refugees, the blatant racism you see all over the internet, the events that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement— in my opinion, makes this book (and others like it) absolutely relevant to the turmoil we’re experiencing as a nation.
Give this book a read. It’s definitely an eye-opener....more
This is one of the most difficult books I have ever read. Not due to the writing—which was compelling and eloquent—but because of the subject matter iThis is one of the most difficult books I have ever read. Not due to the writing—which was compelling and eloquent—but because of the subject matter itself. The eight families we meet through this book are all living in poverty, and all have the constant threat of eviction hanging over their heads because it takes nearly all of what little money they do have to pay the rent for the substandard apartments, mobile homes, and houses they live in. Many of their homes are in terrible states of disrepair and neglect, and the landlords have no incentive to actually make those much needed repairs. The repairs are done poorly, if at all, because they know there will always be someone desperate enough for a roof over their head to overlook the most reprehensible conditions. If the tenant refuses to pay the rent because repairs are needed, the landlord will simply evict them, safe in the knowledge that someone else will be along very shortly to rent it, despite the property’s lack of upkeep.
The stories of two landlords are told, as well. Desmond present their stories as he does that of the tenants; without judgment or censure.
I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy book to read, but it was engrossing, just the same. From the first few paragraphs, I cared deeply about Arleen, and the same was true as each new family/person was introduced. Some of the things I learned about them were stereotypical, but that didn’t change the compassion I felt for them.
Being given a glimpse into their world has made me more aware of what a terrible problem poverty is, and how it causes millions of evictions every year in America. History teaches us that the most vulnerable in any society are taken advantage of and discriminated against in the worst ways. But it also teaches us that things can change, if enough people want it badly enough.
How long will it be before America wants it badly enough that this egregious wrong is finally made right? How long will it be before we start acting like the greatest nation in the world that we claim to be, and do something about it? Who will fight for the poorest of the poor, who have no voice, and allow their silent cries to finally be heard? I was left with many questions such as these after reading this book.
Being informed about societal issues is important. Evicted is an excellent source of information on a subject that desperately needed to be spoken about. I’m glad I read it, and learned from it.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in current social issues....more
I received an advance review copy of this book via Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Fiction in exchange for an honest review.
Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray tellsI received an advance review copy of this book via Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Fiction in exchange for an honest review.
Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray tells the story of Mary Anna Custis Lee and Selena Norris Gray. Mary is the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, and the only living child of George Washington Parke Custis and Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis. She lives with her parents at the family home, Arlington. Selina is one of Arlington’s slaves, the daughter of Leonard and Sally Norris. The story is told, alternately, in each woman’s point of view, sometimes allowing the reader to see an event through the eyes of Mary and Selina both.
I really enjoyed reading this, and thought the writing was excellent. I have a fondness for historical fiction, and American history is an area of particular interest for me, as well. I’d never heard of Selina Gray before reading this book, which is astounding considering what she did. Left in charge of Arlington after Mary and her children fled their home after the start of the Civil War, it was Selina who prevented the loss of all the George Washington heirlooms hidden inside the house.
This is the first book I’ve ever read by Dorothy Love, but I’m interested in reading more of her work in the future....more
I received this ebook from Netgalley and Redhook in exchange for an honest review.
The year is 1871, and Dr. Catherine Bennett overcame obstacles to eaI received this ebook from Netgalley and Redhook in exchange for an honest review.
The year is 1871, and Dr. Catherine Bennett overcame obstacles to earn her medical degree, but fighting the prejudice against female doctors will be a never-ending battle. Forced into an unsavory partnership with a ‘Resurrection Man’ in order to better her skills as a physician and a surgeon, something that would be particularly frowned upon simply because she is a woman, Catherine is returning from her latest visit there when she learns she has been accused of murdering the husband of one of her well-connected patients. Her alibi—the Resurrection Man—would end her career as quickly as the murder accusation and likely conviction. Catherine has no choice but to run.
