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The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu (audio)

Source: Purchase
Audible, 2+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

It’s been a Grimm’s Brothers kind of month of reading for me.

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu, narrated by Jim Boeven, weaves in myth from Germanic folklore about wolves and sets it just nearing the end of WWII.

Even as Berlin tries to tell its people that the war is not over, even the villages outside the cities can sense the tide is not in the motherland’s favor.

Uwe Fuchs has always considered himself a weakling and unworthy as he was unable to serve for the Reich and stayed behind to care for his own ailing mother. Despite his lot, he cared for his daughter and loved to share with her the dark fairy tales of the wood and wolves, though he feared she missed the point that the wolves represented the bad in the world. But in many ways it seems he missed the point as well.

The narration by Boeven was a bit stilted in the audio, which kept me from really falling into Katsu’s story fully. That was a real drawback for me. But the story itself is definitely a reaction to the political climate we find ourselves in and how it mirrors that of Nazi Germany with its fervor and us vs. them focus. The story itself is a cautionary tale that has roots in reality.

Katsu has knack for creating characters who are flawed and find themselves in otherworldly situations. Uwe is definitely flawed and those flaws are amplified by what happens to him, especially when he takes matters into his hands with the village fighters against the Allies in an effort to be part of the community. Will he be a man who cannot return to his former life?

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu, narrated by Jim Boeven, is a short story set in a historical period that highlighted much of the worst in humanity from eugenics to mass extinction efforts. Uwe is a man who is struggling with his own place in society and his community until he finds his pack. But will his one decision to join those working against the allies at the end of the war ruin his life forever?

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies and is currently a senior analyst for a think tank. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband.

Mailbox Monday #704

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Thank you to Velvet for stepping in when Mailbox Monday needed another host.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s What I Received:

The Art of Revision: The Last Word by Peter Ho Davies, which I purchased on recommendation from Melanie Figg.

In The Art of Revision: The Last Word, Peter Ho Davies takes up an often discussed yet frequently misunderstood subject. He begins by addressing the invisibility of revision―even though it’s an essential part of the writing process, readers typically only see a final draft, leaving the practice shrouded in mystery. To combat this, Davies pulls examples from his novels The Welsh Girl and The Fortunes, as well as from the work of other writers, including Flannery O’Connor, Carmen Machado, and Raymond Carver, shedding light on this slippery subject.

Davies also looks beyond literature to work that has been adapted or rewritten, such as books made into films, stories rewritten by another author, and the practice of retconning in comics and film. In an affecting frame story, Davies recounts the story of a violent encounter in his youth, which he then retells over the years, culminating in a final telling at the funeral of his father. In this way, the book arrives at an exhilarating mode of thinking about revision―that it is the writer who must change, as well as the writing. The result is a book that is as useful as it is moving, one that asks writers to reflect upon themselves and their writing.

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea from Kellogg’s Feeding Reading Program.

It’s the start of a new year at Snow Hill School, and seven students find themselves thrown together in Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class. There’s . . . Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school.

They don’t have much in common, and they’ve never gotten along. Not until a certain new teacher arrives and helps them to find strength inside themselves—and in each other. But when Mr. Terupt suffers a terrible accident, will his students be able to remember the lessons he taught them? Or will their lives go back to the way they were before—before fifth grade and before Mr. Terupt?

Find out what happens in sixth and seventh grades in Mr. Terupt Falls Again and Saving Mr. Terupt. And don’t miss the conclusion to the series, Goodbye, Mr. Terupt, coming soon!

Sway by Tricia Johnson for review.

Poems that welcome and embrace Mother Nature’s seasonal wind blown mysteries.

This book of poetry invites you to pause, kneel down in a meadow and experience the flora and fauna of Pennsylvania. To live among the rolling hills and valleys, as nature’s changing rhythms keep the time.

In Sway by Tricia Johnson, we imagine ourselves in the wilds of Nature with our heads resting on the back of our arms, eyes wide, observing the Living World.

The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu, purchased.

