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Author: Ashley Pohlenz
I am a senior library assistant. I am in charge of creating adult book displays that showcase many different books from our library collection.
Being able to work around books is a dream! I read anything but my favorite genres are historical fiction and YA. Give me anything set in Tudor England or teenage fantasy novel and I am set.
First line: The church was grey against a light grey sky, the bell tower, like a watchtower, dark against the darker clouds.
It is 1648 in England. The country is in turmoil. Alinor is a poor
woman living on Sealsea Island with two children. Her husband
disappeared several months before and left his family with nothing. One
night while Alinor is holding vigil at the local church she stumbles
upon a man hiding in the churchyard. He asks for her help to guide him
to the home of the local land owner. She learns that he is a priest who
is working as a spy for the imprisoned King Charles I.
silence about the mysterious visitor she earns the respect of the
Peachey family. As she gains favor from her landlord she also draws the
suspicions of her neighbors. In this time of witchcraft and
superstition, Alinor is in danger of being accused of using spells to
bewitch them to advance her ambitions.
My Thoughts: I
absolutely loved this book. It is a beautiful story. The descriptions of
the land are as vivid as a picture. It is easy to imagine the small
island village in the south of England where life is controlled by the
Alinor is a poor simple woman but she stands out from all
the other people on her island. She is knowledgeable about herbs, she
can read and write. Gregory does an amazing job writing about strong and
interesting women. Alinor has been abandoned by her husband but she is
able to continue to survive using her own gifts.
The time of
Charles I is not one that I am very familiar with. Wikipedia is one of
my best friends while reading about a new era in history. I have heard
of the English Civil War and the Oliver Cromwell but I have never spent
much time reading about it. Gregory did extensive research in order to
bring the turbulent time to life. The fear of witches, the hatred of the
king and the devastating poverty are just a few issues she covers. It
was a time of great change.
Throughout the novel I was
constantly worried for Alinor. She is a wise woman. Many of her
neighbors come to her for help in delivering babies or curing a
sickness. But it is easy for people of the time to turn on women like
her. I kept waiting for something to happen her. I was completely
invested in her life. As I read the last few pages I was praying that it
would not end. I want to know what will happen next for Alinor and her
Last week I was lucky enough to get to travel to Denver and meet Philippa Gregory. My cousin, Alaina, accompanied me to the event. It was a on my bucket list to meet and have a signed copy of one of her books. I was beyond excited to meet her. She was absolutely lovely to listen to. She did several readings from Tidelands and answered audience questions. I love attending author events. For me it is like meeting a movie star. I was literally shaking and nervous. I am so happy that I made the eight hour drive to Denver to meet her. It was surreal.
First line: It was Miguel who called 911 at 4:07 a.m. on an icy Sunday morning.
Vincent and his financial team from Stanhope and Sons is told to attend
a team building exercise on a Friday night. When they arrive they enter
an elevator that takes them up several floors where it stops and the
clues begin. As the team tries to figure out how to get out of the
escape room they realize that the clues are very specific. However, as
the clock clicks on they are not let out of the room. Tension begins to
mount and the team begins to let their fears and secrets come to the
surface. Will they survive the escape room?
Following a popular trend with thrillers now we have a book split into a
two part narrative. We meet Sara Hall, a young business school graduate
who is looking for a job. She lands the job of her dreams at Stanhope
and Sons in New York City. She works on big accounts and makes tons of
money. But the hours are long, the work is grueling and the people are
not very nice.
The other side is the team in the elevator. It is
a group of very unlikeable people stuck in a very tight space together.
I really enjoyed these scenes as their true personalities came to the
forefront. We find out what secrets they have and how truly terrible
they are. I could honestly say that I did not care for any of them but I
was very interested to see where their story ended.
Even though the ending was rather predictable it was loads of fun! Our staff did an escape room for our Christmas party last year. We had a great time. There are tons of clues and just a short amount of time to put them together. If you have a chance to try one you should but maybe not in an elevator. 😉
FYI: Great for fans of Ruth Ware and Shari Lapena.
First line: In the dead of night, during the dreary month of March, the Chelsea Hotel is a quiet place.
