Author Archives: Jenn

Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon (Audiobook)

  • Listening Length: 16 hours and 23 minutes
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc. (April 8, 2014)
  • Source: Publisher (via Audiobook Jukebox)

The death of print is eminent. Books, magazines and newspapers have been replaced by Memes, handheld devices that are not only communication tools but sensitive enough to sense our every want. It is also connected to a virtual marketplace called the Word Exchange that allows people to create and sell language.

Anana Johnson and her father, Doug, work at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL). Doug’s passion has always been the written word, refusing to embrace technology. His latest project is the last print edition of the dictionary to publish.  His passion is so great that, when he disappears, Anana is immediately concerned. The only evidence Doug leaves behind is a code word he and Anana would use when one another was in danger: Alice. As Anana begins her hunt for her father, a “word flu” has begun to devastate the population.  This illness forces people to speak in gibberish, spreading quickly with devastating results. When her closest ally in her search, her colleague Bart, becomes infected, Anana is even more determined to locate her father, certain that locating him will provide the answers to her unending questions.

The Word Exchange is a brilliantly executed cautionary tale about the dangers of technology. Set in the not-too-distant future, Graedon has created a world in which everyone is connected, virtually, long-ago abandoning the very thing we should hold near and dear to our hearts: the written word. Citizens were repeatedly warned of the potential consequences of such technology, yet these warnings went ignored. The conveniences of such devices far outweighed any consequences.  The fate of humankind is now at risk, the damage irreparable.

Alternating in points of view, readers get a glimpse of what transpires through the eyes of Anana and Bart. As Bart declines due to illness, his slips in language are made obvious in his dialogue. Listening to the audiobook, at first I assumed the narrator had misspoken, quickly realizing this was an intended point of confusion, further detailing the impact of the word flu.

This novel was recommended to me after I read and adored The Lexicon by Max Berry. Both books are tremendous feats of the written language that will force readers to reflect upon the very thing that ties us all together: language.  Devastating in its plausibility, there is no doubt that readers will contemplate putting away their electronic devices, stepping away from the computer, in favor of embracing the print word.

A note on the audio production:
This title was narrated by Tavia Gilbert and Paul Michael Garcia.  Overall, this was an outstanding audio performance. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for Garcia to intentionally slip up in word usage, using completely incorrect, or in some cases, gibberish words, to replace normal speech.

That said, there was something in the quality of the audio recording that irritated me. At times, it seemed as though excerpts of the book were edited in for the tone and quality of the narrator’s voice shifted into an almost hollow sounding tone, as if they were speaking from a hole or through a long tube. So obvious, this shift in quality, it would take me a few seconds to recover and become once again attentive to the narration.

At first, I thought perhaps this was just me, but when I played segments for others they experience this shift as well. So, while the narrators did an an outstanding job, something in the editing of the overall performance elicited a less than stellar listening experience. My personal recommendation would be to skp the audio, embrace the print version of this novel instead.

Bottom line: The Word Exchange is a must read for fans of the written word. Thought-provoking and lasting in message. Highly, highly recommended.

Summer Book Preview: August 2014, Part II

Yesterday, I shared the first part of a very eclectic list of August books I am anticipating. It shouldn’t shock you that, since creating that list, I’ve discovered a slew of other books to add to my list.  Therefore, today I am sharing an amended second part of my most anticipated books of August!

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson (Aug. 5):

Dovey learns that demons lurk in places other than the dark corners of her mind in this southern gothic fantasy from the author of the Blud series.

A year ago, Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction—and taking the life of Dovey’s best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.

But recently she’s started to believe she’s seeing things that can’t be real…including Carly at their favorite café. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.

As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah—where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk—she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.

The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier (Aug. 12):

A suspenseful and chilling murder mystery set in a high-security asylum for the criminally insane and the snowy mountains of the French Pyrenees

In a snowbound valley, deep in the French Pyrenees, a dark story of madness and revenge is unfolding.

The first victim is a horse: its headless, flayed body hangs suspended from the edge of a frozen cliff. On the same day as the gruesome discovery takes place, Diane Berg, a young psychiatrist starts her first job at a high security asylum for the criminally insane, just a few miles away. She is baffled by the slightly unorthodox methods the asylums’s director uses, and then greatly alarmed when she realizes that drugs are disappearing from within the fortified institution while someone seems to be slipping out at night. Commandant Martin Servaz, a charismatric, Toulouse city cop fond of quoting Latin, can’t believe he has been called out over the death of an animal. But there is something disturbing about this crime that he cannot ignore. Then DNA from one of the most notorious inmates of the asylum, a highly intelligent former prosecutor who is accused of killing and raping several women, is found on the corpse… and a few days later the first human murder takes place. Servaz and his colleague, the mysterious Irene Ziegler, must use all their skill to solve the terrifying mystery.

Your Face in Mine by Jess Row (Aug. 14):

One afternoon, not long after Kelly Thorndike has moved back to his hometown of Baltimore, an African American man he doesn’t recognize calls out to him. To Kelly’s shock, the man identifies himself as Martin, who was one of Kelly’s closest friends in high school—and, before his disappearance nearly twenty years before, skinny, white, and Jewish. Martin then tells an astonishing story: After years of immersing himself in black culture, he’s had a plastic surgeon perform “racial reassignment surgery”—altering his hair, skin, and physiognomy to allow him to pass as African American. Unknown to his family or childhood friends, Martin has been living a new life ever since.

