Tag Archives: new york

The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen

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The-Appearance-of-Annie-van-Sinderen-by-Katherine-Howe

Memory is an elusive thing. Do you ever remember a thing exactly as it happened? Or do you remember it the way you want it remembered?

That’s the main question posed by The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen. And it’s a good one. Can you really rely on your own memory of events? It’s undoubtedly skewed by your own feelings of the event. Can you trust a camera lens? Again, it’s all perspective. Perhaps a blending of the two lends more to the truth.

The novel starts off with Wes attending NYU summer school from Wisconsin. He feels much more comfortable seeing things from behind the camera than without. With the camera he has a barrier between himself and the world and a control. He can control the scenes he sees and the people that populate his lens. His life is pretty uneventful until he sees Annie by chance at a seance his friend Tyler is filming. Wes then has to hunt Annie down to get her to sign a release form to be in the film and once he finds her that’s when his simple life gets a lot more complicated. Annie has secrets. Dark secrets from the past that she must confront in order to move on.

I really did enjoy this novel. Though I do have to say the plot had quite a few holes in it that never were cleared up. And the “big reveal” is pretty obvious from the beginning. But I did like the way the story unfolded and the connection between past and present represented by the characters. I especially loved the idea of memory and how one little fact can change the way everyone remembers a certain event. How everyone remembers things differently and how memories are more subjective than we like to think.

Rating: 4/5

Stay tuned for the next installment in the Pop Reading Challenge. Happy reading!

First Glance

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Annie Van jacket

Next up in the Pop Reading Challenge is the first book I noticed upon walking into a bookstore. That could be many things but the novel that sticks with me the most in Katherine Howe’s The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen. The cover is really odd but breathtaking in it’s simplicity. I noticed it right away when I walked into my local bookstore. It was on display in the current pubs right as you enter.

I walked right over and picked it up and was just as intrigued by the book’s description as I was by the cover. I do love a good ghost story.

According to the book jacket, the novel is about an aspiring filmmaker named Wes who is going to summer school at NYU. While helping out a fellow student he sees a girl who instantly intrigues him. A girl named Annie. Soon Annie and Wes start spending more and  more time together and begin looking for the thing that Annie lost.

I can’t wait to find out what exactly it is that Annie lost and what secrets they uncover along the way about her past.

Stay tuned for the full review of The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen. Happy reading!

Luckiest Girl Alive

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Ani FaNelli is leading what she thinks is the perfect life. She has a blue blood fiance, a high powered job in NYC working at a magazine, and a killer figure. But underneath all of the facade lies something not so pretty from her past that continually gnaws at Ani. But nothing can stay buried for long, no matter how hard we try to repress them.

I have to say, this novel kind of disappointed me. I was expecting something different than what I ended up with. I found it hard to like the main character. Ani is like a high functioning sociopath. She seems to revel in the fact that she’s “damaged” and feels the need to damage those around her. I imagine the characters as grown up versions of the cast of Pretty Little Liars. They’ve grown up in the same area, the Main Line in Pennsylvania, and all care about wealth and status.

Ain does have redeeming qualities and some very horrible things happen to her that she manages to survive and even, in some instances, to thrive. She refuses to let anyone see her for who she truly is, most of all herself. She keeps a lot of things pressed down tightly. In a way this is a coming of age story. Ani does find herself at the end and finds out what she truly wants and what she doesn’t. But it’s a bit of a slog to get to that realization.

Final Rating: 3/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Pop Reading Challenge. Happy reading!

NY Bestseller

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First up in the Pop Reading Challenge is a New York Times Bestseller. I’ve seen this book everywhere lately and have been dying to read it. And, according to the cover the book was an instant NY Bestseller. That novel is Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll.

From the description, it’s supposed to be very much like Gone Girl but with it’s own twist. The teasers on the flap definitely drew me in. I can’t wait to find out what’s hidden in Ani’s past and how that past might jeopardize her future. I’ve been trying to avoid reading any reviews online so as to avoid spoilers. This seems like one of those books where the twist ending pulls the whole plot together.

Stay tuned for the full review of Luckiest Girl Alive. Happy reading!

When Christmas Comes Again

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dear america

When Christmas Comes Again is the story of Simone Spencer. Set in New York City in 1917, the story captures America at the moment we entered WWI. Upon hearing the news, Simone feels a desperate need to help in any way she can, especially after her older brother Will enlists and is sent overseas. What begins as a way to stave off boredom soon becomes so much more. Simone becomes determined to find a way to be more useful and help the war front. Seeing an ad for girls who speak fluent French, Simone signs up to be a “hello girl.” She begins her training in New York and is then sent to France to combat the phone lines and the switchboard.

