A Book Addict's Musings by Readinghearts

Reviews of books that I have read along with discussions, commentaries, book lists, and just general thoughts on books and reading. 

Blog Tour: A Nantucket Christmas by Nancy Thayer

A Nantucket Christmas - Nancy Thayer
Stops on the Tour
November 1st    My Home of Books
November 3rd  Melina's Book Blog
November 7th   Griperangs Bookmarks
November 8th  The Book Bag

Publisher: Ballantine Books through Random House
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
List Price:  $18.00 Hardback
                $ 7.99  Digital Edition
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Chick-Lit
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

 This book was provided by the author in exchange for a review. 
The Season is upon us.  No, I don't mean the Christmas season, I am talking about the "holiday book season".  You know, that time of year when authors entice us with stories stories built on and around Thanksgiving and, especially, Christmas.  This trend seems to be especially prevalent in the Chick-Lit genre.  Many of my reading friends look forward to this time of year when they can count on their favorite authors to put out new holiday stories that they can immerse themselves in.  It is a tradition that, for some readers, is as important in marking the holidays as decorating the tree and singing carols.  As the slew of Christmas books come out to celebrate the season, it can be hard sometimes to decided which ones to read and which ones to skip.  I have read, and reviewed several lately that are worthy of the Christmas read.  For me, the best of the bunch so far is A Nantucket Christmas by Nancy Thayer.  
A Nantucket Christmas takes place, as you can guess, on Nantucket Island.  Retired nurse Nicole and her new husband, Sebastian are two people who met later in life and fell in love.  Their Christmas plans include a visit from Sebastian's adult daughter, Kennedy, her husband, and their three-year old son Maddox.  To call Kennedy and adult, though, is using the term loosely.  Kennedy is spoiled, rich, self-centered, and, to top it all off, 8 months pregnant.  You can probably guess that combination is not one that bodes well for a festive, fun Christmas, especially since Kennedy views her step-mother as an interloper.  
Thus the stage is set for this "slice of life" story about the forging of new family bonds.   The biggest problem with "slice of life" stories is that they can be both lacking in conflict and somewhat formulaic. Especially in one that has only 145 pages.   In the case of this story, though, there was plenty of conflict to go around between  Kennedy and her step-mother and Sebastian and his ex-wife too name a few. And while the story was a bit formulaic, I felt the writing was good enough to overcome that aspect.  Besides, most of the reason we read these stories is because we know where they are going and we like where that is, right? 
In addition, this book was filled with interesting characters.  First and foremost, there was Kennedy.  Some may say that no adult woman, especially one with a child, could be so self involved.  To me that was the fun of her character.  I could safely dislike her, roll my eyes at her when she was at her worst, and yet, I could also sympathize with her a bit.  Nicole was also a great character and I loved the way that the author used her to highlight both the stress inherent in the season, and the stress inherent in the situation.  I also liked Maddox and particularly enjoyed his three-year-old antics.  Perhaps my favorite, though, was Snix/Pooh, the dog.  While by no means a major character, I enjoyed reading about his life and seeing things through his eyes.  
 Since so many of the Christmas stories out there center around romances (which I enjoy), I found the focus on the family in this book to be a welcome change.  In addition, at just 145 pages it was a quick read and I would recommend it for those of us who like the holiday story genre.  
Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2013/11/blog-tour-nantucket-christmas-by-nancy.html

Tuesday's Review: Accidents Happen by Louise Millar

Accidents Happen: A Novel - Louise Millar

The first thing I noticed about Louise Millar's book Accidents Happen was this was going to be one of those books where things were not what they seemed. As the story progressed, that feeling was reinforced time and again. Interestingly, though, even with the feeling getting stronger and stronger, I was never quite able to put my finger on exactly what was wrong.

Kate Parker is a single mother who has seen more than her share of tragedy. She lost her parents to an auto accident on her wedding day, her husband was murdered, and her house has been broken into at least once. That is enough to make anyone look over their shoulder, but for Kate it drives her to extremes. She begins to keep track of statistics on accidents in her head, pulling them out and mentally reciting them over and over until she feels in control again. In addition, she becomes convinced that she is not safe in her own home. Both behaviors leave her young son, Jack, frustrated and afraid, and her in-laws convinced that she has lost touch with reality.

There were several things that I really liked about this book. First of all, the story line was interesting on several levels. I can only imagine what devices I would use to cope if I had so many tragedies befall my life in such a short time. In addition, even though I tried to figure out what was going on, I could only place my finger on the whose, not the whys. If an author can do that to me, I am usually sold. And, although it had nothing to do with the story, I especially liked the author's choice to include the information about Frano Selak, dubbed "the world's luckiest man." Little tidbits like that, that give insight into the author's thought process when writing a book, really peak my interest.

