Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Story of Survival and Growth

Avery Delacorte wanted to be a swimmer from the time she was three. Now she's a member of an elite swim team at a California college and on her way home to Boston for Thanksgiving. Phil, the team captain, offers her a ride, but Colin, one of the team's best swimmers, is in the car, and she's trying to avoid him.

On the plane, Colin moves his seat to sit beside her. She tries to sleep, but then the worst happens. The flight is going down. Colin is calm, holding her hand, and telling her she'll survive. The plane crashes in a freezing mountain lake in the Rockies. The only survivors are Avery, Colin and three small boys. They're alive, but rescue is uncertain and they have to work together using all their skills to stay alive.

This is Avery's story. The writing is very intense. When later in the book she suffers from PTSD, you can feel the fear. It's riveting. The other characters, Colin and Avery's boyfriend, Lee, are well drawn. I found Colin a particularly sympathetic character.

The swimming scenes are realistic. I have no background in competitive swimming, but it seemed accurate. The survival scenes in the wilderness were well done. It's hard to imagine how difficult it would be to survive a plane crash and then end up in the middle of nowhere wondering whether you would be rescued.

I recommend this book. The plane crash and scenes in the wilderness are tense and exciting, but the author also uses the events to push her characters, particularly Avery, to grow. I enjoyed the book.

I received the book from Dutton for this review.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Fifteen Rules to Bring a Beach Vacation into Your Life

Beach time is different. There's time to relax, enjoy the beauty of the shore, and escape from the little tasks that make life frustrating. This beautiful book illustrates the 15 rules of beach life with marvelous photos from the beach. You feel relaxed just looking at them.

The text reminds you of the beauty of days at the shore, suggests how to take the beauty back to your everyday life, and incorporates quotations from the Bible to illustrate how the beach rules fit into God's love.

I loved this book. It felt like a beach vacation just looking at the pictures and reading the text that tells you it's all right to have time to relax, sit and soak up nature, and most important have fun. Too many times we forget these rules hurrying and trying to accomplish all the things we think are necessary. At the beach you can just let go and worry about cleaning the house later.

I highly recommend this book. It gives much needed advice for dealing with our hectic lives and remembering to include God and appreciate his works.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers
for this review.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Family Ripped Apart by Death

Lynette Carlisle loves Wyldewood, the Nantucket estate that's been in her family for generations. But in the twelve years since her mother's death, the house has deteriorated and there is no money for repairs. Of the five siblings, Lynette, the youngest, is the only one left at home to care for the house and her father, who is showing signs of dementia.

Now Lynette's nightmares are getting worse, and she needs help. She consults Nicholas Cooper, the boy next door, who she had an adolescent crush on. He recommends selling the house. Lynette hates the idea, but it may be the only way. The catch is that according to her mother's will, the siblings have to be in unanimous agreement to sell and that means getting them all home.

Lynette is a character under a great deal of stress. Not only are her father and the house a concern, but the nightmares are terrifying. Although she's quiet, her inner strength and faith are revealed as the story progresses. Nick is also a character under a lot of strain. He's home at his father's request, but they've never gotten along, and he hates working at his father's bank. The added complication is his feeling for Lynette.

The setting is beautiful, and in spite of their problems, the Carlisles are a close knit family. The dynamics will make you laugh, but they will also make you cry. I recommend this book if you enjoy a family story laced with romance.

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers for this review.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Thrilling Story of the Lipizzaner Stallions During WWII

When the Nazis took over Europe, they were not just interested in breeding perfect Aryan people, they also wanted to breed prefect horses. To this end the priceless horses throughout Europe were transferred to the Nazi breeding farms.

For much of the war the Lipizzaner Stallions escaped the breeding program because of their value in performing. However, as the Allies reconquered the territory captured by the German Armies, the stallions were no longer safe in Vienna. They were moved several times and finally, in a daring rescue, the American forces moved the stallions into their sector to prevent the Russians from killing them.

Although this is a historical book, it reads like a novel. The characters from Alois Podhajsky, the senior trainer of the stallions, to Gustav Rau, the head of the German breeding program, and Hank Reed, the American Colonel who saved the horses, the men are presented as complex characters. The horses, too, are beautifully described especially Podhajsky's mounts. The story is exciting with midnight rides through the woods and plots to get the horses out of danger, but none of the historical detail is sacrificed. 

For me the most impressive part of the book was the way the people sacrificed for the horses. It was a truly moving part of the story.

I highly recommend this book. It is an unforgettable adventure.

Murder Rocks the Freemasons in Paris

Detective Antoine Marcas is pleased to be serving as the grand expert for the night's Freemason initiation ceremony. But, when he enters to the chamber of reflection where the man is waiting, he finds the initiate dead on the floor in a pool of blood. What's worse, when he confronts the murderer, he discovers it's a Freemason brother.

