Saturday, May 29, 2010

Meander Scar, by Lisa J. Lickel

Ann has been living in emotional limbo for six years, since the disappearance of her husband Gene. When he first disappeared, she made tireless attempts to find him, living or dead. After all these years, Ann longs to move on, especially once she reconnects with Mark, a younger man she knew in happier times. As Ann tries to move forward on her life’s journey, she is confronted with truths about herself, her faith, and her marriage, of which she would never have dreamed. She tries to do the right thing, for herself, for her son Ritchie, and for Mark, in an attempt to finally get her happy ever after. Through all this, Mark waits, patiently, and lovingly, but when real roadblocks pop up, will he just turn around and leave?

Have you ever had a book that just left you almost hungry for what was going to happen next? This was one of those books for me. The action of the storyline starts right from the first page, and in it I was happily swept. Lisa Lickel writes characters that are real, and down to earth, reminding us of people in our lives. Who among us does not know someone like Ann, just muddling along her life’s path without really seeking purpose or direction? And who among us would not like to know someone like Mark, handsome, faithful, successful, and doting? Many of the scenes in the story, particularly the family scenes, were so vividly written, I could have sworn I was there, eating Thanksgiving dinner with them.

Technically, I guess this novel is classified as a romance, but it is nothing like what comes to mind when you think of romance novels. There is richness and a depth to the storyline that goes beyond normal romance, to the very heart and soul of life. There is mystery to the storyline, and drama. I personally think this would make an utterly fantastic movie, one I would want to watch again and again. Perhaps that is because Lisa writes the story in such a way that I can see it happening in my mind, in movie like fashion. To me, this is the mark of an excellent book.

I am thrilled to add Lisa to my list of new authors, ones I will continue to seek out for good reads. I would recommend this book to lovers of romance novels, dramatic novels, and even mystery novels, because I think there is something there that would appeal to all of them. The strong themes of family, faith, forgiveness, and morality make this a wonderful book for mature teenage readers as well as adults. This would be an excellent book for a book club discussion, because Lisa writes characters and scenes that we all can relate to.

In short, Meander Scar is a great summer read, and I hope you have an opportunity to check it out. You will not be disappointed.

This book was provided for review by the author.

***Just a few days left to enter my giveaway, which ends June 12:01 am June 1st. See details here***

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Kiss for Cade, by Lori Copeland

Set in Kansas in 1885, this book follows the story of Zoe, a widow taking care of the orphaned children of her best friend Addy. Cade is the children’s nephew, but he is also Zoe’s old flame. He left town years ago, to become a bounty hunter, with a promise to return to Zoe. Tired of waiting, she married, but her husband eventually died. Now, he is in charge of his sister’s children, so he returns to town to settle the matter. As it turns out, there are quite a few matters that need to be settled back in town. But can they be?

I was a little nervous about this book when I noticed the setting, as I am not a big fan of westerns. However, I quickly forgot that this book was set in a Wild West-type setting, because the story so quickly becomes engaging. Lori Copeland does an excellent job of hooking the reader, right from the start. Her characters are so relatable; one forgets they are simply characters. In fact, one of the children in the book has a lisp, and all her dialogue is written phonetically, as it would sound with the lisp; I found myself talking like her for a day or two after finishing the book. It is no exaggeration, her characters become so familiar to you, and they are more like old friends.

The story line moved quickly, so there was no real down time in the book. As a result, I found it hard to get to a good stopping place, and would instead find myself reading for hours after I had intended to stop. That is a sign of an engaging plot.

There is a strong emphasis on family in this book, and what a family can look like, since Zoe is not blood kin to the children, but she is still their family. I really liked that sentiment being represented in a Christian book. Also, I liked the fact that the characters were flawed, I think that was part of what made them so relatable. There is also a theme of community in the book that allowed a rich cast of supporting characters to shine at different times.

All in all, I highly recommended this book. While the main storyline was that of romance, the plot and back story were so rich with details that it was more than just a romance novel. While fans of traditional western novels might find it a little too romantic for them, lovers of historical romance will enjoy it, and if you are like me, with little exposure or appreciation to traditional western novels, this is a great way to test the waters. This book is one in the Western Sky Series, so if you have enjoyed others from the series, chances are you will love this one as well.

