Author Q & A: Waking the Shadows

My BIL wrote a book! This is such an amazing accomplishment I came out of blog retirement to ask him about it. Maybe this will be so fun that I’ll come back for more book talk… Meanwhile you should definitely check Jeff’s book out here: and maybe also bug him for a signed copy!

1. Tell us about Waking the Shadows? Where does the title come from?
Waking the Shadows is the story of Samantha Cooper, a 15-year-old girl orphaned after the Civil War. Samantha lives with her uncle, whose traumatic experiences of the war have left him unwilling to share any details about the life and death of Samantha’s father, whom she barely remembers. Samantha has all but resigned herself to the fact that she will never know what happened to her family, when a new schoolteacher, Miss Juliet Howe enters her life and pushes Samantha to discover the truth of her past. When I started writing the book, I didn’t think the target audience was young adults, but it was clear by the time I finished the final draft that I had written a coming-of-age story that worked for young adult and adult audiences.


Creating titles has always been my kryptonite, so it should come as no surprise that my original working title, “Finding Samantha,” was super lame. My wife Holly and I came up with the title, Waking the Shadows while on a walk. The idea for that title harkens back to a Halloween program I wrote while employed at Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier. My hope is that Waking the Shadows points people towards the theme of the book – that knowing a sad or tragic history is better than knowing nothing at all. The shadows are there. We may as well acknowledge them.


2. What inspired you to write a novel?
I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I’ve started several, none of which went further than the first few chapters, aside from the book I wrote in 5th grade about a character named Detective Dominike (yes, that’s how I spelled “Dominic”). Really, my only goal when I started the project was to finish the book. Everything that’s come after the completion of the first draft – the editing, publishing, selling a few copies – is just icing on the cake. The idea for Waking the Shadows came from two places. First, I wanted to write a story that helps people connect with history on an emotional level. Specifically, I wanted readers to understand that the effects of the war extend well beyond 1865. The historical timeline of the Civil War ends in 1865, but its impact lasts far longer, as seen through my characters. Second, I started writing the book around the time the first Confederate monuments were being taken down. As a public historian, part of me was sad to see them go because they provide opportunities for people like me to do historical interpretation. They were an opportunity to talk about the Lost Cause Myth, segregation, and racism. That being said, I also understood that A) most people don’t see the monuments the way I do, and B) the monuments don’t just exist in their historical moment, they exist in their current community, and having monuments to the Confederacy on courthouse lawns and public parks is inappropriate. Those two thoughts produced the theme of this book. Namely, the impact of the war lasts well beyond Appomattox, up to and including today, and that we should both recognize the good and bad of our past and take responsibility for choosing our own future.


3. How much research did you have to do? Why did you choose fiction over nonfiction when this is your area of interest?
The historical details in the book are accurate, though not specific, which was intentional. I purposely did not write any details that put characters in a specific location, or battle, or regiment, mostly because I wanted readers invested in the story, not the historical details. However, this also had the happy side effect that I didn’t have to do much historical research for this book. Had I written a story where characters were in a specific place, then I would have to find out details like, what the weather, where was the regiment, what did the regiment do, and so on. By being vague on the details I saved myself some work. The historical details that are included in the book reflect years of study and research into the Civil War generally. This general knowledge was enough to make the book historically accurate. The primary accounts I use in the text, which are all outlined in the End Notes, are fairly common and well-known accounts, so I didn’t have to dig too deeply. I chose fiction because I think narrative is an effective way to engage people in history. One can write narrative non-fiction too, but I’m more interested in connecting people emotionally and fiction is a great vehicle for that. I love reading non-fiction, but feel my best contribution to the field is taking what I learn from non-fiction and translating it to a story that anyone, including people who don’t even know the Civil War is, can appreciate.


4. Did you know how the book was going to turn out? Or can you answer that without spoilers?
I knew the theme of the book from the very beginning. I knew what underlying message I wanted to communicate. But, there was a fairly significant plot change that I arrived at about halfway through the first draft, which I can’t share without giving away a major component of the story.

