Look past the cover to find a down-to-earth, mildly spiritual (Catholic), yet contemporary look into the l...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Look past the cover to find a down-to-earth, mildly spiritual (Catholic), yet contemporary look into the life a commitment-phobic middle aged male nurse. When he finds himself “home” for the first time in 20 years he is forced to decide what is truly important to him. With strong threads containing mental illness and disabilities, internal and external conflicts, sweet humor and more - it’s one of my favorite “uplifting” reads of the past year.
About: Sean is a nurse who has spent most of his adult life in areas of the planet where there are more people than resources. Places where people are grateful for what little help a medical professional can give them even if it’s only a little more time to live. Sean has chosen this hard yet satisfying life because he is running from internal demons - a fear that he has inherited a nasty form of dementia called Huntington's disease. Sean doesn’t want to know if he has the disease, refuses to be tested for it, and has “a plan” once the symptoms begin to appear.
When he receives a letter from his sister while still working in Africa, she directly states she needs him to return to take on his share of their family responsibilities. So he does, but not entirely based upon the letter. It appears the fates have conspired to bring him back home since he’s completely burned out and his back is aching so badly - so back to Boston it is.
Needless to say things are not the most functional with his family. There are A LOT of complications. His aunt (the family Matriarch) is loosing her memory, his sister deserves some of the freedom he’s enjoyed over the years (she too may have the disease) and she is resentful. But the most significant “complication” is his pre-teen nephew, who is in a precarious transitional period, and in desperate need of support. And then there’s the dog.
Thoughts: This was a rewarding and slightly funny read with its real-life aspects that takes the tone from sweet to unsentimental. There are the shocking parts about nursing in a third world country, and dealing with the devastation of dementia, abandonment, alcohol abuse, and childhood psychological disorders. This book is a real mix of true-to-life problems with complex emotions and entanglements associated with them. But they are handled seriously and with a soft touch by the author.
The story has a mild element containing Catholicism. Appropriately so, since the main character - Sean’s da/dad - is from Ireland. And since the characters are of Irish decent there is also a fun part where several of the characters take a trip to Ireland. This may intrigue many readers and I enjoyed it quite a lot.
But I think the best part of this story are the characters. They are complex, well developed and mostly likeable; even the prickly ones, giving a literary feel to the novel. It’s being marketed as women’s fiction (look at the cover), but it’s more than that. I can say that men may enjoy this novel too if they can get beyond its cover’s femininity, and its obvious design for attracting women. Publishers have to sell books and women buy the most.
Just a few mild complaints - The Shortest Way Home is another one of those reads where there is a light romantic element which was slightly too “mushy” for me, and also several of the sex scenes left me with a misplaced guffaw (not my favorite reaction for a “romantic interlude”). However, it was an engrossing and entertaining read. I devoured it in a few days and give it a 4-star rating. (less)
A darkly intriguing mystery/romance and the second book in an action packed steampunk series. Including a brillia...moreOriginal review at Layers of Thought.
A darkly intriguing mystery/romance and the second book in an action packed steampunk series. Including a brilliant and strong willed female lead that goes against the Victorian-like social norms of the setting, and perhaps a glimpse of a “Jack the Ripper–ish” sort of villain.
*(SPOILER ALERT) Please note if you have not read the first in this series this review does contain spoilers. Read my review for Tarnished (book #1) and pick it up first. I believe that they are still selling the ebook version for .99 cents at various online retailers. What a deal!
About: In a realistic yet fantastical setting – a steam powered Victorian London - we have the second in this atmospheric series. The complex and strong main character, Cherry St. Croix, was once a circus waif and performer, giving her physical attributes which allow her to pursue and apprehend persons of greater strength and stature than herself. A petite red-head with striking thick hair which she covers with lampblack on her outings into the polluted city underworld, she is not of bad character. Her darkness is due to forced circumstance. She is addicted to Laudanum (a poppy -derived opiate that was popular during Victorian times) and is also what is termed a “collector” – where she finds wanted persons or information for nefarious others for a price. It’s her way to maintain her addiction and to prevent herself from going mad due to the constrained mores for women of the times. Cherry does her best to get by in this world where women aTarnishedre not allowed to own property and are considered wards of their male family members.
In the first book of the series (Tarnished) we become familiar with Cherry, her romantic entanglements, and find out that she is the daughter of a crazy scientist and a beautiful socialite. In this second book, Cherry is in pursuit of a killer (she thinks Jack the Ripper perhaps?) who is dissecting the underworld “sweets” (prostitutes.) However, she finds that there is in fact another killer – so another mystery ensues.