Germany, 1945. In the waning days of World War II, the Nazis have been all but defeated. Uwe Fuchs, never a fighter, feels fortunate to have avoided the front lines as he cared for his widowed mother.

But Uwe’s fortune changes when Hans Sauer, the village bully, recruits him to join a guerilla resistance unit preparing for the arrival of Allied soldiers. At first, Uwe is wary. The war is lost, and rumor has it that Hans is a deserter. But Hans entices him with talk of power, brutality, and their village’s ancestral lore: werewolves.

With some reluctance, Uwe joins up with the pack and soon witnesses their startling transformation. But when the men’s violent rampage against enemy soldiers takes a devastatingly personal turn, Uwe must grapple not only with his role in their evil acts but with his own humanity. Can he reclaim what this group of predatory men has stolen from him?

Or has he been a monster all along?

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #698

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

2 a.m.with Keats by Eileen Cleary for review.

As I read Eileen Cleary’s 2 a.m. with Keats, I felt breathless, suspended in a place of red keys, plum stones, cats, willows, and sphinxes. It would minimize the reach of this brilliant collection to call it an elegy or a eulogy, or even a love story to Lucie Brock-Broido or John Keats – though it is all of those things. Here, in this place where “the elm says Grief and the oak, Grief,” the poems shine and scatter across the pages like “a phantom of stars.” Cleary engages the rhythms of another world, of “sweet music honeyed and unheard,” where “Lucie reaches forty years back. . . .”

Embracing the quirkiness of Brock-Broido’s imagery and the love of Keats’s line, Cleary creates a séance of astronomy, searching for the origins of human and poetic magic, where “looking for signs means I’ve / once been broken.” I will return to 2 a.m. with Keats again and again, to remember Lucie and Keats, to inhale “rose milk . . . mint.” – Jennifer Martelli, author of In the Year of Ferraro

Also A Poet by Ada Calhoun for review.

When Ada Calhoun stumbled upon old cassette tapes of interviews her father, celebrated art critic Peter Schjeldahl, had conducted for his never-completed biography of poet Frank O’Hara, she set out to finish the book her father had started forty years earlier.

As a lifelong O’Hara fan who grew up amid his bohemian cohort in the East Village, Calhoun thought the project would be easy, even fun, but the deeper she dove, the more she had to face not just O’Hara’s past, but also her father’s, and her own.

The result is a groundbreaking and kaleidoscopic memoir that weaves compelling literary history with a moving, honest, and tender story of a complicated father-daughter bond. Also a Poet explores what happens when we want to do better than our parents, yet fear what that might cost us; when we seek their approval, yet mistrust it.

In reckoning with her unique heritage, as well as providing new insights into the life of one of our most important poets, Calhoun offers a brave and hopeful meditation on parents and children, artistic ambition, and the complexities of what we leave behind.

Red London by Alma Katsu from NetGalley.

After an explosive takedown of a well-placed mole within the CIA, agent Lyndsey Duncan has been tasked with keeping tabs on her newest Russian asset, deadly war criminal Dmitri Tarasenko. She arrives in London fully focused on the assignment at hand, until her MI6 counterpart, Davis Ranford, the very person responsible for ending her last mission overseas after they were caught in a whirlwind affair, personally calls for her.

After a suspicious attack on a powerful Russian oligarch’s property on Billionaires’ Row in the toniest neighborhood in London, Davis needs Lyndsey to cozy up to the billionaire’s aristocratic British wife, Emily Rotenberg. Lyndsey’s job is to obtain any and all information related to Emily’s husband, Mikhail Rotenberg, and his relationship with the new Russian president, whom CIA and MI6 believe is responsible for the sudden mysterious disappearance of his predecessor, the Hard Man. Fortunately for Lyndsey, there’s little to dissuade Emily from taking in a much-needed confidante. After all, misery needs company.

