Review | Farewell Summer

Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury

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I’m a huge Ray Bradbury fan.  I haven’t found another writer who can accurately capture the nostalgia of childhood so perfectly.  I read Dandelion Wine for the first time a few years ago and it instantly became my favorite book of all time.  It was so perfect in fact that I decided to hold off on reading the sequel, Farewell Summer, until this year.

Farewell Summer brings readers back to Green Town, Illinois with  summer hanging on in to early October.  Doug Spaulding and his friends find a rival in school board leader Calvin Quartermain as they try to make summer last forever, starting a war between the youth and the elderly, both unable to stop the ticking of the clock.

Another powerful coming of age story full of bittersweet nostalgia eloquently written by Bradbury.  Most of this sequel was actually written at the same time as Dandelion Wine but was set aside when the publishers decided it would make the novel too long.
Fifty years later, Bradbury released this long awaited sequel, beautifully polished over the years.

Farewell Summer is a lovely final visit to Green Town with Doug.  If you’re a fan of Bradbury and/or coming of age novels, be sure and read both Dandelion Wine and Farewell Summer!

 

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Review | The Broken Girls

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

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Journalist Fiona Sheridan is haunted by the death of her sister twenty years ago.  Though her sister’s boyfriend is behind bars for the crime, Fiona often finds herself on Old Barron’s Road near the ruins of Idlewild Hall where her body was found, unable to let the case go.

Idlewild Hall was once a boarding school for unwanted girls.  It was rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Mary Hand, searching for her baby that was supposedly buried in the garden.

In 1950, four roommates at Idlewild become unlikely friends who bond over their circumstances and the ghost who haunts the halls. Then one of them disappears, never to be seen again.

When Fiona Sheridan learns that Idlewild is being restored, she cannot let the past go.  She pitches a story to the local magazine she freelances for and begins to dive into the history of the school and its students.  When a body is discovered in an old well at the start of demolition, Fiona believes there has to be a link to her sister and the secrets kept in Idlewild.

Alternating between the events of 1950 and 2014, The Broken Girls deftly weaves two compelling tales that have secrets begging to be revealed!

While there are a couple incredibly convenient events that allow the plot to follow a specific route, this was a creepy mystery with some spooky elements.
Part ghost story, part mystery, The Broken Girls is a book I recommend to readers who enjoy historical fiction and supernatural elements.

Review | Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

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Tuesday Mooney is good at her job as a prospect researcher.

“A prospect researcher is one part private detective, one part property assessor, one part gossip columnist, and one part witch.” *

She works for a hospital finding wealthy people willing to part with some of their money for charitable causes.  She’s a loner who prefers to be on the outside where she can notice what others cannot and would rather stay home and watch X-Files reruns than socialize with her best friend of ten years, Dex, who has never even been to her apartment.

When the eccentric billionaire Vincent Pryce collapses and dies at a charity event, Pryce’s death is overshadowed by his final request:  an epic treasure hunt through Boston with clues inspired by Edgar Allan Poe that will lead to a share of his wealth!

Tuesday’s curiosity and skills lead her and her oddball crew (BFF Dex, teen next door neighbor Dorry, and handsome heir Archie) through a mysterious game that requires them all to face their pasts in hopes of finding Pryce’s fortune.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts was a fun mystery that will certainly be compared to The Westing Game.  I enjoyed the twists, the secrets revealed, and the pop culture references that added some humor.
The pace began to drag in the middle but overall this was an intriguing read that kept me guessing the entire time.

I recommend this book to readers who love games, mysteries, word play, and family drama!

Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts is scheduled for release on October 8, 2019.

*Quote included is from a digital advanced reader’s copy and is subject to change upon final publication.

Review | The Testaments

The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale #2) by Margaret Atwood

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The Handmaid’s Tale is a classic dystopian novel published over 30 years ago and its popularity has surged in the last few years thanks to the Hulu show.  Readers followed the story of Offred, a woman who witnessed the fall of the United States of America and the rise of Gilead and its theocracy. The story was bleak and slightly sinister, especially because so much was left to the reader’s imagination.
The TV show followed the novel’s storyline but has greatly expanded on what we know about Offred and Gilead with a large cast of characters and disturbing crimes committed in the name of religion.

