The Tracker was an excellent western historical romance that delivers a great story, a passionate romance with intensity and emotional connection betw...moreThe Tracker was an excellent western historical romance that delivers a great story, a passionate romance with intensity and emotional connection between its characters, and exciting adventure. This is my fourth book by Jenna Kernan, and she hasn't let me down yet. She takes me back to the 19th century, when the American West was still young, and where a man or a woman proves his or her mettle against the unforgiving wilderness, and the dark heart of humanity of all colors and creeds.
What stands out in this romance was its hero, Troy. Troy Price is a man of mixed blood. His mother was of the proud Cherokee people, one of the five civilized tribes. They lived next to whites and held similar beliefs, but when gold is found in the ground beneath their land, they were uprooted and forced on the Trail of Tears. Even though Troy's father was a white man (Irish), he was deemed not good enough for his young lover, Rachel. Since the tragic end of their love affair, Troy has sworn to stay away from white women. He couldn't bear being rejected again, or causing the despair that loving an Indian would bring to her. I loved Troy, for the man he was. He was a mover and a shaker, and a man of deep integrity. I loved his ability to survive in the wild, and his way of looking deep inside a person and seeing not who they seemed to be, but who they were at their heart. Many times, I told Eleanor if she thought she wasn't good enough for Troy, I'd be happy to take him off her hands! Troy was definitely my kind of hero!
When he shows up at the docks to pick up his latest group of scientists for a tour up the Yellowstone, he sees a beautiful, elegant white lady who is the only one of the group to survive a Cholera outbreak. He refuses to take her, until she questions his honor. No man likes having his honor questioned. And for a half-breed with little to his name, his honor is his prized possession. He reluctantly takes on the redheaded greenhorn, who knows about as much about surviving in the wilderness as he does of navigating the ballrooms and parlors of Boston. Troy is convinced that Eleanor Hart will come to her senses when she gets a small taste of frontier life, but she proves to have more mettle than he expected.
Eleanor comes off as being very ignorant and closed-minded. She has lived in a smaller world than she realized, raised by bigots and social snobs who know only about power and status. Her parents' loveless marriage and procession of lovers is the model for what she can expect for the marriage she agreed to contract in exchange for this trip out West to paint wildlife. She really doesn't want that future, but how can she go back on her word? I never disliked Eleanor, who Troy calls Lena, even though she makes some very thoughtless, prejudiced comments to Troy, pouring salt into his wounds about being treated like less than a man because of his Cherokee blood. I could see she wasn't a bad person, just a person who had no real understanding of what makes a man or woman honorable or worthwhile. It's not race or heritage, or about money or status. It's about integrity and grit. This trip shows her exactly what she needs to learn. She did frustrate me as she continued to hold on to her ideas about the rightness of the society she was raised in. However, I could see that Troy and this trip out West had awakened the woman she was meant to be, and I cheered her on.
This novel touched me on an emotional level, and I also loved the action and adventure as Troy and Lena face life in the wilderness. The ending had me on the edge of my seat, and I hoped that Troy and Lena would fight for each other, and the life they could have together. I knew that being together on their own terms (not society's) was the right choice for both, but they had to come to that conclusion for themselves. And Kernan doesn't take it easy on the reader as you see just how painful that choice will be for Lena (and in ways I didn't imagine initially).
Because this book gave me pretty much what I wanted in a book when I read it, I am rating it 4.5/5.0 stars.
Found this one at the library and picked it up for a listen. I found it quite good. The worldbuilding was thorough, including a lexicon of terms espec...moreFound this one at the library and picked it up for a listen. I found it quite good. The worldbuilding was thorough, including a lexicon of terms especially adapted to the storyline. It's not quite steampunk (no steam tech), but that's probably as close a designation as I can use. There is some advanced tech, including enhanced humans, and primitive gadgetry, and some mad science type elements that bring to mind the steampunk aesthetic, so there you have it. Rossamund was a really great kid--quite tough for all that he goes through in this book. He had a good heart and an unshakeable sense of conscience that guides him through the murky waters of his journey from being a foundling at a home for orphans to his profession as a Lamplighter in service of the Emperor.
