Review: Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (July 1, 2014)
  • ISBN: 0425272028
  • Source: Publisher

The end of World War II was a pivotal time in our nation’s history.  Despite the struggle and loss brought on by the War, change was in the air, amid feelings of uncertainty intermingled with hope.  New York City’s Grand Central station was the starting point to so many: soldiers returning from war, wives and family members reuniting with their loved ones, individuals ready to embark upon a new beginning, a fresh start.  Bustling with thousands of people passing through it daily, it is also the site of so many emotions: love, loss, and heartbreak.

In Grand Central, a collection of short stories from some of the hottest author’s of women’s fiction (Alyson Richman, Jenna Blum, Sarah McCoy, Melanie Benjamin, Sarah Jio, Erika Robuck, Kristina McMorris, Amanda Hodgkinson, Pam Jenoff, Karen White), each entry focuses on one of these stories of reunion or, in some cases, separation.  Ten stories in total, all sharing the same space and time. The moment I heard of this collection, months ago, I knew it would be brilliant. I was not at all let down.

Each set of characters we are introduced to come from vastly different backgrounds. Women pilots, abused wives about to reunite with the husband that beat them, young women about to start a fresh new life…seemingly very different but all holding on to one thing in common: hope.

I’m not going to go through and break down each story; I feel readers should go in as blind as possible without any hint as to what is to come. Just know that it is simply brilliant, emotional, and breathtaking. I’m not a fan of touchy-feeling, emotional reads.  Yet Grand Central evoked these very feelings from me, leaving me feeling fulfilled, wanting to know more about each of these young women.

Yet what stands out to me most about this novel was actually unexpected and profound. One evening, my teen son asked what I was reading. I began to tell him; I barely got out more than World War II and Grand Central station. He asked to read part of the book…and he read it all. I was certain he was going to come back to me in a matter of moments, turned off by the female characters or their stories. The following day, I took it from him so I could peruse my notes and write my review. Inside, I found post it notes he’d left me, with comments like “This is so sad” and “I didn’t know about this!” or “I want to talk about this.” I was absolutely sold on this novel the first time I read it, but after reading his comments I reread it, wanting to relive the experience as he did. And we talked, for hours about women pilots, pioneers in that field,  of the Lebensborn Program in which young women were given the opportunity to have children in secret, children who would be whisked away and raised by the SS.  This collection of short stories granted me this opportunity with my son, one I will never forget.

I can continue to rave about this book for hours, honestly. Instead, I will close with my highest of recommendations. Truly, a must read for fans of all types: fans of historical fiction, descendants of those who fought in the War, for individuals looking for a truly dynamic collection of short stories.  This is one you will want to talk about, I guarantee. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; First Edition edition (June 10, 2014)
  • ISBN: 0316278157
  • Source: Publisher

Melanie is a unique girl. She spends most of her day locked in a cell. When she is moved, she is restrained in a wheelchair, her arms and legs shackled to hinder movement. She looks forward to going to “school” and, in particular, her teacher Miss Justineau. She has hopes for her future and life as an adult; unfortunately Melanie cannot comprehend why that will never happen. Like any child her age, she craves attention and affection, both of which are forbidden.

There are other children similar to Melanie, studied by a doctor at the facility. Some leave and never return.  Melanie seems to be the only one of the children who contemplates this; the others seem oblivious and go on with their routine.  Then…something happens, throwing off this routine and sending Melanie’s world into an uncontrollable spiral of change.

Set in a post-apocalyptic society, The Girl with All the Gifts alludes to something not quite being right in the world. Rather than being unveiled immediately, small tidbits of information are relayed to the reader as the characters themselves experience it.  This review is intentionally vague because the reader must experience the revelations on their own, free of spoilers or hints of what is to come.

Melanie, the main character, is a truly unique young girl. This novel is a coming-of-age of sorts, as Melanie undergoes quite a transformation mentally and emotionally as she learns what makes her different from those around her. It is impossible not to feel sympathy for her as she undergoes these revelations.  It will tear at readers heartstrings, for Carey so eloquently portrays the feelings Melanie is experiencing in her “transformation.”

The secondary characters are highly involved in Melanie’s transformation, from Miss Justineau, her sympathetic and caring teacher to Dr. Caldwell, who sees the children as merely test subjects, and finally the guards around her. As they each experience Melanie outside the confines of the facility, they each form a better understanding of what, and who, she really is.

