Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Letters From Skye

Letters From Skye is set during both World War I and World War II, tied together with a love story told entirely in epistolary form. A young American sends a fan letter to an author of poetry as he prepares to leave college; far away, on the Isle of Skye, the poetess receives his letter and begins a 5 year correspondence that results in a love affair. As time progresses, the two meet and fall deeply in love, but the war is not their only obstacle: Elspeth, the poetry writer, is already married to a childhood friend who is gone off to fight in the first War. When he disappears, it would seem that the way to happiness is cleared, but the family issues Elspeth faces draws her away from David, who has volunteered to drive ambulances in France. Interspersed throughout their letters are letters written by her daughter Margaret at the beginning of the Second World War as Margaret struggles to unravel the mystery of her mother's "first chapter".

This is a delightful book, one that flows well and can easily be read in one sitting. The ease with which Elspeth and David converse through their writings is both engaging and believable, and the mystery of what happened so long ago is revealed slowly, building to twists of fate and time. I loved seeing the evolution of the relationship as time went on, and the family issues Elspeth experiences adds well to the overall story. If things do tend to go rather predictably at times, it didn't detract from the sweet story set against the turbulence of World Wars. An excellent first entry by Ms. Brockmole. Recommended.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

One More Series Book...The Evolution of Mara Dyer

There's just enough doubt laid out in this Mara Dyer actually crazy? Or is she really seeing the boy she thinks she killed when an abandoned asylum collapsed? I went back and forth at times--I so wanted to believe there was nothing wrong with Mara, yet she seems unstable at times. And that's just one part of this sequel that had me gripped as I wove my way through the darkness.

The second book in Michelle Hodkin's series which began with The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer picks up almost immediately after Mara's breakdown in the first; Mara is convinced she has seen Jude, the boy who she believes died in the collapse. Mara's receiving treatment for her "breakdown", and that includes going to Horizons, a sort of day camp that will work on her issues. Still at her side is her boyfriend, Noah; both he and Mara seem to have some sort of superpower but neither knows why. Much of this book is spent in their attempts to discover the reasons behind what they can do. It's harder for them in this second book, with Mara's parents (and Noah) determined not to leave her alone for any time at all, and the creepiness factor is upped substantially: Jude somehow invades Mara's bedroom while she is sleeping, leaving her scary messages and moving things around. Delicious and intriguing: How is he getting in? And why won't anyone believe Mara when she says he's still alive?

The mystery is revealed only a bit at a time, and it includes flashbacks to a time long ago, somewhere in India; it is definitely becoming apparent that whatever is going on, it's genetic. But even when we get an answer, it seems as though there's another one in its place. Hodkin is a master of making the reader doubt what's going on; even her characters show distrust and skepticism. I love Mara's voice; she's definitely a teen, first and foremost, but it's easy to see how lost she feels.

My biggest issues with this book aren't too overwhelming, but they did bother me as I read. First is pacing; at times I felt I was spinning my wheels, waiting to move forward, then at others, it was whiplash as events flew by. I also am still on the fence about the relationship between Mara and Noah; I want to feel the depth and the tension, but somehow, it's just eluding me. I want them to be together, but I need some sparks, not just random outbursts of "I need you!" followed by distance.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer is filled with interesting characters and a highly atmospheric creepiness that keeps the pages turning. It's a long read (around 500 pages) but it's a fairly quick one. I'm definitely invested and can't wait for the third in the series to see how all is revealed.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Two Very Different Books

I finished two very different books over the weekend, both enjoyable for very different reasons. First up is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

I am such a Gaiman Fangirl that I suspected I would love The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but what I ended up feeling after closing this novel was something beyond that emotion. Enraptured, entranced, enthralled...yes, all of those, and complete, total adoration. The Ocean at the End of the Lane exceeded my expectations on every level.

I always expect something different and otherworldly when reading a Gaiman young adult novel, and this one is no exception. Told from the viewpoint of a seven-year-old boy (whose name we never learn), it's the story of a summer when a houseguest commits suicide on the farm of a mysterious trio of females. The young man becomes involved with the eleven-year-old girl who lives on the farm, and together they embark on an adventure that leads to an odd creature escaping its confines through the boy, and the desperate fight to get rid of the creature as it wreaks havoc on the boy's home life. All of this plays out in a magical fantasy filled with lovely descriptions and colorful environments that are as creepy as they are intriguing. The ending is perfection; heck, the whole book is!

