Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

I so enjoy Susanna Kearsley novels, but this one was a bit of a disappointment.  Then I ran across a review that said it was first published in 1995 and that helped explain my puzzlement over the blah parts of this novel.  

Splendour Falls takes place in Chinon, France.  It sounds like a wonderful town, and I have added it to my list of places to visit when I win the lottery.  Susanna's descriptive passages are wonderful, and Chinon sounds just like a place where mysterious things and tragic love stories happen across the centuries.

Enter Emily Braden, a young woman who's at loose ends and is talked into visiting Chinon by her cousin, Harry.  Harry's a history nut and is looking into the possibility that Queen Isabelle, the very young wife of King John, somehow left a priceless treasure hidden in the castle, which is now in ruins.  Add in another Isabelle and her German solider from World War 2, and their priceless treasure, and you've got echoes of the past flitting about and around the town and the hotel where Emily is staying.  

Oh--and Harry doesn't show up in Chinon.  Where the heck is he?  Emily is drawn to the mysterious Neil, a gorgeous musician staying at the hotel recovering from an injury.  She meets Paul, a fun loving young man staying at the hotel with his brother.  Paul and Emily quickly become friends, and start to recognize that something odd is going on around town.  Does it involve Harry's disappearance?  And are the stories of hidden treasures true?  

I was a bit disappointed in this novel, and it took many stops and starts for me to finish it--and this is verrrrry unusual for a Susanna Kearsley novel.  I usually inhale them.  It seemed slow, and the story wandered in places.  I wanted to know more about Queen Isabelle, but that never materialized.  And Emily's attraction to Neil didn't seem genuine.  I didn't feel any love vibe between the two at all.  

But if you like Susanna Kearsley, don't dismiss this book.  It is not her best, but as a fan you will read it anyway.  If anything, Chinon sounds like a wonderful place, and you'll want to investigate the real Queen Isabelle and her tragic story.

Rating:  6/10; thin plot line and not enough of the paranormal/historical angle that Susanna Kearsley writes so well in her other novels.  

Available in paperback and ebook.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Contest! Win 40 Books! Yep, 40 Books!

I received an email from the Magic Time Literary Agency about a fantastic giveaway they are sponsoring.  Want to win?  Just click on the link and you'll go to their Facebook page and have a chance to enter the contest:

For the Love of Good Books Sweepstakes! You could win a collection of 40 great new books!
Magic Time Literary believes in the love of literature. So, we're kicking off a 3 month sweepstakes to give 1 lucky recipient 40 fabulous books from our bookshelf. These amazing NEW books represent a small portion of our authors' work--a diverse collection of contemporary writing. Just "like" our fb page for your chance to enter to win 40 fabulous books. (2 aren't even in the stores yet!)
Entrants must be at least 18 years of age.

Here's the link: Magic Time Literary

Hope you win!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

It seems like forever since Sarah Addison Allen put out a new book!  It was worth the wait, however--and next week, Lost Lake will be out in bookstores everywhere.  How can you ignore this cover?  It just invites you to pick up the book, settle into a comfy chair, and let the magic take over.

Kate has been living in a fog of grief since her husband died suddenly a year ago.  In that fog, her forceful mother-in-law Cricket has taken over her life by selling her home and putting Devin, Kate's young daughter, into a private school.  Now it's crunch time, and Kate is expected to move into Cricket's home and work for her realty business.

Except Kate just woke up, and realizes she doesn't want any of this.  Instead of driving to Cricket's home, she  travels to Selby, Georgia with an old postcard in hand from her Great Aunt Eby.  Lost Lake is a resort that has seen better days, and Aunt Eby has decided to sell to a developer.  But there's still one magical summer left, and Lost Lake has something to say…

This book is all about the toll grief takes, the choices we make to move onward and embrace life, the places we find that seem pretty safe, but are actually places we find ourselves stuck in, unable to get out.  Lost Lake brings together a casts of characters that are sweetly quirky; all find a home at Lost Lake and gather there for once last chance to stay at the cabins before Eby sells.  With flashbacks to Eby's life as a young honeymooner in Paris and Amsterdam in the 1960's, the story fleshes out and Eby's choices later in life are understandable.  Kate's desire to do something and Devin's desire to stay at Lost Lake all get mixed up with the other guests at Lost Lake, and something magical happens.  You'll have to read it to find out!

