Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Spotlight Letters from Skye

Letters from Skye: A Novel

This week I'd like to spotlight an upcoming new release Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole. This title releases on July 9th and is the story of a love affair told in letters between a poet living on the Isle of Skye, and an American who sends her the first fan letter she has received. Their friendship blossoms into love against the backdrop of the first world war, and at the same time we are shown the story of the poet's daughter, a generation later, who also finds love amidst another world war.

This was my WoW for last week but I wanted to give it a little more exposure. An excerpt can be found here at Amazon. Give it a try!

From Goodreads:

A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole’s atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.

March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence—sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets—their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.

June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.

Sunday Post #2



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.

June 24th It's Monday What are you Reading?

June 25th Teaser Tuesday  

June 25th Review: Spark

June 26th Waiting on Wednesday

June 27th Trendy Taglines

June 28th Review: Emilie and the Hollow World

Coming Reviews

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)




Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Emilie and the Hollow World

Emilie and the Hollow World

Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells is the story of a girl running away from home who has the adventure of a lifetime. She doesn’t get along with her aunt and uncle who have been raising her since her mother left to be an actress. They don’t expect her to amount to much and she finally decides to leave and live with her cousin in the city. To get there she has to stow away on a steamer… and that’s where the fun begins.

The action starts on the docks on a misty night and almost immediately Emilie is swept up in events beyond her control. Emilie plans to stow away on a steamer as she doesn’t have the funds for passage, but when she is mistaken for a thief she is forced to flee and ends up on the wrong ship. This ship is more than it seems however… as it soon leaves port bound for the Hollow World.

Emilie makes the acquaintance of Miss Marlende, who is searching for her lost father… last seen in the Hollow World. She has enlisted the help of Lord Engal, a noble and explorer who wants to be the first to travel to the world within a world. Things don’t go entirely as planned however, and soon they are in the Hollow World… but their engines are damaged and there is no way to get home. Their only hope…find the missing Dr. Marlende, who is an expert on aetheric engines.

Along the way they make new friends and allies, explore deserted islands and discover an ancient race of merpeople. The merpeople and their city were fascinating, and I thought to myself I want to go there! There is action, narrow escapes, treachery and a few surprises. The party soon discovers they are not the only people from the surface world looking for Dr. Marlende… will they find him in time or will there be no escape from the Hollow World?

The Hollow World hearkens back to the pulp tales of yore, to Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne and the Pellucidar tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs. However the concept and execution are strictly modern. This is more steampunk than Burroughs. This book takes the hollow earth concept, adds a modern sensibility and a plucky heroine, and runs with it. The result is superb. The steampunk elements make the story unique, with airships, Victorian dress and aether currents.

Emilie starts off a determined girl trying to start a new life, but is forced to make tough choices and save the day. She’s tough and brave and doesn’t take any guff- she’s just a fun heroine all the way around. The supporting cast is great also, from the gruff but loyal Lord Engal to Kenar and Rani, two non- human allies of Emilie. I really cared about these characters at the end.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Trendy Taglines



Trendy Taglines is a meme hosted by Krystianna at Downright Dystopian which features books based on their taglines- whether they be old or new.

The Thirteen Treasures (Thirteen Treasures, #1) Do you believe in fairies? That tagline was enough to grab me, and when I read the back blurb I was ready to go. Total impulse buy. And I loved it. I reviewed this one a few months ago...

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1) Why be the sheep when you can the wolf? This one has been around for a while and lots of people have reviewed it, but I just love that line. Between that and the cover, she is obviously not to be trifled with.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #3


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week is Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole.
Publication date July 9, 2013

Letters from Skye: A Novel

A love story told in letters between a Scottish poet on the Isle of Skye and an American. I saw this on Silver's Reviews and read an excerpt at Amazon, it looks great. I don't normally read contemporary but this just looks like a great book. Thanks to Elizabeth for spotlighting it on her Monday post.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review: Spark

Spark (Sky Chasers, #2)

Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan is the sequel to Glow, reviewed here. Spark picks up right after the events of Glow. Waverly is back on the Empyrean after her harrowing experiences on the sister ship New Horizon, but she finds things have changed. Kieran, her boyfriend and presumptive husband-to-be, is acting captain of the ship but his way of running the ship strikes Waverly as too harsh. Not only that, but she is shocked to find Seth in the brig. As she acclimates to life on the Empyrean she finds previous assumptions challenged, and must find her way through a minefield of obstacles. The stakes are ratcheted up when they discover a saboteur is on board, and things get very dicey.  

