The Killing Forest

Finished The Killing Forest by Sara Blaedel.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Following an extended leave, Louise Rick returns to work at the Special Search Agency, an elite unit of the National Police Department. She’s assigned a case involving a fifteen-year-old who vanished a week earlier. When Louise realizes that the missing teenager is the son of a butcher from Hvalsoe, she seizes the opportunity to combine the search for the teen with her personal investigation of her boyfriend’s long-ago death . . . Louise’s investigation takes her on a journey back through time. She reconnects with figures from her past, including Kim, the principal investigator at the Holbaek Police Department, her former in-laws, fanatic ancient religion believers, and her longtime close friend, journalist Camilla Lind. As she moves through the small town’s cramped network of deadly connections, Louise unearths toxic truths left unspoken and dangerous secrets.”

If you’ve heard me talk about books, you’ve probably heard me mention Sara Blaedel.  Her books are so fun and so compelling and so…okay, yes, creepy.  (If you’re a fan of mysteries or suspense and you haven’t read her, you need to check her out.)

The Killing Forest is my new favorite of hers.  It’s got some of my favorite things: people in peril (a teenage boy, for the most part, but it spreads) and local mythology and weird religion.  Even one of those things is fantastic but all of them? Yes, please!

And best of all, we’ve got Louise Rick, one of my favorite fictional characters (and her best friend Camilla who, of course, is another of my favorites).

Most of her books have been translated now (except for the first two, which I am desperate to read—come on, Hachette, translate those too, please!) so I have to wait now as her books are written and released.  I hope the next one is out soon.  I already miss Louise.

Highly recommended.

Sanctuary Bay

Sanctuary Bay

Finished Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this genre-bending YA thriller, will Sarah Merson’s shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.

In this genre-bending YA thriller, Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz, Sarah’s new school may seem like an idyllic temple of learning, but as she unearths years of terrifying history and manipulation, she discovers this “school” is something much more sinister.”

BUY LINKS

Amazon

B&N

iBooks

IndieBound

EXCERPT:

Daddy pressed his finger to his lips, shushing Sarah quiet as he slid the door to the tunnel back on. She wrapped her arms tightly around her knees and pressed her cheek against her arm, trying to pretend she was back in her own room. But it didn’t smell like her room. Even the spicy smell of Daddy’s cologne had faded now that the tunnel was closed. And grayness was all around her. She was almost four, and that was too old to be scared of the dark. But it wasn’t all dark. It was just gray dark.

She tried not to think of monsters crawling toward her. Daddy said there were no monsters. But monsters liked tunnels. They liked little girls.

Sometimes when she was scared she liked to sing the Maggie song. But that was against the rules. She had to be quiet. She had to be still. She had to wait until Daddy or Mommy opened the door and got her.

Thinking about the rules helped.   She could almost hear Daddy saying them, as if he was hiding in the tunnel with her. Even though he was way too big. If something bad happens, wait until the room is safe. If you leave the tunnel, put the funny slit- ted door back on. Run fast. Find a lady with kids. Tell her your name is Sarah Merson. Merson. Merson. Merson. Merson. Ask for help.

Her nose started twitching, itching from the thick air. Mak- ing her want to sneeze. But she had to be quiet.

Then she heard Mommy screaming. Mommy never screamed. Were the monsters out there and not in the tunnel?

On hands and knees she started creeping toward the slits of light, heart pounding.

“Kt85L is our property,” a man said. “You had no right!”

Out there. Mommy on her knees facing the hotel room wall. Someone’s legs. A hand reaching down. A silver bird stared at Sarah from a ring on the finger. Stared with a horrible little black eye. The finger pulled the trigger of a gun.

A bang. Her ears filling with bees. Mommy collapsing on the floor. Red spilling out.

Sarah shoved her fingers into her mouth. Quiet. The rule was be quiet.

Shouting. Daddy’s legs running by, out of the room. The bird man chasing. The door banging closed.

Something bad happening.

The room was safe. The bird man was gone. So she had to get out. Mommy was on the floor. Daddy was gone.

She shoved the door and it fell out onto the floor. Near Mommy. Near the red. But the rule was to put the funny door back on. She picked it up and shoved it over the tunnel like Daddy had shown her.

Sarah didn’t want to look at Mommy. She looked out the window instead. The window was always open and there was never a screen. Daddy’s voice came from the hallway, yelling. Screaming.

Another bang.

Sarah pressing her hands over her eyes. Not looking. Not look- ing. Something bad happening.

Daddy was quiet now. Something bad. She had to run fast.

Sarah climbed on the chair under the window. The chair al- ways went under the window. She stuck her legs through the window and jumped down. Now run fast.

She ran fast, looking for a lady with a stroller or a kid her age. A mommy would help her. She would say she was Sarah Merson.

Sarah Merson, and something bad happened.

REVIEW:

This book is sort of a neo-gothic suspense novel.  There are a lot of different things going on, and there’s at least one twist too many but I had a great time reading it.  I won’t discuss much of what’s going on, because pretty much everything is a spoiler.  So honestly, just read it.  It’s crazy fun.