The characters in the book were spot on, too. Kate had just the right amount of dysfunction contrasted with her will to improve. My feelings for her alternated between cheering her on in her recovery and wanting to slap her for backsliding or being stupid about something. I'm pretty sure that is the gamut of emotions that I would have if I knew someone in real life like her. The supporting characters were also true to what I would expect, especially her in-laws who are trapped between worry for Jack and exasperation at her antics, and her sister-in-law who feels trapped by circumstances, bewildered at the loss of her friend, and ultimately caught in the middle of the family drama.

This is the first of Louise Millar's books that I have read, so I did not have any preconceived ideas of what to expect or where the story might lead. In addition, this allowed me not to be disappointed in the similarities between this book and her other one, as some reviewers have been. What I found here was a compelling story with real characters, and although the ending did seem a bit formulaic, it fit the story well.

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my review.

Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2013/10/tuesdays-review-accidents-happen-by_30.html

Thursday's Review: The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

The Baker's Daughter - Sarah McCoy

The Baker's Daughter is really a story within a story. In the set-up story Reba Allen, a writer for a local magazine in El Paso, Texas, is assigned to write a fluff piece about the Christmas customs of the various cultures that make up the melting pot that is El Paso. In pursuit of this, she decides to interview Elsie Schmidt, a German immigrant and owner of Elsie's German Bakerie. Thus the reader is introduced to the second story of the book, that of Elsie Schmidt and her family during the waning years of the Second World War. It is the similarities and contrasts between the two stories that pulls this book together as a cohesive whole.

Although both stories are well told and interesting, the story of Elsie and her family was by far my favorite of the two stories. I was captivated by both the character of Elsie and her story from the page that they were introduced all the way to their end. I especially liked reading a story from the perspective of a typical German family during the war. I though the author did an excellent job of using Elsie, her family, and those around them to show that there were Germans of all types during the war. Like everyone else, they had their good and their bad,, were confused and conflicted, and missed the normalcy of their everyday lives. It was their utter humanness that drew me into the story and kept me going. I also loved the way that the author used the stories of Reba and her fiancee Riki to echo the themes of confused emotions and conflicted ideals that we saw in Elsie's story. Perhaps this quote sums it up the best, "No one is good or bad by birth or nation or religion. Inside, we are all masters and slaves, rich and poor, perfect and flawed."

To say that this book was beautifully written is an understatement. Sarah McCoy is a master at telling a story with beautiful prose and wonderful emotion. Her descriptions were so well done that I could actually smell the baking bread, taste the rolls hot from the oven, and feel the cold of the snow. In addition, I could feel the emotions of fear, happiness, despair, and longing that she described. In addition, the inclusion of the letters from and to the characters really helped to highlight the personal aspects of the story. This book truly encompasses the best in historical fiction, taking you into the lives and times of the characters and settings and making you feel like you are right there with them.

As you can tell, I loved this book. The only thing that I saw as a drawback was the size of the font. I know, that is a weird thing to comment on, but the font in this book was so small that I found it really hard to read unless I was in bright light. The letters, especially, were hard to read at times. In this case, a cursive font was used to make the letters seem more real, which is actually a plus, but again, the font was so small that it was hard to make out some of the cursive writing. At any rate, this was the only thing that marred my otherwise perfect experience with this book, and I am probably making it sound more important than it was.

I have seen and looked at Sarah McCoy's other book, The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico, but have never quite decided to read it. After reading The Baker's Daughter, though, I am excited to read it. I believe that Sarah is going to become one of my favorite authors in no time. I highly recommend this book for lovers of historical fiction, especially those interested in reading about every day lives during WWII. Many thanks to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book for making this book available to me.

Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2013/10/thursdays-review-bakers-daughter-by.html

