Review: Haunted Stuff: Demonic Dolls, Screaming Skulls & Other Creepy Collectibles by Stacey Graham

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Publications (August 8, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0738739081
  • Source: Author

There’s a reason so many of us find dolls to be creepy. Their uncanny likeness to human children. Their lifelike eyes and expressions. Horror movies often pick up on this fear, manipulating our terror by focusing on a demonic doll that torments anyone that crosses its path.

Sometimes, however, our fears are validated when we learn of dolls and other inanimate objects that seem to have a ghostly presence tied to it. In Haunted Stuff: Demonic Dolls, Screaming Skulls & Other Creepy Collectibles, Graham examines a host of reports of haunted objects and places, from skulls refusing to be removed from their homes to portraits that transform right before one’s eyes.

As a fan of antique stores, flea markets, and yard sales, I’ve always been wary of sinister feelings I experience when I handle a particular object. Graham has evidence to prove that objects close to a person can hold on to their essence long after that person has passed.  Some of the more chilling segments hit me quite close to home…hauntings that take place in the very town in which I live, or sites that I have visited myself.

As an avid reader and viewer of anything remotely ghostlike, I was familiar with a few of the objects Graham featured.  A startling number were new to me. Unlike other books of this sort, Graham provides readers with advice on how to deal with haunted objects they experience and provides testimony by the victims of these haunted objects. Each segment is brief yet vivid with detail. Additionally, Graham inserts her own experience in ghostly matters, adding a wholly personal and therefore believable spin to this haunting collection. All in all, Graham provides a truly captivating and chilling read.

Haunted Stuff is the perfect reading material for the upcoming Halloween season, or to read at a campfire late at night. The cover alone sends chills down my spine! As a writer “about the spookier side of life,” Graham has degrees in both history and archaeology/anthropology. She knows her stuff when it comes to haunted history.

If you are looking for a book that will give you goosebumps, sending chills down your spine, Haunted Stuff: Demonic Dolls, Screaming Skulls & Other Creepy Collectibles is the book for you. A must read this Halloween season. Highly recommended.

Come back tomorrow for a spooktacular guest post from Stacey Graham herself!

A Month in Review: July 2014

 

Wow! I can’t believe it’s August already. Where did the summer go!? In just a few weeks, my boys will be going back to school and we’ll be back to our insanely busy schedule.  I need to get going on my reading!  First, let’s look back on what happened on the blog in July.

Books Reviewed

Total books reviewed: 12

Pick of the month: Why do I even bother? When was the last time I picked just one book? So this month, I won’t even narrow it down to my top two or three. They were all excellent!

Special Events

What books am I looking forward to in August?

Summer Book Preview: August 2014, Part I
Summer Book Preview: August 2014, Part II

SubscriberBonus

You may remember my post mentioning I wanted to do something to give back to my subscribers: hosting a monthly giveaway of all the print books reviewed that month. Well, here is your opportunity!

Now, many of the copies I review are electronic and unfortunately there is no way for me to share those titles. So, following are the print copies the selected winner will receive:

How do you enter to win? Simply fill out the form below. You must be a subscriber of this blog in order to win (I will check before selecting the winner).  I don’t care if you’ve been a subscriber for years or if you just signed up. The winner will be contacted next Friday, August 8. Since I am paying for the shipping, open to US & Canadian residents only. Good luck!

Review: A Better World by Marcus Sakey

  • Series: The Brilliance Saga, Book Two (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (June 17, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9781477823941
  • Source: Publisher

The world first became aware of the brilliants in 1980. Approximately 1% of the world’s population were born with gifts that set them apart from everyone else. At a young age, children are tested for special abilities. If found to be gifted, they are sent off to an institution where their powers are fine-tuned. For the last three decades, tension has been growing between the brilliants and the “norms.”  A battle is raging. A terrorist led by the brilliants cripples shipments to three major cities. Without power and the most basic of supplies, citizens are scared and confused. Barricades prevent them from seeking refuge elsewhere.

Nick Cooper is a brilliant, his ability to read a person’s mannerisms to predict their actions has given him a high-level position with a secretive government agency that eradicates violent brilliants.  In a new role as advisor to the President of the United States. Cooper has a difficult time gauging which side he should belong to. Individuals he was once fighting against have proven themselves to be adversaries. Unfortunately, there is little time to devote to proving one’s allegiance; a group of radical brilliants known as the Children of Darwin are attempting to take down the US government.  Nick Cooper is one of the select few who can put a stop to the chaos and prevent the third World War from commencing.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t review titles published by Amazon. I just don’t. It’s a personal preference that I really don’t sway from. Except in the case of Marcus Sakey. Known by many as a truly talented crime fiction author, Sakey shocked hundreds of readers by leaping into the world of science fiction. Admittedly, I was quite wary of this decision. Yet when Brilliance was released, I was knocked into stunned silence.

