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2021 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama
- Alaska
- Arizona (1)
- Arkansas
- California (4)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut (1)
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia
- Hawaii (1)
- Idaho
- Illinois (4)
- Indiana
- Iowa
- Kansas
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine
- Maryland (1)
- Massachusetts (1)
- Michigan (1)
- Minnesota (1)
- Mississippi
- Missouri
- Montana
- Nebraska (1)
- Nevada (1)
- New Hampshire (1)
- New Jersey (1)
- New Mexico
- New York (4)
- North Carolina (1)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (6)
- Oklahoma
- Oregon
- Pennsylvania (1)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina (1)
- South Dakota
- Tennessee
- Texas (1)
- Utah (1)
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (3)
- Washington (3)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin
- Wyoming (1)
- *Washington, D.C.

International:
Australia (2)
Canada (3)
England (6)
France (1)
Ireland (1)
Switzerland (1)
The Philippines (1)
Wales (1)

My Progress:


28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2021 Fall Into Reading Challenge

My Progress:


0 / 24 books. 0% done!

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
(Hosted by Yours Truly!)

My Progress:


6 / 25 books. 24% done!

2021 Popsugar Reading Challenge

My Progress:


33 / 50 books. 66% done!

Booklist Queen's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:


35 / 52 books. 67% done!

2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

The 52 Club's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:


39 / 52 books. 75% done!
Thursday, February 08, 2018

Promising Mystery Series Opener Convinces Me to Read More

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Earl Marcus left Coulee County, Georgia, twenty years ago with no intention of ever going back.  Scarred—both physically and emotionally—from growing up in the snake-handling obsessed Church of the Holy Flame, he's cut ties with the "church," his cult leader father, and his haunted past.  Now a private investigator in North Carolina, he's compelled to return only when a photograph of his dead father surfaces with a recent time stamp.  The man in the picture is no corpse.  It appears as if the powerful, legendary R.J. Marcus is still alive.  Either that or, as his followers believe, he's come back from the dead.  Earl has experienced the mystical power of his father's presence enough to believe almost anything.  Thing is, he can't put his own demons to rest until he knows for sure.

R.J. isn't the only person missing in Coulee County.  "Rebellious" teenage girls from the Church of the Holy Flame's congregation are also disappearing, only to return changed.  The strange marks on their skin could be signs of almost anything.  Hoping to find answers before another girl is traumatized, Earl starts digging.  Unearthing old secrets doesn't sit well with some people and Earl finds himself in danger once again.

Heaven's Crooked Finger by Hank Early is a debut novel and the first in a promising series.  The novel tells a tense, compelling story that's both atmospheric and suspenseful.  Although the tale feels a bit flimsy and far-fetched, it's still engrossing.  In the end, I didn't love Heaven's Crooked Finger, but I liked it enough to continue with the series.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Confusing, Far-fetched Psychological Thriller a Strange Disappointment

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As the former head of development for a t.v. company, 43-year-old Justine Merrison is done with stress.  She's moving to the coast to start a new, tension-free life doing absolutely nothing.  With her opera singer husband frequently out of town, it's up to her to take care of their 14-year-old daughter, Ellen.  Even that isn't usually difficult.  The only problem is that the move has changed Ellen, who's become surly and withdrawn.  When she begins writing a story for English class, Justine becomes concerned.  The tale is sordid and disturbing; also, it takes place in a house that is eerily similar to the one in which they live.  

When Ellen tells Justine about her new friend, George Donbavand, Justine is thrilled that her daughter finally seems to be settling in.  Then, George is expelled over a minor incident that upsets Ellen so much Justine promises she'll talk to the principal about it.  The principal informs Justine that George has not been expelled because there is no George Donbavand at their school.  George does not exist.  Stunned, Justine can't decide what in the world is going on.  Has Ellen created an imaginary friend to assuage her loneliness?  Is she playing a weird prank on her mother?  Or is the principal lying to cover up her unethical behavior?  When Justine starts receiving threatening phone calls, she's even more confused.  What in the world is going on?  It's up to Justine to make sense of her increasingly bizarre situation.

