Friday, February 28, 2020

The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

Reviewed by Laura
            As I was reading this novel, I thought that I had figured it out before I was halfway through the book. I was quite proud of my detecting ability and nearly broke my arm patting myself on the back. I envisioned writing this review and asking for other readers to let me know at what point they had solved the mystery. Turns out, I was wrong all along. I was so absolutely, completely sure of my prowess that I nearly fell off the couch when I was proven wrong. So… obviously this is a book that will keep you guessing, which is always a plus in my opinion.
            The book starts out in present day as Heather receives a package containing an old necklace with the charm, Best Friends Forever. She still owns her half, so this could only belong to her childhood friend, Becca. The childhood friend she killed.
Heather and Becca were best friends and wore the necklaces constantly to prove it. They both had them on that fateful night, thirty years ago, when Becca died. They had been friends with two other girls that summer forming the Dead Girls Club. They all enjoyed Stephen King and other horror writers and were intrigued by anything they could find to read about actual serial killers. But then things got out of hand. Becca began to draw pictures and tell stories of The Red Lady. Who of us hasn’t participated in a séance or used an Ouija board at a sleepover when we were young? They were flirting with things beyond their control for the fun and excitement, but Becca became obsessed. She would steal a key to a house her realtor (drunken) mother was showing and they would meet there in the dark to hear her stories and enjoy the chills that ran down their spines. It was a tantalizing and forbidden thrill until Becca requested to perform a ceremony and The Red Lady came in force. The book never definitively states whether the entity was real or rather a product of group hysteria, but instead, leaves that decision up to the reader. Regardless of your choice, just be warned that this book may inspire nightmares of your own.
Things go from bad to worse for Becca as she becomes more and more entrenched with the idea of The Red Lady’s powers and her home situation deteriorates to unbearable proportions. She begs Heather to meet her for one more ritual and then they can go back to the way they were before, leaving The Red Lady behind for good. Only in the course of events, Becca ends up dead and Heather is haunted forever.
The story is told in flashbacks between that summer and present day. Heather finds herself falling into her own dark hole when it becomes evident, through increasing deliveries and incidents, that someone knows what she did that night. The number of people who could have known is small and getting smaller. Heather becomes increasingly unhinged as she draws closer to uncovering who knows her secret after all this time. This is a fast-paced thriller with many twists and turns and I highly recommend it. 

Note:  Christy also reviewed this book in our Monday blog post.  You can read her take on it here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Nevermore: Run Away, Sarah's Key, Big Magic, We Were Always Free, Last Train to London

Reported by Laura

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton, set in 1936, focuses on one woman’s efforts to transport children to safety through the Kindertransports. Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance, risks her life to smuggle Jewish children out of Nazi Germany to the countries that will accept them. This becomes an even greater task after Hitler’s annexation of Austria as many countries close their borders to the fleeing refugees. The reviewer found it a good book written about a difficult time in history when people began to turn on each other and the Germans came in and documented everything. This one will definitely tug at your heartstrings.

          Our next reader loved the book We Were Always Free by T.O.Madden Jr.  It covers 200 years of the history of Culpepper, VA focusing on the family of Mary Madden, a poor Irish immigrant who became pregnant by a slave owned by Col. James Madison, father of the future president. This child, Sarah, though a free mulatto, became an indentured servant to the Madisons and worked until the age of 31 to pay the fine of her birth. T.O. Madden is one of Mary’s descendants who found the documents and information in a hidebound trunk in 1949. The reviewer found this to be a very thorough and interesting book.

           Big Magic is a nonfiction book by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love. In this book, Ms. Gilbert advocates creative living beyond fear. She asks us to embrace our dreams and face down our fears. Our reviewer enjoyed the book.

          The next book, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay, is heartbreaking historical fiction. It tells of a 10 year-old Jewish girl who is arrested, along with her family, by the French police in 1942. Thinking she will return shortly when everything is straightened out, she locks her younger brother in a cupboard to save him. Hauntingly, she is unable to return.  In 2002, a young journalist is asked to write a story about that dark day in France’s history and her research leads her to Sarah and her family. The reviewer recommends it as a good book.

          Our last selection was Harlan Coben’s Run Away. It tells the story of a father whose troubled daughter runs away from home. By chance, he sees her in Central Park, but she is clearly in trouble and runs from him. He refuses to let her go and follows into a dark, dangerous world where murder is commonplace. This book was recommended as a very interesting and exciting book.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

Reviewed by Christy

            In 1991, Heather Cole and three of her friends formed the Dead Girls Club. In this club, they would recount their favorite urban legends, ghost stories, and true crime events. However, when Becca, Heather’s best friend, starts telling a new story about the Red Lady things start going askew. To Becca, the Red Lady isn’t just a ghost story; she’s real. Becca believes it so much that it starts to scare Heather and begins to fracture their friendship. When Becca starts talking about performing a ritual to conjure the Red Lady, things go from bad to worse, and the course of all their lives will be altered forever.
            It’s been almost 30 years since that terrible night in the abandoned house, and Heather has never told anyone what happened there. She has a good job as a child psychologist and a happy marriage. She’s tried her best to put that dark part of her childhood behind her. But she starts getting reminders. First an old, familiar necklace sent to her in the mail. Then a ribbon underneath her windshield wiper. Each of these “gifts” escalate, and Heather knows someone is threatening to reveal her secrets. But who?
            The Dead Girls Club was an enjoyable, solid thriller. It was well-paced, and I really couldn’t figure out where it was going. Was it supernatural? Or something more easily explained? I liked Walters’ writing and descriptions. I even liked the dual timeline of “then” and “now” though I did prefer the “then” portions overall. Adult Heather is a mess who makes sloppy mistakes but as a reader that didn’t really bother me. I can’t say I’ve ever been in her situation so I don’t know how I’d react. (Although I don’t think I’d pay for background checks to track down old friends in order to surveil their neighborhoods. That’s what Facebook is for.) The twist felt the tiniest bit underwhelming but at the same time pretty dark. While it’s not my new favorite thriller, it was spooky fun, and I had a good time reading it.

* I received a copy from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. *

NOTE:  We have two reviews on this book from different staff members!  To get Laura's take on the book, check the blog on Friday.