09. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli, 208 pages, read by Helen, on 08/23/2013

He’s a boy called Jew. Gypsy. Stopthief. Runt. Happy. Fast. Filthy son of Abraham.

He’s a boy who lives in the streets of Warsaw. He’s a boy who steals food for himself and the other orphans. He’s a boy who believes in bread, and mothers, and angels. He’s a boy who wants to be a Nazi some day, with tall shiny jackboots and a gleaming Eagle hat of his own. Until the day that suddenly makes him change his mind. And when the trains come to empty the Jews from the ghetto of the damned, he’s a boy who realizes it’s safest of all to be nobody.

Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli takes us to one of the most devastating settings imaginable-Nazi-occupied Warsaw of World War II-and tells a tale of heartbreak, hope, and survival through the bright eyes of a young orphan.

09. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

Those who save us by Jenna Blum, 482 pages, read by Helen, on 08/14/2013

For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.

Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life.

Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.

09. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Mystery

American Rust by Philipp Meyer, 367 pages, read by Helen, on 08/06/2013

Set in a beautiful but economically devastated Pennsylvania steel town, a lush landscape as deceptively promising as the edifices of the abandoned steel mills, “American Rust” is a novel of the lost American dream and the desperation that arises in its absence.

09. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction, Paranormal

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley, 424 pages, read by Helen, on 08/01/2013

In the waning months of World War II, young Evelyn Roe’s life is transformed when she finds what she takes to be a badly burned soldier, all but completely buried in the heavy red-clay soil on her family’s farm in North Carolina. When Evelyn rescues the stranger, it quickly becomes clear he is not a simple man. As innocent as a newborn, he recovers at an unnatural speed, and then begins to changeâ#128;#148;first into Evelyn’s mirror image, and then into her complement, a man she comes to know as Adam.

Evelyn and Adam fall in love, sharing a connection that reaches to the essence of Evelyn’s being. But the small town where they live is not ready to accept the likes of Adam, and his unusual origin becomes the secret at the center of their seemingly normal marriage.

Adam proves gifted with horses, and together he and Evelyn establish a horse-training business. They raise five daughters, each of whom possesses something of Adam’s supernatural gifts. Then a tragic accident strikes the family, and Adam, in his grief, reveals his extraordinary character to the local community. Evelyn and Adam must flee to Florida with their daughters to avoid ostracism and prying doctors. Adrift in their new surroundings, they soon realize that the difference between Adam and other men is greater than they ever imagined.

Intensely moving and unforgettable, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope captures the beauty of the natural world, and explores the power of abiding love and otherness in all its guises. It illuminates the magic in ordinary life and makes us believe in the extraordinary.

29. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Helen

The Ocean at the end of the lane by Neil Gaiman, 259 pages, read by Helen, on 07/18/2013

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

29. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Thriller/Suspense

Stay close by Harlan Coben, 399 pages, read by Helen, on 07/11/2013

Megan is a suburban soccer mom who once upon a time walked on the wild side. Now she’s got two kids, a perfect husband, a picket fence, and a growing sense of dissatisfaction. Ray used to be a talented documentary photographer, but at age forty he finds himself in a dead- end job posing as a paparazzo pandering to celebrity-obsessed rich kids. Jack is a detective who can’t let go of a cold case-a local husband and father disappeared seventeen years ago, and Jack spends the anniversary every year visiting a house frozen in time, the missing man’s family still waiting, his slippers left by the recliner as if he might show up any moment to step into them.

Three people living lives they never wanted, hiding secrets that even those closest to them would never suspect, will find that the past doesn’t recede. Even as the terrible consequences of long-ago events crash together in the present and threaten to ruin lives, they will come to the startling realization that they may not want to forget the past at all. And as each confronts the dark side of the American Dream- the boredom of a nice suburban life, the excitement of temptation, the desperation and hunger that can lurk behind even the prettiest facades- they will discover the hard truth that the line between one kind of life and another can be as whisper-thin as a heartbeat.

29. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Thriller/Suspense

Darkness under the sun by Dean Koontz, 62 pages, read by Helen, on 07/04/2013

The chilling account of a pivotal encounter between innocence and ultimate malice, ‘Darkness Under the Sun’ is the perfect read for Halloween — or for any haunted night — and reveals a secret, fateful turning point in the career of Alton Turner Blackwood, the killer at the dark heart of ‘What the Night Knows’, the forthcoming novel by #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz.

There once was a killer who knew the night, its secrets and rhythms. How to hide within its shadows. When to hunt.

He roamed from town to town, city to city, choosing his prey for their beauty and innocence. His cruelties were infinite, his humanity long since forfeit. But still . . . he had not yet discovered how to make his special mark among monsters, how to come fully alive as Death.

This is the story of how he learned those things, and of what we might do to ensure that he does not visit us.

29. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Helen

Quail Crossings by Jennifer McMurrain, 310 pages, read by Helen, on 07/24/2013

Tragedy has struck the small town of Knollwood, Texas and Dovie Grant finds herself dealing with the loss of her husband and daughter. Despite her grief, she still must fight to bring her remaining family through the already trying times of The Great Depression. Her father needs help on their struggling farm, Quail Crossings. She isn’t thrilled that he’s hired a young 18 year old boy who’s caring for his three younger siblings. Surviving her grief, as well as the constant dust storms that plague the plains, will Dovie be able to put her pain aside to care for these children or be forever trapped in the darkness of the loss in her family.

29. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Thriller/Suspense

A Good and happy child by Justin Evans, 322 pages, read by Helen, on 07/17/2013

Thirty-year-old George Davies can’t bring himself to hold his newborn son. After months of accepting his lame excuses and strange behavior, his wife has had enough. She demands that he see a therapist, and George, desperate to save his unraveling marriage and redeem himself as a father and husband, reluctantly agrees. As he delves into his childhood memories, he begins to recall things he hasn’t thought of in twenty years. Events, people, and strange situations come rushing back. The odd, rambling letters his father sent home before he died. The jovial mother who started dating too soon after his father’s death. A boy who appeared one night when George was lonely, then told him secrets he didn’t want to know. How no one believed this new friend was real and that he was responsible for the bad things that were happening. Terrified by all that he has forgotten, George struggles to remember what really happened in the months following his father’s death. Were his ominous visions and erratic behavior the product of a grief-stricken child’s overactive imagination (a perfectly natural reaction to the trauma of loss, as his mother insisted)? Or were his father’s colleagues, who blamed a darker, more malevolent force, right to look to the supernatural as a means to end George’s suffering? Twenty years later, George still does not know. But when a mysterious murder is revealed, remembering the past becomes the only way George can protect himself–and his young family.

29. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Mystery

Sacrifice fly by Tim O'Mara, 307 pages, read by Helen, on 07/10/2013

Raymond Donne wasn’t always a schoolteacher. Not only did he patrol the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as one of New York’s Finest, but being the nephew of the chief of detectives, he was expected to go on to bigger things. At least he was until the accident that all but destroyed his knees. Unable to do the job the way he wanted, he became a teacher in the same neighborhood, and did everything he could to put the force behind him and come to terms with the change. Then Frankie Rivas, a student in Ray’s class and a baseball phenom, stops showing up to school. With Frankie in danger of failing and missing out on a scholarship, Ray goes looking for him only to find Frankie’s father bludgeoned to death in their apartment. Frankie and his younger sister are gone, possibly on the run. But did Frankie really kill his father? Ray can’t believe it. But then who did, and where are Frankie and his sister?

29. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

Benjamin Franklin's bastard by Sally Cabot, 353 pages, read by Helen, on 07/03/2013

Sixteen-year-old Anne is an uneducated serving girl at the Penny Pot tavern when she first meets the commanding Benjamin Franklin. The time she spends with the brilliant young printer teases her curious mind, and the money he provides keeps her family from starving. But the ambitious Franklin is committed to someone else, a proper but infatuated woman named Deborah Read who becomes his common-law wife. At least Anne has William, her cherished infant son, to remind her of his father and to soften some of life’s bleakness.

But growing up a bastard amid the squalor of Eades Alley isn’t the life Anne wants for her only son. Acutely aware of the challenges facing them, she makes a heartbreaking sacrifice. She will give up William forever, allowing Benjamin and Deborah Franklin to raise him as their own.

Though she cannot be with him, Anne secretly watches out for her beloved child, daring to be close to him without revealing the truth about herself or his birth, and standing guard as Deborah Franklin struggles to accept her husband’s bastard son as her own.

As the years pass, the bustling colonies grow and prosper, offering opportunities for wealth and power for a talented man like William’s father. Benjamin’s growing fame and connections as a scientist, writer, philosopher, businessman, and political genius open doors for the astute William as well, and eventually King George III appoints Benjamin’s bastard son to the new position of Royal Governor of New Jersey. Anne’s fortunes also rise. A shrewd woman of many talents, she builds a comfortable life of her own;yet nothing fills her with more joy or pride than her son’s success and happiness.

But all that her accomplished son has achieved is threatened when the colonies led by influential men, including his own father; begin the fight for independence. A steadfast, loyal subject of the British Crown, William cannot accept his father’s passionate defense of the patriots’ cause, and the enduring bond they share fractures, a heart-wrenching break that will forever haunt them and those they love.

27. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

Mrs Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini, 356 pages, read by Helen, on 06/20/2013

Presents a fictionalized account of the friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave.

27. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen

The art of racing in the rain by Garth Stein., 321 pages, read by Helen, on 06/12/2013

Nearing the end of his life, Enzo, a dog with a philosopher’s soul, tries to bring together the family, pulled apart by a three year custody battle between daughter Zoe’s maternal grandparents and her father Denny, a race car driver.

27. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Horror, Mystery

Joyland by Stephen King, 283 pages, read by Helen, on 06/05/2013

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Helen, Horror, Paranormal

Abandon by Blake Crouch, 416 pages, read by Helen, on 05/30/2013

On Christmas Day in 1893, every man, woman and child in a remote gold mining town disappeared, belongings forsaken, meals left to freeze in vacant cabins; and not a single bone was ever found. One hundred thirteen years later, two backcountry guides are hired by a history professor and his journalist daughter to lead them into the abandoned mining town so that they can learn what happened. With them is a psychic, and a paranormal photographer—as the town is rumored to be haunted. A party that tried to explore the town years ago was never heard from again. What this crew is about to discover is that twenty miles from civilization, with a blizzard bearing down, they are not alone, and the past is very much alive.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Helen, Mystery

You Only Die Twice by Edna Buchanan, 322 pages, read by Helen, on 05/16/2013

The perfect, nude corpse of a beautiful woman washes up on a pristine Miami Beach — her body tanned and shapely, her nails elegantly manicured. The problem is that the victim, Kaithlin Jordan, was murdered ten years ago. And her convicted killer — her husband, R. J. Jordan, scion of a wealthy and powerful South Florida family — sits on death row, just weeks away from his execution.Newspaper reporter Britt Montero recalls the high-profile murder trial that heated up a volatile tropical city like the merciless August sun. Even without a body, the prosecution’s case against Jordan seemed airtight and the jury enthusiastically bought into it. Now R.J. is preparing to walk — benefiting from the murderous “largess” of whoever drowned his wife in the ocean off Miami Beach — and Britt’s boundlessly curious nature is energized once more by a slew of questions that suddenly need answers. Did Kaithlin frame her husband for murder –

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Helen, Horror

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill , 704 pages, read by Helen, on 05/09/2013

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photography, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country. Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing–and terrifying–playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.” Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble–and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

29. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Helen, Thriller/Suspense

A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash, 309 pages, read by Helen, on 04/28/2013

For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump cant help sneaking a look at something hes not supposed to–an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jesss. Its a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which hes not prepared. While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he now knows that a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil–but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well.

Told by three resonant and evocative characters–Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and moral conscience; and Clem Barefield, a sheriff with his own painful past–A Land More Kind Than Home is a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all. These are masterful portrayals, written with assurance and truth, and they show us the extraordinary promise of this remarkable first novel.

29. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Helen, Horror, Science Fiction

The Remaining by D.J. Molles, 220 pages, read by Helen, on 04/25/2013

In a steel-and-lead-encased bunker 40 feet below the basement level of his house, Captain Lee Harden of the United States Army waits. On the surface, a plague ravages the planet, infecting over 90% of the populace. The bacterium burrows through the brain, destroying all signs of humanity and leaving behind little more than base, prehistoric instincts. The infected turn into hyper-aggressive predators, with an insatiable desire to kill and feed. Some day soon, Captain Harden will have to open the hatch to his bunker, and step out into this new wasteland, to complete his very simple mission: Subvenire Refectus.

To Rescue and Rebuild.

29. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Helen, Historical Fiction

Then like the Blind Man: Orbie's Story by Freddie Owens, 324 pages, read by Helen, on 04/18/2013

A storm is brewing in the all-but-forgotten backcountry of Kentucky. And, for Orbie Ray, the swirling heavens may just have the power to tear open his family’s darkest secrets. Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie’s Story is the enthralling debut novel by Freddie Owens, which tells the story of a feisty wunderkind in the segregated South of the 1950s, and the forces he must overcome to restore order in his world. Evocative of a time and place long past, this absorbing work of magical realism offered with a Southern twist will engage readers who relish the Southern literary canon, or any tale well told.

Nine-year-old Orbie has his cross to bear. After the death of his father, his mother Ruby has off and married his father’s coworker and friend Victor, a slick-talking man with a snake tattoo. Now, Orbie, his sister Missy, and his mother haven’t had a peaceful moment with the heavy-drinking new man of the house. Orbie hates his stepfather more than he can stand; a fact that lands him at his grandparents’ place in Harlan’s Crossroads, Kentucky.

Orbie grudgingly adjusts to life with his doting Granny and carping Granpaw, who are a bit too keen on their black neighbors for Orbie’s taste, not to mention their Pentecostal congregation of snake handlers. And, when he meets the black Choctaw preacher, Moses Mashbone, he learns of powers that might uncover the true cause of his father’s death. As a storm of unusual magnitude descends, Orbie happens upon the solution to a paradox at once magical and ordinary. Question is, will it be enough?

Equal parts Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn, it’s a tale that’s rich in meaning, socially relevant, and rollicking with boyhood adventure. The novel mines crucial contemporary issues, as well as the universality of the human experience while also casting a beguiling light on boyhood dreams and fears. It’s a well-spun, nuanced work of fiction that is certain to resonate with lovers of literary fiction, particularly in the Southern tradition of storytelling.