Monday, June 15, 2015

The Alter Girl by Orest Stelmach

Image result for the altar girl by orest stelmach

This novel is a prequel to The Boy from Reactor Four and the Boy Who Stole from the Dead.  It tells the story of Nadia Tesla as an adult, before she becomes involved with Adam.  She has lost her job due to the economic downturn, and she becomes obsessed with finding out the truth about her godfather's death.  Was it a simple accident or did someone push him down the stairs?  Her search for answers brings her into contact with her estranged mother and brother along with some dangerous and shady characters.

Interspersed with this tale is the story of Nadia's childhood attempt to survive for three days alone in the woods in order to achieve an award in the Ukrainian scout group to which she belongs.  These memories help explain something of Nadia's past and the relationship she and her brother had with their father.

Both story lines are riveting.  Will Nadia find the truth about her godfather's death without dying herself?  Although we know she survives her scouting challenge, we worry about what will happen to her in the woods alone.

Through her investigation, she begins to forge new relationships with her mother and brother.  As she learns, so do we.  We learn about the plight of the Ukrainian people after World War II.  We learn about their modern culture, and the culture of the past.

It is a fascinating and riveting book which I highly recommend.

As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman

This novel did not appeal to me.  I found the plot to be too drawn out, the characters to be two-dimensional, and the writing to be rather flat.  The majority of the story focuses on a home invasion by two escaped convicts.  The story of the criminals and the family that becomes their target is interspersed with the backstory of the criminal who has targeted this house.  Although the events which occur are tense, the fact that they go on and on leaves the reader not really caring about the fate of the family.  A surprise is revealed late in the novel to explain why this particular family has been targeted, but, again, it did not feel like enough of a reward for reading that far.

I am not saying that this novel is bad.  I am simply saying that it was not one that I enjoyed.