Hazel Ridley is from a stage family. Her father spent years on
Broadway, her mother as his manager and her brother was an aspiring
actor but Hazel has never been able to find her big break. She decides
to sign up for the USO tour. When she arrives in Italy she meets Maxine
the leading lady of the troupe and they quickly become close friends.
Hazel’s return to New York City she finds an apartment at the Chelsea
Hotel in order to work on her idea for a play based on her time in the
war. With Maxine as the leading lady it appears that the show is going
to be a hit until her name appears on the list of suspected Communists.
As the Red Scare begins to take over the country, Hazel is worried that
her show and life may not be what she once believed it would be.
Like Davis’ other works, this centers around a New York City landmark,
the Chelsea Hotel. It plays just as much of a role as the characters. It
is the home of creative types during the twentieth century including
Mark Twain, Andy Warhol and Arthur Miller. The hotel has a fascinating
history. As with other historical novels I love to look at pictures. It
is a gorgeous old building.
I learned more about McCarthyism and the Red Scare while reading The Chelsea Girls.
It seems like a scary time. The Cold War is going on. You do not know
who you can trust. Neighbors are turning in neighbors. This brought it
more to life than many of the history textbooks I have read throughout
my school years.
I was rather disappointed in The Chelsea Girls.
In her previous novels there is a dual narrative with one being in the
past (usually the 1920s) and one being modern. It was not so in this
case. It did switch between the two main women but it did not seem to
have the same magic as her others do. I liked it but it is probably my
First line: You’re having that dream again, the one where you and Tim are in Jaipur for Diwali.
When Abbie wakes up in a hospital bed she has no memory of how she got
there. There is a man who tells her she is his wife and that something
terrible happened to her five years before. And through his
determination and technological advancements he was able to bring her
back. She is the prototype for a new technology called CoBots.
Abbie acclimates to her new life she starts to wonder what happen to
the real Abbie. Using Abbie’s memories, old text messages and the built
in intuition she follows the clues to find out how and why Abbie
My Thoughts: This was a lot of fun. It was
modern day science fiction thriller. At the beginning there is a
separate narrative by an unknown character who gives us a look into the
past and the real Abbie. I was constantly trying to figure out who it
was and I never would have guessed. I like the idea of being able to
“bring back” someone who has died but it is also a little sad. I know
that there is one person I would love to “see” again but this may make
it harder too.
So many different scenarios were flying through
my head while trying to figure out the ending. There were lots of twists
and turns which make it a great psychological thriller.
First line: Dear Mr. Wrexham, I know you don’t know me but please, please, please you have to help me
Rowan Caine stumbles upon an advertisement for what appears to be the
perfect nanny job. It is for a family with four children, in a big house
in Scotland, and a yearly salary of fifty five thousand pounds. When
Rowan arrives for her interview she is blown away and a little
intimidated by the house. It is a smart house. Everything is connected
to apps that can be managed from a cell phone.
After her initial
interview she is offered the job which seems like a dream come true.
However, she does not realize that appearances can be deceiving. On her
very first day she is left alone with the three younger children while
the parents are at a weeklong conference. The adjustment for the girls
is not going as smoothly as she had hoped but she is trying her best to
When strange happenings start to disturb her
nights she begins look into the history of the house and what could be
causing these strange noises in the attic. With each new night she gets
less and less sleep as the mysterious sounds gradually increase. Will
she be able to make it through her first week or will she leave in the
middle of the night like the other nannies before her?
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed Ruth Ware’s previous novel, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, but I think this one blew it out of the water. I seriously considered giving this 5 stars because it was very hard to put down. There was the perfect mixture of spookiness and suspense.
I love how the house
appears to be a big old Victorian but inside it is very modern. I love
the idea of a smart house but at the same time it is also a little
scary. I completely understand Rowan’s unease with the cameras and app
enabled features. And the fact that this house is basically out in the
middle of nowhere. Anyone could easily be spooked by any sounds in the
I enjoyed the way that the novel was laid out. It is done
in a series of entries in a letter from Rowan to a solicitor while she
is in prison for the death of a child. She eludes to what happens but we
do not get the full details until the end.
