Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Long Masquerade by Madeleine Brent

The Long Masquerade  4 Stars
First off, ignore the cover. This can hardly be called a romance, let alone a bodice ripper. I think there are two chaste kisses in the whole book. Yes, TWO!. No, three but we don't count her nasty husband's kiss. OK! Now that we've got that out of the way, lets talk about the book itself...

I love Madeleine Brent! She (who was actually a he) puts the reader right there in the story and from page one you feel invested in the characters. And then the adventure and locations, you never 'stay put' in a M.B. book, youre always seeing new places and cultures. (If you like Anne Maybury, MMKaye, Victoria Holt etc you will love Madeleine Brent). In this case, the story starts off in Jamaica...

The beginning is a bit sordid, in that Emma marries a man who is a horrid beast who abuses her. When the abuse culminates during a hurricane and her actual life is in danger she manages to run away with a half chinese man (former servant, like a father to her) on his sail/steam boat. They make it look as though they die in the storm and then basically change their identities and wander the islands for three years. Emma is incognito as 'the coolie's woman', speaking creole pidgen and diving for lobsters etc. Love her pidgen!!

Without giving the plot away, she ends up in England and finally in Jamaica again. There is danger at home, danger at sea, and finally danger under the sea....

Why 4 stars?
I thought the middle of the story dragged a bit. The author allows us to see the peacefulness her life became at the juncture but I found it a bit dull.
Also, her husband at the beginning was such a jerk (think Dragonwyck but without the charm) that it was hard to enjoy the few chapters where she is married to him, and yet it was needed to lay the 'terror foundation'..

Once she is on the boat with Daniel (the chinese 'father') the excitement really kicks up and later when she comes back to Jamaica, very satisfying exciting ending! M.B. really delivers on her culminating suspense!! I can't tell you, you have to read it!

SEX: None shown to reader but marital rape/abuse was obviously an issue at the beginning.
VIOLENCE: Action violence. Some people get killed.
PROFANITY: a few very mild cusses

MY RATING: PG-13 (because of the marital abuse~ FYI  the abuse is behind closed doors but you know what happens)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Oh To Glory by Abby Rosser

Oh to GraceDon't let the title of this book put you off. Its not a collection of hymns. :)

There's a lot of things I loved about this book. The characters are extremely well drawn and full of life and personality. Some are unforgettable, like the man who came home from the war with no legs and his wife carries him around like a sack of potatoes everywhere. Yet he never complains.

Others are just laugh out loud hilarious. Like the boy who saves spit from all his favorite foods in little glass jars to savor the memory...

Or Ida Mae who started leaking milk while at a family gathering and everyone is so embarrassed for her, trying to pretend they don't notice and she just comes out and says, "Anna gave me a new blouse to wear cos my hooters were leaking like a sow with fifty teats.' Just cracked me right up!

There are some very sad moments in the book too which I wont spoil for you but I felt they were gutsy and well portrayed.

The cons...
The POV switches back and forth and swings between dates so you really need to pay attention to the dates at the beginning of each chapter. Its a little confusing for the first half of the book.
I felt that the book also got a bit preachy toward the end. Not over the top but a little too much for my taste.

SEX: Implied (and sometimes mentioned outright) but not shown to reader. One instance of an adulterous relationship. Some necking in the hay and one case of unwed pregnancy. Not really suitable for YA readers but probably ok for NA readers.
VIOLENCE: Death by drowning and shooting.
PARANORMAL ELEMENTS: A fortune teller us consulted at a village fair.
SERMONIZING : A bit strong at the end. Otherwise very mild.

MY RATING: PG (For NA and A audiences)

Many thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for a free ecopy to review

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli

The Gondola MakerAlmost 4 Stars

I really liked this book and I'm not entirely sure why.

As a whole, it wasn't particularly exciting. There's no mystery, intrigue, action and very little romance. And yet, I couldn't put it down.

As an artist, I was fascinated with the whole craftsman experience. Things like ship figureheads fascinate me so getting a birdseye view of gondola makers in the 1500s was awesome.

Through the author's writing, I could visualize Venice like I never had before. Because of the waterways throughout the city, gondolas were used for everything : as taxis, deliveries, messangers etc. So there were dozens (perhaps hundreds) of gondola makers in Venice (the skill passed from father to eldest son throughout generations) as well as oarmakers, ropemakers, the list goes on...

And then there were the artists that flourished in Venice during the 1500s...and the costume really must have been a fascinating place to live.

So if you're an "artsy" type of person, I think you would really like this as I did.

Now for the cons...

It was strange. The book is written in first person which I generally love because it allows me to 'get into' the character's mind. But in this story the main character, Luca, doesn't have much to say. And doesn't seem to waste too much time thinking either. So even when he is the center of action we feel as though we're observing from a distance. Kind of like a hovering insect.
Infact, we learn of most happenings through the talk and actions of other characters.
And yet I still cared what became of Luca. It was strange.

But at the end of the day, I would have liked more loose ends cleared up. In some ways the ending was satisfying in that we know things will be ok for the main character, and yet I felt a bit cheated. Its like accompanying someone on a long journey on a train and just when they come to the finale of their life story they say "ok! This is my stop, enjoy the rest of your trip". And off they go without you. And you never know what happens.

The book left me scrambling and searching for an epilogue which wasn't there. I don't want to GUESS what happens. I want to KNOW. FRUSTRATING.

No sex scenes but there is mention of both male and female prostitution. Also, at one point a young woman tries to seduce Luca.
Very mild (in English) but I suspect there were several in Italian which I just didn't understand.


Many thanks to netgalley for a free e-copy to review

Monday, December 23, 2013

Circle Of Spies by Rosanna White

Circle of Spies (The Culper Ring #3)5 Stars arent earned easily.But this book deserves every one of them.

It isn't often I read a book and say "I wouldn't change a thing ". There's always something that just doesn't quite 'scratch the itch'. So I was amazed that when I at last put this book down I didn't have one negative thing to say about it. It was perfect.

The characters are flawed and REAL. The heroine is a coquette and drawn in many directions by her desires; she makes some bad choices in her life which eventually cause her to rethink where she is heading. At heart she is a good person. Shes also fascinating in that she has perfect recall. She has merely to glance at something (or see something or hear something) and it is forever and indelibly inscribed on her memory. This is both a blessing and a curse. But its interesting how it all pans out and is put to use.

The hero is very likable. A bit of a rogue who has turned his wayward life around on the inside but as a Pinkerton detective he assumes the role of his traitorous dead twin brother to infiltrate the KCG.

And the villain...he's a perfect villain. I liked that he didn't hide his "villain-ness" til the last page. He was a villain from the very first chapter which made it all the more spooky. But hes not at all comical. He played an abusive control freak who will stop at absolutely nothing to posses his deceased brothers wife. (The heroine) .He's positively smooth at the start of the book but becomes increasingly unhinged as he loses the devotion of his intended.

I just loved this book. You need to read it. Even the secondary characters were well formed and living. Such a well developed story. Did I say I loved it??


SEX : None (although a past indiscretion is mentioned)
VIOLENCE : A few people are shot and there are plans to assassinate the president.
SERMONIZING : Very mild and not at all "forced". It just seemed normal progression of thought (regret, repentance, righting wrongs etc) . I didn't find it preachy or "denominational" at all.


 Many thanks to NetGalley for my free ecopy to review

Friday, December 20, 2013

Biting Through The Skin by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's HeartlandI was so excited to get approval on NetGalley to read this book! I have a love affair with all things Indian (except their music, can't quite wrap my ears around that) and I saw this book and just hoped against hope that the publisher would say yes to my request. They did! yay!

I'm one of those weird white "foodies" who haunt Asian markets and take home all kinds of exotic vegetables and spices and then hover over youtube clips to learn how to use them. I have a huge plastic tub of Indian spices that barely fits in my cupboard and more stacked behind that.

So as you can imagine, I was fascinated to read the author's story of growing up Indian in Kansas, USA; the only Indian family for hundreds of miles. How did she cope? How did she fit in? How did her mother prepare their beloved foods? And at the end of the day, how did she view herself? American or Bengali?

The author has a wonderful way with words and her stories of visits back to India and food celebrations just made my mouth water. Other descriptions equally fascinated me. Let me give you one example of Indian architecture:

"With time, mold and moss would creep over the pale pinks and butter yellows of the plaster walls until, grayish and mottled, the walls blended the space between the soil and the sky, as if a charcoal artist had just smudged their edges".

Love it!