I liked Europe. She was a bit fussy and stuck up at times, but I think that's just her way of dealing with emotional situations that she's not comfortable with. You could tell she grew quite fond of Rossamund, and who could blame her.
Kids being abused and taken advantage of is a huge issue for me, so that horrible Captain Poundage's treatment of poor Rossamund really got my goat. I found this part so hard to deal with, knowing he was taking advantage of a child before Rossamund figures that out. I wanted to jump inside the story and beat the crap out of the guy. He truly deserved a medieval-style beatdown. (view spoiler)[ I cheered loudly as Europe gave it to him later in the story. (hide spoiler)] It was rough seeing this kid go through the hardships he faced, period, so I was glad that he had some people there to help him when he couldn't help himself, and he turns out to be very good at doing that, for the most part.
The concept of what a monster is leads to some interesting thoughts about right and wrong. Is a monster merely a non-human creature, or can a human be worse of a monster than a non-human creature? I think that this story proves the latter, most definitely. The worst monster of all in this book is a human man--Captain Poundage. And Rossamund is bright enough to see that from early on. He helps Europe to open her mind to see the same. Not that her profession is 100% wrong, but maybe she should think more about who/what she feels is deserving of destruction.
I liked this book a lot. I found Rossamund utterly endearing, and the adventures on which he embarked kept me listening intently, and on the edge of my seat. This is a good story for younger readers and slightly older ones (like me).
Gemma Arterton as Europe
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Rossamund ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is definitely a book to read if a reader likes pirate/swashbuckling novels. The setting, characters, scenes, and dialogue took me back to the 17t...moreThis is definitely a book to read if a reader likes pirate/swashbuckling novels. The setting, characters, scenes, and dialogue took me back to the 17th century in a time of political turmoil and wild seas and locales where the wars between countries play out in a very personal matter. And Peter Blood, the main character is one that claims your affection and doesn't let go. I sometimes find reading on the Kindle a chore, but with this story, I got so sucked in, that before I knew it, it was ending. And I had a smile on my face as I read the last sentence.
Captain Blood is not a predictable read, at least for me. I literally didn't know what was going to happen from one scene to the next. I loved reading about Peter rely on his wits and face each obstacle with courage and determination, always working towards the end goal, even when it didn't seem in sight. He is a charismatic character who kept me captivated, through his quick thinking, and his powerful manner of expressing himself. Although Captain Blood is a pirate, he is very much a man of honor, for his profession. He is, in my opinion, the preferred antihero. One who doesn't let go of his sense of honor, even if it doesn't necessarily follow the established rules. And because of that, I rooted for him.
The one part that didn't sit right with me as I read, was how a distinction was made between Peter Blood and the English captives sold into slavery and the negro slaves. As though they were too good to be slaves when the negroes weren't. I realize that it was the ideas of race at the time, but that doesn't make it right. Slavery to me is wrong, period. It doesn't make it more wrong when the enslaved is a white man versus a black man. I wouldn't presume to call the author a racist. I think he was painting a realistic picture for the times, and I can't fault him for it. I personally find the idea of racial superiority offensive, and it can slap me in the face even in the context of a historical work. Overall it was a pebble in my shoe as I read, but not so much I couldn't read the book.
Otherwise, I enjoyed this novel. I've always had a yen for pirate stories, and it's great to go back and read a classic in the genre. Rafael Sabatini is an author who writes this type of story well, so I'll be back to read more of his books.(less)
I knew I was going to love Graham’s story when I was introduced to him in his brother’s book, The Cobra and the Concubine. He was angry and isolated,...moreI knew I was going to love Graham’s story when I was introduced to him in his brother’s book, The Cobra and the Concubine. He was angry and isolated, but he had an inner sadness that called to me. I have been excited to read this book for a while, but I put it off. I’m so glad I finally read it. It was a wonderful book, and it made me cry.
