Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Lady's Maid, by Dilly Court

Sometimes a woman is forced to make a heartbreaking choice, to give up her child.  Who knows what type of life that child will go on to lead, whether it is one of privilege or one of want.  Katie and Josie have been friends since their youth, despite the fact that they have very different lives.  But the secret of their shared pasts may change the nature of their friendship forever.

What a wonderful book for anyone who is a fan of historical fiction.  I absolutely loved the setting, and the juxtaposition of the wealthy lifestyle and the average everyday lifestyle.  I felt like the scene was set incredibly well, with a high degree of accuracy regarding style, manner of speech, and typical dilemmas faced during that time period.  It felt as though I had walked directly onto the grounds of an old English manor.

This books seems as though it would appeal to fans of Jane Austen, and there certainly are a lot of similarities to Austen and the themes in her writing.  The thing that most caught my attention was the similar emphasis this book places on class differences and the importance of social standing upon the making of life's choices.  The biggest difference between the two authors was where Austen was ground breaking, this author is just the slightest bit predictable.  And predictability is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps deliver what the reader wants, and keeps the reader happy.  Despite the fact that the book was a tiny bit predictable, it was still highly engaging, and an overall pleasant read.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

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Dark Horizons, by Jenny T. Colgan

The Doctor shows up on a Scottish shore hundreds of years in the past.  Typically, the villagers' only real fear is attacking Viking ships, but now, they are under a much different kind of attack.  A strange creature feeding from fire is attacking ships in the water, and people on the land.  When a small band of Vikings survive such an attack and reach the shore, the Doctor show them that they can work together to overcome the problem.  But will that unity be enough?

Of all the incarnations of the Doctor I have encountered, number 11 is one of my least favorites, so I was a bit nervous going into this book, knowing 11 was the Doctor in the story.  I was pleasantly surprised, and once again reminded that no matter what his appearance is, the Doctor is the Doctor.  I really enjoyed the setting of the story; it involved two groups of fearsome warriors from different cultures, both of which are of personal interest.  I loved the way Norse mythology was woven into the story, and I like that at the end, an actual earthly phenomenon is tied in as well.

The writing is crisp, and true to the feel of the Doctor.  I do wish that there had been a companion written into the story, but I can understand why no one was, so that the story can be more versatile in terms of the Doctor's timeline.  Any die hard fan of the show is going to love this book, even if, like me, they do not care for 11.  And really, this book is a good read for any sci-fan or anyone looking to dabble with Doctor Who literature.  It is aimed at young adult readers, but in reality is engaging enough for adult readers as well.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Bait, by J. Kent Messum

Six strangers wake up on an island, not knowing how they got there, nor how they will get off the island.  It does not take them much time to realize they are all junkies, fiending for their next fix.  They find a box containing a small amount of food and a letter explaining that there is more food and drugs on the next island.  But as the group attempts to make it to the next island, they find the water is teeming with peril.

You know within the first few pages that this is not going to be your average thriller.  This book means business.  Sex, drugs, betrayal, violence, there is absolutely nothing dull in this story.  The plot rockets from the very beginning.  While the premise of the story is a little appalling, that is the very thing that keeps you glued to it.  The situation is so horrific, but like a traffic accident you just cannot look away.

What surprised me most was the amount of character development for the six primary characters.  Despite the fact that the book is relatively short, and mostly focuses on plot, the character development was super, and woven into the story seamlessly.  In very little time, you found yourself actually seeing the characters as people (even if they are unsavory) and wanting to know what happens to them.  That amount of character development is so rare in action based stories, so I found it really well done.

All in all, this book is an intense read, not for the faint of heart.  It is violent and graphic, but in a way that completely serves the story.  Still, if you have a weak stomach, be forewarned.  This book is probably most appropriate for adult readers, and perhaps not something you want to read at the beach.  Personally, I really loved the style and the story; well done.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Son of a Gun, by Justin St. Germaine

When Justin's mother, Debbie, is murdered, apparently by her 5th husband, Justin finds himself reflecting on her life.  Having spend a large portion of his childhood in Tombstone, Arizona, Justin talks about his mother's murder against the backdrop of the old west town and all of its bloody history.  Even when he moves away and starts a new life in California, Justin finds himself revisiting Tombstone, looking for answers about his mother, her death, and what led them all to that tragic place.

