10 Worthwhile Indie Reads for May

All the light we cannot seeTitle ~ All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel
Author ~ Anthony Doerr
ISBN ~ 9781476746586
Publisher ~ Scribner

Description – Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

 

Natchez BurningTitle ~ Natchez Burning: A Novel
Author ~ Greg Iles
ISBN ~ 9780062311078
Publisher ~ William Morrow

Description ~ #1 New York Times bestselling novelist Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated book yet, and his first in five years – Natchez Burning, the first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secret past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

 

the steady runningTitle ~ The Steady Running of the Hour: A Novel
Author ~ Justin Go
ISBN ~ 9781476704586
Publisher ~ Simon & Schuster

Description ~ In this mesmerizing debut, a young American discovers he may be heir to the unclaimed estate of an English World War I officer, which launches him on a quest across Europe to uncover the elusive truth.

Just after graduating college, Tristan Campbell receives a letter delivered by special courier to his apartment in San Francisco. It contains the phone number of a Mr. J.F. Prichard of Twyning Hooper, Solicitors, in London and news that could change Tristan’s life forever.

In 1924, Prichard explains, an English alpinist named Ashley Walsingham died attempting to summit Mt. Everest, leaving his fortune to his former lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson. But the estate was never claimed. Information has recently surfaced suggesting Tristan may be the rightful heir, but unless he can find documented evidence, the fortune will be divided among charitable beneficiaries in less than two months.

In a breathless race from London archives to Somme battlefields to the Eastfjords of Iceland, Tristan pieces together the story of a forbidden affair set against the tumult of the First World War and the pioneer British expeditions to Mt. Everest. Following his instincts through a maze of frenzied research, Tristan soon becomes obsessed with the tragic lovers, and he crosses paths with a mysterious French girl named Mireille who suggests there is more to his quest than he realizes. Tristan must prove that he is related to Imogen to inherit Ashley’s fortune but the more he learns about the couple, the stranger his journey becomes.

 

OrendaTitle ~ The Orenda: A Novel
Author ~ Joseph Boyden
ISBN ~ 9780385350730
Publisher ~ Knopf

Description ~ A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.

Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.

As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.

 

The serpent of veniceTitle ~ The Serpent of Venice: A Novel
Author ~ Christopher Moore
ISBN ~ 9780061779763
Publisher ~ William Morrow

Description ~ Venice, a long time ago. Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy of Britain and France, and widower of the murdered Queen Cordelia: the rascal-Fool Pocket.

This trio of cunning plotters-the merchant, Antonio; the senator, Montressor Brabantio; and the naval officer, Iago-have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising an evening of sprits and debauchery with a rare Amontillado sherry and Brabantio’s beautiful daughter, Portia.

But their invitation is, of course, bogus. The wine is drugged. The girl isn’t even in the city limits. Desperate to rid themselves once and for all of the man who has consistently foiled their grand quest for power and wealth, they have lured him to his death. (How can such a small man, be such a huge obstacle?). But this Fool is no fool . . . and he’s got more than a few tricks (and hand gestures) up his sleeve.

 

RubyTitle ~ Ruby: A Novel
Author ~ Cynthia Bond
ISBN ~ 9780804139090
Publisher ~ Hogarth

Description ~ Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city–the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village–all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby Bell finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town’s dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

 

TroikaTitle ~ Troika: A Novel
Author ~ Adam Pelzman
ISBN ~ 9780399167485
Publisher ~ Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam

Description ~ Perla is a beautiful young Cuban-American woman who lives with her mother in a modest house in Miami’s Little Havana. After her father’s death, she finds herself leading a secret life.
Julian is from Russia. His father was a legendary Siberian hunter who fell victim to his own bravery. When Julian is forced into an orphanage, he discovers that he has more in common with his father than he originally thought. Taken under the wing of a gruff, elderly businessman, Julian makes his way to New York City . . . and, years later, into the club where Perla is dancing. Soon after they meet, Perla is on a plane to Manhattan at the mysterious request of Julian’s friend—a journey that will change the course of her life.

