Book Review: One for Sorrow

One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn

First Line: Although I didn’t realize it, my troubles began when we moved to Portman Street, and I became a student in the Pearce Academy for Girls, the finest school in the town of Mount Pleasant, according to Father.

Summary: Annie is a young girl in 1918.  World War I is still raging in Europe and the Spanish flu is spreading across the United States.  When Annie starts at a new school she meets a strange girl, Elsie, who instantly claims her as her friend.  Annie discovers that Elsie is not liked by the other girls in the class.  She is picked on and teased by others, which make Annie a target now too.  But when Annie befriends the other girls in the school and drops Elsie things get worse.  The flu finally hits Mount Pleasant. Annie’s new friends decide to pretend to be mourners and attend funerals in order to receive free treats.  When they attend one funeral they are shocked to see that it is Elsie’s.  She had succumbed to the flu after the girls had teased her and taken away her flu mask.  All the girls feel terrible about what happened but when Annie receives a concussion from a sled ride she starts to see Elsie’s ghost.  And she is not happy.

Highlights: This is spooky.  I read Mary Downing Hahn’s books when I was younger and remember them being scary.  Even now as an adult I was a little creeped out by the character of Elsie.  It was also a history lesson.  I have read and seen many shows that depict the time of Spanish flu but this makes it more real and scary too.  To think how many people died and how quickly it happened can be a little terrifying.

Lowlights: I got really annoyed with Elsie.  The repetition of her obsession with Annie kept dragging on.  This I am sure is what the author intended since she is the villain of the story.

FYI: May be too scary for younger readers.

Late July new releases

July is more than half over, and school starts in about a month. How is summer flying by so fast? Could it be that the time I spend reading makes the days go by faster? If so, I don’t want to have to stop reading to get summer to slow down. I love finding new books to read and being one of the first patrons at the library to read a new book. And there are some great ones coming out the last two weeks of this month!

Here are a few of our picks:

Cover of the book The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
“The Breakdown” is a chilling new thriller by B.A. Paris.

July 18: The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
Cass took the shortcut home, the one she promised her husband she wouldn’t. She saw a woman sitting in a car, the woman who was murdered. Now, she’s having a hard time. She’s forgetting everything: whether she took her medication, where she left the car, why she ordered a baby pram when she doesn’t even have a baby. The one thing she can’t forget? The woman who was murdered. A murder she might have been able to prevent.

July 18: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell
Modern day New York: Magic is pretty much extinct. Pretty much, but not completely. There are a few, the Mageus, who have an affinity for magic, but must keep who they are a secret. And if any of them cross into Manhattan, they will never leave. It’s sealed by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that locks them on the island. But the Order, which created the Brink, didn’t count on Esta, a talented thief who steals magical artifacts from the Order. Esta can steal from the past, but can she steal the item she needs from 1902 before it is destroyed by the Magician?

Cover of The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
“The Marriage Pact” by Michelle Richmond explores what happens when a young, newlywed couple join a secret group committed to making marriages last, at a significant price.

July 25: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
Alice is a rock-and-roller turned successful lawyer. Jake is a therapist for kids and teens and is breaking into marriage counseling. They are getting married, and Alice ends up inviting one of her clients, a famous musician, to their wedding. Finnegan invites them to join a group that promotes healthy marriages, and Jake and Alice can’t see why it wouldn’t work, as they are both wholly committed to making their marriage successful. However, The Pact has some rules and the consequences for breaking any of the rules can be pretty severe.

July 25: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Isa spent the most significant years of her life at a boarding school near the marshes at Salten. Now she has received a simple three-word text message: I need you. Isa drops everything and, with her baby daughter, heads to Salten. Something terrible has been found on the beach, which will force Isa and her three best friends, whom she hasn’t seen in years, to confront their past.

Cover of Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
Goodreads describes this debut novel as “‘Never Let Me Go’ meets ‘The Giver’.”

July 25: Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
An isolated island, settled by ten men and their families just before the country was left uninhabitable by incineration. Only chosen male descendants of the original 10 colonists, known as Wanderers, are t allowed to cross to the still-smoldering wasteland. The daughters are wives-in-training. Only in the summer do the children run free, and one summer Caitlin Jacob witnesses something so terrifying and against everything she’s been taught, that she has to share it with the other children. 17-year-old Janey Solomon, who is slowly starving herself to prevent entering puberty, takes on the task of learning the truth, and encourages an uprising of the girls on the island.

Click on any of the titles above to see the book in our catalog.

Book review: A Talent for Murder

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson

Cover of the book A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson
“A Talent for Murder” by Andrew Wilson imagines what might have happened to Agatha Christie during her 11-day disappearance in 1926.

This book actually gets 4.5 stars from me. Click on the title above the cover to get to the book in our catalog.

First Lines: Wherever I turned my head, I thought I saw her: a woman people described as striking, beautiful even. That would never have been my choice of words.

