“Lost Among the Living” By Simone St. James

Concept: ★★★★★ – The concept of this book was well thought out and very unique. “Lost Among the Living” is set in 1921, a few years following the first World War. The author artfully twines a novel that expertly addresses issues that were active in Europe, while spinning a tale of a not-quite-widow and the challenges she faces after her husband disappears in the war. Weave in a ghost, a family full of secrets, and a house with footsteps that follow people down an empty hallway; then you have yourself a novel!

Writing: ★★★★★ – As always, I was very much a fan 6a015390e082b4970b01b8d1b6f7a6970c-600wiof St. James writing. The language and rhetoric style she chooses to use in her historical novels is delectable. Perhaps my favorite part of reading her novels is imagining the amount of research she may have had to complete to accurately write a story from a different decade. Another amazing attribute that she possesses is her capability to write a fiction novel around challenges that were very real and present in the post-Great War era.

Character Development: ★★★★☆ – As always, St. James has a way of gradually introducing characters throughout the entire novel. I feel as though this is what sucks me so deeply into her stories, the fact that I get to know characters at their deepest levels as I read. The only character that I found to be less developed in this novel was the villain. I felt as though it made his role obvious, but perhaps that’s just me.

Plot: ★★★★★ – A not-quite-widowed woman, a recovering addict, a lonely woman, and a mysteriously dead little girl, all woven together into a novel that develops slowly into a page-turning novel. With so much activity, it was hard to keep up at times! The author expertly stitched together a breathtaking and nightmare giving read!

Pacing: ★★★★☆ – The greatest downfall to this book was when the main character said, “Things moved quickly after that.” Even though the book was attention grasping and full of endless twists, I really was frustrated that St. James couldn’t come up with a less obvious transition to the climax and end of the story.

Ending: ★★★★★ – The ending was, well, short and sweet – and, boy, do I mean sweet! The bad guy was proven guilty and the good guys lived on, happier than before. The only one who didn’t get the happy ending is the little girl who was long ago passed. Of course, if you want to know who the bad guy is, I suggest reading the book or checking out the spoilers below!

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Spoilers below!

Continue reading ““Lost Among the Living” By Simone St. James”

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“Silence for the Dead” by Simone St. James

Concept: ★★★★★ – I honestly don’t know how Simone St. James continues to do it, but the concept behind “Silence for the Dead” is truly amazing. In this amazing, historical and paranormal mystery, we visit the era between the World Wars in the countryside of England. The main character, Kitty, is simply looking for a way to survive and lands at a haunted mental hospital, surrounded by men who don’t seem to be recovering and fellow staff members that appear to be out to get her. As the story unravels, we find that those who appear to be the enemy aren’t always as dangerous as they appear.

Writing: ★★★★★ – The most important part of a book – at least for me – is the descriptive narrative that an author utilizes to enthrall the reader, tugging them deeper into every aspect of the tale. St. James does not fail, in this novel, to provide a setting that my mind only enhanced. While reading this, I felt as though her flawless writing tugged me into every page of every chapter. If the writing had been any better, I may have glanced up from the pages to find myself in another time.

Character Development: ★★★★★ – This is the third book that St. James wrote that I’ve read and, I must say, she never ceases to amaze me with her ability to work character development into the storyline. While reading this book, specifically, we get to know people through their interactions with others more so than through their reflection on the past. Although reflecting on the past isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a fresh sip of lemonade to read a book that develops characters in their present.

Plot: ★★★★★ – This plot was incredible! The cleverly braids together a haunted house, a mental hospital where patients seem to get worse, a covered up murder, a family that disappeared, and a girl with a home life that she wants nothing more than to escape. Not only does she develop a plot laced with thrills, heartbreaks, and eminent fear, but she manages to provide a conclusion for every single aspect she introduces.

Pacing: ★★★★★ – This book moved so quickly that I read it in two days, as I was fearing that otherwise, I might not be able to keep up. It seemed like every turn of the page 18114136brought along a new, unexpected twist that threw me – the reader – off kilter. From missing people appearing to visits from the past, the book had so many twists and turns that my head was almost spinning, but not quite.