Thoughts: Karina Cooper writes in an old fashioned convoluted style in this series, which works very well for the setting. It creates text that feels authentic and Victorian-ish. I do need to mention that readers may have to consult Google when looking up some of the old fashioned English words the author uses. Even John (my UK/English dictionary/husband) had some difficulty telling me what several words meant. But this is all good. We both “learnt somefink”.
It also has another fun cover much like the first in the series. I am really glad there is not a naked guy or a lot of skin featured on it. Which brings me to mention that I liked the light and tasteful romantic involvement included in both books since there’s nothing worse than a sex scene that makes me laugh when it’s not supposed to.
What happens to Cherry as we find out more about her and her romantic interests is the best part of this story. Cooper does romance well. But most compelling is how the author sets up this book for the next in the series with it’s heart pounding, drop off the edge of your seat ending. So don’t expect closure, I am thinking the next in this series will have a “Kill Bill-ish” flavor set in steampunk Victorian times? I can’t wait.
Recommended for readers who like strong and dark female leads, unexpected twists, a bit of a murder mystery and of course romance and steampunk. Skip this if you are looking for a solid ending, want happily ever after, or are not interested in being addicted to a series. I enjoyed this book A LOT. It’s a fun second book to hopefully a long series. 4 stars. My only regret is that I am not reading this series after the entire collection has been completed. (less)
A page-turning posthumous noire novel, by crime fiction master James M. Cain. Told from the first person perspective of the gorgeous Joan Medford – who, the reader is left to decide, is either a victim or a murderer.
About: Joan Medford is a “knock out” - leggy, curvy and smart too; some of the characteristics of a quintessential femme-fatale. However, looks and brains have not stopped her from making mistakes, like her accidental pregnancy and subsequent marriage to a brutal drinker. Her story begins after the “accidental” death of her inebriated husband, when she winds up at a local bar as a cocktail waitress – to help her pay her bills.
Although socially unacceptable for “nice women” to work in bars (this is the 1950’s), she is more than grateful for her new job serving alcohol in the required uniform of velveteen shorts and a peasant blouse. She knows that she can now financially care for her toddler and turn on the electricity, which was cut off for non-payment. It's even better when she starts receiving unusually large tips from a very wealthy older businessman who becomes smitten with her.
But to Joan’s chagrin, she has also caught the eye of a poor, booze-loving, but handsome rake that she finds all too alluring. Still, Joan is determined to do the best for her little boy and chooses to marry the richer older man. She is relieved that the marriage will not be consummated, since her husband-to-be has a delicate heart which will not withstand the exertion of marital relations.
Events become intriguingly complicated around this warped love triangle as the men in Joan’s life die, or are murdered. As she tells her story in an uncompleted and direct way, the reader gets to decide – is Joan an unreliable narrator or a victim?
Thoughts: It’s kind of neat that this novel has been published 35 years after the author’s death. It’s interesting to think about the effort that the editors have had to put into piecing it together, attempting to imagine what the author would have done had he been alive to help the process. Interestingly, there is a 11 page afterword describing how some of this was done, by editor Charles Ardai. Regardless, I do have to say the results are wonderful.
The Cocktail Waitress is my first noire crime fiction. I have learned that noir is told from the perspective of one of the victims, suspects, or perpetrators. Which is different from a detective novel, told from the perspective of a crime fighter. I think that is one reason why I enjoyed the novel so much. It was written as if Joan was attempting to explain her story to the reader and judge. It’s written with her old fashioned voice, appropriate to the character during the time, and in my opinion creating a page-turning pleasure to read. I don’t have any other books by Cain to compare this with, but if it’s any gage of what to expect from his other books, I am going to have a blast attempting to read his entire collection.
Additionally, I enjoyed the book for other reasons. My favorite characters are strong women, and the darker the better. So Joan could be a perfect fit, depending on your opinion of her after finishing the book. I liked the ambiguity of not knowing whether Joan was an unreliable narrator. So the book is one of my favorites for 2012 at 4.5 stars. Highly recommended for crime fiction lovers, and anyone who enjoys strong female leads.
Content advisory: This book has adult themes, nudity, sexual references and scenes, violence, as well as strong language (although I do not recall any cursing) so some readers should be advised.(less)
A dark, fast paced, paranormal novel that’s jam packed with action and snarky dialog. I am t...moreThis review was originally published at Layers of Thought.
A dark, fast paced, paranormal novel that’s jam packed with action and snarky dialog. I am thinking it’s for fans of Dean Koontz (but with attitude).
