Book Preview – After the End by Clare Mackintosh

After the End by Clare MackintoshI first came to Clare Mackintosh’s work when I had the chance to preview I Let You Go several years ago. Until now, I’d only read her work that might be considered thrillers or suspense. Her upcoming After the End is different from what I’ve read by her in the past, but in an incredibly moving way. While I’d wavered after reading Let Me Lie last year, I couldn’t put After the End down. From the unique narrative approach to a difficult topic, through the emotional upheaval of such well-developed characters, After the End is unlike anything I’ve read before (or am likely to read again for a very long time).

Philippa “Pip” and Max Adams are trying to make the best of a bad situation. Their son, Dylan, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at two-and-a-half years old and he’s been in the PICU following treatment. Just when they’re hoping to be able to take him home, they receive worse news: the tumor is back and growing again and the medical staff believe that the best course is to stop treatment and limit their efforts to palliative care. The final decision is up to Pip and Max. But they disagree on what they should do and the issue ultimately ends up in court. Continue reading

Advertisements

Book Preview – The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea BobotisEvery once in a while, I read a book that really makes me miss college and the discussions we would have in my English classes and seminars. Andrea Bobotis’ upcoming The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is one of those books. The plot isn’t overly complicated and the characters aren’t particularly compelling, but there is so much to analyze and talk about and right up to the last pages, I found myself surprised by the level of layers the text contains.

Judith Kratt takes immense pride in the house her father built along with everything inside it. As she starts to feel her seventy plus years, she tells Olva (who’s lived at the house with her since her father died) that she is going to make an inventory of everything in the house. But before Judith gets too far in her list, her younger sister Rosemarie reappears after having run away sixty years before, following the death of their brother, Quincy, under circumstances that shook the Kratt family and everyone in their small town of Bound. Her arrival disrupts the household but also brings the newspaperman, Marcus, and his daughter, Amaryllis, into a more prominent place in their lives (Marcus being the great-grandson of the man everyone believes killed Quincy). Judith makes her list, the items in the house bring back memories and stories of those weeks before her brother’s death along with a number of family secrets and the roles they played.

Continue reading

Book Preview – The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack by H. M. Naqvi

The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack by HM NaqviI can’t remember what it was about the description for H. M. Naqvi’s upcoming novel, The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack that first attracted my attention, and now that I’ve finished reading it, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Abdullah lives at the old family estate, the Lodge, along with his youngest brother (Babu) and that brother’s family. Babu along with two of his other brothers are pushing Abdullah to agree to join them in selling the Lodge (probably to a developer). At seventy years old, however, Abdullah clings to the family homestead having been convinced that he would one day die there as their father did before them. With the hope that his fifth and final brother will side with him, Abdullah works to avoid and thwart his siblings and their plans. At the same time, Abdullah has taken in his friend’s grandson, Bosco, to keep safe while his neighborhood endures a turf war between some local gangsters. Another new acquaintance of Abdullah’s, however, threatens to bring that very turf war to the Lodge when Abdullah meets the enchanting Jugnu and tries to pursue her romantically. Continue reading

Book Preview – Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

Here and Now and Then by Mike ChenI’m a sucker for a good time travel story so the synopsis I read for Mike Chen’s upcoming Here and Now and Then immediately caught my attention. Add a dash of family drama and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. While it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting, that wasn’t a bad thing at all. There was far more attention to the emotional ramifications of everything and less emphasis on the high-stakes thriller side of the story, and for me it worked out better than I initially would have thought.

