Category Archives: Series

The Lonely Hearts Club Band

Finished The Lonely Hearts Club Band by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Love is all you need… or is it? Penny’s about to find out in this wonderful debut.

Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It’s a personal choice. . .and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways . . . which is too bad, because there’s this certain boy she can’t help but like. . . .”

This book is completely adorable.  I love the concept behind it, and I love the fact that Penny is a huge, HUGE fan of the Beatles.  (It really could’ve gone either way, given the fact that her parents loved them so much that her actual name is Penny Lane Bloom, and her parents insist on her being referred to as Penny Lane; her two older sisters are Lucy and Rita.  So it’s pretty fortunate that she loves the Beatles, because otherwise her life would be pretty wretched.)

And I love the fact that this book focuses so much on how important friendship is.  I know a lot of people who ditch their friends when they start dating, so it was good to see friends who put each other first.

I also enjoyed the fact that not all boys are portrayed as being evil (accidentally or on purpose) or in some way horrible.  (Many high school boys are, of course, but not everyone.)  There are a couple boys in here who are pretty fantastic (and a couple girls who are hideous).

If you’re looking for a fun, sweet, fast read that will make you smile, this is the book for you.

Hush Hush

Finished Hush Hush by Laura Lippman.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The award-winning New York Times bestselling author of After I’m Gone, The Most Dangerous Thing, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know brings back private detective Tess Monaghan, introduced in the classic Baltimore Blues, in an absorbing mystery that plunges the new parent into a disturbing case involving murder and a manipulative mother.

On a searing August day, Melisandre Harris Dawes committed the unthinkable: she left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. Melisandre was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, although there was much skepticism about her mental state. Freed, she left the country, her husband and her two surviving children, determined to start over.

But now Melisandre has returned Baltimore to meet with her estranged teenage daughters and wants to film the reunion for a documentary. The problem is, she relinquished custody and her ex, now remarried, isn’t sure he approves.

Now that’s she’s a mother herself–short on time, patience–Tess Monaghan wants nothing to do with a woman crazy enough to have killed her own child. But her mentor and close friend Tyner Gray, Melisandre’s lawyer, has asked Tess and her new partner, retired Baltimore P.D. homicide detective Sandy Sanchez, to assess Melisandre’s security needs.

As a former reporter and private investigator, Tess tries to understand why other people break the rules and the law. Yet the imperious Melisandre is something far different from anyone she’s encountered. A decade ago, a judge ruled that Melisandre was beyond rational thought. But was she? Tess tries to ignore the discomfort she feels around the confident, manipulative Melisandre. But that gets tricky after Melisandre becomes a prime suspect in a murder.

Yet as her suspicions deepen, Tess realizes that just as she’s been scrutinizing Melisandre, a judgmental stalker has been watching her every move as well. . . . ”

I’ve loved Laura Lippman’s novels for years, and while I absolutely adore her standalones, I have a major soft spot for her Tess Monaghan novels.  But Tess has been largely absent for years (completely out of most of the books, although she’s had a few cameos).  Now, though, she’s finally back.

It would have been easy to expect her to be gone for good.  Now she and Crow have a young daughter, Carla Scout.  So how can Tess do her PI work with a three-year-old around?  Oh, ye of little faith.

The woman at the center of this novel is Melisandre Dawes, who was found not guilty (by reason of insanity) of killing her baby daughter years ago.  She left the child to die in a hot car (on purpose) and fled the city (and state and country) as soon as she could.  But now she’s back and she wants to have a relationship with her two older girls, who are now in their teens.  There’s a lot more going on, of course, but that would be spoiling things.

Tess Monaghan is one of my favorite characters, someone who is clearly the literary descendent of my beloved VI Warshawski.  Like Vic, Tess fights for the underdog and is much braver than anyone could reasonably expect to be.  And like Vic, the city she lives in plays a major part in the book.  But while VI lives in Chicago, Tess lives in Baltimore.  (And in this book, I was happy to see that I knew where every place mentioned was.  Love this city!)

If you’ve already read Laura Lippman’s books, I don’t need to sell you on them.  If you haven’t, this is an excellent one to start with.

Highly recommended.

Split Second

Finished Split Second by Kasie West.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too . . . but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot . . . and a future that could change everything.”

I really loved Pivot Point, so I have no idea why I waited so long to read this.  (I’m sorry, me!)

This book is so different from Kasie West’s standalone contemps, but I absolutely love both.  This is more of a paranormal novel, although it reads like contemp if that makes sense.

Because I read this so long after I read Pivot Point, I had forgotten a lot of the things that happened in that book.  (I mention that because this book still made perfect sense to me.  So it does function as a standalone, although I think you’d enjoy it more if you read the first one.  Maybe you’ll be smarter than I was and read them back to back, now that you can.)

