30 December 2011


I have been a history buff since the dawn of time, or at least since I first read the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I fell in love with being able to live life as others did, even if it was vicariously.  I picked this book because the New Hebrides Islands were an area that I had never explored before, which intrigued me.  I had read many books about and taking place in Scotland, but never anything in this particular area.   The first thing that amazed me about this book was the author's portarayal of the lives of the Islanders and how bleak it was.  The next amazing thing was that the Reverend McNeil and his wife were actaul historical characters, and not just fictional characters that the author used to describe the story.  The story of the lives of the Reverend and his wife was fascinating, as was the underlying history.  There were many characters that engendered both interest and sympathy.  In short, I was not disappointed in Karin Altenbergs portrayal of the lives of The Reverend McNeil and his wife, their time on the Island of St. Kilda, and the lives of the Islanders. As with a lot of the good historical fiction that I have read, this book has enticed me to read and learn more about the Reverend McNeil, the Island of St. Kilda, and the changes in the Church of Scotland that were occurring at this time.  In my mind there is no higher praise than that.  

17 December 2011


When Lanny McIlvrae is admitted to the ER in the small town of St. Andrew, Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is intrigued. As she tells her story he becomes more and more involved. 

This is the debut novel by author Alma Katsu, and the beginning of the series or trilogy, I believe. I certainly hope so, as I think that Lanny still has a lot of story to tell, and Katsu has a lot of questions still to answer. There are so many things that I liked about this story, that I'm not sure what I liked the most. There were a number of fascinating characters throughout the book whose stories really drew me in. I found that as the book progressed, I was eagerly anticipating where the author was going to take me next. 

The synopsis for this books calls it "part historical novel, part supernatural page turer". While that is an apt description, I would say that it is part The Gargoyle, part The Historian, and part a story all it's own. All of which I would love to visit again and again.

14 December 2011


This book is the debut novel of a new series by author Austin Briggs, and if the title is any indication, I am expecting five books. I certainly hope that this is the case. Briggs crafts a beautifully written story centering around Wasp, the war lord of the Tlaxcalteca, a tribe of the Aztecs. This first book takes place as the various tribes of the Aztecs are warring with each other in the perennial fight for land and mastery within the Aztec nation. At the same time, the Spanish Conquistadors have just landed, which of course will complicate matters. 

I have had an ongoing love affair with the Native American cultures since I was in high school, including the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans of Mexico and South America. For my part, I think that Mr. Briggs captured both the mysticism and brutality inherent in the Aztec culture perfectly. He highlighted their belief in mysticism and use of hallucinogenic substances to further out of body experiences without making it seem too modern or 20th century. At the same time, he gave his characters personalities that allowed them to seem "modern" and not at all archaic. The perfect balance, in my opinion. 

Being the first book of the series, we were introduced to a lot of characters and ideas in this book that I am excited to see develop as the series progresses. In fact, my only complaint regarding this book was that the ending was rather sudden, definitely leaving me wanting more. I hope the second book comes out soon. 

13 December 2011


Although not my usual fare, this book grabbed me from page one and kept me going. Amy Lichtenhantells a poignant story that tugs at your heart strings. I was immediately engrossed in the lives of the main characters and their story of love and loss. Some might say that the story was too formulaic and the ending was predictable, and to some degree it was both of those things, but there was something about the story and the characters that made it easy to overlook what might otherwise be seen as shortcomings. I literally fell in love with Melanie and Daniel and actually think that they deserved the ending they were given. All throughout the book I found myself rooting for them. I think one of my friends who read it said that she thought it was aptly named as she felt "pulled" to read it. I heartily agree as there were times when I could not put it down. In fact, I finished it in two days. In one sitting I actually read 200 pages straight, it was that hard to put down. I will definitely be reading more by this author, for even though this is not my usual fare, I feel that Amy's contribution to this genre is a cut above the normal. 

09 November 2011


I just finished two short stories by Kathleen Valentine, who is fast becoming one of my favorite new authors.  These two particular short stories were bundled together on Smashwords and were perfect reads for the month of October.  The first story, Home Made Pie and Sausage, was a macabre tale that reminded me of the likes of Edgar Allen Poe at his quirky best.  It was deliciously horrible and the perfect Halloween read.  The second tale, Killing Julie Morris, was more of a classic mystery with a bit of a thriller bent.  I am glad that Kathleen bound these two stories together and offered them for the month of October as they were thoroughly enjoyable.


Although this is my first book by Michael Chabon, I have a couple of others to read and had heard a lot about him. Although I found this a pleasant read, I have to admit this book was not at all what I expected. I think that I expected somthing a little more cohesive, a little funnier, and full of some great wit and sarcasm. Instead I found a book that started very slowly and veered off course many times. For example, although the book began with the discovery of a murder, the author did not get to the meat of that story until about 200 pages into the book. In addition, that story was hidden among a lot of rambling, and sometimes confusing, discussion about the characters in the book. In my opinion, most of this discussion detracted from the actual story. Once the author actually got to the story of the murder investigation and the conspiracy surrounding it, I began to enjoy the story. It seemed though, that just as I was getting settled in, the authour would ramble off down another side track. In defense of the book, though, the characters were complex and unpredicatable, and the information on Jewish mysticism and culture was interesting. Overall, I felt the author's descriptions were colorful and engaging, and in that respect enjoyed his writing. There were a few gems in the book like when he referred to the Jewish in Alaska as "the Frozen Chosen", or his description of what it was like to sleep in a bed with a two and a four year old, or how a huge person could hurdle a tall fence. All in all, I felt it was an enjoyable read, but it just didn't quite live up to my expectations.