Readers were shocked to learn that Atwood had finally decided to write a sequel 30+ years later.  The author admitted she’d hesitated to do so because she knew she would not be able to find Offred’s voice again.
Atwood’s answer to that problem is The Testaments, a novel set fifteen years after The Handmaid’s Tale and narrated by three women who are ready to see Gilead crumble.
Two of these women are coming of age in the first generation of the new regime; one on the inside as a Commander’s daughter and one watching safely from Canada.  The third woman has ruthlessly gained power within Gilead as a treasured Aunt and she’s had her fill of dark secrets.

While The Handmaid’s Tale was a somber narrative of events told from an isolated perspective, The Testaments is a hopeful narrative by women ready to take action.

I appreciate that Atwood created a sequel that combines what we know from both the first novel and its TV adaptation to create a compelling continuation of story lines readers/viewers are eager to know more about.

I enjoyed finding out what Atwood imagines the fates of certain characters to be though the narratives were very uneven for me.  The Aunt’s narrative was by far the strongest while the remaining two narratives felt somewhat awkward, as though they hadn’t been fully realized and were there only to further the action rather than functioning as voices with valuable information to offer.
That said, the action was fast paced—sometimes much too fast to be believable.  I get that this is a dystopian novel that requires a suspension of disbelief but when we’re looking at the timeline of Gilead’s rise, the events of this novel seem far too hasty.  I can’t really complain, however, since I devoured the entire novel in less than 24 hours.

You cannot one-up your own classic and that clearly wasn’t Atwood’s goal.  She’s given an entertaining continuation to fans of both the novel and its TV adaptation.  I think fans will appreciate the return to Gilead and even the questions that remain.

 

Review | The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss

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You all may remember that I adored a recent read, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (read my review here) and was excited to continue with the series.  I was thrilled to receive an ARC of the final book in the trilogy and quickly checked out book two, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (read that review here), but unfortunately it fell short for me.  While I devoured book one, book two felt like a chore because it lacked some serious editing.

That said, I was still looking forward to the conclusion of The Athena Club series which picks up immediately after European Travel with the group searching for Mary’s kidnapped maid Alice.  They also find it alarming that Sherlock Holmes still hasn’t returned from a mysterious errand and now Dr. Watson cannot be located either.

While searching for their friends, The Athena Club uncovers a plot against the Queen that is connected to the kidnappings. Can they save their friends and the British Empire before it’s too late?

I’m very disappointed to say this was not the exciting finale I hoped for.  Instead, I began skimming before I even reached the half way point in the story.  The snappy dialogue/banter in the middle of the narrative was charming in book one, tedious in book two, and completely unnecessary in book three.
The pace is inconsistent and the plot is weighed down in unnecessary details (which was also my major issue with book two) that make the adventure greatly lag. While I adored the introduction to the extensive cast of characters in book one, there was little to no character growth over the course of the series causing some to go from charming to annoying.  This trilogy takes place over the course of a few short months but the action is always saved for the very end to tie up loose ends quickly.

I’d definitely advise readers who enjoy sci-fi/fantasy and retellings to give the first book a try but I hesitate to recommend the final two.

Thanks to Gallery/Saga Press and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl is scheduled for release on October 1, 2019.

Review | The Library of the Unwritten

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

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“Only books died in Hell. Everyone else had to live with their choices.” *

There is a library in Hell full of unfinished/unwritten stories.  Claire, a no-no-nonsense mortal, has been Head Librarian for a few decades now.  She repairs the books as needed and keeps an eye on the ones that grow restless.