The world the author builds is dark and chilling, difficult to fathom at times but chillingly realistic at others.  I have no doubt that this novel stands on its own as a truly unique spin on a seemingly common storyline.  The cover makes the tone of the book apparent; there is no avoiding the fact that this is a taut, intense thriller.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a must-read for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction, particularly those novels that force you to contemplate your own situation, or your response to the situation at hand.  While this review is so vague as to what transpires, trust me to know that the anticipation and revelation will make it well worth it in the end. Highly, highly recommended.

A Month in Review: June 2014


Books Reviewed

Total books reviewed: 11

Top picks of the month:

This is one of those months that I cannot possibly narrow it down to just one favorite, so I won’t :).

My favorites this month are:The Fever by Megan Abbott, A Long Time Gone by Karen White, The Ways of the Dead by Neely Tucker, Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson & Suspicion by Joseph Finder.

Special Events

 

Review: The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books (July 1, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780316254465
  • Source: Publisher

Hannah’s family has been hiding from a horrific monster that has haunted them for generations. The monster is a shape-shifter, able to take on the appearance of another in a matter of moments. Desperate to seek revenge for an act centuries ago, this monster, referred to as Jakab, haunts the women of Hannah’s family.  The string diaries (journals held together with pieces of string) are passed from one generation to the next, survival guides offering a small beacon of hope in this unending chase.

Beginning in Hungary at the turn of the century and spanning to Oxford of the 1970s and present-day, The String Diaries follows the path of the man who started it all, a wealthy young with the ability to assume the shape and life of anyone around him.  Thwarted in the ways of love, he now tracks down descendants of his first love, forcing her descendants to face his deadly wrath.

Yet when he begins to pursue Hannah and her family, he meets a more challenging match.  After he takes everyone near and dear to Hannah, she refuses to relinquish the last person left in her life: her young daughter, Leah. Hannah and Leah were both raised to be prepared for this inevitable battle.  What makes Hannah different than those before her is her refusal to let this nightmare continue. She will stop at nothing to put an end to this curse, sacrificing everything, including her own life, to guarantee her daughter’s future.

The String Diaries is a truly unique blend of a host of genres, including thriller to horror and the supernatural, all with a taste of historical fiction. I’m a fan of classic horror, and was particularly pleased with the ties to folklore. There’s nothing that frustrates me more than a novel with no backing and was therefore pleased to read of Jakab’s chilling story of origin.

While I had little to no connection to the characters from earlier generations, I did quickly bond with Hannah and her young daughter. They lost so much, yet they faced each day with a new determination to overcome this creature that has haunted their family for generations.  The pain they endure is incapacitating, yet they draw on that, along with their love for one another, in order to persevere.

Without giving anything away, the only thing I didn’t enjoy was the ending.  At times it felt far-fetched, others it felt too convenient.  All that said, the pros of this truly outstanding, yet simultaneously chilling, debut novel clearly outweighed the negatives. I can’t wait to hear more from this author; I’m thrilled to see a sequel is already in the works. Highly recommended.

Summer Shorts ’14 Blog Hop: The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

To continue with my celebration (although unfortunately limited!) of Audiobook Month, I’m extremely excited to be participating in Summer Shorts ’14: 

The audiobook community is giving back! Spoken Freely, a group of more than 40 professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) by offering Summer Shorts ’14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.

Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and essays will be released online each day via Going Public, as well as on various author and book blogs. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, pieces will be available for free online listening on their day of release. As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Media in support of ProLiteracy, there are over 20 additional tracks only available via the compilation download.You can purchase the collection HERE. Special pricing of $9.99 through June 30th, in celebration of JIAM. $14.99 from July 1st forward.

How can I resist participation in such an outstanding program?! And, given my appreciation of the horror genre, I couldn’t resist when given the opportunity to feature a short story by the great Edgar Allan Poe,  The Cask of Amontillado.  In this short story, a man is seeking revenge against an acquaintance, whom he believes,  has insulted him.  Like many of Poe’s other works, it involves the concept of being buried alive!

This narration is unique one.  Presented by William Dufris/AudioComics Company,  listeners will be delighted with this full-cast “audio movie” performance!

