The Fireman by Joe Hill

Book Description:

Published: January 3, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

Review –

The Fireman, follows a nurse named Harper as a deadly pandemic called Dragonscale spreads across the world. Hosts of the spore break out in elaborate black and gold rashes before bursting into flames, burning to death and taking down anything near them. When Harper develops Dragonscale marks after becoming pregnant, she finds a group of the infected that have learned to control the flames, including a man known as The Fireman, who can manipulate the fire within him as a weapon.

After being taken Camp Wyndham, where she discovers a whole group of the infected are hiding out from roving cremation crews and vigilantes (which later includes her deranged husband). There, she learns something startling: they’ve learned how to prevent the infection from burning them up. Not only that, Dragonscale seems to allow them to connect on a deep, communal level. The Fireman can even control the flames on his body. Their hideaway has become a refuge where they have formed a safe, small ocean of calm in the midst of a burning New England.

When Harper comes to the camp, it seems like the safest place for her and her unborn child. She learns how to control the infection on her body, and has access to shelter and food. As the months drag on, the tension only increases for the group. When the camp’s de facto leader, Father Storey, is mysteriously attacked, the residents place his daughter Carol in charge.

Under Carol, the camp turns into a dark place, and this is where the novel really gets its feet under it. Eager to help ensure everyone’s safety, paranoid and unwilling to relinquish power, the camp becomes a place where there’s only one voice: hers, and Harper is forced to navigate a tenuous existence in her new home.

Complicating matters is Dragonscale itself: it allows the infected to connect with others – it’s not quite telepathy, but a sort of group mind. In perfect situations, it could form the basis for the utopian society that everyone at Camp Wyndham envisions. With the wrong personalities in charge, that utopia becomes a dystopia quickly.

I won’t tell you the outcome but there are tear-jerker parts and a semi cliffhanger at the end.

Five stars.  Loved it even with all the Mary Poppins references!

 

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

Book Description:

Published: July 26, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In the summer of 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys her mother, who spends the rest of her life at the lake house, hoping in vain that her favorite daughter will walk out of the woods. Emily’s two older sisters stay, too, each keeping her own private, decades-long vigil for the lost child.

Sixty years later Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before she dies, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person to whom it might matter: her grandniece, Justine.

For Justine, the lake house offers a chance to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the stable home she never had. But it’s not the sanctuary she hoped for. The long Minnesota winter has begun. The house is cold and dilapidated, the frozen lake is silent and forbidding, and her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more than he’s telling about the summer of 1935.

Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives with designs on her inheritance, and the man she left behind launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house steeped in the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.

Review –

The foundation of the story rests with the disappearance in 1935 of Emily, a six-year-old child, and the resulting destruction of a family unit when the child is not found. As the story opens, it is the end of the 20th century and Lucy, the last living member of the family, writes the story of the tragedy, set during the summer of 1935 at a remote area in northern Minnesota that is the gathering spot for summer and weekend vacations. Its residents arrive at the beginning of summer and leave with the onset of autumn. They are all known to one another, and their relationships ebb and flow. 

Knowing that she is dying, Lucy feels compelled to explain the mystery of Emily’s disappearance as it unfolded that summer. She has made arrangements to leave the home and property that she and her older sister, Lilith, have lived in until the last of their family has died out, to a grandniece, Justine, who is Lilith’s granddaughter. Her journal story is written in the first person and immerses us into that long-ago summer.

With each alternating chapter, we follow Justine as she migrates from San Diego to Williamsburg, Minnesota, with her two daughters. The move is fraught with anguish as Justine leaves her live-in boyfriend, packs the few belongings she and the girls have, and sets out to learn about her inheritance. Her story is told in the third person.

Young is skilled at creating tension and conflict both in the journal (Lucy) chapters and in the Justine chapters.

 Her characters are vivid and come to life as the story unfolds.

Justine’s mother, Maurie, is a hippy-style mother who disappears and then reappears every few years when her life falls apart and she needs financial support. When she learns that Justine has inherited the family summer home, she comes sniffing around searching for anything she can sell for profit. She is a woman older than she believes herself to be and her boisterous and flirtatious ways create pain and embarrassment for Justine.

Patrick, Justine’s boyfriend, is a manipulative man, set on controlling Justine’s life and that of her daughters. She left him with no indication where she was going, but she knew he would find her and come for her . . . and he does.

The characters in Lucy’s journal are equally complex in their relationships with one another. The two older daughters just emerging into their teens, Lilith and Lucy, are inseparable, while the younger child, Emily, is held close and pampered by their mother.

The parents are estranged: the father, a pharmacist in town, comes to the summer home on weekends with his religious bellowing; the mother expresses an overpowering attachment to Emily and a distance from her husband.  