5. Are there any favorite books or authors that inspired you? What are you reading now? The book that first piqued my interest in the Civil War is Harold Keith’s Rifles for Watie, which was written decades ago. I think I read it when I was in third grade and I’ve been hooked on the Civil War ever since. For more contemporary authors, I think Michael Saharra and Ralph Peters write traditional, military-focused Civil War historical fiction very well. I think my book is more closely aligned to the way Robert Hicks (Widow of the South, A Separate Country) approaches historical fiction, though our writing styles and audience are very different. Stephen Ambrose and Winston Groom set a high bar for good narrative non-fiction. My favorite storytellers, however, are Neil Gaiman and Fredrik Backman. They don’t write historical fiction, but I love the way they craft their stories. I’m currently reading some Civil War non-fiction that may help me with my next novel. I’m currently in the midst of Richard Sommers’ “Richmond Redeemed,” which is a very dense, traditional non-fiction campaign study. It’s level of detail nearly makes it a reference book, rather than a cover-to-cover read, so I’m looking forward to reading something superfluous when I finally finish this text.


6. We hear talk of a possible second book? Will it be a sequel? Still Civil War related? Give us more detail!
I’m considering writing another book. It too will be set during the Civil War. I know what theme I want to write about, and I know what historical subject and event I want to write about, but I haven’t quite figured out the plot structure yet. Unlike Waking the Shadows, this book will be set in the midst of a specific time and place and feature real people and the historian in me isn’t ok with manipulating what actually happened to suit the structure I have in mind. Thus, I have to do more research and read books like Richmond Redeemed to make sure I get my facts right. I don’t want people who know their Civil War to read the book and find distracting errors. If I know it was raining on a particular day, then I want my book to reflect that. I hate when details that are objectively wrong end up in books and movies.
All that being said, unless I sell about a million more copies of Waking the Shadows, I’ll have to keep my day job, so a second book is still way out on the horizon. Maybe around the time George R. R. Martin finishes his next Game of Thrones book I’ll be ready to publish a second book.

7. Where can we buy your book and have it signed? You can currently purchase my book through Amazon, or from me personally, if you find yourself in the greater Des Moines area. There’s an e-book and print version on Amazon and if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can download the e-book for free. I’m happy to sign any book that is put in front of me, so folks can either find me, or mail me a copy to sign (just give me return postage and an address). I’m still waiting for my self-appointed Vice President of Marketing to find money in the budget for a full-fledged book tour. Apparently, my list of travel demands are “unreasonable” and “absurd.”


8. Finally, what’s your favorite U2 album?U2 is near or at the top of the most overrated bands in rock history. I guess I would have to say their 18 Singles album is their best work. At least on that album you’re getting a few good songs since it’s their greatest hits.

Ignore Jeff’s obvious foolishness when it comes to U2 albums (Achtung Baby obviously is their best album) and go check out his book!

Review: The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, Hallie Rubenhold

Hardcover, 333 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Library
The Five_

From Goodreads…

Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London – the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper.

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers. What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women.

For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that ‘the Ripper’ preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time – but their greatest misfortune was to be born a woman.

Can we just take a minute and first be glad we were not born poor in Victorian England? Even more so born a poor girl in Victorian England. Now to the book- The Five was fascinating and also just really sad. No gore, no murder theories, just the details that could be dug up about these women and about the reality of life at the time.  And life at that time – it was not easy. I would never have imagined it was easy truly, but this book broke down the day to day for women and girls in a way that really made me think. The final indignity for each of these women is of course that they were all assumed to be prostitutes because they were out on the street at night and I love how Rubenhold takes a new look at each of these lives so the women can be remembered differently. While there are no gory imagined scenes of The Ripper in The Five I still found myself cringing at the dirt and disease, at the child labor and at the brutality of life.

I was also raging at the mistreatment of women from all sides – the police, the press, the societies allegedly for the benefit of the poor if they were deemed worthy. Raging. I was impressed at the amount of research that Rubenhold must have had to do for any records of these women – especially Elizabeth who came from Sweden and  Mary-Jane who left behind the most mystery. Census records, apartment rentals, workhouse registers – the details she went to are pretty incredible. Rubenhold brings The Five to life while you’re reading and restores them as women – mothers, sisters, friends and not prostitutes (save Mary Jane) and not just victims. They all have stories and they should be known.