“There were two parts to any unwritten book. Its words—the twisting, changing text on the page—and its story. Most of the time, the two parts were united in the books filling the Unwritten Wing’s stacks, but now and then a book woke up. Felt it had a purpose beyond words on a page. Then the story made itself into one of its characters and went walking.” *

Leto, a demon courier, passes on a message to Claire that an unwritten book has gone missing and is a suspected runaway.  Claire brings Leto and her assistant Brevity to Earth to track down the character that has escaped.  While it should be a routine retrieval, Claire is shocked when the fallen angel Ramiel shows up convinced that they have the Devil’s Bible in their possession.

Claire, Leto, and Brevity, and the character they captured journey across the realms attempting to track down the Devil’s Bible before another war between Heaven and Hell breaks out and the library can be destroyed.

I loved this book!  The premise is so original and the characters were entertaining with their dry humor (which I always enjoy) and the brief back stories that explain how they ended up in Hell.  I also loved a surprising connection between two characters that isn’t revealed until the last portion of the book.
While the middle hit a lull, it picked back up with a strong ending and I can’t wait to see what happens in their next adventure!  That’s right, this was only book one in the series A Novel from Hell’s Library.  I’m looking forward to finding out more about Claire’s past, the politics of Hell which are briefly discussed in this book, and Heaven’s involvement.

Huge thanks to Ace Books for mailing me an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.  The Library of the Unwritten is scheduled for release on October 1, 2019.

*Quotes included are from a digital advanced reader’s copy and are subject to change upon final publication.

Review | A Dream So Dark

A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney

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I read and adored the first book in The Nightmare-Verse series, A Blade So Black (read my review here), an urban fantasy retelling of Alice in Wonderland set in modern day Atlanta.
It was an original take with teen Alice Kingston training with Addison Hatta to battle Nightmares in the realm called Wonderland.  Readers were given an interesting history of the three Queens and then a dangerous foe arrived:  the Black Knight.

A Dream So Dark brings readers back to the action as Alice struggles to keep her two lives separate.  This quickly crumbles when the Black Knight arrives at her home with her feisty mom present.
Alice must travel to the deepest places in Wonderland to find out who the Black Knight is and who it is that he’s serving while also worrying about the fates of both Hatta and Chess.

There’s so much at stake and some shocking history revealed but this book moved at an uneven pace for me.  I love that we spent so much time in Wonderland and there were new characters and creatures introduced but none of it was fully realized as it tried to compete with the sense of urgency to find and defeat the Black Knight.
That sense of urgency fizzled out for me with a rushed ending.  We had been building to this major face-off with fates hanging in the balance and then … the climax unfolds in basically a paragraph.

Overall, this book just didn’t hold up to the first in the series and I doubt I’ll continue on with the series.  I still recommend checked out the series for readers who enjoy YA fantasy and modern retellings.

Thanks to Imprint and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  A Dream So Dark is scheduled for release on September 24, 2019.

Review | Taste of Marrow

Taste of Marrow (River of Teeth #2) by Sarah Gailey

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Last month I read the first novella in this duology, River of Teeth (read my review here) and loved Gailey’s take on an alternate history where the United States imported hippos into the Louisiana marshland to breed as an alternative meat source.

Taste of Marrow picks up a couple of months after River of  Teeth in the aftermath of the caper Winslow Houndstooth and his crew attempted to rid the Mississippi of feral hippos.

Readers will be surprised to find Hero with the assassin Adelia who has given birth to a daughter named Ysabel.  As Hero prepares to strike out on their own, believing Houndstooth and Archie are dead, a crew of men appear and steal Ysabel, leaving behind a note from a man named Whelan Parrish advising Adelia travel to Baton Rouge if she wants to see her daughter again.

At the same time, Houndstooth hasn’t given up on the hope that Hero is still alive.  Archie contacts Gran Carter, the U.S. Marshal she’s fallen for, who is searching for Adelia.  Carter shows up to say he’s located both Adelia and Hero and the three head for Baton Rouge.

When the crew is finally reunited, a group of feral hippos arrives to break up the party aboard Parrish’s boat.  In the chaos, Hero makes sure Adelia is reunited with Ysabel before she escapes arrest by Carter.  And finally, Hero and Houndstooth are able to ride off into the sunset on their hippos.

