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Monday, July 30, 2012

Review: Death of a Schoolgirl (the Jane Eyre Chronicles) + a Giveaway!

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Death of a Schoolgirl
The Jane Eyre Chronicles
by Joanna Campbell Slan

Plot Summary:

In her classic tale, Charlotte Brontë introduced readers to the strong willed and intelligent Jane Eyre. Picking up where Brontë left off, the year is now 1851, and Jane’s life has finally settled into a comfortable pattern. She and her beloved Edward Rochester have married, and have an infant son. But Jane soon finds herself in the midst of new challenges and threats to those she loves…

Jane can’t help but fret when a letter arrives from Adèle Varens—Rochester’s ward and Jane’s former pupil, currently at boarding school—warning that the girl’s life is in jeopardy. Although it means leaving her young son and invalid husband, and despite never having been to a city of any size, Jane feels strongly compelled to go to London to ensure Adèle’s safety.

But almost from the beginning, her travels don’t go as planned—she is knocked about and robbed, and no one believes that the plain, unassuming Jane could indeed be the wife of a gentleman. Even when she arrives at the school, the headmistress takes her for an errant new teacher, and berates her for her late arrival. Most shocking to Jane is the discovery that Adèle’s roommate has recently passed away under very suspicious circumstances, yet no one at the school seems concerned. Taking advantage of the misunderstanding, she decides to pose as the missing instructor—and soon uncovers several unsavory secrets, which may very well make her the killer’s next target…

Expectations: 

I had blogged a little before about this book - how I had hoped it would be an exciting mystery, and showing a new side of Jane because now she has to go undercover and engage in a little subterfuge.  Most importantly I had hoped the author would capture the 'voice' of Jane and Rochester and the nature of their post-married life.  So my expectations were really hopes that I would enjoy this book.

Review:

I am so happy I was not disappointed by this book!! I loved the story and the fact that the author took great pains to capture Charlotte Brontë's writing style, making this book feel like a continuation of Jane's "autobiographies" as she continues to tell the story of her life.  Having read a couple of books with the set-up of Jane writing a "what-happened-next" story, I believe Joanna Campbell Slan has done the best job in approximating Charlotte Brontë's flowery prose and capturing the sensible, intelligent voice of Jane.

I think it is important to comment especially on the characterization of Jane and Rochester and how well their married life is captured- Jane is recreated almost perfectly, with all of her confidence and compassion, and she deals with the events calmly with "resources never suspected". I liked how the author has matured Jane as well, since she is married and a mother, with more responsibilities.  Mr. Rochester has matured too, accepting his disabilities and willing to follow doctor's orders carefully to restore his eyesight.  Even if it means letting Jane travel to London without him.  I think the tenor of their married life in this book is perfect, and as loving and romantic as the original novel.

The story was a great character-driven mystery, with a wide choice of possible suspects, and subtle clues that were very hard to pick up on.  I was really kept in the dark until the very end, where even when the matter seemed resolved, there was another twist.  Adele was turned into some great comic relief, and I loved how forthright she was, despite everyone disparaging her French nature.  This novel also incorporates some history and social discussions pertinent to Jane and Rochester's status and the time period the novel is set in.   It is a subtle shift in tone from the original novel where the focus is on Jane's development and her struggles, to this new story that creates a Jane, who, having found herself, can now help others. There are wider responsibilities that Jane and Rochester face as a part of society and also landowners and Jane also has to face the ugly rumors circulated by the Ingrams about Rochester and their relationship.  (I can't wait until Rochester hears about it!)  All this adds more dimension to the story - setting up more themes to be explored in later installments of the Jane Eyre Chronicles. (Next one is reportedly called Death of a Dowager... Dowager Lady Ingram??? <-- pure speculation on my part!)

There is plenty of explanation and back story for readers who haven't read the original novel, or who have not read it in awhile, so it is easy to sit back and enjoy this layered and well-executed historical mystery.  And fans of the original novel will appreciate the intelligence and care the author has taken to maintain the spirit of Jane.

review copy kindly provided by the publisher - Berkeley Trade
The release date for "Death of a Schoolgirl" is August 7, 2012


Giveaway for "Death of a Schoolgirl"

a Rafflecopter giveaway
The winner will be notified by email on August 7, 2012.  If there is no reply to the email within 72 hours, another winner will be chosen. Many thanks to the publisher for allowing me to host this giveaway!

Come back on August 6th, for my interview with the author Joanna Campbell Slan on her book and on Jane Eyre!


Second book of ten in the 2012 Books of Eyre Reading Challenge

Review: Violence

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Violence
by Timothy McDougall

Plot Summary:

Noel Anderson, war veteran, builder and Chicago businessman, has his life ripped apart when his family is brutally murdered. The three “suspects” are eventually “sentenced” for their crime prompting Noel to set out on a religious crusade of forgiveness where he appears on nationally syndicated TV programs, even going so far as to ritually wash the feet of one of the killers for a #1 rated talk show.

Noel finds many thirsting for his mesmerizing message of absolution. He fast becomes a media darling and discovers love again in the form of Jeannie who, like himself, is one of society’s walking wounded. Ultimately, though, it is a pair of Chicago detectives who begin to question the motives for Noel’s merciful proclamations when, one by one, the killers mysteriously meet with their own violent ends and Noel becomes the prime suspect.

Expectations: 

A mystery with a main character who possibly becomes a vigilante.  Who could blame him?  Or rather would I come to blame him by the end of the story?

