What’s Ashley Reading?: Then She Was Gone

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

First line: Those months, the months before she disappeared, were the best months.

Summary: 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 out.

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 thrillers.

FYI: This is perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Shari Lapena.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

History has been my favorite subject since middle school.  I loved the stories of people’s lives and how they shaped the world we live in today.  I read a lot of historical fiction novels.  When I was younger my interest was on World War II and the Holocaust.  It was and is hard to imagine what happened and reading about it helped me to understand it better.

We have some wonderful databases that are useful when studying history.  It covers world and American history.  There are links to articles and journals that are helpful for writing research papers.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

First line: Lale tries not to look up.

Summary: Based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Jew from Slovakia, who spent several years in Auschwitz as the Tatowierer. His job was to tattoo the numbers onto the arms of all incoming inmates. He witnesses shocking things every day. It is hard to imagine a happy world after the atrocities of the camp. When he meets a young woman, Gita, he uses his influence to keep her alive and safe.

Highlights: This story is heartbreaking but also beautiful. Lale is put in the most terrifying place but somehow keeps his spirits up in hopes of a brighter future. He learns quickly how to navigate life in Auschwitz. He “befriends” an officer who gives him news of the camp. The job of tattooist is a stroke of luck bringing him privileges which he uses to help out his fellow inmates. He was a good and honest man who did much to keep people alive and strong. It shows how being kind can lead to good things. I love his relationship with Gita. Even in such a horrible place he found the love of his life.

The writing was very simple but the story is powerful. It is shocking to hear the stories of survivors of such a place. I cannot even imagine living through those conditions. Read the author’s notes at the end where she discusses the interviews over years where Lale told his story.

Lowlights: Like I said before the writing is very simple. Sometimes it seemed a little choppy but if you can get past that the story is well worth the read.

FYI: If you found this interesting then check out The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Other Woman

There are so many good book clubs out there!  We have 3 here at the library.  Joyful Page Turners, our longest running book club.  Bemused Bibliophiles, our hot and popular book club.  And last but not least, Hauntingly Good Reads, our paranormal book club. I love to see how each club is expanding, adding new members and picks a wide variety of books.

It is great that we have options but sometimes it is not always easy to make it to a meeting.  Or you are an introvert who likes to read but not talk.  I have found several online book clubs that I like to follow.  I read the book and can chat on websites like Goodreads.com about my thoughts without leaving home.  The most recent one I have checked out is Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club.  Her book for November is The Other Woman by Sandie Jones.

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

First line: She looks beautiful in her wedding dress.

Summary: Emily thinks she has found the perfect man in Adam. He is handsome and smart. However, she has a rival. His mother, Pammie, is determined to keep Emily and Adam apart. Will Emily be able survive a mother’s love?

Highlights: Debut author, Sandie Jones, brings us a psychological thriller with the mother-in-law from hell! Emily meets the man of her dreams and everything seems perfect until she meets his mother. I immediately hated Pammie. She was terrible to Emily in every interaction. She was so smooth about everything. However, the closeness of Adam and Pammie seemed almost too close. I started to doubt my theories after each interaction. I was a little surprised by the ending. It was one of the options I had considered but it was still shocking to read it.

Lowlights: I kept getting mad at Emily too. Is he really worth all this mental torture from his mother? She keeps sticking around and taking it. Why? I did like it when she tried to stand up for herself rather than just letting it go.

FYI: Did you like this?  Try Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris for something similar!

Book Review: Grace and Fury

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

First line: Serina Tessaro stood on the steps of the fountain in Lanos’s central piazza flanked by nine other girls her age, all in their finest gowns.

Summary: In Viridia girls are not allowed to read, they must be subservient and bend to the will of men. When sisters, Serina and Nomi, are sent to the palace with a chance of being a Grace and her handmaiden, Serina sees this as a chance to take care of her family. However, when the Heir chooses her younger rebellious sister, Nomi, as a Grace instead, their worlds are changed forever. When Nomi breaks the rules, being able to read, and her sister is the one who takes the blame and is sent to the women’s prison on the isolated island of Mountain Ruin. Nomi has to learn to be a Grace while living under the roof of the Superior while Serina is forced to fight for survival.

Highlights: I found this very enjoyable. I would classify it as a dystopian novel. Going into it, I thought there would be an element of fantasy to it. To tell the truth I was fine without it. It was good straightforward story. I liked the relationship between the two sisters. They truly care about each other and are willing to sacrifice themselves to save the other one. So many stories are centered on romance but this was sisterly love. Each sister had their own strengths that sets them apart. The action was well done. Not overly gruesome or gory. The cover art is beautiful. I enjoyed the supporting characters such as Maris, Malachi and Jacana. I am hoping that we get to see more of them as the story goes on. I raced through the ending. It was fast and gave a cliffhanger that leaves me wanting more!