There is also a poignant tale at the beginning of the book where the author tosses a banana outside a train window to a boy who was watching her eat, cupping his hands, hungry. She reminisced how he caught the banana and immediately devoured it, skin and all. She was only about 6 years old at the time but she never forgot it.

As the book progresses she grows up, the final few chapters she is in the Peace Corp with her husband in Tunisia learning more food culture there. All through the book are recipes which I have bookmarked, eager to try.

So if I loved it so much, why 4 stars?

Pictures! I want pictures!!
That's the long and short of it.
I did, however, enjoy the snapshots of her 6 recipe card recipe book she left home with. There is nothing quite so intimate as one's recipe book.


Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me a digital copy of this book for review.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tales from a Mountain City: A Vietnam War Memoir by Quynh Dao

Tales from a Mountain City: A Vietnam War Memoir2 1/2 Stars
You have to loooooove history to get into this book. I do. Or at least I thought I did but maybe I don't so much.

When I read a memoir I expect history; I need history to understand the background of someones story. Ideally, I would like 80% personal story and 20% history, (the 20% expertly woven into the memoir in such a way that I dont even realize I'm getting a history lesson).

This book is the opposite. 80% history and 20% personal story. Preeeeeetty dry at times. I will admit that by the time I was 50% through the book I started to skim. I just wanted to 'get to the story'.

See, its like this: when someone has limited knowledge of a subject (as I do when it comes to Vietnam) and they are then force fed every detail of every aspect of ancient and modern history, each dynasty, each king, and then every revolt thrown in for good measure, their brain (my brain) starts spinning. It cant help it.

And while my brain is busy making me carsick I round a bend and lo and behold! more background; this time the author's personal familial history (and to be fair, that is, after all, why we are reading this book)....ah! But where to start? How about....yes! I think this should suffice! 400 years ago...
Don't get me wrong; its all interesting stuff. Seriously. But its..just. too. much.

BOTTOM LINE: If you love history more than life itself give this a go.
If you don't, but enjoy a good historical memoir written about this time period but in Cambodia, I suggest you try "Mother and the Tiger " instead.


Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me a digital copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Wishing on Buttercups by Miralee Ferrell

Wishing on Buttercups (Love Blossoms in Oregon #2)This is a sweet, heartfelt story of a scarred, artistic young woman "abandoned " as a child on the wagon trail and rescued by the Arapahoes Indians. The only clues to her identity were a locket around her neck and fragmented memories of buttercups, a campfire and a kindly Indian woman spreading ointment on her burns...

As the story unfolds we meet a young man striking out on his own as a writer, a blackguard ex fiance, and many other memorable personalities.

I thought the storyline itself very good. The characters were well drawn and the mystery tantalizing.

However, I also found it somewhat frustrating.
So many times characters were on the verge of pouring out their thoughts to each other but stopped. Suddenly. "Forgive me. I cant discuss this afterall." Time and again. I really wanted to bang some heads together! No one wanted to trust and no one wanted to talk. Enough already! It got tiresome...

For this reason I felt that the book dragged in places for no good reason. Almost to make up a page quota or something. In fact, if the story was 50 pages or so shorter it wouldn't hurt the story at all but would probably improve it. Just my opinion.


SEX : None
RELIGIOUS ELEMENTS : Mild and rather 'forced'. Voices saying to "trust me " etc . It felt somewhat unnatural. There was also the OA technique used. (Overnight Awakening). One day the character has not much use for God, the next day they're like "Oh Lord, you are my hope and anchor.." I'm not fond of this.


Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy for review.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mother and the Tiger by Dana Hut Lim

Mother and the Tiger: A Memoir of the Killing Fields

Words can't really begin to describe this book. Growing up I would hear about the Vietnam war but it seemed a long time ago and my knowledge of it sketchy. And while I distinctly remember the phrase Khmer Rouge I had no idea of what or who they were and what Cambodia experienced during this time.

What. An. Eye opener.

When the Khmer Rouge rounded up the author's village no one knew what to expect or where they were going. They ended up in a series of jungle work camps "supervised " by the cruel Khmer Rouge 'leaders ' (mere boys of 12 or 13 with AK-47s, a lust for power and no conscience.)

During the rule of the Khmer Rouge 25% of Cambodians perished in what came to be called "the killing fields". Survival came down to a matter of personal grit, determination, ingenuity,  chance, and will to survive. It is amazing that of the 8 people in the author's family, 7 survived.

The story is so well written and so mindblowingly amazing that for two days I couldn't stop reading it. Every chance I got my nose was buried in it. It made me appreciate every grain of rice that passes my lips and just filled me to overflowing with compassion for my fellow neighbors in this our global village. I have never been reduced to eating cockroaches, rats or tarantulas; nor have i ever had to bathe my infected eyes with urine. We in the western world have NO IDEA.....none.

I am aghast that I never knew this happened. I feel like this book should be standard literature for every highschool student.

Even though the book is primarily a "trials and tribulations" kind of read it is not without some humor. I especially enjoyed seeing Dana's first hand reactions to technology when she arrived in Australia and her reaction to Western food. Classic! Loved it!

To wrap it up, I'll leave you with a quote. It takes place after arrival in Australia when she was questioned by her classmates about 'what it was really like'....

"I told as best I could what it was like to live in Cambodia during the years of Khmer Rouge reign....I could say that real events had been far worse than any film could possibly portray but I could not make them feel it....I could not show them what it was really like, and in truth I did not really try. No one should ever have to witness such depravity. If I could somehow make them see they would have hated me forever, and they would have been right to. They would never have recovered from the experience. I never have."

 Many thanks to NetGalley for my free ecopy to review

SEX: one rape (not described but mentioned in passing)
VIOLENCE : moderate but not gratuitous or intended to horrify.
PROFANITY : Mild and mostly according to dictionary definition. Not oaths.

Slices Of Life by Leah Eskin

Slices of Life: A Food Writer Cooks through Many a Conundrum
This is a fun book of both recipes and short essays; 'slices of life'. To be honest, I found it hard to get into at first. The beginning of the book felt stilted, choppy and frankly confusing.
It seemed full of clever twists of phrase that were meant to amuse but ultimately make me scratch my head and wonder what it was all about. There were lots of sparks of something but ultimately no connection.

However,  I kept reading and it did get better. The writing seemed to smooth out (or maybe my mind was adjusting to the writing style) and I found many of the essays enjoyable. Great for when you only have small snatches if time, like in the kitchen waiting for sauce to thicken or butter to melt.

Essays aside, the book is worth having for the recipes alone. There's a ton of great homey  recipes, some which are family heirlooms and others general cooking tips. I would like to see this book in paper format (I have an ebook) because I think all cookbooks should be flip-through-able.

BOTTOM LINE : Clever book. Bon Apetit!

Many thanks to NetGalley for my free cop[y for review

Friday, December 13, 2013

Painted Ponies by Amanda Harte

Painted PoniesPainted Ponies is such a sweet, beautiful story with very few reviews.I aim to rectify that:)

It is the story of young woman (an identical twin) whose life is drastically changed by a house fire that leaves her mother and father dead and herself badly scarred. She goes away for a year getting medical treatment and returns to her home town, expecting her brother to meet her at the train station. Instead, her brother's employee meets them; Rob, a man with his own troubled past, a man who has been commissioned by her brother to create a carved wooden carousel for his sister as a welcome homecoming...

I just love the whole "look beyond the surface" kind of love story where people are attracted to the person itself, with or without the fancy packaging. In Rob's eyes, Anne is beautiful inside and out and never is there a word or look of pity in his gaze. Of course, there's the tension which you need in a story, the misunderstandings and doubts that make you wonder if love will really triumph in the end, yet knowing that it must. It HAS to!

Such a lovely story.

Painted Ponies is the first in a series of books but is stand alone with no cliffhanger endings. I believe that the other books in the series focus on other townsfolk in Hidden Falls.


SEX: None


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Inspector Rumblepants and the case of the Golden Haggis by Mike Blyth

Inspector Rumblepants and the Case of the Golden HaggisWhat made me choose to read this book?

I'm not in the target age range and I'm not even fond of zany kids cartoons.

It must have been something in the title that resonated with me and found a kindred spirit in the gurgling of my post-chickpea-soup-stomach.I'm in pain and I think the thief's secret weapon might come in handy...

Ok, so this wasn't a book for me. There's a lot of slapstick and some potty humor which just isn't my thing. However, while I was reading it I could picture reading it aloud to my 8 year old nephew and seeing him roll on the floor with laughter. For boys age 8-12 I think this book would be a success; they'd LOVE it.

