Thursday, June 26, 2014

North of Boston


Elisabeth Elo’s debut novel introduces Pirio Kasparov, a Boston-bred tough-talking girl with an acerbic wit and a moral compass that points due north.

When the fishing boat Pirio is on is rammed by a freighter, she finds herself abandoned in the North Atlantic. Somehow, she survives nearly four hours in the water before being rescued by the Coast Guard. But the boat’s owner and her professional fisherman friend, Ned, is not so lucky.

Compelled to look after Noah, the son of the late Ned and her alcoholic prep school friend, Thomasina, Pirio can’t shake the lurking suspicion that the boat’s sinking—and Ned’s death—was no accident. It’s a suspicion seconded by her deeply cynical, autocratic Russian father, who tells her that nothing is ever what it seems. Then the navy reaches out to her to participate in research on human survival in dangerously cold temperatures.

With the help of a curious journalist named Russell Parnell, Pirio begins unraveling a lethal plot involving the glacial whaling grounds off Baffin Island. In a narrow inlet in the arctic tundra, Pirio confronts her ultimate challenge: to trust herself. 

A gripping literary thriller, North of Boston combines the atmospheric chills of Jussi Adler-Olsen with the gritty mystery of Laura Lippman. And Pirio Kasparov is a gutsy, compellingly damaged heroine with many adventures ahead. (From

I had high hopes for this book. So much so that I made it the book of the month in the book club I run online. I'm not saying it was disappointing, just that I expected more. 

First, the good points.

Pirio is a great heroine. She's flawed but strong. She's witty, compassionate, a little stubborn, free-willed. All those good things that people love in a female lead. Her quips are fun. She's emotional when she needs to be and doesn't come off as spoiled or whiny. 

The storyline is interesting. I love a good mystery and this one seemed to be different than the rest. Which is true. It definitely stands out and I give Elo kudos for trying to break the formula. This book is often compared, in other reviews, to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl but I don't really see it. 

I'm writing this review after a few months of reading it, but I do remember that the writing was quite excellent. She has a knack for atmosphere and detail. At times, though, I felt it was too weighed down with prose for there to be excitement. I liked the feel of Boston for this book. 

And now the bad news. 

I'm in the navy, and this book deals with some of the navy culture. I'm sorry, but the navy I know wouldn't give two hoots about a woman who survived a cold dive in the water. Least of all a captain in the navy. It felt like that part of it wasn't researched well. That is, in fact, where I began to lose interest. 

The storyline with her annoying, drunkard friend got to be too much. Her friend was someone I wanted to reach into the book and strangle. That's not a bad thing. In fact, that's a sign of a good writer who can create such an emotion in the reader. However, it didn't feel like it served a purpose other than to create depth in Pirio. 

A sure sign of a book I'm not terribly fond of is when I decide it is better to just start skimming. I'm usually pretty persistent and will and have suffered from terrible story lines, just to say I got to the end without skimming. I don't have time for that anymore. I wanted to know what happened, though, so I skimmed enough to know the gist of the ending. 

Perhaps I am too harsh. I would read more of Elo's work in the future. However, if the next project she puts out garners the same result, I'd think twice before reading more. 



Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most. (From

I devoured this book. Oliver is a constant favorite of mine in the YA genre. She has a knack for capturing imagery and emotion. This book was interesting because it felt dystopian but it was set in present day America. The characters are believable and developed well. The romance between Bishop and Heather doesn't seem forced in any way. All in all an excellent read and another gold star for Miss Oliver. Fans of her Delirium trilogy won't be disappointed, however, it takes some adjusting because it isn't as fast-paced and breathtaking as those books. I do like, though, that Oliver has managed to create a world like the Hunger Games set in our own present-day life. That, in itself, is a statement. 

Red Rising

Woot! Woot!

I devoured the beginning of this book. The different landscape and futuristic world on Mars was intriguing to me. Darrow is an awesome protagonist because he has flaws of a godlike superhero. Rage, vengeance, pride drive him to carve away his low Red upbringing and become a Gold to take down the unjust caste system of which he and his family have suffered from for years. He loses his wife which is the driving force behind what he does. It is all very creative and grandiose. Pierce Brown has created a world unlike any other I have ever read. 

It has hints of Hunger Games influence as Darrow is forced to compete against other Golds to be the greatest and be picked to lead fleets and armies of Mars. It is much more gruesome and graphic than Hunger Games but the story is geared more toward a mature audience. 

There is a lull in the story about three quarters of the way in where Brown almost lost me but I pushed through and the pay off was great. The ending has a few twists and it ends with a thrilling call for him to Rise, marking his first move in his rebellion. The battle has only just begun and Darrow has shown himself to be a threat to be reckoned with. 

I look forward to the next installment, Golden Son, in this exciting series. Highly recommended for sci-fi and adventure readers.