If you've never read a novel by Neil Gaiman, definitely take the time to search out The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It's true that it's a fantasy, but underneath are the common feelings we all experience and the characters we all recognize. This is a slim book that packs a wonderful, fantastic tale that I will want to revisit time and again.

The second one is Holy Ghosts, written by Gary Jansen:

Holy Ghosts is a very quick read; it's the non-fiction tale of Gary Jansen and his family, whose home is invaded by ghosts. Jansen had lived in the home growing up, and his mother even told him once that there was a ghost living there, but it's once he is older and has purchased the house for himself and his growing family that the odd incidents began to increase. After his wife's miscarriage, Jansen experiences electric sensations, sounds, toys going off randomly, and lots of unexplained shadows. Through his work in the publishing industry, he is able to contact Mary Ann Winkowski (the lady on whom the tv show The Ghost Whisperer is based) and she advises him of details of the two ghosts and also how to rid his home of them. Along the way, Jansen, a spiritual Catholic, discusses how the presence of the ghosts affected him on religious levels, doing research and leading him to a stronger faith.

This book is quite engaging, even if there is a good deal about Jansen's personal upbringing; this is understandable due to the fact that he's spent much of his life living in the same place. I liked that much of his research and experiences were backed up by the facts, and his interactions with Winkowski are particularly amazing. If Jansen is to be believed, (and I feel strongly that he is telling the truth), then this story is fairly solid proof that there is something more out there. This is an enjoyable read and definitely one to get you thinking, particularly if you have any interest at all in the paranormal.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I want to be fair in this review of Myra McEntire's sequel to Hourglass, Timepiece: It's been quite a few months since I read Hourglass and it took several pages of "refreshing" before I was back into the storyline. I think this was not helped by the fact that this entry was told from a different point of view; this time we are treated to seeing the story from Kaleb's eyes. Not that that is a bad thing at all; once I got my feet under me, I think I prefer Kaleb telling the story. At least he's highly entertaining and his flirtatious "relationship" with Lily was perfect (and more believable than the one with Emerson and Michael).

Timepiece begins with another appearance by the time-traveling Jack, and ripples in time that are becoming stronger. Kaleb's father is back from the dead, but their relationship is strained. When Jack delivers an ultimatum (and Poe does something truly shocking), the Hourglass kids take off to Memphis to try to track down clues to a possibly real Infinityglass. Along the way, they run into Kaleb's father's former partners, Dr. Turner and Teague, and it's a race to see who can establish the authenticity of an item that would allow Jack to change history all on his own.

I really enjoyed this novel at times, and at others, I felt the plot was rushed or just didn't flow. Specifically, any time Kaleb and Lily were front and center, I loved everything going on. Their voices are real and they just leap into life from the pages, even when it feels as though very little got resolved. It's when Michael and Emerson come into the story that I felt everything slowed and became wooden; there is a very unsatisfying resolution to those two toward the end that really feels out of place.

Overall, this is a fun story that has a lot of twists and turns and definitely reminds me of a Doctor Who episode. As a Tennessean, I totally love all the accurate references to Memphis and Nashville, and I'm intrigued to see where all this ends up. If at times events seem to be a little conveniently tied up, it's excusable for the fun I'm having. Rounding up from 3.5 stars for the fun factor.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Boundless (Another series you really need to read)

Boundless is the final book in Cynthia Hand's excellent trilogy that began with Unearthly. I've just closed the last page, and I'm already sad. These characters have worked their way into my soul and I'm hoping Ms. Hand finds a way to include them in future tales.

Clara has broken up with Tucker, and she, Christian, and Angela are going to Stanford as the book opens. Clara and Christian are still having visions and they are terrifying, with blood and fighting and swords involved. Angela is also having a vision, but she feels certain she knows how hers will play out...until she turns up pregnant. The Black Watchers are still around, and Clara's brother Jeffrey has turned up, working in a pizza place not far from Stanford. When Clara's father shows up, she and Christian know events are moving to a head, but they still don't know what's coming. There are lots of other things going on as well, including Christian's longing for Clara and her determination to stay away from Tucker (which doesn't always go so well).

One of the best things about this series is the character development Clara experiences over the course of the books. She grows from an unsure teenager to someone who knows she can stand up for herself and those she loves. Her sense of humor is absolutely the best part of the story; I could totally hear her voice in my head and it was dead on with what a teen would say. I also love Christian and his devotion, his willingness to wait; though I always wanted Clara to end up with Tucker, Christian held my heart in a lot of ways.

