Monday, April 1, 2024

In the Trenches: "The Warm Hands" of Ghosts by Katherine Arden


If you want to experience what life was like for soldiers on both sides of the trenches of  WWI, then read, or listen to (as I did), Katherine Arden's brutal, heartbreaking and beautifully told story of  Laura Iven, a brave nurse and her brother, Freddie, and how their lives are irredeemably altered by their enlistment. This is also a book about love. And ghosts. 

When Laura, back in Canada and recovering from injuries she received while nursing in Flanders and from the trauma of the death of her parents when a ship explodes, receives word that her brother has disappeared and was maybe killed.

Deciding to go back to the battle to search for him, she is accompanied by a civilian, a wealthy young woman whose son has also gone missing while serving overseas, and a woman who runs a private hospital and seems to have a lot of connections. 

The story is told from two viewpoints, Laura's and Freddie's, who is trapped in a collapsed pillbox alongside a German, Hans Winter, an enemy soldier. 

Without giving too much away, this book vividly brings the hell of what soldiers, the poor enlisted men on both sides, faced during WWI. Ms. Arden is a writer whose characters seem real, even the ones who aren't quite alive. I am new to Katherine Arden's books and have become a fan of this and her exquisite Winternight Trilogy. Highly recommended!

And thank you to Penguin-Random House for the wonderfully narrated audiobook featuring two amazing narrators: January LaVoy and Michael Crouch!

Monday, November 13, 2023

Simone St. James: Ghost Stories with a Difference!

 The Recommender has listened to a LOT of audiobooks over the last couple of years, and there are a few authors I read and listen to whenever they have something new. A couple of months ago I came across a book that sounded intriguing!
It was called Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James. The narrator was incredible! Billie Fulford-Brown became all the soldiers suffering the after effects of WWI  and the nurses caring for them in the remote psychiatric hospital where Kitty Weeks has escaped to, posing as a much needed nurse. How hard could nursing be? And what about the mysterious patient 16? Why is Kitty not allowed in his room? And then there are those noises that no one admits to hearing. This is a story that grabs you from the start and ends perfectly!

I had to know more about Ms. James. And thanks to Penguin/Random House audio, I was able to listen to more of her books and I have to say, each one is excellent! Each one, a different sort of ghost story, the kind of Gothic style fiction that is hard to find, and the audios are all so good as are their narrators! 

Next, I listened to the Haunting of Maddy Clare, also narrated by the wonderful Billie Fulford-Brown. This is a ghost story that has some frightening scenes and scary elements that will keep you riveted!  Wealthy, handsome ghost hunter, Alistair Gellis , hires an assistant from a temp agency while his partner is away. Sarah Piper is a pretty, lonely young woman who jumps at the chance to take this position, though later on, she may have second thoughts. Joined by Matthew Ryder, Alistair's partner who returns early, they set off to investigate a haunting in an old barn. Who is doing the haunting and the repurcussions of the investigation make this another must read / listen to story!

I could not get enough of Ms. James work! Thankfully, Penguin/Random House audio had more available!

I next listened to the Book of Cold Cases, in which Shea Williams, a doctor's receptionist by day and a True Crime blogger by night, scores an interview with an older woman who, in her 20s, had been suspected of murdering two men. This is another addictive read/listen! What happens between these two women and what is revealed in the interviews as this compelling story unfolds will not disappoint! 
if you only have time to listen, as I often do, this is narrated by a great cast that includes Brittany Pressley, Kirsten Potter and Robert Petkoff !

Then, I listened to the Broken Girls, set in two timelines, the 50s  in a girls' school for troubled or problem girls. A group of girls become close friends sharing secrets and alliances and late night tales of a girl who may haunt the premises. The other timeline: 2014, a young woman journalist, daughter of a famous journalist Dad and younger sister of a girl murdered 20 years previously, and found on the grounds of the old, closed down school. I loved this book as well! What happens and what is revealed along the way make this one equally enticing! This one is narrated by Rebecca Lowman who does an excellent job, as have all the narrators of Ms. James books!

I am currently listening to the Sundown Motel which is as good as all the previous books I have listened to. In this one, set in the 1982 and then in 2017, Carly Kirk, a young woman who is a true crime buff, follows the trail of her beautiful Aunt, Viv Delaney, who left home in the midwest to try and make it as an actress in NY but got as far as the Sundown Motel, where she takes a job as a night clerk. Was Viv murdered? No body was ever found, though the town where the Sundown Motel is located has had more than its share of missing, murdered young women. Narrated, again, by Brittany Pressley and Kirsten Potter, they do a fantastic job of bringing these engaging characters to life!

So, if you are looking for an author to become your next favorite, must read /listen to, then I highly recommend Simone St. James!   I'll be looking forward to reading / listening to her other works!

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Missing Persons: "The Vanishing Hour" by Seraphina Nova Glass


The Recommender is a fan of missing person thrillers and the Vanishing Hour is a great one! Grace Holloway is a woman who lived through a traumatic event that left her with a limp. She lives alone, running a small inn in Rock Harbor Maine with only her dog for company. All she wants is to be left alone.  

Meanwhile, a 19 year old girl has gone missing. Her frantic mother, Kira, is desperate to find her. 
Monitoring her social media and reaching out to friends, employers, anyone who knew her sometimes to such a degree it borders on harassment.

And then there's Aden. He's enjoying a quiet evening at home when he gets a call from his mom. His dad is missing. Probably out with his fishing buddies, Aden thinks. But decides to go home and try and placate his mom and recovering addict brother, who is sue foul play was the cause of his disappearance.