 

WonderlandTitle ~ Wonderland: A Novel
Author ~ Stacey D’Erasmo
ISBN ~ 9780544074811
Publisher ~ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Description~ Anna Brundage is a rock star. She is tall and sexy, with a powerhouse voice and an unforgettable mane of red hair. She came out of nowhere, an immediate indie sensation. And then, life happened.Anna went down as fast as she went up, and then walked off the scene for seven years. Without a record deal or clamoring fans, she sells a piece of her famous father’s art to finance just one more album and a European comeback tour.

Anna is forty-four. This may be her last chance to cement her place in the life she chose, the life she struggled for, the life she’s not sure she can sustain. She falls back easily into the ways of the road—sex with strangers, the search for the perfect moment onstage. To see Anna perform is something—watch her find the note, the electric connection with the audience, the transcendence when it all comes together and the music seems to fill the world.

 

All the birds singingTitle ~ All the Birds, Singing: A Novel
Author ~ Evie Wyld
ISBN ~ 9780307907769
Publisher ~ Pantheon

Description ~ Jake Whyte is living on her own in an old farmhouse on a craggy British island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. Her disobedient collie, Dog, and a flock of sheep are her sole companions, which is how she wanted it to be. But every few nights something—or someone—picks off one of the sheep and sets off a new deep pulse of terror. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumors of an obscure, formidable beast. But there is also Jake’s past—hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, held in the silences about her family and the scars that stripe her back—a past that threatens to break into the present. With exceptional artistry and empathy, All the Birds, Singing reveals an isolated life in all its struggles and stubborn hopes, unexpected beauty, and hard-won redemption.

 

LoversTitle ~ Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932: A Novel
Author ~ Francine Prose
ISBN ~ 9780061713781
Publisher ~ Harper

Description ~ A richly imagined and stunningly inventive literary masterpiece of love, art, and betrayal, set in Paris from the late 1920s into the dark years of World War II, that explores the genesis of evil, the unforeseen consequences of love, and the ultimate unreliability of storytelling itself

Emerging from the austerity and deprivation of the Great War, Paris in the 1920s shimmers with excitement, dissipation, and freedom. It is a place of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves. It is at the Chameleon where the striking Lou Villars, an extraordinary athlete and scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, finds refuge among the club’s loyal patrons, including rising Hungarian photographer Gabor Tsenyi, socialite and art patron Baroness Lily de Rossignol; and caustic American writer Lionel Maine.

As the years pass, their fortunes-and the world itself-evolve. Lou falls desperately in love and finds success as a racecar driver. Gabor builds his reputation with startlingly vivid and imaginative photographs, including a haunting portrait of Lou and her lover, which will resonate through all their lives. As the exuberant 20s give way to the Depression of the 30s, Lou experiences another metamorphosis-sparked by tumultuous events-that will warp her earnest desire for love and approval into something far more sinister: collaboration with the Nazis.

Told in a kaleidoscope of voices that circle around the dark star of Lou Villars, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 evokes this incandescent city with brio, humor, and intimacy. Exploring a turbulent time defined by terror, bravery, and difficult moral choices, it raises critical questions about truth and memory and the nature of storytelling itself.

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Review: The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice #1) ~ John Flanagan

ruins of gorlanThey have always scared him in the past — the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied….

4 Thumbs-UpThis book was part of World Book Night 2014, and the book I was assigned as a Giver.  As I had not read this prior to WBN, in fact I’d not even heard of the Author before having the book assigned to me, I thought I should dive in.

There is something that any reader who is thinking of picking this up to read should know; it is the first in a series of books, and when I series I don’t mean 4 or 5 books, this one stretches out over 12 instalments.  Also for a YA fantasy novel this one really is a good cut above the others I have read in this genre, so much so that I sat and read it in one sitting.

This book was a complete and total surprise for me; I was expecting the usual coming of age teenage angst filled book that would have me wanting to throw it against the wall in parts, but this was definitely not the case.  I would like to say it was the characters and their development that had me hooked, and they were very well written, but it was the complete package of characters, theme and plot that did it for me.

Our main protagonist is a typical boy, he’s into climbing, mischief and the occasional fight but he’s also very smart, not overly so that he comes across as cocky or arrogant, but just enough to make the reader realise that this boy is going places.  His is not the only character that this Author treats well, and brings the reader round to liking, he treats the main characters peers in the same way too, with a skilful pen and a lot of insight.  The main character has a mentor, and I really liked this man; he is aloof, rarely smiles and seems to have the weight of this fantasy world on his shoulders.  As the novel progresses we see how the relationship between Master and Apprentice grows and matures, and how this also affects the way the relationship between the main characters peer changes.  Very well written and believable, these characters are people who new or inexperienced readers could soon be drawn to and want to read more about.

