The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warming.  No signs announcing the circus is necessary.  It just appears in a town, open from dusk the dawn, and the people come to see the black and white circus  filled with magical things.  Started in 1885, the circus was the result of many months of work by five inventive people who brought the night circus to life.   But the circus was really just a stage for a long running competition between two extraordinary magicians.  Bonded from a young age the two magicians had no idea they would later fall in love and want to collaborate instead of compete, but it was too late and the rules forbid either of the two withdrawing from the competition.

There is no way to convey how fascinating and different this book is.  From the charming cover to the setting to the drifting back and forth in time to the magical glimpses into Le Cirque des Reves, I hope you will be as entranced by the book as I was.


Karen – Fort Mill                                                                                                      ISBN  9780385534635


Divergent by Veronica Roth

Fans of The Hunger Games will in enjoy this debut novel by Veronica Roth, who has put her own spin on the dystopian genre by creating a future Chicago where the population is divided into factions based on five virtues—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).

Beatrice, the protagonist of Roth’s novel, is a sixteen-year-old Abnegation girl, who has been raised to put the well-being of others’ before herself.  When Beatrice takes the examination to determine which faction she is best suited for, she discovers that she, unlike most of her peers, does not easily fit into just one of the factions. Ultimately, despite the examination results, she is allowed to make her own decision, but choosing anything other than Abnegation would mean abandoning her family and putting her own desires before theirs.

Throughout the course of the novel, Beatrice faces many conflicts–internal and external–that add to the novel’s suspense and character development, and while most of these conflicts are a bit far-fetched or exaggerated by “real world” standards, teens can relate to their underlying themes: becoming independent from one’s parents, first love, facing one’s fears, bullies, and making new friends.

Overall, Divergent is an interesting read for anyone who enjoys young adult fiction, romance, action, suspense, and a strong female protagonist whose bravery is born from here selflessness.


Markie  – Rock Hill                                      ISBN   978-0062024022

The Tender Mercy of Roses by Anna Michaels

Pony Jones is one of the main characters of this book,  but she is dead.  Her spirit lives on though, long enough to lead others to her killer.    I know this sounds like an unlikely premise for a book but it’s such a good story about the human spirit and how the good ones can live on for as long as they are needed.  Pony’s father is looking for revenge and  Jo Beth Dawson, a former detective who finds Pony’s body, is badly in need of a distraction from her grief, self-pity and many bottles of whiskey.   There is a connection between the dead girl and Jo Beth that penetrates Jo Beth’s alcoholic haze and makes her want to find the killer, even if it means spending time  in Huntsville, AL where she grew up.

This is an impressive first novel from Anna Michaels.  The characters are likable and as the book travels between the past and the present and the living and the dead you will have a hard time putting this book down.


Karen – Fort Mill                                                                  ISBN     9781439180990

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Three sisters, Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia, are all   back in their childhood home, all for various reasons.  Their mother is ill and the household may revolve around her health but not their thoughts.   They are worried about what they’ve done, what they have and haven’t accomplished, what they’ll do next.  Rose is engaged to marry a wonderful man who just accepted a position at a British university but Rose has never wanted her life to be anywhere else then where she grew up and is now living.   Bianca (Bean) has lost her job in the big city and has come home in shame but is unable to move forward and Cordy, the youngest has a history of running away from any problem she can’t ignore.   Even though their lives seem to be one big mess, the characters are engaging enough that you want to keep reading and see if they figure anything out.   The book is well written and well worth your time.   I had a hard time putting this book down and doing anything else.

Karen – Fort Mill                                   ISBN    9780399157226

The Night Season by Chelsea Cain

I’m not an expert on what makes a good writer,  I haven’t take a lot of literature courses.  I just like books that grab hold of you and drag you along for a great ride.   The Night Season is one of those books.   Chelsea Cain even makes rain fascinating.   

Days of unrelenting rain along with snow melt is putting Portland in danger of being flooded by the Willamette River which runs through the city. It’s a perfect camouflage  for  a serial killer who is poisoning people and dumping them in the river.  The police think the victims have drowned until Archie’s partner Henry is poisoned and left for dead – in the rain.   Archie, a Portland police detective,  well known to the press for an earlier case, tracks the serial killer in between sitting by Henry’s bedside in ICU and trying to keep his friend Susan out of trouble.

It’s difficult to describe all the twists and turns in this book without giving too much away.   The Night Season brings back Archie, Susan,  Henry and others from Cain’s first three books.  Gretchen, the sadistic serial killer of the first three books is barely in evidence, but I didn’t miss her.