Now, however, Martin feels he can no longer keep his new identity a secret; he wants Kelly to help him ignite a controversy that will help sell racial reassignment surgery to the world. Kelly, still recovering from the death of his wife and child and looking for a way to begin anew, agrees, and things quickly begin to spiral out of control.

Inventive and thought-provoking, Your Face in Mine is a brilliant novel about cultural and racial alienation and the nature of belonging in a world where identity can be a stigma or a lucrative brand.

The Black Road by Tania Carver (Aug. 15):

The honeymoon is over for newlywed criminologist Marina Esposito. Her house is in flames. Her detective husband is in a coma. Her baby daughter is missing. And then her phone rings…

“I have something you’ve lost,” the voice said. “Your daughter.”

The voice at the other end wants to play a game. If Marina completes a series of bizarre tasks within three days, she wins her daughter’s life. If she fails, her little girl dies. The clock starts now.

In a desperate race against time, Marina begins to suspect that the madman is someone she knows – someone with a past as troubled as her own. But the truth is far darker than she imagines..

Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo (Aug. 19):

Renovating an historic Memphis house together, three cousins discover that their spectacular failures in love, career, and family provide the foundation for their future happiness in this warm and poignant novel from the author of The Roots of the Olive Tree that is reminiscent of The Postmistress, The Secret Life of Bees, and Kristin Hannah’s novels

Nearing thirty and trying to avoid the inescapable fact that they have failed to live up to everyone’s expectations and their own aspirations, cousins and childhood best friends Lizzie, Elyse, and Isobel seek respite in an oddly-shaped, three-story house that sits on a bluff sixty feet above the Mississippi.

As they work to restore the almost condemned house, each woman faces uncomfortable truths about their own failings. Lizzie seeks answers to a long-held family secret about her father in her grandmother’s jumble of mementos and the home’s hidden spaces. Elyse’s obsession with an old flame leads her to a harrowing mistake that threatens to destroy her sister’s wedding, and Isobel’s quest for celebrity tempts her to betray confidences in ways that would irreparably damage her two cousins.

Told in three parts from the perspective of each of the women, this sharply observed account of the restoration of a house built out of spite, but filled with memories of love is also an account of friendship and how relying on each other’s insights and strengths provides the women a way to get what they need instead of what they want.

One Kick by Chelsea Cain (Aug. 19):

Famously kidnapped at age six, Kick captured America’s hearts when she was rescued five years later. Now, twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly entangled in a missing child case that will put her talents to the test.

Trained as a marksman, lock picker, escape artist and bomb maker by her abductor, Kick could not return to the life of the average young girl after her release. So, in lieu of therapy, she mastered martial arts, boxing, and knife throwing; learned how to escape from the trunk of a car, jimmy a pair of handcuffs, and walk without making a sound—all before she was thirteen.

Kick has trained herself to be safe. But then two children go missing in three weeks, and an enigmatic and wealthy former weapons dealer approaches her with a proposition. John Bishop uses his fortune and contacts to track down missing children. Not only is he convinced Kick can help recover the two children—he won’t take no for an answer.

With lives hanging in the balance, Kick is set to be the crusader she has always imagined herself. Little does she know that the answers she and Bishop seek are hidden in one of the few places she doesn’t want to navigate—the dark corners of her own mind.

A heart-stopping, entertaining thrill ride, One Kick announces the arrival of a blistering new series by a stunning talent in the thriller realm.

Confessions by Kanae Minato (Aug. 19):

Her pupils murdered her daughter. Now she will have her revenge.
After calling off her engagement in the wake of a tragic revelation, Yuko Moriguchi had nothing to live for except her only child, four-year-old child, Manami. Now, following an accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation.
But first she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that upends everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a diabolical plot for revenge.
Narrated in alternating voices, with twists you’ll never see coming, Confessions probes the limits of punishment, despair, and tragic love, culminating in a harrowing confrontation between teacher and student that will place the occupants of an entire school in danger. You’ll never look at a classroom the same way again.

Don’t Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz (Aug. 19):

Eve Hardaway, newly single mother of one, is on a trip she’s long dreamed of—a rafting and hiking tour through the jungles and mountains of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Eve wanders off the trail, to a house in the distance with a menacing man in the yard beyond it, throwing machetes at a human-shaped target. Disturbed by the sight, Eve moves quickly and quietly back to her group, taking care to avoid being seen. As she creeps along, she finds a broken digital camera, marked with the name Teresa Hamilton. Later that night, in a rarely used tourist cabin, she finds a discarded prescription bottle—also with the name Teresa Hamilton. From the camera’s memory card, Eve discovers Teresa Hamilton took a photo of that same menacing looking man in the woods. Teresa Hamilton has since disappeared.

Now the man in the woods is after whoever was snooping around his house. With a violent past and deadly mission, he will do anything to avoid being discovered.  A major storm wipes out the roads and all communication with the outside world. Now the tour group is trapped in the jungle with a dangerous predator with a secret to protect. With her only resource her determination to live, Eve must fight a dangerous foe and survive against incredible odds—if she’s to make it back home alive.