Lowlights: Several plot lines were predictable. There were similarities between other books of this genre. Even with the similarities, I did not feel like I was reading a rewrite of another novel.

FYI: Perfect for readers of The Selection by Kiera Cass and Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

Book Review: The Masterpiece

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

First line: Clara Darden’s illustration class at the Grand Central School of Art, tucked under the copper eaves of the terminal, was unaffected by the trains that rumbled through ancient layers of Manhattan schist hundreds of feet below.

Summary: For Clara, a struggling artist and illustration teacher, Grand Central School of Art is a stepping stone in the hopes of greater things to come. She has dreams of working for Vogue as an illustrator. By moving to New York City, she left behind everything but so far, things have not turned out the way she had planned.

After her divorce, Virginia Clay has been trying to figure out how to support herself and her daughter after spending years as the wife of a powerful attorney. When she gets a job at Grand Central Terminal in the information booth, she does not realize how much it will change her life. She discovers a watercolor behind a cabinet in the old art school and it leads her on search for the artist and the history of the terminal.

Highlights: I really enjoyed the character of Levon. He was fiery and temperamental. He portrays the iconic angsty artist. He had a rich back-story and little quirks that made him stand out. I wish that he were a real person so I could see some of the work that Davis describes in her novel.

The descriptions of Grand Central were amazing. Google is my best friend when reading historical fiction. I am always pausing my reading to search for pictures or more information about places and characters. It is sad that the terminal was in such bad shape in the 70s and that at one point it was going to be torn down. I have never traveled to NYC but I have seen the station at Kansas City and if it is half as pretty as that, it would have been a shame to lose it.

I have enjoyed the time jumps in Davis’ work. I think the thing that makes her work so great. She is able to switch between characters and time while keeping the flow of the story. I have not read her second book, The Address, yet but I am on hold for it now.

Lowlights: The beginning was a little slow to start. Davis gave us some background on the characters plus some information about the time. Then the speed of the relationships went very fast. I was a little shocked by Virginia early on but she grew on me as I continued to read. One scene in particular stood out between Virginia and Dennis.

FYI: If you like this try the novels of Susan Meissner.

Book Review: An Unwanted Guest

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

First line: The road curves and twists unexpectedly as it leads higher and deeper into the Catskill Mountains, as if the farther you get from civilization, the more uncertain the path.

Summary: For the guests of Mitchell’s Inn in the Catskill Mountains it looks like a beautiful winter weekend. However, when a body of one of the guests is found at the bottom of the stairs on the first morning things become less idyllic. Add to that a power outage from an ice storm and the guests begin to fear for their safety since there appears to be a murderer staying at the hotel.

Highlights: I recently read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. As I started reading An Unwanted Guest I was comparing the two novels. A remote location, a group of strangers, no way to leave and murder! How can you not go wrong with a combination like this? I found the story fun and engaging. Each character was interesting and had little secrets of their own. The idea of being stuck in a hotel with strangers and no electricity while a murderer is on the loose is a bit terrifying. I wish I could have read this during the winter wrapped in a blanket. I liked the atmosphere and suspense. This was a quick read and lots of fun.

Lowlights: I was a little shocked by the ending. However, I thought that when the killer was revealing everything it was a little rushed and quickly thrown together. It did not seem like it was planned out or given too much thought.

FYI: Read the author’s other two books, The Couple Next Door and A Stranger in the House.

Book Review: Believe Me

Believe Me by J.P. Delaney

First line: On the day of departure, guests are requested to vacate their rooms by noon.

Summary: When British acting student, Claire, is struggling for money to pay rent she starts work at a decoy for a law firm in order to entrap straying husbands. However, on her last job the wife ended up dead the next day. In order to find out who the killer is they ask Claire to try to get a confession out of the husband. As she immerses herself into her character, the lines between the act and reality begin to blur.

Highlights: In the second novel by J.P. Delaney we get a twisty psychological thriller. I was certain I had the story figured out. I was wrong. There were so many decoys and little tidbits that make the reader believe one thing when it can mean something completely different. The story was FAST! I could not believe how quickly I read this and how hard it was to put down. I loved being inside Claire’s head even though it got a little troublesome at times. The way she viewed everything as a production was a fun styling choice for the author.

Lowlights: I do not believe there were many lowlights other than the fact that it is not something new or astounding. It is a great read but it is not groundbreaking. Enjoy it but do not look for the next Gone Girl.

