MysteryCategory Archives

Book Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Book Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahonThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on 2014-02-11
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Ghost, Mystery & Detective, Suspense, Thrillers, Women Sleuths
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Knopf Doubleday Publishing
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four-stars
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West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara's farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara's fate, she discovers that she's not the only person who's desperately looking for someone that they've lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

I received this book for free from Knopf Doubleday Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’m going to admit that I’m pretty much over the narration style that involves shifting back to a time in history then jumping forward into the present to connect things.  Jennifer McMahon manages to make it a bit better in The Winter People by making some of the historical narrative present itself as diary entries.  Still, there was a lot of dates happening at the beginning of various sections in The Winter People and it never fails to confuse me.  Not once.  I mean, who really pays attention to dates – years even, let alone the actual month and day?  How do you do that if you do? I always, inevitably, have to flip back and remind myself… very inconvenient in an ebook format too, by the way.

Thankfully, the dates were not the only thing in The Winter People helping keep this reader on track.  McMahon offers up a compromise by putting various character names at the start of each change in narrative and this I could handle.  Honestly, if it hadn’t been like that, I may not have pushed forward and allowed myself to get hooked by the book, that’s how much I hate dates.  I’m glad the names were there, I’m glad I pushed forward because folks, this ghost story had me keeping my lights on last night.

If you pick up The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, be prepared for some pretty gnarly superstitious stuff to be going on.  This book has it all – historical events that involve blood and gore, spells, myth and folklore, mystery, strangers connected via unseen forces… it’s all there.  And it’ll have you guessing because, if you are anything like me, you’ll be thinking you have it all figured out but nope, McMahon comes through again with one of her books and throws a wrench into what seems to be a carefully crafted story around an event that you start to think was never a mystery in the first place.

The Winter People is unlike the other books of McMahon’s I’ve read, but I knew when I picked it up that I was in for a white-knuckled read.  She’s consistently been an author who has been my go-to when I’m having issues with a reading slump and I think The Winter People is a great addition to her repertoire.

Check out these reviews!

  • “Fans of both literary fiction and ghost stories would do well to seek out this well-written and creepy tale.” – S. Krishna’s Books
  • “Fans of ghost stories and paranormal suspense should add this to their reading list.”  - Caffeinated Book Reviewer
  • “After bumpy start, book hooks you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat” - Misbehavin’ Librarian

Book Review: The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

Book Review: The Deepest Secret by Carla BuckleyThe Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley
Published by Random House LLC on 2014-02-04
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Sagas, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Random House
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three-stars
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For fans of Jodi Picoult, Kim Edwards, and William Landay, The Deepest Secret is part intimate family drama, part gripping page-turner, exploring the profound power of the truths we’re scared to face . . . about our marriages, our children, and ourselves.   Eve Lattimore’s family is like every other on their suburban street, with one exception. Her son Tyler has a rare medical condition that makes him fatally sensitive to light, which means heavy curtains and deadlocked doors protect him during the day and he can never leave the house except at night. For Eve, only constant vigilance stands between an increasingly restless teenage son and the dangers of the outside world.   Until the night the unthinkable happens. When tragedy strikes, it becomes clear that this family is not the only one on the quiet cul-de-sac that is more complicated than it appears. And as Eve is forced to shield her family from harm, there are some crises she cannot control—and some secrets that not even love can conceal.   Deeply moving and stunningly suspenseful, The Deepest Secret is a novel of rare power—a story about hope and forgiveness, about the terrifying ways our lives can spin out of control and the unexpected sacrifices that may save us.Praise for The Deepest Secret  “Smart and thrilling . . . a taut family drama about a mother blindly obsessed with protecting her teen son from the UV light that could kill him.”—People   “A harrowing story.”—New York Daily News   “Daring . . . Buckley takes readers into the grayest area imaginable. . . . Though often heart-wrenching, the extensive emotional development Buckley packs into a world of everyday life overlaid by nightmare will leave readers wondering how far they might go for their loved ones, and the additional moral conundrums faced by each member of Eve’s family will provide hearty book club discussion fodder. As winding and treacherous as a slick road, this masterful thriller will leave readers clutching their chests.”—Shelf Awareness   “In Buckley’s superb third novel, ordinary human nature and extraordinary circumstances collide to powerful effect. The story offers the intricate suspense and surprise of a thriller, along with rich characterizations and nuanced writing. . . . Ultimately, Buckley delivers a gripping read and a memorable reflection on the conflicting imperatives of love.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)“The Deepest Secret is one of Carla Buckley’s finest accomplishments. Fans of Jodi Picoult will enjoy this compelling blend of ripped-from-the-headlines suspense and close-to-your-heart characters.”—Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author   “Every family is vulnerable, and every parent knows it. Carla Buckley masterfully portrays an ordinary family trapped in a heart-wrenching crisis. A memorable novel about how far a parent will go for her child, The Deepest Secret will make you count your blessings.”—William Landay, New York Times bestselling author of Defending Jacob   “Elegant, poignant, and utterly riveting, The Deepest Secret is a suspenseful tale of love, forgiveness, and sacrifice that will leave you asking how far a mother really should go to protect her family and wondering about the cost of the secrets we all keep, even from ourselves.”—Kimberly McCreight, New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia

I received this book for free from Random House in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl
My Review:

I seem to be reading quite a few books that center around the community that forms within the confines of a suburban neighborhood.  I can immediately think of at least half a dozen books I’ve read in the past six months or so that have this theme and, considering the diversity of what I tend to read, that’s pretty outstanding.  I don’t know if it’s a theme to watch for, or if right now with so much in the world going crazy between school shootings and other attacks happening on children, it is something that is prominent in people’s (see: authors) minds.  And, as you have no doubt surmised, it was the theme in The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley.

So the question is this: if you had a child who only had a limited time on this early due to a rare and serious disease, and you did something that could compromise the time you spent with that child and, quite possibly, the child’s well-being, would you own up to what you did?  That is the question that Eve faces.  Her son, Tyler, has a rare disease that makes UV quite dangerous to him – as in fatal.  She has taken care of him, given up everything for him, and now – due to circumstances beyond her control, she commits an act that would see her taken away from him for an extended period of time.

Buckley studies the dynamics of the decision that Eve makes within the context of the neighborhood as a whole.  Some of the issues the family of a child with XP faces are brought to light as well as the behavior of the child that may be the result.  Sometimes, Tyler’s behavior confused me and that is, ultimately, why the book didn’t get a 4-5 star rating…because there seemed to be quite a bit going on that just didn’t make sense, given the complete control Eve supposedly had over Tyler’s life.

As a mystery/suspense novel, however, this one had me biting my nails with worry.  I kept telling myself not to care so much about Eve – but I couldn’t help it.  My heart ached for her and The Deepest Secret, if nothing else, showed me that seemingly black and white decisions are not always quite so black and white.

Check out these reviews!

  • “I thought the progression of the entire story could have moved along at a faster clip. But it’s well written, and I had no problem sticking with it.” – Annette’s Book Spot
  • “Though I am usually not a big fan of the multiple person point of view it did work in t his book because the chapters were cut nice and clean with a beginning and an end and the time line made sense” – Ciska’s Book Chest
  • “This was my first book by Carla Buckley, and I absolutely loved it.  ” – Random Book Muses

Book Review: After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

Book Review: After I’m Gone by Laura LippmanAfter I'm Gone by Laura Lippman
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-02-11
Genres: Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins
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three-stars
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The acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of The Most Dangerous Thing, I'd Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know returns with an addictive story that explores how one man's disappearance echoes through the lives of the five women he left behind—his wife, his daughters, and his mistressDead is dead. Missing is gone.When Felix Brewer meets nineteen-year-old Bernadette

I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’ve heard many good things about the author Laura Lippman, so when I saw she had a new book coming out I thought I’d give it a shot.  After I’m Gone proved to be a slow read that paid off in the end…but boy it took its time getting there.  Lippman sets up a story by alternating past with present and it’s imperative that you keep the two storylines close in your head or, as I found out about halfway through as I took my time with the story, it’s possible to get them all jumbled up.