Summary: One of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries has never been solved: her mysterious disappearance for 11 days in December 1926. She left her home on a Friday evening and one of the largest missing person hunts in history was launched. This novel imagines what might have happened during those days. It begins as she leaves her literary agent and is preparing to board a train in London. She feels a hand at her back that pushes her as an oncoming train is arriving, and pulls her back just before she falls in front of the train. Her rescuer, however, is no hero. Rather, he insists that she is going to commit a murder.

Highlights: I have loved Agatha Christie’s books since I first read What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw when I was in seventh grade. This book is gutsy in taking on telling a story of what may have happened to Dame Agatha during those days she was missing. The story is cleanly told, from varying points of view. Don’t gloss over the “Editor’s Note” before the first chapter, and then go back and read it again after you’ve finished the book. It will be that much more enlightening. This book has a truly vile villain, other interesting characters, and a plot line that completely works for me.

Lowlights: I had just a little difficulty getting into the first dozen pages or so. Honestly, that could have been me rather than the writing. I fully expected a Chrsitie-esque unraveling at the end of the book of how the whole story went down, but that doesn’t happen. However, that didn’t hurt the story at all for me. And there’s a little information that isn’t completely cleared up at the end, so if you like every little thing all tied up in a neat little bow, you won’t get that here.

Just a little more: This is a great imagining of what could have happened during Agatha Christie’s disappearance. I recommend it for anyone who loves a good mystery, and especially for fans of Dame Agatha. I received an advance e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: The End of Everything

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

First Line: She, light-streaky out of the corner of my eye.

Summary: Thirteen-year-old Lizzie and Evie have always been best friends. They know everything about each other, no secrets . . . or at least they thought. Then one day Evie disappears, and Lizzie tries to find out what happened and along the way learns things about herself and her best friend’s “picture-perfect” family that makes her love and hate them even more.

Highlights/Lowlights: Seeing things from a 13-year-old’s perspective is both intriguing and frustrating.

FYI: Not for the faint of heart. It’s dark, raw, and graphic in some parts of the book. If you like Gillian Flynn, you will like this.

Book review: The Family Plot

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

Cover of The Family Plot by Cherie Priest
“The Family Plot” by Cherie Priest is a great Gothic ghost story.

First line: “Yeah, send her on back. She has an appointment.”

Summary: Music City Salvage in Tennessee is on the cusp of going broke, and then Augusta Withrow comes in with an offer Chuck Dutton can’t refuse. Augusta just wants to be rid of her family’s more-than-a-century-old home and all the property. Chuck sees a goldmine in the house and property, so he sends a four-person crew headed by his daughter Dahlia on the project. Super creepy things start happening, and when the members of the crew start comparing notes, they know something is definitely up. Something angry still lives in the vacant house, and it seems bent on making one member of the crew its permanent company.

Highlights: This book has all the atmosphere, creepiness, and strangeness a really excellent Gothic ghost story needs to be interesting. It’s a page-turner and you probably don’t want to read it late at night when you are all alone in your house and start hearing strange noises. Oh, and that ending. DO NOT READ THE LAST PAGE FIRST! If you do, you will ruin the whole book!

Lowlights (or what could have been better): I felt like this book was just a little bit slow to get started, but I’m glad I stuck with it (and it really didn’t take that long) because it builds to a can’t-put-it-down-but-I-have-to-stop-reading-or-I’ll-have-scary-dreams pitch.

FYI: There is some cursing and references to violence, but nothing gory, gross or descriptive.

Book Review: The Horse Dancer

The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes

First Line: He saw her yellow dress before he saw her, glowing in the fading light; a beacon at the far end of the stables.

Summary: A young girl lives with her grandfather in London. He has been teaching her to ride and do very difficult tricks with her horse. But when her grandfather has a stroke she is in a difficult place. A young lawyer is going through a separation and dealing with high-profile cases. When she finds a young girl stealing from a local minimart she decides to take her in with the help of her soon-to-be ex-husband. The situation becomes harder than anyone expected.

Highlights: Jojo Moyes does such a great job bringing social issues to life in her stories. I was never one for chick lit but Moyes is amazing. I read a majority of this in two days. I know nothing about horses but now I want to go riding.

Lowlights: A little slow in the middle but worth it.

FYI: Be ready to read it straight through.

Early July new releases

Wow, it’s almost Independence Day, and the year is already half over! Where has the time gone? My reading list has been dented pretty well this year, and I’m staying on track with my Goodreads goal. How about you? Are getting as much reading time in this year as you would like? Let us know how your reading goals are going in the comments below.

And if you need some help finding something new to read, here are a few books that will be released this week and next. Click on the title of the book to find it in the library catalog.

