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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
If you’re looking for an engaging, suspenseful whodunnit with interesting characters, look no further. The Midnight Killing starts with a gruesome murder presented in the first few pages. However, we soon meet Detective Inspector Danny Stowe and forensic psychologist Dr. Rose Lainey whose shoulders we peer over throughout the investigation. Having been good friends during their university years, Danny and Rose complement each other in their investigation. Each hero has an interesting backstory that the author weaves skillfully into the story of the murder without causing the momentum of suspense to falter. The novel presents a suspenseful story with various fascinating suspects. Mystery and Thrillers is one of my favourite genres, and Dempsey is incredible at creating suspense and incredibly engaging characters. I’m hoping she writes a series with Stowe and Lainey because she’s become, my new favourite authors.
Will be published in Feb 2022 Thank you Netgalley for the advance copy.
I have a wonderful NEWLY Published book recommendation!! Brand spankin’ new in fact. Released January 4th.
Molly is an interesting girl. Some would say quirky…some are crueler and say she is weird. You see, Molly can’t read social cues, isn’t very good at small talk, isn’t the best judge of character, and is obsessed with cleanliness. This second attribute comes in handy because Molly is a maid. One of the best maids, in fact, who works at the posh Regency Grand Hotel.
Molly loves her job. She loves to see how she can magically transform a dirty room into a shiny welcoming sanctuary. However, after her grandmother dies, life becomes more complicated. One day Molly discovers a dead man in one of the rooms, and she soon becomes entangled in a web of deception and manipulation, a web where people take advantage of her innocence.
I love the first-person narration in which this story is written. Molly’s use of proper etiquette and elocution and a penchant towards the literal makes her a sweet and funny protagonist inserted in a compelling murder mystery.
A heartwarming, suspenseful read with a memorable main character. A fantastic novel to start the new year.
I’m interested to know how other people are running book clubs during Covid. Is Zoom the “go to” platform for most? Or is there some other more intimate way to connect with our book people?
In September we had the opportunity to host book club in person for the first time in close to two years. Joy was palpable and we were so excited to see each other in person. Sadly we haven’t been able to meet in person since the arrival of Omnicron (sounds like some interstellar visitation whose sole purpose is to poop on everyone’s parade). Anyway, September’s meeting was the “first” book club of the season, the one where we share book suggestions and vote on the titles for the year and this year we have some wonderfully diverse genres:
Over the last year, I have been attracted to gothic mysteries and crime novels. Sometimes I google the genres I’m interested in to see what pops up on the screen. So when I typed “mystery gothic crime novels”, Elizabeth Brundage’s novel came up. What I thought would be an easy, quick, pulp fiction read turned out to be one that was so incredibly well written. I immediately made Brundage my new favourite author. The novel starts off with the central crime, a gruesome murder of a young mother (not a spoiler; it happens in the first chapter). The story then proceeds to flashback to introduce and develop the characters directly and indirectly affected by her death. The little town of “Chosen” has 2 types of residents: those who have always lived there struggling to make a living from a depressive economy filled with bankruptcy and alcoholism, and those with money and education who have moved to Chosen to because of its proximity to the neighbouring university. Needless to say, this diversity leads to all sorts of interesting interactions between residents. As with most good stories, I loved some of the characters and hated others. Even though the story is centred around the actions of a psychopath, it is also a story about family, strength and redemption. This novel is definitely one of my favourite of the year so far.