Half a World Away – Cynthia Kadohada

Half a World AwayThe enduring, unconditional, and transformative powers of family and love flow through this novel and immediately draw the reader in.  Jaden, an 11 year old boy adopted a few years ago, constantly struggles with the feeling that he’s not good enough for his parents.  He is angry, steals, rebels, and lights fires to cope with his raw and painful feelings. When his parents decide to adopt another baby, this time from Kazakhstan, Jaden knows it’s because he wasn’t enough for his parents.  In order to bond with the baby, the threesome travel abroad for several weeks.  The excitement of the trip is squelched immediately when the parents learn the baby they’d been wanting was already adopted.  They then begin the process of bonding with another child.  The experiences the family has while abroad change them all forever.  The novel is a quick and captivating read that eloquently shows the raw emotions of a family.

eGalley review   Publication date 9.2.14

Posted in realistic fiction | Tagged

The Caller – Juliet Marillier

the callerNeryn was content to snuggle down for the winter in Shadowfell, but the pressing need to find the remaining two Guardians was nagging.  She has been trained by Guardians of water and earth and nowneeds to learn from the Guardian of air. There is not much time to complete her training if she is to be able to muster the Good Folk to combine forces with the rebels before the planned confrontation with the king.  Summer will come far too soon, but winter is coming quickly and the danger of being caught in a blizzard is real. Whisper, one of the Folk, an owl-like being, has  a solution.  He can transport Neryn overnight to the place where the White Lady is likely to be found and stay close by as her guard. After a great deal of discussion, the council decides that this is the only solution.  And so Neryn leaves the security of Shadowfell and once again continues her training.

The book is rather slow and introspective, stressing the importance of careful learning and training in order to use the gift well.  I was sorry to see this trilogy come to an end.  It was so nice to immerse myself in another world, a world filled characters with real emotions and real flaws, characters I came to care about.  Juliet Mariller is a wonderful storyteller.

eGalley review      Publication date  09.09.14

Posted in fantasy | Tagged

The King’s Curse – Philippa Gregory

the king's curseMargaret Pole was careful, oh so very careful.  She had been quietly married to a nice, obedient knight, Sir Richard Pole.  She lived far away from court in Ludlow Castle with her husband who was guardian for Arthur, Prince of Wales.  Occasionally she visited her cousin, the queen, and came to love the royal children, especially mischievous and spoiled Prince Henry.  She became lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine and governess to Princess Mary.  But always, always, she was careful.  Lady Margaret had need to be careful, for she was one of the last Plantagenet heirs.  She was niece to Edward IV and Richard III and the granddaughter of the Duke of Warwick, “The Kingmaker”.  All of her life she grieved for her brother who spent his life in the Tower.  A brother who’s only transgression was his royal birth and who was ultimately beheaded.

This is the final book in the Cousin’s War series and it ties neatly to the Tudor series.  It shows a chilling side of the reign of Henry VIII that made life in England almost unendurable for commoners and nobles alike. As always, the characters are real, believable, and I ached for Margaret, forever trying to do the proper thing, the safe thing.   I greatly enjoyed the book.  It may be Philippa Gregory’s  best so far.  Highly recommended and suitable for older teens.

eGalley Review        Publication date 9.9.14

Posted in adult, historical fiction | Tagged ,

The Second Deadly Sin – Asa Larsson, Laurie Thompson (Translated By)

second deadly sinLittle Marcus has been traumatized by witnessing the murder of his grandmother.  He feels secure only when he is with the dogs belonging to police dog handler, Krister Eriksson.  So Eriksson kindly humors Marcus by letting him be a wild dog, letting him sleep in the dog kennel.  Of course Eriksson tucks Marcus into the heavy sleeping bag and covers him with a blanket before climbing into his bag in the tent he has set up by the door to the kennel.  Marcus barks a woof in thanks.

The little village of Kiruna in far northern Sweden is shaken by the brutal murder of Sol-Britt.  Rebecka Martinsson, a public prosecutor, should be investigating the case, but she’s been pushed aside by a publicity hungry associate. Reacting angrily, she refuses another assignment and takes her owed holiday.  Now, with time on her hands, she begins to look into the murder on her own.  Odd coincidences appear.  It seems that Sol-Britt’s grandmother was also murdered, and her son and father met unexplained violent deaths.