Whew this book packs some serious punch.  It was a difficult read for me, not because it was bad, but because it was so deep.  It is the kind of book that you are happy it is so difficult.  Knowing right away that you are dealing with a memoir revolving around a murder helps, but it does not fully prepare you for what is to come.  Justine paints a painfully honest, and at times stark, portrait of his mother, and the childhood he had, rather than using her death to make her a martyr.  Not once does he disparage his mother, nor does he put her on a pedestal.  He is honest about Debbie's history with men, the fact that she made business enemies in Tombstone, and his own troubled adolescence.

I truly hope that writing this book helped the author heal a little; I think that children who have had a parent murdered will be able to relate to this book on an intense, deep level.  However, even people who have not suffered such intense tragedy will find it compelling, simply because it was beautifully written.  It is probably the most honest memoir I have ever read.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Girls No More, by Caryl Rivers

Life has certainly changed in the years since Peg, Constance, and Sean graduated from high school.  Sean completed seminary, and is now a priest.  Peg is a journalist who still secretly pines for Sean.  Constance is a wife and mother who is striking out on a journalistic career of her own.  This trio finds themselves mired in the politics of Vietnam era Washington D.C. where prejudices run high, politics is a man's game, and everyone has a dirty little secret or two.

This book is the sequel to a previous book I reviewed entitled Virgins.  I enjoyed both books immensely.  I particularly liked the historical setting of this book.  This country was in the midst of so much change, with the war, civil rights, the women's movement, and the sexual revolution.  The three main characters struggle with their identities as Catholics amidst this setting, and I think a lot of people who lived through this tumult can relate to the book.

I will say, the book is not for the faint of heart, and some conservative readers, especially conservative Catholics, may take a great deal of offense to some of the storylines.  But I think the storylines are realistic, and paint an honest picture of the struggles people have.  I was not bothered but the semi scandalous nature of the storyline.  The only thing I disliked was the subplot about a posh Jewish widow cavorting with a politician.  I guess I get what the intention was there, but I never found myself caring about her the way I did Peg, Constance, and Sean.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Etched in Sand, by Regina Calcaterra

For a large part of their childhood, Regina and her siblings lived a very tremulous life.  The were often homeless, and when they did have a home, no matter how temporary, the children were left to fend for themselves while their mother was off drinking.  When life would get a little too out of control, the children would get placed in foster care.  For years, the children had to fight to just survive, yet somehow, they made it out.

Within moments of finishing this book, I found myself recommending it to several specific people, people who have been serving as foster parents.  I feel like this is such an important story, one that people really need to read.  I had a very strong emotional reaction to this memoir.  While several emotions came up while reading, but the main emotion was anger.  I am so angry that the system failed these children so miserably.  I feel like Regina never should have been in the care of her biological mother, nor should her younger siblings.  The mother's lack of parental skills (and desire to be a parent) was apparent from the beginning, yet the system continued to put these children in danger by returning them to her care.

I know that there is a chance that child protective services have improved in the years since these events, and I also know that there is a lack of good foster parents, particularly for older children.  I am not suggesting that there is an easy answer to situations like these.  But I cannot help but feel something should be, and can be, done.  The writing in the book is honest, and stark, but without assuming the voice of a victim.  Regina is not a victim; she is a survivor.  And thanks to this survivor telling her story, perhaps the system can be improved, and allow for more survivors.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Sea Creatures, by Susanna Daniel

Georgia, her husband Graham, and their son Frankie have moved to Miami, Georgia's home town.  The family dynamic is strained; both parents have sleeping disorders, and the little boy has selective mutism.  The family is struggling with their version of normal.  While Graham is away at his job, Georgia and Frankie befriend a man named Charlie, and sudden changes occur in the family dynamic.  Suddenly Georgia can see exactly what she does, and does not, want out of her life.