With her protective maid, Maureen, at her side, Catherine sails to Galveston, Texas, hoping for a fresh start. Circumstances beyond her control and a chance meeting with a former patient lead her to join a wagon train bound for Colorado Territory. Things go from bad to worse, and Catherine, now calling herself Laura, finds herself alone at an army fort filling in temporarily as the post’s doctor until a replacement can be sent. But even at a remote fort in the vast Southern Plains, her true identity and the secret that must stay hidden is in danger of being revealed.
I really enjoyed reading this. Lenhardt’s words painted a vivid picture of Catherine’s plight, and I could easily put myself in Catherine’s shoes and feel what she felt at any given point of the story. The cast of characters were simply wonderful, and quite believable in their portrayal. They were anything but predictable, however… several characters surprised me more than once. Particularly during scenes when I just knew things were going to play out a certain way, only to find I was proven wrong once again.
Every detail in not tied into a neat little bow by the end of the book—this is the first book in a series, after all—but I have to say, I think the loose ends that were left were perfectly chosen. They are the very ones I want to know more about! I’m looking forward to reading more of Catherine’s story, as well as certain other characters.
I’m hesitant to add this last bit, but I did promise to give an honest review, so I suppose I should. I wanted to read this book the instant I read “Outlander meets post-Civil War unrest in this fast-paced historical debut.” Even more truthfully… as soon as I read the word “Outlander.” That’s not to say that the description of the book didn’t further reel me in… it did. I would have wanted to read the book based solely on that, minus the bit about Outlander. The thing is… other than the fact that Catherine is a doctor and Outlander’s Claire Randall is a known as a healer after time traveling to 18th century Scotland, and both have to deal with societal mores regarding a woman’s “proper place”… I’m not completely certain using it in the tagline is fitting. (To clarify, I’m not saying that because of the time travel aspect of Outlander.) Then again, I’m not completely certain it isn’t, given the similarities I noted between Catherine and Claire. It’s something I’ve puzzled over more than a few times as I was reading, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It feels not quite right, somehow, but not quite wrong, either. I’m interested to see what others who read Sawbones think about it, if they have any thoughts about it at all.
But enough about that. The tagline isn’t the important thing, it’s the story itself, which is absolutely fantastic and well written from start to finish. I’m looking forward to book two, and will definitely be reading it. I have a theory or two about what might happen next… can’t wait to find out!...more
I received this ARC from Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review.
The Island Escape is a wonderfully written story focusing on two loI received this ARC from Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review.
The Island Escape is a wonderfully written story focusing on two long-time friends and how both their lives are affected when one of them finds herself going through a divorce.
Roberta is the elegant one, accustomed to a life of wealth. She is unhappily married to Scott—a successful businessman who can be very charming when he wants to be—and mother to their only child. She once dreamed of being an interior designer, but Scott wouldn’t allow her to do it. When they’re together, Roberta spends most of her time trying to gauge his moods, hoping she won’t say or do anything that brings out the bullying, controlling side of him.
Octavia is the adventurous one—or rather, she used to be. When she and Roberta were young, Octavia was all about spontaneity. Eighteen years later, she is married to practical, predictable Jonathan, who has always been more interested in work and his high expectations of their household should run, than in helping an often frazzled Octavia care for their three children. She loves him, but she can’t help but remember her time in Corsica with the equally adventurous Xavi, the young man she loved and lost. Wondering if he was still there… and if he ever thought of her.
I was familiar with Kerry Fisher’s work, having read another of her novels, After the Lie, last month. While it was the beautiful cover that first caught my eye, seeing her name at the top (before I’d even read the synopsis) was enough for me to decide I wanted to read this book. I expected a well-written, engrossing novel full of interesting characters and emotional situations, and Fisher didn’t disappoint. I was completely caught up in everything Roberta and Octavia were going through, and felt protective of them when I felt someone else in the story was treating them unfairly.
The best thing about reading is that you can ‘visit’ places you’ll never go, and ‘see’ things you’ll never actually see, if the writing is good enough. Corsica and Sardinia—places that are only names on a map to me—came alive for me through Fisher’s vivid imagery.
While I won’t give away anything that happens, I will say that I loved the ending. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it was definitely satisfying!
