Unsettled Ground

by Claire Fuller


I can’t remember how I heard of this novel, but I was searching the book list in my notes and looking for it. As soon as I saw the beautiful cover, I knew it would be good (not that one should judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest, we all do to some degree).
The novel starts with the death of Dot. Dot dies suddenly from a stroke, leaving her twins Jeanie and Julius to fend for themselves. Jeanie and Julius, however, should have no problem living without their mother because they are, after all, 51 years old.
Following the death of their mother, the twins discover their mother had been keeping certain truths from them, truths that would lead to evictions, resentments, and potentially murder.
Claire Fuller writes beautifully with every descriptive phrase and piece of dialogue purposefully chosen to tell her story most effectively. I will be reading more of her writing in the future!

Cradles of the Reich

By Jennifer Coburn

Jennifer Coburn has exposed me to an atrocity in history of which I knew little. Before and during the Second World War, Germany established Lebensborn societies, homes for extraordinary German women of a certain Aryan pedigree who would be housed and nurtured with the hope of breeding strong, beautiful, “perfect” Germans. These homes would also accommodate children kidnapped from German-occupied countries because they looked exceptionally Aryan to be adopted and raised by German families.

Jennifer Coburn writes her story around three women who each experience Lebensborn in different roles. Gundi, unmarried and pregnant, is pressured to enter Lebensborn house because she is proportionally the “perfect “ German woman with perfect colouring and stature and body shape and exemplifies German motherhood. Gundi, however, is anything put the perfect Nazi and holds alliances and love elsewhere. Hildie desires to be a true “Hitler girl” and will do whatever it takes to bear a child of a Nazi officer. And Irma, a nurse who is attempting to do her job while trying unsuccessfully to notice atrocities taking place.

I read this novel from beginning to end on a travel day, and I was so absorbed in the story and characters it made all the flights and layovers I experienced fly by! This novel is a fascinating and heartbreaking novel about a time in history ( one of the many times ) where women are exploited for the “good of the country”. Be sure to add this to your Tbr list when it is published in October. Thank you to Netgalley and Source Books for the free advanced copy!

What Moves the Dead

by T Kingfisher

What a horrifically beautiful cover!

This was the perfect book to start off my summer. The novel starts with our narrator Alex, who is on their way to visit their dear friends Madeline and Rockrick Usher. Before they even arrive, Alex is mesmerized by the woods in which he travels. Although the lake and trees seem to possess a threatening and ominous air, the mushrooms and all things “fungal” seem to enthral Alex the most. The mushrooms “ grew out of the gaps in the stones of the tarn like a tumour growing from diseased skin [Alex] had the strong urge to step back from them and an even stronger urge to poke them with a stick.” Before they get the opportunity to do so, an older woman Eugenia Potter stops them. Eugenia is one of my favourite characters; eccentric and bold; she paints the various fungus she finds with the ambition of having her own name in the books recognized by the “Mycology Society”.
Second, only to Eugenia Potter, Alex is in themselves a fascinating character. As “Sworn Soldier”, Alex carries the courage they possessed on the battlefield in t the horror that awaits at the Usher’s estate. Alex discovers that their friends Madeline and Roderick have wasted (rotted?) away both physically and mentally.

Can Alex determine the cause of this decline before they too succumb to the madness and death surrounding them?
What moves the Dead, a gothic tale inspired by Edgar Alan Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher”, is well crafted with viscerally vivid detail even though it moves at a rapid pace. It is the perfect novel to add to your summer tbr pile.

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor for the free copy.

Mad Woman

by Louisa Treger

Mad Woman is a psychological drama based on the intriguing life of feminist heroine Nellie Bly. Nellie, as you know, is the courageous newspaper woman who, in 1817, posed as a madwoman to expose the atrocities taking place in the “insane” asylum on Blackwell’s Island, New York.
Treger begins her novel in Nellie’s childhood where Nellie, a precocious, brave young girl, wants to be a lawyer just like her father. Sadly, due to various tragic events in her life, Nellie soon becomes consumed by the plight of the poor, especially the plight of women in society. Nellie soon changes her ambition from law to journalism and eventually finds herself in New York. Desperate for work, Nellie forces her way into the offices of the World and finds herself talking to the managing editor John Cockerill and millionaire Joseph Pulitzer where she presents her ‘insane’ idea of a story.
Without giving away any more plot, I can say that the portion of the novel that takes place at Blackwell’s is incredibly riveting. In fact, after I had read the novel, I fell down a rabbit hole of Googling more information on Bly just to discover more about her incredible life.
Mad Woman is a novel that is a fast-paced, incredibly compelling story of a real-life heroine.

You will be able to read Mad Woman August 23,

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for the free copy.