The thing I really liked about this book, and Glow before it, is the greyness of the characters. They all show that they are capable of doing questionable things, so you’re not really sure who to root for sometimes. Some readers like Kieran, others think he’s a jerk and root for Waverly. The characters are often bitterly opposed to each other, but there are also times when they acknowledge that the other person was right. We are often reminded that these are kids, after all, trying to run a ship in the absence of an adult crew.

Ryan goes to an interesting place with Waverly. Bitter from her experiences as a prisoner on the other ship, and disheartened by Kieran’s leadership style, she challenges him and their relationship deteriorates sharply. She gets quite ruthless as time goes on, and I thought this was understandable and really explored her character. At the same time I found myself liking her a little bit less than I did in Glow. She takes a militant stance toward the New Horizon, and while that makes sense given her history it didn’t seem very realistic that a group of kids could take on a seasoned adult crew on the other ship.

Seth gets a makeover in this book. Seth has some issues from his upbringing that partially explain why he is the way he is, but it doesn’t excuse his behavior at least in my mind. His actions towards Kieran in Glow were pretty awful. Here however he is presented much more sympathetically, although the author keeps a little edge to him. He’s still a bit of a rogue. Seth has all the best lines too. In a grim tale with little if any comic relief, Seth and his occasional one liners lighten the mood just a bit.

Most of the book involves power struggles and preparations for taking on the New Horizon- the last fifty pages or so are where the rubber hits the road. Kieran and Waverly have an uneasy truce and when the two ships finally meet, things happen and there are some nasty surprises. There is bad blood between these two crews now, but we also see that there are reasons why the New Horizon people act as they do. It doesn’t justify what they’ve done, but both crews feel they are in the right.  

This is one of those books where you want the characters to pay attention and pick up on clues that are given, but they don’t and of course this has consequences later. At one point one of the guards says he wishes everyone could just get along, and I thought to myself yes if Kieran and Waverly would just sit down and work together somehow, they could get some things done. But they don’t, and things are rather grim at the end.

The book ends with a cliffhanger, and a pretty big one, but the status quo is definetly changed and it will be interesting to see where the third volume goes. I liked Spark a lot, it keeps the tension going and there are enough surprises to keep you guessing. I stayed up late to finish it and enjoyed it very much.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author too

"I don't know that we can slip out that way. There are some merpeople standing by the stairs."

Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells page 145

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's Monday. What Are You Reading?



It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a meme hosted by Book Journey and is a great way for others to  find out what you are planning to read this week and, best of all, see what others are reading.

Last week I finished up

Glow (Sky Chasers, #1) The Secret Zoo (The Secret Zoo, #1) Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMHTides

I am currently reading

Spark (Sky Chasers, #2)

Coming down the pike is

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)   Emilie and the Hollow World




Saturday, June 22, 2013

Review: Tides

Tides

Tides by Betsy Cornwell is the story of Noah Gallagher and his sister Lo who are coming to the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of New Hampshire, to stay with their grandmother for the summer. Noah has taken an internship at the local marine research center, and Lo has been struggling with bulimia and is basically coming for a change of scenery and hopefully a new start. Their grandmother lives alone on the island although it quickly becomes apparent she has a relationship with another woman. That relationship is in many ways central to the story as the past and present come together.

This is really the story of Noah and Mara however. Mara is a selkie a seal who can take human form. Mara  seems more drawn to the land than many of her kind, and she likes to watch people from afar, like the guests on the lawn at the island hotel. She and Noah meet by accident, he is running one day and sees a girl who he thinks is drowning. He rescues her- or tries too, but quickly realizes she doesn’t need rescuing at all. Their relationship starts off a little rocky, but they soon discover a mutual attraction… and some surprising family links. 

Mara feels early on that she can trust Noah, and doesn't really understand why. Their relationship is complicated by a lot of things, not least of which is the natural distrust the selkies feel towards humans. We learn more about the selkies and their ways, and also the complex relationship Noah's grandmother has with these ancient beings.

