Category Archives: Simon & Schuster

Review: A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon451 (October 7, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781476776521
  • Source: Publisher

When Maanik, the daughter of India’s ambassador to the United Nations, starts experiencing fits of screaming and terror, child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara is called in for consultation. Maanik was recently witness to an assassination attempt against her father and Caitlin is certain the stress  of the attack is the root of the problem.  Maanik’s condition tears her father away from sensitive peace talks between India and Pakistan. Each moment he spends with his daughter threatens any hope of resolution between the two countries; a war seems imminent.

When Caitlin receives reports of other teenagers experiencing strange symptoms,she wonders if something else is responsible for these seemingly unrelated incidents.  A Haitian student drowns on dry land. An Iranian boy intentionally sets himself on fire.  The root cause of these strange occurrences doesn’t appear to be medically based, so Caitlin leans more toward to metaphysical in an attempt to obtain answers.

In this first book in a trilogy, Anderson and Rovin have crafted a techno-thriller that is so unique, it is certain to captivate the most pickiest of readers.  A gamut of storylines and subplots are revealed, expected in book one of a trilogy.  Their connections are quite vague, likely intentionally to spread out the pacing deliberately throughout the trilogy.

What is developed well, and with great detail, are the characters. Caitlin is a hardworking, single mom. Her exchanges with her son, partially deaf, round out her passionate and thoughtful character. It’s obvious that she doesn’t expect anything in her life to come easy, a fact that certainly rings through in this, her most recent of cases.

After reading this days ago, in one sitting, I’m still struggling to wrap my thoughts around my feelings. There is quite a bit to wrap my mind around; I’m hoping the second book will iron out the questions that are riddling my brain. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy this novel, for it’s reactions and experiences like this, those that aren’t necessarily automatic or certain, that quantify an excellent novel.

Note that I have yet to make the connection between one of the authors, Gillian Anderson, and X-Files. I intentionally refused to acknowledge the connection while reading this novel. I’m assuming many will do the opposite, for now that I have read it, I did feel it had the supernatural feel of the show. Like the show, instead of answering my questions, I found I actually had more by the end.  Does Caitlin’s character have any resemblance to Anderson’s character Scully? No, not really.  While both were medical doctors, Caitlin is far more open to atypical explanations than skeptical Scully every would have been.  The only comparison I would draw is that both are strong and capable women, desperate to find the answers to the unexplainable.

For all these reasons, this is a book that I would honestly recommend to anyone and everyone. For one, I need someone else to read it so I have someone to discuss it with. Secondly, since it covers a wide range of themes and topic points, It’s certainly a read that will generate discussion and chatter. Highly recommended.

Audiobook Review: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio; Unabridged edition (June 3, 2014)
  • Listening Time:14 hrs and 22 mins
  • Narrator: Will Patton
  • ISBN: 9781442371347
  • Source: Personal copy

Hundreds of unemployed, desperate for job placement, line-up in the predawn hours for a job fair.  A driver in a Mercedes plows through the unknowing crowd, killing eight and wounding fifteen. The killer is never apprehended.

Months later, that horrid day still haunts now-retired Detective Bill Hodges. His retirement has been less than thrilling; he spends his days contemplating his own suicide. Then he receives a letter by a main claiming to be the “Mercedes Killer,” eluding at another mass tragedy. Determined to prevent another attack, Hodges awakens from his retirement and once again immerses himself in the mind of the brutal killer.

Brady Hartsfield is the Mercedes killer. He still fantasizes about the rush the killing gave him. Living with his alcoholic mother in his childhood home (the same home where his younger brother met his demise) and working two unrewarding jobs, Brady doesn’t have much else to look forward to than experiencing that rush again.

In this classic tale of good versus evil, it is quite apparent early on that Hodges is the only person who can bring Hartsfield to justice. The attention of the police is elsewhere; they recently apprehended a brutal serial killer. So, using his keen detective skills and his continued law enforcement connections, Hodges risks life and limb to bring Mr. Mercedes to justice.