I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy quality women’s fiction. Put this one on your TBR list now. You won’t regret it....more
Simone and Matt Porter’s daughter, Helena, was kidnapped when she was six months old. She was never seen again. Devastated, Simone and Matt managed toSimone and Matt Porter’s daughter, Helena, was kidnapped when she was six months old. She was never seen again. Devastated, Simone and Matt managed to live their lives, despite their grief, but they’ve never forgotten their lost daughter. Eighteen years later, a young woman named Grace approaches her, saying she needs to speak with her about her daughter, telling her she is still alive. Simone is angry, thinking Grace is lying and trying to get money from her, until she sees the blue velvet rabbit. Helena’s rabbit. The one she had with her when she was stolen.
It’s enough to get her to listen to Grace’s story, though Simone finds it hard to believe. When she tells Matt about Grace, she tells him everything… well, almost everything. She keeps to herself that Grace has asked for her help, thinking it best that Matt didn’t know if it turned out that Grace wasn’t their Helena after all. Instead, she agrees with Matt’s idea to do a DNA test on Grace. With rushed results, they would know within a day or two if Grace was really Helena, or just an imposter.
Except the DNA from Grace was contaminated, and they can’t do another test because Grace is missing. Desperate to know the answers, Simone begins searching for answers, not realizing that the closer she gets to the truth, the more her life is in danger.
I really enjoyed this book. With lots of suspense and surprises, it is a well-written story that keeps you guessing all the way. If you enjoy thrillers, I think you’ll find this book a good read....more
I received this ebook from Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review.
Lydia appears to have the perfect life: a loving husband, two chiI received this ebook from Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review.
Lydia appears to have the perfect life: a loving husband, two children, and a thriving business of her own. She’s the one who always knows what to do, and what to say. But the image of that ‘perfect life’ couldn’t be further from the truth. Everything she has, everything she’s done is based on a lie. A lie that covers a truth so shameful, it hasn’t been spoken of for thirty years. A lie her husband and children must never find out about. A lie that she and her parents have gone to extraordinary lengths to protect from discovery.
But lies don’t stay hidden forever. And when they finally see the light of day, the lives of those affected will never be the same.
When the one person who might shine the light of truth on Lydia’s carefully constructed lie reappears in her life, she’s in a panic. Stressed and uncertain what the future holds, she becomes impatient and angry with her family, who can’t understand why she’s behaving so strangely. She turns to her mother for help, but only finds more stress and is ultimately pushed into confronting the one person she wants to avoid the most.
The pressure of having lived with a terrible secret for most of her life becomes too much for Lydia, leading her down a path of dangerous choices that puts her marriage in even greater jeopardy. As her secrets begin to come out, one by one, Lydia is forced to face her deepest fears and make choices that will not only affect her own life, but the lives of everyone involved in the tangled threads of her deception.
After the Lie was an emotional ride. There were moments that were genuinely laugh out loud funny, some that made me feel terrible dread, and others that were heartbreaking to read. There is one character I was so certain had no redeeming qualities to offer at all, and it surprised me to find myself feeling sorry for that same character near the end of the story. For just a moment, I was able to see things from their point of view, and it completely changed my opinion of that character. (I’m being deliberately vague about the identity of that character, because I don’t want to risk spoiling a moment of the story for anyone.)
This is the first book I’ve read by Kerry Fisher, but I’ll definitely be reading more of her work in the future....more
I received this eBook from Netgalley and Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.
I was completely blown away by this book! No One Knows is fullI received this eBook from Netgalley and Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.
I was completely blown away by this book! No One Knows is full of twists and turns you never see coming, and just when you think you have the Big Mystery figured out, something unexpected happens and you’re back to square one all over again.
I spent most of my time wondering about every character that Aubrey interacted with, looking for clues that indicated whether they were good or bad people. I wondered which ones were to be trusted, and which ones were playing some kind of an angle. I thought about it while I was reading it. I thought about it when I wasn’t reading it. I was never able to figure it out, and that’s a very good thing! I spent four days completely wrapped up in the mystery of Josh’s disappearance, and what might have happened. And when the Big Reveal finally came—I was absolutely stunned.
