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Book Review

REVIEW: The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

17654683Publisher: Pegasus Books

Release Date: October 10, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

To Sam Blount, meeting Julia is the best thing that has ever happened to him.

Working at the local college and unsuccessful in his previous relationships, he’d been feeling troubled about his approaching fortieth birthday, “a great beast of a birthday,” as he sees it, but being with Julia makes him feel young and hopeful. Julia Stilwell, a freshman trying to come to terms with a recent tragedy that has stripped her of her greatest talent, is flattered by Sam’s attention.

But their relationship is tested by a shy young man with a secret, Marcus Broley, who is also infatuated with Julia. Told in alternating points of view, The Preservationist is the riveting tale of Julia and Sam’s relationship, which begins to unravel as the threat of violence approaches—and Julia becomes less and less sure whom to trust. – From the publisher

The story of Sam, Julia , and Marcus is one awesome psychological thriller that will not let you down.  Told in alternating points of view, The Preservationist combines a classic thriller format with some humor tossed in for good measure.  I love the fact that Julia is so real – her doubts, motives, and personality are all characteristics that I saw in people who I knew in college.  Kramon uses language cut down to the bare bones, so there is no fluff or meaningless scenes as there are in many modern suspense books.  In fact, this book actually reminded me of a lot of the Scandinavian, depp, dark thrillers that will keep you up way past your bedtime because you can’t put the book down, but you also probably couldn’t sleep without the light on even if you tried.  I will say that this is a huge step away from Kramon’s previous book, Finny, so if you are looking for something similar this is definitely not that book.  The Preservationist is an entirely different animal, but it shows that Kramon can be successful in whichever genre he chooses to write.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me a chance to be a stop on this tour!

REVIEW: The Round House by Louise Erdrich

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The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Release Date: October 2, 2012

Source: Publisher

Rating: 5 out of 5

Joe and his family are having a hard time on their reservation in North Dakota. Geraldine, Joe’s mother, is brutally attacked, but she is so traumatized by the event that she won’t tell her family or the police what really happened. Joe’s father is a tribal judge who is trying to work with the police to find the horrible person who so terribly hurt his wife. Joe is falling into the background of his family’s focus. He decides to team up with his friends and find out what really happened. Their journey begins at the Round House, a sacred house to Joe’s tribe.

There is no question about why this book won the National Book Award. I got immediately sucked into the mystery of what happened to Geraldine, and why she is being so careful in protecting her family at the cost of her own sanity. But this book isn’t just a mystery, it is a tale of mythology and heritage. Joe and his friends remind me of the boys in Stand By Me. They aren’t being supervised, but this lack of adult presence lets them discover clues behind the mystery as well as their own identity. I also found myself thinking about the tv show Twin Peaks at times. There is an eeriness and supernatural quality to the story that really make it come alive.

If you do read this book, do me a favor: put everything down, turn your cell phone off, make sure you have a glass of wine or tea, and just sit down and enjoy every word this book has to offer. This is one of those books I wish I could read for the first time again. It is magic, pure and simple.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a host on this tour!

REVIEW: The Returned by Jason Mott

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The Returned by Jason Mott

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Release Date: August 27, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Lucille and her husband, Harold, lost their son when he was only eight years old. They grieved and tried to recover as best they could over the years. They got used to life without him, and they were entering their golden years… Until their son shows up at their doorstep… Still eight years old. But they soon realize that they aren’t the only ones who have a loved one returned to them. All over the world, people who had died years ago are somehow making it back to their families. They are even still the same people after all those years. Can the world get used to this situation? How will it affect the future of the human race?

I really had a great time with this book. It’s one of those books that makes you think about life, but still gives you a really great plot. There is so much sadness and so much boy that you can’t help but thinking that Mott must have put so much effort into making this book what it is today. Lucille and Harold remind me so much of my parents when my brother died. The pain of loss just consumes you, and even after a long time, after you think you’ve made it to the point where you won’t break down about it, the grief comes up on you like a tidal wave you weren’t expecting. The hope that Lucille and Harold get when their son returns to their life is something that almost makes me wish people really could return. How would your life be different if you hadn’t lost a loved one? How would your life change if they came back? What would you do without any answers about how they returned or if they are going to stay?