By the way, do you know what a haggis is? There's some speculation in the book that it is a rare Scottish animal whose legs on one side of its body are shorter than the others so that it can climb mountain sides with no trouble. Coming down is another story and thats why they're so rare...


Many thanks to NetGalley for a free copy of this book to review

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

Oh my. 
This is a book that deserves every one of its five stars.

The title basically says it all. It's about a former drug user whose life is on the rebound and is adopted by a stray sickly ginger kitten. After many attempts to locate the cat's owner, James adopts "Bob" and they become inseparable; first as a feline sidekick while James 'busked' for spare change and later to his selling "the Big Issue" (a magazine published to help people get back on their feet and into the working world again while rehabilitating).

The story is heartfelt, warm and pure feel good. Such a remarkable cat, full of personality and cleverness. How many cats do you know get on the bus, find their way home and use the toilet? I absolutely loved it.

The one thing I would have to wish different is the profanity. I understand that it was written plain, 'just say it like it is'. And that is part of its appeal. It's almost as though the author is sitting in the living room and telling us a story. Warts and all. That's fine! But I do think it could have been cleaned up a bit so younger audiences could enjoy it too. You know, just bleep it. "And he said, *bleeeeeep* or *blankety blank*. Or how about, "He jumped up and down, cussing all the while". We get the point.And no one is offended. It's really not that difficult.

All things considered though, I truly did love this story. Well done, James for getting your life back on track!! And well done, Bob for helping him :)

SEX: None
DRUG USE: mentioned, explained and overcome

MY RATING: PG-13 (for language and drug mention)

*UPDATE* I just learned that there's a YA version where the language has been cleaned up and photos added. It's called "Bob, No Ordinary Cat".


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mail Order Love by Amy Blakelear RATING: 4 stars out of 5

Every now and then it's good to "cleanse the palate" when reading. Ive been reading a lot of mysteries the past few weeks (which I love) but sometimes I need to read something really light and fluffy just to break it up a bit.. "Mail Order Love" fit the bill perfectly.

We start off in a sort of cinderella story. Ellie, our heroine is working her fingers to the bone "paying for her keep" at her sister in law, Ursula's home after losing every member of her family to typhoid. Ursula soon tires of her presence, and to pay off some personal debt, she arranges a marriage for Ellie with an greasy, lecherous man named Mr. Gergmins. He is a villain Dickens would be proud of. The man is so amphibiously greasy you expect him to leave a slime trail behind him like a slug.I'm not sure if it was meant to be comical but I found myself chuckling.

Anyway, to secure her escape, Ellie places an ad as a housekeeper in a newspaper. An old woman answers the ad, sends her a ticket and then informs her grandson (who looks after her and the ranch) that she ordered him a mail order bride as a present and could he go pick her up at the train station...

I won't give away the rest of the story but it is a very sweet, very clean read, enjoyable and suitable for all audiences. I saw nothing in it that would offend even the most sensitive of readers.

 I appreciated the fact that the heroine was someone we could relate to. She wasn't drop dead gorgeous, nor ugly. Just normal. She had a sweet personality and was easy to like. The romance was not instant but developed slowly which was realistic.

Why 4 stars and not 5? I would like to feel just a bit more UMPH. My guts wanted to be twisted juuuust a bit more. But that is personal preference, not a reflection of the writer's skill. The story was well written and refreshing to read.

SEX: None

Monday, December 9, 2013

Green Fire by Anne Maybury

 Green Fire

2 1/2 Stars out of 5

Anne Anne Anne, WHAT am I going to do with you? This story had SO much potential. *sigh*

In a nutshell, a young woman in a troubled relationship (her fiance has gone off the deep end) goes to Hong Kong to visit her brother who is in government service there. It seems as good a good place as any to just chill for a couple of months while she gets over her crushed feelings and contemplates her future.

On the flight over, she strikes up a conversation with a pretty young woman who is to meet her fiance in Hong Kong; however when the fiance fails to show up at the airport our heroine takes Marcia under her wing. Tsk Tsk Tsk. Be wary of strangers, my friend...the baggage this woman carries with her will embroil everyone she knows in danger and intrigue. Oh! don't I make it sound EXCITING?

What follows is a series of threatening phone calls, notes and meetings on strange streets. Someone thinks our heroine has what is called "green fire" and will stop at nothing to get it from her. Amidst these goings on there is an old love interest and jealousy and suspicion. And then it all went flaaaaaaaaat.

Maybe I'm a little harsh. But you see I got my hopes up when I read it was set in Hong Kong and I thought I would get a culturally exotic experience, but aside from the odd cricket peddlar the story could have been set in New York for all the moody atmosphere we got. Most of the book's scenes take place in a living room or balcony while the characters sit around wringing their hands and sipping cocktails.

And I'm surprised at this. If Anne Maybury is excels at anything it's setting the scene. But I'm wondering if she never went to China and thus couldn't really get into it.Such a shame... 


SEX: None

The Loch by Janet Caird

The Loch
It all starts when an earthquake in Portugal shifts a fault line on a loch floor in Scotland. This, in turn, triggers a tidal wave which reshapes the scenery and sets off a chain of events that bring horror to a small Scottish village where "nothing ever happens"....

The loch starts receding...caves appear where water once covered them. Finally, the water completely drained, the inevitable happens. People want to explore the caves. But not all is as it appears..or as safe. And then there's the caves inhabitants....who have lived there for hundreds of years...

Awesome book! While I was reading this I thought of two
books. The Birds & Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Both authors would have been proud of this book. The atmosphere builds slowly, allowing the mist to settle on you; you notice how still the air is, the behavior of the birds, the sky's color, unusual ripples in the water. You can FEEL the unease and fear start to build before the tidal wave hits...

As the waters in the loch disappear, objects are unearthed in the floor of the loch; boats, pots and pans, an old car wreck etc. Casually while exploring, a man pokes around a large white pebble with his walking the description of what follows: "she watched while he worked and worked with the stick until it was revealed- a skull, water-smoothed and yellowed, with sand and silt dribbling from the eye-sockets in thick oozy

If you like thrillers that are high in atmosphere and mystery but not in violence you'd like this.

 SEX: Once implied but not shown to reader
VIOLENCE: Natural disaster, a man falls from a cliff after being blinded


Dark At Noon by Jill Tattersall

Dark at Noon2 1/2 Stars
'Dark Noon" started off well enough. There is a stagecoach accident where several people are killed. There are two young women on board, both in mourning clothes. One dies and the living one has amnesia, so she has no memory of who she is or why she was travelling. So the mystery is one of identity. Which woman was the ragpicker and which one the heiress? No one knows...well, SOMEONE knows...ooooh spooky

Good stuff, right?

Problem is that the book levelled off after the initial excitement. Not much else happens for about 70% of the book. Everyone wants to know who this girl is but she can't tell us cos she doesn't know herself. How frustrating! It was literally chapters of "Have you remembered anything yet?" "Sorry. No." "Maybe you're an adventurer, playing amnesia for the inheritance.." "Maybe I am. I really couldn't say.." ARRGHHHHHH

The story picks up in the last 4 or 5 chapters where we have a scene in a tower, kidnapping and disguises and finally in the last chapter, the "Dickensian" reveal which every character in the book shows up for and all is made clear in a sort of cheesy fashion.

This book is primarily a mystery; I couldn't call it romantic suspense because there isn't much of a romance at all. The lead male is a jerk through 98% of the book and the "sorry I was wrong" in the end did nothing to placate me though it seemed to suffice for the heroine.

SEX: None


The Pearl TeaHouse by Samantha Brooks

The Pearl Tea HouseFirst off, "The Pearl tea House" is well worth the 99 cents in case you're undecided. I just finished it and I feel as if I've been hit by a typhoon. The author paints such a vivid picture of Sri Lanka that it makes me want to pack my bags right now and go if only the rain would stop! (and no murderers are after me!)

If you like historical thrillers like "Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier and others by Victoria Holt you will love this. The author takes the reader to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in the 1930s where the heroine is to meet her arranged groom. Amidst monsoon storms the heroine deals with a brooding husband, strange nightmares and an insane stepdaughter making for quite the suspenseful


SEX: While there are no sex scenes per se', there are some rather sensual moments which, while tastefully written are perhaps not suitable for YA readers.

LANGUAGE: Mild cussing sparsely sprinkled throughout.

VIOLENCE: There is a violent moment at the end of the book which I can't go into details about without spoiling the story but the scariest images are actually in the form of nightmares. And yes, they are quite scary. (I'm prone to nightmares so I read over these portions very quickly!)