5 stars is the highest rating I give, but the highest praise I can give any book is to declare that it is a Book Worth Reading, and this one is most definitely deserving of that title. If No One Knows isn’t already on your wish list, trust me… it needs to be there. You won’t be sorry....more
I received this ARC from Netgalley and Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.
I’m going to say this right off the bat: If you love to readI received this ARC from Netgalley and Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.
I’m going to say this right off the bat: If you love to read historical fiction, particularly that which was inspired by the lives of real people, you need to put this book on your to-be-read list, because this is most definitely a Book Worth Reading. The only thing more impressive than the quality of the writing itself is that this is a debut novel. For a first novel, I would rank it right up there with Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, or Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
Lilac Girls is told from the perspective of three women. Caroline Ferriday, who spends her time volunteering at the French Consulate in New York, sending aid for orphaned children; Kasia Kuzmerick, a young woman from Poland who is part of the underground resistance working against the German occupation; and Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor who takes a job at the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
Each woman’s story is captivating and, at times, heartbreaking… in particular, the story of Kasia and her time in Ravensbrück. The details of what she went through were disturbing, but necessary to the story. All the things Kasia felt—fear, distrust, anger, hopelessness—were echoed in my own heart. Sometimes I would have to stop reading a particularly distressing passage, because I was so fearful of what the outcome for Kasia would be. I felt deep concern for her almost immediately after being introduced to her character, and it only grew as her story intensified and became more dangerous.
Caroline’s altruistic efforts to provide aid for those affected by the war was both heartwarming (when her efforts went according to plan) and frustrating (when she was stymied by things beyond her control).
What can I say about Herta that won’t be a potential spoiler? Hmm. The best I can say is, I disliked her from the start. There were rare moments early on when my attitude toward her softened just a bit, but that didn’t last for long.
Knowing our history is important, perhaps even more so when it comes to the most horrific times in our history. Lilac Girls, while fictional, tells the important story of such a time, and of the women who lived it and should be remembered—not only for their sufferings but for their triumphs. ...more
I received this eBook from Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review.
Love and loss. Secrets and lies. Pain and tragedy. Last Kiss GoodI received this eBook from Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review.
Love and loss. Secrets and lies. Pain and tragedy. Last Kiss Goodnight is full of these elements, taking you on the emotional journeys of an exceptionally well-written cast of characters in a beautiful story that is destined to stay with you long after you’ve read the final sentence.
Kate, battling her inner turmoil, has recently moved to Aylesborough with her husband, Toby. She needs a new start—an escape from the pain in her life. Toby is doing his best to help Kate heal and wants nothing more than to rebuild their marriage. Kate, on the other hand, is just as determined to resist his efforts, and lies about how she spends her days so Toby won’t know the truth.
Martha is disheveled and sitting alone on a bench, knitting what appears to be a garment for an infant, when she meets Kate. Both sense the other is hiding something, but Kate feels compelled to get to know her, and a cautious friendship begins—each woman unwilling or unable to reveal her hidden pain and darkest secrets.
Elsewhere in Aylesborough, a man named Matthew searches for answers and feels certain he will find them at the building site of Millrose Mount Village—which used to be Millrose Mount Hospital, a mental institution with a dark history.
Last Kiss Goodnight is a truly fantastic novel. The more you learn about the characters, the more the mystery deepens as to how they got to this point in their lives. What happened to make Kate and Toby move to a strange place, leaving their former lives behind? What happened to create the rift in their marriage? Why is Martha so guarded about her past? Why did she choose to live a nomadic life? Why is Matthew so interested in a mental institution that has been closed for years?
If you love to read novels with strongly written characters and an engrossing storyline that tugs at your heartstrings, you definitely need to add this one to your to-be-read list. I promise you, you won’t regret it. This is a Book Worth Reading… and Teresa Driscoll has earned a place on my author watch list. I’ll definitely be looking for more to read from this author....more
This is a very brief short story that introduces you to the characters of Riley Macpherson and her brother, Danny, from the novel The Silent Sister. AThis is a very brief short story that introduces you to the characters of Riley Macpherson and her brother, Danny, from the novel The Silent Sister. At least, it does if you read it first... I wasn't aware this short story existed before I read The Silent Sister. If I had, I would have read it first.