Mott creates a wonderful book of speculative fiction that will make you ponder life’s mysteries as well as make your heart ache. I highly recommend this book. It is also ALREADY being turned into a TV series, so I am excited to see what they can do with it.

Thanks t TLC Book Tours for letting me host this book. For more information, click here.

REVIEW: The Fountain of St. James Court or Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund

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The Fountain of St. James Court or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: September 17, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 5 out of 5

Wow. Just wow. Please, please, please read this book. It is one of my favorites of this year! (Not a paid endorsement, haha!)

Kathryn Callaghan is walking with her finished novel about a famous artist. She is about to drop it off at the mailbox as she passes a fountain with a sculpture of Venus emerging from the sea. The novel is about a painter named Elizabeth Vigee-Le Brun, a woman who survived the French Revolution even though she was hated for being associated with Marie Antoinette. Kathryn becomes obsessed with Elizabeth’s life and sees many parallels with her own life. We see each woman’s story and how each woman tries to overcome adversities in her life.

Naslund wrote this book as an alternate version of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, although it is quite different and much, much easier to read :). From the very first page I was struck by Naslund’s lyrical prose. Her writing is like being transported into a dream where you might be floating on clouds made of her beautiful words. I was a bit daunted at first by the length of the novel as I have been so busy lately, but once I sat down to read it, I couldn’t make myself leave my seat! This is a novel about the inspiration a writer or artist gets and how it truly forms. We may romanticize these lives, but Nasland shows just how much pain and reality is in the life of such an artist. I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a host on this tour!

REVIEW: Doctor Who: Dark Horizons by Jenny T. Colgan

Doctor Who: Dark Horizons by Jenny T. Colgan

17182140Publisher: BBC Books

Release Date: August 13, 2014

Source: Publisher

Rating: 3 out of 5

From the publisher: On a windswept Northern shore, at the very tip of what will one day become Scotland, the islanders believe the worst they have to fear is a Viking attack. Then the burning comes. They cannot run from it. Water will not stop it. It consumes everything in its path – yet the burned still speak. 

The Doctor is just looking for a game on the famous Lewis chess set. Instead he encounters a people under attack from a power they cannot possibly understand. They have no weapons, no strategy and no protection against a fire sent to engulf them all. Add in some marauding Vikings with very bad timing, a kidnapped princess with a secret of her own and a TARDIS that seems to have developed an inexplicable fear of water, and they all have a battle on their hands. 

The islanders must take on a ruthless alien force in a world without technology; without communications; without tea that isn’t made out of bark. Still at least they have the Doctor on their side… Don’t they? 

A thrilling new adventure starring the Doctor, as played by Matt Smith.

I love Vikings. And Scotland. And chess… and I really had fun with this book.  Matt Smith’s Doctor is one of my favorites, so I was excited to get the chance to read this novel.  Henrick and Freydis (who doesn’t love a viking warrior and a princess?) are on the biggest journey of their lives, and they must fight the unstoppable and unexplained.  The doctor jumps in and of course must come to the rescue.  Colgan’s writing is a lot of fun – it reads like a real episode of the show.  The atmosphere that she creates with the North Sea made me feel like I was out on the ocean feeling the spray of the water.  There is one scene in the beginning where a character is wishing for potatoes, and I swear that I got a craving for potatoes after that description.

I will say that the Doctor’s voice wasn’t captured as well as I would have liked.  The prose is wonderful, but when I read the Doctor’s dialog, I just didn’t feel that it was him – it seemed like Colgan was trying a little to hard to match the wit and humor of the character.

Overall, I recommend this book as a fun escape into the world of the Doctor and the TARDIS while you wait for the show to return this November :)

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a stop on this tour.