Using alternating points of view, readers get a glimpse inside the mind of both Hartsfield and Hodges. While this isn’t technically one of King’s horror novels, the demented mind of Brady Hartsfield, to me, is more terrifying than an horror character King has created (yes, even more terrifying than Pennywise).  Filled to the brim with plot twists that will having you yelling expletives, I personally found myself pausing the audiobook and taking a deep breath to absorb it all.  While this isn’t the standard size King novel of 800 pages, it has the tremendously developed characters and details of a much longer novel. Fans of King know that he doesn’t cut corners in his writing; every single word is intentional and has meaning.

A note on the narration: I don’t need to tell you how outstanding a narrator Will Patton is. His voice has the edge required to narrate the voice of a deranged killer and also that of a heartfelt, well-intending retired police officer. I honestly can’t imagine anyone else narrating this book.

So, if you are looking for a Stephen King fix until Revival is released next month, Mr. Mercedes is a must read/listen for you! Highly, highly recommended.

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Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse (September 23, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781481422345
  • Source: Publisher

 

Darcy Patel is a teenage girl won’t be heading off to college like most of her peers. Instead, thanks to the success of a book she wrote in just 30 days, she’s off to New York to pursue her writing career.  She arrives in New York with little knowledge of the city or of the publishing world. She’s quickly taken under the wings of other more seasoned writers. Within a matter of months, she has an apartment, unexpectedly falls in love, and finishes edits on her debut novel, Afterworlds.

Darcy’s novel is about a teen girl, Lizzie, who slips into the Afterworlds after barely surviving a terrorist attack.  The Afterworlds are the spaces between the living and the dead, where recently deceased travel on their way to the afterlife. Since she barely escaped death, Lizzie is now has the ability to see the dead.  Her new ability has bestowed upon her great responsibility to help save the fate of the dead. Unfortunately this new power has little control over the lives of those she cares about in the land of the living.

I’ve been a fan of Westerfeld’s work for some time now. First introduced to his writing by my now teen son, I crave the release of each of his books. I recall a particularly embarrassing moment when I went all fangirl outside a party at Book Expo America a few years ago. I’m certainly not alone in my feelings.  Westerfeld has a talent for crafting unique storylines, taking risks that many others wouldn’t dare.  This is what makes him a truly outstanding writer.

I admit, in reading the premise of this novel I was skeptical. A novel within a novel? How could Westerfeld possibly pull it off?  Well, he did. He surpassed all of my expectations, quickly putting an end to my skepticism.

What makes Afterworlds such a profound read is that Westerfeld succeeds at creating a wholly successful novel within a novel.  Dual storylines are told in alternating chapters.  One would think this would be confusing but it’s not; they each flow quite well together but could easily be read as two stand-alone novels. The protagonist in each are given ample time to develop and grow, each evolving into completely different characters than they started out as.  I quickly became invested in Darcy’s life in the publishing world and her budding love life. The same was true for Lizzie and her understanding of her new powers.  Both were genuine, well-developed teen characters readers are certain to connect with.  They weren’t cookie cutter characters, each richly diverse in their own way.

Westerfeld has given his readers a great gift with Afterworlds.  With a novel at over 600 pages, many writers have the challenge of keeping readers engaged. That certainly wasn’t the case with this one; I devoured most of it in one day.  That is quite an accomplishment! Each story’s pacing is quite different, I think this is what lends to its readability. When one story’s pacing hits a plateau, the other one picks up, never making the reader feel like they are rushing through one just to get back to the other.

The only challenge I had with this novel how to classify the genre. Or perhaps that is one of the selling points; a novel that alludes any one genre, instead encapsulating many!

The ending alludes to a sequel, I certainly hope that is the case. I certainly haven’t had enough of Darcy and Lizzie; I anxiously await the opportunity to reunite with them!  Certain to be enjoyed by readers of all ages, from all different backgrounds, I highly, highly recommend this novel!

