The Vanishing Season

The Vanishing Season is the conclusion of The Collector series by Dot Hutchinson.

There are some cases that stick with you and there are others that you never stop working. For FBI agent Eliza Sterling and Brandon Eddison a recent child abduction case will test them in every way possible.

When eight-year old Brooklyn Mercer goes missing the hunt gets personal when the clues lead to a trail of abductions going back more than thirty years, including Brandon’s own sister, Faith, who was abducted decades earlier.

As the pain and trauma of the past plagues Eddison, Eliza is determined to solve the case at all costs but the closer she gets to an answer the higher the emotional toll on all the team.

It’s a race against time and for Eliza and the rest of the CAC team…. it’s more than personal.

I really enjoyed this entire series. How we start off with Inara and Vic and how the story was viewed more from the victims point of view, then how we shift to getting the cases from the perspective of the agents.

One of the things that struck me as unique about every book was the narrative. I loved how these stories were told; that something rang similar in each of them but the narrators brought their own personality/perspectives/traumas to the story. I thought this was really great and allowed the reader to witness these crimes from another perspective; to see how the personal and the professional overlap.

I also thought that The Vanishing Season was a fitting ending for the series as a whole. Faith is brought up from the very beginning of the series and finally, her case is being brought to the surface. The team has also come a long way since the beginning of the series, so it was nice to see that acknowledged here.

This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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American Gods

American Gods is a classic adult fiction novel by Neil Gaiman.

Only a few days before his release from a three year prison sentence, Shadow learns that his wife and best friend were killed in a car crash and suddenly he doesn’t really have anything to go home to. As he makes his way home regardless, Shadow meets an older gentleman named, Mr. Wednesday, who claims to be a former god.

With nothing else to lose and unable to explain the strange things happening around him, Shadow decides to join the old man on a journey across the country. Together the  two, embark on a journey cross America to recruit people like Wednesday for the coming conflict.

Who are these American Gods and what role will Shadow have to play before the end?

American Gods was chosen by my bookclub as our next read and it’s one I’ve been interested in, so I was happy to pick it up. I actually had to place a hold on it and got the audio book first. And the version I got was the author’s preferred version, which is 12,000 words longer. So hours of happy listening for me!

When I first started this book, I wasn’t really sure what was going on. Honestly, I’m not sure I knew what was going on at times throughout the book, but it didn’t really bother me as much as it normally would.

I liked Shadow and his, go with the flow, attitude. He has maybe a moment of doubt and then just sort of accepts the weird and unexplainable and this was actually kind of refreshing in a character.

Once I understood what was happening, I also enjoyed this battle between the new and old gods. I’m sure we’ll have much to discuss in my book club about the technical gods and the classic ones.

There were parts that I thought were drawn out longer than they needed to be, but that could just be because I was reading the preferred version. It was also maybe a smidgen crass, although that might not be the word I am looking for. Let’s just say, I wasn’t comfortable listening to it out loud if little ones were around.

Overall, I enjoyed it. I’m not really sure what to rate it, so I am going to go with 3.5-4 stars for now, but this might change after a good round of discussion.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Summer Children

The Summer Children by Dot Hutchinson is the third book in The Collector series.

When Agent Mercedes Ramirez finds an abused child on her porch, clutching a teddy bear and saying her name, she has no idea that the trouble is only beginning. This angel is killed the parents of abused children and she isn’t just killing them, she is slaughtering them and making the children watch.

Ramirez and the rest of her team must stop this angel before her murders turn into a spree. But one by one children keep appearing on her doorstep with the same story of an avenging angel with a teddy bear.

As the case opens old scars for Ramirez, spirals into her past and begins to question her actions. Can she and her team must catch this killer before it is too late for everyone?

I don’t know how I am a year behind on this series because I loved the first two books. The Butterfly Garden was dark and had an interesting narrative. Roses of May brought back a few of our characters with a whole new serial killer and this new one we really get to see the team at work. That was one of the things I really liked about this one, the team. It was really nice to get a closer look at the agents and see why each of them went into Crimes Against Children. And seeing how close they are and how they come together to get past the “bad days,” brings a light to a pretty dark theme.

I know I said this in my reviews of the first two books but one of the things I like most about this series is that the rape and abuse happens almost abstractly. We are being told it has happened, we don’t actually “watch” is happen and I appreciate that.

I do wish I wasn’t so lazy and that I looked up the Spanish that was spoken throughout. The one time I did, it totally added to the story. Sigh. Just didn’t want to take myself out of the moment to look the lines up.

Another high 4 stars for me. Annnnd because I waited so long, I get to read the last one right away!

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Lost Girls of Paris

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff is an adult historical fiction novel by the same author of The Orphan’s Tale.

It’s 1946 in New York City, the war is over and Grace Healey is attempting to rebuild her life after losing her husband. One morning, running late to work, Grace is passing through Grand Central Station when she trips over an unattended suitcase. Unable to ignore her curiosity, she looks through the bag and finds photographs of twelve women. In the moment, Grace grabs the photos and goes on her way.

Later, Grace learns that the suitcase belongs to the recently deceased, Eleanor Trigg, the leader of a group of female secret agents, sent to infiltrate occupied Paris before the start of the war. She become obsessed with finding the truth of Eleanor and the girl’s stories.

And so begins the story of Grace as she hunts for the truth, Eleanor as she creates and runs the resistance, and Marie, one of the female operators who never came home.

This was a good story but, I must be reading too much historical fiction lately, because my feelings toward it are only so-so.

One of the main problems I had with the book was that the story-lines, specifically Marie’s, had no build up. I felt like there was a beginning and an ending but no middle. I understand that emotions run high during wartime but there really needed to be at least some relationship building. It was like a chunk of Marie’s story and even to some extent Eleanor’s story was left out.