Tuesday's Review: The Boleyn King by Laura Anderson

The Boleyn King - Laura Andersen
There were several things that drew me to Laura Andersen's book The Boleyn King.  First and foremost I love reading about historical figures, especially when it is about Royalty.   I cut my teeth on books written by Jean Plaidy, Norah Lofts, and the like and recently moved on to some of the greats like Sharon Kl Penman, C. W. Gortner and Elizabeth Chadwick.  Like many readers in this category, I have read numerous books about the Tudors, both fiction and non-fiction.  As a result, a book that poses the question..."What if Anne Boleyn had given birth to a son who lived, and who eventually grew up to be King" certainly caught my interest.  I think that most of us who have read extensively about the Tudor Dynasty have wondered just that same thing at one time or another.  
In the first book of her Boleyn King trilogy, Laura Andersen introduces us to William Tudor, son of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, younger brother or Elizabeth, and the newly crowned King Henry IX of England.  As William's 18th birthday approaches, he is preparing to take over the running of the kingdom from his Uncle George Boleyn, who has been serving as Regent and head of William's government.  Add to this the usual political intrigue that always seems to surround the Tudor court, or most Royal courts for that matter, a mystery that needs solving, wars that need attending to, and a love triangle and you have all of the elements of a top notch story. 
In spite of it's obvious departure from the facts, I am happy to say that the overall representation of the people and events in  this story is true to the nature of the times.    She certainly did her homework, and her depiction of such historical figures such as Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth Tudor, Mary Tudor, George Boleyn, and others such as the Percys and Robert Dudley, are spot on.  Her ability to stay true to their natures while including just the right amount of embellishment was fantastic.  In fact, she did such a good job with her portrayal of Elizabeth that she, rather than William, became my favorite character in the book.  
Another place where the author was perfectly on the mark was in the way she depicted the Tudor Court.  Here again we see her research manifest itself in the inclusion of political intrigues and court machinations that were so prevalent at the time.  Here again, she did a masterful job of blending the truth with a fiction in such a way that the end result came off as totally believable.  In fact,she did such a good job here that even my reading friends that are sticklers for truth in historical fiction ended up liking the book.   as for me, I was transported to the court of Henry IX, and did not want to leave. 
As I said above, this is the first book of a trilogy, the second of which is being released today . I, for one, am certainly excited as I did not want this book to end when it did.  It was one of those books where I just wanted a few more pages, a bit more time with the characters.  If you are a fan of historical fiction, royal courts, the Tudors, and especially Elizabeth I, I would strongly recommend reading this book.  It will be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. 
Many Thanks to Ballentine Books, Random House, and Netgalley for making this title available in exchange for a review. 
Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2013/11/tuesday-review-boleyn-king-by-laura.html

Thursday's Review: All the Light There Was by Nancy Kricorian

All the Light There Was - Nancy Kricorian
A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for a review.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflen Harcourt
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
List Price: $24.00 Hardcover
                  $ 2.99  Digital Edition 
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
It seems that the newest trend in Historical Fiction is novels about WWII.  There have been a number of books on this subject lately, and a lot of them are very good.  Nancy Kricorian's novel All the Light There Was is one of those books.  The story is narrated by Maral, and teenage Armenian girl living in Paris at the time that the Nazi's invade France and the Occupation of Paris begins.  Through Maral's eyes we see what it is like to have lived in Paris during the war.  Her character allows us to experience the fears and deprivations of living through a war torn country.  
I loved the way that Nancy tells the story of Maral, her family, and her friends in such a wonderfully personal way.  Along with giving me a really good picture of what life was like in occupied Paris, it allowed me to really become familiar with the characters in the book.  This personal way of telling the story reminded me a lot of the writing of Chris Bohjalian, who is one of my favorite authors.  Like Chris, Nancy is able to tell a story in such a way that you really feel that it is happening right there in front of you to people that you know and love.  
What sets Nancy's book apart from many of the others books currently out there that deal with life during WWII is the fact that Maral and her family are Armenian and not French.  This fact adds a dimension to the book that other stories do not have.  This is most evident in the way that her parents and the elders of the community relate this war and the actions of the Germans to the earlier Armenian Genocide that forced them to seek refuge in France in the first place.  I thought that intertwining these two historical events was an excellent move that gave this story a bit more depth than it might have had otherwise.   Along with the story of WWII, you got a bit of history about the Armenian Genocide, and you got a glimpse of life in a traditional Armenian family.  Three for the price of one, so to speak. 
My only disappointment in the story occurred toward the end.  There was a part of the story there where I could pretty much guess what the outcome was going to be, but the narrative took its time getting there.  As a result, I thought the story could have ended a bit earlier, or alternately, jumped over some of the last bit.  
The true measure of a book, though, to me is whether it entices me to learn more about the era or events presented and/or entices me to seek out more of the author's books.  In the case of All the Light There Was, it has done both.  I am really excited that Nancy has written two other books and will be adding them to my "to read" list.  In addition, I am curious about Armenian families and the Armenian Genocide and will be looking for more on that subject as well.
Source: http://abookaddictsmusings.blogspot.com/2013/10/thursdays-review-all-light-there-was-by.html