What's going on? Teen girls and old men have gone missing? Is there someone out there who is creating havoc for these demographics? Or is something else going on? 

Ms. Glass's The Vanishing Hour is a suspenseful, need to know what happens kind of read. Or listen, as I listened to this one (courtesy of hoopla) and the fantastic narrator, Brittaney Pressley, believably becomes all the characters and keeps you listening to the very end!  

Blood Money: "Hide" by Kiersten White

14 young people, 7 men and 7 women, have been chosen, seemingly at random, to participate in a new reality show where the contestants will be playing a challenging game of Hide and Seek in an abandoned, derelict amusement park, once called the Amazement Park! It is overgrown with trees and forest. The prize for the winner is $50,000.00!
 Mack is one of these 14. Besides Mack, are two Avas, one a military vet and the other called the Beautiful Ava. Some of the group want to bond, maybe team up, but Mack knows there can only be one winner. And she intends it to be her.

This is a thrill ride of a novel, filled with mystery, suspense and even elements of horror as we join the contestants in the game. They have to spend the day hiding and come back to base for check in at night. Where are the cameras that are filming the game? Who are the shadowy figures behind the production? Is there something going on more than the two a night "out" players, who are never seen again, and the others are told they are taken out of the park and sent home. Will Mack be the winner? That is for you to find out!

If you like something a bit different and a bit dark, then get a copy of Hide, or listen to the excellent audio, as I did,  narrated beautifully by Emma Galvin.

 I loved Kiersten White's Mister Magic so sought this one out, thank you Penguin Random House for access to the audiobook! That book was one of a kind and this one, equally so, as it's been said by others, it has elements of the Hunger Games and Squid Games, but has a creepiness all its own!


Friday, November 10, 2023

10 Years After: "Before We Were Innocent" by Ella Berman

Bess lives alone working from home as the moderator for a dating app. Suddenly there's a knock at the door and standing there is a face from the past. Her beautiful, famous former friend Joni. Someone she hasn't seen in 10 years. Since something went terribly wrong in their past.

The past, when three besties spent a summer in Greece, their last get together before college. It is the family home of  wealthy heiress Evangeline, whose parents paid for  their trip. Everything seems set for a perfect summer, but teen Joni and Bess want to explore and have more fun than the more sheltered Evangeline is willing to do. She is happy meeting and greeting family friends and enjoying time at the villa.

 Joni and Evangeline go way back, while Bess sometimes felt she was the third wheel in their friendship, someone whose family moved to the wealthy California community from England. Once in a while during that summer,  Evangeline got annoyed with Bess. It happens, even with close friends. Maybe it's because Evangeline's brother always seemed a little too interested in Bess.

What happens during the course of that summer forever changed everyone's lives.
Before We were Innocent is the first book I've read / listened to by Ella Berman.  It is a gripping read, or, once again, I listened to this one, with a  compelling narration by Jennifer Jill Araya, who makes the girls and other characters come alive during that fateful summer and later, as the characters become adults. 

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Kid Stuff: "Mister Magic" by Kiersten White

 The Recommender just finished listening to Mister Magic, an absolutely riveting thriller/ mystery!
Once there was this kids' show that everyone who watched it remembered and the six kids who were on it, the Circle of Friends, were like your best friends! But when you try and look it up online there's hardly any mention of it. And what was it called? No one can quite recall. Something with Magic in the title. 
But the good news is... there's talk of a reunion! Even though it's been off the air maybe 30 years, you and everyone you know wants that Circle of Friends to get together again.

Val grew up on Gloria's ranch. She and her Dad have lived and worked there since she was a little girl. Now, she's almost 40. She runs the kid's camp and gives riding lessons and is great with the kids and with their rich parents who she knows how to wrap around her little finger. She has no memory of what she and her Dad did before the ranch. Her Mom is dead. She can't even remember her anyway. She wishes she could remember. 
Then, suddenly, her Dad died. She's helping Gloria with the arrangements when two men show up. Strangers. One is tall and lanky with a beard and glasses. The other olive skinned and elegant. They are Isaac and Javi.  Somehow, she knows them. But how? And a third man enters. He's Black and handsome and is equally thrilled to have found her. His name is Marcus.

If you want to find out who these guys are and how they are connected to Val and what that addictive kid's show was all about, than grab a copy of Mister Magic by Kiersten White, or get the amazing audiobook narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Kiersten White. This is one of my favorite books of the year. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Deja Vu: "Wrong Place, Wrong Time" by Gillian McAllister


Jen is waiting for her teen son, Todd, to come home. It's late and it's almost Halloween and her ill attempted carved pumpkin sits in the window as she watches her son come down the street. She sees him get accosted by what seems to be an older man. There's an interchange between them and next thing she knows... her sweet, funny boy has stabbed the stranger. She calls out to her husband and they rush out to try and help, but, before she knows it, her son is in police custody, there's a man dead and he was the one who killed him! There's nothing she can do to change what happened!
After an exhausting time at the police station, they go home. Jen goes to sleep hoping to figure things out in the morning.
Then she wakes up... and it's like the horrible events of the night before hadn't happened... yet, anyway! What can this mean? Will they eventually go through this occurrence again, or is there something she can do to prevent it?

Gillian McAllister's Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a fast paced, gripping story that will keep you guessing! I listened to the audiobook (thanks to hoopla!) and narrator Lesley Sharp perfectly inhabits all the characters and keeps the tension level high which makes for a compulsive listen, or read! Highly recommended for anyone who likes a thriller with a very different twist!