Mx3 Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Audiobook)

  • Listening Length: 18 hours and 35 minutes
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio, September 24, 2013
  • Source: Publisher

We’re all familiar with Danny Torrance, the young boy who, with his mother, barely survived a horrific experience at the Overlook Hotel.  Now an adult, Dan Torrance continues to fight the evil that haunts him. Despite promises to avoid becoming an alcoholic like his father, his past haunts him and he succumbs to alcohol. An experience after a drunken stupor causes Dan to hit bottom. He plants his roots in a New Hampshire town with an AA group that supports him and a job in a nursing home that allows him to use his “shining”power to give comfort to those who are passing on. His “talent” has earned him the nickname “Doctor Sleep.”

Dan is contacted by a twelve-year old girl named Abra. She, too, has the shining but it is far more powerful than his own.  She’s witnessed the brutal murder of a young boy who has the shining, his killers torturing him slowly to drain him of his power, his essence, his “steam.”  They are referred to as The True Knot, a tribe of people who travel the highways in a caravan of RVs.  Despite being quasi-immortal, the The True Knot have succumbed to the most horrific of human diseases. Getting enough steam to heal them is of utmost importance. Led by a terrifying woman with a top hat and one, long and horrifying tooth, The True Knot discover Abra and make it their mission to locate her and use her steam to heal their ill.  Together, Dan and Abra begin an epic battle of good versus evil to finally put an end to The True Knot and their deadly reign of terror.

As many of you know, I have been waiting for the release of Doctor Sleep since I was a teen and first read The Shining. When I received and advanced copy of the audiobook of Doctor Sleep for review, I was insane with excitement. Also, however, I was terrified. What if my expectations, my hopes, for this novel were not met.  What if the sequel I had built up in my mind for decades left me disappointed?

Well, reader, my expectations were exceeded. As a child, have you ever woken up on Christmas morning to find a gift that was far beyond anything you could have hoped or dreamed for? That feeling, that overwhelming excitement, is what I experienced in listening to Doctor Sleep.

I don’t dare to compare Doctor Sleep to The Shining. Stephen King was a completely different person when he wrote The Shining. A recovering alcoholic himself, he was battling his own incessant demons. Personally, I believe this is what gave The Shining the intensity and horror we have grown to love.  In writing Doctor Sleep, he has presented himself as a completely changed writer who, over the decades, has undergone a metamorphosis of unparalleled magnitude.  In Doctor Sleep, readers are reunited with characters from Dan’s past and, despite all his attempts to separate himself from what transpired at the Overlook Hotel, Dan is forced to face those demons he once attempted to bury. Dare I say that Doctor Sleep is a more mature version of King? That’s not to say he hasn’t always been a tremendously talented writer, but this most recent novel exemplifies just how much he has evolved over the years.

I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty of the novel. I don’t want to give away anything other than the basic premise. For, like all of King’s books, reading them is an experience that is wholly individual, a trek that one must take alone without any preconceived notions or expectations. Just know that it will be an experience that will haunt you, in the best of ways, long after you finish. For me, personally, it was an experience that ranged from terror to delight. At one point (and you will know what this point is!) I nearly had a car accident while listening, a “revelation” nearly forcing me to rear-end the car in front of me. I went in with anticipation but, as the audiobook ended and Stephen King himself read the author’s note, I was left with a smile.

I listened to the audiobook production of this novel. This is only the second King novel I have experienced this way. Leading up to the release of Doctor Sleep I listened to the recording of The Shining.  Let me tell you, there is something about listening to King’s words read aloud that will send a chill down your spine, terrifying you (in the best of ways, of course.)  Doctor Sleep was narrated by Will Patton and, honestly, I can’t think of anyone (ok, maybe King himself) that could have done a better job. Patton’s voice exuded the terror and horror of this novel, but also picked up on the innocence of Abra herself.  He did a truly outstanding job, a production that will certainly top my favorites of all time.

I could continue to go on and on about how brilliant this novel is. To spare you, however, I will leave you with these final words: this is the novel I have been waiting for my entire life. It is a gift of immeasurable value and importance to me. It has forever sealed, in my mind, the proof that Stephen King is one of our country’s greatest authors of all time. Highly, highly (to infinity!) recommended!

