Ghosts of Key West

Ghosts of Key West

by David L. Sloan

567422

Key West’s past comes alive with thirteen incredible stories of the southernmost ghosts. From Victorian era spirits returning to claim what is rightfully theirs, to haunted dolls that continue to send chills down their visitors’ spines, Ghosts of Key West beautifully captures the true spirit of Florida’s second oldest city. Ghosts of cigar makers, pirates, wreckers and voodoo practitioners all await you. While their ghostly journeys continue through time, yours is just about to begin. Ghosts of Key West author David L. Sloan founded Key West’s original ghost tour and is the leading authority on the island’s hauntings.

 I needed a spooky read to help get me extra excited about a tropically vacation, and luckily Ghosts of Key West was just sitting there on our shelves. It was just what I needed! 

Ghosts of Key West is a super short read, taking only an hour or so to get through, and is told in a ‘stories around the campfire’ format. There are tons of black and white pictures of historic key west homes and portraits of the people still haunting the island. The ghost stories are educational as they provide a decent amount of island history alongside the ghostly tales. Its broken up in to short chapters, each with their own ghost story, that i feel makes it a better read.

Sadly, it is very poorly written. The plot of each story is very jumpy and full of random first person encounters. These first person stories were annoying for someone who picked up the book for history. The writing issues could have probably been fixed with a good editing or two. 

Ghosts of Key West a good starter book if you’re planning on hitting the keys for a vacation. It’s a nice introduction to the ghostly history of the island, but I definitely recommend taking a tour if you visit. 

Anyone else love a good ghost story? Who else loves the Florida Keys?

Lindsay

The Diviners

The Diviners

by Libba Bray

17899351

Do you believe there are ghosts and demons and Diviners among us?
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfurl in the city that never sleeps. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened….

Better late than never this week! It’s been a tad crazy lately, so I’m sorry this post didn’t make it up on Tuesday. But The Diviners it the perfect book to start off this creepy Halloween weekend!

Evie is destined to be a star, but is unfortunately stuck in small town Ohio. Until a small stunt leaves her in trouble and on the first train to her uncle’s in New York City. It’s not long before she is next deep investigating a series of murders that shock the city. But there is more to this murder, and Evie, and the young heroine must embrace her paranormal side to save the day. 

I enjoyed The Diviners! Evie is a relatable character with just enough moxy to make up for her flaws. The diverse cast of characters keep the plot moving at a fast pace and Bray expertly weaves these storylines together. I love how Bray makes you feel like you are standing in New York in the 1920s watching these events. The language, the clothing, the atmosphere; you get it all and it flows together seamlessly. The mystery was twisted and interesting and I was excited to see how the sacrificial stages would play out. The book is an enjoyable paranormal historical mystery and perfect for a lazy Halloween weekend. 

Surprisingly, the language is very telling and there are parts where the prose is essentially ‘and this happened.’ It didn’t make me dislike The Diviners, but I felt more showing language would have intensified the 1920s feel. It is also why the mystery just wasn’t scary for me on the same level that many others have mentioned. Otherwise, it was pretty good!

The end left me curious and needing to know more. So, I will definitely be picking up Lair of Dreams, the next book in the series. What spooky reads are you enjoying this weekend?

Happy Halloween!

Lindsay

Ghostwalk

Ghostwalk

by Rebecca Stott

668608

A Cambridge historian, Elizabeth Vogelsang, is found drowned, clutching a glass prism in her hand. The book she was writing about Isaac Newton’s involvement with alchemy — the culmination of her lifelong obsession with the seventeenth century — remains unfinished. When her son, Cameron, asks his former lover, Lydia Brooke, to ghostwrite the missing final chapters of his mother’s book, Lydia agrees and moves into Elizabeth’s house — a studio in an orchard where the light moves restlessly across the walls.

Soon Lydia discovers that the shadow of violence that has fallen across present-day Cambridge, which escalates to a series of murders, may have its origins in the troubling evidence that Elizabeth’s research has unearthed. As Lydia becomes ensnared in a dangerous conspiracy that reawakens ghosts of the past, the seventeenth century slowly seeps into the twenty-first, with the city of Cambridge the bridge between them.

Filled with evocative descriptions of Cambridge, past and present, Ghostwalk centers around a real historical mystery that Rebecca Stott has uncovered involving Newton’s alchemy. In it, time and relationships are entangled — the present with the seventeenth century, and figures from the past with the love-torn twenty-first-century woman who is trying to discover their secrets.

