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What Are You Reading? > REVIEWS - January 2018 - New to You Author

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Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 2508 comments Mod

Read any good books lately that fit our monthly theme? Here's the place to share your opinions / reactions / recommendations.

This month's theme was suggested by Jaret -
New To You Author

Happy reading!

message 2: by Carol (last edited Jan 04, 2018 04:33PM) (new)

Carol | 2108 comments House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright
The House on Foster Hill by Jamie Jo Wright

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather's Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house's dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide. A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy's search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives--including her own...are lost?

Foster Hill House is not without secrets of it's own. In 1906, Ivy Thorpe discovered a murdered woman in one of the trees on the property and soon learned that the dead girls newborn infant was missing. Thus began Ivy's journey to find the girls killer and her infant that could yet be alive against all odds.. Ivy’s story from the past blends smoothly with Kaine’s in the present time. As the secrets are unveiled, the danger increases.

Chapters alternate between the past and present, giving The House on Foster Hill depth. As the two stories run parallel and from clues scattered throughout...soon give the perfect amount of information to help the reader begin to piece together how the past is affecting the present. The book is filled with deep emotional struggles... sharp dialogue and shadows of evil lurking at the edges.

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The Shape of Water (Inspector Montalbano, #1) by Andrea Camilleri
The Shape of Water – Andrea Camilleri – 3.5***
Book number one in the Inspector Montalbano mystery series, set in Sicily is an absolute delight! Montalbano is a wonderful character. He deals with the worst of human situations and yet still finds humor in his life. Camilleri’s writing is very atmospheric. I almost felt as if I were visiting Sicily. I look forward to reading more of this series.
LINK to my review

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Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale
Catch Me If You Can – Frank Abagnale – 4****
Subtitle depends on the edition: The Amazing True Story of the Most Extraordinary Liar in the History of Fun and Profit! -or- The True Story Of a Real Fake. Frank Abagnale began his career as a forger, check-kiter and con-man when he was just sixteen years old. It’s a fascinating memoir of his years of crime, full of daring escapades, humorous situations, and outlandish lies.
LINK to my review

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Carol | 2108 comments The Secret River by Kate Grenville
The Secret River by Kate Grenville

The book describes an English family transported to New South Wales...Sydney and its surrounding area...after William is convicted of theft and sentenced to death or indentured servitude in Australia. Of course of the two choices Australia is looking pretty good. As William, attempts to work his way out of servitude, he falls in love with a parcel of land that’s in unsettled territory for the most part. There is also a large numbers of Aboriginal people already living there, and of course the settlers are anywhere from being wary of them to unbelievable cruelty. The struggle of this family is described in a way that is both understandable and horrifying. Most of the settlers at that time viewed the Aboriginal people as being less than human....and if any of the settlers who attempted to understand and establish a relationship with them were viewed with disgust. We see how even a person with good intentions might be led to commit terrible acts.

Also interesting in this book was the tension between William and his wife. It’s maddening at times because they are clearly at odds, and despite her very strong wishes William has control of their was the usual in those times. Wiliams often comes across as thoughtless and uncaring, making promises he has no intentions of keeping. In the end you'll find yourself rooting for William as he attempts to become a better person.

message 6: by SouthWestZippy (last edited Jan 10, 2018 12:48PM) (new)

SouthWestZippy | 140 comments The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian by Andy Weir
5 stars
A dust storm hits Mars and the crew is forced to evacuate, Mark Watney is left for dead because they are unable to locate him plus his suit shows no life signs, only he is not dead. Now he is stranded and has no way to signal Earth. You are reading his Log entries showing his very human responses to being alone and dealing with his routines to keep himself alive. I enjoyed his dry humor and his willingness to try anything to keep himself alive and busy. This book is intense at times and draws into to Mark's fight for life and shows you that every life matters and the levels they will go to to get you back home safe.