Kin Stewart works for a secret organization that protects the timelines of history from interference, usually in the form of people hiring mercenaries to rig financial systems in their favor but occasionally from those who would alter history more drastically with assassinations. On one such mission to the mid 1990s, Kin’s retrieval equipment is damaged and he finds himself stranded. With no choice but to wait for his team from 2142 to find him, he clings to what hope he can find. But it’s eighteen years before that retrieval team finally locates him to bring him back and in those intervening years, Kin didn’t hunker down enough. He married and had a daughter whom his bosses now consider timeline corruptions. He has no choice but to go back to his original time and leave the clean-up team to explain his disappearance. Once he’s ‘home’ however, the need to check in on the family he left behind is irresistible and what Kin finds leads to ripples that will put his daughter in danger. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine ArdenI wish I’d had enough time to go back to the beginning of Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy to reread the first two novels before going into the upcoming final novel, The Winter of the Witch… but I also wouldn’t have been patient enough to do that with my preview copy just waiting to be read. I’ll have to settle for rereading all three in a row with the series’ end in mind. While I’m often left a little disappointed by the end of a series, whether it’s the execution or the simple fact it’s over, The Winter of the Witch is too satisfying to even be too disappointed there won’t be more.

This final installment picks up the action precisely where The Girl in the Tower left off, with the aftermath of the fire in Moscow and Father Konstantin looking to find an outlet for the frustrating contradictions growing in his faith—and he quickly locates a suitable target in Vasya. Riling up the people of Moscow who want vengeance for their own losses and suffering, Father Konstantin turns the mob to the terem where Vasya, her sister, and her sister’s children and ladies are recovering from their own ordeal. Vasya turns herself over to save the others, but there are other forces at work seeking to spare her, leaving her to pursue a greater purpose in the larger battles being fought—between the new religion and the older pagan traditions, between the principalities of Russia and the Tatar threat… Continue reading

Book Preview – The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiAs a fan of Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen books, I was excited to see she had a new series on the way and the description for the first book, The Gilded Wolves had me intrigued. The new series promises to be an ambitious project, less reliant on mythology and folktales for its basis and involving a wide and diverse cast of characters, but it fell a bit flat for me where The Star-Touched Queen stories soared. It’s far too early for a release date for the next book in the series but though this first installment ends with many questions up in the air, I’m not sure this first leg of the journey left me invested enough or intrigued enough to bother with more.

Séverin was supposed to be the heir of one of the four family houses of the Order, bearers of great power and entrusted with using that power to protect several crucial artifacts—supposed to be from God Himself. But Séverin’s illegitimate birth was used as an excuse to exclude him and end his family’s house, leaving only two remaining houses and the larger Order to divvy up his inheritance. Having built a team of fellow misfits with unique gifts of their own, Séverin enjoys a bit of revenge in the form of stealing from the Order. Then Hypnos, the Patriarch of another house, comes to him with a proposition—the Order needs a certain artifact secured and if Séverin and his team help, Hypnos will re-administer the test to have Séverin’s inheritance and house restored. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

Pretty much any book description that includes history and time travel is going to, at the very least, capture my interest. The description for Nicola Cornick’s upcoming novel, The Phantom Tree, did just that. Once I get past the description and start reading, I need there to be both compelling characters and a compelling story (the characters being just a little more important of the two). Once again, The Phantom Tree delivered and in some pretty big and surprising ways.

At first glance, Alison Bannister seems like many other modern women with careers and commitment issues. But when she stumbles across a Tudor-era portrait in a shop window, her past comes crashing back into her present in more than one way. Originally from the sixteenth century, Alison became trapped but has been searching for clues to a way back to the son she left behind—clues she hopes the portrait’s subject, Mary Seymour, left for her to find. Mary’s face isn’t the only one from her past she sees in the shop that day, however. Her ex, Adam (now a famous historian), is also there having discovered the painting and declared it to be of Anne Boleyn. Alison needs Adam’s help to get the answers she needs, and for her son, she is willing to brave the demons of her past in two centuries. Continue reading

Book Preview – Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi

Continuing with the characters and mythic, magical realism of The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes, Roshani Chokshi’s newest release, Star-Touched Stories provides readers with three new stories exploring the universe and relationships she’s established. While some characters are familiar leads, we also get new depth to some who were more on the sidelines of the two novels. With two set after the conclusion on A Crown of Wishes, these stories also provide a glimpse of the future should the series continue (and I certainly hope it does).