Ending: ★★★★★ – My favorite part of the ending of “Silence for the Dead” is that every beginning is thoroughly addressed. There’s nothing better than reading a book that plants questions in your mind and then answers every single one prior to the conclusion. Additionally, for all the characters that aren’t villains, happy endings do ensue.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

Spoilers below!

Part One: Angel of Mercy

As the story opens, we are introduced to Kitty Weekes, the main character. Eventually, we learn about the troubled past that led to her arrival at The Portis House where she establishes herself as a nurse. Before she manages to get through her first meeting with her new boss, the Matron, she finds that her lack of experience and education precedes her.

However, turning a blind eye to the bold lies in front of her, the Matron agrees to let Kitty begin her new employ, assuring her that she is watching her carefully. As anyone that is pretending to be a nurse would do, Kitty stumbles and repeatedly fails. However, the other nurses on staff – Nina, Martha, and the Matron’s favorite, Boney – manage to cover her tail successfully. In fact, we find later on that Nina was aware that something wasn’t right from the very first moment on.

Throughout her first days, the Matron continues to almost taunt Kitty by placing her in horrible situations that she is utterly unprepared for. She leaves her to fend for herself in a dining room full of rowdy and troubled veterans, all shell-shocked from their ghastly experiences during the Great War. It’s only after she manages to work her way through that catastrophic situation, she sits down to dinner with the other staff members and learns about the mysterious patient 16.  In the case of Kitty, curiosity definitely got the cat.

The next day, she tricks Nina into letting her take patient 16 his food and finds out that he is, in fact, the infamous war hero, Jack Yates. He defends her breaking the rule by stating that he had requested she remove his dishes. The Matron reluctantly accepts this reasoning but finds another way to punish Kitty.

That’s how Kitty ends up being forced to clean the absolutely filthy restroom in the patients quarters. The bathroom is filled with black mold and slime, as well as chilling sensations that seem to materialize into cowardly accusations in her mind. Utterly terrified, she cleans the bathroom as thoroughly and quickly as possible. After her traumatizing cleaning experience, Kitty knows something is amiss, yet even her imagination cannot reach the hauntingly dark secret that lies behind closed doors.

Part Two: The Night Shift

After to being forced to clean the relentlessly filthy restroom, Kitty is then instructed to cover night shift. Had she been a nurse with actual, legitimate experience this may have not been such a daunting task. However, as the story played out, we find that her lack of nursing experience is quite troublesome at night.

The beginning of the night shift is less than notable. Then the patients begin screaming that he’s coming. The issue is, no one – including the nosey – orderly is aware of who he is. After being attacked by one of the patients, Kitty catches a glimpse of him – or so she thinks. She follows him to the stairwell and watches as he silently walks down them. He walks through the door and he’s gone. At that moment, Kitty suddenly started to grasp what was wrong at The Portis House.

The next morning, Kitty is called into the Matron’s office to discuss her disappearance into Jack Yates’ room the night before. Well, she’s called in under the pretense that her report from the night watch was incomplete. The Matron informs her that she must file complete reports because, should one of the men be sent home because an incident wasn’t reported, and then if he hurts someone, it will come back on The Portis House, the Matron, and – finally – Kitty. It is then that she threatens to file an incident report and have her dismissed by Dr. Thorton, Dr. Oliver, and the owner, Mr. Deighton.

Later that morning, Kitty goes for a walk and notices that Jack Yates is watching her out of his window. However, its the appearance of a strange girl – not a nurse – standing outside of The Portis House that sends chills down her spine. After the illusion she’d seen the night before and seeing the unfamiliar girl outside, she begins to ask fellow staff about the family who used to live in the house.