Before I close, a bit of warning: If you haven’t read The Shining, your only experience with the Torrance family was by watching Stanley Kubrick’s film of the same title, I implore you, beg you, to read the novel first before diving in to Doctor Sleep. While Kubrick’s production was terrifying, it only captured a small essence of what Stephen King himself presented in the novel. To truly experience the genius that is The Shining, you must experience it through King’s writing itself. Any other experience pales in comparison.

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TSS: Review: Rivers by Michael Farris Smith


  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 10, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1451699425
  • Source: Publisher

After years of debilitating and destructive hurricanes in the Gulf coast, the United States government, unable to sustain or assist the depleted region, has drawn new boundary lines.  The new boundary, ninety miles north of the coastline, is referred to as the Line. Anyone south of it has signed their own death sentence for no government support, including resources, electricity, military support, shall be provided.

Cohen is one of these people.  His wife and unborn child were killed during evacuation.  He returned to bury them on their family land in Mississippi but has been unable to leave them behind. He is one of the few survivors who continues to live in their home, sustaining himself on a host of carefully collected supplies and food. That is all taken away from him when his home is ransacked, all of his food and supplies taken. Cohen is forced out of his home, determined to recover what has been taken from him.  He encounters a colony of survivors, led by Aggie, a fanatical preacher with horrific plans to repopulate the region. Cohen must come to a difficult decision: does he help the the people Aggie has been holding captive or does he continue his journey to the line…alone?  His decision is influenced by a secret that could be deadly to those individuals whose lives he is trying hard to protect.

Rivers is a novel that is both dark and devastating yet, beneath all the devastation, a semblance of hope remains.  Cohen’s character represents a sense of hope in an area so decimated by nature’s destruction.  His character, up until now, is unable to leave behind the life he once had.  It is only with his assistance that the survivors of Aggie’s “cult” can escape the dangerous region below the Line.

The setting Smith creates is bleak: imagine a South completely destroyed by hurricanes and flooding.  Rivers of water now exist where there were once roads and homes. Long gone are the semblances of a civilized life. What replaces it, a world in which pirate-like individuals brutally murder for a a few gallons of gas, is absolutely chilling.  Smith could have easily politicized this novel, turning it into a rant about our government and its response to devastation by hurricanes like Katrina. However, he does not. Instead, this novel is character-driven.  Their survival, the sense of love and hope that binds them, are what makes this novel excel.

I read this novel in two sittings. Smith’s rich and descriptive writing enveloped me, parts were so eloquently written that I had to pause and read it out loud.  A glimpse of humanity in the midst of devastation, this is a novel that will reside within me for months to come. Highly, highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book.

This week’s featured title is the audiobook production of The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper:

  • Listening Length: 9 hours and 15 minutes
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (March 5, 2013)
  • Source: Publisher

David Ullman is a professor at Columbia, known for his expertise in literature, particularly John Milton’s Paradise Lost. One day, he is approached by woman who offers him the opportunity to travel to Venice, Italy to give his professional opinion on a phenomenon. Indicating that his knowledge of demons makes him the perfect candidate for this request, she offers him a large sum of money to perform this task. David needs a change of pace; his wife has been having an affair with one of his peers and this opportunity would give David and his twelve-year-old daughter, Tess, an opportunity to spend some quality one-on-one time together.

Upon arriving in Venice, however, David realizes he is in over his head. The “phenomenon” he is asked to witness forces him to re-evaluate his skepticism regarding the existence of heaven and hell. Not even in the city more than a day, he informs Tess that they are leaving…immediately.  Before they are able to leave tragedy strikes, sending David on a dark battle with demons, both literal and figurative,  that have haunted him since childhood.

The Demonologist is a truly intense, intellectual examination of good versus evil. Centered around Milton’s Paradise Lost, Pyper takes readers on a journey using clues from this literary work that examines the very root of evil and how it manifests.  The journey David is forced to embark upon is long, dark and deadly, spanning continents and countries. The evil that taunts him has lain dormant for years, first manifesting when David was a child, patiently planning and plotting for the appropriate time to strike.

