If you're into creepy settings (This silence here was somewhat heavier, lonelier than the preceding one. The former was an elevator silence; this one...moreIf you're into creepy settings (This silence here was somewhat heavier, lonelier than the preceding one. The former was an elevator silence; this one was a walking-through-the-woods-by-night silence.), rooms that lead to nowhere, secret pasts, awesome characters, quirky formats, The X-Files, and historical fiction (the novel takes place in the 90s, but were it not for a few specific references to television shows, I could have easily believed this took place far, far earlier), this is the book for you. From what I can tell, this is Cantero's debut in English. If the rest of his books are this fun, I'll keep my fingers crossed for translations!
Ten years ago, Janie Jenkins had the world in her hands: a fabulously wealthy It Girl famous for being famous...morethis review will go live on the blog7/31
Ten years ago, Janie Jenkins had the world in her hands: a fabulously wealthy It Girl famous for being famous, she was dating a British musician, and had just landed her first magazine cover. Unfortunately, her mother ruined it all by dying. Or, rather, by being horrifically murdered - and writing out Janie's name in her own blood. Those five letters cause Janie to lose it all, she was hauled off to prison (what other reason would her mother have for leaving Janie's name beside her on the floor?) and now the only letters she received are full of hate.
Due to a technicality, a mix-up in a lab, Janie is released into a world much different than the one she left. Once word gets out, the media launches its own manhunt. Despite there being no evidence, everyone believes Janie to be guilty - even Janie herself isn't sure whether or not she actually did it. Armed with broken bits of memories, a fake ID (courtesy of her layer, Noah Washington), and a new hair cut, Janie heads for a tiny town in South Dakota in the hopes it will give her the answers she seeks.
Prior to blogging, I lived and breathed Thrillers. Since then, I've branched out and discovered truly wonderful authors and genres, but every so often I love revisiting the one that started it all. I had high hopes going into Dear Daughter - especially since TANA FRENCH (!) has a blurb featured on the cover - and I'm thrilled to say the book didn't disappoint!
Does a main character need to be likable for the book to be a hit? I don't think so. 27-year-old Janie is a spoiled brat - even after a decade in prison. She grew up in Switzerland and had a rotating stock of tutors, nannies, drivers, stepfathers. From an early age she knew how to get what she wanted and was never very good at taking no for an answer. Jail did nothing to change her attitude. If anything, it made it worse, but there was something about her I couldn't help but watch. I suppose that's the case with any young socialite: even if they're rude, nasty people, they still hold that spark that you can't look away from. Bravo, Ms. Little.
The media are convinced Janie got away with murder and I was caught up in the action. In between chapters there were transcripts from court documents, trial notes, police reports, and celeb gossip blog posts that I thought were amazing. These gave more insight into Janie's character, the night her mother died, the media circus trying to tail her (reports of Janie sightings are extremely popular)...I ate it up.
Janie's arrival in South Dakota (under the guise of a dowdy and frumpy Rachel Parker) reveals far more than she ever bargained for. As she uncovers the history of this tiny mining community, she discovers just who her mother was - and exactly what happened that horrible night ten years ago. As someone well-read in Thrillers, I'd like to think I know the 'formula' well enough by now to see what's coming. I'm pleased to say there were a few reveals that genuinely surprised me and some twists I hadn't guessed! Marion's past was fascinating and I loved learning her secrets with Janie.
I feel that romance can never be a total win for me. If there's romance in a book, it'll happen to quickly for my liking. If it's not there at all, I'll be disappointed. Clearly I just can't win! Dear Daughter isn't romance and doesn't put any focus on love, but I thought something was going to happen with Janie and a character and it never did. Perhaps I was reading into it too much?
Dear Daughter is a stunning debut novel and I'm excited to see where Ms. Little goes from here! It's extremely readable with a quick pace, intriguing mystery, and characters you'll love to hate (and I mean that in the best way!). This is certainly one I'll be recommending and you can bet I'll be eager to see what Ms. Little does next.(less)
I'm a huge fan of cozy mysteries, those fun and easy novels that I can get lost in for an afternoon. While authors like Christie and Sayers top the charts, my guilty pleasures are the themed series - psychic detectives, cupcake bakeries, you name it, I'll read it! So when I heard about a new series featuring a Southern bed and breakfast I was all about it!
Beth recently moved back to her hometown and has started the lengthy (and expensive!) task of renovating her beloved grandmother's home into a bed and breakfast. With the help of a seriously good-looking handyman, Beth's dream is slowly becoming a reality - until the night Miss Lavinia checks in. Miss Lavinia's family stretches back to the very founding of Littleboro and at one point, owned half the town. When she was younger, Lavinia left home and moved abroad, traveling all throughout Europe and living the high life. Now in her 80s, Lavinia decided to pack her things and move back home, first securing a room at Beth's. The following morning, however, Beth discovers that during the night, Lavinia passed away. Things go from bad to worse when her death was ruled a homicide - there were traces of hemlock found in the body - and Beth's the prime suspect.
I really don't have a whole lot to say about Doing It at the Dixie Dew. It was a super short novel (250 pages!) and a good escape for a few hours. If you've read a cozy before, you'll feel right at home here - this novel is extremely easy to read, though there were times when I felt that was more of a hindrance. Yes, it's formulaic, but that's the genre as a whole. When the Big Reveal happened, the villain explained his/her actions for a good few pages and even invited Beth over for a cup of tea (Southern charm all the way). It was clear there would be a romance between Beth and Scott, but I wasn't feeling it at all. They certainly interact plenty over the course of the novel, but I wasn't feeling any kind of spark between them and suddenly they were in bed together (then never mentioned it - or any kind of feelings for one another - again for the rest of the book). Perhaps there will be more in the sequel?
I suppose this is more of a mini review, but how much is there to say about a novel this size? It entertained me while it lasted, so on that point is succeeded, but I wasn't overly wowed by it. Yes it was enjoyable, but there wasn't anything particularly special or unique about the story or characters. Doing It at the Dixie Dew wasn't a bad novel at all, but it wasn't a stand-out story either. This was a solid average read if there ever was one and I'm a bit worried people might get the wrong impression by that. Let's just say that if you're a fan of cozies and want a new series to read, give this one a shot. If you're brand new to the genre, however, this isn't the one I would recommend.(less)
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I cou...morethis review will go live on the blog05/27
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I could have easily read another 700 pages. I'm typically hesitant to give in to hype, I've been burned in the past, but with this novel, the hype is not only deserved, but actually doesn't do the book justice. I Am Pilgrim is greater than the hype. It's the kind of book that rocked me to my core and left me breathless. It took me over a month to finally come up with a review but even after a month's thought, nothing I say will be good enough. This book is that good.
I'm purposefully leaving the summary vague; uncovering the details is half the fun! What initially starts out as a routine - albeit rather gruesome - murder investigation in a seedy New York hotel quickly spirals into a whirlwind race across Europe and the Middle East to stop a crazed zealot from raining destruction down on America. Throw in some ultra-secret government divisions, biological warfare, and a main character with severe mommy issues, and you've got the backbone of I Am Pilgrim.
It's never fully revealed just who our main character is. He was adopted as a child and later on recruited for an agency where he was given a new name and a new past. With each case he took on a new identity. He's a ghost, living on the fringes of society, never getting close to anyone. After he left the agency, he wrote a book detailing various crimes and unique methods of killing. He becomes involved in the murder investigation after it becomes clear the killer used his book as a blueprint, a checklist of what not to do and how to get away with it. From there I Am Pilgrim takes on a life of its own and I happily buckled in for the ride.
This is a novel where there's So. Much. to say but saying it will give away the book's secrets and I refused to ruin it for anyone! I Am Pilgrim is definitely not for the queasy and makes that clear with the opening scene. Thankfully I'm the kind of person who can't resist watching horror unfold and was thoroughly ensnared in this book's web. I'm convinced Hayes is something of a genius - the way he introduced multiple stories that, on first look, appeared completely unrelated only to have everything come together at the end had me in awe. It takes a special kind of author to turn a book of this length into a frenzied page-turner, and Hayes is clearly a master of his craft.
I Am Pilgrim kept me up late, got me up early, and had me sneaking in some reading time whenever I could throughout the day. When I wasn't reading this book I was thinking about it and counting down the minutes until I was able to get back to it. I realize this review is little more than me rephrasing "I LOVE THIS BOOK" over and over again, but when it comes down to it, that's all I can say (without spoiling anything, of course). I Am Pilgrim is a highly ambition novel that fully lives up to those ambitions and I'm counting on it becoming a huge hit this summer. It appears this is going to be a series, and if that's truly the case, I desperately need the next!(less)
I didn't read No One Else Can Have You until just a few days before its release partly because I was a little hesitant to begin. Reviews started coming out and they weren't good. At all. There were even a few bloggers who share a very similar taste in books with me that couldn't stand this debut - some couldn't even finish it! Despite the reviews declaring this novel weird and odd I was still curious. Anyone who follows Kathleen on twitter can easily get a feel for her sense of humor; I personally love both it and her, so in true Leah fashion, I ignored the naysayers and dove in.
And you know what? No One Else Can Have Youis weird. It is odd. But it worked beautifully to create an overwhelming sense of unease that was PERFECT for a murder mystery. For a good portion of this novel I felt extremely uncomfortable and I loved it. Hats off to you, Ms. Hale!
There was a time when the tiny Wisconsin town of Friendship lived up to its name. Everyone knew everyone by name, families stretched back for generations, and no one locked their doors. One night - and one girl - changed everything. When Ruth never showed up at Kippy's house, Kippy thought she bailed on their sleepover. It wasn't until the following morning that the truth came out: Ruth had been brutally murdered - suffocated with straw - and posed to look like a scarecrow in a cornfield. Fingers immediately start pointing to Ruth's boyfriend, but Kippy isn't completely convinced he's responsible. Armed with Ruth's diary (Ruth's mother asked Kippy to read it first and Sharpie out all the sex parts) Kippy sets out to uncover the truth behind her best friend's death.
