August 19, 2021

#BookReview: The Vines by Shelley Nolden

Synopsis: In the shadows of New York City lies forbidden North Brother Island, where the remains of a shuttered hospital hide the haunting memories of century-old quarantines and human experiments. The ruins conceal the scarred and beautiful Cora, imprisoned by contagions and the doctors who torment her. When Finn, a young urban explorer, arrives on the island and glimpses an enigmatic beauty through the foliage, intrigue turns to obsession as he seeks to uncover her past—and his own family’s dark secrets. By unraveling these mysteries, will he be able to save Cora? Will Cora meet the same tragic ending as the thousands who’ve already perished on the island?

The Vines intertwines North Brother Island’s horrific and elusive history with a captivating tale of love, betrayal, survival, and loss.


Rating: 4 Stars
My Review: This was an enticing thriller that I could not put down.  I loved the flow and I can not wait for another book.  The characters in this book were fabulous and creepy.  If you are looking for a new title to read this year check it out.  The mystery and so vivid its a must read! 


"THE VINES weaves beautifulwriting around an unsettling mystery: Who is the strange, scarred woman livingon a seemingly uninhabitable island? Shelley Nolden's debut seems not justprescient - given the world's current focus on virology and immunizations - butalso timeless, as it illustrates in painful detail how mankind seems destinedto repeat our cruelest mistakes. Luckily for us readers, there's a bright threadof hope running through this book - as well as the promise of a sequel."
--Sarah Pekkanen, #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of You Are Not Alone

"Highly original and richly drawn, Shelley Nolden's THE VINES features one ofthe most fascinating central characters you'll ever meet. Drawing on both thedark history of North Brother Island
and today's painfully immediate worries about immunity and transmission ofdeadly disease, this debut transcends genre to combine history, thrills,obsession, medical ethics, and more into
the compelling story of three generations of doctors and one remarkable woman."
--Greer Macallister, bestselling authorof The Magician's Lie and The Arctic Fury

"Eerily timely and profoundly compelling, THE VINES is an unputdownable,unforgettable saga, the journey of a seemingly helpless, persecuted Americanwoman who survives and battles back, against all odds; this first in whatpromises to be an explosive series signals the arrival of Shelley Nolden'smasterful new voice in hybrid fiction."
--May Cobb, author of The Hunting Wives
"Everycharacter in this book is incredibly unique...the history and science in thisbook is exceedingly well thought out, well researched and fabulously detailed.Where Ms. Nolden truly excels is the historical portions...For fans of real-lifehistory, science and mysteries alike, Shelley Nolden weaves a magical storywith an abundance of intrigue that will leave readers eager for a sequel."

"In a debut that is part horror novel, part thoughtexperiment, Nolden has accomplished the feat of getting readers toask themselves what horrors can be done to serve the greater good."

"ShellyNolden's first book -- with a promise of more -- is awonderful mix of science fiction, history, fantasy and some wishful thinking; aworthy read on so many levels."
"An original, deftly written and inherentlycompelling novel of love, betrayal, survival, and loss, THE VINES draws uponthe author's own emotionally charged medical history and experiences adroitlyintertwined with North Brother Island's horrific and elusive history in acompulsive page turner of a read from cover to cover."
--MidwestBook Review
"This is a dark medical/psychologicalthriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats... Fans of historicalor medical thrillers will be mesmerized by this novel."
--Historical Novels Review

From the Author

Like far too many COVID-19 patients, I've spent dozens of nights hospitalized. While in the ICU on oxygen therapy, repeatedly, I feared that my lungs would fail me before daybreak. I know the terror of struggling for air. But not because of thevirus; in my case, it was an acute form of leukemia that caused pooling of blood in my lungs. My feelings heightened by my past trauma, I have deep empathy for those who've experienced severe and/or chronic complications fromCOVID-19 and for those who've lost loved ones.
The first symptom of my cancer was the death of our baby at twenty weeks gestation. For the over forty days I was inpatient, I lay awake each night, weeping over our loss and for our eighteen-month-old, whom I was forbidden to see because her germs could kill me. Frequently, I needed IV pain medication, which barely dented the emotional anguish. Daily, I received blood transfusions. Throughout, I experienced 105-degree fevers, dangerously high blood pressure, hemorrhaging of the eye, a full-body hive outbreak, migraines, vomiting, and severe bone pain. During this period, I spent a total of two hours with my toddler. Before I returned home, she'd stopped asking for me.
For the three years of treatment that followed my diagnosis, my writing focused on my cancer blog, highlighting the themes of disease, fear of death, isolation, loss of a child, infertility. But also survival, courage, healing, and hope. Through that therapeutic writing process, Cora--and her foil, Lily--were born. Before these two strong female characters, however, came the setting:  
In 2014, during a descent to LaGuardia Airport, my husband elbowed me in the side and directed my attention to a spit of land in the East River. "You should write a book about that island." Returning the elbow jab as I leaned across him, I gasped at the decaying buildings, visible in winter with the trees barren. Once we landed, I immediately consulted Google and was hooked.
So often people make that comment: "You should write a book about [x]." Typically, writers just smile and nod in response. But a novel set on such a fascinating, abandoned, forbidden place within plain sight of millions of New Yorkers was too tantalizing a concept to dismiss simply because I hadn't thought of it myself. 
Diving into research, I learned that North Brother's past is rife with misery. The haunting online images of Riverside Hospital provided gut-wrenching context to the grisly historical essays.  

I decided that a novel set there should incorporate Riverside's 125+ year evolution, its actual inhabitants, and the details captured by online photographs and Christopher Payne's stunning coffee table book, North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City, for which I attended a standing-room-only book signing. After meticulously cataloguing every map, image, and historical detail available, I took a deep breath and began structuring an epic tale that I believed I'd earned the right to tell. 
I hope you enjoy the end result--my debut novel, The Vines.

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FTC Guidelines: In accordance with FTC guidelines regarding endorsements and testimonials for bloggers, I would like my readers to know that many of the books I review are provided to me for free by the publisher or author of the book in exchange for an honest review. If am compensated for any reviews on this site I will state that post has been sponsored. 


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