But before Lyndsey can cover much ground with her newfound friend, the CIA unveils a perturbing connection between Mikhail and Russia’s geopolitical past, one that could dangerously upend the world order as we know it. As the pressure to turn Emily becomes higher than ever, Lyndsey must walk a fine and ever-changing line to keep the oligarch’s fortune from falling into Russian hands and plunging the world into a new, disastrous geopolitical reality.

Red London is a nuanced, race-against-the-clock story that at times feels eerily set against today’s headlines, a testament to author Alma Katsu’s thirty-plus career in national security. It’s a rare spy novel written by an insider that feels as prescient as it is page-turning and utterly unforgettable.

What did you receive?

The Fervor by Alma Katsu

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 320 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Fervor by Alma Katsu is the perfect balance of suspense, supernatural, and historical fiction. Meiko and Aiko Briggs are interned in Minidoka during WWII, while Meiko’s husband, Jamie, fights overseas as a pilot. The story shifts from 1944 to 1927 where we learn a little bit about Meiko’s family history and her father’s atmospheric research. What her father uncovered while working on a remote Japanese island Shikotan will come into play later.

Readers also will meet Archie and Elsie, the preacher and his wife, who were family friends of the Briggs. Something comes between the foursome when the war breaks out. When white motes appear and explosions happen in remote places across the United States, a fervor starts to take hold.

“She looked at the smoldering heap, which still billowed and heaved in the night air, like a breathing creature, tentacled and ashen.” (pg. 35-6)

Working in the background is an intrepid reporter who uncovers a secret balloon in the woods with strange writing. She starts to piece together the fervor taking hold in small, remote towns across America. No one is immune, not even the preacher. Katsu’s interned characters are strong, but they shouldn’t have to be. They are Americans and love their country, and Mr. Briggs is sacrificing himself for freedom.

The Fervor by Alma Katsu is a work of fiction, but she captures the atmosphere of WWII in America and the fervor that caught up so many and led to the interment (read imprisonment) of American citizens. I’ve read a number of books about this period and these camps, but there should be more about this time period taught to students across the country. We need more brave souls to examine our not-so-great history, so that a new/old fervor doesn’t take over and lead to more dark U.S. history.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies and is currently a senior analyst for a think tank. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband.

Mailbox Monday #681

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

The Fervor by Alma Katsu, which I pre-ordered because it combines my favorite things to read about.

1944: As World War II rages on, the threat has come to the home front. In a remote corner of Idaho, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, are desperate to return home. Following Meiko’s husband’s enlistment as an air force pilot in the Pacific months prior, Meiko and Aiko were taken from their home in Seattle and sent to one of the internment camps in the Midwest. It didn’t matter that Aiko was American-born: They were Japanese, and therefore considered a threat by the American government.

Mother and daughter attempt to hold on to elements of their old life in the camp when a mysterious disease begins to spread among those interned. What starts as a minor cold quickly becomes spontaneous fits of violence and aggression, even death. And when a disconcerting team of doctors arrive, nearly more threatening than the illness itself, Meiko and her daughter team up with a newspaper reporter and widowed missionary to investigate, and it becomes clear to them that something more sinister is afoot, a demon from the stories of Meiko’s childhood, hell-bent on infiltrating their already strange world.

Inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon, The Fervor explores the horrors of the supernatural beyond just the threat of the occult. With a keen and prescient eye, Katsu crafts a terrifying story about the danger of demonization, a mysterious contagion, and the search to stop its spread before it’s too late. A sharp account of too-recent history, it’s a deep excavation of how we decide who gets to be human when being human matters most.

What did you receive?

Red Widow by Alma Katsu (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible: 10+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Red Widow by Alma Katsu, narrated by Mozhan Marnò, is a thriller but from a female CIA analyst’s point of view. Don’t let the word “analyst” make you think this is all data focused because it isn’t.

Lyndsey Duncan, the so-called human lie detector, is called into CIA headquarters by Eric Newman to investigate the murder of a Russian asset and a potential mole within either U.S.-based CIA or its Russian counterpart agency. She is warned to stay away from the widow, Theresa Warner, who is obviously the mole referenced by Katsu’s book title. For me, the story is not about the hunt for the mole, but about the clandestine agency’s backstabbing, infighting, lack of loyalty, and agents’ expendability. It’s about the high-wire act that agents dangle on every day, attempting to protect our freedoms and stave off attacks and other horrible events.