The reader (or in my case, the listener) follows David on this journey.  He starts out as a man who has withdrawn from his marriage, shadowed by an overwhelming sense of melancholy and despair.  Eventually, armed with a sheer determination to face this evil adversity head-on, David embarks upon a journey of self-awareness and self-actualization, truly transforming into a completely new, more optimistic individual.

I listened to the audiobook production of this novel. The narration of John Bedfrod Lloyd most definitely added to the dark and chilling tone. His deep voice had a cadence to it that sent chills down my spine. I’m not certain I would have had the same experience had I read the print version, for having such a terrifying book read aloud to you adds a completely new dimension to the horror.

A must-read (or listen!) for any fan of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as fans of literary horror. Highly, highly recommended.

 

 

Review: Death of the Demon by Anne Holt

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (June 18, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1451634803
  • Source: Publisher

Twelve-year-old Olav is the newest ward in a foster home outside of Oslo. It isn’t long before the staff realizes something isn’t quite right with Olav, the sheer hatred that shines in his eyes is quite evident. Removed from his mother’s care, Olav makes it apparent that he isn’t pleased with his new home, shouting curses and threats to the staff.

When the director of the foster home, Agnes Vestavik, is found dead at her desk, a kitchen knife plunged through her back and into her heart, Olav becomes the most obvious suspect. Yet he has disappeared from the walls of the foster home, roaming the streets of Oslo alone.

Hanne Wilhelmsen, recently promoted to chief inspector of the Oslo police, is assigned to the case. Working along detective Billy T., Hanne begins to not only investigate the murder but the disappearance of Olav as well. Immediately, she orders an investigation of the foster home and its staff.  Headstrong and independent, Hanne has a difficult time delegating her work and sharing her findings with others assigned to the case.  Her inability to trust others is not only a hindrance at the workplace but at home as well.   When the evidence begins mounting up, suggesting that one of the staff at the foster home is responsible for the director’s death, Hanne can’t shake the feeling that young Olav is somehow responsible. The investigation unveils a wealth of corruption within the fost home, including sordid affairs, fraud and larceny, just to name a few.

Meanwhile, Olav roams the streets alone, struggling to get back home to the mother. As the reader follows the investigation and Olav’s trek, his mother shares insight into his past and the mental illness that causes him to act with such malice and hatred. Starting at his birth, she knew something was wrong with her son.  It took her months to form any sort of bond with him, only when he was bordering on life and death did she have any feeling of love or nurturing toward him. Olav’s inappropriate behavior and poor social skills started when he was quite young, before entering school. This added detail about Olav’s character has the reader guessing, alongside Hanne, if this young boy is evil enough to have committed this horrendous crime.

While this is the third book in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, Death of the Demon is well-suited as a stand-alone novel. Holt does a tremendous job of building up the characters, providing back-story as necessary. Her ability to build up and define each of the characters is so skilled that readers will find the most evil of characters sympathetic.

Holt’s critique and examination of the foster care system is quite enlightening. While she details a wide range of issues and faults with the foster home’s staff, she diminishes it by also noting the sheer amount of love and fondness they have for those in their care. The question remains, however: how much of what happens to those in the governments care can be blamed on inadequacies in the system and not on the individuals themselves?

What I found most remarkable about this novel was the twists and turns Holt takes her reader on, keeping one guessing until quite literally the last several pages of the book. While I can typically deduce the identity of the guilty party early on in a thriller, I found myself grasping at straw with this one. When all is revealed, I still found myself exclaiming “I KNEW IT” even though in fact I did not.

I have a feeling many may have issues with the ending but it is my opinion that it is one of the few plausible ways Holt could have conveyed the truth, without making it obviously apparent. It is Holt’s intent to keep her reader’s guessing, never trusting what is portrayed as the truth, even after the final pages have been turned.

Anne Holt is an Edgar Award nominated author and this novel just adds validity and proof of her sheer talent and skill. While her work is often compared to other Norwegian crime fiction greats, Holt can easily stand on her own as the queen of this subsection of crime fiction. Highly, highly recommended!