Matthew and Abe Miller are the sons of the man who owns the lodge in the vacation area where tourists come and reside for short periods of time. The boys are mixed race, part white, part Indian, and while the lodge is accepted as a gathering point for the summer residents, the fathers watch the boys with a careful eye. These two characters travel back and forth between the journal, as young men, and Justine’s story as old men.

In Lucy’s journal, Young expresses the angst of young boys and girls as they are entering adulthood and the dances they do around one another with varying degrees of results. She is equally good at reflecting the anger of Justine’s two young daughters who have been ripped away from the small amount of stability they had in San Diego, as they are relocated to a cold, northern, unforgiving environment in Minnesota.

Both stories travel a parallel path of pain with the summer of 1935 heading toward a tragic end and the winter of the end of the 20th century heading on a collision course of battered relationships.

Young drops hints throughout Lucy’s chapters as to what really happened to Emily that summer and in two thrilling scenes packed with tension at the end, she pitches several situations only hinted at earlier, but activities that nonetheless prove vital to the final result. She cleverly draws these parallel stories together as Justine resolves issues and takes her place as the strong protagonist she is meant to be.

Five stars!  Fantastic read.

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

Book Description:

Published: July 26, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

In the summer of 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys her mother, who spends the rest of her life at the lake house, hoping in vain that her favorite daughter will walk out of the woods. Emily’s two older sisters stay, too, each keeping her own private, decades-long vigil for the lost child.

Sixty years later Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before she dies, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person to whom it might matter: her grandniece, Justine.

For Justine, the lake house offers a chance to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the stable home she never had. But it’s not the sanctuary she hoped for. The long Minnesota winter has begun. The house is cold and dilapidated, the frozen lake is silent and forbidding, and her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more than he’s telling about the summer of 1935.

Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives with designs on her inheritance, and the man she left behind launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house steeped in the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.

Review –

Justine is living in a shabby apartment with her two daughters and live in boyfriend,Patrick, who is VERY controlling so when an attorney calls saying that her great-aunt Lucy has left her a house and a stock portfolio of $150,000.00, she packs the basics, picks up the girls from school, and starts the long drive to Minnesota.

In her mind the summer-house on the lake looks the way it did when she was nine years old. It was the only Summer she was there and the only time she met Lucy. When they arrive, it is Winter in Minnesota and the house is drab, falling apart and in desperate need of a full restoration.  The inside is not much better with the rooms heated by radiators fueled by a propane tank only one-third full and a stove in the kitchen so old the oven can not be fixed. Meals have to be made on top of the stove or in the microwave.  Justine’s only comfort is that maybe Patrick won’t be able to find them since she told no one where she was going and she left her cell phone behind.

The only neighbors are brothers who were childhood friends of her grandmother, Lilith and great-aunt Lucy, who now run the Lodge for the Summer people. Abe is a bit slow so doesn’t venture out much so Matthew is the one  the Evans girls sees most and they all consider him “creepy”.

There is a box of composition books full of stories written by Lucy, all dealing with the little sister, Emily, who went missing in the summer of 1935. There is also another composition book with the truth behind Emily’s disappearance, but Justine doesn’t know about it until almost the end of the book.

I won’t tell you what happened to Emily or if Patrick shows up, or about the fire  so you’ll have to read the book to find out. There is so much more to this story than just a missing child!

It is a fantastic book and I couldn’t stop listening,

Five stars *****

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Book Description:

Published: February 2, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A spellbinding novel about three unforgettable individuals thrown together by war, love, and their search for belonging in the ever-changing landscape of WWII London.

It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blue blood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.

A sweeping epic with the kind of unforgettable characters, cultural insights, and indelible scenes that made Little Bee so incredible, Chris Cleave’s latest novel explores the disenfranchised, the bereaved, the elite, the embattled. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loss, and incredible courage.

Review –

This is a historical novel set in London and Malta during the second world war. The story is, Cleave discloses in an author’s note, inspired by the lives of his grandparents: his maternal grandfather served in Malta, and his paternal grandmother drove ambulances during the blitz. But below the surface of this novel, the author explores the ways that external events beyond the individual’s control influence the private lives of the characters, with either devastating or transformative consequences.

Generally, I’m not a fan of novels about war or set in periods of war, but once I started this one I was hard pressed to hit the pause button.  The characters were diverse, complex, but a bit flat. I wish the author would have spent more time fleshing them out, especially Tom and Hilda.

With Everyone Brave Is Forgiven Cleave cements his reputation as a skillful storyteller, and a sensitive chronicler of the interplay between the political and the personal. As one character observes: “Who knows what takes more courage – to die in battle, or to live in vain? It cuts all of us in two, I suppose.”