As I read many of the names of London streets I flashed back to reading Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation series or Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister. But these five women would have been blessed to be so lucky as to be a maid to the Pink Carnation or one of Milan’s Dukes. Such an entirely different London to read about. I feel like this book is going to alter my perspective during my fictional reading in the future and I’m thankful for that.  

Now to decide if I want to follow the rabbit hole into reading about the Ripper? Or if I’m just going to be content with reading Deanna Raybourn’s next Veronica Speedwell- A Murderous Relation – which comes out this week!  Maybe that will give me all I care to think about the murders. And if you haven’t read that series yet – Get on it because I’m obsessed. But aside from that – any books about Jack the Ripper that I should read?

Review: In Five Years

In Five Years, Rebecca Serle

Hardcover, 272 pages
Expected publication: March 10th 2020 by Atria Books
Source: ARC Received from Publisher
In 5 yrs
From Goodreads…
Where do you see yourself in five years?

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

Here I come after not having reviewed a book in – well a really long while – and this is of course the hardest kind of review to write. I really enjoyed this book but am afraid to say too much because what happened over the five years in the story was nothing I expected and I cannot bear the thought of giving something away! I loved Dannie, even when I was frustrated by her, and I loved that friendship was at the core of this book. I’ve been reading a lot of romance, which is delightful, but there is something so wonderful about reading about great girlfriends.

I flew through the second half of this book because I wanted so badly to know what was going to happen when Dannie woke up in 2025. I was shocked that nothing I predicted was was happened in the end!  I will have to go back and read this again one day so I can relax a bit while reading.

I was similarly moved by Serle’s last book, The Dinner List.  I still think about the tears that book pulled out of me!

When you’re ready for a book that will make you feel all of the emotions and make you ignore life to read Rebecca Serle definitely my recommendation. So don’t look anymore into what might happen to Dannie and her fiance or her mystery man and just get reading!

Thank you so much Atria Books for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

 

Review: Naturally Tan

Only nearly June and my first review of 2019! I have read SO much with good intentions and then there’s life and two kids and all the germs.  All the germs.  I so enjoyed this book that I had to finally stay up past my bedtime to post about it.

Naturally Tan, Tan France

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: June 4th 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
Source: ARC won from Shelf Awareness, St.Martin’s Press
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In this heartfelt, funny, touching memoir, Tan France, star of Netflix’s smash-hit QUEER EYE, tells his origin story for the first time. With his trademark wit, humor, and radical compassion, Tan reveals what it was like to grow up gay in a traditional Muslim family, as one of the few people of color in Doncaster, England. He illuminates his winding journey of coming of age, finding his voice (and style!), and how he finally came out to his family at the age of 34, revealing that he was happily married to the love of his life–a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City.

Are you watching Queer Eye on Netflix and crying regularly like me?  If you’re like me you’ll have a guess at how excited I was to get my grabby hands on an ARC of Tan France’s memoir.  Thankfully Tan comes off just as delightful in print as he does on screen.  I love how truly appreciative he sounds of the life he’s having – a gay, South Asian, Muslim man who had his share of hardships now holding himself out there to a whole world of queer, brown children.  As I reader I was appreciative of his honesty with what he wanted to talk about vs. topics like his faith not being for public consumption.

When Tan was open about his past he was definitely open though.  Romance, bad jobs, teenage exploits – as well as bullying, real sadness and hard feelings.  Best of all were the  warm fuzzies I got from reading about going out with his husband for the first time.

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The stories of meeting the Fab Five were everything a fan could want! Tan puts himself out in this book without giving too much of himself away.  He’s someone you just feel happy for over the success he’s finding.

Pick this up for good stories and fashion tips!  What other celebrity memoirs should I be looking for? Busy Phillips is pretty high on my list right now…

Thank you Shelf Awareness and St. Martin’s Press for this advance copy!

Holly and Amanda’s Best Reads of 2018

Happy New Year!  It’s not too late to tell you our best reads of last year is it?  If it is, its Amanda’s fault.

