Friday, April 18, 2014

A Swashbuckling Adventure During the Glorious Revolution

Seventeen-year-old Calumny Spinks is unhappy with his lot in life. He lives in an Essex village, but dreams of going to London to make his fortune. This dream seems beyond his reach since his father, Peter, a silk weaver, has refused to sign him up as an apprentice. His father hasn't even taught him to read and write.

His life changes when his father returns from a visit to London in the company of Garric Pettit, a silk merchant. Garric wonders why Calumny isn't apprenticed, and it feeds his anger with his father. Calumny hears his parents arguing, follows his father to a shed on the edge of their property, and realizes that his father is not what he appear
s to be.

When another wealthy man rides into the village, disaster strikes. Calumny's mother is killed, and he and Peter barely escape with their lives. They travel to London and Calumny becomes embroiled in his father's past and in trying to secure a future for himself.

If you enjoy historical novels, this is a good choice. Calumny is an engaging character. He begins the novel as a disappointed adolescent, but he has a deep seated loyalty to his father and the people he loves that tests his mettle and forces him to make choices between what he knows is right and his dreams of wealth.

The plot takes places during the Glorious Revolution when Britain is bracing for a Dutch invasion and coffee houses are all the rage in London. Calumny becomes embroiled in both. Although it makes for entertaining reading, don't take the history too seriously. An appendix at the end of the book catalogs all the historical inaccuracies.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

A Runaway Princess, an Assassin, and a Prince

On her wedding day, Princess Lia takes her maid, Pauline, and runs away to a village where she can live as a commoner. She has always chaffed at the restriction of being a princess. Now she is expected to marry a prince she has never seen, and is sure is an ugly old man, to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom.

She is happily living as a commoner in the village when two men arrive: one, the prince; the other, an assassin. Lia's life changes again as she is taken as a captive on a journey to a kingdom at war with her father's.

The book starts with Lia acting like a spoiled teenager. She doesn't want to do what her parents require, so she runs away. The second part of the book devolves into a hero's journey during which she grows up and begins to understand that more is at stake than her romantic notions.

I enjoyed this fantasy, particularly the second half. For me, in the beginning Lia is a rather unattractive character, but as the story progresses, she faces danger and begins to develop a serious love. I recommend this book if you enjoy romantic fantasy. It's a good choice for middle grade students.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Thirteen People Discuss the Most Precious Thing in Their Lives

Erik Kobell asked thirteen people what they would save from a fire. Some of the people are public figures; some are not. Each identified something precious. The most interesting thing about the responses was that the people identified qualities rather than objects.

One person, Regina Carter, at first identified an object, her violin, but as the interview continued it became clear that what she wanted to save was the sound from her violin. Her choice was one of the most interesting for me. She's a jazz violinist. Initially, she wanted fame and fortune, and she was lucky enough to have them come her way, but once she had them, she realized how much they had stolen her freedom to be the musician she wanted to be.

Kobell breaks the interviews into four sections: Seekers, who are primarily engaged in religious activities; Artists, which includes an interview with Alan Alda as well as one with Regina Carter; Iconoclasts, people who have done things in a non-traditional way; and survivors, which includes an interview with Jane Pauley. The book concludes with thoughts by the author. I enjoyed this chapter. It seemed only fair that the observer should take a turn in the spotlight.

I highly recommend this book. Although it has a spiritual component, it is not a religious book, per se. People of all faiths, or none, can read this book and take away something that could change their lives

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Two People Dealing with Past Mistakes and Loss

Carolyn Marcum has come back to Wellfleet Harbor to care for her dying mother. Not only is it difficult to see her mother die, but being in Wellfleet revives the memories of the auto accident that changed her life. Ridley Neal has made mistakes of his own that landed him in jail for a time. Now he's also back in Wellfleet working his father grant where he harvests oysters and clams.

Ridley and Carolyn meet during a hurricane that threatens to destroy his oyster and clam beds. Their brief interlude leaves Carolyn with a tie to Rid she can't break. While Carolyn's life is complicated by the death of her mother. Rid is facing a different loss. One of the rich landowners, whose property is situated above the flats where Rid and his partners farm oysters, initiates a lawsuit to drive them off the beach thereby destroying their livelihood.