Amity by Micol Ostow (Aug. 26):

Connor’s family moves to Amity to escape shady business deals. Ten years later, Gwen’s family moves to Amity for a fresh start after she’s recovered from a psychotic break.

But something is not right about this secluded house. Connor’s nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons and destruction. Dreams he kind of likes. Gwen has lurid visions of corpses that aren’t there and bleeding blisters that disappear in the blink of an eye. She knows Amity is evil and she must get her family out, but who would ever believe her?

Amity isn’t just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a bloody end as she’s done before. As she’ll do again.

Alternating between parallel narratives, Amity is a tense and terrifying tale suggested by true-crime events that will satisfy even the most demanding horror fan.


Sanctum: An Asylum Novel by Madeleine Roux (Aug. 26):

Back at their high schools, Dan, Abby, and Jordan are plagued with nightmares about the traumatic summer they shared in the Brookline asylum. Much as they’d love to move on with their lives, someone is determined to keep the terror going, sending the three teens photos of what looks like an old-timey carnival, with no note and no name. Then Dan receives a list of coordinates pointing to abandoned houses in the town near Brookline, and he is convinced that the only way to end the nightmare once and for all is to return to New Hampshire College and follow the trail.

But when they arrive under the guise of a prospective students’ weekend, Dan and his friends are shocked to discover that the carnival from their photos isn’t just real, it’s here on campus. And as they sneak away from their undergrad hosts to visit the houses on their list, they find secrets far darker than anything they’d imagined—secrets about the real source of the late asylum warden’s power, and a society known today only as the Scarlets.

Now, haunted by the ghosts of a town with a terrible past and pursued by a host of very real enemies, Dan and his friends can only hope to make it out of this campus visit alive.

Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre (Aug 26):

It’s the rule—always watch your fives and twenty-fives. When a convoy halts to investigate a possible roadside bomb, stay in the vehicle and scan five meters in every direction. A bomb inside five meters cuts through the armor, killing everyone in the truck. Once clear, get out and sweep twenty-five meters. A bomb inside twenty-five meters kills the dismounted scouts investigating the road ahead.

Fives and twenty-fives mark the measure of a marine’s life in the road repair platoon. Dispatched to fill potholes on the highways of Iraq, the platoon works to assure safe passage for citizens and military personnel. Their mission lacks the glory of the infantry, but in a war where every pothole contains a hidden bomb, road repair brings its own danger.

Lieutenant Donavan leads the platoon, painfully aware of his shortcomings and isolated by his rank. Doc Pleasant, the medic, joined for opportunity, but finds his pride undone as he watches friends die. And there’s Kateb, known to the Americans as Dodge, an Iraqi interpreter whose love of American culture—from hip-hop to the dog-eared copy of Huck Finn he carries—is matched only by his disdain for what Americans are doing to his country.
 
Returning home, they exchange one set of decisions and repercussions for another, struggling to find a place in a world that no longer knows them. A debut both transcendent and rooted in the flesh, Fives and Twenty-Fives is a deeply necessary novel.

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson (Aug. 26):

Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.

Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery.

In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.

Lock in by John Scalzi (Aug. 26):

*Teen son’s most anticipated book of the summer*

Not too long from today, a highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever, and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent—nearly five million souls in the United States alone—the disease causes “lock in”: Victims are fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to any stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.

A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what’s now known as “Haden’s syndrome,” rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. They are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an “Integrator”—someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder will be that much more complicated.

But as Shane and Vann begin to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery—and the real crime—is bigger than anyone could have imagined.  The investigation takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture.

Summer of the Dead by Julia Keller (Aug. 26):

High summer in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia—but no one’s enjoying the rugged natural landscape. Not while a killer stalks the small town and its hard-luck inhabitants. County prosecutor Bell Elkins and Sheriff Nick Fogelsong are stymied by a murderer who seems to come and go like smoke on the mountain. At the same time, Bell must deal with the return from prison of her sister, Shirley—who, like Bell, carries the indelible scars of a savage past.

In the third mystery chronicling the journey of Bell Elkins and her return to her Appalachian hometown, we also meet Lindy Crabtree—a coal miner’s daughter with dark secrets of her own, secrets that threaten to explode into even more violence.

Acker’s Gap is a place of loveliness and brutality, of isolation and fierce attachments—a place where the dead rub shoulders with the living, and demand their due.

 

Whew! What an exhausting list!

So tell me, what did I miss? What August books are you anticipating most?

Summer Book Preview: August 2014, Part I

Wow, it’s hard to believe we’re nearly through the month of July! Since it is the last month of summer, I was hoping that August would be a slow month in the publication world so I could catch up on my reading. That’s definitely not the case!

Following is the first half of my most anticipated books of August list. I’ve included the publisher’s summary and an opportunity to pre-order (click on the book cover or title).  You’ll see that this is quite the eclectic list of books!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer (Aug. 5):

The Committee, an international cabal of industrialists and media barons, is on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary, an idealistic online Underground, stands in the way of that takeover, using radical politics, classic spycraft, and technology that makes Big Data look like dial-up. Into this secret battle stumbles an unlikely trio: Leila Majnoun, a disillusioned non-profit worker; Leo Crane, an unhinged trustafarian; and Mark Deveraux, a phony self-betterment guru who works for the Committee.

