I apologize for being late, but I’d like to extend my best wishes to all my Jewish friends around the world. G’mar Fatima Tova!
We should not be the same person the day after Yom Kippur that we were the day before Yom Kippur. We should be moving ahead, raising our lives to a higher level.
~ Rabbi Marc D. Angel ~
Thanks to NetGalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: October 3rd, 2017
Synopsis: Skye Thorn has given tarot card readings for years, and now her psychic visions are helping the police find the town’s missing golden girl. It’s no challenge—her readings have always been faked, but this time she has some insider knowledge. The kidnapping was supposed to be easy—no one would get hurt and she’d get the money she needs to start a new life. But a seemingly harmless prank has turned dark, and Skye realises the people she’s involved with are willing to kill to get what they want and she must discover their true identity before it’s too late.
Hanging Girl is the first book I’ve read by Eileen Cook so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What happened was I wound up hooked by the end of the first chapter and read it in less than three hours because I literally couldn’t stop reading. I swear my mouth dropped open so many times that now my jaw hurts!
In the beginning, I honestly didn’t think I was going to like Skye. She and her mother are “hucksters” as one character calls them. Skye has learned to take a page out of her mother’s book and bills herself as a psychic, and gives tarot readings to her classmates, for a cost of course. Only eighteen, she’s cynical and jaded for someone so young which sadly makes her an easy target for the people behind this kidnapping scheme. Throughout the book Skye makes one bad decision after another, yet I still wanted everything to turn out okay for her. Despite her actions, she’s smart and has a snarky sense of humor and outlook on life. She’s vulnerable because she sees no real future for herself beyond waiting tables. Because of this I think a lot of what she does is self sabotage. She’s a bit of an outcast at school because of something that happened in eighth grade, but she has one close friend, Drew. I wasn’t able to fully buy into their friendship though. It seemed flat and superficial and I found myself wanting to be shown more, rather than told, why these two girls were practically sisters. But this was just a small part of the story, so it didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment.
There’s quite a cast of secondary characters including Skye’s seemingly clueless mother, the two detectives assigned to the case, an empathetic school guidance counselor, and Paige and her father. They all have an impact on Skye, some positive, and others not so much. But the overarching theme is with all of them there’s more than meets the eye. This is the second YA book in a row where I was thrilled to see adults portrayed pretty realistically.
To say the plot has twists and turns, doesn’t do it justice. A couple I saw coming, but there were a few that completely floored me. I have mixed feelings about the ending though. While the mystery is solved and all questions answered, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed at the way things turned out, although I did understand it.
Overall, Hanging Girl is an exciting thrill ride with a main character who’s completely relatable, and will have readers guessing right up until the end. I highly recommend it to older teens and adults who love psychological thrillers that keep them up at night. I’m looking forward to reading more of Eileen Cook’s work!
This is a beautiful and touching post by K. D. on why On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King is so inspiring!
Stephen King wrote a seminal work on fantasy fiction writing—a memoir of the craft on writing by the same name: Stephen King: A memoir of the Craft – On Writing.
When I decided to write fantasy fiction, instead of just dreaming about it, I decided the best place to start would be with Stephen King. Who better to learn from but a master fiction writer? So, I purchased his book in the year 2005, read it several times, high-lighted tantalizing concepts, tabbed with sticky writable tabs until I had outlined the entire book. I soon learned that reading about writing, tabbing every conceivable point of interest does not necessarily create a master fiction writer or even a mediocre fiction writer.
So, I stopped reading books on writing and just started reading books I loved: Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Edgar Allen Poe, Harry Potter, Hans Christian Anderson, and so many others. I…
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Thanks to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: October 3rd, 2017
Synopsis: Natasha doesn’t remember how she ended up in the icy water that night, but she does know this—it wasn’t an accident, and she wasn’t suicidal. Her two closest friends are acting strangely, and Natasha turns to Becca, the best friend she dumped years before when she got popular, to help her figure out what happened.
Natasha’s sure her friends love her. But does that mean they didn’t try to kill her?
I’ve been a fan of Sarah Pinborough for years, and have come to realize one thing when picking up one of her books: expect the unexpected. 13 Minutes, which I believe is her first YA novel, is full of secrets, lies and deception, which makes it a perfect read for fans of Pretty Little Liars.
I have to be honest and say this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, mainly because of the characters. Natasha, Jenny, and Hayley, aka The Barbies, at first come across as your typical mean girls. You really don’t find out what truly makes them tick until the second half of the book. Becca, who used to be BFFs with Queen Bee Natasha’s, before she was kicked to the curb for not fitting ideals of physical attributes, is the one I emotionally connected with the most. She’s a deeply flawed character, but I completely understood some of her questionable actions and decision making. I found myself not only emphasizing with her, but also rooting for her.
The majority of adult characters are in the background as is expected in a YA novel, but I was appreciative that for the most part they were portrayed realistically instead of cardboard cutouts which I’ve been finding in so many YA books lately.
The plot kept me guessing the entire time I was reading. It seems like the central mystery is solved about 60% of the way in, but it’s not. While shortly after that point, I began figuring out what really happened, the hows and whys continued to elude me until shortly before the end.
And, that ending! I still can’t decide whether I loved it or hated it. While the mystery is solved, there are some loose ends that Pinborough left dangling, I suspect deliberately so. It was brilliant yet frustrating at the same time.