The cook informs her that their name was Gersbach and they were from Switzerland, although – during the era, especially – people frequently assumed they were German. We later find that this is one of the many issues that led to dreadful events playing out at the home. Since the cook only had so much information to offer, she was promptly instructed to talk to Bammy, a younger man that grew up in the village. In Bammy’s version of what happened, the family moved in and kept to themselves. The son went off to serve in the military and then the family just moved away. The one thing that Bammy notes as odd is that, when they moved in, everyone noticed because of the large number of belongings they had, but when they left, no one saw anything.

Due to the finding of the previous nurse’s – Maisey’s – belongings in the nurse’s quarters, Kitty sent her a letter. Maisey then responded and asked her to meet her in a hollow, not far from The Portis House. Curiosity alone persuaded Kitty to meet with her and that’s when things regarding the Gersbach’s and The Portis House start to fall into place.

As it turns out, Maisey also grew up in the village. Her father was the magistrate in the village, so when the Gersbach’s arrive, it was determined that Maisey held a high enough status to be allowed to be Anna’s, their daughter, friend. Maisey explained that, after years of being friends, Anna had just suddenly stopped writing her. She couldn’t believe that her dear friend no longer wanted to be friends, determined that something had happened that made it so Anna couldn’t write.

Maisey then explained how Mikael, Anna’s brother, had left to serve in the military. Jack Yates was present, as he’d followed Kitty, and promised to look into Mikael’s military service. The three continue to talk and realize that the state of the house – rotting and falling apart – is peculiar, as the house less than two decades old.

Skipping Part Three

Normally, I would continue to play out the events here, however, I actually read the book almost a month and a half ago – fell ill immediately after. So, instead of recanting every event in the story – there were so many, so read it – I’m going to tell you how it ends, in a few quick words.

In the end, members of the staff and patients alike fall ill. The house is out of power and rain is gushing out of the sky. It’s then that Kitty discovers that Anna is alive and has been living out of the cellar since her mothers passing. Anna has been hiding because, after her father murdered her brother for being a coward in the military, she murdered her father. Maisey’s father, the magistrate, covered up the crimes by ushering Anna and her mother into hiding.

After finally getting all of the patients out of The Portis House, Mr. Deighton and Maisey’s father are both found guilty of crimes that included covering up a murder. And, finally, of course, Kitty and Jack Yates fall in love.

Grab your own copy of “Silence for the Dead” here!

“Bring Me Back” by B. A. Paris

Concept: ★★★★★ – The concept of the way in which “Bring Me Back” By B. A. Paris is being told seems too recognizable during the first part of the book. The author played on the then and now writing pattern that too many authors seem to use these days. However, in the second part of the book, her decision to use this method is backed up by how the storyline plays out.

Writing: ★★★★☆ – The author maintains a steady writing pattern, continuously giving the reader enough to manipulate, but letting the story play out as a page-turning mystery. Paris wrote in a manner that was easy to follow, yet supported the entirety of the plot. The only thing that I didn’t like was her lack of physical description of the main character. Beyond his height and his age, I truly feel as though I have little idea what Finn looked like.

Character Development: ★★★★★ – If I could give Paris six stars for character development, I would. She effortlessly created five – or six – main characters, both now and then. Not only that, but she transitioned them throughout the story in a way that mirrored and emphasized the plot! Truly spectacular!

Plot: ★★★★★ – To say I didn’t have an inkling as to how the story would finally end is a lie. I had ideas, I had a lot of ideas. What made the plot great is that I had no idea which idea was right, nor did I have any idea how the main character would come to find out the truth behind Layla, Ellen, and their Russian dolls.

Pacing: ★★★★★ – The pacing of this novel was fabulous. I couldn’t put the book down. I had an ARC – provided by Net Galley – that was in an e-book format and I’ve been reading this book on my Kindle, on my phone, on my iPad and pretty much anywhere else I could pull it up for the last three days!

Ending: ★★★☆☆ – Although I honestly loved this book, the ending wasn’t great. Did it answer all of the questions created in my mind as I read it? Yes. Did it do it in a creative way? No. The note, found after all is said and done, is a cliche way to reveal all of Layla’s secrets.

Cover Art: ★★★★★ – Since this book isn’t published yet, I was left to Google for the possible cover art. I was able to find two versions, which are pictured below.