Leo and Mark were best friends in college, but early adulthood has set them on diverging paths. Growing increasingly disdainful of Mark’s platitudes, Leo publishes a withering takedown of his ideas online. But the Committee is reading–and erasing–Leo’s words. On the other side of the world, Leila’s discoveries about the Committee’s far-reaching ambitions threaten to ruin those who are closest to her.

In the spirit of William Gibson and Chuck Palahniuk,Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is both a suspenseful global thriller and an emotionally truthful novel about the struggle to change the world in- and outside your head.

 

Painted Horses by Malcom Brooks (Aug. 5) 

In the mid-1950s, America was flush with prosperity and saw an unbroken line of progress clear to the horizon, while the West was still very much wild. In this ambitious, incandescent debut, Malcolm Brooks animates that time and untamed landscape, in a tale of the modern and the ancient, of love and fate, and of heritage threatened by progress.

Catherine Lemay is a young archaeologist on her way to Montana, with a huge task before her-a canyon “as deep as the devil’s own appetites.” Working ahead of a major dam project, she has one summer to prove nothing of historical value will be lost in the flood. From the moment she arrives, nothing is familiar-the vastness of the canyon itself mocks the contained, artifact-rich digs in post-Blitz London where she cut her teeth. And then there’s John H, a former mustanger and veteran of the U.S. Army’s last mounted cavalry campaign, living a fugitive life in the canyon. John H inspires Catherine to see beauty in the stark landscape, and her heart opens to more than just the vanished past. Painted Horses sends a dauntless young woman on a heroic quest, sings a love song to the horseman’s vanishing way of life, and reminds us that love and ambition, tradition and the future, often make strange bedfellows. It establishes Malcolm Brooks as an extraordinary new talent.

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce (Aug.5):

David, a college student, takes a summer job at a run-down family resort in a dying English resort town. This is against the wishes of his family…because it was at this resort where David’s biological father disappeared fifteen years earlier. But something undeniable has called David there.

A deeper otherworldliness lies beneath the surface of what we see. The characters have a suspicious edge to them…David is haunted by eerie visions of a mysterious man carrying a rope, walking hand-in-hand with a small child…and the resort is under siege by a plague of ladybugs. Something different is happening in this town.

When David gets embroiled in a fiercely torrid love triangle, the stakes turn more and more menacing. And through it all, David feels as though he is getting closer to the secrets of his own past.

This is a darkly magic and sexy book that has a strong suspense line running through it. It’s destined to continue to pull in a wider circle of readers for the exceptionally talented Graham Joyce.

Dead Line: A Thriller by Chris Ewan (Aug. 5):

If you’re a security expert, what do you do if your fiancée suddenly goes missing, presumably kidnapped?

If you’re Daniel Trent, a highly trained specialist in hostage negotiation, the answer is simple: You find out who took her and you make them talk. But what if your chief suspect is taken as well? How do you get him back quickly—and alive—so you can find out what really happened to your fiancée?

Set in Marseille, Chris Ewan’s Dead Line is a fast-paced stand-alone thriller that pitches the reader into Daniel’s world, as he tries desperately to secure the release of Jérôme Moreau from a ruthless gang in order to interrogate him on the whereabouts of his fiancée. When things don’t go according to plan, Daniel must use all his skills and instincts to find the answers he’s looking for, but will he be in time?

Deadout by Jon McGoran (Aug. 5):

A mysterious plague is killing an island’s bees. A big government contract is at stake. A beautiful researcher fans the embers of a stalled relationship – Deadout is the thrilling follow-up to McGoran’s highly acclaimed novel, Drift.

A trip to an island off the New England coast—and away from the demands of police work—might be just what is needed to jumpstart Detective Doyle Carrick and Nola Watkins’ stalled relationship. But a mysterious plague is killing the island’s bees. Nola takes a job at an organic farm hit hard by the disease, working for the rich, handsome, and annoying Teddy, with whom she quickly becomes a little too friendly for Doyle’s liking. When Teddy’s estranged father offers Doyle a big payday to keep his son out of trouble until he can close a big government contract—and when Doyle meets Annalisa, a beautiful researcher studying the bees—Doyle decides to stick around.

Stoma Corporation, a giant biotech company, moves in with genetically modified super bees that supposedly are the answer to the world’s bee crisis. As tension grows between protestors and a private army of thugs, Doyle realizes that bees aren’t the only thing being modified. Annalisa’s coworkers start to go missing, and she and Doyle uncover a dark, deadly, and terrifying secret. Things spin violently out of control on the tiny island, and when Doyle closes in on what Stoma Corporation is really up to, he must race to stop them before their plot succeeds, and spreads to the mainland and the world.

 

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by by Marie-Helene Bertino (Aug. 5):

A sparkling, enchanting and moving debut novel featuring three unforgettable characters and their unlikely connection

Madeline Altimari, a smart-mouthed, precocious nine year old, is an aspiring jazz singer mourning the death of her mother, and on the morning of Christmas Eve Eve, she is about to have the most extraordinary day of her life. After facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, she is determined to find Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas, where she will make her debut. On the same day, Madeline’s fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who has moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with her high school love. And across town at the Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever by the end of the night. As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, they discover the possibility that their lives could change in one magical moment.

