Book Review: The Visitors

The Visitors by Catherine Burns

First line: Like a white bird, the scream flew up from the depths of the cellar, then became trapped inside Marion’s head.

Summary: Marion, a spinster, living with her brother in their cluttered childhood home, is scared of the secret that is hidden in the cellar. When her brother has a heart attack, she has to face the reality of what he has been hiding. Told through flashbacks and snippets of their past lead you to believe that people are not always what they seem.

Highlights: A slow burning thriller. Little pieces of information are scattered throughout the book leading to theories. I kept thinking I had figured out who and what was happening but then I would second guess myself. Marion and John’s relationship and lifestyle oddly transfixed me. Who are these people? How have they lived this long like this and no one has ever discovered their secret? The end leaves you with a sense of “what happened?” Very unsettling but in a good and spooky way. I had a very tough time putting this down.

Lowlights (or what could have been better): The only problem I found was I kept waiting for some big reveal at the end but it didn’t come. But I wasn’t really disappointed because I still am thinking about the story and the ending and wondering. Who is to blame? Who was the scarier of the siblings?

FYI: Not fast paced but worth every page.

Book review: The Girl With Ghost Eyes

The Girl With Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson was a recent title read by the library’s Hauntingly Good Reads book club.

Cover of The Girl With Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson

First line: I placed a paper shirt into the furnace.

Summary: Li-Lin is a young widow who is also the daughter of a renowned Daoshi exorcist, living in San Francisco’s late 19th-century Chinatown. She also has yin eyes, which lets her see the spirit world. This ability is a shame to her family, along with the death of her husband. Adventure ensues after a sorcerer cripples her father. She is joined by a tiny sidekick on her travels through the spirit world.

Highlights: This book is loaded with Chinese mythology and tradition. It also has an engaging storyline, wonderful characters both good and bad, and a heroine you can’t help but cheer for. It has humor and suspense and sadness and mystery and will make you angry and will make you want to cry.

Lowlights (or what could have been better): The only thing that could be better is if this author would hurry up and write another story that features Li-Lin. I want to go on a another adventure with her.

FYI: If you are at all interested in Chinese mythology/religion/beliefs, or just love a great story, this book is for you.

Book Review: The Good People

The Good People by Hannah Kent

First Line: Nora’s first thought when they brought her the body was that it could not be her husband’s.

Summary: In a small village in Ireland in the early 1800s lived three women. Nora a recent widow, her maid, Mary and the local healer, Nance.  When bad luck starts to befall the village, the people look for someone to blame.  Is the healer responsible for the cows not giving milk?  Did the mysterious child living with the widow cause the death of his grandfather?  Or is it the fairies?  During a cold winter, suspicion and fear cause the people to turn on these women.

Highlights: Beautifully written!  I felt like I was living in the world.  I could feel the dirt, hear the screams, and smell the pipe smoke.  It is fascinating to read stories based on true events.  This one is filled with the folklore of the poor in rural Ireland.  The fact that people believed that a child who was sick or disabled was actually a changeling (a fairy) is astounding.  This book has to be read considering the context.  To modern day standards it seems ridiculous but to the people of the time it made complete sense.  Science was not as far advanced.  People were not taught to read.  Many never left their villages.  The whole time I was hoping for a happy ending even though knowing it will never happen.

Lowlights: The story started out slow as it was building to the main theme.  I kept wondering when the plot described in the summary was going to begin but when it did, I was pulled into this world.  I was very sad about the ending but also pleased with the outcome.

FYI: Read with an idea that these were not modern times.  This is a great lesson in how not that long ago we were burning witches and believing in fairies rather than science and facts.

Book Review: My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me by Jennifer Teege, Nicola Sellmair, and Carolin Sommer (translator)

First line: It is the look on the woman’s face that seems familiar.

Summary: Jennifer Teege was shocked when she learned about her family history while browsing her local library. When she picked up a book and scanned the pictures inside, she was shocked to see her biological mother. As she continued to read, the book followed her mother’s struggle to love her father, Amon Goeth, who was the commandant of the concentration camp depicted in the movie Schindler’s List. Jennifer was adopted at a young age but she had had contact with her biological mother and grandmother as a child. She was never told her family’s past and now she has to come to terms with what they did and did not know.