Graham was everything I hoped for, and more. I love him dearly! He’s fierce and deadly, tough and masculine, but sweet and gentle. His loneliness and anguish called out to me, and made me want to soothe him. His inner battle with despair and rage at his past, and the progression to peace and contentment was not an easy thing to read about. Like Jillian, I suffered, longing to see this man gain some inner tranquility. However, his journey was realistic. The wounds that a man like Graham carried would not be easily lanced and healed. It was a struggle for him, and for Jillian, and Ms. Vanak illustrated this process beautifully. I liked how she wrote Graham going full circle, back to the desert that had created the man he was. The Khamsin men say that the desert will strip a man bare of all pretense, leaving only the essential man, and some are driven crazy in the process. Jillian watched as the civilized English duke that she knew and married became a fierce, cold desert warrior. She railed at the gulf that separated them, and as Graham's friend Ramses had told her, she would need all her strength to save Graham and to bring him back across that void and into her loving embrace.
The passion and love between Jillian and Graham was thrilling. I loved their tender moments together just as much if not more, the way their hearts reached out to each other. They were like two lost souls who found each other, even though their circumstances and the fate that binds them were not ideal. In a way, it felt like their destinies were to love each other, so that their wounds (caused by the same man) could be healed. I loved how Graham encouraged Jillian to emerge from the gray cocoon her father had imprisoned her in. He admired her intelligence, finding it attractive. He coaxed her to be free and to embrace her wild inner spirit. Jillian had to tame the wild animal within Graham that had been terribly abused, teach him to open up and to love and to trust. I loved that they were both virgins, and had the rare privilege to explore passion for the first time together. Both of them were nervous their first time, but felt a connection, a powerful attraction that drew them together. The love scenes were enthralling, enticing and fiery—-the way good love scenes should be.
This book was a success on so many levels. The courtship of Jillian and Graham, the resolution of Graham and Jillian’s pasts, the beautiful and sometimes harsh depiction of life for the Bedouin in Arabia. The majestic and treacherous nature of the desert. This is what I long for in historical romance. Ms. Vanak wrote a fantastic book here. It has definitely earned its five star rating and a spot on my keeper shelf. I treasure the time I spent reading Graham and Jillian’s deep, emotional, beautiful love story.
Here are the actors I pictured as Graham and Jillian:
Heroes of the Valley turned out to be a good book to listen on audio. At first I wasn't sure how much I'd like it, but I ended up enjoying it immensel...moreHeroes of the Valley turned out to be a good book to listen on audio. At first I wasn't sure how much I'd like it, but I ended up enjoying it immensely.
Halli is a roguish, endearing young hero who wrapped himself around my heart. Although he was quite a prankster, he was a good kid at heart. He didn't really get a chance to shine until he broke free from the mold of his family and their expectations for him. This took him on a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment about his world. Everyone in the Valley lives in the shadow of their great ancestors, who all died in a standoff with trolls that were plaguing the humans of the Valley. Now, they are nearly worshipped by each of the twelve houses founded in their names. Halli grew up with tales of the bravado of his ancestor, Svein, and wishes to commit similar feats of bravery to have his name listed in the hall of heroes. That's a bit hard to do with the current situations. All weapons are outlawed and any disputes are judged by the Lawgivers, women of the twelve houses.
When Halli's uncle Broda is murdered by Olaf of the Hakonsons, Halli is determined to avenge his uncle. He goes on a journey deeper into the valley, and comes to realize that heroism and bravery is not the way it sounds in the stories he was weaned on.
Halli makes it on my heroes I love shelf because he is a great kid. He is brave in a real life way. He gets himself into some very sticky situations, but he fights his way through with his ingenuity and his determination. He's not unaware that others view him in a negative light, but he doesn't let that stop him from doing what he believes is right. He stands up for himself, and others, and I loved his pluck. He's an outrageous kid who tells it like it is, and that's a trait that I can't help but admire. And Halli saves the day in a great way, not just to be labeled as the Hero, but because it's the right thing to do.