08 November 2011


I recently finished this aptly named debut novel by new author Katharine Britton. The main premise of the book is a story of sibling rivalry between two sisters. The younger one, Lilli, has always felt that she was living int he shadow of her eldest sister, Bea, who she viewed as perfect, a goal she herself could never attain. As in many books of this type, though, Bea is not as perfect as she seems, and she certainly doesn't see herself this way. As the story unfolds, you find a wonderful story about families and the complex relationships between sisters. What sets this story apart from the usual "sister" stories are the wonderfully complex characters that Britton brings to life and the wonderful surprises that she encompasses in her story line. From the beginning I wondered exactly what the deal was betweeen Lilli and Bea, and how the other sisters fit in. I loved the way that the author let these relationships unfold, and let you get to know the characters, from the sisters to the quirky mother, to Russell, the boy next door. From the beginning of the story I was entertained, engrossed, and in the end, surprised with the story that Britton has crafted in this book.

17 October 2011


I have found a new favorite author for the thriller/horror genre.    Seriously, if you are a fan of mystery/thrillers, or horror, you have to read this author.  

Allan Leverone is a master storyteller in the tradition of many of the greats. I'm not sure if you would class Darkness Falls as a short story or a novella, as it is just over 50 pages long (e-book format). What I do know is that all 50+ of those pages tell an unforgettably creepy story. What starts out as a simple trip home to spend some time getting his life back on track, turns into a nightmare for Tyler Beckman. Once again, Allan Leverone scores with his combination of twisted story line and truly interesting characters. As in The Lonely Mile, he splits his characters between those that are normal and safe, and those that will haunt your dreams. And, as good as the entire story is, in my opinion the best part of Darkness Falls is the ending. All I will say, is that it looks like we have a new voice in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King on our hands. I can't wait for his next endeavor.

08 October 2011


The Skin Map
I recently received an electronic copy of The Bone House by Stephen R. Lawhead. I have Mr. Lawhead's quartet on the Arthurian Legend and enjoy his writing. I found though, that The Bone House was the second book in his Bright Empires series and decided to start with the first book, The Skin Map. It appeared that the series was going to be mostly based on time travel, with maybe a historical fiction bent. What I found instead, was an intriguing fantasy story where the characters travel, not through linear time, but to alternate times in alternate worlds, each with their own reality. These realities may be the same as those of the "home world", as our world is called, or they may be different. The concept was intriguing enough to get me to continue with both the book and the series.

In this, the first of the series, the author spends a lot of time introducing and developing his characters, as well as the impetus of the story, which is a series of quests. As such, there is a lot of explaining the reason for the quest, the development of the characters and their stories, and the actual way that the ley travel used by the characters works. At times it may seem that the author is spending more time explaining and less time story telling, but stick with it. It is eminently worth it in the end.

I went from this book directly into the second book, The Bone House, and as I expected, the characters continue to grow and the story becomes more developed.  

The Bone House

The Bone House is the second book in Stephen Lawhead's Bright Empires series. The characters in this series travel through reality landing in other worlds and other times in their quest for The Skin Map (the title of the first book in the series) and the ultimate prize that it will reveal. If you think this books sounds like just another one of the many time travel books that are the current rage, it is not. In fact, the characters will tell you time and again that they are not merely traveling through linear time, but jumping to alternate worlds where the reality may or may not be the same as in our world. It is an interesting and intriguing proposition that the author is only beginning to reveal the effects of in this book.

If you have read the first book in this series, and I strongly suggest that you do, you will find many familiar characters here. You will also be introduced to some new players in the quest for the map and its ultimate prize. As the familiar characters continue their quest, we learn more about them, their lives, and their motives. The mix of familiar and new in the characters of the book was something that I felt kept the story fresh as well as building on the base that Lawhead had laid down in the first book of the series.

What I liked the most about this book is that it is not your typical epic fantasy adventure. Would I classify it as fantasy? Yes. But more than just fantasy, the Bright Empires series is an exploration by author Stephen Lawhead of human exisitence. Of where we come from and where we are going. What it isn't is non stop adventure. Don't get me wrong...there are sections where the characters find themselves in hot water and you find yourself turning the pages to see how, or if, they manage to get out of the situations they find themselves in. What I liked more, though, was the beautiful stories within the story. The stories of the individual characters. What motivates them and makes them who they are. I also like the brief glimpses of other times and places throughout history. How the people in those times and places might have thought and felt, and how the interactions of people from various realities may alter reality in all places.

In short, this book is a beautifully developed story of the human race in general, and the cast of characters in specific. While it may not make my top ten list of all time for fantasy books, it is an extremely enjoyable romp through time. I am now axiously awaiting book three which is scheduled for Sept. 2012.