The beginning of the book is a little slow, but not annoyingly so. Once the action picks up, however, it's next to impossible to put the book down. I actually became reluctant to pick Boundless up again this afternoon, knowing I was so close to finishing it and not wanting to let go. Definitely going on the keeper shelf, this series is probably the best I've accidentally discovered in this genre. Highly recommended!


Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Hero's Lot

The Hero's Lot by Patrick W. Carr picks up where the last book leaves off: our hero, Errol, is in Erinon, facing his future as well as the Judica (the ruling ecclesiastical body), who is accusing him of consorting with spirits. Wrongly convicted, Errol is placed under a compulsion to track the fallen, evil former church leader, Sarin Valon, into the land of Merakh, and kill him. This is not a trek that can be made lightly, so accompanying Errol on his quest are two men whose presence will prove to be very helpful: Elar Indomiel and Naaman Ru. Errol's friends Martin and Luis do not join him; they instead travel back to Callowford to try to discover just who Errol really is and why he is so important to the kingdom. Meanwhile, did I happen to mention that Errol's feelings for Princess Adora are growing and that it seems those feelings are being returned?

There is a lot going on in The Hero's Lot, with the chapters moving back and forth among Errol and his traveling companions and Martin and his adventures. I must admit to a certain amount of frustration with the back and forth, but only because I would find myself involved in what Errol and Co. were doing and then bam! I'm back with Martin, and vice versa. That's a minor complaint really, though; there's plenty of storyline to go around, and everything advances the plot. We find out some key secrets along the way, and discover a few more mysteries as well. Carr's writing is such that I felt as out of breath as his characters as I followed them through fights and escapes; I particularly enjoyed the latter one third of the book when things were most dire and seemingly hopeless, even if I wanted to throttle Errol at times for getting lost inside himself. Excellent writing there.

I do have a suggestion for the next book (besides hurry up and publish it!): Please, please supply 1) a map (or two or three), 2) a list of characters with relevant relationships, and 3) a list of church/religious offices (and whom is currently occupying what would be even better!). I did spent a good deal of the first few chapters trying to refresh my memory of who is whom and what the church does/expects. My mind's eye could provide a fairly accurate map based on Carr's precise details but a visual would be extremely well-received. If I were reading this series back to back, I doubt I'd need such reminders, but throw in several other books between readings and my mind needed a refresher.

This is epic fantasy, people; those who love a good tale with lots of detail and ever-expanding mystery will definitely find lots of enjoy and love, as I have. Carr's got a true gift of engaging the reader, and I'm looking forward to seeing how all this wraps up. Highly recommended!


Friday, July 05, 2013

Weird and Wild

Fuse picks up right after Pure left off; Partridge has escaped the Dome and has met up with his sister, Pressia; both have watched their mother and brother die because of Partridge's father. Both are fighting attraction to their respective "friends", Lyda and Bradwell, and unsure what their next step will be. Bradwell has a black box, named Fignan, which is surprisingly human and may hold the key to defeating those in the Dome; El Capitan, with Helmud still on his back, is determined to help Pressia and Bradwell as they attempt to decipher a complex code left behind by Arthur Walrond, one of the Seven; Partridge must decide whether he should leave his love Lyda behind outside the Dome in order to stop the slaughter of Invalids. Once Invalid children begin to disappear and then reappear as Pures, the race to find the formula that will prevent cell degeneration is front and center. in exploding spiders, a wild car ride, an abandoned amusement park, brain surgery, and an air ship, and you pretty much have Fuse.

Of course there's so much going on it would be hard to recap it all here, and I won't even attempt to do so. The chapters move among the different points of view, and while the action is almost constant (in one form or another), it's the characters' depth that truly steals the show here. By the time the last page is read, no one is emotionally where they were at the beginning, and some are so changed it's hard to tell who they once were. I fell in love with El Capitan especially--the devotion to his brother (however enforced) is so deep and his feelings for Pressia are so real that I could forget any physical issues he may have.

Once again, I marvel at the world Ms. Baggott has created; the intricate details make this so much more than just a run-of-the-mill post-apocalyptic story. It's layered and imaginative; it's dark and resourceful. I'm a willing victim who finds herself absolutely enthralled with these books and is so eager to find out how all this is going to play out in the third book. Bring it on!