What struck me most about this installment of Dear America was how grown up it was, even the main character was older than most other Dear America novels I’ve read. I don’t remember these books being so grown up when I was reading them as a kid, but then maybe I just didn’t pick up on it. Simone loses the things she once held so dear to her but does gain something as well. Through the novel we see her experience love, loss, and watch her as she helps soldiers suffering from PTSD. One of the best parts about this whole series is it’s ability to make history come alive. So many people find history stagnant and boring as a subject in school, but these novels are everything but. They make places and people come alive. Each novel also includes more history on the era present in the novel and it’s impact on American culture.

Rating: 4/5 Thanks for taking me back Dear America.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

Christmas in July, or August

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Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a book set during Christmas time. When I first read this category I had no idea what to read. I got together a bunch of choices but none of them really piqued my interest. Then on a whim I went into the kids section at my local library and found the Dear America series and the book When Christmas Comes Again, a Dear America I never read. Nostalgia kicked in and I decided to pick it up and read it for this category.

I can’t wait to relive childhood a bit with this book in the series. I was a huge Dear America fan in elementary school and can still remember getting some of the novels at the book fair. I love how each teach you about a specific time period in American history in such an accessible way. It made me want to learn more about people and places in American history and had me reading things I know I would not have.

Here’s to Dear America! Stay tuned for the full review of When Christmas Comes Again. Happy reading!

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Ghost Story

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Ghost Story

“What was the worst thing you’ve ever done? I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me…the most dreadful thing…”

Perhaps the best first line I’ve ever read from any book. I was immediately entranced by this novel and wanted to find out what this horrible, dreadful thing was. The prologue of the novel thrusts you right into the thick of things and definitely keeps you, as the reader, on your toes. You’re kind of getting the end in the beginning and then need to work backwards from there to figure out how this character got into the desperate situation he currently finds himself in. And that journey is one wild ride.

To break it down, since I don’t want to give anything away, the novel is about a group of older gentlemen who are exceptionally close friends. These gentlemen have a sort of club called The Chowder Society where they get together and tell each other ghost stories from their past, conveniently circumventing the story they are all involved in. When their dreams begin to become unbearable they decide to invite the nephew of a deceased member of the group to help them figure out what is going on. Each man, Sears, Ricky, John, and Lewis, have the same dream where they enter a house and watch the others die. Since the deceased member’s nephew, Don Wanderley, has written a book about paranormal events they think that he is the best person to help them figure out the strange events surrounding their small New York town and explain what is happening in their dreams.

Enter Don, who is currently living and teaching in Berkeley, and has met a mysterious and beautiful girl he immediately falls in love with. Things between the two escalate quickly and just as quickly fall apart. She’s a strange character and Don begins to suspect horrible things about her. Then as suddenly as she blew into his life, this girl, Alma Mobley, disappears without a trace. To only be found engaged to his own brother in New York. Don tries to warn his brother about the girl but his warning isn’t enough. Disaster strikes and his brother David commits suicide. His life in shambles, he decides to go and meet The Chowder Society.

The plot takes on a frenetic pace when Don arrives in Milburn. Whatever supernatural plans that started with The Chowder Society are fully actualized once Don enters the scene. Everything hits the fan and the town turns upside down. The worst possible things that can happen do, and it’s up to Don and The Chowder Society to find a way to repair the damage and save the town from it’s ghostly presence.

I know this all sounds a bit vague but I don’t want to give even a hint away. This is a novel that must be savored, and I don’t want to take that away from anyone who wants to read it.

I will tell you, this novel scared the pants off me. It took a while to build up but once it got there it was worth the wait. I spent many a night looking down the hallway making sure nothing was lurking there. I even thought about plugging in a nightlight. To me, this novel was the ultimate kind of scare. Like the Nightmare on Elm Street series, this novel dealt with entities invading your mind and taking control over your thoughts to show you things that aren’t real. They use your own thoughts, emotions, desires, and regrets to take control over you and make you do what they want of you. These entities muddy up the waters of perception and memory until you’re so confused you don’t know what’s up or down. You lose control of your faculties and are plunged into a facade of your desires before you realize that what you’ve entered is really a nightmare.

Even Stephen King has said that Ghost Story is one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century. For anyone that loves a good psychological scare, I would highly recommend this book. This novel, however, is a lot more than a horror novel. It’s a psychological look at the human condition and how the mind can be such a powerful force for good and for evil. It shows that perhaps the worst nightmare can be one of our own invention.

