It has been just over one week since the start of the Forbidden Forest Read-a-thon here at the library. And boy has it been one heck of a week. You do not realize the pressure you are under when you are given a set number of books to read in just a month! It is a little intimidating.
Going into the challenge I figured that this would be a piece of cake. I have already read over 100 books this year. Twelve books should be easy right?! I have finished three at this point which is a fairly good place to be but they were the shorter ones. Several on my list are hovering around five hundred pages. Yikes! Maybe I was overly ambitious but I am determined to finish this challenge.
So far I have finished reading A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (we own the movie but not the book) and The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way. Each has had their ups and downs but I would say my favorite so far has been The Umbrella Academy graphic novel. I have even read book two and have three on my desk for later.
The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way
First line: It was the same year “Tusslin’ Tom” Gurney knocked out the space-squid from Rigel X-9…
At the exact same moment forty-three babies were born to women who had
previously not been pregnant. Of the forty-three newborns born, seven of
them were adopted by the eccentrically wealthy Reginald Hargreeves. He
knew that there was something special about these children. For years
they lived quietly hidden away in his mansion until one day when they
reappeared in order to save the world. They called themselves The
My Thoughts: I am not one that is much interested in graphic novels but they are slowly growing on me. I have now read a handful and started to enjoy them. The Netflix show based on the graphic novels is why I chose this book for the reading challenge. There are many similarities between the two but lots of differences as well. Each stand well on their own. The art is very interesting to look at. It is not realistic but it is not too cartoonish.
I liked the story because it is dark and imaginative. The authors create such an interesting world that it is not hard to get sucked into it. One of the characters, Number One or Luther, is part man and part ape. He is gigantic and spends quite a bit of his youth on the moon. Who thinks this stuff up? It is different which makes it fun. I am looking forward to book three and on.
There is a lot of violence which did not affect me at all but it may be
too much for younger readers. This is book one in the series.
First line: Cilka stares at the soldier standing in front of her, part of the army that has entered the camp.
Sixteen year old Cilka Klein was sent to Auschwitz along with her
family. One of the head SS officers of the camp notices her and moves
her away from the other women. Over the three years she is kept in
barracks 25 until the day the camp is liberated by the Russian forces.
Upon their arrival she is arrested and charged with collaborating with
the enemy. She is sentenced to fifteen years in a Siberian gulag.
she arrives at the prison she finds a world that she has unfortunately
become very familiar with. The forced labor and brutal conditions of the
camp are not new to her. She makes friends with several of her fellow
inmates but when she catches the attention of the female doctor her luck
begins to change. With her work in the hospital she finds a way to make
amends for the guilt about her past and maybe even start to feel love
My Thoughts:The Tattooist of Auschwitz was such a heartbreaking story. But I was beyond shocked by the story of Cilka. She was forced into a Russian prison after suffering for years in a concentration camp because she was raped for three years. It makes no sense. The poor girl is stronger than I can imagine I could ever be. I really cared about what happened to Cilka while reading her story. She did so much good in a terrible place. If only there were more people like her.
I never even considered that things like this happened
to some of the survivors. It is sad that the “liberators” were nearly as
cruel as the Nazis. Her time in the gulag is unbelievable. I know that
the author did lots of research and she does a great job of bringing it
to life. People need to know these things in order to try and stop them
from happening again.
I felt like this was much better put together than the first book. It was not nearly as choppy.
FYI: This is a sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
First line: A bitter wind sheared through the darkness, biting into my exposed flesh and lashing my hair across my face.
Sadie Keller is determined to find out what happened to her brother on
the night he died. She does not believe the story told to her by his
wife, Crystle. But the police do not believe that there is enough
evidence to allow them to look deeper into the events.
hoping to escape from her small Kansas town. Her family are involved in
some dangerous activities and she wants to leave before she is sucked
My Thoughts: I loved the author’s previous book Arrowood. It was thrilling. This was sold to be a thriller but it really fell flat. I was hoping for more but it took almost 60% of the book to get to the more interesting pieces. The beginning was about the town, its people and the life in small town Kansas. This made it easy to connect with at least, as a girl from a small town in Kansas.
I liked the characters
but they needed something more. We got glimpses into Sadie’s past with
her brother. I would have liked more of that. Henley seemed like a
filler character. She did reveal some information that lead to big
reveal but her story was blah.
First line: This is a book about an extraordinary woman called
Almina Carnarvon, the family into which she married, the Castle that
became her home, the people who worked there, and the transformation of
the Castle when it became a hospital for wounded soldiers during the
First World War.
Summary: Written by the current Countess of Carnarvon we are taken into the past to meet the woman that helped inspired the hit television series Downton Abbey. Almina was the daughter of Alfred de Rothschild. Her dowry was used to help support the struggling estate. Almina opened the house to be used as a hospital during World War I and her husband was part of the team who discovered the tomb of King Tut. Using information from letters and diaries of the occupants of Highclere Castle, we get the true story of this great house.
My Thoughts: I have been a fan of the series Downton Abbey
from the start. I watched each season religiously. I even got my mother
hooked on it. I knew that much of the inspiration for the story was
drawn from real life events. I have been meaning to pick up this book
for years and with the upcoming movie I figured it was the right time.
It is easy to see that author had access to many primary sources and a wealth of information. She fleshes out the woman who saved the family from ruin and brought them into the 20th century. I loved hearing about her life before and after her marriage. She did so much for the house but my favorite part by far was the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. From a hobby in the desert and a final chance to find something worth the money they find one of the greatest discoveries of all time.
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!