Kippy, with her wardrobe full of turtleneck sweaters, was far too awkward for me to connect with, but that only made her more intriguing. There were many scenes where she seemed very young both emotionally and mentally and her voice came across as strange. Also, for a good chunk of the book I was under the impression that Kippy had been in love with Ruth. It's not a stretch at all to say Kippy was obsessed with her best friend - and for a while I entertained the thought that perhaps Kippy had been the murderer.
I will admit this book definitely is NOT going to be for everyone. One of the main characters, Ruth's brother, has recently returned from Afghanistan minus a finger and suffers from PTSD. There's talk of domestic violence and abusive relationships. At one point Kippy is sent to an institution and the characters there are all shown for comedic effect.
Readers looking for an eerie, character-driven thriller will find just that in No One Else Can Have You. There's certainly no lack of deeply flawed townsfolk in Friendship, Wisconsin. While this novel may not be for everyone, the readers who enjoy it will really enjoy it. It's gruesome and dark and I couldn't get enough. Also: if that cover was an actual sweater I would be all over it.(less)
"You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin. But you can't help when kin forsakes you or when strangers come to be family."
After a handful of really fantastic YA reads, I wanted to get back to my roots: Thrillers. I've mentioned a few times that, before I began blogging, the majority of the books I read were mysteries and thrillers. Lately I haven't read nearly as many as I would like and the ones I do read are typically my go-to comfort reads during snow days or when I'm not feeling so great. I've made a conscious effort to have 2014 be the year I get back to the basics, the year I fall in love with reading again, and I knew that it would include my favorite genre.
Sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane has no idea what happened to her mother and those who were around back then aren't saying much. When Lila arrived in town, folk immediately disliked her: she was an outsider and her too-short shorts weren't doing her any favors in winning over Henbane. It wasn't long before she was labeled a witch, an evil seductress, and when she disappeared there weren't many people in town who were upset. Were it not for the neighbors - more like family - Lila's baby girl would hardly have survived; the moment she vanished, Carl shut down and hid away inside their bedroom with a bottle of Southern Comfort, in no way fit to raise a baby. Fifteen years have passed since then and Lucy finds herself experiencing loss once more.
One of Lucy's only friends, a girl named Cheri, is discovered in a tree down by the river. It wasn't a secret Cheri had a terrible homelife and no one was all that surprised when word got out Cheri ran away. The only person who suspected there might be more to the story was Lucy and Cheri's body leaves her with more questions. Lucy's determined to uncover the truth, even if that means striking against her own family.
For a debut novel to be compared to Gillian Flynn's works is pretty high praise and despite knowing better I gave in to the hype. I've never read any of Flynn's novels and, to be honest, if they're anything like The Weight of Blood, I don't think I'll be picking one up anytime soon. This novel wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great. Nothing about it wowed me, at no point did I feel the need to stay up late or rush to squeeze in just one more chapter. When it comes down to it, The Weight of Blood was an entertaining story while it lasted, but it's ultimately forgettable. I won't be gushing over the characters or excitedly pushing this book on customers and I already know there will never be a re-read in my future.
That's not to say there weren't things about it I really enjoyed! I'm a big fan of plots involving similar murders/disappearances/crimes committed a decade (or more) apart. I absolutely love the trope and it's what initially put this book on my radar. Small towns and their secrets are also instant winners for me and this aspect was incredibly well done. Bravo, Ms. McHugh! And my love for multiple narratives is blatant at this point - another plus for The Weight of Blood. While Lucy and Lila are the central figures, many others lend their voice and it was fascinating seeing the story play out through the secondary characters' eyes.
Sadly, it's there that my praise ends. The Weight of Blood isn't a terrible book at all and I truly was invested while reading, but nothing about the novel left a lasting impression. I can't imagine thinking back on this book a month from now. The Weight of Blood is a fairly bland story - it would make for a decent rainy day read, but I just don't see it becoming a book people are rushing out to buy.(less)
Alyxandra Harvey is a completely new-to-me author. I haven't read her Drake Chronicles series, Haunting Violet, or any of her other works, but the moment I came across A Breath of Frost I was instantly intrigued. Regency London, witchcraft, opened gates to the underworld - it all left me dancing in delight and I couldn't request it fast enough.
Three cousins - Emma, Penelope, and Gretchen - are in the midst of their first Season. As debutantes, they're expected to attend ball after ball in the hopes of obtaining a husband. Unfortunately for their parents, these girls have other ideas.
Emma's mother descended into madness shortly after Emma was born. Since then, Emma has carried around a small perfume bottle that had belonged to her mother. When a party-goer bumps into Emma and the bottle smashes to pieces, all hell breaks loose. Literally. Suddenly there are dead girls and whispers of magic - things Society would never discuss in public - and somehow Emma discovers herself in the middle of it all.
I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed A Breath of Frost. This was definitely an instance where I was at the right place at the right time, the-star-were-aligned sort of moment. A Breath of Frost was exactly what I hadn't realized I wanted to read and it was fantastic. The sheer size (clocking in at just shy of 500 pages) is definitely going to put off some readers, but for all its heftiness, this was a fairly light read. Oh sure, there are multiple murders and hellhounds, but it kept me entertained the entire time - and that's certainly not something that can be said for every 500-page book I've come across.
Although Emma is very much the main character, Penelope and Gretchen have their chance to shine and from the looks of things, the sequel focuses on Gretchen. I'm a big fan of series where each book follows a different character, so this only adds to my eagerness for more! The secondary characters: Cormac, Daphne, Moira, were all given their fair share of screen time so-to-speak and felt wholly unique. I will admit that for the first few chapters I was under the impression that Moira's scenes were some sort of flashback or time skip, but that turned out to not be the case once she started interacting with Emma - whoops!
For such a long book, I'm really at a loss of things to say. A Breath of Frost contained fluff when I wasn't looking for something heavy, but also held enough substance to keep me entertained and invested. The romance, while not a love-triangle, was of the I-hate-you-but-I-love-you variety that I'm not overly fond of. While he was never physically abusive, Cormac was definitely cruel to Emma - yet couldn't stop thinking about her during his own chapters.
There were multiple plots I easily called (Ewan, the identity of the murderer, etc) and Emma's newly-sprouted antlers were more amusing than anything, but I thoroughly enjoyed A Breath of Frost and am looking forward to Whisper the Dead (coming later this year!). If you like your paranormal with a side of fluff and enjoy a full cast of characters (seriously, there are a LOT with multiple perspectives to boot), pick up a copy of this book!(less)
After the death of her mother, Margaret - Peggy - Fitzroy was taken in by her uncle and was raised in his es...morethis review will go live on the blog11/01
After the death of her mother, Margaret - Peggy - Fitzroy was taken in by her uncle and was raised in his estate. Despite their difference in status, Peggy and her cousin Olivia are more like sisters and Peggy knows that when the day comes where Olivia will be married, she'll be right there by her cousin's side. Much to her surprise, it's Peggy who receives a marriage proposal - and after a disaster of a first meeting she's swiftly forced out of her uncle's house.
All alone with nothing to her name, Peggy is taken in by Mr. Tinderflint and his associates Mr. Peele and Mrs. Abbott. Under their careful instruction Peggy is transformed into Lady Fran, maid of honor to Princess Caroline. Disguised as Lady Francesca, Peggy will enter the court of King George I at a time when tensions ran thick - loyalties were split between George and James the Pretender. The more time she spends around the other maids the more Peggy begins to have her suspicions about what really caused Francesca's death.
Palace of Spies was fantastic! I was intrigued when I first heard about the book, so when it was available to Read Now it was a total no-brainer. Peggy's narration is fun and clever - and more than once I laughed out loud. She thinks for herself during a period when women were ruled by their husbands and fathers. She isn't afraid to speak her mind (though that tends to come with grave consequences) and she's an expert cards player.
I've read my share of Historical Fiction and while I enjoy the genre, I have to admit I've never read anything set during this particular time period! Palace of Spies provided enough background that I wasn't completely bewildered, but as a history buff, I would never argue with more. Tell me more about King George I! Tell me more about James the Pretender and his claim to the throne! The events at the end of the novel lead me to believe more will come out of this in the next book and quite frankly, I can't wait.
Guys, the romance in Palace of Spies is definitely worth reading! Yes there's a love triangle, but don't forget that the entire court believes Peggy to be Lady Fran. Just because she looks like the girl it doesn't mean she has the same taste in men. Also, I'm very excited to see how the relationship will play out - there's a bit of handholding in this novel and that's only due to sneaking around pitch-black manors. This definitely seems to be a slow burn romance and I absolutely love it.
Unfortunately there's one sense in particular that could be triggering. It was graphic enough that I certainly raised my eyebrows at the young age group this novel is targeted toward and it didn't seem to serve much purpose other than showing Peggy's betrothed is a terrible person (and that could have been accomplished in a number of other ways). Despite this, however, I had such a wonderful time with Palace of Spies and am eagerly awaiting the next!(less)
Let's take another look at that summary, shall we? In just a single sentence I was hooked and needed to read...morethis review will go live on the blog05/13
Let's take another look at that summary, shall we? In just a single sentence I was hooked and needed to read Bellweather Rhapsody. Not only did the plot sound delightful (or as delightful as a murder/suicide can be), but then to be thrown references to The Shining and Agatha Christie! Unfortunately, when all was said and done, I felt this novel relied too much on those references and lacked its own spark. Take away Jack Nicholson and all that's left is a book with many, many (too many!) characters and far-reaching aspirations it can't quite attain.