There is a full slate of other blogs participating in this blog hop! Following is just a sampling!


Paul Michael Garcia
Yard Waste, by Steven LaFond – w/author Steven LaFond @ My Bookish Ways

Mike ChamberlainThe Statement of Randolph Carter, by H.P. Lovecraft @ MV Freeman’s blog

John McLainThe Black Cat, by Edgar Allan Poe @ Going Public

Dawn HarveySomething as Big as a Mountain, by Jane Cawthorne, w/author Jane Cawthorne at My Books, My Life

 

To learn more about this projects and visit more blog stops on the tour, visit the Going Public Project website!

 

 

Review: Eyes on You by Kate White

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 24, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780061576638
  • Source: Publisher

It started with a nasty note on the night of her book launch, followed by her author photo sliced from the jacket of her book. Soon, however, the attacks against television host and, now author, Robin Trainer increased quickly with severity.  After losing her on-air job a few years ago and an emotional divorce, Robin’s life is finally on an upward climb. Someone, however, is obviously jealous of Robin’s increase in popularity and is out to stop her, at any cost.

Robin struggles to find the individual responsible for these atrocious acts, unfortunately not soon enough.  The life and career she so carefully and diligently built up begins to collapse around her. Rather than finding evidence to prove someone close to her is responsible for these wrong-doings, everyone begins to suspect Robin herself. Her past and a torrential relationship with her stepmother comes to light, further evidence to indicate Robin is responsible for these incidents as a plea for attention. Robin watches as everything she’s held important is ripped from her, realizing with fear that this individual won’t stop until Robin’s life is taken as well. She begins to work on her own to develop a case to prove that she is under attack by someone, requiring people from her past to come forth and speak in her defense. As she struggles to prove her case, she’s challenged with keeping information about her personal life and the past from the public’s prying eyes.

Eyes on You is a chilling exploration of the cost of fame. Readers follow Robin as she questions everyone around her, no one completely innocent in her eyes. She’s left with very few people she can trust, everyone a potential adversary in this race to prove her innocence and protect her life.  What starts out as a slow progression of attacks quickly builds into a strong and steady vengeful attack toward Robin’s life itself. The attacks against her are terrifying; readers will be at the each of their seats with every turn of the page. A truly addictive and intense read, it will be difficult for readers to not devour this thriller in one sitting. Highly recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with an opportunity to review this title. Please be sure to check out the other stops in this tour.

Summer Book Preview: July 2014, Part II

Yesterday, I shared the first part of my most anticipated books of July post.  Today, I’m pleased to share with you the second part of this list!  I’ve included the publisher’s summary and an option to pre-order by clicking on the book image or title.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch  (July 10)

Yesterday cannot last forever…
A decade has passed since the city of Pittsburgh was reduced to ash.
While the rest of the world has moved on, losing itself in the noise of a media-glutted future, survivor John Dominic Blaxton remains obsessed with the past. Grieving for his wife and unborn child who perished in the blast, Dominic relives his lost life by immersing in the Archive—a fully interactive digital reconstruction of Pittsburgh, accessible to anyone who wants to visit the places they remember and the people they loved.

Dominic investigates deaths recorded in the Archive to help close cases long since grown cold, but when he discovers glitches in the code surrounding a crime scene—the body of a beautiful woman abandoned in a muddy park that he’s convinced someone tried to delete from the Archive—his cycle of grief is shattered.

With nothing left to lose, Dominic tracks the murder through a web of deceit that takes him from the darkest corners of the Archive to the ruins of the city itself, leading him into the heart of a nightmare more horrific than anything he could have imagined.

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) by Deborah Harkness (July 15):

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

Half a King (Shattered Sea)by Joe Abercrombie (July 15)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Red Country comes Half a King, the first book in a stirring new epic fantasy trilogy. A blockbuster breakout that will appeal to fans of George R. R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Scott Lynch.

Yarvi is the unlikely heir to the throne-a clever, thoughtful boy with a crippled hand who feels out of place in a violent, Viking-like society. When his father is murdered, Yarvi becomes the king-and begins a journey that will change him, and the kingdom, forever.

Owen’s Daughter by Jo-Ann Mapson (July 15)

Two women—one a young mother newly out of rehab, the other just diagnosed with a progressive disease—must carve out new lives for themselves in a changing landscape.