Review:

This was a very intriguing story.  There was a lot of information - you could tell the author did a lot of research and had all of his characters clear in his mind.  The first half of the book details the life and death of Noel's wife and daughter and the subsequent trial for the suspects.  The trial is very detailed (perhaps a little laboriously) and the book overall is pretty cynical about the effectiveness of the law.  This book certainly doesn't make one a fan of lawyers!  Noel's character motivations is kept murky after the trial, as the men who were responsible for the death of his family eventually meet mysterious deaths.  The second half of the book is much more interesting, because Noel becomes such a puzzle, and I wondered where the story was going.  Although there were certain things I was pretty sure would happen. Certain people would die for instance!

I felt the resolution of the main conflict was a little ambiguous though - that is, I wasn't sure who actually did what and why. And the author sometimes gives out specific information about different characters at odd moments, and it made the story seem somewhat disjointed, but it has a strong overall plot, and well-fleshed out characters.  The ending is not at all predictable and very suspenseful.  A very good read for fans of crime thrillers!

review copy kindly provided by the author


Amazon  Goodreads ◊ Author's Website  ◊ Twitter 
Sunday, July 29, 2012

Suspense Sundays! (5)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,


Suspense Sundays

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962, claiming to be "radio's outstanding theater of thrills."  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  And many of them had very famous stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood.  I love the old-fashion story-telling and I thought it would be fun to give a short review of an episode every Sunday.  I'll have some fun with it too, since the stories can be silly and over-the-top to modern audiences, but I hope you, dear Reader, will give it a listen sometime if the story seems interesting.






"The Bride Vanishes"
Air date: December 1, 1942

A newlywed couple arrive in Italy to spend their honeymoon in a rented villa, but people stare at the young bride, Lucy, because she looks exactly like a young woman who died mysteriously in that same villa earlier. The young woman who died, Josephine, was standing on the balcony and just disappeared one day, and no one heard a splash like they should have if she had fallen, and her mother and sister were just inside the house, right in front of the door to the balcony so she couldn't have left.  So what happened to her?  And could it happen to Lucy as well?

Well, of course it does happen to Lucy, and as in most cases, the way it happens is much more interesting than scary ghosts or other supernatural intervention.  Lucy is spirited away cleverly, though it is surprising how quickly her husband figures it out.  Good for the wife though.  This story is a little predictable in the end though, and explaining the technical aspect of how the bride is vanished was complicated and didn't really seem feasible to me.   A case of a fantastic set-up with a less than fantastic resolution. 
Thursday, July 26, 2012

Feature & Follow (2)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

Q: Summer Reading. What was your favorite book that you were REQUIRED to read when you were in school?

The Once and Future King by T.H. White.  I had to read this during summer in preparation for my English class in high school and I remember bringing it round on my trips to Disneyland and reading it while waiting in line - best way to spend that boring time - and really devouring the whole book.  There is so much that goes on in it and I found it all fascinating.  And I wonder if Arthurian legend had the first love triangle??

<-- (the cover of the copy I read)






Wednesday, July 25, 2012

BookPushalooza - Buy Indie! + a Giveaway

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Welcome to the FIRST EVER BookPushalooza!

July 26th ONLY

9 Books, only .99.

With each purchase you get the chance to WIN while Helping Authors reach new heights in Amazon’s ranks.

It’s so easy a CAVEMAN could do it!

Follow the Instructions on the Rafflecopter Widget and for each book you purchase (or Borrow through Amazon Prime for Free) you get an entry in to WIN ---

(1) Grand Prize- $100 Amazon Gift Card

(2) Runners up of $25 Amazon Gift Cards

That’s not all! Purchase all NINE (9) books and get an additional 5 entries!

Don’t delay, this offer is good for JULY 26th ONLY!

Highlight Poetry (2)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
highlight poetry
Highlight Poetry is a meme created by Lace & Lavender Hints to celebrate a poem once a week.

My second favorite poem!  And another depressing one.  Tennyson was inspired by one line in a Shakespeare play (Measure for Measure) 'Mariana in the moated grange.’  Melancholy, Mariana waits for her tardy lover and wishes for death. The imagery keeps building as the house and Mariana are undone and she reaches her most desperate moment.  I find it interesting that until the last two stanzas, you get a feeling that there is no one around her, she is so lifeless, until the end where there are "old faces" and "old voices" about, but it is too late for Mariana.  I think the writing in this poem is gorgeous and I love the flow of the words, and how some lines are repeated, with the final lines of each stanza subtly changed until it is clear Mariana has lost all hope.

"She said; she said" makes me think of the Beatles song as well, though I know that song wasn't at all inspired by this poem *cough*LSD*cough*.  

Mariana
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the peach to the garden-wall.
The broken sheds look'd sad and strange:
Unlifted was the clinking latch;
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
She only said, "My life is dreary,
He cometh not," she said;
She said, "I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!"
Her tears fell with the dews at even;
Her tears fell ere the dews were dried;
She could not look on the sweet heaven,
Either at morn or eventide.
After the flitting of the bats,
When thickest dark did trance the sky,
She drew her casement-curtain by,
And glanced athwart the glooming flats.
She only said, "The night is dreary,
He cometh not," she said;
She said, "I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!"
Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: Street Crimes

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Street Crimes
by H. L. LeRoy

Plot Summary:

This 21,000-word collection of four short mysteries includes:

MISTAKE PROOF - A bank robbery goes wrong in this noir story.

RARE JUSTICE - The first appearance of Private Investigator Jillian Varela.

HOLLYWOOD HITMAN - Making Hollywood a kinder and gentler place, one hit at a time.

THE GAME'S END - Jillian Varela's young client only wanted to know if her boyfriend had been cheating on her. Now she may wind up on death row.