In its heyday, the Bellweather hotel was THE place to be. Its rooms were constantly rotating with girlfriends and wives - never at the same time! - and every day was a party. Fifteen years ago, however, a bride shot her husband and then hung herself. Since then the hotel has been in a slow state of decline, the only time its rooms are mostly full is once a year for Statewide, a high school music festival. Careers can be made at Statewide and the best musicians from across the country show up to put their talents on full display. This year, however, a girl goes missing - and no one's quite certain whether or not she's dead - and the events from fifteen years ago seem to be replaying once more.
I wasn't joking when I mentioned the sheer number of characters. Usually I follow a 'the more the merrier' adage when it comes to characters and storylines. Here, however, I had a hard time keeping them straight and in one case didn't figure out two characters were completely different people until 100 pages from the end. While I'm not entirely blameless, I do think the novel suffered for not having clear-cut characters: readers shouldn't be confused as to who's who. In my case, I was thoroughly convinced Minnie's sister/brother-in-law was the couple from fifteen years ago; they were all at the Bellweather for the wedding and it was Minnie who discovered the bodies. Imagine my surprise then when Minnie's reintroduced over one hundred pages later with her family alive and well. There was simply too much to keep straight; characters and storylines that were mentioned in the beginning of the novel were completely forgotten about by the time the ending rolled around.
I felt Bellweather Rhapsody tried too hard to be too many things and tackle too many topics: Rabbit's sexuality was the focus of his chapters from the get-go - he's decided to come out to his sister - and by the time the climax rolls around, it's SO anti-climatic that I wasn't sure what the point was the begin with. In a single throw-away remark April mentions she knows he's gay and that's that. The entire book was spent waxing poetic about the boys he's crushed on in the past, the moment he realized he was different, what will his parents say!, there's a cute boy at Statewide and Rabbit's ready for a new beginning...it all culminated into one whispered question and then never brought up again.
There's a Scottish conductor who was once a prodigy until he lost three fingers in a barfight, a former prodigy who grew up to be evil incarnate and has groomed her prodigy of a daughter to be the best, a chaperone who had once loved music and carries a world of guilt on her shoulders, the hotel concierge who's slowly losing touch with reality - the list goes on. I honestly enjoyed these characters and their stories - I especially liked Fisher and Rabbit - but the focus quickly blurred toward the end to the point where I truly have no idea if certain characters even existed or if certain scenes ever happened. Perhaps that was the point of the novel and I missed it entirely. That said, when it comes to mysteries I like - and expect! - clear-cut answers and, sadly, Bellweather Rhapsody failed to deliver.
I don't want to give the impression that the novel was all bad - it certainly wasn't! When it was good it was great and I was thoroughly ensnared. Unfortunately, those moments of brilliance were dampened by the multitude of narratives and plot points and readers should never be confused. I'm positive Bellweather Rhapsody will find its audience - I wanted so badly to love it! - but it just wasn't for me. This year I took a long look at publishers and which imprints work for me. When it comes to Houghton Mifflin, I tend to enjoy their Young Adult novels far more than Adult, and Bellweather Rhapsody further proves my findings.(less)
Prior to reading Buzz Kill, Beth Fantaskey was an author I knew very little about. Sure I had heard of Jessica...morethis review will go live on the blog5/6
Prior to reading Buzz Kill, Beth Fantaskey was an author I knew very little about. Sure I had heard of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side and the following books in the Jessica series, but I had never read them. It's always a little concerning when an author switches genres - will they be able to pull it off? In this case, Fantaskey makes the move from paranormal to a contemporary mystery. And I have to hand it to her, she surpassed all expectations!
When Millie Ostermeyer discovers the murdered body of Coach Killdare, she's not exactly losing sleep. Killdare wasn't the most popular person at Honeywell High. Not by a long shot. What does surprise Millie is that her dad, Mayor and assistant coach, is the number one suspect. Eager to clear his name and find the real killer, Millie launches an investigation using her position on the newspaper staff to get up close and personal with the local police. Along the way she's joined by Chase Albright, a boy carrying dark secrets of his own, and frequently consults the prime source on all things teen sleuth: Nancy Drew.
Wow. WOW. If Fantaskey's books are all this readable, I seriously need to get crackin'! Buzz Kill was a thoroughly entertaining novel, one I wanted to read and read and read as well as slowly enjoy. In true Nancy Drew fashion, there's a list of suspects from the get-go, as well as two besties, lots of eavesdropping, and general sneaking around. This book definitely believes in the "don't judge a book by its cover" adage; characters that are initially deemed villains turn out to be misunderstood and vice versa - wait until you discover Chase's secret! Talk about a tortured past!
My reviews usually contain more substance, but there's nothing more than needs to be said for Buzz Kill. I devoured it in a single sitting - though I really did try to make it last! A quick pace, short chapters, and gripping mystery made this an extremely fun read. My only concern was with Millie herself. More than once I forgot she was a senior. Her voice and actions came across as someone much younger. Regardless, I had a blast with this book. If your childhood revolved around Nancy and her friends, you'll want to check out Buzz Kill!(less)
Cold Calls is pitched as "Pretty Little Liars-meets-The Breakfast Club" and "for fans of I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Face on the Milk Carton." I try to avoid giving in to comparisons, but I'm very pleased to say that, this time, Cold Calls lives up to the hype!
Recently, Eric has been getting very strange calls, no number shows up and the caller's voice is disguised. At first he writes it off as a harmless prank, something that perhaps a freshman thought would be funny. After receiving a picture taken from inside his bedroom, Eric quickly realizes this isn't just another prank. This caller isn't messing around and unless Eric wants that picture made public - which he most definitely does NOT want - he better do everything the caller says. Eventually following these orders lands him in an anti-bullying program and it's there he meets two girls who surprised him by confessing that they too have been receiving calls. Who is this caller and how does this person know their darkest secrets?
To say I breezed through this book wouldn't be an exaggeration. Cold Calls is such a captivating and intriguing read that I tore through it in a matter of hours. The entire time I was trying to figure out two things: WHO was the person behind these calls and WHAT were the big secrets that these three didn't want leaked? I won't spoil anything, but - trust me, if I were in their shoes I would definitely do anything I had to in order to make sure everything remained private.
Although Cold Calls is initially told through Eric's and Shelly's eyes, it's not until the anti-bullying program that Fatima is introduced and adds her own narrative. And you guys know me - I'm all about multiple narratives! The more the merrier! The more I saw of these kids, the more I felt for them. All three were scared and so ashamed. What really broke my heart was that they were worried for themselves, they were doing these things to avoid hurting others. If any of these secrets were exposed loved ones would be hurt and these three are going through hell to protect the person they love.
There was only one small issue I had with Cold Calls. All three felt as those they had no chance of getting any evidence on the caller. While I understand why they didn't go to the police, if one of them (or even all three!) had simply recorded one of the phone calls they would have had all the evidence they needed. Law enforcement then could have stepped in, traced the calls, and caught the person behind it. But then that wouldn't have made for a very good story, would it?
Cold Calls is the kind of story I love getting lost in. Prior to blogging I was a die-hard Mystery reader and love revisiting my roots. Mysteries of the Young Adult variety are still new to me, but as Cold Calls proves, they're just as engaging. The entire time I was trying to figure out the identity of the caller and the motives behind the calls. I ended up behind completely wrong (and felt a tiny bit cheated with the Big Reveal), but overall I had a great time with this book! Face pace, highly entertaining plot, and a fun mystery to boot! If you're looking to play detective for an afternoon, look no further than Cold Calls.(less)
One of the first reviews ever posted on the blog (back in August, 2011!) was Don't Breathe a Word, a deliciously creepy novel about the disappearance of a little girl who went off to marry the King of the Fairies and never returned home. That novel was my introduction to Jennifer McMahon and has stuck with me ever since, a perfect combination of horror and reality and how blurred the lines separating them really are.
Two years later I've got another McMahon novel under my belt and I'm itching for a third (and fourth and fifth...). Going off the two I've read so far it's clear McMahon has something of a formula, a recipe of sorts, that she uses when writing. Don't Breath a Word had a cop-out ending that I didn't care for at all - the final destination made the entire journey feel a bit worthless - and was a little worried the same would hold true for The Winter People. Despite my worries, I jumped right in and discovered a novel even better than the first.
She remembered her parents' warnings when she was little: Stay out of the woods. Bad things happen to little girls who get lost out there.
The first thing you should know about me: I love dual time periods in novels. I live and breathe multiple eras so right off the bat The Winter People was looking good. The second thing you should know about me: the more character perspectives there are, the happier I am. The Winter People had a huge cast of characters, and the story played out over many of their points of view. Giddy from the get-go, I only came to love this book more and more the further I read.
An old farmhouse in West Hall, Vermont holds its share of secrets (some, literally). In the late 1800s, Sara Harrison grew up in the house with her siblings, father, and Auntie. Auntie's strange and otherworldly beliefs ostracized her from the rest of the townsfolk, yet when they needed a surefire way to win the eye of someone or needed a remedy the doctor couldn't provide, she was the person to go to. While growing up, Sara had heard whispers of sleepers, those returned from the grave, and on one occasion saw a classmate in the woods not long after having attended her funeral.
Now grown and with a child of her own, Sara Harrison Shea still lives in her childhood home. Unfortunately Gertie is in a terrible accident and her untimely death is too much for Sara to handle. As she sinks deeper and deeper into depression (or, as her husband and brother-in-law believe, madness) she faithfully pens her diary, filling it with knowledge Auntie had passed down.
Since then, multiple families have come and gone, and now Alice and her two daughters reside in the old farmhouse. As far back as the girls can remember, Alice has made it clear they are never to go into the woods, especially not the Devil's Hand as the locals call it, and if anyone should ever knock on the door they are never to open it. Never. Alice's sudden disappearance one morning sends the girls on a manhunt through states and decades as they discover hidden diary entries and realize the town's legends might be real after all.