A stunningly original display of scholarship and imagination, and a gripping story of desire and obsession, Ghostwalk is a rare debut that will change the way most of us think about scientific innovation, the force of history, and time itself.

I picked up the audio version of Ghostwalk from my local library. My initial though was “hmmmm Newton…why not?” The good thing is that I learned a ton of interesting information about Newton’s studies at Cambridge, but unfortunately, I was not impressed by the modern fiction plot line.

I’m going to start with all the things I enjoyed about Ghostwalk. I love the information about Newton. I found his experiments with light fascinating and wish there had been more details on the early production of glass. I like how Stott wove together the intricate murder mysteries of the past, and these events alone have me wanting to do my own research. And I enjoy the focus on alchemy; Stott’s research was impressive. I enjoyed how Elizabeth teaches Lydia how to visualize the past through smells and stories. And I even like the journal style format.

And now for the bad…I had a hard time connecting with Lydia, which isn’t good as she is the main character. Basically, she chooses to be in a relationship with a married man and her constant focus on this relationship bogged down the story. We all know it’s going to end…badly! And I had a difficult time even caring for Cameron as everything he said and did felt overly manipulative and arrogant. Not my type of guy and his very few redeeming qualities only diminished as the novel progressed. But it wasn’t just the crap relationship that left me feeling ‘eh’ about Ghostwalk. The plot was bogged down by the rough melding of Lydia’s timeline, the animal research activists, and the ghostly resurgence of Newton’s past. It was hard to enjoy over my annoyance at Lydia and the jumpy plot.

Ghostwalk wasn’t a bad story but not one that I would ever read again. I was impressed by Stott’s research and presentation of historic information, but not by the plot development. It was interesting to learn about Newton and his experiments, and I wouldn’t mind learning more. Next time I may pick up a nonfiction instead of a historical fiction novel.

Do you enjoy learning about Newton and alchemy? Have you read Ghostwalk? Tell me what you think.

Lindsay

 

Twenties Girl

Twenties Girl

by Sophie Kinsella

Twenties Girl

Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive.  Normal professional twenty-something young women don’t get visited by ghosts.  Or do they?

When the spirit of Lara’s great-aunt Sadie – a feisty, demanding girl with firm ideas about fashion, love, and the right way to dance – mysteriously appears, she has one request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, because Sadie cannot rest without it.

Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems as though they have nothing in common.  But as the mission to find Sadie’s necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different “twenties” girls learn some surprising truths from and about each other.  Written with all the irrepressible charm and humor that have made Sophie Kinsella’s books beloved by millions, Twenties Girl is also a deeply moving testament to the transcendent bonds of friendship and family.

I tend to read novels that follow particular themes during certain months of the year.  October is usually reserved for supernatural and Halloween mysteries and I picked up Twenties Girl last October solely due to the ghostly mystery it promised.  October was not the right month for this book and it would have been a much more enjoyable read in the middle of summer on the beach.  So I thought now would be the perfect time to share my review!

I did not enjoy Twenties Girl for the first two-thirds of the novel.  This is the first Sophie Kinsella novel and I enjoy her writing style but both main characters, Lara and Sadie, were self-centered, obnoxious, whiny individuals that left me yelling at my cd player on multiple occasions.  Lara and Sadie are two selfish and stubborn women who must to respect each other which leaves readers struggling alongside them through pages of petty bickering.  I usually enjoy a flawed character but it was tough embracing Lara and Sadie.  I almost returned the book because I was so sick of Sadie’s demands and Lara constantly adding drama to her own life.

And then the last third of the book happened.  I was so glad I stuck it out because I completely forgot about the whining and bickering as Kinsella drew me along on the frantic search for the missing necklace.  The girls come together to right the wrongs of Sadie’s past and they finally start connecting with one another.  Sadie shows Lara the glamour of the 1920s and Lara gives Sadie a loving friendship.  Readers finally start learning the mystery behind Sadie’s demanding nature and the two women embrace and overcome their flaws to achieve success.  I even enjoyed Lara’s awkwardness in her budding relationship with Ed.

There is one scene that has stuck with me through the months and of course I cannot talk about it because of spoilers!  I find myself envisioning the details of the shock and joy experienced by both women and I delight in mentally reliving that moment over and over again.  That scene is why I truly enjoyed the book and I wish I could thank Kinsella for that one moment!

So who else has read Twenties Girl?