REVIEW: The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner

The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner

tudorPublisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Release Date: July 16, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

From the publisher: Winter 1554. Brendan Prescott, spymaster to the Princess Elizabeth, has discovered that he is connected to the Tudors by blood as well as allegiance. Though his secret is known only by a few, it could be his downfall as he is called to London to protect the princess. 
Accompanied by his young squire Peregrine, he reluctantly leaves his sweetheart Kate behind – but in the city he discovers that no one is quite what they seem. What fate does Queen Mary intend for her sister? Is Robert Dudley somehow manipulating the princess, even though he is locked in the Tower? And should Brendan trust the alluring Sybilla, Mary’s lady-in-waiting, who professes to be on his side?

As he tries to unravel the mysteries of the Tudor court Brendan’s life will be put in danger many times, and along the way he learns more about his own past.

I am way too obsessed with books about the Tudors.  I’ve read pretty much everything I can get my hands on (including non-fiction).  Gortner is pretty much the only author who understands what I want from historical fiction about this famous monarchical line.  I want a book with intrigue, politics, and just a dash of romance.  Most books can get two out of the three before they go completely overboard in one of the categories.  Gortner gets all three without even batting an eye.

Although this is the second book in his Spymaster Chronicles, you definitely don’t need to have read the first book to go along on this adventure.  Brendan Prescott is basically one of the coolest characters.  Ever.  He has to go between his loyalties to Elizabeth and Mary while performing his duty as Spymaster.  He can’t really trust anyone, but he doesn’t get caught up in stoicism like most characters faced with intense decisions.  There are some truly emotional scenes in the book which bring the humanity back to a story full of double-dealing and backstabbing.  I highly recommend this book, as well as Gortner’s books in general.

Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for letting me host this tour – for more information, click here.

REVIEW: Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

whartonPublisher: Penguin

Release Date: May 28, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4 out of 5

From the publisher: “For fans of The Paris Wife, a sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship.  They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary and confidante. At the age of forty-five, despite her growing fame, Edith remains unfulfilled in a lonely, sexless marriage. Against all the rules of Gilded Age society, she falls in love with Morton Fullerton, a dashing young journalist. But their scandalous affair threatens everything in Edith’s life—especially her abiding ties to Anna.  At a moment of regained popularity for Wharton, Jennie Fields brilliantly interweaves Wharton’s real letters and diary entries with her fascinating, untold love story. Told through the points of view of both Edith and Anna, The Age of Desire transports readers to the golden days of Wharton’s turn-of-the century world and—like the recent bestseller The Chaperone—effortlessly re-creates the life of an unforgettable woman.”

I honestly couldn’t say it better myself.  I am a huge fan of Wharton, so when I saw there was going to be a fictional account of her life, I jumped at the chance to read and review it.  Nothing makes me happier than to sit down with a good cup of tea and an excellent historical fiction book.  I have not read any non-fiction on Edith Wharton, but Fields captures the overall voice and themes from Wharton’s novels with precision.  I loved reading the excerpts from her letters and diary so much that I ordered some of her collected works.

The entire time I was reading this book, I was reminded of some of my favorite historical novels such as The Chaperone as mentioned in the publisher’s description and Erika Robuck’s Hemingway’s Girl.  There is quite a bit of romance (one scene is somewhat graphic) but that didn’t take away from my over all love of the book.  I highly recommend this book, especially as a great end-of-summer read.

Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for letting me host this great read! For more info, go to http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/

REVIEW: Winter at Death’s Hotel by Kenneth Cameron

Winter at Death’s Hotel by Kenneth M. Cameron

death's hotelPublisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Release Date: August 6, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4 out of 5

The year is 1896. Arthur Conan Doyle has just arrived in New York City for the American leg of his tour with his wife, Louisa.  While Conan Doyle is busy getting ready for lectures and appearances, Louisa is left to her own devices in a new and exciting city.  When a mutilated corpse is found on the streets, Louisa sees an artist’s sketch in the paper of what the woman would have looked like in life; and she swears that she had seen this woman at the hotel.  As “luck” would have it, Louisa sprains her ankle and must remain at the hotel while her husband completes his tour across the States.  Louisa delves deeper into the mystery as more bodies start turning up. Yet, all of her inquiries lead back to the hotel, and eventually to her.