Expectations: 

From the cover, I would think the whole collection of stories would have a noir feel to them, not just the first story.

Review:

These are four excellently written, well-paced, suspenseful and entertaining stories!  I thought all of them had a noir feel to them (as defined by film noir - emphasis on "cynical attitudes and sexual motivations"), even though the last three take place in contemporary times.  "Mistake Proof" took an unexpected turn as the main character decided to hide in an asylum and that may or may not have been the best idea.  "Rare Justice" was a touching tale and a nice introduction to Jillian Varela, a tough, principled, female (woot!) PI who gets the job done no matter what the obstacles.  Her approach to detective work through dedication and hard work is encouraging to see, and especially so when it pays off.  "Hollywood Hitman" was a fun piece, where people get what they deserve in unexpected ways.  "The Game's End" was another good showcase for Jillian Varela's character as she works to prove the innocence of a naive girl charged with murder.

These four stories are absorbing reads and perfect for a short dose of mystery and suspense in the midst of our busy lives.

review copy kindly provided by the author




Links: Amazon  ◊ GoodReads  ◊ Author Website ◊  Author's Twitter




Sunday, July 22, 2012

Suspense Sundays (4)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,


Suspense Sundays

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962, claiming to be "radio's outstanding theater of thrills."  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  And many of them had very famous stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood.  I love the old-fashion story-telling and I thought it would be fun to give a short review of an episode every Sunday.  I'll have some fun with it too, since the stories can be silly and over-the-top to modern audiences, but I hope you, dear Reader, will give it a listen sometime if the story seems interesting.







"Rave Notice"
Air date: October 12, 1950
Starring Vincent Price

Vincent Price plays an actor named Sam working in a play with an aggravating director, Norman, who according to Sam, is The Worst and when Norman tries to give his role to another actor, he gets really angry especially when Norman says he isn't a good actor.  Oooohh.  It's time for insults.  And Sam's go-to insult is "Fat! Fat belly! Fat face! Fat!" And then Sam threatens to kill him, which apparently he has done before, so no one takes him seriously.  But Sam goes out to buy a gun and when asked what kind of gun he wants, he says "One that will shoot through fat." Freaking. Hilarious.  And did Sam think of some clever plan to shoot the director?  Nope.  He goes to the theater, and just shoots him.  And of course he gets arrested.  Norman hasn't died yet, but Sam's lawyer warns him that if he does, Sam will be electrocuted for murder.  Unless.... it can be proven that Sam has been insane for awhile...  and Sam is an actor...

This is really a clever episode, one of the best I think.  Vincent Price adds that gravitas that comes easily to him in the role, so that you really believe in his petty, seemingly unhinged, self-aggrandizing actor without any conscience. The twists in the end, will probably be unexpected, and Sam acting insane is an interesting short study into how to delve into madness. He pretends to be a homicidal maniac (quite convincingly) but you will have to listen to the show to see if he is successful.  
Thursday, July 19, 2012

Feature & Follow

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
I've seen this feature around the blogosphere a lot and it looks like a fun way to discover and follow new blogs. I think one of the things that I look forward to when checking out a new blog is seeing the design of the blog.  Probably cause I'm still thinking of how I would like to tweak my own, and I love getting new ideas from other bloggers and seeing how their personality comes through the design!

I will do my best to try and keep up and check out all the participating blogs!  Welcome to new and old visitors to this site!

Feature & Follow

Q: Christmas in July! Someone gives you a gift card for two books (whatever that costs). What two books will you buy?

 Two only!?  Okay, I would get:

The First Confessor by Terry Goodkind and Hollow Earth by John and Carole Barrowman.  Two fantasy stories, one about the creation of the most powerful race of women in the Midlands, and the other about twins with the power of animating and manipulating art.  I'm a big fan of the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, and when I can, I'm definitely cracking open The First Confessor!  And John Barrowman is just too cute, and too talented to not have written a great book with his sister. :D

Book Excerpt: Light Weaver

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Special guest post by Carol Anne Strange, Author of Light Weaver

 
Plot summary: Strange and inexplicable things are happening in the Lakeland fells … light orbs dance over mossy crags, symbols miraculously appear in grassy lowlands, and Cali Silverthorn keeps disappearing into other worlds.

Mobile librarian, Tom Philips, is captivated by free-spirited Cali but is struggling to make sense of her remarkable abilities and the escalating strangeness impacting ordinary rural life.

As beliefs are challenged, Tom and Cali's love becomes the only constant in a questionable reality as they face the heart-breaking realisation that Cali may soon disappear for good.