Even if you think you don’t like paranormals, read this anyway.  It’s amazing.

Recommended.

The Year of the Book

Finished The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Chinese, peng you means friend. But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated. When Anna needs company, she turns to her books. Whether traveling through A Wrinkle in Time, or peering over My Side of the Mountain, books provide what real life cannot—constant companionship and insight into her changing world. Books, however, can’t tell Anna how to find a true friend. She’ll have to discover that on her own. In the tradition of classics like Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books and Eleanor Estes’ One Hundred Dresses, this novel subtly explores what it takes to make friends and what it means to be one.

It’s not a huge surprise that I love books about books, and this is a really sweet one.

Anna has a hard time fitting in, probably because she prefers to spend her time with books than with actual people.  The books she loves help her to make sense of the world, and they always manage to make her feel better about her life.

Except the problem with books is that they can’t really be her friends.  And they can’t help her figure out how to actually talk to people.  Or to understand why her mom insists that she (a) accompany her to work on the weekends and (b) go to Chinese school.

I hope someone comes up with a reading challenge based on the books that Anna reads.  (I’ve read some, but not all and they sound really good.)

I was also excited to learn that this is the first book in a series.  I can’t get to the other books yet, but I definitely want to revisit Anna and her family soon.

Recommended.

Castle of Sighs Cover Reveal

COS Framed Cover
“Some secrets cannot be kept—in life or in death.
Months have passed since Rune has heard a single whisper from her long-dead mother, the great witch of Bavaria. But the absence of one evil has only made room for another.
After rightfully inheriting her ancestral home, Pyrmont Castle, Rune settles into a quiet life taking care of two orphans left in the wake of the terrible witch hunt that claimed dozens of lives in the nearby village. As the days grow colder, the castle’s secrets beckon and Rune finds herself roaming where no one has set foot in a long time. In the bowels of the fortress is a locked room full of memories that hang like cobwebs—shelves stacked with jars, strange specimens, putrid liquids, and scrolls of spells. Rune is undeniably drawn to what she finds there, and she begins to dabble in the possibilities of magic, hoping to find a cure for the strangeness overwhelming the castle.
As secrets unspool, the delicate thread of Rune’s world is threatened when she realizes the key may lie in the dark forest she once called home and the boy she thought she knew.”

Sounds so awesome, right? I can’t wait!

Beckon Me Cover Reveal

Beckon Me

Click here to preorder itClick here for Cindy Thomas’ website.

“Everything nineteen-year-old Karina Mitchell knows about death changes the instant that she and her best friend, Rainey, are shot. For one, souls don’t die. They cross over. Only, Rainey’s soul hasn’t, and her ghost is hell bent on haunting Karina.

When Karina begins her sophomore year of college and moves into the apartment that she was supposed to share with Rainey, she learns a few shocking truths from her mysterious and gorgeous blue-eyed neighbor, Eli.

One: Karina has been chosen to become a Beckoner—an immortal conduit of the dead who helps safely guide souls to the other side.

Two: She’s the reason that Rainey’s soul can’t cross over—Rainey followed her back from death and missed her window to be at peace.

Three: Eli is hot. As in swoon-worthy, to-die-for, will-make-you-forget-yourself hot. And it turns out, Eli is a Beckoner, too.

Despite her attraction to Eli, the decision to become a Beckoner isn’t an easy one—it would mean giving up her own mortality … her own soul. But if she doesn’t, her best friend will be left to suffer an eternity at the hands of the evil Ceptors, dark creatures that feed on the souls left behind. After all, it’s her fault Rainey is haunting her.

Time is running out, and Karina needs to decide: Are love and loyalty worth sacrificing her soul?

BECKON ME is a new adult paranormal romance suitable for upper YA and NA audiences ages 16 and up.”

It’s so amazing, you guys! I can’t wait for you all to read it.

Peace, Locomotion

Finished Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson.  This is the sequel to Locomotion.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twelve-year-old Lonnie is finally feeling at home with his foster family. But because he’s living apart from his little sister, Lili, he decides it’s his job to be the “rememberer” and write down everything that happens while they’re growing up. Lonnie’s musings are bittersweet; he’s happy that he and Lili have new families, but though his new family brings him joy, it also brings new worries. With a foster brother in the army, concepts like Peace have new meaning for Lonnie.

Told through letters from Lonnie to Lili, this thought-provoking companion to Jacqueline Woodson’s National Book Award finalist Locomotion tackles important issues in captivating, lyrical language. Lonnie’s reflections on family, loss, love and peace will strike a note with readers of all ages.”