28 September 2011


When I read the synopsis of this book I was expecting the normal, run of the mill contemporary fiction book. In fact, what Ms. Chan has given us in her first outing as an author is more than that. She has a wonderfully descriptive writing style that is easy to read. Her descriptions of living with Social Anxiety Disorder, everyday life in a small Vermont town, and the landscape of Vermont are spot on.

The characters in the book are wonderfully developed. Most of them are flawed in some way. As Mary (the main protagonist) likes to say, "no one is perfect". It is these imperfections that Ms. Chan gives her characters, even the most subsidiary ones, that make them endearing. From early on, I felt that I was catching up with old familiar friends.

The combination of her descriptive writing and the development of wonderful characters makes this book a delightful read. I enjoyed it quite a bit and really hope that Ms. Chan will write more novels.

The bad news is that currently the book is only available as an e-book on Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble (not sure if it is other places as well). The good news is as such it is only .99, which is a real bargain for a book this good. I have no doubt as word gets around, though, that someone will want to publish it in print format.

27 September 2011

THE LONELY MILE by ALLAN LEVERONE (If you like thrillers, you have to read this one.)

I have been trying to get to this novel for a number of weeks, ever since I downloaded it the end of July. My anticipation increased as more of my friends read the book and raved about it. When I finally got a chance to read it, I was not disappointed. This novel by Allan Leverone gripped me from the first page and held my interest all the way to the end. Serial kidnapper Martin Krall is the type of character that can really make a thriller. A total psychopath that is at times cruel and twisted, and at other times creepily pathetic. Throw in the other wonderful characters that populate this story and you become invested in their lives quite quickly. Who would't feel empathy for a man who, in trying to do what he thinks is right, ends up bringing hell into his family life. Or his daughter who, through no action of her own, is faced with every young woman's nightmare. The characters are compelling and vibrant. The story line, like all good thrillers, runs a mile a minute with twists and turns. From the beginning you have the feeling that something just isn't quite right, and as the story progresses, you get glimpses of things that only make those feelings stronger, until you get to the stunning conclusion of the book. What you end up with in the end is a real page turner with wonderfully drawn out characters and a story line that will keep you guessing. I guarantee that you will be on the edge of your chair through out this one, and you won't be able to put it down.

26 September 2011


Historical Fiction is probably my favorite genre. In addition, I love to read anything that has to do with royalty, fiction or non fiction. So a book with Eleanor of Acquitane, Henry II, Richard Lionheart, and Alais of France was right up me alley. Although Christy English was a new author to me, I expected the subject matter to be old and familiar. It was, but at the same time Ms. English was able to bring new life to an old friend. This was not just another story about Eleanor, but the story of Alais of France, a young girl who was sent from her home at an early age to live in Eleanor's court.

I have to state at the beginning, that while I expect historical fiction to be based in facts, for me it is really about the story. I get my factual data from non-fiction biographies and histories, and look to my historical fiction to draw me in with the story of the characters and times. This book certainly filled that criteria. I loved the story of Alais and how she grew from a timid little girl into a strong woman. Do I think that this story represents that total truth? No. Did I enjoy the story as it was told? Definitely. The women, both Eleanor and Alais, were strong characters. In addition, I loved the way the author made both Richard and Henry a bit vulnerable, even though, in the end, Henry stayed true to his ruthless character. Like a lot of the historical fiction that I love, this story made me want to read more about the Eleanor, Alais, Henry II, and Richard Lionheart.

Another kudo goes to the author for acknowledging and explaining her use of artistic license in telling the story contained in her book. I always read Author's Notes and Acknowledgments and was pleased to see Ms. English discuss the actual chronology or her divergences from them in her notes.

Bottom line, Ms. English is a great story teller. Her characters were well developed, the story line was interesting and compelling, and she gave the story a bit of a different focus, which made it fun to read. I am looking forward to reading her newest book about Eleanor in the near future.

15 September 2011

claire-obscure by BILLIE HINTON

When I read the synopsis of this book, I was expecting to read the typical mystery/thriller. Girl meets boys, boy is a murderer, girl and friends have to solve the murder. Boy was I wrong. This book is nothing ordinary. It is the very complex story of a very complex cast of characters. Sometimes I loved them, sometimes I hated them, sometimes I was just disappointed in them. But always I was intrigued by them.

I could tell right away that this book was going to be a dark one. At the halfway point, I really had no idea how I was going to feel about the story in the end. At one point, I even contemplated whether I should finish it, but I couldn't turn away. It was like watching a train that is on the wrong track. You know it is going to wreck, you don't want to see it, but you can't turn away. The only thing that I will say, though, is that I couldn't read this book straight through. I had to read some each day, but read other things along with it.

This is the first book by Billie Hinton that I have read, but I will certainly be reading more. She really knows how to tell a story that keeps you involved. I loved her edgy descriptions, use of symbolism, and the complexity of the characters. I find that I HAVE to know what happens to these characters and hope to read the sequel to this one soon.

Kudos, Ms. Hinton. A very complex, very dark story!