The narrator of Katsu’s book is fantastic with all of the voices. Each character is well fleshed out and discernible in conversations and interactions. I loved the narrator. I loved that this book showcased female protagonists, but the story was a bit too predictable, which I chock up to reading too many other spy novels and police-based books. It’s hard to surprise me with twists and turns in these kinds of books. One other thing that bothered me, is that Lyndsey is slow to realize she’s a pawn. I felt like she was smarter than that. We all have flaws and blindspots, and perhaps that is what trips up Lyndsey in this novel.

Red Widow by Alma Katsu, narrated by Mozhan Marnò, is a spy thriller I wanted to love, but I just ended up liking. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth reading because it was, and I hope this is a genre that Katsu continues to explore, though I admit I prefer her horror and paranormal books.

RATING: Tercet

Mailbox Monday #662

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

Red Widow by Alma Katsu, which I purchased from Audible.

Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during an assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague – now chief of the Russia Division – recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, where she was known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been exposed – including one of her own – and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.

Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow”, the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she unearths a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it….

What did you receive?

Best Books of 2020

2020 felt strange. It was by turns too busy and too erratic, and my reading reflected that.

January: 8 books                                July: 8 books

February: 9 books                              August: 9 books

March: 6 books                                   Sept.: 7 books

April: 5 books                                      Oct.: 11 books

May: 8 books                                       Nov.: 5 books

June: 6 books                                      Dec.: 10 books

As you can see, it seems like when the pandemic first hit here and kids were sent home from school for virtual learning in March, my reading fell off. That is not unexpected. I’m not sure what was going on in June that dropped my reading, but at the end of the year, November was the most stressful at work in terms of workload. December was still stressful for other reasons at work, but I had more days off that month to read and just relax.

Here are some other reading stats I compiled because I was curious in this year of COVID-19 and political unease.

# of Books Read: 95

# of Books Reviewed: 91 (some will be reviewed in 2021)

# of Audiobooks: 17

# of Kids books: 34 (this is where I spent a lot of time with my reluctant reader)

# of Nonfiction: 11

# of Adult Fiction: 23

# of Memoir: 7

# of Poetry: 24

Some of these numbers will include books that crossover into another genre or category. For instance, some memoir were also poetry, while others were audio as well as fiction.

Now, for what you’re all probably curious about — My favorite books from 2020.

Not all were published last year.

I picked my top 2-3 in each category (but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have other books that I considered top books)

Top Kids Reads in 2020:

Katt vs. Dogg by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein was my daughter’s favorite book last year, and she wanted this to be a series, but when we checked there was no book 2. Our review is here. We call this one a “page turner.”

Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor, which we both wanted to continue reading past her bed time to solve the mystery. Our review is here. “What I love about this series is the harder words that she has to sound out.”

Top Nonfiction:

America the Beautiful: A Story in Photographs, published by National Geographic. Our review is here. I said that this “is a love story for our nation.”

 

 

 

Top Memoir:

Memorial Drive by Natasha Tretheway is a riveting “tale of healing and reconciling the past. Trethewey relies not only on her memory but on her mother’s own writing, testimony, and recorded phone conversations. I was emotionally wrecked by this memoir.” My review is here.

Who’s Your Daddy by Arisa White, which actually will be published in 2021, but my pre-ordered book came quickly and I couldn’t wait to read it. This is a “journey into the poet’s past as she reconciles the abandonment of her father and her struggles with connecting to others. The poetic memoir is beautiful and the landscapes within it (emotional and physical) are tumultuous and heartbreaking.” My review is here.

 

Top Fiction:

Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Buchanan is a book that surprised me this year. It started off slowly, and I typically don’t read this time period, but as Buchanan built the world of the Druids in Britannia, I became more captivated. It’s like the book wove a spell over me. The book depicts a “struggle for survival amid a world of secrets and lies, political gains and losses, and magic.” My review is here.