Dachau (near Munich, Germany)

Highlights: Fascinating story! I have visited Dachau in Germany and felt the heaviness that still surrounds the place. I read this in two days because I had to know more about her and what she learned. The story is interspersed with information and interviews done by one of the coauthors. The pictures were a great addition so I could see what the people looked like.

Lowlights: Some places were a little repetitive. She kept reiterating several key points. I think that it was a strategy to remind the reader but since I read it very quickly they were redundant.

FYI: Originally written in German.

Looking at the rows that once were the barracks.

This book was something I came across when checking in returns and was immediately struck by the title.  I saw the movie Schindler’s List many years ago but I remembered the basics of the story.  I was extremely interested in anything to do with World War II and the Holocaust.  I have read The Diary of Anne Frank, Numbering the Stars by Lois Lowry, The Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene and so many more. I have been able to visit Germany four times and see historical sites but nothing can prepare you for visiting one of the concentration camps.


My first visit to Dachau, the first concentration camp in Germany, was when I was about 10 years old.  It was a scary and disturbing time.  I remember asking to go sit outside because I was getting physically sick. I was able to visit a second time when I was in college and could understand the significance of the place and its history.

I re-watched Schindler’s List recently and was once again shocked by the brutality.  Spielberg and his film convey the heaviness that these places still carry decades later.

It is important to remember these events and learn from them.  As the monument at Dachau says, “Never Again.”

Late September new releases

The first few weeks of school are out of the way, the mornings are a little cooler, and we can always find more excuses reasons to read, right? There are some books that look like they will be great reading as fall makes its way to Kansas. So take a look at a few books we think are worth noticing as the pumpkins start to ripen.

Click on the title to go to the library catalog where you can see if the book is available and put it on hold. Grab your favorite hot drink, find a comfy chair and sit and read for a while!

Sept. 19: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
Jane was raised by her Aunt Magnolia, a deep sea photographer and adjunct professor. But now Jane is a year out of high school and Aunt Magnolia got lost during an expedition to Antarctica a few months ago. Jane is now obsessed with the umbrellas that reflect her dreams. When she is invited to a gala at the island mansion Magnolia told her to absolutely go to if she ever got the chance, Jane goes. What Jane doesn’t know yet is that every choice made in the mansion comes with a reward, or a price.

Cover of The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille
Meet Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, owner of a fishing boat that may be making a trek to Cuba to recover $60,000,000 hidden during the Cuban revolution.

Sept. 19: The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille
Daniel “Mac” MacCormick is a decorated U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan during his 5-year stint as an infantry officer. Now he owns a 42-foot charter fishing boat and is sitting in a bar waiting to hear why he should take a $2,000,000 fare to Cuba. After hearing Sara’s story of the $60,000,000 her grandfather hid during the revolution, he knows that he’ll either come away from this job rich, or he won’t come back at all.

Sept. 26: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Cover of Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
Stephen King co-authored “Sleeping Beauties” with his son Owen King.

This father-and-son collaboration explores the question of what might happen if the women of the world disappeared. From Goodreads: “In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is wildly provocative and gloriously absorbing.”

Sept. 26: The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan (non-fiction)
If you have been to Asheville, North Carolina, and visited the Biltmore Estate, or if you’ve never been to North Carolina and only seen pictures of the Biltmore Estate, this book tells the magnificent story of how the country’s grandest residence was built. However, the book is more than just the story of how a 175,000-square-foot home was built. You’ll also learn the story of George Vanderbilt and Edith Stuyvessant Dresser.

Cover of Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
This book for middle grade readers is a wonderful story about relationships.

Sept. 26: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (for young readers)
From Goodreads: “Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood ‘wishtree’—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this ‘wishtree’ watches over the neighborhood. You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever. “

Book Review: The Breakdown

The Break Down by B.A. Paris

First line: The thunder starts as we’re saying goodbye, leaving each other for the summer holidays ahead.

