Review: London Road

Title: London Road, Linked Stories Volume 1

Author: Tessa Smith McGovern

Setting: London, present day

Theme: second chances, family, mental health, love

This little book starts with Janice, recently released from prison for manslaughter with no plans and no friends. She’s heard vaguely about a boarding house that will take in people like her, so she heads that way. It turn out to be a lucky break.

All these stories are short, each focusing on just one person, and just little glimpses into one day of the life of the residents of the London Road boarding house. But together, those glimpses add up to a complex picture. I quite liked this book and I would love to read more by this author.

Review: Skinwalker

Title: Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock #1)

Author: Faith Hunter

Recommended by: My sister

Format: Audio

Genre: urban fantasy, paranormal romance

Jane makes a living as a vamp killer, but this is her first trip to New Orleans, and the culture there is well, different. Vampires are a major tourist attraction. The vamps have even banded together and set up houses. Some of them are ‘sane’ and accepted as members of society. But one has gone rogue and taken to killing – and eating – the tourists. And that’s not cool.

It’s Jane’s job to hunt this rogue down and kill him, and she’s got 10 days if she wants the bonus. (She does.) Lucky for her, she’s got a secret weapon – her Beast partner. Jane is a Skinwalker, thanks to her Cherokee heritage, and she can shift form into an animal. But this hunt is going to be her toughest yet.

I really wanted to like this book. I got it on audio on my sister’s recommendation. But I’m afraid I didn’t like it nearly as much as she did. I found Jane a little too cocky, her Beast form irritating, and I was put off by the amount of sexual undercurrent that ran throughout the whole book. In fact, I don’t think there was a single person who wasn’t discussed as a possible romantic/sexual partner for Jane. Like, take a cold shower already!

I liked the basic idea, but nothing about the book stood out in any good way. I was hoping I’d love it, since it’s the beginning of a long series, but it sounds like they’re all basically like this one. So, if I don’t like Skinwalker, I’m not going to like the rest. I feel like I’ve been on a losing streak lately – too many disappointments in a row. I’m not really enjoying any of the other books I’m reading right now either. Maybe I’m having an off week. Anyhow, I can’t recommend this one. But I’m didn’t hate it either. 2.5 stars out of 5, nice and average.

Review: City Mouse

Title: City Mouse

Author: Stacey Lender

**I received this book for free from Library Thing and Kaylie Jones books. My views are my own.**

Jessica and her husband are finally ready to make the big move from the city to the suburbs, but Jessica doesn’t find the paradise she expected. She’s having a little trouble making friends, when a neighbor brings over a treat and invites her to a cookout. Everyone is friendly at first, but on closer acquaintance, she finds a few flaws. These new friends fight too much, drink too much, swear too much, and that’s just the warm up.

But Jessica is so desperate to fit in that she ignores all the warning signs and throws herself and her two kids into every activity she can fit into her schedule. She’s got the nanny, the preschool, the giant mortgage, the commute – so why isn’t it as fulfilling as she expected?

So far, this is about what I expected from this book. For all that I believe in sisterhood and feminism, I know that the mommy wars can be nasty. They shouldn’t be. We should support each other. But in reality, so many women are insecure about their choices and they take that out on each other.

My main complaint about this book was the amount of sex in here, and the amount of casual cheating going on in this group of friends. Maybe my friends are the exceptions here, but I would NEVER consider flirting with, much less sleeping with a friend’s husband, and I’ve never had one hit on me. (So awkward!) Really, I didn’t identify with these women very much at all. It was like reading about a myth of suburban life, and nothing like what I actually experience. For this reason, I have to give it 2.5 stars.

Review: 100 Cupboards

Title : 100 Cupboards

Author: N D Wilson

Opening the door to another dimension.