About: Jackson Lee is a psychic. A damaged and sarcastic psychic with a hundred pound piece of lead on his shoulder. This is understandable as Jackson’s attitude reflects his very rough childhood - an abusive drunken step-father; knowing that his favorite little sister has been murdered; the subsequent deaths of his entire family (except for his psychopath sister); and then spending his teen years in a group home (one where only brutality and cunning keep the boys alive). It’s no wonder he’s extremely bitter.
But things are looking up for Jackson due to his strong will to survive. He now has a legitimate business doing psychic readings and calls himself – the “All Seeing Eye”; which is the dark truth for Jackson, since he has the the gift (or curse) of knowing that whoever he touches will provide him with a complete vision of that person’s entire life. Every sordid detail. The viewings are so overwhelming that in order to cope he has become a loner, who must wear gloves and long sleeves (even in the sweltering Georgia heat where he lives) to prevent contact with people and objects.
When the scientist brother of an old group home friend shows up on Jackson’s door, pretending to look for a reading from a “real” psychic but then kidnaps him and takes him to a military research facility, the drama escalates. Really escalates.
Thoughts: This was a fast and absorbing read with an interesting, damaged, and snarky character – Jackson Lee. I enjoyed the drama and most of the back and forth smart dialog, although it did get to be a bit much at times. Jackson has a continual stream of comments supporting his ability to “smart-arse” his way through all his interactions, and he tells everyone off.
I enjoyed the writing style of Rob Thurman and found it to be extremely readable. However, in addition to the strong snarky factor, I was a bit disappointed with what I felt was not enough solid explanation for the paranormal technology/science that was part of the research facility where most of the story takes place. But these small niggles will not prevent me from reading another book by Rob Thurman. The book is mostly well fleshed out and I did breeze through it’s almost 400 pages quickly, and have to note that it is decidedly intelligent. I also liked that there are several psychopathic characters in the novel which the author develops interestingly.
Recommended for anyone wanting a fast paced, escapist read with paranormal and dark aspects. It felt similar to a book I read by Dean Koontz years ago, which I enjoyed a lot. It had that same nebulous paranormal factor that was not completely explained but satisfying. I give this book 3 stars. I am thinking that All Seeing Eye will have sequels, since Jackson Lee’s special abilities could lead to more interesting predicaments.
Content info: This book has dark themes, lots of strong language and violence, which may be bothersome to some readers. (less)
An easy-to-read and follow cook book with recipes specifically created for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanuka...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
An easy-to-read and follow cook book with recipes specifically created for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza and New Year’s Eve. All for eating without meat and dairy.
Thoughts: This reasonably sized paperback book contains sections with unusual and delicious sounding concoctions for each of the holidays mentioned above. It has starters, soups, main dishes, side dishes, desserts, and drinks. With names like Lemony Carrot Soup, Autumn Vegetable Roast, Mashed Potatoes with Onion-Chardonnay Gravy, Holiday-Ready Apple Crisp, and Pumpkin-Apple Nog; these are a small selection of the recipes for Thanksgiving alone. With a number of beautiful colored photographs of many of the recipes in its 153 pages you can see examples of how to serve some of the dishes in the book. I also like that the index includes each of the recipe names and many of the major ingredients for easy access in creating dishes with specific foods.
We especially enjoyed a delicious recipe that will more than suffice in exchange for the obligatory turkey (a center piece for a lot of holiday meals – in the US at least) called Thanksgiving Philo Pie. The dish is large and dense, using nuts, mushrooms, and traditional poultry spices to give the dish protein, a meat like flavor, and the familiar taste that most of us crave when thinking about the holidays. I will have to say that the pie is gorgeous, and tasty. And it will have those who try it believe that there can be an alternative to eating meat and dairy.
So, what exactly is a Vegan? Often the word vegan is confused with vegetarian. But it’s different. Being a vegan means that you do not eat meat, eggs or any dairy products. Some vegans do not wear or use any animal products (wool and silk included), and may even forsake honey.
Eating a diet that is vegan is lower in fat, better for the environment, and also kinder to our fellow animals. With that being said, it also takes a large commitment including changing your entire way of eating and cooking. This is a process -especially if you have been eating and cooking as an omnivore for years. But one does not necessarily need to go “the whole hog”. You can start by considering recipes that are vegan and bringing them into your diet and your body just may thank you. And with this book especially, it can help find alternatives to traditional recipes for the holiday. It will surely help to convert even staunch meat consumers into thinking and eating differently at your dinner table. Some may not even realize that there is a difference. It’s a 4 star cook book in my opinion.(less)
A historical novel set in England and Alaska during Victorian times. It has Native Ala...more3.5 stars actually. Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
A historical novel set in England and Alaska during Victorian times. It has Native Alaskan mythology with a bit from the British Isles woven through it.