My favorite part of the tale is when Riley is thinking back to when she and Danny were children. There is a sweet memory of Danny comforting her when she is afraid of a storm, and another when he saves her from what could have been a painful injury, which serve to illustrate how close Riley and Danny were when they were children. One childhood memory in particular is not such a happy one, and is something that (to my memory) is never referenced in The Silent Sister, so I won't mention it in this review other than to say it quite interesting.
I'm giving this one three stars. I'm glad I read it, and I enjoyed it, but even for a short story, it was a wee bit too short for my liking.
I won an advance copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways and St. Martin’s Press.
I’ve been interested in the Titanic for longer than I can remember.I won an advance copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways and St. Martin’s Press.
I’ve been interested in the Titanic for longer than I can remember. History is full of tragic stories, but the sinking of the Titanic is a particularly poignant one. Over 1500 men, women, and children were lost the night the ship hailed as being”unsinkable” struck an iceberg and sank. Of the passengers, the greatest loss of life was among the Third Class—76% of whom perished. 76% of the crew—including the Captain, Chief Officer, and First Officer—were lost, as well. Near enough to see the Titanic’s eight distress rockets was the Californian, commanded by Captain Stanley Lord, who could have come to their aid—but did not. Why did the Captain not issue the order to go, despite the darkness of the night sky, despite the ice field his own ship was surrounded by, and at least attempt to offer assistance? What really happened that night, and why?
These are the questions The Midnight Watch contemplates so beautifully, offering up a scenario of what might have happened that fateful night on the Californian. The story is told from three perspectives:
Certain members of the Californian’s crew John Steadman—a journalist trying to discover the truth of the Californian’s inaction, and what members of its crew knew about it A Third Class family who died when the Titanic sank
Each viewpoint was compelling in its own way. Steadman’s frustration at being thwarted when he attempts to speak to anyone on the crew other than the Captain, as well as personal issues regarding his family and the pressure he’s under from the newspaper he works for to write about the tragedy is vividly written. Herbert Stone of the Californian is incredibly conflicted between his need to do what’s right, and his desire to have his Captain’s respect. The eleven members of the Sage family are on the Titanic, traveling to start a new life in Florida. Told through the eyes of nineteen year old Stella, we see what she and her family experienced after the Titanic begins to sink.
The Midnight Watch is one of the best novels about the Titanic I’ve ever read, and it’s the only book I’ve read (so far) that deals with the Californian’s part of the story, as well. It also re-ignited my curiosity about all things having to do with the Titanic. That’s why it’s taken me a bit longer than usual to write my review—I didn’t get started right away because I’ve been looking at Titanic websites. In my world, having read something that makes me want to gain more knowledge about a person, place, or event makes a book even better… and to have all this in a debut novel makes it absolutely phenomenal.
This is a fantastic read for Titanic history buffs… definitely a Book Worth Reading!...more
I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books and Goodreads Giveaways.
Gretchen is a 16 year old photography enthusiI received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books and Goodreads Giveaways.
Gretchen is a 16 year old photography enthusiast, living in New York City with her oft-absent father. Her mother, renowned owner of the Mona Axton Gallery, disappeared without a trace nearly five years earlier. Gretchen is surprised to receive a call from her Great-Aunt Esther—a woman she doesn’t know—informing her that she is leaving the Axton Mansion, which Gretchen will inherit as the last remaining member of the Axton family. Gretchen agrees to go and help Esther with the house, and the next day she is on her way.
Contrary to her expectations, Gretchen arrives at her family’s ancestral home to find a dilapidated, 150 year old house that appeared ready to collapse. The interior of the house wasn’t any better. Papers and books lay in piles everywhere, and the house was cluttered with countless objects all over the place, looking as if nothing had ever been thrown out once it was brought into the house. Believing she came here to help clean up the house and help Esther move, Gretchen is overwhelmed—then she discovers that’s not the sort of help her Great-Aunt requires of her after all.