 
Light Weaver Excerpt:
'Question your eyes; there are other worlds within yours that you do not see.'
Seeing a naked woman on the Lakeland fells wasn't a common sight, and certainly not before the last of the daffodils. What's the saying, 'never cast a clout until May is out'? Well, she had cast more than her outer garments, and I was sure my eyes weren't deceiving me.
I lightened my foot off the accelerator and looked beyond the mossy wall to where a copse of hawthorn idled in the sun. There she was, dancing. And she really was naked. She trailed a blue scarf as she skipped and twirled obliviously, charmingly, a slender waif, coal-black hair and all pale honey. I checked the road and slowed the vehicle to a crawl so that I could take a better look. Her wildness, her spirited dance, her audacity left me strangely breathless. I followed her movement, almost hypnotically, as she weaved around each tangled tree. Trance-like, she skipped into a hazy beam of light. The air glimmered for a second like shards of fragmented glass suspended in sunshine - and then something very odd happened. Something very odd indeed! She vanished. She completely disappeared right before my eyes. I stared into the field, blinked, and stared again. What had happened? Where had she gone?
A sudden jolt catapulted me sideways. The mobile library lurched and bumped and juddered as the tyres lost contact with the road. I steered but it was too late. I missed the ditch by a fraction, clipping a hedgerow, and the vehicle shuddered to a halt in an abandoned pasture. I re-started the engine and eased the vehicle into reverse but the wheels spun, sucked into the field's dark muddy ruts. I was stuck. Here I was, newbie to the job, and already in danger of hearing my boss say, 'Tom Philips, you're fired.' I turned off the ignition and fumbled in my coat pocket for my mobile phone. I didn't relish the prospect of having to ask for help, though. I kicked the door panel in frustration as I made my rescue call.
While I waited, I sat in the day's stillness, wondering whom I'd just seen. What kind of a woman danced naked on the fells and disappeared like a magician's assistant, causing me to run off-road in the process? I sank my face into my palms. A crow settled upon a weathered gatepost, feathers oily-black beneath the climbing sun. It glared at me curiously, and then cawed in a mocking tone. 'You can laugh, you scrawny bird!' I shouted. It flapped its wings with a great flourish and took to the sky, circling a couple of times, before disappearing into the woods.
'Life is an illusion. You are the dreamer and the dream.'
It's not easy driving a mobile library on the steep inclines and narrow passages of the Lakeland fells. You need to know the roads for this job, especially on those frequent foggy days when the sky's caved in and lost sheep roamed. You'd think that having lived at least eighteen of my thirty years perched on the side of one of these unforgiving fells would give me an advantage but, as I'd demonstrated, there wasn't much room for error. One moment of poor judgement and you could end up in a ditch or, worse, careering off the fell-side into an uncertain predicament or, in my case, stuck in the mud.
A tow-rope snaked from the front of the mobile library to the back of my brother's tractor. The tractor slowly rolled forwards, the cable snapped to life, and the library lurched. My chin banged against the steering wheel and I bit my tongue. Slowly, the library freed itself from the rutted loam into which it had sunk half a wheel deep. Pete looked over the back of his tractor at the cable, at the library, and at me. I did my best to avoid his eyes. He's shaped to that tractor, born to it. He had Dad's ox-like back and shoulders and even the same straggly hairline.
The tractor laboured but slowly released the mobile library from its muddy confines. We parked up on the roadside. I knew questions would follow.
'How the hell did you manage that, Tom?' Pete released the tow-rope then stared at the straight road in front and behind us, the lines of his forehead creased. 'You weren't reading at the wheel again, were you?'
He gave me a knowing look and I was eleven again, helping Dad plough the bottom field, so engrossed in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four that I misjudged the turn, and plunged the tractor into the stinking ditch. That little episode had cost me a whole year's pocket money, and a lifetime's worth of family jibes.
'Well, Pete…' I paused, wondering if I should be economical with the truth. 'I was distracted by something in the field over there.'
Pete eyed me suspiciously, and then laughed, 'Distracted, hey? What was it, a pink giraffe?'
He patted me on the back with his large land-worn hand, and stared at the field. 'You'll be telling me you've seen a bevy of naked dancers next.'
'Well, actually…' I started, slightly flummoxed by how close he was to the truth, but he was already stepping up on the tractor, ready to leave. I decided it was better not to say anything.
'Got to get back to the farm, bro. You owe me a drink later.'
The tractor gurgled and off he went, without a backward glance. I realised I was a good hour late. It wasn't a great way to start the week, nor worth stressing about. As long as the Hawkdale locals received their regular fix of printed or digitised entertainment, that's all that mattered. I relaxed, happy to be travelling on, with the lake gleaming silver in the distance, and fells feathering the horizon in such a way that you couldn't be sure if they were real or imagined. The air in the van was filled with the evocative aroma of books, new print mingling with ageing, well-thumbed pages. As for the naked woman doing her disappearing trick, I guessed the circus must have been in town. Maybe she'd show up again later. Yes, maybe she would...
-----
Read moreLight Weaver is available in paperback and Kindle formats and can be purchased from Amazon.
Thank you, Charlene and Bookish Whimsy, for allowing me the opportunity to share a brief excerpt of my debut novel, Light Weaver. I write to feed the soul and fuel the imagination so it's always a pleasure to connect with readers interested in my contemporary fiction with a fantastical twist. For more information about my writing, please visit http://www.carolannestrange.com and follow me on Twitter @CarolAStrange
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Highlight Poetry (1)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
highlight poetry
Highlight Poetry is a meme created by Lace & Lavender Hints to celebrate a poem once a week.

I'm not much of a poem reader generally, but there are poems that I adore, having come across them randomly and I love the beauty of a well-turned phrase, so I often will come across a quote from a poem and have to read the whole thing so I can fully appreciate it.  I thought this meme would be fun to share some of my favorite poems and talk about what I like about them.  

Lucy 
by William Wordsworth

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and oh,
The difference to me!

This is part of a longer poem by Wordsworth, but this is my favorite part, and probably my favorite poem period.  It's so sweet and melancholy and the devotion of the speaker for Lucy who seems to be an ordinary beauty is so romantic.  It's nice to read a poem where the beauty of a woman is not overhyped and the only reason to love her!



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Edenbrooke

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Edenbrooke
by Julianne Donaldson

Plot Summary:

Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will she be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

Expectations: 

This book was highly recommended by Picture Me Reading (check out her blog for her illustrated book review!) for the romance, and it looked like something in a similar vein to Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, so I was looking forward to chivalrous gentlemen and courtly love.