Lindsay

The Blue Girl

The Blue Girl

by Alex Grecian

The Blue Girl (Murder Squad, #2.5)

From the author of the nationally bestselling suspense novel The Yard and its sequel The Black Country, both novels of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad, coves a short story of the Squad, a cautionary tale: Be careful what you wish for.

October 1889: Constable Colin Pringle is a man of few illusions, but there is something about the girl in the canal, her skin a delicate shade of blue, that bothers him more than he expected it would. Perhaps it’s because Dr. Kingsley’s forensic examination suggests that she was a just-married bride. Someone needs to find out just who she was and what happened to her, Pringle decides, and he sets out to do exactly that. But the answers will not be anything like what he expects. In fact, they will shake his view of the world to the core.

The Blue Girl is officially listed as #2.5 in Grecian’s Murder Squad series, but I decided to review it first because the story takes place before the opening novel in the series, The Yard. But, I suggest reading The Yard, which I will review tomorrow, before The Blue Girl. The Yard provides the detailed character development and established relationships that readers should know before jumping in to the short story. Also, Grecian should commend his cover artist because the covers for each book are amazing! This is my favorite; it is morbidly beautiful and it gives me chills each time I see it.

On to the review! The Blue Girl is told as an entry in Constable Colin Pringle’s personal journal. It is written from his POV and follows his investigation for the killer of the blue bride. The story needed to be longer. Grecian did not have the space to tell the story and include his usual flare and descriptive language. The Blue Girl starts out in Grecian’s normal style as he shows us selflessness of destitute Londoners retrieving the girl’s body, but such descriptive language diminishes as the story progresses. I know that Colin Pringle is a vain, but good man from The Yard; he comes across as stuck up and almost whiny in this short story. I also didn’t feel like Pringle’s view of the world was rocked to the core upon discovering the truth behind the blue girl’s death. I could tell that he was disturbed by the outcome of the investigation but nothing more. The latter half of the story was missing the vibrant ‘showing’ language that makes Grecian’s novels so enjoyable. Hopefully his next short story will be longer.

Grecian’s secondary female characters are rather flat, both in The Yard and The Blue Girl. I expect this to change as he continues writing and building his experience. I’ll discuss Grecian’s writing style further in my review of The Yard.

Overall it is a good short story and I definitely did not expect the ending! I love Grecian’s characters and I really enjoy the time period of the Murder Squad novels. I recommend The Blue Girl as a fun read but I suggest you start with The Yard to get a better feel for the characters and Grecian’s writing style. Has anyone else read The Blue Girl?

Lindsay

The Yard

The Yard

by Alex Grecian

The Yard (The Murder Squad #1)

Victorian London is a cesspool of crime, and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives—known as “The Murder Squad”—to investigate countless murders every month. Created after the Metropolitan Police’s spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, The Murder Squad suffers rampant public contempt. They have failed their citizens. But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own . . . one of the twelve . . .When Walter Day, the squad’s newest hire, is assigned the case of the murdered detective, he finds a strange ally in the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley. Together they track the killer, who clearly is not finished with The Murder Squad . . . but why?

Filled with fascinating period detail, and real historical figures, this spectacular debut in a new series showcases the depravity of late Victorian London, the advent of criminology, and introduces a stunning new cast of characters sure to appeal to fans of The Sherlockian and The Alienist.

Cover design is an important factor for me when picking out a book.  I am a visual person and will often times pluck a book off the shelf just because of the cover.  This was one of those times, and boy am I glad I did!  Alex Grecian’s The Yard provided the perfect gritty murder mystery that I have been craving the last few weeks.

So negatives first just to get them out of the way.  I was displeased with how shallow most of the female characters are, especially with how developed the main characters are for a first novel.  Fiona and the two prostitutes are the only females I found relatable; the rest were just there and it left all dialogue including these characters flat and confusing.   I am hoping there is more to the woman in the next installment.  Just remember that The Yard is a first novel, so there could be more showing language instead of telling language, but I am excited to see how Grecian evolves over time.

Ok, on to all of the positive notes!  The main characters are wonderful.  I fell ‘head over heels’ for all of them and found myself rooting out loud for each in their struggles.  Day, Kingsley, and Hammersmith are vivid individuals in my imagination and I actually did a ‘happy dance’ upon finishing the book last night!  I will the starting the next installment, The Black Country, as soon as I get my hands on it.