Skye Elliot is given a choice after a car accident—jail or rehab—and her ex-husband, a bull rider who introduced her to the party scene, gets custody of their four-year-old daughter Gracie. It takes Skye eight months to get clean, but the day she is released, she has one plan: to be a good mother—better, at least, than Skye’s own selfish mother and absent dad. But she has to find Gracie first.

When no one shows up to pick up Skye from the center, she’s devastated at the number of bridges she’s burned. Then a surprise visitor arrives on horseback, leading Skye’s horse Lightning alongside. Together they set off to find Gracie, and to forge a relationship that transcends the hurt and anger that’s been brewing for almost a decade.

Owen Garret, a farrier and recovering alcoholic himself, has been in prison, yet still pines after his lost love, painter Margaret Yearwood, whom he let go to clear his name. But as can happen in magical and mysterious Santa Fe, Owen and Margaret’s circles cross, and they find each other, complete with old baggage and new.

The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace (July 15)

Outside London behind a stone wall stands Lake House, a private asylum for genteel women of a delicate nature. In the winter of 1859, recently married Anna Palmer becomes its newest arrival, tricked by her husband into leaving home, incarcerated against her will, and declared hysterical and unhinged. With no doubts as to her sanity, Anna is convinced that she will be released as soon as she can tell her story. But Anna learns that liberty will not come easily. The longer she remains at Lake House, the more she realizes that—like the ethereal bridge over the asylum’s lake—nothing is as it appears. She begins to experience strange visions and memories that may lead her to the truth about her past, herself, and to freedom…or lead her so far into the recesses of her mind that she may never escape.

Set in Victorian England, as superstitions collide with a new psychological understanding, novelist Wendy Wallace “masterfully creates an atmosphere of utter claustrophobia and dread, intermingled with the ever-present horror of the reality of women’s minimal rights in the nineteenth century” (Publishers Weekly). The Painted Bridge is a tale of self-discovery, secrets, and a search for the truth in a world where the line between madness and sanity seems perilously thin.

The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier (July 15)

A rash of grisly serial murders plagued Seattle until the infamous “Beacon Hill Butcher” was finally hunted down and killed by police chief Edward Shank in 1985. Now, some thirty years later, Shank, retired and widowed, is giving up his large rambling Victorian house to his grandson Matt, whom he helped raise.

Settling back into his childhood home and doing some renovations in the backyard to make the house feel like his own, Matt, a young up-and-coming chef and restaurateur, stumbles upon a locked crate he’s never seen before. Curious, he picks the padlock and makes a discovery so gruesome it will forever haunt him… Faced with this deep dark family secret, Matt must decide whether to keep what he knows buried in the past, go to the police, or take matters into his own hands.

Meanwhile Matt’s girlfriend, Sam, has always suspected that her mother was murdered by the Beacon Hill Butcher—two years after the supposed Butcher was gunned down. As she pursues leads that will prove her right, Sam heads right into the path of Matt’s terrible secret.

A thriller with taut, fast-paced suspense, and twists around every corner, The Butcher will keep you guessing until the bitter, bloody end.

Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen (July 15)

It is 1938 when Eveline, a young bride, follows her husband into the wilderness of Minnesota. Though their cabin is rundown, they have a river full of fish, a garden out back, and a new baby boy named Hux. But when Emil leaves to take care of his sick father, the unthinkable happens: a stranger arrives, and Eveline becomes pregnant. She gives the child away, and while Hux grows up hunting and fishing in the woods with his parents, his sister, Naamah, is raised an orphan. Years later, haunted by the knowledge of this forsaken girl, Hux decides to find his sister and bring her home to the cabin. But Naamah, even wilder than the wilderness that surrounds them, may make it impossible for Hux to ever tame her, to ever make up for all that she, and they, have lost. Set before a backdrop of vanishing forest, this is a luminous novel of love, regret, and hope.

World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters (July 15)

Critically acclaimed author Ben H. Winters delivers this explosive final installment in the Edgar Award winning Last Policeman series. With the doomsday asteroid looming, Detective Hank Palace has found sanctuary in the woods of New England, secure in a well-stocked safe house with other onetime members of the Concord police force. But with time ticking away before the asteroid makes landfall, Hank’s safety is only relative, and his only relative-his sister Nico-isn’t safe. Soon, it’s clear that there’s more than one earth-shattering revelation on the horizon, and it’s up to Hank to solve the puzzle before time runs out…for everyone.