So why did I take my time?  Well, in spite of being interesting and my desire to find out “who done it,” there was simply no real pull in the story for me.  I never felt like I absolutely needed to know right now.  Instead, it was more of a calm reading for me – and that is not usually me with crime novels.  I picked up After I’m Gone thinking it would be a quick read (I normally read books in this genre in a single evening) and instead spent 4 days agonizing on whether or not I wanted to pick it up to continue the story again.  What I think it came down to is… I simply wasn’t interested in the back story.  I didn’t want to live the past through the eyes of the players, I wanted to hear about the past from the viewpoints of those in the now.

So while I can understand the fascination with Lippman’s writing, especially if you are really into the flashback style, it just wasn’t working well for me.  With all that said, I will say that the ending of After I’m Gone completely threw me for a loop.  I had just about come to the conclusion that things would end as I had grown to expect they would but by the time the final pages happened I was completely flabbergasted.  And that made the book for me (and it’s why I’m not giving it a measly 1-2 stars).  It paid off in the end and, really, if the end is worth it, then I’ll probably check out Lippman’s books in the future as well.

Check out these reviews!

  • “If you’re looking for a thoughtful, contemplative read that still manages to move at a quick pace and be suspenseful, you should absolutely pick up After I’m Gone. ” – S. Krishna’s Books
  • “Lippman has skillfully woven an intriguing web that will have you burning the midnight oil to find out what happened. ” – Book-alicious Mama
  • “This one has lots of interesting layers, and that’s what kept me glued to the book.” Reading Reality

Book Review: The House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams

Book Review: The House on the Cliff by Charlotte WilliamsThe House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-01-07
Genres: Crime, Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins
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two-stars
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Jessica Mayhew is a sharp, successful therapist with a thriving practice and loving family. But the arrival of a new client, actor Gwydion Morgan, coincides with a turbulent moment in her life: her husband has just confessed to a one-night stand with a younger woman. The son of a famous stage director, Gwydion is good-looking and talented but mentally fragile, tormented by an intriguing phobia. When Jessica receives a frantic call warning that he is suicidal, she decides to make a house call.The Morgans live in a grand clifftop mansion overlooking the rocky Welsh coast. It seems to be a remote paradise, but there's something sinister about it too: Jessica learns that the family's former au pair drowned in the bay under mysterious circumstances. In her quest to help Gwydion, to whom she's grown increasingly attached, Jessica becomes ensnared in the Morgan family mystery, which soon becomes an explosive public scandal—one that puts her directly in harm's way. Meanwhile, Jessica is doing her best to keep her marriage and family together, but her growing attraction to Gwydion is impossible to ignore.Smart, stylish, and suspenseful, The House on the Cliff announces the arrival of a winning female protagonist in Jessica Mayhew and an exciting new crime writer in Charlotte Williams.

I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I recommend:

My Review:

As I write this review I’m a bit confused by The House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams.  I don’t know whether I would classify it as a mystery, or a romance, or women’s literature, or a mixture of the three.  If it is a mixture of the three, then that might be why it just.. fell completely flat for me.  Rather than trying to do well at one of the styles, it attempted too much and the ultimate reveal and ending of the book was predicable, in fact I predicted it about halfway into the book, and not at all a reward for suffering through the novel.

I really hate writing reviews that reflect a negative view on a story, but I am really just upset that I wasted my time reading this one.  I kept hoping there would be a surprise twist, some revelation that would make it all worth while but, in the meantime, I amused myself by trying to predict what awful decisions the protagonist would make in the meantime.  Because when she made awful decisions, I do mean awful.

One of the things I look for in a good book is a protagonist that, when touted to be a good (insert profession here), they are good at their job.  What I got in The House on the Cliff  was a psychotherapist who may have been good at her job, but I never saw it.  Instead, I saw bad decision after bad decision made and they all seemed to be “out of character,” something that was impressed upon the reader during each bad decision move.  I was beyond annoyed and really, by the time the book came to an end, I was cheering for an ending that showed off the darker side of my character, I’m afraid.