Tuesday's Review: The Square of Revenge by Pieter Aspe

The Square of Revenge: An Inspector Van In Novel (Inspector Van in Mysteries) - Pieter Aspe
The Square of Revenge is the first novel in the Van In mystery series by Dutch author Pieter Aspe.  Since I was not familiar with the author, I looked him up to see what other books he had written, there was a long list, most of them not in English. This leads me to believe that he is an established author trying to break into the US market.  
The premise for the book sounds intriguing.  A wealthy jeweler has his store broken into.  Instead of stealing anything the burglars dissolve his entire inventory in aqua regia, a substance that supposedly can melt even gold.  In addition, they leave behind a scrap of paper upon which is written four words in the situated in the form of a square.  Why would the burglars vandalize the shop, but not take anything?  What is the significance, if any, of the square of words. To Detective Van In and DA Hannelore Martens this crime seems to be very personal.  
When I decided to try The Square of Revenge, I wasn't sure what I would find.  From the synopsis, I thought this might be a "conspiracy mystery" book, similar to those of Dan Brown, Steve Berry, and Brad Meltzer, of which I am a big fan.  If not that, I was hoping for a good nordic noir mystery, based on the name of the author and the language that this book was originally released in.  In reality, though, this book did not fit into either of those categories.  It was more of a standard detective mystery in the style of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot books, or Nelson DeMille's John Corey series.   As such it was a good story with engaging characters and an interesting mystery.  For a number of the characters in the story I was not sure what their role was or why they were relevant until closer to the end.  I like this about mysteries as it keeps me guessing and that keeps me engaged.  I was a bit disappointed, though, that some of the connections hinted at in the beginning of the book were never really addressed, though.  In addition, there were several devices in the story that I felt the author could have given a bigger role, but which I cannot enumerate without giving things away.  It was unfortunate that some of these items were ones that I was most interested in at the beginning, they had such promise but turned out to be nothing, really. 

I would still recommend this book for mystery buffs, but just be aware that it is a straight up mystery.  It is neither big on the suspense, nor would I call it a thriller.  As a mystery, though, it is an enjoyable and good read.  I intend to seek out other books in the series if I can find them in English.  I am interested to see how Van In and DA Martens progress and to learn more about their back stories. 

Glass House 51

Glass House 51 - John Hampel
Recently I stumbled across John Hampel's book Glass House 51.  The premise for this story centers around Alphabank, the largest financial institution in the U.S.  The powers that be at Alphabank have picked two of their employees, Richard (no last name) and Cristin Darrow to be bait in their quest to draw out Norman Dunne, a reclusive computer genius who is a former employee, and a suspect in a series of murders of young women.  
What unfolds is a captivating story about power, greed, and control in the same vent as the classics dystopian novels like 1984 and Brave New World.  In fact, the publishing blurb for the book states, "Glass House 51 is humbly dedicated to George Orwell and Aldous Huxley,,,,,,They saw it coming; they saw it first; they warned us.  We learned nothing."  In fact, the story that John Hampel weaves in this book is a first rate story that combines all of the best elements of the classic Big Brother stories of the past.  Reading the book was like reading 1984, Brave New World, Animal House, and Fahrenheit 451 all rolled into one, with the addition of an exciting thriller threading through the story.  I loved the way that the author referred to these books throughout the story, but I also loved the way that he updated the themes presented in the classics to make this book relevant to the current times.  The addition of a thriller story line only added to the suspense in the book and really kept me turning the pages.  
The main characters in the story were also masterfully done.  I love books where the characters continually surprise me, and that happened in this books in many ways.  At times I would think that I had a character figured out, only to have them do an about-face.  This propensity to change and challenge my thinking of the characters really kept me interested to see what was going to happen next.  I loved the way it also blurred the lines between the good and bad guys, and kept me on my toes trying to figure out who were going to be the eventual heroes.  
Unfortunately, this book has not gotten a lot of either press or exposure, which is really sad.  It is a top-notch story with  well developed characters that deal with important issues for our times.  Is the story entirely plausible....probably not, but it has a lot to say to us about the information intensive age that we live in and lessons that it would be better to learn through fiction than through real life. Since neither of my sons were required to read 1984 OR Brave New World, I am going to direct them towards this book and hope that is sparks some great discussions among us. 

Review: Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

Starry Night: A Christmas Novel - Debbie Macomber
Believe it or not, Starry Night is the first Debbie Macomber book I have read. I enjoy light romances, often interspersing them between my historicals, mysteries, and thrillers. Add to that the advent of the Christmas season, when I get in the mood to read lighter stories that center around Christmas, and the opportunity to participate in the blog tour for this book seemed like a natural.

Starry Night is the story of Carrie Slayton, a society reporter for the Chicago Sun Times, who longs to be able to report on more serious stories. Her boss challenges her to find and interview reclusive author Finn Dalton, with the promise of being able to write any stories she wants if she can get the coveted interview. As a result, Carrie heads out for the wilds of Alaska in search of Finn. What she finds, changes her life and perspectives dramatically.