I gave it four out of five stars.

Chained (Caged #2) by D. H. Sidebottom

Book Description:

Published: July 15, 2016

Format: Purchased E-Book

I had once thought that when I found the light I had been searching for in that long, dark tunnel that it would finally give me the gift I had been holding on for.
I had scoured the joyless night sky for peace, a peace that only the brightness of the stars could grant.
And I had endeavoured to catch that single magic snowflake in the middle of a howling snowstorm.
I had been looking. Forever.

But little did I know that it WAS the sinister darkness in the tunnel that was the gift. It WAS the black reservoir of the deepest, darkest night that would be the very thing to give my chaotic soul peace. And it WAS the heaving rush of the bleakest blizzard that was filled with magic.

Anderson Cain WAS the darkness.
He WAS the black peace in my soul.
And within the raging pool of his wild green eyes WAS the magic.
The magic that saw me. The real me.
He made sure I saw me too. All of me. He’d told me he would make me accept who I really was.

I was Kloe Grant. And now – now I am the epitome of what he wanted me to be.

But when I finally let go, and I allowed that darkness to find me, neither of us was prepared for who I really was.

Death itself.

 

Review –

Chained picks up right where ‘Caged’ left off. Immediately, the reader is plunged back into the screwed up pasts of Anderson and Kloe. Forcing Kloe to confront the memories that haunt her, Anderson is still out for revenge and plans to use Kloe as the means to exact that revenge on his father.

The characters are all the right and wrong things in the world. These two have seen more than their fair share of evil. The ways that they decide to deal with those evils are cruel and unusual, but in the end it was so beautiful. I cried throughout the story for the lives they led, the love they never knew, and the love they found. There are so many dark elements in this story, but they are portrayed so beautifully.

Just like Caged, this book will blow your mind and play with your emotions. There were so many twists and turns that I didn’t see coming…and a few that I did. I don’t want to spoil anything. This is one that you need to experience firsthand. Prepare to be shocked and left with an uneasy, disturbed feeling. If you’re a fan of dark, erotic stories, this series is a must read!

This book contains extreme violence, strong adult language and scenes of dark sex, including M/F/M.

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It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Book Description:

Published: August 2, 2016

SOMETIMES THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU IS THE ONE WHO HURTS YOU THE MOST

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.

This book contains graphic scenes and very sensitive subject matter.

Review –

Five-star-feedback-on-oDesk

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First of all, I want to say that I gave this book five stars ***** and it deserved more.

It got a LOT of hype and some readers didn’t like it and some loved it. I’m in the latter category. It deals with a subject whose depth you can not comprehend unless you are a part of it. Thank my lucky stars, I was not ever, nor do I think I will ever be a part of it. 

I would love to tell you everything about this book but I can’t because it would give too much away and I want you to read it or listen to it. I want everyone to read or listen to it. Men and women.

This book broke my heart because I was rooting for the man I thought was “perfect”, but I guess if something looks perfect it’s too good to be true. Love can hurt and love can heal but one person can’t do both.

The blurb makes it sound like a “love triangle” is involved but it’s not. That is not the point, or the focus. Whatever it is you’re thinking this book is, just trust me — it’s so much bigger than that. Seriously, trust Colleen. I did.

This book is now at my top favorite books of the year. I was unable to stop listening for long periods of time and other times I HAD  to stop listening. My heart couldn’t take it and I needed more Kleenex. I know that this is one of those profoundly beautiful and unforgettable stories that will stay with me for a long time.

I highly recommend it to everyone!

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Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Book Description:

Published: March 22, 2011

Jude Farraday is a happily married, stay-at-home mom who puts everyone’s needs above her own. Her twins, Mia and Zach, are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill enters their lives, no one is more supportive than Jude. A former foster child with a dark past, Lexi quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable. But senior year of high school brings unexpected dangers and one night, Jude’s worst fears are confirmed: there is an accident. In an instant, her idyllic life is shattered and her close-knit community is torn apart. People—and Jude—demand justice, and when the finger of blame is pointed, it lands solely on eighteen-year-old Lexi Baill. In a heartbeat, their love for each other will be shattered, the family broken. Lexi gives up everything that matters to her—the boy she loves, her place in the family, the best friend she ever had—while Jude loses even more.

When Lexi returns, older and wiser, she demands a reckoning. Long buried feelings will rise again, and Jude will finally have to face the woman she has become. She must decide whether to remain broken or try to forgive both Lexi…and herself.