I can’t say The House on the Cliff  is one I would recommend.  I’m sure there are others out there who might feel differently and all the credit to them, but it was just a big no for me.  Give me a character who, when she does something out of character, allows me to see that it is out of character.  I want to get a sense of the character by reading about him or here, not by being told by the author.

Check out these reviews!

  • “All in all, The House on the Cliff was a good mystery to read on a cold January day. Charlotte Williams’ writing was easy to get into and the mystery she built just unsettling enough. I would happily read her again.” – The Infinite Curio
  • “In all, The House on the Cliff wasn’t a book that knocked my proverbial socks off, but I was happy to be introduced to the author and Jessica Mayhew: a main character that the author intends to write a series of novels about. If you’re looking for a quick, in-between read, this book is exactly the remedy.    ” – Bound by Words
  • “As far as a quick mystery read goes, this was certainly quick. As far as a satisfying, suspenseful thriller goes, it was decidedly lacking.” Giraffe Days

Book Review: The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin

Book Review: The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie MartinThe Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on 2014-01-28
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Sea Stories, Visionary & Metaphysical
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Knopf Doubleday Publishing
Add to Goodreads
four-stars
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A captivating, atmospheric return to historical fiction that is every bit as convincing and engrossing as Martin's landmark Mary Reilly. In 1872 the American merchant vessel Mary Celeste was discovered adrift off the coast of Spain. Her cargo was intact and there was no sign of struggle, but the crew was gone. They were never found. This maritime mystery lies at the center of an intricate narrative branching through the highest levels of late-nineteenth-century literary society. While on a voyage to Africa, a rather hard-up and unproven young writer named Arthur Conan Doyle hears of the Mary Celeste and decides to write an outlandish short story about what took place. This story causes quite a sensation back in the United States, particularly between sought-after Philadelphia spiritualist medium Violet Petra and a rational-minded journalist named Phoebe Grant, who is seeking to expose Petra as a fraud. Then there is the family of the Mary Celeste's captain, a family linked to the sea for generations and marked repeatedly by tragedy. Each member of this ensemble cast holds a critical piece to the puzzle of the Mary Celeste. These three elements—a ship found sailing without a crew, a famous writer on the verge of enormous success, and the rise of an unorthodox and heretical religious fervor—converge in unexpected ways, in diaries, in letters, in safe harbors and rough seas. In a haunted, death-obsessed age, a ghost ship appearing in the mist is by turns a provocative mystery, an inspiration to creativity, and a tragic story of the disappearance of a family and of a bond between husband and wife that, for one moment, transcends the impenetrable barrier of death.

I received this book for free from Knopf Doubleday Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Lately I’ve been really lusting after reads about ships lost at sea, or adventures on the high sea complete with pirates, adventuring tales, and scary ghosts. So, as you can imagine, The Ghost of Mary Celeste falls right into line with what I’ve been wanting so desperately and it came into my hands at a time that was perfect for the reading of it.

I live in Hawai’i, and so most of the time, even in January as it is now, the weather is warm and sunny.  When I pick up a book like The Ghost of Mary Celeste I find myself longing for cold – for hot tea, blankets, snuggled in front of a fire time.  I’m sure I sound crazy to all those folks who are currently fighting back against the polar vortex and the like, but you have to remember, for stories like this ghost story, you really need atmosphere.  But the last few days, here in “Paradise,” we’ve had super cold weather (for here).  With temperatures dipping into the 50′s (F) evenings, it made for the perfect atmosphere.

The best way I can describe my feelings about The Ghost of Mary Celeste is as follows:  the beginning is interesting and adventuresome, the middle is a bit drab, and the ending is quite thrilling.  I really struggled against keeping this book from being a “did-not-finish” because I needed to know the full story. I wanted to know what happened.  I was less-than-impressed with the addition of Arthur Conan Doyle to the story and a bit leery about all of the spiritualists, but in the end I am glad I stuck it out because The Ghost of the Mary Celeste was one heck of a ride.