Starry Night is your typical romance book, complete with a smart, self sufficient female protagonist and the reluctant male love interest. As you can probably guess, when Carrie and Finn meet, sparks fly, and not always the good kind. The fact that this book is a typical romance has both good and bad sides to it. The story of Carrie and Finn was thoroughly enjoyable and a nice break from the mystery/thrillers that I have been reading, Here is a story where the characters are who they are supposed to be. There is no subterfuge, and you can trust them. Their actions are what they appear to be, and their motives follow the expected path. I have heard good things about Debbie Macomber's books, and I can see why. She has a smooth, easy writing style, her characters are easy to become invested in, and her settings are interesting. Alternately, though, it is so typical, that if you are looking for something a bit different in the genre you will not find it here. Luckily for me, I was looking for the typical.

Aside from the fact that this book is typical in every respect, my biggest caveat about the book is that Christmas was really insignificant to the story. The fact that part of the story takes place over the holidays is the only thing that allows this story to be classed as a Chrismas story at all. The good news here is that Christmas plays such a small part that you could read the story anytime of the year and not be slapped in the face with a lot of Christmas talk. The only other caveat I had about the story was that I wished that more of the story took place in Alaska. I love the less ordinary settings, and would loved to have had more of that part of the book.

The bottom line here, though, is that I enjoyed this book enough for it to entice me to read more by Debbie Macomber. I know a lot of her other books are a series, and I look forward to fitting them in between my other reading. Many thanks to my friend Melissa for including me in this blog tour and introducing me to Debbie Macomber.
The Spymistress - Jennifer Chiaverini There are a lot of books out there about the American Civil War, both Historical Fiction novels and Non-fiction histories. Unlike many of the civil war books out there, which tell grand, sweeping stories of famous battles, The Spymistress, established author Jennifer Chiaverini's new Historical Fiction novel focuses on a much smaller, but just as important, story. The book tells the story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a staunch Unionist, who just happens to live behind the Confederate lines in Virginia. She also happens to become one of the most successful Union spies as well as running a vast spy network that encompassed people from all races and genders.

There are two things about this book that allows it to stand up there with the "big boys" and hold its own with the stories of Micheal and Jeff Shaara, John Jakes, Ralph Peters, and Geraldine Brooks. First, it focuses on a story that is alluded to, but not often the focus of other civil war books, that of the people working behind the scenes. Secondly, the book is told from a female point of view, with a female protagonist, which is not common in the stories about the battles. The fact that the woman in question, as well as her many associates, are true historical characters only makes the story that much more compelling. In fact, this is not just a story about Elizabeth Van Lew, but more a story about the many people caught behind Confederate lines that were willing to sacrifice all to stay true to the Union.

Before I read The Spymistress, I was only familiar with the work of Jennifer Chiaverini through her Elm Creek Quilts series of books. As entertaining as those books are, I can honestly say that I am more than thrilled that she has turned her hand to my favorite genre, Historical Fiction. The same vivid writing style and focus on characters that I am used to from her is also highlighted in this novel, but with it I got an additional focus on a historical period that is filled with stories to be told. Both the women in the book, Lizzie, Mary Jane Bowser, Eliza Van Lew, and Mary Carter West, as well as their male counterparts, are all vivid characters whose personalities and traits really shine in this book. In addition, Ms. Chiaverini's detailed and descriptive writing style allowed me to become entranced with the story being told, becoming thoroughly involved in the activities, places, and events that she described.

I have to admit, before I read this book, I had not really paid much attention to the idea of spying during the Civil War, nor had I even heard of Elizabeth Van Lew, Mary Jane Bowser, or any of the other characters in the book. I will forever be grateful to Ms. Chiaverini for introducing me to them and their stories. After reading this book, I am excited to read her other Historical Fiction book, Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, which has been on my reading list for a while. In addition, I hope that she continues to write Historical Fiction books, especially those which tell stories that are not often covered. She has also ignited in me a desire to read more books about the characters in this book in particular, and spying during the Civil War in general, as well as reading more about the lives of the women behind the men of this time period.

A big thanks to Penguin USA and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my review. Also a big thanks to Katelyn McCrystal for including me in the blog tour.
A Seaside Christmas - Sherryl Woods In this installment of the series, Jenny Collins returns to Chesepeake Shores for the holiday season to help a family member with her annual Christmas play. She is also running away from Nashville, where she is a celebrated songwriter, trying to escape from the publicity caused by her very public breakup with Country superstar Caleb Green.

For me, a romance book has to have something other than just the romance to entice me. In the case of this book, there were several things that fit that bill. First of all, the characters in Sherryl Woods O'Brian series, if this book is any indication, encompass just he right mix of compassion, family loyalty, and pragmatism, yet they aren't at all one dimensional. Also, as a Country music fan, the country music backdrop was definitely a plus. I found myself through out the book associating both Jenny and Caleb with my favorite Country stars. Last, I loved the whole focus on the Christmas musical. I am a sucker for musicals AND Christmas musicals in particular. The fact that the author referenced all my favorite Christmas movies was not lost on me. By the time the book was finished, I not only wanted to go to Broadway and see the play, but I wanted to dig out all of my faves, White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, etc. and watch one after the other.