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero (Aug. 12):

When twentysomething A., the European relative of the Wells family, inherits a beautiful, yet eerie, estate set deep in the woods of Point Bless, Virginia, it comes as a surprise to everyone—including A. himself. After all, he never knew he had a “second cousin, twice removed” in America, much less that his eccentric relative had recently committed suicide by jumping out of the third floor bedroom window—at the same age and in the same way as his father had before him…

Together with A.’s companion, Niamh, a mute teenage punk girl from Ireland, they arrive in Virginia and quickly come to feel as if they have inherited much more than just a rambling home and an opulent lifestyle. Axton House is haunted…they know it…but the presence of a ghost is just the first of a series of disturbing secrets they slowly uncover. What led to the suicides? What became of the Axton House butler who fled shortly after his master died? What lurks in the garden maze – and what does the basement vault keep? Even more troubling, what of the rumors in town about a mysterious yearly gathering at Axton House on the night of the winter solstice?

Told vividly through a series of journal entries, cryptic ciphers, recovered security footage, and letters to a distant Aunt Liza, Edgar Cantero has written an absorbing, kinetic and highly original supernatural adventure with classic horror elements that introduces readers to a deviously sly and powerful new voice.

Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust–Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour (P.S.) by James A. Grymes (Aug. 12):

The violin has formed an important aspect of Jewish culture for centuries, both as a popular instrument with classical Jewish musicians— Jascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman—and also a central factor of social life as part of the enduring Klezmer tradition. But during the Holocaust, the violin assumed extraordinary new roles within the Jewish community. For some musicians, the instrument was a liberator; for others, it was a savior that spared their lives. For many, the violin provided comfort in mankind’s darkest hour, and, in at least one case, helped avenge murdered family members. Above all, the violins of the Holocaust represented strength and optimism for the future.

 In Violins of Hope, music historian James A. Grymes tells the amazing, horrifying, and inspiring story of the violins of the Holocaust, and of Amnon Weinstein, the renowned Israeli violinmaker who has devoted the past twenty years to restoring these instruments in tribute to those who were lost, including 400 members of his own family. Juxtaposing tales of individual violins with one man’s harrowing struggle to reconcile his own family’s history and the history of his people, it is a poignant, affecting, and ultimately uplifting look at the Holocaust and its enduring impact.

 

Desire Lines by Christina Baker Kline (Aug. 12):

On the night of her high school graduation, Kathryn Campbell’s best friend, Jennifer, vanished. Ten years later, Kathryn still feels the void in her life—and the nagging, guilt that she has failed her friend. When a divorce sends Kathryn back to her Maine hometown, the young journalist finds herself face-to-face with her past.

As she explores the events surrounding Jennifer’s disappearance, a pattern slowly begins to emerge. All the puzzle pieces are at her fingertips—it’s a matter of whether Kathryn can put them together. Facing her own fear and grief, she is finally able to come to terms with how Jennifer’s death has shaped her life and the lives of those who knew her. In the process, Kathryn realizes that to understand the circumstances of Jennifer’s disappearance, she will have to expose herself to the same risks and dangers. Ultimately, Kathryn’s quest to find the truth becomes a quest to save her own life as she races against time to keep Jennifer’s fate from becoming hers.

I Can See in the Dark by Karin Fossum (Aug. 12):

What if you were arrested for a crime you didn’t commit-but had to prove your innocence without revealing anything about the crime that you did? A thrilling new stand-alone novel from Norway’s Queen of Crime, “a truly great writer.” (Jo Nesbo)

Riktor doesn’t like the way the policeman storms into his home without even knocking. He doesn’t like the arrogant way he walks around the house, taking note of its contents. The policeman doesn’t bother to explain why he’s there, and Riktor is too afraid to ask. He knows he’s guilty of a terrible crime and he’s sure the policeman has found him out.

But when the policeman finally does confront him, Riktor freezes. The man is arresting him for something totally unexpected. Riktor doesn’t have a clear conscience, but the crime he’s being accused of is one he certainly didn’t commit. Can he clear his name without further incriminating himself?

Stay tuned tomorrow as I share the second half of my most anticipated books of August list! 

Introducing: Subscriber Bonus! Monthly Giveaway!

SubscriberBonusIt seems I’m in a constant dilemma of what to do with my ARCs after I read & review the title. Typically, I add the books to a pile and take them to book club to give away.  That’s all fine and dandy, but they can only handle so many books. So, I put on my thinking cap.

Simultaneously, I’m constantly thinking of a way to thank my subscribers for, you know, subscribing and reading my blog. Then it hit me! I can kill two birds with one stone and offer a monthly giveaway to my subscribers!

Here are the details:

At the end of each month, I do a month in review post. Starting in the July post, I will list the books available for giveaway this month and open up the giveaway. Due to obvious reasons, only the print ARCs/galleys will be available for giveaway. I may add something a little extra because I’m just that kind of person!

Now, while I trust that all my subscribers are honest,  I will be verifying that entrants are actually subscribers of this blog. Since I will be handling the mailing of these giveaways myself, entries will be open to US & Canadian residents only.

We’ll try this out for a few months and see how it works. I may make a few changes along the way so bear with me!

Not a subscriber yet? Simply visit that nifty “subscribe” box to the left of this post and subscribe today, either via email or RSS feed.

