Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

Cora and Mimi find themselves leaving London and their father to stay with their Great Aunt Ida in a decrepit old home called Guerdon Hall, which is surrounded by a creek and marshes and slowly, slowly sinking into the ground.  It's pretty unwelcoming and oozes bad vibes.  But the young girls have no where else to go, and Aunt Ida reluctantly lets them stay.

She's reluctant because of Long Lankin, and as you read the book, you find out why all children are forbidden to go near the old All Hallows church that sits near Guerdon Hall.  It's where Long Lankin hangs out.  He's a horrible nightmare, responsible for countless young children and babies disappearing over centuries.  And Mimi is just the right age (4) to become the next victim.

Cora has no clue about this, but is very unhappy to be at Guerdon Hall.  She soon finds a companion in Roger, a young boy from Bryers Guerdon, the village that sits up the hill from Guerdon Hall.  They get into a lot of mischief--and soon ignore Aunt Ida's edict not to go near All Hallows church.  The church is very very old, surrounded by a graveyard, and doesn't feel right at all.  Cora and Mimi soon are seeing creepy children standing in the cemetery--with no eyes and grey flesh falling off of their bones.  They see a dark figure creeping around the graveyard, too.  Not a good sign.  

Cora's curiosity soon gets the best of her, and as she digs into the mystery of the church, Aunt Ida, and Guerdon Hall, she uncovers a horrible story that has kept the village and Aunt Ida in terror for decades.  For much of the novel, Aunt Ida is an unfriendly woman who does not want the girls at her home and treats them badly. You find out why she is this way through a few flashbacks of her life as a young woman.   But--as the novel slowly builds the tension and uneasiness, it leaps to an action packed ending that keeps you feverishly turning the pages and shouting at the characters in the book.  Well--at least I did.  Can Cora and Roger put all the pieces together in time to save Mimi from Long Lankin?  Can Aunt Ida help the kids and finally banish the evil from All Hallows church?  

I love this kind of book--atmospheric, creepy, and that slow build of solving the puzzle with a rip-roaring ending that leaves you as breathless as the characters.  

Rating:  4/5 for a great teen novel that has a supernatural character that is truly creepy and has no redeeming qualities--a bad bad creature.  I also liked the time period:  1958 post-war England.  

This book is available at your local bookstore in hardcover and as an e-book.

Friday, July 27, 2012

One Breath Away Giveaway!

One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf is a novel about a hostage situation at a school in the fictional town of Broken Branch, Iowa.  What I like so much about this novel are the revolving points of view and the short chapters. The short chapters keep you feverishly turning the pages, eager to see what happens next. We hear from Augie, a young girl trapped in the school and trying to find her younger brother PJ; her grandfather, Will--a farmer who's struggling to take care of Augie and PJ while their mother recovers from a fire in Arizona; Meg--a police officer who is working the crisis; Mrs. Oliver--the third grade teacher who must keep her students safe and alive while the gunman decides what course of action to take. And Holly--Augie and PJ's mother.  Holly is drugged up and being treated for burns in Arizona and is looking forward to having her kids come back for Spring Break in a few days.  She doesn't know they are locked down in school with a gunman in one of the classrooms.

The multiple points of view give this story an emotional punch.  You know what's going on inside the classroom, and outside the classroom, as well.  But neither side knows what the other side is experiencing.  There's a major snow storm hitting, and the special help that's required to deal with a hostage situation isn't coming--the roads are closed.  It's up to Meg and the rest of Broken Branch's small police force to handle the situation and get all of the students out safely.  And who is the gunman?  There are many likely candidates; this is part of the drama.  Do we really know our husbands, neighbors, and friends?  

I enjoyed Heather's latest novel. It moves along quickly, has well developed characters, and comes to a satisfying conclusion.  She's an Iowa author, and is coming to our Barnes and Noble on Tuesday, July 31st for a book discussion and signing.  And with that, I am having a giveaway!  I will have a signed copy of One Breath Away to give to one lucky winner.  The contest ends on Wednesday, August 1st--winner will be announced that day.  Here's how you can win:

1.  Leave a comment on this post
2.  Follow me on twitter:  @love2read66
3.  Listen to one or more of my podcasts:  on iTunes.  Or, listen via pod bean on this blog.  Leave a comment about which podcast you listened to.
4.  Follow this blog!
Every entry is another chance for you to win a signed copy of One Breath Away.  

My rating:  4/5 for atmosphere, likable characters, and the slow but steady rise in tension as the novel progresses.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Woman At The Light by Joanna Brady

I don't know what to make of this novel.  I've thought about it for a day before writing this post, and I still don't know how I feel!  