The storyline itself is told from the point of view of the main protagonist, and it moves along in an easy fashion, suitably picking up pace as the events narrated and occurrences dictate.  As well as being a great adventure fantasy novel, this book is also filled with subliminal messages about loyalty and honour, doing what is right and also touches on the subject of bullying.  It is full of suspense, action and some heart-stopping moments that will keep even the most reluctant of readers’ turning the pages until the end.  The reason this review received 4 thumbs and not 5; I just didn’t need to get sucked into another series of books right now, especially one of this length.  Seeing as I have though it looks like there will be some major reading sessions ahead.

I would highly recommend this book for people of all ages who like an epic fantasy, but I think it would be especially suitable for novice or inexperienced readers who have an interest in fantasy.  At just 249 pages it is not long enough that would lose interest, but full of enough adventure to have them wanting to continue reading.

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Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ~ Mark Haddon

dog in the nightChristopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, fifteen-year-old Christopher is autistic and everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favorite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.

4 Thumbs-UpThis is the first book by this Author that I have read, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.  However, if British Humour is not your thing, you may find this book a little dry for your tastes and, therefore, consider giving it a miss.

From a character point of view, it is immediately apparent that this Author cares deeply about the people who populate his pages, and through his writing he makes the reader come to care about them too.  Written from the viewpoint of the main protagonist who has Asperger’s Syndrome, this book is not all about the syndrome but how the main character sees and lives his life whilst coping with this syndrome.  He is filled with a determination and objectivity that clutches at the reader’s heart and makes them want to continue reading on to the end.  All the characters in this book are written with such care and compassion, it is hard to find one that the reader will not like, even those who appear to wrong the main character are not downright nasty people.

Readers need to be aware that this is not a book to be taken lightly and, although it is a work of fiction, it does shed some light on the syndrome our main character suffers with, it explains its defined characteristics and also sheds some light as to why people such as he, find it difficult to be around those who do not have the illness.  The storyline itself does not move a fluidly as some other novels I have read, but when you consider who the narrator is this is perfectly acceptable, as we are being told the tale through his words and in a way that he can relate to the world around him.  For me, the one thing that stood out in this novel over anything else was the way in which it made me think and re-evaluate the way I act when around those with autism; I think there will be very few who read this that are not affected in the same way.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, and especially if they enjoy one that has a different type of ‘detective’ at the centre of it.

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Apologies

accident

Just a few lines to let you know that, due to an accident in the Family involving my Husband, there will be no book review posts until Monday 28th April.

Once again my sincere apologies, but I hope you understand when I say Family comes first.

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World Book Night, April 23rd 2014

WBN2014_logo_672x652

I was ecstatic to find out I had been selected as an official giver for World Book Night this year, but for those of you who are not aware of this event or are unsure of what it actually is, I thought I would share with you all.

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.  Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers.

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—through the sharing of stories.

World Book Night is a non-profit organization that exists because of the support of thousands of book givers, booksellers, librarians, and financial supporters who believe in their mission. It was successfully launched in the U.K. in 2011; World Book Night was first celebrated in the U.S. in 2012. Thank you to all the U.K. bibliophiles for such a wonderful idea!

I will be giving away the following book:

ruins of gorlanTitle:  Ruins of Gorlan
Author:  John Flanagan
ISBN:  9780142406632
Publisher:  Puffin Books
Release Date:  June 8th 2006 (first published November 1st 2004)

Description ~ They have always scared him in the past — the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied….

Comment ~ I will be reviewing this book shortly.

Below is a list of all the books that are being distributed this year.

Books_wbn2014I am hoping that there may something in the above list that as established readers you may what to recommend to either a new or inexperienced reader.

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Review: The Sign of the Weeping Virgin (Five Star Mystery #1) ~ Alana J. White

weeping virginRomance and intrigue abound in The Sign of the Weeping Virgin‚ an evocative historical mystery that brings the Italian Renaissance gloriously to life.

In 1480 Florentine investigator Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his nephew‚ Amerigo‚ are tangled in events that threaten to destroy them and their beloved city.

