21 October 2015

Review: Haven Lake by Holly Robinson

NOTE:  A copy of this book was provided by the author and publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I have read several of Holly Robinson's books over the last few years.  I started with The Wishing Hill  (Review Link)  the story of three women whose lives are linked in an unusual yet unbreakable way.  That was followed by Beach Plum Island (review link ) a story of three sisters whose lives are linked and who are just beginning to understand the meaning of the word  "family".  Recently I had the privilege of reading a third book by Holly, Haven Lake, published April 2015 by NAL, $15.00 US.   I am pleased to say that I think this is Holly's best work yet. 

Like all of Holly's books that I have read, Haven Lake is a story about people, the connections that they make, and what actually constitutes a family.  In this case, we are introduced to Sydney Bishop, a women who left home at the age of sixteen after a pair of tragic deaths tore her family apart, and her mother, Hannah Bishop, a sheep farmer who still lives at the family farm where Sydney grew up.  Sydney is currently a child psychologist working with troubled students and engaged to marry Gary, a top notch surgeon with a teenage son.   The story unfolds as Sydney tries to forge a bond with Dylan, Gary's son, and steer clear of her mother and their strained relationship.

As I stated in my other reviews of her books,  Holly Robinson's strengths are the characters that she develops in her stories, and the actual flow of the stories themselves.  In that respect, this book is no different.  The main characters, Sydney, Hannah, and Dylan are all amazingly complex characters with a lot of depth and many facets in their personalities.  In fact, even the minor characters, Sydney's fiancee Gary, her grandmother, Hannah's friend and neighbor, Liz, and Dylan's crush are all complex and interesting in their own right.  In fact, there is not a single character in this book that did not do something surprising at one point or another.  The fact that the characters in the story were unpredictable at times only made them seem more real and allowed me to connect with them all the more.  As for the story itself, Haven Lake is once again filled with plenty of emotion...love, loss, betrayal, and enough twists and turns to make the story a page turner.

There were, however, two big differences that set this book apart and made it, for me, the best effort from Holly Robinson yet.  First were the male characters in this book.  I felt that the male characters in this book were more developed and played a bigger role in the flow of the story.  I was especially happy with the character of Dylan, as he is the first male character that has been used as the stories focus among the Holly Robinson books that I have read, and he was an excellent one at that.  The second reason that this book resonated with me more than some of the others has to do with the last quarter of the book, and the ultimate ending.  There were so many things revealed about the characters in this section of the book that made for a fascinating read.  In addition, the ending of this book was so realistic.  One thing that I really appreciate, is authors who do not succumb to the urge to always give books an ending where everything works out perfectly.  Don't get me wrong, I love happy endings, but I also appreciate realistic endings where you see that the characters still have decisions to make and journeys to go through.   In this respect, I found the ending to this story very satisfying.

The next Holly Robinson book on my list to read is Chance Harbor, which I highly anticipating.  Over the course of time as I have been reading Holly's books, I have become a true fan of her stories and look forward to much more from her in the future. 

19 October 2015

This week at a glance

This Week's Reading: 

The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

The first in a new trilogy centered around France's King Louis XV and four sisters who shared his heart and his bed.

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Elizabeth Grey is a witch hunter who ultimately is accused and convicted of being a witch herself in this debut YA fantasy novel

The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuk

The new novel from the author of Hemingway's Girl.  This novel centers around the marriage between author Nathaniel Hawthorne and artist Sophia Peabody.

The Reviews: 

Haven Lake by Holly Robinson
The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

Series Spotlight: 

The Stonechild and Rouleau Mysteries by Brenda Chapman

16 September 2015

Review: Tidewater: A Novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony by Libbie Hawker

My copy of this book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review.

I have always been fascinated by other cultures, and among the first that I sought out information on when I was in elementary school were the Native Americans.  Growing up in America I was told the story of Pocahontas and John Smith numerous times in my life, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I found out that Pocahontas and John Smith were never in love, nor were they ever lovers.  There is so much mythology and fairy tale attached to their story, that it is a true find to come across a book that tells a more likely, and to my mind likable, story of the two.  Tidewater: A Novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony  by Libbie Hawker (Lake Union Publishing $10.95 in Paperback) is just such a book.   When I saw it being offered for review, I knew I had to read it, whether I was awarded the ARC or not.

The first thing that I noticed was that the  book begins with the arrival of John Smith and his cohorts from the Virginia Company in America and their decision of where to set up the colony of Jamestown.  In fact, although Pocahontas definitely plays a role in the first third of the book, the author mainly focuses on the developing relationship between the colonists at Jamestown and the Powhatan Indians.  Pocahontas' father Powhatan, her uncle Opechanacanough, John Smith, and various other colonists are the main characters for this part of the story.  Score one for both the book and the author.  As the story progressed, I was very impressed with the way that the author peppered the story with the actual names and customs of the Powhatan Indians.  In addition, she was meticulous in her descriptions of the colonists and the actual roles that each of them played, reminding us that John Smith was not the "leader" or president of the Jamestown colony at the time that he met Pocahontas.