If you are like me and longing for more adventures out on the seas; if you are interested in things of an other-wordly type nature; or if you are just interested in finding out more about the ship, Mary Celeste, then I would suggest picking up Valerie Martin’s intriguing imagining of what happened.  Just push on past that middle-section, I promise it’ll pay off in the end.

Check out these reviews!

  • “The scenes of maritime disasters are realistically terrifying. A haunting, if sometimes slowly paced, speculative look at a long-unsolved maritime mystery and the unsettling relationships between writers and their subjects.” – Reading the Past
  • “[Martin's] writing is solidly good and always serves the story, and when she’s writing historical fiction, she’s absolutely at the top of her game.” – As the Crow Flies (and Reads!)
  • The Ghost of the Mary Celeste is a very clever, very unusual book.” Summer Reading Project

Book Review: Alena by Rachel Pastan

Book Review: Alena by Rachel PastanAlena by Rachel Pastan
Published by Penguin on 2014-01-23
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Psychological
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Penguin
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four-stars
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In an inspired restaging of Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, a young curator finds herself haunted by the legacy of her predecessor. At the Venice Biennale, an aspiring assistant curator from the Midwest meets Bernard Augustin, the wealthy, enigmatic founder of the Nauk, a cutting-edge art museum on Cape Cod. It’s been two years since the tragic death of the Nauk’s chief curator, Augustin’s childhood friend and muse, Alena. When Augustin offers the position to our heroine (who, like du Maurier’s original, remains nameless) she dives at the chance—and quickly finds herself well out of her depth. The Nauk echoes with phantoms of the past—a past obsessively preserved by the museum’s business manager and the rest of the staff. Their devotion to the memory of the charismatic Alena threatens to stifle the new curator’s efforts to realize her own creative vision, and her every move mires her more deeply in artistic, erotic, and emotional entanglements. When new evidence calls into question the circumstances of Alena’s death, her loyalty, integrity, and courage are put to the test, and shattering secrets surface. Stirring and provocative, Alena is the result of a delicious visitation of one of the most popular novels of the twentieth century on a brilliant and inventive novelist of the twenty-first.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Alena was one of those books that I finished and thought briefly about what I would give it, as far as a star rating goes.  I was comfortable with three stars.  I mean, I enjoyed the book, I read it in a single night (granted, my nephew was keeping me awake through the baby monitor, but it still kept my interest), so why the three stars?  Then, I found myself thinking about it throughout the entire day.  Admiring it.  Why?  Because Alena took someone who really isn’t into the art scene and made that person interested.

I’m a big fan of du Maurier’s Rebecca, so the themes in Alena become readily apparent.  A young woman meets an older man with a dark past, a past that involves a woman by the name of Alena who just happened to disappear some time in the past.  The young woman, never named in this book, as was the style in Rebecca, is saved from a rough job with an overbearing, midwestern woman, and takes on a job that she lacks the qualifications, experience, or knowledge to do.

I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of painting, of what makes something worth collecting.  I loved that Pastan recognized that sometimes recognizing something good can come from the gut and not everything is, or should be, textbook.  I found the cast of characters (artists, staff, collectors) to be interesting and the mystery surrounding Alena to be mesmerizing.  For a time, about halfway through the book, I forgot completely about the connection to Rebecca and was only interested in the story of Alena and this nameless narrator.

I think that Alena is a fantastic, contemporary book that will be able to nab those who have not yet experienced Rebecca in a way that an older book like Rebecca may not be able to.  The modern setting, interesting people, and fascinating artwork really provided a setting that suited what is, to me, a timeless sort of story.

Check out these reviews!

