THE BLACKBIRD SEASON by Kate Moretti


Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★½


In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.

Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life.

And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate.

Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.

Told from the alternating points of view of Alecia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget, The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti’s signature “chillingly satisfying” (Publishers Weekly) twists and turns.


When hundreds of dead starlings fall out of the sky, curious reporters flock to the grim scene – a baseball field in a small, down-on-its-luck Pennsylvania town. The birds prove to be a bad omen for local high school teacher, Nate Winters. One of the reporters spots him with a student named Lucia at a seedy motel, and then Lucia disappears. His wife Alecia is already at her wits’ end, and the accusations against her husband are too much to bear. It seems the only person Nate has to defend him is fellow teacher and friend, Bridget Harris, who’s read Lucia’s troubling journal in class.

The mystery about what happened to Lucia was an intriguing one. The story is told by Nate, Alecia, Bridget, and Lucia in alternating chapters. Other than Bridget, none of them were particularly likable, thought their predicaments held my interest. Something that was a bit jarring was how the dates/time jumped around from chapter to chapter. I had to go back several times to remind myself when something previous had happened. I think with four POVs the time jumps got confusing.

The setting of this book really stood out to me. The author captured the perfect dark and gritty atmosphere of a dying town with an abandoned mill. It gave me a feeling of unease throughout. I only wish the starlings had played a bigger part in the book. THE BLACKBIRD SEASON is a character-driven mystery with plenty of drama. Not a lot of big surprises, but it did keep me guessing.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Advertisements

ALL THE BEST PEOPLE by Sonja Yoerg


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★½


An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations from the author of The Middle of Somewhere and House Broken…

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.


ALL THE BEST PEOPLE is a family drama spanning three generations, from the 1920s to the 1970s. Does mental illness run in the family? When Carole starts hearing voices, she fears that she will meet the same fate as her mother, Solange: being locked away for decades in a mental institution. Carole shrinks from her family at the time when her daughter Alison needs her most: adolescence.

Overall, I thought this book was beautifully written, and the author handles the subject of mental illness realistically and with compassion. I was really drawn in by Part One of the story, focusing on Carole and Alison in 1972. With Carole’s point of view, the reader gets a strong sense of her fear and confusion as the disease takes hold of her mind.

I wasn’t as engaged in Part Two, which was Solange’s story of her marriage to Carole’s father. It’s a story of class, rich versus poor, and social injustice. The pacing was slower, and to me it felt a bit disjointed from the other part. Another POV came from Janine, Carole’s younger sister, who was an awful, unlikable character, and honestly her part didn’t do much to advance the story.

I wish there had been more magic or magical realism that the blurb alluded to, so the book was a bit different than what I was expecting. Still, it was a touching and heartbreaking story about how one family faced its history of mental illness.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE UNSEEING by Anna Mazzola (Audiobook)


Publisher: Recorded Books
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★½


It is 1837, and the city streets teem with life, atmosphere, and the stench of London. Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, has been sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding. Edmund Fleetwood, an idealistic lawyer, is appointed to investigate Sarah’s petition for mercy and consider whether justice has been done. Struggling with his own demons, he is determined to seek out the truth, yet Sarah refuses to help him. Edmund knows she’s hiding something but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone with a child would go willingly to their own death?

THE UNSEEING is a vividly written novel of human frailty, fear, and manipulation and of the terrible consequences of jealousy and misunderstanding.


Ripped from the headlines of 1837! Based on the infamous Edgware Road Murder and the trial that followed in London, THE UNSEEING blends facts and fiction to bring to life this disturbing historical mystery.

Who killed Hannah Brown and why? Sarah Gale, poor seamstress and single mother of a small boy, sits in dismal Newgate Prison, waiting to hang for her part in the grizzly murder. But was Sarah unfairly convicted? Lawyer Edmund Fleetwood is sent to investigate. Edmund suspects she is not telling the whole truth about Hannah’s murder, which makes his job of saving her from the gallows very difficult.

This book was well researched and also gave readers an imaginative spin on the Edgware Road Murder. The author did a fantastic job conveying what life was like around the eve of the Victorian Era. It was difficult, to say the least, especially for a poor woman like Sarah. The pacing was slow in spots, and I was kind of annoyed that Sarah kept her secret from Edmund for so long. Clearly, he could be trusted, and Sarah had a child to consider too. I liked how the author had the crime and punishment play out in the end. It was fitting with the the actual events that took place.


Audiobook • 11 hrs, 26 mins • Liz Pearce, Narrator

I enjoyed Liz Pearce’s narration very much! There were several different characters from different classes, and her many accents were spot on and entertaining. I especially liked her voice for the awful prison guard Miss Sowerton. Her character was just as horrible as Newgate Prison itself!


Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

AMERICA’S MOST HAUNTED HOTELS by Jamie Davis Whitmer

hauntedhotels
Publisher: Llewellyn Publications
Release Date: October 8, 2016
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★½


Phantom footsteps pace the stairs at the Myrtles Plantation. A seductive spirit tugs on the sheets at the Copper Queen. Ghost children whisper and giggle at the Kehoe House. Journey into the mysterious world of haunted hotels, where uninvited guests roam the halls, supernatural sounds ring throughout the rooms, and chills run along the spines of those who dare to check in for the night.

Join Jamie Davis Whitmer, author of Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums, as she explores some of the most haunted hotels across the United States. From the Jerome Grand Hotel in Arizona to the Palmer House in Minnesota, each hotel is discussed in great detail, covering everything from the building’s history and legends to first-hand accounts of spooky sounds and smells, ghost sightings, EVP sessions, and more. You’ll also find photos, travel information, and everything else you need to plan your own visit to these iconic hotels.


AMERICA’S MOST HAUNTED HOTELS would be a fun travel guide to have on a cross-country ghost tour road trip. This book highlights ten of the country’s notable haunted hotels, some familiar to me and some not. The author gives readers a brief history of the properties and why each is thought to be haunted. She also shares her own experiences at the hotels, and whether or not she got a feel for their resident spirits ― though no in depth ghost hunting takes place. I was a bit disappointed it wasn’t spookier, but it gives plenty of info to stir up interest. Each hotel’s chapter concludes with reservation and contact information if you’d like to plan a visit.

My two favorites were the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, which was Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining, and the Crescent Hotel in Arkansas, which I’ve visited many times. Love it. The ghost tour was great spooky fun.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.