At first, I was a bigger fan of the one on the left, with the broken  Russian dolls littering the cover. However, once I realized that the shattered wood on the right cover represented a shattered person or the broken cottage where love was initially found, I decided both covers were excellent works of art.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Thank you, NetGalley, for the ARC of Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris!

Spoilers and an overall review below! 

Continue reading ““Bring Me Back” by B. A. Paris”

“The Scorch Trials” (Book Two) James Dashner

Concept: ★★★★☆ – The concept of “The Scorch Trials” (Book Two) By James Dashner was excellent, as the author took a commonly assessed theory of the future of the world and turn it into a novel. After escaping the Maze, the Gladers are hopeful that the deceit and evil that WICKED represents is over. Unfortunately, the morning after they are rescued and brought to a safe haven, they realize that the “Trials” are still just beginning.

If this doesn’t sound familiar to you, grab a copy of “The Maze Runner” (Book One) By James Dashner, or check out my review here!

Again the Gladers are left to their own devices to face the challenges that the over-arching government, WICKED, seem to think are necessary for the survival of the human race. Remembering only as far back as their own first day in the Maze, the Gladers adjust quickly to an uncontrolled “real” world. Made up of a desert, a broken city, and a dusting mountain… what could possibly go wrong as these boys face the unknown to arrive at an undefined destination.

Writing: ★★★☆☆  – Think about when you’re writing a paper for a class and then, out of nowhere, you lose all motivation and suddenly what was a craftily developed thesis turns into a “C” paper, at best. That’s kind of what the concept in this book reminded me of. At first, the descriptive essence of the novel dragged me into the book. I was in the desert, the climate had changed, and the world had quite literally lost it. The first two-thirds of the book were so… painstakingly defined. I was there with Tom, Minho, Brenda, and even Jorge. Then, towards the end, it actually started to feel as the author was rushing through the motions to bring the book to an end. He did an excellent job catching the interest of the reader enough to pull them in for a third novel, but – except for that – the third portion of this book felt as though the author wrote it in an inattentive state, causing disinterest for the audience.

Character Development: ★★★★☆ – Although this book had a substantially lesser amount of character development than its predecessor, Dashner does not fail to appease his audience, fulfilling the reader’s desire to know each of the characters and “who they are”. In this novel, the author builds on the personalities of the Gladers, which are already familiar to the readers – assuming they’re like me and refuse to read a series in the wrong order. One thing that disappointed me is that, even by the end of the novel, the girls in Group B aren’t entirely familiar. We know how many there are and a few of their names. I’m hopeful that this will be settled in the third novel in the series!

Plot: ★★★★☆ – The plot was creative and well written, however, it wasn’t necessarily original, per say. It’s not that every book I’ve ever read is about a group of kids marching through a dystopian city in order to save their own lives, knowing little to nothing about the reality of how the world works. (Sound familiar… I think so, too.) However, given the setting of the book, Dashner tossed in a few flares to make sure that people would be able to decipher the happenings of his book from the happenings of other end-of-the-world fiction. Again, like the first book, no matter how clear the plot seemed, a turn of the page threw me – the reader – back to the starting line.

Pacing: ★★★★☆ – If the pacing in the first book had been so superb, my rating would have most likely been five stars for this novel as well. Unfortunately – or maybe it is fortunate – that isn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, this book is action-packed and I still had a hard time putting it down. Yet, there are portions of the book that just feel like fluff, ensuring that the author hits a word quota. The book definitely got where it was going, it just took a little too long to get there.

Ending: ★★★★★ – Even though it may have taken a few minutes longer to get there than I would have preferred, the ending was both spectacular and disappointing. Scorch TrialsDisappointing because, if this was real life, I would hate to be the characters in this book. Thankfully, I’m only reading the books, so bravo James Dashner! The ending was a finale to a topsy, turvy, roller coaster of a novel.