Review:

This is a perfect getaway read! A spirited, unconventional heroine and the perfectly swoon-worthy gentleman and a mountain of misunderstandings and restraining etiquette keeping them apart - what is there not to love?  It was a joy to read this exuberant and delightful evolving romance all the way to its sigh-inducing and flawless conclusion.  It just makes one want to sob at the unattainable, tender sentimentality of a Regency romance.  It's all smoldering eyes, and a charged brush of the hands, and words unspoken.  This book is a perfect example of everything one could want from Regency romances!  Marianne is naive, but strong-willed and intelligent, and determined to marry for love or not marry at all.  Her quirks are endearing and her inability to see how much Philip is in love with her maddening!  Philip is "too handsome" and "too charming" and flirty and teasing in the approved heart-melting fashion.  My new book boyfriend?  Yes.

There is a touch of danger and intrigue in the beginning and near the end of the book that adds some suspense and daring scenes and lets Marianne take control in a way that made me want to stand up and applaud.  I loved getting lost in the world of this book, and highly recommend it for the romantics at heart!
Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: Book of Remembrance

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Book of Remembrance
by Tania Johansson

Plot Summary:

With the Knowledge of what happened five thousand years ago lost to all but a few, the world is in danger of being caught unawares. In the time that Rakadamon has been locked away, he has not been sleeping. He put all his remaining power into wiping away all traces of our history. After all, how do you defend against something you know nothing about? 

With the Dark Master stirring once more, only a few still preserve the Knowledge, and The Book of Remembrance is the only remaining written record. Unfortunately, Kadin is an orphan with no training and no Knowledge. Regardless, he is the one that must rise up and lead the resistance. 

He discovers that he is blessed with Talents that will help him on his journey. One of these Talents, the Navitas calls Markai to him. She is of the Fae and a fierce ally who proves to have a crucial role to play in the resistance. He must find other Talented individuals, but soon realises he is not the only one searching for them. It becomes a race against the Dark Children and Twisted Ones...one which he cannot afford to lose.


Expectations:

Some new ideas and complex new world building; this book seemed like classic fantasy fare.

Review:

This book does suck you into the action right from the beginning!  It starts with a prologue, a look at the perilous beginning (birth) of our hero, Kadin.  It then takes you through Kadin's upbringing and the discovery of his Talents.  This is just in the beginning of the novel, and the intricacy of the world building only increases, with an impressively complex history and narrative that takes Kadin through his rite of passage as a leader and soldier.  The members of his party (The Alliance) that he must discover one by one, each have unique Talents that in the end complement the fulfillment of his quest.  It was fun to discover the Talent of each member of the Alliance and I thought the most intriguing Talent belonged to Alathaya and her ability to slip into the past to send herself short messages.

I found this story action-packed and the narrative moved smoothly and swiftly til the end.  The dialogue felt a little stilted at times, but this was a small issue that in no way detracted from the story's exciting scenes and the various surprises in it's direction.  It's extremely imaginative and entertaining and I would highly recommend it to fantasy lovers.

Note: The sequel to this book Of Folly and Fear is soon (sometime this month) to be released!  Although Book of Remembrance does not end on a cliffhanger (thank goodness!) you won't have long to wait to read the next in the series if you pick up the first book now! :)

review copy kindly provided by the author



Links: Amazon  ◊ GoodReads  ◊ Author Website ◊  Author's Twitter
Sunday, July 15, 2012

Suspense Sundays! (3)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,


Suspense Sundays

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962, claiming to be "radio's outstanding theater of thrills."  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  And many of them had very famous stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood.  I love the old-fashion story-telling and I thought it would be fun to give a short review of an episode every Sunday.  I'll have some fun with it too, since the stories can be silly and over-the-top to modern audiences, but I hope you, dear Reader, will give it a listen sometime if the story seems interesting.





"In Fear and Trembling"
Air date: February 16, 1943
Starring Mary Astor

This was a fun one! And I'm going to get very spoilery. Mrs. Lucia Durant feels her husband, Gilbert is drawing away from her.  Her half-sister Beverly has come to stay and she gets along well with Gilbert.  And Lucia has been having horrible dreams that someone is creeping up to strangle her in bed.  And every night the person gets closer.  Her husband doesn't have much sympathy and would rather spend time with Beverly it seems.  He does get her a tonic though to make her feel better, so that's nice.  Oh.  It has strychnine.  A little dose is supposed to give you an appetite apparently. (For death.)  One night, he gets angry that she is such a hypochondriac and won't drink her tonic, so she does.  And then he waits by her bedside to make sure she sleeps well.  Oh wait, no.  That's what a good husband would do.  Instead he goes out for a late night drive with Beverly at the beach, after dismissing their housekeeper Mrs. Benson for two days because she has been overworked.  But Mrs. Benson is suspicious and comes back to check on Lucia at midnight.  She's gone!  And there's blood all over the sheets!  And Gilbert and Beverly are still out driving!


Enter: The Police. So the tonic was totally legit, except for the copious amounts of arsenic in it (*gasp*) and Gilbert and Beverly firmly deny they were out dumping the body or that they have tried to kill Lucia. I mean, it's not like everything they've done so far is suspicious or anything!  After a time, the two are let go however, because they can't find a body so they can't press charges.  Beverly and Gilbert feel horrible under all this suspicion and decide they should just get away.  Not together because that would confirm the rumors, but separately and then they can meet up later.  And then Lucia steps out from behind some curtains! With a gun!  She staged the whole thing, thinking to frame them for murder, but she didn't know about corpus delecti.  But now she's heard their conversation and they must be in love and she won't stand for it!! She'll shoot for it and give them both what they deserve.  And Gilbert and Beverly shake their heads and laugh because obviously they were never in love and only cared about Lucia, and how could Lucia construe their always spending time together and talking about how Lucia should be a better wife as them not liking her?  Apparently her husband always loved her, but now he couldn't possibly because of the new brand of crazy she's selling.  So Lucia kills herself.  And Gilbert comforts Beverly by saying it's for the best.