  • ” It’s unfair to Alena, of course, to keep comparing it to Rebecca – Rebecca was beautiful, compelling, and fucking crazy. Alena can’t possibly measure up, but deserves credit just for trying.” – loudbookishtype
  • “This book is an amazing look at how an unexpected death can leave traces of life throughout the people and places that the deceased have touched. ” – Book Review Bin

Book Review: Saving Paradise by Mike Bond

Saving Paradise by Mike Bond

  • Method of Obtaining: My copy was provided by the publisher.
  • Published by:  Mandevilla Press
  • Release Date:  11.20.2012

Affiliate Links:

        

When a beautiful journalist drowns mysteriously off Waikiki, Hawaii, Special Forces veteran Pono Hawkins, now a well-known surfer and international correspondent for surfing magazines, soon gets embroiled in trying to find out why she died. What he quickly learns makes him a target for murder or life in prison as a cabal of powerful corporations, foreign killers and crooked politicians places the blame on him. Haunted by memories of Afghanistan, and determined to protect the Hawaii he loves from dirty politics tied to huge destructive energy developments, Pono turns to Special Forces buddies and his own covert skills to fight his deadly enemies, trying both save himself and find her killers. Alive with the sights, sounds and history of Hawaii, SAVING PARADISE is also a deepy rich portrait of what Pono calls the seamy side of paradise, and an exciting thriller of politics, lies and remorseless murder.

I recommend:

My Review:

Since moving to Hawaii, I have been all about reading books by local authors.  I love immersing myself in the culture and I work to do that through reading, through conversing with my neighbors and friends, and through just living life here on O’ahu.  Mike Bond speaks with knowledge about the island, and life on the island; but he does so with a bit of an attitude that, frankly, turned me off quite a bit as I was trying to push myself through his story.  Saving Paradise is not so much a book about the investigation of a woman’s murder as much as it’s a diatribe against big businesses and the changes occurring on the islands.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am all for the preservation of the beautiful islands and the habitats they boast of.  I’m on the side of the whales, the seals, the sharks – basically the marine life… as well as the natural life that flourishes (and some that doesn’t) on the land.  I hate to see beauty marred by skyscrapers and signs of progression and, I can tell you from personal experience, living on O’ahu is one of the biggest disappointments and thrills of my life.  It’s paradise, but a dirty, sludgy paradise that I share with almost a million people in a 560 sq mile space.

Bond chose to make a novel his platform – railing against real companies and real issues facing the island in recent years.  He loudly speaks out against windfarms and the proposed line that would upset more than a few marine habitats and coral reefs.  He uses derogatory language to speak of current and past presidents and the government – both national and state levels.  And he does all of this through the mouthpiece of his character, Pono Hawkins, a retired special forces veteran.

It was difficult to believe that all of the hate coming out toward the people in power was purely fictional, and since real life was being pushed on me through the pages of Saving Paradise, it was difficult to lose myself in the story.  Instead, it became sort of a game to see who would be attacked next… and the mystery I lost complete interest in.  What I appreciated most about Saving Paradise was not its literary merit (there is none, really), nor it’s riveting story (hardly existed) – what I appreciated was the wealth of information about the islands.  Now I know that instead of visiting Kaua’i, I want to go to Moloka’i.  I want to visit that Chinese restaurant down on King Street here on O’ahu.  I want to experience life like an islander does – to live with the aloha spirit and to hang loose.

So while I am disappointed by not getting a good story, I do appreciate that I walked away from Saving Paradise with more information about my home since May.  I hope that I will come to love Hawai’i with the same passion and learn about my own special places that I can one day then turn around and share with another newcomer.

Check out what these bloggers had to say! 

Mystery Maven | Big Daddy’s Place | Mina’s Bookshelf

 

Book Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll Bones by Holly Black

  • Method of Obtaining: I obtained my copy from my local library.
  • Published by:  Margaret K. McElderberry Books
  • Release Date:  05.07.2013

Affiliate Links:

        

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .

I also recommend:

My Review:


Every once in a while I’ll come across a middle grade book that makes me forget I’m reading a middle grade level book.  Doll Bones  did that for me.  I was thoroughly engrossed with this slightly creepy, fascinating tale about three friends, two girls and a boy, and their fantastic make-believe game.  I felt like my childhood came rushing back to me as I remembered being thoroughly engrossed in the stories that lived inside of my head and how I couldn’t wait to get my sisters back upstairs to continue where we had left off.  While we didn’t do anything nearly as adventurous as Zach, Poppy, and Alice – we had our moments of adventure and and of scares.

