The Perfect Place to Die
Author: Bryce Moore
Published: August 3, 2021
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
Zuretta never thought she’d encounter a monster—one of the world’s most notorious serial killers. She had resigned herself to a quiet life in Utah. But when her younger sister, Ruby, travels to Chicago during the World’s Fair, and disappears, Zuretta leaves home to find her.
But 1890s Chicago is more dangerous and chaotic than she imagined. She doesn’t know where to start until she learns of her sister’s last place of employment…a mysterious hotel known as The Castle.
Zuretta takes a job there hoping to learn more. And before long she realizes the hotel isn’t what it seems. Women disappear at an alarming rate, she hears crying from the walls, and terrifying whispers follow her at night. In the end, she finds herself up against one of the most infamous mass murderers in American history—and his custom-built death trap.
This is simply a murder mystery with a tiny paranormal element. Unfortunately, it turns predictable relatively quickly. It’s also rather slow. I mostly enjoyed it so I’m glad I read it. But I’m not sure I can recommend it. However, that cover though. That cover almost pushed it up to 4 stars. Unfortunately, the “twist” which was actually obvious to everyone but the main character, brought it back down to 3. I just thought that Etta was so unrealistic. Too afraid to stand up to her abusive father, too scared to run away with her sister, too dumb to avoid the con woman her first day in Chicago, but then all of a sudden confident enough to stand up to Pinkertons, cops, the suspected killers … just not believable. So I can’t recommend it. I’m glad I read it, but the pros don’t outweigh the cons.
Ground Zero: A Novel of 9/11
Author: Alan Gratz
Published: February 2, 2021
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 29- September 4, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars
It’s September 11, 2001. Brandon, a 9-year-old boy, goes to work for the day with his dad . . . at the World Trade Center in New York City. When two planes hit the towers, Brandon and his father are trapped inside a fiery nightmare as terror and confusion swirl around them. Can they escape — and what will the world be like when they do?
In present-day Afghanistan, Reshmina is an 11-year-old girl who is used to growing up in the shadow of war, but she has dreams of peace and unity. When she ends up harboring a wounded young American soldier, she and her entire family are put in mortal danger. But Reshmina also learns something surprising about the roots of this endless war.
It just seems hard to believe that it has been 20 years since 9/11 happened and our world changed forever. It’s even harder to believe that there are those who will not have a memory of it and will just learn about it in the history books. Ground Zero by Alan Gratz is a book every middle schooler must read. Really everyone out there must read.
We have two time periods with two children the focus: 9-year-old Brandon on September 11, 2019 and 11-year-old Reshmina on September 11, 2019. The same day 18 years apart that end up being connected together. Brandon was suspended from school and is going to work with his father as dad cannot afford to take time off of work. Where Dad works is Windows on the World- a restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center… Reshmina and her twin brother Pasoon live in a small village in Afganistan and nearby there is a battle and Reshmina finds herself helping an injured American solider thus possibly putting her family and village in terrible danger.
Initially, I was more interested in Brandon’s story of experiencing that day from inside one of the towers, But soon I became just as entranced with Reshmina’s story. And when a common connection is realized, the reader feels so much more emotion. The short chapters alternate between Brandon and Reshmina and they each tend to end on cliff hangers which keep you reading.
Ground Zero is a powerful novel that brings back memories and emotions of that day. There is a 14-page author’s note that must be read as well. The author explains that there are a few liberties made for the story- but this is historical fiction and not non-fiction.
Gratz mentioned he tried to write a novel about 9/11 but it was never right for him. This novel was published earlier this year, in time for the 20th anniversary and I think it came at the perfect time. We must never forget what happened on that day 20 years ago and share the history for future generations, while Reshmina’s story shows what happens if events are never told.”
Though Ground Zero is written for the middle grades age group, everyone must read this book. Even both the front and back covers can bring out emotions. The front showing the destruction of the towers with a boy standing there and the back showing a picture of the twin towers before 9/11.
Ground Zero is very highly recommended.
Hour of the Witch
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Main Narrator: Grace Experience
Published: May 4, 2021
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: July 8-15, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars
Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in The New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary – a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony – soon finds herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight not only to escape her marriage, but also the gallows.
A twisting, tightly-plotted thriller from one of our greatest storytellers, ‘HOUR OF THE WITCH’ is a timely and terrifying novel of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.
Unlike Bohjalian’s 2018 novel and more recent tv series The Flight Attendant (my review of the novel is here) which is a thriller, Hour of the Witch is Historical Fiction. It takes place in Boston in 1662, and our main character is Mary Deerfield. She is the second wife to Thomas Deerfield who is twice her age, with an adult daughter close to Mary’s age. In a time where women were subservient to men, Mary decides to petition for divorce from Thomas after an incident of domestic abuse towards her. This novel circles around the impeding proceedings for her divorce petition, but also causes other events to occur where Mary will have to fight for her life.
It is apparent that Bohjalian meticulously researched while writing this novel. As the listener of the audiobook version, I really felt like I was in that time period where it was very dangerous to be a woman suspected of witchcraft. It was not a good time to be a woman with the thoughts that women were ‘weak’, needed to be taken care of, and expected to marry then have children or face the thought of ‘being barren’. Bohjalian even wrote the novel in the language of the time, so the characters say thee, thou, make haste, and more throughout. I am thankful I listened to the audiobook because of this, I think I might have had issues if I had read the novel. The audiobook had a very well-done cast narration with Grace Experience being Mary Deerfield’s voice.
We do get answers to all of the presented questions by the end of the novel in a satisfying conclusion. Mary was very much ahead of her time with her bravery facing all that she did.
I was not sure what to expect with this novel, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will also be reading more of Bohjalian’s novels.