I did like reading about the female agents, how they were recruited and trained and also how the men came to really rely on them. Women’s role in early conflicts are always interesting to learn about.

This one probably deserves more than three stars but for now, I am historical fiction-ed out.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Huntress

The Huntress by Kate Quinn is a historical fiction novel that jumps between three narratives that span pre/post WWII.

Brusque and bold Nina Markova grew up in the middle of nowhere in the Soviet Union. As soon as she can, she escapes her hometown and flees to Moscow, where she learns to fly. When war approaches, she joins the infamous Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment, where she thrives. When her plane goes down behind enemy lines, Nina must fight to survive, a fight that gets even harder when she comes across a Nazi murderess known as The Huntress.

British war correspondent Ian Graham, has seen it all and now that that war is over, he has given up writing to track and capture Nazi war criminals. But one target has eluded him, The Huntress, and for him, this hunt is personal.

Seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride grows up in post WWII Boston, and is expected to marry her high school sweetheart and keep house but all she wants to do is to become a photographer. When her dad brings home a fiancé, a German widow with secrets, Jordan is suspicious. Armed only with her camera and her head, Jordan investigates her step-mother-to-be at the risk of her father’s happiness.

In a story that spans over ten years and multiple continents, The Huntress is a story full of twists and turns.

When I first started this one, I had just finished a few other historical fiction novels and was sort of over the past/present narrative. But after a few eyerolls because of that, I got over it and really got into the story.

Overall, the story was fine. It was entertaining and I liked how everything intertwined. But I LOVED the Night Witches and Nina’s story. This was a part of history, I wasn’t aware of and getting a glimpse at this all female bomber group was fantastic. I could have read a whole book just on Nina.

I also liked Jordan’s story and the way she grows throughout, but mostly the way she thinks. I was not as impressed with Ian’s narrative. It just didn’t catch my interested as much and I found myself just wanting to get through it to get back to the women.

The Huntress is probably not my favorite historical fiction, but it did keep my interest. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Warlight

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is an adult historical fiction novel.

It is 1945 and London and the rest of Europe are still reeling from the war. In it’s aftermath, two children and all but abandoned by their parents and left in the care of a strange man, whom the suspect to be a criminal. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel, thought their parents were going overseas for work, but when they find their mother’s steamer trunk hidden away, they come to understand that much of what they know is a lie.

As Nathaniel and Rachel come to know their enigmatic caretaker and his crew of shadowy compatriots, they become less concerned with their circumstances and embrace the intrigue and the cards they have been dealt.

Thirteen years later, Nathaniel tries to reconcile that mysterious time in his life. He longs to know the truth about his secretive mother and why she abandoned them all those years ago. He wants to know what happened to the crew of misfits who molded him into the man he is today. But more than anything he wants to shine a light on the shadows that still haunt his memory.

Hmmm this one is a hard to review. Mostly because I lost interest about halfway through. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, when Nathaniel was a boy and getting into trouble. I loved his time with the Data and Agnes and his interactions with the other adults constantly coming in and out of his life. But once we jump to his adult life, it wasn’t as interesting to me. It should have been because, like Nathaniel, I wanted to know what was really happened and yet it wasn’t. And because of this, I sort of stopped paying close attention to the story, which could be why the second half got a little confusing for me.

I realize that, as an adult, Nathaniel was searching for facts about his mother’s life. But from what I read, it sounded like he wasn’t getting very far and yet there are these long excerpts from her life. Is Nathaniel making these up to create his own narrative based on what he finds? Did these snip-its of the past really happen and they are only for the readers benefit? I’m leaning toward the former based on his internalizations toward the end, but who knows. And that bugs me.

Yes, there may be more to this story. Could it be a commentary on the secretive nature of this second world war? Maybe. Is it a coming of age story? Somewhat. What is the actual point of the story? I’m not sure. And that is why this story only gets a grudging three stars from me. While parts of it were good, I just didn’t get it. It’s a shame because I loved the narrator of the audio book too.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Power

The Power by Naomi Alderman is an adult dystopian novel.

Imagine a world where you wake up one day and the balance of power has shifted. A world where the power lies in the hands (or collar bones) of women.

When the change happened it started slow. At first only teenage girls could feel the power and produce electrical sparks. But soon women everywhere could wield the electricity lying beneath their skin. And from there, things happened quickly.

And when something like this happens in a world where women are oppressed and considered the weaker sex, how might this change the way we live?

Ooo. This one has a lot of triggers, so a warning for our sensitive readers: rape, violence, language and some fairly graphic images. But if you are reading The Power for a book club, like I am, then there is a lot to talk about. I can see a lot of opinions and back and forth happening as we discuss the book.

Overall, I am not sure quite how I feel about this book. It was interesting to read a book where women get power and the world isn’t better for it. I think, at least part of this book, aims to be a commentary on how power corrupts, period.

I did like the narrative of this book. I enjoyed the rotating points of view and how they did intertwine but not completely. I did, at first struggle with the fact that we were reading a fictional history of what may or may not have happened five-thousand years earlier. It didn’t work as an opener for me BUT it was an excellent closing. I really enjoyed the back and forth between the male writer and the female reviewer–especially that closing line! I had sort of a “ha!” reaction.

As for the characters and the plot, it was rough to read and unfortunately very believable. The way the author had the conflicts start to devolve and break down, was just so plausible. I sort of cringe hoping we don’t get to that point, in society, where we’re just like, “eh, screw it.” Scary to think about honestly.

I am very interested to see what my fellow book club members think because I can foresee some serious reactions. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-