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Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis

Source: Running Press
Paperback, 304 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis is a roller coaster ride at the circus, complete with big top, illusions, and creepy mute-like clown/mime.  In a town named for the whales off the coast of an eccentric town where everyone is just a little bit odd.  Skylar Rousseau tells her story in the first person and as she unravels the mystery of her three-month disappearance, readers will be pulled into the underworld of a circus that thrived 16 years earlier.  Ellis’ novel is atmospheric, creepy, and foreboding, as Sky reconnects with the friends who thought she had died while she thought she went on with her normal daily routines of going to school, studying for tests, and hanging out with her friends in a town where a weathervane is haunted.

“Sky shook her head.  Madame Curio was well known in Blackfin, even though she was avoided by most.

‘How did you even get in there?’ The woods had been secured against intruders for as long as Sky could remember, the talk of roaming wolves and lightning trees that electrocuted passing children not being enough to keep out idle teenagers.”  (page 70 ARC)

Skylar sets on a path to uncover what actually happened to her and where she went for three months with the help of Sean, her friend that she wants to be more.  Along the way she uncovers secrets in Blood House, the family home, as it opens attic doors and pushes her in the right direction, learns things about her family and her mother that upend her world, and gets even closer to the truth through a series of unimaginable journeys.  Ellis’ ability to create a believable world in which the circus becomes a prison and gifted people are anxious to leave but unable to do so is fantastic for a debut novelist.  Beyond the darkness, however, Ellis sprinkles in the humor, making it easy for the reader to relate to these characters because they are not overly serious and the novel is not too dark.

“Sky joined him as he leaned against the back of the Jeep, looking out over the twisted townscape of Blackfin.  The houses looked like precariously stacked playing cards, balancing against the hillside while they waited for a gust of wind to carry them off into the sea.  From this height, Sky saw the thirteen black dots of the cemetery cats lazing on top of the tombstones lower down the mountain slope.  Further still, the school teetered at the seafront, with Silas’s iron form spinning crazily on the roof.”  (page 150 ARC)

Ellis balances characterization, atmosphere, and mystery well and Blackfin comes to life with all of its quirky characters.  She bends the light to reveal new dimensions and hues of the town, its residents, and its history, while maintaining readers’ interest and passion to find out how it all ends.  From the mundane routines of going to school and hanging out with friends to the traveling to the circus for answers, Sky must find the strength within herself to accept her new reality and find a way to save herself and everyone she loves.  Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis is light refracted, speeding up and slowing down, as Sky uncovers her own truth.

About the Author:

Kat Ellis is a young adult writer from North Wales. Her debut novel, BLACKFIN SKY, is out now in the UK (Firefly Press) and the US (Running Press Teen).

Check out her Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and her Website.

 

59th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

My 1st book for Peril the Second!

The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing and She Writes Press
Paperback, 368 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch is set in Loire, France, in 1895 on the Thibault vineyards, as a family struggles to revive their grapes after a blight rocked the industry.  Sara has dreams of becoming a vintner like her father, and he has cultivated those dreams, allowing her to work the vines and learn all that she can from Jacques, the foreman.  She keeps a seasonal notebook about each harvest and process for making the wine, but when a blight threatens their harvest once again and the set price for barrels offered by the Lemieux family is too low to pay the vineyard’s debts, her father makes a fateful decision that changes the course of the entire family’s lives.  Harnisch clearly knows wine, vineyards, and the trade itself; her research is in depth and adds layers to her narrative.  Her characters are dynamic and engaging, and readers will be drawn into the Thibault family and cheer for them to triumph over the rival Lemieux family.

“Upon Jacques’s return, Sara wished him adieu and lifted her skirts to trudge through the mud between the vines toward the other end of the field.  There she hunched over to examine one of the vines more closely.  She ran her fingers over the leaves’ withering edges, fearing the worst.  She took her knife from her belt and split the vine’s bark.  With the tip of her blade, she scraped out hundreds of translucent eggs that lined the interior of the vine.  Some had already hatched, producing the dreaded pale yellow insects that were now sucking the vine dry.”  (page 8 ARC)

Fleeing France with her sister, Lydia (who resembles the Lydia of Pride & Prejudice in some ways), Sara finds herself adrift in New York City and reliant on the kindness of a convent and the church.  In their highly regimented life, she learns of the lush land in California and its vineyards, and she finally begins to dream of a way in which she can reclaim her family’s lost fortune.  While she’s making plans, she’s swept up in a different life, assisting a midwife.  As she learns to hold her ground in this more modern world in which women are making their own way, Sara is even more confident that she can right the wrongs done to her family.  When tragedy strikes again, Sara is forced to remain strong and to do what she thinks is best as she runs from the specter of the guillotine.