My favorite part of this is the secret society aspect* (it made me want to watch The Skulls again!) but pretty much everything here is fun.  And if we’re being honest, wouldn’t everyone want a sort of perfect existence where you get pretty much everything you’d want?

(Well, okay, maybe not if there turns out to be a body count attached.)

There’s a sequel, right? Because I need one.

Recommended.

* = we learn about that pretty early on, so it’s not a spoiler in the way that other aspects would be.

The Distance From A to Z

Finished The Distance From A to Z by Natalie Blitt.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

This full-length novel by debut author Natalie Blitt is a pitch-perfect blend of Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally that proves the age-old adage: opposites attract.

Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk.”

This book is absolutely adorable.  If you’re in the mood for a sweet, fun read, this is for you.

I love Abby and Zeke so much.  It’s instalove, pretty much, but I feel like that happens a lot when you’re a teenager anyway, right? It certainly did for me.  And they’re just sweet together.

For me, though, I love Abby’s roommate Alice just as much.  (Alice spinoff, please!)

Warning: it will make you want to learn French (or speak it exclusively, I guess, depending on your fluency level) and go to Paris immediately.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it will require time and money. ;)

Recommended.

Bookishly Ever After

Finished Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

This is a book for people who love books.  It’s probably especially a book for people who love YA and are book bloggers because you guys, the struggle is real.  There are a lot of sentences I could use as support for this thesis, but this one works the best.

“…there was Lexie again…staring at Dev like he was an [ARC] of the last book in a series.”

We can all totally picture that, right?

Meanwhile, I overidentified with Feebs and also fought the urge to cheer (literally, out loud) multiple times during the book.

Basically, this book is just a complete delight.  It works as a rom-com or as a love letter to books and the people who adore them. I loved every second I spent reading it and cannot wait for the sequel.

Highly recommended.

The Year We Fell Apart

Finished The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the tradition of Sarah Dessen, this powerful debut novel is a compelling portrait of a young girl coping with her mother’s cancer as she figures out how to learn from—and fix—her past.

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

In this honest and affecting tale of friendship and first love, Emily Martin brings to vivid life the trials and struggles of high school and the ability to learn from past mistakes over the course of one steamy North Carolina summer.”

This book absolutely broke my heart.

The thing you should know about this book going in is that it’s a novel about perceptions.  A lot of it is the way that other people see you and how that can affect your actions; but there’s also the way that you think about yourself and how that can ALSO affect your actions.

I find the idea of that completely interesting because we all think that we’re in charge of how we act, right? And we are, but a lot of our “free will” is determined subliminally by how we’re treated, the things that are said about us,  and how we’ve internalized those things.

But that’s not really the point.  The point is how Harper manages to overcome the voice in her head and become happy and healthy and how that sometimes takes a long time to do and requires multiple restarts and do-overs.  (It’d be nice if we could get everything right the first or second time, wouldn’t it?)

This is a book to treasure and discuss.  Recommended.

The Evening Spider

Finished The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A gripping blend of psychological suspense and historical true crime, this riveting novel—inspired by a sensational real-life murder from the 1800s—by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault delivers a heart-stopping mystery linking two young mothers from different centuries.

Frances Barnett and Abby Bernacki are two haunted young mothers living in the same house in two different centuries.

1885: Frances Barnett is in the Northampton Lunatic Hospital, telling her story to a visitor. She has come to distrust her own memories, and believes that her pregnancy, birth, and early days of motherhood may have impaired her sanity.

During the earliest months of her baby’s life, Frances eagerly followed the famous murder trial of Mary Stannard—that captivated New Englanders with its salacious details and expert forensic testimony. Following—and even attending—this trial, Frances found an escape from the monotony of new motherhood. But as her story unfolds, Frances must admit that her obsession with the details of the murder were not entirely innocent.

Present day: Abby has been adjusting to motherhood smoothly—until recently, when odd sensations and dreams have begun to unsettle her while home alone with her baby. When she starts to question the house’s history, she is given the diary of Frances Barnett, who lived in the house 125 years earlier. Abby finds the diary disturbing, and researches the Barnett family’s history. The more Abby learns, the more she wonders about a negative—possibly supernatural—influence in her house. She becomes convinced that when she sleeps, she leaves her daughter vulnerable—and then vows not to sleep until she can determine the cause of her eerie experiences.

Frances Barnett might not be the only new mother to lose her mind in this house. And like Frances, Abby discovers that by trying to uncover another’s secrets, she risks awakening some of her own.”

I love Emily Arsenault’s books.  They’re incredibly creepy and also incredibly smart.  This one is sort of a ghost story, and it’s actually chilling.

There’s so much going on in The Evening Spider that it’s actually hard to discuss in any detail without the risk of spoiling things.  So here’s what I can say: I very much like Abby and empathized with what was going on with her.

Because of the way this is written, I had some very real questions about what was really happening and what was in Abby’s head.  This made the book even creepier than it may otherwise have been, because is there anything scarier than the idea that you may be more of a harm to your child than whatever it is you think is potentially a harm to your child?  (SO CREEPY.)