Trying to describe this book, I can only come up with the words "sweet and gentle".  A lot of life changes happen at Lost Lake; necessary for all who are there that last summer.  This is a book that keeps you contemplating long after you've turned the last page.  I loved it, and you will, too.

Rating:  8/10; a favorite author returns with a magical tale of waking up to life.
Available January 21st in hardcover, audio, and ebook.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol

A big thank you to Penguin for sending me a copy of this novel to review.  It was a great away to kick off my reading list for 2014. 

Katherine Pancol is a big deal in France.  She's written many bestselling novels, but unfortunately for the US, nothing's been translated to English until this fun, engaging novel popped up this month on the bookshelves at my store.  There are people who call this chick lit, but I disagree.  To me, chick lit is twenty-something women searching for love while experiencing growing pains in their lives, careers, and friends.  The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles does focus on changing lives, but it involves both men and women in their 40's who wake up and realize that the life they chose doesn't work for them anymore.  What to do about it?  Josephine and Iris, two sisters living in Paris; both married with kids.  Iris is rich, Josephine's husband hasn't worked in a year.  Josephine's passion is 12th century French history; her part-time work as a researcher has become the only way her family is surviving.  Add in one teen daughter who wants all the finer things in life and has complete disrespect for her mom, and Josephine has her hands full.

Josephine's life takes a turn when she kicks her husband out after finding out (and being the last to know) he's having an affair.  Antoine flies the coop, and ends up in Kenya running a crocodile farm with his lover, leaving Josephine to raise Hortense and Zoe.  Iris  is rich and bored and doesn't know why her husband has become so distant.  Is he having an affair?  Iris makes matters worse when she blurts out at a dinner that she's writing a novel about….12th century France.  A publisher is interested and won't let the idea go, so Iris talks Josephine into writing the novel.  Iris will get all the credit, Josephine will get all the money.  

And things go wrong from there.  Josephine is a sweet woman who is slowly, very slowly, coming into her own as a strong, intelligent person capable of being successful on her own.  Her story is the main push in this novel, and you'll come to love her, even when you're frustrated that she's not standing up for herself quickly enough.  Iris is a pill and just keeps making her life more complicated because she can't keep her mouth shut.  It's a fun, entertaining, afternoon read about women who are looking for a re-do in their lives.  Who will be successful?  What about their husbands?  The cast of characters is chock full of quirky people who make the novel feel like you're reading about friends going through a bit of  a sticky spot in their lives.  And reading about French characters added something special to the mix, too.  There were a few odd translation boo-boos, but nothing that will keep you from enjoying this novel.  

Available in paperback and ebook.  

Rating:  8/10 for a quirky, fun novel full of lively characters and life changing moments.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack

There are still people out there that think it's the finding someone and falling in love part that is hard.  Marriage is the easy part, right?

Cindy Chupack writes about marriage in her new book, The Longest Date: Life as a Wife.  Cindy finds herself meeting Ian in her late 30's and falling in love and marrying at the age of 40.  Ian sounds like a heck of a catch--funny, smart, romantic, and enough bad boy to make a woman want to run in the opposite direction.  But the two are a great match and soon Ian is moving to California and into Cindy's beach house.  Periods of adjustment are expected in a new marriage--especially when you get married a bit later in life.  Cindy writes about all of these things with a comic flair that I think anyone can relate to and understand completely.  Cindy's marriage undergoes a bit more stress and heartbreak as she and Ian struggle to have a child and go through all the endless tests and options open to people wanting to add to their family.  And especially moving is Ian's chapter on his feelings about a particularly stressful  time in their marriage that shows just how much he loves his wife and is affected by this bump in the road.  I don't want to give anything away, so you'll just have to read this to the end and find out if Ian and Cindy are successful in their quest to have a child.

In the meantime, if you're just getting married, or even thinking about it, this is a great book to read.  Cindy is funny--and yet she manages to bring across the mixed emotions that accompany such a huge change in life--that of marrying the person you love most, and then having to blend two lives. And pick up dirty clothes off the floor.  And rise to the challenge of keeping it all interesting through even the most mundane days.  And being okay with not having things just so anymore.  

Rating:  7/10 for a refreshing and honest look at marriage and all the joys and challenges that come with sharing life and home with your spouse.

Available in hardcover and e-book.
Thanks to Penguin Books for a preview copy!