This was almost two books in one. One was about Henry, a young boy whose parents go missing, forcing him to move in with his aunt and uncle, and a sci-fi/fantasy story about a room with portals into other worlds and a fight against an evil sorceress. While the fantasy story was good, and I’m looking forward to reading about more worlds in the next installment, I really preferred the story of Henry. His parents sheltered him from almost everything, never letting him have soda, controlling his pasttimes, even sending him to boarding school with a protective helmet he was supposed to wear during any physical activity. It’s only when he meets his Uncle Frank, who promptly gives him a pocketknife, lets him sleep outdoors, buys him a baseball mitt, that he realizes what he’s been missing. With Frank’s seemingly casual friendship, he begins to develop confidence. A good reminder for some of those hovering parents that kids need space to try their wings. Recommended for young teens and MG readers.

Review: Mayflower

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Title: Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Author: Nathaniel Philbrick

Published: 2006

Themes: immigration, race, war, religion, geography

Format: physical book

Source: favorite author

I remember doing the little Thanksgiving sketch in grade school, the one with Pilgrims and Indians all sharing a nice dinner of turkey and cranberries and shaking hands to be friends. Turns out that wasn’t particularly accurate. For one thing, they probably didn’t have cranberries. For another, that wasn’t the start of a peaceful new era with everyone living Happily Ever After. War was looming over them.

In Philbrick’s book, he talks about how the Pilgrim Fathers and the Native Americans, mainly Massosoit’s tribe, got off to a bit of a rocky start. But they were each committed to peace and were able to work things out. If the story ended there, America would look very different today. But it didn’t. Fifty years later, their children and grandchildren had forgotten what they each owed the other and focused only on what they wanted. What happened next was tragic.

I really liked this book, but it took me a while to read it because I knew how it all ended – with a war. And not a war like the American Revolution, which Philbrick has also written about, one that ended with a new nation and us sending King George’s soldiers packing and rejoicing all around. But one that ended with a virtual genocide.

Parts of this book were really hard to read. There were atrocities on both sides. The amount of racial hatred – on both sides, but especially among the English – was pretty disgusting. But it did help me understand the American character and the military traditions that eventually emerged from this conflict. If you are a history fan, I would recommend this one. It was a solid, if sobering read. Be sure to read it in a physical format at the maps are essential to understanding the story.

 

Review: The Thief’s Daughter

Title: The Thief’s Daughter, Kingfountain Series #2

Author: Jeff Wheeler

Genre: Fantasy

Setting: sort of an alternate Europe?

Themes: love vs. loyalty, duty, war, jealousy

Strong King Richard III parallel

In the first book, The Queen’s Poisoner, Owen Kiskaddon was an orphaned little boy using his magical talent to survive the king’s court. Now he’s 17 and ready for his first battle on the king’s behalf. King Severn is not a popular king, but he’s managed to stay at peace for most of his reign. Now forces are aligning against him and he’s alienating everyone. Owen is one of his most influential allies, and as duke commands an army that could save the kingdom.

Owen is also a young man in love, and when his beloved is sent as an envoy in the king’s service, he discovers a new plot against the king as well as forces trying to separate the lovers. He has to choose whether to follow his duty or his heart.

I really like this series – so much that I downloaded book 3 as soon as I finished this one. I love the historical connections that I find in here. King Arthur is a big theme, as is the King Richard III one. But so is Atlantis, Joan of Arc, and more. You can tell that the writer is a big history buff, and it makes the book more fun. I love Owen as a character. He’s not perfect, but his flaws make him more real. I’m glad this isn’t the last book in the series – I still want all my characters to have a happy ending. I don’t know how it will turn out though, and I kind of like that I can’t predict it just yet. Recommended!

 

Book Review: The Halo Effect

Title: The Halo Effect

Author: Anne D. LeClaire

Format: Ebook

Themes: Grief, art, secrets, religion

Setting: Modern small town Massachusetts

Will Light’s daughter disappeared after school. Days later, her body turned up in the woods. She’d been murdered. The police investigated, but nothing turned up and the case went cold.

