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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Ten Teen and Young Adult April Book Releases

I know I’m late with this post this month, but believe me the ten Teen/YA books due for release during the last two weeks of this month are well worth the delay.  Some are hard-hitting, some are scary and some just make you want to chuckle out loud.  Whatever your tastes, I hope there will something listed here that will make you either reserve a copy at your library or make them a permanent resident on your bookshelves, I know there are a couple I’m going to be reading.

not invisibleTitle ~ She Is Not Invisible
Author ~ Marcus Sedgwick
ISBN ~ 978-1596438019
Publisher ~ Roaring Brook Press (April 22, 2014)
Age Range ~ 12 – 17 years
Grade Level ~ 7 and up

Description – Laureth Peak’s father has taught her to look for recurring events, patterns, and numbers–a skill at which she’s remarkably talented. Her secret: She is blind. But when her father goes missing, Laureth and her 7-year-old brother Benjamin are thrust into a mystery that takes them to New York City where surviving will take all her skill at spotting the amazing, shocking, and sometimes dangerous connections in a world full of darkness. She Is Not Invisible is an intricate puzzle of a novel that sheds a light on the delicate ties that bind people to each other.

SummerTitle ~ Summer State of Mind
Author ~ Jen Calonita
ISBN ~ 978-0316091152
Publisher ~ Poppy (April 22, 2014)
Age Range ~ 12 and up
Grade Level ~ 7 and up

Description – Summer has finally arrived and fifteen-year-old Harper McCallister intends to spend her days at the mall shopping or by the pool at her country club. But after receiving her latest heart-stopping credit card bill, Harper’s parents makes other plans, and ship her off to camp.

Suddenly, the clueless yet ever-popular Harper is the new girl at the bottom of a social ladder she can’t climb in wedge sandals and expensive clothes. She seems to be winning over super-cute camp “Lifer” Ethan, though, and if she can manage to make a few friends–and stay out of trouble–she just might find a whole new summer state of mind.

InventorsTitle ~ The Inventor’s Secret
Author ~ Andrea Cremer
ISBN ~ 978-0399159626
Publisher ~ Philomel (April 22, 2014)
Age Range ~ 12 and up
Grade Level ~ 7 and up

Description – Sixteen-year-old Charlotte and her fellow refugees have scraped out an existence on the edge of Britain’s industrial empire. Though they live by the skin of their teeth they have their health (at least when they can find enough food and avoid the Imperial Labor Gatherers) and each other. When a new exile with no memory of his escape from the coastal cities or even his own name seeks shelter in their camp he brings new dangers with him and secrets about the terrible future that awaits all those who have struggled has to live free of the bonds of the empire’s Machineworks.

The Inventor’s Secret is the first book of a YA steampunk series set in an alternate nineteenth-century North America where the Revolutionary War never took place and the British Empire has expanded into a global juggernaut propelled by marvelous and horrible machinery

Night and fogTitle ~ Prisoner of Night and Fog
Author ~ Anne Blankman
ISBN ~ 978-0062278814
Publisher ~ Balzer + Bray (April 22, 2014)
Age Range ~ None listed
Grade Level ~ None listed

Description – In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.  And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

TalkerTitle ~ Talker 25
Author ~ Joshua McCune
ISBN ~ 978-0062121912
Publisher ~ Greenwillow Books (April 22, 2014)
Age Range ~ None listed
Grade Level ~ None listed

Description – It’s a high school prank gone horribly wrong-sneaking onto the rez to pose next to a sleeping dragon-and now senior Melissa Callahan has become an unsuspecting pawn in a war between Man and Monster, between family and friends and the dragons she has despised her whole life. Chilling, epic, and wholly original, this debut novel imagines a North America where dragons are kept on reservations, where strict blackout rules are obeyed no matter the cost, where the highly weaponized military operates in chilling secret, and where a gruesome television show called Kissing Dragons unites the population. Joshua McCune’s debut novel offers action, adventure, fantasy, and a reimagining of popular dragon lore.

shadowsTitle ~ In the Shadows
Author ~ Kiersten White
ISBN ~ 978-0545561440
Publisher ~ Scholastic Press (April 29, 2014)
Age Range ~ 12 and up
Grade Level ~ 7 and up

Description – From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures.

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.