As you might imagine, A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah, is a tad confusing.  Actually, more than a tad.  A lot more.  Its premise is intriguing, but its plot is so convoluted and far-fetched that it just gets ridiculous.  I like a psychological thriller that keeps me off-balance.  This one does that, for sure.  I definitely wanted to know what was happening, but the big reveal felt anti-climatic.  Add an unlikable narrator to the mix and A Game for All the Family turned into a big disappointment.  I wanted to like it, but I just ... didn't.  Oh well.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of A Game for All the Family with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Macmillan's Newest Sad, But Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Odd Child Out, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from the first Jim Clemo mystery, What She Knew.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

Despite the fact that Noah Sandler is a natural-born Brit and Abdi Mahad is a Somalian refugee, the boys form a quick friendship.  Classmates at a fancy Bristol prep school (Abdi is a scholarship student), they bond over nerdy hobbies like chess.  Both of their families are shocked when Noah's body is found in the Feeder Canal.  CCTV cameras show the boys were on its banks late at night, but the fuzzy recording can't prove what happened.  Neither can the boys.  Noah is in a coma and Abdi refuses to speak, seemingly in profound shock.  What happened between the two friends?  Did Abdi purposely shove Noah into the water or was it a tragic accident?

Back to work after a case gone wrong, Detective Inspector Jim Clemo begins an investigation into the incident.  With racial tension already boiling over in Bristol, a twist in the case divides the public, threatening to reach fever pitch.  As Clemo digs into the histories of both the Sandler and Mahad families, he makes some surprising revelations.  The most shocking of all, however, is the truth of what really happened between Noah and Abdi.

Odd Child Out, the second installment in the Jim Clemo series by Gilly Macmillan, is a tense, timely novel.  Although it's not action-packed like many thrillers, its quiet intensity makes it suspenseful and compelling.  It tells a sad story, but one from which I couldn't look away.  As engrossing as Macmillan's others, Odd Child Out is a gripping, resonant read that just adds to the author's already impressive repertoire.  I can't wait to read the next Clemo mystery.

(Readalikes:  What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a half dozen F-bombs, plus milder expletives) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Odd Child Out from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Disappointing Dystopian Opener A Not Very Promising Start

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

A businessman on holiday in Scotland goes on a hunting trip with family, where he's exposed to tainted pheasant's blood.  He starts feeling poorly almost immediately; by the time he's on the plane back to the U.S. he's deathly ill.  Within 48 hours of exposure, he's dead.  The sickness spreads rapidly, killing 1/3 of the world's population in a matter of weeks.  With widespread death and decimation comes fear, anarchy, and chaos.  Out of the ashes of the dying world something even more unsettling rises—magick, both good and evil.

As the immune flee New York City, running toward the hope of safety, strangers will band together for survival.  Despite rising conflicts between the Uncanny, the immune, and everyone else, those who desire good must work together to fight the powerful forces that want only destruction and domination.  The trick—as it turns out—is knowing one from the other.

I love me an immersive dystopian series, so I've been looking forward to Year One, the first book in a new one by Nora Roberts.  Hoping for a rich, engaging read, I found myself disappointed.  What plot there is in Year One isn't very original or surprising.  Its cast features too many characters with too little personality—it's difficult to keep track of who is who.  The book's overly long and by the end, I just did not care (although I did read to the end).  This means I won't be continuing the series, which is a bummer because initially I was very excited about it.  Ah well.  Such is the reading life sometimes.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken and a little of the Gone series [Gone; Hunger; Lies; Plague; Fear; and Light] by Michael Grant)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Year One from Barnes & Noble with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Gorgeous Cover the Best Thing About Creepy Dual-Timeline Murder Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although it seems morbid to others, 26-year-old Ivy Thorpe keeps a detailed "death journal" so that the people her father autopsies are never forgotten.  Still mourning the losses of her mother and her brother, the task soothes Ivy, helping her through her own grieving process.  When Ivy discovers the dead body of a young woman on the nearby grounds of an abandoned edifice known as Foster Hill House, she's shocked but determined.  This stranger will not be forgotten.  Enlisting the help of a childhood friend who is now a detective, Ivy launches her own amateur investigation—a decision that will put her in grave danger. 

Over a century later, Kaine Prescott, a weary social worker from San Diego, is looking for a new start.  Still devastated over the mysterious death of her husband two years ago and frustrated with the police for giving up on the case, she feels a desperate need to get out of California.  On a whim, she purchases an old house in Oakwood, Wisconsin, her grandfather's hometown.  One look at creepy old Foster Hill House, though, and Kaine's ready to run back to California.  When she learns of its dark history, she's even more unsettled.  The more she stays in the home, the more convinced she is that something sinister haunts its dusty hallways.  Determined to unearth its age-old secrets, she vows to exorcise its demons—and her own.

