Tag Archives: Lost Among the Living

Lost Among the Living

Lost Among the Living

Title:  Lost Among the Living
Author:  Simone St. James
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-0-451-47619-7

Book Summary:
Although the war is over and her husband did not come home, Jo Manders does not feel closure.  Her husband was shot down in Germany but as no body was ever found, he is listed as missing in action and she cannot truly view herself as a widow.  With no benefits and limited job prospects in 1921 England, Jo is forced to sell her belongings and become a lady’s companion to Dottie Forsyth, Alex’s husband’s wealthy but patronizing aunt.  Jo travels with Dottie through Europe as she meticulously and ruthlessly purchases art.  Although dealing with Dottie is a challenge, Jo finds her days busy and numbing.  When Dottie announces that they will be traveling to the family estate of Wych Elm House in Sussex, Jo is filled with apprehension and sadness as she returns to English soil.

Life at Wych Elm House provides Jo with a very different view of her husband’s family.  She meets Dottie’s husband Robert; whose existence Jo was unaware.  He is both flirty and distant, harsh and unemotional.  Also newly arrived at the house is Dottie’s son Martin, who was injured in the war and still deals with both emotional and physical pain.  There is yet another inhabitant of the house, although Jo is the only one who can see Francis, Dottie’s dead daughter.

Alternating between sanity and madness, Francis had always been a difficult child.  She claimed to be frightened of the creatures who came through the door.  The people of the surrounding estates and towns were afraid of Francis and now claim that her ghost haunts the woods.  She committed suicide by jumping off the roof and a darkness has since spread throughout the house.  Jo finds her belongings moved and leaves appearing inside the house; when she sees Francis, she becomes afraid that the madness has crept into her own psyche.

Soon Jo realizes that Francis is asking for her help and Jo must delve into the family’s secrets.  What she discovers about her own husband shocks her and she questions whether she truly knew him.  Time is running out however as Francis’ ghost becomes more active and Jo fears for her sanity and her life.  She just isn’t sure who she should be afraid of – the dead or the living.

Book Commentary:
This is the fifth book by Simone St. James and they just keep getting better!  Set in the same time period as her previous novels, St. James explores the generation following World War 1.  Those who come home are dealing with physical pain and mental horror, but I find the characters who were left behind equally compelling.  There is a sense of desperation about Jo and the loss of her husband.  Her own background is fraught with sorrow and loss, and I just wanted the poor woman to get a break!  Her strength of character is admirable and there is a sense of compulsion and desperation in her fight for any sense of peace.

St. James also incorporates some fascinating details about how the Sussex coast could have played a part in the war.  This plot detail really brings the story together and gives depth beyond a paranormal romance story.  Even if a reader isn’t into “ghosts,” you can really appreciate the gothic atmosphere and rich details of the plot.

Who might like this book:
I don’t think fans of St. James will be disappointed with the story.  The protagonist is a widow, which is a departure from her previous stories, but the character is very appealing and heartfelt.  Fans of a good suspense story should definitely check out this author.  As I have previously mentioned, I shied away from her books because I am not a fan of horror stories and the back cover plot descriptions turned me off.  This couldn’t be more from the truth; the fast-paced, atmospheric story really kept me engaged and fascinated.

Four BOOKS I CAN’T WAIT FOR IN 2016 on Friday

Books for 2016

Four BOOKS I CAN’T WAIT FOR IN 2016 on Friday
New Year’s Resolutions are a staple of January but a much more enjoyable aspect of this month is the look at all the new books to be released in the year.  If you haven’t guessed yet, I am a bit detailed oriented.  I have a running list of my favorite authors and when they have scheduled new releases.  I search through Amazon and look up my favorite authors to watch for their latest books.  I keep a monthly schedule so I can either order the book or reserve it at the library.  As always, there are thousands and thousands of new books released each year, but these are four of the ones from some of my favorite authors that I am most excited about.

