The White Road by Sarah Lotz

Book – Simon Newman has a very niche career – it’s the mid-2000s, and he and his best friend run a website of dark and creepy content. Desperate to attract subscribers for “Journey to the Darkside,” he hires a guide to take him through Cwm Pot, a notorious cave system in Wales where three cavers died in a flood. Simon escapes with his life, if barely; his guide does not.

But one success isn’t enough on the Internet, and the next one has to be bigger and even more dangerous, so Simon signs on to an Everest expedition, hoping to catch some footage of the climbers whose bodies have to be abandoned above 8,000 feet, where it’s too dangerous to try to bring them down. He learns the story of Juliet Michaels, who in the 1990s was trying to become the first woman to climb Everest without bottled oxygen, but perished on the mountain. And in her diary, he finds an eerily familiar story. It seems Juliet was haunted by a lost adventuring partner, just as Simon is. But were they haunted only by memories and regrets, or is there something else out there on the mountain with them?

Sarah Lotz has become my go-to writer for psychological horror: she excels at the kind of atmospheric tension-building that I love. The White Road isn’t seat-of-your-pants scary, but it provides the kind of ambiguous, worrying feeling that I enjoyed so much in, for example, Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. Once you’ve read this, pick up Into Thin Air to see just how real Lotz’s depiction of death on the world’s highest mountain can be.

As I Descended by Robin Talley

imagesBook–Roommates (and secret couple) Maria and Lily are students at the elite boarding school Acheron Academy. The girls excel at academics, extra-curricular activities, and popularity contests, especially Maria. The only problem, from their perspective, is that they are not the very best. Fellow student Delilah Dufrey holds this honor: she is valedictorian, captain of their soccer team, and a shoo-in for homecoming queen. Delilah is also at the top of the list to win the coveted Cawdor Kingsley prize, a full college ride and two years of free grad school to the winner. While none of the girls actually need the money, they all crave the status, and Maria wants to ensure that she gets into Stanford with Lily.

To ensure the prize goes to Maria and to stay together, Lily is willing to do anything, even exploit Maria’s belief in ghosts and the supernatural to convince her that getting the prize is foreordained. What follows is a a full-on, ghost-laden, Shakespearean tragedy that neither girl could have predicted where bad decisions pile on top of each other and lies beget more lies. Like The Tragedy of Macbeth that it’s based on, As I Descended is an exploration of the lengths that the desire for power can drive people to.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Book – I tend to forgo reading the “Message to The Reader” section that authors sometimes include in their novels, instead going straight to the meat of the story.  But Amazon had a free preview of The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan, so I took advantage of the few pages I could indulge in.  The author’s “Message to Readers”  is brilliant, funny, and overall a wonderful addition to the book. Colgan describes the best places to read her book, necessitating comfort as the top priority.  I loved her witty sense of humor and thought the excerpt was a great introduction to the story.

And the story begins with Nina, a librarian in a small library that’s going under in a world that no longer wants physical books.  While her coworkers join the newly joined “library center,” Nina decides for once in her life to take a chance on her dream job: opening a mobile bookstore.  She impulsively buys a van, and travels to a small town miles away to start a new life for herself.  A romance blossoms when she meets a poetic train conductor, and a whole new adventure begins.

I love the premise behind this book: Girl Loves Books, Girl Loses Job, Girl Buys Van, Girl Turns Van into Bookstore, Girl Falls For Guy, etcetera…insanity ensuing.  However, the story started losing me about halfway through and I felt that it was dragging.  I stuck it out, hoping the pace would pick up, and though the story gained some interesting turns, it still left me feeling just a tad let down.

Jenny Colgan is still one of my favorite authors, and I especially adore The Little Beach Street Bakery and its sequel, Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Book – Greta is one of the Children of Peace, hostages of the world’s leaders who live in the Precepture in Saskatchewan. If their country goes to war, they die. It’s one of the rules of Talis, the AI who rules the world – war should be personal, and the people declaring war should have to suffer for it. Talis’s scheme works to keep wars rare, but in a world where water grows scarcer by the day, Greta knows that, sooner or later, her mother’s kingdom will go to war to defend Lake Huron, and she is going to die. The arrival of Elián, the hostage from the newly-formed Cumberland Alliance, shakes both the calm society of the Precepture and Greta’s perception of the world – and her willingness to go peacefully to her doom.

