Thursday, June 22, 2017

Need a Shivery, Chilling Tale For a Hot Summer Night? I've Got One For You ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Clare Martin and her husband, Jess, are desperately in need of a change.  When they're hired to be the caretakers of Riven House, a crumbling Hudson River Valley estate belonging to a beloved college professor, they're ecstatic.  Not only do they get to spend time with the man who mentored them both, but the peaceful setting couldn't be more perfect for two writers seeking inspiration.  Clare's praying the change of scenery will light a fire under Jess, who hasn't even started his second novel, the advance for which has already been spent. She's also hoping to restock their dwindling bank account while rekindling their dying marriage.  A tall order, but the bucolic setting seems capable of delivering everything Clare has ever wanted.

It's not long, though, before strange things start to happen.  Clare hears invisible babies crying in the night, sees wispy figures in the fog, and stumbles on creepy features in a house with a very disturbing history.  Either Clare is going crazy or Riven House is haunted.  The longer she stays, the more she suspects the former.  As the dream Clare embraced so thoroughly evolves into a terrifying nightmare, she'll discover shocking truths about Riven House's heartbreaking past, its current occupants, and her own upbringing.  With all its sinister secrets revealed, only one question remains: is Riven House possessed or is Clare?

I've enjoyed several of Carol Goodman's eerie mysteries, but her newest—The Widow's House—is my favorite so far.  Atmospheric and eerie, it's a spooky Gothic tale that gets creepier as its moves forward.  Although the plot builds slowly, the increasing intensity makes the novel impossible to put down.  Against my better judgment, I stayed up well past midnight to finish it and, yes, nightmares did ensue.  The Widow's House tells a depressing story, to be true, but it's also a compelling page turner that you won't be able to put down.  If you need a shivery tale to send chills down your spine on a scorching summer night, you can't go wrong with this one.

(Readalikes: Reminded me of other books by Carol Goodman as well as of Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, depictions of illegal drug use, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Moon An "EnMagickal" Middle Grade Adventure

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Dark and gloomy, the Protectorate is a village beset by fear—fear of the Elders, who rule the town; fear of the wicked witch, who watches from the forest; and fear of bearing children, one of whom must be sacrificed every year in order to protect the village.  Not everyone supports the annual tradition of leaving a newborn in the woods for the witch, but no one has the courage to speak out against the practice.  It's simply what has to be done.  

Xan, a witch who is not wicked in the least, does her best to ferry the Protectorate's unwanted children to better homes in happier locales.  One night, however, she accidentally "enmagicks" a baby girl, infusing her with a strong dose of moonlight.  The safest solution to the problem is for Xan to raise young Luna herself, which she does with the help of a swamp monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. is well and good until Luna's magic grows too strong to control, Xan's body starts to fail her, and a determined farmer plunges into the woods, determined to kill the witch.  What ensues is a tense, exciting quest for truth, right, and justice.   
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is a magical fantasy that is both lovely and uplifting.  The prose is lyrical, poetic.  A layered tale, it instructs on many levels, teaching lessons about thinking for one's self, finding courage to do what is right, the importance of truth, and the endurance of love.  I'm sure a digger could find much in the way of symbolism and allegory in this story; me, I just enjoyed it for its surface sweetness.  If you love fantasy stories with a timeless feel, you'll definitely want to let The Girl Who Drank the Moon "enmagick" you.

(Readalikes:  I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

TTT: Serial Readers, Unite!

How do you feel about series books?  Love them?  Hate them?  I happen to delight in delving deeply into a place and its people, so I adore them.  Naturally, then, I'm excited to jump into today's Top Ten Tuesday topic.  

If you want to join in the fun, all you have to do is hop on over to The Broke and the Bookish, read the rules, make a list of your own, and start clicking around the blogosphere.  It's a good time, I promise!

So, back to the topic du jour.  Because I love series so much, I'm in the middle of about a million of them.  Today, we're supposed to list series we've been meaning to start but haven't.  I don't even want to think about that when I've got so many I need to finish.  So, here's a mix of series I want to re-read, start, and finish:

1.  Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (status: complete)—I read the Harry Potter books as they came out and have been meaning to re-read the entire series ever since.  I've started this goal in the last six months or so and it's been fun to revisit the HP world we all know and love!

 2.  The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (status: 1/7)—I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe back in elementary school.  Although the book totally captured my imagination, I don't think I ever continued with the series.  Methinks I need to remedy that.
3.  The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (status: complete)—When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the Little House world—the books, the t.v. show, everything.  I've been meaning to re-read this whole series for a long time, just haven't done it yet.

 4.  Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (status: 1/8)—I read Outlander a number of years ago.  Although I loved the book, I never continued with the series.  Not sure why.  I want to finish it, but the idea of re-reading Outlander, plus seven more very lengthy tomes is a little daunting.  One of these days ...

5.  Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer (status: 5/12)—This is such a delightful series.  It's got it all—adventure, romance, humor, sass, etc.  Fortunately, Meyer finished the Bloody Jack books prior to his death in 2014.  Unfortunately, he will never pen another series.  Bummer, because this one is a real treasure.

6.  Ruth Galloway by Elly Griffiths (status: 4/10+)—I've enjoyed this series about a quirky British forensic archeologist who helps the police solve mysteries.  More books are being added every year, so I need to catch up quick!

7.  Amelia Peabody by Elizabeth Peters (status: 7?/20+)—An oldie but goodie, this series made its entrance into the world in 1975, just like Yours Truly!  I'm not sure where I am in the series as I've been reading it for a long time.  I'd like to go back and re-read the early books, then continue on.  Someday.