FYI: Try Delaney’s first book, The Girl Before.

Book Review: An American Marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

First line: There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don’t.

Summary: Roy and Celestial are newlyweds. They are happy until one night Roy is arrested for a crime that he did not commit. He is sentenced to a twelve-year sentence. Celestial tries to hold onto the love for her husband but it becomes harder as the years pass by. She takes solace in her friend and the best man at their wedding, Andre. However, Roy is released after five years and plans to return to his life and his wife. Can they go back to the people they were before?

Highlights: This book is one that is relevant. It is a contemporary story about a couple who has to deal with odds that are out of their control. I enjoyed the correspondence between Celestial and Roy while he is in jail. It gives us an insight into the challenges of a couple who are separated by incarceration.

Lowlights: I felt like the climax (when Roy is released) was not as exciting or intriguing as I wanted it to be. I thought there would be more conflict.

FYI: Language and some adult content.

Book Review: The Immortalists

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

First line: Varya is thirteen.

Summary: Four siblings sneak out one night to find a local gypsy woman who is said to be able to tell their futures including their date of death. With these revelations, the siblings begin to live their lives with the knowledge hanging over them. Their stories span over fifty years from San Francisco to Las Vegas. The introduction of the AIDS virus to the war in Iraq. This story shows how knowledge of the future can shape our lives.

Highlights: I really enjoyed Simon’s story. I think he was my favorite character. I was sad when his story was over. However, the plotline for the book was very intriguing. Would I want to know when my death date was? I cannot imagine that I would. It would bring dread as each day passed. On the other hand, would this give me reason to enjoy each day? The author really gives the reader lots to think about while reading. A good author can do this and Chloe Benjamin did a great job.

Lowlights: Simon and Klara were the characters that kept my attention. However, I felt that the story slowed after that. Especially with Varya’s story. Varya had to deal with the loss of each of her siblings and wrapping the story up. I felt like she deserved more. There was a little twist for her but it was not as big as I would have hoped for.

FYI: There is some sexual content and language.

Early April new releases

Cover of The Female Persuasion by Meg WolitzerApril 3: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
From Goodreads: “Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

Cover of Dread Nation by Justina IrelandApril 3: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (young adult)
Zombies, Gettysburg, and combat schools to put down the dead. What’s not to love? It’s the Civil War, and at the battles of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, the dead begin to walk, completely derailing the war and changing the country forever. The safety of the country’s citizens lies in the hands of a relatively few people. New laws require certain people to attend combat schools where they learn to put down the dead. And for Jane McKeene, this means more opportunity than she would have had otherwise as she studies to become an Attendant, and trains in weaponry and etiquette to prepare to protect the well-to-do.

Cover of A Necessary Evil by Abir MukherjeeApril 3: A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
In this followup to A Rising Man, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant “Surrender-Not” Banerjee are called upon to solve the mystery of the assassination of the heir to the throne of the kingdom of Sambalpore. Prince Adhir was a moderniser, but his attitudes and romantic relationship may have upset the religious elements of his country. But the new heir, Prince Adhir’s brother, appears to be an irresponsible playboy. As Wyndham and Banerjee work to untangle the mystery of the murder, they find themselves in a race to find the murderer before the murderer finds them.

Cover of Macbeth by Jo NesboApril 5: Macbeth by Jo Nesbo (Hogarth Shakespeare)
Famed crime writer Jo Nesbo tackles the classic story of Macbeth. From Goodreads: “Set in a dark, rainy northern town, Nesbo’s Macbeth pits the ambitions of a corrupt policeman against loyal colleagues, a drug-depraved underworld and the pull of childhood friendships. Get ready to helter-skelter through the darkest tunnels of human experience.

Cover of Circe by Madeline MillerApril 10: Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe is the daughter of a Titan, but without the powers of either her mother or her father. Because she is such a strange child, she turns to the mortal world for companionship, where she learns she is not powerless. She discovers that she possesses the power of witchcraft, which allows her to transform her rivals into monsters. Threatened by this discovery, Zeus banishes Circe to a deserted island, but this just allows Circe to hone her craft.

Cover of Love and Other Words by Christina LaurenApril 10: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
A then-and-now story of love. Macy is a pediatrics resident who is busy planning her wedding to a financially secure older man. She has a plan — keep her head down and her heart tucked away. Then she runs into Elliott, the love of her life, around whom her whole world used to revolve. From the teenage Elliott and Macy who grow from friends to much more, to the adult Elliott and Macy who have become strangers until their chance reunion, this story explores what happens when love gets a second chance.