The Axton Mansion holds the key to a terrible secret from the past. Somewhere, hidden within old documents, the faded letters and journals of Gretchen’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Fidelia Axton, and horrific photographs from the past lies the answer to an unsolved tragedy that occurred at the nearby church. A tragedy that the dead—and the living—cannot escape, even after 150 years. In order to free them all, Gretchen must discover and expose the truth of the evil deed.
What the Dead Want is a fascinating paranormal young adult mystery. Olson dives into the action almost immediately, and there’s never a dull moment. Gretchen’s story in the present is interspersed with glimpses into the past, through the letters and journal entries of Fidelia Axton and other relevant documents. Rather than being an unwelcome interruption, each piece is a crucial part of the story, taking the reader one step closer to solving the mystery.
The one thing that prevents me from giving this beautifully written story a full five star rating is the inaccurate usage of the word racism. Fidelia uses this word several times in her letters and journals, which were written in prior to and following the American Civil War. It seemed out of place as I was reading, and after I finished the novel I looked it up. The original date of its first usage was either in 1902 or 1927. I was unable to find a definitive answer on which date was correct, but either way, it was long after the time period in which it was used in the novel.
I feel very strongly that historical writing must stay true to the time frame it portrays in every way, but especially regarding word usage. Using a word that didn’t exist during the time frame you are writing about is a guaranteed way to throw your reader out of the story every time they see it. It’s always an unfortunate thing to run into, but it’s even more disheartening to see it in an otherwise wonderfully written story.
The out of place usage of that single word is my only criticism, however, and I still highly recommend this book....more
Laura Brandon, renowned astronomer, promised her dying father she would look after Sarah Tolley, a woman with no family who lived in a retirement homeLaura Brandon, renowned astronomer, promised her dying father she would look after Sarah Tolley, a woman with no family who lived in a retirement home. Despite the fact that she'd never heard of her and had no idea who she was or how her father knew her, Laura felt obligated to fulfill his dying request. However, when she told her husband, Ray, about it, he tried to dissuade her from doing it, shocking her with his uncharacteristic display of anger when she refused to reconsider. Ray accused Laura of giving too little of herself to him and her daughter, Emma, saying she was always rushing off to further her career, or taking on pet projects, and never spending enough time with her family. Laura is stunned and hurt by this, but thinks his upset most likely stems from his inability to publish a book he'd poured his heart into writing. Ray apologizes, but is still upset that she still plans to see Sarah Tolley.
Two weeks later, Ray asked her again to forget about seeing Sarah, but Laura goes anyway. She's hoping Sarah can tell her how her father came to know her, but that hope is dashed when Laura learns that Sarah is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. She's further puzzled to learn that no one, not even her father, had ever visited Sarah. Left with more questions than answers, Laura leaves and returns home, where she is greeted by the sound of her daughter screaming. Emma is clearly traumatized, and Ray is nowhere to be found. Moments later, she discovers his body in the bedroom—Ray committed suicide while Laura was away.
Now, a grieving Laura must find the strength to help her little girl recover from the trauma that left her unwilling to speak, struggling with her own guilt about Ray's death and Emma's condition while at the same time trying to solve the mystery of Sarah Tolley. When six months have passed and Emma still isn't talking, Laura is persuaded to contact Emma's birth father, Dylan Geer, and see if he was willing to be part of Emma's life, in the hope that it would help her recovery.
In the meantime, Laura continues to visit Sarah, going on walks and listening to stories of Sarah's youth. Over time, the stories reveal a terrible tragedy Sarah endured... leading her to a sacrifice she never wanted to make. Laura wanted to help Sarah, but more than that, she wanted to know why someone was leaving anonymous letters in her mail, warning her to stay away from Sarah. In the end, Laura finds the answers she's been searching for, and Sarah ends up impacting her life, as well as Emma's, in ways Laura could never have imagined.
Breaking the Silence is a tale of love and loss surrounded by mysteries from the past, as well as the present. Each answered question raises others, and it is so skillfully written that it keeps you guessing all the way through. If you haven't read it, I urge you to give it a try... you won't be disappointed!...more