The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch is a fascinating look at the business of vineyards right around the time of prohibition in the United States and during the suffrage movement for women.  Sara comes into her own in the New World, and she learns what it is she truly has lost when she is pushed back to France by her boss in California.  Harnisch has crafted a emotional journey of a young woman coming into her own in the modern world and learning to forgive and be forgiven.  Stunning debut.

About the Author:

Kristen Harnisch’s ancestors emigrated from Normandy, France, to Canada in the 1600s. She is a descendant of Louis Hebert, who came to New France from Paris with Samuel de Champlain and is considered the first Canadian apothecary. She has a degree in economics from Villanova University and now lives in Connecticut. The Vintner’s Daughter, her debut novel, is the first in a series about the changing world of vineyard life at the turn of the century.

29th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

56th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

Source: Harper
Hardcover, 336 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar is told from two points of view; in Lakshmi Patil’s broken English we see all sides of her marriage to a man she doesn’t love in a country that is unfamiliar and in her Africa-American therapist Maggie Bose’s voice readers are exposed to the cultural dissonance that occurs between multicultural couples and friends.  Stories take on a life of their own in Umrigar’s latest novel, and it is the weaving and unweaving of these stories that brings to the forefront the struggles Americans continue to have with those from other countries.  There is a lack of understanding for cultural norms and often judgments that come with that lack of understanding.  In Lakshmi’s hour-long therapy sessions, Maggie see the differences and similarities between them come alive, but cultural dissonance is not just one-sided here.  Lakshmi also struggles to understand her therapist’s choices when it comes to her marriage to Sudhir and own happiness.

“He turns around and his face look surprise as I rush toward him like the Rajdhani Express.  He take a steps back, as if he thinking I will run into him, like train derailment.  But I stops just in front of him and now my mouth feels dry and no wordings are coming to my mind.”  (page 7 ARC)

Maggie’s life was far from perfect before she met her husband, and while at college, surrounded by similarly minded people, she felt at home and respected.  But when she ventured outside of the campus, it was clear that others perceived her based on appearance or their own cultural experiences.  While these are the experiences that shaped her, she continued her schooling to become a therapist, one so well liked by her colleagues that they often referred to her the most difficult of cases.  But her school and work experiences are not all of her, and there are secrets that she hasn’t even told her husband about, at least not completely.  She has created a narrative that she is comfortable with, even though she knows that it is not the truth of her.  Lakshmi also lives a life clouded by lies, but her lies are to those outside her marriage and to herself.  She must also learn to move beyond the story she has created for herself and others to get at the truth of her being.

Through these ladies’ points of view, questions of identity, culture, and isolation are explored, and ultimately, these characters need to learn to break down the barriers between themselves and others if they wish to find happiness and freedom.  The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar is seductive in its multilayered approach, leading readers to be sucked into the isolated life of Lakshmi and the idyllic American life of Maggie, only to discover that assumptions and first impressions are not the truth.  We create our own stories for ourselves and for others, but it is only when we tell the truth of who we are that we can be set free from perception and judgment.

About the Author:

Thrity Umrigar is the author of three other novels—The Space Between UsIf Today Be Sweet, and Bombay Time—and the memoir First Darling of the Morning. A journalist for 17 years, she is the winner of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University and a 2006 finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award. An associate professor of English at Case Western Reserve University, Umrigar lives in Cleveland.  Please visit her Website.

