I love novels set in museums, libraries and universities. Is “Dark Academia” a genre? A sub-genre? This novel is set in New York, more specifically, The Cloisters. Google it; it looks absolutely beautiful. Our protagonist Ann Stillwell is brilliant. She has mastered several languages (several of them dead) and is gifted at translating. These skills have taken her to New York, where she, by sheer coincidence (or is it?), gets a job researching and acquiring rare tarot cards. At first, Ann begins to notice strange events and behaviour happening around her, but when a dead body is found in the library, she realizes that the job she has so gratefully been offered isn’t everything that it seems. The novel had me invested enough that I quickly devoted an entire day to finishing it. The characters were interesting (especially Ann and her backstory). Still, it was the various settings that I found particularly intriguing, and I found myself wanting to visit New York to find rare book stores and antique shops. The Cloisters is Kay Hays’s debut novel, which is a good one. I will keep my eye out for more of her writing in the future!
Thank you to Netgalley and Simon and Shuster, and Atria Books for the free copy. You’ll be able to find The Cloisters on the shelf on November 1st.
This novel is about a man named Neil who is obsessed with his university professor Elizabeth Fitch. The novel serves as a homage to this woman who inspired our narrator to, well, to think. Although Neil loves Elizabeth’s class (Culture and Civilization), he does not write his final essay and instead invites Elizabeth to lunch. Lunch becomes biannual event where Neil and Elizabeth meet and talk, with Elizabeth always giving Neil something to think about and paying for lunch. When Elizabeth dies, she leaves her academic journals, and Neil has to decide what to do with them. Along the way, Neil decides to write that final essay he never got around to writing all those years ago. The author includes this lengthy essay about Roman Emporer Julian Apostate within the pages of the novel itself. I found this short novel somewhat interesting. It definitely was a deviation from the summer reads I have been consuming. There is no real suspense or intricate plot to speak of; rather, it is more a novel about a man’s relationship with a woman he found fascinating. The character Elizabeth Fitch compelling; I would have loved to have read HER story. This novel isn’t for everyone. It seemed to me that Barnes wrote this story more for himself rather than to entertain the reader, which is perfectly fine with me.
This is Silvie’s story. The novel starts with the tale of ancient Britons sacrificing a young girl to the bog. It doesn’t tell you why but I assume it is because…well, she’s young and a girl (always targets for ritualistic sacrifice). The rest of the novel is about Silvie. Silvie’s father is a bus driver who is more than consumed with what life was like for the ancient Brits and believes that life was better when people lived off the land and held to strict rituals. Silvie’s father takes his family to join a group of anthropology students and their professor in recreating what life was like thousands of years ago. While those from the university are participating, for the most part, for the sake of research and academia, Silvie’s father sees his role as an ancient patriarch of his clan far too seriously. Soon Silvie begins to feel as though she, too, will end up in the bog. This short novel (a mere 130 pages) is written in what I feel is stream of consciousness. Sentence fragments, run-on sentences and the absence of quotation marks all contribute to the chaotic nature of Silvie’s ordeal. A good book and definitely worth a re-read AND discussion with others.
What if Captain Hook wasn’t the worst villain in Peter Pan? What if Peter Pan was a spoiled adolescent who forces people into acting in roles that serve his play? What if Pan forced James Hook into reliving his death by drowning over and over again so that he could play his game of make-believe over and over and over again?
Hooked is a reimagined tale of Peter Pan. The Darling children are now adults living in a world where they now perceive their time in Neverland as a time that wasn’t always fun and carefree.
A string of murders have been committed in England, and James Hook, who has somehow escaped Neverland, feels Peter Pan is somehow responsible. After a chance encounter with Wendy, the two of them, with the help of Wendy’s daughter, take it upon themselves to try to stop “the Boy Who Would Never Grow Up” from doing any more harm.
This book was a great read. Dark and fast-paced it is more than a retelling of an old fairy tale but also a story of the repercussions of war and familial love.
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!
Ever read a book that was so enthralling it was difficult to start another because nothing reads as good? This is the problem I’m having after reading Catriona Ward’s LittleEve. Dark, atmospheric and filled with the most fascinating of characters.
Ward weaves together a plot about psychological manipulation and survival. Evelyn or “little Eve”, is an adolescent girl who lives at Altnahara, a castle on an island a small distance from the coast of Scotland. Evelyn’s family is an unusual one. Two women and three other children. The head of the family is a man referred to as “uncle”, or at times, he is terrifyingly referred to as The Adder. When a man from the mainland arrives to deliver meat, he discovers the dead bodies of several inhabitants, each wrapped in white shrouds and missing an eye. All are dead except for 16-year-old Dinah, who accuses the missing Eve of the murders.
The author writes alternating chapters in the voices of both Dinah and Eve. Hence, we, the readers, get a telling of events and consequences that is satisfying at the end.
This is my first encounter with Catriona Ward’s writing, and I am so excited to have found a new favourite author.
Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the free copy.
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!
Beatrice is a brilliant 16-year-old who has already been accepted into the university of her dreams; Oxford. The only problem is that Beatrice suffers extreme social anxiety, so much so she has been homeschooled for most of her life. Beatrice has never been to a party. She’s never had a friend; she has never even deviated from a specific weekly dinner menu. Needless to say, her parents aren’t thrilled with her acceptance, so they decide that Beatrice will have to prove to her parents that she is emotionally and mentally ready before they allow her to go. and boy do her parents have the perfect challenge for her, she will have to successfully a program, well actually a summer camp that is completely out of her comfort zone; camp where she will have to interact with others, speak in public, and share personal space…a Shakespearian Theatre camp! And while she is there, she’ll have to fulfil a list of accomplishments her parents create for her:
Make a friend.
Share a secret.
Walk up to someone and make small talk.
Accept an invite she doesn’t want to.
Do an outdoor activity.
Pull a prank.
Execute a dare.
Hug three people.
The dream of attending Oxford is enough to get Beatrice out the door and onto the bus that will take her to camp; however, she soon faces embarrassment and rejection when she tries to cross a task off her list and talk to a stranger who just happens to be the most popular girl at camp; the “Ice Queen”. I found this novel charming and a wonderful break from popular teenage angst-riddled dystopian literature. It is very well written with endearing characters (I absolutely LOVE Mia and Nolan!) It is a sweet, light-hearted novel that will be the perfect light summer reading fare.
Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for the free copy
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 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.
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.
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 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.