It was refreshing to read a story where the characters actually communicate with each other. So often in stories like this secrets are kept and the characters don’t know what’s going on for half the book, but here  people talk to each other. This book is instead about exploring the feelings bubbling under the surface, and I appreciated that. There’s a moment towards the end where Noah is in trouble and Mara is coming to help. She thinks "I’m coming” and it was a powerful moment. I loved it.

I was really taken with the love story  between Noah and Mara, it was sweet and virtuous and real. It didn’t feel cheap or rushed… their relationship evolved naturally. I also liked the sibling relationship between Noah and Lo- you could really feel her pain at times, and the way her feelings towards Noah changed. They grew closer through their shared experiences, and that felt natural too.

The only thing I didn’t like was the plotline regarding Aine. Early on we learn about Mara’s sister Aine and her disappearance but there is no indication that this will play an immediate role in the story- however it becomes clear that the disappearance is relevant when tragedy strikes again, and Noah and Mara must take action. The truth about Aine’s disappearance is somewhat horrific and provides the only action sequence in the book, but I thought it was too closely linked to Noah and his reason for being on the island in the first place. It just seemed a little too convenient for me.

The ending is bittersweet and pulled at the heartstrings a bit. It is however the only realistic ending- and it left me wanting a sequel. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a classic children’s story and the winner of the Newbery Medal. It was written by Robert C. O’Brien and tells the story of Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with 4 children and a big problem. Winter is drawing to a close and it’s almost Moving Day- the day when the mouse family moves to their summer home. But this year there is a problem. Little Timothy is sick and cannot be moved. And the plow is coming…

Some may remember the animated movie based on this book. I recently saw this in a bookstore and decided it was long overdue to give it a read. Good decision. The movie is good if a bit dark, but the book is better.

Mrs. Frisby goes to Mr. Ages, a wise old mouse, for help. Mr. Ages tells her Timothy has pneumonia and gives her a medicine to use but tells her Timothy cannot be moved for at least three weeks. When the farmer starts up his plow though and prepares to plant Mrs. Frisby knows she has a problem. She has at most a few days before the plow comes through and churns up her home. And Timothy will not be healthy enough to move in time…

Through a stroke of good fortune Mrs. Frisby meets the great owl, known for his wisdom. He sympathizes with her plight but tells her there is not much that can be done, until he asks her name. She answers and that changes everything. Her husbands name was known to the owl, and others besides, and he tells her there may be a way. She must go to the rats. The rats live under a great rosebush and are very mysterious, coming and going in great secrecy. They are more than they seem as she soon discovers.

As the story progresses we learn that the rats also have a great respect for her husband, and they agree to help her. However in order to do so there are obstacles to overcome... not least of which is the farmers cat Dragon. The rats periodically drug the cat with a sleeping powder so they can go about their business, but this time Mrs. Frisby is the only one who can slip the powder into Dragon’s bowl. Can she deliver the powder and make it out alive? And what secret are the rats hiding?

This is a fantastic story, wholesome and gripping at the same time. Mrs. Frisby is gentle and courageous, and the supporting cast are great. From Mr. Ages the wise old mouse, to the sad but mighty owl, to the intelligent rats, all the characters hit the right notes. As danger looms and time grows short, I found myself rooting for the brave and honorable rats.

There’s a gentle exploration  of the role of machines in our lives, and O’Brien explores how the rats have achieved a certain comfort level with their technology only to find that they are stealing more than ever, in this case electricity to run their machines and running water. This creates a moral dilemma for them, as they wish only to be self- sufficient, and we learn the extent of their plan to address this even as they take time to help Mrs. Frisby with her problem.

I cannot say enough good things about this book. It is well- written and tells a great story. Perfect for kids and not bad for adults either, it was thought- provoking enough to keep my interest. I’m glad I finally read it. Highly recommended and a classic.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: The Secret Zoo

The Secret Zoo (The Secret Zoo, #1)

The Secret Zoo is the first in a middle grade series by Bryan Chick. It tells the story of 4 children who discover there is more to their local zoo than meets the eye. Megan is in her treefort one night and sees monkeys on the roofs of surrounding homes. She tells her brother Noah but he doesn't believe her. Shortly after this she disappears. Her brother Noah and their friends Ella and Richie are determined to find her. Their search is fruitless until one night a bird arrives at Noah’s window- a bird with a message. The message tells Noah to go to the zoo where he will find more clues. Once there he receives another message- this time a page from Megan’s journal.

