Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to stroll through the elaborately appointed rooms of the Titanic on its maiden voyage, or dine alongside extravagantly dressed women and some of the wealthiest people in the world? Did you ever consider what Old Shanghai may have been like for a crew of sailors after months at sea, or speculate about one of its infamous opium dens? What about envisioning how it must have felt to be alive during the early days of the twentieth century in affluent Boston, where social standards defined every aspect of your life? The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe is a masterfully woven tale that encompasses all of these settings and more.
The story is set in the years preceding World War I and revolves around lives of the Allston family. The mother and youngest daughter have perished on Titanic’s ill-fated crossing 3 years previous, and the eldest daughter Sibyl continues to struggle with their loss. Her mother’s death has forced her into the role of family caretaker. She and her father are residing in the family’s brownstone in Boston’s wealthy Back Bay region when her younger brother abruptly returns home from school under mysterious circumstances. Sibyl has taken to attending séances hoping to contact her Mother, seeking both comfort and advice regarding her brother.
This story moves between different time periods, telling the back story of Mr. Allston when he was a young sailor and the account of the Titanic passengers. Howe effectively weaves all of these plots into a complete, cohesive, and interesting story. Her thorough descriptions and authentic flare make each scene come to life. No details are spared in this enchanting historical novel that will capture your imagination and your heart.
Being different from everyone is never easy. Lena Mattagascar has struggled with this situation her entire life. She was born with extremely long and narrow hands and feet. Her digits each have an extra section giving her hands a long spider-like appearance. Lena attempts to hide this abnormality by wearing gloves and keeping her feet hidden by long skirts. At an early age the family physician diagnosed her condition as “goblinism” and ever since then she has been anxious that she may, in fact, be a Peculiar.
The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry is a fun combination of fantasy and steampunk, self-discovery and adventure. On her 18th birthday, Lena decides to leave her home in the City to travel to Scree, a remote and sparsely populated wilderness region to the far north. It is rumored that Peculiars, the outcasts of society, reside there. Her quest is to find her father who abandoned the family when she was only 5. He was rumored to have been a Peculiar, and if this proves to be true it will confirm her worst fears. Lena has been told that Peculiars have no soul, have wild thoughts, and a temper. She worries her goblin genes will overtake her in her sleep and watches closely for changes in her behavior.
Is she or isn’t she, the question keeps presenting itself throughout the novel. Are her physical characteristics just an anomaly or signs of the dreaded genetic disease? Is being a goblin a physical condition or just a term for evil behavior? This unique story, with likable characters and stunning descriptions, is an adventure that will have you re-evaluating your own definition of acceptance and what it means to belong.
"It should have been me." Gabie is shocked when her coworker Kayla vanishes one night while performing a routine pizza delivery. However, her fear intensifies when Gabie discovers that the man who ordered the pizzas asked if she was on delivery duty that night. So begins The Night She Disappeared by April Henry.
Kayla’s abandoned car is found along an isolated road. Nearby, a bloody rock is discovered beside the river. Many people in the community, including the police, believe Kayla is dead. Her family even brings in a psychic who agrees with this conclusion. Only Gabie seems to believe Kayla is still alive and she becomes obsessed with proving this is true. She finds assistance with this task, and some much needed companionship, from another Pete’s Pizza employee named Drew. Drew took the pizza order that led to Kayla’s disappearance, and being unable to help the police with any details about the caller’s identity, struggles with feelings of guilt and helplessness.
The story is told from multiple different perspectives: Kayla, Gabie, Drew, and "John Robertson", the alias used by the abductor. The reader experiences each day of the kidnapping from these character’s viewpoints, and with each passing day, the terror builds. Gabie’s anxiety grows as she becomes more convinced that she is targeted to be the mysterious kidnapper’s next victim. Kayla is certain her time is running out. John Robertson is preparing to make his next move.
Will Gabie be grabbed next? What will happen to Kayla? Can John Robertson be stopped before he completes his evil plans? Read this exciting novel, and find out!
Karen Robards has done it again! Her most recent novel Sleepwalker is such an adrenaline rush you will find yourself out of breath while reading the story. The main character is Micayla Lange, an off-duty police officer spending New Year’s Eve house-sitting for a close friend of the family. This unfortunately was not a part of the plan for Jason Davis as he chose that particular evening to rob the locked safe in Uncle Nicco’s office. The petite and beautiful Micayla can kick some serious butt, and she proceeds to do just that to Jason when she encounters him leaving with the money laden suitcases. During the fight, incriminating photos of Uncle Nicco’s involvement in the murder of a councilman become dislodged from one of the suitcases, changing the entire nature of the situation. The knowledge they now have of Uncle Nicco’s mob connections puts both of their lives in jeopardy forcing them to team up to escape his gang. What ensues is an exhilarating chase where Micayla and Jason have to battle the elements as well as outwit an endless supply of pursuers. Matters are further complicated with their growing attraction to each other and the understanding that once they are safe, Micayla has every intention of doing her duty and arresting Jason for robbery.