MARCH – C.S. Harris, When Falcons Fall
C.S. Harris is one of my foremost favorite authors and I absolutely love her Sebastian St. Cyr series.  I have written about this series previously in my Four FAVORITE MYSTERY WRITERS on Friday, and I feel that the series just keeps getting better and better.  Harris does an amazing job at telling a really great mystery that melds together all the beautiful and horrific elements of Regency London while creating engaging and captivating characters.  Every story is unique and allows the reader to truly become immersed in both the plot and setting.  Her characters are multi-dimensional and the reader feels that there is still so much depth to discover.

This is the eleventh book in the series and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the characters grow and evolve.  Sebastian and Hero seem to have found a common ground and have accepted each other and parts of their pasts, but if anything holds true for this series, there is always more to come.  I really appreciate how the author is able to both keep the story and characters fresh and exciting while still making the reader feel the comfort of old friends.  This new book also takes the characters from London which may allow them some more freedom away from society’s restrictions while providing the opportunity for new encounters and situations.

APRIL – Simone St. James, Lost Among the Living
I had to smile when I put this author and book on my list.  Six months ago, I had never read anything by Simone St. James.  Although I had picked up her first book The Haunting of Maddy Clare numerous times, each time I read the back I thought that it just wasn’t for me.  I picked up her newest release The Other Side of Midnight, devoured the book in a day, purchased everything else she had written, and kicked myself for “judging a book by its back cover!”

St. James’ book are individual stories but all take place post World War I and involve a bit of paranormal and a bit of romance.  They are very gothic and atmospheric, but don’t have the creepy horror factor that my over-active imagination avoids.  I am excited about Lost Among the Living because the premise involves a woman who lost her husband during the war and her time with his family divulges secrets that indicate that perhaps she didn’t know her husband as well as she thought.  It is a bit of a divergence from previous stories and I am looking forward to see what she does with it.

MAY – Anna Lee Huber, A Pressing Engagement (ebook)
JUNE – Anna Lee Huber, As Death Draws Near
Squeak!!  What is more exciting than one new book by a favorite author?  Two!!!  One of my very top favorite authors Anna Lee Huber has both an ebook and a full novel to be released this year.  Although I often have mixed feelings about ebooks, I will never squander any opportunity for more works to be written by a favorite author!  The ebooks allow an author to tell a small part of the character’s story that really can add dimension to the series.  A Pressing Engagement hints to look at the wedding between Kiera and Gage, and as always with these two, nothing is simple.  Readers who have followed the series from the start are truly looking forward to this gift.

The series will then continue in June with the fifth novel.  I like a little romance in my mysteries.  Sometime mystery books can become so bogged down in procedurals that they lose their empathy and humanity.  By blending the real human emotions with the pressing need to find justice and security, I think gives a story a greater sense of urgency and builds the anticipation.  Sometimes when the status of the characters’ relationship changes, the series can’t maintain tension and interest.  I have no fear of this with Huber’s newest book.  She has already hinted a bit at the evolving relationship between Kiera and Gage, and I am excited to see how their new status clashes with the societal expectations of a married couple and their own individual juggling of between part of a pair while still maintaining their independence.

AUGUST – Deborah Crombie, The Garden of Lamentations
It has been almost two years since the last Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James book.  To Dwell in Darkness was released in hardcover in September of 2014, and I am so excited to see that the next book in the series will be out this year.  The Garden of Lamentations is the seventeenth book in the series and I truly admire how the author has maintained the freshness and excitement with each new story.  The characters have evolved from working together, to being in a relationship, to being married with a family.  I love how Duncan and Gemma work on separate cases but often find that through the crimes committed or their own police partners or politics du jour, there is a commonality between the stories.

Another aspect I love about Crombie is that as an American, she seems to have such a grasp of the English culture and lifestyle.  I found that as an American reader, I notice how she highlights aspects of the English that are interesting to me as someone who doesn’t live in the UK.  I am curious if the UK readers find her stories as believable and fascinating as I do.

These are only four of the many books I am looking forward to in 2016.  What about you?  What new release of 2016 is top on your most anticipated list?