The Deep by Alma Katsu is a gothic tale aboard the Britannic, the sister ship of the Titanic. This novel is atmospheric and has ghosts. How can you go wrong with this tale? “Katsu has a wide cast of characters in this novel, but she balances them very well against the historical details, and the suspense is palpable.” I also loved that the ocean played a major role in this tale and became a character all its own. My review is here.

My final pick in this category is actually a tie:

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner, which surprised me because it “pays homage to Austen in a way that many other variations don’t. She understands the Austen characters and their motivations, but in creating her characters and their motivations they are not talking to us as Austen’s characters but fans of Austen’s words, her thoughts, her dream.” It also doesn’t hurt that Richard Armitage narrated this audiobook. My review is here.

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd is a collection of short stories that skillfully depict the inner thoughts and character of Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet in a variety of modern and historical periods and situations. These stories hit it “out of the park with a range of angst, love, prejudice, and pride.” My review is here.

 

Top Poetry:

Raising King by Joseph Ross demonstrates the strength of compassion and empathy as a way forward in building a community that will no longer tear at its own foundations and rise up. My review is here.

Girls Like Us by Elizabeth Hazen explores female identity, speaking to the harmful tropes and labels of society. It is a “map in the darkness …” on a road to healing. My review is here.

My Name is Immigrant by Wang Ping is ripe with ghosts who haunt these pages. The collection “haunts, sings, rages, and breathes.” My review is here.

 

The poetry selections were tough for me this year, because I originally had 8 collections on my list. I pared it down to these three.

What were your favorite reads from 2020? I can always use recommendations (or can I?)

The Deep by Alma Katsu

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 432 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Deep by Alma Katsu is a historical fiction novel centered around the Titanic and her sister ship the Britannic and the young Anne Hebbley, a stewardess in first class on the Titanic and a nurse’s aid on the Britannic. Through all the glitz and glamor of first class with John Jacob Astor and Lady Duff-Gordon we see the dismissive attitude of others and the entitlement they all carry. However, there are some cases in which these wealthy passengers show kindness and empathy toward their fellow passengers. Katsu has a wide cast of characters in this novel, but she balances them very well against the historical details, and the suspense is palpable as the young boy serving the Astor’s dies mysteriously aboard the Titanic shortly after a seance. The narrative shifts between this past and the Hebbley’s present as a nursing aid on the Britannic. She wonders why she’s agreed to be on the sea again, after her near death on the Titanic.

“Fear was a chained dog, startling and rough and always dangerously close, stretching its leash, baring fangs.” (pg. 24)

Ms. Hebbley is a young woman who is rudderless without family support and haunting memories of a lost love. The past swirls about these characters, scooping them up into a whirlpool of sadness and regret. From the decisions they made that went awry to the regrettable loss of loved ones that they still feel guilty about, Hebbley, Mark Fletcher, and others are burdened and susceptible to the supernatural forces around them. Katsu’s research into the Titanic and Britannic shines through in her novel, and I loved that she provided new characters beyond the ones everyone knows like Astor. This made the story line even more believable and allowed the supernatural elements to weave seamlessly into the story. I loved the backstories of the characters in this cast, and I particularly loved the Gothic atmosphere Katsu created.

In The Deep by Alma Katsu’s characters are burdened by their guilt at the bargains they have made with themselves and others, with how they act toward those they love and how they have come to be where they are. From Hebbley to Fletcher, the secrets become too heavy and have no where left to go but out into the silent ear of the ocean. The ocean becomes their confessional, and there is little room for half-truths and denials — the ocean will make them all pay dearly for those.

RATING: Cinquain

Mailbox Monday #573

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, which I purchased.

After successfully solving the mystery of the ghost in the library, Kaz and Claire land the first case for their detective agency—a haunted attic in a neighbor’s home! With a little help from Grannie, Kaz and Claire discover that what appeared to be something spooky has a much simpler explanation.