First of all, cast your eyes on the cover of The House on Foster Hill, a debut novel by Jaime Jo Wright.  It's gorgeous.  Seriously gorgeous.  I adore it.  Mostly, I picked up this novel based on its lovely jacket art, although the dual-timeline, mystery/horror-type premise also appealed.  Unfortunately, the cover might be the best thing about The House on Foster Hill.  Harsh, I know, but consider this—the novel is overwritten and melodramatic; the characters are bland, with Kaine being especially whiny and unlikable; the loosey-goosey plot doesn't even make sense in some places, and the religious overtones (this is a Christian novel, which I didn't realize at first) are overt and preachy.  So, while I like the bones of this novel, its "flesh" just didn't work for me.  The House on Foster Hill gets rave reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (part of the reason I bought it), so apparently I'm in the minority here, but I found it to be a big disappointment.  Bummer, because it sounds like something that would be right up my alley.  Oh well.  

(Readalikes:  The premise reminds me of Kate Morton's dual-timeline books about the secrets of old houses)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The House on Foster Hill from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Adoption Novel Raw and Honest

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After 16-year-old Grace places her baby for adoption, she feels adrift.  Grief-stricken and looking for answers, she feels compelled to search for her own birth mother.  Adopted at birth, Grace never knew the woman who gave her life—she'd like to find her, ask her questions, and maybe gain some vital understanding of her own situation.  What Grace finds is two half-siblings, Maya and Joaquin, both of whom live shockingly close to her.  She reaches out to them, curious to find commonality with these two strangers.  Surely, they will want to find their bio mom as much as she does; the three of them can work on the project together.

As desperate as Grace is to connect with Maya and Joaquin, she's surprised when things don't turn out quite as she planned.  Maya is a wealthy, spoiled brat who's never felt a part of her adoptive family.  With her parents fighting constantly and her mother drinking too much, her world is falling apart.  She doesn't really care about finding their bio mom, but she's up for anything that will get her out of her oppressive house.  Joaquin, on the other hand, is adamant that he wants nothing to do with the mother who abandoned him.  After spending most of his life in foster care, he trusts no one, not even his current foster family who want to adopt him.  Shy and awkward, he doesn't even seem that keen on hanging out with his newly-discovered sisters.  

Even though Grace's half-siblings aren't quite what she expected, she still wants answers.  With their reluctant help, she will find them.  She'll also discover some enlightening truths that will change her perspective on family and on her own future.

Ever since I adopted my youngest child nine years ago, I've been drawn to books on the topic of adoption.  The premise behind Robin Benway's newest, Far From the Tree, especially intrigued me since my daughter has a number of half-siblings out in the world.  The idea of her meeting them someday appeals—I wonder what they might have in common and how they might differ.  So, of course, I had to pick up this book to see what happened to Grace.  What I got was a raw, honest story that's both tender and touching.  It's more graphic than I was expecting and, truthfully, I didn't feel a huge connection to any of the characters.  They all seem unrealistically world-weary.  Still, Far From the Tree is a well-written, thought-provoking novel that offers important insight into teen pregnancy, adoption, and the reality of families that are not perfect but nevertheless important.  I didn't end up loving Far From the Tree like I wanted to, but I did enjoy it overall.

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, sexual innuendo, and depictions of illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Teen Murder Mystery Twisty, Tense

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Five boys head into the woods for a hunting trip.  Only four make it out alive.  Grant Perkins lies dead from a gunshot wound that any of the boys could have inflicted on him.  Who killed him?  Accident or murder, someone was responsible for his death, but no one is talking.  What really happened that day in the woods?  Everyone wants to know.

Despite the fact that any of the remaining boys could be guilty, the DA wants to sweep the whole case under the rug.  He owes his career to their wealthy, powerful families.  Kate Marino, the boys' classmate, isn't about to let the so-called River Point Boys get off with a slap on the wrist.  She has her own reasons for wanting the truth and she's determined to get it.  Her internship at the DA's office gives her a unique opportunity to investigate Grant's death.  The closer she gets to the truth, however, the more danger Kate is in.  Someone out there is willing to kill in order to protect the River Point Boys.  Can she identify the killer before she becomes their next victim?

This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston is an engrossing whodunit that kept me reading far into the night.  Although it's populated with a host of unlikable characters, none of whom I really cared about, I still wanted to know what was going to happen.  Overall, it's a depressing, unrealistic tale (where are all the parents?) that I didn't end up loving—even if I couldn't stop reading it.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, references to illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Dual Timeline Mystery/Romance Clean and Uplifting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Boston, 2015—Two years ago, Anaya "Annie" David's life changed in an instant when a bomb exploded at the 2015 Boston Marathon.  Although her injuries were relatively minor, she's plagued with guilt over the fact that her niece, Grace—whom Annie convinced to enter the race—lost a leg because of the bombing.  Haunted by the traumatizing event, Annie has distanced herself from Grace and her livid mother.  When she decides to try to repair the damage to these relationships, she makes a startling discovery in her sister's house that sets her on the road to finding the man who rescued her on the day of the bombing.  She's been meaning to return the heirloom ring he loaned her, an antique-looking piece that has given her strength every day since she received it.  When she meets handsome Brad Kilroy, the two begin researching the ring, which has a rich, surprising history.