The Winter People had me thoroughly creeped out in the middle of the afternoon! I think that's a pretty good testament to McMahon's skill as a writer, don't you? Broad daylight with the sun shining through my windows and there I was, jumping at every sound. More than once I steered clear of the closets, fulling expecting to be greeted by a sleeper. This novel is very much a winter read and not just because of the title. There's a stark coldness that's ever-present, and a resounding sadness that left me thinking in shades of blue and grey. Death is also a key theme and the novel explores the lengths some people would go to in order to see a loved one for one more day - or, in this case, one more week.
It's been a while since a novel has captivated me from beginning to end, but The Winter People did just that. In one case I was reading well into the night (not my best decision!) simply because I could not put the book down. I came to know and care for these characters: Ruthie and her little sister Fawn; Katherine and her anguish over the loss of both her husband and son; Sara with her sorrow and excitement. Despite the number of characters and eras, McMahon wove the story together flawlessly.
Again, however, the ending loses a bit of its magic. Ruthie doesn't so much make a decision as accept what's thrown upon her. While it does leave room for a possible sequel, I had hoped for more. Despite that minor bump I absolutely loved The Winter People and highly recommend it. If you're in the mood for a quick and compelling novel that will keep you guessing, this is it.(less)
After being left alone for three days, twins Edmund and Sis have run out of what little food they have. Although they were under strict orders from th...moreAfter being left alone for three days, twins Edmund and Sis have run out of what little food they have. Although they were under strict orders from their aunt to stay indoors, Edmund makes the decision to head out in search of food. Unfortunately, when he returns, he discovers his sister is nowhere to be found. With his mother, aunt, and sister missing, Edmund is on his own with only a strange man to help him. Who is this man, where are his family members, and just what is the man writing?
I went into this thinking I'd have a great time. I know Avi is beloved by school kids the world over, but I honestly can't recall ever reading any of his works. With the reissue of The Man Who Was Poe, plus the fact that, hello, it's POE, I figured this would be the perfect place to start.
Boy was I wrong.
I'm all for artistic license and taking liberties when it comes to historical figures, but come on. Avi made Poe seem like a complete lunatic. He was borderline at best, jumping from mood to mood - and even identity! He insisted Edmund address him as Auguste Dupin, one of Poe's characters. He completely lost it whenever Edmund slipped and called him Poe. He also came across as, well, kind of an ass. One of my most treasured books I own is The Poe Log (a bit hard to find these days & the ones available are a tad bit pricey, sadly). It's a painstakingly detailed account of every single day of Poe's life and then some. Letters, articles, conversations are all compiled into one volume and it's a wealth of information for any fan of Poe's. On occasion I'll flip through it (& it was my best resource for some term papers in college!) and any account I've read from Poe's friends and family make mentioned of how soft-spoken and polite he was. He definitely had a drinking problem, but the novel turned him into a Jekyll/Hyde character anytime alcohol was involved.
Initially Poe - or Dupin - is willing to help Edmund find his sister, but the Crazy Train pulled up. I still don't know what happened with this one. PoeDupin is writing a story about Edmund's life and insists it can only end in death, so he decides the sister is dead and gives up his search. Naturally Edmund is distraught and bewildered and I was confused right along with him. Throw in some maybe-maybe-not ghosts, a surprise!stepfather, and a couple of bad guys for good measure and you'll get The Man Who Was Poe.
Although this was such a short book it was NOT the fun, quick read I was hoping for. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more when I was 8, but to read it as an adult made my head hurt and brought for the rage. The pace was so quick I was overwhelmed and found myself struggling to keep up at times. After a very graphic chapter early on in the book (Edmund has to identify a body found in the river), The Man Who Was Poe shifted gears and was a complete disappointment. I really wanted to enjoy this one.(less)
After an extremely impressive streak with YA Thrillers (Find Me & Dead Girls Don't Lie are two of my favorite 2013 releases!) I was feeling pretty confident about Poor Little Dead Girls. A boarding school's secret society has ties to the deaths of two girls - what's not to love?
Unfortunately, Poor Little Dead Girls spectacularly crushed every single expectation I had, including the hope of actually finishing (spoiler alert: I did, but it was a fight on both our parts).
Sadie is a star lacrosse player on her high school team back home in Portland. When she receives a scholarship from the elite Keating Hall - students of the school are all but guaranteed acceptance to Ivy League universities - she doesn't hesitate for a second. She quickly becomes fast friends with Jessica (seemingly the only other student who isn't uber wealthy) and her royal roommates. After their hard partying habits brought shame upon Britain's royal family, Trix & Gwen were shipped off to America where they'll hopefully stay out of the public eye. Don't worry about getting to know these two though - their presence is only acknowledged in passing and piles of dirty laundry until the very end when Friend pulls out the shocker: Gwen is into girls! Really now? Gwen's sexuality added nothing to the story, particularly since it came about at the very end, and felt tacked on simply to bring some sort of life to an otherwise dead story.
In the very (and I mean very) beginning, things looked promising. Sure, the characters were little more than stock personalities (particularly the Mean Girls), but that was something I could live with. Within a few chapters, however, I realized this book and I weren't going to become bosom buddies. Chapter 6 - an entire chapter - was devoted to discussing all the ~hot boys~ on the football team. An. Entire. Chapter. Also - and this should come as NO surprise - it is in this chapter that Sadie falls head-over-heels for a boy she has yet to speak to, and when she finally does, this is the conversation they have:
"Is yours [a test] on Monday?" "Yeah." "Ours, too."
When Jeremy turns to walk back to his own school, Sadie's stomach was 'now flipping around like a kid three doses behind on his Ritalin.' I suppose I could overlook this if the scene took place in the middle of the day after a class or something. Instead, this happened in the middle of the night after Sadie had been chased. Ain't no thang though - she simply forgets all about that now that there's a SUPER HOT BOY!!
Once Jeremy shows up, classes are no longer a priority. Instead, she obsesses over his jawline ("A part of her - the same part that led her subconscious through the same cheesy dreamscape every night - wanted to lean in and lick it"). Riveting stuff, guys.
But, Leah, I thought this was a murder mystery I hear you say. Turns out there's a SOOPER SEKRET SOCIETY. More than once Sadie wakes to find bruises on her body and doesn't think anything of it. Later - much, much later - we discover she was being drugged and kidnapped this entire time. Those bruises are from having her blood taken and analyzed to prove she's ~worthy~ and of course she passes. Believe it or not, here's where the crazy comes in. This society is two hundred years old - Thomas Jefferson founded it. Its members are among the richest people in the world and they plan on creating a new world power. Sadie's mother (who had died when Sadie was a child) was a part of this group although she broke all ties with them and her family to marry Sadie's father (see, to make sure genetics are pure, the society arranges marriages for its members). The other girl who had died at the school was also in the society - and also related to Sadie. At one point its revealed SADIE'S EGGS WERE HARVESTED. Just in case Sadie were to die or run away, another heir could be created.
Poor Little Dead Girls tried to pack WAY too much into a tiny story. There were multiple story lines that were introduced and went nowhere: Sadie witnessed a rape and shrugged it off like it was nothing and a fellow student (and one of Sadie's friends!) was being beat by her boyfriend but he's hot so it's okay. There was no consistency or coherency to be found and all of the action happened off-screen: "An hour later she finally stopped talking [explaining basically the entire plot to Jeremy - but not the reader]" "The next three hours were so much fun she started to get nervous."
The author couldn't even get the ending right. Sadie receives hush money ($1M is all this group could come up with? These are supposed to be the richest families in the world.) and begins applying to college with her bestie Jessica and looks forward to spending more time with Jeremy. ...and that's it. There isn't any kind of resolution or closure. Much like with the rest of the story, Sadie shrugs it off, leaving a very unsatisfied reader.
Other readers have mentioned Friend at least succeeded in nailing the voice of these girls, but I have to disagree. Instead of calling each other by, you know, their names, Sadie and her friends refer to one another as hooker, skank, hobag, etc. Yeah, I've never called my friends any of those. This name-calling caused some serious eyebrow-raising once the rape & abusive boyfriend plots were introduced.
Poor Little Dead Girls isn't a book I would force upon anyone. Trust me on this: stay as far away from this book as you possibly can. I SUFFERED SO YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO.(less)
At first glance, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer might come across as a spin on the Pride and Prejudice and...morethis review will go live on the blog10/11
At first glance, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer might come across as a spin on the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies-esque books that have been fairly popular over the past few years. Upon closer inspection, however, this book is far different - and extremely entertaining!
After Colette's father recently took off, she moved into a tiny apartment with her mother and younger brother. Once used to the best of everything, Colette's wardrobe now largely comes from thrift stores and vintage shops and the only way she's still able to attend her prestigious all-girls school is with a scholarship. For the past year she's been keeping her new life a secret from everyone - including her two best friends. Hannah in particular is the classic definition of a Mean Girl: if she thought for a second Colette could no longer afford expensive shoes she'd do everything she could to make Colette understand she was no longer part of the In Crowd. Or any crowd.
A class trip to France provides Colette with the opportunity of a lifetime: travel, experience new cultures, meet cute Parisian boys, see masterpieces of art and architecture. What Colette doesn't expect, however, is the arrival of a serial killer. A serial killer who might not be entirely human.
Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer completely surprised me! Going into it I assumed it'd be an easy read but ultimately forgettable. Instead I got an incredibly quick story that had me eager for more. Ms. Alender isn't afraid to get down and dirty - and gory. If you're familiar with the way Marie Antoinette died you'll be able to guess how her victims were killed. For those of you who aren't, let's just say it ain't pretty.
I'll admit that for the first half of the book it felt like I was reading two different stories: an American-in-Paris contemporary and a dark historical fiction. Colette was having a grand time traveling abroad and taking in all the sights and sounds Paris has to offer. A ghost was seeking revenge. It wasn't until the two storylines met (with the explanation of Colette's and the victims' families and their ties to the monarchy) that everything came together to feel like one book.