 

 

 

Review: The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) by Deborah Harkness

  • Series: All Souls Trilogy (Book 3)
  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (July 15, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780670025596
  • Source: Publisher

It started with The Discovery of Witches and traveled through time in Shadow of Night. Now, in The Book of Life, witch Diana Bishop and her husband, Matthew Clairmont, a vampire, return to the present to continue their hunt for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages.

Pregnant with twins, Diana and Matthew are even more determined to discover the location of The Book of Life. Conception between a witch and a vampire was believed to be impossible and Diana knows that the answer lies in this precious volume. Ashmole 782 also holds answers to the origin of all supernatural beings, answers that may prove to be destructive if placed in the wrong hands.

Ashmole 782 holds the fate of the entire supernatural world. It will only unveil its secrets to the most powerful of witches and Diana knows she must be the one to find it. But now, her life isn’t the only one in danger. She must protect the twins growing inside her at all cost.  Their existence was foretold centuries ago, their birth and survival instrumental to the fate of so many others.  The hunt for this precious volume has always been of importance to Diana, but now that the lives of those close to her are in peril, obtaining The Book of Life is the only thing that will save them.

This is the part where I’m supposed to say, so eloquently and professionally, how much I loved this novel. Instead, I revert to my most deepest of emotions. I’ve devoured each of the books in this trilogy the instant I have them in my hands. My appreciation for them is so strong that I then follow up each read with a listen to each of the audiobooks. A trilogy like this is so rare, one that was obviously expertly crafted and developed.  The time, the research, the execution of this trilogy astounds me.

I distinctly remember the feelings I had after reading The Discovery of Witches. I thought…this author gets it. She has a passion for writing, for weaving a story, for creating a world so unique and captivating. Each word she pens is intentional, nothing is ever added as filler or fluff to beef up the word count. When I continued to read The Book of Shadows, I was shocked to see that she exceeded every expectation and hope I had for a second book.

I thought I would devour this book the moment it hit my hands. Instead, I did quite the opposite.  I came up with every excuse not to read it for I did not want the story to end. I essentially had to force myself to read it and when I did…well it was so worth the wait. In The Book of Life, Harkness has given readers the greatest gift possible.  Unlike the final book in many other trilogies, Harkness doesn’t just throw together answers to questions and tie together story lines that have weaved through each of the books. She reveals the answers slowly, providing  truly intellectual and well thought out answers to any unanswered questions.

If you have not had the opportunity to experience this trilogy, I beg you to do so. Don’t be turned off by the concept of vampires and witches, for the story that Harkness creates is so unlike any other you have read, I guarantee. Her spin on these supernatural creatures is unique and, it might sound strange to say it unless you’ve read it, heartwarming. I envy those of you who get to experience this trilogy for the first time. It is one that will always reside in my heart, a trilogy that I will read over and over and over again. Highly, highly, highly recommended.

Review: World of Trouble (Last Policeman #03) by Ben Winters

  • Series: Last Policeman (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (July 15, 2014)
  • ISBN: 978159474685
  • Source: Publisher

*Warning: This is a review for the third book in a trilogy. There will be spoilers in this review, so if you have not read the previous two books please do not continue.*

The clock is ticking away; the asteroid on a path to Earth is getting closer. The end is imminent. Everyone has responded to the devastating reality in a different way: committing crime, stealing in order to get supplies to survive the last few days, and, in many cases, ending their own lives so they didn’t have to face the horrific end. Detective Hank Palace could be doing what everyone else is, settling down to ride out his last few days on Earth. Instead, he continues his search for his sister, Nico. The last he heard, she’d joined a group that apparently had a solution to destroy the asteroid before it struck the planet.

His search takes him to an abandoned police station in Ohio. His sidekicks on this journey are his ever faithful dog, Houdini, and Cortez, a former criminal.  At the police station it seems as if the world has already ceased to function. Officers either fled their posts when they heard news of the asteroid or were killed protecting what modicum of society still existed. There, they find a young woman on the brink of death, her throat slit in a failed attempt at her life. Palace knows his sister is some how tied to this police station. As they wait for the young woman to regain consciousness, they discover evidence that may indicate Nico and her group are buried in a bunker beneath the police station. Time is not their friend. While Palace may not be able to stop the end of life as they know it, but when the end does come he wants to be with Nico.

What Place and Cortez discover, however, is more haunting and chilling than they could have imagined.

It goes without saying that this novel is bleak. The end of the world is imminent, nothing can be done to stop it. Society as we know it has already ceased to exist, people robbing and killing one another to scrape together supplies to ride out to the end.  There is no time for fluff in this storytelling; Winters shells it out to readers without sugar-coating it.  No happy rainbows or butterflies; the world is ending.  Yet rather than being depressing, I found myself to be moved emotionally by Palace’s journey to find his sister.

What makes this novel, and the entire trilogy, stand out as a whole is the superb storytelling. Winters is a genius; mixing dry humor and bits of hope by way of Palace’s character.  Although we know the world is ending, readers will root for him, crossing our fingers in hope that he will track down Nico before the asteroid hits.  As Winters ties together loose ends, wrapping up story lines and answering questions that came about in the previous books, readers are inundated with revelation after revelation, leaving one in a stunned silence until they can fully comprehend what they just read.

As I read, I was wary of how the book was going to end.  I must say, I couldn’t have imagined it any other way. A truly expert piece of storytelling, this trilogy is a must-read.  While I’m sad that it has come to a conclusion, I can’t wait to pick up the first book and start it over again, knowing now what I didn’t know then.  Highly, highly recommended.

