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BOOK REVIEW: The King’s Rose

Posted on September 6, 2009. Filed under: 1 |

The King's RoseThe King’s Rose by Alisa M. Libby is the story of 15-year-old Catherine Howard and her marriage to King Henry VIII. It is historical fiction written for young adults. Romance is interlaced throughout. The intrigue, vivid description, and clarity of the narration should draw readers of any age.

As the story begins, Catherine is decided upon to be the next pawn for the Howard family to groom in hope of achieving a spot on the throne. Nothing is required of her except her youth, beauty and noble birth. No one asks her if it is what she wants. She is expected to sacrifice everything for the entire family. While Catherine is busy attaining this goal we are entertained by the jewels and gowns showered upon her. Yet the entire time it is constantly stressed what she must say, how she must look, how she must act in front of her king and of how important a goal it is for her to be queen.

The intense pressure to be something she is not and helplessness to go against her family’s wishes along with her decent into madness were especially compelling elements of her story for me. The screaming of her handmaidens and the visual of a gaping black hole in the floor which she was being sucked into were quite compelling and stayed with me even though the last page was read. There was also a scene where she thought she saw a ghost but it was her own reflection in a mirror that I found well written.

The King’s Rose was a terrific fast read. I can definitely give it my thumbs up. I recommend it for women mainly or anyone who wants to learn more about Catherine Howard.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Aviary Gate

Posted on September 5, 2009. Filed under: 1 |

the aviary gateThe Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman is a work of historical fiction to be savored, with certain passages being re-read to ensure complete understanding and total enjoyment. It is not an overwhelming ponderous tome, yet at the same time the character list, glossary, and map of the harem will be quite helpful to anyone not familiar with Constantinople in the year 1599.

The story begins with Paul Pindar, a secretary to the English ambassador. He believes that he has lost his true love, Celia in a shipwreck. Two years later he is informed that Celia has been spotted among the slaves in the Sultan’s harem. He needs to find a way to be sure. It is also a big question of this story of whether they can be re-united again. All this takes place concurrently with a rebellion in the Sultan’s palace.

I liked the fact that you had to play your cards very carefully as there were spies everywhere. The penalty for going against the Sultan’s rules is that you are sewn in a burlap sack and thrown in the Bosphorous River and shots are fired alerting the palace that a traitor has been dealt with. It felt as if I was skulking around the Sultan’s palace with Celia just waiting for a big greasy eunuch to clamp his hands on my shoulders. The descriptions of the palace, clothes and jewels also kept my attention.

What is the Aviary Gate? You’ll find out when you read the book, but it is key. The literary search taking place in Oxford and modern day Constantinople wraps the threads of this story in a cocoon of knowledge. So it is like a candy, knowledge on the outside and a delicious mix of love and intrigue on the inside. This is a book with a little bit of zest, and it stands up for itself as it defies your expectations. It almost dares you for a re-read. I would recommend this book for anyone who takes theirs with a bit of panache.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Moon Looked Down

Posted on September 4, 2009. Filed under: 1 |

The Moon Looked DownThe Moon Looked Down by Dorothy Garlock is Young Adult Historical Fiction at its best. Its setting is Victory, Illinois June 1942. It deals with the prejudice taking place as propaganda against the Germans is spread and the nation edges ever closer towards war.

The heroine is Sophie Heller and the Hero is Cole Ambrose. Sophie’s family were Germans that fled Germany to start a new life in America. War fever causes the family and the home to be attacked. Cole is a math teacher with his own heartbreak who takes Sophie under his wing and ends up defending her family.

The pages are filled with salt-of-the-earth characters believing in America and in doing for themselves. As tragic as Sophie’s plight is, with all the obstacles placed in her way, a romance also blossoms between Sophie and Cole. It will be hard to say whether you are reading the story for it’s bigotry or for the hope of true love conquering all.

It is refreshing to have a story told about WWII from a German’s point of view with the twist that they were against Hitler. It made me process the fact that it is wrong to lump all Germans as being against the Jews. The Heller family is so against Hitler that they flee at great risk to themselves so as not to be a part of the bad politics. The romance is downright charming and brings lightness to this book of heavy emotion. I truly applaud Dorothy Garlock for bringing such a controversial and necessary topic to young adults. The Moon Looked Down is well written. It is perfect for school. It is also a perfect romance. The book succeeds. You will not be sorry you took the time to read it. I am recommending this book with no reservations and it gets my big thumbs up.