There’s such an insane feeling of dread going throughout the book, too.  Everything about it is just intense.  This book may not be for everyone, but if you like spooky stories, it’s absolutely for you.

Recommended.

Shallow Graves

Finished Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For fans of Holly Black and Nova Ren Suma, a gripping, hauntingly atmospheric novel about murder, revenge, and a world where monsters—human and otherwise—lurk at the fringes.

When seventeen-year-old Breezy Lin wakes up in a shallow grave one year after her death, she doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past. In life, Breezy was always drawn to the elegance of the universe and the mystery of the stars. Now she must set out to find answers and discover what is to become of her in the gritty, dangerous world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she finds is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Tense, complex, and wholly engaging, Shallow Graves is a stunning first novel from Kali Wallace.”

I can’t say much about this book because (a) it makes me ramble like a crazy person and (b) I don’t want to spoil anything about it for you.

But oh you guys, I love this book.  It’s creepy and clever and kept me guessing the entire time.  Like Breezy, I was very curious about what caused her to come back from the dead and the repeated predictions that she could turn evil completely creeped me out.

I’m hoping this is the first book in a series but so far, unfortunately, there’s no sign of a followup.  (This can’t be the end of Breezy, right? Please say no.)

Either way, I am very excited to see what Kali Wallace writes next and I want to read her backlist.

Recommended.

Read Bottom Up

Finished Read Bottom Up by Neel Shah and Skye Chatham.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A charming novel about falling in love (or like) in the digital age—the never-before-seen full story

Madeline and Elliot meet at a New York City restaurant opening. Flirtation—online—ensues. A romance, potentially eternal, possibly doomed, begins.

And, like most things in life today, their early exchanges are available to be scrutinized and interpreted by well-intentioned friends who are a mere click away.

Madeline and Elliot’s relationship unfolds through a series of thrilling, confounding, and funny exchanges with each other, and, of course, with their best friends and dubious confidants (Emily and David). The result is a brand-new kind of modern romantic comedy, in format, in content, and even in creation—the authors exchanged e-mails in real time, blind to each other’s side conversations. You will nod in appreciation and roll your eyes in recognition; you’ll learn a thing or two about how the other half approaches a new relationship . . . and you will cheer for an unexpected ending that just might restore your faith in falling in love, twenty-first-century style.”

I absolutely adored this book.  I don’t want to say too much about the plot except to say that it’s completely delightful.

Part of it is that it’s told via email and text, which means that it’s an incredibly quick read. And most of it is that if you live in this world of ours, you will be able to identify with this story so much.

(I refuse to believe I am the only person who’s forwarded emails or texts to my best friend to have a tone check and discussion of the best way to respond.)

It’s just a charming, fun book.  Recommended.

Good on Paper

Finished Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Is a new life possible? Because Shira Greene’s life hasn’t quite turned out as planned. She’s a single mom living with her daughter and her gay friend, Ahmad. Her PhD on Dante’s Vita Nuova hasn’t gotten her a job, and her career as a translator hasn’t exactly taken off either.

But then she gets a call from a Nobel Prize-winning Italian poet who insists she’s the only one who can translate his newest book.

Stunned, Shira realizes that—just like that— her life can change. She sees a new beginning beckoning: academic glory, demand for her translations, and even love (her good luck has made her feel more open to the entreaties of a neighborhood indie bookstore owner).

There’s only one problem: It all hinges on the translation, and as Shira starts working on the exquisitely intricate passages of the poet’s book, she realizes that it may in fact be, well … impossible to translate.

A deft, funny, and big-hearted novel about second chances, Good on Paper is a grand novel of family, friendship, and possibility.”

This was a slow burn for me.  It took a little while for me to get into it, but once I did, I fell so in love with these characters.

One note: these are not characters that you will particularly like.  I cared about them and rooted for them, but these are still incredibly selfish people.  Not bad, not at all, but people who aren’t particularly good, either.  (In short, they’re basically just like most other people.  They are deeply flawed and they don’t seem to improve.)

This is a book for English majors and for people who love poetry.  (If this isn’t you, you’ll probably still enjoy the book, and it’s not like it’ll be over your head…but I think it’ll delight you more if those things apply to you.)

The Mystery of Hollow Places

Finished The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when she was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as troubled waters.

When Imogene is seventeen, her father, now a famous author of medical mysteries, strikes out in the middle of the night and doesn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. She decides to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of her father’s books to track down a woman she’s never known, in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.

Rebecca Podos’ debut is a powerful, affecting story of the pieces of ourselves that remain mysteries even to us – the desperate search through empty spaces for something to hold on to. ”

This is a mystery for people who don’t necessarily like mysteries. (But if you do like them, you’ll also enjoy this one.)

When her father goes missing, it becomes Imogene’s responsibility to find him.  Immy puts that burden on herself; she actually goes out of her way to make sure that her stepmother doesn’t know she’s looking.

Immy actually makes a lot of decisions where I was like, “ARE YOU EVEN SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?” but fortunately, she had a much more levelheaded best friend to help with the search.

I also love the fact that she knew what to do from reading books.  You are the best, Immy.  Don’t ever change (except maybe make smarter choices.)

Recommended.