13 September 2011

FREE NOOKBOOK The Rich Man by Miroslay Halas


Genre: Flash Fiction

Who is the Rich Man?  He is a man who listens with an open heart. Included in this book are 10 stories from people that highlight the vagaries of today's society, such as lonliness, depression, etc.  Each story is ended with a thought provoking question from the author.

12 September 2011


I really enjoyed this short story by new author Samantha Weiler. The story was well written and interesting. I think the idea could be expanded to a great novel. In fact, at only 7 pages long,  I was just getting into the story when it ended. My only complaint was that it was too short! 

Samantha was the Summer Submission Contest Winner for Trestle Press.  I think she has great potential as a writer.  Please write more, Samantha!

08 September 2011


I finished this one on Tuesday. First, I have to say books about witches and magic in modern times really suck me in. I love them. This one was no different. The prologue intrigued me and got me interested right away. After the first 50 pages or so, though, I was afraid this was going to be more a paranormal romance book than urban fantasy, so I was a little apprehensive. I shouldn't have worried, though. The book was neither paranormal romance, nor your typical urban fantasy.

As for the characters, I think the three witches were my favorite characters, but I also really liked Hudson, Ingrid's friend at the library. In fact, my only complaint with the characters is that, other than the 5 really major characters, you really don't get to know any of the others that well. Some of the minor characters seemed like they would have interesting stories in and of themselves and I was a bit disappointed not to get to read more about them. I am hoping that changes in future books, as I am sure this is going to be the beginning of a series.

The story itself is not at all what I expected from the beginning of the book. There is a lot of Norse mythology contained in the story, which I really liked, and there are a couple of plot twists that I did not see coming. I really enjoyed those parts. In fact, I now want to read some Norse mythology to get some background on the information in this book. Any book that makes me want to read more about the subject gets high marks from me.

As for the ending, the epilogue makes it very likely that the author is setting things up for another book, so I figure this is going to be the first in a series. I am definitely looking forward to the next one.

29 August 2011


I have heard about Diane Chamberlain for quite a while, but this is the first actual book that I have read by this author. I am not sure what I was expecting, but what I got was an amazing read from an author that I cannot wait to read more from.

This book is actually two stories. The first is the story of Laura Brandon. At the beginning of the book Laura's father has just died and her husband commits suicide. As a result, her 5 year old daughter Emma quits speaking. Laura's story centers mostly around her resolve to help Emma get over the pain and trauma of the two deaths that come so close together. It is the story of a mother's love for her child, confusion over exactly how to help her, and the resulting feeling of hopelessness for not being able to "make it all better". Ms. Chamberlain crafts a good story in this regard that will have you hoping for Emma and Laura to get their lives back on track.

The real story in the book, though, is the story of Sarah Tolley, a woman in her 70s who is suffering from Alzheimers. Laura promises her dying father that she will visit Sarah. A woman that she has never heard of before her father tells her his dying wish. Through Laura's visits to Sarah we begin to find out about Sarah's life story, and it is definitely a fascinating one. As the stories progress, we find out that all is not what it seems, until the final clue is revealed in the end.

I loved Sarah's story. I found it compelling and at times I actually wanted to skip the Laura and Emma parts and just get back to Sarah. As Sarah revealed more and more about her life, I found myself trying hard to guess where her story was leading, which is a real plus in my book. The more the story engages me, the more I want to know about the characters, the more I enjoy. And Sarah was definitely someone I wanted to read more about. Not that Laura's story wasn't good. It was definitely engaging also. And as the book continued, both stories really got me involved.

The best part of the book, I have to say, was the ending. The way that the author tied all the elements in the stories together to bring us to her conclusion was fascinating. In addition, she took the story in a direction that I never anticipated. In fact, at one point, certain elements of the story were revealed, and I actually pumped my fist and shouted, "Yes", much to the laughter of my son. Ms. Chamberlain is definitely a master at crafting a story and knows how to keep readers interested and engaged. I have several other books by her on my list and am anxiously awaiting a chance to read them.


As a younger adult, I loved the John Wayne classic version of True Grit. When I saw they were making a new version, I decided to watch the old, then see the new. The result was two very different movies, which then spurred me on to read the book. My quest was to see which movie more closely followed the original book version. So..I ordered it from the library and sat back to wait my turn.

The book version of this classic tale reads almost like a movie script. By that I mean that it consists mostly of either dialog, or of descriptions as told through the eyes of the female protagonist, Mattie Ross. Mattie is the thirteen year old daughter of an Arkansas rancher who is murdered when he goes to town to buy horses. Since she is the oldest child, and her father's right hand person, she is sent to Fort Smith to claim his body, but decided to stay on and avenge his murder. The result is an action story about three people chasing down a criminal in Oklahoma Indian Territory. Since the book is told through Mattie's voice, it is less of an adventure story and more of a character study of the people involved. Mattie Ross is a self assured, older than her years, head strong girl. She teams up with Marshall Rooster Cogburn, an almost washed up, grizzled U.S. Marshall who likes to shoot first and ask questions later. The third major character in the story is LeBeouf, a by the book Texas Ranger who is long on attitude and ego and just happens to be chasing the same criminal that Mattie is after.

The resulting story is an interesting read and a good story. Both movies stick pretty close to the book in both plot and dialog, with the newer version being a little more true to the details. As a result, if you have seen either movie, there is really nothing new to learn by reading the book. In fact, I really enjoyed the movies more than the book in this instance. 