Summary: Cass is driving down a back road during a storm when she sees a car along the side of the road. She is scared to stop fearing that it could be dangerous. But when she finds out that the woman in the car she saw was her new friend, Jane, and that she was murdered the guilt begins to eat at her. And she cannot seem to remember little pieces of her day. With the recent loss of her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, this is another fear to add on top of the guilt. Are the mysterious phone calls and suspicious man outside her house Jane’s killer? All this is leading Cass to a break down or is it?

Highlights: I was constantly wanting to listen/read this book. Whenever I had free time I would pick it up. I kept having to look back whenever Cass had a memory lapse to check and make sure that I was not forgetting something as well. Alzheimer’s is a scary disease, which I have personally seen with my grandmother so this hit close to home. The ending was perfect for the book. Once all the pieces fall into place and the way that Cass deals with it was exactly how I wanted it to happen.

Lowlights: Even though I loved the ending I felt like it was a little obvious. About ¾ of the way through I had a good idea what was happening but it was still rewarding to read it.

FYI: Quick and fun thriller. Definitely looking forward to reading B.A. Paris’ other book soon.

Book Review: Coming Home

Coming Home by Jack McDevitt

First line: When Alex Benedict graduated high school, his uncle Gabe, the only parent he’d ever known, provided the ultimate gift: a flight to Earth, the home world, the place where everything had started.

Summary: The year is 11,256 C.E. Earth is no longer the only inhabited planet in our galaxy. Thousands of years have passed and new worlds have been discovered but the artifacts from the Golden Age (early space travel) are rare and valuable. Many items have been destroyed or lost as Earth has dealt with flooding and other disasters. When an artifact is brought to Alex and his assistant, Chase, they begin to search how the item was just discovered and where it may have come from.
At the same time, a ship has been missing for 11 years. The passengers are believed to be dead. However, when the ship appears it is only available for a few short hours. For the passengers aboard they believe it has only been 3 days. How are all the people off the ship in such a short time?

Highlights: A very imaginative science fiction novel with a very intriguing plot. This was recommended to me and I was immediately interested. The idea of space travel and that items from our lives are considered ancient artifacts is fascinating. The science is not overwhelming which is perfect for me who has very little scientific knowledge. I liked the mysteries intertwining. I kept trying to think what I would do in the situation if I were stuck on a ship not realizing that 11 years had passed by in the blink of an eye. What would I be willing to do to get back to my family who have moved on? Highly enjoyable novel.

Lowlights: The book is part of the Alex Benedict series but he was in the story very little. It mainly followed the assistant, Chase. We never found out too much about him but those details may have been included in other books in the series.

FYI: Part of a series but can be read as a standalone. It has references to other books in the series but not enough to hinder the reading of this one.

Book Review: The Last Tudor

The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory

First line: I love my father because I know that he will never die.

Summary: The story of the three Grey sisters, heirs to the throne of England. The story is broken into three parts following each of the sisters as they struggle to survive during the reign of their Tudor cousins. Jane is named Queen of England on the death of her cousin, King Edward VI. However, her reign lasts only nine days. Katherine is a young beauty who can only think of love and becoming the heir to the throne. Mary, an invisible member of the court is constantly watching and learning from the mistakes of her sisters.

Highlights: I loved the flow of the narrative. This story felt more like Gregory’s earlier novels. It was more novel than facts and occurrences. I had recently become more interested in the Grey sisters. It was great to have my favorite author cover their lives and loves.

Lowlights: Elizabeth was portrayed as a very vindictive woman. I am sure that she had many faults but part of me wants to continue to think of her as the great queen.

FYI: Long book but very good.

Book Review: The Hamilton Affair

The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs

First line: The boy frowned, pressed a folded handkerchief to his nose, and scanned the crowd for the third time.

Summary: Alexander Hamilton, a Revolutionary War hero and the first Secretary of the Treasury, was born in the Caribbean and moved to the American Colonies to attend college. He was not wealthy but he was brave and smart. Eliza Schuyler, a debutante and daughter of a famous general, is helping the war effort by assisting with the wounded at Valley Forge. When these two young people meet a love story begins. But the story still has its ups and downs even after the war is over.

Highlights: I knew basically nothing about Alexander Hamilton other than what I learned in my history classes, which wasn’t much. I had recently read a book about him but it stopped shortly after his marriage to Eliza. When I found out about the affair he had with Maria Reynolds I was completely shocked. I loved the author’s writing style and the flow of the story. I was completely engrossed in this story and I learned a lot. The pacing is really well done. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read more about the man who has become a pop culture phenomenon.