This book was provided for review courtesy of the Christian Review of Books.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Sand Dragon, by Michael F. Stewart

Set in Canada , the story opens with the discovery of a large pterosaur skeleton at the site of Synthoil. Kim Axon is a paleontologist who arrives on site to preserve the skeleton, but immediately is at war with supposed archeologist Sebastian Blythell, who Kim suspects is not quite on the up and up. In the middle of the night, Blythell steals the skeleton, and Kim discovers there are secrets to this ancient land, secrets like vampires, dragons, and ancient tribal spirits. Also mixed up in all the madness are Patrick, a local meat cutter with a fondness for reptiles, and Jamie, a worker at Synthoil, with a fondness for women. The community is fractured due to the government’s treatment of the aboriginal population, as well as the shadow, or immigrant, population. When people start getting sick, and the sickness is traced back to the skeleton, sides must be picked. Which side will Kim end up on?

This book was a new journey for me, in a lot of different ways. While I am an avid horror reader, this book had slightly more of a science fiction or fantasy aspect than most horror books I read, so that was new. The setting was new, and completely foreign, so that took some getting used to. When I started chapter one, I felt a bit like a fish out of water, and was a little worried I would not acclimate well. By chapter four, I was completely hooked. Stewart made very real, relatable characters, even the ones whose background was so vastly different from my own. His ability as a storyteller is very sophisticated, to the point where I could not even imagine how hideous his monsters may have been, and yet, because of his wonderful descriptions, somehow, I could. It was the oddest sensation.

Some of the mythology is the book is familiar, yet told in very new ways. I do not want to speak to this too much, as I do not want to give away too many plot details, but suffice it to say, there were twists and turns that I did not see coming, right from the very beginning. The way it all comes together in the end is brilliant. This book is excellent for horror fans, and I can see fans of Stephen King and Michael Criton. I highly recommend this book to any horror fan, even if this is not your usual kind of book. It was a stretch for me, and I am glad for it.

This book was provided for review courtesy of the author.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Book Blog Hop

In order to try to get more suggestions from readers, I am joining a Friday Book Blog Hop as many Fridays as I can remember, so this may become a weekly themed series post.

Come visit the Book Blog Hop, hosted over at Crazy for Books, and meet some more book lovers!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Graham-Smith

Suppose vampires were real. I am not talking about some sparkly, angsty foo foo vampires. I am talking about cunning, conniving, evil, stealing- children- from- their- beds kind of vampires. What is every missing person report was really a vampire victim? What if vampires came over with the Puritans to escape persecution in Europe? What if the Roanoke mystery could be chalked up to vampires? What if slavery was a way to breed not only free labor for plantation owners, but a food source for vampires in the South?

All these suppositions are put forth in this book. Basically, Seth Grahame-Smith takes your mind, and every fact it contains about Honest Abe and American history, and totally blows it right out of your head. This book is simply that amazing. The book is not at all what I expected it to be. In all reality, I walked into this book expecting a healthy dose of camp and dark humor, and feeling pretty o.k. about it. What I got in return was a dark tale, heartbreaking and beautiful, that had me believing for a few minutes, as I read through the night, that every word could be quite possibly true.

First off, Abe Lincoln is pretty awesome to begin with. But give him some Chuck Norris-like vampire butt kicking ability, and wow, G.I. Joe ain't got nothin on this real American Hero. This book is seamless, truly. So many facts are woven into the story, that is what makes it so believable. And Seth's ability as a story teller is poetic, something I have not seen in many modern male writers.

I would love to see more work like this. First off, it is just fun, and it makes reading, and history, fun for adults, and young adults alike. The violence in this book is not so gratuitous or graphic that it would prohibit a young adult from reading it. So if a high school kid reads this, and as a result gets more interested in the Civil War, how awesome is that. And if not, at least the kid was reading, not playing some mindless video game.

Secondly, I think this could open up some new genres of historical horror writing that could be astounding works of art. Imagine Napoleon in a Faust like situation. Not that much of a stretch, huh. I think there is room for some great writing to be done in this area.

Simply put, this book amazed me. It made me want to immediately learn more about Abraham Lincoln's life, so I will add all that to my reading list, which grows exponentially with every book I read. As for you, well, you should put this book at the top of your to read list.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Preview and a Giveaway!

Well, it is time for a first here at Tiffany's Bookshelf. I have decided to talk a little about a current read before I actually review it, because it ties into an exciting new development: My first ever book blog giveaway.

This give away is called
For the Love of All Things Vampire

In order to enter, you must be a follower of this blog, but there are additional

entry opportunities as well, based on following my additional blogs, my

husband's blog, following me on Twitter and Facebook, and passing along

word of the contest.

Prize package includes 3 books: Dead Until Dark by Charlene Harris (book

one of the True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse books), The Awakening by L.J.

Smith (book one of The Vampire Diaries), and Eighth Grade Bites by Heather

Brewer (book one of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod). Also included is a Forks

High School Spartans bag, a "Beware, I Bite" T shirt, and assorted vampire


Click Here to complete entry form, contest ends at 12:01 am EST on June 1st.