July 4: The Lightkeeper’s Daughter by Jean Pendziwol
This story explores the relationship between an elderly woman, Elizabeth, and a teenager, Morgan, as they explore journals of a lightkeeper written decades before. The journals were written by Elizabeth’s father, and while the discovery sheds light on Morgan’s family mysteries, it makes Elizabeth question who she really is.

Cover of The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick
“The Reason You’re Alive” tells the story of a Vietnam veteran trying to return something he stole from a fellow soldier.

 July 4: The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick
The newest novel from the best-selling author of The Sliver Linings Playbook is the story of Vietnam veteran David Granger. After Davis crashes his BMW, he learns he has a brain tumor, which he attributes to his exposure to agent orange during the war. After surgery, he decides to return something to one of his fellow soldiers, and the journey takes some challenging turns.

July 11: Where the Light Falls by Allison Pataki and Owen Pataki
Paris during the French Revolution, and the lives of Sophie, a young, aristocratic widow; Jean-Luc, a young lawyer; and Andre, a nobleman’s son, become intertwined in this period of hope and freedom. The story moves from the battlefields to the courtrooms and even into the alleyways of Paris, three years after the storming of the Bastille.

Cover of the book Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
“Almost Sisters” is the latest novel from best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson.

July 11: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
Leia comes from a conventional Southern family, with everything that entails, and when she finds herself pregnant at 38 after a one-night affair, she is faced with telling her family not only about being pregnant, but that the baby is biracial. On top of that, her sister’s marriage is falling apart and her grandmother has been hiding dementia. When Leia goes home to help put her grandmother’s affairs in order, she learns of a dangerous secret that dates back to the Civil War.

July 11: Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown
Billie Flanagan disappeared a year ago in the Desolation Wilderness a year ago, and her husband, Jonathan, and daughter, Olive, are coping as best they can. Then Olive starts having waking dreams that her mother is still alive. Jonathan is worried about Olive’s mental health, until he learns some secrets about Billie that have him questioning if he ever really knew her.

Traveling librarian: Apache Junction, AZ

I don’t know about you, but when I am traveling, I love to visit libraries in the area where I am traveling. I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days with my parents who live in the Phoenix-Mesa area of Arizona, in Apache Junction. We made time to head over to their pretty fantastic library. I snapped a few photos to share with our readers.

Exterior signage for Apache Junction, Arizona, library
I know I’ve arrived at the library!

From the outside the library looks like your average library, then you walk inside. Eh, still nothing spectacular, except the Friends of the library book sale right in the lobby! However, once I entered the library proper, it was so much fun!

The entrance to the children's area is between sculptures of books.
Entrance to the children’s area of the library, where you get to walk right through some stacks of books.
There are some fun titles on these books!

And once you’re inside the children’s area, there is more fun waiting. Want to read in a castle? You can! Watch out, or the dragon may catch you from above. Find a huge book to sit on or tuck yourself away in a rock cave to enjoy your book.

This castle has lots of little spaces for someone to tuck themselves into and read.
I even found a house elf in the castle. Has anyone given him a sock yet?
This dragon is pretty sneaky, watching the goings on in its library from up above.
Or you can tuck yourself into the little cave in the corner, or sit on a book-shaped seat.

Do you visit other libraries in your travels? Share a picture in the comments!

Book Review: Alex and Eliza

Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

First Line: Like a latter-day Greek temple, the Schuyler family mansion sat atop a softly rounded hill outside Albany.

Summary: Eliza Schuyler is the daughter of a wealthy general.  Alexander Hamilton is the right hand man of General George Washington.  When the two meet at Eliza’s home, the first encounter is not the one of fairy tales.  However, when they meet up again several months later their friendship grows and a romance for the ages is born in the midst of the American Revolution.

Highlights: This is a very quick read and great for a first book about Alexander Hamilton.  With the popularity of the musical, Hamilton, this book is appearing at just the right time.  I know very little about the man who had a key role in the establishment of our country.  I am a huge fan of Melissa de la Cruz.  I think she does a good job of bringing this story to readers in a YA version.

Lowlights: The book is almost more juvenile than YA usually are.  I expected a little more surrounding the war.  I do plan to read the next one as well.

FYI: Perfect introduction into the story of Alexander Hamilton.

Book Review: The Fallen Kingdom

The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May

First Line: I am the beginning of a girl: her throat filled with ash, desperately clawing her way from the earth with weak, trembling limbs and an urgent message on her lips.

Summary: In the third book in the Falconer series, Aileana has returned from the dead and with powers given to her by a faery.  She knows that in order to return her world to the way it once was is to find the Book and the only way to do that is to enlist the help of the faery who killed her.

Highlights: Very action packed with many fight scenes and witty remarks.  This book made me laugh often.  I love the character of Derrick.  He has been my favorite part since the very first book.

Lowlights: The story seemed a little weaker than the rest.  It could have been included in the second book as a short ending.  The author seemed to stretch it out at times.

FYI: Perfect for readers of Sarah Maas and Cassandra Clare.