The House of Small Shadowsby Adam Nevill (July 15)

A young woman with past psychological issues is hired to catalog a cache of antique dolls and puppets belonging to a wildly eccentric late millionaire in the English countryside.

Catherine’s last job ended badly. Corporate bullying at a top antiques publication saw her fired and forced to leave London, but she was determined to get her life back. A new job and a few therapists later, things look much brighter. Especially when a challenging new project presents itself to catalogue the late M. H. Mason’s wildly eccentric cache of antique dolls and puppets. Rarest of all, she’ll get to examine his elaborate displays of posed, costumed and preserved animals, depicting bloody scenes from World War II.  Catherine can’t believe her luck when Mason’s elderly niece invites her to stay at Red House itself, where she maintains the collection until his niece exposes her to the dark message behind her uncle’s “Art.” Catherine tries to concentrate on the job, but Mason’s damaged visions begin to raise dark shadows from her own past. Shadows she’d hoped therapy had finally erased.  Soon the barriers between reality, sanity and memory start to merge and some truths seem too terrible to be real…

Whew! There you have it; all the books I’m looking forward to in July. Did I miss any? Which books in particular are you most looking forward to?

Summer Book Preview: July 2014, Part I

School is over and our crazy, hectic schedule is slowing down a bit. Ahhh, summer is truly here. Weekends are spent cooking out and sitting on the patio with a book in hand.  One would think the publishing world would slow down a bit with books but alas, the opposite seems to be the case.  Quite a few books are coming out in July that I’m excited about.  

So, hide (or take out!) your wallets! I’ve included the publisher’s summary and an opportunity to preorder by clicking on the book title or image!

How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer (July 1)

Beyond the skyline of Toledo stands the Toledo Institute of Astronomy, the nation’s premier center of astronomical discovery and a beacon of scientific learning for astronomers far and wide. One of these is George Dermont, a dreamer and a man of deep faith, who’s trying to prove the scientific existence of a Gateway to God, and speaks to ancient gods and believes they speak back. Its newest star is Irene Sparks, a pragmatist and mathematician invited to lead the Institute’s work on a massive superconductor being constructed below Toledo. This would be a scientist’s dream come true, but it’s particularly poignant for Irene who has been in self-imposed exile from Toledo and her estranged alcoholic mother, Bernice. When Bernice dies unexpectedly, Irene resolves to return to Toledo, and sets in motion a series of events which place George and Irene on a collision course with love, destiny and fate.

George and Irene were born to be together. Literally. Their mothers, friends since childhood, hatched a plan to get pregnant together, raise the children together and then separate them so as to become each other’s soulmates as adults. Can true love exist if engineered from birth?

 

 

The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases by Deborah Halber (July 1)

The Skeleton Crew provides an entree into the gritty and tumultuous world of Sherlock Holmes–wannabes who race to beat out law enforcement—and one another—at matching missing persons with unidentified remains. In America today, upwards of forty thousand people are dead and unaccounted for. These murder, suicide, and accident victims, separated from their names, are being adopted by the bizarre online world of amateur sleuths. It’s DIY CSI. The web sleuths pore over facial reconstructions (a sort of Facebook for the dead) and other online clues as they vie to solve cold cases and tally up personal scorecards of dead bodies. The Skeleton Crew delves into the macabre underside of the Internet, the fleeting nature of identity, and how even the most ordinary citizen with a laptop and a knack for puzzles can reinvent herself as a web sleuth

 

Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion (July 1)

Ten of the finest voices in women’s fiction today share stories set on the same day after the end of World War II at one of New York City’s most iconic landmarks…
A war bride awaits the arrival of her GI husband at the platform…
A Holocaust survivor works at the Oyster Bar, where a customer reminds him of his late mother…
A Hollywood hopeful anticipates her first screen test and a chance at stardom in the Kissing Room…
On any particular day, thousands upon thousands of people pass through New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, through the whispering gallery, beneath the ceiling of stars, and past the information booth and its beckoning four-faced clock, to whatever destination is calling them. It is a place where people come to say hello and good-bye. And each person has a story to tell. Now, ten bestselling authors inspired by this iconic landmark have created their own stories, set on the same day, just after the end of World War II, in a time of hope, uncertainty, change, and renewal….

