Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

A friend of mine at work read this novel some time ago and hasn't stopped raving about the whole series since then.  It was enough to make me buy the first three book in the series, then promptly put them on my bookcase and forget about them.

Ah…but I finally picked up Green Rider, and I'm happy to say my friend wasn't wrong.  It's pretty fab.  There is still that teenage geek in me that lives in a land of magic and strange creatures, maps to forbidden places, and a clearly cut good and evil.  Probably a few unicorns tossed in there, as well.  Whenever I find myself restless in my reading, I reach for a fantasy book.  So many today are urban fantasy (which I do like); but sometimes a good old  fantasy novel is the only thing that will do.  Horses!  Evil! Castles!  Secret Messages!  Magic!  Yep.  Love them all.

Green Rider is the first in the series aptly named The Green Rider Series.  It features a strong-willed smart young lady who runs away from school and gets herself into a bit of a situation.  Karigan G'ladheon was suspended from school following a fight (in which she humiliated the bully of the school) and decides she's going to walk home to her father's house.  It's not down the block, but a few days journey.  While walking in the woods, she is overtaken by a rider barely hanging onto his horse.  He's a green rider, one of the messengers for the King.  And he's been shot with two black arrows, and only has moments to live.  He implores Karigan to take his horse and ride to the city of Sacor to deliver a very important message to  King Zachary.  Giving her his brooch, his green cloak, and the horse, he dies on the side of the road.  Karigan is torn between the promise she makes the green rider, and her desire to chuck it all and just keep walking home.  The choice is taken out of her hands by approaching badness, and Kerigan's journey to Sacor begins.  And a whole lot of crap, too.  Poor girl.  She certainly finds out what she's made of--and that being a green rider is more than just riding a horse.  There's magic in that brooch and the horse, Condor, is no ordinary horse.  

There's so much to tell you, and I just won't do it!  Suffice it to say, black magic, supernatural badness, ghostly riders, and evil men bent on domination are all part of the mix.  It is a true battle of good vs. evil.  

This is a great start to a series.  I will be diving into the rest this summer.  Teens will like this novel, especially the honorable and incredibly smart Kerigan.  
She is an admirable figure; not perfect, but certainly one who finds incredible strength in herself when she needs it.  And no sex in this, either.  I have no problem with sex, but I have to say it was refreshing to read something where sex was a complete non-event.  Definitely recommend this to youngsters who are beyond Harry Potter and don't find teen reads to be terribly interesting.  And anyone who likes a great adventure will certainly want to pick this up.  Weary of the shenanigans in Game of Thrones?  Try this novel.  Not nearly as blood thirsty (and I had a friend say "No incest? Yes!") or seething with such dripping darkness. Just a good, solid fantasy read.  

Rating:  8/10 for a solid start to a series.  Karigan is a strong character, and her adventures are only beginning.  

Available in mass market, e-book, and audio.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Books You Should Read This Summer

If you're like me, summer is a special time to read as much as humanly possible, while still working and being somewhat socially available.  There's nothing I love to do more in the summer than sit on my porch with a cool drink and read all day.  Here are a few books I recommend for summer reading, as well as a few authors who fit summer to a "T":

The Bookman's Tale  by Charlie Lovett

The Island House by Posie Graeme-Evans

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

The Book of Lost Fragrances  by M.J. Rose

Pillars of the Earth  by Ken Follett

A few authors that I consider "summer-time reading" authors:

Mary Kay Andrews
Sarah Addison Allen
Jane Green
Sophie Kinsella
Mercedes Lackey (Elemental Masters Series)
Donna Ball
Dan Brown
Deborah Harkness
Susanna Kearsley
Edward Rutherfurd (if you want  incredible historical novels of 800+ pages!)

Summer is also the time to dive into a series.  The big series everyone is reading right now is, of course, The Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. 
I've started reading The Green Rider series by Kristen Britain; I also love to read Heather Graham's romances involving the 'Crewe'--a little bit of romance, a little bit of supernatural.  They are perfect quick reads.  

Do you like to read fun, short books for the summer?  Or is the summer your time to dig into a meaty book that will take all summer to read?  

Enjoy the summer!  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz

This novel takes place on Point Lucia, California.   In 1898, Trudy moves from Milwaukee to Point Lucia with her new husband Oskar, to become one of three lighthouse keepers on a remote spot of California coast.  Way out of her comfort zone, Trudy struggles to adjust to a life where she has no privacy, eats out of tin cans, and is thrust into the position of teacher to the Crawley children.  Oskar's zest for life and adventure has brought them to this place, how will she be happy?

