THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER by Karen Dionne


Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Source: Penguin’s First to Read Program
Rating: ★★★★★


Praised by Lee Child and Karin Slaughter, and sure to thrill fans of The Girl on the Train and The Widow, The Marsh King’s Daughter is mesmerizing psychological suspense, the story of a woman who must risk everything to hunt down the dangerous man who shaped her past and threatens to steal her future: her father.

At last, Helena Pelletier has the life she deserves. A loving husband, two beautiful daughters, a business that fills her days. Then she catches an emergency news announcement and realizes she was a fool to think she could ever leave her worst days behind her.

Helena has a secret: she is the product of an abduction. Her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by her father and kept in a remote cabin in the marshlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. No electricity, no heat, no running water, not a single human beyond the three of them. Helena, born two years after the abduction, loved her home in nature — fishing, tracking, hunting. And despite her father’s odd temperament and sometimes brutal behavior, she loved him, too…until she learned precisely how savage a person he could be.

More than twenty years later, she has buried her past so soundly that even her husband doesn’t know the truth. But now her father has killed two guards, escaped from prison, and disappeared into the marshland he knows better than anyone else in the world. The police commence a manhunt, but Helena knows they don’t stand a chance. Knows that only one person has the skills to find the survivalist the world calls the Marsh King— because only one person was ever trained by him: his daughter.


Wow, wow, wow. I was riveted by this book, completely glued to the pages! THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER was more than just gripping psychological suspense; it was also a compelling blend of literary fiction and unique coming of age story.

This book tells the unusual life story of Helena Pelletier. She’s a wife, mother, and small business owner, but at one time her life was very strange, and growing up she didn’t realize it. The father whom she adored was actually a monster, a cruel psychopath who kidnapped her mother when she was a teenager. The three of them lived in an isolated cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, completely cutoff from the rest of the world, until Helena was twelve years old. Now, after spending many years in prison, her father has escaped, and the only person cunning and skilled enough to track such as man is Helena herself.

Helena’s story alternates between the present as she hunts for her father, and the past when they lived alone in the marshlands. Moving between the two time periods bumped up the suspense. I was equally fascinated by both! As the reader, you already know that Helena will be separated from her father, but how? What was their life like before she knew the truth? What was it like for Helena to join the “real world,” and eventually be compelled to hunt him after his escape? My need for these answers made this a read-in-one-sitting situation!

THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER is a beautifully written book and a nail-biter at the same time. I loved it. Helena, her mother, and their haunting story will stick with me for a long time. Highly recommended.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

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THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN by Charlie Donlea


Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It’s a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: Nicole is still missing. Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole’s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister’s fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole’s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia’s morgue—that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.

But Megan knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you’ve been looking for.


I enjoyed reading Charlie Donlea’s debut novel, SUMMIT LAKE, last year, and I’m thrilled to say that his second book, THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN, exceeded my expectations. It’s suspenseful, twisty, and chilling, which all together make for a riveting read.

Two young women were abducted the summer after their high school graduation. Megan escapes after two weeks, but Nicole is still missing a year later. What became of Nicole? Her older sister Livia is haunted by that question daily. While completing her fellowship to become a forensic pathologist, Livia wonders if a clue to her sister’s disappearance will end up on her exam table – and then suddenly, one appears.

I was fascinated by Livia’s job as a medical examiner, though I had to cringe several times! Yep, the autopsy descriptions could be gruesome, but clearly forensic pathology was well researched for this book.

The story jumps around in time, and is told from different POVs. What does Megan know about her time in captivity that her mind has repressed? There’s something dark and terrible in there that’s trying to get out. This was a puzzling and well constructed mystery that tripped me up more than once. The pace got faster as the story progressed, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as the pieces were coming together toward the end. Speaking of the ending, I thought it was perfect and haunting and fitting for this harrowing tale.

Second novels can be tricky, but Charlie Donlea knocked this one out of the park. Five big stars!

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

AMONG THE LESSER GODS by Margo Catts


Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★★★


For fans of authors like Barbara Kingsolver and Leif Enger, a stunning new voice in contemporary literary fiction.

“Tragedy and blessing. Leave them alone long enough, and it gets real hard to tell them apart.”

Elena Alvarez is living a cursed life. From the deadly fire she accidentally set as a child, to her mother’s abandonment, and now to an unwanted pregnancy, she knows better than most that small actions can have terrible consequences. Driven to the high mountains surrounding Leadville, Colorado by her latest bad decision, she’s intent on putting off the future. Perhaps there she can just hide in her grandmother’s isolated cabin and wait for something—anything—to make her next choice for her.