 DRINKING: There is a LOT of drinking in this book. It is a common thing if you read or watch any movie set in the 20s and 30s; it seems like everyone drinks non stop. I find it puzzling, did people really do this? If so, the upper class must have always been in a state of slight inebriation. Perhaps the source of delirium and nightmares??? Methinks the heroine should have put down her sherry and had a glass of milk instead!

THE ENDING: I AM MORE PUZZLED THAN EVER!!! I think we need a group club read just to figure out what it truly I sense a ground hog day??

BOTTOM LINE: I don't know if this is a first novel by the author but it is very well written and an exciting read. I did get a bit confused in places where dreams mingled with reality and I wasn't sure which was which but that is part of the story so I think it's intentional; the author want
s the reader to feel what the heroine is feeling.

One minor criticism : I don't care if I never hear the word "recalcitrant" again...

Into The Wilderness by Laura Abbot

Into the WildernessThis novel is basically about an army captain and an army doctor's daughter. Caleb and Lily. Caleb is plagued with nightmares from Washita and other battles and is nearing his retirement and the time he can join his family's ranch back in Kansas. Lily is a girl who, while knowing her medicine and literature is not so adept in knowing her own mind and heart.

Caleb gets 5 stars. Lily, on the other hand..OMGoodness...I haven't read about a heroine that I so wanted to smack aside the head in a loooong time. Personally, I think Caleb should have forgotten about Lily and courted her sister Rose instead. (you know, the pudgy red head that not even two hundred soldiers care to look at?~ I know. Impossible. Rose is everything Lily is not. She's sweet, loving and knows her own mind. She's a gem). Lily is a wee bit on the selfish side. That took a star off it for me. I would have taken more stars off but I held, now, no need to bomb a book cos you don't like a

The story itself is good. And the writing is good. I just think Caleb deserved better.

Note to author: Do I see a sequel in the making? Maybe between Seth and Rose?????

There is no sex or cussing in this book. There is some descriptions of battles. Nothing too descriptive.I would feel comfortable letting my daughter read this book.

San Antonio Sunset by Kathleen Fuller

San Antonio SunsetThis story is about two family groups. One is a young man who basically "runs away" from the home he knew to prove to everyone and himself that he can make it on his own and maybe get some respect while he's at it. He fails rather miserably and is starving, robbed, beaten and left for dead when family group #2 crosses his path. Family group 2 consists of two drifers: a young, scarred woman and and an older man who has brought her up as a father since she was little. They bandage the young man's wounds and the three of them become a sort of makeshift family and thats how the story begins...

I gave the first in the series "Santa Fe Sunrise" two stars because I felt it was unoriginal. This book, sequel "San Antonio Sunset" was much better. While it's a sequel it does also stand alone. This novel centers around the last novel's hero's brother. Got that? So its a new story with new characters.

 Both the characters and the plot in this book were more fully developed in this story and I cared what happened to the H/H so that says a lot for the author's writing. When I read a book I want to FEEL something and I did.

Why only four stars? Well, as pleasant as the story was it felt incomplete. Perhaps there was a page limit. However, given another 50 pages we could have had a more fleshed out story. For instance, I would have loved to have seen a bit more interaction with the family he left behind once they return in San Antonio.

Perhaps it's just me but sometimes the ending,"everyone is happy, everything is forgiven and they lived happily ever after" seems a sort of anticlimax...but I understand they have to end the story somewhere and perhaps there's a page limit.

Full Hearts and Empty Bellies by Winifred Foley

Full Hearts and Empty Bellies: A 1920s Childhood from the Forest of Dean to the Streets of LondonYes, I enjoyed this book. 

Sort of.

 Let me clarify, I enjoyed this book til the last chapter or two where the main character made a choice that left me feeling rather disappointed in her.

 When you read a true story (or any story for that matter) you want to root for the main character and for the most part I did. But without giving a spoiler review lets just say that I was going to let my daughter read the book after I had finished with it but now I'm not. And while I purchased the following book "Shiny pennies and grubby pinafores" I am reluctant to read it.

 I know its true life and people do make choices that others wouldn't or even that they themselves might do differently if given the chance ,so I know you cant honestly fictionalize a true story to make it more palatable to everyone who might want to read it.

 However, I do wish the authors in this whole "back in time" series would take into consideration that there are young people who's parents are trying to bring them up with good morals would LOVE to read these 'old timey' books, only without offence. Just something to think about.

Velvet by Carolyn Brown

VelvetThis is the second book in the "Promised Land" series ; the first being "Willow". Both are good but "Velvet " I enjoyed more. C.B. is a masterful storyteller. The characters are real and their feelings palpable. I love a story that can make you both laugh and cry and Carolyn accomplishes that.

In this book the hero is a former doctor who "hung up his bag " when he couldn't save his wife and twin brother from death. A tortured soul, he resides as a hermit outside the army fort he used to practice in.

Velvet (the heroine) is unceremoniously dumped at his cabin when she gets a fever on the wagon train. By the time he finds her -in his bed, no less - the train is long gone...
I felt that the raw emotion experienced by the hero was true to life. And Velvet...well she's just a hoot. On one occasion she sends a pack of warring Indians away with "blessings " in the form of curses. I was killing myself laughing. Ok maybe it wasn't neccessarily realistic but it was hilarious. The Indians take her for a "devil woman " and gallop away.

As time goes on it becomes increasingly apparent that the two of them may just need eachother ...if they can only let go if their stubbornness and misplaced loyalties.

Overall it was a wonderful read with no violence or sex. There was one cuss word.
Bottom line : don't let the boring cover fool you its a great read!

Love By The Letter by Melissa jagears

Love by the LetterThis is a novella, not a book (it's 70 something pages, 7 chapters in total~ the rest is an excerpt from the sequel) but I'm not complaining. For one reason, it was free and for another reason it's a very good read whatever it's length.

Basically, it's about a dyslexic man who has been in love with the town's most studious, clever bookworm for practically his whole life but never thought she'd look twice at him ~ being a 'dumb oaf' who can barely read and write~ so he decides to send off for a mail order bride. Only problem is, the woman who responds to his advertisement makes fun of his spelling and the hero is so humiliated he decides not to attempt another letter unless he can write a paragraph properly. So what does he do? He asks "miss bookworm" to help him with his reading and writing. The story goes on from there.

I thought the characters were genuine and their obstacles true. The story is touching in it's simplicity and heartfelt. I loved it. I also thought that the subject matter of dyslexia (though never addressed in those words) was tasteful and by no means demeaning. Well done! 

Death In Kenya by M.M.Kaye

Death in KenyaWow.

This is my first M.M Kaye book...WHERE have you been all my life? Believe it or not I only heard of this author last week, don't know how I came across it but it sounded right up my alley so I went to the library to find some of her books. I chose a few of the 'death in...'series to start with (cos they're shorter)to see if I liked her writing style before I ventured into her larger books.

And basically, I love her!

The author has lived in all kinds of exotic locals and incorporates them into her stories. So the reader always gets a good dose of "vacation in an arm chair". Love that. This book finds us in Kenya ~with a murder~ kind of Agatha Christie style.
This story started off a little confusing~ only because several people are introduced and I had a hard time keeping them straight at first. But once I did, I was engrossed. It's a classic "who-dunnit" thriller.I had my suspicions of the bad guy but I was see, it's not entirely predictable.

If you havent read any of M.M. Kaye books, check some out at the library,they're well worth a read! I'm off to find another one.


SEX: None
LANGUAGE: mild cussing throughout
DRINKING: Quite a bit~ but it is integral to the story
VIOLENCE: A few brutal crimes are mentioned (in a list) but the main murder/s are not shown.
PARANORMAL ELEMENTS: none. A "ghost" is mentioned as a possible reason for
vandalism. (It is Kenya after all) but there are none.

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

The Gormenghast Novels (Gormenghast, #1-3)First off, this review is for the Gormenghast TRILOGY. (one book)
I would give this epic 5 stars if it wasnt for the last book in the trilogy, "Titus Alone". It just doesnt fit in with the rest of the story and I actually skimmed through it because it felt disjointed to me.

However, the first two books in the trilogy "Titus Groan" and "Gormenghast" are well worth a read. Weird, yes. But if you like engrossing escape fiction set in an imaginary place and unknown time with no mythological creatures or magic but plenty of suspense and bizarre characters with a good versus evil plot you'll like this. I guess i would call it a fantasy-thriller. Not my usual genre but I couldn't put it down.

