First line: Those months, the months before she disappeared, were the best months.
Fifteen year old Ellie is the golden child. Then one day she disappears
without a trace. Ten years later her mother, Laurel meets a man in a
coffee shop. He is charming and appears to be the perfect man. As her
relationship with Floyd progresses she meets his daughter who bears a
striking resemblance to her missing daughter, Ellie. What happened to
Ellie? After all the years of wondering Laurel is determined to find
My Thoughts: Lisa Jewell is a new discovery for me. I recently read her latest book, Watching You, on the recommendation of Dawn (who writes our Lit Pairings blog posts). I was hooked immediately. Her novels are fast paced filled with lots of twists and turns. I was pretty sure I had everything figured out early on in the novel. However, I was wrong. Things continued to get more twisted as I read.
The book was divided into different parts
with different narrators. As the story progressed we got different looks
at the events of then and now. I was very shocked and little saddened
by the ending. If you read it you may understand. There were lots of
pieces that are very hard to read. But Jewell is an amazing writer. Even
if the story had been less intriguing her writing would have saved it. I
will definitely be on the hold list for any more of her upcoming
FYI: This is perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Shari Lapena.
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
First line: She was not used to being hunted.
Nina dreamed of becoming a pilot. When the German army attacks her
native Russia, she enlists to help her country fight its invaders. As
one of the all-female bomber regiment called the Night Witches, she gets
her wish. Until one day when she goes down behind enemy lines and
encounters the evil villainous known as the Huntress.
spent the war years as a war correspondent. He everything from the
invasion of Omaha Beach to the Nuremburg Trials but he is determined to
find and bring to justice one person, the Huntress. With a personal
vendetta against the war criminal he joins an organization tasked with
finding members of the Nazi party that escaped punishment.
McBride is a young girl and aspiring photographer in 1946. Her father
recently married a mysterious Austrian widow but her story makes Jordan
suspicious. The more she learns the less she trusts her. She is
determined to find out who this woman is in order to protect her father.
Told in three narratives we piece together the story of the Huntress.
From the very first chapter I was hooked. I have been a longtime fan of
Kate Quinn and her newest novel does not disappoint. I think I can even
say with confidence that it is her best book to date. I loved the
different timelines and how each intertwine. This would be perfect for
fans of historical fiction and mysteries.
Nina was by far my
favorite character. She is strong woman but also has a deep seeded fear.
I enjoyed seeing her change and grow throughout the story. She starts
as a poor girl from eastern Russia who dreams of becoming a pilot. As
the war progresses she discovers more about herself and the country she
serves. I learned so much while reading her chapters. I had never heard
of female bomber teams during World War II. Even though Russia has a
history of being behind the times, this is a very progressive stance.
And for them to be highly decorated after the war for their courage.
Read the author’s notes at the end for more background on the story. You can tell that Quinn did a lot of research to build her narrative.
FYI: This reminded me a lot of the new release movie, Operation Finale, starring Oscar Isaac. It follows the search and capture of Adolph Eichmann, the mastermind behind the Holocaust.
I love to hold a paper book. There is something about feeling the pages in my hands. However, sometimes I find I like the convenience of a digital copy. I can take it with me where ever I am using an app on my phone. How cool is that? Plus, we have such a great selection of books available on our Sunflower eLibrary. The app used to be called Overdrive but is slowly migrating over to Libby by Overdrive. It is a fantastic upgrade. Definitely check it out if you enjoy ebooks and audio books.
*This review will be a little different because the library does not own a physical copy but only a digital one that is available on Sunflower eLibrary.*
Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy by Elizabeth Chadwick
1. The Summer Queen
2. The Winter Crown
3. The Autumn Throne
First line: Alienor woke at dawn.
Summary: This is the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine (or Alienor as she is called in the book). She was married to two kings, one of France and one of England. She was the mother of kings. However, she was a duchess in her own right and a very strong and determined woman. She traveled to the Holy Lands on a crusade. Through her the Plantagenet dynasty began. Her life was not all easy, she faced imprisonment, war and death but managed to achieve greatness in the face of it all.
