Having read the first book in the Lovegrove Legacy series, I was really looking forward to book 2, Whisper the Dead. I loved the historical atmosphereHaving read the first book in the Lovegrove Legacy series, I was really looking forward to book 2, Whisper the Dead. I loved the historical atmosphere, combine that with magic, I was hooked. The multiple perspectives with the cousins also kept me intrigued and I liked that the author seems to be focusing on a specific cousin for each book. Unfortunately, I felt let down with Whisper the Dead. It was fast-paced like book 1, but in this case I felt that the book was rushed, especially in the romance department.
Gretchen Thorn is the tomboy cousin. She’d rather wear trousers and actually learn how to defend herself rather than learn embroidery and rely on men to just happen to be around to protect her. She’s not shy about her views, and this doesn’t exactly make her popular. Luckily she has great friends in her cousins Emma and Penelope, as well as a twin brother, Gideon, whom Gretchen can usually convince to go along with her antics.
Following the events of A Breath of Frost all of the cousins are being watched by the Order. The Order is not convinced by the cousin’s account of events of book 1, and have placed each of them under guard. Gretchen, unfortunately, lands herself with a guard who is more than a little stuffy and put off by Gretchen’s independent ways. Tobias Lawless lives for order and control and is surprised by Gretchen’s determination to march to the beat of her own drum. When an evil witch starts targeting the debutantes of London, these two are going to have to make some sort of compromise to put a stop to it.
I thought Whisper the Dead started out strong. Readers are plunged back into the action and Gretchen was a fun character to read about. Gretchen is impulsive and determined and I loved seeing her ruffle people’s feathers. You can’t help but feel for Gretchen and her inability to move forward in life, she’s trapped by the fact that she’s a woman. And, I also loved the concept of Gretchen's magic:
"Whispering used to be just another word for spellcasting," she continued. "To the untrained eye, a witch reciting a spell looked like she was muttering to herself. After a few years of being hanged or burned at the stake for it, we learned subtlety," she said wryly. "But Whisperers such as yourself can still hear those spells being cast. That's what the terrible sound you hear is. Hundreds of witches over hundreds of years all casting their spells at the same time." (p. 58-59).
As a whisperer, Gretchen has access to an untold number of spells, but only in controlling her ability can she access those spells and keep her sanity. For someone as impulsive as Gretchen, this kind of control and patience is a challenge. But, Gretchen's ability to learn about the spells of the past certainly come in handy on the fly, and that motivates Gretchen to gain control over her gifts.
My complaint is that I didn’t feel like anything was resolved by the end of Whisper the Dead; there were so many things left unanswered, I felt that I was missing a section of the book. In fact, Whisper the Dead was significantly shorter than A Breath of Frost.
In particular, what I felt was quite unfinished was the romance. I was expecting it and I thought it was adorable; Tobias and Gretchen made a miss-matched couple. But cuteness aside, it never really got past the infatuation stage and I was disappointed by that as I’m assuming that the author is going to focus on Penelope next in the series and Gretchen and Tobias will be left to the background. There really was only one great section where I felt that Gretchen and Tobias were moving past their initial distrust of one another, and that is when Gretchen learns of Tobias’ secret and meets his surprisingly unconventional family. I wanted more of these scenes and I think it would have made the romance stronger. As it stands, I think the author is going to have to spend some time with these two in subsequent books since their relationship status is not finished.
What I did like is the fact that the author left A LOT of great tidbits for the next book. There were some pretty dramatic events towards the end of the novel and I think those are really going to impact that next book. So, while I didn’t like this one as much as A Breath of Frost, you can guarantee that I’ll be tuning in for book 3.
I moderate the nonfiction book club at the library where I work. I'm not much of a nonfiction reader, so at times this is a challenging task for me, e I moderate the nonfiction book club at the library where I work. I'm not much of a nonfiction reader, so at times this is a challenging task for me, especially picking the books to discuss for each monthly meeting. For July I decided on Orange is the New Black. I knew that it was a t.v. show, but beyond that, I was simply thinking practically. Book club sets cost money, and since Orange is the New Black is popular, I was pretty sure that it would at least get used again.
I didn't expect to like Orange is the New Black, but as soon as I got through chapter one, I was hooked. This was a great memoir and one that I found well written and perfect for readers who do not normally gravitate towards nonfiction (my hand is raised here). Kerman combines thought provoking information about the American prison system with engaging anecdotes from her time at Danbury Correctional Facility. There was a great balance between the info and Kerman's own experiences, and it was that combination that kept me flipping through the pages.