 There are some swear words, mainly S#!+ used in its dictionary sense, but also as an insult and a twist to someone's name. Also, one of the professors is rather foul mouthed in an almost tourettes sort of way but if you own the paper version you can edit it if you choose to with white out.

For those who are wondering, the movie is surprisingly good. I didn't think "Gormenghast " could be visualized in a cinematographic (is that a word?) way but they don't do too badly. Its not perfect but not bad either.


The Farmer's Bride Collection

The Farmer's Bride Collection: 6 Romances Spring from Hearts, Home, and HarvestTHis is a lovely collection of 6 clean, historical romance novellas, each about 9 or 10 chapters long.

There were a few I really loved, One was "A Homesteader, A Bride and A Baby" about a woman who travels to visit her sister and family in Minnesota only to find that they all (except the baby) died of diptheria before she got there. So she stays on the farm to bring up the baby. A nearby homesteader helps her on the farm and well..I won't give away what happens but I thought it was pretty sweet.

I also liked the story "New Beginnings". It was quite different; rather than your typical "love at first electrical contact" this was about a young couple who grew up together and it was always expected that they would marry. While he is(and has always been) head over heels in love for the heroine, she feels friendship but not love for him. She marries him anyway in hopes that love might grow in time. (as though he would never find out her true feelings....but he does and here is where the story really takes off. Very gritty)

my favorite I think was the applesauce war. It was funny and poignant at the same time. Two neighbors secretly agree to a "war" between themselves, forbidding contact with eachothers families in hopes that their son and daughter will (reverse psychology here) fall for eachother like Romeo and Juliet. Surprisingly all is going well in that direction until the two neighbors say some foolish things in their pretend "spat" and end up spatting for real.It goes from bad to worse until...I wont give it away, you'll just have to read it. :)

I also thought "The Tie That Binds" was real cute; it's about two single people who want to adopt a child each from the orphan train that comes through.

I gave the collection four stars cos one story I didn't care for at all (very preachy) but it is still worth buying or borrowing for the others.

Heart Of Lies by Jill Marie Landis

Heart of Lies (Irish Angel, #2)I absolutely LOVED this book. ive never been to Lousianna and the bayou always fascinated me. So I was estatic to find this book!

Maddie was only a child when she was sold to a Fagan type character named Dexter in New Orleans. With her early memories erased, the only family she now posessed was the "tribe ".
The story begins with Maddie age 32 living with her two twin "brothers " on the bayou. Dexter is dead. While Maddie survives catching crab and trapping muskrats, the twins continue their life of crime.One night the men return to the shack with an 8 year old child in tow and inform Maddie of her new "role ".

 Enter Tom Abbot, a Pinkerton on the search for both a missing child and a missing person who disappeared over two decades ago....

This book has plenty of intrigue, chases, emotional turmoil and adventure. One thing I loved about the story is that it is realistic. Maddie doesn't change overnight, her past is ingrained in her and she doesnt trust easily. Later, when she meets up with a long lost family member it's not all hugs and kisses. She has all the insecurity and toughness we would expect from someone with her past. 

 I just loved this book. I loved the story and I loved the characters. From page one I was hooked and couldn't stop reading. I haven't read book one in the series and I enjoyed this one so much I wonder if they can even compare.

There is no sex and no cussing in this book. Violence is minimal and there's no preachiness whatsoever. Just a good clean story.

Traces Of Mercy by Michael Landon Jr.

Traces of MercyI won this book in a First Reads giveaway, thank you to the authors/publisher for my free copy.

3 1/2 stars

The civil war is over. People everywhere are trying to rebuild their lives. This proves more difficult for some than others. For in order to rebuild your life you need to know who you are, where you've been and where you are going. And those are questions that one young woman, Mercy, just cant answer...
'Traces Of Mercy' is a story of a young woman endeavoring to claim her life back after an accident erases all traces of her memory. All she knows is that she knows nothing.
Should she put her life on hold until her memory returns or put the past behind her and start again? A new name, a
new love, a new future...

I'm a little torn with this one...

The beginning is exciting and very "un-put-down-able", the book really sucks you in and I love that in a story. Also, nothing is predictable, many things surprised me; again, that's a good thing.

Once Mercy moves into the nun's orphanage things kind of slow down and I got a little bored, not mindnumbingly bored, I still kept reading, but it wasn't holding my fascination like the beginning did.The nuns did their little bit of sermonizing (which I suppose was to be expected~ but there was no "instant conversion" which I really hate in a book so I carried on and I'm glad I did).

At this point we are introduced to the handsome hero. Handsome UNION hero.
Mercy is SOUTHERN. Even so, things seem a little TOO perfect and I was beginning to yawn...UNTIL...enter SECOND Union hero. Who recognizes someone...

This book would have been 4 star but the ending left me wanting more answers. To my knowledge there is no sequel and I wanted at least an epilogue to see what happens but the reader is left suspended. I'm not a fan of that. I don't have to have everything wrapped up in a bow but I do like a bit more closure. So that would have been nice.

However, I DO LIKE that this book has unexpected twists and turns and that the characters are real with real issues , hatreds and imperfections.

Great storytelling! I would definitely read more from these authors.

* I just read on another person's review that this is the first of a trilogy so I'm sure more answers are discovered as the books carry on. I'm tempted to raise my rating to 4 but knowing there's a sequel doesn't change the fact that this one ended rather disappointingly. After all, I don't have the second book, do I? I have the first book. Providing I have the money and I find the other books in the series I will definitely want to carry on with the story.

Sex: None
Violence: some wartime shooting, nothing descriptive
Language: None
Preachiness: a little (a few of the characters are nuns)
My rating: G

Tide Of Fortune by Jane Jackson

Tide of FortuneIf you love a book that's a true getaway, that takes the reader to faraway places where the colors seem richer, the scents stronger, the breezes stifling, and the food exotic then you will love "Tide Of Fortune".

The story starts out in Cornwall England during the time of Napolean . As the ship travels, the setting changes to Gibraltar and Tangier which I loved because it was so foreign to me. The descriptions of the marketplaces, the palace, even the food on the table and a visit to the "outhouse" and bath house were fascinating.

For the most part I thought the characters were well developed and realistic. I had just read "Eye Of The Wind" and loooved it, those characters being my favorites so that may explain the 4 1/2 stars I gave this book instead of 5. However there was one
puzzlement in the book and that was the heroine's father, mother and sister. I couldn't understand why they hated her so much. OK, maybe the sister was jealous, (that was mentioned) but why her parents? I didn't feel the reasons were fully fleshed out or justified.

The H/H were kind of a Jane Eyre meets Mr Darcy (if that helps you picture them any).

There was no sex in the book , although an out of wedlock pregnancy is mentioned and no real violence, though a couple of medical procedures. Cussing is minimal and mild. (moderate if you're British and count 'the three B's') I would probably rate it PG for American audiences.

 Themes include sea adventure, sabotaged romance, kidnapping, ransom and forgiveness

It was an immersing read and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

On The Crest Of A Wave by Fran Mcnabb

On the Crest of a WaveI loved Fran McNabb's book, "Windswept" and I love this one even more. The author has a way of putting the reader right there and I love that. This story takes place during the tail end of the civil war and is set along the Mississippi coast, near Biloxi. There, in a small seaside village, a young woman, her mother and two sisters try to eke out a living by fishing, drying salt and sewing garments to sell in New Orleans. The heroine and her mother also take care of the sick and wounded (knowledge passed down from the girls father who was a doctor).

On a nearby island, a prisoner of war camp is set up and when the heroine's brother is eventually captured it's there that he is sent. The island is also the barracks of a particular Union major who the heroine has several encounters with and ends up falling in love with. (to the anger of her
family and fellow Southerners who consider her a traitor).

I thought the novel extremely well done and realistic. The romance is gradual and takes place over two years. There are many obstacles and the reader is unsure whether they can even be overcome. The reaction of her family and neighbors to their love is also realistic, we know from history that they wouldn't have been received with open arms at all and too many novels gloss over that aspect and "forgive and forget" all too quickly to be believable.This doesn't happen here. Both heroine and hero risk all to be together, including losing the ones they love the most.

Wonderful book!

 There is no sex in this book, if there are one or two cuss words (and I can't recall any) they are very mild. Violence is minimal, in one instance someone is shot and in another a fight breaks out and people get stabbed. The details are not descriptive, and other than one scene where wounds are cautorized with hot knives there is little to make anyone squeamish.