Wow. Unbelievably unfair. I can't blame Lucia for having suspicions against her husband and half-sister!  Mr. Durant was pretty unsympathetic with her and could have used some compassion if he 'loved' her so much.  I thought from the middle of the story though, that they probably weren't trying to kill her, since there was so much evidence for it, but with the way they were acting, they should have some blame! But this was fun as even though I didn't really suspect Mr. Durant, it was a twist how much Lucia's imagination was completely at fault.
Saturday, July 14, 2012

Q&A with Alan Davidson, author of "Marina in a Green Dress"

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
I am so pleased to be able to present this short, spoiler-free Question and Answer from Alan Davidson about his new YA suspense novel Marina in a Green Dress.  I adored this book so much (my review is here), and was thrilled to be able to ask the author some questions.  In addition to this work, Alan Davidson is the author of The Bewitching of Alison Allbright, A Friend Like Annabel, and his more recent novel Light.

-- Q&A --
1. As a fangirl, I really appreciated your positive and accurate portrayal of an ardent fan in Jessica.  What inspired your exploration of fan adoration and how did you come to understand it so well?

Thank you for that!  I think the story came first and from there I had to develop Jessica into a fully-fleshed out character with a back story that was going to drive the narrative forward in the direction that I wanted it to go. Somewhere along the line I must have managed  to get right inside her head!

2. Marina seems like the typical popular, lush musical productions of recent times.  Was there a particular musical that inspired your approach to the style or story of Marina?  Are you a fan of musicals?  If so, which are your favorites?

No particular musical but, as you suggest, resonant of popular shows of recent times. I like musicals in moderation, preferably with a great storyline....Les Miserables, West Side Story, Evita...[and I'm a huge Gene Kelly fan!]....but otherwise, opera.

3. In a similar vein, was there a real life actor you thought of as you wrote the character of Kennedy Orr?

No; Kennedy Orr is not based on a real person. However the idea of the boy who comes from the boondocks and makes it overnight as a musical star, via the public voting for him in a TV talent competition, is inspired by real life---this is the way Andrew Lloyd-Webber has been discovering "unknowns" for his musical productions in recent years, here in England. That the fictitious Kennedy might then have difficulties dealing with reality seemed entirely plausible and helped give the story its narrative drive.

4. The idea of fantasy role-playing plays a major part in this novel as reflected in Jessica and Kennedy's relationship and in Mike's obsession with the game Runequest.  Do you feel there is merit in fantasy role-playing for adults?

That's a huge question!  All one can say is that, in one form or another, it seems to be here to stay and as a theme to explore for this particular novel, at this particular time, it appealed to me a lot.

-----
Many thanks to Alan and his marvelous editor at Straw Hat, Patricia, for their time and willingness to share this wonderful book with my blog!  I hope everyone will check out this story and love it as much as I did.  The book is available on Amazon.

Lastly, I just wanted to share one of my favorite moments from this book - where Jessica and Kennedy are out walking on the day they first met, and Jessica is so in awe of what is happening to her that she just can't believe she is really with the Kennedy Orr and maybe he is some crazy imposter.  And Kennedy can read this distrust in her face and while sitting in a tree (as you will) he starts to sing to her.  Sighhh!  How about that for a fangirl dream come true! :)
Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: Marina in a Green Dress

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Marina in a Green Dress
by Alan Davidson

Plot Summary:

New to London, Jessica Tye is alarmingly obsessed with MARINA, a lush West End stage musical. With its storyline, its music -- and its sensational boy lead singer, Kennedy Orr, who won a TV talent show to land the role. She's often composed letters to him, in her head. When she finally puts pen to paper, it's for an emotional outpouring only, not for posting......until, surprisingly, her dull boy friend decides to teach her a lesson and mails it.

He's not to know that Jessica's letter will spark off amazing and unsettling events.....because Kennedy Orr has some obsessions of his own.

Expectations: Well, I love musicals, and I can get little celebrity crushes from time to time (basically all the time) so I was very much looking forward to reading this book, as I would probably identify a lot with the main character.  It's a very intriguing premise and one that definitely captured my attention.

Review:



Oh this book!  It was impossible to put down; I just had to know what happens next! The tone of this book switched constantly – from the unusual to the romantic, to the ordinary, to the menacing – it was a mesmerizing control of narrative because it was impossible to predict anything. At times I might liken the story to Cinderella or Bluebeard, or even Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.  But it is its own tale, complete with solid three-dimensional characters and a plot balanced between the ordinary and the sublime.  The premise is simple, but the way the author handles the story and the characters is complex and layered, creating an intense atmosphere that kept me completely invested in the surreal turn of events Jessica’s life takes. 

Jessica is a realistic, truly ordinary young girl who gains more self-assurance and focus through her interactions with her celebrity crush Kennedy Orr, who has quite a few troubling secrets.  He’s enigmatic, and charming but ultimately flawed leading to a resolution that was really the only way it could have ended.  I found the idea that instead of dismissing a wish-fulfillment fantasy as silly, you should pursue it and see where it takes you as very uplifting and even if it didn’t work out exactly as Jessica might have planned, she ended up a stronger person.  This story is unique, and simple yet clever and beautifully woven, and I cannot highly recommend it enough!  It’s definitely been one of my favorite reads this year!



review copy kindly provided by the publisher - Straw Hat


Amazon (U.S.)  Amazon (U.K.)  Goodreads  Author's Work

Check back tomorrow for a Q&A with the author, Alan Davidson!
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: First Frost

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,






                                 
First Frost
by Liz DeJesus


Plot Summary:
Fairytales aren’t real…yeah…that’s exactly what Bianca thought. She was wrong.