Sakey has managed to create a truly brilliant (no pun intended), wholly unique series. Other reviewers have likened the world that Sakey has created to that of X-men, yet I tend to believe it is far more terrorizing. The brilliants Sakey has created are far more plausible and believable than any comic book creation.

In A Better World, the story picks up right at the end of the previous novel. A battle is raging between the brilliants and the norms. It’s hard not to pick up on the social commentary Sakey has weaved into this series. Individuals, born different than others, torn away from their parents’ arms at a young age to be raised in an institution? It isn’t difficult to find parallels in the history of our country.

The intensity of this novel hits you from the start, unrelenting through nearly 400 pages. Like the characters, readers will question whose side they should take, questioning everything they’ve learned so far. Ending with a powerful cliffhanger, Sakey leaves readers with a quick tease as to what is yet to come.

As this is the second book in a series, I do recommend that you start at the beginning with Brilliance. While Sakey does provide a bit of backstory, new readers will have a difficult time catching up with all that transpires. Trust me, it’s well worth the read!

Bottom line: the Brilliance series is a must read for readers of all varieties, from science fiction to thriller to dystopian. You’ll devour the books in no time, counting down the days until the next book is released. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: This Is the Water by Yannick Murphy

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 29, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780062294906
  • Source: Publisher

In a small New England town, preparing for the next swim meet is of utmost importance. Young girls struggle to shave seconds off of their race time, squeezing into too-tight swim suits for an extra advantage. Too busy watching their daughters compete, or their minds straying to issues in their personal lives,  no one is aware of the dark-haired man with a severely wrinkled brow in the audience.  It isn’t until a girl from the swim team is brutally murdered at a rest stop that the parents begin to take notice of the world around them.

Annie is the mother of two girls on the swim team. She is married to Thomas, a man who hasn’t shown her affection in years. Added to her emotional turmoil is her brother’s suicide a few years ago.  Her attention is spent worrying about her marriage, obsessing over her brother’s death, and Paul, the father of another girl on the swim team. Despite her own (albeit strained) marriage and the fact that Paul is married to her friend Chris, Annie becomes obsessed with the attention Paul gives her, despite her graying hair and crow’s feet. After a competition, sharing a dinner alone with Paul, he shares with her a secret from his past with chilling similarities to current events.

In an obvious attempt to shift her attention elsewhere, Paul’s wife, Chris, becomes obsessed with uncovering the killer’s identity.  The serial killer’s actions hit close to home for her family, and Chris goes so far as contacting other families of previous victims in an attempt to get more answers.

As shocking secrets unfold, these callous parents are forced to question their allegiances, forced to make irreparable decisions based on gut instinct in order to prevent any further deaths.

Told in a wholly unique second person narrative, Murphy delves into the chaotic and troubled lives of a small community. The parents (and in many cases, the children) of this swim team are brutal and unrelenting. This is not only an intense and uniquely portrayed thriller, it is a exploration of what happens when obsession takes a dangerous turn.

When I finished reading this novel, I was certain that the formatting ruined it. Initially, I had a hard time concentrating on the storyline, instead focusing on the formatting traits that irritated me. Murphy starts many statements with “This is…” a unique style that had me questioning whether or could, in good conscious, recommend this novel.

As I began to write this review, it suddenly became apparent that the formatting actually added to my experience rather than detracting. It forces the reader to be an outsider, never truly getting inside the minds of the characters. I wouldn’t say we were casual observers, for the detail Murphy uses in her prose, including the personification of everyday objects, forces the reader to become immersed in the setting. The writing style, initially of-putting, soon becomes hypnotic, dialing up the intensity to explosive levels.

Adding to my interest in this unique thriller is the fact that only the reader knows the identity of the killer. The intensity and the tension develops as we follow characters as they get closer and closer to the answer, a finish line of sorts.

Bottom line: While the formatting of this novel may sway readers from truly embracing a genuinely unique thriller, I implore you to embrace it give the novel the patience it is due. It won’t take long before you become transfixed by this truly spectacular thriller.  Highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Be sure to check out the other stops in this tour.