The Iron Road by Jane Jackson

The Iron RoadIf you're looking for Jane Austen, look elsewhere. If you like Catherine Cookson, Hardy, Dickens, or other authors who deal with the grittier side of "life among the dregs" you'll probably love "The Iron Road". I did.

The story is set in England during the building of the railroads.The reader finds himself in the temporary shanty village where workers and their families live while the rails are being laid. It's a hard life and at times a coarse life. There's no getting around that. Drunken brawls, poverty and its resultant vices,lousy loving arrangements, child workers, accidents on the job etc build the background for the story which centers on two couples: one on this side of the tracks and one on the other (the privileged side).

One reviewer criticized the author for having too many characters, too many themes. I disagree. Having two couples from two sides builds the contrast necessary for the the story. (and they and their stories interconnect). As for too many themes, well life is rarely simple and our minds are marvelously designed so we can keep up with it. Honestly, has no one read "War and Peace"? "The Count of Monte Cristo"? "Anna Karenina"? Yes, we can handle multiple POV's and ENJOY it!

One thing I loved about this book is the descriptions. Let me give you a taste of my favorites:

"She had worn the same clothes for a fortnight. Beneath stringy greying hair scraped into an untidy bun, her greasy skin shone."

 "..she felt his eyes on her like sticky fingers"

"the warmth of the sun released the scents of wet earth and primroses, the buttery perfume of gorse, and the sweet mustiness of leaf mould."

"he saw a massive enbankment of dark earth lying like a giant scab across the undulating hillside."

"you can't be too careful around here. They'd have the fillings out of your teeth before you finished yawning."

"fat sheep like blobs of cream nibbled in the patchwork of small fields divided by stone walls."

 "Two ladies had fainted. Lying in bright puddles of frilled and beribboned taffeta at the side of the track they looked like collapsed balloons."

This is what I call gourmet reading. The characters also were real and fleshed out. I cared about what happened to them and I could picture them clearly in my mind's eye. I loved this story.

For rating, I would say it's PG-13 for some "British" language and thematic elements. Yes, there is prostitution (though not described) and an attempted rape (but it doesn't actually HAPPEN so again, apart from the scuffle there is nothing to describe) and homosexuality. (also not described~ one character is a "closeted" homosexual, a "gentlemen" and as such the facts must never be known). So
personally, it didn't sicken me to have these three elements in the story.They were THERE (think: Oliver Twist) but that's not the crux of the story.

The ebook could benefit from a bit more editing. I was puzzled with one description of "but-toned" cushions. I was picturing something in a creamy color before it dawned on me "they meant buttoned.". lol

For a complete synopsis read the write up on Amazon, but if you just want to know if it's a good book, yes it is!!!

Death In Cyprus by M.M.Kaye

Death in CyprusAnother great murder whodunnit by M.M.Kaye! I find it close to impossible to guess the bad guys in her books, they're never predictable and always keep you guessing. In fact I have to force myself not to peek at the last chapter.

This book is set in Cyprus and it made a nice follow up after finishing the Moonspinners by Mary Stewart. The descriptions of Cyprus are real but not the focus of the book. Its a mystery and the author doesn't let us forget it or allow us to get sidetracked.

There are some similarities in each of these "death in..." books, (mainly in the female lead and a group of fellow Brits with one or two Americans or Canadians thrown in) however, the storylines themselves are very different. I cant really give a synopsis without giving away the story.
But I think just about anyone who likes Agatha Christie and Mary Stewart would also enjoy these.

M.M.Kaye never disappoints. I'm glad I still have three more in the "Death in..." series!


SEX : None (though there are rumors of affairs)
LANGUAGE : Very mild, a few light cusses.
VIOLENCE : mild and not descriptive.


Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetIt seems that people either love or hate this book. I loved it. Oh sure, there's a few inaccuracies (which is what gets most people's undies in a knot) but I think most have been corrected in later publishings. Anyway, I don't care much about that, I'm not an editor, I review STORIES and this story was wonderful.

Prior to this book and "The Magic Of Ordinary Days" I really knew next to nothing about the Japanese "relocation" camps. It's a story that needs to be told; and yet "The HOtel On The Corner Of Bitter and Sweet" doesn't dwell on the war or even the camps. First and foremost its a love story between two Americans. A Chinese-American boy and a Japanese-American girl, both age 12. It's a love story that took one day to begin and a lifetime to complete...

 The characters are beautifully drawn. Both Henry and Keiko feel like real people and Sheldon! Wow. Sheldon, the black saxaphone player was so real I could HEAR him speaking, both the words he used and his mannerisms were LIVING. And his music just sort of flowed through the pages like 'buddah' (and I'm not a jazz fan AT ALL but somehow the author made it sound so nice). Very well done!!

SEX: None
VIOLENCE: Mild (the Chinese American boy is bullied at school)
PROFANITY: None, although racial slurs are used


Golden Urchin by Madeleine Brent

Golden UrchinI loved this book! A girl is kidnapped and found by a tribe of aboriginies. She grows up with the tribe and thinks she's a freak of nature left by the "totem gods ". After many years she leaves the village, saves the life of a man dying in a desert, finds a new home and learns to live as a white woman. 

But who is she? 

Someone knows and an attempt is made on her life. The question is why?
Her travels take her from Australia to Switzerland to England and finally to Africa where the adventure climaxes in a shipwreck and race for survival along the Skeleton Coast. 


SEX : None, however tribal custom is made reference to in relation to men and women ~wife swapping and general immorality even among children ~

PROFANITY : Very mild cussing.


SPIRITISM /PARANORMAL : Aboriginal belief system is mentioned (sickness as a result of magic etc)

Also, one minor character attends seances.

I'm not even sure why the seance was mentioned. Unless it was to show how far the main character Meg had come from her tribal past (as the story shows she wanted no part of this.)
Or maybe it was to show how even in "civilized " western cities superstition thrives.


Lamb In His Bosom by Caroline Miller

Lamb in His BosomLamb in his bosom" has been called "a poor man's gone with the wind". I haven't read Gone with the Wind so I can't compare them but we're told that this book was Margaret Mitchell's favorite. My feelings on this book are mixed.I give it 3 1/2 stars

The writing itself is vivid and rich. the author truly knew how to spin a tale and make the reader see what she saw. the descriptions are like paintings and are some of the best I've read.The characters, however, fall a little flat. I said in one of my reading updates that I felt that the characters were written with thick brushstrokes~ almost as though the artist was going to come back later and fill them in a bit but didn't~ this makes it a bit hard for the reader to really care deeply about anyone. It seems that no one knew how to express their feelings so people loved and hated but we never really know
WHY they loved and hated...

Cean's husband was a good man who loved her and fathered 14 of her children. Why did he love her? I don't really know. In fact, he never said so himself to his dying day but we assume he loved his wife because he was faithful to her and provided for the children. But it could have been so much more...I'm puzzled why such a gifted writer who can make even a dried stubbled field look somehow appealing doesn't spend at least as much effort on her characters..

Another character in the book is really despicable. He cheats on his wife and smacks her about. The rest of the family disapproves but no one says anything because that "is their business, not ours". It was a sign of those times I guess, but
it was infuriating all the same.

BOTTOM LINE: A good read but not one I would read again because it's rather depressing. If you like to read about a very hard scrabble life with little or nothing to be happy about you may like this.I'm not exaggerating. The lead character herself believed that to be too happy was a sin and punishment would surely follow.


SEX: None shown to the reader but it should be noted that not all the characters show strong "moral fortitude"


PREJUDICES: Some use of the "N" word is used, though
seemingly without understanding. Knowledge of slaves has filtered through the grapevine into the backwoods of Georgia but the family is so far from the 'action' that they really have no idea who these people even were. It was assumed they were savages, trained like beasts of the land.

VIOLENCE: Mild. People and animals do die though, sometimes tragically



The Forsaken Inn by Anna Katherine Green

The Forsaken Inn4 1/2 stars

This was one of those free kindle books; you know, the kind with the boring red and cream cover? In fact, if it wasn't for the generic cover I would have read it much sooner but it looked sooooooo one-of-a-hundred that there was nothing to hook me in. Which is a shame cos I almost missed out on a great thriller.

This book comprises all the creepy elements that make a good vintage mystery:an old house, secret rooms, intrigue, assumed identities and a crime that lies hidden for 16 years until... a panel is moved and....behold! A shrunken skeleton with an engraved wedding band....

By the way, if you think you know all the whole mystery in the first few chapters, you're wrong. Just keep reading.

 This would have been 5 stars for me but I took half a star off because I wasn't thrilled with the second hand narration. But once I got past that, I really , really enjoyed it.