I am impressed at the complex writing style utilized by Grecian.  Readers will follow multiple plot lines while solving at least three mysteries. Grecian’s style can be rather choppy because he jumps between each mystery and includes three interludes in to each main character’s past.  I was not initially a fan of the writing style because its complexity may discourage many readers, but I now believe it is the best way to present the story.  I suggest devoting large periods of time to reading The Yard because you will not want to leave Victorian London!

The Murder Squad novels would be a perfect read in the fall if you are a ‘tone’ reader like me.  Fall’s cool weather and dreary rain showers will only to draw you more into the story!  I applaud Alex Grecian; he has managed to capture the nature of real investigation while maintaining an entertaining story.  I am almost sad that The Yard had to end!

Has anyone else picked up Alex Grecian’s novels?  If so, what do you think?

Lindsay

Orphan Train

Orphan Train

by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train

The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

Ok, I am going to try to keep my review short since the Orphan Train synopsis is somewhat long.  I picked up this novel on a whim while shopping in Target.  The history of the orphan train was appealing to me because, well, I am a historian and I remembered reading about it during my pre-teen years.

Orphan Train provides the stories of two very different women who are surprisingly connected by the fact that they are orphans.  Molly is a teenager assigned to helping Vivian organize her attic for community service, and the two soon become fast friends as they share the often painful details of their experiences.

I loved Vivian’s story, which is told in flashback style.  I was hooked on her storyline from the moment she boarded the train until the moment she finished her tale in her dusty attic.  Some moments still give me chills and I sobbed in my pillow on a few occasions.  Vivian led a hard life that was often void of true love and kindness; my heart hurt for her when she was in pain and soared in her brief moments of joy.  Young Vivian is a well written character that I connected with and her development allowed 91 year old Vivian to remain endearing to the end.

I did not enjoy Molly’s story.  Molly’s sole job in Orphan Train was to draw out Vivian’s story.  For some reason Kline also decided to make her a moody Penobscot Indian teenager who hates all adults thanks to the foster care system.  It was too much for this novel;  it felt like Kline was trying to force you to not only examine the moral depravity of the orphan train but also that of Native American relations and the issues of the modern day foster care system.  All things worthy of discussion, but not in this setting.  I actually found myself skimming over Molly’s parts so I could get back to Vivian’s story.

Orphan Train is a good book and I definitely recommend it if you are interested in the history.  I do not recommend it if you are one of those selfless individuals who donate their time and homes to foster children; the modern aspect of the novel will only leave you frustrated.  Has anyone else read Orphan Train?  I know it is a big book club novel.

Lindsay

East of Desolation

East of Desolation

by Jack Higgins

East of Desolation

Cape Desolation, Greenland–The wreckage of a private airplane is discovered high up in the icy desert. The pilot listed in the log and the body found near the plane are not the same. Charter pilot Joe Martin is hired by the pilot’s widow and insurance company to fly them through deadly terrain to the site of the crash…

couldn’t keep myself from reading East of Desolation when I saw it on the library shelf.  A thriller about an arctic pilot in search of a mysterious downed plane?  Are you kidding me?  This book was just begging me to read it!  I practically ran to my car to start listening to the audiobook.

So I’ll start with the positives.  I like the main character, Joe Martin.  He is a delivery pilot who is content to spend the rest of his days delivering supplies to the remote areas of Greenland.  Not much upsets him because he has chosen this simple, yet dangerous lifestyle, until he is hired to locate a plane that crashed years earlier.  Higgins does a wonderful job writing the aviation scenes and it was just fun listening to Joe fly against the Greenland elements.   The storyline was intriguing; I was constantly eager to learn more about the crashed plane.  It really isn’t hard to figure out who the ‘bad guys’ are, but there are a few surprise twists that kept East of Desolation interesting.  I even enjoyed the motley crew of secondary male characters.

Now for the negatives; the female characters were horrid.  ALL THREE OF THEM.  It is blaringly obvious by the writing style that East of Desolation was originally published in 1968.  These women where undeveloped and the epitome of every negative female cliché.  Here are their descriptions:

1. simple, round, gullible and hopelessly devoted to a manwhore

2. stunningly beautiful, manipulative, and just down right evil

3. oddly attractive, cruel, intent on being the center of attention, high maintenance, and whiny

Not a single one of them had any redeemable quality, and I was quite pissed that one of them was a love interest for Joe.  There was no real romantic connection because how can you make a down-to-earth guy work with any of these women?  They were only there to push the story along, and I would have enjoyed East of Desolation much more if they had been left out completely.