Other reviews of this author’s books:

Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

Source: NetGalley
Paperback, 400 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James takes readers back into Jane Austen’s teen years, between the time she is a young girl free to play and the time she comes out and becomes a woman.  While her sister Cassandra and she share everything and every confidence, there are some tender emotions that are too new and sacred to share right away — that of a first love.  Jane Austen is 15 when she is given an unprecedented opportunity to attend a ball and a month of festivities in Kent to celebrate her brother Edward’s nuptials before she comes out to society.  Things are not all that they seem to a young girl who longs to be out with her sister and share in all the activities Cassandra does.  James paints a picture of Austen that is lively and young, as she enthusiastically takes on challenges before her — to prove herself not only to others but to herself — and enjoys every event set before her.

“My anticipation of the expected visitors was shared by Louisa, Charles, and Brook Edward, who kept running to the window to ascertain if they could perceive a hint of an impending arrival.”  (ARC)

Jane is ever the observer of human nature, actions, and character, even at the young age of 15, but even though she observes carefully, her interpretations are not always as accurate as she presumes them to be.  Meeting the lively and enigmatic Edward Taylor, Jane is besotted as any young girl would be who finds someone she admires in looks and in intelligence.  But he also challenges her outlook on society and its traditions, as well as her own role in that society.  James has created a complex relationship that could have happened in real life, and perhaps helped to shape Austen’s views on society, love, and more.

“We are a living part of history!” cried Edward Taylor.  “We are making history this very moment.” (ARC)

James weaves in not only the facts of Kent, her real brother’s marriage to Elizabeth Bridges, and many other characters, but the events and paraphrased lines of Austen’s very own novels.  James cannot be praised enough for her ingenuity and dedication to the spirit of Austen and her novels.  She pays tribute to a young Jane in the best way possible.  Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James is the author’s best novel yet, and a must read for anyone who loves historical fiction, Jane Austen, or coming of age stories.  This is a definite contender for the 2014 Best Reads List.

About the Author:

Syrie James, hailed by the Los Angeles Magazine as the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings, is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed novels, including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Nocturne, Dracula My Love, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: SONGBIRD and PROPOSITIONS. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages.

In addition to her work as a novelist, Syrie is a screenwriter, a member of the Writers Guild of America, and a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. An admitted Anglophile, she loves romance and all things 19th Century. To learn more about Syrie, visit her online at www.syriejames.com, Follow Syrie on Facebook.

Pies & Peril by Janel Gradowski

Source: Janel Gradowski, the author
ebook, 192 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

Pies & Peril: A Culinary Competition Mystery by Janel Gradowski is punchy and fun, a perfect read for kicking back on a rainy day or on the beach during the summer.  While “beach read” is often a looked down on term, these are the kinds of books readers crave when they want pure entertainment and to enjoy characters and their stories.  Gradowski’s characters are not like those in typical cozy mysteries; they have good heads on their shoulders, are professional, and are not throwing themselves in harm’s way without thinking things through first.  Amy Ridley is no dumb blonde. She’s focused to win every culinary baking contest she enters, but when things go awry for her former friend and now baking nemesis, Mandy Jo, she takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of her death.

“The physical side effects of becoming a triple champion made her feel like she had been caught in a stampede of tap dancers from Ms. Carrie’s Dance Academy.” (ARC)

“Okay.  Dirty dishes didn’t talk, but she couldn’t stand to see them sitting there, like batter coated chore devils perched on her shoulder.” (ARC)

Amy is spunky and determined to uncover the truth, but she’s also aware that there should be boundaries to her tenacious search for a killer.  She’s lurking in corners to eavesdrop and running into clues, but she’s also wise enough to know that she should be careful and scared of the killer who is writing her threatening notes.  Her friend Carla is a doll, and readers will enjoy their banter as they go over some of Amy’s theories about the murder and her even more outrageous theories behind the murder.  Gradowski’s style is filled with humor and characterization; readers will get to know these characters in such a short period of time, it will feel like they are friends known for much longer.  The author has a way of packing in a lot of background and characterization in a small space, making it easier to flow with the relationships and the story as it unfolds.