11 August 2011


This book was highly anticipated by me as I fell in love with Lisa See several years ago when I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Since then I have collected all of her books, and though I have yet to read some of them, I have loved all of the ones that I have read. The most recent one to be read wasShanghai Girls, in which Joy, the main character in this book, is also present. I loved the story of Pearl and May and was anxious to read more.

This book did not disappoint. As always, this book was filled with Lisa See's wonderful prose, great characters, and amazing stories. I was captivated by the lives of the characters. I also really love the amount of research and knowledge that Ms. See puts into her books. With Snow Flower it was her detailed descriptions of the foot binding process that drew my attention. With Shanghai Girls it was the development of Chinatown in LA. With this book it is her detailed descriptions of life under Mao Tse Tung and the disconnect between the life of the Chinese authorities and that of the average Chinese citizen, especially during the Great Famine. She really made Communist China come alive for me.

This book was definitely hard to put down, from the beginning to its thrilling ending. I can't wait to see what Ms. See comes up with next, but in the meantime I will be catching up on other books by her that I have yet to read. She is a major talent in Asian literature, up there with the likes of Amy Tan and Gail Tsukiyama. 

09 August 2011


Liz Michalski is a new author for me, and contemporary romance books are not exactly my forte, but this one caught me from the very beginning and kept me interested throughout the entire story. There were several things that I thought were excellent about this book, and a few that I found disappointing. I enjoyed the characters of Andie, Cort, Gert and Frank. In fact, from the description of the book, I expected Frank to play a bigger role and was kind of disappointed that he wasn't more prevalent. In fact, my favorite parts of the book were the parts that dealt with the story of Frank and Gert and their short circuited romance. It was a typical story of love and loss, underscoring the adage that you only live once....there are no do overs. I felt that their story was much more compelling than what was happening in the current time. Luckily for me, most of the book dealt with that story and the effect that their relationship had on everyone over the years.

I have to say, though, that I did not particularly like the ending. Not because it was not well written, or didn't fit the story, but just because I wanted it to end differently in a few areas.

All in all it was a great story that kept me interested all the way through, but with a slightly disappointing ending.

14 July 2011


I really enjoy these books for several reasons. I like Sookie, the ultimate "social outcast" and the world that she has found a way to fit into. Ms. Harris does a wonderful job of developing the secondary characters, and she always has some new ones to spring on the reader in each book. In addition, she is really good at divulging a little more about the supernatural world with each book. To me, if you want to keep your readers engaged, that is essential for a long series. My standard for this type of series is The Dresden File series byJim Butcher, and this one hold up to that one pretty well. 

In the seventh book of the series, we find Sookie up to her eyeballs in the land of the Supes again as she is off to Illinois to participate in a conference of the top vampires in the country. While there she gets to meet up with Barry Bellhop, the only other telepath she has met, again as well as spending time with her new main squeeze, who happens to be a weretiger. In addition, all the other players that we have grown to love are once again present. As usual, nothing that involves Sookie goes smoothly, and what is supposed to be an easy job to allow her an economic "cushion" turn bad and Sookie is faced with trying to set things right. And the end of this one definitely leaves you wondering and wanting more. 

Although these books are somewhat formulaic, the situations are varied enough, and the characters endearing enough, that one keeps reading to see what happens to everyone next. Reading the next book in the series is much like catching up with some old friends that you haven't seen for a while.


This book was billed as a romantic suspense book, although the synopsis made it sound more like a political thriller. As a result, I was not sure what to expect. What I found as I read it was a good thriller with an interesting story line. The main character, Alex Stanton, is a rich girl who has never been able to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. I found her to be spoiled and shallow at first, but once she got a job with a company of private mercenaries and became involved in the business her character became much more palatable. In fact, most of the characters in this book seemed to take a long time to get off the ground. I can only assume that this is due to the fact that this is the first book in a series and as such, the author didn't want to reveal too much about her characters. That she wanted to leave something for future books. The same might be said for the romance usually present in a romantic suspense book. In fact, the romance in this book was all verbal, with no real romance present at all. Again, this must be something that the author intends to develop in future installments. To me this is risky, as there was not really anything in the first book to invest you in the characters and entice you to continue on in the series. 

The best thing about this book was the plot line of the story, which I felt was good, but nothing spectacular. Usually my main criteria for a suspense book revolves around how easy the twists in the story line are to figure out. In this case, I saw them coming a mile away. 

Although I enjoyed this book, I am actually on the fence as to whether I will continue with the series. I may give the second book a chance and see how it goes. If the author doesn't develop the characters and romance any more in the second book, I will be out.


I read the first book by this debut author just last month, and really enjoyed it. Therefore, when I got the chance to read this one I jumped at it. I was anticipating another good mystery along the lines of the first book in the series. What I got, however, was an even better book than Midnight Caller. In the time that has passed between the writing of her first book and this one, the author has certainly honed her craft. This second book of the series had a more exciting story line with a myriad of possibilities for the antagonist, leaving the plot twists harder to figure out. Once the antagonist was finally revealed, I found myself cheering that I had guessed correctly, a sure sign that I was involved in the story.  