The first half of this book had me really intrigued.  The characters of Georgia and Graham were complex, with their disordered lives.  I liked hearing the back story of how the two met, their histories prior to meeting each other, and the chaos they have survived together.  But halfway through the book, I found my attention waning.  I am not really sure why.  Perhaps there were too many minor characters (parents, step parents, friends of parents, hermetic husbands of friends of dead parents), or too many sources of drama (sleep disorders, mutism, tragic accidents, sickness, natural disasters), but I simply found myself not caring about anyone or anything in this story.

The book is well written, and I loved the descriptions of the Miami environment.  It made for a good summertime read, simply based on setting alone.  And I liked the descriptions of Charlie's drawings, they really came to life.  The writing is attentive to detail, which I really liked.  I think the thing that was missing, for me, was a certain dynamic between characters.  A strong bond with the characters, and among the characters, would have taken this book from good to great.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

The Butterfly Sister, by Amy Gail Hansen

Ruby dropped out of college just short of graduating.  The reason for her hasty departure has remained a mystery.  After ten months of attempting to heal, Ruby is thrust in the middle of a mystery.  One of the girls that Ruby went to college with, Beth, has turned up missing.  In attempting to help unravel the truth of the situation, Ruby realizes that she and Beth may have more in common than she first realized.

This book.  THIS BOOK!  I have read over 100 books so far this year.  This book?  The best I have read all year.  I am so overwhelmed that I am not even really sure where to start.

The story revolves around Ruby, a woman who has been fractured emotionally.  I really adored Ruby's character.  I found her to be relatable and sympathized with her often.  I think so many of us have been in similar situations at some point in our lives, heartbroken and despairing.  But as I reader, I saw strength in Ruby that did not even realize she possessed.  

Probably the best thing about the book is the writing.  It is luxurious and gorgeous.  The author pulls very heavily from classic female literature, many of my personal favorites, and incorporates the deeper themes in a new, fresh way.  The plot moves quickly, with a lot of twists and turns, and it kept me hooked from the very first chapter.  This is contemporary novel that rivals the classics.  I never anticipated the ending, and I loved every moment of the journey getting there.  I am simply amazed that this debut novel hits it completely out of the park, and I cannot wait to see more from this incredibly talented author.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. See the rest of the tour here.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Texts from Bennett, by Mac Lethal

Mac is a rapper, and despite the fact that he is white, he does not aspire to be the "next Eminem".  In fact, Mac stays far away from the gangsta, thug image.  That is, until is thug wanna be cousin Bennett (along with his mom and stepdad) moves in with Mac.  Bennett spends most of his time trying to hook up with girls, keeping from losing his job, and getting high, all while claiming to be a member of the Crips.  Bennett often communicates with Mac via unintentionally hilarious text messages, where topics range from Bennett's money making schemes in the neighborhood to his stuffed animal, Hustla tha Rabbit.

I was a fan of the "Texts from Bennett" tumblr account shortly after it started.  I never really cared if the whole thing was true or not, all I knew was it was totally irreverent and completely hilarious.  And I feel the same exact way about this book.  The book is marketed as a novel, which indicates it is fictional; in the past Mac has purported the texts and his cousin are real, just under a pseudonym.  Either fact or fiction, it makes no difference; this book will make you laugh.

I was more than a little impressed with how well this book was written.  When you hear someone is a rapper, you do not often expect eloquence, but with Mac Lethal, you get it.  And the story is quick to point out that even though Bennett is not as eloquent as Mac, he is every bit as intelligent.  Mac does a wonderful job developing Bennett as a character, and the story has an unbelievable amount of heart.