“… The Cookbook Nook.  Not a single auto repair or vampire book could be found on the shelves.  Just cookbooks.  Glorious, fascinating cookbooks.” (ARC)

Pies & Peril: A Culinary Competition Mystery by Janel Gradowski will have readers’ mouths watering, and it includes recipes at the end to keep those taste buds dreaming.  Cozy mysteries may drive some readers crazy for their dopey heroines that carry their infants into dangerous situations or just rush headlong into places they shouldn’t as they investigate mysteries, but Gradowski has found the perfect balance between the cozy mystery formula and strong heroines that leave the tough stuff up to the cops.

About the Author:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten­-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.  Check her Website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.  Check out her books.

Other books by this author, reviewed here:

China Dolls by Lisa See

Source: Random House
Hardcover, 400 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

China Dolls by Lisa See spans pre-WWII, WWII, and after the war when Chinese immigrants and American-born Chinese were constantly stereotyped and pushed to the sidelines, and when America goes to war against Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor, proving you’re American becomes even more important.  Grace Lee has left Ohio in a hurry and ends up in San Francisco with crushed dreams and no friends, until she meets Helen Fong, who is from a traditional Chinese family in Chinatown.  She’s uptight and traditional, harsh on Grace and later on Ruby Tom, but she’s also searching for her own path, wishing that her own dreams could be realized.  Hollywood is often considered the land where dreams come true, but in this case, these Asian women find their dreams in San Francisco, though those dreams are often marginalized by their own pettiness and the world that looks down on their culture and abilities.

“Helen and I sat on the floor a little apart from the other ponies, who massaged one another’s feet, stretched, and gossiped.  Every day Helen arrived at rehearsal in a dark wool skirt, long-sleeved black sweater, and charcoal-gray wool stockings, but she quickly changed out of them.  To my eyes, it seemed like she was shedding not just layers of clothing but layers of tradition.” (page 47 ARC)

Grace is a broken young woman of seventeen and very naive, and in many ways Helen and Ruby are all too happy to teach her lessons about the real world, but they often underestimate her resiliency, her willingness to forgive, and her determination to succeed.  Whether she is running from her past in Ohio, her failed attempt at stardom at the Golden Gate International Exposition, or the rumors that circulate around her during WWII, Grace must turn inward to find her strength and remain true to her dream.  She may take advantage of every opportunity around her when it presents itself, even if it comes as something tragic befalls her friends, but she never purposefully creates those opportunities.  Ruby and Helen, on the other hand, are downright Machiavellian, though in Helen’s case, her machinations come from an emotional devastation that she struggles to keep hidden daily.

“I don’t want to remind them”—and it didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out I was talking about the FBI and the WRA—”I exist.  I don’t want to risk being sent to Leupp to join my parents.  I want to forget all that.  You left your mother behind.  Now I’ve left mine.” (page 262 ARC)

China Dolls by Lisa See is about chasing your dreams, making them come true, and all the petty jealousies and ups and downs that come with that, particularly in show business.  See masterfully weaves the history of the time period into these ladies’ lives.  It would be an excellent selection for book clubs as it raises questions about racial discrimination, inter-race relations, and prejudices within cultures based on socioeconomic and cultural differences, as well as what it means to be patriotic.

About the Author:

Lisa See, author of the critically-acclaimed international bestseller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005), has always been intrigued by stories that have been lost, forgotten, or deliberately covered up, whether in the past or happening right now in the world today. Ms. See’s new novel, Shanghai Girls, once again delves into forgotten history.  Visit her Website, Facebook, and Twitter.

17th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews

Source: Tandem Literary
Hardcover, 448 pages
On Amazon, on Kobo

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews came unexpectedly in the mail, but my mom decided to pick it up when she was here on vacation.  Rather than write a traditional review, I offered to ask her some questions about her reading experience.

Who are the main characters?

Cara, Brook, Jack, Bert, Gordon, Patricia, Cullen Kane, Marie, and Ryan.

Cara is a florist and wedding planner originally from Ohio who moves to Georgia.  She has issues with love after her divorce.

Ryan and Jack are carpenters who restore buildings.  Bert works for Cara in her shop.  Brook is supposed to get married to Harris, but has a bit of cold feet.  Gordon and Patricia and Marie are Brook’s parents.

Does Cara blend in well with Savannah residents?