The story shifts back and forth from the present to the past to tell the story of Sol-Britt’s grandmother, a school teacher in the early days of Kiruna.  It was a mining town in 1914.  The cold and mud, the hard life of the people enveloped me as I read. While the solving of the present day murder was the primary focus of the book, I was far more interested in the young teacher’s life. I enjoyed this book very much.  It was well written with interesting, believable characters. And northern Sweden is a setting I’d not encountered before.

eGalley review        Publication date 8.12.14

 

Posted in adult, mystery

The Blackhouse – Peter May

BlackhouseThe annual tradition of collecting guga (gannet hatchlings) from the rocky isle of An Sgeir off the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides dates to before the Middle Ages.  Today it is a rite of passage for young men of Ness.

A murder on Isle of Lewis has gruesome details similar to one that occurred in Edinburgh recently, so Fin Macleod has been sent to see if there is a connection.  He has been investigating the Edinburgh murder and, as it happens, he was born and raised on Lewis.  Fin had escaped to attend the university in Edinburgh years ago and except for a brief visit for a funeral had never come back.  As soon as he stepped off the plane, the memories hit him.  And they kept haunting him.

This is a beautifully crafted book, with chapters alternating from the present to the past.  The story told in the present is brisk and factual, a typical mystery style.  The chapters from the past are full of melancholy, of regret, of an aching that can’t quite be defined.  The focus soon changes from solving the mystery to uncovering Fin’s past, and the guga hunt seems to be the key.

I enjoyed being transported to the barren, windy, Scottish isle peopled with crusty, rugged individuals.  This is the first of a trilogy and I am eagerly looking forward to the next book.

eGalley review      Publication date 8.5.14

Posted in adult, mystery

Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered – Dianne Hales

Mona LisaLeonardo’s Mona Lisa is probably the most famous painting in history.  Songs have been written about her.  She’s often been copied by other artists. Suitors have left her flowers, poems, love notes.   She has been kidnapped and returned. Twentieth century artists have taken liberties with her and she has traveled to the U.S. and Japan for visits.   Her life has been the focus of novels.  But biographies have been difficult.  Very few facts have survived the centuries.  She was born to Antonmarie Gherardini and Lucrezia in 1470, married in 1495 to Francesco del Giocondo, had six children and died in 1542.  That’s it.

And so, this book is mostly about the author’s time in Florence tracking down bits of Lisa’s life.  There is a lot of background and history, giving the reader knowledge of what a woman like Lisa might have done, and giving the reader a feel for how she might have lived.  I enjoyed going along with the author and watching her dig out tiny nuggets of information.  When she describes dancing in excitement at seeing the baptismal record of the child of Antonmarie Gherardini,  I could share the moment.   This is a very well researched book. Her familiarity with Florence and its language allowed her to interview family descendants and view primary sources.  But more than that, this book is filled with the excitement Dianne Hales felt while doing all of that research.

There is a nice timeline at the end of the book that helps place Lisa in the affairs of the world around her and a list of the relevant people.  I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.

eGalley review        Publication date 8.5.14

Posted in adult | Tagged

The Kiss of Deception – Mary Pearson

the kiss of deceptionPrincess Lia must marry a prince she has never seen or met to broker a peace between two kingdoms.  Lia is not a big fan of that whole ‘sacrifice happiness for the good of the kingdom’ thing.  So Lia and her best friend, Pauline hatch a last minute plan to run away.  They make their way to an inn that was Pauline’s childhood home in a peaceful seaside village.  Quickly settling into life in the busy inn, Lia lets her guard down.  Two travellers wander into the inn; both become enamored of Lia and decide to stay a while.  One is the jilted prince, determined to track her down and angry because she bolted before he did.  The other is an assassin sent by a neighboring kingdom tasked with killing Lia to start a war.

The chapter title tells the reader if it is the Assassin, the Prince, or Lia who is telling the story.  Ahhh, but which man is the assassin and which is the prince?  I am a gushing fan of Mary Pearson and adore The Miles Between.  This is also quite excellent.  A delicious adventure with a tingle of romance and deceit.  This will be quite popular and ends with a cliff hanger.  I eagerly await the next book in this new series, The Remnant Chronicles.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review     Publication date 7.15.14

Posted in fantasy, highly recommend | Tagged