The thematic tension between fear and faith is the thread that runs through all three tales. In Death and Night, the fear of a curse first drives Death to court Night and then threatens the relationship that starts to blossom between them. Poison and Gold follows Aasha’s journey navigating the mortal realm and the court of her close friends, Gauri and Vikram. When her fear puts those she loves in danger, she must master it or risk being banished from their inner circle. But as she masters the balance between being human and being a vishakanya, old fears are replaced with new ones. Lastly, Rose and Sword tells a tale of Gauri’s deepest fears about her relationship with Vikram. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Hidden Light of Northern Fires by Daren Wang

If there’s a subgenre of historic fiction that I find difficult to turn down, it’s historic fiction set during the American Civil War. There were so many factors at play with consequences rippling through so many groups of people in so many places and so many ways that I don’t think we’ll ever run out of stories to tell about that period of American history. The sheer size and scope of it also makes it difficult to tackle in a novel and trying to engage with too many angles of it at once can be a mistake. There is so much in Daren Wang’s The Hidden Light of Northern Fires that is done well, but I found the novel as a whole to be underwhelming and I think that this is the culprit—plots with great promise that went underdeveloped because there were simply too many of them.

The town of Town Line in New York is near Buffalo but along the border with Canada. This means that the town is home to many slave hunters who make a living catching escaped slaves when they’re just steps away from freedom. But not everyone in town looks fondly on the practice, least of all Mary Willis whose father essentially founded the town and whose sawmill built most of it as well. When an escaped man called Joe turns up in their barn half dead, she calls on the doctor and helps to first heal then conceal the man from the men who would capture Joe and return him south. Tensions in the town rise when the war begins as many young men head off to fight for the Union where others have ties to the Confederacy. Continue reading

Book Preview – How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

Sometimes the impression you get from a book’s description is the right one and sometimes it’s the wrong one. Sometimes when that impression is wrong, you find you enjoy the book just the same and sometimes you don’t—or at least, you don’t enjoy it as much as you might have if it was closer to what you were expecting. The soon-to-be-released How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas wasn’t as close to the description as I might’ve hoped. There were elements and themes I definitely found relatable, but I can’t really say that I enjoyed the novel as a whole; of course, I can’t say that I hated it either. I just found myself incredibly indifferent over all.

Isidore Mazal is the youngest in his family. With three older sisters and two older brothers, all incredibly intelligent and blindly dedicated to their studies and academic pursuits, Isidore is the only one of his siblings who seems to be able to connect with people outside the family with relative ease. His siblings often baffle him as much as he appears to baffle them. As major changes alter the dynamics of the family, Isidore searches for ways to connect with the members of his family. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

While I don’t quite remember what it was about the description of Siobhan Fallon’s upcoming The Confusion of Languages that caught my attention, I do know that my initial impressions while reading it were that this wasn’t the story I’d been expecting. In the case of The Confusion of Languages, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all (especially since I can’t remember what it was I was expecting). On the contrary, I found the novel to be a fascinating character study of two American women living abroad and the unusual nature of their friendship.

Cassie is an experienced embassy wife. She and her husband, Dan, have been living in Jordan, the site of his latest posting, for a while and decide it’s about time they sponsor a few newcomers to the extended embassy family. Margaret and Cassie’s friendship appears to be on solid ground when a small fender-bender requires Margaret go to the police station to deal with the authorities. Cassie is left to babysit Margaret’s toddler son, Mather but as the day wears on, Cassie can’t get in touch with Margaret and the recent cracks in their friendship begin to come to light as Cassie passes the time reading Margaret’s diary and recalling her own impression of those early days. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

I like to think I’m a big science fiction fan but I tend to favor what’s probably better considered to be light science fiction. The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett is precisely the kind of light science fiction that I love. While it delves into the science and philosophy of a potential future for human kind—and how we might easily become almost entirely wiped out as a species—the real focus of the novel is the emotional side, the personal side, the human side that remains and endeavors to survive against all odds.