In addition, the characters seemed to have more personality making it even easier to get invested in their stories. The heroine, Caitlyn, had the perfect mixture of softness and backbone and her hero, Reid was the perfect strong but vulnerable leading man.  There were also a number of well developed secondary characters who played interesting roles throughout the book.  All in all, I had a really hard time putting this book down once I started to read it. I wanted the world to go away and just keep reading.  I think I may even have snapped at a few of my family members when they interrupted my reading time. 

If I really enjoyed the author's first book, I LOVED this one. I can't wait for the next installment from this author and hope that she writes many more books similar to her first two, and this one in particular.

01 July 2011


I just finished my first graphic novel, Preludes and Nocturnes. It is the first volume in the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. There are several reasons why I decided to try this book. One of my groups is doing a seasonal challenge where we are asked to read books outside of our normal genres. One of the genres I chose was graphic novels, and since the last few books I have read were not that good, I thought a short one would help get me back into reading. Finally, I have a friend who LOVES graphic novels and she recommended this series as one of the best. Since I like Neil Gaiman's books, I thought I would give it a chance. 

The reason that I don't usually read graphic novels is because, for some reason, I find the "comic book" style format very hard to read. That still held true for this book, especially since the page flow was not consistent from page to page. At times the pages were configured in columns, some of them in rows, and still others in more creative formats. To me, that interferes with the flow of the story. 

Another interesting aspect of this book was the different fonts used for each character. At first that took some getting used to, just like the page formats, but in the end, I actually liked this. The separate fonts seemed to give each character their own voice. 

Negating the above, though, my difficulty with the format was more than overcome by the story. The beginning novel deals with the story of Dream and how he is trying to rebuild his life after being held captive for decades. I found the references to old comic book heroes, mythology and religion, and magic really helped the story develop. In addition, the characters were interesting, and just enough was revealed about them to leave you wanting more. One of the most fun things, too, was the inclusion of all of the Dream/Sandman themed songs from through out the years. What does it say about me that I was familiar with most of them? 

All in all, I am putting this one in the win column, and plan to continue the series and see how the story develops.


I am one of those people who really like historical fiction. I love reading books that transport me to another place and time and allow me to see the world through the eyes of the people who lived before me. My love affair began when I read the Little House on the Prarie books as a child, and was solidified in high school when I read James A. Michener's Hawaii. I have to disclose, though, that the period of history that I have read the least about is probably the Antebellum South. That is the time period for this book whose main character, Jasper Wainwright, finds himself back in his hometown of Beaufort, South Carolina in 1849 after traveling the world. From the synopsis of the book, the main story line is supposed to revolve around the fact that Jasper is falling in love with his cousin Cara, but that he has no love for the South and it's policy of slavery. 

I may be the only one, but I had a really hard time getting through this book. It sat on my shelf for days while I only read a few pages at a time. Partially this was due to the fact that I kept comparing it to other books about the South and slavery that I have recently read, namely Kindred by Octavia E. Butler and Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill, both of which had fascinating characters and a rich story lines. In comparison, I found this book lacking. To me, the author could have done a lot more with both the subject matter, and the main characters of Henry Birch, Cara Randall, and Jasper Wainwright. 

For example, in the publisher's blurb about the book it says "As cries for secession grow louder, Jasper works desperately to convince Beaufort planters that gradual emancipation and transition to a wage-based economy could avert the coming storm of war." Yet I found Jasper's attempts in this arena to be too short and too easily abandoned. I also found his inability to figure out that Cara's alter ego was being the writer of the anonymous letters to the Charleston Courier was unbelievable. Even I figured it out early on. In addition, I would have liked Henry Birch more if he wasn't such a perfect slave owner. I found his character unrealistic. Lastly, Beaufort is purported to be " the most hotheaded, secessionist city in the South" yet when neither party is injured in a duel between Jasper and another of Cara's suitors, the two men just shake hands and walk away. Really?? Does't seem to fit the "hot headed" category to me. 

I was fascinated, though, by the references to Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre and the way the women of Beaufort reacted to them. I also would have liked to have seen more of Cara's maid Minnie and Spit Jim, who seemed to be much more interesting than any of the other characters. But perhaps the most interesting thing in the whole book to me was the author's note about how the people of Beaufort abandoned the city in a very Pompeii like fashion when the war with the North started, and how the North used the town as a headquarter during the war. This fact is even alluded to in the synopsis of the book, but is never brought into the story. 

I know some have compared this book to Gone With the Wind. I would say that it is Gone With the Wind with all of the good parts and characters removed. To me, this book just did not deliver.

18 June 2011


This romantic suspense novel is the debut book from new author Leslie Tentler.  Late night talk show hose Rain Summers is the daughter of a murdered singer from New Orleans who is credited with being goth before goth was a trend.   Special Agent Trevor Rivette is a native of New Orleans who left in his team and has spent the ensuing years trying to forget his childhood.  Now he is back and dealing with a case that involves Rain, but may also be personal.  As the case progresses, he finds that trying to protect Rain and identify his unsub may be more than he can handle on many levels.