Boston, 1770—Alone in a dangerous town, 17-year-old Liberty Caldwell has to find a way to survive.  When she's offered a position as housemaid in a home where Redcoat officers live, she doesn't have much choice but to accept.  She may be branded a traitor, but she has to look after herself until her brother arrives.  Although she knows she shouldn't, Liberty becomes close to Alexander Smythe, a kind officer who protects her from his housemate, an older man with more sinister designs on Liberty.  When the inevitable happens, she has to flee.  She takes Alexander's family ring to remember him by—and to sell, if needed.  In a city erupting with violence, she knows she must be strong.  The ring lends her strength as she does what she must to survive.

Separated by centuries and united by an heirloom piece of jewelry, two Boston women wounded in traumatic circumstances must find the strength and resilience to survive their separate challenges and trials.  Compelled to find out what happened to Liberty, Annie will look to the past for answers that will teach her about the redeeming power of hope, resilience, and love.

Freedom's Ring, a debut novel by Heidi Chiavaroli, tells an uplifting, faith-promoting story narrated by two strong women.  I dig dual-timeline plots, although I often find the past stories interest me more than the present ones.  This is the case with Freedom's Ring.  Although I enjoyed the genealogical mystery-solving in Annie's day, I found her to be a bit dull.  With not enough personality or tension in her relationship with Brad, her tale got a little too humdrum for me.  Liberty's sections are much more exciting.  While I liked, but didn't love, Freedom's Ring, I found it to be a clean, engaging story that is inspiring without being preachy.  Chiavaroli's sophomore novel comes out in May and I'll definitely be giving it a go.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of dual-timeline books by Susan Meissner)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find





  

Sweeping Historical Pandemic Novel Sad But Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Living in a funeral home can be just as morbid as it sounds, but for the Bright family it represents a new beginning, a chance at a better life.  Thomas and Pauline make the move to Philadelphia, miles away from their previous home, to provide a stable future for their three girls: Maggie, Willa, and Evelyn.  While Thomas learns the mortuary business from his Uncle Fred, Pauline becomes adept at doing the deceased's hair and makeup.  Although the girls are told to stay away from the business end of the home, 12-year-old Maggie is especially intrigued by her father's new job.  She doesn't care if it's not a suitable interest for a young girl, she's fascinated by what goes on in the funeral home.

The Brights haven't been in town long before the mortuary starts filling up with bodies ravaged by the effects of a vicious sickness that is sweeping through the city.  As the Spanish Flu crisis quickly becomes a pandemic, all of the Brights must pitch in to care for its victims.  Even as their own family members fall prey to the illness, they soldier on.  With conditions worsening all around them, Maggie and her mother even venture out into the frigid streets to administer to the homebound.  It's on one of these missions that Maggie makes the snap decision to rescue an orphaned infant.  Little Alex soon becomes the Brights' motivation to go on, their reason to hope for better days.

As the veil between life and death grows continually thinner, the Brights will discover what's most important and the lengths they will go to to protect the ones they love.

I've become a big fan of Susan Meissner's dual timeline novels that connect historical events with contemporary stories.  Naturally, then, I was thrilled to receive an early copy of her newest book, As Bright As Heaven.  I find pandemics like the 1918 Spanish Flu one fascinating, so I couldn't wait to dive in.  Although the story feels very episodic, with no real plot to drive it, it's still a sweeping and compelling novel.  It tells an achingly sad story that, despite its hopeful turn, remains sad.  I'm trying to figure out why I didn't love As Bright As Heaven as much as Meissner's other books.  I liked it, just didn't adore it like I wanted to.  Maybe I would have fanciedd a dual timeline version better?  I'm not sure, but in the end, I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as I wanted to.  Bummer.


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:



for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of As Bright As Heaven from the generous folks at Berkley (a division of Penguin Random House).  Thank you!

Warm, Quirky Southern Family Secrets Novel a Glittering Gem

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Leia Birch Briggs loves herself a superhero.  Literally.  One drunken night after a book-signing, the comic book author and illustrator finds herself in bed with Batman.  After the (very uncharacteristic) one-night stand, Leia's left with a little surprise—one that's going to make a big impression on her very proper Southern family.  