What I appreciated most about Doll Bones  was that the book goes the distance.  Everything is realistic, well – as realistic as a scary, ghost-like story can be.  Zach, Poppy, and Alice do things that typical kids can do.  They make bad decisions, they worry about money, they deal with real growing up issues, and they struggle with senses of shame and responsibility and fear.  This all comes in a package of a book that includes a scary, ancient doll who just so happens to be a fulfillment of everything that scared me as a child (and to be honest, as an adult as well).

Even though there’s creepy moments in Doll Bones (and can I just say that the cover here is fantastic and is what drew me to the book!), it’s not too creepy.  I wouldn’t be worried to send it to my nephew and niece to read, and I definitely didn’t have issues turning off the light at night… and yes, that’s happened with other creepy books.  There is just enough creepy in this book and its mixed with a nice little mystery and some interesting friendship moments between the three friends.  I highly recommend this book for both readers and reluctant readers.  I think it’ll capture the interest of both groups well, and I think it’d be a great Halloween read!

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Mundie Kids | YA Love | The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog

 

Book Review: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

  • Method of Obtaining: I obtained my copy from my local library.
  • Published by:  Razorbill
  • Release Date:  01.08.2013

Affiliate Links:

        

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.

I recommend:

My Review:


I really hate not liking a book.  Especially when that book has a fantastic cover and title and a great premise backing it up.  But this is the second time Brenna Yovanoff has tricked me into picking up a book with her pretty covers and interesting premises and the second time I’ve been disappointed by what I’ve read.  And folks, that breaks my heart, because I really, really wanted to love this book and I really wanted to love Yovanoff as a writer.  I kept making excuses all the way through Paper Valentine but finally, about 3/4ths of the way through, I decided to finish the book because I needed to finish it and not because I wanted to finish it.   My excuses ran dry.

There are several big issues that I have with Paper Valentine.  I’m going to go through them one at a time.  You may disagree with me – but as someone who reads a lot of books each year, I can tell you that there is a lot of great stuff and a lot of crap going through my hands at various times and you quickly learn to pick out what is just not good.

First: Hannah.  Where do I begin?  She’s haunted by the ghost of her best friend.  She seems to have no backbone, then suddenly has backbone.  She is into boys – but only those who seem to have hurt her at some point in her past.  She is so many fragments of so many different things that I had a major issue trying to just figure her out.  The real mystery of the story was “Who is Hannah” – because if I cannot identify with the main character, any other mysteries or strange happenings just don’t make sense to me.

Second: Hannah’s parents.  I know little about them except they sometimes cook together and her step-father has a sleeve tattoo.  Seriously – it’s mentioned at least three times.  I don’t know why this is relevant – is he some kind of badass?  Is he a cool guy? Does he represent something in Hannah’s life?  Where is her real father? How long have her mother and step-father been married?  Is Hannah’s younger sister a product of the marriage of Hannah’s mother and step-father?  These are valid, real questions and would have done wonders for fleshing out Hannah’s background.

Third: Lillian.  I get what Yovanoff is trying to do here with the guilty that Hannah is struggling with due to Lillian’s death but.. seriously, repeating the same things over and over does not make Lillian’s death more powerful.  It becomes redundant and feels like a gimmick.  Oh – Lillian died slowly, cue the tears.  Sound harsh?  Perhaps it is but I got so tired of reading the same lines (almost word for word) describing Lillian’s passing.  I wanted to know more about Lillian and why she ticked the way she ticked.  Why Hannah didn’t say anything. Why no one stepped in, even when the signs were visible, and most importantly, I wanted to see some kind of message on the right way to handle that situation if you ever see your friend experiencing it.  Not just guilt after all is said and done.

Fourth: The mystery/thriller section.  Okay, so I didn’t get the significance of the birds. Yeah, it’s creepy but it didn’t fit.  I could understand the constant descriptions of the heat – it set the mood (but mostly I just wanted to sit in front of a fan while I read the book).  And finally, I was beyond surprised when we went from knowing nothing about this murderer on the loose to when all of the sudden it seemed solved.  A mystery/thriller writer Yovanoff is not.  This would have been better off as an exploration of the issues that Hannah was dealing with as a result of the death of her friend.  The addition of a murder mystery plus all of the other elements put into the story was just too much.  Also – what was the point of the paper valentines??