I am currently reading a book titled Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. So far the book is fabulous. It almost has be believing in vampires! You will have to tune in for my full review, but here is a snippit of the book:

Nancy Hanks Lincoln died on October 5th, 1818, age thirty four. Thomas buried her on a hillside behind the cabin. Abe was alone in the world.

His mother had been his soul mate. She had shown him love and encouragement since the day he was born. She had read to him all those nights, always holding the book in her left hand and gently twirling a finger through his dark hair with the right as he fell asleep on her lap. Hers had been the first face to greet him when he entered the world. He hadn’t cried. He had simply looked at her and smiled. She was love, and light. And she was gone. Abe wept for her.

No sooner was she buried than Abe resolved to run away. The thought of staying in Little Pigeon Creek with his eleven-year-old sister and grief-stricken father was more than he could bear. Before his mother was thirty-six hours dead, Abe Lincoln, nine years old, trudged through the Indiana wilderness, carrying all of his meager possessions in a wool blanket. His plan was brilliantly simple. He would walk as far as the Ohio River. There, he would beg his way onto a flatboat and float down to the lower Mississippi, then into New Orleans, where he’d be able to stow away on any number of ships. Perhaps he’d find his way to New York or Boston. Perhaps he’d sail to Europe, to see the immortal cathedrals and castles he’d often imagined.

If there was a flaw in his plan, it was his time of departure. Abe chose to leave home in the afternoon, and by the time he’d put four miles behind him, the short winter day was fading to darkness. Surrounded by untamed wilderness, with nothing more than a wool blanket and a handful of food to his name, Abe stopped, sat against a tree, and sobbed. He was alone in the dark, and he was homesick for a place that no longer existed. He longed for his mother. He longed to feel his sister’s hair against his face as he wept on her shoulder. To his surprise, he even found himself longing for his father’s embrace.

There was a faint cry in the night—a long, animal cry that echoed all around me. I thought at once of the bears that our neighbor Reuben Grigsby had spotted near the creek not two days before, and felt like a rube for leaving home without so much as a knife. There was another cry, and another. They seemed to move all around me, and the more I heard, the more obvious it became that no bear, or panther, or animal was making them. They had a different sound. A human sound. All at once I realized what I was hearing. Without bothering to take my belongings, I jumped up and ran toward home as fast as my feet would carry me.

They were screams.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith

I hope you all keep reading my blog, suggest some good reads to me, enter the giveaway, and look for my full review of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Old Dog and the Christmas Wish, by Christine Davis

This is a lovely book about an old dog that looks into his neighbor’s yard, and sees a nativity scene. He longs to join the nativity scene because he knows there is something special about the child in it. Sensing his time on Earth is drawing to a close, an angel grants the old dog his wish, and as he passes from this world to the next, she allows him to join into the nativity scene, to forever watch over the Christ child.

This is yet another wonderful book by Christine Davis. The amount of love she has for animals simply pours out onto the page. Her books provide such comfort to those who face the loss of a beloved pet, and this one would make a wonderful holiday gift for someone who lost a pet, or even just a great holiday gift for a pet lover. The illustrations in the book are lush, and rich.

As a pet owner, I feel a strong connection to my pets, and they are a part of my family. Christine shares this connection, and this is the premise of her books. When I hear of a fellow pet owner struggling, I often recommend her books to them. They have a soothing, peaceful effect, and are beautiful. My pets love it when I read Christine’s books to them. Because they are short books, and so gorgeously illustrated, they are also wonderful books for children.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review courtesy of Lighthearted Press.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Queen of Hearts, by K. Dawn Byrd

Daphne Dean is a news reporter and photographer in New York during World War II. Her boss has convinced her to join up with the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA, to help with secret wartime intelligence activities. Fiercely patriotic, Daphne is eager to serve her country, but has no idea the danger in which she is being placed, not only in the OSS, but in her job as well. When she is assigned a murder scene to photograph, she quickly gets tangled up with the mafia. It seems nothing, and no one, in her life is what or who they seem, and Daphne struggles to know who to trust. The story takes a dramatic turn when Daphne enters hiding in a troubling location with Vito, the most mysterious and handsome man she has ever met. But can Daphne trust Vito? And can Daphne trust her own heart?

This best seller by K. Dawn Byrd grew from her 2009 National Novel Writers Month commitment. I am flabbergasted that such an amazing book was written in 30 days, because K. Dawn does not take a single short cut. Her characters are well developed, her plot well developed and fast moving, and her setting descriptions so vivid you can hear, see, and smell them.

I loved the fact that the protagonist is a strong, woman of faith. Strong women were not exactly common in during this time setting, but they did exist, so to hear about one is very satisfying. There are many instances where she fights conventional female stereotypes, and avoids pitfalls that women are prey to during that time in history, and her strength is commendable. I love Daphne’s character, because she shows that one can be feminine, and emotional, and a woman of extreme faith, and still be a strong woman.

I am also pleased to see such variety in the male characters of the book. The characters of Kenneth and Vito are so different, not only from each other, but from what you expect them to be. I love when, as a reader, I am surprised to find out who the good guys are and are not. K. Dawn does an excellent job of keeping the story full of interesting twists and turns.

This book had me hooked, I read it in about thirteen hours, and it only took me that long because I had to get some sleep in the middle of it, since I started reading it at night. The story moved so swiftly, I just did not want to stop. I became emotionally invested in these characters. I wanted to know what happened to Daphne, and I wanted to learn if my gut instincts were correct about whom the good guys were or were not. The story made me happy, and at times made me shiver, but it never ever let me down.

The story is a romance, but completely chaste, with emphasis on faith, so it would be a suitable book for a young adult reader. There are some themes that can be a little darker, because the setting for the latter part of the book is an old mental institution, and there are lots of ties to the mafia and black market, but any violence or darkness is minimal, not gratuitous, and absolutely necessary for the storyline. Because the action scenes are so well developed, and the story so suspenseful, the book appeals to males; because there is a romantic element, the book appeals to females. In short, I would recommend this book to anyone, and everyone, who enjoys a good mystery, suspense, romance, or World War II book. And that pretty much covers everyone. Which is why this is a best seller.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

Recently, I downloaded the Kindle for PC application to my laptop, in order to obtain an ebook I won. In doing so, I discovered a treasure trove of free ebooks for the Kindle available, so I will occasionally be reading and reviewing these.

As a child, my only exposure to Alice in Wonderland was the Disney film. I knew enough of the original story to catch passing references to its contents, and I saw both the recent SyFy reimagining and the Tim Burton film version. So, I had a pretty good idea what I was getting myself into.

We all know the general story. Alice follows the white rabbit down the rabbit hole. She alternately grows larger or smaller depending on what she is ingesting at the moment. She meets a March Hare and a Mad Hatter, a Chesire Cat, some other strange characters, and then of course there is the deck of cards motif, what with the Queen, King, and Knave of Hearts, and all the playing card subjects and soldiers.

It puzzles me that this is considered a child's story, because so much of the symbolism and satire is lost on children. To a child, this is just a silly make believe tale of amusement. In all actuality, this book was a satirical look at life in the time it was written, as well as playing with common words, phrases, and literary pieces of the times. Also, the literary style is quite different than that of which we are accustomed, in that this story has no real denouement, and no real climax for that matter.

Still, I did enjoy this book, and it made me want to learn more about the literary style of the time in which it was written. As a silly fairy tale type story, this is a perfectly acceptable story for children ages 8-12, any earlier and I would fear it may alternately disturb or bore them. For adult readers, in order to really enjoy it, I think one must take into consideration the story's place within literary history, and analyze it with that in mind. All in all, not bad for a book I was able to obtain for free.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jane Slayre, by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin

I love classic literature. I also love reading books from the horror genre. So when the fad came about to do mash-up type re-imagining books consisting of the two genres, I instantly became enchanted. Jane Slayre is just such a re-imagining. It takes the classic story of Jane Eyre and adds vampires, zombies, and werewolves. The plot is the same as the original; you still have poor waifish Jane, the horrid Reeds, mysterious Mr. Rochester, and poor maligned Grace Poole. But you experience it in a new light. It is like what happens when Tim Burton directs a well known children’s story into a new movie version.

As with any new genre that quickly gains fashion, some books fall flat, while others show superiority. I find that Jane Slayre outshines many other books in this mash-up genre, because it is a true re-imagining. There are not just casual references of vampires, Jane is raised with them. The supernatural element helps mold the familiar story in such a unique way, the reader forgets that the story is familiar at all. It truly is like reading a brand new story, as told in the Victorian style. This is not your post-Twilight romantic vamp pulp fiction, and it is not your high school English teacher’s beloved Bronte. It is just so much more.

I loved the fact that Jane is such a strong character, something a bit more subtle in the original work, but still present. And the love between Jane and Rochester is palpable, as in the original. And I love that the typically sensual nature of vampires does not come into play, leaving the story as pure and Victorian as ever. The tale is dark and brooding, and I believe Bronte would approve of this version (while Mary Shelley would be pea green with envy).

What I love best about this book is how it made me want to revisit the original tale, and try to see it with fresh eyes. This is a fantastic way to introduce a classic story to a younger, less classically enthusiastic group of readers. I also admire that Sherri includes really probing study questions at the end of the book, making the reader look analytically at some of the changes made in this version, and drawing their own conclusions on their meaning and appropriateness.

Because the book draws on a classic, I recommend it highly to fans of classic works of the Brontes and Austen. Because it contains supernatural aspects, I recommend it for lovers of the horror genre, as well as vamp romances like Twilight. Because it contains strong themes of redemption, godliness, purity, and salvation, I find it entirely appropriate for Christian readers. In short, I think this book has major mass appeal, and I will recommend it to every reader I meet. I think it will mostly appeal to female readers, but there is a good bit of action that even hard core male vamp-lit fans may enjoy.

In this short review, I have used variations of the word “love” at least six times. Needless to say, I loved this book, and I would love to see it made into a movie. Hello, Tim Burton…..Helena would make a fantastic Mrs. Reed…..

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Everything is Wrong With Me, by Jason Mulgrew

Note- full title of the book is Everything is Wrong With Me: A Memoir of an American Childhood Gone, Well, Wrong

Jason Mulgrew's special Philly blend of snark grew from his blog, and eventually developed into this memoir of growing up in Philly in the 80's and 90's. It speaks to me because, well, I am the same age, I live in Pennsylvania, and I am a voracious blogger. So, for those aspects alone, I was bound to love this book.

I actually found this book to be much tamer than I expected. When the jacket warns that people who grow up like this tend to be agoraphobic or serial killers, I think one expects something a little more sensational. Not that this is a puff piece, I mean, his childhood included a broken home (his words, not mine), a family affinity for the drink (they are Irish, not alcoholics), and a genetic predisposition for illegal activities (running numbers, selling illegal fireworks). But, I mean, this is Philly we are talking about, so I guess I just sort of expected a lot of this. Had he grown up in Santa Monica then maybe this blue collar-ness would be a bit more shocking.

What I instead found it to be was heartfelt and honest. With a lot of swear words and references to masturbation sprinkled in. But hey, that is what growing up is for many many boys. As the youngest child, with no close neighbors, little boys were a mystery to me. I grew up in a rural area, where we did not have a neighborhood of sorts, so Jason's tales of boyishness were actually pretty charming. Mind you, I would never want my children emulating him, but it was pretty entertaining to read. My favorite part of the book was when he talked about his family's history of participating in the Mummers Day Parade. It was told with such pride. Actually, the whole book has a bit of an air of pride to it. Pride of family, pride of being a Second Streeter, pride of being from Philly, pride of being a boy.

If you like snark, and let's face it, who secretly doesn't, and if you have ever almost choked on your Diet Pepsi because you were laughing so hard over an episode of It's Almost Sunny in Philadelphia, then I guarantee, you will love this book.

This book is from my personal library.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Salty Like Blood, by Harry Kraus, M.D.

Dr. David Conner has the perfect life. He has a wife he loves, a gorgeous little girl, and is about to make partner at his medical practice. But all that changes when his daughter Rachel disappears during a trip to the shore. He spends the next weeks trying to find what happened to Rachel, trying to save his marriage, and trying to convince their wife that both their child and their love are still alive. Throughout the book, David and his wife are both forced to face up to their pasts, and how it has impacted their lives in the present.

This book was unlike anything I have ever read. I am not much of a fan of mystery or suspense novels, but this book is so much more than just the mystery of what happened to the little girl. When the book first starts, I have to admit, it is a little hard to get into. I attribute this to the fact that very little character development happens up front, and the action happens early on (not necessarily a bad thing mind you). As the story develops, however, we get to know more about the characters, and their backstories. Once I got about seven chapters in to the book, I could not put it down. I simply had to know what happened to Rachel, and what would happen to David and his wife Jo.

Because the book was written by a medical doctor, the level of medical realism in the book is simply stunning. But that realism, along with some of the very dark themes covered in the book, make it very gritty. In one book, we are dealing with cancer, pedophilia, kidnapping, politics, racism, family issues….this is definitely a heavy read. However, I think that is what I liked so much about it. These issues were not handled with kid gloves; they were presented just as they are in real life, and the ideas of faith, forgiveness, redemption, and spiritual freedom are woven into them in the most seamless and beautiful ways.

I would recommend this book for mature, adult readers, both male and female. It has a very special appeal for anyone raised in a seaside community, or who has a connection to the shore, as this setting plays a particular place in the story.

I most definitely look forward to reading more work by Harry Kraus.

This book was provided for review free of charge courtesy of the Christian Review of Books.