About: Marie is a young woman who has grown up without her mum. Living with her wealthy father in England, the household’s cook tells Marie stories that lead her to believe that her mum was a selkie – a mythological creature that is seal in the ocean and human on land. It becomes a key belief for Marie and draws her to the sea.
When Marie’s father, decides to marry Marie off to a much older and overweight widow, Marie barely escapes by pretending to want to help in the efforts to Christianize the native population at a small mission in Alaska. It is after all close to the sea. Full of hope and wishing to connect with her selkie heritage, she arrives in Alaska to live with a very devout woman, who controls her every move and her kind husband who has an understanding for the Native Alaskan culture.
As the outpost’s teacher, Marie is asked to help the local children learn and become Christian with strict bible quoting lessons. However Marie has other ideas about how to teach the Natives and finds that she feels connected more to them than with her own people.
Thoughts: This was an engrossing historical novel that has mythology from two cultures embedded in it. I truly enjoy stories that contain myth, and with this particular novel one can almost consider it as having a slight speculative edge. Apparently the author has done some in-depth research into Native Alaskan heritage, so the novel has given a glimpse into a not very well know culture and created an intriguing subject mater to learn about.
Set during in the late 1800’s, when women had very little say about what they could do with their lives and were required to live within strict rules of conduct, our main character had to use indirect manipulations to evade things like her planned marriage. She goes even further to violate the cultural mores of the time but I will not spoil this dramatic story for you. But because Marie is a heroine who dares to go against these required behaviors, with consequences, it gives the story a feminist flavor.
I enjoyed Selkie Dreams with its romance, mythological core and its absolute drop-off-a-cliff shocker of an ending. I was completely blown away. It’s a 3.5 stars in my opinion and recommended for those who like strong female leads, reading about different cultures, stories set in Victorian times, and historical fiction with a touch of romance.(less)
A laugh-out-loud, fast-paced, new romantic urban fantasy series with a sexy love triangle, bound to keep r...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A laugh-out-loud, fast-paced, new romantic urban fantasy series with a sexy love triangle, bound to keep readers sleep deprived and waiting for the next in the series.
About: Ciel is a feisty, petite red head with loads of freckles which she dislikes every time she looks in the mirror. But she doesn’t linger too much on her perceived inadequacies and gets on with life since she has a new business; after all she is an adult. Or so she tells herself, even though her family and friends behave otherwise.
Ciel’s business is based upon using her genetic talent of “aura adapting” (the ability to take on the form of another person) to assist wealthy clients in need. In her latest job, Ciel has taken on the image of a drop-dead gorgeous wealthy young woman. She is to travel to the Bahamas to obtain a proposal for marriage and an engagement ring from her client’s even richer and perfectly handsome boyfriend. But to Ciel’s chagrin things don’t go as easily as she hoped or planned.
When Ciel’s dreams of a sexy (she has been granted sanctioned sex with her client’s boyfriend), luxurious and “paid vacation” becomes a mess, she is more than a little upset. Even though the bungalow of the two wealthy love birds’ is blown into pieces, and the hunky would be groom is missing, Ciel still has her job to think about. She needs to return her client’s fiancé (with the ring) to collect her earned money even though it’s Neo-Vikings that are the cause of the problem.
The story becomes even more twisted, and hilarious, as Ciel’s two very male, sexy, meddlesome, and controlling childhood friends (aura adaptors too) become deeply involved – believing that she needs protecting and is incapable of taking care of herself.
Thoughts: I devoured this book in three sittings, which is rare for me. I am a “grazer” when it comes to reading. Meaning: I read bits and pieces of many different books, sometimes completing them, often not. However, with In a Fix I had to find out what was going to happen next in the book on several levels - dramatically and romantically.
But the best part is that I laughed myself silly throughout the story, and I liked the main character. Ciel, is self effacing, strong and will not let life’s messy events keep her from getting her job done or doing mostly the right thing. I liked that she refused to let her two male childhood friends, hell-bent on keeping her in the dark and safely in an office, stop her from living her life, taking care of her new business and haphazardly saving a few lives.