It appears that Megan was investigating some odd occurrences at the zoo. Noah receives several pages from her journal, all from different animals, and he begins to realize this zoo is more than it appears. As the kids investigate the zoo they see some strange goings-on. They have an encounter with a polar bear named Blizzard and continue to receive clues as to Megan's disappearance. The animals seem to watch them and before long they run afoul of zoo security, who waste no time in evicting them.

They soon find there’s another world and a secret society and a wondrous place called the City of Species where humans and animals live together in harmony. The City of Species is a neat place. The descriptions are lush and whimsical, and the author really lets his imagination run wild here (pardon the pun). I particularly liked the Forest of Flight, an immense aviary in the City that holds a multitude of birds of all kinds. The kids flee into the Forest and there is a running battle of sorts as the kids and their animal friends Blizzard, Podgy the penguin and a bunch of prairie dogs try to escape a band of overzealous police- monkeys. One of the better sequences in the book.

I enjoyed the first two thirds of the book a great deal, however after everything is explained at the City of Species I started to lose interest. The backstory and the villain were just not compelling for me. There is a battle at the end with mild violence, and some of the later events strain credulity even in a book this whimsical. But overall it's fun and lighthearted.

There’s no shortage of imagination in The Secret Zoo. The book is charming and whimsical, and it reads fast. There’s a lot of humor as well, and the animals who help the kids are adorable. Who wouldn’t want a ferocious polar bear friend? The Secret Zoo is the first in a series. I don't feel compelled to rush out and get the second one, but I may continue with the series at some point. This one is self- contained enough that you can enjoy it as is. It's a great middle grade book.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Waiting on Wednesday" #2: Dangerous Women



"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is 
Dangerous Women an anthology edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois.
Publication Date: December 3rd, 2013


From Goodreads:

The Dangerous Women anthology contains following stories:
- Introduction by Gardner Dozois
- “Some Desperado” by Joe Abercrombie - A Red Country story
- “My Heart is Either Broken” by Megan Abbott
- “Nora’s Song” by Cecelia Holland
- “The Hands That Are Not There” by Melinda Snodgrass
- “Bombshells” by Jim Butcher - A Harry Dresden story
- “Raisa Stepanova” by Carrie Vaughn
- “Wrestling Jesus” by Joe R. Lansdale
- “Neighbors” by Megan Lindholm
- “I Know How to Pick ’Em” by Lawrence Block
- “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” by Brandon Sanderson
- “A Queen in Exile” by Sharon Kay Penman
- “The Girl in the Mirror” by Lev Grossman - A Magicians story
- “Second Arabesque, Very Slowly” by Nancy Kress
- “City Lazarus” by Diana Rowland
- “Virgins” by Diana Gabaldon - An Outlander story
- “Hell Hath No Fury” by Sherilynn Kenyon
- “Pronouncing Doom” by S.M. Stirling - An Emberverse story
- “Name the Beast” by Sam Sykes
- “Caretakers” by Pat Cadigan
- “Lies My Mother Told Me” by Caroline Spector - A Wild Cards story
- “The Princess and the Queen” by George R.R. Martin - A Song of Ice and Fire story


This looks like a great anthology with a lot of well- known authors. It's a little ways out yet, not releasing until December, but I'm looking forward to it. The biggest draw for me, of course, is the new Ice and Fire background story by George RR Martin. With such a long wait between books it's nice to get a little tide-me-over once in a while...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: Glow

Glow (Sky Chasers, #1)

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan is the story of Kieran and Waverly, teenagers on a worldship called the Empyrean that is headed for New Earth after an apparent environmental catastrophe on Earth. Kieran is the captain’s protégé and Waverly is the oldest girl onboard. They are expected to marry and produce children for the colony and seem to be in love, although Waverly has doubts. She feels she is too young to marry and needs time to explore her feelings; at the same time she feels an attraction for the dark and brooding Seth. Seth is the son of the ship’s pilot and pretty much the opposite of Kieran. He has a thing for Waverly as well, so there’s our love triangle.

We get a sense from the outset that something is wrong- there is a sister ship called the New Horizon that is supposed to be light years ahead of them, but has inexplicably appeared nearby and no one is sure why. It appears the captain knows but he’s not telling, and tensions are high on the Empyrean. We soon find out that the long voyage through space made it difficult for the colonists to get pregnant- the Empyrean’s fertility labs were able to solve the problem but the New Horizon was not so fortunate. The New Horizon doesn’t have any children- so they decide to take the Empyrean’s girls for breeding purposes.  