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Megan Goldin is one of my new favourite mystery writers. My introduction to her was the novel  Night Swim and I absolutely loved it. I was privileged enough to receive, through NetGalley and  St. Martin’s Press, a copy of her newest novel Awake. Goldin does not disappoint. 

This novel is in the vein of the movie Memento and the book Before I go to Sleep where sleep is the enemy.

Our protagonist Liv suffers a trauma so severe she cannot remember it. Every time she wakes up she suffers short term memory loss. When we first meet Liv (present day) she finds herself in a cab with no ID and in possession of a bloody knife. Liv  doesn’t remember the last two years of her life let alone how she got into that cab. The only clues to help her are written on her hands and arms. “ Stay awake” and “trust no one” are two such ominous clues. 

The story moves effortlessly between two time periods; present day and a time set two years in the past.

For most of the novel we live in media res with an unreliable narrator. Alternate chapters do give us some sense of logic because we meet Darcy Halliday, a homicide detective who is trying to take her place in a department where women are  few and far between. Darcy is first on the scene of a murder where “stay awake” is written on the window of the crime scene with the victims blood. This phrase will obviously thrust the two women together to seek the truth.

Stay Awake forces the reader to literally stay awake themselves with its rapid plot and overpowering suspense until the end of the novel is reached. 

Haven by Emma Donoghue

Father Artt had a dream. A dream of an island far off the coast of Ireland where he and two other men will build a monastery. Artt recruits old Cormac and young Train to come with him. Each monk possess skills that will be important for the successful manifestation of Artt’s dream.

Using Skellig Michael as the setting for most of the story, Donoghue weaves a tale filled with external and internal conflict. On top of fighting the elements, tension also arises between the men. But what I found particularly interesting is the inner conflict each man experiences with a crisis of faith towards God and humanity.

This novel isn’t heavy on plot. Instead, it serves as more of a character study. Each of the three main characters are incredibly intriguing however,  Donoghue only gives us glimmers of their backstories making Haven a fascinating read. (I especially love Cormac, I want to know more about his life before his holy vows).

Haven would make for a compelling novel study. Students could learn more about: Elements of allegory, characterization, beautiful detail, and a variety of themes (blind faith, disillusionment, adversity, resiliency, conformity, guilt, environmentalism, just to name a few). 

This novel is both sophisticated yet accessible and rich enough to serve as a class novel study and/or a mentor text. 

Haven will be published August 23. Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown and Company for the advanced copy.

The Woman in the Library

by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library is a twisted tale of a murder that occurs in no better place than a library. Winifred Kincaid (Freddie), is a writer looking for inspiration in the wonderful setting of the Boston Library. There, she sits at a table in the Reading Room looking for inspiration. She finds said inspiration in the various individuals sitting at her table whom she dubs “Freud Girl” ‘Heroic Chin” and “Handsome Man”. Suddenly, all are startled when a bloodcurdling scream slices through the silence. 

After a quick scan of the library by security and no source of the scream is found, library patrons are allowed to leave. Freddie and those and her table having quickly bonded over the startling experience,, leave  the reading room and go for coffee. 

That evening the evening news declares that that the scream belonged to a murdered woman whose body had been discoverd by the night cleaning crew.

Soon, through a series of weirdly coincidental events, Freddie begins to suspect it may be one of her new found friends. 

Freddie’s storyline alone makes for an intriguing mystery, but the author also embeds another story. Each chapter ends with a letter to “Hannah” signed by “Leo”. In these letters, Leo critiques the plot of the chapter that precedes it. Leo’s correspondence is both helpful and condescending and soon becomes creepily familiar.  

This novel is a well written, intriguing mystery with twists and turns that make it anything but predictable.

Thank you to Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press for the advanced copy.

The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood


I love old fashioned murder mysteries, murder mysteries along the lines of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot or Ms Marple.
The Maslow Murder Club is one such novel. Our protagonist is a charming septarian, Judith, Who loves to skinny dip in the river behind her old mansion. On one such excursion, Judith witnesses the murder of her neighbour. So when the police doubt her story, she takes it upon herself to find out who committed the crime. Not because she was especially close to the victim, but because she loves a good puzzle. In fact, she creates cryptic crosswords for the newspaper. Judith has a way of finding the tiniest details and piecing them together to form a solution. Judith is joined by a free-spirited dog walker named Suzie and a prim and proper vicar’s wife named Becks. These three ladies find themselves in all sorts of predicaments on their way to solve the crime some of them deathly dangerous.
Thorogood’s novel is a sophisticated “whodunnit” that is charming and funny and thoroughly engaging. A great read to put on your summer reading list!