I recommend pushing through to the second third of the book if you are having any trouble with the first several chapters, it was worth it for me. It’s highly recommended for its snarky (beware of strong language) and not completely politically correct humor (what truly funny humor is), pant-inducing romance scenes (includes some hilarious and sexy nudity), and its old fashioned chivalry with a modern twist (guys will be guys humor.) This was great genre fun! It’s a 4 star in my opinion. I will be waiting for the next book in the series.(less)
It’s a “tell-it-like-it-is,” down to earth, concise yet readable book which persuades th...moreOriginal review posted at Layer of Thought.
4.5 stars actually.
It’s a “tell-it-like-it-is,” down to earth, concise yet readable book which persuades the reader into accepting the true nature of our world (it’s brutal out there) and then choosing a “turning point” to create a happier life.
About: Written primarily by Dr. Balasa Prasad, a practicing psychiatrist who has developed his Turning Point Plan over 30 plus years. In the book he highlights the human burdens of stress on our physical bodies and our emotional lives; then examines the origins of stress and the importance for us to accept the unchanging “laws of nature”. He also talks about the link between addictions and stress, and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and stress. He then moves onto the importance of realizing one’s place in the world, and the responsibility and courage for making changes in our lives. At the end of the book there is a special and insightful section (by Dr. Preetham Grandhi – a child psychiatrist and Prasad’s son in law) on stress in children.
Also an anesthesiologist, Dr. Prasad has cured many of his patients, including those with phobias and addictions. Interestingly he gets to the root of the problem quickly within a few sessions questioning each individual about their past, even administering a “truth serum” which helps them to reveal hidden experiences, traumas, and beliefs. He then suggests in a clearheaded way - logical solutions which amount to choices by the patient so that he/she can move forward and enjoy a less stressful life.
Thoughts: This is a terrific book (and I’ve read A LOT of self help books). It’s clear and easy to read, and it’s written by two experts in the field. Even better is that it’s slim and accessible, and jammed packed with thoughtful truths about our natures and our world. Also included are case studies and personal examples. In my opinion Dr. Prasad is very grounded and has a extremely clear view of what life is about.
Granted the book may look like many of those fluffy self-help books on the market (with its typical sounding alliteration in the title), however, this book does exactly what it promises. My only negative thought about The Turning Point is that I’m not sure everyone will be able to recognize their own dilemmas - those that are so easy for Dr. Prasad to observe and which are showcased in his book. But hopefully reading his book will push those in need into finding help? I think that if Dr. Prasad and Dr. Grandhi included several sessions using the Turning Point Method with the purchase of the book (I could use a session or two) the book would be perfect!
If you’re going to read a recent book on bettering your life (or give one to a needy, faltering friend or loved one) I think this may be it. It’s direct and packs a punch that may push lost individuals back on track. Highly recommended for looking toward the new year and making significant and important changes for a happier life. This is a 4.5 stars in my opinion.(less)
Book number one, of this fun and dark series where Denver DJ turned werewolf, Kit...moreOriginal review (including books 1-5) published at Layers of Thought.
Book number one, of this fun and dark series where Denver DJ turned werewolf, Kitty Norville, accidentally starts a radio talk show – called “The Midnight Hour”. It surprisingly blows the radio station ratings sky high pulling in special callers (werewolves, vampires, and more) looking for advice in a world where they have been thought not to exist.
About: Kitty is a nighttime DJ who has been unwittingly turned werewolf. Definitely not a choice, she deals with it with the help of her best friend TJ (also a werewolf) and their local pack. Being part of the pack has helped her adjust, but there is a hierarchy within the group that is not entirely comfortable, balanced or healthy.
When her paranormal radio talk/advice show “The Midnight Hour” becomes a hit, it disrupts the pack’s status quo and the paranormal entities in power are annoyed and angry. With factions attempting to stop her new found success and independence, Kitty maneuvers through the drama as peacefully as possible. But there are some pack members (and others – including vampires) who may even want her dead.
Thoughts for the entire first 5 books in the series:
*I recommend reading the series in order and definitely reading the first book before the rest, which gives the reader an important basis for the entire series.*
I listened to this book in audio which was read by Marguerite Gavin. I liked the voice of the reader and felt it fit for the Kitty character. She does a fine job with differentiating all the characters, changing the tone for men and women, creating believable differences, and handling accents from different countries and locales in the US.
With its realistic modern day setting, this is urban fantasy with some paranormal romance thrown into the mix. It’s fantastical in nature but the story is relevant. I found it fun (darkly so) and thoughtful, without being too fluffy. It includes insight into human nature while questioning social and moral issues, making it feel like there are lessons to ponder while enjoying the drama, dry humor, and light, tasteful romance. I think my favorite part of the series is the character Kitty herself; she is strong and independent, yet vulnerable and reflective. I can see why there are 10 books in the series, one story collection, miscellaneous short stories, and apparently more in the works. 4 stars!
