REVIEW – The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

“No man can wipe out truth and beauty. Human beings were born to create great things, and they will do so again.”

The Light After the War is a post-WWII account of Vera and Edith, two best friends living in Naples, Italy (and eventually ending up in Caracas, Venezuela). The novel is based on the author’s mother’s story of surviving WWII and her experiences in the years immediately following the end of the war.

“When they were together, Vera felt like she and Edith were two girls on a grand adventure instead of orphans alone in the world.”

There was a lot to like about this book. The writing is incredibly vivid and provides a beautiful, delicious description of Naples, before moving on to warm, colorful Caracas. I felt like I was there right alongside Vera and Edith (and it was wonderful!) I loved that both Vera and Edith had career aspirations – Vera dreamt of being a playwright and Edith wanted to be a clothing designer. Some of the most interesting aspects of the book were the plot points that led each woman down her own career path.

“That was the thing about Edith: she believed falling in love was the answer to everything, even escaping the war.”

This is primarily a historical romance, and honestly I would have found it a bit unbelievable (and a little too fluffy) if not based on a true story. (I guess truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes!) It leaned a little too light and airy at times for my taste, but I think romance lovers will really enjoy this story.

“Death is everywhere, but so is life.”

My favorite part of Abriel’s writing was how she tied events and objects from the “present” timeline in the book, to Vera and Edith’s experiences as children and during the war. It was really impactful to get their backstories in small bits and pieces, even at times when you’d least expect it. Ultimately, it’s a very hopeful book but it doesn’t gloss over the realities and horrors of the war. It strikes the perfect balance between joy and sorrow.

I know many avid readers may think the historical fiction genre is oversaturated with WWII novels, but I would urge you to give this one a try – the war is a key part of the story, but it’s not the main focus.

Thank you Atria for sending me a finished copy of this book!

REVIEW – The Chill by Scott Carson

{Available February 11, 2020} A supernatural thriller blurbed by Stephen King? I knew I had to get my hands on this one. And oh man…this gave me probably the STRONGEST book hangover i’ve had in months. I ended up finishing it sooner than I anticipated because once I passed a certain point in the plot, I couldn’t stop reading.

This book grabbed my attention right from the start. Focused on the Chilewaukee Reservoir (or “the Chill” as the locals call it), the novel revolves around an interesting cast of characters, including a sheriff and his son, a DEP officer and her “sandhog” father, and an engineer/inspector who has come to town to evaluate the state of the dam containing the Chill.

There are some strong supernatural vibes early on in this book, some of which reminded me heavily of The Shining (but in a great way, more of a homage vs a plot point being yoinked from someone else’s work). Add a sprinkle (just a sprinkle) of an old-timey cult, and some chilling (sorry…) descriptions of rushing, relentless waters, with secrets buried beneath the surface.

It’s a little slow-going for a bit, but right at the halfway point it takes an unexpected turn and dives right in to straight up nightmare fuel territory (at least for me. One major thing i’m afraid of? Dark, deep water. Guess we can now add dams to my list of fears). Much like a King novel, the real horrors in this book are grounded in reality. Basically, I ain’t afraid of no ghosts but I AM afraid of things that can actually kill me.

Thank you Atria and Emily Bestler Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – A Bookshop in Berlin by Francoise Frenkel

A Bookshop in Berlin/No Place to Lay One’s Head is the fascinating true account of Francoise Frenkel’s escape to Switzerland during WWII.

I’ll admit it was refreshing to read a nonfiction WWII book after reading so many fictional stories about the war.

Francoise dreams of opening a French bookshop in Berlin. It’s truly a labor of love – she’s a very thoughtful and compassionate bookseller, and quickly forms close friendships with her customers.

Through Francoise’s eyes, we see the slow confiscation of books and newspapers, signaling the rise of Hitler’s reign of terror. The horrors and tension escalate quickly, and we are pulled into her journey of survival and escape.

Beneath the racism and brutality, there is hope and camaraderie. Strangers become friends, taking dangerous measures to keep one another safe.

Thank you Atria for providing me with a digital copy of this book.

REVIEW – The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

The Doll Factory is an incredible book, meant for the patient reader. The buildup is slow, but oh boy does it pay off at the end.

Macneal does an amazing job of placing the reader right in the middle of gloomy, grimy 1850s London. Each chapter flawlessly leads into the next (seriously. When you start a chapter, go back and read the last sentence from the previous one.)

There are subtle, but terrifying, details that suggest not all is right with Silas “the Cadaver” Reed, but you have no idea the depths of his depravity until it all comes together at the end. There’s a revelation in the last few chapters that made me audibly gasp. It’s THAT good (and THAT horrible).

It’s almost impossible to believe that this is a debut. The way Macneal slowly builds to certain reveals is absolutely masterful.

Also, Guinevere is clearly the best character 😉

Thank you Atria for providing me with a copy of this book.

REVIEW – Your Life is Mine by Nathan Ripley

Your Life is Mine reads like an episode of Criminal Minds. There are twists you will likely predict, but others that will be a gut punch.

The best way to summarize this book is: You’re in a cult, call your dad. (Fellow Murderinos will understand!) The cult aspect of this book was eerie – Chuck Varner is like a cross between Charles Manson and a Columbine shooter. The mindset of those who will blindly follow a deranged, violent cult leader is chilling.

Overall, it’s an interesting, gritty thriller. I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in true crime – there’s definitely some true crime elements in this story.

Thank you to Atria Books for providing me with an ARC to read and review!

REVIEW – Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols

I have been looking forward to reading Vessel since I first read the synopsis. I’ve been wanting to try out the sci-fi genre a bit more, and I love creepy stories about space (Alien is one of my favorite movies!)

Vessel isn’t what I expected, but I still enjoyed it. It’s a relatively complex and rich story, with interesting characters. Some parts in the book definitely creeped me out!

However, it does read more like women’s fiction than sci-fi. (That didn’t stop me from enjoying the book.) There’s a lot of focus on how Catherine adjusts to life back on earth, and how her return impacts her family. This isn’t a negative at all, just an observation.

I was expecting this to be a bit creepier, and a bit darker, but I think it’s a great choice for readers who are interested in a book with a sci-fi theme without being too heavy handed.

Thank you to Atria for sending me a review copy of this book!

REVIEW – The Last by Hanna Jameson

If I could describe this book in one word, it would be: claustrophobic.

I’m so used to post-apocalyptic books involving a lot of movement and travel and discovery, but we spend the majority of The Last inside L’Hotel Sixieme – and it WORKS.

I don’t want to say too much because I think it’s worth going into only knowing the synopsis. I know it’s probably being compared to Station Eleven, but this also gives me some Bird Box vibes.

One of the blurbs on the back of the book says “It’s Stephen King meets Agatha Christie” and I think that’s fairly accurate. The Last features a cast of characters who aren’t all what they seem, and also there’s horror in the mundane and routine (which is the most chilling part of this book).

We only know what’s happening from the perspective of one character, so I’m sure there’s a lot going on at the hotel that we miss. He also seems to be unreliable at times, but that just adds to the feelings of isolation and insanity that run underneath the main plot.

Don’t sleep on this book – it’s a great one (and make sure you visit the dentist regularly!)

Thank you to Atria for providing me with a copy of this book.