Joint Review/Discussion: The Young World by Chris Weitz

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (July 29, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780316226295
  • Source: Publisher

A mysterious sickness has struck the population. The only survivors are teens; the only thing preventing their death are the hormone binding proteins that ravage the teen body but level out as they reach adulthood. Children under the age of puberty and adults who have passed this stage in life fall victim to this sickness.  The survivors not only have to deal with surviving in a post-apocalyptic world alone, but the knowledge that they too will face the same demise.

Two years later, in New York City, survivors have formed tribes under  a new social order.  Three teens, part of Manhattan’s Washington Square Tribe, decide that rather than sitting around waiting to die, they must find the cause, and eventually a cure, for the sickness. On a visit to the New York Public Library they uncover a scientific journal describing a scientific study that may explain the origins of the sickness.  The location of this study is just a few hundred miles away and the tribe leaves relative safety of their home in an attempt to save society as they know it.

When I first heard about this title several months ago, I knew it would be a book that my teen son would enjoy. He’s just branching out into reading young adult and is a big fan of survivalist stories.  I handed over my review copy and he devoured it in a matter of days. He couldn’t stop talking about it. He bugged me to read it so we could discuss it. So I did. What follows is our discussion of this book (not edited):

 

Jenn: So, John-John, why did you enjoy this book?

John-John: What’s not to enjoy! I mean, a world in which only teens have survived? No adults or younger siblings? Ok, so the fact that all the parents and younger kids are dead is kind of sad. I mean, I guess it would be fun for a while but once it all set it I would be pretty sad. Also: New York City! Ok, I know I’ve never been but if I had to survive a post-apocalyptic world I think I would want to do it in New York City. Or maybe out in the country where no one else could bother me. One of the two.  Think of it: all these well-known tourist spots, free to visit whenever you wanted with no traffic? Sounds pretty exciting to me!

Jenn: It certainly is a unique premise. I’ve read quite a few books (John-John: Understatement of the year!) in which society has fallen for one reason or another. I really liked this one because it’s obvious the author put a lot of thought and research into this explanation. Also, the survivors are only temporary. They too will eventually fall victim to the same fate.  What happens when they all age out of puberty?

John-John: Yeah, that is a bummer. I mean, you have no idea when you are going to die. It could be tomorrow or in a few weeks, or even a few years. Your body is a ticking time bomb, giving no warning to when it’s going to just…stop.

Jenn: So you like the idea of having free reign over New York City? Even with all the other tribes running around?

John-John: Ok, take the fun out of it, Mom!  Yes, all the tribes running around are kind of scary. Maybe at first it would be fun, but the constant fear of a fight is pretty scary.

Jenn: I thought the new social classes that rose up were interesting. They were called tribes, but reminded me of modern-day gangs.

John-John: Yeah, it was pretty scary and intense.  While I liked the idea of a world without adults, the thought of only teens running the world is kind of terrifying. I mean…teens are moody!

Jenn: (Laughs)Understatement of the year! So, let’s talk about what they discovered when they reached the lab. No spoilers, though, ok?

John-John: Ok, spoiler free: Intense. Scary. I don’t know if I felt more hopeful then or more terrified. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Jenn: Exactly. I felt relieved when they reached the lab but what they discovered wasn’t exactly what they were anticipating!

Ok, time to wrap up our feelings about this book. We need to give readers our reason for reading it. I’ll go first!

I really enjoyed reading this because the premise is so unique. I don’t know of another young adult novel like this one.  I also liked the multiple points of view.  We view this new world through the eyes of two survivors, Jefferson (definitely more level-headed and contemplative) and Donna (certainly more emotional and a little on the flaky side) and so we get two very different viewpoints on what has transpired.

John-John: Yes! I don’t think I’ve read anything like this yet.  I really liked the characters. I don’t think Donna was necessarily flaky. I think you think that because you are an adult. I think she was emotional because this was a pretty emotional time. Not only is she concerned about her own survival, her body is going through all kinds of crazy things. I think her behavior is completely understandable.

Jenn: Good point. Looking at it from a teen reader, I see how you could be more sympathetic to the characters!  Any warnings you would like to give to potential readers?

John-John: Ok, I know if I don’t mention it you will. Foul language. There’s quite a bit of it. But honestly, it’s not like I haven’t heard it before. There were some things I didn’t understand or had questions about, but I just asked you. So, if parents are reading this, be prepared to answer questions.  The language used can be intense, but it’s completely understandable given that, you know, the world is over and only teens have survived.  I wouldn’t expect anything different.