Jamie, like the entire human population scattered across the inhabited planets, has been at the mercy of a devastating virus that spreads quickly and leaves nothing but dust in its wake… except for those zero point zero zero zero zero one percent who somehow manage to survive and recover. The planet where she’s been living and working for a few months to hide from some personal (relationship) troubles is on the outskirts though and didn’t have a large population to begin with. Jamie’s panic lasts a few days as she makes her way to a port town and tries to send a signal to see if there are any other survivors out there. She doesn’t have to wait long and soon she has joined several others on their way to the capital planets and eventually back to Earth itself. But as survivors gather in larger and larger numbers, the underlying issues of the society that’s been wiped out prove to have survived the virus along with them. Continue reading

Book Review – After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara

For all the atrocities of foreign wars that take place on the front lines and in the nations where the battles are being fought, there are often atrocities that happen back home; atrocities that get swept under the rug of history or dismissed as unimportant in the larger scheme of things. One such atrocity that is coming to light more in recent years—thanks in part to recent political moves that echo the problematic themes of this atrocity—is the internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II. Until reading Leslie Shimotakahara’s recent novel, After the Bloom which is in part inspired by her own family’s history in the American internment camps, I had no idea that camps like that were established in parts of Canada too. What her novel brings to life so importantly is that these camps had lasting effects at all levels—the individual, the family, and the community.

Rita knew her mother, Lily, had spent time during the war in an internment camp in California but since her mother never really spoke about it, Rita knows very little about that period of her mother’s life. It’s clear that it might be linked to the ways her mother can become ‘confused’ but Rita has more pressing things to worry about in the wake of her recent divorce and subsequent move. That is, until her mother goes missing. The police investigate but with no evidence of foul play, there isn’t much they can do. Rita takes it upon herself to look into why her mother might have left and where she might have gone. The more questions she asks, the more the answers seem to center around an incident that happened at the internment camp. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

I have had Elizabeth Kostova’s debut novel The Historian sitting on my To Read shelf for some time so while I recognized her name when her upcoming The Shadow Land came up in my possible preview pile, I hadn’t actually read her work before. The Shadow Land also fell into my recent inclination towards historic fiction that explores the nations of Europe in the aftermath of World War II so I jumped to preview it. Though it proved for me to be slow reading, the depiction of life behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s is a harsh one that the area struggles to deal with even in the decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Alexandra Boyd decided she needed a change so she signed up to teach English in Bulgaria but before she can even reach her hostel and start to settle in, things begin to go wrong. Assisting a middle-aged man and his elderly parents into a taxi, Alexandra soon discovers that one of their bags has gotten mixed in with her own. Containing the ashes of someone obviously dear to them, she sets about trying to find them again so she can return the urn and apologize for the mix-up. Her taxi driver, Asparuh who tells her to call him Bobby, offers to help her in her efforts to track the family down. Receiving an address from the police, Alexandra insists on returning the remains personally. As she and Bobby follow a trail of breadcrumbs, it becomes clear there’s more to the story of the man in the urn and his family than they realized. Continue reading

Book Preview – A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

a crown of wishes - book coverLast year The Star-Touched Queen was one of my favorite books of the year and this year Roshani Chokshi’s follow up novel, A Crown of Wishes promises to be an even bigger favorite of mine. Capturing all the lyrical and mythical elements of the last novel, A Crown of Wishes expands upon her already established world but also thematically addresses the power of something very near and dear to my heart: stories.