Apart from that, however, I had such a great time with this book! Everything from the romance (no love triangle!) to the action to Colette's character growth and her confrontation with Hannah was entertaining and beautifully well-done. Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is a perfect one-sitting read that has something in it for every reader: romance, murder, mystery. If Alender's Bad Girls Don't Die trilogy is anywhere near as captivating as Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, I have a feeling those books will find permanent residency on my shelves!(less)
Jaycee's life was idyllic. She had a best friend, a boy who liked her, and a nice house in a quiet town. After what is...moreLink goes live on the blog9/17.
Jaycee's life was idyllic. She had a best friend, a boy who liked her, and a nice house in a quiet town. After what is declared a gang-related murder shakes things up, suddenly life isn't so perfect. Jaycee's best friend becomes more and more distant, hanging out with the wrong crowd and piercing nearly every inch of her body. As the two grow further apart, the texts become less frequent. Until the night of Rachel's death. The night where Jaycee chose to spend her time with Skyler instead of answering her phone.
Rachel's death turns the town upside down. Suddenly Rachel's Mexican heritage comes into play - despite the fact that Rachel spent her entire life with these people. Soon the mothers at church are whispering about Rachel and drugs and gangs and Jaycee doesn't know what to believe. She does know one thing though - she and Rachel broke into an old house and Rachel saw something. Something that changed her forever and Jaycee is determined to find out just what went on that night and who is really responsible for her best friend's death.
Okay, calling it right now: Dead Girls Don't Lie is one of my TOP READS OF 2013. It's that good, y'all. It had a distinct Pretty Little Liars vibe that I ADORED and a blindingly fast pace that kept me turning the page.
In order to solve the mystery behind Rachel's death, Jaycee first needs to come to terms with it. Naturally she's hesitant to visit Rachel's mother - especially as part of the clean-up crew the church organized (the drive-by left the porch and Rachel's bedroom in ruin). She's also unsure whether or not she should tell her secret: the night they were in the old house, Rachel left with blood on her hands.
When a video from Rachel gets sent to her phone, Jaycee decides something needs to be done. Under Rachel's instructions she teams up with Eduardo, much to the dismay of Skyler. With Eduardo - and occasionally Skyler - Jaycee pieces together the events leading up to Rachel's death and what she uncovers is shocking.
Dead Girls Don't Lie is one of those books I loved so much I can't fully put into words. Plot twists I genuinely didn't see coming and a constant parental presence were added bonuses to an already fantastic story. If you like smart - and delightfully creepy - mysteries, do yourself a favor and check out Dead Girls Don't Lie.(less)
I've sat on this review for nearly a week, hoping that inspiration would strike at some point. Sadly my Ah-ha! moment never came and I'm left struggling to come up with something to say about The Book of Lost Things. This is a textbook case of a novel not living up to expectations.
Max Starling comes from a theatrical family - his parents own a theater and are very well-known. So famous, in fact, that they receive tickets to travel to India and perform for the royal court. Unfortunately, disaster strikes and Max discovers the liner never existed; his parents were abducted and now he's the only one who can save them.
Left on his own, Max uses his acting talent to scrape enough cash together to get by. Looking the part is one thing, but actually convincing everyone he comes into contact with - both children and adults - that he's actually a middle aged detective, a shy kitchen girl, etc. is entirely another. The baffling this is no one questions it. Because Max is tall for his age.
He manages to get along just fine while his parents are missing and quickly the story loses sight of them altogether. Instead of trying to solve the case of his missing parents, Max instead decides to take on more trivial cases: locating a lost dog, tracking down a missing serving spoon. What bothered me was that he never came across as sad or upset or worried or you know, any kind of emotion a 12-year-old would feel at having their parents kidnapped and suddenly being left all alone.
I had such high hopes for The Book of Lost Things! It sounded absolutely wonderful and just what I wanted out of a new Middle Grade series. Unfortunately, I was forcing myself to finish and toward the end I was doing more skimming than reading. Even now I'm still unsure what to say about this book. Despite my lackluster experience, I can easily see lots of reading having a great time with this series and I'm very disappointed to say I was not one of them.(less)
Thirteen-year-old Rain Cacique and her parents live on a series of islands in the Bermuda Triangle known as...morethis review will go live on the blog12/03
Thirteen-year-old Rain Cacique and her parents live on a series of islands in the Bermuda Triangle known as the Prospero Keys, the Ghost Keys to the locals. The height of tourist season is upon the Keys and the Caciques' home/inn is currently serving as a haven for some very odd guests - including the creepy Callahan. Rain's only escape is an area of the jungle dubbed the NTZ: No Tourist Zone. It is in the jungle that Rain and her friends find peace and quiet and, more importantly, no camera-snapping, flower shirt-wearing tourists.
Shortly before Rain's beloved grandfather dies, he gives her a special armband and Rain discovers it grants her the ability to see ghosts and spirits. In an attempt to put her grandfather's soul to rest, Rain aids his spirit in one final mission - but it soon becomes clear that Rain isn't the only one who knows about the armband's power.
Rain of the Ghosts is a tiny morsel of a novel, barely clocking in at 200 pages. In those pages, however, is a thoroughly engrossing and enchanting tale. The story is seen through the eyes of Opie, Rain's ever-present guardian. To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure just what Opie was - at times I thought both he and Maq (his partner and sidekick of sorts) were spirits or humans. Toward the end of the novel I got the impression they were dogs, yet there were scenes where Maq speaks with people. In the end I reached the conclusion that, in a novel like Rain of the Ghosts, it makes sense that it doesn't make sense. That said, I'm hoping the sequel will provide some answers!
While Opie is the story's narrator, he sees all and knows all, providing some wonderful insight into what the characters are feeling and thinking. It also sets up a potential romance quite nicely - or a possible heartbreak. Rain's best friend Charlie has been harboring a long-time crush while Rain is totally oblivious. Rain of the Ghosts was romance-free, and I'm looking forward to what lies in store for these two.
The magical element was superb and one I think many readers will enjoy. There was that fantasy side without being overtly paranormal and it worked. Rain is the only person able to see and communicate with these spirits, which makes things wildly entertaining in the scenes where Charlie attempts to help out. 'Bastian, Rain's grandfather, was a pilot in WWII and carried the weight of regret with him his entire life. He led his men through multiple battles only to be the only survivor of a horrific accident back home. He can't rest until he makes amends and Rain is the key.
The novel ends by opening the doors to a mystery: why is Rain's armband so special? Why are other people looking for it? Why are there eight more?Rain of the Ghosts is chock-full of genres: it's one part paranormal, one part mystery, a dash of coming-of-age and I had a wonderful time reading it. The setting was great, the characters were fantastic. The writing was a bit on the simple side - think more Middle Grade than Young Adult - but its fast pace and short chapters made Rain of the Ghosts a delightful one-sitting read. Its sequel, Spirits of Ash and Foam comes out in May and I'm eager to jump back into the Ghost Keys and find out what happens next!(less)
He once thought his own family dysfunctional, but the Tudors proved that there was always something worse.
Cotton Malone, Justice Department agent-turned-antique bookseller, is still reeling from the news of his ex-wive's betrayal. The revelation that Gary is not his son cut deep and hurt Gary even worse. The two plan to spend Gary's Thanksgiving break together - Gary will fly out to Cotton's shop in Copenhagen - but life never goes according to plan.
It seems the job of an agent - even an ex-agent - is never done and, as a favor, Cotton was asked to escort another teenager back home. 15-year old Ian Dunne witnessed a murder and fled the scene with a flash drive containing an unimaginable secret. Now the boy is in grave danger and only Cotton can save him.
Steve Berry is one of my go-to comfort authors and I was ecstatic to receive a copy of his latest. I first discovered Berry shortly after high school when I was coming off my Da Vinci Code high and looking for something similar. Somehow I came across one of Berry's books and haven't looked back. Guys, any of his books are perfect beach reads: blindingly fast pace, super short chapters (a few pages at most with multiple scenes per chapter), intriguing plots. Also, he helped fuel my Romanov obsession.
Don't be intimidated by the length of his Cotton Malone series: one of the best things about Berry's books is that you can jump in anywhere and not feel confused or lost. There are lots of details provided that will catch you up to speed without being overwhelming or bogged down with backstory.
Like his other books, The King's Deception is jam-packed with characters but, apart from a few really minor ones, I never had any trouble keeping them straight and each had a distinct identity. Also in true Berry fashion, there are numerous plots that initially seem unrelated, but by the end, you're left in awe of Berry's mastery.
The main bulk of the novel questions Elizabeth I's identity. Legends have circulated for centuries that the Virgin Queen wasn't quite who she claimed to be and that flash drive Ian Dunne stole? It's all the proof needed to show the monarch was a fraud. The ramifications of such a discovery would be immense: because the monarch was an impostor, any law or creed created during her reign now becomes void. Essentially this means that a good deal of Ireland was handed over to English colonists under false pretenses. This is HUGE and would ultimately lead to war.
Throughout the novel are multiple diary entries and letters describing how the switch happened and how the court ensured its secrecy. When Elizabeth was thirteen, she contracted a fever and died shortly after. A replacement was found - though at that time no one could have foreseen Elizabeth's rise to power (she had been a few places down in the list of heirs). These chapters were SO fascinating and kept me glued to the book.
The only downfall to Berry's writing is that you know from the start who the bad guys are. I like being shocked by a character's double-cross, but here you know everyone's motives from the start. A little more surprise would have been nice.