8.  Lady Julia Grey by Deanna Raybourn (status: 0/5+)—I've enjoyed Raybourn's newest series, so I'm interested in checking out this older one as well.  

9.  Study/Chronicles of Ixia by Maria V. Snyder (status: 0/6+)—I've been meaning to read this YA series about a royal food taster ever since it began back in 2005.  One of these days ...

10.  Lady Darby by Anna Lee Huber (status: 0/6+)—Lark got me interested in this historical mystery series about a widow who shares her anatomist husband's "unnatural" interest.  

So, there you go, ten series I want to re-read, start, and finish.  What series are you interested in starting?  Have you read any of the ones I mentioned?  Which other series should I be starting?  Leave me a comment and I'll gladly return the favor!

Happy TTT! 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Love on Pointe a Fun, Faith-Promoting Debut (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Rhys Solario isn't like the other guys at Brigham Young University.  He hasn't served a mission, he doesn't hold the priesthood, he's not interested in a temple marriage—heck, he's not even Mormon.  He's a good guy, but he's learned from bitter experience that he's not the kind of man for whom BYU co-eds are looking.  Which is fine by him.  He just needs to keep his head down for two more semesters, then he'll be done with the Y and its crazy dating scene forever. Jennings only has one thing on her mind: ballet.  She's a talented, experienced ballerina, but now that her impulsive twin has up and quit dancing—an obsession they've always shared—Emmy will have to work even harder to learn routines and perform well enough to earn a coveted solo in an upcoming show.  With a full school schedule, a learning disability that makes studying even more complicated, and a sister-roommate who's acting strangely, Emmy's got plenty on her plate.  The last thing she needs is a distraction like her handsome new study partner.  She's not looking for a date, let alone her eternal companion, but Emmy can't deny her attraction to kind, down-to-earth Rhys Solario.

Rhys can't believe a gorgeous, graceful Mormon girl like Emmy is giving a guy like him a chance.  Of course, she doesn't know he's not a member of her church.  He needs to tell her.  Right away.  The second he does, though, she'll jeté right out of his life.  Rhys will do anything to keep Emmy by his side.  Except the one thing she wants him to do: convert.  Will Emmy have to give up what's most important to her in order for the couple to have a chance?  Or will their whirlwind romance end before it's even had a chance to begin? 

Love on Pointe, a debut novel by Tiffany Odekirk, is an upbeat, swoony romance featuring a likable duo battling an impossible problem.  While I found the story's premise a little implausible, I adored its setting.  Odekirk does an admirable job of bringing the BYU atmosphere to life in all its goofy glory, capturing both the fun and frustration inherent in the student experience.  She also goes to great pains to break down common stereotypes, although many manage to bleed through.  Still, Love on Pointe tackles a difficult situation with honesty and sensitivity.  Although it's obvious from the get-go how the story will end, she throws in a couple of surprises to keep the plot interesting.  Not every aspect of the story line rang true for me, but overall I found Love on Pointe an enjoyable read.  Yes, it oozes a fair amount of cheese and melodrama; still, it's a bright, fun, faith-promoting book that will appeal to anyone looking for a clean, easy-to-read LDS romance.  While I have a few issues with Odekirk's debut performance, one thing is certain—I can't wait to see what she does for an encore.    

(Readalikes:  Love on Pointe reminded me of other contemporary LDS romances by Melanie Jacobson, Jenny Proctor, and Brittany Larsen)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for nothing offensive, although the story is most appropriate for readers 12+

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Love on Pointe from the generous folks at Covenant.  Thank you!


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Friday, June 09, 2017

The Door in the Alley A Quick, Quirky, Adventure-Filled Romp

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Even though there are maps tacked up all over his bedroom walls, Sebastian is not the kind of boy who longs for adventure.  He's certainly not the type who goes looking for it.  In fact, he prefers his life just the way it is—safe, predictable, and logical.  So, why does a cryptic sign posted in a dingy alley make him so darn curious?  What is it about The Explorers Society that keeps tugging at his underactive imagination?  

Most illogically, it's a pig in a tiny hat who grants Sebastian entrance into the mysterious society's headquarters.  What he finds inside are people and stories so mind-boggling he can hardly believe they're real.  The Explorers Society is a fun place to hang out, especially since Sebastian's not required to do any adventuring for himself.  

When 11-year-old Evie Drake appears on the Society's doorstep, however, everything changes.  Suddenly, Sebastian finds himself in the middle of a grand adventure complete with a missing explorer, a puzzling mystery, and two sinister bad guys hot on his trail.  Sebastian wants to help Evie find her missing grandfather—he really does—but he's no Indiana Jones.  How can he solve the mystery, rescue Mr. Drake, and keep himself and Evie safe from goons with guns?  It's impossible.  Especially for a risk-averse, panic-attack prone boy like Sebastian.  He's no hero.  Or is he?

The Door in the Alley, the first book in a new series by Adrienne Kress, is a fun-filled, action-packed adventure perfect for armchair explorers.  Featuring a quirky, conversational narrator, it's an upbeat tale with plenty of twists, turns, and surprises.  Sebastian and Evie make a likeable team—it's easy to root for them as they work together to save the only family member Evie has left.  The Door in the Alley is an easy, exciting read that middle graders will surely eat right up.  Personally, I can't wait to see what happens next to this dynamic duo.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of York by Laura Ruby; also of books by Lemony Snicket, Psuedonymous Bosch, and Chris Grabenstein)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Door in the Alley from the generous folks at Random House Kids.  Thank you! 


Want more opinions about The Door in the Alley?  Of course you do!  Follow along on the book's two-month long tour:
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