SEX: None
VIOLENCE: None shown

Windswept by Fran McNabb

WindsweptWow. This was my first book by Fran McNabb and I was IMPRESSED to say the least. When I bought it there were no reviews but the synopsis sounded like my cup of tea.

The book opens with a shipwreck. An emotional tug of war follows: on one side we have the ship owner's daughter. She is both attracted and yet repelled by the wrecker who saves her life and yet profits from her loss.
On the other side, the wrecker is torn by the connection he feels for this unusual, stubborn woman and guilt over his dead wife's memory.
Added to the cast of characters is a disapproving father, a suspicious housekeeper and a happy go lucky orphan boy who I guarantee will pull at your heartstrings til they snap.

 Ms McNabb paints a vivid portrait of the Florida keys. I've never been but I feel as though I have. In few, well chosen words she places the reader right in the midst of every storm and mist shrouded morning. From the first page I was immersed in her story telling. Well done!

Why only 4 stars? Its difficult to say...
There was a lot of time spent agonizing over "do I love him? Do I hate him?" ..." I love her. I cant have her..I failed my wife" etc and I did get a little frustrated with them, wanting to knock both their heads together at times. But for the most part I thought their interaction was realistic. They disappointed each other, said the wrong things, got mad, and stomped out..but that added to the dramatic tension and made the characte
rs believable.

I also would have liked a few more twists and turns; a bit more excitement. However, I did make myself slow down and savor this book over several days (I normally devour a book in one long bug eyed evening) and enjoyed every minute. So a good story doesn't HAVE to make you hold your breath; its not a hard and fast rule. But it's a good rule. :)

 The writing was clean and would cause no offense to the most conservative of readers. No sex. No violence.

I bought Ms McNabb's other book "on the crest of a wave" and am already engrossed in it. Keep writing, Fran!!

Sea Of Secrets by Amanda Dewees

Sea of SecretsSo what do I think of "Sea of Secrets "?

"Bother Herron"!

Two words mentioned in the book that I couldn't agree with more. (Herron is the 'hero ' ~I use that term loosely ~ and I found him a petulant child who needed a good kick in the pants for most of the story)

In many ways this book was very good. The writing is good and the characters well drawn. It is written much like the gothics of old which I enjoy. Also I was glad that the author didn't stick to the old formula of 'dark brooding hero triumphs '. It was good to have unexpected twists and turns. (which I wont get into obvious reasons.)

 What I didn't like was the paranormal references. I don't like ghost stories as such and I was waiting for things to be cleared up in a "human " way. So when they didn't I was a little aghast. Its my own fault. I knew the book was loosly based on Hamlet but Im not into Shakespeare and I knew the Hamlet story only vaguely...

As for other aspects of the book, readers will probably be happy to note that there is no sex in this book and only one or two mild cusses. Violence is also minimal.

Dragonwyck by Anya Seton

DragonwyckDragonwyck is a difficult book to LIKE. And yet its very good. I'm in a quandry...

5 star writing skills
3 star enjoyment
Rounded off to 4 stars

In a nutshell, a country girl has high aspirations and jumps at the chance to leave the farm for an extended visit at her cousin Nicholas' vast estate. (I thought Miranda was much like Hettie from Adam Bede ) Of course, she doesn't know her cousin Nicholas at all; nor does she understand why his corpulent wife, Johanna would rather bury herself in teacakes and pastries than cross him. All she sees is his godlike attributes, magnetism and charm. So when Nicholas' wife, Johanna suddenly dies from 'acute gastritis', Miranda slides right into his arms. And wakes up in a nightmare...

 Its important to understand from the get go that Nicholas is not the hero. He is a sociopath/ egomaniac. ( Think Wolf Larsen, Captain Ahab or even Ted Bundy). So he's not swoonworthy; however, he IS one of the main characters so you see a lot of him. And I was ready to get shed of him much sooner than was the case! But you know, that in itself was skilful writing because the reader could genuinely enter into the heroine's world and feel what she felt.

 For those of us who have a hard time understanding why someone stays in an abusive relationship instead of 'just leaving ', this book opens our eyes to what manipulation really is. How background plays a part (in both the victim and the abuser), how an abusive person 'recognizes ' their next victim, and how the web is spun so expertly that the victim hardly knows they're caught until theyre stunned powerless to fight...

And I suppose its knowing that there's really people like this that takes it out of the realm of what I would term enjoyable "escapism fiction".


SEX : None shown to reader explicitly but marital rape is obviously an issue on several occasions.

VIOLENCE: domestic violence shown mostly in the form of mental intimidation and physical domination.

PROFANITY : Very mild

PARANORMAL ELEMENTS : laughing and piano playing is heard by two characters on different occasions when no one else heard it. Whether it was mental illness or ghosts is not clarified.

MY RATING : Strong PG or mild PG-13

The Moon Spinners by Mary Stewart

The Moon-Spinners3 1/2 stars
First off, forget everything you know about the Moon spinners from the Disney movie with Hayley Mills (which, by the way I thought was pretty good); the book is completely different.

Basically, a young woman arranges to meet up with her aunt in a small coastal village in Greece for a short holiday. Nicola arrives a day ahead of her aunt and while exploring on her way to the hotel, stumbles upon a wounded English man, Mark, who has apparently got caught in the cross hairs of a feud and witnesses a murder. His young brother, Colin, is now missing. Nicola's role is to help Mark find his missing brother (Is he dead?) and avoid getting herself killed in the process.

I enjoyed this book and the descriptions of Greece were realistic. It's a light read, a mystery with a mild romantic undercurrent and some funny tidbits. Good story.

SEX: None
LANGUAGE: Very mild cussing
DRUG USE/ DRINKING: some cigarette smoking
VIOLENCE: Mild. A "fisticuffs" fight at the end which I found almost humorous. (not sure if it was meant to be but it seemed almost comic)

Groom Wanted by Debra Ullrick

Groom WantedI really like Debra Ullrick. She writes a story that immerses the reader. I felt for the characters and the storyline was good.

I loved some of the descriptions:
...he looked "like a peacock in a goat show"... or, "that man was phonier than a fifteen-cent piece". I love these!

I do question the description of one of Jake's mail order bride applicants. She is 5 foot 9 and 145 pounds. She is considered "stocky" and "strong as an ox". What the whaat? Seriously? 5'9, 145 lbs STOCKY?? I'm 5'2 and 135 lbs and am yes, marginally stocky. But if I grew 7 inches and yet only gained 10 pounds I think people would agree that I was painfully thin. By the way, did people even weigh themselves back then? Ok. I digress...

 Being married to an Englishman I also thought the description of Leah's possible love interest was extremely stereotyped and very much an American view of the English. For example, no one says theyre having a "spot of tea". I seriously doubt they ever did (but I may be wrong on that). I'm nit picking here but it bugged me a little while I was reading it. Also did you know every Englishman wears a top hat and has crooked teeth? Just sayin...

In this book I felt that the first two chapters were clumsy (sorry!) with a lot of telling and not enough showing. It seemed silly and I actually put it down and read a couple other books before picking it up again. But I'm glad I did go back to it because it really was excellent once I got into it. (and once I recognized the characters and was like Hey! Kitty the Pig is back! Oh, let me look at this..).

For those who are reading Debra Ullrick for the first time, I need to mention that this is the third in a series. They are stand alone but you might want to read them in order so you can follow the characters as they grow up. Her other two are "The Unlikely Wife" and "The Unexpected Bride". "The Unlikely Wife" is my favorite but they are both very good.

Some may be surprised that with all my complaints I still gave it 4 stars. Well I felt that even with its flaws I really enjoyed it so to me that's worth 4 stars.

Bottom line: It's good, if you don't think so JUST KEEP READING!!

There is no sex, no cussing and the only violence is a description of how her father died when a tree fell on him. It is mentioned more than once and might disturb some sensitive readers.

*UPDATE* Ok, it was just bugging me and I had to look it up. When were scales invented for weighing people? Here's what I found:

 "The first coin operated scale was brought to the US from Germany in 1885. A few years later, in 1889, the National Scale Company manufactured the first coin operated scale in the U.S.It was huge, weighing more than 200 pounds, but it was one of the first automatic vending machines. Drop in a penny, and you got to see your weight.

Soooooo, since this story takes place in 1886, (only one year after A SCALE was brought from Germany) it is unlikely that someone off the street would have been able to weigh themselves. This wasn't an option until 1889.

Just a point.