The coup planned by Maya’s younger sister Gauri has failed and she has landed in the custody of the kingdom of Ujijain whose relationship with Bharata is tenuous and possibly dependent on whether or not they kill her––which is what her brother dearly wants. Vikram, the prince of Ujijain, cannot convince his adoptive father’s council to take him seriously or grant him more than just superficial power over the nation as his father plans to retire. He is tasked with informing Gauri of her approaching execution but a messenger of sorts reaches him first with an invitation to the Tournament of Wishes held by the King of Riches in Alaka, one of the kingdoms of the Otherworld. The invitation is for him and a partner matching Gauri’s description. Rather than announce her death, he gives her the choice to join him in the tournament or not. And so their story begins. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

witchfinder's sister - book coverOne of my favorite classes in college was a history course where our focus was on witches. We examined various outbreaks of witch scares in Europe and the American colonies, compared how they unfolded and the methods for dealing with the accused, we looked at who the accused tended to be and why they might have been accused (spoiler alert: mostly widows and single women who were in more independent positions than the men in their communities were comfortable with them having). So a novel like Beth Underdown’s upcoming The Witchfinder’s Sister should be right up my alley.

Having just lost her husband in an accident, Alice returns home to her brother, Matthew’s, home where their mother has also recently died. It has been several years since Alice has seen her brother who did not approve of her marriage and in their time apart it quickly becomes clear to Alice that much about him has changed. He has gained a noted position in their old community since he has become involved in taking down complainants’ accounts and questioning accused witches in the area. Alice is horrified but convinces herself that it will all blow over in the end while also piecing together the truth of what happened in her parents’ household that might be driving Matthew in his mission. Will she be able to save anyone from her brother? Continue reading

Book Preview – The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen

forgotten girls - book coverThis is the second time I’ve inadvertently read a book from the middle of an ongoing series rather than started from the beginning. Incidentally, both series happen to be in the crime/thriller genre and—due in part to the nature of the genre—both worked well enough as standalone novels (the first more so than this one). The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen will be the sixth book in his Stevens & Windermere series when it is released on March 14.

If you’ve ever seen a crime procedural on television, you’re probably familiar with the facts: that many victims of violent crime are women, that women of color are disproportionately victims of violent crime, and that transients, drug addicts, and sex workers are likely to wind up as victims of violent crime. These are the very demographics that make up the target victims of a dangerous serial killer train hopping around the northern Midwest. It’s a case that falls into Stevens and Windermere’s laps and quickly proves to be a larger and—thanks to the winter weather—tricky hunt for the killer. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

second mrs hockadayAlways game for a novel set during and around the events of the American Civil War, I didn’t have to read too far into the description of Susan Rivers’ soon-to-be-released The Second Mrs. Hockaday before I knew I wanted to read it. I didn’t think much of the fact that the novel promised to tell the story in question through letters, journal entries, and inquest papers—it actually would have made it more appealing because telling a story through such limited means can lead to particularly creative story-telling. In the case of The Second Mrs. Hockaday however, I think these narrative conventions fail to live up to that potential and ultimately rob the story of some of its natural tension.

Placidia Fincher Hockaday met her husband the day of her step-sister’s wedding and married him the next day when she was but seventeen years old. A widower with an infant son, Major Gryffth Hockaday and his new bride didn’t have much time to themselves before he was called back to the Confederate front lines by his commanders. For the remaining two years the war lasted, they were separated with Placidia running his farm, raising his son, and commanding his slaves. When he returned at the end of the war, he discovered that there were scandalous rumors about just what his wife had been up to in his absence—and with whom. Decades later, the Hockaday children—having buried their parents—begin to uncover their mother’s secrets from those two years, what drove a wedge between their parents, and what brought the couple back together again in the end. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

bear and the nightingaleI am incredibly happy to be starting a new year of reviews with this book because it was a fantastic book to be reading as this last year came to an end. After finishing it I went back and reread the initial description that inspired me to put it on my preview request list—having forgotten everything about that description in the months between submitting my request and reading the book. I had to laugh because usually, those descriptions feel strategically written with an eye towards marketing—which, of course, they are—but in this case I found completely accurate. Katherine Arden’s upcoming The Bear and the Nightingale reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and is also “recommended” for fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (which I just got a personal copy of for Christmas so I can read and enjoy it all over again).