Cover Art: ★★★★★ – Like the cover of “The Maze Runner”, this cover did an excellent job encompassing all aspects of the book. From the dry heat of the desert to the lightning storms and back to the broken down city, every aspect of the plot is covered in this cover.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Spoilers below!

Continue reading ““The Scorch Trials” (Book Two) James Dashner”

“The Maze Runner” (Book One) By James Dashner

Concept: ★★★★★ – I can honestly say that everything about this books concept – the plot, the characters, the ending – was beyond original. The author not only created a world that was vastly different than ours, but he also created a storyline that continuously left me – the reader – guessing!

Writing: ★★★★★ – I think that any author who writes a dystopian novel must have the ability to write in a descriptive manner that can create an entire illusion for their audience. James Dashner not only managed to do this well, but he managed to lace every word of his novel with mystery. From the names of the characters – Newt, Chuck, Thomas – to the rise and set of the sun, Dashner created a spiral of endless unknown.

Character Development: ★★★★★ – Whereas some people could think Dashner lightened his work load by how he developed characters, I think the complete opposite. At the beginning of the novel, we meet Tommy – “named” after Thomas Edison – who happens to know about as much about himself as we do. However, the author was able to weave his entire life together, from the lingering snippets of his previous life to his friends during the now, Dashner developed his main character from the bottom up. I think he was able to develop all of his characters in this manner, saying as the reader knows them based on how they interact with Tommy.

Plot: ★★★★★ – What aMazes me is that I read this entire book, thought I had figured out every piece of the plot, and then realized during the epilogue that I literally have no idea what the hell is going on.

The goal of this novel: Escape the Maze.

The goal of the series: No fricken idea.

Pacing: ★★★★★ – The pacing of this book was excellent. It fit the speed and urgency that it seemed as though the characters had throughout the book. I never found myself reading a chapter and wondering when the hell it was going to end, which is great. The novel tugged me in and – if I hadn’t know better – I might have thought I was relying on the mystery of the Maze being solved as well.

Ending: ★★★★★ – For a singular novel, with no sequel or prequel, this ending sucked. For a book series, this ending was AMAZING. Normally, I get kind of bored of a subject by the end of the first book – either the first book was way too long, the urgency fades, or the plot just sucks – but in this case, I feel like writing this review is taking too long. I just want to keep reading.

Cover Art: ★★★★★ – I think the cover was intriguing enough to catch my eye, but at the same time mysterious enough to not really give away any secrets. Within the first few chapters, I was able to confidently acknowledge that the image was a close up of the walls of the Maze. I think the most interesting part is how the cover discreetly displays objects that have significant roles, or moments, in the novel.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

Spoilers below!

Continue reading ““The Maze Runner” (Book One) By James Dashner”

“The Haunting of Maddy Clare” by Simone St. James

Concept: ★★★★★ – Post World War I in England, a single and parentless woman, two war veterans, a terrible marriage, and one haunted bar – all twisted into one engrossing, twisted, and haunting novel. The concept behind the 2012 novel, “The Haunting of Maddy Clare” by Simone St. James, is not only unique but also well encompassed. Highlighting the events of the timeframe, the author wove a tale that not only snagged my attention but metaphorically tugged me into an era that is too frequently forgotten.

Writing: ★★★★★ – Sometimes, when I read a book, I get so soaked in the words stroke the pages that I forget about my own milieu. These books are a gift, in the way that they have a way to divide your ordinary issues from your train of thought. The Haunting of Maddy Clare was so thoroughly descriptive of its scenes and happenings that a reader could imagine exactly what the – equally as meticulously described – characters are experiencing. Beyond that, the manner in which the story is told – where the narrator seems to be reflecting on a past event – presents a sensation that the reader is reviewing an account of a story from long ago.

Character Development: ★★★★★ – I think that the author Image of a book and coffee cup.developed her characters in a manner that not only allowed the reader to feel as though they were getting to know a recent acquaintance, while forcing them to face life events that ultimately transform the individual they were – the character who is introduced near the beginning of the book – into the person they become. Additionally, St. James cleverly tells just enough about each secondary character to allow the plot to thicken, saving all the important details for the end.