Although I have read many romantic suspense novels throughout the years, it is not the genre that I read the most.  In fact, I think most of the books that I have read in this genre were probably written by Nora Roberts.  This one had an interesting plot line that kept me involved.  In addition, the characters of Rain and Trevor were quite interesting, and their personal stories were enticing.  I really enjoyed the mystery story line and although I figured out who the killer was before it was revealed, there were enough possible suspects to keep me guessing through a lot of the book.   Unfortunately, the  romance story line was a bit predictable, and the very end of the book fell a little flat for me.

All in all a good read from a new author, which I enjoyed enough to look forward to her next effort.

07 June 2011


Let me just say, Historical Fiction is perhaps my favorite genre of all, especially historical fiction about Royalty. I have been in love with it ever since I read Jean Plaidy back in the 70s (when not many people were writing HF about Royalty at all). As a result, I was really excited to get my hands on a copy of this book. I love finding new authors in this genre and have found several lately that are really good. Elizabeth Loupas certainly falls into that category. 

In The Second Duchess she tells the story of Barbara of Austria, the second wife of Alfonso d'Este, the 5th Duke of Ferrara. Barbara knows that she is not pretty, like his first wife, Lucrezia de Medici. She also knows that as a princess of Austria, she has no real choices in her marriage or her life, so she has decided to make the best of her marriage, whatever happens. Once she arrives in Ferrara, she quickly becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding the death of the Duke's first wife, who rumors say was murdered by the Duke. 

There are several things that I liked about this book. For one, the book is told in the first person, alternating between the voice of Barbara and the voice of the dead Lucrezia. Although this can be problematic in some stories, Loupas does a great job with it. In this case, the use of the two voices only enhances the mystery and keeps you turning pages. I also liked the fact that the story presented in the book is not one of the main stream stories that have been done many times. Loupas' choice to pick one of the Italian Royal families that have had less exposure, and on top of that, a story that has not been overdone, is a really smart move in my opinion. Finally, Loupas does a wonderful job in creating characters that a reader can identify with, while still keeping them true to 16th century Italy. 

To my friends who love historical fiction, this books is a must read. I highly recommend it and am eagerly awaiting what Ms. Loupas comes up with next

04 June 2011


A number of my friends who read thrillers have been telling me about Lee Child for quite a while. I finally got a chance to start the Jack Reacher series and I can definitely see what all the fuss is about. This book was wonderful. It grabbed me right off of the bat, and the story kept me going the whole way through. I love it when a thriller gets me to keep changing my mind about what I think is REALLY going on. This one certainly did. Every time I thought I had figured out who were the good guys and who were the bad, something would happen and I would find out that I was wrong. 

Aside from the great twists and turns in this story, I also loved the story line and the details about the business end of things that were included in the book. It really made interesting reading. 

In addition, Jack Reacher is one of the most interesting new character that I have come across in a while. I love that he is at times a loner, but at others a very caring individual, and always an enigma. At least he was in this book. I am sure that we will get to know more and understand more about him as the series continues. Along with Jack, there are a number of other great characters in this book. 

A definite 4 star book, and I am really l

16 May 2011


Alot of people think that the paranormal/urban fantasy/vampire genre is getting old, or has been over done. I have to agree that I have become very picky about the books that I read in these genres at this point. There are several series that I continue to read and enjoy, but as for new material, it is getting more difficult to find something fresh and different. This book, however, had everything that I love, history, magic, paranormal characters, a little romance.....The author gave us a wonderful story and great characters that really stood out. As I read it, I found myself feeling that it was a cross between several other books that I have read in this genre. I can't help feeling, though, that by combining all the elements of the other books,Deborah Harkness really got it right. While Matthew Clairmont is a vampire in love with a "warm blood",  he has none of the more annoying characteristics that Edward exhibits in Twilight (which, by the way, I loved, but this book is definitely less fairy tale and more adult). Diana Bishop is a witch with a famous lineage, but she is not quite like any witch I have read about in other stories. There is a secret manuscript and a mystery, but the story surrounding them in complex and complicated, too different things. And there will be time travel, but approached in a new and different way. 

As for the author,  Ms. Harkness is a history professor  at a major university, and a lover of science.  Both of these loves come across in this book.  Her historical references are spot on and show her extensive understanding of history.  In addition, Edward Clairmont is a geneticist, and with such a character, she is able to show her love of science., but without being so detailed as to lose the reader.  In fact, both science and magic blend well in this book.  

I also loved where it ended. For the first book of a trilogy, it did not tie up all the loose ends, but it did not leave you hanging at an inappropriate place either.

To sum it up, at 700 pages, this book was a real page turner, and read fairly quickly. I am really looking forward to the next book, but I hear it is a long way away :(

04 May 2011


What would you do if you woke up one morning and found out that your father was a serial killer? That is the question that Sara Gallagher has to wrestle with in the second book by author Chevy Stevens. Sara is the oldest of three girls in her family, and the only one that is adopted. As such, she has always felt that she never quite fit in and wondered what her birth parents were like. What takes place in this story is definitely a case of "be careful what you wish for" as once Sara discovers her birth parents there is no turning back. How could she ever have imagined that they would be who they were? Or that her father would be a celebrated serial killer? As Sara makes contact with her birth father and grapples with the many issues that raises, we are taken on a thrill ride. Ms. Stevens definitely has another hit on her hands with Never Knowing.