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The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky – Heidi W Durrow – 4****
Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on a Chicago rooftop. I found the book in turns horrifying, moving, disturbing, riveting, and confusing. The story moves back and forth in time, and with multiple narrators. I was moved by Rachel’s predicament. And empathized with her struggles to come to terms with what had happened to her, and to those she loved. All told, this is a great debut, and I look forward to reading future works by Durrow.
LINK to my review

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Carol | 2108 comments Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Translated from the Dutch)

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters your homes at will. She stands next to your bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened. The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lock-down, the town's teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting, but in so doing send the town spiraling into the dark, medieval practices of the past.

This is one of those books that you will either really, really like, or really, really dislike. To say it is strange would be the mother of all understatements. The witch is in your face from the start and honestly you have to feel some sympathy for her for all she's been through. She seems harmless enough on the surface....but no one wants to push that envelope. The Black Springs town people have come to accept her like the rest of us accept cable 's just there. I thought some the towns people were actually much scarier and dangerous. The plot and pacing is really effective once you get past the halfway mark but maybe I'm immune to it...but I didn't see the "horror" aspect. You have to keep turning pages to find out what happens's one of those kind of books. I understand the audio version leaves a lot to be desired.

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SouthWestZippy | 140 comments Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
1 star
Set in a dystopian world in which human clones are created so that they can donate their organs.
I could not get into nor could I relate to the overall picture of what I just read. I found it to be an overwhelming Storyline and the reading was dull at the same time. I made myself finish the book, wish I would have just stopped and moved on. Not my cup of tea type of book.

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Carol | 2108 comments Signature Kill (Frank Behr #4) by David Levien
Signature Kill by David Levien
Frank Behr series Book #4

An unidentifiable body is found in an Indianapolis park, deliberately arranged so that police know it's not just a random crime. Former cop Frank Behr, now a P.I. with no cases, no money and no options, finds himself chasing down the disappearance of a wayward young woman who's been missing for months in a futile attempt to collect a reward. With assistance from his few remaining contacts on the force, Behr follows the tenuous thread of his case into the world of small-time prostitution-and discovers a possible connection to the body in the park. When another murder victim turns up, it's clear there's a serial killer at work, but this predator seems to be invisible, camouflaged by his perfectly normal-looking life.

Behr's relentless quest for the missing girl and his parallel pursuit of the killer become entangled with the official police investigation. Ultimately, Behr's obsession with the truth will lead him into the darkest places, and force him to make an unavoidable and devastating decision.

This was the first book i had read by this author. I usually don't care for books that switch back and forth between characters but David Levien managed to do this with an expert touch. The reader was never confused about who was narrating or what was taking place. The murders were slightly over kill for the most part and the descriptions were gruesome but you never, until almost the last chapter, knew who the killer was. The author had a good writing style and was very easy to read. I'll be finding more of this series.

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Carol | 2108 comments Color Tour (Ray Elkins Mystery #2) by Aaron Stander
Color Tour by Aaron Stander
Ray Elkins series Book #2

It's a tranquil October morning in northwest lower Michigan, a rural paradise of cherry orchards, blue lakes, and sandy shorelines. The serenity of the day -- and the season -- is shattered when an elderly woman walking her dogs along the beach stumbles upon the bodies of a brutally murdered couple. Sheriff Ray Elkins returns from his debut in the bestselling "Summer People" to track down the elusive killer of a vivacious and spirited young teacher. His search takes him into the dark side of an elite private school -- and into his own long-forgotten past. As Elkins unravels the mystery, the hunter becomes the hunted and one intrigue leads to another.

3 stars was generous for this one since it didn't seem to have an ending. The author also evidently didn't seem to know much about modern technology or how the police work a crime scene. The beginning of the book offered promise with the elderly lady finding the bodies while walking her dogs and then there was just lots of wasted dialog. I hate to be critical of any author...after all I haven't written a book or got one published...but this was just lacking something.