For generations, the Frost family has run the Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts, handing down guardianship from mother to daughter, always keeping their secrets to “family only.”

Gathered within museum’s walls is a collection dedicated to the Grimm fairy tales and to the rare items the family has acquired: Cinderella’s glass slipper, Snow White’s poisoned apple, the evil queen’s magic mirror, Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted spinning wheel…

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Frost wants none of it, dreaming instead of a career in art or photography or…well, anything except working in the family’s museum. She knows the items in the glass display cases are fakes because, of course, magic doesn’t really exist.

She’s about to find out how wrong she is.



Expectations: Such a fun and interesting premise!  Fairy tales as historical fact, and thereby needing to be categorized and recorded.  I wish I could visit a fairy tale museum that had "real" exhibits!  And with that, I was hoping the author would give some accounts of what happened to our favorite princesses after their "Happily Ever After."


Review:
Speaking of "Ever After", I loved the author's explanation of how that saying came about - it is really a typo. :)  The story goes very quickly, with an absorbing plot and easy, familiar character types that advance the story smoothly.  A dissatisfied teen who does not appreciate what she has and her own potential, a loving, imperfect mother, the staunch best friend who did make a decision I found surprising in the last half of the book, and of course the swoon-worthy, brooding romantic interest.  Since the story moves so swiftly into the main conflict, there is little time to elaborate and add to the fairy tale stories we all know, except for the history of Snow White.  There are possessions from certain characters in the fairy tales, like Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel that are imbued with a specific kind of magic and I thought that was a cool idea that added an extra layer of realism to the magic. The explanations on the nature and regulation of the magic in the world of this novel was a little light - so much so that the powers that Bianca realizes she can wield in the end seemed a little too convenient. 

The romance in this story is perfunctory and sweet, and the resolution wraps up most loose ends satisfactorily (although I was left wondering what had happened to Snow White that she ended up in the predicament she was in). It is a quick, entertaining read if you are not looking for an intricate modern-day fairy tale.


review copy kindly provided by the author in connection with Young Adult Novel Reader Book Tour



Links: Purchase  ◊ Amazon  Author Website ◊  Facebook



About the author:
Liz DeJesus was born on the tiny island of Puerto Rico.  She is a novelist and a poet. She has been writing for as long as she was capable of holding a pen. She is the author of the novel Nina (Blu Phi'er Publishing, October 2007) and The Jackets (Arte Publico Press, March 31st 2011). Liz is currently working on a new novel.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Excerpt: Reinventing Mike Lake

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Special guest post by R.W. Jones, Author of "Reinventing Mike Lake"
Plot Summary:
When Mike Lake’s wife unexpectedly passed away, he needed a change to help overcome his despair. He chose to hit the open road with his faithful dog, Bahama, as his co-pilot. During his travels, Mike rekindled with estranged family members, soaked up some sun in the Florida Keys, and got lucky in Las Vegas. Along the way Mike searched for his direction in life, reinventing himself to be the man he was meant to be.