Review: These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Original edition (April 10, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1451612540
  • Source: Publisher

Three young women, Cate, Renee, and Abby, have come from vary different backgrounds. They all wind up in New York, each escaping and old life, desperate to start a new one.

Cate is the new features editor for Gloss, a high-end magazine. Her new position is a challenging one as she’s desperate to come up with a unique feature story. She’s encouraged her roommate, Renee, to apply for her old position as beauty editor. While trying to live up to her new position, she can’t help but worry that a lie that might dig out of her past and resurface, potentially destroying her career, and her friendships.

Renee has the qualifications for the job, but her own self-image holds her back. When the three candidates are told the public’s vote will decide who assumes the position, Renee’s issues with her weight put her in a panic. She tries the traditional routes of diet and exercise but with no pay-off. When she discovers diet pills belonging to a former fashion model roommate, she begins taking them, liberally. The side effects of a racing heart, insomnia and fainting don’t sway her to stop using them for the rapid weight loss is exactly what her self-esteem needs.

Abby is the sister of Trey, a simply breathtakingly attractive man that both Cate & Renee have their eyes on.  Abby had the perfect job as a nanny for a gorgeous toddler, Annabelle. This little girl quickly earned a place in her heart, like she was her own child. Burdened with the memories of the death of her brother when she was just a few years older than Annabelle, Abby frequently experiences panic attacks while driving. Uncertain of the cause of these attacks, unable to confront her parents, she is forced to deal with them herself. When her relationship with Annabelle’s father crosses the line into a romantic relationship, Abby is unable to deal with the flood of emotions that overcome her. She leaves her job, racing to New York  where Trey, her salvation, lives.Desperate to help his sister, Trey asks Renee & Cate for help. Abby stays with the two roommates while Trey travels, eventually becoming a permanent addition.

All three girls have seemingly perfect lives. What makes them real, genuine characters is the existence of faults within each of them. The friendship that they share with one another is what brings them together, saves them from the chaos raging in their lives. Pekkanen has this uncanny ability to understand the intricacies of  female relationships, creating completely flawed, yet genuine characters. She doesn’t sugar-coat the issues they are each experiencing, yet lays each of the problems out for her readers to devourer. One can’t help but root for each of these women, finding that we all have a bit of each of them residing inside us.  I saw aspects of my own friendships and relationships in Cate, Renee, and Abby. Upon completing this book, I emailed each of my closest friends just to let them know how much our friendship means to me.

The secondary characters are also ones that we can each identify with. From Trey, the perfect guy, incredibly supportive brother to Nigel, the creepy editor-in-chief of Gloss magazine, they each propel the main characters, in their own (sometimes unique) way, to become the women they seek to be.

Several statements Pekkanen made in her novel ring true to me. Following are just a few samples:

“…the hardest things to talk about are also the most important things to talk about.”

“The process is more important than the result. That’s where the real learning is.”

I believe each of these statements can be applicable to almost any major decision, process, obstacle that we all face in life.

Bottom line: These Girls is a book that one can’t help but savor, devour, in one sitting as I did. Highly recommended.

Review: The Woman Who Wasn’t There:The True Story of an Incredible Deception by Robin Gaby Fisher and Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr.

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (April 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1451652089
  • Source: Publisher

After the tragic events of 9/11, those who survived the terrorist attack sought out others in attempts to seek solace and understanding for the feelings they were experiencing.  One of the women who played an active role in the creation and direction of the World Trade Survivors’ Network was Tania Head, a young woman who escaped the carnage of the  seventy-eighth-floor sky lobby of the south tower. In addition to losing her fiance in the other tower, Tania suffered serious burns and injuries. Her retelling of the experience gave other survivors the courage to step forward themselves and thus begin the healing process.