She seems to fit in with everyone well, and she has a lot of friends.  She also gets a lot of referrals to her flower shop.  She does floral arrangements for weddings, funerals, graduations, etc.

Is it obvious who Cara’s love interest will be?

Yes.  She meets him at his brother Ryan’s wedding.  They hit it off for a bit and then end up going their separate ways, etc.

What’s the theme?

Love has a restorative power.

Overall impression?

Read to see what happens.  5-star reads.

Mom read this one in a couple of days.  Share your thoughts about this one.

She Likes It Rough by GVR Corcillo

Source: Blackbird Press
Paperback, 302 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

She Likes It Rough by GVR Corcillo is not the erotica novel most will imagine when they see the title for the first time.  In fact, Lisa Flyte, the protagonist, is eager to live life to the fullest, get braver, and do something positive and improve the lives of others.  She meets Jack Hawkins in her MBA class, and knows he’s the one to teach her about bravery.  He’s an outdoor adrenaline junkie who designs professional equipment for similar people, but he’s also got a secret and Lisa’s going to help him achieve that goal.

“I should stop.

In fact, I should’ve stopped chasing Jack twenty minutes ago.  That’s when he veered off the trail and disappeared into the forest.  But I didn’t stop.  I kept after Jack.  I pulled into the lot just in time to see him lope off the path and vanish into the green mess of a mountain.  Without stopping to consider for even a second, I put my car in park, popped the trunk, grabbed my workout bag, and jammed on my running shoes.  Then I stripped off my jacket and followed Jack into the wild.” (page 1-2)

Corcillo has a flare for comic timing, and this is a laugh fest that readers will enjoy over the summer and recommend it to others on the beach.  Female readers in particular will laugh out loud as these two spar with one another from the most mundane activities to their own trajectories in life.  Jack and Lisa are polar opposites when it comes to tackling physical and emotional challenges, but they are destined to learn from one another.  While there are moments that are overly dramatic and soap opera-like, it’s a fun ride and readers will love the antics of Lisa.  She’s a klutz who takes every challenge thrown at her by Jack, but he’s a little more reluctant to take on the challenges she throws at him.

She Likes It Rough by GVR Corcillo was fun, engaging, and a wild ride, but worth it.  Spending an afternoon with these characters is like watching a comedy.  It’s certainly that feel good read, with a good deal of romance thrown in, plus some quirky sidekicks.  Readers should be cautioned that there is some harsh language as Lisa is not a shrinking violet.

About the Author:

Winner of Rebecca’s Reads Choice Awards for Best Indie Book of 2013 and Best Humor Book of 2013!   With her Ivy League education, white-trash sensibility, and pop culture savvy, Corcillo writes humorous women’s fiction about characters who try not to trip as they valiantly march to their own bongo beat.

33rd book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

Black Lake by Johanna Lane

Source: Little, Brown and Company
Hardcover, 224 pages
On Amazon, on Kobo

Black Lake by Johanna Lane is set in Northern Ireland at the Campbell estate of Dulough, which translates to Black Lake.  A pool, a cold lake, hills, valleys, mountains, cottages, and a massive estate would seem overwhelming to any newlywed, and it is hard to believe that it can be run by just three people — John Campbell, Mary Connelly, and Francis Connelly.  Woven with alternate points of view, Lane provides the reader with a well-rounded view of the hardships this family faces.  Young Philip is named after the first ancestor who built Dulough and threw out the Irish tenants after the Great Famine, and he has a legacy that weighs heavily on his head, but he’s not the only Campbell to feel the weight of family history in this place.  Will the deal with the government be enough to keep the family estate in tact or will the deal break this family from its moorings.

“Finally, he began clearing a patch of brambles and thistles; their roots went deep into the earth and he had to be content with lopping them off at ground level rather than pulling them out altogether.” (page 66-7 ARC)

John is a quiet man who knows how to deal with solitude in the Irish country, but his wife Marianne must grow accustom to the quieter life after living so long in Dublin.  His ability to be alone becomes a detriment in matters of his family, though he does enjoy schooling the children at home.  His relationship with his wife is enigmatic because he is less expressive, and she passively follows his lead until she reaches a breaking point.