I have loved both books in this series and I hope there’s a sequel.  I wonder how Lonnie and his sister are doing, if they’re still able to visit all the time, and how Miss Edna and his foster brothers are doing.

The thing that has stayed with me the most about this book is the idea that, even if bad things happen, good things can come out of them.  Obviously Lonnie still misses his parents and still wishes that he and Lili could live together…but at the same time, if his parents hadn’t died, he would never have gotten to meet Miss Edna and her sons (Lonnie’s foster brothers, who feel like real brothers).  It’s not that it’s a fair trade, exactly, but families can grow and be strengthened in all kinds of unusual ways.

There are only two books so far (please, let there be more!) but this is one of my favorite series ever.  Highly recommended.

The Forgotten Girls

Finished The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In a forest in Denmark, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of an unidentified woman. A large scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. After four days, Louise Rick–the new commander of the Missing Persons Department–is still without answers. But when she releases a photo to the media, an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a “forgotten girl.” But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates over 30 years ago. As the investigation brings Louise closer to her childhood home, she uncovers more crimes that were committed–and hidden–in the forest, and finds a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.

I don’t read many mysteries any more, and when I do, they tend to be part of a series.   I mention  that because Sara Blaedel is writing one of my favorite series now.

According to the letter included with my ARC of this, a full fifth of Denmark residents love her books.  I can’t think of an American equivalent.

This book is one of my favorites of hers.  While it’s set in Denmark, it could just as easily be set here.  Both places have had less than stellar histories where people deemed deficient could be institutionalized and forgotten by their families.  One of those people is at the heart of this story: a “forgotten girl” who was left in an institution as a small child and who was declared dead long before she actually died.  So who is she? How did this happen? And how do you figure out what happened when, as far as anyone knows, she was dead for decades before she actually died?

(The answer is brilliant, although at this point, I expect nothing else from Sara Blaedel.)

If you haven’t read Sara Blaedel, you need to start.  She’s just as good as her famous fans (Karin Slaughter and Michael Connelly among them) would have you believe.

Highly recommended.

 

The Price of Blood

Finished The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Menaced by Vikings and enemies at court, Queen Emma defends her children and her crown in a riveting medieval adventure

Readers first met Emma of Normandy in Patricia Bracewell’s gripping debut novel, Shadow on the Crown. Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England’s King Æthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder.

As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword.

Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.

This is the second book in a trilogy and I hope I don’t have to wait two more years to see what happens to Emma.  I am so in love with this series, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.  (Yes, I know that it is a true story and I could easily Google it…but that would be cheating, right?)

As in the first book, this is the story of two different women: Emma, the queen of England, and Elgiva, the king’s former mistress.  Emma wants to be a great queen; even though she doesn’t particularly love (or even like) the king, she loves her people, and is determined to do her best for them.  Elgiva, though, just wants power.  She isn’t very concerned about whose side she’s on or if she has to hurt someone, either.  She wants to fulfill the prophecy she’s heard her whole life: that she will be queen and her sons will ultimately be kings.

This is almost like a royal version of Dangerous Liaisons, too—there is a lot of intrigue and scheming, and a lot of people using sex to get what they want (okay, that last is all Elgiva).

I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Highly recommended.

 

The Book Thing

Finished The Book Thing by Laura Lippman.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A thief targets a local bookstore and it will take a bibliophile PI to save the shop

Tess Monaghan wants to like the Children’s Bookstore. It’s bright, cozy, and packed with the kinds of books that she is dying for her daughter to fall in love with. But no matter how badly she wants to support this adorable local business, the owner’s attitude stops her in her tracks. What kind of children’s bookseller hates children?

What’s eating Octavia, the grouchy owner, is more than the pressures of running a small business. Each Saturday, someone steals a stack of her priciest, most beautiful children’s books, and the expense threatens to force her fledgling store out of business. Luckily, Tess is more than a book lover—she’s a private investigator who doesn’t mind working pro bono to help out an independent bookshop. Her simple act of kindness will make Octavia smile for the first time in months—and uncover a crime more suitable for the mystery aisle than the children’s section.”

This is the first of two Laura Lippman stories I didn’t know about.  This is made even better (or worse, depending on your perspective) by the fact that it’s a Tess Monaghan story.

Everything about this story was perfect.  I love the fact that it’s set around various Baltimore bookstores. (There is a Children’s Bookstore in Baltimore, although it’s not this one, and The Book Thing is also real.)

And I especially love the fact that it’s a Tess Monaghan story.  Tess has been gone for ages, although we have a new novel-length installment of her series coming up soon.

This one is just a short story, but it’s wonderful.

Highly recommended.