Jonathan Stroud keeps the reader guessing where Halli's adventures will lead him next, and this makes for a book that is nothing like I expected. I'm still trying to work my mind around the twist near the end that I completely didn't expect.
Heroes of the Valley has some good messages for younger (and older readers) about being true to yourself, standing up for what you believe, and using your wits instead of resorting to violent actions. There is violence, yet it's not pointless. Instead, violence in this story is used to illustrate something important. Violence doesn't make you a hero just because you are capable of using brute force to harm others and end lives. There is a place for it, but we must all question when is violence necessary, and count the cost of that violence, which can be a lot greater than we previously anticipated. In this story, the reader sees what kind of man Svein really was, and you have to wonder if he's truly a hero. Or do our heroes truly have feet of clay that merely make them the humans they were all along, despite their fantastic, lauded deeds. I truly believe that each person has it in them to be the hero, merely by standing up and doing what's right when they find themselves in those situations that don't even seem very grand. But their actions can be crucial, and how they react to those situations can define them and how confrontations end up being resolved, for the better or worse.
I didn't have a lot of expectations for this, but I ended up a satisfied listener. I think the narrator did a good job, and he brought the characters to life in a distinctive manner that fits the story, and had me listening intently. I am glad I was able to meet Halli, and his young girl friend Aud. They are definitely the true heroes in this story.(less)
I'd give this 3.5/5.0 stars because I liked it and the characters. Kayla and Quinn were good kids, and their adventure was kind of a novel idea. I can...moreI'd give this 3.5/5.0 stars because I liked it and the characters. Kayla and Quinn were good kids, and their adventure was kind of a novel idea. I can't rate it higher because some parts were slow moving for me, and the story felt unfinished, unpolished, and maybe a little too simple in the overall narrative style. The 3.5 stars also indicates that it's a clever book in a lot of ways, with a good deal of promise. I'd like to read the next book in the series to see how things progress and what Kayla and Quinn are up to next. Let's keep this very short and sweet, so I'll end this review here.
12.21 was an entertaining read. I never got bored, that's for sure. I'm not big on the whole Mayan Prophecy thing, so I normally wouldn't run to read...more12.21 was an entertaining read. I never got bored, that's for sure. I'm not big on the whole Mayan Prophecy thing, so I normally wouldn't run to read this sort of thing. However, Random House offered a giveaway for the Action/Adventure Aficionados group, so I decided to give it a try. I am glad I did.
What I liked: * I love medicine, so medical dramas in various incarnations almost always appeal. The whole concept of an epidemic illness arising out of a connection to an ancient Maya tomb and civilization, and related to the Mayan Prophecy was a unique approach. I liked the characters' race to find out what the etiology of the infection was and how to combat it. There was a real sense of urgency and I felt my pulse racing as I read. History is another favorite subject, so there's a good combination here. * This was quite readable. The narrative was cohesive between modern day and flashbacks to the ancient Maya times (900AD), and there was a sense of steady progression in this story that I appreciated, especially for a suspense-driven book. *I like that the author didn't slow down the story too much with excessive explanations, but the Maya cultural elements seemed well-researched and the science was fairly credible (except one heinous element below that I must rant about). *Sadly, I knew little about the indigenous Maya descendants of Guatemala. That was very interesting to read about their thriving community in LA (assuming that it's real). Also, I wasn't aware of the situation with the indigenous people in Guatemala. It's always good to learn about different peoples and their struggles, and it will make me more sensitive about their plight.