In 1355, Nicolas Flamel is closing his shop. Riots are a concern when an execution is taking place. In this case a Jew will be burned at the stake at the behest of the King. Nicolas is dragged unwillingly to the scene of the execution. He's sickened by it and by the role played by his new neighbor, the torturer. However, the torturer drags him into the drama, taking down the words of a young woman being tortured.

The authors skillfully weaves these plots together in the hunt for the murder. The underlying theme is alchemy and the ends to which the greed of men will take them in a search for pure gold. Marcas is a troubled character because of the link between his Freemason brothers and the explosion of greed and murder. It goes against the Freemason principles he cherishes.

I found the background on the Freemasons very interesting. I had often wondered about the brotherhood and their rituals. This book gives a good description of the activities and beliefs of the society.

The book is fast paced. It toggles back and forth between the present and 1355, but the plots are easy to follow because the chapters are short and there are hints of the way the pieces will fit together. I highly recommend this book, not only for the mystery, but for the fascinating background on the Freemasons.

I received this book from Le French Book for this review.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Forensic Artist, Gwen Marcey, Grapples with a Serial Rapist and a Serpent-Handling Church

Desperately in need of money after the expense of her breast cancer treatment, forensic artist, Gwen Marcey, accepts an assignment in Pikesville, Kentucky to prepare a composite of a serial rapist. When she arrives, the local sheriff seems less than enthusiastic about using her expertise, making Gwen wonder about his involvement.

Most of the victims of the rapist are either dead, or they and their families have disappeared. When Gwen tries to interview the one remaining victim, she too disappears. Unable to use her talents on the serial rapist, the sheriff asks her to draw a young man found dead of snakebite so they can find his parents. Gwen complies and learns about the problems the area is having with a church where part of the ritual involves handling serpents. A politician living in the area wants to get rid of the church and asks Gwen to try to infiltrate the group. She agrees with frightening consequences.

Gwen is a gutsy character. Although she's worried about the recurrence of her breast cancer, she puts her personal problems on hold and tackles the job. Skilled in interviewing techniques, body language, as well as having an artist's eye, Gwen is a formidable detective, which is not always appreciated by local law enforcement.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book for me was the serpent handling church: their ritual and why they believe as they do. The author made the people in the church come alive as individuals. They are ordinary people with an unusual religious expression.

The mystery is well done. There are plenty of twists to keep you wondering until the end. If you enjoy a Christian mystery or just a good read. I recommend this book.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

An Entertaining Introduction to Ghost Hunting

Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, the stars of the new Ghost Busters film, have created a how to book to showcase their ghost hunting methods. Probably the most entertaining part of the book is the opening section where Yates and Gilbert give accounts of how they met and got into ghost busting, including the frightening run in with a ghost by one of the duo.

The substance of the book is not different from other books on how to track supernatural apparitions. Sections include the equipment needed, how to find and study a haunted house, or other haunted structure, and helpful forms for conducting the examination and avoiding liability. Unlike other books on paranormal experiences, this one is written in a light amusing style that will keep you reading.

The book also contains portraits of early Spiritualists. In the late 1800s Spiritualism was popular and several famous people, including William James and Harry Houdini, were devotees. There were, of course, fake mediums and the book discusses these also including their tricks.

If you enjoy Ghost Busters and plan to see the movie, you'll enjoy this book. Even if you can't see the movie and find ghosts interesting, this is a good read.

I received this book from Blogging For Books for this review.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Love that Spans Two Separate Times

Lux is a single mother with a little boy, Benno, who she adores. Estranged from her parents, she has no wish to send Benno to them for a vacation. Feeling alone knowing that Benno will be gone for two weeks, she decides to do something for herself and settles on camping in the Valley of the Moon State Park. In the middle of the night, she is drawn to a thick fog that covers the valley. She walks through it and when she comes out the other side, she's in another century.

Lux has stumbled into Greengage, an experiment in living founded by Joseph in the early 1900s. The people live as a community working the land. Lux loves the feeling of acceptance and is drawn to Joseph, but if she's to leave she must do it at the full moon. She wants to stay, but love for Benno draws her back to her own time. This is the beginning of their story.

Inspired by Brigidoon, this is a tale of love across time that will draw you in. Lux and Joseph are believable characters. Both are estranged from their families and the pull of community is very strong. The description, particularly of Greengage, is delightful. It brings you into the beautiful Valley of the Moon. Like Brigadoon, it makes you wonder if you can find a way to stay.

The plot is handled skillfully. The story toggles back and forth between Lux and Joseph, each taking a turn at narrating. I like this presentation because it showed how each reacted to the circumstances. The pace is fast, because it moves back and forth between the two settings.