Christina Schwarz writes beautifully; I found myself smelling the ocean, wading through thick fog, and dazzled by the blues and greens of the coast.  Trudy is a woman who knows she did the right thing leaving her old life behind, but uncertain of how to make a new life on Point Lucia.  The Crawley children are instrumental in pointing Trudy towards what will become her passion:  the tidal pools that form near the beach.  Trudy's natural ability to draw and her skill at observation both become her saving grace.  

But there's more to this story, of course.  Oskar keeps struggling to find a new and innovative way to make himself famous; the children talk about the "mermaid" that leaves them gifts and lives in a cave.  And there is the small cairn which holds the body of a small child.  The story unfolds over a one year period towards a nail biting conclusion that is not what you expect when you first pick up this book.  

I liked this book, even though it turned out to be not at all what I expected.  I thought it would be about a husband and wife, isolated in a lighthouse, and something terrible happens to one or both.  This is much more!  It really is a love story between a woman and nature.  And it reminded me of a favorite book that I adored as a child:  

I would spend so much time pouring over this book, trying to imitate the drawings of Pagoo, the hermit crab.  It's a perfect book for any child who's interested in the sea, tidal pools, or the beach.  

Rating:  7/10 for a book that was completely different than what I expected--in a good way.  The writing is beautifully expressive and will have you yearning to visit a lighthouse and experience the beauty of the ocean.  

Available in paperback, e-book, audio book, and hardcover.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Deborah Harkness Fans! Preview of The Book of Life Right Here

I've been loving the All Souls Trilogy since day one and the third and final book is coming this July 15th.  I will be clearing my schedule, shutting off the phone, and devoting a few days to this book.  

To whet your appetite, I've got a link to the first chapter.  Yes!  You can read the first chapter right now.  Just follow this link:

The Book of Life

Click on the titles to get  the links to my reviews of the first two books in this amazing trilogy:  Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night .  

While I'm sorry to see the story of Diana and Matthew end, I'm glad Deborah Harkness had the good sense to bring it all home in three books, and not an endless series.  I don't want to get tired of this world.  If you haven't read Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, I suggest you immediately go to your library or local bookstore, grab them, and start reading.  You should finish them in plenty of time to pick up The Book of Life on July 15th.  Yes, they are that good.

And I'll apologize in advance for telling you to read books that will keep you up late at night.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Delicious! By Ruth Reichl

I've been anticipating this book for months and luckily its release happened just as I was finishing my first year of grad school.  Surely that meant I was supposed to drop everything after my final this week and devour this book.  

Delicious is Ruth Reichl's first novel.  She's well known for her books about food and worked as a food critic in New York City for years.  She's a talented writer and I hope this isn't her only novel.  

Billie Breslin arrives in New York and lands a job at Delicious, a food magazine that's been around for 100  years.  Billie has an incredible gift: the ability to eat anything and discern every flavor note in it.  I for one would love to have this gift--can you imagine being able to eat anything and know all the flavors you're tasting?  While Billie is working at Delicious, she meets Sal, who owns the most incredible cheese shop.  Seriously--I hope and pray a place like this really does exist somewhere in this world.  I would set up a tent and live there if I could.  Fontanari's shop is a character that is one of my favorites; I can smell the cheese and salami from here.  Billie begins working there on weekends and quickly becomes part of the family.

Delicious is housed in a beautiful old mansion in New York City; it's one of the few remaining survivors from the grand old days.  On the top floor is a locked room; it's the magazine's library.  Billie and Sammy, the world traveler for Delicious, find themselves in the library after a particularly distressing time at Delicious.  In that library, they find Lulu's letters.  Lulu was a young girl who wrote James Beard letters during the 1940's.  James Beard!  Yes, he worked at Delicious.  And following the clues, Billie and Sammy hunt down Lulu's letters, savoring each wonderful glimpse into a special relationship set against a nation fighting World War 2.  

There's much more to this story.  I can't give it all away.  You have to discover it yourself, and it won't be hard to do because you won't be able to put this novel down.  I love food.  I am a modest cook, I have a tiny kitchen, but I sure do like to read about food and try my hand at making memorable meals for me and my boyfriend.  I watched Julia Child on public television years ago and liked to watch my mom cook for my huge family.  I have overstuffed folders full of recipes that I haven't tried just yet, but don't want to throw away.  My idea of a perfect wedding reception would be one where I make all the food.  

Yes, I love food.  And I loved this novel.  Perfect summer read.  Billie's a young woman running from a painful past; all of the characters in this novel have a history that is delightful to explore.  Incredible descriptions of food, wine, and New York City.  This is one of my favorite reads of 2014.  

Rating:  9/10 for incredible descriptions of food, New York City, and an intriguing library full of surprises.  