Like Still Missing, this book is told from the main character's viewpoint, as if she were talking to her psychiatrist. It is a unique way to tell the story, and one that Stevens certainly has the knack for. Also as in Still Missing, the main character in this story is scarred, which makes for an interesting protagonist. Unlike the first book, though, Sara is not abrasive, and the book never drags from beginning to end. Best of all, once again, Stevens finishes with an ending that I didn't see coming. 

This book is slated for release on July 5, and if you are a fan of thrillers in general, and Chevy Stevens in particular, I highly recommend this one.

02 May 2011


This is the newest book by the author who wrote The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. If you are a history aficionado like me, especially if you are intrigued by Germany during the time of the Third Reich, then this is the book for you. Through the eyes of the American ambassador to Berlin and his adult daughter, Mr. Larson shows in stunning fashion how the world was determined to ignore the warning signs, and thus the true intent of Hitler and the Nazi regime in Germany, until it was too late. This book certainly told a powerful tale. I am giving this one 5 stars, not because I loved the story, but because it made an impact on me and I will continue to think of it for quite a while.

26 April 2011


Although fantasy is not my usual genre of choice, I enjoyed this book a lot. For one thing, unlike most fantasy books, this book contained no magic or magical and mythical beings.  Just a lot of humans who had to rely on solely on their wits and intelligence to survive.  Other than the lack of magic, though, it followed the classical fantasy set up.  For one thing, the story takes place in an alternate world where swords and knives are the weapons of choice, and horses, carts and ships are the methods of transportation.  In addition, the plot centers around a girl, who is the first female to be allowed into the secret assassins academy.  She must compete against a number of males, some of which have been raised with the whole purpose of becoming assassins.  How she uses her intelligence and her totally human skills to survive is a great story.

In addition, this book is the first of a trilogy.  I am looking forward to the next installment to see how the story progresses and the characters develop.

13 April 2011


OK, It is official. Ernest Hemingway is just not for me. I read this book because I am doing a three month "Give an author a second chance" challenge, and I couldn't think of anyone who I needed to give a second chance more than Hemingway. I have only read two books by Hemingway in my whole like, The Old Man and the Sea and The Sun Also Rises. Both of those were a long time ago. So I thought, how perfect for the challenge. At first, ans I started the book, I was beginning to think that maybe he wasn't as bad as I remembered, but every time I would really start to get into a story.....BAM, he would slap me upside the head with one of the traits of his writing that drive me crazy, thus reminding me why I don't read Hemingway. 

For example, in one story he spends a whole page having the two characters say 

"Watch the game with me." 
"No, I'm going to pray." 
"Watch the game with me." 
"No, I'm going to pray." 
"Watch the game with me." 
"No, I'm going to pray." 
"Watch the game with me." 
"No, I'm going to pray." 

Literally, a whole page. Or he describes something in the most undescriptive way possible. Or he doesn't describe it at all. In my opinion the man has no imagination at all. The only things that he writes about are old men who are womanizers, like to either hunt or fish, and want to commit suicide. In other words, himself. I will not be running out to get any more Hemingway anytime soon.


I  have to say, I really couldn't decide at first what to give this book, but ending up deciding on 4 stars. This was a really interesting book, only 128 pages, and every one of them both appalled me and enthralled me at the same time. It is about a psychoanalyst who has a lot of erotic encounters, and frankly, needs a psychoanalyst himself. As I read through this book, I wasn't sure what to expect, but was pretty sure that I was watching someone's life turn into a train wreck. And the ending really stunned me. 

I am giving it four stars mostly because as disgusted as I was by the main character, I couldn't stop reading the book. It was like a really bad reality show. You know, the kind that you know you shouldn't be giving legitimacy to by watching, but you just can't stop yourself. Since I am pretty easily turned off by graphic sex, the fact that I even finished this book surprised me, and I figure if a writer can get me to finish a book like this, he must be a good writer. 

All in all a very weird, weird, little book. Did I enjoy it.....I wouldn't say that, but I will say I couldn't put it down. 

04 April 2011


Great New Mystery/Thriller 

Wow. This is a great new book by a debut author. At just 170 pages it is a quick read. At first I was afraid that would limit the story, but it definitely did not. I was surprised and pleased that this story included everything that I would expect from a much longer mystery/thriller. The author does a great job of letting pieces of the story out slowly, keeping the reader's interest. The story definitely includes enough action to keep you turning pages, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. In addition Traci Hohenstein's characters are well developed and interesting. I love that the main protagonist runs a missing person investigation service. That is a fresh approach for mystery thrillers, as is using firefighting as a backdrop. I don't know if this book will be part of a series, but just think of the possibilities presented by using missing persons as a theme. And if further stories were as good as this one, I would jump on them quickly. 

While I read many different genres, mysteries have been a favorite of mine since high school when I discovered Agatha Christie, and thrillers a fave since Mary Higgins Clark came on the scene. This book holds up with the best of them, IMO. It gets 4.5 stars from me, and I look forward to reading more from this debut author.