There are chilling clues interspersed throughout the book, and that’s one of the things I liked. For example early on Waverly thinks that the New Horizon must have decelerated years ago to allow them to catch up- so immediately you get the feeling that whatever is going to happen, it has been in the works for a while. The poor people on the Empyrean just have no idea what is coming.

The story is told from the alternating viewpoints of Kieran and Waverly. After the attack they are separated and go through all kinds of trauma as Waverly struggles to survive on the New Horizon and Kieran attempts to save the Empyrean. Tensions quickly boil over between Kieran and Seth, and when Kieran is betrayed he must somehow fight back from the brink of death. Waverly meanwhile has to adjust to life aboard the New Horizon, and when she discovers that her mother and some of the other parents from the Empyrean are being held onboard, she resolves to rescue them and get off the ship. As the story progresses we realize that not all is as it seems. There are revelations about the Empyrean and its captain that shake Waverly’s confidence at a critical juncture.

If you’re like me you’ll hate some of these characters by the end, and others you won’t be sure about. That’s a testament to the skill of the author. This is not one of those books where you have to wait for things to get going- we learn right at the outset that the New Horizon is nearby and the attack happens very quickly, so the tension is high almost from the outset. Towards the end Waverly is faced with some tough choices, and I mourned  her loss of innocence even as I found myself hoping she would exact vengeance.

I found the portrayal of religion to be interesting. We learn early on that the crew of the Empyrean are mostly secular, whereas the New Horizon has a more religious crew. Kieran has a religious background as well, and later in the book when he’s imprisoned he hears a voice in his head. We are left to wonder if this is God speaking to him, or is he hallucinating? The choices he makes change the situation aboard the Empyrean dramatically, and also affects his relationship with Waverly. To be honest I wasn’t crazy about this development, but it does explore themes of faith, forgiveness and leadership.

I was impressed with Glow. It’s a gripping story that doesn’t let go, and I found myself wondering more than a few times “how are they going to get out of this one?”. Having said that, I do think it gets a little unrealistic towards the end. I mean the distances between the two ships are just so great, the kids are so inexperienced and it just wasn’t really plausible to me that everything would fall into place the way it did. Still it’s a thrill ride and highly recommended.

Glow is the first in the Sky Chasers series. The second book is Spark and I look forward to seeing where the story goes.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Spotlight: Tides

Tides

I purchased Tides by Betsy Cornwell over the weekend and look forward to reviewing it soon. I've always been fond of merfolk and selkies are an intriguing concept. This appears to be a love story mixed in with selkie lore. Early reviews seem to be pretty good and I look forward to taking the plunge.

From Goodreads:

When high-school senior Noah Gallagher and his adopted teenage sister, Lo, go to live with their grandmother in her island cottage for the summer, they don’t expect much in the way of adventure. Noah has landed a marine biology internship, and Lo wants to draw and paint, perhaps even to vanquish her struggles with bulimia. But then things take a dramatic turn for them both when Noah mistakenly tries to save a mysterious girl from drowning. This dreamlike, suspenseful story—deftly told from multiple points of view—dives deeply into selkie folklore while examining the fluid nature of love and family.

Sunday Post



The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer

A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog.

June 11th Teaser Tuesday
June 11th Teaser Tuesday

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review: The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor is the story of Owen, a young boy whose family has to move in with his grandfather after his father loses his job. Their next door neighbor is Viola, a know-it-all girl who Owen can’t stand. Owen has a frog he just caught- “the biggest, greenest, slimiest, most beautiful bullfrog ever to be seen in Carter, Georgia”. Owen names him Tooley Graham and is very proud of him- and he doesn’t appreciate it when Viola tells him in no uncertain terms that Tooley would be better off free.

One night Owen is in bed listening to the train go by. He hears a crashing sound and realizes something has fallen off the train. What could it be? He resolves to find out, and recruits his friends Travis and Stumpy to help. They find more than they bargained for however. It seems that a small submarine has fallen off the train, and the boys decide to use it in the local pond! Of course they want to keep this a secret from Viola, who naturally turns up at the most inopportune times.