Rating: 5/5 Go out and get a copy immediately.

And please stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

The Walls Around Us

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There is a thin line between fact and fiction. The lies we tell ourselves easily become an undeniable truth. Letting us make sense of situations and move on from our faults. These lies let us place the blame on others so that we can continue to live our lives freely with only glimmers of doubt. The Walls Around Us beautifully explores the grey line between fact and fiction, morality, and denial.

Told in two different perspectives, The Walls Around Us surreptitiously makes it’s way around a crime, trying to explain what really happened to two murdered ballerinas in snippets and bits. First there is Amber, an inmate at the Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention Center committed of killing her abusive step father. In the detention center, she’s almost a ghost. Choosing to stay on the outskirts of conversations instead of jumping right in. This allows her a unique perspective on the life inside the detention center. The other voice we hear from is Violet, an eighteen year old ballerina intended for Juilliard. Through Amber and Violet we learn about another girl, the heart of the story, Orianna Speerling, convicted of murdering those two ballerinas. Ori is magnetic, drawing people to her because of her goodness and charisma. She sees the best in everything, a trait that ultimately leads to her downfall. Violet and Ori were best friends since childhood, bound by ballet, and Amber was Ori’s cellmate at Aurora Hills. The plot moves on hypnotically, pulling the reader down a dark and dangerous path to the denouement.

I don’t want to give to much away. This is one book you must read. The prose is magnetic, the characters achingly fleshed out. Neither of them is a reliable narrator, which makes the reader delve into their psyches trying to pull the truth from the lies. And let me tell you, the ending is a doozy. A Shirley Jacksonesque macabre envelopes the whole plot line. This is my favorite Nova Ren Suma book thus far. She is really a voice to be reckoned with. The story will stay with you long after you turn the last page. I was thinking about this one for a good 30 minutes after I finished it trying to piece together all of the clues. I wasn’t quite ready to leave these characters on the page.

Rating: 5/5 Please go out and read this Indie pick. You won’t be sorry you picked it up.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

Sci-Fi Mystery Mash Up

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Sci-Fi Mystery Mash Up

I have to say When You Reach Me was not what I expected it to be. I guess in my mind, from reading the synopsis on the back, I had conjured an image of a small Nancy Drew being thrown into some kind of crime, solving the case with some mishaps along the way, and catching the bad guys. But this book was something wholly different. Heavily influenced by Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time, When You Reach Me follows a 12 year old girl who mysteriously begins to receive letters from an unknown person telling her to write a letter with specific information included.

I read this book in one sitting, it flowed effortlessly from chapter to chapter that I couldn’t stop myself. Like the last book I read for the Book Battle, The Secret Place, this novel also deals with themes of friendship, growing up, and sacrifice. How do you branch out on your own, solve challenges for yourself, and become a better you?

The story begins with the friendship of Miranda and Sal, the epicenter of the book and for the events that follow. After Sal gets punched by an unknown boy, things start to get weird and Miranda begins to receive letters asking her to look for signs in order to prove to her that the letters are real. Of course she’s scared, though probably not as much as most adults would be. Then her friendship with Sal seems over and she can’t understand why. So she has to formulate new friendships and an identity outside of the Miranda and Sal bubble.

And of course there’s the time travel. It’s quite a thinker when the author begins to describe how it could be possible. You have to eliminate the possible, the rational, so that all that remains is the impossible. It’s a conundrum but a wonderful one. This book was incredible, subtle, and touching. I highly recommend it to both adults and to children. There is something here that everyone can connect with.

Rating: 5/5

Stay tuned for the next book of Book Battle 2015. Teaser well!

When You Reach Me

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When You Reach Me

The next phase of Book Battle 2015 is to choose a novel based solely upon the cover. Now I admit, I played around with this a lot and came up with Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me. I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile now and can’t wait to start. The premise is so promising, the blend of science fiction and mystery fascinating. Plus it takes place in the 1970’s in New York and won the Newberry Medal. Where can you go wrong?

The novel’s inspiration comes from a newspaper article about a man who was suffering from amnesia. Apparently while under hypnosis the man recalled his wife and two daughters died in a car accident. However, when he and his wife reunited it turned out that the woman was his fiancee and that they had no children. Taking the article, Stead creates a collage of her own childhood and favorite childhood book, A Wrinkle in Time, and creates something wholly new.

What are you reading next for Book Battle 2015? Anyone read When You Reach Me?