Thomas and Charles are brothers who’ve been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can’t.

drowningTitle ~ The Drowning
Author ~ Rachel Ward
ISBN ~ 978-0545627719
Publisher ~ Chicken House (April 29, 2014)
Age Range ~ None listed
Grade Level ~ None listed

Description – Water, water, everywhere: His brother has drowned, but Carl can’t remember a thing. Until it all comes flooding back…with a vengeance.

With a jolt, Carl opens his eyes. He’s on the bank of a lake, soaked to the bone. Rob, his brother, is being zipped up in a body bag. And a girl, drenched and trembling, is talking to the police. Who is she? What happened in the water? And why can’t he remember any of it?
“Bring her to me . . .”
At first Carl thinks it’s his grief speaking. Remembering Rob. The sound of his voice, things he used to say.
“Bring her to me . . .”
But then Carl starts to see him. Rob’s face in the water before it washes down the drain. His ghost rising up from the puddles. His hands clawing out of the moldy, rain-rotted walls. Like a dripping tap, he won’t stop.
“Bring her to me!”
Rob may be dead. But he’s not gone. Because he wants to finish what he started, and he won’t go under alone.

teaseTitle ~ Tease
Author ~ Amanda Maciel
ISBN ~ 978-0062305305
Publisher ~ Balzer + Bray (April 29, 2014)
Age Range ~ None listed
Grade Level ~ None listed

Description – Emma Putnam is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault.

At least, that’s what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma’s shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who’s ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media.

During the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her role in an undeniable tragedy. And she’ll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

In this powerful debut novel inspired by real-life events, Amanda Maciel weaves a narrative of high school life as complex and heartbreaking as it is familiar: a story of everyday jealousies and resentments, misunderstandings and desires. Tease is a thought-provoking must-read that will haunt readers long after the last page.

sleepTitle ~ Sleep No More
Author ~ Aprilynne Pike
ISBN ~ 978-0061999031
Publisher ~ HarperTeen (April 29, 2014)
Age Range ~ None listed
Grade Level ~ None listed

Description – Oracles see the future but are never supposed to interfere. Charlotte learned that the hard way. If she hadn’t tried to change one of her childhood visions, her father would still be alive. Since the accident, Charlotte has suppressed her visions to avoid making the same mistake. But when she receives a premonition of a classmate’s murder, she can no longer ignore her powerful gift.

Then Charlotte meets someone who not only knows her secret but who also has a way for her to stop the killer. He offers to teach her how to manipulate her visions to change the future. But doing so will put Charlotte in the path of the murderer.…

takingTitle ~ The Taking
Author ~ Kimberly Derting
ISBN ~ 978-0062293602
Publisher ~ HarperTeen (April 29, 2014)
Age Range ~ None listed
Grade Level ~ None listed

Description – A flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

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Review: Monterey Noir (The Barker Mysteries) ~ Patrick Whitehurst

Monterey NoirNot every hero lives in a mansion or works from a smoky, hard-boiled office. Enter Barker, a mysterious man with no memory of his past. Ferociously handsome and acutely observant, Barker makes his home under the soggy planks of Old Fisherman’s Wharf along California’s foggy Central Coast. His closest friends are an assortment of stray dogs, ranging from a large Rottweiler to a tiny Shih-Tzu, who live with him. Adventure and intrigue have an uncanny knack for crossing Barker’s path.

In the first entry of the series; Nickel, Barker’s sole human friend, bestows his makeshift home upon the man and his dogs just before dropping dead. It’s up to Barker to honor Nickel’s last wish, to atone for his sins, which doesn’t prove an easy task. Meanwhile, forces are at work in other parts of the fog-swept city, which will lead the homeless detective and his dogs to a deadly confrontation in the heart of Monterey Bay itself.

Part of the ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge – California.

4 Thumbs-UpReading this book was a first for me from this Author, as I had neither heard of them nor read anything they had previously penned.  It was not a disappointment.

The main protagonist could be described as hard-nosed, but underneath all the strength and intelligence he exudes there lies a hint of a troubled past; one that the Author takes great pains not to reveal in this novel.  As this is the first in a series of books featuring this character, I am hoping that as they progress the reader will learn more of what haunts the main character.  Despite this feeling of there being something missing in this characters development and the reasoning behind my four thumbs review, the Author manages to create a personae in them that lets the reader know they can come so far into his world, and no further.  This main character is a standalone novel in himself, there needs to be no more explanation than that, and the reader constantly feels that this is a man who is content in his own skin and with the select company he keeps.