If you're a Steve Berry newbie and want a good book to take on vacation, pick up a copy of The King's Deception. While reading I kept pausing to look up so many portraits or historical tidbits (the Mask of Youth, for example!). All of it was so wonderfully researched and interesting; don't be surprised if you see an upcoming History 101 post!(less)
"There was one artifact on display there...a chess piece found under Ivy Street not far from my home. I remember thinking - a person used this. Not because they had to, or because they thought we would find it one day, but just to bring some amusement or comfort to their lives. It just makes me feel like we're all the same: all people, no matter where we live. Or when."
Just like every other 10-year old I had dreams of becoming a famous adventurer and discovering ancient treasures. My interest focused more on dinosaurs than pottery and I can still rattle off name after name of prehistoric creatures. When I first heard about Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies I knew that was a book for me. Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be.
Samantha Sutton, a 12-year old aspiring archaeologist, managed to convince her parents to allow her to spend the summer with her Uncle Jay on an excavation of an ancient Peruvian village. Sam's older brother Evan was sent along much to the siblings' dismay. Evan would rather play his video games or flirt with girls than spend the entire summer brushing dust off bits of clay dishes.
This novel houses a full cast of characters and they were all wonderfully developed. That said, I would have loved to have seen more of certain characters (Stuart for instance - Samantha wasn't the only one intrigued by his Scottish accent!). Also, it's apparent right from the start that Adam is up to something and his fierce animosity toward a 12-year old girl is so bewildering.
Lately I've been finished novels in a day or two. With Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies, I took nearly a week (& that surprised me; it felt MUCH longer). For a Middle Grade novel, I was shocked by how dense the writing was. Yes there's excitement and danger, but it was so slow in the making. A large part of my disappointment in the novel lies with its pace. A quicker story would have made for a far more enjoyable novel, but I suppose the life of an archaeologist isn't as glamorous as the movies make it seem.
I loved all the Spanish that was sprinkled throughout the dialogue. I was delighted to discover I've remembered quite a bit of what I learned in high school! What I didn't understand only made me relate to Samantha: she doesn't speak a word of the language and more often than not, finds herself utterly lost in conversations.
By the time the identity of El Loco was revealed, I had completely forgotten all about that character. Sadly, this was an instance where the Bad Guy was a character briefly introduced in the beginning of the story and wasn't heard from again until the Big Reveal.
For it's Middle Grade label, I was surprised by the amount of drug use and violence that made its way into the book. Despite my expectations, in the end, I was reading just to finish. Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies wasn't for me, but it seems I'm in the minority with my rating. The sequel, Samantha Sutton and the Stronghold of the Warrior Queen comes out later this year and it sounds like it'll be more up my alley. :)(less)
I love my cozies. There's something so fun about curling up on the couch with a cup of tea and discovering the identity of the murderer. I was ecstatic about receiving a copy of Hiding Gladys the first in a new series, and couldn't wait to jump in.
Cleo Cooper is a geologist. Super cool. She discovered a bed of granite on Gladys Walton's property and its excavation will make both women fabulously rich. Unfortunately for Cleo, a dead body is discovered and maybe that rattlesnake didn't find its way into her Jeep on its own. Add in two horrible spoiled still-living-at-home children, an ex-husband (who doesn't want to be entirely out of the picture), and a promising new relationship and you've got the makings of a great story.
The characters in Hiding Gladys were great. Robert Earle and Shirley, Gladys's adult children are absolute monsters. They grew up never having to lift a finger and expect things to remain that way. Naturally the giant check their mother is about to receive has them drooling. Nash is a fellow geologist and although Cleo had been on a date or two with him in the past, nothing more developed. That's not to say they wouldn't love to give things another shot, however. Cleo's ex-husband Bud hasn't yet grasped the idea of the ex part and still insists on coming around to her house. Unfortunately, Cleo's own children, Henri and Will, were a bit lacking. I couldn't get a good feel for the two apart from a few basic points the book told me.
As for the story, it was fun! It dragged a bit at times, but once the action started I was hooked. Looking back, I should have realized who the bad guy was, but while reading, I was totally absorbed and thought for sure it was someone else.
While I enjoyed Hiding Gladys, I have to say I had a hard time relating to the characters. Cleo's 23-year old daughter owns a boat. How someone younger than me could afford their own boat - and it was a fairly large one, not some dinky canoe - is beyond me. Also, my eyes nearly jumped out of their sockets when Cleo went to the bank for a $4 million loan. Who knew becoming a geologist could be so lucrative.
Apart from a few minor issues, I did enjoy Hiding Gladys, though I'm still debating whether or not to continue with the series.(less)
Prince! what you are, you are by circumstance and by birth. What I am, I am through myself. Of Princes there have and will be thousands - of Beethovens there is only one.
- Ludwig Van Beethoven
I'll admit, going into City of Dark Magic, I was expecting a book WILDLY different than what I got. ..and, unfortunately, that's not a good thing. On the surface it sounds like a fun fantasy novel with some historical mystery and immortal dwarfs thrown in. In reality it's 300 pages of the main character sleeping with multiple guys (even statues aren't out of the question) and 150 pages of actual - and even interesting - plot.
Sarah Weston is a doctoral candidate living in Boston. Her beloved professor has left for Prague where he's helping restore a royal family's treasures, his area of specialty being Beethoven. After his suspicious death (officially ruled a suicide) Sarah receives a strange letter with a plane ticket and a handful of money along with the promise of a well-paying job for the rest of the summer.
Beethoven is something of an obsession for Sarah and she readily accepts the invitation. It was here my interest went rapidly downhill - and this was still in the first chapter! Mere minutes after meeting her fellow colleagues (each focusing on a particular area of the collection) she not only sneaks off to the bathroom to have sex with one of them - after some fooling around in the middle of dinner - only to realize the man she slept with wasn't who she had originally thought and it's not until 100 or so pages later that she discovers who it really was (while she's in the process of sleeping with him. Again.) Then there's the previously mentioned arousal regarding statues and Sarah's nose. The book mentions numerous times Sarah's sense of smell is so heightened that she makes decisions based solely on it. Decisions like who she's going to sleep with next, for example.
Don't get me wrong - I don't mind graphic scenes in books, but this completely went against Sarah's character and was so over-the-top it bordered on ridiculous.
When Sarah isn't sleeping with someone, the book attempts to weave together a few storylines including the Bad Guy (who we know is bad right from the start, so it's really no surprise once it's revealed) and an interesting mystery involving Beethoven and a mysterious drug.
Sarah sat down on the bed. She was living underground. Like a mole. Like a bottle of wine. Like a corpse. Like nuclear waste. Sarah tried to tell herself that a window was not an essential part of a bedroom. Bedrooms were for sleeping. And with Prague's history of defenestrations, she should be happy there were no windows for her to be thrown out of.
The history and landmarks were beautifully described. That aspect of the story I really enjoyed. Also, there was a secret library and you can never go wrong with a secret library.
Prince Max and Sarah decide to uncover the mysteries surrounding Beethoven's Immortal Beloved. Historians and academics believe this was a person, but Max and Sarah have other ideas. They take a 'drug' of sort (by eating Beethoven's toenails - SO. DISGUSTING. WHY WHY WHY) and are sorta kinda transported to the past. They're able to see into the past, but it's like watching a movie: they aren't able to interact with or touch those they see.
I was on board with this plot and was disappointed to see it didn't go anywhere. That seemed to be the case with the majority of storylines in this book: they simply fizzled off into nothing.
Only the passionate were immortal, it seemed. If you fought, screwed, screamed, laughed, or otherwise experienced life intensely, for better or for worse, you left a record. Those who lived a quiet, well-behaved, well-tempered life? Gone without a trace.
The most interesting character in the novel was the 400-year old dwarf Nico. He was there when the drug first came into being. However, he has no idea where it or the Golden Fleece is hidden because he was knocked out by someone. Convenient. Again, his storyline is never resolved and I didn't get to find out whether or not he found what it was he had been looking for.
It's such a shame City of Dark Magic fell flat. I had expected so much more from it and, at times, it certainly had potential. Unfortunately a jumble of plots and a completely unlikeable main character made this book a chore rather than a delight. Also, the cutesy introduction and multiple mentions of Beethoven farting tried my patience.
It's no secret I have a huge love of cozies. They're so fun and silly and make the perfect afternoon read. They're also fairly easy to follow which makes jumping in at any book in a series totally doable. So despite never having read the first five Home Crafting Mystery books, I leaped at the chance to review this newest addition.
The best thing about cozies is that they're so unique. My favorite series, for example, is about a psychic detective. There's a series about a White House chef, a cheese shop, you name it, there's a series for it. This series deals with organic farming and homemade products like soap and lip balm. An interesting fact about me: I'm actually really interested in learning how to make my own soap. This book only solidified my curiosity.
Sophie Mae lives with her husband Barr (a police officer), her best friend Meghan, and Meghan's 12-year old daughter Erin in a quiet rural community. The Turner family owns and operates a large farm and for a yearly fee members can collect a portion of the harvest. Sophie Mae helps out on the farm and it's there a body is discovered in a compost heap.
In the past Sophie Mae has helped out with cases and it's only natural for her to want to join in on the investigation. Ignoring the concerned advice from her husband and friends (particularly since Sophie Mae and Barr are trying to have a baby), Sophie Mae jumps in and winds up getting for than she bargained for.
Deadly Row to Hoe was a mere 250 and the pacing makes it feel like half that. Cozies are typically easy to figure out and this one was no exception (although early on I had suspected a different character of being the killer). The characters were fun and even minor characters like Sophie Mae's two employees were fleshed-out and I got a real feel for their personalities.
Whether you're already a fan or are completely new to this series, Deadly Row to Hoe will make for a great read. Lightning fast with lots of humor, it's definitely a book that will hold your attention and can be finished in one sitting. Throughout the story there were lots of great backstory details that not only helped me get to know these characters, but also piqued my interest in the rest of the series. :) Don't be surprised if you see reviews for the first five books soon!(less)
There's no crime in copying a painting - obviously, as this is how I make the money I dutifully report to the IRS every April - the criminal part doesn't come until a copy is put up for sale as the original. Ergo, the seller, not the painter, is the crook.