 

Check out my reviews of the first two books in the trilogy:

The Last Policeman
Countdown City

TSS: A Week in Review

Yet another wonderfully relaxing summer week.  Teen son was off at Scout camp so we were down to just one child this week. We go through this every summer, yet somehow I forget how demanding of time our youngest is when his older brother is away. We spent the evenings reading and watching movies so it was actually a really fun experience. It’s interesting to see how his personality changes when his older brother is not around!

Yesterday, we spend most of the day working on redoing/clearing out our home office.  We had file cabinets that were not being used that were blocking a huge bay window. Much to my husband’s dismay, I pulled those out and made myself a new reading area.  I’m sitting there now, drinking a coffee, the morning sunlight streaming in. It is quite enjoyable.

The most exciting part of all this was the shelf that my youngest son & I repainted. Shelf space is a premium in our house.  I wanted something small, with purpose, that I could use to hold my review copies.   When I found a rotating (yes, it spins!) bookshelf for $20 at yard sale, I knew it had to be mine:

 

10353510_701698116545960_7691865460006382422_oSo, it’s not the prettiest thing I’ve seen but it fit the purpose.  So I sanded it down, painted it in my favorite color, and voila, a beautiful shelf:

 

BsX_lBUIQAEKxS0Needless to say, this is where I’ll be spending a lot of time, curled up in my reading chair (if I can get the cat to move) with a book!  Most importantly, the new reading space opened up some space the boys have taken over as their own reading nook. They lined up pillows on the floor and have created a really comfortable place for them to read or work on homework.

Here on the blog, I had a pretty excellent few weeks as well. Here’s a quick recap:

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to lose myself in a book once more…have a wonderfully bookish week!

Frightful Friday: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

Frightful Friday is a regular meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.

This week’s featured title is The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier:

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (July 15, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781476734217
  • Source: Publisher

The “Beacon Hill Butcher” was a savage serial killer who plagued Seattle in the mid-1980s. Referred to as “The Butcher” because he chopped off the left hand of his victims, he terrorized the women of Seattle until he was killed by the local police chief, Edward Shank.  Now a retired widower, Edward has given his Seattle home to his grandson, Matt, whom he helped raised, and is now living in an assisted living facility.

Matt’s girlfriend, Sam, is eager to move in, but Matt, an up-and-coming restauranteur, cherishes his independence. Matt quickly begins making renovations on the home. When contractors come across a crate buried in the yard, Matt breaks the lock and uncovers something that will haunt him forever. Torn between telling the authorities and confronting his grandfather, knowing that this revelation will forever taint “the Chief’s” image.

Sam is on her own hunt for answers. An author of true-crime novels, she fervently believes that her mother, Sarah, was one of The Butcher’s victims, despite the fact that she was killed two years after the supposed Butcher was killed.  Not realizing how close her life is tied to real Butcher, Sam uses her connections with the local police to uncover the truth…no matter the cost.

It isn’t until murders resembling that of The Butcher make an appearance that local police decide to take notice.  Not thrilled with the idea that the true Butcher has been free for the past 30 years, they consult the Chief on the case to see if he can uncover anything they missed in the investigations decades before. Truly, they have warning of the devastating truth right before them.

I’ve been a fan of Hillier’s work since discovering her two previous thrillers, Creep and Freak. Hillier quickly established herself as a talented thriller writer and she has exceeded my expectations with this one! While the true identity of The Butcher is quickly revealed to the reader, we are granted to hold first row seats to watch the characters discover the truth. This early revelation certainly doesn’t remove the chilling tone from this novel; several times I found myself jumping and squealing out of fear. The revelations at the end of the novel are stunning, taking even this reader by surprise. The twists and turns are terrifying, preventing readers from suspecting the outcome of this brilliantly gruesome thriller.

While there are some pretty gruesome and explicit scenes, they certainly do not fall out of place in this thriller. The Butcher was known for his depravity, terrorizing and torturing his victims before their deaths.  Hillier expertly captures this truly terrifying character, juxtaposing it with the innocent character of Sam, determined to uncover the identity of her mother’s killer.

I continue to rave about this author and how she has managed to quickly make a name for herself as a truly tremendous thriller writer. I will continue to devour everything she has read, and if you haven’t yet, you are in for a treat. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: The Competition by Marcia Clark

  • Series: A Rachel Knight Novel
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books (July 8, 2014)
  • ISBN: 978031622097
  • Source: Publisher

After a high school is the site of a shooting, LA Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight and her best friend LAPD detective Bailey Keller are assigned to the case.  While the shooters are dead of an apparent mutual shooting, that doesn’t alleviate the pain of the community. Yet as they begin to interview students and other witnesses, the facts don’t add up. Is it possible that the two individuals found in the library, dead, are not the killers but victims as well?  The idea that the shooters are still on the loose is devastating.  Rachel and the police force must find answers before another attack is made on the community. Killers with this type of anger aren’t going to stop on their own, the only way they will be brought down is at the cost of their lives, be it by police or suicide.

And so Rachel embarks upon an investigation that delves deep into the lives and psyche of a killer’s mind. With a number of potential suspects, the investigation isn’t easy.  Just when they think they have the guilty party in their hands, they are blown away to discover the killer has been right in front of them all along. With plans on duplicating and outdoing other mass-killings, everyone in the community is at risk.