If the hidden strata of humanity makes you feel uncomfortable, so it should, and this book will make you feel uneasy as it focuses on those many of us chose to pretend don’t exist; the homeless and disenfranchised that live among us.  This section of society is used to great effect in this novel, which could be ranked up there with the likes of Wilkie Collins in its ability to keep the reader guessing until the final page.

I would recommend this novel to those readers who enjoy Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries and to those wanting to read a detective novel with a different view on life.  I will definitely be reading more by this Author.

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Review: The Kingmaking (Pendragon’s Banner #1) ~ Helen Hollick

The KingmakingWho was THE MAN
Who became THE LEGEND
We know as KING ARTHUR?

“You are the Pendragon, rightful Lord of Dumnonia and the Summer Land; Lord of less Britain. By all that is right, you ought be seated where Vortigern sitsYou ought to be King.”

Here lies the truth of the Lord of the Summer Land.

This is the tale of Arthur flesh and bone. Of the shaping of the man, both courageous and flawed, into the celebrated ruler who inspired armies, who captured Gwenhyfar’s heart, and who emerged as the hero of the Dark Ages and the most enduring hero of all time.

This is the unexpected story of the making of a king the legend who united all of Britain. Book One of the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy.

5 Thumbs-UpThis is the first in the trilogy Pendragon’s Banner and, if this first instalment is anything to go by it is going to be a great read from beginning to end.

If you are looking for the normal run of the mill rendition of the main protagonist, one that is filled with brilliantly shining armour and evil doings by witches and wizards, then this telling of the Arthurian legend is not the one for you.  With a skilful use of words this Author brings to life a living human being in the form of Arthur.  He has flaws and faults like the rest of us, and is definitely a product of the Dark Ages he lived in; cruel times that needed, at times, a cruel hand to deal with them that the reader would not find in the books that perpetuate the myth of this man.  Unlike the saintly personae given to Arthur in other books, this Arthur is a 100% red-blooded male, he does whatever is necessary to take what he feels is rightly is, pleasures himself with women as and when the urge drives him, lies and cheats.  This may seem as if the Author has written him this way to try to dissuade the reader from liking him, but the overall effect is to make him so human the reader actually feels sympathy for him and cheers him on in his endeavours.  We are able to walk beside him on his journey thankful that we did not have to live in these times.  The penmanship show by the Author is not just reserved for the main character; she treats each of them with as much skill imbuing them with all the traits and qualities that make up our species.  The Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) character in this rendition is also totally different from those readers who may remember her from the Camelot movie as being played by Vanessa Redgrave; this Gwenhwyfar is a feisty, strong young woman who definitely knows her own mind; she is not content with skulking in the background weaving her ‘womanly’ plans to ensnare Arthur, she is a typical tom boy who loves the outdoors, adventure with hidden skills that only come to the forefront when needed.  Despite all this, she too is given a fallible side, which when bundled up with everything else about her makes her another character in this book that is easily liked; she is all woman as opposed to being a lady.

The elimination of magic in a story that is always surrounded and soaked in it makes this book unique.  Not a great deal is known about the time between the departure of the Romans from England and the arrival of the Normans in 1066, but it is apparent from reading this novel that the Author spent a great deal of time painstakingly research this era.  It is through this research and the way in which the Author translated it into their novel that lifted a lot of obscurity of the period for me, and for this I am truly grateful.  This book is a little slow to get underway, but these first few chapters set the scene perfectly for what is to come; once this book has gripped the reader though it will be hard for them to put aside without finishing it.

At 574 pages, for me this wasn’t a particularly meaty tome, but everyone one of those pages is filled with something that will keep even the most timid of readers when it comes to larger books captivated.  I would highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy a good historical fiction novel and lovers of Sharon Kay Penman, also to those who want a read that will keep them turning the pages long after they should have turned out the light.  I have the remaining two books in the trilogy all lined and ready to read, and I would suggest anyone that picks this up grabs the other two at the same time.