Falwell's Honor by Sandra Livingston

Falwell's HonorThis was a pleasant light read set in the 1500s and is basically about a traitorous plot to seize the throne of Queen Elizabeth, a plot that has wrongfully sent the Earl of Falwell to the Tower of London and his son and successor into hiding. (you can read the book blurb on Amazon for the full details).

It's not my usual style and I'm not likely to re-read it but it was an ok read, albeit a little humorous where it wasn't supposed to be. By that I mean, the villains were definitely villains, almost disney-esq and I was laughing in a few spots like when the "villain" angrily demands the incriminating papers back from our heroine and she shrieks, "Never"!

 It is a clean read with no sex or cussing. The only violence is a conk to the head and you got it, it was a villain that got conked. "You'll never get away with this!" "CONK!" "HA HA HA" (I'm paraphrasing, lol)

I'm not positive but it looks like this may be the author's first book (??) and I think she did a good job. I would be interested to see what she comes up with next.

Over The Edge by Mary Conneally

Over the Edge (Kincaid Brides, #3)I read the first book in this series "Out of Control" which was good but I REALLY wanted to find out what happened to Seth so I skipped book 2 and read this one "Over the Edge" book 3. Where do I start?

Seth has to be the most UNUSUAL hero of any book Ive read and probably the most rooted for. When you read this you really want him to succeed and overcome his memories. He's such a likable nutcase. :)

A brief recap: Seth has serious injuries both physical and mental as a result of a horrifying childhood adventure gone wrong coupled with fighting in the war. While on the rebound from Andersonville, he marries a woman, Callie, but then disappears. Well, Callie comes looking for the sorry scumbag she married and not only finds her husband (who has no memory of her) but gets embroiled in an adventure
involving missing diamonds, kidnapping and caverns. Is Seth really insane or just traumatized?

Excellent story. Loved every minute of it.

After reading Over the Edge I am reluctant to read the second book that I skipped cos I feel like this one can't be bettered.
By the way, like all of Mary Connealy's books, this is listed as "inspirational" but there is no preaching in here, just clean reading.

Dangerous Waters by Jane Jackson

Dangerous Waters"Dangerous Waters" is first of all an adventure and secondly a romance. In some ways I found this book quite similar to "Tide Of Fortune" (another book by Jane Jackson). In both books a young woman travels on a ship, butts heads with a male on the ship (and yet over the course of time falls in love with him) and then halfway through the book the ship lands on an island (previously Tangier and in this story Jamaica) where the stories take very different turns (both in plot and in setting) and here is where the stories really take off.

 In this tale, the heroine travels to Jamaica to meet her fiance by arrangement; the son of a wealthy sugar plantation owner. Unbeknownst to her, he is vilely amoral and cruel. The island is a hotbed of upheaval and revolt and his plantation is no exception; the situation rapidly escalates to a terrifying climax.

The romance was slow and with a fair amount of tension. I wish the H/H could have come to an understanding sooner but the ending is not to be missed; it's PERFECT!

 There is no sex in this book and minimal cussing. (moderate if your British and count "the 3 B's")
While the reader is not an onlooker to violence, violent events are mentioned. (Remember we're talking about cruelty resulting in slave revolt) so keep that in mind. Also the H/H are in the medical field so medical procedures (and some blood) are involved in the story (mainly amputations and childbirth). There is also mention of young girls bearing the children of their white "owners". In no way is this glorified and there are consequences for such acts but it's good to be aware of. I would rate this book PG13 for thematic elements.

 On a side note there are a fair few editing mistakes in the ebook that need to be rectified as it causes some backreading to figure out. Some people get really annoyed with this. I don't pay it much mind if I'm enjoying the story (which I was) but I thought I'd mention it as the reading of the book would be much smoother with a just a bit more proofreading.

Jane Jackson's book "Eye Of The Wind" is still my favorite but this story is a solid 4 stars. I enjoyed it and I'm sure my 15 year old daughter will too.

The Midnight Dancers by Anne Maybury

The Midnight Dancers3 1/2 STARS
As an adventure, I loved this story. I love a book that will take me away to a faraway place ~ escapism at its finest~ and I felt that Anne Maybury delivered on that score. She has an unhurried pace that lets the reader savor the experience but not so ponderous that we get impatient. Excellent writing skills there.

The characters were well formed although I never really liked them. The husband was distant. The stepdaughter stroppy, the sister in law money hungry and the heroine lacking in backbone. So I didnt really "root" for anyone. Still, it didn't prevent me from enjoying the story.

As a mystery I thought it fell a little flat. Too little suspense, too evenly doled out. I'm not too keen of the ending where a previously perfectly sane person suddenly becomes unhinged with no prior
warning. I feel like the author should lay clues however subtle so that when the big reveal comes we smack our heads and say 'of course! it was there all the time why didn't I see it "? MM Kaye excelled at that. But lets not compare...

BOTTOM LINE : I enjoyed it. Probably won't read it again but probably will read other books by this author.


SEX : Marital relations are implied but not shown to the reader.
VIOLENCE : Very mild
PROFANITY : Mild cussing


Eye Of The Wind by Jane Jackson

Eye of the WindI have a thing for books by unknown authors with obscure covers. It's like those brown paper "grab bags"; you have no idea what you're getting but just MAYBE it's worth a hundred bucks. :) They say "never judge a book by its cover" and in this case it is so true. 5 stars just doesn't seem enough.

So without rehashing the plot (which you can read in the description) what can I say about it?

I LOVED the characters! Melissa reminded me of Bathsheba Everdeen from Tom Hardy's "Far from the madding crowd"(only without the conceit). She was bold, enterprising, cared nothing for conventions and worked like 10 men as she managed her late father's shipyard and lumber

forest. At 6 feet tall, Melissa is not your usual romantic heroine and I really loved that.

Gabriel reminded me of Edmund Dante of "The Count of Monte Cristo. He is suffering badly from a spell of tortuous imprisonment (& betrayal) in France and now after escaping has to hide his identity in a village along the cornish coast.

Aside from the two main characters I found the villagers/ shipbuilders well rounded and real. Melissa's stuffy relatives were also well portrayed and realistic for the time period.

This book has everything I love in a good yarn: intrigue, smuggling, adventure, romance, hidden didn't disappoint on any levels.

If I was to give this book a TV rating I suppose it would be PG. There are no sex scenes or even steamy scenes. Gabriel is "propositioned" (unsuccessfully) by a village tart in one chapter and casual mention is made of a few dalliances in his past.

Cussing is mild for USA readers but UK readers may find it moderate. (fairly liberal sprinkings of "bloody" and a few "buggers")

There is no gore and very mild violence ~hardly worth mentioning. Gabriel is dragged by a horse in one instance and gets beaten in another but the mention is brief and there are no real descriptive details of either event except to describe bruising etc.

Bottom line: I loved it and am anxious to try out the authors other books!


Heart Of Stone by Jane Jackson

Heart of StoneHmmmm.. there were a lot of things I liked about this book. I thought the premise and cast of characters good and the setting unusual. The daughter of a granite mine owner (an unwed mother) inherits the mine when her father dies but is having a hard time keeping it afloat due to a greedy guts who wants to take it from her and therefore bribes her customers away so her business fails...
Enter tall dark and uh, NOT handsome (as in brutally scarred) hero who comes back from military service in India a solitary man with wounded heart as well as flesh. They meet, he has cash, loves her little boy, everyone falls in love etc. It was almost TOO EASY.

 I can't exactly put my finger on it but this book didn't move me as much as some of Jane Jackson's others. Perhaps it was because I just finished "The Iron Road" which is hard to beat and it was just too fresh in my mind. I thought "Heart Of Stone" good but lacking in plot twists and excitement. There were a few places which lent themselves to some dramatic happenings but they were over with too quickly, glossed over or not taken full advantage of, which was a shame. In fact, the crescendo was only a few pages long making the reader want to slam on the brakes to slow it down.

 The romance was a bit more kissy kissy than her other books but still clean. I would rate it between PG and PG 13 (for some thematic elements like unwed motherhood, someone encouraged to take a mistress, and a "lurking around the corner" prostitute. (who we really don't hear from but she's in the corner so to speak). There are no sex scenes but as the main character is an unwed mother, obviously mention is made of how that came to be. Nothing graphic but perhaps not suitable for real young audiences. Language was very mild. Barely worth mentioning. No violence.

 I enjoyed this book and can recommend it, BUT ..If you have only a few bucks to spend and had to CHOOSE, buy "Eye Of The Wind" and "The Iron Road". If the world is your oyster then I say buy them all, I havent read one yet that I didn't like, but a few are my particular favorites.