It is some years after Pyotr Vladimirovich’s beloved wife Marina died following the birth of their youngest daughter, Vasilisa (called Vasya), but he finally admits that the time has come for him to remarry—mostly so there is another woman around to help with Vasya who appears to take her nurse’s fairy tales a little too literally. Journeying with his two oldest sons to Moscow, Pyotr returns with a devout new wife and a gift for Vasya from an odd stranger. Vasya can do nothing right in the eyes of her new stepmother but it isn’t until a new priest arrives in the village (determined to bring the fear of God to the northern people and save their souls) that more devastating effects threaten the village as the people begin neglecting the protective household spirits of old.

Continue reading

Book Preview – The Memory Stones by Caroline Brothers

memory stones - book coverThe premise of Caroline Brothers’ The Memory Stones caught my attention a while ago but it has taken me a while to get through the novel—due out tomorrow, October 25, 2016. A combination of lack of time (on my part) and a lack of compelling pacing (on the novel’s part) made this book a slog when it really shouldn’t have been. The story being told should be incredibly compelling and at times it is, but its presentation and organization left something to be desired.

Osvaldo and his family living in Buenos Aires in the late 1970’s find themselves at the mercy of an increasingly ominous and powerful junta regime. When Osvaldo takes a chance and criticizes the military commanders in power, he must flee the country for his own safety, leaving behind his wife. He soon gets word that their youngest daughter and her fiancé have disappeared but whether they’ve gone into hiding or have actually been abducted by the regime is unclear at first. A rumor that his daughter was pregnant when she was taken sets Osvaldo and his wife, Yolanda, on the path to locating not just their daughter but their grandchild as well. The fall of the junta doesn’t necessarily mean they will find the answers they seek but perseverance and time might bring this family back together in the end. Continue reading

Book Preview – The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter by John Pipkin

The Blind Astronomer's Daughter - book coverI was fascinated and thoroughly enjoyed The Stargazer’s Sister last year, a novel about Caroline Herschel, the sister of eighteenth century astronomer William Herschel who became a prolific astronomer in her own right. The description for The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter promised to explore similar themes in a similar setting. While there are elements of what I was expecting—hoping—to find in the novel, Pipkin goes beyond focusing on his titular heroine and not always with tremendous success.

Fictitious astronomer Arthur Ainsworth is determined to find a new planet in the heavens so he can name it for his late wife and honor her legacy. It is a mission he enlists his daughter, Caroline, to help him with as he transforms his Irish estate into an observatory and commissions work on a telescope to rival that of William Herschel in England. But there is more going on in Ireland and there are more secrets in Caroline’s past than she is aware of until her father, blinded by looking too often at the sun through his telescope, dies. She learns the truth of who she is and it upends everything she once thought about herself, her father, and his work. It will take many years for Caroline to pick up the pieces of her shattered self and reassemble them into someone new, just as Ireland threatens to rip itself apart in 1798.

Continue reading

Book Preview – The Upright Heart by Julia Ain-Krupa

upright heart - book coverIn the case of Julia Ain-Krupa’s upcoming The Upright Heart, I find myself once again in the situation where what I was expecting based on the description provided and what I actually got were two very different things. Yet, when I went back to the description it actually is very close to the story being told in the novel—it just didn’t prepare me at all for the way that story was going to be presented. Luckily, in this case the surprising difference between expectation and reality worked in the novel’s favor, and I can’t honestly think of a much better way that the book’s description could prepare the reader for the way the narrative unfolds.