Lowlights: The political intrigue and problems with fellow founding fathers was a little confusing to me. It may all fall on my lack of detailed knowledge of the founding of the United States and all the problems that went along with it. I never realized that there was so much opposition to the changes and that they believed that Hamilton was interested in being King even though he fought so hard to end the rule of England over the colonies. Some of the pieces with the animosity with the fellow politicians was a little too much but it was building up to what led to the duel with Aaron Burr.

FYI: Great history lesson. Get the information that you missed in high school history.

Early September new releases

The holiday weekend means I’m a little behind this month, but here are some new releases we’re looking forward to this month. I hope you found some time to get some reading in on that last great weekend of the summer.

Yesterday really did seem to be our last blast of summer with temperatures in the Wichita area hovering near 100 degrees. Today feels like the beginning of fall with much cooler temperatures and a cloudy sky! But for us readers, that just means that we can move our reading indoors with a cup of our favorite warm beverage (librarians here are split between coffee and tea, although my favorite is hot cocoa).

Take a look at the titles below and see if something here grabs your interest. You can click on the title of the book to find it in our catalog.

Cover of Lie To Me by J. T. Ellison
A tale of a relationship built on lies, and how it can unravel.

Sept. 5: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison
Where does a life built on lies get Sutton and Ethan Montclair? Not very far it turns out. While it appears that the couple is made for each other, the truth is much darker. They have been consumed by troubles, both personal and financial, and the two both love and hate each other. When Sutton disappears, leaving a note that directs people not to look for her, the lies begin to unravel and Ethan finds himself at the center of the gossip and questions. A thriller full of twists and turns that will have you turning pages.

Sept. 5: All That Makes Life Bright by Josi S. Kilpack
This romance tells the story of Harriet Beecher and her relationship with Calvin Stowe. Harriet has a strong faith in God and believes that God will help her accomplish everything she is meant to be, including a wife, mother, and writer. When Calvin is called away on a European business trip, Harriet begins to wonder about her place in his life as she knows he still misses his first wife. Even when Calvin returns, life is much harder as Harriet tries to fulfill her many roles.

Cover of The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
A new tale from a literary master.

Sept. 5: The Golden House by Salman Rushdie
Another masterful tale from Rushdie, this novel tells the story of the Golden family, from the perspective of their Manhattanite neighbor, confidant and aspiring filmmaker, Rene. Nero Golden is a real-estate tycoon with three adult children. They move into a mansion in downtown Manhattan after immigrating to the United States under mysterious circumstances. Rushdie calls on pop culture, cinema, literature, and current events to tell this story.

Cover of Lines by Suzy Lee
A magical picture book explores the designs a young skater makes on a frozen pond.

Sept. 5: Lines by Suzy Lee (picture book)
From Goodreads: “And magic once again flows from the pencil and imagination of internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee. With the lightest of touches, this masterwork blurs the lines between real and imagined, reminding us why Lee’s books have been lauded around the world, recognized on New York Times Best Illustrated Books lists and nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honor given to children’s book creators. This seemingly simple story about a young skater on a frozen pond will charm the youngest of readers while simultaneously astounding book enthusiasts of any age.”

Sept. 12: Warcross by Marie Lu (young adult—not yet on catalog, but is on order)
For those who log in every day, Warcross is more than just a game. Emika Chen is a teenage hacker who also works as a bounty hunter, searching for those who bet on the game illegally. She needs to make some quick cash, so she takes a risk and hacks into a game, but accidentally glitches herself into the action. She’s convinced she’s going to be arrested, but instead ends up on a mission for the young billionaire creator of the game.

Sept. 12: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Cover of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng creates a simmering suburb in this story of how a secret can upend a community.

Shaker Heights is a carefully planned suburb of Cleveland, from the layout of the roads to the color of the houses. Elena Richardson embodies the ideas behind the suburb perfectly, as she absolutely believes in following the rules. But when Mia Warren moves in — an artist and single mom — and rents a house from the Richardson, life in this carefully ordered community gets upended.