A few years ago Claire Roth had been blacklisted by the art world. Once an up-and-coming artist with the very real opportunity of having her own show, she's now living in her tiny studio and making ends meet by selling copies of famous works for Reproductions.com.
One day she receives a visit from Aiden Markel, renowned art dealer and owner of the famous Markel G gallery. The two hadn't spoken in years - not since her plummet from grace. Markel offers her the chance of a lifetime: paint a copy of one of Degas' works that had been stolen in the 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Have her copy authenticated and not only will she receive a nice wad of cash, but Markel will also give her the show she's been dreaming of.
I'll be the first to admit I know virtually nothing about the art world - I can rattle off names like Michelangelo, Monet, The Scream, but when it comes down to it, I'm clueless. This book takes the very real theft (in 1990, over ten works of art were stolen and to this day, the pieces haven't been recovered and even with the $5 million reward, no one has stepped forward with any information) and uses it as the backbone of the story.
Claire had always been a Degas fan and when she was little her mother would take her to the museum and she would spent hours in front of After the Bath, staring at it, drawing it, marveling over it. Obviously she hadn't seen it since 1990 when it was stolen, so when Markel mails it to her door, she's more than a little shocked. Naturally she battles with herself over what to do. Markel assures her that after they sell her copy he'll give the original back to the museum where it belong. In the end, and multiple reassurances that she's doing nothing illegal, Claire agrees.
"We can only talk about the bad forgeries, the once that have been detected. The good onces are still hanging on museum walls."
Interspersed with the main story are two side-plots. One is Isabella Gardner's, told only through letters to her niece. I'm a big fan of historical fiction, so this story I really enjoyed. Isabella tells about her introduction to Degas, which eventually turn into lunches with Degas, trips to Degas' house, visits to the racetrack with Degas, and ultimately Degas' request that she pose for a painting. Not just any painting, but one in his Bath series.
The other story is one I also really enjoyed and would have loved to have seen a little more of: Claire's backstory and What Really Happened. When Claire was in grad school she was involved in a relationship with one of her professors. He left his wife for her and, for a while at least, they were happy. Every so often, however, Isaac would go into terrible bouts of depression. Unfortunately, one of these episodes happened to coincide with a deadline and he had neither the motivation or the inspiration to paint. Claire stepped it and painted 4D. Neither of them expected it to receive the attention it did. Isaac's career skyrocketed - there were trips to the Today show, shows in galleries, MoMA was even interested in 4D becoming part of their permanent collection. Everyone wanted to know more about Isaac Cullion.
At first Claire was thrilled for Isaac. After he broke up with her and returned to his wife, however, she decided the truth needed to be known. She was 4D's painter, not Isaac. Her accusation rocked the art world and split it in two, leaving only a tiny handful of people who believed Claire. It only gets worse when Claire discovers Isaac took his own life.
The main bulk of The Art Forger is equally fascinating! Claire eventually discovers the 'original' she had been copying from is itself a copy. Things swiftly move from bad to worse once the painting is sold - and discovered during an airport security check. The police and FBI step in and the trail leads back to Markel and Claire.
The only way to free themselves is to find out just what happened to Degas' original and time is quickly running out.
A writer friend once told me that when she walks into a library anywhere in the world, the smell makes her feel instantly at home.
Guys, seriously, The Art Forger is phenomenal. What's even more mind-blowing is that the author is not an artist! WHAT. Shapiro wasn't messing around when it came to her research.
Despite The Art Forger being a novel, this book isn't an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat nail biter. Even still, I devoured this book in just two sittings; it's that good.(less)
Sixteen-year old (almost seventeen, thank you very much) Lori Chase has just made the move from a swanky hotel in Philadelphia to history-obsessed Gettsyburg, PA. Her brother is stationed in Ghana and her parents thought it would be fun to renovate a Bed & Breakfast. Once July rolls around, business is booming: spectators and reenactors alike flock to the town for the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. For three days 1863 is alive and well: the townsfolk are decked out in giant hoop-skirts and Union blues and replica rifles send the scent of gunpowder into the air.
Lori is less than enthused with her new home - until the night she captures a ghost on film. A Skype session with her brother must have been all-too tempting for the young soldier, for an image appeared on the screen. Lori wasn't alone in her bedroom. After a few more encounters with the boy, Lori learns his name is Nathaniel Pierce. He grew up in Punxsutawney and enlisted as a member of the 93rd Pennsylvania regiment when he was nineteen. He shocks Lori by sharing with her the true nature of his death: it wasn't the battle that killed him. He's convinced he was murdered and needs her help solving the mystery. Unfortunately, he only has three days - once July 3 comes, the reenactors will pack their things and Nathaniel will depart as well.
Okay, guys. It's SO not a secret that the Civil War holds a special place in my heart. I've gone to Gettysburg multiple times - yay for only living a few hours away! - so right off the bat this book and I got along well. Allow me to fly my bias flag: if a book deals with any of the battles (particularly Gettysburg), you can bet I'll be reading it. It's one of my things. A YA dealing with a Civil War soldier and his suspicious death? SIGN ME UP!
When I read, I'm constantly doing research or googling certain figures/events/paintings/what have you. In Rebel Spirits a great deal of the novel was devoted to the Kalunga Line, something I had never heard of before! Basically, it comes from certain religions in the Congo and refers to a 'line' stretching across the Atlantic Ocean that was the path between the world of the living and that of the dead. I'm all about stuff like this and absolutely loved its inclusion in the book.
As for the characters, there were quite a few, but they were fun and well-developed. Lori's parents are ever present and that was a refreshing change from the usual absentee parenting typically found in YA. Nathaniel was a sweetheart, but I just couldn't get into the romance aspect. Over the course of three days the two only met a handful of times for a few minutes at most. Yet somehow they fell in love. Sorry, but no. It was cute when Lori tried to explain modern technology and I easily could have accepted a friendship, but more...? I'll admit I delighted in Lori's dad calling her out on her insta-love!
Any reader of historical fiction knows research can make or break a novel. There were a few things Nathaniel didn't know about that would have existed during his day. Punxsutawney Phil/Groundhog Day as we know it didn't officially begin until the 1880s, yet it's origins go back to Celtic tribes and Germany's Candlemas Day. I suppose that could be splitting hairs, since Groundhog Day wasn't a part of American tradition until German settlers came over in the 1880s, but it's certainly been around for quite some time. Anything thing unknown to Nathaniel was the word cahoots. Unfortunately, a quick google search shows this word first entered the English language in the 1820s - 40 years before Nathaniel's death.
Apart from a few tiny issues, I had a lot of fun with Rebel Spirits. I'd say the mystery was more Middle Grade in nature - it's pretty obvious from the start who the bad guys were - but I was able to overlook it and go with the story. If you enjoy Civil War settings, or want a fun story to entertain you for an afternoon, pick up a copy of Rebel Spirits.(less)
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but little girls usually fared much better.
The Secret Keeper is one of those wonderful - and rare - books that latches on tight and stays with you long after you've turned the last page. I'm a relative newbie to Kate Morton; I've only read one other book (The Forgotten Garden) and I've been aching to read more ever since.
Despite its length - nearly 500 pages - The Secret Keeper is a fairly fast-paced novel. Told with dual-narratives (which seems to be a thing with Morton), the book travels through time (2011 and WWII-era England) as a daughter tries to uncover a mystery that has haunted her for fifty years and a mother makes peace with her actions as a young woman.
Fifty years ago, Laurel told a distant patch of stars, my mother killed a man. She called it self-defense, but I saw it. She raised the knife and brought it down and the man fell backwards onto the ground where the grass was worn and the violets were flowering. She knew him, she was frightened, and I've no idea why.
Within the opening chapters a man is murdered and young Laurel - sixteen at the time - witnessed the entire episode. On the day of her brother's 2nd birthday Laurel hid in her treehouse and watched her mother stab a man, ultimately killing him.
Fifty years later, Laurel is a world-renowned actress and, along with her sisters and brother, has returned to Greenacres for her mother's ninetieth birthday. Dorothy's healthy is rapidly declining and Laurel is eager to finally find out who the man was and what he could have possibly done to make her mother react in such a violent manner.
It was strange indeed, to find herself within this place of childhood memories and see her grown-up wrinkled face staring back at her. Like Alice falling through the rabbit hole; or else falling through it again, fifty years on, only to find herself the only thing changed.
Again, The Secret Keeper is told through a dual-narrative (though, technically, I suppose it's more of a dual-era). If you're not a fan of more than one POV, Kate Morton will definitely change your perspective. She's absolutely brilliant when it comes to dual-narratives and executes this technique flawlessly. The only complaint is that, just when you're this close to uncovering a clue, the chapter ends and suddenly you find yourself back in 1940s.
Normally I'm all about spoilers in my reviews. I'm someone who loves spoilers and they naturally come out in my discussions of books. However, The Secret Keeper's final chapters were so shocking and unexpected that I'm determined not to ruin it for anyone. Everything falls so smoothly into place - it all makes sense why Dorothy was the way she was as a child and why the change was so drastic as an adult and her reasoning for killing a man is understandable.
Laurel found him on the Internet, though. Opposite problem there - one couldn't disentangle oneself from that net for all the love and money in England. Henry Jenkins was one of millions of ghosts who lived inside it, milling wraithlike until the right combination of letters was entered and they were briefly resurrected.
Writing multiple POVs isn't Kate Morton's only area of expertise. Countless sentences were so beautifully written I got chills reading them. Whether it was a sentence about trying to track down an author online or a chapter about air raids, Ms. Morton's writing never lets up. I felt myself sitting beside Laurel in her treehouse, I felt the fear coursing through the veins of everyone running for the safety of fallout shelters. Morton's writing will never cease to amaze me.