Make no mistake, the language and subject matter is rough.  A lot of the male characters in the book are gang members, use drugs, and talk about women as if they were objects.  But it does paint a picture of a certain subculture.  The book does not take itself to seriously, but it is in no way a mere lampoon.  By the end of the book, you see a lot of good in characters who are the kind of people who are typically overlooked.

I received a review copy courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.


Friday, August 2, 2013

When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears, by Kersten Hamilton

In this final book of the Goblin Wars trilogy, we find Teagan and Finn fighting to save the their loved ones, and keep evil dark forces from escaping Mag Mell and entering the world.  Despite her tumultuous and conflicted heritage, Teagan has chosen to fight on the side of what is right and good, and seeks goodness in the creatures and people around her.  As Samhain draws near, it appears that all hell is going to break lose, literally.

I have had really mixed feelings about this trilogy.  They are wildly popular, incredibly creative, and totally original.  They pull heavily from Celtic mythology, but also incorporate aspects of romance, action, and the paranormal, so it is easy to see why they appeal to a wide variety of readers.  It is just, for me personally, the entire series is just a little too much.  Too many fantasy creatures from Celtic mythology with which I am wholly unfamiliar.  Too much darkness for the targeted age group.  Too many odd people and things to try to keep straight.  When I read, I like to picture people, places, and things in my mind.  I struggled with that during all three books in this series, because the concepts were just too foreign for me.

I think the writing and the story is very solid.  More than the first two books, the action and plot progress very rapidly in this story, which helped me quickly become engaged as a reader.  I found the characters to be very consistent with their earlier development, yet they do continue to develop throughout this story.  I was surprised by some of the turns the story takes in the end, some made me happy, and some made me sad.  Because I had already read the first two books in the series, there was no way I was no going to seek closure in the third book; I felt like that closure was received, and that it was well executed.  Off the entire series, this book was my favorite.  

I received a review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest review.

Another Little Piece, by Kate Karyus Quinn

Annaliese was missing for a year, and most people assumed she was dead.  When she makes a sudden reappearance, everyone is stunned.  She has completely lost her memory, however, and she seems, well, different.  In reality, she is different, and is inhabited by the spirit of another girl.  Slowly, memories of this other girl start to flood over her, and she begins to dread the truth of who she is, and what she must do not.

I thought this was an incredibly original concept.  However, the execution was more than a little clumsy.  I felt like the story jumped all over the place, with different times and characters jumbling together.  I never felt like I got the whole story; it hopped around so much that things were lost in the process.  And because the main character has undergone so many transformations, I never really felt like I know who she was.  Was the story about Annaliese or Anna?  I was never able to really tell.

The description of the book says it is a mix of Stephen King books and Pretty Little Liars.  That may have been the goal, but the reality is it missed the mark.  The strength of this book is the feeling it creates.  The author does a great job of creating a very dark, gothic setting and story.  I just felt like it needed to be a little bit more refined.

I received a review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest review. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Drift, by Jon McGoran

Doyle is dealing with the loss of his mother and stepfather, as well as being suspended from his job as a detective.  He decides to spend some time at his mother's home, in rural Pennsylvania.  He quickly connects with his neighbor, an organic farmer named Nola.  He also quickly realizes that something nefarious is going on in this town.  Turns out, farming is a big, and often dangerous, business.

I have long been a fan of thrillers, so this book was right up my alley.  The story is highly relevant to our current economic situation and the way our food sources impact our economy.   The purity of our food, GMOs, organic crops, and their impact on our health and well being is a real hot button issue, so I like the fact that writers are including these kinds of storylines in books.  It really made me wonder how much of the book is actually plausible.  If things like this really can (or do) happen, it makes me want to become a homesteader!

I really liked both Doyle and Nola as characters.  I thought they were well developed, something that can get over looked in a thriller where action is often more important than characters.  I particularly liked the interactions between Doyle and Nola.  I could not help but snicker that a story that involved Russian thugs also had characters named Moose and Squirrel.

The book was fact paced and engaging.  Fans of thrillers will be sure to enjoy this story.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.