I didn’t love this second novella as much as the first but there was still some violent hippo action and it was fun to see the crew get a happy ever after!

If you enjoyed River of Teeth and love historical fiction and/or alternate history, definitely pick up this sequel.

Review | Heaven, My Home

Heaven, My Home (Highway 59 #2) by Attica Locke

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Heaven, My Home picks up a short time after the conclusion of Bluebird, Bluebird (read my review here) with Texas Ranger Darren Mathews back to work after his suspension is lifted — but this time behind a desk.  He’s trying to make things right with his wife and has chosen to stay off the road while working to put together a federal case against the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

It’s not just the desk job and his fragile marriage stressing Mathews out these days.  His own mother is now blackmailing him after finding a damning piece of evidence in the case that had him on suspension in Bluebird, Bluebird.

In the midst of his personal drama, Mathews is called to investigate the disapperance of nine-year-old Levi King in the small lakeside town of Jefferson.  Levi’s father is a key player in the Aryan Brotherhood and he’s currently serving hard time.  It’s possible someone has taken his boy to get to him but when Mathews arrives in town, he finds more than a few complicated layers to peel back and local history that has impacted several generations on Caddo Lake.

Locke has crafted yet another intricate and compelling crime novel in the Highway 59 series!  The country noir vibe is still strong, there are multiple plot points that are creating higher stakes, and I’m just as invested in Mathews’ personal life as I am in his current case!  Locke skillfully describes racial tension and attitudes in Texas and how it drives Mathews personally and professionally.

This is a series you definitely need to read from the beginning to understand the characters and ongoing plot.  I recommend it to readers who enjoy country noir, mystery, and crime.

Huge thanks to Mulholland Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  Heaven, My Home is scheduled for release on September 17, 2019.

Review | The Grace Year

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

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Oooh I can always depend on Wednesday Books to release heart-pounding mature YA thrillers tackling intense subjects!

The Grace Year can easily be compared to The Handmaid’s Tale, Lord of the Flies, The Power, and Hunger Games but this is a solid novel that holds its own!

In Garner County, females are believed to have magic, especially girls on the edge of womanhood.  Each year the County banishes the sixteen year olds to a remote gated location to dispel their magic so they may return pure, obedient, and fit for marriage.   But not every girl returns home.

Those who return do not speak of the grace year because it’s forbidden.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James has no desire to be a wife.  She understands that she will become property and all she wants is to be free of the strange superstitions and burdens the women must bear for their human nature.  Her father has taught her many skills that are usually only taught to sons in hopes she will survive her grace year.

The grace year girls must survive the harsh elements, the poachers (men waiting in the woods in hopes of grabbing a girl for horrific purposes), and each other.

“Look around. We are the only Gods here.” *

Alone for the first time in their lives, some of the girls are more willing to embrace the magic they’ve been told that they have and shun others.  A twisted society forms within the gates and readers examine the relationships and motivations of the girls while realizing there’s much more wrong than we were initially told.

“But isn’t that how every horrible  thing begins? Slow. Insipid. A twisting of the screw.” *

Atmospheric and chilling, The Grace Year is a dystopian novel that explores the power women have and how it’s abused in male-dominated societies, how religion is used to keep people in line, and how women are systematically divided against one another.

“We hurt each other because it’s the only way we’re permitted to show our anger. When our choices are taken from us, the fire builds within. Sometimes I feel like we might burn down the world to cindery bits, with our love, our rage, and everything in between.” *

Overall, this is a top-notch YA dystopian/horror novel that focuses on female empowerment.  There’s some romance but thankfully it doesn’t overshadow the strong plot.  I loved some of the unexpected twists that Liggett threw in to make this even more of a page turner.  And the ending.  Oh my.  Such an amazing ending!

“My eyes are wide open, and I see everything now.” *

I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy YA, horror, dystopia, and speculative fiction/thrillers.

Thanks to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.  The Grace Year is scheduled for release on October 8, 2019.

*Quotes included are from a digital advanced reader’s copy and are subject to change upon final publication.