 

The Deep by Alma Katsu, which I purchased.

Someone, or something, is haunting the ship. Between mysterious disappearances and sudden deaths, the guests of the Titanic have found themselves suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone from the moment they set sail. Several of them, including maid Annie Hebley, guest Mark Fletcher, and millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, are convinced there’s something sinister–almost otherwordly–afoot. But before they can locate the source of the danger, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later, Annie, having survived that fateful night, has attempted to put her life back together. Working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic‘s sister ship, the Britannic, newly refitted as a hospital ship, she happens across an unconscious Mark, now a soldier fighting in World War I. At first, Annie is thrilled and relieved to learn that he too survived the sinking, but soon, Mark’s presence awakens deep-buried feelings and secrets, forcing her to reckon with the demons of her past–as they both discover that the terror may not yet be over.

What did you receive?

Best Books in 2018

I read fewer books this year, but some of them were fantastic. A lot of the best books I read were poetry. I did read some really great children’s books, too.

I’ve decided to keep the list short this year to only those books that stayed with me long after reading them. This does not mean the other books I rated five stars or four stars were any less fantastic.

Without further ado, here’s my list of the best reads from my year in reading:

1. The Hunger by Alma Katsu is my favorite kind of horror book — based in reality, elements of the supernatural, and deep tension.(my review)

2. Crumb-Sized by Marlena Chertock readers will be immersed in the narrator’s life of debilitating daily pain and how to cope and turn negatives in positives. (my review)

3. Nevertheless, We Persisted, with a foreword by Sen. Amy Klobuchar is a phenomenal collection of essays from those who have endured darkness and seen the light at the end of the tunnel. (my review)

4. Louisiana Catch by Sweta Vikram is fiction that exposes real life dangers that face many of us in the 24/7 social media world we’ve created. From catfishing to abuse, Vikram has developed a multi-layered novel of survival and strength. (my review)

5. Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown is the one children’s book that my daughter reads over and over when she wants to read before bed, during the day, or any time really. Rabbit lead character with an active imagination. (my review)

6. How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is a love letter to the past and the passing of a mother. Told beautifully, Aptowicz examines the anxieties we all feel when loved ones do not assuage our fears that they didn’t arrive home safely and explores the empty spaces in between when we say “see you soon” and when it is too late to see them. (my review)

What books are on your best of 2018 lists?

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 376 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

A shadowy mist of sin plagues this wagon train led by the Donner family as a group of families make their way west to California. The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a story that creates an unsettling atmosphere as the pages turn, and as the party nears the mountain range where most of us know they became trapped by an early and heavy snowfall, readers will feel the darkness closing in on them even as the bonfires are lit to keep the darkness at bay.

“Everyone agreed it had been a bad winter, one of the worst in recollection.” (pg. 1)

“It was untrustworthy, that snow: It hid crevices, steep drop-offs. Snow kept secrets.” (pg. 2)

Throughout the novel, Katsu draws in her readers with the tales of woe that follow many of the wagon train’s members, including Charles Stanton, James Reed, and Tamsen Donner. These characters are integral to the success and failure of the wagon train, but they also enable Katsu to weave in her supernatural element with roots in Native American myth. Even the trail becomes a character, offering false paths, danger, and hope.

Katsu has a deep understanding of how humans act and react in scary situations, particularly those in which a wrong move could lead to death. From a man so eager to lead even when he doesn’t have the necessary experience to the man on the outskirts of the group because he is a single man in a wagon train of families, Katsu’s characters are nuanced, dynamic, and struggling internally as much as they are with the harsh environment they agreed to take on. Her writing just gets better and better with each book; this is one of her best written to date.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu creeps into your soul, searching for the wisps of guilt that hide in our own shadows and whispering dark thoughts that will leave you awake at night. This is suspenseful and horrifying, and it’s not just the expected cannibalism that will eat away at you.

RATING: Cinquain

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About the Author:

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies and is currently a senior analyst for a think tank. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband.