Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Healing Heart by Melissa A. Hanson

On a bitter cold winter night Bailey Walsh’s family was killed in a traffic accident. Two years later as she lives with her aunt and uncle in Southern California, Bailey is still plagued by the nightmares of that terrible night. Everywhere around her are reminders of what she lost. Even her aunt, in a cruel twist of fate, is not just her mom’s sister, but her identical twin. Babysitting Riley, a spunky two-year old, is a sweet distraction and one constant light in her life. One day as she takes Riley to the park she meets Collin McKenna, a senior at her high school and her life is changed forever as he helps her find herself and realize her life is worth living. As the romance between them grows her broken heart begins to heal. However, still nagging in the back of her conscious is the fear that her new found happiness could come crashing down and she could lose everything she loves, yet again. Outside forces begin to tear them apart and Bailey must learn to trust in herself and realize that she is worthy of happiness. That sometimes love and healing comes in unexpected forms.

This is a different kind of young adult book. With the surplus of books on the paranormal, it was refreshing to read something a bit more literary.

The book’s premise is good. It captivates the reader from the beginning, and since the novel is fast-paced, we stay interested all the way through.
The main character, Bailey, is dealing with the loss of her entire family, and we get to see her change throughout the book, making her a well-rounded character. The rest of them are fine, not memorable, but Bailey is enough to keep our interest up.

The issue I had with the book had more to do with the writing style itself. I found that the author “told” more than “showed”. There were many instances of this that distracted me from the story itself. I think with another round of editing, this novel would have been an even better one.

It was entertaining, so I do recommend it, especially for young adult readers who like a nice romance with a bit of psychological tension.

Booking Through Thursday

If you could write a book, what would it be about, and why? (Though, of course, some of you already HAVE.)

Well, I have written two manuscripts, actually, the latest of which is going through edits with my literary agent. We're getting it ready to submit to publishing houses. It's a young adult psychological mystery, tending towards the more literary fiction aspect.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

WWW Wednesday

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently, I'm reading Eliot by Michael A. Wood Jr.

And The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

I just finished reading Deadweather and Sunrise (The Chronicles of Egg #1) by Geoff Rodkey. You can read my review here.

Next, I'll probably read The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Deadweather and Sunrise (The Chronicles of Egg #1) by Geoff Rodkey

It's tough to be thirteen, especially when somebody's trying to kill you.

Not that Egg's life was ever easy, growing up on sweaty, pirate-infested Deadweather Island with no company except an incompetent tutor and a pair of unusually violent siblings who hate his guts.

But when Egg's father hustles their family off on a mysterious errand to fabulously wealthy Sunrise Island, then disappears with the siblings in a freak accident, Egg finds himself a long-term guest at the mansion of the glamorous Pembroke family and their beautiful, sharp-tongued daughter Millicent. Finally, life seems perfect.

Until someone tries to throw him off a cliff.

Suddenly, Egg's running for his life in a bewildering world of cutthroat pirates, villainous businessmen, and strange Native legends. The only people who can help him sort out the mystery of why he's been marked for death are Millicent and a one-handed, possibly deranged cabin boy.

Come along for the ride. You'll be glad you did.

This is a wonderfully inventive book for middle graders, although, really, I enjoyed it enough to recommend it to everyone.

The premise is original enough to have the reader sigh with relief. No wizards or vampires to be found. Instead, we have pirates! What I loved was that although some of them are the normal kind of pirates, the majority we see in the book are what the author calls “field pirates”. They work the fields as mercenaries. This, to me, is a fun twist on what a pirate really is. But that’s not the only great thing about the book. The main character Egg, is delightful to read about. He gets into all kinds of craziness, including meeting his best friend when he tries to kill him in a duel to the death. All the characters are great, including the villain and his daughter, with whom Egg falls in love.

There were many moments throughout the book where I found myself laughing out loud. There are lots of clever little scenes that will capture the reader’s imagination, no matter the age. The writing is fresh and light, keeping the pace at a steady trot through the chapters. I doubt anyoe could get bored reading this book.

I recommend it to all lovers of fantasy.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From Stress Pandemic: The Lifestyle Solution: 9 Natural Steps to Survive, Master Stress and Live Well by Paul Huljich

"Competition in today's world is fierce. What was once enjoyable becomes infused with a sense of fear and urgency, and then it becomes 'work' and a task to be dispensed with."

pg. 4 (ARC)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Musing Mondays

This week’s musing asks…

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

No. Unless it's something really crucial to the entire scene and I have no idea what it could be, I just keep reading and I can usually guess what the meaning is from the context.

Blog Tour: Written in the Ashes by K. Hollan VanZandt

Who burned the Great Library of Alexandria? When the Roman Empire collapses in the 5th century, the city of Alexandria, Egypt is plagued with unrest. Paganism is declared punishable by death and the populace splinters in religious upheaval. Hannah, a beautiful Jewish shepherd girl is abducted from her home in the mountains of Sinai and sold as a slave in Alexandria to Alizar, an alchemist and successful vintner. Her rapturous singing voice destines her to become the most celebrated bard in the Great Library. Meanwhile, the city's bishop, Cyril, rises in power as his priests roam the streets persecuting the pagans. But while most citizens submit, a small resistance fights for justice. Hypatia, the library's charismatic headmistress, summons her allies to protect the world's knowledge from the escalating violence. Risking his life, his family, and his hard-earned fortune, Alizar leads the conspiracy by secretly copying the library's treasured manuscripts and smuggling them to safety. When Hannah becomes the bishop's target, she is sequestered across the harbor in the Temple of Isis. But an ancient ceremonial rite between a monk and priestess inside the Pharos lighthouse ignites a forbidden passion. Torn between the men she loves, Hannah must undertake a quest to the lost oracles of Delfi and Amun-Ra to find the one thing powerful enough to protect the pagans: The Emerald Tablet. Meanwhile, the Christians siege the city, exile the Jews, and fight the dwindling pagan resistance as the Great Library crumbles. But not everything is lost. . .

A beautiful historical fiction, this book will stay with you long after it’s over.

This is really historical fiction at its best. The writing is lush with details, leading the reader into a time that is not as well known, perhaps, as the usual Victorian or even Renaissance periods. There is an epic feel to the story which bodes well for having a sequel, or even a few books to follow it. There is enough action to keep most readers interested, even amidst the beautiful and rich descriptions, so don’t think that it will be all period detail and no plot line.

The writing is well balanced, although there are a few grammatical concerns. I think with a tiny bit more editing all of that could be resolved. There is a wonderful sense of magic along with history that will fascinate most readers into wanting to read more about this time period. The goddesses that the author creates are alone worth the book.

I highly recommend this. It is a quick read which is a strange thing to say about a novel that takes place in the fifth century, but since its pacing is so well done, there is not a single moment of dullness. Definitely an interesting read.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Angela's Coven by Bruce Jenvey

Reggie Sinclair is an aging British rock star living in New York City who has just found out he is terminally ill. He also has a very dark secret: When he was still an undiscovered teenager, he sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his great fame and success. As his life draws to an end, he prepares to face the inevitable until he stumbles upon a very enchanting, modern-day witch named Angela, and her untraditional coven.

Angela gradually introduces Reggie to her world of old school Witchcraft with its roots in alchemy and ‘natural chemistry’ dating to the Dark Ages. As their relationship grows, they devise a plan to break Reggie’s contract and save his soul.

This is a story of the struggle between good and evil with a cast of characters that ranges from guardian angels to young witches-in-training. Together, they have to come to terms with the uncertainties of love, loss, and life decisions to save Reggie from an unbearable eternity. Here is a plot filled with unexpected twists and surprises to the very last page that will also cast an entirely different light on anything you may have ever considered as faith!

This was definitely a different take on the whole god versus evil scenario. For one thing, there was plenty of humor to go around!

Reggie, a musician who sold his soul to the devil in exchange of a successful musical career is facing death and is none too happy about. He is a great character to follow, someone with flaws but who captures the reader’s attention from the very beginning. Angela, a witch, is not as fully realized, but she still has some good moments. Maddy, Angela’s aunt, is a hoot to read about. She is feisty enough to count for three people, and some of her scenes had me laughing out loud. Lucifer is equally charming, as is expected, and definitely steals many of the scenes.

The plot is fast-paced which is wonderful, never letting the reader get bored. There are a few grammatical issues but nothing horrifying so it shouldn’t deter you from picking this book up.

This is a fun one and I do recommend it to lovers of the paranormal genre and even those of you who like a bit of humor in your stories. I’ll definitely be looking forward to the next one in the series.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Faustian Host by Dave Becker

Plymouth Rock is bleeding. Day has turned to night. Hundred-pound hailstones level buildings. The small town of Clement seems cursed, and the residents know who's to blame: the new kid, Tony Marino.

After losing his family and his home, 14-year-old Tony is forced to move from Florida to Massachusetts to attend Kalos Academy, an unconventional school for gifted children. Strange things begin to happen the day he arrives, and soon stories of plagues, monsters, and mystical objects surround him. Refusing to believe superstitions, Tony struggles to explain the occurrences logically, until he comes face to face with a satanic cult determined to bring about the end of the world.

This book’s premise is definitely attention-grabbing, and thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint.

What’s best about the novel is the atmosphere, almost the little world he builds in Kalos, an academy for the highly gifted. The descriptions are well done, never overwhelming the plot. As the story progresses we really become immersed in the school. The characters, for the most part are well written, with Tony (the protagonist) being the most thought out. Some of the other, side characters, though, are left a bit underdeveloped, which is a shame since they all seemed like they could have had really interesting side-plots.

There are some unresolved plot points which left me wondering a little. Maybe the author is setting up for another book. That’s probably it, but I still felt like they should have been at least touched upon a little bit more to give us a better sense on what’ll be happening in the next installment.

This is a fun story, and I do recommend it to teens and even fantasy-loving adults.

Follow Friday

Q: Activity! Dream cast your current read.

I'm reading The Unquiet (which so far is only mediocre)by Jeannine Garsee. The main character, Corinne, I see a bit like Ellen Page.

And for one of the male leads, maybe Asher Book.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Booking Through Thursday

Do you have any pet that has a name inspired by your readings?

If not, what would you pick if you DID?

Oh, yes. Bear with me, since I have lots and lots of pets. Okay, our Siberian Husky is named Fyodor, after Dostoevsky; we have two cats named after Ichabod Crane and Katrina from Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow; we have another cat named Tika after a character in Dragonlance; one of my snakes is called Tybalt, after the character in Romeo and Juliet; another cat named Dante. We've had many others throughout the years, but those are the ones with literary names at the moment.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Newly engaged and unthinkingly self-satisfied, twenty-eight-year-old Adam Newman is the prize catch of Temple Fortune, a small, tight-knit Jewish suburb of London. He has been dating Rachel Gilbert since they were both sixteen and now, to the relief and happiness of the entire Gilbert family, they are finally to marry. To Adam, Rachel embodies the highest values of Temple Fortune; she is innocent, conventional, and entirely secure in her community—a place in which everyone still knows the whereabouts of their nursery school classmates. Marrying Rachel will cement Adam’s role in a warm, inclusive family he loves.
But as the vast machinery of the wedding gathers momentum, Adam feels the first faint touches of claustrophobia, and when Rachel’s younger cousin Ellie Schneider moves home from New York, she unsettles Adam more than he’d care to admit. Ellie—beautiful, vulnerable, and fiercely independent—offers a liberation that he hadn’t known existed: a freedom from the loving interference and frustrating parochialism of North West London. Adam finds himself questioning everything, suddenly torn between security and exhilaration, tradition and independence. What might he be missing by staying close to home?

It’s a tricky task to retell a well known and well loved story. It’s rarely a successful undertaking, and this book, unfortunately, is not an exception.

This is a retelling of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, a wonderfully complex book woven around the upper crust of Victorian New York society. In this version, the plot takes place in London, in a wealthy Jewish community. The main issue is that so much of the nuances in the original are completely lost in this version. Everything is thrown in the reader’s face, making us half expect to see the author winking down at us at how clever she’s being. The worst thing is that the writing is very good. There is a beauty to it which would have made for a great novel, if it’d been any other novel. It’s impossible to not compare the two books, Wharton’s masterpiece and this cheap imitation.

None of the characters, not even Adam (Newland), are fully fledged. Ellen, in particular is a weak caricature of who she is supposed to be, making her seem pitiful rather than interesting and complicated. Wharton’s protagonist, Newland, is a complex man, flawed yet real while this version, Adam, just comes off as borderline psychotic, changing moods and behaviors without real cause, just following the script a previous author laid out for him.

This is not one I’d recommend. I do look forward to reading more by this author, because the writing style is lovely, but hopefully next time it’ll be an original work all her own.

WWW Wednesday

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently, I'm reading The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

And The Innocents by Francesca Segal

I recently finished reading The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker. You can see my review here.

Next I'll probably read Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

"Sometimes, when I dream, the deadliest moment in my life happens all over again. That's when I'm given the chance to do things differently."

pg. 15 (ARC)

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker

In the isolated Cape Cod village of Prospect, the Gilly sisters are as different as can be. Jo, a fierce and quiet loner, is devoted to the mysteries of her family's salt farm, while Claire is popular, pretty, and yearns to flee the salt at any cost. But the Gilly land hides a dark legacy that proves impossible to escape. Although the community half-suspects the Gilly sisters might be witches, it doesn't stop Whit Turner, the town's wealthiest bachelor, from forcing his way into their lives. It's Jo who first steals Whit's heart, but it is Claire--heartbroken over her high school sweetheart--who marries him.

Years later, estranged from her family, Claire finds herself thrust back onto the farm with the last person she would have chosen: her husband's pregnant mistress. Suddenly, alliances change, old loves return, and new battle lines are drawn. What the Gilly sisters learn about each other, the land around them, and the power of the salt, will not only change each of their lives forever, it will also alter Gilly history for good.

This is a wonderful example of literary fiction with a touch of magical realism. There is just some really gorgeous writing in these pages which will captivate anyone who loves well written stories.

The characters are wonderfully crafted. We see them change and grow throughout the novel, ending in completely different places from where they started. That’s always satisfying for the reader. The Gilly sisters are fascinating to follow. Jo with her fierce independence and loyalty to the salt, and Claire with her ambition and need of freedom from the legacy she’s tied to. But it’s not only the sisters who are interesting, but all the characters who fill these pages. They all ask for attention from the reader, making the book a joy to read.

The story itself is lovely, infused with a sense of magic, ominous and fascinating, that will keep you turning the pages. The ending was a bit rushed for my taste, too many plot lines resolved in the space of a few paragraphs in kind of a slap-dash manner, but the rest of novel keeps a nice, steady pace that never bores.

I highly recommend this book, not only for the beautiful writing, but for the delicate weaving of these sister’s lives that rings with truth.

Musing Mondays

This week’s musing asks…
What do you do with the book before you start reading it?

I usually read the back or the inside flaps first, then stare at the cover for a few seconds to decide how I feel about it. And then I read the first few lines, and maybe, if I'm intrigued enough, the author's bio.