Highlights: I loved this trilogy. This was my first interaction with Elizabeth Chadwick’s work and I was very impressed. Chadwick brings Eleanor to life. She shows what a strong woman she was. I loved seeing her take on kings and prove that a woman is just as powerful. The writing is superb. I will definitely be reading more of her books.
I had heard very little about Eleanor before picking up these books. As I read I learned so much about her and life in the 12th century. Her family life was very erratic and messy. I find it hard to believe how dysfunctional her family was. Her sons were constantly fighting with one another and their father. She had to be the peace keeper but also an instigator once in a while. But I found her fascinating! I think after Anne Boleyn, Eleanor is my favorite female historical figure. She did so much, lived a long life and is still remembered nearly 900 years later.
FYI: This is perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory!
What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris
First line: She blamed the fog.
Summary: When a young woman is found murdered on the steps of Westminster Abbey all the signs point to the young viscount, Sebastian St. Cyr. In order to prove himself innocent he uses his skills gained from his time in his majesty’s military as well as enlisting the help of his former mistress, Kat Boleyn.
Highlights: As a fan of historical fiction this has become one of my favorite mystery series. Sebastian is a smart and witty protagonist. The street urchin, Tom, is a great addition. He is fun and gives the reader a look into the darker underworld of the poor in London. I love that Sebastian is involved and cares about others unlike many of the people in the upper classes. I have read nearly all of this series so far and have even gotten my mother hooked on them as well.
The author does an amazing job of researching the time and drawing in historical figures. While reading this I can even connect it with the PBS show, Victoria, even though it happens about 25 years before her reign. In one of the most recent books we get introduced to Princess Charlotte who is the future wife of Uncle Leopold.
Lowlights: Sebastian may be a little too perfect. He knows a lot people and can handle about any situation. However, this can be said for most primary characters. It seems a little cheesy but it is easily overlooked because the story is so fun.
FYI: If you like this then try The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. It is a female centered spy novel series that takes place during this time period.
Do you like true crime novels? We have a really good selection here at the library. I have not personally read many from this genre but they are constantly being checked out. Authors like Ann Rule are the leaders in this area. If you are looking for a true crime book we would be happy to help you find one or browse the 364.1 section of the non-fiction.
Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
First line: If I believed in omens, this would be a bad one.
Summary: Ellery and Ezra move to live with their grandmother in the small town, Echo Ridge. This idyllic little town has a dark past. The twins’ aunt disappeared here more than 20 years ago. Another girl was murdered at the local theme park. Now there is a stalker bringing back the old memories and threatening the homecoming court. Ellery, a true crime enthusiast, is determined to get some answers. However, there everyone has a secret making it even harder to unravel the mysteries of Echo Ridge.
Highlights: I was really excited to get an advance copy of this book. I really enjoyed the author’s debut novel, One Of Us Is Lying. From the very beginning the mystery and intrigue presented to the reader. I loved how fast paced everything was. I liked all the little twists and turn throughout. I kept considering all different angles and was shocked when the killer is revealed. Great job, Karen! The characters were a lot of fun. I really wish we could have gotten more of Sadie, the twins’ mom. I want to visit Fright Farm, the Halloween theme park. Who doesn’t want to have Halloween all year around?
Lowlights: There are lot of characters and the chapters bounce back and forth between Ellery and Malcolm. I had a hard time keeping track of who was saying what. I think I needed to pay more attention to the chapter titles. So this may be more my fault rather than the books.
FYI: Perfect for fans of Sara Shepard’s, Pretty Little Liars series.
Did you know that we have a podcast?! It is called Novel Ideas: The Library Podcast. You can find it on Sound Cloud, iTunes and Google Play.
It has been a lot of fun being able to sit down with Alyssa and several of our staff and talk about books. I have learned a lot about my fellow librarians through our chats and listening to the podcasts. Each of us have a wide range of interests and thoughts. We have chatted about things ranging from cookbooks, re-reading and David Sedaris. We always bring along a nice hot beverage and some snack to enjoy while we are talking. So grab yourself a cup of tea and listen with us!