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BOOK REVIEW: One Scream Away

Posted on August 20, 2009. Filed under: 1 |

One Scream AwayOne Scream Away is a book of memorable romantic suspense. This book is mainly about chasing down the bad guy, and he really is BAD. His name is Chevy Banks and because of his childhood, he is mentally unstable. He is tracking down Beth Denison as she is the last one alive after his last murder spree ended up landing him in prison.

The hero is ex-FBI agent Neil Sheridan. When he starts investigating a chain of murders somewhat similar to a past case of his, the trail leads to Beth Denison’s door. She refuses to tell him why Chevy would be calling her and she refuses to say why Banks will try anything to get her to scream.

Beth thinks she needs to keep quiet to protect her daughter. She thinks she is tough. She handles things on her own. Neil thinks he needs to protect Beth and get her to open up. That is your start of romance. The cat and mouse game that Chevy leads the FBI and police on left me saying eewww, how sick but how clever.

This book kept me reading and is deemed worth the effort. It is definitely recommended. It is more thrilling than scary. One Scream Away by Kate Brady will leave you wanting more of the same. It earns a big thumbs up and a spot on the shelf.

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BOOK REVIEW: Sworn To Silence

Posted on August 20, 2009. Filed under: 1 |

Sworn To SilenceSworn To Silence by Linda Castillo is a romantic thriller, heavy on the thrills. The hook for this book is Kate Burkholder. She experienced an encounter with The Slaughterhouse Killer as a young Amish girl, and comes back to Painters Mill as an adult in the role of Chief of Police. For me, that was all it took. I wanted to know what it was like to switch from Amish to English in such an important role as police chief while also being a women.

The reader just gets a taste of what being chief is like when a murder is suddenly thrust upon the department to solve. You can’t help but be interested in how Kate handles herself and the murder. Just as suddenly, you realize there may be a connection between the current murder and one that took place nearly two decades ago. While wrapped in police procedure, the story never gets too technical or cut and dried. This book almost seems like a recipe for the perfect way to commit murder. It is Kate’s feelings as she is solving the murder that multiplies which keeps the reader emotionally invested.

Kate’s staff is given just enough background to be fleshed out and familiar.
I desperately wanted to talk about this book because it felt like I was involved in the action alongside the characters. I was cheering, feeling like letting the bad guy have what for, horrified and compelled. That is a lot to feel in one book.

I heartily and sincerely recommend this book. I defy you to want to put it down. It was a great flowing read. The words disappeared and I saw pictures in my mind. It is quite a book that can catch you and swing you around until you are completely absorbed.

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BOOK REVIEW: Maire

Posted on August 8, 2009. Filed under: 1 |

MaireMaire is a historical romance centered around faith. Maire is set in 5th century Ireland. Christianity was just beginning to spread among kings, scholars and peasants. The biggest impact was among the Druids, or learned class, as truth seekers and power seekers collide.

In this setting, two warriors, Maire and Rowan, clash and finally join together against the evid Druid Morlach. They and their people become closer to God after many seasons of sorrow.

I loved how Maire and Rowan learned to put their differences aside when they realized they each could teach the other valuable lessons. In Maire’s quest for faith I felt as if I was brought closer to God.

This book comes highly recommend and gets my big thumbs up. It is a religious book without getting preachy or in your face. I also like how God is presented on layman terms.

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BOOK REVIEW: How Do I Love Thee?

Posted on August 8, 2009. Filed under: 1 |

How Do I Love Thee by Nancy Moser gives an insightful look into how Mrs. Browning most likely lived and how she fell in love with and married Robert Browning. This book provides an enjoyable education through entertainment. All I knew before I read this book, was that Elizabeth Barrett was a poet. I could not even tell you the title of any of her poems. It was an eye-opener to realize she was an invalid during some of her most vital years. I also could not have been more shocked to know she was a virtual prisoner in her own home. It did seem to me at times that she suffered from agoraphobia. However, there is no denying the fact that Edward Barrett was a tyrannical and controlling man when it came to his family.

