Ahhh, Fall

Fall13wbTis the season they say, but in reality, any season is a good season for reading. Take this Fall for example:

  • The Book Thief (the movie). Starring Geoffrey Rush, Sophie Nélisse, and Emily Watson, we can only hope the producers and director capture accurately the depth of Markus Zusak’s story.
  • The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan (Nov 05 2013). Tan’s excellent storytelling involving relationships continues in this novel covering three generations of women connected by a painting.
  • The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly (Dec 02 2013). We first saw Connelly’s Mickey Haller in The Lincoln Lawyer. Five books later, Mickey is reliving choices he made to help someone only to see them murdered. Guilt weighs heavily on Mickey as he investigates those choices to find closure…if he can.
  • A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor (Nov 12 2013). O’Connor is one of my favorite short fiction writers, who tend to be Southern for some reason. (Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston, to name a few) This collection offers a glimpse into the mind of a young woman who had a close relationship to God and an intense desire to be a writer and how both aspects of this personality would…could work together. I don’t read much non-fiction, but this is one I am definitely putting on my wish list.
  • Elizabeth York by Alison Weir (Dec 03 2013). Another non-fiction book destined for my shelves. This is where the Tudor dynasty begins, and for all who are fans of the latest sagas on TV regarding said family, this book will not disappoint.

If you can’t wait for these to come out, in the meantime, these are some great reads to get while you wait:

  • Dear Life by Alice Munro (paperback, reprint edition July 2013). Short stories from this Canadian writer are poignant, funny, and on point when it comes to the relationships she writes about. There is sure to be one that will touch a spot in your memory that you thought long lost.
  • NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (hardcover Apr 30 2013, paperback Oct 15 2013). I love this writer. I was initially introduced to him through his short fiction work in 20th Century Ghosts, then the biblio-affair continued with Heart-Shaped Box and Horns Now this book. People may through around the word “creepy” all willy-nilly, but it sticks here. Creepy, unsettling, and spine tingling. Trust me you will never, ever, feel like you are reading a book that is over 700 pages long.
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (young adult, May 07 2013). An action packed thriller that will surprise many who think young adult means below grade character construction and plot. Go ahead, I dare you to read this and still consider young adult novels anything but angst-filled fluff.

JC

 

 

 

Review: Help For The Haunted

HelpForTheHauntedHelp For The Haunted by John Searles
Mystery/Crime Fiction
ISBN: 9780060779634
William Morrow (September 17, 2013)

FTC Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

Sylvie Mason’s parents have an unusual occupation—helping “haunted souls” find peace. After receiving a strange phone call one winter’s night, they leave the house and are later murdered in an old church in a horrifying act of violence.

A year later, Sylvie is living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened to their parents. Now, the inquisitive teenager pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night—and to the truth about her family’s past and the secrets that have haunted them for years.

 

There are many who are haunted, and not all of them from actual ghosts. We are haunted by the past and by inner demons be they real or imagined; this is the crux of the story here.

The book opens with a terrifying experience, told by a reliable narrator. Or is she? Sylvie is young, uncertain, and living in circumstances no child should have to deal with. Her memories are cloudy, so her story is only as solid as they are.

When the alleged killer comes up with an alibi that is sure to set him free, Sylvie is forced to question what really happened the night her parents were murdered. Her sister Rose, is someone she should be able to lean on, but one of those demons in Sylvie’s past is her sister and her part in their parents death.

Their relationship, and the one each had with their parents are part of the dark path Sylvie must explore on her way to finding out the truth. It’s a twisted tale that’s for sure, and at times it will have you wondering how Sylvie is so mature and together for someone who’s been through so much at such a young age.

She has a strong inner faith that she herself doesn’t discover until later, which makes her character easier to believe. It’s worth the wait, so keep reading and don’t fault her for holding herself so together when most of us would have lost it.

It’s also a coming of age story and could be considered a young adult novel, but on the older end. The writing and the characterizations make it a great read for anyone. The protagonist is a teenager, and so is her sister, but the book will not disappoint an adult reader and, in fact, will be hard to put down.

As for the mystery aspect of it. I was a little disappointed. It’s kind of a Catch-22 really. You don’t want it so easy you guess who it is, but when you finally do, you want it to be someone who had a larger part of the plot or side plot. Just my opinion. It wasn’t a huge disappointment, because this is more about the journey rather than the destination.

At 368 pages, this is a quicker read than you think. So be prepared. It’s one of those, “Bookmark? I don’t need no stinking bookmark. Now go away, I’M READING.” kinda books.

JC

John Searles is the author of the best-selling novels Boy Still Missing and Strange But True. John appears regularly as a book critic on NBC’s Today Show and has also appeared on CBS’s The Early Show, Live! With Regis & Kelly and CNN to discuss his favorite book selections. His essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast and other national publications. He lives in New York City.

Review: Keeper of Secrets

Keeper of SecretsKeeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas
Contemporary Fiction
ISBN: 9780062240309
Paperback released: May 28, 2013
William Morrow Paperbacks

FTC Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

A priceless violin. A family torn apart.
A decision that could change everything.

Berlin, 1939. Fourteen-year-old Simon Horowitz is awash in a world of music. But all is lost when the Nazis march across Europe, the Horowitz family’s possessions are confiscated, and Simon and his father and brother are sent to Dachau. Amid unimaginable cruelty and death, Simon finds kindness from an unexpected corner, and a chance to pick up a violin in exchange for a chance to live.

In the present day, orchestra conductor Rafael Gomez has seen much in his time on the world’s stage, but he finds himself oddly inspired by the playing of an aspiring violin virtuoso, a fantastic talent who is just fourteen. When the boy, Daniel Horowitz, Simon’s grandson, suddenly rebels and refuses to play another note, Rafael decides he’ll do anything he can to change that. After Rafael learns the boy’s family once owned a precious violin, believed to have been lost forever, he thinks he might know how to get Daniel playing again. In taking on the task he discovers a family story like no other, one that winds from World War II and Communist Russia all the way to Rafael’s very own stage.

 

I am a huge historical fiction fan, and it is because of this I asked to read this book. I wanted to see how the historical aspect is integrated and used to move and add power to the story. I wish there were more of it. Not that I didn’t like the contemporary aspect, but my history buff side wouldn’t always just sit back and enjoy the read.

The other aspect of the book that challenged me were the characters. I liked them all, even hated the ones I’m supposed to hate, however I never felt an intense connection with them as much as I thought I should. Usually if the characters don’t draw me in, the story does. Here, neither overpowered the other. It was a comfortable read, with no extreme highs or lows, which is why I recommend it for those looking to sit back, relax, and let the author tell a story easily read over a weekend.

Music has an important part to play in this story and in a way, it is a character all its own. It affects the people and their story – even history itself.

There is little violence, sex, or harsh language, although the recollections of surviving in a concentration camp can evoke some strong emotions. This is a great book to get for a friend, family member, and an good pick for a book club.

Hence why I wanted a little bit more when it came to the historical sections. I must say though, these sections are well researched and therefore fictionalized in an impactful way.

JC