First of all, I would like to thank Charlene and Bookish Whimsy for allowing me the opportunity to share with your readers a brief excerpt of my debut novel “Reinventing Mike Lake.” Following the excerpt I will leave links to my website, twitter, contact info, and where you can purchase the book if you think it’s something that may interest you.  The following comes from the fifth chapter of my book.  Mike Lake, the main character has stopped at his sister’s house and the niece he had never met. Because the niece, Cassidy, had taken to Mike’s dog Bahama so swiftly, the group (including Bahama) head to a local SPCA in hopes of finding a new best friend for Cassidy before Mike and Bahama hit the road again.
--
I have never had the experience of taking a child to Disney World, but I imagine an SPCA is a close alternative. Especially after you tell her she can have her pick of the litter, so to speak. To an adult the SPCA resembles a prison. The sad commercials you see while flipping through the channels late at night don’t help either.
                At first she ran through the hallways of the SPCA scaring most of the dogs, while some of the other ones scared her.  During all this her mother was trying to explain to her that we need to make sure she doesn’t pick a dog that is too big, and that it has to be a bit older. She explained to Cassidy that by picking one that was a little older she’d be doing a good thing because everyone else would be picking the puppies, so they would be sure to have a good home. I didn’t want to see Cassidy have to turn down a puppy she really liked, but luckily the puppies were in a separate section of the facility and Cassidy never asked about them, so we were never faced with that decision. The only thing I added was that we also wanted to make sure the new doggy got along with Bahama since we would be visiting often.  Bahama was currently in a “meet and greet” room in the front of the building garnering the attention of a handful of volunteers. While all the humans involved in the decision of bringing a new dog home for Cassidy held an important say, Bahama held the biggest. Her reaction to the potential new addition would make or break the deal.
                The first dog Cassidy took outside was a Chihuahua named Killer that didn’t stop barking from the time we took him out of his run with the help of a reluctant volunteer. Chloe shot me a look that said, “If she picks this dog, I will never forgive you.” Unfortunately for the Chihuahua mix, Cassidy was pretty fearful of the dog once she got a closer look, so Killer’s outside portion of the talent show didn’t even make it to the Bahama part of the program. Cassidy said something to her mom about being afraid of the dog, and Chloe, trying her best not to look to thankful, whisked the dog back to his run. 
                The second dog, who had yet to be given a name from the staff, had potential right from the start. We took the beagle-mix to the side of the building where they had a fenced in section. I then walked back inside to get Bahama to see if we would be getting her approval. Cassidy, Chloe, and I all knew that the decision rested solely in her paws.
                When I walked back to the yard I saw Cassidy and the no-named pup playing with a rope, with the beagle-mix taking it easy on her end of the toy. I took it as a good thing that the dog knew her own strength when playing with a child as small as Cassidy. 
                When Bahama saw the beagle, her tail beat against my leg. Her fur didn’t stick up, so I knew she wasn’t scared, like how I had seen her react around some of the dogs in my neighborhood. Bahama was so excited to go play with Cassidy and the new dog that I thought there was a chance she’d break the leash on our way over to them. The commotion got the attention of the beagle-mix, so the volunteer met us halfway, trying to not lose hold of the leash. After preliminary introductions, they both ran back towards Cassidy, with what can only be described as doggy smiles. 
                “So does Mommy have any say in your new addition’s name?” I asked Chloe.
                “No, I’m going to let Cassidy name her. Isn’t that exciting?”
                After paperwork that took an hour, and waiting for a long line of volunteers to say goodbye to the no-named beagle they had fallen in love with, we headed back to Chloe’s place. I didn’t have much time to get to know the newest member of the family because there was food, leashes, and a crate to be bought. I went to the pet store solo, and the entire trip took about an hour. When I returned to the house the no-named beagle-mix was still a no-named beagle-mix.
                “She wants to name it ‘Uncle Mike’,” Chloe reported as I walked back into the house with an armful of bags.
                Holding back laughter, but feeling flattered, I dropped the bags on the kitchen table and said, “I’m not sure she would appreciate that,” emphasizing the word “she,” as in the sex of the dog.
                “I told her she’d have to change it, she’s thinking about it now. The whole clan is in the yard playing.”
                Around the dinner table that night, our feet surrounded by worn out doggies, Chloe asked Cassidy if she had come up with a name.
                “Ummmmmm, how ‘bout Bahama?” she asked, causing Bahama to perk her head off the floor, hoping for a table scrap.
                “Well that’s her name, how about something else?” her mom asked her, while pointing to my confused dog.
                “Okayyyyyy, how about Pink,” which I guessed was her favorite color based on the color scheme of her bedroom and most of her clothes.
                “What about Pinky?” her mom suggested.  She later told me she suggested this name because it flowed off the tongue better. I mentally tested her theory in my head – “Here Pink, Pink, Pink” versus “Here Pinky, Pinky, Pinky.” She had a point.
                Throughout all of this the beagle kept an eye on her, and tilted her head every time someone mentioned the name Pinky.
                “I think she likes it” I said around the same time Cassidy ran out of the living room with Pinky and Bahama in tow yelling “Pinky” over and over.
                “I guess that’s that,” said Chloe.
                And, that was that.
--
Thanks for checking this out, and if you are interested in purchasing the entire book you can purchase it on Kindle or Paperback at http://www.amazon.com/Reinventing-Mike-Lake-ebook/dp/B0084P3W1M
For more information about me you can check out my website at http://rwjonesauthor.com/
Additionally you can follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RWJonesAuthor
Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: Brett Enters the Square Circle

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Brett Enters the Square Circle
by David D. D'Aguanno

Plot Summary:
Where in the world is Stacey Ashton? 

Stacey herself told her employer that she was leaving for Philadelphia on personal business. 

But Melanie Foster suspects that the girl has run off to Florida with her husband instead. 

Enter private detective and self-proclaimed unscrupulous bastard Brett Cornell who attempts to discover Stacey's true whereabouts, only to learn that she may actually have been murdered -- and that the murder took place a lot closer to home. 

In this fifth Brett Cornell detective novel set in the late 1980s, Brett finds himself pitted against a group of particularly deceitful and unpredictable characters. 

And at the same time, he is about to imperil those stunning Adonis-like features of his when he enters the boxing arena in a major bout that may very well turn out to be a life-changing experience for him.


Expectations: This was promised to be a funny mystery, so I was ready for a light, entertaining read.

Review:
This was a surprisingly fun read!  The mystery, the story, the other characters, all pale when compared to Brett Cornell's overwhelming personality.  He has a gigantic ego, crass attitude,  and a perverse outlook on life.  He swaggers through the whole book (well, until near the end) and I kind of wanted to see him 'knocked down to size' but even with his arrogance, he's not the  most distasteful character in the book, and there are a few characters I hope he'll get the better of.  Brett's view on his fellow humans, while seemingly perverse, are more often than not, accurate, so even if Brett sometimes doesn't seem like the sharpest tool in the shed, there are surprising flashes of his intellect and intuition.  


The mystery is resolved rather quickly and efficiently, and the murderer telegraphs his guilt pretty clearly in one scene, but the mystery is secondary to the comedic tribulations of the main character as he tries his best to get laid, get respect, and get money with as little effort as possible.  However, near the end of the novel, there are several poignant moments where our hero starts to realize the trajectory of his volatile life's path and the question of whether or not he will be redeemed will no doubt be fodder for subsequent books in the series, but the fact that Brett does have a heart somewhere makes the whole book that much more of an intriguing character study.  So I would recommend this story and probably the whole series for the outrageous and humorous adventures of Brett Cornell.


review copy kindly provided by the author


Links: Amazon  ◊ GoodReads  ◊ Author Website ◊  Createspace (paperback)