This is full of
twists and turns. When you think you have had the big reveal another one
appears. I loved every minute of reading this. I would highly recommend
this to anyone who is looking for something that they cannot put down.
Trust me. I had to force myself to sleep instead of reading one more
First line: Barry Sutton pulls into the fire lane at the main
entrance of the Poe Building, an Art Deco tower glowing white in the
illumination of its exterior sconces.
Sutton is a New York cop who witnesses the tragic effects of False
Memory Syndrome when a woman jumps from the forty first floor of a
Helena Smith is a researcher looking for a way to save and record memories to help Alzheimer patients.
the world around them begins to unravel because of the mysterious FMS,
they must team up to try and learn how to stop the phenomenon from
continuing to plague the world. If they cannot not it can lead to the
possible end of the world.
My Thoughts: From the very
first page this story is off and running. There is no build up or major
character development in the first twenty pages like most novels. Crouch
puts us immediately into the story. This is by far one of my favorite
parts of his writing. It is very easy to lose interest in a book that
drags its story out too long.
When we meet Barry we also hear
about False Memory Syndrome but it is not really explained. For a while
it was difficult to understand what is happening to those that are
affected. However, once I understood what the disease entailed it became
obvious why it could be terrifying to contract.
There are several time hops which makes it very important to pay attention to the dates at the beginning of each new section.
I love how fast paced his story telling is. I was on the edge of my seat throughout.
I was never very good with science. Give me history or literature any day. Even though Recursion is very much a science fiction thriller it was not bogged down by the technicalities. When I tried reading The Martian by Andy Weir, the science is what killed the book for me. I just did not get it. But Crouch does a great job of having it as part of the story but not making it overwhelming for the everyday reader.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. Just give it a try. It is worth every minute you spend reading it.
FYI: Pick up Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. It is just as thrilling!
First line: Ginny gazed up at the building, her feet planted firmly on the sidewalk but her heart as wide and churning as the sea.
The rules at the Bartholomew are strict. No visitors. You must spend
every night in the apartment. And no disturbing the other residents.
Jules believes that even though the rules a little ridiculous they are
worth the large sum of money she will receive as an apartment sitter.
After losing her job, her boyfriend and her apartment she is desperate
for a new start.
Shortly after she moves into the apartment she
meets a fellow sitter, Ingrid. But when Ingrid mysteriously disappears
in the middle of the night, Jules decides to do some digging into why
and try to discover what is going on at the Bartholomew. In her research
she learns about the dark past of the building and some of its former
residents. With this new knowledge she is determined to get out before
she meets the same fate as Ingrid.
My Thoughts: Riley
Sager has become one of my favorite thriller writers. This is his third
book and it was fantastic. The suspense and mystery are perfectly
blended. I was easily creeped out in the first couple of chapters. I
mean who wouldn’t be tempted by a high paying job as an apartment
sitter? But once strange things start happening? Nope. I’m out.
did find the middle of the story a little slow. It seemed to stretch
out a little too much as Jules looks into the residents and the history
of the building. I assume that Sager was just trying to give us some
more little clues or hinting at the sinister past but it seemed to be
And holy cow! The last few chapters are great!
My heart was beating so fast and I could not read fast enough. As I
finished it I was on an adrenaline high and had to start another book in
order to calm down a bit for bed. Read this. It is worth it.
First line: The things a woman has to do to make her way in this world…
Summary: The villainess of the classic novel, The Three Musketeers,
is Milady de Winter. She is accused of many terrible crimes. However,
maybe Dumas’ story got it wrong? Milady now wants to tell her story.
is a young girl, raised in England on a small estate. When her father
decides that she is old enough to be of use to him he takes her to the
court of King James I of England. There she meets that handsome rogue,
George Villiers. They are both taught how to manipulate and use the
people around them to gain power. But when Clarice learns something she
is sent away to a convent in France. Here she learns more about who she
is and sets her on the path to becoming one of the most notorious women
My Thoughts:The Three Musketeers is one of my favorite books. I love the action, the love, the revenge and of course Milady! When you read the original story it is easy to see her as the villain but Sullivan gives us a look at who she might have really been. It was fascinating and loads of fun to read.