What could have been better: *Okay, I have a mini rant. The scene with the slaughterhouse/meat processing factory is so unrealistic it's insulting and laughable. The things that occur in that facility would never happen. I know for certain. They had serious food safety issues going on, including commingling of meat ingredients and use of products that definitely are not approved for meat production or use in the United States. Then the author made a point of saying that kids eat that product. A lot of inspectors work very hard to make sure that products safe for consumption make it on the shelves, and that was offensive to the hard work they put in and the many safety checks that meat plants have to follow in their food safety system. One could argue that maybe that facility was not under government oversight, but the author made a point of mentioning the USDA, so I know it was. And let's be clear that is not going to happen in a federally inspected facility. I don't mind the line between fiction and reality blurring in appropriate settings. This wasn't one. For a medical science drama, I expect more realistic and credible use of information in a story. Fortunately, I was able to get over my disgust with this and keep reading the book, but it affected my rating without a doubt. *I didn't feel a heavy sense of connection to any of the main characters. The storyline itself was more interesting to me. Towards the end, the sense of urgency for their situation did hit me, but I can't say I fell in love with anyone in this novel.
Overall Thoughts: *A pretty good, readable, suspenseful novel. I liked the mix of ancient civilizations and treasure hunting with modern medical science. There were a couple of pitfalls that lowered my rating, but overall, it was a worthwhile read, especially for those interested in the Endtime Mayan Prophecy and Meso-American ancient civilizations. For a quick-read medical suspense story with some ancient connections, this is a pretty good one to pick up.
Overall Rating: 3.75/5.0 stars.
A special thanks to Random House for the opportunity for members of the Action/Adventure Aficionados to read this novel. (less)
Liana is a young, transplanted Frenchwoman taken in by an older Native American when her father dies with his gold claim in the Yukon under di...moreSynopsis
Liana is a young, transplanted Frenchwoman taken in by an older Native American when her father dies with his gold claim in the Yukon under dispute. She has learned all the many lessons that Henry taught her to survive in the cold wilderness of the North. When Henry is murdered and she flees her pursuers, she will have to rely on that training, especially when she's stranded on a deserted narrow island in the middle of the raging, icy river. The days tick down slowly and her chances for survival narrow with each day with no food and limited shelter. Liana must face the unsympathetic, cruel force of nature, all alone on her frigid island of refuge.
An Island Between Two Shores is a tale of survival that brings back my memories of reading stories by Jack London in which humans travel to the frozen North and pit their wills against the unforgiving wilderness. The story of the struggle between man and nature is not a new one. In this case, it is woman against nature. I appreciated that because gender is no factor in having the skills to survive in the wilderness. It's about knowledge, will, and sometimes just sheer luck. In this case, Liana's education in living on the land in the North comes from the best, and other than that, it's up to her wits against nature.
The writing was crisp and clear, taking the reader to this place of brutal cold and harsh elements. It had a vividly realistic feel. Williams paints a bleak picture, but there is beauty in the descriptions of nature, even at its most fierce. Liana herself appreciates the beauty of nature as she waits for the ice on the river to freeze so she can leave the island. With little to do except rest in her improvised shelter, she has time to observe it. She sees the Northern Lights and all the constellations in all their unpolluted glory. In the wilderness, man (or in this case, woman) is alone with herself and the forces of nature. Self-knowledge is unavoidable in this process. Liana's inner dialogue as the days count down and she realizes that she is growing weaker wrenched at my psyche.
This story grabbed at my gut. I wanted to keep reading, hoping all the while that she would survive, yet fearing that she would not. The sheer enormity of Liana's struggle to survive, and the bleak nature of her predicament hit home with me. I could feel the grinding ache of the fierce cold, as well as the horrible emptiness of the starvation that Liana suffered. An Island Between Two Shores will stay with me a long time. In a profound way, I identified with this young woman, who just wanted to survive the cruel, indifferent wilderness that preys on both the strong and the weak.
As much as I enjoyed this story and appreciated the writing, I felt the ending was weak and robbed this book of some of its impact because it was too quick and a bit predictable. Otherwise, this is a well-written novel. I believe those who enjoy survival tales will probably appreciate An Island Between Two Shores as much as I did.