The main character is Emily Lowry, a young woman from New Orleans who's married to Martin Lowry and lives at a lighthouse on Wrecker's Cay near Key West in the 1830's.  She's the mother of three children and another one on the way when one morning Martin leaves in a boat to fish and never comes back.  

Emily is determined to stay at the lighthouse and collect a salary since she really has no where else to go and doesn't want to fall on the mercy of family in Key West.  She convinces the authorities to let her stay, taking care of the lighthouse and providing a crucial service to the ships sailing close by the dangerous reefs that surround the Keys.  

A few months after her husband has disappeared, Emily still holds hope he is  alive, but she's struggling to keep everything moving smoothly on Wrecker's Cay.  And then Andrew shows up.  He's a runaway slave who jumped ship during a storm and made it ashore.  Emily soon realizes he's a gentle man who is willing to help around the island in exchange for a place to sleep and food.  He quickly proves himself invaluable to Emily as her pregnancy advances and their feelings for one another change into dangerous territory.  After all, it is 1839; the South is firmly entrenched in the slave economy and love between a white woman and a black man is forbidden.  

Oh, the stuff that happens to Emily!  This truly is a soap opera of a novel.  I absolutely loved the history of Key West, the information on women lighthouse keepers (most of them widows), and the tropical feel of this novel.  Emily's life has major ups and downs, lost love, money, hurricanes, family deaths, and just about everything else tossed in to make her life far from boring.  She's the Erica Kane of Key West.  

So did I enjoy this novel?  Well, it wasn't what I expected.  I had no idea I was in for such a ride with Emily.  Do I like Emily?  Kinda sorta.  She is an admirable woman, but at the same time she irritated me a bit with some of her completely stupid behavior.  It takes her awhile to become a strong woman and make choices of her own, but she does.  I felt like it should have taken place in 1888 not 1839--it seemed a bit historically out of whack with Emily's thinking and ability to take command in situations where a woman would not have had a chance to decide.

If you like historical fiction with  a bit of soap opera involved, try this.  It's got it all and you will not be bored.  I think I was expecting more of a serious novel that all took place at the lighthouse, since it's such a major part of the story.  I found myself rolling my eyes a few times at some of Emily's antics but after thinking about this novel for the past day, I will say my overall opinion is one of more enjoyment than annoyance.  

Rating:  3/5 for the history of Key West and the author's ability to put you in a young Key West!  I want to go there.  And while there are sad moments in the novel, they are not overwhelming.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Read Off The Shelves: It's All Greek To Me

I've been reading so many great books, but let's face it:  they're all serious stuff and it's getting me down.  Time to read something fun and frothy!  And boy oh boy, this was fun and hot.
It's All Greek To Me by Katie MacAlister is pure entertainment and certainly saved me from falling into a pit of bummed-outness.  After reading books about World War 2, women being manipulated by men, and other unhappy situations, I needed this book--thank you Katie MacAlister!

I found this on my bookshelves and dived right in.  There's not much plot at all, but I didn't mind.  "Harry" (real name:  Eglantine) Knight is doing a favor for a friend and travels to a small island near Greece to babysit a band that's been hired to play at a young woman's birthday party.  This young woman has a brother (Iakovos) who is rich, super handsome and hot.  He owns the island.  And during a bit of a situation involving Iakovos' younger brother, Harry soon meets him and is instantly in lust.  Iakovos feels the same way--and they hit the sack soon after.  It's a case of both being utterly smitten by the other, and unable to keep their hands to themselves.  Harry is a successful author, and her personality is one that keeps Iakovos on his toes--she's outspoken, funny, carefree, and completely opposite from his usual lovers.    Katie MacAlister does a great job turning up the steam in this book.  Who needs whips and chains to make it exciting when you've got this woman writing some great sex scenes!

There really are no issues for Harry and Iakovos (or Yacky, as she calls him) to get through and you know there's a happy ending.  But that is what makes this brain candy so much fun.  It's so utterly beyond reality that you don't even try to believe it could happen to someone--and that's perfectly fine with me.  It's been years since I've read a Katie MacAlister novel, and now I'm sure I will return to the romance section at my bookstore and pick up a few more of her books to keep on hand for those moments when I need a happy story.  