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Review: The Very Thought of You ~ Rosie Alison

The very thought of youEngland, 31st August 1939: the world is on the brink of war. As Hitler prepares to invade Poland, thousands of children are evacuated from London to escape the impending Blitz. Torn from her mother, eight-year-old Anna Sands is relocated with other children to a large Yorkshire estate which has been opened up to evacuees by Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, an enigmatic childless couple. Soon Anna gets drawn into their unhappy relationship, seeing things that are not meant for her eyes – and finding herself part-witness and part-accomplice to a love affair, with tragic consequences. A story of love, loss and complicated loyalties, combining a sweeping narrative with subtle psychological observation.

2 Thumbs-UpThis book was given to me to read by a co-worker, and as our reading tastes are usually similar I looked forward to reading this debut novel from this Author.  I will come straight out now and say the only reason this book received the two thumbs it did is because it is located in my home county of Yorkshire, England.

However, if you like books with multiple characters, each with their own separate plot and agenda, this may be the book for you.  I found the profusion of characters and plots became rather confusing after a while, and this nearly resulted in my consigning it to my empty ‘did not finish’ pile.  The reason it did not end up there was the hope I held that when I turned the next page the development of the main protagonist would start and the storyline proper would then get underway.  Unfortunately this was not to be the case and I’m not sure if it is the sheer number of characters that prevented this, or sympathy for the Author that they may have been a little unsure of themselves in this area of their writing.  I feel that if the Author had pared down the amount of characters in the novel, and concentrated some of that energy into the development of the key ones, this would have become a much better, if not compelling, read.

What a disappointment, I was expecting a book based around the evacuees from the London Blitz and the way it affected them both mentally and physically; I was expecting maybe something more along the lines of ‘Good Night, Mr. Tom’, but received a rehashing of parts of ‘The Go-Between’ and ‘Atonement’  without any of the plot development or characters that would truly make it worth the time I invested in reading this.  I feel that an outstanding editor would have been able to point out these issues to the Author, and with gentle guidance been able to help them turn this into a fresh perspective on love and happiness.

The ending of this book was the final nail in the coffin for me; most of the novel takes place during World War II, and when I say most it is probably about 75% of the book, then in the final 25% the Author suddenly felt the need to cram sixty years into about 50 pages; no explanation or tie in to the rest of the book, just ‘here it is’.  In this particular case this is one of those books that would have been better off left with an open-ending without the Author feeling the need to tie everything up neatly.

Unfortunately I don’t feel I could recommend this book to any one group of readers, but it may be something that book clubs would enjoy dissecting at their meetings.

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Review: The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) ~ Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of The WindThe riveting first-person narrative of a young man who grows to be the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime- ridden city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard. It is a high-action novel written with a poet’s hand, a powerful coming-of-age story of a magically gifted young man, told through his eyes: to read this book is to be the hero.

5 Thumbs-UpI’ve read this book several times and have finally come to the conclusion I need to share it with the rest of the world.  This is a meaty tome, coming in at 662 pages, but it is a book that once finished will have the reader wanting to jump into the second instalment immediately.  Another reason for my review is, that after meeting and talking with the author at Emerald City Comicon I felt I was doing him a disservice by not sharing his talent with any other reader that could possibly enjoy his work.  Having said this, my meeting the man had no influence whatsoever on the rating this book received.

This book is a mix of fantasy, biography and first and third person narratives which, at first glance may seem as if the combination is going to lead to one almighty train wreck of a novel, but this is not the case.  The biographical parts of the book are narrated by the main protagonist Kvothe (pronounced “Quothe”).  Through his words the reader sees a man take shape before their eyes that is good at everything and anything he turns his hand to; he could be described as the perfect hero.  There is nothing he can do, no woman he cannot woo and no invention he cannot create from anything lying around; but underneath all this perfection, is a man who just wants to live a quiet life doing the things he loves and not be asked to rush off on adventures he would rather leave to someone else.  If the reader doesn’t pay close attention to the words Kvothe speaks they may miss entirely the hidden side of this character and feel they are reading about a man who wants to make all others feel inadequate.  I felt this was not the case, as he reveals so much about himself that those not willing to ‘listen’ will be swept up into disliking him so much they will lose the main reasoning behind his story, and this is that he is battling with his conscience, he is lonely and above all he is very human.  The Author has obviously invested a lot of time into the development of this character providing him with the same kinds of contradictions and complexities that one would find in our acquaintances in real life and, for me this is what drew me to him and into his story.  The other characters that are introduced in this novel are given equal consideration, each being wonderfully written and developed to make sure they fit securely and comfortably into the narrative we are reading.  There are none that appear for a few brief pages and then suddenly vanish never to be seen again; if they are not playing a major role at that moment in the book, the Author manages to infuse the pages with a feeling they will be returned to centre stage shortly.