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Killers of the Flower Moon The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
Killers of the Flower Moon – David Grann – 4****
Wow. I am ashamed to say that I knew nothing of this shameful episode of American history. Grann did a marvelous job researching and reporting his findings. He did more than simply report what the FBI managed to uncover, and that only emphasizes how institutionalized the racist attitudes were.
LINK to my review

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Carol | 2108 comments Five by Ursula Archer

A woman's corpse is discovered in a meadow. A strange combination of letters and numbers has been tattooed on the soles of her feet. Detective inspector Beatrice Kaspary from the local murder squad quickly identifies the digits as map coordinates. These lead to a series of gruesome discoveries as she and her colleague Florin Wenninger embark on a bloody trail – a modern-day scavenger hunt using GPS navigation devices to locate hidden caches. The "owner" of these unofficial, unpublished geocaches is a highly calculating and elusive fiend who leaves his victims' body-parts sealed in plastic bags, complete with riddles that culminate in a five-stage plot. Kaspary herself becomes an unwilling pawn in the perpetrator's game of cat and mouse as she risks all to uncover the motives behind the murderer's actions.

This was better than I thought it was going to be when I started it. It turned out to be an intriguing combination of a police procedural and somewhat of a puzzle mystery. You had to keep track of the pieces if you wanted any chance of solving the crime. Overall it was well written and well told tale. Anyone that loves physiological murder mysteries will really like this book but be warned there are some parts that are extremely gory.

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Jaret | 210 comments Nothing with Strings NPR's Beloved Holiday Stories by Bailey White by Bailey White 2 stars

from my library's catalog: A holiday collection of short fiction shares vignettes that capture the eccentric lives of the inhabitants of a small Southern town, from an efficiency expert who gets Christmas down to forty-five minutes flat, to a woman who claims John James Audubon is living in her attic.

My thoughts: From the title, I was expecting a collection of holiday stories. Nope. Not here. Only one story revolved around the holiday season. What I got was a collection of random stories that would be classified as Southern fiction. Most of the stories left me wondering what just happened. A lot of them felt incomplete. Most of them went over my head. I wouldn't have finished the collection, but I needed it for a challenge. The one story I did enjoy was "Bus Ride". It was a simple story that revolved around a group of strangers on a bus ride together.

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Cotton by Christopher Wilson
Cotton – Christopher Wilson – 1.5*
I was intrigued by this idea of a “white-skinned black boy” in the segregated South of the mid-20th century. But the novel took a decided turn for the weird. …. Let’s just say that Lee Cotton changes skin color and/or gender like some women change hair color. Wilson gives Lee a unique voice – with an odd mixture of local dialect and educated English. But in the end, I found this just too fantastically absurd to be believed. I never warmed up to Lee or any of the other characters, and I found it a chore to finish.
LINK to my review

message 16: by Koren (last edited Jan 23, 2018 11:39AM) (new)

Koren  (koren56) | 482 comments The White Cascade: The Great No[bookcover:The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalancherthern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche|88365] by Gary Krist
4 stars
The White Cascade The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche by Gary Krist
Interesting story of an incident that took place in the early 1900's. At least 100 people died in an accident that may have been preventable. I would have liked to have found out more personal information about the people that were on the train but I'm sure that information was not available. Even so, to have felt more like I knew the characters would have made it more enjoyable.

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Letters for Emily by Camron Wright
Letters For Emily – Camron Wright – 1.5*
Harry is dying of Alzheimer’s and he struggles to complete a book of wisdom for his favorite granddaughter. I thought the plot was predictable and emotionally manipulative, and that the characters were straight out of central casting. If it hadn’t been a book-club selection I would not have finished it. I will say that some of the advice Harry leaves is poignant and resonated with me, but the book’s construct really irritated me.
LINK to my review

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Carol | 2108 comments The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same. In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he's put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead. That's when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

The story reminded me of Stephen King's "Stand BY Me"...a story that I very much enjoyed more years ago than I care to think about. The characters each had their individual personalities that Tudor manged to bring out thus making the storyline work. The book jumps back and forth in each chapter from the past to the present.... but both narratives are so well written that you don't find yourself losing your place during the time jumps. It's hard to believe that this is her first book but I will certainly be watching for more by this author.