Orange is the New Black opened my eyes to the harsh realities of prison life, which often seemed contradictory. On one hand, prison didn't seem as bad as I expected. Kerman seemed to adapt well and conducted her stay in prison with poise and wisdom. But when you looked beyond Kerman's matter-of-fact tone, that's when you really understood how illogical the prison system really is. I think the scene that struck me the most is when Piper is attending a seminar to prep her and her fellow prisoners for release. Teaching the women about health was a correctional officer who worked in food services at Danbury:
The guy from food services was very nice and very funny. We liked him a lot. He told us that it was important to eat right, exercise, and treat your body as a temple. But he didn't tell us how to get health care services that people with no money could afford. He didn't tell us how we could quickly obtain birth control and other reproductive health services. He didn't recommend any solutions for behavioral or psychiatric care, and for sure some of those broads needed it. He didn't say what options there might be for people who had struggled with substance abuse, sometimes for decades, when they were confronted by old demons on the outside (p. 249-50).
I was shocked to learn that prisoners are given virtually no support in returning to the world outside of prison. How is this rehabilitative? To me, it seemed like most prisoners were set up for failure from the get-go. Unless a prisonor had the type of support system that Piper had, the world outside of prison can be a very scary place. Imagine being locked up for 15 years and smartphones are invented by the time you come out, how do you cope with that?
Orange is the New Black got me thinking about issues that I'd never considered before. This issue about the actual purpose of prison formed a large part of the discussion when the book club met at my library. Some people felt little sympathy for the prisoners, but most recognized how broken this system seems. Many of the "characters" that populate Kerman's book could definitely make it in the free world, and many wanted to, but without someone supporting them on the outside, many were doomed with failure.
Ultimately, I was surprised in reading Orange is the New Black. I didn't think I would like it, and I was worried that it would be a pity party offered up by the author. Kerman never once decried the fact that she was sent to prison. She admitted that she had committed a crime and was willing to accept the consequences, and I admire the author for that. This book was well-written and gets you thinking about a segment of the population that I don't think is on many people's radar. That fact that I'm thinking about the book and the issues that it raised days after finishing reading it, is a mark of how engaging I found this book. I don't have any interest in watching the Netflix show, but I am curious about how Canadian prisons stack up in comparison. Some future research my be required on my part.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a romance by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. For the last couple of years, I haven’t really been interested in contempIt’s been a long time since I’ve read a romance by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. For the last couple of years, I haven’t really been interested in contemporary romance (historicals all the way!); however, when I had a chance to grab a review copy of Phillips’ latest I decided to give it a shot. I loved her previous novels, so I was looking forward to checking out something new from her. Heroes are my Weakness wasn’t what I was expecting, and I totally loved it.
The other novels that I’ve read by Phillips have been relatively light, so far my favourite has to be Call Me Irresistible. Heroes are My Weakness takes a departure from the lighter aspects of romance and Phillips tosses in a lot more suspense and a sinister atmosphere. Happily, this doesn’t mean the Phillips trademark humour has departed (Annie has hilarious conversations with her puppets, after all); it just doesn’t take the front stage or at least shares the stage with a suspense plot.
Following the death of her mother, Annie is a bit down on her luck. She’s a broke, failed actress, turned puppeteer. With no other choice, Annie is forced to go to the only place that will provide her with a roof over her head: their old cottage on an isolated island in the middle of the winter. Ah, the romance of it all…
Returning to the place of her childhood summers, Annie is forced to confront the boy she once cared for, Theo Harp. Theo also happened to have tried to kill her once upon a time and the years don’t exactly seem to have changed this horror writer for the better in Annie’s eyes:
He descended slowly. A gothic hero come to life in a pearl gray waistcoat, snowy white cravat, and dark trousers tucked into calf-hugging black leather riding books. Hanging languidly at his side was a steel-barreled dueling pistol.
An icy finger slithered down her spine. She briefly considered the possibility that her fever had come back or her imagination had finally shoved her over the cliff of reality. But he wasn’t a hallucination. He was all too real. (p.24)
If this was how you encountered a guy you haven’t seen in eighteen years and he also happened to try to kill you, wouldn’t you also be feeling a bit of trepidation?