There are a lot of ideas in this book: AI threat, water wars, population devastation, extreme solutions to the age-old problem of war. And they’re all secondary to Greta, who is an amazing character, someone who’s walked blindly for most of her life through a horrible, unfair, heartless system that she grows to believe is not the inevitable way the world has to work. It’s gorgeously written (the last couple of chapters in particular) and the characterization is impeccable. This was an incredible book – heartbreaking and brutal, not gratuitously, but as much as it needed to be. Although technically YA, anyone who loves science fiction or dystopian fiction should love this.

Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

Movie – Selene is back! As the fifth installment to the Underworld saga, Blood Wars takes the story in a new direction introducing new characters and locations. In the aftermath of Underworld: Awakening, Michael is nowhere to be found and Selene has no idea where her daughter is. Selene is on her own and fighting for her survival.

Vampires and Lycans have been at war for centuries. Selene is now their common enemy. In Underworld: Blood Wars, Selene is a rogue vampire who has gone against the elder vampires, and is fighting off Lycans at every turn. Her only allies are David and his father Thomas. Thomas convinces the elders to bring Selene in as a consultant to help train new Death Dealers. Semira is trying to bolster her power within the clan. She agrees to bring on Selene then betrays her. This sends Selene and David seeking out new allies. The two are instructed by Thomas to head north to the Nordic Coven. While there, both characters learn about events and history that will change how the vampires will govern.

Blood Wars is a good tale and I feel reboots the series with a changing of the guard. The film is trying to bring in new fans and keep the story fresh for loyal fans. I can see the next installment introduce new younger characters, a truce with the Lycans, and/ or bring in some type of new enemy. If you are a fan of the Underworld films, you may want to see this film to see where the series will go. New fans to the series, I would recommend watching the other films in order to understand what is happening in the film. Do not watch this film without viewing the others.

Letting Go by Maya Banks

Book – Josslyn is widow after a tragic accident. She finally decides to move on with her personal love life 3 years later. She has a wonderful set of best girlfriends who help her grieve, but no one has been her rock more than Dash. Dash is her dead husband’s best friend. Her husband, Carson, was abused relentlessly as a child and had never been able to provide Josslyn with the one thing she craved most – dominance in the bedroom. Dash has always had a romantic interest in Joss, and Carson is well aware of this, but absolutely secure in his marriage. After many years of grief, its time for her to step up and explore that world she has always wanted/needed but knew Carson could never give her. With lots of decisions, and expectations laid out for herself she obtains a membership at The House. The House is a safe and secure place to explore all your inner sexual fantasies without any judgment. On her first night there, she is discovered by Dash himself just feet inside the door. He is furious that she is that and she has no idea what she has gotten herself into. He drags her out of the building in an instant, takes her home and they have the awkward talk about why she was there and what she is looking for. At this point it is Dash her knows he is able to fulfill her every need with his long time Dominant/Submissive lifestyle. It is Dash who introduces her to the intriguing world of BDSM.

I found this book to be truly an eye opener into the world of BDSM. I have never read Maya Banks before, but am eager to see what other series she has. This is book 1 in a series called The Surrender Trilogy. This book does have some light BDSM , but it is a character driven story.  The character development is incredible. I cried, laughed, blushed, and ohh la la ‘ed with this story. Definitely a book for adults looking for a little steam, I highly recommend this entire series. There are surprises all along the way.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender By Leslye Walton

Book– Foolish love seems to run in the Roux family tree, reaching back four generations and finally landing on poor Ava Lavender. Ava was born with the wings of a bird, a peculiar disposition to be born with. In her seemingly never ending quest to fit in with her peers, she dives into her families history with bad love. An great aunt that turned into a bird, a great grandmother who faded away, a mother who was abandoned for another, a man murdered for loving the wrong person. It’s just a few examples of the surprising tragedies that seem to follow this family everywhere. When Ava is five a new family moves into the house next door and she finally makes a friend for life, the two of them go on adventures everywhere and one day when they are both sixteen a mysterious Pastor moves in down the street. He quickly falls in love with Ava, but under the belief that she is an angle. This haunting novel comes to a conclusion when Ava goes missing, how? You’ll just have to read it to find out.