Rating:  3/5 for sheer fun, a super hot hero, and the perfect escape novel.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Liebster Award--Thank You Very Much

A lovely surprise came my way last week-By The Cover Book Club included me in the Liebster Award, which gives a shout-out to blogs who have less than 200 followers.  I am following part of the rules--here's 5 random things about me:

1.  I cannot sit and read for hours at a time.  I have to get up and move around.
2.  I am usually working on reading 2-5 books simultaneously.  
3.  I do not like to borrow books.  I buy them.  
4.  I do not reread books!  There are too many more to read :).
5.  My boyfriend does not read at all.  Boo hoo.

Here are the 10 questions I must answer:

 Is there a specific genre I like to review best?
I seem to read a lot of historical fiction.

What book would I like to see turned into a movie?
Probably The Passage by Justin Cronin.

Who is my favorite book hero?
I don't have one!  

What do I do when I'm not blogging?
I work, spend time reading and with my boyfriend.

What is my favorite book/movie snack?
Probably popcorn.

What do I look for in a leading man/woman?
Someone who's not a big weenie and learns from their mistakes.

Least favorite genre and why?
I don't read any christian fiction.  Just not interested in the religious aspect of it.

What book stayed with me long after the cover was closed?
These is My Words by Nancy Turner.

Biggest book pet peeve?
Poor sentence structure.

Do I prefer happily ever after or a good tear jerker?
Happily ever after always wins out!

So now you know more about me than you could have ever imagined.  I will not pass this award off to anyone--not because I don't love and adore all the blogs I follow, but because it's a lot of work --and you would rather be reading, right?  I sincerely thank By The Book Cover Book Club for thinking of me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Violet Season by Kathy Leonard Czepiel

If this cover doesn't make you pick up this book, I don't know what will.  But make sure you do, because it is a compelling story about  family dynamics, long burning resentment, and a mother and daughter who find themselves struggling to deal with betrayal and hard choices.

This novel takes place in the Hudson Valley in 1898 and centers around the violet industry.  Did you have any idea there were violet farms?  According to the author, this area in  "the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries" was known as "the Violet Capital of the World."  Before roses become popular, everyone wanted violets.  And violets play a huge part in this story.

Ida Fletcher is married to Frank, who is the youngest of three brothers who own a violet farm.  He's the best with the violets, but he is paid a minimum wage, and is not a partner in the farm.  Why?  Because Frank did something really foolish 23 years earlier, and is being punished by his brothers.  Until he can pay back the debt he owes the farm, he will not be a partner, and he and Ida and their children will have to live in a small home on the farm, while his brothers and their wives lives in much nicer homes and enjoy the money the violet farm produces.  This has created quite a bit of anger in Frank, and it's been brewing for years.  

Ida works at being a wet nurse for extra income, and also helps with the violets on top of keeping house and taking care of her kids.  Her oldest daughter, Alice, is being pressured by Frank to either get married or find a job to help the family.  One day, Frank takes Alice and a few of the younger kids to New York City to a horse show.  When he returns, Alice is not with him.  This begins the turning point in the story, and Ida's fight to find out where Alice is and to contact her.  Frank does nothing to help Ida, and we don't know the true depths of his deception until a bit later in the book.  When Ida finds out just where Alice is, and what Frank has done, she is forced to make a huge choice that will change the lives of her children, herself, and Frank.  

Ida is an interesting character--she's been married to Frank for 23 years, and slowly realizes he's not the man she thought he was--actually, he never was that man, and she just never realized it.  The women's movement is gathering steam, and Ida is becoming aware of the choices women should have in their lives.  She's also struggling to establish her relationship with Alice.  Can they find a common ground?  And Alice.  What a strong young woman.  She's put in a horrible situation, and does what she has to in order to survive.  Feeling betrayed by her parents, she changes into a tough, silent woman trying to sort out her life.  

I enjoyed this novel because it was so very different.  And I learned something new--violets farms?  Hmm.  Pretty darn interesting!  The story moves along at a good pace, and the women are all strong personalities.  The relationship between Frank and his brothers is one that will have you talking to your friends, as is Ida's marriage to Frank.  He is one interesting, very complex person.  

My rating:  3/5 for story setting and historical background, strong female characters, and Frank as a complex man with many secrets.

This book is available in paperback as as an e-book.  Thanks to Wendy at Simon & Schuster for providing me with a ARC of this book.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss

There is some comfort for me knowing that if I don't read a book while it's in hardcover, the paperback will follow within the year.  I gazed upon this book in hardcover for quite some time, always putting it on my mental "gotta read" list, but never quite getting to the point of reading it.  Now it's out in paperback, so I had no excuse not to add it to my collection at home.  