After reading this book, I have decided that I need to go back and read the other books in the series. I really want to get to know all of the O'Brians better. If the book can do that to me, I am sure it will do the same for other readers. That, in my mind, makes it a huge success.

A big thanks to Sherryl Woods, Harlequin MIRA, and Melissa for putting this tour together and giving me a chance to read this book in exchange for my review.
Tristan and Iseult - J.D.   Smith [a:J.D. Smith|7106622|J.D. Smith|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1369683981p2/7106622.jpg]'s recently published adaptation of [b:Tristan and Iseult|17890882|Tristan and Iseult|J.D. Smith|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1369684179s/17890882.jpg|25060625] is a delightful read. She has a way of telling the tale that makes you really feel empathy for all of the characters involved. At one point, the pain and longing of Tristan, Iseult, and yes, King Mark almost brought me to tears. The story is told through chapters that alternate between Tristan's view of things and Iseult's. I really like when author's use this device as I like seeing and feeling how the different characters feel about the same events. If the story had any drawbacks for me, it was that it was too short. The book consists of only 220 pages and is easily readable in one sitting.

My one caveat, though, is that this is not a traditional telling of the myth, so if you are a purist, this would probably not be for you. J. D. Smith has changed quite a few things in her telling, and left some things out altogether. For instance, in her telling of the story, there is no love potion, no torrid love affair, no punishment, etc. The story we see here almost has more of a Romeo and Juliet feel to it (but not quite that either). At any rate, Smith's story tells a sweet love story full of pain, longing, and honor which I found refreshing and thoroughly enjoyed. As it is written here, I think this is a wonderful book for middle school students who are just becoming acquainted with the myth.
The Book of Secrets: A Novel - Elizabeth Arnold Reading Elizabeth Joy Arnold's new novel, The Book of Secrets, remineded me a lot of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. This story has the same aura of mystery, the same twisted family dynamics, and the same ability to suck the reader into the story being told. At least it was that way for me. It was a solid story from start to finish that intrigued me the whole way through.

The story is told from the point of view of Choe Sinclar, who returns home one day to find that her husband, Nate, is gone. He has returned to the town where they grew up, a place that holds bad memories for both of them, and where she never thought he would want to go again. Ms. Arnold continues the story, alternating her chapters between the present and the past. Through this device we are treated to the mystery of why Nate would return home, as well as the tumultuous history of Chloe, Nate, and the rest of the Sinclair family. Alternating chapters in this way is a device that really works for this story. I flew through each chapter in anticipation of what came next for both stories. And speaking of devices, the way that the author integrated books into the story was one of my favorite things. Most of the books were old favorites of mine, and as each one debuted in the story, it brought back wonderful memories of my first encounter with them.

Another hit for me, was the cast of characters in the book. Through them I was able to experience the emotional impact of the story being told. I felt the joy and wonder of love, the anger of deciet and betrayal, the pain of loss, and the fear of the unknown. They were wonderfully imperfect and real. In the end, I felt like I really knew and understood each of them.

Although the end of this book was by no means the best ending that I have ever read, I did feel that it was appropriate to the story. I am one of those readers for whom the end of a book can really "seal the deal". In the case of The Book of Secrets, the ending deftly answered all of the questions that I had been pondering throughout the story, many of which I had already surmised. I guess that would be the only negative for me. As satisfying and appropriate as the ending was, I had figured out where the story was leading long before the author revealed the last peice of the mystery. What speaks well to the story, though, was that knowing the big twist did not in any way lessen my enjoyment of the book overall.

Elizabeth Joy Arnold is yet another new author for me, as most of the authors that I read these days seem to be. If this book is any indication, I think that she has a bright future as an author. I would certainly read another book by her, and intend to recommend this one to my friends.

Endangered Species: Book 1 - Vaulte Kamish It has taken me a long time to review this book. I actually finished it a couple of weeks ago, but have been putting off my review for a while. WHY? First, I have been waffling between giving it a one star or a two star rating, and I am still not sure. Secondly, because I am not quite as comfortable with giving negative feedback as I am with positive feedback. Especially with all of the attention that one and two star reviews seem to be getting these days. But the bottom line is, this book was just not for me, no matter how I think about it. I actually had to force myself to finish it, and therefore I cannot in good conscience give it more than 1.5 stars out of 5.