I loved how the author switched between the events of the TTM and Milady’s past. Giving her a past makes her much more likeable and easier to understand her motives. She does do a lot of terrible things to the musketeers but she is also a victim. I never considered the interactions between Milady and D’Artagnan as rape but as I read this I realized that it totally is. Crazy! This romantic hero did what?!
When I began reading I was highly anticipating the events mentioned in TTM at Milady’s trial. I loved her time at the convent. Sullivan twisted the original story and its characters to fit into her story. I could tell that she did lots of research in order to make the story plausible. If I had not recently reread TTM I would have almost believed that things happened the way she wrote it.
My second and probably favorite part was her relationship with the Vicomte de la Fere. He is one of the major twists in the classic novel. I could not wait to see what their relationship was like and how it turned so deadly. It was well worth the wait. I loved seeing her change over time but in the end she could not escape her past.
FYI: If you love swashbuckling tales then this one is for you! And please read The Three Musketeers. It is wonderful! Read my review in our July newsletter.
First line: Keith, the boy in the rumpled shorts and
shirt, did not know he was being watched as he entered Room 215 of the
Mountain View Inn.
Summary: A young mouse named Ralph is
living in a knot hole in Room 215 when a small boy comes to stay. Ralph
loves to watch the guests, especially children because they are always
dropping food around the hotel. As he watches Keith he sees him playing
with his toys cars and a motorcycle. Ralph has always wanted to ride a
motorcycle. When the boy is not in the room Ralph gets his chance.
However, it does not work out as planned. He falls into the trash can.
Keith soon discovers the small mouse and they quickly become friends.
With Keith’s permission Ralph is allowed to ride the motorcycle all over
the hotel. This is when the adventure Ralph has been craving truly
My Thoughts: This was one of my all-time favorite
books as a child. I loved everything I read by Beverly Cleary but Ralph
definitely holds the top spot. His adventures were lots of fun and quite
funny too. And to have one of your favorite novels also be a movie was
so cool! I spent many a summer day watching the movie version of this
book as well.
When I just reread this charming story I realized
that Wichita is mentioned in it. How cool is that?! The teachers who are
staying at the hotel are from Wichita and consider taking Ralph home
with them to live in their classrooms. I thought this was a fun little
tidbit to find as an adult.
On my most recent trip to Oregon I
stopped in Portland for a few hours. While looking for things to do I
learned that the Multnomah County Library in Portland has a Beverly
Cleary Children’s Library. I immediately added it to my itinerary. We
stopped into this beautiful library for a short visit. As a fan of
Cleary’s and a librarian I was in heaven. If you get a chance go and
check it out.
FYI: If you are looking for a bit of nostalgia then this book is perfect.
First line: Maybe the machine could see the words she never spoke.
Summary: Alex and Suzette are the parents of a beautiful seven-year-old girl named Hanna. With her father she is his sweet little girl. For her mother she is complete opposite. After having been expelled from several schools in the last few years Suzette has had to home school Hanna but as the months pass the tension between mother and daughter continues to escalate. Suzette truly does love her child but she also fears her a little bit. Whenever she tells Alex about Hanna’s behavior he thinks she is overreacting. How can his perfect little angel be as bad as Suzette says?
My Thoughts: There is something truly wrong with
this child. I could not decide between a 4 or 5 star rating mainly
because I did not know if I could say I loved a book about such a scary
little girl. I was completely terrified of her. Even though I was
cringing and shocked by the events of the story I could not stop
In alternating chapters we see the perspectives of
Hanna and Suzette. I kept telling Suzette (in my head of course) to
leave. Just leave. How can a person live in a house with a child who
seems to want to kill her mother? Suzette though tries everything she
can think of to try and help her child. I think what makes it even
scarier is that Hanna does not speak. She cannot or will not tell her
parents what is bothering her.
FYI: Not for the faint of heart. I have to say that I had to put this down several times in order to breathe a bit.