This is my first taste of Marcia Clark’s Rachel Knight series. I admit, when the first book was released, all the promotion and hubbub about the book actually eliminated all desire to read it. And come on, she’s Marcia Clark. Anyone alive during the Simpson trial recognizes her.  Yet when people in the book world (I’m talking about you, Erin & Jen!) kept singing the series’ praise, I knew I had to cave and experience it for myself. And believe me, I’m so thrilled that I finally did.  Clark has managed to do the unimaginable, to prove to the world that she is much more than the Marcia Clark who served as prosecutor of this world-recognized case.

The setting and storyline Clark creates is chilling. Unfortunately, our country’s children have been victims of multiple mass-shootings without any hope of an end. I’m not going to start preaching here, leaving it at the idea that we all have a deep and emotional reaction when we hear of a school shooting. Clark captures that and delves deep into it, using her own experience as a prosecuting attorney to inform and educate her readers about this large social problem. She doesn’t sugar-coat anything, delving deep into the type of person capable of such a horrific act. That said, she also shows sensitivity to all involved in such an act, from the victims to their parents, and even the parents of the shooters themselves. All are victims of these heinous crimes.  No one is left untouched.

While it is difficult to remember, killers like these are often victims of mental illness, something snapping in their psyche that forces them to believe that an act like this is the only way to be heard or to get attention. Skilled at hiding their motives, those closest to them are often completely unaware of what is happening right in front of them.  As the mother of a teen myself, while I feel I know my son and believe he could never perform an act like this, I can see how easily it would be for behavior to go unnoticed. Killers don’t wear a sign announcing their intents, in many cases they wear a veil of innocence.

Bottom line: Clark has exceeded any and all of the expectations I had about this book, and the series as a whole. You better believe I’m going to go back and read it from the beginning. While there is sufficient back story on all of the characters, I want to know even more about Rachel Knight and the other cast of characters. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (July 8, 2014)
  • ISBN: 978-0385534833
  • Source: Publisher (egalley)

Emily Shepard is a sixteen year-old only child of parents who work at a nuclear plant in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. She has her fair share of struggles: her parents have been alcoholics most of her life.  This isn’t a secret; everyone knows of Emily’s plight. When a meltdown at the nuclear plant occurs, her father, the chief administrator, is blamed. Both he and Emily’s mother, a communications director, are declared missing after the meltdown, assumed dead.

Emily is certain that others will blame her for her parents’ actions. Lives have been lost, property destroyed, a community devastated all at her parents’ hands. Rather than seeking refuge and safety with others, she lives on the streets, surviving by selling her body. She has a passion for Emily Dickinson novels, and takes the name of one of Dickinson’s friends, Abby Bliss, as her own.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is told from Emily’s standpoint. This isn’t your typical post-disaster novel, for rather than following the saga post-disaster, readers follow Emily through her journey through self-destruction and survival.  She alternates between past and present, the reader playing witness to two seemingly very different characters.  One Emily is strong, caring, and considerate. The other, more destructive Emily, cuts herself, abuses drugs, and has no qualms in giving up her body in order to survive.

Emily’s character, while not admirable at all, is quite dynamic.  Not only has she survived the loss of her parents and family dog, but every scrap of normalcy. She is surrounded by destruction and devastation, reflecting on the calm, yet stark beauty of Dickinson poems to sustain her.  Her choices aren’t always the best, yet despite any evidence pointing toward self-destruction, Emily wants to live. On her own terms, after finding her own answers, she does want to live. She craves a normal life and forgiveness for all the damage her parents have done.

I know I’m not shocking anyone when I mention the talent of Chris Bohjalian. A fan of all of his sixteen novels, I know when I pick up on of Chris’s books that I’m going to be surrendering my heart and soul to that book. This is certainly the case with Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands.  Bohjalian captures Emily with such eloquence that it haunts me. Obvious suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Emily not only captures the reaction of one teen girl in this particular incident, but of the response of anyone after a devastating incident.

For this reason, an obvious one in my belief, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is, in a large part, a dark and difficult book to read.  Yet this is just another piece of evidence of Bohjalian’s brilliant and talented writing. He’s not going to sugar-coat real life, loss and devastation. He expresses it realistically, not covering it with a shroud of happiness and hope.  That’s not to say that this is a novel devoid of hope; for at the end of Emily’s difficult journey readers are granted a feeling of hope, of a future.

The feeling I experienced while reading this novel were bittersweet. The darkness I felt was reminiscent of feelings experienced after many of the devastating acts that have befallen our country, like 9/11 and others. This is Bohjalian’s intent…the title has direct ties to a very recent horror our country faced. I won’t give it away, for that revelation is a turning point that each reader must experience themselves.

While the main character of this novel is a teen girl, I would in no way classify this as a young adult novel. The tone, language, etc. are definitely that of an adult novel. That’s not to say that more mature teens should avoid this, but with the understanding there are some rather mature scenes and language throughout the book.

It goes without saying that I highly, highly recommend this book. It is one with a lasting message, one that will haunt you long after you finish the last pages. You’ll close the book and want to recommended it to someone, just so you can have the shared experience in discussing it. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is a book you will hear a lot about this summer, one that you should not miss.