Friday, December 30, 2016

The Raven- Mike Nappa

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: As part of his regular street performance, a deception specialist who goes by the name The Raven picks his audience's pockets while they watch. It's harmless fun--until he decides to keep the spare wallet a city councilman doesn't seem to miss, hoping for a few extra bucks. When he finds not money but compromising photos of the councilman and his "personal assistants," The Raven hatches a plan to blackmail the man. However, he quickly finds himself in over his head with the Ukrainian Mafia and mired in a life-threatening plot code-named, "Nevermore." 

Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill must scramble to sort out the clues--and their complicated feelings for each other--to rescue The Raven and save hundreds of lives from a wildcard bent on revenge.

My Thoughts: Within the first couple of pages, you can definitely tell that the author has a degree in English Lit. All of his descriptions are what my Lit professor would have called "top-shelf" details, or things that are more than common descriptions. They're the kind of details that fans of Literary Fiction absolutely love.

I'm not sure what I think about the two "main" characters, Trudi and Samuel, being a divorced couple. It does make for good conflict, though it also seems to give Trudi some bad habits when it comes to trying to prove to Samuel that she can live just fine without him. Since I imagine their's is a relationship that will take the rest of the series to wrap up, I won't pass judgement on it yet.

As to the rest of the book, the Raven is a pretty amusing character, with an internal dialogue that served for some much needed comic relief after reading about all the other horrible things taking place in the story.  At times, I thought the story went far too long without coming back to him. Even though the Raven had his secrets, he still felt like the only character I truly understood. However, some people may not enjoy the Raven's personality as his thought process tended to be completely ridiculous.

On the whole, I think this novel is one worth reading. The Raven is an enjoyable character and the suspense in the novel is pretty intense. Still, I would check out other reviews before making a final decision.

I have provided an honest review after I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Mrs. Lee & Mrs. Gray- Dorothy Love

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Mary Anna Custis Lee is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and heiress to Virginia’s storied Arlington house and General Washington’s personal belongings.

Born in bondage at Arlington, Selina Norris Gray learns to read and write in the schoolroom Mary and her mother keep for the slave children and eventually becomes Mary’s housekeeper and confidante. As Mary’s health declines, Selina becomes her personal maid, strengthening a bond that lasts until death parts them.

Forced to flee Arlington at the start of the Civil War, Mary entrusts the keys to her beloved home to no one but Selina. When Union troops begin looting the house, it is Selina who confronts their commander and saves many of its historic treasures.

In a story spanning crude slave quarters, sunny schoolrooms, stately wedding parlors, and cramped birthing rooms, novelist Dorothy Love amplifies the astonishing true-life account of an extraordinary alliance and casts fresh light on the tumultuous years leading up to and through the wrenching battle for a nation’s soul.

A classic American tale, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray is the first novel to chronicle this beautiful fifty-year friendship forged at the crossroads of America’s journey from enslavement to emancipation.

My Thoughts: This book is honestly not what I thought it was. From the description, I assumed that most of it would be set during the Civil War, with a few chapters at first building up to it. Instead, a large portion of the story is about the two women's lives long before the war starts, beginning when Selina is still a child and before Mary and Robert E. Lee were married. At times this was interesting. Selina is a very well written character with a compelling voice, particularly in the beginning when she is still struggling with what she wants in life versus what the Curtis family demands of her.

Mary's voice was not as compelling, however. First, the beginning of the book seems to be her floundering about in life, unsure of how to behave. This may have been interesting if it were a fish out of water scenario, but this was a life that she was raised for and it seemed to be willful ignorance that kept her from knowing what to do.

The writing itself is beautifully done, again particularly in Selina's scenes. Her voice seemed to continually grow and change, first from a childish perspective with ill grammar to an increasingly more refined tone as she spent more time in the main house and continued to read. There was much about this novel to be commended, and I think that if it had focused more on Selina than on Mary then I would have enjoyed it more. As it stands, there is a lot of dull day to day activity recounted by Mary, a lot of which is then retold from Selina's perspective.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of this book through the Fiction Guild.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Seven Brides for Seven Texans- Erica Vetsc, ect.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Description: Meet the seven Hart brothers of the 7-Heart ranch in central Texas. Each man is content in his independent life, without the responsibilities of a wife and children—until their father decides 1874 will be the year his grown sons finally marry, or they will be cut from his will. How will each man who values his freedom respond to the ultimatum? Can love develop on a timeline, or will it be sacrificed for the sake of an inheritance?