Karen – Fort Mill                                               ISBN:  0312619766

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

According to A Discovery of Witches, there are four types of beings on Earth,  humans, witches, vampires and daemons.  Diana Bishop comes from a long line of witches, but she has refused to use magic in her life.  She wants her accomplishments to be earned through her own hard work.   She is doing research in Oxford’s Bodleian Library when she requests and receives a copy of Ashmole 782.  She studies it quickly and returns it to the librarians not realizing this book has long been sought by other witches, vampires and daemons.  The book is enchanted and no one else has been able to find it for the past 150 years.   Soon after,  she meets Matthew Clairmont at the library and is drawn to him even though she knows at once that he’s a vampire.  He appoints himself Diana’s protector but as they grow closer, Diana has inadvertently set off a chain of events that will put her in harms way.

I have read and enjoyed The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer among others,  but this is Diana’s story, not just another vampire book.  Her character is brave, smart and likable and the mix of history and science makes this book a very interesting read.   I believe this is the author’s first book of fiction and you will find it  well plotted and well written.   The ending lends itself to a sequel and I would love to read more about Diana and her discovery of her powers she has ignored for so long.

Karen – Fort Mill                                           ISBN 9780670022410

One Was A Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming

I was lucky enough to be sent an advance copy of One Was A Soldier by one of my favorite authors, Julia Spencer-Fleming.  I have been reading this series since the first title came out in 2002, and I was very disappointed when this book delayed publication last year.

If you are not familiar with this series you should quit reading this review and get a copy of the first book – In the Bleak Midwinter.    Then read the rest of the books in the series in order and then come back.  🙂 The author takes the titles of her books  from the lyrics of hymns and this title is no exception, coming from I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.

Clare Fergusson,  St. Alban’s priest has just returned from  Iraq, where she served as a helicopter pilot.   She is back in  Millers Kill to take up her life where she left off eighteen months ago, including her relationship with Russ Van Alstyne, chief of police.   While on the surface everything is fine, Clare is unable to sleep without nightmares and unable to function in the same way she did before.  Trying to pretend everything is normal is exhausting and she’s only herself when she is trying to help someone else.  Clare is not the only returning vet and they form a support group with a clinical therapist.   Every Monday night, the priest, the doctor, the cop, the bookkeeper and the marine meet to reluctantly talk about their return home.   Everyone is adept at pretending everything is normal and it takes the death of one of the five, for them to begin to form a cohesive group.

The book doesn’t hit you over the head with the problems of returning veterans, there are no dark memories related.   You just become interested in the five vets, in their behavior and their difficulties and you know this is not a fictional problem.    There is of course a mystery, a theft and a murder to be solved along with happy and sad occasions.  All in all, a very enjoyable book and well worth the wait.
Karen – Fort Mill                                      ISBN: 9780312334895

A Vintage Affair by Isabelle Wolff

Phoebe Swift is looking for a change when she leaves her job as a Sotheby’s auctioneer to open a vintage clothing shop in London.    Phoebe isn’t just looking for a change she escaping her former life, her former fiance, her former best friend and all sorts of associated sadness and guilt.  Phoebe’s and the author’s knowledge and love of vintage clothes makes this book more interesting than similar novels.   The book is smoothly written and makes a great vacation read.

Karen – Fort Mill                      ISBN 9780553807837

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Edie Burchill’s terrible sense of direction contributes to her passing the gates of Middlehurst Castle near a small English village miles from her London home.   She had only recently learned that her mother had spent two years at the castle after being evacuated from London during WWII.  Edie spends the night in the village and the next day tours the castle and meets the three elderly sisters who still live there.   Edie’s mother is less than forthcoming about her stay at Middlehurst but Edie  is determined to learn more about her mother and the crumbling castle.  Her curiosity angers her mother but as the story continues the two woman draw closer together.   Moving between present day and the war years the story is progresses very satisfactorily towards the ending, tying up all the loose ends along the way.   You’ll be engrossed with both stories, past and present and  won’t want to put these characters away.

Karen – Fort Mill                       ISBN 9781439152782

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Helpern

Justin Helpern’s tweets about the sh*t his Dad says started out for the amusement of his friends who had met his dad and were well aware of his colorful personality.  Word of mouth sent the number of people following him into the thousands and the tens of thousands as he gathered the sayings into a website.  And as so often happens these days, this was the basis for a best selling book.    It is clear from this book that Sam Helpern is a colorful character, with a potty mouth, but it’s also clear that he’s trying to depart some wisdom, he doesn’t suffer fools gladly and he loves his son.    The book is not just a collection of sayings although that is part of it but also made of memories between Justin and his dad.  I wonder if I’ve made that much of an impression on my own kids.   It’s a short book, a quick read and if bad language doesn’t bother you, will make you laugh.

Karen – Fort Mill                             ISBN  9780061992704