“The whole painting gave the impression that Dulough might be engulfed at any moment, the lake rising to envelop the house, the sea covering the island, and the land reclaimed, the work of his ancestor obliterated.” (page 194 ARC)

Deep beneath the surface of this family are hidden bonds that only can surface in tragedy and loss.  From a man who is backed into a corner to maintain a large estate without the inheritance to do so to wife and son who have come to love their home as much, if not more, than their ancestors.  Black Lake by Johanna Lane is by turns as dreary as the rainy countryside and as dangerous as the quick-footed tide that nearly swallows the island where the estate church and graveyard lie.  Readers will be swept away by Lane’s frail family and their struggles.

About the Author:

Johanna Lane was born in Ireland, studied English Literature in Scotland, and earned her MFA at Columbia University. She teaches composition and creative writing in New York City.  Check out her Pinterest board for the book.

12th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge(Set in Ireland)

 

 

 

 

32nd book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

 

 

 

 

2nd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.

Born & Bred by Peter Murphy

Source: Story Plant
Paperback, 395 pages
On Amazon, on Kobo

Born & Bred by Peter Murphy set in 1970s Ireland is a Boyle family saga.  Like many families, there are those members who have secrets, those that are well loved, and those who are tolerated because of their connection with someone revered in the family history.  Danny Boyle, a young teen who is growing up at his grandmother’s knee, is caught in the middle of God and religion and his father’s alcoholism and his mother’s mental illness.  He’s found solace in religion, but as he grows up and is pulled into drugs and the seedier side of Ireland, he’s spiraling so fast, that he barely sees everything as it whizzes past his bleary eyes.

“Danny had thought about it for a moment but he couldn’t say no.  He had been at the edge of everything that happened for so long.  Now he was getting a chance to be connected — to be one of those guys that everybody spoke about in whispers.  Sure it was a bit risky but he could use the money and, besides, no one would ever suspect him.  Most people felt sorry for him and the rest thought he was a bit of a spaz.”  (page 3 ARC)

He wishes for his mother’s return, but when he gets his wish, behind-the-scenes events lead to the loss of his one anchor in his life.  While many people in town sympathize and feel sorry for him, they also are not surprised when he gets in trouble.  There are few that believe him incapable of murder after a “pagan-like” dance in church, but there are some who are behind him and pulling for his reformation.  Murphy is an accomplished story-teller shifting between points of view to round out the story that is Danny Boyle’s life in Ireland, though there are moments toward that end that draw out the suspense a little too much.

Born & Bred by Peter Murphy raises questions about whether family genetics, upbringing, or environment can lead us to the actions we take or whether there is free will at all when God has a plan for us all.  Murphy’s setting and characters bring to life 1970s Ireland in a way that is disturbing, realistic, and harsh, but those realities help to shape Danny.  As the first book in a series, Murphy has created a lasting story with great potential in future installments.

About the Author:

Peter Murphy was born in Killarney where he spent his first three years before his family was deported to Dublin, the Strumpet City.

Growing up in the verdant braes of Templeogue, Peter was schooled by the De La Salle brothers in Churchtown where he played rugby for ‘The Wine and Gold’. He also played football (soccer) in secret!

After that, he graduated and studied the Humanities in Grogan’s under the guidance of Scot’s corner and the bar staff; Paddy, Tommy and Sean.

Murphy financed his education by working summers on the buildings sites of London in such places as Cricklewood, Camden Town and Kilburn.

Murphy also tramped the roads of Europe playing music and living without a care in the world. But his move to Canada changed all of that. He only came over for a while – thirty years ago. He took a day job and played music in the bars at night until the demands of family life intervened. Having raised his children and packed them off to University, Murphy answered the long ignored internal voice and began to write.