In my opinion, and face it, reader reviews are opinions, there was a lot I didn't like about the book. When I decided to read the book, it was presented in such a way that it seemed like it would be funny. The thing is....I did not find it funny at all. I usually like books with quirky characters and sarcastic humor, both of which this book was supposed to have. To me, though, both the sarcasm and the quirkiness of the characters seemed forced. In addition, although the story line sounded promising, the way it played out left me flat. I also had trouble with the flow of the writing as it seemed very choppy to me, which also hampered the flow of the book. Lastly, the book was billed as an eco-thriller, which created two problems for me. First, the story was not thrilling...it did not keep me on the edge of my seat the way that [b:Jurassic Park|7677|Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park, #1)|Michael Crichton|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348796998s/7677.jpg|3376836]. [b:Deception Point|976|Deception Point|Dan Brown|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1266447971s/976.jpg|3135896], or [b:Blasphemy|1234704|Blasphemy|Douglas Preston|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1312064277s/1234704.jpg|2498661] did. In fact, I felt this book was actually trying to be a spoof of eco-thrillers, but really just ended up mocking them.

Any way, I'm sure there are people out there for whom this book would be just the thing, and they are probably reading my review, shaking their heads, and saying, "You just don't get it." And they are right, I don't, so for me the book gets a low rating. I hope that the book does develop a following, though, as the issues it discusses are important ones. If satire and mocking can get the point across (and I am sure it can to many others), then that is better than not addressing the issues at all.
Wedding Cake and Big Mistakes - Nancy Naigle Over the first two books, I have grown to love the inhabitants of Adams Grove, VA, so I was excited to read Nancy Naigle's third Adams Grove book, Wedding Cake and Big Mistakes. In this installment, Carolanne Baxter and Connor Buckham are law partners and long time friends. As their best friends, Garrett and Jill (remember them from the first book, Sweet Tea and Secrets?) are getting married, murder breaks out in the town and Carolanne's father is implicated, putting Carolanne and Connor at odds.

Once again, Nancy has taken us to the small town of Adams Grove,where everyone knows each other and their secrets....at least they think they do. I love spending time in this little town. Nancy's writing style is wonderfully warm, just like the town and it's inhabitants. Her books always make me feel as if I am living in Adam's Grove with the characters. The people in the town are just the way I would imagine a small town populace to be. You have your town busybodies, some with quite quirky personalities, the predictable and the unpredictable, but below it all is a common thread in their lives that allows them to really care for each other. My favorite thing about this series is the way that Nancy makes me feel about he characters in the stories. As in the past books, I found the characters in this one easy to become involved with and easy to love or hate, trust or mistrust, as was required.

The other thing that is great about these books is that they are such relaxing reads. Here there are not convoluted plots that take a lot of brain power to figure out, or follow, for that matter. What you see is what you get, and that is a nice, easy love story with a little bit of intrigue thrown in and a lot of Southern charm. The what is pretty easy to figure out and follow, and there is just enough blurring of the why to make it interesting. I find these books delightfully refreshing and a great break from some of the more complex books that I might read.

Although I am usually a stickler for reading a series in order, Nancy has made it easy to pick up these books and read them in any order. In fact, I would probably be more accurate to refer to them as books whose characters are linked, rather than an actual series of books. In fact, in looking the books up on several sites, there is some confusion as to how the books are related. On some lists Wedding Cakes and Big Mistakes is listed as the second book in the series, on others it is listed as the third, and on still others it is listed simply as "An Adams Grove Novel". I would go with the last descriptions. Whichever way is correct, I would recommend all three of the novels currently published and am looking forward to the next one, Pecan Pie and Deadly Lies.
Weather Witch - Shannon Delany In 1844, the New World is a closely regulated place where your Rank is everything, steam power has been suppressed, and everything runs on stormcell crystals. In this world, the Weather Witches are the key that makes everything run. They are the ones who control the weather, their power runs the stormcell crystals that make everything run, and they are the Conductors of the huge airships that transport people and things from place to place. They are also enslaved by the powers that be and, as far as Rank goes, they are the lowest of the low. In this world, the Astraea family is one of The Nine, the highest ranking families who run the country, and Jordan is their youngest member. On her 17th birthday, she is accused of being a Weather Witch and taken into custody.

Weather Witch is the first book in the Weather Witch series by established author Shannon Delaney. Delaney's other series, 13 to Life, is a highly popular Young Adult Urban fantasy series with Werewolves as the central characters. Although I have not read any of the books in that series, knowing that it exists did come into play when deciding what I thought of this book as the flaws were things that a novice might be forgiven, but an established author should be able to avoid.