The Book Eaters

by Sunyi Dean

Devon is not human, she is a book eater. She does not get her nourishment from food but rather from eating the written word. With each text she consumes, Devon absorbs the knowledge each text possesses. And her blood runs black like ink.

The chapters in this novel alternate between the past and present. We learn about Devon and the Fairweather family one of Six families of book eaters where few females are born. Although this makes Devon a princess it also makes her a prime commodity for marriage for the explicit purpose of propagating their species. Love is irrelevant. 

Next, we are thrown into the present where we learn Devon has escaped the family with her son and is living life on the run, hiding from not only her own family but from the “knights and dragons” whose mission it is to preserve the secrecy and sanctity of the Families.  Escaping hasn’t been easy for Devon, having her five your old son with her makes it difficult, especially if the child is a mind eater. Devon must find the drug “ Redemption” in order to control her son’s need for consuming the brains of others.

Fast-paced, viscerally gripping, and descriptive beyond measure. You’ll spend all night reading until its resolution.

Alone

by Megan E. Freeman

Twelve-year-old Maddie is a normal teenager who just wants to do normal things like having a party at her grandmother’s vacant house without her parents knowing.

Maddie has it all arranged: she will tell her mother she is staying with her father and tell her father she is staying at her mother’s. Having succeeded in this ploy she then buys junk food and awaits the arrival of her two best friends. Unfortunately, her friends cannot come so Maddie spends the night alone with her junk food and old black and white movies. 

Now, everything would be fine and dandy if the political situation hadn’t been precarious. With curfews and military vehicles a common sight, life for Maddie and her family has been different, to say the least. Tragically, the evening Maddie decides to trick her parents and stay at her grandmother’s, the state is evacuated and Maddie is left all alone with nary a human around to help her. Soon the power is cut off and food becomes scarce and Emma is forced to use her imagination and grit to survive both the physical and mental hardship she encounters. 

This novel is written in verse, and in being so adds a wonderfully melancholy tone to the writing. It reads like a stream of consciousness, therefore, making Emma’s experience more emotionally impactful. 

How does Emma spend her days? Will Emma survive? Will her parents ever come to realize she has been left behind?

A great book to have in a classroom library or middle school book club.

Escape from Chernobyl by Andy Marino

Escape from Chernobyl is a fictional account of the Chernobyl disaster, a global incident that most young people know nothing about. 

16-year-old Yuri Formichev is an intern at the Chernobyl power plant in Pripyat Ukraine on the border of what was then the Soviet Union. Yuri’s dream is to be an engineer at the nuclear reactor but in the meantime, he is assigned as a custodian hoping to impress his superiors so that he can work his way up to intern as an engineer. Yuri lives with his Aunt, Uncle, and his two cousins Alina and Lev. 

The story immediately throws us into the action of the story. Yuri has just arrived for his shift at the reactor when he feels a shaking of the walls. Soon the walls crack and other workers are covered by debris. In the meantime a man is knocking at the door of Yuri’s family telling them they must leave the city for their safety. If they leave they will be abandoning Yuri.

Will Yuri survive? Will Alina and Lev escape the radiation that is beginning to permeate the area?

Escape from Chernobyl is a perfect read for reluctant readers. It is short, engaging, and accessible to people of all reading levels.

The Speed of Falling Objects

by Nancy Richardson Fischer

Life hasn’t been easy for Danielle “Danny” Warren. When she was 7, her adventurous father leaves her and her mother to become a famous “Reality Star”. Danny believes her father abandoned her because she suffered a horrible accident and lost her eye, an accident that not only stole her sight but also her courage. When her father invites her on a trip with him to the Amazon to film an episode of his Reality show, Danny believes it would be the perfect time to get to know her father and prove to him that she is not the frightened little girl he left behind. Unfortunately, the plane crashes into the jungle, and Danny not only has to face but she must also come to accept the man her father truly is.

The Speed of Falling Objects is truly an adventure story where the protagonist experiences more than her fair share of peril all the while falling in love for the first time.

The Inheritance Games

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I love novels with puzzles and riddles, hidden passageways, and old libraries. In The Inheritance Games, we have all of these with a bit of romance and mystery thrown in. Avery Grambs inherits 2 billion dollars from a stranger much to the dismay of his grandsons. There is, however, one the condition, upon receiving the estate, she must live in the mansion for one year, along with the same family he has disinherited. During this time she navigates through clues and puzzles in order to find out who, in fact, is her mystery benefactor. Much to her chagrin, Avery finds herself attracted to one of the grandsons, an attraction that complicates things because she can trust no one.

A wildly entertaining YA novel with a smart and feisty protagonist. Both the characters and the plot keep the reader entertained throughout.  Sure to be part of a series.