Although the writing style is very crisp and smooth, and the pacing of the plot moves along at just the right pace it can take a few chapters to actually get into the story.  However, these first few chapters are crucial as they contain a lot of detail in them that is relevant to what comes later.  This is definitely not one of those novels that the reader can skim parts of to ’get to the good stuff’.  Despite being a detailed novel, it is not too detailed and there are many parts that had me chuckling aloud.  The one thing that, for me earned this novel its five thumbs rating was the way the Author wrote it, never once did I feel that my intelligence and ability to figure out certain aspects of the plots was insulted, and I didn’t feel as if the Author was ‘talking’ down to me in any way; this is a rare skill that few Authors have.  There is so much more I could write about this book, but in doing so I may inadvertently reveal too much about the novels contents and negate any reason for a reader to actually track this book down and read it for themselves.

I would highly recommend this book to fantasy and non-fantasy readers alike, and if you are tired of epic reads that insult your intelligence this would definitely be one that will restore your faith in the genre.

As I footnote, I do realise that the cover pictured here is now the image used for the Kindle edition but, when I purchased my hardcover copy a few days after it was initially released, this was the image on the cover.  In my opinion I think it fits the contents so much better than the one now in use.

Patrick Rothfuss and Cate Agosta - Emerald Citty Comicon 30th March 2014

Patrick Rothfuss and Cate Agosta – Emerald City Comicon 30th March 2014

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Review: Whistling In the Dark ~ Lesley Kagen

Whistling in the darkIt was the summer on Vliet Street when we all started locking our doors…

Sally O’Malley made a promise to her daddy before he died. She swore she’d look after her sister, Troo. Keep her safe. But like her Granny always said-actions speak louder than words. Now, during the summer of 1959, the girls’ mother is hospitalized, their stepfather has abandoned them for a six pack, and their big sister, Nell, is too busy making out with her boyfriend to notice that Sally and Troo are on the Loose. And so is a murderer and molester.

Highly imaginative Sally is pretty sure of two things. Who the killer is. And that she’s next on his list. Now she has no choice but to protect herself and Troo as best she can, relying on her own courage and the kindness of her neighbors.

Part of the ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge – Wisconsin.

3 Thumbs-UpThis is a great little read packed full of things that are part of life in small town USA; or is it?  At times this book had so much going on in it, the town seemed crowded.  This is also a debut novel from this Author

The book is told through the words of a child narrator who has seen more than her fair share of troubles and hardship so early on in life.  I found the way in which this character provided the dialogue to be fairly believable of someone her age who had experienced the things she had, as at times her words changed from that of a child to those of someone so much older; to me this revealed the inner conflict in her as she battled within herself to be the child she was, or the adult that was expected of her, and I thought that the Author was able to portray this side of her personality very well.  Like the child she is though, she often misinterprets ‘adult’ conversations, and after a while this became rather tiring.  The main problem I found with all the characters in this book were that they were not very deeply developed and struggled to maintain their two-dimensional persona, and it was this lack of the development of what could have been some very interesting characters in this book that made me rate it a three thumbs.

Although this book is a little slow at first, it soon picks up and is an ideal book for a wet day when there is nothing else to take your fancy.  It is full of 1950’s nostalgia, childhood innocence and also darkly disturbing scenes.  For those who are offended by same-sex relationships, there is one featured in this book and this may mean you want to give the book a miss.  However, it is not overplayed to the point where it dominates, and is not dealt with in an insensitive manner, so readers may be able to skim over this portion if they are otherwise enjoying this book.

I would recommend this book to those who are looking for their next book club read, as it is sure to be the stepping off point for some interesting discussion, and I will be reading more by this Author in the future to see how their character development evolves as they become more confident.

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