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book, it turned into a haunting and beautiful tale about what it means to love too deeply and get hurt in the end. I could not put this book down. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender had me moved from the first page and kept me thinking to the very end. This is a must read for everyone.

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

dbd04a03f81f114a28fac1068a273e72Book—  His Bloody Project concerns the murder of a husband, wife, and child in a remote 1800s Scottish highland town. There is no question that local teenager Roderick Macrae is guilty. Framed as a series of historical documents found by the author, Macrae’s fictional descendant, the novel captivates not on the basis of who did the murders, but why he did the murders. We get views of Roderick from his neighbors, his lawyer, the newspapers, his priest, a famed criminal anthropologist of the time, and his own diary, each of them proffering viable explanations . Despite all of this testimony, I was unsure at the end what motivated Macrae and am still spinning theories to explain his reasons.

I was surprised to learn this novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize. His Bloody Project has all the drive and atmosphere of a tautly written thriller and is more reminiscent of the documentary Making a Murderer than the literary fare that generally garners Man Booker prizes. If you enjoy this novel, I would recommend others with compelling, unreliable narrators in historical settings, such as The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell.

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks

Book – The death of a mutual friend reunites former lovers Amanda and Dawson 25 years later in The Best of Me, set in the small town of Oriental, North Carolina.  As high school sweethearts, the couple persevered in their relationship and defied the realities of their very different lives.  Amanda’s family was wealthy and socially prominent.  Dawson lived on the wrong side of the tracks.  His family was well known as a bunch of low life thugs and Dawson desperately wanted to rise above that and better himself not only for Amanda, but for himself, as well.  A kindly man named Tuck took Dawson under his wing and helped the young couple shield their romance from the disapproving outside world.  Being young and naïve the couple was convinced that love would conquer all.  But life’s circumstances eventually separated them.

When they meet again so many years later, they are both filled with mixed emotions.  Evidently, the passion is still there for both of them. As they reacquaint with each other we learn about their lives for the last quarter century.  Once, again very different circumstances from each other.  Hence, the big question – Should they finally give in to their love for each other or should they fulfill their responsibilities to their current lives and part ways again?

This is classic Nicholas Sparks.   Heartfelt, bittersweet, and predictable for some, but that is the appeal of his stories.

If you enjoy this novel, you may also want to watch the The Best of Me that is based on this book and read the many other books by this author including his most recent, Two By Two.

The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville

Book – Surrealism, as it was invented, wasn’t just an art movement but a political one as well, designed to help the practitioner break out of the mindset imposed on us by the culture we live in and invent a new and better world. Given that, it was really only a matter of time before China Miéville wrote a book about a surrealist city rising up to overthrow its fascist oppressors.

It’s 1950, and Paris is still occupied – both by the Nazis and by the manifs, physical embodiments of surrealist art and poetry that sprang into existence after the S-bomb exploded in a café in the 40s. The city has been sealed off to prevent the manifs from infecting the surrounding countryside. Thibaut is the last remaining member of Main á Plume, a surrealist Resistance faction, when he’s joined by Sam, an American photographer who’s chronicling the manifs for a book she wants to produce, The Last Days of New Paris. But Sam has other goals in mind, and they have to do with the Nazi scheme to leash the manifs as weapons, which is beginning to show signs of success.

This is such a perfect China Miéville book that I really can’t give it a better recommendation than that: If you like his books, you should love this. It’s probably a little easier to follow if you’re moderately familiar with the Surrealists, but there are some helpful illustrations (and an index chronicling the sources of the manifs, if you want to look them up). If you’ve never tried Miéville before, this isn’t necessarily the place to start (unless you really love Surrealism). May I recommend The City & The City, a surrealist mystery novel that’s recently been announced for an upcoming BBC adaptation?