Featuring stories from

Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife
Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us
Amanda Hodgkinson, New York Times bestselling author of 22 Britannia Road
Pam Jenoff, bestselling author of The Ambassador’s Daughter
Sarah Jio, New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter
Sarah McCoy, bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter
Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves
Alyson Richman, bestselling author of The Lost Wife
Erika Robuck, critically acclaimed author of Hemingway’s Girl

Conversion by Katherine Howe (July 1)

It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First Clara Rutherford starts having loud, uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. More students and stranger symptoms follow: seizures, body vibration, violent coughing fits. The media descends on Danvers, MA, as school officials, angry parents and the board of health scramble to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? But Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago….

 

The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones (July 1)

A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster: a man with a relentless obsession who can take on any identity. The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night–her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves? Stephen Lloyd Jones’s debut novel is a sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion–a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them. If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.

 

Forty Acres by Dwayne Alexander Smith (July 1)

What if overcoming the legacy of American slavery meant bringing back that very institution? A young black attorney is thrown headlong into controversial issues of race and power in this page-turning and provocative new novel.

Martin Grey, a smart, talented black lawyer working out of a storefront in Queens, becomes friendly with a group of some of the most powerful, wealthy, and esteemed black men in America. He’s dazzled by what they’ve accomplished, and they seem to think he has the potential to be as successful as they are. They invite him for a weekend away from it all—no wives, no cell phones, no talk of business. But far from home and cut off from everyone he loves, he discovers a disturbing secret that challenges some of his deepest convictions…

Martin finds out that his glittering new friends are part of a secret society dedicated to the preservation of the institution of slavery—but this time around, the black men are called “Master.” Joining them seems to guarantee a future without limits; rebuking them almost certainly guarantees his death. Trapped inside a picture-perfect, make-believe world that is home to a frightening reality, Martin must find a way out that will allow him to stay alive without becoming the very thing he hates.

 

One Plus One by JoJo Moyes (July 1)

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

 

 

Dollbaby by Laura Lane Mcneal (July 3)

When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, her mother unceremoniously deposits Ibby with her eccentric grandmother Fannie and throws in her father’s urn for good measure. Fannie’s New Orleans house is like no place Ibby has ever been—and Fannie, who has a tendency to end up in the local asylum—is like no one she has ever met. Fortunately, Fannie’s black cook, Queenie, and her smart-mouthed daughter, Dollbaby, take it upon themselves to initiate Ibby into the ways of the South, both its grand traditions and its darkest secrets.
 
For Fannie’s own family history is fraught with tragedy, hidden behind the closed rooms in her ornate Garden District mansion. It will take Ibby’s arrival to begin to unlock the mysteries there. And it will take Queenie and Dollbaby’s hard-won wisdom to show Ibby that family can sometimes be found in the least expected places.
 
For fans of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and The HelpDollbaby brings to life the charm and unrest of 1960s New Orleans through the eyes of a young girl learning to understand race for the first time.

 

California by Edan Lepucki (July 8)

The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they’ve left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable in the face of hardship and isolation. Mourning a past they can’t reclaim, they seek solace in each other. But the tentative existence they’ve built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she’s pregnant.

Terrified of the unknown and unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses dangers of its own. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent, California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind’s dark nature and deep-seated resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.

 

 
The Competition by Marcia Clark (July 8)

 A Columbine-style shooting at a high school in the San Fernando Valley has left a community shaken to its core. Two students are identified as the killers. Both are dead, believed to have committed a mutual suicide. In the aftermath of the shooting, LA Special Trials prosecutor Rachel Knight teams up with her best girlfriend, LAPD detective Bailey Keller. As Rachel and Bailey interview students at the high school, they realize that the facts don’t add up. Could it be that the students suspected of being the shooters are actually victims? And if so, does that mean that the real killers are still on the loose? A dramatic leap forward in Marcia Clark’s highly acclaimed Rachel Knight series, The Competition is an unforgettable story that will stay with readers long after the last page has been turned.

