Find it at your library!

The Ballroom was such a wonderful surprise to me! A love story set in an early 1900s insane asylum? Whaaaaaaat? Bring some of that noise over here, baby!

I had never heard of British author Anna Hope, but that was to my detriment because she clearly knows what she's about. Her novel follows three main characters within the Yorkshire asylum: Ella and John, who are patients (or would “inmates” be a more apt term?), and Charles, a doctor with a burgeoning interest in eugenics.

(Can I take a minute here to admit that I know literally nothing about geography outside the US? I just had to Google “where is yorkshire” to make sure it wasn't in Ireland. Sometimes I worry I'm part of the problem.)

Ella and John are decidedly less than crazy, as so many people relegated to institutions were in the not-too-distant past. Refusing to comply with social norms could be enough to label a person mentally unfit, and asylums like the one Hope imagines weren't concerned with rehabilitation so much as punishment, coercion, and containment. Despite their confinement and dreary surroundings, from the time they first meet Ella and John are drawn to each other. But escape seems all but impossible, especially with the doctor-with-major-emotional-baggage throwing up roadblocks in increasingly devious ways.

The Ballroom is one of those books that gets better with each passing page. As I was reading, I kept thinking, Wow, this is really good. Then I got to the final chapter and started blinking really fast (there was something in my eye, I swear!) and thought, No, this is better than good. Highly recommended.

*Full disclosure, if you're a reader in the US and you go to buy this book, you won't find the cover pictured here. I used what I think is the UK cover in the link because, frankly, the US cover is so tragically butt-ugly I didn't think anyone would believe my glowing review were they to appear together. If you don't believe me, here. Told you.

With regards to Random House and NetGalley for the review copy. On sale now!

Find it at your library!

You could read The Quality of Silence in the middle of a sweltering summer day and still catch a chill: first from the eyelash-freezing Arctic setting, and then from the creeping dread that grows with every page. Rosamund Lupton's thrillers almost always hit the mark for me—they're smoothly written, peopled with rich, complex characters, and each one is an entirely fresh experience. There's no rehashing of old ground here, and I mean that quite literally. Yasmin and her young daughter Ruby set out on the ice roads in Alaska's northern wilderness, a place so vast and desolate, it seems barely touched by civilization.

They're in desperate search of Ruby's father, presumed dead in a terrible accident while in Alaska for work. Yasmin doesn't believe her husband is dead, and when no one in authority agrees with her, she has no choice but to go find him herself. But there's an ice storm brewing and there are ominous blue headlights in her rearview mirror, a faceless but menacing stranger following them through the endless night.

Ruby and Yasmin take turns narrating, sometimes switching every couple of paragraphs, which is a bit disorienting. It wasn't difficult to follow, it just felt awkward and hurried—I would have preferred a more typical every-other-chapter pattern for readability. However, despite the occasionally jerky transitions, I warmed to Ruby's voice immediately. Profoundly deaf since birth, she has a unique and charming way of seeing the world. I love how Lupton shows Ruby's deafness as both a deficit that complicates their lives and a boon that makes her the special girl she is.

With regards to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for the advance copy. On sale today, February 16!