Now Will is overwhelmed with grief and the loss of his precious daughter. His wife Sophie has moved out, tired of dealing with his drinking and his anger. She’s channeling her sorrow into advocacy for children in general, becoming a voice for murdered children. But Will is too angry and bitter to move on.

The local church wants Will to paint a piece for the new building, but Will has no interest in the saints. What good are they when Lucy is dead? (Except that you know he changes his mind because it’s in the book description.) Instead he buys a gun and goes prowling every night, looking for his daughter’s killer in the faces he sees.

I liked this book. I’ve dealt with grief myself, and I know something about the anger and the self-destructive behavior it can provoke. So I was able to sympathize with Will and his wife. I really wanted him to find some peace with his situation, but that’s not something you can rush.

The story also follows Lucy’s best friend Rain and the local priest Father Gervase, both of whom are dealing with their own private sorrows. I really liked Rain, who reminded me of my own kids when they were teenagers.

The author does a good job with this one, but I felt like the conclusion was just sort of tacked on at the end. There was no warning that they were close to catching the killer, it just sort of happened. That kind of bugged me. But I still liked it well enough to recommend it. Just be aware that it’s a sad book. If I judged this one as a mystery, I’d rate it pretty low, but as a study of loss and its effects, I’d give it 4 stars out of 5.

 

 

 

5 Authors I Should Have Read By Now

For today’s post, I wanted to highlight 5 authors that I really wish I had read before now. But I will get to them this year!

  1. Edward Abbey. Given that he’s from Utah, that he wrote about Utah, I really feel like I should have picked up something by him before. This year, I’ve got Desert Solitaire on my TBR list, picked for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and I will start it soon.
  2. Margaret Atwood. She is everywhere this year, with The Handmaid’s Tale TV adaptation and the release of Hag-Seed. It’s the latter that caught my eye, with my fascination for all things Shakespeare.
  3. Octavia Butler. So many good reviews, so much to choose from, but I’ve never picked up any of her books. No good reason here, so it’s time to change this.
  4. Rachel Carson. I’ve only recently gotten in to nature writing, so it’s perhaps not surprising that I haven’t read any of her books before now, but with all the political changes, I think it’s time I got educated.
  5. C S Forester. I love me a good adventure at sea story, but Horatio Hornblower? Haven’t read him. Time to change that.

Really, this list could be a lot longer, but there’s a limit to what I actually think I can read this year. What about you? What authors have you always meant to pick up, but never actually tried?

Mixed Results from My Writing Contest

So I mentioned a while back that I entered my first writing contest. They announced the winners this week, and well, it wasn’t me. But I did get a copy of my scores from the judges.

The results are mixed. The only thing everyone liked was my grammar! Oh, and verb and POV. But the rest, well, it needs work.

I can’t argue with them too much. I thought the whole story through, wrote it in a hurry and sent it in before I could change my mind. My goal was not to write the best story I could; my goal was to FINISH a story and TURN IT IN. I have a problem with that. I tend to just keep working on stuff and never actually finishing it. So this time, I just did it and made sure to turn it in so I *couldn’t* sit on it forever.

That said, I plan to rewrite the story now. Once I get it done, I’ll post it on here. I’m really happy that they liked the feel of the story, and not surprised that they liked the grammar. I mean, I can do grammar! Apparently it’s *everything else* that needs work. Sigh.

Spring Fever?

Sorry I haven’t written anything else this week. I’m having trouble concentrating on reading. I’m not sure if it’s spring fever or mental issues or just what I’m reading, but I just can’t seem to finish a book. Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Life with Father by Clarence Day Jr, for book club

French Fried by Chris Dolley

The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton, courtesy of Net Galley –  audiobook & print

The top two are both memoirs. They’re all pretty good, but none of them are absorbing in the way that Crooked Kingdom was. (Didn’t write a review of that one because it was so freaking amazing I. Can’t. Even.

Recently finished but not reviewed,

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie – audio

Poacher’s Bag by Douglas Clark

My daughter suggested that I reread a favorite. What’s your strategy for a reading slump?