As the story unfolds, we get to the part where Pocahontas saves John Smith from death and the resulting development of their relationship.  At this point in the book, Pocahontas takes on a more central role, as she most likely did in real life.  Although the book at this point details her relationship with John Smith and, in the last third, her life in the colony, conversion to Christianity, marriage to John Rolfe, and eventual trip to England, the author does a great job of continuing to let us know what is happening with the other characters, most notably, John Smith, Powhatan, and his brother. Through all of this, we get an excellent picture of Pocahontas, her true role in the Jamestown story, and her eventual life as a Christian and Englishwoman.

The one thing that struck me throughout this book, and perhaps my favorite thing about it, was the amount of detail and realism that the author included in this book.  It was apparent from the beginning that she had done a lot of research,  not only on Pocahontas her self, but on the Powhatan Indians in general along with the actual inhabitants of the Jamestown colony.  I was definitely pleased, although not really surprised, when I came to the end of the book and found listed there the titles of several non-fiction books that the author used to research and develop her story.  I definitely intend to check a few of them out.  

I ended up giving this book 5 out of 5 stars and am including it on my highly recommended list.  It is a true gem and I will am thankful to Libbie Hawker  for this more realistic glimpse of  this interesting woman who was caught up in history. I still love my fairy tale stories of princesses, but this book is so rich with great characters and interesting details that it is a must read for anyone interested in this time period.   It is my first book by this author, but it will not be my last!  

14 September 2015

The week ahead

What's on tap for this week?  


Tuesday's Review will be on Tidewater, Libby Hawker's book on Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony, which was a 5 star read for me.

Thursday's Review will be on Holly Robinson's Haven Lake, which I feel is her best work yet.


 Goodnight June  By Sarah Jio

I must have read Goodnight Moon to my son a billion times when he was little and a book based on Margaret Wise Brown is a real draw for me.

 The Mill River Redemption and The Promise of Home by Darcie Chan

LOVED  Darcie's book The Mill River Recluse back in 2011 when it was first published and was excited to get a copy of the third book in the series.  I am currently finishing the second book, The Mill River Redemption, and then will follow up with The Promise of Home.

Enjoy the week everyone!

05 August 2015

3rd annual ARC August sponsored by Read, Sleep,Repeat

I have decided to participate in the ARC August challenge this year as I have a number of ARCS that I need to get read and reviewed.  The contest was brought to my attention by a book blogging friend, and is sponsored by the site Read, Sleep, Repeat.  In case you are interested, here is a link to the site:

You don't have to be a blogger to participate, just and ARC reader who has a pile they would like to get through.  On the site they talk about several ways to keep track of what you have read.  For me, though, I will be reviewing books here, and updating this site with my progress.  Initially I am shooting for 7 ARCS during the month.  Here is the list:

Pleasantville by Attica Locke

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

Judas the Apostle by Van Mayhall Jr.

Tidewater by Libby Hawker

Those Girls by Chevy Chase

Shroud of Roses by Gloria Ferris

The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

Possibles if I get time;
Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes and Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
The Burying Ground by Janet Kellough
The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick
The Promise of Home by Darcie Chan

Wish me luck!

13 July 2015

The Week Ahead

CONTINUATION: Dracula by Bram Stoker

I have to say, I am finding Dracula fascinating, and am so glad that I am reading it.  The version that I am reading is the Barnes & Noble Classics edition that came loaded on my nook. I love the Classics editions because they come with all of the historical footnotes and such, which I find fascinating.  I fell in love with these versions a few years ago when I read the Penguin Classics edition of The Count of Monte Cristo.  These versions also lend themselves well to e-Readers since you can touch the footnote reference, read it, and then jump right back to the page you were reading.  No flipping to find the footnotes, no muss, no fuss.

NEW START: I've Got You Under My Skin  by Mary Higgins Clark. 

I am reading this one for a team challenge for one of my book clubs.  Every month the person who runs the challenge pics 5 old TV shows and then assigns 3 - 6 tasks per show.  We participate in a team of three readers and divide the tasks up between us.  It is a fun game, but time consuming, however, I am what I call "challenge challenged" and rarely pass up a challenge.  I know I have never found one that I did not enjoy.  Back to the book, though.  The task here is to read a book by an author who has a relative who is also an author, which certainly fits MHC as her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark also writes mystery stories.  I think I read my first MHC book in high school, it was her fist,also titled Where Are The Children.   I have been hooked on her books ever since and am delighting in this one which introduces a new series by her.

BUDDY READS: The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathie Marie Buchanan

This will be my first book by this author as as I love historical fiction of any kind, I expect I will enjoy it a lot.

REVIEW BOOKS: Isabella:Brave Heart of France by Colin Falconer

The Isabella here is the wife of Edward the II, and the only woman to ever invade England and win, or so the book promises.  Although Historical Fiction about royalty is perhaps my favorite over all, I am not familiar with this particular queen, and so I hope to learn a few things.  The review for this book with be the debut review for my new blog...Reading on Royalty, which is under development.  I will post a link the the review on this site when I have it ready.

28 May 2015