Before she's had a chance to break her own news, Leia finds out that her beloved grandmother is suffering from a severe case of dementia.  "Birchie" has been out of it for some time, a fact her best friend has been charged with keeping under wraps.  After a scandalous faux pas at a public event, it becomes impossible to hush up Birchie's declining health.  Although Leia is furious at Miss Wattie for her subterfuge, Leia nevertheless hightails it to Birchville, Alabama, to straighten the old ladies out.  Along the way, she picks up her 13-year-old niece, Lavender, who's dealing with her own family crisis.

As if Leia doesn't have enough to deal with, she makes another shocking discovery—a trunk full of bones in her grandmother's attic.  While she sorts through Birchie's house, tries to drum up the courage to announce she's pregnant with a bi-racial baby, and attempts to break through some killer writer's block, Leia also has to solve an old family mystery.  Through it all, she'll learn some surprising truths about herself, her family, and her future.

Although I've heard great things about Joshilyn Jackson, this is the first time I've picked up one of her books.  And you know what?  It won't be the last.  I adored The Almost Sisters, a warm, quirky novel about the ups, downs, and all-arounds of being part of a family.  Although the plot summary makes The Almost Sisters sound like an easy, breezy beach read, it actually has a lot more depth than that.  Hitting as it does on issues like racism, privilege, and the devastating effects of dementia, it's a sad and thought-provoking tale at times.  It's also funny, compelling, and touching.  Even though I saw its big reveal coming from a mile away, I loved this novel and will definitely be looking for more gems from the talented Ms. Jackson.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Karen White and of The Wedding Tree by Robin Wells)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), sexual content, and violence

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

The Disappearances Offers An Intelligent, Magical Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I read a few exceptional novels in 2017, but the one that stands out most is The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy.  Why?  Lots of reasons: it's original, it's absorbing, it's intelligent, it's well written, it's just ... magical in a lot of ways.  It's also really hard to describe, so you know what?  I'm not even going to try.  I'll just hit you with the back cover blurb:

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?
 
Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home—and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together—scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream—vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible—and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind. 

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone's secrets for long before it starts giving them up.
  
Intrigued?  You should be!  The Disappearances, Murphy's debut novel, offers an intriguing premise brilliantly executed in a memorable, well-written story about the importance of the things we take for granted every day.  Don't be put off the book cover, which makes The Disappearances look like a dark horror novel.  It's not at all.  The novel's more of a genre mash-up, boasting the perfect blend of magic and mystery swirling together against a colorful historical setting.  I absolutely adore this book and have recommended it like crazy to everyone I know.  Do yourself a favor and just read it already!

(Readlikes:  Reminds me of The Forgetting and The Knowing, both by Sharon Cameron and of Don't You Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence and brief, mild language (no F-bombs)

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Disappearances from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Gripping WWII Novel An Engrossing Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Hanneke Bakker is a girl who finds things.  Even in an Amsterdam occupied by Nazis and plagued by war-time shortages, she manages to procure cigarettes, tea, extra meat, perfume, etc. for her grateful customers.  War-profiteering be darned, Hanneke must do something to support her parents.  Even with a job that requires taking risks, she's careful.  So, when Mrs. Janssen asks Hanneke to find a missing Jewish girl, she refuses.  At first.  Soon, though, she feels compelled to locate Mirjam Roodveldt, a 15-year-old who disappeared from the secret room where Mrs. Janssen has been hiding her.  

Asking delicate questions in occupied Amsterdam can only lead to trouble and it's not long before Hanneke finds herself attracting the wrong kind of attention.  When an old friend manipulates her into helping the resistance, she sees it as a means to an end.  With the right contacts, she'll be able to find Mirjam faster and reassure a frantic Mrs. Janssen.  The more involved Hanneke gets with the resistance, however, the more dangerous her situation becomes.  Desperate to find answers, she's taking increased risks, risks that could get her—and everyone she loves—killed.  Can she figure out what happened to Mirjam?  Or will Hanneke be the next young woman to vanish without a trace?

Girl in the Blue Coat, a YA novel by journalist Monica Hesse, tells a tense, compelling story set against the always-exciting backdrop of World War II.  Hanneke makes for an intriguing narrator—she's brave and compassionate but also haunted by past mistakes.  Her loyalty makes her both admirable and vulnerable.  The mystery she's chasing remains twisty, leading to a revelation I didn't see coming.  With an engrossing plot, appealing characters, and an intriguing mystery at its core, Girl in the Blue Coat is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a gripping, suspenseful historical novel.  I enjoyed it immensely.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed a copy of Girl in the Blue Coat from my daughter's school library as part of my volunteer work for the school's reading program.
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