Jenn: Very well put.  Yes, I would recommend parents reading along if they have a young teen (John is fourteen) to help explain some of the terminology/what transpires. There is foul language. Quite a bit of it. If you don’t think/want your child to be exposed to this, perhaps this isn’t the book for them. I’m really glad you asked me to read this with you, John. It was certainly a fun experience!

Any last thoughts, John?

John-John: Read this book! It really made me think about a world without my parents and how terrifying that would be. I wanted you to read it so you can experience it with me. Now I want all my friends to read it, too. It has a lot of action, a lot to keep readers excited about reading this book. Most of all, it’s not a “girl book” or a “boy book.” Its a book I think all readers will enjoy!

Jenn: Well said!  I also highly recommend this book, with the disclaimers mentioned above!

 

Week in Review: July 27, 2014

I missed posting a week in review last week. We were in Hampton, VA for my husband’s family reunion. Not a lot of reading time, but plenty of time to enjoy family and some pretty excellent food.

This week, I’ve continued to work on “renovating” our home office. If you missed it, a few weeks ago I repainted a bookshelf to give it a new life. We picked up a reading chair for Justin. The moment he saw it, he had to have it. He thought it looked like a throne!  I think he likes it, what do you think?

JustinReadingChair
After picking up the chair, the next project was working on the wall art. I could only find a few items in stores that I liked (including the “Talk Nerdy to Me” canvas Justin is holding.  So, we decided to make our own!  I printed off some of my favorite bookish quotes and images and framed them using a simple photo mat.  What do you think?

Wallart.jpgCrafty

Next up, a new chair for the desk my husband and I share.  It’s a bit of a challenge for I want antique looking chair that matches our library theme.  John wants a big comfortable desk chair. Hopefully we can find something we both like! The final piece to the redecorating is bookish curtains my mom started making a few years ago. They just need a little more work before I can hang them. I’m thrilled to see it all come together!

In case you missed it, here’s what’s happened on the blog in the last few weeks:

How was your reading week?

Review: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin MIRA (July 29, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780778316558
  • Source: Publisher

Mia Dennett is the daughter of a prominent Chicago judge.  As the black sheep of the family, she doesn’t necessarily have the strongest of relationships with her parents.

One night, Mia waits at a bar for her boyfriend. When he doesn’t show, she instead opts to go home with a stranger, Colin Thatcher.  That decision puts into motion a series of events that will change her family’s life forever.  Within moments of arriving in Colin’s apartment, he changes from a smooth-moving potential one-night stand to a gun-wielding threat.

It’s Colin’s responsibility to abduct Mia and deliver her to his employer. Yet as they are driving to the rendezvous point, Colin suddenly changes his mind, instead taking Mia to a secluded cabin in Minnesota. Evading the police as well as his employers, Colin soon realizes he can never return to his life. Instead, he and Mia camp out in the cabin, both soon realizing they will never be able to return to the life they once knew.

Meanwhile, Mia’s mother Eve and the detective assigned to the case, Gabe Hoffman, desperately try to find answers to questions about Mia’s disappearance. What they eventually uncover will shatter the Dennett family…forever.

Told from the points of view of each of the key players, the novel alternates between “Before” and “After” Mia’s abduction.  Mia spends their time isolated in the cabin to reflect back on her own life as well and the actions that led to her less than stellar relationship with her parents.  Eve, shattered by her daughter’s disappearance, reflects on her relationship with her daughter, also focusing on the decisions and actions that caused their relationship to shatter. Readers are even given a rare glimpse inside the head of Colin, Mia’s abductor, a rare opportunity to understand his motives and what led him to the position he is currently in. Unlike many other thrillers, readers will have a difficult time not sympathizing with Colin’s situation. Always with the best of intentions, circumstances in his life forced him to take a darker path in life.

The truly genuine nature of the characters are one of the many characteristics that make this thriller shine. They aren’t perfect, yet they aren’t particularly horrible either. They are truly well-meaning individuals forced to make unwise decisions due to circumstances in their lives.

From the beginning, readers know the basics of Mia’s abduction.  We know how, and when, but the why is left unanswered until the final mind-blowing pages.  This novel is often compared to Gone Girl, and unfair comparison in my mind. There was nothing desirable or endearing about the characters in Gone Girl, the only similarities are the shocking revelations made throughout the novel. And, unlike Gone Girl, I didn’t want to hurl the book at the wall when these big revelations were made. They made sense to me, not angering me but instead making me appreciate the author’s writing even more.

Bottom line: if you are looking for a twisty, contemplative thriller, The Good Girl is the book for you. Highly, highly recommended.

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!