So, not only does Annie have to deal with someone she’s genuinely scared of, she also has to find the legacy that her mother has told her about and deal with whoever is trying to force her from her temporary home, and just maybe, she’ll find out what really happened with Theo all those years ago. Is he really the villain or could he just possible be the hero after all?
When I had initially started reading this book, I wasn’t sure about it. The hero had tried to kill the heroine (or so it seems), and I wasn’t sure how Phillips was going to turn THAT around. It didn’t help that the suspense was kept up for a large part of the beginning of the book as readers do not get a peak into Theo’s mind. I have to admit, I had my doubts about Theo’s innocence. How could this hero possibly be Annie's weakness? This gothic suspense was a bit unusual, but I think it really worked here and I certainly didn’t want to put the book down.
As for whether or not Phillips turned the romance around, well, of course she did, this is a romance after all. But it was done wonderfully, full of wit and angst of which I can say no more or else ruin the entire story. The suspense storyline fit well with the overarching romance and completely suited the desolate winter setting. It was wrapped up neatly, but readers will have to keep in mind that this is not a mystery novel, it is a romance and that constantly remains the purpose of this book, as such the mystery element was not overly complicated.
Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised by this one, but I would certainly be one board with more from Phillips in a similar vein. I may have been missing out a bit when it comes to the contemporary romance genre.
The Sacred River was a lovely historical novel, beautifully written, and totally evocative of colonial Egypt. It was a somber novel, filled with the tThe Sacred River was a lovely historical novel, beautifully written, and totally evocative of colonial Egypt. It was a somber novel, filled with the themes of death; however, it ends with rebirth, bringing a sense of hope to the final chapters.
The novel focuses on a short period for three very different, but related women. First, we have Harriet Heron, a young woman, who has been bedridden for most of her life due to asthma. When her doctor hints that there’s very little that he can do for her, Harriet begs him to recommend to her parents that she should travel to a warmer climate to help her breathing. Harriet has long had a fascination with Egypt and would love to explore the city of Thebes before she dies.
Harriet’s mother, Louisa, is convinced that traveling to Egypt will help her daughter so she cautiously takes on the adventure without the accompaniment of her husband. What Louisa doesn’t count on is the resurrection of her past during the journey. A past she desperately doesn't want anyone to kow about.
Lastly, Louisa’s sister-in-law and Harriet’s aunt, Yael, is also joining the ladies on the journey to Egypt. Yael is the last person to ever want to go on a spontaneous adventure, but her brother insists and Yael finds herself growing in the foreign city in an unexpected way. A staunch charity worker and devout woman, Yael finds herself learning much about the city and gaining a sense of freedom that she's never before experienced.
The Scared River wasn’t really what I was expecting. I was thinking that this would be more of an adventure story, and to an extent it was, it just was an adventure of personal growth rather than the conquering of terrain. Each of the three women begin the novel as somewhat pathetic creatures, but through their respective journeys they each learn something about themselves and what they learn allows them to go forward into a new life.
On an intellectual level, I loved the use of the imagery in the novel: the use of the Nile as a symbol for a journey, and the scarab for rebirth. The theme of death kept the novel somber in tone, but the rebirths of all the characters at the end left you with a feeling of hope. For me, the structure of this novel was beautifully rendered. There was no question that this was a well-written novel.
However, on a less intellectual level, I wish I hadn’t had to leave the book just as things were changing for the characters. For most of the novel, I was waiting for Harriet, Louisa and Yael to come to realizations unique to their situations, and at the end they all got to that point, but readers aren’t treated to what happens after that. While I think part of the point of the novel was to end on the idea that life has changed for the three women, they have all experienced a rebirth varying degrees; I personally would have liked to know what their new life was like. But then again, that’s just the kind of reader I am. As it stands, I’ll just have to appreciate the beauty of the symbolism of this one.
In terms of the characters, they were all interesting, but I felt that I connected with Harriet the most. Perhaps it's the that I'm closer in age to Harriet and have also been fascinated with Egypt, but it could also be the fact that out of the three, Harriet seemed to stand the best chance of really moving forward. Harriet was also the closest to death because of her asthma, and her gaining new life in Egypt, gave me the sense of hope that she can have a new and full life ahead of her.
Ultimately, The Sacred River was a wonderful piece of armchair travel and I feel like I was given a sense of Egypt in 1882. The historical setting was what immediately drew me to the title, but the crafting of the novel is what had me hooked. It’s not a happy or light book, but one that gets you thinking about the various manifestations of journeys that life can take.