One of the things I have come to know most surely in my work is that the belief system acquired in childhood is never fully escaped; it may submerge itself for a while, but it always returns in times of need to lay claim to the soul it shaped.
After having read two Kate Morton books now, I'm confident enough to say she's among my favorite writers. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm someone who can recognize a plot twist coming from a mile away. That said, The Secret Keeper's reveal came out of nowhere and it hit me like a truck. I was not expecting it in the slightest, yet it worked. Lesser authors would have failed, but it was an entirely believable situation in Morton's hands.
If you haven't read Kate Morton before, I highly recommend doing so and The Secret Keeper is a wonderful starting point.(less)
They said it when they were wishing for crops not to fail and storms to pass, but she realized now she'd heard her mother say it when something happened to scare her, as if to reassure herself: The Lynburns are gone.
Kami Glass has lived in the tiny English village of Sorry-in-the-Vale her entire life and has grown up hearing tales of the Lynburns. One family loomed over the town, creating laws - and enforcing them. Though Aurimere Manor now stands silent and empty on the hill, the family's presence can still be felt and the family is just as feared.
Apart from hearing these stories since childhood, Kami has also heard a voice. A boy's voice. Jared has been her imaginary friend for as long as she can recall and she still continues to speak to him even though she's well past the age where having an imaginary friend is acceptable.
Her world turns upside-down the day the Lynburns return. Regal Lillian Lynburn is the heir to the legacy and she's brought her family with her: her husband Rob and son Ash, and her sister Rosalind and Rosalind's son Jared. Suddenly Kami isn't so sure her imaginary friend is only in her head.
Sorry-in-the-Vale's records date back to the 1400s. Six hundred years do not go by without someone doing something nefarious.
I couldn't wait to jump right in and adore Unspoken. Everyone seems to be obsessing over it and it definitely has all the makings of a book I'd love: ancient family, dark secrets, a quiet town.
I tore through the first half of this book. I loved everything about it! The premise was phenomenal, the writing is stunning, the local legends gave me chills, and the characters - with the exception of Angela - were wonderfully done. Even the backstory was done in a way that didn't feel like a massive infodump.
Jared's appearance came as no surprise, though I still have no idea what his issue was with touching. Even when he was protecting Kami he would barely touch her and his avoidance of contact was never explained. That said, save for a few minor problems, Kami & Jared's dynamic was great. It was an interesting, new take on the genre and I ate it up.
"Put the jerk in the south wing, you won't see him for weeks at a time. Or lock him in the attic. The law will not be on your side, but literary precedent will."
A lot of reviews have mentioned the humor in Unspoken and while I enjoyed it, I felt it could have been toned down a lot. Particularly Kami's father. I liked his character, but did he ever say anything that wasn't a witty one-liner? Even when he walked into Kami's bedroom one morning and found both Kami and Jared asleep in bed, the only thing he had to say was some wisecrack.
Unfortunately, around the halfway mark, Unspoken really started to lose steam. Oddly enough this was right around the time when Things Started Happening. A classmate was murdered (and was never really brought up again), and the secret of the Lynburns' is finally revealed. All of this should have kept me on the edge of me seat. Although I still plowed though, I definitely did not do so with the same fervor I had in the beginning.
The other families say, 'My way or the highway.' The Lynburns said, "I am unfamiliar with the concept of the highway, so that leaves you with only one choice.'
So much was happening by the end: the will-they-or-won't-they angle, a huge fight scene, Kami's life-altering decision, Angela's secret. Everything was happening so fast and the sudden stop at the end - and I do mean sudden (that was so NOT a cliffhanger, that was right in the middle of the scene!) - that it got to be a little jarring. There were so many questions left unanswered, particularly in regards to Kami and Jared, that I feel a little cheated. I want that sense of closure. Yes, there's another book coming out, but even in a series novels should wrap up nicely enough that reads aren't left in a state of confusion and frustration.
I hate that I'm in the minority with this one, guys. I really, really do. I loved the idea for Unspoken and the beginning was FANTASTIC. I'll be reading the next book when it comes out, but I don't think I'll be giving in to the hype next time.(less)
My love of cozies knows no bounds. They're such a guilty pleasure and when I heard about this new series, I immediately pounced on it.
After Ella Mae LaFaye discovered her husband of seven years in an elevator entertaining a pair of redheaded twins, she grabbed her dog Chewy and left New York. She headed for her own of Havenwood, Georgia where her mother and aunts welcomed her back and wasted no time helping Ella Mae get back on her feet.
Years of culinary school left her with a burning passion for baking - and a dream of opening her own bakery. Luckily for Ella Mae, the perfect location just went on the market. With customers just short of beating down the door, business is booming until a well-respected doctor is murdered - and Ella Mae's rolling pin is found at the scene.
Pies & Prejudice was a ton of fun! Going into it, I hadn't realized it was a paranormal mystery, though I guess that little fact was glaringly obvious. With character names like LaFaye and a villain's license plate reading SIREN it goes without saying I figured things out a little quicker than Ella Mae. :)
Hands down, the best thing about this book were the pies. MMM, pie. Shoofly, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan, Banana Pudding, I was drooling all over myself while reading. Thankfully there are recipes included at the end of the book (I know what I'll be doing on my days off)!
The characters were nearly as rich and vibrant as the pies. I loved Ella Mae and Chewy. Her mother and aunts were ridiculously awesome as well. Loralyn, Ella Mae's childhood rival, had the Mean Girl act down to an artform. I would have loved to have seen something come out of the budding romance with Hugh (high school crush), but I suppose that will have to wait for the next book.
Ella Mae's A-HA! moment was a little heavy on the cheese factor and it's so frustrating when the villain turns out to be a character that hadn't been in the story until the big reveal. Apart from those minor setbacks Pies & Prejudice was a fun - and funny - start to a new series and one I'll be sure to continue!(less)
"Okay, I've decided to start simple and work back. So, I am, now formally telling you, as your mother, that I want you never to become a smoker, never to own your own motorbike, never to get a chess board tattooed onto your face - and never ever to write to an imaginary friend in a parking meter again."
Three hundred years ago gaps bridging our world with another were closed. Deadly plagues were wiping out millions of people in our world and Cello's citizens decided it was for the best if the cracks between the two worlds were wiped out as well. Since then any cracks discovered must be reported to authorities immediately and anyone discovered communicating with anyone in our world is sentenced to death.
Madeleine Tully and her mother have recently set up house in Cambridge after having run away from their lavish lifestyle. Now they live in a tiny apartment with leaking ceilings and patches of mold on the walls. Instead of skipping off to various countries and spending all day at the spa, Madeleine's mother now sits inside all day sewing and watching game shows while Madeleine receives schooling lessons from a few neighbors. A far cry from what they're used to.
Elliot lives in the town of Bonfire, a farming community. He goes to school, hangs out with his friends, and is a star athlete. The Kingdom of Cello is a mirror image of our world save for one difference: Cello is victim to deadly Color attacks. A warning system alerts citizens to incoming attacks of Yellows or Purples and each color is deadlier than the last. A Purple is to blame for the death of Elliot's uncle and he's convinced the Purple then carried off his father. There have been rumors throughout town that his dad ran off with a teacher, but Elliot refuses to believe it. He's convinced his dad is still alive and is willing to risk his life to bring him back.
One day Madeleine notices a tiny slip of paper sticking out of a parking meter and allows her curiosity to get the better of her. It's a cry for help. Someone is trapped and they want to be rescued. Madeleine decides to play along and writes back. With each note her world turns upside down and she begins to suspect there is more to this world than she realized.
"I didn't have to become Byron," Jack added, "because I already am him, or anyway exactly like him. But without the poetry. Also, girls are not falling over themselves to have my children. As far as I know. If they are, they need to do it more loudly. Apart from all that, I'm just like Byron."
Before reading A Corner of White I had heard amazing things about this book. Much to my surprise - and delight! - I received a review copy and couldn't wait to sit down with it. A good portion of the novel deals with Newton and Byron. As part of their history lesson, Madeleine, Jack, and Belle each chose a name out of a hat and had to research that figure. As the story progresses - and as Madeleine and Elliot communicate further - Isaac Newton comes more into focus and I was pleasantly surprised by how large of a role he wound up playing.
Jack and Belle are Madeleine's neighbors and her only friends in Cambridge. I personally didn't care for Belle much at all - especially once she started her bullying. Jack, on the other hand, was great. He was a good guy with a huge crush on Madeleine. In a bout of frustration and homesickness she winds up hurting him deeply and that was a painful scene for me to read. While I enjoyed Madeleine's character, in the end, I came to know Jack better and saw him as the sympathetic character.
"Cut it out now," said her mother. "I'm trying to think. I need to get my thoughts in order and present them in an incisive, persuasive way. Because I'm the one with the answers today, which won't always be the case - for instance, if you were weeping about a mathematics problems, well, I'd be clueless and we'd both end up weeping. Not that you were weeping, of course."
Elliot's world, well, confused me at times. I never got a real feel for the Colors and their attacks. I kept reading passages about their waves of destruction and how there have been times where these colors would take hostages, but I just couldn't picture these scenes. Other than that, however, Cello was a lovely world.
Interwoven with Madeleine's & Elliot's stories was that of the Butterfly Child. Every twenty years, a Butterfly Child appears somewhere in Cello. She has amazing powers, capable of growing crops and healing sickness. At first I wasn't too impressed, but she grew on me.
Between the Butterfly Child, family problems in both worlds, and multiple mysteries, it felt like there was a lot going on, but it worked. I never felt overwhelmed and enjoyed A Corner of White an awful lot. The ending was perfectly set up for the next book and I'm looking forward to it!(less)