As one of the leaders and advocates for the 9/11 survivors, she was key in saving the “Survivor Stairway” one of the few remaining pieces of the then demolished buildings, as well as providing survivors the opportunity to tour the grounds of the WTC reconstruction.  However, as time continued, as Tania became more prevalent in the press, questions were raised about her retelling of the tragic events of 9/11. When a New York Times reporter attempts to contact Tania to get answers to some of these questions, Tania would cancel scheduled meetings and interviews. She refused to answer even elementary questions about that day.

Eventually, the truth was revealed. Not only was Tania not a survivor of 9/11, she wasn’t even in the city that day. She didn’t have a fiance who perished in the attack, either. The survivors who relied on her for strength had to undergo yet another period of grief, as if the woman they looked up to for so many years had perished herself.

In The Woman Who Wasn’t There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception, Angelo J. Guglielmo, Jr a film-maker and once friend of Tania Head, shares the unbelievable story of this individual’s desperate attempts for attention and acclaim after an event that rocked out country. It reads like a thriller, seeming to be unbelievable, for how could a woman manipulate those individuals already suffering so tremendously into believing she was one of them?

Once I started this book, I couldn’t stop. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, unable to stop until I finished it. Afterward, I desperately sought to find out why Tania Head would do such a deplorable thing? I found a great deal about this case online. I found myself surprised that I haven’t heard of this story earlier but honestly, so many stories popped up around this time about fake charities and the like I probably glossed over the story.

While the obvious feeling to experience after reading a story like this would be hatred or anger. That said, after I pondered the story over the weekend, there was a happy ending to this story. Despite all the horrible things Tania did, she was able to give hundreds of 9/11 survivors the strength and the confidence to heal, gave them a voice in the construction of the memorial, a voice thus far unheard.

It could be said that this book is once again giving Tania Head undeserved attention and praise, but I implore you to look beyond the story of this woman who betrayed hundreds and instead look at the progress these survivors have made over the years. This is a book that I encourage many to read; those directly affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks may find it too overwhelming to read but I do still encourage them to give it a chance. For ultimately, while there is a great deal of betrayal portrayed, there is a constant glimmer of hope, a glimmer that helped the victims of this tragedy rise up and begin to heal again.  Highly recommended.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

  • Hardcover: 849 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1ST edition (November 8, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1451627289
  • Source: Purchased eBook

November 22, 1963 is a day that forever changed our country, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. If you could go back and time & change this monumental day in our history?  Jake Epping was provided this very opportunity, to step through a portal to the past, with the promise that he would stop JFK’s assassination.  Each time he steps through the portal, he’s only missing from the current world for a matter of minutes. He could spend years in the past, but will return to the present the same day he left.

Before he decides to test the power of the portal by altering the events that took place on 11/22/63, he attempts to change the past of individuals who have made an impact on his life. He does so and learns that while he may have altered the past, the future that subsequently transpires isn’t necessarily a better outcome than the original. Fate and destiny play a key role in this epic novel.

I think I’ve made my fondness of Stephen King’s writing well-known. I admit, when I learned about the premise of this book I was a bit nervous. King, the master of classic horror, taking on time-travel and the Kennedy assassination? I can’t believe I ever doubted the man.

Fans of King’s previous works will appreciate the “Easter eggs” that appear in this novel. A good portion takes place in the town of Derry, Maine.  Fans will recognize this as the setting of a number of King’s novels.  Those new to King’s work won’t be confused by these “flashbacks” of sorts, however.

Additionally, 11/22/63 isn’t your typical horror, actually there isn’t a single element of horror in this book. There is a bit of violence (hello, Kennedy assassination) but nothing overtly gory at all. Most surprising were the emotions I wasn’t expecting to experience while reading this book: sadness, sympathy, and grief. The characters are rich in this novel; it’s nearly impossible to not form a connection with them.

A note on the book’s length: Yes, it is nearly 900 pages. But, with King’s other books, while there may be a few lulls here and there, I really can’t think of any part of the book I’d eliminate.

A note on the book’s cover: It’s gorgeous! The front depicts what transpired that fateful day in Dallas. The back shows the newspaper headline from the “altered” past.

Bottom line: Read it. It’s worth it. I promise!