Book Review: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

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Book Reviews: Eden Summer by Liz Flanagan and Longbow Girl by Linda Davies

Eden Summer
Liz Flanagan
David Fickling Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-338-12120-9
Hardcover

Words are influential, able to constructively and destructively affect both the speaker and the audience. Final words feel eerily efficacious; especially when there is absolutely no expectation that they are indeed, last words. Vicious, venomous verbalizations can compound an already catastrophic event. In and of itself, crippling in its cruel randomness; devastating and gut-wrenching when choked with guilt.

A cloud of culpability completely cloaked the sun inside of Eden just as its rays tentatively began to reach out again.  Regret remained whenever she recalled begging her bestie, Jess, to walk her to the bus stop in a dismal downpour months ago.  Of course, she did not commit the heinous hate-crime, nor could she have stopped it; but that knowledge isn’t enough to alleviate feeling at fault.

Being the best nurse-cheerleader-therapist-buddy that she could be, Eden was instrumental in Jess’s healing and found that she was also helping herself move forward and focus on the important matters.  After all, she is a normal teen girl and she did catch the eye of the admittedly adorable Liam that Jess was always talking about.

Liam and Jess, comfortable chums and coffee-shop coworkers, both love Eden with the all-encompassing, unconditional, wholly-heart-felt love of fierce friendship. The bond built from “…looking after Eden all summer.” seems strong enough to support Eden indefinitely, until she disappears.  Will their devotion, even when paired with resilient determination and dogged belief, be enough to find Eden?

“She’d gone inside herself, somewhere a long way down, and I didn’t know how to follow.”

Wonderfully woven with stunning, unique, yet complimentary, threads; Eden Summer is a familiar, but fresh fabric.  Ms. Flanagan’s finesse in tackling two terrifying topics results in a relatable, engaging read that is as enjoyable as it is significant. Fast-paced with flashbacks filling in details, the story quickly captivates and keeps hold, even after “the end”.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2017.

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Longbow Girl
Linda Davies
Chicken House, March 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-85345-3
Hardcover

One of the coolest things about Longbow Girl is that while the events happen in present day, one character lives in an actual castle and another on a working farm; so it feels a bit like it is set in the past.  A pretty groovy way of lending an authentic feel to a story entrenched in history.

When an old tomb is inadvertently uncovered, Merry discovers an old book that appears to be one of the tomes from the Middle Welsh collection known as Mabinogion.  Although some folks believe whole-heartedly that the narratives are filled with truths, many others insist there are only myths.  Either way, there is no argument as to the value of the text.  Merry’s find may be the very thing to save the farm that has been the life and heart of her family for more than seven hundred years.

Of course there are challenges with having the artifact authenticated and obstacles in the way of proving it was found on her family’s land.  Weighing heavier than the legal red tape is the unshakable feeling that disturbing the grave will exact a higher price than the book could bring.  Nothing about this “solution” is sure or easy.

Fortunately, Merry is vibrant, fierce, cunning, and strong.  Often, a heroine struggles to come to terms; drum up courage to conquer that which seems insurmountable. Merry does not.  It’s not that she’s oblivious.   For her, doing the right thing is intuitive.  She is aware of the risks and possible loss, personally; but that is of small consequence when compared to the potential greater good for the masses.

Longbow Girl is a spectacular smash-up of Historical Fiction, Action and Adventure, Mystery and Suspense, with a shot of Science Fiction that features heroes, heroines and horses and touches on relatable social issues, family feuds and friendships.  And that’s just a few of the things that I dearly loved about it.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2016.

Book Reviews: It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell and The Devil’s Cold Dish by Eleanor Kuhns

It’s Always the Husband
Michele Campbell
St. Martin’s Press, May 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-08180-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, despite being as different as three women can be. Kate was beautiful, wild, wealthy, and damaged. Aubrey, on financial aid, came from a broken home, and wanted more than anything to distance herself from her past. And Jenny was a striver―brilliant, ambitious, and determined to succeed. As an unlikely friendship formed, the three of them swore they would always be there for each other.

But twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge, and someone is urging her to jump.

How did it come to this?

Kate married the gorgeous party boy, Aubrey married up, and Jenny married the boy next door. But how can these three women love and hate each other? Can feelings this strong lead to murder? When one of them dies under mysterious circumstances, will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?

I’m kind of conflicted about this book because, while I think the story of these women’s friendship is interesting, I can’t say I actually liked them or the police chief very much. As college students, they seemed like an oddly matched trio and they aren’t really any more compatible as they get older. It’s all just a little sad in a way and, although it’s true I didn’t connect emotionally with any of the three, I was still compelled to keep reading.