So those are my issues.  Unfortunately, I cannot overlook them and so I will have to say that, unfortunately, I will not be picking up Yovanoff’s future books – no matter how pretty those covers are.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Cuddlebuggery | Library Lady | Respiring Thoughts

 

Book Tour: The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

  • Method of Obtaining: I obtained my copy TLC Tours.
  • Published by:  Pegasus Books
  • Release Date:  10.10.2013

Affiliate Links:

        

To Sam Blount, meeting Julia is the best thing that has ever happened to him.

Working at the local college and unsuccessful in his previous relationships, he’d been feeling troubled about his approaching fortieth birthday, “a great beast of a birthday,” as he sees it, but being with Julia makes him feel young and hopeful. Julia Stilwell, a freshman trying to come to terms with a recent tragedy that has stripped her of her greatest talent, is flattered by Sam’s attention. But their relationship is tested by a shy young man with a secret, Marcus Broley, who is also infatuated with Julia.

Told in alternating points of view, The Preservationist is the riveting tale of Julia and Sam’s relationship, which begins to unravel as the threat of violence approaches and Julia becomes less and less sure whom she can trust.

I also recommend:

My Review:


I thoroughly loved Finny by Justin Kramon. I remember it surprising me but I don’t remember exactly why it did.  Maybe it was the cover.  Regardless, Kramon’s name, when it showed up on a tour offering, rang a bell and I remembered having a love affair with his writing in Finny.  So I signed up for The Preservationist and waited until the right time came along to read it.  Folks, I don’t know why I waited.  I inhaled this book in a single afternoon.  Everything flooded back to me – the style of writing; the dry, sarcastic humor; the dark themes – it’s all there.  And, the cherry on top?  Finally an author who can write about music, classical music and technique, in an intelligent way.

Kramon switches perspective throughout The Preservationist but it’s not the normal, run of the mill, put the name at the start of the chapter, type of switching.  He doesn’t insult his readers, he knows we’re smart enough to pick up on what he’s doing, and I thoroughly appreciated that as I moved from one perspective to the other.  So what does that trust in the reader mean for the actual story?  It allows for a thriller that doesn’t give away the mystery; it gave me goosebumps as I struggled to understand just who did what.  Sam, Julia, Marcus… all three characters have their back stories and all three are flawed – more human that any character I’ve read as of late, and the result was some of the best storytelling I’ve read this year.

I’ve been reading more of the thriller/suspense genre this year – mostly because the stuff being put out is better than the average cookie-cutter type stories.  But Kramon’s story in The Preservationist takes the thriller idea to a new level.  This is a psychologically impacting book, yes, but it’s also a character study, and in a way, an essay on the realities of college life today.  Having recently experienced college as an adult this time around, I can testify that Kramon was spot on with his descriptions.  I felt like I knew of Julia (a girl like Julia would not have been in my social circle really – or any, she kind of lives on the outskirts).  I could put a face to Sam, and I knew Marcus’ type.

This is a book that will not disappoint.  You will laugh out loud even as the hair raises on the back of your neck – at least, I did.  If anything, if you pick this book up (and you should) you will be highly entertained… and that’s one of the best gifts a story and its author can give.

About the Author


Justin Kramon

Justin Kramon

Justin Kramon is the author of the novels Finny (Random House, 2010) and The Preservationist (Pegasus, 2013).

A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has published stories in Glimmer Train, Story Quarterly, Boulevard, Fence, TriQuarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, and others. He has received honors from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America, Best American Short Stories, the Hawthornden International Writers’ Fellowship, and the Bogliasco Foundation.

He has taught undergraduate and graduate fiction writing courses at Gotham Writers’ Workshop, Haverford College, the University of Iowa, Arcadia University, and elsewhere.

He lives in Philadelphia.

 

For more reviews on The Preservationist by Justin Kramon, please visit the book tour.

Bear