Sadie by Courtney Summers
First line: It’s a beautiful day in the city.
Summary: Sadie has had a tough life. Her mother abandoned her at a young age. She took care of her younger sister, Mattie, until the day that she was found dead. Sadie is determined to seek revenge for her sister’s murder. She leaves town in search of the man she believes to be the culprit. When word of Sadie’s disappearance reaches the ears of West McCray, a radio personality doing a serial podcast, he starts to look into what happened to Sadie.
Highlights: I loved the way this story was constructed. It is very different than any other book I have read. It alternates between Sadie’s story and point of view to a podcast detailing the search for Sadie. It was a great book to listen to which is how I would recommend it. There is a full cast for all the characters. This brought the story to life and gave it a more realistic feel.
The story is heartbreaking. Sadie had a hard life with a mother who was not very involved. She brings home men including Keith. Listening to Sadie’s determination to find him is fascinating. With every little twist and turn I was continually nervous and cheering her on. The ending is hard. Be warned you will feel all the feelings with this book.
Lowlights: I struggled in the beginning while the story is building. It was a little slow moving until the story reached the halfway point it picked up and took off.
FYI: Trigger warning: child abuse and language.
Man, Thanksgiving hit, and all my book-related newsletters and websites have been filled with “Best of 2018” and other types of end-of-year book lists. My first response was “Can you not wait until the end of the year? What if the best book of the year gets released in December?!”
But alas, the lists have not slowed down and there are so many of them I don’t know where to start or how to decide which ones I should choose books from! In other words, all these lists have me a little paralyzed. Kind of. I mean, now that I’ve looked at so many lists of what are supposed to be the best books of the year, I have no idea how to manage my to-read list, because now I want to read everything.
So, to help you build a TBR (to be read) pile for 2019, here is a Top 10 of the lists we’ve found, from the traditional, to the not-so-traditional.
- From The New York Times Book Review, here’s a list of the 10 best fiction and nonfiction titles chosen by the paper’s book editors.
- Here’s a list from Literary Hub billed as the “Ultimate Best Books of 2018 List.” The titles were culled from 52 best-of lists and the titles that appeared most often on those lists show up here.
- Here’s a list from Digg that used a similar tactic to review lots of lists and come up with the Top 10 for 2018.
- This Washington Post Book World Top 10 list includes not just the 10 books that caught the editors’ attention, but lots more lists, including the 10 best graphic novels and the best children’s books.
- Is any Top 10 list complete without a list from a publishing publication? We think not, so here’s a list of Publisher Weekly‘s Top 10 from 2018.
- GQ chose its list of 9 favorites, then each of those authors also chose a favorite, for a list of 17 recommended books for 2018.
- Goodreads (you are on Goodreads now, aren’t you?!) has its users vote for their favorite books in an end-of-year poll, for a crowd-sourced list.
- Another best-of list from Literary Hub is its list of the best-reviewed books from its companion site Book Marks.
- Book Riot has a list that is a little different take, and is guaranteed to have some titles that aren’t included on the lists above. It’s a list of 50 must-read books that you likely missed this past year.
- And the final list I want to share with you is one of my favorites, and it’s not technically a traditional list. NPR’s Book Concierge is a fun way to find new books that appeal to you, as you can sort using filters (and can combine filters). In addition, NPR makes its Book Concierges from 2008-2017 available as well!
Some of the classics are hard to read. Either we do not understand the language or the story is not as fast paced as the latest thriller. However, there are so many great things about them. They have survived the times. The stories still speak to readers today. One of greatest is the bard, William Shakespeare. I read several plays during high school English, my favorite being Hamlet. Do you have trouble with Shakespeare? Trust me sometimes I do too. Check out Alyssa’s blog post about her recent interest in the works of Shakespeare.
An Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker
First line: It is not the usual interrogation.