You all know that I absolutely love anything and everything related to Arthur Conan Doyle and his stories.  When I got the chance to review this book, I quite literally jumped at the opportunity.  The atmosphere from the very beginning was eerie and cold, which sets up a great beginning to a murder mystery.  I love Louisa so much.  She is strong, curious, and doesn’t back down even when her husband thinks she is just being a “silly woman”.  Most of the time she lets her curiosity lead her through the book, even when it gets her into trouble.  I love that she gets the help of those around her to solve the murders.  She doesn’t think she has to be completely independent when sense tells her otherwise.  She draws in a firecracker female reporter, Buffalo Bill and Henry Irving, almost forming a Scooby-gang of crime fighters.

It was so refreshing to read a male author writing from a woman’s perspective and having him get it right!  Cameron doesn’t fall into the classic female stereotypes that many male authors do.  Louisa is a free spirit who doesn’t have time for fainting or taking orders.  She really reminds me a lot of Amelia Peabody from the Elizabeth Peters mysteries – Louisa creates her own destiny.  I highly recommend this book!

REVIEW: The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

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The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: August 6, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Ruby has gone mad. Like many other female writers, she is pushed to close to insanity from the edge of tragedy. Ruby left college after a love affair and is now an obituary writer. In her road to mental recovery, she is interrupted by the sudden arrival of a suitcase at her front door. A former classmate, Beth, has disappeared and her suitcase is the only clue to finding her. Within the suitcase is a copy of A Room of One’s Own, which Ruby is forbidden to read since her therapist says Ruby needs to stop reading books by or about suicidal women. Is the book really a message? Or is it something to put Ruby over the edge into true madness?

I read this book in only two sittings. As the blurb says on the cover, it is the perfect beach read (or even just sitting on your back porch with a glass of wine read). As someone who has dealt with depression over the years, I could identify with Ruby and her worry that she will lose her mind while she is trying to figure her life out. Yet, not only does she have to figure out herself, she has to figure out what has happened to Beth and why her suitcase has ending up at her door. This book has a wonderful mystery, a beautiful heart, and brilliant writing. I had such fun reading Ruby’s references to great female authors. Within the first few pages, both A Room of One’s Own and Jane Eyre are mentioned. And don’t just take my word for it! The Butterfly Sister is an Indie Next Pick for the month of August – a list hand picked by indie booksellers from around the country. This is definitely a book you want to pick up soon.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a stop on this tour! For more info, click here.

REVIEW: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

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The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Release Date: June 4, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

If you have never before read Kearsley, this is the perfect book to start with. Nicola isn’t your average person. When she touches an object she can see glimpses of the previous owner’s life. As an art dealer, she runs into many older paintings, but when a wood carving is brought to her, she experiences a vision like never before. The carving is of The Firebird, a Slavic mythical creature whose feathers glow even when they are no longer on the bird. Much like the Phoenix, the Firebird usually plays a large role in a quest. Not only is the Firebird an important cultural object, it was owned by Empress Catherine of Russia. Nicola starts her own quest as she investigates the history of the carving.

I love all of Kearsley’s books, but this one just has everything. History, personal growth, mythology, magical realism, and just plain good storytelling. Nicola’s romance in the present isn’t her only romance. Wen she meets a psychic with stronger abilities she realizes that hey have known each other before. Just not in this era. The narrative goes between past and present while still remaining a fluid and engaging novel. I never once got lost or confused with the threads of the plot. It is one of those novels where you wish you had a chance to go back in time and explore another history. Is my current timeline really my only one? Would I be the same person if I knew all of these things about myself? Nicola explores her current life through her past and comes out the better for knowing it. I highly recommend all of Kearsley’s novels, but The Firebird just struck such a powerful chord with me that I most highly recommend it out of all of her books!