Special note: The series includes light and tasteful sex scenes, strong language, as well as horror elements. A “heads up” for those readers that may be sensitive to them. (less)
The first in a dark steampunk-ish themed series that is a fantastical re-telling of the classic Jane Eyre....moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
The first in a dark steampunk-ish themed series that is a fantastical re-telling of the classic Jane Eyre. Only it includes fey, dwarves, magic and a creative twist.
About: Set on the moors of an alternative yet familiar England-like world, Jane Elliot is a victim of a Great War against an illusive and ethereal fey. She is horrifically scarred on one side of her face. Covering it with an iron mask is the only way to prevent it’s dark magic from oozing emotions to everyone around her. Sadly, it’s an affliction common to many who have been injured in the war against the fey.
Inevitably life moves forward after the war, and Jane, in an attempt to avoid being a burden on her soon to be married sister, applies for a job as a governess – to the young daughter of the mysterious Edward Rochart, both who have been afflicted by dealings with the fey.
With the large household located near the forest (a known dwelling of the fey), it becomes apparent that there are comings, goings, and complications within the woods; and that perhaps the members of the Rochart household may have dealings within them. And as Jane falls deeply for the much older Mr. Rochart, she soon suspects that he may hold a key to healing her wound. She also discovers that he has more secrets than she wishes to believe, very much like the original Jane Eyre.
Thoughts:First off, I loved, loved, loved Jane Eyre. It was a rare five star for me. Having read it just several months prior to finishing this book made this re-telling even more fun for me. It felt like I was almost re-reading the original, only with a sparser language and with an added fantastical flair. Tina Connolly has a special way of writing which is very surprising and “retro” in flavor. It’s like a modern version of an old fashioned style which is suitable for a Victorian-like time period and similar to the original Jane Eyre. It was very refreshing. I also loved the setting – an alternative England with its lovely green moors that I too have a special connection to. Lastly, Jane Elliot is a strong female character, like the character Jane Eyre, which has a big appeal for me.
The only negative thing that I thought abound the book is that as I was nearing the end, I felt like it was just not going to be long enough. I was actually slightly nervous about it and kept thinking how the author was going to successfully manage to conclude the story without a “drop off the side of a cliff” ending. Or worse yet and impossible “dangler” which leaves the reader stranded. Happily it does have a satisfying conclusion which makes the book a decent stand alone read. But even better, it doesn’t have to be the end since there is a sequel in the works.
Labeled as young adult by a number of reviewers, I do think it will work better for adults. There are dark themes, some violence, and others which are adult in nature (some that teens may not connect well with). However, with its light romance (no sex) and clean language it will work for teens. Recommended especially for readers who enjoy dark fantasy, evil fey and magic set in a familiar world. I devoured this book and give it a 4-star rating. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel. (less)
A lyrical, “stream of consciousness” styled novel about three generations of strong and independent women...moreOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A lyrical, “stream of consciousness” styled novel about three generations of strong and independent women and their relationship to the sea and a “salt-god”.
About: This story is set in the coastal areas of Southern California, where it catalogs the lives, difficulties and connections to the ocean of three generations of women. Starting in the 1970’s - two young sisters struggle with their mother, her addictions, and their homelessness and its dysfunction. Later Ruthie, one sister, depicts her coming of age and tells of falling in love and the subsequent birth of her child – Naida. Then Naida tells her tale.
Ilie Ruby includes Jewish mysticism, Celtic folklore, environmental themes, women’s issues, and more into this complex and emotional story. It’s women’s fiction that has some mythical aspects and can be viewed as slightly “paranormal” in nature.
Thoughts: Ilie Ruby has an unusual style of writing that is mostly linear yet meanders back and forth in time in a sort of “stream of consciousness” writing style - the reader is taken into the thought processes of the characters as they move through their lives, resulting in a complex mix of happenings, memories and emotions. It’s definitely a literary styled book, definitely women’s fiction, and is character driven. This may not suit some readers, however, others are going to adore it.
I enjoyed this book and plowed through it fairly quickly, mostly because it reminded me that as women, all of us will experience the difficulties exemplified in the book’s pages. Ruby addresses issues of single motherhood, addiction, homelessness, rape, bullying and more. Issues that we are familiar with and have experienced directly or through our children, sisters, friends, or mothers. Sadly they are life events that we cannot deny but wish to ignore. Kudos to the author in addressing them in this second novel.