Can you believe this just covers the first week of July releases? An insane amount of excellent books are releasing in July! Stay tuned for the second half of my most anticipated books of July list tomorrow!

 

Review: All Day and a Night by Alafair Burke

  • Series: Ellie Hatcher
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 10, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780062208385
  • Source: Publisher

When therapist Helen Brunswick is found murdered in her Park Slope office, blame immediately falls to her estranged husband.  Then the District Attorney’s office receives an anonymous letter detailing aspects of the crime not made available to the public,  behavior eerily similar to a twenty-year-old case. In that case, Anthony Amaro was convicted of murder and for the past two decades has been serving time for his crime. Now, with this new information available, Amaro is requesting release from prison on the grounds that he was wrongly accused.

NYPD Detectives Ellie Hatcher and JJ Rogan are brought in to reevaluate the the investigation that led to Amaro’s arrest. Ellie’s relationship with the lead prosecutor on the case has her questioning her loyalties. They have few allies in this search; everyone is certain Amaro is the guilty party.  In a surprising move, Carrie Blank, the half-sister of one of Amaro’s victims, joins the legal team led by a head strong celebrity lawyer to defend Amaro. Carrie does so more as a means to get answers to questions surrounding her sister’s death, not necessarily because she believes Amaro is innocent. Yet as each side of the investigation digs through past, all evidence takes them back to Carrie’s hometown.  Someone is trying to prevent the past from being revealed, influential people in high positions of power want these secrets to remain buried, no matter the cost.

This is the fifth book in the Ellie Hatcher series, but the tenth book written by former prosecutor Alafair Burke.  While I have read only a few of the previous books, I didn’t feel as though I was missing out on a great deal of content or back story. Burke excels at creating and developing her characters and it was able to reacquaint myself with the characters with great ease.  Her obvious and apparent knowledge and familiarity with criminal law most certainly shines through. The legal aspects of the novel are accurate, explained in layman’s terms rather than technical legal-ease. The intense pacing of the storyline and the gradual reveal instantly reminded me of why I am such a fan of Burke’s writing.  It captures you from the beginning, patiently builds the storyline and characters, and ends with a stunning yet satisfying conclusion.

Bottom line: All Day and a Night is just another piece of evidence to prove the talent of the great Alafair Burke.  A classic detective series at it’s finest, I look forward to going back and reading more of the books in this series. Highly, highly recommended.

Review: Never Look Back by Clare Donoghue

  • Series: Mike Lockyer Novels (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (June 10, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 9781250046079
  • Source: Publisher

Three young women are murdered in south London, the killer becoming increasingly brazen with victim. Detective Inspector Mike Lockyer, the head of homicide, and Detective Sergeant Jane Bennett are struggling to find a connection between the victims. When the most recent victim resembles Lockyer’s own daughter, his determination to bring the killer to justice becomes stronger. Eventually, a connection is found, but not before more innocent women are killed.

Sarah Grainger was once an outgoing and social London photographer. For the past several months, however, she’s secluded herself in her apartment, attempting to allude a stalker that follows her every move. When the stalker’s actions begin to intensify, she files a complaint with the police. Recent attempts to do the same have been met with less than desirable outcomes. To Sarah’s luck, however, she’s introduced to Lockyer after the police realize her stalker’s behavior parallels that of the killer. The stalker has information he is desperate to share with Sarah, information vital to Lockyer’s homicide investigation.

Never Look Back is a cleverly written debut, the first in a series featuring DI Mike Lockyer. The character Donoghue creates in Lockyer is a crafted and dynamic one.  She reveals shades of his character slowly through his police work and his relationships with his daughter.  In this first book alone, Donoghue has wielded a character both strong and sympathetic, a characteristic demanded for a successful new series.

Additionally, Donoghue expertly captures the terror experienced by Grainger, her character brimming with fear as she faces the endless phone calls and messages left by her stalker. Readers will find themselves aware of their surroundings, looking for a person that stands out in the crowd, wary of every move they make.

The atmosphere generated is wholly chilling, the reader granted access into the consciousness of not only Lockyer and Grainger but of the stalker as well.  It will be impossible for even the most seasoned thriller reader to not get chills while reading this novel, the hairs on the back of your neck raising with each terrifying scene.  This is just the first in a new procedural series, I wait impatiently for more from Donoghue. Highly, highly recommended.