Finding a submarine is one thing, but getting it to the pond and figuring out how to work it is something else. And that’s where Viola comes in. Viola is smarter than the three boys or at least better read, and she loves to irritate them by pointing out things they have not thought of. Viola wants to be part of the group but they don’t want anything to do with her. Until Owen realizes he needs her help…

Throughout the story Owen wrestles with not only finding the mysterious something, but also with whether or not he should free Tooley. His frog increasingly seems despondent and he starts to realize that Viola may have been right about the frog… 

The dialogue between the kids is funny and authentic, I felt like I was listening to real kids talking. The relationship between the three boys seemed natural, but the best parts of the book are when Viola shows up. I felt a little sorry for her at first, the boys aren’t very nice to her, but she comes through for them at the end. There’s a moment towards the end where Owen and Viola share a moment of triumph that was touching. 

This book is a great summertime adventure. The idea of something mysterious falling off a train in a remote Southern town seemed to me like something that would happen in a Spielberg movie. That’s the vibe I got anyway, and is what initially drew me to the book. It’s fairly short at 168 pages and has a Q&A with the author at the end.


The Youtube trailer is here.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Review: Bear Island


Bear Island is a suspense novel by the acclaimed author Alistair Maclean. Maclean is best known for several books that have been made into movies, including the Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare. I read several of Maclean’s books as a child, but I don’t remember a lot, so I wanted to revisit his work to see how they hold up.

Bear Island tells the story of a film crew aboard a fishing trawler en route to an isolated island in the Arctic Circle. Of course, it will come as no surprise that the film crew (or at least some of them) are more than they appear to be. Written in the first person style from the viewpoint of a Dr. Marlowe, we quickly learn that not all is well with this movie production. There are several murders onboard the ship, and as Marlowe investigates he finds himself pulled deeper and deeper into a morass of deceit and intrigue.

As the story progresses so does the body count, and when the ship’s radio is mysteriously smashed it becomes impossible to call for help. The captain must decide between continuing on to Bear Island or making for port in Norway. The decision is made to proceed and the crew arrive on Bear Island about halfway through the book. Once they are there, the trawler doesn’t stick around and they are essentially marooned with one or more killers in their midst.

This is where the story becomes more of an espionage tale as secrets are revealed and perhaps no one is who we thought they were…including our narrator Dr. Marlowe. There’s plenty of twists and turns as the murders resume on the island and things really get desperate. Why is Marlowe really on board? What secrets are the film crew hiding? And what does this have to do with hidden Nazi gold from World War II?  

Bear Island is a gripping tale of blackmail, hidden treasure and international intrigue. It is written in an old- fashioned, wordy style that just wouldn’t fly today, and to be honest there were times when the wordiness and long sentences were tedious. At the same time it’s well written wordiness, and there were times when it really worked for me. He has a wry tone, often ironic, that elicited chuckles more than a few times. The story started off slow but I stuck with it, mainly because I just love the concept. A mystery at sea, murder and intrigue, a remote island… what’s not to like?

Bear Island is also a very atmospheric story. Maclean knew the sea and ships and his firsthand knowledge and experience comes through in the writing. Most of the story takes place in stormy conditions at sea and blizzard conditions on the island itself, and Maclean’s evocative style really ratchets up the tension in the story. I thought things were  wrapped up a little too neatly and there is no way to make sense of it all without a lot of exposition at the end, but it was satisfying. The hiding place for a stash of buried loot was, I thought, ingenious. 

I found a copy in a used bookstore and gave it a try. I was ready to move on after finishing Bear Island, but I may tackle another Maclean mystery down the road. What more can you ask of an author?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Historians



"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Historians By Trisha Leigh 


Publication Date: July 30, 2013 

From Goodreads:

*If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even knowing you’d probably never meet—would you do it?*

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually terraforming a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting people’s one true love.

The problem? If only one soul ever has been born, or will be born, that perfectly matches yours, the chances the two will exist in the same time and place are almost zero. It’s rare enough that the predictions have been reduced to a game, a parlor trick, and no one expects a happily ever after with their True.

*If you had the chance to meet your one true love—even knowing you couldn’t be together—would you go?*

Seventeen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and can’t resist a peek at her long-dead one true love. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could be disastrous.