I think with 13 Minutes, Sarah Pinborough has again showed herself to be a master of psychological thrillers. She does a great job at getting into the heads of her YA characters and bringing them to life, and if you’re a parent this may leave you wondering what’s really going on in your teenagers lives. Although this is a YA book the story is quite complex and I think adult readers will enjoy this. It seems as though Netflix is going to be making a series from this and I’m hoping they do it justice.
Thanks to NetGalley and Lyrical Underground for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: Available Now
Synopsis: Bram Stoked award-nominated author Mary SanGiovanni returns with a terrifying tale of madness, murder and mind-shattering evil…
Nilhollow—six-hundred-plus acres of haunted woods in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens—is the stuff of urban legend. Amid tales of tree spirits and all-powerful forest gods are frightening accounts of of hikers who went insane right before taking their own lives. It is here that Julia Russo flees when her violent ex-boyfriend runs her off the road…here that she vanishes without a trace.
State Trooper Pete Grainger has witnessed unspeakable things that have broken other men. But he has to find Julia and can’t turn back now. Every step takes him closer to an ugliness that won’t be appeased—a centuries-old, devouring hatred rising up to eviscerate humankind. Waiting, feeding, surviving. It’s unstoppable. And it’s time has come.
Horror is one of my favorite genres and I especially like reading books that fall under this heading this time of year. I’ve read a couple of Mary SanGiovanni’s previous books and have enjoyed them, but Savage Woods Just didn’t work for me.
I’m going to start with the two main characters from whose POV most of the chapters alternate. They’re likable enough, but nothing stands out about them. Julia is your ubiquitous domestic abuse victim, who’s lost in Nilhollow after her ex-boyfriend drives her off the road and tries to kill her. She goes from self-doubting, insecure damsel in distress to “I am woman, hear me roar”, which is wonderful, but I’ve read so many books with similar characters, that I was left wanting more.
I had the same feelings about Pete, her earnest, would-be beau. I thought he came off as a nice guy, but he’s someone I’ll forget about as soon as I start reading my next book. And once they’re reunited there aren’t any real sparks between them, which made their relationship unbelievable.
Which brings me to the mythology and plot. One of the things that caught my attention when I read the premise was that while the setting was the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, is that it didn’t feature the Jersey Devil which most books that are set here seem to do. Instead, the author has based her story on Native American folklore, which I should have loved, but instead found it a bit corny. Despite all the blood, gore and ripping off of heads and limbs, I didn’t find this remotely scary. The Forest King especially had me rolling my eyes and I couldn’t stop thinking of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. It was also a little confusing, and I’m still not exactly sure where the big evil originated from.
In the end, despite it’s promising premise, Savage Woods failed in its execution for me. I never emotionally connected with the characters, and I found myself laughing a couple of times during some of the gorier scenes, which is never a good thing when you’re reading horror. It is a quick read though, so if you do want to try this, you’ll be able to breeze through it in 2-3 sittings. Otherwise, I just can’t find a good reason to recommend this.
Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: September 26th, 2017
Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…
Until, of course, more important questions arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.
In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.
Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life.
And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only have one suspect: Nate.
Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and the pages of that journal.
The Blackbird Season has one of the creepiest openings I’ve ever come across, and while there were some slow periods and I thought the mystery was a bit predictable, it’s a great look at small town life and an interesting character study.
Please be warned there’s a lot of social issues examined that could be triggers for some readers including bullying, self-harm, drug abuse, poverty and rape. These are not gratuitously written in, but instead are layered in to the complicated tapestry that makes up this town.
Mount Oanoke, a small Pennsylvania mill town is your typical small town Americana, and depicts both the best and worst of living in rural areas. On the one hand, there’s less crime and people look out for one another. On the other, residents are gossipy, judgemental, and they’re losing their young people who flee to greener pastures as soon as they graduate.
The story is told from the perspective of the four main characters: Nate, Alecia, Bridget and Lucia. Except for Bridget, none of these characters are one-hundred percent likable, although in the end I did wind up feeling sympathetic towards them, especially Lucia.
Nate is an ex-jock who at best shows some truly atrocious judgement and at worst is a neglectful father and husband. While I felt a modicum of sympathy for his predicament, his complete and utter cluelessness in regards to both his family and Lucia had me wanting to slap him more than once.
I initially disliked Nate’s wife, Alecia and frankly, found her to be kind of a witch. However, seeing her struggles trying to raise her five-year-old autistic son basically by herself, is heart wrenching and as the story unfolded I found myself appreciating what she was going through more.
Bridget is struggling herself having lost her husband to cancer the year before. She’s a loyal friend to both Nate and Alecia, and is one of the few adults who are truly concerned about Lucia.
And there’s eighteen-year-old Lucia. Just thinking of her even now, two days after I finished the book, brings me to tears. There’s no doubt she’s a prickly personality, and there are times that she certainly doesn’t do herself any favors, but she’s someone who from the beginning is never given a chance and watching what she goes through is heartbreaking.
The story itself is interesting and while I found the pace lagged at times, I still for the most part stayed engaged. While I wasn’t initially sure how the deaths of the blackbirds was related to the main plot, I liked the way the author managed to tie them in. I have mixed feelings regarding the ending though. While it answered the central mystery, there’s some side plots that I think could have been tied up a little more smoothly.
It probably sounds like I didn’t enjoy The Blackbird Season, But I actually did despite the issues I had with it. I would recommend this for not only fans of Kate Moretti’s previous books, but also readers who enjoy dark, multi-layered, slow-burning suspense.