Summary: When Katherine’s father is killed in front of her she vows that she is going to take revenge on the person responsible, Queen Elizabeth I. She travels to London dressed as a boy to meet with fellow Catholic conspirators to hatch a plan to kill the Protestant queen. Toby, an agent of the queen, is on the lookout for any assassination plots. When he teams up with William Shakespeare and his company of players, he sets a trap for the would-be assassins. However, Katherine and Toby are drawn to each other complicating both of their missions.
Highlights: Assassination plots and William Shakespeare?! Yes please! I found the story to be lots of fun from the very beginning. I enjoyed both of the main characters. Katherine is a strong willed young girl who is determined to avenge her father. Toby is a heartbroken playwright working as a spy for the queen. I loved watching Katherine throwing off her inhibitions as she took on the role of a man. She gets to see things that women would not be privy to normally. As their relationship progresses I got more and more nervous about how the story would end. This story was fit for Shakespeare with the mistaken identities, daring murder attempts and tragic love.
Lowlights: I would have loved more Shakespeare. Any time he entered the story it became even better! His patron even mentioned how he liked to make up words, which he does throughout the story. Such a nice little historical tidbit to add into the dialog.
FYI: Perfect for fans of A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee.
There are many different versions of Frankenstein. They range from the classic film with Boris Karloff to hilarious Young Frankenstein starring Gene Wilder. It has been 200 years since his first appearance. What fascinates us with this monster?
On a trip to Germany in 2002, my family and our German family visited Frankenstein Castle outside of Darmstadt, Germany. Even though it is not the actual home of the monster it is still very formidable. I could easily picture the Gothic tale happening in the ruins.
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
First line: Lightning clawed across the sky, tracing veins through the clouds and marking the pulse of the universe itself.
Summary: In this retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic novel, Frankenstein, we see the story unfold through the eyes of the Frankenstein family’s ward, Elizabeth. She is brought to Frankenstein manor as a playmate and helper to the strange eldest son, Victor. As they grow up the two become dependent on each other. However, when Victor disappears with no word, Elizabeth must search for him and bring him home. When she finally finds Victor, she learns the truth of what he has been doing those many months he has been gone. She has kept his secrets for years but can she keep this one?
Highlights: Kiersten White did a great job of fleshing out the story and adding to the original. I think that she made it even darker than the original. Which I really loved. I liked the character of Elizabeth. She was secretive, cunning and not shocked by the things that Victor did. For a woman of the time she relied on the men in her life. She tried to guarantee that she would be taken care of by any means necessary.
Lowlights: I read Frankenstein several years ago and was not as impressed as I had wanted to be. I love to read classics. I love Dickens and Stoker. I listened to the audio version and it was rather slow moving for the first two thirds. There is more description and little conversation. The last third was more engaging and fast paced. I would recommend reading this one instead of listening to the audio.
FYI: If you love Frankenstein then you should read this!
Sea Witch by Sarah Henning
First line: Two small pairs of boots echoed on the afternoon cobblestones—one pair in a sprint, the other in a stumble and slide.
Summary: We all know the story of the little mermaid who falls in love with a prince but what we do not know is what happened before. After the disappearance of her friend, Evie continues to blame herself. However, when a young girl suddenly appears in their city who has a striking resemblance to Anna, Evie believes that miracles do come true. This stranger though has a few secrets. She must gain the love of the prince within four days or disappear into the ocean forever.
Highlights: The cover art is stunning with its mysterious purple eyed witch. I did not even have to read the synopsis before I knew that I wanted to read this. I loved watching The Little Mermaid growing up! My cousins and I would pretend to be mermaids while swimming at the pool. The sea witch was always very creepy and now we get her back-story! The history of the country and its culture was very interesting. The reliance on fishing and the sea is something I am not familiar with (being from Kansas). My favorite part was the flashbacks to when Anna went missing in the sea. It gave us a look at who our characters are and what drives them.
“The sea is a fickle witch.”
Lowlights: There are some dark elements to the story but they do not appear until the end of the story. I expected a little bit more since we were getting the back-story of a villain. And the narrative was very much young adult. They are teenagers who are worried about falling in love. Ok, great. But I want more sea witch!
FYI: This is a debut novel for Kansas author, Sarah Henning!