For me, the best part of this book was the detailed picture of how oysters and clams are farmed off the Massachusetts coast. The author has done a lot of research to make the background authentic. In addition, the story is based on an actual lawsuit.

The characters are interesting. Carolyn is devastated by her mother's approaching death. Rid is fighting his demons and trying to steer clear of entanglements when he meets Carolyn. I found the characters
believable: Rid more so than Carolyn. Her upset at her mother's death seemed over the top.

If you enjoy a romantic novel with an interesting setting and believable characters, you'll enjoy this book.

I reviewed the book for Net Galley.

A Good Book for Young Children Taking Their First Airplane Ride

Luca Lashes is preparing for his first airplane ride. He's helping his mother pack his clothes, but he's not sure he wants to take the trip if it means being on an airplane. With his parents patient explanations and his magical eyelashes, if you blink twice your courage grows, he's able to enjoy the flight and wants to do it again.

The Luca Lashes series presents a number of scary situations for young children: first swimming lesson; first visit to the doctor's office, hospital or dentist's office. I think the concept is excellent, but if the child has
no fear of the experience, I'm not sure I would read them the book. The text is simple enough for beginning readers to enjoy the book by themselves, or with some help from Mom and Dad. The illustrations are vivid. Some pictures of the mother look rather strange, but on the whole, they're enjoyable.

Apparently there are apps for the book if you have the itunes version. That should make the experience even better for the young child. I enjoyed book and recommend it for young children experiencing trying first adventures.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Did She Fall, Was She Pushed, or Did She Kill Herself?

Because of a falling out between Jess' mom, Molly, and her twin sister, Tilly, Jess has never visited the village of Port Sentinel where her mother grew up. She and Molly arrive at a difficult time. Freya, Jess' cousin is dead. She was a fey girl who went to the cliffs above Port Sentinel late one night. No one knows whether she fell, accidentally getting too close to the edge of the cliff, was unhappy enough to kill herself, or if someone pushed her.

Jess discovers, when the towns people stare at her, that she looks almost identical to her cousin. She feels a connection with the dead girl and wants to find out what happened. Her search is complicated by two boys who are interested in her, a coterie of bitchy, boy-crazy, girls, and her cousin's best friend, Darcy. Jess finally concocts a plan to learn the truth, but at great personal risk.

I enjoyed the plot. The town has accepted that Freya fell to her death accidentally. Jess is a newcomer and when things don't add up, she decides to take action. Although Jess comes across as bright and brash, it doesn't ring true. She's supposed to be brilliant, but the plan she concocts to learn the truth about Freya is little short of lunatic. I can't give high marks to her character. Will, one of the boys interested in her, is more believable. He's dealing with a difficult home situation,
a dying mother and a harsh father. He comes across as real.

As a mystery, the book lacks serious investigating. Jess tries to do all the sleuthing herself, makes horribly bad decisions, and is simply lucky in the end. If you enjoy teen mysteries, this one is fair. It's a pleasant read in an interesting setting, but I can't recommend it as a serious mystery or thriller.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fast Paced Suspense

Juliet Cole and her husband Bob are returning the rental truck they used to help Juliet's sister Holly move when a white car drives up, and the driver shoots Bob. He dies and Juliet is heart broken. As she copes with his death she finds things that suggest Bob was leading a double life. Juliet is crushed as one relevation piles on another. She tries to hang on to her faith and help her sons through the difficult time, but it isn't easy.

Her siblings are there to help. Bob's death appears to be connected to another death that affected her family. Cathy, Juliet's younger sister, was engaged to Joe Hogan, a policeman killed in a drug bust that went wrong. Now it looks as if the person responsible for Joe's death was also involved with Bob in drug trafficking.

This is a fast paced thriller. As one revelation piles on another, you can't help reading on to find out what will happen. Although this is not the first book in the Moonlighters Series, it's a standalone novel. The author brings the reader up to date on the previous murders without getting heavy handed and slowing the story.

Juliet, Cathy, and Michael are all likeable characters. The teenage son, Zach, is portrayed as a typical teenager trying to understand his father's death and the subsequent revelations about his life. The characterization works well.

I recommend this book if you like thrillers. Although this one has a Christian background it is not heavy handed and the religious aspects work well to defined the characters.

I reviewed this book for BookLook Bloggers.