Holly

Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter: I don’t know why I waited so long to read this.  Actually, I do.  The description as “set in a remote Italian coastal town in 1962” made me think it would be a snoozefest.  That’s because it reminded me of the time I tried to listen to “Under the Tuscan Sun” on audio on a long drive.  Anyway, this book was no snoozer – it was smart and funny and lovely.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel: You guys 99% of the world’s population dies in a pandemic, and the wold that’s left is haunting.   I don’t think I have enough chill to live there.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, J. Ryan Stradal: All I want to do is go to an exclusive dinner party that ends with Pat Prager’s Peanut Butter Bars.  Or maybe I should host one.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas: Read.this.book.  And  then examine your life.  I highly recommend the audio.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo: I threw away most of my socks because they were not bringing me joy.  Recently this became a problem because it got cold out, so I have been searching the internet for all the most joy-inducing socks.  I’m pretty sure those come from Smartwool (Amanda votes they come from Stance). 

Amanda  – Yes I cheated and made a few categories.  It was a good reading year!  I tried to read as few white dudes as possible and loved that.  I will definitely continue that goal for 2019.

Half a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  She’s brilliant.  Read everything this woman writes.  

Night and Silence, Seanan McGuire.  Have I mentioned I’m obsessed with Seanan’s books?  I love October Daye (and all her other series) but these books just get better and better.   This urban fantasy series makes me laugh and cry and I could reread them all at any time. I just joined her Patreon and I can’t wait to read all the short stories too!

A Dangerous Crossing, Ausma Zehana Khan – heart wrenching but a great mystery.  Maddening when you think about the tragedies in Syria and immigration in general.   I loved the growth of the characters over this series.  Honorable mention: The Dry, Jane Harper -I’m enjoying this series and eager for #3.

Whiskey and Ribbons, Leesa Cross-Smith.  This story of a woman who is widowed while pregnant is one I can’t stop thinking about.  This gave me a lot to consider about grief and motherhood, but was also just a great story.

The Dinner List, Rebecca Serle.  Another book about love and loss that stayed with me all year (link to my review.

YA: Sadie, Courtney Summers – A brutal mystery about the things that can happen to young women (link to my review).   Everywhere You Want to Be, Christina June – Read this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood so you can feel summer in January! Get some red sunglasses and let Tilly dance off with your heart. (I need to give a copy of this way soon)Far From the Tree, Robin Benway – This book about siblings and adoption was fantastic.  Made me cry and I loved just about every word.

Romance: A Princess in Theory, Alyssa Cole- Long lost princesses are my jam and I don’t even feel a bit of shame.  Alyssa Cole was one of my best finds of the year.  Read all her kissing books! The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory – This romance kicks off with a stopped elevator  and a fake date – apparently fake dates are also my jam (See The Kiss Quotient as well) The Proposal was also delightful and I can’t wait for her next book.

Nonfiction: So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo – Things have to get better.  Just read this. From the Corner of the Oval, Beck Dorey-Stein – – This was a such a happy read even if it made me miss Obama terribly.  I would never have thought being a White House stenographer brought along so much personal drama.

Now to kick off 2019 by finishing my 2018 library books including: Daughters of the Winter Queen, Of Blood and Bone, My Sister the Serial Killer and For  Muse of Fire before I get all the fines.  I can ignore my children to read right?  Then I am going to dive into my first ARC of the year, The Ruin of Kings– a long last prince and dragons sounds like just the thing for January.

Nonfiction November Week Two: Nonfiction and Fiction Pairings

The Nonfiction extravaganza continues this week!  Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves is taking the lead with matching nonfiction and fiction titles.  Don’t forget to check the other hosts: Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

My first suggestion is a match to two nonfiction reads: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann and Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot (thanks Eva at the Paperback Princess for this suggestion).  So these two are extremely far apart as nonfiction books go but both were heartbreakingly sad in their own way.  Both also had me thinking about the ways in which the Native American people have been hurt ever since being “discovered.”  So for a fiction that is kick ass on behalf Native people and women in particular you MUST read Trail of Lightening by Rebecca Roanhoarse.  I finished the book and immediately put it on hold at the library for my husband to read – and he doesn’t read fantasy.  I cannot wait for the next book to come out!!