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SouthWestZippy | 140 comments An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos
An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos
3 stars
Taken from the book. "Rosalie MacKenzie is headed nowhere until she sees Smokey, a Siberian husky suffering from neglect. Rosalie finds the courage to rescue the dog, and―united by the bond of love that forms between them―they save each other."
I just could not get into parts of the book and struggled to keep up with back and forth stories. I wish the characters were a little more developed and the stories fused together more cohesively. I did enjoy the overall storyline, it is complex, yet simple.

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Hidden Figures The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterly – 3.5***
The subtitle is all the synopsis anyone needs: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. I had seen the movie, but it covers just a few years, and compresses the story of many women into three characters. Shetterly’s book covers the time from the early years of WW2 to the Moon Landing in August 1969. I’m glad I read it, and that these women’s stories are finally brought to the forefront of America’s consciousness.
LINK to my review

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Jaret | 210 comments She Who Laughs, Lasts! Laugh-Out-Loud Stories from Today's Best-Known Women of Faith by Ann Spangler by Ann Spangler 3 stars

from my library's catalog: Ann Spangler has collected the funniest stories from today's funniest women between the covers of one book.

my thoughts: This was a collection of humorous anecdotes from various Women of Faith speakers. Some of the stories were funnier than others. But most of them gave me a little chuckle. It was a great listen that I didn't have to focus too hard with my listening skills. My favorite anecdotes were the "out of the mouths of babes" type stories. Those usually got belly laughs from me.

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The Midnight Watch A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian by David Dyer
The Midnight Watch – David Dyer – 2.5**
Subtitle: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian. Like many people, I am fascinated by the Titanic’s story, and I was eager to read Dyer’s debut novel. But his changing points of view somehow failed to capture my attention. The last sixty pages of the novel, however, were gripping.
LINK to my review

message 23: by SouthWestZippy (last edited Jan 30, 2018 10:15AM) (new)

SouthWestZippy | 140 comments The Angel in My Pocket A Story of Love, Loss, and Life After Death by Sukey Forbes
The Angel in My Pocket: A Story of Love, Loss, and Life After Death by Sukey Forbes
3 stars
Taken from the back of the book. " After the death of her six-year-old daughter, Charlotte, Sukey Forbes struggles to come to terms with her loss as she chafes against the emotional reserves and strict self-reliance that are part of her blue-blooded New England heritage. "
I could not relate to much of the book. It has loads of family history, it used to show how she dealt with the loss of her daughter by looking at the family's past. You can feel the emotion of the dealing with the death of her six-year-old, coming to terms with her death and moving on. I could also feel the frustration with the Doctors on trying to find out what she had and after her death on showing what she had. Such a sad, raw story. Writing is so-so and it does drag on here and there but overall a book worth reading.

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The Longest Night by Andria Williams
The Longest Night – Andria Williams – 4****
A young military couple, Nat and Paul Collier vs his supervisor at the nuclear power plant where Paul works, and MSgt Reynolds’ mean-spirited wife, Jeannie. Add a handsome local cowboy and a reactor with problems that are being ignored and it’s only a question of which will blow first: the reactor, Paul’s career, or Paul and Nat’s marriage. Great character-based novel with a gripping story line. I was engaged and interested from beginning to end.
LINK to my review

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Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
Etta and Otto and Russell and James – Emma Hooper – 3***
Eighty-two-year-old Etta has never seen the sea, so she decides one day to leave her Saskatchewan farm and head out on foot. It reminded me of Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, but it was not quite as engaging. Use of magical realism and non-linear timeline.
LINK to my review

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