Available in hardcover, e-book, and audio.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Wow! I'm Pretty Amazed--Publisher's Weekly Article

Holy smokes!  I received an email a few weeks ago from  Allison Schiff at Publisher's Weekly asking if I'd like to be interviewed about how independent authors can get bloggers to read and review their books.  Heck yes, I said.  And here is the result:  an article in Publisher's Weekly today featuring me and my blog.  I'm just a small time blogger, and I'm still learning every week how to be a better blogger.  This was a sweet surprise!  

To read the article, click on the link below:

Publisher's Weekly

More reviews are coming!  After tomorrow night (Tuesday), I'm free of school for the summer and can concentrate on those piles of books in my house.  Can't wait to dig in and share with everyone.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Midnight Crossing by Charlaine Harris

I've been a fan of Charlaine Harris since reading her first Sookie Stackhouse book so long ago!  I am happy to see a new series from Charlaine.  I must confess I have a love/hate relationship with series.  I'll usually read the first 4-5 books, then I lose interest and stop reading them.  Gee, this has happened with Jim Butcher, Laurel K. Hamilton, Patricia Cornwell, and yes, even Charlaine Harris.  I got tired of Sookie.  I didn't read the last three books in that series.  

Here's my internal dialogue while reading Midnight Crossing:  "Can't wait!  This is interesting…..wait, this is slow….okay, getting better….now I'm halfway finished and I should just stop….no,  I'm liking it again….it's getting interesting again….holy crap!  What?!  Alright, that was a pretty good ending."

I've read a lot of books where I make myself finish it because there's just something about the novel that doesn't allow me to put it down and walk away; but at the same time, it's not one I breathlessly devour. This was one of those novels.  The cast of characters in Midnight, Texas are quirky, secretive people who have settled in Midnight for one reason or another.  We don't know.  That's what a series is for--slowly evolving story lines that arc over a number of books.  Charlaine leaves enough mystery to keep you reading, and more than enough at the end to leave you ready to read book number two.  

So who are the people of Midnight?  There's Bobo, who runs the pawnshop.  Fiji, the local witch who runs  a  new age store out of her living room; Chuy and  Joe run an antique store/nail salon, and Manfred, the latest edition to Midnight. He's settled in to run his psychic hotline.  There are more characters, and you'll come to know them as they all try to protect Bobo from his grandfather's legendary "treasure" and the militants who are out to find it--and willing to hurt anyone who stands in their way.  

If you've read Charlaine Harris before--either her Sookie books, or her two mystery series, you'll soon slip into a familiar rhythm and happily settle down to discovering Midnight.  I read a review that said Bobo is part of her Shakespeare mystery series, and Manfred also features in her mysteries.  I haven't read her mysteries, so I'll take their word for it.  *Sigh*  Yet another addition to my UTBR list.  Yes, I call it my "Unending To Be Read" list.  It is currently long enough to circle the earth at least twice.  

Should you read Charlaine's newest novel?  I say yes!  I love her characters.  It's quirky enough that you just don't know what to expect, and anything could happen.  It's not bloody, it's not over the top supernatural; it's just an entertaining read.  There were a few dips in action, and I got through them.  It is slow paced, but in a good way.  Enjoy your trip to Midnight.

Rating:  7/10 for a brand new series from Charlaine Harris.  Her characters will soon wiggle their way into your imagination.  And a bang up surprise ending. 

Available in hardcover, e-book, and audio.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

Molly Wizenberg is known in the foodie world for her blog Orangette and  her first book A Homemade Life.  Her life revolves around her great love of good food.  Simple, not fussy, but tasty food.  Delancey begins after Molly and her husband, Brandon settle in Seattle.  Brandon decides to open a pizza restaurant.  And so begins the tale of two people who love food, work hard to open a restaurant with a lot of help from friends and family, and find out what they're made of in the process.

This process is incredibly difficult, full of stops and starts, disappointments, and a community of support that keeps them moving towards their goal.  Molly keeps waiting for Brandon to wake up and say "Ok, I'm done with this idea."  But he doesn't.  And Molly finds herself both loving and despising the restaurant.  

It's an interesting look at a young marriage and the added stress of putting all of their faith in this one big idea.  It's also about finding out just how much you're willing to do to achieve your dream.  Lots of hard work, late nights, no sleep, worry over money, and tasting pizza over and over and over again.  

Fans of the food writing genre will want to pick this up.  It's not the gritty, down and dirty look at the world of food that we've come to know from Anthony Bourdain.  It's a bit more gentle, but effective none the less. Mostly Molly and Brandon learn to work together as a team, form a strong marriage, and make some delish pizza.  If you're curious about Molly's first book, give it a try.  It's a sweet book about her life up to meeting Brandon.  Both books are full of recipes that you'll want to try.

Rating:  7/10 for the continuing  story of Molly, Brandon, and their marriage.  Fun read.

Available in hardcover and e-book.  A Homemade Life is available in paperback, e-book, and audio.