Feeling for the difficulties of the characters and the natural progression of their lives, loves, and failings, I recommend it for readers who enjoy character-driven stories, literary styled writing, women’s fiction (including feminist issues) and readers who like a touch of the mystical or folklore in their books. I give The Salt God’s Daughter 4 stars. It’s a lovely and heartfelt read.(less)
It’s a poetic trip to Hungary for the reader, with a bittersweet ending. A coming-of-a...more3.5 stars actually. Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
It’s a poetic trip to Hungary for the reader, with a bittersweet ending. A coming-of-age story that is tied to the decisions one can make in anger, and the regrets about those choices, but ultimately leading to forgiveness and maturity.
About: Beth (Erzsi - her Hungarian name) is now in her thirties and lives in London. She has repressed anger which comes out toward her father who lives miles away in Devon. When her father calls to visit she becomes excited, but then angry because she finds it’s only to bring her a letter and a handmade book from Hungary. It’s a lovely book in which her trips to the country have been cataloged lovingly by Marika, her Hungarian mom.
Perusing the book, she has no choice but to take a trip back to the wonderful summers she spent there with loved ones. As Erzsi reminisces while looking at her childhood pictures from each summer spent in Hungary, the reader follows her back in lolling experiences, which culminate in a heartbreaking choice made by the main character.
Thoughts: This is a lovely novel with long poetic depictions of Hungary. It’s definitely women’s fiction, but having the flow of literary fiction since the characters are well developed. The accounts of Erzsi’s visits take up most of the book’s content, which is important to remember when choosing this book to read, since this may make or break the book for some readers.
It’s a book which I think would be an excellent choice for a woman’s book group discussion since it will evoke strong emotions in many readers. It involves the choices made in anger, at an age when maturity has not set in, also it reveals the emotions around secrets kept and shared too late, regret, and ultimately forgiveness. Recommended for anyone wanting a summer trip to the area, for readers who like to savor lengthy descriptions, and bittersweet endings. I give this story a 3.5 stars, it’s a good book for a vicarious summer trip.(less)
A tragic page turning story that has madness, and themes of water and fire at its core...more3.5 stars actually. Original review posted at Layers of Thought.
A tragic page turning story that has madness, and themes of water and fire at its core.
About: This is the second version of Vincent Zandri’s award nominated story first published in 1995. It’s a heartbreaking thriller with a broken main character named Mary Kismet. She has a family history of mental illness, her first baby drowned accidently in the household bathtub and her husband has subsequently left her. As she struggles to keep herself together, her only solace is her weekly visit to her psychiatrist, who has overstepped his professional boundaries. But he too has his secrets, which he is unable to share. The question is: will it take Mary over the edge?
Thoughts: The above is the first part of a heart-stopping story which although interspersed with some happier moments spirals down, becoming more convoluted until its heartbreaking ending. Told in an unusual writing style, Zandri is both down to earth and unique in his word usage. He also does a fine job of taking the perspective of a woman on the edge or sanity.
With its theme of water running through the novel, there is a drowning and a trip to Venice as key events. So be prepared to be taken on a trip to Italy and more, where you have to keep reading to find out what’s going to happen next. I enjoyed this novella, give it a 3.5 stars, and recommend it for those who enjoy tragic thrillers.(less)
A metaphorical and darkly hilarious novella about an environmentally poisoned wood where a ravenous monste...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A metaphorical and darkly hilarious novella about an environmentally poisoned wood where a ravenous monster awakens.
About: A young ward of the state decides to leave the safety of her group home to return home to her dying grandmother. Her friend reminds her of the darkness that lurks outside of the doors; a monster is waking up slowly to a deep hunger in the dead woods. There is no food to satisfy its need, not even a starving rat. Where will it feed?
A lonely gay man living on the edge of the woods opens his door for the runaway girl in time to save her from what lurks in the cold darkness. This is their story.
Thoughts: A story with a moral, its more funny than scary – though that’s not to say that I did not get the chills or that my heart remained at its regular pace for the entire novel. It is a chilling tale. But laughing while one has goose pimples is a curious sensation; Wood definitely did this for me.
Even better, it’s only a 60 page novella with some colorful characters. Socially marginal individuals – these people are loners, orphans, and from the hidden classes of society. They are those that remain in the peripheral of our vision, barely noticed, but have their valid tales to tell. What’s important to their story is that these characters are not victims, creating a different example for those faced with real life horrors.
