Monday, March 28, 2011

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO, Billy Peters disappeared. Everyone in town believes Billy was murdered—after all, serial killer Arnold Avery later admitted killing six other children and burying them on the same desolate moor that surrounds their small English village. Only Billy’s mother is convinced he is alive. She still stands lonely guard at the front window of her home, waiting for her son to return, while her remaining family fragments around her.

But her twelve-year-old grandson Steven is determined to heal the cracks that gape between his nan, his mother, his brother, and himself. Steven desperately wants to bring his family closure, and if that means personally finding his uncle’s corpse, he’ll do it.

Spending his spare time digging holes all over the moor in the hope of turning up a body is a long shot, but at least it gives his life purpose.

Then at school, when the lesson turns to letter writing, Steven has a flash of inspiration . . . Careful to hide his identity, he secretly pens a letter to Avery in jail asking for help in finding the body of "W.P."—William "Billy" Peters.

So begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game.

Just as Steven tries to use Avery to pinpoint the gravesite, so Avery misdirects and teases his mysterious correspondent in order to relive his heinous crimes. And when Avery finally realizes that the letters he’s receiving are from a twelve-year-old boy, suddenly his life has purpose too.

Although his is far more dangerous . . .

Blacklands is a taut and chillingly brilliant debut that signals the arrival of a bright new voice in psychological suspense.

Hard to believe that this is a debut novel. I found this to be an emotional book. Feeling for the mother who has lost a child with no closure. A daughter who struggles with raising 2 boys on her own and a grandson who wants nothing more than to have a normal family life. To get that he searches literally for years to find the body of his uncle. I found the writing excellent, I could picture the dreariness of the land and hopelessness of the families lives real. There was the odd thing I found out of place, but it didn't distract from the story and the ending was good to boot.

Will be on the lookout for more by this author.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.
Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.
In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

I had read a number of positive reviews about this book, so I was really looking forward to reading it. It was a fast read for me, 2 days. But I gotta say that I was more disturbed by this story. Be forewarned that there might be some spoilers coming.

First off, this is a boarding school that can do no wrong. Doors are left unlocked, the kids earn points to go off campus, and the students are trusted and expected to do no wrong. But where are the adults in this school? Sure there are teachers, but no parents at all. Not even a phone call, a letter or even care package from mom and dad. Even when Alex finally talks to a teacher, what happens? Nothing, not a thing. Come on this is rape we are talking about. This is a junior in high school.

Date rape is a far cry different from cheating or spiking someones drink with cough syrup, people go to jail for this. Does the punishment fit the crime? High school kids get to play lawyer and decide guilt and punishment. Just doesn't sit right with me. Just my opinion.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court. But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection. Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.

Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever.

I love fairy tales, I love reading books that are based on fairy tales and that is what this book reminded me of. I enjoyed reading this book, the story line was original, it had twists and turns that I didn't see coming. However, I would have liked it to have a little more depth, maybe a more dialogue.

One thing about a debut novel is that they (the author) gets better with each consecutive book, I would love to see a sequel, but if not I will keep an eye out for more by Eilis O'Neal

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dawn on a Distant Shore by Sara Donati

Sara Donati's extraordinary debut novel, Into the Wilderness (a loose retelling from a woman's viewpoint of The Pioneers, James Fenimore Cooper's sequel to The Last of the Mohicans) now has its own sequel. In the first book in the Wilderness series, set in the wilds of the New York frontier in 1792, Englishwoman Elizabeth Middleton met and married Nathaniel Bonner, a white man adopted into the Mohawk tribe. As Dawn on a Distant Shore opens, Elizabeth and Nathaniel's marriage is about to be blessed with twins, but their happy family is soon divided by the news that Nathaniel's father has been imprisoned in Montreal. When Nathaniel attempts a rescue, he, too, is arrested and sentenced to be hanged as an American spy. Elizabeth risks everything to free both men — and, eventually, her efforts bring them to distant Scotland, where a wealthy and titled kinsman offers them a new future in a world they never imagined.