The first section drags a bit or perhaps it would be fairer to say that the pacing is on the slow side, deliberately so, and that makes the contrast with the second section even more noticeable. That second section is when I began to pay attention and wanted to know what would eventually happen but I still couldn’t find much in any of these women to care about. Kate in particular is an enigma or, rather, everyone’s near adoration of her is the enigma as she is one of the most unpleasant, better-than-thou people you can imagine.

An awful event in their younger years cements their connection to each other and that secret from the past has deadly implications in the present. This is the interesting part, getting bits and pieces from earlier years that begin to come together now, but it doesn’t quite make up for my dislike of these people. All in all, this is not a book I was crazy about.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

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The Devil’s Cold Dish
Will Rees Mysteries #5
Eleanor Kuhns
Minotaur Books, June 2016
ISBN 978-1-250-09335-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Will Rees is back home on his farm in 1796 Maine with his teenage son, his pregnant wife, their five adopted children, and endless farm work under the blistering summer sun. But for all that, Rees is happy to have returned to Dugard, Maine, the town where he was born and raised, and where he’s always felt at home. Until now. When a man is found dead – murdered – after getting into a public dispute with Rees, Rees starts to realize someone is intentionally trying to pin the murder on him. Then, his farm is attacked, his wife is accused of witchcraft, and a second body is found that points to the Rees family. Rees can feel the town of Dugard turning against him, and he knows that he and his family won’t be safe there unless he can find the murderer and reveal the truth…before the murderer gets to him first.

There’s a special place in my reading heart for historical mysteries and I especially like the 17th and 18th centuries in America so this book was sort of calling my name. Happily, I was not the least bit disappointed.

Rees and his family don’t have an easy life on the farm and relations with his sister and his son are very strained but they’re basically content and Will is happy to be back home in Dugard. The politics of the time cause arguments among the townspeople and Will is frequently right in the midst of the fracas but he’s not really prepared for the physical fight he has with an old friend, Mac McIntyre. When another man, Zadoc Ward, is murdered, Constable Caldwell invites Will to come along to see the body.  It’s during his investigation with Caldwell that Will becomes aware of a certain animosity in the community towards him, much stronger than he had thought, but this murder is only the beginning of the attacks on the Rees family.

Ms. Kuhns has a real grasp on this time period and the nuances of the lives of people who experienced the Revolution and its aftermath. Her research is obviously extensive but it doesn’t stilt her writing at all and I could really envision the setting, the times and the people. Not everyone can write historical fiction well but this author certainly does and now I need to reward myself with the previous books in this series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

Book Review: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn and See Also Murder by Larry Sweazy

A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning
A Veronica Speedwell Mystery #1
Deanna Raybourn
NAL/New American Library, September 2015
ISBN 978-0-451-47601-2
Hardcover

I didn’t want to leave the world Deanna Raybourn created for this book. Her writing is sumptuous.

It’s 1887 in a small English village. Veronica Speedwell has just buried her aunt, the last of her family. She’s free to return to traveling the world, collecting butterflies for fun and profit. But hours after the funeral, her house is burgled. A stranger approaches her warning of danger and offering help. She is suspicious, but when he says he knew and loved her mother, she can’t just walk away. Veronica was a foundling. She must learn more about him, and her parents.

The stranger leaves her in London, with Stoker, a reclusive naturalist, and a promise of revelations to come. What comes is news of the stranger’s murder. Veronica and Stoker embark on literal and figurative journeys of discovery that involve a surreal circus, kidnapping and old, dangerous secrets. Their relationship begins in mistrust. Veronica is intensely independent, in the vein of the great Victorian women explorers. Stoker is deeply damaged, estranged from family and society. Gradually, as danger tests them over and over, they begun to understand and appreciate each other.

I found their journeys fascinating, the ending satisfactory in several ways. May this be the first of many books about this couple.

Reviewed by Marilyn Nulman, October 2015.

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See Also MurderSee Also Murder
A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery #1
Larry D. Sweazy
Seventh Street Books, May 2015
ISBN: 978-1-63388-006-1
Trade Paperback

A fascinating idea, an unusual location, an investigator with an interesting profession, and some odd characters all combine into the potential for a truly outstanding mystery novel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite come off, due to an occasional wandering focus.