The real meat of the story comes from the meeting and courtship of Elizabeth Barrett. No one could seem a less likely candidate to be courted and married. She was nearly 40, bedridden, and living in constant fear of visitors to her attic room. I must confess that from the very beginning I was angry that she just did not get up and do whatever she wanted to do. Yet, it is important to realize that given her situation she was doing the best she could. She did have chest ailments that originally caused her illness. Despite all this, Robert Browning ends up reading some of her work and is drawn first because of Elizabeth’s mind. He convinces her a meeting should be arranged. The interaction between Elizabeth and Robert chugs the story along.

I highly recommend this book as an involving study of both the Brownings. Through their love letters and memorabilia a fairly accurate picture becomes painted of this talented and unusual couple. It is also enjoyable to read Nancy Moser’s explanation of what is truthful in this story, and most of what is read is based on fact. The Sonnets From The Portuguese are included in the back of the book, which I thought was a nice touch.

This book was highly readable, enjoyable, informative and will be a keeper on my shelf. It is not a stuffy read. It gets my big thumbs up.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Day The Falls Stood Still

Posted on August 8, 2009. Filed under: 1 |

The Day The Falls Stood StillThe Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan is much more than a book about Niagara Falls. It is about the struggles of the Heath family beginning in the year 1915. It is also a love story and history in motion. The Heath’s beautiful and oldest daughter shows up dead and the family is disgraced. The youngest Daughter, Bess undergoes turmoil and finds her whole life changed.

The hero of this book is Tom Cole who is a handsome young man that has lived his life on the river. He has an uncanny gift of being able to read the river and the falls. He also makes some brave rescues that cause the townspeople to label him a hero but which make him a threat to the higher management at the hydroelectric plant.

Bess is in love with Tom but their future seems in doubt more than once. I enjoyed seeing different people in the community give the Heath family love and financial support. There was also the connection of Bess with her childhood friend that had me laughing and crying.

The Day The Falls Stood Still is highly recommended both for its history and the love story it is wrapped up in. I loved being shocked, feeling warm hearted, and using my head to decide what I believed about the last chapters.

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BOOK REVIEW: Labor Day

Posted on August 4, 2009. Filed under: 1 |

Labor DayLabor Day by Joyce Maynard is a story that reminds one of Stand By Me. It is narrated by 13-year-old Henry and takes us through his adulthood while mainly focusing on Labor Day weekend 1987. The story revolves around Henry, his mother, Adele, and a stranger called Frank. The interaction between these three is all the more meaningful for mostly being compressed into one Labor Day weekend.

I like wondering what I would do if Henry’s situation had occurred to me. What at first seems unbelievable gradually becomes a matter of course, so that you are left thinking when did I start believing in this story and even rooting for Henry and his mother. This story is at turns, strange, sad, scary, and even romantic.

For a satisfying conclusion to a summer of reading, this story can’t miss the mark. This story will take hold of you and set you down with a lump in your throat. I am quite glad I started this book and let it wash over me. I highly recommend Labor Day as a good use of reading time.

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BOOK REVIEW: Offworld by Robin Parrish

Posted on August 3, 2009. Filed under: 1 |

OffworldOffworld by Robin Parrish is a thrilling foray into science fiction that reads so well, the pages disappear. Commander Christopher Burke and his crew are returning from a mission to Mars. They find it odd that they have lost contact with ground control, and their landing is definitely dangerous and strange. However, the icing on the cake is when they step out of the space shuttle and discover everyone everywhere is gone. The mission then becomes to discover who or what has caused the disappearance of all humans on earth.

This story was believable because the astronauts quarrel amongst themselves, they get hungry, wet, injured, bruised, and tired. Their thinking starts out rational and becomes more disorganized and improvisational as the story picks up speed.

I liked reading the pages to see how the crew was going to get themselves out of some of the situations they walked into. It felt like I had a vested interest in seeing these astronauts bringing back earth’s people without getting killed in the process.

I would highly recommend Offworld as a fast paced science fiction thriller that is highly satisfying. I was kind of surprised this book was published by Bethany House and am very glad they took this chance. This book is a keeper on my shelf and my son wants me to save the book for him so he can read it. Even my husband is interested. I am so excited by that and really can’t give the book more praise than that.

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