East of Desolation is a decent book.  Higgins drew me in with the over the top male characters, interesting mystery, and beautiful setting.  It is worth a read if you find this type of thriller interesting, but you may want to steer clear if you expect substantial and well developed female characters.

Are you a Jack Higgins fan?  These last two posts have me wanting to do some cold weather flying!

Lindsay

Milo Talon

Milo Talon
by Louis L’amour

image

Milo Talon knew the territory and the good men from the bad. He had ridden the Outlaw Trail and could find out things others couldn’t. That was why a rich man named Jefferson Henry hired Milo to hunt down a missing girl. But from the moment Milo began his search, he knew something wasn’t right. Three people had already died, an innocent woman was on the run, and a once sleepy town was getting crowded with hired guns.

Suddenly, Milo Talon realized that there were still things he had to learn—about the woman he was trying to find, the man who had hired him, and the murderer who wanted him dead. But most of all, Milo had a few things to learn about himself. And he would have to work fast, because one mistake could cost him his life.…

I’m including westerns because I have always considered them a form of historical fiction. Plus, this is my all-time favorite western and it has a great mystery!

I love Milo Talon! Im a fan of his blunt personality and desire to do the right thing by good people. He’s just a good guy with a sharp whit and smart mouth who stands up for his friends. What’s not to like?! I also enjoy the supporting cast of characters L’amour provides our reluctant hero: the pretty girl in need of help, the kind ex-trail cook, and the mysterious horse wranglers. But Milo Talon is more than just a simple cowboy story. L’amour, the king of the western, weaves a complex mystery that starts with the search for a missing girl and cumulates with Milo and Molly running for their lives from parties greedy for railroad money. The mystery and the characters keep me coming back to this novel time and time again, and I need for it to be made into a movie. Now!

I do have to say that some readers are not going to appreciate the development of Milo and Molly’s relationship. There are no sappy details and it can read a tad unrealistic and abrupt. I love it, but I understand it’s not for most. Also, L’amour’s writing style is not the most showing. The language is blunt and straight forward, but I still feel like I’m right in the middle of the action while reading.

READ IT! Milo Talon is my all time favorite western and I want to hear what you think. I promise the ending is well worth it!

Lindsay

The Light in the Ruins

The Light in the Ruins

by Chris Bohjalian

16099189

From the New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls comes a spellbinding novel of love, despair, and revenge—set in war-ravaged Tuscany.

1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison.

1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case—a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood—Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history.

Set against an exquisitely rendered Italian countryside, The Light in the Ruins unveils a breathtaking story of moral paradox, human frailty, and the mysterious ways of the heart.

The Light in the Ruins is an interesting story of murder, revenge, art preservation, and survival during war-torn Italy. The Rosatis were once a wealthy Italian family of noble lineage that barely survived World War II. Ten years after the end of the war someone is determined to kill the remaining members and Serafina, the only female homicide detective in Florence, is assigned the case. What follows is a beautiful story of how war changes everything.

I love how the plot gracefully jumps between two time frames: 1955 and the last two years of the Second World War. Bohjalian expertly provides multiple character perspectives and utilizes the flashbacks to build the perfect level of tension and suspense. Usually it is the mystery that keeps me focused on a novel but The Light in the Ruins is different. Instead, I was focused on the moral questions presented by Bohjalian. These included: what do you do when you find yourself allied with the wrong people? And how do you move on when you’ve experienced so many terrible things? Don’t get me wrong; the mystery was good! And I even enjoyed the romance between Cristina and her German soldier, but it was the moral questions that kept me reading. I also want to note that the end tied everything together perfectly (which is awesome) and that I love how Serafina’s personal history wove in and out of the Rosatis’ story.

The only thing I can complain about is the pacing. The Light in the Ruins just reads slow. I first picked up the novel in hardback at the local library and eventually had to return it half finished. I am not normally the type who will go years without finishing a story but the pacing made it hard to come back. The good thing is the story was interesting enough for me to eventually come back and I finished it as an audiobook. This format was perfect in my opinion.

I recommend The Light in the Ruins for lovers of historic mysteries. The setting is beautiful and the topics thought provoking. It provides an interesting look at the struggle to protect Italian art during the war, while also forcing readers to evaluate the political, physical, and moral struggles of Italian citizens surviving the Nazi regime.

Have you read The Light in the Ruins? What are your favorite historic mysteries?

Lindsay