This pairing feels a little random but this is the pairing in my head when I was reading Damnation Island – so maybe I’m just a little random.  Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad & Criminal in 19th Century New York by Stacy Horn and Libba Bray’s Diviners Series.  Book 2 of the Diviners, Lair of Dreams, is what linked for me with islands and mental hospitals – but I think this is a series worth diving into if you have time (they are loooooooong).  New York and the divisions of class and race are at the forefront of both of these reads so while it might seem like a stretch I think they go together quite well.  You might find them to be the cats pajamas!

I have one more bonus pairing! I started reading The Fruit of the Drunken Tree this morning  – I know it is fiction but library holds don’t wait! This book about two childhoods in Columbia under Pablo Escabar is quite good so far and it is making me think of Mark Bowden’s excellent Killing Pablo.   Highly recommended if you haven’t read that one!

Have you read any of these?  Any match ups you can suggest for me?

Nonfiction November Week One: Your Year in Nonfiction

Nonfiction November is finally here! I swear I’ve been saving up a list of books to read this month  – but surprisingly have still read quite a few this year.  Nonfiction November — hosted this year by Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) Julie (JulzReads), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Katie (Doing Dewey), Rennie (What’s Nonfiction) — is a month-long celebration of everything nonfiction.

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

 

I’m tied.  I just finished Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover.  I was holding off reading this because I was sure it was a case of hype over substance, and I am so happy I was wrong.  Yay book club pick!  I flew through this book!  Another winner is Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.  While Educated flew, this book took me weeks to get through.  This story was just so sad.  Reading as members of the Osage were picked off by predatory whites while also being held back by the legal system – not at uplifting book but the story was fascinating.  This feels so important still with the news about Native voting rights and events at Standing Rock. I just read this is going to be a movie and I hope it is as well done!  But then I also read So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and I don’t even have the words to do it justice.  I cried, I raged, I thought about this book a lot.  Just read it.

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

Like the rest of my reading life this year, my nonfiction has been kind of a hot mess.  Politics (A Higher Loyalty), murder (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark), mental health (Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad and Criminal in 19th Century New York) and sex toys…  Looking through my goodreads shelf I definitely need some celebrity memoirs in the mix.  I have my eye on Busy Phillips’ and Ellie Kemper’s new books to scratch that itch.  I started From the Corner of the Oval last night and it is a delight!

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

I think everyone needs to read So You Want to Talk About Race so I’ve tried to talk that up.  For “lighter” reading I’ve been pushing I’ll be Gone in the Dark (so creepy!) and Killers of the Flower Moon.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I love loading up my to read shelf during November.  There are so many great books I miss hearing about.  I love seeing other book nerds excited about book pushing!  I’m trying to avoid books by white dudes where I can so I have an eye out for suggestions particularly to keep reading more diversely.

So what am I missing that you love?  If you aren’t doing Nonfic November get over to Sophisticated Dorkiness to check out all the posts!

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Dinner List

The Dinner List, Rebecca Searle

Hardcover, 288 pages

Expected publication: September 11th 2018 by Flatiron Books

Source: ARC from Shelf Awareness

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When Sabrina Nielsen arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also her favorite professor from college, her father, her ex-fiance, Tobias, and Audrey Hepburn.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Sabrina contends with in Rebecca Serle’s utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as Sliding Doors, and The Rosie Project.

As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together, and as Rebecca Serle masterfully traces Sabrina’s love affair with Tobias and her coming of age in New York City, The Dinner List grapples with the definition of romance, the expectations of love, and how we navigate our way through it to happiness. Oh, and of course, wisdom from Audrey Hepburn.

Who among us would pass up dinner with Audrey Hepburn?  I know I could not miss that chance, so I was ready for this book the minute I read the description.  I was expecting a fluffier more “chick lit” book than this really was.  I found The Dinner List to be a book about love and loss, about growing up and friendship, and about what we learn to love from our parents.  I loved this book so much.  I laughed, I cried – I actually ignored my kid while I was riding the train with her so I could read it – something that has never happened.