Marauding Turks abduct a beautiful young Florentine girl and sell her into slavery. And then a holy painting begins weeping in Guid’Antonio’s church. Are the tears manmade or a sign of God’s displeasure with Guid’Antonio himself?

In a finely wrought story for lovers of medieval and renaissance mysteries everywhere‚ Guid’Antonio follows a spellbinding trail of clues to uncover the thought-provoking truth about the missing girl and the weeping painting’s mystifying—and miraculous?—tears‚ all pursued as he comes face to face with his own personal demons

3 Thumbs-UpThis is this Authors debut novel in the realm of historical fiction and, as much as I enjoy good historical fiction, I just couldn’t get into this one at all.  I think it was a case of the classic line ‘it’s me, honestly, not you’.

To say the cast of characters in this book is immense would be an under-statement, and I felt at times it would have helped me along in my reading if there had been a character list printed in the front of the book; I have a sneaky feeling that many other readers who pick up this book may feel the same way too.  Although none of the characters stand out in the book, they are interesting to say the least, and the main protagonist is very interesting; he is cranky, complicated, lonely and extremely loyal; all traits which seemed at odds to the world in which he was living, a world where loyalty seemed to be as fleeting as the wind.

Despite the indication in the synopsis that this may have edged into the realms of a genre I never read, I found there to be little to no romance in this book; there is no love in the traditional sense of the word and no homoerotic longings as can often take place in a novel of this kind.  What there is however is political intrigue by the boatload, and this made the book a compelling read and was, for me, the saving grace that earned the rating of 3 thumbs as opposed to it being lower.

It is obvious that the Author has done a lot of research into this era in Florence’s history, and I found this interesting and educating as I did not know about some of the historical details touched upon in the novel.  I felt this was helped by the fact that the main protagonist was actually a real-life figure in these times, and this added more realism to the descriptions used and the events encountered in the book.

I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction but particularly those who like a good solid mystery that is full of political intrigue.

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Review: Firedrake (Dragonrealm #1) ~ Richard A. Knaak

FiredrakeIn Firedrake, a land ruled by the shape-lifting Dragon Kings, Cabe Bedlam is hunted for both the legacy he represents and the future he may bring. Yet, dragons may be the least of the dangers, for in a land drenched with sorcery, Cabe’s very legacy may be what destroys him!

 

 

4 Thumbs-UpThis was the debut novel from an Author who has now evolved into, what some may call a wizard in the arena of creating fantastical worlds and their inhabitants.  He is well-known amongst the World of Warcraft community for his penmanship of some of their lore novels and, it was through this medium, that I became aware of him.  I decided to read this as I was intrigued to see how his love for writing fantasy not only began, but how it had progressed over time.

The main protagonist in this book is a young man who is full of the arrogance of his youth, but there is also an underlying current of uncertainty in things he does that make him instantly likeable to the reader.  He is of an age where he is easily smitten by a pretty face, and it made me smile to see how quickly this happened to him as it seems that the Author had perfectly captured this part of all our lives; the growing up and discovering the opposite sex.  Although I felt that more time could have been given to the development of this character, there were so many others in this book, both ‘human’ and ‘non-human’, that to spend an overly long time developing one would have resulted in others being under-developed and this would have resulted in the book being lacking in many ways.  As the title suggests there are dragons in this novel, and they also were given subject to some very interesting development, but some of them lacked the explanation of their motivation behind the things they wanted to do.  I’m uncertain as to whether this is explained more in the subsequent books, but in this particular instalment it would have been nice to see a little more back story to them given.

The storyline itself is very well written and is able to throw a few surprising plot twists and turns at a reader who may think they know what is coming next.  Showing the skill that would later make him a great loremaster, this Author weaves dragon lore into his story with ease, and adds his own twist on the lore which results in it being expanded even more.  However, if you are looking for a fantasy novel that is full of brilliant prose you may be disappointed with this book; at times the language became rather dull but this in no way detracted from the overall enjoyment that reading this book would bring.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys this Authors later works, but they need to remember when reading it that is was his first book and try to lay aside any comparisons they may want to make.  If you have know someone who is interested in fantastical world or plays Dungeons & Dragons, but they don’t read this book would be a great way to introduce them to the world of reading.  I will definitely be reading the remaining Dragonrealm books.

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