Although this book would be classified as science fiction, the romance and the feelings of the individuals are more critical than the element of time travel. Even if you don't care for science fiction, I highly recommend this book.

I received this book from Penguin Random House for this review.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Beautifully Written Russian Fantasy

Part fairy tale and part reality, The Bear and the Nightingale is an exceptionally moving story. In feudal Russia, a young girl is born. Her grandmother was reputed to have magical powers, and although her mother didn't have them, the young girl is able to see thingsother people cannot.

Living in a well-to-do family among a class of illiterate peasants, seeing spirits is a dangerous ability. The church frowns on any manifestation of the pagan beliefs that still occur in the region. The young girl, Vasya, has the ability to see helpful spirits and tries to aid the village through the long cold months of winter, but the priest and the peasants don't trust her and call her a witch.

This is the tale of Vasya's youth. The book is the first in a trilogy, so the next books should show more of her adulthood. The writing is beautiful. The tale takes place in the frozen North of Russia. Snow falls for much of the year covering the plains. The descriptions of the cold and icy whiteness are exceptional. It's worth reading the book for the descriptions.

Vasya is a fierce character. She believes that she must do what's right even if it goes against the church and her stepmother. You can't help but admire her.

Although this book is written in the style of a fairy tale, the background is historically accurate giving a glimpse of old Russia and the life of the minor nobility and peasants. I highly recommend the book.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.

An Interactive Trip Through Amy's Memories

The unusual aspect of this book is that it's interactive. The author urges you to contact her at various points in the book to share comments or memories of your own. It's a format you can relate to if you enjoy social media and sharing on the Internet, but it may leave some readers cold. I thought it was an interesting idea, but I wasn't moved to participate.

The book is organized like a textbook with sections on math, geography, history, language arts, etc. There are even tests and essays. However, the work is totally voluntary. Under each heading, the author gives her own memories and other snippets of thought about various topics. If you're not into sharing, there's a website that accompanies the book which will let you enjoy what other people have shared and it may encourage you to add your own comments or stories.

The book is fun to read. It's a completely different experience than most of us are used to when reading a book. Instead of the author being hidden behind the story you are in direct contact with her for as much or as little as you want to be. It's a unique experience. If you try it, I hope you enjoy it.

I received this book from Penguin Random House for this review.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

An Elegant Southern Mansion Houses the Secrets of a Tragic Love Affair

When Raissa James' Uncle Brett invites her to Caoin House, an elegant mansion near Mobile, Alabama, it seems like an opportunity to try to forget her grief over Alex's death. Her husband was killed in WWI. They hardly had a chance to get to know each other before he was gone. In a further effort to pull Raissa out of her life as a teacher in Savannah, Uncle Brett arranges a gala celebration that ends in tragedy.

As Raissa learns more about the house, she realizes it has been the scene of tragedy from it's inception. The ghost of the lovely Eva, first mistress of the house, was murdered there, and is said to roam the halls. Raissa herself sees a Confederate officer standing in the oak grove beneath her window, and there are more frightening encounters with the ghosts.

The story takes place shortly after WWI. The South still felt the bruises of the Civil War and in places like Mobile, segregation was a fact of life. The author shows this problem well and Raissa and her uncle are good protagonists because neither believes in excluding blacks from the society, but they too have to live by the rules of the area. This is shown plainly when the Klu Klux Klan is involved in a lynching.

The characters are well done. Raissa is the typical modern woman in the wake of WWI. She wants more freedom to pursue a career. She hates it when she is relegated to second class by the men around her. The pace is good. The author cleverly releases bits of the old tragedy in doses that keep you reading to find out what happened. My only quarrel with the writing is that the dialog is sometimes stiff and can veer into an information dump when the characters are trying to explain paranormal phenomena.

If you like a good ghost story, I can recommend this one. It's best not to read it late at night.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Delicious Crepes, Romance and Murder

Marley McKinney thinks she'll enjoy a break from her job in Seattle. Cousin Jimmy is in the hospital with pneumonia, and she agrees to run his pancake house, The Flip Side, for two weeks. At first it feels like a vacation. Marley spent summers in Wildwood Cove, and she loves the small town. But when she finds stolen goods in Jimmy's workshop and then his body is discovered at the bottom of a steep cliff, life becomes frightening and difficult.

The setting of the novel is delightful. It makes you want to visit a seaside town like Wildwood Cove. Marley is a sympathetic character. She's bright and feisty and trying to decide what to do with her life, particularly when her old boyfriend shows up. The other characters, Ivan, the surly chef, and Leigh, her best waitress, are small town characters that add color to the story.

I enjoyed the book. The action is well paced, but there's plenty of time to enjoy Wildwood Cove and the cast of characters. The mystery keeps you reading. There are plenty of twists and suspects so it's hard to figure out the underlying motive until the end.

I received the book from Alibi for this review.