Even though the night was of course magical – hello Audrey – it didn’t have so much whimsy as magical realism can.  Not like reading Sarah Addison Allen for example.  If magical realism isn’t your jam I wouldn’t let that steer you away.  We move back and forth from the dinner party to Sabrina’s time with each guest.  We see her falling in love, realizing she’s an adult and learning to say goodbye.  I really did cry when the party ended and this will be a book I read again.

Listing the guests at my fantasy dinner party is a favorite game of mine.  My husband and I fight about who would be worth the invitation or not. As of right now my fantasy dinner party guests are: Lucrezia Borgia, Madeleine Albright, Neil Gaiman and my dad. Fascinating conversation all around I am sure! I’d bring my husband as an honorable mention. Tell me who you’d invite to your party?

Thank you Shelf Awareness and Flatiron Books for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

 

Review: Sadie

Sadie, Courtney Summers

Publication: September 4th 2018 by Wednesday Books
Hardcover, 320 pages
Source: E-ARC from NetGalley
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Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Whenever I look at a Courtney Summers book I think why haven’t I read all of her books yet?  Then I remember how All the Rage basically gutted me and how I haven’t been ready to go through that again. And now comes Sadie.  Sadie is the kind of girl that goes missing all the time sadly.  Not enough of us care when it happens.  Sadie disappears after her younger sister’s violent murder, and a podcast host is convinced by their surrogate grandmother to try to find her.  I struggle with reading books about dead girls because sometimes the real world is sad enough and because I don’t want to think about a world that might hurt my own girls.  Or my sister!  But this was well worth my reading fears because Sadie is fierce and brave and I loved her.   I started slowly but once I got into Sadie’s hunt for her sister’s killer I could not put this book down.

Summers makes you feel Sadie’s pain and her anger.   You also worry for her and I physically cringed away from my kindle while reading at the truths I feared would come out.  I thought the change from podcast narration to Sadie’s point of view was a really cool way to tell the story and unravel her mystery.  I love that Macmillan actually put out a podcast – The Girls – to accompany the book.  I am terrible at podcasts but I am going to have to listen to this even knowing how it ends.  The ending wasn’t what I wanted it to be- but it was a perfect ending.  I almost wish I had started listening first.  I’m afraid to say too much and give something away so I’ll just say I loved Sadie and you should read it.

I’ll just be collecting the rest of Courtney Summers’ books to read when I’m feeling brave.  Any recommendations on what to try first?

#FindSadie

Thank you NetGalley and Wednesday Books for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

 

Review: Sparrow Hill Road

Sparrow Hill Road, Seanan McGuire

Published May 6th 2014 by DAW

Paperback, 312 pages

Source: Purchased

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Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.

It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.

They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.

You know how sometimes you get so excited when one of your autobuy authors has a new book that you preorder it and wait and wait and wait and then you’re so excited you think you’ve already read it?  Just me? I danced in my chair when I got my hands on an ARC of Seanan McGuire’s The Girl in the Green Silk Gown and decided to “reread” Sparrow Hill Road in anticipation.  Imagine my surprise when I realized I was reading a brand new book!  So… on to Rose’s story.

Rose Marshall is a beloved ghost aunt to the Price family in McGuire’s Incryptid series – one of my favorites – I know a ghost aunt sounds odd but just read them!  When we meet Rose she’s been dead much longer than she’s been alive and she has tons of stories to tell.  She rides the roads as a hitchhiking ghost preventing accidents when she can and when she can’t she tries to guide other souls home.

I should have known McGuire would write ghost stories that touch my heart rather than scare me.  This is the author that got me obsessed with zombies (just her zombies – and just read Feed if you haven’t!).  Rose tells her story going back and forth in time until we find out what happened on Sparrow Hill Road the night she died and why Bobby Cross still won’t let her be – that’s the part of this ghost story that gave me chills.   We learn ghosts can make families of choice and that being dead doesn’t stop hurt and regrets. Listen to Rose’s stories – maybe you’ve seen her on the road in her green silk gown.  

You can’t kill what’s already dead.