Ms. Robards is the author of forty books, mostly of the romantic suspense and historical variety. She creates engaging characters, imaginative plots, and often inserts humor into her writing. It is no wonder that Newsweek has proclaimed her one of the most popular voices in women's fiction.
The Name of The Star by Maureen Johnson is an amazingly fun and frightening story you won’t want to miss. The story revolves around Rory Deveaux, an 18-year-old girl from Louisiana who has the opportunity to attend a boarding school in London for her senior year. The transition proves challenging as we witness her try to make friends, struggle with difficult classes, and much to Rory’s dismay, learn to play field hockey. However, even more distressing are the brutal murders which are taking place in close proximity to her school. Young women are being killed in the same manner and on the same dates as the Jack the Ripper murders a hundred years before. Rippermania has taken over the city as everyone anxiously awaits the next victim to be discovered.
It turns out that Rory is the only witness to any of the crimes and this fact puts her in the sights of the killer. The story takes a decidedly paranormal twist as the Shades, a secretive police force, become involved in the case. Their specialty is finding and dealing with ghosts. They are determined to protect Rory and stop the new Ripper before he strikes again. This novel is a fantastic read that teens and adults alike will enjoy. You won’t want the story to end and the great news is it doesn’t have to! This is the first novel in a series called The Shades of London.
Interested in polishing up on your Ripperology? Check out Jack the Ripper and the Case for Scotland Yard’s Prime Suspect by Robert House or Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper: Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell, both available at your library. Amaze friends with sordid facts regarding this legendary unsolved mystery.
Once there was a young Jewish boy named Felix living in Nazi occupied Poland. He was naïve as to why his parents left him at a Catholic orphanage. Felix got tired of waiting for them to come back for him so he chose to leave the safety of the nuns and go back home. This poignant story by Morris Gleitzman shows the Holocaust through the innocent eyes of a child. The 10-year-old cannot understand the things he witnesses. Why are people found shot outside a farmhouse? Why are there strangers living in his house? The reader follows his conjectures and rationalizations until he very slowly comes to the realization that the Jews are being eliminated and his parents are gone.
Then he befriends a 6-year-old girl named Zelda. They escape a train bound for a concentration camp and spend every moment trying to hide from the Nazis. Felix makes up stories to distract Zelda from hunger and fear. The author Richmal Crompton is his hero, and he prays to her when he is scared. The children are taken in by a kind woman. She bleaches their hair and gets them fake documentation so they can hide in plain sight, but they all live in constant fear of discovery. Felix witnesses unspeakable cruelty and hatred and although he feels anger, makes a conscious choice not to become like the Nazis.
These novels are historical fiction at its best. Thoroughly researched and simply presented with the authentic voice of a child. It is one thing to learn the facts of the Holocaust and an entirely different matter to witness them from a child’s perspective.
Since the disappearance of her sixteen year-old daughter four years ago, Lauren Lawton has had to cope with the suicide of her husband and the silent struggles of her younger daughter who self mutilates because of her unhappiness. Lauren’s pain is exacerbated by the fact that she believes she knows who abducted her child. She is outraged that the police have been unable arrest the suspect. So begins the newest novel by Tami Hoag, Down the Darkest Road.
In an attempt to rebuild their lives, Lauren and her daughter Leah relocate to the quiet and beautiful town of Oak Knoll. The peace that they are seeking is not meant to be as it quickly becomes apparent that the alleged kidnapper has also moved to the community. Are they being stalked? Is her youngest daughter the man’s next target? Will the police just stand by and do nothing, again? Lauren has developed an acute mistrust of the police; however she hasn’t dealt with the members of the Oak Knoll Sheriff’s Department before. This community has been the setting for Hoag’s two previous spine-chilling books Deeper than the Dead and Secrets to the Grave.
The series is set in the 1980’s and is filled with humorous references of that era. The interesting twist to these thrillers is reading about the forensic technology and police practices of that time. There is no DNA database and ViCAP is just wishful thinking. We follow the dedicated law enforcement personnel as they attempt to solve crimes with limited tools by today’s standards. Any of these novels can be read as a standalone, but if you enjoy this novel you will definitely want to check out the others!