My Thoughts: For a collection of novellas, this one is pretty good. Each takes about an hour to read, making them perfect for those days when you want to enjoy a story but have limited time to do so. The premise is a little farfetched, as I find it hard to believe that a father (at least one who wanted his children to be happy) would require all SEVEN sons to get married in one year.

As with other collections of works by multiple authors,  some of the Hart stories are better than others. For instance, Chrisholm's story was engaging, despite the length, and most of the stories followed suit. However, one issue I found with a series of novellas told about one family yet written by more than one author is that the depiction of the family differed from story to story. Most everything was the same (personalities, characteristics, ect.) but, particularly with how the father related to his sons, there where some differences that bothered me.

If you enjoy these collections, then this is a fun one to pick up and the length of each story makes it a lot easier for busy people to enjoy. And unlike many others, these novellas actually read like complete stories rather than a compilation of writing samples.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of this book through Netgalley.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Cautious Maiden- Dawn Crandall

My Rating: 3 Stars

Description: Violet Hawthorne is beyond mortified when her brother Ezra turns their deceased parents' New England country inn into a brothel to accommodate the nearby lumberjacks; but when Violet's own reputation is compromised, the inn becomes the least of her worries. In an effort to salvage her good name, Violet is forced into an engagement with a taciturn acquaintance; Vance Everstone.

As she prepares for a society wedding, Violet learns that her brother had staked her hand in marriage in a heated poker game with the unsavory Rowen Steele, and Ezra had lost. Now Rowen is determined to cash in on his IOU. With danger stalking her and a new fiance who hides both his emotion and his past, Violet must decide who to trust and who to leave behind.

My Thoughts: I am fairly torn on this novel. The first few chapters were not as interesting as I had hoped (outside of the hair repining scene) because Vance and Violet's brother continuously refused to tell her information that they should have, seemingly all in the name of building suspense.

Once Violet and Vance's engagement came about, the story quickly turned around. The relationship between the two was amazingly realistic and dealt with the issue of temptation before marriage, which I think is an important subject matter. As well, the author managed to show the role faith should have in someone's life without preaching or really even talking about it. The reader knows that Vance is different than he used to be and that Violet now often sees him reading his Bible, which allows the reader to actually SEE just how large a part God plays in his life instead of having to be told.

Yet the ending of the book was also not my favorite. It seemed to suddenly splinter into a number of different conflicts when only one of them was really necessary. For most readers, this ending will not matter as much as it did to me (obviously, based on the novel's ratings). However, in my opinion it was far too many sudden changes in how the characters were behaving for me to enjoy it as I had the rest of the book.

Because of how much I enjoyed the middle of the book, I will likely pick of the rest in the series. They should still be worth the read and I have hope that I might enjoy them more.

I have provided an honest review after having received a copy of this book through the Bookfun network and the author.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Child of the River- Irma Joubert

My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: Persomi’s dreams are much bigger than the world of poverty and deprivation that surround her in the Bushveld of the 1940s and 1950s in South Africa.

Persomi is young, white and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her. Her older brother, Gerbrand, is her lifeline and her connection to the outside world. When he leaves the farm to seek work in Johannesburg, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her—dreams of an education, a profession, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her—the tragedies of WWII and the devastating racial strife of her homeland—she finally discovers who she truly is and where she belongs.

A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Persomi’s English language publication solidifies Irma Joubert’s important place in the canon of inspirational historical fiction.

My Thoughts: This is an absolutely fantastic book. I can't remember a novel that has ever left me teary eyed before this one, and I usually hate any that have brought me even close because the characters lives where typically futile, with little hope in the end. But even though Persomi's childhood, and even parts of her adult life, where heartbreaking, there were very few moments which felt hopeless.

Persomi is the kind of person who never lets life crush her. Though she has her broken moments, she soon rallies and moves forward, refusing to back down from her convictions. Dealing with the politics of WWII, in which Irma realistically portrays a society which more or less sided with the Germans, and Apartheid, Child of the River not only shows a woman with incredible strength of character but also revels a time in history where social strife mirrored current social issues in the US.

Originally published in 2010, there is no way the author could have foreseen just how relevant this work would be years later and in another language. But I think that this book can teach a lot about holding on to ones own convictions while still putting major differences aside to love and care for those around us.

I highly recommend this work, both for the history and for Persomi herself. I can't wait to see more of Irma's novels translated and will be eagerly looking for them on shelves.

I have provided an honest review of this novel after having received a free copy of this book from the publisher.