Night Road is a vivid, emotionally complex novel that raises profound questions about motherhood, loss, identity, and forgiveness. It is an exquisite, heartbreaking novel that speaks to women everywhere about the things that matter most.

Review –

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This is a fantastic read/listen ( I had the audio version ) and although it is slow and repetitive in places it grabs your heart-strings and doesn’t let go.

It’s a book to be equally enjoyed by young adults as well as their parents because the issues are presented from both perspectives. The main characters are twins, Mia and Zack  and Jude, their adept but hovering mother and Lexi, a lonely teen living with her aunt.

Mothers will  relate to her parenting skills and worrying. Young adults and teens will relate to the push and pull of finding independence from one’s parents and the necessity of being accepted by peers. It’s layered with issues on family dynamics, teenage angst and romance, first loves, sibling rivalry, friendship, forgiveness, grief and motherhood making it an excellent read.

I felt so sorry for Lexi who just can’t catch a break and so angry at Zack for putting Lexi in a position that  endangered all three of them and ended Mia’s life.

The ending is a bit too much HALLMARK, but I’m glad everything worked out for everyone.

All in all a great book.

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Book Description:

Published: February 2, 2016

 

 

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Told in alternating points of view, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff—the greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.

Review – 

Five-star-feedback-on-oDesk

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Although this book is technically a young adult book ( and I highly recommend it to ALL young adults because they must know what can happen when the person in charge of a country has no respect for human life – they see things like this on television and movies but most of them don’t care enough to learn the truth behind he images) I, as an adult, found it haunting, captivating, heart wrenching and hard to believe. 

I don’t want to give too much away, but all of the main characters in the book do not survive and it broke my heart . I had the audio version and had to turn it off in some places while driving because of the tears forming in my eyes.

It is the best historical fiction that I had read or listened to in a very long time and although the characters were not real  people, I’m fairly certain that out of the ten thousand  people crammed onto the evacuation ship there were stories just like the ones in this book. 

The sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff is the single greatest maritime disaster in history yet, to many, the story remains unknown .It is a poignant, heart-breaking and should be on everyone’s TBR list.

For more information on  Operation Hannibal and this disaster check out the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Wilhelm_Gustloff

^Side Note:

I have not read Between Shades of Gray, by this author, mentioned in the blurb above, but I intend to very soon.

Five stars *****

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What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Book Description:

Published: December 31, 2012

Ten years ago, Izzy Stone’s mother fatally shot her father while he slept. Devastated by her mother’s apparent insanity, Izzy, now seventeen, refuses to visit her in prison. But her new foster parents, employees at a local museum, have enlisted Izzy’s help in cataloging items at a long-shuttered state asylum. There, amid piles of abandoned belongings, Izzy discovers a stack of unopened letters, a decades old journal, and a window into her own past.

Clara Cartwright, eighteen years old in 1929, is caught between her overbearing parents and her love for an Italian immigrant. Furious when she rejects an arranged marriage, Clara’s father sends her to a genteel home for nervous invalids. But when his fortune is lost in the stock market crash, he can no longer afford her care—and Clara is committed to the public asylum.

Even as Izzy deals with the challenges of yet another new beginning, Clara’s story keeps drawing her into the past. If Clara was never really mentally ill, could something else explain her own mother’s violent act? Piecing together Clara’s fate compels Izzy to re-examine her own choices—with shocking and unexpected results.

Review –

Five-star-feedback-on-oDesk

This story reminded me of the movie THE SNAKE PIT, based on Mary Jane offers-headphones-jpgmaxheight138maxwidth207Ward’s 1946 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, it tells the story of a woman who finds herself in an insane asylum and cannot remember how she got there.This story was riveting, chilling, and in parts very disturbing. It’s hard to believe that something like this could happen and probably did. Not only was she held against her will, but when her boyfriend found her and tried to rescue her, he was admitted as a crazy person by the administrator, and is later killed. She was pregnant at the time she was first committed and had the baby and it was taken away from her after a few weeks.

Clara, at first was sent to a “nice” home for “nervous invalids” but after the crash of 1929 her father couldn’t afford the payments so she was transferred to a pubic asylum.  The things she suffered there were hard to listen to and brought tears of anger and sadness to my eyes.. Not only was she held against her will, but when her boyfriend found her and tried to rescue her, he was admitted as a crazy person by the administrator, and is later killed. She was pregnant at the time she was first committed and had the baby and it was taken away from her after a few weeks. She was put in at the age of 19 and was imprisoned (because that’s what it was) for 60 years.

Only because of Izzy’s involvement in a museum project did Clara’s fate come to light and an ending that I won’t share here because you need to read this book for yourself. I will tell you that there is a HEA.

Amazing book!!!!!

Five stars *****

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