I’ve also reviewed:

Lagan Love

1st book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

16th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose

Source: Atria Books and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Hardcover, 384 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose (the 6th novel in the Reincarnationist series and available on Kobo) can be read on its own given that Rose provides enough background on Jac L’Etoile and her previous adventures.  The experience of reading these reincarnation books is enriched when the reader delves into The Book of Lost Fragrances and Seduction first.  With that said, Rose has outdone herself in the latest installment, as we see Jac taking the initiative — even if she’s slightly pushed into it by her brother Robbie and Malachai — to deal with her memory lurches and reincarnated lives.  Through a dual narrative — one in the past (1500s) and one in the present — Rose builds on the suspense until the very last page is turned.  Jac is forced to deal with tragedy early on, but she soon immerses herself in a project that keeps her focused and forces her to engage with her questions about reincarnation and more.  In the past, we are given a glimpse of the fine line between perfume and poison as Catherine de Medici’s perfumer René le Florentine, or Renato Bianco, navigates political intrigue, falls in love, and strives to completes his mentor’s — Serapino’s — work on reanimating dying breaths.

“His quest was to capture a person’s last elusive exhalation, to collect his dying breath, then to release it into another living body and reanimate that soul.  To bring it back from the dead.” (page 4 ARC)

Rose’s prose is always sensual, slowly building a mystery that changes at every turn.  Readers are spellbound by Jac’s search for truth, clinging to the hope that Rene’s formula for reanimating breath is real.  Rene and Jac are connected, and that connection only gets stronger as she uncovers the secrets at his chateau in Barbizon, France.  Like the scents that can evoke memory, Jac is drawn once again to Griffin, a man that has captivated for since college, and as they learn more about the past, their future becomes clearer.  Romantic, dark, mysterious — Rose creates a world that is all-encompassing, allowing readers to suspend disbelief about reincarnation and more.  As Jac faces her own demons and those swirling about her, she’s forced to see that fate does not mean she must surrender to an inevitable death or tragedy.

The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose is stunning in its passion, characterization, and setting, with Jac coming to terms with who she has been and who she will be in this life.  Her passion for perfume is the connection she needs to survive the trials before her, and the love of her brother and Griffin are there to sustain her.  Rose is one of the premier writers of mystery and romantic suspense, and she does not fail to captivate her audience from page one to the end.

About the Author:

M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of fourteen novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com. The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

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16th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

10th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge(Set in France)

When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon

Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins
Hardcover, 368 pages
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When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon melds the island tranquility of Greece’s Erikousa with the Greek Gods and Goddesses and whispering of the Cypress, creating a modern-day mythology.  Daphne is a modern woman, her heart heavy with the loss of her first husband and her struggles as a single mother rising to the top in New York City’s restaurant scene.  She comes back to her island home to have a traditional Greek wedding, despite her fiance Stephen’s misgivings about constrained traditions, and to reconnect with her Yia-yia (grandmother).

“In hushed, reverent tones, Yia-yia insisted that the cypresses had their own secret language that traveled between the trees on the gentle morning breeze and quieted down again as the afternoon stillness set in.”  (page 4-5 ARC)

The juxtaposition between Daphne’s American life of being always on the go and struggling to make time even for her daughter is clear once she returns to the island.  It is not that as a child life was so much more care-free (though it was), but life on the island is slower and more connected to family and tradition than it is in the business world and career-focused life Daphne was building for herself.  Evie, her daughter, was named for her great-grandmother, but she’s never met her or been to the island until now.  Corporon’s focus on Daphne brings together the family story as it shifts between her childhood, her time in America, and the present time with the wedding planning.  Tensions are increased as a mysterious man, Yianni, begins making assumptions about her and seems too close to her grandmother.  A WWII mystery is revealed and Daphne sees the error of her judgments and realizes that she may have more in common with this mystery man than she first expected.

When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon has it all — well-drawn characters, mythology and tradition, love and loss, and the power of family.  An emotional, heartfelt novel about the traditions and cultures that make us who we are and the dangers of committing halfway or only looking at the surface.

Photo credit Dia Dipasupil

About the Author:

Yvette Manessis Corporon is an Emmy Award-winning writer, producer, and author. She is currently a senior producer with the syndicated entertainment news show Extra. In addition to her Emmy Award, Yvette has received a Silurian Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the New York City Comptroller and City Council’s Award for Greek Heritage and Culture. She is married to award-winning photojournalist David Corporon. They have two children and live in New York.

Find out more about Yvette at her website, follow her on Twitter, and connect with her on Facebook.

 

 

7th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; It is set in Greece.

 

 

 

20th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

 

 

 

12th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

9th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.