Plot: ★★★★★ – A girl who was tortured in life, left for dead, and saved from those who harmed her comes back – after her suicide – with an agenda. Three wounded souls from the era between the great wars come together to save her from her past and save themselves from her vengeance. Throw in two love stories and a tight-knit small town, you’ve got yourself a killer plot. Bravo, Simone St. James!

Pacing: ★★★★★ – Personally, I favor books that have the ability to hold the readers. If a book is so enthralling that I can read it in two days – or less – then I know that it’s a book I love. The sense of urgency and mystery that the author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare infuses in each chapter almost forces the reader to read just one more page or chapter.

Ending: ★★★★☆ – Although St. James took care to ensure each question in the reader’s mind was answered, I knew who the bad guys were about two-thirds of the way through the book. Although I wasn’t sure how the events of the ending would precisely play out, I had a good feeling who the ghost would take care of and who would be left behind. Of course, only part of me hoped for the love stories that blossomed.

Cover Art: ★★★☆☆ – The sad, yet completely honest truth, is that if I hadn’t read Simone St. James’s newer novel The Broken Girlsread my review here – I would have never bothered to grab this book at the library. The cover is a bland, semi-artistic image of the Clare’s home with the main character standing in the field. It does not include the haunted barn or any mischievous natured images, in general. Although I know the author has no control over which cover is used, I must say that the book took a hit because it wasn’t eye-catching.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Spoilers below!

Continue reading ““The Haunting of Maddy Clare” by Simone St. James”

“The Broken Girls” by Simone St. James

Concept: ★★★★★ – Three murders over the span of one-hundred years, one boarded up boarding school that sits right in the center of them, a scorned younger sister, three concerned friends, and a shady small town Police Department. Sure, I may have heard a similar story somewhere before, but St. James pulled in all the stops in “The Broken Girls”, a murder and paranormal mystery. Focusing on the here and now while revealing two stories from the past and, somehow, a relatively happy ending.

Writing: ★★★★☆ – St. James goes to great depths to soundly describe each and every scene that her characters encounter in this book, although the most descriptive scene is Idlewild Hall, for understandable reasons. I enjoyed her ability to build each character and each scene, using language that was readable and thorough.

Character Development: ★★★★★ – What I truly loved about this book is that no character is truly defined until the author actually wants you to know who they are. From the old widow who decides to restore the broken down school to Fiona Sheridan, every character has a significant role in the outcome of the story.  However, the author only reveals a bit about each person at a time, allowing the reader to jump to conclusions that are – or are not – logical, long before they could possibly know the outcome.

Plot: ★★★★★ – The plot of this story is filled with murder, cover-ups, and – you’ll never expect this – history. The plot is developed by switching between the present time and the past, where four teenage girls are trapped in a boarding school in Barrons, Vermont. Like a puzzle that is being put together, the reader of this book is caught off guard by underlying plots, which the author always fully develops, with every turn of the page!

Pacing: ★★★★★ – The author maintained an excellent pace throughout this entire story, drawing me in with every chapter and always having another surprise buried in the text just around the corner. In this case, quick and steady won the race.

Ending: ★★★★★ – In the end, I expected the ending. However, throughout the rest of the book, I did not. In fact, I suspected multiple murderers – friends, teachers, cops, ghosts – and some ended up being guilty of no more than being buried in a lonely grave. Yet, as the end neared, the author started to pull sheets off of the hints that laid throughout the book and created an ending that has already been died for.

Cover Art: ★★★★★ – The cover art for my copy of “The Broken Girls” was designed by Sarah Oberrender, although the featured photos were taken by Mohammad Itani and Alexandre Cappellari. The cover is moving in a manner that makes one wonder what secrets lie within the photographed building and/or the book itself. I feel as though it impressively accompanies the story, emphasizing its mysterious theme with a cover that doesn’t allow the reader to see too much.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

** I would like to thank Book of the Month for providing this book, via my membership! **

Spoilers below!

Continue reading ““The Broken Girls” by Simone St. James”