I really enjoyed this book, I feel like I know the family so well now. I will admit that I wanted there to be one more chapter in this book (though I can't really say why without a spoiler).
I am looking forward to the rest of the series. Figured that I would do one book a month, so have to wait another week before I can continue with my new friends.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Two gifted sisters draw on their talents to belatedly forge a bond and find their ways in life in Allen's easygoing debut novel. Thirty-four-year-old Claire Waverley manifests her talent in cooking; using edible flowers, Claire creates dishes that affect the eater in curious ways. But not all Waverley women embrace their gifts; some, including Claire's mother, escape the family's eccentric reputation by running away. She abandoned Claire and her sister when they were young. Consequently, Claire has remained close to home, unwilling to open up to new people or experiences. Claire's younger sister, Sydney, however, followed in their mother's footsteps 10 years ago and left for New York, and after a string of abusive, roustabout boyfriends, returns to Bascom, N.C., with her five-year-old daughter, Bay. As Sydney reacquaints herself with old friends and rivals, she discovers her own Waverley magic. Claire, in turn, begins to open up to her sister and in the process learns how to welcome other possibilities. Though Allen's prose can lean toward the pedestrian and the romance subplots feel perfunctory, the blending of horticultural folklore, the supernatural and a big dollop of Southern flavor should find favor with a wide swath of readers.

What an interesting book. This is Sarah Addison Allen's debut novel (and I love reading debut novelists). I was told that this is a fairy tale type book and read nothing but great reviews about this book. Whether is was that my expectations were so high I am not sure, but I did not love this book. I just liked it, I might try another of her books, the reason being that this was the authors first book and hopefully they will get better.

I cannot really put my finger on what was lacking here. I felt the overall story line interesting, the 'gifts' of the Waverley family was an interesting concept. However the rest of the story I found predictable.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

The Lost Symbol begins with an ancient ritual, a shadowy enclave, and of course, a secret. Readers know they are in Dan Brown territory when, by the end of the first chapter, a secret within a secret is revealed. To tell too much would ruin the fun of reading this delicious thriller, so you will find no spoilers here. Suffice it to say that as with many series featuring a recurring character, there is a bit of a formula at work (one that fans will love). Again, brilliant Harvard professor Robert Langdon finds himself in a predicament that requires his vast knowledge of symbology and superior problem-solving skills to save the day. The setting, unlike other Robert Langdon novels, is stateside, and in Brown's hands Washington D.C. is as fascinating as Paris or Vatican City (note to the D.C. tourism board: get your "Lost Symbol" tour in order). And, as with other Dan Brown books, the pace is relentless, the revelations many, and there is an endless parade of intriguing factoids that will make you feel like you are spending the afternoon with Robert Langdon and the guys from Mythbusters.

I purchased this book on the day it was released. I throughly enjoyed Dan Brown's other books and believe it or not, Deception Point was my favorite. I liked his writing style, I liked the fast pace of the books (which helped me to read them faster too).

Two of my sons started this book and only one finished it. Neither were too impressed with The Lost Symbol. I think that was the reason why it took so long for me to read this.

Sometimes when you read something that has high reviews, your expectations are so high that it is somewhat of a let down, but when your expectations are low, well can it go any lower?

I was grabbed right away with this book, the first half I really enjoyed. It moved fast, it had the historical aspect that I loved, there was the mystery that started out nicely. So what went wrong?

For starters I figured out the bad guy very early on and it was so logical that I was surprised I was correct (thinking maybe there was a twist coming and I might be wrong). I also came to the conclusion that Dan Brown must of had a word quota for this novel and the last half was full of meaningless words that was so distracting and of no use. Usually I love the last half of a good book, this time the only reason I liked the last half was to finish the darn thing. I must say that the only reason I finished was to see how it would end, which it could have done about 150 pages sooner. Though I must admit the ending was a letdown, just my opinion

Have updated Where Are You Reading 2011 to reflect this book.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Secrets of the Tudor Court by D L Bogdon

When young Mary Howard receives the news that she will be leaving her home for the grand court of King Henry VIII, to attend his mistress Anne Boleyn, she is ecstatic. Everything Anne touches seems to turn to gold, and Mary is certain Anne will one day become Queen. But Mary has also seen the King's fickle nature and how easily he discards those who were once close to him. . .