The premise of this book had a lot of promise, and for the most part, I think it lived up to expectations. I found the characters in the book interesting as characters. They were true to their purpose, the tragic heroine, the reluctant hero, the evil master, and a whole host of backstabbing characters. There was even a misunderstood character who we do not quite know yet on which side he will land. All of this makes for a fun fictional romp, and for most of the book that is what I got. As I read I found myself feeling bad for Jordan, wanting Rowan to become all that he could be, hoping things worked out for Bran and his family. I would say, on the whole, both the characters and the story line worked.

As I said, above, though, there were a number of things in this book that didn't work and most of them, I think, center around the fact that this is the first book in a series. As such, I feel that the author was a bit too ambitious. A number of people have mentioned that the shear number of characters and story lines are confusing. I did not have trouble with that on a large scale, but there were a few things that I felt did not need to be included. For one, the focus on Jordan's mother, Lady Astraea, seemed to be an unnecessary side story. In addition, Sybil's story should have been given either more detail or less. Then there were two characters that appeared at the end of the book that just seemed out of place. They appeared, but there was no mention at all as to what their role was. Knowing this was the first book in a series, you could surmise that they were to play a role in the future, but it would have been better to explain a bit about them, or to leave them out entirely for now. Their presence just added confusion to the end of the story for me.

Perhaps the most glaring thing that did not work for me, though, was the end. The book just ended........I know this is the beginning of something and there is more to come, but the author had just introduced two new characters (well, okay, one was reintroduced) and there was absolutely no slow down or phasing out of the story. I know that authors like to leave series books with a cliff hanger, but the ending of this story didn't even qualify as that, to me. It was as if the author decided that was enough for this book and the next paragraph would be in the next book. It actually caught me so off guard that I did some research to make sure that my copy wasn't missing the actual end of the book. My second reaction was to be frustrated enough that I don't know if I will even read the second book of the series, and up until that point I thought I would.

I have read, and am reading, several series currently. Some of them are young adult and some are not, but none of them have ever had such an abrupt ending for me. Usually there is some sort of wrap up and you can tell that this installment is coming to an end. Basically, if it wasn't for the ending to this book, I would be looking forward to the next one and it would have gotten a 4 star rating from me, perhaps a bit more. In my book, the author needs to do some work to correct these errors before publishing the next installment of the series.

Although I was disappointed in the book, I would still like to thank both the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with the chance to read and review it.
One Step Too Far - Tina Seskis What would make a woman who seemingly has everything decide to leave her established life and start over from scratch? That is the subject of One Step Too Far, the debut novel by Tina Seskis. The book opens with Emily Coleman sneaking out of the house that she shares with her husband, Ben. With great sadness, Emily goes on the run and decides to start a new life on her own in London, taking nothing with her accept a bit of money, not even her name. As the book progresses, Ms. Seskis lays out for us a combination of the past and present that paints the picture of the events that shape Emily's life and ultimately influence her to make the decision to leave it all behind and become someone else.

In order to tell Emily's story, the author chose to use multiple viewpoints. The story is alternately told through chapters devoted to the present and flashbacks of the past. In addition, we get to see the story from the viewpoint of the people who are the closest to Emily, her mother, father, twin sister Caroline, husband, and even her new best friend, Angel. Some readers I have talked to found the large number of different viewpoints confusing, but it definitely worked for me. I found that the use of both different time periods and multiple characters to tell the story made the story richer and more complete. For me, I especially like when authors tell a story from the viewpoint of several characters. When it is done correctly, as is the case with this book, it allows me to become more involved with each one, increasing the amount that I am invested in the story overall.

Early on in the book you become aware that a personal tragedy was the catalyst for Emily's decision to run away. I felt that the author did a brilliant job with this part of the story. Although the tragedy was alluded to many times in the book, and by several of the characters, never once was enough information given to reveal the ending twist to this book. There were definitely clues, and definitely times when I thought I had figured out what exactly the catalyst was, but when the actual event was revealed, I was stunned. After first being confused and taking a moment to think about what I was reading, I began wondering what I had missed. After a short time, though, I found myself saying, "Well done, Ms. Seskis, well done." I admit, I get particularly excited when an author is able to put a twist into a book that I could not see coming at all. In the end, I definitely understood why Emily would want to start over.

There were two minor things that kept this from being a 5 star book. First, there were several flashbacks to the younger years of Emily's friend Angel. By the end of the book it did not seem that these chapters necessary and I felt myself wondering how they tied in. Additionally, I would have liked the ultimate ending to have played out a bit differently, but that is just me.

I would have to say, though, that this book was a solid read from start to finish. I found myself looking forward to reading it and being a bit upset if something interrupted me and I had to put it down. It both made me think about the characters, and feel for them, and the twist at the end really caught me by surprise.
I just found out that Ms. Seskis has another book being released soon, and I am also looking forward to reading that one.

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