The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Fantastical, mesmerizing, gorgeous...that is the only way to describe this beautiful new book by debut author, Melissa Albert. A brilliant mix of fairy tales and fantasy, it brings to mind the darkness of the real Grimm's tales, painting forests of reaching arms, villains with black cold eyes, and a spinner who holds characters captive in their own story. The main character is Alice, always a good choice for a fantasy tale, whose mother yanks them throughout the country, always trying to escape the bad luck that seems to follow them. However, after receiving a letter that Alice's grandmother, a famous recluse who wrote a book which has a serious cult following, has died means the darkness that follows them has receded into the past. So Alice goes to school, lives in New York with her mother and a new husband, and is a normal teenage girl. Until that is, the stories return to invade Alice's life once again. This author shows her chops the first time out with compelling characters, a complex plot line, and stunning writing. Fingers crossed for a sequel! (and seriously, look at the cover - it is stunning!)
Quite rarely do I give 5 stars to a police/murder mystery; it has to be incredibly well-written with complex and well-developed characters, as well as a thoughtful, realistic yet filled-with-shockers plot line. Meg Gardiner's second book in her Unsub series hits all these criteria - it is just outstanding! Question is...do you have to read the first book, titled Unsub? Nope - Into the Black Nowhere can absolutely stand alone (but the first book is awfully good so why not?!) This second book reintroduces the reader to Caitlin Hendrix, recently trained at the BAU at Quantico after leaving the SFPD and her ATF boyfriend. Loosely based on Ted Bundy, Caitlin and her team encounter a slick, intelligent, well-to-do serial killer who holds the Austin area of Texas in fear. As the team uncovers more victims and the murderer unravels, it becomes apparent that the psychological genius of the killer is going to lead both the team, the community, and we, the reader, on the chase of a lifetime. I ferociously turned pages, with twists upon turns upon surprises, all the way until the end. This is what I call a "humdinger" of a book. If you like Mind Hunters on Netflix, the Jo Nesbo series with Harry Hole, Criminal Minds on CBS, this book is definitely for you.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Having read numerous stories of the Holocaust over my lifetime, I had taken a break for the past year or so; however, with Holocaust Remembrance Day and the description of this book, I decided it was time to explore once more a devastating and eternally shocking time in our recent history. Based on a true story, Heather Morris takes the story of Lale and Gita and turns it in an inspiring and hopeful story in the midst of unimaginable human suffering. The story begins with Lale, a young Slovakian man who has chosen to be the healthy Jewish male to be sent to from his family to 'work' for the Germans, arriving at Auschwitz in 1942. Quickly, Lale is trained to be the tattooist, earning extra rations and a room of his own. Torn by his seeming complicity with the SS, Lale becomes a savior to many other prisoners, displaying the Talmudic proverb that he who saves one, saves the world. In the midst of this horrible time, he meets Gita and falls in love. This is a remarkable tale of young love in the most deadly time. The beauty of this book is the ability to provide hope and inspiration through these two characters, as well as the friends they make in the camp. After reading voraciously for two days, I closed the final page not with tears, but with great hope for humanity and our ability to care for others through the darkest time.
The Night Child by Anna Quinn
Not for the fainthearted reader, but what a powerful, tragic, heart-wrenching, yet hopeful story written by a Pacific Northwest writer. Anna Quinn knows Seattle and places her story in a realistic time back in the 1990's, when the trauma of sexual abuse was starting to make it more and more into the public eye. As a former public school teacher myself, I was impressed with her depth of knowledge of both setting and career. Quinn's main character, Nora, is fully developed as a high school teacher who sees for herself the outcome of students' home lives and the impact on their school lives. Nora, however, also has demons of her own as her young daughter is soon to turn six. As the author slowly and insidiously pulls secrets out of Nora, through visits with her therapists, moments with students, and an unhappy marital life, the true tragedy unfolds. This is a powerful tale of mental illness, childhood trauma, and abusive parenting that will rivet you, make you turn pages, cry a few tears, and cheer for the heroes found in the end. I look forward to Quinn's next book after this powerful debut.
Reviews reposted with permission from Laurie's Lit Picks.