Discovering that she is a pawn in a carefully orchestrated plot devised by her father, the duke of Norfolk, Mary dare not disobey him. Yet despite all of her efforts to please him, she too falls prey to his cold wrath. Not until she becomes betrothed to Harry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond and son to King Henry VIII, does Mary finds the love and approval she's been seeking. But just when Mary believes she is finally free of her father, the tides turn. Now Mary must learn to play her part well in a dangerous chess game that could change her life--and the course of history.

This was my first Kindle loan. Given my love of historical fiction, this fit the bill. Also a debut book by author D. L. Bogdon. The one thing about debut books, there is only one place to go and that is up. Even though this book takes place in the Anne Boleyn time, the main focus is on Mary the daughter of Thomas Howard.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Into The Wilderness by Sara Donati

Weaving a tapestry of fact and fiction, Sara Donati's epic novel sweeps us into another time and place…and into a breathtaking story of love and survival in a land of savage beauty.

It is December of 1792. Elizabeth Middleton leaves her comfortable English estate to join her family in a remote New York mountain village. It is a place unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man unlike any she has ever encountered-a white man dressed like a Native American: Nathaniel Bonner, known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives. Determined to provide schooling for all the children of the village, Elizabeth soon finds herself locked in conflict with the local slave owners as well as with her own family. Interweaving the fate of the Mohawk Nation with the destiny of two lovers, Sara Donati's compelling novel creates a complex, profound, passionate portrait of an emerging America. -

I love a nice fat juicy book, one that you can just sink your teeth into. This is is almost 900 pages long, exactly what one needs on these cold winter days. Just to curl up on the couch with Mr. Kindle, which is exactly what I did. This book was recommended from another reviewer. To be honest after I purchased it I did hesitate a little (other books this person recommended didn't pan out).

I loved this book, I really did. I found the characters were well developed, I could picture Wolf Mountain, the rivers, the schoolhouse and so much more. I have always had a hard time picturing what life was like in the 'old days' (1792 is when this book takes place) and especially the winters. This book was a good picture for me.

Added to Where Are You Reading?

Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan (audio)

The Wheel weaves as the wheel wills

This is the series that my sons talked me into reading. This is book 3 out of 12 with the 13th and final one due out in Nov 2011. If I listen to one book a month can I be done when the final book comes out? Good question, I have my doubts. A couple of these books are so long that I do need a little break between them.

Jordan continues his Wheel of Time saga (after The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt ). Three thousand years ago the Dragon led the male mages of the world into entrapping the Dark One, but the cost was high: all male mages, then and thereafter, were driven mad. Now the Dark One is breaking free, and the only salvation may come through Rand al'Thor who may be a reincarnation of the Dragon and who must obtain the sword Callandor, held in the city of Tear. All of Rand's companions from the previous books find themselves, willing or not, moving toward Tear for a confrontation with evil traps. Jordan's fast and absorbing adventure novel will keep the reader too entranced to worry about plot inconsistencies, numerous coincidences, lack of character development and Rand's inexplicably infrequent appearances. As light fantasy, however, it proves an enjoyable diversion.

I love listening to this series, Kate Reading and Michael Kramer do an awesome job. Since there are so many characters in this book it is nice to have a female voice for the girls and male voice for the guys. There is just enough emotion there but not too much.

The story, of course continues in Robert Jordan style. Full of mystery, intrigue and suspense. I find myself really having to pay attention as the story continues with Rand having to accept that he is infact the Dragon Reborn and must claim that title. He doesn't like it one little bit, but thems the breaks. Robert Jordan originally planned only 3 books in this series. There has been so many subplots woven in that one must really be focused. I am lucky that 2 of my sons are walking encyclopedias of Wheel of Time and love to talk about it.

This book is not added to Where Are You Reading? since it really isn't on my map :)