Reading reviews can be a good and bad thing.  If you read the reviews by people who have read David Liss' other titles, they were not happy with this one.  David writes historical fiction and has been quite popular in that genre.  This time, he worked a bit of magic into his historical fiction, and those who had never read him before enjoyed it; others were not impressed.  The quote from Deborah Harkness on the front cover of the paperback gave me hope that I would enjoy this one--and I did.

The Twelfth Enchantment was one of those books that I enjoyed right from the first page.  Lucy Derrick is a young woman of 20 who lives with a distant relative in Nottingham, England.  She's basically poor and beholden to her relative--a complete bore--to feed and shelter her.  Her father has died, her eldest sister Emily fell suddenly ill and died, and her younger sister, Martha married the despicable Mr. Buckles (who inherited their father's home) and lives far enough away that they don't see each other very often.  Lucy is an interesting young lady who's 
 life takes a drastic turn while she's stuck entertaining Mr. Olson, a mill owner who wants her hand in marriage.  How does her life change?  

Lord Byron.  He appears at her door quite clearly in a state of craziness, telling her she must not marry Mr. Olson.  Then he falls unconscious and must be carried into the home.  Lucy doesn't want to marry Mr. Olson, so she's in a bit of a pickle.  He creeps her out, and she has never met Lord Byron before--so what the heck is going on?  This begins Lucy's journey into the world of magic.  Lucy goes from feeling helpless and at the mercy of everyone around her to being determined to take control of her life.  She starts digging around and finds out all sorts of shocking secrets about her life, her father, and why everyone is trying to control her.  And it all has to do with magic.  

This isn't the magic you might find in a typical fantasy book.  It's grounded in philosophical works, nature, and it's becoming endangered with the rise of the Industrial Age.  Who will win?  The owners of the mills, which are spreading across England like a disease, or will magic fight back and stop the Industrial Age from bringing England into the future?  And just who is Jonas Morrison?  Oh--he's a big part of Lucy's past--and her future.  Will she fall under the sway of Lord Byron, and ruin her already tattered reputation?  

I was very pleasantly surprised by this novel.  The author wrote it with Jane Austen in mind, and I can see bits of her female characters in Lucy.  I love that Lucy basically gets pissed and decides to take control of her destiny--and she quickly becomes fearless!  This was a thoroughly enjoyable novel that kept me turning pages as the action increased and the stakes got higher for Lucy.  This is not a book that is purely fantasy, but addresses some serious topics.  Mr. Liss  executed a really good book!

My Rating:  4/5 for a solid historical novel with elements of magic and a strong female character.  And Lord Byron is a superb good guy/bad guy.

Available in paperback and as an e-book.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

This is probably the quickest read I've had for months, and here's why:

*The story takes off right at the start, and within 30 pages you are completely engaged in the story of Anna and T.J. and their fight to survive on a deserted island.  This kept me turning the pages and completely oblivious to the world around me.  Luckily, I was parked on my couch and in no danger of making a fool of myself in public.  

*The two main characters, Anna and T.J., are completely likable and very real.  Anna is a 30 year old teacher who is hired to tutor T.J., a 16 year old young man recovering from a serious illness.  They are flying to a family vacation in the Maldives when their plane crashes in shark infested waters.  They both end up on a deserted island with literally the clothes on their backs.  It doesn't look good.  Can they find enough food and water on the island to survive until rescue?  

* The author doesn't write about every day, every moment on the island, but you get a good sense of the passage of time--mostly played out in the slowly dwindling supplies they have--what will they do if they aren't rescued at all?

*The relationship between Anna and T.J. is appropriately correct for a 30 year old woman and a young man.  As time passes, however, and T.J. grows older, feelings between the two develop.  This is not an "ick" moment, and the author writes it as a slowly developing part of the story.  I did not for one moment feel  that Anna's tutor status made their relationship inappropriate--after all, they had just met at the airport for the first time, and barely knew each other before the plane crashed.  There was no relationship at  all--two strangers stuck together on an island.  All they have is time to talk and survive.

*I can't say more about the story, cause I will spoil it for you and give away a lot of the plot.  This book is already a huge hit as an e-book (available at B&N for $5.99); and the paperback was just released.  It will be a giant seller for the summer.  It's the perfect vacation read, or a perfect book to read when you're stuck in the house on horrible hot days.  

I'm excited to say this author is from Iowa--Des Moines, and will be at our B&N in Cedar Rapids for a book signing in early August.  I'm looking forward to meeting her and listening to her speak about her journey to being a published author.  

 Read a love story that's engaging, hard to put down, and keeps you up late at night feverishly reading until the last page.  Rating:  4/5 for likable characters, a story line that moves along and keeps you completely engaged, and provides a few hours of escape from every day life.