The author has chosen to concentrate on the mental meanderings of the principal character caught up in a tangle of competing emotions and relationships. Marjorie Trumaine is a professional indexer for a big East Coast publisher. Her life revolves around details and accuracy. The publisher sends her galleys of upcoming books and her responsibility is to check and double check facts and the consistency of facts. Publishers are unhappy when reviewers point out that the killer’s red getaway sedan on page five somehow morphs into a green dump truck on page twenty.

Marjorie Trumaine lives quietly in a small North Dakota town where she does her work and goes about life. A neighbor and his wife are butchered and the sheriff discovers a possible clue. It’s an amulet clutched in the hand of the deceased, covered with odd markings. The sheriff hands over the amulet to Marjorie Trumaine in the hopes her investigative skills will provide answers, including who murdered the couple.

Trouble begins almost immediately. Immersed in the investigation, Marjorie begins to see lurking shadows and hears strange noises. People she once saw as friends and good neighbors, she now looks at with tinges of fear and suspicion.

The first person narrative is clean and precise and readers will develop clear images of life in small North Dakota towns late in the previous century. Perhaps too many images. Eventually, of course, Marjorie discovers the truth about the amulet and the murders while adroitly avoiding the killer’s attempt to stop her.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, September 2015.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Creatures On Tour

Tim Rowland's Creature FeaturesTim Rowland’s Creature Features
Tim Rowland
High Peaks Publishing, October 2012
ISBN 978-0-9761597-3-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

 

When Tim Rowland’s earlier book of his animal essays, All Pets Are Off, was published, readers immediately clamored for more. Their preference for animal stories over the political columns Tim’s also known for is understandable: animals are way more fun to read about than politicians. Especially now.

 

So here’s a new volume of over 75 warm and funny essays, from the introduction to the farm of bovines Cleopatra and Heifertiti, the Belted Galloway beauties, to the further antics of Hannah the English Bulldog and Juliet the tiny Siamese, along with assorted donkeys, pigs, goats, horses, chickens, geese-and of course, more of the joyful bouvier des Flandres named Opie-that’s sure to provide loads of smiles and even outright guffaws.

 

Books that feature animals and their antics are right up my reading alley—in fact, you might say I’m a complete pushover for them. Mention one to me and I’m all over it, maybe because they’re almost always highly entertaining and bring both laughter and tears. I’m glad to say that Tim Rowland’s Creature Features is no exception.

Mr. Rowland’s stories revolve around the small farm he and his wife had in Maryland and it’s clear this farm was just like the one I have always secretly wanted, a handful of animals that might be found on any farm. In this case, though, the farm animals are clearly part of the family, much like the pets that live in the house. I loved reading about Juliet, the long-suffering cat, and her canine companions, Hannah and Opie, but I was every bit as entertained by the antics of the trio of perpetually loud and bad-tempered geese and Magellan, the easy-to-please pig who’s probably the only really sane one of the bunch and is the answer to the question of what to do with the overwhelming homegrown crops of zucchini.

Then there’s the tyrannical miniature horse, Doodlebug, and Cappy, the very large horse who believes a paricular fruit is out to get her. A pair of very likeable heifers who view a visiting bull with disdain and a few alpacas who spend their time spitting add to the fun but I think my favorite of all is Chuckles, the rooster who came up with a very clever way of escaping the freezer.

Little Farm by the Creek is a place I would have been delighted to visit but, failing that, the author’s stories are the next best thing. This is a collection I’ll be re-reading frequently. My daughter and her two cats share my house with me and my cat; two days ago, Sassy, my daughter’s 18-year-old kitty, passed away and Tim Rowland’s Creature Features has brought a good deal of comfort at such a sad time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2013.

 
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Tim RowlandAbout Tim Rowland:

Tim Rowland is an award-winning columnist at Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Maryland. He has written for numerous history and outdoor magazines and news syndicates nationwide.

He has also authored several books, most recentlyStrange and Obscure Stories of the Civil War and including All Pets are Off: A Collection of Hairy Columns, Petrified Fact: Stories of Bizarre Behavior that Really Happened, Mostly, Earth to Hagerstown, High Peaks: A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene andMaryland’s Appalachian Highlands: Massacres, Moonshine & Mountaineering

Tim is also keeper and lackey for a wide assortment of mostly non-useful, freeloading critters, aided as always by his trusty (well, mostly trusty) companion Opie.

Tim Rowland’s Website: http://www.timrowlandbooks.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TimRowlandBooks 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tim.rowland.9

Buy Tim Rowland’s Creature Features:

Amazon.com- Paperback
Amazon.com- Kindle
Barnes & Noble- Nook
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