Instead, she is confronted by reflections of her own troubles wherever she turns—the recent widower and his two children adrift in a changed world, Elena’s own mysterious family history, and the interwoven lives within the town itself. Bit by bit, Elena begins to question her understanding of cause and effect, reexamining the tragedies she’s held on to and the wounds she’s refused to let heal.

But when the children go missing, Elena’s fragile new peace is shattered. It’s only at the prospect of fresh loss and blame that she will discover the truth of the terrible burdens we take upon ourselves, the way tragedy and redemption are inevitably intertwined—and how curses can sometimes lead to blessings, however disguised.


AMONG THE LESSER GODS is a beautifully written novel and an impressive debut from Margo Catts. I found this book browsing Edelweiss a few weeks ago, and there was something about the synopsis that called out to me. I’m so glad I gave it a chance!

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the story is set in 1978. The protagonist Elena Alvarez is a young woman stuck in limbo for a few reasons. She’s a new college graduate with no job lined up; she’s faced with an unwanted pregnancy and what she should do about it; and most of all, she’s still burdened with guilt over a deadly fire she caused as a child. The perfect escape comes in the form of a summer job caring for two children in her grandmother’s hometown of Leadville, Colorado.

AMONG THE LESSER GODS is a compelling, multi-layered story of family secrets, self-forgiveness, and new beginnings. Elena’s experiences in the small mountain town will show her she’s not alone in her quest for redemption. The writing was lovely, and I especially enjoyed the vivid descriptions of Leadville and the surrounding mountains. I could easily picture myself there. The novel wraps up with an emotional resolution as secrets from the past come to the surface. Wonderful book!

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

STOLEN BEAUTY by Laurie Lico Albanese (Audiobook)


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


From the dawn of the 20th century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings.

In the dazzling glitter of 1900 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer – young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish – meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons.

Nearly 40 years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria – and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family – and their history – alive.

Will Maria and her family escape the Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for?

Impeccably researched and a “must-read for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun” (Christina Baker Kline, number-one New York Times best-selling author), Stolen Beauty intertwines the tales of two remarkable women across more than a hundred years. It juxtaposes passion and discovery against hatred and despair and shines a light on our ability to love, to destroy, and, above all, to endure.


I’m a longtime fan of Gustav Klimt’s works, so I knew I had to give STOLEN BEAUTY a listen when it came across my audiobook radar. The title refers to Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, one of Klimt’s most famous paintings during his “Golden Phase.” (Take a look at the painting HERE.) At the heart of STOLEN BEAUTY are two remarkable women: Adele Bloch-Bauer and Maria Altmann.

At the turn of the last century, Adele Bloch-Bauer was a wealthy Austrian woman, a patron of the arts, and Gustav Klimt’s muse. In her adulthood, she studied and hosted salons on philosophy, science, and art, all the subjects that were forbidden to her as a girl. She was a strong, intelligent, and passionate woman who fought to break through the limitations that society placed on her.

Decades later, Adele’s niece, Maria, is living in Vienna when the Nazis invade Austria, and her strength is put to the test. She must find a way to save herself, her family, and ultimately Adele’s legacy.

I enjoyed STOLEN BEAUTY very much. It was compelling, heartbreaking, and completely absorbing. It was also a well-researched account of the Viennese art world during Klimt’s time. This book would appeal to art lovers as well as historical fiction buffs.

Books about Nazis and their atrocities are not easy to read, especially since there are things going on today that mirror what happened during Hitler’s rise, like blaming immigrants or a religious group for society’s problems. But, it’s important to keep reading these books and stay in the know. Stay angry and aware.

(Side note: I wasn’t aware of this before, but there’s a movie called WOMAN IN GOLD (2015) starring Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann. I requested it from the library. Looking forward to viewing!)


Audiobook • 9 hrs, 25 mins • Narrators: Gabra Zackman , Madeleine Maby , Gibson Frazier

Listening to the audiobook of STOLEN BEAUTY was wonderful. Gabra Zackman performed the part of Adele, while Madeleine Maby was the voice of Maria. Gibson Frazier took more of a narrator’s role with short snippets between the women’s characters’ parts. Zackman and Maby, in particular, had to tackle several characters and different accents, and both handled it beautifully.


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