*If you could save your one true love from a terrible, untimely death, would you be able to resist?*

When Oz Truman, a fellow apprentice, discovers Kaia’s secret, he shows her the predicted trajectories that could result her from altering the history of ancient Egypt. They prove that if Kaia doesn’t ensure her True dies as he’s supposed to, the effect on the present will be catastrophic.

*Would you have the strength to watch them die?*

But when Kaia she notices Oz popping up in historical archives where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers breaks worse rules than traveling to ancient Egypt to meet a boy.

If Kaia’s experience with her one true love has taught her anything, it’s that no alteration to history comes without consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it—especially not from the people she trusts



What's your "waiting on" pick this week?
Want to participate? Grab the logo, post your own WoW entry on your blog, and leave your link below

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers.

"Richie!"
"Who's out there?"
"Richie, it's me!"
"Ella?"
"We've got a big problem! It's Noah! I think he's going in!"
"Into the zoo?"
"No, the bathroom." She tossed up one more clump of earth. It missed Richie but sailed through the window and landed in the middle of his pillow. "Of course the zoo!"
"When?"
"Right now!"
Ritchie thought about this for a moment. Then he said , "What are we gonna do?"
"The only thing we can do," Ella said. "Go in after him."

The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick, pages 86-87

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

To participate you grab your current read, open to a random page and share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS (Make sure what you share doesn't give too much away. You don't want to ruin the book for others). Share the title and author too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers.

Today is a doubleshot of teaser goodness.

"Have you seen my other shoe, m'lord?".
The question seemed to vex Lord Bracken. "Am I a bloody handmaid, to fetch you shoes? Go barefoot if you must. Just go".
"Does that mean m'lord won't be taking me home with him, to pray with his little wife? " Laughing, Hildy gave Jaime a brazen look. "Do you have a little wife, ser?"

"I have sworn a vow," he told Hildy wearily.
"No turnips for you, then," the girl said, saucily.
"Get out," Lord Jonos roared at her.


A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin, page 635.

Anyone else reading A Dance with Dragons? I'd love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Wednesdays in the Tower

Wednesdays in the Tower (Castle Glower #2)

Wednesdays in the Tower is the sequel to Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. It’s a middle grade book that continues the adventures of Celie, the youngest daughter of King Glower and Queen Celina. For those unfamiliar with the first book, the premise is basically that Castle Glower is “alive” and it frequently adds, removes or changes rooms or entire areas of the castle as it sees fit! It usually does this on Tuesdays, hence the name.

Celie has a special bond with the castle and she alone knows all the ins and outs. Celie and her siblings Rolf, the eldest son and heir, and Lilah her sister face tragedy early on when the king and queen are ambushed and presumed dead. The children must fend off attempts to takeover the kingdom by outsiders- and their greatest ally may be the castle itself. The cast is rounded out by Pogue Parry, a roguish villager (and shameless flirt) who helps the kids and Lulath, a charmingly eccentric ambassador from a neighboring land.

Wednesdays in the Tower picks up after these events. Things have returned to normal  but it’s not long before things get interesting again. Celie is led by the castle to an orange egg- an egg that soon hatches! The creature that emerges has a connection to the first book and proves to be a real handful for Celie. Add to this the arrival of a mysterious wizard who is more than he seems (aren’t they all?), and the stage is set for some serious mayhem.  

The star of the book is in many ways the castle itself. Celie is an engaging protagonist, clever and forthright, but as in the first book it is the castle that provides all the surprises. Things are a little different this time though- in the first installment the castle was clearly acting in the best interests of the royal children, and there was little doubt where the castle’s loyalties lay. In this book however things are a little murkier- the castle is acting strangely (or so they think) and we learn more about the history of the castle and where it comes from.

Wednesdays in the Tower is a little shorter than the first book, and felt a little breezier. I was more invested in the first one for some reason, probably because the plot was a little more gripping. After all the kids were trying to survive a takeover attempt and the stakes were higher. There is not a lot of deep characterization here, the characters are lightly sketched and then off we go. The chapters are relatively short and often end with some kind of mild cliffhanger. The story itself moves pretty fast and it’s entertaining enough that you want to keep going.

The book itself ends on a cliffhanger, which surprised me a bit as the first book was self- contained. This is definetly a series now and the ending seemed very abrupt. All in all I thought the book was fun and breezy but not as good as the first one.