In the years following World War II, the people of Poland—both living and dead—struggle to make peace with all that transpired. Wolf married and moved to America before the war while the rest of his family were killed in the war; he returns to his hometown to see what is left and to say the prayers for the dead in the hope he and they may rest easier. On another plane, his first love Olga—a Catholic who helped hide his family as long as she could—clings to him when he reappears; she is unable to move on but isn’t sure why. A young woman, Anna, sees and feels the spirits of the dead around her, uncertain whether the people she sees are among the living or the dead; she is also haunted by memories of her former coworker, a woman who concealed her Jewish identity when they both worked as maids in the household of the governor general’s subordinate. Wiktor and his family survived the war but an on-the-job accident shortly after its end leaves Wiktor’s family mourning his loss while his spirit seeks to assist the spirits of others who have been having trouble moving on. Continue reading

Book Review – The Unseen World by Liz Moore

unseen world - book coverThe Unseen World by Liz Moore—available in stores today—is another case of a fantastic description that, when I started actually reading the book, wasn’t really what I was expecting. It wasn’t entirely a bad thing, as the novel had strong thematic resonance, but it did take me a while to get invested in it—more so because of its pacing and organization. Weaving the early days of artificial intelligence development and computer programming with a deeply emotional personal tale, The Unseen World is a layered glimpse into the past while also looking forward to the possibilities of the future.

Ada Sibelius has lived an unusual life for a fourteen-year-old girl in 1980s Boston. Raised by her single father, she has spent much of her life with him at the computer sciences lab he directs, learning what he taught her and contributing to the lab group on their developing projects despite her youth. But when her father’s health begins to cause problems and confusion, Ada is forced into a more traditional school (a private Catholic school as opposed to public school, but a school where she must interact with her peers in age) where she must face the fact that she isn’t familiar with the social morays of being a teenager. As her father’s health and mental state continue to deteriorate, Ada learns that he had more secrets than anybody knew—secrets that cause Ada to question her own reality and identity as she struggles to unearth the truth. Continue reading

Book Preview – Since She Went Away by David Bell

book cover - since she went awayI’m kind of in the middle of a murder mystery kick, so when I read the description for David Bell’s upcoming Since She Went Away it seemed logical to add it to my list. While there are certainly plenty of mysteries within the novel, I didn’t find the path to the answers—or the mother and son whose perspectives form the main narrative—as engaging as I had hoped.

Jenna blames herself for her best friend’s disappearance several months earlier—it was Jenna who called Celia and suggested the two of them get together in the middle of the night and try to recapture some of the glory of their high school days and it was Jenna who ran late when they were supposed to meet in the park. She finds herself in a static and frustratingly helpless position, as every call could be terrific news or terrible news or worst of all—no news. But as winter moves towards spring and her son finds first love with a vaguely familiar new girl at his school, the seemingly cold case begins to thaw as new leads pop up.

Continue reading

Book Preview – The Virgin’s War by Laura Andersen

virgin's war - book coverI had been looking forward to getting a chance to preview the final novel in The Boleyn Trilogy’s sequel trilogy from Laura Andersen. The Virgin War, while not quite as tight narratively as The Boleyn Reckoning (the final novel of the original trilogy), did pack almost as much of an emotional punch and did so while having far more narrative threads in play and delving further and further into the realm of speculation as this alternative history continues to take its inspiration from actual historical events and movements.

The inevitable war between England and Spain draws closer but Elizabeth I and her daughter, Anne Isabella (Anabel), Princess of Wales, have long been laying the groundwork for a counter to the anticipated Spanish attack on English soil. Elizabeth’s former husband, Philip of Spain (and Anne’s father) is driven to pursue the war from a desire to save his daughter’s soul by restoring her to the true faith… and because his latest wife and mother to his young twin sons, Mary Stuart, has a huge grudge against Elizabeth. With a political marriage proposed between Anabel and James VI of Scotland in the works, Anabel has been winning support for herself in the north of England while she and her mother have fed the public belief that they have fallen out with one another and that the young princess is malleable as far as Spanish influence is concerned. Involved in many of the machinations and assisting the Tudor women are the members of the Courtenay family as all involved work to balance their emotional struggles with the need to do what must be done to protect and preserve England.

Continue reading