Intelligent with some snarky dialog, this is not a typical horror story. It’s an emotional roller coaster trip through metaphorical darkness and hilarity. A 4-star in my opinion. I recommended it for anyone who likes unusual characters, complex dry humor, and surprisingly nice endings.(less)
It’s a page-turning, action-packed steampunk murder mystery with even steamier romantic elements. It has...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
It’s a page-turning, action-packed steampunk murder mystery with even steamier romantic elements. It has a feisty lead character so it’s a perfect read for the fans of Gail Carriger – only it’s a bit darker.
About: Petite and feisty redheaded Cherry St. Croix is a bit tarnished. Orphaned at an early age, she is from an upper class family and lives comfortably with a variety of servants in her estate home - albeit as a ward to a never-present male benefactor, since women from this alternative Victorian period cannot own and are considered property. Darker still is that she is addicted to laudanum or opium depending on which is closer at hand; and she is a collector – a hired bounty woman who tracks down the wanted.
As she travels the polluted and sooty underworld of this different sort of London, she is asked to “collect’ a “ripper” who is killing local “sweets” (the most beautiful and desirable prostitutes) and taking their body parts for goodness knows what. It’s in the process of finding this insidious killer that she discovers darker things about her past; and sidesteps two romantic entanglements.
Thoughts: I really liked Cherry, the intelligent, tainted and strong main character who denies the existence of magic and only believes in science. It was also appealing that she is adamant about not wanting to get married, contrary to proper behavior for the time.
Although I really dislike comparing newer novels to wildly popular ones, I would say that this historical-ish novel felt quite similar to Gail Carriger’s Soulless, which I really enjoyed - although Tarnished is darker, less humorous, and has a more realistic setting than Carriger’s books. But like Soulless it includes science and gadgets, along with Victorian fashion and propriety, so it’s a genre-blender mystery story like Soulless.
My only niggle was that I had a slight problem getting into the author’s writing style at first. But I found it became easier after several chapters. And once I did I was completely hooked. I also want to mention that this first book is a cliff hanger, but what better way of starting off a series since it definitely created a desire to read the next in the series, even if I now have to wait.
Highly recommended for those interested in steampunk, historical romance, urban fantasy, murder mysteries, and especially for those who like strong female leads. It’s a 3.5 star read for me. I can’t wait for the second in the series.(less)
This is a series review for the: Fever Series in audio.
Set in the rainy city of Dublin, Ireland, this paranormal romance/urban fantasy series has a complex mythology, intense sexual tension, two alien fairy factions, and loads of interesting drama and action. It’s a completely addictive series and highly recommended in its audio version for a five book escapist read.
For the entire review link to the blog post above or my review here on Goodreads. (less)
This is a series review for the: Fever Series in audio.
Set in the rainy city of Dublin, Ireland, this paranormal romance/urban fantasy series has a complex mythology, intense sexual tension, two alien fairy factions, and loads of interesting drama and action. It’s a completely addictive series and highly recommended in its audio version for a five book escapist read.
For the entire review link to the blog post above or my review here on Goodreads.
A “post-adolescent coming of age” story where the “lost” main character finds herself through a series of events, some paranormal in nature.
About: Told in the first person and mixing the past with the present, the narrator Suki Piper is a young English woman who has just moved home to London from an extended stay in New Zealand. She has come back to her old neighborhood where she lived prior to her mother’s death from cancer. The problem is that Suki can’t seem to get her life together. It’s one bad situation after another. Worse is that she is having flashbacks or delusions, which are clouding her ability to make decisions.
Fumbling through her muddled life, she accidentally discovers the answers to the questions that are haunting her - questions that seem to be linked to a night in the past, where her mum, dad and family friends drunkenly explored a defunct air raid shelter after a party. It’s here that something which transcends time occurs.
Thoughts: I enjoyed this layered story with the author’s descriptive writing which is often dryly humorous. There is nothing like the British sense of humor for a good snicker, so expect some giggles. I also liked that it was a vicarious trip to London, New Zealand, Greece and slightly back in time. Set during summer it creates an enjoyable read for the warmer months. Lastly, with its light paranormal element there is an unusual twist to the story, creating it’s sweet ending. All wonderful elements for a story.
I did have several problems. One is that I did need to do some skimming to understand the plot, due to its literary nature - the author goes in depth about the characters and their experiences rather than the plot; not a bad thing for many readers. I also had a hard time relating to the damaged main character. She has an outlook that life probably could not get any worse, which is not the type of character I normally identify with. Suki was a series of car wrecks, understandably because she did have some tough events to digest.
In the end, beyond my niggles, I would say that this is a promising debut from a talented author. I give it a 3.5 star rating. Recommend for Anglophiles looking for a story with a magical twist, a positive ending, and summer settings in Europe.(less)